Refreshing Drinks from the Garden for the Hot Days

Chocolate mint makes great iced tea

Chocolate mint makes great iced tea

Citrus and Mint Iced Tea

I make this tea throughout the summer, though with the way the weather has been in Seattle this year I have not thought about it until this week. It is both refreshing and thirst-quenching, and uses some of the garden produce. We always have an abundance of mint as I grow apple, chocolate and spearmint. All of them work well for this recipe though the chocolate mint is stronger in flavour and so you will need less.

I am hoping that when my seaberry bushes start producing I will be able to substitute their juice for the orange juice. If you grow it in the garden substitute lemon verbena for the lemon juice.

Last year I posted an article about how our food choices are manipulated by the global mall.  I talked about Stevia:

which is 10 times sweeter than sugar, easy to grow  and with virtually no calories.  However it was banned from the American market about the same time that Monsanto introduced its artificial sweetener aspartame because an “anonymous firm” lodged a complaint with the FDA  Read more

This year I  don’t have any stevia plants because the harvest last year was so abundant.  I miss the enjoyment of getting our visitors to sample the incredibly sweet leaves.  So now I find myself needing to experiment with using it as a sweetener.  I harvest the leaves when the branches look as though they are about to flower and dry them in the microwave – it only takes a minute or two.  I usually start with 30 seconds then continue in 10 second increments until the leaves are just dry.  When they cool down they will be totally dry.

At this stage I use stevia mainly for beverages, though my friend Cheryl has found that adding 5 stevia leaves straight off the plant to a pot of pears before she cooks them is ample to sweeten home preserved fruit.

I make a Ginger Stevia syrup that I then add to different summer beverages.


  • 2 cups water
  • 1 – 2 tablespoon dried stevia, crushed – I use a mortar and pestle
  • ¾ cup ginger root, finely chopped or grated
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla
  • ¼ cup lemon juice or 1/2 cup lemon verbena leaves chopped
  • 1 cup mint leaves (optional)

Bring water to boil. Add ginger & stevia, as well as the lemon verbena and mint if you are using them.  Boil for 10 minutes, strain into a heat resistant container. Add vanilla and lemon juice. This syrup will store in the refrigerator for several weeks.

Homemade Stevia ginger ale

I first started making this recipe when I discovered that most ginger ales have no ginger in them at all and were usually full of high fructose corn syrup.

Add 1-2 oz syrup to a glass depending on how sweet you like your drinks, top with 6 oz sparkling water and ice cubes. Enjoy.

Citrus/ Mint Iced tea punch

  • 8 teaspoons Loose Leaf red or black tea Or 8-10 Teabags (I like to use fruit flavoured teas
  • l cup (or more) Fresh Mint Leaves
  • 8 cups Boiling Water
  • 1 cup Orange Juice – or seaberry juice if you have this available
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice – or use lemon verbena from the garden
  • 1 Orange, Cut Into Thin Slices
  • 1 Lemon,Cut Into Thin Slices
  • 1 Lime,Cut Into Thin Slices
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup ginger stevia syrup
  • 2 litre bottle sparkling mineral water or soda water.

This is a favourite for our summer BBQs & picnics. Put tea & mint in a heat resistant glass or ceramic pot. Pour in the boiling water & steep for 30 minutes. Strain & refrigerate. Pour into a large pitcher. Add orange juice. Add orange, lemon & lime rinds. Add ginger syrup & mineral water and serve with ice cubes.  If you prefer a more lemony flavour add 1/2 cup lemon juice or a cup of lemon verbena leaves to the tea mix.

For more stevia recipes visit


Pear and Raspberry Bread – A Delicious Alternative to Banana Bread

I have fallen in love with pear and raspberry bread which is a favourite in Australia at coffee shops for morning and afternoon coffee. It is one of my fond memories of visits with my Mum. I have been thinking about making this with some pears I have that are a little beyond fresh use.

It is usually served toasted with butter (yum) though it is always good plain too. I prefer it to banana bread though I have never found it offered here in the U.S.

This recipe is adapted from the one I found at


– 3/4 cup whole grain or wheat flour
– 3/4 cup all purpose flour
– 1 teaspoon baking powder
– 1 teaspoon baking soda
– 1/3 cup brown sugar
– 1/2 cup pecans, chopped (optional)
– 1 egg
– 3/4 cup canola oil
– 2/3 cup milk
– 1 pear, peeled and chopped
– 1/2 cup raspberries, do not thaw if using frozen

1. Preheat oven to 180 C or 350 F

2. Sift flour, baking powder, soda. Stir in sugar and nuts

3. beat egg and oil together. Add to mixture, stir in milk, add pear and raspberries and gently sir into mixture until just combined

4. bake in a greased loaf tin for about 60 minutes, until golden brown. Leave in tin to cool

What Do You Do With All Those Tomatillos?

Tomatillos galore - make good hot sauce

Tomatillos galore - make good hot sauce

This post is by special request from my good friend Andy Wade who obviously has more jalapenos in his garden than he knows what to do with.  And as we look as though we will be getting a bumper crop of both tomatillos and apples too this year I thought that it was a good time to publish this recipe.  You can also find it along with other recipes for the autumn harvest in my book To Garden with God

I have adapted the traditional hot sauce recipe which usually uses tropical fruit to work with fruit & vegetables that are abundant in the Pacific Northwest. This makes a great accompaniment to tortilla chips.  We also love it on omelettes


  • 1 lb. Hot Peppers,Cayenne,
  • Bulgarian Carrot Or
  • Jalapeno
  • 3 cups Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 6 each Garlic
  • 1 Onion
  • ½ cup Lemon Juice
  • 1 teaspoon Mustard Seed
  • 1 ½ teaspoons Salt
  • 2 lbs. Tomatillos
  • 2 lbs. Apple,Cored & Sliced
  • 2 lbs. Carrot


1.Cut stems off peppers & put in quart jar. Fill jar with vinegar, cover and let marinate for at least 5 days to 2 weeks. When ready to prepare hot sauce pour peppers and vinegar into blender and puree. Add remaining ingredients & puree as well. Move to large pot and simmer uncovered on low heat stirring frequently for about one hour – until sauce is consistency of tomato sauce. Pour into sterilized jars. Let flavours blend for at least a week before using. Stor in refrigerator after opening.

Eating Weeds – Great recipes to try

Weed whacking nettles at Mustard Seed Village site

Weed whacking nettles at Mustard Seed Village site

Tomorrow we head up to Camano Island for the Celtic Prayer retreat.  One of our first tasks is getting the weed whacker out to clear the nettles and other weeds that have grown since our last visit, which probably explains why weeds are on my mind this morning.  Nettles which grow in abundance on Camano Island, believe it or not are very nutritious (rich in vitamins, flavonoids, serotonin, and histamines) and some like Good Natured Earthling think that they are great protection against allergies.  I have not tried her Nettle pesto recipe yet but one of these days hope to and just thinking about this always reminds me that often the “weeds”, those difficult people we want to get rid of, are often the most nutritious elements of the garden – if we give them a chance they nourish and grow all of us in amazing ways.

There are other great ways to eat nettles too.  Nettle soup was a common addition to the diet of early Celtic Christians as well as to many others around the world.  Once you cook the leaves they lose their sting.

Of course one of the most nutritious weeds in the garden is our friend the dandelion.  And I was just sent this recipe by Jason Barr for Dandelion Jelly that certain sounds like a winner.  Thanks Jason.


4 cups dandelion blossoms

3 cups water

4 1/2 cups sugar

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 package pectin


1. Pull the yellow blossoms apart from the green parts. Get lots and lots

of blossoms.  Make sure there are no green parts since the green parts

have a bitter flavor. (It is ok to have a few green parts but don’t

just put all the blossoms in with the greens attached)

2. Bring the water to a boil and fill the water with dandelion blossom

shreds. Simmer over very gentle heat about 5-8 minutes.

3. Pour the water and blossoms through a strainer. Press the blossoms as dry as possible to extract the maximum amount of water (mom used a coffee strainer, a lined wire strainer works too).

4. If you have more blossoms, add blossoms to the strained water and simmer

5. Continue simmering and straining until all the blossoms are used up.

6. Add more water to bring it back up to 3 cups (the blossoms will takes some and some will go due to evaporation).

7. Combine water with lemon juice, sugar and pectin.

8. Bring to rolling boil and stir until sugar is dissolved (mom added a

little yellow food coloring, not necessary). Boil hard for one minute.

Skim. Pour into 5 hot jars (half-pints) and seal.


9. Boil hard for one minute. Skim. Pour into 5 hot sterilized jars (half-pints) and seal.

Notes:Make the jelly the day you pick or it will start seeding (become

white and fluffy)



Good Natured Earthling Recommends Nettles for Allergies

Spring has sprung rather early here in the Pacific NW.  With a week of sunny cold mornings and warm days this last week the trees have all burst into spectacular bloom…. which is wonderful except for the fact that it has brought out every allergy anyone in this area ever suffered from.  Being among the sufferers I have been looking around for relief.  Here is one possibility I found intriguing because there are lots of nettles in this area.

Nettles, eaten freely and drunk as a tea will, over time, feed our adrenals and kidneys, help to heal and strengthen the lung tissue and intestines, tonify the arteries, nourish the hair, help to promote lots of rich milk in lactating mothers and can even help to prevent or lessen the strength of seasonal pollen based allergy attacks. Congested? Try eating nettle pesto (recipe below), drinking nettle juice or nettle decoction and find swift relief. Nettles are anti inflammatory and can help with many ailments where inflammation is present.  Read more here

And check out Good Natured Earthling’s recipe for Nettle pesto here I have not had a chance to try it yet but would love to give it a go.

What Do We do With All the Tomatoes?

Brandy Boy tomatoes - delicious

Brandy Boy tomatoes - delicious

Yesterday I posted a twitter update that read “Enjoying the aroma of drying tomatoes.”  Unfortunately some of my facebook friends interpreted that as “dying tomatoes”  and so there have been a few rather pointed comments about the state of my garden.  That of course made me realize that I have been rather silent about what is happening in the garden over the summer – partly because the summer garden seems to keep growing and producing without me needing to do anything at all except wander around admiring the flowers and the growing produce.

Of course there is always watering to be done but most of the time that is a delight rather than a chore as it gives me an opportunity to admire the fruits of our spring labours.  This year has been an exceptionally hot summer in Seattle contrasting with the record cold winter that preceded it – record hot July temperatures contrasted with record cold January which has meant that the garden has produced a little differently from previous years

We are enjoying wonderful tomatoes – especially the new Brandy boy we tried this year.  It is similar to the Armish heirloom Brandywine but on smaller plants and a couple of weeks earlier production which is a real plus here in the Pacific NW.  It has certainly produced big beautiful and delicious tomatoes – many of them weighing more than a pound each.  We have had many feasts of sandwiches;  Our favourite recipes begin with a good loaf of crusty white Italian bread:

Fry some bacon (wish we could get good English bacon here), place on bread, cover with cheddar cheese and melt under the grill.  Top with big slices of the sweetest tomato you can find, sweet onion and avocado.  Spread another slice of bread with mayo or mustard for the top slice of the sandwich and enjoy.  Best eaten with good potato chips.

For a vegetarian version grill slices of summer squash and big portabello mushrooms and use in place of the bacon.

I also bottle lots of marinara sauce and dry lots of cherry tomatoes at this time – wonderful packed in olive oil with herbs and garlic.  We use them in omelettes, salads and pasta dishes over the winter.

Its Basil Time

The posts in the last couple of days about cooking as a spiritual discipline have turned my thoughts towards the garden and what to do with the wonderful produce that is pouring out of it.  My mouth is watering at the wonder of the delicious dishes that will emerge in the next few weeks.  This is a wonderful way to both practice and share our creativity (though I must confess Tom is much more creative than I am in this area)

The basil is growing profusely in the garden just waiting for the tomatoes to ripen in order to make our favourite tomato, feta and basil salad.  This is one that Tom has perfected over the years and so I hope that I have recorded it accurately.

Basil, Tomato and Feta Cheese Salad

1 cup fresh basil, chopped

2 cups of several tomato varieties of all different shades (red, yellow, green, chocolate), chopped

1 cup sweet onion, chopped

1 cup feta cheese, crumbled

½ cup kalamata olives, chopped

Mix ingredients together and serve with an oil and balsamic vinegar dressing.

However in the mean time I am making lots of pesto.  Here are my two favourite recipes one for traditional Italian green basil, the other for the more anise flavoured Thai basil.

Basil Pesto

We love this on bread, pizza dough or mixed through pasta with dried tomatoes

1 cup basil leaves

1 cup spinach (or other greens)

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/2 cup pine nuts

1/4 cup olive oil

Combine all ingredients in a food processor until smooth.  Keeps fresh in the fridge for several weeks if you cover with olive oil or can be frozen by ladling into ice cube containers and placing in freezer until solid.  then transfer to a plastic bag.

Thai Pesto with Coconut Cream

This is great with Thai curry or as a sauce in rice noodles.

  • 1 cup Thai Basil
  • 2 stalks Lemongrass
  • 2 Lime Leaves
  • 2 tablespoons Green Onion
  • 1 Ho Chili, Seeds Removed
  • ¼ teaspoon Salt
  • ¼ teaspoon Sugar
  • ½ cup Coconut Cream
  • 2 tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 4 tablespoons pumpkin seeds,Shelled Raw
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced

Combine the basil, lemon grass, a couple of lime leaves, green onion, chile, a dash of salt and honey, coconut cream & oil. Add garlic & pumpkin seeds. After whirling till smooth in the food processor, let the pesto sit in the fridge for several hours before using.

Carribean Black Bean and Pumpkin Soup

I just mentioned on Twitter that I was making Black Bean and Pumpkin soup and receved so many responses that I thought I better post the recipe.  Enjoy

Title: Caribbean Black Bean And Pumpkin Soup

Yield: 8 Servings

1 t  ground cumin
2 lb pumpkin,Pureed
1 lb black beans
1 1/2 c  Coconut Milk
4 c  vegetable broth
4 T  chopped fresh cilantro
2 t  fresh lime juice
3/4 t  grated lime peel
1    Onion,Finely  Chopped
1    Jalapeno,Finely Chopped

1 tablespoon epazote

1 tablespoon Mexican oregano

[Note: Something a little different on a chilly fall day. ]
Soak beans overnight in large saucepan.  Add epazote and Mexican
oregano.  cook until soft (about 1 hour).  Set aside.  Roast pumpkin,
onion and garlic in oven at 375F until soft.  Puree in food processor,
add to heavy saucepan, Add beans, coconut milk, broth and 3 tablespoons
cilantro. Bring soup to boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to
medium-low and simmer 3 minutes to blend flavors. Mix in lime juice and
lime peel. Season soup with salt and pepper. Ladle soup into bowls.
Sprinkle with remaining 1 tablespoon cilantro. and drizzle with half
and half.  If ou like a thicker soup add more pumpkin or beans.

Per Serving: 259 Cal (41% from Fat, 12% from Protein, 47% from Carb); 8
g Protein; 13 g Tot Fat; 9 g Sat Fat; 2 g Mono Fat; 32 g Carb; 9 g
Fiber; 5 g Sugar; 75 mg Calcium; 5 mg Iron; 599 mg Sodium; 0 mg
Cholesterol;  AccuPoints = 5.4


Chocolate Zucchini Bread

When I said on twitter this afternoon that I was making chocolate zucchini bread a number of you were interested in the recipe.  So here it is.  I highly recommend it.  I usually make mini muffins rather than 2 loaves of bread.

Title: Chocolate Zucchini Bread
Categories: Bread
Yield: 48 Servings

2    Eggs
1 c  Brown Sugar,Firmly Packed
1/2 c  Canola Oil
2 oz Unsweetened Chocolate,Melted or 4 tablespoons Dutch processed cocoa
1 t  Vanilla
2 c  Zucchini,Grated
1 t  Cinnamon
1 t  Baking Soda
1 1/2 t  Baking Powder
1/2 c  Pecans,Sliced
3/4 c  Chocolate Chips
2 c  Wheat Flour
1 c  All Purpose Flour
1/2 c  Yogurt
1 c  Apple Sauce

Beat eggs until lemon colored, add sugar and oil and blend together. Add yoghurt & applesauce and mix until blended .  Stir in melted chocolate, add vanilla and stir in zucchini. Sift dry ingredients and
stir into zucchini mixture. Stir in nuts and chocolate chips. Grease
two 9 x 5 x 3 inch loaf pans. Divide dough between pans. Bake at 350
degrees for 50 minutes or until done. Cool in pans for 15 minutes. Turn
out on cake rack to finish cooling.

If you do prefer use 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa instead of chocolate

Per Serving: 101 Cal (42% from Fat, 7% from Protein, 51% from Carb); 2
g Protein; 5 g Tot Fat; 1 g Sat Fat; 2 g Mono Fat; 13 g Carb; 1 g Fiber;
7 g Sugar; 28 mg Calcium; 1 mg Iron; 51 mg Sodium; 11 mg Cholesterol;
AccuPoints = 2.2