wild rice & butternut squash

I love wild rice! Especially during the autumn. The earthy aroma and chewy texture meld perfectly with so many vegetables. Today I have butternut squash, kale sprouts, leeks, cremini mushrooms, & shiitake mushrooms.


Prep your veg: (and preheat your oven to 425)

- peel, core & chop the butternut squash (the whole thing!) - rough chop on the kale sprouts (a did a whole bag) - clean and slice 2 leeks (you just want the white & super light green parts) - pulverize 3 or 4 garlic cloves - slice 2 pounds of mushrooms (I had a mix of cremini & shiitake - stems removed from the latter)

Time to cook:

- roast your cubes of butternut squash in some olive oil (plus salt & pepper) for 30 mins, until caramelized and soft - cook your wild rice (I cooked 2 cups in 4 cups of chicken stock) according to the instructions on the package - sautee leeks, garlic & mushrooms in olive oil and a few tbsp of butter, season to taste - add the kale sprouts when the other veg have cooked down, I like the kale to have a little chew to it - once the the squash is done, add it to the other veg and when the rice is done, combine it all! Season to taste. I added a tsp of dried thyme at the end.

- Serve it alone, or with your fav meat. We paired this with a delicious chuck roast. The flavors were divine!

Looking for kale sprouts? I found them at Trader Joes earlier this month. A great substitute would be broccoli, cauliflower, or even chopped kale.

making hulky (spinach) meatballs


My CSA just wrapped for the season & we are drowning in spinach. The past few weeks we've had spinach salads, wilted spinach w/ garlic & balsamic vinegar - and now I'm putting spinach in my meatballs.


After I preheated the oven to 425, laid out 4 sheet pans - I lovingly made 80 meatballs for storage in the freezer. Use whatever you have on hand - my go to fillings* are:

- 3 garlic cloves - 2 eggs - 1 cup sourdough bread crumbs - 1/2 to 1 cup parmigiano reggiano cheese - 1/4-1/2 cup olive oil - 1 pound of spinach - 1 pound of ground turkey - 1 pound of ground pork - dried oregano & thyme - pinch of nutmeg - salt & pepper to taste

* all the veg, cheese & bread crumbs are individually pulsed through the food processor beforehand


Bake for 30 mins, I bake 2 pans at a time & switch at 15 mins. Let them cool & toss into a freezer bag. Warm them in sauce for a quick spaghetti & meatball dinner, or for meatball subs. My kids love them - and love to help make them!

What are your fav meatball ingredients? I love swapping the spinach for arugula or carrots!

bread pudding: peaches, blueberries & sourdough - oh my!

When we are swimming in produce, I find a dish to combine everything we have on hand. Today I have sourdough, peaches, blueberries & eggs - time for bread pudding!

ingredients: *4-6 tbsp salted butter *2 cups whole milk *1 cup heavy cream *1/2 cup half & half (just in case you need a bit more liquid) *2/3 cup sugar *2 tsp vanilla extract *1 tsp ground cinnamon *4 large eggs *5 large peaches, pitted and cut into 1/2-inch cubes *1 pint of super ripe blueberries *5-7 pieces of sourdough bread, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 7 cups)

method: 1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9-by-11-inch ceramic baking dish.

2. In a medium saucepan combine the butter, milk, cream, sugar, vanilla, & cinnamon, and simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the butter melts and the milk is hot. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool slightly.

3. In a small bowl, whisk the eggs and then whisk them steadily into the milk mixture. Continue whisking until blended. Counting to 125 usually ensures well blended eggs.

4. Combine the peaches, blueberries, and bread in a large bowl and mix well. Transfer to the baking dish and pour the liquid mixture evenly over the top. Make sure all of the bread pieces are soaked with the mixture, and let sit for 5 minutes. Pressing down with a spatula helps here!

5. Bake for 40-45 minutes, until bubbly and brown. Serve warm but not hot. I cooled mine & served it for breakfast the next day.

Not only is this a super yummy breakfast, but it's divine as dessert. Add some local ice cream from Trickling Springs and you'll want a second bowl!

We are looking forward to what our CSA pick up has this week. I've had a craving for plum granita!

beautiful morning in the garden

We've been on the go, but the garden keeps on. The weekly summer storms and my bug-patrol birds & mantis have kept the garden happy and lush.

Flowers for the pollinators:

The local squirrels have shown little interest in my garden as of late. Hoping that as the peppers, cucumbers, and tomatoes ripen the trend continues!

Veggies & Herbs:

This weekend I'll be giving the garden a dose of fish emulsion, all this rain drains the nutrients from the containers plants. I'm hopeful that my little garden helpers will be keen on being in the garden a bit this weekend. Mama needs to dig in the soil!

Friday Flower: Milk Weed

20140621-110026-39626252.jpg Milkweed. I'm guilting of pulling it. I used to see it as a weed. But, its the nesting spot for monarch butterflies, and I'm happy to give it space in my garden!


In the next few weeks the pink flowers will bloom and Im hoping we'll see some monarchs. In addition to providing a nursery for monarch eggs & larvae, milkweed brings an element of height in the yard that was needed.


Finding the balance between garden function, beauty, and maintenance level is always tricky. But remembering that the garden is nature & is a part of a greater cycle is easy. Know you climate, soil type, and pollinators and you'll be more successful and find it easier to maintain.


Friday flower: zinnias on the deck

20140530-145037-53437315.jpg This Friday flower is Zinnia. This summer beauty can take the heat of full sun and all it needs is water and occasional feeding - we like Neptune's Harvest. The large blooms will pop out from all angles and draw the pollinators into my deck garden. They get a little zinnia nectar and make stops at the tomato & peppers!


This year I'm growing lavender, green, red & pink zinnias (I forgot about orange!) So far the lavender and red are gigantic and gorgeous. I'm hoping that the ones I planted in the ground out-front will do as well as the deck flowers.


So far we've seen bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, and finches dine on the zinnias. The finches can be a bit tough on the zinnias, but as long as they don't devour all the blooms I'll allow them to snack.



The zinnias in my garden will be going strong come September - which is more than I can say about the pansies and violas in my window-box, they need to be laid to rest in the compost bins! Perhaps I'll find some zinnia plants at the farmers market this weekend to replace the spring blooms that are fading.

Do you have a fav flower in the garden?

friday flower: sage

20140601-104525-38725305.jpg One of favorite herbs is sage. Turns out, it has one of the most beautiful flowers! The sweet purple flowers are bursting with nectar, if only the bloom schedule was timed with our hummingbird visits! A few small pollinators have taken advantage of the delectable blooms, and I have too!


I just cut two branches and strung them over the dinning table to dry. These leaves & flowers will come in handy around November.

Are any of your favorite flowers from herbs?

my front porch * bursting with color

20140608-160716-58036330.jpg Now that the weather has warmed my front garden has exploded with perennials and my flowers are brightening things up. I have a mix of store-bought & homegrown flowers this year - one of these days I'll be all homegrown - and most love the sun and heat.


Mt thyme & chives came roaring back to life early in May, both need a trim. Additionally I have African Marigolds throughout the garden bringing a pop of color and extremely low maintenance.

Also in the mix is a variety of Milk Weed. There's nothing meticulous or well trimmed about my garden. It is for the pollinators and our enjoyment. So few gardens are pesticide-free these days. I try to cultivate a garden full of color, nectar and fragrance for us and those winged friends.


Those needing TLC, stay close to the house where they get a reprieve from the intense summer sun. My black violas & pansies will last a few weeks longer because of the afternoon shade.


Next to burst open are these bachelors buttons. Many will grow 2-3 feet tall! A it of height mixed in with the low growers makes for an eyeful. You won't find bachelors buttons at the garden center, but you will find the seeds. Plant some now for some beautiful late summer blooms.


cooking with garlic scapes: fajitas

20140608-151904-55144701.jpg Right now, farmers markets are teeming with a delicious spring treat - not asparagus, not ramps, not fiddle heads - though all delicious - I'm talking about garlic scapes. These scapes come from my garden & Love Dove Farm.

One of our fav preparations using scapes is fajitas. Omit the chicken & add beans and this is easily a fabulous vegetarian or vegan meal. Gather your favorite veggies, some cumin & chili powder and dig in!


Last night we raided the fridge for an easy tortilla filling meal. Using:

-5 garlic scapes -3 shallots -1 rotisserie chicken (substitute home roasted chicken) -2 red bell peppers -2 packs of cremini mushrooms -1/2 cup of cilantro from the garden -1 tbsp ground cumin -1 tbsp pimenton -salt & pepper to taste -1 tbsp-1/4 water or stock depending on how thick/thin you like your fajitas -2 cans of TJs cuban black beans -Your fav tortillas -Sour cream & chopped scallions to garnish


Just chop up your veg, sauté in olive oil, add the chicken & spices. Let it all meld together, now might be a good time for some of that stock or water, and taste to adjust seasonings.

Since we make this for ages 1-36, I hold out the chile peppers until I plate each serving...don't want any burnt tongues!


Here's what the fajitas look like open & then wrapped up, pardon our excessive sour cream usage...we love the stuff!



Some additional garlic scape ideas:

Grilled w/ your fav protein Enchiladas Scape and Sausage Penne How about in an omelette?


Don't wait on scapes, they'll only be around for the next few weeks. Better yet - grow your own garlic and harvest your own!

garlic scape corner

20140530-143519-52519635.jpg My garlic beds have moved a few times over the years, this past season I grew garlic in containers on my front patio. Sadly, out of 20 bulbs only 5 produced plants, which means I'm getting 5 scapes! A garlic scape is a flower that grows out of the head of garlic. We cut (and devour) our scapes so the plant focuses the last 3-4 weeks of growing on the bulbs under the ground.


A few years ago I detailed the best way to harvest the garlic scapes and then how to harvest and cure the garlic bulbs. Though we only have 5 this year, I'm sure that Gorman Farm and LoveDove Farm will have plenty of garlic scapes & garlic for us to buy, I've got to remember to save 20 cloves to plant this October - location TBD!


As the scapes are harvested we'll sauté and grill them up in numerous meals. Over the weekend we enjoyed garlic scapes with our grilled pork chops. How do you cook your garlic scapes?

grilled garlic scapes & pork chops

20140601-111224-40344813.jpg Scapes are starting to emerge from my garlic plants, and we love to grill them. Just toss them in olive oil, grill for a few mins on each side, add a sprinkle of sea salt & dig in. But we cannot survive on scapes alone - enter big juicy bone-in pork chops.


I marinated the (trader joes) chops in olive oil, thyme, rosemary, and pepper for a few hours in the fridge - I seasoned with kosher salt right before they hit the grill. They grilled for 4-5 minutes per side, the kids like them a little more well done.


To go with this BBQ dinner I whipped up a butternut squash mac and cheese, same recipe as my vegetable drawer mac & cheese, but with only butternut squash. It was divine & the kids have a great leftover pasta dish for lunch!


I hope that trader joes keeps these chops in stock this summer, we loved them...even my 1 year old couldn't help but gnaw on the bone! As for the garlic scapes - their time is short but we'll scour the county farmers markets for them! You should too!


foraging in your backyard: dill, cilantro & mustard greens

20140525-112426-41066898.jpg There's a lot growing in my backyard. Hostas, Lavender, Zebra Grass, Black-eyed Susans, and Dahlias. But there's more.


Seeds from my upstairs deck garden scattered all around my backyard and now I reap the rewards. Dill, cilantro, mustard greens & flowers are scattered in-between the larger plants. I'm harvesting now before the beds are shaded & Black-eyed Susans fill in the garden beds.



When harvesting, weeding, and planting in the garden, take care. Look at your surroundings and keep an eye out for plants that may be poisonous and/or make you itch! Smell and look closely at anything you think is safe. Often weeds will grow in-between other plants, and you may not want to consume those!



First stop for the dill, cilantro & mustard greens is the sink! All were washed individually in cold water & spun in a salad spinner.


Don't forget about your garden finds in the fridge! Make a plan and use them up quickly. The dill will pair with chives on some new potatoes tonight. The cilantro will be atop shrimp fajitas tomorrow. The mustard greens are destined for a pickle jar & to a pork sandwich next weekend!


Found anything in your garden? Chive blossoms, asparagus, or ramps?!

strawberries & shortcake

20140526-090758-32878630.jpg We were one of the hundreds that braved Gorman Farm on Saturday & left with 2 baskets of delicious strawberries. The fields were full of kids & berries and the line to pay was full of little fingers sneaking berries from unsuspecting baskets! It was worth the wait!


With our 7 pounds of strawberries & a few growing at home we were thinking strawberry shortcake! First we washed then sorted the berries into categories - shortcake, eat all week & eat this weekend. I love this time of year....soon TLV will have their delicious berries too!



To make the shortcake we kept it easy. Premade organic whipped cream + trader joes shortcakes + berries macerated in vanilla sugar for at least an hour. A twist of lemon or a sprinkle of sea salt is nice too.

Don't cut your berries too small, just hull them and slice them into 2-3 slices. Otherwise they'll be mush, you want some texture. If you're drowning in raspberries, blackberries & blueberries, toss them in. We love this seasonal treat. Next week it's strawberries & balsamic vinegar with thin sliced pound cake.


Layer how you like. We have little ones that are whipped cream fanatics, next time I'll make fresh, so we tend to have equal parts cream & berries. I'm pretty sure this sat in front of my son for no more than 3 minutes....it goes fast!


It was definitely worth the trip out to Gorman. Though I left with two sunkissed & exhausted kids, we had so much fun picking, snacking & people watching.


Are you growing strawberries? Do you have a farm near by to pick your own?

Container Garden 2014: on the deck

The deck garden is already in bloom! Thanks to a great winter growing station in my basement, I have blooming flowers, large greens, lots of basil, fruiting peppers & strong tomatoes.


This winter I invested in some new deck containers, Vegtrugs. We are moving away from plastic containers, and looking for something that can grow without taking up too much space. So far, so good!


This year the container garden is growing:

Greens: Arugula, Radicchio, Kale & Swiss Chard

Peppers: Sweet Bell peppers Hot: Jalapeño, Serrano, Poblano, Pasilla, Cayenne, Fish & Lemon Drop

Tomatoes: Hawaiian Pineapple, Purple Cherokee & Costoluto Genovese

Herbs: Sweet Basil, Thai Basil, Sage, Mint, Chives, Chervil, Dill, Thyme, & Cilantro

Flowers: Dahlia, Zinnia, Viola, Bachelors Button, Black & Blue Salvia, Marigolds, Nasturtiums, and Chamomile

Root Veg, etc...: Beets, Onions, Cucumbers, Carrots, Strawberries & Radishes



Unlike other years, I mapped out and meticulously planned what I would grow and where. Notably - my deckrail planters are full of flowers to attract pollinators. Last year we had countless bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies. This year we want more!


So far the companion planting and locations are working out well. It 's amazing what you can grow in a container. You just need to remember to water a bit more often and feed the plants monthly.


Growing a garden can be a lot of work, but the rewards are tenfold. Not only are you growing delicious food on your own, but you're closer to the ecosystem, and a part of natures beauty. And in turn nature rewards you. One of our fav garden treats is the arugula flower. We harvest them and pop them into salads.


Are you growing in containers? What's your fav crop?

Hope your garden is a success this year!

transplanting dahlias

20140504-093218.jpg Back in February, I planted Unwins Mix Dahlia seeds from Baker Creek. Though I saved tubers from last year's dahlia's, I seem to be better with growing from seed - note to self, research dahlia tuber storage!


I transplanted two dahlia's into pots right before that frost in April - I brought them inside for fear of the frost! - and another two last week after Easter.


The spot is mostly sunny in the morning with an afternoon shady reprieve, which the dahlia's seemed to appreciate last year. This location is also close to our sunroom window, we are hoping the butterflies & hummingbirds stop by for a sip of dahlia nectar!


Looks like a yellow bloom is ready burst open! I have a few more dahlia seedlings growing in the basement for the front garden - we're growing for our pollinators, and so should you!

winter lessons: herbs

After a fabulous weekend in the garden, I came away with a few lessons that I hope I've learned and won't soon forget. This winter was particularly tough on my garden, and I think the culprit was ice. Lesson 1: Rosemary isn't so tuff afterall. Both of my prostrate rosemary plants, rosemary in the front garden & rosemary in the back garden perished in the frigid temps. I hoped that the shelter of the front porch would have spared my prostrate rosemary, sadly no. So now I'm on the hunt for new plants. I prefer the prostrate variety to the taller ones. It seems to flower more and it reminds me of countless trips to Disneyland!


Lesson 2: Sage is that tuff! My 5 year old sage plant is coming back strong. Dead gray crispy leaves are giving way to green soft ones. Hopefully soon to follow are those delicious purple flowers! Sadly my pineapple sage didn't make it, but if I see it I'll buy it again. I love the red flowers and the scent. It's worth it as an annual.


Lesson 3: Chives are coming back. My garlic & traditional chives are peeking out of the ground & planters. One set was overcome with moss, so off to the compost. But with chives comes my fav edible flower, chive blossoms!


Lesson 4: Thyme just can't quit. My thyme plants are springing back to life, so I'd better go trim them! Fingers crossed they'll be as prolific as years past, but just in case I bought a few more. You just can't have enough thyme.

Lesson 5: Oregano & Mint, possibly the easiest twosome to keep in pots. Green has been spotted in these pots. I keep both away from the in-ground gardens for fear that they'll take over all garden beds. I use & dry both often. The mint (chocolate) makes a great tea. The dried oregano is a fam fav on all Mediterranean dishes.


Learned any lessons in your garden? Get out there & see what's green & what's not! One new green thing in my garden is a vertical garden! It holds 12 small plants. I'm testing out water lovers & haters to see what works best.


january garlic shoots

20140114-064509.jpg On this snowy day I'm thinking about garlic. In the fall, I relocated my bulbs from my deck to my front garden, where sunshine is found all winter long. Six cloves per planter could yield 18 heads. Not as much as I'd like, but if they do well then more will be planted autumn 2014.


So far I have 3 green shoots, that will - hopefully - turn into scapes this summer. I loaded the containers with compost & fish emulsion in October. They'll likely need another boost of nutrients come March.


Hopefully after the latest snow melts, I'll see a few more shoots pop up. Store bought garlic pales in comparison to homegrown...as do most vegetables! Grow your own if you can & you'll be rewarded with garlic scapes & delicious garlic throughout the year!

Smoothie Making 101

20140112-112658.jpg Santa brought me a new blender this year - so it's time to rethink smoothies and add some green too!

I started with some of our fav flavors, blueberry, pineapple & banana. For the kid smoothie I only added a touch of kale, for the adults we had almost 2 cups of torn kale leaves (don't forget to compost your kale stocks!) The adult smoothies also had greek yogurt & almond milk. My son's smoothie had juice & regular yogurt.



When making smoothies with kale leaves, you have to use a high power blender. Kale leaves are very high in fiber - which is good - but I'm not into chewing my smoothie, so make sure your blender can handle kale before adding it into your smoothie. In a pinch with a less powerful blender, I've added pre-made green smoothie to my mix to get the green benefits.


Basic Green Hulk Smoothie: 1 banana 2 cups kale 1/2 cup of greek yogurt (optional) 1 cup of almond milk (sweetened or unsweetened) 1/2 cup frozen blueberries 1/2 cup frozen pineapple

Method: Blitz away in your blender until desired consistency. Taste for sweetness. Store leftovers in an air tight container for breakfast tomorrow!


turkey soup w/ a thai twist

Now that its officially winter, I'm digging into my freezer for weekly soup ingredients. This week I found turkey, chili peppers, ginger & lemongrass.


A trip to Trader Joes finished up the rest of my soup needs: miso ginger stock, rice noodles, limes, sugar snap peas, shiitake mushrooms, bok choy & scallions.


You can use whichever vegetables are in your freezer/fridge. The important components are rice noodles, lime, lemongrass, soy, garlic & ginger. They turn the most humble soup into an exotic getaway. Add chili peppers, cilantro, thai basil & coconut milk and you just landed in Thailand.


I sautéed all my veg in sesame oil, added the spices & broth. As it came up to a simmer, I added shredded frozen turkey breast & let it mellow in the slow cooker on low for 3-4 hours.


Just before it's time to eat, make your rice noodles. Then taste for seasoning & add a squeeze of sriracha when you serve it for an extra kick.