Summer Cooking {Pesto Crab Pasta}

I made my first batch of pesto tonight. I scheduled Alfredo Pasta with Crab for dinner thinking that Adam would be home to cook it. And he wasn’t. So I was staring at the clock…4 p.m….knowing something needed to be done to feed the kids and I was starving myself. Alfredo seemed…well, complicated. So I googled pesto + lump crab + pasta and came up with a simple recipe.

I love pesto. The spicy garlicky bite mixed with the fresh herb undertones of the basil. My summer staple. If there is one plant I will always have in my garden it is basil. Plus, now I know you can freeze it. Just pop your leftover pesto in an ice cube tray and you have fresh summer in the middle of winter.

Tonight pesto went into everything. A little reserved pasta cooking water mixed with pesto equals easy-to-toss sauce for noodles. A spoonful or two of pesto in the zuchinni being sauteed equals garlicky goodness. Touch of pesto warmed with crab equals salty perfection. Pesto painted over breadsticks equals soft, carb-o-licious heaven.

Make simple pizza dough. Check.

Turn into breadsticks. Check.

Make pesto. Check.

Boil pasta. Check.

Cut and sautee zuchinni. Check.

Lightly warm crab meat. Check.

Drain and toss pasta with pesto. Check.

Plate and take beautiful pictures in the evening sun. Check.

Eat heavenly deliciousness. Check.

Lick pesto off of plate. Check.

There are a million good pesto recipes out there. My basic recipe is below but I rely much more on tasting and adding what I think I need more of, usually more garlic or parmesan or olive oil. If using pesto as a basic pasta-toss sauce, be sure to check final flavor for a bit of salt and pepper!

  • 1-3 cups fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup walnuts (who ever has pine nuts on hand, I ask you?)
  • 3/4 – 1 cup parmesan cheese
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup olive oil

 

Advertisements

101 Ways to Use PUMPKIN in Kid Friendly Dishes

Okay…maybe not 101, but a lot! ūüôā

Canned pumpkin finally showed up at our store a couple of weeks ago and at 99 cents a can I stocked up! I’ve been doing a lot of on-the-fly cooking lately and have enjoyed experimenting with this nutritious staple. It’s a super easy way to get the kids to eat a nutrient dense super food!

Here have been our favorite ways to enjoy it.

Pumpkin Spice Latte’s.

Remember that recipe I shared? Well, I modified it a bit for our taste and my kids gave it a yummy thumbs up! (Yes, I’m a bad mommy. I do give my kids coffee every once in a while and they love it.) Stir together 4 cups coffee, 3 cups milk, 4 Tbsp pumpkin, pumpkin pie spice, vanilla, 1/4 cup sugar till heated through. Ultra yummy if you then top it with fresh whipped cream and sprinkle with cinnamon!

Pumpkin Muffins/Bread

Need I say more? A given that we will be doing this a lot! The key to super light and yummy muffins…use buttermilk, yogurt, or sour cream for most or all of the liquids in your favorite recipe.

Pumpkin Bread Pudding

Make bread pudding with your favorite bread pudding recipe. Add in 1/2 can pumpkin and pumpkin pie spice to the liquids. Pour over stale bread and cook for 45 minutes at 350. Make some yummy caramel sauce to pour over the top (whisk a little cream, brown sugar, butter and vanilla together over low heat) and you have an instant fall dessert or, as in our case, a yummy dinner side dish!

Pumpkin Yogurt

This one I did on a whim. I was getting the kids yogurt for breakfast and realized I was out of jam. I looked down at the pumpkin I had already opened to use for my lattes. Hmmm….I wondered. And guess what? Mixing pumpkin, a bit of sweetener (honey, sugar, maple syrup…your pick) and cinnamon into plain yogurt completely hit the spot. My kids loved it. I’m thinking of trying this same thing with apple butter. Seasonal yogurt. Who knew?

Pumpkin Smoothies

If pumpkin yogurt works, why not throw it in a smoothie? I have this yummy oatmeal apple smoothie I do so I just threw in some pumpkin with it and, voila, instant yumminess. What goes into my smoothies? Well,¬†it is never the same thing twice. Just depends on what I have on hand. Usually I throw in plain yogurt, raw honey, fruit (apples, bananas, oranges, strawberries, bananas, blueberries, pineapple…whatever I have on hand), and sometimes greens (spinach or swiss chard).

Pumpkin Macaroni and Cheese

This is super yummy and is a way to get veggies into a simple, no-brainer for lunch. And the best part, for my kids at least, you can’t even taste the pumpkin! Easy recipe. Make mac n chz how you normally do (for me that usually includes 1 16 oz box noodles, whole milk, real butter, and colby or cheddar cheese…a few handfuls will do), stir in 1/2 can pumpkin and some parmesan cheese, add a bit of garlic powder, salt and pepper and you have creamy, instant success!

Happy Smiling Kids full of fortified goodness…

Real Food Part One: Dinner and a Movie

Maybe some of you remember the $5 Food Challenge invitation?

Yesterday was the big day. I admit, I was a little worried. Because of time and money restraints I wasn’t able to go shopping until the day before. ¬†But due to the generosity of friends and being able to go shopping at a new wonderful all local food store, Tomato Tomato, everything came together beautifully!

The Challenge ~ Can we eat a local, real food meal for less than the average value meal ($5 per person)? Do we have to sacrifice nutrient-dense healing food for processed, mass produced pretend food?

How did we do?

People attending: 20

Challenge Food Budget: $100

Actual Spent: $50.73

Per Person: $2.54

~ Dinner Menu ~

Herbed Arm Roast

Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Buttered Green Beans

Smoked Bacon Swiss Chard Gratin

Fresh Baked Bread

Local Fresh Farm Milk

~ Dessert Menu ~

 Fall Apple Crisp with Fresh Whipped Cream

Locally Roasted Coffee: Columbia Sierra Nevada

~ Movie Snack ~

Local Stove Popped Popcorn

The biggest challenge was deciding how legalistic I was going to be about the whole event. Does every little thing have to be local? Does it all have to be organic? It is easy to fall into a trap in every ideology, whether religious or worldly, that one must adhere to strict rules and never fall off the path. But the biggest life lesson I am learning is that grace abounds and that allows flexibility and freedom while seeking the heart of an issue.

The heart of this challenge for me was two-fold. First I wanted to bring people together to share in food and good conversation. That is so key to what my family believes in. Second I wanted to offer up fodder for conversation on the food war front. We can only change things if we are making informed decisions. I was excited to share a film that would spur debate and critical thinking that we greatly need right now about our food industry.

Some of my local, real food challenges for this dinner…

I needed butter. I wanted vitamin-rich grassfed butter. There was none to be found. So I had to settle for butter at my regular grocery store and just made sure I picked the most local vendor.

I decided to go ahead and use the spices already in my cupboard…salt, pepper, garlic, etc…and not stress about whether they were local or organic.

Price Breakdown ~

Arm Roast$17.85 (3.50 x 5.10 lbs – Range West Grass Fed Beef)

Potatoes free (neighbor’s farm)

Green Beansfree (neighbor’s farm)

2 Onions$ .96 (Spring Valley Gardens)

Swiss Chardfree (own garden)

Herbsfree (own garden)

Apples$8.74 (4.5 lbs)

8 oz Smoked Bacon Cheese$4.60 (Jisa Farmstead Cheese)

Gallon Whole Milk$6.22 (Burbach – $4 credit for bringing back bottles)

Pint Cream$2.87 (Burbach – $1 credit for bringing back the bottle)

1 lb Butter$4 1lb (Highland Dairy)

Flour –¬† $2 for 2lbs (Grain Place Foods)

Oats $1 for 1lb (Grain Place Foods)

Popcorn$.49 for 1/3 bag ($1.49 bag – Hilger Agri Natural)

Coffee$3.00 for 1/3 bag ($9.30 16oz – locally roasted at Midwest Custom Roasting Inc.)

   

After a delicious dinner that everyone felt was much more like Thanksgiving rather than a usual evening meal, we retired to the living room to watch the controversial documentary Food Inc. The first time I watched this movie I literally walked out of the theater crying. I was already much more in the know about the food industry then most people I knew yet I was still shocked by what I saw. Having studied much more extensively about food since then, watching it this time just made me very angry. My first viewing left me wanting to change and I did make small baby steps. This viewing left me with a steely resolve that I need to get this food thing figured out for my family. We had some great conversation starting points and I think most everyone left with something to think about.

It was a great night of delicious food and even greater fellowship.

And it gave me much to talk about and share here in this virtual space. So I will be picking my own brain and hashing out thoughts throughout the next couple of weeks in a Real Food Series. Be sure to check back for more discussion and how your family can start making changes.

In the meantime, watch the movie Food Inc. Start reading (your local library is a great resource) and thinking. And check out Slow Food USA and “like” them on Facebook for real-time news stories. Let’s stop pretending that our world is fine and that we don’t need to change. Let’s start taking a real look at food and get back to eating food as God intended it to be.

Want to hear about our night? Listen to my husband on a radio podcast on in-season eating over at Judy A La Carte’s radio talk show.

Take the $5 Challenge


This showed up in my email today:

I want to eat healthy, local food but I have no time, not much money and no clue how to pull it off. What can I do?‚ÄĚ – pretty much everyone

Yes..yes…have heard this SO many times, often from my own mouth. I’ve done A LOT in the past year to actually make this a reality for our family. It isn’t easy. It takes time and thought and research and experimenting. It takes baby steps and small changes. But it can be done.

Things I do to put real (unprocessed), whole, nutritious (preferably local) food on our table:

  • Cook from scratch. Refuse to by boxed despite the temptation. Yes, there may be some questionable meals in the beginning experimenting stages but it does get better! ūüėČ My biscuits are now bomb.com (as my hubby would affectionately say!).
  • Make my own bread. This is still touch and go for me. With the amount of work on my plate this one sometimes falls by the wayside.
  • Cook a whole chicken and then turn the bones into broth. This has saved us the most amount of money. A $6 chicken can feed our family 2-3 meals and I get about 8-10 cans (baggies) of broth out out of the deal…an extra $6-10 savings.
  • Use in season vegetables from a local farmer. We sourced one who is selling us produce for $1 per pound. Beat that supermarket!
  • Grow a garden. This one seems like a no-brainer but if you want to actually grow one and NOT waste money check out this book: Mini Farming: Self-Sufficiency on 1/4 an Acre.
  • Learn to can. Put up food in it’s season while it is the most inexpensive. Sometimes this is as simple as chopping and freezing. Or it can be elaborate as making wonderful preserves or¬†marinara’s.
  • Buy in bulk. No, not the warehouse clubs. I’m talking take that tax refund check, run it down to your local CSA or meat farmer and buy a share when the bulk money is there. Pre-order CSA veggies to be delivered weekly. Bring home 1/2 a cow and freeze it. Order a side of pig and have bacon, chops, ribs for the whole year!
  • Learn to waste nothing. Chopping veggies? Onion, garlic, carrot, celery, and herb ends can go into a freezer baggie and be used when preparing stock. Other veggie/fruit waste can be turned back into rich soil through compost. (Who wants to buy compost?) Fat from your pig you ordered can be turned into lard and put up for the year for delicious biscuits, pie crusts, cookies and for popping popcorn. Kids don’t like bread heels? Chuck them in the freezer until you have enough to make bread pudding or dry them on the counter top and turn into bread crumbs. I even came across a lady who turned her extra chicken feet into stock!!!
  • Source Raw Milk. Still working on this one. But when we do…oh man. That same money spent on not-so-nutritious¬†pasteurized¬†milk can be used on super nutrient dense milk that can also be used to make cream, butter, sour cream, buttermilk, yogurt, farmer’s cheese, cottage cheese, and cream cheese. This is the largest percentage of where our grocery dollar disappears to so I am excited to try and shave in this particular area.
  • Learn to hunt. This is a new skill my husband will be taking up this fall. Permits are usually low cost and this is a self-sufficiency skill that is a lost art. Possible deer meat for a year? Maybe a turkey? This is meat you can take to the bank.
  • Eat your local weeds. Did you know purslane is a wonderful addition to salads? And it is probably growing right now in your front yard. What about dandelion omelletes? Chicory root coffee? Have fun experimenting and exploring your own back yard. Read: The Forager’s Harvest: A Guide to Identifying, Harvesting, and Preparing Edible Wild Plants
So I decided to take on this $5 Challenge! What is the $5 Challenge you say? Glad you asked. Most fast food value meals are $5 or under. We will be attempting to feed a dinner meal at under $5 a person using only local, real food to show that it can be done for the average family! As Slow Food USA says:
Together, we’re sending a message to our nation’s leaders that too many people live in communities where it’s harder to buy fruit than Froot Loops.”
I will be hosting a dinner party at my house on Saturday, September 17. All (in my local area) friends and family can come and partake. Please R.S.V.P. in comments or via facebook or email by September 10th. I will email you with the time and details. We will be watching the movie Food, Inc. while eating the delicious fare that my chef hubby and I will cook up. I hope much fruitful discussion can take place afterwards. Dessert and coffee will be included. I will be typing up a sheet with a break down of our dinner food costs on the front and local sources of food on the back for all who are interested and will be back here to blog about our yummy meal and discussion highlights within that next week.
BE THE CHANGE YOU WANT TO SEE!”
And for all those who aren’t in my local area, please visit the $5 Challenge site and sign up to host your own dinner party!

Homemade Baby Food

It’s that time again. Little guy is getting bigger and his appetite is increasing. Time to start ¬†putting aside some baby food.

Sure, I could go to the store and pick up some food. Seems pretty cheap in a jar. Seems to be nutritionally sound…just some fruits and veggies, water, and ascorbic acid. They even carry the organic stuff so why not?

I’ve done both ways, to be honest. And, yes, it’s easy and convenient to go to the store. But it’s also easy and OH SO MUCH CHEAPER and nutritionally fresh to do it yourself at home. The easiest way…work it into what you’re already doing in the kitchen.

Making supper for the family? Throw on a pot of extra veggies for the baby.

Doing dishes at lunch? Simmer down some fruit for the baby.

Passing out bananas at breakfast? Mash down a half for the baby.

Easy as pie.

  • Cook your veggies or fruit how you would normally. (They say steam is the best but I don’t have a steamer so boil, simmer or roast it is.)
  • Season with just a touch of salt or cinnamon…not too much. (They say no seasoning…baby doesn’t know anyway. But you DO want him to like it right? Have you ever tasted green beans without salt? Yuck. Just no butter or fats yet.)
  • Strain.
  • Puree in a blender or food processor with just a touch of the cooking liquid. Really pureed for 6-9 months. Still a bit chunky for 9-12 months.
  • Cool for about 15 minutes.
  • Freeze in ice cube trays.
  • Store in labeled freezer bag.
  • Thaw in fridge or reheat in microwave.
I also add a bit of baby cereal to my recipes after it has cooled. This adds that little extra carbohydrate and saves me from having to feed him two things.
And for you newbies out there…
Here is a fabulous site called Nurture Baby with everything you’ll ever need to know.
Homemade Green Beans for Baby ~ 
  • 1 16oz bag frozen green beans = $.87
  • Makes 7-14 portions = .12 cents for 7 portions
Store-bought Baby Green Beans ~
  • .59 per jar = $4.13 for 7 portions
Now just think of the savings when you upgrade to the number 3 jars!

Being a Farm Girl

I ¬†hate it right now that my camera battery is dead. Oh how I wish I could’ve taken a picture of tonight’s masterpiece:

From-Scratch Chicken Pot Pie!!!

A recipe I found in my MaryJane Farmgirl magazine!

I’ve felt like a true farm girl all day. I’ve baked six loaves of bread – 4 sandwich loaves and 2 artisan loaves. My counter is covered in flour – literally, flour EVERYWHERE! I got to snip fresh thyme and sage outside to use in the pie crust. And I tried my hand at making a pie crust by hand – cutting in cold butter and everything. (You want to talk aerobics! Try cutting in a pound of cold butter into flour then rolling it out after chilled! I’m sure to have burned a calorie or two.)

My house smells delicious. I finally got to use the beautiful bakeware dish given to me by my very special grandmother for Christmas. And after I cut the little slits in top of the dough to vent….oh I wanted to snap a pic so badly. Darn battery!

So, for now I’ll just assure you it is mouthwatering in here and let you stew in envy!

The cost of food today…

Received this link to my email through Food Declaration.org. Reading the comments reminds me a lot of our own household debates on eating healthy. Go check it out for yourself:

Why a Salad Costs More Than a Big Mac

Some comments I found particularly telling:

From mythago ~

…poverty and obesity are strongly correlated in the US.

If you don’t think so, try being extremely poor for a while (no, not “I don’t have enough to buy BioShock2 till next month” poor). When you have $10 for groceries, you pick your calories based on what’s going to fill you up for the least amount of money – you don’t blow that $10 on a box of organic frisee salad.

That’s especially true when the pinnacle of your local grocery choices is a crappy, out-of-date Safeway, and your most likely options are tiny, overpriced ‘convenience’ stores.

From mizmoose ~

To echo what others have said, Yeah, eating healthy is for people who have money.

I feel lucky when I can get frozen vegetables on sale cheap (& I try to stock up) but fresh fruits and vegetables have become more rare. Meat, when I can get it, is cheap cuts and/or big chunks on sale. Fish is unlikely; maybe shrimp once or twice a year if it’s frozen, on sale and I have a few dollars extra. Nuts are right outta the ball park, except for cheap peanut butter, which we all know is high fat & high sugar. Cheese is store brand. Milk is powdered, bought in bulk and used sparingly — can’t waste money on something that could go bad. Rice and pasta also bought in bulk, along with potatoes and onions.

On the one hand, having no money means I’m not eating in restaurants so I know what I’m eating. On the other hand, I ate far healthier when I could afford fresh vegetables, fish, low-fat cheeses and the like.

From WordTipping ~

Why is it that people view a Big Mac as a cheap meal? Eating a “Value Meal” twice a day is incredibly expensive and twice the cost of buying food that I actually have to prepare and cook…not boxed stuff.

So much for us trying to eat organic anytime soon! Every time we try, we break the bank. Not that we’re giving up the goal of sustainability, but it will really have to come back to doing all the back-breaking work ourselves in our own backyard! And, as we’ve experienced so far, is still not necessarily cheaper…but, OH the taste!