Double Pumpkin Peanut Butter Bars

Monday, September 26, 2016

I don't love pumpkin.  I like most types of squash quite a bit, but pumpkin is kind of overwhelming for me. It usually adds a kind of squishy texture and is often overwhelming in most recipes. But as a food blogger, there is always a sort of expectation that you will make seasonally appropriate food, right?  

Anyway, I had a leftover can of pumpkin from another project I was working on (not for this blog), and was trying to figure out what to do with it.  I had been dying to make granola bars again, and this seemed like a great way to do it.  

The first batch I made was a total fail, so I tried again, this time adding peanut butter.  Basically anything tastes great when you add peanut butter (at least in my opinion), and it works fabulously as a binding agent.  

They were a serious home-run.  You may not have all these seeds and nuts on hand, and that is fine (although this combination was a perfect mix of crunchy/soft)!  You can sub in other nuts and even use 2 cups of oats to replace all the nuts, if you like.  Just keep the ratio of dry to wet the same, so the bars will hold together. 

I hope you like them as much as we did!  Happy Fall!  

Double Pumpkin Peanut Butter Bars: 
adapted from Running with Spoons

1 1/4 cups rolled oats
1/8 cup millet
1/4 cup pepitas
1/8 cup flax seeds
1/8 cup chopped almonds
1/8 cup wheat germ
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup pumpkin
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup honey
2 Tbs brown sugar

Combine the oats, millet, pepitas, flax seeds, almonds, wheat germ, salt and spices in a bowl.  In a larger bowl, combine the pumpkin, peanut butter, honey and brown sugar.  Stir until smooth.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir until even distributed, and all the dry ingredients are wet.  
Pour into a well-greased 8x8 dish or rectangular 2 qt. dish.  With a spatula or spoon, mush all the mixture into an even layer.  

Cook in an oven preheated to 350°F for 20 minutes.  Remove when the bars feel a bit spongy and dry.  

Let cool for 3 minutes, then cut.  Let cool another 5 minutes, then remove from the pan.  Can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.  


Why I love my vegetable subscription box

Friday, September 23, 2016

I talk a lot about  my CSA box here.  CSA subscriptions are growing in popularity, as the real food and organic food movements are on the rise. My sister, Janssen was the one who turned me on to them, and I have now had one on and off for several years.  

In case you don't know what a CSA subscription is, let me tell you. First off, CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture.  Farmers need money to run their farms.  When you sign up for a CSA subscription, you typically choose to a period of time (this time, I chose 10 weeks, and I get my box every other week), and pay up front for the subscription.  This guarantees that the farmer sells some vegetables outside of whatever they can sell at a farmer's market.  And you get a box of locally grown (in my case, organic) vegetables and herbs.  Win-win. 

Now there are a few concerns that a lot of people have about getting a CSA box.  Understandably so, really.  My experience has been pretty positive, and at this point in my subscription, I really look forward to picking up my box.  

Here are a few things that I love about getting a CSA: 

1. I see my CSA box as an opportunity to grow my tastebuds a little.  We have gotten a lot of vegetables that I didn't love.  Some that I downright hated.  But, with time, and trying new recipes, I have come to enjoy eating (or at least tolerating, in some cases) vegetables that I used to despise.  I feel like my palate has grown up significantly since we joined a few years ago, and I am thrilled.  It has been a long process, but I think it has been worth it.  

2.  I feel obligated to eat lots of vegetables.  I actually really like vegetables.  A large salad is one of my favorite lunches, and I regularly seek out vegetarian food.  Despite this, I still struggle to eat a lot of vegetables.  According to a number of articles that I saw online, the general consensus among nutritionists is that most people should be eating 2 1/2 cups of vegetables a day.  I may not hit this everyday, but I certainly do a lot better when we have tons of veggies around the house that I paid good money for.  Also, eating lots of organic vegetables totally feels like an investment in my future.  

3. It forces me to be creative at meal time.  I run a food blog, so I obviously try to be creative at mealtimes no matter what, but I have to be extra creative to find ways to use up squash, collard greens, turnips and arugula for dinner all in one week.  And I take that challenge seriously and try not to waste anything.  

4.  I am supporting my local community.  The last few years, I have been trying to put my money where my mouth is.  I am not always great at doing this, but I feel strongly about supporting my community, and reducing shipping pollution, so I feel great about getting vegetables locally.  Also, the vegetables are much fresher, because they got picked two days before I pick them up, rather than two weeks before I picked them up, like at the grocery store.

5.  I am saving money on organic produce.  Sometimes I feel like organic produce is one giant racket.  Another way for the food industry to make a mountain of money off of us consumers.  Organic produce can be so expensive.  I try to buy organic when I can, and buying from a CSA means that I get a sort of discount on the produce that I buy.  It is cheaper than buying individual items from the farmer's market, and it is usually less expensive than buying from the grocery store.  The trade off is that I don't get to pick the items that come in the box.

6.  I love the farm that I buy from.  They have an incredible website with detailed photos of what will be coming in your box (vital for my menu planning), an easy way to swap out 2 or 3 items you don't want (I always get rid of the eggplant if I can) for items you do want, and they have a delivery stop just up the road from my apartment.

7.  I really love having lots of vegetables on hand to use and photograph.  There are few things I like to photograph more than fresh vegetables.  I love having a gorgeous cabbage or rainbow chard to photograph every week.  It is fun and super fulfilling for me.

I am not an expert about the CSA box, but I have done one for 2 years now, and I love it.  If you have more specific questions, please feel free to ask!  I would be happy to answer them!

Weekly Menu Plan #2

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

This past weekend, I spent almost 4 hours garage sale-ing.  This has never been my element (I am sort of afraid to talk to strangers/wander into their garage, I often think other people's junk is gross, etc.), but a few years ago, I went with a friend who is a pro garage-saler, and had fabulous luck, scoring some super awesome baby items!  It was quite encouraging, but then garage sale season ended, and I moved on with my life.  

But when we moved to Utah this summer, we sold our couch, and our new living room is a totally different shape than the old living room, so it was time for a little redesign that didn't cost thousands of dollars (furniture is expensive!).  Enter fall garage sale season.  

I was ready this time, with a specific list of things to get for our apartment (i.e. a baby booster seat, a coffee table, a lamp, and a chair), and was determined to discover some great finds.  I drove by probably 60 garage sales (it was a neighborhood-wide garage sale), and just before I decided to go home, I found a $10 coffee table and a $3 lamp!  Hallelujah!

They were both great pieces for the price (especially since I had been looking at this $90 Target lamp the day before), and after a minor modification to the coffee table (Adam sawed 3" off the legs), my two newest living room additions are great!  Garage sale-ing for the win!  After almost 3 weeks, this apartment is really starting to feel like a home.  All it needs now is a fresh batch of homemade croissants.

And with that brief reference to food, I will segway into the real reason for this post: My weekly menu post!  Here are all the delicious things I made in the last week; our menu, to inspire you to make all the seasonal food!  You can also check out my instagram for regular cooking inspiration.    

To Use Up: 

Bok Choy
Red Pepper
Snow Peas
Butternut Squash

Weekly Menu: 

Zucchini Parmesan Gratin - I made this once last year, and it was SO salty.  This time, I didn't salt the zucchini when I rung it out, and added salt when serving, and it was delicious!  It was kind of messy to make, but the end result was great!

Beet Soup - This will forever be one of my favorite soups.  I served it with a whole wheat bread.

Zucchini Parmesan Pizza - I love this one, too. Parmesan and zucchini go great together, obviously!

Bok Choy Ramen - I don't really like cooked greens, so I was pretty wary about this recipe, but it was delicious!  I used the super cheap ramen noodles (like the 16 cent package), and they were fine.  I also used water and added my own spices to make it taste better, and then I added carrot strips.  It was really good, and even the baby loved it.

Curry with Red Pepper and Snow Peas (similar to this recipe) - This is still a work in progress, but this week's edition was better than last week's.

Butternut Squash Bowls with Black Beans and Rice (similar idea to this) - This was lunch one day, and it was totally delicious.  Just butternut squash and onions roasted in the oven with garlic and cumin, topped combined with black beans, rice and ranch dressing.

Squash and Chickpea Salad - This was very good! I toasted the chickpeas, left out the cilantro (oops!) and added a drizzle of honey.  


Zucchini Pesto Pizza

Monday, September 19, 2016

I made this pizza 3 times in the last week and a half (that sounds kind of insane when I write it down...).  Partially to use up zucchini, it was super easy, and because I was trying to get it just right for this blog!  

The first time, the parmesan was pretty overwhelming (I used a pretty strong parmesan).  The second time, I made it on a whim, because I needed to make something quickly, and I used less parmesan, and it was still really good, but not as strong.  The third time was a happy medium where I added a little mozzarella to offset the strong Parmesan flavor. 

 It takes about 30 minutes to make this, from start to finish, as long as your pizza dough is already made.  Definitely worth putting on your meal plan this week.  

Zucchini Pesto Pizza

2-3 Tbs basil pesto
1/8 cup mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1 Tbs olive oil
1 zucchini, thinly sliced

Pour your oil in a skillet set over medium heat.  Add the zucchini and arrange them so no edges overlap.  Cook for about 3 minutes, until the edges begin to brown, them flip the zucchini over and cook for another 2 minutes on the opposite side.  

While they are cooking, sprinkle a little cornmeal evenly onto a silicone mat.  Roll out your dough.  Spread the pesto on top of the dough.  Once the zucchini is cooked, place it evenly (like pepperoni), on the pizza.  Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese, then top with Parmesan cheese.  

Cook in an oven preheated to 450°F for 8-10 minutes, or until the crust is browning and the cheese is crispy.  Serve immediately.  


Recap on my Summer Capsule Wardrobe

Friday, September 16, 2016

If you regularly visit my blog, you will know that I did a capsule wardrobe over the summer. I wanted to do a little recap about my experience, because I think I learned a few things about my dressing habits that I hadn't known.

1.  I wear the same shoes all the time, and never get tired of them.  I like having a lot of pairs of shoes, but I tend to go back to the same ones over and over again.  I could probably own 6 pairs of shoes for the rest of my life and never look back.  I don't think I ever missed a pair of shoes that I left in storage.

2.  A good pair of jeans goes a long way.  In preparation for my capsule, I bought 2 pairs of Madewell jeans from ThredUp.  I don't know if they are the most amazing pair of jeans I have ever own, but I really like them.  They fit well, they are comfortable, and the high waisted pair is great for mom life.

3.  Although I like to wear the same few shirts over and over again, I like having a decent variety to choose from, because I do step outside the box pretty often.  I was surprised at how often I wished I had more shirt choices.  I did have a few shirts that I was always thrilled to wear, but some of them I wore a lot because I didn't have any other options.

As a subpoint to this one, layering is key to making a capsule wardrobe interesting enough.  I think I would have done better had I done a fall or winter capsule instead of a summer one.  I ended up just wearing a lot of cute light tops, so I didn't get too hot.

4.  I also wished I had brought more skirts and dresses.  I brought two skirts and two dresses, and that really wasn't enough.  I do wear a skirt to church every week though, so if your lifestyle doesn't involve a weekly reason to dress up, you probably don't need more than two of each.

5.  I like pattern.  I had picked a lot of neutrals and a few solid colors, and I was surprised at how much I missed layering, and patterns.  If I did another capsule, I would pick more textured items, and more patterns.

Overall, I am glad I did one.  It was a good experience, and this summer was the perfect opportunity to try it out.  That being said, I don't know that I will do one again.  I will probably keep my clothing options smallish, and continue to rotate my clothing out with the season changes (I get to do that in a few weeks when the weather changes, and I can't wait!!!).

I am a little disappointed that I didn't like it more (I guess I feel like I should have loved it), and wonder if I should try it again now that it will start cooling off in the next month.  But, knowing me, I probably won't.

Did you do a capsule wardrobe this year?  Have you considered doing one?  I would love to hear your thoughts!

Measure & Whisk: Real food cooking with a dash of minimalist living © . Harlie Ave Design .