Raw Crunch Bars: finally, a solution for lunchboxes (and a giveaway!)

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With school starting again I am finding myself wandering the aisles of the grocery store looking for easy and quick snacks to toss into lunch boxes. Most of the pre-packaged treats commonly available come with unpronounceable ingredients, and I really don’t see the benefit of feeding them to my children, so the product goes back on the shelf and I continue aimlessly wandering the store. I am looking for something that is genuinely nutritious and ready to quickly go into a lunchbox on a day when I am behind schedule… which is most days.

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Late-Summer Vegetable and Rice Soup with Ginger and Lime

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Sometimes less is more, even when it comes to tasty food. I am generally a lover of bold flavors, especially this time of year. Spicy salsas with fresh garden tomatoes, flavorful zucchini dishes, and an abundance of raw vegetables dipped and dressed with pungent flavorings. These are all part of how we’re eating as we finish up August.

But sometimes you just need a break from all of that, especially when little tummies are unsettled as they were in our home recently. I find that cooked vegetables, broth, and a little something extra is the most nourishing thing for those who need subtle foods. This dish still makes use of those fresh green garden veggies, but adds a slow simmer with broth and rice to keep it tame.

Deliciously simple and easy to make, this dish is taken from ho-hum to yum with aromatics and a splash of lime.

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Pork Chops with Fresh Black-Eyed Peas and Onion Gravy

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I was shelling our black-eyed peas while sipping on a quart jar of tea the other day and the irony of that whole scene was a bit comical. I live deep in the heart of Texas but I most definitely do not fit the bill of a southern woman… even when surrounded by tea and black-eyed peas.

Even with my Minnesotan roots showing, I am falling in love with these southern peas. For one, they grow really well here despite the clay soil, drought, heat, and other beatings a plant can take. For weeks now we have been eating them pretty much every day in one form or another. They work well as a green bean at the younger stage. Just pick and snap as you would any other green bean.

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Tomato-Basil Meatloaf Muffins (and ground beef recipe ideas)

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There are only so many ways to eat ground beef before you get bored, right? There’s hamburgers, spaghetti, tacos, stir-fry, soup, and stew. And then I’m out of ideas. Most of our meat is ground beef, because that is the most economical way to buy grass-fed beef in these parts, so as you might imagine, this can be a problem. Throw in a dairy intolerance and a few other food no-nos and you get to my little corner of the ground beef world.

Needless to say, I’m always trying to come up with ways to stretch a pound of meat between five hungry eaters while keeping things interesting. Usually this is done simply with beans or extra garden veggies. When I’m on my game, though, I throw something like this in the mix.

It’s not exotic, it doesn’t take much more than pantry ingredients, and it’s packed with protein. But it’s the little meals like this, alongside a fresh salad and simple white rice, that bring me out of my ground beef funk. They don’t have to be expensive or exhausting, they just have to be different than the usual fare.

And bringing a muffin pan full of meat to the table is definitely different. And while there were a few skeptics at first when I said no to “Muffins for dinner!?”, they got over their disappointment quickly and moved right into “These things are good!”.

Rave reviews and me getting out of my ground beef funk? I think I’ll add these to our regular recipe lineup.

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What to do with beet greens… pesto, of course!

We planted two large rows of beets this year.   I am excited to be picking them already… roasting beets, sauteeing them, boiling, pickling… and the list goes on.

Last year, however – I ended up giving a lot of those beet greens to the chickens after waiting a bit too long to use them.  I’m resolved to change that this year, and to make better use of those beautiful, nutrient-dense greens!

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A few things we’ve already done with them this season:

Sautee with garlic and olive oil – top with toasted nuts and a drizzle of favorite vinegar

Add them raw to fruit smoothies (minus the stems) for a mild tasting superfood boost! Continue reading

From the Griddle: Naan (and coming together around homemade)

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I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the different “diet” types, how our family has dabbled in a bit of them all, and where we fall on the continuum. At one point or another we’ve been grain-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, low-fat, high-fat, low-carb, high-raw and just about any other hyphenated eating habit you can think of. I wouldn’t say that any of them are inherently bad or good, they just are. And I think it’d be better if we all just ate what made us feel well, without a label, and within the paradigm of a sustainable food culture.

Let me explain.

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From the Griddle: Gluten-Free Fried Corn Cakes with Jalapeno-Lime Pinto Beans

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When we have grocery stores lined with everything imaginable and the ability to buy many of these things, it’s hard to imagine a culture who couldn’t afford wheat flour for bread, or who might simply choose not to buy it. Instead, the independent people of Appalachia subsisted on mostly homegrown foods with a few staples brought in.

One of those foods is cornmeal, and many of these folks, according to the Foxfire books, grew that corn themselves. And so, cornbread and muffins and cakes became the staff of life for them. Called corn cakes, johnny cakes, hoe cakes and more; these fried cakes are mixed together in a single bowl and fried in home-rendered lard. For that reason, this griddle bread has a place at our table frequently.

I like to serve them alongside a pot of flavorful beans, but they work just as well as pancakes for breakfast or topped with a fried egg for lunch. And because the mixture only contains cornmeal, and no wheat flour, they are also gluten-free.

And these beans… they are a humble, frugal food kicked up with just a couple of delicious ingredients. They also happen to marry quite nicely with the rich corn cakes. I’ve been cooking beans in my solar cooker lately, but you could also make these in a crock pot on a deck to cut down on the heat in your kitchen.

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From the Griddle: Griddle Scones

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It’s just about the hottest part of the year for all of us, isn’t it? And I don’t know about you, but I am not turning my oven on if I have a choice in the matter. That said, we still need to eat and for those of us who consume grains, homemade is always preferable. So, I’ve been cooking up baked goods on our griddle in fast and easy batches to feed my growing family.

It’s so easy for me to fall into these ruts in the kitchen. Sometimes I just fall back on what’s easy and familiar, and that’s okay for a time. Sometimes I create a blind spot and think “It can’t be done!” in cases like it’s-too-hot-to-bake-bread. And then I come across ideas like griddle scones and I wonder how I didn’t think of that. Of course you can “bake” breads on the stove top.

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If you think about it, many breads like pancakes and griddle breads were probably made out of the need for breads when one does not have wood-burning or electric stoves. In my limited experience, it is easier to work a fire for stove-top cooking than it is for baking.

So, I’ve been griddle-top baking, and I thought I’d take you along for the ride. From the griddle today we have scones, one of my very favorites.

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New Feature: Prep Notes on Recipes

As you head into the kitchen you realize that you forgot to take the chicken out of the freezer last night, which means that you don’t have the main ingredient thawed for tonight’s dinner, which means that you have no idea what you are going to serve. You bring your hands to your head in frustration crying “Ugh! If I’d only remembered!”

Well, forget no more! Plan to Eat introduces Prep Notes, which is a handy little tool to remind us of the ingredients needing our attention for future meals. Here is how it works:

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Some Tips for Lacto-Fermenting Your Harvest

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When I discovered lacto-fermentation seven years ago now, my mind was blown. What do you mean I can make delicious pickles without boiling everything good out of them and heating up my kitchen?! Not only that, but they can have more of the benefits of a raw, living food.

I felt like my whole life up to that point was a lie… at least the part where I canned pickles.

I’ve shared some thoughts here before about preserving food without canning, but I am so passionate and excited about utilizing lacto-fermentation as a means of food preservation, that I thought I’d share some of the tid-bits that have made this method work for our family over the years.

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