April 29, 2009

Grilled Asparagus

Spring is one of my favorite times of the year for many reasons…smells of cut grass, tulips, warmer days and nights, gardening …but the real reason I enjoy spring is for the taste of fresh asparagus.

I was at our monthly Central Missouri Master Gardening meeting last night and my friend (and former Director of Agriculture) Lowell Mohler was the guest speaker. The topic- “Growing Asparagus.”

Lowell was nice enough to bring me a large bag of freshly cut asparagus from his 2 ½ acre asparagus plot. If you’ve ever eaten fresh asparagus- there’s nothing like it.

Most people think they are eating fresh asparagus in the stores- but they are so mistaken. Most of the asparagus found in grocery stores is at least 1 week old, some 2 weeks old.

Many folks only know one way to cook asparagus- boil it to death. This is totally the wrong technique. Asparagus shouldn’t be cooked very long at all.

At my house we enjoy grilled asparagus- this is my husband’s favorite way to prepare it!

Grilled Asparagus for Two
10 asparagus stems
Salt and pepper to taste
2 T. butter

Wrap in tin foil tightly. Place on indirect heat for 5 minutes a side.

April 21, 2009

Gardening...A Way of Life

Lately around our house it's been lazy nights, easy dinners and lots and lots of help from my husband. Being pregnant really takes it out of you- I never imagined how tired, excited, scattered brained and nervous one body could be!

Today was a filling day and I found that I pushed myself a little too much when it was 4pm at the office and my back ached like I was an 80 year old (no offense to those that are reading this and are 80). What caused this?

At my work we are putting in a community garden for our employees and somehow I got put on the organization committee- along with some other wonderful folks I work with- and we are responsible for about everything.

What does everything include? Try- building more than 20 raised beds for the vegetables, getting soil and mulch hauled in, picking up over 40 tomato plants, 20 pepper plants, getting sponsors for seeds, gardening equipment, new landscape design plans for the front of our building, herb garden.....the list goes on and on. I'm so thankful to be helped by two other very motivated co-workers that are real go-getters.

Today, a fellow co-worker finished some of the raised beds and moved them around in different locations on the grounds and then filled the beds with soil. I went to pick up plants from the Central Missouri Master Gardeners (who were kind enough to donate to our cause) and pick up all the equipment needs. I then had to set-up our watering system, water the plants, organize seeds, tools and gloves for the employees and finally we were ready to plant! Then about 2pm many of our employees started coming out to help plant the tomatoes and pepper plants after listening to a gardening 101 short course. (This is an educational course for some, but others are green thumbs).

All and all it was a great day and fun was had by all! Our gardens will serve as an educational piece to the public, but promote a healthy lifestyle to our employees. I mean who wouldn't want to go outside for a couple hours a week (during work time) to play in the dirt and get some good exercise? I know I will be spending a lot of time outdoors this summer getting my hand dirty.

We will also be putting in a small orchard, raspberry and blackberry plants, Norton and Concord Grapes, 5 pumpkin patches, a very large plot of sweet corn, some cut flowers- and who knows what else! The best thing- all produce goes back to our employees!

April 16, 2009

Gotta a Craving

What to do when a craving hits…that’s been my dilemma lately. Do I indulge, do I ignore the craving, what is a healthy option to fulfill the grumble in my tummy.

I’ve had cravings and food aversions all at the same time for the past month and a half- how does this happen- will being pregnant your body is totally out of wack. At least that is what I have decided, but I wouldn’t change it for the world! (Yes, many readers lately have been asking about the new label on the blog “pregnancy recipes” and yes they were correct the McConnell’s are expecting a little one November 18.) We are very excited - here is our Week 9 photo!

I’ve been reading What to Expect When Your Expecting and I laugh at some of the things I have learned about the pregnant body. Like that “gotta go feeling” that stays with you, the sleepless nights because you have to get up to go to the bathroom 5 times a night, or maybe it’s the way I can be so sick feeling at my stomach- BUT at the same time crave Honey Nut Cheerios or Bananas by the dozen! (Yes- that’s right Cheerios!) Or my favorite- being so tired that I fall asleep at 6pm after eating dinner.

You have to love being a woman! And no matter what-I wouldn’t change it for the world!
I’ve read that for those that have the all day morning sickness or upset stomachs that lemons help- and it’s worked for me. Drinking lemonade, making lemon spaghetti, or simply putting lemon in my water has soothed my stomach so far.

But, if you’re craving a nice indulging dessert this Lightened-Up Lemon Bar recipe from one of my favorite new websites , http://www.fitpregnancy.com/, is a true winner.

Lightened-Up Lemon Bars
From FitPregnancy.com

Nonstick cooking spray
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 whole egg
2 egg whites
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup lemon juice, freshly squeezed (about 2 juicy lemons)
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
Confectioner's (powdered) sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 350° F. Coat an 8-by-8-inch pan with cooking spray. For crust: Cream together butter and sugar; add flour, salt and lemon zest. Beat until crumbly and pat into pan. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until golden. Remove from oven; let cool. While crust is baking, prepare the topping: Whisk egg and egg whites until frothy. Add sugar, flour, baking powder, lemon juice and lemon zest; mix until combined. Pour mixture over crust and bake for an additional 25 minutes or until topping is set and slightly golden. Cool on a wire rack; dust with confectioner's sugar and cut into 16 2-inch squares. Refrigerate if not serving immediately.

Serves 8.

April 7, 2009

Farmers' Markets Begin to Open Across Missouri

Yep- it's that time of the year! Farmers' Markets are opening up across the state and I couldn't be more happy!

Finally- fresh and local vegetables and other foods to cook with! Between Dec-March I kinda get a little depressed. Why? Because I have to rely on getting my fruits and vegetables from the grocery store and we all know that store bought tomatoes don't even hold a candle to home-grown tomatoes.

Find a market near you today!