Monday, September 20, 2010

Cool as a Cucumber...

Creamy Cucumber-Mint Salad with Borage Flowers
...and getting cooler! As the nighttime temperatures have been dropping, we have been doing our best to make use of the last of the garden produce and fresh herbs. Off-season cucumbers from the grocery store just aren't the same! So... we have to savor them while we can. I love eating plain, salted cucumbers, as a rule, but once in a while it is nice to enjoy them in a new and dressed up venue, which will still enhance their delicate flavor. Here's a recipe to help you enjoy your last cucumbers of the season:

Creamy Cucumber-Mint Salad with Borage Flowers

1 lb cucumbers (about eight small cucumbers)
4 Tbsp chopped fresh mint + whole leaves for garnish
1 cup of diluted coconut milk or plain yogurt
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 Tbsp lemon juice
Sea salt
a handful of fresh borage flowers

Scrub cucumbers and peel alternating strips, so that you have striped cucumbers. Thinly slice and put in a bowl. Add chopped mint, coconut milk or yogurt (or coconut milk yogurt, for that matter!), coriander, lemon juice, and salt, and toss until well-combined. Pour into a serving bowl and garnish with whole mint leaves and borage flowers. Chill before serving. Serves 4.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Capture Fall... Make a Terrarium!

 As the leaves turn color, the wind blows colder, and the days grow shorter, it can make a person a little wistful that summer is over, and that we are slowly making our autumn transition into the cold winter ahead. At such a time, one may wish to hold onto anything green and alive before all is covered by a blanket of snow. Well, it is possible! ...with Terrariums!

A terrarium is a bit of nature captured in glass. It often has a cover, but not always. The cover makes a terrarium very easy to take care of, as it minimizes the need for the live plants within to be watered. All that is needed is an occasional light mist. The closed environment preserves the moisture and makes its own small ecosystem. All that is need is a glass container (bowl, candy jar, cheese ball platter, etc), some soil, some moss, perhaps some plants, flowering or not (ferns are especially traditional), and any other gem of nature one would wish to add to the mini garden or piece of nature: stones, pinecones, colored leaves, a piece of birchbark... the possibilies really are endless.

Terrariums were very popular during the Victorian Era, after the concept was discovered by Nathaniel Ward. Read the history here. The "Wardian Case" style of terrarium is named after him. His book on the subject, On the Growth of Plants in Closely Glazed Cases is available to read online here. A very helpful, up-to-date book on the subject, with artistic ideas and good advice is The New Terrarium: Creating Beautiful Displays for Plants and Nature. I checked it out at our local library and found it to be both helpful and inspiring. "Apartment Therapy" has some inspirational pictures of terrariums here.

Terrariums don't have to be complicated at all. Here are a couple other resources:
How to Create a No-Fuss Garden: Terrariums give you low-maintenance beauty all year long
Grow a Mini-Garden

My Terrarium

Inside My Terrarium
My dad really "gets into" terrariums... Literally. A Greenhouse is merely a giant terrarium! Here is my dad working on our permanent greenhouse, which will help extend the growing season for those of us in the northern part of the country:

Dad working in the Greenhouse. Photo taken by my Mom.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Enjoy Fall & Get Healthy: Go Foraging!

Sumac berries, Blackberries, and Rose hips from a recent forage

Ah, Fall... a time when colors change, and everything seems to be dressed in varying shades of red, orange, brown, and gold: the leaves, the garden bounty... nature itself. As beach days and barbeques give way to school days and soup dinners, it is nice to be able to make use of these lingering longer days by gathering treasures of nature to pleasure the senses.

On a leisurely walk to the lake over the past weekend, I was delighted to find a few last blackberries, some rose hips, and sumac berries. Foraging this time of year awards a number of satisfactions of both sight and taste, as we wish to savor the season by bringing the outdoors in:

Decor: The following gems of the season all lend a lovely autumn flair to centerpieces, fireplace mantles, window sills, office desk, or anyplace that needs to be "spiced up'" with some fall decor:  

Sumac berries
Pressed leaves
Crab apples
Rose hips
Small stones

The addition of locally-made beeswax candles adds a soft amber glow to such an arrangement, when lighted.

A Nature-inspired Centerpiece on our Dining Room Table

Culinary Delights: Some of the nature's offerings to the culinary scene include:

Blackberries (the last of the season)
Steep about five leaves in a cup of boiling water for a light tea.

Sumac berries
Sumac-ade: Pick about half a dozen clusters, place them in a pitcher, pour cold water over them, and bruise them a bit with your hand. Let steep in a cold place for a while, until the water turns a light pink. Sweeten with stevia, honey, maple syrup, or unprocessed sugar (Sucanat or Rapadura), or enjoy plain.

Apples (Perhaps a sweeter variety in your own yard!)

Rose hips
Rose hip tea: Cover 3-4 chopped fresh rose hips with a cup of boiling water and steep for 3-5 minutes. Sweeten with stevia, or as desired.

Dandelion roots (By this time of year, the leaves are pretty bitter)
Dandelion root "coffee"

    Apple picking from the tree of very generous neighbors

    Don't forget your cultivated corner of nature: Your Garden! (or a Farmer's Market). Make use of the fresh herbs while you have them available. Turn basil and parsley into pesto, and see which herbs you can easily nurture on a window sill or in a sun room over the fall and winter.

    Saturday, September 11, 2010

    End of Summer, Beginning of Fall

    Canoe trip on the Bigfork River

    After inadvertently taking an extended summer vacation from blogging, I'm back behind the desk with my apple and books... and a freshened-up look for the blog, which is still in progress as I hit the books to catch up on my technology knowledge... !

    The above picture I took during a short canoe trip I took with three of my high school friends in July... a beautiful segment of the Bigfork River, in northern Minnesota. Camping along the way brought out some new fashion ideas, in the way of mosquito netting: stylish hats and jackets that could even rival tea time or bridge party apparel! (think netted hats of the 1940s and 50s)

    Besides canoeing, this summer has been full of all kinds of summer fun: swimming, hiking in the woods, picnicking, attending or singing in weddings, eating garden produce, berry-picking, flea marketing, swing dancing to big band music on a lake, attending or participating in living history events, traveling, reading... Oh yes-- I do actually work too! Now that summer adventures and travels have come to an end, it's time to get back to class! Yes, I've already graduated from college, but still there is that desire to attend classes and/or listen to lectures. Especially in the fall. I guess about 20 years of the pattern makes the habit difficult to break!

    So, this fall I have so far decided to take up Watercolor, Knitting, Crocheting, Photography... attend a seminar on essential oils... and cultivate the much neglected singing voice with voice lessons. No Organic Chemistry or Statistics or Macroeconomics here! Working at the health food store and playing the pipe organ for church should round out my daylight hours this fall, and keep me doing the things I love best.

    The care-free days of summer are over, but good things lie ahead! Up next: fun ways to enjoy fall, improve your health, and feel your best!