Oops, Beets!

Sooooooo I broke one of the fundamental rules of the kitchen. I started a recipe before I made sure I had everything I need. In this case, it wasn’t any ordinary cooking project; it was a canning project. The thing I was missing wasn’t some easily substituted ingredient; it was a piece of equipment (or, more accurately, a piece of a piece of equipment). I had not used my pressure canner since I moved a year and a half ago. The gauge was exactly where I expected it to be, but the pressure regulator weight has gone missing!

By the time I realized this, I already had many, many pounds of beets cleaned and boiling on the stove. Insert facepalm here. So, when a thorough search did not turn up the weight, I decided to finish making the recipe. We used some immediately, and I froze the rest. Who knows if it’ll hold up in the freezer, but it’s better than nothing!

The recipe is one I’ve done before – Orange Thyme Beets.

Last night, I used some of the beets, chopped and mixed with couscous, as a side with dinner. Today at lunch, I took leftovers of that mix and added feta cheese that I’ve had marinating in olive oil and herbs from my garden. It was delicious both ways. So, not a complete loss!

CSA Share, Week 8 – July 28, 2020

This week, I didn’t have my young helper. Well… he came along, but insisted on remaining in the car. So, we have fewer cute kid pictures than usual.

This week was the first appearance of ground cherries in 2020.

Still more eggplant – going to make some croquettes this week. I went to link to an old post that I swore existed, but somehow I haven’t blogged about croquettes! That will come along shortly. They’re my go-to when I have an abundance of eggplant.

We ate sausage stir-fry last night with some of the onion and bell pepper. The night before was summer squash soup with homemade biscuits. I’ll make an entirely separate post about that recipe, as well – it used five of the vegetables in this week’s share as ingredients!

Happy Friday!

Bowls

If you’ll allow me to state the obvious for a moment…. it’s hot.

My car thermometer said it was 98 degrees out this afternoon when I was driving to the library with my children. It’s been like this most days for the past week.

It’s hard to get the gumption to really cook when it’s this hot. I’m not saying that I don’t manage to overcome that – I did make Eggplant Parmesan yesterday –  but some days are not worth the extra heat.

A good meal option on those days are “bowls.” If you subscribe to any cooking magazines, especially the ones that bill themselves as being oriented to healthy eating, bowls are not a new concept. They’ve been a fairly major trend for a few years now. I put together the most beautiful, delicious quinoa bowl the other night for dinner, and I wanted to share the methodology.

First, I cooked up some quinoa. I used homemade vegetable stock, which has the benefit of extra vitamins and no added sodium, though you could use packaged stock or water and it’d be fine.

I steamed some summer squash and some peas, rinsed a can of chickpeas, and cut a bunch of cherry tomatoes in half. The ingredients got layered in a large serving dish.

Before adding the cherry tomatoes, I added the dressing. This was partly a choice due to space – I could not have stirred the mixture without making a huge mess after adding the tomatoes – and partly a presentation choice. I used homemade honey mustard dressing. I cannot recommend highly enough this article about making your own salad dressings. It comes with 8 recipes. I’ve tried 2 so far, and both have been winners.

Everything is wonderful about this meal choice. The kitchen isn’t super hot, the meal is a huge protein punch, it’s tasty and colorful, and it’s a kid pleaser! Little Chef currently hates summer squash, so he ate around it, but Littlest Chef gobbled up everything he didn’t end up wearing.

Everything about this recipe is malleable according to your tastes. You could do Italian dressing. You could subtract any of the vegetables and/or add others: red onion, broccoli, cucumbers if you’re serving it cold, etc. Play around; every result manages to look fancy, even though it’s pleasantly simple.

Happy eating!

CSA 2020 – Weeks 2 and 3, plus Strawberries

Week 2 – June 16, 2020

The first few weeks of CSA are usually slow, with small shares. Week two finds us at the start of the fruit share. Little Chef helped me pick up, as usual – and our new usual, in masks.

The first few weeks are also very salad-heavy, so I have fewer recipes to report. I did, however, make a delicious vegetable risotto.

The white things on the right that look like radishes are actually “salad turnips,” also known as “harukei turnips.” They can be used interchangeably with radishes, though they have a bit of a bite. They’re also really good roasted (frankly, so are radishes), or you can slice then up and use them like chips to eat hummus. Their greens are edible, just like radish greens. Those, I prefer to put in a quiche or fritatta, personally.

Also note the debut presence of garlic scapes. Garlic scapes are the green part that grows above ground when you’re growing garlic. They can be chopped up like scallions, sauteed, baked into casseroles, or made into pesto. I even threw some into my chili on Saturday. They have a very mild garlic flavor.

Week 3 – June 23, 2020

Here we go, really starting to hit our stride. June is still green-heavy. Two kinds of lettuce, broccoli rabe, and spinach. This time of year, I’m guilty of just chopping and freezing a lot of the greens. It’ll be different when my kids are older, but right now, my six year old refuses most “salad.” Ooof.

This is also the first emergence of kohlrabi, another favorite of mine, which I talk about at length in this post.

It’s also been strawberry season, and Little Chef and Littlest Chef joined me on a couple of loops up to Sussex County. Picking in a mask was hot, but otherwise ok! The berries are as delicious as ever.

I made a Strawberry Glace Pie a couple of nights ago with some of the bounty. We also had homemade whipped cream with it!

In case you’re wondering, I make my own pie crust. I use the recipe from the old school Good Housekeeping cookbook.

 

CSA 2020: Week One – June 9

Last week was the first CSA pickup. I’ve had “blog” on my to-do list for a week, now, and I haven’t done it! Not an auspicious start to the season. I have, however, been cooking, so eventually, you’ll get to see all of that.

The first week or two of CSA is always light. Early June in this zone isn’t exactly the height of abundance, and this year that holds particularly true. We had a very cold, wet, drawn-out thaw this spring.

So here’s the first haul:

We had the makings for a good salad, though the lettuce got used elsewhere…

I made these amazing Vietnamese-style chicken patties that were served on lettuce leaves. The makings for the chicken patties came largely from Greengrocer Foodhub, including these amazing mini purplette onions that I’d never had before. I didn’t have scallions, so I subbed them in, and they were delicious.

  

  

I did not have any fish sauce, so I made a substitute – one part soy sauce, one part rice vinegar, and half a part worcestershire sauce.

  

The first pickup went smoothly. Little Chef insisted on helping, complete with a mask that he said makes him “look like a ninja.” I wore my usual first-day attire: my veggie dress. I also wore my honeybee face mask, because why not.

Quarantine Meals #4

March 16th. Our first Monday out of routine.

I’d purchased a beef brisket the previous week, with the intention of making my own corned beef. Normally, I take the easy route and buy corned beef at Shop Rite, but I did not want to brave the madness as everyone shopped for lockdown. I’d always wanted to do my own corning, but – you’ll notice this as a theme, I think – I never had the time.

Well, once again, even on lockdown, I didn’t allow myself enough time. Whoops. Turns out I really needed 5 days to do it right, and I only took the beef out of the freezer 2 days ahead. So, rather than stress, I looked up good ways to make a regular beef brisket. I went with a slow cooker recipe that can be found here.

IT WAS DELICIOUS. 100% would make it again. We’re not generally a beef-eating household, and everyone DEVOURED this. So good. It was also pretty easy. I used to balk at slow cooker recipes that were anything more than “dump a bunch of stuff into the crock and hit go,” but the cooking onions and sauce make the house smell divine  as you set this up. If you don’t have beef broth in the house, by the way, this works fine with vegetable broth. (I make my own, so I usually have chicken or vegetable available, but not beef.)

Comfort food has been the name of the game for the most part, as you’ll see in our next installment.

Vegetable Lasagna

So, sometimes,  you’re planning out dinner, you see a recipe, and you realize that you don’t have all of the necessary ingredients, but you say, “Forget it,” and jump in anyway. That’s exactly how this Lasagna happened.

I have this great cookbook called Light & Healthy Cooking from Good Housekeeping. I got it on the bargain rack at a now-defunct Pathmark years ago for $7.00, and I still get enjoyment from its pages. It contains this tasty looking lasagna recipe:

However, I was missing several things on the list. I did have a bunch of vegetables, no boil lasagna noodles, sauce, and cheese, though, so I dove in and made my own! The results were satisfying, as the pictures of the process imply. The full recipe is below.

 

Stevie’s Vegetable Lasagna

1 package (8oz) oven-ready lasagna noodles

1 (8oz) container ricotta cheese

1 (12 oz) container marinara sauce

1 (8 oz) can mushrooms (I used stems & pieces, no salt added)

2-3 carrots, shredded

8 oz (half of a bag) frozen sweet peas

Extra virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, finely chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

About 2 cups chopped greens of your choice; I used spinach & swiss chard

Parmesan cheese

Shredded mozzarella

Cook the onions in the oil over low heat until they get soft and translucent. Add the garlic. Cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the greens and raise the heat to medium. Saute until the greens are tender. Turn off the heat.

Rinse the lasagna noodles in cold water. In a casserole dish, swirl some marinara sauce, then cover with a layer of noodles. Spread a layer of ricotta cheese on the noodles, then layer on some of the greens mixture, some of the peas, some of the shredded carrots, some of the mushrooms, and some parmesan cheese. Cover this with some marinara sauce, then another layer of noodles, then repeat. Top the last layer of noodles with a little bit of marinara and a layer of mozzarella cheese.

Bake in a 400 degree oven, covered, for 30 minutes, remove cover, and bake for another 20 minutes.

Enjoy!

Happy New Year

Happy (belated) New Year!

Like most, I’ve got a pile of resolutions in front of me, though I think I’ve managed to keep them reasonable and achievable this year. Among those that are applicable here, I plan to get back to posting regularly (once the season kicks up, though perhaps some before then), eating homemade/healthy more consistently, and – my stretch goal – to go for zero-waste this year with my CSA share.

These things didn’t happen in 2019. I was full of good intentions, but it was just too hard with an infant, a new house, and a lot of emotional/postpartum/grief struggle. 2020 is poised to be more conducive to my goals.

I started this post on the 4th and never finished writing, but I’m happy to say that, a couple of weeks in, all is going smoothly so far. I did get a splurge night out for my birthday, but otherwise, we’ve been good about eating at home and keeping it pretty healthy.

Among the notable meals was a crock pot soup from a crock pot magazine that I’d inherited in the pile of cookbooks from my mother’s house.

I made Thai coconut chicken and rice soup. It was delicious and deeply satisfying, despite being from a “diet” cookbook.

I’m happy to report that the leftover froze and reheated well. I’ll be repeating the recipe. It is worth noting a few changes I made based on preference and what I had in the house. I used fresh onions and mushrooms, and I used dried ginger. I also used homemade stock, not packaged. I can’t overstate how good it is to use homemade stock, both for taste and for the health benefits, since it isn’t loaded with salt.

Administrative note – would it be better for me to type out recipes like this? I’m hesitant to retype recipes that might be copyrighted or still in print, but this is old and I couldn’t find any instance of it online for a link. I personally often save recipes as images, but if text works better, I can experiment with format. Let me know in the comments.

Anyway, if you’re looking for good but light comfort food, especially as we seem to be heading toward actual winter weather later this week, I’d recommend this recipe. My next post will be about another lightened-up comfort food I made – my own take on vegetable lasagna.

 

Hulk Muffins

I posted on the Instagram feed a little while ago about “Hulk Muffins,” but I’m just now getting around to talking about  them on here.

Easy, straightforward ingredients. Even better – sweetened with banana and honey, not refined sugar.
Finished product

My child does not like leafy greens, currently. The only “salad” he will touch is dandelion greens, strangely enough. We get rather inundated with greens over the course of the season, and I’m always looking for new things to do with them. (I can always make pesto, of course, but how much pesto does one person need?) I found the answer in these “Hulk muffins,” which have turned out to be a huge hit with everyone in my family. They are sweet, hilariously green, have no refined sugar, and are a good way to sneak in the extra vitamins.

The recipe for Hulk Muffins is here.

Greengrocer Foodhub

Today was the Grand Opening of Greengrocer Foodhub’s storefront in Bloomfield! I missed the ribbon cutting this morning, since the baby was sleeping, but both kids and I made it over there mid-afternoon. We got “a beet the size of your head,” zucchini, cucumber, raspberries, apples, broccoli, snap peas, cider, and sausage…. most of which were things picked out by my 5 year-old. I hung back  to the side of the store when we were done, and I let him bring the basket up to check out, as well as my credit card. It was so sweet to see him get to take care of the whole process, and he was really proud of himself.

Check it out if you’re local! 27 Cartaret St. Bloomfield. They’re open 9-7 Saturday and 10-5 Sunday.

What did I do with my delightful haul? I finally made beet & zucchini pakoras! I shredded (most of) the giant beet, 2 zucchini, and a large carrot. To that, I added a batter made of flour (the original recipe called for chickpea, but I used all-purpose), cumin, garam masala, and salt. Then, I fried them in oil. They’re basically middle-eastern beet latkes. I got the recipe out of a “Farmers Market” cooking magazine that I bought this summer.

If that glass of “wine” looks strange to you, it’s because it’s actually honeycrisp apple cider. I felt like being fancy.

They’re supposed to be served with mint yogurt, but we used sour cream. They were delicious.

The other elements of the meal: broccoli & snap peas with hummus, and chicken salad for the grownups (made with a Wrong Direction Farm chicken that I roasted this morning) and tuna fish for Little Chef, who was opposed to the red onion in the chicken salad.