Something Old, Something New: Herb Garden

In honor of Halloween,

SPOILER ALERT: This is not a Halloween-themed post.   Sorry, folks!  I threw caution thematic blogging to the winds and decided to post about herbs, especially now that we have had our first hard frost and people might be thinking about bringing delicate plants indoors (or mourning their brown-and-black outdoor plant life).

We have started cooking with fresh herbs and love it.  I have totally joined the fresh herbs fanatics camp. It all started when I wanted to make homemade margherita pizza using fresh basil, which resulted in buying one of those wee organic basil plants so that I could have enough leaves to cover a pizza at a reasonable price.  That was last October.  Unbelievably, I have kept an inside plant alive for an entire year.  A. Ma. Zing.

I loved landscaping back when we owned our own home (and yard!) and didn’t have HOA restrictions on the kind of plants you can put in your yard. “No, you are a Bradford pear yard, so you can’t plant a Japanese maple.”  #Renterville This pretty much dampened any enthusiasm we had for improving the curb appeal of our current location…but not our enthusiasm for plants.   Consequently, I’ve been restricted to containers. On a small deck.  In full sun. In the South.  Le sigh.  Perhaps this, rather than the pizza, is what drove me to indoor plants despite not having the best track record with remembering to water them….

Anyway, given this surprising success with a lone basil plant, I decided to risk succulents.  They don’t need much attention, right?  I love succulents, and I like that their colors tend to coordinate nicely with all the fall/winter harvesty things like pumpkins, kale, etc. but also look crisp and cool in spring/summer.   I was really hoping to put some in a set of three glass containers my mom gave me I rescued from my mom’s giveaway box and make an entire succulent garden in an antique washbowl that Chris’s grandmother gave us was also giving away.IMG_2372

So in typical fashion, Chris and I headed to our local garden center/big box home improvement store (we prefer Blue but Orange has some good things, too) to look at the discounted/end of season plant selection.     The previous year, we lucked out with some ridiculously cheap gerbera daises and other flowering plants that somehow survived dying in the winter to bloom again this spring/summer.  No such luck this year, though.  I joked that the succulents were actually “sucky-lents” (yes, Chris groaned, as I’m sure you are doing, too).  The only ones that did not look pitiful were $$$ or mixed with cacti, which should not be part of a household with curious cats who like to rub on everything with texture. Trust me.  Plucking cacti stickers from a cat’s face is not a happy experience for anyone involved. Lots of gnashing of teeth and bleeding.

We went home empty-handed and sulky.  Okay, I went home sulky.  I think Chris might have been silently cheering.  Plants are not his thing.  He says it’s because he’s allergic to grass.  I think he’s “allergic” to plants in general, seeing as how he doesn’t seem to like eating many of them either.  Iceberg lettuce, raw carrots, and canned peas and green beans = the vegetable group for most of his life. [Shudder].   Thankfully he’s expanded his horizons in the last seven years since we got married.  Now he’s even eaten collards and fennel.  Ah, the things he does we do for love.

Then I saw this soup recipe in the Williams Sonoma catalogue that I wanted to try, now that colder weather is here.  The recipe called for fresh herbs…so I decided to create an herb garden in the washbowl instead of pining for puny or pricey succulents that just “look pretty.”  Chris heartily agreed to this idea, so we bought a rosemary plant and a parsley plant to join our beloved basil.

In the washbowl, I first laid a bed of river rock to facilitate drainage around the roots.


Then I topped the rocks with some potting mix (aka whatever was leftover in the garage…not sure this is typically what you’d typically use for herbs, but it was already purchased).


Then I planted and watered the herbs…and ta da: herb garden!


With regular misting, the herbs are flourishing and are making regular appearances in our meals.


In fact, dear Basil seems to be doing better than when he was a lone ranger.  Is there such a thing as a social plant? Who knows.  The herbs sit in the microscopic “breakfast area” where they can receive enough sun but not freeze with winter approaching.


PS: That soup recipe didn’t turn out so well (too expensive for the tastiness factor, which was lacking greatly IMO), but at least it was the catalyst for the herb garden and the subsequent tasty meals it has provided! 🙂


Sunday Suppers: Homemade Meatloaf

Okay,  so I have been seriously dropping the ball with this whole KaZoo blogging thing (This is Chris, by the way). So first things first: Sorry about that. When Amy first had the idea that BOTH of us would be contributing to the KaZoo (what I call it in my head), I was really unsure about how I would contribute since the entirety of my sewing knowledge was based on a 5 minute emergency button replacement lesson I received at my first job (I was a “Formalwear Consultant” at a formalwear shop). Even though I’ve only used this skill about 3 times, my wife has graciously relieved me of sewing duties since my method correlates quality with thread amount (AKA good sewing = MOAR Threadz). If you are thinking that you’d like to know how to sew a button, I suggest this link ( from a website I recently found.

I suppose I should get on with the post at hand, now that we have established that, just like talking in real life, Chris blogging equals going down rabbit holes. After consulting blog experts (reading articles on “how to blog” on other blogs) apparently the thing to do is blog about things you like, enjoy, are good at, or want to become good at. So I am thinking I’ll start this out with a thing I like: FOOD!

Growing up, my parents would have definitely classified me as a picky eater, as there were many “rules” I had about food. Like many picky eaters, these rules started out with unreasonable statements like, “EW! I’m not eating that; the food is touching each other!” when I was young and were subsequently justified later on with things like, “That has TOO many flavors.”  Luckily for me (and Amy too), I have been steadily moving away from picky-eater-land since we’ve been married, which brings me to the recipe that I’d like to share: MEATLOAF. Specifically, what I call Amy’s mom’s meatloaf.

My prior beliefs on meatloaf fell under the “too many flavors” (meat, onions, AND sauce – horror of horrors!) rule, and my reaction the first time Amy suggested we have meatloaf for dinner was basically this: (try the commercial for the short version)

As it turns out, I never had meatloaf like Amy’s family recipe, and now it’s become one of the things I actually do well.  I have learned that not all meatloafs (meatloaves?) are created equal.  So without further ado, here is what you need (with what I used in parens):


  • 1 pound fresh ground beef (we use lean, grass-fed and I prefer to let it get to room temp or close before starting because colder=hand frostbite)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup milk (we use 2%)
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion (vidalia or sweet)
  • ~ 1/2 cup quick oatmeal (we use Quaker Oats)

Special sauce:

  • ~1/2 cup brown sugar (I usually get close, but probably a little more than exactly 1/2 a cup)
  • ~1/4 cup ketchup (We use the Simply Heinz kind, and I usually use a little bit more as well)
  • 1 tsp mustard (we use French’s regular yellow mustard)


SPOILER ALERT: Making a meatloaf is not pretty.  Taking pictures of said making of meatloaf is not pretty either.  But it’s pretty good eating, which justifies the making.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Since our oven take a few minutes to heat up, I usually start the preheating right after I’ve gotten out all my ingredients, but before I start mixing ingredients. Once that is done, I chop the onion and then combine the milk and egg using our handy dandy hand mixer.



Making the loaf:

While oven is heating up, beat egg and milk in large bowl.
One Egg in Milk

I use a combination of the 2nd and 3rd (of 5) speeds on the mixer until the mixture starts to get a little bit bubbly. Mixing!Don’t worry:  It’s not an exact thing, and I’ve probably varied in bubbly-ness over time.Bubbles!

Once your preferred bubble level has been established, add the meat, onion and oatmeal to the liquid mixture.  IMG_7269The next step is why I let the meat warm a bit (if I remember). Time to mix the meat, liquid, onion, and oatmeal by HAND until the meat has absorbed all of the liquid and the onion and oatmeal is sufficiently mixed in. Forgetting to let the meat warm a bit results in some eskimo cold hands. Note: I do not recommend warming the meat in a microwave as inevitably it results in partially microwaved beef (also why we prefer fresh meat). Remember to wash hands before this step or use prep gloves.


Add salt and pepper to taste (Amy typically does this part.)

Transfer mixture to the meatloaf pan and form into a squarish shape. One key thing I’ve learned is to ensure there is gap between the pan wall and the meatloaf.  Also, I make sure there is a slight depression (aka lake) in the center for the special sauce on top of the meatloaf so that it doesn’t run off during the cooking process.


Important note: Amy’s mom recommends a shallow square pan, which is not the traditional “loaf” pan but allows for faster cooking and more surface area covered in sauce…which is of course, the best thing about meatloaf.  Secretly, I think this is the only way she could get Amy to eat meatloaf when she was a child–if there was more sauce. Lots of sauce.  Speaking of sauce….

Now it’s time to make the sauce that really makes this recipe stand out and is a cinch to make.


Just stir together your brown sugar, ketchup, and mustard in  a small bowl until you get a consistent mixture. I’m not a huge fan of mustard but don’t even notice it in this sauce.


Pour over meatloaf, staying within the lake  you’ve made in the center of the loaf.

Hopefully, by now your oven has preheated and is ready to go. Simply place in the center of the middle rack, and bake 30-40 minutes or until done.  Our current (please, please let it soon be former) condo oven usually takes a total of 45-55 min, but prior ovens have  previously been close to the recipe time. While you wait for it to cook, you can prepare yummy sides. IMG_7281

Chris words of wisdom: No matter how much you make fun of an oven for not being hot enough to make recipes come out on time, it is never ok to attempt to lick a meatloaf pan as you remove it to get that bit of sauce that you spilled. Luckily for everyone, my wife always has an eye for when I am about to have an EPIC Fail and a loud voice to yell “STOP!!!”  After all, burnt tongues don’t get to enjoy the yummy meatloaf.

So as you can tell, I am now a convert to the greatness of meatloaf despite the fact it is made up of even more ingredients that I previously thought.  We don’t have meatloaf very often since Amy tries to get me to eat less red meat, but that makes this more of a treat when we actually do. I typically justify requests for meatloaf with statements like, “We can have it with green beans” so that Amy agrees to have it.  Works every time. Except probably not after this post.