Friday, December 28, 2018

Garden Highlights 2018

We have just celebrated the winter solstice in my part of the world, and the seed catalogs are already starting to turn up in my mailbox for the next planting season.  Work and studies have kept me pretty busy, but I carved out a little time to put in a kitchen garden again last year.  Digging in the soil, listening to the buzz of the bees, and working muscles little used while sitting at a desk helped slow time down for while while the stress melted away.  This year had a cool and rainy start which delayed getting the garden started.  I was so excited to see one of my fig trees develop fruit for the first time; however, because of the cool start, it was so late in the season that they didn't get a chance to mature...fingers crossed for next year.  Although I wasn't able to have as much variety as some previous years, I was still able to capture a few glamour shots of the daily (sometimes twice a week) harvests.  Before I turn to dreaming about next year's garden plan, I thought I'd share some of these highlights from my 2018 garden with you.

2018 Garden Highlights

Early spring greens (chard, kale, spinach)

Makings of a strawberry and greens smoothie

The wettest year on record helped produce these giant squash plants in this view of two of the raised beds in the front yard.

Cucumbers, zucchini, onions, tomatoes, green, wax, and broad beans, peppers and basil

Onions, shallots, cucumbers (green and Asian dragons egg), bell pepper, zucchini, ground cherries, green, wax and broad beans

Onions, eggplant, cucumbers (green and Asian dragons egg), bell pepper, zucchini, ground cherries, green, wax and broad beans, tomato, and lima beans

French market carrots, Asian cucumber, tomatoes, red and yellow onions, shallots, and broad beans

Cantaloupe, tomatoes, ground cherries, green, wax and broad beans, Italian sweet peppers, and lima beans

Cantaloupe and heirloom tomatoes

Eggplant, Italian and bell sweet peppers, tomatoes, basil, cucumber, sage, and raspberries

Eggplant, bell and jalapeño peppers, tomatoes, and sage

Eggplant, jalapeñand bell peppers, beets, carrots, tomatoes, and arugula

Kale, chard, carrots, and sweet peppers

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Kitchen adventure: Carrot cake cupcakes with lemon frosting

Carrot cake cupcakes with lemon frosting

Eating more whole foods is better for us, but sometimes you just want dessert.  I have found a recipe for a cupcake that is moist and decadent without any added processed sugar, oil, or salt.  It's a cupcake that you won't feel guilty about eating with its sweetness and moistness coming from fruit and the creaminess in the frosting from the healthier oils found in nuts. 

This recipe is inspired from a current favorite cookbook and blog, Straight Up Food, by Cathy Fisher.  You'll find the original recipe here, and below is my version with all the changes I made incorporated.

For the best results, make the frosting first, then put it in the refrigerator to firm up while making the cupcakes.

Carrot Cake Cupcakes with Lemon Frosting

Lemon Frosting

9 pitted medjool dates

1 scant cup raw cashews
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
zest from 1/2 of a lemon
2 tablespoons lemon juice
¾ to 1 cup water
1/2 cup chopped roasted chopped pecans (optional; for garnish)
  1. Place the dates, cashews, lemon juice, lemon zest, and vanilla into a blender. Add ¾ cup of water.  If the water doesn't completely cover the dates and nuts, add just enough until it does. Set aside for at least  15 minutes so the dates and nuts can soften.  If you don't have a high powered blender, soak for 45 minutes or more so everything can thoroughly soften to get a smoother consistency.
  2. Blend until very smooth,  (Add a little more water if the mixture is too thick to blend, being careful not to make it too runny.)
  3. Transfer the frosting into a covered bowl, and refrigerate to cool and firm up while you are making the cupcakes.


1½ cups non-dairy milk
10 pitted medjool dates
1/2 cup pineapple chunks (I used fresh, but frozen or unsweetened canned would work)
1/2 cup mango chunks (I used frozen, defrosted, and fresh would work too)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract 
1¾ cups old-fashioned rolled oats
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
1½ cups grated carrots grated fine (2 medium)
1/2 cup pecans, roughly chopped
  1. Place the nondairy milk, dates, and vanilla into a bowl and set aside for at least 15 minutes (so the dates can soften).
  2. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a 12 cup muffin tin with paper liners
  3. Grind the oats into flour with a blender. Transfer to a medium bowl, and whisk in the cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, and cloves.
  4. Place the milk, dates and vanilla mixture plus the pineapple and mango in the blender, and blend until smooth.
  5. Stir the date mixture into the bowl of dry ingredients. Fold in the grated carrots and nuts.
  6. Spoon the batter into the cupcake liners.
  7. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the top is medium brown and a tester comes out clean. Let cool for 10 minutes before removing from the pan and placing on a cooling rack, and cool completely before frosting. 
  8. Frost with the prepared chilled lemon frosting.  
  9. Keep refrigerated.

Thanks for reading!

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