Thursday, September 19, 2013

no-bake zucchini bread cookies

I'm going to tell you a secret. I gave up eating wheat over a month ago. There, I said it. Don't judge yet. Back in the day, I worked in a wonderful Patisserie, and lived off of cake scraps and broken cookies. It was a beautiful life. I would sometimes eat day old croissants, warmed in the oven, and slathered in lemon curd or chocolate ganache for lunch. Everyday. That went on for many years. I have since moved on from Margo's wonderful Patisserie, but my diet pretty much stayed the same. Yeah, i would eat a salad with my double chocolate zucchini muffin to try to offset the sugar rush. That only led to the eating of left over cake frosting later in the day. I have been on a wheat and sugar rush for the last ten years. Top that off with my naturally high energy and my excessive coffee drinking, and boy was I a mess. I was fast paced, and getting a lot done, but it wasn't pretty.

So I decided enough was enough. Since our bodies process wheat into sugar, I was eating sugar slathered in sugar. Awesome. My body was angry. My body was even more angry when I took all of the wheat away. I cried a lot. I ate chips of every variety instead of wheat. Potato chips. Tortilla chips. Chocolate chips. I still managed to loose about 8 pounds in the first few weeks. I think it was because I didn't know what to eat. No more bread? No more cookies? No  more cake? What the heck is there to eat?! I have since gotten a grip. I feel better. I have energy, and not because I guzzled a double latte and shoveled in some broken chocolate chip cookies. No, it's like real energy. Fueled by goodness. It's weird. I still drink double lattes ( I feel like this is true confessions......I also eat a lot of ice cream, I don't floss everyday, and I think my husband is cute). I eat a lot of other grains like barley, quinoa, and oats. I also eat a lot of veggies and meat. And let's not forget cheese! I am starting to appreciate the challenges of cooking without wheat, and realize that there are a lot of creative ways to make good food happen without it. All in all. it's been a learning experience and I will probably  reintroduce wheat into my diet again. But I know now that coconut and oat flours are the bomb!

It is the zucchini time of year. There should be a recognized holiday. Oh wait, there is. It's 'Sneak some zucchini onto your neighbor's porch' day. It's a real thing. It happened Aug 8th. In northern Minnesota, it needs to happen a little later, as our growing season is a bit behind. Anyway, zucchinis start showing up, and the decent thing to do is make zucchini bread. Everyone's grams did it. I used to do it. But not this year. I'm going to make everything but zucchini bread. However, these no-bake zucchini bread cookies are a great replacement. They taste of zucchini bread. They're dense, sweet, and moist like zucchini bread. I like them, and my wheat eating family thinks they're pretty tasty too!

No-Bake Zucchini Bread Cookies

1 1/2 cups oats
1/3 cup pistachios, chopped (walnuts, pecans, or almonds would work well too)
3/4 cup almond butter, I prefer the toasted no-salt variety
1/2 cup-1 cup chocolate chips
2 Tbl honey
3/4 tsp cinnamon
3/4 packed cup grated zucchini
pinch of salt

In a large bowl mix the oats and nuts. Stir in the honey, almond butter, and cinnamon. Grate the zucchini, place grated zucchini on a paper towel, roll paper towel up like a burrito, and squeeze any excess liquid out. Mix the zucchini in with the other ingredients. Form batter into teaspoon sized dollops and lightly roll between your palms to make ball shapes. Place the zucchini balls on a parchment lined baking sheet, place in the fridge, and allow to set for about an hour. Tuck into children's lunchboxes. Eat. Enjoy. Belly up!!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Eat, LOVE & celebrate homegrown goodness!

A sluff at blogging lately I may be, but I have had one spectacular month! I have been warmed by friends and family, celebrating LOVE with my husband, and cooking a lot of really good eats. I'll do my best to share as much as I can, without overwhelming you. Okay, I'm going to overwhelm you, but it's totally worth it! My husband and I threw a farm party to celebrate our union of love. This was the best farm party I have ever attended. We roasted/ smoked one of our heritage breed 'Red Wattle' pigs that we have been raising. We used apple wood from our apple trees for smoking. We made 12 pies. We sourced as much local fair as we could get our hands on. We had friends and family galore, who showered us in love and wonderful gifts. There were children climbing apple trees, a warming fire, PBR, and a bit of brain eating. It was a good time had by all, and it couldn't have been accomplished if it wasn't for our fantastic families, friends, and neighbors. My daughter also started kindergarten! Kindergarten! She also learned how to drive a tractor and grow tomatoes. Life is grand!

Addie's tractor stroll 

The roasting/ smoking of the pig was a very education and fulfilling experience. We have nurtured these beasts, and have given them the best food, water, and shelter that any pig could desire. When it came time to harvest the biggest of our mud wallowers for our farm feast, there were no tears or fears. It was simply harvesting pork. I feel slightly heartless not feeling any gentle tugging of my heartstrings, but we've been watching these pigs grow into wonderful cuts of meat for months. I see ham growing right before my eyes every day. Plus, it's not like a pig is a cuddly companion that will sit by your side, or fetch a stick. No, these pigs will do anything to get into that bucket of compost we bring out everyday. They will throw their mud-caked rumps in your direction, hoping to throw you off kilter, spilling bruised peaches and melon rinds in their direction. We love our pigs, and treat them kindly, knowing their lives are a sacrifice to fill the bellies of our family and friends. It is important to me to know where my food comes from, and how it was raised. I know the whole story with our pigs, and it's a good one. I know that nothing was wasted with our pig roast. We had a taste of every part of that pig, including the brains, which were surprisingly creamy with a slightly livery undertone. They would've been fantastic with some grilled bread, and maybe some homemade pickles.

Happy folks eating good eats!

This is our nephew, Levi.  He liked the farm party, and he's just cute!

By now you have probably gathered that I really dig growing my own food. I feel contentment and accomplishment going into our long winters with several cords of wood split and stacked, and a root cellar and freezer full of homemade goodies. Besides pork, we have a lot of things tucked away for the winter months. If you would've asked me 10 years ago if I'd be stock piling canned goods, I would've laughed at you while on my way to Trader Joe's. I now have more vested interest in food. I want to grow it, preserve it, and savor it all year long. Today I thought I'd share a few ways that I've preserved homegrown tomatoes that our families brought up to us by the armloads. I've been dealing in tomatoes all week, and have finally finished my last batch. Whew!

Juicing. Simply put, I juiced about 2 dozen ripe and ready tomatoes in my juicer. The juice is fresh and sweet, and will be wonderful in future bloody marys or will lend flavor to soups or stews. You can't beat the freshness and nutrition that fresh juice delivers. I packaged the juice in 1 cup increments, and froze them. This is my favorite tomato product I have on hand. If you've ever juiced before, you realize that you are stuck with a bunch of less juicy pulp of the fruit or veggie you are juicing. I used this, in my case it was tomatoes, to make creamy tomato basil soup. Score!

Next, I started roasting tomatoes. Roasting the tomatoes brings out their sweetness as well, and leaves you with a slightly concentrated, cooked down, chunky tomato sauce. I roasted my tomatoes in bacon fat and rosemary. You could go with olive oil and whatever herbs you have on hand. I like the smokiness that the bacon fat lends to the roasted tomatoes. I'll use these tomatoes to toss with pastas, or maybe as a base for soup.  Are you nervous about my obsession with preserving the harvest yet? I am! But when I think about the quality of a tomato that I will have a tough time buying in the middle of winter in northern Minnesota, it all makes sense. The recipe; 5 pounds of ripe tomatoes, chunked and divided between two large roasting pans. Dollop with bacon fat- about 2 Tablespoons per pan. Throw in a sprig of rosemary per pan, and roast at 425 degrees until the tomatoes turn golden and the liquid in the pans start to cook down, about 20 minutes. Allow to cool completely and store in an airtight container in the freezer. This works well with cherry tomatoes too! Belly up!!

tomatoes before roasting

tomatoes after roasting

and they lived happily ever after....with pigs and tomatoes.....