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The Cook’s Herb Garden

Posted by on Apr 24, 2016 in Bookshare, Frugal For Everyone, Gardening, Herbs | 28 comments

The Cook’s Herb Garden

The Cook’s Herb Garden is another DK book that I’m delighted to share with you. Now is the perfect time to prepare the summer’s herb garden and this book is filled with step-by-step pictorial instructions for choosing, growing, harvesting, storing and using herbs. Herbs are probably the easiest plants to grow since they really don’t like a lot of fussing. Most grow best in a 50-50 well-draining mix of sand and soil, require regular watering and an occasional feed of liquid fertilizer in summer. That’s it, couldn’t be easier. Images below from: The Cook’s Herb Garden – copyright 2016 Dorling Kindersley Inc – used with permission and with thanks.  The Cook’s Herb Garden – Everyday Essentials: While basic growing, harvesting and cooking instructions are attached to each herb listed in the comprehensive herb catalogue, everyone of those topics is described in greater detail further on in the book.  One of the things I really like about the section on using herbs is the recipe section. There are some super recipes that I haven’t heard of before but can’t wait to try: Cream of Herb Soup; Watercress Butter; Chimichurri (Argentinian Meat Sauce); Black Currant Cordial; Mixed Herb Pesto, shown below; plus many more. Suggestions for using the Everyday Essential Herbs shown in planter: Cilantro: Use fresh, chopped leaves in salads, with coconut, citrus, avocado, fish and meat. The dried seeds are spicy, sweet and mildly orange-flavored – use them in Indian and Asian dishes. Thyme: Add to any savory dish or use to flavor poultry, pork, and fish dishes; add to stuffings and vegetables. Flat-Leaf Parsley: Both the stems and leaves can be added to a multitude of savory dishes; from omelets to stews to baked fish. Sage: Chop very fine and use in small amounts. Add toward the end of cooking to risotto and pork, veal and venison dishes; pick a stem for bouquet garni; use dried leaves for stuffing, poultry, fish, potatoes and carrots; use flowers to make summer teas. Purple Basil: Basil is best known for use with tomatoes. Basil’s flavor intensifies when cooked. For a more subtle taste use it raw or add it at the end of cooking. For more ways to use basil check out Basil does it all Oregano: Oregano’s pungent, spicy flavor gives a unique lift to Mediterranean ingredients and dishes – pizza, pasta, fish, meat beans, tomatoes, eggplant and zucchini. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ The Mixed Herb Pesto recipe, from The Cook’s Herb Garden, uses basil, oregano, flat-leaf parsley, and garlic – all herbs that you can easily grow yourself. Toss the pesto with pasta, stir it into rice or use as salad dressing (whisk 1Tbsp. balsamic vinegar or lemon juice into 3-4 Tbsp. pesto.) Serves 2 Prep 15 MINS Cook 20 MINS 3 Tbsp. coarsely chopped basil 2 tsp. coarsely chopped oregano 3 Tbsp. coarsely chopped flat leaf parsley 2 garlic cloves Coarse sea salt 1 ¾ oz (50g) Parmesan cheese, grated 3-3 ½ oz (90-100ml) fruity olive oil Freshly ground black pepper 10 oz (300g) dried pasta 1 Tbsp. heavy cream (optional) Put the herbs in a large mortar, reserving 1 Tbsp. to finish. Smash the garlic with the flat of a knife, peel and add to the mortar. Sprinkle in a little salt. Pound down onto the mixture until it is mushy. Add the Parmesan a little at a time and beat vigorously to blend. Slowly beat in the olive oil until you have a thick coarse paste, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook the pasta according to the package instructions. Drain, reserving 2 Tbsp. of the cooking...

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Save the Bees – Those Little Buzzers Keep Us Fed.

Posted by on Mar 20, 2016 in Bookshare, Green Living | 41 comments

Save the Bees – Those Little Buzzers Keep Us Fed.

Anyone who is at all environmentally conscious is aware of the rapid decline of the bee population. Until I wrote a previous post Bring back the pollinators I was aware of it but didn’t really feel it was my problem. What weird thinking. Much of our food supply depends on being pollinated by bees therefore the problem definitely concerns all of us. Actually, while no one has pinpointed the cause(s), I believe we home gardeners are partially responsible for the decline with our insistence on manicured, weed-free lawns and flowerbeds. When we spray plants with pesticides/herbicides the pollen collected by the bees is poisonous. When they carry this back to the hive it either kills the developing bees or weakens their immune system making them more susceptible to disease and predators. Therefore if we’re part of the problem, it only makes sense that we become part of the solution. Please share this post with all your social media friends and help save the bees. Alone our efforts are limited. Together we can make a huge difference. Let’s do it. The bees thank you. The following Information is “Excerpted from The Bee Book – copyright Dorling Kindersley Inc. / Used With Permission”. How can we help to save the bees?   Bees have some kind of internal mapping system and will return to the most bee-friendly yards. Therefore a good place to start is to make your yard a place where bees want to hang out. Bees prefer yards with a variety of plants – trees, shrubs, flowers, vegetables and herbs. By also providing them with plants that bloom at different times throughout the season they’ll be more than happy to stay around. They will need a water source and since they don’t like standing in water they should have shallow water dishes with a dry place for them to land. The dishes should be cleaned and filled with fresh water daily. And of course, no spraying of chemicals. 1.California Lilac; 2. Apple; 3. Orange-ball Tree; 4. Culver’s Root;  5. Bergamot; 6. New England Aster; 7. Giant Onion; 8. Anise Hyssop; 9. Meadow Cranesbill; 10. Lavandin; 11. Sea Holly; 12. Bowles’ Mauve Wallflower; 13. Orange Coneflower; 14. California Poppy; 15. Thyme; 16. Phacelia; 17. Field Poppy; 18. Lamb’s ears. Mid-height spring-flowering plant – Hellebore and Low-growing spring-flowering Crocus.   Not all bees live in hives. There are thousands of different species and some, like the Mason Bees (very effective pollinators), find other places to nest. Unfortunately, because of built-up areas and landscaped lawns they are having a difficult time finding suitable places. We can help them out by making nesting sites for them. The book displays a variety of them – a Clay Bee House, a Wood Block Bee House and even a Pallet Bee Hotel but I was mostly intrigued by the Bamboo Bee House below. It looks neat, is very simple and inexpensive to make, and can be hung anywhere out of the way. Bamboo Bee House – To Build: Measure and mark 8″ (200 mm) from one end of a piece of 4″ (110 mm) diameter PVC pipe – cut the pipe with a handsaw Cut bamboo 1/2″ – 5/8″ (10-15 mm) shorter than the PVC pipe. As you cut the bamboo make one of the cuts close to a ‘node’ (the knuckle-like joints found at intervals along bamboo canes) so that each piece has an open and closed end. Mark 2 points halfway along the PVC pipe at roughly the 10 o’clock and the 2 o’clock positions when viewing the pipe from its end. Drill holes at both...

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Vegetable Gardens for Small Space Gardeners

Posted by on Feb 14, 2016 in Bookshare, Gardening | 34 comments

Vegetable Gardens for Small Space Gardeners

With small suburban lots and condo living having become the norm, there are many people who feel they don’t have space for vegetable gardens. It’s not that they wouldn’t like to grow some of their own herbs and vegies, they just don’t see how they can. Well, guess what? Vegetable gardens are not only possible in the smallest spaces, done right they can add a lot of visual interest to their surroundings. I recently discovered this DK Book at the Library – Grow All You Can Eat in 3 Square Feet. This 255 page book is basically a step-by-step pictorial guide showing in detail how one or more small vegetable gardens can be placed in, on or against all kinds of unusual spots. No doubt you’ve heard it said “A picture’s worth a thousand words”. Looking at the images below, don’t you agree that they show what can be done better than any words could? The only thing I did was add a bit of supporting information and a few helpful suggestions. All Photos below from: Grow All You Can Eat in 3 Square Feet – copyright 2016 Dorling Kindersley Ltd – used with permission and with thanks.  Vegetable Gardens for Small Spaces: Anyone having access to a wall will be able to use the wall-mounted planting pockets to grow herbs and salad greens. The one shown is hung from a bamboo pole to avoid drilling a lot of holes in the wall. It’s easy to see that this unit can be placed against any wall – house, garage, garden fence, etc. Consider filling one with herbs and salad greens, then hanging it outside the kitchen door, convenient for picking salad fixin’s when you need them. The unit shown above contains: Thyme, rosemary, sage, viola, chives, strawberries and Microgreens The Microgreens post, which was written for indoor growing, can easily be adapted to outdoors. Just plant the seeds in the pockets and cover with vermiculite. Don’t let them dry out. Instead of harvesting at 2-3 inches, I would let them grow to 4-6 inches, before cutting them.  Companion planting is one of the better things you can do, both for the garden and for the environment. Here’s a very simplified description of how it works. Peas and beans add nitrogen to the soil which helps flowers grow bigger and better. Flowers return the favour by attracting pollinators needed for proper vegetable growth. Chamomile increases the fragrance of aromatic plants attracting even more pollinators. Pollinators plus the fragrance put out by different plants deter pests. No effort required but by using companion planting methods you save work for yourself and do the garden and the environment a world of good. As shown above, companion planting works as well in pots as it does in window-boxes, flowerbeds, vegetable gardens, or combinations. I love the idea of using reclaimed or recycled materials to grow food. Doesn’t that sound just so ‘green’? It wouldn’t be hard to find materials for the above unit at yard sales, flea markets, thrift stores, or possibly even in your own garage. It is simple to put together and doesn’t require tools. What I really like about it is that it can be placed anywhere – on the deck, patio, balcony, tucked in a corner of the backyard, placed in full sun, part shade or protected from wind. This is another great idea for growing ‘frequent harvesting’ produce like salad greens and herbs since it can be placed wherever it is handiest.  It’s not only the standard herbs and vegetables that can be grown in small spaces. Apples,...

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Charm the Chocolate Lover in Your Life

Posted by on Nov 13, 2014 in Bookshare, Frugal For Everyone, Health, Product Information, Recipes | 61 comments

Charm the Chocolate Lover in Your Life

 I recently received the book “Chocolatour: A Quest for the World’s Best Chocolate”. As I was reading it I thought this would make a fabulous gift for the chocolate lover. Written by my friend, award-winning author Doreen Pendgracs, a fellow Canadian, Chocolatour takes you on an adventure around the world in search of the World’s Best Chocolate. Through the book, Doreen allows the reader to accompany her on the journey. She starts by taking you to  where it all begins, the cacao plantations of South America. This is also where the adventure begins – to Peru, with a two-hour cab ride followed by a four-hour river journey, in a small motorized boat, over numerous rapids. This is followed by a trip to Ecuador where a mudslide disrupts the journey and you need to wait eight hours for the roads to be cleared before traveling on. She then takes you on the rest of the South American adventure, which is fortunately not all hazardous as it includes a visit to a luxurious spa where a chocolate body scrub turns into a blissful, rejuvenating experience. The next chapter is called “Chocogasms and other health benefits of chocolate”. How’s that for an enticing title? Chocolate is called the ‘feel good’ drug and it has numerous health benefits. It contains many health-friendly minerals, vitamins and antioxidants (raw chocolate has ten times more antioxidants than blueberries). One research finding that chocolate lovers are going to love is if you have a chocolate craving, just give in to it. Once you do, you’ll feel better, be more mentally and emotionally balanced and more able to get on with your day. Later in this post I have included a scrumptious recipe for Guinness Chocolate Truffles made with 70% chocolate and Guinness extra stout beer. Imagine, a treat that is actually good for you. Back to the book. Doreen then takes you on a tour of chocolate companies throughout Europe and the UK. You will meet world famous chocolatiers from Belgium, France, Holland, Italy, Spain, Switzerland and the UK. These masters proudly discuss their craft and offer many different ways to use and serve chocolate. They’ve provided some fascinating recipes, including chocolate gazpacho or how about a summer salad dressed with a chocolate vinaigrette? One of the cities that really intrigued me was Brussels, in Belgium. This tiny European country is home to 2,130 chocolate shops and the Grand Place in Brussels, shown below, has a number of famous chocolate shops. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to spend a day or two there? There is so much more to enjoy in this book, but you’ll have to discover that for yourself. Right now I want to share one of the recipes in the book for: Guinness Chocolate Truffles From Executive Chef, Justin O’Connor, of the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin, Ireland. 1 kg. dark chocolate 70% or better 400 ml heavy cream 100 ml Guinness extra stout beer zest of one orange, grated cocoa powder or dessicated coconut to coat the truffles. Method: Add the cream and the Guinness to a saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the chocolate and grated orange zest. Mix together until the chocolate is fully melted. Leave the chocolate mixture until it is cool to the touch, but not set. Take generous teaspoons of the mixture and roll in your hands to form small round truffles. Dust in cocoa powder or coconut powder. I prefer the coconut as it adds a lovely flavour to the truffles. Set in the fridge for 2-3 hours. Makes 25 truffles. Shelf life: One month. MY NOTES: You...

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