Less Noise, More Green: January 2014

Friday, January 31, 2014


Lemoncello recipe

One of my goals for 2014 is learning how to make more alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. My first project has been Lemoncello. Compared to may alcoholic beverages, Lemoncello has a quick turn around time of under two weeks and does not involve any special equipment.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Carrot Coconut Bread

Carrot Coconut Bread Recipe

A week or so ago I dug up thirteen pounds of carrots from my garden. Since then we have been enjoying the versatility of carrots in all their culinary forms. In other words, we've been eating a lot of carrots!

Carrot Coconut Bread Recipe

This quick bread makes a great breakfast or lunch box addition. It is not overly sweet and only calls for four tablespoons of butter. With plenty of carrots, apples and raisins, I think it is tasty, too. The bread is a beautiful deep yellow with flex of orange and the toasted coconut on the top makes it an attractive loaf. I hope you enjoy it!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Friday, January 24, 2014

Slow Cooker Mediterranean Chicken

Slow Cooker chicken Recipe

I completely understand the appeal of slow cookers. A little bit of prep at the start of the day and a cooked meal is waiting for you eight hours later. I have never warmed up to the method, though (pun intended). Vegetables in particular lack flavor if they are not browned before going in the cooker, which defeats the whole idea of the appliance doing all the work. Also, I often find the recipes contain too much liquid which does not dissipate in the cooking process. I have created a couple of dishes, however, that deal with both of these issues and Slow Cooker Mediterranean Chicken is one of them.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Kitchen Reorganization Series, Part 7: Eight Tips for Organizing a Kitchen

This is the seventh in an eight part series on how I reorganized my kitchen to function more efficiently.

The cabinets are clean, purged and organized. I wont lie - its a good feeling. I spend so much of my day in this room. Cooking from scratch is as much about the process as the end result for me and having an organized space clears my head so my hands can work. I think I am secretly a minimalist, but living with three other people makes creating that aesthetic almost impossible. The kitchen, however, is my space. Here I can attempt a little restraint and find my culinary inspiration in the empty spaces. Less noise - I chose the title of this blog well!

Here are some tips from my reorganizing experience that I hope will be helpful if you ever decide to tackle your own kitchen.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Upcycled t-shirt bag tutorial

I am always looking for ways to re-purpose our stuff. Any day I can keep items out of the trash, recycle bin or donation pile is a good day. To my mind, one of the saddest results of our consumer culture is the lack of creativity. Previous generations could see usefulness in their belongings beyond their original purpose and came up with really creative ways to extend the life of their things. Granted, items were made of better quality materials and people had the skills needed for these projects, but they also had the mindset not to be wasteful and to value their belongings.

Today we have given this idea a new name - we call it 'upcycling' and those with the skills to do it are called artists. I believe we all have a little artist in us and with the willingness to learn new/old skills, we can make unique and useful items out of our otherwise to be discarded stuff.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Kitchen Reorganization Series, Part 6: kitchen gadgets, baking pans, pots and pans

This is the sixth part in an eight part series where I reorganize my kitchen to function more efficiently.

I had been dreading reorganizing these two cupboards because they were such a disaster, but I also knew that once I did, the pay off would be huge! These cupboards hold all my kitchen appliances, tools such as measuring jugs, baking pans and dishes, casseroles, serving plates and all my pots and pans. They really took a beating over the Christmas season and I've been cursing every time I try to find something in there.

My reorganization goals were to have a home for every item, so that putting things away was easy and this mess wouldn't happen again and to store them so that the glass and non-stick surfaces were protected. So lets watch the crazy parade as I pull out everything I had jammed in these cupboards.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Winter Carrot Salad

Carrot Salad Recipe

I have a lot of carrots in my fridge. As I mentioned in my last post, I dug up my entire bed of carrots last week, all thirteen pounds of them! Needless to say, we will be eating a lot of carrots over the next few weeks. Carrots are such a versatile vegetable and work with many different flavor combinations. I routinely use them in everything from stews and soups, to salads and even in baked goods.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Why my carrots are not Barbie dolls.

ugly vegetables are nutritious, urban farming
My beautiful wobbly carrots.

As a result of having frozen vegetable beds, I had to go to the supermarket this week to buy a bag of carrots. The temperature then rose into the fifties, the ground thawed and not wanting to be caught out again, I dug up the entire carrot bed -all thirteen pounds of them!  As I was digging them up, I started admiring the variations in size and color and the amazing twists and crazy shapes. These looked nothing like the store bought carrots. 

I began to think about those soap commercials that celebrated women in all their various shapes and sizes.  Those ads were aimed at bolstering young women’s self-esteem, to affirm that their value lay not in their outward appearance and that all bodies are beautiful.  None of the women looked like Barbie.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Kitchen Reorganization, Part 5: Baking Cabinet

This is the fifth part of an eight part series on how I reorganized my kitchen to work more efficiently.

As I have worked my way around the kitchen, reorganizing the cabinets full of food, I have found items that should have been in the baking cabinet and for some reason were not. Into the baking cabinet they went. The result was a very full baking cabinet!

Five Facts Every Gardener Should Know about their Garden

Here is my latest post for the Providence Journal Garden Blog.


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Guest Post: A Trio of Knitted Bookmarks


 I'm so happy to bring you another guest post from my best friend, fiber artist, Roda Motta.  Enjoy!

 I love knitting small items. When I am busy with the usual daily activities of family life, starting a big knitting project often seems overwhelming. Actually, starting is easy….it just never gets finished! Completing a project that only takes an hour or two is great fun, and gives a sense of accomplishment. The other wonderful thing about small projects is that they use up leftover yarn. I often have cute little balls of hand-spun yarn left over on my spinning wheel, or drop spindle and they just beg to be knitted into something. My husband suggested getting a cat to play with them, but I don’t think our three dogs would be too thrilled about that.

Reading is a real enjoyment  in our house. All three of my girls are big readers, as are my husband and I. And yes (sigh), there is a collection of various e-readers that accompany most of us. BUT, we all still love real books dearly. My oldest daughter will only read real books. She prefers the smell and coziness of them, which makes me very happy. So, in the spirit of cozy books and leftover yarn, I have come up with three very easy bookmark patterns. One would especially make a nice Valentine gift. 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Kitchen Reorganization, Part 4: Dried Beans and Grains

This is the fourth part of an eight part series where I reorganize my kitchen to work more efficiently for me.

This cabinet is where I store all of my dry goods - cereals, snack foods, pastas, grains and beans. Here is what it looked like before the reorganization:

Monday, January 13, 2014

Growing Spinach Indoors

growing spinach under grow lights, urban faming
Here are the two varieties of spinach I planted.

It is the second week of January and I can't wait any longer. I have to grow something! There will be no planting outside for several months yet, but indoors is a different matter. I will begin starting seeds for transplant outdoors in earnest in February,  but I have a month or so before I need the grow lights. What to grow now?

Friday, January 10, 2014

Apple Walnut Pancakes

Apple Walnut Pancakes, breakfast recipe

Here we are at the end of another week. The arctic freeze that has gripped the country seems to finally be over and it feels good to look outside and see green again (although snow is in the forecast). Comfort food has been requested often during these frigid days and breakfast for dinner seems like an appropriate choice.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Kitchen Reorganization Series, Part 3: Herbs and Spices

This is the third part of an eight part series on how I reorganized my kitchen to work more efficiently for me!

I was excited to get these next cabinets reorganized. Situated right next to and over the stove, these cabinets hold the nuts and bolts of home cooking: cooking oils and vinegars, sauces and herbs and spices. I search in these cabinets every time I cook and there were two problem areas that needed fixing.

Here is what the cupboards looked like before:

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Art Girl Learns to Sew

For some Christmas gifts this year, Art Girl decided she wanted to do some sewing. This made me happy, as not only would this be some quality mother/daughter time, but would be the perfect excuse for me to teach her some skills!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Kitchen Reorganization, Part 2: Drinks Cabinet

My little kitchen looks organized with the cabinet doors closed.


Welcome to the second part of an eight part series on reorganizing my kitchen to function more efficiently.  In part one I showed you the layout of my kitchen and where everything was stored, in all its glorious chaos!

The first order of business in reorganizing my kitchen was tackling how and where the ingredients for hot drinks were stored. Tea, coffee and hot chocolate are very important in this house with copious amounts of each consumed each day. What I realized was I had tea in three cabinets, coffee and hot chocolate mixes shoved in the baking cabinet and mugs across the room in the hutch. Making a drink meant opening a lot of cupboards.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Top Five Tips For Buying Vegetable Seeds

Tips for buying vegetable seeds, urban farming

How many seed catalogs did you get in the mail this year? I stopped counting and just put them in a pile for some serious overindulgence after the holidays. Forget Christmas, for gardeners  January is "the most wonderful time of the year." Looking through these catalogs is like pouring over a toy catalog as a child, circling all the things we want in red and drawing stars next to our top picks.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Winter Tomato Tapenade and Stores Update

Tomato Tapenade Recipe
Tomato tapenade topped with ham

Computer Man asked me this week if we had any tomatoes for his sandwich. I haven't bought tomatoes in months but I guess he had a craving. Tomatoes are out of season, of course, here in New England and what is available in the supermarket is flown in from too many miles away and has no taste. What to do? 

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Kitchen Reorganization Series, Part 1: The Naked Truth or What's in my Drawers

My little kitchen.

This is the first in an eight part series on how I am reorganizing my kitchen to function more efficiently. Every Tuesday and Thursday in January I will tackle a different corner of my kitchen and share the results!

Over the last month my kitchen has been the Little Engine that Could. It really gave its all trying to keep up with the whirlwind of culinary activity that was the lead up to Christmas. Spending so much time in this room forced me to see that some of the organizational systems that had worked in the past just weren't cutting it any more. Now, post-season, quiet has descended and I have time to fix and tweak!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Garden and Kitchen Plans for 2014 and Kitchen Reorganization Series

In 2014: grow more flowers

Happy New Year! Do you make New Year's Resolutions? Making resolutions has never been a big motivator for me but I am definitely a planner. I am, as my family lovingly puts it, "freakishly organized" and a LOVE to plan. Lists are my life. I have separate To Do Lists for the month, the week and for the day, so it will come as no surprise going into a new year that I have plans.

What I am, though, is flexible. Life happens and changes in midstream are to be expected. Approaching my long term plans as goals, rather than carved in stone commandments, leaves a lot of room for inspiration and rethinking!

Here are some of my goals for 2014.