There’s a Gluten-free Backpacking trip in my future!

I have had so much food pass through my kitchen that I failed to photo or blog about, lol…. but it’s okay. Catch up time? Why sure, that sounds fun!

All of November came and went, I made a super cute cake for my son’s birthday…. he turned 11. Surprise, surprise….. the cake was gluten-free and vegan! And the boys hardly touched it….. apparently 11yo boys prefer burning calories at parties rather than consuming them…. they spent HOURS chasing each other around the house with nerf guns.
DSC_1191Thanksgiving came and went…. we ate at my parents, so I just prepared a few things for myself and the rest of them ate what they could! I did however get one last freakishly late in the season score from my garden! (And then it snowed the next day.) And I made my mom a fun cake for her birthday….
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Then into December we got to have some fun. I hosted dinner…. and while I definitely did not have time to take fun photos, we did a 7 course meal…. stuffed mushrooms using a dairy-free cream cheese, onion, pepper…. a little daiya on top. lots of cranberries were used in the making of the meal… but this cranberry sorbet was my favorite!

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Then after Christmas had past… my daughter turned THIRTEEN!! I am officially the parent of a teenager.

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And then…. moving into February….. we decided to play with natural food coloring and used boiled beet water for these yummy cookies to send into my first graders class party.
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And since sometimes the sweets get all the attention my youngest and I had a fun day making chips! We made sweet potato and beet chips and loved every delicious bite. And these weren’t the “healthy” oven baked chips…. no…. fully fried in a wok full of peanut oil. Sometimes…. you just gotta fry something.

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And now that we’re all caught up to the present…. let me fill you in! We are planning a backpacking trip with the four kids the end of this month (March) and I am in the process of making, dehydrating, and packaging food for the 6 of us for 9 days. The kitchen has been a mess for days….. more to come on that. But here’s a fun preview…. tofu jerky!! I was kinda worried it wouldn’t have a good texture, but it turned out so good that I need to share the full recipe soon.

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So, that’s what I got…. October-March highlights.

Cheers!

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Kale Powder

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So….. who doesn’t know that Kale has been coined one of the healthiest vegetables around? I think everyone by now should be familiar with all the benefits of Kale. BUT, not everyone enjoys eating it like a salad… and really… it offers more to one’s body if it’s been cooked first.

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I grow Kale in my garden and truthfully it’s one of the easiest things to do…. plant the seeds early in the spring, they grow, you break off leaves and eat them, they put up more leaves…. and this process continues well into Fall. Continual harvest. At first, everyone is excited about eating Kale fresh…. we use those first big leaves like a wrap for tofu salad…. then our big leafy green salads…. then by August the apetite for more kale has briskly dwindled.

So, that’s when I start making Kale powder…. 1 tsp of this magic green powder is equivalent to 1 cup of leaves, otherwise known as a serving. So, for a family of 6, I can toss in 2TBLS to any soup, chili, rice, sauce, etc and we get more than our fair share of Kaleness.

It’s extra easy, we like easy…. pick, de-stem, dehydrate, blitz, cook.

DSC_1097  DSC_1099Pick the leaves far down on the stem where the leaves stop. Make sure to leave a few leaves on each plant so it can feed itself.

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After picking the fresh leaves, de-stem them. Fold them towards eachother in their natural direction and just tear off the stem. Place the leaves on a dehydrator tray, and compost the stems.

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Load up your dehydrator as full as you can get it. I have a 9 tray dehydrator, but due to the bulkiness of the plants, I usually only get 4-5 trays. Dehydrate around 120* for 3-4 hours.

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Once the leaves are done, load them up into a blender…. you can squish them in to fit. Then blitz away on high speed until a nice powder is formed. You may have to manually remove any left over stems that didn’t feel like cooperating.
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Voila! Kale powder…. add it to virtually anything to boost nutritional content.

Pumpkins, the most beloved squash.

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Growing up….. I pretty much thought pumpkins sole purpose was for carving on Halloween. That was the only time I ever saw them…. if we were lucky my mom would bake the pumpkin seeds. I laugh now…. my mom doesn’t read this so i can make fun of her here, lol. But she didn’t do anything to those pumpkin seeds except wash them off and throw them on a pan and put it in the oven, yet every stinkin year she’d make it seem like the most time consuming task and we were REALLY asking for a lot to get pumpkin seeds out of the carving process. The same goes with my dad and putting Christmas lights on the tree. You’d think you were requesting him to solve the gordian knot.

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Well, being now a grown up myself… several things are quite different. I try to grow pumpkins every year. Some years they happen, some years they don’t…. this year I was lucky enough to get some! And they aren’t for Halloween…. they’re for me! You always hear of people eating acorn squash as a side dish, sometimes a soup, sometimes it makes it as a yummy entree star….. but you never, NEVER hear of someone eating pumpkin as a side. And yet you totally could and you’d never know the difference. (Pumpkin was my third child’s first food!) I love it… the rich orange-y goodness is loaded with vitamins and cancer fighting goodies, so it loves me too. I have a theory that most of the veggies that are especially good at developing the immune system are ready to be eaten August-October…. just in time for everyone to be hit with the flu. I guess we’ll find out. It’s hit our house this week… Elliott, husband and I had it last week, my daughter came down with it last night and spiked a 103* temp today. But I would bet my left leg nobody will end up with bronchitis, ear infections, sinus infections, pnumonia, or other because of what we’ve been eating on for the past few months. It’s okay to be sick once in a while, it forces you to slow down and rest a little… contemplate how nice it is to get up and work! 😉

Well, my pumpkins have all been picked. Generally I wait for the stems to start drying up and the “stalk” to die, then just twist off the dry portion of the stem and they just pop off.

Preheat your oven to 350*. Wash off the exterior of the pumpkin… Cut them down the middle, scoop out the seedy guts and put them in a bowl.  Place the pumpkin half cut side down on a jelly roll pan. Bake for 50 mins.

MEANWHILE: Dig through those guts and collect your seeds. Wash them off and toss them into a bowl. Douse them with some olive oil, salt, ground pepper, and paprika (generously with the salt and paprika). Mix it all up and spread out on a pan so it’s ready to go in the oven when the pumpkin comes out. 15mins at 350*, mix, another 15mins, done.

Pull the pumpkin out of the oven and allow to cool for 30mins while the seeds are baking.
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You will probably notice that the pumpkins quickly collapse when you pull them out of the oven, and there will be water on the pan. This is good…. but don’t get overly ambitious and try to skip the cooling off step. You will probably burn yourself if you do.

Once the pumpkins have cooled, the seeds are done, and your blender is ready to go….. flip them over and scoop them out! Plop the pumpkin meat into a blender…. and blend on high until nice and smooth. (Don’t add water…. this is 100% pumpkin!)

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Voila! Your very own, organically grown, pumpkin puree. This wonderful stuff can become pumpkin chili, a pumpkin side dish, pumpkin bread or muffins, pumpkin coconut spice ice cream, OR…….
a Soy milk pumpkin spice latte!!!

Cantaloupe Seeds.

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Seriously….. I have never ever thought about this before today…. but I was cutting up a cantaloupe for our lunch and scraping the seeds out and plopping them into a bowl totally planning to put them in the compost when…. I stopped. We eat pumpkins seeds…..and cantaloupe are part of the same family… could it be that we could do the same thing to cantaloupe seeds and eat those too?

So, I dropped what I was doing and immediately googled it. (Do you ever look back and wonder how you figured things out before google?) And sure enough…. not only is it possible…. but they’re HEALTHY! They are loaded with protein. Looking at the fat content and the protein level…. they look quite comparable to nuts… except they aren’t nuts…. and if you’re already eating the fruit, well then it’s like FREE protein.

Here’s what you do, using your hands gently “slough” off the seeds from the gooey stuff…. and then toss them in a frying pan with some olive oil, salt, pepper, paprika… and just cook them on med-high heat until you hear them starting to pop. And if you’re worried it’s going to be too time consuming… I had all my seeds separated, and cooked within 10 minutes…. so…. it’s a lot easier then separating pumpkin seeds. (and a LOT less slippery)

So…. now you too know….. unless you already did…. in which case…. maybe I’m just not very observant and totally missed the cantaloupe seed memo, lol. Either way…..I hope give it a try!!!

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Harvesting Dill Seed.

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One of the easiest things to add to a veggie garden is some dill. And it is useful almost all of the summer! Plant the seeds as early as you can… and once it’s almost 12″ high, you can start to snip off some of the leaves (dill weed) to use in cooking…. the plant will continue to grow and grow until it’s about 3 feet…. then it flowers. Once those flowers die back, you are left with the “seed” (which is technically it’s fruit).

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Dill seed is primarily for use in cooking…. but it can also be used like a tea to help with upset tummies. (It used to be used for colicky babies!) And if you grew some cucumbers…  dill seed makes excellent pickles!

Sometimes, unveiling the mystery is all it takes to motivate someone to “do it themselves” so here goes…. and possibly you will never need to purchase dill seed again!

DSC_1037Basically to harvest the seeds, you watch the flowers…. once they turn from a bright greenish yellow to a brown and all the seeds on a stalk appear to be “uniform” in their appearance, snip it off (carefully, or they’ll drop in your garden and self-propagate and you’ll have dill where you don’t necessarily want it the following year).

Then, I snip off each individual long stem, grab at the base, and gently twist my thumb and pointer finger til all the seeds drop into a bowl. Once I have all the seeds, I let them set out for a day or two in the bowl to ensure they are dry, then add them to a container! Very, very easy.

To make use of the rest of the plant as dill weed…. simply snip, dehydrate, and slide your fingers down the thick stems and voila…. that’s it! Such a beautiful, useful, aromatic plant! I love dill.

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