How can you not smile, at the very least, at the word “pickles?” Seriously. (It also brings me back to the early days of Nick Toons…) Say it three times. Feel good?

And who doesn’t love the taste? My husband. That’s who.

Regardless, he was enamored with the pickle-making process. I threw these together the day before our mini-vacation (is three days a mini-vacation, including driving? Or is it a full-blown vacation?) to use up a bunch of the cucumbers we’d been hoarding from our weekly CSA boxes. Of course, we still have more, but I figured 6 pints would do us just fine and help with the glut of cukes.

You can make these refrigerator pickles and make this quick as well as easy. But, nope, in the midst of cleaning, doing laundry, packing, and the usual toddler-watching rigmarole, I undertook the delight of washing and sterilizing mason jars, rings and lids. Silly girl.

It really wasn’t that bad. I’d call it “easy” if you follow the steps. Just not quick. And, of course, I went rogue, so we’ll see how they turn out in the end!

I used the recipe blogged about on Elephant Journal, but made some adjustments. I left out the green onions (more room for cukes! Shove ’em in until you can’t shoves no more, folks!) and tried one with more garlic, another with some habanero pepper. But, when it was time to process the jars in hot water, I’m afraid I might’ve ruined the texture of ’em — one site I read said to process for 5 minutes after reaching a boil, which meant that NONE of the jars sealed. Attempt #2, they all sealed. However, that means that the final pickles will probably be a little limp. If they taste good, though, I’m happy. 😉

I’m thinking about giving the green and yellow beans I’ve got a “dilly bean” treatment. Can you believe I’ve never tried ’em? I know. Bad, BAD natural mama.

Oh, and if you’re wondering: Hadman loves pickles. He’s been picky about a lot of veggies lately (fruits, however, he could survive on, so thank goodness for small victories), but I think if I continue to preserve and save – and I totally mean in a “zucchini muffins” way – them in ways like these, he won’t know what hit him.


So, here’s my version of the recipe…

Pickles! - image  on https://megactsout.com

Pickles! - image  on https://megactsout.com

Pickles! - image  on https://megactsout.com

Homemade Dill Pickles (for 6, 1-pint containers)  

– 6-8 cucumbers, washed and sliced (however you like them, but the bigger they are the better texture they’ll have)
– dill seed (NOT weed), about 1 tsp. per jar
– lots of garlic, smashed, 3+ per jar
– red pepper flakes, pinch per jar (or more)
– ground pepper or peppercorns, 1/2 tsp. or so per jar
– thinly sliced jalapeno or habanero pepper, optional

Put spices in the bottom of each jar. Tightly fill with cucumbers (and pepper, if using). Pour following brine to cover cucumbers, cover with lids, and seal.

Brine – Simmer the following until dissolved: 3/4 c. apple cider vinegar, scant 1/4 c. white vinegar, scant 1/2 c. water, and 3/4 T. salt PER JAR {for me, this came to about 4 1/2 c. ACV, between 1 1/4 & 1 1/2 c. white, about 2 c. water, and 4 1/2 T. salt total}. Slowly pour into each jar before processing.

So, who else attempts pickling? What’s YOUR favorite recipe? I’d love to try different ones out.

CSA – Week #3

I swear to all that is holy, I don’t plan on doing a weekly recap of our CSA box.

Think I’m fooling? I don’t even remember everything we got this week. Broccoli…radishes…beets…lettuce…potatoes…and I know I’m forgetting something. So, there. Neener. Not recapping the whole thing because I’m a total slacker.

I AM, however, loving trying the new foods. So, when I find a recipe that works for us, I share. That’s what my mother always taught me to do, so here I am.

I really think I should start calling these Iron Chef CSA Challenges or some such thing because you seriously have no idea what you’ll be getting and at least one ingredient is usually something you’ve NEVER cooked with in your life. This week, beet will be my challenge. (I’ve only ever had Harvard beets and pickled beets, both delicious, but never from scratch.)

Week #2’s “mystery ingredient” was bok choy. I’ve heard of it…knew it was used in some Chinese dishes…and that was it. So, I didn’t get creative or reinvent the wheel. I threw some brown rice on the stove and looked up some recipes for stir-fry. Then, as per usual, I tweaked it. Hmm. Maybe that’ll be my superhero name: Recipe Tweaker. I can see the leotard now.

Pickles! - image  on https://megactsout.com

Stir-Fry with Chicken and Bok Choy

– 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
– 1 tsp. grated ginger (ours is local hydroponic; we keep it in the freezer and slice right off the frozen piece, no need to peel!)
– several tsp. olive oil (whatever oil you like; coconut would work well, too)
– 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into chunks or slices
– 2 carrots, washed & chopped
– 1/2 – 1 red pepper, sliced
– 1 head bok choy, separated: leaves chopped, white part sliced or diced

Sauce :
– 1/4-1/2 c. soy sauce (we were low)
– 1/4 c. water
– 1-2 tsp. corn starch
– 1-2 Tbsp. rice vinegar
– dash+ red pepper flakes

Mix together sauce ingredients and set aside.

Heat up oil in a large skillet over medium to medium high and add garlic and ginger, cooking about 1 minute (watch it!). Add chicken and cook until no longer pink. Add carrots, pepper, and white parts of bok choy and cook until crisp-tender. Add bok choy leaves and cook until wilted. Add sauce and cook until thickened.

Serve over rice or noodles. Add another dash of red pepper flakes or soy sauce if you wish. Peanuts over top are yumm-o, too.

*Seriously, use whatever vegetables you have on hand. ALMOST anything will work.*

The verdict? Hadley’s not a big stir-fry person, but Dave and I liked it. I might have liked it more (like, REALLY liked it), but he’s super polite. I didn’t notice a hugely overpowering flavor, especially considering how much bok choy was in the dish, but a mild flavor. Will definitely make again, now that I know what to do with the thing.

Now, on to the beets. I’m envisioning reddish purple hands.

What about you guys? Try any new foods lately? Have any suggestions for a beet recipe the little man will actually tolerate? (I have some pickled beets in the cabinet I may try on him, just to see how he feels. He loves sour stuff, usually.) 

CSA Week #2

Last week, I talked about our first CSA box. In some ways, it was a success; in other ways, we dropped the ball. It was an awesome learning experience.

Since it’s so early in the season, most of our take involved lettuces. We didn’t tend to and prep the produce quickly enough, so some of it went bad. I put the chives and lovage into some water, but the lovage turned quickly and I wasn’t able to use it. Lesson #1: Fresh produce goes rotten quicker than even the fresh grocery store produce. I kind of knew it already, but naively lost track of time.

It doesn’t mean that we didn’t use lots of the lettuce, the chives, radishes (still looking for some more recipes for those), green onions and Swiss chard.

So, I thought I’d share a recipe that came out pretty darn well. I based it on this recipe, but made slight variations.

Pickles! - image  on https://megactsout.com

Sauteed Swiss Chard with Parmesan and Lemon

2 Tbsp. bacon drippings
1 Tbsp. butter
1/2 small onion, diced
1 Tbsp. garlic, minced
1 bunch Swiss chard (separate ribs/stems and chop; chop leaves separately)
splash white wine
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 Tbsp. grated parmesan (or more)
salt to taste (optional)

Heat bacon drippings and butter in saute pan over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and cook about one minute. Add chard’s ribs/stems and white wine; cook about 5 minutes. Add rest of leaves and cook until wilted. Add lemon juice and sprinkle with parmesan.

Would be great with a sprinkling of red pepper flakes or crumbled bacon. 

This week’s box includes: more salad (not nearly as much), including “head lettuce”, frisee, arugula, and spinach; broccoli, broccoli raab, salad turnips, bok choi, and spearmint.

Things are getting interesting now! The ones I’m most excited about figuring out will be bok choi (I assume I’ll be making stir-fry at some point), salad turnips and spearmint.

I was lucky enough to get a list of the week’s take before heading to the grocery store tonight, so my meal plan includes a beef gyro type thing. I’m hoping the tzatziki I make will be improved by the mint. Plus, I’d like to try fresh mint tea. *fingers crossed*

I had never heard of salad turnips before, either, but have found that they can be eaten raw and are on the sweet side. So, we’ll be using them in salads, and I may finally make some homemade hummus to try dippin’.

Now, to use up these radishes… 

St. Patrick’s Day Green

I’m an Irish girl. Er. Irish-American. Whatever. But, still, the vast majority of my ancestors? Irish peasants. I’m fascinated and proud of the heritage.

That said, I’ve never used the traditional “Irish” holiday as an excuse to drink. It’s an awesome holiday, of course, but the people who tend to go all out (whether Irish or not, whether they know a lick of information about St. Patrick himself) make me shake my head. I still remember going to a college class on St. Patrick’s Day only to observe heads in garbage cans and bodies of passed-out people riddling the common areas. At 9AM. I’m not a prude, but… No. Words.

But, if you’re planning on hitting the pubs this year, try a different green beverage before donning those green beads.

We recently tried out this recipe for super-simple “beginner’s luck green smoothie.” Dave hadn’t jumped on the smoothie bandwagon yet, and none of us had tried a green smoothie. Of course, Hadley LOVED the thing, and Dave enjoyed his more than I expected. Our variation of the original goes like this…

Pickles! - image e2fbc-smoothie1 on https://megactsout.com

Beginner’s Luck Green Smoothie
(adapted from 100 Days of Real Food’s recipe)2 cups spinach
1 cup milk (any kind)
1 cup water
1 banana, in chunks
1 cup frozen strawberries
1 cup pineapple chunks

Blend the spinach with the liquid until smooth. Then add the rest of the ingredients and blend until you’ve reached the consistency you prefer. (Add more liquid if you like it thinner, or use all frozen fruits or ice cubes for a thicker consistency.)


Ours was perfectly sweet with the mix of banana, strawberries (which Hadley requested) and pineapple (although the pineapple admittedly left a few random “strands” of texture here and there), but you could drizzle in agave, honey, or a sprinkle of sugar if you need it. 

Leftovers might just help alleviate a hangover. *wink, wink*

And if you wear some green in celebration (or, um, drink green beer), here’s a little trivia for you: The green (of the Irish flag) doesn’t represent the green grasses and shamrocks of Ireland so much as it does the many Irish Catholics who died at the hands of Protestant rulers. In the 1700s and 1800s, while England and Ireland clashed, Irish persons were hanged for wearing green.

So, please. Wear it proudly.

Or drink it proudly, as the case may be.

Gingerbread Pancakes

There’s something about molasses. The mere smell or tiny taste of it automatically transports me back to my grandmother’s kitchen. Her spice cabinet was filled with its scent, and I vividly recall sitting on her countertops staring into her bowl of molasses cookie dough (and occasionally giving it a stir). Her soft cookies were a family favorite.

So, it’s no surprise that I’m also a gingerbread fan. Like, huge. My mother once brought gingerbread to celebrate my birthday instead of a cake in college, and it was AWESOME. There’s just something about the spongy, spicy goodness (topped off with homemade whipped cream…always homemade).

I decided to make some of my “mug” pancakes in the gingerbread tradition, complete with (real) butter, (real) syrup, aaaaaand whipped cream. Yep. Let’s just say they’re perfect for your Christmas morning. Oh, and try using some greased cookie cutters on the griddle to make adorably festive shapes!

Pickles! - image 6e4e0-gingerbread2bpancakes on https://megactsout.com

Gingerbread Pancakes

1 mugful flour
1 mugful milk
1 egg
about 1/8 – 1/4 c. molasses
1 tsp. cinnamon
sprinkle clove
1/4 tsp. ginger
pinch salt
1 1/2+ tsp. baking powder
1/2 baking soda
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Whisk together dry ingredients and spices. Separately, whisk egg with molasses and vanilla, then add, along with milk, to dry ingredients. Don’t overmix.

Cook in greased skillet or griddle over medium heat in spoonfuls (depending on size you prefer). Flip when you see bubbles appearing.

Top with butter and syrup, cinnamon and sugar, vanilla yogurt, or a dollop of homemade whipped cream (or a variation of any of these).


These would be a perfect holiday breakfast, along with some sausage or thick-cut bacon and sweet potato hash browns. Hope you enjoy them, too!

Another Use for Pizza Dough

Happy Halloween, guys! On crazy nights like tonight, I tend to throw together something super quick. Sometimes pasta, sometimes soul and a sandwich, but most of the time pizza. I love pizza. It’s seriously, like, my favorite. If Dave could have one food for the rest of his life, it’d be salad. (I’m not kidding.) Me? Pretty sure it’d be pizza.

Last week, I had these two whole wheat pizza doughs getting closer and closer to their “probably should just throw those out” dates in the freezer. And it got my gears going. What to do with them…other than pizza?

So, today’s recipe is relatively simple. Honestly, it’s as easy as you want to make it, or as complicated as you want. You can cook intricate stuff up to add as fillers, or you can just toss in some sauce and cheese and call it a day. You can take my tip to make your own garlic butter or just drizzle some EVOO on top. No big.

Oh, and I used one pizza dough for each recipe — got four “calzones” (I’m not Italian, but Dave kept calling them calzones, so I’m going with that as a name) of the “pizza” kind and four “calzones” of the broccoli kind. They’re more filling than you may think, so I ended up freezing a few for future lunches. Oh, and feel free to cut the pizza into 6 or even 8 pieces; just cook for less time (until browned on top). If you want huge ones, to two, but they’ll probably cook closer to 20-25 minutes.

I’ve gotta say that the broccoli/ham/cheese one was insanely tasty. The pizza one was good, too, of course…but, yeah. Broccoli FTW! Who knew?

{If you need to see the recipe better, click on it. It’ll open up much larger.}

Pickles! - image cfee3-calzone on https://megactsout.com

Have fun out there and be safe tonight! 🙂 My favorite part is after the ghosts and goblins have headed home for the night. We’ll most likely be popping some popcorn, pouring some cider, and watching some Charlie Brown. Loving that it’s on Friday this year!

Best Birthday Gift Ever

Today I’ve got a different type of recipe for you — and there are several variations you can try, so feel free to mix it up all you like. Oh, and one warning: the ingredients take FOREVER to find (ahem, make), but they’re worth the effort. Seriously.

Want a cheese sandwich? Start with some bread…cheese, of course…a piece of lettuce…maybe two…a tomato (if you’re into that sort of thing)…then top it off with another fluffy slice….

Pickles! - image 84c7d-output_ezru8u on https://megactsout.com

Just serve with a carrot or two and you’ve got an awesome lunch. Yum!

Pickles! - image 6f22f-photo5_6 on https://megactsout.com
Or you could just pull a Dorky Daddy and have a salad for lunch. (He’d have two salads for dinner…then more salad for dessert. Seriously.) Personally, I’d switch out the tomato for strawberries.

Pickles! - image c7f18-photo2_6 on https://megactsout.com

Speaking of strawberries…grab a few for a snack! (Pardon the water spots.)

Pickles! - image 9ed6f-photo1_6 on https://megactsout.com

Oh, you’re in the mood for breakfast? We’ve got that covered, too. Eggs and toast, perhaps?

Pickles! - image 015e2-photo2_8 on https://megactsout.com

Pickles! - image 34968-photo1_8 on https://megactsout.com

So, this was my “big present” for the monkey’s birthday. It doesn’t look like much, but I’ve worked on them every night for a month or two…so…yeah. Just the hours alone make them pretty valuable. And the fact that he and his cousin started playing with them immediately (and that they’re, apparently, a cat toy, as well), which makes all the time worth it. Big time. 🙂

Pickles! - image bb522-photo1_10 on https://megactsout.com

I’m hoping to make a pizza or more breakfast items for Christmas. They’re not hard to make, just time intensive. Whip stitch…whip stitch…whip stitch…. Yep, there’s your tutorial. That’s all you need. Cut out the shapes (I free-handed) from felt, whip stitch the edges until you die, then stuff with filling…or fill with stuffing, whatevs. Rinse and repeat. The cheese was just a cut-out of orangey-yellow felt; that one was super easy and made up for how time-intensive the rest were. 😉

Depending on where we live at that point, we’ll also try to work on a kitchen area for Hadman to house all of his spoons, spatulas, and pots the utensils and pots he’s stolen from me and for further pretend play. He’s in love with them, so I’m super happy that these turned out so well and were well-received. (By the way, he’s mixed them with the food toys he already owns — the ones with the smiley faces — below…and a stuffed turkey. Which makes sense. Maybe.)

Pickles! - image f8e0e-photo2_10 on https://megactsout.com

Pickles! - image 1ccc4-photo3_8 on https://megactsout.com

Pickles! - image 0b49f-photo5_7 on https://megactsout.com

Oh, and for anyone wondering, I’m working on a quick birthday rundown post for this week, too. We hope you had as awesome a weekend as we did!

Clean Out the Fridge Burrito

That title makes this meal sound absolutely nauseating. Sorry ’bout that.

We had a handful of items floating around (read: taking up awkward space) in the fridge recently, so I threw together what turned out to be a tasty (and super-filling) lunch. Seriously, make a side and this could easily be dinner.

And, since my pictures were too massive to make a GIF (oops), here’s the exact play-by-play. You don’t even need a recipe. Just start with a tortilla (whole-wheat, in this case) and put whatever you want into it. You don’t even need to heat anything up before assembling; just throw it in the microwave for 2-3 minutes (or more, if it needs it), and voila!

Side note: For mine, I used leftover rice, black beans, corn, rotisserie chicken, some salsa and a sprinkling of cheese. Feel free to sprinkle with some S&P or cumin and chili powder for some kick. Even add more veggies — cooked broccoli or asparagus would be yummy.

‘Kay. So, here’s the pictorial recipe. I won’t even talk. Promise.

Pickles! - image 3bc66-photo1252882529 on https://megactsout.com

Pickles! - image b4ff8-photo2252882529 on https://megactsout.com

Pickles! - image 4665d-photo3252882529 on https://megactsout.com

Pickles! - image 2ac35-photo4252862529 on https://megactsout.com

Pickles! - image 70131-photo5252842529 on https://megactsout.com
Pickles! - image cdd8c-photo1252872529 on https://megactsout.com

Pickles! - image b834e-photo2252872529 on https://megactsout.com

Pickles! - image 009ba-photo3252872529 on https://megactsout.com

Pickles! - image 55ac9-photo4252852529 on https://megactsout.com

Pickles! - image af0c5-photo5252832529 on https://megactsout.com

*Lets out air* No idea why those middle ones wouldn’t turn to match the rest for me, sorry ’bout that! But, seriously, who else is impressed by that one-handed burrito folding??

Oh. Just me, then? M’kay, that’s cool. Well…hope you try it and like it — and the clean fridge when you’re done!

A Lovely Lunch

A long while back, Dave and I had a celebratory dinner at a lovely steak joint. Strangely enough, the most memorable part of the whole meal has stuck with me for years. It’s strange because the best part of that incredible meal was our salads.

Yes, we’re salad people (Dave more so than me; he could live on it) but this was the best salad I’ve ever had. All thanks to the incredible dressing. Isn’t it weird how, no matter how wonderful the ingredients, the dressing can make or break a salad?

I recently made a variation of the dressing, and my reasons for posting it are twofold: 1) I thought you guys might like to try it, and 2) I’m purely selfish – a quick blog search is the best way to find a recipe I like (I do it 2-3 times a month for my mini meatloaf recipe).

So, since it would be weird to post just a dressing recipe (wait…I’ve done that before), here’s the lunch I made for Dave and I. By the way, you’ll get used to the fact that it’s a warm vinaigrette.  I promise!

Mixed Salad with a Warm Bacon Vinaigrette 

3-4 slices bacon (cut in half)
1-2 shallots (depending on size; I had 1 large and 1 small)
A good splash of vinegar (I used white wine, but white or apple cider would work)
1/2 tsp – 1 tsp dijon mustard (I honestly used deli mustard, LOL)
1-2 tsp sugar or honey (maple syrup would probably work beautifully, too)
Splash olive oil if needed

Salad greens (I mixed mixed greens with extra romaine)
Strawberries (optional – I used, Dave didn’t)
Tomatoes (optional – Dave used, I didn’t)
Hard boiled eggs (optional – again, me not him)
Shaved Parmesan or Romano

Bring eggs to a boil and start cooking bacon on medium to medium-high heat. While cooking, plate your lettuce and prep your add-ins (and finely chop your shallot).

Pickles! - image edcd0-photo16 on https://megactsout.com

Pickles! - image a4e4f-photo26 on https://megactsout.com
Do you really need a visual of bacon and eggs cooking? Sure, why not?

When ready, drain bacon on paper towels. Place all but 4-5 tbsp of bacon grease in a separate bowl; in the 4-5 tbsp, toss the shallots and cook until soft and translucent. Take eggs off heat, drain, and replace water with cold a few times (a cold rinse helps). 

When shallots are done, add the sugar, vinegar, and mustard and whisk to combine. Finish assembling salads by arranging sliced eggs, strawberries or tomatoes, drizzling with the vinaigrette, crumbling two half-slices of bacon (per plate), and shaving cheese on top. 

Finish with salt and pepper (though not necessary) and enjoy!

Pickles! - image 4ce7d-photo36 on https://megactsout.com

Pickles! - image 43c77-photo44 on https://megactsout.com

This made enough for two large “lunch” salads, and we took the leftovers for “work lunches” the next day. I had to throw a little extra EVOO into the dressing to make enough for the next day, but if you reserve your extra bacon fat, this won’t be an issue. Just a heads-up.

Give it a go and let me know how you like it! And, while you’re at it, let me know — what was in the BEST salad you ever had?

Brussels Sprouts That Don’t Suck

Happy Foodie Friday! Now, on with the show…

You heard me right, Universe. I know what you’re thinking: Brussels sprouts, those sometimes-slimy, cabbage-like fart bombs. That you put in your mouth. And eat.

Normally, I would agree 100%. I grew up harboring a hate-hate relationship with them, and for that matter anyone who tried to make me ingest them. So. Nasty.

This relationship would’ve lasted for all time until my awesome brother-in-law Dan brought along his caramelized maple roasted Brussels sprouts to our last Thanksgiving feast. Consider me converted…and on a mission to convert others. 

So, all these many months later, I finally bit the bullet and bought some on-sale sprouts. I’ll admit that I was nervous. I’ve tried roasting them before only to have Dave sweetly request that I never make them again. (Ahem. He’s not really a jerk, for the record. It was one of those rare super honest moments. Can’t blame him; fart bombs in your mouth aren’t fun. I didn’t enjoy them, either.)

But, there was no need to worry this time. Despite being in the thick of chaos and accidentally turning off the oven mid-roasting (see? Even an idiot…), these came out awesome. There’s really no way to mess them up, either, so use this as a guideline and less of a real recipe. Love those.

Roasted Maple Brussels Sprouts
1 1/2-ish lbs. Brussels sprouts
Salt and pepper
Olive oil 
1/4 c. (give or take) pure maple syrup (not “pancake syrup” or whatever that is)
2 tsp. (or more) brown sugar

Trim any brown or wilted leaves (there will be a huge pile left, seriously) and wash and dry sprouts. Cut into halves and cut off bottom “stem” part.

Pickles! - image d709a-photo25 on https://megactsout.com

Pickles! - image 7d71d-photo1252852529 on https://megactsout.com

Place on baking sheet and douse with good amount of olive oil and salt and pepper. Toss. Roast at 400 degrees F for about 15 minutes and toss. Drizzle with syrup and brown sugar and roast another 15-20 minutes or until tender and caramelized.

Pickles! - image 0b484-photo3252852529 on https://megactsout.com

Seriously, it may look like a wilty, burnt pile of nothin’, but it is beyond delicious. Enjoy, and let me know what you thought!

I kid you not, I was stealing wayward leaves and black bits off of the baking sheet. I have no shame.