Good Eats: Easy Corn & Potato Chowder

Chowder


Ingredients

  • 6 pieces of bacon
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3/4 cup mushrooms, roughly chopped
  • 1-1/2 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 potatoes, cubed
  • 1 cup cream
  • 1 can corn
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • cheese (optional)

Instructions

Cook bacon over medium heat in a dutch oven until beginning to crisp.  Add onion and garlic, cooking until soft.  Add mushrooms, cooking until tender.  Sprinkle with rosemary.  Pour in wine and deglaze, making sure to scrape all of the brown bits off of the bottom.

Remove bacon to cutting board.  Cut into bite-sized pieces and return to pot.

Next, pour in chicken stock and water.  Add potatoes and cook until tender, about 10-15 minutes.  Add cream and corn.  Cook until well-heated.

Taste and season with salt and pepper.  Ladle into bowl, and top with cheese.  Treat yourself to two helpings!

Good Eats: Pesto Baked Eggs & a Super Smoothie

This weekend, Kaya and I were left to our own devices while Matthew ventured off to New Orleans with friends. Naturally, we stayed up watching renditions of various fairy tales on Netflix and sipped on a LOT of chocolate milk. We’re wild, I tell you! We were also snowed in and going a bit mad.

For breakfast on Saturday, Little Bean and I both had a hankering for eggs. We opted for the doctored-up kind that were inspired by the meager contents of our refrigerator. To balance our meal, we made a green super smoothie that was packed with all the good stuff, and perfect for a series of smoothie mustache contests. Things got a little weird, but we rolled with it.

Ingredients for Pesto Baked Eggs

  • 4 teaspoons pesto (jarred or fresh)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 4 teaspoons heavy whipping cream
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • cheddar cheese for topping

Instructions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Lightly grease two ramekins.

Divide ingredients into each ramekin, in order.  Place into oven, on middle rack, and bake for 12-15 minutes.  Devour!

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Ingredients for Super Smoothie

  • 1 1/2 cups baby spinach
  • 1/4 cup water or juice
  • 2 bananas, peeled
  • 10 strawberries, whole with greens
  • 1 apple, quartered
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds
  • 1 cup ice

Instructions

First, blend spinach and water.  Next, add each ingredient, making sure that it is well blended before adding the next.  Add additional ice for thicker consistency. Pour into cup and sip.  Smoothie mustaches will ensue.

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Midwestern Moments: Snowy Adventures with Little Bean

As far as snow goes, it has been a pretty dry winter. We’ve had a few blustery days here and there, but nothing close to the full-on snow storms that I first experienced last year. This week was no disappointment, however, and our grounds are thoroughly covered with a carpet of snow. It makes for precarious driving, but it’s pretty spectacular to look at.

Naturally, after a snow day stuck indoors, the little bean and I took off for a much-needed adventure. Snow days can only be so fun for a wee one who thrives off of the social energy she derives from school. We spent roughly 20 minutes running around the park near our house, which is about 15 minutes too long for me. I’m more the sit-in-your-pjs-and-stare-out-the-window kind of gal, but what my little bean wants, my little bean gets! Over and over, she delighted in crunching through piles of snow. She’s a good egg, that one.  I couldn’t say no.

I will say that our 100 year-old house looks far better blanketed in snow than it does nearly any other time of the year. February is a close second to May in terms of our house’s looks, when painted flowers crop up to flank its sides, but that’s a far way off. So, this winter wonderland will just have to do.

Here are a few photos from our wintery adventure!

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Midwestern Musings: Blustery Weather

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We’ve slipped into the evening routine of a cold brew and throwback episodes of Jaques Pepin. Wrapped up in a blanket, entangled legs, thick socks, and snuggled animals. I’m not used to the degree of cold we’ve been experiencing in these parts, though it makes me feel tough as nails that I’ve endured it. Funny how the Little Bean doesn’t quite mind the cold, and even schluffs off the idea of putting on the multiple layers I suggest she don in the morning. She’s happy to be living in a place where snow is a weekly possibility and one-digit, or below-zero temperatures are a norm.

I haven’t been the best in keeping up with the blog. Maybe it’s the lack of sunlight and frigid temps, or the paper deadlines, snotty noses, and holidays that have kept my free time sparse. Fear not: I am working on carving out time for myself that is dedicated to some of my favorite things– the types of things that keep this blog rolling. The time off has definitely helped me brew up some new ideas, so stick with me, and I promise not to disappoint!

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Good Eats: Squash Pie

I’ve harvested quite a bit of butternut squash this fall. Unfortunately, I am the only one in the house who actually enjoys it. I’m working with some persnickity eaters when it comes to squash over here. It doesn’t even matter the variety, my housemates just don’t care for it. Sneaking it into a pie was the only way I could think to get some help in consuming my abundance of butternut. I just couldn’t do it myself!

This recipe transforms butternut squash into a dessert, and it’s great. It’s a twist on the veggie that I personally haven’t seen before, and one I think I may actually prefer to pumpkin pie.  Try it during the upcoming holidays.  I guarantee it will be a hit!

Ingredients

  • Pie crust
  • 1-1/2 cups cooked squash
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar, packed
  • 3/4 cup evaporated milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger
  • 1 tablespoon melted butter

* Make this gluten-free by substituting sweet rice flour or amaranth for the flour, and use a gluten-free pie crust.

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Instructions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Grease pie dish and lay out pie crust.  Set aside.

Combine all filling ingredients into a blender.  Blend until smooth and poor filling into pie crust.  Bake for 45-55 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.  Let cool and enjoy!

What is your favorite way to prepare butternut squash?  Have you tried it in pie-form before?

Tales of a Gardening Novice: Seed-Saving

My first seasons of gardening have been glorious. I’ve plotted, planted, harvested, and plotted again. But what do you do next? As a novice gardener, I’ve found that there are always things to do, particularly if you want to remain as self-sufficient and sustainable as possible. Beginning to save your seeds is as self-sufficient as you can get, though it’s a bit trickier than it sounds.

To start, it is important to purchase seed varieties that are not of the hybrid form. The second generation of these cross-pollinated, saved-seeds produces fruit that is tough and tasteless. Purchasing organic, non-hybrid seeds will aid in reducing the chance of experiencing this outcome, though there are still plenty of factors to consider.

As a beginner, it is important to start small. There are particular varieties of vegetables that are primarily self-pollinated and that begin to produce seeds for saving the first year they are harvested. These plants include: tomatoes, peppers, peas, lettuce, beans, and some varieties of squash.

Seed Saving

Pictured above are the seeds to a butternut squash I have saved, a mostly self-pollinated variety that is likely to produce a wonderful second generation plant!

Now comes the fun part. When harvesting for seed-saving, choose fruits that are your plant’s best-self. Retain these prize-winning seeds and separate them from the flesh of the fruit. Rinse and thoroughly dry them, before spreading them on a cookie sheet or plate. Find an area that is not particularly warm and does not have too much sun. Let the seeds dry completely. Place into a small envelope or jar, marked by the variety of seed contained within.  Store in a cool, dark place.

For more information on particular varieties, and how to save their seeds, I encourage you to visit this website.  It’s a wonderful resource, and does a great job breaking down the basics, and not-so-basics of seed-saving.

For organic seeds that won’t break the bank, try American Meadows, for beautiful seed-saving envelopes check out these, and coming soon: How to Make Your Own Seed-Saving Envelopes.

What about you?  What have been your experiences with seed-saving?

Midwestern Moments: A Hike & Visions of Autumn in the Prairie Land

A few weeks ago, my best friend came into town to pay her now Midwesterner BFF a little visit. Naturally, we went to the tastiest restaurants and spent lots of time chumming it up. A favorite activity of mine–aside from the two evenings spent singing karaoke–was our trip to Neale Woods. Housed within Neale Woods are seven miles of dirt trails, surrounded by 600 miles of conserved forest and prairie land. Needless to say, it is breathtakingly beautiful.

Visit the Fontonelle Forest website for more information.

Here are some of my favorite shots from the hike:

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 The Entrance to Neale Woods

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  In the background is downtown Omaha

Artists Conk

Artists Conk fungi

Woolly Bear Caterpillar

Woolly Bear Caterpillar

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Common tree algae

Dogwood Tree

Dogwood Tree

Ironwood

Ironwood Tree Seedpods

Western Wheatgrass

Western Wheatgrass

Thistle

Thistle Seeds

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 Beautiful Prairie Fauna

Smooth Sumac

Bird’s Nest Perched on a Smooth Sumac

Canada Wild Rye

Canada Wild Rye

Neale Woods Tree Tops

The Treetops of Neale Woods

The End of Harvest

This past weekend, I harvested the last bits of bounty from my garden.  I then spent the next several hours turning and preparing my plot for next year, and even marked off an additional area that I will be planting next spring.  The act solidified the coming of winter, and the rapid speed in which we are tearing through fall.  We’ve already experienced a few freezes over night, and I’ve begrudgingly had to scrape frost off of my car windows on more occasions than I am willing to admit to at this time of year.  Even so, the feeling of definite seasons is indescribable.  Frozen toes aside, I wouldn’t trade this for the world!

Coming soon: seed-saving & drying herbs

A few snapshots of the last of my bounty:

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Autumn Pumpkin Bread

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Trust me when I say that I love simplicity; especially when it comes to what I cook.  This recipe is so easy that it would take more work to mess it up than it would to actually complete it.  It makes enough for three loaves, so we intended to eat one, freeze one, and then share one with others.  Sadly, the ‘others’ never saw that third loaf.  We ended up eating the other two in one weekend, and obviously couldn’t sacrifice the third, so we kept it.  What would we eat for dessert, or a snack, or. . . breakfast?!  Ahem.

In order to make up for our transgressions, I am here to offer the recipe to the ‘others.’

Adapted from a recipe on allrecipes.com.

Makes 3 loaves.

Ingredients

  • 1 15 oz. can pumpkin puree
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 3 cups white sugar
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease 3-7×3 inch loaf pans.

Combine all ingredients.  Divide batter equally among three pans.

Bake for 60 mins, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

*If you’re feeling really gung-ho about it, you can use fresh pumpkin after you carve some awesome ones to display on your stoop.  ‘Tis the season!

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