Tag Archives: autumn

Let’s Make Your Thanksgiving Beautiful + Simple

IMG_1786 Across the glow of candles, you deeply inhale the aroma of comfort + harvest to see the twinkling faces of your beloved people who have gathered to celebrate this feast of gratitude. As the bowls and platters begin their merry go round the table you feel the spirit of Thanksgiving filling your heart.

Once your plate is properly piled on, you taste the first bites and melt into delight. You made this! You didn’t just reheat it in the oven as so many weeknight dinners seem to be lately, rather this dish was simple, comforting and exactly what you wanted to eat today. As an added bonus, making this dinner was a surprisingly joyful process.

Looking up from that first bite, you notice there is a slight hush with occasional murmurs of glee as everyone else dives into their favorite dish. Once each item has been properly sampled, the lively conversation of your family begins again and you find yourself reflecting on the fact that not all Thanksgivings have felt this blissful.
signupbutton_tealRemember the year you drove five hours for dinner only to be served processed food that tasted blah and made you feel icky afterwards? Had you known, you at least would have brought some real food to contribute.

That time when the entire meal was made safe for your sweet cousin who has so many allergies including peanuts, eggs, dairy and gluten, yet the resulting dinner was rather disappointing. There must be a way to balance the safe foods with the traditional deliciousness.

What about when your aunt brought that bizarre fat free fluffy, orange-colored dessert as a replacement for Pumpkin Pie. Even she was laughing through apologetic tears.

And then there is the loving, but slightly controlling hostess who wants to make it all themselves, to not burden another soul with work, but seems to not realize food can go beyond the can or box to include the actual harvest.

Of course, sometimes you are the solo hostess as everyone travels from out of town. As you find you are doing nearly everything yourself, you barely have time to properly plan with kids home from school on break, work to do and daily life still demanding. When that Thursday arrives suddenly all the cooking happens at the last minute and you were almost too exhausted to eat by dinner time.IMG_2260

Are ready to enjoy the process of cooking, planning and preparing this beautiful dinner?

Do you crave a Thanksgiving that is simplified, delicious and truly celebrates the harvest and everyone gathered?

Let’s chat. You and me, on the phone together to guarantee a meal full of love and real food, rather than stress and less than satisfactory dishes.

I have cooked for all types of dietary needs and challenges for Thanksgiving whether I ate it with them or they served it to their own family. The art of planning the meal in advance or delegating to those gathering is something I have spent years crafting.

It is my immense pleasure to consider all the cravings and food needs of your diners as well as your unique schedule and challenges to assist in creating a Thanksgiving that is special for your family.

IMG_1940Through our 30 minute conversation, I will answer all of your questions as we map out a plan to make this year’s Thanksgiving your favorite. I will also set you up with any recipes we determine you need and we will discuss the timeline for making it realistic and simple.

As an added bonus, you can contact me by email or text during Thanksgiving week. It is like a Butterball Hotline except I will answer questions about real food as I ease your nerves through the planning, shopping, and cooking process.signupbutton_yellow

After you sign up for our call, I will send you a calendar to select the perfect time for us to chat.

I am looking forward to helping make this Thanksgiving a calm, celebratory time of beautiful food and delicious time spent with your loved ones.IMG_0654

My Grandmothers for Dia de los Muertos

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My Oma wearing a mustache so that I would let her hold me.

It wasn’t until we participated in the Dia de los Muertos city-wide parade with thousands of us dressed as cavaleros that I fully began to realize the importance of bringing the dead into the light for a party and to honor them. Prior to this, it all seemed a bit too spooky, scary.

Lately, the spirit world has felt more important than my rather logical mind has historically allowed. Certainly there are the ghost hunters, and those who do witch-like magic and bring all sorts of woo-woo into the world, but, I believe the spirit world wants us to listen. While I imagine there are all sorts of ways to do this, for me it is allowing space for my heart to swell, open and remember.

Cooking and gardening are incredibly meditative, and with our local food year I have been doing quite a bit more of both. In addition, I have focused on healing my heart after a rather difficult and emotional year. Throughout my daily meditations required by our local food year, I find myself often thinking of my grandmothers through whispers from my heart.

Plant a circle of six zucchini seeds around that hole of compost.

Add a splash of water to those veggies to soften them slightly.

That volunteer plant coming up could end up being delicious!

Caramel? Yes, make caramel from that local honey and dip apples in it. Beautiful.

Try this gorgeous wine! You only live once 😉

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Build a hoop house, it will bring you goodness for months to come.

My paternal grandmother, my Oma, left this world when I was only 6 years old. I do remember her despite being rather young and living 1,000 miles away. I remember the big patio the entire house surrounded, the high ceiling living room with the grand piano, the trampoline and I swear I remember her voice. I have seen plenty of pictures of her including when I was a baby and refused to let her hold me until she decorated her mouth with a mustache to match my Fathers.

In theory, our limited time on this earth together would logically mean she could have little influence, but I feel her a part of me. I often think she would be most delighted by my family’s efforts to do this Local Food Year and she would adore my husband. I imagine her thinking he is awfully smart, although, he could be a tad taller.

My Oma and Opa had an incredible garden, including bananas, figs,  apricots, walnuts, persimmons, zucchinis, berries, tomatoes, pomegranates and plenty of citrus. The lemon tree I remember was the first thing you would experience upon pulling through the gates to their Thousand Oaks home. Our big red suburban would park alongside the lemon tree, we’d open our doors and after two days of driving that smell was heaven.

My Oma + Opa also took their six kids on treks through the Sierras. She had this natural sense that we are to tread lightly on this planet, partially from a place of frugality and as a child of the Depression, but I also believe she instinctually knew the importance of conservation. In many ways, this local food journey has made me feel I am following in her foot steps as I dig deeper into  gardening, but also another one of her loves: writing.

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My Oma.

She attended Mills College, where she majored in English with a Philosophy minor and she wrote beautiful poetry. When I was in grade school there was a writing project to create your own book of poetry along with another poet of your choosing. I choose Lucille Allison’s works rather than select a more well-known or frequently published author.

On the other side, my Mom’s mother, who I called simply Grandma and in her later years we all gleefully called Miss Mimi, was a gift who I was able to cherish until right before meeting Xerxes. She was always a character in many ways with a goofball personality, often a twinkle in her eye and a laugh that I can hear easily still bubbling up from my own heart. She was a seamstress, artist, doll maker, potter (I still have a few pieces) and being French Canadian she knew her way around a kitchen with ease and grace. Actually, when I became a Personal Chef, my Mother told me how Grandma had done something similar many years ago and how nearly every meal was inspired by Julia Child.

While my Oma has many recipes I cherish, I feel cooking is where I followed my Grandma’s foot steps. She cooked with love and artistry including perfectly cooked vegetables, but also beautiful desserts such as her brownies, pecan pie, caramels and fruitcake. I grew up having no idea that people disliked fruitcake as it was a treasure in our home. So much so that my parent’s Wedding Cake was fruitcake as well. In addition to picking up her cooking passion, if I am so blessed, I would like to think I have a tad of her goofy sense of humor.

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My Miss Mimi hanging with her bestie Billy.

In her final weeks of life, my Mother asked me to fly out to Virginia to help her and her sisters as they went through the painful journey of saying good-bye to their mother who decided to stop dialysis treatment. It was of course a time of many emotions, but I cooked my way through it, keeping my family fed and making some of my Grandmother’s last meals.

Every night we would pour glasses of champagne, including one for Grammie and we would toast her to sleep. The last time she sat up fully, Grandma and I decided to watch a cooking show together. Rachel Ray was leading us through Twice Baked Potatoes. Grandma turned to me and said “Oh, Twice Baked Potatoes are a fabulous idea! I will have to make those when I am done with… ” And then she burst out laughing “Oh! I guess I won’t be here!”

A few minutes after that comment she started to feel deeply uncomfortable, and we quickly got her into her bedroom to lie down so she could rest. Once her cries finally calmed and she appeared to be sleeping, my Auntie Amy and I stayed with her to keep vigil. Curled up in her bed peacefully, Grandma peeked one eye open and said to both of us “Did I scare you!?”
For the love of mercy- she was such a hoot!

Even though I have more memories of eating Grandma’s food rather than cooking alongside her as so many chefs I know got there young start, her spirit is often with me as I cook whispering into my soul, try this, listen for that, smell deeply, taste this, fold with care, whisk with abandon, love it all. She is with me.   

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My sweet Grandma and Grandpa.

Several years after my Oma passed away, my Opa found a beautiful lady named Patti who he eventually married and she became my stepgrandmother. We called her Patti Grand, and grand she was indeed. Her first life was in Hollywood, as the wife to Howard Wilson who was a Sound Director whose movies include the Quiet Man. Like my Oma, he passed way too young.

Chatting with Patti Grand, all of us grandchildren were gifted many tales of her attending the Academy Awards, meeting celebrities, and the beautiful places she traveled with each of her husbands. She also taught us how to play poker, and gave me my first sip of Glen Livet. Let’s say, compared to my relatively humble family, Patti Grand brought a bit of glamour and pizzaz to our days.

Soon after meeting Xerxes, and not long after my Grandma’s passing, my Opa became sick and went into the hospital for a brief period. Living only a few hours away in San Luis Obispo at the time, I drove down to LA to be with Patti, cook, clean, and navigate the situation with Opa and the hospital. It was an honor to be there for both of them, to cook them meals they celebrated with love and enthusiasm, but it also gave me ample chit-chat time with Patti where I heard all about her adventures with both Opa and Howard. She lived a colorful life and she cherished it. In her love of the fine life, she also had a handful of recipes I remember and really a rather decadent way of dining and enjoying life in general. This Local Food Year has been incredibly humbling in many ways, but Patti Grand’s whispers are to not be intimidated by the finer things. That price point might feel a bit much for the budget, but enjoyed with love and pleasure it is serving beyond its value.

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My Opa + Patti Grand

When they married, Patti Grand had recently been sick and at 80 years old and my Opa merely 75 years, they would talk about how they probably wouldn’t have many years together. In addition, Patti made it clear that she would be dying before Opa. Instead, they were married for 18 years and my Opa sadly died before Patti, just a few days before my own wedding.

When I dig in to the dirt or face an empty page, my Oma’s influence feels ever present. In the kitchen, when I find myself approaching a meal with an eye towards grace, artistry and a wee bit of perfection my Grandma is closely with me. When I find myself enjoying something a bit extravagant Patti Grand reminds me to stay present with it and not over think whether or not I deserve it. The more I do this work, the more I feel a duty to them, who set the stage that women are strong, capable, unique artists with voices that need to share their ultimate truths whether through food, gardening, writing, painting, dancing, hiking or whatever makes their soul sing.

These women came before me and while they may not have sat me down and given me the step-by-step guide for all of what I am to do for this Local Food Year or even my life, I can’t shake the joy I feel from their distant secrets of how to do so many things. They breath life through messages I feel trickling up through spine, into my heart and out from my hands where I can serve them and their lives by living my own from a place of love, light and continuous creation.

When we celebrate Dia de los Muertos, when we look at how the dead have grandly entered and influenced our life, may we each face it not with the ghoulish nature that so often is projected in our society, but rather with profound respect for we are not who we are without these beautiful people who came and placed their marks own our hearts and their lessons within our souls.

I love you Oma, Grandma and Patti Grand!

With humble gratitude,

Lilly

Look Up from Your Latte and See the Change

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My pumpkin buddy is helping me write today!

In the midst of a hail storm a few weeks ago, my husband ran out to cover the tomatoes, peppers and eggplant. Meanwhile, I grabbed my scissors dashed out into the darkness and found the one bright orange pumpkin that I kept meaning to pick. Out of the twelve nearly ready for Halloween volunteer pumpkins, I could save at least one, right?

I suspect my husbands efforts were more substantial, at least comparatively, but the pumpkin sitting on the table next to me as I write is rather perfect looking, without a hail pock in sight. Not that a hail pocked pumpkin wouldn’t be delightful roasted down into all sorts of treats, but really… Hail comes and for some reason my husband and I fling ourselves out into the elements to save whatever we can, whether there is a rational reason or not.

The pumpkins arrived in our garden as volunteers. No, they didn’t help me weed or mulch, rather they made themselves comfortable in our tended soil, then spurted, grew and spun around the garden that I had an actual plan for. It took a while for me to guess what they might be and honestly it wasn’t until they were round, orange and obvious did I finally succumb to… yes, that is a pumpkin. The transformation was well over a month ago, but leaving it on the vine the extra week or so just had this irresistible Cinderella effect and with a ton of other stuff to harvest, I felt in no rush to snip it to freedom until the weather threatened to make it unrecognizable.

Around the time my squash went from random-green-gourd thing to pumpkin, there was another change of season: from regular lattes to pumpkin spice lattes.

Gotta be honest… I just don’t get it.

It isn’t because I do not care to drink them, or that I even care if you drink them or not. I actually really appreciate a bit of pumpkin-pie-spiced up food on my plate. Rather my ire is with the fact that a commercial change of beverage suddenly has a greater impact on our society than the fact that actual, real life nature is changing. And it is magnificent.

Why don’t we talk about the smell that ever so slightly lets on that autumn has begun. What about the leaves!? What about the wild temperature fluctuations, because seriously what is going on with that, this time of year?

Instead there is an argument about the joys or annoyances of the Pumpkin Spice Latte. I realize this post shamelessly is included in the latter, but please get your face out of your sweet coffee preferences and look around at the actual change of season. It is actually changing. Gasp. And believe it or not, it has nothing to do with a corporation’s marketing strategy either.

Okay. I get it: cinnamon + ginger + allspice + nutmeg + cloves = comfort. I also imagine you do feel a temperature change that makes these spices a bit more inviting. Maybe you have also noticed a leaf or two falling, and at the least you can’t deny the sun is going to sleep a bit sooner than usual. Of course, I have lived places (looking at you Central Coast of California) where the change of season is a bit less dramatic, but even in the places that lack a definable four seasons: change is happening. I believe in my heart, that despite flipping a calendar to a month that ends in ‘BER’ and the appearance of fall’s most fashionable beverage, your internal clock craves feeling in sync with nature’s transition.

For the love of pumpkin pie spice, please just look up from your latte, whether it is in style or not, gaze out a window, and ask yourself “what is actually in season… from the earth?”

Now that my friends is where the magic can begin. Pumpkins are just the beginning. What about all of the goodness that is coming to an end: tomatoes in deepening shades of red or simply green and ready to fry, eggplant that will soften soon enough, peppers in various stages of heat or sweetness, the end of summer squash, spaghetti squash, delicata, butternut, apples, onions, pears, carrots, beets, roots, and shoots. This is the time to hit the farm stands, while the harvest is heavy and before farmers start to prepare their land for winter. This is the time to squirrel up the goodness into freezers, cans, jars or at the very least fill your belly with the local stuff before your food once again is shipped from who knows where.

I hope I haven’t shamed my Pumpkin Spice Latte lovers, whomever you may be, the truth is I feel sadness for all of our sake that a corporation has yet again a better marketing plan than Mother Nature. There is only one way we can change that. Look up and then seek the goodness that is growing all around you and let that be your guide this crisp, bliss-inducing autumn season.

Harvest Lentil Salad

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Recently, I was invited to do a cooking demo and cook for a local Food Bank to celebrate the harvest + World Food Day. It brought back so many memories of when I was the coordinator of Tucson Food Day just a few short years ago.

This event was a beautiful celebration! First, I cooked all day with lovely friends and volunteers, my children were nearby most of the day content + happy (yes, I was stunned, too), and then I did a cooking demo that was light-hearted + well received. But, my favorite part happened a few weeks earlier when I walked into the Food Bank and they showed me all of the foods available to their clients that they were eager for me to cook with and share.

Barely wilting cabbage, banged up winter squash, onions and carrots– the recipe ideas were pouring out of me onto my handy clipboard. But, then they opened a large bag with teeny-tiny black seeds and asked me “What in the world are these?”

“Beautiful beluga lentils” I seriously had to exclaim!

These lentils are unique and they get their name because they look just like beluga caviar. What a treasure to find in the Food Bank! I took some home to test out a new recipe using the other produce and goods available to the Food Bank clients.

The result was this simple salad. Consider this a base recipe. A recipe that would happily enjoy a bit of sparkling up with bits of dried fruit such as minced apricots or cranberries or even the jewels of pomegranates. The crunch of various nuts or seeds, such as toasted almonds, crumbled pecans or last week’s Candied Chipotle Pepitas would settle in nicely with these lentils. Roasted veggies, roots, or shreds of leaves could be folded in as well. A crumble of feta or shavings of parmesan would also do well in this dish. It calls for water, but cooking the beans in broth adds yet another layer of flavor.

This can be a simple weeknight meal or a side dish to an elaborate holiday dish. Let me know how you glam up these simple belugas.

Harvest Lentil Salad
Beluga Lentils can be found in specialty shops, gourmet groceries, co-ops or health food stores. Another lentil such as French, Green, or Brown lentils can work instead. The only lentil I would avoid are the thinner lentils, such as the red, which are better for soups than salads. 

1 onion, finely chopped
1 cup carrots, sweet potatoes or winter squash, peeled and finely chopped
1 cup beluga lentils, or french or green
3 cups water, or unsalted broth
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon honey or maple syrup
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 apple, cored and finely chopped
1/4 cup sage, washed and finely chopped, or thyme or parsley

Place the onions, lentils, and chopped carrots (or squash/sweet potatoes) in a pot covered with the water and a lid. Bring up to a boil and then reduce to a simmer for about 40-50 minutes until tender to the bite. Once the lentils are nearly done, add half of the salt. If there is extra water, increase the heat to boil it off quickly or strain off the liquid using a wire mesh strainer.

In a large separate bowl, whisk together the vinegar and honey. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil while whisking rapidly. Add the remaining salt. Fold the cooked lentils into the dressing and then add the apples and fresh herbs. Serve warm or cool and serve chilled.

Cheddar Squash Bake

squashcheddarbakeYou have cut them in half, chunked them into pieces and roasted winter squash before, but…
Have you tried shredding it?

Now is the time!

Out of all the squash possibilities, butternut is a great place to start shredding as the skin peels easily with a veggie peeler, the seeds scrap out without issue and then a big hunk can be shredded on a box grater.

However, if you are lazy like me, big peeled chunks can be placed in a food processor with the grater attachment and in a few minutes you will have a mass of bright orange shreds and… as a bonus you are less likely to scrape up your fingers as I manage to do on box graters!

Once you have these shreds, you can fold them with leftover quinoa and a few otherbutternutquinoapatties ingredients to make these beautiful Butternut Quinoa Patties as are featured in this week’s meal plan.

But, even easier is to toss the mass with olive oil, salt and bake it in the oven until it starts melting into itself. While the heat takes care of it, shred up a bunch of sharp cheddar.

Toss and press it together. More oven time.

Then dip into this gooey side dish which can become the main dish alongside your favorite fall salad.

Did I mention there are only FOUR ingredients… one of which is just salt! Roll up those sleeves and grab a grater!

Cheddar Squash Bake

One pound of squash with about two ounces of cheddar makes a decent serving, so adjust the recipe according to the number of people and squash you have available. Also, Lilly’s Table offers a handy-dandy way to adjust servings in this recipe as well. Give yourself about an hour to let the squash properly melt with the cheese in the oven. 

3 pounds butternut squash
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
6 ounces cheddar

Preheat the oven to 400.

Cut the squash into four chunks: first through the middle just above the round, seed-filled part. Next, cut in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds and discard. Peel the skin away with a vegetable peeler or paring knife. Shred the chunks with a box grater or cut smaller and shred in a food processor.

Toss the shreds with the olive oil and salt. Pile high in a baking dish. As the squash bakes it shrinks down significantly so a smaller dish works best. A larger dish will give you a very thin finished product. If you are concerned it will overflow in the oven, place a baking sheet underneath. Bake for about 20 minutes. Toss and bake for another 15 minutes until the squash is starting to fall apart.

Meanwhile, shred the cheddar. Toss half of the shredded cheddar with the squash as soon as there is room in the dish. Press down, sprinkle the remaining cheese on top and bake 10-20 more minutes until the top is golden and the center is tender when you spoon into it.

photo-143Just after graduating from college, I remember browsing through a bookstore and spoting a cutie-pootie on the cover of a cookbook called the Naked Chef. Soon after, I moved to San Luis Obispo to live closer to my family and actually moved in with my older sister, bro-in-law and their four sweet little ones. Living about three hours from my dearest college friend, meant I traveled up there frequently to hang out and enjoy the city life. One of my favorite parts about visiting was her and her roomies was that they had one of Jamie Oliver’s books. I can no longer remember which, but I would skim the pages while crashing on their pull-out bed and dream of making Fresh Beet Pastas and beautiful salads.

During this time, I remember seeing him prepare a Roasted Chicken in Milk and I always wanted to try it. Clearly, I managed to keep that memory strong for at least 10 years.

Recently, we decided to have our milk delivered and we intentionally buy just a bit too much milk. My idea was it would force me to make cheese & yogurt from scratch. I have had much success with ricotta. And Lulu has become the yogurt queen. But, I have yet to make Mozzarella- although, I made a botched batch that turned into a delightful ricotta instead.

Prior to dinner, knowing I had a happy chicken to roast up, I looked into the fridge and realized we had at least a gallon more than necessary, since the milk man was coming again the next day. Suddenly, the Milk Chicken recipe came flooding back and not long after it was assembled and in the oven.

I made a few minor changes. I can’t find my cinnamon sticks (long story, about not unpacking all of my spices yet. Argh.), so that was scratched. I used the zest of only one lemon, mostly because it was a big lemon. But, I was generous with the sage and garlic.photo-142

Of course, I couldn’t let the chicken have all the fun.

With a large bag of ripe pears sitting on the table, I cut them into similar sized, rustic-style chunks and tossed them with slices of onions and a generous splash of olive oil and sprinkle of salt. I pushed the casserole dish onto the bottom shelf below the roasting chicken and prepared the kale in large torn pieces. I massage the kale with olive oil and more salt, too. Once the pears and onions were ready for a playdate, I added the kale and piled the hot goodness on top of the bed of greens. The were back for a few more minutes altogether. Some of the kale became crisp, while others melted. The flavors merged together to make a comforting, yet refreshing side dish.

This is important: The milk sauce of Jamie’s Milk Chicken will be more of a flavorful juicy mess of curds and whey rather than some sort of creamy concoction. This sauce is the liquid gold, although the look is hardly reflective of the flavor. In other words, it is grey, curdled, awkward. Have a hearty artisan bread on stand by to scoop the goodness up or consider drizzling it across a steamy pile of grains such as wild rice or farro. Whatever you do, dive into this sauce. Love it like that geeky, awkward kid that you once were. And whatever you do, try this jazzy little Autumn side dish with it. You will not regret the main dish or the side.

Roasted Pear &  Kale

2 small sweet onions (one medium will work, too)
2-3 pears
1/4 cup olive oil, divided
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 large bunch of kale

Preheat the oven to 375.

Cut the onions each into six quarters. If it is a medium onion, cut a bit smaller.

Cut the pears in half and remove the cores. Cut the pears into 2 inch pieces. Toss the onions and pears with a generous splash of the olive oil and half of the salt in a large casserole dish. Roast for about 10 minutes until the onions are sweating and the pears have a hint of color.

Wash the kale and dry it. Tear it into large pieces. Toss the kale with the remaining olive oil, salt and massage the oil into the leaves.

Push the pears and onions to the side of the pan. Pile the kale into the casserole dish and then scoop the pears and onions on top of the kale. Roast for 10 minutes. Toss and continue roasting until the kale is your desired tenderness.

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Nasturtiums, Arugula, Kale, Tomatoes, Summer Squash & Blossoms, Basil

It has been awhile since I have posted here, as this past year has been packed with distractions. But, I have to admit it has been overflowing with joy as we  moved back to Colorado, bought a new home and the peak of the year was welcoming our sweet, full of smiles, son into this world. Fortunately, Kaycie has been keeping you up on the beautiful ways to fill your life with health. I am ever grateful not only for her friendship, but her generosity to me and my family during this crazy, packed with blessings year.

One of the joys of buying a new home was finding one with a large (albeit abandoned) garden box. We have made attempts in the past to garden, but I often claim that despite two parents with a couple green thumbs each, I received a recessive gene with a sad brown thumb. Maybe, just maybe, with the help of experienced gardening friends, that will change…

We moved into our home on May 10th, my daughter’s birthday, and within a couple of week’s we sectioned half of the garden box off and filled it with dirt. We were only a couple of weeks behind Colorado’s recommended start time. We filled that half of the box with five tomato plants, radishes and a variety of my favorite greens including arugula, chard, two types of kale and a mix of lettuces.

The radishes came up and were harvested quickly. They were delicious, but they mostly inspired us to plant more. The tomatoes were the most exciting we have ever grown and they managed to take over the rows of greens we had planted. So, we filled the other side of the box with more of “Mel’s mix” as a dear family friend and master gardener recommended and then filled it with summer squash and several big pots of basil that I kept collecting from the grocery store.

I recently heard the biggest mistakes made by new gardeners is crowding and overwatering. We clearly fit the mold, but for the first time we were complaining about the abundance rather than the lack. Okay, we didn’t actually complain about the delights coming from our garden, rather we were thrilled and then we started looking at the rest of our backyard which was full of dirt, mud and weeds and examined the hours of sun in certain areas. We also have huge, old trees, so we mapped out a plan to expand our garden beyond the box and fill it with even more delicious food.

Our goal is to join those, such as my parents and Kaycie’s family, who eat most of their food from the garden all summer long. I cannot think of a better way to embrace your health then to start by bringing the freshness and nutrients as close to home as possible.

Just last week, we had our first snow and the following night our first frost here in the Denver metro area. A few days before, I looked around at the tomatoes that were started late, with half green, half almost red fruit all over it and the summer squash which seemed to have a rebirth after the intense rain storms and sunny weeks that followed. As I heard warnings of snow, I imagined these plants freezing and figured I would call my favorite Rocky Mountain gardener. When I called Kaycie she was in the process of harvesting everything she could from her plants and recommended I follow suit.

Later that day, just before dinner, we picked our final harvest. Within 48 hours most of the plants were shriveled and brown, but a week later we are still munching away on summer.

Have you harvested summer yet? Or are you still a few days/weeks from your first frost? Tell us about it in the comment section!

Happy Harvest Time! With joy,

Lilly