Our garden


I am sitting outside, listening to Regina Spektor on Pandora, watching20120605-210109.jpg my girls as they are running around, exploring, eating sliced apples and herbs, swinging on their new homemade swing, playing with sticks, and foraging for20120605-210148.jpg red, juicy alpine strawberries all over our yard. I have taken a few pictures of our yard and garden, that I am thrilled to share with you. One of these days I will stop taking all my pictures with my phone and start taking pictures on my camera. Until then, if you will kindly please use your creative colorful, active imagination to make my yard and garden more beautiful. Dom and I dug up a bunch of grass a couple months ago and planted a garden for our girls. It was slow going thanks to the help of some hungry slugs, but it is doing much better now, thanks to about a month of sunshine.  We have a few other patches of ground as well as some barrels planted. 20120605-210136.jpgSo far we have a couple different varietals of heirloom potatoes, kale, mustard greens, mini bell peppers, Mt. Orach spinach, Heirloom tomatoes, a couple different types of mint(for teas, Middle Eastern Dishes, and mojitos), carrots, radishes, 20120605-210702.jpgbroccoli, tomatoes, sugar snap peas, pole beans, bush beans, sunflower volunteers, kohlrabi. There is an edible elderberry bush planted in one of our barrels. Our inherited bush did not produce any berries last Summer, so we will see if it does anything this year. We need to get around to relocating it to a sunny patch 20120605-210225.jpgof ground in the Fall. We have some stunning flowers blooming this time of year, including poppies, irises, peonies, red hot pokers, lilies,  honeysuckle, to name a few.Our cherry trees, apple trees, fig tree, and berry bushes are already teasing us, with obscene amounts of unripe fruit.20120605-210413.jpgThe promise of 20120605-210324.jpgjuicy, sweet, crunchy, tart, nourishing, fresh picked snacks, is enough to drive us mad. Not to mention the thought of all the jams, pies and crisps, we will make over the summer and share with friends and family. Yes, the unripe fruit will taunt us for at least another couple months. It is getting a little breezy, so I am going to take the girls inside for a snack and maybe a cup of hot chocolate.

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Dark chocolate is a health food…

I would like to start out this post with two simple statements, dark chocolate is a health food, and my oven has been broken for about two weeks. Now, without further ado, I would like to tell you about some no bake little candies that I have been making lately and sharing with grateful neighbors and friends. Oh, I have also been sharing them with myself, in the form of an occasional 9:30pm sneak sweet treat, with a cup of peppermint tea, sitting in front of the “Boob Tube.” I know I know, very “couch potato chic” of me.  Anyway, the original recipe came on the back of a package of Chinese crunchy snack noodles. I have changed it considerably to suit my tastes, and what I have in my pantry. I have made this recipe three times in the last two weeks, and the ingredients vary each time. I use 1 bar of good dark chocolate(feel free to use 12-18 oz dark chocolate chips) , and 4 squares of Baking Chocolate. I melt them in a double boiler or in a microwave, stirring every 10-15 seconds. I then add 1 cup Chinese noodles, 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded or flaked coconut, 3/4 cup raisins, 20120425-193648.jpgor dried cherries, or chopped up dried figs, or dried blueberries. Mix until everything is coated in chocolate. Drop small loose spoonfuls onto a parchment covered sheet pan, and sprinkle with kosher or sea salt. Set them on the counter for 5 minutes to cool before placing in the refrigerator to set up and harden. The sprinkle of salt really makes the chocolate extra delicious. Please make these rich, decadent morsels, and let me know what you think. By the way, have I mentioned, my oven has been broken for two weeks? More on my broken oven later…

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I have been away for a while…

Hi there! I have been away for a while. I have wanted to write, but something, or should I say someone has been keeping me from it. Dominic’s Grandfather, 20120423-101240.jpgBop bop, a truly great man, and someone very dear to my heart, passed away a few months ago. I have been very sad missing him ever since, and I anticipate always. In between Bop bop thoughts, I have to step away from the computer and go to the bathroom to wipe my tears with some toilet paper. Yes, we are a family that uses toilet paper for other thing besides wiping our nether regions…which reminds me of a funny story. My loving, kind, beautiful, diplomatic Mother In Law approached me when she last visited and said to me in kind of a hushed voice that she needed to ask me a question. She made it clear she did not want to offend me or embarrass me(I think those were the words she used). By the way, I need to interject and tell you that I really love my MIL. I am not like those women that say they love their MIL, but really don’t “Love” their MIL. I mean I don’t love my MIL in a I want to marry her kind of way, but let’s face it, If my Father In Law did not see her first, I would consider it.

20120423-101255.jpgOk, seriously, I need to tell you this before my kids come in and see I am writing you…and then I will have to stop and read Rapunzel about 20 times. My soon to be 4 year old Marjie will ask every time, “Mama, I have a question, how did Rapunzel get up in the tower, ” I would reply sweetly, “honey, I think there is a ladder behind that tree, as I pointed to a tree. Then at the end of the story she will ask, “mama, how did the witch get down from the tower.” I will reply,”I don’t think the witch ever came down from the tower, and that is how and why Rapunzel and the prince lived happily ever after.” My answers seem to satisfy her, at least for right now.

Anyway back to my conversation with my MIL. Ok, so at this point, I am not sure what she is going to ask me, and by this time I am smiling, leaning in closer. She says to me, “Would you mind terribly if we purchase some tissues.” I start giggling, because that is the question that she thought 20120423-101312.jpgwould offend me or embarrass me. I was neither offended nor embarrassed. I think we were in a drug, or food store at the time and we went right over and put some tissues in the cart. Ever since then we have kept a box of tissues in the room where my In-laws sleep when they are visiting. I never think to use it when I am, say wiping tears from my eyes, as It is for my dear friend, my MIL.

So when I first began this post I was talking about our much loved by all, special, kind hearted, generous, grandfather, Bop bop. I am pretty sure I loved him from the first time I met him about 10 years ago in Oakhurst, CA. I remember Dominic and I were just dating at the time and he took me to meet Bop, and I felt warm and welcome from his first greeting. He always had a healthy love and respect for life, a lovely way 20120423-101327.jpgwith words(both written and spoken), and an easy, joking way about him. We shared a wonderful rapport, respect, and love for his family and each other. I miss him so much and am so happy I had the immense pleasure of knowing him for 10 years. I recently had a conversation with my MIL about her Dad, and the conversation made me feel happier. So now you know the reason I have been away for so long. Winter is behind us, Spring is upon us and Summer is fast approaching. I am looking forward to sharing my past, present and future projects and adventures with you. Please be patient with me and definitely stay tuned…

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Thank you Fannie Farmer

Ahhhh, quiet time…wish there was such a thing in my home. I do get to have semi quiet time though, so most days I can count on 1-5 minutes of uninterrupted thought. Today I am thinking about what to make with our leftover cup of steel cut oats. I am thinking about our favorite breakfast/snack muffin. We have had leftover steel cut oatmeal for the last few days and I have made a couple batches of these muffins, and we all 20120201-133721.jpglove them so much, I am contemplating baking yet another batch. Hmmmmmm…I think we are going to go outside again to enjoy some more beautiful Oregon sunshine instead. While we are still in semi quiet time mode, I will share the recipe with you along with some photos of these delicious beauty’s. Please note the original recipe can be found in The Fannie Farmer Cookbook, Thirteenth Edition. See photo for original recipe.

Here is my adaptation of Fannie Farmer’s Recipe

Healthy Leftover Oatmeal Muffins

Mix together dry ingredients20120201-133511.jpg
1 1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
1 T raw organic sugar
4 t baking powder
1 t kosher salt
1 cup shredded coconut

Mix together wet ingredients
1/2 cup milk
1 medium ripe banana mashed
2 T coconut oil melted
1 cup dried cranberries

1- 1 1/2 cups cooked steel cut oatmeal
(Mix oatmeal and oil together, then mash in banana, add cranberries, then stir in milk)

Preheat20120201-133522.jpg the oven to 400 degrees. Coconut oil a 12 cup muffin pan. Combine dry ingredients with wet ingredients, and mix until all the flour is absorbed. Divide the batter 20120201-133533.jpgevenly among the 12 cups. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the tops of the muffins are a light golden color. These muffins are moist and airy, and full of yummy substance and nutrients. Enjoy them plain or with a light spread of sunflower seed or peanut butter or Coconut Manna.

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Guacamole and more…

I have not posted for over a week, due to life getting in the way. Life like… needing to wash my hair every 3 days(whether it needs it or not). 20120131-135329.jpgPlaying outside in the fresh air, (and mostly sunshine) with my girls. Crocheting my throw(yes, you heard right, I am still crocheting my throw). Reading stories to my girls. Making healthy, tasty meals for my family. Going to Cindy’s Gym, Singing songs with my girls. Making crafts with my girls, Going for walks with my girls. Going for rides with my girls. Having fun with my girls. Being driven crazy by my beautiful, wonderful girls. And oh, I almost forgot, Dominic went out of town on business, for five days…

Seeing as I have been out of practice, I thought I would get my feet wet, talking about today’s afternoon snack. Want to try to guess what it is? This recipe is a super easy, super delicious, family favorite. The recipe’s star fruit is so succulent and creamy, everyone from babies to adults love it. In fact, some mothers introduce it as one of babies first foods, as It is jam packed with nutrients. It is considered somewhat of a super food. Did you20120131-120742.jpg guess avocado? I guess putting guacamole in the title of this post kind of gave the riddle away, huh?

Today I am going to make my own chips with some corn tortillas I have on hand, cause that’s just how I roll. Let’s begin by cutting 5-8 small corn tortillas into 8 triangle20120131-124149.jpgs each and place them staggered on parchment covered sheet pan. Spray them with olive oil spray and then sprinkle salt, pepper and cumin, and/or mild chili powder. Put the sheet pan into a preheated 350 degree 20120131-120753.jpgoven for 6-7 minutes, rotate sheet pan and leave in for about 7 minutes more. Keep checking chips to make sure they are crisping and not burning.20120131-120807.jpg

Scoop the flesh of 2-3 avocados into a bowl. Add 1/2 onion chopped, handful of chopped up cilantro leaves and stems, the juice of very juicy lime or juice of two not so juicy limes to taste(I like my guacamole with a lot of lime),20120131-133808.jpg one pinch of kosher salt and one grind of fresh ground pepper. Mash with potato masher and let sit until chips are done. This will allow the flavors to meld and get even more yummy. Serve this luscious 20120131-134322.jpgguacamole with the delicious chips you just made, or cut up a few sweet organic carrots. Makes a really easy afternoon snack that your kids will love as much as you do. Here’s to the avocado, and healthy easy snacking in 2012. Enjoy this recipe.

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Making kefir bread and onion soup

Since long before the holidays, I have been feeling restless, irritable, and irrational, and have been craving a clean, uncluttered environment. Everyday, I try to clean a few areas, the kitchen, sweep the wood floors, swish the toilets… I clean sporadically throughout my day and at the end of the day, I still have a home that is “lived in.” My “lived in” home is always complete with food on the floor for “snacking” the next day, rings around the toilet, because we try to conserve water by only flushing if we make number 2, and couch throws, cushions and pillows and toys that are always strewn all over the floor, beckoning to be tripped over, and/or picked up and put in their “home.” On the super duper bright side, I have two happy, incredible, well loved, smart, social, kind, loving girls who are growing and developing beautifully.20120120-005408.jpg

I have started a new hobby over the last six months, baking bread. About one day a week I put bake bread on my to do list. At the end of the day I have a loaf or two of bread, and this makes the restless me, feel accomplished. About a week ago I was looking online for unique bread recipes, and I ran across this recipe for kefir bread. I found this recipe very interesting, and very accessible, because I had at least 3 cups of homemade kefir in my fridge, the recipe only had a few ingredients, and quite frankly, it looked like an easy peasy bread to make. I changed the recipe a bit, to suit my needs, so stay tuned and keep reading, and I will take you through my bread making experience/adventure.

Jill, “what’s up with this kefir making?” you ask. That is a great question, I am happy you asked, let me tell you. I s20120120-005416.jpgtarted making my own Kefir a couple months ago when a friend gave me some grains. I make it using 2 % organic pasteurized milk, and have really enjoyed nurturing and feeding the grains, on a daily basis, and harvesting and drinking my kefir. It’s like having a nutritious pet, that you can drink, that does not go to the bathroom on your kids, your husbands or your Father-In-Laws  stuff, (kind of weird, cool, awesome pet, huh?) I drink a half a cup of kefir most mornings, after my cup of hot water with lime. 20120120-004430.jpgI also make smoothies for my girls with frozen raspberries or strawberries from this past summer. Once every week I eat a small spoonful of yummy kefir grains, I love their texture and creaminess.

So back to the kefir bread. Once you mix the initial ingredients, you need to let them sit in a warm spot in a covered well oiled bowl for 24 hours. I started making the kefir bread yesterday morning at 9am. I put 4 cups of Bob’s Red Mill whole wheat flour and 2 cups of King Arthur AP unbleached white flour, and 4 tsp kosher salt, in my Kitchen Aid stand mixer. Then I added about 24 oz 20120120-004442.jpgkefir, from my fridge, one cup at a time. I mixed on medium speed, for about 3-4 minutes until the dough came away from the sides of the mixer bowl. I took the dough out of the mixing bowl and washed out and dried the bowl and then greased it with coconut oil. I kneaded the bread a little with about a half a cup of AP flour until it did not stick to my fingers, and then formed it into a ball and placed it in the prepared bowl and covered it with coconut oiled saran wrap. I placed the bowl under my counter, over my heating vent, we call it our “proofing cabinet.”9am this morning, I rolled the dough out of the bowl, onto a floured cutting board(I am so happy I oiled the bowl and saran wrap). I proceeded to knead the dough with 2 cups of AP flour for about 5 minutes. I removed 3 fist sized dough amounts to make some rolls to snack on. I shaped the remaining dough into a loaf to fit in my coconut oiled loaf pan and placed the loaf pan and the rolls on a parchment 20120120-004503.jpgcovered sheet pan, and then covered both with oiled saran wrap . I stored it away in my “proofing cabinet,”for it’s 2nd rise for 4 hours. At 2pm, I baked the sheet pan at 350 degrees. The rolls were done at 30 minutes and the loaf stayed in til 45 minutes. The girls and I loved the bread!!! Dominic thought it tasted like it was made with yogurt. We all agreed that it was really delicious, toasted, with some simple onion soup we ate for dinner.

Here is the reci20120120-004519.jpgpe for my simple onion soup. Take 2 t us butter and 2 t ev olive oil and put them in a stock pot, over low heat. Take 8 small onions, cut them in half and then slice them, add them to the pot. Stir occasionally, scraping the bottom, adding water if needed. About an hour later, or whenever the onions are getting brown, Take 3 cloves of garlic and mince them, and add them to the pot. Stir to incorporate, and wait 10 minutes. add 1-2 t of Worcestershire sauce and stir into onion/garlic mixture for 5 minutes. Add 32 oz of beef stock and 16 oz of chicken stock. Add bunch of fresh thyme from your garden tied with cooking twine, so you can easily remove it when the soup is finished. Add 4 grinds of black pepper. Taste soup in 10 minutes and adjust seasonings if needed. Simmer on low for a half hour. Serve with a hearty slice of toasted kefir bread. I hope you make and enjoy this meal as much a we did, and cheers to the restless you, may you find a hobby or something that makes you feel accomplished at the end of the day.

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The sky’s the limit

I might jinx myself, Dominic, us, our family, our sanity, writing about this topic, thinking about this topic, or speaking about this topic, but here goes nothing…

Three20120112-210724.jpg nights ago both my 3 1/2 year old, Marjie and my 2 year old, Georgie wanted to wear big girl underwear to bed. Here is a little back story. That morning marked the end of Marjie’s fifth night with a dry diaper, and we were overjoyed!!!! The nighttime potty training “rule” in our house is, if you go five nights with a dry diaper, you get to wear big girl underwear to bed the sixth night. If you then wet the underwear, bed, or anything else, you go back to wearing diapers(boo hoo). Ok, so with that said, Marjie wearing big girl underwear was a no brainer, right? the idea of Georgie, wearing big girl underwear to bed, on the other hand, was challenging, potentially messy, but interesting and freeing. Georgie was so convinced she would not wet the bed, her conviction sold me. As long as their is no danger, Dom and I also try not to stifle either of our girls desire to be a little more independent, instead, we support and celebrate their ideas, their need to try and their accomplishments. And what the hay, If they both stay dry, we never have to purchase anymore diapers….jackpot.

Hang on, I need to take a moment… The thought of no more diapers made and makes me so happy, wait a sec, I think I was just in Florence and or Siena. I was painting a masterpiece of a beautiful balcony above bursting with blooms. I was standing below in a stunning piazza, with a gorgeous view of a duomo, David, and my favorite pizza place across the river. One of my hands is holding a paintbrush and the other is lovingly holding a gelato, a wedge of aged pecorino, a slice of pizza, a house red, a winning lottery ticket and my husband’s hand…oh, never mind how many hands I have in my happy place. I just love it when I go to my happy place.

Anyway, Dom and I quickly made the decision and I told Georgie that she could go pick out some big girl underwear to wear to bed and she was over the moon happy, jumping around, clapping her hands laughing, and smiling so brightly, I started giggling. We all took a family trip to the bathroom. Got our night clothes on sans diapers, and here we are in real time on the fourth night, both girls still wearing big girl underwear to bed. I am so proud of my strong independent little girls and myself and Dominic for letting go of control a little. Our daughters can and will discover that they can do anything they put their minds too, and that the sky’s the limit. Helping them along the journey is and will be the finest thing Dominic and I have and will ever do. Cheers to family, the sky’s the limit, celebrating our individual journeys and accomplishments, and the interesting, strange, unique places that make us happy.

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