Roasted Butternut Squash and Quinoa Salad with Pickled Shallot

We are in full gardening mode here at the Hardison Homestead. Every year it seems like we are changing our garden around. We have planted in raised beds made of railroad ties for a few years now. Last year we had a super dry garden season with extremely high heat. The only success we had came from our raised beds.

Although, railroad ties are made with creosote. The particular ones we purchased were extremely old and didn’t have a smell and to be honest with you creosote never even crossed my mind in regards to contaminating our soil.

Creosote is used for preserving wood through a high temperature/pressure/chemical process. Forcing creosote [known as a fungicide, insecticide, sporicide, miticide and known to be a carcinogen to humans] into the timber so it will last for years. Most common uses: [of course] railroads, light poles, fence posts… but certainly should be reconsidered for your raised beds.

At the time, we went that route due to time and cost. We first made 6 beds then rearranged them in the front of the house as just 3 beds. Each bed was finished after 4 ties and 3 cinder blocks- done deal. Thankfully–so so thankful– my husband started doing some reading after working in the beds some earlier this year and we decided to get rid of the railroad tie idea. This added a lot of work to our plate!

With a new mind set, we decided to use all untreated wood. We have read where we should be able to get about 5 years out of it. We struggled with this and wondered if the few years would make it worth the investment. What the heck, we went with it and decided we will replace them as needed and hope they last longer.

Our front garden is now turning into what we call our “garden nook”. We will be working all day Saturday in our nook and hopefully I will have pictures to post. Maybe this will stir up some creative ideas for you and your family for your garden and homestead.

While things couldn’t possibly get any more busy we decided to become beekeepers!! We couldn’t be anymore excited. Like this is a DREAM! This is totally a different post [so stay tuned].

You’re probably like, “What the heck, I only clicked on this because this sounded like a killer recipe. What in the world is she talking about over here??”. So sorry I’m rambling. I made this yesterday and after one bite my husband raved about it. Its super simple and a crowd pleaser.

Roasted Butternut Squash and Quinoa Salad with Pickled Shallot


1 1/2 cups quinoa, cooked and cooled
1 butternut squash, cubed
3 cups kale, rinsed and chopped
1 cucumber, cubed
1 can white kidney beans, drained and rinsed
black pepper
hemp hearts, for garnishing or around 2 tablespoons
chia seeds, for garnishing or around 1 teaspoon

Pickled Shallot
1 shallot,thinly sliced
1/2 cup raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup water

1/2 cup evoo
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2 Tablespoons dijon mustard
pinch of salt
dash of pepper

Preheat oven to 400*F.

While the oven is preheating, combine the apple cider vinegar and water along with sliced shallot in a mason jar. Put a lid on it and place it in the refrigerator to start pickling. You can leave them to marry for 30 minutes or even 24 hours. Its up to you and depends on how much time you have.

**FYI pickled onions last for several weeks in the fridge. We used to keep them on hand and typically vinegar to water will be a 1:1 ratio. Feel free to experiment with different vinegars and herbs!**

Place [rinsed and chopped] kale in a bowl and set to the side.

For the dressing, place all ingredients in a pint mason jar, cap it, and shake the heck out of it until its beautiful and creamy. Drizzle a few tablespoons over kale and massage until its fully coated. Place both in the refrigerator to rest.

Place butternut squash on a baking sheet [I used my silicone baking mat so they wouldn’t stick to the pan], drizzle evoo over squash and toss to fully coat. Sprinkle with thyme [amount of your choice. I used around 5 stems] and a pinch of salt. Bake for 12-15 mins or until tender. Remove from oven to cool.

While your squash is cooking is a good time to cube your cucumber and drain/rinse your beans if you haven’t done so already.

You can assemble your salad how you’d like. Layer it, mix it all together or even make it look like a pretty protein bowl.. thats essentially what this is anyways.


**I put around 1/2 cup quinoa in the bottom of my bowl, with a few spoon fulls of kidney beans, a handful of cucumbers, a hefty pinch of marinated kale [its now more tender], butternut squash, pickled shallots, hemp hearts and sprinkled with chia seeds. Then drizzled with the creamy balsamic dressing.**


This is a simple recipe and is super versatile that can be adjusted to your likes and dietary needs. The majority of these ingredients can be grown on your homestead allowing you to make this at a fraction of the typical cost. I am so excited to grow quinoa and butternut squash [two newbies for us!] this year!

I hope you try it and enjoy!


Hemp Heart and Carob Muffins

Over the course of the seven years that my husband and I have been together we have eaten pretty well. Probably above average, mainly because my parents eat a very strict diet due to undeserving ailments. There has always been room to “clean up our diet” regardless of how well we thought we were eating. So we tried.. Mediterranean, paleo, gluten-free, vegetarian… all in all, I hate diets and I don’t want one. Bye Felicia – I want to have a healthy lifestyle. Period. Whether it be being active outside or fueling my body with micronutrients. I want that. I don’t want to have to think “am I allowed to eat that? What does the book say??”. I want to be able to sit firmly in my clean diet to where the bull isn’t desired or even craved.

Each time we would start a diet. We were all in and with such a big change I found that we couldn’t hold on to it. We would fall off especially on the weekends succumbing to the fast food fillers and sugar- the dietary crack. Which made every change and meal that we ate throughout the week completely redundant.

We watched some documentary on Netflix a little bit ago taking about the benefits of a plant-based diet and everything made so much sense. I started meal planning more vegetarian meals with a few meals containing animal protein – no big deal. I typically buy 1 lb of turkey and fish [always checking that it is wild caught in the USA] of some sort for our weeks meals.  Just yesterday I read in Mens Journal [probably the best magazine ever] how red meat consumption raises the risk of developing diverticulitis- each serving by a whopping 18%. You can read the whole article on page 49 of the April 2017 issue. It seems like there is always some new study showing more raised risks with animal protein consumption. Hmm weird.

With all of that aside, I love meat. Would I ever turn down a beautifully charred steak? No probably not. But over the past 3 weeks we have eaten minimal animal protein and have focused on eating more vegetables- wide range of colors [I’ve aways heard to eat a variety of colors] and always making a point to grab a new never tried veggie which forces myself to try a new recipe. I always shop at Trader Joe’s. You seriously can’t beat their produce prices unless you’re growing it yourself. Not to mention the quality is so much higher [in my opinion] than other supermarkets.

By cutting out gluten [we very rarely eat it], refined sugar, and eating more vegetables my husband and I over the course of 3 weeks now have lost a combined weight of 25 lbs. Which is amazing! We are not on some crazy “diet” that you have to buy into or eat a crazy meal plan with fancy protein shakes or pre workout drinks. I fix simple paleo based meals [often leaving out the meat] that are delicious and crazy easy. More than likely you have everything in your fridge already. And also let me say that we aren’t on a crazy workout regime. I have a steady yoga practice and my husband does body weight circuits. Nothing crazy.

This is probably the most dedicated we have been to a regime and in fact I would like to call it a lifestyle. Can you call it that after just 3 weeks? Its hard not to be dedicated with such quick results and when you and your taste buds aren’t starving.

With all of this gibberish behind us let’s make some dope muffins.

Hemp Heart and Carob Muffins



1/2 cup coconut flour

1/3 cup hemp hearts

1/4 cup chia seeds

3/4 cup coconut oil, melted

1/4 cup coconut milk, full fat if you have it
 if not no biggie

6 Tablespoons carob powder

1/4 cup coconut sugar or honey

6 eggs, whisked – farm raised please

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

pinch of salt

1/4 cup walnuts, or nut of your choice or carob chips – a little extra to garnish if you choose


Preheat oven to 350 F

Line muffin pan

Please pay attention because this is where it gets tricky.

Mix all ingredients together. Once combined spoon into lined muffin pan. This recipe makes 12 muffins. So distribute batter evenly amongst the 12.

Bake for 20-25 minutes.

These are so dang good and you won’t feel bad about eating them! Happy munching!