Monday, September 15, 2014

Mindful Monday...

Why I Ride
I've been out on my bike much more lately and loving the time sailing through the curves and straights of local streets and trails while feeling the incredible Northwest sunshine beaming down on me.  So today I wanted to share this poem accompanied with a short video promoting bike riding, follow the link above and enjoy...

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Summer Salad Roundup...

Who wants to spend time at the stove when it's hot outside and there are so many fun things to get busy with?  Come summer,  I happily take a bit of a step back from the typical dinner fare we know and love throughout the rest of the year and cook more "picnic" style around here.  Healthy and filling salads become a go-to for me, as I'd much rather eek out more time at the beach with the girls, go on a picnic to any of the array of summer movies and outdoor concerts in the area, have fun out on our bikes, or let myself get totally engrossed in a great book.  I especially love it when a salad is hearty enough to stand up over night in the refridgerator - we are not afraid of leftovers around here.  Here's a sneak peak at my summer salad line up; variations on a Cobb Salad, must try this Mango and Red Pepper Salad, this Bok Choy Slaw, any sort of cold Rice Noodle Salad with a ginger dressing and slivered veggies, this Fennel Salad is calling me to try out, as is this simple Green Salad With Cherries, this Quinoa Salad is a favorite, a simple green salad loaded with nuts, beans or chicken, and all those little bits of veg needing to get used up, salsa (can we call salsa a salad?), and this Corn Salad looks like it would be a perfect picnic salad along side some sliced meats and cheese.  Last night we feasted on a cold rotisserie chicken, spinach topped with this Garbanzo Salad, and some left over chips and salsa (my oldest is our in-house salsa maker and we happily reap the benefits of such).

Yesterday my youngest came up with a new creation for lunch that I am sure will make a repeat visit as she happily exclaimed she'd take it to school for lunch any time.  She sautéed up a sliced zucchini in olive oil then added some chopped up roasted red pepper, a few cherry tomatoes from the garden and bits of leftover chicken, then she topped it with a few shavings of parmesan cheese.  Even my mostly vegetarian daughter enjoyed it.  We ate it warm as is, but I think it could be great cold with your favorite pasta as a salad or atop some fresh summer greens.  What I really loved about it was that she took a recipe of interest and shifted it to suit what we had on hand and our own personal tastes.  As a parent, one of my personal goals has always been to build a sense of competency in my girls around preparing good food for themselves.  I want them to have the ability to walk into the kitchen, scope the scene and make something tasty and relatively healthful for themselves.  I think we are on our way as the oldest has become my go-to condiment maker (salsa, pesto, guacamole etc...) and has really started developing an interest in baking and now the younger one is building confidence and skills too, she did not shy away from the huge knife I handed her to chop veggies and meat with yesterday.  Though I can't lie, I'd be tickled pink if they found the joy and sense of creative outlet in the kitchen that I do, mostly I want them to be able to feed themselves and those around them well without a box of this or that or a phone to call for delivery.

Well, back to those summer salads, do you change up your typical dinner routines this time of year too?  If so what are your favorite summer salads?  I'd love to hear what you all are living off this summer, I am sure there are so many possibilities that I haven't even thought of yet.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Freezing Fruit...

Oh my, doesn't all that fruit make your mouth water.  I love the bounties of summer, especially the complete abundance of freshly picked fruit.  With what we've got growing in our own garden like rhubarb, blueberries and strawberries, the fact that I can't pass up a local roadside fruit stand to save my soul and that we love to go berry picking each summer there is always an overwhelming amount of fruit in our kitchen throughout the summer.  Berry picking has become a summer tradition for us, what a fun day out and the eat-as-you-go policy that our favorite raspberry farm has is just what the kids need to keep them interested and motivated to fill those boxes.  We went out with friends recently and between the girls and I we picked over twenty pounds of raspberries.  It was unusually hot in our neck of the woods that day, topping 90 degrees, so we had to call it after just an hour or so.  Once we got home we gorged ourselves on berries for days, but knowing that it was not likely we could actually consume our weight in berries before they turned into sad mushy boxes of goo I got right to work, baking some into muffins and baked oatmeal, cooking some into jam, and freezing what I could to tide us through winter.  I love freezing fruit!  It is as low maintenance as it comes in the preserving world and the results don't disappoint.  The method I have settled on with greatest success is to line a baking sheet with parchment or wax paper and lay the fruit in a single layer on it.  For things like raspberries, small strawberries, blackberries and blueberries I keep the fruit whole and for stone fruits and larger strawberries I cut them in half or wedges.  After the fruit is arranged I pop the tray in the freezer for a few hours or more likely overnight.  Once everything is frozen solid I fill gallon ziplock bags with the frozen fruit and label with date and name of fruit.  So simple and yet it yields such pleasure throughout winter.  Then when you have an inkling for a raspberry/rhubarb crisp or some strawberries over yogurt it is as simple as a quick defrost and you are good to go.  So when you see that fruit stand don't hesitate to stop and pick up a flat or two of fruit, if you aren't into canning or making jam at the very least you can freeze a few gallons for later.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Let's Talk About Smoothies

Can we get a bit interactive here? I want to get a smoothie conversation going, I know you all have some favorite smoothies you like to make and I love getting some fresh ideas. In the winter we really lay off the cold foods and drinks so smoothies are just now coming back into rotation with the sun shining longer and brighter in these parts. As I've mentioned before, I am ALWAYS on the lookout for more ways to get additional veggies into my family's meals, and smoothies have long been a great way to sneak in a few extra nutrient boosts. Having had some pretty big flops attempting to tip the scale a little to far to the veg side rather than the fruit, I have come up with some techniques that seem to keep everyone happy. The first one being to stick to a color palate, the army green or murky brown that results from mixing red berries and kale can turn off even the most willing of smoothie drinkers. So, if I am working with peaches I'll toss in a couple carrots, juice from a sweet potato or golden beets, red berries are great to add red beets to, blueberries can hide kale/spinach/chard really well and if I am going with a green smoothie I'll add apple or pear to sweeten. You get the idea, right. I have found that celery and cucumber can hide in nearly any smoothie without being detected and both give off hints of a really nice fresh flavor. Second, I always add either a banana or avocado which adds a really nice creamy but not to creamy texture. I also will add some honey if I feel I might be pushing the veg to fruit tolerances. We typically have oranges or orange juice on hand so that is a standard liquid base to which I will add either coconut milk and/or yogurt. This is also the place I once would sneak extra supplements in before everyone could swallow the mouthful of vitamins I push on my family. If I have cashews or almonds that have soaked I'll add them for a little protein boost. What else do you all like to add to your smoothies? Today I am feasting on this green smoothie which contains a good amount of spinach just picked this morning from my garden, a pear, a couple stalks of celery, a banana, splash of OJ, a big scoop of plain yogurt and a bit of ice.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Mindful Monday...

His Eye Is On The Sparrow Why should I feel discouraged, why should the shadows come, Why should my heart be lonely, and long for heav’n and home, When Jesus is my portion? My constant Friend is He: His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me; His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me. Refrain: I sing because I’m happy, I sing because I’m free, For His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me. “Let not your heart be troubled,” His tender word I hear, And resting on His goodness, I lose my doubts and fears; Though by the path He leadeth, but one step I may see; His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me; His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me. Whenever I am tempted, whenever clouds arise, When songs give place to sighing, when hope within me dies, I draw the closer to Him, from care He sets me free; His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me; His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me. -Civilla D Martin

Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Bees Are Back...

What a whirl-wind day! Yesterday my friend, an experienced bee keeper and my bee mentor, urged me to get my vacant hives in order as there are swarms to be had at the moment. So I spent some time scraping and prepping hives, mixing up sugar water, mentally plotting where I might like to relocate the hives this year should a swarm come my way and lazily dreaming of all those pollinators helping my garden and landscaping as well as the honey I'd like to have this fall. Today my friend came over, blowtorch in hand, to help me finish the cleaning and gave me the heads up that I should be ready for "the call" in a day or two. No problem, I'll set these babies up tonight (or tomorrow morning) and be good to go should "the call" come over the weekend. Naturally, no sooner than my friend left and I was settled into a line at the grocery store did I get "THE CALL". Wait! What?! Now??!! I drove home (mentally tallying all that still needed to be done), made a few frantic calls to my husband looking for hive location approval and to my friend to let her know I was on my way home. Once I got home I set to work setting up hive boxes in a new spot in our yard, pounding holes in the lids of their sugar water to drip feed these ladies, and most importantly -- finding my bee suit and vail because there was no way I was working a swarm without a good layer of protection between those stingers and my skin. Soon, my friend and the bee guy showed up and got busy right away pouring 35,000 bees into one of my hives. I have to say that it never is lost on me the sheer awesomeness of this process. The "save the bees" shirt my friend was wearing really says it all for me. At first my interest in bees was completely selfish, it was all about that home grown honey. But now, two years in, the honey really is secondary. The realization that I am doing a small part to improve honeybee populations, as well as strengthening my garden is really what moves me to continue with bee keeping.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Lime Curd

A while back I mentioned that I had a cache of limes waiting to be used. I finally got around to turning them into one of our favorite condiments -- curd. This year I've been experimenting with Meyer Lemon Curd, Orange Vanilla Curd and today that bowl full of limes got their turn. I love the recipes by Marisa McClellan of Food in Jars, her curds are the perfect blend of tart and creamy without being too lip pucker-y. It was timely that I had that bowl of limes and some overstock of eggs that needed to be used. Though I fear that my pictures do not really do justice to the final product. Since we let our chickens graze on greens all day they produce eggs with the most beautifully vibrant orange yolks, though beautiful and tasty they can tend to skew the color of baked goods. So, though my curd is tastes of lime it looks much more like that of an orange curd. That's what the cute labels are for though, right?