Thursday, October 28, 2010

Sauteed radishes and greens

Last night I tried something very different for me, and it was all from CSA veggies.  I have too many radishes to use sliced up in salads, so I looked up any other ways to eat them, and found that you can saute them!  I also have a ton of arugula from the past couple weeks and it's a bit strong for me to use much in my salads, so I wanted to try sauteing that as well.

I started by heating up some olive oil in a skillet, then added 3 cloves of minced garlic, and half of a large onion, diced.  I sauteed this until the garlic was nice and brown and the onions were getting soft.  Then I added radish slices - last week I got a large radish so this was all I needed, but if using smaller radishes, then probably 2 would be needed.  I sliced the radish into fairly thin slices, but not super thin, maybe a little thicker than you would use in a salad, and I did not peel it.  I added the slices and sauteed on each side for 2-3 minutes.  Then I added a large handful of arugula and mustard greens and some salt and pepper, and lowered the temperature and put the lid on.  I only cut the bigger greens into smaller pieces, but left them mostly whole.  I let it simmer with the lid on for about 10 minutes, stirring it around only once, until the greens were nice and wilted.  I let it cook for another couple of minutes with the lid off to relieve some of the moisture, added more salt and pepper, and that was it!

Incidentally, I used this as a side dish with a piece of salmon, and it went great together.  I squeezed some fresh lemon on the salmon so I went ahead and put a little on the veggies and that tasted pretty good as well.  I'm considering adding some type of spice the next time, as I will definitely be making this again.  Great flavor and lots of nutrition!  I found out that radishes have a good amount of fiber and vitamin C, and of course the greens have lots of vitamins A and K.  I just have to watch the amount of salt I use, and really you don't need to add much because it has so much flavor.

Week 5 veggies

I got some cool new veggies this week, in addition to some of the same ones.  And no more garlic!

This week I got:
a bag of arugula
a bag of mustard greens
a large eggplant
an armenian cucumber
3 green chiles
a bag of small okra
a bag of basil
3 radishes, one white

Hmmm do I attempt the chiles rellenos again???  I also need to look up some info about the armenian cucumber, I have never used one of those before.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Sauteed okra, tomatoes and onions

I finally attacked the large bag of okra I got in last week's CSA bag.  I'm still trying to avoid frying it, so I decided to saute / steam it tonight.  I chopped up a medium onion and added that to a hot skillet with olive oil, along with 3 cloves of minced garlic.  I sauteed the onion and garlic for a few minutes until the onion was turning soft and it was all coated in oil.  Meanwhile I chopped up 1 1/2 tomatoes, and cut the stem and bottom tips off the okra.  I left the "cap" on the okra, just chopped the stem part off.  I added the tomatoes to the skillet for about a minute and mixed it all in with the onions and let some of the juices start to come out, then I added the okra.  I picked out some random spices and added them at this point - celery seed, cumin, cayenne pepper (just a dash), salt, pepper, and my secret ingredient - ginger.  I tossed the okra and spices in with the onions and tomatoes, lowered the heat, and simmered it covered for 10-15 minutes until the okra was done.  I stirred it around a few times during the simmer.  After cooking I added a little more salt and pepper, then squeezed fresh lemon juice on the top.  Delish!  The okra was cooked but still crunchy, no "okra slime", and no mushiness.  I will add more spices next time, I was a little hesitant since I wasn't sure how they would mix, but it was still very flavorful.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Week 4 veggies

I did not get anything new this week in my CSA bag, but I sure got some good stuff!  I got a big bag of arugula, okra, basil, a nice sized butternut squash, another head of garlic (I have so much garlic right now!), 3 radishes (1 is pretty big), a bag of mizuna, and 2 good sized onions.
Time to find some more okra recipes!  And maybe some butternut squash soup...

Pot roast with black eyed peas

Yesterday I made a pot roast in the crock pot - one of my favorite meals.  A couple of weeks ago I had made black eyed peas with tomatoes in the crock pot and froze it, and thought that sounded good with the pot roast, so I thawed that out.  The pot roast was fairly simple - I browned the roast on all sides in a skillet first (this took only 5 minutes, make sure you dry it off first with paper towels).  Then I put sliced onions, carrots and potatoes in the crock pot, put the roast on top, then added some chicken stock and red wine.  You can use a variety of liquids, I just happened to have some chicken stock left from other recipes, and I always like red wine.  I set the crock pot on low and let it cook all day while I was at work.  I sliced the veggies the night before to make it quicker to assemble in the morning before work.

When I got home from work, I removed the meat and veggies, then poured the broth into a saucepan.  I mixed in some cornstarch (works a little better than flour for thickening) and simmered it while stirring while it thickened up.  Then I put the whole thing back in the crock pot on high for 15-20 minutes.

For the black eyed peas, I sauteed an onion and some garlic and put it into the crock pot.  Then I added 2 pieces of cooked bacon, a couple of diced tomatoes, the shelled black eyed peas (not sure how much it was, it was all that I received in 2 weeks of CSA bags) and 2-3 cups of chicken stock.  This was cooked on high in the crock pot for 4-5 hours.  To reheat it yesterday I thawed it for 2 days in the fridge, then put it in a large pan on low heat while I was preparing the rest of the meal.   It came out as more of a soup, though you can strain out the broth and thicken it up if you prefer it that way.  We ended up spooning it over the pot roast and it was really good.
To add some green to this meal I made my usual mixed green salad with homemade salad dressing.  It tasted even better with the addition of some gorgonzola cheese leftover from the lasagna.  Yum!

To serve the roast, I put the meat and veggies on a platter, with the onions on top of the roast, and added a fresh sprig of parsley on top to brighten it up.  The gravy went into a gravy boat, and I didn't grab a pic of that.

It was a LOT of food!  I definitely have some leftovers to eat over the next few days.  Pot roast is almost as good leftover as when it's first made.  To store it, I shredded up the meat, added it to a container, and poured the gravy and the black eyed peas all in the container.  Lunches should be good this week!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Arugula lasagna

Last week the recipe that came with my CSA bag was for arugula lasagna.  It sounded amazing so I finally decided to try it tonight.  It was a lot of work but soooo worth it!  I think cheese is my favorite food, so this is definitely one of my favorite meals.  The recipe can be found here -

I started by cooking the lasagna.  While it was boiling I rinsed and chopped all of the arugula that I still had from last week's CSA bag.  This actually took a little while to cut the arugula leaves into long strips!  I saved about 8 of the best looking leaves for the top of the lasagna.  At the same time I also put a single layer of pine nuts on the tray in my toaster oven to toast them.  I don't know if you can buy pine nuts that were already toasted but I bought fresh ones so I toasted them myself.  I also sliced 2 shallots and grated the Pecorino cheese.  Then I sauteed the sliced shallots while mixing together the cheese sauce.  I did not read the directions very well and dumped all of the Pecorino into the cheese sauce - oops!  I was supposed to save 2/3 of it for the top.  The cheese sauce contained gorgonzola, ricotta, Pecorino cheeses, plus heavy cream, salt, pepper and cinnamon.  The recipe called for nutmeg, but I forgot to buy that so I used a little bit of cinnamon as a substitute.  Once the shallots were sauteed I put them aside and sauteed the arugula and garlic for just a few minutes.

The arugula was mixed into the cheese sauce, and then the lasagna creation began.  First I added a little milk to the casserole dish, then the first 3 cooked lasagna noodles, then about 1/4 of the cheesy arugula mixture.

See the strips of arugula in there?  I made 3 more layers like this, then added the sauteed shallots, pine nuts and the whole arugula leaves I had saved.  I was supposed to put the rest of the Pecorino on top, but since I had accidentally put it in the cheese mixture, I found some grated asiago cheese in the fridge (from Friday night's meal) and added a bunch of that on top.

This went into the oven with foil on top for 25 minutes, while I cleaned the giant mess in the kitchen.  I managed to use a lot of pans and dishes to prepare this!  But cleaning kept me busy while I was salivating over the yummy cheesy smells coming out of my oven.  After 25 minutes I removed the foil to let the top brown.  This took about 15 minutes, then I removed the beauty from the oven.

Somehow I managed to let it sit for 10 minutes per the recipe instructions before cutting it.  Then I ate about half of it -- ok maybe not that much, but certainly more than I should have!  It was super delicious!  Maybe not the healthiest meal from a low fat perspective, but all of the ingredients were fresh, organic and simple, so I do believe it is healthier than a frozen lasagna.  Plus I burned a lot more calories cooking and cleaning in the kitchen for 2 hours than  I would have just throwing a frozen lasagna in the oven.  And the taste is simply not comparable.  I might need to have some for breakfast tomorrow.

Mushroom pasta and baked chicken

Friday night I decided to cook for my friends for the first time!  I made mushroom pasta with baked chicken and a mixed green salad.

I picked up some mushroom flavored linguine at the Phoenix farmer's market - the brand is called Decio.  They also had some free recipes so I picked one up called Quick Mushroom Pasta.  I cooked the linguine, that only took a few minutes because it is very fresh, and set it aside.  Then I made the sauteed mushrooms to go over the pasta.  I started by sauteing some garlic in olive oil (the way many of my recipes seem to start!) then added chopped fresh parsley, chicken stock, white wine, soy sauce, Italian seasonings, and a bunch of sliced mushrooms.
Then I tossed the mushroom sauce in with the mushroom pasta.
 Meanwhile I mixed together some French herb seasonings with olive oil and basted 2 large chicken breasts cut in half, and baked them in the oven for about 25 minutes.

Finally I made a mixed green salad, similar to recent salads but bigger!  I made the honey basil balsamic vinaigrette again to go on the salad.

Most of this meal did not come from CSA veggies, but I did use some - garlic in the mushroom sauce and salad dressing (I use a LOT of garlic in my cooking, which is good since I get a lot from the CSA!) and radishes, arugula and mizuna in the salad.


Friday, October 15, 2010

Spaghetti squash

I decided to have the spaghetti squash I got in my CSA bag for lunch today.  It helps that I was working from home :-)  I poked a bunch of holes in the squash, then baked it in the oven for about 50 minutes.  It's a fairly small squash, so for bigger ones you should cook a bit longer.  I tested it was done by putting a sharp knife all the way through and it was nice and soft.  The house sure smelled good too!  After it was baked I cut it in half (across the "equator") and used a fork to scoop out the spaghetti strands.  I had to hold it with a hot pad because it was obviously quite hot after nearly an hour in the oven.  This is what the insides looked like when I removed them with a fork:

Looks like spaghetti right?  While the squash was cooking I made a little sauce.  I heated some olive oil in a skillet and put in some minced garlic, then added chopped tomato and onion.  It cooked for 10 minutes or so until the onions were soft.  Good lunch!

This squash might look like spaghetti, but it still tastes like squash.  I will definitely have this again!  This could be a fun way to get kids to eat a veggie like squash too, just tell them it's spaghetti!  :-) 

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Grilled salmon and okra

Nate & I picked up some fresh Alaskan salmon at the farmer's market this weekend.  If you've only ever had frozen, farm-raised salmon from the grocery store, you REALLY need to get some fresh caught salmon!  The taste is completely different, and much better.

My favorite way to eat salmon is grilled on a wood plank.  The wood adds a great smoky flavor (and scent) and also keeps the salmon from falling through the grill.  Nate prepared the salmon by spreading a layer of homemade pesto sauce, then adding chopped onions and lemons on top.

We put the salmon on the grill for about 10 minutes, while I made the bbq okra I first made a couple of weeks ago.  Then we added the okra skewers to the grill for another 10 minutes or so.  The okra was on the top of the grill so it cooked a little longer than the first time when I had it directly over the flame.
We also made a mixed green salad with spinach, green leaf lettuce, mizuna, arugula, sliced radishes, chopped tomatoes and cucumbers, fresh farmers cheese, and topped with the homemade balsamic basil salad dressing.  Somehow I did not get a picture of the salad creation.  I picked up the farmers cheese at Udder Delights when I picked up my CSA bag this week.  It is fresh made from the milk from Superstition Farms and is simply delicious.  It is flavored with garlic and pepper, and added a lot to the salad, but is also lovely on crackers.  Overall it was a very filling yet healthy meal!

Week 3 veggies

This week I got a lot of the same stuff I've been getting - onions, garlic (I have SO much garlic right now!), sweet basil, arugula, mizuna and okra - as well as 2 new things - easter egg radishes and a spaghetti squash! 
 I am excited to try the new stuff, especially the squash!  I was also excited to see more okra in the bag, I am becoming a big fan.

Grilled sausage and peppers

I did not actually use any CSA veggies in this recipe, but I did use peppers from the farmer's market, so I figured it is close enough!  At the farmer's market last weekend I saw a bunch of beautiful peppers of all colors, so I bought 1 each in yellow, red and green.  Sausage and peppers is one of my favorite foods so I decided to make that with my lovely peppers.  This was a pretty easy meal.  First I started the sausage - I decided to grill it but that can take a little time, so I started them by putting them in a deep skillet covered in water at a light simmer for about 10 minutes, then transferred them to the grill.  I grilled them on a medium-low flame for 15-20 minutes, but this was actually too much, probably only 10-15 minutes would have been better.  While they were cooking, I cut all 3 peppers into long strips, and also sliced a medium sized onion.  I sauteed the peppers and onions in the skillet until they were soft, and added in some Italian seasonings and black pepper.

I took the sausages off the grill,
and sliced them into 3/4 inch pieces, and added them to the skillet with the peppers and onions.  I put a lid on the skillet with the heat on low and let the flavors all come together for 5-10 minutes.
It was a very pretty meal!  Traditionally you would eat sausage and peppers on a nice thick Italian roll, but in the interest of saving carbs and calories I ate them just like this.  Except for the slightly overcooked sausage, it was great.  I had enough for 3 meals, and it tasted just as good leftover.  When cooking for 1 or 2, it is very important to find things that taste great leftover!

Eggplant pitas

I'm a bit behind in blogging about my meals!  

Last week Nate made eggplant pitas - yummy!  First he sliced the eggplant into about 3/8" widths, put the slices on paper towels, sprinkled with salt to draw out the moisture, then patted the slices dry after five or ten minutes.  While the salt was doing its job, he sliced about half of a medium onion (you want roughly the same number of slices as the eggplant) and a medium tomato - it's best with nice thick tomato slices.  Next he cooked the eggplant - put some oil in a skillet, added the eggplant and flipped it so that both sides had oil on them, then pan fried each slice on both sides until it was brown. He put the fried eggplant on paper towels again to drain the oil, and meanwhile cooked the onions in the remaining oil in the skillet until they were all browned. Then he created the eggplant "stacks" - he put the eggplant slices on a roasting pan, added an onion slice on top, and put a tomato slice on top of that.  He sprinkled tomato with salt and pepper, then put basil on top of that.  The final topper was a lot of fresh grated mozzarella.  Then he put all the stacks in the oven on broil until the cheese was nice and melted.  

While they were cooking, he steamed up some pitas in a wet towel until they were nice and warm.  To finish it off, he put one eggplant stack into each pita.

Boy were these good!  I even had one leftover for lunch the next day and it was delicious.  Mostly healthy, and so tasty!  If you are an eggplant fan you will really love these.  If you aren't sure about eggplant, you should definitely give these a try.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Grilled chicken and mixed green salad

Last night's dinner was not super exciting, but it was very tasty!  Since this blog is meant to show what you can do with everything you might get in your CSA basket, I have to discuss salad.  You can make a salad into a meal and it is one of the easier meals to prepare.

I seasoned a chicken breast - use whatever you like, I used poultry seasoning, dried thyme and black pepper - and grilled it to make it healthier than baking.  While it was grilling I chopped up some tomato and cucumber, and washed all the greens - arugula, mizuna, spinach and green leaf lettuce.  All the greens went into a salad bowl and I mixed them up, then added the tomatoes and cucumber, some sliced toasted almonds, feta cheese crumbles, homemade salad dressing (the CSA recipe of the week last week), then added the sliced grilled chicken on top.  Though it seemed like "only" a salad, it was delicious!  I didn't take a picture, but you know what this would look like.  The trick is to try to stay away from salt when seasoning the chicken, take it easy with the dressing, and don't be tempted to add bread or other carb-y starchy foods with it, and this can be a very healthy but satisfying meal.  Yum!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Okra and Tomato Stew

I got more okra in my CSA bag this week, so I set out to find another okra recipe that did not include frying it.  Nate had told me that okra is used in stews because it has "thickening power" so I looked around online for some okra stew recipes that included other things I already had.  I found one called "West African Okra Stew" and it was more of a guide than a recipe, just listing what goes in it but no quantities, which worked well for me.

First I chopped up everything: okra (cut off the stems then sliced into 1/2-inch pieces, there was maybe about a pound), 1 1/2 large tomatoes (diced), 1 medium onion (diced), and 2 large handfuls of spinach (cut off stems, left leaves whole).

I heated a good amount of olive oil in a medium saucepan, then cooked the onion and tomatoes until they were soft, maybe 10 minutes or so.  I also added some salt and cayenne pepper for a little zing.  I am a wimp when it comes to zing so I didn't add a whole lot, but I could see how it would taste good with more if you can handle spiciness.  Then I added the okra and spinach and mixed it in a little and put a lid on so the steam would help wilt the spinach.  I left the lid on for about 10 minutes, then stirred it all together and let it simmer for another 10-15 minutes with the lid off.  I use stainless steel cookware so I used pretty low heat for most of this, but if you use non-stick it would need to be a little higher.  Basically you want it just just barely simmer at most.

I served it over brown rice to keep it healthy, but it would be good over any type of rice, quinoa or pasta, or even by itself.  I also cracked some black pepper on top, but I add pepper to everything.  Here is what the final product looked like:
I did not need to add any liquid, the tomatoes created most of the sauce, though the olive oil and onion helped as well.  If you use really fresh produce, that will help, but if needed you can add a small amount of water or tomato paste.  I kept the dish vegetarian, but I think it would taste really good with either chicken or a spicy sausage like andouille.  If you use chicken, you would probably want to cook it up separately with some seasoning or spice, then add it in the last 10-15 minutes of simmer time.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Week 2 veggies

I picked up my next bag of veggies today - this is like "veggie Christmas" every Tuesday!!  I'm having leftovers tonight (hey they need to be eaten, plus this storm in Phoenix is making me lazy) but I wanted to post what I received this week:

Mizuna (Japanese mustard green)
Eggplants (1 large, 1 small)
3 heads garlic
Sweet basil (yay! Love this stuff!)
Green black eyed peas
Butternut squash

It has a lot of the same things as last week, but some new and different things as well.  I sure have a lot of garlic, I need to start using it more!

If you have any suggestions on how to cook any of these items, please let me know!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Chiles Rellenos

I was very hesitant to attempt making chiles rellenos, but I decided to go for it.  My hesitation was warranted - it was tough!  The whole dinner was a lot of work, but it was good.  I started by putting the green Anaheim chiles on the gas grill until they were blackened.  While they were grilling I started some brown rice and made the sauce.  The sauce was pretty easy - chop some tomatoes and part of an onion and slice a garlic clove, then put them all into a blender until it was a sauce.  This was then simmered with some olive oil on the stove for 5 minutes and the sauce was done and set aside.

The next part was the really tough part - peeling the chiles and pulling the seeds out.  My first mistake was not grilling the chiles long enough.  They looked blackened when I pulled them off the grill, but they were not that easy to peel.  The 2 larger ones were not too bad, here's a pic of one of them after it was peeled:

One of the 4 chiles did not make it through the peeling process, it was just too tough and was falling apart.  Not sure if this was due to not being grilled long enough, or because the chiles were not fresh enough.  Once each chile was peeled, I made a slit down the length of it to remove the seeds.  This was difficult to do without ripping the chile apart!  The whole peeling and de-seeding process took quite awhile.  Then I inserted a slice of monterey jack cheese inside each chile and tried to re-close them.

Next I whipped up a couple eggs to dip the chiles in for frying.  I found several websites that explained this process - separate the whites and yolk (I used 2 egg whites and 1 yolk), then whip up the whites for several minutes using a hand mixer until it made small peaks, almost like whipped cream.  Then I added the yolk and mixed it for another minute or so.  I heated up some olive oil in a frying pan until it was pretty hot, then coated each chile in flour, dipped it in the egg mixture, and added them to the frying pan.  Some websites called for deep frying the chiles in vegetable oil, but I chose to pan fry them in olive oil and I think this worked just fine.  Here's what they looked like when they done frying:

While I was cooking I also heated up a can of organic low fat refried black beans (I prefer black beans over pinto).  The chile process had taken awhile, so I reheated the red sauce.  One of the chiles didn't look so good after the frying process, so two ended up surviving.  That was just the right amount for my dinner anyway :-)  My completed dinner - 2 chiles rellenos with a red sauce, refried black beans, and brown rice:

By the way, if you're like me and can't handle spicy, this dinner had zero spice.  The spicy part of the chiles is the seeds, so make sure they are all removed and it will be a completely mild dinner.  If I try this again I'll probably add some spice to the red sauce, but it tasted pretty good as it was.  The cheese inside was nice and melted:

So the dinner turned out pretty well, but I'm not sure it was worth all the work, it took almost 1 1/2 hours when all was said and done!  And I used a lot of pans and dishes, so there was a lot of cleanup as well.  Next time I order chiles rellenos at a restaurant I will definitely respect the work that goes into it.

Yesterday I also made black-eyed peas with tomatoes in the crock pot, but I had to freeze it because I am not able to eat it this week.  I'll blog about that when I defrost it.  That was pretty much everything from my CSA basket this week!  There are a couple of basil leaves left that look ok, and some arugula, quite a bit of garlic and half of an onion.  I will need to figure out something to make for dinner tomorrow, before I get another bag of goodies on Tuesday!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Eggplant rolls and baked caprese cod

Wow, I can barely type tonight, I'm so full!  I'm pretty excited about all this new food I'm trying.  Tonight I needed to use the eggplant before it went bad, so I found a recipe online for baked eggplant rolls -  This recipe caught my eye because it also uses basil, which I also need to use up.  Plus it has cheese, and I can never resist any recipe with cheese!  This recipe is more of an appetizer or side dish so I decided to have a piece of cod with it.  I looked around online and got some ideas, and came up with a baked caprese cod - my own name.

First I began preparing the eggplant.  An interesting thing about this recipe is that it starts by having you sprinkle a bunch of salt on the sliced eggplant and let it sit for 10-15 minutes per side.  This is supposed to take the bitter juices out.  If you've only had eggplant once or twice and thought it had an odd taste, try this trick!  While the eggplant was sitting, I prepared the cod.  First I brushed it with olive oil and lemon juice.  I prefer sliced lemons but I didn't have any.  I chopped up some basil (from my CSA basket) and sprinkled that on top, along with some sea salt and fresh cracked pepper.  Then I topped the cod with thin tomato slices and some mozzarella, leftover from the caprese salad the other day.  This all went into a baking dish in the oven at 350 and cooked for 25 minutes or so, until the fish is done.

I rinsed the salt off the eggplant slices and patted them dry with paper towels, then briefly fried them in olive oil with some minced garlic.  You will start to notice that I use lots of garlic in cooking, I love it!  And it's good for you.  If a recipe calls for 1 clove, I usually use at least 2.  Fair warning in case you come over to my house :-)  I fried the eggplant a couple minutes per side, in 3 batches to get them all.  I put them on paper towels to get most of the oil out, but after eating I wish I'd removed more of the oil.  On each eggplant slice I spread some pesto sauce (in a jar, from Sprouts), grated mozzarella, salt & pepper, and torn basil leaves.  The next part was the hard part - I rolled each slice and used toothpicks (plain, not colored) to keep them closed.  This was much easier said than done!  Some ended up folded, not rolled, and a few did not stay closed during cooking.  But the majority worked pretty well.  This was a messy process!  They all went in a baking dish in the oven at 350 for about 9 minutes, when the cheese was nice and melted.

I also made another salad, same as last night.  Since I wasn't able to upload a pic of the salad dressing I made last night, here is a pic:

Here is what the cod and eggplant looked like after they were baked:

There was a lot of olive oil between everything, so I'm glad it's good for you!  The cod and the eggplant complemented each other very well, since they both had basil and mozzarella.

Earlier today I also shelled the black-eyed peas to get ready to cook them tomorrow.  They will be going into a slow cooker for a good portion of the day, though I won't be eating them tomorrow since I'll be at a wedding.