Category Archives: gardening

Lettuce and fruit – what a match


Last September we invested in a Tower Garden and I’ve been on a learning and experimenting curve ever since.  The green lettuce, kale and herbs have been a delightful Winter and early Spring treat.The tomatoes, cucumbers and yellow squash are progressing.  And my beloved Datil peppers are growing nicely.  This is the first time I’ve tried Datils from seed, and I am happy that they are doing well. Can’t wait to make Datil Pepper Relish and Devil Sauce   this summer. (find the sauce recipe at the link).  I’ll share the relish recipe soon.  Watch for it.

The Tower Garden is great for gardening in Florida where bugs and heat are a constant challenge.  Not much we can do about the heat of mid and late Summer, but I find it much easier to control bugs since many of them come up from the ground and this system uses no dirt  — just water that is pumped through to the pods that hold the plants.  Seedlings are started in rock-wool cubes that can be placed in a small dish of water or right in the garden.  Many of my fellow “tower gardeners” in cooler climates garden with the TG right through the winter by using grow lights and keeping their towers inside.  It’s a great system if you are “garden-challenged!”tower garden

For now the strawberries take center stage. I only put in 5 or 6 of the bare root plants that I purchased on Amazon so the harvest is small, but each day I get enough to provide a lovely garnish to a lettuce/fruit salad.  Today I added some orange segments and I think the visual appeal is beautiful.

Top this off with my homemade poppy seed dressing, and you’ve got a delightful lunch to brighten an already beautiful Spring day here in Dunedin, Florida.  But enough, here’s the recipe for the dressing so you can enjoy it on your salad!

Poppy Seed Dressing

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 Tbsp poppy seeds
  • 2 Tbsp sesame seeds (optional)
  • 1 slice or red or sweet white onion, finely chopped
  • 1/4 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar

I chop the onion finely in my mini-blender then add all ingredients except the seeds.  Blend well and transfer to a glass jar.  Add poppy and sesame seeds.  Time to enjoy or chill until ready to use!

Note: I’ve also made this with Splenda, but we do try to stay away from artificial sweeteners for health reasons. Experiment with other sweeteners – especially if you are on a sugar-restrictive diet.

Happy Spring!


Tickle me please….

refrigerator pickles

Refrigerator Pickles (oops someone opened this jar already!                      Photo Credit: Pudbudder Press

Do pickles tickle your fancy? I’ve been pickling cucumbers for years, but in more recent times it’s become more and more difficult to find the time and the space – especially to store them.

Since recently downsizing to a smaller home, storage space is at a premium everywhere, including in the kitchen, so when a refrigerator pickle recipe caught my eye in a recent issue of Cooking Light, my interest was sparked. I stored the idea away on the back burner until we got through our recent relocation to Dunedin on the Gulf Coast of Florida.

Pickling goes way beyond cucumbers. Some of our family’s favorites in recent years have been  my sweet pickles pepper strips  and my hot pepper relish   Both of these recipes made good use of my garden’s bounty.

Aside from the storage space issue I’m now faced with, I’m finding it difficult to find the right spot to use my hot water bath canner. When we traded our old grill that had a side burner for a newer one without a side burner, I found that the flat top electric range just doesn’t work well with this type of canner. The weight of the pot full of water and product makes for a very heavy load for the glass top possibly causing damage to the range and providing uneven heat distribution necessary to maintain the constant boil required for this type of canning. Marisa McClellan of Food In Jars blog addressed this recently and shares her tips and suggestions here so check it out for more info.

So in walks the refrigerator pickle – a quick way to make a delicious couple of jars that keep their crunch and couldn’t be easier.

This particular recipe comes from Food Network’s Ted Allen.  I’ve captured the recipe below or you can follow a link directly to Food Network here:

Refrigerator Pickles from Ted Allen

  • 10 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 cups white vinegar
  • 6 teaspoons kosher salt
  • Several sprigs of fresh dill
  • 1 teaspoon celery seed
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seed
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seed
  • 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 1/2 teaspoon pink peppercorns (Ted’s recommendation if you can find them)

You’ll find Ted’s list below, but really anything you like to pickle works. My personal favorite is cauliflower, and I am going to try just cucumbers and cauliflower next time, adding carrots or sweet red or orange pepper strips for a zap of color!

Ted’s list:

  • 6 Kirby cucumbers, quartered lengthwise
  • 6 young spring carrots, peeled and cut in half lengthwise
  • 1 handful large scallion pieces or green beans
  • cauliflower florets
  • 4 small hot red chiles or 2 jalapenos (I used jalapenos)

If you’re looking for a quick and easy way to have homemade pickle products, this is the way to go.

Do you have a favorite refrigerator pickle recipe?? If so please share!!

By the way, I ordered a Tower Garden and hope to have it up and running next week and will update my readers then. Really excited to get into aeroponic gardening. I’ve been admiring this method for a few years now and finally took the plunge at a local home show. Stay tuned for more….. 

photo credit: Pudbudder Press


Tofu – It really is good!

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Tofu – eww! That’s what you might say when anyone mentions that word. “That’s for those vegetarian/vegan nuts,” you think. Well, to the carnivores in my audience,  think again and give it a try! Last night after an earlier trek … Continue reading

A hot little holiday number – Datil Devil Sauce!

A beatufil batch of Datil peppers from last year's garden. Photo Credit: Words Etc.

A beatufil batch of Datil peppers from last year’s garden.
Photo Credit: Words Etc.

A few days ago, I shared my recipe for black bean burgers that I’ve been making for several years.  A touch that I added is my Datil “Devil” Sauce in place of the traditional hot sauce found on most grocery shelves. Hot sauce is so pretty and makes a delightful holiday gift from the kitchen.

Now there are a ton of hot sauces out there with all sorts of flashy names.  Mine is a simple sauce with a simple name.  If you’re not familiar with the Datil Pepper, you will find a link to some info in a former post of mine here.

This recipe couldn’t be easier, using a base of plain old ketchup. If Datils are not available, use any pepper from your garden’s yield or that you may find at your local produce or farmer’s market.   And remember you can freeze peppers and use them later in your recipes.

I’ve probably cautioned before about working with hot peppers, please protect your hands with gloves to avoid some very uncomfortable burning sensations that will last for several hours. Take care not to touch your face or eyes with those gloves too!   If you’ve worked with hot peppers and have made that mistake, you know exactly what I’m talking about…..

A batch of brightly colored Datil Devil Sauce. Photo credit: Words Etc.

A batch of brightly colored Datil Devil Sauce.
Photo credit: Words Etc.

Christine’s Datil Pepper “Devil” Sauce

Puree together in a food processor:
2 cups Datil peppers stemmed. Seed if you desired a less hot sauce.
2 large cloves garlic
½ cup cider vinegar

In a medium saucepan, mix together 64 oz ketchup (Heinz is best)
2 ½ cups cider vinegar. Add pureed pepper mixture and stir well. Bring to boil; reduce heat and simmer 10-15 minutes.
Cool slightly, then pour into sterilized bottles with non-metallic lids.

I save smaller glass bottles throughout the year. Bottles from soy sauce, chili sauce or empty single-serving glass wine bottles work well for this sauce. I find smaller bottles are better so you have a few to give as gifts.

These peppers are cute, but don’t be fooled. They are hot! So protect your hands as with any hot pepper. The sauce is good by itself if you like hot stuff, but is also good to spike up salsa. A dab atop a cracker spread with cream cheese is beyond comparison.

Besides being a great addition to Black Bean Burgers, try blending a few tablespoons of the sauce with an 8 oz brick of cream cheese, thinned with a little milk for another spicy use of this sauce. Here are some more ideas for using this sauce or your favorite hot sauce:

Cocktail Sauce:

  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • ½ cup Datil sauce
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 2 tsp fresh horseradish, grated, fine
  • 2 tbsp dill pickle, chopped fine

Mix together and it’s ready.

For our carnivore friends:

Marinade for Steak

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic – pressed
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme or 1 ½ tsp dried thyme
  • 2 tsps Datil pepper sauce

Marinate steak for several hours Delicious!!

Enjoy and please share your favorite way to use hot sauce!

Hot stuff from the garden….

Yesterday I shared some updates of “stuff” I’ve been up to through a slideshow.  One pic showed yesterday’s jalapeño pickings. I tried out a simple stuffed jalapeño appetizer and am sharing my version of the recipe here today (as promised in that photo’s caption.)scoville

Now to real fans of hot peppers, jalapeños don’t rate too high in heat. Scoville places it pretty much in the middle as you can see on the chart to the right — well below those really hot little guys in the 2M+ range — like the habaneros!

And while we’re on the subject of hot peppers, I’m always offended that many Scoville charts don’t include our beloved Datil pepper.  If you’re not in Florida, you may not have heard of this delightful hot sweet pepper.  Do a search and you will find lots of info and sources for seeds and plants. I’ve  made this pepper into hot sauce and added it to a wonderful peach/onion/pepper relish that I started making a few years ago.  I also use it in a relish blended with sweet banana peppers and sweet red peppers as well as in my pickled pepper strips.  I even submitted that flavor suggestion to the Lay’s Potato Chip Contest! And on top of that it produces such a beautiful bright orange fruit – but don’t let it’s “cuteness” fool you. It packs a punch!  And if you do order these plants or seeds, be aware that there is also a milder variety that produces a red fruit – so if hot is what you want, be sure to get the right variety.  This is an heirloom plant and is really quite interesting and fun to grow even if you don’t like hot peppers.  You’re sure to know someone who likes hot stuff!

I’ve gotten way off track here from the Stuffed Jalapeños so I’ll get to that and say “Adiós!”  Happy gardening, cooking and eating!

Christine‘s Stuffed Jalapeños

Start with 8 – 10 fresh jalapeño peppers, split and seeded (be sure to use gloves!)

For the filling, mix together:

  • 1/2 cup softened cream cheese  (to cut down on calories, use half lower fat cream cheese)
  • 1/8 cup grated cheddar
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 5 or 6 slices of pepperoni, finely chopped – I turkey pepperoni as we always have it on-hand (A mini-blender works great for this step.  I finely chop the garlic and pepperoni together in the blender. You may also substitute crumbled bacon if you prefer)
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp of fresh squeezed lime juice
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • chopped cilantro and or tomato for garnish  or additional chopped pepperoni

2014-05-29 17.02.42Stuff the pepper halves with the cheese mixture.  Coat a grill rack lightly with grapeseed oil or cooking spray. Grill over medium heat for 7 – 8 minutes.  You want to bottoms of the peppers to be charred and the cheeses to be melted.   Sprinkle with cilantro/tomato.

Enjoy and be sure to have a nice cool drink handy to calm the heat!

Note: You may also use this cheese filling with sweet mini-peppers for a milder appetizer.

Comments, suggestions?




Related articles:

Pickled Sweet Pepper Strips

Chicken Quesadillas from Pudbudder

Hot Peppers!


It’s Salad Day

Today it was salad for lunch.  From time to time I think about giving up on gardening here in Central Florida.  Usually the heat and bugs hit so heavy by July 15 or so that you have to wrap it up.  And that gets frustrating,  But in the last 24 hours I’ve picked green beans, jalapenos and banana peppers – and that makes me realize that it’s all worth it.

green beans

Today’s pick from one row in my little Florida garden.
Photo credit: Words Etc.

If you’ve ever grown green beans, you know there is nothing like fresh – from the garden to the steamer, saute pan or pot and then to your table, all within an hour, can’t be beat.

today's salad

Today’s salad that included my fresh picked yellow banana peppers.
Photo Credit: Words Etc.

Today’s lunch was a salad of a variety of things from my fridge along with a wonderfully aromatic and flavorful portion of sliced banana peppers. Most summers I pickle these delightful peppers, mixing them with red peppers, garlic and spices.  You’ll find the recipe and pictures here. Picking them and adding them right to the salad can’t be beat.  So crunchy and fresh – there’s nothing like it.

And this year, the bugs that usually devour my tomatoes before they even begin to turn red have decided to take a hiatus.  Perhaps it’s because the lizards have returned.  A few years ago our cat Paper Clip decided that lizards were her favorite prey.  And as the number of lizards tumbled, the bug population grew.  But not this year – at least not yet – it’s early.  I guess Paper Clip has had her fill for a while.

Our cats, Paper Clip (bottom) and Susie, love hanging out in the screen room!

Our cats, Paper Clip (bottom) and Susie, love hanging out in the screen room!
Photo Credit: Words Etc.

OK, so the garden hat and basket of tools will remain a part of me for yet another season.

On the second day of Christmas, my true love gave to me……

It’s Day 2 of Pudbudder’s 12 Days of Food.

Today’s gift is a very simple side dish that you can make with collards, cabbage,, spinach, kale or swiss chard or something new I tried in my garden this year – collard cabbage  – a newer variety of greens. It’s quick, easy and versatile as you can add whatever flavors strike your fancy. I start with garlic and olive oil adding a little butter and lemon juice towards the end of cooking time. It’s a great side dish. And the green color is perfect for the season!
If you’re lucky enough to live in a temperate climate like Florida, this is a great winter garden choice. And of course you can grow in the spring just about anywhere. I usually grow broccoli in the winter, but wanted to try something different so added collard cabbage to my winter garden as well.

Collard cabbage and broccoli thrive in northeast Florida.Photo credit: Words Etc.

Collard cabbage and broccoli thrive in northeast Florida.
Photo credit: Words Etc.

These cabbage collards that I am harvesting from my garden are also a great touch to homemade soups and stews. They maintain a nice bright green color when cooked and add both flavor and texture. You can always find collards at the grocery or farmer’s market if you can’t grow your own, so enjoy this recipe even if you don’t grow your own greens!

Christine’s Sauteed Greens

1 large bunch of collard cabbage or greens of choice

1 – 2 tbsp. olive or grape seed oil

2 cloves of garlic, chopped or sliced

Sea salt

Optional: water, butter, lemon juice, cayenne pepper, finely chopped dried hot peppers

Rinse greens thoroughly. Chop into 1 inch wide strips, discarding tough ends.

Heat oil in saucepan. Add chopped garlic, and peppers if desired, sautéing for a few minutes.  Be careful that garlic doesn’t burn. Lower heat and

Add greens to pan after sauteeing garlic and credit: Words Etc.

Add greens to pan after sauteeing garlic and peppers.
photo credit: Words Etc.

add greens to pan and cover.  Continue cooking about 5 minutes. Check pan and add a tbsp. or two or water if desired to allow the greens to steam. Stir mixture and continue cooking on a low heat until the greens are tender to your desired degree of doneness.  Add coarse ground sea salt, lemon juice and/or butter if desired.Serve!

See you tomorrow for Day 3 of Pudbudder’s Holiday Recipe Collection!!

Communicating with all your senses…

I have really been neglecting my blog of late and that has got to stop.  I have so many ideas roaming around in my head, and I have the best intentions.  I create a headline with a few bullet points and save those in a “future blog posts” folder on my laptop.  But other things are just keeping me too busy – both work and family – and all good stuff!

But this evening after spending an evening in my yard, I find myself overlooking all those “future post ideas,” and returning to my thought process of a few weeks ago about Earth Day and how we can carry the message of Earth Day into our lives every day – not just on April 22 of each year. 

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The first picking of beans and peppers!

For me, the best way to communicate with my Earth is through plants.  After enjoying our homegrown green beans and banana peppers this week, I am motivated to keep the momentum going.  As I walk through our small yard I can enjoy a variety of flowers – both perennial and annuals, vegetables ranging from tomatoes to cucumbers to peppers to summer and winter squash. I can see, smell, touch and taste the fruits of my labor.  As I crunch on a fresh-picked green bean, I even hear myself  communicating with my Earth.I am particularly proud of my Delicata winter squash.  These were started from seed that I dried from a Delicata that was purchased from the local grocery store last fall.  Of course we enjoyed the baked squash, but I kept the seeds and thought I’d try to reproduce the deliciously sweet flavors of this beautiful fall delightI view this as natural recycling – buy the vegetable, clean out the seeds, dry them, store them over the winter months, plant them in the spring garden and voilà, we are on our way to enjoying our own homegrown version (as long as our famous Florida bugs don’t overtake!)I try to grow as organically as possible by treating plants with a spray of water, garlic and dish liquid.  It sometimes smells pretty bad, but it seems to do the trick in most cases.  The key is to spray both side of the leaves of plants in either early morning or evening – just when the bugs are ready to feast.  For more ideas like this, check out Gayla Trail and her books and website.

The family chickens!

Adding eggshells to the soil also helps to enrich the soil and also acts as a bug deterrent.  Those shells can be sharp to the soft bodies of snails or slugs that often pester garden soil.  Rest assured that you won’t be killing the little critters  — only making them seek their food elsewhere.  Ouch!  those eggshells hurt….  BTW the eggs I use come from our daughter’s chickens – now  how organic can you get!I guess the important thing is to do what helps you communicate with the Earth in the best way for you.  There are so many things you can do to preserve our Earth for the future.  Check out my post from a few weeks ago for more ideas.  For me taking those little seeds and watching them grow into plants and eventually flowers or vegetables brings the greatest pleasure while I know that I am doing the best thing for my beautiful Earth.  Enjoy your world and keep the doors of communication open!!