…Come Grow With Us!

Recipe: Leek & Spinach Soup

Serves 8 to 10

  • 6 to 8 leeks
  • 6 ounces spinach, pulsed in food processor or chopped coarsely
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 Parmesan cheese rind (optional)
  • 6 to 8 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 2 cups cooked rice or pasta
  • Freshly grated Edam, Gouda or Parmesan (optional)
  • Lemon (optional)

1. Thinly slice all of the leeks and place in a large bowl filled with cold water. Stir and let stand for five minutes to allow any dirt to settle to the bottom.

2. Place butter and olive oil in large soup pot over low heat. Scoop out leeks from bowl of water and place in pot—any water clinging to the leeks is just fine. Season with a big pinch of salt. Cover pan and cook for ten minutes. Remove lid and continue cooking over low to medium-low heat for another 15 to 20 minutes, or until leeks are soft and have shrunk down considerably. The leeks shouldn’t begin to brown or get caramelized; they should be soft and giving up lots of liquid.

3. Add cheese rind (optional) and 6 cups of stock. Let simmer over low heat for 15 minutes. Taste and adjust for salt and pepper. Add remaining stock if necessary. (If your leeks are big and/or you’ve used 8 of them, you might need the extra 2 cups.)

4. At this point, you have a few options. If you’re making the soup for a crowd, you can add all of the spinach to the pot at once. (If not, you might want to keep the spinach separate—it quickly loses its bright green hue once it enters the broth.) If you’re making a small batch of soup, heat a small amount of broth in a separate pot with however much spinach you would like.

5. Add cooked rice or pasta to individual soup bowls. Ladle leek broth over the top.

6. Serve with grated cheese and a wedge of lemon on the side.

Source: adapted from Alexandra Stafford, Food52

CSA Week 3

In this week’s box:
kale, leeks, lettuce, radishes, spinach, & spring onions

Remember to check the “Produce Index” page to find storage advice for this season’s produce to date, simple dishes, and recipe links all in one place. Below are storage tips for new produce.


Kale: Keep tightly sealed in the refrigerator. Don’t wash until ready to use. If already washed, place a dry cloth or paper towel in the bag with the lettuce to absorb moisture; if not washed, place a slightly damp cloth or paper towel in the bag to provide humidity.

Radishes: Remove tops, since the greens will pull moisture from the roots. Store radishes tightly sealed in the refrigerator. Store radish greens tightly sealed in the refrigerator. Don’t wash until ready to use. If already washed, place a dry cloth or paper towel in the bag with the greens to absorb moisture; if not washed, place a slightly damp cloth or paper towel in the bag to provide humidity.

A simple dish: Arrange radishes on a plate with softened butter and coarse salt. Rub a radish in butter, dip in salt, then eat!




Recipe: Leek Gratin

Serves 4 as a side

2oz prosciutto, cut into slivers (about 1/2 cup)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan or Gruyère
7 to 9 medium leeks, trimmed, cleaned, and cut across 1/8 in pieces (about 2 1/2 cups); parboiled or steamed for 10-20 min (until easily pierced with a sharp knife)
1tsp kosher salt (less if the prosciutto is very salty)
3/4 cup heavy cream

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Grease a 9-in pie plate or baker with butter.
  2. Spread half of the prosciutto and a thin layer of cheese over the bottom of the dish. Lay out the leeks on top. Cover with the remaining prosciutto and sprinkle with salt. Pour the heavy cream over everything, then add remaining cheese.
  3. Bake for 30 min, or until brown and bubbling well.

source: Barbara Kafka, Vegetable Love

CSA Week 1

Welcome to the 2017 CSA season! New this year are weekly posts about what’s in your CSA box and how to store it; also watch for recipe posts that put your produce front and center. On the “Produce Index” page you’ll find the storage advice and recipe links all in one place. Be sure to comment with your own tips and recipes, as well.

In this week’s box:
leeks, lettuce, parsnips, spinach, & spring onions


Leeks: Trim off the greens (these can be frozen to use in stock) and store in the refrigerator in a bag with roots wrapped in a damp cloth or paper towel.

Lettuce: Keep tightly sealed in a bag in the refrigerator. Don’t wash until ready to use. If it’s been washed already, stick a dry cloth or paper towel in the bag with the lettuce to absorb moisture; if not washed, stick a slightly damp cloth or paper towel in the bag to provide humidity.

Parsnips: Remove tops, since the greens will pull moisture from the roots. Scrub clean and store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.
One simple dish: Braised parsnips: peel and cut into rounds or sticks; place in a skillet with just enough water to cover the bottom and a knob of butter (maybe also a some minced garlic or shallots); cover and cook over medium heat until almost tender; remove the lid and increase heat to medium-high until the liquid evaporates. Sprinkle with salt and pepper; maybe a squeeze of lemon, too.

Spinach: Keep tightly sealed in a bag in the refrigerator. Don’t wash until ready to use. If it’s been washed already, stick a dry cloth or paper towel in the bag with the lettuce to absorb moisture; if not washed, stick a slightly damp cloth or paper towel in the bag to provide humidity.

Spring Onions: Store in refrigerator in a bag with roots wrapped in a damp cloth or paper towel. Alternatively, for longer storage, place in a glass with roots in water and a plastic bag or dampened cloth bag over the tops (trimmed if desired).

Recipe: Braised Leeks

Braised Leeks with a Crispy Breadcrumb Topping

Serves 2; easily multiplied

For the leeks:
2 leeks trimmed, cleaned, and halved lengthwise
1tbs olive oil
1tbs butter
juice of half a lemon
salt & pepper to taste

For the topping:
1/4 cup breadcrumbs (homemade or panko)
1tbs parsley, finely chopped
2tbs grated Parmesan
pinch of salt & pepper

  1. Melt the butter and olive oil over a medium-high flame in a large sauté pan. Once the oil and butter are hot, place the leeks cut side down into the pan. Let the leeks brown in the pan for 4 to 5 minutes. Carefully flip the leeks over and turn the heat on low. Cover and let the leeks braise for about 25 to 30 minutes or until the leeks are soft all the way through. Take the leeks off the heat and squirt the lemon juice over the braised leeks and add salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with the breadcrumb topping.
  2. While the leeks braise, combine breadcrumbs with parsley, Parmesan, and salt and pepper. In a dry skillet over medium heat, toast this mixture until golden brown. Serve over the leeks. Make sure that you taste the mixture for correct seasonings to ensure that the dish is seasoned all the way through.

source: amber wilson,

Soil Therapy

The first time I heard the words soil therapy was when I had come from a particularly difficult exam. I remember Theri asking how it had gone and me stating that it was *pause* difficult (there were children around, I couldn’t express how I really felt). Theri had responded that all I needed was a little soil therapy as a way for me to destress from that exam. From that moment on, it’s been something I think about when I enter Good Shepherd Montessori School.

Today is April 4, 2017 in Notre Dame, IN. Just before typing this up in the poverty studies lounge, I was responding to some emails and doing my macroeconomics homework. In an hour, I plan on attending a talk about transitioning from life as a college student to a CPA (I am an accounting major with a supplementary major in statistics and a minor in poverty studies). My week is planned out pretty precisely, with Wednesday my busiest day of classes, meetings, and events and Thursday the day I can sleep in thanks to the GSMS spring break. Come to think of it, even in high school I constantly had a set routine because of the many sports and activities I loaded myself with to keep busy. I’ve not only learned to love routine, but to need it. That may be why Theri’s words of soil therapy have resonated with me so much. Though you may argue that my internship with GSMS is in itself a routine, the work that I do for those few hours a week feel anything but. I love mixing the fresh batch of compost, sneaking in a smell of that amazing basil, and pricking out the seedlings with the weekly farm group. I think sometimes we lose touch with the very earth that so graciously allows us to live on it. Getting back to the basics of soil and seeds has allowed me to connect with the land and want to continue to preserve it in a way that’s so different from my previous experience in corporate farming with migrant farmworkers. There’s such beauty in students planting seeds and watching them week after week as they peep out of the ground and then grow larger and larger. It’s a relaxing and calming feeling to escape social media or homework to just enjoy the natural soil and life cycle of plants.

Here are some important things I have learned from my time so far:

  1. Horticulture is both a science and an art form. It is amazing to see that everything has a precise way of living and prospering.
  2. Going off of that, chickens incubate for 21 days, exactly. Amazing.
  3. Lupines are not good seed starters.
  4. Cilantro prefers cold weather.
  5. Middle schoolers at GSMS are way better at science than I am.

Here are some important steps I’ve taken as a result of my semester so far (stay tuned for more to come)

  1. I no longer use plastic bags at the grocery store
  2. I try and eat at local restaurants as much as possible
  3. I try and shop at local grocery stores/farmer’s markets as much as possible
  4. I hope to enroll in Theri’s class at Notre Dame, TBD!

I hope that soil therapy will continue to be there for me for that next hard exam because I will definitely need it.

CindyIMG_6752 (1)

Benefits of Gardening With Kids


After a semester interning at Good Shepard Montessori, I learned how important it is for kids to learn how to garden. Here are a few things that stood out to me these past few months.

Hands on Learning

Being in an environment that engages their senses can stimulate creative and critical thinking skills to make them question the world around them. This is different than memorizing facts or taking a standardized test. They’ll have visuals of plant life cycles, soil ecology, and ecosystems around them.

It Get’s Them Outdoors

With so many indoor distractions, “Go outside and play,” doesn’t seem to work as well as it used to. Gardening could help them get a breath of fresh air. Especially if you’re out there spending quality time with them. They’ll have a project to do with you and may want to stick around to see it succeed.

It Fine Tunes Your Own Skills

There’s no better way to become a master at a trade than to be able to teach it to others.

They’ll Probably Eat Healthier

Ron Finley is a gardener from LA and one of his famous one liners is, “Kids who grow kale eat kale.” I personally feel that it is much easier to not like eating something if you don’t know where it came from and if you didn’t grow it yourself.

(Side note: See the gardening work he has done in this TED talk!

No More Couch Potatoes

Asides from eating healthier, they’ll be running around, moving their bodies, and using their muscles.

Builds Character

Plant’s take time to grow and it is not done overnight. They’ll have to practice patience in order to see results. Gardening is not always easy and it sometimes can have physically demanding labor. Getting their hands dirty can help them understand how hard work pays off in the long run. There is a sense of gratitude that is formed when kids start to understand the work that is put into growing and preparing food.

Creates Good Habits

Being exposed to nature, healthy eating, and gardening at a young age will only influence them to practice good habits in the future.

Allows Room for Conversation

When there are shovels in people’s hands, the only think left to do is dig, discuss, and debate. There aren’t too many distractions when they have to focus on their outdoor job and talking is about the only other thing that can happen. I’ve laughed, listened, verbally scolded, and sang all with a shovel in my hand.

They’ll Learn Respect

There may be things that they are doing that are new to them. They are going to look up to you for guidance and direction. Being able to show them how to do something as apposed to telling them, puts you in a respectable leadership position. (This can especially be true with adolescence ages that might get defensive with critiques and commands.)

A Civic Duty

If we want a more sustainable society, it is our responsibility to teach future generations how to do so.

Thanks for reading. And as always, happy planting! 

5 Reasons for Native Plants

With Easter and Mother’s day coming up, you may be thinking about getting a cut bouquet of flowers. Perhaps this year you might consider a more environmentally friendly option. Giving your loved ones flowers to plant in the ground rather than a cut bouquet can have many benefits- especially if those flowers are native to your area. Here are 5 reasons why you can’t go wrong with native plants.

  1. They’ll last longer.

You wont have to watch them wither away on the kitchen table if they are blooming in your yard.

  1. Pesticide Free is the Way to Be.

Native plants have a natural immunity to pests in your area and tend to need less pesticides to keep them healthy. By using fewer pesticides in your landscaping, you can reduce the amount of chemicals that contaminate our water systems.

  1. Speaking of Water…

Because native plants are well adapted to your area, you don’t have to water them as much. They are used to the amount of precipitation and sunlight that your area already receives.

  1. The 4 B’s.

More native plants means more bees, birds, butterflies, and bats. Native plants provide nectar, seeds, fruit, pollen and shelter for our other friends that live in the neighborhood. You’ll be creating more biodiversity and a visually appealing landscape at the same time.

  1. Less Work for You!

Isn’t that the phrase everyone wants to hear? Often times native plants are perennials which means they will pop up on their own again next year. Meaning you only have to plant them once!11825088_10204681592423069_6592781999643828941_n

            Find out what native plants and flowers grow well in your area. Better yet, get them for someone as a gift!

Thanks for reading. And as always, happy planting! 

Spring Planting

How to Protect Your Plants from the Cold

Its Spring and some of us are eager to get outside and start planting! However, if you live in a place with unpredictable weather, there could be some frosts intermixed that may destroy your crop. Here are ways to prevent your plants from freezing over.

Know Your Plants

The best plants to put outside in the spring are those plants we refer to as “cold weather plants.” They typically are leafy green plants. Here is a list of common cold weather plants that are better suited for a spring climate.

  • Arugula
  • Beets
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Bok choy
  • Cabbage
  • Collards
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Chard
  • Cilantro/ Coriander
  • Fennel
  • Kale
  • Lettuce
  • Mustard greens
  • Onions
  • Peas
  • Potatoes
  • Radishes
  • Spinach

Tuck Them In

Plants like to be tucked in just like us! Especially during those nights where temperatures can drop drastically. Applying a simple sheet or drop cloth over your plants can help protect them from frost and retain some heat. You may need to put steaks into the ground our use hoops to create a tent-like effect so you don’t flatten your plants. Remember to anchor your cover around the edges so it doesn’t blow away and so less cold air from the outside can seep in.

A Little Water

Wet soil can retain heat better than dry soil. When transpiration happens, water is evaporated from the plant’s leaves and this evaporated water can help retain some heat if the plants are covered.

Natural Insulator

Applying a layer of mulch around your plants can help the soil temperature remain more constant and lose heat slower.

A Slow Progression

If you are moving seedlings from inside to outside, it is safest to take it in steps. The temperature and amount of light that is outdoors can be a drastic change for some plants and cause them to go into shock. To prevent this, you can place your plants in the shade outside for a few hours a day.

Thanks for reading. And as always, happy planting!


I’d give anyone a pat on the back that is composting their food scraps as apposed to throwing them in a plastic trash bag. But for those of us who want to take a step further and use our compost to produce valuable fruits and vegetables, there are a few things that you need to know first. Healthy compost that breaks down quickly is more than just a pile scraps. There are certain levels of Nitrogen and Carbon that create the perfect pile.

The Carbon to Nitrogen Ratio

Every compost pile needs a balance of materials that contain Carbon and Nitrogen. How can you tell which is which? Materials with high amounts of Carbon would be brown in color and drier. Materials that are wet and green would contain more amounts of Nitrogen. Generally speaking, a 30 to 1 Carbon Nitrogen ratio is ideal. This does not mean your compost pile has 30 parts carbon to one part nitrogen. This is referring to the amount of carbon and nitrogen that are in the specific compostable material you have added.

  • BROWN– Carbon: Nitrogen is greater than 30:1
    • Dry materials 40-50% carbon.
  • GREEN– Carbon : Nitrogen is less than than 30:1
    • Wet Materials 10-20% carbon.

Here is a list of common compostables and their C:N.


Screen Shot 2017-03-28 at 2.32.14 PM


To get a general idea of the Carbon to Nitrogen ratios you have in your compost pile, add up the number of carbon in each item divided by the number of items you have. Example: Leaves 60 + Veggies 25 + Food Waste 20 = 105 Carbon. 105 divided by 3 = 35. This would be a decent composting mixture because 35 is close to the 30:1 ratio.

H2O and O2

In addition to the Nitrogen and Carbon ratio, water and oxygen need to be present. You can aerate your compost by mixing the compost up with a shovel. It is important to keep moisture for decomposers to break down the matter and do their job. The sun can allow for faster decomposition but only if the compost pile has enough moisture. Dry compost will slow down decomposition. Water your compost as needed, just like you would do for your plants. If there are days were there is too much sun you can put a tarp over your pile to help retain moisture.

Let’s take a closer look…

Microscopic organisms, insects, worms, snails, and fungi are all decomposing the organic material. As they break down this material, they release carbon dioxide and heat. This is why ideal temperatures for a compost pile are around 90-140°F… pretty toasty. However, temperatures higher than this can kill off not only pathogens but beneficial bacteria in your compost as well. When you go to plant your garden, if the temperatures exceed this range it is usually because you have too much Nitrogen in your compost and this could put your plants in danger of disease. Temperatures lower than 90°F may have too much Carbon. Low temperatures allow for slower decomposition rates and you will just have organic material, not compost.

Generally Speaking

In terms of parts, generally speaking you can have two parts green to one part brown in your compost. So for every two buckets of food scraps I dump in my compost I want to make sure I add one bucket of paper or leaves on top and repeat the process. Check out for more information.

Thanks for reading. And as always, happy planting!

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