Looking for something special to make for Dad this Father’s Day – If you’ve never tried Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp (with rhubarb & strawberries fresh picked from the garden), it’s a fantastic treat you’re sure to look forward to every spring!
Rhubarb is rich in antioxidants that have anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties. It’s extremely easy to grow. It’s a perennial that requires little work and comes back every spring for you to enjoy. You can eat it raw, straight from the garden, but it has an extremely bitter taste. Our favorite ways to enjoy rhubarb in our house are in Strawberry Rhubarb Oatmeal muffins, Strawberry, Rhubarb Apple Sauce and Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp! Below is our Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp recipe! Enjoy!
Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp:
2 to 3 Cups Rhubarb diced
3 Cups Strawberries diced
1 Cup Sugar
3 Tablespoons Flour
For the Crumb Topping:
1 1/2 Cup All Purpose Flour
1 Cup Packed Brown Sugar
1 Cup Old-Fashioned Rolled Oats
1 Cup Butter at room temperature
Preheat oven to 375 degrees
Mix Rhubarb, Strawberries, Sugar and 3Tbs. Flour in a bowl and put into a 9×13 baking dish
Make Crumb topping by combining, Flour, B. Sugar, Oats and Butter. Mix with hands until crumbs form.
Sprinkle topping all over the Rhubarb Strawberry mixture
Bake in oven for 45 minutes or until topping is golden and mixture is bubbling
Our favorite is to top it off with some vanilla ice cream!
Wishing you all a Very Special Father’s Day Full of Love, Sunshine and Something Sweet!
Any man can be a father, but it takes someone Special to be a Dad.
It’s the most Wonderful time of the year! Yes, it’s spring and signs of nature’s fertility are everywhere around us. Spring in New England is tricky. We had a short snow squall yesterday morning, yet by afternoon it was 50 degrees, sunny and the crocuses were all aglow. Spring is a very special time of year. Watching the grass turn green and spring plants shoot up out of the warming earth is rejuvenating. It gives me this new found energy and deep renewal of the soul. I find getting my hands in the dirt and growing our own food so therapeutic and rewarding.
The kids and I have been planning our Spring/Summer garden for months now. A favorite winter activity is to look through the seed catalogs and have each child plan their garden. I have found that when kids are involved in the process of selecting what they would like to grow and given a place in the garden to grown their own food, they have a new vested interest in what goes into their bodies and where it comes from. It is a responsibility that is so rewarding and will stay with them for life.
About a week ago we started most of our indoor seeds. Mike made a temporary shelf unit in our living room window housed with warming mats and grow lights. We started about 134 seedlings, mostly tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, onions and lots of different herbs for my cottage garden. Fortunately, we have had so many sunny days that I haven’t had to use the grow lights. Have to admit, I prefer not to as they light the living room neon pink and transform the space into a nightclub feel. The kids don’t mind, it inspires them to put on dress ups and dance around like crazy people!
After about a week most of our seedlings have sprouted! It’s exciting! Truly amazing that one small seed can provide us with so much life.
If you haven’t ever used a garden planner, I highly recommend it. They are very user friendly and help you plan when to start seeds indoors in your area and when to plant outdoors for both spring and fall gardening. I got mine at Seed Savers Exchange for around 5 dollars.
Two of my favorite Garden Activity Books when Gardening with kids are Roots, Shoots, Buckets and Boots by Sharon Lovejoy and The Garden Classroom by Cathy James.
Hope this adds a little inspiration to starting your own personal garden, with your children or with your grandchildren. Whatever space you have big or small, it can be a small start to a big adventure! Growing your own food is so rewarding to your soul and your health. It is a tradition that has been lost for many of us in our modern day food culture, but it’s never too late to learn and to teach your children! Giving them the gift of homegrown, healthy food, will last with them forever; in health and in heart!
Autumn shows us how beautiful it is to let things go.”
I have a hard time with letting go. I really never like to see the warmth and beauty of summer come to an end or the days grow shorter. Seasons, like children, really mark the passing of time in a way that reminds me of the preciousness of life. Change is forever a constant and no matter how much I want my garden to keep on growing, little Jack Frost makes his presence known and bites my plants smack on the nose! I have a sadness in seeing the life of these beautiful plants that sustain us come to an end. Our garden has been so good to us. From one small seed, the earth gives us so much. So, as I move from harvesting the beautiful bounty of September into the cooler Autumn weather, I try to find the balance between Giving Thanks and Letting Go.
The kids and I have been very busy this past month picking fruits and veggies before the first frost. We’ve harvested red tomatoes, green tomatoes and lots and lots of cherry tomatoes! We’ve had a fantastic crop of butternut squash, peppers, eggplant, pumpkins and fall greens. Our raspberry bushes produced better this year than they ever have, but unfortunately some white, wiggly worms took up residence in our beautiful berries! Leo and Ava kept telling me that they saw worms in their raspberries and didn’t want to eat them. I thought that sounded crazy – worms, in raspberries? Well, after picking a pint full one evening I took a look inside a couple and yes, saw some little white worms dancing all around! Now the kids won’t touch them. I can’t blame them, my stomach turns at the thought of eating worms too! I have tried following some suggested remedies for the problem, but with no luck, sadly, the raspberries have been left for the birds. It’s a problem I hope to prevent in next summers crop!
Aside from some raspberry worms, there has been so much to be grateful for. We have been getting creative and learning lots of new things with this years harvest; like how to cure butternut squash, how to pickle green tomatoes, how to dry green beans to use the beans inside soups, how to dry and preserve herbs and how if you’re not prepared, one cool 34 degree night can easily frost what’s left in your garden! New England weather is funny like that, you can be enjoying an Indian Summer and then out of nowhere it’s time for your fleece jackets and winter caps. Fortunately, all the tomatoes were picked and Ava and Vivi had a fine time picking every last little stem off of the hundreds of cherry tomatoes before we froze them!
Farmer Leo also had a great crop of pumpkins and gourds this year! Never have we eaten so many pumpkin pies before Thanksgiving! We have been roasting pumpkins on a weekly basis and what we don’t use right away we’ve frozen for latter. Leo love’s making pies, but we’ve also been creative and made pumpkin soup, pumpkin butter, pumpkin bread rolls, pumpkin smoothies and pumpkin bread! Oh, the many ways to cook a pumpkin!
I couldn’t have been more proud of my farmer, then when he stood outside for twenty minutes holding up his sunflower during our mini-East Coast hurricane! He showed our family what a big heart and dedication looks like as he saved his 12 foot prize sunflower!
Fall is a time of harvest, a time of joy, hard work and in giving thanks to the earth that sustains us! It’s a time when we work hard together to preserve the sweet tastes of summer that will not only nourish our bodies, but our souls as we navigate through the cold winter months ahead. Fall is also a time of letting go. It is a time to slow down and reflect on all that we have in our lives and find comfort in the changes. We all need a time for rest in order to renew. Spring will return and with it, so will the garden and the gifts of the earth. In taking time to give thanks, we have appreciation for today and in letting go, we have hope and a belief in tomorrow.
Wishing you all – the endless beauties of the earth’s bounties and in finding the true gift in Giving Thanks and Letting Go
"To Everything Turn, Turn, Turn,
There is a Season; Turn, Turn, Turn,
And a Time to Every Purpose Under Heaven"
- Pete Seeger
Animal, Vegetable Miracle: A Year of Food Life, by Barbara Kingsolver is always on my nightstand. I read and fell in love with this book years ago when I planted my first vegetable garden in my city-living courtyard! A part of me still dreams of running a homestead as Kingsolver has accomplished in this book – someday maybe. I was truly inspired by Kingsolver and her family. She captures the true joys and hardships of being a family, working together and the simple joys of life. Kingsolver, her husband and two daughters leave the comforts of their Tuscon, Arizona home and travel across the country to settle in a rural town in Virginia determined to live off their land for one year – they only buy food raised in their own neighborhood or grow it themselves. Their story is one of human resilience, rediscovering your roots, the rewards of self-sufficiency and the love of food! It is an empowering read that is extremely informative about the politics of food and how we can all benefit by taking our food into our own hands.
This book couldn’t be more relevant than at a time when we are dealing with a global pandemic that has encouraged many across the globe to become more self-sufficient, connect with a slower pace and care more about the earth that sustains us all.
The beautiful stories woven throughout this book are of the joys of growing food, the hardships and rewards and what you can do in your own simple ways no matter how big or small to nourish your own mind, body and soul – and by doing it, make this world a little better. I hope this inspiring story finds its way into your heart and home and maybe even finds a place on your nightstand!
Tell Me What You Eat and I Will Tell You What You Are.
Years ago I saw this idea in a gardening magazine and loved it! It is simple to make and such a beautiful addition to the garden landscape. All you need is a giant Rhubarb leaf (you can really do this with a leaf of any size so feel free to get creative – Elephant Ear also works great too), a bag of cement, a bag of sand and a tarp or something to protect your cement from the elements while drying.
Make a mound of sand in an area that will not be disturbed as it will be the base for your leaf to dry.
Place Rhubarb leaf face side down on the mound of sand
Mix cement and apply to bottom side of leaf
Cover with tarp and let dry
Once cement is fully dry – flip it over and peel off the green leaf – Now your leaf is ready to place in the garden!
Get creative and try out some different leaves of all shapes and sizes. We have also used smaller leaves and used them outdoors and in our house. We’ve also tried adding powdered tempera paint to the cement mixture to give a color to it. You could also water color the cement when dry and use a sealant to keep the color from washing away. The finished product is a lovely addition to any garden space and the birds love it!
Wishing you a Creative Day in the garden – Making some Lovely Garden Art!
I love summer squash and zucchini. To my great fortune, this year my garden is plentiful of it! Thankfully, both of these vegetables can be cooked and eaten so many different ways. I love to sauté some zucchini on the stove top with olive oil, chopped garlic and a little salt and pepper. I also love roasting it in the oven tossed in olive oil, salt, pepper and some parmesan cheese. Currently, my kids two favorite summer squash and zucchini recipes are squash fritters and zucchini bread- no surprise there! We’ve added our personal touch to some pretty basic recipes that we thought we’d share with our fellow gardeners who are also trying to figure out what to do with all that squash! Enjoy!
Summer Squash Fritters (We use the yellow squash for these)
2 Cups Yellow Summer Squash or Zucchini shredded
8 Tablespoons Flour
2 Large Eggs
1 Teaspoon Baking Powder
1 Teaspoon Salt
1/2 Teaspoon Pepper
Chopped fresh Basil leaves
Half an Onion shredded
2 Tablespoons Parmesean cheese
Vegetable oil and 2 Tablespoons Butter for frying pan
Mix all ingredients in one bowl
Heat oil and butter in large frying pan (enough oil to cover the fritters half-way)
Scoop a small pancake size dollop of batter into the pan once oil is heated
Cook on one side about 2-3 minutes until browned then flip and do the same on opposite side
Once done, move fritter to a plate with paper towel to absorb extra oil
My kids love these served hot with ketchup and fresh sliced tomatoes!
2 Cups Zucchini shredded
2 Cups All Purpose Flour
1 Tablespoon Cinnamon
1 Teaspoon Ginger
1/2 Teaspoon Nutmeg
1 Teaspoon Salt
1 Teaspoon Baking Powder
1 Teaspoon Baking Soda
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
Zest and Juice of 1 Lemon
2 Large Eggs
1 Cup Brown Sugar
1/4 Cup Coconut Oil – or Vegetable Oil
1 Tablespoon Butter for Pan
Mix all dry ingredients and wet ingredients separate then Combine
Butter a 13 x 9 inch pan
Pour batter into pan and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes
Mix juice of one lemon with enough confectioners sugar to make an icing consistency to pour over cake when cool
This Zucchini Cake Recipe is adapted form a Wonderful Italian Cook that the kids and I like watching on Youtube. She reminds me very much of my own Nonna and has some authentic Italian dishes you might enjoy checking out.
About six months ago after our first family adventure in our camper and gaining a new appreciation for living in a simpler way, I wished for a slower pace to life. Fast forward a couple months and I got it! Never could I have imagined that it would be forced upon us! And never would I have wished for a global pandemic to bring this slower pace. But, with a slower pace and more time on our hands we were able to pursue another wish of mine, a big garden with lots and lots of tomatoes! Thankfully to a very hearty compost delivered by our local dairy farm and to the hard working hands of my husband, kids and myself, the tomato dream has come to us in bucket loads!
We planted numerous varieties of tomatoes this year; Brandywine heirlooms, Early girls, Sun Gold cherries, Fourth of July, Big Boy Brandywines, Plum tomatoes and lots of cherry tomatoes. Little did we know how prolific the plants would be and how good a growing season we would have. The kids and I are out there every day inspecting the tomatoes and gambling on which ones are ok to leave for tomorrow hoping the slugs and other small hungry visitors won’t eat them before we get to them. It’s a risk we’re not always willing to take, but Our tomato storage capabilities are reaching their max. I feel more and more like my Italian Nonna everyday as I care for my tomatoes with the tenderness I do my children and trays fill my house with upside down tomatoes spaced apart and covered with linens in order to prolong their lifespan. Like us, the tomatoes are also better off social distancing to insure their health and longevity.
I Have been making sauce, canning, jarring, freezing, sun drying and roasting tomatoes daily. We’re eating many tomato sandwiches with fresh pesto and mayo. There is nothing quite like the amazing taste of a vine ripened tomato. It’s a simple thing that can bring so much joy. The tomatoes seem never ending and the garden is beginning to feel a bit like Big Anthony’s garden from the Strega Nonna storybook! For those not familiar, his garden is a bit out of control, but the unwieldy magic of a garden continues to be truly delightful and exciting! We keep finding new surprise plants that have sprung from our dirt and are now bearing fruit. We have butternut squash trellising across our fence, an unknown squash growing in the pumpkin patch and compost bin, cucumbers growing in our pot of Canna’s and a giant gourd plant taking over a flower bed!
Every meal seems to be a new creative adventure. We have roasted some of Leo’s giant pumpkins and made lasagna size pumpkin pies! With plenty pumpkin purée leftover to fill our freezer for later use. We can’t get enough squash fritters, zucchini bread, fresh garden salsa and cucumber salads! We’ve even gotten pretty creative with our pesto recipes and made beet green, kale and basil pesto with almonds and walnuts. We’ve gone Greek and made home made Tzatziki along with feta, tomato, cucumber wraps. The magic of the garden keeps on giving and continues to renew and recharge our mind, body and soul!
We have harvested all the carrots, beets and lettuce and have started new plantings for an early fall harvest. There are so many great vegetables you can plant in August for most planting zones that will allow for a crop before winter. We have put in bush bean plants, arugula, spinach, mesclun salad mix, kale and broccoli rabe (a bitter green similar to broccoli). Some other vegetables that you can plant now are radishes, carrots, beets (for beet greens and small beets), Swiss chard, and garlic.
The kids are drying out seeds from the tomatoes, green beans, cucumbers, banana peppers and pumpkins to save for next year.
To Plant a Garden is to Believe in tomorrow.
There is something so therapeutic about working the earth, growing your own food and cooking and eating together. It is a tradition I hold dear to my heart that I am grateful to pass down to my children. Sunday dinners at my Nonna’s house packed into her tiny kitchen with my Aunts, Uncles, Great Aunts and Great Uncles, cousins and friends eating a home cooked meal from the garden while listening to them debate over who found the cheapest grapes and broccoli rabe – are some of my dearest childhood memories. As a young girl I didn’t quite understand why my grandparents worked so hard when you could buy everything at the food store? Yet, there was something special about what they did that struck me even at an early age. Both my grandparents have since passed, but I feel their presence shining over me each time I set foot in my garden and get lost in the rows of tomato plants. They were two very hardworking people who lived very simple and always shared the fruits of their labor with those they loved. They were the original ‘Farm to Table’ farmers. The way they have shaped my life to appreciate the simple things, to know where my food comes from and to respect the earth that feeds me, is profound. They have gifted me with the secrets to the true riches in life, good food, family and friends- and for that I am ever grateful.
If I am so lucky to be granted a third wish, It would be that – All who have tasted the pleasures of the earth work together to preserve it. Be that in the garden and in life.
This was a new experiment in our house. Each year we go to a living history museum where they dye wool with ingredients from nature. It has always been amazing to see the beautiful colors that come from some surprising ingredients! One way that the early colonial settlers dyed wool was with onion skins. The yellow onions will give your wool a yellow -orange – beige – brown look and if you use Red onion skins, you will get a reddish purple coloring. Colors can also vary depending on the yarn color you are using. Leo and I decided to give dying yarn from onion skins a try!
It’s a simple and fun project to try. We used the skin of two yellow onions, brought them to a boil in a pan of water on the stove top and simmered it until it reached a dark orange color. Then we added our acrylic yarn. If you are using actual wool, be sure to only add it once the water has cooled down, otherwise you can felt the wool with the hot water. We let our yarn sit until it reached our desired color. Kind of like dyeing Easter Eggs. Just check it periodically to determine how dark you’d like it. Then we put it outside to dry in the sun. Once dry, Leo used it to work on a ‘God’s Eye’ craft!
Another interesting way of dyeing the yarn is putting it with the onion skins in a mason jar full of water and let it sit in the sun for a couple days. This process takes a lot longer, but is fun for the kids to see how the sun warms the water and extracts the colors from the onion skins. If they are inspired, they could try other objects from nature to put into a jar with white yarn; flowers, green leaves, dandelion roots, berries and even mushrooms!
This pickling project was spearheaded by Leo. He loves pickles and was so excited by our surplus stock of cucumbers coming out of the garden that he requested we give pickle making a try. I’ve never made pickles before aside from what I call my lazy way of adding cucumbers to the pickle brine of empty pickle jars we bought from the store. It’s worked in the past, especially since we never really had a lot of cucumbers left over to jar. The ‘Homemade Refrigerator Pickle’ recipe we followed from A Spicy Perspectivehttps://www.aspicyperspective.com/best-homemade-refrigerator-pickles/ was easy, simple and the pickles taste great!
Homemade Refrigerator Pickles:
3 to 4 cucumbers
1/4 cup Vidalia onion, sliced
3-5 sprigs fresh dill
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup water
2 cloves garlic minced
1 1/2 teaspoons pickling salt or kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1/4 teaspoon whole yellow mustard seeds
Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
Fill a clean pint-sized jar with 3 to 4 sliced cucumbers, onion slices and fresh dill sprigs. Leave a 1/2 inch of space at the top of the jar for liquid.
In a small pot heat the vinegar, water, garlic and spices until the mixture comes to a simmer and the salt and sugar dissolve.
Cool the brine down to a warm temperature and fill the jars so that everything is covered with brine.
Close the lid tightly and refrigerate for 24 hours before eating.
Homemade pickles should last for two months in the refrigerator in a jar.
I planted a different kind of cucumber in the garden this year along with the other pickling cucumbers. This one is an heirloom Cucumber Lemon. If you haven’t ever tried it, they are delicious. Crunchy, sweet and can be eaten right off the vine or pickled. Another great addition to the cucumber garden!