Monday, April 30, 2012

A Taste of Spring: Ode to Strawberries

Due to my allergies, I have a love-hate relationship with Spring. But one of my favorite things that I always look forward to? Strawberries.
Strawberries Taste Like Strawberries
Strawberries are an amazing fruit. One serving of the berries gives more than half your daily amount of Vitamin C, a super antioxidant & immune booster. They can also promote eye health and fight off cancer, wrinkles, inflammation, and even bad cholesterol. They also help regulate your blood pressure & maintain a healthy weight. This is only if you're not adding tons of granulated sugar. But why would you need that?

Take all of that and add the fact that fresh strawberries are delicious. Thankfully, there are several local farms here that offer plenty of strawberries. Our city used to be considered the strawberry capital of the world in the 1940's. My friend Roxy & I visited a farm just outside of town that grew organic strawberries this weekend. Even better: they let you pick the berries.
Roxy's kids helped us too
There is nothing better than picking fruit for you & your family. It helps you understand where your food comes from. You can also witness life itself. Everything from the blossom that will become a strawberry down to the breakdown after it goes bad.
A good bonus to always getting local? It was only $3.50 a quart... and the farmer threw a few extra in afterwards. I love working with the person that grows my food verses picking out something from a shelf with no idea where it comes from or who produced it.

So needless to say, we got a lot of strawberries. And I already had a plan to use them. Before going out, I found an amazing recipe (on pinterest of course) for Strawberry Crumb Bars that I had to try. And I'm so glad I did. You should check out this recipe for sure. Look at it ahead of time though. The hardest thing I found was trying to make the dough crumb-ally. The author suggested cutting up the butter into pea-size pieces, but that's easier said than done. I ended up spending a lot of time with the dough mixture & a fork to get it right. But believe me, it's all worth it.
My outcome of the Strawberry Crumb Bars recipe
I baked it one evening & tried it out the next morning. Oh my. I think this recipe will become a staple every spring when strawberries are ripe. While the dough took some work, it is light, buttery & a perfect match with the strawberries & sauce. I highly recommend this simple & delicious recipe.

That wasn't the only thing I baked this weekend. Apparently I was in full sweet tooth mode with some no-bake oreo truffles (turned a little messy for some reason) & made some healthier tweeks to my favorite oatmeal muffin recipe (used Amish butter & oat flour instead. Still delicious.) Mix that in with the constant unpacking, cleaning & work and you end up with a full weekend. It all went by so fast.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Wild Card: Steak Sauce & Cauliflower Gratin

Each day, there seems to be new things to do. But as my husband & I finish up moving and unpacking, I thought I'd share a wild card recipe for you all to enjoy. For the past few times, we've seasoned our steak with a delicious port & shallot sauce. We also fell in love with great recipe for Cauliflower Gratin from "French Women Don't Get Fat," by Mireille Guiliano.  I hope you are able to enjoy these two ideas as much as we do!

First, the steak sauce. It's great because it works with any kind of steak. You just grill some beef to your heart's desire. But while it's cooking, try out this recipe:

- 2 Shallots finely diced
- 1/2 c Ruby Port or other red, sweet, cooking wine
- 1/2 c Beef broth
- 1 T Dijon mustard

Start by simmering the diced shallots in olive oil. Be careful to not burn the shallots since olive oil has a low smoking point. Stir briefly then add the Port. Let that simmer until the liquid almost evaporates totally (about 2 minutes). Stir in broth & cook until it's reduced to half (about 2 minutes). Remove from heat before stirring in the mustard (don't want it to curdle). Serve with the steaks.

See? It's super easy & oh so tasty. The original recipe calls that you make this sauce from the skillet you cooked the steaks with so it gains more flavor, but we prefer to use a grill. Either way works.

And if you're looking for a good, healthy side, you gotta try this cauliflower gratin. My husband & his family loves it. And if you want all the benefits to cauliflower, but don't like it raw, here's a great alternative.

- 1 Medium cauliflower head
- 2 c Milk
- 1 Egg
- 1/2 c Grated Parmesan cheese (you can use other cheeses, including Swiss)
- A Pinch of Salt & Pepper
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

First thing is to trim the cauliflower & separate the florets. Cook that in a pan of milk, salt & pepper for about 10-15 minutes. Drain, but reserve about 1/3 of a cup of that cooked milk. Place florets onto cooking sheet (lined with tinfoil). Beat the reserved milk with the egg & Parmesan cheese. Pour mixture over florets. Bake for about 10 minutes, then set the broiler on until the tops are toasty & golden brown.
And there you have it. A tasty sauce for steak & an equally delightful side. Just serve & enjoy... while thinking "om nom nom."

Monday, April 16, 2012

A Blog Worth Your Time

Hello Folks. I'm so sorry that the last couple of posts were so light. Things are finally calming down & I finally have time (for now) to get back to work. And with this new home, we certainly have work to do.

As I mentioned before, our new home means a new chapter in our lives. And that calls for a revamp of what we eat. I've teased it for awhile now, but I'm finally going to write about my journey into what's in my kitchen.
New hangout spot on nights my husband cooks
It first began with some documentaries. If you haven't noticed, I. Love. Food. Documentaries. Back in college I saw a few dedicated to fast food: "Fast Food Nation," "Supersize Me," etc. And that inspired me to shy away from the worst offenders *cough*McDonalds*cough*. But it wasn't until the past year that I realized cutting down on fast food isn't enough.

And that's when I wrote my first food entry dedicated to "Food, Inc." Looking back I feel so hypocritical because while we increased our trip to the Farmers Market & local butcher, produce didn't last too long & the meat was a 50/50 chance of getting beef from America... or Australia?

But that's changing. I'm so happy to announce for the first time, I was able to get my hands on our first co-op beef order from a local farm. These cows were raised in Western Kentucky, ate grass, and lived happy little cow lives before becoming my dinner. And you can taste the difference. You really can.
25 lbs of beef featured in a new freezer
Now these cuts of meat are glorious for multiple reasons:
- It's local business
- Since it's local, there's less travel = smaller carbon footprint
- Healthy, Happy Cows. Seriously, this matters. Go back to my first food blog if you have questions.
- We now don't have to worry about buying beef for awhile.
- It's going to force me to cook more. Less eating out.

And thankfully I'm lucky enough to start getting into co-op produce. If you can invest, I highly recommend getting into co-op-ing with a group. Really, thanks to buying the beef with 3 other families, we got a deal of $4 a pound. That's including Sirloin & New York Strip. We are also working with an Amish farmer (who has delicious Amish butter) & a few other local benefits to add to my kitchen.

After watching numerous documentaries, reading blog after blog, skimming through studies, I think I've found my path to our diet: local & natural. Local normally means organic & less transportation which is nice and green. It's also only the real way that I can fight against super farm companies that really don't care about their produce... or consumers for that matter.
Something tells me I'm not going to have to worry about that for awhile
As for the natural, that's when it becomes a bit more controversial. I feel it's a lot healthier for me to eat a burger with beef from local, grass fed, happy cows that may contain a little more fat verses a burger that is from a stressed out cow in a crowded, dirty slaughterhouse with a mixture of leaner "pink slime." Just saying. For decades we've been told less fat = healthy.

But is it really natural for us as an animal to eat this manufactured, leaner food?

I argue that's not the case. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying to go ahead a fill your arteries with cholesterol & fat. But for one, we need some fat in our diet. The cells that make up every part of our bodies needs fat.  Our highly evolved intelligence is thanks to our prehistoric ancestors' diet of meats.

But then there's the argument of which kind of fat & cholesterol are best. We're told saturated fat is the worst, and we are just now learning the mistake of eating trans fat (which normally comes from man-made products, mind you). Well, thanks to some great sources like The Healthy Home Economist, Raw Milk Facts, and Cholesterol & Health, I feel better about drinking my two percent (one day raw, whole) milk. I HIGHLY suggest that you read from each of those sources and make your own opinion. Higher fat sources like milk & beef provide a key source of nutrients. Fat & cholesterol are an important part to a healthy diet. Key word part. But at the same time, I need cut down from drinking 5 glasses of milk then having red meat in every meal. Including veggies & fruits while getting up and moving more are essential to a healthier, happier you.

Speaking of things that are not meat, we are also making a few changes to our spice cabinet. We already replaced granulated sugar with raw cane sugar . I hope to try some recipes that call for white, bleached flour with more-natural alternatives like oat flour. I may even replace most of my pam uses with things like coconut oil. I want to get rid of atrocities like polyunsaturated fats that are in margarine & vegetable oil.

When it gets down to it, I want to eat what my ancestors ate. That includes nutrient filled meat, produce & herbs without oddities like soda & artificial flavoring. I want to get back to my roots. And if we're getting technical, I'm Swedish, Irish, British (with rumors of Scottish & German), so there has to be something tasty to enjoy. But I guess that means I need to eat more fish. Ha.

I've also been making my way through "French Women Don't Get Fat." Which makes some great points that seem like they should be common sense. It's so sad that many of us (including me) lost the way of taking time to enjoy food, the joy of cooking food, eating at the table, and including small, but various sides to your meal. I've lost about 10 pounds compared to last year by making slow, healthy changes to eating. It's not about forcing yourself on a diet, it's about finding a happier and healthier way to live, laugh & love... and eat.

With that being said, I plan to open up more about our food adventures. And I hope that at least someone can take note of learning to get crunchy with food while living in an average place. Only 25,000 people live in our city. It's simple. There's no Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, even Target (hardest part of living here). But thanks to great co-op groups and farmers markets, we are living to get by without the Super Walmart. And I hope to show you how to do the same over time.

Since this all I seem to talk about today is food,  I wanted to share that I'll have another delicious wild card recipe next week. We'll get back to arts & crafts sooner or later...

Monday, April 9, 2012

Update, Update, Update!

Ah, I'm so happy to have the internet & my blog back at my finger tips. Being a first time home-buyer is no east task, my friends. First there's the actual picking out a house, negotiating, requesting a loan, trying your hardest to get all the inspections, closing, etc. THAT was fun (not really). But then comes the exciting part... moving.
Our cute lil' new home
We've done so much is such a short amount of time, but there is still so much to do. It's hard to believe we moved in only about a week ago. Speaking of moving, I think the best part was us trying to move our shed. Enjoy this photo sequence:
Guys trying to figure out how this will go into the moving truck.

Maybe on it's side? Nope, just a hair too wide.

"Fine. We'll take off the roof."

Roof then collapses.

But it finally made it into the truck.
I gotta give them a hand, the three guys that came out to help us move are some of the best friends a gal could ask for. And this house is beau-ti-ful.
Recently re-painted, blooming azalea... it's just perfect.
It's a two bed, one bath with an liveable (needs some work) attic & basement that's ready to be finished. Best of all: the kitchen is to die for & I finally have my dining room. So happy to have this as our first HOME. It's in a beautiful part of town & we already know we have good neighbors.

The yard is also le magnifique. The grass is beautiful & due tot he ice storm taking out the trees, we have a full clean slate. We are already working on lots of gardening plans. But for now, we are keeping it sweet and simple. I was able to transfer some of the seedlings into pots this weekend. Unfortunately, my calendula seeds didn't make it so we'll have to start all over with those.
Chamomile is already to go
So, needless to say things are quite busy. Especially if you throw in work. We are so busy, I practically missed my birthday last Saturday. Oh well. We'll get it next year. And now that Easter came & went, that means lent is over. I already have make up on.
Oh what big eyes
The modesty & extra 15 minutes each morning was nice... but I truly missed my eyeliner. I'll also admit that throughout lent, I wore make up once. But that was for a convention where my husband was working. But it was minimal & for a few hours. But seriously, the 39.75 days of no makeup forced me to be okay with how I look naturally. Throw in a little weight loss & I can say I'm on my way to being confident & happy with my appearance.

On that note, every woman should feel beautiful... despite the love handles, wrong eye shadow & frizzy hair. And no one likes a hypocrite, so I'm working to believe in what I preach. All of us (including myself) need to stop comparing our appearance to models who are starved & photo-shopped. It's not natural & it's unfair that we are forced by our environment to think otherwise. With that being said, a little mascara to express yourself isn't the end of the world. I'll get off my soap box now.

Outside of packing & unpacking, things should get back to normal soon. Needless to say, there won't be a theme this month. But I'll be sure to share our tales as we get back to gardening & green-ifying our new home. I even have a plethora of recipes to share. As always, thanks for sticking with me here on Limelight Musings.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Short But Sweet... Like Home

This week's blog is a little late & it will be very short. Sorry, we've been a bit busy. You see on Friday, we closed on our new home.

And over the weekend, we moved in all the big/important stuff. We are now living here. But the one utility we couldn't move over was Internet & I do most of my blog writing at home. So this is more of a post to let you know what is going on for Limelight Musings. Hopefully things will be back up & running by next Monday. And I promise, promise, promise to share lots of fun stories & photos. Until then, check out some of the great blogs I've posted below. They are some of my favorites. See you next week.

The Healthy Home Economist-Gets You Thinking About YOUR wellness
Simple Bites- Best Cooking Blog Ever
Simple Homemade- Makes "Going Green" Simple
The Feminist Breeder- Very Inspirational
The Bloggess- Always Good For A Laugh
Two Jugs of Milk and a Shot of Whiskey- Roxy Always has Something Going On