Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Spring Garden With a Touch of Horror

When I was growing up in Fairfax, Virginia, our estate had a designated growing garden where the old horse stables were (great location). My father and I competed for growing the best veggies. We also had black walnuts, persimmons, apples, grapes, peaches, sour cherry, raspberries, gooseberries, blackberries, pears, and other yummies growing up on the property. Mother kept a tea garden for "healing" teas next to the library window. 

And, at our summer home along the Chesapeake, we would plant our garden in the springtime, leave and come back in summer to see it had grown beautifully without attendance. Pecans grew there as well, and off the dock and in the bay we would gather blue crab, fish, oysters and clams. 

Growing food has always been a great love of mine, so I am excited beyond belief to be out of apartment life and into a home with a yard. 

Besides having goji berries, oranges, loofah, grapefruit, Concord grapes, figs, blackberries and pomegranates, I am growing cantaloupe, watermelon, tomatoes, gourds, passionfruit, jalepenos, herbs, yellow squash, and moringa trees.

I utilized the gourds for very very fast growing vine that would block sun on the patio. I did this by pulling twine back and forth from hook to hook between posts and letting it grab hold and go. It makes a green wall on the patio that blocks setting sun. And, the gourds can be dried out, carved, painted and utilized as awesome birdhouses and quirky art in the yard.

I also decided to throw in an ongoing growing art installation. Since I have a Halloween book out in the stores "Adult Halloween! Taking Back the Season," and I hope to have a Halloween party, I thought I'd recreate "Doll Island" the infamous haunted location in Mexico.

A man living on an island in the canal put dolls out to appease a girl who drowned there. Over decades, the island was covered with dolls, aging in the sunlight and storms, taking on a scary appearance. 

I have come to call this Art-iculture. Art and agriculture mixed. 

I planted corn, pumpkins, melons and sunflowers in and "island" area in the desertscape, I put up a bird feeding area, a bird bath, old driftwood perches for birds to land on and then added dolls among the lush green. The effect is chillingly awesome! (see my blog Ghost Hunting Theories).

A horror garden aside, sometimes gardening inspires art, like this oil painting I am working on - 

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Chicken Street Tacos

My chicken street taco marinade - 

Take a large chicken boneless breast and slice lengthwise to make two more slender long pieces.

Put in a ziploc bag: Juice of 3 small limes, 3 garlic cloves diced, 1-1/2 tsp of Cowboy Spice Company Firewalker, 1 T. olive oil.

I marinate mine overnight and cook on a Foreman grill, but works great on a grill outside. 

When cooked, slide into strips to put on corn tortillas with any of these: Sour cream, salsa, diced tomatoes, sliced cabbage, avacado.

Monday, May 27, 2019

Summer Cocktail - Tastes Like Fruit Punch!

This cocktail has simple ingredients but when you mix them together, it tastes like fruit punch, goes down super easy without feeling like you're having alcohol, so be cautious about how many you down.

I took 2 parts pink lemonade to one part amaretto and one part coconut rum. Pour over ice. Can garnish with a lemon slice.

I'm not a liquor kind of person, it always burns too much, but I have to say this is my new exception! 

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Arizona Restaurants Under Review

I recently tried out two restaurants I had driven by but never stopped and ate at. 

Heading home from some shopping, my best friend and I stopped at The Oink Cafe in Tempe, Arizona. 

I was very pleased with the bright, cute, clean cafe. The wait staff was attentive and efficient and really seemed to love their work. The booth was comfy. The setting was bright and fun. 

My best friend ordered a mac and cheese with monterey jack cheese, green chilies, chicken, bacon, and avacado slices on top and it was HIGHLY addictive! I'm usually bored by mac and cheese but this was sticky, tasty, hearty. Wow!

They offer a few kinds of bacon to make recipes your own twist. I ordered the BLT and tomato basil soup and it was the best lunch I've had in a very long time.

I will definitely be back for breakfast or lunch soon!

The next day, my best friend and I headed out to do some antiquing and there was a restaurant in downtown Chandler, Arizona I had my eye on for some time. It is called "The Perch Brewery." 

The setting was my dream - outdoors with dappled light and open garage doors in the bar area that allowed you to be on a charming patio with birds chirping in cages around you.

The staff is efficient, friendly, and really seem to love working among the cages of exotic birds. 

I didn't try the brews, but I have heard they are excellent. I was focused on the sandwich I ordered, a wrap with arugula, grilled chicken, bleu cheese vinaigrette, candied walnuts, cranberries, and tomato basil tortilla. It was amazing!!! 

I definitely will be back here, hopefully on a date night. 

Monday, May 6, 2019

Speakeasy Bars

Going underground, dark and atmospheric, chic and formal, speakeasy bars are the biggest trend and so much fun. Anyone can go to a noisy bar, but a murky, secluded speakeasy with unusual and very expensive cocktails feels very exclusive and very sexy.

Tesla-Inspired NYC speakeasy
HR Giger Museum in Switzerland
PDT (Please Don't Tell) in NYC - you enter through an old phone booth
Ladies and Gentlemen in London

Start looking around your area for speakeasy bars. They are a fun date night location that your lady or gent will love!

If you stay home, turn down the lights, get some mason jars and glow sticks, and try one of these Speakeasy Cocktail Recipes. 

Saturday, May 4, 2019

My Favorite Summer Cocktails

Summer begins vacations, moments in the hot outdoors, and parties that make our minds turn to refreshing cocktails. I'm going to share my favorite summer ones - 


My all-time favorite summer drink is the mojito because I adore lime and mint and it is so fresh and clean and easy to drink. 

I like the recipe Bicardi uses -

2 parts Bicardi rum
4 lime wedges
12 fresh mint leaves
2 tsp extra fine sugar
1 part club soda
sprig of fresh mint for decoration

Squeeze limes wedges into glass and add the skins. Add sugar and press them together. Bruise mint leaves in your palms to release oils, rub them on the rim of the glass and drop them into the glass. Fill glass halfway with ice. Add the rum and stir. Top with crushed ice, a sprig of mint and club soda. 

Bikini Cocktail

Put pink lemonade into a pitcher. Add Malibu Coconut rum and Amaretto. You can add a scoop of sherbert on top if you want. 

Dirty Pirate Popsicles

I absolutely love pureeing fresh summer fruits like pineapple, watermelon, berries, and make popsicles with added liquor like coconut rum, but my very favorite popsicle cocktail is the Dirty Pirate. 

Mix 2 parts Coke, 1 part rum and 1 part Kahlua. Put in popsicle forms and you are ready to have your drink in frozen form. 

Friday, May 3, 2019

Summer Popsicles For Cooling AND Healing

Taking advantage of fresh fruits and hot season, I decided with all the garden work and high temps, I would make some popsicles that take advantage of what's in season while also providing cooling relief and some health benefits. Since I get sore working on the weeds, I made anti-inflammatory popsicles of strawberries, pineapple, turmeric, and ginger in coconut water, whirled and then poured into molds. 

Think about health benefits for you and your family to enjoy fresh fruit in season, cool off, and get nutrient-dense benefits for all kinds of ailments.

Berries and cherries for anti-inflammatory benefits.
Turmeric and ginger for anti-inflammatory benefits.

Bananas for anti-stress benefits.
Turmeric and lemon balm for anti-stress benefits.

Berries for blood sugar benefits.
Cinnamon and ginger for blood sugar benefits. 

Play around with these combinations and make some great combos - even consider avacadoes and nuts! 

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Bitters: Aiding Digestion

Although I am not a certified health care worker or nutritionist, I was a medical transcriptionist for 21 years, studied nutrition, and am an avid health-minded individual who does her research. My mother taught me how to make Appalachian curative teas and I have forever held a fascination with how products from nature make me feel. This is also partly why I garden organic veggies, fruits and herbs, for health benefits and taste.

Bitters primary effect is to promote digestive juices such as stomach acid, bile and enzymes to breakdown food and assist in the absorption of nutrients. Eclectics promote digestive bitters for improved detoxification, healthy skin, improved joint pain and healthy mood.

I make my own bitters. Not a hard process. 


Dry hibiscus tea leaves or lemon peel (the bitter element) I use about 25% this element in the mix.
Grain alcohol (to make tincture) or vodka - 100 proof is best.
Ingredient of choice (depending on health benefit need) - cilantro, parsley, lavender, orange peel, ginger, chamomile, oregano, cinnamon, turmeric, rosemary, etc... You can use spices, herbs, nuts, fruits, cocoa or coffee beans.

I take a small mason jar that has been sterilized and I add perhaps half full with cilantro and then add the bitter agent and fill with the alcohol and close. If Im doing a cinnamon stick, I might put several sticks in the jar. 

Once closed, set these jars in a dark cool place and shake now and then. Let sit for days or even up to a couple weeks or so. Open it now and then and smell. If it smells strongly of the ingredient (i.e. cilantro, cinnamon, etc), it is ready to strain.
I put them in sterile cleaned dropper jars. You can find the dark dropper jars on places like Amazon. The dark bottle helps to protect them from aging in the light. I store in a cabinet with my teas.  

Add 10-30 drops to tea, cocktail, or even water and use for various ailments and issues and also to promote healthy digestive process and processing nutrients in your foods. If you want an anti-inflammatory effect, you might do 10 drops ginger and 10 drops turmeric, for example. 

For cocktails, you can make some specialty flavors; a bit of rosemary or cilantro can punch up a cocktail's flavor. 

If you're not feeling crafty, try going to the alcohol aisle and finding the mixer "angostura bitters" used for cocktails and also as a vitality booster and digestive aid. Win/Win.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Future of Food Products: Helping Disease Processes

As my cilantro goes to seed in the warmer weather, I wait to harvest the coriander seeds. They could be used for seasoning in cooking, but I am saving them for replanting when weather is a bit cooler again. 

It's not a lot of work to grow a cilantro plant or gather its seeds. The benefits of having cilantro are great and I dry what is leftover at the end of the season when it's flowering so I can cook with it.

It dawned on me that we are moving out of harmful plastics, harmful trans fats, harmful corn syrup, and harmful artificial sweeteners as consumers more and more are unwilling to buy these items.

So, what is the future of food manufacturing? 

What if we manufactured a nutritional bar that is created for a particular condition, such as high blood pressure or blood sugar problems utilizing organic ingredients that Native People have long known work for these issues? 

Sure, I am sneaking turmeric powder into tea and eating ginger, but what if someone made anti-inflammatory food products with these items? 

Why is sugar so bad? It's okay in sugar cane form, but once you concentrate it, you get something super sweet that isn't natural. It becomes something abhorrent to your body's health. But, what if we concentrated cilantro/coriander? Cinnamon? Turmeric? Parsley? Rosemary? Cloves? We could use a touch of it in food preparation with lots of nutrients and flavor.

It could be as simple and convenient as a block you drop into your water and stir. It dissolves and you get a mix of cinnamon, cilantro, parsley and other diuretics/blood sugar control/anti-inflammatory components. 

What if you loved baked potato chips but they were sprinkled with flavoring that included potassium-laden herbal compound that allowed you to diurese from the salty item you just ate?  

We will always have shelf-happy items in the grocery store that can be stored for a long time and that's okay, but we can also begin to fill them with healthy components we might not get around to eating in the produce aisle.

What if that mixed salad bag you get has components and dressing that allow you to keep your blood sugar even or maybe lower your BP or even relax you? 

I suspect the use of herbs and spices, roots and the like will be a big business for the food industry. Even to say that they have these components in their food is a huge boon. Instead of hiding the issues with fake sugar in a soda, they could actually tout a soda that is based on the clean exciting taste of ginger and cilantro with concentrates of the healthy elements in each can.

I look forward to the population throwing up their hands at pharmaceutical dollars spent and pills to solve issues and begin to ask for a diet that can support a health population that is capable of digging ditches, carting boxes, fighting enemies, and being fit and capable, long-lived, and contributing their massive knowledge as they age, knowing their brains continue to be bright and alert. 

Here's to the future of the food industry and the aging populations' influence!

Herbed Chicken on Mashed Yams

Pretty easy but fancy meal with very complex exciting tastes. The lemon acid and the sweet yams mix well together. Cut up and peel one ...