Sunday, September 30, 2012

Cold cereal for breakfast

Why is a healthy cereal somewhere upwards of $5 a box?  There also seemed to be so much sugar and salt even in the healthier cereals.  My son usually keeps us stocked with big batches of homemade granola, but we were out so I thought I might pick up a box of cereal until he had time to make another batch.   I was hankering for something crunchy that didn't taste like the box it came in but wasn't looking to break the bank. As was often said when I was growing up, "we can make that better at home."  So I came home empty handed from the cereal aisle.

I found a recipe with a video for Healthy Cold Cereal at the Healthy Home Economist website.  Here are the options I chose and changes I made to the recipe to make it work for my time constraints:

- I used 1 cup of yogurt (all I had left) and 2 cups of almond milk
- I added 1/3 cup flax seeds to the flour mixture
- Substituted 1 cup of oats for 1 cup of the whole wheat flour
- I omitted the salt
- I used honey as my sweetener
- I didn't soak the mixture overnight because I wanted my cereal for the next morning
- I added 1 cup of chopped walnuts to the pan after crumbling the cake into large pieces
- Instead of the 12 hour dehydrating step, I set the oven at 300 degrees and baked the crumbled cake spread out on 2 cookie sheets for about 1 hour, stirring every 20 minutes and watching carefully so it didn't get too dark at the higher temperature. (As you can see, I was really intent on having this cereal the next morning.)
- Added 1 cup of raisins while the cereal cooled.  Sunflower or pumpkin seeds or other dried fruits would also be good additions.

As you can see in the photo below, my speedier version worked just fine,  It had plenty of crunch, was made with whole foods and tastes a bit like having oatmeal or gingerbread cookies.  

I topped the bowl with some of my bumper crop of raspberries and some almond milk - yum!  For perhaps just a bit more than the cost of one box of the store bought cereal, I came out with two gallon sized storage bags of the homemade version with no added salt and just the amount of sweetness I wanted.  If you like cold cereal, I hope you give this easy recipe a try. 

Thanks for stopping by!

Late summer flower from my neighbor's garden

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Mother Earth News Fair and Cream of Garden Vegetable Soup

Flowers at one of the farm vendors at the fair

My son and I did a mini road trip to Seven Springs, PA to attend the Mother Earth News Fair this past weekend.  It was a fun-filled, educational event packed with workshops, presentations and demonstrations covering topics such as organic gardening, sustainable living, modern homesteading and renewable energy. Although I wasn't able to get too many photos because a good part of the afternoon it poured buckets, but here are a few highlights of the day.

 Some of the outdoor area at the fair

 Heritage breed chickens

 Baked potato for lunch - even simple food always tastes so good outdoors

 Baby alpacas - so cute and such soft wool on this one's little alpaca Afro

Diva llama - strutted around when they took her out of the pen to walk among the fair goers

The speakers and demonstrations provided loads of inspiration for projects that will keep us busy for a long time to come. I saw a cooking demonstration highlighting various ways to use a Vitamix blender that got my creative cogs turning.  My fabulous mother gifted me with one for my last birthday and I have been experimenting with it all summer long.  I have made hummus and been canning sauces made from garden goodness like crazy during this harvest season.  I have to say that it would make my list of kitchen tools that are indispensable (along with a KitchenAid mixer, KitchenAid or Cuisinart food processor and a good set of sharp kitchen knives).   This vegan cream of vegetable soup will come together in about 10 minutes total including the minimal required vegetable prep time in a Vitamix and just a bit longer if you are using a regular blender. The chef just used handfuls and eyeballed everything when he made his version of the soup.  The measurements below are from the batch that I made so you can have a guideline to follow, but you don't have to be will still be delicious.

Cream of Garden Vegetable Soup (vegan)

1 small sweet pepper, stem removed and cut in half
1 small hot pepper, seeded (optional)
3-4 large ripe tomatoes or about 3-4 cups of cherry tomatoes - remove cores if very hard
1 large carrot, cut down to fit into blender
1/4 cup basil leaves (small handful)
1 Tbsp fresh oregano leaves
1 Tbsp fresh rosemary 
1 clove garlic, peeled
1 Tbsp miso paste or 1 bullion cube
sea salt and pepper to taste
3 cups of hot water (more if needed)
1 can of drained chickpeas or other white bean (optional)

Vitamix method
Put all ingredients except beans in the blender bowl and slowly turn the dial to maximum.  Use  a tamper if necessary to push down ingredients and add additional water to thin the mixture if it is too thick.  Let the motor run for about 4 minutes until the soup is smooth and piping hot. Turn off the motor and add the drained beans, if using, and turn the dial to 1 for just a few seconds to lightly chop the beans leaving a little texture or puree smooth if desired.  Season with sea salt and pepper to taste.

Regular blender or food processor method
Put all ingredients except beans in the blender bowl and process until smooth adding additional water to thin the mixture if it is too thick.  Pour the soup into a saucepan, add the drained beans if using and heat on medium until heated through.  Season with sea salt and pepper to taste.

I used a mix of small yellow and red tomatoes and large lima beans in my soup.  I also swirled a generous teaspoon of pesto into the bowl before serving.

Vegetables ready for blending into soup

Sit back with a nice cup of soup and enjoy watching the leaves start to turn as the days grow shorter and the air takes on a crisp feel.

Thanks for reading!

Trees just starting to put on their fall colors at Seven Springs, PA

Monday, September 17, 2012

Late Summer Garden

Lavender in the morning light

The days are getting shorter and a little cooler, but the garden continues to soak up every bit of warmth to put out the last of summer's garden goodness.  I took advantage of the light one cool morning to capture some of the garden's beauty.

Carrot ready to harvest

Raspberries to be made into syrup
(except I ate these because they were just too tempting)

A beautifully unblemished eggplant
 (you can see that the bugs have been munching on the leaves) 

Citrus scented geranium and lavender
(Weeding is a pleasure in this spot because each motion fills the air with a heavenly scent)

Ingredients collected for pasta sauce canning

After enjoying the morning taking in the garden views, I enjoyed canning a small batch of spicy pasta sauce before heading to the local garden center to get supplies to prep the garden beds we will be using for fall planting. It's time for planting cool weather loving vegetables like lettuces, radishes, green,cabbages, and garlic...and it's time for colorful mums!

Mums - a sure sign that fall is on the way.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Flower Gardens

Late summer sky

Our weather continues to be picture perfect so I thought I share a few photos taken on walks around the neighborhood.  Gardens are still in full bloom, and I love taking in the view.

 An heirloom rose next to a vintage car


 A neighbor's garden

Flower garden

Sunflowers and a white picket fence

I hope you enjoyed the moment of zen provided by these beautiful gardens in full bloom.  Thanks for stopping by!

A little crazy, creative play with a photo of a sunflower

Monday, September 10, 2012

Summer Sandwich Spread and Healthy Almond Butter Banana Fudge

White Bean Spread on Country Bread

It was the kind of Sunday that beckoned me to get up and do a little of everything and at the same time nothing at all.  The weather was one of those picture perfect days that you don't get often in the DC area...bright blue sky with fluffy clouds near 80 degrees with low humidity.  I had a list of should do's (laundry, weed the garden, housework) and want to do's (write this blog post, work on my sketchbook for the Sketchbook Project, and perhaps do a little culinary exploration).

I decided to enjoy a little of the beautiful day by eating lunch sitting on the porch so I made a white bean sandwich spread.   I had managed to make a loaf of bread in the morning using dough that I had already prepared in the refrigerator from Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day.  This is a great book, and the link to the article can get you started making great crusty, chewy country style breads in just a few minutes at a fraction of the cost of the bakery ones.    I added some chopped apple and walnuts to the dough and topped a fresh slice with the bean spread.

White Bean Sandwich Spread

1 15oz can of canellini beans or chickpeas drained and slightly mashed
1/4 cup your favorite mayonnaise (or 2 Tbsp olive oil and 1 Tbsp lemon juice)
1 tsp mustard
1/4 tsp celery seeds
pepper to taste

Add any or all of the following:
2 Tbsp relish, chopped pickles or pickled peppers
2 Tbsp sunflower seeds
2 Tbsp celery, chopped
2 Tbsp onion, finely chopped

Mix all ingredients in a bowl until thoroughly combined.  Serve as a sandwich spread or a scoop is nice on a mixed green salad.

As I enjoyed my lunch al fresco, I was a basking in the glow of the festivities at the wedding of a friend the day before.  The event was filled with the efforts of the creative hands of both the bride's and groom's family and friends.  There was the artistically arranged table for the wedding ceremony:

A beautiful tower of homemade wedding cupcakes in decadent flavors  - yum!

There were several fun dance performances, and I caught this surprisingly interesting shot of one of the fire dancers.

It's always exciting to see how people add their own creative touches to both the everyday and special celebrations in their lives.

For a sweet treat to end the day, I made a simple recipe for healthy almond butter banana "fudge" and added a few bittersweet chocolate chips to the bottom of the pan before I poured in the mixture.  It only took a few minutes to put together and is a relatively guilt free sweet treat that left me plenty of time to pull a few weeds and gather ripe vegetables from the garden at the end of the day.

Harvest of the day

A basketful of produce gathered from the garden always puts a smile on my face, and it is a perfect way to end the weekend.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Raspberries for Breakfast

The late season crop of raspberries are coming in and I've been having fun creating very tasty uses for them.

For a potluck at work, I made a raspberry crumb cake.  I started with this recipe and made substitutions based on what I had available.  Changes I made to the recipe are:

- I substituted raspberries and peaches for half of the rhubarb in the recipe because I wanted to feature raspberries from my garden, but didn't have enough to replace all of the rhubarb.  I also had a lovely, fragrant peach that I thought would make a nice addition to the mix.

 - I used yogurt instead of sour cream and raw sugar for both the regular and brown sugar because that's what I keep in my cupboards

- I replaced the butter in the cake batter with grated zucchini to make the recipe just a tiny bit healthier, but used butter in the crumbs to make sure they had that rich, buttery texture that is so delightful.  It is crumb cake after all!

Another recipe I made is an easy breakfast parfait inspired by a recipe for overnight oat parfaits.  This makes an easy breakfast, snack or lunch on the go.

Overnight Oat and Chia Seed Pudding
1 cup of whole oats
2 Tbsp chia seeds
1 1/2 cups of milk (I used almond)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp cinnamon (optional)
3-4 large dates, pitted and chopped
Sweetener of choice (maple syrup, agave nectar, stevia or honey work well) (optional)

Put all the ingredients except the sweetener in a quart mason jar or bowl with lid.  Stir well, cover and put in the refrigerator overnight or at least 4 hours.  The pudding should be thick like a cooked oatmeal after sitting.  Add sweetener to taste if desired.  Serve topped with fruit, nuts or yogurt.  

Makes 2-3 servings as a cereal or approximately 4-5 parfaits depending on how many layers you have.

To make the parfaits
Take tall glasses, dessert dishes or canning jars and layer any of the following:
- overnight oat and chia pudding
- yogurt
- nut butter
- jam or preserves
- fresh fruit
- nuts
- granola
- cocoa nibs
- nutella (yum!)
- let your imagination run wild

To make the parfait pictured above,  I used 12 oz jelly jars and layered:  oat and chia seed pudding, yogurt, raspberry jam, fresh raspberries and I had a couple of tablespoons of peach preserves left that went into 2 of parfaits.  Out of the recipe above, I was able to make 4 parfaits and my husband ate a small bowl of the pudding by itself for a treat.  I made up all the parfaits and put them in the refrigerator so I could pull out one at a time as I run out the door in the mornings on the way to work.  

If you give this recipe a try, leave a comment below to let me know what fun combinations you created.

Thanks for stopping by.

Summer harvest still life

Monday, September 3, 2012

Weekend of Creative Inspiration

It's the unofficial end of summer, and with a nice 3-day holiday weekend, I grabbed any opportunity to fit in some creative play.  I enjoyed some kitchen adventures canning, had an artist's date to see an amazing exhibit at the Hillwood Estate Museum and Gardens and started an e-course on blogging.

     Apple butter

                  Jars of applesauce, apple butter and tomato soup

My garden continues to offer an abundant harvest of tomatoes, beans, melons, eggplant and raspberries.  I also was able to come by some tart, green apples so I spent a very sweaty Saturday stirring pots over a hot stove canning tomato soup, applesauce and apple butter.   I think all that steam provided a bonus facial, but I sure looked a mess while I was working.

As a cooling treat I was able to have some of the melon that came from this year's garden.  Sadly our crop of French heirloom cantaloupe is only two this year, but we've had our best season ever for watermelons and still have 4 more to come.

My artist's date was to visit the beautiful Hillwood Estate Museum and Gardens in Washington, DC.

Gardens at the Hillwood Estate Museum and Gardens

As I walked through the gardens, I saw lots of inspiration for next year's garden at my much humbler abode.

 Japanese gardens at the Hillwood Estate Museum

But the main reason for visiting the museum on this occasion was for the  Prêt-à-Papier exhibit.  As the brochure describes, this is "the most exquisite" art exhibit of period costumes made from...paper!  The artist, Isabelle de Brochegrave, takes ordinary paper and paints, braids, crumples and pleats it until it looks just like fabric.  It is really quite amazing.   The exhibit runs through December 30, 2012 so if you are in the DC area, I highly recommend a visit.  

Two of the amazing dresses in the   Prêt-à-Papier exhibit.

And heading into the fall, I'm excited to be taking the e-course Blogging from the Heart led by Sushanna Conway. .  

As I've just started on this blogging journey, I thought it would be a good idea to learn from someone with much more experience than I so our journey together will be memorable and hopefully spark your own creativity. I look forward to sharing what I learn in future posts.    

Thanks for stopping by!

Flowers in the garden at the Hillwood Estate