Brassicas: My Beloveds


A few months back I shared my love of cabbage with all of you.  But maybe I wasn’t being specific enough, or not general enough, depending upon how you look at it.  In actuality I harbor a secret love for all brassicas.  Cabbage, kale, collards, cauliflower. I adore all of them.

So, you can imagine my thrill when I found //“>Brassicas: Cooking the World’s Healthiest Vegetables at the library last week.  I was immediately smitten, and for good reason:  an entire book, all about my favorite genus of veggies!

This week our kitchen has been brimming (albeit a bit stinky) with so many fabulous dishes featuring these amazingly healthy, nourishing plants.

Joy in the Present


Each of us has a handful of life experiences that truly changes us.  Those experiences that get deep into our veins and alter the core of our inner self and the lens through which we view the world.  I can confidently say my family and I just experienced such an event.

Over the course of the last eight days our family ventured East.  We made many, many stops and saw numerous amazing sights, but the reason for our trip was to participate in a family stay at the Knapp family’s local living school, Koviashuvik.  While on this absolutely gorgeous homestead we learned, laughed, created, and soaked up all we could from this astounding family of four who live in harmony with the earth in a way I have never before witnessed.

As I sit before this screen, I realize there is no way I can adequately express, in words, our time spent with the Knapps.  Instead, I have decided to let the photographs tell our story.  The word Koviashuvik means, “a time and place of joy in the present moment” and I invite you come along with us on our adventure to a time and place where I can say I was fully present and filled with the most wonderful sense of peace and joy.

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IMG_2928Photo Credit: Ashirah KnappP1040424Photo Credit: Ashirah KnappP1040435Photo Credit: Ashirah KnappP1040444Photo Credit: Ashirah KnappP1040463

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Mom’s Summer Cucumber Salad


From the time my mom was given her diagnoses, her constant mantra was, “Please make sure you continue to tell our stories.” It was so very important to her that the stories of our family remain alive in our hearts and continue to be told and retold, even after she was no longer with us. During one of my vigils by my mom’s bedside, I assured her that I would indeed continue to tell her stories.   I assured her I would not only share them with my girls, but with anyone and everyone who would listen. Because it is in our sharing of stories that I believe we truly get to know one another, and strengthen the bond that brings us all together in this great big world of ours. And to be honest with you, so many of my memories and stories seem to revolve around the sharing of food while sitting at a table with those we hold dear to us. I have loved sharing my family’s food stories in the past in this blog space, and it is my absolute pleasure to continue. Today I am thrilled to share with you the story of my mom’s summer cucumber salad.

While growing up, when the days seemed to stretch on forever, my sister and I felt compelled to stay outside all day long, riding bikes all over our neighborhood. It wasn’t until the sky began to turn rosey in the west that we would finally venture home, red-faced and exhausted. We would walk into the house, greeted by a cool blast from the air-conditioner, and find my mom setting the table in the kitchen. On these types of hot nights, instead of heating up the kitchen with lots of pots and pans on the stove and in the oven, my mom would always have a series of cool, fresh dishes waiting for us. My very favorite of these dishes was my mom’s cucumber salad. It was always so cool and creamy, yet tangy and fresh. It just tastes like summer.

Mom’s Summer Cucumber Salad

4-6 medium cucumbers

1 white onion

1 cup sour cream

¼ cup apple cider vinegar

1 teaspoon dill weed

salt and pepper to taste

Whisk together the sour cream, apple cider vinegar, dill weed, salt and pepper. Thinly slice the cucumbers and onions. (I use mandoline to accomplish this task because it leaves you with thin, consistently-cut produce.) Pour the sour cream/vinegar mixture over the cucumbers and onions. Mix until combined. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Enjoy!

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Best Made Plans

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Yesterday morning I rose early to head to the grocery store before dawn, before my girls woke up, and before my “To Do List” really got moving.  I returned home at 6:30 am, with arms full of groceries, and two little girls with pink eye. How quickly all those plans on my “To Do List” were put on hold, and a new (much better, I must say) plan developed.  Cookie-Baking Day.

The girls felt great, but still unable to attend school, dance class, and tumbling lessons, so we just stayed close to home and had ourselves a wonderful little day.  It’s these moments spent with my little ones in the warm embrace of our home that I will remember most as the years move on.  I will never forget their baking experiments with flour strewn all about the kitchen, their voices in the play room as my seven year old reads fairy tales to her little sister, or the tiny fists full of cookies being shoved as quickly as possible into their smiling mouths.

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Grandma’s Three Bean Salad


Isn’t it just fascinating how food memories work?  One morsel of food touches your tongue and you are whisked away to times gone by, to the exact moment when you consumed that particular piece of goodness.  That’s why each time I task three bean salad, I am brought back to Zanocco family 4th of July celebrations.  With this annual celebration always came laughing children singing (and yelling) the words to “Miss Mary Mack”, throw-and-pop firecrackers and sparklers, olive dip, and of course, three bean salad.

I dug through my recipe box last week and found Grandma Zanocco’s three bean salad recipe.  Looking over the hand-written recipe card, I wondered if I could perhaps make it a bit healthier, while maintaining the integrity of the dish.  With a bit of tasting here, and help from my sous-chef there, I think I’ve done it.  I hope you enjoy this dish as much as we did, and I hope it helps to create some wonderful new food memories for all of you 🙂


Grandma’s Three Bean Salad

(You can use canned beans, or dried beans.  Just be sure that if you use dried beans, they have already been soaked and are fork tender.)

4 cups kidney beans

4 cups pinto beans

4 cups black beans

Pour all of your beans in a large bowl and set aside.

In a food processor, pulse 1 cup diced yellow onions.  Then add 1 cup olive oil, 1 cup Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar, 2 teaspoons salt, 1 teaspoon pepper and 3/4 cup raw agave syrup.  Pulse the mixture a few times in your food processor until you have a reasonably smooth dressing.

Pour your dressing over your bean mixture, and allow to sit at room temperature for about an hour before serving.  You can garnish your salad with a little oregano or parsley if you wish.  Enjoy!


*A note about all my recipes:  I use all organic ingredients, local when available.  I use non-homogenized milk, and all of the dairy we use is from animals raised on pasture. I also use oils that are non-GMO verified.  All our meat is raised locally on organic feed, and our beef is grass-fed, grass-finished.  All our spices and cane sugar are fair-trade certified and purchased through a cooperative.



There are those times when each of us needs a breathe of new life.  When the grind of our day to day tasks feel a bit too heavy to bear, and we need an opportunity for fresh air to fill the fibers deep within our being, giving us a renewed direction and energy to guide us further on our personal journey through life.

This greatly-needed internal recharge took place this past weekend, which I must say was perfect timing for this mama who was trying her best to stay afloat in her desire to maintain a holistic household, while feeling pulled down by the current of a fast-paced, industry-driven society.  Our family made the trek to Lawrence, Kansas and attended the Mother Earth News Fair where we were allowed the wonderful opportunity to interact with over 10,000 like-minded individuals, seeking that same recharge we were so desperately needing.

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Our time was spent learning about everything from primitive drilling skills, to chicken keeping, to fermenting, to non-traditional building methods, and everything in between.

But the most wonderful moment of the weekend came in those last 60 minutes of the fair, when we were privileged enough to listen to Joel Salatin speak.  Back home when my husband or I bring up this name, people look at us with raised eye brows while muttering, “Who?” beneath their breaths.  But at the fair in Kansas, all of these people…

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not only know him, but crowded in amongst one another to listen to him articulate just what it means to be a true steward of the Earth.

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Chills formed on my arms before the presentation even began because the energy in this space was palpable.  The words Mr. Salatin greeted us with were, “It’s lonely out there isn’t it? But look around you today.  It feels a lot less lonely right now doesn’t it?”  Tears brimmed in my eyes at hearing these words because yes, I had recently been feeling so very lonely.  Lonely in my thoughts, beliefs and ways of life.  But looking around this space made me feel so whole again because I am not alone.  Not by a long shot.  There is an entire community of people out there trying their best to live more deeply, trying to raise families in a way in which they tread a bit more lightly on the Earth.  I left Kansas inspired.  I left recharged.  I left anew.

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May each of you feel a sense of rejuvenation and renewal as you move through your week.  Today I leave you with Joel Salatin’s final words of his presentation.  I hope they move you as they did me…

May all your carrots grow long and straight,

and your radishes be large and never pithy.

May the coyotes be struck blind by your pasture chickens.

May all your culinary experiments be delectably palatable.

May the rain fall gently on your fields,

the wind be always at your back,

your children rise up and call you blessed,

and may we all leave the world better than we found it.

Cooking Sauce with Daddy


While I was enjoying myself at a baby shower in the beautiful Anderson Japanese Gardens, my girls were home making pasta sauce with Daddy.  My husband gets huge bonus points for this because not only did he cook with the girls (a feat in and of itself), he took pictures of them doing it!  In honor of this momentous occasion, today I bring you a blog post written by the man himself…


Pasta sauce, or “sugo” has a special place in our family.  Every holiday I can remember involved Grandma Jan’s giant pot of sauce, simmering on the stove, filled with meatballs and hunks of pepperoni.  The pasta was always an afterthought, the lowly vessel on which more sauce could be ladled.  Her recipe was given to her by her mother-in-law, my Great-Grandma Lou.  She could flat-out cook and to this day, her skills bring the conversation to a halt, as eyes glaze over in remembrance of what she could do in the kitchen.  Although she is no longer with us, her memories inspired a lazy Saturday to turn into a sauce making event that I was honored to share with two excited and delightful sous chefs.  

This time of year brings us tomatoes, onions, oregano, carrots, and basil right out of the garden.  Despite eating more than we process, there were enough tomatoes to get the project started.  The girls both helped with Gianna pulling carrots from the garden and Addie peeling cloves of garlic.  Both girls helped peel onions and prep the herbs.  We absolutely destroyed the kitchen, used every cutting board in the house, and left onion skins all over the floor.  Despite the mess, I was able to spend a few hours with my girls recreating the smells and flavors that I remember growing up with.  My most sincere hope is that they will remember these moments and find time to create them with their children and grand children, so that future generations will know the importance of food, family, and the sense of community only found in the kitchen.

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August Action


There has been a lot of action of late in our gardens.  It is truly at its peak, and despite the near 100-degree temperatures this week, we find ourselves entwined in vines of all sorts, harvesting all this fabulous veg.

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Tomatoes make an appearance at our dinner table each night, for I am not sure there is a better fresh vegetable on earth than a homegrown tomato.  Herbs are being dried each day in order to preserve them for the winter months.  Onions and beans are being diced and then destined for the freezer.  And who could forget our school garden, from which we just reached the 100 pounds donated mark!  Yup, the students of Cathedral of St. Peter School have donated 100 pounds of fresh produce to the Plant a Row for the Hungry program at our local food pantry.

So much wonderful August action in the garden right now.  I hope all of you are finding yourselves in the midst of such garden greatness as well!

Our Summer Kitchen


With the garden flourishing, there is a lot of action in our summer kitchen.  Thank goodness for the cool temperatures that graced us last week!  It made the whole idea of standing over multiple pots of boiling liquid all day a lot more tolerable.


Grandpa Dit’s Bread and Butter Pickles were first on the to-do list.  One of my favorite canning goodies.


Preserving sweet peppers for winter.  I take the time now to dice the peppers, and then freeze them in plastic freezer bags.  Then in the winter I can just pull them out and add them to anything calling for some sweet pepper love.


A new one for us: Jalapeño Jam.  It sure smelled good while making it.  I guess we will see how it tastes in a few weeks.  Fingers crossed.


After harvesting our rhubarb, I chop it up and freeze it in freezer bags so we can enjoy this spring and summer treat all winter long.


Our tomatoes are finally starting to ripen.  I must say, our tomatoes are kind of lack luster this year, which is very disappointing because putting by tomatoes is my most favorite produce to preserve.  But here is one nice sized basket I was able to garner from the garden last week.  I made tomato sauce with this collection, and then froze it in our deep freeze for the winter months when throwing pasta in a pot and adding a jar of homemade tomato sauce is just what those little school girls want for dinner.


B.L.T.s  I would be hard pressed to find anyone who does not think this sandwich tops the list of greatest summertime foods.  The bread is from Banana Cherry Bakery, the bacon is from the hog we purchased from this farmer, the tomatoes are from our garden, and topped off with a touch of homemade mayo.  (I use Jamie Oliver’s mayonnaise recipe from this cookbook.)  Oh my.  Delicious.


And we all know that when you eat those salty B.L.T.s you need something sweet after, right?  We whipped up a batch of this amazing cinnamon sugar popcorn.  Wow. It has quickly become a staple at our snack times this week.


The makings of our dinner from last night, and breakfast this morning.  I love the fullness that this time of year brings.  Such garden abundance is truly a blessing.

Beans, Beans Everywhere

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One thing is for sure, we have a LOT of beans coming through our kitchen door these days.  So many beans in fact that there is no feasible way to eat them all.  Enter “Operation Dilly Bean.”  If you have never eaten a pickled bean, a.k.a. dilly bean, you must make it your duty to eat one this year.  A dilly bean earns a solid ranking in the top 3 list of pickled veg in my book.  Yum.

This past Sunday found me hovering over the kitchen island chopping beans and breathing in vinegar fumes, with visions of dilly beans dancing in my head.  The past few years I used a dilly bean recipe from this book, but this year I decided to mix things up a bit and try something new.  I used the basic pickling recipe from this cookbook, and based on how great Miss English’s other recipes are, I’m sure this one will not disappoint.

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