I might be one of the very last people to watch Game of Thrones. The idea that Winter is Coming is throughout the first season and a few of the characters are paying attention but most are not. Of course that has nothing to do with the garden but seems more interesting than the old ant and grasshopper story.
In the garden we are aware that winter is coming so today was all about harvesting and “putting up” for winter. There is nothing that I like better than to be able to make chili, soup or spaghetti sauce on a cold winter day with tomatoes I’ve saved from the garden. We are so used to having plenty of tomatoes all winter that we forget how yummy they are until someone is here for a meal and reminds us that those tomatoes we saved from the garden make an ordinary meal something special.
I just wash the tomatoes and cut them in half. I cook them on low heat until they start releasing juice and I turn them up to medium-low. I mash them every ten minutes or so and cook until everything is soft. I put the cooked tomatoes and juice through a food mill to got rid of most of the skins. I put about 3 cups of cooked tomatoes into a plastic container and freeze. A day or so later I remove them from the containers and put them I a bag that can be vacuum sealed. This saves that fresh garden flavor.
We also harvested Anasazi beans. They are yummy and we like them better than pinto beans. After they are shelled we spread them out on a cookie sheet to dry. It only takes a few days and then they go into a jar in the pantry.
Squash and okra went into the freezer today too. We are happier with the texture of these two vegetables if we don’t blanch them first. The general rule of thumb is to use them within 6 months. We use a vacuum sealer so we don’t have any problems. I cut the okra first since this is how I will be using it. I put it on a parchment lined pan in the freezer for about an hour and a half. This helps it not get crushed in the vacuum sealer. The squash just goes in the bag freshly cut and then vacuum sealed.
Paul even made pickled peppers. He says they are very tasty but hot. I don’t do hot so I’ll let him enjoy those.
Paul’s Pickled Peppers
Makes 2 pint jars.
1 3/4 cup white distilled vinegar
3/4 cup water
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeño, sliced vertically In half
1 T sugar
1 tsp sea salt
Heat ingredients until sugar and salt dissolve. Liquid should be very hot but doesn’t need to boil.
While this heats, put 5-6 jalapeños in each clean pint jar. They should fit as tightly as possible. Pour hot liquid and garlic into jars. Each jar gets one of the cut pepper pieces. Don’t be surprised if the peppers start to float. Put on the lids. Let the jars cool a bit and store in the refrigerator. These are not processed in a water bath so be sure to keep them in the fridge.
Loving my garden,
While kombucha has been around a really long time, I think it has only really gained such widespread popularity in recent years due to the Paleo diet and other whole food lifestyles making a resurgence. I remember the first time I tried kombucha, I was skeptical about it. The smell is not what I would naturally lean into and that other funky stuff in there honestly didn’t exactly have me licking my lips. I did try it though and it was better than it looked. Since then I have tried more different store bought flavors than I can remember. Let’s be honest though, at $3-$4 dollars a bottle it’s not exactly something I am picking up every day.
Drinking kombucha on a regular basis is a really good idea though. The cultures in the kombucha are incredibly beneficial to your health!! The probiotics are a major necessity for your gut health. Not only that but it also has a plethora of other benefits. It’s full of healthy acids, enzymes and helps to detoxify the body. Kombucha is a slightly carbonated beverage that is a great alternative to sodas as it is slightly sweet yet, when properly brewed, it is low in sugar.
So how do you incorporate this health boosting drink to your day without breaking the bank?? Brew your own! A good friend of mine suggested this to me and gave me a SCOBY, which is a symbiotic culture of bacteria & yeast. These SCOBY’s can also be purchased on Amazon if you don’t have anyone making one available to you. It looks super funky!! Kind of like a super dense booger if we’re being honest, but a magical one!
So, how do you do it?? It starts with a super dark brewing of black tea, about 16 cups. I boiled 8 cups of water and added 12 bags of black tea and left it covered for over 10 minutes. Then add 1.5 cups of sugar and mix until the sugar is completely dissolved. Then transfer the sweet tea to a large glass jar (it must be glass so it does not interfere with the fermentation) add the remaining 8 cups of water and wait until the tea is cooled to room temperature. Then add the SCOBY along with about 1 cup of plain kombucha and cover with a tea towel or cheese cloth and secure with a rubber band. Place this jar in a dark, room temperature place where it won’t be disturbed for at least a week. Be patient! After 7 days you can take a peek to see how things are coming along. The SCOBY will have grown significantly and the whole mixture will have that unmistakable kombucha smell. There will also be yeast tendrils coming down from the SCOBY which is good!! Mine wasn’t ready until day 9.
At that point the first brewing of kombucha is complete. You will need to remove the SCOBY and place it in a jar with about 1 cup of the kombucha so you can start again. There will also be a SCOBY baby which will look like what you started with. Place that in a jar with a cup of the kombucha and pay it forward to an unsuspecting but certainly grateful friend.
Now you can either drink the kombucha the way that it is or you can go for a second brewing. I immediately went for a second brewing because I was excited about the option for adding different flavors. The idea is that you portion the kombucha out into smaller glass containers and add fruit juice or other sweet flavorings and continue the brewing process. The kombucha will continue to feed on the sugar of whatever flavorings you put in with it causing it to ferment further and also to carbonate!! It’s pretty amazing to see how that happens. The drink stays low in sugar because the bacteria feeds on the sugar in the fruit juice using it up. The variations that I did were blueberry and basil, watermelon, mango, and Ningxia Red with honey.
Here are the instructions that I followed for a more thorough explanation. They are very easy to follow and he also has a follow up video about the second fermentation process.
Don’t delay, get your home brewing on!! Hope you all are well!!
In anticipation of Taco Tuesday we have two salsa recipes for you today!
2 lb. of ripe tomatoes
2-3 jalapeños, seeds removed and diced
1/2 yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 drops lime essential oil (Use a vitality oil that is approved for consumption like Young Living.)
To remove tomato skins, first blanch the tomatoes in boiling water for 30 seconds. Drop in iced water. Remove the skins and core. Chop the tomatoes to the size you like. I do about a half-inch dice because I like it chunky. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix.
You can serve this right away but I like to make it an hour or so before I make tacos so the flavors develop.
When I served this to the neighbors with chips they asked what was that extra little flavor. That’s the lime oil. I makes a real difference.
Our Taco Tuesday sometimes consists of fish tacos, I’m a big fan!! The best salsa to go with a fish taco is grilled pineapple salsa. Yum!!
1-2 jalapenos, roasted, peeled and diced
handful of cilantro, diced
1 small red onion, diced
Pineapple is a favorite in my house, all of my kids love it and ask for them all the time. The easiest way to cut a pineapple is to cut the top and bottom off and then cut it into quarters down the core. When the pineapple is in 4 pieces cut the core out and then cut down the outside to remove the skin. Cut the 4 pieces lengthwise in half so you have 8 total pieces. Rub the pineapple with olive oil and salt it, then grill on both sides until browned. The sugar in the pineapple almost caramelizes, it’s delicious! Cut the grilled pineapple into small bite size pieces. From this point on you will have to watch for little fingers sneaking in to snatch bites!
There are a lot of ways to roast a jalapeno but my favorite is to put it under the broiler and rotate it every couple of minutes until the skin is charred. Once the entire jalapeno is charred, pull it out of the oven and put it in a plastic bag for a few minutes. The peppers will sweat while they are in the bag, this makes the skin practically fall off.
Mix together the pineapple, roasted jalapeno, red onion, cilantro and lime juice. This can be eaten right away or will keep for a couple of days in the fridge.
Cathy and Amber
So I got brave and made my own sauerkraut. I am a big fan of kraut as well as pickles, kimchi, really anything crunchy and acidy/salty. I was pleasantly surprised at how simple and easy this was. Seriously, anyone could do this!! I got the recipe from a cookbook called EAT DRINK Paleo by Irena Macri.
Start by thinly slicing a half of a head of cabbage and one carrot. I used purple because I they did in the recipe that I was following and it was so pretty I couldn’t resist.
The next step is almost therapeutic. Add the cabbage and carrot to a bowl along with a crushed garlic clove and top it with 1 1/2 Tbsp of sea salt and 1/2 tsp of ground coriander and start mixing it all together with your hands. The salt will make the veggies start to release their liquids as you are doing this and that is what you want to happen. Keep mixing and squeezing the mixture together for several minutes, the more you squeeze the more liquid will be released. Once I was pretty sure I had gotten all of the liquid out that I could, I pushed everything down into the bottom of the bowl and topped it with saran wrap. Then I placed a saucer on top and weighted it down with a full tea kettle to continue pressing out more liquid. Leave the mixture for a couple of hours as more liquid will come out than you think is possible.
In the meantime, sterilize a jar. This is not as daunting as it sounds, just submerge an empty jar to a pot of boiling water for a few minutes and then retrieve it with tongs (be careful) and set it out to dry. Add the cabbage mixture into the jar pushing everything down so it is submerged in the liquid and close it tightly. Leave the jar at room temperature for about three days (ours was out for 4 days). When you open the jar it will smell like sauerkraut 🙂 You can eat it at any time after that. It keeps in the fridge for a long time.
Eating fresh sauerkraut is very good for you. Any fermented food has probiotics which are very good for gut health because they balance the bacteria in your digestive system. The majority of your immune system resides in your gut so it is extremely important to consume probiotics daily. This can be difficult so I also supplement with Young Livings Life 9 probiotic. It is the best option I have found as it has 9 different strains of good bacteria and 17 BILLION bacteria!! No matter how you get your good bacteria, I encourage you to add it to your day.
Hope all is well!!
Well, school is upon us. My children go to a school with no cafeteria which means I pack lunches every. single. day. I have a few lunch ideas if you pack your students lunches (or even if you pack your own lunch). One is super fun and not too difficult as well as two practical ideas.
I always start the school year off with the best of intentions. I want my kids lunches to be healthy and delicious, preferable not monotonous, etc… By the time May rolls around my kids are lucky if they get something in addition to a pb&j and a banana, but I digress.
The first idea is spring rolls. Spring rolls are delicious and you can put anything your heart desires in them. We made ours with lettuce, carrots, cilantro, grated cabbage, and sauteed cod. We found the Vietnamese rice wrappers and peanut sauce at an asian market. The process is easier than it seems. I think it helps to lay all of the options out in an assembly line style before you start.
We used a pie pan filled with warm water to moisten the wrappers. You submerge the wrapper until it softens up and gets almost silky in texture. Lift it out of the water and let the excess drip off. Then you just lay your wrapper on a flat plate and place the toppings in the middle. Roll the bottom edge up around the stuffing fold both sides up and continue to roll it to the other edge of the wrapper. The rice paper sticks to itself so it stays together really well you just have to be careful not to fold it in half before you get started.
Delicious!! When you pack this in a lunch box, I would line your container with a lettuce leaf to keep the wrapper from sticking to the container.
While it’s fun to pack a colorful lunch that’s full of veggie it’s not always practical. One of the things I like to do is pre-make sandwiches and freeze them. I prefer to use natural almond butter in sandwiches but I absolutely loath having to stir together almond butter that has seperated and is covered in a layer of oil. To remedy this we use the almond butter that you grind fresh at the supermarket and make the sandwiches as soon as we get home. The kids love to help with this, even my five year old! Again, we do assembly line style. We lay out an entire loaf of bread in pairs. One person spreads on the almond butter and another spreads either jelly, banana puree or honey on the other and sandwiches the pieces together. The last person puts the sandwiches in bags and stacks them in the freezer. These keep for a couple of weeks. I just put them in the lunch boxes frozen and by lunch they’re thawed, they also keep everything else cold in the meantime.
The last idea is new to me but we tried it and it’s tasty and super easy, sheet pan meal prep. We used a recipe I found on Pinterest and it was great. Roughly chop a zucchini and a red onion, cut a head of broccoli into florets and cut two chicken breasts into 1 inch pieces. Place all of the ingredients in rows on a sheet pan lined with foil and add a row of cherry tomatoes. Drizzle olive oil over the entire pan and season with salt and italian seasoning. Roast in the oven for 25 minutes at 450 degrees. While that is cooking make a batch of rice or quinoa, whatever you choose really. When everything is done you can portion it all out into about 4 or 5 seperate containers starting with a little bit of the rice and topping it with a bit of chicken and each of the veggies. That is a pretty complete meal that you can just stick in a lunch box with a fork and be happy that your kids (or yourself) are getting a tasty and healthy lunch. This would work with several different vegetables as well, you could easily make this work with your families favorites.
Hope these ideas are helpful for you. Packing lunches can be a point of stress but it doesn’t have to be with a little bit of planning.
Hope all is well!! XOXO -Amber
Tell me, where do you get your food inspiration?? Do you ever get in a rut where you are making the same five dinners just in a different order, I do. When this happens I have my favorite cookbooks I turn to. They are like dear old friends of mine and as you can see by the tattered edges of poor Gwyneth, she is one of my favorites. She gets lambasted on the internet all the time for being out of touch but honestly her food is Awesome!! Healthy and interesting but not soo bizarre that it’s unapproachable. Love and Lemons is another goodie. All of the recipes are organized by the main produce ingredient so basically it is a fruit and veg cookbook that is full of goodness!! Sometimes when I read cookbooks I don’t even cook anything from them, but the recipes and words are enough to inspire me to make something new!
We have been trying out the Whole 30 diet around here just to re-kickstart some healthier habits and it is pretty tough. To be totally honest we are cheating a bit in that we aren’t 100% committed. We plan all of our actual meals to be Whole 30 approved, but if we want a glass of wine or a peanut butter cup then we don’t kill ourselves over it! So far the best menu item has been a quick dinner based on something I found on Pinterest, a one skillet – sausage, shrimp, and veggie dish. The dish uses the aidells chicken sausage which is pretty clean for a sausage.
- 1 package aidells chicken sausage – cut the sausage on the diagonal into bite size pieces
- 1 lb shrimp – peeled and deveined
- 1 large onion – sliced thinly
- 2 peppers (not green obviously) – seeded and cut into strips
- 2 zucchini – halved lengthwise and cut into bite size pieces
- salt and pepper
- chicken stock
First saute the shrimp in olive oil until cooked through – remove from pan. Add a little more olive oil and saute the onions and peppers until pretty soft. Add the sausage and zucchini and cook for a few minutes until the sausage is browned a little and the zucchini has softened a bit. Add the shrimp back into the pan and pour in enough chicken stock to just make the dish cohesive without being soupy. Let stew for just a few minutes. Salt and pepper as you go for more depth of flavor. Josh really likes to add curry powder to this dish which is also very good!!
I forgot to photograph, ugh!! So I’ll leave you with a photo of the most beautiful meal I’ve been served in a while!
Hope all is well!!