The official sandwich of summer

Two slices of whole grain bread, plenty of mayo, a tomato fresh from our friends’ garden, sliced thick and doused with salt and pepper. That’s all, folks.

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I’m still eating

I’m still alive, I’m still cooking and please believe I’m still eating. We are currently in between houses – we sold our townhouse but have yet to move into our new house. So we are living it up at my parents! It’s actually much better than you’re imagining but while I’m here and paying no rent I’m making my payments in food. Both of my parents and Jeremy work long hours on top of an hour long commute, each way, which means I’m eating alone a lot, which is not my favorite but gives me an excuse to eat nothing but lettuce, heirloom tomatoes, feta and wine. Can’t wait to start posting from my new, amazing kitchen!

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Dried strawberries

It’s strawberry season in Hampton Roads, and that is major. We love our strawberries around here. Every city in the region that has farms has pick-your-own strawberry fields and it’s a tradition for kids and adults alike to pick strawberries on field trips or on Mother’s Day or Memorial Day weekend when Virginia Beach hosts the Strawberry Festival.

Last week I got an email from a farm saying that they had so many berries in their field that they were going to be offering pick your own berries for $1.25/lb. That is unheard of. You would never ever find berries that cheap in the grocery store. So after sharing it with the Buy Fresh Buy Local Facebook fans, I got in the car and headed to the farm, which thankfully, is only about 10 minutes from my house. Yeah, it was a week day. Yeah, I had a lot of work to do, but sometimes you just have to get up and go pick strawberries. All that work will be there for you when you get back, I promise.

If you’ve never picked strawberries, it’s very easy – they are literally low hanging fruit. When they’re ripe, they get so heavy they just sort of dangle below the leaves and pretty white flowers of their plant. And they pop right off their stems and get tossed right into your strawberry carrying device. The only issue is that if you have a bad back like I do, you may be in a bit of pain the next day (like I was), but that’s why you bring your kids – to do the hard work of bending over and finding the ripest strawberries. When picking, look for deep, red berries. Before plucking them off the plant, lift them up and make sure the underside isn’t white or green (unripe) or that it hasn’t been noshed on by any bugs.

Sometimes you just have to leave your desk and go pick strawberries.

Sometimes you just have to leave your desk and go pick strawberries.

So what to do with 10 lbs of berries once you get them home? Most people I know make strawberry bread, pie, muffins, etc etc. We all know how I feel about baking, so I do one of (or all of) three different thing:

1. Eat them. Duh.

2. Freeze them. Rinse and dry the berries, cut off the caps and then halve each berry and lay in a single layer on a baking sheet. Place the sheet in the freezer for several hours, then put the berries into a freezer ziploc bag. Pull out what you need, when you need it. I freeze pounds and pounds of berries like this every year to use in my smoothies all year long.

3. Dry them. Dried berries are sort of like craisins – tart, but still a little sweet. Perfect in salads, on yogurt or oatmeal, granola, etc. Wash and dry the berries, cut off the caps and halve each berry. Lay in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake at 210 degrees for 3 hours. Let them cool completely, then store in an airtight container in the fridge OR you could freeze these also and just thaw them as you need them. I’m not sure exactly how long they’ll keep in the fridge….you’ve probably got about a week?

Dried Strawberries

Dried Strawberries

Strawberries are pretty amazing little fruits. One cup of berries has only 49 calories and almost 150% of your daily Vitamin C. They also have fiber and protein and good amounts of folates and potassium as well as manganese.

So get out there and pick some today. Or, make your kids do it. Also, can I borrow your kids for an afternoon?

Shrimp Ceviche Saturday

I’m on my own this Saturday night and whenever that happens I like to make myself something special. Usually that means a giant wheel of Brie and a bottle of wine but since I’m cutting back on the cheese I decided to do something a little more “clean.” I accidentally bought pre-cooked shrimp at the grocery store the other day (instead of raw) – this is my problem with the grocery store. I want to get out of there so bad that I just blindly grab things that look right. I’m the worst grocery shopper ever. I usually only come home with half of what I need because I hate it so bad. It’s a conundrum to love to cook but to hate to shop for food. Oh well. Crosses to bear and all that. Anyways! Shrimp ceviche it is! It just sounded perfect. And it is. And easy. And there’s really no “cooking” involved. Cheers!

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Shrimp ceviche

Ingredients:

  • 1 red onion, diced small
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • the juice of two limes
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and diced small
  • 1 cucumber, peeled and diced
  • 1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, each tomato quartered
  • 1 lb large, cooked, deveined shrimp
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • salt and pepper to taste

Method:

  1. Dice red onion and put into a bowl with the lime juice, season lightly with salt and pepper and let marinate at least 5 minutes 
  2. Dice the avocado, jalapeno, cucumber, tomatoes and add to bowl with onions
  3. Peel the shrimp and cut into three pieces per each shrimp – add to the bowl with the rest of the ingredients, mix well. Stir in the cilantro. Serve in martini glasses at room temperature or chilled.
Shrimp Ceviche

Shrimp Ceviche

Ceviche is a general term for any seafood dish, where the seafood is “cooked” by curing in an acidic  marinade, usually primarily made of lime juice or tomato juice. I can’t recommend to you that you use raw shrimp in ceviche unless you are getting it fresh off the boat, straight from the water and are curing it within half on hour of picking  it up. Fish is a little different, but with shrimp, just be careful.

This dish is so light and delicious and pairs perfectly with a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. So light and delicious, in fact, that before you know it, you’ve eaten an entire bowl of Ceviche and 3/4 a bottle of wine . . . although, to be fair, I only made half of this recipe. And to be perfectly honest, I drank the entire bottle of wine. What? It’s St. Patrick’s day weekend, give me break. Ceviche, take me away!

Pantry Raid IV: better bulgur

Bulgur sounds gross, and I get that. But it’s really not. Bulgur is parboiled cracked wheat berries. It’s a super whole grain with a wonderful nutty taste. It also has a great texture that I can only describe as “toothsome.” It isn’t hard, but even after being soaked, it has tooth –  like very good al dente pasta. Just one cup of bulgur has over 25 grams of fiber and over 17 grams of protein. And incidentally, I had a huge bag of it in my cabinet that I needed to start working on getting rid of.

Bulgar, like quinoa, is a great base for salads. This bugar salad recipe came from Everyday Food, and it’s really light and delicious and keeps well. Make it at the beginning of the week, measure it out into individual containers and then grab them for a healthy lunch on the go. This recipe makes a lot – like most grains, just one cup, once cooked, makes a huge amount of food and because it is high in fiber and protein, you don’t need to eat much to get full. I made this salad for dinner with a yummy marinated salmon and still had enough left over for lunch several days that week. This salad also incorporates chick peas (or Garbanzo beans – whichever name you prefer). Chick peas are also full of protein, so you really can’t go wrong here. Leave out the feta for a (still delicious) Vegan side dish.

Bulgur and Chick Pea Salad

bulgar with salmon close

Ingredients

  • 1 cup bulgur
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 1 can (15.5 ounces) chickpeas
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest and 2 tablespoons juice
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh dill
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta (2 ounces)
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, combine bulgur with boiling water. Cover and let stand 20 minutes; drain and return to bowl. Rinse and drain chickpeas, then add to bowl with lemon zest and juice, olive oil, dill, and feta; season with salt and pepper.

For the salmon, I combined a little olive oil, a dash of white wine vinegar, the juice of half of a lemon, some dill, salt and pepper and put the salmon into some tin foil, made a pouch, poured the marinade over the salmon, wrapped it up really good and baked at 375 for about 15 minutes. It was perfect together and it would be a crime to eat this meal without a glass of good Chardonnay. So don’t let the name throw you off, replace that pasta side dish with a healthier bulgur alternative.

If you eat this without a glass of Chardonnay, you are committing a crime against food.

If you eat this without a glass of Chardonnay, you are committing a crime against food.

The possibilities here are endless – Greek bulgar salad with grilled chicken, feta, cucumbers, tomatoes and kalamata olives; bulgar and lentil salad with grapefruit vinaigrette, breakfast bulgar with maple syrup and baked apples . . . OK, I’m starting to sound like a bulgur growing Bubba from Forrest Gump. You get the picture.

Pantry Raid – Part II

One of the things that had created an abundance of random odds and ends in my cabinets was the detox diet I did back in the late summer/early fall. My diet was extremely restricted and so I purchased a lot of things that were on the “OK” list that I would otherwise not eat like raw nuts, strange beans and wild rice. I had two boxes of wild rice and a can of Aduki beans that I just had no idea what to do with, but I found a recipe for wild rice and aduki bean stuffed acorn squash on Pinterest. Seriously, if you look long and hard enough, you will find the exact recipe you need. The recipe was from a vegan site, so I made a few changes to it to fit with what I had on hand, and it turned out pretty good. With a side of raw kale salad marinated in a home-made vinaigrette, this little vegetarian meal packed a serious healthy punch. Plus, it’s so protein packed, I could only eat half of it.

Wild Rice and Aduki Bean Stuffed Acorn Squash

Wild rice stuffed acorn squash

Ingredients:

  • 2 acorn squash, sliced lengthwise, seeds scooped out
  • Olive Oil
  • Wild Rice
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 can Aduki beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 tbs Soy Sauce
  • 2 tbs honey (or Agave)
  • Pepper and Salt to taste
  • Cranberry sauce (canned or homemade)

Method:

  1. Rub the acorn squash down, inside and out, with olive oil, season with salt and pepper. Place an a baking sheet and cover with foil. Bake at 375 degrees for an hour, or until tender. 
  2. Meanwhile, cook the wild rice according to its directions, enough to make two cups.
  3. Heat the oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add onions and sautee until soft. Add in Aduki beans, soy sauce, honey and season with salt and pepper. Combine and keep warm over medium low heat.
  4. Remove squash from oven when done, and scoop out the squash, leaving about 1/2” of squash in the shell. Chop the squash and mix it into the bean mixture and add the rice. Combine well over low heat until warmed through.
  5. Load each squash half with the mixture and top with cranberry sauce. Serve immediately.

 

I still have one box of wild rice left that I’m not sure what to do with, but at least those beans aren’t staring at me anymore.

What random item do you have in your cabinet that you’re just not sure what to do with?

Pantry Raid

I’ve been on a kick since around the new year to de-clutter the house. We are considering putting our house on the market within the year….or next few months. Not sure yet. In any case, just the thought of it has pushed me into this torrential cleaning-organizing-decluttering-nagging task whirlwind. Incidentally, about a month after I put together the list of things we needed to do, I started reading The Happiness Project, the author of which is just WAY too much like myself, and so reading about all the stuff she did and took on and organized and tackled is just sending me over the edge. Anyways, how that is related to a blog about food is that I realized my pantry and cabinets had become stuffed with items that were not being used, were half-gone, bought for one crazy recipe then never looked at again, etc etc. OR, there were duplicates of stupid things that I always assume I never have, so I always buy at the grocery store, just to come home, open up the spice cabinet to see that I already have two unopened containers of coriander. Great.

We have also recently had two good friends move out of state, and in doing so, they have done meat/liquor/canned food drafts with their friends to get rid of most of their food in their cabinets, because nobody wants to spend time trying to move some jars of peanut butter and a half empty box of crackers. No offense to my friends, but when I move I don’t want to have to get rid of all my food. I just want to eat it.

So I have started a pantry raid project to try and use up all the items in my cabinets. Of which there are many:

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SO MUCH DRIED FRUIT

 

First, I created an inventory of all the food I had in my cabinets, refrigerator, freezer, pantry, etc etc. I did this on paper and also digitally through an app on my iPad. Second, I started researching recipes that used random things or things I had too much of like how I had three containers of oatmeal. Really? Or poppy seeds. Why do I have poppy seeds? Or bags of dried Arbol chilis. It’s all a mystery. Finally, I started implementing the recipes into our weekly meals or other items. My first foray into this was using up some of the oatmeal by making oatmeal breakfast cookies. These are an awesome way to use up odds and ends in your cabinets. They are also super healthy, are dairy, flour and sugar free.

breakfast oatmeal cookies

breakfast oatmeal cookies

Breakfast Oatmeal Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 2 whole Ripe Bananas, Mashed Until Creamy
  • ⅓ cups Peanut Butter, Creamy Or Chunky
  • 1/4 cup honey or Agave
  • ⅔ cups Unsweetened Applesauce
  • ¼ cups Vanilla Whey Protein Powder
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • 1 teaspoon Butter Extract, Optional
  • 1-½ cup Quick Oatmeal, Uncooked
  • ¼ cups Chopped nuts or seed, Peanuts, cashews, almonds, etc.
  • ¼ cups Chocolate Chips, white chocolate morsels, chopped dried fruit, etc

Method

  1. Preheat heat oven to 350ºF.
  2. In a large bowl, mix mashed banana, peanut butter and honey until completely combined. Then add in the applesauce, vanilla protein powder and vanilla and butter extracts. Mix again until completely combined.
  3. Add in the oatmeal and nuts, morsels or dried fruit to the banana mixture and combine.
  4. Let dough rest for 10 minutes.
  5. Drop cookie dough, by spoonfuls, onto a parchment paper lined cookie sheet and flatten cookies into circles, about a 1/3″ thick.
  6. Bake cookies approximately 30 minutes, or until golden brown and done. Remove from oven and let rest on cookie sheet for 5 minutes, then move to cooling rack.
  7. When cookies are completely cool, store in a covered container.

I split the batter in half and in half I put diced dried plums, white chocolate morsels and walnuts. In the other half I put chocolate chip and peanut butter morsels, cashews and sunflower seeds. Almost everything in the recipe I had on hand except apple sauce, because I don’t have a four year old in the house . . .

It was a great way for me to use up some half-empty packages of nuts and dried fruit – two things that just seem to multiply in our cabinets. These cookies were great – Jeremy and I had them for breakfast everyday for over a week – the batter makes a pretty good amount. In fact, I think I’ll keep making them every few weeks just to have on hand, especially since it’s really hard to find granola bars at the grocery store that aren’t as bad for you as anything else on the aisle.

Next up: tackling dried chilis, frozen unidentified sausage and wild rice. Stay tuned!

Dairy Free and Delicious

I made a recipe I found on Pinterest this week that sounded interesting to me because it was a creamy style pasta dish with NO DAIRY. I’ve recently come to terms with the fact that I’m lactose intolerant. I’ve probably known this my entire life, I just wasn’t ready to admit it. It also doesn’t mean that I don’t ever eat dairy, I do. I just suffer through it later. But when I can find something that satisfies my want for something creamy and rich, without making me feel like hell later, then that’s an awesome thing.

This recipe uses avocados and lemons and olive oil to create a sauce that is creamy and tangy and rich, without an ounce of animal product (in the sauce). I added several jumbo steamed shrimp, which I thought went really well with the original recipe. The arugula was from a local hydroponic grower, and was awesome and crunchy and fresh and peppery. In fact, this whole dish felt incredibly “summery” despite the fact that everything in here is pretty much in season. Citrus season is winter, shrimp are in season in several places in the winter, hydroponic greens defy all concept of season which is why they are so amazing, and avocados have a year round season as well. Fun fact – avocados grow all year long, but they will never ever ripen on a tree. These mostly Mexico and California-grown tree fruits do not begin to ripen until they are cut from their branches. At which point you have a questionable amount of time to eat them before they turn into green mud. Hass avocados are named for a California postal worker who grew and started selling these delicious “meat fruits” as my friend Emily calls them. Hass avocados are actually patented, and have been since 1935. It was the first US Patent to ever be made for a tree. This is the part of the commercial where a shooting star flies over my head touting “The More You Know….”

Thank you, Conan (And Tina Fey and Matt Groening and Mike Judge), for understand everything that is funny to me, ever.

Anyways, back to the pasta . . .

Creamy Avocado Linguine with Meyer Lemon and Arugula

By: Sylvia Fountaine, feasting at home blog January-5-2013
A creamy vegan pasta in a flavorful creamy avocado sauce, bursting with bright flavors of Meyer lemon, tossed with fresh arugula.

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz Linguine
  • 2 ripe Avocados
  • 3 T Meyer Lemon Juice (I just used regular lemons)
  • 3 T Good olive oil
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp white pepper
  • 2 whole garlic cloves
  • generous handful arugula
  • 1 tsp Meyer lemon zest

Instructions

  1. Boil 8 oz Linguine in salted water
  2. Puree the rest of the ingredients ( except arugula and zest) in a food processor until completely smooth, scraping down the edges.
  3. When Pasta is al dente- drain and place in a bowl. Toss pasta with avocado puree and a handful fresh arugula.
  4. Taste for salt. Garnish with Meyer lemon zest and fresh cracked pepper.

Prep time: 10 mins Cook time: 15 mins  Total time: 15 mins Yield: 4 servings

shrimp avocado pasta
The only thing I changed, was that I used regular lemons (if you can find a place with Meyer Lemons, tell me where and send me instructions on how to move there), and of course, I added the shrimp. I steamed 10 jumbo deveined shrimp over the pasta water while it was cooking, in a steamer basket. Steam them (in the shell) for just a few minutes until they are all bright pink – no longer.
Since this was the first time making this recipe, I do have a couple of suggestions and things I would do differently if I made it again (and I will):
  • I would use soba noodles over linguini. Soba noodles, if you don’t know, are noodles used primarily in Japanese cuisine and they are made from buckwheat. They are often served chilled, and I honestly think this whole dish could be served chilled and would be great, especially in the summer. 
  • I would process about half of the arugula into the avocado sauce. I think this would add a nice peppery flavor and would be a little easier to eat – arugula can be a bit difficult to work with – it’s very stemmy, like cilantro. I also think watercress could be used in place of arugula and would be interesting.
  • I would actually let this be four servings instead of trying to divide it in half with Jeremy. Usually when a recipe says “4 servings” it’s really enough for the two of us with a small amount of left overs for the next day. But in this case, the avocado is so filling that we were done about halfway through the bowl.

This recipe comes together so quickly, only requiring you to boil water and throw things into a blender or food processor, and it’s delicious and will satisfy those “I want alfredo no matter how bad I will hate myself for it later” cravings. Enjoy.

Are there things you are intolerant to or that you can’t/won’t eat? Tell me about them and I’ll try to find recipes to try and share that suite your dietary issues. 

Easy Like Sunday Morning

Sunday mornings require eggs. If you’re like us, they also require bacon and sometimes grits. But definitely eggs. But it’s Sunday, you’re tired (or hung over if you’re five years younger and at least five times more fun than me), you may be trying to get out the door to church or to get grocery shopping done or maybe after a long week you just don’t feel like standing over a stove scrambling eggs.

Baked eggs.

Easy Like Sunday Morning

Easy Like Sunday Morning

The easiest Sunday morning egg recipe ever. Here’s how it works:

1. Grease a ramekin or small oven-proof dish

2. Drop in an egg (or two), without breaking the yolks

3. Drop in your additions. I used a handful of chopped sun dried tomatoes, fresh grated Parmesan, a little palm full of pancetta, and some fresh chopped herbs – rosemary, sage, thyme. Use whatever you have on hand – spinach would be great, some roasted garlic, roasted potatoes, tomatoes, cheddar, ham – whatever!

4. Bake for 10-15 minutes (depending on how runny you like your yolks – I like mine just barely warmed) at 375. Place Ramekin on a heat safe plate and eat.

And the beauty of using the personal sized ramekin is that everyone can make theirs like they like it. And bake it as long as they like it.

You’re welcome. Happy Sunday.

One Pan Wonder

In our house there is a rule that I cook, and Jeremy cleans up afterwards. If it’s an especially messy meal, I will help him, but generally he does it on his own. So I really shouldn’t care how many dishes are left after I cook dinner, or how hard it is to clean it all up, but I love my husband, and it takes him an hour to wash a sink full of dishes, so I present you with this one-pan wonder dinner.

The sausage, cabbage and apples in this came from my Coastal Farms Co-op. I love this program -I pay a membership fee, and each weekend I can log in to a website where over 50 farms and producers have posted what they have available. There are vegetables, fruit, cheese, seafood, meat, bread, honey, pre-made meals – and it’s all local. I pick what I want and I pay online. Then on Thursday afternoons, they deliver it all to a pick up spot that is very close to my house and I just go there and pick it up between 3-6 pm. It’s like shopping for lazy people, so it’s right up my alley. The turnips came from my Great Uncle Joe’s garden. There is no website for that, you just have to be in-the-know and VIP. Also, right up my alley.

layer sausage, cabbage, turnips and apples

layer sausage, cabbage, turnips and apples

Rustic Smoked Sausage and Cabbage

Ingredients: 

  • 1 lb of smoked sausage, (mine was a pinwheel, cut into link-sizes pieces)
  • 1/2 head of cabbage, sliced up (or a whole head if you’re serving more than 2 people)
  • 2 turnips, peeled and sliced into 1/2” rounds
  • 2 tbs. olive oil
  • 2 tsp carraway seeds
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 1 apple, peeled, cored and sliced into rings

Method:

  1. On a large sheet pan, arrange your smoked sausage
  2. In a large bowl, toss cabbage and turnips with olive oil, carraway seeds and salt and pepper to taste. Arrange on sheet pan with sausage. Top with slices of apples.
  3. Roast at 475 for 18-20 minutes or until sausage is done through and cabbage and turnips are tender.
Rustic Smoked Sausage and Cabbage

Rustic Smoked Sausage and Cabbage

This is definitely what I would call a “rustic” meal. Very basic, farm-fresh ingredients, nothing fancy about the preparation or presentation, but hearty and filling. Because I made this recipe up on the fly, it could use a few alterations were I to do it again. First, and unfortunately, I think I’d have to use two pans. The sausage was so strong and so smokey, that it really just made all the other ingredients taste like sausage. I think if I did it again, i’d roast half of the veggies on a separate pan to keep their flavor in tact. It’s also possible that linked store-bought sausage would not be nearly as strong (three days later, my house still smells like sausage – it was serious). And so you could do it all on one pan like the original recipe. I would also try to roast this for a little less time. I’d shoot for 15 minutes next time. Provided the sausage is done, it would be perfect – at 20 minutes the veggies were just a little more done than I like. Also, I might try tossing the cabbage and turnips with a little apple cider vinegar along with the olive oil before roasting, just to brighten it up.

This sheet pan method can work for a lot of things, though. Try chicken (skin on) and carrots and potatoes or Salmon with asparagus or any other combination of meats and sides that cook well together. Adjust your temperature and time (longer for chicken, less for salmon) and experiment with it. It really was such a breeze to clean up, super easy to make,  and it was done in less than half an hour.  Again, all things that are right up my alley.