Foodie In Training

Monday, May 23, 2011

CSA=fresh food and creative cooking

What does CSA stand for?

Good Question! It stands for
Community Supported Agriculture.

What is it?

A "share" of fresh ingredients from a local farm.

Ryan and I have been wanting to do a CSA for a few years now, and this summer we decided to take the plunge! We did a lot of research (614 magazine had a great
article about CSA's a few months ago) and decided to purchase a our CSA with Green Seed Farm in Westerville, OH. For 20 weeks we will get a bundle of fresh, local veggies, herbs, and farm fresh eggs. It changes every week because it depends on the harvest. So far we have received three bundles of goodies, and it's been great! The harvest has been a little light due to all the rain we've gotten, but the bundles are starting to get more plentiful.

Here's a snapshot of our shares for the first 3 weeks! We are splitting the CSA with our friend Thad, so every week I separate a third of the bounty and we use the rest.

Week One:Farm fresh eggs, radishes, rosemary, oregano, Russian kale, butter lettuce, swiss chard, and homemade salad dressing.

Week Two:Lettuce, farm fresh eggs, green onions, cucumbers, swiss chard, collard greens.

Week Three:
Farm fresh eggs, radishes, green onions, lettuces (2 kinds), kale, basil, sage, and rosemary.

The farm fresh eggs are FANTASTIC. They have a wonderful, rich taste. Much better than grocery store eggs (that travel many miles before you eat them!) It's been so much fun trying the veggies I never think to buy at the store. This CSA forces us to be creative and resourceful with what we get each week.

I'll leave you with a recipe for the kale chips I made last week. I've seen a few recipes for kale chips on the blogs I read and on recipe websites. It is so easy! And they really have the crunch of a potato chip. Don't get me wrong, potato chips taste better..but for a healthy alternative to on of my favorite salty snack, this hit the spot!

Kale Chips
adapted from many recipes (mainly Smitten Kitchen)

1 bunch of Kale (I only had about 1 oz) with stems and ribs cut out.
1 tsp. of olive oil
salt to taste

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Rinse and dry kale leaves. Cut of stems and cut out ribs of kale. Lightly toss with olive oil. Lay on a baking sheet and Sprinkle lightly with salt. Bake from bake for 15-20 minutes. Mine only took about 12 minutes, but I only had a small bundle of leaves. If you have a big bundle of leaves, it may take longer.

Enjoy! We did. :)

Monday, May 16, 2011

Having a meal at home? What a novel idea!

Ryan and I have been bad. Over the past few months we've been really busy, on vacation, and let's be honest, a little lazy. We have only cooked a handful of meals at home. Many of them consisted of our now famous "fend for yourself night" where we are both on our own for figuring out dinner. Those nights usually mean leftovers, turkey sandwiches, or eggs (and to be honest, a little karate chopping and faux-boxing). So we've been slacking.. We both enjoy eating out but it's definitely a little harder on the bank account and not very healthy.

Why am I telling you all of this? Airing out our dirty laundry? I would only reveal some of our bad habits, if it meant revealing one of our good habits! We are pretty good cooks. And we enjoy it. Yesterday on a rainy Sunday, we cooked a pretty good meal. Nothing fancy, nothing over the top.. just a nice, home-cooked meal. And we actually ate at the table. (gasp!) We have a new dining room table and it's oh so pretty. So pretty that sometimes I don't feel like setting it up for dinner when Ryan is having eggs and cereal and I'm reheating leftovers.

What started our journey back to home cooking? The grocery store(s)! Yes, this past Sunday we went to three "grocery" stores (that's a whole other post). We stocked our fridge and we were feeling inspired.

A few weeks ago I had seen a post on Smitten Kitchen (my favorite food blog) and she made a Martha Stewart dish called a Crispy Potato Roast. Deb over at Smitten Kitchen was making it for Seder as an alternative to the creamy, gloppy, gratins that are tradition. Don't get me wrong, I like a dish with cream and cheese and other tasty ingredients..but I like to save that for special occasions.

So I broke out the ole' mandolin and got to work thinly slicing potatoes and shallots. Smitten Kitchen adapted her recipe a bit from the original Martha Stewart recipe, and I adapted mine as well. To start off, I cut the recipe in half and it was more than enough for the two of us. I also added one sweet potato into the mix because it needed to be used (sneaky thing had been hiding in the bottom of the drawer).

The original recipe called for thyme, I used 4 stalks of rosemary. I also added some Old World Seasoning. Old World Seasoning is my best friend. I got it in gift basket of spices and it use it in almost everything. It has paprika, pepper, salt, parsley, turmeric, caraway, dill, and more! It's a lovely Central European blend of spices that adds a little extra something.

When it was finished baking, sprinkled some Parmesan cheese over the top. Other garnish options that would be fabulous: crumbled bacon, blue cheese, feta cheese, and green onion.

For the pork chops, I kept it simple. I lightly seasoned each side with salt, pepper, lemon zest, chopped fresh rosemary (dried will also work), a little lemon juice, and a little olive oil. I wanted to grill them outside..but Ohio weather pretty much sucks right now. So we sauteed them in a pan. To garnish, I added some fresh rosemary and a chopped lemon slice (rind and all, my mother-in-law will be proud).

LinkFor minimal money and effort, we had a tasty meal!
I am promising you all (and myself) to not get in a such a lazy cooking rut. It's just silly!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Homemade Tater Tots: Fact or Fiction?

Who doesn't love tater tots? They are one of my favorite foods. Never mind that they are probably over-processed, full of chemicals, fried, and frozen. They.Are.Awesome. To be honest, if I have the opportunity to eat tater tots, I'm not really concerned with their ingredients and what makes them so good. What I'm concerned about is ordering and eating my freakin' tots..fast! :)

It's kind of rare to see tots on a restaurant menu. I will order them at any and all restaurants that have them on their menu, no matter what. It's definitely not very foodie-like but I don't care!

A few weeks ago, while enjoying some happy-hour adult beverages, Ryan, our friend Thad, and I were discussing Tater Tots and if they could be made at home. A few questions arose from this very serious discussion:
1. How would you go about making a tot?
2. Is it worth it?
3. Is buying the frozen, bagged kind the only way to go?

I've done a little investigating and there isn't a lot of information on how to make Tater Tots. There are Tater Tot casseroles and Tater Tot bakes, and OMG there is such a thing as Maple Bacon Wrapped Tater Tots....but very few homemade tot recipes. And by very few, I'm saying that I only found like two seemingly legit recipes.

So, my good foodie friends, I'm on a quest to find a homemade tot recipe (Or make one up if it comes to that) and make me some tots!

Any thoughts on some good resources? I'm going to consult some cookbooks and do some online sleuthing and see what I find. This is just the beginning, I wanted to get you all involved so this quest can be truly appreciated and hopefully victorious!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Best Tacos Ever: Black Bean Tacos with Feta and Cabbage Slaw

Seriously. I'm not being dramatic, I'm not being biased. These tacos are the best ever.

I found the recipe on my FAVORITE food blog, Smitten Kitchen. Normally, this is a vegetarian dish, but we decided to add ground beef this time. The recipe says to mash the black beans (we just use a fork) so it thickens into a bit of a paste. Once the ground beef is cooked and the fat drained, we add the black beans. The heat softens the mashed beans and makes the ground beef and bean mixture thick without adding one of those taco seasoning packets. The recipe calls for cumin and we also added cayenne, garlic powder, and taco seasoning (which is just a mixture of paprika, onions, more cumin, oregano, and allspice). In the past I have also substituted the taco seasoning for chili powder, or Hungarian hot paprika.
The star of the tacos is the feta and cabbage slaw. I could seriously eat this for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It's fresh and crunchy with a little bite from the lime and hot sauce. And, it's one of those things that just gets better the more it sits in your refrigerator. I recommend buying a large cabbage and making a big batch because you'll want more after the tacos are gone. Smitten Kitchen's adaptation of the recipe calls for about 2 tablespoons (or more) of lime juice. I'm on the "or more" team. I use the juice of about 2 whole limes..or more. I really like a ton of lime juice. I think it enhances all of the flavors and also provides a nice contrast to the feta cheese.

As you can see in the photos, we did not make our tacos crispy. The first time I made them, I pan fried each tortilla in a little olive oil and man was it good. I definitely recommend it. But, if you are feeling lazy or just short on time, regular soft tortillas are fine, or you could use the store bought hard tacos. This recipe is so user-friendly, you can do whatever you want.
Oh black bean tacos, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways:

1. You are so easy and fast.
2. The recipe is very simple and wide open for being creative and adding your own twist!
3. Wallet friendly- black beans, tortillas, cabbage, lime, feta, cilantro, a bit of olive oil. These are the main ingredients..trust me, they don't add up to very much $$.
4. You go so well with a tasty adult beverage...especially of the Mexican variety.
5. You are even better the next day! (If there are leftovers)

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

20 Minute Meal!

I have a new work schedule. Two nights a week, I work 5 p.m.- 9 p.m. It's been an interesting adjustment. On said days, I try and eat before work..but I'm not hungry for dinner at 4. I usually have just eaten lunch at 1 or 2. If I don't eat, I'm famished when I get home at 9:30 and proceed to snack my way through the girl scout cookies, chips and salsa, pickles, etc. Pretty much anything in site and that's not really a meal. Is it? So anyway, now I'm trying to eat a light meal before work and then have a small snack in the evening.

I was getting ready for work the other day and trying to decide what to eat. The clock said 3:40 and I had about a half hour to make dinner, eat, and head to work. I decided to use a spaghetti squash that had been collecting a little dust in my pantry and throw together a fast, healthy, filling meal that also makes plenty of leftovers for later!

Spaghetti Squash with Tomato and chickpea sauce:

Twenty minutes and 6 easy steps. The clock says 3:45...Ready..Set..Go!Step 1:
Pierce spaghetti squash with knife about 6 times all over the squash. Put in the microwave for about 10-12 minutes (depending on the size of the squash). Rotate about 3 times during the microwave process. I usually just lay the squash on a few paper towels, but we were out, hence the plate.
Step 2:
Chop one red onion and saute with olive oil on medium-high heat until soft. Add chopped garlic after about 3 minutes.

Step 3:
Chop and add any ingredients you want. This is the fun part!! You can get real creative and use common items in your pantry. I always use canned tomatoes (usually two cans) and a can of beans. I've used garbanzo, black, and cannellini beans. Tonight, I had one zucchini and some canned mushrooms so I threw those in! In the past I've also added green pepper and carrots.

Step 4:
Let all the ingredients cook and get to know each other in the pan. I also start adding some seasoning at this point. This is another way to be creative! I LOVE cumin. I can't get enough of it. And it seems to work really well with my base of ingredients. So I always add cumin and some hot paprika. Salt and pepper are always a must. For a little color and some fresh flavor I usually go with parsley. Fresh is always best, but dried will work.Step 5:
When the spaghetti squash is done, remove from the microwave, let it cool for about 5-10 minutes. Because I was on a time crunch, I let it cool just enough so I could handle it and I sliced it in half. I scooped out the seeds and then proceeded to spaghetti the squash. :) The great thing about spaghetti squash is once you slice it in half, all you have to do is comb the fork along the squash half and it comes out in spaghetti-like strands..Hence the name.Step 6:
Plate! See how many leftovers this makes? Ryan had some of the leftovers for dinner later and we finished it off the next night and served it with grilled steaks.
And what time is it!?
I mean, how quick and easy is that? It's healthy and filling too. I even had time to clean up and I made it to work with time to spare!

Move over Rachael Ray! This is a 20 minute meal...beat that! Actually...Rachael..you can just go away. (She bugs the crap out of me)

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Spinach-Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms

I was going through some boxes in the basement and came across a few cookbooks that never got unpacked. I mentioned in the Valentine's Day post that we have a lot of cookbooks. When we moved to Columbus, I decided to leave an entire box of cookbooks packed and in the basement and just display the few we use the most. Anyway, I started looking through an old Self Magazine full of recipes. It is titled "Self Dishes" and it came out in the summer of 2007. I've made many yummy recipes from this magazine and they are usually pretty easy recipes and healthy too! I'm always trying to eat healthy. Sometimes I'm successful, sometimes I'm not. Right now, I'm on a healthy-eating kick. I had the day off on Tuesday and I had just gone grocery shopping, so I decided to make Spinach-Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms from my Self Dishes magazine.

This was super easy to make. It's basically just mixing all the ingredients in a bowl, spooning them on to the mushrooms caps and baking it for 25 minutes. I had this for a late lunch and it was filling and really tasty. I definitely plan on making this again because most of the ingredients are already kitchen staples.

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove mushroom stems and chop the stems. Place the mushrooms smooth side down in a baking dish.

2. Next, mix thawed spinach, cottage cheese, shredded cheese, dill, and scallions. The recipe called for cheddar, but I used mozzarella. I also did not have any sour cream on hand, so I just added an additional spoonful of cottage cheese and shredded mozzarella. It still turned out great.

3. Spoon mixture on the mushrooms creating a mound. Cover with foil. (I just re-read the recipe and realized I totally forgot to cover my dish with foil! oops. But, now we know it's not mandatory. ) Bake for 25 minutes.

Here's my uncovered mushrooms cooking away. See, they look fine without the foil. No worries.
The cottage cheese binds everything together and the spinach and cheese flavors complement the meatiness of the portobellos. This dish can also be doctored up a bit! Next time, I plan on adding garlic and lemon zest. I also think adding a spoonful of breadcrumbs would add a nice texture. I love recipes that act like blank canvasses. They have a few staple ingredients and then you can be creative and add other ingredients to make it your own.

This is really a great dish. Not only is it easy, it's really satisfying and very tasty. It can be a nice vegetarian main course, served with a salad and some crusty bread. It also could be a nice side dish to accompany fish or chicken.

Two stuffed mushrooms is only 200 calories. Bonus!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Carrot Ginger Soup

A few days a week I am on my own for dinner. Usually I am lazy and I make a grilled cheese or reheat leftovers. Occasionally I get motivated to be creative and make myself a nice meal. When Ryan isn't around for a meal I like to make something that he wouldn't be crazy for, or something vegetarian. Ryan and I have lived together for about 3 years now and I learned real quick that a meal without some sort of meat or seafood is not really a meal. (Or it at least means a late night snack for a hungry husband) Before I lived with Ryan I would go a week or two without meat and not think anything about it. Sometimes, it's nice to a take a break from being a carnivore.

On this particular night I didn't have much in the fridge but I knew I had some homemade chicken stock, carrots, and a bit of fresh ginger that I need to use up before it starting growing things in the fridge. A few weeks ago Adam Roberts, the Amateur Gourmet, had "The Great Soup Battle of 2010". In this epic battle was an intriguing recipe for Carrot Ginger Soup. I've never had carrot soup before but the more I thought about it the more my mouth started to water. And, I had the major ingredients. So I started looking on some of my favorite recipe web sites (Epicurious and My Recipes) for additional inspiration. Although the recipe form AG's Soup Battle sounded tempting, the winning recipe was from Bon Appetit from 1997 that I found on Epicurious.

I sauteed onions, garlic, and ginger in butter until soft and then added the carrots and tomatoes and lemon zest. Look at how pretty!I let that cook for a few minutes then I added the chicken broth. Once the broth had come to a boil, I reduced the heat and let it simmer for 30 minutes. (The recipe said 20 minutes or until the carrots were soft). I used my favorite kitchen tool, my hand blender, to blend the soup. I'm not a huge fan of smooth and watery soup so I only blended mine until there were a few chunks of carrot and tomato for texture. But that's just me. When you make your ginger carrot soup, you can do what you want. :)So the soup was blended, but it still tasted a little bland to me. So, I added a little cilantro, cumin, and a bit of Siracha (Thai hot sauce) for heat. When the carrots cook they get very sweet, so I added the heat for balance.

While the last of the spices were simmering away to perfection, I tore up some wheat bread and put them under the broiler and made little "poor man" croutons to serve on top of the soup. I also added some crumbled blue cheese and chopped scallions for texture and color. Not bad for a lonely Wednesday night?

So if you are cooking for one or just tired for the same old grilled cheese or PBJ for dinner, try this soup or any recipe that inspires you. You might end up with some tasty results.