Category Archives: Herbs

No-Sugar Blueberry Muffins with Basil Syrup

muffinsBlueberry muffins remind me of mom. In fact, making these muffins about brought me to tears. Before my mom died, I started collecting all of my favorite recipes of hers. It was as if we somehow knew the inevitable was coming. Some of them I wrote down onto white index cards. Others I learned by making while she told me what to do. While I collected a ton of treasured recipes, we didn’t talk about blueberry muffins. The muffins she would make that were so full of blueberries, they were more like bits of buttery bread holding juicy berries together. I remember the pastel muffin papers and how they would stain with the juices of the blueberries as they burst from the oven’s heat.

me_and_bettyFor years, I thought I’d never again be able to taste my mom’s blueberry muffins. That changed last week. I looked over at the shelf that now holds a tattered, coverless Betty Crocker cookbook of my mom’s. My sister gave it to me as she packed to move. The cookbook caught my eye and it hit me! I bet the muffin recipe she followed is in that book!

muffin_cookbookSure enough, the pages that held the blueberry recipe I missed so much was tattered and stained. My mom had clearly had the cookbook open to this page more than once. In my nostalgic baking frenzy, I mixed the batter by hand and it wasn’t until the moment I was putting the pan of muffins into the oven that I realized what I had done. “Crap! I forgot to add sugar!” I contemplated for a second how I might correct my mistake. I wanted these muffins to turn out so bad! I thought better of it and put them in the oven. I’d cook them as is and make another batch later. When I ate the first, warm muffin though, I was delighted – light, buttery and full of blueberries more than batter, just like mom’s! I didn’t even miss the sugar!

The next day, I served them warm for breakfast, drizzled with a little homemade basil syrup and they were off the charts! My no-sugar mistake became the most happy accident. I don’t think I’ll be making these muffins with sugar in the future.


No-Sugar Blueberry Muffins

Adapted from Betty Crocker


1 egg, slightly beaten
1 cup milk (I used a high quality, organic powdered milk I had on hand)
1/4 cup oil
2 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups fresh blueberries (or well-drained and thawed frozen blueberries)
(1/4 cup sugar – should you choose to make the muffins the original way)

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Prepare a muffin tin with papers or grease the bottoms.

Mix together the egg, milk and oil in a medium-size mixing bowl. Gently fold in the remaining dry ingredients just until the flour is moistened. The batter will be a little lumpy. Gently fold in the blueberries, being careful not to overmix.

Fill the muffin cups generously (at least 2/3 full). Bake for 20 – 25 minutes or until golden brown.

Makes 1 dozen.

Basil Syrup

Slightly adapted from Tamara Murphy’s Tender

1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves (packed)

Bring the sugar and water to a boil and stir to dissolve the sugar. Turn the heat down to low, add the basil leaves and simmer for about 20 minutes. Make sure the leaves are submerged. Strain the leaves out of the syrup and enjoy.

August Newsletter Sneak Peek

I’ve got lots of goodness in store for you in this month’s newsletter! Since it’s cherry season, I’ve got links galore to inspire you! I apologize in advance for making your mouth water when you see all that you can do with this sweet and delicious fruit (besides devouring them while you work). I’ll also give you some tips for preserving herbs (the easy way!) and putting together your own herbs de Provence. I really hope you enjoy it!

Haven’t signed up yet? No problem! Just type your name and email address into the box to your right and you’ll get my monthly newsletter delivered to your inbox. No cost – just an opportunity to inspire me and make me smile, knowing that you’re going to receive this extra bonus! We both win!

Think a friend might enjoy some garden love? Pass it on!


Video: The Pallet Garden Prevails (Sort of)

A year ago, I made a pallet garden. I planted it with beautiful herbs and I videotaped the process for all to see.

Since then, it has become my most popular video on YouTube and I’m proud of that.
I wish I could say that a year later it is thriving just like the picture above. But in all honesty, it’s not. Every time I walk by it or remember to water the poor thing, I cringe at its current state.  I should know better than that, I think to myself. This self-proclaimed garden coach should not have her pallet garden in such disrepair. A year later it should be billowing over with abundant herbs, fuller than it was before. But it’s not. This is real life and I’m airing my dirty laundry.

The thing is, no matter how simple the method, whatever you plant needs care and maintenance. And my poor little pallet herb garden just hasn’t been getting the TLC it deserves. So I want to share with you what I’ve learned from my pallet garden mistakes. No matter what you’re growing, these gardening ground rules are key.

Location is imperative! There’s a permaculture principle about different locations in the garden that recognizes that we all have those spots in the yard that are rarely frequented and under-used. You don’t want to put something high-maintenance into that space. You might have good intentions, but it will get neglected. While I love the look of the spot that currently houses my pallet garden, it just doesn’t work. 

If your pallet garden is in a space that you rarely see, you will forget about it. These puppies dry out quickly, so it’s important to keep an eye out for them and keep ’em watered. Mine is in a location that is out of sight and somewhat sheltered from the rain, which ultimately led to the downfall of my pallet garden.

If the light isn’t good enough, most plants, edibles especially, just won’t thrive. The vertical nature of the pallet makes it awesome for small spaces, but if it’s not in a space that gets enough light, like my east facing , in-the-shadow-of-two-houses space, your pallet garden plants won’t be happy and all the effort you put into building the garden will be for not. The saying “right plant, right place” holds true for this type of garden too.

Despite the sorry state of my pallet, all is not lost. Relocation to a new spot in the yard will be the first step I’ll take to reclaim my pallet garden because it is really just too cute to waste. A little replanting to replace the plants that have met their end should give those empty spaces new life.  As the saying goes, “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”


Leftover Turkey Stew with Quinoa

I came home from my aunt’s on Thursday with the best leftovers – the carcass of the turkey. I was grateful for my bounty because I knew it would provide me with not only a hearty soup to nosh on this week, but also several quarts of stock that I could use in future soups.

The carcass was too big for even my hefty dutch oven, so I put it in my water bath canner. I don’t know if you’re supposed to do that, but I needed something big. I filled it up with water and a few hunks of onion and let it simmer for several hours while I worked outside in the fleeting sun.

The smell in my house welcomed me in from the cold and made my house feel cozy like only the smell of comfort food can do. I’ll admit, besides the stock, which pretty much came together on auto pilot, this stew is a little bit of a project. It probably took about an hour of hands on time when you consider how long it took to sift through all the meat and bones. It’s worth it though. I ended up with way more meat than I thought I had brought home.

I think most of the tomatoey broth will soak up into the meat over night, which is OK by me. That just means I’ll be eating leftover turkey sliders. I think I’d prefer that over the typical leftover turkey sandwich. Change is good. I hope your fridge is as abundant with goodness as mine is. Cheers!

Leftover Turkey Stew with Quinoa
Adapted from Sunset

~ 5 cups turkey stock
~ 1 1/2 lb. cooked, shredded leftover turkey
1 large red onion, chopped
3/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. fresh chopped oregano
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp. each ancho chile powder and cayenne
~1 1/2 c. roasted tomatoes and their juices (I used thawed, frozen tomatoes from the summer, which I roughly cut up with kitchen shears in a bowl before adding to the pot)
1/2 c. quinoa, rinsed
1 c. cooked chickpeas (garbanzos)
2 Tbsp. olive oil

Add the oil, onion and salt to a large dutch oven over medium heat until the onion begins to soften and turn golden, about 10 minutes.

Stir in the cumin, oregano and garlic and cook for a few minutes. Add the chili powder, cayenne, tomatoes, stock, and quinoa. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to simmer, covered, for about 10 to 15 minutes.

Finally, add the shredded turkey and chickpeas and heat through. Enjoy!