Tag Archive: spring

What To Do with Meyer Lemons? Gettin Ready to Garden

UPDATE:  

Today I had to move the lemon tree for some work being done and I found 2 more lemons.  I am off to make a delicious sounding pie recipe that I found.  Stay tuned!!!

More Meyer Lemons

Is it Spring yet?  I know where a lot of you live it is a long time til Spring.  It can come creeping in here at any time.  Of course, the winds will blow about 40mph before it really gets warm.  I am so ready for warm and sunshine at the end of the day. When does the time change?  That always confuses me.

I had a man come and clean up the yard and flower beds on Saturday.  At least he did the heavy cleaning up.  It’s not quite perfect yet, but I can manage after the winds quit blowing to get the beds all ready for planting.    While he was doing that I trimmed up the plants on the front porch.  I have some things in pots that are well protected from any frost.  As I was sweeping up I looked under the leaves of my Meyer Lemon tree (right next to the aloe vera plant) and there was this bright yellow lemon!  I have tried to take very good care of this plant.  My daughter had one that we bought in PA that produced the most wonderfully sweet lemons!  It smelled wonderful when it bloomed.  It was so large when she moved back to Texas (thank goodness) she had to leave the lemon tree in the care of her best friend.  But, alas, it missed her tender loving care and didn’t survive the move to a new house.

There are more on the tree that are still quite green and very hard.  I wonder if they will ripen?  I’ll keep you informed as I did last year with squash, eggplant and peppers.  I cannot wait!  Every Fall I say I’m not doing this again.  Then February comes and I start getting very anxious for warmth and planting and watching everything grow.  I never get tired of it.

Now what to do with 1 little lemon?  It has to be something special.  Any thoughts?

Meyer Lemon

Come share your garden stories at my weekly party.

What'd Ya Do This Weekend Co-Host

A Heat Wave Recipe! Pasta Salad

It is hot here in this dusty west Texas border town.  (That sounds like the beginning of a song!)  All I can think of is iced tea and very cool salads to eat.  No oven right now in the Tumbleweed Contessa’s kitchen.  I use the outside grill some.  Most of the time I spend watering the flowers and veggies in the garden just to keep them from burning up.  This will pass soon and the famed “monsoon” season will be upon us.  We might get an inch of rain!

When I think about a summertime meal one of my favorites is pasta salad.  I can eat it all by itself or I like to serve it with a piece of roasted chicken (from the deli) or cold fried chicken (from the Colonel), but I like it served best as a side with a cold ham sandwich the second day.  It is great to take on a picnic or to a church pot luck supper too.

I had never eaten a pasta salad until I moved to El Paso.  Hank had moved here before our family did. He found a deli near one of his construction projects on the eastside of town.  Once we got here he raved about this pasta salad.  He even brought it home once or twice for us to try and for me to figure out how to make.  I gave it a try or two, but couldn’t make it taste like the deli’s version.  So, I gave up.  Later on, Jan, a teacher at the SEE School (where I worked)  had a pasta salad everyone liked.  I ask her for her recipe and she told me she got it from the same deli as Hank used to get his supply from.  Finally, that deli opened in a grocery store on the west side (my side of town) and I got to be a regular there to try to figure out how it was made.  It was the dressing or marinade that was the secret.  Finally I tried a different oil and everyone loved it!  I use the Good Season’s Spicy Italian salad dressing mix.  Two packets, one made with olive oil and white wine vinegar and one with vegetable oil and white distilled vinegar. The longer it can marinate in the frig before serving, the better it tastes.

Pasta Salad

  • 1 package (16 ounces) uncooked pasta
  • 1 cup broccoli florets
  • 1 cup broccoli cuts
  • ½ small red onion, finely diced
  • ½ cup scallions, thinly sliced (green and white parts)
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, finely diced
  • 3 small carrots peeled and thinly sliced
  • 3 celery stalks, finely diced
  • 1 medium zucchini, cut in half and thinly sliced into half moons
  • 1 jar marinated artichoke hearts cut in quarters, not drained too well
  • 1/2 cup green olives, sliced
  • ½ cup black olives, sliced
  • 3 tablespoons capers, drained
  • 1 cup slice white mushrooms
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Italian salad dressing mix (2 packets)
  • Olive oil (according to package directions)
  • Vegetable oil (according to package directions)
  • White wine vinegar (according to package directions)
  • White distilled vinegar (according to package directions)

Cook the pasta as directed on package, adding the broccoli to the boiling water for the last 3 minutes of the pasta cooking time.  Drain; rinse under cold running water.  Drain very well; place in a large bowl to mix.( I use a bowl with a lid to seal well to marinate.)

Add the remaining veggies and toss well with dressing.  Refrigerate at least 1 hour or preferably overnight, stirring a few times.   Taste before serving to add more dressing or salt and pepper.

I serve the salad lightly drained in a separate bowl with the excess dressing reserved to store leftovers.

Cool and Savory Chicken Salad

Cool and Creamy Chicken Salad

I’ve been growing herbs forever.  Do I use them like I should?  No.  But a new resolution has been made to snip them and add them to salads, soups and vegetables this summer.  I’m into growing the plants to see how lush and full they get.  But you know what I’ve found?  If I snip them they actually get fuller!  Not only that, but they are much less expensive from my pots than that plastic package at the store!  Shock!  I have a new Bay Laurel bush that has put on a couple of new leaves already.  Wouldn’t that be fun to have my own fresh bay leaves for chicken soup?  I’d love it.  Stay tuned.

I roasted some chicken for soup and decided I needed a salad too.  I wanted to keep it simple.  Not too many ingredients.  (I’ve been under the weather and I think my system said fresh greens were needed.)  I have this lettuce and spinach growing in the garden.  I don’t know why I was hesitating to pick it and use it.  It was remarkably fresh and crisp.  I picked basil, mint, chives, leaf lettuce and spinach and chilled it all in the frig after a rinse.  Made the frig smell great.  Basil and mint – love it.

Chicken Salad

  • 1 small chicken breast (skinless)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil
  • mayonnaise
  • 1 stalk celery
  • ½ cup green grapes (halved)
  • 1 tablespoon snipped chives
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh basil
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh mint leaves
  • 3 cups fresh greens (your choice)  I used spinach and lettuce
  • 1 diced tomato or halved cherry tomatoes

Prepare the chicken by drying it well and coating it with a little olive oil and salt and pepper.  Roast the chicken on a baking sheet for 30 minutes at 400°.  When cooled dice into small pieces.  Add the chives, celery and grapes to the chicken and toss with the mayonnaise and a squeeze of fresh lemon.  Set in the refrigerator to chill until time to serve.  I added a bit of salt and pepper to this.

Prepare a bed of greens.  I used leaf lettuce, spinach, fresh basil and mint.  Place the chicken in the center and surround with tomato pieces.  I could have even served some grapes on the side.  I served some crispy pretzel crackers with mine.  I just like a little salty crisp with a salad.

It was cool, fresh and tasty for a Saturday night supper.

EGGciting Crudite

Melon Final

One staple of our Easter menu is the crudite.  Veggies and dip. Boring, right?  So this year, I decided to make it EGGciting.  Check it out!  This is so simple even I, Middlesister, can do it.  As far as I know, I invented it. Luckily my youngest brought home this cute little bunny egg to decorate my tray.  Enjoy!

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1 Egg shaped Honeydew Melon
  • 1 Bag Skewers
  • 1 Small Container Non Fat Plain Yogurt
  • 1 Bag Green Onion or Green Chile Dry Dip
  • 1 Bag Baby carrots
  • 1 Zucchini
  • 1 Can Black Olives
  • 1 Jar Green Olives
  • 5-10 Scallions or Long Green Onions
  • 3 Bellpeppers
  • 1 Yellow Squash
  • 1 Bag Cherry Tomatoes

First, cut a small slice off the bottom of the Honeydew to make it sit flat.  Next, carve a hole in the middle of your honeydew, just big enough for a ramekin to fit in.  Place your honeydew on your serving tray, if desired.  Clean and cut all the vegetables.  You can use any vegetables you like, but I have chosen these.  Make sure to keep them thick enough so that they can handle the skewering.  Skewer the vegetables.  Poke holes with an empty skewer around the honeydew and then place your skewered vegetables into the holes.  I sprinkled the carrots around because they were difficult to skewer, but are a necessary on our crudite.

For the dip, follow the package directions.  I used non-fat plain yogurt since I am dieting this year, but you can use cream cheese or sour cream with most packaged dips.  Hope you enjoy your EGGciting crudite!

 

April Showers Bring May Flowers!

Happy Spring!  Let’s decorate.  Front door ideas:

My front door is an ever changing event in my house.  Actually, I have 2 front doors.  I have a full iron gate to enclose my front porch (my winter time green house).  Somehow in El Paso windows and doors were covered with decorative iron bars and gates to protect us from invaders.  Today, there are alarm systems which are more protective and prettier.  I had to prove to an insurance company that my gate actually opened.  I’ve never had to use them (yet) as an escape route.  I love the gates.  I can open the house for a nice fresh breeze and still be protected.  I also have a traditional wooden real front door that I took down and refinished and painted bright red.  So, wreaths have to be appropriate for every season on both.  My youngest granddaughter was very concerned when I neglected to “decorate my house” for last summer.  It was too hot and dry and I never got into the spirit.  I also have an iron gate on the door leading to the patio/garden.  I have a wreath on the inside of that so I can enjoy it when it is open.

In order to store all of the “off-season” wreaths I have wall in my garage covered with hangars draped with plastic bags.  Those protect the eagerly awaiting wreaths until it is their turn to be displayed.  There is a method to my madness.  I believe any method followed religiously work– at least for me. I’m traditional you see in all aspects.

I found this darling door decoration on Two Butterflies one Saturday morning and it was hanging on my front gate by Saturday afternoon.  The hardest part of this was finding a cute umbrella on the same day.  El Paso only puts out umbrellas for sale when the weather man says there is a greater than 20% chance of rain.  That means there is an 80% chance we won’t see it hit the ground.  But thanks to Target and the sales clerk at Michael’s who suggested I go to Target, I found a colorful umbrella to make this sweet decoration.

I got 1 bunch of artificial tulips and 2 bunches of apple blossoms at Michael’s.

Wire the blossoms around the metal frame of the umbrella leaving the back flat so it will hang nicely on the door.  I did the tulip bunch in the middle.  The apple blossom stems on either side of the tulips.  One a little lower (and slightly forward of the tulips stem and the other a bit higher (and slightly behind.)  I wanted mine to appear stepped from left to right (high, middle, low) but still all very near each other to give an idea of flowers blooming out of the umbrella.

Tie a ribbon around the umbrella ribs to hold it together around the flowers and it looks like it is holding a bouquet of flowers ready to welcome your visitors and tell them it is Spring!

Tools:

  • medium gauge florist wire
  • wire cutters
  • stems of your favorite color and variety of spring flowers
  • 1 colorful umbrella
  • ribbon to hold the umbrella tightly together

How to Make a Wreath:   A Lesson for MiddleSister and BigSister from the Tumbleweed Contessa by BigSister

April???  How about February showers bring March flowers.  The wildflowers are out in South Central Texas and they are stunning!  Amazing what happens when you just add water.  Feast or famine here in Texas as we were all nearly swept away yesterday.  Dirt and snow (only in West Texas!) for the Tumbleweed Contessa during the day and room rattling thunderstorms here in Austin last night.  I have been springing for over a month now…decorating outside, here, there and everwhere.  Finally, I got The Contessa to work on a wreath with me when I went to visit her for her birthday.  The hardest part was picking out what to make it with.  After that it was so easy.  Now I can make one for every season.

First we had to pick up the supplies.  Off to the craft store we went.  I chose a sort of oval wreath form and MiddleSister chose a round wreath.  Ours were made out of grapevine.  We like the natural look.  You could buy all kinds though; wire, foam etc.  The Contessa pointed out that we needed something to stand up to the weather.  So, no foam.  Wire would have been okay.  MiddleSister chose to simply wrap her wreath in a sunflower garland and accent with some larger sunflowers.  I wanted something a little fuller so I picked an ivy garland, pink hydrangeas and pink ribbon to add a bow.  You also need a medium gauge craft wire and wire cutters.

Begin by anchoring your garland to the wreath with pieces of wire.  Position the garland the way you like it in one area.  Then, take a piece of wire that will be able to go through your wreath and meet in the back.  Push one end of the wire in a discreet area all the way through the wreath.  Bend the other in and push it through being sure to hold a piece of the garland in it and twist the wire in back.  Cut off any really long ends.  You want the garland to be facing out and filling in your frame as much as you desire.

Then, add your larger display items.  You have to kind of assess your materials.  Either wire them on or weave them through your form to make them fill in.  You want your feature items to stand out either by rising above your garland or resting on top of them in natural arrangements.

 

Finally, The Contessa got out her bow maker and made a bow for the wreath.  We secured it using some string wrapped into the bow.  We are still on the fence as to whether or not we like the bow.  What do you think?