If you follow my blog posts, you already know a lot about me, my family and my crazy life. Something that you may not know about me though - I'm a gardener want a be. I dream about transforming my yard into a beautiful Italian garden with prolific fruit trees, lush plants, beautiful flowers and amazing water features. A tranquil place where I can sit down with a good book and drink giant cups of herbal tea.
There are just a few obstacles standing in my way of creating my dream garden. For starters my yard is absolutely chock full of rocks. Mixed with our Georgia red clay, our ground more closely resembles cement than a nutrient rich soil ideal for planting. I also possess zero pruning ability but that doesn't stop me from going all Edward Scissor Hands on my plants. We also don't have the Mediterranean climate required to grow olive groves and grape vines. It's truly amazing that any of my plants survive both me and the terrible planting conditions.
My gardening has been especially frustrating this summer because I was forced to uproot and move close to 100 plants in order to save them from our septic catastrophe. Needless to say, maintaining the plants in spite of the complete demolition of our yard proved to be quite a challenge. I would hate to even add up the number of hours that I spent hand watering all of my precious plants.
I am happy to report that after 3 months of living without any grass or irrigation system, we now have new sod and working sprinklers! Woohoo. I never thought I'd be so happy have grass that needs to be mowed.
I was so preoccupied with all of my newly transplanted plants this year that my garden had to take a back seat. I put in a watermelon plant, a cucumber and a couple of pepper but that was it for my vegetables (and fruit) this year. In years past, I've also planted a couple of tomato plants, an eggplant and a few more herbs to my summer garden. I decided that sacrificing a few vegetables to spend more time taking care of my plants this summer was worth it. I've learned to shop the farmers markets for my fresh produce this summer which has been a great experience. The radishes, the cilantro, the corn and the cherry tomatoes for my Black Bean Tostadas all came from my local farmers market and I've got to say - they were amazing.
Black Bean Tostadas
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup thinly sliced radishes
1 red onion, sliced into 1/2" rings
1 1/2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 ears, corn
1 1/2 cups refried black beans
6 1/2 Tablespoons salsa
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 cups spring mix
8 ounce bag haricots verts, cooked
1 cup cherry tomatoes
8 tostada shells
1/2 ripe avocado, sliced
2.5 package plantain strips
1/2 chopped fresh cilantro
Top with sliced avocado, plantain strips and 1 T. cilantro.
Hey local friends, where are you favorite farmers markets close to Monroe, Georgia? I love the Monroe farmers market but I'm looking for followers who can give me feedback on the markets in Grayson, Lawrenceville or Loganville. If you have a favorite between Atlanta and Athens, send me a comment so I can check it out.
Prior to last week, I never even considered plopping a giant dessert down in the middle of the kitchen table, handing each dinner guest a fork and inviting them to collectively "dive in" at the conclusion of a meal. The idea of serving a communal dessert to dinner guests just sounds completely absurd. I can't stop my brain from thinking about how many germs are being transferred from forks to dessert with each bite, how messy and sloppy the dessert becomes and how I really don't like to share my dessert.
Even with all those crazy thoughts running through my brain, I decided it was time to try a family dessert when I ran across this recipe for cast iron Blueberry Peach Cobbler last week. I wish I would have photographed the look on my kids faces when I set this warm dessert in the middle of the table and handed each person a spoon. "Are you serious, we can just eat it?" This was pretty much a dream come true for the Davis family.
Okay, even though it's not REQUIRED that you eat this cobbler right out of the pan I do think that it tastes better if you do. It's kind of like eating ice cream from a cone. There's really no scientific explanation - ice cream just tastes better when it comes in a cone. (Don't even try and debate this one.)
In most cases it completely grosses me out to think about forks going from mouth to dessert and then back again but in this case, I was willing to put aside my germaphobe tendencies in order to fully appreciate this dessert. It was totally worth it. So even if you're like and and you have to convince yourself that this warm cobbler has germ fighting properties, you really should experience it - straight from the pan.
Blueberry Peach Cobbler
1 1/2 cups blueberries
1 1/2 pounds peaches, chopped
1/2 cup sugar
3 Tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1 cup bisquick
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 Tablespoon sugar
Bake 45 minutes at 350.
Top with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
I'm still not sure that I could ever serve this dessert to dinner guests in the same way but I would definitely make it again in ramekins to serve as individual portions to each guest. No matter how you serve it, this recipe is super easy and super delicious.
I try and fix whole food, healthy, nutritious meals as much as possible when I'm home so that I can give myself some grace when I eat out at a restaurant. It's all about balance. Am I right? That doesn't mean that there aren't times when I have to rely on short cuts like frozen vegetables and precooked rice to get dinner on the table and believe me when I tell you that not every meal that I serve is a full-on culinary event.
In the summer we eat a lot of big salads and grilled chicken for dinner. Summer also means super simple side dishes - ripe tomatoes with basil, fresh green beans from the garden and sliced vegetables with hummus. Freshly sliced watermelon and strawberries qualify as perfectly acceptable dessert options during the hottest months of the year too.
Different rules apply for summer meals as opposed to Fall and Winter meals. Things that are normally served as side dishes in the Fall become the main courses for our lighter summertime meals. This prosciutto wrapped asparagus is a perfect example of that. I serve grilled asparagus alongside baked ham, grilled chicken breast or even a beef tenderloin in November and December but I eat it as an entree in the summer. Believe it or not, a plate of prosciutto wrapped asparagus is a super satisfying summertime meal.
Grilled Prosciutto Wrapped Asparagus
16 asparagus spears
8 this slices prosciutto
2 Tablespoons olive oil
Grill asparagus bundles 6-8 minutes until spotty brown.
Transfer to a platter and serve with lemon wedges.
I'm the only asparagus eater in the house, so when I bring it home from the grocery store, I have to eat ALL of it. I've had to come up with some new and creative ways to prepare asparagus so that I don't get tired of eating it - four days in a row. Grilled Prosciutto Wrapped Asparagus is one of my new favorite ways to enjoy this delicious vegetable. This recipe didn't turn my family into asparagus fans like I had hoped but don't let that discourage you from trying it. What can I say? They don't even eat cauliflower.
It's blueberry season in Georgia. Woohoo!!! I have 2 blueberry bushes in my yard and they actually yield quite a few berries but I've after five years, I've finally surrendered my right to the tiny, ripe fruit to the birds. Literally. I got tired of trying to compete with the birds for the berries and I resolved myself to the fact that they needed the nourishment more than I. It took a couple of years, but I now actually enjoy watching the birds come to feast on the sweet superfood.
Since the blueberries in my yard have been turned over the birds, I head to the blueberry farm to pick berries for my family. There's something so peaceful and serene about going into the blueberry fields at the crack of dawn and quietly filling my bucket with tiny blue morsels of antioxidant rich berries.
I treasure my hand picked blueberries because of the time and care that it takes to collect them. I carefully scrutinize each blueberry recipe before I make it to decide whether it's worthy of my cherished hand picked berries or whether I can substitute grocery store berries in their place. This blueberry cobbler recipe is definitely hand picked blueberry worthy. Enough said.
1 1/2 cups flour
5 teaspoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup buttermilk
6 Tablespoons butter, melted + 1 Tablespoon butter
3/4 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon zest
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
6 cups blueberries
Bake 12-14 minutes.
When I used my kids with me to pick berries when they were small so I understand that blueberry picking is not always a calming and peaceful experience. I enjoyed blueberry picking with the kids but on a totally different level - in a more hectic and chaotic kind of way. If picking your own blueberries is not an option for you, there is no shame in buying berries from the grocery store to make your cobbler.
I am currently in search of another pick your own blueberry farm close to the Monroe, Georgia area. If you know of one or have heard about a nearby blueberry farm, send me a comment. I would love check it out.
I've been keeping a secret from you. (No, I'm not pregnant. LOL) I've been living sugar free for a couple of weeks now. Even as I type those words, I can hardly believe it. After all, I'm a chocolate cake, chocolate chip cookie, mint chocolate chip ice cream loving kind of girl. I have mad love and appreciation for sugar. If it weren't for sugar, I wouldn't be able to make all of the sugary sweet treats for my baking business. I use so much sugar every week that my son actually nicknamed me the "sugar dealer" of our town.
Being surrounded by cookies, cupcakes and brownies every single day was never something that I considered to be a hinderance. I complain about the fact that I smell like buttercream at the end of the day but there are far worse smells. I still believe that I've got the very best job in the world. The only problem is that it's turned me into a serious sugar addict. Being surrounded by sugar is a great place to be until you realize that you can't live without it.
Being unable to finish a meal (including breakfast) without a dessert, having intense cravings for sweets and experiencing a serious sugar crash every afternoon was a wake up call for me to be more mindful of the amount of sugar that I was consuming on a daily basis. When I started to journal my food, I realized that I was eating a whole lot more sugar than I ever realized. A cookie here and a bite of buttercream there seemed pretty harmless until I added up all of those "little" bites that I was consuming throughout the day.
Sugar is so pervasive in my life that eliminating it completely seemed almost impossible. Living sugar free means something different for everyone. For me, going sugar free meant eliminated as much refined sugar from my diet as I possibly could. I also swapped out white breads for bread and snacks made exclusively of whole wheat flour. I did allow myself a small amount of natural sweeteners like honey, molasses, maple syrup and stevia. (I'm only human after all.) I also swapped out white potatoes with sweet potatoes and limited myself to one Tablespoon of ketchup with my baked sweet potato fries. (That was a HUGE sacrifice.) I had to educate myself about the hidden sugars in foods like yogurt, salad dressings and milk alternatives. It's worth noting that I also limited my dairy intake at the same time - for entirely different reasons. I started drinking and baking with milk alternatives like almond and coconut milk and eating soy yogurt.
I'll be the first to admit that it wasn't always easy to avoid sugar and my family will attest to the fact that I wasn't always pleasant to be around when I was living sugar free. The first couple of days were the worst and then the cravings and afternoon sugar crashes started to magically disappear. As I got more comfortable eating sugar free, I also found more ways to satisfy my sweet tooth with things like with fresh fruit. Did you know that fresh fruit tastes even better when you haven't eaten refined sugar for a few weeks? Still struggling with leaving the dinner table without a little sweet treat, I had to come up with creative ways to make my fruit look more like dessert. Let's just say that a bowl of strawberry whip after dinner, was a lifesaver.
Slice strawberries and freeze on a baking sheet.
Combine all ingredients in a blender and process until smooth.
Scoop into a plastic bag and freeze 10 minutes.
Cut a corner of the bag and squeeze into a bowl to serve.
I don't want to make blanket statements about nutrition because let's face it - I'm not here to start a nutrition war. What's best for me, may not be best for everyone else. I have no idea how long I will be able to embrace this sugar free living but I can tell you that I am feeling better than I did when I was eating refined sugar. I feel great and I'm not experiencing the sugar cravings or crashes that I did last month.
I'm still giving myself some grace for those important events that come up and absolutely MUST be celebrated with a small slice of high quality, real deal, piece of rich, decadent chocolate cake covered in creamy fudge frosting. I'm not going to feel guilty about indulging in an occasional treat because to be honest - it takes a lot less dessert to satisfy me now. My taste buds are more sensitive to sugar since I've become more sugar aware.
I'm on the search for more sugar free treats so if you have a tried and true favorite - send the recipe my way. I'd love to try it. Thanks in advance.
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