Legend of Foster

Legend of Foster

Back in the spring of 2017, a small golden cherry tomato plant asked to be fostered in my annual veggie garden. My son Mark and his girlfriend Sarah had overbought plants for their apartment garden, and the little tomato was dying a neglected death. Sure, I said, what was one more little plant among the many other veggies that we usually planted in our easterly hillside planter box garden. Mark had to nurse it back to halfway healthy before we could even attempt to transplant it. We finally placed the struggling growth in our nourishing ground and hoped for the best. I decided that Foster was a most fitting name for the little tomato plant.

A week later, Foster was thriving. His trunk became sturdy, and his branches spread nicely. His improving green appearance demonstrated he was determined to catch up to his relatives next door, which had been given a head start by at least a couple of weeks. He became the first tomato to require a support cage and the first to display a bounty of flowers. I had to pinch back his side branches several times because he was infringing on the space of others.

Foster didn’t care. He moved right in on the neighboring pole bean trellis, draping his arms over the growing vines. The pole beans reciprocated by winding and weaving their tentacles through and around Foster’s ever-expanding branches. My interference and trimming didn’t faze either plant. They were determined to join forces in support of each other. The same became true of the heirloom tomato plant on Foster’s other side. I decided to quit fussing so as to allow the determined growths to do what came naturally.

Time passed, and Foster and his neighbors flourished. It became clear that this year’s crops had minds of their own, especially after the California winter that had blessed us with so much rain. The pole beans grew taller than they’d ever been, and Foster had no trouble keeping up. He dwarfed the other tomato plants, which were substantial in their own right. His branches were soon bursting with sweet yellow cherries, limbs now woven into the very fabric of and draping over his neighbors.

Once his branches draped down to the ground, they changed course and headed back upstream. One could harvest on a daily basis. He and his pole bean friend required harvest by ladder, a first for our little garden. I was delivering a new container of cherry tomatoes to Mark almost on a daily basis. Foster stood proud of his offspring and their excellent quality.

Now it’s close to Thanksgiving, and I’m ready to retire this year’s garden. But no! Foster has other plans. He’s looking weathered on the inside, but he’s still flourishing on the outside. His branches are still strong and growing, and there are still dozens of cherries to pick. I fear the colder weather will make it difficult for Foster’s offspring to ripen, so on Thanksgiving, we will pick his fruit for the last time and put him to rest. It will be sad to see him go. He was such a vital contributor to this year’s garden treasures.

But I have hope that he will live on. We’re leaving a few of his offspring on the ground. Hopefully in the spring, their seeds will unfold from their winter’s rest to sprout a new generation of sweet yellow cherry tomatoes. At that point, they will no longer be fosters in my garden, but they just might move on to be fosters for others.

You’re a legend, sweet Foster. It’s been a pleasure.

Zucchini Pancakes

Zucchini Pancakes

After a long day earlier this week, I came home not wanting to fuss much for dinner. A large, beautiful hand-grown zucchini was sitting in the fridge, just waiting to be used while it was still fresh. I pulled this and that out from here and there and ended up with these pancakes, which really hit the spot without being too much trouble. A spoonful of salsa on top added a little kick to the savory flavors. I was a happy girl and had leftovers to take in my lunch the next day. Always looking for new ways to use my overabundance of garden zucchini!!


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Zucchini Pancakes
Zucchini pancakes make for a less traditional side dish, a quick weekday meal, or a savory brunch item. You can whip these up in no time and add a variety of herb combinations to suit your taste. They are especially flavorful when you've just harvested the zucchini from your garden.
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Course Side Dish
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Servings
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Ingredients
Course Side Dish
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
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Instructions
  1. Saute garlic and onion in pan with olive oil. Allow to cool. Pat grated zucchini between paper towels to remove excess moisture.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk beaten eggs and milk. Work in flour, baking powder, and seasonings. Add zucchini, basil, Parmesan cheese, and the onion/garlic mixture, and blend well with a large spoon.
  3. Add a little more olive oil to the pan if necessary, turn stove top heat to medium, and drop zucchini batter by large spoonfuls into pan. Cook pancakes until golden brown on one side, then flip to cook the remaining side. Hint: If the batter is a little thin, cover entire bottom of pan with batter. Then cut the pancake into 4 wedges with the end of your spatula before you flip to the other side. They display well that way.
  4. Serve with a side of tomato salsa as an optional condiment. Try other condiments as well: butter, sour cream, ketchup, ranch dressing, etc.
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Oh, How I’ve Missed My Time in the Garden

Oh, How I’ve Missed My Time in the Garden

The season has returned for getting down on our hands and knees and working the soil. New, innocent seeds and seedlings need a helping hand if they are to grow to their full potential. The work is straight forward if you arm yourself with the right tools, nutrients, and plantlings. You plant them, feed them, water them, trim them, and harvest them. Whether they’re vegetables or flowers, trees or bushes, they all need a loving touch to help them flourish.

I was late in getting my vegetable garden going this year because of our California rains. They went on and on and caused way too much growth of all kinds on our property (please note that I’m not complaining about the abundance of water). Just last week, I fought my way through a tangle of rosemary, blackberries, and lavender in an attempt to reshape the individual plants and clear space around the blackberries so I could clear their individual tangle and promote their healthy growth. The blackberries themselves were another weekend project. And of course, during the process, I had to repair broken irrigation drippers here and there.

The veggie collection includes the usuals: 5 varieties of tomato, including some volunteers from last year, zucchini, yellow squash, pole beans, jalapenos, red bell peppers, cucumbers, carrots, red and yellow onions, beets, and red chard, and shallots from last season. We’re trying our hand at watermelon and casaba melon this time around, and this year we’re fostering a cherry tomato plant for the first time. It’s strange to feel an obligation to another’s plant. The herbs include Italian basil, lemon and lime basils, oregano, Italian parsley, cilantro, lemon thyme, regular thyme, tarragon, and garlic chives. I’ll add more if something sounds interesting to me. Oh, and I got some late half-off seeds from the local nursery that is closing out, so I’ll throw sunflower seeds into the ground and add leeks, arugula, and peas later in the season.

I’ve missed being in this garden. I’ve been spread so thin with varying responsibilities in recent times that it’s easy to forget the calm, soul-cleansing peace that is to be found in the garden. It’s a peace known in solitude, in nature’s noises, and in the miraculous motion that nature that carries on whether we’re observing it or not. You pull a weed, and a worm who is working the soil emerges. You trim herbs, and the bees and ladybugs that keep the plants healthy show their faces. You place a support under a towering gladiolus, and the hummingbirds zoom in to enjoy the nectar. If your mind is not in the current moment, such treasures pass you by. But if you focus on the activity and the noises, you become one with them, and outside thoughts lose their importance. So I’m going to concentrate on what I experience in the garden. I’m not going to miss the garden, especially if I’m actually standing in it.

Pesto Mac and Cheese Lasagna

Pesto Mac and Cheese Lasagna

This Pesto Mac and Cheese Lasagna was a total experiment. I thought of it on a whim, and I was very pleased with the results. It’s an excellent way to make use of leftover noodles. And the basil pesto and sour cream give the dish a tangy surprise of flavor. It’s a Mama Galuchi original!


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Pesto Mac & Cheese Lasagna
A mac and cheese of a different sort! What do you do when you make a large lasagna and you have several leftover cooked lasagna noodles? Find inventive ways to use those noodles, of course. Lasagna noodles are a form of macaroni, so why not make a simple cheese sauce, throw in some prepared pesto sauce and a little sour cream, and layer the sauce with the noodles to make a tasty mac and cheese dish that is in the form of a lasagna. Once it's baked, cut into portion-size squares and serve as a side dish with your favorite protein and a salad.
Casserole of Pesto Mac and Cheese Lasagna
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Cuisine Italian
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
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Cuisine Italian
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Servings
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Ingredients
Casserole of Pesto Mac and Cheese Lasagna
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Melt butter in a medium saucepan. Slowly add flour and whisk over medium heat until smooth and bubbly. Slowly add the milk and incorporate it into the sauce until it is again smooth, bubbly and also thickened. Remove from heat. Whisk in shredded cheeses, sour cream, and pesto sauce. Stir until cheese melts and the sauce is smooth and velvety. Season to your taste.
  3. In a medium baking dish, layer pesto cheese sauce with the lasagna noodles, starting and ending with the cheese sauce. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 20 minutes or until bubbly throughout. Set for 5 minutes. Cut into squares and serve hot.
Recipe Notes

Once baked, the lasagna can easily be cut and stored in freezer containers for a tasty side dish at any time.

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A Most Compelling Cause

A Most Compelling Cause

Dear Friends and Family,

I would like to introduce you to a unique and compelling cause that I invite you to support during this new year. Our family has personally benefited from the lifesaving techniques associated with this cause, initiated by a brilliant endoscopic surgeon by the name of Dr. Kenneth Binmoeller, Director of the Interventional Endoscopy Services at CPMC in San Francisco. Because of Dr. Binmoeller’s work, innovations, and teachings, countless lives have already been saved, the face of delicate digestive tract surgeries has changed, and surgeons around the world have learned his techniques and taken advantage of his creativity. Endoscopic procedures, which were originally developed for diagnostic purposes only, have become remarkably advanced thanks to Dr. Binmoeller’s vision. At this time, he is seeking support for a new foundation that will allow him to further expand his vision.

Here’s our story and our connection to Dr. Binmoeller:

Eight years ago, my husband Mike collapsed with a case of acute pancreatitis. His illness was caused by a gallstone that lodged in his bile duct at the junction of his pancreatic duct. The circumstances caused the digestive enzymes that normally flow from the pancreas to aid digestion in the small intestines to back up and attack his pancreas, resulting in the loss of most of his pancreas and the growth of a pseudocyst on his pancreas that demanded surgery. By the grace of God, Mike survived the ordeal, but he was in bed for most of 6 months, on a feeding tube for over 4 months, and on morphine for pain for almost 6 months. Due to his compromised pancreas, he acquired diabetes, which requires steady insulin treatment, and became dependent on enzyme supplements at mealtimes to help with digestion. It was indeed a grueling time for all of our family.

Had Mike fallen ill five years earlier, he would have required major surgery to address the gall stone and the pseudocyst, as well as months of recovery in the hospital. Because of the intricate endoscopic procedures Dr. Binmoeller has developed in recent years, tools were fed through an endoscope tube down Mike’s throat and through the natural paths of his body without invasive incisions, where the doctor was able to remove the gallstone from his bile duct and install a tiny drain between the pseudocyst and Mike’s stomach. The drain relieved his pancreas of the dead tissue and fluid that had accumulated.

Since then, Mike has had nine more interventional endoscopic procedures with Dr. Binmoeller to maintain his health, including two incidences where stents were placed in his bile duct to keep it stretched open where damage from the original attack occurred. All of the procedures have been 1-day, outpatient events, thanks to this wonderful doctor’s techniques. Mike would never have survived such maintenance through conventional surgeries.

I truly believe Mike wouldn’t be here today…working, playing golf, and enjoying life…had it not been for Dr. Binmoeller and his innovative endoscopic procedures, as well as for his caring gastroenterologist, Dr. Faraz Berjis, who had the foresight to refer Mike for highly specialized treatment. Since that time, both men have become family friends. And since that time, our son Mark has also required endoscopic surgery by Dr. Binmoeller. We feel so blessed that our family came to be in such good hands.

Dr. Binmoeller has recently founded an independent organization called Endovision, which has the following mission: To promote and advance endoscopic technology to cure digestive tract disease and cancers. If you have a loved one who has ever experienced digestive tract disease or has had to endure extensive recovery from a major surgery, you know the importance of such a mission.

Dr. Binmoeller has shared with us that, in the end, his career-long mission is to eliminate as many major surgeries as he can by continuing to develop new and innovative ways to perform endoscopic procedures. As he puts it, his mission is much bigger than any of us. It is about improving the future health of mankind. What a challenge he is willing to embrace.

He is currently working on a patent for his most recent invention: a new endoscopic tool that will further eliminate the need for conventional surgery. He hopes to take the tool to clinical trials soon. He is looking for support to move this project forward. Endovision is a non-profit organization that is dependent on donations as its source of income. If, after learning about our personal interest in Dr. Binmoeller’s work, you see value in his mission, I encourage you to support Endovision in any way you can. Dr. Binmoeller’s innovations may touch your life too somewhere down the line.

Learn more about Endovision and Dr. Binmoeller at the Endovision website:

http://www.endovision.org/

To make a contribution to this lifesaving cause, go directly to Endovision’s Donation Page:

http://www.endovision.org/donate
Thank you so much for taking the time to read our story,

Barbara McLaughlin
Mike McLaughlin
P.S. See an interview with Dr. Binmoeller where he touches on an example of the original procedure he performed on Mike.  http://www.endosuite.com/videos/meet-kenneth-binmoeller-md-founder-of-the-axios-technology