Taming the Blue Box

“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well”-Virginia Woolf

I arrive home after a long 10 hour day of work and I am exhausted. It is all I can do to trudge my way up the stairs, drop whatever happens to be in my hands on the nearest surface, and flop down into my favorite chair. The last thing I want to do is to get back up again and make dinner.

Italian bread with garlic and parsley;A big bold rich Italian Tomato Sauce is not complete without a thick slice of crusty Italian Bread.  This is no mere suggestion, but a prerequisite at dinner tables everywhere.  How else is every drop of the flavorful sauce to be accounted for?

Some days I luck out. Tim will offer to cook dinner and I sing hallelujah, with a sigh of relief and don’t complain too much when out comes the blue box of macaroni and cheese.  I know it is not the healthiest, but exhaustion wins out and fast food has it’s day once again.

Taming the Blue Box - I arrive home after a long 10 hour day of work and I am exhausted. It is all I can do to trudge my way up the stairs, drop whatever happens to be in my hands on the nearest surface, and flop down into my favorite chair. The last thing I want to do is...

Fortunately this time of year my pantry is brimming full with color. Sauces, salsas, vegetables, jams and jellies are all lined up beautifully in rows.

Herbs, peppers, onions and garlic are dried, salted and mixed together in tasty concoctions. The Freezer holds cauliflower, broccoli, spinach, green beans, carrots and peppers all ready at a moments notice.

I am not sure who made the decision that a rich Italian sauce, brimming with pure food tomato flavor, tender melt in your mouth meatballs , fresh mushrooms and topped with parmesan cheese could only be placed atop spaghetti noodles. Fortunately, I didn't get the memo.  So my delicioso Italian Tomato Sauce with Meatballs is firmly fixed upon farfalle noodles. Pantry and freezer are stocked full, but if I don’t know how to put it all together, when exhaustion sets in, the blue box will be way too tempting. 

Chicken breasts seasoned to perfection, seared to seal in every ounce of juicy flavor. Paired with a savory blend of harvest grains which include Israeli style couscous, Orzo, Baby Garbanzo Beans and Red Quinoa.  Drizzled over all is a spicy, tart Tomatillo Verde Sauce.  Sweet Perfection.

Chicken, artichokes and sun dried tomatoes are a knockout combination, but the sauce is what makes all the difference.  Flavor assaults your senses from the moment that first forkful reaches your mouth and leaves you sheepishly looking around after the last bite, praying no one is watching so you can lick your plate clean.  Yep, it’s that good.

I have compiled a few quick and easy recipes (even Tim can master), to help tame the blue box syndrome. If you made my Italian Tomato Sauce, Tomatillo Verde Sauce, or Hot Pepper Sauce these recipes will put those sauces to good use. If not, you can use store bought. Keep in mind that salt content will most likely be higher in store bought sauces and cut down on the salt in the recipe accordingly.

Pasta With Italian Tomato Sauce and Meatballs

Chicken Tomatillo Verde and Harvest Grains

Chicken, Artichokes and Sun Dried Tomatoes with Pasta

Italian Bread with Garlic and Parsley

This post shared with: Yesterfood: Treasure Box Tuesday



Saturday Reflection at Pure Grace Farms

“Without reflection, we go blindly on our way, creating more unintended consequences, and failing to achieve anything useful.’ –  Margaret J. Wheatley

Saturdays on the farm are always my favorite. There is no need to set an alarm as I am usually up before the dawn anyway. The house is blissfully quiet as I tiptoe to the coffee pot, pour a cup of coffee and ease into my favorite chair to watch the sun rise over the mountains. As the sky evolves in color from grey to pink, orange to red, finally settling on its shade of blue, I have time to reflect on the week that has past and the week to come. 

Sliced Tomatoes for Sun Drying:How to Sun Dry Tomatoes - So Sweet , taste better than candy.  www.puregracefarms.com

Today my reflection is on the cold weather that is certainly coming and the need to harvest warm weather crops before the frost sets in. I have left my peppers on the vine as long as I dare, as this past week I have had to cover them twice to keep the frost at bay. Today will be spent harvesting, roasting, drying, chopping and freezing peppers. Tomatoes are still going crazy, so these will have to be attended to as well. Fortunately, last week was spent sun drying tomatoes so I am able to check this task off my list.

Home made drying frames:How to Sun Dry Tomatoes - So Sweet , taste better than candy.  www.puregracefarms.com

Sun drying tomatoes is surprisingly simple to do. The biggest hassle is in keeping the insects away. I use cheesecloth to cover the tomatoes and cover the frames with an additional light garden cloth. Works like a charm. If you need something to dry tomatoes on, check out the homemade drying frames here. Once the tomatoes are dried, put a few in olive oil for a great addition to pasta or salad dishes, I like to eat them straight out of the jar, they are so sweet and better than candy. 

How to Sun Dry Tomatoes - So Sweet , taste better than candy. puregracefarms.com Saturday would not be complete without a special nod to one of my favorite blog sites. This weeks nod goes to Earthward. Valeries recipes for pure food are always delicious with beautiful photography. While Earthward does post about local happenings, her tips on seasonal foods like Seasonal eats: 10 reasons to stock up on fresh local tomatoes are informative and worth taking a closer look at.

Sun Dried Tomatoes in Olive Oil:How to Sun Dry Tomatoes - So Sweet , taste better than candy. www.puregracefarms.com Enjoy your Saturday and don’t forget to take a few moments for reflecting. I would love to hear what weekend plans you come up with so drop me a line and lets have a nice little chat.

How to Sun Dry Tomatoes

How to make a drying frame

How to Sun Dry Tomatoes shared with:

*Imperfectly Happy: Green Thumb Thursday


Three Easy Ways to Cook Like A Pro

“The secret of happiness is variety, but the secret of variety, like the secret of all spices, is knowing when to use it.” – Daniel Gilbert 

Cooking can be intimidating. Just take a look around. There are Food Channels, Web Sites and Social Media like Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Google+.

How to make infused Hot Chili, Garlic and Rosemary Oils so you can cook like a pro.

Numerous search engines, all ready and waiting to give important information on the hows, whats and whys of cooking.  And then there are  a gazillion (is that a word?) recipes for everything under the sun, from boiling water, all the way to making Julia Child’s Soupe a L’Oignon Gratinee des Trois Gourmandes (interpretation: good old onion soup). Again I say, cooking can be intimidating.

How to make infused Hot Chili, Garlic and Rosemary Oils so you can cook like a pro.

I am no expert on cooking and I haven’t been trained in the latest culinary arts. I still do pretty well in the kitchen. So, what’s my secret? This leads me to the first of the Three Easy Ways to Cook Like a Pro: Don’t be afraid to experiment and to fail. Let me tell you I have had my share of failures, but as I have learned to trust myself and get out of my comfort zone a bit, as Emeril says, I have been able to “kick it up a notch”.

3 Easy ways to cook like a Pro: 10 seasoning blends for layers of flavor.

The second of Three Easy Ways to Cook Like a Pro: Take advantage of all the wonderful herbs and spices available to flavor your dishes. If your not sure what spices go well with what foods check out this Herb & Spice Chart from About.Com. Experiment, play, have fun with your food. Don’t take yourself too seriously.

Three Easy Steps to Cook Like a Pro. !0 seasoning blends that will help you on your way.

And lastly. Three Easy Ways to Cook Like a Pro: Layer your foods with flavor. Let me give an example of what I mean by this. Let’s begin by making a beef stew. One of the first things to be done when making stew is to brown the meat, usually with an oil like canola or olive oil. Using the premise of layering food flavors, I might choose to substitute an infused garlic oil , or infused rosemary oil to brown the meat with instead, to create an additional layer of flavor with only a minimal amount of effort. Each step adds another layer. So be sure to flavor as you go for the best depth of flavor and taste.

Three Easy Steps to Cook Like a Pro. 10 seasoning blends that will help you on your way. Three easy ways to cook like a pro.  Simple, easy and fun. Now go forth and cook! 

Fresh Herb or Chili Infused Oil

10 Spice Blends: Layer Your Food With Flavor

3 Easy Ways to cook Like a Pro shared with:

Crafty Spices: Wordless Wednesday * Create with Joy: Wordless Wednesday  *Bethere2day: Wordless Wednesday *Oh my Heartsie Girl: Wordless Wednesday *Homestead Lady: Green Thumb Thursday  *Yum Eating: The Yuck Stops Here




Pure Grace Farms

“Where you have a plot of land, however small, plant a garden. Staying close to the soil is good for the soul.” -Spencer W. Kimball

Hi friends. I’m glad you stopped by for a visit. Who knew starting a blog would be so labor intensive? Well, I did, actually.

shari Yet, I see this work as a labor of love because I am sharing something I am deeply passionate about, and I can hardly wait to share that with you. Unfortunately, patience has never been my virtue and at times the enormity of starting a blog leaves me in a panic.  Tim (my husband, the sane and practical one in the family) decided I needed a bit of advice after observing a small melt down one day.  His advice was very simple…  “Slow down, relax, Rome wasn’t built in a day,” and of course, he was right.   

Thankfully creating this blog is a lot like playtime mixed in with every day routine for me. During the day, I flit back and forth from my kitchen to the garden, with camera in hand, at night, new recipes, garden ideas and you tube videos infiltrate my dreams.

Shari in the garden

I find it exciting to plant a seed in the soil and then watch every day for signs of life.  I see the first green shoot poke its head from its bed and my heart skips a beat.  Nurturing my little guy from a tiny seed into full maturity allows me the freedom to dream of the wonderful things I will do with the harvest. I imagine recipes that taste better because I have used produce grown at home.

Fresh Picked Basil From Pure Grace Farms

 I love creating seasoning blends from basil, oregano, parsley, thyme, savory, garlic and peppers that cost pennies to grow instead of a ridiculous price at the grocery store.


This is my passion in a nutshell….to plant and grow food as close to nature as possible and to create food from the harvest into dishes that are simple, fresh, healthy and delicious.  

shari-4 Of course, I’m learning as I go. I welcome and value your input, suggestions and feedback.  I hope to inspire you, and be inspired by you as well. This site is not only about my passions in gardening, cooking, and preserving the harvest.

Tim and Shari

I would also like to know what some of your passions are and learn from you as we journey on this path together and discover all the ways to live a simpler, healthier, tastier and more independent way of life. 

I look forward to a nice long visit and hope that in time we will become good friends.

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