It’s the (not so) Little Things

It's the (not so) Little Things, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas. aspasiasbissas.com. Houseplants, garden, gardening, calamondin orange, citrus trees. Photo by Scott Morrison
Photo by Scott Morrison

Sometimes you don’t realize how much you need something until you get it. In my case what I needed was a happier plant.

My calamondin orange was suffering in a too-small pot for far too long. I kept putting off re-potting, wanting to do it after we moved, but since that’s taking longer than anticipated I finally decided to take care of the plant now.

After transferring it to a bigger pot, pruning, and staking it, I was tired, but also feeling accomplished. It was like a weight had been lifted. Giving the plant what it needed made me feel good. I highly recommend it.

I also discovered that my once-tiny houseplant has gotten huge! It really wasn’t obvious until I was finished and took a step back. How dwarf is a dwarf citrus tree anyway?

It's the (not so) Little Things, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas. aspasiasbissas.com. Houseplants, garden, gardening, calamondin orange, citrus trees. Photo by Scott Morrison
Photo by Scott Morrison

By the way, you can use calamondin oranges to make cake, juice (aka Filipino lemonade), or– if you’re like my SO (who also snacks on lemons)– you can eat them straight off the branch, rind included.

What little thing has lifted your spirits lately? Share in the comments…

My character Mara loves plants too. She’s also a vampire. Download my books and find out more…

Aspasia S. Bissas books: Love Lies Bleeding, Blood Magic, Tooth & Claw, book, books, free book, free books, freebies, freebie, free ebook, free ebooks, vampire, vampires, dark fantasy, dark romance, historical fiction, gothic fiction, gothic fantasy, urban fantasy, paranormal, supernatural, horror, dark reads, indie author, indie fiction, strong female protagonist, aspasiasbissas.com

Love Lies Bleeding: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books
FREE Blood Magic: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books
FREE Tooth & Claw: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books

If you prefer paperback, use this link to order Love Lies Bleeding from Bookshop – a portion of each sale goes directly to independent bookstores, as well as to myself. Thank you for supporting indie! ♥

Cheers,

Aspasía S. Bissas

🧿

Vampire’s Garden: Queen Anne’s Lace

By Christian Fischer, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15779192

Love Lies Bleeding‘s readers know that main character Mara is both a vampire and a botanist. Trained when she was still human, she continues to study plants and have a garden. This post is thirteenth in a series exploring Mara’s plants. Are you interested in botany, gardening, or plant lore? So are some vampires…

Please note: Medicinal uses are given for informational purposes only. Always consult a medical professional before diagnosing or treating yourself or anyone else.

Warning: Poison Hemlock (Conium maculatum), Water Hemlock (Cicuta douglasii), and Fool’s Parsley (Aethusa cynapium) are toxic plants that can easily be mistaken for Queen Anne’s Lace. Don’t harvest wild QAL unless you are absolutely sure you have the right plant!

From Wikipedia: D. carota is distinguished by a mix of tripinnate leaves, fine hairs on its solid green stems and on its leaves, a root that smells like carrots, and occasionally a single dark red flower in the center of the umbel.[9] Hemlock is also different in tending to have purple mottling on its stems, which also lack the hairiness of the plain green Queen Anne’s lace (wild carrot) stems.

Botanical Name: Daucus carota

Common Names: wild carrot, bishop’s lace, bird’s nest weed, lace flower, devil’s plague, bee’s nest

History: Native to temperate Europe and southwest Asia, and naturalized in North America, Australia and New Zealand, Queen Anne’s Lace is the wild form of the carrots in your vegetable drawer. The white flower clusters sometimes have a dark red or purple floret in the centre, which inspired the name Queen Anne’s Lace. The dark spot is said to be a drop of Queen Anne’s* blood, a result of pricking her finger as she was making lace (the spot actually serves to attract insects). Queen Anne’s Lace has been used as a food throughout history: the roots have been eaten as a cooked vegetable, and thanks to its high sugar content it has even been used to sweeten other foods. In England it was once believed that the dark floret could cure epilepsy. First Nations peoples used the plant medicinally to treat blood disorders, skin conditions, and diabetes (please do not try this at home).

*The Queen Anne in question could be Queen Anne of England (wife of James I), Anne of Denmark, or even Anne Boleyn.

Victorian Language of Flowers Meaning: Sanctuary

Cultivation: Biennial. Prefers full sun to part shade and well-drained soil. Blooms from late spring until autumn of its second year. Queen Anne’s Lace is easy to care for and requires only occasional watering. If you plan on growing carrots for seeds, don’t grow Queen Anne’s Lace– the plants will cross-pollinate and your carrots will produce QAL seeds. Don’t plant QAL near apples if you’re going to eat the roots, because apples affect the flavour, making the roots bitter. If you don’t want it spreading everywhere, then it’s best to plant Queen Anne’s Lace where it can be contained. You can help prevent the spread by deadheading the flowers. Remove plants by digging them up (be sure to get the entire taproot). Can be found growing wild on roadsides and in fields, but don’t harvest it unless you’re 100% able to confidently identify it.

Companion planting: Queen Anne’s Lace attracts beneficial insects, and has been found to be especially helpful when planted next to blueberries and tomatoes.

Note: Some states and provinces have listed QAL as a noxious/invasive weed, so check with your local government or invasive species organization before planting it.

Uses:

Culinary: the roots can be cooked and eaten like carrots when they’re young and tender. You can also dry, roast, and grind them to make a coffee substitute. The flowers can be battered and fried, added to salads, or used in drinks and to make jelly. Chop young leaves (from first year plants) and add to salad. Use the seeds to flavour soups and stews.

Medicinal: The roots and seeds are used as a diuretic. The grated root can be mixed with honey and used as a poultice to treat minor wounds and sores.

From The Woodrow Wilson Foundation Leadership Programs for Teachers:

“It is still used by some women today as a contraceptive; a teaspoon of seeds are thoroughly chewed, swallowed and washed down with water or juice starting just before ovulation, during ovulation, and for one week thereafter.”

Dye: The flowers produce an off-white colour. Using different mordants will result in yellows, golds, shades of orange, and forest green.

Science Experiment to Demonstrate Capillary Action: If you place the freshly cut flowers in coloured water (make by adding food colouring to water and mixing well), the flowers will slowly change colour to match the water.

Wildlife: Queen Anne’s Lace attracts beneficial insects to the garden. It’s a food source for Black Swallowtail butterfly larvae. Some birds also eat the seeds.

Caution: Do not consume Queen Anne’s Lace if you’re pregnant (the plant was traditionally used as an abortifacient). Be careful while handling the foliage as the leaves can cause photo sensitivity and dermatitis.

Mara’s Uses: Mara might use QAL in some of her herbal remedies, but its association with blood would probably interest her more.

Further Reading:

Aspasia S. Bissas books: Love Lies Bleeding, Blood Magic, Tooth & Claw, book, books, free book, free books, freebies, freebie, free ebook, free ebooks, vampire, vampires, dark fantasy, dark romance, historical fiction, gothic fiction, gothic fantasy, urban fantasy, paranormal, supernatural, horror, dark reads, indie author, indie fiction, strong female protagonist, aspasiasbissas.com

Love Lies Bleeding: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books
FREE Blood Magic: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books
FREE Tooth & Claw: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books

If you prefer paperback, use this link to order Love Lies Bleeding from Bookshop – a portion of each sale goes directly to independent bookstores, as well as to myself. Thank you for supporting indie! ♥

Wikipedia

Growing and Caring for Queen Anne’s Lace

Edible Wild Food

Detailed Description of Queen Anne’s Lace

Queen Anne’s Lace: Symbolism and Meaning

Queen Anne’s Lace: Butterfly Host Plant and Blueberry Protector

Three Herbs: Yarrow, Queen Anne’s Lace, and Indian Pipe

Instructions on Dyeing with Queen Anne’s Lace

Cheers,

Aspasía S. Bissas

Happy New Year

Happy New Year, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com. Happy new year 2022, recipe, loukoumades, greek doughnuts
Photo by olia danilevich on Pexels.com

I don’t think it’s too much to hope for a better year in 2022, so I’m sending you all my best wishes for good things ahead!

There are a few different New Year’s traditions in my family that come from our Greek culture. The one I’ll be indulging in tomorrow is making Loukoumades, or Greek doughnuts. These were a highlight of the holidays growing up, and I thought I’d share my mom’s recipe. Enjoy!

Loukoumades (Greek Doughnuts)

This recipe makes enough for at least 6 people. Feel free to halve the amounts to make less.

Loukoumades, Greek Doughnuts, Greek Pastries, greek honey doughnuts, honey doughnuts, greek honey pastries, honey pastries honey, cinnamon, syrup, recipe, how to pronounce loukoumades
Like with clouds, it can be fun to try to figure out what the different shapes remind you of

(Apologies for the lack of precise measurements– my mom was one of those cooks who just knew how to make things. Luckily the recipe doesn’t need to be too precise.)

2 highball glasses/tall drinking glasses of warm water

3 soup spoons yeast

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 soup spoons vegetable oil (or olive oil, if you want to be authentic)

2 to 3 highball glasses/tall drinking glasses all-purpose flour

Mix together water, yeast, salt, and oil in a large bowl. Add flour, mixing in thoroughly. Batter should have a similar consistency to pancake batter (not too thick nor runny). Cover the bowl with a clean tea towel and let sit until mixture has doubled in bulk.

Once the batter is ready, pour vegetable oil several inches deep into a saucepan (don’t fill the pan more than halfway). Heat oil over high heat. To test if it’s hot enough, carefully drop a small amount of batter in; if the batter floats and oil bubbles around, you’re ready to start making the loukoumades. (If the batter immediately turn brown, the oil is too hot. Turn it down and test again in a few minutes.)

Lower heat to medium-low. Carefully drop in scant tablespoons of batter (the loukoumades puff up, so you don’t want to make them too big). Don’t crowd the pan. Fry loukoumades, turning them until they are lightly golden and crispy. Remove them with a slotted spoon and place them in a bowl or large dish lined with paper towels. Continue until you’re out of batter, adding more oil to the pan, if necessary.

SYRUP

2 cups unpasteurized honey

3/4 cup to 1 cup water (depends on whether you prefer a thicker or thinner syrup)

Simmer water and honey together in a small saucepan for 3 to 4 minutes. Lower heat to minimum and keep warm.

TO SERVE:

If you prefer crispy loukoumades like I do, pour some syrup into an individual bowl, sprinkle with ground cinnamon, and dip loukoumades into the syrup as you’re eating them.

If you prefer softer/sweeter loukoumades, place them in a serving bowl. Pour the syrup over them and sprinkle with cinnamon. Eat while still warm.

You can also reheat loukoumades in the oven at 350F (175C) for about 15 minutes. Loukoumades are best eaten the same day.

How to Pronounce:

Wishing you a sweet 2022,

Aspasía S. Bissas

Currently Reading

Currently Reading, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com. The Arab Table by May S. Bsisu, food, cooking, cookbooks.

I’m happy to report that I loved the last book I read, which means Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series is back on the TBR pile (fingers crossed I won’t regret that decision). For now, though, I’m switching things up and going with a cookbook. I’m not sure whether I’ve mentioned it before, but I collect cookbooks and enjoy reading them (I’ve even been known to try out a recipe on occasion). I’m very excited to get into The Arab Table, as it goes beyond recipes to also share cultural traditions and the author’s own experiences. I have a feeling this is going to be one of my favourite cookbooks.

What are you reading these days? Share in the comments…

Don’t forget to take advantage of the End of the Year E-Book Sale and get Love Lies Bleeding for half off! Get it now.

Cheers,

Aspasía S. Bissas

Happy Hallowe’en!

Happy Hallowe'en! Blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com. Halloween, Samhain, jack o'lantern
Photo by Matheus Bertelli on Pexels.com

I’m sure it’s no surprise to anyone familiar with me, my work, or this blog that this is my favourite time of year. I love the energy in the air, the myth and magic surrounding Hallowe’en, and the general spookiness of it all. It’s also my favourite time to cook and bake, so I’m sharing a couple of recipes that perfectly capture the season.

I wish you all a memorable night tomorrow, full of high spirits (and maybe definitely some candy)! See you on the other side…

Jack o’ Lantern Soup

Whenever we have a jack o’ lantern, I make this soup. It makes use of the pieces of pumpkin you carve out, and it’s mildly pumpkiny and delicious. (Recipe originally found in Ancient Ways by Pauline and Dan Campanelli.)

Happy Hallowe'en! Blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas. aspasiasbissas.com. Halloween, Samhain, jack o'lantern, pumpkin soup, roast pumpkin seeds, recipe, recipes.
This picture makes me realize how much I need to work on my food photography.

pieces of pumpkin cut from your jack-o-lanterns
water
butter
1 chopped onion per cup of mashed pumpkin
1 1/2 cups milk per cup of mashed pumpkin
1/2 tsp salt per cup of mashed pumpkin
dash pepper per cup of mashed pumpkin
1/4 tsp curry powder, or according to taste, per cup of mashed pumpkin
cinnamon or nutmeg

Peel the outer skin from the pieces of pumpkin and boil them in water until very tender, about 20-30 minutes. Mash pieces with a potato masher.

Meanwhile, in a pot of appropriate size, melt some butter and saute chopped onion(s). When onions are ready, add the mashed pumpkin. Add milk, salt, pepper and curry powder. Cook until heated through. Bowls of the soup can be garnished with a dash of cinnamon or nutmeg just before serving.

Pumpkin Seeds

While you’re at it, you should also save and roast the seeds from your jack:

Rinse and drain seeds (if they’re really wet, you might want to pat them dry with a towel) and place in a bowl. Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with salt (you can also sprinkle with a bit of cayenne or chili powder). Stir well. Spread on a large, greased baking sheet. Place in preheated 325F (160C) oven for about ten minutes, stirring occasionally. Keep an eye on them as they burn quickly. Best served warm.

Cheers,

Aspasía S. Bissas

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