Category Archives: grow

all about my adventures in the garden

In My Kitchen: Pantry day

Stocking the fruit bowl

Big beans!

Cilantro and Parsley - fall bliss!

I’m playing along with Heather over at Beauty that Moves. Here’s a look at what’s going on in my kitchen!

I’ve been getting a lot of help in the kitchen this week. That little girl likes nothing better than to help, help, help!

This is the second week in my series elaborating on our meal plan. Last week I wrote about soup day and shared two recipes. This week, I want to tell you about pantry day. Pantry day was inspired by an entry on my Flow magazine 2014 daily calendar. One day back in July, I read, “Look in your pantry and make a meal tonight from products that should have found their way to your tummy months ago. Good for your wallet and your overflowing pantry.” The tip came from Els Jacobs’s book Vrolijk huishouden. It’s also good for reducing dinner time stress and saves you a trip to the grocery store.

I keep a pantry and a full freezer for basic, emergencies, and bargains. Keeping basics means when the olive oil runs out during the middle of cooking, I can walk to the pantry and get a new bottle. Crisis avoided. Emergencies arise when a trip to the grocery store doesn’t work out or you get to add a person or four to your dinner table. A well-stocked pantry and freezer means you can put together a last minute meal. Hopefully it will also be an easy, non-thinking, mid-week type meal. Finally, having extra storage space for food means I can take advantage of sales and deals at different stores. Sales here are usually buy one get one free, so you can really save money buy buying when your favorite jam is on sale. I shop at about three different grocery stores regularly, one in my neighborhood for incidentals, one larger shop that has everything we need, and one in Germany that has broader selections of organic products and some great deals. I make the Germany trip once every three weeks and a lot of what I buy there goes into the pantry.

Adding a pantry day to our meal plan was a way to make myself use the staples I’ve bought along the way that I either bough too much of (soup pasta and polenta, of all things) or bought after being inspired by a new cookbook and then put aside (spelt and gerst – what is gerst?!). The good news is that I love polenta. That, however, was one of the easier items on the shelf and I’m going to have to tackle some more intimidating purchases and a whole lot of Chinese food in the coming weeks.

The happy ending to all this is that I’ve got more space in the pantry after just a month of eating out of the pantry once a week. I’m also more careful about what I buy to put on the shelves. That means I’m also spending a bit less at the grocery store every week. With less clutter in the pantry, it’s becoming more and more clear what I need to keep in stock and what can go on a shopping list if I plan to use it. Canned tomatoes in the pantry is good. Eight cans might be a bit of overkill. As an extra bonus, I’m less inclined to let special items sit and get forgotten. We received a delicious tapenade from friends and have been enjoying it shamelessly. There’s a seductive honey and nuts concoction sitting on the edge of the shelf now waiting for it’s turn. Neither of us can wait!

By now, you’re dying to know what actually keep in the pantry, right? Here’s a list of some things I like to keep in stock.

Pantry Freezer
olive oil
sunflower oil
vanilla sugar
peanut butter
tinned tomatoes
condensed milk
baking soda
extra box of dishwasher tabs
frozen peas
fruit for smoothies
blanched, frozen beans
butter, salted and unsalted
grated cheese
homemade broth
homemade pizza sauce
homemade pizza dough
ground beef
homemade soups
homemade stews
homemade pasta sauce

Let me know how things are going in your kitchen, then click that link and go see more kitchens at Beauty that Moves.

Twitter: flowmagazine

In My Kitchen: Meal Planning

Greens from the Garden

Purple and Green Basil Delight!

Polenta before

Plenta (joy!)

Summer Veg


I’m playing along with Heather over at Beauty that Moves. Here’s a look at what’s going on in my kitchen!

So excited that Heather’s back this week! I got all excited about joining in after a long summer ended up writing a rather emotional little post last week. But I also realized that I’ve come to rely on this weekly sharing for some good inspiration for my own kitchen. Cooking every day is a job that requires serious creativity. The ladies who share give me ideas about using ingredients, different combinations, and even meal plans. Most importantly, they remind me what’s in season here and elsewhere and just how beautiful the obligatory time we spend in our kitchens can be – if we let it!

Around here, school is starting here. One of our big shifts from summer into fall is that the after-work schedule picks up and I’m on my own with the kids a couple nights a week. As with all things in my life, this kind of situation requires some kind of strategy and hopefully a list or seven. Over the past few years, I’ve tried different approaches to meal planning and learned a few lessons along the way. My introduction to meal planning was a decision when we lived in Chicago to make pizza on Fridays. It had more to do with a new mixer and an obsession with learning to make a good yeast dough than simplifying our eating. Meal planning has evolved since then. I thought I’d share my current plan and maybe get to hear back what others are doing!

Working with themes or categories has turned out to be my favorite system. It limits my choices when planning a particular day and encourages me to look for meals that fit within the categories and make the family happy. I try to keep an updated list of favorites by category and that can help if I’m not feeling inspired. I plan a week or two weeks in advance, often just before grocery shopping. Sometimes I get to spend some quality time with a favorite cookbook and will fill in days with meals that fit the category. Here’s the game plan for this season with a current favorite for each category!

  • Monday: Soup (beef barley soup)
  • Tuesday: Pantry (polenta)
  • Wednesday: Fish (salmon steaks)
  • Thursday: Pasta (pasta salad)
  • Friday: Pizza (four-cheese pizza)
  • Weekend: one big meal, one easy meal
  • The schedule is flexible. This week, for example, it was just me and the kids on Wednesday but we’ll all be home on Thursday, so we are swapping fish and pasta. The actual plan lives in my agenda/weekly planner. I make a little colored box on each day right over the dinner hours and write the meal plan in there. It works well because any notes about going out to eat are right there. Notes about anyone eating elsewhere are there as well.

    As for this week’s pictures, the garden hasn’t been the massive bonanza I hoped for this year, but look at those beautiful greens! They were delicious, although my attempt at spelttoto (River Cottage Veg strikes again) wasn’t so nice. It may have something to do with using the wrong spelt. Ahem. As for the basil, I feel like I cracked the code this year! We have four happy, healthy basil pots on the window sill and enjoy eating from them once or twice a week. No pesto volumes yet, but this is fantastic!

    We have (or maybe I have) fallen hard for the River Cottage Veg polenta recipe. It is incredibly delicious, rich, and cheesy with so little work! It was divine with the veggies. It’s something about the buttery zucchini and sweet tomato sauce and cheesy polenta… I must stop or find myself in the kitchen making more! I ended up adding quite a bit more milk both times I made it, but that could be due to the type of polenta I’m using. I’d be curious about other peoples’ experiences.

    The cake is Sandkuchen that we decided to make when all other afternoon plans fell through due to first-week-of-first-grade exhaustion. I’ve got a thing for the Dr. Oetker recipes that’s related to a couple childhood years in Germany. The surprise ingredient in Sandkuchen is corn starch, as much corn starch as flour. It gives the cake a nice dense texture. Delicious!

    Let me know how things are going in your kitchen, then click that link and go see more kitchens at Beauty that Moves.

    In My Kitchen: Rooted

    Chioggia Beets

    blogged at:

    Chioggia Beets

    Let me know how things are going in your kitchen, then click that link and go see more kitchens at Beauty that Moves.

    Yesterday I picked our four beets from the garden. They’re beautiful things, Chioggia beets that I grew from seed. They’ve got red and white rings on the inside, but I was too busy putting them straight into the oven for roasting to cut them open and look. We’ve been loving the Roasted Beetroot with Walnuts and Yoghurt Dressing from River Cottage Veg – a brilliant cookbook if there ever was one. I’ve never picked a beet before and it was a mini-adventure in my backyard. Selecting, pulling, rubbing off soil, and washing all put me in a meditative mode. Beets. Beetroot. Roots.

    I’ve never felt rooted. I’m the kind of girl who doesn’t like to answer questions about where she’s from. Rattling off a list of locations and dates is somewhere between boring and obnoxious. I am genuinely curious about a life in which people grow up and live in one place, or at least have family that stays in one place, a place they return to year after year after year. I went to elementary school in South Dakota. We lived in Germany before and Saudi Arabia after. I went to a boarding school and never stayed anywhere more than two years in a row for maybe fifteen years. Then we moved to Haarlem. We had shifted by then from my fmaily to me and my partner, now husband. We spent a long time in Haarlem, six years. They were busy years, but not building years. We knew we weren’t staying. A lot of people knew they weren’t staying. No one was rooted or putting down roots.

    All of which is to paint a picture. I don’t really know what it is to feel rooted and may not even know how to do it. It’s an action, right? Rooting? It has to do with people and places and connections, building and digging deep. In my life, those things have been fleeting. So many of the people and places that have been important to me are no longer present in my (daily) life. Lately I’ve started to miss them, sometimes a lot. Things are slowing down a little bit. We aren’t moving or planning on moving. Lately, I’m starting to feel like I’m a part of a community here in Nijmegen. It is like a little magic every day.

    The past 48 hours have been full of little extraordinarily mundane moments, but each of them has been special to me. A friend called just to chat. I can laugh at myself over finding this special, but in all honestly, it almost never happens. Most of my close friends live in different countries and time zones. The last time someone called to chat, I asked the babysitter to stay an extra hour! While we were biking to school, we ran into my husband’s colleague who lives in the neighborhood. We did the Dutch version of a quick catch-up, biking together and chatting until our routes diverged. After dropping of Peanut at school, a mom invited a couple of us over for coffee. In the afternoon, Pumpkin and I ran into more people we know in town. And when we finally all got home, the kids took off to our retired neighbors’ house for a good 45 minutes of spoiling.

    When did this all happen to me? This life in which I see people all over town? This life in which I’m not anonymous? I am not always sure what to do with all this, but oh my am I grateful. Grateful that all these people make space for me and my family in their lives. Grateful that we have such a wonderful group of people around us. Grateful that my littles are surrounded by caring adults and fun kids. Grateful that the stars aligned and brought us to this place in the world where it feels like we can settle in and put down some roots. All of which will certainly involve planting more beets, many more beets!

    In My Kitchen

    Beans from the garden

    Lamb Shank

    Stew start

    Frozen broth

    I’m posting along with Heather over at Beauty that Moves. Have a read and then pop on over to see more at her site!

    This week, we’ve had a bit of garden bounty and a whole lot of family bounty. My sister and her husband spent a few days with us and we got to share meals together, which is really one of the best things about having house guests. It wasn’t particularly warm, so I made some stew!

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    In My Kitchen

    Oregon Sugar Snap Peas

    Peas: Kelvedon Wonder & Oregon Sugar Snap



    I’m playing along with the In my Kitchen day over at Beauty that Moves. Go have a look!

    So clearly, I’m a bit obsessed with the things that come out of the garden and pretty much sticking my camera as close to them as I can. What can I say – looking at the world this way is inspiring! It’s so easy to not see the veins on a lettuce leaf or the little knob on a pea when they’re usually in bunches and handfuls. But when I stop and look at those details, I get a little shiver. They are just so beautiful and each piece is unique.

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    Garden Time

    Nursery for baby plants

    Ready for beans!

    Apple Blossems

    Pea Progress

    Tulips galore

    It’s gone a bit cool the past few days. No late April snow, thank goodness, but the winter coats have come back out. The sun came back out yesterday and our sky is blue with sheep’s wool clouds, according to Peanut. He watched the clouds all the way to school this morning. It is a treat to have a little boy who can be genuinely transfixed by beauty in nature. His mother is a bit impatient with nature. It turns out that seeds need time to germinate. They need time to grow. The garden needs time and heat to really explode with green. It’s coming. I can’t wait!

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    Garden time



    Blue Kohlrabi

    The garden: 20 March 2014

    The garden: 20 March 2014

    On the first day of spring, this is my other work in progress. Last year, we painstakingly dug out the garden in our new backyard. It was overflowing with weeds and flowers. Just about everything got moved, either replaced in the garden or moved to the front yard. Our goal was to make room for a whole lot of vegetables this summer. My inspiration for this year’s garden is coming from Alys Fowler’s book and BBC series, The Edible Garden. I watched the BBC series and needed to have the book, which is lovely.

    We’ve kept a lot of the flowers from last year and planted some last year for some quick color as well. Right now, we’ve got borage, lungwort, and helleborus up in the shade and violets and grape hyacinth up in the sun. The tulips are coming in the front yard (so many!) and all of the perennials are coming back strong.

    The veggie plan is to grow lots of variety and focus on plants that are going to grow a bit quickly and be pretty to look at. We’ll see this year what does well and what we like. Fowler recommends starting lots of young plants in modules and then planting them out as they mature and as space comes free in the garden. We don’t yet have much of a space problem, but we shall see what the season brings. It’s gorgeous gardening weather here just now with lots of warm sunny days and some rain coming, too.

    In my modules right now are fennel, kohlrabi, basil, tiny tim tomatoes, chives, and some lettuce. I’ve got a couple more tomato plants that are older and in pots on the window sill. The cherry tomatoes were a big hit last summer and I’m hoping we will get plenty this year. Growing them from seed is a new challenge. Out in the garden we’re taking out plants that over-wintered and have started to flower with the warm weather, kale, cabbage, and brussel sprouts that never really took off. On the other hand, lettuce and kohlrabi that seemed to grow so slowly over the winter have started to really take off and just might give us an early spring crop. I’ve planted out peas in two varieties: Oregon Sugar Snap and Kelvedon Wonder. These are recommendations straight from The Edible Garden. I’m figuring that the climate in the UK is fairly similar to what we have here. I ordered my seeds and some supplies from Tuinwinkel Van der Wal and am quite pleased with them.

    This week we’ve also been adding compost to the soil from our own compost pile. On Saturday, it’s National Compost Day (I’m not kidding) and we’ll pick up 40L of free compost from the city. If you live in the Netherlands, check “locaties 2014” menu to see where you can pick up some free compost! I’m planning to keep that aside to add as I plant or move plants through the season.

    It’s exciting to have a garden season in front of us – can’t wait to start watching things grow!