Monday, March 30, 2009

Everything stuffed!

Cooking is an amazing and creative outlet!!!!
I never seem to start out to the grocery store with a menu in mind. In choosing what I will cook, I rely more on what I find at the farm stands & grocery store that is seasonal, priced well and most of all looks fresh and good. I actually enjoy sifting through the tomatoes to find just the right ones!
Last week I was able to find just perfect green peppers for stuffing. And the portobella mushrooms at the "warehouse", as usual, were beautiful, fresh and a great price. So there it was in my cart the makings of my dinner party coming together. I added stuffed manicotti with a chicken stuffing to complement my other recipe choices.

You need to understand all this came together in my head as I shopped. On the way home I made several calls to some girl friends to come to my "everything stuffed" dinner. Since I do love to cook, it is also fun to share my masterpieces........and sometimes "not so masterpieces" with friends.

Add a couple of bottles of wine which the girls bring and voila a great evening among friends is created. My favorite dish was the "Imitation" Crab stuffed Portabella Mushrooms below.

Crab Stuffed Portabella Mushrooms
1Cup seasoned bread crumbs
1 Egg
1 cup Chopped Onion
1/3 cup Chopped Celery
1 Bell Pepper Chopped
1 lb. Flaked imitation Crab
½ tablespoons fresh Tarragon Leaves
Salt and Pepper to taste
3 Cloves Garlic Crushed
4 Portabella Mushrooms, Stems Removed, chopped and sauteed with Vegetables
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
3 tablespoons Melted Butter (Unsalted)
4 slices Provolone cheese
2 tablespoons Olive Oil
2 tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar

Directions:In a Large pan combine celery, onions, mushroom stems peppers, garlic and butter, cook until vegetables are just soft, combine with breadcrumbs , add salt and pepper to taste and the tarragon leaves, add Parmesan cheese and egg, add seafood, mix well. Mixture should be easily pressed into "Stuffing consistency" if too dry add melted butter. Set aside. Combine the olive oil and vinegar and brush on both sides of mushrooms. Divide stuffing mixture into 4 equal portions and stuff caps of mushrooms, top with Provolone cheese sprinkle tops with additional Parmesan cheese, and bake at 375 degrees F until cheese is bubbly and stuffing is "Set"

Yummy First Course or Cut into 1/4 for Appetizers.
Bon Appetite!!!!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

One man's trash is another man's treasure......

This does look like "garden trash" at the curb waiting to be picked up doesn't it? Exactly what I thought as I rode by on my bike last evening on the way to the Seminole Bike Trail for an evening ride. On my way home however, I took a better look at this stack and realized that this homeowner had pulled out perfectly good and healthy plants from his yard. Without much effort, I realized that this stack of greenery on "death row" contained several bunches of Bird-of-Paradise plants just waiting to be picked up the next day by the trash men. Plants on "death Row" waiting for the trash men pick up.
I thought about these plants most of the evening, especially following the day spent in my Master Gardener class, and decided that these plants must be rescued. It appeared that no one was at home to ask permission to take their trash, I suppose that is proper protocol, so without hesitation, I removed what I could quickly, stacked it in my yard and decided I would figure out what to do with these plants later. I even hoped that the trash men would not pick up the balance of them since they were not properly tied together. I was thinking I could go back later and rescue more.
I came up with a plan. If you peak behind my fountain several of the bunches of plants already found their new home. Here is another view of the newly planted Birds-of-Paradise that I proudly photographed after planting. I have already spoken to a homeowner who is preparing to list their home in Sanford with me in a few weeks and she will happily pick up some of the remaining plants to enhance her home's curb-appeal.
Getting back to my Master Gardener class, this is what I brought home. Can you guess what it is, do you have any idea? It is called Veronica or Romanesco, which is a spiraled head of cauliflower grown in the garden behind the Seminole County Cooperative Extension Office, in Sanford, Florida, where my training is held.
The head of this cauliflower is lime green with pointed, spiraled pinnacles, with a mild nutty taste. I will remove the little spirals, steam them and add them to my cauliflower or broccoli. It definitely will be a conversation piece. The leaves of this plant I imagine can be sauteed in olive oil with some garlic as you would this type of leafy vegetable, or used in a smoothie with other vegetables and fruit. Some additional souvenirs of this weeks class were seedlings to grow my own Veronica Cauliflower at home and another of assorted greens. The 4 bright red seeds are from the Cardboard Palm or Zamia Furfuracea, a native Florida plant. If you are wondering, of coarse I will attempt to grow them.
If you are wondering who would or could, or would even want to identify these strange items in my photos....... here is a picture of the students in my Seminole County, Florida, Master Gardener training course........they all could identify these items.
If you are wondering where is the nearest Master Gardener program for you and who do you contact about joining, Master Gardener Programs are usually organized by the county and are overseen by the County Extension office. To find a program closest to you, visit your local county website and click on the Extension Office information or do an Internet search for information.
Have fun in your garden!!

Friday, March 20, 2009

IN honor of women's history month......

Ladies, look how far we have come! This is now........

And this was then!

In honor of women's history month, a little history
In the early nineteenth century, women were considered second-class citizens whose existence was limited to the interior life of the home and care of the children. Women were considered sub-sets of their husbands, and after marriage they did not have the right to own property, maintain their wages, or sign a contract, much less vote. It was expected that women be obedient wives, never to hold a thought or opinion independent of their husbands. It was considered improper for women to travel alone or to speak in public.

With the belief that intense physical or intellectual activity would be injurious to the delicate female biology and reproductive system, women were taught to refrain from pursuing any serious education. Silently perched in their birdcages, women were considered merely objects of beauty, and were looked upon as intellectually and physically inferior to men. This belief in women's inferiority to men was further reinforced by organized religion which preached strict and well-defined sex roles.

I would have to say, the evolution of woman is demonstrated by the life of Erma Bombeck. Erma Bombeck was one of America's favorite humorist at the time of her death in 1996. Beloved by her wry yet warm look at family life, Erma touched millions through her newspaper column, books, and appearances. Ten of her 13 books, including Forever Erma, appeared on the New York Times Best-Seller List. Known primarily for her columns, she was also a member of the original team of ABC's Good Morning America. From 1979 until her death, her name appeared annually on the list of the "25 Most Influential Women in America" as compiled by The World Almanac. She always said her favorite food was pasta and her hobby was dust.
IN honor of women's history month and in memory of Erma Bombeck who lost her fight with cancer, I will share some of her ideas/writings.

I HAD MY LIFE TO LIVE OVER - by Erma Bombeck written after she found out she was dying from cancer).
I would have gone to bed when I was sick instead of pretending the earth would go into a holding pattern if I weren't there for the day.
I would have burned the pink candle sculpted like a rose before it melted in storage.
I would have talked less and listened more.

I would have invited friends over to dinner even if the carpet was stained, or the sofa faded.
I would have eaten the popcorn in the 'good' living room and worried much less about the dirt when someone wanted to light a fire in the fireplace.
I would have taken the time to listen to my grandfather ramble about his youth.
I would have shared more of the responsibility carried by my husband.
I would never have insisted the car windows be rolled up on a summer day because my hair had just been teased and sprayed.

I would have sat on the lawn with my grass stains.
I would have cried and laughed less while watching television and more while watching life.
I would never have bought anything just because it was practical, wouldn't show soil, or was guaranteed to last a lifetime.
Instead of wishing away nine months of pregnancy, I'd have cherished every moment and realized that the wonderment growing inside me was the only chance in life to assist God in a miracle.

When my kids kissed me impetuously, I would never have said, 'Later. Now go get washed up for dinner.' There would have been more 'I love you's' More 'I'm sorry's.'
But mostly, given another shot at life, I would seize every minute. look at it and really see it .. . live it and never give it back. STOP SWEATING THE SMALL STUFF!!! Don't worry about who doesn't like you, who has more, or who's doing what Instead, let's cherish the relationships we have with those who do love us.
We all have so much to learn from her words don't you agree?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Unpredictable Weather......

Totally unpredictable Florida weather puts plants in "chaos". If you look at this photo you will see blooms on my Christmas Cactus and blooms on an Orchard. (March 11, 2009)
This Christmas Cactus is clearly confused to bloom this time of the year, while the bunny waiting for Easter peeks in. If you noticed that is Andy at the lower right of photo. It is difficult to ever do anything in my place without one of the dogs around.