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Warm Heirloom Caprese Salad

August 30th, 2011

My version of a Caprese Salad.  Done bruschetta style I top super toasty bread with warm heirloom tomatoes, rich smooth mozzarella, and a drizzle of cool, creamy basil dressing

Warm Heirloom Caprese Salad grown with help from the Humble Seed:

Ingredients for dressing: (Makes extra. I store it a glass jar for later.  I use this dressing for everything from salads, pizzas, pastas, and as a marinade for chicken breast)
2 heaping handfuls of fresh (washed and dried) Superbo Basil
1/4 tablespoons of organic mayonnaise
3 tablespoons of organic sour cream or Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons organic buttermilk
1 clove smashed garlic
A good quality olive oil (I usually add between an eighth and a fourth of a cup depending on the batch and how thick I want the consistency.  The more oil, the thinner the dressing)
salt & pepper to taste
food processor

Other ingredients:
3 Heirloom Tomatoes
6 fat slices of ciabatta or a crusty french bread (you want a type of bread that will get super crunchy)
1/4 pound or 1 large ball of fresh mozzarella cheese cut into six slices

Directions:
Turn your oven onto broil.

Take your basil, mayo, sour cream or yogurt, buttermilk, and garlic and place them all into the food processor. Using the “pulse”setting on your food processor slowly begin to combine all of the ingredients by starting and stopping every 10-15 seconds. Repeat this process until the mix starts to come together and all of the basil is chopped. Next you want to add the olive oil. Turn the “pulse” setting off and use the food processor on normal for this step.  While the lid is on and the blade is turning slowly begin to incorporate the oil in a steady stream until the basil dressing becomes a smooth vivid bright green.  Adding the olive oil should give the dressing a creamy consistency.  Once its completely come together you can store it in a glass jar in your fridge.

Next step is to toast the bread while the dressing is chilling.  Either brush or drizzle your 6 thick slices of bread with olive oil.  This will help the bread to get super crispy.  The toast needs to be crunchy enough to hold up the warm tomatoes and cheese with out getting soggy. Place the slices of bread on a baking sheet and put under the broiler.  Dont walk away during this step.  It is important to watch food constantly when in the broiler, because it can burn so quickly.  Keep the bread under the broiler until it has started to brown on the edges, and is very crunchy in the middle. About four minutes. You may want to turn the bread over onto its other side after two minutes just to ensure its crispy-nes.   When the toast is done place two slices on each plate and let it cool.

Now take your three washed and dried heirloom tomatoes and slice them in to fourths. Brush the slices of tomato with olive oil on each side and salt and pepper. Heat a large skillet on med heat.  When the pan is hot, add enough oil to the pan just to coat the bottom, then add your slices of tomato.  Sear the tomatos for only about 30 seconds on each side, you want them to get a slight brown crust on the outside with out over cooking them until they turn into mush.  When the tomatoes are done place them onto the toast, then add a slice of mozzarella to each bruschetta, and drizzle with the creamy basil dressing!

The crunchy bread topped with all of these flavors is the most amazing combination of creamy, crunchy, warm, and cool all on one little bruschetta!

About Katheryne:

 

Sustainability is very important to me because I believe that we should take care of the planet that gives us so much. Love the earth and it will love you back. Know where your food comes from; be informed about what you are consuming. By choosing to eat organically grown produce the impact that you are making on the environment and your own health is a positive one.  Living sustainably to me, is not about  what you are giving up, it’s about all that you get! You can check out my website and please be sure to “like” my Facebook page!

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Attracting Birds to Your Garden

August 24th, 2011

A well kept garden is a great place to relax, enjoying all
the sights and sounds nature has to offer. One of those pleasures is birds,
nature’s little pets that come around showing their brilliant colors and
singing their sweet songs for our enjoyment. Attracting birds, particularly
specific breeds of birds, to your garden can be a hard task. Today, we’ll look
at some of the things you can do to turn your garden into a birding paradise
all year long.

 

Plants & Shrubs

Greenery is a natural feature of any yard and a  surefire way to have the birds flocking to your home. Use plants that have a lot of nectar in their blossoms, as birds just can’t resist coming to them. A  good mix of annuals and perennials will help you get a variety of birds in your
backyard. Shrubbery and trees are also a welcome addition, as they give birds a  shady area and spots to sit up off the ground away from predators. Keep in mind  that with any planting it’s best to use native species, as they’ll do the best  in your area. Native plants will attract birds native to the region as well, giving you a chance to get a good look at the birds from your region.

 

Bird Bath

One of the staples for attracting birds, a bird bath  serves as a great resting spot for them and a decorative accessory for the  home. They give birds a place to get cleaned up, get a drink, and play around  for a bit. They also give you a great opportunity to watch them – just take a  peek out your window or step out on the patio and you’re sure to see birds  frolicking in the water. While there are many styles of bird baths out there, look for one that has a fountain head in the middle that keeps a steady stream of water flowing. The moving water will entice more birds to come to it.

 

Bird Feeder

If you’re going to give your birds a drink, you should feed them too! Bird feeders are a natural companion to bird baths and a welcome
sight for any bird that’s passing by your home. All that flying takes a lot of energy, so they’re always looking for some extra nutrients. The types of bird  feeders available vary greatly, ranging from long tubes that hold seed to hummingbird feeders that only hold nectar to birdhouse style feeders with cages  to hold suet cakes. When setting up your bird feeder, make sure to place it high enough off the ground that pets like cats or dogs can’t reach it – you don’t want them scaring off the birds!

 

Seed Types

Finally, it’s important to keep in mind that different types of birdseed will attract different birds. Here’s a rundown of some of the more common types and the birds that like them:

Black Oil Sunflower – Cardinals, chickadees,
finches, and many other species

Thistle – Smaller birds, like buntings, finches,
and siskins

White Millet – Doves, juncos, and native
sparrows, among others

Cracked Corn – Blackbirds, jays, and pigeons

Premixed birdseed is also available at most home improvement stores. They often contain a mix of different types of seeds to bring different birds to your home.

Turning your garden into a bird sanctuary is easy if you  know what to do. Keep these tips in mind and you’ll have the birds flocking to your backyard in no time!

 

About The Author – Tina Foreman is a writer with Outdoor Living. She loves outdoor decorating, playing with her dogs, and working in the garden. For more on products like bird baths, planters, garden fountains, and propane fire pits,  visit OutdoorLiving.com.

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Drainage Issues and Your Garden

August 22nd, 2011

 

When communities are planned out, they include a system of swales (low tracts of land)
and drain boxes. These are important as they move the water from between the houses into
central areas that channel the water away from the homes. When this is done effectively, water
progresses appropriately between houses and quickly dries.

Once we start customizing our yards with hedges, fences, sheds, etc. the flow of the water gets
disrupted. These landscape modifications cause the water to channel in different directions
and eventually causes a hassle in a yard or garden that once was dry and perfect. So, how do
drainage problems affect our gardens?

First, let’s clarify that a drainage problem is characterized by standing or pooling water which
does not disperse after 24 hours or more. It is common to see some standing water for a few
hours after a sudden, heavy downpour, but if standing water is a regular thing after every rain or
lawn watering, then you certainly have a drainage problem. Sometimes the problem is caused
by the type of soil you have; clay is more compacted than regular soil and does not absorb
water very well. Other times, the problem is due to water being inefficiently routed from yard
additions as stated above.

The effects of drainage issues:

● Standing water will drown your plants that you work so hard to maintain.
● Poor drainage can cause and exacerbate plant diseases.
● Stagnant water will attract mosquitoes to breed – ugh!
● The dampness can create mold, which in turn creates a health hazard – no fun!
● Depending on how the water flows through your garden/yard it can cause erosion and
expose roots.

So, how can we fix or avoid drainage problems?

● A well-placed, raised plant bed can effectively divert and reroute the water to the swales.
● Adding a strategically placed retaining wall can be just as helpful.
● Install a rain garden in the problem area
● Divert or bury your downspouts so that water from your gutter system is not spewed out
toward your garden or flower bed.
● Sometimes simply adding topsoil to the problem area can solve the issue, but more
commonly just causes problems in another part of your yard or garden.
● Install a French Drain – very simply put: you dig a trench, lay down perforated
polystyrene pipe, cover with gravel and soil, and beautify as you wish! (be sure to verify
whether or not you need a permit in order to install one!)

Whether you have just moved in to a brand new, unmodified community or you have spent the
past 20 years in an established neighborhood drainage problems are likely to arise at some
point or another. Hopefully, you will not have to deal with drainage problems, but if so,  hope
these tips can help you, and keep your garden on track. Now that you’re armed with your best
gardening tool – knowledge – fresh in your mind, get outside and back to growing!

About the author:

Written by Jennifer Murphree on behalf of Carroll Landscaping, Inc. –
Maryland’s award-winning landscape design, build, and maintain company.

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Tips and Tricks to Beat the August Heat!

August 14th, 2011

 

During the dog days of summer, when it’s oppressively hot, you and your plants need some TLC. It only takes a few hours for the sun’s rays to damage your plants beyond repair. Here are some quick and easy tips and tricks to help make what’s left of summer gardening more beneficial for your plants and more bearable for yourself.

  • Watering. Depending on what region you live in, you may be experiencing drought. If so, and if you are dealing with water restrictions, you will need to be thoughtful with the day(s) and time(s) you water. If you can, water your plants deeply and early in the morning. If you have drip irrigation, great! If not, you may want to invest in soaker hoses. And if you live in an area where it may be raining every now and then, a rain barrel is a great way to water your vegetables and reduce your water bills.
  • Feeding your plants. Because many vegetables begin to fruit in hot weather it’s important that you continue to provide them with nutrients. One easy way to do this is by side-dressing your plants with compost.
  • Taking note of your plants. When the heat is on, plants will show signs of distress. Look for browning and/or wilted leaves and little to no flowering. You may be able to save your plants for successful harvesting. Make sure to mulch 3 to 4 inches to help conserve water, and when watering, give your plants a good, deep soak. Mulching also cools the soil temperature by shielding it from direct sunlight.
  • Shade. If your plants are showing signs of excessive heat stress, you should provide them with shade during the hottest part of the day, generally between 11am and 3pm. You can purchase shading material at your local garden center or you can construct a shade barrier using old bed sheets and poles.
  • You. Summer’s heat can be brutal and dangerous so it’s important that you protect yourself when you’re tending to your garden during the day. Using sun block and wearing a wide brimmed hat, loose fitting pants and a light-colored long-sleeved shirt or tee shirt will help reduce skin damage due to the sun’s powerful rays. And make sure to have plenty of water with you if you’ll be working in the garden for any length of time. If you can, pull weeds and clean the garden in the evening.

August is one of the cruelest months for plants, but with care and caution you can continue to enjoy bountiful summer harvests.

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Color Your Plate and Palate with Super Foods

August 2nd, 2011

 

Super foods—some grains, beans, fruits, vegetables, yogurt, and more—offer a great source of antioxidants and essential nutrients. And they’re low in calories, which make them an excellent choice for weight control and weight loss.

Did you know that the colors of fruits and vegetables also put them in their own group of super foods?

Green super foods, such as broccoli, parsley and spinach, contain large amounts of chlorophyll, which is what gives green vegetables their wonderful green coloring. When chlorophyll found in green vegetables is consumed, hemoglobin in blood is increased. Hemoglobin provides more oxygen-rich blood, and oxygen-rich blood helps cells thrive. Green super foods also contain large amounts of easily digestible nutrients, minerals, proteins and vitamins.

Orange fruits and vegetables, such as carrots, mangoes, oranges and pumpkins, are high in beta carotenes. Beta carotenes may help improve immune function and reduce the risk of heart disease. And beta carotenes help strengthen eyesight, the esophagus, the lungs, and the stomach and may help fight cancer in these areas.

Red fruits and vegetables, such as pink grapefruit, red bell peppers, tomatoes and watermelon, offer large amounts of lycopene. Lycopene, a bright red carotenoid pigment and phytochemical, helps protect cells against damaging free radicals. Studies have demonstrated that lycopene may help fight lung and prostate cancers.

In the moments when we’re enjoying a refreshing, tasty slice of watermelon or flavorful, crunchy carrot we don’t always think about the increased health benefits they offer, but they’re there—super benefits from super foods!

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