Thursday, July 28, 2011

Simple Lives Thursday

On Tuesday, the other hosts of Simple Lives and I held a twitter chat with some of our contiributers to this blog hop.  It was tons of fun to get feedback about the hop and I have discovered a lot of new and interesting bloggers as a result.
If you'd like, you can browse the chat here.
In case you've never done a twitter chat, note that the responses are in time order from most recent at the top to oldest at the bottom.  Everything is connected by the hashtag #simplelives.  We asked participants to answer questions and selected some respondents to win prizes, including some Rosie's Best granola.
Topics in the chat ranged from gardening to cooking to preservation.  I learned that it's totally ok to dry cloth diapers in part shade (I'll share more about this adventure with you soon!) and shared my post about garlic scapes since everyone is always at a loss as to what to do with them.  People discussed natural remedies for poison ivy, their favorite new habits and recipes learned from the hop, and tips for people just starting out in this whole real food adventure.  If you're interested in these topics, check out the chat record and the posts every week for more information.
The husband is off work and we're trying to make the most of this teeny tiny break before the baby gets here (did you realize that I'm 30 weeks tomorrow?! Insane!) so I've got a picnic to pack.
Check out our favorite posts from last week and all the exciting links for this week's hop below and after the jump!

Featured Posts from Last Week's Submissions

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1. Harvesting Native Pennycress by Tools for Kitchens.
How to pennycress seeds for culinary uses which the author compares to bold garlicky spices in salami. Fantastic information!
2. Herbal Tea, Infusion, Decoction by THE WOODWIFE'S JOURNAL.
It’s so simple to grow herbal teas in your garden and saves on packaging and transportation over tea bags from a store. You can personalize it to suit your mood and ailment. Woodwife shows you just how simple it can be.
3. An Herbal Experience by Peaceful Acres Farm.
A great homemade shampoo recipe for dry curly hair.
4. Cooking for Beginners: GARLIC by Ruth's Real Food.
A real food kitchen begins with garlic!
5. For the Love of Horns and Hooves: Part 1 by Got Goats.
A heartwarming journey to farming begins.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Meatless Monday: Swiss Chard and Chèvre Turnovers

Greetings! It's Monday so I have a delicious recipe that is free of animal flesh in the hopes that you'll consider reducing your meat consumption, if only for one day a week.
Today, I took some inspiration from this cookbook and made some major modifications to their Spinach and Goat Cheese Turnover recipe to make these quick and easy savory turnovers.
For your consideration, some reasons why this recipe is worth making:
  • includes puff pastry
  • uses up all that chard
  • can be prepared ahead of time and refrigerated or frozen
  • easy to make in smaller sizes for hors d'oeuvres
  • easy to veganize
  • super fast to put together
  • healthy, delicious, and even kinda fun to eat

Swiss Chard and Chèvre Turnovers
inspired by Laura C Martin's recipe from The Green Market Baking Book
Makes approximately 9 small turnovers (3-4 servings as a main dish)
1 white onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 large leaves of Swiss chard
3-4 tbsp. goat cheese
3 tbsp. pecorino romano (or any dry grated cheese)
1/2 c. pecans
2 tbsp. fresh chives, thinly sliced
salt and pepper
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
3 tbsp. butter, melted

Begin by thinly slicing the onion
and garlic.
Remove the stems from the chard and chop.
Sauté the chard stems and onions in a pan with a little olive oil or butter and salt and pepper until they're soft.  Then add the chard leaves which you've roughly chopped.  Cook until the leaves are soft and onions translucent.  Set aside to cool.
Meanwhile, toast the pecans in a dry pan or low oven until you smell them.
DSC02894Run to the backyard and grab some chives.
DSC02910Once the nuts are toasted, let them cool and then chop them roughly.
DSC02919Now grab your two cheeses.  You're free to use any soft cheese that you like.  I enjoy quark cheese, but it's harder to find than goat.  If you don't like chèvre because of its strong taste, consider a soft sheep or cow's milk cheese.  One of my favorites is Le Roule.
DSC02888Take the cheeses, nuts, and chives and combine in a bowl.
DSC02920Then add your cooled chard filling and stir lightly to combine.
DSC02928Now prep your puff pastry.  Begin with one sheet.  As you can see, when you unfold it from the package it will be divided into thirds.
DSC02930Slice along these lines and put two of the pieces of pastry back into the fridge to keep them cool.
DSC02931Fold the bottom left corner up to make a triangle and slice.
DSC02932Take approximately 1 tbsp. of the filling and put it in the center of the triangle and fold the corners.  Repeat with the rest of the sheet and the remaining 2 sheets.
DSC02933Put these triangles onto a greased sheet pan and brush with butter.
Put the pan, covered with plastic wrap, into the fridge for at least 30 minutes or overnight.  Preheat the oven to 375 and bake the turnovers for 20-30 minutes (from the fridge. If you remove them and left them come to room temp first, they should only need 12-15 minutes) or until the tops are brown and the pastry is puffed up.
DSC02949Serve warm.  The cheese in the filling will be gooey, and the chard should be tender.  Both are great complements to the crunchy buttery pastry.
We each ate two with a simple side salad with backyard raspberry vinaigrette and cucumber tossed with some extra pecans.
DSC02945These turnovers were easy and delicious, and would be a major hit at your next get together.  The puff pastry is a great shortcut for entertaining because it looks and feels special with very little effort.
I wanted to remind you that we're having our Simple Lives Thursday twitter chat tomorrow at 4:30 central time.  Follow me (@culinarybliss) and come say hello!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Gardening Updates and Simple Lives Thursday Giveaway & Twitter Chat Details

Greetings everybody! I'm on break from work, so I'm feeling pretty blissed out.  I have spent every day getting up at my normal work time and making a big bowl of stove-top oats in spite of the heat.
Some with raspberry jam from the yard and homemade coconut butter.
Note: this is what happens when you take a camera from an air-conditioned house into 100+ weather:
Things in the garden are really picking up.  The heat is just what the tomatoes want, so they've been thriving and the first fruits are starting to bulge.
LIttle plum tomatoes
If you don't pull the crab grass out fast enough, the cucumbers will grow around it!
DSC02839The cukes are growing very well, thanks to the big tall cage my father gave us this year.
DSC02841Each flower will fruit.
DSC02842Like this! They start out tiny
DSC02848And then get big
DSC02847The lacinato was eaten up by bugs but is starting to come back.  This is my favorite kind of kale so I'm really hoping it'll be successful this year.
DSC02851Both jalapeno plants are thriving out front
DSC02856Everything is a little parched with the heat, but I've been watering twice a day (am and pm) and they're soaking up the sun, so I think things will continue to go well.
Next week we'll be having a Twitter chat to celebrate the first year of Simple Lives Thursday blog hop!  Here are the details, from Wardeh's blog:
"There’s a lot of great stuff in the works for our first twitter chat, commemorating one year of Simple Lives Thursday. Please save this date!

Tuesday, July 26th at 2:30-3:30pm Pacific Time / 4:30-5:30pm Central Time.

Our hashtag for the event will be #simplelives. We’ve got some great giveaways during the chat: a poster from Annette, homemade granola from Alicia, “The Herbal Kitchen” book by Kami McBride, a Punk Domestics t-shirt, and the grand prize is a 6-month membership to the classes at GNOWFGLINS eCourse.

Make sure to follow the hosts of Simple Lives on Twitter to stay in the loop!

Alicia — @culinarybliss
Annette — @SustainableEat
Diana — @dianabauman
Mare –- @marebeard
Wardeh –- @WardehHarmon

After our twitter chat, we’ll be hosting one giveaway per month to our featured posts bloggers. So link up and continue to inspire us for another year to come!"

Please give everybody a follow and plan to join us on Tuesday of next week for a great chat and giveaway!
Now for this week's featured posts and link up!

Featured Posts from Last Week's Submissions

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For our featured posts, please grab the badge above and display it on your site! Link it to one of the host blogs' posts for that specific week that you were featured.

1. Cooking With Heritage Breed Chickens by Homemade Alaska. This is a great guide on raising heritage breed chickens for meat as people did in days past.

2. Lavender Vinegar by The Purposed Heart. At least one of us, and probably more, can't wait to try this as a rinse for laundry AND hair. So simple and easy!

3. Canning CSA & Zucchini Relish by Little Blog on the Prairie. A great recipe and fantastic concept!

4. Homemade Bag Balm by Prairie Sunrise. Marg decided to make her own bag balm to save money and avoid petroleum based commercial bag balms. She says it was easy and cheap and we believe it!

5. Varicose Veins -- What To Do Naturally by Jo's Health Corner. Jo covers a broad range of natural treatments for mild to severe varicose veins.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Meatless Link Love and Places to Eat Meat (or not) in Iowa City

Greetings! It's Monday and it has been a manic one.  I finally finished up most of my work for the semester and have the next three weeks off to soak up the last few baby-free moments I'll have to myself for a long time.  My nesting instinct is in overdrive and there's tons for me to do both in and out of the house, so needless to say the last thing I've felt like doing is sit in front of the computer.
I'll update with more recipes, bump pictures, and garden progress soon, but for this Meatless Monday I'll be sharing some of my favorite meatless blogs and the places in Iowa City where I feel comfortable eating meat or have ample choices for meatless options.

Meatless Link Love

If there's one thing the internet is great for, it's inspiration.  The following websites are ones that I browse regularly to get ideas.  Some are entirely meatless but others are mixed.

The Ordinary Vegetarian
Oh She Glows
Post Punk Kitchen
Smitten Kitchen
Mark Bittman's Blog
101 Cookbooks

Places to Eat Meat (or not) in Iowa City

Sometimes I just don't feel like cooking, but I still want to enjoy a meal out with my friends.  Unless I'm aware of the sources of the meat being used in the restaurant, I usually order vegetarian dishes.  This is fine by me because there are many excellent meat-free options that one might otherwise overlook.  Here are a few places that have great vegetarian or vegan food, and a few that offer meat that I am willing to eat.

Red Avocado:  While the portions can be a little small, they make up for quality what they might lack in quantity.  (And I'm a firm believer that we need to adjust our expectations about portion size anyway.)  Red Avocado is a vegan restaurant near downtown Iowa City.  Check out their fresh juices and sweet patio.

Oasis Falafel:  When I come here, I almost always end up ordering a fully vegan meal without intending to.  The falafel is very good, as are all the side dishes.  Try the pita fries and don't miss the cabbage salads.  If you like spicy food, hit up the mango curry and hot sauces in the bottles by the soda machine.

El Bandito:  A newish Mexican restaurant, El Bandito uses pork from Pavelka's Point and beef from Grass Run Farms, two great local sources.  Their dishes are simple and slow cooked, and I've always been happy every time I've eaten there.

Masala:  There are two Indian buffets in Iowa City, and this one is meatless.  You can stuff your face with delicious Indian food, leave totally satisfied, and never ask where the tandoori chicken was.

Fair Grounds Coffeehouse:  Every once in a while, I want to eat a special breakfast out.  This is one of my favorite places to go because they have great coffee and rich meat-free breakfasts.  Try their smoothies and waffles.

Short's Burger and Shine:  While I was really (really) sad to see Baldy's go, I have grown to love Short's, the burger place that replaced the old wrap restaurant.  While it's corn fed (not grass like I'd prefer) their beef is local and delicious.  They also have one of the best selections of Iowa beers on tap in the city.  Their fries are just ok, but the burgers and beer make up for it.

Lou Henri:  Named after Iowa's only president's wife, Lou Henri's is mostly a breakfast place, but I really enjoy their tempeh reubens.

Pizza On Dubuque:  By the pie or by the slice, this place uses local ethical meat and has a great crust recipe.  They also offer a good organic green salad to have on the side.

New Pioneer Coop:  Though they're pricey, the Coop offers good quality sandwiches in vegan and vegetarian options, or with ethical meat.  If you order at the deli you can get just what you like.

So the next time you're in Iowa City and thinking about going out to eat with friends, consider trying one of these places for meatless options, or try some good quality local meat.

I'll be back soon with more, but until then, enjoy the heat, eh?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Simple Lives Thursday One Year Mark: Twitter Chat and Coming Giveaways

For one whole year, I've been hosting the Simple Lives Thursday blog hop with four inspiring bloggers.  I've learned so much, gained new habits, and developed new goals seeing the impressive things the contributors post each week. 
To celebrate, we're hosting a Twitter chat on Tuesday, July 26th from 2:30-3:20 Pacific 4:30-5:30 Central time,  where we'll be giving away some great stuff.
Be sure to follow each of the hosts:

Me – @culinarybliss
Annette – @SustainableEat
Diana- @dianabauman
Mare – @marebeard
Wardeh – @WardehHarmon
and use the hashtag #simplelives to get in on the action!

We're also planning monthly giveaways for our contributors who get chosen for the featured posts!  Check out the posts we chose this week, and please keep contributing! 
Remember that if your post is chosen, we'd love for you to feature this badge prominently on your post to bring more people to the hop. 

Featured Posts from Last Week's Submissions

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For our featured posts, please grab the badge above and display it on your site! Link it to one of the host blogs' posts for that specific week that you were featured.

1. Cleaning Fresh Grain at Home by Joy Filled Living.
This low-tech method of threshing means anyone with a patch of garden can grow some grains at home. It may not supply all your grain needs but it’s a wonderful experiment in self-sufficiency that gives you some appreciation for the effort that our forefathers put into their harvest.

2. Canning Outside by Home Shalom.
Canning in the heat of summer can make your kitchen the last place you want to be, so why not move outdoors?!

3. About Cherries, In Which Ill Gross You Out by Improves with Age.
How frugal do you think you are? We love this gal's honesty and humor over saving her freshly picked cherries.

4. Grape leaf wrapped camembert by cookblog.
This author knows what he's doing when it comes to to the "basics" of aging, drying, fermenting and curing.

5. Winter Garden Planning Series by Lizard's Hollow.
A great place to start to learn about extending your harvests into Winter.

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