Posts Tagged ‘crunchy’

Thyme, mint, and Basil OH MY! ….. (but mostly Basil)

 

 

 

We survived hurricane Irene without a hitch. It was the first time our area had been threatened since Max was born and truth be told I was very anxious. We prepared as good as we knew how and hunkered down. I am so thankful that we had no real damage, nor did we lose electricity. We were truly blessed.

What was left of my garden fared nearly as well, the peppers are still standing and promising to give me a few more before calling it quits for the season. I had grown basil between my tomato plants and when the tomatoes were finished and removed, the basil took over. It was waist high and resembled a shrubbery rather than an herb. It did not weather the high winds quite as well as the rest of us. Upon going out and assessing the damage I found the basil laying on its side. I had meant to harvest it for some time so now was as good as any.

Have some basil....

Preserving herbs is very easy and very rewarding during those winter months when everything outside is brown and dry. The more hardy herbs (rosemary, thyme, oregano) do well tied into bunches and hung to dry. Once all the moisture is gone seal them in an airtight container and they will keep for up to a year. The more delicate herbs (basil, mint, tarragon) do best frozen. You can place whole or chopped leaves in a ice cube tray, cover with a little water and freeze. Once frozen pop out of the tray and place in freezer bag, thaw as you need.

My favorite way to preserve Basil is homemade pesto. I love being able to add that summertime freshness to meals in the dead of winter.

All the measurements are approximate. This recipe should really be adapted to you personal taste. Remember, I was working with an ungodly amount of basil, so you may have to adjust the portions according to however much you have.

Homemade Pesto

yummy

8 cups washed basil leaves, stems removed. (makes about 2 cups chopped basil)

1/2  cup pine nuts

1/2 cup Olive oil

1 1/2 cups Parmesan cheese

4  medium cloves Garlic

salt to taste

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pulse basil and olive oil in food processor until coarsely chopped.

Add Pine nuts, Parmesan, Garlic, and Salt.

Process until desired consistency.  If it seems dry, add more oil.

At this point TASTE, TASTE, TASTE. Make needed adjustments, I always end up adding more salt and cheese.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spoon into ice cube tray and freeze.  When frozen, remove and place in freezer safe bag.

Now you have homemade pesto in convenient portions that will be approximately 1 oz. each.  Ready to used to season chicken, accompany pasta, or spruce up sauces.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I bet you’re wondering what I did with all the left over basil (yes, there was left over basil). Turns out it makes a very fragrant, if not colorful centerpiece!

Thanks for reading:)

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Cuckoo for Coconut Oil

I really am, I love the stuff. If I could get away with slathering myself with it on a daily basis I would. But alas, until my financial situation improves I’ll have to stick to using it in more…. conventional ways.

Why coconut oil you ask? What makes it so great? Truth is the more I learn about it the more impressed I am with all its properties. Nutritionally, it’s made up of whats called a Medium-chain fatty acid. Yes I know I said the “F” word, I’m even going to add the “S” word too. Truth is these are actually Saturated Fats *gasp*. Now before you get all pseudo-nutritionalist on me, these are not the same fats that McDonald’s was using to expand our waistlines. The fatty acid in Coconut oil actually is proven to help kick start your metabolism, and in moderate amounts can help you work off those french fries. It is also known to increase HDL (good cholesterol) and help decrease LDL (bad cholesterol). Try getting that out of a stick of butter! It’s high in vitamin E, and is naturally anti-microbial and anti-fungal, that’s why I use it when I make Max’s baby wipes. (I have also been known to use it as a moisturizer myself from time to time)

It is solid until about 75 degrees and it’s smoking point is about 350 degrees making it great for cooking. I use it instead of butter to scramble eggs, deeelish! I don’t recommend using it in dressings or marinades due to the fact that it solidifies at relatively high temperatures. It can however, be used as substitute for butter or shortening in most baking recipes. A good rule of thumb is a 3/4 to 1 conversion although I have used a 1 to 1 conversion without any problems.

Here is a simple cookie recipe that is out of this world!

Coconut Oil Sugar Cookies

Ingredients

  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup coconut oil
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

In a small bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, and baking powder. Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together the coconut oil and sugar until smooth.

Beat in egg and vanilla.

Gradually blend in the dry ingredients.

Roll rounded teaspoonfuls of dough into balls, and place onto ungreased cookie sheets.

Bake 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven, or until golden.

Let stand on cookie sheet two minutes before removing to cool on wire racks.

When finished dust cookies with a little extra sugar.

Variation- Consider adding 1/2 tsp lemon zest to batter, or dusting with a flavored sugar like vanilla or rose.

Enjoy!

Thanks for reading:)

Momma’s Soapbox

*WARNING! STRONGLY WORDED PERSONAL OPINIONS TO FOLLOW!*

I refuse to devote an entire post to the superiority of breastfeeding over formula feeding. It’s been proven time after time by the scientific community. Every time you turn around some new study is published expounding on its benefits ranging from increased  heightened IQ, to the reduction of childhood disease. These things are not opinions of mine, they are verified scientific fact. If somehow you’ve been living under a rock and have missed all that, then feel free to google it, that’s not what this rant is about. This is about how we, as a country, continue to  over  sexualize the human body. Even some so-called supporters consider nursing something that should only be done behind closed doors. Recently a male friend compared my breastfeeding photo (from an earlier post) to the “lewd” pictures sent out by a certain congressman of his “package”. The next time I have some random jerk say that if I am allowed to nurse in public he should be allowed to whip out his junk I may explode. If you lack the mental and emotional maturity to differentiate between nourishing a child and the sexually  explicit, or worse yet between nursing and the elimination of waste then chances are you should keep your uneducated opinions unvoiced. You will only make an ass of yourself.

*rant over*

I am thankful that these people are few and far between because sadly, not all new moms have the self confidence to stand up to that kind of harassment. For these women the chiding they may receive (friendly or otherwise) may be enough to discourage them. To them I say, you are beautiful! What you are doing is beautiful! It is NOT lewd, unsanitary, or inappropriate. Those terms are more aptly applied to persons who would try to make you feel uncomfortable. It is your legal right and more than that it is filling the needs of your child at the most basic level in the most loving way possible!

Now that I have all that off my chest let just say the positive feedback I have received while nursing in public FAR outweighs any negative.  There have been times when it has flustered someone and they didn’t seem to know how to act, but a smile is generally all that is needed to set them at ease. Remember, for the most part people will follow your lead, if you act as though it’s the most normal thing in the world they will follow suit. Also, every time you nurse at the mall, in the Dr.’s office, at a park, you are making it easier for the next mother to do the same thing.

Stay beautiful ladies:)

HOT today CHILI tomorow

Wow, what happened to the summer?!? Can you believe it’s the middle of August already? With the temps reaching record highs over most of the country I’m sure there have been thirsty gardens everywhere. Between my sad tomatoes and my lettuce bolting and dying, this year has certainly been a learning experience. However, there is one member of my garden family that has produced leaps and bounds over previous years.

CHILI PEPPERS!

so many chilis so little time

Hot, sweet, bell, it didn’t matter they did wonderful! Leaving me scratching my head wondering what to do with these mounds of green and red gems. Different chilis, require different preserving methods. Some are best dried or smoked, some frozen or canned.

Lets start with old faithful Jose Jalapeno (not on a stick;).  I found a fantastic salsa recipe that is easy enough for a beginner and will last all year long.  It’s adapted from a recipe found in the Ball Blue Book of  canning.  (For those of you unfamiliar with home preserving it is important to familiarize yourself with a few techniques.  Find the basics here.)

This recipe makes about 3 pint jars, however, my three jalapeño plants produced enough peppers to double the recipe, and make it twice!

Hot Jalapeno Salsa

3 cups tomatoes peeled, seeded, and chopped

3 cups jalapeño chopped (I removed the seeds and membrane from about half of the peppers and it is still quite spicy)

1 cup chopped onions

1 1/2 Tbs minced garlic

1 cup vinegar

1 1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp oregano

1/2 tsp rosemary

2 Tbs fresh cilantro chopped

1/2 tsp cumin

WARNING! When preparing the peppers, WEAR GLOVES AND DO NOT TOUCH YOUR FACE!!!

After seeding the selected number of peppers, place them in food processor and pulse until desired size.

Note- some of my jalapeños had turned red on the vine. I don’t know if that makes them hotter or takes away some of the heat, in my opinion they add nice color to the salsa so I left them in.

Combine ingredients in large pot. Bring to a boil and let simmer for 10 minutes till all flavors are melded together.

Processing

The basic water canning necessities are a large stock pot, wide mouth funnel, magnet (on a stick;) for removing lids from boiling water, and tongs for placing and removing jars from water bath.

Fill hot jars with finished salsa. Wipe rims clean with damp cloth and assemble 2 piece lids.

Place in a “Granny bath” with one inch of water covering jars. Bring to a boil and process for 15 minutes.

Carefully remove and leave undisturbed till cool. Check lids for seal and for the tops to be concave.

They can be stored in a cool dry place for up to a year and must be refrigerated after opening:)

ENJOY!

My little Garden

Thanks to my father-in-law, who drove down from WV to help me get my plot ready, I was able to start my garden around April 25’th this year. Because it seems to have a high clay content I amended my soil with some local compost, I would have added peat and Vermiculite but at the time cost was an issue. So with fingers crossed I planted away.
This year, I made the plot a few feet wider and longer because last year sometime around mid July it went from tidy little garden to untamed jungle. My cucumbers kept trying to eat the tomatoes, I lost half a row of romaine to some savage zucchini that didn’t know when to stop growing, and don’t get me started on the wildlife!

This year was going to be different! I will not get carried away! I will stick to my garden plan! I will…….. I will…….. *sigh* I will recognize that I have absolutely no self-control. After all, the more space I have the more I can cram more into it right? Besides what’s so bad about having a bit of suburban jungle in the backyard anyways.
So this years lineup includes tomatoes, hot peppers, sweet bell peppers, banana peppers, cauliflower, radishes, yellow squash, zucchini, cucumbers, and lettuce. I do my herbs in pots so that they’re close to the house when I need to grab a handful. Of them I plant the usual suspects, basil, parsley, chives, dill, tarragon, and thyme (you can never have enough “thyme” in the garden. hehehe).
So far so good, I have only had two casualties. The romaine never sprouted and one of my tomato plants needs put out of its misery (I just don’t have the heart to do what must be done). Not to bad considering the dog dug up one of my squash plants, and I clotheslined another with the garden hose (the later is still under observation). I’ve sown some red leaf lettuce in place of the no-show romaine and have already had a small harvest of radishes. So we’ll keep our fingers crossed!

Thanks for reading:)

Eating fresh vs. the Magic Spatula

I really wanted to eat healthier, no, not diet, the “D” word is not allowed in my house. Just healthy, REAL food. However, like many I fell into a cycle of unhealthy habits. First, I loooove food, I love to cook it, I love to eat it, I love to look at pictures of it, I pretty much love everything about it. Second, my darling Hubby only eats a total of 5 vegetables, and that’s if you count potatoes and corn as veggies. That doesn’t sound so bad you say, if I love food so much I could just wave my magic spatula in the air and

*poof*

*poof* there will appear an endless supply of meal ideas consisting of a protein of some sort (meat, fish, occasionally the unfortunate chicken) and a combination of one or more of the 5 allowed vegetables. For the most part you would be right. With the Internet at my fingertips and the guts to attempt almost any dish, we ate like kings! Food was rich, swimming in butter and cream topped with cheese and washed down with gravy. Nightly dinners were bacon wrapped and smothered in béarnaise (as proven by our waistlines).

Then I got pregnant (reality check) then I lost my job (reality punch in the face). Suddenly it was super important that I eat fresh and healthy, super important that I become one with the produce aisle………… $2.50 for a single green pepper!!?!!! Holy smokes!! It seems that sometime during my years of ignorant bliss ( and disposable income) the price of food skyrocketed! Now that both of those things are gone (well, the ignorance still reappears now and again) I find myself in shock of what the cost of fresh food is. How is a family to eat healthy with out having to auction off their kidneys?

Time to get creative.

Turns out there are several options when it comes to produce that not only are better for your wallet, but also our bodies, and the planet!

Find a local Farmers Market (or road side stand if you’re in a rural area). Many urban areas will have them at least once a week, and some run daily. Find out what’s in season in your area and try to purchase those items. If vendors have had items shipped in, find out from where, and when the produce was harvested. Remember, buying local produce means it hasn’t spent days or weeks getting to you, and therefore more of its nutrients are alive when it reaches your table. The reduced travel also means less greenhouse gasses into the ozone (it’s a win-win:)

Join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). I have only recently become aware of this option and while I haven’t tried it out myself yet I can’t wait to give it a go. A CSA is a group put together by one or more farms from whom you buy a “share” of their harvest. Meaning once a week you go pick up a box of whatever produce they are growing right then, a lot of times the items were just harvested that morning! I first learned about them from this blog. Each group will vary greatly so take some time picking the right one for you and your family. Some you will pay for monthly others a lump sum for the whole season. Others have work requirements, most (in my area) do not. To find out what’s available in your neck of the woods check out localharvest.org, along with a list of participating farms they also have tips on finding one that will suit your needs.

Last Summers Garden Heart<3"

Grow your own!!!!! I LOVE this!! Before you blow this idea off as taking too much work, time, space, ect. ect. Trust me, as a former apartment tenant and someone who currently rents her home, it’s not as daunting as it appears. Many vegetables and herbs thrive in containers or small spaces with minimal upkeep. Need more motivation? Remember that green pepper that was $2.50 at the local grocery store? Well, I was able to get three plants for $1.97! Not to mention it is deeply satisfying to eat foods that you have grown yourself.

So, we’re trying to eat healthier. I still Looooove food, in fact I love it more. While Hubby still only eats 5 veggies I no longer let that stop me from preparing others for myself and the children. I am understanding food better, I don’t need to drown it in sauce to make it delicious. Its time to let the fresh flavors of meals shine on their own,  to do that you have to start with fresh ingredients. It May take a little effort but I promise it will be well worth it!
Thanks for reading:)

the 5-year-old me knew best

I was a breastfed baby, as such I thought that was how babies were fed. As a child I remember “nursing” my dolls. In my little brain it seemed obvious, babies drank their momma’s milk. When Momma kitty had a litter of kittens they drank kitty milk.  Now I’m pretty sure we are considerably more advanced than momma K. I mean we have opposable thumbs, and therefore can operate the can opener (Momma K, not so much ). Not to mention century’s of human knowledge to draw on (again Momma K only had a couple of years of chasing mice and occasionally the dogs under her belt). So while we were a lot smarter than Momma K we always knew when it came to her kittens SHE was the expert.  We would never have DREAMED of trying to replace her milk with something artificial. Why  spend time and $$$ making a product that would in the end still be inferior to what she was already supplying free of charge?

Naturally I always assumed I would breastfeed my children, it wasn’t until late in my pregnancy that I realized that it wasn’t the “normal” thing to do. It never occurred to me that there would be classes and support groups and whole sites dedicated to helping moms who are breastfeeding, let alone that I would need any of those things. But there I was with my baby in hand and I learned really quick to use whatever resources were available. I read and read and read. I absorbed any information I could get about all the amazing things my body does for my child when he nurses. And I met (most virtually) some pretty amazing people. Eventually I was able to come full circle, my 5-year-old self had it right all along, babies drink their momma’s milk. I don’t need someone with more “advanced” training trying to replace my milk with some product of their own, or telling me that I won’t be able to do what I was built to do!

My hope is that one of these days we will have the same respect for ourselves as human mothers that we naturally give to other species. The same faith in our own bodies and their ability to provide for our babies.

I recognize that breastfeeding is a personal choice, and not one that all mothers make. I also know that formula has a very important roll in the health of babies who’s mothers are unable to breastfeed for whatever reason. Only you know what is right for you and your family and I am in no way criticizing the choices of other mothers. After all we all want the same thing, for our babies to be smart, happy, healthy, and for us to not lose our minds on the way:)

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