Grilled Kebabs

One of the best things about summer is it’s grilling season! Kebabs (or kabobs) are simple and fun to make. I just love the bright colors and bold flavors with that little bit of char. Chicken, beef, and shrimp (shell-on) are great for grilled skewers. If you’re adventurous or happen to be a hunter, we also used a filet of venison for a couple of these kebabs. Initially, I was weary about eating venison and hadn’t tried more than a couple bites in the past year or so. It takes maturity to be willing to try new foods and not just say you don’t like something if you’ve never had it. I have an appreciation for all food and cuisines, and it’s important for all people and children to experience them. It teaches us about diversity and cultures different than our own. If I’m being totally honest, it tasted really good… like Mongolian beef/barbecue! Anyways, use whichever meats and veggies work for you. Grilled corn and salads could work as sides, any typical bbq dishes.kebabs.jpg

Ingredients
*note: we strive for organics + grass-fed meat/dairy

Chicken kebabs:

  • 16 oz chicken breast (+ any other meat)
  • 1 zucchini
  • 1 red onion
  • 1/2 of a bell pepper
  • cherry tomatoes
  • onion powder
  • garlic powder
  • paprika
  • oregano
  • salt & pepper
  • olive oil (in a spray bottle/can)

Tzatziki (Cucumber-Dill) dipping sauce:

  • 2 cups sour cream
  • 1 mini cucumber or 1/2 of a regular cucumber
  • 1 tbs minced garlic
  • 1/3 cup fresh dill
  • 1/2 a lemon or lemon juice
  • salt & pepper to taste

When fresh dill is hard to come by, I’ve used Gourmet Garden dill paste instead and left out seasoning as it’s blended with oils, salts, and sugars already. It’s a delicious substitute!

Preparation

Turn your grill on high heat. Cube chicken breast and marinate with seasonings and olive oil. The venison was cubed and marinated in soy sauce, oil, garlic powder, onion powder, salt & pepper. Arrange meat and vegetables on skewers. Coat skewers with olive oil as well as the grill. Grill while turning for 10-15 minutes until chicken and veggies are cooked through.

For the sauce:

Shred the cucumber and drain excess water. Chop fresh dill. Mix together with sour cream, minced garlic, and lemon juice. Season with salt & pepper to taste.
-or-
Mix cucumber with 2 tbs of dill paste, lemon juice, and s&p.

Serve on the side of the grilled skewers.

 

 

Beef Stew

Is “9 to 5” really a thing anymore? I start work early in the morning already checking e-mails when I wake up and am laying in bed, continuing later towards the evening even after my husband gets home. I have a great amount of flexibility during the day, so that I’m thankful for the most. I’ve gone through phases of using my Crock-Pots, and I have to say it’s possibly one of the greatest inventions of all time. I can get frustrated when I work late and am scrambling to figure out a meal for dinner. I’ve heard people say they just don’t know what to do with slow cookers or the food doesn’t come out the right way. Well, here is a tried and true, simple slow cooker recipe! Beef stew is perfect for comfort food lovers or a rainy day, and this lasts a few meals for the two of us.

Ingredients
*note: we strive for organics + grass-fed meat/dairy

  • 2 lbs beef chuck
  • 1 pound small potatoes
  • 3 carrots
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 1 tbs minced garlic
  • fresh rosemary, parsley, and thyme
  • salt & pepper
  • Optional: 3 tbs all-purpose flour for gravy

If you do not like to cook with/the flavor of wine, use an extra cup of beef broth.

Preparation

Wash and scrub potatoes in warm water and leave whole or cut as desired. Rinse carrots and cut into chunks. Season beef with salt & pepper to taste. Add vegetables to slow cooker, and place beef on top. Add garlic and fresh herbs. Pour beef broth and red wine over everything. Cook on low for 8 hours. Serve the beef in slices or chunks.

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crockpot
For the au jus gravy:

Remove beef and vegetables from the slow cooker. Strain the au jus into a saucepan. Cook on medium-high heat, stirring frequently until it boils. Reduce to a simmer until thickened. Optional: Add 3 tablespoons of flour.

beef stew

Pair this easy meal with a side salad and a glass of wine and you’re good to go! Other beef stew recipes will suggest additional veggies or browning the meat or cutting it into pieces. My thought for this day was “Ain’t nobody got time for that!” I didn’t bother peeling the carrots either. I love the rustic flavor and texture leaving them as is, and cutting uneven chunks. I tossed everything in around 11am for a 7pm dinner time. It looked like everything was done cooking before that (potatoes were soft), but the great thing about slow cooking is more time only makes it better! It was a hearty meal and everything was so tender. All in all, the most important part of using a slow cooker is timing and choosing ingredients that work with cooking on “low and slow”.

Creamy Shrimp Pasta

My husband will tell you that sauces are my specialty. We eat pasta somewhat frequently, but I aim to make sauces that vary in the protein and also include a great portion of veggies. This one features shrimp. I had a heavy pour with the broth, but it thickened up some with reheating. In the past, I’ve struggled a couple times with overcooking, but the shrimp was perfect! Hallelujah!cuttingboard

Ingredients
*note: we strive for organics + grass-fed meat/dairy

  • 16 oz angel hair pasta
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 12 oz broccoli, florets & cuts
  • 5 oz shredded carrot
  • 1 & 1/2 lbs medium shrimp, peeled & deveined
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbs lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup dijon mustard
  • 8 oz chicken broth
  • Cherry tomatoes
  •  Fresh basil, chopped
  • 1/3 cup shredded Parmesan cheese + additional for garnish
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • Crushed red pepper flakes to taste
  • Salt & pepper to taste

If you leave out the dijon, broth, and extra seasonings, you’ve got a basic alfredo sauce.

Preparation

Boil salted water in a 5 quart or larger pot. Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet or pan with tall sides. Cook onion until translucent. Stir in dijon mustard, garlic, broccoli, and carrots. Season with salt & pepper.

vegpot
Cook pasta as directed on package when water is boiling. Add chicken broth and heavy cream to the skillet until boiling. Add shrimp and stir a few times until pink/cooked through (should be opaque). Mix in basil and Parmesan cheese and remove from heat. Reserve half of the sauce in a bowl.shrimp
Toss pasta in skillet, and serve with as much reserved sauce on top as you wish. Garnish with cracked black pepper, parmesan cheese, fresh basil, and crushed red pepper flakes.

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Vegetable Garden & Herbs

Most of our usable land is shaded by tall trees, so I’ve resorted to creating a garden on our wraparound deck. I have a raised planter and a garden bed. It’s been about 2 months since I planted the seedlings, almost all of them are organic Bonnie Plants in organic potting mix, not soil, to help with drainage.

herbsBasil, rosemary, thyme, oregano, and parsley, as well as mint in it’s only pot since it doesn’t do well with other herbs.

veggies

Tomatoes, cucumbers, and zucchini. Honestly, I had no idea how much these plants would grow. In the future, I would keep them all separate or in the ground. Tomatoes are fine for this bed, but the cucumber climbs like crazy and the zucchini needs more room to spread.patiopickers

Japanese Cucumbercucumber

Sweet Million Cherry Tomatoestomatoes

goldenhourcherrytomatoesgoldenhour1Better Boy Tomatoes

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Zucchinizuc

John 15:5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

Apparently it rained while we were away in Michigan last weekend. My herb planter was totally flooded, so I’m a bit anxious if they’ll survive. We also had a huge storm pass through today, too. I just LOVE the scent of these tomato plants, though, maybe more than the produce itself. So in awe of how these plants are growing with little effort on my part.

Roast Chicken & Vegetables

Summer is in full swing here! I don’t know about you, but I am bbq’ed out. I love spending quality time with friends and family, I just wish the menus at these things varied more. Our calendar is booked most weekends, and this week was even shorter coming back from vacation into the mid-week holiday before heading out on another road trip.

My goal was to avoid grocery shopping at all costs, and continue clearing out our fridge… and cooler. I stock up on family/club size packages of chicken, so this recipe is using both chicken breasts and thighs since I do like a mix of white and dark meat. It’s easy to make, and only requires one pan!

This roast chicken dinner is served with leftovers from a veggie tray I made for a barbecue and added potatoes and onion. You can use whatever vegetables you have on hand or prefer. I would’ve thrown in tomatoes, but my husband doesn’t like them. The things you do for love, am I right?

chix

Ingredients
*note: we strive for organics + grass-fed meat/dairy

  • 16 oz / 1 package of chicken breasts (3)
  • 16 oz / 1 package of boneless, skinless chicken thighs (6)
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 4 red potatoes or baby potatoes
  • Baby carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Green beans
  • Olive oil
  • Fresh garlic or powder to taste
  • Fresh (or dried) thyme and rosemary – to taste
  • Fresh lemon (juice) – to taste
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • Butter to taste

Preparation

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Dice vegetables into bite-size pieces if they aren’t already. Toss with olive oil and season with salt and pepper or other herbs of choice. Arrange the veggies in a roasting pan or baking dish. Put the vegetables in the oven to start baking while you prepare the chicken.

veg

Wash and trim the chicken breasts and thighs. Rub the meat with herbs and salt and pepper. Pull the vegetables out of the oven and add a layer of green beans.

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Arrange the chicken top of the vegetables. Drizzle olive oil and lemon juice on the chicken and sprinkle (or delicately place) fresh thyme and rosemary on top. Bake in the oven 45 mins to 1 hour or whenever the chicken is cooked through. If you like the chicken to “brown” a bit more, turn the oven up to 450 degrees.

chixdin

After all the portions of bbq meats and junk food, I had a huge craving for vegetables and a lean chicken dish. I admit I did put a pat of butter on my roast veggies ’cause it tastes so good. I’ve seen some roast chicken meals call for topping with butter before baking, but it was honestly juicy and flavorful as is. This hit the spot and required minimal effort, and even better minimal clean up!

Chicken in the Van (Chicken Divan)

I embarrassingly and hilariously thought this meal I ate once, made by my mother-in-law, was called “Chicken in the Van”… it’s chicken, baked with creamy, cheesy, breadcrumby goodness. I’m pretty sure no one out here talks faster than I do, so I must just listen too slow. What sounded like “Chick-in-da-van” had to be “Chicken in the Van” in my mind! Since being corrected, I learned Chicken Divan was a dish named after the place it was created, the Divan Parisienne Restaurant in New York City.chickendivan2

Ah well, I blame it on the fact that casseroles weren’t a thing in the house I grew up in. However, Chicken, Broccoli, & Cheddar is seriously one of my favorite combinations ever. I just had to try out this recipe while my husband is out of the house and will come home later looking for food.

I used 1 package of broccoli and 1/2 of a cauliflower. Carb lovers are encouraged to serve with rice! As a low carb option, you could do cauliflower “rice” on the side and keep the amount of broccoli. It takes a good amount of motivation for me to pull my food processor out, so I opted for mixing the two.

brocc

Ingredients
*note: we strive for organics + grass-fed meat/dairy

  • 2 bunches broccoli or 2 packages frozen
  • 16 oz boneless, skinless chicken breasts (whole, sliced, or cubed)
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese (or more to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbs butter
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • paprika to taste

For the sauce: you can use 2 cans of cream of broccoli, chicken, etc. soup -or-

  • 1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter
  • 5 tbs all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 3 tablespoons medium-dry Sherry

Preparation

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Add cooked broccoli to a 9 x 13 baking dish. Season the chicken breasts with salt & pepper, then cook in olive oil until lightly browned. Place/arrange the chicken on the broccoli.chix

To make the sauce, melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in flour and cook the roux, stirring for 3 minutes. Slowly add the broth, sherry, and milk while stirring. Once the mixture is boiling, reduce the heat to low and simmer 10 minutes or until the sauce thickens. Add a 1/2 cup of the cheese and whisk until it’s incorporated.chickendivan1

Pour the sauce on top of the broccoli. and chicken. Melt 2 tbs butter and mix with breadcrumbs. Sprinkle 1/2 cup cheese and breadcrumbs on top of the chicken and broccoli. Bake in the oven for 30-45 minutes until the breadcrumbs are golden brown.chickendivanchickeninthevan

Are you sure those aren’t poisonous?

A good portion of our acreage is this untouched overgrowth (eek). We have been trying to wrap our minds around some form of landscaping. Big ideas also require big budgets and big effort.

bushes

We see these tiny, red specks popping up everywhere. My husband, being from out here in the ‘country’ and more of a risk-taker, had no hesitation climbing right up to the bushes (I’d rather be prepared against things such as poison ivy and ticks).

A closer look revealed several wild black raspberry and wineberry (I had never heard of those before) bushes surrounding our little home! I won’t lie, my first response was… “Are you sure?” “You’re sure those are safe to eat?” “Are you sure those aren’t poisonous?” “How do you know they aren’t poison?”berries

He was sure, and I was delighted when he came back inside with a pile of juicy black raspberries! I’m more familiar with typical blackberries and don’t know if I’ve had a black raspberry before. They’re sweet little morsels and such a yummy treat on a summer day.

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James 5:7-8 Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.

A neighbor stopped to chat while walking his dog and admitted he’s picked the berries in the years no one lived here. I laughed and told him he can still do that for being an honest man, and there will definitely be plenty more. Now that I know what they are, I am waiting to get out there and pick some myself as they ripen. I am so looking forward to eating these raspberries sitting in what will be our patio. I cannot avoid feeling grateful for such a blessing we have been given to enjoy and share with others in the midst of all the wild brush.

 

 

The Giving Garden

The company I work for has an employee-run, charitable, organic and sustainable vegetable garden of 22 4×12 foot cypress beds, appropriately named the Giving Garden, that was built in 2013. We donate 2,000+ pounds of food per year to people in need in our local communities. It’s amazing to see the produce that has grown from seeds/seedlings we planted just two months ago!lettuce

My heart aches thinking about all of the people in need and children starving because they cannot afford grocery store prices, and even worse healthy options, while I am able to eat whatever I want, whenever I want. I have always felt led to do something about it besides the holiday season food drives and clothing drop-offs.

This past week, I’ve dedicated more time to weeding and harvesting in the garden. I’m discovering what foods should look, feel, and taste like. I also had the privilege of delivering 85 lbs of produce to a local food pantry, and went on a tour of the facility to learn about poverty and hunger in our own town.

(kohlrabi)
seedlings

(kohlrabi & zucchini)
wash

1 John 3:17-18 But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.

I’m thankful we can share this deliciousness with others and enjoy some of it, too, as a reward for our work. There were a couple of too big and too small, yet beautiful turnips I got to take home.

I pray that one day we will grow a Giving Garden on our property and provide for others as we have been blessed.

(swiss chard – boil or sauté)
garden
(hybrid cabbage – slaw, boil, sauté) cabbage(dino kale – sauté or braise in broth)kale

(almost a cherry tomato)
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(yellow zucchini – raw, grill, sauté, “zoodles”)yellowsquash
(purslane *a weed but also a nutrient-rich food source* – raw & soon to be sweet potatoes)
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(green/string beans – raw, blanched, steamed, sauté)beans
(kohlrabi: bulb – bake slices, slaw or fry matchsticks, roasted, sauté; stems – sauté)barrow
(turnips – any way you’d use a potato)turnips
(green/string beans)
greenbeans

 

Protein Bowl

When in doubt, make a hash! I had to come up with a way to use the massive butternut squash that’s been sitting on our kitchen counter. I basically threw a cornucopia of veggies, protein, + seasoning in a pan. The first of a few upcoming “clean out the fridge” meals.

Ground turkey is still super weird to me but it was on sale, so some fresh herbs, lemon garlic dressing, & Sriracha give it the flavor it’s lacking.

Don’t these baby potatoes look like gemstones?! We still have half the squash left, too, if you have any ideas!

potatoesturkeysquashsauteespinachproteinbowl

Ingredients:
*note: we strive for organics + grass-fed meat/dairy

  • A handful of baby potatoes
  • 1/2 of a large butternut squash
  • 16 oz ground turkey (or other protein)
  • 5 oz baby spinach
  • 6 oz white sweet corn
  • 1 onion
  • 1 tbs minced garlic
  • Olive oil
  • Fresh (or dried) thyme, parsley, rosemary, and sage – to taste
  • Garlic powder, onion powder, paprika – to taste
  • Salt & pepper – to taste
  • Fresh lemon (juice) – to taste
  • Tessemae’s Organic Lemon Garlic dressing/marinade
  • Chicken broth for deglazing pan

Preparation:

Marinate ground turkey with herbs and lemon garlic dressing (you can make your own w/ lemon juice, minced garlic, OO, S&P). Saute diced squash, potatoes, onions, and garlic in olive oil on med-high heat. Add 2 tbs olive oil to a skillet and brown the ground turkey. Season with other spices to taste. Deglaze the pans with chicken broth to add extra flavor and moisture. Mix the meat into the veggies or serve on top. Drizzle with extra dressing and/or Sriracha sauce.

To eat organic, or not to eat organic… That is the question.

I am a proud penny pincher and generally a skeptic, but I decided to make some changes for my health and wellness. My mentality had been “take it or leave it” in regards to organic food, and I am not as active as I should be. (I just got a FitBit through a program at work, so this is on the up and up.) We used to live two traffic lights away from the grocery store which was so convenient. When I go grocery shopping, I’m in there for at least 2 hours checking the circular, coupons, and most importantly labels. I make up meals in my mind as I go through each aisle thoughtfully. I enjoy seeing the produce and finding new inspiration for my cooking.

It was a struggle to not crunch numbers and pick things up-put them back-pick them up-push the cart and not look back. My goal has always been to get enough food for a couple weeks at a time. I made it out alive with a cart full of organic foods and convinced myself it’s worth investing in our health first and foremost, rather than saving money (though I still love a good deal). Educating myself on the current food/agriculture industry in the US has been mind-blowing. I personally was not paying any attention to added hormones, antibiotics, and preservatives. I understand that the labeling system is all sorts of marketing jargon, but it’s just not possible right now for us to get all of our produce from farmers’ markets or really know what “cage free”, “free range”, “vegetarian fed”, “grass fed”, etc. all means. I am committed to the new diet, and am truly curious to see if we notice changes in our bodies.

1. Where do you get your organic produce?
2. How do you stay motivated and away from processed or packaged food?
3. What are some organic or grass-fed meat/dairy brands to look for snacks, easy meals when in rush, breakfast foods?

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