Enter to Win: FREE One Week CSA Full Share at George Hall Farm

Today was the official start of our CSA season and we’re so excited to be getting our favorite summer vegetables from George Hall Farm in Simsbury, CT. The idea of fresh veggies all summer long is so exciting to me that I’m giving away a FREE full share pick up on June 26!

To enter for a chance to win a full share pick up (June 26 only) please enter using the form below. Everyone can enter one time and all entries must be received by Thursday, June 21 at 8 p.m. EST.
The winner MUST be available to pick up their share at the farm (180 Old Farms Rd, Simsbury, CT 06070) on Tuesday, June 26 between 2 and 6 p.m. The winner will be notified via email by Friday, June 22 at 8 p.m.

We’ve been signing up with the Hall family’s CSA for four years now and while it’s not the closest farm proximity wise to our house, it is the farm I hold closest to my heart.

I not only love the fruits and veggies we get, but I love the family that runs the farm, the programming they offer throughout the season (they taught me how to ferment my own foods!), and while picking up we always have the opportunity to visit some of the animals or cut some fresh flowers.

If you haven’t signed up for a CSA share this year, it’s not too late to sign up with George Hall Farm. No, they’re not paying me to advertise. I just truly love their farm!

With the potty training madness in full swing, I opted to pick up our family’s share solo this week after some personal training sessions and before daycare pick up, but I can’t wait to visit with the girls soon.

Here’s a few photos from the first pick up:

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Enter to win one full share pick up (on Tuesday, June 26 between 2 and 6 p.m.) here:

 

Planning and Planting a Garden

Spring is in full swing and we’re finally planting our garden for the season. While we plant window boxes and an herb garden with everything from thyme, oregano, basil, lemon balm, and more, it’s our vegetable garden that takes the most work and today I’m sharing a big post about our 2018 garden and how we come up with what we plant.

We have a 16’x16′ raised garden bed that we built five years ago. Initially we used pallets to create the border, but upgraded to stones last year when the pallets were too rotten/stopped working as a border. After buying seeds our first year and failing miserably, we now buy our veggies from a local nursery who is only open from the end of April to the first or second week of June! They kill it, their plants are the best around, and their veggies are in line with our organic preferences.

To say we’ve had our fair share of trials and errors would be an understatement. And every year, we know something may do well and another thing will do poorly. Sometimes it’s our fault, and other times it’s just nature–too much or too little rain, cooler temps, or something else. Who knows! But, that’s gardening.

Growing our own veggies is essential in our home and helps us save a ton of money during the New England growing season. I’ll never forget a woman once remarked at how many vegetables were on the belt at the grocery store when I was checking out. Yes, vegetables have a leading role on our dinner plates most nights. But eating so many organic vegetables can be very expensive when we’re buying them at the grocery store year round.

I have fond memories of picking veggies in my grandparents’ garden growing up and eating them after wiping any dirt on my shirt. And Chris’s parents still grow a huge garden every year. So, starting our own garden–while a lot of work–isnatural. This means on top of participating in a local CSA where we get a full share, this year marks our 5th garden season and thankfully we have a pretty great plan. But how did we come up with this plan?

When planning our garden and picking what we’ll grow, we consider the following:

  • What do we get a ton of in our local CSA share? And/or, what do they grow better than we do (either because they just do or they may have more space for a particular veggie)? We get a lot of all different vegetables from our local farm, some of which includes broccoli, cabbage, corn, and garlic. So we choose to fill our garden with other produce we may not get as much of in our weekly farm pick-up. Plus, they’re way better at growing some of these veggies than me. Or something like corn or potatoes would take up a lot of space that we can better use to grow something different.
  • What can I buy for less money at the grocery store? I can literally buy 10 pounds of carrots for $10. So, I save the space carrots could take up in our garden and opt to buy them from the grocery store (plus we get some of the best carrots in our CSA share too!)
  • What can I grow and freeze? We eat as organic as possible in our home, but year round, some organic veggies are very expensive. So, we plant 20 pepper plants. I opt to grow a ton of our own and freeze them either on their own to cook with later, or already cooked into recipes (who wants chili? My freezer is often full of it by football season in the fall!). We plant tons of zucchini for the same reason. Conventional zucchini is laden with pesticides (hello, dirty dozen item!) and organic zucchini is expensive, so we plant 6 plants and harvest all we can–either freezing it as is, or cooking it.
  • What does our family really like to eat? Or not? Last year Isla loved picking fresh cherry tomatoes from the garden, so I made sure I picked out 3 cherry tomato plants this year. I also got 3 larger sized tomato plants for salads, making sauce, etc. In the past we grew larger cucumbers, but I opted for the smaller pickling size this year because we love homemade pickles, and they’re easier for the girls to eat when reaching for a fresh snack.

Once you’ve figured our what you want to grow, it takes some practice to lay it all out and make everything fit. Truthfully, we overfill our garden. But I’ve never regreted it! We end up with so much of everything and nothing tastes better than fresh vegetables, literally picked minutes before dinner. We or the ducks eat it so I never feel wasteful. Eventually, I’d love to tackle growing things like sweet potatoes and onions. But for now, I think we have another great garden to look forward to!

Here’s what we put in our garden, and how we lay it out:

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We normally need two trips to buy everything we need, but for about $150 we get all the veggies, herbs, and flowers we’ll need for the year. Seriously, you can’t beat that!

The first time I went solo with the girls and tandem wore them for the first time. My selfie attempt was a fail, but thankfully our trip was a success. So many people commented that I was a super mom, but honestly I just felt like a mom doing what she had to do. I was just so happy the girls behaved!

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The second time we went, Chris joined and it was definitely easier. We both wore a baby.

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Side note: Does anyone else’s toddler scoff at the camera? This girl does not like having her picture taken lately!

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And both times we bribed Isla with a donut treat if she behaved. Yes, I’m definitely not above bribery. With an almost 2 year old, it works. Our favorite donut shop is down the road from the nursery. Who doesn’t love an Elmo donut?

Once we have our veggies, they typically hang around until we have the time to plant them. This year we really waited to make sure the weather wouldn’t be freezing again.

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plants

Here’s a before photo of the garden, full of weeds (plus a cameo by a couple of our ducks):

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And an after. We still have to place newspaper and shredded straw to block weeds, but we can’t wait until we can start harvesting some of these veggies in a few more weeks!

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Tell me, do you have a garden? What do you plant? Happy spring all!

Healthy Asian Ramen with Asparagus

Does anyone else love Asian food, but not love all the calories and salt that often come with it? Today, I’m bringing you a quick, easy, versatile Asian dish (it’s even vegan friendly!) that will make good use of a spring vegetable currently on sale at seemingly every grocery store–asparagus!

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Asparagus is a super veggie in my book. It’s full of vitamins and minerals like A, C, E, and K, plus chromium. It contains glutathione, a powerful compound which helps eliminate free radicals in the body and break down carcinogens. Among other pros, asparagus is a natural diuretic, so instead of storing water after eating this dish (sorry General Tso chicken!), you should find yourself losing excess water weight. Score!

ramen

This dish is packed with protein from not only ground meat or seitan, but from millet and brown rice ramen noodles. These noodles are an awesome Costco find and now a regular staple in our pantry as long as Costco carries them. They’re ready in less than 10 minutes and one serving contains 4 grams of protein and just 130 calories. Even if you leave the meat or seitan out of this recipe, you can create a meal of complete protein by combining these noodles with the veggies. I used ground beef when I made the recipe this time, but however you prepare your meal, I’m sure you’ll love the gingery, saucy flavor of this healthy spring dish.

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Healthy Asian Ramen with Asparagus

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 1 lb ground beef, pork, turkey, or seitan 
  • 1/2 cup diced yellow onion
  • 4 cloves garlic, diced and divided
  • 1 bunch asparagus, chopped
  • 1.5 tbsp coconut aminos
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp rice vinegar
  • 3 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp Sambal oelek (ground fresh chili paste) or siracha sauce–someimes I add more for more heat
  • 3 pads (6 servings) of millet and brown rice ramen
  • sesame seeds, for garnish (optional)

Directions

  1. Heat a skillet to medium and brown your protein of choice. Remove from pan and set aside when done.
  2. Leaving a small amount of fat in the pan (or adding 1 tsp of cooking oil of your choice) add the diced onion, half the garlic, chopped asparagus and cook until tender, or about 6-8 minutes.
  3. While the veggies are cooking, bring a pot of 6 cups of water to a boil. Cook the ramen according to the instructions on the package.
  4. When the vegetables are cooked, add your protein back to the skillet plus the remaining garlic, along with the rest of your ingredients (coconut aminos through the chili paste/siracha). Stir to combine and let cook for about 2 minutes.
  5. Drain your noodles and combine all the ingredients in a bowl or layer on your plate. Garnish with sesame seeds and enjoy!

If you try this recipe, let me know what you think in the comments below. Additionally, what’s your favorite way to eat asparagus, or do you have another favorite spring vegetable? 

 

 

What I Ate Wednesday – Week 4

This week’s eating has been full of more “cheating” than normal. I honestly don’t like to consider any of my eating to be cheating because then it’s potentially associated with guilt or shame. And what we eat shouldn’t make us feel guilty. Or shameful. But looking back at my week of food, I have no problem being aware of what I’m eating and I’m highly aware of the choices I made and that many of them were less than normal.

Some of these choices included donuts from our favorite local donut shop (seriously one of my favorite foods), a couple of beers and glasses of wine, a super creamy seafood bisque, a slice of pepperoni pizza, and french fries (x2), and a Carvel ice cream cone (ice cream = my all time favorite food). I’ll only justify these choices by reminding myself I don’t normally eat like this, I can actually remember the treats I had because they were delicious and I enjoyed them because they are treats, and most of my meals have still been very healthy so I’m not totally off the tracks!

Making most of our own meals at home helps ensure that health factor. Earlier this week I was reminded of why I make so many meals vs. going out to eat or ordering take out.

Chris and I enjoyed an amazing and rare date day on Monday (thanks Grammy and Grandpa). We slipped and slid our way through an awesome hike in the snow where we saw four deer and took in a gorgeous view.

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Then, post hike we scarfed down a kid free meal at a local pub. We opted to sit at the bar since we can’t do that with kids in tow. We shared that bisque, some delicious seasoned french fries, some roasted brussels sprouts with bacon, and a turducken sandwich. Holy yum!

While I don’t have any photos of our food because we were too excited to dig into everything and we were actually just trying to enjoy our time together, I did take a quick, blurry selfie of the two of us enjoying some tasty craft beers.

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We both stuffed ourselves silly. Like to the point where we both had stomachaches as we walked out of the bar. Honestly, I don’t think we even ate so much on Thanksgiving! Probably because we were with our kids that day and Isla kept us busy chasing her around the house. But seriously, the next day it’s like I had a food hangover. While I think we definitely made the most of our outing, I won’t be eating so much in one sitting again for a long time.

Eating out wasn’t the only place I went buckwild recently. Does anyone else sometimes buy way too much at the grocery store? While I normally make a list and stick to it, last week I bought way more than we could eat in one week. I needed to restock our cabinet with things like coconut and olive oil, pastas, beans, and tomatoes, but I also bought a surplus of veggies and meat. I may have gone grocery shopping before eating lunch…

So this week I’m scraping together meals with whatever is left over in our pantry, fridge, and freezer. Here’s a quick peek at what’s coming out of our kitchen this week.

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Who can resist an Elmo donut? Not our 19 month old! Or her mom. 
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Turkey burgers in the grass with some krinkle cut fries and vino
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Quinoa “rice” and beans

Breakfasts: 

  • Egg and Cheese Quesadillas
  • Protein Waffles
  • Scrambled Eggs with Veggies and Toast
  • Steel Cut Oatmeal

Lunches/Dinners: 

  • Quinoa “Rice” and Beans
  • Turkey Burgers (in the grass)
  • Whole Wheat Pasta with Chicken Sausage
  • Pan Fried Pork Chops
  • Veggie Lasagna (from the freezer)
  • Tuna Sandwiches
  • Chicken Soup

Sides: 

  • Blistered Peppers and Onions
  • French Fries
  • Peas
  • Roasted Broccoli with Garlic and Crushed Red Pepper
  • Baked Sweet Potatoes
  • Carrot and Celery Sticks

What are you eating this week? Share in the comments below. 

What I Ate Wednesday – Week 3

Happy Valentine’s Day all! As I summed up yesterday, we enjoyed a day full of love-themed festivities in our home today. While we enjoyed some outdoor time (it was finally warm enough to take the littlest peanut outside), we also finished some Valentine’s for Isla’s classmates at daycare and enjoyed dipping strawberries. Then we finished our day with a “red” dinner of red lentil pasta with red sauce, plus salad.

The last few weeks have brought full on teething back for Isla and feeding her has been a struggle. While thankfully her spirits have been great, these two year old molars are no joke and food she normally loves have been met with total disdain. I’m operating by the “fed is best,” motto and when worst comes to worst I’m packing her with high calorie foods and smoothies. This includes foods like beans, bananas, nut butters, avocado, oats, chia, whole milk yogurt, etc.

Meal planning has been more simple with the hope that she will eat something (really, anything!) at all. I’m barely using any recipes this week, opting instead for things like rotisserie chicken and bagged salad, and other go-to’s like eggs and chicken sausage.

Here are some photos of what we’ve been eating this week, followed by a comprehensive list of the meals gone by and to come.

aussie-bites
A high calorie snack option this week includes these Aussie Bites from Costco. One cookie = 130 calories and lots of good for you ingredients.
bagged-salad
Bagged salad for the win!
black-bean-brownies
Isla loved making (and eating) these Black Bean Brownies
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In a pinch for time one evening, I threw together some pasta with tons of veggies and sauteed chicken sausage
rotisserie-chicken-salad
One of the easiest meals around here is bagged salad with rotisserie chicken or beans. This is especially great on a night when I threw together a mash up of “toddler” foods or a smoothie for Isla’s dinner.
salmon-leftovers
Here’s some leftover salmon from last week, with green beans and mashed potatoes. This ginger kombucha on the side is $4.50 off at Costco through this weekend!
trader-joes-almonds
One of my naptime treats has been these almonds from Trader Joe’s. These have been and probably will always be one of my favorite TJ’s items.

Breakfasts: 

 

 

Lunches/Dinners: 

  • Pasta with Veggies and Mild Italian Chicken Sausage
  • Rotisserie Chicken
  • Red Lentil Pasta with Tomato Basil Sauce
  • Quinoa Fried “Rice”
  • Roasted Turkey and Mozzarella Open Face Sandwiches with Kale, Tomato, and Black Fig Balsamic Vinegar
  • Eggs with Chicken Sausage

Sides: 

  • Taylor Farms Mediterranean Crunch Chop Salad
  • Mashed Potatoes
  • Green Beans with Garlic
  • Sticky Sesame Cauliflower
  • Roasted Beets and Carrots
  • Homefries
  • Fruit Salad

What are you eating this week? Share in the comments below.

Chocolate Covered Strawberry Protein Muffins

I can’t believe I’m even saying this. Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, and I’m pretty excited. And I would say before last 2016, I always felt the complete opposite about Valentine’s Day.

Rewind that paragraph. Chris and I are high school sweethearts. We’ve been together a whopping 16 years this year. That’s officially more than half my life (holy crap!) But, while I love love, until last year I was never in love with Valentine’s Day. A day that’s supposed to be the best day of the year to celebrate love was a day that often felt fake. The giant balloons, overpriced cards, overcrowded restaurants, and overabundance of pink and red were not my favorites. But suddenly, I had a change of heart (har har).

So, what happened? Um, yeah–I had a baby. Like with many things, motherhood completely shifted my mindset and now I’m pretty  pumped for Valentine’s Day.

I know I’m not alone in saying Valentine’s Day always felt like a hallmark holiday. Maybe you still think it does. Along with the list above, it seemed trite to celebrate love on a day everyone else does. But then, last year, for Isla’s first Valentine’s Day my mindset shifted. I was suddenly so excited to have a day to shine a spotlight on the best emotion in the world: love!

I realized I needed to shift my attitude about Valentine’s Day and change how we celebrate the holiday. When I think about the traditions we’re starting in our family surrounding this holiday, it’s less cookie cutter and more about teaching our children what love means in our family.

Yes, our babies love balloons so I’m sure we’ll have some of those. And they will inevitably get excited about the silly tchotchkes for years to come too, but more than anything Valentine’s Day is a special day to highlight how we show each other how we love.

Isla’s personality has really bloomed as she’s grown in her short 19 months of life and I always tell her, “I love how much love is in your heart.” Love is a emotion she has been inherently gifted and she shares it so freely everywhere we go. She loves to blow kisses and give hugs. To help her put words to not only how she feels when she loves, but to many of the other feelings she’s experiencing (terrible 2’s are around the corner, right?) we have been reading this fun book about called In My Heart: A Book of Feelings by Jo Witek.

I’m excited to see how Josie’s personality grows and how she displays her love. This week we are of course doing lots of Valentine’s Day themed arts and crafts and cooking and baking special treats.

Like painting and tracing hearts. Coloring and pom pom crafts. Making chocolate covered strawberries. And making muffins!

Last week I gave you a heads up about a Valentine’s Day inspired muffin recipe I’ve been crafting and I’m happy to share it with you today! This is a recipe  inspired by a treat everyone in our house loves: chocolate covered strawberries. Oh em gee. Yum!

While we’ll be making actual chocolate covered strawberries tomorrow as a fun and festive activity (and dessert for after dinner), I wanted to make a muffin recipe using my favorite protein pancake mix too. Seriously, you would think Kodiak Cakes sponsors my blog, but no. I just love their product and am constantly coming up with new recipes. I have to keep sharing them with you. Sorry, not sorry.

Muffins are one of the easiest breakfasts. I can plop one on a plate for our toddler. Chris can toast one and pair it with a fried egg and fruit. And I can grab one on my way out the door or while sprinting around the house.

This recipe uses strawberries and chocolate chips and just a few other simple ingredients. And if anyone wants to attempt this recipe with some regular flour and baking powder, you should let me know how it goes. Tomorrow I think we might all sit down and take a few moments together to enjoy one of these topped in whipped cream and sprinkles.

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Chocolate Covered Strawberry Protein Muffins

  • Servings: 12
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 2 cups Kodiak Cake Power Cakes pancake mix
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/3 cup plain whole milk yogurt
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup slightly thawed and chopped frozen strawberries (or fresh)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350° Fahrenheit. Prepare your muffin tins like normal. Combine all ingredients except strawberries and chocolate chips in a large bowl. Stir to combine.
  2. Gently fold in strawberries and chocolate chips.
  3. Pour into muffin tins*.
  4. Bake at 350° for 18-22 minutes, or until the edges of the muffins are golden brown. Let cool for 10 minutes and then remove from the pan. Let finish cooling and enoy!

*I love to use a 1/3 cup measuring cup to make the perfect sized muffins.

How do you feel about Valentine’s Day? What are your traditions? Share in the comments below. 

What I Ate Wednesday – Week 2

It’s another busy week, but that’s not keeping us from eating healthy around here. Is it just me, or does everyone else find themselves restocking the pantry this time of year? I find I need to refill things like sugar, oils, cereals, oats, and a whole lot more this time of year. Why is that?

Perhaps it’s because I’m not bolstering our menu with quite as many veggies. We’re of course still eating a lot of vegetables, but we seriously eat a ton more in the warmer weather months. We work more into what we bake, snack on, etc.

Restocking the pantry often leads t a trip to Trader Joe’s. Thankfully (according to my husband and our bank account) we don’t live super close to one. But that means I load up when I make it there! This week’s menu features one of our favorite family treats: their ravioli. Here’s everything else I’ve been or will be whipping up in our kitchen this week!

ravioli
Butternut Squash and Arugula Ravioli (thanks Trader Joe’s)
stuffed-peppers-2
Black Bean, Quinoa, and Sweet Potato Stuffed Bell Peppers
beets-trader-joes
I don’t go to Trader Joe’s often, but I love these beets!
breakfast-quesadilla
I find I need to cram in some serious calories when before starting a day on the road to see clients. This carb and protein loaded breakfast is perfect. 

Breakfasts:

  • Scrambled Eggs
  • Breakfast Quesadilla (tortilla, scrambled egg, leftover potatoes, and cheddar cheese)
  • Steel Cut Oatmeal (with raisins, cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, and maple syrup)
  • Yogurt with Granola

Lunches/Dinners:

Sides: 

  • Roasted Brussel Sprouts and Butternut Squash
  • Sliced Fruit
  • Roasted Potatoes
  • Roasted Cauliflower
  • Sauteed Green Beans
  • Baked Sweet Potatoes

Side note: I’m working on a fun Valentine’s Day inspired muffin recipe. I can’t wait to share it with all of you next week! Stay tuned!

What are you cooking or baking this week? Or what are you restocking in your kitchen? Share in the comments below.