June 25, 2012


I have something a little different to post today. No food! No garden! Just a speech & some thoughts.

I hope you'll take time out to watch this. It's a video about the power of introverts & how the world around us is changing.

I don't think about it much, but I know I'm an introvert. Give me a day at home alone & I'm happy as can be. I can bury myself in a book for hours, not realizing how much time went by. My parents used to have trouble getting me to come to dinner & I learned the best phrase ever from them - "Come to a good stopping point." But of course I'd by-pass quite a few before actually stopping...cause really, the only good stopping point is the end.

Hope you enjoy the wise words spoken in the video. Leave any thoughts in the comments - I'd love to hear if you're an introvert or extrovert!

June 22, 2012

Easy Baked Oatmeal

This one's for all of the oatmeal haters out there. 

It's simple to make & has the same ingredients as regular oatmeal cooked on the stovetop, but isn't runny, goopy, or anything else that usually causes people to dislike oatmeal. The consistancy is more like an oat muffin, though a little chewier & less light.

I've come to this recipe by reading a lot of baked oatmeal recipes & by listening to the Bup's responses every time we eat oatmeal. He can't stand the runny kind. I do make stovetop oats, but they always take him a long time to eat. This is more like a bar, so it's quick & portable.

Plus, it requires much less hands on time. If I have the oven on to bake/roast something for dinner, I'll mix this together & through it in. No stirring over the stove & making sure it doesn't boil required. I recommend baking it at 350, but if your oven is anywhere from 300-450, you should be fine. Just adjust the baking time as needed. I've baked it at many temperatures, even changing while it bakes, & have had no problems. It's very forgiving.

Another great thing about this, is you can cut it into 6 & store it in the fridge. Then each morning you just pull out a slice, heat it & breakfast is ready.

If you'd like your oatmeal a little crispy, you can heat it in the toaster oven. I go back and forth between the microwave & the toaster oven, depending on what I'm in the mood for.

Easy Baked Oatmeal
Serves 6

2 c old-fashioned oats
1 c steel-cut oats
3 T chia seeds
1 T cinnamon
4 c almond milk

Optional Mix-Ins:
1 c pumpkin puree
1/2 c shredded zucchini
1 apple, chopped (this is what I did in the pictures)
1/2 c dried cranberries, raisins, or coconut
1/3 c chopped nuts, any kind
1/4 c maple syrup (if you like your oatmeal sweet, definitely add this)

Preheat oven to 350. Spray a 9x13 pan with cooking spray. In a mixing bowl, combine both types of oats, chia seeds, & cinnamon. Add milk & stir until no dry spots exist. Pour (carefully!) into the prepared pan. Bake for 30-35 minutes. If you add maple syrup or pumpkin puree, it may need to bake longer. You can tell it's done when the top is lightly browned & doesn't jiggle when you move the pan. Allow to cool, then cover & refrigerate. Heat before eating & top with fruit, nut butter, more almond milk, etc.

June 15, 2012

Creamy Shells with Arugula, Peppers, Snow Peas, & Edamame

Some nights, I raid the fridge & throw together a dinner based on what's in there. Monday night was one of those nights. Usually, I don't bother with recording the recipe & sharing it with you, but we really liked this. It was creamy & filling while still being light, & it's full of veggies.

If you're ever interested in trying to eat vegan, but you just can't imagine going without your cream, this is for you. The sauce is creamy & cheesy, similar to an alfredo, but without all of the cholesterol & animal fats. Instead, it has a nice dose of Vitamin B12 (from the nutritional yeast), healthy fats (from the avocado), & calcium (from the almond milk).

It's the perfect summer pasta dish because you get the creamy texture without all of the weight. The fresh veggies provide crunch & nutrients. The edamame provides protein. I will warn you - I didn't de-stem our arugula quite enough & it was very bitter. Next time, I'll be more careful!

Creamy Shells with Arugula, Peppers, Snow Peas, & Edamame
Serves 6

1/2 yellow onion, chopped
1 lg. bell pepper, chopped (any color)
1/2 c edamame, shelled
1 c snow peas, cut in half
1/4 c dry white wine
3 c fresh arugula, chopped, thick stems removed
14 oz. whole wheat small shells

1 avocado
1/4 c lemon juice
1 c unsweetened original almond milk
1/4-1/2 tsp. garlic powder (to taste)
6 T nutritional yeast
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper

In a large, nonstick skillet, cook onion and pepper until they start to soften and brown, about 4-5 minutes. Add edamame, snow peas, and wine. Cook briefly to reduce liquid and heat through, then add arugula. Turn off the heat while you prepare the sauce.

While the veggies are cooking, prepare pasta according to package directions.

Using a blender, combine all sauce ingredients and blend until smooth. Add sauce to skillet with veggie mixture and combine. Cook over medium heat until sauce is hot, but not boiling. Drain pasta and add to sauce and veggies. Stir to combine. Serve hot.

Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container for 2-3 days in the refrigerator.

June 13, 2012

Monkey Smash Cake

 Last week was my nephew's 1st birthday! They had a party for him on Saturday, & asked me to make him a birthday cake. It was to be a smash cake, which means it's small & all for him to do with as he liked. I knew immediately that I wanted to make him one with the monkey design that I saw awhile ago on Smitten Kitchen. His mom asked for chocolate on chocolate, so it was perfect!

When we got to the party, I showed him the cake & he immediately wanted to stick his hands in it. Smart boy! :-) I used a chocolate zucchini loaf cake recipe from Summer Harms. At least that way he got in a few veggies!

Instead of baking it in a loaf pan, I used two 8" round pans. It was about 1.5" thick, the perfect height to make a small cake with. I drew the monkey head shape with a toothpick on one of the rounds, then cut it out. I put the cut piece on top of the other cake round & used it as the pattern for the second layer.
I think his favorite part was the icing. I made my usual chocolate peanut butter icing. I waited to add the cocoa powder so that I could take out a bit of plain peanut butter icing for the face. Then I mixed in the cocoa powder & iced the whole cake. I put it in the fridge for a few hours, then used a plastic bag to pipe on the icing for the face.

He seemed to like the texture of the icing. It took him awhile to really dig in & get down to the cake, but once he did...what a mess!!

Happy 1st Birthday!

June 9, 2012

Millet & Oat Granola

We've been in the mood for granola lately. With all the fresh strawberries we have, it's the perfect combination!

Due to all of the horrors of the dairy industry, I buy organic yogurt. We've tried & enjoyed a variety of yogurts from Stonyfield, but our new favorite is a raw milk yogurt from our local real food emporium.

Now I have to take a moment & do a little plug for this emporium. I'll be the first to admit that some of their products are pricey. It's a small, local store, & it's a matter of business fact that they are going to have to charge more than the super stores.

But where else are you going to get to the register with your $15, only to have your bill total $15.75, & have the owner tell you to just bring the 75 cents next week? We were prepared to put one of the items we wanted back on the shelves, but he said no need, you can owe us. SO NICE!

We also love the Bee's Juice Bar that's in the emporium. The fresh juices are fantastic. I can't wait to try the vegan ice cream on one of our visits. It sounds so good!

So this granola...it's crunchy, it's low in fat, & it's delicious. Granola is very flexible, so if you don't have puffed millet, you could use puffed rice or more oats. Sub another nut for the walnuts. Use almond butter instead of peanut butter. It'll still be delicious, I promise.

Millet & Oat Granola
Adapted from Chocolate & Toast

4 c rolled oats
2 c puffed millet cereal (like this from Arrowhead Mills)
1 c flaked coconut
1 c raw walnuts, chopped
1/2 c ground flax seed
1 c applesauce
2 T maple syrup
2 T honey
3 T natural peanut butter
1 tsp. vanilla
1 T cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt

Mix the first 5 ingredients together in a large bowl.  Combine the remaining ingredients and pour over dry ingredients. Mix well.  Using either 1 very large baking pan or 2 smaller ones, spread mixture in an even layer.  Bake at 325 for approximately 1 hour. Every 15 to 20 minutes, remove granola from the oven and give it a stir. Granola will continue to crisp once you finish baking it, so keep that in mind when gauging how done it is.

Once granola reaches your desired level of crunch, allow it to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.

June 6, 2012

What's Growing Now, Early June

It's time for an update on our garden. It's crazy how much it grew in the last couple weeks!

Strawberries! We're getting about a quart a day & eating them just as fast.

Best eaten straight off the vine, while they're still warm from the sun.

Black raspberries, on their way to ripe! I can't wait.

Grapes, finally recovering from their fight with some little black bugs.

Cucumber plants, finally popping up. A few stray potato & tomato plants made their way to the edges here. We have some seriously crazy huge potato plants in the bed next to this one. We planted purple, white, & red potatoes. Let's hope this year I don't get stung while digging them!  

Onions of enormous proportions! I've never had them get so big! Also, those little green plants to their right are jalapenos. They got off to a rocky start with bugs, but they survived!

Lettuce & more lettuce. We've been eating HUGE salads. As in, we each use a large serving bowl to eat out of & it's filled to the brim. I'm just channeling my inner rabbit. :-D

Sugar snap peas. It's a good thing that we doubled the height of the fence this year.

Kale, carrots (hidden), turnips, radished, bok choy, spinach, & red beets. Don't even ask why I planted all of them in the same bed. Remember what they looked like last time you saw them?

They seemed so innocent...all fitting so nicely in their rows. But no longer!

This is a slightly different angle of my view from the kitchen window. You can see our old windows in a pile there in the back. The new windows are great & I can't wait for the sun-room area to be done!

Tomatoes, with kale (from last year) in the back ground. We're trying a new support system this year. My parents have been using this for awhile with success, so we're copying them. You place stakes in the corners of the patch, then stretch chicken wire across for them to grow up through. The chicken wire supports the branches so that they don't droop when the tomatoes begin to grow. We have 2 tiers up now, & will probably add a third once they grow taller.

Our patch needed 2 lengths of wire, side by side. They've almost all grown through the first layer, & the plant in the top middle of the pic is starting through the second layer already!

Not pictured: arugula, brussels sprouts, more lettuce & spinach, zucchini, more tomatoes, blueberries, peaches, rhubarb, & squash.

June 1, 2012

Grilled Zucchini and Gorgonzola Tortilla Pizzas

Last night I took my very first hot vinyasa yoga class. I was dripping with sweat by the time it was done! When I got home, I wanted a quick meal. This was healthy, quick & much tastier than I expected! I didn't have any sauce, so I was worried it might be bland, but it was anything but that.

We had a little issue with the grill in the middle of cooking the zucchini - our propane ran out! Neither of us wanted to wait for dinner long enough to get it refilled, so we finished cooking inside on our grill pan.

I'm sure these & similar tortilla pizzas will be on the menu a lot this summer. It was so simple to prep & the whole thing could be prepared outside (if you have enough propane!), eliminating the dreaded hot stove in a hot kitchen on a hot day.

We used brown rice tortillas, which are my new favorite. While we don't need to eat gluten free, I think it's important to have a variety of grains in our diet. This variety of tortillas is amazing! It's chewy & crispy at the same time. I'm going to stock up the next time we're at Trader Joe's.

Combined with all the nutrients in veggies & the protein in the cheese, this meal is well balanced. I've been working on keeping our meals vegetable strong while still including a variety of healthy fats, carbs & proteins.

I opted to fold mine in half like a quesadilla for easier eating. These could also be sliced & served in bite sized pieces for an appetizer. I'm already thinking of the many variations available. I didn't add seasoning to the zucchini before grilling it, because I wanted the basil & gorgonzola to be the predominant flavors. If I was using a more mild cheese, I'd amp up the herbs. I can't wait to try another combination!

Grilled Zucchini & Gorgonzola Tortilla Pizza
Serves 2

2 small zucchinis, cut into 1/4" slices
2 T fresh basil, chopped
1 c kale, cut into small pieces
1/3 c gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
2 10" round tortillas (I used Trader Joe's Brown Rice Tortillas)

Preheat grill to 400*F. Cook zucchini for about 5 minutes, then flip and cook another 5 minutes. Zucchini should be cooked, but still crisp. Remove from grill.

Turn grill temperature down to about 250*F. Place tortillas on grill. Once warm, flip and top with basil, kale, zucchini and gorgonzola. Close lid and cook for a few minutes to allow cheese to begin to melt. Keep a close eye on the pizzas, as the tortillas will burn quickly.

Serve hot, either open faced or folded in half like a quesadilla.
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