August 27, 2015

How to Store Fresh Parsley and Cilantro

How to Store Fresh Parsley and Cilantro

Grocery stores sell food to make money. That means when you buy fresh vegetables, fruit, and herbs they are displayed and sold in a way that takes the least amount of room to move product. Basically what's best for your herbs and veggies isn't always the way that the grocery store sells them. The best examples are parsley and cilantro. Most stores pile them into a bin and spray them with water multiple times a day. No!!! Then most shoppers go to the store, bag the herbs, and throw them into the crisper drawer. Five days later the herbs have turned black and mushy and need to be thrown out. No one wants to waste money throwing out fresh ingredients.

How to Store Fresh Parsley and Cilantro

The answer is to store your parsley and cilantro correctly once they come home from the grocery store or are picked from your garden. Storing them correctly is actually very easy and they can last up to two weeks, giving you a lot longer to make that fabulous recipe that you bought them for in the first place. The following is the method I use to store parsley and cilantro in the fridge and it works great!
  • If you buy your parsley and cilantro from the grocery store the first thing you want to do is take them out of the bag, remove the wire (or other binding), wash them, and then cut off about 1/2 inch of the bottom stems. 
  • Fill a small glass with water. 
  • Place the stems in the glass,
  • Cover the herbs with a large Ziploc bag, the end of the bag with the zipper should be at the end of the cup. Use a large bag so the herbs have room to breath. 
  • Zip the bottom of the bag closed around the cup. This is important, it keeps the air out of the bag making the herbs last longer in the fridge. 
  • Place the herbs in the fridge for 1-2 weeks (parsley can actually last longer sometimes 3-4 weeks, especially if it's fresh cut from your garden). 
  • If you are using garden herbs follow the same steps, just skip the steps regarding taking off the bag and wire. 
That's it, very easy and will make your fresh herbs last significantly longer. This method also works for fresh dill.

How to Store Fresh Parsley and Cilantro

August 21, 2015

Homemade Jalapeno Mint Jelly

Jalapeno Mint Jelly

When mint grows it can take over a garden. One little plant turns into a monster in a matter of weeks and then you're left scratching your head over what to do with the abundance of mint that has suddenly appeared. Everyone loves fresh mint hot/iced tea, but what about something that will bring the taste of fresh mint into the fall and winter months.

Fresh Garden Mint

Welcome to the world of mint jelly. Mint jelly is delicious and great with crackers and cream cheese for parties or with lamb for savory dishes. Plus there are so many varieties that can be made and enjoyed, making it a fun type of jelly to experiment with flavor profiles. One such flavor combination is Jalapeno Mint Jelly.

Garden Jalapenos

Jalapeno Mint Jelly is a great way to use garden herbs and peppers. If you're like me and your mint and jalapeno plant have exploded this recipe is a nice way to use the overabundance of both. Just don't do what I did and wipe your eye after mincing jalapenos, bad plan. Garden jalapenos can be a lot spicier than store bought so I would suggest wearing disposable gloves, or at least avoid touching your face. The burn takes a long time to go away, I promise.

print recipe

Jalapeno Mint Jelly
This is a great way to use garden herbs and peppers and enjoy their flavors in the fall and winter.
  • 3 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup small mint sprigs
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 jalapenos, seeded and minced
  • One 3 ounce pouch liquid pectin
  • 1 drop green food coloring
1. Combine sugar and mint in a large non-reactive pot, crushing mint as you stir. 2. Add vinegar and water and over a high heat bring to a boil, stirring to prevent burning. 3. Boil under sugar melts (approximately 3 minutes). 4. Add minced jalapenos and boil hard for 3 minutes. 5. Add pectin and food coloring (if using) and boil hard for 1 minutes. 6. Over a heat proof bowl, strain jelly. 7. Pour jelly into sterilized jars leaving a 1/4 inch head space. 8. Pop any bubbles using a knife or straw. 9. Wipe rims and close jars. 10. Place jars in a boiling water bath canner, bring back to a boil, and process for 10 minutes.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 4 half pints

  • Sterilize jars for 10 minutes, keep lids and rings in a pot of water over simmer. Don't boil the lids as it can damage the seal. 
  • Make sure to wipe the jar rims before placing lids on. Jam left on the rim can make the jar not seal. 
  • If you like your jelly a darker green add another drop of food coloring. 
  • I've had great luck with getting this jelly to set. It sets easily and doesn't take a long time to get to the jelly temp. I always use a candy thermometer to double check. The plate and spoon tests I seem to fail at, I'm great at many things, but my thermometer is my friend. 
I haven't had much time to post in the last week. School started for my kids and I decided to tackle a big painting project in our house. Needless to say I didn't have much time to post, hopefully next week will be calmer. I am planning a few posts on how to store fresh herbs and a recipe for candied jalapenos, stay tuned! 

August 13, 2015

How to Use Coffee Grounds in Your Garden

How to Use Coffee Grounds in Your Garden

Having grown up in Seattle coffee has always been a part of my life. I've had every type of coffee making gizmo you can imagine and have a very particular way that I like my coffee. All this coffee has led to a lot of used coffee grounds. Now I am one of those people who hates to throw anything out. I literally try to reuse or recycle everything. It's a major part of the reason that I cook from scratch. Not only does it save money, but it greatly reduces the amount of waste and trash that my family goes through. So I also reuse my coffee grounds. That's right instead of throwing my used coffee grounds out I use them in my garden.

How to Use Coffee Grounds in Your Garden for peppers

Any of you that garden flowers, fruits, or vegetables know that certain plants like higher or lower amounts of various nutrients. The soil in the area that I live in is full of clay. It holds moisture and drains horribly. Additionally my soil is very alkaline. I have to reduce the pH for pretty much anything to grow, especially my azaleas and acid loving plants. My neighbors have all decided I'm pretty much nuts as I take my pH/moisture meter out everyday and test my soil.

How to Use Coffee Grounds in Your Garden for Jalapenos

In order to amend my soil and make it more favorable for my various plants I compost and use natural fertilizers. One of the various items I add to my less than stellar base soil is used coffee grounds. Now there are a couple of ways this can be done.
  • Add used coffee grounds around the base of plants. Dig into the soil a couple of inches and add in the grounds then re-cover with soil.
  • Make a compost tea. Place coffee grounds into a bucket of water, let sit overnight and then water your plants. My tomatoes and peppers love compost tea. 
  • Use grounds to deter snails and slugs. I have a horrible slug problem in the beginning of most summers due to torrential thunderstorms each year. While beer is the best solution, it isn't always feasible when it rains all the time. The coffee grounds are a nice deterrent for pests, just add a ring around your plants. 
  • Research goes back and forth on how effective coffee grounds are on changing soil pH, but most agree that coffee is rich in nitrogen, magnesium, and potassium. If your plants need a little boost coffee grounds are a nice option. My tomatoes and peppers love coffee grounds and do great when they are added to the soil
  • Seedlings also love a dose of coffee grounds at planting time. I use it every year and they love the extra boost of nitrogen
That's it. Coffee grounds can be great for your garden and save on your trash. Plus it gives you a great excuse to have that afternoon cup! 

August 12, 2015

Fresh Garden Mint Iced Tea

Fresh Garden MInt Iced Tea

It's August and that means most gardens are overflowing with fruits, vegetables, and herbs. After having spent months tending to our plants, our gardens are finally producing a wonderful bounty. Now what to do with all the excess. What started out as one small mint plant by August can turn into an entire bed being run over by this aggressive weed/herb. One can only make so many jars of jelly (I will be posting a few recipes for mint jellies in the coming weeks), so what else can be done with huge amounts of mint. Ice tea of course!

Steeping Fresh Mint Iced Tea

So this year I planted one small mint plant that my mother in law bought at the Charleston Farmer's Market. Well, this one little plant went a little crazy with the fish fertilizer that I fed it (tip: use fish fertilizer, it's awesome and one of the best gardening tips my mother ever gave me growing up) and has had to be moved to larger pots twice this summer. I have made jellies, cakes, muffins, all using mint and I still have a huge, huge plant. So about a month back I decided I would add mint to iced tea for my kids. That one pitcher has turned into hundreds, they love it. The following is the recipe I use for Fresh Garden Mint Iced Tea.

Fresh Garden Mint Iced Tea
This is a great way to use garden mint, especially since mint grows so well and you end up with a ton!
  • 12 Tea Bags
  • 8 cups Water
  • 1/2-1 cup Sugar/Sugar Substitute
  • 5-10 Sprigs Garden Mint
1. Cut 5-10 sprigs fresh garden mint 2. Place 12 tea bags in a heat proof bowl 3. Wash mint and place in bowl with tea bags4. Add 8 cups boiling water to the bowl 5. Let steep 20 minutes 6. Place strainer over heat proof pitcher and strain tea into pitcher 7. Add sweetener of your choice and stir 8. Let tea chill in refrigerator until cold
Prep time: Total time: Yield: 8 cups 

  • I have made this recipe with a variety of different teas. The best is a watermelon lime tea my husband bought me. It makes great iced tea! Regardless is works with pretty much any type of green or black tea
  • How much sugar/sweetener is really a personal choice. If you like McDonald's sweet tea add a whole cup. If you like to sweeten at the glass, don't add any
  • I use stevia for my drinks. It's my sweetener of choice, I limit the amount of granulated sugar we consume since my oldest has ADHD and sugar makes him bounce off the walls. However, this recipe would work with sugar, splenda, you name it. I haven't tried it with honey so I can't speak for how much to add (I would love to hear if you experiment and find out though!)
  • This makes strong tea. My family likes their iced tea to taste like tea, not water. If you like your tea weaker, reduce the amount of tea bags to 8-9
  • A sprig of mint is 6-8 leaves, so 10 sprigs would be about 60-80 leaves. You can use one really long sprig of you want. It doesn't have to be 10 small sprigs. 

August 11, 2015

How to Freeze Fresh Garden Tomatoes

Freezing Fresh Heirloom Garden Tomatoes

Winter tomatoes can be a huge letdown. They are more often than not lacking in flavor and can cost over twice as much as canned. However, you don't have to sacrifice the delicious taste of fresh tomatoes in the middle of the colder months, you just have to plan ahead.

Freezing Fresh Roma Garden Tomatoes

Freezing fresh garden tomatoes is easy and only takes minutes. Depending on your preference, the tomatoes can be frozen whole and then peeled, or they can be blanched and kept whole or diced. Either method is simple and make it possible to enjoy the taste of fresh tomatoes throughout the winter.

Freezing Fresh Heirloom Roma Tomatoes

The following are the two methods to freeze tomatoes:

Freezing Tomatoes Whole With Skins
  • Wash and pat tomatoes dry
  • Lay tomatoes flat on a metal jelly pan or baking sheet
  • Place the baking sheet in the freezer and allow tomatoes to freeze (you want the tomatoes to not be completely frozen, just frozen to the point that the skin can be peeled-normally 1-2 hours)
  • Once the tomatoes are frozen, remove sheet and tomatoes from freezer, skin the tomatoes, and place tomatoes in a freezer proof container. Tomatoes will be good 6-12 months
Freezing Tomatoes Without Skins
  • Wash and pat tomatoes dry
  • Bring a pot of water to a boil
  • Place tomatoes in boiling water and blanch 45-60 seconds
  • Place tomatoes in an ice water bath to cool
  • Peel skins off tomatoes
  • You can either keep the tomatoes whole and follow the last 4 steps in the first method above or dice the tomatoes (and seed if you prefer) and place in a freezer safe container
Since frozen tomatoes have a tendency to become mushy I recommend using frozen tomatoes in soups, stews, and chili. They also work for homemade pasta sauce or any dish in which the tomatoes will be cooked down to the point that the texture won't matter.

That's it, very simple and a great way to enjoy garden tomatoes throughout the fall and winter.
Tomorrow's post will be a recipe for iced tea using fresh garden mint, stay tuned. 

August 10, 2015

How to Dry Fresh Garden Herbs

How to dry fresh garden herbs

My garden every year can be a series of near disasters. I love gardening, but there is a lot of work that goes into beautiful looking vegetables, fruits, and flowers. Last year I lost all my tomatoes to blight. I almost cried after spending months babying my heirlooms and then within days they were completely gone. This year has been a much better year. It hasn't been without its near disasters, but I know now that it takes near obsession for a great and abundant garden. I have also accepted the fact that my neighbors are probably wondering about my mental sanity as I take a PH meter around my garden and talk to my plants about their needs for the day. I hate to admit that these oddities are things that I do on a daily basis, but it is what it is, my plants love a good pep talk and I like giving one. Come August there is nothing better than looking outside and seeing all the fruits of your labor come to fruition.

how to dry fresh garden rosemary

Now comes the part of what to do with all the herbs, fruits, and vegetables that come from your stellar garden. The easy answer to that is that you dry, preserve, and dehydrate. Today is the first in a series of posts on how to enjoy the bounty of your garden year round. First up is drying fresh garden herbs.

If your anything like me you plant every herb you can find at the nursery and if you have a great garden year you are swimming in herbs come August. Now herbs love to be cut. I'm not talking a little here or there, I'm taking you can cut thyme, oregano, and rosemary almost back to the ground and they will grow up twice as big. So don't be dainty with the scissors, go for it, any of the long leggy growths that are pouring over the side need to be cut back.

how to dry fresh herbs

Basil, sage, parsley, dill, and cilantro also love to be cut back. However, they are preserved and stored slightly differently. I only dry dill seed and use parsley, cilantro, and basil fresh. The flavor really does not dry adequately on these herbs. Oregano, thyme, and rosemary dry very well and taste great dried. The following is the method I use to dry fresh herbs for storage.

  • Cut back fresh rosemary, oregano, or thyme. You want to cut long stems that have adequate growth and stem length to be bundled. I normally do one huge cutback in late August where I cut my herbs almost down to the ground and then dry them. 
  • Wash the herbs making sure to remove all dirt and dead or discolored leaves. Strip bottom leaves off stems so there is an inch or two of bare stem at the bottom of each herb bunch. 
  • Allow the herbs to completely dry before placing in bag. Placing wet herbs in bags will result in moldy dried herbs.
  • Bunch herbs into groups of 6-8 stems and tie together with kitchen twine. Take a lunch size brown paper bag and cut smalls holes in it for ventilation. Place herbs in bag with stems facing out of the top. 
  • Tie twine around top of bag (and herbs stems), make a knot in order that the bag stays put and tie the herbs/bags upside down in a cool dry place for one to two weeks, or until leaves have completely dried out.

Dried Herbs

Recipe Type: Spice
An easy way to dry fresh herbs from your garden to enjoy year round.
Preparation Time: 0h, 15m

January 22, 2015

Dutch Oven Cheddar Cheese Bread

I am not great with being a team player, I never have been. Growing up I was naturally drawn to running, swimming, and dance. If I did well it was me doing it, not me relying on numerous other people to have success. Yes, they were team sports, but only in the larger sense, your team could lose and you could still medal. Awesome. My lack of ability to play well with others was readily apparent when I started work. At first I thought it was all in my head, until we had one of those horrible team building days. One of the activities was to find your personality type and break into groups based on them. I was the only one in my group. All the other groups had bunches of people. Not me, my personality type was just me. While many people would be upset by this finding, I was ecstatic. It wasn't all in my head, I really am not great working with others. So I blame my lack of cooperation on my personality, and I blame my personality on my mother who was the oldest of 12 kids. Being a natural born leader is in my blood, I learned quickly growing up to get out ahead of the pack before the chaos ensued. Sometimes being in front isn't so bad, even if it means you aren't part of the group.

Before I got married I had never made homemade bread. My mother never made it and I had no idea where to start. It took me many failed attempts until I learned that making bread has to start with a  great recipe. Over the last 10 years I have tried so many recipes that failed to live up to my expectations. The following recipe has worked every single time I have made it. I make it at least once a week to go with soups and it is delicious!

Dutch Oven Cheddar Cheese Bread

  • 3 1/2 cups bread flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 3/4 cups water (70-75 degrees)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1 tablespoon cornmeal
  • 4 ounces diced or shredded sharp cheddar cheese
Cooking Directions
  1. Dissolve yeast in the warm water.
  2. In another large bowl mix the flour and salt.
  3. Add the yeast/water to the flour.
  4. Using a plastic spatula or wooden spoon mix dough until smooth (do not knead).
  5. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise at room temperature for 1 hour.
  6. Uncover and punch down dough.
  7. On a lightly floured surface pat the dough into a 9 inch square.
  8. Fold the dough into thirds creating a 9 by 3 inch triangle.
  9. Fold the rectangle in thirds to form a 9 inch square.
  10. Turn the dough over (so the seam is on the bottom) and place into a greased bowl.
  11. Cover and let rise at room temperature for 1 hour.
  12. Punch dough down and repeat folding process above.
  13. Return dough to greased bowl, cover, and place in fridge overnight.
  14. Oil the bottom of a dutch oven and dust with 1 tablespoon cornmeal.
  15. Sprinkle cheddar cheese over dough and knead until incorporated (8-10 times).
  16. Shape the dough into a 6 inch round loaf and place into the greased dutch oven.
  17. Cover and allow to rise at room temperature for 1 1/4 hours.
  18. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F.
  19. Make a 1/4 inch slash across the top of the loaf.
  20. Place lid on dutch oven and bake for 25 minutes.
  21. Turn oven down to 450 degrees F, remove lid, and bake for an additional 20-25 minutes.
  22. Let completely cool before slicing.
  • This bread can also be made with dried cranberries. Omit the cheddar cheese and in step 15 add 1 cup dried cranberries and 4 teaspoons grated orange peel. The cranberry bread is great for turkey or ham sandwiches, my family loves it! 
  • The cheese bread makes delicious grilled cheese sandwiches. The cheese in the bread makes for a cheesy and gooey sandwich! 
  • This recipe can look a little intimidating with all the steps, but trust me it's actually pretty easy. Most of the time involved is when the dough is resting, the actual hands on work is minimal. 
  • This is a good base recipe to experiment with different mix ins. Just add whatever combination you desire in step 15 or leave out the cheddar cheese completely for a great plain rustic bread. 

January 19, 2015

Elvis Snack Mix

I used to love weekends. After having kids I look forward to weekdays and when my kids go back to school. I thought I was the only one until I decided to ask my husband, thinking maybe staying at home made my opinion slanted. Nope, my husband is the same way. While work maybe stressful and busy, it doesn't have two boys yelling in my husband's ear all day. It also doesn't have 1,000 errands to do like every weekend seems to, or the family obligations that always crop up. When my husband and I were first married weekends were a time to relax and sleep in. I haven't slept in on the weekend since I was 27, my weekend morning normally start at 5:30 am when my youngest wakes up and demands breakfast. Then my day involves errands, laundry and cleaning up after 3 males. By the time Monday roles around I'm exhausted and spend most of the day cleaning up the messes that didn't get finished the last two days. I love my kids dearly, but I also enjoy when they wave goodbye from the bus Monday morning.

I tend to make snacks in batches. For a few weeks I make various muffin recipes, then breads, cookies, etc then switch to a new batch of snacks. Last week was Chex Mix week. I made a number of recipe variations and then stored them in the cupboard in air tight containers. It's nice since they stay fresh for a decent amount of time. The following is a recipe for Elvis Snack Mix.

Recipe adapted from Redbook Magazine.

Elvis Snack Mix

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • salt to taste
  • 4 cups Rice Chex
  • 2 cups banana chips
  • 1 cup peanuts
  • 1 cup dark chocolate chips
Cooking Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit.
  2. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. Over medium heat melt the butter, peanut butter, sugar, and salt.
  4. Toss with cereal.
  5. Spread cereal mixture evenly on the baking sheet.
  6. Let bake 10 minutes, stirring once.
  7. Toss with the banana chips, peanut, and dark chocolate chips.
  8. Let cool and then break into pieces.
  • The dark chocolate chips can be replaced with semi-sweet or milk chocolate chips depending on your preference. 1/4 cup dark chocolate chips and a 1/4 cup peanut butter chips would also be yummy. 
  • The Rice Chex can be replaced with Corn Chex (or other corn or rice cereals such as Crispix). 
  • My husband prefers this mix with 2 cups of peanuts and 1 cup of banana chips. He has never been a banana chip fan, so experiment until you find a combination that works for your family (everyone is different!). 

January 17, 2015

White Chocolate Pistachio Snack Mix

Both of my kids are in school this year. That should be a good thing, it turns out it has brought about a lot of drama. My oldest was officially diagnosed with ADHD this summer (after 6 months of testing, doctors etc.) which has brought about a lot of changes. Just when my oldest got everything under control (he has straight A's in school this year), my younger son started having severe separation anxiety. I'm not talking about a little crying at the bus. Last week he had a full meltdown and wouldn't even get on the bus, leading me to carrying him almost a mile to school. Who needs cross-fit when you can carry a 45 pound child a mile everyday. He has his good days and bad days. Some mornings he wakes up and is ready to go, other days start with an hour of crying and me crossing my fingers he will actually get on the bus. I love both of my kids, but I never knew how hard it can be to deal with emotional/health issues. Luckily the more I deal with my kids issues the better parent I am becoming. I just wish that kids came with a manual, it would make everything so much easier.

In addition to the separation anxiety issues my youngest is skinny. So skinny that if he loses anymore weight it will become a problem (he has always been below the 5th percentile for weight, but he hasn't gained much weight in the last year). My oldest also stays thin and eats all the time, so I keep a constant supply of snacks in my house. Snack mix is always popular and can be made in big batches, which is always nice. The following is a recipe for White Chocolate Pistachio Snack Mix.

Recipe adapted from Redbook Magazine.

White Chocolate Pistachio Chex Mix

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 4 cups rice Chex cereal
  • 1 1/2 cups shelled pistachios
  • 1 1/2 cups dried cranberries
  • 1 cup white chocolate chips
Cooking Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. Melt butter, sugar, vanilla and kosher salt (to taste) over medium heat.
  4. Pour mixture over rice cereal.
  5. Toss to make sure cereal is evenly coated.
  6. Place mixture on the baking sheet in an even layer.
  7. Bake until golden brown, approximately 10 minutes.
  8. Toss cereal mixture with pistachios, dried cranberries and white chocolate chips.
  9. Let cool and they break apart.
  • This cereal mix can also be made with corn chex if you prefer. 
  • The original recipe kept the chocolate chips whole at the end. My family loves it when the chocolate chips melt into the cereal and nuts. Either way works, so experiment to see which version you prefer. 
  • I use salted pistachios, but if you prefer to reduce the sodium use unsalted nuts. 

January 7, 2015

Roasted Beets and Garlic Sautéed Beet Greens

I hate adults this time of  the year. It's the beginning of the "when I grew up" stories. You know what I mean, the stories that start with a phrase about school never closing when they grew up and they walked 12 miles in the snow. Good for you, do you want a cookie for your efforts? I too grew up in a school district that never closed. Until I was in grade school and we had a severe storm on the middle of the day. The school district decided to wait it out, it was just a little bit of snow. Finally at 1 pm in the afternoon they let released the school district. Bad idea. I was one of the kids that actually made it on a bus (a lot of my friends ended up staying at various schools with little food and blankets to go around). The bus took until 9pm to get to my house. Well mostly to my house. I was let out three blocks away, across a very busy intersection. I walked across that busy street, while watching accident after accident happen in front of me, but I did make it home. 8 hours after we left school. My poor father had to leave our car on the side of the road and walk part of the way home. He got home at almost midnight. I never talk about my experience as a reason that my kids are soft and need to suck it up and go to school. I do talk about my experience as a reason that sometimes it's better to be in school until June instead of being stuck alone crossing a busy street in a snowstorm. People that like to tell about how kids are soft, keep it to yourself. Honestly, I for one don't care, let the schools close.

Now that my rant is done (trust me it really is one of my big pet peeves), on to the recipe! I love roasting vegetables. We eat a ton of roasted veggies in my house, especially in the fall and winter. The following is an easy way to prepare beets (I promise beets are really delicious when prepared correctly).

Roasted Beets

  • 1 pound beets, scrubbed
Cooking Directions
  1. Wrap beets in foil packets (2-3 beets per packet).
  2. Place on a baking sheet and cook at 425 degrees for 50-60 minutes.
  3. After beets have cooled rub off skins (they should come off easily, if they don't use a small knife).
The beet greens can also be used and they are a great source of vitamins (and delicious). Just heat a small amount of olive oil in a skillet, add one or two sliced garlic cloves. Let cook over medium heat until garlic browns. Remove garlic and add greens. Cook until the greens are wilted, approximately 3-4 minutes. That's it, so easy! 

  • Roasted beets are great by themselves or with a small amount of salt and sour cream. 
  • They also make great salad additions. I love adding roasted beets and sunflower seeds to salads, yum! 
  • Finally, you can add them to smoothies. It sounds a little strange, but they are a great source of vitamins and don't add a root taste to smoothies, the taste is barely noticeable amongst the other smoothie ingredients. They are great with strawberries, I make beet/strawberry smoothies about once a week to help with my potassium levels. 

January 2, 2015

Almond Meal Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

It seems food guilt is everywhere these days. Every month there is a new article meant to scare people about the dangers of various foods. You thought soy was good for you, wrong, same goes for eggs, butter, and almond flour. Then 6 months later the opposite. Oh wait, eggs aren't as bad as we thought, maybe agave syrup isn't as great as we stated 6 months earlier. Honestly, we all need to calm down a little. It seems that a constant state of panic is what many people thrive on today. Food companies and various interest groups have picked up on this panic and made millions of claims. We all want to live longer, but if you are constantly worrying about the foods that you eat your stress level will be higher, which is not a good thing. For me personally, I eat a small amount of everything. Over the years I have been a vegetarian, a vegan, and an anorexic. I gave into the hype in my 20's and my relationship with food was horrible. I spent so much time obsessing about what I should or should not eat that I didn't each much of anything. Currently I have a great relationship with food. I am thin, in great shape, and my cholesterol levels are as low as non-meat eaters. Most of all I don't limit any foods, I just don't overdo any of them either. I do have one piece of cake, not three, but the one piece of cake that I do have I enjoy every moment that I'm eating it. Food should be enjoyed, not obsessed over. None of us remembers the food we didn't eat, but almost all of us remember at least one great food memory.

Almond flour has had a bit of a controversy in the last 10 years. Some people love it, others have a list of reasons why it should be avoided. I'm not going to list either side here. I use it occasionally. If I buy a bag for a recipe I experiment with the remainder of the bag in baked goods. The texture is different than other gluten free flours and it can be a bit expensive, but you can make your own almond meal (flour) in a food processor and most recipes take less than a cup. My advice with anything gluten free is to try all the options and then pick the one that works best for you. None of us are the same and neither should our food choices. With that said, the following is a recipe for Almond Flour Banana Bread/Muffins.

Recipe adapted from Jan's Sushi Bar.

Almond Flour Banana Bread

  • 3 cups almond flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 bananas, mashed
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted
Cooking Directions
  1. Combine the almond flour, salt, and baking powder in a bowl.
  2. In a separate bowl combine the eggs, butter, sugar, and vanilla.
  3. Add the dry ingredients to the bowl with wet ingredients.
  4. Beat until combined.
  5. Pour into a 9 X 5 inch greased loaf pan.
  6. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 50-60 minutes.
  7. Tent the top of the loaf during the last 15 minutes of baking if needed.
  • You can add chocolate chips or walnuts if desired. 
  • This recipe can also be made as muffins (as seen in my pictures above). Just make sure to decrease the baking time to 15-20 minutes of total time. Also muffin liners are best since the almond flour tends to stick a little without a liner. 
  • If you don't eat butter, coconut oil can be used as a replacement. The same goes for the granulated sugar, date or coconut sugar would also work. 
  • As with all bread recipes check the loaf after it has cooked for approximately 40 minutes. Tent the top with foil if it starts to over brown and check the middle of the loaf for doneness before taking out of the oven. The total cooking time can vary greatly based on a number of factors so don't be alarmed if your bread takes longer than the total stated time. 
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