Category Archives: Nutrition

Garden in January, Eastern NC, Zone 7b and Harvest Monday

January 12, 2015

I am combining Harvest Monday with my monthly garden update this week. It is AMAZING to see how the garden has changed in the last two months!

Beginning of NovemberDSC_6008-EditBeginning of DecemberDSC_6282Beginning of January© Nieto Photography - Nietophotography.com - 919.495.5916 - Christopher NietoWow. In the course of two months, the bushes and trees went from green, to red, to nothing! I never realized how quickly that happened before documenting it in pictures.

We dipped into the teens multiple nights this week and never got out of the 30s many days. So I went ahead and harvested a bunch of veggies — better safe than sorry! The garden is still covered. I am hoping the kale and broccoli plants will survive the cold and will bounce back. We will see.

Celery (from store cuttings) Used them juicing and in soup.

© Nieto Photography - Nietophotography.com - 919.495.5916 - Christopher NietoCabbage (softball size but again, better safe than sorry! And they made enough coleslaw for three nights!)© Nieto Photography - Nietophotography.com - 919.495.5916 - Christopher NietoKale (salad) © Nieto Photography - Nietophotography.com - 919.495.5916 - Christopher NietoLettuce (salad) © Nieto Photography - Nietophotography.com - 919.495.5916 - Christopher NietoI remembered to take a picture one night as an example of how we ate from the garden this week:© Nieto Photography - Nietophotography.com - 919.495.5916 - Christopher NietoThis is my 2yo’s plate. Sloppy joe (marinara sauce from our tomatoes & wild onions), coleslaw (our cabbage), roasted sweet potatoes (ours), steamed green beans (ours). Bread is homemade from freshly milled flour.

All-in-all I spent money on pinto beans, chickpeas, carrots, mayonnaise, mustard, some spices, honey and olive oil (bread). (I buy dry beans, soak, cook, and freeze them in 15oz bags) I may have spent 50c on the whole meal (no more than 10 cents/child, including seconds). Tell me eating healthy is more expensive! Pbsh!

Most of our grocery money these days is going into buying fruit! Fruit is costing us so much, I have fruit on the brain. I ordered extra watermelon and cantaloupe seeds for next summer. I ordered ground cherries. And this past week I ordered two sweet cherry trees and two fig trees. I wanted to order concord grapes as well but the order was getting pretty expensive so I guess I’ll have to wait until next year for those.

My hope is that soon, I will not have to buy any fruit during the spring, summer, or fall and maybe we can dry some fruit so we will not have to buy very much during the winter months either.

Right now, we freeze strawberries and blueberries for use during the winter. We went strawberry picking last May and we are still eating raw strawberry jam. We eat our blueberries in cereal and oatmeal.

Are you harvesting? Are you still eating from your stores? Whether it is your goal to eat only from your land one day, eat only in season, or you just like looking at others’ gardens, check out Daphne’s Dandelions this Harvest Monday 🙂

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Harvest Monday

November 3, 2014

Our first frost date is October 20th (zone 7b). The temps have held off for awhile but this week, we had our first frost and last night we got down to 30.

I knew, with how life is, that whenever the first frost was predicted, I would not have time to do anything in the garden that day. So I have been stripping the tomato and pepper plants and cleaning up the garden for the winter for the past couple of weeks.DSC_5832I have filled the wagon about seven times…

Tomato/Pepper patch cleaned out:
DSC_5831And half of it covered with manure from the coop (darker mulch on right & light mulch in front both from the coop):DSC_5924Our L-shaped volunteer tomato patch and all of the tomato plants in the raised beds and pots were cleaned up as well. DSC_5927I harvested all of the peppers and tomatoes.DSC_5834The peppers were chopped and frozen while the tomatoes are ripening on the counter.DSC_5856DSC_5858Other harvests this week include…

PeasDSC_5861A few beets randomly popped out of the ground on their own. DSC_5891I juiced these and froze the juice and pulp (separately) until the rest plump up. We drink the juice and use the pulp to make blueberry/beet pancakes.

Kale and Raspberries…DSC_5835 DSC_5837DSC_5915Every once in a while we are able to harvest a bit of spinach and lettuce. I’m not sure why most of the seeds did not germinate. We are thankful for whatever we get though 🙂DSC_5890I am happy to announce we were able to harvest strawberries this week! Our strawberries are everbearing strawberries. However, I have not seen any flowers or anything and as our first frost date is quickly approaching, I figured I may as well cover the strawberries for the winter.

I prepped the area this week by making sure all of the weeds were pulled and what do I see? Strawberries! It was a pleasant surprise, for sure 🙂DSC_5860DSC_5914We also were blessed by our neighbor this week as he allowed me to harvest some baby kale from his garden. He also allowed the children to pick some pecans from his tree. They needed to dry before we could open them.DSC_5862 DSC_5863The children have LOVED breaking them open with rocks and eating them as snacks. DSC_5916 DSC_5918We don’t eat snacks at our house so anything out of the garden is a treat 🙂 This past week, they have been playing campout. They have been eating peas, pecans, raspberries, strawberries, tomatoes, and wild onions. Love it! 🙂

If only feeding them was that easy all the time 😉 We love eating from our garden! Here is an example: Sweet potato, green beans & kale from our garden. Only one pecan made it on the plate as the rest were eaten right before supper. We also had baked beans but I took the picture before serving those since they are not from our garden 🙂DSC_5919Are you harvesting still or prepping your garden for the winter…or both, like us?

Check out what others are harvesting over at Daphne’s Dandelions!

Harvest Monday

October 13, 2014

We harvested peas, raspberries, peppers, tomatoes, and spinach this week. All of the peas were eaten in the garden. The peppers and tomatoes were eaten as part of lunch as soon as they were picked.

The only harvest picture I remembered to take was the night we only had a taste of raspberries and spinach. Keep in mind, if I were the only person eating, it would have been a nice little salad and dessert. Seeing how we have 5 kids to feed, everyone only got a smidgin that night 🙂 So this week, I’ll share how I am consuming the harvest and less about what is being picked.

Pot Pie, Brown Rice, Spinach and RaspberryDSC_5772From the garden:

  • sweet potato
  • green beans
  • peas
  • corn
  • spinach
  • raspberry

DSC_5757Another night we had a hodge-podge of ‘main dishes’ (anything from enchilada casserole to baked beans or sloppy joes — basically leftovers) along with green beans, sweet potatoes, and a spinach salad from the garden.

Pizza Night! Spinach, artichoke, cream cheese pizza; tomato, mushroom, pepper pizza, green beans, and spaghetti squash.DSC_5759I have always felt badly about pizza night b/c pizza is so unhealthy so I limit it to twice a month. I didn’t realize it until this week, however, that our pizza night meal, other than the cheese, is a very healthy meal!

From the garden:

  • spaghetti squash
  • green beans
  • tomatoes (veggie pizza, pizza sauce, and marinara sauce on the spaghetti squash)
  • green peppers (veggie pizza)
  • kale (white veggie pizza)

The crust is just hard white wheat, yeast, and water. AND, when available from the garden, we also have a salad of some sort! I’m starting to feel better about pizza night 🙂 Yum!

I am linking up with Daphne’s Dandelions to see what others are harvesting from their gardens in October and I am hoping to harvest much more this week!

Thick, Easy Marinara Sauce

September 30, 2014

I have always had trouble growing tomatoes. I am getting better but have not ‘arrived’ yet. For this reason, I have not ventured out to find a really good marinara sauce. This summer, I decided that would be my goal: to find a perfect marinara sauce for our family. I was quite skeptical because my marinara recipe had to be

  • easy
  • smooth
  • thick
  • and easy… 😉

Smooth is pretty easy to come by but thick and easy do not tend to go hand-in-hand. The last marinara sauce I made was easy but only tasted okay. And I broke our crockpot in the process 😦

I ran across a Passata recipe from Chiot’s Run (wonderful blog) and decided to try it out. She is very knowledgeable when it comes to animals, gardening, and cooking so I trusted her comments about the sauce. From what I can tell, Passata and marinara are pretty much the same thing and we use marinara sauce for everything (pizza, pasta, making sloppy joes) so I went for it.

I do not want to heat the house up during the summer so when tomatoes come in, I just stick them in a freezer bag, whole. I used two gallon freezer bags full of tomatoes to make two quarts of thick, smooth sauce. There were only a few paste tomatoes. Most were large, slicing heirlooms and lots of cherry tomatoes.

I used the same ingredients as she does but I did a few things differently:

STEP 1: Line ingredients on pan. My tomatoes were mostly frozen still. I only let them defrost enough to be able to cut them in half.

Nieto Family - September 26 14 - 0013STEP 2: Roast 2 hours at 300. Nieto Family - September 26 14 - 0039Nieto Family - September 26 14 - 0041(YUM!)

Step 3: Scoop everything into the Vitamix with a slotted spoon. Save juice as a broth for soups.

Step 4: Pour sauce into jars and freeze (an idea I also got from her).
Nieto Family - September 26 14 - 0042Look how thick! The spoon was basically vertical. Nieto Family - September 26 14 - 0044 It was super thick. I had to use the plunger to blend it all up. There was no need to cook it longer in a pan/pot, as recommended.

The verdict: Wonderful! Even my daughter, who hates tomatoes, loved it 🙂 I still tasted a slight tomatoey taste that you don’t taste in store bought tomato sauce but I assume it is just because there is no sugar in my sauce. If there is anything else I can do other than add sugar, please let me know!

Highlights of the recipe/process:

  1. I can use frozen tomatoes and the consistency does not change
  2. the oven is on a fairly low temp (roasting is normally done on higher temps)
  3. the whole process takes about 2.5 hrs, including clean up (rather than taking all day)
  4. no crockpots were broken in the process
  5. I only used roasting pans and my Vitamix to make it (no pots, no food mills, etc.)
  6. and it makes a THICK, not to mention tasty sauce

I think we have a winner! Seriously, it is so difficult to find a good tomato sauce that can be used for pizza, spaghetti, whatever! This is it (I’m pretty sure)! Thank You Chiot’s Run! 🙂

Just to reiterate:

  • NO Peeling
  • NO Food mills
  • NO canning
  • LOVE IT.

I am linking up with Green Thumb Thursdays and Simple Lives Thursday, hoping to help some other struggling marinara-maker 🙂

Sticking to a Budget…6 Months and Counting…

July 31, 2013

I’m sticking to doing a BIG grocery trip right when my husband gets paid and then one or two little ones until the next paycheck. One pay period this month, I used ALL of the money budgeted for groceries…we had to get a lot of non-edibles (toilet paper, trash bags, etc.).

The other pay period, I had some leftover money (because we’re eating out of the garden). When I have extra money, I put it back into our ‘Garden’ fund to pay for chicken feed and more seeds to plant.

Next on the ‘Garden’ list was to buy paint for the coop but my neighbor offered some old paint he had – we mixed it up and it looks just fine 🙂 (I would say ‘great’ but we painted it…and it’s just for the chickens…so it’s fine)

Our chickens are 21 weeks old so we are expecting eggs any day now. I expect to see a LARGE difference in our grocery bill after that! After buying seeds for the garden, I am planning on saving up for a riding lawn mower. It is not easy mowing this many acres with a push 😛 Then again, we are covering it little by little with cardboard, newspaper, and mulch so maybe we won’t need a riding one afterall…we’ll see 🙂

We’re trying to eat out of the garden, as always, to save on groceries. Right now, we’re eating corn, tomatoes, bell peppers, snaps, cucumbers, potatoes, and kale. Unfortunately, we ate through all of our carrot plantings (I’m continually planting more but they take quite a while to size up) and it is too hot for lettuce and a lot of kale so we are buying some of that from the store.

We are trying to keep it to a minimum and JUST eating out of the garden. It is not easy eating only what is in season when you always have the option of buying whatever you want at the store, but I think it is a wonderful practice in self control and a wonderful nature lesson as well 🙂

Here are a couple of samples of what we eat. We eat simply – mainly raw, roasted, or steamed…saves on time and ingredients 🙂

supper(Clockwise from the top: kale (from the garden) salad with apples and raisins, bean burger on homemade bread (WAY cheaper than store-bought AND much healthier), steamed snaps (garden), roasted potatoes (garden), oven fried squash (neighbor’s garden) – egg & breadcrumbs))

supper(clockwise from top: kale salad (garden – we’re in a lettuce loll, what can I say?), coleslaw (cabbage & carrots w/some mayo), baked beans made in crockpot w/maple syrup to sweeten), boiled corn (garden), steamed pole beans (garden))

In general, we don’t eat meat and limit our dairy intake so other than beans for a good protein kick, I try to load up their plates with lots of veggies! These are both my 5yo’s plate.

For the first dinner, I had to buy apples & raisins, which are already on the list as we eat a lot of fruit as well, and beans (I buy dried b/c it’s cheaper and healthier if I cook it at home).

For the second dinner, I had to buy apples, beans (dry), and cabbage. However, one cabbage goes a LONG way, since I make many batches and freeze them for future suppers. Hopefully, this will help some of you see how we can eat healthy AND not spend very much money on groceries.

Some meals, of course, are more expensive. For example, when we have stuffed shells or lasagna, I make a ricotta mix with tofu, which is not cheap…but still for that meal, I buy tofu, marinara sauce, and spaghetti squash (lasts us two meals). Not crazy expensive and hopefully, in the years to come, the marinara sauce and spaghetti squash will come out of my garden!

I always hate when people are really vague about how they save money, saying, ‘I cook everything at home’ or ‘I use coupons’ or ‘I eat from my garden’. I like specific examples. I hope this helps some of you to be able to visualize how your family can eat simply and healthily on the CHEAP. Please let me know if you would like more examples.

I’m sure I’ll hear about how your kids won’t eat anything other than nuggets or pizza or whatever. Kids aren’t going to go from eating fried, processed food to eating raw/steamed veggies overnight.

Many years ago, we began introducing our children to salads as a snack WITH Ranch dressing AND croutons! Next, we dropped the croutons. Then, a year ago, we dropped the dressing. We used to eat snaps by steaming and then putting butter in them. Now, we just steam them (no seasoning or anything). It is a process. Don’t expect things to change overnight. Work with your kids little-by-little. Get rid of all the bad food in the house. ALL.OF.IT. Be a good role-model.

By the way, we don’t eat healthy, healthy all the time. We eat pizza about twice a month. However, our pizza is with homemade, whole-wheat dough and they are veggie (kale, artichokes, cream cheese) or pineapple pizzas so again, not going crazy with money or health even when we splurge.

Another non-healthy meal we eat about twice a month is quesadillas…we eat these with guacamole (avocado, salsa, lime juice), rice (brown), salad, and refried beans (I make them from dry beans and only use a little coconut oil so they are VERY healthy but VERY tasty). We love the taste on our tongues of a splurge but their little bodies are so used to eating healthy that within 12 hours, their bodies have expelled all of the cheese they have eaten. It seems like a waste of $$ to me but, again, we enjoy it as it goes down!

Non-Food Savings

Another way we are saving on groceries each month is by not buying diapers (woo whoo!) or laundry detergent. Cloth diapering is really working out 🙂

For new readers, I bought 13 cloth diapers off of craigslist back in April with the idea that if I could use them until July, I will have broken even (cost the same as buying diapers from April until July). If I could use them past July, I would be ‘making money’! Well, it’s July and I am definitely continuing! 🙂

I bought 13 because that is how many the lady had for sale but I decided to look for more later. After 4 months of using cloth diapers, I don’t think I really need any more. We use all of them in about 2-3 days and after 2-3 days, it starts to smell so I have to wash anyway. If I had more, I would just want to wait longer and that’s just stinky 😛

I know cloth diapering is different with a newborn because the baby is changed a lot more and is different w/a toddler b/c poops are so much worse, but right now, with a one year old who still gets most of his nutrition breastfeeding, what we have is perfect 🙂

Another thing I bought back in April was Soap Nuts. It is a sustainable product and VERY economical. All of the reviews I read on them were wonderful so I ordered a large bag. If you like your clothes to come out smelling lavendery or citrusy, I suggest using essential oils because using Soap Nuts, your clothes come out smelling…like nothing…which I’m fine with. 🙂 They are incredibly easy to use and clean just as well as other laundry soaps (even on poop stains!).

I know this was a SUPER DUPER long post! If you made it to the end, Congratulations! 🙂 If you missed out on planting a garden this year, all is not lost! Go buy kale, lettuce, broccoli, spinach, and carrot seeds! Depending on where you live, gardening year-round is VERY doable! You can save on your grocery bills even when it is cold and snowy 🙂