Friday, June 24, 2011

Ginger is my new best friend!

Okay, so I know a lot of people blog about smoothies and everyone has a recipe or two that they love. Personally I'm addicted to smoothies all year round and I love experimenting with flavors. I have my favorites, but this recipe is the best smoothie I've ever made. It should win a smoothie award, if there is such a thing. What made this smoothie different from others is that it included ginger root, which I was a bit nervous adding. I love ginger in recipes, but in a smoothie?! I realize now that as long as you have a balance of sweet and creamy, you can't go wrong with adding ginger. Don't hesitate, just try, you will be pleasantly surprised! Without further wait, I present...

Mango-Melon Ginger Smoothie

1 cup frozen cantaloupe

1/2 cup frozen mango

1/2 cup of soy milk

1 medium banana

1/2 tsp of grated ginger

Throw it all in a blender and blend it up! This serves 1 person :)
You end up with a sweet, tangy, creamy smoothie. The sweetness from the cantaloupe and mango really balance the creaminess of the banana and soy milk. Then you get hit with a nice kick of ginger that is not overwhelming at all. If it was overwhelming my 4 year old wouldn't have gone near this smoothie. Check it out...We smile a lot when we drink smoothies!

I had to make another batch because he wanted his very own smoothie in his special smiley face cup. He gobbled up his and half of mine!

Then he insisted he take a picture of me this morning with my Mango-Melon Ginger smoothie!

Yum what a great start to our day!


Thursday, June 23, 2011

Farmer's Market Clearance Section

I'm an avid shopper in the clearance section of the Farmer's Markets. I can usually find throw away tomatoes, onions, cantaloupe, bananas, peppers, apples..geez you name it they clearance it. I try to check on it a few times a week, some days I end up leaving with nothing and other days I have huge bags full. Yesterday I found some gems, two 10-lb bags of tomatoes 1.99/each, 2 cauliflowers .99/each, 2 cantaloupes 1.49 for the pair, 10-lb bag of green beans/1.49...yum! Nothing was damaged just needing to sold before being over ripe.

Today I sliced some chunks of cantaloupe some for the fridge and some for the freezer.We pulled these out of the freezer and snacked on them after being outside in the heat. These were great because they were only slightly frozen from only being in the freezer for an hour.

Speaking of freezers I seriously need to consider buying a deep freeze. With all the vegetables and fruits we are growing in our garden, picking at the local farms and buying at the farmer's market we won't be able to keep up with it all. Need to freeze!

As for the tomatoes..well I decided it was probably best we made a tomato sauce with spaghetti squash noodles. My son's favorite dish! I decided that this time around I would try to make sauce the proper way, which meant removing the skin, seed and core. I typically would just remove the core and throw it all into a pot to cook, but then you get skins and seeds in your sauce. I don't really mind, but I wanted to give the "correct" way a try. I discovered very quickly the easiest way to remove the peel...
Score the bottom of the tomato with a paring knife

After you remove core, let them soak in hot water in the sink.

After 10 minutes soaking you can start peeling the skin, opening the tomato and removing the seeds.

Then put in a blender or food processor

You end up with a smooth, delicious puree!

With this puree you could create dishes other than tomato sauce. Think cold or hot soups, salsas, thick tomato juice, dips, the list is endless..tomatoes are used in so many recipes! As for using it as a sauce I may have to add some store bought tomato paste because we like our sauce a bit thicker. I have the sauce cooking on low in my slow cooker to see if it will thicken. It tastes amazing though with fresh oregano, basil, sauteed onions and garlic! Oh yum, dinner is going to be good!

Lastly, there is a great contest give away happening over at Color Wheel Meals for an Ascenta Health product! Check it out!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Gardening Days Part 2: Raised Vegetable Bed

FYI: This post is going to be a picture parade!

Our amazing zucchini plants!

We have way more vegetable plants growing, sprouting and seeded than yard plants. First up is our raised and covered bed, which was made with some scrap wood and vapor barrier my dad gave us last year. You can see the post here. We've made a few adjustments to the original design, such as attaching small pieces of wood to hold the plastic frame down. After using this cold frame and growing veggies in it for 2 seasons, we would probably design it totally different. For a starting point, it was a great learning experience.
Here is a picture that we took in the fall. To be honest I was happy to reuse material, but I thought the outer boards were a bit ugly. So an idea started forming...

Here is the after pic! We invited over family and everyone took part in painting the outside boards. Everyone had fun free handing it and painting whatever they wanted.

What you will need to paint your raised garden bed:
-White outdoor primer (paint the outside boards carefully and let dry)
-A variety of acrylic paints, paint brushes, a blanket to put on the ground, a fun group of people and a great imagination!

This is a wonderful project for children with adult supervision of course. It encourages interest in growing fresh foods! My lil one constantly looks out the window or runs outside just to look at his artwork. I didn't realize how much of an impact this would have on him, he just loves that he painted something outside. The added bonus it looks beautiful compared to the boring old wooden boards they once were!

My son's beautiful choice in colors!

My lil one took this pic of me this morning when I wasn't looking! My hair is getting so long you can't even see my face in this photo! I think I was pulling some baby slugs out of the garden (our major pest this year). I'm just grateful they are not those big, ugly slugs! I won't touch those things.

Here are the vegetables in the raised bed...
Green Bush Beans that are constantly fighting to survive against those slugs

Cucumber plants that I had to purchase as starts. I planted Spacemaster seeds, but they never came up.

A lettuce mix that included parsley, basil, swiss chard and 4 different types of greens! This was my first time trying out seed tape, which is basically seeds placed in bio-degradable tissue that you plant out in the soil. Saves you time, plus the small seeds that can be hard to work with are spaced evenly within the seed tape. I had mixed results with seed tape so far. The first growth only grew half the row, but the second growth seems to be sprouting well.

Baby strawberries on the way!

The strawberry plants...with a yummy red berry ready to be eaten!

First strawberry of the season, picked by my lil one. We shared it, and it had amazing flavor!

Since taking these photos a few days ago, I've planted some radishes (only a 20 day crop!) and 2 more lettuce mixes. Hopefully in a couple weeks we will see some sprouting!

So ends the tour of our raised garden bed, up next is my container gardening! I have about 20+ large containers full of veggies!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Gardening Days Part 1: Yard

Welcome to my yard and garden! First up is a tour of my yard, which has a mostly perennials and a few annuals planted here and there.
I bought this little ladybug for a $2 a few years back and she is one of my favorite little treasures in my yard.

She sits near the beautiful ivy I planted last year. This spring it's really taken to it's location and has grown triple in size.

Here are a few of my annuals that my son and I picked out this year. We both loved the mix of colors. We planted a lot of them in a very large tea cup planter.

I also have bicycle planters that had annuals, but I neglected them, oops! I think the planter still looks great with nothing planted in it.

Here is just one of my 7 lavender plants. I love this variety, it dries really well without all the buds falling off. This picture really does no justice in showing how huge this plant is.

I also have some very slow growing boxwood plants around the border of our yard. This plant is about 2-3 years old now. I figure in 10 years I should have a nice hedge.

I have my gnomes and garden faeries that patrol the premises. This is my favorite gnome, he is exactly what I picture a garden gnome to look like!

Honey bees are already hard a work, which is great news for a garden!

My zebra grass which is full of wonderful strips and personality.

And finally my tulip bulbs, which come originally from my grandpa who gave many to my mom before he passed away. We planted these out already and I can't wait to see them popping up in the yard next spring!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Veggie Pot Pie with a Whole Wheat Crust

This was a spur of the moment recipe that I threw together. I'm used to seeing pot pies with chicken, but this one is meat free! It's a vegan recipe, but it is not gluten free. The recipe actually came together because I wanted use a bunch of our baby spinach, since I harvested all of it yesterday. Then the family was wanting pot pie and I thought lets put the two together with a bunch of extra veggies. I love pot pies, I typically cook them in the fall/winter because to me they seem like a comfort food. It's been cold and rainy here the past couple of days so a healthy comfort dish was needed. There are so many pot pie recipes out there, so don't let this one hold you back. Every time we make a pot pie, we just throw whatever we have together and make up the recipe as we go. Add, remove, change anything you want from the veggies, herbs, to the crust :) You'll see that this time around I ventured in trying to different types of crusts using olive oil vs. vegan margarine.

Bottom Crust:
This recipe is a slightly modified version of Betty Crocker's Pat-in-Pan recipe. For the original recipe click here. This is always my go to recipe for a bottom pie crust. I love that I don't have to roll out any dough!

1 1/3 cups Whole Wheat Flour
1/3 cup Olive Oil
1/2 tsp of Salt
2 Tbsp Cold Water

Preheat oven to 400F. Mix flour, oil and salt till everything is moistened. Then add water and form into a dough ball. Place in bottom of dish and spread dough out to cover entire 9' glass pie plate. Cook in the oven for 10-12 minutes until golden brown.
Set aside for 30minutes to cool, as you prepare the filling.

1 tbsp Olive Oil
1 clove of Garlic
1 cup diced Broccoli
1 cup diced Cauliflower
1 diced Onion
5 diced Baby Potatoes
1 cup Frozen Mixed Veggies(corn, peas, beans, carrots)
1 bunch of Spinach
1 cup Whole Wheat Flour
2 cups Vegetable Broth
1 cup of Soy Milk (Or whatever milk you prefer)
Dash or two of sea salt and pepper
Any herbs of your liking (We used oregano, rosemary and thyme)

Sautee garlic in olive oil for a minute or two on low heat. Cook all veggies except the frozen mixed vegetables and spinach. Let the veggies cook until the potatoes feel tender then add the frozen veggies and spinach. Once the spinach wilts, sprinkle the whole wheat flour in and mix. Then add the vegetable broth and milk. Stir and cook for 20 more minutes. Remove from heat and let stand for 10 minutes to thicken. Then add to bottom pie shell.

Top Crust:
This recipe is also a modified version, this time it's Betty Crockers Single Pie Crust. It's basically the same as the bottom crust, but instead of oil you use shortening. In our case we used a vegan margarine. Worked out well!

1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp of salt
1/3 cup vegan margarine
2-3 tbsp of cold water

Mix flour and salt in a bowl. Cut in vegan margarine with a fork or two knives. Sprinkle with cold water, tossing with fork until all flour is moistened. Gather pastry into a ball. Add extra tbsp of water if the dough seems crumbly.

Then roll out pastry using a floured rolling pin. Place rolled out dough on top of filling and pie plate. Use a fork to seal the edges. Then take a knife and score the top of the dough 2-3 times. This will let steam release as it cooks. Cook the veggie pot pie at 400F for 20-25 minutes till the top crust is golden brown.

Let it cool for 10minutes and then dig in! So delicious!

The bottom olive oil crust was definitely meant to be a bottom crust it held together well, yet was still soft. The top vegan margarine crust was meant to be a top crust, it was flaky, soft and tender. Remember you could always purchase your pie crusts, but homemade is always better! You know what ingredients go in it and lets be honest these two pie crusts are really not that hard to make.