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A working kitchen is something to behold, is it not? The days start early with coffee and breakfast-making and the nights end when everyone else is tucked in. In between is a blur of meals and loaves and dishes and counter tops that never seem to empty. It really is the hub of a homestead in many ways.IMG_9218

With the temperatures slowly declining – 90 still counts as a crisp fall day around here – the kitchen activity has picked back up. Little Annabelle declares that carrots are best “when they are ‘mented, mama” so I threw together a half-gallon of dill and garlic fermented carrots when I was chopping for supper anyway.

I am convinced that simple is usually the most sustainable solution on many fronts.

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For the first time our homestead kitchen is seeing a bounty and every few days I pile the milk jars onto the table and decide what’s next. I’ve done a few simple cheeses but mostly we keep coming back to yogurt, usually by the gallon full.


My brood of helpers is ever expanding and while I know it would go faster (and cleaner) with just me manning the kitchen sink, I can’t say no to this eager little doer. Annie has been asking to wash dishes and help in so many other ways. She’ll be four in February and I can already see those dirt pies turning into real pies very soon. Can there be too many pie-makers… or too much pie for that matter?

IMG_9276 IMG_9282I’m going to be real honest and say that nourishing my family during the summer months is something I often fail at. The ferments don’t work so well and no one wants a pot of simmering broth and if anyone even wants to eat in that heat it’s usually not a nourishing bowl of soup or a bunch of greens.

Broth is back, though, and finding its way into mugs for the girls who would rather slurp its goodness than down the rest of the ingredients. And what goes better with soup than a hearty loaf of bread? That loaf above is another simple solution to this working kitchen of ours – an all-day loaf, fermented or not, with minimal hands-on time. It’s just the type of bread we eat on a regular basis and a recipe I’ll be sharing here soon… maybe after I reclaim a few feet of those counter tops.

IMG_8374We have yet to grow a decent amount of tomatoes since sowing seeds here in Texas. Young seedlings have been eaten by grasshoppers. Chickens have mowed down one foot plants. Heat and drought have wreaked havoc despite our early planting and earlier variety choices. Right now we are watching our beautiful green fruits disappearing to horn worms and birds and who knows what else.


It simply hasn’t gone as it did in our northern garden where we planted 60 or so tomatoes and ate them continuously August – September. Cherry tomatoes by the handful. Perfectly round slicing tomatoes. My very favorite misshapen brandywine with enough bite to put all other wannabes to shame.

But not here, not in Texas, not with this soil and these conditions. Maybe someday we’ll figure it out, but this year we decided we’d throw some tomatillos into the seed order with their proclamations of heat-loving and no-shade necessary. Many of those flowers have turned to fruit and we’ve been bringing in enough to get past the salsa verde stage.


These tart little guys, like most of the other produce we’ve grown, are coming in at just the right clip to eat some everyday but never quite enough to go into full-scale food preservation mode. The children like to eat them raw and with their tart bite little Ruthie grabs them as I make lunch.


In order to do something a little different with them, and because I am a mostly use-what-you-have kind of cook, this dish just came together with what we had and so far it has been a favorite way of eating tomatillos for both Stewart and myself. Well, the children liked it too, but I have yet to meet a pasta dish that hasn’t won them over.

Whole Grain Pasta with Tomatillo-Avocado Sauce

Notes: If you’ve got a bit of cultured cream or cilantro, by all means throw them in. Use whatever pasta shape you like; we like a whole grain variety such as this. Bird’s eye chili is incredibly hot and we love it, but just a pinch is necessary for most dishes. Finally, feel free to omit the meat or even serve the whole thing in tortillas or over rice, if you wish. Just don’t forget the tomatillos who lend a satisfying tang while disappearing into the fresh avocado and comforting pasta.


  • 2 Tablespoons olive or coconut oil
  • 1 lb grass-fed beef
  • 1 quart tomatillos, chopped
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • pinch of dried bird’s eye chili or 1/2 fresh jalapeno, minced finely
  • 3 ripe avocados
  • salt to taste
  • 1 lb whole grain pasta


  1. Bring pasta water pot to a boil over high heat. Cook just slightly less than package instructions – or until al dente.
  2. Meanwhile, heat a second, medium-sized pan over medium heat. Add the olive or coconut oil along with the beef. Cook for approximately five minutes, stirring to break up the beef as you go. Once the beef has browned for five minutes, add the chopped onion and tomatillo and continue cooking until the beef is cooked through and the onion and tomatillos have softened.
  3. Add the garlic and chili or jalapeno and saute a few more minutes. Meanwhile, mash the avocados with a fork until smooth as you would for guacamole. Remove the beef-tomatillo mixture from the heat and add the mashed avocado. Once the pasta is cooked and drained, add the sauce to the pasta, season generously with salt, and toss to combine.
  4. Taste for salt and spice and adjust with more seasoning as needed. Serve warm.