Spring or winter?

Is it spring or winter? That is the question. Are we done with our winter projects and did we accomplish our winter goals? Are we ready to spring into longer days, put our hands in the dirt, and set our minds to planning the summer ahead?

The view of Chicken Peak from the South Fork Ranch.

The view of Chicken Peak from the South Fork Ranch.

The signs are here that winter is behind us. The plants are out of their winter snooze feeling replenished, fruit trees are flowering, and the hillsides are turning green. The elk are moving down the mountain to calve and feed on fresh vegetation, the gold finch are turning their bright summer yellow, and of course, the robins have returned to the yard (if only to steal worms from my garden). The signs of spring seem to happen slowly, and then they are all here at once, glowing as the bright light of spring.

The crystal clear water of the South Fork.

The crystal clear water of the South Fork.

This winter seemed short and mild. Every time the forecast called for a significant storm, it petered out. The powder days on the mountain were limited. Playing in the snow is unique because you can truly be in the moment, just like when we were kids. It’s as if somehow the chair lift magically transforms us into youth as we climb the mountain. Then we push off to ride in sheer enjoyment the whole way down the slope. It is pure, fun playtime. Being on the mountain or in the backcountry in the winter is so amazing. It brings peace to the mind and heart, which can be hard to find the rest of the busy year.

View of the Salmon River above Elkhorn

View of the Salmon River above Elkhorn

I think playing in general keeps us young and in touch with our roots; especially when the time spent in the mountains and river canyons. There is always time for work, and never a lack of work to be done. Even though we all get swept away with the currents of spring high water, we must work extra hard to eddy out and enjoy some playtime. We should make a point to play a little every day, even if just for a few moments. This is essential to refreshing our souls, nourishing our roots, and getting us through every day with a more positive outlook.

End of January moon

End of January moon

For the Love of Pizza!

I grew up having pizza every Friday night and it is now a tradition with my family. We love it! If you’ve even been to my house on a Friday, or for a gathering, you’ve probably had my pizza!

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I like that I don’t have to think about what’s for dinner on Friday’s. I just create a pizza depending on what ingredients are available, and maybe have a salad on the side. Once you have it down, pizza is a super-easy meal to make, is really good for you, and can take less than 45 minutes from prep to table.

Here’s my pizza recipe and tips for you to use as a guideline. Happy Cooking!

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Put pizza stone in cold oven, center rack & preheat to 500 degrees.

THE DOUGH:

I often don’t let the dough rise at all, I just make it first when I’m making pizza that evening. You can let is rise for a few hours as long as it’s covered with a wet cloth. Just punch it down before you use it. You can also make it ahead of time & put it in the fridge (in a plastic bag or wrap) and take it out about an hour ahead, so it warms up to a workable state.

  • 1 cup hot water
  • 1 teaspoon yeast
  • 3 cups flour (the mix that I really like creates a good balance of textures, moistness, flavors & elasticity- 1 c white, 1 c spelt, 1/2 c quinoa, 1/2 c red wheat)
  • 3 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil

Take a glass measuring cup and fill with 1 cup of hot water (temperature should be not quite boiling, but hot enough to activate the yeast without killing it). Sprinkle 1 tsp yeast on top of water & set aside.

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Mixing the dough- I use a Kitchen Aid Mixer with a dough hook for mixing the dough because it makes it so easy. No worries if you don’t have one, just mix by hand.

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Put the rest of the dry ingredients in a bowl (flour, sugar, salt). Drizzle the olive oil into the bowl. Mix the water & yeast with a whisk or fork & pour into the bowl. Set mixer on stir (lowest setting) and let the dough hook do its work just until the dough forms a ball around the dough hook.

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Don’t over mix if you are using spelt flour, it does better if it’s not over worked. Peel the dough off the hook, form a ball and set in the bowl until your ready to use it.

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THE SAUCE:

There are so many different kinds of sauces one could use. Most of the time I use a basic red sauce. If I have marinara sauce made and frozen in containers (which I do because I make big batches & freeze in smaller portions), then I just take out approximately a 1/2 cup & thaw it out. If you are short on time you can make a basic red sauce or buy a good canned sauce (they make some pretty good organic ones these days). A jar of store bought sauce should make 3 pizzas, so use some & freeze the rest for next week.

Red Pizza Sauce- If you don’t have any sauce on hand you can make a quick tomato based pizza sauce using canned/jarred tomato sauce & paste, garlic, olive oil, salt, basil*, & oregano*. I have these herbs frozen because I like them better this way compared to dried, but use what you have on hand. Fresh is always best when it comes to cooking, but isn’t always available. The thicker the pizza sauce, the better.

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*Herb Tip- When the herbs are  in season, put them in a food processor with olive oil, pack into jars or ice cube trays & freeze for later use. You can do this with any herbs: basil, oregano, dill, cilantro, chervil, parsley, etc… I also freeze my pesto this way.

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Cream Sauce- You can also make various cream sauces pretty quickly. Again, make enough to freeze some for next time. A very basic cream sauce is- melt butter in a pan, skim foam off butter (clarifying butter), add cream (or your desired mix of cream, half & half, milk, etc…), simmer on very low heat & stir/whisk constantly until thickened, add Parmigiano or Romano cheese  and  whisk together just until melted. You can add roasted garlic, roasted peppers, roasted garlic scapes, etc… as desired.

No Sauce- No sauce is also an option. Just stick to olive oil spread out generously all over the dough. If you like, spread on a little pesto (any type of pesto), or sprinkle any fresh or dried herbs.

THE TOPPINGS:

Use what you have on hand & get creative with combinations. The key is not to go overboard with too many toppings. Choose 4-6 that go well together, and aren’t too heavy or moist of a combination. There are some good pizza combination examples below to give you some ideas.

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Here are a few toppings that we use:

  • Meat*: Italian sausage (we use elk), bacon or Canadian bacon, chicken (or grouse, chukar, quail, etc…), pepperoni, smoked salmon
  • Cheese*: Best results come with 8 oz. of grated mozzarella on top. You can also top with some Parmigiano or Romano, use some dollops of ricotta, crumble feta, or use any cheese of your choice depending on what you think might go well with your ingredients.

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  • Fruit, Veggies, Misc.: spinach, kale*, olives of choice*, artichoke hearts, garlic, sun dried tomato, fresh tomato*, dried cranberries, sweet or hot peppers, summer squash*, winter squash*, eggplant*, potato*, onion*, pear*, cauliflower*, mushrooms*

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  • Nuts, & Seeds*: almonds, cashews, pine nuts, macadamia nuts, pecans, peanuts, pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds

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*Topping Tips:

  1. Meat- All meat is precooked.
  2. Cheese- I order a case of organic mozzarella chedar in 8 oz packages, then I take out one a week for pizza. If you forget to take it out ahead of time, put it in a bowl of warm water & it will thaw quickly.
  3. Olives-  We always have a jar of Kalamata in the fridge & love them on pizza
  4. Kale- I chop it small, put it on the top of the pizza just under the cheese, and this makes it a little crispy. We put kale on almost every pizza and it’s delicious!
  5. Tomato- For pizza, I like fresh tomatoes better when chopped or thin sliced, then put on after baking. If cooked on the pizza, they release a lot of their water & can create an undesired affect.
  6. Summer Squash- Slice thin & don’t put on too much, or it can be too moist.
  7. Winter Squash We use this a lot in the winter when we have a hunk of leftover cooked squash. Chop & spread out little pieces. It’s fantastic with cauliflower, pine nuts & chicken or sausage!
  8. Eggplant- Slice very thin, coat with olive oil & pre-roast on the pizza stone.
  9. Potatoes- Slice very thin, coat with olive oil & pre-roast on the pizza stone.
  10. Onions- I’m not a huge fan of raw onions on my pizza, but I love them if they are either precooked (like caramelized sweet onions, yumm) or very thinly sliced sweet or red onion placed on the very top of the pizza so they cook in the oven.
  11. Pear- I love Pear on pizza! Slice it really thin & don’t put on too much. It goes great with cream sauces & really brings out other flavors.
  12. Cauliflower- Slice thin, coat with olive oil & pre-roast on the pizza stone.
  13. Mushrooms- If you are using fresh mushrooms, slice thin. If you are using dried, re-hydrate in milk or cream & cut with kitchen scissors into slices or chunks. Squeeze milk/cream out of mushrooms & use. You can add the mushroom milk/cream to your cream sauce!
  14. Nuts & Seeds- Pizza should be good for you! Sprinkle a few nuts & seeds on any pizza!

ASSEMBLING & BAKING THE PIZZA:

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Take your ball of dough & start to stretch & spread out by hand, working it into a disc shape. When you feel like you will start to tear holes, you can set it on a floured surface (I use my counter) & continue to stretch & spread out to the size of your pizza stone. If it tears or holes form, no worries, just push them back together and press firmly. As long as there are no super-thin spots, it will be fine.

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Take the pizza stone out of the oven & set in a safe place to assemble the pizza. I set mine on my stove top with a cork hot pad to level it out. Transfer the dough onto the stone and reshape & press together any thin spots. Spread the sauce with a rubber spatula and layer the ingredients. Put the cheese on top & place in the oven. Bake 11-13 minutes at 500 degrees.

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Remove entire stone & pizza from the oven, slide pizza onto cutting board, and return the stone to the oven to cool down with the oven. Top with freshly grated Parmigiano, Romano, and/or crushed hot pepper flakes.

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GOOD PIZZA COMBINATIONS: 

Ingredients are in the order I put them on the pizza

  • The Classic- Red sauce, Italian sausage, Kalamata olives, dried cranberries, sliced jalepeno (or add a chipotle sauce or ground chipotles to the sauce if you like it more spicy), kale, mozzarella cheese
  • Hawaiian- Red sauce, turkey bacon (precooked & chopped in 1-2 inch pieces), pineapple chunks, macadamia nuts chopped, mozzarella cheese (also really good with kale under the cheese layer)
  • Gout Lovers- Red sauce, roasted garlic, chicken, Kalamata olives, sweet peppers, mozzarella cheese
  • Thai chicken- Cream sauce or red sauce with peanut butter added to it, fresh basil leaves, chicken, sweet peppers, green onions (precooked), peanuts or cashews, mozzarella cheese
  • Italian Classic- Red sauce, fresh basil, pepperoni, Italian sausage, olives, ricotta cheese, mozzarella cheese
  • Summer Italian Special- Red sauce, fresh basil leaves, pre-roasted eggplant, bacon, garlic, mozzarella & Parmigiano or Romano cheese (also really good with kale under the cheese layer)
  • Fall Harvest- Red or cream sauce, grouse or chukar, sliced pear,Kalamata olives, sliced almonds,  roasted garlic, kale, mozzarella cheese (or mix with Gouda, Parmigiano or Romano)
  • Winter Delight- Red or cream sauce, chicken or Italian sausage, winter squash, pumpkin seeds, cauliflower, pine nuts, kale, mozzarella cheese
  • Sockeye Special- Cream sauce with roasted garlic, smoked salmon, spinach, mushrooms, mozzarella cheese, top with fresh tomatoes
  • Vegi- Red sauce, summer squash, sweet peppers, olives, feta cheese, mozzarella cheese
  • Idaho Classic- Red or cream sauce, potato, Italian sausage or bacon, precooked caramelized onions,  mushrooms, mozzarella cheese
  • Elk & Morels- Red or cream sauce, Elk Italian sausage, morels, kale, ricotta cheese, mozzarella cheese

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Hay South Fork Ranch!

Every year in mid June I head into the South Fork Ranch to help put up the hay. It’s a working vacation and I love every moment of it!

IMGP1227 There are always amazing folks that come through the ranch over the couple of weeks I’m there.

IMGP1247 Everyone helps in their special way. Either bucking bales, driving tractor, cooking, or taking the kids to the beach. There’s a place for each and every person.

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There were several days this year where we had an all woman hay crew.

SFR Hay crew

It’s always fun to work with such strong, wonderful women!

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The little ones and the Nana’s even come out to help- bringing cookies, cold water & big smiles.

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Even Orange finds a special place to ride on the hay wagon.

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This year there was a good crop of hay. We put up a total of 3,200 bales!

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It’s amazing to be a part of the haying process. One day there is a field of tall grass, then a few days later, a sea of bales.

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We got lucky this year with only one rain storm. The rest of the days were hot & dry. Great weather for making hay!

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We pick up bales in the morning and stack them in the barn. Then in the afternoon I rake the hay that my uncle cut the day before, putting two rows together. Hayin' at the ranch

The hay gets raked one more time and then baled up.

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About the time haying is done, we’re all ready to head to orchard to pick cherries, or head to the beach and jump in the river.

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Then, just like that, the sprinkler pipes are all moved back onto the fields and it’s back to irrigating until the second cutting.

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Through all the hard work everyone is full of smiles, truly enjoying the time spent.

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This is one of the things to pass down to the generations- a real, working Idaho backcountry ranch that brings friends and family together to work hard and play hard.

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The generations come together here and people take the time to enjoy the present. This is as real as it gets.

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April and May- showers & flowers

The spring blooms are orchestrated in sequence, some enduring hard frosts, others blowing away with the wind. I love seeing everything bloom around our place and in the mountains.

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From the service berry & syringa, to all the different fruit trees, the violas, larkspur, crocus, camas root, and lilacs. The buttercups, balsam root, lupine, paintbrush, and shooting stars.

IMGP4588I love flowers. I love seeing them in the fields, the mountains, my garden, and in a vase on the table.

Mother's Day special bouquet

Mother’s Day special bouquet

Bring on the showers if it means more flowers. We had such a dry April and didn’t get rain until mid-May. The lawn was getting crispy and plants in the garden were wilting without regular hand-watering.

Spring storm on the horizon

Spring storm on the horizon

Finally, the rains came, and they’re still here. We are finally getting enough rain to green up the hillsides, freshen the flowers and bring that amazing smell of rain.  The last week has been the perfect blend of rain and sunshine.

Killgore's Orchard in White Bird

Killgore’s Orchard in White Bird

Enjoy the smell and view of flowers wherever you travel this spring and early summer. Take the time to stop and enjoy their beauty.

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Maybe pick a bouquet for your someone special.

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Riggins Rodeo & Morels!

The month of May starts out with the Riggins Rodeo, one of the first in the state. My family and friends have been camping at rodeo time for over 30 years. We all come out of winter hiding and gather for a few days of spring enjoyment. Riggins RodeoWe are now into the second generation, and this tradition is rich and vibrant with life. It’s the new generation that makes us realize that it’s important to take the time to enjoy the riches that life has to offer. The time away from work and time with family and friends; these are the good times to relish.

IMGP3878May is always so busy in the garden, yard & sun room, but it’s also the moth to make time to spend with family and friends before we all get swept away with summer. This is my favorite month to get out in the mountains for hiking and morel hunting.

IMGP0769We love to get out and wander around in the woods looking for morels. It’s like being a kid on a treasure hunt. When all the elements are just right, it’s as if you can hear the mushrooms popping out of the ground. This is one of those years.

IMGP4471The best part about morel hunting is the slow pace. Like most hunting adventures, if you’re going too fast, you’re probably missing out. Slow down and stop to smell the flowers.

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Coralroot Striped Orchid

Here are a few morel hunting tips:

  • Find the right location- partially north facing aspects with the right adjacent community- fir trees, heart leaf arnica, trillium, glacier lily, huckleberry bushes, calypso orchid (fairy slippers), striped coralroot orchid, etc…
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Clematis

  • Harvest responsibly- Never pick the whole mushroom, cut just below the cap & leave the base in the ground (I use my fingernail, some us a small knife). Tap the mushroom before picking & shake in your hand in an effort to release the spores & ensure future growth.

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  • Leave the old and the very young. Only pick mushrooms in their prime. Leave the older ones that are releasing their spores, buggy or starting to slime back into the soil. Let the little ones live on. It’s not necessary to harvest every mushroom in the forest, pick the best sensibly & let the rest go.

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  • Use a basket for your harvest. This allows the spores to drop through as you walk, gives the moist specimen plenty of air, and doesn’t crush them as you build up your basket full. Avoid bags if possible, especially plastic. Morels are delicate, handle with care.

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  • Morels like hidey-holes where they are protected- old stump holes, around fallen logs, at the drip line of firs, etc… Take that extra step and peer over the logs and into the depressions in the earth.

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  • Most of all, have fun finding your own special hunting grounds and take your special friends and family to enjoy. Keep your sacred hunting grounds to a select few, though. This is just how it is. Everyone should get out and discover their own special place and relish the feeling of self discovery & successful harvest. It takes time, but this feeling reaches deep into the heart & soul. It is worth it!
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From here the morels are separated for drying

  • We don’t wash our harvest unless absolutely necessary. There shouldn’t bee too many bugs if they are fresh & no dirt if the stems are cut properly. If there are any dirt or bugs, they will fall out when they dry. Set the mushrooms out to dry on trays- don’t let them touch & give them plenty of air flow. Any that are in need of quick drying, place them on a dehydrator and cut in half if necessary. You can place in a paper bag after dry and shake to remove any additional debris, if needed. Store only the most perfect morels together. Any others store separately.
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An all Idaho harvested meal- Elk burgers, morels & young onions.

The April Garden

Is it really May already? I’m already looking into June and it’s hard to believe that April was just here not long ago. When the early spring season starts to silently awaken the life in the mountains, the garden starts to come alive.

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Plants are bursting with new growth and blooms- The raspberries get their leaves in what seems like overnight, the strawberries are running everywhere, and bulbs flower with an array of colors.

Gram's spring bloom

This is the time of the year when the “to do” list is ever growing. Each time you cross one chore off the list, three more grow. April gardening is full of cleaning up and prepping spaces- hauling fertilizer, turning and tilling, mulching, thinning, and planting early seeds.

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The cold cops all go in the ground after their transition period to the outside world. This year I grew 5 different kinds of kale- Scarlet, Starbor, Nero di Toscana, Dwarf Blue, & Dwarf Siberian, 2 kinds of cauliflower- Amazing & Romanesco, and 5 varities of broccoli- Packman, Calabrese, gypsy, Atlantic, & Arcadia.

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Peas are always in early, along with the Swiss chard, beets, onions, escarole, lettuce, spinach, carrots, parsley root, and radishes. I love the snap peas, as well as oriental & snow peas, and pod peas. My favorite Swiss Chard variety is probably the bright lights, but I also grow individual varieties spanning the full color spectrum. This year I’m growing 7 varieties of beets, 11 types of carrots, 16 kinds of lettuce, 11 varieties of onions, 3 types of spinach, and 7 kinds of radishes.

Early seeds and plants just coming up

Early seeds and plants just coming up

The garlic is growing great. They look like strong and healthy stalks.

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The bed of leaves and pine needles keeps the weeds down, ads mulch, and insulates in the winter.

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The Swiss Chard is still growing strong from last year’s crop. The thick bed of leaves really keeps the root base alive  through the winter and they just flourish in the spring. I love having the chard, kale, collards, escarole, and radicchio greens to seek out for early spring meals.

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A goof friend of mine recently was telling me about her garden and all the wonderful greens, lettuce and onions she was picking and enjoying with her husband. With a big smile, she added, “Well, you know, things just grow good with all that love.”

Happy Gardening with Love!

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Jaclyn’s Smoothie Recipe

Fresh and frozen fruit is such a big part of my everyday life. Especially in the winter and spring when I am really craving for the fruit to be back in season. I love to make smoothies and eat berries with breakfast, yogurt or dessert; which means I pick A LOT of berries and fruit when they are ripe for the picking.

A morning of picking at the local orchard

A morning of picking at the local orchard

I make smoothies almost every day with lots of berries and fruit, mixed with an assortment of yogurt, peanut butter, flax oil, hemp seeds, almond & coconut milk, etc… Use my recipe to as a guideline and  share a yummy and healthy part of my day.

The Smoothie making spread

The Smoothie making spread

I know a lot of people add greens, protein powders, etc…, but I don’t. I love my greens on their own, and eat enough greens and protein in my diet. But please feel free to be creative and add whatever you like to my recipe. That’s what it is for, a place to start and inspire!

Fruit, yogurt, peanut butter

Fruit, yogurt, peanut butter

Ingredients:

  • Cherries, frozen- 5-10 Bing Cherries, 10-15 sour/pie cherries & a handful of black cherries
  • Raspberries, frozen- one handful
  • Boysenberries, frozen- one handful
  • Blackberries, frozen- one handful
  • Peaches & Nectarines, frozen- one of each, medium size (more or less depending on size)
  • Bananas- one and a half
  • Oranges & Tangerines- one half an orange & juice from one to two tangerines
  • Grapefruit- one third
  • Peanut Butter- approx. 1/2 cup
  • Hemp seeds- approx. 1/8 cup
  • Flax Seed Oil- approx. 1/8 cup
  • Yogurt- approx. 1/4 cup of low fat & 1/4 cup whole milk yogurt
  • Milk or juice of choice- I typically use 1/3 unsweetened almond, 1/3 unsweetened coconut & 1/3 dark chocolate almond milk, plus a splash of grape juice

Put fruit in blender, starting with those at the top of the ingredient list (harder, frozen fruit first), pour liquids of choice over the ingredients. Blend until desired smoothness. It is best to use at least half frozen fruit to create the right consistency. Serve & enjoy!

Ready to blend

Ready to blend

Make enough for one meal to serve 2-3 people, or put a portion in a glass jar and refrigerate for the next day; which is great if you have a busy or travel day coming up. My husband also enjoys having a smoothie to-go in the morning, so I make enough for him to take to-go when it works with his schedule.

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I use a mix of fresh fruit and stock piled fruit in the freezer or store room; all harvested or purchased in season (with the exception of bananas; which I buy year round). Here are a few tips on how to stock up on the above ingredients, and a few possible, additional ingredients:

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  • Berries- pick in season, put on trays, freeze & store in bags for later use
  • Nectarines & Peaches- pick in season, remove stone, halve, put on trays, freeze, & store in bags for later use
  • Citrus- we get a lot of citrus in the winter from Nature’s Table (a local supplier that goes down to AZ orchards and picks) and I like to freeze the juice in ice cube trays for later use
  • Melon- cube up when in season, put on trays, freeze, & store in bags for later use
  • Plum & Pear- puree plums and pears when in season and freeze in ice cube trays for later use. Puree the skins and all. Then add how many cubes you want to the smoothie.
  • Apples- use fresh in season or store certain varieties your store room from fall to early summer
  • Mango, Pineapple & other tropical fruits- use fresh in season & freeze on trays when available
  • Carrots- I love to add carrot juice to the mix. It’s so sweet and refreshing. Maybe even a little ginger!

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Use what other fruits and vegetables you have and like in season, and put away for the off season. Mix it up throughout the year to keep it different. Variety is the spice of life!

*Use your citrus peels to wipe off your cutting board when the task is done; plus it refreshes your cutting surface. Be amazed at how sponge-like a grapefruit peel is!

Cooking and Eating with the seasons

In general, we cook and eat in harmony with the seasons, and with items we’ve put away in the pantry or freezer for the off-season. We don’t buy very many vegetables, fruit, meat, herbs, or spices from the grocery store, unless it’s something we are really craving, have run out of in the pantry or store room, can’t grow here, or need for a special purpose. We still strive to purchase these other items with a conscience; local, organic, in season, non GMO, etc… Of course, this isn’t always possible, but we do the best we can. It’s all about the love for food and what goes into our bodies to energize us.

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Ratatouille in the making

For the most part, the meals I cook are determined by what we have on hand. I have a hard time following many recipes because I change the ingredients or alter the recipe to what is available. This is where my creativity and pallet take over. Certain recipes do need to be followed for success (especially in baking), but I still may choose different types of flour, butter & oil, sweetener, nuts, seeds, etc.. Many of my recipes you will see posted have a variety of versions depending on what’s available, what I prefer, or who’s coming for dinner.

Loving the fresh fruit in season!

Loving the fresh fruit in season!

My family loves good food. We love all the aspects- growing the ingredients or seeking them out, fresh bursts of flavor, aged goodness, savory, sweet, bitter, the open door to anyone that comes  to visit or help, those who come to the table to eat or get sent leftovers, and above all, the love and time that goes into making and sharing it all. Without certain people in my life, and time spent creating in the kitchen, these recipes wouldn’t be here. Thank you Mom, Grandma Day, Grandma Truppi, Aunt Judy, my sisters & cousins, and the back county women who inspire me.

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Enjoy the creativity these recipes present and the basis they provide. Experiment, find what you like best and have fun. Happy Cooking!

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