Thursday, August 16, 2012

muffins to freeze

I already shared this muffin recipe HERE, but I'm back to talk about them again.
Have you made them yet?

This time I bought butternut squash, cut it in half and cooked it in the oven for 30 minutes. Once it cooled I measured it by the cup full into bags to freeze for later use. I've used canned squash in these muffins before and that works just fine, but I couldn't find any at the store I was at so I just did it this way.

Sunday morning I made the muffins, but instead of dried cranberries and semi-sweet chocolate, I added frozen berries. Can't go wrong there!

This recipe makes about 26 muffins which I put in the freezer and I eat as a pre-workout snack in the morning.

Most muffin recipes out there are more like cupcakes in calories and fat, but these are healthy and you can tell because each ingredient does something good for your body. That's the way I like to eat!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Guest Post: Gardening// Ellie

 I've asked a few gardeners to guest post about their experiences with gardening and what they've learned. Being interested and passionate about natural foods and self-sufficient living has me looking forward to a garden of my own someday. 

Guest: Ellie, as she says below, recently got married and moved away from me. Our other cooking girl, Brooke, got married this week. So our cooking meet ups have taken a break, but we still keep in touch and wish we were in the kitchen together. I love Ellie and she has a passion for health and eating wholesome foods. I can't believe this garden!

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With our recent marriage came relocation to a small town, and one of the first things we did upon arriving was plant a garden. We were lucky to find a landlord who would let us experiment with a large piece of their land, and experiment we did. We now have quite the jungle in our backyard.

We purchased our starts from a local nursery, our landlord (who grows her plants from seeds she harvests!) and from Home Depot. Home Depot has a great selection of Bonnie Plants, a brand of heirloom and traditional hybrid plants (non-GMO) that are sold in biodegradable pots.

What we planted:

A variety of peppers, a variety of tomatoes, zucchini, crookneck squash, butternut squash, eggplant, lettuce, broccoli, brussel sprouts, beans (bush and pole), beets, corn, carrots, strawberries, cilantro and basil.

What grew well:

Peppers (Anaheim, green, banana), zucchini (grew like a weed!), crookneck squash, corn, carrots, basil and cilantro.

Our tomatoes are growing rapidly but have yet to ripen, the butternut squash is just starting to come in and our beets and beans are growing nicely.

Advice from novice gardeners:

  • Find a local gardener who can help with pointers on what to plant and typical frost dates.
  • Make sure that your garden is protected from animals, especially deer in our case.  In the end, we put up deer netting around the entire garden.  
  • Invest in a cheap water timer for your hose.  Saves time.  Also helps to avoid accidentally leaving a sprinkler on all night.  
  • Pay attention to planting instructions on plant spacing and thin if necessary.  It hurts to pull up a healthy, growing plant, but it helps with overall plant growth and makes harvesting a much smoother process.  

  • Use Nutri-mulch (organic fertilizer locally produced here in Sanpete County).
  • NEVER plant more than one zucchini plant.
  • Freeze any excess produce, it’ll come in handy during soup season. I’ve been slicing/shredding produce and bagging it in 2 cup portions.
  • Don’t be afraid to try something new. I’m absolutely lost when it comes to cooking with tomatillos (I didn’t even know that they were a relative of the tomato), but after looking up a few recipes I’m excited to make some salsa verde.

Speaking of recipes, I’ve been experimenting with zucchini bread a bit. I’m teaching a health class and I’m on a kick where I’m trying to make unhealthy foods as healthy as possible. Call me crazy.

z bread

Healthy(ish) Zucchini Bread

1 ½ cups whole wheat flour
2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
⅛ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
⅛ teaspoon nutmeg
⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
⅓ cup honey
1 egg
½ cup applesauce
2 cups shredded zucchini


1. Preheat oven to 350°
2. Mix together dry ingredients
3. In a separate bowl whisk together honey, egg, applesauce and zucchini
4. Add dry ingredients to the wet ingredients
5. Pour batter into a greased loaf pan, spread evenly
6. Bake in a preheated oven for 35-45 minutes or until top is firm
7. Let cool, slice and enjoy!

Warning: This bread will be moist because of the moisture in the applesauce and zucchini, but it’s delicious!

 Thank you Ellie! I would love to come to your classes and learn all your healthy tips. And I can't wait to try that bread with the large zucchini on my counter.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Guest Post: Gardening// Annie

I've asked a few gardeners to guest post about their experiences with gardening and what they've learned. Being interested and passionate about natural foods and self-sufficient living has me looking forward to a garden of my own someday. 

Guest: My sister Annie lives pretty close to me so I'm lucky enough to eat her meals often. She is so good at using her garden and trying new things. I love how she excites her kids with garden fresh food and they really appreciate the taste of something straight from the backyard. 

I love my garden. So far this year zucchini and rhubarb have been very successful. But one of the things I have been reminded of this year is that one family doesn't need much more than one zucchini plant. I have way too much but we do love to share.
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This year I tried something new...and it really stinks. :) I added a lot of buffalo manure to my garden boxes besides my yearly fertilizer mix. I think it has actually worked. So far I am getting a much better crop.

To learn to garden I recommend taking a class or getting a book written by someone who gardens in your area. Your garden will be more successful if you are learning from someone who understands your soil and zone. If you are in Utah, I recommend this book by Gordon Wells. He is a successful Utah gardener with years of experience. You will learn everything from prepping soil, watering systems and how much to water, pest control and varieties of crops that do well in Utah.

This year my zucchini has been out of control. So we have honestly had zucchini in some form every single night that I have cooked. One common mistake is letting the zucchini grow too big. Just because they can become humongous, does not mean you should let it. It tastes much better if you pick them smaller. Unless you plan to shred it and then it is fine to let them get a little bigger. One of my favorite ways to eat zucchini is just sliced in long sticks (maybe 1/4 - 1/2 inch thick), toss with olive oil, kosher salt and pepper and grill. I have basket that I use but you can just lay them right on the grill. They only need a few minutes.
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Here are some links to a few of our favorite zucchini dishes.
Zucchini Fries - comes from the blog Our Best Bites. They are oven baked and easy. And we could eat a ton of them.

Lemon Herb Zucchini Fettucine (but I use whole wheat rotini)

And from Martha Stewart - Zucchini Quesadillas (I often add black beans, as well).

And we always have some zucchini bread and zucchini chocolate cake too. You really can't go wrong with zucchini. And if you have too much like I do or it grows to big, shred it and freeze it. It is great in soups, spaghetti sauce or breads in the winter.

To learn why you should eat zucchini - read this article here.
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Another thing OUT OF CONTROL but so so easy to grow - Rhubarb. And once you plant don't do anything. It just keeps coming back year after year. I got my rhubarb starts from my grandma and I will gladly pass on my starts. I like how it looks in my garden but it is even better in dessert. This week I have made rhubarb snacking cake from Smitten Kitchen and strawberry rhubarb pie. Yum. Don't be afraid of rhubarb because it looks like celery. It is delicious.
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Rhubarb Recipes we LOVE
To learn why you should eat rhubarb - read this article here.  Although while it has nutritional value, it is only used at our house as dessert so beware. :)

Thanks Annie. I want to go through and try all these recipes. They look so good. You're really good at using your garden. (and thanks for the zucchini on Sunday)

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Guest Post: Gardening// Egan

 I've asked a few gardeners to guest post about their experiences with gardening and what they've learned. Being interested and passionate about natural foods and self-sufficient living has me looking forward to a garden of my own someday. 
Guest: My sister Egan lives about 10 minutes away from me and I love making food with her especially in the summer when we can use her garden. She does such a good job and she is a testament to having a successful garden and being the busiest person I know. (traveler, busy job, social, church, and every sport you can think of)
I asked her a few questions:

how long have you been gardening?
I started my first tomato plant (I LOVE garden tomatoes!) at a house I was renting with friends in Sugarhouse 6 years ago. Now that I have my own place I have had a garden every year I have lived here. Some years I have been more ambitious with what I plant than others. 
what made you want to start a garden?
My Mom and sister, Annie-- nothing compares to homegrown vegetables and we were raised working in the yard and ate fresh and healthy food. Plus I have this awesome little area for a garden and it would be a real shame if i didn't!
what gardening tip can you share?
I always have my 'go-to' vegetables that I love-- zucchini, tomatoes, basil because they are so easy and I love to eat them.. but I also think it's good to try something new every year instead of getting overwhelmed with trying them all at once. Then you learn what you like, learn what worked etc. Read up on your area and prep your soil! This year I tried peppers, cucumbers and strawberries. So far they have been pretty awesome! I also have learned to plant what you can manage. I am busy, especially in the summer and dont have time to spend in the garden everyday... or every week (oops). But I try to plant things that aren't too needy. Also my older sister Annie also gardens and so I  just do what she tells me. :) 
what was the biggest thing you learned from gardening?
Water management! It's different for each plant and makes a huge difference.  
what advice do you have to beginning gardeners?
Start with 1-2 things you love to eat and that do well in your area. Give your plants plenty of space to grow and good soil. And I have so much to learn so I cant give much more advice here except it's worth it!

Thank you Egan! You're everything I want to be.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Guest Post: Gardening// My mom

I've asked a few gardeners to guest post about their experiences with gardening and what they've learned. Being interested and passionate about natural foods and self-sufficient living has me looking forward to a garden of my own someday.

Guest: My mom. Lives in Seattle, WA. I first blogged about my parent's beautiful garden HERE. Oooooh how I love that place.
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There are a lot of poems about gardening.  There are two I think of--and both kind of have a morbid touch to them (Robert Frost’s “A Girl’s Garden” and this one below, lyrics from the musical “A Secret Garden”).  Here is a sample: 

A bit of earth,
She wants a little bit of earth,
She'll plant some seeds.
The seeds will grow,
The flowers bloom,
Their beauty just the thing she needs.
She'll grow to love the tender roses,
Lilies fair, the iris tall.
And then in fall, her bit of earth
Will freeze and kill them all.

Gardening is like that--there are delightful and delicious rewards, but there is also the cycle of life--things get hurt, get sick, and even die.  There are things out of our most diligent control. But next thing you know it is spring and stuff starts growing again.  So, it is worth it.
mom garden 4
I grow a few flowers but I really focus on berries and vegetables--edible things.  That is because I like to eat more than I like to have a vase of flowers in my house.  I like the idea of being a bit more self-sufficient (there must be a better word) and I also like the idea of having really fresh vegetables and fruit.  I can go out in the yard at 5:30 and find something to make for dinner or breakfast from early May to mid-October.  Then I can go to my storage shelves or my freezer the rest of the year and get a bottle of tomatoes  (there is nothing canned that compares to the taste of home-bottled tomatoes) or zucchini relish, rhubarb for a crisp, or a bag of blueberries to smother my oatmeal.  It is a lot of work, but it is satisfying to me.

During my semi-Hippie days when I was 16 years old I began to long for a garden--to get back to nature. So when we bought our first home a few years later I planted a vegetable garden--that was in SLC which has great weather for gardening.  Then we moved to Seattle and gardening there is a different kind of thing altogether.  The sun is spotty,, the moss is pervasive, the slugs are ferocious eaters, and the nights are cold.  But I can usually get a really good crop of tomatoes and zucchini, some beets and carrots, early lettuce and peas, lately I’ve had great results with kale, and then there are the berries.   Berries love the Seattle climate and the acidic soil.  
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Last night I made a delicious soup from a few zucchini and 2 bunches of kale.  Instead of the vermicelli it called for I used some angel hair spinach pasta.  I only used 3 cloves of garlic instead of 4 and was judicious with the red pepper flakes--but really, the flakes are an important part of the flavor of this soup so I was glad I added some.

Some of you readers probably haven’t gardened much yet, but I hope you won’t be afraid to try.  I was a city girl and had to learn through doing.  You can to--your plants might die, but next time they’ll grow and you’ll be so excited when you pluck a tomato off your very own vine!

Thanks for the post mom! I have so much to learn from you. Every single summer I am so sad I'm not in Seattle feasting on your garden.