Gardening? Try planting only edibles.

1431552893885 Two years ago I read an article that stated if your kids help you plant seeds, watch a vegetable grow then they’ll eat the vegetables. Issue #1 when we planted the carrot seeds – nothing appeared. Issue #2 I had no idea how, what and where to plant things. Issue #3 when something did grow, it was infested with bugs. At that point I brought in the professionals – Seattle Urban Farm Company

WP_20150514_16_33_07_ProThey built a 2’x14′ planter out the front with a cold frame for winter planting, changed the soil in the back vegetable patch, planted seedlings, fertilized and maintained the vegetable gardens. At the same time they educated me in urban gardening. I learned what to plant, how to plant and when to harvest. For example, how to thin out carrots, where to place your tomatoes so you don’t shadow your other vegetable plants, top your snap peas, and how to deal with the bugs and crows! I can’t say enough great  things about this company. Throughout this past winter – I never needed to buy broccoli or kale because I could harvest it from December until March. I’m also growing garlic and it will be harvested in July  (I’ll have enough until Christmas)! As soon as Spring arrived here in Seattle – the urban farmer was out – planting snap peas, bok choy, new broccoli, kale, carrots, beets, potatoes, spinach, lettuce and cabbage. Recently the tomatoes went in. The company has a variety of maintenance and assistance programs. If you’re in the Seattle area I highly recommend you call for an estimate. If you’re out of the area – they have written a fabulous book Food Grown Right in Your Backyard
It’s very informative and easy to digest. After reading it, I was able to decrease the maintenance plan and harvest the vegetables timely and correctly to encourage new growth to have a second and third harvest of that plant.

Last spring, I tried planting only edible plants, since my girls eat us out of fruit within a day of buying it. It was a success! I was able to use all of my herbs throughout the year and my blueberries and strawberries all came back. I had my first strawberry harvest today. If you’re in the USA,  Dutch Gardens has a fabulous online catalog and offers unique fruit planting. I have strawberries that are designed for hanging baskets and blueberries for pots. They do have a variety of other perennials which you won’t find at your local nursery. A secret with Basil – put it indoors in a glass of water and it will grow throughout the year. You can have fresh basil all year round.

Another little secret is copper Slug and Snail Tape.
You can also use copper pennies (Canadians can use the old penny) throughout your pots, but the tape is great if you have a large box.

The slug tape stuck to the vegetable box.

The slug tape stuck to the vegetable box.

Happy gardening.

What’s in my basket?

The container in my car!

The container in my car!

If you’re a parent to young children you will hear the screams and the attitudes when you’re kids are hungry. And if you’re like me you’ve scheduled loads of playdates at parks, signed you’re kids up in numerous activities that are at least 30 minutes from home and run into construction at least once a day, probably at 4pm.

My kids are extremely active, and my belief for our family is if you’re hungry then eat…but eat relatively good food that will sustain you and give you energy. Since my kids are active therefore I’m active and therefore I get hungry when my kids do. So I pack a basket in my car. Actually it’s a container from the Container Store with the lid off so I can easily grab a snack. (Note: I have tried to do the eat only at meal times but my kids are on the small and frequent meal plan, not by my doing)

So what’s in my basket/container at all times?

Almonds – dry roasted from Whole Foods (I found an almond that the girls and I like with no salt)
Pretzels – both salted sticks and non salted rings
Harvest Snaps, Baked and Lightly Salted
Amazon and Costco carry the big bags, QFC carries the small ones.

Chukar Cherry Medley If you buy them from Pikes Place Market you get a discount. I sometimes switch these out for dried blueberries.

Peter Rabbit Organics I only provide the vegetable ones, since my girls eat an enormous amount of fruit without encouragement. My girls love the sweet potato, the spinach and the carrot flavors.

Peanuts – plain (I buy the ones that you grind to make peanut butter from Whole Foods) Also the girls do love the peanuts from CB Nuts but that’s usually saved for road trips.

CB’s Nuts Organic Pumpkin Seeds

Back to Nature Crispy Cheddar Crackers – I buy two varieties: cheddar and whole grain.

Sesame Sticks – Whole Foods sells a few flavors, we enjoy the turmeric ones.

Granola Bars – Clif Bar Energy Bar, Peanut Toffee Buzz is our favorite and Taste of Nature Snack Bars comes in close second.

Raisins – small boxes or you’ll have them all over your car!

Planters Deluxe Whole Cashews Canister, Lightly Salted

Supplies: Spoons – plastic ones that can be recycled (washed and reused). By having spoons in the car I can grab some yoghurt in the morning and not worry about forgetting the spoons. Kleenex for tears and wipes for hands and face.

You may wonder what is the state of my car. It’s not that bad. I do have a rule for myself that when I go to a gas station I must clean out the garbage while the tank is filling up. I do try, when I get home at the end of each day, to clean out the garbage and now I’ve started training/encouraging the girls to remove their trash.

My supply chain- when I grab the last box of granola bars from my storage room, I reorder so I don’t run out of supplies in the car. I try to choose things that I can reach easily into the container and hand them to the kids. I also choose items that I like so when I get hungry I get something that can sustain me. Having a snack supply that stays in my car has decreased the tantrums – both for my kids and myself. Think about yourself…have you found yourself heading into a meeting or an appointment and you are famished. You become a bit grumpy and rushed because you’re hungry. Having some nuts or something with protein in it keeps you going until you can get to a meal. What are some of the other items I always have in my car?

  1. Water – I have a large container of water for myself and refills for the girls water bottles. If we’re out at a park and they’ve used up all their water I don’t want to be caught without.
  2. Backpack – in this bag I have an extra set of clothes for the girls including underwear. Even though they are potty trained I always have an extra set in the car for emergencies. Kalencom 2-in-1 Potette Plus Red For the parks that have filthy toilets or for “I gotta go right now while driving” or at a park that has no facilities – it’s great to have this in your backpack.
  3. Tennis Balls taped together – for me. I have a bad back and when carrying children after scraped knees or falls, climbing on jungle gyms – my back sometimes needs a good roll.
  4. Old towel – in Seattle it rains. So when the sun comes out we head out to the parks. But the slides and swings can be wet so having an old towel to wipe it down makes the parks more fun. As summer approaches and the days are warmer – we all spend one more minute at the parks. But as soon as we get into the car the tantrums may start because we’ve past snack time, haven’t had enough food or water and we get stuck in traffic – I find having a container full of snacks at hand  helps you get home with your sanity still in tack.Oh and if you’re meeting your husband/partner for an appointment and he hasn’t eaten all day – it’s also great for him!

I’m always on the lookout for good snack foods that can stay in my car. Let me know yours.

Enjoy the weather

I’m a Jammer – it’s what you do with 35lbs of cherries!

1 bowl = 4lbs of cherries

1 bowl = 4lbs of cherries

During the last part of June our cherry tree produced over 35lbs of cherries. We and I mean the royal ‘We’ the six humans (2 kids, 2 adults, 2 sitters) and the dog could not eat that many cherries. My husband said I could always make jam like his mother use to. If you knew me back in the day – the idea of picking, pitting and making homemade jam would not be something that I’d do.

It started while I was walking through the grocery store, I saw Mason Jars. I love Mason Jars. So I finally said why not make jam, as long as someone else picked the cherries. So after attempting to make jam three times the fourth one was the best. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without this website Food In Jars. The blogger is fantastic. She posts recipes from jams, jelly’s, preserves, butters, sauces, chutneys, relishes, soups etc. and she responds to you if you have questions – in which I had a few being a new ‘jammer’. I highly recommend you check it out especially if you’re new to jamming. In addition, she has a glossary of terms i.e. Processing – didn’t know exactly what that meant when I first looked at the Cherry Syrup Recipe. There is a certain technique to making jam/canning – see her Canning 101 it’s incredibly helpful to us novices. Don’t forget to check out her cookbooks Food in Jars: Preserving in Small Batches Year-Round My first attempt – I didn’t use the website as I was unaware of it– I used a recipe from and that version of cherry jam is known as my cherry syrup (which I’ll make again – see recipe below). It’s great on pancakes or in plain yoghurt (I didn’t read the instructions correctly – I needed 3 cups of pitted and crushed cherries not 3 cups of pitted cherries). For my second attempt a friend lead me to Food In Jars and I made the Sour Cherry Jam. My mistake was I did not boil the jam long enough (when they say boil that jam they mean it).

Jamming! 3 have been eaten before this photo was taken.

Jamming! 3 have been eaten before this photo was taken.

The third attempt I experimented with the sugar level, additives such as orange and lemon rind and that jam was quite yummy for those of us who like a bit of ‘splash’ but the fourth the royal WE says it has the perfect consistency, sugar level and ‘splash’ (see variation of recipe below). Well 4 sets of jam only used 16lbs of cherries I still had 19lbs more to use. So I made 3 variations of cherry pies – 2 were eaten and the other cherry filling is in the freezer to bake at a later date (I did eat 1.5 pies), I made a cherry cake, two cherry butter brown bars, cherry popsicle and a cherry clafoutis (which I didn’t like but sitters did). My husband made 4 batches of Molly Moon’s cherry chunk ice cream, I gave 3lbs away to friends and other friends came and picked the remainder cherries from the tree. At the end of my two-week cherry extravaganza my finger nails were stained with cherry juice, my hand was cramped from pitting 35lbs and cherry juice was all over my walls. A neighbor said to me – next year why don’t you set up a cherry stand and sell cherry’s instead of  lemonade. I think I’ll do that.

Listed below are the recipes that I did and their variations.
Cherry syrup (which I’ll make again) My variation: use 3 cups of pitted cherries.

Sour Cherry Jam My variation: use 2 ¾ cups of sugar instead of 3 cups, and 2 tsp of freshly squeezed orange juice

Cherry Pie My variation: I did not use the pastry recipe I used my grandmothers and added 1 1/2 tbsp of fresh lemon juice.

Cherry Brown Butter Bars My variation: I added more cherries because I could and added 1/4 cup of crushed walnuts in the batter.

Plum Torte / Cherry Cake Note: Last summer I used this recipe for the Italian Plumes, then frozen peaches and blueberries and now fresh Cherries. I’ll use it again for the Italian Plums when in season. My variation + a friends too: we added 1/4 cup more butter, 1/2 cup of ground almonds, 1/3 cup more of sugar, and an extra egg. In addition I poured half of the batter in, then spread the fruit over that first layer (make sure you first pat your fruit down with a paper towel to remove excess wetness) then I pour the other half of the batter in and then spread more fruit on top. I then sprinkle it with the topping of cinnamon and sugar.

Cherry Chunk Ice Cream You’ll have to buy the book to get the recipe (it’s so good).


How to get veggies into your kids! (Juice Recipes)

Click here to view just the Juice Recipes

It was just over a year ago that I started juicing (the girls were two). I have two very picky eaters and ones that don’t eat veggies. Yes I did try to expose them 15 times to the same vegetable, yes I did give them veggies to gnaw on when they were babies, and yes I made fun shapes and designs out of vegetables. I even put in a small vegetable garden – had the girls choose their vegetable, plant the seeds, water the seeds but the only ones they would eat would be the peas. After this – I felt like a failure of a mother because I thought I’m not getting my kids to eat vegetables. They will grow up not eating and appreciating the value of vegetables. I hated meal times. I still do. To this day I still carry the Peter Rabbit Organics, Pea, Spinach and Apple Puree, 4.4-Ounce Pouches (Pack of 10) (vegetable ones only) but it makes me feel somewhat better.

Then I was introduced to juicing when I ate at the Willows Inn at Lummi Island. My first juice was carrot, then came lemon balm! Wow! I asked the server what was in it. They specifically told me that it was just fresh carrots for the carrot juice and the lemon balm had some simple syrup (dissolved sugar). All I was thinking about was if I thought this was awesome the girls would like it. (I had tried various green juices before but I couldn’t stomach them, they really didn’t taste great no matter how you tried.) So I decided I’d buy a juicer and start to find juices that I liked and not the ones that are: good for you plug your nose kind. It worked. The girl’s love the juices listed below and drink one every day and I feel like a star.

First you need a juicer, not a blender because the juicer strains out a lot of the pulp. Yes even a Vitamix doesn’t work as well as a juicer. I have a Breville BJE510XL Juice Fountain Multi-Speed 900-Watt Juicer and it’s easy to clean (dishwasher proof) I highly recommend to rinse it right after use, so no pulp is caught in the in-between spots.

How I introduced the girls to juices: I started with carrot juice (its sweet), put them in shot glasses (or use fun new glasses) and called it Super Juice and said this will make them see better and possibly see better in the dark. (Ok I know that studies show this is not the case but it got them to drink it) I also tell them it helps them grow, and builds brain cells to help them learn new things.

So here are some juice recipes that my girls, husband and I love AND get the veggies in. I received a few of these recipes from an avid juicer, plus another twin mom (KG) who puts her juice in a martini glass! I’m still on the search for a broccoli juice. My girls won’t go near broccoli even though I’ve called them trees, had dips for them etc. I did install a green house in hope that if the girls water and take care of the vegetables especially the broccoli they will want to eat what they’ve grown. Fingers crossed.

Juice Recipes

1. Carrot Juice
Carrots – purchase carrots at a farmers market or choose the organic ones in the grocery store that still have their stems on them. Do not buy bagged carrots. Depending on how many people you’re serving cut up 8-10 carrots. Clean the carrots, de-stem, juice and serve. If your kids have texture issues – you can strain it using a strainer over the cup.

2. Beet, Strawberry, Apple, Ginger Juice (Purple Super Juice)
1 beet – cleaned, raw, de-stemmed.
1 cup of strawberries
1 honey crisp apple
Thumbnail of fresh ginger. I put the ginger with the apple when I juice

3. Spinach, Blueberry, Apple, Lemon (Sour Brown Super Juice)
2 heaping handfuls of Spinach (I put this in the juicer with the apple)
1 honey crisp apple
¼-1/2 cup of fresh blueberries
½ peeled lemon

4. Kale, Red Pepper, Cantaloupe, Mango New Favorite
6 stems of Kale (juice it with the cantaloupe)
1 red pepper
1 cup – 1 ½ cup of ripe cantaloupe
1 ripe mango peeled and pit removed

5. Sweet Potato, Red Pepper, Beet, Carrot, Apple, Orange (Pink Super Juice)

Quantity of juice from ingredients 27.5oz

Quantity of juice from ingredients 27.5oz

Ingredients of Pink Super Juice

Ingredients of Pink Super Juice

½ sweet potato (yams)
2 carrots
½ red pepper (picture shows 1/4 because I used it in dinner last night)
1 beet
1 honey crisp apple
1 orange (a great way to use up dry oranges)

Of course when the girls are sick I grab a case of oranges from Costco and juice oranges.

*New Juice 06/19/2014 from a colleague of my husbands. This juice is from “The Big Book of Juices” by Natalie Savona

6.  Beet, Carrot, Celery, Apple, Orange, Ginger (Pinkalicious Juice)

1 beet
2 carrots (I did 3 carrots)
1 stick of celery
1 apple
1 orange
1 small slice of ginger

I will update my list as soon as I have a broccoli one! Please feel free to send me your favorite juice recipes and I’ll try the out and post if successful. Enjoy juicing.