November 24, 2010


I love fall and the harvest that comes with it, though, and this year I'm really looking forward to the Thanksgiving. It's not my favorite holiday, but I really do have so much to be thankful for!

To put me in the mood, I tried Kale and Olive Oil Mashed Potatoes from We used fresh chives as a topper instead of the scallions and shallots. I'm not sure it needed a topper, though! The potatoes were so good with the hint of kale and garlic. We didn't drizzle the extra olive oil on top, either, because I like the pure potato taste and they just didn't need all that.

This brings me to my next new love: cranberries. The whole berries are SO much better than the dried. The plump tartness just bursts in your mouth. First I tried Upside-down Cranberry Cake from  I used cinnamon (my favorite!), nutmeg, and almond extract as the flavorings and cut back on the amount of butter some. If I made it again, I'd add about another cup of cranberries. Even without that, though, this cake is perfection. 

That cake put me in the mood for another one. I asked my husband if he wanted chocolate stack loaf or Cranberry-Apple Coffee Cake. The man who LOVES chocolate chose the cranberries. It must be fall! This cake had a subtle lemon flavor, which complimented the cranberries well. I did like the other cake better, mostly because it had a stronger cranberry taste.

Cranberies, I'm very thankful for you!

November 16, 2010

A new favorite!

I have a new favorite snack! It's healthy, low in fat & sugar, and full of cranberry antioxidants.

1 cup Stonyfield Farms Organic Plain Low Fat Yogurt
1/4 cup organic dried cranberries (I love the Trader Joe's ones but sadly I always run out before I can make the long trip back!)
1 tsp. agave nectar

November 2, 2010

Nature + Food

We went to the cabin last week for a few days of nature and relaxing.

There are three things I really love about going to the cabin.

1. Going for walks in the woods. It's so refreshing to walk in the woods instead of on sidewalks through town! I love seeing all of the trees and views, hearing the leaves crunching under my feet, and smelling the fresh air and nature.

2. Being with family. We get cell phone reception, but mostly being up there is isolated. I love spending the evenings ttalking, playing games around the table and reading by the woodstove.

3. The food. Every meal is pre-planned and we can take our time making everything. This time, everything we had was delicious! Mom and Dad made roasted tomato sauce with cheese tortellinis the first night, followed by Mom's fantastic apple pie.

For breakfast I made Spiced Apple-Pecan Oatmeal. I used apple cider instead of the juice and only 2 cups of milk. Once it was done cooking on the stovetop, I put it in a 9x9 pan in the oven for about 20 minutes. It would have been fine without that, but I like the crispier top that baked oatmeal gets. Plus I had the oven going to make Deep Dark Chocolate Biscotti, which is such a deceiving name for what it was. It's actually a whole wheat biscotti with almonds and chocolate chunks. It was good, but I would've liked if it had a chocolate base, too. Next time, I suppose!

For dinner we had Wild Rice, Butternut Squash and Cannellini Stew, which is also a deceving title. Especially since I used pumpkin instead of butternut squash. I just have so much of it! The soup only called for 1 pound, so I pureed the rest to use for other goodies (more on those later - my posts are starting to have a common theme...). I cooked my wild rice in some spices to add flavor to the soup. And used small portobello mushrooms in place of the dried and button ones. And used about 4 times the amount of swiss chard it called for.  And more broth because I added so much extra of everything. So instead of serving 6 it served 4 people for 2 meals each. See below for all those details rolled into nice recipe format. To go with the soup we had Soaked Whole Wheat Ciabatta-Like Bread. Time-consuming but excellent!!

This is the pumpkin I used. Isn't it pretty?

Wild Rice, Pumpkin and Cannellini Soup
adapted from Sunset Magazine

Time: 1 hour
Serves 8

1 medium onion, chopped
8 ounces small portobello mushrooms, rinsed and sliced
1  tablespoon  olive oil
1/2  teaspoon  freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2  teaspoons  dried thyme
5  cups  reduced-sodium vegetable broth or chicken broth
2  cups wild rice, cooked in spices of your choice
1 1/2 pounds peeled cubed pumpkin
1 can (15 oz.) cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 tsp. salt
1 pound  Swiss chard, rinsed and chopped

1. Cook rice according to directions on package. Add spices to cooking water to give rice flavor. Set aside.
2. In a large pot over medium-high heat, saute onion and mushrooms with oil, pepper, and thyme, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, 8 to 10 minutes.
3. Add broth, rice, pumpkin, beans, and salt to pan. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat and simmer until pumpkin is tender when pierced, 8 to 10 minutes.
4. Add chard to stew and cook until stems are tender, 10 minutes. If there is not enough broth, add more to your liking.

October 11, 2010

The Sunshine of My Life

This weather is too beautiful. Almost unbelievably so. Thank you, God!

I love it when the laundry dries in a few short hours out on the washline.

I love having the windows open and the fresh air blowing into my house.

I love being off work on the same day as my husband. And then going about our household tasks knowing that we're just a quick shout apart.

I love the excitement of preparing for a fun trip and all the scurrying around that comes in the days before leaving.

October 7, 2010

A beautiful day!

Preview of the beautiful paint job my hubby is doing to our house!

I was off of Tuesday so I spent most of the day in one of my favorite places, my kitchen. I'm prepping for my trip next week, trying to make sure Walter has enough to eat while I'm gone. Not that he would starve if left to his own devices, I just like to take care of him.

For lunch, I made Curried Cauliflower Soup. I had a recipe but didn't have everything it called for (as usual!). We ate some, put some in the fridge, and I froze 2 containers worth. Six cups of cauliflower and I still have 2/3 of the head left. Those things are amazing.  I tried to have homemade crackers (with wheat flour, not spelt, only because sadly I had no spelt) done to go with it, but he came home for lunch a little sooner than they could bake.

I cut up 2 baby canteloupes we got at the farm market on Saturday. They were really cute. We also had a mango that just wasn't ripening. Solution: I pureed it and froze it into nice little heart shaped ice cubes. Who knows what I'll use them for, but at least it's not wasted!

Next up was bread and cookies. Wheat Bread & Peanut Butter-Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies to be exact. There's something wonderful about watching and smelling yeast as you're prepping the bread. Mmmm... I used whole, cooked wheat berries instead of cracked ones for the bread so they were spotted throughout, like nuts or something. The cookies were a little more work than I expected because the recipe calls for you to melt the butter in a pan until brown and bubbling. <Sidenote: I remember as a little kid we'd make browned butter for on popcorn at my grandparents. It makes the popcorn DELICIOUS. If you haven't tried it, do. But that's the first and only time I'll promote butter.>  I almost skipped that step, but remembered how good the brown butter was on the popcorn so I thought it might be worth it. It wasn't. The cookies are full of peanut butter flavor and deliciousness, though!

We had my mom over for dinner. She was going to have to eat alone because Dad had a dinner meeting, so we saved her from that tragedy. Broccoli, twice baked potatoes, fresh bread with baked tomatoes, and a huge salad were dinner. I still have all these tomatoes laying around, with more still ripening on the vines!

And for dessert - Almond Pear Tart. With much less sugar than it called for. I used non-hydogenated shortening for the crust and no butter in the filling. I also skipped the glaze. It was delicious without it!

Why can't every day be like Tuesday?

September 29, 2010

Mystery Solved! It's Pumpkin!

The last time we emptied our compost bin (about 1 1/2 months ago), there were lots of little seedlings growing inside. They were so cute and my curiousity took hold, so we planted them in a pot to see what they were. Lots of seeds end up in the compost and these little guys were so small it was tough to tell. My hope was for canteloupe. One seedling flourished, so we planted it in the empty spot of the garden where we had just harvested the potatoes. Mystery plant started to grow bigger. And bigger. And then on to HUGE.

 The plant is longer than both our gardens combined.

This pumpkin solved the mystery of what kind of plant it was.

It has taken over the world.

This pumpkin got too big for the slot it decided to grow in. I moved it and it just keeps getting bigger!

See the battle scars the poor thing got from fighting with the wood frame?

I still had pumpkin puree leftover from last year in the freezer. Last year, I bought 1 pumpkin, baked it, pureed it and froze it in 2 cup portions. Read that again: 1 pumpkin. And I still had a bag now, when the new pumpkin plant (grown out of the seeds from that 1 pumpkin) is promising many many pumpkins. So I made cookies and experimented with a pumpkin spice latte. It was ok but the pumpkin sort of sunk to the bottom. I wonder how Starbucks and the Cocoa Beanery do it? Probably fake pumpkin flavoring. Argh. According to this copycat recipe, they use pumpkin spice syrup.

Pumpkin Spiced Latte
adapted from TipHero
Makes 1 drink. (I think their recipe was to make 2 but I only wanted 1.)

1 c Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Breeze milk
1/2 c very strong coffee
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp maple syrup
1 tsp cinnamon
1 T (heaping) pumpkin puree

Mix together in a small pot over medium heat until it starts to steam. Pour into a big mug and savor the delicious smell.

I would recommend putting the milk and pumpkin into a blender and pureeing it extra fine so that your pumpkin doesn't end up in the bottom of the mug when you're done drinking. I think mine just wasn't pureed quite enough. This may not be an issue if you're using the canned kind.

September 27, 2010

Yesterday was a catch-all day around the house. All those odds and ends that kept nagging at me are finally done!

One of my big projects was to pick all but the very smallest leaves from the swiss chard plant and freeze the harvest so that we'll have greens during the winter. My loving husband provided a noisy soundtrack during this process: he was using the belt sander on the front window frames.

Step 1: Try to control the chard after picking it.

Step 2: Wash the swiss chard.

Step 3: Pull off the stems and tough parts and rip the leaves into pieces.

Step 4: Fill the bowl with leaves, cover and microwave to wilt the leaves.

Step 5: Drain the excess liquid and let the chard cool. Then package up to freeze.

All that for 3 16 oz. containers of frozen chard. Crazy.

September 23, 2010


Last night I felt pretty under the weather. But I still made dinner because my parents came home from vacation and were coming over for dinner! It was worth the effort. Something about a relaxing dinner out on the patio has healing powers.

We had Mixed Vegetable soup from Food and Wine magazine, but I had to make some serious adjustments. I took the option of using wheat berries instead of farro.  Then we tasted it when it was super bland. I ended up adding 2 tsp. of  Italian seasoning and 1 tsp. of garlic powder. I would saute garlic with the onions and celery if I made it again. Which I probably will. I also did not have any tomato paste so I cut up a tomato and then used that and 2 T of tomato sauce. And then we ate it with wine, just like the magazine title. Dad and Walter made the wine and they did an excellent job. Saturday is the next wine making day because the new grapes arrive either today or tomorrow!

September 22, 2010

Things I Appreciate

1. Sunshine
2. A good book
3. Nature, especially the woods
4. Ponytails
5. Real letters showing up in the mailbox
6. Sitting down after a long day on my feet
7. Chocolate ice cream. Or peanut butter.
8. Or the combination of the two, on a cone!
9. The crisp air of fall
10. My loving husband
11. Meeting up with an old friend and picking up right where we left off
12. Breakfast, especially oatmeal
13. Feeling refreshed after a long roller blade or yoga time
14. A big glass of water
15. Seeing my garden grow
16. An evening around home with my bup
17. Farm markets
18. The smell of baking throughout the house

September 21, 2010


Fall weekends are my favorite. Especially because the concept of having a weekend off is not really part of my world. I just don't have them. We spent this past weekend in a whirlwind of activities.

Friday night:

We went for our usual walk for ice cream and it was a little disappointing. I always get the same thing. Peanut butter soft serve on a cone. Only this time it was super thick and not as pb-ish. Better luck next time, I guess! I did make a yummy Unfussy Apple Cake from 101 Cookbooks and almost gave myself frostbite. I used some apples that we had frozen and cutting them was cold. We didn't do double desserts, I made is as a breakfast bread. Yes, I know I'm only kidding myself. But it's no worse for us than most breakfast breads. It's much better than donuts and almost gone!


Habitat for Humanity had a work day and we went to help out along with 2 other people from our church. It was a chilly morning so I ended up with paint on my zip-up shirt, but it was otherwise successful, if a bit unorganized.

In the evening we went on a murder mystery dinner cruise on the Pride of the Susquehanna. We got there early so we took a walk across the pedestrian bridge. It was a gorgeous evening and the views were amazing. There was a little mixup with my dinner but I ended up with plenty of food!

Two salads, red-skin mashed potatoes, possible the best cooked carrots I ever had, and Death by Chocolate Cake for dessert. It was massive.


The usual church routine...Walter got Dumbo the elephant in the mascot exchange. What a lucky man! He was loaded down with Coke and Hershey bars, so we may have to take him to the dentist this week.
We went for a short walk and got some chewed up cantaloupes out of my parents' garden. After I shooed off the bugs and cut out the nasty parts, they were delicious and juicy.

I spent most of the afternoon baking bread and chocolate chip cookies and making fresh tomato sauce. Everything went so smoothly, something was bound to go wrong. I was adding the garlic to the sauce pot to saute before adding the tomatoes and then I dropped the garlic. I buy the jars of minced garlic. It's one of my kitchen weaknesses. Sometimes I do use the real cloves but most it just annoys me to chop them. So if it's non-essential to use fresh, I use the jarred kind. Shameful. Anyway...the whole jar just slipped right out of my hand and exploded, covering the floor, the wall, the door, the doormat, the counter. All surfaces. But my tomatoes were boiling so that I could peel them and I couldn't stop to clean up. So there it sat, stinking up the kitchen for over an hour. Mmmm...  The sauce was delicious, though! 

Fresh Tomato Sauce
from Mom, with slight variations
3 pounds tomatoes or as many tomatoes as you have (some of mine were partially green but I added those parts, too)
4 cloves minced garlic
1 T olive oil
1 tsp. salt (or to taste)
1-2 T Italian seasoning
brown sugar to taste (I used 2 tsp.)

Boil the whole tomatoes briefly and dunk in ice cold water. Peel and dice cooled tomatoes. Meanwhile, heat olive oil and add garlic. Stir occasionally, cooking about 2 minutes. Add tomatoes as you finish chopping. Cook at a low boil until sauce begins to thicken, about 2 hours. Add salt and seasonings. Simmer until it has reached a thick consistency. If you prefer runnier sauce, cook a shorter amount of time. Taste sauce and if it is slightly bitter, add brown sugar as needed. Serve with pasta!

September 16, 2010

I'm a Banana

Here's how we spent our anniversary:
Chiquita Banana
Okay, we didn't actually have the luxury of going to the Chiquita plantation. We just went to the York Fair. But they had free smoothie samples and wanted to take our picture! I had a back to childhood moment as well when we came across the Sunset Ice Cream stand. They're based in Williamsport and when I was a kid we'd stop at their roadside stand. It was seriously in the middle of nowhere, just this wooden stand along a back country road. But that ice cream was so delicious. I didn't know they still existed, but they do. And the ice cream is still delicious.

Yesterday morning when I got to work there was a slice of lime sitting beside my mouse. I looked closer, and someone was nice enough to leave me their entire gin and tonic, complete with straw but missing the glass. Whoops. Luckily none of it got onto the actual computer. It was just sticky and wet everywhere.

I came upon this Giving through Growing website. They'll donate $1 for each e-seed anyone sends! Go send some!

September 15, 2010

Happiness in Sunshine

Yesterday was one of those days when I left work and knew it was going to be a great evening.  The sun was shining, it was the perfect temperature, and despite the list of things I had to do, I was happy to have an evening at home.

Plus I didn't run into traffic on the way home, I tried a new street (construction is done and it inspired me!!!) to see if it was quicker, and when I got home there was a Netflix (Alias Season 4 Premiere! Woo!) AND a ValPak coupon set in my mailbox. Ahhhh...

1. Roller blade.  I had a mission: explore a new development in town and create a new 35-40 minute route for myself. I have 3 usual routes and I'm getting tired of them. It was the perfect roller blading temperature and I passed some friendly people along the way.

2. Laundry. Okay, so I let it build up just a little... But now it's blowing in the breeze out on the line, loving the fall air just as much as I do.  See what I mean about the beautiful day?

3. Change sheets. Clean bathroom. On a day like yesterday, these didn't even sound like chores! Look at the beautiful handiwork on the quilt. My mom made it for me. It's actually for a twin size bed but she's still working on the one for this bed, so we make do. I think the new one would've been done by now but I picked a super hard quilting pattern. Mom and Mommom have been slaving away for months now.

4. Make soup. Summer Squash and Corn Soup to be exact. Walter helped chop the veggies because halfway through the first onion I was in tears. They were ones we grew this year and very pungent! I'll admit, my soup doesn't look as good as the one from the recipe, but I didn't have the green onions to put on top. I made a few adjustments to the recipe, using regular onions and a little extra squash. I also added a hot pepper that cooked with the onions. It didn't add a lot of heat, though, because the soup has milk in it.

5. Try roasting a red pepper and making hummus. I was reading Summer Harms blog and found the recipe for Roasted Red Pepper Hummus. I actually used this one as my guide because I had tahini, but didn't use that much olive oil and didn't use the sriracha because I didn't have any. We sampled a few fingerfuls along the way and added more honey and salt.  It was delicious on sourdough bread but then we ran out and had to use Organic Blue Chips. They were good, too. 

6. Eat dinner outside! With a great big fresh salad! And beer!

6. Baked apples. Yum! Yes, it looks like mush in a bowl. My apples stayed in the oven a little too long. I'd plead not guilty but it really was my fault. They were still delicious! I stuffed them with a mixture of lemon juice, brown sugar, oats, cinnamon, nutmeg, ground cloves, and dried cranberries. Walter just had to have vanilla frozen yogurt with them. Actually, he wanted ice cream but I didn't have any vanilla.

7. Relax with my dessert, Alias, a purple afghan, and my Bup. I love fall.

September 14, 2010


I have to admit, I started this blog simply because I wanted to try it out. I love reading other people's blogs and always feel like I learn something. They also motivate me! So many accomplishments, so much time spent to do things that can seem intimidating. But somehow when someone writes about what they did, it's inspiring!

Hopefully I can share the many things I learn as I go along. My passions are mainly for the many aspects of food: nutrition, gardening, health, cooking, baking, eating...  But I'm also passionate about taking care of the earth and my future children. Usually, the two are intertwined.

Grocery shopping is a great example! Now, I LOVE grocery shopping. I'm not one of those people that goes in and out like it's a chore. I need plenty of time. Something might catch my eye! I can stand there looking at the pasta, trying to decide: which is the best deal?, should I use a coupon?, get a different kind?, which is the best for my  health?, is the organic worth it? All that without buying a single box. I just like to look and learn. It drives my husband crazy. (Added bonus? Perhaps!)

Usually my decisions end up being made based on the price, on whether I can get it in organic, on whether it has high fructose corn syrup in the ingredient list (like BBQ sauce), and on packaging.

All this, just because I found a great company, Blue Avocado, that promotes and sells using your own bags when you shop. I love their bags! For now, though, I'll have to keep using my freebies. They all work the same, I suppose. My local grocery store gives 3 cents back for each bag we bring to use! I'd do it anyway, but I love the incentive. I wish more places did that! Like Aldi, where they charge you just to use a bag at all. Very smart, even if they don't do it primarily to be eco-friendly.

September 13, 2010

Veg Onward

I came across an excellent article this morning entitled "Low Carb Diet Rich in Animal Fat and Protein Increases Risk of Death" .

For all of you out there who shun carbs, stop! This article is just another example of how we should be eating more plant based foods and less animal products. Okay, so I'm talking about whole grain carbs, not just any old carbs. Interestingly enough, carbs are plant based. Here is a listing of 15 grains that we should eat more of. Guess what! Wheat berries are on the list!

Did you know that animal products are the main source of cholesterol in our diets? Plants contain virtually no cholesterol. Our bodies produce enough cholesterol on their own, so we don't really need to get it from food. If you're truly interested in the science behind it, go here.

I am by no means a strict vegetarian. In fact, I'm probably that person that vegetarians hate because I'm mostly vegetarian, but I'll eat seafood. And sometimes meat, like on Thanksgiving. I don't eat this way for one specific reason, but for a variety of reasons.

Reason #1:
I've never been a big meat eater. So when I found out through a variety of sources that there are multiple reasons to eliminate meat from our diets, it didn't take much to convince me. I recommend both of these books if you want some follow-up reading. The Omnivore's Dilemma takes some time to really get into, but it's worth it. Michaol Pollan gives excellent examples that really opened my eyes. Skinny Bitch is a lighter read, but they are very vocal with their beliefs, so read it with an open mind.

Reason #2:
I like happy cows. I don't like thinking about my meat being processed, contaminated, dirtied, recalled, or anything of the sort. And I don't want to consider how the animals were treated before they were killed. It's not that I have a problem with eating animals. I have a problem with the animals not being raised in the way God intended.

Reason #3:
My health. I feel better eating a vegetable based diet. It's easy to get the proper amount of protein, which is the main concern of most people. The list of vegetables is quite lengthy. And delicious!

I also found a cool website that lets you search foods by the nutritional needs that you have. It searches for foods by highest and lowest in each nutrient. Very useful if you find you're deficient in something.

September 10, 2010

Childhood Cheese

When I was a kid, grilled cheese sandwiches were always the fall back meal for when Mom and Dad were eating a super spicy meal (this happened often since they are spicy food lovers). I learned quickly that I should make my own because Mom always burned them. I had them on whole wheat bread with Swiss cheese. No substitutions, please. When I met my husband and discovered he hadn't had one of these, I had to introduce it to him. He's a grilled cheese lover now, too.

For awhile, I was so caught up in fancy recipes that the grilled cheese sandwich went to the wayside. But every time I have one, I can't believe I forgot about them. There's something so right about biting into toasty bread oozing with melted cheese. Simple but perfect.

I've graduated to "grown-up" grilled cheese with the addition of other varieties of cheese, tomatoes, swiss chard, spinach, onions, mustards, and other delicious goodies. The whole wheat bread is still a staple, although sometimes I do mix it up and use sourdough. Last night I made a revolutionary advancement in the world of grilled cheese. I guess it doesn't take a normal, sane person 2 hours to make 2 sandwiches, but it was worth every minute. I found a recipe for a pasta with roasted tomatoes that I wanted to try, but we'd just had pasta the day before, so I thought I'd make the roasted tomatoes as a side dish.

After slicing, squeezing out the seeds, and mixing with olive oil, oregano and garlic powder, I laid the tomatoes on a baking sheet and put them in oven. After 30 minutes, I was supposed to flip them over. Each individual little tomato half. That looked like a daunting task and they were still a little juicy for that, so I just moved them around a little so they wouldn't stick. Mmmm...they smelled SO good. I threw two ears of corn on the pan with the tomatoes to roast and hopefully soak up some of the flavors coming from the tomatoes. The result: slightly charred, wonderfully chewy tomatoes. It was like eating tomato candies, they were that good. Lucky for my husband, I moved them out to the dining room. Otherwise, he would have missed out.

Roasted Tomato Grilled Cheese
Yield: 2 sandwiches

4 slices sourdough bread
1 tsp. butter, softened
Dijon mustard
4 slices Swiss cheese (the hubby) 
4 slices Garlic Cheddar cheese (me) 
Roasted tomatoes

Place a flat, nonstick pan on the stove and turn the burner on medium. Very lightly butter one side of each slice of bread. Spread dijon mustard on the opposite side of two slices of bread. Place butter side down on pan. Lay cheese slices on top of the mustard, then add roasted tomatoes. Top with other slice of bread. Keep burner on low and do not leave the sandwiches unattended. Flip after the bottom is lightly browned. If you find they are browning too quickly, turn the burner down. The key is to melt the cheese without burning the bread! (This is where I ran into problems as a child, when Mom burnt the bread and the cheese didn't get a chance to melt. Sorry Mom, I know you were busy but I have to mention this because it was tragic. And no, scraping off the burnt part does not completely erase that burnt flavor.)

Note: Our local farm market has a cheese stand (Country Sunrise Creamery) where they sell this delicious garlic cheddar cheese. Here's where I would usually start talking about buying local and eating foods that aren't covered in pesticides but I'll spare you this time.

Roasted Tomatoes

1 lb. yellow plum tomatoes, sliced in half and seeded
1 T olive oil
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. garlic powder

Preheat oven to 375°. Cut tomatoes in half, squeezing out excess seeds. Mix with remaining ingredients. Lay tomatoes, cut side down, on baking pan and drizzle any remaining mixture over tomatoes. Roast for 30 minutes and then flip. If you're planning to roast corn on the cob, now's the time to add it. Roast for another 30-40 minutes, turning corn once or twice.

September 8, 2010

For the Love of Whole Grains

It was almost a year ago when I discovered wheat berries. They are the entire wheat kernel, that tiny piece of grain that gets dissected to make many kinds of flour, wheat germ, wheat bran, and so much more. So you process the kernel to make an ingredient that you must then mix with other things until you finally have a loaf of bread. Or cake, if you prefer. But wheat berries are like eating a loaf of bread from a spoon. They are nutty and chewy and delicious.  

They do require some cooking before they are edible. Before that, straight from the bag, they look like seeds. After cooking them, I usually just put them in an airtight container in the fridge. They can be frozen, too, if you're not sure you'll eat them fast enough. If you add them to oatmeal, they keep it from getting mushy. My favorite use of them is in Creamy Wheat Berry Hot Cereal from Eating Well. But they're great in soups, in salads, and with your salmon. Even my husband will eat them in the hot cereal and he won't eat oatmeal by itself.

Which brings me to my second favorite whole grain: oatmeal. I used to refuse to eat it because when you cook it for breakfast it gets so gooey and soft. Then I discovered baked oatmeal. Now when I make it for breakfast, I just put in a little less liquid so it doesn't get soupy and then add cinnamon and ground flax seed. It's the best with fresh peaches on top! I also found a recipe for healthy cookies that used oatmeal as the main ingredient. They're almost like granola bars but they don't stick together quite as well. 

I was inspired by a book I found at the library, Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day.  I've baked a couple of the recipes, including the 100% Whole Wheat and Flaxseed Bread. We tried it with kalamata olive tapenade, fresh bruschetta (made from those countless tomatoes my garden is producing!), peanut butter and King Syrup (one of the very, very few foods made from high fructose corn syrup that are allowed in my house). I just can't imagine putting any of those on a squishy slice of white bread. 

I spent my childhood eating pasta at least two times a week. So when I heard all the hype about how carbohydrates are so bad for people, I just didn't believe it. Turns out carbs don't make people fat, just the awful carb-loaded foods they're eating do. There are too many delicious whole grains to waste time eating that junk. Besides, the browner your bread is, the closer it gets to the color of chocolate!

Oatmeal for Breakfast
1/3 cup old-fashioned oats
1/3 cup milk (my favorite is Almond Breeze Unsweetened Vanilla
1/3 cup cooked wheat berries
1 tsp. ground cinnamon (sometimes I use more due to my love of this spice)
1 tsp. ground flax seed
Fresh fruit or dried cranberries 

Pour oats and milk into a microwaveable bowl. Microwave for 2 minutes. Add wheat berries, cinnamon and flax seed and stir together. (I usually just sprinkle the cinnamon from a shaker and put a spoonful of flax on top; no need to be precise in the measurements there.) Add fruit topper.

If you like your oatmeal sweeter than I do, then you might need to add a bit of sugar.

Note: The best fruit topper I've found so far is a fresh peach. Bananas have a very similar texture to the oats, so I think they make it too mushy. Apples are good, but don't add the juice flavor like peaches do. Blueberries are also delicious on top, either by themselves or in combination with any other fruit.

September 6, 2010

Tomato chaos

Somehow when planting 6 tomato plants I did not think I was going to have so many tomatoes. My garden went crazy this summer, and the tomatoes are no exception!

This plentiful supply of green tomatoes came about because the plants were so out of control that we had to take action. I went out to pick them and couldn't even get to the middle of the plants. They had spread across the lawn and the grass was growing up through and around the tomatoes. My husband came to the rescue (as usual) to help me contain the mess, but we ended up knocking off a lot of unripened tomatoes in the process.

I researched recipes for these green tomatoes, determined not to be eating Fried Green Tomatoes every night for the next two weeks. There were some tasty looking ones, like Green Tomato BBQ Sauce, Green Tomato Pizza, and Green Tomato Salsa. And then there were some strange ones, like Green Tomato Bread and Green Tomato and Raspberry Cobbler, both of which might be good but it's hard to get past the idea of those combinations.

My grandma (who lives on a farm and grows all kinds of everything) saved me from all of this by suggesting that if I lay them out down in the basement, they'll ripen slowly. That was worth trying just because it seems so bizarre. It doesn't make much sense that in the dark and cool basement they would just magically change colors. We're talking about rock hard, pure green tomatoes here. A week later I was down getting an onion and guess what! There were 4 red tomatoes sitting there. Just goes to show that farmers know their stuff.

Next step was learning to can. For every one of those hard green tomatoes I had at least 3 ripe ones.

The first batch went toward a fresh tomato sauce, netting 1 excellent pasta dinner and 4 containers to freeze.

Mom helped with the second batch I learned to can, and we got 8 pints of diced tomatoes and 4 pints of juice. I swore as a child that I was never going to can. I'd watch my mom slaving away over the stove, tomato juice dripping everywhere and just knew that there was no reason for someone to be doing that. Now, confronted with all of these beautiful tomatoes, there's no other option. I can't let them rot! And there's no way I'm going to be able to eat all them all right now. Plus the homegrown, vine-ripened type are the very best.  Oh, and we threw in 4 pints of peaches while we were at it.

The third batch got turned into sauce. Sadly, after over an hour of prep (20 minutes of cooking, time to strain out the seeds and skins, and cooking down the sauce,) we made only 4 pints of sauce out of 4 baskets of tomatoes... There's really no justice in that.  

It won't be long before there's a fourth batch, with no end in sight.

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