Back to…Cooking School: How to Select, Prepare & Cook Winter Squash

With crisp evening air and a basket full of apples, fall whispers its entrance. I make a mad dash to preserve all that was summer with popping jars of hot tomatoes on my counter tops. Summer is nearly gone.

The fall vegetables I now see bring relief. No canning involved in storing potatoes, beets, and my favorite – winter squash. You couldn’t talk me into eating these winter treasures for the first 23 years of my life. We now eat it in one form or another a few times a week during the cooler months. And everyone in our family – young and old – cannot get enough.

If you’ve never been a fan of squash, then let me tell you a little secret: squash can be absolutely delicious, versatile, useful, and healthy, you just have to know how to use it. [Read more…]

Going Nuts: How to Make Nut Butters (recipe: Cinnamon Walnut Butter)

Written by Lynn of Cookie Baker Lynn

The schools that I attended had the option of a hot lunch you could purchase or you could bring your own lunch. I was a brown bagger. Not only was it cheaper to BYOL, but the food was generally less nasty. As a small child my mother would pack my lunch, but as I got older and her life got busier, I got the memo to make my own lunch.

Because I’m a last minute kind of person (don’t believe me? Ask my editor!), invariably my lunch would consist of a peanut butter and jam sandwich and a piece of fruit. PB &J was the quickest, easiest sandwich to make, so that’s what I lived on during the school year.

Oddly, this unadulterated peanut-butter-based diet didn’t make me loathe peanut butter. I went through collage eating PB &J’s, sent my husband off to work with PB&J’s, and proceeded to raise a new generation on peanut butter.

Today’s kids bagging their own lunches, or their moms doing it for them, face a new challenge. Because of the increasing number and severity of peanut allergies, many schools are banning peanut butter. For the peanut-challenged, this can be a literal life-saver, but for the harried moms trying to throw together a quick, nutritious lunch, it presents an early morning crisis.

But a crisis can just be an opportunity in disguise. In this case it’s the opportunity to explore the world of other nuts available out there. All nutritious, in their own ways delicious, and each with their own characteristics. Once you start making your own nut butters, you’ll find it’s fun and addictive. [Read more…]

Spotlight Ingredient: Sweet Summer Corn

I‘ll admit, it feels like everything has already been said about corn; still, it’s a hugely popular vegetable in our family and worthy of a closer look.

Plus, I just couldn’t go through the entire season without sharing a couple of my most favorite recipes for corn, so don’t exit this site without taking a peek at them –  you’ll also be looking at my lunches for the past week and a half.

First, let’s shine a spotlight on corn; stick around, you might learn something. Like this for example, did you know that there is one string of corn silk for each kernel of corn in each ear?

[Read more…]

Three Homemade Salad Dressing Recipes: Better For You, Better For Your Wallet

Written by Shannon of Nourishing Days.

Now that the temperatures are warming up salads are a great main or side dish for every night of the week. But who wants to spend a lot of money on a bottle with questionable ingredients?

One of the first things I realized on my real food journey was that when I make things from scratch for health reasons, I also save money. Salad dressings are no exception.

And the best part? They are super easy to make!

A Basic Formula For Homemade Salad Dressing

Making homemade salad dressing is a bit intimidating at first. Especially if you are like me and thought that salad dressing only came from a grocery store.

When making a vinaigrette, a combination of oil and vinegar or lemon juice, there are a few things to keep in mind.

  • Keep the oil to vinegar ratio at about 3:1
  • If you want a smooth consistency in which the oil and vinegar do not separate you must use an emulsifier. Dijon mustard and egg yolks from pastured chickens are my favorite options.
  • Add lots of flavors like onion, garlic, spices, herbs, and honey.
  • For simplicity use pint-sized jars for easy dump, shake, and serve salad dressing.

With the above thoughts in mind you can create flavorful salads in a myriad of flavors.

My Go-To Salad Dressing Recipes

These are the dressings that I make on a regular basis. All three use healthful fats like extra virgin olive oil and cultured dairy. [Read more…]

Spotlight Ingredient: Rhubarb (Recipe: Rhubarb Upside-Down Cake)

It’s spring, and gorgeous produce is beginning to appear in the markets — as well as my neighbor’s expansive backyard garden! I’ve been admiring his handsome rhubarb patch from afar and trying to muster up the courage to ask for some. We’re new to the neighborhood, you see.

Inspired by Tsh’s Q & A ‘Do you know the people in your neighborhood?‘ and the fascinating discussion about community that followed, I decided it was time to put my shyness aside and I knocked on his door. He generously offered me ‘carte blanche‘ on his patch–for the whole season. I was thrilled!

Rhubarb is my favorite early summer fruit; I just love it. As a child I dipped the pale pink stalks in sugar and munched them raw. As a teen I paired rhubarb with strawberries, baked the fruit into pies and sold them at my local farmers market. (for $5 dollars!!). Now, the options are endless and I usually run out of rhubarb long before I finish experimenting with new recipes.

I should mention, before we get any further, that rhubarb is actually a vegetable. Did you know? It can be used in both sweet and savory dishes, but my guess is that the majority of it ends up in a pie or a terrific crumble.

If you haven’t yet, pick up some rhubarb and discover what all the fuss is all about.  [Read more…]