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IMG_4052I remember reading recently that a celebrity chef had refined his previous blueberry muffin recipes.  I pulled up the latest version and started to print it out, when I noticed the massive quantities of saturated fat and refined sugar.  No, that won’t do, I thought.  I started combing the internet for better options, but I kept finding unhealthy stuff like crumb toppings.  Back to the cookbooks I went, and then I started substituting.  The result are these high-fiber yet soft muffins, for your eating pleasure and heart health.

Blueberry Muffins: Truly tasty, healthy version
Makes 6 muffins.

Wet ingredients:IMG_4053
1 ½-2 eggs*
2 tablespoons sugar
¼ cup ground flax seed (meal)
6 tablespoons to ¼ cup milk (use less with the egg and a half version)
optional:  a few squeezes of fresh lemon or lime juice
Dry ingredients:
1 cup whole-grain oat flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
optional:  fresh lemon or lime zest
Fruit:
½ – 1 cup blueberries (frozen will hold up well)
Topping(s):
optional: lightly chopped slice almonds (a few tablespoons)
pinch of turbinado or demerara sugar (raw sugar)

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease 6 muffin cups.

In one medium bowl, mix the eggs and sugar together and then add the flax meal and milk. In another bowl, mix together the dry ingredients well. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and incorporate thoroughly, without overmixing. Add the blueberries.

Using an ice cream scoop or spoon, divide into the six prepared muffin cups. Drop on almonds and sprinkle a pinch of raw sugar on each muffin. Bake for 20 minutes at 400 degrees. Remove from muffin tin promptly.

Nutrition per muffin, with all optional ingredients:  176 calories, 23 grams carbs (lots of heart-healthy water soluble fiber!), 6 grams protein, 7 grams fat.
Eliminating the optional ingredient and extra egg and milk will bring you to about 150 calories per muffin.IMG_4055

*Where do you find half an egg?  I get mine from my Partridge Silkie hens.

For another blueberry muffin recipe, try this peach blueberry muffin recipe.  Are you looking for a savory blueberry breakfast?  Try this easy egg custard with sausage and blueberries!  

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Regular readers may remember that I claimed at a December party that I was going to run the 10k (6.2 miles) at the Little Rock Marathon in March this year; then I discovered that there is no 10k.  My old, pre-Lyme disease self could have easily done the next race down, the 5 k, so instead I opted for the half marathon:  13.1 miles.  I am a woman who has fought Lyme for the better part of a decade.  I am most definitely middle-aged now, by any actuarial charts.  I am  on the chubby side, thanks to inactivity during my fight with Lyme.  I got a positive diagnosis for the infection when it was thoroughly embedded in my system from muscles to heart to brain six years ago, on March 4, 2005.  I started long-term high doses of antibiotics six years ago from today, on March 7, 2005.  I’m ready to say goodbye to Lyme.

Yesterday I completed the half marathon, running and walking, in a little over three hours.  I know I was close to the back of the pack, but my goal time was to finish in four hours, and I beat my anticipated time per mile by about 4 1/2 minutes and my total time by almost an hour.  Mr. Homesteader kindly walked to various points around the course to cheer me on.  I first realized I was doing better than my goal when I hit the 5-mile mark at 9:10.  I’d hoped to be there by 9:15 or 9:20.  I knew I was doing okay when I crossed the 10k mark.  I had planned on stopping running then but kept alternating running and walking.  When I hit the 8.5 mark where a friend was serving water, I was more than 20 minutes ahead, despite a bathroom stop with a long delay at a portapotty long about mile 7.  I really started to hurt as I got close to the governor’s mansion–my twisted ankle, my pinched nerves in my feet–so I pulled out my Ipod, up until then just used for my clock, and I inserted one earbud and listened to Harry Potter and his introduction to Quidditch.  That was enough to distract me, and within a mile I’d pulled the earbud back out and was enjoying the cheerers again.  Then we hit Chester Street.  There at Chester and 7th is Vino’s legendary pizza.  The aroma of pizza and faint scent of beer reached my nostrils.  I almost stopped.  I kept going, though, although by that point I was now down to running two minutes out of every ten.

Then I hit the lipstick stop.  It’s famous as the only one on marathon courses.  I don’t wear lipstick in my day-to-day life, much less when I’m sweating.  I thought one of the volunteers there was going to block my way until I convinced her that I really did not want lipstick.  By then I knew I was within a quarter mile of the finish line.  And when a fellow runner/walker I’d had the opportunity to chat with on the course several times told me it would be easy to run the rest of the way in (thanks, Zora!), I did.  Only I really ran it, and she jogged, so she is not in this picture.  That’s me, in the black fleece.  I’m crossing the line.  I’m not really that wide; I had my gloves and headband stuffed in the pockets of my oversized pullover.

In retrospect, knowing what I know now about how close I was to breaking three hours, I wish I’d run just a little more and somehow avoided the potty stop.  Maybe next year?

Thanks to all of my readers who provided so much encouragement and who have patiently waited as I traded adding recipes here for miles to my shoes.  I should know soon if I’ve succeeded in really, finally beating Lyme.

P.S.  Mr. Homesteader took me to Vino’s after I’d showered and changed at the hotel.  Other runners were in there wearing their medals, all from the marathon relay.  I wish I’d worn my  half-marathon medal in!  They all looked a lot younger than me, and I was so happy to know I’d run (and walked) further.  🙂

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My “track”:

Look closely; it’s there!  Yes, I ran yesterday.  Actually, I ran until the snow got too deep and I had to walk.  I got in 30 laps, until I looked like the Abominable Snowman.

My running buddy:

In fact, she shows up from the neighbors’ house, runs circles around me, begs to be petted, and then races off to chase deer, cats, birds . . . and then she catches back up with me and does it all over again.

The creek in snow:

Cold frames seems a particularly appropriate name today:

I’m not sure there’s still something growing under all that snow!

Is it delivery?

No, of course it isn’t delivery.  We can’t get delivery here in normal weather, much less when there’s almost a foot of snow on the ground.  If you missed the recipe earlier, it’s here.

So, the NWS claims we got 9-12 inches of snow.  Our thermometer read 1 degree F above zero this morning.  How’s the weather in your neck of the woods?

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When doctors and nutritionists point to the healthiness of the “Mediterranean diet,” too many people think, “Oh, I can eat lasagna loaded with cheese and meat and be healthy.”  I do believe that there are times for lasagna, but I know that even made with whole grains and organic products or even spinach that it’s still not health food.  Still, people from the Mediterranean do know how to eat to live.  To celebrate the start of fall, we had a great Italian soup made with fresh garden ingredients:  minestrone.  I served it with crostini with pesto and garnished it with some petite Italian turkey meatballs, but you could leave those out and go entirely vegetarian instead.

Minestrone is health in a bowl if you make it properly.  I started by cooking some navy beans with garlic and a parmesan rind until the beans were al dente.

trombetta squash

  • 1-2 cups cannellini or navy beans, cooked
  • 1/2-1 sweet onion, diced
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1 stalk celery, minced
  • 1-2 cloves minced garlic
  • 2-4 cups fresh, seeded tomatoes (retain and use juice) or diced canned tomatoes
  • 1 small zucchini, cut into chunks
  • 1-2 cups chicken stock or vegetable broth

Cannellini beans are more traditional, but the navy beans substitute just fine.  You can easily find canned cannellini beans too.  My next step was to sauté a small diced onion while I diced a carrot and minced a stalk of celery.  Then I sautéed the carrot and celery alongside the onion.  As the trio begin to cook, add a clove of minced garlic.  Next add 2-4 cups fresh or  quality canned, chopped tomatoes, seeded but with juice retained and added to the soup.  If you have any good zucchini, as we did, cut it into chunks and toss it in.  Add back in the beans with any remaining cooking liquid.  Add up to 2 cups chicken stock or vegetable broth.  Simmer over low heat until the vegetables are tender, about 20-30 minutes.

I served petite turkey meatballs on top of the minestrone.

  • 1/4 cup minced onion
  • olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons dried Italian herbs (oregano, rosemary, basil)
  • 1 teaspoon crushed fennel seed
  • pinch crushed red pepper
  • pinch salt
  • 1/3 pound ground turkey (or lamb, beef, or chicken)
  • 2-4 tablespoons whole-grain bread crumbs
  • splash of broth sufficient for forming meatballs

I minced 1/4 cup onion and sautéed it in olive oil until the onion took on a little color.  I added a clove of minced garlic just long enough for the garlic to get the harsh flavor out.  Then I mixed the onion and garlic with about 2 teaspoons of dried Italian herbs (rosemary, oregano, basil), about a teaspoon of crushed fennel seed, a pinch each of crushed red pepper and salt, and 1/3 pound ground turkey.  Add 2 tablespoons to 1/4 cup whole-grain bread crumbs.  Mix and add a splash of minestrone broth or chicken broth.  Using a teaspoon or small cookie scoop, form petite meatballs and cook in olive oil over medium heat, turning to brown all sides.

Minestrone

Serve minestrone in a broad bowl, placing meatballs on top, and garnish with fresh grated parmesan cheese and chiffonaded fresh basil.  Add whole-grain crostini to work with the beans to increase the protein.

Fall makes me crave warm, healthy soups.  Do you crave soup as temperatures drop?  What’s your family’s favorite fall soup?

Copyright 2010 Ozark Homesteader.

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Temperatures and humidity in Arkansas have dropped from deadly to merely oppressive, but we’re still running above normal.  Therefore, this weekend I made one of my favorite summer soups, gazpacho.  Gazpacho is a tomato soup made entirely of fresh and raw ingredients, and it refreshes and rejuvenates you as you eat it.  A friend once called it salsa soup, but it really is a bit more than that.  For our household, it’s so good we think of it as red gold on the table.  And except for the celery and seasonings, we grow everything that goes in it, and you can too.

copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader

Ingredients for 4-8 servings

Note:  Use what you have.  If 1 cucumber yields you 3/4 cup and you want to use it up, go for it.

  • 1 cup peeled, chopped tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup celery (about two stalks)
  • 1/2 cup cucumbers:  Peel if it’s one of those nasty store-bought cucumbers.  If it’s a larger cucumber, be sure to scoop out the bitter seed section.
  • 1/2 cup fresh pepper, either sweet bell pepper or a mild chile pepper (My usual choice is a Hatch/Anaheim.)
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed (as in, use a garlic press)
  • 3 tablespoons good red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil (optional)
  • 1/2 – 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce (or a dab of anchovies and 1 tablespoon of some good calamata or black olive juice)
  • 2 to 2 1/2 cups tomato juice
  • 1/3 cup snipped parsley or chervil or chiffonaded cilantro or lemon basil (one, not all four!), reserving some of the herb you select for garnish

You have three options for preparing this soup.

  • Option one is to mince finely all of your vegetables and then combine everything except the part of the herb you are reserving for garnish.
  • Option two is to dice your vegetables not so finely and then hit the combination of vegetables with everything else except 1 cup of the tomato juice with an immersion blender or put them in a food processor and pulse until they are minced.  Once the veggies are minced, you can add the rest of the tomato juice and the portion of the herb that isn’t garnish.
  • Option three is to put everything in your stand blender except the herbs and pulse until the veggies are minced.  Then add the herbs.

Chill the soup in a glass or stainless steel non-reactive container well before serving.  The soup keeps really well, the flavors melding nicely, and the mixture is so healthy that I often double the recipe to keep it on hand.

Do you have a favorite heat-beating recipe?

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader, including photographs.

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We raise a lot of our own food, but this year we’re growing less than usual, and I’m grateful that  we’ve now got a farmers market relatively close–Searcy–, where I can fill in the gaps.  It’s too far from my house for me to go regularly, but in my two visits I’ve been impressed with the produce at a this small but still excellent farmers market.  I have a good friend who goes weekly to this market who says she always gets great produce.

Several of the farmers grow chemical free produce, and  Kelly Carney (pictured here) has even gone through the process of getting his farm, North Pulaski Farms, certified organic.  

Kelly and a few others, such as Eddie Stuckey of Kellogg Valley Farms (not pictured) and the Latture Family of Freckle Face Farm, who come to this market on Wednesdays, are also part of the Locally Grown network I use some Fridays in another Arkansas community.

Mitchell Latture of Freckle Face, pictured below, specializes in chemical-free, pasture-raised poultry and meat.  I met two of his his kids on my most recent visit and discovered why the farm is called Freckle Face!

Some farmers here specialize in specific produce, like the shiitake mushroom man, who also grows darn good eggplants and other produce:

The market was hot, hot, hot–around 106 degrees F, so only a smattering of customers came the day I took these pictures, but the farmers hung in for the few like me who ventured out in the heat.  I hope that this market grows and grows.  It provides a great place to meet neighbors, find out how and where your food is grown, and get much better produce with different varieties than you can get at any of the local grocery stores.

Do you sell at a farmers market?  If you are a farmers market customer?  Do you have a favorite farmers market?

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.

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When we moved to this place almost five years ago, the whizened but still productive apple trees in the back yard really appealed to us.  It took another year for us to discover the old grapevine, long since whacked back by lawnmowers that had no idea what they were hitting.  Then my husband coaxed it to produce grapes, but we discovered that timing was crucial; frost killed them one year, inopportune rain another, but mostly we had to beat the raccoons to the bounty.  This year, everything came together perfectly.  We had decent rain this spring.  We had a dry summer as the grapes were ripening.  We beat the raccoons.

Late last week, I tasted a few grapes.  Mmmm.  The ones with the golden glow were ripe.

Then I started looking for jelly and jam recipes and learned that the best grape jam or jelly is made from a blend of ripeness of grapes.  We picked the rest–about seven pounds total.

Then I had to pick my recipe.  I decided on a recipe for grape jam from an 1899 cookbook that belonged to my great-grandmother, plus pectin to make sure the jam jelled.  It was simple.  I could use some of the fruit but avoid having to deal with the thick skins.  I could feel the familial and historical ties.

I picked the grapes off the vines and then triple washed them to make sure they were really clean.  I then mashed them with a potato masher, cooked them with a little water for about ten minutes, and re-mashed.  Then I used a food mill to separate the skins and seeds from the flesh, yielding more than 10 cups of juice with pulp from about 7 pounds of grapes on the vine.

Next I added about one and a half cups of sugar.  Honestly, I didn’t want to add any, but I only had regular pectin on hand and thus added the sugar.  After tasting that low-sugar addition, I opted for a low-sugar pectin after all.  I added the pectin as recommended and processed the jars for 10 minutes.  I got 9 half-pints and one stubby jar plus a little extra that I refrigerated.  If you notice that we’re missing almost a cup from the juice measurement, you’re right.  We had to drink some!  Next year I’ll can more to drink.

Tackling a new canning project is easy, once you know the basics.  It’s an easy step from basic pickles to jams and jellies and canning high-acid vegetables like tomatoes.  In a few weeks, I’ll be posting a recipe and procedure for making marinara (spaghetti sauce) using a pressure canner, which is a wonder that will let you can low-acid products safely.

Now, for all of you horticulturists and viticulturists out there, can you tell me what kind of grapes we have?  They are a seeded, thick-skinned variety, which makes me think I should have made wine instead of jam.

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader, including photographs.  All rights reserved.


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Recently it occurred to me that while we generally do a good job of seeking organic, local food, we have a few major flaws in our consumption.  One is real parmesan cheese, which we use judiciously.  The other flaw has to do not with what we eat but what we drink.  Bottles of wine, after all, can come from all over the world, and they may not be produced under ideal environmental conditions.  Therefore, I went hunting for US-produced organic wines.  If you don’t have an incredibly sophisticated palate for wine (we don’t!–and neither do most people), the organic wines that are readily available to have with dinner and are affordable are just fine.  All are more than a few steps above Franzia.  All are appropriately priced for any wine with their attributes, organic or not.  As a matter of fact, one recent study indicates that they may be underpriced!

Have you tried organic wines?  Which are your favorites?

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I’m going to keep this simple.  It’s dessert time.  This recipe makes a small pan of lower-fat brownies.  We’re starting with cocoa powder in lieu of chocolate.  Instead of butter, we’re using peanut butter and yogurt.  How about some whole-grain oat flour?  Put them together and you have an easy sweet treat that’s much healthier than a traditional brownie–but the kids will never know it.  You can also get all of these ingredients in organic form.

Pan:  I used a 3-cup rectangular Pyrex to create 6 servings, each about 2 inches square.  You could double this recipe and bake it in an 8×8 pan.  If you double the recipe, you’ll need to increase baking time by 5-10 minutes.  (Thanks to Shoopee for reminding me about the increased time!)

Dry Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup whole-grain oat flour
  • 1/3 cup cocoa
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • optional:  handful of dark chocolate chips

Wet Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup natural peanut butter, softened and mixed with
  • 1/4 cup plan nonfat yogurt
  • 1 egg (or 2–see variation*)
  • 1-2 teaspoons vanilla

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F, and grease (or use spray oil on) your baking pan.  Mix together all of the dry ingredients.  In another bowl, stir together the softened peanut butter, yogurt, and sugar.  Mix in the egg and vanilla.  Add in the dry ingredients.  Spread into prepared pan and bake at 325 degrees for about 25 minutes.

This brownie is extremely rich and dense, so I like to serve it with a small glass of milk.  Do you want a brownie with a bit less density?  Try using two eggs instead of one egg.

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.  Tweets and short excerpts are welcome with full URL and attribution to Ozarkhomesteader.  Please contact me for permission to use photographs.

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Wait!  Stay, while I move you beyond thinking about yellow mustard for your hotdogs or overgrown, overcooked, bitter, abused mustard greens and into the realm of mustard greens bursting with flavor and health.  When I was a kid, my mother would send my sister and me to the garden to pick mustard greens–in high summer.  We would invariably come back claiming that there were none ready, but she could look out the window and know we were fibbing.  She’d cut the greens, wash them, and then cook them to death.  The whole house would smell.  They tasted awful, but I ate them because that was what a good kid was supposed to do.

Fast forward many years and a culinary lifetime later.  I’ve had mustard greens lightly braised, and I’ve eaten them fresh in salads.  And I liked them.  Today I want to encourage you to like them too.  As I understand it from around the web, a lot of people have been getting mustard greens in their CSA baskets and veg boxes.  Hopefully this little primer will help you enjoy them like I do.

Why Eat Mustard Greens

Mustard greens are phenomenally good for you.  In my post-operative state, the high rate of Vitamin K in mustard greens (more than 500% of the RDA!) is excellent news.  Mustard greens are also chocked full of other vitamins, and they are superior for fighting cancer and aging.  Like kale, they pack a huge wallop of nutrition for a tiny number of calories.  I don’t just eat them because they’re good for me.  I eat mustard greens because, properly raised and properly prepared, they also have a wallop of flavor.

The Flavor

Step one in thinking about whether you’ll like mustard greens is thinking about whether you like prepared mustard, which is basically mustard green seeds and vinegar.  If you’re okay with prepared mustard, you can like mustard greens.  The trick to enjoying them is eating them in season–that is, before it gets too hot outside.

Using Mustard Greens

You can eat mustard greens fresh or cooked. Just please, please don’t boil them to death.

  • Fresh baby mustard greens give a kick to salads.
  • A few days ago we had fresh medium-sized mustard greens one of my favorite ways, instead of lettuce on turkey-ham sandwiches.
  • You can also braise more mature mustard greens.  Just remember that you’ll need what Southerners call a “mess of greens”–that is, big pile–because they’ll cook down so much.  Begin removing the tough center rib.  Then roughly chop the greens and wilt them in a little hot oil (or bacon drippings, if you have any around) in a large pan.  As the greens start to wilt, add a lighter vinegar (balsamic may be too strong) and, if you want, a squirt of honey or splash of soy sauce or sprinkle of salt.  Some folks add tabasco too.  Serve them as soon as they get tender.
  • Consider add mustard greens to Asian-inspired stir fries.  They’re classic!

Growing Mustard Greens for the Sweetest, Mild Flavor

Mustard greens naturally have a sharp flavor, but that flavor is balanced by a green sweetness when you pick the greens in cooler seasons.  If you want to start liking mustard greens, try them when they’re growing temperatures have not exceeded 80 degrees F for the daytime high.  Honestly, I do not think that variety makes that much difference in mustard greens’ sharpness, although some Asian varieties (mizuna) may be a little sharper.  Mostly it’s the temperature.

A Few Recommended Varieties of Mustard Greens for the Home Garden

Mustard greens are incredibly easy to grow.  Three versatile favorites in our household are red mizuna (the purple Asian mustard featured here), mizuna (a lacier leafed, more delicate Asian mustard), and Southern giant, a bright green, frilly edged mustard.

Do you have questions about cooking or growing mustard greens?  Would you like to know some of the seed sources I use?  Do you have a favorite recipe for mustard greens you’d like to share?  Please let me know in the comments area!

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.  Short excerpts with full URL and attribution to Ozarkhomesteader are welcome.  Please contact me via comments for permission to use photographs.

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