"Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated." ~Confucius

Monday, January 3, 2011

Better Than Take-Out: Pizza

One take-out food that we've become very good at imitating is pizza! We actually include it in each week's meal plan now because it is easy and satisfies our junk food cravings. I really love recreating this meal  because it works no matter what you've got leftover in the fridge or hiding in the back of your pantry.

This was one of our very first attempts at making homemade pizza. It involved using a pre-made pizza crust and pizza sauce from a can. We were at the end of our paycheck when we made this, so we used leftover chicken breast, carrots (yes, I said carrots!) and a few mushrooms we had in the crisper drawer. It was good, but definitely not a hit!

Our first truly homemade (and obviously overcooked!) pizza was also not a huge hit, but we knew we were on the right track. The dough was easy to make and tasted better than it's store bought cousin. One batch makes a deep dish crust that fit our largest cookie sheet perfectly, but you could easily roll it out more if you prefer a thinner crust. I'd love to try baking the crust on a pizza stone to compare, but we're still lacking that utensil in our kitchen. A tip here is to stab the dough repeatedly with a fork before you put the sauce and toppings on to avoid air pockets when baking. I also found later that brushing the crust with olive oil before baking makes it crisp up a bit more authentically.

Homemade Pizza Dough~

2 1/4 teaspoons of yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 cup of warm water
4 cups a.p. bread flour
pinch of salt
1 cup water
1 tablespoon oil

Mix the yeast, sugar and warm water and let it sit 10 minutes until foamy. Add the flour, salt and water to the yeast mixture to form a sticky ball. Knead on a floured bench until smooth, then put it in an oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let dough proof in a warm spot for 1 hour. Remove plastic and punch down dough until deflated. Roll out to desired shape and bake on oiled surface or parchment.

*Dough can also be stored in the fridge overnight before baking.

It was the homemade sauce that finally won us over! All I did was take a small jar of our homemade tomato sauce base and a few tablespoons of our homemade tomato paste from last summers canning projects, and heat them in a saucepan with some chopped garlic and dried Italian herb mix. It took less than 5 minutes to make, but it tasted like it had been simmering on the stove all day, probably because of all the work that went into making the sauce base when the tomatoes were fresh during the summer.


As you can see, our more recent attempts are much more successful, and Pizza Night has become a much anticipated event in our household. One of the things we've learned it that you'll need way more cheese than you'd expect to use! We actually like to do two layers, one light layer over the sauce and then another thicker layer over the toppings. Also, make sure that you slice the veggies thinly or the crust will be done before the toppings are.

Before, our pizza delivery bill would typically run between $20-30. Now we can make one extra large pizza for the whole family for around $5! The most expensive components for us are the pepperoni and the cheese, and everything else we typically have on hand. If you were to make a vegetarian pizza then you could easily pay less than a dollar provided that the dough ingredients are something you already have in your pantry.

The dough also works for calzones and as focaccia bread. We like to make calzones when we are short on ingredients, or when we need to please several different palates. The key here is not to over stuff them and to make sure you get a good seal around the edges. One batch of dough makes 3 large pizza pockets. And as I mentioned earlier, a brush of olive oil helps you get a nice golden crust! We cooked these at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes and the crust & filling were done at the same time. A calzone also makes a good meal on the go, so make an extra one for lunch the next day!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Dark Days: Lamb Shank Soup

We are always ecstatic when our meat guy throws a package of lamb shanks into our bi-weekly taster pack because we love Lamb Shank Soup! It is the perfect recipe for the Dark Days Challenge and it is especially wonderful on a chilly evening like tonight.

Ok, let me run down the SOLE in this dish. The lamb shanks are from Da-Le Ranch, the carrots are from Suzie's Farm, and the onions and corn are from another random booth at the farmer's market. The bay leaves were given to us by our friend, the beef broth is organic and was purchased at our food co-op along with the pearl barley from the bulk bins. Lastly, the tomato paste was canned by us last summer and the zucchini was a rogue grower in our garden.


Boil shanks in a stock pot 1/2 full with water and a couple of bay leaves for about an hour. Remove the shanks, then de-fat the water and remove the bay leaves. Pour the water back into the pot, add the barley and cook until soft. When meat is cool, cut it off the bones and dice it up along with the vegetables. When the barley is ready, add the diced onion and carrots, and either (it's up to your preference) some beef stock or 2 beef bouillon cubes. Cook for 10 minutes before adding the rest of the vegetables and the meat. Add tomato paste and cook another 10 minutes. Then add cornstarch slurry until it reaches the consistency you desire. 

We recommend serving it in your biggest soup bowl so that you only have to go back for seconds and not thirds! HAHAHA! Oh, and don't forget the freshly baked bread or your favorite biscuit!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

What is that?

Jason and I are quite perplexed by the appearance of this little guy, especially since we have never planted any type of squash in our garden! We're thinking zucchini, but it could quite possibly be a whole mess of things considering the variety of things we have in our seed stash.

Anyone want to offer their opinion?

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Utility Jam: Strawberry Preserves

Today was a cold, wet & dreary day here in Paradise City, so what better way to warm up our house and our spirits than by baking some bread?!? I should have made this post a long time ago considering how much we love this Banana-Berry Jam Bread! It never lasts long, rain or shine!

The great thing about this recipe is that it will go good with whatever leftover jam, jelly or preserve you happen have lingering in the fridge. Today we had the option of either strawberry or apricot, and if we had had more bananas then I probably would have made both! I also like to change the nuts with each batch depending on which jam I use. Here I used walnuts because I had some leftover from another recipe, but I'm dying to do a batch with sliced almonds. But that'll have to be a post for another day!

The link will send you to Marisa's post over at Food In Jars, but the actual recipe comes from Shae and her blog "Hitchhiking To Heaven."

Dark Days: Christmas Dinner

I've cooked a few meals that qualify for the Dark Days Challenge, but this is the first time I have got around to posting any of them. For those of you who don't read food blogs on a regular basis, the challenge is in it's 4th year and runs from December 1st, 2010 to April 15th, 2010. The objective is to create one meal per week that focuses on SOLE (sustainable, organic, local, ethical) foods in an effort to draw attention to the fact that even the coldest seasons supply a bounty of choices for those maintaining a locavore diet.

Everything here was purchased at our local farmer's market, except for the salad dressing which is Ken's Lite Accents Honey Mustard. It's the one dressing that all of us agree on, so we continue to purchase it in the grocery store. The roast is a 3 pound sirloin tip from our friends at Da-Le Ranch with a Cranberry-Maple Rub from Just Spice. The beautiful roasted tri-colored carrots are from our neighbor's at Suzie's Farm and the potatoes, salad greens and watermelon radishes are from Maggie's Farm. I can't really remember which stand we bought the onions and red bell peppers from, but I'll try to pay attention to that on our next trip.

We also had a side of beets from Suzi's Farm, that we made following the Orange Beets recipe from one of my favorite blogs called "Susan Can Cook." The orange juice and zest we picked up from another random booth at the market. The flour, sugar, salt and pepper used were all bought out of the bulk bins at OB People's Food Co-op and the butter was purchased from Spring Hill Cheese Company

Honestly, this was by far the best Christmas dinner I have ever made! I think it was because I kept it simple instead of making everything I could possibly think of. But nothing was lacking and we were so stuffed afterwards that we had to settle down for a long winter's nap!

And of course a big THANK YOU to all of the farmer's who made this meal possible!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Old Fashioned English Muffins

Out with the new, and in with the old! Old Fashioned that is. And our new old fashioned favorite is English Muffins! Jason made a batch of these last night so that I can make Eggs Benedict on Christmas morning. Well now he is going to have to make more because we can't stop eating them! They were the first thing on my mind this morning when we woke up, and we each ended up having two spread with some of our Vanilla Pear Butter. Last night we had them with organic butter from Spring Hill Cheese Co. and a bowl of our homemade Chicken Chili.

They are much better than any store bought muffin we've ever had AND we could have made 5 or 6 batches for the price of one package in the grocery store. These freeze exceptionally well, so you could easily double the batch and keep some in the freezer to have on hand whenever you need them.

Ingredient List:

1 cup milk
2 tablespoons sugar
1 package active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons if you're buying in bulk)
1 cup warm water (approx. 110 degrees F)
1/4 cup melted shortening
6 cups a.p. flour
1 teaspoon salt


Warm the milk. Mix in sugar until dissolved. Let it cool. In a separate bowl, mix yeast and warm water. Let stand 10 minutes until foamy. Combine the two mixtures with the shortening and half of the flour. Mix until smooth. Add the salt and remainder of the flour and knead to a soft dough. Cover and let rise approximately 1 hour or until doubled in size. Punch down dough and roll out to 1/2 inch thickness. Cut rounds to preferred size*. On a cookie sheet with greased parchment, cover and let rise 30 minutes. Bake at 375 degrees F for 8 minutes on each side.

Our Notes~

*We used a 3 inch round cutter and got 17 muffins from a single batch.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Giveaway: New Year, New Hobby!

Jason and I are always hearing from people, "I wish I knew how to can!" We try to explain how easy it really is to learn, and how just a few short years ago we were canning virgins until we taught ourselves via the internet. So while we were out auditioning for the WWE on Black Friday, we picked up something that we thought would be perfect for our first giveaway.

TAAADAAA! The Ball Home Canning Discovery Kit!! This kit has everything you need to get started canning today. Included is a canning rack with lifter that fits any large stock pot, 3 jars with rings and lids, and a handy dandy little guide book with step-by-step instructions (with pictures!) and some great recipes perfect for a beginner.

The Catch. You knew there was going to be one, right?!? Well all that we ask is that you sign up as a follower of our blog AND leave a comment on any of our posts between now and the end of the year. You can also comment on any of our previous posts as well. Each comment (max of 1 comment per blog post) enters you into the random drawing that will take place on January 1st. After the winner is announced we will contact them via the Blogger site to arrange shipping, so you must sign up as a follower and provide your email address. Anonymous comments will not count as giveaway entries!

We look forward to hearing from all of you!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Blueberry-Lemon Syrup

Jason and I shared a pleasant evening working together in the kitchen, listening to Fleetwood Mac, while cooking, cleaning and canning simultaneously. We got three batches of syrup done this evening, more of our beloved Blackberry, more Raspberry-Mint for us to keep, and our new favorite Blueberry-Lemon. Oh man, does this sucker take the cake! (Or should I say it takes the pancake?!? LOL!!) I was worried because at first the lemon was a bit overpowering, but it mellowed out nicely after an extended simmering. I also have to mention here how blown away I was by the stunning royal purple color of this syrup. It definitely looks as yummy as it tastes! I am glad that it made an extra half-pint because I promised to give some to the farmer for giving me such a good deal on the berries.

Once again, there is no particular recipe here. Just throw the berries in a saucepan with 1/4 to 1/2 of a cup of water and the zest of one lemon (I added the juice of half the lemon as well as the zest in this batch) and let them simmer while you mash away! Once it thins out into a nice juice, run it through a fine mesh strainer or through a food mill to get the majority of the seeds and pulp out. You're never going to get it all, especially if your using raspberries, because a lot of times the seeds are too small to catch. I usually find that in this case the seeds are softer, so you'll hardly notice them if they do make it into your final product. Then measure the amount of juice you have, and pour it back into the (washed) saucepan. Add 1/4 cup of sugar for each 1/4 cup of juice you have. Bring it to a boil to fully incorporate the sugar and then bring it back down to a simmer. Pour the syrup into half-pint jars and then water bath process for 10 minutes and YOU'RE DONE!

If you love Blueberry Syrup then you have to make this! It's so much better than store bought syrup, and super-easy to boot!! And if you can't find fresh blueberries in your area this time of the year then use frozen berries instead. It will brighten up your winter breakfast table, we promise! 

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Cranberry-Eggnog Muffins

Jason and I were very busy in the kitchen this past weekend! In one day alone we made a pot of Turkey Noodle Soup from our leftover Thanksgiving turkey, two loaves of Sandwich Bread, and a dozen and a half of these yummy little muffins. We found the recipe in this month's issue of the Food Network Magazine (on page 101), and luckily this was one of those times when the planets aligned and the refrigerator and pantry gods blessed us with everything we needed to try out the recipe!

Here is the recipe from the Food Network website!

For the muffins:
  • cooking spray
  • 1 cup dried cranberries, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup rum or apple juice
  • 2 1/2 cups a.p. flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
For the topping:
  • 1 1/2 cup a.p. flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, melted
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 cups packed light brown sugar


Prepare the pan...Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Mist a 12-cup muffin pan with cooking spray.

Prepare the muffins...Warm the cranberries and rum in a small saucepan over medium heat, then remove from the heat and let steep 5 minutes. Drain. Whisk the flour, baking powder, brown sugar and salt in a medium bowl. Whisk the butter, eggnog, eggs and vanilla in another bowl. Gently fold into the flour mixture. (The batter will be lumpy; DO NOT overmix.) Fold in the cranberries. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups.

Prepare the topping...Mix the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, butter, salt and brown sugar in a bowl with your fingertips until it looks like wet sand. Sprinkle generously over the batter.

Bake until the muffins are golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Cool slightly in the pan, then carefully remove to a rack.

I would like to add a couple of things here. First, we soaked our cranberries in rum because that is what we had on hand. While I wished that I had some apple juice instead, I was pleased to discover that the rum flavor had diminished completely after baking. And I really liked the way that it reconstituted the dried cranberries, so I can't really complain. Also, I found that the recipe calls for way too much topping! Our batch made 16 muffins (4 more than the recipe states) and I loaded them up with as much topping as I could, but I still had at least half, if not more, of the topping leftover. IMO, the muffins would be better without any topping at all, but if you like that crumby top on a muffin then I would still recommend cutting the topping recipe in half because you will have plenty...I promise! We've been sprinkling the rest on toast and it's really yummy! We will definitely be making these again. They would be great to freeze and use when we need to have breakfast on the go, but I don't think I will make the topping again because it was far too sweet for me. 

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Kai in the Kitchen: Turkey Cookies

About a week before Thanksgiving, Kai was watching Nick Jr. and saw this Turkey-Hand Cookie project. He wouldn't stop talking about it, so when we were doing our shopping for Thanksgiving we took him to Great News in PB and let him pick out a piping bag and some decorating tips.

We really wanted him to feel included in the dinner preparations, but we knew that there was no way the three of us could work together with so much going on in our tiny kitchen, so we had him mix and bake the cookies the night before.

Here is a link to the recipe that he used for his Sugar Cookies!

I'd like to add here two things here! One, that we cut the recipe in half because we didn't need that many cookies with all of the other desserts we had on the menu. Two, that I did take her advice in the recipe and used almond extract instead of vanilla. To me the cookie dough seemed a little bland, so I snuck the flavoring in even though Daddy and Kai liked it the was it was!

Next Kai traced out his hand onto a piece of parchment paper, then cut out the shape and used it as his cookie cutter. As many of you know, Kai has a very meticulous (almost annoying at times) attention to detail, which in this case was a good thing because he cut out the cookies very precisely.

We baked them four to a pan, but we could have done six at a time because the cookie kept their shape very well. This was where we stopped for the night, so the cookies had plenty of time to cool before we iced them. Jason made a simple powdered sugar frosting, again substituting almond extract for the vanilla. Then we divided the icing into three bowls and added food coloring to make red, yellow and brown. Kai insisted on not using orange, much to my dismay.

The beaks are leftover candy corn from Halloween and the eyes are mini chocolate chips, both are attached with a drop of yellow frosting. Kai had a very strong opinion of how they were supposed to be decorated, so they are all identical, but it was his own unique design and not the one from the website, so I have to applaud him for his creativity!

Here is the link to the original project idea on the Nick Jr. website!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Strawberry Preserves

We also found some organic strawberries at the farmer's market on Saturday, which is a blessing because in our home strawberries are commodity! Jason and Kai's eyes actually lit up when they saw them...Jason started getting visions of strawberry jam, which always seems to be the first thing to disappear from our pantry, and Kai loves a good strawberry-banana smoothie. A 3 pack cost us $10, so they were cheaper than the other berries we've been buying.

After dicing up the berries and removing the tough white parts, we put the chopped fruit into a stock pot with a half of a cup of water and let them simmer until the berries were soft. Next I used an immersion blender to smooth out the juiced pulp. I don't usually do this, but Jason likes a smoother preserve while I enjoy it chunkier, so I blended it until it I thought it would please us both. The only thing I didn't like about this part of the process (other than losing all those nice bits of strawberry) was that it created a lot of foam. I remembered hearing that a trick to get rid of foam is to add a bit of butter to the mix, so I tried this rather than skimming it off, and it seemed to work rather nicely.

From here we followed the direction included in the package of low sugar pectin. I added about a 1/2 of a cup of water and approximately 70% of a package of pectin, bringing the mixture to a boil for EXACTLY one minute and then took it off the heat before adding the Splenda. This amount of berries only makes about a half of a batch of jam, so the ratio we used here was 3 cups of pulp to 2 cups of Splenda (or sugar if you prefer). We filled five 1/2 pint jars which we then processed in a water bath for 10 minutes, and so far the set looks perfect. It is definitely nice to have this back in the pantry again!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Raspberry-Mint Syrup

We picked up another 3 pack of berries today at the farmer's market, but this time we got some beautiful, juicy raspberries! I had to start the syrup right away because they were so delicious that they were starting to disappear from the fridge, and nobody seemed to know why.

The recipe for this was the same recipe we used for our Blackberry Syrup, except that here we used regular sugar instead of Splenda. I also added the leaves from six sprigs of mint out of our garden, but I wish now that I had added more because the mint flavor is not as prominent as I hoped it would be.

I initially made this as a gift for my father, but it tastes so wonderful that he'll be lucky if it makes it there. I'm kicking myself now for not making it sugar-free so that I could enjoy a jar myself! Next week we're going to do Blueberry Syrup...so keep an eye out for that post!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Blackberry Syrup

I wanted to jot down a quick post about the incredibly yummy Blackberry Syrup we just made! We picked the blackberries up at the farmer's market in Little Italy this past weekend. The 3 pack tray cost us $12, which at the time seemed ridiculously expensive considering we usually pick them for free, but now that I've tasted the syrup it was definitely worth it. We didn't have any other blackberries in the pantry yet, so having these two small jars feels like a windfall! The best part is that because we made them ourselves we were able to make them sugar-free, so I can enjoy them without any guilt and without making myself sick.

We didn't follow any particular recipe for the syrup. All we did was dump the three trays of berries into a medium-sized sauce pan and add about 1/4 cup of water. We heated them on low until they were soft and then mashed them with a potato masher. Next we let them simmer for about 5 minutes before straining the pulp through a fine wire strainer. Using a spatula, we gently pushed the pulp through the strainer making sure to only push hard enough to let the juice escape, but not the seeds or the larger pieces of flesh. After we were done we had about 2/3 of a cup of juice left. We put that in a pan with 5 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon of Splenda (If you're using sugar that would be 2/3 of a cup, or a 1:1 ratio of juice to sugar) and brought the mixture to a boil before lowering it to a simmer. Once the syrup thickened we poured it into two 1/2 pint (8 oz.) jars, leaving a 1/4 inch headspace. Then we processed them in a water bath for 10 minutes and TA-DA...Blackberry Syrup!

We hope you enjoy it as much as we do, and as always if you decide to make it then please let us know what you think! Until next time...

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Apple-Rosemary Marmalade

I absolutely have to rave about the fabulous Apple Marmalade with Rosemary that I made from the recipe on Tigress in a Jam's blog! Like Tigress, my catch-all crisper drawer blessed me with an abundant collection of citrus and a variety of stray apples from our weekly trips to the farmer's market.

I probably used more apples than the recipe calls for, so that would explain the three extra jars I got from my batch. I also added an extra lemon, and an extra 1/2 cup of sugar to cut the tartness. Don't get me wrong, it still has that classic marmalade bite to it, but just slightly less snappy than before.

I have mentioned before that I am not a big fan of marmalade, but this recipe instantly won me over! I couldn't stop tasting it, and neither could Jason. Thank goodness there was some leftover for a midnight snack...it was perfect on the whole wheat bread my darling hubby had baked the night before!

I already have an idea for a utility jam post featuring this marmalade! So keep an eye out for that recipe because it will be the perfect addition to the upcoming holiday season.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Utility Jam: Orangle Marmalade

This blog is inspired by two of our favorite bloggers, Marisa over at Food In Jars and her "Open Jars" concept, and Kaela at Local Kitchen and her "Use It or Lose It" concept.

As anyone who cans knows, half full jars seem to multiply and they start to take over the refrigerator after a while. Utility jam is an approach that takes those leftover preserves and gives them a new life in tasty recipes.

Orange Marmalade isn't very popular in our household, but last season our new little orange tree gave us a few oranges that were too tart to eat, but made a perfect marmalade which we shared with our friends and neighbors. The jar we did keep never seemed to make it out of the fridge for more than a taste test or two.

I originally made this recipe to go with Chilean Sea Bass, but because of the endangered status of the Patagonian Toothfish we quit buying it and starting using the glaze on other fish and pork dishes. To date I haven't found a protein that it doesn't go fabulously with!

Orange-Chili-Basil Glaze
3 tablespoons of preserves
2 tablespoons of rice vinegar
1 teaspoons of fresh basil, chopped
1/8 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes*
1 cloves of garlic, minced
 pinch of salt

 *As written this recipe is only mildly spicy, so double the amount of red pepper flakes if you enjoy spicy foods!

If you try the recipe, please give us some feedback! We would love to hear from you. 

Pumpkin Pie Squares

There was a chill in the air here today, and the cool breeze left me craving something warm and comforting, so I begged my hubby to make me one of our favorite, tried and true recipes, Pumpkin Pie Squares! I found this recipe in some magazine years ago, and from the first time we tried it we were in love!

The crust is nutty and buttery, and nice and crisp because you press it into the bottom of a 13x9 inch pan (lined with foil and buttered) and bake it for 15 minutes before you add the filling. You also reserve 1 cup of the crust dough to create sort of a cruchy topping later.

The filling is a creamy mixture of pumpkin and cream cheese that you blend and pour over the baked crust.

The topping is made from a combination of the extra crust you saved and butterscotch chips. Sprinkle the crumbled crust over the top of the smoothed filling, and then finish with a generous covering of butterscotch chips. (As you can see in the picture below, I tend to go very light on the butterscotch chips because I am diabetic, but I also find that using the amount the recipe calls for makes it far too sweet!)

Bake in a 350 degree oven for 25 minutes. Remove and let it cool for 10 minutes. Then lift it out of the pan (using the excess aluminum foil edges) and let it cool completely before cutting it into squares.

The ingredients and measurements are as follows~

1 & 1/3 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup butter (cold)
1 cup quick cooking oats (dry)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1-8oz. package of cream cheese
3 eggs
1-15 oz. can of pumpkin*
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup of the crust, reserved
2 cups of butterscotch chips

*A note I'd like to add here is that this recipe works best with canned pumpkin NOT canned pumpkin pie filling! Using either will not really change the flavor, but it will change the consistency and your squares will not set as well.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Butternut Squash Lasagna, To-Go!

First off, I'd like to apologize for not making any posts during our trip. For those of you who know us personally, you probably heard that our trip turned out to be very eventful, but not in a good way. We really wanted to post this blog at the beginning of our vacation, but since that didn't happen I figured that it should be our first blog post-vacation!

The night before our trip, I was cleaning out the refrigerator trying to dispose of anything that might spoil over the three weeks that we would be out of town. Included in the pile that needed to be discarded was a thawed out package of ground lamb for a dinner that never got made, a half gallon of non-fat milk, the remains of three different kinds of cheeses, and three small to medium sized butternut squash that a neighbor had given me out of her garden.

I couldn't bear the thought of letting her beautiful squash go to waste, so I decided to make a meal for us to eat on the road. I remembered seeing a squash recipe in the latest issue (October/November 2010 on page 25) of Mother Earth News that used a white béchamel sauce to make a lasagna. I had originally passed over the recipe because I am the only person in our house who likes squash, but I figured that maybe the ground lamb was my ace in the hole, so I decided to give it a shot!

I cooked the ground lamb with some white onion and salt and pepper to taste, and then made the béchamel according to the directions in their recipe. The only change I made was to use non-fat milk instead of whole because that is what I had in the fridge. I don't feel like it made too much of a difference, my sauce was nice and creamy like you would expect a white sauce to be, so I'll probably stick with using non-fat in the future.

I started building the lasagna by spreading a thin amount of the white sauce over the (buttered) bottom of a 13x9x2 inch baking pan. Then I alternated layers of noodles, squash purée, ground lamb & sautéed onions, cheeses, and then more béchamel, continuing with this pattern and ending with the white sauce. Make sure to leave plenty of room for a nice layer of cheese that you add during the last few minutes of baking time.

Cover the lasagna and bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes. Then take the cover off, add the rest of the cheese and bake for 15 more minutes. After you take it out of the oven let the lasagna cool for 15 to 20 minutes before cutting into it. Taking the time to do this helps it hold together and it shouldn't fall apart when you serve it!

I boxed up half of the lasagna in tupperware containers and put them in the cooler to eat during our long drive north, and then I gave the other half to our neighbors who were kind enough to keep an eye on our house while we were gone. (Thanks again Andy & Linda!) When we stopped for gas in Redding we pulled it out and had homemade lasagna for dinner along with some grapes from the farmer's market.

It was obvious that people around us were envious, and if they realized how easy it was to make, and how much money we saved packing our own food, then they probably would have traded their Popeye's and Pizza Hut for our meal any day!

For those of you who would prefer to have the recipe in the traditional format, here's the link to the original recipe I saw in the magazine:

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Sally Davies' Happy Meal Art Project

The talk in our house tonight is surronding an article we read about Sally Davies' Happy Meal Art Project. We were utterly flabbergasted by her photographs, but not really surprised by them! We don't want to spoil all of the fun, so we'll just share the link. Make sure to read the comments at the bottom!


So, what are your thoughts on her project?

On a related note...I'm sure many of you have seen the pictures of the processed McDonald's Chicken Nuggets floating around Facebook, so we decided to post a link to that article here as well.


These are just two of the many reasons why we decided to shift to simple, clean eating!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Our First Blog

Hello! Welcome to our blog! Jason and I decided to start this page because so many people seem interested in the projects that we do. For a while now we have been using my Facebook account to share photos and comments about our adventures, and we are receiving a lot of support and feedback from our friends and family. We have wanted to take this journey to the next step for quite sometime, but we were not really sure of what that next step should be. After reading and borrowing from a variety of blogs over the last few months, we began to realize that our story has a niche here too! Our motto is "Simplify," and we try to apply that to everything we do. We constantly strive to simplify the food we eat, the way we live and our impact on the planet. Our dream is to eventually have a farm, which we have affectionately named "Almost Paradise," and to make a living off of our land. We hope that the little things we do now are moving us towards that dream, and that just maybe our ideas will help move you towards yours! Thanks for reading!