Friday, April 30, 2010

A Fantastic Friday

for making wishes.


Perfect Container Edible Garden

I love the idea of planting your garden with recipes already in mind. Sunset has a great article this month about a simple container garden with four basic plants (tomato, basil, jalepeno, and chives)

with three summer must have recipes (pasta with toms and basil, gazpacho and Bloody Mary.) This would be a great gift idea too! Give a pot of veggies and herbs with some of your favorite recipes.

Thursday, April 29, 2010


We had a great dinner the other night that was the epitome of summer...even though it is only spring. A big salad, grilled corn (that was actually great for this early in the year) and grilled chicken rubbed/sprinkled with Rub with Love's Exotic Mushroom Rub. This takes basic chicken and makes it delicious. We also love their Bengal Masala Rub. Plus it took five minutes to prep dinner and no pans to clean except the grill.

Gracie is now my official corn shucker. She had so much fun with these three ears and then said "mom, thank you for teaching me how to do this!" I remember loving shucking corn when I was little too. Good traditions being passed on. 

It is much more fun to eat it though!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Are Naps Gone?

Raised Beds

There is a great article from Sunset about the perfect raised bed.

We are going to do a modified version of this in our garden, first starting with placing just sides to our raised mounds. Then maybe next year, we will start converting our to raised beds with protection underneath from ground squirrels, mice, etc.
The only problem with this design is that they use PVC which is loaded with so many chemicals, chemicals that you DO NOT want near your homegrown/organic veggies. I found a revision with copper tubing from Diggin Food that would be better.

Pure of Heart Pizza

Friday nights are pizza nights in the Coffee Cottage. The ingredients change every week but this is one of the standards. I first had a pizza similar to this at Cable Car Pizza in Fayetteville, AR. It was called The Purist but had tomatoes instead of artichokes. We live so close to the artichoke capital of the world, Castroville, and we have loads of them at every farmer's market (and hopefully in our garden next year!) The Artichoke festival is May 15 this year. We may battle the traffic but I have heard it is crazy. But just imagine...every vendor and food item has artichokes in it! For now, we will take this pizza.

Pure of Heart Pizza:

Preheat pizza stone in a 450 degree oven
Whole Wheat pizza dough (TJ's) remove from fridge and let rest for 20 minutes then roll out to 12 inches on floured surface. I then toss it into the air to make nice and thin but you can also keep rolling.
Dust stone with cornmeal before placing dough. Sometimes a two person job. One to open oven and dust while another has stretched dough waiting to place.
Drizzle with olive oil garlic and oregano
Top with Feta
Artichoke Hearts

You can also add sundried tomatoes and kalamata olives for a Mediterranean pizza, another one of our favs.

To make the original omit artichokes and top with sliced tomatoes AFTER cooking pizza. Great for summer with fresh basil.

Chocolate Sunflowers and Dazzler Cosmos


We are trying this flower combination at the garden this year. I just have to decide where to plant them. We started seeds in flats and they have sprouted so when they get a bit bigger I will transplant them either by the irises or in front of our plot. I love the brown and pink combo. We'll see how they look in person. I also want to try making a sunflower playhouse. Maybe next year....

Thank You Honey!

Thank you honey, for everything you do!

Ryan made a potting bench out of reclaimed wooden pallets this weekend. Now our seedlings are off the ground and hopefully farther away from the slugs and snails. 

And here are the Adirondacks we saved from the dumpster. They are perfect for the garden and a great place for our garden lunches. The roses in the background are Double Delight and smell amazing. Grace and I walked around the rose garden in PA and smelled hundreds of roses until we found our favorite. We planted this one last summer and it is gorgeous.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Tiny Toes and Tabbouleh

We had a fun morning seeing the baby for the first time. 21 weeks, 14 oz, and very active. This is the cutest profile shot which looks like he/she is blowing a bubble. Just like big sis.

It is a rainy day so to make it feel more like summer around here, we made a big batch of tabbouleh. My dad always had this in the fridge and I was really feeling his love today so maybe the little one is a boy? Wish you were here papa.

I would double or triple this next time as I could eat it everyday!

2 bunches of parsley finely chopped
1 bunch mint finely chopped
1 cup bulgar wheat (pour boiling water over and rest for 15 minutes, then drain)
3 lemons
olive oil
3 roma tomatoes diced
1 cucumber diced

The perfect summer meal, especially for a picnic, would be this salad, falafel balls, hummus and marinated feta.

Gracie's Granola

I tell you, she eats this stuff dry for a snack and can't get enough of it and Ryan and I love it for a late night snack too! It is also fun for her to help pour in the ingredients and stir with a huge wooden spoon. A jar of this and a jar of oats (for days when we want warm breakfasts) is really all the cereal that a family needs. It is so easy and so inexpensive to make that I always pass the granola in the cereal aisle (it is full of rice cereal filler anyway) and go straight for the rolled oats. This also makes a great muesli if you go light on the toasting.

Gracie's Granola:

2 lbs oats
lots of chopped nuts (walnuts, pecans)
lots of seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, sesame)
lots of dried raw coconut (omit if Nana is coming to visit)
oil (sunflower, olive)

toast in a 300-350 degree oven on two cookie sheets
stir often for even browning

add dried fruit if you like
I prefer chopped dates. Gracie likes raisins.
You can also add these right before serving to keep the oats crunchy.

Lovely over yogurt with fresh strawberries.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Dressing Up

Growing up, I was in charge of making salads and I always made a homemade dressing with lots of vinegar and lots of garlic. I enjoy making this simple vinaigrette instead of buying store bought processed dressings. Inexpensive and MUCH tastier. Today's dressing is in a reused maple syrup jar. Stored in the fridge it keeps long enough to be used, which in this salad loving house is a week or so. 

Simple Vinaigrette:

1 cup olive oil (I like TJ's California estate evoo)
1/2+ cup vinegar (combination of balsamic and red wine)
pinch of salt
lots of ground pepper
4 pressed bulbs of garlic
you can add fresh herbs like basil, thyme

This can also be modified to a honey mustard dressing:
Add honey and stone ground mustard and use apple cidar vinegar.

Or a summer lemon dressing:
Use lemon juice instead of vinegar
Add lots of fresh thyme
(great over an arugula and grana salad)

Friday, April 23, 2010

Banana Love

There was a whole lot of love around here last night. This was happening out our front door. Banana slugs are hermaphroditic and they were courting each other I suppose.

Here is a picture for an idea of their size. They are amazing!

Dirty Laundry

We have been using Charlie's Soap since we started washing Gracie's diapers at home and LOVE the outcome. It is such an amazing laundry soap (we love their cleaner too!) that it gets out the toughest stains such as grass, strawberries, mud, poop, etc. We just switched to the powder which only takes a tablespoon per load. With two 2lb bags I filled a small glass jar with enough soap for 160 loads! Now I am looking for another family to split the 5 gallon bucket (1280 loads!) with us to prepare for the daily dose of a little ones diapers. I can't say I love doing laundry but this soap makes it a little bit better, especially when it is in a cute glass jar.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

What we're growing right now

We started some new seeds yesterday and found a new seed company that we really like: Botanical Interests. It is a family run business in Colorado. My only complaint is that I can't copy the beautiful seed package drawings to paste here.

 See what I mean?

We started:

Blue Kale
Chinese Kale

Moon and stars watermelon
Chanterais melon
Hall's Best cantelope

Gracie also picked out:
Carnival Blend Carrots (orange, purple, pink, yellow, white)
Jarrahdale Pumpkins: which we planted in the three sisters garden
Acorn Squash: planted
Broccoli sprouting seeds: currently sprouting

We also picked up and planted more tomato seedlings after all of the seedlings that I transplanted from home were eaten this week.

4 Green Zebra
2 Black Krim (which I hear is the best)
3 Sungold (best cherry)

and 4 red million bells for the front hanging baskets.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A Pumpkin Patch

We designated a portion of our three sisters garden for a pumpkin patch. There are four different kinds of pumpkins including some small sugar pumpkins, carving jack-0-lantern pumpkins and giant pumpkins which Gracie is really excited about. I, on the other hand, am looking forward to these beauties, a french heirloom similar to the green lovelies we bought last year. This year I just need to make sure we cook as many as we use for decoration. We have planted pumpkins before and lost them all to animals or drought so I hope incorporating them into the garden this year will yield at least one or two.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

And then there were four

I have always loved chairs. As we have traveled around the world (more like up and down the world) I am always drawn to chairs to photograph. Odd. I know. I have especially always loved adirondack chairs. Ryan's father has had the plans and wood "curing" to make us some for years now, so Ryan decided to order these lovelies while we wait for the ones from Grandpa. He put them together yesterday and they are fabulous.
To top things off, as we were driving to the garden yesterday, we drove by a remodeling dumpster in a neighbors driveway and I spotted the top arch of an adirondack chair (like I said I love chairs and have a hawk's eye for them). Sure enough, they were tossing two chairs that were in great condition. we have four beauties--two of them for home, and two for our home away from home, the garden.
It was a VERY good day!

The lilacs are for my grandma. They were her favorite.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

What we're growing right now

Let me start by saying it is going to be 77 degrees today. Are we in heaven?

We were busy planting more seeds (in flats) this week before rain arrives Tuesday and Wednesday, hopefully giving the garden a good soak. I made a list of the vegetables we have to date and counted 63. I intend to make a harvest list as well for comparison.

Lemon heirloom
Armenian heirloom
Pickling Endeavor
Persian Green Fingers (Gracie's favorite at TJ's)
Satsuki Madori

French Baby Leeks
Seasoning Celery
Butterfly Bush (the smallest seeds I have ever seen)
Bok Choy
Bull's Blood Beets

We also added some Collards seedlings from our neighbor gardener Jeff. Collards are one of my favorite greens, being from the south, so I need to order seeds for our collection as well.

Friday, April 16, 2010

A Hummingbird's Delight

Maybe I am inspired by the hummingbird that is nesting right outside our window, maybe it is the combination of bright pinks and chartreuse, but I LOVE this annual collection I spotted in an ad for white flower farm in my Organic Gardening magazine. It has been on my refrigerator for weeks and I intend to plant something like this soon so the hummingbird has nectar to feed her hatchlings. This collection includes Fuchsia 'Billy Green', two plants of pink Begonias, Coleus 'Sedona' and 'Strawberry Drop' and Ipomoea batatas (sweet potato) 'Margarita'. Isn't it lovely?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Three Sisters

I would love to have three sisters pitter-pattering around the house one day but this garden will have to do for now. The three sisters are corn, beans and squash and were traditionally planted together by Native Americans for healthy nutrition and healthy soil. We planted this for the first time last year with great success (yucky corn but great as bean poles) and we have expanded this year to plant a larger garden. Hopefully it won't be shaded too much with the cherry tree. We are planting more corn this year and closer together so that we have better pollination and better ears of corn. Cross your fingers!

As of today we have planted:

Bon Jour Early 

Raven Zucchini
Clarimore Zucchini
Golden Dawn Zucchini
Romanesco Zucchini (Italian heirloom)
Ronde de Nice Zucchini (French heirloom)
Supersett Crookneck 
Sunburst Pattypan
Peter Pan Pattypan
Starship Pattypan
Antique French Cinderella's Carriage Pumpkins
Spookie Sugar Pumpkins
Autumn Gold Jack-O-Lantern Pumpkins
(am I forgetting something)

Purple Pole
Emerite Pole
(we may sneak in Gracie's favorite Sugar Snap Peas)

Here is a good link with more background info and planting diagrams (we planted much closer together)

The Lettuce Forest

After failing miserably at direct sowing lettuce seeds in the garden, but be tired of spending so much on delicious organic lettuce, I broke down and bought 8 six packs of lettuce last weekend at OSH's BOGO sale. Now we have a beautiful bed of 48 lettuce heads (Lollo Rossa, Red Butterhead, Butter and Salad Bowl) but I still intend to grow (in flats this time) the delicious heirloom "Merveille De Quatre Saisons" as well as this heirloom cutting mix which includes:  Speckled Troutback, Blush Butter Cos, Red Ruffled Oak, Green Devil's Tongue, and crisp Sucrine. Gracie refers to herself as a lettuce monster by the way so we need to have LOTS of lettuce.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Mouse Trap

This great blue heron is our new best friend at the garden. This year she is eating the mice that have taken over the garden. In precious years we have had LOTS of ground squirrels but this year they are gone (?) and the mouse population has EXPLODED!

Thanks for helping sweetie! Gracie of course thinks she takes all of them back to her babies in the nest to regurgitate some for them. Possibly. I would like to find the closest rookery to find out.

Stalked and caught.


15 Minute Tuscan Bean Soup

We are spending more and more time at the garden now that it is planting season. That means I have less and less time to cook wholesome, healthy meals for the family. I am also trying to plan for the days to come when I will have even less time to spend on food. Inspired by Simple Lovely's posts about her family's favorite meal of white navy beans (but without a recipe to work with)  and my favorite cookbook (thanks mom!) Moosewood's Daily is how today panned out for us.

In the morning:

I threw 3 cups of navy beans and 6 cups of water into the slow cooker on low.

We spent the morning planting in the garden. Heaven.

We came  home to cooked beans and to take a nap.

As Gracie napped I sauteed:

1 onion
4 cloves garlic
half a bag of carrots (1 1/2 cups+/-)

I added that to the slow cooker with:

1 capful (2 tsps?) sage

Now it is cooking (warm setting) until Ryan gets home and we are ready to eat. Maybe with sliced tomatoes, crusty bread and TJ's new batch of California Estate Olive Oil. Buon appetito!


An EMPTY plate! Amazing.

Le petit dejéuner

Her first french breakfast radish harvest. Were you expecting something better?

Mama on the other hand LOVES radishes, especially in french bread with lots of fresh butter and sea salt.

Weekly Pasta

My goal is to make a weekly pasta (or grain dish) on Sunday night so that we can have leftovers for lunches throughout the week. The idea is to take a seasonal vegetable, a good cheese and pasta to create a simple and frugal dish. I was inspired by Jesse Cool's Roasted Beet Pasta with Chevre.  An AMAZING dish. This week we sauteed Italian chicken sausage and green beans and heirloom cherry tomatoes, then added campanelle pasta ("camping yell" according to Gracie) with a little parmesan on top. Very simple, not knock your socks off like Jesse's, but it is a start.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

57 Pepper Seedlings!

Do you think that is enough?

I am really excited about the Pimientos de Padron peppers. We have spent a lot of money buying them at the market ($7 a bag) so I plan to plant all 14 plants to have our own harvest. An amazing tapas! Simply saute the whole peppers in a bit of olive oil over medium heat and then sprinkle with sea salt and eat whole. Most are mild but once in a while you get one with a kick. AMAZING!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

This little piggy....

LOVES mud!

Today we planted our three sisters garden.
Corn (seedlings and kernels)
Squash (raven zucchini, ronde de nice, etc)
and beans to come.
The girls all planted magic beanstalks by the fence (giant scarlet runner)

Friday, April 9, 2010


You are truly unforgettable my love!

Your smile....

Your curiosity...


Friday, April 2, 2010

Happy Third Birthday my love


BIG slides

BIG hugs

BIG smiles

and a carrot cake that was a BIG hit with little and big kids.

Gracie's Birthday Cake (she helped make this one)

preheat oven to 350 degrees
oil 2 round cake pans and line bottom with parchment

1 1/3 cup flour (white and w/w pastry)
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt


2/3 cup oil
3 eggs

stir in

2 cups carrots
1 1/2 cup chooped pecans
1 cup raisins

bake 30 minutes. let cool 10 minutes in pan. slide knife around to detach and let cool on racks. then frost

In an electric mixer combine
2- 8 oz packages of cream cheese
1 stick butter
sweeten with honey (1/2 cup?)