Companion Planting. Plant or Foe?

As a home gardener, I am always researching and learning from my own successes and failures. I make mental notes and log what I’ve learned from current and past trials and errors, in preparation for my next seasonal garden plot! That prompted me to create my own comprehensive (or as much as I can) companion planting visual guide!

Back in the spring of 2014—after extensive research— I made a basic “companion planting” text chart of the main veggies often grown by home gardeners, such as myself. I found so much of the information intriguing that I decided to add the interesting tidbits under their respective produce. Midway, I thought “Hey, this would be so convenient if I made myself a visual chart for my fridge!” And that I did. 🙂

This pet project of mine has since grown! There are additional veggies, updated original illustrations, more companions planting tips, and even information on edible parts of everyday produce, that most people are not aware of!

Gardening Discoveries:

  1. Marigolds: Sweet, sweet, beautiful marigolds. These gals play nicely with many veggies! It’s best to plant some among the other produce, in addition to planting a border of marigolds around your garden plot to act as a “shield” against pests. The lovely scent and bright, captivating colors will distract pests. Unfortunately slugs and snails do love marigolds, so keep all your eggshells; let them dry in the hot sun for a few days. Crunch up the shells and sprinkle them along the base of all your marigolds. You could also lightly sprinkle table salt along the base.
  2. Florence fennel: This bad boy wears way too much of that delicious cologne and is a bit of a bully to MANY veggies. Keep him contained in his own pot, away from the garden plot, as he’s more  of a loner!
  3. Tarragon: What a thoughtful uncle he is, looking after all your vegetables—especially eggplant. Plant tarragon throughout your garden.
  4. Mint: This hardy social butterfly likes to spread its roots wherever possible. Unless you want mint to take over, it’s best to keep it under control. I’ve planted mint inside a large, shallow terra cotta pot that I then put down into the garden plot. This creates a barrier around the rhizome root system. Sadly, mint attracts aphids once the weather gets consistently above the 70s. If the tips of your mint sprigs start to curl and deform, you have an aphid problem. Plant chives and cilantro near your mint patches to deter aphids.
  5. Cilantro: This resilient little gal is a fighter and can withstand the coldest, bleakest nights during winter! She’s most vivacious during cool/cold weather and isn’t so fond of the heat. She’ll start to bolt (grow tall and flower) the second the weather gets warm. The upside is you can keep the seeds (known as coriander) and dry them for your cooking spice collection. The roots can be washed and added to soup stock. Her flowers also attract a myriad of sweet ladybugs. What do ladybugs LOVE to dine on? Aphids! Grow cilantro near your mint patches.

Granny Apple Pie Filling

Autumn is almost here! I can feel it in my bones, and unfortunately in my eyes and sinuses (darn allergies!). The air is crisp, the sunlight at dawn and dusk are soothing, and nature seems to be perking up a bit. Autumn to me, means Starbucks pumpkin lattés, pumpkin patches, pumpkin-everything, apple orchards, and APPLE SEASON! I make this filling to top ice cream, yogurt, to be eaten alone, or added to pillowy empanadas. It’s a huge hit in my family! Enjoy. 🙂


  • 3 large Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, cut into 1/2″ pieces
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoons light brown sugar, packede
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (about 1/2 of a large lemon)
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 teaspoon cornstarch


  1. In a large pot, thoroughly coat the apples with lemon juice. Add sugar, brown sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt.
  2. In a medium pot, melt butter over medium heat.  Add apple mixture and coat with melted butter.
  3. Cover lid, allow to simmer about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, so that the mix doesn’t stick to the pot.
  4. Remove from heat and transfer to heatproof bowl.
  5. Set aside as you make the empanada dough.
  6. Be sure the apple filling has cooled to room temperature when it’s time to start making the empanadas.

Baked Polenta Potato Latkes

You may have heard of these delicious savory cakes as “latkes” or potato pancakes. My recipe research resulted in quite a few educational reads, and I learned that many countries make these, with varying ingredients and have very fun names!

Austria: Kartoffelpuffer, Reibekuchen, Reiberdatschi, Erdäpfelpuffer and Erdäpfellaibchen
Bulgaria: patatnik
Czech: bramborákor cmunda
Lithuania: bulviniai blynai
Ukraine: Deruny

Germany: See Austrian
Poland: Placki ziemniaczane
Russia: Daniki
Switzerland: Rösti


  • Organic avocado oil ~ small dessert bowl size
  • 2 lbs potatoes of choice ~ I’m using Yukon gold
  • 1 large yellow onion
  • 1 bunch organic scallions ~ washed, green part cut into small pieces
  • 5 cloves garlic ~ peeled, minced
  • 2 large organic eggs
  • 1/2 cup organic yellow cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup organic unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 tbs Montreal steak seasoning
  • 2 tsp nutritional yeast flakes
  • pinch of organic sugar

Making the Polenta POTATO Mix

  1. Scrub potatoes with brush. Arrange all potatoes (leave skin on) in a stainless steel pot, cover with water, add a teaspoon of sea salt. Bring water to rolling boil for about 2 minutes. Partially cover lid and allow to simmer for 15 minutes. The potatoes should easily pierce with a knife. Drain potatoes in colander. Set aside and allow to cool.
  2. Heat a skillet with cooking oil. Sauté onion and garlic until they are a medium brown. Add scallions. Turn off stove and continue to sauté until scallions are cooked. Set aside and allow to cool.
  3. In large mixing bowl, mash potatoes until desired texture. I prefer to leave small chunks in mine.
  4. With a spatula, push the mashed potatoes to the side, making a hole in the middle.
  5. Add eggs, cornmeal, flour, seasonings, and cooked mixture of onions, garlic, and scallions.
  6. Gently mix all the ingredients with a large spatula, scraping down the sides of the bowl as you mix. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 1 hour.

Time to Bake!

  1. Heat nonstick cookie sheet in over at 400ºF for 5 minutes. Remove tray with baking mitts.
  2. Using a silicone brush, brush a dollop of high-heat cooking oil in 8 equally-distanced spots, about 1″ size.
  3. Oil your palms and scoop heaping 1/4 cup of the latke mix. Roll into ball. Set on the cookie sheet. You should have about 16-20 latke balls. Bake for 12 minutes.
  4. Remove the cookie sheet. Gently press and flatten the latke balls into discs about 1/2″ thick. Round out the edges of the lakes with your latkes for pretty discs.
  5. Brush some oil on the surfaces of the lakes and bake another 12minutes on 400ºF.
  6. The baked latkes should be golden brown, slightly crispy on the outside, soft on the inside.
  7. Allow to cool and serve with pesto or sour cream.

Sour Cream Blueberry Bundt Cake

It must be blueberry season right now because I’ve been seeing them in the grocery stores lately. The packages from Peru have been my favorite so far. I’ve never seen blueberries SO BIG! They’re also very sweet and incredibly crunchy, which is a rare quality. Most blueberries I’ve had seem to be on the mushy side for some reason.

What I really love about this cake, aside it being so easy, is how moist it is. I also like that it’s not too sweet, so you can really taste the blueberries and cinnamon chips. Plus, if you love cake and ice cream, try this with vanilla!


  • 1 cup Irish unsalted butter ~ room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups organic evaporated cane sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 cups organic unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 heaping cups blueberries (fresh or frozen and thawed)
  • 1/4 cinnamon chips
  • organic avocado oil spray


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the butter and sugar together on medium speed for 2 minutes, until light and fluffy. Add in eggs, vanilla, sour cream, salt, and baking powder, and mix for an additional minute until smooth, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary.
  3. Turn mixer to low and mix until the flour until just combined.
  4. Fold in the blueberries.
  5. Lightly spray a 9-10 inch bundt pan with avocado oil. Spread half the cake batter into the pan. Even out batter with spatula.
  6. Sprinkle the cinnamon chips evenly on the batter. Add remaining batter. Smooth and even out batter with spatula.
  7. Bake for 45-55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  8. Allow the cake to cool in the pan for 15 minutes and then invert the pan onto a wire rack to cool completely.
  9. Serve warm with a cup of hot tea, or with some vanilla ice cream. Store in air-tight container for up to one week, or freeze.

Apple Pie Empanadas

I hope everyone had a wonderful FROZEN Valentines weekend! And a Happy Presidents Day to you, on yet ANOTHER frozen day. I don’t know about anyone else, but COVID, coupled with arctic weather conditions is enough to make anyone go stir crazy. I find that all I’ve been doing is BAKING, EATING, more BAKING and EATING, well, OK, truth be told, I do also try to paint here and there (if you get bored enough during these dire living conditions, you can check out some of them on my Instagram page.). If you’ve scrolled through my site, you may have noticed lots and lots of baking posts. HA. Yes, that is how bad it has been.

All thing considered, it truly is not all that bad. I appreciate all this time I get to spend at home, with no social obligations, traffic, or crowds, and getting to focus on all my hobbies. I’ve never had this much time to paint, garden, bake, cook, walk my two precious puppies, read, binge-watch shows…and share all the recipes I’ve been testing out since March 2020!

I am a huge fan of old-fashioned apple pies. No bells and whistles, just the delish dichotomy of sweet-salty with a touch of tart, wrapped in flakey dough. What’s even better is making them into little pockets that are freezer-friendly and great for when we can all finally get together again and have friends and family over! The photos you see here are empanadas made with whole wheat flour. I try to be healthy. 😉 I’ll post again when I make a more keto-friendly empanada. I found some recipes that use almond flour, which sounds promising to me! I also made savory empanada with a black-bean and veggie sauté (black beans, kale, arugula, yellow onion, celery, garlic, purple cabbage).

Apple Pie Filling

  • 3 large Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, cut into 1/2″ pieces
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoons light brown sugar, packede
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (about 1/2 of a large lemon)
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 teaspoon cornstarch


  1. In a large pot, thoroughly coat the apples with lemon juice. Add sugar, brown sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt.
  2. In a medium pot, melt butter over medium heat.  Add apple mixture and coat with melted butter.
  3. Cover lid, allow to simmer about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, so that the mix doesn’t stick to the pot.
  4. Remove from heat and transfer to heatproof bowl.
  5. Set aside as you make the empanada dough.
  6. Be sure the apple filling has cooled to room temperature when it’s time to start making the empanadas.

Dough Ingredients

Makes about 8 large empanadas

  • 2 1/4 cups organic unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) very cold butter, cut into 1/2″ cubes ~ I LOVE Kerry Gold unsalted butter. Add another stick of butter if you want this extra flaky.
  • 1 large organic egg
  • 2 tablespoons organic milk
  • 1 tablespoon distilled vinegar
  • 1 glass of ice water ~ you will only use 1/3 cup


  1. Sift flour and salt into a large mixing bowl.
  2. Add butter and blend with your fingertips or a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal with some (roughly pea-size) butter lumps.
  3. Beat together egg, water, and vinegar in a small bowl with a fork.
  4. Add to flour mixture, stirring with fork until just incorporated. Your dough will look shaggy.
  5. Turn out mixture onto a lightly floured surface and gather together, then knead gently with heel of your hand once or twice, just enough to bring dough together. Do not overmix and over knead.
  6. Form dough into a flat rectangle and chill, wrapped in plastic wrap, at least 1 hour.

Form Empanadas

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Position an oven rack at the top.
  2. Line large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. Gently roll out the dough into a log. Divide dough into 8 equal pieces and form each into a ball. I find that it’s easier to roll the dough ball on a hard surface, using the center of my palm. They do not have to be perfect.
  4. >Roll out 1 piece on a lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin into a 8″ circle. Keep remaining pieces covered with a cheesecloth, chilled if possible.
  5. Spoon about 2 heaping tablespoons filling to the center and fold dough in half, enclosing filling.
  6. Press edges together with your finger tips, press a fork around edges to seal.
  7. Transfer empanada to a large freezer-proof plate. Repeat to make the remaining 7 empanadas.
  8. Freeze until just firm, about 15-20 minutes.
  9. Lightly brush empanadas with some of egg wash and bake until golden, about 25 minutes.
  10. Transfer empanadas to a rack to cool at least 5 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature with some hot tea. YUM!

Sprouting and Growing Scallions

luluesque-sprout scallions


If you compost, you’re probably in the habit of automatically chucking all your kitchen scraps into a temporary bin on the countertop, then later dumping the contents in your backyard compost heap. Well, it is a new year, why not add another “RE-” to your lifestyle, after all, you are already REusing, REcycling, REpurposing, REducing, etc. Now, try RE-sprouting some produce!

How to Choose

I recommend buying organic scallions when possible, which is good for the soil AND soul. Also, because we plan on investing in them, we want to start with quality produce. When choosing scallions, be sure to pull more towards the back of the selection, as stockers are supposed to pull/push older produce to the front. You want the color to be a bright or darker green. Do not buy yellowing or wilting scallions.

How to Root

Go about your cooking adventures…

  1. Wash the scallions thoroughly to remove any soil/grit
  2. Remove any yellowing or wilted leaves
  3. Cut the scallions with a sharp knife, leaving about 1″ of green in tact
  4. Fill a small glass, jar, or mug with distilled water. Clean rain water is the best choice as it provides fresh water Mother Nature has already injected with nutrients. If all you have it tap water, that works just fine.
  5. Fill just enough water to cover the white part of the scallions
  6. Do not fill all the way up
  7. Change the water out every other day
  8. Do not overcrowd the scallions. Give them ample room to breathe. Overcrowding and not changing out the water regularly will promote rot and a foul odor.

Sunlight and Planting

Set the scallions on an east-facing windowsill so they get lots of bright morning and afternoon sun, without all the heat. I’m in the southern part of America so south-facing windows during winter are also a good option. They get PLENTY of warm, bright sun, but there are some days I feel like even the winter sun is a bit too much for them. 

Another alternative is to plant your scallions directly into the garden bed. I have done precisely that with about five bunches organic scallions (YES, we eat loads of scallions in our household 🙂 ). They are their happiest in a sunny spot. They rarely require watering during the winter months since precipitation and humidity are higher, coupled with less heat.

  1. Use an old butterknife, inserting directly into the ground about 5″ deep
  2. Gently wiggle the knife in a circular motion 3-5 times, to make the planting hole bigger.
  3. Pour a little of rainwater info the hole.
  4. Insert the scallion, one per hole, until it covers the white part completely
  5. Loosely sprinkle some soil around the base

When to Harvest

Scallions are like many other herbs and vegetables. The more you cut, the more they grow, and the healthier they are. Scallions grow FAST. They can start to sprout within hours after you harvest. It’s Spour how low or high on the scallion you cut. They will grow back regardless. Enjoy! Try this method with other veggies as well! I have also planted leeks and chives that have roots left on them. A friend was able to stick collard stems into the ground and VOILA, she is now on season #2 of collards. 🙂

Kuretake Gansai Tambi Japanese Watercolors – Product Review

I have been painting for most of my life, using mostly watercolors and acrylics. I had not used watercolors regularly since my fine-arts days (ahem, way back in college) but rediscovered my love for the medium again, so I started to paint almost daily on some occasions. I bought my Lukas Aquarelle Studio 12-Color Set travel kit way back in mid-2015 and was packing them for local and international trips. The smaller case and pans (5/8″ wide x 3/4″ high) are a convenient size and will even fit inside my purse—fantastic for long layovers or even flights! I still use the set to this day and the pans are surprisingly still 90% full, aside from a few colors that I guess I used a lot of. My Lukas professional watercolor set did and still do a wonderful job…but I was ready for the next big step in investing in medium that I know I am quite enamored with.

What Are Kuretake Gansai Tambi

I did extensive research for the style of watercolors I wanted. The key-points I had in mind are quality, rich, vibrant, high-pigmentation, and large palette. I was thrilled when I found this. I will warn you there are quite a few companies (especially if you shop on Amazon) that will mislead you with their marketing schemes, making you believe what you’re about to purchase are true Japanese watercolors. Just be sure to read the reviews; never just “trust a label.” That said, the Kuretake Gansai Tambi are indeed true traditional Japanese watercolors. 

  • Kuretake – A Japanese company that was founded in 1902, and specialized in ink manufacturing at the time. They now offer a variety of quality arts and crafts products for both hobbyists and professionals.
  • Gansai – Japanese word meaning “vibrance”
  • Tambi – Japanese word meaning “aesthetic”


Why Japanese watercolors? Well, for starters, they have different characteristics and qualities than their “western counterparts.” The Kuretake description for their Gansai Tambi states “By using original colors instead of mixing with other colors, the colors obtain a higher brilliance.” It’s true. These highly pigmented colors are intended for solo-use, meaning you apply a clean brush to each pan and clean the brush again before selecting another color. Other artists have stated that mixing the colors tended to create muddy colors. We don’t want that! I chose to not test that because I don’t to “contaminate” my beautiful colors. Haha. The western watercolors seem lighter, more translucent. The idea with western colors is you buy a few essential colors and mix them to achieve a vast array of colors. That’s easier said than done for anyone you as attempted this. Mixing colors to achieve a purple or green that is just the right hue and depth is hard! And if you don’t mix enough, good luck reproducing the exact color the next time around!

Each set comes with a small printed pamphlet with the colors and corresponding numbers and Japanese, along with Chinese, names. 

  • colors are deceivingly different in hue, saturation, and opacity when dry and wet
  • creamy, smooth texture
  • highly-pigmented
  • vibrant, brilliant
  • a little goes a long way – some colors require very little water to achieve saturation – view the subtleties here
  • easy lift 


I bought my beautiful 36-colors, the largest set available, on February 01, 2021. The cost was $33.99, including local sales tax and free shipping, so that would total $36.79 for 36 high-quality colors, which is quite a good investment! I have seen the same sets go for $60 at some art supply shops…don’t worry, I did not unknowingly purchase a “knock off.”

The palette pans are the largest I’ve seen thus far when shopping for watercolors. The pans measure about 2″ wide and 1″ high. Each are replaceable and can be purchased separately.

Do’s and DoN’TS


  • paint on the inside of lid so that you know how each color appears on paper, compared to dry-in-pan
  • always use clean brush for reactivating each color
  • wait for the paints to dry completely before storing
  • always put the plastic cover back on the paints
  • always store the paints flat/horizontally; I like to secure mine with a thick rubber band or elastic hairband (this is better option)
  • use all the colors available in the palette
  • store in a cool, dry place
  • HAVE FUN! 🙂


  • mix the colors – they will likely become muddy
  • not use the same cup of water for numerous brush cleanings, as the muddy water will likely transfer to your painting
  • set in direct sunlight or extreme weather conditions

Über Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

I don’t even recall how many failed attempts I’ve had in all my years of baking and searching for the “Ultimate Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie.” I eventually—I am ashamed to admit this—bought store-bought baked cookies (always a great disappointment) or the Pillsbury or Tollhouse packages that you just pop in the oven. Folks, I am happy to say my search is over and this recipe is JUST.SO.DARN.DELISH. to not share it with the world…and *SHHH*, this stays between us “health nuts” and adults…I am using organic whole wheat flour! YES. Mwahahahahaha -insert purple smiley devil face emoji-.


  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 TSP sea salt
  • 1/2 cup (one 4oz stick) unsalted butter ~ soft, room temperature (iIMPORTANT: NOT hot or melted)
  • 1 large free range organic egg
  • 1 TSP vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups organic whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 TSP baking soda
  • 1 1/2 cup (12oz) semi-sweet chocolate chips


  1. Leave the wrapped butter in a dish, at room temperature, for a few hours.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, salt, and soft butter, until you get a smooth light yellow paste.
  3. Whisk in the egg and vanilla.
  4. Sift in the flour and baking soda, then very gently fold the mixture with a spatula. Do not overmix the dough, as this will result in cakey cookies.
  5. Fold in the chips and gently distribute evenly with a spatula. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.
  6. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  7. Scoop out 12 cookie dough balls and place them on parchment, allowing about 4″ between each cookie and 2″ from the edges.
  8. Bake for about 12 minutes or until the edges start to turn light golden brown.
  9. Allow to cool at least 10 minutes before serving with a nice tall glass of cold milk OR a cup of hot tea. ENJOY!

Turkish Yogurt Flatbread/Naan

I am kicking myself for not making homemade yogurt flatbread way earlier in my culinary life! I guess most foreign dishes and foods seem mysterious until you get into the nitty gritty and TRY it at least once in your own kitchen. Well, folks, let me tell you, this isn’t that bad! LOL.


  • 1 ¼ cups filtered warm water
  • 1 packet active dried yeast
  • 1 TBSP sugar
  • ¾ cup Greek yogurt
  • 2 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 TBSP seasalt
  • 3 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup flat leaf parsley ~ finely chopped


  1. Combine the yeast, sugar, and water into a mixing bowl and stir well. Cover the bowl with a cheesecloth or breathable cotton kitchen towel; set it in a warm place for 5-10 minutes to activate the yeast (mixture will be become foamy and bubbly).
  2. Gently whisk in Greek yogurt, olive oil, and sea salt. Add flour and parsley. Gently mix with a wooden spoon or spatula.
  3. Flour surface of a large chopping block or kitchen counter. Turn dough onto surface and knead for 3-4 minutes. The dough should no longer be sticky and should spring back when lightly pressed. Sprinkle dough with more flour as necessary to achieve desired texture.
  4. Divide dough into equal pieces, then cover with a clean kitchen towel. Allow to rest for 15 minutes.
  5. Heat sauce pan to medium-low heat.
  6. Roll the dough balls to desired thickness and size with a rolling pin (mine is about 5-7″ wide). Lightly brush the dough surface with olive oil. Cook the flatbread oil side down, about 1-1.5 minutes, or until the surface is covered with bubbles and turns golden in spots.
  7. Flip the bread, lightly oil the surface and cook oil side down until golden.
  8. Serve with soups, curries, a dollop of sour cream, or just eat them on their own as a yummy snack!