Monday, December 19, 2011

A Very Davis Christmas

Thanks, Becky, for this cool decorative craft that kept us busy and knee-deep in glitter for days. A trip to Michaels, some fishing line, some marker and glitter, some jingle bells, and viola! The kids are excited about the tree and the cookies! And we had to do the Target dollar spot festive headgear.


Now that I'm selling out on the locavore life for the winter (I just don't have the energy for it this year), I'm back to shopping at Produce Junction and paying next to nothing for exotic produce.

I thought I'd share the tip a few years ago from some internet site about cooking artichokes, written for us east coasters with no idea what to do with them. It said to trim the pointy edges off and then cook them for 20 minutes with a half lemon, a garlic clove, salt, and a bay leaf. I really like the flavor!

Runny Marmelade: AKA, Orange Syrup

So, I must say up front, making marmalade, for me, was so not worth it. I was feeling pressure, mostly imaginary, as the principal's wife, to come up with some creative Christmas gift for the teachers at Owen's school. I think it was about trying to live up to some ideal I'll never live up to. Anyway, not having a clue about making marmalade, I thought it would be the perfect gift to make.

I should have been clued in by the fact that the marmalade recipes I was finding were for a few pint jars. Here's why! It takes so long to peel the oranges with a peeler, peel the membranes off of the orange, slice the zest into thin ribbons . . . to make 15 jars, like I did, took about 10 hours. And then, to make matters worse, I just couldn't wait any longer for it to thicken, so I jarred hopefully. And found in the morning that I'd made orange syrup. Pretty, tasty, time-intensive orange syrup.

I must say, though, that it was lovely on greek yogurt.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Movie Recommendation: Forks Over Knives

If you are a Netflix watcher, this is on the "Watch Instantly" list. Forks Over Knives is an interesting and compelling documentary about the links between diet and heart disease and cancer. (In the interest of full disclosure, it does recommend a primarily vegan diet, I should warn up front.) It's well-researched and discusses why the findings of a massive study are not being more widely applied--fascinating. Anyway, happy viewing, if you choose to watch it. Owen even liked it, if that says anything for it. :)

Here's the Netflix link:

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Banana Oat Chocolate Chip Cookies

This recipe is from the blog, and has become a family tradition. Ithought I'd put it on my blog so it will be easier to find (I do a search for it online every year). It's pretty healthy and easy and tasty.

Nikki's Healthy Cookie Recipe

You can use unsweetened carob, or grain sweetened chocolate chips, or do what I did and chop up 2/3 of a bar of Scharffen berger 70%. I sort-of shaved half the bar with a knife and then cut the rest into bigger chip-sized chunks. You can make your own almond meal by pulsing almonds in a food processor until it is the texture of sand - don't go too far or you'll end up with almond butter. And lastly, the coconut oil works beautifully here, just be sure to warm it a bit - enough that it is no longer solid, which makes it easier to incorporate into the bananas. If you have gluten allergies, seek out GF oats.

3 large, ripe bananas, well mashed (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup coconut oil, barely warm - so it isn't solid (or alternately, olive oil)
2 cups rolled oats
2/3 cup almond meal
1/3 cup coconut, finely shredded & unsweetened
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
6 - 7 ounces chocolate chips or dark chocolate bar chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, racks in the top third.

In a large bowl combine the bananas, vanilla extract, and coconut oil. Set aside. In another bowl whisk together the oats, almond meal, shredded coconut, cinnamon, salt, and baking powder. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir until combined. Fold in the chocolate chunks/chips.The dough is a bit looser than a standard cookie dough, don't worry about it. Drop dollops of the dough, each about 2 teaspoons in size, an inch apart, onto a parchment (or Silpat) lined baking sheet. Bake for 12 - 14 minutes. I baked these as long as possible without burning the bottoms and they were perfect - just shy of 15 minutes seems to be about right in my oven.

Makes about 3 dozen bite-sized cookies.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Christmas Cactus Time

I like to post a picture of my Christmas cactus each winter around this time. Every year it shocks me to find it in flower (maybe because I basically do nothing for it but provide occasional water). There is something just amazing about such a brilliant flower at such a dark time of year. I think God likes to surprise us with sparks of beauty when we're not expecting them.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Ride 'Em, Cowboy . . . and Cowgirl!


So I thought I'd put a few more kid pictures on here. I promise I did not put them up to this to exploit them on my blog. They really were
this cute for their own enjoyment.

If my camera battery hadn't gone dead, I'd have included the pictures of Jesse "lassoing" Abigail's car (he had me tie the rope for him) and pulling her over to his horse. That was pretty adorable.

Getting Saucy!

I don't know if I'm in the minority here, but my contact with the cranberry has always been in the opening of a can. I'm a cranberry fan, but I was a little daunted by the real deal. Last fall I saw some nice red berries in a quart basket at Reading Terminal Market and thought, "Wow, pretty, but what would someone do with these?"

This fall, I was surprised by a windfall of cranberries. A good friend had bought two bags to make a bread and only needed half of one. She (erroneously) assumed I'd know what to do with them since she didn't.

Of course, I took the berries. I mean, I told her I didn't know anything about making cranberry sauce, but she was just happy to find someone who'd do something with them. And so I was introduced to the cranberry. I washed them, picked out what I assumed were bad berries (I figured if they were black inside and smelled really funky--or if they were super squishy--that it would be a safe bet to toss them), and then followed my friend, Rachel's, instructions explicitly. When I called her (frustrated by elaborate and rather icky sounding internet recipes) for advice, she read me the Ball Canning recipe and made me promise to use as much sugar as they called for (Who, me? skimp on sugar?) so we wouldn't end up with botulism.

The recipe was successful, I hit a farmer's market and bought the quantity pictured in my sink above, and made about a dozen jars of cranberry sauce. I don't know if this sounds exciting to anyone but me, but it tastes just like Ocean Spray! I love the cans, I was thrilled to replicate that taste.

I thought I'd post the recipe, and also encourage any other cranberry-phobes: You can do it! It's exactly like making any kind of jelly. (You can use a water bath canner if you're going to can it. If you weren't going to can it, you could skip all steps but boiling the ingredients below.)

Simple Cranberry Sauce Recipe:

Start your water bath and have sterilized jars ready.
4 c water,
4 c sugar, and
8 c cranberries
Put in a dutch oven and boil till they "pop." (You'll know, trust me.)
They need to hard boil for 10-15 min. You can add OJ or orange zest (I didn't), and if you're canning, leave 1/4" headspace at the top and waterbath can for 15 minutes (Ball's directions).

It was really empowering, let me tell you. If I can make cranberry sauce, what else can I do that I never realized was possible?! Who knows? Today the cranberry, tomorrow the world! . . . or, I don't know, maybe the kumquat, whatever that is.

Anyway, yum!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A Brussel Sprouts Recipe to Remember

So I'm going to be honest with you . . . I'm posting this recipe so I don't forget it again. Today I called to sheepishly ask for it once again. I think the last time I called Nathan was a few years ago, for the same recipe.

I come from Lancaster, the land of boiled vegetables. So while I have always liked brussel sprouts, I didn't really know what they were capable of until Nathan brought them to a potluck. I shamelessly ate almost the entire bowl of them. He told me how he prepared them, but I did not write it down, thinking that I'd remember. When I wanted to make them for Easter one year I had to call him to ask for the recipe. Today I wanted to make them again, since I'd bought a shoot of brussel sprouts. (Help me out here, is it a shoot, a cluster, a branch?).

I could not find the recipe, but Nathan was gracious and told me again. Here is Nathan's recipe for brussel sprouts. I figure if no one uses it, at least I'll be able to find it next time I want to use it. Seriously, this redefined my relationship with the brussel sprout.

Without further ado:

Nathan's Brussel Sprouts

Chop brussel sprouts into quarters (don't worry if some of the leaves come loose, loose leaves are good).

Saute in butter (with a few teaspoons of broth if you have any on hand).

Just before the sprouts look done (5 to 8 min.) add some capers and lemon juice.

Salt and pepper to taste.

I'm addicted to these . . .

Care to share a recipe that changed your relationship with a vegetable?

Friday, November 18, 2011

Happy World Toilet Day!

Tomorrow is World Toilet Day, a day when those of us with access to a toilet and clean water take time to support those without. There are some terribly alarming statistics on Amnesty International's website. Take a look by clicking below:

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Why Industry Scares Me . . .

Here's an alarming story from NPR's "Poisoned Places" series:

When you're done listening you can click on an interactive map to see which industries are poisoning your air. :) If that's not a fun way to start your day I don't know what is.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Pumpkins . . .

I'm finally getting my Halloween post up. Our internet was down since Wednesday (and I was a few days later than I wanted to be anyway). So now I can share our kid pictures, pumpkin recipes, and costumes.

Owen and I had our system down this year and I think we did two pumpkins in the time it took us to do one last year (probably because I didn't help him at all last year, I guess I was with Abigail?). So the kids described what they wanted, I sketched, Owen scooped out, I did detail carving, viola!

I hate throwing out two whole pumpkins, so I tried to be very resourceful with the scraps.

Besides saving the seeds to roast, I cut all edible pieces out of the trash pile to cook.

The eyes, mouth, and nose all got saved (and just the thin dark orange skin peeled off); then I cut out pieces of pumpkin from inside the pumpkins where possible (made the lid thinner, hacked off pieces where it wouldn't be noticeable, thinned the rind in places) and loaded it into my crock pot.

At that point it was late enough at night that I didn't want to deal with the seeds or the flesh, so I left the seeds to dry on a tray and put the crock pot into the refrigerator.

The next morning I loaded the pumpkin into the crockpot and cooked it a good long time. Later in the day I blended it and cooked it a while longer to make pumpkin puree.

I froze some of that into one cup cubes because I was warned by Marissa from Food in Jars that you can never can pumpkin except in chunks. Then I continued cooking the rest in the crock pot with a little sugar and made one jar of pumpkin butter (we just finished that yesterday).

All in all, I found the pumpkin products very successful. We ate the seeds and pint of pumpkin butter for two weeks, and we really enjoyed them. The pumpkins looked great for Halloween and we tried a new trick we read to coat the insides of the eyes mouth and nose with Vaseline to keep them from mold. That worked until it rained really hard a few days before Halloween, then the insides got moldy. I have puree in the freezer to make pumpkin muffins later.

This is the season where I start storing up for the winter with fruits and veggies that store well. So this weekend we got some onions, potatoes, butternut squash, and cooking pumpkins.

So we should be all set in the pumpkin department. I may have to try a pumpkin flan or pie or something. :)

Happy fall!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Agricultural Budget Cuts

Well, as Congress tightens our belt for us, there are actual cuts that could help small farmers--cuts to subsidies of corn and soy. Those subsidies are responsible for keeping our junk foods cheap and go toward growing corn for ethanol or animal feed. They are backed by Big Agriculture. What is more likely to be cut are programs to help small farmers and people on WIC or food stamps. Here's a great related article put out by Slow Food USA:

Sunday, October 23, 2011


I thought these pictures were just a little too cute to keep to myself! :)

Sometimes (especially when the kids are getting along and engaged and not whining or fighting or strewing toys all over the floor) I am completely overwhelmed by how blessed we are.

Watching Abigail on the stairs playing with my keys made me feel that way--and then her brothers were more than happy to jump in ("Photo op!").

Monday, October 17, 2011

Sweet Potato Harvest

I kid you not--these came from my front-yard garden, and some pots on our stairs all summer!  Can you believe it?  City spuds?  :)  I almost forgot about them, they looked like an uglier version of the decorative sweet potato vines people grow for looks.  They were wound in around my tomatoes and curving all over my stairs.  (The big ones came from the plant that got a lot of sun and was in the ground).  But the little ones from the pots did well enough that I will actually bother next summer.  

I started them from slips in May.  To find somewhere to buy them I had my mom ask around in Lancaster at nurseries and people she knew who might know.  Then we drove down a rural road in Lancaster where she heard that an Amish farmer sold them until we saw a sign outside of a farm advertising them.  It was a culturally surreal experience.  We pulled up to their house around lunchtime and didn't see anyone around.  One of the kids came outside to ask if she could help us and then told us to knock on the door of the smaller house right next to theirs where her grandparents lived.  So then her grandmother graciously interrupted her dinnertime (usually the big meal of the day for Lancaster farmers) to pull us some slips growing behind her house for a very modest price.  I actually bought more than I should have because they were so cheap--which led to the temptation to put in too many per pot.  Next year, one to two, MAX!  

I have two pots left to harvest yet, I just need to beat the frost.  Overall, considering my expectations of tiny potato marbles only, a smashing success.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Butternut Squash-Pesto Ziti with Eggplant

I was having a friend over who didn't eat red meat and I didn't really have a chicken option handy, so I decided I'd make vegetable ziti.  I wanted to play with a way to imitate the taste of meat in the dish (since I couldn't add sausage or ground beef) because let's face it, meat is tasty.  And I found that the combination of the pesto and butternut squash and ricotta and tomato sauce and eggplant was really fantastic. And I thought I'd post it because, as usual, I couldn't find the exact recipe I was looking for online--this time I couldn't even come close.  And after wasting a bunch of time googling all of the ingredients in hopes of finding them all in one recipe, I decided, as usual, to do what I wanted and forget about finding a recipe.

Here's what I did, to anyone who's interested:

Butternut Squash-Pesto Ziti with Eggplant 
Pre-heat oven to 375 (you could do 350, I'm just always running late and push it a little higher).
Roast a butternut squash.  I must admit I don't actually know what kind of squash I used.  It was that mystery volunteer squash that appeared in my garden, but it was in a similar taste family to butternut.  I did this step beforehand.
Cook a package of ziti or penne noodles.
Make pesto:  I used olive oil, basil, kale, marjoram, cashews, almonds, parmesan cheese, salt, and garlic.
Grill thin slices of eggplant (to put on the top of the completed dish).
Take the squash out of the shell, cut it up into small pieces, and mix with the pesto and a container of ricotta.
Add a pint of tomato sauce, a quart of diced tomatoes, and an egg to the pesto/ricotta mix.
Stir in the ziti noodles.
Cover the top with mozzarella.  Sprinkle with parmesan cheese.
Bake at 350 (or 375 if you're in a hurry, like I was) about 45 min. to an hour.

I actually decided that the ziti noodles were better with the pesto than lasagna would be, don't know if that's true, just a feeling I had.  A very tasty treat, all told.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

A Business Venture . . .

So I'm going into business. A small business, at this point. One very conducive to stay-at-home momming. A friend of mine started an editing business where we do creative editing for writers. I just completed editing my first manuscript (I guess it's more like "coaching" than "editing," really, more giving feedback about plot and characters and style than grammar) and having phone conferences with the author. I have one more phone conference for this book. It's very exciting. We have a website if anyone's interested in checking it out:

Wish me luck!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Great Story in NYT

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Micah's not the only one . . .

So I have been remiss. Jesse also started school for the first time this year, nursery school, and he's pretty proud. He's doing really well at school, and actually barely notices when I leave in the morning.

Abigail is gearing up for when it's her turn. She loaded up her toys into a backpack the other day and said, "Bye, bye." Pretty adorable, I thought.

Packed Lunches: The New Frontier

As the start of Micah's school year drew close this summer, one of the less important things I was concerned about is how I'd do packed lunches. Lunches at our house, even mid-meal, are a work in progress. We may start with frozen peas and carrots with peanut butter, work our way to some raisins and sunflower seeds, and finally get the sandwich about halfway through the meal. I say "we," but really this is my kids I'm describing, I don't usually get to eat until lunch is over (I know I'm not alone here, moms). So I had three concerns:

1) I'd actually have to plan the meal beforehand,
2) I'd have to package all of these little portions of things somehow, and
3) Micah's friends would think his lunches were weird.

So a few things really helped, and, so far, I'm still pretty excited about how it's going. (It is still September, so check back with me in a few months.)

The first thing that really helped was a ridiculously expensive lunch bag/bento box system from They have a bag that holds a plastic box (BPA free) with nested containers (some with, some without, lids). Here's Micah's lunch for tomorrow, with the lovely little containers to fill that I just knew would inspire me to pack healthy sides (for the simple fact that I can't send three things, it looks like I forgot something).

As I hoped, Micah thinks his lunch bag is super-cool, which I hope balances out the fact that his lunches are healthy-dorky. Twinkies may have more street cred than broccoli (they used that term on a sitcom tonight, not an original idea).

Also, I didn't have to search wildly for lids (what on earth happens to all of them??????) like I do when I use our regular plastic containers. I mean, you can't miss the neon green.

The other thing that is helping is that the kids and I brainstormed a list of foods for lunch, and that has helped keep me from doing the same thing every day. Here's some of our list ideas:
broccoli salad
carrots with peanut butter
crackers with hummus
leftover pizza
chips with salsa
soy beans in shells
peas in shell
chick peas or black beans
sunflower seeds with raisins
pumpkin seeds
avocado slices
tomato, basil, mozzarella
fruit roll-up
I don't know why, but I really think the actual lunch box frees me up from wanting to just do sandwich, apple, carrots every day . . .

. . . "not that there's anything wrong with that." --Seinfeld

What are your favorite foods to put in a kid's lunchbox--or your own? :)

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Harvest!

I picked it. I have no idea what it is. I mean, I think it's a winter squash. But what if it's a gourd that I just let get way too big? I'm thinking I'll cook it up and see. But I'll wait a few days. I'll see if any of you have any strong feelings as to whether it's a squash or a gourd.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Seeing Red: a Canning Saga

So the main reason I haven't been blogging (or cleaning, or anything else deemed non-essential) is that I've been canning pretty much all the livelong day. It stated with tomatoes (diced and cooked) this year. Then I moved on to hot peppers, then peaches, then back to tomatoes (sauce), then applesauce, and then back to tomatoes again. I canned four bushels of tomatoes (which is about eight full computer boxes worth), which is about twice as much as last year and perhaps a little more than I can even use. That took a long time. There were four different days of heavy tomato preservation. At least for my last batch the tomatoes were tiny and my mom told me of a friend who blends her tomatoes whole and then cooks them and then cans them. A very speedy method. The only thing that took any time at all with that batch was cutting them in half and sniffing them (some looked fine but were rotten inside). I added lemon juice this year to my jars when I remembered (which was, sadly, only a little better than half the time). Lemon is supposed to ensure that the tomatoes are acidic enough to can since farmers have started to grow some lower acid tomatoes in recent decades (though, as my mom pointed out, she canned without it for her whole life).

Peaches became a bit of an obsession. I froze some, then set about to make jam. I gotta say, making jam is no joke. My first attempt based on an internet site was to slice the peaches and that batch resulted in a peach syrup with slices of peach floating in it. That we'll use as a yogurt topping. The next batch I cooked in the crock pot, and that batch turned dark brown: viola! Peach butter!

The next batch also turned too dark, so I made those into peach leather. I found a good recipe for that on A Sonoma Garden. That would have been awesome if I hadn't started talking and accidentally left the oven turned on (you're supposed to heat the oven and then turn it off right away) and burnt them a little. Eventually I managed two good batches of peach jam. Which translates to about 30 jars of jam. We should be pretty set in the peach jam department.

Next came applesauce. I made pretty much of that, too. Thankfully, my parents came one day last week and peeled like the wind (I'm a pretty inept peeler compared to my farmer's daughter mother), which is the only way I made it through my four boxes of apples.

Finally, I did a small batch of red raspberry jam.

And now I'm done until next week when the farmer gives me some pears. I'm out of jars, so that should slow me down a little. I'll need to get my red peppers and roast and freeze those. And I did get my zucchini grated and frozen (for baking). I'm feeling pretty good, and ready to rejoin the world. :)

Friday, September 2, 2011

The Kids

Since I temporarily gave up on blogging, the kids turned 1, 6, and then 4. Just thought I should capture the big kids. Oh, and Micah STARTED KINDERGARTEN!

Name that Squash!

If anyone could identify this volunteer squash growing in my garden right near the sidewalk (where, I must say, it is attracting a good deal of attention), I would love to hear it:

So Amazed

What fun is it having my own blog if I can't write about how amazing my kids are from time to time, am I right?

So my son was working on a notebook put out by Creativity for Kids called "How do you Doodle?" The first page has a black and white simple sketch of a bathroom mirror and tile wall with toothbrushes and soap on the sink. The child is instructed, "Draw the one who is looking back at you." So I read that to Micah and told him he was supposed pretend he was looking in the mirror and draw himself. Later I saw that this is what her drew in his book . . . and it blew me away.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Garden

So we're in the red finally. We've got ripe tomatoes. We've had to pull most of the zucchini (except a few "8 Ball" variety which I think are not really zucchinis but look like little round ones--and I did actually find a few squash bugs on those so I'm sure their days are numbered) and all of the cucumbers (how sad is that?!).

The star of the season has definitely been the swiss chard and kale bed this year. Beautiful. So beautiful. I pick a bunch once or twice a week to steam and blend for Abigail (the poor girl--I mean the lucky girl, obviously--gets it added to everything from her morning oatmeal to her PBJ sandwiches). And then sometimes I saute some for supper. Tonight we had sauteed chard with our split peas and sausage and rice, and it just made the meal. Even Abigail wolfed it down, and she is way pickier than the boys ever were.

Red beets are some of my new favorite vegetables (up from the bottom of my list) because I found an awesome way to prepare them. I don't know if I mentioned this on my blog before, but Mollie Katzen's book was a gift from my aunt and I cannot tell you how amazing her recipe for "Complete Beets" is. She has you boil the bottoms and then toss them (cut up in segments) in with the sauteed greens. They are amazing. I had grown a few in early summer, but I was sad I didn't have more planted once I tasted it. In honor of that recipe, I planted a whole slew of red beets for my fall garden. Complete beets, here we come!

The next exciting feature of my garden will be the red raspberries. I know I mentioned my black raspberries, I was totally enamored with those in July. But I have to say, I may be just as excited in a few months to be eating the red ones. I almost pulled out the red raspberry plant I had when I got my black ones. I was afraid that I'd end up having them cross-pollinate, and my black ones were my priority. But I didn't get any blooms last year on the red when the black were in bloom, so I let the plant stay. The trick this year (since the canes were bigger and healthier) was to make sure I pinched off the few flowers it got earlier in the summer. That way I could avoid the cross-pollinating and also guarantee a better fall crop of raspberries. I got a few the last couple of days, but it looks like late September we should really get some. I will be sure to include pictures. Micah said today that the red ones are even better than the black ones. But I think the fruit just coming into season always seems like the sweetest fruit. That's my favorite part about seasonal eating.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Beach Trip

We went "down the shore" as they say here in Philly (I am only just now catching on how to say it after living here for 12 years). We had a blast!

Abigail is really coming into her own--she is all about independence these days.

The boys were loving the beach, we all had a great time.

Jesse was much braver in the water this year.

Micah may as well be a fish.

Abigail cooperated by taking a lot of her naps on the beach. This one on Mommy's back.

We took a boat ride on the Skimmer again this year. Great trip!

Grandma showed Abigail some sights.

Grandpa with the boys, near the seagull nesting site.

The only picture of Abigail with both parents.

Micah and Jesse with "sea stars" (starfish are a thing of the past).