Zucchini Fritters {recipe}

We have been enjoying these beautiful summer days with lots of family fun activities and relax in the evening with bonfires and fire fly watching. Country life is good.

We decided to just take it easy and enjoyed a relaxing Independence Day weekend with parades, picnics, and sparklers. Although we are happy to see the holiday pass by and no longer have to listen to the loud booms of fireworks late into the night.

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We recently added a Little Free Library to our home for friends to visit. The girls had a great time building it with their daddy and had a fun time decorating the inside of it. They are so goofy and creative. They made it look like a chicken family lives inside. Hopefully others will enjoy it as much as they do and visit often.

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This weekend I really focused on gardening and tackling the weeds that are trying to overtake my plants. Everything seems to be growing really well. We have our spring peas ready to be harvested. Tomatoes are starting to grow and will be turning red before we know it. We have beets and kale. The pumpkins and squash plants that will quickly be out of control. I simply love it. I always hope we will have more than we will need so we can give to others. I have a feeling this may be the year.

And this is also one of my favorite times of the year when it comes to gardening – it is zucchini time! If your garden is like mine, you have an abundance and serving zucchini with every meal in one form or another. One of our favorite ways to enjoying zucchini is with our delicious Zucchini Fritters. They are so easy to make and everyone (except my extremely picky 3 year old) loves them!

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Zucchini Fritters

Here is what you will need:
4 cups shredded zucchini
2/3 cups whole-wheat flour
2 larch eggs, lightly beaten
1/3 cups sliced scallions
Olive oil for cooking

Placed the shredded zucchini in a colander over a bowl. Sprinkle with a little salt and let sit for 10 minutes. Squeeze out as much liquid from the zucchini as you can with your hands and place in a large mixing bowl.

To the zucchini, add flour, eggs, and scallions and mix well. Add oils to a large pan over medium heat. Once hot, scoop zucchini mixture into pan (I like to use an ice cream scoop) and gently flatten with a spatula. Cook until golden brown, about 2 -3 minutes then flip and cook another 2-3 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel lined plate and sprinkle with a little bit of salt. Repeat until all the zucchini mixture is cooked.

Serve warm and enjoy!

(You can visit Just a Taste to view the original recipe.)

I would love to hear from you! What are you favorite zucchini dishes and recipes? I would love to try them out!

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Mini Corn Dog Muffins {recipe}

Summer is in full swing for the Clark family. Day camps, VBS, and keeping up with the farm chores. You name it, we’re busy! Aside from the heat and lack of rain, everything seems to be off to a great start.

Remember that broody hen – well, her eggs hatched! And a day earlier than expected. She was sitting on six itty, bitty eggs. Sadly, one didn’t make it but we’re lucky to have five adorable chicks to the coop for a little while. They are not ours to keep as we hatched for a wonderful friend and neighbor. It’ll be fun to watch them grow up with Buff our hen and once she had decided her little chicks no longer need her, they will be off to their new home.

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And the ongoing garden adventure has not really changed much. We ended up buying a number of plants to grow this year. Thankfully everything is growing well, especially the weeds! If only I had a few more hours in a day or an extra me, I could work on keeping the weeds under control. Just another thing on the to-do list waiting to be crossed off.

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We are really excited some of our fruit trees are starting to produce a little bit of fruit. Even the birds were generous enough to leave us this one tiny cherry. We’ll see if it is still there for us to enjoy when it is ripened.

Our little chicks – the ones we are keeping, as long as none of them surprise me and are roosters (I have my suspicions that one is a rooster) – are growing so fast! I try not to pick favorites, but this one is so adorable. I just love her. Sheep, named by our three year old, is a Frizzle and her feathers just crack me up. Now if only she felt the same way about me and didn’t run as soon as I came near.

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And summer months means more time outside and our list of quick, easy to make meals for the kids to enjoy is on the menu! One of our favorites in Mini Corn Dog Muffins.

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Mini Corn Dog Muffins

Ingredients:
¼ cup melted butter
¼ cup unsweetened applesauce
½ cup honey
2 eggs
1 cup milk
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup whole wheat flour
½ teaspoon salt
8-10 all-beef hotdogs, cut into 1 inch pieces

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Combine butter, applesauce, and honey in a bowl and whisk until well combined. Whisk in eggs and milk.

Combine in a separate bowl the baking soda, cornmeal, flour, and salt. Whisk in wet ingredients.

Spray a mini muffin pan with non-stick spray and spoon one tablespoon of batter into each mini muffin cup. Place one hotdog into the center of each cup.

Bake for 8-12 minutes – until the muffins are a golden brown. Cool for about five minutes in the muffin tin before serving.

We love to serve them with our favorite Parmesan Roasted Green Beans. And for the original, gluten free version of this recipe – visit Iowa Girl Eats (a favorite blog of mine – so great.)

So, I would love to hear from you! How are you and your family keeping busy this summer season?

Weekend Getaway

Before I begin this post, I want to say thank you to all of our military personal and their families for the sacrifices you have made for our freedom. It is important to our family to remember what Memorial Day is truly about.

For the Memorial Day weekend, our family traveled south to Kansas City for a little weekend getaway and fun with family. I have this dream of one day being a traveling blogger and review our favorite places and restaurants. That’s just the foodie in me who loves to eat and visit new places. Sadly, this dream won’t be accomplished any time in the near future.

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We attempted to spend a lovely day at the Kansas City Zoo, only to go home after a short visit due to rain. We were lucky enough to ride the carousel, explore the Discovery Barn, and see a few animals before we left. But no worries, it is a place we go to often and we will be back again soon!

The following day was spent a relaxing afternoon fishing and visiting family. My girls love to fish and are always begging Daddy to take them. This was a perfect day for them.

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The morning of Memorial Day we were leaving for home to discover our car had a flat tire! We were extremely thankful to find a store open that could fix it quickly. Obviously we got home a bit later than planned that day, but hey, it’s okay.

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So, that was our relaxing weekend. Most of our plans didn’t quite go as planned, but that is how life goes sometimes…. Okay, most of the time. But we cannot complain. It is always nice to get away from home every once in a while and see a few of the people we love.

Another exciting happening at the Clark home – one of our chickens has become a broody hen. It’s that time of year when some chickens just cannot think about anything other than hatching eggs. We are a no rooster home so she cannot hatch any of our eggs. Thankfully a wonderful neighbor and friend hopes to hatch a few of her own eggs and gave our Buff a some to sit on. It’s the perfect plan – she can hatch eggs and we can give the chickens back when Buff is done “momming”. (Oddly enough, I have hit my chicken limit.) In about three weeks we will see if any hatch. Hopefully some do – Buff just loves being a mommy.

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I would love to hear from you! How did you and your family celebrate the Memorial Day weekend? And, have you been to the Kansas City area? What are some of your favorite places to visit?

Rainy May

Greetings! It seems to be a very rainy May. We’ve recently had some pretty severe weather pass through Iowa leaving us with a few fallen branches. Thankfully, nothing terrible and we’re all safe. We have experienced far worse storm damage since we moved to our little home in the country.

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We have also been very busy working on our garden. I have planted, and replanted, seeds because we all know how successful I am at growing them. My oldest daughters planted my zucchini squash and pea seeds and they are the only ones growing so far. Everything I have touched is not growing. So, that probably means we’ll be buying plants soon.

Along with nothing I planted growing, we have some kind of critter digging around in our garden and leaving big holes. It all started in February, which was unseasonably warm, and my girls planted some old potatoes (kind of a science experiment to see if they’d grow.) I have no idea who this guest is, but I wish they would kindly leave. (And, if you are curious, yes, the potatoes are growing. I honestly didn’t think they would. Probably because I am not the one who planted them. Hehe.)

We also bought the last of our fruit trees for our property. We know they take a couple of years to grow before we will get any fruit, so I thought the sooner we get them in the ground the better. We have quite an array of tress – apples, pears, peach, cherry, and plum. We have been buying a couple of trees here and there, but this year we went all out and bough the rest on our wish list. We ordered a few from Stark Bro’s Nurseries & Orchards Co. It was pretty exciting to get trees in the mail and I cannot wait to see how they grow.

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Along with the trees, we also ordered strawberry plants, blueberry plants, and asparagus. The chickens totally ruined my strawberry plants last summer so they needed to be replaced. Don’t let anyone fool you – chickens are horrible gardeners. 🙂 Fingers crossed they can leave them alone this year. I also have never had luck with blueberries, and we just love to eat them, so I am really hopeful they will grow and we’ll get a lot of berries.

So other than that, our spring is off to a pretty good start. The girls are waiting for summer and their activities to begin. In the mean time, it’s a lot of movies and popcorn while we wait for drier weather.

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I’d love to hear from you! Do you have any tips or tricks for a successful garden? Bonus if you can tell me how to start a garden from seed successfully.

Planning for your Adventures {recipe}

Weekend getaways. Day trips. Park play dates. Day camps – oh my. This is just a few of the things that keep our little family extra busy during the warmer months. You would think we would be busier during the school year, but we’re not. We really love it and cannot wait to get started. However one thing that always happens when we are out – someone forgets something. Mom forgets the diapers… kids forget the sunglasses…. Nobody grabbed their bottle of water.

I have quickly learned to realize I need another bag, in addition to my diaper bag, which contains all the extra items we may need during our little adventures. Items we may not need during our regular day to day errands and outings.

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Some of the items in our little ‘adventure bag’ include –
Hats
Sunglasses – because it’s always “too bright” or so my three-year-old is always telling me.
Bug Spray – protect your littles from those pesky mosquitoes and ticks! We use a bug spray made with essential oils and have had great luck.
Sunscreen – I keep a few different varieties of sunscreen in our bag. Spray and lotion – because everyone has their favorite. I have recently fallen in love with Hawaiian Tropic Silk Hydration Weightless Face Sunscreen. Its claim “feels as if it’s barely on” is so true, provides 12 hours moisturization, UVA & UVB protection, and is oil free. It is my new go-to sunscreen for this summer!

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Snacks – my kids love crackers, fresh fruit, and our homemade granola! A recipe too good not to share… just keep reading.
Water – like I said, someone always forgets it. Thankfully I can keep a couple of bottles in the bag so we’ll always have it with us.
Extra clothes – because when my kids are not afraid to get a little messy. They love bugs and dirt.
When I am organized, I feel so much calmer when we are out, and I really get to enjoy our time together. Plus, I always keep extra of everything with me – yes, I like to be over prepared – so I can help another mom out if they need it.

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Granola

½ cup coconut oil
½ cup honey
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon salt

Mix these ingredients together until dissolved.
Then you will add…

5 cups oats
3 cups add-ins (choose your favorites – nuts, dried fruit, coconut, chocolate chunks, etc.)

Bake on a lined cookie sheet at 325 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 1 hour. Break into chunks and store into an air tight container.

If you love chunky granola, you just may love this recipe as much as we do. I always make a double batch and it is gone in just a few days.

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I’d love to hear from you! What are the much-needed items you seem to always forget? I know I am not alone here.

Disclosure:
I received no compensation for this post but was provided with a sample of Hawaiian Tropic Silk Hydration Weightless Face Sunscreen to facilitate this review in exchange for my honest opinion which in fact are my own.

Earth Day Birthday Party

This weekend we are celebrating our oldest daughter’s 9th birthday with a huge party. Her party day happened to fall on Earth Day this year so we are having some fun and making that a bit of a theme.

A little bit about this girl – she’s amazing. I cannot begin to describe how blessed I feel to be her mommy or how she has the most generous heart. This is the third birthday she has requested food donations to give to a local food bank instead of gifts for herself.

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When she was six we watched something together on TV (I really cannot even remember what it was) that made her ask all sorts of questions about families and food. She was so heartbroken for those who were unable to buy food for themselves or their families. She was especially concerned about the kids who were going hungry. She really wanted to help. With her birthday approaching, she wanted to collect food instead of toys for herself. I couldn’t believe it. And with the help of generous family and friends, her first food drive was a great success. I truly cannot thank those who donate enough. They amaze me.

Anyways, enough about that. It’s bringing me to tears!

You do not need to have a birthday party to participate in these fun Earth Day activities. It would be perfect for any family fun day, or if you home school like us, they would make a great fun activity to your school day!

First we planned a Nature Scavenger Hunt. We personalized this list with things we have seen in our own backyard. After they find as many as they can, we have lots of prizes that they can choose from.

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Decorating clay pots and planting flower seeds. This gives every child in attendance a fun gift to take home. (This was a total mess, but so much fun!)

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Recycling Relay Game. We divided the kids into two teams. Each team had a box full of recycling items (paper/cardboard and plastic). One at a time, they had to divide the items by running them down, and put it in the correct labeled bucket.

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Plus, you cannot have a birthday party for this girl without cake, ice cream, and pizza.

We were blessed with a beautiful Saturday afternoon and wonderful friends and family joined us in the celebration. To top it off, the birthday girl received a lot of donations for the Food Bank. She is beyond excited and so thankful to those who support her every year.

I’d love to hear from you! What are your favorite ways to celebrate Earth Day or do you have a favorite birthday activity?

*The beautiful nine shirt made by the talented Ashley at Sass & Class – “like” her on Facebook.

Baked Oatmeal {recipe}

It has been quite a busy few weeks around our home. Spring has officially arrived which means lots of cleaning and getting ready for summer on the farm. We are also enjoying lots of cute and adorable baby animals – little cows next door and our own baby chicks. (Which I am having difficulty resisting this year and keep buying more…Someone stop me.)

We are also getting ready to celebrate a big 9th birthday and our daughters annual Birthday Food Drive. All month we have been collecting donations and this year she will be going to the Northeast Iowa Food Bank.  A couple of weeks ago we had a fundraiser garage sale which was very successful, except for the fact we still have a garage full of sale items. (Anyone want it??) I am such a proud mommy, but it is a lot of work to organize a food drive every year. But I will do it again and again. (Please contact me if you would like to contribute. We greatly appreciate all donations, big and small.)

Thankfully we are done with school for the year (although the learning really never ends in our house) so that is one less thing I have to get though every day.

We are currently getting our garden ready for planting. The dirt has been tilled and we are hoping our seeds will start to grow so we can put them outside. I know I have said this before, but when it comes to starting plants from seed, I am the worst… So none of our plants are yet growing. I have only replanted them twice. One year I will master this! But until then, I am very thankful for plants at the store.

All this hard work means I have extra hungry littles and nothing gets them going like a big bowl of protein packed apple peanut butter oatmeal. My kids love Silk Protein Nut Milk’s creamy and delicious flavor. And I love that it is low in sugar and packed with protein. So it seemed like the perfect addition to our favorite baked oatmeal recipe.

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Baked Oatmeal
What you will need:

  • 4 cups old fashioned oats (can use gluten-free oats)
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 5 cups Silk Protein Nut Milk (or milk of your choice)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup creamy all-natural peanut butter
  • 2 cups apples (peeled and diced)

What you need to do:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare a 9×13 inch baking dish and set aside.

In a large bowl mix together the oats, brown sugar, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Add milk, egg, applesauce, and vanilla. Stir in peanut butter and mix until well combined. Pour mixture into baking dish and bake for 35 minutes, or until the top is golden and the oatmeal is set. Let cool for 5 minutes and serve. Enjoy!

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Disclosure:
I received no compensation for this post but was provided with a sample of Silk Protein Nut Milk to facilitate this review in exchange for my honest opinion which in fact are my own.

Veggie Mac and Cheese {recipe}

This cold weather is in no hurry to leave and warm comfort foods have filled this weeks dinner menu at the request of the family. Nothing warms you up like a bowl of extra cheesy, veggie mac and cheese. It’s a regular at our house all year round.

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Mac and Cheese has always been a favorite with my kids. I think most children would agree. I mean, it was one of my favorite dishes growing up. But as an adult, making a boxed version has lost its appeal and I am always on a mission to sneak extra veggies in to my extremely picky three-year-old’s diet.

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Here is what you will need:

1 box of your favorite veggie pasta
1 bag of California Medley frozen veggies (thawed)
2 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. onion (diced)
1/2 cup flour
2 cups milk
2 cups chicken stock
2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard (today we enjoyed French’s Dijon Mustard with Chardonnay)
4 cups of cheese – we love sharp cheddar and mozzarella (shredded)
pepper to taste

Here is what you need to do:

Cook your pasta as directed. (I like to under-cook it by a minute or two.)

In a large skillet or dutch oven, melt butter and saute onions until softened, 2-3 minutes. Add flour and whisk until well combined. Continue to whisk – stir in chicken stock and milk. Brink to a boil. Boil for two minutes, until it thickens. Stir in mustard, cheese, pepper, veggies, and pasta.

Either pour your cheesy pasta into a 9×13 inch baking dish or keep in your dutch oven and bake, covered, for 20 minutes and 350 degrees. Cool for 10 minutes. Serve and enjoy.

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I’d love to hear from you – What are your childhood favorite dishes that you still love to enjoy as an adult? Do you still make these dishes the way mom used to (because that’s always the best) or have you created a new, just you recipe?

Disclosure:
I received no compensation for this post but was provided with a sample of French’s Dijon Mustard with Chardonnay to facilitate this review in exchange for my honest opinion which in fact are my own.

Garden Planning on a Snow Day

Just when you think spring has arrived, you wake up to this…

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in the middle of March.

I swear it was 70 degrees last week!

Mother Nature is really throwing us her best this winter and all we can really do is just go with it. Winter cannot last forever, so the kids and I decided it was time to finally get the seeds planted so they can start growing indoors.

I’m going to be honest here – I am the worst when it comes to starting plants from seeds. Every year I try. I plant these tiny little seeds indoors and they will start to grow – then die. So I end up spending way more than necessary on my summer garden after buying seeds and plants (then buying more plants to replace the plants that died). Seriously, it is kind of shocking I get anything to grow and I have more produce than I know what to do with. I’m really hoping this year will be different and my plants will grow the first time.

To get things started the girls went with their daddy to buy seeds over the weekend. LOTS of seeds. Today we chose to plant peppers and tomatoes. Because we have chickens, we also have a lot of egg cartons thanks to amazing friends and family. I thought they would work perfectly for starting seeds.

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Thankfully I have plenty of help so we got our seeds planted quickly. It wasn’t easy, but I promised they could go outside and play in the snow as soon as school work and seeds were planted. Of course, it was all done before lunch.

Oh! And it was requested I update you on our growing apple trees. We currently have four apple trees growing and doing really well. And with my luck of starting plants from seeds, we did lose one. The girls have filled at least a dozen yogurt/cottage cheese containers with dirt and planted several seeds – both apple and pear trees. Hopefully they will grow too.

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I’d love to hear from you! Are you enjoying a snowy winter day today? Or are you lucky enjoy to have warm spring weather?

Meal Planning

When it comes to dinner at our house, I instantly think of this meme…

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Seriously – every night?!

In our house, eating out or ordering food rarely happens. Once, maybe twice a month, I get the night off from cooking. We even try to limit the amount of processed foods we buy. Don’t get me wrong, my kids love their morning bowl of cereal or that package of Oreo’s might sneak its way in the door.  Cooking from scratch every day is a lot of work. Truthfully, I do love it. I get great joy out of knowing what goes into my families food, knowing I am giving them the healthiest meals I can.

Lately I have been in a rut and we have been having the same few meals over and over. It is getting boring – for me as the cook and for my family who eats it.

So I decided it was time to meal plan. Time to create a menu. And, this time get the kids involved so they won’t get so upset when I serve them dinner, (Who are we kidding… Someone  always complains! Haha.)

First, we made a calendar.

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We started by listing the days of the week along the top. Then, the kids decided on themes for each night. This is where you can get creative, but here are some ideas to get you started…

Vegetarian Night
Pasta Night
Pizza Night
Breakfast for Dinner
Soup Night
Salad Night
Chicken Night
Sandwich Night
Slow-Cooker Night
Fish Night
Casserole Night
Burger Night
and do not forget the occasional left over night – although for us, they make the perfect lunch.

After our themes for each day have been decided, the kids list off all of their favorite meals. You will be amazed by how much they enjoy – it is not all macaroni & cheese  or chicken nuggets. Plus, I assign nights where the kiddos will pick the meal and help cook dinner with me. For example, my oldest loves Chicken Lombardi so she helps me make it. (Someday she will be make it on her own and I will get a night off from cooking plus a home cooked meal! Winning.)

For my family, the menu is six weeks. I feel like that gives us enough time between certain dishes that we look forward to it again. And even if we aren’t, I am flexible and willing to mix it up occasionally… as long as I have all the ingredients.

So, now am I not bugging everyone with the daily question, “What do you want for dinner tonight?” I am also saving money on our grocery bill. I know exactly what I need and what we will use for that week. And, I am also saving time by not having to go to the grocery store more than once a week. That is a win-win in my book.

Now I would LOVE to know – how do you meal plan? And what are some of your favorite go-to meals?