Summer Salad with a Mediterranean Flair

Author: Meera, July 15, 2016

Inspired by a salad made of lentilles du Puy that I recently ate at a Mediterranean restaurant, I decided to create my own version of it.

 

 

The salad combines tiny greenish/brown French lentils with seasonal fresh produce such as heirloom  tomatoes and zucchini . I added a chopped onion (sauteed) and some hard-boiled eggs. Dried mint, crumbled fine, along with a little salt and pepper is the only seasoning you’ll need.

 

 

This salad is delicious served warm. But it is equally tasty served chilled on very hot days.

 

 

 

French Lentil, Zucchini, and Tomato Salad

Ingredients for lentil salad include sauteed onions, heirloom tomato, zucchini, hard-boiled eggs, and fresh lemon juice

Ingredients for lentil salad include sauteed onions, heirloom tomato, zucchini, hard-boiled eggs, and fresh lemon juice

 

 

INGREDIENTS:

 

1 cup cooked French lentils (the small green or brown variety)

1/2 cup cooked Basmati rice

1 small firm tomato, skinned and chopped

1 cup peeled and chopped fresh zucchini

1 medium red or yellow onion, coarsely chopped and lightly sauteed

2 hard-boiled egg, chopped

1/4 c dried mint, crumbled fine by rubbing between your palms

1/2 medium juicy lemon

salt to taste

 

DIRECTIONS:

 

Combine the cooked lentils and rice. Add the zucchini, tomato, sauteed onion, and chopped hard-boiled egg to the lentil-rice mixture. Crumble the dried mint over the salad. Season with salt and pepper. Squeeze the juice from 1/2 lemon over the mixture and combine well before serving. Serves 4-6.

 

*Try pairing this salad with a rosemary chicken or lamb wrap for a light lunch.

 

 

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If you enjoy reading about farmette topics (including gardening, beekeeping, and delicious recipes), check out my cozy mysteries A BEELINE TO MURDER and also THE MURDER OF A QUEEN BEE in the Henny Penny Farmette series (from Kensington Publishing).

 

 

 

These novels are available through online retailers such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo Books, and Walmart as well as from traditional bookstores everywhere.

 

 

The first novel in the Henny Penny Farmette series

Now available in mass market paperback, this debut novel launched the Henny Penny Farmette series of mysteries and sold out its first press run.

 

 

 

 

The second cozy  mystery in the Henny Penny Farmette series, available Sept. 29, 2016

The second cozy mystery in the Henny Penny Farmette series, available Sept. 29, 2016

 

 

 

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Gardening Tasks for Late Autumn

Author: Meera, November 20, 2015

Falling leaves, shorter days, and colder weather signal that winter is around the corner. With roughly a month left before winter officially begins, there are plenty of tasks for the home gardener. Don’t put away your boots, buckets, gloves, trowel, and spade just yet.

 

 

After the grape harvest, the leaves change from green to gold or brown and become dry

After the grape harvest, the leaves change from green to gold or brown and become dry

 

 

 

If you grow grapes and raspberries or blackberries, now would be the time to prune those back before mulching with compost, leaves, or sawdust. Composting suppresses weed growth.

 

 

Pick and pumpkins, apples, and winter squash. Store them in a dry area at temperature of about 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

 

 

 

This young rhubarb flourishes in rich soil and some protection from intense, direct sun

This young rhubarb flourishes in rich soil and some protection from intense, direct sun

 

 

 

Rhubarb plants can be divided now. Make sure there’s an eye on each new plant and tuck into rich soil and mulch.

 

 

 

This candy-stripe rose was a gift from a friend--a cutting from her rose that became a large bush in my care

This candy-stripe rose requires a good pruning in the fall to generate a large bush with beautiful blooms in the spring

 

 

 

Remove leaves and prune back roses to 12 to 18 inches. Add some bone meal to the base of the bush and work into the soil.

 

 

Plant bulbs that will flower in the spring such as daffodils, tulips, hyacinth, crocus, and scillas.

 

 

Prepare a bed for onion seedlings or sets and plant them now for spring harvesting.

 

 

Plant red, yellow, or white onions in the fall for spring harvesting

Plant red, yellow, or white onions in the fall for spring harvesting

 

 

Fill bird feeders, hang a warming light in your hen house for the freezing nights ahead, and put blankets around your bee hives.

 

 

Transfer potted mums into garden soil. Most are perennials and will return year after year.

 

 

Plant kale, ornamental cabbage, and winter-hardy plants such as pansies in the garden or window boxes for winter color.

 

 

Move cold-sensitive houseplants indoors.

 

 

 

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Tis the time for Cool Season Planting

Author: Meera, February 15, 2015

If you love the cool season plants like lettuce, spinach, kale, onions, leeks, sugar snap peas, and artichokes, Valentine’s Day weekend is the time to start planting cool season crops in the Bay Area and other warmer climates.

 

 

When the early blooming varieties of apples break bud, it's time to think cool season planting

When the early blooming varieties of apples break bud, it’s time to think cool season planting

 

 

 

I put in onions throughout the cool season and am rewarded with burlap bags of red onions, yellow, white, and the walla walla variety for kitchen soups and other culinary creations during the first months of the year.

 

 

 

My husband is building more growing boxes (4 x 4 x 3) in which we shovel amended soil, some planting mix, bone meal, blood meal, compost, and chicken manure. The soil will grow almost anything.

 

 

Herbs in a pot for use in the kitchen

This is the time to also tuck some herbs in a pot for use in the kitchen

 

 

 

This weekend, we’re moving a couple of citrus trees and three rose bushes. I’ll feed and water and watch for the new shoots to show within a week or two if the weather stays warm. So, you see, Valentine’s Day isn’t just for lovers but also people who love to garden.

 

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A Drought Is No Way to Dry Onions

Author: Meera, August 17, 2014

Large garbage can lid filled with dried onions

 

 

With water use restricted in many counties because of the terrible drought, my garden is withering. Everyone in the Bay Area has to do their part. My onions look particularly pathetic.

 

 

In July, I polished a mystery I had hoped to sell. Mid-month, BEELINE TO MURDER sold to Kensington Publishing in New York as the first in a three-book deal. That meant I had to get cracking on the second book.

 

I forgot the onions. Poor things. The tops fell over and wilted, the bottoms swelled and stopped. A few succumbed to the soil organisms and bugs.

 

August rolled around and  I looked over the patch of brown stems and the heads that had gone to seed and vowed to dig everything out. But then . . . I got an offer to write a short nonfiction book that tied into the Law of Attraction, one of my favorite subjects. The onions had to wait for another 20 days until I cranked out that project.

 

 

Onion seeds fall out of dried blooms

Onion seeds fall out of dried blooms

 

 

Yesterday, my husband harvested the onions. Some have to be tossed because of bottom rot. Anything ignored will wither and die–that’s an axiom of gardening I’ve known since forever. So, the onions are gone, but their seeds are plentiful (thousands), so  this fall I will plant a new crop of onions and another in the spring and pray for rain.

 

 

 

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Natural Medicines For Healing and Health

Author: Meera, May 9, 2013

 

 

Many herbs and plants from a garden have restorative and healing properties

Many herbs and plants from a garden have restorative and healing properties

 

 

Recently, I went through a box of books that I had not unpacked after moving from Miami to Northern California. In the box was Best Remedies, a book written by Dr. Mary L. Hardy, M.D. and Debra L. Gordon for Reader’s Digest.

 

The book focuses on ways to use natural remedies alone or with conventional medicines in an integrative approach to healing. Many of the remedies involve the use of herbs, honey, vegetables, and oils. Listed below are just a few remedies to treat common maladies.

 

Chamomile

Chamomile is an herb that when made into tea can be used as a mild sedative and also fights the inflammation of a sore throat. Likewise lemon and honey in hot water can soothe swollen throat tissue.

 

Echinacea

For treating colds, a tincture of Echinacea purpurea and Echinacea angustifolia can provide relief when made into a tincture and mixed with hot water. Authors Hardy and Gordon recommend  1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon of the tincture in 1-2 ounces of hot water to be consumed every four to six hours.

 

Garlic

Traditionally used as an herbal remedy for respiratory infections, garlic, to be most effective, must be consumed raw. The best way is to peel and mash 3-4 cloves into pasta, rice, or mashed potatoes.

 

Ginger Root

For treating bad breath, tea made from ginger root (1- to 2-inch pieces, peeled and steeped in hot water, sweetened with honey) or peppermint tea (all types of mint are easily grown in the garden or in containers) can be effective agents.

 

Mint, lavender, and other herbs can be used in teas and tinctures for healing

Mint, lavender, and other herbs can be used in teas and tinctures for healing

 

Lavender Oil and Aloe Vera

Oil of lavender works as an inflammation and pain reducer  while acting as an antiseptic; therefore, it’s a wonderful natural agent for treating minor burns. Once you have applied the lavender oil, you can also apply the sap of an aloe vera plant. Aloe reduces the pain of a burn and promotes healing.

 

Lemon Juice and Honey

Honey, one of nature’s antiseptics long used to treat respiratory ailments, provides a protective coating of the throat and acts as a humectant (drawing moisture) while the lemon works as an astringent to reduce swelling of inflamed throat tissue.

 

Olive Oil, Beeswax, and Honey

These three ingredients mixed together in equal parts can be used to treat psoriasis, a disease characterized by itchy, scaly skin. The authors recommend smoothing the mixture onto the affected area of skin before going to bed at night and then covering the skin with plastic wrap, held in place with an elastic bandage.

 

Garlic and onions have been used for over a millennium in health remedies

Garlic and onions have been used for over a millennium in health remedies

 

 

Onions and Garlic

Onions and garlic are recommended as two vegetables that can lower blood sugar, cholesterol, and blood pressure. Onions are high in vitamin C and, and like garlic, contain immune-enhancing compounds. Garlic reduces blood clotting (thus, preventing heart attacks) and raw garlic has strong immune-stimulating properties as well as antibacterial and antiviral benefits. For people with chronic diseases such as Type 2 Diabetes, these foods should be a regular part of the diet, according to Hardy and Gordon.

 

St. John’s Wort

St. John’s wort essential oil–10 drops to 1 ounce massage oil–massaged into the skin over painful areas over time may result in relief from nerve pain. Patients who have fibromyalgia, diabetic neuropathy, shingles, Lyme disease, autoimmune disorders, and other types of diseases can suffer nerve pain as stabbing, burning, and shooting sensations. Other herbs believed to revitalize nerve and brain cells include Gotu kola (an herb considered a mainstay in Ayurvedic medicine) and Evening primrose oil that fights inflammation and is found in black currant and borage oil.

 

Grow these herbs in a garden or in containers on your patio for use to restore and maintain health and also for enhancing flavors in your cooking.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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