Monday, June 28, 2010

Keep it Simple--Stir Fried Sugar Snap Peas

I used to think I had to fix fancy, complicated recipes that took all afternoon in order for a dish to be delicious. Yes, there are plenty of multi-step, multiple-pot-dirtying recipes that are quite good. But, more and more lately, I'm realizing the best way to prepare so many foods is often the simplest way (and, by the way, it's usually the way some new vegetable moves from my 'eh' list to my 'wow' list)...I feel like it let's you taste just the wonderful flavors of the vegetable itself, instead of drowning it in so many other flavors.

Tonight's dinner was homemade veggie burgers (these were amazing, by the way...recipe will be later this week!) and these stir-fried sugar snap peas from our CSA share.
They were so good. My mouth is watering again just looking at this picture. Oh, and they half passed my Lainey-friendly test. She is so used to eating edamame, squeezing the beans out of the shell, that she really had a hard time understanding that she could eat the whole thing. She did, however, very much enjoy the peas alone. :)

Quick Stir-Fried Sugar Snap Peas
from How to Cook Everything

2 tbsp peanut, canola, or other oil (I used olive oil)
About 1 1/2 lbs peas, washed and trimmed
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil (optional--I did and feel it's a must...sesame oil has such an amazing flavor!)

Place the oil in a large, deep skillet or wok and set the heat to high. When the oil begins to smoke, toss in the peas and cook, stirring almost constantly, until the are glossy, bright green, and begin to show a few brown spots, about 5 minutes.

Turn off heat and remove to a platter. Drizzle with soy sauce and sesame oil, if you like, and serve.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Garden Cake

Tomorrow morning we head out for our first camping trip as a family of four. I'm so excited; a long weekend away with my amazing, sweet little family AND our great friends, Charles and Sara. Lainey and I spent this morning cooking and baking a slew of yummy snacks to take along. We had a pasta salad, a batch of my pesto-ish spread (this time with broccoli rabe, garlic scapes, and basil), and a batch of mini cupcakes all done before 11 a.m.

These garden cake mini-muffins came from one of my new favorite cookbooks--"More Vegetables, Please!" by Elson M. Haas, MD and Patty James, MS. It's kind of like the non-deceptive version of Deceptively Delicious....full of ideas to incorporate veggies in your meals, but by preparing them in better more appealing ways, instead of trying to trick your family into eating them.

Lainey so enjoyed making these muffins with me; this was the most enjoyable thing we've ever made together because of how involved and into it she was. She helped me grate all the vegetables with my cool old hand-cranked grater (called a King Kutter, find one on ebay!)
and loved tasting them in the grated form (and found she loves grated carrots!). She mixed, poured, grated, drank applesauce, and discovered a love of a new veggie...what more could I ask for? :)

My mom always told me to eat a rainbow of colors...I'm so in love with dessert that has all these beautiful colors baked right in!

from More Vegetables, Please!

1/2 c walnut oil (I used canola)
1/2 c applesauce
3 eggs
1 1/4 c sugar (I used just 1)
2 tsp vanilla
2 c whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 c unpeeled and grated carrots
1 c unpeeled and grated zucchini
1/2 c unpeeled and grated beets
1 c chocolate chips (optional)
1/2 c chopped walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°. Grease and flour a 9x13 pan. (I made mine in mini-muffin tin...just adjust bake time depending on what you bake it in).

In a large bowl, mix the oil, applesauce, eggs, and sugar, beating well with a hand mixer or whisk for 3-4 minutes.

In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Stir into wet ingredients. Add shredded veggies, chocolate chips, and walnuts. Stir until blended and pour into prepared pan. Bake 35-40 minutes (mini muffins took about 12 minutes), until toothpick comes out clean.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Creamy Pesto-ish Sauce and Spread

Okay, first of all, what a week. :( My hives that appeared after strawberry picking turned out to be an insane allergic reaction to some still unidentified something. Ick. Last week was a blur of pain, benadryl-induced exhaustion, and doctor's appointments. I barely ate, let alone cooked.

This weekend has brought a bit of relief, though, so I got my butt in gear with our huge supply of greens from this week's CSA share. This recipe used one whole bag of spinach, a bunch of basil (kept fresh from last week's share in some water), a couple handfuls of broccoli rabe leaves, and a few handfuls of parsley and scallions. Pretty good and green for one dish, I thought.

My initial intention for this sauce was on pasta, like a pesto. It was pretty good that way, but today we found an even better use, and ate nearly all of what was left slathered on homemade bread. So good. I'll do my best to add a photo tomorrow when I have some more time, in the mean time here's the recipe.

Pesto-ish Sauce and Spread:

1 lb. bag of fresh spinach, washed, stemmed
3 big handfuls of torn greens (I used brocolli rabe, any greens would work)
1/2-3/4 c. chopped scallions
several handfuls of basil leaves
one handful parsley leaves
2 cloves minced garlic
1 c. lowfat cottage cheese
splash of lemon juice
salt to taste

Steam spinach. While it's steaming, puree garlic and cottage cheese in food processor. Add well drained spinach, greens, scallions, parsley, basil, and puree. Stir in salt and lemon juice.

Once mine was done, it had a little too much fresh-garlic-bite for Lainey. She likes hers with a little extra cottage cheese mixed in. This is a great recipe to help kids eat more green!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Caramelized Fennel Pizza, WOAH!

I've been trying lots of new foods and recipes the past few weeks, and most of them have been quite good, but not meeting the toddler-friendly goal of my blog. I didn't have high hopes for tonight's meal, but we were all more than pleasantly surprised with this one! I tackled our giant bulb of fennel that came in our CSA.
Fennel is something that I've never really had any interest in cooking because, raw, it tastes like black licorice. Yuck. I don't know how anyone actually enjoys black jellybeans, or Good and Plenty's, but I do know that I definitely don't want my dinner to taste like them.

But...since I'm still working on using our veggies and trying new things, I took a chance and tried a Caramelized Fennel Pizza tonight. I made a pizza crust from the "Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day" book (which I will be blogging on soon, this book is awesome!), and here's how I prepared the topping:

Cut off the green stalks and fronds of the fennel. According to my favorite new food bible, "How to Cook Everything" (thanks, Chris!!), you can save these for garnish, or just compost/trash them. (I don't know many people, especially mom's, who ever garnish a dinner...ours went in the compost. :) )
Cut off the bottom of the white bulb, slice thin, and then chop coarsely.
Heat 1 tbsp. olive oil in a pan, add fennel, 1/2 c. sliced scallions (also from our CSA!), and a few shakes each of oregano, thyme, and black pepper.
Cook on med/high heat, stirring frequently, for 15-20 minutes until they darken and get all caramelized.

Cover pizza crust with a thin layer of sauce, sprinkle cooked veggies on top, and dot with hunks of fresh mozzarella (goat cheese would have been even better, I think, but Lainey doesn't like it...I may bake one of each next time!). Bake at 375° for about 20 minutes, until crust is golden.

Once it was caramelized, the fennel didn't really taste licorice-y...I can't really describe the flavor. It was just delicious, and not like anything I've had before. We call things like this "make-again good".
On the side, I made a batch of kale chips with the large bunch of kale that was also in our CSA. This is probably the fifth time I've made kale chips, and every time Lainey tries them she quickly decides that she doesn't like them. She didn't want to try them tonight, but I told her that sometimes we have to try things a few times before we can really tell if we like them or not, so she agreed, and LOVED them. She had several helpings before dinner was even out of the oven. :) Woohoo!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Strawberry Freezer Jam

It's summer weather, and the last thing I want to do these days is spend extra time making lunch. Which means we've been eating alot of PBJ. I know it's not exactly a super healthy lunch, but we use natural peanut butter and 100% whole wheat bread and serve it with a side of fruit and yogurt, or carrots and hummus, so it's not really that bad.

In an effort to make it even better, I decided to make my own jelly. Strawberry season is in full swing, so the girls and I went strawberry picking and brought home 11 pounds of beautiful berries. I desperately want to learn how to can jelly, but that hasn't happened yet so I settled on a big batch of freezer jam for this one. All it took was one afternoon's nap time, and I turned my berries from this...

into this:

Fifteen 1/2 pint jars! Just looking at them on my counter makes my heart flutter. :)

I had to do some hunting around for freezer jam recipes, because the first couple recipes I looked at called for four CUPS of sugar; ick. So I combined a few different recipes I found, and came up with this, honey and fruit juice sweetened version. It came out tasting just like...well, like strawberries. Fresh, perfectly ripe strawberries.

Even though you can use plastic storage containers, I used 1/2 pint glass Ball jars; mostly because we try to avoid food storage in plastic, but also because the jars just look pretty :)

Here's the recipe:

I started with 4 of my green berry boxes of strawberries (I think about 6 pounds worth), washed and stemmed. Mash the berries in a large bowl. I left a fair amount of chunks in mine. After they were all mashed, it totaled about 8 cups.

Place jar lids in a pot of hot/simmering water; don't boil them.

In a large saucepan, mix well 1 cup of juice (recipe suggested apple or white grape, but I used a citrus and fruit mix I had and it was fine), 1 cup of water, and 2 packages of "No Sugar Needed" Fruit Pectin (until it's dissolved). Heat to a boil, stirring occasionally. Once it's boiling, stir constantly for one full minute. Turn off heat, mix in 1/2-1 c. honey. I did closer to 1/2 c because it tasted really sweet already, but just do it to your taste. Then pour this mixture into your mashed berries and give it a stir.

Ladle into pre-sanitized jars (I boiled mine, but you could also use the sanitize option on the dishwasher). Put a lid on top, press around the edges, and put on the ring TIGHTLY.

That's it! I let mine cool on the counter to set a little, then put the jars right into the box they came in and put them in the freezer.

And, now, here's the kicker. After spending one full morning picking the strawberries, and one afternoon making them into jam, I ended up with INSANE hives, head to toe. They got worse and worse, so I finally broke down and went to urgent care. The doctor I saw believes that my up-to-my-elbows in strawberries has triggered an allergic reaction. I'm on a myriad of anti-histamines, and even have to keep an epi-pen in the house. So, I have FIFTEEN jars of delicious homemade jelly that I can't eat, just teasing me every time I open the freezer. :(

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

CSA, Cabbage, Chris, and Kimchee

Last week started our third summer of beautiful, fresh veggies from Denison Farm CSA (community supported agriculture). For those of you unfamiliar with how a CSA works, members buy a "share"of the farm's bounty, and get a box full of local, fresh produce every week. It's delightful. :)

It's also a little overwhelming. Inevitably, every summer, I find myself falling behind and some of my amazing produce ends up in the compost pile. And it's usually the vegetables I think I don't like (this is often a based on a taste test I had at the age of 12). Not this summer. I'm trying new recipes, sharing with friends, and taking advantage of our new chest freezer in the basement.

Our first box included a MASSIVE head of Chinese cabbage. Since I usually give away my cabbage, I had no idea what to do with it. Thanks to my friend, Chris, for this cooking leap...see the recipe she shared here . I made kimchee, which not only have I never made before, but I've never even eaten before. How's that for trying new things? :) It's still fermenting here on my counter, so I can't report how it came out, but it sure looks pretty.

Here's my cabbage/carrot mixture (I tried carrots instead of radishes as requested by Chris!) in the 12-hour soak (which became the 23-hour soak...ah, well).

And here's my final mixture, fermenting, with my sweet Sarah looking on.
Since fermentation takes at least 3 days, stay tuned for my taste-test results...!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

From the Lousy Advice Department: 'Everything in moderation'

from my guest blogger and husband, Mike:

Everything in moderation. It must be the most commonly doled advice on what constitutes a healthy diet- and it’s also among the worst advice. I hear it all the time, and I bite my lip. But now that I have my wife’s blog as an official platform to vent, let me tell you why I find this phrase so annoying. Let’s set aside for a moment the consideration that our society has lost all sense of moderation when it comes to diet - clearly our barometers are off. We should not trust ourselves to intuitively know what is 'moderate' consumption. But there is a better reason to ignore this trite expression- it’s complete BS. We should not eat everything in moderation. Nutritionists and scientists tell us that there are lots of foods that we'd be wise to avoid whenever possible, and others that we should eat in abundance. For example- fresh fruits and veggie’s in abundance, red meat scarcely (Cancer, Heart Disease anyone?), and Hot Pockets never.

So, what should we eat and how much? Fortunately, the folks at the Harvard School of Public Health have published a terrific tool to demonstrate what is worth eating lots of, and what it best avoided. Its called the
Healthy Eating Pyramid. Basically, they have taken the FDA’s food pyramid and reworked it to reflect modern science and, more importantly, removed the influence of corporate lobbyists that has plagued the FDA’s recommendations. It rebukes much of the lousy nutrition advice we were taught as kids - from ‘everything in moderation’ to what constitutes a balanced meal. Probably just about anyone who reads this blog is already eating a healthy diet- but I highly recommend checking this out. At the very least it will give you a tool to reference the next time you hear someone suggest 'everything in moderation.'

p.s. Thanks to my lovely wife for inviting me to write this guest blog. And thanks for all the awesome meals! Without you, I would be living on PBJ with an occasional grilled cheese.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

What's for Dinner Wednesday, quick!

What a beautiful day today...I'm loving this time of year. We picked up our first box in our CSA for the year today late in the afternoon, so I didn't have alot of time to cook. Dinner tonight was quesadillas made with the random leftovers in the fridge, and green salad on the side. They were all delish.

#1: leftover shredded chicken, saurkraut, russian dressing and swiss cheese (my favorite one!)
#2: leftover shredded chicken, leftover diced tomato (from salad), cheddar cheese, and a smear of mayo
#3: leftover bean medley (see previous post) with cheddar cheese

This dinner was perfect; everything was all prepped, I didn't have to turn on the oven, and it was on the table in about 15 minutes. Mmm.