Monday, November 28, 2011

November Recipe Round-up

I love cool season vegetables. They are relatively easy to grow - just poke a hole in the garden bed, deposit a seed, cover the seed, and water (when the rain doesn't do it for you). Winter vegetables are so very delicious and so very good for you - leafy greens like arugula, Swiss chard, kale, and lettuces, pungent root vegetables such as onions, radishes, parsnips, and garlic to name a few. I have so far shared recipes for Swiss Chard & Cannellini bean soup and Basil-Arugula Pesto. As a new segment in my blog, I begin my monthly recipe round-up as an explanation of how I have been utilizing my home grown produce.

Hubby stuffed our Thanksgiving turkey with an apple, an onion, 1 sprig of sage, and 1 sprig of rosemary (sage and rosemary courtesy of my perennial herb garden). Delicious!
I made excellent use of my extra pomegranates as autumn inspired decor.
A Love Bug, a Pomegranate cocktail made with pomegranate juice, vodka, and ginger ale. The original recipe calls for pomegranate liqueur, but Hubby substituted our fresh squeezed juice for a lighter, fresher taste. For a virgin drink, simply omit the vodka. Add a fresh lime wedge (also from the garden) for a citrus tang.
Kale is a somewhat bitter, leafy green that tastes similar to broccoli with a kick! Hubby helped me make a Kale Puttanesca with canned tomatoes, garlic, and anchovy fillets. It was spicy and pungent, a more traditional Italian peasant meal that makes me hope I am finding my roots. We omitted the capers and the olives because I am not fond of either of them. But this allowed the other ingredients to shine.

Pasta and Kale Puttanesca cooking - once the pasta is done, drain, then add it to the vegetable mixture and stir.
The plating - don't forget the Parmesan cheese!
November Recipe List with Links:

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

New and Improved!

Hello readers! As you probably already noticed, I have been working to update my gardening blog with an improved layout and adding relevant content. I invite you to peruse my blog and give me feedback. (Please be gentle with me as my HTML skills are pathetic and I depend on the Blogger interface for formatting.)

Monthly Checklist – I will update my garden task list on a monthly basis and cross the tasks off as I complete them. I hope this will help other Southern Californian gardeners determine what to do and when to do it.

My Recipes – I created a list of the recipes that appear in my blog using links to the recipes. These links lead to pages inside and outside my blog. Be on the look out for more recipe sharing next year.

Weather Widget – Curious to see the weather in my Victory Garden? Take a look at my widget on the right had side of the page. Chances are, if it is a lovely day and a weekend, I will be out in the garden!

Gardening Bookshelf – I am now sharing my reviews on gardening books, garden themed novels, and other food related books on this bookshelf thanks to a widget. I look forward to posting more gardening book reviews in the New Year!

“You might also like:” widget – At the end of each post, this widget recommends similar posts that the reader may be interested in reading. I hope this will help share older content and pique reader interest in similar topics.

My Causes (content and cause will change periodically) – It should come as no surprise that I support Animal Welfare (thanks to for the widgets), specifically my local chapter of the Humane Society and ASPCA. I want to showcase a very special dog, Bolt, who has been looking for his forever family for over a year. I invite you to check out his profile on and the San Diego Humane Society website to learn more about him. If you are not in the position of adopting a dog, please email his profile to friends and family that may be interested in adopting him. 

I wish all my readers a Happy and Safe Holiday Season!

Best Regards,
Rosie Tomato

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Thanksgiving Preparations (November Bloomday)

Although it is still too early for an accurate extended weather forecast, I hope that at least part of Thanksgiving can be spent outside on the patio. Hubby and I are hosting approximately 12 this year for a potluck style dinner. Not only have we been planning out menus, grocery lists, and indoor and outdoor cleaning schedules, but we are proceeding through phase two of the renovation of our 1950s ranch. The master bath upgrade is underway; it has literally been unusable (we're talking holes in the ceiling, no electricity or water) for the past five years. Phase one of the renovation (everything else except the bathrooms) really tired us out and it took us this long to get motivated again. As well as the bathrooms, we had the exterior stucco repainted and the house numbers replaced. I love the modern colors - they bring this ranch into the twenty-first century!

With new paint, the curb appeal has vastly improved, and all we need to do in the front yard is some weeding and trimming. The new layer of mulch will help to lock in moisture (we'll hopefully run on rain water through early spring) and will minimize though not eliminate weeds. In the back yard, I have pruned the roses, mulched the flower beds, and trimmed the lavender and fuchsia. All I need to do now is clean up the patio furniture and I will have an restful outdoor room ready for Thanksgiving, far from the bustle of the kitchen. Crossing my fingers for good weather! Now, onto my next and most favorite task, making pumpkin bread!

Ornamental kale with mulch
Sweet peas are in, but I doubt I will have blooms by Solstice.
Yay! My second round of winter vegetables are poking through the soil!
Starting the soil amending process
Must cook something with the kale
What is missing? That ugly pole - this opens the vista beautifully!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Enjoy the Silence

One of my favorite places to relax, recharge, and seek inspiration is the Self Realization Fellowship Garden in Encinitas, CA. The garden overflows with tranquil beauty and multiple garden benches invite you to sit and behold the scenery. There are so many choices: watch the koi swim in the fish pond, revel in the jungle-like surroundings, view the brilliant succulents, or stare out to sea and watch the waves crash upon the shore. I like to write here and collect my thoughts. I do not shut my eyes to meditate, for I cannot shut my eyes for long in such a beautiful garden.

Stairway from lush jungle-like portion of garden to drier, succulent section
Aloe blooming against the backdrop of the Pacific. Succulents bloom from mid-winter to early spring.
Rich texture and color of lower lying succulents
Watching the surfers from the cliff's edge
Contrast of cliff, sand, and sea
 In a garden of gorgeous vistas, don't forget the lovely details!
Take a seat, be quiet, and rest.
Please keep in mind that this is religious center, and the Self Realization Fellowship generously allows public viewing. Please respect your hosts and the other guests by maintaining the quiet and meditative atmosphere as well as not disturbing the flora and fauna.

Hours: 9-5 Tuesday through Saturday, 11-5 Sunday, closed Mondays.

Directions: Take Santa Ana Freeway 5 south to Encinitas Blvd. (100 miles from Los Angeles). Turn right and go to Coast Highway 101. Turn left and continue to "I" Street, turn right. Drive one block and turn right onto Second Street. The Temple is on the right in the middle of the block.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Yes We Have No House Plants

The only indoor plants I grow are cat trees!
Since I have such great love and fascination for greenery, flowers, and vegetables, many of my friends ask me why I have no plants inside my home. I must sheepishly admit to having a black thumb when it comes to house plants. I forget to water them and I over water them. My perfectly situated garden gets the perfect amount of sun. The interior, however, not so much. The plants either get too much sun or not enough depending on where I place them. Its not like I can place them just anywhere, for I have to contend with the mischief of four playful (and often naughty) cats: Wingus, Dingus, Clingus, and Jingus.

Before adopting Wingus, I had a lovely spider plant that moved with me from apartment to apartment, then to our first home, a condo south of our current address. Once given the run of the condo, Wingus decided to make a snack of my poor plant. Thankfully, it was not poisonous. Three more cats and countless chewed petals, blooms, and leaves later convinced me that indoor plants were not a good idea. Besides, anything not nailed down or placed on a super high shelf just ended up broken on the floor anyway thanks to Dingus. Missing your keys, glasses, phone? Chances are Dingus knocked them off the counter, table, or other furniture and pushed it out of your eye's immediate gaze. I have contemplated hanging a fern from the ceiling, but thought better of it. The last thing I need is Dingus's 20 pound frame swinging from the rafters.

Why fight nature? Perhaps I could place intentionally cat friendly plants in the house for some extra greenery and texture. So, I planted some cat grass in a couple pots on the patio. Once they had gained a good five inches in height, I brought them in and placed them in a sunny spot by the sliding door. Clingus was immediately intrigued. But instead of a few bites, he ate the whole salad bowel! He barfed up a stringy mess - YUCK - and I banished the poor damaged plant to the safety of the outdoor elements.

Clingus demands catnip!
Ergo, no more plants. The kitteh hoards occasionally get some catnip when Hubby and I want to watch them go batshit crazy - always a good time! All joking aside, many household plants are very poisonous to cats, including but not limited to multiple kinds of lilies (including amaryllis and star gazers), begonias, cyclamen, hyacinth, and geraniums. For a full list of plants poisonous to cats and dogs, please go to the ASPCA website. Don't let that pretty flower kill your furry best friend!

Dingus attempts to break my camera.
Jingus in dreamland
Wingus sits on my gardening hat.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Basil and Arugula Pesto

With my sweet basil fading into the autumn and my arugula close to going to seed, I needed a recipe to incorporate and enjoy their deliciously pungent flavors. This is a variation of Mama Tomato's beloved pesto recipe, minus the pine nuts and parmesan cheese (making it vegan).

1 and 1/2 cups of sweet basil leaves
1 and 1/2 cups of arugula (use young leaves and remove tougher leaf stems)
2/3 cups extra virgin olive oil
6-8 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
Juice of 1/2 lime
1/8 teaspoon of cumin
Pinch of ground red pepper
Salt and pepper to taste

Blend all ingredients in food processor. 
Serve on sliced bread or pasta.

We took the finished product to Mama and Papi Tomato's for dinner and it was a spicy addition to hearty minestrone soup. Hubby spread it on his bread (adding parmesan cheese of course) and drizzled it in his soup for an extra kick. Speaking of extra kick, I was worried that the pesto would be too spicy. It was spicy and strong, but wonderfully flavorful. I recommend for garlic and arugula lovers and adventurous foodies!

Arugula is on the right.
Spent basil
Tools of the trade
The final result!