Mar 15

Spring and Southwest Style Stuffed Peppers

by Hannah Holt »


Next Wednesday may be the first day of spring, but I can already feel the turn of the season in the air. The trees on our street are budding. It had me in the mood to write something springy.


When prayers of birds sound in the air,
and crocuses play double-dare —
a splash of purple through the ice —
the loosened stream says, “Ah, that’s nice.”
When bees and beetles start to sing,
wake up, Bear! It’s time for spring.

 crocuses in ice

Speaking of alarms, I was trying to figure out what to make for dinner the other night when a bell went off in my head. At the time I was staring at four red bell peppers, trying to figure out how to conjure them into dinner. Stuffed peppers seemed like the obvious choice, but I’ve never been a fan of meat and rice slathered in pasta sauce. Then I thought, why not substitute the meat for beans and corn and change the pasta sauce into taco seasoning. Suddenly stuffed peppers sounded delicious.

They were good. And besides the yum factor, I also liked it because the kids could easily help with the preparation.

Vegetarian Southwest Style Stuffed Peppers

southwest stuffed peppers


  • four large red bell peppers
  • 2 cups cooked rice
  • 1 15oz can black beans (rinsed and drained)
  • 1 cup salsa (you choose your spice level)
  • 2 cups shredded cheese
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 1 Tbl lime juice
  • 1 Tbl chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 tsp cumin

1. Preheat the oven to 375º F.

2. Remove the stems and membranes from the peppers and cut them in half lengthwise. Place them face size up in an ungreased 9×13 inch glass dish or casserole pan, like so…


3. Set one cup of cheese off to the side. Mix the remaining ingredients together in a big bowl. (Go ahead and let the kids just dump them all in and stir!)


Note: I didn’t think the mix needed any salt or pepper, but now would be a good time to check that this is seasoned to taste.

4. Fill the peppers with the stuffing and top with the remaining cheese.


5. Cover the peppers tightly with foil (or the casserole dish lid) and bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes.

6. Once the peppers are tender, uncover the peppers and bake for an additional 10 minutes until the cheese on top is nice and bubbly.

southwest stuffed peppers1

Bell peppers really make for an excellent taco. Yum!


Jan 28

Snatching the Moon

by Hannah Holt »


Yesterday evening felt like spring. The kids and I played in the backyard until the moon came up.

Just before I called everyone inside, my son wanted me to watch him pinch the moon. I caught this picture:

It inspired me to write this…


Last night I stole the moon

and hid it in my pocket.

I found the pathway leading home

and did my best to walk it.


But night was thick about my face.

I stumbled with each try.

So I returned my pocket-moon

to light me from the sky.


Have you ever caught the moon?

Oct 25

Garage Playland

by Hannah Holt »


I live in Oregon. A light rain shower in October can last through July. With winter approaching, I wanted a go-crazy room for the kids. We have a three bedroom house and four children. Extra rooms are in short supply, so we converted part of our garage into an indoor playland. The kids love it. For about the same price as a Children’s Museum membership, I have my own museum. Actually, it’s better than a museum because I don’t have to buckle and unbuckle four car seats to get there. No clickety-click-click-click, only to find out someone left their shoes at home.

Here’s how we did it:

1. Flooring from Rubber Flooring, Inc. With free shipping, their prices can’t be beat. Also the flooring was easy to install. My four-year-old put part of it together.

2. I wanted the toddlers separated from other areas of the garage, so we corralled them with North States plastic play yard fencing. I found mine on craigslist, but you can find the original here. We secured the fencing into place with the help of few 2x4s and screws. (We didn’t make a gate, but my four year-old can climb over the fencing… and the toddlers are stuck until I get them. Bwahahaha!)

3. Then I filled the play space with items I already had on hand. I gave our FisherPrice play structure a good scrubbing and moved it inside (also originally a craigslist find). We selected some of the children’s toys to keep in the garage, and we painted colorful pictures to hang on the walls.

4. Finally we hung berry netting between our car and the play place. Trains occasionally take flight at our house. We didn’t want anything “accidentally” colliding with the car.

The rains have just begun, and it’s already been a life saver!


Jul 07

Free Fruit, Four Ways

by Hannah Holt »


Summer is blooming here in the northern hemisphere, and Oregon’s berry season is peaking. The strawberries may be gone, but thimble berries, raspberries, Marion berries, blueberries, and cherries are on. Give it a few more weeks and blackberries will make their annual appearance. This is hands down my favorite time of year!

Here are four ways to score fresh fruit without breaking the bank.

1. Go wild. You don’t need to leave civilization to find wild berries. Sometimes it’s just a matter of knowing where to look. Within one mile of my suburban Portland home, I’ve found three varieties of wild berries. When we lived in downtown Salt Lake City, a mulberry tree grew in front of our apartment building. Now the tree wasn’t wild per se, but our apartment manager regarded it as a trash tree. She hated the inky bombs it dropped every summer, and she was more than happy to let us unburden its branches. (By the way, mulberry pie is delicious!) Tip: Never eat any berry you can’t clearly identify, and know the local picking laws before you gather. Here’s a list of edible wild berries in the Pacific Northwest.

2. Be neighborly. In Colorado, we lived near an ageing widow with three apple trees. Every year, we harvested the trees for her, and in return she let us have all the apples we could carry. I had enough apples to make applesauce for the entire year. In so many ways, it pays to be neighborly.

3. Look for vacancies. Sometimes vacant houses have fruit trees. It doesn’t hurt to call the Realtor and ask if you can pick from the trees. The worst they can say is, no. We called one agent, whose owner didn’t even know the property had a cherry tree. As a thanks for letting him know about the tree, he let us pick all the cherries we wanted. Note: never glean on someone’s property without asking permission!

4. Grow your own! Planting fruit trees and vines is a long term investment. However, the pay off is worth it. Even if your yard consists of a lone balcony, some miniature fruit trees and bushes may flourish. We have two fruit trees and a grape vine in our backyard. This year, we’ll do more sharing than gleaning.

Happy hunting! There’s nothing like eating freshly canned fruits and jams. Here’s my son watching the peach bath one year. Silly kid. Doesn’t he know a watched pot never boils?

Reading recommendations for young berry pickers:

Feb 28

Egg Carton Seed Starters

by Hannah Holt »


Is it spring yet?

This time of year always makes me antsy for spring. It’s not time to start hoeing in the garden, but it might be time to start those tomato, pepper, and/or basil plants. Here’s a quick guide to starting plants indoors.

What you need to know about starting plants indoors:

  1. Only cold sensitive plants and slow growers* need to be started indoors. One year I tried starting cucumbers indoors and oh my! They grew out of their containers before I even turned around… Quick growers and hearty plants don’t need to be started indoors.
  2. You’ll need to know when the last frost is expected for your area. Start plants indoors 6-8 weeks before the last frost. Here in Denver, the last frost is usually around Memorial Day. Even then, we always seem to get a wicked late spring hail storm storm, which is why I love Walls of Water.
  3. Are you thinking about going on vacation? Seedlings need to stay medium moist. If you’re planning on leaving them unattended for more than a few days, they’ll probably die.
  4. You’ll need a warm (at least 65° F) and well lit area for your seedlings.
  5. Before moving indoor plants to the garden (or a larger pot) outside, you need to harden them. Soft indoor plants will die without hardening. Hardening helps plants adjust to the elements gradually.

What you’ll need for the seed starters

  • an egg carton, with the lid removed
  • potting soil
  • seeds

Step 1: Thoroughly mix water into your potting soil. The soil needs to be damp before you start planting.

Step 2: Scoop the damp soil into the egg carton until it is nice and level. Then using a finger, poke a small indent into the top of your soil (1/4 an inch or whatever your seed packet recommends).

Step 3: Place 3-4 seeds in each hole and cover them lightly with soil. Then place in a sunny spot and watch them grow.

Step 4: When they are an inch high or so, thin them to one plant per egg holder. When they are 2-4 inches high you’ll want to transplant them to a bigger pot or to the garden. See my link above about hardening before moving the plants outside.

Because it’s only freeeeezing February right now, I transplanted my little seedlings into large plastic cups. Here’s how…

Transplanting 1: When transplanting into a larger container, you’ll need to select one with good drainage. Using a steak knife, I punched a hole in the bottom of my plastic cups. (If you are container gardening [not just seed starting], soil composition and drainage gets a little more complicated.)

Transplanting 2: Then I filled my cups with damp soil and created a holding space for the seedlings.

Transplanting 3: I broke the seedlings out of their egg carton holders and patted them into their new homes. Look how happy they are!

Now I just need spring to arrive!

*The plants in this post are tomatoes. I usually start peppers, herbs, and tomatoes indoors.