Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Gardening: My sago plant sprouted anew and our built-in planter needs an upgrade

I took this picture of my sago plant on Monday.  As many times a week I walk to the mailbox, you would think I might have noticed this growth but it seems to have popped up overnight.  I walked by it Saturday and saw nothing yet Monday these new fronds in the center were there.  I think they resemble a pineapple.

It was just a few weeks ago I was complaining about the fronds turning yellow even though I had fertilized it and watered with Epsom salts which I read would help with the yellowing.  I should have just waited a few days more knowing full-well this plant is a slow grower.  It even took its time to think about doing anything with the fertilizer I gave it but at least it isn't yellow anymore.

 Here’s one of the pups from that plant.  The new fronds are also thriving – notice the darker green in the center.

I noticed this coleus awhile back and it is growing taller right next to an elephant ear.  I still can’t figure out where it came from since it’s not the same color as my other coleus.  I’ll just call it a nice surprise.

 Here’s another shoot that rooted by the trunk of the ponytail palm tree.  I’ll just let it grow to see how big it gets.  The coleus I planted is on the right.

 Inside the house, or more correctly, on the patio we have a planter that was put in by the builder’s over 30 years ago.  They planted a Madagascar dragon tree in it and I’ve been picking up fronds ever since.  There’s no killing this tree with cruelty so even though I rarely fertilize it, it keeps on growing, thinly though.   We break off stems and put them in planters by the pool and it grows.  It’s a feisty little plant.

And it can get big.  Here’s one from a branch we stuck in the front yard.  It’s time for it to go though because I’m tired of raking up fronds.  The trunk is very soft so it will be easy to saw down and replace with a nice palm tree.

Here’s another close to the pool.

I’ve liked this plant long enough though and although I’ve been afraid to put anything else in the patio planter because I don’t want roots growing into the house, I will do something else with it later on.  

I pruned everything over the weekend and will think about what to do next - something in brass containers maybe.  Two shoots were coming up from the bottom so I left them to grow and almost cut down the fat trunk in the middle before I realized I would need it to support the thinner one that I decided not to cut away.  This area definitely needs some nutrients and some new plants!

I picked up this basil plant at Publix last weekend and so it’s time to make some one-pan spaghetti and Shrimp with tomatoes and basil this weekend.   I love fresh basil! 

Monday, July 21, 2014

Great recipe for broccoli lovers…or even non broccoli lovers!

I found this recipe on Melissa's Southern Style Kitchen and she called it Roasted Panko-Parmesan Broccoli.

 Roast as crispy as you like – I stopped just before too crispy but it was cooked and very tasty!

I usually buy a big bag of fresh broccoli florets to steam, add some cheese and eat on a baked potato or just as a side, and then I found this more interesting looking broccoli recipe online.  It has green onions, cloves of garlic, olive oil, Panko breadcrumbs, grated Parmesan cheese, Italian seasoning, garlic salt, lemon or black pepper and red pepper flakes.  Interesting right?  All you do is mix 2 lbs of broccoli florets with those ingredients and roast in your oven for 20-23 minutes.  

 This is what you will need

2 lb fresh broccoli florets, cleaned and separated (approx. 2 large bunches)
3 green onion, sliced, white part only
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup olive oil
¼ cup Panko breadcrumbs
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp dry Italian seasoning
1 tsp garlic salt to taste
Light sprinkling black pepper or lemon pepper, to taste
½ tsp red pepper flakes

You really need a big bowl to combine everything.
Preheat the oven to 425 F.  Spritz a standard baking sheet with cooking spray and set aside.  Separate the broccoli florets into bite size pieces.  Place into a mixing bowl, (use a large one) with the sliced green onion and minced garlic.  Pour the olive oil over the broccoli.  Toss gently until coated.  Add the remaining ingredients.  Mix well.  (I mixed gently with each ingredient to make sure they were combined.)

Lay in a single layer on a baking sheet.  Roast for 20-23 minutes or until crisp tender and the crumbs are golden.  Serve immediately.  Yield:  6-8 servings.

I used two pans in my NuWave oven and roasted for 22 minutes.  After 11 minutes, I switched the pans to brown the bottom one.  This is before the oven.

I will say that the next time I make this, even if I don’t have all of the above ingredients, I will just use the ones I have.  The garlic and cheese were the tastiest.  Actually though, about the only thing I don’t always have are the green onions and yesterday I was out of garlic salt so I used garlic powder and regular salt.  I love this recipe and it was great with my rib eye steak last night, no potatoes.

I had to have a big taste!  I love broccoli so much I could have eaten all of one pan but I needed to save room for steak!  This stuff is really yummy!   

Saturday, July 19, 2014

One-Pan Orecchiette with Chick Peas - a Martha Stewart recipe

One-Pan meals are all the rage lately and so if you haven’t planned your lunches to take to work next week, the following recipe is your solution.  It is from my blog dated March 24, 2014 which I thought worthy of a revisit because of the many views it received.  It makes a very good family meal or more than one lunch for you to take to work!  

On March 24, I said:  As I said in my previous blog about the April issue of Martha Stewart Living magazine, I was off to make my list of the ingredients I would need for this titled dish and that's what I did and then I went over to the Fresh Food Market and got what I don't always find at Publix such as the orecchiette.  This is my first time eating this particular pasta and I liked it and the texture is great.  I’ve never made a homemade noodle but the orecchiette reminded me of the fresh ones I’ve seen cooks make on TV. 

The ingredients you will use:  Arugula and Cheese for serving.  In the pan goes the Orecchiette, chickpeas, tomato paste, Kalamata olives, a rosemary sprig, olive oil, and 3 cloves of garlic.  Pepper flakes and salt and pepper not shown.

In the pan before I added the 5 cups of water needed.  

The recipe from April issue of Martha Stewart Living and you can find it on her site here:

12 ounces orecchiette
1 can (15.5 ounces) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup Kalamata olives, pitted
2 tablespoons tomato paste
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 6-inch sprig rosemary
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
1/4 teaspoon red-pepper flakes, plus more for serving
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (about 1 1/2 ounces), plus more for serving (I used Parmesan)
2 cups baby arugula (about 2 ounces)

1.) Combine pasta, chickpeas, olives, tomato paste, garlic, rosemary, oil, pepper flakes, and 5 cups water in a large straight-sided skillet. Season generously with salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil, then cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until pasta is al dente and liquid is reduced to a sauce that coats pasta, 12 to 15 minutes.

In this picture, it has come to a boil and then I simmered on medium high for about 15 minutes.  I set the timer on my NuWave cooktop and stirred the pot every 5 minutes or so to prevent sticking.

Remove from heat when your pasta is al dente and add your cheese.  I also put in a few tablespoons of water to thin the sauce a little because mine was kind of thick. 

    Serve it in bowl with arugula on the bottom if you like and add a sprinkling of cheese to the top.  Drizzle with a little olive oil and enjoy.  Add more red pepper flakes also if you like.  I know I’ll be having this for lunch again today!

I liked the flavor of this meatless dish and it was very filling.  You could take a cup of this to work and have it for lunch and not be hungry until dinner time.  It would also make a good side for dinner with maybe a fried pork chop for those who want meat with their meal.  The red pepper flakes gave it a little zing and the arugula and olives added even more flavor.  I have to say a quarter teaspoon of those flakes went a long way!  I don’t usually eat anything spicier than a banana pepper but a few of the recipes I’ve tried lately have the pepper flakes in them and I’m starting to get accustomed to them.  The Kalamata olives also added lots of flavor – I love those olives!

I had about 5 ounces left of the orecchiette so I think I will make a smaller portion of Orecchiette with Sausage, Corn and Chiles that I made before from the June issue of Martha Stewart Living.  Here's that recipe and I remember I didn’t have orecchiette at the time and used another kind of pasta.  

Give today's one-pan dish a try.  I think you'll like it!

Friday, July 18, 2014

My PVC plant hanger updated - original blog 6/5/13

I originally posted this blog on 6/5/13 and continue to get hundreds of views and so I thought I would update with some new pictures which I dated today 7/18/14.

From original blog I said:  "I happen to have a flag pole in my garden that I can take apart when I’m not hanging a flag.  And then rather than have half of a white pole left in the ground, I decided to use it for plants.  So I fashioned a hanger out of PVC piping that fits down into the pole and I can hang two plants on it."
If you don’t have a flag pole, just use a larger size of PVC piping as your base.  You want the hanger piece to slide down inside the base.  You can find all the pieces at Lowes or the Home Depot.  You will need two sizes of the straight pieces, one for the base and one to fit inside.  Also two curved pieces and a tee shape to connect all three at the top. Glue them together with the blue PVC pipe cement.

This is what the one-half flag pole looks like without the hanger which I placed on the ground.  Photo taken 7/18/14

My hanger fits right down in the hole at the top.  It also swivels.  That's my decorated bowling ball on the left and yes, I need fresh mulch.  Photo taken 7/18/14

I put some large white stones in with the air plant and the succulent on the right is growing nicely.   Photo 7/18/14

I call this hanger my testing hanger.  I tested a couple of Heather plants first.  They couldn’t stand the heat so I put them on the patio.

The red hots lasted a bit longer but they also went to the patio.

Below you can see what is left of my flowering zinnias that I bought in April and the air plant loves being in the other hanger.  It used to be on the ground near a rock and never grew but when I put it in this planter, it got much bigger. 
  Another view.

I might put my Bulbine plant out there next since it likes the sun or I might see what Home Depot has new for me to try out.  

Thursday, July 17, 2014

No-hands on turkey meat meatloaf, sort of….

I’m not especially fond of ground turkey meat that looks stringy when packaged but since it doesn’t change the taste whatsoever, I often buy Costco’s kosher stringy-looking ground turkey.  I picked up a 3-pack around Easter and froze one package. 

When I spotted it in the freezer yesterday, I decided to experiment.

I put it frozen in a pan that fits my NuWave and decided it was going to be just another way to make meatloaf, hands-free because there can be no mixing with frozen meat.

While the turkey was cooking for the first 18 minutes, I sautéed some chopped onions in olive oil.

I put the onions in a bowl, minus the oil, and added ½ cup of Ketchup, 1 teaspoon of dried oregano, 1 teaspoon of salt, 1/8 teaspoon of pepper and 1 Tablespoon of brown sugar to make a glaze.  I thought about adding mustard but I don’t really like that taste in meatloaf so I decided to save it for the sandwiches.

After the frozen turkey meat cooked for 18 minutes, I put the glaze on top and cooked for 17 minutes more.  It will take longer to cook in a regular oven though, maybe 50 minutes.

It browned nicely…

…and sliced nicely with a few ‘strings’ showing that didn’t bother me, and it tasted pretty good even though I made a mess trying to get just a taste out.  I think ground beef might have been more to my liking but while eating this, I’ll just add more ketchup! When it is good and cold, I will make a sandwich with plenty of mustard on it and think of it as a meatloaf sandwich!   I’m easily persuaded.  

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Does the good outweigh the bad with Homeowner’s Associations?

I had some other work lined up for today but that was until we received a letter from the HOA about our lawn.  I was fit to be tied after I read it and so I spent the morning answering it and also taking pictures.  I admit I was a little behind on the mowing simply because I was trying to find a lawn service to help me out but it’s not like that happens all the time.  I wasn’t really up to mowing at all but I did it twice anyway before they sent a letter and before I found a lawn service.

The guy mowed our lawn on the 4th of July and then again yesterday the 14th.  In between those 10 days, the HOA spies indicated we hadn’t complied with their request. I say we have.

Here’s my lawn to prove we mowed and edged it but they used the same picture as before in their letter to us.  If they want to insist we have not complied, they should have taken a new second picture to prove it.

I also put fertilizer down a couple of weeks ago and with the rain, the grass has been growing quite fast and high but not unruly and the edging still looks good between mowing. 

We live in the front of our development but here’s a house in the back and apparently the owner has never gotten a letter from the HOA.  Privileged I guess!  Would you like to drive by and show anyone this house if they were interested in buying here?  I know I wouldn’t.  The mailbox is falling apart and where is the front door in this jungle?

That house has been this way for the last 10 years or more and the HOA has the nerve to send us a letter!  This is the side of the house going into the cul de sac.

 I wonder what the HOA had to say about our neighbor’s over 4 foot hedge between our driveways...

   ...or this bald tree across the street that used to block the sun nicely.

The same tree on the left with leaves back in April of this year.

Time will tell but the HOA has done nothing but give me a headache and I often wish we didn’t have one!  What is your opinion of HOAs regardless whether they help keep our homes saleable!  My opinion is if all the owner’s aren’t required to obey the rules, then the rest of us don’t need to either.  If half of the houses in here are a wreck, who cares to buy any of the other half anyway? I don’t think the HOA is winning the war but that doesn’t stop them from acting like little generals!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Pistachio Pudding, Potato Stix & Kraft Fresh Take Baked Chicken Breast

I needed some milk over the weekend and so while I was in the store, I decided to look for Pistachio pudding and potato sticks that one of my readers had talked about.  I am not a pudding eater so ignorant I didn’t even know what aisle to look in for the pudding, but I finally found it in the baking aisle I think it was.  I don’t bake much either!

 I have never made pudding that you just stir up and it sets so this was something new for me.  I also learned that the ‘lumps’ I was trying to get out while stirring were actually pieces of pistachios.  Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks!  

So after I finished playing around with the pudding, I opened up the only bag of potato sticks I could find in the store after going up and down the potato chip aisle twice.  I have to say, I love those potato sticks which are actually called ‘potato stix’.   My sister liked them too and don’t think that didn’t surprise me.  She didn’t like the pudding though and probably because it wasn’t sweet enough.  The only kind I saw on the shelf was sugarless so I got it.  It works for me though because I don’t like anything too sweet.  I thought it was okay but like I said, I’m not a pudding eater.

I also needed parmesan cheese for a chicken recipe but when I spotted this Kraft cheese and breadcrumb mixture in a package above the cold cuts, I decided to give it a try.  It cost me $3.19 for the privilege of having 3 ounces of cheese and 3 ounces of breadcrumbs pre-measured in a zip loc bag but since I didn’t want a lot of cheese or a big container of bread crumbs, the package was perfect.

Remember those Costco skinless chicken breasts that I said weren’t very tasty? Here's my blog about that - Costco Chicken Breast - 

- and here they are ready to get baked in cheese and breadcrumbs.

They got nice and brown and although I could have turned them over half-way, I left them alone except to cover the top with some foil after 20 minutes.  I’m glad I saved half of the breadcrumb mixture because I will use it again on more of those chicken breasts that are in the freezer. 

I had to have a taste which I thought was very good!  It only took 28 minutes in my NuWave oven and yes, I will make this again!  The breadcrumb mixture can also be used on pork and fish but some of you probably already know that!