** New Recipe Video for 100 MINI RAINBOW PANCAKES **

My latest video can be found, by clicking the photo, above!

As a way to celebrate my special 100-subscriber milestone on YouTube, in this video, I will show YOU how to create 100 miniature RAINBOW pancake cereal using easy-to-make colorful homemade purees. Thanks for the inspiration, TikTok! ;D

Did you create this dish? What do ya think? Please let me know in the comments, below! 😀

Share this post with your favorite #pancake buddy!

P.S. Expect a new video from me every Wednesday on my YouTube channel. Subscribe to my channel for the latest content!  <3

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How to Make Blueberry Crisp

If you’re looking for an easy and delicious way to incorporate blueberries into your next dessert, look no further than this blueberry crisp recipe! Just be warned, you MAY wind up eating the entire batch!

A picture of a serving of blueberry crisp in a medium white bowl.
This Blueberry Crisp recipe is one that I hope will put a smile on your face. 🙂

It’s still blueberry season in Florida. And for many, blueberries mean DESSERT! Now, before I proceed with the rest of this blog post, I have a bt of a confession to make:

I’m not a baker. At all. It’s just…not my thing!

I’m not kidding, I don’t bake very often.

Despite my claim, above, there is one very specific exception: crisps. I LOVE a good apple crisp. It’s one of the few desserts that I enjoy baking. Why? Not only is a[pple crisp delicious, but to be honest, it’s quite simple to make. And- unlike most other baking recipes, baking a crisp allows for SOME improvisation.

But what does apple crisp have to do with this particular recipe? Well, as I try my est to incorporate as many local and seasonal ingredients into each of my recipes, I knew that I had to do something with the rest of our blueberries before we move out, next weekend. With that being said, I combined forces with one of my all-time favorite desserts to create a beautiful melt-in-your-mouth hybrid: blueberry crisp.

You’re in for a Treat with this Crisp!

In this tutorial, I’m going to show you how to make a really simple yet scrumptious blueberry crisp which uses everyday ingredients. I would like to once again thank Keel Farms for these amazing blueberries. If you live in or around the Plant City, FL, area, check them out!

Image of blueberry crisp baked in a 9x12 inch glass oven-safe dish.
Blueberry crip fresh out from the oven!

If you’re gluten-free, please feel free to swap the flour for your preferred substitution.

But anyways…let’s move onto the recipe!

Blueberry Crisp

If you're looking for an easy and delicious way to incorporate blueberries into your next dessert, look no further than this blueberry crisp recipe!
Prep Time6 mins
Cook Time35 mins
Course: Breakfast, Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Blueberries
Servings: 8 servings
Calories: 302kcal

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup flour
  • ½ cup oats
  • ½ cup packed brown sugar
  • ¼ cup cold butter cut into pieces
  • 2 tbsp. cold butter cut into pieces
  • 1 pinch salt

Filling

  • 4 cups fresh or frozen blueberries ripened
  • ¼ tsp. vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup brown sugar

Instructions

  • Heat oven to 375°F. Spray 8-inch square(2-quart) glass baking dish with cooking spray.
  • In a medium bowl, mix 3/4 cup flour, the oats,brown sugar and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon until blended. Cut in cold butter, using fork or pastry blender, until mixture is crumbly. (Do not over-mix. Don't worry if all of the butter clumps evenly disperse throughout the mixture. The magic will happen in the oven. Just wait!!) Set aside.
  • In a large bowl, mix Filling ingredients until well-coated. Spread evenly in baking dish. Sprinkle crumble over top. If you want extra crisp, feel free to place some extra dices of cold butter on top!
  • Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until topping is golden brown and juices are bubbling along edges.
  • Cool at least 15-20 minutes before serving. Enjoy!

Video

Nutrition information for the Blueberry Crisp (per serving)

302 Calories/ 3.9g Protein/ 7g Fat/ 62.4g Carbohydrates/ 4.6g Fiber

Did you create this dish? What do ya think? Please let me know in the comments, below! 😀

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Savory Turkey & Blueberry Croissants

A picture of three very delicious croissants on a medium plate, filled with turkey, cream cheese and fresh blueberries.
Savory blueberry and turkey croissants will be a hit during your next brunch party

These savory turkey & blueberry croissants are so tasty, that this dish will surely be a hit during your next brunch meal. This is also a great way to introduce your kiddos into the kitchen, too!

When Savory Meets Sweet

Just because you may be staying at home, doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a tasty brunch! In this video, I’m going to show you how to make an incredibly easy & delicious dish: Savory turkey & blueberry croissants! In the spirit of utilizing local seasonal ingredients, the blueberries for this particular recipe were sourced from Keel Farms, a local Plant City-based winery, blueberry & farming operation. These are so tasty, that this dish will surely be a hit during your next brunch meal. Even your mother-in-law may approve of these miniature bites! 😉

Drooling? Tag your favorite brunch buddy to this recipe post!

Savory Turkey and Blueberry Croissants

These Savory turkey & blueberry croissants are so tasty, that this dish willsurely be a hit during your next brunch meal.
Prep Time6 mins
Cook Time13 mins
Course: Appetizer, Breakfast, Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Breakfast, Brunch
Servings: 4 Servings
Calories: 350kcal

Ingredients

  • 8 oz. Can of crescent roll dough sheets
  • 1/2 cup Cream cheese
  • 8 Thin slices deli turkey
  • 1/2 cup Fresh Blueberries
  • 1 Egg

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  • Roll out crescent roll dough from can onto large un-greased cookie sheet.
  • Take the cream cheese and spread it evenly throughout the entirety of dough mixture.
  • Slice dough into 8 even rectangular pieces, and then separate each slice about 1 inch a part. Then, place 1 turkey slice over each rectangle (fold each turkey slice in half for a better fit on each slice).
  • Afterwards, layer 4-5 blueberries (1 spoonful) over each rectangle beginning at one end. Then, carefully at one end, begin to roll all ofthe ingredients into each pastry dough, until they resemble croissants.
  • Next, take egg, scramble and lightly wash the egg batter over each pastry with a brush.
  • After egg-washing, place the pastries on the oven at 375 Degrees F, and allow to bake for 12-13 minutes, or until each pastry is golden brown.
  • Enjoy!

Video

4 Servings (3 turkey & blueberry croissants)

Nutrition Information per serving: 350 Calories / 17g. Protein / 14g Fat / 39g Carbohydrates/ 1.9g Fiber

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** New Recipe Video to Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth **

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My latest video can be found, by clicking the photo, above!

It’s still blueberry season in Florida. And for many, blueberries mean DESSERT! In this video, I’m going to show you how to make a really simple yet scrumptious blueberry crisp that uses everyday ingredients. I would like to thank Keel Farms for these amazing blueberries. If you live in or around the Plant City, FL, area, check them out! If you’re gluten-free, please feel free to swap the flour for your preferred substitution. Did you create this dish? What do ya think? Please let me know in the comments, below! 😀

Share this post with your favorite #dessert buddy!

P.S. Expect a new video from me every Wednesday on my YouTube channel. Subscribe to my channel for the latest content!  <3

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**New Recipe Video to Satisfy Your Brunch Cravings **

My latest video can be found, by clicking this photo!

Just because you may be staying at home, doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a tasty brunch! In this video, I’m going to show you how to make an incredibly easy & delicious dish: Savory turkey & blueberry croissants! In the spirit of utilizing local seasonal ingredients, the blueberries for this particular recipe were sourced from Keel Farms , a local Plant City-based winery, blueberry & farming operation. These are so tasty, that this dish will surely be a hit during your next brunch meal. Even your mother-in-law may approve of these miniature bites! 😉

Share this post with your favorite #brunch buddy!

P.S. Expect a new video from me every Wednesday on my YouTube channel. Subscribe to my channel for the latest content!  <3


Baked salmon cakes served with sauteed asparagus and local squash

Baked Salmon Cakes

WARNING: These baked salmon cakes are so delicious and scrumptious, that you will probably wind up eating the whole batch. Don’t say that I didn’t warn you…

Sweetheart’s First Birthday Gift

Back in December, my husband and I adopted Sweetheart from our local county animal shelter. I’m not just saying this because I’m her cat mamma, but she really is the sweetest and spunkiest Tabby cat you will ever meet. She’s also been one of the greatest blessings we’ve had. So to celebrate this very special day, I baked her a tiny little salmon birthday cake…a promise I made to her, since day 1. Let’s just say that being a foodie runs in our family, and my cat definitely picked up on this!

A picture of a gray and white tabby cat eating a miniature salmon cake on her bowl of cat food.
Sweetheart enjoying her little gift on her first birthday

Baked Salmon Cakes for us, too! 🙂

Even though I made a pinky promise with Sweetheart that I would bake her a tasty salmon cake, I knew that we had to join in on this feast with her. Who enjoys eating alone?!?! From the moment I made that vow, I knew that I was going to prepare something really special.

A batch of baked salmon cakes that came fresh out of the oven!
A batch of cakes that came fresh out of the oven!

As a result, I decided to make a batch of Salmon cakes for my husband and I to enjoy. And boy was my batch tasty! I don’t mean to brag or anything, but these savory baked salmon cakes were so tasty, that I knew that my fellow Funky Spork community would enjoy this recipe, too. Without further ado, let’s move onto that darn recipe, shall we?!

Three baked salmon cakes served with sauteed asparagus and local squash.
Baked salmon cakes served with sauteed asparagus and local squash

Baked Salmon Cakes

WARNING: These baked salmon cakes are so delicious and scrumptious, that you will probably wind up eating the whole batch. Don’t say that I didn’t warn you…
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Course: Appetizer, Breakfast, Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Brunch, Salmon, Seafood
Servings: 4 servings
Calories: 414kcal

Equipment

  • Skillet
  • Muffin/cupcake tin (12 count)

Ingredients

  • 20 oz. fresh salmon
  • 2 eggs
  • ¾ cup bread crumbs
  • 1 onion medium
  • 1 bell pepper medium
  • 4 garlic cloves finely minced
  • 1 lemon (all of its juice)
  • 1 tbsp. vegetable oil

Seasonings

  • ¾ tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 tsp. oregano dried
  • 1 tsp. parsley dried
  • 1 tsp. thyme dried

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 375 Degrees F. While your oven is preheating, dice the onion and bell pepper roughly to the size of ¼ inch cubes. Then,  heat your skillet to medium-high on your stove top. Once it begins heating up, add cooking oil to the skillet, and then gradually add the onion and bell pepper mixture. Cook on medium high, stirring frequently, and allow to cook for about 5-7 minutes, or until the onions turn translucent. Once finished, immediately remove cooked veggies form the heat and allow for them to cool for at least five minutes.
  • Gently remove the salmon skin from the salmon with a knife, and set skin aside. Then, in a medium bowl, take two forks and begin to break the salmon meat apart until the pieces are about the size of a grain of rice.
  • Once the salmon has been flaked, add in the remaining ingredients to the mixture, which will include the veggies, breadcrumbs, lemon juice, garlic, and seasoning, stir until all of the ingredients are well-dispersed.
  •  Assembling the cakes: Lightly grease your muffin tin, and set that aside. Afterwards, divide the mixture into 12 parts, and roll each part until a fairly compact ball. Then, place each of your ‘salmon balls’into one of the muffin slots, and (optional step) lightly spray the top of each salmon cake with a touch of cooking spray or cooking oil. Place in the center rack of your oven, and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the cakes reach an internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • (Optional, but HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!!) If you still have your salmon skins, place them on a separate greased small oven tray,place a dash of salt and pepper, and have them bake with the salmon cakes. Salmon skin is so tasty!
  • Enjoy!!

Nutrition Information per Serving:

414 Calories/ 38g. Protein/ 19.5g. Fat/ 20.5g Carbohydrates/ 1.6g Fiber

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Farm to Spork: Meet Shawn Steed (UF/IFAS Extension Program)

Are you interested in improving your gardening or horticulture abilities? Have you had an itching desire to learn more about lawn care? Are you looking for a place that can offer you services regarding matters, ranging from your soil quality, to managing your household finances? Well, did you know that you can access all of these resources in one place?

If your answer to any of these questions is a resounding ‘yes’, then today will be the day for you! In this segment of Farm to Spork, I speak with Shawn Steed, and the integrative community-based work that him and his colleagues are doing through the University of Florida’s Institute for Agricultural Sciences Extension program (further referred to as UF/IFAS).

Video interview with Shawn Steed

[The Funky Spork]: Tell us a little bit about yourself, your background, and how you got into this field of work

[Shawn Steed]: Well, I got a degree in Horticulture in College, and I always liked being outside. I love science. I kind of melded all of those likes into the horticulture field. When I looked through course catalogs, Horticulture kind of seemed to float to the top. I got a Bachelor’s degree, and then went to receive a Master’s degree. I then went to work in the industry growing plants for Speedling*, one of the largest transplant producers in the world.

I eventually went into propagation, and worked at a tree farm doing tree liners, which are small trees for the Tree Industry. And then I started doing my own propagation. And then I started doing my own farming, from there.

I just had a passion for growing things.

[The Funky Spork]: It really started from this passion you had where you were getting your hands dirty, really, and immersed in that soil.

[Shawn Steed]: Yeah, I just love being outside. Love the outdoors, love nature, love science, and it all kind of came together. Did a lot of prayer, trying to search my way through things. Horticulture seemed to have the answers. I do feel like it’s a calling.

The Perennial garden at the UF-IFAS Seffner Extension Campus
The Perennial garden at the UF-IFAS Seffner Extension Campus

[The Funky Spork]: One of the hats you wear is with the University of Florida. First of all, can you tell us more about this division of The University of Florida (further referred to as UF), and the work you’re doing?

[Shawn Steed]: So this Seffner location is a part of a cooperative extension. It’s a cooperation between local government (Hillsborough County Government), and UF. Each county in Florida has an extension office. Some even have multiple extension offices. We are tasked with bringing science information to the general public at a local level. We are public servants who work in a variety of different areas. We bring research from UF to the local body. Generally, if you’re a faculty from UF, you’re either appointed to do teaching, research, or extension. You’re either one of or part of those three categories. The extension component is delivering that information to local clientele.

We are also a bridge for the researchers. We see problems at the local level. And we say ‘We need answers to this problem.’ There may not be information there. So, we would bring that up to researchers at the University of Florida or beyond. Then researchers would try to find answers for us to deliver back to local clientele.

[The Funky Spork]: Now I know that, being here in Hillsborough County, from what I know, we have an office in Plant City. But we have this location in Seffner. So what is the Seffner location focused on?

[Shawn Steed]: Seffner is our main office location. And we kind of radiate out from there. We have different footprints of UF. We also have the Gulf Coast Research and Education Center in Balm, FL, which also has that three-part mission. But Balm is more focused on the research areas. They specialize in vegetables, strawberries, and entomology. The Seffner branch partners with them to deliver that information to local growers.

We also have a tropical research aquaculture lab in Sun City Center. We (UF) also have a branch campus in Plant City that is part of the Gulf Coast Research Education Center.

A recycled yard waste compost demonstration at the UF/IFAS Seffner Extension
A recycled yard waste compost demonstration

[The Funky Spork]: What work are you specifically doing with the Extension?

[Shawn Steed]:  I work with ornamental plant production. I work with the nursery growers, tree farm growers, and sod growers. I’m also a multi-county agent. I also work in Polk County’s Bartow office Extension division.

[The Funky Spork]: What are some projects you are currently working on?

[Shawn Steed]: One of the things that we have worked on during the last few years is working with tropical plants. We have some tropical plant producers, locally. They were trying to control weeds out of containers, a very labor-intensive process. So many of these growers try to use preemergent herbicides, which is applied over the plants to help keep the weeds down for multiple months, a labor-saving strategy. 

There was no good information at the local or university level on pre-emergent herbicides for tropical plants. That was one of those local needs that we brought up to the researchers at the Gulf Coast Research Education Center. We got a grant to put out several different trials. Through that, we found some good pre-emergent herbicides for them to use locally. Now that information can go throughout the state of Florida, and will be presented at the Weed Sciences Society of America. That’s a local need that we were able to get funding for, and deliver that information to other local tropical growers. So now, we are saving local growers money, time, and helping them work in a more efficient cost-saving manner.

An information table for the University of Florida Cooperative Extension Service
An information table for the University of Florida Cooperative Extension Service

[The Funky Spork]: From what you have described, the Extension really serves as a forefront of some of the research and integrative work you are doing as a public service entity.  With that being said, what ways do you do regularly connect to the everyday Hillsborough County resident and stakeholder?

[Shawn Steed]: Me and some of my other colleagues work on home landscapes. For instance, a resident may be trying to figure out what is the best lawn to put down, or different fruit trees they could plant. Other residents may be curious about determining what the best time to plant for their gardens. We have specialists who deal with these types of concerns. We test soil, which is helpful for those do not know the pH or nutrient levels for their gardens. Residents are able to bring soil samples for us to test. This type of service can save residents money and time and can help to increase the home value of their property.

We also help landscapers if they have a landscape operation. One of my colleagues specifically deals with landscapers, and can help them with nuances, such as providing input regarding appropriate types and levels of sod and fertilizers for different landscapes. We also help with regulations, in terms of licensing people to apply fertilizers.

Our extension office also has a division that helps residents work on their finances. If you want to do your taxes, we have staff that can assist you with that type of information. We also offer cooking and nutrition classes. We are also suited to meet the needs of farmers and the agriculture industry. Additionally, we also have 4H programming for local youth.

Winning works of art from a recent recycled art contest
Winning works of art from a recent recycled art contest

[The Funky Spork]: So being that I am a food blogger, could I hypothetically bring in my dying pepper plant and its soil for you folks to examine?

[Shawn Steed]: As public servants, yes. That is a service we can assist with. We have Master gardeners, which is our volunteer core of Extension. They receive intensive training, and then they go out to help us with our mission throughout the county. You can bring in sick plants, pests, weeds or soil to our help desk. We can then assess the issues and determine proper control. While we charge a minimal fee for the soil testing, we offer the rest of our consultations as a service paid via tax funding.

[The Funky Spork]: Wow…these are your tax dollars at work!

[The Funky Spork]:  I understand that for a long time, Citrus greening has been an issue. For home owners who want to grow or maintain their citrus trees, is this type of inspection a service that can be offered at this Extension office?

[Shawn Steed]: Sure. We actually have an agent on-staff that strictly works with the citrus industry. The backyard residential gardeners can be supported by our Master Gardener Help Desk service. But if you have acreage and are selling (or plan to) sell citrus, our commercial citrus agent can assist you. Our citrus agent attends trade shows and does morning juice breaks, where he talks to growers about the Citrus Industry and relevant industry topics.

[The Funky Spork]: Are there opportunities here for people to get involved and volunteer?

[Shawn Steed]: Yes there are. We offer internship opportunities for high schoolers and college students. We do offer a direct internship program for UF students. We offer volunteer opportunities for 4H youth programming assistance. Our Master Gardeners program requires that participants contribute so many hours to different types of projects. Some of those projects can involve maintaining our beautiful campus, here. It could also involve working the phones or the helpdesk, soil-sampling, or other types of things. We offer something for everyone.

[The Funky Spork]: What would be the best way for someone to contact you, if they wanted to learn more about Horticulture, or wanted more general information about this division?

[Shawn Steed]: Here at this extension office, we have classes, we have vlogs, we have newsletters and other social media platforms to help residents and stakeholders with whatever they would like to achieve.

We do have an open door policy here. You’re always welcomed to walk in to see who’s here, or talk to the receptionist. I would encourage anyone who is interested in one of those segments of Extension to find that agent’s vehicle of information to learn more about their projects or programming.   

[The Funky Spork]: What are two-three words of advice you would offer to a household who may be interested in living or eating in a more sustainable way?

[Shawn Steed]: First, I would say that Information is very important for me. So I would say that it is important for one to keep up with the latest information regarding sustainability practice. Second, I would challenge one to act upon those practices. It’s one thing to have information about sustainability. But we all have to take our part to take small steps to live more sustainably.

The UF/IFAS Seffner office is located at 5339 County Road 579, Seffner, FL   33584. To learn more about the UF/IFAS Hillsborough County Extension office, please visit: https://sfyl.ifas.ufl.edu/hillsborough/

To contact Shawn Steed, email him at ststeed@ufl.edu

UF/IFAS Seffner Extension Office

ONE MORE THING: Just like shelter, water, and clothing, food is an essential need for survival. Because of this, The Funky Spork is dedicated to providing coverage about different players who are involved with the decisions regarding the food on our plates. Will you and YOUR friends & family do me a HUGE favor, and consider supporting me on Patreon? The Funky Spork truly is a labor of love, and for as little as $3 per month, your support helps me create more educational and engaging food systems content. It would really mean the world to me to have your support. As always, thank you!

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Plant City Communiy Garden: Co-founder Karen Elizabeth sitting on the side of a garden bed filled with collards

Farm to Spork: Meet Karen Elizabeth (Plant City Commons Community Gardens)

Karen Elizabeth, Co-founder of the Plant City Commons Community Gardens

Carrots, flowers and collards, oh my! These are some of the things you will find while wandering around the Plant City Commons Community Gardens complex. If you live in the greater Plant City area, I highly recommend visiting and becoming a member of this amazing community garden. Why is that? Well, in this Farm to Spork feature, I interview Karen Elizabeth, co-founder of the garden. In this segment, we get to learn more about one of Plant City’s best kept secrets.

[The Funky Spork]: Tell us about yourself, and your background.

[Karen Elizabeth]:  I’m originally from Ohio and moved to Florida in 1985. Prior to that, and before I had children, I did some gardening with my Grandparents. Gardening was something that ran in my family. Gardening led me to an interest in health and nutrition at that time. I put all that on hold when I moved to Florida, and did the whole ‘corporate life’!

Eventually, I came back full-circle, when I retired. I studied and became a Certified Holistic Health Coach and also helped found this community garden in 2012. The garden originally began in the Historic district of Plant City, where we leased some space from St. Peter’s Episcopal Church.  We moved to the space here at Hillsborough Community College in 2015, which was essentially a space that was…awaiting our arrival!

Plant City Community Gardens: A garden bed filled with a beautiful harvest of collards and other local greens grown by the community garden members.
A garden bed filled with a beautiful harvest of collards and other local greens grown by the community garden members.

[The Funky Spork]: What exactly is a community garden?

[Karen Elizabeth]: Typically community gardens are groups of people who come together and find a space to grow food, who support and share knowledge and resources and advocate for health. Each individual or family grows their own vegetables that they love the most during each season. Any sharing would be done individually.  

The Plant City Commons Community Gardens is a part of the Coalition of Community Gardens. Currently, in Tampa Bay, there are 34 gardens established (within the coalition). As word gets out, people understand that they can have a space where they can join friends and knowledgeable people if they need help growing things and bring their families. They can grow the foods they love to eat and supplement their meals with seasonal food varieties. 

[The Funky Spork]: How long has the Plant City Commons Community Gardens been in existence, and what was its historic evolution?

[Karen Elizabeth]: To me it was at some point prior to 2012, after visiting several community gardens; I felt that there was a need for Plant City to have its own. I wanted to have a space for the community to come together to share and grow their own food. As it turned out, I ended up being acquainted with three other folks who happened to have the same intention.

Eventually, St. Peter’s Episcopal Church reached out to us and offered space for the garden.  When our lease was up, they [the Episcopal church] needed their space back. Later in 2015, our current space came together with the help of Hillsborough Community College, their President, Dr. Martyn Clay – an incredible and very amazing space, a place everyone needs to visit.

Plant City Community Garden: Strawberry popcorn growing from a blue pot
Strawberry popcorn growing from a blue pot

[The Funky Spork]: If you were to describe this garden campus to someone who has never visited before, what would you say?

[Karen Elizabeth]: It’s going to be more than you’d expect.  There’s a whole botanical area with some beautiful pathways, and a gazebo to rest in or contemplate life. There are examples of Florida-friendly trees and other native plants. Additionally, we have a greenhouse facility here. We have a space with our community garden beds, and another space that we grow food to share with the community, like the United Food Bank of Plant City, as well as with groups that prepare meals for the hungry.

We also have a bat house and some special wetlands, on-site. The bat house, while originally on-site before this garden, is one of the amenities here on the grounds. Bats eat a lot of insects, they love mosquitos, (and do not bite people!) and are also pollinators.

We have a wetland area located on the east side of the botanical gardens (near the succulent and meditation garden). The wetlands actually became a project of a member who mapped its 49 mile journey from Plant City all the way out to the Gulf of Mexico. With that being said, it matters what gets into our water systems.

We have a lot of programs and have developed several since we have been at this location. For example, we have a permaculture (earthworm) program, a food forest, aquaponics and hydoponics systems, pollinator garden, native bee habitat, and an heirloom seed library. We also host monthly workshops

Plant City Community Garden: Oriental eggplant growing from a vine
Oriental eggplant

[The Funky Spork]: What type of produce and other food varieties are growing at the garden?

[Karen Elizabeth]: Besides annual vegetables items that can grow within the Central Florida region we have added  bananas, lemon grass, and a couple varieties of apples and plums growing on-site. We also have golden Asian pears, mulberries, pomegranate, persimmon, loquats, sugar cane, cranberry hibiscus, pineapple, asparagus, peach, papaya, and cherries, and a variety culinary and medicinal herbs growing on-site. All plants and trees in the gardens are  for public viewing and information only.

 [The Funky Spork]: What’s your favorite thing that you have grown here?

[Karen Elizabeth]: I’m all over the place! Celery and French Sorrel have become favorite bites, and I love starting seedlings.

Plant City Community Garden: These are lettuce seedlings sprouting in special plugs that will be inserted into the aquaponics grow bed.
These are lettuce seedlings sprouting in special plugs that will be inserted into the aquaponics grow bed.

[The Funky Spork]: What are the benefits of becoming a member of this community garden?

[Karen Elizabeth]: Community garden membership is $35 per year. The membership includes a 6 by 12 foot garden bed, as well as a mix of soil created at the gardens, and irrigation! Some of the other benefits include having the freedom to grow some of your favorite seasonal vegetables, it adds to the quality of life through exercise, growing clean organic food, provides opportunities for social engagement & education, intergenerational interaction, and cross cultural connections, children learn where their food comes from. There’s something really special about being able to grow your own food and eat it right away. Membership also includes access to the Seed Library and discounts on workshops.

The Succulent Garden, located on the community garden campus
The Succulent Garden, located on the community garden campus

[The Funky Spork]: What are two-three words of wisdom you would offer to someone who is trying to eat more locally and sustainably?

[Karen Elizabeth]: First thing I would say is to find local food-particularly food that is local and fresh. You could take it to another level and find organic. Try to find folks who are growing organically, whether it is a farmer or someone else who may just have a couple of acres of produce growing. You can also eat more sustainably by visiting local farmer’s markets. In fact, in most of these market’s you will find folks who are offering fresh, seasonal produce. And fresh is key.

The Plant City Commons Community Gardens is located at 2001 E. Cherry Street, Plant City, FL, 33563, and is open seven days a week (free admission!).  To get in contact with Karen, you can reach her at 813-435-8111. To learn more, visit www.plantcitycommunitygarden.com

The Plant City Commons Community Gardens is located at 2001 E. Cherry Street, Plant City, FL, 33563, and is open seven days a week (free admission!).  To get in contact with Karen, you can reach her at 813-435-8111. To learn more, visit www.plantcitycommunitygarden.com You can also like them on Facebook, too!

ONE MORE THING: Will you and YOUR friends & family do me a HUGE favor, and consider supporting me on Patreon? The Funky Spork truly is a labor of love, and your support helps me create more educational and engaging food systems content. it would really mean the world to me to have your support!

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Three miniature vegan sweet potato she

Miniature Sweet Potato Shepherd’s Pies

These sweet potato shepherd’s pie recipe may be small, but boy are these packed with comfort and delicious flavor!

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I love comfort food. There’s nothing more satisfying than for me to dig into a spoonful of buttery potatoes. But more than that, I have a bit of a weak-spot for any comfort meal that incorporates sweet potatoes. Maybe it’s the creaminess or sweetness of these tubers…maybe it’s just…magic!

Quarantine Cravings?

Am I the only one that seems to be a little extra hungry during these crazy times? I hope not! The Covid-19 pandemic has especially amped up my cravings for comfort food filled with wholesome carb-laden goodness. One dish that has always had a special place in my heart has been Shepherd’s pie. I remember my mother preparing shepherds pies for us growing up, and I always found them to be so delicious! I wanted to take advantage of two things: The existing ingredients in my pantry and fridge, and the local seasonal varieties of produce that came from the CSA that I am a part of.

An image of three of the Miniature Sweet Potato Shepherd's Pies on a plate.
Delicious Miniature Vegan Sweet Potato Sheperd’s Pies

Miniature Savory Pie Goodness

As I mentioned before, I had been trying to figure out a creative, yet familiar recipe which incorporated the items I readily had at home, while honoring my values of incorporating locally-sourced ingredients. Since Steed Farm, the CSA that I am a part of had an abundance of sweet potatoes to offer us, I knew what I was going to prepare. And out of all of that came this recipe!

I really think that you and your family will enjoy preparing and eating these miniature vegan sweet potato Shepherd’s pies. This is even a dish that your kids can help out with! Maybe they can assist by mashing the tater or layering each miniature pie. Oh, the possibilities!

A close-up of the texture of the lentils in the Miniature Sweet Potato Shepherd's Pie
Miniature Vegan Sweet Potato Sheperd’s Pie Close-up

Alrighty folks, let’s move onto the sweet potato shepherd’s pie recipe now, shall we?!?!?!

Miniature Sweet Potato Shepherd’s Pies

These sweet potato shepherd's pie recipe may be small, but boy are these packed with comfort and delicious flavor!
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time1 hr
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: easy shepherds pie, how to make homemade Shepherd’s pie, mini shepherds pie, Miniature Vegan Sweet Potato Shepherd’s Pie, Miniature Vegan Sweet Potato Shepherd’s Pies, shepherds pie, shepherds pie recipes, Sweet Potato Shepherd’s Pies, vegan shepherd’s pie, vegan shepherd’s pie sweet potato
Servings: 4 People
Calories: 241kcal

Equipment

  • Two medium saucepans
  • One masher or a fork
  • A cupcake/ muffin pan

Ingredients

  • 4 Sweet potatoes
  • 2 cups fresh spinach
  • 1 medium tomato
  • 1 medium onion
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely dices
  • 3 carrots
  • ¾ cup carrot greens (optional)
  • 8 oz. tomato sauce
  • 1 cup lentils
  • cups water
  • ½ tsp. salt

Spices

  • 1 tsp. crushed fennel seeds
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • tsp. garlic powder
  • ¼ tsp. chili powder
  • ½ tsp. smoked paprika
  • ½ tsp. crushed black pepper

Instructions

  • Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. While oven is pre-heating, dice onions and tomatoes into ½” sized pieces. Set those veggies aside.
  • Preparing the sweet potatoes: Fill up a medium pot of water and water and heat to medium high and allow the water to come to a rolling boil. Next, while you are waiting for the water to boil, coarsely dice your sweet potatoes and carrots into large chunks. Next, add potatoes and carrots into boiling water and cook for 25-20 minutes covered, or until they are fork tender, drain and rinse with cold water so that you can easily unpeel the skin off. Afterwards, mash them until they have the consistency of a mashed potato puree with ½ tsp. salt. Later on, set aside.
  • Cooking the lentils: While your potatoes are cooking, in another saucepan, add the three cups of water and set the temperature to medium-high. Then, add in the tomatoes, onions, garlic, carrot greens, tomato sauce and spices, and allow all of that to heat to a  rolling boil. Next, add in the lentils, and then cover and reduce heat to low, and allow to simmer for 20-25 minutes, or until the lentil mixture has absorbed all of the water. Next, during the last 5 minutes, add in the spinach (which will wilt while the lentils are cooking).
  • Assembling the Shepherd’s pies: take a muffin pan (preferably a 12 muffin one) and lightly grease it. Divide the lentil mixture among each of the muffin cups. You will also take the mashed potato puree and divide the mixture equally among all of the muffin cups and gently spoon the mixture over each of the muffin cups filled with the lentils. I’d recommend that you spoon each cup so that the tops of the sweet potatoes resemble muffin tops. Feel free to gently run a fork along each ‘muffin top’ for some texture! Finally, you will place the miniature Shepherd’s pies into the oven and bake them for 35-40 minutes, or until the ‘muffin tops’ have lightly browned.
  • Enjoy the heck out of these mini pies!

Makes 12 miniature sweet potato Shepherd’s pies (6 servings)

Nutrition Information per serving

241 calories/ 12 grams protein/ 1.3 grams fat/ 47.5 grams carbohydrates/ 8.6 grams of fiber

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A photo of a creamy black bean and pasta skillet dish, served inside of a medium-sized bowl. The dish is topped with three slices of avocado.

Creamy Black Bean & Pasta Skillet

This creamy black bean & pasta skillet is the perfect dish you are looking to make whenever you are feeling too lazy to cook!

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Lazy Days

Folks, maybe it’s because I have been staying indoors so often, but I have something to tell you: I have been feeling incredibly lazy. Honestly? As much as I love cooking, I have not had much creative energy to barnstorm new meal ideas. Am I the only one who goes through this struggle?? I can’t be.

But alas, I had to come up with some meals to cook this weekend. Surely my husband could cook. But most of the time, due to our different work schedules, I take on this task. Either way, if no one cooks, no one eats. And we can’t have that.

Hmmm…

The other day, as I was looking through my pantry and fridge, weighing the limited variety of shelf-stable products and decaying produce, some pasta, back beans, and my wok, an idea come to me: Why not do a one-pot meal? So I figured, why not?

Carby goodness!

I pulled out my rotini pasta, black beans, tomatoes, and onions, and immediately began dicing my tomatoes, onions, and kale. Before I knew it, I whipped out my store-bought taco seasoning, and added it to the mix, along with the pasta and back beans, and voila! And you know what? This creamy improvisational black bean pasta skillet has been one of the most delicious meals that I have cooked in a while. Not only do the black beans give a level of richness and plant-based protein to this dish, but my impulsive decision to incorporate some coconut milk into this dish really brought this meal to a decadent creamy level. All of the ingredients and spices and flavors married beautifully. Moreover, even my very picky husband was a fan of this dish!

Did I mention that this dish is also vegan? If I haven’t, now you know!

And folks, this pasta skillet dish is not only delicious, but is super simple, contains basic pantry items, and can be ready in less than 20 minutes!

(Also, feel free to substitute the veggies in this dish for whatever else you may have!)

Now…let’s move onto the recipe!

Creamy black bean & pasta skillet: A medium bowl filled with rotini pasta, black beans, spinach, tomato sauce and coconut milk.

Creamy Black Bean & Pasta Skillet

This creamy black bean & pasta skillet is the perfect dish you are looking to make whenever you are feeling too lazy to cook!
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time20 mins
Course: Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Keyword: pasta, vegan, vegetarian
Servings: 4 Servings
Calories: 671kcal

Equipment

  • Large skillet or Wok

Ingredients

  • 16 oz. Rotini pasta
  • 15.5 oz. Black beans
  • 4 oz. Full-fat coconut milk
  • 1 Medium Onion
  • 1 Cup Fresh Kale or spinach
  • 1 Medium Tomato
  • 1 Bell Pepper
  • 6 oz. Low-sodium tomato paste
  • 4 Garlic cloves, finely minced
  • Cups Water
  • 2 Tbsp. Cooking oil

(2 tbsp.) Taco seasoning made with:

  • ½ tsp. Red chili powder
  • 1 tsp. Cumin
  • 1 tsp. Smoked paprika
  • ¾ tsp. Salt
  • 1 tsp. Black pepper
  • ¼ tsp. Allspice

Instructions

  • Finely dice all of the veggies (tomato, kale, pepper &onion) until they are about 1 inch cubes. Set aside.
  • Heat up a wok or large skillet/ pot with cooking oil and heat tomedium-high. Gradually add in the veggies & garlic, and sauté for about 6-7minutes or until the onions and tomatoes have begun to sweat. Make sure tocover for the first three minutes.
  •  Once veggies are sweating, add the taco seasoning, water, tomatopaste, into the existing pot with the veggies. Then, increase the heat to highand allow to heat until the water mixture begins to rapidly boil.
  • Once the water begins boiling, reduced the heat back tomedium-high and add the pasta and boil for 10 min or until the water hasevaporated and created a thick sauce.
  • Add drained black beans and coconut milk and stir until mixturethickens and is creamy.
  • Enjoy!

Video

Nutrition Information per serving:

671 calories/ 17.6 grams protein/ 16.7 grams fat/ 118.4 grams carbohydrates/ 22.9 grams of fiber

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