Saturday, July 30, 2011

One Hot Saturday Afternoon

Why I picked a day with 90+ degree heat to get ahead with my baking, I'll have no idea. Maybe it is knowing that summer is coming to its inevitable close and I would really like to have some goodies stocked up to make the school year go a little smoother. Maybe it's because I really missed making/eating baked oatmeal. Maybe it's because I've been wanting to try making PB cookies and alfredo sauce. Maybe it's because I had 2 rotten bananas staring at me from the counter for the last few days...Ok, so maybe it's a little of them all :)  But mostly it is knowing that there are only 2 weeks left before I start getting my room ready and this week has 3 days of training, therefore my summer is almost over. I wish last week would have lasted forever.

So today I made a double batch of baked oatmeal and froze it in muffin cups for a preportioned breakfast (idea courtesy of my friend, Jess!).

Then I turned those overripe bananas into muffins...only the batter was really thick (I think I accidentally got too much flour) and they were screaming "cookies" at me, so I just plopped the dough on a cookie sheet to make banana muffin cookies. I haven't tried one yet. I froze half and are letting the other half get eaten  :)

I have also been craving alfredo noodles with shrimp and broccoli and tried Laura's recipe from Heavenly Homemakers. The only change was that I used organic half and half instead of cream b/c Giant didn't have cream. It was yummy, so yummy in fact I did not take a picture. All I did was sautee the shrimp and broccoli in some olive oil and then combined it all on my plate. And there is enough sauce for another meal so that is going in the freezer as well, and next time I'll try to take a picture.

Last but not least, peanut butter cookies. I have not made them in a very long time, but they remind me of being a kid as I remember always helping my mom bake them and having the job of criss-crossing the fork pattern on top. They turned out so yummy. The batter was dry so I did have to add some olive oil to make it a better consistency. I based my recipe on this one from

Peanut Butter Cookies

1 1/2 cups King Arthur organic all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
large pinch of salt
1/2 cup Earth Balance butter
1/2 cup organic peanut butter
1/4 cup Sun Crystals
1/2 cup sucanat
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp. vanilla

Whisk together flour, baking soda and salt.

Cream together butter and peanut butter until well blended and smooth, adding the sugar gradually to mixture. Beat until mixture is light and fluffy.

Add 1 egg, well beaten; stir in vanilla. When well mixed, add flour mixture, stirring until just mixed. This is where I added a little EVOO.

Roll into small balls and place on parchment-lined baking sheet and press a criss-cross pattern onto the top using a
fork that has been dipped into flour.

Bake in a preheated 350°F oven for 8 minutes. Do not overbake.

Garden Update Take 2

So excited to give another garden update. This week we had some rain and 2 cooler days which was wonderful, and we are now back in the 90s with humidity.

I was very excited to pick 4 pickling cucumbers and make into my first batch of refrigerator pickles. They turned out great, just a little salty for my taste.

The watermelons are still tiny, but more are popping up and there are lots of blossoms. I filled a gallon jug with water and a fish fertilizer to slow drip feed the watermelon plants. You can see the largest vine coming out of the garden on the right and then trailing to the left.

I love how fuzzy they are when they are little!

I am happy with the corn growth and you can't see it in these pictures but the tassels are starting to come on the larger stalks.

This is our small bed. The various squash plants are growing nicely (even more since I took this picture) and the volunteer tomatoes are ripening. I thought it was a roma plant, but they are only the size of cherry tomatoes...not sure what happened there! The last of these three pics is of the squash blossoms getting ready to bloom.

Last but not least, 2 more cukes that I picked this morning. The one was being strangled by it's stalk but it thankfully loosened up on the poor guy!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Garden Life Link Up

So I decided to try my first "link up" with another blog, No Ordinary Homestead, after seeing some of my friends do this on their blogs frequently. Hopefully it will be a great way to invite new readers to this blog as well as expose me to new blogs. So here is my first "official" garden life update! (Here is how it looked back in May.)

This is our neighbor's raised bed that we have confiscated ;) Don't worry, we are going to share! In here we have 2 brocooli plants, one roma tomato plant (and one tom is starting to turn!), and a menagerie of yellow squash, zucchini, cucumber, and I think one pumpkin. Right now they all look the same, once they start bearing fruit I will be able to tell them apart better. Note to self: find a way to mark what is planted where better for next year!

I can hardly wait for the corn to be ready! This batch is doing well although it got beat down by a severe storm yesterday. Another area of corn is not doing as well, so I planted pumpkins there.

I was finally able to harvest some bush beans and sugar peas today. The peas have not liked the heat (note to self: plants peas earlier next year) and have not produced much, but I was happy to get a few to munch on, and they had a great flavor. We grilled the green beans with a little EVOO and garlic/herb seasoning, and while they were not bad, I just have a hard time getting into green beans. I'll keep eating them though, because you CAN change your mind when it comes to liking or not liking foods! I know from experience since I now eat many foods that I used to despise (broccoli, spinach, watermelon, salmon). I have found the trick is to eat just a few bites as much as possible and think very positively about the food while eating it. If you think a food is disgusting while you eat it, it probably will be! Reminds me of a self-fulfilling prophecy.

One of the highlights of the day was finally seeing some baby watermelons! There have been many blossoms and this was the first I have been out in the garden in a few days to see them. My apologies for the blurry pics, but I think it had trouble focusing because they are SO small right now!

My other highlight was finding pickling cucumbers that are almost ready to pick! Now I'm in a pickle (pun intended) because I have not yet decided on a pickling recipe nor do I fully have in my head how this whole canning thing works...I know I can do it, I'm just afraid the cukes and tomatoes are all going to come it at once...and most likely once I start getting ready for the school year. So here's my largest plant as well as some smaller cukes, and then finally the big daddy of them all!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Make Ahead Pizza Dough and Pizza Pockets

Even though I had a decent pizza dough recipe, I still wanted one that I could make ahead and freeze to have available for crazy nights. The following recipe is based on this one from Once a Month Mom. This is a great blog with the mindset of spending a day or two baking and freezing and then eating those meals the rest of the month. I apologize for not having any pictures of pizza, but I did make the dough into pizza pockets and have a few pics (Thanks, Rachel, for the idea!). I have also made into breadsticks and just brushed with melted butter and sprinkled with garlic powder and salt before baking, and they turned out well! We also joke about making Bosco sticks, breadsticks with mozzarella cheese in them, but haven't tried it yet. This is really a VERY easy yeast dough recipe that anyone can do! Each batch will make 2 cookie sheet sized pizzas, and the recipe can easily be doubled so you have more to freeze! Just make sure you have a large enough bowl as the dough rises a lot. I have a very large metal bowl that is so big I don't use frequently but it works great for this recipe.


2.75 cups water (I use my hottest tap water)
1 pack active yeast
1 Tablespoons salt
1 Tablespoon sucanat
¼ cup olive oil
6.5 cups unbleached organic all purpose flour, bread flour, or sprouted flour  


1) Mix the yeast, salt, sugar and olive oil with the water in a large bowl and let sit for about 5 minutes until foamy. Preheat oven to 200 degrees and then turn off.

2) Mix in the flour without kneading, using a wooden spoon.

3) Cover with damp towel and place in (warmed but turned off) oven for at least 2 hours.

4) Use for a pizza immediately. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Spray pizza pan or foil and spread dough to desired shape. There is no need to knead this dough :) Bake the crust along for 5-10 minutes, this is a good time to prep your toppings (I usually go w/ sauce, onion/garlic powder, mozzarella/parmesan cheeses, green pepper, purple onion, mushroom, parsley and oregano.). Add topping and bake another 10-20 minutes until golden brown crust and bubbly cheese (the baking time will vary depending on the thickness of crust and toppings).


Place in refrigerator and let sit for at least four hours before storing. (I actually had mine sit in the fridge for a few days before freezing or baking, and it was still great!) Divide each batch in half, wrap in plastic wrap and then place in ziploc in freezer. To defrost, place in fridge for 24 hours before making (although if you forget, it can sit out for a few hours without any ramifications).
Here's the pizza pockets (as you can see they oozed a little, but tasted great!):

Friday, July 15, 2011

Raspberry Pie

Step 1: Pick fresh raspberries and get your hands REALLY messy.

Step 2: Wash said hands in pond.

Step 3: Repeat steps 1 and 2 until sufficient amount of berries is picked.
Step 4: Follow recipe below :)

Raspberry Pie w/ Crumb Topping

Crust (based on this recipe)

1 1/2 c. Bob's Red Mill whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp. Sun Crystals
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. olive oil
3 tbsp. milk

Mix flour, sugar, and salt. Mix oil and milk with a fork and pour over flour mixture. Mix until well blended, then spread over pie pan with fingers.

Filling (based on this recipe):

3 Tbs arrowroot powder
1/2 cup water
1/2-3/4 c sucanat
dash of cinnamon and nutmeg
splash of vanilla 
2½-4 cups black raspberries (The more you use, the thicker it will be :)
In a saucepan, dissolve the arrowroot in the water. Add Sun Crystals and mix well. Bring to a boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved and glaze slightly thickened. Remove from heat and sir in cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla. Fold in the berries.  

Crumb Topping (based on this recipe):  

1/2 cup Bob's Red Mill whole wheat pastry flour
1/8 cup Sun Crystals
1/4 cup butter
pinch salt

Combine the flour, sugar, butter and salt in a mixing bowl. Use fingers to incorporate the butter with the dry ingredients.

Putting it all together:

Pour filling into prepared pie shell and sprinkle with crumb topping. Bake in a 350° F oven for 45 minutes. Serve warm or cold, but not straight from the oven or the pie will be hard to cut.

*On a personal note, this pie was VERY easy to make. I tend to not have patience nor success in rolling out pie crusts and this was the first crumb topping that was a hit. I could have easily eaten this for breakfast, lunch, and dinner! I would probably also like with oats in the topping. I think the pastry flour helps a lot. And the crust didn't fall apart when cut, not even on the first piece! I will be trying this recipe with blueberries, hopefully this weekend!

UPDATE: I did make this with blueberries and it was so good! I used 4 cups and it was almost too many, will probably only use 3 next time. Of course, it might have been so messy to get out because we couldn't wait for it to cool :) Pictures taken by Leah.

UPDATE- This also works great with fresh cherries (I used about 3 cups). I also used only sucanat as the sugar in the cherry pie and it was great! No pics though until I download them from my phone.

Eureka! (Yogurt and smoothie recipes!)

Yay! I am so excited! Finally perfected a yogurt recipe AND made my first smoothie! I never thought I could drink a fruit/yogurt smoothie for breakfast, but with as full as this one made me (couldn't even finish it all), I think I could! My friends Susan and Jess have both been talking of smoothies and/or yogurt for breakfast, so I'm stoked! The yogurt turned out thick and creamy (the first try was too runny for me) and just sweet enough. And, the cost for 1/2 gallon of milk is the same as a quart of store bought yogurt, so I just cut my yogurt costs in half! Sweet!

Vanilla Yogurt

1/2 gallon organic whole milk (raw is best)
3/4 c powdered milk (I used Organic Valley but not needed if using raw milk)
6 oz yogurt (This is the starter for to culture the milk. Use store bought organic yogurt and save some of your own yogurt to be the culture for the next batch)
1/4 c sucanat or equivalent stevia
1-2 T vanilla extract
1/2 gallon Mason jar (I bought mine at Sonnewald Natural Foods)  (Jar does not need to be sterilized for yogurt, but if you would like to, simply boil a small amount of water in a skillet or frying pan and place jar upside down for a minute.)
candy or meat thermometer

Heat 6-7 cups of milk, sucanat and vanilla in pan on stove at low heat. You want to do this slowly. Keep an eye on it and check regularly with thermometer. While the milk is heating up, fill small cooler with tap water as warm as it gets, leaving room for the jar. Pour yogurt into bottom of glass jar.

Once the temperature is between 85-90 degrees (you don't want it to get warmer than 100), remove from heat, pour into jar and shake like crazy (please make sure you have the lid on first!).  Oh, and drink any milk that couldn't fit in the jar...warm whole milk is SO much better than I ever thought it would be!

Set the jar in cooler, close lid and forget about it for 8+ hours. This is to keep the temperature consistent while it is culturing, so try to put it in a consistent temperature location (I used my garage, but in the winter I'm sure I'd keep it in the house).

When you open the jar, make sure you ooh and aah over the wonderful bubbles. Then simply take a taste test (I never dreamed I would like warm yogurt, but it is good!) and then place in fridge. Lasts a LONG time, weeks, if you don't eat it all first  ;)

Fruit Smoothies

1 c yogurt (if frozen your smoothie will be icier, but not necessary)
1 handful each blueberries, cherries, strawberries (if they are frozen your smoothie will be a little icier but fresh is fine as well)
ground flax, wheat germ, chia, hemp

Combine in food processor or blender (I used my Magic Bullet). Add straw, enjoy!

My yogurt was not frozen so I did drink a little and then pop mine in the freezer to ice up a bit. I think I am going to freeze it in muffin tins (got this idea from Jess) and then put in ziploc bags to have portions already set for me. This was so good, I didn't even feel the need for anything sweet at all!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Gluten-Free Coconut Muffins (but so delectable they should really be called cupcakes!)

Note: I am far behind in posts and this was actually from over 2 months ago...

After hearing my computer-only mentor, Laura (hmm, what a great name), talk about how wonderful coconut flour is to bake with, I just had to try it. Add in the fact that my dad has to eat gluten-free and I enjoy being able to meet that need when he comes over, and the fact that I had been craving chocolate chip and blueberry muffins (but not in the SAME muffin, although that might be good...) I thought this was the perfect time to try! Of course, I did alter the recipe a little, are you surprised? And what do you think I added? I'll give you 2 guesses..............cinnamon...........and.........vanilla! Ding, ding, ding! You got it! Of course I don't know the amounts, but probable 1-2 TBSP of vanilla and 1/2-1 TBSP of cinnamon for a double batch. Here are the blueberry (on left) and chocolate chip (on right):
They do have a slight coconut flavor, but you most likely will not notice it unless you make them plain or have a strong aversion to coconut. These were enjoyed so much, that my step-son decided he wanted the chocolate chip ones instead of cupcakes for his party! Awesome! He is into playing chess right now, so I put the Chessman cookies on top to make it look (kinda) like a chess board (and no, these cookies are not something I typically would eat, but it was his birthday after all!):

Beef Jerky

One of the snacks that the boys in the family love (and I'll admit, the girls do too although I would never eat any store bought ones now- almost all have HFCS and are super expensive) is beef jerky. I recently started buying my beef products from M & M Farm, which has a stand at the Central Market in York. I bought a skirt steak from them and it was the perfect cut to make jerky. It was long and slim and I easily took my kitchen shears to cut into strips.

I used the following recipe and made the Traditional version, although with my next batch I am going to try the other flavors as well. The traditional was a hit, although it probably needed to be dehydrated a little longer, but since I was using my oven, and it was hot, and every time I tested it I had to eat a piece...I just decided it was better to stop dehydrating or it would all be gone by the time it was done enough!

I did not have organic Worcestershire sauce (but I do now!) for the first batch. I marinated in a glass dish overnight. Here's what it looked like:
Yummy, right? ;)

Then I laid the beef out on a foil lined cookie sheet to dehydrate. My oven didn't go down to 145 as the directions suggest, I believe 170 was as low as it went so I did prop the oven door open some, although I might just try it with it shut next time, not sure. I would really like to get a dehydrator and eliminate the excess electricity cost of using the oven. I flipped the beef about once each hour, about 4 hours total. It turned out a little darker than store bought, but the taste was amazing! Can't wait to make the next batch!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Pinch Me Bread Part 3

Since you all know how much I LOVE anything with cinnamon, it will probably come as no surprise that I have been wanting to make/eat Pinch Me Bread again. (Here's version 1 and version 2.) I finally remembered a few weeks ago to try making some of my soft pretzels into the cinnamon sugar variety- yum! So I wanted to make Pinch Me Bread using the pretzel dough recipe. I'll let the pictures (taken by my daughter, Leah) speak for themselves...

In order to make, simply follow the pretzel recipe until the dough is done rising the first time. Then form into small balls, dip in olive oil or melted butter, and then roll in a cinnamon/sugar mixture (I used Sun Crystals). Place in greased angel food, bundt or bread pan and let rise another 20 minutes or so. Bake in 350 degree oven for 20-30 minutes and enjoy!

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