String Beans and Caramelized Shallots

How do you know when you should be your child’s advocate? Or when their hurt is simply nothing more than a lesson from life? Do you have that conversation with that teacher? That parent? That coach? Or do you simply stand back and let life take its course. Life’s not fair. We don’t always get what we want even if we play by all the rules. Were past generations of parents wiser for knowing how to stand back? Stay removed? Don’t get involved? Or will our children be better for having us stand up for what they rightly deserve?
These questions run through my mind as I jam the hoe-like tool into our god-forsaken clay dirt. I am planting bulbs. Those shallot look-alikes that must be planted before the winter. Before the clay earth morphs into brick by the frigid temperatures. I do not enjoy planting bulbs. I loathe it. But…plant, I do. I have 150 of these “shallots” to get in the ground. Years ago, I instituted a rule for myself to prevent over-zealous bulb buying. “You may not buy any more than 25 bulbs at a time. You must plant those 25 bulbs before you buy anymore.” Does this look like 25?

And, if you do choose to have that conversation, will it be perceived as petty? Another over-involved parent? Or appreciated for what it is…communicating? Trying to come to an understanding? And, at what point do you hand over the torch and let them be their own advocate with you cheering them on? When are they old enough to do that? And, if they don’t, maybe the true desire wasn’t there for them…only you, the parent. Is it their passion? Or yours? Does my child feel slighted? Or do I?
We don’t get much of a spring here in the Pacific Northwest. Actually, we don’t get a spring at all. We go from freezing cold, gray and rainy in the winter to cold, gray and rainy in the spring. The only sign that spring has actually sprung is the myriad of daffodils that beam their cheerful, yellow trumpets along roadways. Bunched along fences. Clustered near front doors. They are the only sign of spring. And I love them for it.
How do we know how to separate what we want for our children and what they want for themselves? Different decisions we wish we would have made in our own lives, we now make for our children. What do they truly have the talent for and what is just wishful thinking? What do they truly love and what do we love them to do?
I pull out my “hoe” ready to slip in the bulb. The earth tumbles back into my newly-dug hole. Arrrrgh. I grab a trowel and try to dig faster than gravity. Is that 3 times the height of the bulb? When I glance at the pile of bulbs still waiting to be planted, I decide that this hole is good enough. The bulb has been planted. We’ll see what happens come spring.


Maybe we can never know the right answer. Maybe we make the best decisions that we can and that’s good enough. And, then, we wait…and see what happens.
The sky is beginning to darken. I grab a whiff of a neighbor’s dinner floating by in the air. My stomach growls. I gather my tools and my basket of bulbs. No time left today. I leave them in the garage and head inside to chop up some actual shallots for our dinner.


String Beans and Caramelized Shallots
Course: Side Dish, Vegetable
Serves: Enough for a family of 5
This time of year, I serve these string beans on a weeknight with roasted chicken I pick up at the grocery store and boiled fingerling potatoes tossed with olive oil, apple cider vinegar, salt, and pepper. Like French fries, it's always good to toss an extra pinch of salt on the beans right before serving.
  • 1 lb haricots verts (string green beans), stems removed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 large shallots, chopped (approx 1 cup)
  • ½ tsp Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  1. Blanch the string beans in a large pot of boiling water 1-2 minutes (3-4 minutes if your beans are fairly thick) Drain immediately and spray them with cold water to stop them from cooking any further.
  2. Heat the oil and butter in a large sauté pan and sauté the shallots on medium heat for 10-15 minutes, tossing occasionally, until translucent and golden. If your shallots seem to be browning too quickly, turn your heat down a bit.
  3. When the shallots are done, add your drained green beans to the pan, along with the salt and pepper. Heat only until the beans are hot.
Don't even bother with forks and knives. Eat these with your fingers!


  1. Mrs. Ditter says:

    Carrie, truly awesome writing today, about a place where so many of us have been. By the way, girl, sounds as if you need a yard or so of organic compost to dump on your dirt. Couple years of doing that every fall or spring (fall is optimal) and your clay dirt will be more like real dirt. xo

  2. Mrs. Ditter, Thank you my friend for the thumbs up as well as advice direct from the "reluctant gardener." Much appreciated…..

  3. Elizabeth says:

    I love this recipe so much! I love the shallots with the green beans combo. Delicious!

  4. Angie Muresan says:

    Carrie that recipe has me salivating! I think I'll make it tomorrow with the roasted chicken and the boiled fingerling potatoes. Let you know how it turns out!


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