Sunday, November 20, 2011

Beans, Beans...

My soil is getting a little tired after 3 years of constant gardening. I decided to rest one side of my garden this season and will be resting the other half in the spring.  I planted a few cabbages, greens, and broccoli, but since they take up so much room, I planted a lot less of those than I have the last 2 years. Between sales on seeds and the seed of the month club I joined, I had a ton of bean seeds.  This fall, we planted empress beans, pencil pod wax beans, royalty purple pod beans, and dragon tongue beans.  After getting off to a rough start with some really warm weather, followed by a ton of rain, then bugs, the beans are doing quite well. I had to apply neem a few times to get rid of the bugs, but they seem to have moved onto other plants. This year, I will finally have beans ready to be harvested on Thanksgiving! Since growing the beans has been a family affair this year, we're all pretty excited about the bean harvest.

Empress and Royalty Purple Pod Beans in my small garden

Royalty Purple Pod Beans (they turn green when cooked)

Empress Beans

Our first harvest

My son has an Earthbox.  He is growing 8 pencil pod wax bean plants and 8 dragon tongue bean plants. The dragon tongue beans are pole beans, so we added a few stakes to the center of the box. We've harvested a few pencil pod wax beans. The dragon tongue beans can be harvested as a snap bean or dry bean. We've decided to be patient and let them turn into dry beans. 

My son's Earthbox with 16 bean plants.

Pencil pod wax beans.

Dragon tongue beans

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

My Favorite Snack

I've been exercising quite a bit lately and have even added weights to my workout.  I wanted to find a good high-protein snack to have a few times a week.  This snack was inspired by several Facebook friends who recommended Greek yogurt with honey.  As a breakfast, this is very filling and works well after a workout since the potassium from the bananas helps keep away muscle cramps.  I was definitely afraid of plain Greek yogurt at first since I've been a flavored yogurt girl for as long as I can remember.  Once I added the honey and granola, I didn't notice a big difference from the vanilla. The recipe is pretty simple: 1 cup of plain Greek yogurt, 2 tablespoons granola, 1 teaspoon honey, and 1 sliced banana.  It's also really good with crunch peanut butter, banana, and honey!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Acorn Squash Soup

After quite a bit of debate (with myself), I decided to include chicken broth in my Meatless Monday recipes. Most of my soup recipes call for chicken broth and not all of them work well with vegetable broth.  I realized that if I already had the chicken bones sitting around in my freezer, it was keeping with the healthy/inexpensive/less wasteful theme of Meatless Monday.
My friend Kayla sent me this recipe.  I love getting recipes from friends...especially friends who are also busy moms! I made this as a lunch for my husband and I last week. We both loved it.  I didn't have any heavy cream in the house, so I used milk.  I think I'll use cream next time, just to make a thicker soup.  You could use any type of squash you wanted for this soup. I used golden acorn squash because it is easier to cut than butternut squash.
Hopefully I'll have more recipes to post this week.  Still getting used to blogging when I don't have both children napping at the same time!

Acorn Squash Soup
2 acorn or 1 butternut squash
2 cloves garlic
2 cups heavy cream
2 cups chicken broth
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1) Cut the squash into fourths, and scoop out the seeds. Place the squash in a microwaveable bowl and top the squash with butter.
2) Cook on high until squash is tender (it took about 8 minutes for my acorn squash). Scoop the squash out of the skin.
3) While squash is cooking, heat a small skillet over medium heat. Add the whole garlic cloves, cooking until brown on both sides.  When the garlic is done, use a garlic press to mince the garlic.
 4) In a large saucepan, combine squash, roasted garlic, chicken broth, heavy cream, and red pepper flakes.
5) Heat over medium heat until it comes just to a boil.
6) Turn off heat and blend well. I used an immersion blender, but you could use a traditional blender or food processor.
7) Add salt and pepper, to taste.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Chicken Strips

Chicken Strips Tossed in Buffalo Sauce

My kids love chicken nuggets. I prefer to give them the chicken tenders that are whole pieces of chicken, but I haven't found affordable frozen ones that both kids like. I decided to tweak my favorite chicken strip recipe to make it "crunchier" like the nuggets my kids like, and added panko bread crumbs.  I've been hungry for buffalo wings lately, but haven't felt like spending the money on a night out for wings.  I rolled some of the chicken strips in buffalo sauce and made boneless wings for my husband and I. It was definitely cheaper than going out (or buying frozen chicken strips). I even bought organic/free range chicken breasts for the meal. The cost for the chicken and oven fries was under $2 per person (I already had the blue cheese and buffalo sauce in the fridge).  You can't do that at a restaurant. I didn't toss the strips for my kids in sauce.  My son chose to dip his in some homemade apple butter, and my daughter ate hers "naked."

Chicken Strips
serves 4
Peanut oil, for frying
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut to desired size (can also use chicken breast tenderloins)
1 cup flour
2 eggs, beaten
2 cups panko bread crumbs
peanut oil
dipping sauces (buffalo, honey mustard, bbq, etc.)

1) Fill a large skillet with 1/2 inch of peanut oil. I used 2 skillets so I didn't have to fry multiple batches. Heat over medium heat for 5 minutes.
2) While oil is heating. Set out 3 bowls for breading the chicken. Fill one with flour, one with egg, and one with the panko bread crumbs. 
3) Season chicken strips with salt and pepper and dredge each chicken strip in flour. Dip in egg, then coat with panko. Add to hot oil.
4) Fry each chicken strip for 4 minutes. Turn and fry 4 more minutes. If chicken strips are not browned, fry for 2 minutes more on each side. 
5) Serve with your favorite dipping sauce