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Easy Refrigerator Dill Pickles

August 28, 2013

The night before I went into labor I actually made four jars of dill pickles. Maybe it was an odd pregnancy craving but I was very determined to make homemade pickles in those last few days. This was my first time making homemade pickles. I used the following recipe:

How to Make Dill Pickles @ The Kitchn

Benzo picked up eight “pickling cucumbers” at our farmers’ market. They are smaller and fatter than regular cucumbers. I sliced off the ends and then sliced them into spears and rounds.

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I ended up with four pint jars total – three of spears and one of rounds. So I doubled the spices and the brine in the recipe. Here are the spices on top of the pickles.

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The brine is only three ingredients. And I just so happened to have pickling salt on hand after making my own Neti-Pot mix. Here are the jars all sealed up with the brine.  I ended up with 3/4 of another jar full of leftover brine.

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I chose not to process the jars. The Kitchn said that the jars would last for a couple months in the fridge and I figured we would go through all four jars before then.

Without processing the jars, the pickling process was super easy. It took no time at all. I plopped the jars in the fridge and then my water broke about 8 hours later! Which worked out well for the pickles because they were ready to eat once we got home from the hospital. And WOW were they delicious. Nice and crisp with great flavor.

I am not a huge pickle person. I mean I like them but I don’t crave them. But I have found myself sneaking spears from the jar throughout the day. One jar is gone already!  I might try to snag some more pickling cucumbers at the market and make another batch before they are out of season.

Roasted Cherry Tomato Pasta

August 26, 2013

The cherry tomato plant in our garden would be 10 feet tall if we had stakes that high.  What is it about the small tomato plants that makes them grow like crazy?  We grew those small yellow pear shaped tomatoes one year and it was absolutely out of control as well.  Grew up and over the cage and then across the ground.  There was no stopping it!

So since we have an abundance of cherry tomatoes I have had my eye out for recipes that use a bunch all at once.  While Benzo likes to eat them raw, I’m never going to just pop one in my mouth.  I prefer my tomatoes cooked or mixed together with a bunch of other stuff.

I don’t remember how I came across this recipe but as soon as I saw it I knew it would be good.

Pasta with Kalamata Olives & Roasted Cherry Tomato Sauce @ Epicurious

Kalamata olives, capers, feta and roasted tomatoes?  How could it be bad?  Benzo made this for us about a week before I went into labor.  He said that it was surprisingly easy.  Roasting the tomatoes takes awhile but that is all hands-off time.  He said the hardest or longest part was cutting all the cherry tomatoes in half.

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We ending up making a half recipe and it was just right for two adults and a toddler.  We left off the pine nuts just because we didn’t have any.  The end result was AMAZING!  Seriously so delicious.  I can’t wait to make this again.  Hopefully this week we will have enough cherry tomatoes for round two!

Little Brother is Here!

August 24, 2013
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Maybe he was just trying to keep up with big brother already, but little brother surprised us this week by deciding he was ready for the world 11 days before his due date.  (Big brother was a week early – I am a lucky mama to have two early and healthy babies.)  We are home and settling into a new routine as a family of four.  Since Benzo is a stay-at-home dad now, he doesn’t have to rush back to work like with our first son.  That has been very nice.  We have implemented “man to man” defense around here.  I usually take the baby while Benzo wrangles the older one.

We did do some freezer cooking in advance so we have some good meals stored up.  And with both of us at home for my entire maternity leave I’m hoping we don’t do too much eating out, though it is very tempting when you are sleep deprived!  Our garden is still going strong.  Lots of tomatoes and finally getting some bell peppers after a slow start.  We did not plant any lettuce or kale for the fall.  We decided taking care of a baby would be enough work as it is.

I am so excited to begin this adventure as a mom of two boys.  I can’t wait to see what they have in store for me!

Veggie BLTs

August 7, 2013
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Another simple summer dinner we’ve been loving on lately – BLTs made with veggie bacon!  We had this last week on Thursday and again last night.  I think I could eat it every other night.  It would also make an excellent lunch.

The key is this recipe for homemade veggie bacon from No Meat Athlete:

Vegan Bacon Recipe @ No Meat Athlete

It’s easy to make and full of regular ingredients.  We’ve pretty much stopped eating processed fake meats once I started paying attention to the extremely long and worrisome ingredient lists (other than the occasional Field Roast, which is pretty clean).  One batch makes enough for two meals for my family, though we could probably stretch it to three if we didn’t gobble down the extra pieces.  It freezes great post-baking, pre-frying.  And my 2 year old loves it.

I used three slices on my sandwich along with lettuce and sliced tomato from the garden.  We did use some Miracle Whip that’s been hanging out in the fridge.  Need to find a better alternative for that…..

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Benzo, who is a meat eater, really likes this bacon.  I also really like the taste and think it would be great in lots of dishes that call for regular bacon.  It’s really crunchy though so if you like floppy bacon you might not like it.  When I ate meat I always preferred my bacon extra crispy.

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We’ve been enjoying this sandwich with ears of fresh corn from the farmers’ market, shucked and boiled for 6 minutes.  Grilled corn would also be tasty.  I absolutely love all this summer produce!

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Parmesan Zucchini Rounds

July 31, 2013

One of our dinners last week consisted of pasta with the first batch of fresh homemade pesto from our basil plants in the garden.  I think homemade pesto might be my very favorite thing to eat.  Since we didn’t have a garden last year, it had been two years (!) since I last had homemade pesto.  Far too long.  I would’ve licked my plate if I hadn’t thought it would be setting a bad example for my son.

Side note – I usually make pesto with walnuts instead of pine nuts because it is cheaper and I think it tastes just as good.

On the side I tried a new recipe – parmesan zucchini rounds.  It originally caught my eye because I thought it would be a good way to get my 2 year old to try zucchini.  Previous attempts of serving him sautéed zucchini with just oil, salt and pepper have failed.  I needed a new approach.  I followed this recipe exactly as written:

Parmesan Zucchini Crisps @ Food Network

Note that I am referring to them as “rounds” instead of “crisps” because mine did not get very crisp at all.  I used a golden zucchini from the farmers’ market.

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Although they were not crisp, I thought they turned out pretty tasty and Benzo and I agreed we would like to make them again.  One downside is that they were a bit labor intensive with dipping each slice in the breading.  I told my son they were “zucchini chips” and he amazingly bit right into one!  He didn’t end up eating a lot but I was ecstatic that he tried them.  And he even took more than one bite.  WIN.

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Easy Summer Dinner: Salad Niçoise

July 25, 2013

It’s been awhile since I last posted! We are really enjoying our summer and have been busy getting ready for baby #2. I thought I would share a quick post today on what’s becoming one of my favorite summer dinners – Salad Niçoise.

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It’s nice and light for hot summer nights and very quick to put together. You can do a lot of the prep in advance. The ingredients are a bit variable (if you google salad Niçoise you’ll see what I mean). Ours contained:

Chopped leaf lettuce
Hard boiled eggs
Green beans (boiled 6 minutes)
Cherry tomatoes
Potatoes (boiled until just tender)
Capers

You can also add tuna but we did not. We dressed it with a homemade balsamic vinegar dressing:

3T olive oil
1T balsamic vinegar
1/2T honey
1/2T Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste

I love that most of the ingredients can be found at the local farmers market where fresh produce is in abundance these days. In our salad the green beans and cherry tomatoes came from our backyard garden. The potatoes and eggs were purchased from local farmers. The lettuce, capers and dressing ingredients came from the store.

We’ve had this twice and I’ve enjoyed it immensely both times. I’m sure it will be on the menu again soon.

Have a lovely day!

Coffee Grinds & Egg Shells

May 31, 2013
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We have not yet started a compost at our new house.  We should’ve gotten on it as soon as we moved in, but composters can be expensive and we had some other things that took precedence.  At our old house we had a really big, 3 section composter that FIL built.  We also had a much bigger yard.  Our new yard is MUCH smaller so we are looking at smaller, rotating composters.  I have my eye on the Good Ideas CW-2X Compost Wizard Dueling Tumbler.  It has two sections so we can have one pile cooking while we add to the second pile.  And it rotates on its base so we don’t have to turn it with a pitch fork.

Did you know though that there are some things you can rake directly into your garden instead of putting them through a composter?  For the past few weeks we have been saving our coffee grinds (Benzo drinks a lot of coffee) and our egg shells for the garden.

Coffee grinds are easy as they are pretty much the consistency of dirt.  Benzo dumps the used grounds into a container and then once a week or so we sprinkle them on the garden and rake them into the soil.  Worms love coffee grinds and they are rich in nitrogen.  We keep the container in the refrigerator so it doesn’t get moldy before we can use them.

My picture is sideways but you get the idea.

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Egg shells can also be raked directly into the garden or placed at the bottom of the hole when transplanting.  Egg shells have calcium which can help prevent blossom end rot, something we have battled in the past with our tomatoes.  We keep our empty egg shells in a bowl on the counter so they can dry out.  Once dry we crunch them up into tiny pieces and sprinkle them over the garden.  Then rake them in to the first inch or two of soil.  Wet egg shells are hard to break into tiny pieces because the membranes want to hold them together.  The smaller the pieces the faster they will break down in your soil.

I’ve also read that you can put banana peels in your garden but I haven’t tried that yet.  I’m afraid an animal will come and dig up my garden trying to get it!  We have a little chicken wire fence around our garden but I don’t know that it would keep out a determined raccoon.

One other tip is if you have any spoiled milk or yogurt you can water your garden with that to add calcium.  Tomatoes in particular like it.  I would water down yogurt to a watery consistency and then pour it around the roots.  I would probably also water down the milk too.  So don’t throw it out!  Put it to good use.

Happy gardening!

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