Summer Meal Planning + Caprese Salad on a Stick Recipe

Let's talk about summer meal planning.

I find it's more difficult to plan our weekly meal plan during the summer months. Perhaps that's counterintuitive to what you may think given the abundance of vegetables growing in our garden, but that's the very reason why it's so tough! I am constantly on the search for creative ways to use up our bowls of tomatoes & piles of squash, aside from my usual canning & freezing for the winter months ahead. 

I've shared several tips & tricks for budgeting & meal planning (here, here & here), but I've never shared how my system adjusts during the summer months. 

As with every season, I assess what we have. I check my pantry, dig around in the freezer, walk the garden & talk to Luke about what we'll be harvesting this week. Once I've got a pretty general idea of what ingredients we already have on hand, I make a plan.

I pull out my favorite cookbooks (I'm a huge fan of Simply in Season & the Skinnytaste cookbooks), check my recipe box, gather saved recipes from magazines & scan my saved images on Instagram (I love that new feature!).  

Once I have my recipes, I check our weekly calendar of events & plan our meals out for the next seven days (this is my favorite meal planner to date - it has the detachable shopping list, which I love). I typically only plan dinners & fill in our lunches with leftovers/sandwiches/salads & breakfasts with peanut butter toast/eggs/smoothies. 

Here's this week's meal plan:

M: Peach & Tomato Salad (from Better Homes and Gardens)
TU: Zucchini Garden Chowder (Simply in Season)
W: Pizza Lasagna Roll Ups (Emily Bites)
TH: Grilled chicken with squash & basil salad (Simply in Season)
F - SU: Camping! (Separate meal plan)

I typically only jot down the main meal & add in fresh sides as we harvest vegetables from the garden (sautéed zucchini, roasted new potatoes, cucumber salad, etc). 

As for potlucks, picnics & special events throughout the week, I make a note of sides & desserts I will need to bring.

Last week I brought along this delicious caprese salad dish to book club & thought I'd share the recipe with you!

Caprese Salad on a Stick 

- Cherry tomatoes, halved
- Handful of fresh basil
- Mini mozzarella balls
- Balsamic vinegar
- Olive oil
- Course sea salt & fresh ground pepper to taste
- Toothpicks or mini serving sticks for taste-testing 

Pierce one ball of mozzarella on your mini stick or toothpick followed by a leaf of basil, half of a tomato, another leaf of basil & a second ball of mozzarella. Place on a cookie sheet & repeat until you have enough tomato/basil/mozzarella sticks for your gathering.

Drizzle olive oil & vinegar on each stick. Sprinkle salt & pepper to your preferred taste. Transfer the sticks from the cookie sheet to a pretty serving tray. Refrigerate or serve immediately. Enjoy!


How do you use up the abundance of produce in the garden during the summer months & plan your weekly meal plan? Share your thoughts below!


Hostess or Housewarming Gift Idea on a Budget!

Today I want to share a simple & inexpensive gift idea with you! 

You all know just how much I love gift giving! I've written endless blog posts about intentional gift ideas for little money. It's such a tangible way to share love with those who need it most without spending beyond your means. 

This little gift basket is the perfect treat for a hostess & a sweet way to say "welcome!" to your new neighbors. 

To make this gift bundle for free (or very little) simply:

- Find a basket you may already have around your home. Don't forget to look in your closets! If you come up empty-handed, stop by your local thrift shop. You will always find a wide variety of woven baskets for less than a buck or two.

- Gather a bouquet of wildflowers, harvest a bouquet from your garden or purchase one at the farmers' market & place in a mason jar. I always keep a stash of jars specifically for gifting bouquets during the summer months. Nothing brightens someone's day like fresh flowers!

- Tuck a bottle or two of hand soap, dish soap & lotion in the basket. Especially for those just moving into their home, there's nothing like already having a bottle of soap on hand to calm the moving crazy!

- Add a pretty ribbon & card for a personal touch!

It's the perfect excuse to treat your favorite hostess or new neighbor while grabbing the essentials for your own home! 

Click HERE to sign up!! Click HERE for additional details!

I hope you love this sweet & simple gift idea utilizing free & inexpensive supplies you may already have to bless someone in need of a little cheer!

Let me know if you make this basket & surprise someone this week!


*FREE* Mrs. Meyer's Summer Fun Cleaning Kit!

Friends! It's one of my favorite weeks of the year! It's that extra special time when I get to share my adoration for Grove Collaborative & the millions of ways they make our life easier & better each & every day!

For just a moment, pretend I am Oprah sharing my Favorite Things with you! hehe! 

If you've been around these parts for any time at all, you know just how much we love Grove Collaborative. For almost four years, we have used their service exclusively within our farmhouse. 

We buy all of our household goods from Grove Co., including toilet paper, soaps, detergents, toothpaste, shampoo & everything else you might need to run a cozy home! I even just discovered my new favorite (& safe!) deodorant, which I order monthly. 

If you have never heard of Grove Collaborative, they are an amazing company that sends your favorite, all-natural home supplies right to your door! Their products are cheaper than what you'll find at the store & it is SO convenient. Cue the happy farmer who never runs out of toilet paper!

Plus, their monthly subscription makes budgeting for home supplies much easier. If you're working toward living within your means, Grove Co. is a wonderful way to do just that. Our family sticks to an intentional monthly budget & their subscription service has been a wonderful tool for us! 

I am SO excited to share that Grove Collaborative just released their ceramic farmhouse sink tray! The BEST PART? Every Natalie Creates reader who signs up as a new Grove Collaborative customer & spends just $20 on their first order will receive this Summer Bundle for Free!

If you have yet to pull the trigger on joining Grove Collaborative, now is the time! Your kitchen sink needs this cute tray!

This offer is valid for new Grove Co. customers only, but because Grove Collaborative provides the very best in customer service, they're offering up the adorable sink tray for 25% off to all existing Grove Co. customers. Grab yours HERE!

You can choose just one scent of Mrs. Meyer's goodies or mix & match to try an assortment! We have shifted to using just Mrs. Meyer's products to clean our home... the scents are just too amazing! Did I mention the tray is perfect for corralling all of your favorite cleaning supplies & brushes next to your kitchen sink? 

Here's a step-by-step on how to easily grab this Free Grove Collaborative deal:

1. Sign up for Grove Collaborative HERE. You will receive the Mrs. Meyer’s offer for free when you sign up!

2. To receive this offer, your order needs to be a minimum of $20. Choose the combination of products and scents you love to receive in your first box.

3. You made it! Click Finish & Pay to place your first order!

Let me know if you have any questions! It's always such a gift to share products with you that I really love to use within our home. I can't wait to read just how much you love your free bundle of goodies! 


Recipe: Berry Cherry Crumble

We've made quite a few food changes in our home over the last two years (more on that soon, I promise!). One of those big changes includes regulating our processed sugar-intake. Of course, we love dessert & would never eliminate it from our diets. But as with all things, moderation is key. 

I love a delicious slice of cake or pie just like the rest of 'em, but I've come to appreciate & even crave the simple sweetness of fruit. There's nothing quite like in-season berries during the summer months!

In celebration of Berries & Cherries Sale at Whole Foods Market (starting June 28th through July 4th!), I thought I'd share my favorite ever-evolving crumble recipe! You can use any berry that you like, mixing & matching whatever you may already have in the fridge or freezer.

I so appreciate that Whole Foods Market offers a wide variety of fruit that is organic, responsibly grown and/or local because you will find cherries & some berries on this year's Dirty Dozen List! Whole Foods has a commitment to supporting farmers and their families who address sustainability, soil health, pesticide use, worker welfare, water quality & so much more. Plus, who doesn't love to save a buck or two during this upcoming week's berry & cherry sale?!

I plan to bring this crumble recipe with us to the river this weekend for our family's Fourth of July festivities! It's also a delicious addition to any summer potluck or enjoyed on the front porch during the heat of the day & it's so much easier to throw together than baking a fancy pie.

It's quick to make with simple ingredients & was inspired by my friend, Amanda (@awilsonwellness on Instagram), & her yummy blueberry crumble. I must mention, she's a wealth of knowledge if you're looking to incorporate more whole foods into your daily diet. 

I hope you enjoy this crumble just as much as our family does!

See below for recipe...

Berry Cherry Crumble

- 4 cups of berries & cherries (pitted), fresh or frozen... I used frozen cherries & fresh blueberries both from Whole Foods & their quality was amazing!
- 1 cup old fashioned oats
- 1/2 cup almond meal
- 1/4 cup halved pecans
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- dash of cinnamon 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mist a pie dish with olive oil spray & layer your berry/cherry mixture inside the dish. Set aside. 

In a medium-sized bowl, mix together oats & almond meal. Sprinkle the pecan halves on top, crushing them in your hands as you add them to the bowl. Add maple syrup, olive oil, vanilla extra, salt & cinnamon to your bowl & mix until your oats are wet & the ingredients are lumpy.

Spoon your lumpy oat mixture on top of the fruit until a thin layer is covering most of the berries & cherries. Bake for 40-45 minutes until your fruit is bubbling. Turn on the broil & allow to cook for 3-5 minutes until the top oat layer is golden brown.

Enjoy with a delicious scoop of vanilla bean ice cream on the front porch!

Do let me know if you try this recipe with your bounty of berries & cherries this season!


*Disclosure: I have a partnership with Whole Foods Market & was compensated for my work, but all words & opinions, recipes & inspiration are my own.

Our Medicinal & Culinary Herb Garden

Summer is my favorite time of the year. I love spending an entire day out in the garden weeding, watering, planting & harvesting. The longer summer days are a little more forgiving, allowing space for experimenting & learning.

Over the last four years, we've been slowly growing & expanding our garden to fit our family's needs. We've added a fresh cut flower garden & plan to introduce an asparagus patch along with a wide variety of berries this fall!

This summer I am slowly cultivating a culinary & medicinal herb plot. We usually sneak in herbs among our perennial flower beds next to the farmhouse & annual herbs around the tomatoes, but this year I am excited to dedicate a space just for them.





Here's a list of what's currently growing:

- Basil
- Rosemary
- Lavender
- Thyme
- Oregano
- Lemon Balm
- Sage
- Chamomile
- Hyssop
- Bergamot 

I am excited to experiment with the use of hyssop & bergamot in the future. Not only will they be wonderful dried, I'm excited to see their benefits for our garden pollinators! I just harvested chamomile from our herb plot & have begun drying it for a tea blend & infused oils. 

The garden is such a wonderful space to explore & learn. I hope to add more herbs as my little space grows.

What are some of your favorite herbs & their uses? Please share in the comments!


Loving Lately: Fresh Flowers, Podcasts, Fermentations & More

Hello, friends!

How are you doing? How is your summer coming along? Are you taking time to enjoy the season & soak up these gorgeous, long days?

I wanted to check in with you & share a handful of things/lifestyle changes/home routines I am currently loving. I personally love reading suggestions from others so I hope you enjoy this little update.

Loving Lately List...

- Harvesting fresh flowers from the garden... As a little girl, I dreamed of having my own secret garden brimming with blooms. Now every morning or evening that I harvest a fresh bouquet for our neighbors, friends & little shop, I am overcome with thankfulness for this life. 
I've been sharing my flower farming journey over on Instagram with the hashtag #freckledhenblooms if you'd like to follow along!

- Mornings & evenings on the patio... We've spent years cultivating this cozy little space on our patio & we love it so much. We spend many nights out here eating dinner & many mornings sipping our coffee.

- Finishing books... I finally finished The Underground Railroad. It was a difficult yet important read. I am so grateful to have space for reading in the evening once again. I'm trying out a new book club & excited to start digging deep into When Breath Becomes Air. I'll let you know what I think!

- Podcasts... I may very well be the very last person to have heard about this specific podcast, Happier by Gretchen Rubin, but I am loving it! I have read all of her books & have thoroughly enjoyed them so it's such a gift to listen in on her tips & thoughts regarding habits & our overall happiness.

On the topic of podcasts, I'm also giddy to share that there is a new season of Elise Gets Crafty & I am a guest once again! Elise interviewed me in 2014 so it's exciting to be back on to share an update about our farm & the business! Click here to listen. 

- Dinners from the garden... Once the abundance of the garden has been harvested & washed, I often have a tough time finding creative ways to use it all within our weekly meal plan. This summer I am making an honest effort to use our farm fresh vegetables. Last night I made egg roll bowls with our homegrown cabbage & onions. I also plan to make broccoli & cheese soup later in the week. What creative ideas do you have for using up the abundance of vegetables from the garden during the summer months?

- Fermentations... Tis the season for fermenting! Luke is working on a batch of sauerkraut as I type this (using our amazing kraut lid - I'd highly recommend this tool if you're a gardener or fermenter!) for adding to brats on buns with a garden salad for dinners. I'm giddy to also be taking a kombucha class this month, too! We've made kombucha in the past, but I've always struggled with bottling. I'm excited to glean some tips from the experts.

- Natural Deodorant... We had a bit of a scare within my family a couple of weeks ago, which left me re-evaluating all of the products I use in my body care routine. One product I have found & love is Schmidt's natural deodorant stick (I like the lavender scent!). I've been telling all of my friends, but I thought I would tell you, too, ha! It doesn't completely eliminate sweat like the other weird brands, but I still feel fresh hours later. So far I've gardened & went to the river with this deodorant on & I love it. You can find it at most stores now (I think I even saw it at Target!), but here's a link to Grove Collaborative, which is where I buy mine. You get a whole bunch of freebies when you sign up so that's fun!  YAY for making conscious decisions, y'all. 

- Hammock season... We hung the hammock & opened the pool for the season! I love spending so much time outside during the summer months. I see many naps in this cozy spot under the tree in my future!

What are you loving lately? Share in the comments!


This Week's Meal Plan

A quiet, cloudy morning with an armful of recipe books, fresh flowers, my new weekly meal planner (sold at our shop - oh, I love it so!), hot coffee & the laundry basket nearby. 

I find it so important to carve out time at the beginning of the week to set my intentions for the days to follow. A large part of that time is spent meal planning. Our meal planning & prep has looked different over the years, but it still remains one practice I cannot do without.

This week I thought I'd share our meal plan for the week along with recipes & what we're harvesting from the garden. 

Harvested from the garden: Lots & lots of greens. I plan to eat a large salad every day this week. We also harvested radishes, a delicious topping on homegrown greens. I want to also use up frozen broccoli from our freezer because a crop is coming in soon. If we don't end up with a generous amount of leftovers on Sunday, I'll make a crustless quiche with our bounty of farm fresh eggs.

Week of April 17th - April 23rd Meal Plan

Monday: Broccoli, cheese & potato soup with salad 

Wednesday: *Date with Oliver* Flatbread pizzas with salad

Thursday: *Family dinner night with Luke's family*

Friday: Fried rice with chicken wontons (from Trader Joe's)

Saturday: Chili cornbread bake with light salad

Sunday: Leftovers

Wishing you all a wonderful week ahead... please share your planned meals for the week in the comments below! 

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