Barbara Kingsolver would be proud

As the temperature hovered in the 60s yesterday, I couldn’t help but feel that autumn is quickly approaching. The cool weather inspired me to finally make some headway with food preservation for the winter. I’ve done a little bit of preserving thus far – mostly freezing blueberries and strawberries – but I haven’t been motivated to do much more than that. While I spent a lot of time last year canning, I haven’t been excited about doing any this year (perhaps because we still have lots of jam left) – yet.

This weekend, however, I tackled zucchini and yellow squash. While I’ve only grown one measly zucchini in my own garden so far this year (which I pureed with a can of black beans and made into Black Bean & Zucchini brownies*), I managed to score enough off of Freecycle to make me a happy camper. On Friday evening I picked up 17 lbs of zucchini and yellow squash from someone in a nearby town. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with it all when I got it, but I knew I would figure something out. In the meantime, the kids played with it. :)
(Please excuse the quality of these pics. They were taken w/ my iPhone.)

On Sunday I got to work. I shredded and froze 16 cups of zucchini to use during the winter for baking or adding to soups.

I also used 3 additional cups to make a triple batch of Barbara Kingsolver’s Zucchini Chocolate Chip Cookies (from the awesome book Animal Vegetable Miracle).

Then I used one huge yellow squash to make Kingsolver’s Disappearing Zucchini Orzo for dinner (I added spinach to it to give it a little more color and tomatoes as a garnish).

After all of that, I still have two large yellow squash remaining! I may chop and freeze them and throw them into a casserole at a later date.

*Below is the recipe for Black Bean Zucchini Brownies. The other two recipes (cookies and orzo) can be found on the Animal Vegetable Miracle web site. I was very skeptical of the idea of beans in my brownies at first, but now that I’ve made them, I can’t imagine going back to the traditional way. They are sooooo good (and, as Jody will tell you I like to argue, healthier!) Yum!

Black Bean Zucchini Brownies
1 box brownie mix (I prefer the kind that has chocolate chunks in it)
1 can black beans (do NOT drain)
1 small zucchini (Optional. You can make the brownies with just the beans and they will turn out just fine. If you want to add a little extra vegetable in though, add the zucchini.)

Puree entire can of black beans (including the liquid) in blender or food processor. Add the zucchini and puree until smooth. Add the beans and zucchini to the dry brownie mix. Mix well. Pour into greased pan and bake according to directions on the brownie box. You may have to bake a little longer than recommended on the box because there’s a fair amount of liquid added between the beans and zucchini. You could also add in some flour (maybe a 1/2 cup or so) to even it all out. When a toothpick or knife comes out of the brownies clean, they are done. Cool, cut and serve.

Jody, the kids, and I loved these brownies. And yes, I told them what was in them. Nobody cared. :)

Nearly 17 lbs of squash used or preserved in one way or another this weekend. I think Barbara Kingsolver would be proud.

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A 5-minute healthy lunch idea: tortilla pizzas

I’ve been buying Stacy’s Organic Tortillas in bulk lately and using them primarily for making sandwich wraps. The kids love the wraps and they worked well in their camp lunches this summer and in school lunches for Ava in kindergarten. I admit I enjoy them myself as well.

However, I may have found a new use for the tortillas that I love even more than the wraps. Thanks to my friend Melissa, I am now making 5-minute tortilla pizzas! I know I said they were for lunch, but I’ve made them for dinner too on those nights I need a quick meal.

5-minute tortilla pizzas

– Tortilla (white flour, wheat flour, whatever you desire)
– Cheese (shredded mozzarella, goat cheese, soy cheese, whatever you prefer)
– Sauce (store-bought tomato sauce is easy, but so is homemade canned sauce – provided you made it prior to this, pesto works well too)
– Optional: additional toppings. I would make sure they are already cooked and don’t add too many or it could affect the quality of the pizza. Also, because the crust is very thin (it’s a tortilla after all), you don’t want to weigh it down with an overload of toppings.

Lay a tortilla on a pizza pan, cookie sheet or baking stone. (I recommend only one tortilla per pan unless two fit well. They didn’t cook as evenly when I tried to put two on one cookie sheet.)
Spread a thin layer or sauce on tortilla. (Add additional toppings if desired. Remember, don’t add much or it will weigh down your tortilla too much.)
Sprinkle with cheese. (The kids can totally help out with making these too, though that might add a little extra time to the preparation.)

Put in oven under broiler until cheese melts. This only takes a few minutes so definitely keep an eye on it.

Remove from oven, let cool, slice and serve or save to pack in a school lunch the next day.

The kids love them and so do I. Easy, peasy and oh so cheesy! ;) Thanks again, Mel!

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Zucchini pasta & marinara – a raw food experience

Raw zucchini pasta with raw marinara sauce
Raw zucchini pasta with raw marinara sauce

This weekend my family and I went to our first slow food potluck. If you are unfamiliar with the phrase slow food, it’s “an idea, a way of living and a way of eating. It is a global, grassroots movement with thousands of members around the world that links the pleasure of food with a commitment to community and the environment.” The goal of our slow food potluck, organized by my friend Melissa and hosted by my friend Alison, was to use as many local ingredients as possible. In addition to local foods, we also had local drinks including wine, beer, mead, cider and a few flavors of homemade kombucha. I will write more about the potluck and delicious foods everyone brought later.

After reading about and seeing a picture of a Meatless Monday meal – zucchini pasta and marinara Leslie at Recycle Your Day made recently, I knew that was the dish I wanted to make for the potluck. She sent me the link to the YouTube video (produced by Larry Cook at The Beginner’s Guide to Natural Living) where she got the idea. It’s a very simple meal to make – using zucchini, tomatoes, red peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, basil, oregano, salt and pepper, as well as a vegetable peeler and a food processor – and it tastes delicious.

Because my garden isn’t producing much more than strawberries, cucumbers, and a few tomatoes at present, I went to the farmers’ market to get the bulk of my ingredients. I got the zucchini, tomatoes, and garlic there, had the spices at home, and got the peppers and sun-dried tomatoes at Vitamin Cottage.

I was happy to hear that everyone liked it, even those who were skeptical at first. Even my husband who’s not a big zucchini or tomato fan thought it was really good. (I’m holding him to that and planning on making it again!) :) What I found really interesting is that the pasta, which is just thinly sliced zucchini (I used my vegetable peeler to make ribbons), tastes so much like “real” pasta when you have a flavorful marinara all over it.

More on the rest of the slow foods potluck, including pics of all of the tasty dishes, later.

Related posts:

Have you written about eating local, slow foods or have a raw recipe to share? Include your link in the comments and I’ll link to you. :)

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How to dye Easter eggs naturally – a tutorial

So you want to dye your Easter eggs naturally – without chemicals and artificial colors? While it takes longer than the commercial egg dye kits you buy at the store, dyeing your eggs with natural foods is better for you and your child(ren)’s health, produces much more interesting colors and is, quite arguably, more fun!

Why dye with natural colors instead of artificial?
According to, “Many food colorings contain color additives such as Red No. 3 and Yellow No. 5, which, according to a 1983 study by the FDA, were found to cause tumors (Red No. 3) and hives (Yellow No. 5).” I wrote about the drawbacks of artificial colors a while back if you’d like to read more on the topic.

It is more time-consuming than using a store-bought conventional egg dye kit (and I highly recommend preparing the egg dye baths a few hours before you plan to dye the eggs with the kiddos), but it is healthier for your kids and the environment. “Dyeing eggs the natural way gives you the opportunity to spend more time with your family, teaching kids to use alternative project methods that are healthier for them and the environment.” I think it will be a lot of fun and a great family project.

To get started you will need:

  • Hard boiled eggs (preferably white eggs since they take on the dyes better than brown eggs)
  • Ingredients to make your dyes, which I will discuss in more detail below – As a guideline, use up to 4 cups for vegetable solids and 3–4 tablespoons for spices per quart. Mash up fruits.
  • White vinegar (2 Tablespoons for every quart of water)
  • Several pots and bowls
  • Optional: stickers, rubber bands, and crayons for decorating the eggs and making interesting patterns
  • Egg cartons for drying the dyed eggs

Natural egg dyes can be made from a variety of ingredients. Here’s a list of what I used last year along with comments on the colors that resulted.


  • 3 cans of beets in cranberry juice (instead of water) – produced a dark reddish hue


  • Frozen cherries – made a very light pink


  • 3 tablespoons of chili powder produced a nice reddish-orange color


  • 3 Tablespoons of tumeric produced a great yellow


  • A mix of spinach leaves, canned blueberries and their juice and a few tablespoons of tumeric produced a gorgeous earthy green color – I think it would work without the spinach leaves, but I happened to have some that were wilting so I threw them in.


  • 3/4 of a head of red cabbage (chopped) made a beautiful blue


  • 2 cans of blueberries and their juice made a grey-blueish color


  • Frozen cherries mixed with blueberries yielded a grey color (not the purple I was going for).

Last year I found a couple great web site with tips on “Natural Easter Egg Dyes” and Natural Dye from The natural dyes come from spices like paprika, tumeric and cumin; vegetables like spinach and red cabbage; fruit juices and even coffee. All of your dye ingredients can (and should) be composted after you are done.

On, there is a boil method (which produces darker results) and a cold-dip method, which is suggested for children or if you plan to eat the eggs, which is the method we used last year.

The two methods are:

Method 1—Hot
Place eggs in a single layer in a large, nonaluminum pan. Add the dyeing ingredient of your choice—it’s best not to mix until you are comfortable with experimenting. Cover the eggs and other dyeing “agent(s)” with one inch of water. Add 2 tablespoons of white vinegar per quart to help the color adhere to the egg, and bring to a boil. Next, simmer for 20–30 minutes or until the desired shade is achieved. If you cook the eggs longer than 15 minutes, they will become rather tough.

Method 2—Cold
The cold method is the same as the hot method with the following exception. Once ingredients have simmered 20–30 minutes (depending on desired shade), lift or strain the ingredients out of the water and allow the water to cool to room temperature though you may wish to try keeping the ingredients in the colored water to give the egg more texture as the dye will become concentrated in areas where the vegetable touches the egg. Submerge the eggs until the desired color is achieved. You may keep the eggs in the solution overnight as long as it is refrigerated.

The longer the egg stays in the dye, hot or cold, the deeper the hue will be. Using vinegar will also help the color deepen.

Definitely feel free to experiment and try out other foods and spices. For me, that was a big part of what made it so much fun, trying out different things to see what colors would come from them. For example, the dye from the spinach, tumeric, blueberry mix looked orange or brown, but the eggs came out green! And the red cabbage dye was purpley-pink, but the eggs came out blue. It was like a fun science experiment that the whole family could get involved in. Happy egg coloring! :)

The process of making the dyes:

The egg dyes on the stovetop Beets in cranberry juice
Red cabbage Tumeric

And the results:

Red and pink eggsYellow and orange eggs
Green eggsBlue eggs

Links to other people’s natural egg dyeing results:

If you dye your eggs naturally and blog about it, please leave me your link and I’ll add it to the list. :)

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Whole Wheat Honey Pizza Dough Recipe

I got this delicious whole wheat honey pizza dough recipe from my friend *Heather (A Mama’s Blog) a few months ago and have been enjoying it regularly ever since. It’s quick, easy and sooooo good. My family loves it too!

Whole Wheat Honey Pizza Dough

4 1/2 teaspoons yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water
4 tablespoons honey
2 to 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons cornmeal
1 tablespoon olive oil

Mix yeast, water and honey and let stand 5 min.

Combine flour through cornmeal in a large bowl.

Add liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients, stir up a bit, then add in olive oil. Knead until everything is well combined. If it seems a little dry, you can add a bit more water at this point, but I don’t generally need to.

Cover dough in a bowl with a towel in a warm place for 30 min.

Punch down and roll out dough, add toppings and bake @ 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until done.

Makes enough dough to cover one whole cookie sheet (which is what I do) or (probably) two round pizza pans. I usually end up with a little extra dough too that the kids like to roll into balls and eat or last night I used the extra dough to make a big cinnamon roll for the family to share for dessert.


* Recipe adapted from MyRecipes

Note: You should be able to use more wheat flour and less AP flour, but you might need to adjust other ingredients (like add more oil) to make the consistency work.

Peanut butter granola squares – recipe

Peanut butter granola squareThanks to tifi who tweeted this peanut butter granola recipe to me the other day. I made a few modifications to it (like cutting the amount of honey and sugar in half because it seemed like a lot, using whole wheat flour, and adding in flaxseed to it). The results were quite delicious. Here’s my version of the recipe:

Peanut Butter Granola Squares

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.


4 1/2 cups old fashioned oats
1 cup whole wheat flour (or another kind of flour if you prefer)
1/3 cup ground flaxseed
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt (optional)

1 cup butter*
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup peanut butter (preferably organic PB with no sugar added)

Combine oats through salt in a large bowl. Stir to combine.

Heat butter through peanut butter in a sauce pan until all are melted.  Add melted mixture to the dry ingredients in the bowl. Stir to make sure oats are completely covered.

Spread the mixture into a 13 x 9 baking pan. Bake at 325 degrees for about 30 minutes. Let cool and cut into squares. Enjoy!

* Farmer’s Daughter asked about cutting back on some of the butter and suggested applesauce as a replacement. I think this would probably work well and cut down on the fat. I plan to try it out the next time I make them. :)

Update 1/30/09: I made this recipe again, but this time used only 1/2 cup of butter and added 3/4 cup of mashed ripe bananas. This worked really well. It cut down the fat and the squares held together a lot better and were a lot less crumbly. And they are delicious!