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Archive for June, 2012|Monthly archive page

One Huge Zucchini; 2 [Healthy] Ways to Use It

In American, Beans, Bread, Breakfast, Challenge, Dessert, Quick Meal, Soup, Vegan, Vegetables on June 28, 2012 at 2:36 pm

Zucchini next to a marker for size comparison.

I usually don’t complain about getting too much zucchini.  It’s one of those veggies my hubby will always eat, and that’s definitely a bonus.  For those who know me, I tend to enjoy my veggies as close to natural as possible.  I don’t usually fry/bread them, nor do I smother in butter or stuff them in puff pastry.  This week, however, I made a slight exception.  In our share this week, we got 2 kinds of zucchini: 2 smaller yellow kind (yes, there is a difference between yellow summer squash and yellow zucchini), and either 1 HUGE green zucchini or large patty cake squash.  Of course, I chose the zucchini.  This guy in front of me in line said his family is not really into zucchini, so he chose the patty cake squash.  We got into a bit of a conversion about how we were going to prepare each of our choices, and I said “this is going into a zucchini bread!”

For some magical reason, I thought you needed a lot of zucchini for a zucchini bread.  I also thought the larger and juicier, the better.  I didn’t have a recipe, so before searching the web I messaged my mother-in-law for hers, knowing that it was Nick-approved.  When she sent it over, she did warn me that it is basically a cake.  I made a few adjustments to lower both the sugar and fat, and also bumped up the fiber by using some whole wheat pastry flour.  Here’s my version.  P.S. this is also a vegan recipe!

Low-Fat [Mostly] Whole Wheat Zucchini Bread

Makes 2 loaves, or 24 muffins

1.5 ripe bananas, smashed or thinly sliced
1/2 cup unsweetened apple sauce
1/2 cup oil (I used unrefined extra virgin coconut oil)
2 cups shredded unpeeled zucchini (less than half of my huge one!)
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup unbleached white flour
1/3 cup agave nectar
1/3 cup blackstrap molases (or just double the agave)
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp fine sea salt
t tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
Zest and Juice of 1 lemon

Preheat the oven to 350º.

Just as an FYI, the first 2 ingredients are swaps.  The original recipe calls for 1 cup oil and 3 eggs, but you can replace half the oil for apple sauce, and half a banana for every egg.

In a large bowl, I mixed the bananas, apple sauce and oil with a hand mixer.  For coconut oil, it needs to be warmed to liquify, so just heat on a stovetop or microwave for a few seconds.

Once everything is blended, it’s time to add all the other ingredients, and then you can just mix by hand with a spoon for a minute until everything is incorporated.

The batter! Since there are no eggs, very easy to lick the bowl :).

I divided the mixture as best as a cold between two loaf pans; they probably weren’t 100% even.  Then I set them in the oven to bake, up to 60 minutes.  I started checking at 45, and took mine out at 55 (although there was such a marginal difference in those 10 minutes).

These loaves didn’t rise as high as I expected; but then again, I admit I am not a baker.  They were, however, moist and delicious.  Not too sweet, and perfect for a snack or breakfast.

I had mine with a lil peanut butter; Nick liked his with chocolate peanut butter.

I took the liberty of calculating the nutrition for both the original and my low-fat version.

Original Zucchini Bread 
(Includes 1 cup oil, 2.5 cups sugar, eggs, and bleached flour)

Per slice (1/24th of recipe):

Calories: 231.61
Fat: 9.91
Carb: 33.86
Fiber: 1
Sugar: 21.22
Protein: 2.73

Not awful; but my version is a bit more figure-friendly.

Low-Fat [Mostly] Whole Wheat Zucchini Bread 
(Uses half the oil, subs banana and apple sauce, and uses only 2/3 cup sweetener)

Per slice (1/24th of recipe):

Calories: 132.92
Fat: 5.08
Carb:  21.12
Fiber: 2.34
Sugar: 7.66
Protein: 2.08

My version is 100 calories less, and has about half the fat.  It also skims off nearly 14 grams of sugar, and doubles the fiber!  Now I don’t feel so bad about having a second slice :).

I baked these loaves while making dinner one night (that recipe will follow in another post).  I still had more than half of that huge zucchini left!  I decided the next night I’d make a soup out of the remains.  It was also a great vessel for using up all that extra cilantro.  It’s a really simple recipe, and it packs a lot of flavor!  I haven’t tried yet, but I’d assume it would be great served chilled as well!

Pureed Zucchini and Cilantro Soup

Makes about 11-12 cups (just guestimating based on what was served and leftover)

1 quart low sodium vegetable broth
2 cups water
4 cups chopped zucchini (I’d say 3-4 normal sized ones)
1 medium onion, chopped (about 1.5 cups)
1 bunch cilantro leaves (about 1 cup packed tightly)
1 cup cooked chickpeas
Salt and Pepper to taste

Boil the broth and water over high heat until they boil.  While waiting to boil, chop up he zucchini and onion.

Add the veggies and chickpeas to the pot with salt and pepper, reduce the heat to a rolling boil, and cover slightly to cook for 15 minutes.  While that’s happening, remove all the stems from the cilantro; you just want to use the leaves.  If you’re making this recipe just to use up the cilantro you have from another recipe, don’t worry about needing the whole bunch.  If you use half or 3/4 I’m sure it will still taste great!  Make sure to reserve a couple of stems with leaves for garnish.

Super Green! That’s what happens when you wash and prep properly.

All the stems removed.  Took about 8-10 minutes to do, but well worth it!

After 15 minutes, add the cilantro.

 

Then, if you have it, whip out your emersion blender and get to work!  If you don’t, just ladle   the soup in batches into a regular blender.

 

Let the newly mixed soup cook for 5 minutes more, then it’s time to serve!
At first, I was nervous about using so much cilantro, but it was surprisingly really
complementary to the zucchini.  It gave the soup a fresh layer, as well as some zing and spice.  It also helped me to use up all my cilantro!  Hooray!
There you have it: two healthy ways to use zucchini.  Both required some innovation, but were certainly worth it.  I’m sure if you have a garden and your zucchini is overflowing, you’ll want to add these recipes to your repertoire.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!

Ramen for Grown-ups

In Chinese, Japanese, Pasta, Quick Meal, Salad, Soup, Vegetables on June 27, 2012 at 12:58 pm

I’m sure at some point in your life you’ve all gone through a ramen noodle phase – 10 packages for 1 buck fits any student or non-for-profit professional’s budget.  I experienced ramen overload in elementary and junior high school.  It was one of the very few things I could cook without making a mess or burning the house down.  My sister and I would take turns or work together to make the soup, and it was a great after school snack.  Once I could actually understand labels and ingredients, I started to shy away from ramen, cup of noodles, or any other packaged noodle soup that had a flavor packet included.  As an adult, I still can’t really stand ramen, even if it’s at a restaurant.  I find that it’s even saltier than its packaged version, and I feel so bloated and thirsty after, and then an hour later I’m still hungry.

One soup I still like is egg drop soup.  Chemicals and MSG aside, it’s a pretty filling appetizer.  I used to order it frequently with my Chinese delivery, but after confirming that every place uses chicken broth I’ve stopped.  Since then, I’ve learned to make it on my own!  It’s even better than delivery, in my opinion, and much healthier, too.  If you add noodles and/or dumplings, it can become a meal all on its own!  Just remember to add some veggies in there.  Since it had rained Monday, the kitchen was cool enough to make some of this soup for dinner.  Luckily I still had some Pok Choy left on its last limb, and a fresh bunch of Bok Choy, so I had plenty of material to create a well balanced one-pot meal.

Egg Drop Soup with Bok Choy, Udon, and Dumplings

Serves 4 as an appetizer, 2 as a main

1 quart (32 oz) vegetable broth (chicken broth if not vegetarian)
1 tbsp low sodium soy sauce
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1 tsp ginger, minced
2 cup tightly packed chopped Bok Choy (or other greens like collards, napa cabbage, watercress, etc)
2 tsp corn starch
1 egg + 2 egg whites, lightly beaten

Cooked noodles (I used whole wheat udon) and dumplings (I used both shrimp and chicken gyoza for Nick)

I boiled some water for the udon noodles, and cooked them according to the box.  During that time, I worked on the soup.

I brought the broth to a boil, and added the soy sauce, scallions, ginger, and Pok Choy (what I had left over from last week).

After about 5 minutes, I spooned out about a tbsp of liquid to mix with the corn starch.

I whisked them together with a fork until it formed a creamy consistency.

I added the mixture to the soup pot, and mixed with a wooden spoon.  Then I let the soup boil a little bit more to thicken, and lightly scrambled the eggs.  Adding the eggs to the pot requires some patience; you have to slowly stream it in and mix the broth with a spoon in the other hand.  Otherwise, the eggs clump up and you don’t get that streamed result.

If you’re gonna make the dumplings, I’d advise cooking them in the noodle pot.  Just add them 2 minutes before the udon is done.  If you try to add them to the soup pot and THEN stir in the eggs, your dumplings will break up into the soup, and that’s no fun.

To serve, spoon in some soup, and then add in as many noodles and dumplings as you’d like.

I also served a simple salad of red leafy lettuce from this week’s share with Japanese carrot ginger dressing.

You can also omit either/or if you’re just diggin’ the broth.  I sometimes prefer just the simple version, smothered with sriracha.  Or, if I’m lucky, I’ve still got some packets of red hot sauce from take out.  Then I’m happier than a school girl with her 10 cent ramen.

It’s Not Easy Being Green

In Breakfast, Challenge, CSA, Fruit, Italian, Pasta, Quick Meal, Salad, Vegetables on June 27, 2012 at 11:52 am

Even though greens are good for you, it’s also important to diversify your plate with a rainbow of colors.  Saturday was my second CSA pickup of the season, and of course there were still tons of green veggies!  I tried my best to pick colors when possible, but I still had SIX fully green items (and one mostly green with some yellow).

Here’s what I came home with.  Let’s start with all the Greens:

  • Escarole
  • Bok Choy
  • Mixed peas (snow and snap)
  • 1 small cucumber
  • 1 HUMONGOUS zucchini
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • 1 bunch swiss chard (yellow, but mostly green)

As for other colors:

  • Red leafy lettuce
  • 2 small yellow squash
  • 3 pints blueberries!!!!!

Before I continue on any other topic, I have to go on a blueberry tangent.  I love blueberries.  They are by far my favorite fruit.  In oatmeal, smoothies, yogurt, or just straight up, I can’t get enough.  When I was a wee young’n, I was the blueberry connoisseur.  I would sit on a lounge chair at my grandparents pool club, individually inspecting every berry by hand, and determined whether it reached my high standards of edibility.  Needless to say, I was very happy about the 3 pints worth this week.  I froze half for smoothies, and kept the other half to eat with oatmeal and yogurt.

Back to everything else…I got home and made some breakfast while starting to clean, prep, and store this week’s bounty.  I still had a squash from the farmer’s market, so I diced that up with some red scallions for an omelet.   I also had blueberries with my oatmeal :).

While preparing the new items, I thought about what was left from my market trips.  I still had some kale left, which is great for smoothies, so that wasn’t a big deal.  However, I also had a whole bunch of cilantro and half a bunch of dill!  The dill is fine to work with, but now I had TWO bunches of cilantro.  I made sure to label both with dates, that way I use up the older batch first.  I also kept the older items in the front of the veggie drawer.

I was also very excited about this HUGE zucchini.  It was perfect for some zucchini bread, which I have yet to make because I tend to have so few pieces that I ration them off for Nick-approved dinners.  Trust me, this zucchini could make 12 loaves of bread.

Zucchini next to a marker for size comparison.

We had a wedding out of town on Saturday, so we packed the car and left shortly after finishing veggie prep.  When we came home on Sunday, I was pretty exhausted, so I made a quick dinner!  I made a salad using the red leafy lettuce, the single cucumber, a red scallion, and some dill with balsamic vinegar (I guess I forgot to take a photo).  I also made a pasta dish – Whole wheat penne with yellow squash and swiss chard.  I cheated by using jarred tomato sauce (Rao’s Marinara – amazing).  I heated the sauce up in a pan with half of the chard and both small squash from Saturday, and let them steam up covered while the pasta cooked.  Then I added the cooked pasta and a smidge pasta water.

Of course, there was parm for topping!  It was pretty fast, delish, and we already got 1/3 lettuce, 1/2 chard, and all yellow squash out of the way.  My biggest challenges this week are 1) using all the cilantro and 2) finding a use for escarole.  I know I’ve said there’s no veggie I hate, but let’s just say escarole isn’t exactly my fave.  Wish me luck!

Cool as a Cucumber

In Greek, Pasta, Quick Meal, Salad, Vegetables on June 21, 2012 at 4:29 pm

Holy balls, it’s hot here in NY!  The past two days have been in the 90s, and the rest of the week not much below that.  Days like these give me second thoughts about turning the oven or stove on.  That’s when salads become my go-to dinner delights!  However, day after day of lettuce can get boring, so I try to mix it up.  I had some leftover salmon from Father’s Day dinner, so I tried to think what salads would pair well with that.  What goes better with salmon than dill!  Luckily I had tons of dill from the farmer’s market, as well as beautiful red scallions and cucumbers.  These all make for a great cucumber salad!  I also wanted some sort of starch, but didn’t want to cook or eat hot foods.  The solution:  make a pasta salad.  Yes, you do have to turn the stove on, but if you prepare the pasta and other ingredients while it’s still cool in the morning, you can let it marinate in the fridge and have it ready for dinner time.

Scallions, Dill, Feta, Red Wine Vinegar, ready for pasta water.

Most people add tons of mayo to their version, but I use flavorful feta cheese and pasta water to create the dressing.  This dish would also be really great with kalamata olives and sun dried tomatoes.  I didn’t have any, so I omitted them.

Greek Style Feta and Dill Pasta Salad

Serves 4-6 as a side dish, 2-3 as a main

6 oz whole grain short cut pasta (I used brown rice penne)
3 scallions, sliced thin
1/4 cup fresh dill, minced
4 oz feta, crumbled
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup pasta cooking water
Fresh black pepper to taste
Olives and/or sun dried tomatoes, diced (optional)

I cooked the pasta 2 minutes shy of the box directions (since the pasta would absorb the dressing during marination), and during that time I prepped all the other ingredients.

Once the pasta was ready, I poured it over the other ingredients, along with some of the water, and mixed everything together.

After letting it cool for about 20 minutes, I put it in the fridge covered to finish marinating.  I also prepped the cucumber salad.

Dill Cucumber Salad

Serves 2

2 kirby or 1 medium sized cucumber, sliced thin
1-2 scallions, sliced thin
2-3 tbsp fresh dill
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
Salt and Pepper to taste

I cut up all the veggies, then combined with the red wine vinegar, salt and pepper, and let it sit in the fridge until dinner time.

Super simple!  Kind of like pickles, but crispier.

When it was time for dinner, I warmed Nick’s portion of salmon in the toaster oven with a dollop of dijon mustard, whereas I preferred mine cold with mustard on the side.

I was lucky that I had pre-cooked salmon, but had I not, I would have cooked it earlier that morning to beat the heat.

Some other salads I’ve been digging are beet greens with roasted beets, goat cheese, and balsamic vinaigrette.  Sometimes I add chickpeas, too!  Don’t ever throw out the beet greens again!

Hope you’re all staying cool out there!  Might I suggest a cucumber?

Two Farmer’s Markets, Two New Finds

In Challenge, CSA, Fruit, Salad, Saving Money, Shopping, Soup, Vegetables on June 20, 2012 at 11:10 am

Since I was such a good girl last week, using up everything from my first CSA distribution, I was left to brave the markets for an in between week.  At first, I was super excited because I could choose what I want, and in what quantity.  However, I have definitely taken for granted the no-fuss convenience of NOT having to decide!  Especially when the pickings are slim – such as they were this weekend.

It was really nice on Saturday, so I wanted to bike to the market (which also ensures I only buy what I can carry in my tote bag).  There are two options on Saturdays near me in Brooklyn – the Borough Hall Market in downtown Brooklyn, or Grand Army Plaza Market in Prospect Park.  I chose the former, because 1) it is closer, 2) there are fewer visitors, and 3) it is only a slight incline to bike there.  There’s a reason Park Slope warrants its name, and biking up that hill definitely proves it.

Unfortunately, the advantage of fewer shoppers at a markets leads to fewer farmers and varieties being present, and thus a vicious cycle of supply/demand.  I always remember there being so many vendors at Borough Hall, but for some reason this was not the case this time.  Maybe it was because I got there towards the end of the day?  There was one super huge farmer, one medium sized, and one small.  Plus the bakers, fish stand, cheese, flowers, etc.  I was really looking for some veggies and fruit, so the farmers were my target.  The larger farmer, as it turns out, is a conventional farmer that sprays the bejubus out of all of its crops.  Yet, they charge organic prices.  Why would I pay $5 for a pint of strawberries that are enriched with pesticides, or $3.50 for collards?  These are slightly more expensive than organic produce at the local grocery.  I know that you should support local farmers, and that the majority of produce in the stores is flown in, but really?  I decided to patronize the smallest farmer, who is not certified as organic, but uses all organic soil, no pesticides, no GMOs, etc, except for 2/3rds of their apple orchards.  I know this because I asked and they answered.  That larger farmer didn’t want to give me a straight answer!

There wasn’t much to choose from, but I got:

  • 1 bunch beets (plus the greens – which is a twofer)
  • 1 bunch rainbow swiss chard
  • 1 small Poc Choi – that’s the newbie!  It’s like Bok Choi, only it has some purple in it.
  • 2 quarts strawberries

I also went to the cheese stand and chose a pecorino infused with truffles, and a soft lightly smoked Gouda style cheese.  Needless to say, my bounty would not cover me for the week!  I cleaned everything up, and figured I’d pick up some stuff midweek if I found time.

Beet greens and stems, perfect for salad or saute.

Beautiful rainbow chard.

Chopped up Poc Choi, for Miso soup or stirfry.

Strawberries! Half cleaned and frozen for smoothies, the other half for oatmeal and snacking.

Packed and labeled!

On Monday, I found some time to make my way to the Union Square Market.  That is the premier NYC Greenmarket, for those who don’t know.  Go on a Saturday if you can, that’s when EVERYONE is there.  Mondays are slower, and fewer vendors.  I biked, again, over the meadow and through the woods.  AKA over the Manhattan Bridge and through China Town.  After surveying the options, I found there was one organic vegetable farmer, and one that used no spray, describing all of their methods on a sheet of paper.  I thought that was really nice, to educate the consumers about what your practices are.  I ended up choosing the organic farmer, and here’s what I got!  No photo of all the bounty because I was in a rush to get home for yoga.  I’ll be sure to include more photos when I write about the ingredients in future posts.

  • Tuscan Kale
  • Wild Purple Kale – newbie!!
  • 2 zucchini
  • 1 yellow squash
  • 2 small cucumbers (I think Persian, not kirby)
  • Purple scallions
  • 1 bunch dill
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • 1 bag bargain lettuce (basically on its last limb, so it was only $1)

I also bought some hard pretzels from a market vendor – some regular, some whole wheat.  Grand total, excluding pretzels, was $21 on vegetables.  That’s a few dollars less than my CSA, so I figured I did good :).

So far, this is what I’ve used:

  • Half the wild kale for a smoothie
  • 3/4 of the berries for oatmeal and smoothies
  • Beets (and greens) for salad
  • Half the Poc Choi for udon soup
  • Rainbow chard (recipe to be posted)
  • 1 zucchini and 1 yellow squash in the chard dish
  • Half the purple scallions (for almost everything!)
  • All the lettuce for a salad
  • About 1/3 of the dill (recipes to be posted)

Stay tuned for all the recipes!

End of Week Recap, Ruby Rhubarb Relish, and What NOT to do with an Avocado

In Breakfast, Challenge, Chinese, CSA, Fruit, Italian, Nuts, Pasta, Quick Meal, Rice, Salad, Saving Money, Seitan on June 19, 2012 at 12:47 pm

Oh, rhubarb…that reddish celery looking crop that pops up in the late spring at farmer’s markets.  I don’t know about you, but the only time I’ve ever had rhubarb was combined with strawberries in a pie, a crisp, or over vanilla ice cream.  As a result, I never knew exactly HOW it tastes on its own.  I’m all for sweets and desserts, but I’d rather waste my calories on chocolate than a vegetable.  Hence, my mission to create a savory rhubarb recipe!  Knowing that rhubarb is biologically a vegetable, and that it is also very tart, wasn’t enough information for me, so last Thursday, I braced myself to taste some raw.  The best way to describe it: celery marinated in lemon/parsley juice.  I know that sounds so weird, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought.  I decided I’d make a relish/salsa kind of deal, since I had some tomatoes and onion.  My other plan was to make a chilled avocado soup as a base to be topped with the relish.  Let’s just say don’t try THAT at home.

Ruby Rhubarb Relish

2 stalks rhubarb, leaves and ends trimmed, diced
3/4-1 bunch radishes, diced
1/4-1/2 red onion, diced
1 pint grape tomatoes, diced
Juice of 1 lime
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Salt and pepper to taste

This was a great way to use up the rest of this week’s veggies.  I diced up all the veggies, the same way I’d do for a gazpacho.

Rhubarb

Radish

Red onion. Wow, a lot of red AND R words!

Tomatoes

After combining all the ingredients, I squeezed the citrus juices, and combined with salt and pepper.

Then I took half (about 1.5 cups) and blended in my Vitamix.

I combined the juice with the rest of the solid veggies, and let them chill overnight.

I tried to remember a recipe for chilled avocado soup, but my mind went blank.  Instead of looking one up, I experimented.  I combined 1 avocado with 1/2 cup each Greek yogurt,  1% milk, and water.  I also added the juice of one lime, some salt, pepper, cumin, and coriander.

It turned more into a mouse than a soup.

I let it also chill overnight, thinking maybe the consistency would change, but to no avail.  For some reason I thought adding more water would fix it, but that made it disgusting.  Next time I will actually use a recipe.

What the mixture was good for was as a dip for crackers or tortilla chips.  I also had a dollop on my omelet.  I used some of the radish greens, the avocado mouse, and the rhubarb relish.  It was tasty.

I’d definitely recommend making this relish.  If you have cilantro, it would make an excellent addition!

I am also happy to report I used EVERYTHING in my share this week!  Here’s a recap:

Veggies

Fruit

Oh, Snap! Stating the Obvious

In Challenge, Chinese, CSA, Quick Meal, Rice, Seitan, Vegetables on June 13, 2012 at 2:51 pm

It’s always very challenging getting children (or child-like spouses) to eat their veggies.  Growing up, we always had salad AND cooked veggies with our dinner.  Whenever I’d tell people me little sister’s favorite food was broccoli, they were shocked and practically reached over to take her temperature.  I never understood how people can really HATE so many kinds of produce.  In fact, as I am writing this, I am thinking of a girl I knew in college who said “I don’t eat anything Green.”  Except green M&Ms.  Really?  She said that in such a way as to convey how proud she was of her strict diet.  Needless to say, this girl was not the poster child for physical fitness.

Racking my brain for any kind of veggie I don’t like, I can only think of half of one – the seeds of a thick cucumber.  It’s really just a texture thing, but I have incredible gag reflexes from the seeds.  However, with the seeds scooped out, I’m really just fine to eat them.  Besides, that’s why they make the seedless kind :).  My hubby, on the other hand, has a laundry list of veggies to avoid.  Some I can understand, because they are bitter or not flavorful, but others are weird.  Like he won’t eat asparagus because of the way it smells AFTER he’s eaten them.  Or how he’ll eat raw carrots but not cooked ones.  Nick, if you’re reading this, sorry to blow up your spot!

Now that it’s CSA season, I really have to pick and choose what less desirable items I can actually get Nick to eat.  For example, braising greens, kale, and anything leafy that isn’t lettuce won’t pass his test and usually gets reserved for my lunches and breakfasts.  Everything else can either be mixed into a pesto, soup or stirfry as a means of concealment.  Of course, come July and August he will see the value in all the tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, and peppers, and I won’t hear a peep of complaints!  Every Saturday that I go to pick up the disbursement, he asks what’s in the bag, and I start the list off with the items he likes.  This week, we got snow peas, which are probably his favorite green veggie.  In fact, any time he works from home and I ask what he got for lunch, he says “shrimp and snow peas.”  When I began the list with the peas, he said “oh, I really like snow peas,” as if we were on a first date and I knew nothing about him.  Silly Rabbit!

Snow peas all cleaned up, ready to be stir-fried in a snap!

Knowing the importance of using leafy greens first, I try to plan my meals by getting those out of the way in the beginning of the week.  To be honest though, I don’t really physically make a menu plan, but rather a mental guide.  Even though these peas could last til the end of the week, Nick was gonna be out of town for a business trip, so I opted to make them on a Tuesday instead of a Friday.  I had all the ingredients  I needed to make a Chinese take-out dish at home: lettuce, snow peas, and garlic scapes from this week’s share; scallions from when I made Mexican slaw; and of course brown rice and chicken that are always on hand.  The only thing missing was some vegetarian protein, so I stopped at the healthfood store to pick up some seitan, and also some ginger since I didn’t have any at home.

You could make this recipe with any kind of protein, and serve it over rice or in a lettuce wrap.  Here it is!  I’m gonna make it a vegetarian title :).  I’d advise doubling the recipe, because it makes great leftovers!

Gingered Snow Peas and Chinese 5 Spice Seitan Lettuce Wraps

Serves 2

3 scallions, greens and whites, thinly sliced
2 garlic scapes (or cloves), thinly sliced
1 tbsp minced fresh ginger root
1 pint snow peas
1 tbsp cooking oil, divided
2 tbsp low sodium soy sauce, divided
8 oz seitan, sliced into medallions
2 tbsp corn starch
1 tbsp Chinese 5 spice
1.5-2 cups vegetable broth
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 tsp red chili paste (Sambal Oelek)
6-8 leafy lettuce leaves, such as Boston or red leafy
Brown rice (optional)

First thing to do is finely slice all the scallions, ginger, and garlic scapes.  For the ginger, I actually used a handheld grater.

Using 1 tsp EVOO in a large wok, I added the aromatics and the snow peas, cooking for only 3-4 minutes.

I transferred the veggies to a bowl and poured a tsp of low sodium soy sauce on top.  While the veggies sauteed, I combined corn starch with Chinese 5 Spice.  This blend includes pepper, star anise, fennel, cinnamon, and cloves.

I dredged the seitan medallions in the mixture.

Shaking off any excess powder, I browned the wheat meat in a tsp of oil (the other tsp was reserved for chicken) for a minute or two on each side.

Then I added the vegetable broth.  You can start with 1.5 cups, and if it thickens up too much add about 1/2 cup more.

You also add the rest of the soy, toasted sesame oil, and red chili paste to incorporate with the sauce.

I transferred to a bowl while I prepped the chicken.  It is the same process as the seitan.  Doesn’t that looks meaty??

Chicken dredged in 5 spice corn starch.

Chicken browning in a wok for 2 minutes each side.

Add vegetable broth, soy sauce, toasted sesame oil, and red chili paste.

You can serve the protein with the snow peas in lettuce wraps (the way I ate mine).

Here comes the airplane!

Come. To. Mamma.

You could also eat it on a plate with rice, like Nick did with his chicken version.

Chinese 5 spice chicken; gingered snow peas; brown rice cooked with a mixture of water and vegetable broth.

Even though we have different tastes, we can eat together in harmony.

A restaurant experience, without the restaurant.

Funny enough, when we sat down to eat, Nick said “oh, snow peas, I like snow peas.”  Seriously?  Then I snapped, and said “duh, I know that, why did you think I made them tonight?”  Isn’t it pretty obvious that 1) I know my hubby well and 2) men don’t listen?  I certainly think so.  But at least I get him to eat his veggies.

How About a Quickie…or Two

In Bread, CSA, Fruit, Italian, Nuts, Pasta, Quick Meal, Salad, Saving Money, Shopping, Vegetables on June 13, 2012 at 12:11 am

With the bounty of cleaned and prepped veggies from this week’s CSA share, I’ve had a lot of ideas for some new recipes.  Especially ones that are super quick.  Think half of a 30 Minute Meal.  Which reminds me , the inspiration for 2 recipes I’ve made thus far is the queen of quick meals, Rachael Ray.  Some people love her, others hate her.  I have to say I kind of hate that I kinda love her.  I must admit that her morning talk show is one of my guilty pleasures, and after I’ve managed to look past her kitschy jargon and painfully bright kitchenware items, I’ve learned a few things from the lady.  Although many of her recipes break my personal calorie/fat budget, and incorporate meat, meat-based stocks, and TONS of bacon, she does make whole and real foods accessible to the masses.  She also happens to love both Italian and Mexican foods, so that will always catch my attention.

A few weeks ago, I caught an episode of her morning show that featured a chef whose new book is all about cooking with super foods, or what he calls “Hero Foods”, as a means of healing his own personal health issues (RA in particular).  It was very interesting to see the correlation between diet and healing, but I’m sure this sentiment was lost on most of the audience.  Later on in the episode, Rachael used two super foods – kale and almonds – to create a caesar style kale pesto pasta.  I’m not a huge advocate of pestos in general, because they usually include a lot of oil, and more than the “in moderation” amount.  However, I liked the idea of pulsing leafy greens into a paste for pastas.  That way I can trick my hubby into eating more veggies, because all the volume is removed and each bite packs a higher concentration of vitamins and minerals.  And what better time than on a Sunday when he is busy doing housework and is starving for the first thing available for inhaling?

Whole Wheat Spaghetti; crushed red pepper; garlic scapes; parmesan cheese; broccoli rabe; raw almonds

Broccoli Rabe and Almond Pesto with Whole Wheat Spaghetti  Adapted from Rachael Ray

Serves 4

8 oz whole wheat spaghetti, or any pasta of your choice
1 bunch broccoli rabe, roughly chopped
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1/4 cup raw almonds
2 garlic scapes, roughly chopped (or 2 cloves garlic)
1-2 teaspoons red chili flakes, depending on desired heat level
Juice of one lemon
1 cup reserved pasta water

I brought the water to a boil in a covered pot.  While waiting, I added all the other ingredients, except pasta, lemon juice and pasta water, to my food processor and let it run until it was all ground up.  I didn’t add any oil, figuring the fats from the nuts and cheese would suffice.

By the way, you could use any greens you have on hand for this recipe.  I picked broccoli rabe because it is the least “gross” green from the share that Nick will kind of eat.

Once the water is boiled, I added salt and the pasta, cooking for 7 minutes.  During that time, I transferred the ground green mixture to a skillet sans oil, and cooked over medium high heat.

A minute or so before the pasta was done, I squeezed some lemon juice to start deglazing the pan.

Once the pasta was ready, I turned off the flame, and added the pasta liquid to the pan to create a more saucy consistency.

After 30 seconds of mixing, I incorporated the pasta.

And then it was time to mangia!  Only 15 minutes after starting!

I thought it was freaking delicious.  Nick said it was prepared excellently, he just still couldn’t get over the actual taste of broccoli rabe.  He actually left some of it in his bowl, like the way a lady leaves something on the plate.  Probably because he was going to see Prometheus  and wanted to save room for butter laden popcorn.

The next day, I wanted to throw something quick together for dinner.  I was thinking of some sort of salad that incorporated the radishes from the share, but then couldn’t really figure out what to pair with it.  While brainstorming with Nick on the phone, I almost gave into buying a couple slices of pizza from the pizza shop!  However, I was a good girl and said I’d just make some pizza instead – only using really thin whole wheat pitas instead of dough.  Pitza is my new go-to for the hubby, being quick and delish!  Since I was going Italian again, I decided to grab an orange and red onion while at the store to add to the salad.  I actually got that idea from Ms. Ray, too.  Once episode she had the cheesemonger from Fairway on to pair cheeses with foods, and one such Italian cheese was added to an orange/red onion concoction.  Seriously, it’s a freaking amazing combo, and if I wasn’t eating cheese on pitza I’d have added cheese to this salad.  It’s also really easy to make and super refreshing.

Whole Wheat Pitza

Serves ones (just multiply for additional loaves – I eat one, and my hubby eats 2-3)

1 thin whole wheat pita (80-100 calorie size)
2 tbsp good marinara sauce
1 oz shredded fresh mozzarella
1.5 teaspoons grated parmesan cheese
veggies and/or meats of your choice (optional)

This is so simple, even a 10 year old could do it!  It’s kind of like english muffin pizzas, only better.  Turn the toaster oven on to 350° (or regular oven, but the toaster oven is way faster).

Spread sauce on pita.  I made 2 at a time.  Then sprinkle the cheeses on each one.

Bake 7-10 minutes, depending on your oven, until crispy brown on top.

Very simple and easy.  I made the salad while it was baking.

Radish, Red Onion, and Orange Salad with Lemon Dijon Dressing

Serves 2

Salad:

4 large or 8 small radishes, sliced thin
1/4 red onion, sliced in crescents
1 navel orange, peeled and sliced thin
1 garlic scape, thinly sliced (or 1 clove garlic, minced)
1 small bunch arugula
3-4 leaves red leafy lettuce

Dressing:

1/2 tsp Dijon Mustard
1 tsp agave nectar
Juice of half a lemon
1 tsp EVOO
Salt and Pepper to taste

I sliced up all the salad ingredients.

Radishes.

Red Onion.

Orange.

Garlic Scapes.

Then I had to chop the greens.  My method of storing arugula wasn’t the best, as I forgot to actually store it in a bag or container, so I had to chop it up finely like an herb, and fill the rest of the bowl with some leafy lettuce.

Red Leafy Lettuce.

Spicy Arugula. Mmmmm.

In a separate bowl, I combined the dressing ingredients with a whisk, and then poured over the salad ingredients to be mixed.

Here’s everything plated up!

Doesn’t that look yummy?  A well balanced meal that only took 10 minutes!  I usually don’t have the pitza for dinner, but I splurged and had one.  They really aren’t so bad for you, only about 200 calories each, which is like half of a real slice of pizza.  As for the salad, super yummy and healthy!  Full of colors, textures, and with a light dressing that is only 35 calories a tbsp.  I swear, that is my last calorie calculation for this post!

There you have it!  Two recipes that take 15 minutes or less, both incorporating real foods like fresh veggies and whole grains.

Here’s a bonus recipe.  This one takes 2 minutes and 1 minute to cleanup.  I had this smoothie today as a pre-yoga snack to hold me over until dinner.

Protein-Packed Green Smoothie

6 oz nonfat Greek Yogurt
1/2 frozen banana
1/2 cup frozen mango
1 tbsp natural peanut butter
2 large handfuls (about 3 cups) chopped kale

Add everything to a good blender (I have a Vitamix).  Blend it.  Pour it in a glass.  Drink it while you clean up.  Or shower. Or walk the dog.

Using white/yellow ingredients allows the greens to really show!

Now, I know that looks like split pea soup, but it’s freaking delicious.  You can’t even taste the kale, but it’s definitely in there.  I use any combo of fruit: blueberries, raspberries, peaches, apples, etc.  However, the more colorful the fruit, the less green/more brown it ends up looking.

Okay, I am finally done for this post!  It took me twice as long to write as it did to prepare everything AND clean up.  I guess that’s because I like to take my time to make everything looks so pretty.  So much for a quickie in the blogging department.

After the Warmest Winter Ever, It’s Summer CSA Time Again!

In Challenge, CSA, Fruit, Salad, Saving Money, Shopping, Vegetables on June 11, 2012 at 11:03 pm

I have to admit I had a hard time sleeping Friday night.  It may have been due to the couple of vodka sodas before dinner, the huge Indian all you can eat 3-course meal, or my husband’s snoring.    On any other weekend, any or all of those factors would probably be the culprit.  However, this particular insomnia felt more like the first day of school jitters.  I couldn’t believe it – Saturday was the first pick-up of the Summer CSA season, and I was too darn exciting to sleep.  Can you say NERD?

For those of you who don’t already know, CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture.  I’ve written about my share in the past, and you can read more about it here.  I am a big advocate of this movement, and would highly encourage anyone looking to save money, eat organically/locally, increase their produce intake, and learn a thing or two about new veggie varieties to take advantage of a program in their area.  What I missed most about the CSA during the winter was that I actually had to figure out what produce to purchase.  I know basically what is in season, especially when shopping at the farmers’ market, but most of this winter I picked up veggies while shopping at the regular grocery store, providing more of a challenge when deciding what really IS my best option.

As I prepared for my sophomore year or membership, I gathered my reusable bags and headed towards the pickup location just a few minutes past 10:00 AM.  Last year I did a full share of just veggies, and I glared longingly at the fruit as my fellow shareholders got their fill of berries, mellon, and apples all season long.  Having a whole year of trial and error the year before, I opted to do a half share this year (every other week) of veggies and fruit, even though the full share is most economical.   It’s not so much using up all the items that proves difficult, but more the inconvenience of having to be home every Saturday morning to pick them up, or finding someone willing to pick up for you.  There were a few Saturdays last year that had my veggies make their way to the food bank, which makes me feel less guilty about the lost weeks.  However, the frequency made the full share not worth the investment, hence the switch this year.  Half shares also enable people to swap weeks, making it more likely to enjoy every week you’ve paid.

The Infamous White Board

This first week included basically everything I expected.  The veggie selection was very similar to last year’s, and this time I knew what to do with all of them!  Here they are, in order of longevity before being thrown in the garbage:

  • Two kinds of salad greens – used for salads
  • Kale – smoothies and lunches
  • Some other leafy green (broccoli rate) – sauté
  • Radishes – salads and roasting (and the leaves can also be used for sautéing)
  • Snow peas (unexpected) – stir fry
  • Garlic scapes – as you would use garlic

The fruit portions included strawberries (a measly 2 pints worth) and some rhubarb.  This is pretty typical for the opening week; as the weeks progress, pints turn into quarts and rhubarb isn’t used to fill the gaps.  Incidentally, did you know that rhubarb is biologically a vegetable, but classified as a fruit just because it is sweetened and used in pies?  What a croc of you-know-what!  My mission this week is to use this red-colored celery like item in something savory, and without using butter, flour, or cheese.  SO yeah, good luck to me on THAT.

Clockwise from top left: Red leafy lettuce, rhubarb, radishes, snow peas, kale, broccoli rabe, arugula, strawberries, garlic scapes

The most important lesson I learned last year was to be a good, diligent girl and wash/prep my veggies as soon as I got home.  That way, the veggies not only last longer, but I’m more likely to use them if they are cleaned, chopped, and ready to go.  I went over my methods previously, which include washing everything leafy first in bowls of water, drying them with large towels, and chopping up to be stored in plastic bags/containers with a lining of paper towel.  I took pictures again of the steps, thinking I’d detail them for this post, but then I realized explaining it again would be kind of boring.  Not just for you, but for me.  If you really want to read details, go back to this post.  What I will do is show you all the photos without a really complex explanation.

Top Row: Strawberries, radish, rhubarb
Middle Row: Broccoli rabe, snow peas, garlic scapes, arugula
Bottom Row: Kale, radish greens, leafy lettuce

Lettuce soaking in water.

Drying on a towel.

Neatly layered between paper towel in a reusable container.

Arugula after soaking in water, drying on a towel, and wrapped in paper towel for storage.

Arugula, broccoli rabe, and kale drying on a towel.

Chopped up kale, great for smoothies!

Here’s the broccoli rabe. I made sure to put the lil floret on top to distinguish between the other greens.

Radishes that soaked in a bowl of water, were scrubbed clean, and roots removed from leaves.

Curly garlic scapes, washed and stored for later.

Snow peas all cleaned up, ready to be stir-fried in a snap!

Strawberries are left unwashed – only wash berries right before you eat them, or else they spoil.

Seriously, how amazing do those berries look?  I had them in my oatmeal the next day, and I’m so sad I’ll only get 3-4 days worth from this week’s share.

Another thing I learned from last year was to use up what I already had before moving onto the newer items, so I paired my oatmeal and berries with an egg white omelet topped with salsa and avocado and a side of the chipotle lime slaw from last week.

The only item I had no idea how to store was the rhubarb, so I just put them on a shelf in the fridge.  Since then, I did a lil bit of Googling and found out you need to wrap them in plastic in the fridge up to a week.  I also searched some recipe ideas, and 99% required sugar, honey, fruit, or juice.  Looks like that will be my biggest challenge.  But I’m ready for it.  Every other ingredient will be gone in no time, and I’ll be forced to actually PICK MY OWN VEGGIES once the next weekend rolls around.

Taco Flavored Kisses

In Beans, Mexican, Quick Meal, Vegetables on June 8, 2012 at 1:32 pm

Whatta you know?  I made tacos de pescado last night.  That means fish tacos for those who don’t speak Spanish.  They are really simple to make, and the fish could even be interchanged with chicken breast or tofu for the veg heads.  May I present to you another dose of Mexican foodness.  As Eric Cartman’s Heniffer Lopez would say (or should I say palm), “I’ll give you Taco flavored kisses, honey….Taco, taco, burrito, burrito, taco, taco.”  Or, I could just give you this recipe.

Please note, those tortillas were not used, since they are too hippy dippy for Nick. He went to the store while I prepped and got whole wheat ones he liked, plus some cilantro that I forgot.

Fish Tacos with Chipotle Lime Slaw

Serves 3-4

Fish:
3/4-1 lb flounder or other thin white fish fillet (grouper, tilapia, sole, flounder, etc), cut into strips
1/4 cup blackening seasoning (I’ve made a recipe and keep it in an old glass jar – can’t seam to locate the link online)

Slaw:
1 small head red cabbage
1 large or 2 small carrots
1/4 tsp sea salt
2 scallions, whites and greens, thinly sliced
Juice of 2-3 limes
1 tbsp chipotle in adobo (more if you like it really spicy)
1 tbsp EVOO
2 tbsp agave nectar
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped

Corn or flour tortillas to serve
Cilantro, lime, avocado for garnish

I got working on the slaw first, since it takes time to work its magic.  After removing the top layer of cabbage, I cut it into quarters, and then cut out the core.  Then I used my handy dandy food possessor to shred that cabbage, that way no knuckle skin gets mixed in :).

Of course, my dog Indy patiently waited for scraps.  Here he is obeying the “Up” command…

…and there he is enjoying his spoils on the couch.  I tried to get closer, but he growled at me.

Okay, back to the kitchen.  I transferred the cabbage mixture to a large bowl and sprinkled on some salt.  Then I massaged the veggies for a minute to release the water.  Grabbing handfuls at a time, I squeezed out the excess liquid, and transferred the dry batches to another bowl.  This is a similar process to the Israeli style slaw I made for Falafel.  Once I got out as much liquid as I could, I placed a plate over the cabbage and weighed it down with a tea kettle.

While that was resting, I sliced up the scallions and had them sit in the fresh lime juice to break down some of the sharpness.

Then it was time to tend to the fish.  On a separate cutting board, I chopped up 2 fillets of wild flounder.

On a plate, I poured about 1/4 cup of blackening seasoning, and then mixed up the fish so every piece was coated.  In a nonstick skillet, I sprayed some EVOO spray over medium high heat and crowded the pan with all the protein.

It only took about 3-4 minutes before it was time to flip.

I went back to the slaw, adding some chipotle, olive oil, and agave to the bowl.

I mixed the dressing together and combined it with the cabbage in the bigger bowl (don’t worry, I used that tupperware to store the leftovers).

Then it was assembly time!  I warmed a tortilla over an open flame for 10 seconds on each side, then layered some slaw, fish, and sliced avocado.  I added some black beans on the side that were frozen from chili relleno leftover.

Here’s a close-up.

Purty Colors.

I had everything without the tortilla.

Nick finished his dinner off with a Margarita.  I am known as the margarita maker amongst family and friends.  They are really simple to make.

Technically, the ratio is 7 parts tequila, 4 parts triple sec, and 3 parts lime juice.  If I’m making a bunch, I try to follow those proportions, but for just 1 person, I generally do 2 parts tequila, and 1 each triple sec and lime.

Margarita for One

4 oz Herradura Silver Tequila
2 oz triple sec
Juice of 2 limes, freshly squeezed
Sea salt or kosher salt for rim

In a shaker with ice, pour in all liquid ingredients.  Using the leftover lime after being juiced, ring the rim and dip into a plate of salt.  Shake the mixture, and pour straight up into the garnished glass.

Pretty basic, huh?  You could be real fancy and sub some or all of the triple sec with agave nectar.  Or you could add more tequila.  Whatever floats your boat.