It’s finally starting to feel like summer! I think this is the latest we have ever transferred our seedings to the ground. Have you started your summer garden yet?
If you are new to gardening it can be very overwhelming to get started. Many gardening blogs talk about soil quality, zone hardiness, pH levels, companion planting, cross-pollination, disease and pest control… it’s enough to make your head spin.
Don’t get me wrong, these websites are very informative, but they make the learning curve sound so intimidating, I think it scares many people off from starting a garden. Most first-time gardeners probably have the attitude I had when I first started. They want to throw some seeds into the ground, water them, cross their fingers and hope for the best. If that’s you, that’s ok! Unless you come from a line of gardeners, you’re starting in the same place that most of us did.
First-time gardeners aren’t worried about soil testing, row gardening vs. square foot gardening, and composting. Let’s get real, their number one concern is probably remembering to water the garden on a regular basis!
These are my five favorite things to grow in my garden each year because they are low maintenance vegetables. They are all fairly disease and pest-resistant, which makes them easy to care for if you are new to gardening. That isn’t to say you will never encounter a problem with these veggies, but you aren’t going to have the same problems you’ll have with some other edibles. (more…)
Brussels sprouts are one of those veggies that aren’t always a crowd-pleaser. I can understand that because, if overcooked, they don’t smell great and can often taste like a wet sock. Nobody likes wet sock. Not that I have ever tasted a wet sock, but I can only imagine that I wouldn’t be a fan of it. However, if cooked correctly, brussels sprouts are nutty and flavorful and so so healthy for you!
To say that I am mildly obsessed with brussels sprouts would be an understatement. They are one of the only vegetables that make it into my grocery cart every week whether they are in or out of season. Most of the time, I prepare them by slicing them in half, tossing them in extra virgin olive oil, seasoning them with salt, pepper and fresh garlic, and roasting them in a 425˚ oven for about 30 minutes. However, over the last year, I have been hashing them and it’s my new favorite way to eat them.
To hash brussels sprouts, you trim the bottom stem, remove any bruised leaves, slice the sprout in half, and thinly slice each half about 1/8″ thick. You could also pop whole sprouts into your food processor affixed with the slicing blade. (more…)
This recipe for Dairy-Free Nutella Milk is the perfect alternative to chocolate milk. This recipe is also free of refined sugar. You can drink it warm or chilled – it’s delicious both ways!
I’ve been making my own almond milk for close to a year. Making your own nut milk is incredibly easy and it’s a regular item on my Sunday food prep list. The only special equipment you need is a nut milk bag (I use this one from Zimtal) and a blender.
Over the past few months, I’ve been experimenting with other nuts and have made pecan milk, cashew milk, and hazelnut milk. It takes a little bit of elbow grease to squeeze the milk through the bag, but it isn’t difficult or overly time-consuming and the bag washes up easily and dries quickly.
To get the best flavor, you’ll want to use raw, unsalted, unroasted nuts when you make nut milk. My local grocer sells a big variety of raw nuts in bulk. If yours does not, there are a ton of companies online that sell nuts in bulk including Amazon, Oh Nuts!, and Oregon Hazelnuts.
I love to add freshly made nut milks to my coffee in the morning and also love sipping a little before bed as an after dinner treat. Homemade nut milk has a pure nutty flavor (duh). It literally tastes like you are drinking nuts because well… you are! I didn’t realize how much sweetener and additives were added to store-bought nut milks until I tasted it in its purest and raw form. (more…)
When I was little, my grandmother used to spend the weeks leading up to Christmas baking pies, cookies, brownies, and various Italian confections. These Black and White Almond Cookies remind me of a cross between the almond crescent cookies she used to make and biscotti. I think they taste the best after taking a dunk in some hot coffee!
Do you know what today is? Today is the day that the internet gets flooded with delicious cookie recipes from all of your favorite food bloggers, myself included. If you’ve been following me in Instagram, you’ve probably seen me posting various cookie pictures over the last few weeks and today you can get all the recipes because today is the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap recipe reveal day!
What’s the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap you ask? It’s a food blogger swap organized by Love & Olive Oil and The Little Kitchen benefiting Cookies for Kids’ Cancer, a national non-profit organization that funds research to find new and improved treatments for pediatric cancer. I am so honored to be chosen among all of the bloggers that joined this year to benefit such a great cause.
To kick off the holiday season, I’ve teamed up with some of my fellow Windy City Bloggers, to give away three different holiday gift baskets; one for the Holiday Hostess, one for the Social Butterfly and one for the Glam Girl. I’m super pumped about this giveaway because each blogger hand-picked an item that they felt represented their blog and style!
Gift Basket // For the Holiday Hostess [retail value $250+]
Williams-Sonoma Apron & Spoonula from Tomatoes for Cucumbers
Kate Spade emerald cut studs from 30s and Chic
Zara wraparound striped scarf from Wear and Why
The Gourmet Grilled Cheese Cookbook from The Kittchen
Kate Spade thermal mug & coffee mug [via The Trendy Sparrow’s Etsy shop]
Benefit “Benetint” lip and cheek stain from The Around The Way
Rabbit 4 Piece Wine Tool Kit from A Squared
Preserving by the Pint from Cucina Kristina (Me!)
Rosemary + Sea Salt Caramels from Katherine Anne Confections & Black Currant Dijon Mustard from Edmond Fallot [via Pastoral]
Shop Ban.do 17 month agenda from Little Black Blog
My contribution is Preserving by the Pint by Marisa McClellan from the canning and preserving website Food in Jars. When I was a novice canner, I did most of my research and got the bulk of my information from her website. Oh, who am I kidding?! I still get a ton of information from her website! I reference her website more often than my Ball Canning book.
Why I Love This Book
As a city dweller, I am lucky to have space to store my pints of sauces, jellies, jams, and pickles. However, I realize that many people do not have the space or the time to process huge batches of preserves. This book is perfect for people that live in small spaces or those that are interested in preserving their CSA shares or small garden goodies. The book is organized by season and includes recipes for jams, jellies, pickles, chutneys and other preserves. It’s a GREAT starter book for anyone interested in getting back to basics.
Rules & How to Enter
This tutorial for upcycled melted crayons will turn your broken crayon pieces into beautiful, unique mosaic crayons. You can keep similar colors together or mix them for a rainbow effect. They would make a cute party favor, stocking stuffer, or gift for a little one.
My mother and I are polar opposites in the kitchen. Cooking often stresses her out because she is the type of person that must follow a recipe to a T. If a recipe calls for 1/4 teaspoon of dried basil, she will stop everything she is doing, run to the store, and buy basil before proceeding to cook. I, on the other hand, look at those situations as an opportunity to experiment. “We’re out of basil? Hmmm…” I think, “I’ll just substitute oregano and see how it goes.” This resistance to following directions is what makes baking a challenge for me.
One thing my mother excels at is party planning. If Pinterest existed when I was a little, my mom would have dominated the kids’ birthday parties boards. Every year, we’d pick a theme and my mom would make sure every detail related to that theme. One year, she threw me a Crayola party and somehow found candles that looked exactly like Crayola crayons. Bear in mind, this was the 1980’s before the internet and Google and Amazon. This was back when you had to look businesses up in the Yellow Pages (raise your hand if you even know what the Yellow Pages are!) and call them to see if they had whatever you were looking for in stock. Then, you had to drive there to pick it up. Nothing was magically shipped to your home within 48 hours for free. Thinking back, I don’t know how she did it; she must have been a magician.
I’ve seen this idea floating around Pinterest for a few years and doing this little project over the weekend brought back those childhood memories. I think these upcycled melted crayons would have made a perfect party favor for my Crayola party back in the day. But, since I am not throwing a kids party any time soon, I decided to make these for my classroom art center.
Hasselback Sweet Potatoes offer a unique twist to a traditional baked potato. They were invented by a Swedish chef and are very easy to replicate. Their elegant presentation is perfect for a Thanksgiving side dish, family dinner, or date night in.
So… the other day I was scrolling through my Instagram feed when I came across this recipe from Jenn Greenberg and knew I had to try it immediately. The trouble was, I only had sweet potatoes in the house, but I decided to give it a whirl anyway. This might just be my new favorite way to eat sweet potatoes.
After a little Google research, I found that Hasselback potatoes are the Swedish way of preparing baked potatoes and that their name is derived from the hotel that invented the dish, the Hasselbacken hotel in Stockholm.
Don’t be fooled by the intricate design these potatoes have. As long as you have a sharp knife, the prep is quick and easy. It took me about 15 minutes to prep and season three of these bad boys. In fact, I was able to prep them faster than it took my oven to heat to 425˚.
Kale is an awesome superfood that freezes really well for use all year-round. Kale has been dubbed the world’s healthiest food because it is super high in vitamins, K, A, and C and easy to eat in smoothies or soup. Below, I’ve included the steps I go through when freezing my annual kale crop.
I’ve been in seasonal denial for the past 2 weeks, but there is no mistaking it, Fall has made an appearance in Chicago. The end of summer is always a bittersweet time of year because, as the gardening season comes to an end, I begin to can, pickle, dehydrate, and freeze everything I can get my hands on in preparation for the colder months ahead.
This summer, I may have gone a little overboard by planting three kale plants instead of one because at the moment we’re swimming in kale! I don’t mind though because kale freezes really well and I love to add it to smoothies and winter soups. I was so sad when I used the last of our garden fresh kale last year that I was determined to plant enough to sustain us well into the winter. Hopefully, I have succeeded.
Every year, we plant Lacinato kale (also known as Dinosaur kale or Tuscan kale), but this method will work with any kale variety you have producing in your garden. I do not blanch my kale before freezing, but there are many tutorials out there that claim you should. Last year, I was using unblanched, frozen kale until March and didn’t notice a significant drop in flavor, texture, or color.
Dehydrated beet greens can be added to smoothies, soups, pasta sauces, or casseroles for an added punch of nutrition. This method of preserving can be used for any green including collard greens, kale, chard, and radish greens.
I LOVE beets. Love them. Seriously, I can’t resist a beet. I like ’em roasted, raw, pickled, in salads, as a side dish, and mixed with ginger in smoothies (try it!). In fact, when I was working in IT several years ago, I used to keep a can of beets in my desk for a midday snack. True story.
Naturally, when we built our raised garden beds, one of the first seed packets I ordered were Chiggoia beets. Beets grow very well in early spring and fall weather conditions making them ideal for growing in an area like Chicago.
As much as I love beets, I am not too fond of beet greens. I’ve tried sautéing them in absurd amounts of garlic, adding them to soup, and baking them into casseroles, but there is an underlying aftertaste that I just do not care for.
Strawberries are one of my favorite summer fruits. This year, I am freezing fresh strawberries to use throughout the year. Frozen strawberries are not limited to smoothies, although that is a delicious way to use frozen fruit. Below are 3 ways to freeze and use frozen strawberries.
Since strawberries are no longer in season (tear!), this will most likely be the last fresh strawberry post you see until next summer. Every so often I get a hankering for strawberries mid-winter and drop $5 for a pint only to be disappointed. No matter how red and juicy they look, the taste of a winter strawberry cannot compete with a summer strawberry. Unless you live in a warm-weather climate like southern California where you can get strawberries year-round, strawberries are a staple of summer. I am so jealous of all of my warm-weather readers!
Two weeks ago, strawberries went on sale at my local grocery store for .99 cents a pound. I bought four pounds and frozen them 3 different ways because I intend to use them in a variety of ways throughout the year. Freezing strawberries is quick and easy so get your berries while they’re here and freeze ’em up! You can freeze strawberries whole, in ice cube trays, or as a purée.
Below are the steps for each method along with some recipe ideas for each.