Friday, February 22, 2013


4 Year Old: "'Sexy' means 'really really gross,' right?"

7 Year Old: "No. 'Sexy' means ATTRACTIVE."

4 Year Old: "What is ATTRACTIVE?"

7 Year Old: "It means, like, really beautiful and it, like, makes people want to love you and stuff." (heaves a huge sigh) "I'm kind of like that. It's so annoying."

Oh, my poor ATTRACTIVE 7 year old. Life is rough.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Violets in Winter

I made two statements in the last week that nobody should every say. The first was "I don't get sick." The second: "I don't believe in hand sanitizer." I am being punished for both of those statements.

Stuck at home for yet another day, we made do with what we had lying around. We painted rocks, assembled some left-over sun-catcher kits, read MANY chapters of How To Speak Dragonese, and snuck in a few games of handball between torrential downpours of rain and hail. None of us are inside-all-day folks, even when sick, so the combination of germs and inclement weather has us a bit stir crazy. As I was washing dishes at the sink, my oldest son said "Mom, it's SNOWING!!!" "No, Moses, that is hail," I replied without looking up. "Mom, it really is snow! Look!" And, as usual, he was right. Amongst the rain drops, huge fluffy white snow flakes were floating down from the sky. Each one melted before even touching the ground, but they were enchanting. The three of us stood there with our pathetic drippy noses, gazing out the sliding glass door in silence, enjoying the excitement of snowflakes. It was nice.

I wonder how the violets on the lawn are holding up to all this weather. They show their pretty little faces every February and it excites me every time. Until moving "up the hill" when I was in high school, I had never seen purple flowers growing in a green lawn before. It seems so rebellious of nature to think up something like that. Everything seems so excited for spring - violets on the ground and lots of blossoms on trees. All while we are being told that we may wake up to a fresh blanket of snow tomorrow. I wonder how my freshly sprouted pea plants are doing out there with all this cold and hail. I'll check tomorrow - for now I'll sit here and enjoy my tea.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Inside projects

Small people are pretty sick around here, so in spite of the gorgeous weekend, a lot of time was spent indoors blowing noses, taking medicine, and lounging around. This gave me a nice chance to do the thing I love to do even more (gasp) than gardening: sew! With a sewing cabinet full of half-finished projects I did the most logical thing: started a NEW project. And a super complicated time-consuming intricate one, too. I'm so happy!

Inspired by this mini quilt over at 1/4" Mark, I broke out my fabric scraps and began making a postage stamp quilt. Each square is 1 1/2 inches, finished to 1 inch which is pretty darn little! Each finished block is made up of 169 of these tiny squares. My poor husband just shook his head when he saw the kitchen table completely covered with itty-bitty fabric squares. "What about that other quilt you said would take two years to finish?" he politely asked. "Oh, the hexagon quilt? I'm still working on that, too," I replied with a smile.

I don't know what it is about overwhelming projects - they just call to me. I actually just love the look of things that are intricate. Because the squares are so small, there is a mosaic effect to the overall block that I think is just perfect. Plus, I managed to limit myself to a more controlled color palette than usual which I am finding quite restful. I plan to sort of "quilt as you go" on this project - hand-quilting a bit in the middle of each block and then assembling all the blocks at the end and doing a bit more quilting with the machine. I have a very old book of hand-quilting designs from my Grandma in which I found this flower motif. I've never officially done hand quilting before, so I am not up to date on current methods of transferring the design to the quilt. The book told me to trace the design on freezer paper, punch tiny holes along the lines using a straight pin, position the template on the quilt, then "dust lightly with cinnamon." What do you know, it worked! Once the template was removed, there was my design, which I traced over with a quilting pen. I'm not sure if people still do this anymore, but it worked well enough for me, plus it smelled great. :)

Today is dreary outside and we spent the morning driving back and forth from the doctor getting throat cultures and picking up medicine. There is a movie from the library waiting to be watched, too. Looks like another inside day (though I still have to gather eggs and water everything outside.) Hopefully we'll be feeling better tomorrow. In the mean time I might be able to sneak some more time with my tiny squares.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Raw Zucchini Pasta with Lemony Garlic Vinagrette

Ever since I read the book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, I have tried very hard to only buy fruits and vegetables that are in season. This ensures that we are eating foods that taste the best and that haven't been shipped half-way around to world, wasting valuable resources. Every once in a while I will cave in, though, when I experience a moment of weakness at the imported organic tomato section. Yes, the tomatoes cost $6 per pound, but memories of how delicious my garden-grown heirloom tomatoes taste overpower my environmental guilt and I go for it. But no matter how perfectly ripe it looks and feels, and no matter how much dang money I spend on it, that mid-winter tomato never tastes good. I have done this enough times to be sure of it: tomatoes are not meant to be eaten in February.

But what about zucchini, I wondered? Yesterday there was an unexpected pile of organic zucchini squash in the produce section and as soon as I saw it I could almost taste what I was going to make with it: pasta! Now, I almost never purchase zucchini because I grow so much of it in the summer that the absence of it during the winter is a bit of a relief. But yesterday I just had to have it, grown in Peru or not. Throwing conscientious eating out the window, I snapped up a bag full, grabbed a bunch of fresh basil and hot-tailed it home to see if I could make what I was tasting in my imagination a reality.

To my surprise and delight, I did! First try, too, which is a rarity for me in pretty much anything I do. Sitting down to enjoy my bowl of freshly made pasta was so luxurious - especially for someone who hasn't been able to eat ANYTHING resembling noodles for almost two years (nope, not even the gluten-free ones, dang). My husband was pretty excited too - pasta without the after-pasta bloat? Make a double batch next time!



5 small straight green zucchini
1 small sweet red onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup nicoise style olives, pitted and chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 T olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
2 T fresh basil chopped, or 3 T dry basil
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1.) In a medium sized bowl, combine the olive oil and lemon juice and whisk until well combined. Stir in the minced garlic and set aside.

2.) Using a spiralizer or vegetable peeler, make "noodles" out of your zucchini. (I have a spiralizer but used my peeler this time - just peel and peel until your zucchini are turned into a big beautiful pile of skinny fettucini-like ribbons.) Add these zucchini noodles to your lemon juice vinaigrette along with the onions, olives, and basil.

3.) sprinkle on your salt and pepper and mix well until all the vegetables are well coated. Cover and let sit in the fridge for at least a few hours to allow the flavors to marry.

4.) You could add more salt and pepper before serving depending on your flavor preferences. This would also taste great with the addition of some feta cheese, if you are lucky enough to be able to eat things like that! This recipe serves two people - the perfect guilt-free Valentine's Day treat so that you can indulge in dessert. :)

Monday, February 11, 2013

Compost: a fool-proof garden project

Never in my life did I think I would write a blog post about dirt, but I am about to, with pictures of dirt to boot. Glorious, hand-made dirt. I always knew that hand-made things feel better to me - I enjoy giving hand made gifts, we only have hand made cookies in the house, most of the decorations on the walls are handmade... but I never knew that even hand-made dirt would be more rewarding.

I guess calling it "hand-made" is a bit egocentric of me. I didn't actually make the dirt, after all. I basically just threw all our vegetable scraps in a huge pile and occasionally, when he had been extra naughty, my son dumped in a few bucketfuls of chicken poo as a punishment, but other than that God did all the work. There is a bunch of intimidating science involved and an entire shelf of books at the library on composting, but I had neither the patience or courage to learn the proper way to compost. I convinced my husband to build me an open-topped wooden bin out of old pallets and just started throwing stuff in it. The only rule was to put in only paper and vegetable products. I know there was something about "turning the pile" in some of those composting books - I think I turned ours about 4 times over the course of a year. I also vaguely recalled my brother talking about "browns" and "greens," so I made sure to add leaves in addition to all our green veggie scraps. And then in November I "put the bed to sleep" by covering it over with plywood and starting a new pile right next to it. If I am honest, I thought I would end up with a slimy stinky mess of rotten kitchen garbage, but I was wrong.

I probably violated many hard and fast rules of composting, but all I know is that yesterday I took off the plywood sheets to reveal a gigantic pile of the most beautiful black crumbly vitamin-rich DIRT I have ever seen. It felt like a magic show and Christmas all rolled into one. I was practically giddy as I shoveled scoop after scoop into the wheelbarrow. I mean - this used to be a pile of celery ends, banana peels and coffee filters and now it was just BLACK DIRT! I am still amazed. And a little perplexed that I could be so darn excited about it. I did remember a line from one of the books about composting that I ventured to crack open: "You will never have enough compost." And boy is that true. Two wheelbarrows full finished off my beautiful compost pile, and it was only enough to fill two and a half of my garden beds. *sigh* I am addicted.

I do walk to the new compost pile with a bit more enthusiasm, though, not so annoyed to be hauling a stinky bucket of old kitchen scraps. Now that I know what they will turn into, and have learned just how easy composting actually is, I am happy to do it. How about you - do you compost? If I can do it, anybody can!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Vegan Swiss Chard Dolmas with Garlicky Pesto Quinoa

Greek food has a special place in my heart, mainly because every time my mom took me on a mother-daughter outing (and these were few and far-between due to the three brothers in the mix) we would end up eating lunch somewhere she could have a gyro. Being young and culinarily inexperienced, I would always order a cheeseburger from the "American" section of the menu, but mom always let me take bites of her lunch, and I always wished I had ordered that. Aside from the gyro, possibly the most perfect non-sandwich sandwich on the face of the earth, I am grateful to the Greeks for dolmas. Man those things are good!

Yesterday before dashing out the door to a Super Bowl party laden with snacks that I couldn't eat (baked brie, chips, crackers, cookies, etc.) I decided to make something different. I had a hankering for dolmas, none of the necessary ingredients in the fridge, and not much time. I made do.

These could only loosely be called dolmas. They are more of a little bite-sized burrito or something, but whatever the heck they are, they are yummy. This recipe is really quite versatile - you could put anything you want into your quinoa filling depending on what you have on hand and what you are in the mood for. The chard I used is from my garden and was pretty small and tender - larger leaves would have to be cut smaller. Another idea would be to blanch your chard leaves before rolling the quinoa in them - this would be more dolmas-like, and I have done this before. It takes more time and can be a bit of a soggy operation, but still tastes good. I hope you enjoy these!


1 1/2 cup cooked quinoa
1 cup finely grated green cabbage
1/2 yellow onion, finely diced
1/4 - 1/2 C vegan pesto (recipe below)
salt & pepper to taste
12-15 small swiss chard leaves, tough rib removed

1.) Prepare quinoa according to package directions, the put in fridge to chill. Stir cabbage and diced onion into quinoa, then add pesto. How much pesto you use is up to you - I used closer to 1/2 cup, which made for a very garlicky, pesto-ish (is that a word?) flavor, which I love. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

2.) Put a dollop of quinoa stuffing in the middle of a swiss chard leaf, then roll it up like a burrito. Use a toothpick to pin the whole thing shut.

3.) Enjoy!


2 Cups packed basil leaves
4 cloves garlic
1/2 cup high quality olive oil
1/2 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup lemon juice
salt & pepper to taste

Place all ingredients in food processor and bland till smooth.