Thursday, September 15, 2011

Fresh, chemical-free produce!

I love, love, love to get fresh, chemical-free produce - and it is even better when someone GIVES it to you!!

There is a wonderful older couple from church that has an incredible little "farm" out on 16-mile. They employ the help of a few grandkids to plant and harvest every year and sell to a few local places. He says he "doesn't like chemicals on my vegetables" and therefore chooses to deal with the bugs/pests. I LOVE IT!!!

First of all, my dream someday before I am too old is to have gardens (or a mini-farm) like his. I think they call it "homesteading" right? To be as self-sufficient as possible. Ahhh, to dream.  Anyway, here is a picture of what they gave us when I went out there today - a bag of onions, some pickled veggies and a jar of pickled okra, as well as 2 bushels of broccoli:

Now, I will probably spend the rest of my day blanching and freezing the broccoli! I love having a full freezer and pantry. I have not put up a huge amount this summer but hope to in the years to come.

***IMPORTANT NOTE: my new blog should be up and running soon! I will keep you posted on the progress and will have a special giveaway the first week that it is up and running. The giveaway is from a great new company that specializes in freeze-dried food to keep around for emergencies or everyday use! Very exciting! I am trying some samples in my cooking in the week to come and she plans to give something away as a part of a grand-opening on my new blog!!! Stay tuned!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Win a "Real Food E-Course"!

Enter to win a "real food e-course", worth a $150 value! Go HERE to read more about it. It is a class you can do on your own time and it will teach you LOTS about healthy living!!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

"Healthy" Chocolate Zucchini Cake!

Some of you know that my husband Bryan is a pastor. Well, on Tuesday's the Rockford Reformed Church staff have their staff meeting and have started the tradition of eating lunch together. Today he came home and said one of the staff members had brought a Chocolate Zucchini Cake that was pretty amazing.

Being the competitive person I am (AND suddenly having a craving for a Chocolate Zucchini Cake) I set out to find a good recipe to try to make a GREAT chocolate zucchini cake. First, I should say that my passion is real, healthy food and COOKING, not baking. So, this was a little out of the ordinary for me. I googled "chocolate zucchini cake" and eventually came to this recipe below. The pictures of it on the "Gimme some oven" blog were enough to convince me I needed to make this one work, even though I was out of whole wheat flour.

*You can find the recipe in its original entirety by clicking HERE

I will list the actual recipe below so you can see it all in one place, BUT you should know I made a few tweaks to it after finding out we had no more whole wheat grain (we have our own flour mill). Here is what I changed, just in case you find yourself in the same I-am-out-of-whole-wheat predicament that I was in:

For the cake part (I also used a 9x13 pan instead of the bundt pan):
*I used 2 1/2 cups of freshly ground spelt flour instead of whole wheat
Since I have learned that spelt flour absorbs more liquid that whole wheat flour and since it is a bit more dense and therefore doesn't rise as well, I also:
* used sucanat instead of brown sugar
* used a little bit more than 1/2 cup of buttermilk (somewhere between 1/2 and 3/4 cup)
* used 1 HEAPING tsp of baking soda as well as 1 HEAPING tsp of baking powder (instead of just 1 regular tsp of each)

For the frosting/glaze part:
I used 8oz of semi-sweet chocolate chips
I used the ingredients she has listed EXCEPT for the honey as it was sweet enough

Here's a picture of the finished product and the recipe below it. Instead of the olive oil, next time I make it I think I will try coconut oil in its place (sorry for the bad picture, I only had my cell phone handy):

The below is copied from:
Cake Ingredients:
  • 2 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt
  • 1 cup lightly packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 cups shredded zucchini
  • 1 cup semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips
Chocolate Glaze Ingredients:
  • 8 ounces dark or semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
  • 6 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 2 Tbsp. milk
  • 1 Tbsp. honey
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
To Make Cake:
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease and flour a bundt pan, and set aside.
In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, and sea salt.
In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, granulated sugar, and olive oil.  Add the buttermilk, eggs, and vanilla. Stir in the zucchini. Add the dry ingredients, stirring until they are just incorporated and evenly moistened. Fold in the chocolate chips.
Transfer the batter to the prepared bundt pan, and bake the cake for about 40-45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean (or with just a few wet crumbs). Let the cake cool in the pan for about 10 – 15 minutes. Then, invert the cake onto wire rack to cool completely. Top with the chocolate glaze, or dust with powdered sugar before serving.
To Make Chocolate Glaze:
In a small saucepan, melt the chocolate and butter together over medium low heat, stirring continually. Remove from heat, then stir in milk, honey and vanilla. Let cool 1-2 minutes, then serve warm.
Ali’s Tip: Be sure not to drain/strain the moisture out of the zucchini for this recipe!  Many baking recipes have you try and take out the zucchini’s moisture before add it in with other ingredients, but cakes rely on it (in place of extra oil) to keep the cake nice and moist.  :)

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Need your help!

I need your help!!! I am looking for a name for my new, upcoming blog (which may include a new name/handle for myself). My blog's main focus will be on REAL FOOD! I will talk about what makes something REAL FOOD, where to get it, how to cook and eat it. Also thrown in will be some education surrounding REAL food and why it is best for you (that's where the RN part of me will come shining through). 

I want something catchy but not cheesy......thoughts so far are "Real Food Eater", "Eating Real Food", "Real food, real health" etc. But, those aren't super creative, so I am looking for your help! Any and all suggestions are welcome!!!


Thursday, September 1, 2011

2 sources to help you eat BETTER quality foods!!!

FIRST: I am cautiously excited!!!! I just learned today of a new store that is going to be "opening" online in early October. It is called the Green PolkaDot Box!  They are committed to offering VERY affordable (up to 60% off the prices in healthfood stores) ORGANIC and non-GMO foods. Click on GMO if you don't know what GMO foods are! Eventually, they are also planning on providing ORGANIC produce from the U.S.! They plan at this point to only get organic produce from U.S. farms that are sustainable!!!

Anyway, this store is almost ready to get off the ground and they are offering FREE memberships. (By the way, this is not an MLM-type company or anything - it is just like a Costco or Sam's Club where you have a yearly membership - the only difference is that they are an online store). Typically, their membership is going to be $50, but they are offering FREE memberships currently for the first year as they get off the ground. They have other membership options available where you can earn a % of your shopping total back in rewards points, plus a "big-money" membership called a "Founding Trust Membership" to get in on the ground floor as a "founder". To get any of the memberships, including the FREE one, you do have to watch a 35 minute informational video about their store. I just forwarded it through the big-money membership part, so it didn't take nearly that long. After that, you can set up your free membership and when their store opens, you will be among the first to be able to shop with them!

I am SUPER, DUPER excited about it. Even though I have put together a buying club - a group of families that are ordering together from some natural food wholesalers to get better prices - there are still things that we haven't been able to get from the sources we have. I think this will fill in the gaps. PLUS, this is a great thing for your family to shop from! There are NO minimums, no required ordering, but they DO give you FREE shipping on orders of $150 or more (and if it is under $150, it is just a flat rate of $9.95, which seems very reasonable). They also have options if you have special dietary needs (gluten-free, etc) so you can shop for ONLY those products!

Click HERE to go to the site and learn more! I really wish I had thought of this idea - it is SO brilliant and exciting!!!

SECOND: I have also discovered great website called "Cooking Traditional Foods" where you can sign up for a FREE e-course on making changes to how you eat!!! Click HERE to go to it! I signed up for the newsletters even though we've changed our food sources to most of these items. It is great info to have and encourages you to make slow, small changes to eat healthier, more natural, traditional, whole, high-nutrient foods! I know over the years as I have made these changes in our home, we have found that we all feel better, have more energy and RARELY get sick. I would love to help you along the way too!!!