Oak & Acorn: Everything’s Coming up Apples!

Apple Season in New England

There are so many ways in cooking and baking with apples. You can make pies, jellies, cakes, donuts, apple cider and even use them in savory treats.

It’s September in New England and almost autumn which means one of many things, it’s apple season time! For many of us in New England, once we start to see those “pick your own apple” signs, it means a new season of change is coming. In fact, September 22 is the official Autumnal equinox. The full moon this month is so close to the Autumnal equinox that is actually called the Harvest Moon. The Harvest moon gives so much light that it’s said that farmers coined the term because so much extra light was given during this time that farmers had more hours in their day to harvest crops.

When I was a kid growing up in the South, I was one of those people who dreamed of autumn in New England. Any time, I would see a painting or a photograph, it seemed all so dreamy to me… and now here I am living in small town New England with my wonderful six year old!  Read the rest of this entry »

Oak & Acorn: Basil Pesto & Peas

Summer foods that are easy to grow and that kids love.

One of the foods that we love to make a lot in the summer is basil pesto. We grow a lot of basil in our garden and at this time of the year it’s very abundant. We also are very lucky that many of our farmer friends hand off some of their extras to us. I love the taste and smell of basil…it’s one of my favorite culinary herbs! It works in so many dishes and also goes well in some fruity summer drinks. Just last week, we added basil to some seltzer water with simple syrup and sour cherries that we picked from a friends tree in their backyard. It was delish!

The past couple weeks we have also been eating lots of peas, in particular sugar snap peas which happens to be a favorite snack in our house. We also picked lots of shell peas from a farm we have a CSA share with, shelled them and froze them for future use. It takes a little time to do this, but it’s always nice to have these preserved in the freezer for when a recipe calls for them, like pesto!

See our recipe for basil pesto and pasta with peas

Oak & Acorn: Local Strawberry Smoothie

Take advantage of strawberry season!

In June, Western Mass is a blush of strawberries as harvest approaches. Don’t be afraid of buying too much as they can be frozen and used throughout the year.

It’s been really exciting the past few weeks in Western MA. Everything is growing like crazy, farmers’ markets are getting busy and the first of CSA share pick-ups are starting to happen. We are pretty lucky to live in an area where we are surrounded by such rich soil, have access to local farms and live where we can know where our food comes from. Thankfully, a good number of farms in the area also offer subsidized community agricultural shares.

One of my favorite things to see at the farmers’ market, is the abundance and variety of beautiful foods. I also appreciate the hard work that goes behind all that we see and buy at the market. It takes a lot of sweat and dedication to make these things happen.

This week at the market, I was really excited to see that it’s Strawberry season. The sweetness and beautiful rich reds in them, say enough. I usually try to get as many as I can, from either local markets, pick your own farms or from my own garden. If you ever find you have more than you need, just freeze them and use them throughout the year. I still have a few quarts of local berries in my freezer from last summer, that go well in many things. Read the rest of this entry »

Oak & Acorn: Rhubarb Crumble in Season

Rhubarb Crumble

It’s that time of year when little green things are starting to come out of the ground, flowers are blooming and the trees have their leaves again. Without the work of planting new seeds, we get lucky to have those few perennials that come back each year. The only things that I have coming back from last spring are a variety of herbs and rhubarb. Rhubarb is a vegetable that is known for its large leaves and tall, thin red stalks but is mostly known for its strong tart flavor. It’s an easy thing to grow with kids and also doesn’t require a lot of maintenance like other vegetables or fruits. Generally people will combine something sweet with the rhubarb to complement it.

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Oak & Acorn: Sustainable and Wild Harvesting

Sustainable and Wild Harvesting

It’s officially spring in Western MA, which means so many things to me! After what feels like the longest winter, we are finally experiencing warmer temperatures and the sun is peeking in on us. Families is coming outdoors more to simply enjoy the change in weather. It’s still a little chilly out there, but at least we can put away our heavy coats and boots!

Spring is also a time for nature and wildlife to bring forth a new life of their own. Buds on branches begin to appear and grow, small flowers are sprouting their ways up, birds are building their nests, and so many plants in our woodlands are starting to grow.

I’ve mentioned a number of times, how much I love to forage for wild edibles. A lot of times my six year old daughter, Thu, goes with my partner and I.  She has learned to identify a lot in the past couple years, also because she is of smaller height, she tends to see things that I might walk right past without noticing. Read the rest of this entry »

Oak & Acorn: Maple Glazed Squash Rings

Maple Glazed Squash Rings

It’s finally March! I feel like this winter has been longer than usual and lately I have been daydreaming of warmer days and sunny skies. I’ve been thinking of being barefoot in my garden and watching things rapidly transform and grow. The past few days, I’ve noticed the icy snow is starting to melt and I can see the muddy grass that’s been kept underneath. It’s a good thing though, it means it’s almost the change of season, and as much as I love the nice perks of winter, I’m ready for spring!

Pretty soon, I will have a break from a number of winter vegetables, so I decided to show a recipe I like with acorn squash as a bon voyage to winter. Because of their sweetness, many kids like to eat different varieties of squash. In a previous post, I talked about adding butternut squash to baked macaroni and cheese, it’s a healthier version and is really delicious! This time, I’m using acorn squash, which I love acorn squash when it’s stuffed or baked. This is a very simple recipe for kids to help with and they’ll love it too!

Click here for Maple Glazed Squash Rings recipe…

Oak & Acorn: Beet Brownies

Beet Brownies

If you are having a sweet craving but want to add a little healthy nutrition, try this recipe for Beet Brownies! [Photo credit: (c) Leslie Lynn Lucio]

Recently we had some rainy days, so we spent a lot of time doing activities indoors. Whenever we have days like that, we do things like play games, read books, do a puzzle and usually we end up baking a delicious treat or some yummy food together. I don’t like giving my six-year-old daughter Thu, too many sweets but I admit that I was the one craving a sweet really bad the other day that I decided we should bake something. While going through the kitchen, I saw some beets and thought that maybe we should give it another go to make some beet brownies.

Check out the recipe…

Oak & Acorn: White Pine Tea for Winter Days

White Pine Tea

It’s been getting really cold in Western MA the past couple of weeks! And now with a fresh layer of snow on the ground, it’s time to bundle the kids up, eat some nice hot meals with the family, and cozy on up with lots and lots of hot tea. Ye,t while we tend to spend so much time indoors during the cold winter months, there is nothing like talking a walk outside with the cold crisp air… followed by a warm cup of tea!

Even though it’s cold outside, it’s easy to make winter walks really fun for kids. Last week, my six-year old daughter and I went for a walk down by the Mill River. One of the things that we do these adventures is to think of something that might be on our walk and to see if we can spot it. That can include spotting a old bird nest high in a tree, animal tracks in the snow, a brave little Chickadee and so many other great finds. Read the rest of this entry »

Oak & Acorn: Healthy Comfort Foods

Healthy Comfort Foods that Kids Love

Wondering what to do with butternut squash? How about a healthy version of a kid favorite… macaroni & cheese!

Comfort foods are something we start to crave as it starts to get closer into the winter months. As it starts to get lower and lower in temperature, it’s easy to fall for the idea of having comfort foods we had as kids, or a hearty soup with warm bread to warm our bellies.

I recently went to our community garden with my six-year old and noticed the drastic change from how it looked months ago. Months ago there were cages full of tomatoes, strawberries and long stalks of corn among other things growing in gardens…not to mention very colorful flowers popping up everywhere. Now, you mostly see plots with winter and root vegetables covering ground space and of course, lots of kaleRead the rest of this entry »

Oak & Acorn: Kale Chips for Kids (and their Adults too!)

Garden Snacks, Kids and Kale

Kale also is really beneficial for our health. It’s high in Vitamin A, C and K. It’s high in calcium, rich in iron and packed with antioxidants… and make delicious cheesy kale chips! (Photo credit: Leslie Lynn Lucio)

It’s mid-October and things are starting to dwindle down in our plot at the community garden. We’ve been very well nourished from all the vegetables and herbs that we have grown. We have made so many jars of tomato sauce and have dried lots of herbs for the winter months. We have also eaten countless meals from the food we have grown. Western Massachusetts has such healthy and amazing soil that the things we plant always seem to promise us a good harvest. In return, we give great appreciation…

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Oak & Acorn: Staghorn Sumac Berry Lemonade

Bike Rides & Staghorn Sumac Berry Lemonade

It’s the month of August which means you are probably spending most of your time outdoors with your children. My daughter, Thu, and I have been spending a lot of our time at swimming holes, hiking, at pick-your-own farms, taking post-dinner walks and riding our bikes on the bike path and throughout the town.

Summer is a good time for walking around with your kids and teaching them about what surrounds us. Kids seem to spot everything and anything, a lot of times noticing the small things that we adults may seem to have missed. With the weather being so nice, we have been spending a tremendous amount of time outdoors.

A plant that you may be noticing growing in various spots around us right now is the Rhus typhina, the Staghorn Sumac. I first learned that this plant is edible and used for medicinal purposes when I took a foraging walk a while back with local wild foods enthusiast extraordinaire Blanche Derby. I hadn’t used the knowledge I learned about Staghorn Sumac since going on that walk up until a couple weeks ago…

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Oak & Acorn: Edible Summer Flowers

Daylilies: The Perfect Perennial

Leslie Lynn Lucio

If you find yourself with an abundance of daylilies your yard, or are just on a walk and come across wild ones, give them a try. Just remember with all edibles, to not pick any that you know have pesticides or are by a busy road with cars. (Photo credit: Leslie Lynn Lucio)

It’s mid-summer and it feels like anything and everything is starting to grow around us. Flowers are blooming everywhere and you can certainly spot flower beds from quite the distance. Wild edibles might be growing in your garden right now and one of the flowers that stands out in mid-July is the daylily. These are easy to spot with their long stems, star-shaped flower and bright yellow-orange petals. The daylily, Hemerocallis fulva, is a flower that you most probably are spotting several times throughout the day this time of year. It is also a flower that you may or may not realize is almost entirely edible…

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Oak & Acorn: Add an Edible Teepee to Your Family Garden this Summer

A Growing Garden

Engage your children this summer by gardening together! Add an edible teepee to your garden for an added dimension of summer fun!

It’s that time of the year when we bring out our gardening tools and start tending to our gardens. Gardening with children is a terrific summer activity to do together.  It’s fun, very magical, and can be an amazing learning experience. It’s also nice to just be out with your kids, watching your garden grow and change over the seasons. Ever since my daughter, Thu, was a toddler, we have grown a garden every year. When she was younger, we did things hand in hand with each other, but now she is older and takes on a lot of the responsibilities by herself. I can tell that she is very proud of herself whenever she digs a hole with a trowel or carries the heavy water pitcher to take care of all our young vegetable plants. Gardening with kids is a really good thing!

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Oak & Acorn: Forage, Farm and Feast with the Family

Tasting the Evergreens

Life in Western MA has its many pleasures. So many times I feel really lucky to live where I do and to be surrounded by so much beauty. The mountains, the rivers, the farmland, the flora and the fauna are just some of the things I appreciate. I live in the Pioneer Valley and I am always trying to find ways to connect with my surroundings. I have a five year old daughter name Thu with whom I love spending time in the outdoors. There are many activities we can do to connect with nature and where we live which bring the two of us closer while helping my daughter form a relationship with nature itself.

One of the things I love to do with Thu is go on an outdoor adventure and forage for wild edibles. You most probably have something growing in or near your own backyard that is edible, and maybe even some wild edibles waiting to be discovered! Once kids start learning about the wild edible growing around them,  families can look forward to what’s going to pop up next. As always, get to know what you are looking for and make sure you properly identify it- if you are unsure, just don’t eat it.

In the Springtime one of the easiest things to forage for are spruce tree tips. Most of us, if not all of us in the Pioneer Valley are in walking distance to one of these trees. If you have never done any wild harvesting or feel that you wouldn’t have a clue as to where to start, then foraging for spruce tips is a great activity. Children love being part of the hunt. They love spotting these evergreens from far away and once they learn that parts of it are edible, it makes it even more fun. Foraging for wild edibles becomes a tool which can help children learn more about what grows around us. Searching for spruce together can help kids start to learn more about different tree species and appreciate their beauty even more.

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