Easy Peasy Garlicky Roasted Ichiban Eggplant 

Too much eggplant? No such thing. But should this situation arise in your garden, I suggest you roast it.

First, and on a total side note, I find it awkward to tell people about my “eggplant plants.” It sounds weird and redundant. I accidentally find myself talking about my “egg-plants,” but there (sadly) aren’t eggs growing on them. Turns out, eggs come from chickens and other assorted animals. I can’t be the only one who’s experienced this. It’s a minor crisis, I know, but still worth the cathartic rant.

Now onto the roasted tasty discs of eggplant…

Take as many eggplants as you want. The more the merrier, and they roast down to an iota of their original some.

Cut them in 1″ discs and lay them out on a baking pan in a single layer.

Lightly coat them with a flavorful olive oil and sprinkle them with salt and pepper. Add a clove or two of finely minced garlic and toss around to spread the garlic love around. Don’t leave anybody out. (On a side note, beware with how much salt you use because the eggplant will shrink when the water content evaporates and the flavors, including salt, will concentrate and intensify.)


Put into a preheated 375 degree oven and roast for about 20-25 minutes. Be sure to peek in at about the halfway mark to make sure things aren’t going from delicious to burned. If your cook’s intuition is telling you the oven is too hot, reduce it to 350 and be vigilant.

I like to serve this eggplant as a side dish or add to a salad once it’s chilled. Or, as in the case the other night, I eat it before I can even take a photo of it. It’s so darn good.

Happy gardening and blissful eating to you!

Until next time,

Jenna

The Little Gardener that Could…Stop Being So Darn Stubborn

Happy Spring, everyone! I hope you’re all having lots of organic gardening successes and very few failures this season. But, if you’ve had one or two boo boos, I hope you’re writing them down as to not repeat them next year. I talk from experience, and I’ve certainly had my share of wretched mistakes. Occasionally, I’m stubborn (*wink wink*). But I’m growing as a gardener, steward of our planet, and as a rational human being. Learning from past failure is the reason for this post. Truthfully, I was afraid to write about this too soon. There was no way I’d jinx our success. But it happened, everyone, it finally happened. Houston, we have cucumbers…two kinds!

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This is a truly momentous occasion.

The Cross-Country Hybrids and Poinsett 76 cucumbers started out like any other: little, teeny tiny, cukes with unpollinated flowers at the end.

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Isn’t it cute?

We were excited. But we knew, oh, we knew, not to get too excited. You see, we’ve tried this three years in a row at different times of the year, different gardening seasons, and different locations in our gardens. Every time (except for the one freak-volunteer-plant-in-January incident), we get both pickleworm and melonworm plus a lovely case of downy mildew. And this time was looking to be no different.

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See the little jerks? Pickleworms were already invading.

But, as several people have told me to do, I finally broke down and got some Bacillus Thuringiensis (BT). And it’s my hero, my knight in shining armor, and my bestest buddy. BT a soil-dwelling bacteria that kills the worm larvae that make growing anything in the curcurbita family nearly impossible in our region. From squash to melons to cucumbers, it’ll work. And it’s OK for organic gardening, safe to beneficial insects (including bees), humans, and other animals. The one drawback that I see is that it degrades in sunlight and has to be reapplied often. It’s time consuming, but it’s saved our cucumber crops.

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Cucumber Vines Basking in the Florida Sunshine

To treat, I spray all areas of the plants, but I especially focus on the new growth and flowers because that’s where we’ve found the most damage in the past. The pickleworm and melonworm moths lay their eggs around sundown and are active for only a few hours, but they lay enough eggs that hatch enough larvae to really cause some serious damage. Most of the time, the damage is so bad by the time it’s noticed that there’s no solution other than to rip out and discard the infested plants. I’ve literally cried over this. But not this year (not yet, anyway).

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Cross-Country Hybrid Cucumber

We’ve been harvesting quite a few perfectly shaped, sweet as sugar cukes a couple times a week. It almost seems too good to be true. I’ll bask in this glory for as long as I can. I’ll show off my cucumbers to my fellow vendors at the farmers market, and bite into one every single day. So, friends, the moral of this little story is to stop being stubborn. Don’t repeat the same mistakes season after season, and don’t give up! Listen to the seasoned gardeners around you and take their advice. And enjoy the fruits (and veggies) of your labor.

With dirty fingernails and an armful of cucumbers,

Jenna

Why do we garden?

“Of the seven deadly sins, surely it is pride that most afflicts the gardener.”

― Michael Pollan, Second Nature: A Gardener’s Education

the salad I speak of

Why do I have a garden? I started thinking about that very question as I enthusiastically told a coworker what was in my bowl: Red Russian Kale, Louisiana Pink Tomatoes, Cosmic Purple Carrots, roasted Detroit Dark Red beets, etc. Do people often get this excited about salad? Why was I so overjoyed?

I think there’s something extremely gratifying about seeing something go from seed to plate. It’s more fun than farm to table. It’s labor. It’s nurture. It’s my urban garden.

It’s a lot of work. My back gets sore, my legs ache, and I always have dirt under my nails. Wearing gloves just doesn’t cut it. I like to feel what I’m doing because, well, gardening is intimate. It’s a kinesthetic art just as much as it’s visual. I love it so much that I’m always posting photos of my little backyard farm. As I look back through my Instagram feed, I see just how proud I am. Sometimes, I even take selfies with veggies (don’t judge).

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crazy kohlrabi

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so much kale

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heirloom tomatoes after the rain

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cosmically awesome

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my first spinach leaves

But is it cheaper to grow your own? Some people think that we save a lot of money by growing our own veggies. It’s quite the contrary, actually. I’m sure I spend more. The veggies cost nearly nothing to raise from seed, but it’s the soil, the water (our rain barrel never has enough), the organic amendments, and the time. Oh my gosh, if time really were money…

In the end of the day, it’s amazing to say “this was a seed and now it’s in my tummy.” I love to share with my neighbors and friends, and I really love to talk to other gardeners. There really is a sense of pride, joy, and commitment to playing in the dirt. It’s a way of life, and I wouldn’t trade my shovel and dirty fingernails for anything.

Until next time, my gardening friends. It’s Spring! Go get dirty.

my happy place

Freakin’ 5-star Restaurant: Curried Sweet Potato and Coconut Milk Soup

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It’s almost March. Where has the time gone? I swear it was only yesterday when there were trick-or-treaters at my door rifling through the bowl of candy for the last Snickers. But, alas, time goes on, and it always speeds up throughout the holiday season. So what happened to January? What happened to February. Valentine’s Day isn’t enough of a time suck to count as a holiday. Needless to say, I suppose I’m short on time. And what happens when we’re short on time? We (I definitely mean me) eat whatever bits of food are left around the kitchen. Brownies? Sure. Cheese? OK. Monumental amounts of carbohydrates? Absolutely. I exercise less and eat more.

But, (thank goodness there’s a “but” in all this) I did decide to dedicate a cool-ish day to making some soul-warming, vitamin-packed soups…for my mother. She recently had a hip replacement and couldn’t drive her car, go to work, or exercise the way she’d like for six weeks. I wanted her to have some yummy meals that she could just pop in the microwave when her tummy starts a’rumbling.

I will say that I didn’t set out to make a sweet potato soup. I’ve never had sweet potato soup before. I wasn’t even craving it. The potatoes just looked so good at the store…and they were on sale. Really, my goal was to make different veggie soups. But this gem, THIS ABSOLUTE GEM, happened. Sometimes my kitchen is overtaken by the dancing pots and pans of Fantasia. I don’t know what happened or how we got to this place known as perfection, but nonetheless…

I’m going to share with you the soup that my aunt called “a trip to a freakin’ five-star restaraunt.” I hope you experience the same magic.

Ingredients:

  • five sweet potatoes, cut into 1: cubes
  • mild-tasting oil (canola, grapeseed, light olive oil)
  • 14 oz can unsweetened coconut milk
  • quart veggie stock (homemade is always best)
  • tablespoon sea salt
  • 1/2 tablespoon cracked black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Method:

Coat the cubed potatoes with one to two tablespoons of oil and sprinkle about a teaspoon’s worth of each sea salt and cracked pepper.

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Place in a 400 degree oven for 30-40 minutes. until everything is soft and a nice golden brown.

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In your favorite soup pot (mine is a great enameled cast iron Le Creuset knock-off from World Market), add the roasted sweet potatoes and veggie stock. Bring to a simmer over medium heat.

IMG_3427Turn the heat down to low. Now add the coconut milk and, using an immersion blender (or transferring to a traditional blender if you don’t have one), blend until totally smooth.

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Once silky smooth, add the curry powder, cinnamon, and cayenne pepper. Give it a good stir and add the salt and cracked black pepper to taste. Because the sweet potatoes add a lot of sweetness, I added quite a bit of salt to balance it out a bit. Altogether, I used approximately a tablespoon’s worth of sea salt.

IMG_3428Stir again and let simmer for 15 minutes on low.

IMG_3429Isn’t it gorgeous? I’m so glad I took a chance and snapped some photos.

Happy soup slurping, everyone! Stay toasty warm,

Jenna

 

 

 

 

Oh. My. Goodness. It’s For Realsies.

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I bake and bake and bake.

My dream is coming true. It’s really happening. Happy-Go-Lucky Foods is a full-fledged business with steady-ish income, a website, local retailers, and a cult following. Seriously, someone inked themselves with the hot pink flamingo logo. I’m so tired of pinching myself and rubbing my eyes. This is real.

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This is an ACTUAL tattoo of the Happy-Go-Lucky Foods’ logo.

The last 14 months have been wild. I’ve been excited, paranoid, giddy, exhausted, confused, and optimistic. Sometimes they all happen simultaneously. Happy-Go-Lucky Foods’ granola bars are at four locations in Volusia County: Downtown Farmers Market, Beeatroot Juice Bar in Downtown Deland, Yoga Circle and Dance in Holly Hill, and Daytona International Wellness Center in Daytona Beach.

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Our sign is out front at Beeatroot!

And, hopefully, a local grocery store will have our granola bars on the shelf within the month. But the best thing for me is when customers post about their recent shipment of goodies.

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This package made it all the way to Chicago!

Thank you all for following along with me on my journey. Blogging is an outlet that I’ll never take for granted, and you all have been so kind. I do hope to post more in the future, but there aren’t enough hours in the day for a full-time job in academia plus Happy-Go-Lucky Foods. One day, I’ll just get to be Happy-Go-Lucky all the time, but for now…

Back to work,

Jenna

P.S. Please do check out my website at happygoluckyfoods.com. You can get the yummiest, gluten-free, vegan granola bars right to your door! If anything, I’d just be thrilled for some honest feedback. :)

Gimme a Beet!

Hi, friends. It’s been a little while since I’ve posted, and I wished time didn’t move so quickly, but owning a business plus working full-time is more than I bargained for. And, while I planned on writing a nice, long out-from-under-this-rock-called-life re-emergence post… (you get the picture).

I’ve never, ever successfully grown a beet. I’ve tried and tried. Detroit Dark Reds just don’t work. Perhaps it’s our climate, perhaps it’s the soil, perhaps it’s me. I threw in the towel…but only for a nano-second. I opted for another variety: Chioggia. Their candy cane stripey-ness called to me. I needed to try. And guess what? Can you guess? Can you? Can you?

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My Very First Chioggia Beet

I couldn’t be any more excited. I could just scream. I was so impatient that I plucked it from the ground this afternoon and immediately cut into it. It’s a beauty. I’m proud. I win.

Until next time (which I promise won’t be too long from now),

Jenna

The Perfect Breakfast: Veggie Frittatas and Rainbow Potatoes

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Thanks to Daylight Savings Time, I was up way too early on Sunday. And so with sleep in my eyes and a major case of bed head, I had the urge to make a fancy schmancy breakfast for me and my honey. We had mini frittatas with raw pepper jack cheese, sautéed yellow and red bell peppers, and onions. I also made slow and low breakfast potatoes with baby Yukon Gold and Peruvian Purple potatoes. Just writing about it makes me long for bites of old…

Frittata (makes 4 minis):

  • 6 large local eggs, beaten
  • 2 tablespoons raw whole milk
  • 1/2 cup local, raw pepper jack cheese, shredded
  • 1 cup red and yellow bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 cup yellow onion, diced
  • non-stick spray
  • S&P to taste

Breakfast Potatoes (4-5 servings): 

  • 15 baby potatoes, gold and purple, washed and quartered
  • 1 cup red and yellow bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 cup yellow onion, diced
  • organic olive oil
  • S&P to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon organic dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon organic granulated garlic
  • unsalted butter

First, you’ll want to get the potatoes started. You’ll need to wash them thoroughly and quarter them into relatively even pieces.

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In a very large skillet, add two tablespoons of olive oil to the pan and heat to medium. Add the quartered potatoes and a nice pinch of salt and some cracked pepper. Toss to coat with oil and seasonings and let them cook. Don’t move them around too much or they’ll fall apart before they end up browning.

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Meanwhile, sauté the onions and peppers. Heat your favorite large, nonstick skillet, to medium-high. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and all of the diced onions and peppers to the pan (If making both frittatas and potatoes, combine the peppers and onions for this step and divide in half later.). Sauté for about five minutes and transfer to a dish.

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After about 5 minutes, check to see if the undersides are browning. If so, flip them over with a spatula to start browning the other sides. Repeat this process and, please note, I’m crazy methodical about this. I like all sides to be browned, but I don’t expect anyone else to be this neurotic about potatoes.

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Once they’re nice and brown (should take between 10-20 minutes), add the sautéed peppers and onions. Also add the thyme and garlic. Give everything a good stir, reduce the heat to very low and let them hang out while giving them the occasional push around the pan. They’ll be ready when you are.

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For the frittatas, add the milk and desired amount of S&P to the beaten eggs. Spray your mini cast iron casseroles with nonstick spray, and divide up the remaining amount of sautéed peppers and onions to the bottom of each vessel. (If you don’t have mini-cast iron casserole dishes, you can use one large stovetop and oven-save pan. And, truth be told, my mom got these for me last Christmas, and I’ve never used them until today.)

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Divide up the beaten egg mixture between each vessel and top with a nice pinch of shredded pepper jack cheese.

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Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Only do this step if you have a glass range. Place the casseroles directly on your cooktop over medium-high heat. I was actually able to get them all on one large burner. Within 2-3 minutes, the egg should start to set. This is what you want.

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Now, place the mini casseroles in a baking dish (I used a 9″x13″) and fill with 1″ of water. Sprinkle with a tad bit more cheese.

Place the entire shebang in the oven and cook for 5 minutes. Cook for 3-5 minutes more if you skipped the stovetop step. Remove and check doneness with a toothpick. It should come out fairly clean, but moist. Let them sit for a minute or so.

Loosen the edges with a rubber spatula, invert onto a plate, and voila!

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Phew.

Help yourself to a heaping pile of potatoes, grab your favorite hot sauce, and chow down.

Until next time, my friends,

Jenna

Yay, Florida Fall!

It’s finally Fall! I love the Fall. For a lot of people, it means leaves are turning beautiful shades of crimson, orange, and goldenrod, but for us gardeners in Florida, it means a whole new season of gardening. Actually, it’s the kickoff to eight glorious months of garden-friendly weather. Summer is a moot point; I’ve given up. Planting in the Summer only leads to heartache and asking myself “why, why, why did I do this…again?” So I wait. I patiently (haha) wait until October.

When the heat and humidity start to subside, that’s when the good things start happening in my garden. What’s more is that our homemade black gold is ready to be used! And we build a new bed to replace the hot mess that was there before. Thank goodness, too, the old bed was spent. See?

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The Old Overgrown Bed

The new bed is an 8′ x 8′ that replaced the 3′ x 6′ bed we used to have in the same location. This is the best spot for pure, radiant sun in the fall and winter. And it’s right next to the rain barrel and hose.

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The New Bed’s Frame

But this bed takes a lot of dirt! It’s taken many trips to the garden center to make up for what our homemade compost didn’t cover. No matter, it’s the Fall and we’ve got a lot of stuff to grow! I’ve grown some mean broccoli on this side of our house, and we plan to grow enough to freeze. And speaking of broccoli…

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Mean-Looking Broccoli

Seed shopping gives me palpitations and a major case of the “I-want-them-alls.” Southern Exposure Seed Exchange is a mecca. I’m really tickled because they specialize in heirloom, organic, and non-gmo seeds for the southeast region. I only bought a couple things.

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I Behaved Myself

This weekend will be a busy weekend for us. I’ve already got baby heirloom tomatoes started indoors, and they will be planted this weekend, too. I’ve been hardening them off, and they’re nearly ready. And, compost bonus: there’s oodles of mystery cucurbit seedlings doing incredibly well. Butternut squash? Straight Eight cucumbers? Spaghetti Squash, even? Don’t know. Don’t care. It’s all good.

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Mystery Cucurbits

We’ve got sun, temperatures perfect for germination, and good dirt. What more could a Florida girl ask for?

Until next time,

Jenna

 

 

Introspection, Food-trepreneurship, and Being Happy-Go-Lucky

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Hi, friends, I’ve missed you. It’s been quite some time (well, two weeks, actually, but it feels like a million years)…

As some of you might remember from my “The Long and Winding Road: Saying Goodbye to Cottage Law” post from the Spring, I’m doing my best to make it as a food-trepreneur. Happy-Go-Lucky Foods (formerly Happy-Go-Lucky Granola and, before that, formerly nameless) has gone from zero to sixty in seven months, and I’m taking a moment to catch my breath and write about my experience thus far. I’ll begin by saying that I never thought I’d make it this far. I really didn’t. I wanted to, but was wanting to enough?

Desire only can take a person so far; having a plan (not necessarily in the full-on business 101 sense of the word) is uber-important. Being aimless and being successful in business don’t correlate well. I told my new friend, Amanda, of Amanda’s Amigos this when we spoke last week. I’m sure I was more eloquent then, but…

I met Amanda at my farmers market booth a few months back. She bought a few Apricot Ginger granola bars, we chatted for a moment, and she was off. A few weeks later, I was tickled to be included in her Daytona Beach is Vegan Friendly post. Amanda was on vacation from Alaska! A-L-A-S-K-A. How cool (no pun, I promise.).

A couple of weeks ago, she emailed me and asked if I’d have some time to chat; she wanted to know how to start her own vegan-based business. And, so, while chatting, laughing, and experiencing the joy of cross-country internet-related issues, I had the chance to reflect. Sometimes, when life is so busy, we forget to look inward. Amanda’s thoughtful inquiry encouraged the introspection I so desperately needed. From our chat, I learned the following:

Have a plan, but know that it’s OK to deviate from it.

Being too rigid can hinder you from following your intuition. If you know something’s not right or could be better, allow yourself to re-envision your path. Be flexible.

Any feedback is good feedback.

Listen not only to yourself, but those around you. Feedback is important; take advantage of it. You don’t have to jump at every suggestion you hear, but allow yourself the liberty to explore feasible options. When a regular customer tells you that she has to repackage her granola bars as soon as she gets home from the market because the moisture leaches out onto the kraft paper bag that they’re packed in, get different bags! And feel free to thank the honest individual who cared enough to share her thoughts with you. Everybody likes to know they’re being heard.

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Acknowledge mistakes, learn from them, and move forward.

If I never admitted that I bought cellophane bags that were too small for granola clusters, I’d still be spending double-time cramming too much product into too small of a package. My boyfriend said they were too small, and, while I absolutely didn’t want to admit he was right, I did. I now buy bigger bags. It’s OK for him to win once in a while.

Don’t buy whims in bulk.

While a great deal on organic dried Zante currants in bulk might seem too good to pass up, consider if you really need them or not. Case in point: I gave tons of currants to my neighbor.

Don’t go into unnecessary debt.

My financial goal was to let Happy-Go-Lucky Foods pay for itself as it grew. I knew that I’d have to pay for testing, licensing, permitting, equipment, etc. as I moved forward with adding hummus to our product line, but I let the sales from selling granola under Cottage Law pay for the expansion. While hummus was always the plan, being patient prevented me from taking out loans. It was the best decision I could have made.

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Be grateful for every customer, no matter how much they buy.

It still amazes me that people shell out real dollars for the hummus and granola that we make. They work hard to earn money and choose to spend some of it with Happy-Go-Lucky Foods. I smile every single time I think of it. I’m ever-so-grateful. Whether someone spends one dollar or fifty, I know they don’t have to spend any at all. Never take any customer for granted.

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Be consistent.

McDonalds is so popular, in part, because they are consistent. The fries taste the same from coast to coast and even across continents. People love consistency. If you’ve got a slew of people who love your banana walnut bread just as it is, don’t add nutmeg. We all know what happened to New Coke.

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Enjoy the ride.

Enjoy every moment of being an entrepreneur. It takes guts to go out on a limb and do your own thing. Breathe it in. Know that you’re courageous. Believe that you can do it. And don’t forget to smile.

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Thanks for seeing this post through to the end, my friends.

Until next time,

Jenna

P.S. Thanks, Amanda, for encouraging me to look inward. Good luck on your adventure.

 

 

The Art of Winging it (and Creamed Corn)

I swore this wouldn’t work out. But something (well, my boyfriend, really) told me to take photos anyway. I shrugged and said “what the heck.” A couple of nights ago, I looked at three ears of perfectly cooked corn on the cob and knew I had to do something with it. I’d been slathering butter and garlic all over those perfect ears for days now, and I (Don’t even think I’m going to say that I got sick of it, because that could never happen.) felt compelled to try something different. I didn’t want to mess with perfection, but, against my better judgement…

“Creamed corn,” he said. I’d never made it before. The concept was simple enough, and if being a southerner has taught me anything (I’m barely a southerner. I’m from Ft. Lauderdale.), it’s that I know how to do corn. And, I’ll tell you, I’d save a couple of ears again to make this easy peasy creamed corn…with garlic. (I had to work the garlic in there. I had to.) That business came out soooooooo gooooooooood.

Ingredients: 

  • 3 ears cooked ears of corn, cut off the cob
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • pinch of cornstarch
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup half and half
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method:

Melt butter in your favorite skillet over low-medium and add the minced garlic to the pan before it starts to bubble.

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Add the corn to the pan and toss. Keep the heat at low-medium. Meanwhile, make a slurry by adding the pinch of cornstarch to a small amount of the milk and whisking. The goal is to just get the clumps out.

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Add the milk, half and half, and slurry to the pan with the corn and bring to a slight simmer.

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 In a food processor or blender, take out about half of the corn mixture and blend. It’s up to you how pulverized you like your corn to be. (I’d actually blend less next time because I’d like more texture.) Add the blended bits back to the pan. Simmer over low-medium heat for about five minutes until it thickens. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve.

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 There. Creamed corn. With garlic. Yum.

20140730-112513-41113028.jpg And, yes, I’m eating it out of a ramekin. I’m eating it as I type. Don’t judge me. ;)

 Happy creamy corn, everyone!

Jenna