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Gathering – a poem


With mortar & pestle we grind resin

with lavender


          & the peel of oranges

a thoughtful steady motion

channels open as aroma sifts through fingers

We burn candles dipped by hand

witness clarity in the dancing flame

& close our eyes to find stars on our belt

incense smoke to purify

we meditate & meet

we are the circle that surrounds us

Inside, She greets us

with open hands

          scented loaves

          & runes

She teaches us with what we seek

and touches us with knowing

© 2018 Doreen Shababy

Greenhouse Bounty

Not trying to make anyone jealous, but this is the first time we have successfully grown a cauliflower. There are three of them in there, and I am going to harvest later today before the 100-degree temps that are predicted for the weekend make it bolt.



Yes, the photo below is of an artichoke, a thistle with a pedigree. There are two more buds hidden beneath this one. She’s a sexy beast!




The cauliflowers are nestled in between the broccoli’s in the corners, below, once we harvest there will be more room for the broc to spread… as if. The tall one in the corner is a purple sprouting broccoli, we have never grown one of these either. Tastes great.




You might be wondering about the opaque greenhouse covering. It’s called Solexx and everything they say about it is true. It tempers “hot spots” and distributes the light more evenly so it gets into low spots, corners, everywhere. It lasts much longer than even greenhouse polyethylene, and it doesn’t break like glass. The photo below shows the building not quite finished, Dave installed automatic openers on the other side of the ridge, and they work perfectly.




Solexx greenhouse material



Blanching Vegetables – Why and How


What is “blanching”? When referring to cooking, this is a technique where you plunge cut-up vegetables in rapidly boiling water for a specific amount of time; they are then removed and placed in cold water (some say ice water) to quickly chill. What you do next depends on what you’re going to do with the veggies.


I like to blanch some vegetables before stir-frying, but here we are going to freeze a small harvest of broccoli from our greenhouse.

Why do we blanch vegetables before freezing? The most important reason is to stop enzymatic activity in the plant material which would eventually lead to decay. Freezing only slows down the enzymes, but blanching destroys the enzymes and also prevents changes in color, flavor and nutritive value. Fresh is best of course, but putting up food for the winter is a good thing too, and canned broccoli is not a quality product in any way, shape or form!

Fruit also contains enzymes (which is why some turn dark after cutting open) but the acid in the fruit helps preserve it without blanching.

Another reason for blanching is to clean the food surface of microorganisms and also to purge air from the plant tissue which could lead to oxidation.


One gallon of water will generally be enough to blanch 1lb. of veggies. Cut them uniformly so they all heat at the same rate. Do not add salt to the water. Find a basic good book such as So Easy to Preserve or go to your county extension website for more info on how long to blanch specific veggies

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This broccoli was blanched for 3 minutes. I like to freeze on a lined baking sheet so the pieces don’t stick together and I can remove only what I want. Let freeze for about an hour or until firm, then place in freezer bags to store. Remember to label and date.



My Master Food Preserver literature says you can freeze small whole peppers such as jalapenos without blanching, and I have done this with success. I also like to char the skin off of poblanos and anaheims, cut them open and lay them flat on a baking sheet to freeze, then put them in freezer bags. I don’t think I need to tell you how to use those, do I?

National Center for Home Food Preservation

Broccoli by Brody

Spaghetti Squash with Walnut Pesto

Let’s plate this dish!
Looks good, huh? This light Sunday evening supper couldn’t be easier, especially if you can pick your own basil fresh from the “garden”… in this case, our light set-up where we’ve been growing parsley and basil all winter… and cilantro and occasionally lettuce. Nothing fancy, but it does keep us in fresh herbs, and they are easy to grow. You can see the basil, below, and being part of the mint family, they grow air-roots in that “tropical” condition under the dome, and when I trimmed off the tops, I just added a little extra soil and BOOM! I am on my 4th cutting here. Totally worth it. We put a timer on the lights, so aside from daily visits we only have to feed and water. One of our friends cleaned out an attic last fall, and guess what was up there… bat guano… that’s right BAT SHIT! Awesome fertilizer!
Below is a fresh parsley leaf, in the same sort of tray as the basil, but grown without the dome once it had germinated.

A large basil leaf.

These are the ingredients. A pile of fresh basil leaves with some parsley, a handful of toasted walnuts, and about 3 cloves of garlic. I got the pink plastic bowl at my friends’ moving sale, and I use it all the time! The size is great and it holds a lot.

I use a mini-food processor, which I love, and start with the basil. I put a little in at first, then added the garlic and the rest of the basil, then the walnuts.

I didn’t show in any of the photos, but we also added sea salt and of course extra virgin olive oil to make the pesto smooth. My husband can’t eat dairy foods so our pesto doesn’t have Parmesan cheese in it, therefore the salt is very important! I added a good teaspoon. As for the amount of oil, most recipes use quite a bit, but we tone it down and go heavier on the vegetable matter. 
As you can see below, the pesto is more of a spread than a sauce, but this is how we like it, and I highly encourage you to fix it how you prefer. That is the beauty of the kitchen and sharing food and laughter and good company. It’s all good… unless you leave out the salt!
Perfect for a light meal any time of day. You can see why you really don’t need an exact recipe to make pesto. I’ve also made cilantro pesto with toasted pumpkin seeds and garlic, and it was splendid. If the herbs are fresh, and you have some seeds or nuts to toast, and some fresh garlic, making herbal pesto is the quick, easy and healthy way to go.
Growing basil, cilantro or parsley is easy to do, and even one tray can provide you with an amazing amount of fresh herbage for meals. This is the tray of parsley — it’s a jungle in there! You can even buy small light set-ups for single trays. We have an 8-tray rack, but we used to start seedlings for sale… might again, but not this year. Do what you can, you will love the tasty results.

Raspberry-flavored Butter

This really shouldn’t taste as good as it does.

Raspberry Butter
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened at room temperature
1/2 cup raspberry puree (from unsweetened fresh or frozen berries sieved for seeds)
1-2 tablespoons honey

When making most flavored butters, you start with soft, room-temperature butter, and just mash it up in a bowl with the other ingredients.
For making Raspberry
Butter, I use a food processor, because there was no way the puree goes willingly into the butter. It made a real mess whether I
used a spoon or a wire whisk.

 I’m here to tell you, the effort is well worth it, because the results taste sort of like raspberry
whipped cream.

You can put the butter into a decorative crock for serving, or make it into a log as is shown in the above photo. Simply take a length of waxed paper, carefully place the butter along the length to form into a roll, and use the paper to help form the log. Roll it fairly tight, tape it closed, then place on a rimmed baking sheet and into the chill-box to firm up for slicing later.

Raspberry butter tastes good on warm rolls, on crisp almond crackers, in your oatmeal, on your pinky finger.

I would wear this butter as a dress if i thought I could get away with it.

For Llewellyn’s 2015 Herbal Almanac: