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Thursday, June 30, 2011

CSA Beet Greens - Braised Beet Greens with Chicken Sausage

I like most vegetables, but I've never been a huge fan of beets.  As such, I was less than thrilled about the huge bundle of beet greens in my CSA pickup.  Not one to be easily deterred, I searched the internet for a recipe that sounded good, and modified it to sound even better.

Braised Beet Greens with Chicken Sausage
inspired by Simply Recipes

Serves 4
Ingredients:
1 large bunch (about a pound) beet greens
1 12 oz. package chicken sausage, sliced
1 small onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup water
1 Tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/6 cup cider vinegar
canola oil
parmesan cheese, optional

Wash the beet greens very well.  I filled up the salad spinner with water twice and mushed them around before spinning.  Fresh from the farm vegetables are amazing, but they have a lot of dirt on them.  Organic dirt, but dirt nonetheless.  And one scary spider on the turnips, but that's a story for another day.

In a large saute pan (or soup pot, something with a lid), heat the canola oil over medium heat.  Add the onion and sliced sausage and cook for about 5 minutes.  I used Applegate Organics chicken sausage, which has all real, identifiable ingredients, and nothing sketchy.


Add the garlic and cook one minute more.  Pour in the water and add the sugar and red pepper flakes.  Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce to low.

Add in the beet greens.  It will seem like way too much and you might think your pan isn't big enough.  You'll be surprised at how quickly they cook down.

Cover and allow to simmer on low for about 10-15 minutes.  Add in the vinegar.  Top with parmesan cheese for serving if you are into that sort of thing.  Obviously, I am.  The beet greens turn a pretty purple color, which is a little hard to see in this picture because I blanketed everything in cheese, but they look good.

I expected the greens to cook down, but not as much as they did.  That giant bunch was about a cup when all was said and done.  I had planned this dish to be primarily greens with sausage, but it turned out to be the other way around.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

CSA Season - Stir Fry with Peanut Sauce

I was so excited to sign up for a CSA share this year.  When I sent the check in to reserve our spot during a very bleak January, I was imagining hot summer days picking up huge bags of vegetables from the farm and eating fresh meals on the porch.  Thankfully, those days are finally here.

Our CSA share is with Tangerini's Farm, a local family owned farm.  Today was my second pickup, we have an every other week share, which is a great option for couples or small families.  One of my favorite things about the farm is that in addition to the already picked CSA items, there is always a pick-your-own item of the week and the herb garden.  Instead of including herbs with the picked items, members can go to the farm anytime and snip whatever they need from the herb garden.  This week I took a handful of dill.

Here's a sample of this week's pickup.  In the mix (and in a somewhat left-to-right order), swiss chard, kale, zucchini, dill, lettuce (we have been getting three heads a week - hello salads!), escarole, and japanese turnips.  Not pictured, and leftover from last week, we still have beet greens and radishes.
Just look at all that leafy green goodness!

I'll share my recipes throughout the week, but so far on the list I'm planning Braised Beet Greens with  Chicken Sausage, Escarole and White Beans, Kale Chips (of course!), and Radish and Japanese Turnip Slaw with Creamy Dill Dressing.  Last night I made a stir fry including swiss chard and Japanese turnips.

Stir Fry with Peanut Sauce (featuring some CSA veggies)
I don't think it makes sense to use a recipe to make stir fry.  The point of stir fry is to throw whatever you have around in a pan, cook it up quickly, mix up a sauce, and be done with it.  As such, I won't give you measurements, just the list of what I added to the mix.


Red bell pepper
Broccoli
Carrots
Swiss Chard
Onion
Garlic Scapes
Japanese turnips (not pictured)
Whole wheat spaghetti (I keep intending to buy rice noodles, but then it doesn't happen)

Sauce:
Peanut Butter, melted
Soy sauce
Sesame oil
Hot chili paste
Rice wine vinegar

Bring your water to a boil, cook the noodles according to package directions.  With about 5 minutes remaining, add the chopped broccoli.
Meanwhile, in a large saute or frying pan, heat a little canola oil (or sesame oil) and add the vegetables.  Cook for about 5 minutes until slightly softened.  I added the turnips at the end so they would stay extra crunchy.
Once the noodles and broccoli are cooked, add them to the pan, and pour the sauce over.  Allow to warm through on low for a few minutes, just to let the flavors blend.  

For some more CSA recipes, check out my friend Christie's blog - Running From The Kitchen.  She has some great ideas, and eats less cheese than I do.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Lemon Bars

At about 8:30 on Friday night I remembered that I had offered to bring a dessert to the cookout we were attending on Saturday.  Despite spending the afternoon going to three different grocery stores for my weekly shop, I at no point remembered to pick up the ingredients for nutella cheesecake brownies (a delicious sounding recipe sent to me by my friend Jackie).  I also know from experience that trying a new, complicated recipe late at night is often unsuccessful and results in missing ingredients.  Instead, I went with a tried and true old standby, Lemon Bars.  Straightforward to make, uses ingredients I generally keep on hand, and extremely popular, these fit the bill.

Lemon Bars
Ingredients:
Crust:
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature
1/4 cup confectioner's sugar
1 cup flour
1/8 teaspoon salt

Filling:
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (2 lemons)
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line an 8x8 inch pan with parchment coated with cooking spray.  To line the pan with parchment, use two crossed pieces and allow the sides to stay long enough to use as handles to lift out the cooked bars.

To make the crust:
With a mixer, cream the butter and sugar.
Add the flour and salt and mix just until the dough comes together.
Press into the bottom of the baking dish ( I find it easiest to use slightly wet hands), and bake for 20 minutes.
Allow to cool on a wire rack while you prepare the filling.

To make the filling:
Using a mixer, beat the sugar and eggs.  
Add the lemon juice and zest.  
Gently fold in the flour and stir to remove lumps.  
Pour the filling over the cooked shortbread crust and bake for 20 minutes, until filling is set. 

At this point you can cover the cooled lemon bars with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator.  
When ready to serve, use the paper handles to lift out the bars and cut.  If your knife starts to stick or pull the bars, give it a rinse between slices.  Dust with powdered sugar.  
I'm glad I ate a little broken corner before I packed these up, because they went quickly.  They'll be a hit, I promise.


Friday, June 24, 2011

White Bean Burgers

I love bean burgers, they are the perfect homemade veggie burger.  Plus, then you know you have a nutritious base to load up with all the delicious condiments you desire.  After cooking up a batch of dried white beans on Sunday to use in the Polenta Stacks and a white bean and tomato soup, I still had a couple cups leftover.  Since it turns out we can't live on salads alone, I thought bean burgers would be a good lunch/dinner option.

This is a basic recipe, feel free to modify as you like, or based on what's in your fridge.

White Bean Burgers
2 cups cooked white beans
1 stalk celery, finely diced
1 medium carrot, finely diced
1 small onion, finely diced
1 clove garlic, finely diced
~2 T. fresh parsley (or whatever you grab from the garden)
1/2-3/4 cup breadcrumbs
1 egg (for vegan, use one flax or chia egg)
paprika, optional

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment or foil.  Spray lightly with cooking oil.
In a large bowl, mash the beans.  They don't need to be a paste, just mash enough so they will stick together.  I used an immersion blender for a few pulses, but it would be just as easy to use a fork or potato masher.
Mix in remaining ingredients, adjusting amount of breadcrumbs to obtain desired consistency.  You want a mixture that's moist, but not wet.
Using your hands, make 4-6 patties and place them on baking sheet.
Sprinkle with paprika, if desired.
Bake for 20 minutes, flip, and bake 10 minutes more.

I enjoyed one on a toasted bun with melted cheddar cheese, sliced apple, and barbecue sauce.  I also sent Jon with one over a salad for dinner tonight at work.  Toppings and serving options are endless!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Oh She Glows No Bake Chocolate Cookies

While on vacation last week, I indulged in quite a few desserts.  I am never one to turn down key lime pie. As such, I tried to keep my purchases at the market this week a little cleaner, which meant no ice cream.  That's all well and good, but it's only Wednesday and I already found myself digging into the bag of chocolate chips, so I knew I needed to make something.  Oh She Glows No Bake Chocolate Cookies were the perfect option for chocolately banana goodness with some extra nutrition thrown in for good measure.  The best part was that they took less than 10 minutes to prepare.  The worst part was waiting the hour for them to firm up in the freezer.

Frosty No Bake Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies
recipe from Oh She Glows

Ingredients:
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup chocolate chips (non-dairy if you are vegan)
1 large banana
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 Tbsp chia seeds
1 tsp cocoa powder
sweetener, optional (I thought they were plenty sweet)


In a microwave safe bowl, or over a double boiler, melt the chocolate chips.  Be careful not to burn.
Using a large spoon or fork, mash the banana into the melted chocolate.
Stir in the remaining ingredients, mixing well to ensure even distribution.
Line a dish with parchment or wax paper and drop seven cookies (may vary depending on your size).
Freeze for at least an hour until firm.

They are chewy, cold and chocolately.  Perfect for any sweets craving!





Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Grilled Vegetable Wrap


I mentioned yesterday that in addition to the Polenta Packets, we also grilled up a bunch of vegetables to eat this week.  Grilling vegetables is one of the easiest things you can do with a grill, and they are delicious.  I sliced up an eggplant, zucchini and yellow squash, and marinated them in Italian salad dressing.  You can marinate in anything you like, but I would say at least a little olive oil, vinegar, and salt and pepper.

I peeled strips into the skin of the eggplant and sliced into about 1/4-1/2 inch rounds.  The zucchini and yellow squash were a little small, so I sliced those lengthwise so they wouldn't fall into the coals.  A few of the zucchini threw themselves through the grate onto the coals anyway, but that was likely due to the tong technique of the griller.  The griller was not me.

Grill the vegetables over medium or high heat a few minutes each side, or until they have nice marks and have softened.  Return to the dish you used for marinating for storage.

When you are ready to eat, layer some of the vegetables and cheese of your choice in a wrap.  I used herb goat cheese, and it was great.  We grilled the wraps in the panini press, but you can eat it cold, too.  The possibilities are endless here, pretty much any vegetable you can think to throw on the grill would be great.

Monday, June 20, 2011

From the Grill: Polenta Stack With Navy Bean Salad

Hello wonderful readers!  We had a fantastic time in Alaska last week, and if I ever finish sorting and editing the 200+ photos I took, I will share a little recap with you.  When we arrived home at noon on Saturday after traveling since 7AM Alaska time on Friday, I can assure you that I had no energy to cook or shop for food.  So, when I woke up inexplicably bright and early on Sunday, I hustled over to the market to restock our kitchen before the weekend masses descended on the store.  Aside from a few setbacks (forgetting my shopping list and a crazy delay at the deli), I escaped with food for a few days, and a great meal planned for dinner last night.

As you know, we love cooking on the grill.  Charcoal grilling can be a lengthy process, so we reserve it for weekend evenings when we don't have anything else going on.  Lounging around on the porch waiting for the coals to heat often results in us eating dinner on the late side, but it's always worth the wait.  And the hundreds of cheese and crackers I eat in the meantime.  Although I know many people (including my husband) would disagree, one of the drawbacks to grilling for me is that it almost always involves meat.  I enjoy a good steak every once in a while, but most of the time I would rather eat vegetables.  And cheese.  But you knew that already.  This recipe is a great vegetarian option for the grill.  Grilling vegetables involves a little prep work, but once the chopping and marinating is done, cleanup is easy, especially if you cook everything in foil.

Polenta Stack With Navy Bean Salad
adapted from Self Magazine

Cooking spray
2 15 oz. cans navy beans, drained and rinsed - I used cooked dried beans, and just estimated about 3 cups
1 lb. tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup basil chopped - I also included some fresh oregano, because I'm so happy to actually have herbs growing in my garden
8 oz. feta, cubed
1 tube (18 oz.) prepared polenta, cut into 16 slices
1 lb. zucchini, summer squash, or a combination, sliced
1 red bell pepper, sliced
Balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper

In a bowl, combine beans, tomatoes, basil, oregano, half the feta, and red bell pepper in a bowl.  Splash with some balsamic vinegar, and season with salt and pepper.  Allow to sit while you heat the grill.

Heat a grill to high if you're using gas, or get the coals hot if you're on charcoal.
Spray each of four 18 inch long pieces of foil with cooking spray.
Place 1/4 of the bean mixture in the center of one half of the piece of foil.  You will be folding it to make a packet at the end, so make sure you leave enough of a border.
Top with sliced squash.  I marinated the zucchini and summer squash in Italian salad dressing, because I bought extra and an eggplant to grill alongside.  Grilled vegetables and goat cheese wraps are one of my favorite summer lunches.  
Place 4 slices of polenta on squash, and sprinkle with remaining feta.


Fold foil to close and pinch edges to form a sealed packet.
Grill for at least 10 minutes, and up to 20.  The contents will steam and the flavors will meld.
This made 4 very large servings.


We served alongside grilled corn.  I didn't take any process photos of the corn, but it was pretty straightforward.
Soak shucked ears in water for 10 minutes.
Spread with butter.
Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and whatever seasonings you want.  We went with chili powder and garlic.
Roll in foil, and grill for 15-20 minutes.  You'll hear the kernels starting to pop when it's almost done.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Gone to Alaska!

I'll be in Alaska for the next week, so I won't be posting.  I am so excited, I expect it won't be like any place I've been before, and we have lots of cool things planned.  I'll be away from the internet, but will be taking tons of pictures, and hopefully eating a lot of king crab and wild salmon!

If you need some reading material while I'm gone, check out some of my favorite blogs.  I have a ton of blogs bookmarked in my google reader, but these are the ones I read first every day. 

Eat Live Run - http://www.eatliverun.com/
Jenna is such a sweetheart, and a great blogger!  She is a fabulous cook and baker, and just bought herself sparkle shoes for her birthday.

Peas and Thank You - http://peasandthankyou.com/
One of the funniest blogs I read, and you get to see photos of her adorable kids!  She's a vegan, and shares excellent, family-friendly recipes.  Also, she admits to wearing yoga pants all day, kind of like me. 

The Sartorialist - http://thesartorialist.blogspot.com/
One of the best fashion blogs out there.  Everyone looks effortlessly stylish and gorgeous.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Banana Muffins

I had a few pretty scary looking bananas in the fruit bowl this week.  They had passed the point of eating on their own, and had even passed the point of freezing for smoothies.  I really had no choice other than to bake with them or toss them.  Instead of my usual banana bread (which you may remember from here), I decided to go with muffins.  Partly because I've been on a muffin kick, partly because we were about to go out of town and I could smuggle them onto the plane, and partly because they freeze well.  But mostly because some of my college friends reminded me about Muffin Films, which we use to watch constantly.  (My favorite one is Pssst.)  Now you probably think I'm weird.  Perhaps I can draw you back in by buying your friendship with baked goods?

I love this recipe, because it always works, and I can practically make it in my sleep.  It's a very simple quick bread, you mix the wet ingredients in one bowl, the dry ingredients in another, and then gently fold together.

Banana Muffins

2 cups (10 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 cup (5 1/4 ounces) sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 mashed bananas (about 1 1/2 cups)
1/4 cup plain yogurt*
2 large eggs, beaten
6 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

*If all you have is vanilla yogurt, I've used that with no problem and reduced the vanilla extract to 1/2 teaspoon.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare a 12 cup muffin pan.  In my case, put in 10 paper liners, realize you have run out, and spray the other cups with cooking spray.  
In a large bowl, whisk together all the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking soda, salt).
In a medium bowl, combine mashed bananas, yogurt, eggs, butter and vanilla. 


Fold the wet ingredients into the dry, mixing until just combined.
Divide evenly among muffin cups and bake for 30 minutes, rotating the pan once.  


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Eggplant Parmesan

I think I've mentioned before that we went to the Amalfi Coast in Italy for our honeymoon.  Jon's brothers and sister gave us the extremely creative and generous gift of a day at Mamma Agata's Cooking School.  An experience unlike any other, we spent the entire day cooking, drinking wine, walking through their hillside gardens, and eating a gourmet meal.  At the end of the day, we were given a cookbook of the recipes we made, to recreate at home.  One of our favorite dishes was the Eggplant Parmesan.  While I will never find ingredients parallel to hers (tomatoes warmed in the sun on the Italian coast are spectacular), I have modified the recipe a bit to make it my own.

Eggplant Parmesan
inspired by Mamma Agata

Ingredients:
2-3 medium eggplants (or 5-6 small)
kosher salt
14 or 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
garlic
basil and oregano
8 oz. fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
8 oz. smoked gouda, sliced
parmesan cheese, for grating

1. Peel the eggplant into zebra stripes, and slice lengthwise.  Partially peeling the eggplant leaves enough skin to keep it from falling apart, but takes away some of the toughness.
2. In a colander, layer eggplant slices and sprinkle with kosher salt.  Allow to sit over the sink for at least an hour. The salt draws out some of the liquid and bitterness.
3. Mamma Agata fries her eggplant, and while that can be delicious, I usually roast mine.  Lay the eggplant slices in a single layer on baking sheets topped with parchment paper, foil, or cooking spray.  I use parchment and give it a quick shot of spray.  Roast at 400 for about 20 minutes, or until they are browned and softened.

4. Meanwhile, make your tomato sauce.  Mine was a simple mixture of crushed tomatoes, garlic, and fresh basil and oregano.  You can use jarred sauce of course, but I'm cheap, and homemade tastes better anyway.
5. Begin layering your dish.  In the bottom of a baking dish, spread a thin layer of sauce.  Layer eggplant slices, mozzarella, gouda, parmesan, and basil.  We aren't shy about cheese in this dish.  That what makes it so good.  Add more sauce and repeat as many times as you can depending on the size of your dish.  On the top layer, spread the sauce and sprinkle with only parmesan cheese.


6. Bake at 325 for 20 minutes, increase the heat to 400 for 10 minutes, and then turn off the oven and let it sit for 10 more minutes.  After removing, allow to sit for 30 minutes to completely blend the flavors.  You can skip that step, but it won't be as good.


Eat it and pretend you're in Italy.
Lemon Grove at Mamma Agata's, Ravello, Italy

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Root Beer Float

You don't need a recipe for a Root Beer Float.  Vanilla ice cream and root beer.  There you go.  Instead, consider this a gentle reminder to bring root beer floats back into your life.  They are creamy, fizzy, and quintessentially summery.

Monday, June 6, 2011

More Muffins

Last week our elderly neighbor passed away.  It wasn't unexpected, but still sad.  He had a dry sense of humor, appreciated sarcasm, and I will miss seeing him puttering around the yard and mowing his lawn every other day. 

Gifts of food are almost always appropriate.  Something good happens, bring food.  Something bad or sad happens, bring food.  My neighbor's wife has a house full of people to feed with all their family here to support her, so I wanted to bring something over to help a little bit.  Muffins seemed like a logical choice, everyone likes muffins.  Plus I went a little overboard with the buy one get one free on blueberries this week. 

I used the same Martha Stewart recipe as I did a few months ago, but used half blueberries and half strawberries for the fruit.


I'll let you use the directions from the boss, herself.  I will add that whenever I make this recipe, I end up with enough extra batter to make one giant muffin at the end.  Maybe I'm not filling the cups enough.  The giant muffin was good for testing to make sure I was giving an edible gift.

Blueberry Muffins

Ingredients

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for tins
  • 3 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar, plus more for sprinkling
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 3/4 cups blueberries

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter large (3 3/4 inches) or small (2 3/4 inches) muffin tins, and set aside. In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar on medium speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add egg, egg yolks, and vanilla; mix until well combined. Reduce speed to low; alternate adding reserved flour mixture and milk to mixer, beginning and ending with flour. Remove bowl from mixer; gently fold in berries by hand. Divide batter among muffin tins; sprinkle generously with sugar. Bake until light golden, about 45 minutes for large muffins, about 30 minutes for small muffins. Cool in pan 15 minutes. Remove from pan; transfer to wire rack, and let cool completely.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Watermelon Spritzer

The days are long and the sun is shining.  It feels so nice to wear flip flops, keep the windows open, see the flowers blooming, and be able to wear short sleeves instead of my winter uniform of two sweaters at a time.  


One drawback to the hot and steamy weather we've been having lately is that any produce I leave on the counter goes past ripe to rotten in record time, so I'm using it up as quickly as I can.  This week at the market, personal watermelons were on sale.  They were too cute to pass up (you may notice that I can rarely pass up small cute things for sale).  I waited a little too long to cube it up, and the consistency was a bit off, so it became watermelon puree.  All I did to make the puree was stick all the watermelon chunks in the blender and give it a whirl.  

This drink is refreshing, summery, and nutritious.  I think it would be a great addition to the bar at a summer party, it can be enjoyed with seltzer for a light non-alcoholic drink, or add vodka or rum for a slightly less light cocktail.  

Watermelon Spritzer
Fill cocktail glasses about halfway with watermelon puree.
Top with seltzer (add a shot of booze if you're so inclined).
Garnish with a slice of lime.
Add a few ice cubes.
Cocktail umbrella optional, but totally acceptable.




Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Leftover Salmon - Salmon Salad

As I mentioned yesterday, we had extra grilled salmon left over from dinner.  I am a big fan of leftovers, but especially like repurposing the ingredients to make something new.  My original plan had been to make baked salmon cakes, but when lunch time rolled around, I decided I was more in the mood for a cold salad.

Salmon Salad
1/3 pound leftover salmon (or 1-2 cans salmon)
3 green onions, sliced
1 stalk celery, chopped
1/4 red bell pepper, chopped
lemon juice
dill
mayo
I added a little of the cucumber yogurt sauce as well

Using a fork, flake the salmon in a bowl.  Mix in all other ingredients and serve on toast.  Extra points for topping with lettuce, tomato and pickles.  Even more points if you can tell me how to disable our neighbor's bug zapper.

photo 1-1 photo 1-2