Monthly Archives: April 2013

Spring is here – time to get dirty

Growing up in Miami Florida we basically had two seasons – rainy and not rainy.  Well, that’s not totally true because it would occasionally get cold.  But it didn’t stay cold which meant certain plants simply won’t grow there.

When I moved to Tennessee almost 20 years ago I brought some of my favorite plants and watched them shrivel and die overnight after a freeze.  Ok, lesson learned.  Along the way I discovered perennials – real ones – not the ones that just kept growing in Florida because there was nothing to kill them.  In addition, I learned that one must either mark the ground where these plants live or suffer having them removed by kind and helpful Florida family.  After all, dead twigs and things are to go away.  Well, not really, if they are perennials. Another lesson learned.

After learning those lessons I have fallen in love with seasons and spring is my favorite.  Plants start budding.  The dreary drab colors of winter give way to reds, yellows, whites and eventually green as everything living rejoices and buds away.

Spring also means it’s time for me to move away from my computer and go outside and get dirty.  Time to remove the dead leaves and limbs and old mulch.  My hostas have little spikes sticking up out of the ground with a promise of more to come.  The forsythia, the first thing to bloom in my yard, is a beautiful yellow.  My two fruit trees bloom white, red and pink.  It’s really a glorious palette of color.

And… the bugs come back.  This last winter was pretty much non-existent so the insects have arrived in force.  The good ones are welcome – bees, lady bugs, some moths.  But today I found one of the unwelcome ones.  Digging in the dirt means ticks.  No winter to speak of means more ticks.  And they slowly inch their way up your leg on their mission to get under your clothes to dig in.  And this is not a good thing – around here it can cause Lyme Disease.  I’ve done everything I can to try to keep them away but to no avail.  So, after every dirt digging foray it’s a check of all body parts, including hair.

Even with ticks, and occasionally finding sleeping snakes (yes, snakes) I still await my spring digging with pleasure.  I am pretty frugal, and each year I allow myself one new plant for the yard.  I reserve most of the funds I allocate to gardening to my vegetable patch.  But some of it is earmarked for a new addition.  I don’t have the biggest yard so I have to be selective in what I plant.  This years addition is a Pomegranate tree.  With any luck we’ll have fruit in 3 years.  And Pomegranate martinis. Yum.

Spring means fresh to me.  That includes food.  By this time, I am over the hockey puck tomatoes in the stores.  All the vegetables we have eaten  have been either canned or frozen because the fresh is usually too expensive. I really like it when I can grow my vegetables.  And sometimes it is possible to grow them away from dirt.

Over the weekend when I went to get seeds for the vegetable garden, I stopped by the local Oriental market which is right nearby.  They had packages of mung beans.  A lot of you may know this, but mung beans are used to make bean sprouts.  Two jars are now in process on my kitchen window.  It’s very easy.  You need a jar, a screw on top (without a center – like the ones used for canning) and some screening material.  You cut the screen to fit inside the screw top.  Into the jar, pour enough dry mung beans to cover the bottom.  Cover the beans with water and let them soak overnight.  In the morning, empty out the water by inverting the jar – that’s the reason for the screen and also so the beans can breathe.  Pour in more water, swirl around and pour that water out.  You want just damp beans in the jar.  Repeat this process every day.

Here’s some photos of my two jars.  One of the photos is a bit blurry but the idea was to show you the screening.sprouts1sprouts2

That’s it for now.  I will add some follow up photos when the sprouts start happening along with one of my favorite recipes for sprouts – spring rolls.

Happy spring everyone.  Go get dirty. Ciao, y’all.


Hot Cross Buns – a tradition steeped in history

Homemade Hot cross bunsI love hot cross buns.  This year I decided to make some and couldn’t find my recipe so I went out on Google.  I found a nice one by the Pioneer Woman.  I included a link to her blog article below.  Here’s what mine ended as – I always nudge a recipe in a little different direction.  This was no exception.

However, while doing my recipe research I found a wealth of information about the mystique of hot cross buns.  Who knew sailors would carry one on board a ship to ensure a safe passage.  Hanging one in your kitchen would guarantee that all your breads would rise.

Old English folklore says if you bake and serve them on Good Friday they will stay good all year and not mold.  I made mine on Easter Sunday because that’s what we always did.  And no, they didn’t last.  But it wasn’t because of a mystical reason – it was because they were warm and soft and yummy.  Duh.

If you shared a bun, it was good luck.  My grandmother used to say “Half for you and half for me, Between us two shall goodwill be“.  Now I know why.  Her grandmother had said it to her and who knows how far back this tradition went on.

In England there are poems and songs surrounding hot cross buns.  A lot of my heritage is based around the UK so I’m not surprised they are an important part of my upbringing.  Somewhere I remember her saying one half penny two half penny which I believe was the price of the buns.  I’ll have to ask my British friends the next time I talk to them.  Still I wonder where these traditions came from.  Some of them are quite powerful.  But the people that remember are long gone.

We as a people now do such a lousy job of retaining our cultural histories.  We forget why we do things – we just know that’s what you do.  Nobody asks why.  Well, actually that’s not true.  I ask why.  My sons used to ask why.  Boy, I wish I had had access to Google back when they were growing up – I would have been the information ninja.  A client of  mine called me that one day and I loved it.  I need to figure out how to put that on a bio somewhere.

No matter your religion, these buns are wonderful.  I posted a copy on my Facebook page and a friend of mine said “even Jews would like these buns.”  True indeed.  Now I am asking myself why wait until Easter to make these (besides the “they are fattening you dope” question.  My mother in law would only eat them around Easter time – and it wasn’t because that was the only time they showed up.  You weren’t supposed to eat them – can’t figure out why.  That goes back to the lost cultural history thing.

That’s it for now.  I’ve been busy posting on my business blog ( and neglecting my favorite one – talking about food and being southern and doing neat things.  A friend of mine said you haven’t posted recently – go get at it.  Well, Nancy, here you go.

Ciao y’all.

Link to the Pioneer Woman recipe: