Category Archives: Herbs

Feeding Our Families ~ Summer

Breakfast sausages made with garlic scapes, mint, basil, cilantro and red pepper flakes, served with steamed greens and roasted onions.

Two months worth of a belated post!  Right now I’m trying to eat from the garden as much as possible.  Simple is best – steamed broccoli topped with garlic scapes sauteed in ghee.  Proponents of the kitchen garden always like to go on and on about the ease of eating fresh picked.  But the fact is, it’s just a big old lie!  Is it tastier?  No doubt about it.  More nutritious?  Absolutely.  Easier then cracking open a plastic bin of triple wash spinach?  ennnt. nope. sorry.    I’ve been trying to make lunches almost exclusively from the garden.  It’s a balancing act.  I want to make the most of it, but I also can’t devote what sometimes turns into hours for a single meal, every day.

If I’m being perfectly honest there have been times when growing a garden has actually caused us to eat worse.  Busy times where it was just too much trouble to harvest, wash and prep.  Instead we would end up eating whatever was available inside, which obviously wouldn’t be fresh produce, because why would I buy fresh produce when there was so much already growing outside?  So far this year we’ve managed to avoid that.

Cobb Salad

A summer slaw; finely sliced collard greens, tender young broccoli shoots, fresh mint, basil and cilantro, with a sweet and tangy lime dressing.

I’ve started season specific pinterest boards to help with meal planning inspiration: Summer Meal Planning, Autumn Meal Planning and Winter Meal Planning – spring is still far enough off that I’m not really thinking about it yet.  Because clearly the 5 different food specific boards I already had: Putting Food By, Sweet Stuff, For Baking Day, the Whole30 Compliant Recipes board I was invited to join and just plain Food, not to mention my food heavy travel board: On the Road Again, were not enough.  On these boards I’m gathering ideas that I’d like to use for our seasonal dinner meal plan, but also season specific treats and recipes for special events occurring in that season.  Party food, birthday food, holiday food, everyday food, recipes for anticipated garden surplus…anything that I come across and think I might need is right there.

Pesto sweet potato noddles with chicken and broccoli from the garden, eaten on the porch.  Pure summer.


gathering in

Some of these pictures are current and some are many months old, showing the season’s progress.

The garlic came in months ago and hung in our pantry to dry.  I finally brought it down, trimmed it, cleaned up the heads and sorted the bulbs for eating from the ones for planting.  We’re hoping to grow around 80 heads next year ::fingers crossed!::.

It seems like it took forever to finally have enough ripe tomatoes to make our first batch of sauce.  We grew over a hundred pounds of tomatoes this year and almost none of them actually ripened on the vine.

I usually dry herbs throughout the summer season, a little bit here and there.  I didn’t this year.  Many of my usual garden chores were neglected this year.  Now I’m bringing in huge bunches to dry all at once.

The sunflowers have come in slowly, one by one, sometimes in little clumps.  What started as the tiny little bundle of seed heads drying on my dining room wall (pictured above) now extends nearly to the floor.  There will be some seeds for us and some for our bird friends, hopefully with plenty left over to plant in the spring.

Last week was a very long one and clearly blogging wasn’t much of a priority for me.  This weekend we were at home.  The weekend was busy as well, but in an entirely different way.  Something of a reclaiming of the space and our life in it.  I put up 11 pints of green tomato chutney, a batch of apple sauce and 3 trays of roasted tomatoes (all of which were ripened on window sills!).  We’re loving roasted tomatoes lately.  Such a lovely way to preserve not just your tomatoes, but the garlic and fresh herbs from the garden as well.  I’m using fresh herbs all the time now.  All too soon they will be buried under the snow!  We completed a few projects around the house and started others.  Elijah invented an interesting new way of storing our apples.  We gathered in all of the delicate produce still about; the last of the beans, tomatoes, zucchini, basil, baskets and baskets full, as next week is supposed to be a very cold one and none of it would survive.

Yes, we’re settling back in to our normal rhythms.  It feels good to be home.


around the garden ~ at the summer solstice


the kitchen garden:

new beds in progress:

the herb garden:


The peonies are flopping their big, bushy, showy heads every which way because I didn’t place any supports around them and it’s been very rainy this year (confession: I never do.  Though next year I might try making something like this).  The foxgloves are starting to open…one of Steve’s favorite flowers.  We had a whole bed of nothing but foxgloves, that we started from seed, in the tiny backyard of our first apartment together.  Watching them bloom always reminds me  of those days.  The roses have buds now, but nothing more.

I’m very pleased with how productive the flower garden has been.  It’s not a large space and we really don’t have a lot of plants, but over time I’m trying to make it so that there is some beautiful element to it in every season.  So far, in this season of blooms, there haven’t been any lulls.  There is always something adding color and fragrance, even while we wait for other things to bloom.  And they are all the lovely, romantic, old-fashioned flowers that I like best.

In the kitchen garden so much is changing.  Every year I want to make a point of adding some bit of structure or “backbone” to the garden.  Either by building new paths, beds, arbors and the like or planting trees, bushes and perennials that will provide for us for many years to come.  New this year: 2 apple trees, 3 additional high bush blueberries, a patch of horseradish and 8 cranberry plants.

That pesky groundhog seems to have fled the premises (hallelujah!)  and the pea plants are thriving again; growing tall and blossoming and just starting to sprout peas.

There are many new beds in progress.  Galen built one shaped like a baseball.  More later on the ones that we’re working on.

The herb garden is coming along.  There is still much to be done, but it’s starting to take shape and look like something.

I think we should have fruit this year. fingers crossed.  The raspberry plants are spreading everywhere.  So far we’ve each had one strawberry.  Nothing to write home about.  Not quite ripe actually, but the kids just couldn’t wait a moment longer!  Am I the only one that finds tiny, fuzzy baby peaches just adorable?


around the garden ~ June

The other night, the Wee Girl and I skipped out on our regularly scheduled baseball game, in an attempt to get her some much needed sleep.  After getting her off to bed early, I spent some quiet time alone in the garden, with an open window between us.  It’s so hard to convey the state of a garden in a post like this.  I rather wish I could just wander through and talk about things as I come across them, somewhat in the style of The Edible Garden (which I’m a bit obsessed with at the moment).  Or perhaps I could just have you all over and fix you a cup of tea and give you the tour?  That would be more satisfying.

The flower garden is amazingly lush and full for having just been started a year ago.  So many different shades of green.  The columbines are the shining stars of the moment, with the lupines and iris coming in right on their heels.  My peonies are still a couple of weeks off, but they are HUGE.  Astonishing.  Covered in hundreds of buds.

A lot of my time lately has been spent in the herb garden which was wildly over-grown when we moved in and generally somewhat neglected our first year.  Herbs are good at fending for themselves and other things were much more pressing.  But reclaiming that area is a priority for me this summer.

In the kitchen garden we had many greens winter over…chard, kale, collards.  I’ve let them all go to seed as kind of an experiment in natural reseeding and the butterflies are in love with me at the moment.  During the day there are just big masses of fluttering bits.

The garlic is mind boggling.  It’s up to my waist.  Màiri and Galen play in it like a corn maize.  All of the other root vegetables have been thoroughly unimpressive so far.  Full beds of tiny carrots/parsnips/beets that never seem to change much.  Even our radishes, which were our number one crop last year, have only been so-so.

There is a rather pudgy groundhog, who was perfectly adorable and charming when he lived in the drainage pipe up the road, but is perfectly intolerable now that he’s moved into the retaining wall of my herb garden.  He insists on eating all of the tops off out pea plants and knocking about all the trellises.  We want our peas!  boo.


sunday dinner

A little cold going through the family just now.  Very minor.  Just a gentle reminder to slow down a bit in this very busy season.  To take the time to let the little ones help make dinner, to remember to light the candles, take a deep breath and say a blessing.  When I was little, sick time comfort food was College Inn chicken broth, with bow tie egg noodles.  I wonder if when they are grown and get the sniffles my children will think, “Mom’s broth with grain free noodles and lots of kale and garlic…that’s what I need!”

We used up the last of the sweet thyme that we harvested and dried from the garden last year.  Made into a strong tea and mixed with creamy and rich homemade almond milk it was amazing.  I wish I could have some more right now.  Luckily little green leaves are starting to appear in the herb garden again.  Just in time.


simple cookery: enjoying the harvest

We’ve been eating so much squash lately it’s ridiculous.  If we’re not careful I think we might all turn orange.  I’m in the middle of doing the Whole30.  Which isn’t really far off from how I usually eat, with a couple of exceptions.  Including strictly avoiding all sweeteners.  After a very busy end of summer/beginning of fall, I just felt like my poor body needed a rest before heading into the holiday season.  There are some people, you know, who’s bodies can tolerate just about anything and years of abuse add up to just about nothing.  I’m kind of like the opposite of those people.  Just the tiniest bit of over-indulgence does me in.  Sometimes for a long time.  And I’m too darn busy for a broken body, so great care must be taken in it’s upkeep.  Right now that means a diet free of dairy, grains, legumes, food additives, nightshades and sweeteners of all kinds.

But back to the food.  The good stuff.  The stuff I *can* eat.  I needed some new ideas in the world of squash preparation.  My sweet neighbor inspired some experimenting which resulted in a whole new-to-me favorite.  Whenever I make these, the Wee Girl stands by the counter eating them all before I have the chance to bring them to the table.

As usual, the process is simple….

cut your squash in half and scoop out the seeds

slice into pieces about a 1/4″ thick

arrange on a cookie sheet, in a single layer with several gobs of coconut oil and a good sprinkle of salt on top

bake in an over preheated to 375 until done

You can serve them when they are just soft, but we like them to get a bit browned and crisp around the edges.  Leaving on the skin makes them especially nice with a mix of crisp and chewy that is most satisfying.  Also the combination of being a bit fatty and sweet makes them seem like a very great treat to me just now.  You don’t have to flip them as they cook, but they will turn out much, much nicer if you do.  And this my friends is why there are never any cookie sheets clean in my house!

This year I’ve also started using a new to me method of saving fresh herbs.  I’m still utilizing all of my fall back methods, but I think this one is a nice little change of pace.  I put my fresh clean herbs in the Vita-Mix (you could us a food processor or blender, basically use whatever you would make pesto in) with a bit of olive oil and blitz them to make a sort of thick, chunky paste.  Then I spoon it out into ice-cube trays to freeze.  Once frozen the cubes can be moved to a freezer safe storage container (jars, bags, what have you).  Pictured above are some of my cilantro cubes.  I think these will be very nice to have for adding a quick bit of flavor and summery freshness to soups, sauces, greens, on top of chicken…really the options are endless.

What’s cooking in your kitchen these days?


these, mostly sunny, days

There has been an epidemic of card house building.  Also games of rock, paper, scissors.

I’m gathering flowers to dry.  Early spring can be so fickle here and I might not have much to choose from for floral arrangements.  I tie a thread to each stem, then loop all the threads together and hang them from nails in the pantry.  Next week I’ll carefully wrap them all in tissue paper, then pack them away in a box until I’m ready to use them.

We harvest at least a bit from the garden everyday.  I wish it was more.

I’ve been making “pesto” from everything…all sorts of herbs, nasturtium leaves, kale, thinned carrot seedlings…


I finally transferred all the heights from boards from three different houses on to one master kid height board.

A pair of juncos decided to build their nest in a grassy patch by our kitchen garden.

We laid out a ring around them to remind everyone to tread carefully.

The herb garden is completely over run.  I’ve not gotten a chance to get out there and move things around.

Galen’s sailboat “Amazon” had her maiden voyage.

Elijah helped with her sail and made her flag.



in the garden

This is where I’ve been the last week or so, while it’s been unseasonably warm.  The garden here is a neglected place.  A rental home garden.  We’ve worked and made and loved and left too many of those to be much bothered with it this time around.  But there was a garden here already, much ignored by previous tenants.  And we scrapped out a few little green spaces of our own, full of plants that I’ve been moving about with me for years on end.  I’ve had some of them for longer then I’ve had children!  My favorite of these spots is but the stone steps, just outside the door; two roses, a pale yellow columbine, several lady’s mantles, and a sizable patch of lavender, with violets, left to grow wild around the edges.  It’s a sweet smelling plot of the old-fashioned flowers that are dearest to my heart (with lilacs just beyond, to complete the vignette).  There are others as well, full of hydrangeas, foxgloves and peonies.  Cone flowers, delphiniums and sedums sprinkled here and there.  And three half-barrels full of herbs.  These are the things that we brought with us and the things that we will take away with us, when someday we leave.  Even these small gardens are a bit over-run, after our busy spring and my summer of not being able to spend much time outside, they’ve been mostly left to fend for themselves.  I’ve been out now though, very belatedly.  Puttering and thinking and shifting things around; digging and weeding and dividing.  Most of the snow is gone now, though I still sometimes come across a patch of it in shady and sheltered spots.  But the weather is shifting again and more will be coming soon.

I potted up a lot of the herbs from the half-barrel gardens, mostly in a set of terracotta strawberry planters that I got at a tag sale a little while back.  Usually I grow nasturtiums and calendula in them.  We had a large one, planted just that way this year, but the others came recently and were empty.  I’ve had a lot of luck in the past, bringing in herbs for the winter, but I’ve never brought in any that had already been under over a foot of snow!  I guess I’ll just have to see how it goes.


Summer Meal Planning

I finally got around to working out my summer meal plan, just last week.  For more on the hows and whys of seasonal meal planning, see this post.


Summer 2011 Meal Plan

Sunday: steak or chicken fajitas on lettuce wrappers :: steak or chicken, onions, garlic, peppers, olive oil and lettuce

Monday: kale and sausage soup :: home-made chicken broth, kale, tomatoes- I have enough canned ones still from last year to get us through until local ones start coming in this year, sweet Italian sausages

Tuesday: roasted chicken, mashed cauliflower, and peas or green beans (depending on what’s available at the farm, peas now, green beans soon!) :: a whole chicken, cauliflower, home-made ghee, coconut or almond milk, peas or beans, spices

Wednesday: salad :: lettuce and/or kale/wild greens/sprouts, olives, avocado, sauteed onions, optional sardines

Thursday: salmon cakes, baby bok choy :: salmon, fresh herbs, a little almond flour or arrowroot, onions, garlic, bok choy

Friday: Swedish meatballs over broccoli :: ground turkey, onion, nutmeg, allspice, ghee, chicken stock, a bit of coconut milk or almond milk, broccoli

Saturday: turkey roast and coleslaw :: turkey roast, cabbage, carrots, sometimes I add in some radishes or baby turnips, fresh dill, raw apple cider vinegar, lemon juice

Sunday: honey mustard meatloaf with green beans :: ground meat, home-made honey mustard, onions, garlic, green beans

Monday: chicken skillet soup or lentil soup ::  for css- olive oil, onion, garlic, chicken, fresh basil, fresh tomatoes, red wine, for lentil soup- lentils, carrots, garlic, onion, zucchini

Tuesday: “chicken dippers” and broccoli :: chicken breast, potato flour, cayenne pepper or chili pepper, broccoli, home-made mustard

Wednesday: kale salad :: sausage, onions, apples, kale, apple cider vinegar, olive oil

Thursday: skirt steak and bok choy stir-fry :: variation on this recipe

Friday: coconut shrimp, broccoli, plus beans for the non-seafood lover :: shrimp, coconut flour, shredded coconut, oil, broccoli, perhaps a bit of ghee, some sort of beans

Saturday: roasted veggies and erm, some sort of protein (there always seems to be one day that I don’t quite figure out, but somehow it always works out in practice) ::  whatever veggies I come home from the farm and erm, protein….

I decided to include a list of ingredients with my plans this time.  I really love that for the most part, all of the ingredients are rather obvious.  The meals are exactly what they sound like; good, basic, wholesome food.  As with last time, most nights I’ll probably throw together a quick salad or steam some greens, if greens aren’t already featured with the meal.  I feel like I did a pretty good job utilizing seasonal produce and using mostly local ingredients.  With the exception of the coconut and almond milks.  Every time I buy them, I feel like it’s such a shame, especially knowing that we have cheaper raw milk, readily available, just up the road.  But not everyone in the family can handle that, in fact, most of us can’t.  And I’ve thought of skipping anything milk-like completely, but honestly, we are very limited already and we like a bit of something creamy every once in a while.  So, I cook with it a couple of days a week.  And otherwise I feel fairly content with the plans I’ve managed to make.  Everyone has been pleased with the dinners so far (phew, no flops!), so I don’t think I’ll need to do much, if any editing.  Perhaps just the usual little bit of shifting the produce selections with the season as different things become available in our farm share.


right now I’m…

noticing :: how very delightful it is to have a stack of brand new supplies for creating something beautiful.


feeling ::  excited, inspired and a bit over-whelmed as I start making plans for homeschooling next year.

smiling knowingly :: at this bit of wisdom from Donna Simmons (found in “A Rough Guide to Sixth Grade“), “And the more children you have, the more you have to be, on one hand, rigorously well-organized and, on the other, relaxed.  It’s a question of balance – when to let go and when to make sure it happens, whatever it is!”

wondering :: how it is that a 4th grader and a 6th grader sounds so very much older then a 3rd grader and a 5th grader?  I have no explanation.


thinking :: that people just really shouldn’t talk to me in the morning during the hour after I take my pill (which makes me feel unwell) before I can eat (which makes me feel better).  If only they realized that we would all be a lot happier that way!

finally :: starting to learn to use my camera the way that it’s supposed to be used…but just starting.

as the sun goes down

enjoying :: the couple days a week that the big kids randomly send the two little ones out with tiny market baskets to gather herbs from the three half-barrel gardens I planted, for kneading into the herbed almond flour bread that’s fast becoming their specialty.

thinking :: I may have found a new craft to become obsessed about.

stitchesThe darling stitch holders above are a gift from a dear friend.  And she sent along the little bits of tatting below, just to entice me.  And well, it worked of course!


I really should have pressed them before the photo so that you can see how truly sweet they are in their miniature perfection (instead of in their rumpled, just pulled from the envelope state).  I’m thinking these can’t go to waste.  Maybe some dainty trim on a pocket?  Part of a necklace?

glad, so very glad :: to be able to knit again


appreciating :: the old vanilla extract bottle full of flowers, that Iain placed at the window beside me when I was too ill to be up and around.

pleased :: to see them still blooming and also to know that I no longer bound by their side night and day.

loving :: berry season being underway!

missing :: the freedom to go outside whenever and however I want (photosensitivity concerns).

at play

thinking :: that if nothing else, our shade gardens will be well weeded.

finding :: twilight rapidly becoming my favorite time of day.

feeling :: tired still.  Still moving slow.  Still needing to take it easy, but taking more of an active part in life as each day passes.  And that is a very good thing.