Delicious Brussels Sprouts

Most of my kids love Brussels sprouts.  My family likes them and they are one of my very favorites.  When I was a kid I hated them, but most people over cook them and that makes them really really not yummy.  When they are lightly cooked and fresh tasting, they are amazing!

We planted some Brussels sprouts in the spring and it took forever for them to produce so we cut them down in the heat of the summer.  Any greens, or cole crops can become bitter when harvested in the heat.  For my Brussels sprouts, a quick blanch was all it took to take the bitterness out of them.  If your sprouts aren’t bitter, no need for that step.

I cut down four stalks of Brussels sprouts.  This is what they looked like piled in a wheel barrow.  Before I started growing them, I never knew how they grew.  I was amazed that the plant was this big!

I cut down four stalks of Brussels sprouts. This is what they looked like piled in a wheel barrow. Before I started growing them, I never knew how they grew. I was amazed that the plant was this big!

 

I cut the leaves off of the stalks.  This is how the little sprouts are growing down in there.  So cute.

I cut the leaves off of the stalks. This is how the little sprouts are growing down in there. So cute.

 

Then I used a sharp knife to cut them off the stalk.

Then I used a sharp knife to cut them off the stalk.

 

I washed the sprouts and prepared a pan of boiling water to blanch them in.  I added salt to the water which also helps remove bitterness from greens.  I blanched them for 3 minutes.

I washed the sprouts and prepared a pan of boiling water to blanch them in. I added salt to the water which also helps remove bitterness from greens. I blanched them for 3 minutes.

 

Then I plunged them into ice water.

Then I plunged them into ice water.

 

Once they had completely cooled in the ice water, I drained them.  They are delicious at this point.  You can make them into a salad or just eat them plain like this.

Once they had completely cooled in the ice water, I drained them. They are delicious at this point. You can make them into a salad or just eat them plain like this.

Next I cut one piece of bacon into small pieces and browned it in the skillet.  I added the Brussels sprouts and sautéed them in the skillet for about 2 minutes until they were just tender, but still bright green.  I use salt and pepper to taste.

sauteeing brussel sprouts

Brussels sprouts are delicious raw, boiled, sautéed, or roasted.  I have never tried them any way I didn’t like them except for over cooked.  I know some pretty picky eaters that enjoyed them with this bacon method.  I cook a lot of vegetables with a piece of bacon for flavor because it helps picky kids take interest in them.  But I cook them for my family and my kids without bacon and they still enjoy them.  Just salt, pepper and olive oil and throw them in the oven until they are lightly brown on the edge, or grate some parmesean cheese over the top as they finish roasting and that is delicious as well.  If you don’t like Brussels sprouts, try cooking fresh ones yourself and if you don’t over cook them, I’m willing to bet you will like them too.

Garden Glory-Sunflowers!

My little sprouts and I harvested over 70 pounds of produce this week AND a table full of amazing sunflowers.  It’s been a very productive week in the garden.  Some of the tomato plants are turning brown and our cucumbers are dying.  I’m not exactly sure why, but it’s sad to see them go. 

On Saturday while the kids were gone I took the time to trim some things up in the garden that were out of control.  I harvested a bunch of herbs for drying.

On Saturday while the kids were gone I took the time to trim some things up in the garden that were out of control. I harvested a bunch of herbs for drying.  This is thyme and oregano.  I also harvested some lemon balm, bee balm, and tarragon.

This is a big CHAIR full of basil.  Even though it had flowered, I took it off the stems and ground it up into pesto and put it in the freezer.  I had over two pounds.  And I didn't even put a dent in what's out there, I just cut what was blocking the walkways.

This is a big CHAIR full of basil. Even though it had flowered, I took it off the stems and ground it up into pesto and put it in the freezer. I had over two pounds. And I didn’t even put a dent in what’s out there, I just cut what was blocking the walkways.

basil

I also harvested 8 pounds of greens including swiss chard, spinach, and this kale.  I washed and stemmed it and dried it in the dehydrator.  Then I ground it up finely in the blender to use as a nutritional enhancer in the kid's food.

I also harvested 8 pounds of greens including swiss chard, spinach, and this kale. I washed and stemmed it and dried it in the dehydrator. Then I ground it up finely in the blender to use as a nutritional enhancer in the kid’s food.

Brussels sprouts are tough to harvest WITH the kids because I had to saw the stalks down and cut the sprouts off with a knife.  They have helped me pick the sprouts off one stalk at a time, but with several, I thought it was safer to do it without them.  I harvested 4 stalks and got 3 pounds of sprouts.  They are one of my favorites.  The kids liked them too!

Brussels sprouts are tough to harvest WITH the kids because I had to saw the stalks down and cut the sprouts off with a knife. They have helped me pick the sprouts off one stalk at a time, but with several, I thought it was safer to do it without them. I harvested 4 stalks and got 3 pounds of sprouts. They are one of my favorites. The kids liked them too!

I harvested all of these beautiful hot peppers to make pickled peppers for Mr. Kent.

I harvested all of these beautiful hot peppers to make pickled peppers for Mr. Kent.

I found a few more tomatillos when I had more time to really look.

I found a few more tomatillos when I had more time to really look.

Monday's harvest included lots of tomatoes and cucumbers.

Monday’s harvest included lots of tomatoes and cucumbers.

We got okra and tomatillos as well.

We got okra and tomatillos as well.

And some cantaloupe and kohlrabi, and parsley.  Yum yum.

And some cantaloupe and kohlrabi, and parsley. Yum yum.

We were planning to let our sunflowers dry on the stalks, but the birds had other plans, so we cut them down, explored them a big and laid them on a screen to dry in the shed and harvest them from there.

Tuesday we harvested some of our sunflower heads.  We were planning to let our sunflowers dry on the stalks, but the birds had other plans, so we cut them down, explored them a bit and laid them on a screen to dry in the shed and harvest them from there.

Yesterday's harvest gave us more tomatoes, melons, okra, cucumbers, a few green beans, and some more tomatillos!

Yesterday’s harvest gave us more tomatoes, melons, okra, cucumbers, a few green beans, and some more tomatillos!  (And as usual, plenty of SMILES!)

Not Interested…

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What happens when you have a great activity planned for the kids and no one is interested? What about all your hard work and preparation? What about the great benefits of the activity you want the kids to receive? I believe children should not be made to participate in activities they are not interested in. I invite everyone to join us in what I have prepared, but if a child does not want to participate, that’s okay. If several children are not interested, maybe I need to take a look at what I am planning for them. I might be missing the mark about what is appropriate or interesting. Usually once I start an activity with the kids, those who were not interested at first see that we are having fun and join us anyway, but if they don’t, it’s no big deal. And sometimes the kids who want to do something else draw all of us into their game. We are flexible.
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What do I do with the kids who are not interested in gardening? I built this giant garden for them to learn in, so they need to learn in it right? There are so many things the garden teaches it really doesn’t matter what they do in it, they are learning. I have some children who are still interested in picking weeds and harvesting and planting every day. But we have a massive garden and there is A LOT of work to be done in it. I let the kids plant until they don’t want to and then I finish it for them. I invite them to pick weeds but my husband and I spend many hours a week picking weeds so the garden can be successful. If they don’t want to pick vegetables, I have toys in the garden and a resting place for them to hang out. Everyone is happy in the garden, but they are happy doing different things. Some kids love to hunt for and watch bugs and creatures, some love to play in the gravel rocks and hunt for treasures there, and some like to pick produce every day the entire time we are in the garden. All of those are great ways to learn and they are all okay with me.
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If none of the kids ever wanted to plant or pick would the garden still be a success? Yes, because they are getting sensory stimulation of all kinds in the garden, a very important part of their development. Even if I never brought them in the garden, it’s still important for their nutrition. We have totally chemical free food picked at the peak of ripeness (most of the time) and full of great nutrients. For me, that is worth all the effort I put into the garden. And I feel GREAT when I’m eating out of the garden with them. I have more energy and I feel good about what I’m putting in my body. I know it’s worth doing for them.
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Since the garden is pretty big, there is a lot to do in it. Some children are losing interest because we’ve been picking and planting for months. That’s okay. Especially since they have already learned so much from the picking and planting they have done. Honestly sometimes I tire of picking and planting myself, but I know the amazing benefits we receive from it so I press on. And that’s my choice because I love the garden and I’m the one who wanted to do it. I’m don’t force the kids to participate. Doing that would make them dread the garden. People tell me all the time they won’t grow a garden as adults because they always had to work the garden as kids and hated it. I want the kids to come away from their garden experiences here with knowledge of how to make things grow, understanding the garden is ever changing and imperfect, and joy from the time they have spent in it. Letting them come in and out of the garden work is the best way to achieve that goal.
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The Gardens Then and Now

It’s amazing when you are building something to think about what it can become. But a garden, in just a few short months can go from nothing to wonderful! I don’t know why people don’t want vegetable gardens in their front yards. To me, this garden is BEAUTIFUL! When I am out walking through it alone or with the kids, it takes my breath away. It gets more and more beautiful each day!

The old garden at the end of March.

The old garden at the end of March.

The old garden today.

The old garden today.

The expansion at the end of March.

The expansion at the end of March.

The expansion today.

The expansion today.

Garden Glory-Today’s Harvest! :)

Today we harvested 1/2 pound of garlic scapes
2 pounds of peas
2 pounds of cabbage
1 pound of lettuce
1/2 pound of kohlrabi
3/4 pound of radishes
3/4 pound of onions
1/2 pound of swiss chard
and a little bit of broccoli
The oldest wanted to make it all into a cooked salad, so we stir fried the kohlrabi, radishes, onions, broccoli, garlic scapes and swiss chard for a delicious side dish for lunch!
What are you growing and harvesting? Leave a comment below!
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The kids having an explore...

The kids having an explore…


The squash is really getting big!

The squash is really getting big!

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What Are My Little Sprouts Growing?

Come on over and take a look!…..

The new garden

The new garden


The old garden

The old garden


Starting in the front yard, this is our strawberry bed.  Don't be alarmed by the massive amount of weeding I still have to catch up on.  I already know.  :)

Starting in the front yard, this is our strawberry bed. Don’t be alarmed by the massive amount of weeding I still have to catch up on. I already know. 🙂


Our blueberry patch

Our blueberry patch


The front yard orchard including from left to right, the plum tree, two peach trees and a fig, plus in the foreground there are two apple trees and in this lovely flower planter we have 4 rosemary plants and 8 cayenne pepper plants.

The front yard orchard including from left to right, the plum tree, two peach trees and a fig, plus in the foreground there are two apple trees and in this lovely flower planter we have 4 rosemary plants and 8 cayenne pepper plants.


Next the tour of the expansion area. This is a small box of wildflowers to attract pollinators and beneficial insects and our pumpkin patch with a row of spinach in the front.  The spinach will burn up soon so that will give the pumpkins more room to spread, plus they will go up and over the fence.

Next the tour of the expansion area.
This is a small box of wildflowers to attract pollinators and beneficial insects and our pumpkin patch with a row of spinach in the front. The spinach will burn up soon so that will give the pumpkins more room to spread, plus they will go up and over the fence.


This is a row of broccoli sharing a bed with some corn that didn't germinate very well.

This is a row of broccoli sharing a bed with some corn that didn’t germinate very well.


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A row of artichokes, a small amaranth, and a row in front of lavender.  Lavender repels many pests such as deer, rabbits, mosquitos, and ticks!

A row of artichokes, a small amaranth, and a row in front of lavender. Lavender repels many pests such as deer, rabbits, mosquitos, and ticks!


The corn patch.

The corn patch.

Yellow squash and zucchini.

Yellow squash and zucchini.

Brussell sprouts and corn.  The brussell sprouts should burn up soon and give the corn more room.

Brussell sprouts and corn. The brussell sprouts should burn up soon and give the corn more room.

One of four potato bins.

One of four potato bins.

The watermelon patch with lavender.

The watermelon patch with lavender.

The herbs growing in the pergola.

The herbs growing in the pergola.

Cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower.

Cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower.

Sunflowers and marigolds for attracting birds, beneficial insects, and repelling pests.  This is one of several boxes with this.

Sunflowers and marigolds for attracting birds, beneficial insects, and repelling pests. This is one of several boxes with this.

One of two sweet potato bins.

One of two sweet potato bins.

Swiss chard with drying beans in the back up against the fence.  We planted black beans, calypso beans, and pinto beans.

Swiss chard with drying beans in the back up against the fence. We planted black beans, calypso beans, and pinto beans.


We had never tried swiss chard before but thought it was pretty. WE LOVE IT! Yummy!
Another drying bean bed.

Another drying bean bed.

Heirloom tomatoes of different varieties that we grew from seed.

Heirloom tomatoes of different varieties that we grew from seed.

A bed of kale that is taking FOREVER to grow!

A bed of kale that is taking FOREVER to grow!

More sunflowers with nastursiums.  They are beautiful and edible and draw pollinators and beneficials while repelling pests.

More sunflowers with nastursiums. They are beautiful and edible and draw pollinators and beneficials while repelling pests.

Our winter squash bed.  We are growing butternuts and acorn squash.  There is cilantro planted in here and in our summer squash and pumpkin beds to repel squash bugs.

Our winter squash bed. We are growing butternuts and acorn squash. There is cilantro planted in here and in our summer squash and pumpkin beds to repel squash bugs.

More tomatoes interplanted with radishes, lettuce, and carrots.  We also have basil in each of our tomato beds to see if it makes the tomatoes taste amazing like we read it does.

More tomatoes interplanted with radishes, lettuce, and carrots. We also have basil in each of our tomato beds to see if it makes the tomatoes taste amazing like we read it does.

Kohlrabi and more drying beans.  We don't have a trellis for these beans so we planted them with sunflowers so they can use them for support.

Kohlrabi and more drying beans. We don’t have a trellis for these beans so we planted them with sunflowers so they can use them for support.

One of five beds that don't have anything planted yet.  We put extra leaves in them to compost them down while we wait.  We ran out of time and money this spring.

One of five beds that don’t have anything planted yet. We put extra leaves in them to compost them down while we wait. We ran out of time and money this spring.

The okra bed.  Good times!  The kids are super excited about this one!

The okra bed. Good times! The kids are super excited about this one!

The monarch waystation.  Planted with seeds from a kit for giving monarchs a place to rest.

The monarch waystation. Planted with seeds from a kit for giving monarchs a place to rest.

Wildlowers to attract butterflies and a broccoli, dill bed for their caterpillars.

Wildlowers to attract butterflies and a broccoli, dill bed for their caterpillars.

Bulb fennel for butterflies to lay eggs on.

Bulb fennel for butterflies to lay eggs on.

Next, onto the older and smaller garden, we have a wagon of sage and our lettuce bed that has peas on the side and bush green beans growing up in it.  The lettuce will burn up soon.  We have eaten or shared over 25 pounds of lettuce out of this bed.  Crazy!  But fun!

Next, onto the older and smaller garden, we have a wagon of sage and our lettuce bed that has peas on the side and bush green beans growing up in it. The lettuce will burn up soon. We have eaten or shared over 25 pounds of lettuce out of this bed. Crazy! But fun!

The garlic bed with peas growing up the side and a small box of spinach that bolted while we were on vacation, so we are letting it seed out.

The garlic bed with peas growing up the side and a small box of spinach that bolted while we were on vacation, so we are letting it seed out.

Our old pear tree, it has fire blight disease and we can't trim enough of it to save it.  :(  We have harvested hundreds and hundreds of pounds of super delicious pears off this tree over the last 15 years.  So sad.

Our old pear tree, it has fire blight disease and we can’t trim enough of it to save it. 😦 We have harvested hundreds and hundreds of pounds of super delicious pears off this tree over the last 15 years. So sad.

A barrel of carrots and a barrel of swiss chard with a gerber daisy in the middle.  He he.  Plus a bed of garlic with peas on the side.

A barrel of carrots and a barrel of swiss chard with a gerber daisy in the middle. He he. Plus the bed of garlic with peas on the side.

Our first asparagus bed, it's 2 x 4 feet and there is a barrel of zinnias growing next to it.

Our first asparagus bed, it’s 2 x 4 feet and there is a barrel of zinnias growing next to it.

A barrel of peppers plus a 3 x 10 bed of supposed to be green beans with peas on the side.  But there are some volunteer plants in there.  I'm thinking they could be cucumbers or maybe some kind of squash or melon.  They are flowering so we will see soon enough.

A barrel of peppers plus a 3 x 10 bed of supposed to be green beans with peas on the side. But there are some volunteer plants in there. I’m thinking they could be cucumbers or maybe some kind of squash or melon. They are flowering so we will see soon enough.

A bed of tomatoes with basil and a row of peas on the edge.  Someone around here REALLY likes peas...it's me.  :)

A bed of tomatoes with basil and a row of peas on the edge. Someone around here REALLY likes peas…it’s me. 🙂

One more green bean and pea combo.

One more green bean and pea combo.

The stock tank is growing arugula, some other lettuces, and a brandywine tomato plant.  There is a small 1 x 2 box of lavender and one of spinach in front.

The stock tank is growing arugula, some other lettuces, and a brandywine tomato plant. There is a small 1 x 2 box of lavender and one of spinach in front.

Our chocolate mint.

Our chocolate mint.

Two herb towers.

Two herb towers.

Some miscellaneous wildflowers, lettuce, and lemon grass.

Some miscellaneous wildflowers, lettuce, and lemon grass.


And that’s the grand tour. The largest beds are 3 x 10 feet, narrow so kids can reach the middle. The ones along the fence are 2 feet wide, so they are 2 x 2 or up to 2 x 10. The ones made of salvaged privacy fence are about 6 feet long.
I hope you enjoy it!