Thursday, June 28, 2012

Quick Fix

Well, it's no secret I've been slacking on trying out/sharing recipes lately.  I am struggling a little bit with the timing of the CSA pick up.  It's really not a big deal, but previously, I would go through magazines and cookbooks on Sunday, see what looks good and make a grocery list/meal plan based on my findings.  Now we get the mystery box on Tuesday afternoon and every week I say "I have to make a plan and go shopping on Tuesday or Wednesday" and I don't.  So far though, it hasn't mattered.  We almost always have rice, pasta, or some other grain on hand.  Meat is usually cheaper when you buy in bulk so we've had that on hand.  With a big o'll box of veg we've been doing just fine....but I haven't been trying out recipes.  So here are some of what we have been eating.  These don't require a recipe so see what you think~
This is a sampling of this week's box.  We're just getting started on it, but there are plenty of uses for leafy greens and root vegetables.
This salad rocked.  A meal in itself, it contained three types of lettuce, leftover grilled chicken, fresh cilantro, a little corn, a few black beans, some avocado, shredded cheddar, tomatoes and a few tortilla chips in there for crunch.  It was dressed with a little bottled taco sauce and a dollop of lite sour cream, garnished with chives.  Totally satisfying, no cooking involved (except for the chicken cooked a day or two before).  The kids love this too.  Don't be afraid to offer a "big salad" to the kids for dinner.
Here we have fried rice.  We had a bunch of steamed rice left over from the fabulous 40th birthday party Nelsy had for me (we had really good Thai and Laotion food).  Fried rice works best when the rice is leftover so if you have time some evening, cook up some rice and throw it in the fridge when its cooled to use another day.  In this dish we used the napa cabbage, scallions, carrots and spinach.  There is also some broccoli, bean sprouts and egg in there.  Use a little soy sauce or Hoisin sauce to season it with.  Oh, there's pork loin leftovers in there too!  Again, using leftover meat and fresh veg for a quick fix.
Top with a little Sriracha and you got yourself a really tasty, quick meal.  This stuff is pretty spicy but I'm hooked on it.
Next we have what Nelsy and I call "High Pasta", which was a menu item at one of our favorite brew pubs in Eugene, OR.  It's been so long since we had it at the High Street Brewery and Cafe that I can't remember exactly how they did it, but this is our version.  Cook up some pasta of your choice, toss with a few spoons of pesto (Remember when I advised you to make some with that extra basil and freeze it?  That would be handy now).  Then you toss it with a huge pile of fresh spinach (because a big pile wilts down to next to nothing!) and I like to add black beans too.  Then you top it with fresh chopped tomatoes, shredded parm, fresh basil and a few toasted pine nuts.  That whole meal takes about 12 minutes to make.  Not too shabby.
This week we had a few things that we had never cooked before.  Those white ones are called salad turnips and the purple thing is kohlrabi. 
We peeled and chopped the kohlrabi along with a large carrot, a small potato and and a little onion.
We tossed it with a little olive oil, some fresh chopped thyme and salt and pepper.  It was really good and the house smelled awesome.
We had it with grilled steak and salad.  The white bits on the salad were the turnips, raw.  They were pretty good! Phoebe was really into them.  I'll have to do some research to see how else we can use them.  I was going to end with a potato salad I made the other night but I think I may have over loaded you already.  So instead, I leave you with this bit of wisdom from the cap of a Magic Hat I had the other night:
Those people at Magic Hat are just full of sound advice.  Cheers!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Feed the Need, Out and About

We just had a really great weekend, and not so shockingly it pretty much revolved around food.  For the most part any way.  We joined a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) this year and although we've only had two pick-up's, we are really loving it.  So the way this works is, you find a farm in your area that sells CSA farm shares and pay a flat rate at the beginning of the season (for us it's June-October) and each week you pick up a box of vegetables at your designated location.  I love that each week is a mystery and we work around whatever we get.  The farm we signed on with is Early Morning Farm and it is certified organic.
This was what came in last week's box.  There were carrots, Swiss chard, bok choi, parsley, red leaf lettuce, arugula, leaf lettuce, snap peas, sunchokes and spinach.  I think that's everything.  We pick our box for this week up tomorrow and all we have left is some arugula.  Not bad right?  We are eating our veggies, that's for sure.
One thing that I really liked about the whole CSA set up is trying things that I may not have otherwise thought to try.  Like sunchokes for example.  These gnarly little rooty gingerish looking things are pretty darned delish.  We had them roasted last week (with other root vegetables) and tonight we had them sauteed and tossed with spinach. Yum.
Each week we get an e-mail from the farm telling us what we're getting and what they're up to.  This weekend they had an open house so we decided to check it out.  Now we know exactly where all that chard is coming from!
And we are excited about all these tomatoes in the works (and there are a ton of them!). 
And as a little bonus, we also got to check out a couple of visiting llamas.  They make for some seriously soft yarn.
Since the farm is so close to Ithaca, we decided to spend the first part of the day checking out the gorges and waterfalls.  We had a blast and got in a pretty good workout to boot!
The kids were really into all the falls and determined to go swimming despite the 64 degree water temps.  Me, not so much.
Phoebe even braved the diving board at Robert Treman State Park.  She liked that about as much as Space Mountain in Disney World (aka, not a fan, won't be doing that again).
During the first half of the weekend we went berry picking near Otisco Lake.  It was a beautiful day out there.
We picked a bunch of strawberries.  They were a little on the small side but really, really tasty.  Some of the best I've had.  We did have to work for them though (maybe we were a little late).
Here's a little sampling of our haul (along with a lovely bouquet picked for me by Phoebe).  So all in all it was a great weekend, we saw some sights, learned new things, and got some serious exercise (I was pretty sore by bedtime last night!).  Next time I'll fill you in on what we've been doing with all this great food!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Gnarls Barley

Tis the season for boat loads of leafy greens.  We have planted our garden for the third consecutive year and it seems to be pretty fantastic thus far in the early stages of the growing season.  Since the last two years didn't pan out so well, we also joined a CSA, just to be on the safe side (which is a whole other topic for another day).  Needless to say there is no shortage of green in these parts.
Here's a little sample of what's taking place in the garden.  We have a vibrant row of rainbow chard.
A couple of rows of spinach (which looks so good but we've received a pound and a half each week from the CSA so I think we'll let this go a bit longer).
We also have a nice lettuce mix and a variety of herbs (dill, basil, parsley, cilantro, etc.).
We like fresh greens and steamed greens and green smoothies too.  But clearly we are going to need to get creative.  This Barley Risotto recipe was posted on Facebook by Food Inc. and I immediately looked it up and saved it.  Of course I had grocery store greens to use up since I had no idea what was coming in the box last week!
I am a big barley fan.  I'm not even sure why because I haven't really had it all that much.  I was craving it before I ever had it in anything but beef barley soup.  This one cup of pearl barley goes a long way in this recipe.
There is minimal chopping involved here.  Just a couple of medium carrots and some garlic.  Have it ready because risotto is an attention hog and does not want you to do much of anything else while its on the stove besides stirring (and stirring and stirring).
First you toast the barley in a hot pot for a bout 5 min until it turns a few shades darker.  Then you add the oil, garlic and carrot and some salt and pepper.  You cook it for about 2 min and then add some white wine.  Cook that until it's mostly absorbed.
Then you stir in hot vegetable broth one cup at a time stirring constantly until barley is tender.  This takes about 5 or so cups of liquid and about 30 min.  While this is not difficult to do, you are pretty much a slave to the stove for that 25-30 min.  I do believe it is worth it though!
Once it's cooked through you add a little butter and a little shredded Parmesan cheese and stir in your greens until wilted.  This calls for spring mix but I think you can use what ever your garden groweth.
The finished product is so rich and creamy and delicious.  If you don't want this to be the whole meal, I'd serve it along side some grilled pork loin and a nice leafy green salad.  Click the Barley Risotto link for the recipe and article by the chef that created it, enjoy!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

What to Stew

Wow.  I feel like the last few weeks have been a little nuts.  I have been making dinner and trying a few new things but haven't had a chance to put it all together to share.  Then I remembered the Mexican Fish Stew that I've been meaning to tell you about.  As I have probably mentioned before, when the girls and I get together we almost always end up on the food topic at some point and almost always if fish comes up, one or more will mention that they want to eat more fish but just don't know what to do with it.  I am always glad to find a new good (and of course easy) fish recipe to pass along.  Once again this is courtesy of Food TV Magazine.
This recipe calls for tilapia fillets.  We, for what ever reason are just not huge fans of tilapia so Nels picked up some other variety of mild white fish from our favorite local fish market, Fins and Tails.  I should also mention that the amount of fish in this photo (is what we used) is excessive.  So, to get started, you put the fish in a dish and season with some salt, pepper and lime and set it aside.
Then you're going to cook up some potatoes and corn on the cob in  salted water until tender.
While those are cooking you are going to (make the house smell awesome when you) cook up some onion and thyme, garlic, chile powder and cilantro and eventually a can of diced tomatoes.
Next, you add the potatoes, corn and a little of the cooking water.  Add the fish and it's marinade to the skillet and simmer while spooning the sauce over the fish to help it cook.  Again, the fish in this picture is a bit excessive.  Your pan won't be this crowded, I'm sure.
So that's that.  Not too difficult and only takes 30 minutes.  Not bad.  We really liked this, and I will make it again for sure.  It does have a chowdery sort of feel,  might work well on the clam bake scene this summer.  Give it try, see what you think.

Mexican Fish Stew (Food Network Magazine)

4 6-oz tilapia fillets, each cut into 4 pieces
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
3 limes (2 juiced, 1 cut into wedges)
1/2 lb new potatoes, thickly sliced
4 small pieces frozen (or fresh) corn on the cob
2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion finely chopped
1/2 tsp dried thyme
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbs chile powder (calls for ancho or New Mexico but I used whatever was in the cupboard)
1 bunch cilantro, leaves and tender stems coarsely chopped
1 15-oz can no salt added diced fire roasted tomatoes

Put the fish in a shallow dish and season with salt and pepper.  Add the lime juice and toss; set aside.  Put the potatoes in a saucepan, cover with water and season with salt.  Bring to a boil; add the corn and cook, covered, until vegetables are tender, about 8 min.  Reserve 1 cup of cooking water, then drain.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add all but 1/3 cup of chopped onion along with the thyme and cook until soft, about 2 min.  Add the garlic, chile powder and half of the cilantro and cook, stirring, about 2 min.  Add the tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly reduced, about 4 min.  Add potatoes, corn and reserved cooking water.

Add the fish and lime marinade to the skillet and simmer, spooning sauce over the fish, until cooked through, about 5 min.  Season with salt and pepper.  Serve in bowls and top with remaining cilantro and onion and a wedge of lime.
Hasta la vista amigos! 

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Bits and Pieces

“Give a child a meal; you have fed him for today. Teach a child to choose Real Food; and you have nourished him for a lifetime.” – Kim Gerber, Out of the Box Food

I have to say, that I'm really glad that the obesity problem in this country is getting so much attention.  People are talking about it, some are even acting on it (baby steps I suppose) but at least it has become a topic of discussion.  There are many points of view, some that make more sense to me more than others but I think there are three main culprits to be aware of.  We don't move enough, we eat too much and processed foods are definitely adding to the problem.  I think we need to take some responsibility for ourselves and for our kids and get moving, watch our portion sizes and eat real food. The purpose of this blog was to share recipes that I have found and tested out so that people would be encouraged to feed their families real food.  Hopefully it's worked on at least one or two people so far!  Today I thought I'd share a couple of tips to make those homemade meals easier, better and maybe even more frequent.
Anyone who has been reading along knows what a big herb fan I am.  Fresh herbs can really make a  meal.  If you have a garden, flower box or even a flower pot you can grow enough basil to keep you going for a while.  They often sell it in the grocery store as a whole plant.  Just plop it in some dirt and water it once in a while.
If you don't want to deal with caring for herb plants, I have a couple of suggestions for dealing with the leftovers that you bought. Many times a recipe will call for a few tablespoons or a 1/4 cup of fresh basil or cilantro or what have you.  If you're not one to use fresh herbs several times a week, you don't need to let them go to waste.
My first choice would be pesto of course.  Throw what you have in the blender or food processor with a few cloves of garlic, salt, pepper and olive oil to thin it out (see earlier posts with specific recipes for pesto) and that is it.  You can even freeze it for later use.
Use the pesto to dress up some turkey burgers or whip up a quick pasta prima vera.  Saute a few veggies (whatever is on hand) and add the pesto and a little chicken broth to the pan to thin it out, delish.  I do want to comment on chicken broth though.  I noticed that one of the store brands we were buying has MSG in it.
There is a reason no one has (or should have) this in their spice rack anymore.  It's not good for you.  There are plenty of brands that don't have MSG so just take a look before you buy.
The next best thing to do with those herbs that you don't want to let wither away in the back of the fridge, is to make herb butter.  What a quick and tasty way to snazz up your salt potatoes this summer.  Just soften a stick of butter by letting it come to room temp.
Chop your herbs really small and fold them into the butter.
Put the herb butter on a piece of parchment or wax paper.
Roll it into a nice little log, sushi style.
Fold up the ends, pop it in a bag and throw it in the freezer.  Don't forget its in there though!
As long as we're onto freezing things, here are two more tips.  When you use that one tablespoon of tomato paste for a recipe and you don't know what to do with the rest...freeze it.  Whoever thought of this was brilliant.  I have never used a whole can of tomato paste in one (month) day.  I freeze it in tablespoon size portions so it perfect to grab just what you need.
Ever go berry picking?  It's hard to stop and then you end up with way more berries than you can eat before they go bad.  Then you try to give them to the neighbors, only to find that they went berry picking too.  The always thinking Nelsy, took a whole mess of these berries and froze them on a cookie sheet and then put them into bags in the freezer.  Guess who is now working on the last of last summer's strawberries (perfect for smoothies!) just in time to go pick some more.  I'm all out of bits and pieces to pass along for today, go eat some real food already!