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Bummer Summer?

by Elisabeth Hardin from The Practice of Simplicity

As Autumn is upon us, I reflect upon the past few months and realize that I could easily say, “this summer was a bummer.”  We had grand plans of finally relaxing after last summer’s big move to the farm.  My husband is a teacher and my schedule is flexible, so we planned on taking a few short trips, completing a few home-improvement projects, and tending to our big, lush garden.  Well, you know what is said about best laid plans…and boy did ours go awry.  

As you know from this post, our sweet Pearl arrived on July 9th. She ended up living inside our house for five weeks because of her various medical issues.  Our trips were cancelled because we had to care for her 24-7.  Our garden was a TOTAL BUST; we succeeded only in cultivating three tomatoes and millions of weeds.  We both had job changes, which while good, were stressful.  And, to top it all off, our house got struck by lightning which fried the computer in our refrigerator.  It took two weeks for the part to arrive to repair the fridge, so during that time we depended on a college refrigerator, a couple of coolers, and Earth Fare’s $5 dinner deals.

Every time I would find myself getting overwhelmed or upset with our very first-world stress, something like this would happen:

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And I would realize that none of us will ever forget this summer.  Over the years, vacation memories tend to melt together into vague memories of sandcastles and sunburns, but a summer with a baby donkey living inside will stand unparalleled.  My older daughter had a slumber party for her 8th birthday, and during a movie, all the girls were lying on the floor… along with a donkey and giant poodle.  Aside from the novelty, caring for Pearl as a family brought us together in a way that can never be replicated through day trips or theme park visits.   

As my son put it, “Mom, I will remember this until I’m 80!”  To which I responded, “Buddy, your children will remember this story until they’re 80!”

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Chocolate Joys (Gluten Free!)Recipe by Lynda from Southern Kissed
Dry Ingredients 3/4 cup almond flour 1/4 cup cocoa powder 1/2 tsp cinnamon 1/2 tsp instant espresso 1/4 tsp baking soda 1/4 tsp salt
Wet Ingredients 3 eggs 3 Tbsp honey 3 Tbsp coconut oil 1 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup chocolate chips
Chocolate Ganache 1/2 cup chocolate chips 1 Tbsp coconut oil
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut, toasted
Instructions 1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin tin with parchment baking cups. (If using regular cups, spray lightly with non-stick spray.) 2. Place dry ingredients in mixer or large mixing bowl. Pulse or stir to combine. 3. Add wet ingredients to mixer and pulse until well blended. Scrape down sides of blender if needed. 4. Stir in chocolate chips. 5. Pour batter into prepared baking cups and bake 18-20 minutes or until done. Allow cupcakes to cool.
For the Ganache: 1. Combine 1/2 cup chocolate chips and 1 tablespoon of coconut oil in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave on HIGH for 30 seconds. Stir until chocolate is melted. Spread over cooled cupcakes. 2. Sprinkle cupcakes with shredded coconut.

For the story behind this recipe and more, visit Southern Kissed.   High-res

Chocolate Joys (Gluten Free!)
Recipe by Lynda from Southern Kissed

Dry Ingredients
3/4 cup almond flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp instant espresso
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt

Wet Ingredients
3 eggs
3 Tbsp honey
3 Tbsp coconut oil
1 tsp vanilla

1/3 cup chocolate chips

Chocolate Ganache
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1 Tbsp coconut oil

1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut, toasted

Instructions
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin tin with parchment baking cups. (If using regular cups, spray lightly with non-stick spray.)
2. Place dry ingredients in mixer or large mixing bowl. Pulse or stir to combine.
3. Add wet ingredients to mixer and pulse until well blended. Scrape down sides of blender if needed.
4. Stir in chocolate chips.
5. Pour batter into prepared baking cups and bake 18-20 minutes or until done. Allow cupcakes to cool.

For the Ganache:
1. Combine 1/2 cup chocolate chips and 1 tablespoon of coconut oil in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave on HIGH for 30 seconds. Stir until chocolate is melted. Spread over cooled cupcakes.
2. Sprinkle cupcakes with shredded coconut.

For the story behind this recipe and more, visit Southern Kissed.

Roasted Honey Mustard Chicken with ApplesRecipe by Krista from Everyday Mom’s Meals
Ingredients 6 bone-in chicken thighs, patted dry 2 large Cortland apples, cut into large chunks 1 large white onion, cut into large chunks 1 Cup chicken broth 2 Tbsp honey mustard 1 ½ Tbsp olive oil salt and pepper to taste dried parsley

Directions Preheat oven to 450. Grease 9x13 baking dish. Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Season chicken with salt and pepper. When oil is hot, place chicken in skin side down and cook for about 6 minutes until golden brown. Flip. Cook 3 additional minutes. Remove to a platter lined with paper towels. Drain off all but 2 Tbsp drippings.  Add apples and onions to skillet. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with parsley. Saute until softened, about 4 minutes.  Mix honey mustard with broth and pour into skillet. Increase heat to high and bring to a boil. Carefully transfer to baking dish. Lay chicken on top. Roast in over for 20-25 minutes until chicken is cooked through.  To serve, remove chicken and then using a slotted spoon, lay apples and onions on platter. Lay chicken on top. Spoon pan juices over top. Sprinkle with extra parsley.
For the story behind this recipe and more, visit Everyday Mom’s Meals.   High-res

Roasted Honey Mustard Chicken with Apples
Recipe by Krista from Everyday Mom’s Meals

Ingredients
6 bone-in chicken thighs, patted dry
2 large Cortland apples, cut into large chunks
1 large white onion, cut into large chunks
1 Cup chicken broth
2 Tbsp honey mustard
1 ½ Tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
dried parsley

Directions
Preheat oven to 450. Grease 9x13 baking dish. Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Season chicken with salt and pepper. When oil is hot, place chicken in skin side down and cook for about 6 minutes until golden brown. Flip. Cook 3 additional minutes. Remove to a platter lined with paper towels. Drain off all but 2 Tbsp drippings.
Add apples and onions to skillet. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with parsley. Saute until softened, about 4 minutes.
Mix honey mustard with broth and pour into skillet. Increase heat to high and bring to a boil. Carefully transfer to baking dish. Lay chicken on top. Roast in over for 20-25 minutes until chicken is cooked through.
To serve, remove chicken and then using a slotted spoon, lay apples and onions on platter. Lay chicken on top. Spoon pan juices over top. Sprinkle with extra parsley.

For the story behind this recipe and more, visit Everyday Mom’s Meals.

Lunchbox Recipe: Energy Bars

by Elisabeth Hardin from The Practice of Simplicity

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School is in full swing for the Hardin household; certainly bittersweet as we transition from lazy summer days to the fast pace of the school year.  I’m going to be completely honest here and admit that my absolute biggest annoyance with school being in session is packing lunches.  Seriously, I hate it.  I’m a total foodie and I love my kids, so you would think I’d enjoy it, right?  Nope.  Packing real-food lunches and snacks everyday for three kids with COMPLETELY different palates can be downright cumbersome, so needless to say I’m always looking for lunchbox ideas that at least more than one of my children will eat.  Thankfully, a coworker of mine passed along this recipe to me about a year ago, and with a little tweaking to the original recipe, this became a hands-down lunchbox favorite for all three kiddos.

Ingredients:

2 cups pitted dates (located in the produce section at Earth Fare)

2 cups toasted almonds (I like to buy the sliced almonds in the bulk bins at Earth Fare and toast them myself)

1/2 cup nut butter of your choice (I’m pretty fond of the Yum Butter nut butters because they are in a cool pouch that’s easy to portion out.)

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

3-4 tbsp water

1/2 cup chocolate chips (optional)

Combine all ingredients, one at a time, in a food processor until blended (will form kind of a ball).  Press into an 8 x 8 pan and refrigerate until firm.  Cut into squares and enjoy!

Simple BrunchWhy wait in line for brunch? 
Non-Alcoholic Mimosas
Why non-alcoholic? Let’s be real folks, it’s the weekend, but that doesn’t mean you have to blow the rest of your day getting the champagne sleepies. It’s the taste that matters anyway, and you’re already relaxed… you’re in your pajamas! The recipe is simple and just takes a few minutes. 
Ingredients:12 oz. Orange Juice12 oz. Sparkling Water¼ tsp. GrenadineIce Cubes1 Orange, sliced into wheels
Directions:We prefer Simply Orange for the orange juice, which we mix with equal parts Poland Springs sparkling water. Next, add 1/4 tsp. of Grenadine, ice and a few slices of orange. Stir well, break out the champagne flutes, and enjoy while you prepare the rest of your awesome brunch!
———————————————————————-
The Bestest Eggs Benedict
Don’t be intimidated by Eggs Benedict! That’s how they justify charging so much at brunch places. Aside from the egg poaching, the most difficult part of the dish is the hollandaise sauce, and if you have a blender, even that can be made easier. But for now, here’s the scoop on the traditional method.
Ingredients:2 cups White Vinegar2 ½ tsp. of Salt¼ lb. San Danielle Prosciutto3 Egg Yolks1 tbsp., plus 1 tsp. of fresh Lemon Juice¼ tsp. of Tabasco8 tbsp. of unsalted, melted Butter4 Eggs, cracked into separate bowls4 English Muffins, halved & toastedPaprika or Cayenne for garnish

Directions:1. Bring 16 cups water to a boil in a tall 6-quart saucepan over high heat. Add vinegar and 2 tsp. of Celtic sea salt, lower heat to medium, and bring to a simmer.
2. Using Organic Valley eggs, combine 3 yolks, lemon juice, 4 tsp. warm water, Tabasco, and remaining salt in a blender; turn to medium speed and slowly drizzle in Earth Fare butter to make the hollandaise. Transfer to a bowl; set aside, covered.
 3. Swirl simmering water with a spoon to create a whirlpool. Carefully slide each cracked egg into water; poach until just firm, about 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer eggs to a paper towel-lined plate. Divide muffin halves between 4 plates; top each half with 4  thin slices of prosciutto and 1 egg. Spoon 2–3 tbsp. sauce over each egg. Sprinkle with paprika or cayenne.   High-res

Simple Brunch
Why wait in line for brunch?

Non-Alcoholic Mimosas

Why non-alcoholic? Let’s be real folks, it’s the weekend, but that doesn’t mean you have to blow the rest of your day getting the champagne sleepies. It’s the taste that matters anyway, and you’re already relaxed… you’re in your pajamas! The recipe is simple and just takes a few minutes.

Ingredients:
12 oz. Orange Juice
12 oz. Sparkling Water
¼ tsp. Grenadine
Ice Cubes
1 Orange, sliced into wheels

Directions:
We prefer Simply Orange for the orange juice, which we mix with equal parts Poland Springs sparkling water. Next, add 1/4 tsp. of Grenadine, ice and a few slices of orange. Stir well, break out the champagne flutes, and enjoy while you prepare the rest of your awesome brunch!

———————————————————————-

The Bestest Eggs Benedict

Don’t be intimidated by Eggs Benedict! That’s how they justify charging so much at brunch places. Aside from the egg poaching, the most difficult part of the dish is the hollandaise sauce, and if you have a blender, even that can be made easier. But for now, here’s the scoop on the traditional method.

Ingredients:
2 cups White Vinegar
2 ½ tsp. of Salt
¼ lb. San Danielle Prosciutto
3 Egg Yolks
1 tbsp., plus 1 tsp. of fresh Lemon Juice
¼ tsp. of Tabasco
8 tbsp. of unsalted, melted Butter
4 Eggs, cracked into separate bowls
4 English Muffins, halved & toasted
Paprika or Cayenne for garnish

Directions:
1. Bring 16 cups water to a boil in a tall 6-quart saucepan over high heat. Add vinegar and 2 tsp. of Celtic sea salt, lower heat to medium, and bring to a simmer.

2. Using Organic Valley eggs, combine 3 yolks, lemon juice, 4 tsp. warm water, Tabasco, and remaining salt in a blender; turn to medium speed and slowly drizzle in Earth Fare butter to make the hollandaise. Transfer to a bowl; set aside, covered.

3. Swirl simmering water with a spoon to create a whirlpool. Carefully slide each cracked egg into water; poach until just firm, about 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer eggs to a paper towel-lined plate. Divide muffin halves between 4 plates; top each half with 4  thin slices of prosciutto and 1 egg. Spoon 2–3 tbsp. sauce over each egg. Sprinkle with paprika or cayenne.

Easy Stir-Fried Tofu
Recipe by Bridget from My So-Called (Mommy) Life

Ingredients
1 Block Firm or Extra Firm Tofu
3 Tbsp Nutritional Yeast
2 Tbsp Flour
1 tsp Garlic Powder
½ tsp Salt
2 Tbsp Olive Oil or Oil of Choice

Directions
1. Drain and press tofu. Cut into 1 inch cubes.
2. In a medium bowl, combine the nutritional yeast, flour, garlic powder, and salt. Toss in tofu and stir until evenly coated.
3. Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add in the oil. Swirl the pan, and when the oil is shimmering and hot, carefully add in the tofu cubes. Cook 5-7 minutes, flipping with a spatula every few minutes until all sides are golden brown and crispy.
4. Add the stir-fried tofu in with your favorite stir-fried vegetables, serve on top of rice accompanied by soy sauce, toss in a taco or with pasta, or eat it simply by itself (it’s very kid friendly and a fantastic toddler finger food!).

For the story behind this recipe and more, visit My So-Called (Mommy) Life.

Sauerkraut and MeatballsA Gluten Free Family Favorite!Recipe by Jennifer from The Sprouted Life
Ingredients: 2lbs grass-fed ground beef 1lb ground pork 1 jar sauerkraut 1 cup white rice (we recommend Lundberg Organic Basmati) ½-1 cup water or beef broth salt & pepper to taste
Instructions: Combine ground beef, ground pork, one cup of rice and a pinch of salt & pepper.
Layer bottom of a heavy dutch oven with sauerkraut.
Roll handful-sized meatballs and layer the bottom of the pan, then add another layer of sauerkraut and add in remaining meatballs.
Top with remaining sauerkraut.
Pour about a cup of water or beef broth in the pan (this varies a little with how much liquid was in the jar of sauerkraut).

Cover and cook on stove at medium/medium high heat for about an hour. It will be simmering pretty well - be sure to check it halfway through to make sure there is enough liquid in the pan for the rice to absorb.

For the story behind this recipe and more, visit The Sprouted Life.   High-res

Sauerkraut and Meatballs
A Gluten Free Family Favorite!
Recipe by Jennifer from The Sprouted Life

Ingredients:
2lbs grass-fed ground beef
1lb ground pork
1 jar sauerkraut
1 cup white rice (we recommend Lundberg Organic Basmati)
½-1 cup water or beef broth
salt & pepper to taste

Instructions:
Combine ground beef, ground pork, one cup of rice and a pinch of salt & pepper.

Layer bottom of a heavy dutch oven with sauerkraut.

Roll handful-sized meatballs and layer the bottom of the pan, then add another layer of sauerkraut and add in remaining meatballs.

Top with remaining sauerkraut.

Pour about a cup of water or beef broth in the pan (this varies a little with how much liquid was in the jar of sauerkraut).

Cover and cook on stove at medium/medium high heat for about an hour. It will be simmering pretty well - be sure to check it halfway through to make sure there is enough liquid in the pan for the rice to absorb.

For the story behind this recipe and more, visit The Sprouted Life.

Apple Barbecue SauceRecipe by Paula from A Simple Home Cook
Ingredients: 1-2 firm, tart apples (Granny Smith) 2 softer, sweet apples (Golden Delicious) ¾ cup water 1-2 Tbsp. unsalted butter 1 small onion, minced or diced* ½ cup ketchup ½ cup honey 1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce 1 Tbsp. sorghum or 1 tsp. molasses* or 3 Tbsp. brown sugar ¼-1/2 cup cider vinegar 1 tsp. ground mustard 1 tsp. paprika ¼ tsp. garlic powder ½ tsp. cinnamon salt, to taste
Instructions: 1. Peel and chop apples into desired size chunks. 2. Place apples in a pan with ¼ cup of water and boil covered until apples are soft. 3. Remove cooked apples from pan and set aside. 4. Melt butter in the pan and sauté onions until tender. 5. Add apples back into the pan. 6. Mash apples with a potato masher until desired consistency is achieved. (The softer apples should mash easier and more completely.) 7. Add ketchup, honey, Worcestershire, and sorghum or molasses or brown sugar.* 8. Add ¼ cup of vinegar. Taste and add more vinegar if needed. It usually takes about ½ cup to achieve the right balance, but the sweetness of the apples, etc. influence how much is needed. 9. Add mustard, paprika, cinnamon and salt to taste. 10. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes over medium heat. Mixture will thicken. Add more water if it becomes too thick. 11. Serve over chicken or pork.
*If using molasses instead of sorghum or brown sugar, note that black strap molasses can be very strong. Always start with a smaller amount and add more if needed.

*Dried onions may be substituted for fresh. Just add the butter to the apples while they are cooking, then add the onions. There is no need to remove the apples.
For the story behind this recipe and more, visit A Simple Home Cook.   High-res

Apple Barbecue Sauce
Recipe by Paula from A Simple Home Cook

Ingredients:
1-2 firm, tart apples (Granny Smith)
2 softer, sweet apples (Golden Delicious)
¾ cup water
1-2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 small onion, minced or diced*
½ cup ketchup
½ cup honey
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp. sorghum or 1 tsp. molasses* or 3 Tbsp. brown sugar
¼-1/2 cup cider vinegar
1 tsp. ground mustard
1 tsp. paprika
¼ tsp. garlic powder
½ tsp. cinnamon
salt, to taste

Instructions:
1. Peel and chop apples into desired size chunks.
2. Place apples in a pan with ¼ cup of water and boil covered until apples are soft.
3. Remove cooked apples from pan and set aside.
4. Melt butter in the pan and sauté onions until tender.
5. Add apples back into the pan.
6. Mash apples with a potato masher until desired consistency is achieved. (The softer apples should mash easier and more completely.)
7. Add ketchup, honey, Worcestershire, and sorghum or molasses or brown sugar.*
8. Add ¼ cup of vinegar. Taste and add more vinegar if needed. It usually takes about ½ cup to achieve the right balance, but the sweetness of the apples, etc. influence how much is needed.
9. Add mustard, paprika, cinnamon and salt to taste.
10. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes over medium heat. Mixture will thicken. Add more water if it becomes too thick.
11. Serve over chicken or pork.

*If using molasses instead of sorghum or brown sugar, note that black strap molasses can be very strong. Always start with a smaller amount and add more if needed.

*Dried onions may be substituted for fresh. Just add the butter to the apples while they are cooking, then add the onions. There is no need to remove the apples.

For the story behind this recipe and more, visit A Simple Home Cook.