Using Your Garden to Help Pay for College Part 1 of 2

Part 1 of  2

After WWII, my grandparents bought a used Army bus and converted it into a mobile grocery market.  My grandparents were solving the problem of food deserts before the term was coined.

Suppose it was in our blood to do the same. Deliver the good stuff, right to the people.

About 7-8 years ago my kids started their own mobile green grocery store with the extra pumpkins grandpa had grown for them. Their mobile market was a little red wagon and their customers, gracious neighbors.

Ligtbulb moment.

Making a few bucks off pumpkins several years ago has evolved into our own CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) of sorts. We sell veggies and a little bit of fruit by the box each week to a set list of people who want our fresh, home-grown love. Proceeds go toward college.

  • My kiddos use my garden (and my dad's) to help pay for college as they pick produce and deliver it each week to their customers.
  • Here are the deets on our College Savings Garden Boxes the kiddos sell to our gracious friends and neighbors.
  • Produce is picked by the entire family once a week from our garden and at my parent’s house.
  • Everything that is fresh and ready to go that week gets divided up equally into the boxes - think seasonal, low-carbon foot print micro-farm.
  • Boxes are delivered – not only does it ensure I’m not babysitting boxes of produce with no room in the fridge should someone forget to pick it up, it creates a real connection with the people who receive the tasty garden treasures.  I’m told people love our boxes as much as they love the visit with the delivery. Yes, it takes longer but it’s time well spent.
  • Money is piled up. We charge $10 per box and deliver 9-11 boxes weekly depending on availability of customers and if we have “back up homes” for the boxes. I have been told more than once by more than one customer we don't charge enough. *Shrugs*
  • A weekly box can be too much for some families so we do have a few who get them every other week.
  • Our season begins in early June with just bags of peas (shelling and snap) - $2.50 for quart bags stuffed full(actually sold $10 gallon bags this year too).
  • Boxes start around mid-June with a handful of anxious regular customers until we can put together the volume needed to start delivering to everyone around mid-late July. The picking ends when the frost hits.
  • If the kiddos don’t help pick they don’t get paid. Our first grader may only net $20 this year because he only likes to help deliver. His sisters are totally cool with not having to share too much with him. They have math skills.

Kids are bitten by mosquitos, fight over who is picking what, take too long to pick the green beans, eat gobs of blackberries when they should be picking and are learning how to sweat until the job is all the way done.

With peas and box delivery the kiddos counted up over $700 last night. We still have 5-ish weeks to go in the season and will easily surpass our goal of $1000 a season.

We are able to do this because we have refined the process over the last several years. Start with a wagon full of extras, evolve to a few boxes and see what you have the energy and time to support.

Next Tuesday's post will be about what is actually in a box, an excellent idea if you only have time and space for one "crop", how to make money with produce without having a garden and how I tricked my kiddos into having a tangible feel for how much college costs.

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Happy Growing!

Back to School Fruit and Veggie Smoothie with Immunity Booster

A new chapter started today, perhaps one has for you this month as well as school is back in session. This is a year unlike any other at our house.

All day school, for all 3 kids.  I’ve been waiting for this staycation for a long time. Except I work outside the home part-time. Only some days are staycation days.

I’m not the kind of mom that keeps her kids home at the slightest sneeze or complaint about not wanting to go to school. Get moving and get going, school is your job right now and your job is to rock it each and every day.

As my minions head back to school, I’ve been thinking a lot about how to keep them strong and healthy. It’s good math. They stay in school where they need to be.  Stay out of the doctor’s office.

The best way to do those things is to eat well, play hard and sleep well. Fruit and veggie smoothies each day have strengthened our pickiest kiddos bodies to the point that they only miss 1-2 days of school each year for sickness.

We’ve got a good thing going and as school is in swing with winter colds and gunk around the corner I decided to change things up a bit. I’ve created a back to school smoothie that isn’t gaggy yet adds a little hidden secret that will give your family an extra boost.

Back to School Fruit and Veggie Smoothie (70% fruit 30% veggie)

  • 1 banana
  • 2 cups mixed berries
  • ½ zucchini or summer squash
  • 2 small tomatoes (heirloom have a much stronger flavor, I stick to Celebrity and 4th of July)
  • 1 peach
  • Small handful of frozen, chopped kale or spinach (spinach is more milk if you are a beginner)
  • 1 leaf purple cabbage
  • ½ cup kefir (sweetened or plain- caution, plain is a bit like buttermilk…you have been warned)
  • ½ - 1 cup Juice, water or milk so it will blend and away you go!

Kefir is the new secret weapon added to provide and even greater immune boost.

Kefir (SUPER PROBIOTIC) is a fermented beverage – kind of a cross between buttermilk and yogurt. Beneficial bacterial and yeast work symbiotically to create a super healthy fermented milk (you can use other types of milk besides dairy milk too).

Historically, it was a method used to preserve milk prior to refrigeration.

Kefir is something you can buy in the grocery store or make you own at home (I am giving this a shot and will report back in the next couple of weeks).

Why would I add something wacky hippy like this to my smoothie? Shouldn’t yogurt cover it?

Yogurt and kefir can be used together as the good bacteria they harbor do different things for our intestines.

Bacteria in yogurt (usually 3-5 strains) actually helps fuel the organisms that clean out the gut = keeping us healthy.  The different bacteria and yeast in kefir (over 50 strains) can actually colonize in the intestinal tract competing against bad bacteria keeping us healthier.

Did you know most of your immune system is in your intestines? Weird, ehh? Who would have thought that made sense but it does.

The major function of the intestine is to break down food into teeny tiny pieces and parts so things can pass into our blood stream. A healthy gut filled with phytochemicals from fruits and veggies coupled with powerful probiotics is an even better weapon against sickness.

Probiotics from foods like kefir add beneficial bacteria to the nether region, the more good bacteria you have in your gut the healthier you stay.

HERE IS WHY fruits and veggies + probiotics are awesome.  Bad bacteria become outnumbered inside your intestine making it more difficult for the bad stuff to cross that intestinal wall, enter your blood stream and make you sick.

Healthy cells in your intestinal villi prevent the ick from getting into your blood stream. Healthy intestines charged with probiotics and phytonutrients from fruits and veggies mean you uhhhhh, do the duce more efficiently.

Couth people would kindly say, increasing transit time helps prevent sickness due to less time the intestines are exposed to waste. Uncouth people keep reading – pooping more = less crap sitting around your intestines hoping to escape into your bloodstream to make you sick.

Enough said.

Drink your fruit and veggie smoothie. Add kefir to it to boost your immune system even more. You kids may not appreciate how concerned you are with their health and well-being but that’s too bad. Keep them in school so your daily staycation between 9 and 3 stays as uninterrupted as possible---even on days when you go to work.

Happy Blending!


How to Create a Costco Produce Miracle

It doesn’t matter where you shop this miracle is waiting for you.


In a supersized grocery store, it's mind boggling how much stuff we amass in our oversized carts.

Flashing our “allowed to enter the store card” it’s tough to fight that smug feeling.

What is that smug feeling all about? The thrill of a bargain? It’s from Costco so it’s homemade? You have been to those parties before… "oh yum, tell me about the recipe?”  Oh, it came from Costco and I noticed it before you.  Smug victory.  Is it status or ownership because I am a member, which means other people aren’t?

As much as the psychology of club/membership stores is bizarre, I do love the items I can get there.

However, I do feel as though our relationship is bittersweet.  

The sweet part is that I can get the best price and the best quality on similar items at a non-club store.  I’m all about saving money even if it means buying more quantity up front in order to get a better volume discount.

Like spinach. I can choose the gargantuan pillow of spinach and pay $4.29 for 2.5 pounds or $3.59 for its organic cousin that weighs less.  Either one is ideal for blending into smoothies or piled high as a salad.

I love that when I run out of frozen kale from my garden, I can pull the spinach pillow out of the freezer without missing a beat. I love that it saves me money over picking up a bag of it at the local grocery store.

And, who doesn’t swoon their selection of frozen fruit?  Seriously gorgeous, healthy fruit most of which is organic and is ideal for smoothies when your garden stash has run low?

Hands down the best price week after week to keep your blender full of smoothie love.

Four pounds of pineapple chunks $6.99, organic mango chunks 4 pounds for $10.99, triple berry blend also organic 3 pounds for $9.99, three pounds of organic blueberries $9.79, organic dark cherries $10.49.  Just think about the phytonutrient rich, antioxidant packed, fiber-riffic smoothie these little gems would build!

It’s even nuttier that we are willing to wait in line to check out on a busy Saturday. People are generally patient, even chatty depending on the mood. No one seems put out or at their wits end.

Oddly similar to a wait in line at Disneyland. Polar opposite feel to Walmart on a Saturday afternoon.

The bitter part comes at checkout. I do not like spending money. I’ve always been a saver which is one thing that drives my need to stash my garden love into my own freezer. Don’t get me wrong. I adore Costco, I simply hate swiping my card and hearing the cashier announce my balance. That’s only $237.34. Only my big toe. YIKES!

Ever played that little game called guess how much the people in front get to pay? Maybe even throwing in a quick glance to critique their choices for nutritional superiority?

Then listening intently to the cashier’s announcement of how much they “only owe” in order to schlep those goods out of the store.  Shhhh, we aren’t supposed to do that.

Costco Miracles are those times when you can slip in and out with only what you intended to buy.

They don’t happen as often as my squeaky wallet would like but when they do…wowzers! It is a good feeling! After the cashier announces your total you can say…YES, it’s a Costco Miracle!

The twinkle in their eye knows what I’m talking about. Get the spinach and get out, no questions asked.

The single easiest way to create a Costco Produce Miracle is to  NOT GET THE SUBURBAN SIZED GROCERY CART. 

Carry what you need in your arms and it will quickly limit the extra things you may be compelled to pick up.

It takes discipline, blinders and a time-crunch makes it easier but a Costco Miracle is possible!

May we all experience a Costco Miracle at least once this month.

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Happy Blending!


What to Harvest and Freeze for Fruit and Veggie Smoothies

It is pile it into your freezer season. As your garden turns from the perfect amount to the wholy smokes what do I do will all of this stuff. Your alarm clock is ringing and it’s time to roll up your sleeves.

Even if fruit and veggie smoothies are only an occasional thing, packing away your produce (or your neighbors excess you graciously volunteer to harvest) is homegrown love that will be used to nourish and improve heath.

What should you start freezing now?

TOMATOES  - DON’T PARBOIL – quarter, freeze, bag and smile. You can triple layer these babies, they don’t stick together too badly. Stay tuned, I have an amazing tomato soup recipe you will adore I will post when things get cooler. Each recipe takes ½ of a one gallon bag of quartered tomatoes.  All 5 of us DIG this soup!!!! Think cheap, easy, full of love and goodness.

SUMMER SQUASH  - the GIANT zucchini, bumpy and huge crook neck and space ship sized patty pan. Simply cut into chunks, freeze, bag and smile.  We only use the squash in smoothies. It is an excellent “extender” that takes up space in the blender, your families bellies and keeps more moola in your pocket.

KALE – if you missed the sweet post regarding the kale hack read all about it here. De-stem, bag (leave the top open so the moisture can escape), freeze overnight and crush into perfectly chopped pieces.

PEACHES- Keep the skin on, it’s where most of the phytonutrients hang out and you want that goodness in your body. Your blender will obliterate it into smoothness.  Slice, place on a tray with a silpat - single layer works best if you want to get them apart without an ax, but I have been known to go 2 layers deep  - freeze, bag and smile.

PEARSslice, core, freeze, bag and smile.

PLUMS- just score around the pit in quarters and pull it from the pit. I’ve also cut them like a mango around the pit but hubby convinced me quartering them was faster. Shhh, he was right. Gulp.

BLACKBERRIES – place on a tray with a silpat, freeze, bag and GRIN. LOVE BLACKBERRIES!

5 Favorite freezer tips:

  1. Keep a record of it over the course of the year. It helps  you know what you are using and how fast you use it up. This helps you focus your energy the following year helping you better gage what you need more of, what you had too much of and how soon you ran out.
  2. Gives you an idea from year to year how much you use – this year there isn’t an apricot in sight due to an exceptionally warm winter, mild spring and then some freezing cold hail storms that destroyed the crop. I know I need to pack away at least  125-150 pounds of something else to replace that lost ingredient….you bet zucchini will be part of that equation!
  3. $ you will be able to put a dollar figure to the list to help validate the days when sweat drips places it shouldn’t or when you are sick of cutting, bagging, freezing and stacking
  4. Berries that have been rinsed before freezing tip the cookie sheet at an angle and absorb excess water with a towel or paper towel at the low-point corner. Your berries will last longer if they are not enrobed in ice.
  5. Stack like items together. Easier to unbury in a chest style freezer even with an upright it is easier to find what you need when friends are stacked together.

Freezing everything in sight will help make a daily fruit and veggie smoothie affordable, improve the health of anyone you can convince to drink one and it’s uber satisfying to know you rock because you work your can off to make things better for your team.

If you want more information regarding freezing, check out the FREEZE IT! tab on my homepage.

Happy Freezing!


Back to School Supplements to Consider

You might think I have a closet full of pills and voodoo I force my kids to take.  Things that thicken immunity shields, hone in hyper-focus, and enable extra special outstanding-ness.

Surprise! I am not one to spend money on things I don’t absolutely believe in. I give my kiddos very few things that come out of a bottle with a child proof cap. But there are a few things I feel very strongly about giving them.

Let me back up a few steps to so you can see the perspective I am coming from. For 16 years, I worked in the legal department for a publically traded dietary supplement company. Days were spent proof read labels looking for compliance with FDA and FTC regulations and digging up documents when we were sued. 

With my direct experience in that environment, I am extremely leery of most products that come in a bottle. Watching aggressively poor business decisions be made in the hopes of bringing in more money may have jaded me a little bit.

Claims on packages are what get us to buy products. We sincerely hope a product will change, energize or improve our situation.  It’s not often a product can really do magical things but the placebo effect will convince you otherwise.

The placebo effect is what happens when you take a product and it solves your problem even though you were given a pill with no active ingredients. The active ingredient was your mind.  Our minds are incredibly powerful.

Long and short. Save your moola for a fun adventure somewhere new.

So what do I give my kiddos, especially as we gear up for a new school year?

Vitamin D and Omega-3 Fatty Acids. That’s it. No chewable shapes, no gummy treasures, no fizzy bubbly water enhancers.

VITAMIN D = in my opinion anyone living north of Florida should be taking vitamin D. Most of us are woefully deficient. Vitamin D not only strengths bones, it strengthens your immune system. I give my youngest a sublingual (it dissolves in his mouth) and the rest of us take a tablet.  It’s also very affordable.

OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS. We take krill oil because the capsules are small, kids can swallow them easily and they are absorbed more efficiently that fish oil. There is also no nasty burp back flavor. We don’t eat a lot of fish at our house so I know our bodies can use omega-3 fatty acids from a supplement. It’s powerful for your heart , your noggin and for fighting inflammation.

 What brand? Hands down, PRIVATE LABEL STORE BRANDS! Humongo companies bid for business from stores like Costco, Walmart, Walgreen’s, etc. to make a private label product.

Many times the ingredients are almost identical to the branded product. BUT you save gobs of money because PRIVATE LABEL products don’t pay for marketing. They piggy back off the marketing dollars the BRANDED companies spend, riding the wave of popularity.

Learn from this and laugh all the way to the bank because you were smart enough to buy the private label.

What is a private label?

Think Kirkland, Spring Valley, Member’s Mark, Kroger - all private labels with exceptional ingredients, quality testing and significantly less money = saving you more. Almost any store you shop at has their own private label product on the shelf next to the fancy branded product. Outsmart them and save yourself some serious dinero!

WAIT just a minute. Just to be totally clear there are plenty of exceptions to what a person should take given their particular situation. Consult your doctor if you need further advice. This is what works for our family and my kids.

And just to be extra clear. I am much better at giving these supplements regularly during the school year when our routine is more predictable.

Gearing up for back to school, I set the Vitamin D and Krill Oil next to our lunch boxes and the kiddos get them with their breakfast each day. It’s the only way I can remember to get it down the hatch on a regular basis.

Ultimately, I give them these supplements because I believe they will help my kiddos stay healthier. They miss fewer days of school if they are healthy and school is exactly where they should be.

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Happy End of Summer!


Simply Tasty Granola Recipe

Think whole grain. Think happiness on a spoon. Think perfectly balanced goodness.

Think granola.

This simple granola recipe is like eating pie BUT with a fraction of the work. Yogurt + fresh home grown fruit + granola = HEAVEN. And I have proof.

This granola recipe has been described as something angels would make.

It’s simple, whole food you can make a pile of and have it on hand for a few days until your team plows through it and asks for more.

Eating more whole grain each day is important for a few reasons. Your body will begin to see the benefits when you eat just one serving of whole grain per day - shooting for 3 servings per day is optimal to see optimal results.

What results?

The following 4 benefits have been shown in repeated studies (

  • stroke risk reduced 30-36%
  • type 2 diabetes risk reduced 21-30%
  • heart disease risk reduced 25-28%
  • better weight maintenance

I'd like that, especially because I ate something so delicious!


I’ve been known to eat yogurt + fresh peaches + granola for dinner. Oh man, that sounds so good.

Granola isn’t just for yogurt either

Think about these 5 options:

  1. Pancakes – either cooked in the batter or sprinkled on top = BAM!
  2. Oatmeal (currently in LOVE with steel cut) + milk + blackberries + granola = INCREDIBLE
  3. Vanilla ice cream + rhubarb (sweetened pie filling type) + granola = REJUVINATING
  4. Mix it into biscotti or other cookie dough = YUM!
  5. You know how I feel about chia seed pudding BUT pudding + granola = EXCELLENT

Hummm, I haven’t chucked it into a smoothie yet but I have blended all of its individual ingredients into a smoothie….gunna call that a winner = WHOLE GRAIN THE KIDS DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT.


  • 6 cups oatmeal (I use regular rolled)
  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut (even found this at Walmart!)
  • 1 cup chopped nuts
  • ¾ cup canola oil (substitute coconut oil if you like)
  • ½ cup honey

OPTIONAL: chia seed, hemp hearts, flax seed

Grab a big mixing bowl and add oatmeal, coconut and nuts and mix to blend evenly.  Measure and pour oil on top of mixture.  Use same measuring cup (honey will just slide out) and eyeball  honey and pour over mixture. Mix to blend and pour onto a cookie sheet with a lip. Bake at 350 for 10 minutes, pull it out, stir. Put back in the oven for 6-8 minutes. DO NOT let it completely brown in the oven. It will continue to cook after you pull it out. If it browns perfectly in the oven it will over-toast as it cools and it isn’t as tasty.  It can also be done in a solar oven for you extreme granola types.

Thanks for liking, sharing, telling your buddies and for leaving comments! Without you, I wouldn't be reaching more people each week. THANKS!!!

Happy Baking!


EMERGENCY Discovery - Time Saving Kale Hack

Pinkie promise I will quit jabbering on about kale - this discovery was just too awesome not to share NOW!

Do you remember the days when flaming hot clean mason jars were spread atop kitchen towels to cool?

Handled with special tongs as they emerged from piping hot steam baths. Their contents sealed inside for a chilly winter day. A reminder that it would get warm again.

Pears, peaches, apricots, plumbs, tomatoes, cherries, green beans, okra, salsa, grape juice…you name it, it can be preserved in a jar with a fresh lid, the proper heat and cooking time. Home bottled love many of us remember with sweet fondness....because we weren't the ones preparing it. 

Is it any wonder that day after day of cursing hot sweaty kitchens, achy legs, monotonous and seemingly underappreciated bottled produce faded from necessity to special treat?

Ever spend much time as a kiddo around grownups  “putting up” produce?  Must have etched scars deeper than we realized.

I suppose I will scar my offspring with my freezer addiction.

God bless the freezer! Zeus, my chest freezer, has taken the place of the kaleidoscope of fruits and veggies packed onto pantry shelves. I don’t bottle a single thing. I freeze it all, tray by tray – bag by bag.

Growing and freezing produce to use later is not a new concept. Freezing your produce is much less time consuming and labor intensive than bottling.

It still takes plenty of time and a lot of effort to pack a freezer full. With that in mind, I devised a simple way to get more KALE packed easily into your freezer.

It saves time = easier.

Easier = greater likelihood you will do it.

This kale hack will lead to a powerful money-saving, body rejuvenating ingredient available whenever you want it.

Forget chopping. You just saved gobs of time and your cutting board and knife won’t be stained green either.

Ninja style kale hack!

Ninja style kale hack!

Check out these 5 easy steps:

  1. De-stem kale (unless you really love the stem then keep it)
  2. Place leaves in a giant bag (I use the outer bread sack from Costco that holds two loaves of bread)
  3. LEAVE the TOP OPEN and place in the freezer (this allows the moisture to escape rather than be trapped in a sealed bag=better quality kale)
  4. When leaves are frozen solid, crush like a 3 year old smashing a delicate lego project
  5. Pour perfectly crushed, frozen kale into a gallon zip-top bag. Seal and REPEAT until your freezer is bursting.

And that my friends, will save you time which will make freezing your kale so much easier. When you have kale on hand it’s easier to grab from the freezer, add to your fruit and veggie smoothie, bowl of soup or pile of Ham Fried Brown Rice.

You don’t need a gunnysack packed with kale to get started - even a handful of leaves - go ahead and do it – your body will thank you!

Happy Stashing!


Why YOU Need Blackberries In Your Life!

You know how hard it is to get kids to help in the garden.

Blackberry season is one of those times of year when I’ve been known to shoo my kiddos out of my berry patch.

Blackberries + purple tongues, stained fingers and excited expressions of yum = AWESOME!

Here are a few tips to pick these gems properly if you are lucky enough to know where to find some:

  • Gently knock them from their stem when their color is dull.
  • If some of the juice sacks (druplets) have started to dry out or look a little wrinkley – the berries are even sweeter.
  • We pressed gently, the berry should give a little instead of being firm to the touch.

When picked with those three things in mind, your berries will bust with sweetness and intense flavor when picked right off the vine at their peak.

Nifty facts about blackberries:

  1. It doesn’t matter where you live, drive to the Northwest and pick piles of them for free as they grow on the side of the road like common weeds.  Should we all be so lucky to have blackberries for weeds!
  2. Its not really a berry – similar to pineapple and raspberries they are an aggregate fruit - individual small fruits born from separate ovaries of the same flower - called drupelets.
  3. Blackberries are on the top 10 list of foods with exceptional antioxidant levels. Their dark purple color is what tells you they are packed with anthocyandidins and phytochemicals (plant awesomeness that fight disease and lower your risk of cancer).
  4. Blackberries decrease inflammation and oxidative stress when they work their plant power magic on your insides. Their antioxidants decrease the risk of cancer buy neutralizing nutzo free radicals (psyho cells that go about damaging healthy cells).  Those same antioxidants courteract environmental carcinogens too. They strengthen blood vessles, fight heart disease and protect eyesight. BAM! All in a little berry that isn’t actually a berry.

Three reasons why I LOVE blackberries -

  • With all the rain we got in May, I have more blackberries on my canes this year than I have the last 5 years combined. Lesson learned, tons of water means tons of berries.
  • They are easy to pick as my canes are thornless, berries are big and they hold up well in the freezer
  • The ENTIRE berry is purple giving it excellent natural food coloring camouflage when placed in the blender with its fruit and veggie pals almost every night.

Ok, I have 4 reasons why I love blackberries.

My personal favorite reason for adoring blackberries is much more personal.

When I was a little twerp with long red braids I could sit on, my Italian Great Grandma would make dinner every Sunday for the extended family. Her home smelled of spaghetti sauce and old coffee which simmered all day in a pot on the back burner of the stove. Still, two of my all-time favorite smells.

My great grandma had the family over weekly not just to fuel our bodies with her incredible rigatoni, generosity and love BUT to keep us connected to each other which was equally important.

Great Grandma Theresa would always wear a dress with strappy kitten heels to boost her tiny stature, a gingham checked apron with wide shoulders, a high neck and 2 deep pockets rimmed with wide rickrack (perfect to protect against the dangers of splattery spaghetti sauce). Her glasses were horn-rimmed and crusted with fake jewels. She also wore gigantic clip on earrings that looked like blackberries.

Every time I pick berries, freeze and bag the frosted gems, thunk them into the blender with the other fruits and veggies; I am reminded of my Great Grandma Theresa, spaghetti sauce and the thick smell of old coffee. And it makes my heart smile.

You need blackberries in your life to fill your body with the power of plants and the with the power of connection, like my great grandma's earrings.

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Happy Berry Season!


Cool Kids Don't Know This...

Picture a common field mouse fitted with a bright orange motorcycle helmet. He is approaching a wooden snap trap baited with a huge chunk of fresh, pungent swiss cheese.

Dangerously irresistible.

I have a picture of this mouse taped to my monitor. On purpose.

Is it worth the risk? Ultimately it depends on how valuable the reward.

A bazillion years ago, I read a book called, "Don't Sweat the Small Stuff" with a tag line I continue to use to push me forward when I want to stand still.

“Do something that scares you every day.”

Was that tiny mouse with the sweet helmet doing something scary that day? You bet. He was willing to take the risk but had put into play a few safety measures to help improve the odds of a better outcome.

Meet my pal kohlrabi. She is a quirky little thing with an unusual shape.  In the spring, tiny round seeds similar to chia seeds were spaced the proper depth, thinned when they were big enough and left to work their magic with enough water, happy dirt and plenty of sun.

The perfect size for harvesting this silky skinned beauty is between a softball and a tennis ball.

Turns out kohlrabi can be roasted like a root vegetable or eaten raw in salads. It’s mouse-like tail was pruned and left in the dirt to add nutrients to the soil as it decomposed. Big leaves were pulled off also left to return to the dirt. Her small leaves can be used in salad.

She was then peeled and sliced.

Crisp and mildly sweet like a jicama yet with a spicy radish kick. No helmet required to try the new veggie (at least outward). She reminded me of two things.

First – the song with the line that says, “I wish that I could be like the cool kids.” She doesn’t look like anything I have ever grown before. She was too unusual to just fit it with the cool crowd. Still, the song won’t leave my mind.

Second – this is why I am drawn to her. She doesn’t care if she could be like the cool kids. She is different, bold and mysterious on the inside. Filled with surprises, waiting for someone who sees her as being dangerously irristable.

Until then, she will chillax on her own terms.

Food is bold, fun and amazing. I challenge you to get to know kohlrabi or at least something new and different this week.  Choose something unusual, strange and unique at the farmer’s market or grocery store. Discoveries of goodness and adventure await you and your taste buds. Do something that scares you today!

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Enjoy your weekend!


Wonderfully Painless Ham Fried Rice Recipe

I hate making dinner. It’s true.

The fruit and veggie smoothie is a no brainer but the rest of it is a struggle.

Every day.

A piece of toast with peanut butter + the smoothie and I would be fine most days of the week. The troops on the other hand think differently.

They want dinner, every night.

Rarely, we eat take-out pizza and fast food about 4-5 times a year...mostly when we are on a road trip.

Dinner is a burden, an energy sucking wasteland but we gotta do it or hanger takes over and no one wins.

The secret to eating better dinners lies in planning. Planning is so hard.

Many times I have asked, even politely, what the gang would like to eat for dinner. They don’t know either; they just expect something magically delicious will appear.

This brings us back to planning. I have a new resolve. I want to tighten up our grocery spending. It’s an excellent time of year to play this game because of the garden swinging into awesomeness.  But, it leaves me with the planning. Ugg.

So here I go. Family, what would you like to eat?  We eat about the same 10-12 meals week after week, month after month. If something new is going in the rotation it’s because I’m dying for something different.

5 SIMPLE STEPS TO PLANNING DINNER  (it won’t take a spreadsheet either)

  1. Write down everything you make for dinner
  2. Assign those meals a day of the week
  3. Circle the items that freeze easily
  4. Pinkie promise you will double or triple the batch and freeze the leftovers
  5. Pinkie promise to try two new healthy dinner ideas each month

With dinner being such a bear to even want to plan, it just got a little easier for both of us.

One of our favorite meals that is as easy as it is good for us is Ham Fried Rice.

Made with brown rice (a whole grain), the pickies don’t even know I use brown rice or they would pitch a fit. The soy sauce added to the rice colors everything enough that they don’t remember to be gaged out. They pick around the veggies they don’t want to eat and everybody wins.

Whole grain + cheap + easy = on the dinner list.

And to boot, the pickiest of the pickies asked for Ham Fried Rice for dinner this week. Ahhh, one planning day down.


  • 4 cups cooked cooled BROWN rice
  • 3 Tbsp oil (I use canola)
  • ½ cup finely diced onion
  • 1-2 cloves finely minced garlic
  • 3-4 eggs beaten
  • 3-4 oz diced ham (usually 1/3 the package of deli ham)
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce (gluten free if necessary)
  • VEGGIES – broccoli, peeled diced broccoli stem, diced carrots, peas, green beans, radish, eggplant, zucchini, whatever your people will eat.

Heat oil in your biggest non-stick skillet or wok if you are that fancy.  I use two 10 inch non-stick skillets. Over  medium heat, add onion, ham and veggies to oil and cook until softened. Add garlic and stir for 1 minute. In the second skillet, scramble the eggs. Otherwise you can transfer the onion, veggies, garlic and ham to a plate to wait or just scramble the eggs with them. Whatever floats your boat, this recipe is very forgiving. Once eggs are done add the rice, top with the soy sauce and veggie/ham mixture. Mix until everything is evenly dispersed and is warm and yummy.

Drip or squirt sriracha if you dare.

For more veggies, fill the bottom of your bowl with shredded cabbage and then place the hot ham fried rice on top, mix it all around and dig in. You can do the same with kale but personally I have to cook it first (in my bowl just steam in the microwave for 45 seconds).

Leftovers make excellent breakfast and lunches too!

Give this whole grain recipe a whirl. I am certain you won’t be disappointed!

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Happy Planning!

3 Things You Can Do To Keep Your Zucchini Happy



Each night for the next 3-4 months, zucchini, crook neck or other summer squash (patty pan and it's alien cousins) will find its way into our fruit and veggie smoothie.

It is so mild you don’t even know it’s there.  Zucchini is one of my favorite “filler” veggies to add. When we have company for dinner, they always get a smoothie too. Adding extra zucchini is my favorite way to stretch a smoothie when guests arrive.

Super neutral in flavor, it takes up a lot of space in a glass and is so easy to grow you always have it on hand. Even if you don't grow it, it's super cheap this time of year. We were at a Farmer's Market two weeks ago and found it 10 for $1....BOOM!

Sadness and despair are two things one should never feel in the presence of summer squash. However, when your plants struggle and don’t produce well there are a few things you can do to return that plant to its botanical glory.

The 3 easiest things you can do to keep your zucchini happy are:

ONE - PULL OFF THE HUGE SQUASH. DON’T CHUCK THEM. Cut them up, put them on a silpat and freeze them for smoothies later in the year. The giant ones that go undetected make the plant dump it’s nutrients to it keeping it from nourishing new babies. As soon as the HUGE one is gone, the plant will focus on the newbies and you will be back in business again.

Ever heard of powdery mildew? It’s not that nasty stuff lurking in the community shower at the KOA but it is a relative. It’s white or grey fungus growing on the leaves of your plants. It can eventually kill the entire leaf and stem if nothing is done. It usually won’t kill your plant but it will slow the growth of what the plant produces.

There are several ways you can treat powdery mildew by applying different sprays. One study I read even used diluted mouthwash (1 part mouthwash:3 parts water). However, the thought of mixing and applying spray is beyond even my energy level.

In my opinion, the single most effective, hippy schmippy way I use to combat the fungal demon is NOT with a chemical concoction. It’s a secret my dad taught me.


The mildew prevents your squash plant from being able to photosynthesize to its full sunshine converting energy loving potential. Once removed your plant will actually grow new leaves keeping your summer squash producing longer and better.

Just yank/snap with a gloved hand unless you have Kevlar for skin or prune off the damaged leaves and get rid of them. Like landfill get rid of them, not in your compost pile.

THREE - When your zucchini first starts to flower, PLANT AGAIN. My dad is also responsible for teaching this one to me too. Planting again ensures you have tons of summer squash right up until it freezes in the fall. I planted again less than 2 weeks ago and have new plants 6 inches tall. These plants will keep me in zucchini not only in the fall but all winter long.

Piles and piles of zucchini are the best!  Sautéed with olive oil and a tiny bit of salt. Shredded into zucchini latkes or brownies. Baked into chips covered with a layer of crispy parmesan cheese. Gallons and gallons cubed, frozen and lovingly packed away to be used all winter long to stretch your smoothie with the power of veggies.

Your challenge for this weekend is to try zucchini in your fruit and veggie smoothie. We use about 1/2 a zucchini each night.

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Happy Growing!


Confession: Sugar is Delicious

Our family has just survived 25 driving hours (18 out and back and the rest exploration) in the car over the course of 4 days to Colorado. Longest road trip we have ever taken. I kind of feel like I need a reward of some sort. Oh wait, maybe eating my weight in sugar along the way was my reward.

For the most part we survived intact. There were no death threats, no one left on the side of the road and it really went much better than expected.

There was plenty of sugar and electronic devices that ran the entire time we sat.

Kit-Kats, Reese’s Peanut Butter cups, Red Vines, Mint Milano’s and caramel popcorn swirled together with handfuls of goldfish crackers and turkey jerky. Occasionally, a Greek yogurt and a fresh picked tomato would emerge from the cooler.

Perhaps that yogurt and tomato happened after the guilt of heavily processed junk coursing through my veins threatened to call for an insulin pump the next time we stopped at a pump.

And then there was lunch the first day in Colorado.

 I refuse to hang my head in shame from the sugar police because it was so incredible. We had Bundt cakes from The Bundt Shoppe.

For lunch.

Key lime, red velvet, raspberry tart, snicker doodle, white chocolate raspberry and double chocolate were shared among the group. Moist and flavorful cake topped with cream cheese goodness. Oh nuts, I just drooled on the keyboard.

None of us felt awesome after inhaling heavily processed heaven so we headed to Chick-Fil-A for some protein to balance the load.

Cake and fried chicken for lunch? Yep – a public confession that I love sugar (and Chik-Fil-A nuggets but I only eat them a few times a year).

Hold tight, we haven’t totally fallen off the deep end. I also love our fruit and veggie smoothies and can’t wait to sauté fresh squash for dinner tonight. I picked between 5 and 6 pounds of purple raspberries when I got home. And just froze a tray of squash (the overgrown ones that grew too big as we were gone).

Is it the end of the world? Nope. Do I feel great? Physically, no. Emotionally, yes. Will I swear off sugar for the rest of my life only eating fresh fruits and veggies. Nope. Will I make  more reasonable choices for my meals and snacks after feasting on so much sugar this weekend?

I hope so.

My pants will fit better if I do.

Happy Summer!


Be a Superhero - Compost!

Compost is what you add to your soil to give it super powers.

Compost is a super power because it aerates the soil giving tiny baby roots an easier chance to grow, improves the soils ability to drain surface water and to retain water = needing to water LESS (anyone living in a drought affected area?)! It also provides more nutrients for the growing plants so they are stronger, healthier and produce better.

The process of composting can be a difficult time consuming hobby or it can be incredibly simple.

All you need is a flex capacitor. Ok, maybe all you need is a repurposed giant yogurt or cottage cheese container, a shovel and some dirt.

The natural bacteria, fungus, worms and other microorganisms and critters in the soil are really your flex capacitor.


This process is the SIMPLEST way you can begin to compost – today!

It doesn't matter if your soil is sandy or heavy with clay - adding compost will improve your soil regardless of it's type.

It requires no fancy twirly barrel, no cagey contraption, no extra time turning your pile with a 6 tine pitch fork, sweat soaked bandana or shoes filled with sloshy organic goop.

It will give your soil exceptional strength and better ability to combat the demons and pests that try to destroy our gardens.

I almost left out the best part– because this is a job so simple it can be the responsibility of your kiddos!!! Superhero delegation = win for all involved.

Here is the unpatented process:

  1. collect your kitchen scraps (fruit and veggie scraps, coffee grinds and filters, crushed egg shells)
  2. go outside
  3. dig a hole
  4. dump your collection in the hole
  5. cover it back up with dirt to keep it from attracting critters
  6. walk away knowing you are a superhero because you just improved your soil and offset waste otherwise headed to a gloomy death in the landfill

The “dig the hole” or "pit compositing" method is one I have used for years.  I love it because it works especially well if you are tight on extra space or don't want to buy or make a cage for larger scale composting with leaves and grass clippings and sweat soaked bandana.

You can even collect in the winter when the ground is frozen.  Simply keep a 5 gallon bucket or two or three on the back porch as your holding tanks for kitchen waste.

When spring hits, dig a trough, dump in the contents of the 5 gallon buckets, cover it back up with dirt and within a few weeks it’s becomes humus for the soil.

Oh and how much does building the soil in your yard cost? ZIPPO – free soil super powers for your garden or anywhere in your yard (think your favorite tree, shrub or flowers).

What did you have to pay the nursery for that bag of peppy bag of soil goodness? Oh – nothing because you made it yourself (with the help of a kajillion amazing  mini superhero creatures in the soil)!

Today, I leave you with a twofold challenge.

First, collect your apple cores, banana peels, kale stems, outer layers of cabbage and onion skins, broccoli stems, zucchini ends, coffee grind and filters and even crushed egg shells – dig a hole and bury it and walk away a soil superhero.

Second, pretty please help me reach my goal of just 10 more subscribers – don't miss a single entertaining and thought provoking post! Thanks for all of the support, texts, emails and comments - this blog is a blast and I get super charged to hear what you have to say!

WAIT!!!! Remember to enter to win TINA TURNIP, contest ends TUESDAY JULY, 14. SIMPLY CLICK THE LINK:

Happy Composting!

Kale 101: How to Harvest and Why Bother

Kale is crazy popular these days. But have you really ever tasted it?

Wow, it’s very, um kale-ish, harsh-ish, feels like your chewing on a farmers fresh cut field-ish.

I had a kale salad at a restaurant a few months back thinking I was being “good”. It wasn’t awesome and I still regret ordering it.

I don’t make lovely summer salads with gobs of kale.

Kale chips are icky even if you can buy them at Costco. When you have to spit something out because it’s too fiberific to swallow it loses its appeal really fast.

You won't find us tearing pieces of kale in the garden when we need a snack.

Quick and dirty, this is how and why I use kale.

Snap, chop (I remove the thick stem/vein but you don’t have to), bag and freeze.

I have ABANDONED using fresh kale in smoothies because I can ADD MORE if it has been previously frozen. Frozen kale has a more mild flavor than fresh kale.

Being able to add 2 handfuls to a blender outweighs being able to add ¼ leaf of fresh kale and hope the youngin’s don’t hurl.

My goal is to try to get as much goodness in their glass of love each night. Frozen kale is much better math than the fresh approach.

In addition, because it grows in my back yard it's a cinch to pick.I am able to pack the freezer full which leaves (hahaha) me with a little more moola in my pocket at the end of the day. It’s possible to cram 2 pound chopped in your 1 gallon bag.

Doesn’t freezing destroy the nutritional quality of kale? The short answer is maybe a little.

The longer answer must consider several different aspects of the produce.

How far has it travelled from the farm and how long has it been sitting on a grocery store shelf or in your fridge?

If you grew it in your garden picked, chopped and froze it within hours it will have MORE good stuff (phytochemicals) left in it.

  • The phytochemical content in a plant can vary even among the plant, leaf or stem.
  • It varies depending on where it was grown and what variety was used.
  • It varies so much it’s hard to measure yet we know it does contain powerful goodness regardless of the isolated compound some scientist might be studying.

All of these variables lead me back to why we started blending in the first place. Picky kids not getting enough good stuff on a daily basis.

Once the love of produce was consistently consumed the level of sickness decreased dramatically. Not super scientific but real and measurable in how much we paid toward our deductible, how many days of school they missed and how dramatically stomach aches and constipation disappeared from our lives. Measure that Journal of Nutritional Frozen Produce.

Other ways to use the power of kale:

  • Add a handful to  your bowl of soup - chicken noodle, tomato, udon, potato cheese even gasp - the 13 cent devil himself - ramen noodles. If your team is anything like mine, it will only be in your bowl. My team would rather die than find kale lurking in something they have to chew (dinner) rather than swallow (fruit and veggie smoothie).
  • It’s also delicious with leftover Asian food I layer it on top of the rice, add the goopy leftovers and nuke it until its warm.

I have planted 6 Italian black kale starts this season and this is what the process looks like and the size of leaf I pick.

My dad has curly leaf kale and some of these photos are of his plants too. The bigger the leaf the harsher the flavor. I feel bad using these words about my friend kale but its true.

I love the medium sized leaves.

 The plant will also continue to grow more leaves so you can harvest once or twice a week depending on how your season is going.

If kale is so abrasive in flavor why do we use it? Why go through the trouble of adding it to smoothies especially when one is heavy fisted and the whole blend becomes powerfully gaggy?

  1. It grows like a weed = easy to grow a piles in a very small space
  2. It grows up out of the soil so it isn’t covered in dirt like spinach = less time to clean
  3. Harvesting is a breeze = snap at the base, chop, bag and freeze
  4. It is frost tolerant which makes it easy to continue to harvest long after the rest of the garden has bit the dust  in the fall
  5. If you leave the stalks in the ground in the fall, in the spring kale will grow from them
  6. Spring kale is super mild which makes it easier to get away with more.
  7. Super food status = it is one of the highest ORAC values of any fruit or veggie on the planet
  8. Fiber. Fiber helps prevent stomach aches and excessive camping on the potty.

And with that my friends, I hope you dare to add kale to your fruit and veggie smoothies, grow it in your yard or container on a patio and learn to see past it's harshness in order to get it's powerful love into your bodies cells.

Happy Blending!


PS - follow the link to enter to win my very first giveway!

This Common Weed Will Fear You

Keeping a secret is soooo hard for me. I love to tell people about the awesome gifts I have chosen for them before the gift opening occasion has occurred. It’s like a volcano of giddiness explodes within me as I try to keep a secret, well secret.

Believe it or not, I have kept this one secret from my family for two days.

We have been drinking weedsNOT the kind of weeds that result in muchies.

Purslane to be exact.

As I was giving my 13 year old her good night back rub, I couldn’t keep it in anymore and I told her what I had been up to. As her head crashed to her pillow in dramatic teenage fashion she groaned, “whyyyy?"

Why? Because we can.

Purslane is so common when you looked at the photo I’m certain you recognized it immediately. It’s actually native to the Middle East and many cultures seriously use it as a food - elevating it out of weed status.

It’s flavor is mild, bright and similar to spinach or watercress (but without being peppery). It is a succulent and grows into thick mats if left unattended. I read it can lay dormant in soil for up to 40 years.  Bittersweet news depending on how much weeding you have to do.


My MOTIVATION for giving this a whirl in the ole nightly smoothie was twofold.

  1. it’s a weed so the cost of acquisition is merely hunting and gathering
  2. it’s one of the highest plant sources of essential OMEGA 3 FATTY ACIDS alpha-linolenic acid

BOOM – who doesn’t want more omega’s in their diet especially for free!

Our bodies can’t make omega 3 fatty acids, we must get them from foods. Sadly, most of our diets are very low in omega 3 fatty acids. Low intakes of omega 3 fatty acids result in a higher risk of heart problems, noggin problems and even the big C.

I have eaten it raw and liked it.  Researching up on it, I’ve read it’s excellent in place of lettuce on sandwiches and can even thicken soups and stews because it’s high in pectin. Of course you could even google “purslane recipes” then stare at your device, mouth agap whispering under your breath, “huh, I would have never thought.”

The single easiest way to add this beauty to your diet is to sneak it into the blender. I started small, just 3 or 4 little guys. Usually big overgrown produce doesn’t taste so awesome, I assumed that was the case for purslane too.  Sticking to the little guys, I pinched off the tap root and chucked them in.

Completely undetected. Until I spilled my secret.

Happy Blending!

PS. Let common sense prevail. Do not consume if it has been sprayed with herbicide.

PPS. JUST a little plug for those of you who read all the way to the end. Next week I will be running my first GIVEWAY for the coolest amigurami turnip you ever laid your eyes on.

My Big Fat Zucchini Fairytale

Once upon a time a cute little princess with curly blond locks refused to eat anything but peanut butter, mac and cheese and apples (maybe a little more than that but those were her go-to's). The Queen of the castle had grown accustomed to her pickiness and was clever enough to work around it to maintain peace in the kingdom.

Clever indeed, it was not what was best for the cute little princess. Cutie was sick….a lot and missed school…a lot.

The Queen was tired of cutie not feeling good, tired of rearranging work/babysitter schedules, scheduling and hauling the troop to the doctor to be told, “meh, it’s viral”. The Queen had also grown weary of reacting to this little ones woes and letting it dictate the adventure of life.

Our cute princess needed proper nourishment, not picky kiddo fare. As all fairy tales do, this one ends beautifully with a life lesson learned.

Picky princess drinks her fruit and veggie smoothie daily. She admits (for a now almost 8th grader that is a big deal) to craving them when they have been skipped while on vacation. She also admits to no more intense stomach aches she experienced for longer than I care to admit.

The fairytale ends happily as we now consume blenders filled with goodness and whole food munchery became a consistent part of the cute little princess’ life.

What does the fairytale have to do with zucchini? Loads I tell you, loads.

sqush family.jpg

When we first started blending fruits and veggies on a nightly basis I used a lot of spinach. It felt like I was at Costco all the time buying pillow and pillows of spinach. Oh, and don’t forget that it’s almost impossible to ONLY get a bag of spinach when shopping at Costco = not so budget friendly.

As the Queen, I wanted to make smoothies a nightly habit because it was the best way to get the power of produce into my picky people.

In my frugalista mind, the more I grow and use from my own garden, the more money I save. The more I save, the easier it is to make drinking our whole food smoothie each day.

Hands down, the humble zucchini (crook neck, yellow zucchini, all summer squash) is by far one of my favorite veggies to blend into our smoothies. Hold tight I'll tell you why in a second.

We throw all kinds of produce into the blender, sometimes we score sometimes not so much. The night we blended zucchini, I was shocked to find we could ADD A TON of zucchini and not even notice it.

Flavor SCORE! Veggie SCORE! Kids don’t gag SCORE! Eliminate a trip to Costco SCORE!

Zucchini has just started to come on in our neck of the kingdom. We have eaten 3 in the last two days, both in our smoothies and sautéed in a frying pan with olive oil and a little bit of salt.

They are sweet and fresh and fill you with the energy of summertime goodness.

It gets better. As the season goes on and you discover the giant zucchini that had gone unnoticed. DO NOT CHUCK IT. It is ideal for smoothies for a few reasons:

  • it’s huge and it’s free = good math when blending nightly smoothies to keep you from donating plasma to pay for a regular smoothie routine
  • huge ones usually don’t taste so great (sautéed, turned into zucchini chips, or stuffed) but they are virtually undetectable in smoothies
  • huge ones make it simple to pack gallon freezer bags full with one type of produce - chop, place on a silpat and freeze to use garden fresh goodness year round
  • you want farm to table, low carbon footprint? BOOM...nailed it with your own little micro-farm

If you haven’t planted it yet, it isn’t too late. I planted more seeds just yesterday (Zone 5) because around August-ish the plants we are harvesting off now will start to die off due to powdery mildew. Cue the newbies in just placed in the dirt to be ready to harvest when their older buddies struggle to produce.

I leave you with two tasks today. FIRST- try zucchini in your smoothie tonight. Let me know what you think. THANK YOU for - pressing the buttons to make like, share and subscribe happen...pretty please continue to do so!!!!  It helps tremendously to get the word out about my blog filled with inspiration, laughter and real life whole food solutions one day at a time!

Happy Blending!


Unleash Your Inner Hippie - How to Make Your Own Fertilizer!

This is out there and I’m cool with that. Doing things a little bit differently from others is just how we roll. I have a worm farm and I LOVE my worms.

They make fertilizer for me out of our kitchen waste, newspaper and even my kiddos homework. Hahaha, sorry teacher, my mom’s worms ate my homework!

These aren’t  the worms  your mom cautioned you about when you forgot to wash your hands after playing in a sand pile frequented by the neighbors cats.

These aren’t the worms dogs get injections to prevent.

My worms are red wigglers (Eisenia foetida) and they are the best composting worm around. The sole purpose of a compositing worm is to eat your kitchen waste and well, make waste or castings if you want to be couth about it.

Worm castings are THE BEST ALL NATURAL fertilizer for your garden.  Red wigglers eat half their weight in food each day leaving you with black gold.

What is so amazing about worm castings?

Several things my future worm farmer. First when you add any organic material to your soil you improve it. When you improve your soil you improve the plants that grow in it. Healthier plants produce higher quality and quantity for you and your family to eat.

Worm castings won’t burn delicate seedings. In our garden, we hoe a row for planting and place the worm castings in the row and sow our seed directly on top of it the castings.

I love happy plants and my plants are extremely happy because their first start at life is in Mother Nature’s most balanced goodness, worm castings. Fertilizer made in balance with the earth. Improving soil quality rather than stripping it of the nutrients it needs.

Initially, I ordered 1,000 red wigglers and the Worm Factory 360 from Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm ( I told my husband it’s what he was giving me for Christmas. He rolled his eyes and kept quiet because he knows better.

I have had these worms for over 4 years. I hesitate to admit this but once or twice I may have ignored them for too long and almost lost them. Please don’t send the worm police, my worms are well cared for 99% of the time, because yes, things happen.

I know I’ve ignored them for too long when I see dried up worms on my garage floor.  Escapee’s mean I’m not doing my job. They only escape when conditions aren’t good. I want happy worms and healthy worms in order to get more worm castings for my garden.

Ok but really? Worms? Yep. Dear friend, you are not the average Hippie, and you love learning new groovy things. You may own a pair of Birkenstock’s. And maybe a pair of Birkenstock garden clogs in red.  


You get it, we as living beings generate too much waste from too much consumption every day. The average person generates 4.3 pounds of trash a day. Seriously, that is not awesome.

Lurking uneaten food that was doomed to spoil in the fridge, dreaming of escaping the containers and bags which held it hostage, dreaming only to have a better life.

Waste from prepping veggies for dinner. The banana peel and apple core from breakfast or lunch.  The outer layers of lettuce and cabbage we have been trained to remove.

Newspaper, egg cartons, junk mail and phone books - all tasty treats to a composting worm. 

My red wigglers eat kitchen scraps (I compost the rest), weeds from the garden and yes, even my kids homework. They take trash and turn it into something amazing that improves the quality of my soil. Organically. Happily, the way Mother Nature intended.

One pound of worms will eat half a pound of waste per day which is an excellent way to reduce your waste. Their waste is ideal for your soil and your seedlings will LOVE you for years to come.

Do you want to know the best part? My daughter had her dad order 1,000 more worms for me for Mother’s Day. Nothing says “love you mom” like composting worms!

Why, why are worms so amazing? Because I now have worm castings ready to use as I plant new seedlings and fertilize established plants. My little seedlings will be given the best start to life a mother could give them. 

Soil quality improves, waste to the landfill is lessened and the plants you grow produce better. The more your plants produce, the more you can freeze for affordable fruit and veggie smoothies.

Plus it's cool to tell people you are a worm farmer.

Happy Growing!


A Date to Remember

You should get to know Medjool (or her cousin Deglet Noor) – she is an excellent date!

One of my latest loves is a wrinkly crinkly, amber colored beautifully sweet treat. Her name is Medjool. She is known for being a knockout, full of sweetness with hints of honey, caramel and cinnamon.

Her cousin Deglet Noor is awesome too; however she is a bit drier with less sweetness.  She makes up for it simply because she happens to be almost 1/3 the price per pound.

Your tasting skills and math skills will probably agree - although I prefer Medjool to taste she runs about $8 a pound. On the other hand, Deglet Noor from the bulk bin at the grocery store runs $3 a pound.

Until recently, admittedly I have shunned the date. For whatever reason, I equated them with mince meat filling, canned stewed prunes or the creepy scary fruit cake.

I am not a big fan of flavors like clove or allspice and had erroneously assumed dates had a flavor profile that included strong brown spices. In my world, dates had been tucked into the “thanks, but no” category.

Are you still thinkin’… ohh, dates shamtes, they are for old people. Dried brown fruit is what retirees request when they are traveling. If that is the case, retirees know where it’s at cuz these things are as tasty as they are good for you.

Open your gee-whiz file and insert these two nifty tidbits.

Dates happen to be the oldest cultivated fruit in the world dating back 6,000 years in the Middle East. Further, the date palm is known as the Tree of Life in the Middle East due to their life sustaining nature for traveling nomads and (ok, I squished in a 3rd nifty tidbit) happens to be mentioned in the Bible and the Qur’an.

Our meeting was not as a starving nomad searching the desert for nourishment but rather a whim and a recipe that intrigued me.

Medjool was discovered when my nomad fingertips and google skills discovered it was possible to make my own whole food energy bars.

I was tired of thick, hard to chew slabs of shoe leather when hiking or cycling and went for it. It just so happens that they are also excellent in lunch boxes and for road trip snackage too.

Whole Food Energy Bites

  • 1 cup dates (I use Deglet Noor, if you use Medjool use less liquid)
  • 1 cup raw cashews
  • ¼ cup almond butter (or peanut butter)
  • 2-3 Tbsp hydrated chia seeds (soak 1 ½ Tbsp chia in 1/2 cup water overnight)

Dump all the ingredients in the Cuisinart and pulse until it starts to form a ball. It’s loud so don’t do it during the little ones nap time. Or you could flip the switch when the kiddos are arguing so you don’t have to listen to it.

You can roll into balls and refrigerate or plop into a small container and dig it out as you need it.

Super fancy types can line a 9x9 pan (or even something smaller for a thicker bar) with wax paper and press dough evenly. Refrigerate for an hour or so then cut into squares. Layer  bars with wax paper because they do get sticky and are harder to separate when they are cold.

I made those bars religiously for several months then decided I was tired of cleaning the Cuisinart and came up with my next best idea.  Medjool or Deglet Noor dates plus roasted unsalted cashews, in my mouth at the same time. The end. Sweets fix accomplished using whole, unprocessed natural foods.

My tiny hiking pouch holds a container of dates and cashews instead of energy bars. BAM…super good, whole food packed with the calories a body needs to get the job done right.

Far from being hidden with the likes of stewed prunes, Medjool and Deglet Noor are gorgeous wrinkly amber treasures. Treasures filled with the sweetness our pallets crave but with the goodness of being a whole unprocessed food (fiber, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals).

Oh my goodness, where is my head? Dates are also EXCELLENT at sweetening fruit and veggie smoothies. 

Just make sure the pit has been removed first. Your blender will thank you.

Way back, long ago…I added sugar to our smoothies to get my pickies to drink them. I am not ashamed I added sugar, I had to get my pickies hooked just like Big Foods does with high fructose corn syrup. BUT if I had known about dates I could have skipped those first few weeks of straight sugar being added to our blends.

I have two requests of you today: first - try these babies. I used them to help slow down my chocolate consumption. Gasp…it’s so true. I have to work super hard each day to slow down on the sweets. Second – subscribe, share and like with your friends who you think would love articles like this.

Happy Dating!


Why Garden's Are Holy

In the gardening world, there are a lot of secrets. Stories and theories about the biggest, the best or the greatest quantity run rampant. Secrets some refuse to share for fear they will loose their growing prowess.

On the flip side, many people I talk to tell me they just don’t have a green thumb. They can never get certain things to grow. They are frustrated and find it easier to just buy their produce rather than grow it.

In the late 70’s-early 80’s, I remember frequently riding in my dad’s orange pick-up truck (aptly named the Great Pumpkin) to 12th Street in Ogden, Utah. This 15 minute trip was taken several times a week as my dad was helping Vietnamese refugees with a garden.

He helped get the use of the land donated, access to water secured and even had it plowed to make planting easier. Checking it often to ensure adequate water to help the garden grow, we grumbled...a lot.

As a young child, I didn't understand the power of a garden.

This simple plot of unused, undeveloped land enabled the refugees a place to grow vegetables that they were familiar with...homegrown love they had grown on farms and gardens in soil on the other side of the globe.

As they worked in that garden, I remember hearing the people chatter and laugh.  In their broken English they would ask my dad questions and were very gracious to him. Gardening on that plot of land was better than therapy or emersion courses.

It allowed the refugees the opportunity to socialize with people from their country; easing homesickness while trying to plant roots in a foreign country. At a very basic level the garden provided nourishment at a time when employment, housing and futures were uncertain.

Perhaps it’s easy to forget how good food, grown in healthy soil can mean more than calories and one less trip to the grocery store. Good healthy food grown in soil amended with compost, planted with thought and timing, and nourishing seedlings  with 5 gallon buckets of grey water something really special.

Food is used to comfort and celebrate and ease physical hunger.  Food can also strengthen our bodies after a course of antibiotics and a sinus infection or heaven forbid after being demolished by harshness of chemotherapy. 

When a simple, humble bag of peas picked fresh from the garden are shared with friends we know are facing challenges something magical happens. Those heavenly orbs of goodness not only provide protein, antioxidants, fiber, vitamins and minerals, they connect people to each other.

The biggest secret from the garden is not just the magical way a seedling will sprout, force the exterior shell to pop and fight its way to the surface to be fueled by the Sun.  The biggest secret in the garden is being able to nourish and cherish the connection we have with each other.

Horticulture, Master Gardener status or lack or green thumbs it matters not. The secret is easy.

Add good stuff to your dirt and you’ll get even better stuff back. Share the good stuff and what you get back will be cherished connections. The power of a garden is holy.

Happy Growing!

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Nutritious Fluffy Pancake Recipe for Picky Eaters

Hi, my name is Brooke and I am in love with whole grains and I eat wheat. Wha’? Really? I am a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, I have some of the pickiest eaters on the planet (admittedly I was one myself) and I will say it again, I EAT wheat based products even though it's not trendy.  Oh, and it’s ok that I eat wheat.

But some cry out, “wheat is inflammatory, I can’t eat that!” “What about wheat allergies?” “We can’t eat wheat, it’s not what our caveman ancestors ate.”

Confusing swirling messages of inaccuracy that make us want to pull our hair out and scream.

We probably all know someone who had celiac and MUST not eat wheat based products. We all know someone who says they have wheat allergies, it’s real some people do. Back in the day, I had a boss who had a wheat allergy. When he ate wheat over the weekend we knew it because his skin would get all dandruff flaky like on his eyebrows. Totally fun to call his bluff with the eyebrow thing.

Wheat is inflammatory especially when you have celiac and you’re your gut rages an inflammatory response to gluten (a tiny protein in wheat) when it shows up. Yikes!

Wheat is also inflammatory when one has an allergy or intolerance. It’s not as severe as an individual with celiac but people still get upset stomachs, abdominal pain and just feel crummy.

Ok, now for the rest of us. We have been told by popular press that wheat is a terrible, horrible, no good very bad thing. Hold on now, I’m going to try to debunk something that has literally no marketing dollars behind it, no shareholders to please and I don’t get paid to endorse.

Wheat is ok. In fact it’s better than ok. BUT only if you are using WHOLE wheat and not it’s highly processed cousin white flour.

You want inflammatory? Eat a Twinkie, enjoy a box of Cheez-It’s, plow through a package of Oreo’s (isn’t it great that they don’t have trans-fats!!!!) Highly processed crap is inflammatory. It’s also loaded with sugar, preservatives (but they preserve the food for longer shelf life not your body from disease), artificial colors and artificial flavors.

Eating WHOLE grains do a few amazing things:

  • Decrease risk of stroke
  • Decrease risk of Type 2 diabetes
  • Decrease risk of heart disease
  • Better weight maintenance
  • Decrease constipation

The WHOLE grain has antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids and naturally occurring vitamins and minerals. Its backwoods cousin, white flour, is required by law to have vitamins and minerals added back in to help people not get ridiculous diseases from vitamin deficiencies.  

A few weeks ago, I posted about a 100% WHOLE grain Secret Breakfast Cookie that is so amazing, my kids eat it for breakfast. Today, I am posting a 100% WHOLE grain FLUFFY pancake recipe your pickies will swoon over.

Why? Because we need real foods made with whole ingredients that are delicious. We need real food that isn’t fussy and so time consuming our hangry evil personalities take over and ruin a perfectly good evening.  We need it because it’s awesome for our bodies and our taste buds.

Our caveman ancestors may not have eaten wheat. For the record, ANY diet will be successful for as long as you are on it. Diets of any sort eliminate food groups you usually eat, magically restricting your caloric intake which results in weight loss. On the whole, I dig Paleo because it relies heavily on veggies, restricts foods that are easy to consume too much of (dairy, grains, legumes and refined sugar).

The trick with choosing a "diet" is finding something you can stick with for a lifetime. It is very difficult to live with heavy restrictions for a lifetime. Once anyone goes off a particular diet, the weight is gained back and then some.

Find an eating lifestyle that will improve the way you eat for the rest of your life. For me, it includes whole grains because they are so good for our bodies.

Give these bad boys a whirl, they are delicious, 100% whole grain and don’t make you feel like you are chewing on an old shoe. Often we have them for dinner with a side of scrambled eggs and our nightly fruit and veggie smoothie. Besides, who doesn’t love fluffy pancakes? For dinner!!!!

Fluffy Whole Grain Pancakes

  • ¾ cup white whole wheat flour (we use Prairie Gold in the brownish-yellow bag – bottom shelf at Target or Walmart or King Arthur White Whole Wheat)
  • ¾ cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt (when I double the batch I only use ¾ tsp)
  • 1 ½ cups buttermilk
  • 1 Tbsp canola oil
  • 2 eggs
  • splash of vanilla

Place all of the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl, blend to even incorporate. Beat the eggs then add all of the wet ingredients. As you know with whole grain, it needs to rest to allow the grain to absorb. Let it sit for 15-30 minutes to work its magic. You may want to thin it with buttermilk or milk before you put on the griddle.

We usually double the batch and have 8-10 pancakes leftover. Freeze or refrigerate the leftovers.

Want some crazy cool add-ins? Before you flip to the second side, sprinkle with hemp seed, chia or quinoa and it adds a toasty crunch. Hydrated quinoa is yummy too, but you don’t get the texture bonus. You will notice from the photo (which I know is messy, don't tell Pintrest) the kids love chocolate chips added to theirs.


Stay tuned, I pinkie promise the next recipe I post will not be wheat based for those who are avoiding it. I’ve got a few up my sleeve that are super awesome!

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Happy Whole Food Eating!