Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Butternut Squash, Chicken and Quinoa Stew

Several years ago, on the island of potlucks, a mysterious grain was showing up dish after dish. Kwin-o-ah? That is what I read on a little sign by a mixture of summer veggies and this mystery grain. Later, I discovered that it is called "keen-wah", the super food!

Quinoa originates from the Andes. It was highly revered by the Incas and called chisaya mama or 'mother of all grains'. While it may look like a cereal grain, it is actually more closely related to beets, spinach and tumbleweeds. This grain packs a powerful dietary punch.

Raw quinoa
Quinoa was of great nutritional importance in pre-Columbian Andean civilizations, secondary only to the potato, and was followed in importance by maize. In contemporary times, this crop has become highly appreciated for its nutritional value, as its protein content is very high (18%). Unlike wheat or rice (which are low in lysine), and like oats, quinoa contains a balanced set of essential amino acids for humans, making it a complete protein source. It is a good source of dietary fiber and phosphorus and is high in magnesium and iron. Quinoa is gluten-free and considered easy to digest. (Source: Wikipedia)

Beware. Since my family loves this grain, many recipes will be coming your way in the coming weeks.
Quinoa squiggles
As I was perusing Pinterest, I found this pin which led me to this recipe on Cookin' Canuck, which is an absolutely wonderful site!! Of course, I like to cook with what I have on hand and I always have to make A LOT to include lunches, etc. So here is my version of Cookin' Canuck's Hearty Chicken Stew with Butternut Squash and Quinoa there are more servings and different methodologies of getting to the end product. This recipe is great for cold nights and it is high protein, low fat and low calorie. If you are veggie, it could easily be converted by using vegetable stock and skip the chicken.

One key reminder about cooking with quinoa, remember to rinse it. If you don't, it will be bitter tasting since the plant has saponin which is beneficial pre-harvest to keep birds and other potential diners away from the seed, but not desirable to our palates. A simple rinsing will remove it. Most North American quinoa on the market has already been rinsed, but I don't take any chances. 

Butternut Squash, Chicken and Quinoa Stew Recipe


  • 4 cups organic chicken or vegetable stock
  • 2 large, organic boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 1/2 tsp garlic salt
  • 4 cups  butternut squash, fresh or frozen
  • 2 cans (14 oz) organic diced tomatoes (Eden Hills or Muir Glen to be BPA free)
  • 2/3 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 3 oz can  black olives, sliced
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • Grated Asiago (optional)


1) In a large saucepan, pour in 4 cups of stock and place chicken breasts in to poach. Bring to a boil and then cook over medium heat for 10 minutes. Remove chicken breasts to a plate to cool and put stock aside for later in the recipe. (You can skip this step if you are cooking the veggie version.)

2) In a large Dutch Oven, pour in olive oil and heat over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add oregano and stir for a minute. 

3) Add in garlic salt, butternut squash, tomatoes and stock from saucepan. Bring to a gentle boil and add quinoa and olives. Gently stir. Cover and reduce heat to low for 15 minutes. 

4) Shred or cube chicken and add to the Dutch Oven along with pepper and parsley. Cook for 10 more minutes. Stir frequently. 

5) Ladle into bowls while hot and top with grated asiago. Enjoy!

*Note: if you are going to warm it up later, add more stock during the warm up. The quinoa will absorb most of the liquid.

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Monday, February 27, 2012

The Garden You Can Grow - Herbs

Reaching out to people in the blogosphere has allowed me to "cross paths" with a full spectrum of gardeners. One blogger's husband planted 45,000 carrot seeds over the weekend for their CSA and another wasn't sure she could keep her patio tomatoes alive.

When I started this journey, I focused on flowers. Tulips, to be exact, and our first planting was 150 bulbs. Then I noticed that the massive shrub in our yard was rosemary. Rosemary? Like something you cook with? In MY garden? That summer we used it in everything. We skewered new potatoes with it on the grill. We diced it into salads and rubbed our salmon fillets, steaks and chicken down with it's pungent aromatics. Best of all, there was no labor involved.

The following summer I figured it all out. Herbs! I can grow herbs! Here are the five main reasons you should, too:

1) You will get your money's worth out of the garden. Herbs are spendy. Fresh herbs in plastic corsage boxes are downright expensive. Fresh from the garden. Free-ish. (cost of seed and cost of soil, big woop)

2) Your cooking habits will change. Having all of that fresh flavor at your disposal does something to the way you cook. Fresh herbs out of the garden will enhance the flavor of your meals.

3) It is fun! I love looking at a recipe and realizing I can pop out into the yard to grab the rosemary and thyme. Having fresh herbs in your garden opens up the possibilities for your menu, especially when you are cooking-on-the-fly.

4) Good for your health. We tend to use fats and salts to season our foods, but herbs will add all of the flavor you could ever want at zero calories.

5) One word: Pesto. Course-cut pesto with basil and garlic out of our garden just about makes me squeal. It is the highlight of my gardening season. Throw it on some cherry tomatoes or grilled summer squash. Ahhhhh! Is it summer yet?!? Can you just taste that?

Where do you start? Well, Simon & Garfunkel nailed it with parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme. Add in oregano, dill, chives and cilantro and you are well on your way. Another herb I discovered last summer through our CSA was Summer Savory. We put it on everything and we will try to grow our own this summer.

If this is your first attempt, the Simon & Garfunkel four are fail proof. Simply find some containers to start. This may sound nonsensical, however, you could end up with a garden full of any of these.  It is best to contain them and maintain control of their growth. You don't need to spend a fortune on containers either. Anything that will hold 8-12" of soil and provide good drainage will do.

Soil matters. Seeds matter. Forever and ever. Amen.

I like to use Gardner & Bloome's Potting Soil when planting in containers. For some reason, it feels like I am giving those contained plants a little gift. And I am. You see potting soil is good to go. No fuss. No muss. I am one of those people who HAS to throw a little compost on top of everything as well. 1/2" of happiness.

Seeds. Go organic, if possible. Know where your seed comes from. No GMO action. If you are running to a hardware store/nursery/friend for your seeds, call them ahead of time to ask which brands they carry, then check this list.

After your container is filled with soil, draw a line through the center, about 1/2" deep and sprinkle your seeds in. I like using a pencil to do this. Then lightly cover them up with soil, sprinkle with water and place in a warm spot to wait for germination. Keep the soil moist and warm. When all of the little seedlings start popping through, you will want to cull your seedlings, thin them out. Yes, you just gave them life, but you DO have to thin them out and if it breaks your heart a little, you have started in on the right hobby. The more room each plant has, the happier it will be. Just keep telling yourself that over and over.  Each herb is unique, so follow the directions on your seed packet. The more you use your plant, once it gets going, the better it will continue to grow.

Now let's have a brief, little chat about basil. First, it is finicky. Warm conditions. Moist soil. Sounds simple. It needs to be pinched regularly and it likes to bolt. Did I mention there are over 50 varieties each possessing it's own specific flavor? I would recommend starting with Sweet Basil, Genovese Basil or Thai Basil. If you are just starting, keep it simple. Basil can be tricky, or could be your specialty! You will never know unless you try.

And that REALLY is the heart of gardening. You try something out. Risk free. Sometimes it works and the celebration is on your table or in your little one's hands as they walk through the garden. Sometimes it doesn't work out and we learn. That is the beauty.

Now go find some containers, some seeds and some soil and get started. Don't forget to keep me posted!


Sunday, February 26, 2012

This Week's Menu - February 27

Do you ever have those days where ideas roll and you think "Wow! I should share that!" and then a friend, without prompting, suggests you should do the same thing and you are feeling pretty confident? Then you do that thing, wake up at 3 in the morning two weeks later and realize you are doing it all wrong?

My weekly menus. Pinterest. Yada yada yada.

I realized that I need to start posting what I made last week, the recipes I used and modifications I made along with my own photos. I do use Pinterest to help me meal plan. I have one Board called "What's for Dinner?" and another called "Meal Plan". The first is serving as my recipe warehouse, the second my plan for the week, which I will delete. I am a visual person and I am working really hard to create more meals that rollover to the next in order to reduce our waste. This week there will be a lot of chicken rolling through and you will see the outcome, right here, next Sunday. The reason for my own photos is that I am a firm believer of "what you see is what you get". I am finding that many of the recipes I try have been photographed by food stylists and look too good to be true. I want to keep it honest with you. In addition, I will post links directly to their recipes. Finally, I will be making a 7-day plan, instead of just the 5-day plan that I started with originally AND I will have printable weekly meal planners! Woo hoo!

Here are links to my last three menu plans, if you need ideas for this week. Enjoy!
January 16
February 13
February 20

(Side note: We are just getting past the worst part of this terrible illness that swept through our family this week. Thank you for all of the well wishes and the support. I am determined to get the peas in today!)


Thursday, February 23, 2012

Apple-Cinnamon Oatmeal for Non-Oatmeal Lovers

We are an oatmeal house, but this wasn't always the case. Growing up, I would see my dad cringe and grimace whenever oatmeal was mentioned. You see, he came to the US via a ship during WWII (after being in internment camps). The kids were served lukewarm, lumpy oatmeal day and night. So, I understand his disdain for this grain and you can be sure oatmeal didn't find it's way into our house, not even in the form of cookies.

During my grad school years, finances were slim and we were living on our sailboat (which was heavenly). Our cooking space was lovingly known as "the one butt kitchen" and storage was at a minimum. Several friends suggested starting the day with a large bowl of piping hot oatmeal. I knew they were right, I just couldn't stomach the concept (and I felt like I was betraying my dad a bit). Finally, I gave in and tried it all. Oats, quick oats, malt-o-meal with brown sugar, cinnamon, milk, nuts, berries, dried fruit. Nothing worked. I could not force myself past the first spoonful. My hot cereal collection was passed on to my classmates.

Seven years later, I heard some buzz about a local coffee shop and their incredible oatmeal. Facebook statuses were posted by locals about "needing a fix". Ya, whatever. It's just oatmeal, right? Yuck (like a mature adult). I met a friend for coffee and everyone was getting this oatmeal and "oohing" and "ahhhing" about the warm, tasty goodness. People, get ahold of yourselves, it's just oatmeal. My friend said I should try a cup and that she would pay if I didn't like it. I gave in, thinking I would prove her wrong. "One oatmeal with brown sugar, pecans and berries." Worse case scenario, I could eat the toppings. The first bite was all toppings. "I love this!" Nice try. Here we go...damn, it IS good! Creamy, warm, sweet deliciousness. I was hooked...and then the owners of the coffee shop left, but I have figured out their secret and now we are an oatmeal house. Join us.

Makes approximately 2 servings


  • 1 1/2 c Bob's Red Mill Steel Cut Oats
  • 1 c water
  • 1/2 milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 apple, peeled, cored and diced
  • 1 tsp butter
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar

*more brown sugar for sprinkling

1) In a small saucepan, bring water, milk and vanilla to a soft boil. Reduce heat to Lo and add oats. Simmer while covered for 20 minutes. Stir frequently.
2) In a small frying pan, melt butter over medium heat. Add apples, cinnamon and brown sugar. Sauté until soft.
3) Spoon oatmeal into bowls while hot and cover with apple mixture. Sprinkle a little extra brown sugar on the top and enjoy!

Fresh berries (the juice from blackberries is awesome!)
Dried fruit

(I have heard about making this on warm in a slow cooker overnight. I will investigate and keep you posted.)

What do you like to put on your oatmeal?

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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Safe Seed Pledge

The Council for Responsible Genetics has created a "Safe Seed Pledge" that seed companies can sign. If they sign the pledge, they are guaranteeing that their seeds are 100% GM-free. Do you want to check if your favorite seed company signed the Safe Seed Pledge? Check here.

In addition, you can Google your favorite seed comapny's name and "Monsanto" to see if a relationship exists. Be careful to check the date of your information. Seminis was purchased by Monsanto and a lot of our favorite companies had been purchasing seeds from them; however, they may have phased the company out of their inventory over time. When all else fails, fire off an email to the company and feel free to come back here and share your findings. Let's get current and correct information out there!

Great gardens have to start with healthy and safe seeds.


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

National Pancake Day

Happy National Pancake Day! In honor of this glorious day (and since we frequently eat pancakes) I HAD to treat my kids to a plate full of cakes. Not just any pancakes would do, I knew they needed to be a little bit special. Lately I have been reading a lot about the Paleo Diet and many of the underlying principles work for me, except the no grain part. We are slowly working dairy out of our diet, in the form of cheddar and mozzarella cheese; however, I am a breadmaker and I am 1/8 Sicilian. I need my pasta.

While skipping through the pages of Pinterest last night, I came across dozens and dozens of pancake recipes and then I saw one that was Paleo. Really?!? Banana, peanut butter, egg, cinnamon and vanilla. Well it sounded good.

These babies need to be on low low heat and they take awhile. Also, they suggest using a non-stick pan and those do not exist in my house. So I used a tiny bit of butter to grease the pan. WHAT?!? Stop judging me like that. I never claimed to be Paleo!

Back to the pancakes. The consistency was new for me. Both kids, who are normally adventurous eaters, poo-pooed them. I chalked it up to the fact that they are sick. If I was a diet-minded person or a gluten-free person, I would try them again. Since I am not, I might have to throw in a tablespoon of whole wheat flour next time. Yes, flour.

Here is the link to Appetite for Health's recipe. They are called "Protein Pancakes". Now don't go lathering these babies up with maple syrup or anything like that. I will make another round for the kids tomorrow (yes, I do use whole wheat flour AND flaxseed). If you would like more breakfast and pancake recipes you can check out my Pinterest Breakfast Page .

Do you have a favorite pancake recipe?


Monday, February 20, 2012

Pea Delay

Today is Presidents' Day, Pea Planting Day. It is also the day that I have decided to postpone, not the National Holiday, just the peas. BK (Before Kids) I would have rallied to get the job done because it was on my list. Kids force you to let go of OCD ways. Sick kids force you to put on the brakes, stay in your jammies and watch a stream of movies with intermittent naps, snacks, snuggles, and clean up (that's all I am saying).

So today I will wipe noses (including my own), check fevers and administer home remedies to my babes while watching the last half of "Finding Nemo" (the first half is "too scary"). This is truly gardening with kids. The peas can wait...and they will. The set meal plan can wait...and it will.

Ahhhchooo! Time to go wipe a nose.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Weekly Menu - February 20

It is the end of the month and time to stretch our dollars a little more. Dinners this week will span two nights and be morphed into lunches during the following days. Think of it like your Thanksgiving turkey. You start with your big meal and then have sandwiches, soup, etc. I am also going to make a crock pot of black beans on Monday to have on hand for the week. Lil Miss is teething and she loves them. This provides guaranteed calories for her and a couple of easy night add-ons for me. In addition, it is going to be a busy week. I have to spend some time in the garden. The peas go in on Monday and I would like to have my strawberry barrels prettied up and some lettuce and spinach in the ground. It is time to put those seeds to work!

Monday- Make black beans. Large pot of veggie soup, green salad and bread. My soup isn't fancy, but it is tasty and fills the belly.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 red onion, diced
1 Tbsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
6 cups organic chicken stock
4 large carrots, cut into 1/4" slices
2 BPA free cans of diced tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato paste
small head of cabbage, diced
6 small organic red potatoes, quartered
1 cup of beans
1/2 cup of small pasta (or broken spaghetti)
Salt and pepper to taste - go for it. The salt will slow the flavors to meld.

1) In a large Dutch oven, over medium heat, pour a tbsp of EVOO. Sautée onions and garlic.
After they soften, add rosemary and stir for a minute. Add carrots and stir occasionally for two minutes. Add the broth and use a wooden spoon to scrape any bits from the bottom of the Dutch oven. Add all ingredients except for pasta. Bring to a gentle boil and then simmer for 30 minutes.

2) Add pasta. Simmer for 15 minutes and serve with grated Parmesan on top.

Tuesday - leftover soup, green salad and bread

Wednesday- Kalua pork from La Fuji Mama (recipe), coconut rice and beans, green salad. 16-20 hours in the crockpot for this one. For real!!

Thursday- Burritos using Kalua pork, rice and beans, and sautéed spinach.

Friday - Coconut Curry Soup (recipe) from The Sweet Spot, roasted broccoli, cauliflower and sweet potato and green salad


Thursday, February 16, 2012

Planting Peas

I overheard someone in the hardware store last year. They claimed, "You ALWAYS plant your peas on President's Day." Well, it was two weeks past, so I knew I had missed the boat. Then there was the whole Towhee saga. Peas were moderately successful in our garden last year. We had plenty to snack on; however I was not able to freeze as many as I had wished.

This is a new year and right now I am in research mode. First, I created my seed list and checked out that my seeds were safe. Next, I started to calendar when I will be planting everything. Now there is the ideal time to plant and the realistic time. But what if you are unsure WHEN to plant. Off to Google Search and I found this from the WSU Extension campus (which happens to be on our island). Local and trustworthy.
Is it True That Peas Should Be Planted on February 22nd, Washington's Birthday? That seems awfully early.

Some gardeners with light, well-drained soils may want to plant on this traditional date. Most of us with typical, heavy, western Washington soils should wait until early to mid-March. The extra time will allow the soil to dry and warm a bit more.

Peas are quite hardy, but they will rot if planted in cold, soggy soil. Last year on February 22nd I took a picture of ducks wading in a big puddle in the middle of a Seattle community garden. With the unusually wet winter we have had so far, a delay will probably be needed again this spring for many of us. For lots more information on growing peas, see All About Peas. ~ Holly Kennell, Extension Agent, WSU
Alrighty.  Next resource, The Farmer's Almanac. Their site is loaded with great info and I have bookmarked this one that lists the best planting dates for seeds. (The link is for my local info, just type in your zip code to find out yours). Well low and behold, it says from "January 28- February 11". Well, I have missed the boat again!

This year President's Day is on Monday, February 20. That is the day my peas will go in. Last year they went in during the first week of March. We will see!

A bit about growing peas.

1) There are three main types: a) Sugar Snap, b) Shelling and c) Snow. Sugar Snap Peas are a kid-favorite variety because you can pull them right off the vine and have a snack. Plump-bodied and you can eat it pod and all. Very few make it to our kitchen. Shelling Peas are great for blanching and freezing or drying so you can have that fresh spring taste during the winter months. Snow Peas, with their flat pods, are also great for freezing and using fresh in stir-frys, pasta dishes and salads. This year we will be starting out with Sugar Snap and Shelling Peas.

2) Soak before you plant. Get those seeds in some water 12-24 hours before you put them in the ground.

3) Provide them with a climbing space. Once they sprout, they will send out tendrils that be searching for a place to connect. The more they connect, the more they grow. Beware, if you do not provide this space for them, you will end up with a matted mess. I like to use 4" square netting and I gently guide the tendrils to open spaces.

Oops! Give them climbing space.
4) Inoculate or no? Many gardeners use an inoculant of nitrogen-fixing bacteria to boost their seeds. This is helpful in newly tilled soil; however, if you are planting in an established garden, it is not as necessary.

5) Protect those seeds! Last year, I placed cloching fabric over my seeds for the first three weeks. This will keep the birds from picking them clean. Also, once those tender little shoots are popping through, they provide another treat for the local herbivores. Protect, but give them room to grow. I had serious bird issues last year and I forgot to remove the netting I had put up to protect the peas. Serious waste of plants. They started growing all over one another. Boo.

6) Harvest every 1-3 days to keep the plants productive.

7) These are nitrogen-fixing plants and they are great for your soil. When your harvest is done, till the shoots under to compost over the winter for an added boost. Good stuff.

8) Plant extras so you can use the shoots in stir-frys in the Spring. They are delicate and full of that fresh taste Spring brings to our plates from our garden.

When planting:

  • Plant when the temps are cool. Soil needs to be 45 degrees and soil should not stick to your tools. Early Spring or Early Fall in most zones. 
  • Soak your seeds
  • Inoculate your seeds
  • Plant your seeds 1" deep and two inches apart.
  • Give them support.
  • Direct fertilizer can damage the seeds. Be careful.
  • Mulch plants once the shoots have emerged to keep the soil cool.

Which varieties will you be planting this year? Do you have any helpful pea planting tips?

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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Territorial Seed Company and Monsanto

After I posted my 2012 seed list, I received a couple of messages about using Territorial Seed Company's seeds since they were owned by Monsanto. Yikes! What!?! I am not one to wait around with this type of thing, so I started doing a little research on Google and my jaw was dropping. News that TSC was buying seeds from Seminis, who was purchased by Monsanto, was mentioned quite a few times. News that TSC was owned outright by Monsanto. Are you kidding me?

I needed to get to the bottom of this because the more I researched, the more the information seemed to swagger.

This afternoon I sent the following message:

I am just about to complete my order with TSC and I wanted to make sure none of the seeds I am purchasing are from Seminis or any other Monsanto-affiliated company. Could you please provide me with a list of any of your seeds that are purchased via Monsanto or Seminis and any seeds that are GMO?

Thank you in advance for your help with this.

Territorial's rapid response:
We don't purchase any seed from Seminis nor Monsanto.

My response:
Thank you for the quick response. I had read online that one of the companies you purchased seed from (Seminis) was purchased by Monsanto and a note saying TSC was selling Monsanto seeds and yet another saying TSC was purchased by Monsanto. So, just to confirm, are all of these accusations false? I will gladly post information on my blog to that effect if they are. I loathe all of the misinformation that makes it to the web. 

Thanks again for the quick response,

Territorial's response:
The information is false. We are owned by Tom and Julie Johns, and we don't purchase seed from Seminis nor Monsanto.

Thank you to Territorial Seeds for responding so quickly on this important matter. Without healthy seeds, you cannot have a healthy garden. I appreciate their ethics surrounding this difficult topic. Now go order some seeds from them, peas are supposed to go in on Monday!

Do you want to see if your favorite seed company signed the Safe Seed Pledge? Check here.

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Mental Chew's 2012 Seed & Plant List

Ok, I have done it. I have decided what we will plant in our garden for now. I have gone with three different companies this year for several reasons. 1) History with the company 2) Organic or heirloom 3) Convenience (available on the island) 4) Just kind of fun!

Seeds marked with a * are varieties I have used before with success.

Also, as I plan, I like to use Territorial Seed's planting chart. Very helpful.

Botanical Interests
Bush Bean - Tiger's Eye (drying)
Cucumbers - Homemade Pickles
Peas - Progress #9 (shelling)
*Radish - Cherry Belle
*Spinach - Tyee
Sunflowers - Mammoth Russian
*Zucchini - Black Beauty

Seed Savers Exchange
Bean - Hidatsa Red (drying)
*Carrot - Danvers
Gourd - Apple
Kale - Lacinto
Lettuce - Grandpa Admire's
Sunflowers - Sunflower Mixture
*Swiss Chard - 5 Color Silverbeet

Territorial Seed Company
Artichoke - Green Globe
*Basil - Sweet Basil
Bean - Scarlet Emperor Bean
Corn - Golden Bantam
*Garlic - Music (bulbs)
*Leeks - Giant Musselburgh
*Lettuce - Valmaine (Romaine)
*Marigolds - Bonanza Mix
*Onions - Walla Walla (bulbs)
*Peas - Cascadia (snap)
Pole Beans - Kentucky Blue
*Potatoes - French Fingerlings
*Potatoes - German Butterballs
*Potatoes - Yukon Golds
*Pumpkin - Howden
*Pumpkin - Small Sugar
*Radish - Cherry Belle
Shallots - Santé Shallots
Summer Savory
Summer Squash - Superpik Squash (yellow)
Sunflowers - Kong
*Tomato - Oregon Cherry Tomato (plants)

Do you want to see if your favorite seed company signed the Safe Seed Pledge? Check here.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Weekly Menu - February 13

This week I will be cooking some new recipes, which I am sure I will change a bit.

Monday- Mah Na Mah Naan - a favorite

Tuesday- Rachael Ray's Vodka Cream Pasta and Green Salad

Wednesday- Turkey and Zucchini Burgers with Baked Sweet Potato Fries and Green Salad

Thursday- Garlic Roasted Shrimp with Brown Fice, Steamed Broccoli and Green Salad

Friday- Black Bean Chili with Butternut Squash

Bon Appetit!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Last of the list - dried beans

It is all coming down to beans. My seed list has been vacillating from no bean seeds to five different varieties. This isn't something we have done before, but since we use so many, it seems to make sense and there are really beautiful varieties out there.

Do you have any experience with dried beans?

Which varieties do you like?

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Gardening with Kids: Plotting Out the Garden and Seed Selection Revisited

The seed catalogs have taken a little rest, but are still ever-present on the dining room table where every meal is consumed. There is a hint of apprehension in this next step, because I am a former math and science teacher and it requires graph paper. To be honest, this is my chocolate and I need to break it into pieces and share.

Step 1: Measure the Beds
Now, I know the measurement of our beds, of course, but the Little Man gets to measure. As I was gently picking grass and weeds out of the beds, he approached with the huge tape measure and a smile. "I was trying to scare you Mom", this is his latest entertainment which has added a few gray hairs to my collection. So, I asked him if he wanted to be the "holder" or the "walker" and I knew the answer before he did. I placed the tape measure at the end of the bed and told him to start walking and to tell me the number when he reached the end of the bed. This may seem like a straightforward request; it was not. He walked past the end and measured to the left, then the right. I assured him it is more accurate if the tape measure is straight and we only measure the area where there is dirt. For some reason, this deflates him. Egos are gentle things. After he accurately reads, "96 inches" we talked about how many feet are in 96 inches and where we could see that on the tape measure. He's back. We measured the short side and the other two beds, could we measure him? Of course. 44". Yikes. And Mom? 65 1/2...I hold on to that half. He grabbed the tape measure and set off measuring everything in sight as I tightened up the netting around the beds. Enough for today.

Our measurements: 4x8, 5x18 and 5x15

Step 2: Graph Paper
I use two squares to represent each foot and I like straight lines. After two attempts with grunts and sighs, I decided we should each have our own copy. One bed per sheet of graph paper.

First, I divide the bed into 1'x 1' squares and I have my companion gardening list handy.

My next step it to divide the bed into usable areas. I know where my summer squash and peas will live and the semi-shady spot where my spinach loves to grow. Slowly, but surely, we start to fill in the squares. It never fails that our "Dream Seed List" is longer than our garden space will provide.

Step 3: Serious Discussion
It is time for a family meeting. How much are we willing to build on to the garden this year? We have decided that we will add an artichoke bed and clear out some Spirea to create some more cloche space and the Good Apple says he wants to plants some corn. I say, "We will see" on this one. Lil Man wants to be guaranteed sunflowers. Ok. It sounds like we are going to have an incredibly busy spring.

Next up...our seed list is coming!

"If a child is to keep his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement, and mystery of the world we live in."
~Rachel Carson

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