The Garden of Eatin'

During times of war, people used to grow "victory gardens" to increase food production. We're not by any means at war, except perhaps with ourselves about whether or not to put a mask on and head back to the grocery store. Since canned goods can't hold a candle to fresh produce, why not use this extra time to start a little garden? It doesn't just help with social distancing, it gets you in the sunshine, provides a tastier yield and saves quite a bit of money.

Some parents start a pizza garden to connect their children with nature. It's a simple affair, with just tomatoes, basil and oregano. Everything grows above ground, and you can pick as needed while summer marches on.

Some people grow cocktail gardens on their balconies, with mint, rosemary and basil. If you'd like to muddle your way to greatness, Ladles and Linens has the book for you. I grow these herbs, plus Thai basil (my absolute favorite) and cilantro, because I can't resist homemade Vietnamese food.  

I'm quite a lazy gardener myself. I don't build raised beds or grow anything that I can't see. Fruit trees are perfect for people like me. I trim back branches once every spring, and let mother nature do the rest. Unless you consider a Caddyshack-like war against squirrels to be work, because those freeloaders are relentless. But all summer long I have fresh figs, peaches, grapes and raspberries.

And tomatoes have such a will to live, that I never even have to buy a plant. I take my shovel and sprinkle compost onto a sunny spot in my yard, and inevitably, tomatoes burst forth. I often find my 5 year-old plucking cherry tomatoes right off the vine and eating them in place. For larger tomatoes, I sometimes grab them before they ripen and surprise my family with a plate of fried green tomatoes. It can be as easy as planting a stick in the ground, per the deliciously-themed seed pods available at Ladles and Linens, pictured above. 

Regardless of your skill level, gardening is therapeutic. It connects you to the earth, helps you move with the seasons and provides more exercise than many think. So get a little dirty! As hard as social distancing can be for some people, creating a home garden is one way to contribute to the effort, and perhaps open you up to a hobby you never knew you loved.

 

Kitchen Sink Protein Bites

If you have a pulse, then you've baked chocolate chip cookies by now. Social distancing has turned us all into bakers. My neighbor can't find flour on store shelves, and my friend in New York City had to buy her yeast online. I've seen more home-baked treats on Instagram in the past two weeks than I ever have, and it all looks delectable. I'm proud of us!

Since we're all trying to limit exposure, going to the grocery store is now on an as-needed basis. Times like these are an opportunity for us to improvise, hone our cooking instincts and use what we have. Hence, the "kitchen sink' recipe, where you throw in "everything but the kitchen sink." 

Easter Basket Kit - Entertainer's Delight

A week ago, I realized that I can only eat so many cinnamon buns before wondering if my jeans will fit after this Yoga Pants Era (TM). Yes I just informally trademarked that. My kitchen sink baking skills needed some adulting, so I made protein bites.

I know that I'm not big on measurements and am prone to say things like "season to taste" (unlike Sarah the pro chef, and thank goodness for her). But with kitchen sink recipes, we wing it with what we have. It's fun to pay with measurements.  Protein bites are easy, and here are the basics:

A base: Oatmeal, granola or cereal

A binding agent: Eggs. If you are vegan, go for mashed bananas, peanut butter or both

A protein: chopped almonds, flax seeds, chopped peanuts, walnut pieces, chia seeds or nut butters

A sweetener: Semi-sweet chocolate chips are best. Shredded coconut is heaven. But you can do butterscotch chips or a little brown sugar.

Salt: Just a dash or two, depending on how much batter you're making

Baking Powder: A teaspoon or two, depending on the amount of batter

Extra credit: A fine flour helps to smooth out the batter and keep it together. Low-carb options such as coconut flour or almond flour are best.

Mix all of the ingredients in a large bowl until the texture resembles cookie batter and you can roll it into balls. And don't kill me, but...season to taste. Only tiny samples, as the batter contains raw eggs. Plop jumbo marshmallow-sized balls onto a pan greased with melted butter or coconut oil. Bake at 350 degrees for about 12 minutes, but make sure they pass the toothpick test. Remove from the oven, transfer to a cooling rack and enjoy. 

For kitchen sink beginners, feel free to bake a test protein bite in case you need to tweak the recipe. After a little while, it will feel second nature. And like me, you'll relish the challenge!

The Quarantined Gourmand

Hey everyone! How is it going out there? Hopefully you're making the best of these unusual circumstances, but I know that for many, it can be difficult to drown out the anxiety.

One of the positive outcomes from the coronavirus is seeing all the delicious food being made at home. The internet has been a portal to kitchens around the world. L&L shopper Mary Caton Lingold made drool-worthy onion cream biscuits, and put her son Henrik (pictured above) to work in the kitchen too! My relatives and I are pulling out time-consuming recipes from the Middle East - favorites that we don't normally have time for. I stuffed grape leaves last night, and it's no joke. 

The bottom line is this: These may be trying times, but we've got to eat. Why not make the most of it?

Sarah Nicholas of Ladles and Linens has reserved her own sunny spot on the Internet, showcasing new inventory that gets me buzzing about spring! Honey jars, gardening kits and vibrant melamine plates. And while the store is closed to the public, you can shop by appointment, online or request curbside service. 

Not one to let these circumstances get in the way of a great meal, she hosted a Facebook Live class about eggs on the Ladles and Linens Cooking School page. It's available for replay. And while social distancing will undoubtedly put a damper on parties and Easter egg hunts, you can certainly show the love with customized Easter baskets, bringing smiles to the loved ones you may be separated from. 

So keep that kitchen humming. Lick the spoon, toss scraps to the pup, make giant batches so you can freeze leftovers for a busier time. And if you have children at home, order a kid's apron from Ladles and get them to work too! They will thank you twice. Once when they taste the fruits of their labor, and a second time as adults, when they will think back on this special time, and the kitchen fundamentals they've learned.