Gumbo Fried Rice

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This past week I strolled through our gardens, surprised at those vegetables still giving despite our recent triple digit temperatures. I snapped off okra pods, pulled black-eyed peas at the green bean stage, and came back up to the house to make dinner.

I made gumbo earlier this summer when our okra was a bit more prolific. It was my first go-round with this spicy, tasty dish and I was blown away. Where had gumbo been all my life? We served it over rice and it was wonderful.

But this night I had plans to make fried rice. The rice was cooling and I had some garlic and ginger in mind. That okra reminded me of those delicious flavors of gumbo – paprika, thyme, garlic, and cayenne. Fried up with rice, grass-fed beef, and those garden veggies; we were smitten with this fusion of flavors.

And I’m hoping you will be too.

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Cinnamon Coconut Milk Ice Cream In a Bag

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Getting ice cream is one of the great joys of summer, and as we wind down the season it seems a great time to fit in at least one more cold, creamy treat. But my husband and son aren’t able to share it with us, so much of the joy is lost for our family.

Recently we wanted to make ice cream at home, the kind we could all partake in. But we don’t have an ice cream maker and I’m not even sure if our solar panels could run one if we did. I’d heard that you could make ice cream simply with ice, ziploc bags, and salt so I thought we’d give it a go. I’m so glad we did.

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I love projects like this where yummy food meets great project for the kiddos. It got us talking about heat transfer and freezing points and other “extras” I could add to our homeschooling day. But more importantly, ice cream… that we can all eat!

Here’s how we made it (and how to find more real food and allergy-free recipes like it).

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A Tough Look at the Real Cost of Food

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About eight years ago we began to look into eating organic foods. I was, up until that point, a bargain shopper, stocking our freezer with $.69/lb chicken and filling our fruit bowl with whatever was cheapest.

Once we began to learn more about our industrialized food system, we started taking a look at what we ate and what was most important to invest in. Animal products became the priority for us so we started sourcing organic then pastured then local meats and dairy products. The sticker shock took my breath away.

I began to wonder why grocery store food was so cheap, if this other stuff was so expensive. How were they farming? What were the farmers making? How hard is it really to raise healthy animals and grow good vegetables.

Harder than I thought, it turns out.

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New Feature: Freezer Meals

Freezer cooking is the process of cooking multiple meals at one time and placing them in the freezer for a later date. This technique allows you to maximize your food prep time because you are only doing it once for multiple meals, and gets you ahead of schedule with meals that are ready to eat in your freezer. 

The new Freezer Meal feature in Plan to Eat will allow you to cook meals, freeze them, and Plan to Eat will keep track of the meals in your freezer as you drag those meals onto your planner. It’s a cool little feature that allows you to better use the food that you have on hand, and gives you all of the advantages of getting ahead of schedule by freezer cooking.

Here’s how it works:

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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