Author Archive

Asparagus, Pumpkin, Rice, and Sausage soup

Saturday, October 12th, 2013

When my kids decide that they actually LIKE asparagus,
When they are a little more adventurous for new flavors,
When my husband won’t be home for dinner,
When I’ve been at doctors appointments or shopping all day,
When I have some left over rice and pumpkin puree in the fridge,

THIS is what I make!

(Well, at least that’s what I did last night)

Asparagus, Pumpkin, Rice, and Sausage soup

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Amaree – Pizza and a Movie

Friday, September 13th, 2013

One of my favorite movies is the OLD Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Always one to be attracted to the silly and whimsical, Willy Wonka has been one of my favorite characters, played so adeptly by Gene Wilder. He has such delight in the simple pleasures of life and finds ways to share those simple delights in fantastical ways! And yet, behind that silliness, there is such a deep and complex person who cares so much for others. And then there is sweet, innocent Charlie! It is so easy to love him and his genuine, tender personality.  And of course, the basis of the movie is a love of chocolate. And I LOVE chocolate!
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Rainbow Bread (or in other words- natural food colorings!)

Wednesday, September 11th, 2013

Once upon a time there was a crazy home baker who liked to experiment with breads. And then, while out on a walk with friends discussing potluck dishes, the idea struck to try to make rainbow bread using vegetables as the food dyes. And since this crazy baker is unable to let a crazy idea like that sit and fester, she decided to make some rainbow bread. As soon as she got home. On a very hot day (90 degrees) in a house with no AC. With the oven on at 500 degrees for several hours. Like I said, CrAzY!  Thankfully, this crazy baker had a friend who wanted to participate in the craziness, and who even had a spare KitchenAid to help speed up the process. After a full day of mixing, shaping, laughing, and baking, and giggling some more, four GINORMOUS free-form loaves of craziness emerged, just as marvelous and crazy as the crazy baker had imagined!
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Recipe Round-Up for March 2, 2012

Monday, March 4th, 2013

Blood Orange Cheesecake from Martha Stewart

Blood Orange, Beet, and Fennel Salad from Epicurious

Roasted Carrot Soup from Food52

Simple Grilled Asparagus from Serious Eats

Asian Lettuce Wraps from All Recipes

Swiss Chard with Garbanzo Beans and Fresh Tomatoes from All Recipes

Swiss Chard with Garbanzo Beans and Fresh Tomatoes from All Recipes

Chayote with Tomato and Green Chiles from Simple Recipes

Maple Creme Brulee with Poached Forelle Pears

Roasted Beet and Winter Squash Salad with Walnuts from NY Times

Apple and Beet Salad from The Bitten Word

Apple and Beet Salad from The Bitten Word

Unstuffed Green Pepper Soup from Food.com

Unstuffed Green Pepper Soup from Food.com

Canary Island Cilantro Soup from Food.com

Homemade extracts and copy-cat Milano cookies

Monday, February 25th, 2013

Last year when I contributed for the Tropical Pack for the first time, I was so excited! Vanilla beans! It would be my first experience with them. Once I got them, I was a little bewildered… Vanilla beans are fun and exotic, but WHAT ON EARTH would I do with them?!!! I assure you, I found much to do with my vanilla beans! My friend Google once again came to the rescue. And I began my adventure with extracts. A little history first.

I bake a lot with vanilla, and real vanilla is expensive. So I would often purchase the imitation vanilla flavor. Here are the ingredients to the imitation vanilla I used: Water, propylene glycol, vanillin, caramel color, 0.1% sodium bensoate (added as a preservative), ethyl vanillin. In lay-mans terms, imitation vanilla extract is a wood by-product usually made by soaking alcohol into wood which contains vanillin. The vanillin is then chemically treated to mimic the taste of natural vanilla. Ethyl vanillin is made from coal tar.

Yum.

Just what I want to put into my body.

Within a few clicks of the mouse and strokes on the keyboard, I discovered that homemade vanilla is incredibly simple to make. And the flavor is incredible. And I KNOW what goes in it. The most difficult part was getting the Vodka. You see, we are teetotalers in my family. And extracts use alcohol. So, I made my husband pick it up. Our first attempt we made a mistake. We bought 100 proof vodka. We have since learned that you should use 80 proof vodka for extracts.

 

Vanilla extract (and citrus extracts)

Ingredients

  • Vodka or other unflavored alcohol, 80 proof. Cheap is fine!
  • Vanilla beans (at least 3 per cup of alcohol)
  • A container to store the extract in, preferably dark glass. Clear glass works fine, however. I use a mason jar.

Instructions

  1. Cut the beans lengthwise in half. Chop them smaller if needed.
  2. Put the beans into the container.
  3. Pour the alcohol into the container over the beans.
  4. Put a lid on the container.
  5. Shake.
  6. Store in a dark cupboard, and shake every few days.
  7. Watch the color of the extract get darker and darker and darker.
  8. Repeat the last two steps for two months.
  9. Once the scent of Vanilla permeates, and the color is a deep, rich brown, it is ready to use.

Notes

*To make a citrus extract, wash the citrus fruit thoroughly. Then you will zest the citrus-- think one orange per cup of alcohol-- and add to the alcohol. After a few months, you can strain the zest out of the alcohol, but it is unnecessary.

One of the wonderful things about making your own vanilla is that as you use it, you can top off the extract with more alcohol and you will have a continuous supply for a long time. You can add more beans as you desire, as well. The more beans, the stronger the vanilla. The longer it sits, the stronger the vanilla. AND you know you’re not putting something horrible in your body!

For more information on some other extracts, here is a great resource!

Good time to Extract

Homemade Milano Cookies

Now that I’ve made my extracts, I thought I might try something fun with them!

Homemade Milano Cookies

Milano cookies

Ingredients

  • Cookie:
  • 12 tablespoons (170grams/ 6 oz) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 1/2 cups (312.5 grams/ 11.02 oz) powdered sugar
  • 7/8 cup egg whites (from about 6 eggs)
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons lemon extract
  • 1 1/2 cups (187.5grams/ 6.61 oz) all purpose flour (I used rice flour mix, with 1/2 t xanthan gum)
  • Cookie filling, recipe follows
  • Cookie filling:
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 8 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped (I used dark chocolate)
  • 1 orange, zested (I used 1 T triple sec)

Instructions

  1. In a mixer with paddle attachment cream the butter and the sugar.
  2. Add the egg whites gradually and then mix in the vanilla and lemon extracts.
  3. Add the flour and mix until just well mixed.
  4. With a small (1/4-inch) plain tip, pipe 1-inch sections of batter onto a parchment-lined sheet pan, spacing them 2 inches apart as they spread.
  5. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 10 minutes or until light golden brown around the edges. Let cool on the pan.
  6. While waiting for the cookies to cool, in a small saucepan over medium flame, scald cream.
  7. Pour hot cream over chocolate in a bowl, whisk to melt chocolate, add zest and blend well.
  8. Set aside to cool (the mixture will thicken as it cools).
  9. Spread a thin amount of the filling onto the flat side of a cookie while the filling is still soft and press the flat side of a second cookie on top.
  10. Repeat with the remainder of the cookies.

These cookies are best eaten right away, as they do get a little softer as they sit. That being said, they are still delicious!

Recipe Round-Up for 2/23/13

Friday, February 22nd, 2013

Chinese Di San Xian (Three Fresh Vegetables) from Bake Space (v)

Aubergine and Mint Bruschetta from Jamie Oliver (v)

Eggplant Parmesan from Shape (v)

Fresh Pineapple Pie from CD Kitchen

Pineapple Pops from Martha Stewart (v)

Broccoli, Leek, and Black Bean Rissoto from A Good Appetite (v)

Yukon Gold Potatoes: Jacques Pepin Style, from Rachel Ray (v)

Pineapple and Pink Grapefruit with Mint Sugar from BBC Good Food (v)

Black Bean, Egg Plant, and Leek Chili with Lime Sour Cream from Dinner Du Jour (v)

Carrot Ribbon Salad from Better Home and Gardens (v)

Chocolate Caramel Banana Upside-down Cake from the Food Librarian (v)

Apple, Orange, and Banana Smoothie by Morrisons (v)

Cumin Scented Eggplant and Cauliflower with Pomegranate and Cilantro

Sunday, February 10th, 2013

I have a confession. My family can be a little bit picky about what produce they will eat. For example, aside from myself, my family doesn’t really like eggplant (which came in my Italian pack this week). They also don’t like cauliflower much (in the basket this week, and last… I have a few on hand still). I can sometimes bribe the kids into eating cauliflower, but eggplant….? And 4 heads of cauliflower?

And today was “Potluck Sunday” at church…

Which, if you didn’t know, is a perfect time to use up some “unwanted” produce and to experiment (or, at least, that’s what I tell myself! Ha!) As I was searching for recipes to use my Eggplant in, I found one that called for pomegranate molasses, which I just happened to make last time we had pomegranate cases available, cilantro, and some pomegranate arils, which I also just happened to have. This seemed like the perfect dish– simple, chic, and intriguing but delicious sounding.  It turned out gorgeous! And, better yet, it was delicious. Elegant. And perhaps a little posh, even. Not to brag. But… I’ll do it. It was great. The cilantro helped meld in the flavors, giving it a truly Mediterranean flavor. And, best of all… there were no left-overs. A true sign of a successful dish! So, when you have some extra unwanted produce from your basket, think outside of the box! Be creative! Try something new and exotic! You might just have a winner on your hands!

 

* Please forgive the picture, as it was taken from my cellphone, at church, in a rush, while holding a cranky baby :-)

Cumin-Scented Eggplant and Cauliflower with Pomegranate and Cilantro

 

Cumin-Scented Eggplant and Cauliflower withPomegranate and Cilantro

Ingredients

  • 5 cups water
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons sea salt or coarse kosher salt
  • 1 Eggplant, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices
  • 1 head Cauliflower, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 tablespoon (or more) olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • Pomegranate molasses* (for drizzling)
  • 2/3 cup pomegranate seeds (from 1 pomegranate)
  • 1/4 cup cilantro leaves

Instructions

  1. Stir 5 cups water and 2 1/2 tablespoons sea salt in large bowl to dissolve salt. Add eggplant slices. Place plate on eggplant to submerge; let soak 1 hour. Drain eggplant; pat dry.
  2. Preheat oven to 350°F. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Working in batches, sauté eggplant and cauliflower until brown in spots and softened, 2 minutes per side. Transfer to large rimmed baking sheet. Repeat with remaining eggplant, adding more oil by tablespoonfuls as needed; arrange eggplant in single layer on baking sheet.
  3. Mix cumin and cayenne. Sprinkle eggplant with cumin mixture. Roast until golden and cooked through, 30 minutes.
  4. Remove eggplant from oven; sprinkle with garlic. Arrange eggplant on platter and drizzle lightly with pomegranate molasses. Sprinkle pomegranate seeds and cilantro over. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Recipe Round-Up for 1/19/13

Sunday, January 20th, 2013

Recipes with (v) are vegetarian.

Amy's Freaky Good Apple Tart from Food Network (v)

Lemon Pavlova from Eating Well (v)

Lemon-Herb Roasted Beets from Eating Well (v)

Strawberry Chicken Salad from My Recipes

Roasted Red Pepper and Potato Egg Pie from Rachel Ray (v)

Braised Salad-Savoy Cabbage from Melissa's Produce (v)

Salad Savoy Chips from Tasty Kitchen (v)

Baked Costa Rican-Style Tilapia with Pineapples, Black Beans, and Rice from Ingrid Hoffman

Orange and Balsamic Chicken

Orange Chicken from Blog Chef.net

Spring Salad with Strawberries and Creamy Orange-Avocado Dressing from Whole Foods Market (v)

Onion Potato Pancakes from Taste of Home (v)

Recipe Round-Up for January 12th, 2013

Monday, January 14th, 2013

Vegetarian recipes are notated with a (V)

Mixed Green Salad with Grapefruit and Cranberries From Huff Post (V)

*You can easily substitute the Oroblanco for the

Grapefruit in this and other Grapefruit recipes

Citrus-Poppy Seed Vinaigrette from Huff Post (V)

Avocado-Grapefruit Relish from Huff Post (Relish is Vegetarian)

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Balsamic Vinegar from White on Rice Couple (v) * I often add garlic to this recipe. It is my ABSOLUTE favorite way to eat Brussels Sprouts

 

Rainbow Carrots glazed in Orange and Ginger Sauce (v) from Katheryne Cooks

Gooey Good Fuji Apple Pie (v) from the Cooking Channel

Strawberry Orange Banana Smoothie from the Food Network (v)

Stuffed Mini-Peppers from Sarah's Cucina Bella (v)

Penne Pasta Salad with Salami and Celery from Real Simple

Strawberry, Pistachio, and Goat Cheese Pizza (v) from Cooking Light

A Basket a Week will a Healthy Body Keep!

Tuesday, January 8th, 2013

“Eat your fruits and veggies!”

“5 A DAY!”

I imagine there are very few of us who haven’t heard the slogan, “5 A DAY!” 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day is what the USDA used to recommend (their slogan has changed slightly, but the principles behind eating more fruits and vegetables has not changed—in fact, they say that you should be consuming between 5-13 servings of fruits and vegetables a day, depending on your size!) Often, this can seem quite challenging! If you think about it, that can add up to be quite a bit of food! The nice thing is that fresh fruits and vegetables are filling, chock full of the vitamins, minerals, and fiber your body needs, but are low in calories and fat!

Why, exactly, are we supposed to eat so many fruits and vegetables? Obviously, it’s “healthy.” But there are a lot of specific ways that eating those fruits and veggies can help your body.

  • A study done by Harvard showed that those who eat an average of 8 or more servings of fruits and vegetables were 30% less likely to have a heart attack compared to those who ate 1.5 or less servings a day. Leafy greens (spinach, kale, collard greens, etc.), cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, etc.),  and citrus (lemons, limes, tangerines, oranges, etc.) seemed to contribute more towards these results, although any fruit or vegetable had an effect.
  • Eating fruits and vegetables help lower your blood pressure. A diet high in fruits and veggies, combined with restrictions on saturated and total fats, were able to lower blood pressure as much as blood pressure medication was able to do.
  • Some fruits and vegetables seem to have an effect on protecting against some cancers (not all, and not always), particularly cancers that seem to form in places where food comes into contact (think mouth, stomach, esophagus, etc.)
  • Fruits and vegetables contain fiber, which is great for your gastrointestinal health! Feeling a little constipated? Eat a few kiwi, or other high-fiber fruit or vegetables!
  • The vitamins and minerals in fruits and vegetables can help with your vision and can help prevent cataracts and macular degeneration.
  • Eating enough fruits and vegetables in your diet can help prevent type 2 diabetes.

The list goes on. Bountiful Baskets has given us all a chance to really up the ante on how many fruits and vegetables we are able to eat, affordably, and freshly. One really effective way to “force” yourself to eat more produce is to get 1 basket a week (or 2 if your family consists of 4 or more people) and EAT IT ALL. This can sometimes be daunting, but as a family of 6 going through at least 2 baskets a week for the past several months, I can assure you it can be done! (If you live in an area that does not have baskets available every week, then get 2 to last you the two weeks, or contribute for 3 and extras if you have a larger family.)

(source:  http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/vegetables-full-story/)

How we do it

When we wash our produce and line it up on the counter on Saturday, my husband and I often look at each other and wonder how on earth we are going to get through it. The 2 baskets (sometimes 3!) we get for our family of 6 for the week seems like a LOT of food! The fruits aren’t usually a problem, but the vegetables sometimes offer some challenges, especially when not-so-favorite vegetables show up.

  1. Menus
  •  Saturday evening, I typically sit down with a list of what came in the baskets and create a menu. We have found that having a menu is truly the key to our success. And Google is our best friend when it comes to creating the menu. I will often type in an assortment of the vegetables and fruit that comes in the baskets and search. Invariably, there will be at least a few recipes that use the combination of items I searched. I save/print the recipe, cross off the used items off of my list of available contents from the basket, and continue my searches until I have used everything in the basket. Sometimes we have a favorite recipe we use regularly that uses a certain vegetable, and I will throw that into the mix as well. By creating menus this way, not only do we try new recipes weekly (daily sometimes!), but we are able to use more of the basket, more efficiently, and with less waste! You can also come to this blog on Saturday and Sunday and find recipe round-ups using the contents of the baskets. Then the work is done for you already! J
  1. Cut them up!
  • As soon as the vegetables have been washed and rinsed, cut them up! This works especially well for carrots, celery, broccoli, cauliflower, peppers, jicama, and other good snack-y vegetables. It saves on time later, and they are ready to eat when you feel the munchies coming on. Put them in a zipper baggie and keep them in the front of your fridge for easy access. When I take the time to prepare the veggies this way, I find that I put them in lunches, grab them for snacks, or find a way to use them in other ways more than when I don’t.
  1. HIDE them
  • There are inevitably fruits and vegetables that are not favorites. Many of these can be cooked and then pureed and hidden in other foods. There are a lot of great resources available for “hiding” things. A great cookbook to look up is “Deceptively Delicious”. For instance, cauliflower can be hidden in almost anything—sweet or savory—without being noticed! If you’re unsure if a certain fruit or vegetable can be hidden/substituted, try the trusty Google search engine. Chances are, someone has tried it before!
  1. Leave single-serving sized fruits out on the counter in plain sight
  • Keeping them where you can see them makes it much easier to just grab the fruit and eat it. While the fruit does last longer in the fridge, if you’re going through a basket a week, the fruit will typically last just fine on the counter, especially apples, bananas, peaches, plums, pears, kiwi, etc.
  1. Use the ripest items first.
  • Typically the baskets contain a varying degree of ripeness for the contents. Bananas often come green, apples don’t get any better with age, peaches and plums can often use a day or two on the counter, as can the tomatoes. If you plan your menus and snacks around what is ripe, you will find that you don’t have accidentally bad items and that you’re eating things that aren’t ripe yet. That being said, for the most part, Bountiful Baskets produce is fresher than what you can get at the grocery store and if washed and stored properly, will last longer than what you can get at the store.
  1. Think SOUPS and STIRFRYS and PIES!
  • At the end of the week, as you’re left with a strange assortment of left-over vegetables and fruits, soups, stirfrys, and pies and crisps can help you get through the last little bit. Just about every vegetable can go into stirfrys or soups, and you can combine so many fruits and make a great pie or crisp/cobbler.

I hope these suggestions are helpful! May your plates be full of goodness and your body full of fruits and vegetables!

A basket a week—I DARE YA!