I love free food.
I don’t mean the kind like the free hot dogs they were serving at a festival we went to this past weekend (the line went around the block). No, I’m talking about foraged food. There is something really awesome about being able to gather up food that is growing natively around where you live. It feels “right”. Like that’s the food I’m supposed to be eating. I love growing my own food, but the fact that there are plants that grow on-their-own, with no intervention from us, and produce food makes me so incredibly happy. There isn’t much better than a maintenance-free food source—it’s easier than going to the grocery store.
We’re very lucky to live where we live and have quite a few native foods that grow not only in our area, but on our property. We have a massive thicket of wild black raspberries and wild blackberries. Chanterelle and morel mushrooms grow wild in the woods on our land. We have tons of black walnuts and hickory trees. And my favorite of all, we have a nice collection of wild persimmon trees.
If you’ve never had a persimmon before, they have the most unique flavor that is like the sweetest clementine you’ve ever had mixed with a perfectly ripe and juicy peach. It’s absolute heaven. I’m always amazed that persimmons are so often on the back burner. I’m sure there are many of you that have never seen a persimmon, let alone eaten one. That’s such a shame!
If your persimmon experience is limited, let me give you a quick persimmon primer. There are generally two types of persimmons—one is very soft and mushy and the other is more hard like an apple (and used like one)—this recipe uses the pulp from the soft ones. Be warned, soft persimmons are astringent, meaning if they are even the slightest bit unripe, you’ll end up with your face contorted into one heck of a pucker when you bite into it. We have American Persimmons (also called an Eastern Persimmon) growing on our property, and they are the astringent variety. In fact, growing up around here, it’s a pretty common prank to try and get a kid to bite into an unripe persimmon. My older brother got me to do it once, right after he got me to smell his shoes because he told me they smelled like strawberries. I was a naive kid.
If you’re picking up persimmons in the store for this recipe, more than likely, you’ll be looking for Hachiya Persimmons. They are heart-shaped, and a bit bigger than the fruit from the American Persimmon tree, but they’re widely available around the world. But just like the ones that grow around here, don’t you dare use it until it’s ripe. As in, it should be so soft and mushy that it feels like it’s rotting. We actually don’t even pick persimmons from the tree, because that would mean they aren’t completely ripe. We wait until the persimmons fall to the ground and collect them before the turtles and birds get to them. The best way I can explain how to know when an astringent persimmon is ready to eat is to think of a zip-top bag full of pudding. Does the persimmon feel like that? Then it’s ready! If it’s so soft and gooey that it feels like you have to handle it gently to avoid it exploding, it’s time to process.
The best way to use soft persimmons is to extract the pulp. Persimmon pulp is a very similar texture to jam. In fact, I always see people talking about making persimmon jam, and it makes me laugh, because that sounds like a lot of work considering I happily spread raw persimmon pulp on my biscuits all the time. No sugar needed!
Around this time of year in our area, you’ll see signs pop up in front of many farm houses advertising persimmon pulp for sale, so if you’re lucky enough to find someone to process your pulp for you, that’ll save you some time. If you aren’t that lucky, to make persimmon pulp with a Hachiya persimmon, just wait until it’s ripe, then slice in half and scoop out the pulp with a spoon. You can run it through a sieve if you want it to be super smooth, but usually you don’t have to worry about that. American persimmons are a bit different because they are much smaller and have much larger seeds, meaning the best way to process them (at least on a small scale) is to mash them—peels, seeds, pulp, all of it—through a sieve until you have the most dreamy, smooth, bright orange persimmon pulp. I then freeze it flat in two cup increments in a freezer bag.
Oh, and then I fish out some of the seeds, clean them off, and slice them in half to see what kind of winter we’re going to have (we saw knives, by the way).
Persimmon pulp is most frequently used in baking. You’ll see a lot of persimmon bread, pudding, and cookie recipes out there. If you’ve ever baked with pumpkin pulp or applesauce, it’s the same idea with persimmon. It adds sweetness and moisture to baked goods, plus a light, fruity taste that is really remarkable. I also love use persimmon pulp as a mix in for oatmeal or yogurt. Yum!
This persimmon bread recipe is one of my favorite things I’ve made this year. I’m not much of a bourbon drinker, but man, I do love me some bourbon as an ingredient in a dessert. I know pumpkin is the “official” flavor of fall, but I think the combination of bourbon and persimmon tastes exactly like what fall should taste like. This bread is flavorful, moist, and dense—it’s heavy in the best way possible. It’s pretty much perfect to nibbling on while you sip a toasty mug of coffee in the morning.
As far as mix-ins go, I like to keep it simple and just toss in a few handfuls of chopped walnuts—even better if they’re black walnuts that we gathered from the front of our property. You can go as wild as you’d like with other goodies. Raisins, cranberries, pecans, and even chocolate chips would all be good to toss in. You can also leave the bread naked and just let the bourbon and persimmon stand on their own.
Never worked with persimmons before? Try out this dense and delicious persimmon bread that is a perfect fall treat.
- 2 cups persimmon pulp
- 4 eggs
- 2/3 cup bourbon
- 1 cup butter, melted
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 2 cups whole wheat flour
- 2 cups chopped walnuts
- Preheat oven to 350°. Line two 8" x 4" loaf pans with parchment paper, set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, add in the persimmon pulp, eggs, bourbon, butter, vanilla, and sugar. Mix on low until well-combined.
- In a medium-sized mixing bowl, sift together the nutmeg, cinnamon, salt, baking soda, and flours. Add in the flour mixture to the persimmon mixture in three additions—letting mix completely before moving onto the next addition.
- Fold in the walnuts into the batter. Pour the batter evenly between the two loaf pans. Bake in preheated oven for 35-40 minutes, or until the bread is dark brown, and the top feels solid (not jiggly) when pressed on. Let cool completely before slicing.
Okay, I know. This bread looks crazy. But please, pretty please, don’t let the weird blue color turn you off. Blue cornbread is something you absolutely need to make. And yes, it is totally different from regular yellow cornbread. And honestly, I think it’s pale blue color is actually kinda fun! It certainly is different from the run-of-the-mill yellow breads you find on the dinner table.
If you’ve never worked with blue cornmeal before, I highly recommend seeking some out. Blue cornmeal is much sweeter than regular cornmeal, and it has an intense corn flavor. It actually tastes like fresh sweet corn, which I find absolutely amazing. Blue cornmeal is also nutritionally superior to white or yellow cornmeal. It has 20% more protein than yellow cornmeal and a much lower glycemic index, making it an even healthier option. Blue cornmeal rocks!
This recipe results in a crumbly, but moist cornbread with just a touch of sweetness. I know in some circles it’s blasphemy to put sugar in cornbread, but I think just a touch goes a long to way to bringing out the natural sweetness of the corn. And then, of course, I go all crazy and drizzle the top with honey. Because cornbread without honey on top is just sad.
This is my go-to cornbread recipe—with blue, white or yellow cornmeal. It turns out perfectly every time, and is highly adaptable. Add in some shredded cheddar cheese, minced jalapeño, or some crumbled bacon. Switch out the dairy ingredients for vegan options (I recently made this with soy-free Earth Balance, unsweetened coconut milk, and plain coconut milk yogurt, and it turned out perfectly). Bake it in a cast iron skillet or pour it into a muffin tin for the most tender and delicious cornmeal muffins you’ve ever had.
Blue cornmeal is sweeter and has a better nutritional profile than its yellow and white cousins. Try out blue cornmeal in this moist and tender blue cornbread! Adapted from Daily Garnish.
- 1 cup finely ground blue cornmeal
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
- 2 eggs
- 1/4 cup melted butter
- 1/4 cup milk
- 2 cups frozen corn kernels
- Preheat oven to 375°. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, flour, baking soda and salt, set aside.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the yogurt, eggs, butter, and milk. Pour into the cornmeal mixture and stir until just combined—do not overmix. Fold in the corn kernels.
- Pour the batter into a well-seasoned cast iron skillet or a square baking dish. Bake in preheated oven for 15-20 minutes or until the top is golden brown, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
We just hit fall, and it feels like we’re already in pumpkin-overload, doesn’t it? I tend not to do trendy things, and instead focus on just cooking the things I feel like cooking for funsies, but pumpkin-flavored food is one place where the masses of Pinterest and my kitchen desires align perfectly. I love, love, love pumpkin season! So please forgive me if I join in the pumpkin fun. I promise my obsession won’t last too much longer.
I love pumpkin because not only is it delicious and healthy, but also because pie pumpkins are incredibly easy to grow and store. We grow our own pie pumpkins every year and store the ones that are in good shape in our basement for use all fall and winter long. The ones that aren’t quite storable get roasted, turned into puree and frozen.
Even if you don’t grow your own, I highly recommend picking up a few pie pumpkins at your farmer’s market and making your own puree. It is so easy, and about a thousand times more flavorful than the stuff you get in the can. It also is so much cheaper to roast your own! Bonus: the pumpkins are so pretty you can use them as decor in your house until it’s time for their trip in the oven.
I’ve been really into breakfast cookies lately. They are the perfect snack for when I’m up during the middle-of-the-night with the little one. I like them so much because they’re just a little sweet—unlike a dessert cookie. Plus, you can pack them full of all kinds of healthy and nutritious foods. This version, I packed with healthy whole grains (in the form of whole wheat flour and rolled oats) and healthy fats (in the form of eggs, flaxmeal, and coconut oil). You could throw in protein powder, chia seeds, nuts, other dried fruit—whatever tickles your fancy!
I highly recommend making up a batch of these on the weekend and stashing them in the fridge to make weekday breakfasts run smoothly. A couple of these cookies plus a green smoothie is one heck of a healthy breakfast. And if you have family members that turn up their noses at eating healthy, you might just be able to trick them into eating something mega-nourishing by telling them you’re having cookies for breakfast!
These are also perfect for afternoon pick-me-up snacks when you’re craving something sweet, but not looking forward to the sugar crash that happens if you indulge. You get a little bit of sweetness and a ton of energy.
If you’re interested in making these cookies a touch more decadent, I’d sub in semi-sweet chocolate chips for the raisins, add in a couple of handfuls of chopped walnuts, and up the maple syrup to 1/2 cup. It’ll still be a healthy cookie, but more of a healthy dessert cookie instead of a breakfast or snack. Still delicious!
These lightly-sweet breakfast cookies are a great grab-and-go healthy breakfast for those busy fall weekday mornings. Packed with pumpkin spice flavor, healthy whole grains, and healthy fats!
- 1/2 cup melted coconut oil
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3/4 cup pumpkin puree
- 1/3 cup maple syrup
- 1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
- 1 cup rolled oats
- 1/4 cup flaxmeal (ground flaxseeds)
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- Pinch of salt
- 1 cup raisins
- Preheat oven to 350°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, set aside.
- In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add in the coconut oil, eggs, vanilla, pumpkin, and maple syrup. Mix on medium until well-blended.
- Add in the flour, oats, flaxmeal, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and salt. Mix on medium until well-blended.
- Fold in the raisins using a wooden spoon.
- Drop rounded tablespoonfulls onto the prepared baking sheet, leaving about an inch between cookies. Bake in preheated oven for 12-15 minutes, or until golden brown and solid. Let cool for five minutes on baking sheet, then transfer to a wire baking rack to cool completely.
My wedding day was really low-pressure. Part of it was because of the location—we held our wedding between two trees in my parents’ backyard (which is now my backyard). Part of it was because we only invited our closest friends and family—we had about 40 people there total. But probably the biggest reason why it was so stress-free was because we were already married when we stood up in front of our loved ones and said our vows. Because of a tight immigration deadline, six months before, on a super chilly St. Patrick’s Day, Craig and I went to City Hall and were married by the Assistant City Clerk (who was wearing jeans and an orange hoodie). It was intimate, sweet, and incredibly romantic if you can ignore the fact that we got hitched in a hallway outside of the parks and recreation department (how very Leslie Knope of me).
And even though March 17th is the day that we officially celebrate as our anniversary each year, we also look back fondly to September 22nd—the day of our second wedding. It was the day that all of our friends and family got together and drank good beer, ate good food, and danced until the wee hours of the morning. It was one heck of a party.
To this day, people still talk about the food we served at our wedding (well, that, and the fact that it was a 94° that day—the Canadians were melting). Since we were having a backyard wedding, we knew we wanted to keep the food casual and comfortable. We tossed around a lot of ideas, but eventually landed on serving barbecue for our guests.
It was a ton of fun visiting all the different barbecue joints in our area and figuring out who we wanted to cater our wedding. We went with on one local place because no only was their food delicious, but we also loved their presentation. They served their “platters” of barbecue on metal trash can lids right at the table—we thought it was just quirky and weird enough to be perfect for our wedding! Everyone got a huge kick when these giant trash can lids to came to each table and everyone was encouraged to dig into the heaping piles of pulled pork, brisket, barbecue ribs, roasted chicken, baked beans, and corn on the cob. Now, every time I have barbecue, I get all kinds of warm and fuzzies thinking about our wedding day.
The slow cooker is absolutely made for doing barbecue. It’s the perfect way to get slow-cooked flavor without babysitting the meat. If you’ve never slow-cooked ribs, I highly recommend trying it. They’re fall-of-the-bone perfect (especially after a quick trip under the broiler to get the sauce all caramelized and delicious). I also use the slow cooker all the time to make pulled beef, chicken and pork barbecue. The slow cooking adds so much rich flavor. It does require a bit of pre-planning—the dry rub on the pork the night before is the key to a super delicious sandwich.
I served up these pulled pork sandwiches topped with Cuban Slaw. And I also serve it with extra barbecue sauce to make the sandwiches extra sloppy and delicious. Some folks prefer their pulled pork sandwiches more dry, so my recommendation is to put the barbecue sauce out and everyone can customize their own sandwich. I tend to make my own barbecue sauce, but whatever bottle is your favorite would work well, too.
It's easy to get slow roasted flavor by using the slow cooker to make this pulled pork recipe. An overnight dry rub adds tons of flavor without a lot of work.
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 4 tablespoons dry mustard
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 2 teaspoons onion powder
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 2-3 pound pork shoulder roast, extra fat trimmed off
- Potato buns, coleslaw and barbecue sauce for serving
- Combine the brown sugar, dry mustard, cayenne pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, and salt in a small bowl. Rub the mixture liberally over the pork shoulder. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour, preferably overnight.
- Cook pork shoulder in slow cooker on high for 4-6 hours or low for 6-8 hours. At the end of cooking time, take two forks and shred the pork. Serve on potato buns topped with barbecue sauce and coleslaw, if desired.
I know that chili is a pretty personal dish. In some regions, it’s sacrilege to put beans in your chili. Other people like chili so hot it makes your eyes water. I personally love thick and hearty chili, but I know some folks like chili thinner like soup. It’s hard to land on a chili that everyone loves, but let me tell you, I’ve got one. Meet taco chili.
I’ve never met someone who didn’t like this chili. It’s a recipe that’s been in my family for years, and has been served to hundreds of people and met with hundreds of rave reviews—including from the girls on my dorm floor during my Freshman year in college. Whenever I’d come back from a weekend visit home, Mama would send me with a big pot of taco chili, a bag of tortilla chips, and a tub of sour cream. We’d line up the chili, chips and cream on the floor of my dorm room and invite all of our floormates over to snack on homemade chili and gossip about the boys floor.
My favorite part about this chili (other than the taste) is that it’s incredibly versatile. You can serve it as a dip for tortilla chips like we did in my dorm. You can serve it on top of macaroni and topped with cheese, diced onions and sour cream and make the tastiest chili mac you’ve ever had. You can serve it with cornbread for dipping. You can put it on top of hot dogs and make some seriously yummy coney dogs.
It’s also incredibly easy to make. The “taco” part of this chili comes from its super easy flavor ingredient—taco seasoning! Yup, instead of pulling out 300 different spices from your cubbard, the majority of the flavor of this dish comes from a packet of taco seasoning. Easy peasy! Of course, you can also make your own taco seasoning and get the same awesome flavor, plus have the ability to customize the flavor to your family’s liking.
The original version of this recipe calls for two whole pounds of ground beef, and while it’s totally delicious when made that way, it’s also incredibly heavy and calorie-dense. I instead tend to switch out the ground beef for leaner turkey, you still get lots of awesome flavor in a much lighter dish. My recommendation is to go for a ground turkey with a little bit of fat. Skip the 99% fat-free stuff—it’s also 99% flavor free!
I’ve also made it with half turkey/half beef and half turkey/half spicy chorizo sausage. Both delicious!
Worth noting, I’ve also made this chili in the slow cooker no less than a billion times, and it turns out just as well as it does on the stove top. I don’t brown or pre-cook anything. Just toss it all in and put in on low for 6-8 hours or high for 4-6—making sure you stir it a few times during cooking to break up the ground turkey.
It also freezes really well! Let it cool then freeze it flat in gallon freezer bags. When you’re ready to eat, either warm it up on the stove, or plop the chili popsicle in the slow cooker and let it warm up slowly while you do other things.
If you really want to please a crowd, make up a batch of this stuff, and then set up a chili bar for everyone to customize their own bowl. I like to put out bowls of diced green onions, minced cilantro, chopped avocado, sour cream, cheddar cheese, tortilla chips, elbow macaroni, sliced olives, and saltines—and let people go to town! It’s a great way to feed a crowd in the fall and winter, and it’s really easy on the host because you can make the chili and chop all the toppings ahead of time. Just bring it all out, set out some bowls and spoons and wait for the compliments to come in.
This thick and hearty chili is surprising light thanks to a base of lean ground turkey. It's a crowd-pleaser!
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 3 stalks celery, diced
- 1 large onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 pounds ground turkey
- 2-14 ounce cans kidney beans, drained and rinsed
- 1-28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
- 1-16 ounce jar of salsa
- 1-8 ounce can of tomato paste
- 2 cup frozen corn
- 1 package taco seasoning
- 1 tablespoon cumin
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven or soup pot over medium-high heat. Add in the celery and onion, and cook until just tender and fragrant, about five minutes. Add in the garlic and ground turkey. Cook until turkey is browned, about five more minutes. Do not drain!
- Add in the kidney beans, crushed tomatoes, salsa, tomato paste, corn, taco seasoning, cumin and chili powder. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 30-45 minutes, or until thick and bubbly. Serve topped with favorite chili toppings.
When I was working on coming up with a (totally reasonable, not crazy) plan to get back in shape after pregnancy, one of the action items in my plan was to pack my lunch everyday. Now, that might sound a little strange considering I work from home (about 15 feet away from my kitchen), but I’ve realized over the past two years of working from home that I really need the structure that comes from packing my food everyday. If I don’t have a preplanned meal, one of two things happen: either I snack all day long or, what happens usually, I skip meals until 3pm comes and I get so ravenously hungry that I eat everything in the pantry. Neither option is super healthy. So to fight that off, I pack my lunch!
I’ve been sharing some of my lunches on my Instagram feed, and it’s been getting such a great response, I thought I might start sharing them regularly on here, too. I’ve always been a fan of packing bento-style lunches, because I absolutely love eating a wide variety of foods—so that’s what you’ll see the most of.
And before you ask: yes, these lunch containers are awesome! A while back, I bought a bunch of LunchBots containers for my lunch, and I’m in love. We stopped storing food in plastic a few years back, and these stainless containers are amazing. Obviously, you can’t microwave in them, and they aren’t water-tight, but they work for my purpose. The LunchBots Cinco is my absolute favorite—it’s large enough to a big hefty lunch, and I love having five compartments. I also have the smaller LunchBots which I usually use for snacks and breakfasts—Uno, Duo, and Trio, and I also have the LunchBots Dip Containers. I also use rectangular and square silicone baking cups as dividers.
My favorite part about using these containers regularly is that I’ve developed a pretty good eye for the volume and calorie count of each lunch. Of course, I could fill one up entirely with…say…mayo…and probably clock a really disgusting 5000 calorie lunch, but I have never topped 600 calories in the Cinco packing the normal, healthy foods I like—which is perfect for my breastfeeding-friendly calorie goals.
Here are a few of my lunches from the past few weeks. I apologize for the quality of photos—I’m usually snapping these late in the evening when daylight is quickly fading, and I’m ready for bed! I really need to get me a new iPhone so I can take better pictures on the go.
Turkey and sprout sandwich on a whole wheat mini bagel, cucumber slices, salted edamame, pretzels and hummus, cherry tomatoes, hard-boiled egg, blueberries and strawberries, and a few chocolate-covered cherries for dessert.
Chicken salad, steamed green beans, roasted potatoes, crackers, mini pear, strawberries, and chocolate-covered cherries.
Chef salad (minus the cheese, plus sprouts), roasted potatoes, fruit salad, and trail mix.
Egg salad, pickle, cucumber slices, crackers, steamed green beans, applesauce with cinnamon, grapes, pretzels, and chocolate covered cherries.
Bean salad, blueberry coconut milk yogurt with blueberries and chia seeds, black olives, crackers, mini pear, black cherry tomatoes, and chocolate covered cherries.
Next time, I’ll try to (a) get better photos and (b) snap more pictures of my breakfast and snack bentos—they’re fun, too! I’d also love to hear your ideas for your favorite things to pack in your lunch.
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