Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Big Butterfly Count!

July 17th to August 9th is The Big Butterfly Count in the UK!  Sign up at this link and record your findings as a citizen scientist: The Big Butterfly Count.  It only takes 15 minutes, making it an ideal "15 Minute Field Trip™".  Simply go outside, preferably on a sunny day, and identify and count butterflies.  This guide will help you, as well as the Bug Guide and Peterson Field Guides.  For North America, go to the North American Butterfly Association website.  They are especially looking for counts on July 4th if you're in the U.S.  Remember, butterflies are nectarivores, so look in areas with plenty of flowers.  Some great butterfly attractors include bee balm, black-eyed susans, butterfly bush, butterfly weed, coneflower, lavender, liatris, milkweed, oregano, phlox, and yarrow.  Group plants in clusters for best success.  Butterflies are especially found of red, orange, and yellow flowers with umbrels.  Look up a particular favorite's host plant.  For instance, Monarchs only lay eggs on milkweed.  Here are six ways you can save the Monarchs.  Swallowtails lay eggs on members of the carrot family: carrot, dill, fennel, parsnip, and Queen Anne's lace.  All butterflies will benefit from a puddling, or drinking area. Fill a shallow dish with sands an pebbles and keep wet.  Butterflies will drink from it and males will get minerals from the pebbles to aid their fertility.

Frittilary on coneflower.

Monarch adult and caterpillars on milkweed.

Painted lady on oregano.

Eastern pine elfin hairstreak????

Painted lady on allium.

All photos © Melissa Guillet

Just Peachy! Three Recipes!!!

Ever picked a peck of peaches?  Now you can!  Here's where Rhode Island has peaches.  Peach cobbler, peach chutney, peach pie, peaches and cream on hot cereal...and a New England oldie, Indian pudding.

Gluten-Free/Low Sodium/Reduced Fat/Vegetarian
Indian Pudding and Peaches
Taste of the New England
Prep: 15 minutes  Cook: 1 hour (45 minutes baking)  Serves 6
2 1/2 cups low-fat milk
1/3 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup real maple syrup
2 tbs. butter
2 eggs
1/2 tsp. fresh ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. cardamom
2 organic peaches (or other seasonal fruit of choice)
1 cup fat-free half-and-half
Contrary to the name, this dish is not Native American in origin aside from the cornmeal, which was more readily available to the pilgrims than wheat flour.  It’s also called “hasty pudding” and at least cooks faster than some 3 hour recipes I’ve seen.  With the molasses from the sugar trade not coming from North America or Europe, this dish was uniquely New England.  I’ve added maple syrup to make it more “native”, but couldn’t resist Indonesian nutmeg and Asian Indian cardamom (a relative of ginger).
Preheat over to 300ºF and grease casserole dish.  Pour milk into large sauce pan and heat on med-high until scalded but not boiling.  (Look for tiny bubbles around the edges of the pot.)  Whisk in cornmeal a tablespoon at a time, stirring well to prevent lumps.  Add molasses, syrup, and butter.  Reduce heat and cook 10-15 minutes, stirring frequently, until the consistency of pourable porridge.  In a separate bowl, whisk eggs and spices together.  Slowly add cornmeal mix to eggs, whisking constantly so as not to cook eggs.  Pour mix into casserole dish and bake 45 minutes.  Wash, pit, and cut peaches into half-wedges, or bite-sized pieces, leaving skin on.  Serve pudding warm with fat free half-and-half and peaches.

This sweet and savory dish with a hint of spice is based on the cuisine of Tunisia.  Wish I had a picture, but we dived right in.

Low Sodium/Gluten-Free Option
Chicken and Peaches
Taste of Tunisia
2 tbs. oil, divided
2 cups diced red onion
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1 tsp. white pepper
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs, fat trimmed
3 cups reduced fat, low sodium (gluten-free) chicken broth
2 organic peaches, cut into wedges then halved
2 tbs. honey
1 pinch saffron (optional)
couscous (not gluten-free) or rice
This recipe is based on the sweet tangine dishes of North Africa, but has less sugar and fat than the traditional fare.  By using boneless chicken thighs instead of whole chicken, it also cooks faster and costs less to prepare.  In a covered skillet or Dutch oven, heat 1 tbs. of oil on medium-high.  Cook onions, nuts, and spices, stirring frequently, about three minutes.  Remove mixture and set aside.  Add another tbs. of oil and brown thighs, about 2 minutes per side.  Add stock and onion mixture and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat slightly, cover, and poach gently 20 minutes.  Uncover and add peaches, honey, and saffron, crushing spice with your fingers and sprinkling on top.  Cook another 10-15 minutes, allowing liquid to thicken, until chicken flakes apart easily with a fork and meat thermometer reads 165ºF.   Serve over couscous or use rice for gluten-free option. 
Need to indulge a little?  Too hot to cook?  Impress your guests with this quick dessert made with only four ingredients:

Gluten-Free/Low Sodium/Vegetarian
Peach “Gelato”
Taste of Italy
Prep: 15 minutes  Freeze: 1 hour or overnight  Serves 4
2 over-ripe peaches
1/2 cup half-and-half
1/8 cup local honey
1 tsp. ground ginger
Have peaches getting soft on your counter?  Make this quick dessert!  Soft peaches are easy to peel the skin from.  You can peel, then freeze, or vice-versa.  I usually freeze the peaches in their skins so I don’t have to wrap them, but peeling must be done quick so peaches don’t thaw.  Freeze peaches at least one hour, preferably overnight.  Remove pit by slicing around peach and twisting sides.  Chop pitted peaches and mix with half-and-half, honey, and ground ginger in a blender until smooth.  Serve immediately.

Kickstarter coming soon to publish the Around the World in 100 Miles cookbook! 

Monday, July 20, 2015

Waste-Free Camping

Three years ago, we camped at Bowdish Lake.   It was time to return, to turn off the electronics, and tune into nature.  We wanted to leave with memories and not leave any trash behind.

To pack... A reusable shopping bag for food, for clothing, for outdoor toys, for books and games, for bathroom and medical supplies.  It all got packed haphazardly and got sorted by use after we set up the site.  I don't know how we fit it all in the car!  (PSA: We finally used the air mattress I purchased well over a year ago.  Note to all: put it in the tent BEFORE you inflate it!)

Besides the tent, pillows, sleeping bags, sun block, bug spray, citronella candle, toys, books, games, and guitars, we needed food.  This was our kitchen:

Cloth and reusable plastic.
Cloth-line and Castille!
Seltzer cans block the wind from
our terra cotta citronella candle.

Waste-Free Kitchen:

Mess kit
3 cast-iron pans
metal fire pit grill
oven mitts
wood kept dry in lidded reusable large storage bin
coffee tin of dryer lint to start fires
tin with matches
Collapsible silicon bowls and cups
Steel kettle
French press
coffee scoop
cutting board
reusable utensils
reusable metal grill forks (marshmallows/hot dogs)
plastic to-go containers for eating and storage
cloth napkins
cloth table cloth
folding table
folding chairs
Castille soap
Recommend: paper shopping bags with handles to carry goods and fold up and reuse.
Recommend: scrubbing sponge!!!  We had a hard time cleaning cast iron pans with cloth napkins and I didn't bring salt to scrub with.

Fruit: bananas, peaches, tangerines, apples
Instant oatmeal (burned packaging)
popcorn maker
bell peppers (mesh reusable bag)
eggs (burned cardboard carton)
butter (burned wax paper)

Recyclable Kitchen:

Foil (for potatoes and saving food)
nuts (aluminum and cardboard)
dried fruit mix (reusable plastic)
peanut butter (glass, metal)
safflower oil (plastic container)
free-trade chocolate (paper, foil)
cinnamon graham crackers (burned cardboard)
distilled water (plastic jug)
bread (paper bag)
mini potatoes (plastic netting - saved for crafts and texture rubbings)
cold cans of seltzer (keeping food cold in cooler)

Waste-Generating Kitchen:

turkey bacon (plastic bag)
deli meat and cheese (plastic bags)
hot dogs (plastic bag)
rolls (plastic bag)
marshmallows (plastic bag)
ice (plastic bag)
baby wipes (Cleaned hands of marshmallow; wiped bird droppings off tent.  Used sparingly.)

As you can see, convenient meat-products were our downfall.  This is ironic, because we rarely eat meat but wanted something easy to cook on a fire.  Peanut butter and jelly would have been fine with me, but my 8 year old has decided she no longer likes it.  My partner did come up with a divine concoction: banana slices and mixed nuts cooked with butter in a cast iron skillet.  The tiny mixed potatoes cooked in 40 minutes.  Pierce them all with a fork first, then wrap them in heavy foil and leave them right on the fire.  We cooked the whole bag for dinner and reused the leftovers for home-fries both mornings.

What about second breakfast?

Here's our shameful bag of waste:

I should also mention the glow sticks and their packaging.  So, not totally waste-free, but getting close.  Far from the conveniences of home, we met great people, got close to nature, hiked, made art, swam in the lake, had a pond weed fight, saw a spider spin a web at night, and photographed at least 500 different mushrooms for later identification.  But that will be in a future blog...

Going camping?  NWF wants to know with a #campie (camp + selfie).  More info here.

Our trip in 2012.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015


I generally don't like cherries.  But my good friend Chris Belleau, who has a fabulous gallery on Wickendon St., has a sour cherry tree with more cherries than he can use and for the third year in a row, I picked a bunch.  This year, I modified my Rhubarb Goldberg Machine recipe, substituting with sour cherries, mini chocolate chips, and almond extract added to plain yogurt.  The results?  Delicious!

Vegetarian/Wild Option*

Rhubarb Goldberg Machine 
Taste of Earth

Prep: 10 minutes  Cook: 25 minutes  Makes twelve muffins

1/4 cup butter, melted
2 eggs
1 cup strawberry yogurt*
1/4 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 cup unbleached flour
1/2 cup white sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup rhubarb stalks, sliced 1/4” thick*
1 cup old-fashioned oats
1/4 cup sliced almonds (optional)

This muffin has it all, but bakes light and fluffy.  Melt butter.  In a small bowl, whisk in eggs, then yogurt and buttermilk.  Sift dry ingredients in large bowl.  Mix  rhubarb, oatmeal, and nuts into dry mix.  Stir wet ingredients into dry until just moistened.  Fill 12 greased muffin tins.  Bake at 400ºF 20-25 minutes.
* Substitute plain or other yogurt flavors depending on fruit selected.  Try adding a teaspoon of vanilla or orange extract with autumn olives, blackberries, blueberries, cranberries, or strawberries, peeled apple or pear with cinnamon or ground ginger, pumpkin or zucchini with nutmeg, or cherry with chocolate chips.