Seeds of Hope: Garden with Future Gatherings in Mind

Leslie Mackie finds a measure of tranquility in these uncertain times by planting her garden with visions of friends feasting at her table.

Planning my next garden begins almost as soon as I’m pulling the last of the late fall produce. What would I like more of? Are there new vegetables to introduce? More dahlias? As I’m ordering seeds, I imagine the dinner parties my garden will help supply. What I never imagined in all the planning is that I’d be planting the seeds in a time of such uncertainty and fear, at a time when I can’t even invite friends over.

From the age of 22, I have always tended some type of garden. It started with multiple herb pots on window ledges. Eventually, I graduated to amending soil along parking strips, eking the most out any sunny area, often removing grass or overgrown scrubs to create a garden bed. No matter how small the garden, it’s always given me a sense of security. I’ve also found, that amid all the busyness and stress of starting and operating a busy bakery, gardening forced me to slow down. Even if only for part of an hour, the time in the garden steadied me with its stillness.

This year, with all the swirling anxiety, I need that stillness more than ever. With my hands in the dirt—planting seeds, weeding, or harvesting—I’m literally connected to the earth. It takes my overstimulated mind away from the media and gives me a reprieve from wanting to solve all the world’s problems. While I garden I dream of dinner parties I don’t yet know I’ll be able to have, but it helps to think of my friends gathered on a summer evening on my garden patio. Hopefully, it will happen.

One of the first crops I always get in is my sugar snap peas. Then I lay out the summer mix. I don’t rush to get everything in—even now that I live on six acres on Vashon and have had to start thinking more like a farmer than an urban gardener. Pacing things and considering what I’m likely to eat in abundance, mainly so I don’t get overwhelmed by all the work. I also plant crops like lettuce and kale in stages by seeding new crops once a month to keep the supply going all summer.

To keep things manageable, I fenced off my property to concentrate most of my garden and “garden life” to just under two acres. That’s still a lot, compared to my city apartments, but I enjoy it. My dogs and chickens roam the fenced area. Bushes of berries and a grape arbor help form a kind of outdoor architecture. Roses and Dahlia’s for cutting provide beauty and a long patio for entertaining extends from my house into the garden.

I use my raised garden beds for a rotation of summer vegetables, herbs, and fruit. I intermingle flowers throughout. Not only does it add beauty to a leafy garden, but they can help provide shade to plants like arugula that will bolt in full sun. They also help with pollination, attracting those ever-important bees.

Despite all my planning, when the summer abundance arrives, I build dinners from what’s available. If I’ve planted well, I always have a steady supply of herbs and varieties of lettuce ready for picking.

To make watering more manageable, I added a simple irrigation system and a timer to help water the raised beds. On hot days, I’m often inclined to give them a bit more water, but it helps take the anxiety out of letting the garden get too dry.

When things begin to grow, it’s important to visit your gardens often. Not only does it leave me with that inner-stillness I mentioned, but it’s important to remember that the more you harvest, the more new growth you get. This goes for flowers as well.

Every year there comes a time when I wish I’d planted something differently, but I’m always grateful for what I have. More importantly, the slow, quiet work and the planning for lovely meals and gatherings, and the promise of growth and beauty fills me with hope and serenity. This year, I need that more than ever.

If you’ve got the space, even just a balcony, get a few pots going. Planting a seed in good soil and carefully tending it shows us the natural power of transformation. And when the time comes, nothing tastes better than homegrown herbs and vegetables. Your long-awaited dinner party will have a meal full of vibrant, just-picked flavor and your quiet satisfaction at the journey you and your seeds have made from a time of anxiety to one of renewal.

A Savory Soup from Seasons, Our New Cookbook

Stuck at home and wondering how to fill the time? When we have the time, we love to cook. And in times like these, our thoughts turn to comfort food. The Lentil Bacon soup from Seasons, the new Macrina Cookbook, is one of our favorites. It’s hearty and simple to prepare. Of course, we recommend serving it with a fresh baguette, which, if you don’t want to go out, can be ordered through DoorDash. (Pro tip: use code MACRINA10 for 10% off your first order during the month of March.)

Our cookbook as available at the cafés or you can order it delivered through our website.


This lentil soup is simple to prepare and provides nourishing warmth—perfect for a winter lunch or light dinner. It has layers of flavor: the smokiness of the bacon, an aromatic base of onions and carrots, and the acidity of the tomatoes. The savory lentils absorb all the flavors and thicken the soup. As it simmers, the fragrance of garlic and fresh thyme fills the kitchen. Leftovers are even better the next day.

¼ cup olive oil

1 medium onion, diced

4 Roma tomatoes, diced

2 medium carrots, diced

2 stalks celery, diced

1 medium fennel bulb, diced

4 cloves garlic, finely chopped

2 Tbsp fresh thyme, chopped

5 slices of bacon, cooked and chopped

½ cup white wine

1 cup dried lentils

6 to 8 cups chicken or vegetable stock

Salt and freshly ground pepper

In a medium soup pot or deep saucepan, combine the olive oil, onions, tomatoes, carrots, celery and fennel. Cook over medium heat with the lid partially on to steam the vegetables. Cook until the vegetables are translucent and smell sweet, about 5 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic, thyme and bacon. Cook for 3 minutes until the garlic smells sweet but is not dark or burnt. Add the white wine and reduce by half. With a wooden spoon, scrape up any caramelized bits on the bottom and stir into the mix. Add the lentils and stock. Cook for 45 minutes to 1 hour in order to concentrate and develop the flavors. Lentils should still hold their shape. Season with salt and pepper. This is delicious topped with sour cream and served with warm crusty bread.

March Recipe of the Month: Boston Cream Cupcakes

This riff on the American classic makes decadent cupcakes fit for any occasion. Its combination of buttery yellow cake, silky pastry cream and dark chocolate ganache has been popular since the first Boston Cream Pie in 1881. While making all three elements may look like a lot of work, you can make the pastry cream and ganache while the cupcakes are baking. Once everything cools, filling and frosting the cupcakes is quick and easy.

Makes 12 to 14 cupcakes


8 Tbsp unsalted butter (1 stick), room temperature

1½ cups granulated sugar

1¾ cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp salt

3½ tsp baking powder

3 eggs

1 cup + 2 Tbsp whole milk

2 Tbsp canola oil

1 Tbsp vanilla extract

Vanilla Pastry Cream

2 cups half and half

½ cup granulated sugar, divided

Pinch salt

4 egg yolks

¼ cup cornstarch

½ tsp powdered gelatin

1 Tbsp vanilla extract

2 Tbsp unsalted butter

Ganache Frosting

1½ cups whipping cream

½ cup bittersweet chocolate chips

½ cup semisweet chocolate chips



Preheat oven to 350°F. Brush the top of a 12 cup standard muffin tin lightly with oil to prevent the tops from sticking after baking. Place cupcake liners in the tin.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter for 3 to 4 minutes. It should be soft and pale in color.

While the butter is creaming, sift the sugar, flour, salt and baking powder into a medium bowl.

In a separate bowl, combine the eggs, milk, oil and vanilla.

With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture to the creamed butter in 3 additions. Stop the mixer between each addition to scrape the sides of the bowl. Mix for another minute to breakdown any remaining clumps of butter.

Keep the mixer on low speed and add the egg mixture in 3 additions. Continue to scrape the sides of the bowl between additions. Once all the egg mixture is added, increase the speed to medium and mix for another minute.

Scoop the batter into each liner until about ¾ full. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes. The cupcakes should be set on top and golden brown at the edges. Let cool for 45 minutes.

Vanilla Pastry Cream

Place the half and half and ¼ cup sugar in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil.

In a separate bowl, combine the remaining sugar, salt, egg yolks, cornstarch and gelatin.

Add small amounts of the scalded half and half to the egg yolk mixture, whisking constantly to temper the yolk mixture. When ¾ of the half and half is combined, pour the tempered mixture back into the saucepan with the remaining half and half. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly. Once the pastry cream thickens, remove it from the heat to prevent curdling. Whisk in the vanilla and butter and combine well. Strain the pastry cream into a medium bowl. Press plastic wrap against the pastry cream to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate the covered pastry cream for 45 minutes or until cool.

Ganache Frosting

In a medium saucepan, warm the whipping cream over medium heat. When it begins to boil, turn off the heat and add the chocolate chips. Whisk to dissolve the chocolate. Pour the ganache into a bowl and let cool for 30 minutes. Swirl it with a spatula occasionally for even cooling. Refrigerate the ganache for the last 10 minutes. The ganache should be smooth and spreadable.


Remove the cooled cupcakes from the muffin tin. With a spoon or a small scoop, remove a large gumball size scoop from the center of each cupcake. Fill each cupcake with cooled pastry cream. Using a spatula, generously spread chocolate ganache frosting across the tops and garnish as you please. Chocolate shavings, brandied cherries or colored sprinkles are our favorite toppings.


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