Grow Your Own Salad: It’s Easier Than You Think!

If you have a complete set of salad bowls and they all say Kool Whip on the side, you might be a redneck. –Jeff Foxworthy

I’ve said it before and I’m going to say it again. Even if you think you have an ordinary beige thumb and are destined to kill every plant that comes into your possession, there are some things even you can grow! If you would like to give gardening a try, this is a simple place to start. If you are already a seasoned gardener who invests a great deal of effort every spring and you are aching to get started, this will tie you over until the weather warms. I’m going to show you how to plant a salad box!

This grow box with the very large reservoir is what I like to use for tomatoes and peppers but since I’m between seasons, I’d like to do something with it. Recently this box had a harvest of hot and spicy Jalapeños but alas the plants became leggy and anemic looking as the weather changed and they were spent. Sometimes you can cut the stems, leave them there, and watch them regrow later (in mild climates you can do that); but I would rather start seeds in my windows and have fresh plants in the spring because they will likely be more fruitful. I was reading about crop rotation and there is a more thorough way to do it but for my purposes I’m going to have a short rotation to refresh my soil. If I simply replant peppers in this box over and over, any soil born disease or pests that have begun to take up residence will be encouraged to stay. If, however, I place in this box plants that are from a different plant family, these pests may become disinterested and find another place to go. In India, farmers plant a wide variety of crops close together and they don’t use pesticides. As a result, their plants are not pest free, but the pests don’t have opportunity to have a stronghold. This is what I want. I also get a little bored. So, this why I planted salad ingredients.

By the way, if you don’t have a grow box, don’t let that stop you. You could plant any of these items with a little soil and a container that says Kool Whip on the side! ;-) Just poke holes in the bottom of the container and you’re set; it’s really that easy! But seriously, the grow box does make gardening very easy (

DSC05017 DSC05018 DSC05019 DSC05020

I planted five different things in rows within this grow box. One row of green onions, one row of garlic cloves, one row of Mesclun seeds, one row of Simpsons Elite lettuce seeds, and one row of Arugula seeds. I planted everything about a week and a half ago and here is what it looks like today.


The Green Onions and Garlic Cloves from my kitchen scraps grew very fast! They are some of the easiest plants I’ve ever grown.


The Arugula was faster at sprouting than the other two but I see I few tiny sprouts in there.

How to:

The Green Onions were originally bought at the store and we used almost all of the green leaves in our cooking leaving behind just some of the end with the roots. I poked them into the dirt in a row and I was done. I broke off a few cloves from a head of garlic and poked them into the soil in a row with the pointy ends facing up and I was done. For each set of seeds I sprinkled them in a row directly into the soil on the pot and lightly brushed them around that row in the dirt and I was done. The seeds don’t even need to be completely buried because they are so tiny. The furthest you would plant them into the soil would be ¼ of an inch so really no digging is required.

In this chilly but sometimes warm and sunny weather, lettuce grows easily. It’s not hot and it’s not freezing but we still get a little sun so the seeds will sprout quickly and the lettuce won’t get scorched. Just water when the soil looks dry. Usually in cooler weather, the soil stays moist longer so you won’t have to water as often. Another great thing about the lettuce is that you don’t have to wait for it to grow into a head in order to harvest it; baby leaves taste great! The Onions and Garlic should deter spider mites and aphids plus they grow easily and compatibly with the salad greens. The green leaves that sprout above the garlic cloves are also edible and have a mild garlicky taste the way chives have a mild oniony taste. Part of the fun with growing salad is that you can grow varieties that you don’t get at the store. I also find that I’m more likely to eat it when I grow it. It’s much fresher tasting when it comes from my balcony than it is from my fridge. If I forget to water the plant and it dies, it will still have lasted longer than the lettuce in my fridge. Finally, there is no guilt if the plant dies in a few weeks because you know it’s a short growing season and you were able to enjoy a harvest in no time at all. It’s a win, win, win scenario if you ask me!

My final tip? Watch for skinny stems and tiny flowers that may sprout from the plants (lettuce, onions, and garlic). If you want to extend the life of the plant, cut those stems off before the flowers dry. If you want to collect seeds to plant again someday, watch those cute flowers turn into seed heads and gather the seeds before they blow away!

Have you tried growing any salad greens? What have you learned? Do you have any great recipes you’d like to share or feedback on my salad box strategy? Please leave me comments and share your experiences or questions!

Tamales, it’s been too long!

Cooking and gardening involve so many disciplines: math, chemistry, reading, history.

David Chang

As promised, I’m going to show you my homemade tamales made with garden fresh green salsa. I can’t take credit for this recipe; my source is “Simply Mexican” by Lourdes Castro. Let’s get started.

You will need:

A package of corn husks

1 pound of chicken

1 teaspoon of oregano

1 onion

Salt to taste

Salsa verde (Green Tomatillo Salsa) 1 ½ – 2 cups

2 ½ cups masa harina

2 cups of chicken broth, maybe a little bit more as needed

¾ cup solid vegetable shortening

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 teaspoons of salt

A big pot

A mixer


Aluminum Foil

I froze a portion of the salsa I made last time and I made sure the portion was the amount I wanted to use for this recipe (so none would be wasted). I pulled the salsa out to thaw and then began poaching the chicken and hydrating the corn husks.

I poach the chicken the same way I start a chicken soup. You place the chicken in the pot and just barely cover it with cold water which will make the broth more flavorful. The same principle is followed when adding vegetables. I also placed quartered onions, oregano, and garlic cloves in the water and made sure all the ingredients were just covered with enough water (1/2-1 inch of water above ingredients). If you are using the stove top, you’ll bring the water to a boil and then reduce heat to simmer for 35-45 minutes. If you have plenty of time, you could simmer it for several hours but never bring it to boiling for a more flavorful broth. I personally used a pressure cooker which allows me to skip those technicalities (pressure cooking does wonders) so alternatively I set the pressure on for 20 minutes then let it slow release. After the chicken is cooked through, let it cool in its broth to retain moisture. Then you can shred it with two forks, a kitchen aid stand mixer, or your hands. Reserve the leftover broth for your tamale dough.

Stir the shredded chicken and salsa together making sure you have just enough to coat the chicken (set aside extra chicken if you need to). Set this mixture aside and make your tamale dough by first mixing together the masa and chicken broth; then beat the vegetable shortening separately until it is fluffy. Add a little bit of the masa mixture to the shortening a little at a time until all is incorporated then just add a couple more table spoons of broth and beat for 10-15 minutes. Sprinkle baking powder and salt over the dough and mix in.


Now here comes the fun part (tedious part, the part that reminds me why I only do this at Christmas). You’re going to assemble the tamales. Are you ready?

Set up an assembly line as such:

  1. A bowl of hydrated corn husks
  2. A bowl of tamale dough
  3. A bowl of chicken mixture
  4. Several torn corn husk threads for tying
  5. A bowl or plate for assembled tamales

First take a corn husk and hold it with the narrower pointy end up. Spread tamale dough all over the bottom half of the husk leaving a one inch border on the left and right sides. Put some chicken filling lengthwise down the center of the dough. Pick up the sides of the corn husk and carefully press the edges of dough together. Fold the remaining flaps over to one side, fold the empty top section of the cornhusk on top of that, and tie a thin strip of extra corn husk around the tamale. Once you have assembled all of the tamales, you can create a steamer with the foil, water, and pot. Just make a big ball with the foil, place it in the center of the pot, and add ½ inch of water to the pot. Stand the tamales around the foil ball with the pointy ends up. Cover the pot with a lid and let simmer for 40 minutes.


Your finished tamales should then be ready to enjoy with rice, beans, and perhaps some extra salsa and another favorite Mexican side dish. Mmmmmm, Muy Bueno!


Bible Scholars Needed… help from home!


This post was written by a friend of mine and I love what is being done through this organization. Please read this:

Originally posted on Language of the Heart:

Today an unprecedented strategy is underway to provide open-licensed resources in dozens of languages for Bible translators worldwide. Open licensing allows anyone, anywhere, unrestricted access and use of these tools to advance Bible translation in their language.

We are working with existing copyright owners in an effort to release existing resources in a way that serves the global Church more effectively. But in the meantime our team is pressing forward to create new resources that will be available to the global Church immediately. Bible Scholars Needed

We are recruiting Christians with seminary training in Hebrew or Greek, Old or New Testament, theology, or hermeneutics to expand our team and speed these resources to Bible translators. We have a particularly immediate need for Old Testament scholars.

This is not an exclusive offer. We are looking for dozens of people willing to collaborate in this effort as part of a decentralized team. Location is not…

View original 268 more words

Long Awaited Tomatillo Salsa!

“Absence makes the heart grow fonder,”

        says a lot of people.

Yum! I was so excited the day I learned how to make fresh salsa. I especially love the flavor of roasted vegetables. My first salsa was a traditional tomato-based variety in which the ingredients were cooked under the broiler in the oven. I also enjoyed making enchiladas with chicken and the canned green salsas but one day I asked myself, “What would happen if I substituted tomatoes in my salsa recipe for tomatillos?” I’ll tell you what happened! I quit buying canned green salsa!

When we lived stateside, tomatillos were a staple at the local grocery store. We never hesitated to buy bundles of them and whip up fresh salsa every week. We used it in our enchiladas, tacos, as a snack with chips, and eventually I learned how to make tamales with it.

This changed when we moved to Japan.

We have still been able to make red salsa, but the green we have had to live without for nearly two years. Why? Tomatillos are not shipped to the commissary. I tried to grow them; I failed. I tried again this year; I succeeded! Our long wait for fresh tomatillo salsa is about to come to an end; hurray!


Tomatillos and peppers

Today I will show you how I make my salsa. It can be used immediately or frozen for a later date (which is my plan). I was very happy to be able to use my freshly grown tomatillos, serrano peppers, and purple cayenne peppers today!


Purple Cayenne and Serrano Peppers–Aren’t they festive?

You will need:

8-10 tomatillos (consider the size)

1 small purple onion

1 green bell pepper

1-4 spicy peppers (to your taste) such as jalapeño, serrano, cayenne, or poblano

2 garlic cloves

¼ cup of chopped cilantro

1 teaspoon cumin (we call it comino)

Optional: salt and pepper or lime juice to taste

Oven broiler or grill

Broiler safe cookware

Instructions: First place tomatillos without their husks into a bowl of water for ½ hour. This will reduce the sticky texture on the outside. You can heat the broiler during this time.


The removed tomatillo husks would make a great addition to the compost!


The tomatillos are taking a water bath for approximately 30 minutes.

Next, dice all vegetables into large chunks and discard the cores and stems of the tomatillos and peppers. Place all veggies into the oven safe dish.


Cut off the stems and make the veggies ready to go straight to the blender after cooking.

Cook under the broiler for approximately 10 minutes until you see some charring on the veggies. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly.


Slightly charred and very flavorful, the vegetables are ready to be made into a delicious salsa.

Place all of the cooked veggies and remaining ingredients into a food processor and chop to desired consistency.


I leave a lot of seeds because we like the heat and the texture, but you can always remove them before adding to the blender if that suits your taste.

Now you can add your salsa to your desired recipe, place in a freezer safe bag for later use, or enjoy it fresh with chips immediately.


Ready to be used on a later date, the salsa is packed in freezer safe bags with the air squeezed out.


Next time, I will write about how I intend to use this salsa—in homemade Christmas Tamales! Joy to this household, a taste of home has come! That makes my heart sing.

How do you use your tomatillos? I would welcome any growing or cooking ideas you have!

Tomatillo and Okra Do-Overs

“Vitality shows in not only the ability to persist but the ability to start over.”

F. Scott Fitzgerald

After a long absence from blogging, my theme for this entry is totally appropriate for my return. A wonderful series of life events kept me busy and away from my writing desk (ironically one of those events involved teaching others how to write). It may be hard to pick back up after losing momentum, but it’s totally worth it. While I was away from the blog, I continued to garden. In my endeavor, there were two plants I wanted to attempt to grow again, and I can now say that I succeeded.

If you go back to my blog in May of last year, I posted an entry called “Twice Transplanting Tomatoes.” I posted an entry about their progress a couple weeks later I felt very successful planting my tomatillos and I even watched the plant become very large and full of blooms. I was sure it would be a success as blooms are the start of the coming fruit. What I did not anticipate was a vicious attack from microscopic red spider mites. The trouble with these pests is by the time you realize they are there, it may be too late for your plant. Not only were the pests a problem, but I also failed to plant more than one tomatillo plant and you need at least two for pollination. I never saw a single tomatillo.

Also last year, I tried to grow Okra. Again, the spider mites and caterpillars had a feast. I maybe ate three okra pods from that plant. It was sorely disappointing.

This year, I planted okra transplants in my front yard among my flowers and I gave tomatillos another chance late this summer. I used many of the same methods except this time the Okra had more room for its roots and a different amount of sun while the tomatillo transplants were placed in a bigger container with several garlic cloves (to hopefully deter spider mites). Also, even though I may have gotten a late start with the tomatillos, they did have the opportunity to grow in slightly cooler weather. Most spider mites thrive in the hottest weather.

SONY DSC An okra bloom

SONY DSC The arrangement: Okra, basil, chives, and low growing flowers

SONY DSC A sprouting okra pod


SONY DSC Did you know that okra is in the same plant family as the hibiscus? It’s no wonder the flowers are so stunning!

SONY DSC Pollinators help

SONY DSC  Mature okra pods, ready for the picking

As a result, we were able to harvest okra every 2-3 days in July through early October. We probably enjoyed at least ten dinners with fried okra! The plants began to de-leaf as the weather dropped and they were stripped bare in the last typhoon, but we got out of them what we expected. Like any annual, they fruited in season and stopped when their time was up.

Now, my four tomatillo plants are monsters! I’m very pleased with how big and healthy they look and this time, I actually see some tomatillos sprouting rather than just the blooms. This last month, I have not had time or energy to garden; all we did was add water and before I knew it the plants were huge and thriving. I couldn’t be more thrilled!


Last year, I didn’t have very much control of the spider mites and I had no control over the weather. I still had a choice as to whether or not I should continue. I’m glad I decided to give these plants another chance. Now, I have reaped and will reap a harvest from what I have sown.

Now, here is the How To:

For Okra:

  1. I used transplants from a local nursery. One advantage to this is the opportunity to get a variety of the plant that probably does well in this region. Another advantage is a slightly faster harvest.
  2. I dug up the soil in my yard and added some of my own compost mixed with vegetable and flower slow release fertilizer (You can make your own compost over the course of a few months or simply buy it at a garden supply). The soil here is a thick clay, but so is the soil used to start the transplants here so they fit right in; extra nutrients can’t hurt though!
  3. I chose an arrangement for my okra and accompanying plants. I planted chives and basil near the okra since I know they are compatible plants with one another and fragrant plants attract good pollinators and deter some of the pests. I also included some low growing, shallow rooting flowers. There are two things I consider when planning the arrangement—compatibility, and plant height. The tallest plants go in the back and the shortest in the front.
  4. I covered the remaining exposed areas with mulch and added water.
  5. After that, water when the soil looks dry or 1-2 times a week and try not to let okra pods grow longer than about 3-4 inches (more than that and they get tough and are hard to eat). Harvest as frequently as you can as that will encourage the plant to grow more fruit.

For Tomatillo:

  1. I started with seeds for these plants. I like to use egg shells as my starter containers and I keep them well watered in a sunny window. Peat pots are great but in my area they tend to mold quickly. I prefer not to have mold on my windowsill.
  2. Once there were at least three sets of leaves, I was ready to transplant into a pot outside. Egg shells are biodegradable, but they don’t break down as quickly as other materials. I gently crack the egg shells and pull them away from the roots before dropping the root ball in soil.
  3. To prepare the pot, I added some fresh as well as previously used soil. I removed old roots from the pot, added compost, and added slow release fertilizer. I mixed them well and moistened the soil. My choice pot is one with a water reservoir so that the plants can wick up the amount of moisture they need and I don’t have to water them as frequently.
  4. I planted each tomatillo plant along the back evenly spacing each one. I then planted a row of garlic cloves* along the middle and sprinkled pansy flower seeds along the edge.
  5. I added water to the soil and filled the water reservoir. Every couple of days I add more water to the reservoir. The plant has since cared for itself.
  6. Final tip: Check under the leaves periodically for pests. The cheapest and most organic control you can use if you find anything is to get a spray bottle with water or a garden hose and dislodge any pests you find. For larger pests such as caterpillars, slugs, snails, and beetles, you can pick them off with gloves or a tool and drop them in soapy water. If you see a lady bug or a praying mantis, leave it alone! Those bugs will kill bad bugs when you’re not around to catch them and they won’t hurt your plant. Ditto for spiders but I don’t blame you if you don’t want them around either!

For garlic:

  1. Take a garlic head from your kitchen and break off a few cloves.
  2. Stick your thumb in the soil and place a garlic clove in the hole with the pointy side up.
  3. Add water and forget about it. You’ll soon see garlic chive shoots pop up and when they brown and tip over you’ll be able to dig up a new head of garlic. It may be a small head, but it’s edible.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my return entry and can take something valuable away from it. Thank you for reading and feel free to leave me comments or questions!

DIY Natural and Delicious Sugar Body Scrubs and Printable Label


I love homemade gifts like this–making them and receiving them. Thank you Poppy’s Patisserie! It’s a privilege to give you a reblog!

Originally posted on Bunny Kitchen:


It’s that time of year when I start thinking of all the homemade, kind and natural homemade gifts I can make for Christmas. With my 2 big sisters’ birthdays in October, it was the perfect opportunity to do some recipe testing!


Sugar scrubs are the one of the most easy homemade gifts to make, yet a beautiful gift that is indulgent and special for the receiver. For a basic scrub you simply need 2 ingredients, oil and sugar, but I like to add in some extra little luxuries to make the scrub smell good enough to eat and leaving your skin extra soft and vibrant.


In the coconut and lime scrub, coconut flour adds extra gentle exfoliating properties and adds to the delicious coconut fragrance. In the cinnamon spice latte scrub, the coffee granules add gentle exfoliation and along with the spices, make the scrub smell good enough to drink…

View original 184 more words