Suburban Pioneers

The Adventures and Misadventures of Homesteading in 21st-Century America

Sarah: Guac with Flair (3 Versions) May 3, 2014

Filed under: Eat-In May,Food & Cooking — suburbanpioneers @ 3:40 am
Tags: , , , , ,
Make any night suddenly gourmet!

Are y’all hungry yet?


I love avocados.  I could eat avocados by themselves with just a little salt and pepper.  But I really, really, really love guacamole.  I’m not talking about the green glop that they serve at Qdoba or Chipotle that’s mostly sour cream and flavoring.  I mean guacamole that retains its avocado-ness.

But sometimes I like to mix things up (I’m like that–I get bored easily), especially if I make it two or three weeks in a row.  So below are my regular guac recipes plus a fun variation that is inspired by the “Exotic Guac” at our local Oaxacan Mexican food place (yes, of previous Suburban Pioneering fame–read about it here).

I wouldn’t call the following “recipes” exactly.  As Captain Barbosa says in Pirates of the Caribbean, “They’re more like guidelines.”  You can make this in less than 8 minutes.  Start by mashing the avocado with the half and half, then mix in the spices until you like the base flavor.  Finally, add the chopped items, tasting as you go (oh, yes, tasting as you go is VERY important).


Guac with Flare

  • 2 avocados
  • splash of half & half or milk (not enough to hide the avocado taste, just enough to help you mash–you could sub soy milk or almond milk for dairy-free)
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • garlic powder to taste
  • green or purple onion chopped small (not too many–experiment to find the right onion : avocado ratio)
  • mango or strawberry (yes, really) to taste
  • goat cheese (to taste)

Sounds weird, I know.  But it is actually really, really good and a great way to get in some extra healthy fruits (particularly when the tomatoes I usually use in guacamole aren’t in season).  Even better?  Little Bear LOVES it, and avocados are full of good fats that she needs for brain development.  Also, because this recipe doesn’t have a load of sour cream drowning the avocado, there’s fewer unnecessary calories and less saturated fat, which is the problem with most fast-food-type guac.

And in case anyone’s wondering about my regular guac recipe, here’s the list for the regular version:

The Genuine Guac Article

  • 2 avocados
  • splash of half & half or milk
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
  • green or regular onion chopped small
  • jalapeño, chopped small
  • cilantro, chopped
  • tomato chopped
  • squeeze of lime

And, yes, there’s a very, very fast version for weeknights when Keith and I are really tired:

Speedy Guac

  • 2 avocados
  • splash of half & half or milk
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • garlic powder to taste
  • hot pepper flakes or spoonful of salsa

This post brought to you by: Eat-In May–let’s think of fast, no stress ways to eat healthier and at home!

Leave that restaurant table empty!  You've got a date with some fruits and veggies.

Leave that restaurant table empty! You’ve got a date with some fruits and veggies.


Sarah: Best Brownies Ever April 4, 2014

Nothing says decadent like a chocolate brownie with coffee ice cream!

Nothing says decadent like a chocolate brownie with coffee ice cream!

Our previous house had no dishwasher.  Oh, yes, it is definitely more eco-friendly to wash dishes by hand.  I know the statistics.  But I hate washing dishes.  On the other hand, I love eating, and I love cooking, which is why I’ve added another requirement to my test of a good dish:

  • Delicious taste   ×   
  • No processed food ingredients   ×   
  • Low dish to food quantity ratio  ×   

It’s quite difficult to achieve the last two in tandem, you see.  Dishes without many processed ingredients tend to require more measuring spoons, knives, cutting boards, prep bowls etc.  If I’m going to wash all those extra items, there had better be a large quantity of food to show for it–an entire crockpot of soup, for instance.

Here’s my homemade brownie recipe.  It meets all of the above criteria–no processed food and only as many dishes to wash as you would need for a boxed recipe (I figure if it’s not almost as easy and painless as a pre-made mix, no one will want to make it).  Also, this is the DOUBLED recipe for a 9×13 pan instead of 8×8, (remember, if you’re going to wash those dishes, you’d better get a lot of food to show for it!)  Here’s what you’ll need:


* 9×13 pan * a pot large enough to mix in * a 1/2 tsp. measuring spoon * 1 c. measuring cup *wooden spoon

***WARNING: these brownies aren’t “healthy”–they’re just not processed or prepackaged.  Personally, I’m okay with lots of butter!

1 c. butter
1 c. brown sugar
1 c. white sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
4 eggs
1 c. flour
2/3 c. cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 bag chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, mint chips or 1 c. nuts (optional)

The trick to making this with minimal dishes is doing it in the right order.  Here goes!

1. Preheat oven to 350°.  Melt butter in pot on stove over medium heat.

2.  While waiting for butter to melt, rub the wrapper of the butter over your 9×13 pan to grease it.  Use the 1/2 tsp. measuring spoon to spoon a little flour into the pan and tap the pan on all sides, shaking the flour around to coat evenly.

3.  As soon as butter is melted, remove pot immediately from the heat.  In 1 c. measuring cup, measure out brown then white sugar  and stir into the melted butter (you can use 2 c. brown or 2 c. white to make it easier, but I like the taste of half and half).

4. Measure out the salt in the 1/2 tsp. measuring spoon, then the baking powder, and mix into the pot.  Then add the c. of flour (best to do this after the baking powder and salt to make sure those two ingredients mix evenly into the liquid first).

5. Using 1/2 tsp. measuring spoon to help scoop, fill your 1 c. measuring cup almost all the way full of cocoa powder (there’s no need to use a different measuring cup to be exact for the 2/3 c. of cocoa powder…after all, who objects to a little extra chocolate?).  Stir in cocoa powder.

6. Add in eggs (the other ingredients will have cooled the warm butter down enough not to cook the eggs…egg particles in brownies = yuck!).  Stir in the vanilla, 1/2 a tsp. at a time so you don’t have to dirty another measuring spoon (you can substitute 1 tsp. of peppermint extract for one of the tsp. of vanilla if you’re making mint brownies).

7.  Stir in chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, mint chips, or nuts (optional).  Pour into floured and greased 9×13 pan and bake for ~20 minutes (until little cracks show on top).

Bake until slight cracks show in the top crust (I burned brownies until I learned this trick!).

Bake until slight cracks show in the top crust (I burned brownies until I learned this trick!).

Now that I’ve made this recipe a few times, it’s almost as fast for me as a box recipe would be.  The prep time takes less than 10 minutes, and the dish washing time is the same as it would be for a box.  I’m just washing a pot instead of a mixing bowl, and I can feel a lot better about the ingredients!


Lauren: Homemade Slow Cooker Applesauce November 8, 2013

I’m all about low-maintenance these days. You’ll usually find my hair in a ponytail and probably with some dry shampoo in it. I just haven’t mastered the art of showering with kids yet. In case you were wondering, here’s why:

1. If I shower in the morning, I’ll wake them up (not worth it).

2. I don’t want to waste any of the precious two hours of nap time I get in the afternoon (not worth it).

3. If I let the kids roam free while I’m getting clean, I spend the whole time stressed out and listening for the sound of crying or, just as dangerous, too much laughter (not worth it).

4. I don’t like showering at night because then my pillow gets wet and I have funky-looking hair in the morning.You might ask why I don’t just blow-dry it. Well, Sarah’s mom’s theory about drying dishes is: why spend time doing something that will happen eventually (not worth it).

And you thought this post was about apples. . . Well, it is, I promise, I just had to rant about showering first.

I feel the same way about dry shampoo as I do about the low maintenance of Homemade Crock Pot Applesauce. (How’s that for a segue?) All you have to do is throw some apples in the slow cooker, come back in a few hours, blend it up and tada! Applesauce. Easy Peasy.

We normally go apple-picking, but we’re kind of traveled-out right now so we skipped the 1.5 hour drive and picked our apples from the farmer’s market. To be honest, I kind of liked it better. We were able to buy a wide variety without having to walk down 4 sides of a mountain and still had the rest of our morning to do whatever we wanted! Shower, perhaps? Nah. . . probably not.

What to do:

1. Cut up 10-12 apples. Use an apple slicer if you have one. You don’t need to peel the apple. Yep, that’s right. I mean, you can if you want to, if you are an overachiever or something. . . or you have an extra 20 minutes to spare.

2. Throw the apple wedges in the Crock Pot.

3. Add 1/2 cup apple cider or water. Apple cider will give the applesauce a little more of a spicy, sweet flavor. You could also add a tsp. of cinnamon. Some people add sugar, but I don’t think it’s necessary. If you get the sweeter apples, the applesauce will be tasty enough on its own. See this previous post for apple varieties.

4. Turn the Crock Pot on low and let it simmer for 5-6 hours, until the apples get mushy.

5. Go about your day.

6. Use an immersion blender to blend it all up. (My immersion blender was seriously the best $4 I ever spent at Goodwill.) The flecks of peel are so tiny, you won’t even notice them. Or you could run it through a blender or food mill.


6. Pour the applesauce in mason jars and stick them in the fridge.

If you want to can the applesauce you’ll need:

Water bath canner (or, if you’re like me, a big stockpot and round cake pan rack)

Jars and Lids

(Makes 5-6 half-pints)

1. Sterilize the jars and lids

2. Pour applesauce into jars. Leave 1/2 inch head space. If you’re messy like me, wipe the rims with a clean towel or rag.

3. Screw on the lids.

4. Place jars in boiling water. Once the water returns to a boil, reduce heat (so it’s still boiling but won’t overflow), cover with a lid, and process it for 15 minutes.

5. Voila’! Applesauce. Store in your pantry and bust it out in the dead of winter when you want a taste of pure fall.



Lauren: The Best Sauteed Fresh Corn Recipe: the taste of grilled corn on the cob in a fraction of the time July 23, 2013

Filed under: Food & Cooking,Veggies — lkcook20 @ 11:30 am
Tags: , , , , , , ,

I don’t know about you, but I have not mastered the art of grilling corn. We’ve tried leaving the husks on, taking them off, wrapping them in foil and found that it is just so hard to predict the precise moment they are done. And sometimes they end up burned which is such a waste because I love the taste of grilled corn on the cob.

And then I discovered the awesomeness of sauteed fresh corn. How did it take me so long?

It was like the scene from Sleepless in Seattle when Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks finally meet on the top of the Empire State Building: perfect and a long time coming. They stare into each other’s eyes and just know. Cue happy, emotional music.

Sauteed fresh corn is that good.

Our story: I needed something to do with all the fresh corn we get from our CSA (community supported agriculture) program. Side note: I highly recommend CSA’s. When we pick up our box of local fresh produce, it seriously feels like Christmas every week. Some weeks our present is a bushel of corn. That’s 45 ears! We give some away, freeze some, and one day I decided to slice the kernels off and saute them. The idea just came to me. Then it was love at first bite and the rest is, as they say, history.

It’s so easy I feel weird calling it a recipe. So here’s the “recipe”:


1-2 ears of corn per person

1 tbsp of butter per 3-4 ears of corn (or more or less to taste)

Kosher salt to taste


1. Remove husks and silks from the corn cob.

2. Melt the butter in a large skillet. DSCN17873, Slice off kernels with a knife (remember to cut away from you!) into a bowl or right into the skillet.DSCN1791

4. Saute over medium heat for about 8 minutes. Add salt. Salivate, then enjoy! DSCN1792


5 Reason It’s So Good: 

1. It still maintains its fresh crunch. Canned corn cannot compete.

2. You can taste the butter and salt in every bite.

3. It’s the taste of grilled corn in a fraction of the time!

4. You can eat more of it because you can pile giant heapings on your spoon instead of trying to maneuver around a cob.

5. You can avoid the debate of whether it’s better and more efficient to eat in rows across the ear of corn or to go around in circles. My husband claims his family tested it one time and the circle method was far superior time-wise. I’m not convinced and think maybe he’s been reading too much Cheaper by the Dozen. But anyway, if you saute your corn, you can avoid that argument. That’s right, I’m claiming that sauteed fresh corn is better for your marriage. It doesn’t get any better than that.


Lauren: Yogurt and Homemade Deodorant May 7, 2013

I feel as if I should confess a couple of my most recent misadventures: yogurt and homemade deodorant. I was really excited about both endeavors, but alas, my enthusiasm wasn’t enough.

Endeavor #1

I bought a half gallon of whole milk and followed all the directions for Crock Pot Yogurt. I was excited to use milk of my choosing, to save money, and to have live active cultures (it’s questionable whether there are any live cultures in store-bought yogurt; by the time they get shipped to the store, end up on the shelf, and then eventually sit in your refrigerator, they most likely aren’t “live” anymore) . I even put my homemade yogurt in the fridge at three in the morning because that was the time it was finished sitting out. It seemed to slosh a little more in the pot that I thought it ought to, but I was also half asleep. But no, it turns out my observations at o’dark thirty are pretty accurate. In the morning, I saw that it resembled milk more than it did yogurt. The flavor was okay; it’s not really a taste problem so much as a consistency problem. All was not lost, though; we’ve been using it as a replacement for milk over our granola cereal.

Endeavor #2

Dave and I both started using the homemade deodorant I made from coconut oil, baking soda, and essential oil. He sweats like a typical guy and I thought that the homemade version might work better for him than the commercial products. He would really slather on the latter in an attempt to help it last all day, but still, his white undershirts would end up not so white. (Side note: What’s the deal with white undershirts? They end up stained in about six months. What a good marketing job Hanes, Fruit of the Loom, and Calvin Klein have done! But the white undershirts and I are done. We have broken up and I will no longer be buying them! If anything, I might start a relationship with dark blue ones or black.) Anyway, we even wore our natural deodorant on a hike in 85 degree weather and it fared okay. But yesterday, when it was 92 degrees, I opened the deodorant bottle and dumped (poured) the entire contents all over myself and my shoe (if my room had been clean, it would not have ended up in my shoe, but it’s enough work to keep the rest of the house looking decent). In high temperatures, coconut oil turns into a liquid, which I knew but didn’t think about as I was opening the deodorant bottle. And now that my clothes and my shoes smell citrusy, I vaguely remember the directions saying something about keeping the homemade deodorant in the fridge. I also have a problem with my brain being selective about what it decides to remember. . . and when.

I am not done yet. I vow to continue my quest for homemade yogurt and deodorant.  (Updates to follow.)



I have successfully made homemade yogurt! I found a slightly more involved recipe that requires taking the yogurt’s temperature every so often. It comes out perfectly. My favorite thing about the yogurt is that my three year old, who was getting a stomach bug every other month, hasn’t been sick since he started eating it! That’s a win. No more holding buckets for me!


Lauren: Quick and Healthy Drop Biscuits (Five Ingredients!) March 18, 2013




2 cups whole wheat pastry flour

3/4 tsp baking soda

1/2 cup salted butter

1/4 cup vinegar

1/2 cup milk


1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Combine flour and baking soda. Cut in butter. Stir in vinegar and milk until dough is sticky. (Add additional milk if dough is not getting sticky.) Spoon onto greased cookie sheet. Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until light golden brown.

2. Enjoy!


Sarah: Popcorn January 7, 2013

Filed under: Food & Cooking,Snacks — suburbanpioneers @ 4:09 am
Tags: , , , , ,
Waaaay too delicious...

Oh, yes…another batch please…

Here is yet another I-meant-to-post-this-in-Deprocessed-December-and-didn’t recipe for those chilly winter evenings.  There’s nothing extraordinary about this…other than that it’s something we think will be too much work to make ourselves.  Instead we settle for chemically-laden, microwavable popcorn.

Making your own isn’t hard, I learned from my sister, who has made it her specialty (and who says she has to stop making it her specialty as she makes it far too often and eats far too much at once).  Here’s what you need:

Homemade Popcorn

1/2 c.-2/3 c. corn kernels1-2 Tbsp. oil (I use olive oil, sunflower or grapeseed oil instead of vegetable oil)
salt to taste
grated parmesan cheese and/or melted butter (optional…but dangerously delicious, though I hear you can use yeast or olive oil as a healthier option…I myself go for full calories whenever possible)

  1. Put oil in a tall pot with a lid over medium-high heat.
  2. Add corn kernels and cover.
  3. Continually shake the pot a bit to keep the kernels from sticking and burning.
  4. When the pot is full of fluffy goodness, you’re done.  Top with salt and cheese and butter.
  5. Consume.  Repeat.  Consume.  Repeat…

Believe it or not, this whole process takes about 5 minutes…ironically, only two minutes longer than the normal popping time for a bag of microwavable popcorn.  And the finished product tastes far, far better.

Put oil and corn kernels into a pot.

Put oil and corn kernels into a pot.


Shake pot to prevent sticking and burning.


When pot is full of fluffy goodness, you’re done.


Drizzle with butter, salt, cheese…whatever you feel like!


%d bloggers like this: