Cherry Salsa!

cherry salsa chicken

This week my CSA delivered me pounds of cherries.  Normally I would just pass by cherries in the produce section, but they are hard to avoid when they show up at the house!  Knowing I didn’t want to waste them, I looked into creative ways to use them up.  This is basically a pico de gallo recipe, but instead you replace the tomatoes with the cherries – SO GOOD!

Why cherries?  I’m always curious what the health benefits are in the food I eat, so I looked into it…  The cherry (pH 3.32-4.52) is very good at cleansing the digestive system, the darker the cherry the better.  They contain magnesium, iron and silicon.  Since they eliminate excess body acids they are also helpful with rheumatic disorders.  They are also beneficial for the liver, blood and gallbladder and can even help relieve urinary infections.  Who knew?

So far I have enjoyed this salsa over a chicken breast and with my morning lettuce wraps.  Delicious!  Here goes.

I found the recipe on Martha Stewart’s site…  Thanks, Martha!

Ingredients:

2 cups roughly chopped Cherries
½ small Red Onion, finely chopped
¼ C. fresh Cilantro, chopped
1 Jalapeno (seeds removed), minced
1 T. fresh lime juice
Salt and Pepper to taste

Mix everything together and enjoy!

-Kristin

Scrambled Egg Lettuce Wraps

Scrambled Egg Lettuce Wraps

 

Garlic Scape & Basil Pesto Recipe!

garlic scape pesto

The weekly CSA pick up included garlic scapes this week…. say what?! Curious, I cut a bite to try and it tasted surprisingly spicy! I added some to eggs and didn’t even notice them…. hmmm… what to do with these new foreign ingredients?

A quick search on the web led me to experiment with a pesto recipe. It turned our great so I had to throw it on the blog to share with you.

There’s a nice, soft kick of spice at the end of this recipe that’s fantastically fresh tasting. I hope you enjoy the recipe as much as I do.

Ingredients

  • ¼ c. toasted pine nuts
  • ¼ c. fresh basil
  • ½ C chopped garlic scapes
  • ½ lemon squeezed and zested
  • Salt
  • Fresh cracked pepper
  • ½ c olive oil
  • ¼ C grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Toast the pine nuts in a small, dry pan until they begin to change color (about 4 minutes). Pay attention, you don’t want to run to the store for more! Let cool.

In a food processor, combine pine nuts, garlic scapes, basil, lemon juice, lemon zest and salt and pepper (1/2 tsp. each or so). Pulse until mixed well.

Slowly pour in the olive oil while the processor is running. Pour into a bowl and mix in the Parmesan

Voila! Pesto chango!

I enjoyed my batch over zucchini noodles, but this would be GREAT on crackers, bread, or even just by the spoonful! Love it!

Thanks for reading,

Kristin

How to Grill Cactus Leaves (Nopales)

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My cousin recently moved in with us to finish up his last year of college. Along with his sense of humor and gentle spirit, he also brought a new menu item to our table last night – grilled nopales, also known as cactus leaves or pads.

I have eaten cactus salad several times in the past, but had never thought of grilling it. After a little research on the internet, I learned that not only is cactus a versatile ingredient in the kitchen, it is also very beneficial to your health! The Mayoclinic.org says, “Prickly pear cactus is promoted for treating diabetes, high cholesterol, obesity and hangovers. It is also touted for its antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties. Some preliminary evidence shows that prickly pear cactus can decrease blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes.  It is high in fiber, antioxidants and carotenoids.”

As you’d assume, we do not grow cacti here in Minnesota and it isn’t something you find at every grocery store. However, I’m fortunate enough to have a fantastic Mexican market nearby my home which has all sorts of great authentic ingredients, including cactus pads.

They were incredibly easy to prepare and were a great side for our grilled meal. If you ever spot cactus in your store, buy a pound and give them a try. The market near us sells their leaves already cleaned up and ready to cook for about $2.50 a pound, but according to my cousin, not all places sell them so user-friendly. If you purchase paddles and there are still thorns and spines on them, use a sharp knife to scrape off all of the prickly parts cut around the edges of the pad.

Here’s what you need:

  • 1 pound of nopales (6-8 pads usually)
  • 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • Optional: salt, pepper, garlic powder or other seasonings of your choice

Directions:

Once the nopales are cleaned up, rinse them off and pat them dry. Brush olive oil over both sides of the pad and season them with salt, pepper and garlic powder (as much as you prefer). Grill on medium heat for 2-3 minutes and flip over and grill the other side for another 2-3 minutes. That’s it!

After we made these last night, I posted a picture on Instagram and several people chimed in and shared their ways of preparing cactus leaves. Here are a couple interesting ways I look forward to trying:

@art_by_ejm said: To prepare it, I make shallow crisscross incisions from one edge to the other so it looks like diamond shapes all over it. On both sides. This makes liquid come out, but it cooks off anyway. Then I spinkle salt lightly on each side and put it on a very hot comal (iron skillet ?) and i let it sizzle on each side just enough to change color and get limp. Then I put the whole thing (or half, if it’s enormous), in the middle of a blue corn tortilla, fold it in half, and take a big bite :D Or I cut some pencas de nopal into little squares, boil them, drain, mix with diced tomato, white onion, cilantro, salt and lime juice. Mix it (now cactus salad), put it on a tostada (non-GMO :D) and eat it!! It’s so good like that too.

@sarahhonk said:  I actually love cutting them up raw in a small dice and adding then to a pico de gallo or a simple tomato onion and olive oil salad with basil and salt. Eat them with a tortilla or a big chunk of whole wheat sourdough. The mild sour spice flavor with them is awesome! The goo can be weird, but I try and use it to my advantage raw. I also love slicing it and cooking it with my veggie fajitas. Cumin powder onion garlic and green chili powder works wonders in complimenting their sour spice.

Strawberry-Rhubarb Jam Recipe – No Powdered or Liquid Pectin Added

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Since the rhubarb was growing like crazy in the garden, I decided it must be time to start canning. Strawberry-Rhubarb jam has been my favorite jam since I was a kid and oddly, I haven’t made it since the first year I started canning.

I didn’t have a go-to recipe to use and when searching the web, I found that pretty much all of the recipes I came across either had a TON of sugar added (like 8 or more cups, isn’t that nuts?!) or used liquid/powdered pectin. One even used strawberry jello instead of real strawberries <gag>. So, I experimented and the results were great.

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups of chopped rhubarb
  • 5 cups of quartered strawberries
  • 1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 cup of filtered water
  • 3 cups of organic sugar (or 2 cups of raw honey)

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Once you have all of your ingredients ready, toss the strawberries into a heavy-bottomed sauce pan and use a potato masher to smash up the berries. Then toss in all of the remaining ingredients.

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Heat to a boil and cook over medium-high heat for 15-20 minutes. You must stir often to avoid burning the sauce.

Strawberry Rhubarb Jam recipe - No added liquid or powdered pectin - all organic

That’s it!

Transfer to hot sterile jars, leaving 1/4 to 1/2 inch head space, and seal. Process in a water bath for 10 minutes. If the jam is going to be eaten right away, don’t bother with processing and just refrigerate.

For more inspiration on how to use up your rhubarb, here is the rhubarb and apple jam recipe I created last spring!

Win a Handmade Fairy Door, Made by Yours Truly {Giveaway}

As my Christmas gift from my mother this year, she enrolled me into pottery class. It has been a very enjoyable creative outlet that I intend to continue for many years. THANK YOU, MOTHER. I’ve only made a few things on the wheel so far, including bowls, a mug, and a plate. The wheel is much more difficult than it looks I must admit. But I’ve made several items with slab clay and since my daughter is into fairies, I have made more fairy related items than I had ever foreseen making but it has become a very fun hobby.

Over on my Instagram account, I post several times a week and the few fairy related items that I have posted have been big hits. Therefore, I have decided to set up a giveaway over on IG. It’s very easy to enter and the winner will win the fairy door of their choice.

Win a Fairy Door handmade by MinnesotaFromScratch.wordpress.com on Instagram

The contest will end on Monday, May 26th and all entries must be through the Instagram contest rules located on my photo… direct link here.

Good luck to all!

Steph

 

Where Have I Been? Let Me Explain…

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If you are not one of my followers on Instagram, then you probably feel like I have gone missing. I’ve gotten comments and messages from loyal readers wondering where the heck I’ve been. Thank you for your concern but all is well! The truth is, our family went through a series of colds a couple months ago, then work got REALLY busy and then we took a family vacation to Hawaii! However, I have been posting every couple of days on Instagram  (if you aren’t following me there yet, then I encourage you to since I post there much more often than on the blog). Now that we are back in town and back in the swing of things, I’ll get  back to posting on a more regular basis. I have several awesome reviews and giveaways lined up that I am super excited to share with you!

Now let me get you caught up…

Several months ago we decided to book flights to Hawaii for our family. My three year old had never been on a plane before so I had no idea what to expect from her and let’s just say, she’s not known for her patience.  I was excited to get away some where warm and tropical, as I had not been any where out of MN or WI since the year I got married. However, trumping my excitement for the trip, was my sheer fear of taking my daughter on a three flight, 18-hour travel journey.

In preparation for the day of travel we were soon going to endure, my husband and I made sure to have enough stuff to keep our daughter’s mind busy through the flights. We shopped for maze/puzzle/coloring and activity books. The grandmother’s brought over travel goodie bags of activities and my husband and I made sure we charged up the dvd player and tablet for movie watching. I talked to my daughter for months about flying and how we were going to be “sitting all day” and made sure to prepare her as well as I could. We had three bags full of activities and snacks for the flights. Well, let me report that the trip there and back was completely seamless and my daughter did great! It was actually unbelievable how well she did, you have no idea how thankful I am. I definitely over-thought this experience and even over prepared, but hey, better safe than sorry. She didn’t even watch one whole movie on the way there and she slept the entire way home. WAHOO!!!! Absolutely unbelievable.

Anyway, back to the actual juicy part of the story – HAWAII! We planned our trip to the Big Island, which we’d never been to, and had no idea what to expect. Planning a trip some where like that actually felt daunting. There is so much unknown and so many options that it felt a bit overwhelming. So let me put you at ease and just say, GO TO HAWAII… IT’S AMAZING AND WONDERFUL. We can’t wait to go back. For us, the biggest cost was air fare. I watched ticket prices for nearly a year and a half before they dipped down low enough for us to jump on them. Once you find your flights, you will need to book a car. A car rental is pretty much a must on the Big Island. My husband found a discount car rental website that saved $300 on our rental fees. Lodging accommodations are surprisingly MUCH LESS than I anticipated as well. Before we took our trip, I made a two page long list of ideas of activities we could do, but once we got there, that list went out the window. There is so much beauty on the island and so much to see that you don’t need to jump from one touristy activity to the next, just get in the car and drive; explore.

We stayed near Hilo on the east side of the island most of our trip, which is known as the rainy side. It is green and lush with the most beautiful trees, flowers and vines I’ve ever seen. It’s a jungle and the noises of the native frogs and birds are so soothing to sleep to. Much of the island is made up from volcanic rock so many of the beaches are black sand. We also traveled over to the west side of the island, the more touristy side, which gets much less rainfall each year and has some of the world’s most gorgeous beaches. The popular white sand beaches are on the west side, the Kona side. The contrast between the two sides of the island are great and I would recommend visiting both so you can experience the difference yourself. Both sides offer wonderful things! We spent our days visiting different state parks (free admission btw) and trying out different beaches. The sea turtles are very friendly there. At four different beaches, we had sea turtles swim up to us and we were able to swim with them – who knew?! We saw dolphins, wild pigs and lizards too. Our family fell completely in love with Hawaii and cannot wait to plan our next trip back.

I went to Hawaii with the mindset that it was a super over-priced, over-hyped, tourist attraction – and from what I hear, some of the other Hawaiian islands are like that – but not this one. Gas prices were just a little over $4 a gallon and the food at the grocery store was very comparable to what I pay at home – even for the organic food. Once you get on the island, you wouldn’t have to really pay for any activities because there is so much to do and see for free. It was completely amazing. If you are one of those people that say, “I’ve always wanted to go there” then I urge you to GO. But get in touch with me so I can give you advice on which parks to visit and where to stay!

Here are some of our pictures from the trip:

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Akaka Waterfall – 442′ fall

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Lava Tree State Park

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Lava rock

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Stunning black sand beaches all over

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Sunset from our condo in Kona (west side)

Sunset from our condo in Kona (west side)

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Green Anole – little cutie that kept us company during our stay. My daughter named him Hide, since he was always hiding. ;)

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The one big ticket activity we did splurge on was a submarine tour. This is one of the two ship wrecks they took us to. Do you see the shark on the right side of the ship?!

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If you have ever wondered what it is like to drive through volcanic ash and a rain cloud at 6,000 ft above sea level, let me tell you: ABSOLUTELY HORRIFYING! We are on Saddle Road here – it cuts through the island between two volcanoes.

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White sand beach in Kona, Hawaii

Aloha!

Thanks for reading,

Stephanie

Asbestos Awareness Week (April 1-7): Mesothelioma

April 1st – 7th is Asbestos Awareness Week. Most people aren’t familiar with the harmful side effects that are linked to exposure of asbestos, a naturally occurring fibrous material which was once commonly used in construction. Prolonged inhalation of the fibers can lead to lung cancer, asbestosis and mesothelioma.

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Recently I learned about Heather, a beautiful woman that was diagnosed with Mesothelioma back in 2005, just three and a half months after giving birth to her precious baby girl. Heather was only 36 years old at the time. Most people don’t live beyond fifteen months after diagnosis and on average, are only given ten months to live. Fortunately, Heather got the treatment she needed and many years later, Heather is doing great. Now her mission is to spread awareness of this rare cancer.

Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that develops in the Mesothelium, the lining that covers several of the internal organs. Usually the cause of Mesotheloma is asbestos. Heather had never worked with asbestos, but her father had and she was victim of second hand exposure. If someone has been exposed to asbestos or the airborne dust/fibers, then there is a risk. If your home was built before 1978, there is a chance that asbestos was used as insulation. If you are considering remodeling your home, please have a professional check for asbestos before beginning your project.

This particular cancer has a latency period of 10-50 years. Commonly, the cancer grows in the outer lining of the lungs and internal chest wall. Signs of the cancer include shortness of breath, chest pain, fatigue, cough/hoarseness/wheezing, coughing up blood and weight loss.

To learn more about Heather, you can find her story here. Please help spread the word and help more people become aware of this rare cancer. Knowledge is power. Learn more here:  www.asbestosdiseaseawareness.org

asbestos awareness

Please post to Facebook, Twitter, g+, etc… each share is appreciated. I know Cameron, Lily and Heather would definitely appreciate your help in spreading the word.

Beautiful Views – Hanging Indoor Window Garden {Review}

Beautiful Views

Beautiful Views Indoor Window Garden

Kristin and I recently had the opportunity to review these wonderful, handmade, Beautiful Views window shelves.  My first thought was, “WOW, this is what I have always needed but didn’t know existed.” I really only have one sunny, south-facing window in my house and so most of my plants are situated on top of the desk, shelf or table nearby just to catch some of the sunlight that shines through. Since hanging this shelf, I have been able to de-clutter those surfaces and give my plants the sunlight they need!

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We really enjoy seeing so many colors in the window vs. the typical grey we see most of the winter! The plants and flowers also look pretty from outside the house looking in!

The shelves can be purchased in a standard size from Amazon, or if you have a unique size window, you can have them custom made to fit!  Jim, the owner, makes each shelf personally and is incredibly friendly and helpful to work with!

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My daughter likes to display her beautifully painted creations on the shelf as well.

The shelf comes completely assembled and ready to hang. Installation only takes a few minutes as there is just one nail they hang from. The light-weight shelves are made of clear acrylic which makes them nearly invisible. The entire unit easily attaches to the molding on top of your window. If you don’t have molding or have blinds in the way – no problem – Jim makes a mounting kit that eliminates any issues!

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Here is Kristin’s  shelf and thoughts:

Kris' beautiful views shelf

I placed a decorative pottery piece above mine to hide the nail.

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The herbs are loving this window!

Making a useful, beautiful space out of an otherwise empty window is an excellent idea.  Especially for those that enjoy house plants or would like to grow fresh herbs year round. They are also great to display treasures, trinkets or even photos.  My son and I have been enjoying our window shelves for about a month and my advice to anyone that thinks they might like one… don’t hesitate!

These particular shelves were made to fit my window and are quick and easy to install. They are completely adjustable as you can space them exactly as you desire.  If you want to take out a shelf for larger spacing between shelves, a shelf can easily be removed. Or you can just hang the shelves in the top half of your window, it’s easy to adjust with just a simple allen wrench.

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Beautiful Views

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Jim and his wife have developed a genius design for these shelves!  I’m pretty good at finding room for improvement on most things, and I can’t come up with anything on these, I’m totally impressed – 5 STAR rating! – Kristin

I can’t wait to get my seedlings going. I’ll post pictures with an update in a few weeks when we GIVE ONE AWAY! Jim is generously giving away ONE BEAUTIFUL VIEW INDOOR WINDOW GARDEN later this month! Check out this gallery of other happy customer’s shelves and how they use them. Learn more about Beautiful Views on Facebook.

Thanks for reading,
Stephanie and Kristin

The Paleo Diet: Our 30-Day Update

When we began the diet just over a month ago, I had intended to post a weekly recap of what we ate and how we were doing, etc… Well, life and illness got in the way and I never got past the first week summary – my apologies.  But now I’m here to give you a re-cap of the last three weeks and share some of our favorite meals from the last few weeks.

My favorite part of the Paleo diet has been all of the new recipes I have tried. Before this, we were stuck in a rut of making the same things month after month and this diet has altered the way I cook almost everything. I definitely wouldn’t consider myself an unhealthy eater before, but being very aware of the ingredients in each and everything I put in my mouth has made me more aware of how many things I was eating before that weren’t necessarily beneficial to me.

We decided to give this diet a try to see if would help my husband’s disease: Ulcerative Colitis. I explain more in detail here. Over the last thirty days, I cannot say that he has seen any changes other than in his waistline. My already-slim-husband dropped 12 lbs over the last 30 days, and most of the weight dropped within the first two weeks. I was told that this could be due to inflammation and water-weight so it could have been a good sign that there was some healing going on inside of his body. Other than that, there has not been really any improvement. I have met a lot of great people over the last 30-days, mostly on Instagram, that have seen success from eating clean and time and time again, I am told that it typically takes more like 45-60 days before they noticed any changes. I’m hoping I can keep my husband on board that long.

I, myself, dropped 9 pounds on the diet but my weight-loss was gradual. I lost a couple of pounds a week and I feel great. I’m less bloated, my energy is up,  my skin is clearer and my pores even are smaller and I intend to keep eating this way.

Here are some of the things we ate over the last three weeks:

Spaghetti and Zucchini Noodles with homemade Italian sausage and a tomato sauce. This is one of my favorite meals from the diet.

Spaghetti and Zoodles - minnesotafromscratch.wordpress.com

For the sausage, I used Melissa Joulwan’s Italian sausage spice recipe. Her book, Well Fed has tons of other great recipes as well.  I love this spice recipe and followed it exactly.

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We had tons of whipped coconut cream. We ate it on pancakes, waffles, mixed with fruit, by the spoonful… yeah, we love this stuff.

Whipped Coconut Cream - www.minnesotafromscratch.wordpress.com

I experimented with Paleo – Pho. I used zucchini noodles as my rice noodles. I had a pho spice packet (paleo friendly) that I made broth with. Added poached eggs, kimchi, fish sauce, scallions and sriracha sauce. I had this for several meals.

Paleo Pho - www.minnesotafromscratch.wordpress.com

We made juice several times. Veggie juice in the afternoon and occasionally a fruit juice in the morning.

Juicing recipe - www.minnesotafromscratch.wordpress.com

Juicing - www.minnesotafromscratch.wordpress.com

Paleo friendly pizza… this was our Valentine’s Day dinner. The pizza crust displayed below was not good. It tasted fine alone, but once we added the pizza toppings, the flavors did not mesh well.

Paleo pizza - www.minnesotafromscratch.wordpress.com

A couple days later we made a cauliflower crust recipe and enjoyed it VERY much.

Paleo cauliflower pizza crust - minnesotafromscratch.wordpress.com

Paleo waffles, with strawberries we heated on the stove until they made a sauce and coconut whipped cream.

Paleo waffles - minnesotafromscratch.wordpress.com

Zucchini Brownies – These were a Super Bowl treat. Of course that is coconut whipped cream on top! YUM! These were great and very moist – more like a cake than a brownie though.

Brownies - minnesotafromscratch.wordpress.com

Chicken Bone Broth

Chicken bone broth - minnesotafromscratch.wordpress.com

Chicken bone broth with poached eggs and homemade kimchi

Bone broth with kimchee - minnesotafromscratch.wordpress.com

Eggs with sausage and homemade sauerkraut. We have eaten tons of eggs of the last 30 days. More eggs than I would have ever imagined I’d eat, but hey, I’m not even sick of them yet!

Spaghetti pie. There are lots of versions out there. It was decent, I’d make it again.

Spaghetti pie

Paleo deviled eggs – we added avocado, mustard powder, homemade pickles, paprika and some leftover guacamole. They were good!

Paleo deviled eggs - minnesotafromscratch.wordpress.com

Sweet potato fries – The following morning we chopped up the rest with some leftover steak and made a hash. We had fried eggs over the hash. Mmmm that was my favorite breakfast. Sorry, I forgot to take a pic!

Sweet potato fries

Smoothies with homemade yogurt, frozen organic fruit and bee pollen.

Smoothies with homemade yogurt - minnesotafromscratch.wordpress.com

We ate many more meals over the 30 days as well, but these were some of my favorites. I made a calendar and attached it to the refrigerator door. I marked down what we ate for each meal so I could remember. I found this helpful, especially for meal planning.

If you have any favorite Paleo meals, please share them with me in the comments section below!

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