cooking healthy · Healthy Gardening · Uncategorized

Under Appreciated Produce Parts :)

I struggled with a good name for this post . It’s true though.

Saving and using kitchen scraps is not just about being frugal  which is great,  and   we  should all  be less wasteful , but there is some very serious cooking to learn from great chefs that not only don’t want to waste food, but are out there creating the very  best foods by using what we all often just  throw away.

This is not big , new- news. Great chefs have always depended on parts , stuff  , bones and bits- what most of us  often discard.   Most chefs would proclaim looking down on what would appear to be headed for the trash can ,  ” Now there, that’s  the good stuff” .

Always and forever chefs  have used these under appreciated produce parts to enhance whatever they may be creating. Our grandparents did too. What  our elders  may have done daily out of frugality is exactly what chefs strive to do  everyday to enhance their plates.

Let’s face it , grandma made great food . Grandma was proud of her great food too . She and grandpa knew that these “parts “made the flavor happen. They may have had to make do , but tough times also  taught them  the intricacies of cooking , creating,  and of how to make  food taste incredible  with only a few ingredients – the best  ‘ parts”. It may have been simple cooking  , but there is a reason why it tasted so amazing .  It’s all about the good  ” stuff” – the bits , pieces and parts that we casually discard most everyday.

So here is some good stuff, really good stuff !

The  more obvious “parts” 

Ends of onions, celery and carrots

Don’t throw them away, just give them a quick wash, and put them in a bag and into the freezer. Important ! Find a spot in the freezer that will just be for your unappreciated  produce parts and bits. This way they won’t wind up in the freezer abyss ( we all have one ! ) to be found, possibly years in the future, totally unrecognizable.

Not a bad idea to label them too. Maybe keep your carrots, celery and onion ends all together in a separate bag that you can keep adding to. When you manage to collect enough , it’s time to make your own vegetable stock or add them  to a beef or chicken stock. Just throw what you have collected ( make sure it’s a  nice, super  big bag full , you ‘ll want to have enough “parts ” to really season your broth) and cover with water in a slow cooker or stew pot. Add some  fresh or dried herbs ( thyme, rosemary, garlic powder or any favorite ) , light salt and pepper, and let it slowly simmer for several hours. There ,you have made your first, very own simple  vegetable stock that you can now use instead of paying 3-4 dollars for a box or can of stock that is loaded with salt. Even the low sodium stocks are full of salt. Your stock will also taste so much better ! Very often I let it simmer once and then do it all over again the next day – just works for me – seems to condense the flavor that much more. O f course, when you are satisfied with the taste , you then strain out the vegetables and store or use  your beautiful vegetable broth. It will freeze fine , but using it right away is always best or keep in fridge for a week .

If you are making chicken or beef stock , it’s basically the same thing. Take your  beef or pork bones or chicken  carcass, and place it into a slow cooker or big stew pot , cover with water and your carrot, onion and celery ends that you have collected, your herbs of choice , a little salt and pepper ( I always use very little – you can add salt later in whatever dish you make with your stock ) , and let it simmer 2-3 hours. Again, I do this one day and then again the next day . You don’t have to .  I just find it makes the stock even more flavorful . I may have to add a bit more water the second day and make sure it is always at very  low and  slow simmer.

The not so obvious “parts”  

Broccoli  and asparagus stems

These can be kept in their own bag. Purchase the whole broccoli .  Purchasing the entire head of broccoli is less expensive than purchasing just the broccoli heads,  and most markets nowadays still offer both. If they don’t, get the manager and ask why they are only selling broccoli heads. There is no reason for you or any other consumer  to be forced to pay more for less product. Stems are useful! And no , you are not just  being cheap. It’s about the good stuff.  No matter how tough you think those stems are, they are going to make you the most amazing delicate broccoli – cheddar soup ! So save some money,  and buy the whole head, cut the stems off , chop up , and save in the freezer ( not the abyss, but that  special spot in there that you just newly created ).

Asparagus stems also make great asparagus soup . You would never think so because they seem to be so woody , but it’s true ! Chop up , save, and freeze !


Super Easy Asparagus or Broccoli  “parts” soup

Ingredients :

leftover stems from two bunches of asparagus or broccoli – chopped small so they will soften quickly, 3 Tablespoons olive oil , 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter, 2 small yellow onions chopped fine, 3 cloves of garlic chopped fine, 4-6 cups vegetable or chicken broth ( your own would be great! ) , 2 Tablespoons lemon juice, 1/2 cup grated Parmesan, handful of fresh herbs of choice ( thyme, dill , basil )

Heat your olive oil and butter in a large skillet. Soften your onions and garlic in the olive oil and melted butter, add your asparagus or broccoli  “parts” chopped small – let them soften in the olive oil , garlic and onions. When they are super soft ( careful not to brown ) transfer them to a stock pot or slow cooker.  Then add your stock , your herbs of choice, a little salt and pepper , and simmer 30 min.   Now , if all is nice and softened, take all the vegetables out and blend in a blender until smooth and pour back into your broth. You will now have a wonderful creamy soup ! You could add some heavy cream , but you will find , as I did,  to be  unnecessary. It’ s great just the way it is . Add the Parmesan or sometimes I use cheddar , stir and add the lemon juice and maybe a little more salt and pepper to taste.

Enjoy as is or add the steamed asparagus tips or some steamed broccoli florets  to the soup before serving. You don’t need these if you are working with leftover frozen asparagus  and broccoli  “parts” . With them or without them  the soup is wonderful ! And it’s yours  made from scratch ! No added ingredients that you wouldn’t want  your family to eat !

Leeks Tops

I use a lot of leeks. I’m  kind of hooked on them , so I always saved the rooty  white ends for an addition to a future  vegetable broth , but I never did save the leaves until now . I don’t know why I didn’t add the long green leaves to my homemade  broth to begin with. I just assumed they didn’t taste like much.Well,  I was wrong- learn something everyday! Turns out these long dark green leaves can be used in so many other ways too,  and they are quite delicious. They just take a little extra care to prepare so they don’t remain tough. Grilled Leek Tops with Chili -Garlic sauce here :

These were delicious. Be sure to slice them longways and very thin. They will soften right up.

Use leek tops as a bed for steaming  your favorite fish. Place washed dark green leaf tops on the bottom of your baking dish along with a few thinly sliced lemons, a little water or vegetable stock. Not too much liquid though, and place your seasoned fish on  top. You don’t want your fish to be swimming in liquid, you just want it to steam. Love this idea  !

Wrap and tie fresh herbs inside a square pocket made of leek top leaves and use as a bouquet garni . You could make these little pillows ahead and freeze them to take out and use in the future. This is great if you have a lot fresh herbs  available .  Use these within 2 months if you do freeze them .

Sliced longways and super thin, leek tops are great added to stir fries too !

Beet Greens

Did you ever try to simply saute your beet greens in a little olive oil , salt and pepper? They are so delicious ! Something else I didn’t  discover  until I was over 50 !

Don’t throw them away !!!!  Saute them this way , throw a few pine nuts on top and serve at a dinner party – what  a hit !



Sometimes I’ll chop them up into smaller pieces just so they will  cook and soften more quickly.  I’ll do this especially if the tops are very large and , yes, they are tough, but they will soften right up if chopped up into smaller pieces ahead of time.

Chopped up  raw and super fine , they are also a great addition to your salads.

Apple Cores and Peels 

Especially in the fall  , when your kitchen is cranking out all things apple , don’t throw away those cores and peels. Make your own raw apple cider vinegar. Have you priced this at the supermarket ? If you enjoy the benefits of a raw apple cider vinegar everyday  ( a little , not a lot ! moderation ! )  this is a great way to save some money and have plenty on hand to cook with too .

I would only use organic apples to do this though. Take your peels and cores and place in a quart jar or a large crock if you have a lot of them.

Mix 1 tablespoon of sugar to one cup of water and let dissolve completely . You need to make enough to fully cover your apple “parts “. You can do this without sugar ( apples contain their own ) , but adding sugar does help the process along. I have done it both ways ,and both are equally good. Sugarless takes longer to develop into vinegar.

Fully cover your apple ” parts ” with the dissolved sugar mixture,  and cover your container with a coffee filter or cheesecloth . Then let it do its fermenting thing. Start checking it at 2 weeks and carefully remove the scum on the top – it’s o.k., that’s supposed to happen. Take a little taste . It should have a ways to go yet to get that vinegar tang. One time I did this , and  it took  5 weeks before I was satisfied with the flavor.

If you are really lucky  you will  find a big blob in the container . That is the vinegar “mother”  and it can be used to quick start your next batch. It’s O.K. if you don’t develop one too. I have yet to be lucky enough to have found one !

Now , when you are satisfied with the flavor and tang, strain and save like you would any other vinegar only this is soooooo  much better,  and it is raw – not pasteurized. Great for you to use in salad dressings too.  If you use it to ward off colds or just for its nutrient values, use with discretion.  Everyone tends to overdue everything these days. More is not better – a teaspoon a day is fine and , just in case , check with your doctor.


The take away-

Before you toss to the trash all that “stuff, parts , and bits ” , think for a moment what it may be good for. It just may have a second life.  I’m sure that it does.

There is always soup !

Going to pursue a Part 2 to this as I have  discovered so many new recipes  for “parts, stuff , scraps , and bits ” .

Healthy Gardening

The Juice Garden

Finally getting out in the dirt and planting some peas today! This would be  in our personal garden at home.  The greenhouses are now planted in mixtures of greens and our wild arugula. It’s nice to be home today instead and  getting  our home garden started  up too.

Juicing has become a big thing . I don’t know anyone who doesn’t juice ( except for me ! I’m just starting out ! ) , but not all juice is created equal. Everything in moderation!

While juice is certainly a better alternative to  drinking soda, certain juices still contain a lot of sugar (especially fruit juices )  and calories, so stick to an 8oz glass of juice, not one of those super sized , mega , behemoth sized containers of juice everyone is selling you on drinking. Too much of anything is never a good thing. I don’t know who said that originally  ( do you ? ) , but it’s so true.
That said, let’s make the best, most nutritious juice we can make, and let’s start by growing most of what we need or even just some of what we need to accomplish that in our own backyards . You’ll get some fresh air, sunshine and exercise to boot, and  yes, you can grow a juice garden in containers on your deck or patio !

I am so excited that it is spring. I always am ,and I am sure you are as well!
We often think of juice as citrus based and it can be, but vegetables make great juice and even sweet juice. Best to eat your fruits or use them sparingly in your juices so as not to overdo it on the  sugar.

Grow some sweets for your juice !

Beets – love ’em, hate ’em?

I know so many people that HATE beets. I don’t know why. They are so sweet !

Beets are rich in a variety of essential vitamins and minerals, making them an excellent addition to your diet. Beets benefit  your body in so many ways such as reducing inflammation, supporting your heart, and protecting your digestive, brain, and eye health. Beets are a versatile food that can be eaten raw in salads and juices, or cooked and added to a variety of recipes spanning from breakfast to dinner.

I know you will love them in juice ,and maybe  I can change your mind about them by sharing some recipes that will make you love them as a vegetable side or in a salad on another day, but for now, they are so sweet and will contribute to your juicing pantry just like sugar only better.

Carrots – another sweet vegetable especially if grown organically. If you can manage your garden in such a way as  to plant these in late summer and let them overwinter – WOW. The taste is amazing for your table and for your juice. Overwintering your carrots brings out the best of the best in carrot sweetness. There is no comparison ,and the super market carrots, even the organic ones,  are usually not  grown this way. You may be able to find them at  farmers’ markets early spring or  from a local grower.

Grow greens for your  juice !

Kale – This Veg has become a rock star .It’s super easy to grow too. A real stand out in green juices. You can’t go wrong- so many health benefits !

In just one cup of chopped kale, you’ll find: (2)

  • Vitamin K (684% recommended daily value)
  • Vitamin A (206%)
  • Vitamin C (134%)
  • Manganese (26%)
  • Copper (10%)
  • Calcium (9%)
  • Potassium (9%)
  • Vitamin B6 (9%)
  • Iron (6%)
  • Magnesium (6%)
  • Folate (5%)
  • Riboflavin (5%)
  • Thiamin (5%)
  • Phosphorus (4%)
  • Protein (4%)
  • Niacin (3%)
  • Zinc (2%)
  • Pantothenic Acid (1%)
  • Selenium (1%)
  • Sodium (1%)
  • Omega-3 fatty acids (121 mg)
  • Omega-6 fatty acids (92.4 mg)

Parsley – My mom always ate her parsley when out a restaurant – that creepy curly green thing on the plate, yes , that thing. Parsley would sit there as a garnish and almost no one ever ate it, but she always did. She said it just made her feel good. Well ,  evidently there is a good reason for that.

½ cup of fresh chopped parsley (or about 8 tablespoons) has about:

Parsley would be  great to add in your juice, depending on the recipe, and  I have grown to love flat leaf parsley in my kitchen. I buy some most every week , just to have on hand. It adds great flavor to soups and just last night, I made a parsley , garlic and breadcrumb crust for some baked codfish.It was wonderful  !

Celery–  We are growing celery for the first time this year. Not only is it great to add to juice, but the leaves and seeds are a wonderful addition to your kitchen pantry.  I do grow a perennial called lovage, which tastes very much like celery  or a stronger version of it.  I use it in everything – soups ,stews, whenever  I need a punch of flavor. It’s awesome , and it comes back year after year !  It’s leaves can also be used in juice just like celery providing many of the same benefits.

The benefits of celery begin with it being an excellent source of antioxidants and beneficial enzymes, in addition to vitamins and minerals such as vitamin K, vitamin C, potassium, folate and vitamin B6. It’s just plain good for you !

Well, that’s a start for your juice garden. There are , of course , so many more vegetables for juicing ,  but it’s best to start small and grow . Even if you manage just one or two of these this year , you’ll have so much fun and the health benefits of being a grower of your own foods for juicing or your table are almost greater for you than the juice itself!

Healthy Gardening

The Potted Garden – continued

Are you familiar with the saying ” I’m so far behind I think I’m first .” ????

That’s about where I’m at . I think I’m ‘first’  most everyday lately here in this never ending northeast winter !

So let’s get growing – it’s not too late  !!!! There’s plenty of time to  get even your tomato seeds sprouting. If you live  further south , you are probably on a roll already ! We love seeing your photos ! Keep sharing !!

While searching new seed varieties this winter , I came across some other seed suggestions perfect for your potted gardens that I wanted to share.  Good varieties to know even if you can’t try  them out until next year. Most of these were totally new to me .  Collecting ideas and keeping journals are a  very enjoyable part of the gardening process , so try to never feel overwhelmed. Easy for me to say and not so easy to do ( especially for me ) , but try to stick to a manageable plan ( I should listen to myself )  and just enjoy collecting ideas for the future.

So here you go – MyTop 10 Picks  ( I had about 50 , eeek ) !

Minibel Tomato –  65 days , bite size flavorful fruits. Plants only get about a foot high , so they are perfect for containers. ( Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company , everything from them is organic and non GMO)

container tomatoes

Tom Thumb Pea  – 50-55 days , 8-9 inch high shelling pea, but when picked young the pod is also tender and sweet. Heirloom variety originating from England.  So cute !


Tumbling Tom Tomatoes – 65- 75 days , A great one for hanging baskets. The small red or yellow cherry type tomato will cascade down over your basket. Use a large basket. – 12-14 inches or a comparable size pot. We grow these in our greenhouses with great success, and they are incredible for drying or roasting. They are our go to tomatoes during the winter months. I’ll roast them and then process them in canning jars.  Shmear some roasted tumbling toms on some pizza dough and make yourself the most flavorful pizza eva !

Eggplant Fingers Mix – 80 days , this is a mix of smallish eggplant in different colors, long and narrow fruit. We are also growing these in hanging baskets but for the first time . Using a 12 -14 inch hanger. I will try a few in pots just to see the difference.  Use a large container . I do think these will be a good choice for containers


Cucumbers – H-19 Little Leaf  – 58 days, Great for pickling or fresh eating . High yielding plants, good for containers.  ( )  I prefer  using a pickling cucumber in my salads. They are super crunchy and seem to be less watery than the standard Marketmore variety.cucumberpot

A pot of mixed baby greens – You can have your own mixed greens all summer and well into fall and winter. Now , the amount of mixed greens you plant depends on how much you think you may use each week . We are big salad eaters . so one pot of greens would never cut it for us . But maybe one or two pots is plenty for you. Totally worth growing mixed greens  because you can toss it up into sprouts and other “salady ” things. Make up your own mix or purchase one of many now offered by most seed companies. Make sure you use a large pot or even one of those long 3-4 foot  ones. Fresh greens are ready in about 28 days . You will simply give the lettuces a haircut every 10 days . If you plant 2 pots -10 days apart , that will help you have greens always ready,  especially if you like to eat a lot of salads.  Succession planting should be done in potted gardens too.Try something new like a mustard blend or Asian greens. They are spicy and flavorful and would mix well with some iceberg from the market.   All greens will tolerate some shade too.   See that speckley one ? That’s called Freckles ! 


String Beans – Pick a bush type variety  and have a large pot 14 inches at least. Again, sometimes  you can find greenhouse 5 gallon containers for a buck or even less. If you find them , they may not be  not pretty, but they  are useful  –  buy them !  Make sure you wash used pots thoroughly as they may be carrying things  you don’t want to know. So, most any bush type variety will work . I love the yellow string bean. It just seems more tender to me. Always harvest your string beans on the young side. They tend to toughen up if left on the vine too long .bush bean

Zucchini and Yellow squash- Again there are many bush type varieties that will grow great in a large pot. I bet you didn’t think you could grow squash in a pot  ! Silverbush  or  Buckingham Patio are two good choices !


Herbs -gotta have a pot of herbs, or maybe many pots of herbs !  — Basil or YOUR favorite herb ( basil is mine ) all  grow great in pots and some you can pick up already started at your local garden center. Basil is easy to grow from seed, just like dill, cilantro, and all different kinds of  parsley , ummm ….  and chervil. Then there are those that take a lot of time to grow like rosemary, thyme, and oregano  – buy those as started plants. Growing these from seed is not hard , but takes a lot of time, and if you are here in the northeast , you will be waiting a bit too long . Same goes for sage another favorite of mine. Save some time and purchase the started plants.

I can’t wait for this !!!!!!

Want a challenge ?  Olive trees or figs? Both easily grow in containers. They  need extra care if you live near me, but what an awesome addition to a potted garden space !potted olive

Oh, and some berries – most strawberries will grow great in containers or hanging baskets and Top Hat blueberries are just awesome in a large pot on the porch !

I think I may have gotten carried away . There are so many more, but as  you can see you are not limited by space. Maybe you can’t fit it all , but even a few additions will help you begin on a path to healthier eating. Harvesting your own herbs and vegetables saves you money,  and you don’t have to be concerned about where your  food came from . You grew it !

The take away – Space is not an issue! If you can only grow one tomato plant or one potted herb , consider yourself a successful gardener !!!! Be happy !

Gardening is  therapy with benefits !

Healthy Gardening

Gardening your way to better health

We are still under a pretty thick blanket of snow  here in Vermont , but many of us have started planning that summer garden, and that’s half the fun  of having one. But , especially if you are new to gardening , it can be a daunting experience looking though all those beautiful pictures in seed catalog after seed catalog. It’s overwhelming even for the very experienced gardener. So many ideas, so many color schemes, so many types of vegetables – and you sit there wanting to plant it all. Heck , half the time I get caught up  staring at  the artwork  and photographs alone!

Well, take it from me , it’s not possible. Too many years of starting too many plants and not being able to get them in the ground on time ! Yes, that’s me , and I’m a professional grower to boot !
A little advice –
Start your gardening in bite size pieces. You will be much happier with the results. Try to enjoy  the slower process  of adding a few new ideas each year instead of becoming completely overwhelmed by attempting to  create some grandiose  landscape plan that you would realistically need to hire an entire work crew to accomplish.

If you are not fond of cooking , I would start with a herb garden or maybe just incorporating a few perennial herbs in with your flowers.
Yup, I did say if you are NOT fond of cooking because when you discover how ridiculously easy it is  to cook with fresh herbs , you’ll be surprised how often you will be drawn to using them in the kitchen or, for that matter , all over your home ! I love arranging them with flowers  –  such beautiful textures and scents.  They’re addictive . I guarantee you will start using them everywhere and in everything!

Fresh herbs super charge your recipes with flavors that far surpass the dried herbs you get in those little jars at the market. Most of the time those little jars sit on your pantry shelf for years, half of which you don’t even remember buying , right ? And have you seen the prices on those tiny containers of  fresh herbs at market? Crazy  !

That won’t be the case when using fresh-cut herbs from your garden. You’ll use them in everything from salads to soups to burgers ! You’ll make soap, infuse oils and sugars, you’ll dry them, freeze them , make wreaths with them – you get the idea ,they’re fun !
Start by  maybe choosing a few perennial ones ( they come back year after year )and a few that are  annuals. The annual ( single season ) herbs can even go into containers to decorate your porch or deck.

And fresh herbs are full of vitamins and nutrients. A simple dinner of lemon chicken with a few sprigs of thyme and rosemary beats that full of salt and whatever else rotisserie chicken available at the super market.

We are  fortunate to have greenhouses, so we will start with seeding  our dill this week. Dill is an annual and you can find it already started at a nearby garden center to pop right  into a pot or  into your garden. Just wait until well after the  last frost date in your area , but it’s super easy to start from seed. Full sun, good soil and constant trimming ( use it up ! ) will keep the plants fuller for a longer period of time. If it gets by you , let it  go to seed and use the dill seed head in some quick refrigerator pickles. Plant another pot of dill 3 weeks after the first one and you will have dill all summer long in case your first planting  kicks the bucket a little too soon.

Dill  just smells of summer to me.  I don’t know ,maybe I’m craving that summer yogurt dill dip ! I do have summer on my mind this morning  as I stare out my window at all this snow .It’s only 10 degrees out there !

And look how good dill  is for you ! I had no idea it  contained so much vitamin C !

Dill herb has all the characters to consider it as one of the most valued functional foods. 100 g of dill weed provides only 43 calories, but its phytonutrients profile is no less than any other high-calorie food source; be it nuts, pulses, cereals, or meat group.

100 g of this herb provides (%of RDA per 100 g): 37.5% of folates (vitamin B11),14% of vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine),23% of riboflavin (vitamin B-2), 140% of vitamin-C ,257% of vitamin-A, 21% of calcium,82% of iron and 55% of manganese.
(Note: RDA- Recommended daily allowance)

So pick out a few herbs from that beautiful catalog or from your favorite garden shop that you  know you  already like and enjoy watching them grow , and have some fun in the kitchen with them this summer.

I would  suggest a few  perennial herbs that are  easy to grow and super useful – Lovage, Oregano, Thyme, and Chives. These are all very  hardy ( can handle some very cold winters),  kitchen friendly herbs that will  return  for you year after year even if you don’t have a green thumb – yet !

Nature nourishes my life . I hope we can grow together a bit each week and share what inspires us towards better health and a happier , fuller life.

Ta DAH!!!  My first blog !!

Hope you can be patient with me. I’m still learning  how to work this site !!