Archive | Uncategorized RSS feed for this section

Quick Weeknight Meal: Lemony Ricotta Pasta with Basil

10 Sep

Well hello sarcastic followers! I know, I know. I’ve been MIA again. SO much going on. Weddings, weddings and more weddings. An unscheduled kitchen demo and remodel (another post!), raising new baby chicks and incorporating them into the current flock, gardening, and just life in general has been…hectic. BUT, I’m baaaaaack!

With summer drawing to a close, I was on the hunt for a recipe that would let me use of the last of the fresh basil. I froze a container full to use during the colder months, but still had a nice amount left of the plants that hadn’t been attacked by bugs or started turning brown. Then the the kitchn showed me a way with Lemony Ricotta Pasta with Basil.  After I read the comments, I made some modifications since there were people saying it lacked flavor. I doubled the lemon juice and zest, didn’t really measure the ricotta (so I’m sure I used more than the 2 cups, probably by about 1/2 cup), and added in garlic. I used an egg pasta for a little bit of a richer taste. The result was a bright, flavorful dish that was like summer in a bowl.

Hubs loved this dish as much as I did. If I were to serve it to a group for dinner, I’d use it as a side with some baked chicken and a salad. It was so quick to put together!

Lemony Ricotta Pasta with Basil

Lemony Ricotta Pasta with Basil

1 pound small shaped pasta – I used an egg pasta in rolled tube shape

2 1/2 cups whole milk ricotta

1 cup shredded parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons olive oil

6 garlic gloves, minced

Juice and zest of 2 lemons

Kosher salt and pepper to taste

¼ cup sliced basil leaves

1 cup reserved pasta water

 

Salt and boil a pot of water large enough to fit  your pasta of choice.

In a large bowl, mix your ricotta, parmesan, lemon juice and zest. Set aside.

Add your olive oil to a pan and heat over medium flame. Once oil is heated, add your minced garlic and cook for 3 minutes, stirring so it does not burn. Add your garlic oil mix to your cheese mix, stirring to combine. Salt and pepper to taste (I went heavier on the pepper for more flavor).

Once pasta is cooked to package directions, drain – reserving 1 cup of the pasta water. Add ¼ cup of pasta water to your cheese mixture and stir to combine. Add pasta and basil, stirring to combine. If you would like the sauce to be thinner, add more pasta water until you reach your desired consistency. The heat from the cooked pasta and the pasta water will warm the cheese sauce and make it nice and creamy.

Serve immediately! If you have leftovers, save any leftover pasta water to add to the mixture when reheating. This will keep the sauce creamy and delicious.

 

Advertisements

A healthy dessert alternative – Dark Chocolate Frozen Coconut Bites

19 Aug

I don’t know if you’ve heard, but I love me some coconut. And not just food, coconut everything. Coconut oil, candy, body wash, body spray, shampoo, soap, candles, beverages. You name it. I haven’t met something with coconut anywhere in the description that I didn’t like. Seriously. As many of you have picked up, I am working to lead a healthier lifestyle. That doesn’t mean I don’t eat well or live a good life. I still enjoy food, and the whole act of eating. I just choose to make better choices. Organic as often as I can, growing and preserving as much food as possible, and doing much of my cooking from scratch. I have cut back on my beer consumption since that and too large portions are what contributed to my weight gain (fall beers are starting to arrive though, so I’ll have to be strong!!!) I don’t follow any particular diet or eating fad. I’m not gluten free, paleo or vegan. I like meat. I like dairy. I like bread. I don’t stop myself from eating the things that I like, I just limit myself to how much I’m eating. I’ve stopped boredom snacking. When I have a craving for something that may not be the healthiest food choice, I wait a few days. If I still have the craving, I indulge in a small bit of whatever it is I have a hankering for. Like a slice of pie, or a piece of cake. If the craving goes away, it was just a random craving. I certainly don’t exercise as often as I should. My days have been pretty busy as of late with cleaning, gardening, and taking care of my 10lb back surgery dog. So I’m not sitting around. I have actually lost 10lbs of the 30 that I want to lose, and that is mostly with diet changes. It’s amazing how great it feels when a pair of pants that had previously not fit FIT. Like you can button them up and not struggle to breathe. There is no muffin top or unsightly bulge. It’s a total victory. I’m not FAT, but I’m certainly not at my healthiest weight. So this lifestyle change is working, and I can see results. Therefore I choose to continue making healthy food choices. BUT…that doesn’t mean this girl doesn’t want something sweet from time to time. And I don’t think it’s too much to ask to have it be a healthy sweet treat. Enter in the Dark Chocolate Frozen Coconut Bites – aka Coconut Klondike. Coconut is a healthy fat to ingest. Coconut oil has so many benefits I won’t even go into listing them all here. Dark chocolate is also beneficial. One of these little Coconut Bites satisfies a craving without blowing your daily progress and on a hot day, the frozen texture of them helps give you a mini cool down. I love that they are a 2 bite treat (on if you are a man and toss the whole thing in your mouth), there are no added sugars, no processing, no ingredients that can’t be pronounced or identified. They are actually a HEALTHY treat!!!  Go figure!

Your yield for these can vary depending on how much you fill up those muffin liners. I got 30, but know I could have gotten less if I would have packed in the coconut. I also chose to add in some more of the shredded coconut – probably 1/4 cup more so I got a larger yield. The original recipe called for making these in the standard size muffin papers but I chose to do mini so having 2 would feel like a real indulgence.

If you like coconut, are trying to be healthy, or both definitely give these a try. I’m so glad I did!

Dark Chocolate Frozen Coconut Bites

Dark Chocolate Frozen Coconut Bites

Yield 20-30

Adapted from PaleOMG

 

Ingredients

1 ½ cups unsweetened shredded coconut

½ cup coconut butter

½ cup organic coconut oil

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

pinch of salt

1 bag dark chocolate chips

In the bowl of your food processor, add all of your ingredients with the exception of the dark chocolate chips. Blend it until all ingredients are thoroughly mixed and you have a silky texture with bites of coconut.

Line your mini muffin pan with paper liners, adding a scoop of coconut mixture smashing down the mix with the back of a spoon to level it. You will fill your liners ¾ of the way full, leaving room for chocolate.

After filling all of your muffin cups, melt your chocolate chips. To melt, I used a double boiler, but you can also use the microwave if you want to do it quicker.

Top each coconut cup with melted chocolate until tops are completely covered.

When done, place muffin pan in the freezer for 20 minutes until coconut cups are set and firm. Remove from freezer, transfer to an air tight container and store in freezer.

When you want to eat one, remove it from the freezer and let sit at room temperature for about 5 minutes to let the coconut and chocolate soften a little.

Slow Living – May 2013

5 Jun

SLOW LIVING UPDATE – May 2013

Heidi over at Lightly Crunchy has been posting these Slow Living updates each month, and I find them rather interesting. It gives you a chance to look back on the prior month with a sense of accomplishment. There are days that I feel kind of lazy, lounging around and not really getting anything done even though there are mountains of laundry to be washed and put away, dishes to be done, floors to be scrubbed. Then there are days, even weeks, where it feels like my head is spinning from all of my to-do’s! I know that I’m not right on top of posting, but figured you gotta start somewhere!

Nourish:

The month of May was an opportunity to clean out the freezer so nothing goes to waste, and save some money on groceries in the process. I didn’t do a whole lot of recipe posting, even though I was getting creative in the kitchen (those recipes will be coming soon!). I made flax bran muffins, “fried rice”, and my own Sweet Cream Coffee Creamer. I did manage to post a recipe when I whipped up a healthier alternative to mashed potatoes with a Garlic Cauliflower Mash.

Prepare:

May was spent prepping the garden for veggies, as well as some landscaping around the chicken coop. A whole day spent pulling rocks out of our creek to keep the flowers up nice and close to the coop. It helps create a little more shade, and will also make the area around the coop look nicer once the flowers grow and fill in.

flower bed

Reduce/Reuse/Repurpose/Repair:

This month was a great cleansing month at our house. During April and May, I scoured the house for things to donate to charity. I’ll never understand how 2 people can manage to end up with so much stuff. It was mostly me donating my items, but over the next month or 2, hubs is going to go through his things and part ways with duplicate and unused items. For the scheduled pickup for the VVA, I had 4 big bags of clothes, shoes, coats and purses, 2 boxes of books, and one box of miscellaneous kitchen items. I’m happy I was able to pass along so much gently used, well taken care of stuff so that someone else could enjoy it!

Green – cleaners, body products and basic herbal remedies:

I’ve slowly been using up all of our chemical laden store-bought products so that I can replace them with more earth friendly ones. I’ve been using a homemade citrus vinegar spray that smells lovely and cleans great. It cleans up the chicken coop, counters, toilets. The recipe is too simple to deserve a whole post. Basically, soak citrus peels – lemon, lime, grapefruit, orange – in white vinegar for 2-4 weeks (I did 4) strain out the peels, mix 1:1 with water, and place in a spray bottle. Green cleaner with about zero effort. The hardest part is remembering to save the peels!

Grow:

We managed to make our garden the nicest looking it’s been since we started. This is our fourth year with the garden, and hubs created nice rows for all the veggies. We – meaning I – scaled back on the amount of plants because I tend to overcrowd the garden, making it hard to harvest tomatoes before they are overly ripe. This year, that won’t be a problem. All that’s left to do now is fence it in to keep the chickens out. They enjoy tomatoes.

garden2013

Create:

I created a front porch herb garden, complete with mint, parsley, oregano, basil, pineapple sage and dill. It’s nice to look at and makes it easy to have fresh herbs on hand for recipes.

Discover:

A friend had been talking about the show Mad Men. When I realized that all but one season was on Netflix, I started watching. I’m hooked. I want Betty Draper’s clothes. We also discovered a bicycle trail near my little brother and made use of it on my birthday. We did 10 miles that day, and while the first 5 were a bit rough and all up hill, we did it and it was awesome!

image

Enhance – community:

Now that the hens are laying pretty regularly, we have a big surplus of eggs. Many more than the hubs and I can eat. So, I’ve started sharing them again with my gram, and allowing coworkers to put in an order for some. The only thing I ask for is for them to give me back the egg cartons, and to donate towards the chickens feed. It’s been working out for everyone!

eggs!

Enjoy:

The hubs and I have rediscovered our deck after it’s winter hibernation. We’ve pressure washed it, busted the cushions out of their prison tote, and entertained some family on it. I was able to share a meal with an uncle whom I had not seen for almost 20 years. We plan on spending many evenings on it, eating dinner, having an adult beverage or two, and sharing the space with family and friends.

The Liebster Award!

24 Apr

Liebster Award

I logged into my email this morning and saw that I had a new comment on my blog. Comments are always awesome (unless they are spam…but sometimes those are awesome for their hilarity) because it means people are actually reading your blog. This one was a double dose of awesome because it turns out I was nominated by a fellow blogger for a Liebster Award. A special thank you and shout out goes to Little Bit Sweet for the nomination. It’s a special nomination for bloggers who have less than 200 followers. It helps get your name out there, and potentially increase your following. You aren’t in any way obligated to participate, but I think it’s a sweet and simple way to spread the word about blogs that interest you!

The rules:

  1. Thank the person that nominated you and answer the 11 questions posted by your nominator.
  2. Pass the award to 11 bloggers with <200 followers and ask them 11 questions to answer.
  3. Display the Liebster award in your post.

Here’s my list of questions from my nominator:

1. What’s one thing on your “bucket list”?

I’d honestly love to someday own a little pub or a food truck. It would be awesome to provide people with a cozy atmosphere where they could grab a home cooked bite to eat while enjoying a really good beer. So many people eat pre-made or convenience meals, totally neglecting any nutritional value and totally missing the point of a good meal – to sit down and ENJOY some from scratch cooking.
2. Name something you’re proud of.

I’m proud of how far I’ve come in my 32 years with my cooking skills. I feel like my cooking methods mimic my Bubba’s. From scratch cooking that is healthy, tastes good, and fills you up.

3. Are you a morning person or a night owl?

This mostly depends on what is going on. Do I want to stay up till 2am just for giggles? Nope. But if I’m entertained and in enjoyable company, 2am can come around quick. That being said, the latest I seem to sleep in is around 8am. And that’s usually after a 1 or 2am evening out! So I guess I’m both! Is that even possible? Must be.

4. Worst cooking disaster has been…

This would probably be the time I made a batch of english muffin bread…..and forgot to put in the yeast. I pulled the bread out of the oven and couldn’t imagine why I had 2 flat dense loaves of bread. When making a yeast bread, you have to add the yeast. Oops.

5. What inspires you?

People who are trying to get back to the basics. Simple, healthy meals. Canning and preserving. Growing your own foods.

6. If you could visit any time era, which would it be?

This may or may not have something to do with the fact that I’ve been sucked into the awesomeness that is Mad Men, but the 1950’s. I don’t like that women are talked down to and looked at as secondary to the males, but I LOVE the clothing, the parties, the music, and the fact that they always have booze around!

7. What trait do you find most valuable in others?

Honesty. I can’t stand people who are full of BS or lie. I’m bluntly honest, so I kind of want other people to be honest with me too.

8. If you could tell your 8yr old self something, what would it be?

Don’t EVER get a credit card. EVER. Seriously. No matter how grown up you think it is or how awesome the lure of spending money you don’t actually have is, fight it. Because it is so not awesome when you get the bill each month. Especially when you get to the point where you can’t remember what the hell you bought.

9. Favorite book or tv show:

This is way too hard to narrow down. But just to name one, I love the Sookie Stackhouse Series. They are easy reading, great for the imagination, and even better – I get to watch the show the books helped create – True Blood. I dig science fiction, vampires, werewolves, the realm of Fae. I’m a little bit nerdy. I’m ok with it.

10. How long have you been blogging?

Oh gosh, a little over a year. I started blogging as a way to share recipes with family and friends because it was just easier to do it on a website than to try to remember to email a recipe to someone.

11. What’s your best blogging advice?

Blog about what matters to you, in your own voice. Do it because you want to, not because you are looking to have a gazillion followers.

And now, here are those that I nominated for an award! I won’t lie. There are some that have more than 200 followers, but I feel like they deserve recognition, and sharing!

Lightly Crunchy

Dinner is Served

Recipes Happen

The Food and Wine Hedonist

So Woodsy

Craft it. Bake it.

My Rubber Boots

Farmhouse 38

Shenandoah Valley Homesteader

Nutty Kitchen

Homemaking in the Last Frontier

My questions for you:

1. If you could live anywhere, and money were not an issue, where would you live and why?

2. What is your go to meal when you’re having people over?

3. If a zombie apocalypse were to actually happen, would your strategy be to hunker down in your home and wait it out, or pack up what you can and seek a more secure form of shelter? (the zombie apocalypse version could vary – 28 Days Later scenario where they die off – best case. Worst case – Walking Dead where they NEVER DIE!!!)

4. What is your favorite music to cook to?

5. What’s your biggest pet peeve?

6. Describe your blog in on sentence.

7. If you could have celebs over for a dinner party, who would be your top 3 invitees?

8. For the rest of your life, you can only watch one movie. What movie would that be?

9. If your life were a sitcom, what would the show title be?

10. Beef or chicken?

11. What do you do to relax?

2012 in review

31 Dec

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 21,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 5 Film Festivals

Click here to see the complete report.

The DIY Life: Candy Cane Salt Soak

12 Dec

We’ve got a theme going here – Candy Cane bath items. Yep. I love it. These were SO SIMPLE to whip up. I had extra so that I could enjoy them myself. Awesome! This is a thoughtful gift to give, especially around the holidays because so many of us are busy busy busy. Lifting packages, decorating, cooking. Our muscles get sore. We are tired. Epsom salts are great at relieving achy muscles. Coconut oil is a great moisturizer for dry winter skin. Peppermint and vanilla go great together. Bliss in a mason jar!

Fret not when you smell these – the smell will be very potent. You want it to be this way, because over time the smell will start to decrease. I promise it’s not overpowering when they are added to the bath. It’s a light scent that leaves your skin super soft and your body soothed and relaxed. I was able to skip my usual after bath lotion application because the coconut oil helped soften my skin!

candy cane salt soak

Candy Cane Salt Soak (Peppermint Vanilla Salt Soak)

4lbs epsom salts

2 tablespoons peppermint extract

4 tablespoons coconut oil, melted

4 tablespoons vanilla extract

Place your epsom salts in a large bowl. Drizzle the vanilla, coconut oil and peppermint all over the oil. Using your hands, mix up the salts until everything is nice and combined. Add to containers of your choice and decorate with a ribbon for gift giving.

To use: Add 3 tablespoons to bath water, swirling around to dissolve salt. Enjoy a long soak!

A Method to my Madness: Why I Can

26 Nov

I’m not going to lie – it was pretty freaking awesome to have all of last week off. However, having to go to work today? Totally blows. I wish my company was closed in observance of the first day of rifle hunting here in Pa. That would have been super fantastic. Because I’d still be in my pj’s just finishing up the last swig of coffee and getting ready to bring down all the Christmas decor. Sigh. Now, onto the real reason for my post!

Food Preservation – when people think of food preservation they think about their great grandparents and grandparents. They did it because times were tough and it helped to save money. It was a great way to feed their  – at many times – very large families. They did it because it was part of their immigrant heritage – their mothers did it, so they too carried on the tradition.

My bubba was a canner. She’d preserve the fruits and veggies from my pap’s well taken care of, high yielding garden. Sadly, I never got to see this part of her life because when she passed away, I was 7 and she was 92. Her canning days were behind her. My gram never canned or preserved food, therefore my mom never did. Which means I was never introduced to it. But I got into it because I like to think because it is in my blood, part of my DNA. But the real truth it that I got bored with traditional cooking and needed a challenge. I needed something different. I was already creative in the kitchen, trying new recipes and being adventurous. But food preservation? That was something totally different. There was a science to it. And the thought of having shelves full of beautiful mason jars filled with foods I had preserved was very appealing to me. But I wasn’t sure it was something that would stick for me as a hobby so I did a test before I committed to purchasing all the stuff you’d need. I made a batch of strawberry jam. That first batch of jam? It was delicious. It was sweet, it was simple, it was easy to make. And I was in love with the fact that I could recite all of the ingredients that were in it, without having to look at a label. The idea of simple preserved foods made a home in my head, and my heart. The following year, we planted a garden. I gave in, knowing I was hooked and purchased more mason jars, a canning pot, and a pressure canner because hubs wanted to can deer meat. I tried my hand at pickles, pickled peppers, and canned tomatoes. I made a batch of Apple Pie Jam. Tomato Butter. Simple things that could be processed in a water bath canner. Only enough to take up just one shelf in the basement food storage shelves. The pressure canner sat for almost a year, unused while I attempted to get over my irrational fear of it exploding and blasting me in the face with molten hot deer meat and shards of glass. The hubs used it the first time around January 2012 to cold pack a few jars of deer meat. It didn’t explode. I got over my fear and jumped into canning a whole 23qt canner full of jars of deer meat. I survived. I was in deep.

This year, I went balls out on canning – take no prisoners. I canned 100+ jars of stuff, a variety – pasta sauce (tomato basil and spicy tomato), tomato jam, bruschetta mix, strawberry jam, apple pie jam, pinto beans, cannellini beans, greek style butter beans, potatoes, and my very first batch of chicken stock. And I’m not done. I plan on canning another canner full of deer meat with some potatoes and carrots for a kind of hunters stew. I want to do more potatoes because it’s lovely being able to pop open a jar and have almost instant home fries for breakfast. I’m going to can ground beef so we can have quick nachos, or chili. That Thanksgiving turkey carcass will be turned into turkey stock (I’ll have an upcoming post on how to make this soon!) This is just the tip of the iceberg for me.

Now, onto WHY I can and preserve. It’s for a variety of reasons, none of which have to do with the zombie apocalypse. Yes, I’m obsessed with all things zombie, but I’m not preserving mass quantities of food because of some potential viral outbreak that turns us into brain eating undead. I do it because it’s cheaper than purchasing it from the grocery store – I even beat the discount stores. But I’d still can even if doing it myself wasn’t cheaper. Because – onto the second reason I can – canning my own food means I have control over what is going into my body. I can recite the exact ingredients that went into all of those items I listed earlier, because the list of ingredients is small. I am canning veggies from my own garden, as well as local farms. For a little investment of my time, I can fill shelves with food that has no preservatives, except maybe a little salt, vinegar or lemon juice. I can take that surplus from our garden and turn it into pasta sauce that we can eat and share for a whole year. The third reason I can? Because I enjoy it. I love cooking. You have got to love cooking in order to be a food preserver. It is time consuming, and it can get hectic, because you have to process the veggies and fruits when they are ready. They do not wait until it is convenient for you. My August and September each year are now pretty much consumed with canning and freezing. That means the house is a mess, because between work and canning there is certainly no time for things like running the sweeper or dusting. The laundry gets done sporadically. I force myself to clean the bathrooms because well, they’re bathrooms and they get gross. And at times I do get frazzled and feel overwhelmed because I am living and breathing food preservation. After work, on the weekends. Yep, I live and breathe it for those 2 months. This year, when I was all done, I wiped the sweat from my brow and said whew! All done till next year! And then a couple weekends later, I canned potatoes. In the coming weeks I’ll can that deer meat “stew”. Why? Because I had a breather from Canapalooza 2012 and I want my new canning shelf to be FULL of jars, no empty spaces. And because I love to cook. And the last  reason why I can? It’s kind of a side effect, but I want to inspire other  people, both young and old to start canning or to restart canning. To be more mindful of what they are eating. I am only 32, and people are always surprised that someone so young is so deeply interested in something as old fashioned as canning. Hearing people say that makes me smile. My own mom wanted me to teach her to can before she passed away, because she loved the thought of controlling her food. And it would give her a hobby. If I can inspire just one person to take up canning from my talking about, or gifting them something I’ve made, it makes this whole food love/food preservation experience even more worthwhile.