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This is adapted closely from a Pioneer Woman recipe:

Cut jalapenos in half the long way {WEARING GLOVES}, scrape out the seeds {WEARING GLOVES}. Mix together cream cheese or goat cheese and a fav cheese {grated cheddar, pepper jack, blue cheese…}. You could also add a fresh herb if desired {basil, sage…} or mushrooms, sundried tomatoes, or green onions. Then, fill each jalapeno half {WEARING GLOVES} and wrap in half a slice of bacon {I love Trader Joe’s uncured Apple Bacon} and secure with a toothpick. Place in a pyrex dish and put in the oven at 400 degrees until the bacon is done. {Could also be BBQd}.

{WEARING GLOVES} This is a necessary component. DO NOT SKIP! I did not do this and found my hands BURNING (you know that feeling you get when you get a burn and it feels like it just keeps on burning). Well, I had that feeling for a couple hours after preparing the jalapenos! I finally went online and looked for something to help. I found many forums that addressed this issue. I ended up pouring rubbing alcohol on my hands, rubbing it around for a bit, drying them off, and repeating for close to an hour. WEAR THE GLOVES!!!

I get veggies from 2 CSAs, some from my small garden, some from my dad, and some from my in-laws… so what to do with all of these tasty treats:

-Tomatoes: bruschetta (tomatoes, 1-2 garlic cloves, large handful of chopped basil, salt, drizzled with EVOO and can be tossed with pasta after the fact); roasted with garlic after being tossed in EVOO- added to pasta, layered in lasgana, eaten with goat cheese and a slice of bread; sliced and drizzled with balsamic vinaigrette and topped with basil on top of fresh mozzarella; with cheese on a sandwich; canned for later…

-Greens: All chopped and cooked in chicken broth, onion, garlic, s/p- saved to layer into lasagna, enchiladas, or topped with a fried egg and cheddar cheese; Chard thrown into a smoothie or chopped and thrown into a salad; sauteed with EVOO, garlic, s/p- served along side a meal; tossed into spaghetti; tossed with pasta, bacon, and goat cheese; thrown into soups

Squashes: chopped and cooked with tomatoes, onions, dijon mustard, s/p; chopped and tossed with other veggies, onion, garlic, tossed in EVOO, s/p, and served as a layer in lasagna or tossed with pasta/bacon/goat cheese, or eaten alone

Zucchini: muffins; cookies; breads; zucchini/tomato/onion/dijon combo; shredded and frozen for later; raw with hummus

What else do you all have for me?

I try to minimize “extra” shopping trips and “extra” work as much as possible since it seems there is never enough time in a day to get everything done.I particularly like to limit grocery shopping. I do this by meal planning for a month, stocking up, and shopping lists. Not only does this save me time; it also saves me money!

Some shopping strategies I am employing:

-Once a month Costco run if necessary

-Every other week Trader Joe’s shopping trip

-CSA/Raw Milk pick-up once a week

-Azure Standard pick up once a month

-Target once a month if necessary

-Abundant Harvest or Farmer’s Market 1x/week

First, I live in Southern California above Los Angeles and below Santa Barbara. There is a lot of farmland, a lot of fresh produce and farmer’s markets, and access to amazing food. I knew things would be different on the trip- not many places are able to indulge in year round growth of produce.

Second, I love food, cooking food, quality of food, etc.

Third, I am on a long road trip with my family. We have to date traveled through seven states.

As I have traveled and grocery shopped in these seven states, I have noticed prices are comparably better to home at Trader Joe’s; produce are less available, less fresh, and there are fewer organic options. Raw milk is more readily available- different states different laws, love that you can buy it from a farm- talk about fresh! Not surprisingly, farmer’s markets are not open until about now. I have also been to a few restaurants that are rated well for the area and type of food and just flat out suck. Salads with bag iceberg and the “Italian” dressing that doesn’t separate… What?!

We are spoiled back home with great restaurants, fresh produce year round, gardens year round… the food really is amazing and flavorful.  I may sound like a food/produce snob but seasons change things and distance inhibits availability and quality. People with seasons- appreciate the spring and summer and freeze and stock-up for the cold times!! People without seasons- shop farmer’s markets, csa’s, etc. and take advantage of your unique location in the world!

Note: I have had some delicious homegrown food, homemade food, and amazing cooks cook for me!

I encourage you to go through the following exercise in an effort to reduce unnecessary costs…

Make a list of all the things you shop for on a regular basis, as you shop the various stores you purchase them write down the prices (make sure to pay attention to quantity and like items). Excel is a nice way to do this for the computer savvy.

I recently completed this exercise and was surprised by a few of the prices. Now, as I do my minimal monthly/weekly shopping I am aware of where I want to purchase particular items to get the best price while still considering quality.

Last week, I held a cooking class on homemade snack foods. We covered different types of crackers, hummus, and granola bars. We also discussed about incorporating veggies and fruit into snack life.

Snack time tends to be a time where you need and want something quick and easy. You want to limit mess and clean up since you do it all day.
A couple problems with snack foods: (1) our children seem to only want them and not a normal meal (2) too much snack food is consumed taking away from the nutritional main meals we provide them with (3) the snack food we provide may be better considered junk food.
A you consider the health issue regarding snack foods: Take a look at the labels of snack foods you buy- what are you really giving your child?

Snacks to consider:
– cut up veggies w/ or w/o hummus
-fruit
-homemade granola bars
-cheese wrapped in a piece of turkey
-apple or banana with peanut butter
-celery with peanut butter and raisins
-granola mixed with dry fruit
-nuts (if age appropriate)
-a slice of cheese or string cheese
– a small cup of granola
-yogurt- get plain and sweeten with honey and fruit or a small scoop of jam
-a smoothie

Other thoughts:
-have a shelf of fruits and veggies that can be eaten whenever a snack is wanted
-limit snack time to only fruits and vegetables
-only serve water outside of meal times and make it a standard

Granola Bars- like Nature’s Valley

3 ½ c rolled oats (toast first)
1 c nuts (whatever you want)
1 c raisins, cranberries, or choc chips
½ c coconut
2/3 c coconut oil
½ c honey (could do half molasses)
½ tsp salt
½ tsp vanilla

1. Toast oats by spreading on a cookie sheet and baking in a 350 degree oven for 15-20 minutes.
2. Mix all ingredients- I like to use a cuisenart.
3. Press into a greased cookie sheet
3. Bake at 350 for 12-15 minutes until brown around the edges. Cool completely before cutting into bars.

I encourage you to find a place where you can buy quality food in bulk for a decent price. We have a store called Lassens that we buy a lot of bulk food from. I have also had the opportunity to join a group that gets deliveries from Azure Standard. I encourage you to look around your area and find a place where you can get good prices on some high quality, real bulk food.

Some places to try:
-local health food stores- they may have special order discounts available
-a CSA that does more than local produce
Azure Standard
-farms/ranches- you pick in season veggies- I know there are places where you can pick apples for amazing prices during apple season
-I know of a local You-pick farm where you can get Romas for $0.20 per pound one weekend a year

Other places you have found good deals on real, bulk food?

Where: University of California Hansen Agricultural Center at Faulkner Farm

When: all Free classes are 10am to 11:30am

Feb 27- Water Thrifty Vegetable Gardening- free

March 27- Low Cost- No cost Gardening- free

May 22- Summer in the Garden Workshop- $50

June 26- Low Water Landscape Design- free

August 4- Fall in the Garden Workshop- $50

Check out the website for more details.  You need to register too!

I love vegetables that have been cooked well. So many people suffer through overboiled veggies with the flavor stripped away… which is quite unfortunate! Vegetables have such great flavors that can be enhanced and complemented in so many ways!

One of my favorite ways to cook veggies, especially winter veggies is to roast them. I will use whatever veggies I have on hand- onion, beets (sliced thin), carrots, squash, fennel, turnips, sometimes I will throw in a sliced apple… I toss them with EVOO, salt, pepper, and fresh crushed garlic, possibly an herb such as thyme or sage or rosemary depending on what I have on hand and the main dish pairing. I pour them onto a cookie sheet and spread them out into a nice thin layer. Put them in the oven at 375 to 400 for 20 minutes or so- until the edges start to brown.

These are great as a side dish, tossed in pasta with goat cheese and bacon or pancetta or chicken, added to a marinara sauce, tossed in a salad with goat cheese, added to brown rice or quinoa, use the leftovers for eggs in the morning or make eggs for a quick dinner. You can roast the beets like this and serve them with dip and other raw veggies on a appetizer platter. Layer them into lasagna. Throw them into soup. The options are endless.

I had a great time at the Winter Greens cooking class I held last night. Lots of good conversation!

We covered: greens, root veg, brussels, cabbage, cauliflower… and some winter fruit. So many yummy things you can do with winter vegetables- it can be surprising.

A tasty appetizer: Swiss Chard Tzatziki

1 c chard- drop the leaves into a saucepan of boiling water- cook for a couple minutes and then drop into a bowl of cold water. Drain
1 garlic clove- crushed (just straight into the blender)
1/4 tsp salt
1 c whole yogurt- could use Greek yogurt or part sour cream for a thicker consistency- but use what you have on hand
1 T EVOO
1 T fresh lemon juice
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper

Blend all but the leaves in a blender- Then, add the leaves and PULSE a few times to break up the leaves- want to leave texture- could also chop the leaves and stir in.

Serve with: pita wedges, crackers of some sort, bread, raw veggies, roasted beet chips or roasted potato “chips”. Could also use to top fish fillets or salmon cakes.

A tasty treat: Honey Shortbread and Fruit with Dips

Honey Shortbread

In a mixer or by hand mix the 1st 3 ingredients until creamy, then add the dry:

1 cup soft butter
1/3 c raw honey
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 c chopped pecans (I put them in a baggie and hit them with a meat tenderizer)
2 1/2 c whole wheat flour
may need a few spashes of water if too crumbly.

Press into an ungreased cast iron skillet- 9″ or so. Score with a knife into wedges or however you want it cut- then prick the score marks with a fork.

Bake in a preheated oven- 300 degrees for 35-40 minutes. Cool in pan for 10 minutes. Remove. Cut into wedges while warm.

Serve with a couple different sauces and some fruit:

Orange Chocolate Ganache (can also be used as frosting)

1 c cocoa powder
3/4 c extra virgin coconut oil
1/2 c raw honey
dash of sea salt
1 tsp vanilla
1-2 oranges- zest from

Gently melt coconut oil in saucepan- just melted. In a food processor combine all of the ingredients. Pulse until well combined. Scrape into a mason jar or other container- an old jar… Place in fridge until a good consistency or freezer if you need to speed it up.
*Also tasty on ice cream as a garnish to any dessert in need of a chocolate friend…

Tangy Lemon Curd

3 lg eggs
1/4-1/3 c raw honey
grated zest of 1 lemon
1/2 c lemon juice (2-3 lemons)
6 T virgin coconut butter (you could use butter too)

In a med saucepan, whisk together the first 3 ingredients until light color. Add the coconut oil, breaking into small clumps as you drop it in the pot (rub the residue into your hands for a nice moisturizer). Then, add the lemon juice. Cook- whisking until the coconut oil is melted. Continue to cook until the mixture thickens and you start to see a few bubbles. Remove from heat and scrape through a fine sieve over a bowl or Mason jar. Refrigerate for several hours to thicken. Will keep about 1 week in the fridge.

Other uses: with fruit, on top of a cake with or without berries, folded into whipped cream as frosting for a cake, on top of waffles with berries, on top of a cheesecake, added to cake batter to make it lemony…

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