Peony 'Sarah Bernhardt'

Peony 'Sarah Bernhardt'

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

A Clean Kitchen is a Happy Kitchen

Good morning friends,

The past 24 hours have seen epic heavy rain and floods in the Portland metro area. Several more storm systems are on the way each day this week. I was extremely grateful I did not have a garden maintenance job scheduled today. Working outdoors in this heavy of a storm did not sound appealing. Fingers crossed for Tuesday and Friday this week. My thoughts are with everyone with flood damaged homes, cars, and property.

With winter weather storming away outside I was cozy inside planting paperwhite bulbs and cooking pumpkin tomato curry soup. It also seemed the perfect day for kitchen organization projects. In our small kitchen organization is extra important. On our tight budget keeping food fresh and utilized timely is essential. I purged, cleaned, and organized my supply of supplements, tea, dry, canned and bulk foods.

In general I like to freshen and organize my spice rack every year around Thanksgiving. Years ago I read an article on “Organizing Your Pantry” and it just stuck with me. Dried spices and herbs only stay fresh about one year. Additionally, beginning with Thanksgiving through the holidays most retailers put spices on sale for the holiday cooking and baking season. It is a great time to purchase fresh spices.

Today I looked through my spice rack and dumped anything I hadn’t used in the last year. Then I washed and stored the empty glass jars. Purchasing bulk spices and storing in reusable glass jars is an excellent way to save money and keep things fresh. I only buy spices in small quantities that I know I will use within one year, preferably sooner. If you are shopping in the Portland metro area I’ve observed New Seasons, Fred Meyer, and Winco all carry bulk spices from the exact same vendor. There is no reason to pay jacked up prices. In my experience, Winco has the best prices on bulk spices and they are heavily shopped so the quality is usually always fresh.

During my spice clean up, one thing became abundantly clear. I no longer cook very much with dried herbs. I dumped pale old store bought dried rosemary, ground sage, thyme, and basil from my collection. My small herb garden provides me with an abundant supply of fresh herbs.

Even in the winter I can still harvest fresh parsley, rosemary, sage, and thyme. During the summer and autumn I harvest tender herbs like basil, tarragon, oregano, and chives and I freeze these fresh herbs for winter use. These frozen herbs are superior in taste, fragrance, color, and texture to bland dried herbs. I drop frozen herb cubes into pots of soup, stew, sauces, and gravy. I defrost them to use in casseroles, salad dressings, and dips.

What I do cook with is dried spices like paprika, curry, chili pepper, turmeric, nutmeg, and cinnamon, etc. Do you know the difference between an herb and a spice? In general, an herb is a plant we use the leaves for food flavoring and spices are a plant we use other parts like root, bark, fruit, and/or seeds for food flavoring. Friendly reminder, these types of spices stay fresh for about one year and then they need to be replaced. When was the last time you inventoried and refreshed your spice rack?

This week I will make bulk purchases of holiday baking supplies and I am happy to have this project done so I can add spices to the list. I hope that you are enjoying all the season has to offer.

Happy Holidays,

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Winter 2016 Organic Gardening Workshops

Good afternoon gardening friends!

The winter catalog for Portland Community College Community Education just came out. Please check out page 24 and the gardening instructor spotlight-because it's me! Please register early to ensure your space.

Organic Vegetable Gardening: Basic for Beginners
Saturday Feb 27th 9am-11am

Organic Vegetable Gardening: Crop Rotation & Companion Planting
Saturday March 12th 9am-11am

Gardening for Bees, Butterflies, and Beneficial Bugs
Saturday March 19th 9am-11am

I am very excited to bring my organic gardening workshops to my own NE Portland at the Cascade Campus.

Happy gardening,