Star-faits and Mash

I decided to go strange for my unfamiliar produce assignment.

First up: starfruit. I saw these little guys in amongst the oranges and thought I’d give them a try. Turns out, you really don’t do anything to starfruit – not even peeling! Several recipes I found also included things like mango and papaya, which I didn’t have. I decided to go simple but kind of fancy and made parfaits for my husband and myself.

Star-faits and coffee

Star-faits and coffee

 

For the second piece of produce, I did choose a local and seasonal vegetable: rutabagas. I learned the hard way that rutabagas are stubborn to peel and difficult to cut!

These, too, don’t necesssarily require much preparation. The first thing I made with them was just themselves. That is, I boiled cubes of rutabaga in well-salted water, tossed them with salt and pepper, and served! They were so delicious we barely had any left over of the large bowl.

The next night I decided to do a little more work. I found a recipe for rutabaga mashed with carrots, which reminded me of the delicious “Canadian turnip” dish we’d had at a friend’s Thanksgiving dinner. This was pretty simple as well: pretty much just boil the rutabaga, then mash it with grated carrots, butter, and a little sugar. Next time I think I’ll use a little more butter and maybe some fun spices; it came out a bit bland.

img_1388

All in all an enjoyable experience!

file_000

Cauliflower & Squash

I am admittedly not very outgoing when it comes to vegetables, so branching out to cauliflower and squash is a big deal for me! I have seen lots of creative uses for cauliflower on Pinterest so I was eager to try some of those recipes out. I chose a kabocha squash as my second ingredient because this is the perfect time to attempt to make a popular Haitian soup that I have had on my last few visits there. Overall I am very happy with how all of these meals turned out!

Haitian Squash Soup Joumou

I understand now why this soup is so special in Haiti. It takes a LONG time to prepare and cook. There is marinating, chopping, sauteing, boiling, resting, and waiting. I am definitely not used to spending this much time making a meal in the kitchen. At least the end result was worth it!

File_000.jpeg

 In addition to the squash, the green cabbage and the shallots are new for me as well! It was fun to test out my handy knife skills on all these different kinds of veggies.

File_004.jpeg

This squash put up a fight! The process of cutting and taking the skin off of this thing was a challenge. After I chopped it into cubes, I boiled it until tender, then pureed it in a blender. Set aside to add to the soup for the last 20 minutes on the stove.

File_007.jpeg

After marinating the meat for about an hour, I browned it in the pot. Then added beef stock and the rest of the chopped veggies.

File_008.jpeg

Viola! This soup is absolutely delicious. I had enough to pack lunches for the entire week and a few dinner portions as well.

Cauliflower Crust Pizza

I’ve seen this recipe everywhere and I was so excited to finally try it! It turned out great and I was so surprised how easy it was!

File_000(2).jpeg

This recipe called for a food processor to prep the cauliflower, which I don’t have, so I had to substitute for a blender. A bit of a struggle but I eventually achieved the same results!

File_001.jpeg

I had to microwave the riced cauliflower for 4 minutes, then squeeze the heck out of it in a tea towel. I was shocked at how much water kept coming out! After this, I added an egg, cheese, and Italian spices and mixed into a “dough”.

File_003.jpeg

I cooked just the crust first until golden brown, then added the sauce and cheese! I will definitely make this again and add more creative toppings. It’s crazy how cauliflower can take on the flavor of whatever you’d like it to.

Cauliflower Fried Rice

After my great experience with the pizza crust last night, I was excited to try this fried rice. This was also so easy, and I loved the result!

File_000(1).jpeg

Went with a veggie fried rice this time, but next time I would add chicken or steak.

File_001(2).jpeg

Instead of using a blender to make the rice, I tried using a cheese grater instead. This actually worked a lot better and produced the perfect little rice pieces.

File_002.jpeg

Sauteed the carrots, scallions, and garlic in the pan before adding the egg then the rice and soy sauce.

File_003(2).jpeg

This was SO GOOD. I may have just discovered my new favorite dish!

Since I am just cooking for myself, I’m not sure buying produce in bulk is the smartest option for me. It worked this week because I was forced to use the ingredients for these recipes, but I could see myself easily getting tired of the ingredients if I had to eat it before it went bad. Perhaps if I have specific plans to make a soup and freeze portions, or plan my meals strategically to use the produce in different ways it could work.

Bok Choy & Swiss Chard

I wouldn’t say it was easy, but my three meals are complete.

Easy Miso-Chicken Ramen

http://www.eatingwell.com/recipe/252520/easy-miso-chicken-ramen/

This was a pretty easy recipe, and I will have soup for days. I still need to learn how to plan ahead for recipes. I would like to not make 5 trips to the grocery store in 24 hours (3 just for this recipe) – The co-op to scout for produce, then to Shuang Hur for miso and “chinese noodles” – is this a thing, or was the writer just being lazy? I got Udon noodles instead. Then to Target for the ginger root.

I decided to roast a whole chicken, assuming my partner would appreciate eating some drummies and wings instead of soup. The mistake I made was not putting the chicken in much earlier before starting the soup. The rest of the soup sat on the stove simmering for too long and the udon noodles turned starchy as I waited for the chicken to be done. Or Maybe I will just cook the noodles separately, if there is a next time. This would be better for freezing it, too.

( decided to make some chicken stock too while I was at it…)

Crunchy Bok Choy Coleslaw

http://www.eatingwell.com/recipe/249249/crunchy-bok-choy-slaw/

For starters, don’t be fooled by this photo. There is no mayo in this slaw; nothing to make it look like the creamy yumminess of regular coleslaw. It may be because I found a slug the size of my fingernail, chopped in half on my cutting board… but I didn’t like this recipe too much. I don’t mind bugs in my produce when I’m expecting them, from the garden or a farmers market, but this head was from Target, and I definitely washed it, too! I threw that initial chopped pile away, washed and combed through the rest with vigor, and carried on. Once it was done, I decided to add a little of that creaminess it was missing by making the mayonnaise from our first class. I was too lazy to whip it as much as I should have but it still worked. I still didn’t like it, and on another trip back to the grocery store, I picked up cabbage to add to it (just like me to keep sinking time and energy into something instead of throwing it out), and I also added a tidge of some fantastic Finnish mustard. That made it better, so I am begrudgingly eating it to make it go away.

Tortilla Casserole with Swiss Chard

http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/tortilla-casserole-with-swiss-chard

For my next trick, I decided to turn swiss chard into food. The only recipe I’ve found that I’ve liked with chard is chicken breasts with a lemony-cream cheese mixture and steamed chard on top.

Now I have two recipes that I like with chard. I learned from this escapade that one should dump carefully… crushed red peppers, that is. I didn’t have jalapenos, and even though I had to go to the store again for the sour cream, I didn’t want to deal with spicy fingers either. I filled open the top of crushed red peppers and gave it just a slight tip over into the pan. I must have emptied 2 tablespoons into my mushroom and onion mixture. I tried to scoop it out, but the steam became so spicy, it hurt my lungs and I couldn’t see through my watery eyes. And so I gave up and left it like that. And yes, I did have to put a lot of sour cream on it to cut the heat.

 

 

Home Assignment 2 – Veggies!

Since my husband prefers primarily vegan meals, there is virtually no vegetable that has not crossed our threshold. However, it is amazing how far we have strayed from making meals from scratch! We’ve found frozen or canned versions of many staples, rather than relying on local & seasonal produce. While we’re told that many foods retain their nutrients when canned or frozen, I appreciated the challenge to obtain minimally processed food.

With that in mind, I purchased a giant tub of fresh spinach – an item we’ve avoided because it is delicate and spoils easily. In addition we purchased carrots, celery & onions. I know these sound very basic, but we’ve not been using them, since we’ve found organic pre-made food. I went back to the basics this week – a huge victory, and hopefully the start of new eating habits.

As a nutrition powerhouse, I adore spinach! And having it fresh allowed me to note its more delicate texture and flavor and the smaller quantity of stems present – as compared with frozen spinach. I used the spinach in three recipes: (1) Salmon with rice & veggies, (2) Curried beans, and (3) lentil soup. The other items I made from scratch this week were a cannolini bean dish and split pea soup. Having soup made from scratch this week renewed my awareness of how many shapes and sizes can be created when chopping veggies for soup – it was part of the fun! Also the flavor and texture of the carrots, celery & onions were so far superior to what we’ve been eating in canned soups, that it would be difficult to purchase those flavorless alternatives again – despite their being organic! Not to mention how much better the peas tasted, when prepared from dried, split peas – and how much cheaper. And my husband gave the soup rave reviews!

My personal favorite of all the dishes I made this week was a cannolini bean dish, which featured red cabbage and apples (what we happened to have left in the fridge) and is seasoned with caraway seeds and sage. It was so satisfying! But I want to continue to tweak that recipe and plan to include it in next week’s blog…I need to make it tempting enough for my husband to try to steal it for his lunch box.

Recipe #1 Salmon w/ Rice & Veggies

This invention stemmed from a rather large portion of salmon left over from a lunch outing. In its first life, it was part of a nicoise salad, and I wanted to use it to create something entirely different. I gave it an Asian twist by marinating with minced garlic & seasoning I’d purchased in Hawaii that included nori seaweed, wasabi, ginger & mustard. I diced the leftover green beans & potatoes & sautéed all with the marinated salmon, then added the marinade & simmered, then served with brown rice & a dash of tamari.

img_4130_salmon-ingredients

gathering the ingredients: leftover salmon, potatoes & beans; seasonings; brown rice

img_4131_salmon-prep

Prep: diced ingredients & seasonings (canola & toasted sesame oils, garlic, wasabi/mustard sauce, seaweed herbs, tamari

img_4135_salmon-cook

Cooking brown rice (covered), simmering salmon & veggies in the marinade.

img_4136_salmon-serve

Serving: salmon & veggies on brown rice w/ dash of tamari

Recipe #2 Curried beans, wilted spinach, and brown rice

This invention included Indian spices (hot and smoky curries and turmeric), canned tomatoes, diced onions, and dried kidney & pinto beans. The crockpot makes it easy to cook all day, until all is soft and the veggies disappear to become a thick sauce. I warmed half-bowls of leftover brown rice, filled the other half of each bowl with fresh spinach, then poured the curried beans on to wilt the spinach. Easy and delicious!

img_4155_spinach-wash

Sorted spinach then washed in salad spinner

img_4140_rice-cook

Cooked short-grain brown rice; covered & allowed to swell. Portions can easily be stored & reheated in microwave or top of double boiler.

img_4162_curry-beans-rice-spinach

Curried pinto & kidney beans over brown rice and spinach

Recipe #3 Split Pea Soup

I diced a picnic ham & placed in crockpot with 4 quarts of water with herbs de Provence, 2 garlic cloves with a whole clove stuck in one and 2 bay leaves. My husband dislikes meat unless it is extremely falling-apart tender, so my solution was to cook it low & slow. About 4 hours later, I added a dash of smoked paprika, 1 can diced blackened tomatoes, 4 diced carrots, sliced celery, a large diced onion, and 2 cups dried split peas. In four more hours, the entire house smelled wonderful! I toasted two potato rosemary rolls to serve alongside.

img_4153_split-pea-ingredients

Assembling the ingredients: split peas, bay leaves, whole cloves, herbs de Provence, carrots, garlic (onions, celery & ham not pictured), and fresh parsley for garnish.

img_4147_split-pea-cook

Simmering split pea soup – can easily be stored (even frozen) and reheated. I always avoid the microwave, as it toughens the meat. I served with a dusting of minced fresh parsley.

To be certain to fulfill our homework assignment and to avoid wasting any of the wonderful, fresh spinach, I also included spinach in our lentil soup. The basic soup was made with diced carrots, celery & onions, 1 1/2 cups lentils, 1 1/2 quarts of chicken stock, 1 bay leaf, 1 clove of garlic, a splash of apple cider vinegar, tarragon & thyme. It was heated, and I stirred in the spinach at serving time.

img_4167_lentil-soup-spinach

lentil soup with fresh spinach – stirred in after hearing

Eggplant? Beets me!

I am glad I am being encouraged/pushed to try new produce options. I am bad about eating vegetables in general and when I do, they are usually the usual suspects. Carrots make for easy, fresh eating and broccoli – with it’s lush greenness and weight – always makes me feel like I am really taking care of myself when I eat it. Aside from these two, I would mostly get vegetables in my diet from meals prepared by others or at restaurants. I like vegetables – I do – but I am intimidated by them and don’t know how to prepare them quickly without adding fats or oils. Activities like our assignment this week help get me out of my comfort zone, which is excellent.They also encourage me to buy more produce than I normally do, which is pretty limited each week. I think it would be a good idea for me to purchase some bulk produce each week so I can add things easily to meals, especially easy side dishes (like the beets turned out to be).

I chose eggplant and golden beets for my produce this week.  Now, you may be thinking that these are not particularly unusual items, but for me, they are a stretch. I made 3 different recipes – an entree, a breakfast item, and a side – and my experience was a bit mixed. I think I learned from this exercise that I am not crazy about eggplant, but my like of beets was ramped up to a “love”!

Recipe #1 Eggplant and Tofu Stirfry

http://www.realsimple.com/food-recipes/browse-all-recipes/eggplant-tofu-stir-fry


I get bonus points for this one – eggplant AND tofu, two things I very seldomly cook with. I learned from this experience that I am not too big of a fan cooking eggplant in oil. It seems like the eggplant becomes almost a sponge for the oil, sucking in the flavor and texture so much that it makes it a bit slimy and unpleasant. I think the Hoisin sauce I had might have also been too sweet, as the whole dish seemed not quite savory enough for an entree. My husband loved it, however, and I felt especially proud of myself when I used my own “kitchen intuition” to add cashews to the dish for some crunch. I did find that I liked using tofu and that I would be open to substituting this for meat somewhat regularly in the future.

Recipe #2 Roasted Lemon Golden Beets

http://www.eatingwell.com/recipe/252469/lemon-herb-roasted-beets/


This recipe was the “winner” of the 3. It’s a pretty simple idea – roasting beets in a bit of oil and spices, but the addition of lemon zest really makes the flavor pop in such a lovely way. I could see substituting beets now as a side for any occasion I want an option to roasted potatoes. The preparation was so easy and the result so flavorful. I think I am going to keep more lemons on hand in the future because lemon zest seems like a miracle ingredient to me now.

Recipe #3 Mixed Berry and Beet Smoothie

https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/12355-mixed-berry-and-beet-smoothie

I’m not great about eating breakfast. I will often just eat a Kind bar or a cup of yogurt with some fruit. It works for me, but I could be more adventurous and certainly more intentional about adding produce to my morning routine. I thought an easy way to do this might be to try a beet smoothie (we got a new blender as a wedding present and it’s awesome). While I liked the added flavor of the beets, I would not recommend using raw beets (the recipe says you can use either raw or cooked) as they do not blend as well and it effects the texture.

Overcoming my fear of beets and leeks

When I am eating out, I often order beet salads and I have always enjoyed the flavoring of leeks in soups and other dishes. Yet,  I had never bought beets and leeks at the farmers market or grocery store, because they just seemed too difficult to prepare. So when we were given this week’s assignment, I knew exactly the vegetables I would tackle.

My husband and I buy most of our groceries at Kowalski Market, where we shop once per week. We don’t live near a Kowalski’s, but we love the quality of the produce and meats there so we drive to the St. Paul store each weekend.

The recipes I selected for this week required a lot of beets and leeks, eight beets and a total of seven leeks. I nearly bought out the stock of beets and leeks at Kowalski’s with my purchase. While in the produce section shopping for class, I decided to take this  opportunity to add more vegetables and fruits into our diet overall this week, so we ended up buying a number of other vegetables as well. And my husband got inspired to make homemade hummus to accompany all the vegetables we were going to be turning into snacks and sandwiches this week. I have to say that when we were at the check out at Kowalski’s I stood a little taller, feeling proud to be buying more healthy foods. (The frozen pizzas and chips in my cart in the past always make me feel slightly guilty at the checkout.)

On Sunday night we decided to make filet mignons so I decided to take on the beets since they take more time to cook. I selected an Ina Garten balsamic roasted beet salad from the Food Network. The beets are roasted for 50 minutes. You then peel and cube them and drizzle a homemade vinaigrette over the warm beets. The beet salad is served on a bed of arugula with marcona almonds on the top. The recipe also calls for a goat cheese topping, but I substituted a sheep’s milk feta instead because I find goat cheese to be too bitter for my taste. The only challenge with the beets was peeling them. At first I tried to peel them with a knife and it was labor-intensive. Around beet eight, I realized you could more easily remove the skins with your hands in one simple motion. Voila!! The salad was a perfect accompaniment for the steaks, and I ate the salad for lunch the next day too.

I took on the first batch of leeks on Monday night by preparing a Creamy Pasta with Leeks, Peas and Parmesan recipe from Woman’s Day that I found online. The recipe called for sautéing the leeks and lemon peel, and then combining them with cream and the boiled  orecchiette pasta and peas at the end before serving. I didn’t time the pasta well so the leeks and cream cooked longer than I liked. While the pasta was still good, it would have been creamier had I better timed the pasta. We enjoyed the pasta for dinner and I took it to work the next day for lunch as well.

On Tuesday night, I took the remaining leeks and made a potato leek soup I found on Food.com. This was by far the easiest recipe I made, and it turned out beautifully. We plan to reheat the soup tonight for dinner and we already froze another serving for later.

Given our assignment, we definitely bought and ate more vegetables this week, and it even inspired me to bring my lunches to work, which is a much healthier option than eating fast food in Dinkytown–my default lunch choice. The advantage of buying produce in bulk is that you only need to shop once and can make several meals out of your purchases. The disadvantage is you are “committed” to using them so you need to use them. Another disadvantage is they take up a lot of refrigerator space.

Overall, this was a valuable assignment because I realized trying to cook something new is not that hard since YouTube videos are available to guide you for almost every food preparation technique. I also realized that I can make the time to cook healthy dishes during the week.

 

 

Assignment #2

my new veggies to try are spaghetti squash and another variety squash Kabasch or something close to that.  The sticker got thrown away.  I cut them both in half, scooped out the guts and rubbed them with olive oil.  I put salt on both and cinnamon on the Orange squash.  Baked at 375 for 45 minutes upside down on a cookie sheet.  Served the Orange one with salmon peas and Mac and cheese.  I eat with a 1, 3, 5 & 7 year old.  Spaghetti squash was served with chicken and peas then again with tomato sauce.  They were a pretty good hit.