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If you’re like me at this time of year, you’re one table full of sweet, highly-refined and fatty treats from running for the hills to subsist off roots and berries. But there is one more culinary hurdle to leap before the party season takes a breather: New Year’s Eve.

If the week of TV cooking shows I just witnessed is any indication, we’re expected to lay down some serious scratch on caviar, imported cheeses, smoked meats and other exotic ingredients for our guests.

That isn’t going to happen around here. So, since my celebrants are unlikely to appreciate a table set with bowls of Grape Nuts and carrot sticks, I rounded up a few New Year’s Party ideas that are reduced sugar and fat, relatively nutrient-dense, and don’t require taking out a loan.

Carrot Mini-Muffins

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1/4 cup nuts (such as pecans or walnuts)
2 cups flour (I like whole wheat)
1 3/4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
3 T. vegetable oil
2 eggs
2 cups shredded carrots, packed

Line mini-muffin tins with paper liners or coat with a little oil.

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F.

Toast the nuts lightly in a dry skillet over low heat (watch them!) Chop when cool.

In mixing bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. In a separate bowl, combine the applesauce, brown sugar, oil and eggs. Add the nuts and carrots.

Stir the wet ingredients into the dry just until moistened. Spoon into the muffin cups and bake 12-15 minutes or until the muffins spring back in the center when pressed. Makes about 30 mini-muffins (or 12 regular muffins).

To serve, make them more festive with a side of softened cream cheese mixed with a dash of ginger and a dollop of honey. Or plain cream cheese and chutney.

Vegetable Antipasto

1 pound carrots, trimmed and sliced on the diagonal
2 cups cauliflower florets
1/2 pound green beans, trimmed and sliced in half
1 cup pickled pepperoncini peppers
1/4 cup white vinegar
3 T. olive oil
1/8 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp. salt
8 oz. mozzarella cheese, cut in 3/4 in. cubes
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano or 2 tsp. fresh oregano, chopped
1 tsp dried basil or 1/4 cup fresh basil

Simmer the carrots in a covered saucepan in water almost to cover for about 6 minutes. Add the cauliflower to the carrots. Return to a simmer and cook for about 8 minutes, covered. Take off heat and drain.

In the same way, simmer the beans in a separate pan until they are crisp-tender. This may take a bit longer than the carrots & cauliflower. Test them frequently until they have lost their raw taste but still have some texture. Remove from heat and drain.

Place the vegetables in a bowl and toss with the peppers, vinegar, oil, salt, and pepper flakes. If you are using dried herbs, stir them in now. Cover and put in the refrigerator at least 4 hours or overnight. If you are using fresh herbs, stir them AND the mozzarella in just before serving.

Arrange on a platter to serve.

Tomato Bruschetta

24 slices Italian bread (1/2 in. thick, whole grain if possible)
3 cloves garlic, peeled
3 T. olive oil
1 1/2 pounds plum tomatoes, chopped
1/3 cup fresh basil or 1 tsp. dried
1 T. tomato paste
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. grated orange zest
pinch pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Rub the slices of bread with the cut side of a piece of halved garlic. Brush the bread with 2 T. of the oil and bake about 6-8 minutes or until golden and crispy.
Chop the cloves of garlic and briefly saute in a teaspoon of the remaining olive oil, just to mellow the bite of the garlic a bit. Combine with the tomatoes, basil, tomato paste, salt, zest, pepper and the remaining olive oil.
Spoon mixture over the toasted bread slices.

Liptauer Cheese

Serve with whole grain crackers or toasted bread rounds

8 oz. reduced fat cream cheese
4 oz. nonfat cream cheese
2 tsp. milk
1/3 cup minced onion (red onion if available)
4 minced anchovies or 2 tsp. anchovy paste (my family may demur, but I like them–hopefully my guests do, too)
2 T. rinsed, chopped capers or substitute minced green olives
1 tsp. grated lemon zest

Bring the cheeses to room temperature. Mix them together with the milk until creamy. Fold in the onion, anchovies, capers or olives and the zest.

Mold this in a lined bowl and chill, then unmold it onto a serving plate.

Makes almost 2 cups.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Apricot Danish

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3/4 cup dried apricots
1/2 cup water
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
4 oz. nonfat cream cheese
1/4 cup brown sugar (or less)
6 gingersnaps, crushed
1 T. brown sugar
2 T. melted butter
2 T. vegetable oil
12 sheets frozen phyllo dough, thawed
4 T. chopped nuts
1/4 cup apricot preserves
powdered sugar for dusting

Simmer the apricots and the water in a small pan until the apricots are soft, about 10-15 minutes. Cool slightly and puree in a blender or food processor, or just mash them with a fork. Add half the vanilla.

In a bowl, cream brown sugar with the cream cheese, remaining vanilla and ginger.

In a small bowl, toss the gingersnap crumbs with the 1 T. brown sugar.

Combine the butter and oil in a small dish. Lay out the phyllo and cover with a towel. Lightly oil a baking sheet. Place two sheets of phyllo on the baking sheet and lightly brush with the oil/butter mix. Sprinkle with 1 T. of the gingersnap crumbs. Continue to layer in this way until you have used up the 12 sheets of phyllo, saving a tad of butter/oil to brush on top later.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spoon a 1 1/2 inch wide strip of the cream cheese mixture down the center of the phyllo, stopping about an inch from the ends. Flank this strip with 2 strips of apricot puree, each also 1 1/2 in. wide. Roll in the long sides of the phyllo until they just begin to cover the puree. Roll in the ends in a similar way to seal tightly.

Brush the crust with the remaining butter/oil. Sprinkle the chopped nuts over the top of the filling. Bake 30-35 minutes or until golden brown.

Melt the apricot preserves with a couple of teaspoons of water over low heat. Brush the pastry with the melted preserves.

Dust with powdered sugar before serving.

Slice this up into finger food slices and arrange on a platter.

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February

by Daisy Conversation

I’m not a winter person, but I get more knitting done between the months of December and March than I do the rest of the year combined. The fireside and knitting go together very well, except when I knit so late I’m in peril of nodding off and falling into the flames. I also get […]

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Making Crackers From Discarded Sourdough Starter

by Daisy Breads

I’m finally getting back into sourdough after a long hiatus. Not only is it delicious, of course, but the sourdough process does this fermenting goodness to the grain that is so healthful. If you’ve developed a sourdough starter yourself, you know that while building it up, you have to discard part (usually half) of the […]

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Kids and Chickens

by Daisy Barnyard

  I know a lot of people are contemplating whether or not to get chickens these days, and one of the factors involved is often how will the children in the family react and interact with the new additions to the household. I thought I’d offer some thoughts on our experience and also get some […]

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Persimmon-Pecan-Cranberry Muffins

by Daisy Breads

‘Tis the season to pick delicious things up off the ground. So far this fall I’ve picked up about 35 pounds of pecans (pre-shelled weight unfortunately), and enough persimmons to make 10 cups of persimmon puree. Today I looked at them and decided they looked like muffins. I adapted a few of the persimmon recipes […]

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Persimmons!

by Daisy Conversation

Quite by accident I discovered a persimmon tree Tuesday afternoon. I was in a hurry and could only pick up a handful of the soft, ripe “sugar plums” to take home. It’s been years since I tasted a persimmon, and when I did I was transported back to my youth–my childhood yard was filled with […]

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Memories Throw Blanket, Wabi-Sabi Style

by Daisy Crafts

My favorite recent project is seen here, lounging on an old family rocking chair, memories on top of memories. And I didn’t plan this, but I see a painting of the old family homeplace this chair came from leaning on the wall in the background of this shot. Memories on memories in front of memories. […]

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Zowie! Smoothie

by Daisy Beverages

I wanted a smoothie this morning that would give me a kickstart, so I gathered up spicy, tingly, hot, and tangy ingredients, along with a banana and yogurt to balance it all out. I also topped it off with a passionfruit, because I’m crazy for passionfruit and they’re ripe in the yard this time of […]

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Amazing Kamut Blueberry Muffins

by Daisy Breads

Any muffin with this amount of blueberries in it is bound to be at least good. Add tender, sweet, freshly milled kamut flour, vanilla and almond extract, freshly laid eggs, coconut oil, and a sprinkle of organic cane sugar, and well, you’ve got the picture. Here’s the lineup: Combine the lovely, fluffy, kamut flour with […]

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Passion Butterfly

by Daisy Bugs & Critters

Up until this year, the usual lineup of flutterers has included the tiger swallowtail, the black swallowtail, and the occasional monarch butterfly. But this year, all of a sudden it seemed, I had a new butterfly in the garden I’d never noticed before. This new one, it was everywhere I went. I did wonder what […]

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Clean Cornbread

by Daisy Breads

I grew up eating cornbread at least once a week. That would be six times a week fewer than my grandmother made cornbread for my father’s family. The drill back then was biscuits for breakfast and cornbread for lunch, every day. With plenty of pinto beans, turnip greens, and cold buttermilk to go along with […]

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Foraging

by Daisy Conversation

I don’t usually assemble it on a plate like this, but I did it today to be able to see it all at once. Typically, this sort of forage food is eaten while walking around the yard, a fig here, a leaf of mizuna there. This “meal” is never the same; it changes with the […]

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Labyrinth

by Daisy Conversation

A friend’s furchild was going through cancer treatment and it wasn’t looking hopeful. She wanted to walk a labyrinth. I’d heard of one so we agreed that I would meet her at her house and we would go together and find it. When I walked in the door I could see in her face, in […]

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Another Rant Plus A New Grain Mill

by Daisy Fencepost

Remember back in the day when we just ate food? Any food. Didn’t really think about it that much. To me, there were two basic types of food: A) Food I Liked B) Food I Didn’t Like It wasn’t about organic or conventional, raw or cooked, paleo or low carb, gluten-y or gluten-free. Food was […]

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Eggshell Toothpaste and Face Scrub In One

by Daisy Body Care

Yes, you read that correctly, and yes, I may be crazy. My kids think so. “Are you putting toothpaste on your face?!” “Yes, I’m putting toothpaste on my face. Show me the rule that says you can’t put toothpaste on your face.” In hindsight, I probably shouldn’t have fed them the “show me the rule” […]

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Xanna Beene Chapter 4

by Daisy Fiction

Way back before the cantaloupes had even thought about becoming ripe, back in June, Xanna learned something shocking. It was strawberry time and she’d been reading in her almanac about June’s full moon, which is called the Strawberry Moon. At the end of the article was a “fun fact”: “Strawberries are NOT berries, but aggregate […]

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Xanna Beene, Chapter 3

by Daisy Fiction

  Xanna liked to grow what she liked to eat. Standing in the aisle of Buchholz & Daughters Feed and Seed, looking at the colorful packets of beans and greens and tomatoes and peas, she wanted to grow everything. Lots of everything. One packet in particular caught her eye. It was called Ambrosia cantaloupe. Every […]

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Xanna Beene Chapter 2

by Daisy Fiction

This is chapter 2 of a middle grade fiction story I’m sharing. If you missed chapter 1 and want to catch up, you can read it here. Thanks for reading!—Daisy Chapter 2 A quirk of architecture was responsible for Xanna’s interest in the moon, specifically bad architecture. A slapdash addition by the previous owner of […]

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And Now For Something Completely Different

by Daisy Fiction

Daisy here. Like many if not most non-fiction folks, I’ve toyed around writing fiction all my life. Lately I’ve been writing what I suppose is a middle-grade novel manuscript. It tells a story of a young girl growing up on a suburban homestead. Since those of you who stop by this blog are likely to […]

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What are these plants?

by Ivory Soap Conversation

Curly Dock? I have tried several avenues on this one.  All dead ends! This next one is huge!  There are two pictures. Lastly, this oneThoughts?  

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More Weeds? Yes, ma’am!

by Ivory Soap Conversation

Black-Eyed Susan.  It seems that it has multiple medicinal uses.   I think this one was in the mix of wildflowers we tried to sow.  This and the Blanket Flower below were the only takers. Burnweed, erechtites hieraciifolia.  Possibly edible, possibly permanent liver damage. Must be in large quantities.  Seems to have medicinal uses galore. […]

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I’m in the New York Times!

by Ivory Soap Conversation

Bookshelf: Gone to the Beach By MARIA RUSSO JULY 29, 2015 New picture books take children, animals and a T-Rex on getaways to the shore. Beach House Written by Deanna Caswell. Illustrated by Amy June Bates. The story begins even before the title page of this warmly satisfying book, capturing a family’s unabashed eagerness to […]

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Amazing Attic System

by Ivory Soap Household

A little over a year ago, I was nesting.  I was looking for organization books at Barnes and Noble and the lady helping me gave me the best tip!  I can’t remember what book it was from, but it’s revolutionized our attic. Here’s what you do. Get a bunch of the same size boxes.  We […]

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Guess Who Has Baby Goats?

by Ivory Soap Conversation

ME!!!! Let the healing begin. Their names are Taco and Steve.  (Taco has the “sauce” on him.)  They’re wethers.  Snipped.  Fixed.  Anyway, they’re adorable! We got them from Osborne Farm in Burlison, TN.  It was an HOUR away.  Steve rode in my daughter’s lap. Taco rode in mine. He left me some sauce. He’s not […]

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Ain’t No Party Like a (Lawn) Weed Party

by Ivory Soap Conversation

Cause apparently, it does not stop.  I had such a good time on this website, I went in search of the rest of the species around the neighborhood.  Above, we have violets and yellow sorrel (the heart-looking clover.) Violets are generally considered non-toxic, but the roots will make you sick.  Since most violet species are […]

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(Lawn) Weed Party

by Ivory Soap Conversation

It’s a jungle out there. When I was in high school. I wanted to be a field biologist.  But I had a SERIOUS phobia of dead things.  One dead frog and I was hyperventilating.  Especially if it “snuck up” on me.  Dead things can’t sneak, but I mean that it was “unexpected.”  If our high […]

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Overwhelmed

by Daisy Conversation

Lately I’ve been feeling overwhelmed. Outnumbered. There’s fluoride and prescription medicine in the water. Glyphosate is in everything. Even “organic” food isn’t organic. Milk is contaminated with hormones that make children reach puberty too fast. The fillings in our teeth are poisoning us, root canals will kill you, and those wisdom teeth extractions, tonsillectomies, and […]

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Purslane and Cucumber Salad

by Daisy Recipes

Deanna’s been talking weeds lately, so I thought I’d continue the theme with one of my favorite weeds, purslane. Purslane is unique among weeds in that it lacks the bitterness typically associated with many of the common weeds we eat, like dandelion and dock or plantain. Especially so at this time of year; by summer, […]

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Weed Flower ID: The Results Show

by Ivory Soap Conversation

Round One:  White clover, FALSE DANDELION (thank you, commenters), purple clover, fleabane, narrow leaf plantain. I found this great site about plant uses called Eat the Weeds.  Here are the files on each of these guys. White Clover, not poisonous in general.  Also, not good.  Apparently, you should never ferment it.  Fresh or dried only.  […]

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Pre-made Coop, not worth it

by Ivory Soap Fencepost

Remember that coop? 12 months later…. The ramp fell off the first week, but we didn’t worry.  Hens easily leap a foot up.  But now it seems like it was an omen. Thoughts? Seriously!

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Weed Flower ID, Please?

by Ivory Soap Conversation

As I said before, our goats passed and we have been avoiding our yard. We don’t want to mow. And, if you’ve been on this site for a few years, you know that we LOVE plant and bug identification. I couldn’t catch the cool zebra-looking dragonfly with my camera, but I did grab a bunch […]

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Reishi Mushrooms, Gut Bugs & Weight Control

by Daisy Garden

Yesterday this popped up in my BBC World Latest Headlines feed: Mushroom Used in Chinese Medicine “slows weight gain.” Yep. It was reishi. Reishi is about to get a lot more press than usual. Anything having to do with weight loss is a sure thing to get peoples’ attention. You’d think something that was used […]

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New book in GERMAN!

by Ivory Soap Conversation

Our book is now available in GERMAN.  We are international, folks. If you speak German, this book is for you! It should be noted that the cover image of me with the goat was taken by DAISY.  She is now an international cover photographer.  She’s so fancy! I’m not sure she will take my calls… […]

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New Potato Harvest

by Daisy Conversation

For pure, childlike, visceral pleasure, no garden task beats digging potatoes. You stick a fork in loamy soil and tight-skinned, waxy nuggets of red and tan and gold and maybe even blue pop out and spill onto the surface. They dangle like baubles when lifted by the plants and roll onto the soft dirt. I […]

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I’m in USA Today!

by Ivory Soap Conversation

RIGHT HERE! I have a new picture book, Beach House, from Chronicle.  Didn’t the illustrator do an AMAZING job? How cute is that? And this? If you need the perfect summer book, I highly recommend this one by Amy June Bates…and me.  Ha! Here are the reviews from the fancy folks that know picture books: […]

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Peaches in Peril

by Daisy Conversation

I was just over at my neighbor’s house and he mentioned in passing that the raccoons had stolen all his peaches. A cold chill ran up my spine. Actually it was a very warm, humid day and my clothes were plastered to my person, so I would have welcomed any sort of chill. What I […]

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How to Harvest Milk Thistle Seeds

by Daisy Garden

Make sure all your affairs are in order. Call 911 and get them en route to your location. Don protective gear. Carefully approach the milk thistle. While it isn’t quite that dire, it is almost that dire. Milk thistle has the most aggressive thistles, and they’re everywhere–on the stem, under the base of the flower, […]

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