Tag: vegetables

Front Yard Urban Gardening

Aerial shot shows the new herb walkway in the front yard garden.
Aerial shot shows the new herb walkway in the front yard garden. (Click to enlarge)

It was the bush that ate Cincinnati.

It was beautiful for about two weeks every spring when it blossomed into a huge white puff, but the azalea bush had overtaken the front of the house. The 7-feet-tall, 7-feet-wide monster was blocking windows and denying sunlight into our lives. So it was time to take action.

BEFORE: This was the front yard at its best, when the azalea bush bloomed for about two weeks.
BEFORE: This was the front yard at its best, when the azalea bush bloomed for about two weeks. (Click to enlarge)

I called Barrett Tree Service to cut back the bush. I didn’t want to kill it, just tame it. Trumbell Barrett, a certified arborist, said the best thing to do was to cut it back, drastically.

All of the wood inside the huge bush was dead so he cut it all back, leaving just the stems with green leaves that were hidden underneath. It should take a year or two to recover and this time I’ll have to be careful when trimming it, making sure sunlight can get inside the plant so that it grows properly and can be shaped and well groomed.

The little bit of grass that surrounded the bush was in pathetic shape, and hardly worth the effort of dragging out the lawnmower to the front of the house. So I decided to dig it up.

I had an ulterior motive: the front of the house is the only part of the yard that gets full sunlight. Now with the grass gone, I had room for a little garden: a little vegetable and herb garden disguised as an English garden. After all, this is the front of the house.

I planted six tomato plants, three basil plants, two mint plants, three oregano plants, a dill plant, a rosemary groundcover, a thyme groundcover, and a sage bush. Surrounding it all are hostas, daylilies, lavendar, and marigolds.

And to make the disguise complete it’s all fenced in with a short, fleur-de-lis, black wrought-iron-looking fence.

AFTER: The front yard seems much larger and even the house seems to breathe a little easier.
AFTER: The front yard seems much larger and even the house seems to breathe a little easier. (Click to enlarge)

I also planted blue morning glories and white moonflowers to climb up the railings on the front steps. The blue morning glories will start to bloom each morning and the white moon flowers will start to bloom each night. I’ve done this before to great effect. (Stay tuned for photos of this summer’s spectacular.)

Next year I may get more adventurous and plant more tomatoes and more vegetables, but this is a good start.

Vegetable and Cheese Strata For a Breakfast Meeting

The strata took center stage at last week's breakfast meeting.
The strata took center stage at last week's breakfast meeting.

Working from home has its benefits and one of them is being able to plan a breakfast meeting in your own backyard.

Last week I held an editor’s meeting in the great outdoors. No sterile company conference room or institutional cafeteria for us.

Since we’re a new company, the purpose of this meeting was for everyone to meet each other and share notes on how best to get started with the work at hand. Everyone learned from each other and I believe the seeds of friendship were sowed amid laughter and free flowing conversation that lasted more than two hours.

That’s right, a two-hour meeting that was productive and fun. I like to think the food (see below) and music (Beatles) had something to do with that.

Here’s the menu:

Vegetable and Cheese Strata

Fresh fruit bowl

Lemon/Cranberry Scones (OK, I bought these. No recipe here) with butter and strawberry jam.

Fresh Iced Tea

Coffee

Vegetable and Cheese Strata (Recipe from the Feb. 1991 edition of Gourmet Magazine):

Don't tell my son, Gabriel, we borrowed his mug for our meeting.
Don't tell my son, Gabriel, we borrowed his mug for our meeting.
  • Ingredients/Shopping List:
  • Onion (1 1/2 cups, chopped)
  • Scallions (1 cup, chopped)
  • Mushrooms (3/4 pound)
  • Olive oil (3 tbsp.)
  • Red bell pepper (2, about 2 cups, cut into thin strips)
  • Green bell pepper (2, about 2 cups, cut into thin strips)
  • Italian bread (About 1 loaf; enough to measure 9 cups, cut into 1-inch cubes)
  • Extra-sharp cheddar cheese (10 oz or 2 1/2 cups, grated)
  • Parmesan cheese (1 cup, grated)
  • Large Eggs (12)
  • Milk (3 1/2 cups)
  • Dijon-mustard (3 tbsp.)
  • Tabasco (6 or 7 dashes or to taste)

What I did:

Cook the onion, scallion and mushrooms in oil over low heat, stirring until the onion is softened.

Add bell peppers and salt and pepper to taste. Cook over moderate heat, stirring for 10-15 minutes or until liquid evaporates and peppers are tender.

Arrange half of the bread cubes in a buttered shallow (4 1/2-quart) baking dish.

Spread half of vegetable mixture over bread cubes and sprinkle half the cheddar and half the parmesan cheese on top.

Arrange the remaining bread cubes over the cheese layer.

Top with remaining vegetables and then the remaining cheese.

In a large bowl whisk together the eggs, the milk, the mustard, the tabasco, and salt and pepper. Then pour this evenly over the strata.

Chill the strata covered, overnight.

Let the strata stand at room temperature for 15 minutes before baking it in the middle of a 350-degree oven for 50 minutes to 1 hour or until it is puffed, golden and cooked through.

This recipe serves 8.

Find more recipes in the Food section.

(Note: If you’d like to print this recipe, click here or on the headline on this post and then use the print button at the bottom of the post. In other words, print from the “permalink” not from the homepage.)

Joe’s Weight-Loss Chinese Chicken and Vegetables

Joe’s Weight-Loss Chinese Chicken and Vegetables

(Above: This dish is healthy, fast and fresh: just like you.)

My friend Joe, who recently found out he is diabetic and lost more than 50 pounds, credits this dish with his success.

Using brown rice, instead of white, is healthier and has fewer calories.  You can also add other vegetables to it as you see fit. This dish is flavorful and doesn’t feel like you’re cutting calories when you eat it.

Joe with his artwork
Joe Gem at one of his art exhibits north of Boston.

 

Joe is an artist, with a natural born talent for sketching people. You can see his work here. He’s available for commissions, and his prices are extremely reasonable. He lives north of Boston with his partner Karen and their two goldendoodles. He likes to cook and even makes his own dog food.

Two goldendoodles
Amos and Andy are goldendoodles and very well behaved.

 

This dish is as easy to make as you like. Joe buys the brown rice (not fried rice) at a nearby Chinese restaurant and gets the chicken meat from a rotisserie chicken he buys at the supermarket. But if you want to save a few bucks (and know exactly what you’re eating) you can choose to roast a few chicken breasts and make the brown rice yourself.

Vegetables in bowls
Once the chicken and vegetables are chopped, this dish comes together pretty quickly.

You can also buy the vegetables already chopped up at the supermarket, but beware: there’s a huge markup on the price and I’m not sure the chopped veggies are as fresh.  A little slicing and dicing never hurt anyone and it’s a great way to build up your cooking skills, if you’re a novice cook.

Vegetables and chicken in a frying pan
Stir it up in a frying pan with a little olive oil. And don’t forget to add the oyster sauce.

Once you have your veggies chopped and your cooked rice, you simply fry it all with a little olive oil and add a little oyster sauce. What could be simpler (and healthier) than that?

 

Joe's Weight-Loss Chinese Chicken and Vegetables

January 26, 2010
: Easy

By:

Ingredients
  • Cooked white chicken meat (about two breasts) cut into 1-inch pieces. You can roast your own by drizzling a little olive oil in a roasting pan, and adding salt and pepper on the breasts. Then cook for about 30-45 minutes (for bone-in breasts) at 350 degrees. When done, cut 1-inch pieces off the bone. Or you can simply buy a cooked chicken at the supermarket and cut the white breast meat off it.
  • Cooked brown rice. (About 4-6 cups)
  • Onion (1 whole, chopped)
  • Scallions (2 bunches, about 8-10). Cut off the roots and then cut them where the stalks are light green and throw away the leaves. Then slice the remaining ends into tiny discs.
  • Mushrooms (About 8 ounces, cut into quarters)
  • Broccoli (about 2-3 cups of florets, cut up into bite size pieces)
  • Extra virgin olive oil (just enough to coat a frying pan to cook the onions and scallions, and just enough to coat a roasting pan if you’re roasting your own chicken breasts)
  • Oyster Sauce (A few tablespoons, to your taste. Available at most specialty shops or in the Chinese ingredient section of some supermarkets. Make sure it does not contain any high glucose corn syrup. Joe uses Lee Kum Kee Oyster Sauce. I tried the Yummy House brand which has more fish flavor and has only 5 calories per serving to Lee Kum Kee’s 25 calories.)
Directions
  • Step 1 Drizzle a few teaspoons of the extra virgin olive oil to coat the bottom of a frying pan. Add the onions and scallions and cook until translucent.
  • Step 2 Then add the mushrooms and broccoli and cook until the mushrooms are golden brown and the broccoli is tender, but not wilting.
  • Step 3 Add the chopped chicken and stir.
  • Step 4 Add the oyster sauce and stir.
  • Step 5 Add the brown rice and stir.
  • Step 6 Cook until heated well through (about 5 minutes) and serve.