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Welcome back to more apartment gardening! Two weeks ago I shared our Petomato and showed how easy it is to use. The same day, I also assembled a new AeroGarden (but haven’t blogged about it before now). There are many shapes and sizes of AeroGarden, but I purchased the 7 pod LED light version. After two weeks of use, I’m pretty pleased with it. Today I’m sharing how easy it is to put together, the progress our lettuces have made, and one thing I don’t like about the device.

I don’t know if this is how the AeroGarden looks on a store shelf, but this is how it was boxed from Amazon. It wasn’t particularly attractive packaging, but I ordered it online and that didn’t really matter to me! It was actually packed inside a larger box, not shipped like this.

aerogarden LED box

At the time of writing, the Amazon price was $249, but I purchased it for under $200. The price seems to fluctuate a lot, so I think it’s worth watching the item for a few days before purchasing. [click to continue…]

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Friends tease me about adding Greek yogurt to everything. They have good reason to! I do try to swap Greek yogurt for oil, mayo, sour cream, and several other ingredients. Sometimes it works really well (try Greek yogurt on nachos or tacos sometime!), but sometimes it doesn’t work well (I totally failed at making a Greek yogurt cheesecake the other month). This pasta salad is my latest recipe makeover. With Greek yogurt instead of mayonnaise and lots of Southwestern-inspired flavor, it’s a far cry from the usual. You can serve it as a side, but I’m not ashamed to admit I’ve eaten it as an entree, too!

Chipotle Greek Yogurt Pasta Salad

This pasta salad is also a good make ahead option. It tastes better after the flavors meld for several hours, so you can make it in the morning and serve it that afternoon, or even make it the evening before you need it. I can’t wait until I can make this again with my own “garden fresh” tomatoes and parsley. We have a tiny tomato plant growing in a Petomato right now, as well as parsley sprouting in an Aerogarden. Never heard of a Petomato? I hadn’t, either, until less than a month ago. It’s a cool little device invented by a Japanese man so that apartment dwellers can grow produce in an upcycled water bottle. I have a post on unboxing the Petomato that gives all the details!

Greek Yogurt Pasta Salad [click to continue…]

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Easy Homemade Blanched Almond Flour/Meal

When I was taking restaurant entrepreneurship classes in college, one of my professors loved emphasizing the importance of overlapping ingredients that go into multiple recipes. Not only do overlapping ingredients simplify purchases and storage, but they can also help you cut costs at home as well as in a business. That’s why I started making my own almond flour instead of buying it! (Not to mention the fact that taking a look at the price tag on pre-made almond flour for sale locally is just about enough to deter anyone from using it!) I can generally get a pound of almonds cheaper than a pound of almond flour, and grinding my own almond flour also allows me greater flexibility. Almond flour in trail mix or as a snack would be kind of weird! I buy my almonds whole, and then make small batches of almond flour as needed. It’s quick, easy, and doesn’t even require one of those expensive high-powered blenders!

How to Make your Own Blanched Almond Meal-Flour

While I typically use whole almonds and blanche them myself, you can use pre-blanched almonds or almond slivers. I’ve never tried to blanche slices that still have attached skin, but I think it would be very difficult and not worth the effort. On the other hand, blanching whole almonds to remove their skin is incredibly easy. I typically only work with one cup of almonds at a time because that’s all I trust my food processor to handle, but feel free to scale according to your needs and equipment’s capabilities! If you’re using slivers, just skip ahead to the second part of the recipe. =)

raw almonds [click to continue…]

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Petomato Progress Update – Apartment Gardening

Last Friday I posted about how we’ve decided to stop complaining about a lack of a yard and try to grow some food in our apartment. The first apartment gardening item I shared was our new Petomato, and last week’s post deals with unboxing and getting started with the Petomato. I’m very happy to report that my initial satisfaction with the product has only grown since last week. Check out why:

I “planted” my tomato seeds on Thursday, and by the following Monday there were several visible sprouts. Three of them are visible in this picture, if you look closely.

petomato sprouts

By Wednesday, every single seed had sprouted. That’s a 100% germination rate! Very impressive. Sadly, I had to thin out the extra sprouts, so this little guy is the last man standing.

petomato progress

I’m impressed by our little tomato plant’s progress in only one week. So far I haven’t encountered any problems with the Petomato and am looking forward to watching our plant grow! I’m very excited by the prospect of having home grown tomatoes before too long – it’s been far too many years since the last time I had a homegrown, freshly picked tomato.

natashal

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Roast Asparagus with Paleo Mustard Shallot Sauce

I wrote “Brussels sprouts” on my shopping list the other day, but at the store I put asparagus in my cart, instead. It wasn’t like I was unaware of doing it or confused one for the other, I just suddenly decided I’d rather have asparagus. When I got home, I wondered why I hadn’t just gotten the planned Brussels sprouts! My subconcious must have guided me, because when I actually thought about it the next day, I came up with a fun idea to try and it was delicious. If I’d stuck to my shopping list, I wouldn’t have created this tasty dish of roast asparagus with Paelo-friendly mustard shallot “cream” sauce!

Oven Roasted Asparagus w Mustard Sauce

I put the cream in quotation marks up there because this recipe is dairy-free – it uses coconut milk, instead! When you’re making the sauce, you’ll probably think I’ve asked you to add way too much liquid, but just let it simmer down. Adding the chicken broth helps tame the coconut flavor! To make the recipe vegetarian, just use water, instead, or your favorite vegetarian broth. Also, if you’ve never prepared asparagus before and are unfamiliar with how to snap off the woody stem portions, you can see a more thorough description in my roast asparagus recipe on HubPages.

trimmed asparagus [click to continue…]

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I don’t like fast food. I don’t crave fries and I’m pretty sure I haven’t eaten a fast food burger since the ’90s. What I do love are fluffernutter sandwiches. I don’t eat them that often, but they are definitely one of my guilty pleasures. I think part of that is because they seemed like such a treat when I was growing up. Whenever my dad was out of town or couldn’t make lunch for us to take to school, my mom stepped in the with lunch she knew how to make – a fluffernutter sandwich. It was pretty awesome.

Recently, I was scrolling through Pinterest looking at all sorts of whoopee pies and sandwich cookies when I realized that I’d never seen a fluffernutter cookie. That’s when I decided to create a fluffernutter cookie and began experimenting. You may recall my puffy peanut butter cookies from a couple weeks ago – they’re actually the first half of this recipe. I know sandwich cookies aren’t usually puffy because it makes them kind of hard to stack, but I felt like it was important from a texture perspective. In my opinion, a true fluffernutter sandwich has to be made on plain white bread. I normally hate white bread, but it’s important for a classic fluffernutter! Anyway, white bread has sort of an almost foamy texture. It’s light and puffy (because air is whipped into it instead of letting it rise naturally), which is why I created puffy peanut butter cookies. The puffy peanut butter cookies are way better than white bread (and doubtlessly have more protein!), but it helps recreate the sandwich a little more authentically.

Fluffernutter Cookies with Homemade Marshmallow Fluff

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Unboxing and Getting Started with the Petomato

I love gardening. There is something so incredibly rewarding about watching plants grow and enjoying fresh produce, and everybody knows freshly picked, homegrown fruits and vegetables taste so much better than anything from the store. As you probably already know, commercial produce for grocery stores is bred for durability and ability to withstand shipping, not for taste. Plus, homegrown produce is actually more nutritious than what you can buy in the store.

The problem is, how do you garden in an apartment? I don’t mean the kind of apartment that magically has loads of patio, porch, balcony, and fire escape space like you see in all the apartment gardening magazine spreads. I’ve lived in several apartments and the best I’ve ever had was a walkway I could sort of put a few things on if they really liked growing in low-light conditions. We’ve been trying to grow basil and mint in our current walkway space, but it doesn’t really get enough light and I am amazed all three plants (there are two mints) are still hanging in there after several months. They’re nice, but don’t really count as a garden.

This week we decided to get serious about trying to grow vegetables in our apartment. We live in Hawaii, so the weather is warm year-round growth, and we have a big window in our living room that gets decent light. When I was browsing for apartment gardening solutions, I came across the Petomato. It was designed by a Japanese man and, apparently, has gained some popularity in Japan as a way for people in cities to grow some fresh produce. I figured that if it’s small enough for someone in a Japanese apartment to use, we should have plenty of space for one! The Petomato allows you to grow hydroponic produce in a disposable water bottle. Pretty cool sounding, right? You have to keep the plant pruned and pollinate the flowers yourself, but growing cherry tomatoes in the living room without special equipment sounded appealing, so I decided to buy one on Amazon. We went with the classic tomato Petomato (it’s also available in habanero pepper and basil).

Getting started with the Petomato [click to continue…]

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Did you know that October 15 is the last day of Hispanic Heritage Month? Yeah, I didn’t know either until about two weeks ago when we were driving on base and saw a sign advertising a celebratory lunch buffet and keynote speaker. It turns out Hispanic Heritage Month runs from September 15 – October 15. I may have teased Papi Chulo about this fact a little bit because, while it is 30 days…well, it isn’t exactly a month. Ah, well. I guess it just means you can celebrate for two months, if you’re feeling enthusiastic!

Around here, we don’t need an excuse to enjoy some Cuban food. In fact, I happen to know for a fact that I could serve up pork and rice with plantains or black beans 5 nights a week and they’d be eaten enthusiastically. The menu has been suggested to me! Even though we do cook a lot of Cuban comfort food, we’ve recently been trying to cut back on the amount of things we fry. We both love green plantain tostones and sweet plantains, but were getting sick of all the oil. It made the apartment smell funny, kept making a mess (even though we have a splatter screen), and just generally seemed like it couldn’t be all that good for us. A few weeks ago, I shared how to make baked green plantain chips (mariquitas), so today I’m showing you how to make sweet “fried” plantains in the oven instead of in a pan of oil. They take a few minutes longer, but they’re just as tasty and don’t make you feel nearly as guilty! You know what else is totally cool? Plantains are Paleo-friendly and make a fantastic Paleo dessert or breakfast idea in addition to a delicious side dish for pretty much any meal.

Baked Sweet Plantains (Platanos Maduros)

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Welcome to the “practice” installment of my self-catered wedding reception posts! This isn’t a blogland perfect post – there are lots of cell phone photos showing the sometimes messy and disappointing parts of practicing new skills. It’s an honest, real post, not a pretty one. Except for this first photo. This was the view from our ceremony and reception sight. The beautiful blues and greens and tropical Hawaiian setting greatly influenced our menu choices and will help the example, WIP photos of the foods we chose make a bit more sense.

View of Diamondhead

I see practice as the middle phase of preparing for your self catered event, but getting ready to self cater your wedding isn’t like climbing a set of stairs – sometimes it’s more like walking on a treadmill. First you need to do a lot planning, and then you need to research and practice your ideas. Sometimes practice doesn’t turn out like you’d hoped and you have to scrap and idea and go back to the drawing board. That’s okay – it’s why you’re practicing! It’s also why you cannot leave practicing to the last minute. Practice early and practice often! You absolutely do not want to head into the last week or two before your self catered wedding without knowing what you’re going to make and how you’re going to make it, especially if you’re trying new things. [click to continue…]

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Paleo Sausage and Oven Roasted Fall Vegetable Bake

Aren’t fall vegetables amazing? They have so much color, flavor, and staying power. Not only will things like winter squashes and potatoes hang out in your pantry for a while without spoiling, but they also seem so much more meaty and filling than things like zucchini and yellow squash. Not to disparage zucchini, but sometimes you need a little change.

butternut squash and Okinawan sweet potato

Just look at those wonderful colors! They’re not just pretty to look at – eating a variety of different colored fruits and vegetables helps ensure you get a wide variety of nutrients. Add several delicious vegetables to slightly spicy sausages and a few Mediterranean seasonings, throw it all in the oven for about 45 minutes, and you end up with a delicious, easy meal that’s Paleo-friendly and a great way to take advantage of  seasonal produce.

Paleo Roasted Fall Vegetable Bake

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