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Bird on a cherry tree

Image by Vibragiel via Flickr

Cruising through the New York Times this morning, I came across a story about some of the trials and tribulations presented by wild landscape gardening.

Margie Ruddick is a landscape architect living in Philadelphia. She has nurtured a wild (and very beautiful) garden that doesn’t require watering, saves runoff water from going into the sewers and feeds the birds and neighbours. She is routinely questioned about her “wild ways” by the city, bylaw enforcement officers, and others.

I personally find this story inspirational. I had a lawn once. The first thing I did with this lawn was to rip up patches of it. I planted various ground-covers, heathers, lavender… however, I hadn’t thought to see what native plants would spontaneously germinate in my soil. This activity is even more exciting in a city setting; go to those abandoned lots, those cracks in the sidewalk, and you will find life.

Natasha Henderson, Montreal

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A very simple, easy and delicious (oh yes, and nutritious) salad was my fast lunch today.

lunch today!

 I used prewashed, organic arugula greens from my local grocery, accompanied by delicious stuff I had in my cupboards. I “mixed” it all on the plate I ate off of. It took about a minute to make lunch, and about three to eat. My kind of fast food!

*Take a handful of arugula

*sprinkle with your favorite crumbly old cheese and almonds

*drizzle a couple tablespoons of organic olive oil on top

*throw on some ground pepper and dried dill

Ready!

Delicious!

Natasha Henderson, Montreal

It is 29°C, there is a strong wind and all the plants in the garden are suddenly crying.  You could say that we have some heat.  The transition from blah rain to all of this warmth is a little exhausting. I am now inspired to experiment with coconut milk and frozen fruit.

Want something sweet and refreshing on a hot day?  Try this!

instant ice cream

600 g of mixed frozen fruit (I used a 670g mixture of mango and raspberry today.)

1/2 can of organic coconut milk

1 tablespoon of sugar (optional)

a couple good glugs of vanilla

1.  So easy!  Put everything in a food processor and blend until very smooth.

2. Put into neat little individual containers.  I was able to make seven 125ml containers.  Chose containers that will be easy to navigate with a spoon.  Allow to sit for a few minutes at room temperature if you are going to enjoy this straight from the freezer.

ready to go!

Tammy Schmidt, Montreal

Today’s the day… time for an early harvest of my tiny sprouts! I know I could grow them for two or three more days, but I am anxious to give them a taste. Tonight they will find their cute little way into a mixed salad.

about to leave their glass home for the free-living lifestyle of a salad

I will immediately “plant” more in the jar. In a day or two I’ll start another jar’s worth of sprouts, so that I will have sprouts ready every couple of days.

little pals, eager to nourish? I hope so

In the future, I’ll have two or three different sorts of sprouts, and do this staggered method of germination and harvesting with all of them. I’ll refine the system, and try to set it up to look nice, too.

I love sprouts! Gardening you don’t need to put on shoes or a coat for…

Natasha Henderson, Montreal

"Beyond" (copyright Natasha Henderson) There are eggs in this...

Perhaps this is a little late for Easter. Perhaps you don’t really want to paint an egg right now. That’s cool. However, if you paint an (uncracked, uncooked) egg, you will practice observation and the creative manipulation of representing form.

An egg has volume. An egg has a gentle gradation of shadow. An egg can be reflective (depending on the type of egg it is, and what sort of environment in which it is depicted). In any event, if you just read this and don’t paint, that’s fine too. You’ll learn about all these things, through observing the following images.

Each Sunday, artist Natasha Henderson will guide you through some simple “How To” tips for painting. Having been (honestly) inspired at a young age by the oft-spoofed televised artist Bob Ross, Natasha would like to offer some simple tips on How To Paint Stuff.

I am opting to paint from memory. I actually do not have any eggs in the house right now; it would be better to have one for a real observation. However, the basic egg-shape is a simple one, and all eggs are slightly different from one another anyhow. Therefore, whatever egg I paint could exist. That is an important question to reflect upon, when trying to be convincing in painting… Could This Exist?

just a simple shape, not perfect at all

To start, I painted my paper with a layer of white acrylic to seal it. This is like in all the exercises, as my paper is quite thin. Next, I simply painted a black oval, almost an egg shape. I just wanted to get some outside, rough darkness, leaving the inside white.

smudging with finger while paint is still wet

Then, while the paint was still wet, I smudged down the centre of the egg. I needed to blend in a bit of the darkness to the middle, too. After this, it is mostly all adding white, a bit of black… just tinkering.

I "drew" the negative space around the egg better with some white... and used the white in the egg too

To make the oval shape more egg-like, I worked some white paint around the edges, to sort of erase the black paint that didn’t contribute to its egginess. I then used a sweep of this white along the bottom of the egg, to create some mystery and subtlety in the shadow on the egg. Next up, I painted a great deal of white along the top part of the egg.

more white added... a little smudging with a finger, more white...

Honestly, I went back and forth a couple of times, adding white and then swiping with my finger, until I was happy enough with the result. After this, I painted in a bit of a shadow under the egg.

just mixed a medium grey to start...

I decided that I wanted to have a gradation or two in the shadow, as well as a bit more in the egg… so I added in some lighter and darker greys where it made sense.

a bit more grey

I finalised what I did today by painting in more white. If I’d wanted to colour the egg I would wait ’til it is dry, then glaze a colour onto it and dab a little bit of white “reflection” on the lightest part. (See last week for tips on glazing, and how this idea works!)

our friend, the egg.

You can see that I got rid of a great deal of the shadow under the egg, this is just what felt “right” to me about the image. It’s up to you how much light and shadow are in your image, and what sort of environment your egg exists within.

Paint on! Paint on.

Natasha Henderson, Montreal

From a Scottish recipe book: stock made from s...

Cock-a-leekie! All of a sudden, I see this method everywhere!

Nigella Lawson is a woman who knows food, and she’s not afraid to show her love for it.  In the last few weeks I have discovered a great recipe from her latest cookbook called Kitchen.  Beyond being tasty, this recipe has made my life much less complicated.

It is her mother’s Praised chicken.  In the last while, I have made this recipe once a week.  It gives me enough soup stock and chicken to make tasty soups and salads all week long.  Long ago, I remember someone from Saskatchewan telling me this is a great way to cook chicken because it made a delicious and clear stock. I thought that roasting chicken is the best way, so I never bothered with this other method.  Well, years pass, and I now see that I have been missing out on something both great and efficient.  Both the soup stock and the left over chicken are delicious.  AND most importantly, it saves me time by making a stock and cooking a chicken, all at once.

What I do each week goes something like this.  I enjoy the chicken as a hot meal on the first day.  Within the same hour of preparing the chicken, I distribute the stock into individual portions that I can reheat during the week.  I then take apart the chicken (by far, my least favourite job!) and put this in individual jars, so that I have portions ready for any kind of salad.  The rest is a matter of finding a little lettuce and a few veggies, and then I am set for the week!  Truly, this is fast food.  And it is affordable, even if I buy an organic chicken.

Earlier this week I also discovered a similar recipe in the New York Times.  It is a saké steamed chicken with ginger and scallions.

So, with many of my lunches being ultra-healthy and fast, it seems to make for a really nice week.  And as a bonus, I feel that I can relax when I decide to go for a small treat at my favourite café.  With balance, living is very beautiful.

Tammy Schmidt, Montreal

a pan of these lovlies, ready to pop into the oven for a quick appetizer

One of the quickest, easiest things to make with savory, sweet, salty, or miscellaneous ingredients is a plate of mushroom caps. True, you do need some fresh mushrooms, but besides the necessity of that one ingredient, pretty much anything else you have on hand can stuff them. I love how the natural moisture of the mushroom comes out, stewing whatever is stuffed in them into a little pocket of taste. When I was a child, it was an old standby in our house to have mushroom caps as an appetizer: Mom would use orange cheddar and a “seasoning salt” to fill them. I’ve been trying out a few different options, lately.

mushroom caps stuffed with hot peppers, hot peppers stuffed with mushroom stems

Some of my personal favorite combos are:

-any sort of pepper (green, jalapeno, spicy, etc) with a drop of cheese on top and maybe garlic too. Sprinkle on some black pepper and any range of herbs such as oregano or basil or rosemary or dill or…

-the stems from the mushrooms mixed in with tomato and a bit of honey and/or soy sauce or any other type of “sauce” you like and have. Or skip those sauces and mince up some olives.

cheese and black pepper. Any type of cheese.

salsa of any type, with or without leftover vegetables like zucchini, eggplant, sweet potatoes.

bok choy with spicy chilli pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil.

sour cream and broccoli and paprika.

rosemary and goat cheese.

leftovers… any type of leftovers that can fit into a mushroom.

even in the heat of summer, these are worth turning the oven on for

Really, most any mixture works. I normally would “see what I have” then adjust my plans accordingly. I like to mince the ingredients up finely, then stir them together and spoon into the ‘caps. Sometimes, though, I don’t. This is a great type of recipe: there really aren’t any rules. Alright, one rule: if you use cheese, put it on top. That way it will melt and be a sort of “lid” for the rest of the ingredients in your little mini-casserole dish.

Cook at about 300-350 degrees ferenheit, for about 20-30 minutes… ’til “done”!

Natasha Henderson, Montreal

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