Sweet Potato and Black Bean Enchiladas

I love recipes that inspire me to look at the garden in different ways.  When my dear friend made this recipe for dinner right before Christmas, I was delighted at it’s complexity, and grateful that she was willing to share it.  I was also incredibly intrigued at the thought that every part, more or less, of this could be grown here at the homestead.

This recipe has me specifically thinking about growing sweet potatoes (and other potatoes) and beans that can be dried.  It also has us thinking about canning salsa. Things to put on the list and plan for while we still have time to!

For this batch in particular I made it in triplicate–one large pan for this week, one large pan to freeze for later, and three bread pans which are about 1 serving a piece (two for the freezer, and one for one of my students at work).  It was super easy to make multiple batches at once, and I’m hoping it’ll add something different to the standard soup and casseroles that we have living in our freezer for those nights that we “don’t know what to cook.”

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Enchiladas 
Adapted from Vegetariantimes.com, December 2011
Makes about 4 servings
1 15 oz can tomato sauce
1 3/4 cups low sodium broth 
1 tsp chile powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 sprig rosemary 
1 TBS olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and diced (about 3 cups)
1 15 oz can diced tomatoes 
16 oz salsa
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno
1 15 oz can black beans
1 12 oz round queso, divided
Olive Oil
8 8-inch whole wheat, high fiber tortillas
Limes cut into wedges and sour cream for garnish
To make filling, heat oil in deep saucepan over medium heat.  Add onion and saute 3-5 minutes.  Add sweet potatoes, tomatoes, salsa, garlic, and  jalapeno; bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium and simmer until the sweet potatoes are soft, about 30-40 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the sauce.  Bring all the sauce ingredients to a simmer in a saucepan over medium heat.  Whisk to combine, and reduce heat to low and let reduce.  Pull out the sprig of rosemary when the leaves start to fall off.
Once the filling mixture has finished cooking, mash mixture with a potato masher or with an emersion blender.  Add beans, cook five mintes.  Stir in half of the queso fresco and remove from heat.  Brush a 13×9 inch baking dish with oil.  Spread about 1/2 cup of Sauce in the bottom of the dish.  Fill tortillas with Filling.  Rill, and pack close together seam side down in the dish.  Top with remaining Sauce and other half of queso fresco.  Bake 15-20 minutes, and then broil until the cheese is browned and bubbly.  Garnish with limes and sour cream.  

Starting the Seedlings

I vowed to start earlier this year–no dragging my little feet, making excuses, or just not doing it.  So this past weekend JGL graciously installed my grow lamp in the basement, and after procuring some fresh potting soil I began pulling out my trusty seed starting supplies:  pots, tray, soil, seeds and popsicle sticks.  There are several varieties of tomatoes, jalapenos, and the seeds I saved from the super hot peppers.  We’re about a month and a half ahead of schedule, compared to last year, and I’m really hoping that it will pay off in terms of helping the seedlings get bigger and stronger so we’ll get fruit out of them sooner.


Fighting Daylight

I’m struggling here at the Homestead.

I know, poor pitiful me who was able to take a week off of work and go hang out with my family.  Life’s so not hard for me. But truth be told, I’m really having a heck of a time getting back into the rhythm of things here–I’m getting up late in the mornings, going to bed early, and I blame this whole lack of light thing while I’m at home.  It’s just barely bright when I leave, and it’s definitely dark when I come come.  And what I really want to do most is take pictures of the cold frame and the lettuce that is THRIVING outside despite the hard frosts, or to try and capture the holiday smorgasbord that has become our neighborhood.

Old man winter has just barely settled in, and I’m already itching to get out.

I have to remember that this is truly a perfect time to plan, a time to till up the back garden, a time snag manure at the barn here at work to put in said tilled garden, to make seed catalog lists, to install the freecycled grow lamp Dad passed down to us, and to map out what exactly everything will look like so we’re ready when the spring will eventually hit.  But that’s all weekend warrior stuff–so for now during the 9-5 rush I’m relishing sun soaked lunch-time walks at work, being very thankful for not one, but TWO windows in my office, and also trying to remember that we can find gardening bliss even in the smallest of Solo Cups–and as long as I have that, Old Man Winter’s got nothing on this GAL!


Mums the Word

We struck garden gold this past weekend at our local Lowes and the little Mennonite store down the street.  Long story short, we were able to get 6 large sized mums, several flats of bright orange and crimson marigolds, and more bright blue lobelia.  What should have been about $75-$100 worth of plants ended up being about $20, thanks to reasonably priced mums at Andersons, and a 90% off shelf of plants at Lowes.  We’re trying to be better about adding more fall color to the front, and I’m incredibly thrilled and how it’s staring out.

Collecting Seeds

While we are certainly heading into the season where we can plant more things (and I have some big plans for some peas, cauliflower, broccoli, carrots and radishes), many of the things we planted early on are starting to bolt and fade.  This year, though, I’m trying to be better about collecting seeds from the things that did particularly well, like some of our tomatoes, the uber hot free peppers, and our dill plants.  Any other seeds you’re saving?


When I first moved to Virginia, it was mid-August.  I was young, hadn’t lived anywhere but Massachusetts, and oblivious at how ten hours could make such a difference.  One of the first things I noticed was the constant noise that the cicadas made–it was like grasshoppers on crack.  At first it was maddening–it was like the mountains and forests that surrounded my bucolic college campus never stopped.  But soon it started to blend into the background, and now it’s just another sound of summer that is frankly comforting to this yankee transplant.

I never truly thought about cicadas again until we moved into our home, and even then it was because once or twice a year we’d find a cicada casing, I would freak out that it was a roach, JGL would have to assure me that it was just a casing, it wasn’t alive, and we didn’t have an infestation of something gross, and then we would resume with our daily grind.  This year since putting in the laundry line, though, I’ve found that cicadas like to cling to wood things when they molt, and my laundry line is PERFECT for this.  If I had a nickel for ever cicada casing I’ve come thisclose to touching with clean laundry, or even worse almost stuck my face in trying to get said clean laundry off the line, I’d be a rich woman by now.  They blend in so perfectly in the wood, and they freak me out just as much as the first time when I notice them.

Much to my dismay and horror, there are at least five casing on the line today, today the day that I’m attempting to finish laundry from this week, and from the NH vacation.  And just when I thought it couldn’t get any more creepy, I saw the actual bug emerge from a casing.




It’s in these moments I have to remember that I am 29 years old, I am an adult, and I can absolutely, unequivocally, and adultly choose to wait to finish the laundry when JGL, aka my Bug Protector, comes home from work.

God bless the long-ass days of summer!

A Change of Plans

I had resigned myself to the fact that the back garden just wasn’t going to do anything this year.  Take a year off, and we would tackle it full force next season–seemed like a good plan just a month ago.

And yet this morning I find myself with 50 plus free tomato plants and a husband determined to till the rest of the back forty with the hope of copious amounts of canned tomatoes whispering sweetly in his dreams.

And we’re back in the game?  (the game!)

More once our forest of tomatoes are planted….

Marigold Pairing

The other day our sweet across the street neighbors invited us over to take a peek at their gardens in the back.  They are certainly accomplished gardeners, and have been incredibly helpful in establishing some of our gardens.  Rusty was most proud, though, of his tomatoes, which much to my disbelief were almost as tall as I am and had several green tomatoes clinging to the vine.

Ours are not looking this good.

JGL immediately noticed that the plants were also free of those pesky little holes from where bugs and other critters nibble, and when he asked how they prevented that, Rusty pointed to the base of the plant and simply said, “Marigolds.”  For every plant there was a companion Marigold, which apparently helps prevents the bugs, deer, and other unmentionable critters from feasting on a harvest.

Considering that I remembered that a flat of 6 marigold plants were on sale for 99 cents a piece, let’s just say all of our plants are snuggling up close to a friend right about now.

Floral History

We live in a great neighborhood, hands down.  We’ve made some amazing friends here on our street over the years, and we are eternally grateful for that.

Today was a prime example of that–our across the street neighbors attend the same church as we do and before the service (which was, interestingly, about loving your neighbor) asked if we wanted any flowers from their back flower bed.  They have started to downsize some of their gardens, and have been looking for folks who would not only enjoy the plants, but appreciate where they came from as well.  So I toddled my way over after a quick lunch, and two hours later I made it back home to sort through the daffodils, black eyed Susans, forsythia, and several different lilies.  I especially loved that the majority of the plants had made their way down from my home turf of New England–some were given as gifts, some had made their way down tucked away in a suitcase.

The forsythia story (which were the ones smuggled down in the suitcase) is my favorite simple because the majority of the forsythia in our neighborhood came from those original three plants.  How cool is that?!

And this all got me thinking–yes, JGL and I have certainly bought plants from big box stores and gardening magazines, but my favorite plants are the ones that have a story behind them–like Cathy Riverknighter’s irises, or the “Mr. Eds” Grampa propagated over 40 years ago, or Rusty’s Widow’s Teardrops, or C’s white flox.  These are the plants that I’ve told JGL that if we move we’re digging up, and the ones that I love sharing myself through a clipping or telling their stories.

Many families and communities have a rich oral history–stories passed down from generation to generation.  I’m so grateful to have such a rich “floral” history with my family and friends–not only the stories of how and where plants were acquired, but the plants themselves that serve as constant reminders of the generosity and importance of these relationships.