Happy 4th!

Last week, I was totally overwhelmed with the response from my post on garlic scapes, and I want to thank you guys for all of the positive feedback! I’ve been doing some tinkering on the site and I’ve begun a list of cookbooks I adore and use most frequently. You can find them in the Recommended Cookbooks tab on the home page.

This week included Independence Day. While our original plan was to stay in Iowa, Anden and I ended up driving to my parents’ house in central Illinois to celebrate the Fourth. Everything I know, I learned from my mother, so you can just imagine what it’s like when we get together in the kitchen.


Not bad for for our last minute feast! It was such a beautiful day on Thursday, we just had to eat out on the porch. We’ll get to the details of lunch in a bit, but I’m getting ahead of myself. This is how our day started.


We had some ripe avocados laying around with radishes and kale from the garden and I decided to forgo my usual butter and jam combo to try something a bit more adventurous. What resulted was a creamy avocado butter topped with sliced radishes and massaged kale. The rich taste of the avocado balanced the spice from the radishes and the kale had a sweet and almost silky texture without using oil to saute it.

Toast with Avocado Butter

Serves 2

4 slices whole wheat bread

1 ripe avocado

2 tsp extra virgin olive oil

2 french breakfast radishes (or any other variety you prefer)

1 leaf of curly kale

Choose an avocado that is a rich, dark brown color. When you give the fruit a gentle squeeze, it should be firm with a bit of give under your fingertips. If it’s hard as a rock, it will need a few days on the counter to ripen. The avocado should be a vibrant green/yellow when sliced open and should not have any brown spots. This video shows the easiest way to slice an avocado. To prep for mashing the avocado, make several perpendicular slices to the lengthwise ones before you scoop out the flesh, so you have small cubes to work with. Mash the cubes with the back of a spoon, then add the olive oil and whip the avocado with a whisk until it is smooth an creamy. Slice the radishes into 1mm thick disks. And now the Kale. This is the kind you should look for.


Run a knife along either side of the stem to remove it, then slice it into thin strips (As best as you can. It’s sometimes hard to tell with the curly varieties, but it’s a rough chop and doesn’t have to be exact!). Now for a massage. pick up the sliced kale and rub it between your hands until it softens and darkens.


Massaging the leaves breaks down the cellulose, making it it a bit easier to digest, but it also sweetens the bitter taste of raw kale without the cooking! To serve, toast your bread, spread with the avocado butter, arrange the radish slices in a single layer, then top with the kale and some freshly ground pepper.

This recipe is perfect for a hot summer day when the last thing you want to do is turn on the stove.

But turn on the stove we did, because for lunch we pulled out all the stops!

The last several times I’ve visited my parents, my mother has insisted I make this chili from Green Kitchen Stories blog. I make up a big pot and she eats it all week. The best part of this recipe is the chocolate.


Yes, you read that right. The richness of this chili comes from chocolate, coffee, and red wine. What’s not to love?


My favorite part of this chili, other than the chocolate, is the delightful crunch the walnuts add. Many chilis rely on meat to fill them out, but between the beans, walnuts, and root vegetable, this recipe is so well balanced, you can’t imagine adding anything else to it.

We also grilled up grass-fed beef patties for Anden and I, along with some corn on the cob.


If you haven’t yet tried grilling corn in the husks, I would absolutely recommend it. You let the outside char and the golden kernels inside are just bursting with sweetness. An added plus, the silks come off really easily when the corn is cooked first! If you’re cooking on a charcoal grill, let the ears soak in some water for about 5 minutes before cooking, then place them directly on the hot coals. Cook them on both sides and remove carefully with a pair of tongs.

For dessert, we had fresh fruit, red velvet cupcakes, and this:


I made up some zucchini and banana muffins adapted from a recipe from the blog how sweet it is, but because my momma’s a vegan, I had to make a couple of adjustments.

Vegan Zucchini and Banana Muffins

Makes 6 large muffins

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground flax seed, plus 1 1/2 tablespoon water

1/3 cup packed brown sugar

1/3 cup almond milk

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/4 cup coconut oil

1 1/3 cups freshly grated zucchini

1/3 cup mashed banana (1 small-medium banana)

Before I give you the directions, I want to talk a bit about the some of the substitutions we made to make this vegan friendly.

The first is ground flax seed. When you add water to ground flax seed, it forms a gel that can be used as a binding agent to replace eggs in many baked goods. 1 tsp ground flaxseed+1 1/2 tbsp water= 1 egg. To prepare it, heat the flaxseed and water in a small pot on the stove until it becomes thick and assumes an egg-like consistency. Remove from the heat and let cool before using in the recipe.

The next substitution we made was to switch out the butter for coconut oil. I opted for coconut oil over other vegetable oils because it is solid at room temperature and the finished baked good isn’t as greasy as when you substitute with something like canola oil. Coconut oil has a stronger flavor than canola oil, but it’s light enough to not overpower the other flavors in this recipe.

Finally, the almond milk. These days, there are many dairy-free milk options to choose from, but we felt the almond milk had the best taste, especially for baking. Be sure to get the unflavored kind for baking!


Pre-heat the oven to 350. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Set aside. In a separate, medium-sized bowl, whisk together the hydrated flax seed and brown sugar until smooth. Add in the vanilla, zucchini, banana and milk and whisk again until smooth. Fold the wet ingredients into the dry and stir only as much as it takes to combine everything. Don’t over mix it! Grease a jumbo muffin tin with canola oil (we used a cooking spray) and divide the batter between the six molds. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until a small knife inserted into the thickest part of the muffin comes out clean. Let the muffins cool in the baking tray for 2 minutes before turning them out onto a rack to finish cooling.

DSCN1716 DSCN1724

These muffins aren’t super sweet, but my mom likes them that way, so she loved them! The original recipe calls for a brown butter glaze to top them, which would be fantastic with these (not vegan, but it would be delicious!) You can, of course, make regular sized muffins with this recipe, just cut back the baking time to 10-12 minutes.

That’s all for this week. See you next Sunday!


3 Comments Add yours

  1. Anne says:

    Hey Elizabeth – Your talents with food and the creative use of ingredients never ceases to amaze me. I have never heard of massaging kale; I will try it when Henry and I next have it for dinner. I also truly enjoy this blog; you have a future with both the blog world and the cookbook one, I’m positive. (And if you want any editing for the eventual cookbooks, let me know. Not that you need one but just helping lighten the load of one step of that process.)

  2. Rebecca, your fellow alto II from way back when says:

    eLIZabeth! hot dang girl, way to go! you are doing the things i have always dreamed of doing–living a life of good food and working your way toward culinary school–i am impressed! i was so surprised to come across a blog by one of my fellow augie choir members. keep up the good work, as i am excited to see what you will create in this adventure!!

    1. Beth'sBites says:

      Thanks, Rebecca! I’ve talked about doing this for at least a year and I finally got the guts to get it started. I’m pretty excited to finally share this with others!

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