Guacamole 1

Confession. I’ve made guacamole only a handful of times in the past few years. This is because Key Food, on Beach 87th and Rockaway Beach Blvd. has an absolutely delicious guacamole. Guac is a bit of a chore to make and it’s just so easy to grab the container off the shelf. The one I get has the deli label on it, and they have it on Fridays throughout the weekend.

For a person who is “almost vegetarian,” avocados add richness and satisfaction to meals. Not to mention they contain healthy fats and a multitude of vitamins. There’s actually a name for people like me: “flexitarians.” It’s a style of eating that is mostly plant-based foods while incorporating some animal products but in very small amounts. It has flexibility rather than the strictness of being vegetarian or vegan – as the name implies.

However, for a recent get-together,  I was asked to bring guacamole, which in this case involved a large quantity. So I went into mass production mode and made it myself. This recipe is a tasty one!

Don’t skip the olive oil.



4 avocados – pitted and mashed
1-2 limes, juiced (or lemon)
1 small white onion diced
A handful of fresh cilantro
1-2 garlic cloves minced
A healthy pour of Colavita olive oil
Salt, fresh ground pepper, cayenne pepper and red pepper flakes to taste

Direction: Using a sharp knife and cut through the avocado to the pit, moving around the pit, on the long diameter of the fruit. Squeeze and scoop out the fruit. Combine all the ingredients and mix together. Add a layer of lemon juice on top to prevent the avocado from browning. Refrigerate for one hour before serving.

A few important tips:

  • Make the guacamole the day of your party.
  • Make sure you have enough lemon or lime juice to cover the top layer. Seal in an airtight container to prevent browning.
  •  Buy two extra avocados just in case when you open them, they’re overripe. I often think I picked the perfect avocado and then come home and find out it’s not

key food swag bag #keyfoodie

Speaking of Key Food, I have to mention that they contacted me on Twitter and wanted to send me a swag bag because I’m a valued customer. I was surprised and delighted. Then again, I do tweet about their great produce and compressive international isle often – #keyfoodie. Does this mean I’m a food influencer now?

For more recipes  follow me day-to-day on Instagram @theglorifiedtomato

tagged in recipe, recipes

Edible Flowers Of Kale

It’s growing season in the Beach 91st Street Community Garden. Two weeks ago we had our first group clean-up/workday. It was wonderful to see my neighbors that I haven’t spoken to all winter and to meet a few newbies to Rockaway that are now a part of our garden. We overturned our beds, added compost, and weeded.

Many gardeners’ kale overwintered, and the plants bolted with flora. The bees were loving the bright yellow flowers that reached two feet tall!


Lucy (center) and Riva, (right) several years Back. Lucy won the _Gardener of the Season_ award presented by then garden manager Annie Mcbride (left)

We started talkin’ “garden shop.” Member Riva Richmond was asking what she should do with the kale from last year. Lucy Heredia, one of our most experienced gardeners, mentioned trimming back the flowers to boost leaf growth. Lucy also said the flowers are edible! This intrigued all of us.

Lucy shared with us that she was born and raised in Ecuador. Her parents had a small farm where they planted fruits and vegetables. Her mother used to make a rice dish with peas, rice and added kale flowers at the end. So she learned about the edible flowers from her mother, as a child. Lucy also mentioned that you can eat broccoli rabe flowers as well, but she prefers the buds of kale.


Riva was inspired by Lucy’s suggestion and cooked with her kale flowers.  “I sautéed my kale florets in olive oil and garlic and added some lemon zest and a good squeeze of lemon. Then mixed them into basmati rice. It was very nice! I served that with steamed broccoli and yummy grilled chicken.”

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Don’t worry we kept plenty of flowers on the plant for the bees!

Kale is part of the cabbage family and there are many different varieties. This leafy green is jam-packed with vitamins, specifically, it’s the best source of vitamin K. One would not think this, but kale is also a good source of calcium. Additionally, It contains antioxidants and omega 3 fats. It may reduce the risk of heart disease and has compounds that are believed to protect against cancer. Kale is king (and it flowers Queen)!

If you cook with kale flowers tag @beach91communitygarden on Instagram and we will share your photos!

I want to mention that the Beach 91st Street Community Garden will be hosting a plant sale on Sunday, June 6, at 12pm. We’ll have outdoor perennials, tubers, and indoor plants for sale, all homegrown in Rockaway Beach. More info to come, save the date!

tagged in cooking, garden, gardening

A Shade Garden

My backyard is shaded by the towering condo on the corner of Beach 91st and Shore Front Parkway. A shade garden is a challenge! But a challenge is fun and encourages you to learn. If we all had perfect soil and full sun, that would be boring, right?

A big part of gardening is trial and error. In the past few years – since my front yard is generally organized and thriving – I’ve focused on the backyard plants. I’ve tried many different perennials and annuals, with tags that say they’re suited for shade. Some didn’t work and some did. Besides shade, there are many other factors in play when choosing the right plant for the right space – water, soil quality, wind, etc.

I have three beautiful, no fuss shade plant recommendations for you to consider:

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Bugleweed (Ajuga): This ground cover spreads quickly, and blooms blue, purple, white or pink flowers depending on the variety. A stem shoots up about 8 inches above the cover with tiny whimsical flowers. The leaf color ranges from dark purples to lighter greens with white. The leaves add lovely texture to any flower bed arrangement. Regular watering works just fine for this perennial. Since Ajuga is thriving and spreading in my backyard, I can say without hesitation that sandy/poor quality soil is adequate. Bugleweed loves part-sun to shade. It does have runners so be aware, it can spread. But in the case of poor soil and a shade garden that can work to your advantage.


Coral Bells (Heucheras): Flowers are overrated when you think of the vast varieties of color this plant will add into your shaded garden. Oranges, bronze, deep purples, maroons to salmon, are the beautiful tones to choose from. Also, the leaves are often variegated. The foliage is heart-shaped or rounded. Coral bells shoot up long thin stems a foot above the base that host small bell-shaped flowers. They bloom from late spring to summer. Deadhead for a longer flowering season. Heucheras is native to the U.S., naturally found in wooded areas so they’re shade-lovers. And as you would guess, prefer moist, well-draining soil. Interestingly, this plant is semi-evergreen. In our zone 7, if the winter is mild, the plant will not die back and you can enjoy the colorful foliage year-round.


Solomon’s Seal (Polygonatum): This plant is new to me. Last year my neighbor Tim pulled up some of it from his garden. It grows from rhizomes and therefore can be divided. I gladly took a bunch when he offered it to me. This type of root is a spreader, so plants with space in between. Solomon’s Seal performs best in full shade – you rarely hear that! It can grow several feet tall which is a nice feature for garden borders. The plant also blooms little white dangling flowers from April through June. The leaves are bright green and white. In the fall they turn golden yellow. Solomon’s Seal prefers damp, well-drained soil but can also handle dry spells. File this plant under “easy care.”

An interesting bit about the name … It’s said when leaves drop off of this plant, the scare looks like the sixth seal of King Solomon. This marking is the predecessor of the Star of David. It is said to have magical powers with the ability to command demons and spirits. The seal also gives the power to speak and communicate with animals.

For more on gardening follow me  for the day-to-day on IG @glorifiedtomato

tagged in garden, gardening

The Glorified Peugeot

Last year I was riding my beach cruiser all the time. It was an outlet for me during the pandemic. The bike enabled me to get outside and explore the peninsula – more than ever before. I love riding around, touring streets in Far Rockaway. The architecture is so diverse in the 40’s. The parks in Bayswater are treasures. There’s so much shopping and pizzazz around Mott Ave. Then I’d reverse and bike to the end of the boardwalk on 126th, hit the street lane and go to the tip of Breezy Point. The beaches are expansive on the west end. The lighthouse is a must see pit stop. I had no idea Fort Tilden had so many trails. I rode on the rocky pebbles through the narrow paths and enjoyed looking at the native coastal trees and plants. I’d test myself to see how many I could identify. I saw the horses!

I found something new I really enjoy and that’s not common later in life. But I was landlocked with my cruiser. I needed  to “graduate” to a road bike. Over the bridges was my next adventure goal. I was asking my friends who ride and my husband who knows a little bit about bikes. He used to fix them at a bike shop in Downtown Brooklyn back in the day. The consensus: a road bike, not a hybrid. Thinner wheels for speed!

Posing with my new Peugeot in January infront of Paul's Bike Shop

My husband surprised me in January for the big 40 with a gorgeous vintage Peugeot. Admittedly as a novice, I had know idea how “cool” this French 10 speed is  – crème de la crème. And… the bike is tomato red. Matt had been combing craigslist for months prior to my birthday to find the perfect bike …  and it had to be red.


Even in January, I started riding the Peugeot any time that the weather permitted. I didn’t mind the cold, as long as the wind was calm enough. I quickly realized that I’m 40 years old and I don’t know how to ride a bike. I needed to figure out the gears and learn how to ease into the transitions. After my chain fell off for the third time, I decided I should watch some Youtube tutorials, “How to ride a gear bike,”  “How to put your bike chain back on.” It helped!

Facebook also recognized I was struggling as a newbie cyclist. “Intimidated by long rides? We can help!” FB suggested I take “Intro To Road Cycling,”  A 7 week course with Seems fun, I may do it!


I was ready to take my inaugural ride over the Marine Parkway Bridge when my husband said, “You’re not going over the bridge without a helmet.”  Ugh, he was right- safety first! So I started researching helmets online. They all looked ugly, except for this one brand – Thousand ( Yup, leave it to me to find the most expensive bike helmet on the whole internet. Not only did I need to protect my head from injury, I need to look smokin’ hot on my bike this summer. So I “invested” in this cute hipster helmet and … I also got it monogrammed with a golden “P”. Don’t judge.


The helmet just arrived, so no more excuses (except for the wind). I’m headed over the bridge this weekend! My first destination is the biking trails around Floyd Bennett Field. My goal for mid summer is to make it to Shirley Chisholm Park, which for those of you who don’t know, was designed specifically for bike riding! Wish me luck!

tagged in biking