I chose to sign up for the Titus Farms CSA mainly because you can by a half share every other week. I definitely can't use everything that comes in a whole share, and even a half share every week might be too much some weeks. This way I won't feel overwhelmed with produce and can still make my weekly trips to the market to supplement my box with a few items that Titus may not grow. I got to know the people at Titus this year, and they seem to be really nice people and have quality produce (I know that I've had their cabbage, potatoes, leeks, and peppers, and all were quite good). Oh, and the other good thing about Titus is that you get to pick what's in your box each week. So, if they have 15 kinds of things one week, you get to pick a certain amount of things so that you get what you want, while still getting to try new things. I can't wait for June!
Friday, December 19, 2008
Community Supported Agriculture has become more and more available, and I just signed up for a share for next summer and fall! The basic premise is that you buy a share of a farm's output in advance and then you get a box of food every week (or in my case every other week). There's a slight risk because you can't count on getting specific crops because the weather may screw things up, but most farms grow such a wide variety of veggies, fruits, and herbs that it's very likely that you'll get a whole lot of things even if they lose a few. And they're usually very affordable; although it seems like a lot of money when you pay it at once, it's far less than you would pay for veggies at the grocery store. Plus you get to support a local farm!
Thursday, December 18, 2008
The beginning of this week was brutally cold (highs in the teens with wind chills in the single digits). That, combined with a stressful week (including constant fire alarm tests!) meant more comfort food. You thought I was kidding, didn't you? I don't think I've had meatloaf in about 4 years, but that's what came to mind. I don't like anything fancy with my meatloaf, so I made this basic recipe from Quaker. I didn't measure anything, and I think I changed the proportions quite a bit (I only had about 3/4 lb meat, but probably used closer to the actual amounts of everything else that the recipe called for). I also used tomato paste instead of sauce and added some minced garlic. It's really good, especially with the roasted red potatoes that I made with it. It has been a bit dry warmed up, but it was perfectly moist the night I made it. I'm not sure what to do about that, but it's not bad enough to worry.
I already miss the wheat berries. The salad got so many compliments, and I had several people ask for the recipe (and MANY requests to explain wheat berries - "no, you don't harvest the flour"). Anyway, I gave some away, and I somewhat regret that because it only gave me enough for about 2 more servings. I suppose I'll have to make more while I'm home...
Saturday, December 13, 2008
I'm going to a holiday party tomorrow night and need to bring something, but it has to be something I can make in advance because I'll have to go straight from the lab. I was looking around for recipes, and thought that this would be a great time to try out the wheat berries that Dad got me for my birthday. I used a recipe for wheat berry salad as a guide and went to town. After the berries were cooked, I tasted a few to make sure they were done, but I couldn't stop eating them plain! Anyway, I threw everything else with them, and it's really good. It's a good thing I'm really full from eating the oranges after I juiced them because otherwise I might not have any salad left to bring to the party. I bet it will be even better tomorrow once the flavors have gelled together.
I'm glad I like the wheat berries because I picked up some that were on the clearance rack at the natural foods store (I'm not sure why they were on clearance, and I'm sure they won't be as good as the ones Dad got, but they'll do). I'll have to experiment more with them (next on the docket might be a risotto...).
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
Crock pot jambalaya and a roasted vegetable marathon (carrots, rutabaga, potatoes, cabbage, butternut squash)
I've done a lot of cooking in the last few days because starting tomorrow I'll be in the lab until at least 8 every night for the next 4 days, and I need to have leftovers ready. This weekend I made chicken and shrimp jambalaya in the crock pot. I screwed it up a little bit, but it tastes really good. While it still had a little while to cook (according to the recipe), most of the liquid had been absorbed by the rice. I wasn't thinking about the fact that maybe it was almost done, so I added more water. Of course the rice had absorbed all that it could and I couldn't make any evaporate. So, it turned out somewhat gummy, but the flavors are still great. I think that my crock pot cooks faster than the one they used for that recipe book (the grits were done faster, too), so I need to keep that in mind next time.
Then yesterday I went crazy with the roasting. I did a medley of root vegetables - carrots, rutabaga, and potatoes - tossed in olive oil, thyme, and rosemary. That took forever to cook, but it's very hearty and is the perfect winter food. I also did some green beans (a repeat of Thanksgiving) and some cabbage. The cabbage is super tasty this way. I cut it into small wedges, tossed it in olive oil and salt and pepper, and then poured some balsamic on it once it was cooked. The only problem was that some of the outer leaves fell off of the wedges and cooked a lot faster than the big chunks. They started to get burnt before the other was even tender. Next time I'll probably separate all of the wedges a bit more. I highly recommend trying this, but keep an eye on it and stir it frequently.
And today I roasted more butternut squash for the program's holiday party. I forgot about the fact that my hand peeled all day after cutting up the squash for Thanksgiving, but quickly remembered when it got bad today. After a few google searches, I found out that it's a very common reaction. Perhaps next time I should use a glove while cutting it up. Anyway, I thought I had made too much, but was excited to bring home leftovers. Apparently I was wrong because it was one of the first things to go at the party. Oh well, at least people enjoyed it!
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
I've been in the mood for comfort foods since I've been back in Michigan (and apparently also in the mood for foods starting with 'C'). It's all because it's been snowing a lot and dark by 4, and that leads to seasonal depression.
I've been dying to try out my new crock pot (thanks Mammom and Papa!), but I haven't been home for more than a few days since I got it. It finally got a trial run on Monday. I needed a recipe with a short cooking time because I didn't want to leave it on all day before I tested it out a time or two, but I couldn't stand the thought of waiting til the weekend to try it. Luckily I found a recipe in one of Dad's books for green chile grits. This was perfect because I got some local stone-ground yellow grits the last time I was in Atlanta, and kept meaning to cook some. About the time the grits were done I added some browned turkey sausage slices. It was so good (and still is!). I'm not sure why, but things are always better when you cook them for a long time at lower temps. I found a blog by a woman who made a New Year's resolution to use her crock pot every day in 2008. That's quite excessive (although sometimes she uses it for non-food things), but she has some good recipes. I'm excited to try some out!
Today I made some chili. Al gave me his Chili recipe a while ago, so I finally got it out and gave it a shot. I only made 1/3 of a recipe because I wasn't in the mood to invite the whole neighborhood, so here's the reduced version with my adjustments:
2 Tbl butter (I didn't use it - just coated the pot in cooking spray)
2 medium onions, sliced
1 lb ground beef (I used 3/4 lb because it worked out more conveniently)
1 can (20 oz) tomatoes (I used 28 oz can diced tomatoes)
2/3 can (6 oz) tomato paste (I used a whole can)
1 tsp salt (I used 1/2 tsp)
2/3 tsp MSG (no thanks)
1/6 tsp tabasco
1 Tbl chili powder
1 can (20 oz) kidney beans (I used 15 oz can)
Melt butter, add onions, and cook until tender. Add ground beef and cook until brown. Add everything else except beans, cover and simmer for 45 min. Add beans and simmer 15 min.
It was good. Probably not the best chili I've ever had (I may add a few more dashes of tabasco to give it more of a kick), but I'm still excited to eat leftovers. Perhaps if I'd used the butter and msg it would have been wonderful. I was excited to try out some of the ground beef that I picked up from the Amish people at my farmers' market (along with the sausage in the grits) before it closed for the winter. They called it "lean", but the label just said "ground beef." There was hardly any fat that came out when I browned it, so it must be extremely lean, but it had a really good flavor. And the sausage was good too!
And finally, I made some mashed cauliflower today. I boiled the florets until they were falling apart (about 20 min). Then I let it drain for a while to get as much water off as possible, but it was still wet enough that I didn't add any milk. I added a little bit of butter, salt, garlic powder (just for you, Dad), and cheese (I used Havarti because it was already grated, but I'm sure anything would be fine). It is SOOO good, and I swear that it tastes exactly like potatoes.
Settle in for a lot more soup/stews and homey foods until the weather gets better (maybe around July??).
One of the reasons I've come to hate grad school lately is because it's not challenging anymore. Sure, it's more frustrating than I could ever imagine, but that's because of things completely out of my control. That's why I've had so much fun trying new things in the kitchen - it gives me some of the challenge that I crave in life. And I guess I decided to give myself the ultimate challenge of cooking most of the things for Thanksgiving this year.
As Thanksgiving approached, I became quite nervous.... mostly about the turkey. I figured that if I screwed anything else up it wouldn't be a big deal, but you can't have Thanksgiving without turkey. Luckily there were plentiful Thanksgiving episodes on the Food Network, and I decided to try out Alton's recipe from Good Eats. I think the brine (plus taking it out as soon as the breasts got to 161 degrees) left it moist, and overall it was a success.
Plus, it allowed me to get creative. Hey, you might as well put the squash to good use, right?
(it's holding the turkey down in the brine)
I also made a sausage and mushroom dressing (with a recipe from Cooking Light). I used all whole wheat bread (from a loaf I made earlier in the week), substituted chicken sausage and stock instead of turkey, and left out the marjoram (we didn't have any). It could have used a little bit more moisture, but I thought it was good. I also made the bulgur pilaf and lentil salad that I've written about in the past, and roasted butternut squash with lemon, thyme, and parmesan and garlic-roasted green beans with shallots and almonds from Kalyn's Kitchen.
I couldn't have done it without help, especially from Eric and Mom, in the last hour or so when everything was cooking at once. Mom conveniently cut her finger that morning, but luckily Eric helped me out with all of the chopping, and they both helped me keep track of everything once things got chaotic. Despite being somewhat stressed about the fate of the turkey, I had a lot of fun cooking (especially since I had good company). Now I have to find another challenge...
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Barley and mushroom risotto, turkey stuffing, lots of veggies, sweet potato casserole, and carrot cake
This week has been quite chaotic, but I managed to do a lot of cooking (partially because I needed distraction). Squirt (my rat) got really sick last week, and after a few days of feeding her by hand and sleeping on the couch with her, she got bad enough that I knew I had to put her down. It was rough, and I still miss her like crazy, but it's getting easier as time goes on. Anyway, cooking gave me a good way to keep myself busy.
First I made some barley and mushroom risotto. This came from the same cookbook as the picadillo (Lorna Sass's "Whole Grains Every Day, Every Way"), but I see that it was also featured in the Washington Post. I left out the parsley because I didn't have any, and I used dried portobello mushrooms because that was the only choice (other than the morels at $26/oz) at the store. I also used green onions instead of the leeks because that's what I had handy. I had a few space-out moments (like when I halved the recipe but forgot to cut down the liquid), but I managed to recover and the texture turned out beautifully. It tastes good, too, but next time I'll reduce the amount of fennel seeds, or perhaps leave them out all together. I knew that they taste somewhat like anise (which I don't like at all), and I suppose that should have been enough warning. I still like it, but it would be much better without that flavor.
I also wanted to try out a stuffing recipe in preparation for Thanksgiving, and I thought it would be perfect while I had a little bit of turkey left. I found a tasty looking recipe at Kalyn's kitchen (a very good website with a lot of whole grain recipes), so I tried it out. I used basic whole wheat sandwich bread (with flax seeds) that I made last week. I halved this recipe, too, but I didn't measure the veggies and I think I used a bit too much of them. It tastes really good, but it could use a little bit more bread.
I then went crazy with the veggies. Nothing too inventive, but I made lots of steamed broccoli, steamed carrots, roasted cauliflower, and roasted green beans with almonds. I found out yesterday that it's National Roasting Month, so it worked out perfectly. Oh, and I almost forgot about the sweet potato casserole that is delicious and amazingly simple (it only has sweet potatoes, crushed pinapple, cinnamon, and walnuts).
And my final concoction was a carrot cake sweetened with pineapple and raisins. It's really good (and would be even better if I had remembered to add the vanilla). I'm still amazed at how great these things turn out, and I don't miss refined sugar at all.
I can't cook for a while because I'm leaving on Friday, but now I have a new distraction because Bahareh got me a hamster for my birthday. He's quite adorable and amazingly soft, but he's not quite sure about his new cage/owner. Hopefully he'll figure it out soon. Any name suggestions would be appreciated. Right now I'm throwing around Rocko/Rocky, Pollan, and, Clack (I've been listening to far too much Car Talk lately), but I'm also waiting to see if anything about his personality jumps out at me.
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
Most of my leftovers were gone by the end of the weekend, so on Monday I got back into the kitchen. I found an interesting recipe for Quinoa and Beef Picadillo in my new whole grains cookbook, so I went for it. Basically you saute onions, garlic, green pepper, cumin, and ground beef, then add diced tomatoes and green chiles, raisins, and spices (oregano, chili powder, and cinnamon) and let it simmer for a while. Then you add in cooked quinoa. I love the interesting blend of the spices, and once again the raisins work even though I had my doubts. It is definitely more of an authentic mexican dish than the usual tex-mex fare. I'm really excited to try more recipes from this book because there's a lot of variety and this one really hit the spot!
I also roasted a turkey breast on Monday so that I could make some sandwiches this week. I didn't do much to it - just rubbed a little bit of olive oil on it and sprinkled some thyme on top, then roasted it at 350 for a while (I think it took about an hour and 15 min). I love turkey (and haven't had any for a while), so I'm really enjoying it. There's nothing new or exciting about it, but all I wanted was some good simple turkey.
And finally, today I roasted a butternut squash. Coincidentally, I made this much like the turkey. I cut it into small cubes, drizzled olive oil and thyme on it, mixed it together, then spread it out in a pan and roasted it at 450 for about 35 min (stirring once). It's delicious and simple. After not venturing much into the winter squashes before, I'm really enjoying them now. They're so easy, and there isn't a rush to use them since they last so long. I still have a spaghetti and acorn on the counter, but I'm wishing I would have filled my apartment with them before the farmers' market closed.
Sunday, November 2, 2008
Book review: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle; In Defense of Food; Twinkie, Deconstructed; Harvest for Hope; The Omnivore's Dilemma
I've been meaning to do this for a while, but I suppose that it's better late than never. There are a few books that have really changed the way I think about food, so I'll say a little bit about each one (in the order in which I read them).
1) "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" by Barbara Kingsolver. Barbara and her family buy a farm in North Carolina and pledge to only eat locally grown and produced food (with a few minor exceptions like spices) for a year. They grow a lot of produce and raise turkeys and chickens, and find everything else they need at farmers' markets and nearby farms. It's a really good read because she combines humorous stories about learning how to successfully farm (like figuring out how to sneakily give away tons of zucchini) with some really important lessons that they learned. She also points out many health (and taste!) benefits of eating locally produced organic food. And the best part is that there's no hint of an elitist attitude. She makes a good case for eating completely locally, but fully admits that it's not possible for most people. But, there are some great resources for a few changes that everyone can do.
I was hesitant to read this book because I knew it would change the way I think, and I figured it was easier being ignorant. This didn't radically change my habits, but afterwards I did start shopping at the market occasionally, and I started paying more attention to where food comes from. It also prompted me to get the bread machine (her husband makes a fresh loaf every day), and that's been a fantastic change to my life.
Oh, and there's a great website with some of the recipes she includes in her book.
2) "In Defense of Food" by Michael Pollan. I have become obsessed with this guy. The cover of the book has the phrase "Eat Food. Not too much. Mostly plants.", and that's the heart of the book. He starts off with a critique of nutritionists, saying that the whole industry has rotated through the low fat and low carb crazes, and that none of them make any sense. Sensible eating is far more healthy. Then he describes some of the chemicals and processing methods in "food-like products" that you find everywhere. He gives great examples about how humans in different regions of the world can live on practically any diet as long as it's real food. Finally, he gives several suggestions on how to eat "real food", such as not eating stuff that your great grandmother wouldn't recognize as food, only shopping on the outside aisles of the grocery store, not eating things with more than 5 ingredients, and not eating anything with an ingredient that your 5 year old can't pronounce. He also touts the benefits of eating locally. It's one of the most informative books I've read, but unlike Omnivore's Dilemma (see below), it's a very quick and easy read.
This book changed my life. I read it on a camping trip in August, and halfway through the book I went for a walk and decided that it was time to change. I decided to follow his "guide" for eating as best as I could. This meant shopping at farmers markets, cooking more, and not eating any pre-packaged foods (with a few exceptions, like Whole Foods crackers which only contain whole wheat). Perhaps the biggest change was switching to 100% whole grain everything. I barely ate white rice or pasta before and always bought "wheat" bread, but now I make sure that everything is 100%. I also eat organic foods when they're affordable. It reduces my consumption of pesticides, but more importantly, it means I'm not eating genetically modified foods. It was a big change (and most of all, a big challenge), but I was up for it and it's been a lot of fun. He's more of a journalist (he won't tell you specifically what to eat and what not to eat - he's not a nutritionist - but has some great ideas on changes in food policy and methods that need to be considered. Recently he wrote a letter to "the next president" that is very impressive.
3) "Twinkie, Deconstructed" by Steve Ettlinger. This wasn't the best read, but it was somewhat informative. It goes through the ingredients on a twinkie, one by one, and explains how each one got from the farm (or lab, in some cases) to the twinkie factory. Some of the explanations are quite frightening and reinforced my decisions to avoid packaged foods. It got boring quickly, though, so I scanned through for the ingredients I was most interested in reading about (like high fructose corn syrup).
4) "Harvest for Hope: A Guide to Mindful Eating" by Jane Goodall. This was an interesting read. It's similar to the Pollan books in that it describes some of the reasons to support the local food movement and not to eat all of the fake food. But she goes more into the environmental effects of such an eating system. She did several things to piss me off, like describing the amount she eats in a day, which adds up to about 500 calories. She's also a member of PETA and definitely has a very elitist attitude and looks down on meat-eaters. She had some good ideas and resources, though, and I'm glad I read it.
5) "The Omnivore's Dilemma" by Michael Pollan. Again, he did a great job with this book. It's much more dense than "In Defense of Food", but a really great read. It's divided up into 3 sections: the first lays out how everything we eat is soaked (both literally and metaphorically) in corn and oil, the second describes two organic meals (one from Whole Foods and the other from a small organic farm in Virginia), and the third describes a meal that he hunted and gathered himself. This guy is a great journalist and he gets to the bottom of everything. When he calls up Joel Salatin who owns the Virginia farm, and Salatin won't ship him pork because that goes against his beliefs, Pollan takes a trip to the farm and works on it for a few weeks (doing everything including butchering the chickens). This book goes into great depth about the problems in farming - people are being payed by the government to grow two crops, corn and soybeans, which has forced the cows onto feedlots and destroyed farming and the environment. The description of Salatin's farm and his intricate method of crop rotation that eliminates the need for pesticides and fertilizer is beautiful.
This book has been very widely read lately, and I'm hoping it causes people to stop and think about what's actually going on. It sounds like Obama is somewhat aware of the problems (especially after reading Pollan's letter), so hopefully we're getting somewhere. This one firmly reinforced my food changes, and I'm very happy with the choices I've made.
Unfortunately life is going to get a bit harder now that my farmers' market is closed until June. This week I stocked up on meat (a turkey breast, turkey sausage, and ground beef), and got some of the small amounts of produce left (a spaghetti squash, an acorn squash, and a head of cabbage). I'm far more concerned about eating quality meat, dairy, and eggs (no hormones, antibiotics, and given a "real life" on the pasture), and I can continue to get these from the market across town. I'll have to start eating more produce from the grocery store, and I'll buy organic when it makes sense. I'm still not sure how the Kingsolvers lived without fruit for the winter...
All in all, I would recommend all of these books. And, coincidentally, I would start with the first two I read because they're both easy to read, informative, and entertaining.
Saturday, November 1, 2008
I've become obsessed with Indian food lately, but I rarely get to eat it. In fact, I hadn't had any since Mom visited in September. So this week I decided to make a curry for the first time. I found a recipe for a chickpea and spinach curry and got to work. It's hard to pick out recipes for a cuisine you don't know much about because you can't tell what works well (if the spice ratio seems reasonable, etc.). It turned out ok, but not great. The ginger completely overwhelms the dish so that you can't taste the curry powder at all, so I'm sure it would have been better with different amounts of both. Garam masala would be a nice addition, too (and thanks to the Dekalb Farmers' Market, I now have some!). Next time I'll try a different recipe, but I had to start somewhere!
There are two things that I'll miss about Michigan when I move. One is the fall colors. This place is beautiful in the fall - I've never seen such vibrant colors. Unfortunately you can blink and miss it because it usually goes from colorful and crisp outside to brown and bone-chillingly cold in about two weeks. Right now there are a few trees that still have leaves, but even they are mostly brown and dingy.
The other thing is apples. I never liked apples growing up, but that's because everyone seems to think that Red Delicious apples are the only kind that exist. News flash: they lie (they are indeed red, but not delicious... or even edible). Luckily my apple horizons expanded once I moved up here. There are about 20 varieties of apples readily available in the fall (both at the markets and at grocery stores). When I first discovered Honeycrisps, I don't think I ate any other kind of fruit for a few weeks. And lately I've fallen in love with Jonagolds (they have a very similar taste and texture to Honeycrisps, but are much cheaper).
I've been meaning to pick some apples again, but haven't been able to find the time for the last few weeks. Today I had a free afternoon (and it warmed up to 55!), so I headed out for an apple adventure. There's an orchard a few miles away (one of the benefits to living outside of the city), so I decided to check it out instead of going to the one that's way across town that I've been to before. This one is a much smaller scale - they have a stand set up with pre-picked apples, bags for picking your own, and gourds (and they also have peaches when they're in season), and a self-pay box. I picked up my 1/2 bushel bag and headed out to the orchard. Unfortunately, many of the varieties aren't available this late in the season, but they had Mutsu, Northern Spy, Golden Delicious, and Ida Reds left. The great thing about picking your own is that you can see what you like. The Mutsu (aka Crispin) are good - quite crunchy with a somewhat sweet, somewhat tart flavor. I also really liked the Northern Spy, so I got as many of those as I could find. And I got a few Golden Delicious (they're not my favorite, but far better than the Red variety). I'm not a fan of the Ida Reds because they're not crisp, so I passed on those rows.
It was an adventure to pick because the trees were picked over and I had to climb into the tree to get to them. It was worth it, though. I got several months worth of apples for $12, and had a really good time getting them. The place I've gone in the past is busy (it's also a cider mill and bakery), but this was an entirely different experience. I only saw 2 people while I was there, and it was really nice to be out in the middle of nowhere and really enjoy the beautiful day without much interruption. Now the only downside is that I won't be able to put anything else in my crisper drawer for a few months :)
Monday, October 27, 2008
When I decided to avoid all of the artificial sweeteners without adding back much sugar, I wasn't excited about giving up hot chocolate. It's one thing that makes the winters more tolerable. I found a recipe in one of my no sugar cookbooks where you add 2 tsp. of unsweetened cocoa powder to 1/2 cup boiling water, and then pour in 1/2 cup milk. I tried it a few weeks ago, but the bitterness of the cocoa powder dominated (although it would probably be better with Dutch-processed cocoa). Today I did the same thing, but added some cinnamon and vanilla. It turned out really good - it's amazing how those two really make things taste sweet, and they completely hid the bitter taste. I'm excited that I discovered this just in time for the months and months of shivering!
Last week I was incredibly busy and definitely didn't have time to cook. Luckily I made do with leftovers until the weekend. I finally had time yesterday, so I made up for the lack of kitchen time during the week. I started off with my first loaf of homemade bread (sans bread machine). I was reading Peter Reinhart's "Whole Grain Breads", and he seems to be the expert in the field. About 95% of the recipes in his book use 100% whole grains (the other 5% are transitional breads for people who can't make the switch right away), and he's done the experiments to figure out how to work with the grains correctly. I've perfected the sandwich bread in the machine, but it's somewhat hard to make other whole grain breads because there's not enough time for gluten to form. He has some interesting ideas, so I decided that I'd try it out when I got the time. I chose the Oat Bran Broom Bread (some of the book, and coincidentally this recipe, is on Google books). It involves preparing two "starters" the night before, and it takes a while to make, but it's not a whole lot of work. His descriptions were good enough for everything to work quite well. And on top of that I got to try out my new pastry mat, which definitely made things easier and reduced clean-up time! It's really good bread, although I'm not sure that it's miles ahead of the machine bread. I can see myself making some of his other breads, but on busier weeks I'm sure I'll use the machine.
While the bread was resting, I put on a pot of pea soup from a packet that Mom and I picked up at the farmers' market in Traverse City. I added potatoes, carrots, and a smoked turkey leg (thanks to Mom's suggestion!) to the mix of peas and spices that was included. Simply put, it's amazing. The turkey gave it a wonderful flavor, and I'm happy that it made a ton because I don't think I'll get tired of it. It was a perfect lunch today with a salad and some of my bread :)
Last night I was exhausted, but wanted to cook some spaghetti squash and kale (yep, I got some more at the market this week). I decided to add some butter, parmesan, and pine nuts to the cooked squash. It was good, but it could have used more parmesan (my hand got tired of grating). Perhaps I'll grate more before I have the leftovers. I found a good kale recipe from my new veggie cookbook - you boil the kale and add sauteed onions, garlic, and red pepper, and then pour some balsamic vinegar on top. It's good, although it's hard to mess up with those ingredients. So far my favorite kale recipe is still the one with the potatoes (with the bean and pasta one a close second).
Tonight I decided to make a bulgur pilaf to go along with kale leftovers and a piece of sauteed tilapia. I used a recipe from the Cooking Light cookbook that adds onions, shredded carrots, currants (I didn't have any, so I used raisins), and toasted pine nuts to the bulgur. I'm not sure I've ever had bulgur before, and I was nervous about the raisins (I almost left them out), but it's delicious. The raisins go perfectly with everything else, and the pine nuts give it a good crunch. The bulgur has a really good flavor, too, so I'm sure I'll keep a regular supply of it.
This should keep me going for a while!
Monday, October 20, 2008
Somehow I managed to have enough energy left after the marathon relay yesterday to remember to thaw a frozen chicken (pre-cut into pieces) that I bought at the farmers' market a few weeks ago. I got home late today (which is becoming more of a rule than an exception), so I wanted something fast. I decided to roast it at 450, and it only took about 40 min to cook. I was originally going to put veggies around it, but I was too lazy. It turned out juicy and delicious, and the little bite of the skin I tasted was perfectly crispy. I needed something to put with it, so I pulled out the purple kale that I bought on Saturday and started searching for recipes. I came across one for braised kale and red potatoes and decided to try it out. I once again managed to set off my smoke detector (don't worry, it's now disconnected), but it was incredibly easy and tasty. I love the red pepper kick with the kale (and believe me, it's got a kick). And to top it all off, I had some frozen grapes and yogurt for desert. It's the perfect ending to a stressful day...
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
I've been really busy lately, but I finally got around to making butternut squash and leek soup tonight with the squash from Al's garden. I followed the recipe exactly (for once), and it's very good. The first time I had butternut squash soup was my last year at Emory, and I've been meaning to make it ever since. It only took 4 years, but I'm glad it finally happened :)
I currently have a small "pumpkin pie" (there's no crust) in the oven because I had some pumpkin left over from making pumpkin and apple bread this weekend. I made it haphazardly - I threw pumpkin, milk, apple juice concentrate, vanilla, an egg, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger in the blender and then put it in the oven. I'm not sure that the consistency will be right, but I'm hoping the taste makes up for it.
Thursday, October 9, 2008
I finally got around to making my spaghetti squash on Monday. I was originally going to do each half a different way, but I ended up putting spaghetti sauce (with tons of mushrooms, onions, and garlic) over the whole thing. It's such a good substitute for traditional spaghetti, but I also can't wait to try it other ways. I'll definitely be buying a few at the market this weekend.
Today I made more baked salmon, and I wanted a side dish that incorporated mushrooms and feta because I had some of both that needed to be used. After searching around for a while, I found a recipe for Spinach and Couscous with feta. I didn't follow the recipe exactly - I used a little less broth (and it was plenty), a little more spinach, and fewer mushrooms. It's very good, but I'm glad I like oregano because it definitely doesn't hide. It doesn't quite match up to the kale dish, but that's tough competition.
Sunday, October 5, 2008
I've eaten a lot of kale, but I had never cooked it. I was excited that they had some at the farmers' market this week so that I could try it out. I found a recipe where you cook kale with pre-cooked beans (I used great northerns), sauteed garlic and red pepper flakes, and chicken stock, and then add in some pasta. It was delicious (especially with the kick from the red pepper). I definitely recommend trying this out. It's so easy (the hardest part was remembering to soak my beans the night before) and is one of those recipes that's easy to tweak depending on what you have on hand.
I also tried out a new granola bar recipe yesterday. This one is also from the Food Network, and it's as good (but quite different) as Alton's. Assuming they freeze just as well, it will give me at least 2 good bar recipes that I can alternate so that I don't get sick of either.
Friday, October 3, 2008
Between catching up from being gone most of last week and starting a new project, this week has been fairly busy. Luckily (note the sarcasm), things have already been screwed up with my project, so I have to wait a few weeks until I can do anything else. But, in all of the mayhem, I managed to make some bread and cook a lot of veggies on Monday. This batch of bread is probably my favorite so far. I made the basic whole wheat recipe that I love, but added flax meal and walnuts (and used even less honey than before). Unfortunately there aren't any farmers' markets open on Mondays (and I couldn't survive without veggies), so I went to the store across town that has decent produce and good prices. I was surprised to find okra again, and you could pick out your own (so I spent a while picking out all of the small pods). I steamed them, and it was delicious. One of the things that I love about okra is that I don't even want any seasoning on it because it's so tasty absolutely plain. I also got some lettuce, corn, peppers, carrots, and indian eggplant, all of which were good.
I managed to make it to two farmers' markets on Wednesday (including one that I had never been to before), but unfortunately the selection is getting pretty slim. They have winter squash, some beans, some greens, potatoes, apples, and a lot of stuff shipped in from warmer climates. I got some green beans, lots of apples, kale, and some meat (a pork shoulder roast and ground turkey). Last night was the perfect night to cook the pork; I was exhausted from being on my feet all day at the Obama rally, so I came home, rubbed the pork with some spices, put it in the oven, and collapsed on the couch for a few hours. I didn't quite cook it long enough so that it's falling off the bone (I was too hungry by that point), but it was delicious. I also found a recipe for my green beans - pan roasted with a soy/vinagrette/garlic sauce. It was quite an adventure because there was a little bit of water that dripped into the pan when I was adding the beans, and the pan was hot enough that it created smoke everywhere and my smoke alarm went off for a while. In all of the craziness, I forgot to add the sesame seeds on top, but they were still very good. I'll probably make them again (but I'll be a little more careful next time).
Monday, September 22, 2008
Even though the weather was nice this weekend, I still managed to do quite a bit of cooking. On Saturday I cooked a lot of the veggies that I got at the farmers' market and also made a lentil salad. I was trying to recreate something that I have had several times before, and I came pretty close. I cooked lentils and let them cool a little bit, then added red onion, red bell pepper, olive oil, lemon juice, cumin, pepper, and feta. Then I put it in the fridge to have on Sunday (it's good when it's still warm/room temp, but I think it's even better cold). I highly recommend it, and it's incredibly easy!
Yesterday I experimented with crackers. I love crackers, but now that I'm trying to avoid all of the preservatives and numerous variations of corn and soybean products added to everything, they're off of my shopping list. I found several easy recipes, and decided to try one out. This one came out of the King Arthur Whole Grain book that I got from the library, but I also found it at Kitchen Link. I made half of a batch in case it was a disaster, and I reduced the sugar quite a bit. I wasn't able to roll the dough out quite as thin as they describe, and it definitely did not resemble a square (more like weird abstract art), but that's ok. They turned out great, especially the ones that I let get extra brown and crispy. I never would have thought of putting paprika and vanilla together, but it definitely works (and tastes very similar to wheat thins!). I'm looking forward to making a bigger batch soon!
I've also made a few desserts recently that I forgot to mention before. Last week I made oatmeal raisin cookies sweetened with apple juice concentrate (and raisins, of course). They don't have the typical cookie texture and are more gummy/chewy, but they taste really good. I'm not sure that the consistency would work well with other cookie types, but it goes along nicely with the oatmeal. I've also been making individual servings of fruit crisps from time to time. The peaches at the farmers' market have been amazing lately, so some nights I'll slice one, add some lemon juice and cinnamon, sprinkle some oats on top, and bake it for a while. It's SO good, and easy enough that I can make it fresh every time I want it. I'm very sad that peach season is winding down, but I guess I'll have to try it with other fruits.
Thursday, September 18, 2008
Shopping at the farmers' market has been a learning experience... but a good one. I never know how much to get. I usually think about how much I'll need, and then walk around and buy the stuff that looks really good (unless I need something specific). Unfortunately that backfired this Saturday. I already had a lot of veggies, so I decided that I shouldn't buy too much. I failed to consider the fact that I've been eating 6 or 7 large servings of veggies a day. So by Monday I was almost out, and had to resort to the grocery store for some back-up supplies. So now I've learned that I can basically buy unlimited veggies and I'll end up eating them all. Luckily my grocery store veggies lasted me until today, when I went to the Select Michigan festival on the steps of the capitol. There was a ton of local produce, honey, maple syrup, cheese, oils, yarns, pickles, etc. I picked up some olive oil from a local family that has a farm in Lebanon (run by their daughter, an MSU grad), my first honeycrisp apples of the season, more peaches, and some winter squash (a spaghetti and a delicata). Along with my leftovers, I should be able to last until Saturday morning.
After eating a lot of leftovers from the weekend, I was definitely in the mood to cook tonight, and I ended up making one of the most delicious (and easiest!) dinners I've had in a while. I finally got around to cooking some of the salmon that I got while Mom was here. I spritzed it with oil and sprinkled a little bit of salt and pepper on top, then baked it, and it turned out perfectly. I'm glad I have a freezer full of salmon to enjoy :). I also made a super easy version of creamed spinach. You make a little bit of bechamel sauce, boil spinach for about 30 sec., then drain it and add it to the sauce. It was amazing. And finally, I tried my delicata squash. I had never had one of these before, but everyone at the festival was raving about how sweet they are. I baked it whole and took it out when it was really tender, but I think it could have cooked a little longer. I added a little butter and some cinnamon, and it was definitely tasty. I'm looking forward to cooking the spaghetti one this weekend.
Sunday, September 14, 2008
Ok, so it wasn't exactly a flop, but it wasn't what I expected. It had been a week since I used my sourdough starter, so it was time to use more (or throw away some of it). I decided to try making a sourdough loaf in the machine. I enjoy sourdough occasionally and I hated to throw away some of my starter, so I decided to see what kind of loaf it would produce. I added some sunflower seeds and raisins to a basic whole-wheat sourdough recipe. For comparison, here's my first loaf of bread:
And here's the sourdough one:
No, I didn't cut the top off. Needless to say, it's quite dense, but actually tastes pretty good. I still don't think it's something I'm going to want often, which means I'll either stop keeping up with my starter or throw some away most weeks (probably the former). It was a good experiment, but not exactly what I expected.
No, I didn't cut the top off. Needless to say, it's quite dense, but actually tastes pretty good. I still don't think it's something I'm going to want often, which means I'll either stop keeping up with my starter or throw some away most weeks (probably the former). It was a good experiment, but not exactly what I expected.
Fortunately I had other successes this weekend. It's been raining (or pouring, rather) since Friday afternoon, so I've spent most of the weekend cooking, reading, and watching movies. Yesterday I made a good stir fry with lots of leftover things I had (brown rice, chicken, peppers, and mushrooms), and today I baked some tomatoes that I had stuffed with ground beef, brown rice, and a bunch of spices. I enjoyed both, especially along with veggies (which consisted of more sauteed squash, steamed spinach, and steamed carrots).
Friday, September 12, 2008
While I'm thinking about it, I want to mention a few things I've discovered lately. After reading several books (which I'll make a post about soon), my thoughts about food and eating have changed drastically. One of the many changes I've made is buying milk from grass-fed cows and eggs from free-range chickens (with neither being given hormones or antibiotics). It's a little bit more expensive (although not much, because I'm buying from local dairies/farms), but the difference is AMAZING. I've never tasted milk this delicious. It's skim, and it has the consistency of skim, but it's so much creamier. And the eggs taste better, have much harder shells, and they don't have to dye the yolks to get them yellow! There are some times when I think it may not be worth the extra money to buy organically grown/raised products, but theses two definitely don't fit in that category. And on top of that, I'm supporting local farmers and eating food that's better for me. How does life get any better?
A few weeks ago I bought two books with recipes for desserts (and other sweet things) that use no sugar, honey, or artificial sweeteners. Cook with Me Sugar Free tries to mimic the normal sweetness by using fruits (both juices and dried fruits, especially dates). Sweet and Sugar Free incorporates fruits, too, but the recipes tend to be less sweet. I've been dying to try some of this stuff out, and I had some ripe bananas that I needed to use, so I decided to make some banana coconut bars.
Here's the recipe (as I made it):
1/6 cup unsweetened applesauce and 1/6 cup oil (originally called for 1/3 cup oil)
1 cup mashed banana
2 large eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/4 tsp lemon juice
1 3/4 cup whole-wheat pastry flour (originally called for unbleached white flour)
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
2/3 cup flaked unsweetened coconut (originally called for 1 cup)
2 Tbl flaked coconut (originally called for 1/2 cup)
Beat together oil and banana until creamy. Add eggs, milk, and lemon juice; beat well. Measure in flour, baking soda, and baking powder and beat. Stir in 2/3 cup coconut. Spoon batter into oiled 9x13" baking pan and sprinkle with 2 Tbl. coconut. Bake at 350 for 15-20 min or until browned. Cool and cut into bars. Serves 8 to 10.
Because I used pastry flour, it turned out more like a cake than bars, but it's incredibly moist and light. It's barely sweet, but I've adjusted to that, and that's all I want. If I make it again, I would probably add some cinnamon, but otherwise it's definitely a good recipe.
And, I had some leftover banana that I froze, which made for a great dessert last night :)
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
With everything that went on this weekend, I forgot about the potato salad that I made last week. I've been looking for something interesting to make with the potatoes that Jess gave me, and then I remembered how much I enjoyed the potato salad that she made one Sunday night a few months ago. She got the Mother's Day potato salad recipe from a vegan website. I adapted it quite a bit (I didn't want to use nutritional yeast or relish, and I didn't have any Old Bay). Basically I mixed up some mayo, turmeric, dill, minced garlic, a little piece of a veggie bouillon cube, and a little bit of greek seasoning and tossed it with my cooked potatoes. The turmeric gives it a slight mustardy flavor (since that's one of the main spices in mustard) without overwhelming the potato taste. It also gives it a brilliant yellow color. I'm now trying to find more and more uses for turmeric because it's so tasty, yet subtle. And apparently it has the most health benefits out of all of the spices! Now if only I can avoid permanently staining my hands/countertops/floors yellow...
Even though Mom and I did quite a lot while she was here this weekend, we also managed to make a few things. We went to Traverse City on Friday and spent the night, which meant that I missed my usual farmer's market trip on Saturday morning. So, we decided to visit the one in Traverse City to make up for it. It was HUGE, and even though I didn't intend to buy anything, we went home with some veggies (squash and zucchini, spinach, and corn) and some white-fleshed peaches. We also tasted some jalapeno cilantro hummus, which prompted us to make some when we returned home. We used this recipe but with much less oil (and a little bit of water). It's very good (in fact, I was just enjoying some with my veggies), and has quite a kick due to the jalapenos and the enormous garlic cloves we used. I bet it would be even better with dried chickpeas (unfortunately we didn't have enough time for them to soak). It's a nice change from traditional hummus.
We also made some sourdough pretzels... mostly because I needed to use some of the sourdough starter that Jess gave me. I let the bread machine make the dough, and I ended up adding a lot more water than the recipe called for because it was looking very dry. Apparently I went a little bit overboard and we ended up with very sticky dough. We had quite an adventure trying to roll it out and form pretzel shapes. We were unable to achieve the traditional pretzel shape, but they still taste very good. I added sesame seeds on top (instead of salt) for a new and different twist.
I also made Mom a loaf of herb bread by adding thyme and rosemary to the first recipe I used (and keeping the sunflower seeds). It smelled good, and I can't wait to find out how it tastes...
Sunday, August 31, 2008
The theme of tonight's Sunday dinner was "bring what you make best", but I was a rebel and wanted to try something new. I've been craving falafel ever since I had some in Amsterdam, so tonight was finally the night to make some. I made a baked version that I found on Kalyn's Kitchen (a great website that I just discovered), and for once I followed the recipe exactly (but tripled it). It's not the same as fried falafel, but it also isn't as heavy and I thought it was good. It was a little bit dry, but I don't know that it would have held together before baking with more moisture, so I think it'll have to stay that way. I'm not sure how it will stand up to reheating, but I'll find out in the next few days...
Instead of the tahini sauce that Kalyn recommends, I made some tzatziki sauce. I started with this recipe, but made quite a few changes. I only made a half recipe, drained the yogurt for about 45 min, added about 1/2 cup of red onion, and used dried dill weed. I didn't measure most of the ingredients and added them until I was satisfied. I also stirred them by hand instead of using the food processor because I like the chunky consistency. After a couple of hours in the refrigerator, the flavors went together really well. It was gone really quickly (apparently I should have made a whole batch), and at one point I saw Jess eating a spoonful of it by itself.
Saturday, August 30, 2008
I've been searching for the perfect granola bar for over a year now. Either they have tons of calories and/or sugar, have artificial sweetener (which I've been torn about for a while now), or taste like cardboard. Ideally I want something that has lots of fiber and protein to keep me full (and the protein is nice after a workout, too). The closest thing I've found is Kashi bars, but they're still not perfect.
I finally came to the conclusion that I need to make my own so that I can put exactly what I want in them (and avoid all of those artificial colors/flavors/sweeteners and random other processed crap). A few weeks ago I saw an episode of Good Eats devoted to healthier granola and protein bars, so I decided to try Alton's protein bar recipe. I made a few changes: whey protein isolate instead of the soy (don't get me started on soy...), applesauce instead of juice, and some honey (about 1/4 cup) instead of brown sugar. Oh, and for the fruit I used raisins, bing cherries, tart cherries, and papaya because that's what I had on hand.
They turned out pretty tasty. It's not the absolute best thing ever (which is probably good because I might be tempted to eat a lot of them), but they're definitely good and have a lot of protein. It's definitely a recipe that will be fun to tweak... oats, flax meal, and various nuts would be good additions, and maybe even some unsweetened coconut. I also think it would be good with a little bit less fruit (it's a bit overpowering). There are several other granola bar recipes that I want to try, too, but it looks like overall this is going to be a much better solution than continuing to search for packaged ones.
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
Today the bread adventures began. I was nervous because my machine doesn't have a whole wheat cycle, so I've been trying to read up on what wheat flour needs. With the addition of a little bit of gluten and allowing it to rise longer, I wound up with the most delicious bread I've ever tasted. And with only a few simple ingredients (whole white wheat flour, sunflower seeds, gluten, yeast, salt, olive oil, honey, and water)! If 100% whole wheat bread can turn out this light and fluffy (and yummy!), I'm not really sure why people still make white bread. It probably helps that I'm using quality flour that Jess brought me. I've been nervous about how it would turn out for a few days now, but it turns out that I got it right. And the sunflower seeds give it a great crunch. Now I can start experimenting with new flours/nuts/fruits :)
I also cooked the patty pans tonight - I stuffed them with onions, tomatoes, a little bit of bread crumbs, and mozzarella (adapted from My Culinary Sanctuary). They're tasty, but it was my fourth serving of squash today, so I probably didn't enjoy it as much as I could have. With the addition of lots of tomatoes, I ended up with way too much stuffing, so I baked that separately and I'm looking forward to a tasty snack tomorrow. I also sliced and roasted the japanese eggplant and sauteed the beans. I couldn't stop eating both of those while the patty pans cooked.
I didn't think I would post this much when I started this blog, but with so many fresh veggies to use this week I've done a lot. It will probably calm down for the next few days as I try to eat up all of the leftovers. I'm excited to try a few new things this weekend (protein bars, baked falafel, and maybe even pita bread!).
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
I got around to making the tomatillo salsa today, using a recipe from Simply Recipes. I only had a taste, but it's delicious and has quite a bit of heat to it (probably because I didn't quite have 1.5 pounds of tomatillos, but didn't adjust the other ingredients much). Unfortunately my hands are still on fire from touching the jalapenos, and I'm dreading taking my contacts out tonight. It was quite an easy recipe, and I highly recommend it if you happen to find yourself with some tomatillos.
Monday, August 25, 2008
My friend Jessica visited her mom and mom's boyfriend Steve this weekend. She warned me not to buy too much at the farmer's market because she would be bringing me veggies from Steve's garden, but I wasn't expecting this:
There are several kinds of potatoes, several kinds of tomatoes, beets, squash (both patty pan and cocozelle), beans, japanese eggplant, and lots of tomatillos. This is on top of the large bags of whole white wheat flour, flax meal, sunflower seeds, and yeast that she bought in bulk for my bread-making adventures. Oh, and also a few slices of Steve's homemade bread that is quickly disappearing.
Tonight I cooked the cocozelle, beets, and some of the tomatoes, as well as some yellow squash and zucchini that I already had. I love sauteed squash with onions and greek seasoning, so that's how I cooked the cocozelle. It was a nice change - still delicious, but with a slightly different flavor. I sliced the yellow squash for snacks, and baked the zucchini with tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, and mozzarella. I ate some of the cocozelle with leftover eggplant and zucchini lasagna that I had frozen (and was reminded of thanks to my last post). I was so full that I couldn't even try the zucchini. I'm sure it will make its way on my plate tomorrow.
Then I baked the beets for a nice dessert. I thought I hated beets. That's because I had only eaten them pickled, which I still think is quite disgusting. But I went to Jess's house for dinner a few weeks ago and she was baking some. She too thought she didn't like them, but couldn't waste what Steve had given her. We were pleasantly surprised to find out that they are delicious! Now that I've scratched that off the list, I think the list of vegetables I don't like is empty.
Now I'll have to figure out how to cook the patty pans (I'm thinking stuffed and baked?), and I'm planning to make some tomatillo salsa.
In "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" (a great book, by the way), Barbara Kingsolver describes her family's year of local eating (only eating what they produce on their farm or things they can buy that came from less than 100 miles away). She tells stories of being inundated with squash and zucchini and trying to trick neighbors into taking some. I think I finally understand what she means...
Saturday, August 23, 2008
Dad made a good suggestion to start a log of everything I've made. I decided to take it one step further and make a blog. This way I'll know what I liked, and maybe I'll keep some of you entertained in the process.
Today at the farmer's market, I was pleasantly surprised to find some okra. You can usually find okra in the grocery store here, but it ranges anywhere from slightly sketchy looking to completely inedible. But this farm had some of the most beautiful okra I've ever seen, so I couldn't pass it up. Last time I made okra it was for a bunch of my friends (I wanted to introduce it to all of the midwesterners), and I decided to stew it with some tomatoes to reduce the sliminess. But honestly, I don't mind the sliminess and I think it gives okra a certain charm. So I considered boiling it today, but I decided to try something different. I found a very simple recipe for roasted okra at FatFree Vegan Recipes, and decided to try it out. I used greek seasoning instead of salt and pepper, and added some minced garlic. It was quite delicious (and so easy!). The roasting does get rid of the sliminess, but that was ok. They're right about only using the small pods. I had a good mix of small and large and decided to try them all, but the really big ones ended up hard as a rock. Now I know for next time...
While I'm at it, I'll also mention this delicious eggplant and zucchini lasagna that I made a few weeks ago. Cooking Light is one of my favorite recipe websites, and when I needed an Italian dish for Sunday night dinner, that's where I looked first. It was very tasty, and everyone else seemed to think so too. I'll definitely be making that again (with whole wheat pasta this time).