Keeping things simple in a not so simple world

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going garlic

This past winter holiday, we received a lovely card with a picture of a garden plot full of garlic and the caption, “Ajo up the Wajo!”  (Ajo is Spanish for garlic.)  This card was announcing a very sweet gift of a plot of garlic.  Can I just say that this was the best holiday present ever?!?!?!


Well, that lovely plot has flourished!  And this week we harvested some of the scapes.


These lovely plants have all the flavor of garlic and are great for pesto.  I made a large batch, freezing two jars and keeping the other for a recipe I hope to share with you tomorrow.

Garlic Scape Pesto

The amount of pesto you make depends on how many scapes you have. I recommend about 6-8 for one good jar.
You should be able to purchase scapes at your local farmer’s market.

6-8 garlic scapes, cut into large pieces
1/8 cup olive oil
1-2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup nuts – pine, almond or walnuts

In a food processor, process all ingredients together, stopping occasionally to scrape the sides. Adjust ingredients as needed.
Store in a glass jar. Freeze for up to eight months.

Serving suggestions:
Use like basil pesto on pasta.
Mix with eggs or in a frittata.




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garden and herbs update

Today I wanted to share with you an update on our garden and herbs. Lots of pictures, little text.
Gardening is hard work, but very rewarding. The kids get a huge thrill watching the little green shoots struggle to the surface.
Nothing tastes sweeter than the plants that you have grown and labored over. Whether you use them simply or in gourmet fusion combinations, they are a delight. I hope that this update inspires you to try some gardening on your own.


This year I planted several varieties of basil: lime, lemon, purple, Thai and lettuce leaf.  All were planted in containers, but I also planted Thai and lettuce leaf as seedlings to be planted in the garden.  One can never have too much pesto…


Coriander (cilantro)


This is the same chive plant I have had for 6 years.  It just continues to grow.  We use it most often for eggs with goat cheese.


Container garden is great for greens.  In this case, swiss chard.  Unfortunately, our son accidentally tipped the pot when the plants were still young and we lost several.  I will get more seeds and plant them after these are harvested.


More basil.

DSC01445Sage (same plant for 4 years).  This year I am going to try making a sage pesto.  More basil and some thyme.


Broccoli, carrots (yellow), peppers, leeks and strawberries.




Spring veggies:  Snap peas (several batches harvest already!), golden beets, purple carrots (variety dragon), red beets.


Golden beets and carrots


Oh, these beautiful carrots!


Red beets


Mounds of cucumbers (two varieties), golden and green zucchini (planted 2 days ago!)


Garlic!  And yes, we’ve already delved into the scapes!

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I feel I must apologize for my absence here.  Life has become a bit more complicated recently.  I have begun a part-time, temporary job to help bring some extra income in.  (We have grand plans for next summer!) With this new adjustment and the craziness that the end of a school year brings, things have been a bit overwhelming.  I am hoping that I can take some time this weekend to catch up on some things, including this blog.

In the meantime, I’d like to share some things from the interconnected world wide web with you…

-A dear friend is leaving us for her home in Ireland soon.  Her good-bye party is Monday and I plan on serving some Sangria.  I hope to share the recipe with you soon.  But in the meantime, Smitten Kitchen has some lovely ideas here.  Or this lovely version here.

-Our favorite summer pizza, found here,  has been used many times this year already.  But I just found this great idea too!

-Dug into this summer time favorite a couple of times too!

-Recently stumbled on this lovely website for CSA’s and farmer’s markets. Plan to use it in the near future.

-Just finished this book for book club (in 4 four hours!) and cannot recommend it enough!
Hope you are enjoying the summer (or in our case, rainy and cool) weather!


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3 plots

As I mentioned in Monday’s post, this year we have three garden plots in our community garden.  Last year’s lonely one plot did not do too well besides snap peas because it was a wet plot with poor drainage and it was too much work for one sick mama to do on her own.

This year’s plots are well drained.  They will get a lot more care because I am not sick and also because we have dear friends to help us with them and share the produce!

Deciding what to plant in a garden that is limited by space and by time can be difficult.  One thing to keep in mind is that home-grown produce, that is organically grown, always tastes better than anything you can get at the grocery store – so using taste as a determinate might not be such a great idea.  I choose vegetable types by ease of planting or care, types that we love to eat and will get eaten and space.

We love Seed Savers Exchange.  Their seeds are inexpensive, most come in organic varieties, and I love the idea of heirloom seeds.

We are fortunate to live in a somewhat temperate climate, which means that we get a longer spring and fall and can do multiple plantings.  Below is an outline of our three plots and what we plan to plant in each.

Plot 1
Amish snap peas   Planted on either side of a trellis.  This particular variety can grow large and still taste amazing.  Last year, the kids ate them so fast I did not get to cook them!
Detroit dark red beets
Burpee’s golden beets
Dwarf blue curled kale  Should continue to grow throughout the summer and into the fall
Dragon carrots

Butternut squash  I would have preferred delicata squash, but could not find seeds anywhere…I’ll keep looking.

Plot 2 
Burpee’s golden beets
Jaune du Doubs carrots

Tomatoes and Tomatoes
Black beauty zucchini

Plot 3
Golden zucchini
Black beauty zucchini


-Because plot 3 had tomatoes planted in it last year we needed to rotate crops. Thus, tomatoes were placed in Plot 2.
-By the time Plot 1’s spring crops are finished harvesting, we can plant the squash and pumpkin.
-If I had a larger space and wanted more continuous crops, I would plant things a few weeks apart. For instance, one row of beets and kale. Then two weeks later, another row of beets and kale. This would allow for a continued season. Unfortunately, we do not have space for this and beets and carrots can last quite awhile once picked.

If you get a chance to garden, take it.  The work is hard and sometimes you do not always reap as much fruit as you’d like or planned on, but it is totally worth the work when you see those beautiful sprouts come up and taste that first snap pea.



There is so much to say about herbs.  Especially fresh.  They are so remarkably different when they are fresh rather than dried.

So, what do you do when you have a 990 square foot apartment, two children 5 and 3 1/2, only three garden plots (that you don’t wish to be overtaken by said herbs), and limited sunlight in the apartment (bedrooms in the morning, living room in the afternoon)?
You plant your herbs in pots, of course. And just in case you think your neighbors will hate your pots all over the front walk (which mine don’t, thank goodness!), offer to share some of the results with them. And make sure to mention the aesthetic appeal and the lovely aromas of brushed herbs as you walk by.

But what to plant? Of course, with pots you can plant any type of herb and in multiple quantities. But what will you actually use?

Here is my list of often used herbs.

Chives: We have had chives for almost 7 years now. They have moved with us to three separate apartments and have remained outside year round. I have never had to buy new seeds. In the winter, they dry up and turn brown. At the beginning of spring I remove the dead strands and new ones come up.
We use chives a lot. But our favorite is in scrambled eggs with goat cheese and freshly chopped chives.

Basil: Regular genovese basil gets planted in the garden plot by the tomatoes to grow freely and keep pests away from the tomatoes. But Thai Basil is a whole other story. Thai Basil is a much stronger, more pungent version of your typical Italian variety. Its licorice taste is phenomenal and cannot be replicated. I usually plant two pots of this remarkable variety.
We have also planted purple basil and lime basil for various flavors and pesto varieties.

Sage: Sage also lasts all year round, which is nice because we usually only use it in the fall and winter. It starts to look shabby and sad at the end of winter, but has no problem returning. If planted in a pot, it will eventually outgrow the pot and you will have to start from seeds again.

Thyme: Thyme is another all-year plant, which we use all year long. Last year we planted a variation of this well-beloved herb called lemon thyme. This lovely variation was used in many salad dressings and we even made a pesto of it.

Cilantro/’Coriander’/Parsley: Now you might be asking why I lumped these two herbs together. One reason is to share this little known fact: many people do not like cilantro and/or parsley, often saying that that either one or both taste like soap. But did you know that these people have a genetic reason for not liking one or both of these herbs? As crazy as it sounds, people have a genetic pre-disposition to either loving or hating one or both of these herbs and almost all people with this genetic variation say they taste like soap.
My partner is one such person. He (as do I) loves cilantro and its more pungent cousin culantro. But hates parsley.
I, however, am fortunate enough to love both. And so both get planted in our pots. But we (I) use a lot of both, so we either do several pots of each or large pots.

Mint and lemon balm: We love mint and use it often in the summer for mojitos. We also love lemon balm and use it for the same reason and teas. But mint and lemon balm both grow wild in our apartment complex and so we do not need to grow them in pots. If you choose to grow either of these, remember that they both grow like weeds, sometimes they are even difficult to contain in pots. Also, there are several varieties of mint; you may need to experiment with different types.

Other container growing: Greens – lots of greens. Arugula, spinach, swiss chard, etc can all be grown in containers – year round!
Tomatoes, especially small cherry tomatoes and peppers.