As fun as it is to load up my Pinterest board with ideas for a dream kitchen or dream outdoor kitchen, I realized (after watching my husband do all the dirty work,) that nothing is more important than taking care of the basics: electrical and plumbing.

Last Sunday he started ripping out parts of our kitchen floor to replace some old pipes and wiring that ran from the basement to the kitchen. He installed a new line and electrical for our washer and dryer that’s now located outside on the porch:

You can see the box he installed behind the washer. All new pipes & electric.

It was pretty difficult because he couldn’t access the pipes from under the kitchen floor; there is the stone foundation directly underneath so he had to rerun the lines the same way as the old ones by going horizontal about 10-12 feet amidst the laid-up foundation and wooden beams supporting the kitchen. It wasn’t a straight shot and the space was pretty snug, but thanks to fish tape and an assistant with smallish hands, he was able to get the new pipes and electrical through.

Then the next difficult part was soldering elbow pieces to fit the small spaces, then to solder them together in tight spots, like under the sink and within the wall. After he made sure the water lines were leakproof, he moved out the washer and we now have an empty corner in the kitchen for our future bathroom!

Not sure how we’ll do it, but we’ll get a bathroom down here.

With all the stuff going on inside, the garden outside is growing. Despite my parents raising tomatoes and roses commercially, I didn’t inherit their green thumb. This is my first time having a garden and I love seeing new growth every day:

cucumber tendril

I planted chamomile where I could see the flowers from the kitchen.

Sammy by the squash. He is the most camera shy out of the three cats.

A gray and rainy morning giving our plants a good soak.

Salamander enjoying the much needed rain.

I hope your Friday morning is off to a good start. I’ll be back tomorrow with a light lunch recipe for this month’s Recipe Redux!

Last month I started planting some lettuce and herbs around the outside of our house. I realize I don’t have much patience and would rather get trays of plants than start them from seed, because I seem to have forgotten what I planted in the trays. I think it was sweet and red rubin basil, but I’ll know for sure in a few weeks!

So far the lettuce has been untouched by insects and animals and the kale is taking a while to grow:

Mostly lettuce with cilantro up front, lemon grass, green onion & chives to the right and scrawny kale way in the back.

I also planted some easy-growing mint and sage in a planter by the patio, and this beautiful curry plant is doing great on its own:

The elegant curry plant: looks like rosemary, smells like chicken.

Now, both my parents were in the agriculture business, growing tomatoes and roses and a lot of other plants and produce. You would think that I inherited some of their talent, but I always found it a struggle to keep mint plants alive and can’t figure out why my basil won’t grow. This time it’s a little different, so I’m hoping my attempt at growing plants in the ground rather than black plastic buckets will break my streak of bad luck.

So while I wait for my plants to grow, I’d like to announce the winner of the Frito-Lay Gluten-Free Prize Pack! The winner was determined through an unbiased Canadian coin-toss. And now, the winner of this awesome giveaway is…..

Gabby from The Veggie Nook!

Congratulations on winning this awesome gluten-free prize pack! I’m sure you’ll enjoy munching on these tasty Tostitos and Lay’s chips while learning more about eating Gluten-Free on a Shoestring, woo hoo!

Now, earlier I mentioned those mystery seedlings possibly being basil plants (I really hope they are!) Here’s a good recipe to try with any type of basil pesto you may have. The walnuts (or pecans, if you prefer) give it a nice, hearty crunch and the addition of mushrooms give it a more meaty texture.

Walnut Pesto with Mushrooms – serves 2

1/3 cup walnuts or pecans, lightly toasted and broken into pieces
1/4 – 1/3 cup cream
1/2 cup basil pesto
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
additional walnuts or pecans for garnish
Cooked noodles

Instructions:

In a blender, add walnuts and  pesto, blend until combined and nuts are chopped, but do not puree.

In a medium frying pan, sautee sliced mushrooms in olive oil over medium heat until softened, about 3-5 minutes. Add pesto and walnuts, stir for about a minute. Slowly add cream and stir to combine for about 2 minutes or until it just begins to simmer.

Serve over cooked noodles, sprinkle with parmesan cheese and extra walnuts or pecans.

I am working on a little garden area for some herbs, but am having more fun laying out the rock border than figuring out what I’ll be planting. This is one of the sections I’ll be working on:

I get the stones from our little creek not ten yards from our house. My husband suggested making steps going down to the creek, so when we had a gorgeous sunny day over the weekend, I spent a few hours clearing the brush and putting in these stone steps:

I’m pretty happy with it so far, and and am hoping the rain will help the soil settle a bit. Weather permitting, I’ll be working on the area some more this weekend.

In addition to my landscaping projects, I’ve been experimenting on some indoor miniscapes with edible sprouts. I’ve read that sprouted seeds are more nutritious than the regular dried seeds, and even after soaking them for a few hours, the seeds become more easily digestible. I followed Judita Wignall’s easy-to-follow steps on seed sprouting in her Going Raw cookbook. I had some raw sunflower and quinoa seeds which I soaked (separately) overnight in jelly jars covered with cheesecloth secured with rubber bands. Over the next few days, I rinsed them out a couple times a day while they slowly sprouted. I kept some of the sprouts in the fridge for immediate consumption, while the rest were placed in a tray filled with soil. After a few more days they developed roots and sprouted up even more.

Little flax sprouts muscling their way through the soil.

I also sprouted flax seeds, which were a little different. They didn’t germinate as quickly nor as noticeably as the sunflower seeds or quinoa, but instead developed a viscous coating which caused them to clump together in a big, gooey gelatinous mass (just a little gross, I never expected sprouting seeds to be slimy!) I couldn’t rinse them off so decided to leave them be and dumped them in a tray of soil, spreading them out as best as I could. After about a week they grew nice and green and were ready to eat.

Now although this seems pretty cut-and-dry, when sprouting seeds you do have to be careful of bacterial growth, mold, and also be sure that the seeds you wish to sprout are consumable. Here are a few websites that have good, easy-to-follow advice on how to begin and what to look out for when sprouting your seeds:

Here’s a good video explaining the hows of sprouting: http://rawfoodswitch.com/raw-food-equipment-reviews/sprouting-guide-sprout-seeds-bean-sprouts/

More great information from Holistic Jose, a personal trainer: http://holisticjose.com/2012/04/30/i-soak-my-nuts/?year=2012&monthnum=04&day=30&like=1&_wpnonce=f1acfe089f&wpl_rand=bd7786b91a

You’ve sprouted your grains…now what? Check here for some recipes!