Comforting Baked Pasta   
4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
½ pound sweet pork sausage
2 T olive oil
8 oz sliced fresh mushrooms
5 oz fresh spinach
2 cups mozzarella cheese
½ cup parmesan cheese
1 pound dried tubular pasta
1 ½ cups chicken broth
1 cup heavy cream
2 T balsamic vinegar
½ tsp red Chile flakes
2 cloves garlic
2 cups fresh breadcrumbs mixed with 1 T melted butter
1 tsp salt and pepper to taste
Spray 13x 9 pan with non-stick spray. Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Sauté chicken and sausage until cooked through. Remove from pan, cut into pieces and set aside in large bowl. Add mushrooms to pan drippings and sauté, about 5 min. Add salt, garlic, red pepper flakes, vinegar, broth and cream to pan, cook for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook pasta. Add cooked pasta, spinach, cheeses and meats to the broth mixture. Toss to blend. Pour into pan. Top with breadcrumbs. Bake 450 for 15-20 min.

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Branching Out with Faith Appelquist

Questions, suggestions or comments are welcome.

Contact Faith at (612) 618-5244 or by email 


"Good morning!  May I ask what it is that you are doing?"
The young boy paused, looked up, and replied "Throwing starfish into the ocean. When the sun gets high, they will die, unless I throw them back into the water."

The old man replied, "But there must be tens of thousands of starfish on this beach. I'm afraid you won't really be able to make much of a difference."

The boy bent down, picked up yet another starfish and threw it as far as he could into the ocean. Then he turned, smiled and said, "It made a difference to that one!"

adapted from The Star Thrower , by Loren Eiseley (1907 - 1977)
Battling Buckthorn,
One of Minnesota's Worst Invasive Plants
I could sum up the future in one word, and that word is boring. The future is going to be boring. A garden that used to host up to a thousand species, if left untended, will be overrun with buckthorn. Gone are the trillium, Virginia bluebells and shooting stars that bloom in the spring. Baby oaks, maples and basswoods never stand a chance from the lack of sunlight and nutrients. Cut it down and it happily grows right back, only bigger. What do we have left? Buckthorn ( Rhamnus cathartica).
Native to Asia and Europe, buckthorn was first introduced into the U.S. in the 1800's and promoted as a hedge-forming plant. With no natural predators such as diseases, insects or deer, there are no constraints to its growth and it is now invasive over much of the United States. Like cockroaches and dandelions, buckthorn is perfectly adapted to living with humans, thriving in field edges, fence rows, roadsides, vacant lots and disturbed woods.
I regard buckthorn as both a consequence and a metaphor of our globalized and increasingly homogenous existence. We no longer can leave nature alone and it will take care of itself. Landscapes are shaped by very slow processes. Management must have considerable foresight to avoid potentially delayed and disastrous effects to combat all the invasive species that will change over your wood lot into sameness. Is there any in my garden? Yes, and it grows everywhere.

Buckthorn has many distinctive characteristics to distinguish it from native understory shrubs and trees. Plants are either male or female, and only female plants produce fruit. The plants produce small round berries in clusters. The berries are shiny black and contain 2-4 seeds each. A single female can produce upwards of 200 new plants. The seeds can live up to six years in the soil bank. The leaves are oval, smooth, glossy, and have distinctive veins that radiate outward from a central mid-vein. It has small sharp thorns at the ends of the branches that can impale the unwary gardener.

The leaves stay green late into the fall after most other trees and shrubs have dropped theirs, allowing buckthorn to produce more sugar to the roots for better winter survival. It also makes fall a good time of year for identifying and removing.

Cut-stem herbicide applications can be effective to stop re-sprouting. Repeated treatments over several growing seasons may be necessary.

For more information on Buckthorn.    
These boxelder bugs are driving us crazy!
Why do these strange bugs lay siege to some homes, but not others? As with most questions regarding real estate the answer is location, location, location. Some landscapes provides just the right habitat to support a thriving population of boxelder bugs. The house has a sunny exposure.  Several mature red and silver maples, boxelder-also a species of maple-and ash trees abound. These trees produce seeds used by the boxelder bugs as food. In autumn, swarms of bugs become a nuisance on sunny porches, siding, and around windows and doors as they seek warm crevices for the winter. They find their way into our homes through cracks in the foundation, gaps in siding around windows and vents, and beneath doors. And what's worse, they emit a pheromone that attracts more bugs to the area.
This year has been exceptionally bad. Warmer winter months and drought conditions seem to have created prime conditions for populations of the boxelder bug to explode. In addition to female seed bearing trees such as silver maple, boxelder, and ash, some other favorites include the sap and seeds of plum, cherry, and many other trees, shrubs and vines. So getting rid of the boxelder tree in the yard should be your last resort. Luckily, these bugs are not known to be an agricultural pest. They do not cause significant damage to landscape plantings or gardens. They also do not injure people or pets. Your best bet is to wash outside areas, wherever boxelders congregate, with soap and water. And please, don't plant another maple.

Boxelder beetle on hosta leaf

Samara (seeds) on maple are the favorite food of boxelder bugs.


For more information on boxelder bugs 

Thanks for reading. Happy Planting!    


Faith Appelquist

President & Founder


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