Thursday, August 28, 2014

A “peachy” end to summer

Peaches are in season, so be sure to try this delicious cold soup from the September 2005 Gourmet magazine!Sammy Thompson
Yield: Makes 4 first-course servings

  • 1 1/2 lb tomatoes, chopped (4 cups)
  • 1 lb peaches, pitted and chopped (2 cups)
  • 1/4 cup crushed ice
  • 2 tablespoons chopped shallot (1 medium)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons white-wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup water
1)  Purée two thirds of tomatoes and half of peaches with ice, shallot, 1 tablespoon oil, 1 tablespoon vinegar, 2 teaspoons tarragon, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a blender until very smooth, about 1 minute. Force through a medium-mesh sieve into a large glass measure, discarding solids. Stir in water to desired consistency.
2)  Toss together remaining tomatoes and peaches with remaining tablespoon oil, remaining 1/2 tablespoon vinegar, remaining teaspoon tarragon, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper in a bowl.
3)  Serve soup in bowls topped with tomato peach salsa.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Wild, wildlife in SC

It’s become a family tradition to head to Edisto Island SC each summer for a little R & R at Edisto Beach State Park.  One of our favorite side-trips is visiting Bulls Island, a barrier island in the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge.  As I’ve reported in past posts, every year we enjoy taking the Bulls Island Ferry across the estuary to enjoy a day of solitude and beachcombing in this spectacular wilderness area.  edisto54 (yup, that’s us on a wonderfully empty beach)  On the way, the team from Coastal Expeditions always provides a fun and informative presentation about what we might find while on the island, including the occasional blue crab.  edisto60 Our trip to the island once again didn’t disappoint!  We especially enjoyed a few exciting wildlife encounters.  We saw plenty of crabs, including the blue crab, stone crab edisto61, and even the sometimes elusive ghost crab edisto31!  Since we hit the boneyard at low tide, we saw plenty of sand dollars edisto42.  In case you’re not familiar with sand dollars, they’re the skeletons of a small, flat, burrowing animal that’s related to sea stars.  Here’s a neat video showing the living sand dollars:  Bulls Island has plenty of beach life, but there’s also great wildlife in the interior of the island.  Thanks to the helpful Coastal Expeditions staff, I found trails to investigate other parts of the island.  On a previous visit, I saw a beautiful buck bounding by the trail.  This time, I saw white ibex (photo credit: and the tiny, colorful Gulf Fritillary butterfly edisto57.  And just to add a little excitement to our trip, an alligator paid our ferry a visit (with a pelican adding scenic beauty!)  edisto59  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, this is a green getaway that you shouldn’t miss if you’re ever in the Charleston SC area.  Be sure to visit the Coastal Expeditions website for details on this and other specialty trips.  (Important note: our first visit to Bulls Island was definitely “buggier” than other years, and I kidded about it in a previous post. It’s not always so buggy – this year wasn’t bad at all!)

Saturday, August 23, 2014

But it’s biodegradable….

Have you ever heard someone say that it’s OK to throw trash like excess fruit, sandwiches,or nuts out of a car window because “it’s biodegradable”.  I think most of us know that excuse doesn’t pass the sniff test, but for those who still need a little convincing, take a look at this guy backyardcampout4.  He loves your trash and will go almost anywhere to get it.  During a recent wildlife presentation at Sky Meadows State Park, the folks at the Blue Ridge Wildlife Center reminded campers that edible trash near roads attracts wildlife, such as this Virginia opossum.  Unfortunately, animals that are attracted to the sides of roads are often hit by cars – bad news for both animals and cars.  So instead of tossing your “biodegradables” out of the car window, always take them to the nearest trash can.  The deer, gophers, skunks, and possums thank you!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Got tomatoes? Fry ‘em!

20140801182632I’ve got WAY too many unripened tomatoes this year.  What to do?   Fry them, of course – fried green tomatoes are one of those summertime treats that you just have to enjoy NOW!  No fancy recipe; it’s pretty simple.  Set up 3 bowls – one with flour, one with beaten egg, and one with panko bread crumbs.  Slice some green tomatoes.  Roll the tomato slices in flour, dunk in egg, and roll in panko.  Heat canola oil in a frying pan and fry the tomatoes until golden brown.  Enjoy with a nice cucumber yogurt or tsatsiki!

Got even more zucchini?

So last week you were overrun with zucchini, so you stuffed it.  This week, you can try this tasty and very easy recipe from 101 Things to Do With Zucchini by C. Ducan and G. Patrick.

  101 Things to Do with Zucchini
Spicy Zucchini Pasta

8 oz. pasta
4 small zucchini, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic , minced
4 tblsp olive oil
2 cans (15 oz. each) Rotel or tomatoes with spicy peppers
1 tblsp dried parsley
2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 to 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/8 to 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

  1. Cook pasta.
  2. In a medium frying pan, saute zucchini and garlic in oil until zucchini is tender.  Add tomatoes, parsley, oregano, and red pepper flakes.
  3. Drain pasta and top with zucchini mixture.
  4. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.  Enjoy!

TBT–Latest Buzz on Counting Bees

bee on liatrisIf you’re noticing lots of bumblebees in your garden, but don’t know which species they are, this is the TBT for you!  Join the Xerces Society and count those bees!

If you’re anything like me, you enjoy the buzz in your garden when the weather warms up and the bumblebees are all over the lavender and joe-pye weed in your garden.  The fall and winter just feel cold and lonely in the garden without that familiar buzz.  Well chins up, greenmomsters!  There’s a project that you can look forward to in 2014!  Join the Xerces Society in their citizen science project – Bumblebee Watch!  As things warm up next spring, you’ll be able to help scientists determine the number of species and the number of individual bees in North America!  You can get all the info and sign up at the Xerces Society website.

Want to keep up on other citizen science projects and green news?  Be sure to “Like” greenmomster on Facebook!

Monday, August 4, 2014

A Sting in the Tale

A Sting in the Tale: My Adventures with BumblebeesPollinators are everywhere these days – in our gardens and in the news.  Several national chains, like Wal-Mart, Home Depot, and Lowes have pledged to sell or label plants that are “bee-friendly” and do not contain neonicotinoids (OK, it’s not 100%, but it’s a step in the right direction).  Even the White House issued a Fact Sheet on the economic challenges posed by declining pollinator populations; they established a Pollinator Health Task Force (headed by EPA and USDA) which will develop a National Pollinator Health Strategy – maybe we’ll finally catch up with Europe on pesticide policy! 

But you’re a greenmomster, and I’m guessing you want more pollinator news!  Well, if you can’t see yourself at the beach with some boring romance novel, have I got the book for you – A Sting in the Tale by Dave Goulson, founder of the Bumblebee Conservation Trust in the UK.  Here’s a very entertaining non-fiction book about bumblebees.  And who doesn’t love bumblebees, in all their furry, clumsy, loudly buzzing glory?  I get a kick out of bumblebees, because they’re gentle and seem to defy the laws of physics when they fly.  Dr. Goulson has spent his career as a researcher in England and France studying these creatures, and his book provides an entertaining look at the various types of bumblebees he encounters.  He does an expert job at very simply explaining ecological concepts, like the Allee affect and genetic bottlenecking.  And I learned fascinating insights into the use of bumblebees for pollination, much the way honeybees are used worldwide.  Dr. Goulson also includes many funny stories about his learning curve as a child and his adventures on a farm in France.

If you're looking for something a little more enriching than the usual summertime read, but still want to relax with a book, I highly recommend A Sting in the Tale.  Happy reading!

Friday, August 1, 2014

Got Zucchini? Try stuffing it!

If you’re like me, you have a garden FULL of zucchini at this time of year.  You’ve fried it, steamed it, baked it into bread, used it to top pasta.  Well, here’s a great recipe I found in the June 2012 issue of Cooking Light.  This recipe isn’t for a busy weeknight – it takes a little time, but it’s well worth it!  Make extra, because your family will really like the unique flavor!

Persian Rice – Stuffed Zucchini with Pistachios and Dill 

20140726183608 (2)
6 medium zucchini
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
3 tblsp olive oil
3/4 cup jasmine rice (I used brown rice)
6 cardamom pods (or the equivalent in ground cardamom)
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/8 tsp ground red pepper (I used a little extra)
1 1/4 cups water
8 dried apricots, coarsely chopped (about 1/3 cup – I added more because I love dried apricots)
1/2 tsp grated orange rind
2 tblsp fresh lemon juice
2 tblsp fresh orange juice
1/3 cup chopped shelled dry roasted, unsalted pistachios (I used salted and didn’t chop mine, because I like lots of pistachio crunch and taste)
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
1/4 cup chopped parsley
2 ounces goat cheese, crumbled (about 1/4 cup)
1 15 oz. can chickpeas, rinsed and drained

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  2. Cut zucchini in half lengthwise and scoop out pulp, leaving about 1/2 inch thick shell.  Chop pulp.  Place zucchini halves, cut sides up on an oiled baking sheet and sprinkle with 1/2 of the salt and pepper.  Bake for about 15 minutes.
  3. Heat a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Add 1 tblsp oil.  Add rice, cardamom, and cinnamon, and cook for about 5 minutes.  Add 1/4 tsp salt, cumin, red pepper, and 1 1/4 cups water (I usually use double the water as rice, so if you have 3/4 cup rice, use 1 1/2 cups water)  Bring to a boil.  Cover and reduce heat, and simmer 12 minutes, or until the water is absorbed.  Cover and let stand 10 minutes. 
  4. Discard cardamom (if you used pods) and cinnamon stick.
  5. Spoon rice mixture into a large boil.
  6. Combine remaining 2 tblsp of oil, remaining salt and pepper, orange rind, and juices in a small bowl.  Stir with a whisk.  Add dressing, reserved zucchini pulp, pistachios, and remaining ingredients to rice mixture and mix.
  7. Preheat broiler to high (I set mine at 450 degrees)
  8. Spoon rice mixture into each zucchini shell and broil for about 6 minutes or until lightly browned.