Thursday, January 31, 2013

Fresh fish!

Oh nooooo! We thought we had all the fresh-caught swordfish all to ourselves tonight, but the kids actually texted me at work to find out what time dinner would be ready. They wanted to be home in time to taste some of that fresh fish! Darn!
We upgraded to the large box this week, but we didn't increase the fish order. Hmmmm...might have to remedy that one! We are loving our bi-weekly fish nights. Tonight's fish was prepared "Veracruz-style", meaning smothered in salsa. I had just the right cooking vessels, individual ceramic boats that hold one portion of fish perfectly. A little olive oil and lemon juice topped with lemon pepper seasoned the fish, then dolllops of salsa went on top of that. Into a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes,and the fish flaked easily with a fork. I sprinkled a little Mexican shredded cheese on each dish and set the boats on our dinner plates and accompanied it with Spanish brown rice and some quickly-steamed broccoli and carrots out of tonight's SLO Veg box.
Lee helped me out tonight by finishing the Spanish rice as I prepared the salad, steamed vegies and fish. I started 2 cups of brown rice in the rice cooker first off after walking in the door tonight. I poured in an 8 oz can of tomato sauce, a Mexican seasoning blend of chili powder, garlic and salt, and 4 cups of water. Lee brown up some bacon and the sauteed about a quarter cup each of onion and green bell pepper. That went into the rice steamer and cooked into the rice during the last 10 minutes.
I peeled and chopped two bright orange carrots into one-inch chunks and put them in the steamer basket. Two heads of trimmed up broccoli went on top, then the steamer went into the microwave oven for 5 minutes.
The red-leaf lettuce came out of the box and had a quick bath and spin-dry in my salad spinner, then I tore it into bite-sized pieces for our individual bowls. Not wanting to fuss over it too much, I sprinkled on a bit of the luscious microgreens and a pinch of salad sprouts, and drizzled on some Balsamic avocado dressing. A few pimento-stuffed green olives completed the Latin-style salads, which we ate while the fish and rice finished cooking. One thing I overlooked was the fresh cilantro! I could have added some to the rice or to the fish, but I guess it will be there for another day.
In all, I used broccoli, carrots, onion, fish, red lettuce, avocado, microgreens and salad sprouts from the SLO Veg tote in tonight's meal. It took me until 8:00, but dinner was served just in time to sit down and watch American Idol again. Not bad for fresh, homecooked food, I'd say.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

No boxed oatmeal here...

Healthy breakfast: Organic rolled oats with raisins and cinnamon and brown sugar, paired with a glazed grapefruit. Trouble is, I am not a fan of grapefruit. I know if you sprinkle it with salt, it brings out the sweetness. But I saw a recipe where you drizzle on something sweet and broil it, so I tried it--twice. Earlier in the week I used agave syrup. I ended up adding coarse sea salt and eating it. Today I used pure honey. But alas! It tasted bitter and sour to me and Lee. So I sprinkled on my salt and ate most of it. Not that it was bad, I just don't picture myself craving grapefruit. If I get any more, they will have to become part of a salad. The only thing in grapefruit I ever really liked was a Sobee drink I found in the vending machine at work, cranberry-grapefruit, I think. Might try one on our road trip today.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Gnocci: Something new in a casserole

So I tried out a new casserole for "fish night".The reason it is fish night  is because every other Thursday when we get our box of vegies from SLO Veg, we also signed up for a pound  fresh caught fish, which we cook right away because we just can' t wait! Fish is something we need more of in our diet, so I just want to make sure we have it for dinner at least once a week.

I found this recipe in my latest Better Homes and Gardens magazine. I've never had gnocchi before, so I just wanted to try it out. This recipe was supposed to be things you have on hand, so it called for canned tuna and shelf-stable gnocchi. Of course I used fresh mushrooms, onion, garlic and basil. I cooked the gnocchi and made the sauce this morning before work. I enlisted the Hub again to pop it into the oven and he did a fine job of that. I got to come home and  pour a glass of wine and have some cheese before dinner. We would have had spinach dip, too, but somebody already ate it! Missing out on the spinach, I found the kale. Just after taking the casserole out of the oven, I sliced up the rest of the kale and sauteed it in butter and avocado oil. I added a clove of minced garlic, some coarse salt and fresh ground pepper, and a pinch of nutmeg.

Dinner was served in bowls with the kale piled up on top. The gnocchi and mushrooms and tuna made a rich, creamy bite of comforting warmth. American Idol provided more entertainment for us as we devoured dinner and chilled out from our hectic work day.

I used Baby Bella mushrooms and found the gnocchi at Cost Plus World Market. I substitued regular milk for the half-and-half. Here is the recipe I referred to from Better Homes and Gardens:

Gnocchi with Mushrooms and Tuna

Makes: 4 servings
Serving size: 1 1/4cup Yield: 5 cups
Prep 15 mins Bake 425° 12 mins to 15 mins Stand 5 mins
Gnocchi with Mushrooms and Tuna
  • 1 16 ounce package shelf-stable potato gnocchi
  • 4 cups assorted small and/or sliced fresh mushrooms, such as shiitake or cremini
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup half-and-half
  • 2 5 ounce cans solid light tuna packed in oil, drained and broken into chunks
  • 2 ounces Parmesan cheese, shaved
  • Fresh basil leaves (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Lightly grease a 1-1/2-quart au gratin baking dish; set aside. In a large pot cook gnocchi in lightly salted water according to package directions; drain.
2. Meanwhile, in a large skillet cook mushrooms and garlic in hot oil over medium heat until tender. Stir in half-and-half. Simmer, uncovered, for 5 to 7 minutes or until liquid begins to thicken. Fold in gnocchi and tuna. Transfer to the prepared dish.
3. Bake, uncovered, for 12 to 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Let stand for 5 minutes. Top with basil leaves, if desired, and crushed red pepper.
From the Test Kitchen Make Ahead: 
Prepare casserole through Step 3. Cover and chill for up to 48 hours. Bake, covered, for 25 minutes. Uncover; bake for 10 to 12 minutes more or until lightly browned and heated through.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Pate Chinois

So tonight was a lazy night. I put this casserole together yesterday so I could come home tonight after work and relax while dinner heated up. I ran a quick errand after work so I asked the hub to turn the oven on and put the pie in to heat. He's good that way.

I got the idea for this spin on Sheperds Pie when my nephew posted up a picture of his Pate Chinois that he made for his daughter's birthday, at her request. The Canadian variation over a more traditional Sheperd's Pie is that the beef is seasoned with soy sauce, and corn is the primary vegetable. I had to sneak in some carrots, though, mostly because I have a lot of them to use up! I browned the meat and then added about a quarter cup of diced onion and two diced carrots. I boiled about six small potatoes and mashed them up for the topping. A little cheese sprinkled on top in the last few minutes of baking sealed the deal.

I decided I really needed something green, so I steamed some of the broccoli that came in the SLO Veg box for about 5 minutes in the microwave. I had also seen a recipe for a carmelized grapefruit, so while the oven was hot, I sliced one of my gigantic grapefruits in half, sliced around the rind, and spread some agave syrup on top. They went into the broiler after the casserole came out, and broiled for 5 minutes. It was just enough to melt the syrup into the fruit, and dessert was done!  

We watched the crazy auditioners on American Idol and scarfed down our comforting meal. If the kids don't eat the leftovers when they get home later tonight, we might have something good for lunch tomorrow. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Chicken and rice, out of the Box!

Today is MY day hub, my agenda. On this day it was sleep, because I do shift work and got called in last night for graveyard shift. When I woke up, I just wanted to read and browse recipes relaxing! I also read up on Mark Sisson's 21-Day Total Body Transformation. That is the catalyst for all of this change...trying to make the shift toward a more Primal-style of eating and exercising. According to Mark's plan, "Primal foods include meat, fish, fowl, eggs, vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds, high quality fats, a moderate intake of high-fat dairy products and supplemental carbs and occasional sensible indulgences such as red wine and dark chocolate." The whole point is to create a leaner, stronger body that burns fuel (food) more efficiently and thereby increasing energy and health benefits overall.

It doesn't sound to difficult, until you realize there are no grains here, no beans or legumes either. I am having a hard time wrapping my head around that one. I am just not ready to give them up completely, although I think I can limit them. Like today, I wanted to make some chicken tenders for tonight's dinner, and pair it with a beets and greens salad. The perfect accompaniment? Rice! So I am making some Old World rice pilaf and even mixing in some of the salad sprouts from Mt. Olive into the pilaf for an extra nutritional kick.

I can have eggs every day for breakfast, eat vegies and salad and lean meat for lunch, have fruits and nuts for mid-meal snacks, but I still want my carbs for dinner. Speaking of dinner, I am planning on making some kind of a green salad using those beautiful golden beets from the box. Giada had a recipe that sounded pretty good:
SLO Veg also has a similar recipe on their website.
I had already roasted the beets over the weekend, so I just peeled and diced them and put them in a little oil, vinegar and honey marinade for now. I have a lot of lettuce blends right now, so a bed of greens with the beets is an easy out. I added some purple and orange carrot curls, feta cheese and walnuts that I candied with my Pomegranate Blueberry Vinaigrette.

I never worry if I am following a recipe exactly. I learned early on from my mother that you can substitute things in a recipe according to your preferences and your supplies. One time she substituted Special K cereal for cornflakes in some cookies, and it became our favorite cookie ever! I haven' t made those cookies in years, and if we go completely primal, I won' t be making them anytime soon.

The chicken had marinated in a honey and Balsamic blend seasoned with red pepper flakes, cayenne pepper, onion powder and garlic powder. Chicken tenders then were browned in acocado oil and finished baking in the oven while we ate our salads. I almost added some steamed broccoli to the plate, but after eating the salad with several large chunks of beets, I figured we got enough vegetables for one meal.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Purple Carrots!

That' s right....purple carrots! Not a washed out, lilac- tinged purple, but a deep, chocolatey kind of purple. For some reason I expected these carrots to taste dark and bitter, but they are surprisingly sweet and, well-- carrotty.

Rachael from SLO Veg tells me,  "The Organic purple carrots from LeForte Organic Crops ~ Farmer Roberto Le-Forte are some of my favorites." He can be found a tree the SLO Farmers Markets on Thursdays and Saturdays. I remember seeing a recipe in one of my food magazines around Thanksgiving that featured multi- colored roasted carrots as a side dish. So I knew I could roast them with a little olive oil and coarse salt with good results. But today I have plans for the crock pot: I have all the ingredients on hand to make a Beef and Barley stew. 

So I chopped some onions, sliced a few purple and a few orange carrots for good measure, along with a couple of stalks of celery and two cloves of minced garlic and tossed it into the crock. Some beef chunks, seasoned with salt and pepper and coated in flour, browned in a skillet. I measured out 3/4 cups of pearl barley and put it in the crock, then added a couple of teaspoons of chicken boullion and a teaspoon of dried Thyme, along with some salt and some pepper. I poured all the meat on top of that and then added about a quart of water. The recipe also called for tomato paste, but I was out of that ingredient, so I added some ketchup. I also forgot to slice up some mushrooms, because they are still sitting there in the frig. But I did decide to stir in about half the little baggie of salad sprouts, figuring it would add taste and texture.   A quick pour of red wine and a can of diced tomatoes rounded out my ingredients and it was ready to cook for the next 8 hours or so. 

We left to run our errands in town and when our day was done, we sat down to a nice hot bowl of Beef and Barley stew. It was pretty good! We dressed it up with a loaf fresh French bread and the Balsamic-Herb flavored dipping oil from Mt. Olive, and Hearst Ranch Winery's Cabernet Franc. 

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Salad Sprouts? What to do?

We took a field trip today--literally! We decided to investigate where those salad sprouts came from that were included in this week's tote box. The label was from Mt Olive Organic Farm in Adelaida, so this morning we had some breakfast and headed out in search of the sprout farm.

I put most of my photos from this little adventure on my Facebook page because its' easier to arrange them for viewing in that format. So here is the public link:

I also have included a link to the Mt. Olive website on my Facebook album, but if that doesn't work for you, here it is again:

I mapped the route to Mt. Olive on my cell phone's mapping program, but I thought I knew basically where it was. Pretty close to Paso Robles High School off of Nacimiento Lake Road. Since we were driving over from the Coast, we took Old Creek Road in Cayucos and followed Hwy. 46 into Paso. A quick jaunt up to 24th Street, and we headed out to Adelaida. Only thing is, we drove all the way out to the turn off for Nacimiento Lake, and next thing I knew, we were on Chimney Rock Road. I was a little off in my bearings because I used to always drive out this way via Vineyard Drive from Templeton. GPS doesn't work out here, either! We had definately gone to far, but we were near the Adelaida School House, so we would hook up with the right road eventually. Oh well, we took the scenic route! I showed Lee the McGillvary house and the walnut ranch where my sister-in-law's grandparents had lived.

Once we got onto Adelaida Road, we were heading back towards Paso Robles. The farm ended up being almost at the end of the road near town, so we had made a huge loop for naught. The farm is less than a mile from the old Resthaven Mobile Home Park where we used to go swimming at their public pool as kids.

We pulled up the driveway by the walnut grove and parked in the ample parking lot. The Tasting Room was a pretty impressively large building. The gift shop and tasting rooms only take up a small portion of the building. There is a large patio area in the front with many tables to handle large tour groups for lunch. We could see a large greenhouse and about an acre of fields, portions partially covered with sunscreens, with greens growing in them. Our priorities were: olive tasting, lunch, then exploration.

The front gift shop area features tables set up for sampling their dried fruits, jams and candy nougats. The restaurant menu is displayed on the wall and a kitchen is located in the back. The tasting room ajoins the gift shop and what a great setup it is! There are basically six or seven stations displaying the products with little sampling bowls in front. A bowl of cubed bread and some toothpicks are provided so you can scoop a small taste onto the bread and try each product out. We tried all the tapenades first: olives with walnuts, olives with balsamic vinegar, olives with many choices! Why not taste them all?

As you move around the rooms, there are bruschettas, salad dressings, flavored olive oils, dipping oils, vinegars and olive stations.  A little bite of bread with each one, and that's a hearty appetizer! Better save room for lunch. We finished our tasting and selected a few products to take home after looking through the refrigerator case, as well. I wonder if our kale from the tote came from here also? I questioned the clerk about the salad sprouts. She said they are "pre-sprouted" and people eat them raw on salads, or cook them and add to dishes. Oh! I thought I might have to sprout them in a jar or something. I guess growing sprouts, like alfalfa sprouts, is something else. I did learn that sprouts are concentrated little packages of nutrients and vitamins that are so good for you! I thought they were too bitter to eat raw, so I will probably make a nice soup with the ones from the tote. One thing we will be purchasing from Mt. Olive in the future is their soy sauce. It's $8 for a half gallon jug! I had just bought a large container of Kikkoman soy sauce from the store, otherwise I would have gotten that today. I will have to research using soybean oil, as well. Mt. Olive offers a gallon for $11.

Then we ordered lunch.The menu featured chili, soups, salads, Oriental dishes such as potstickers, Pad Thai, spaghetti and meatballs and sandwiches. It was still a chilly morning (we saw lots of ice along the roadside heading over Hwy. 46), so we selected a bowl of chili and a chicken salad. Beverage offerings included a variety of fruit and vegetable juices. My hubby decided on a peppermint tea while I played it safe and had the delicious organic apple juice. Apple juice and filtered water, that's all it contains, and it was sweet, flavorful and satisfying!

I'm glad we decided to split the meal, because the portions were really large. No way could I have eaten that whole salad by myself! There were several types of lettuce on the bottom, piled high with mung bean sprouts, alfalfa sprouts, carrots, and I think it was radish sprouts, or maybe pea sprouts or both! It included stir-fried chicken and some sugared walnuts that were delictable! The menu is so misleading as it just says "chicken salad". It should say the most fresh and delicious chicken salad, ever! You can even pick from their assortment of salad dressings, and I think the Peach-Balsamic one we had was perfect. The chili had a nice, rich flavor which reminded me of the chili my grandpa used to make using Gephardt's chili powder and cumin. The bakery-fresh sourdough bread was a perfect accompaniment, and Lee and I finished the whole bowl and ate the whole salad down to the last walnut chunk.

We went outside and wandered through the greenhouse and fields around the tasting room. Swiss chard and kale was growing everywhere, even in the decorative planters. Several young men were working out there, spreading out sun shades and running water lines. We checked out the olive grove and the petting zoo. A duck was having a bath in the water dish and the billy goat hopped onto the roof of a chicken house and had a nap. School field trips would get a lot of laughs from these characters, for sure. We left, saying to each other, we need to tell people about this place!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

All Hail Kale!

I found just the recipe I needed in my old binder full of clipped recipes. This one came out of the newspaper and extolled the virtues of Kale! To be specific, it called for Dino Kale, which is exactly what came in the Box this week.  It was a pretty simple recipe: slice up the raw Kale into strips. Mash some garlic and mix it up in a food processor with 3 Tbs. olive oil, 1/4 C. Parmesan cheese, lemon zest and juice of one lemon, and a dash or two of salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Toss the Kale with the dressing and let it stand for 5-20 minutes. Just before serving, add some homemade croutons and a drizzle of additional olive oil and serve. When I reached into my fruit basket for a lemon, I didn't have any more, so I substituted one of the smaller Naval oranges instead. After adding the zest to my salad, I decided to chop the orange up and mix it into the salad, as well. Turned out pretty yummy!

I am really incorporating fruit into our diets this week. While I am not really a fan of grapefruit, this morning I decided to try the Pomelo grapefruit from the Box. I'd seen my Dad eat them by just halving it and cutting out sections with a special grapefruit spoon. I don't have one of those, so I used a regular spoon to scoop around the peel and the fruit, and then used a paring knife to cut out little sections. I started by sprinkling on some white sugar and tasted: sour! So then I added a shake of salt and presto! Much better! I ate about a quarter of a grapefruit and cut up my other portion for my green salad that I packed for work. I left the remaining half out for Lee's breakfast, knowing he would eat it and think of his Dad.

Since we usually have pizza on Friday or Saturday nights, I decided to make my own using pita bread for the crust. I had some frozen shrimp on hand, so I went Mediterranean and put together some red pepper, onion, garlic and tomatoes on a roasting sheet and drizzled olive oil on them. I roasted the vegies for about 20 minutes, while at the same time toasting some leftover sourdough bread for the Tuscan kale salad. I should note that none of these vegies for the pizza came in the SLO Veg box. The tomatoes don't even compare to the ones we had last week. I sure hope my next shipment contains some vine-ripened tomatoes!
A mist of olive oil went onto a couple of pita bread slices and I put it in to toast for about 5 minutes. When I took the bread out, I sprinkled on some Parmesan cheese, then added a layer of shredded Mozzarella cheese and the roasted vegies. I chopped up the shrimp into small bites and added them on top along with some Kalamata olives and diced basil leaves. A little bit more Mozzarella for good measure and the pizzas were ready to heat and serve. This dinner was paired with beer--perfecto!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Breaking out of the Box

Okay, seriously, before signing up for the veggie box delivery, I pretty much bought the same things week after week: broccoli, baby carrots, shredded carrots, salad mix, potatoes (sometimes red ones, but usually russet), onions, red onions, green onions, corn-on-the-cob, green and red peppers, and tomatoes. An occasional zucchini, avocado, cucumber, jicama, jalapeno or tomatillo would be thrown in if Lee wanted to make his tomatillo salsa or something. I have always enjoyed cooking, and prefer to make things from scratch rather that from a mix or boxed or frozen premade thing, but I need to expand on my cooking repertoire. While I was in Weight Watchers last year, I tried a few new veggies like beets and parsnips and kale, but they didn't become a weekly staple. Fruits pretty much included apples, oranges, bananas and strawberries. Every now and then we'd splurge on raspberries and blueberries.

Yes, the chore of cooking and meal planning was becoming monotonous. 

Somewhere (I think at the Health Fair at Madonna Inn), we picked up a card for SLO Veg. A crate of fresh, organic and local fruits and vegetables delivered to your doorstep...great idea! We would start that sometime.

Well, New Year, new resolve to eat better and morph into a healthier lifestyle. We are just getting to fat, too old and too tired. Its gotta change. My parents lived into their late 80's and 90's...I can't imagine my body in its present shape holding up to that challenge. So for Christmas, we gave ourselves another year at the gym and signed up for the SLO Veg service. After two deliveries, we are upgrading to the large box. I still don't think I need it every week, but that could change. Right now it is a challenge to find recipes and cook all that we have, but since the kids are enjoying it too, a larger-portioned box seems like a good idea. 

My husband also wants to "Go Primal". It's a Paleo-based idea where you eat more fruits and vegetables in season and eat less farmed-type foods, like grains. Eat more like a Caveman. Nuts, berries, fish, lean meat. The meat should be grass-fed, organically raised meat. The exercise is based around constant movement: walk more, sprint occasionally, lift heavy things. I get the basic concept, but I haven't read all the literature. My husband has downloaded several books and publications and recipes for this stuff, but I am so busy planning meals and cooking in my off-time that I don't have much time for reading. I will work on that too, I guess! What I'd really like, however, is a chart: eat this, not that! Quick references. Plus, I really don't want to give up pasta and rice, because those staples are quick and easy to prepare, and I don't have to think about it. 

The best part about having a box of fresh fruits and vegies delivered is that we automatically are eating seasonal foods. Meal-planning has changed from protein-based "Here's the beef, now what do we serve with it?" to "Wow! Kale! How do you fix it and what goes good with it? Do I even need meat?" 

Today was a work day, so I pre-packed salads for the hub and myself. I started with an orange, a kiwi and a few strawberries. I cut them into chunks and put into a tupperware bowl. I tore up some of that fresh head of lettuce and put it on top. Then I added some feta cheese crumbles, some sliced almonds, and cut some lunch meat into strips and put on top. I would have used leftover tritip roast, but somebody ate it (Taylor). I mixed some Ranch dressing with Balsamic vinegar for the dressing. I also included a half of a banana and a nice, sweet and crispy Fuji apple in our lunch boxes. It's a very fruity day! Next time, I don't think I will even include the lunch meat for myself. It really didn't need it.

After work I started dinner preparations. I made a stuffing for the Acorn squash out of quinoa, hamburger and chorizo. I browned the meats and then added chopped onion and garlic, plus some shredded carrots. I seasoned it with sea salt and pepper, thyme and fresh, chopped parsley. The halved squash needed to cook for about 30 minutes before stuffing it. While the oven was on, I decided to roast those golden beets by drizzling on some oil and sea salt and pepper, then wrapping each beet tightly in foil and placing in the oven alongside the squash. The beets needed to cook for about an hour. I will make some sort of salad using them tomorrow. 

Anyway, I mixed a cup of shredded Mozzarella cheese into the quinoa mixture, and after filling up the cavity of each squash, I sprinkled a bit more cheese on top and popped them into the oven at 350° for 20 minutes more. 

Acorn squash stuffed with a hamburger-chorizo-quinoa mixture. Roasted the squash upsidedown in the oven for about 30 minutes, then stuffed it and cooked it for another 20 minutes. It was a lot of squash, but it sure was good eating!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Box #2: Lotsa color!

So the box arrived and as I unpacked it, I thought, "Lotsa colors!" We received purple carrots, golden beets, white acorn squash, grapefruits with a nice yellow peel, strawberries, oranges apples,  a dark, dark green kale, broccoli, avocados, and some beans mixture...not sure if we are supposed to "sprout" them or cook them like they are. I will have to research that one... We also got some more fresh fish, a Sand Sole this week.

Great, because I had a long and stressful day at work and I could cook up the fish in a few minutes. The plan was to panfry the fish again, since it turned out so well that way last week, and saute some of the brussel sprouts with bacon and onion and garlic. I had some leftover rice, so there was dinner in a hurry. There was enough wine (Cayucos Cellars Devil's Gate) leftover from last night for a couple of glasses, so we were set.

The brussel sprout recipe was from my friend Jackie's blog:
I had prepared the brussel sprouts the day before and had them ready in a tupperware container in the frig. So I got home, checked out all the vegies and fruits, and began cooking up some diced bacon. When it was crisp, I removed it from the pan onto a small platter. I chopped up about a quarter cup of yellow onion and used Lee's new trick to skin some garlic. I heated two cloves in the microwave for a few seconds...just a few! They get hot quickly, then the skins slip right off. So 10 seconds later I am dicing some garlic. I add the onion and garlic to the saute pan and cook it for just a minute. Then I dumped in about a half cup of sliced almonds that I keep in the freezer and then added the shaved brussel sprouts. It needed just a bit more olive oil to coats the greens as it sauteed until they wilted and then I added a splash of Balsamic vinegar. I tossed in the bacon bits and put the lid on it while I prepared the fish.

Basically, the filets in this week's box were cleaned and ready to fry, so I just patted them dry and put them on a platter. I seasoned both sides of the fish with coarse sea salt and pepper, then coated them in flour. I melted a half stick of butter with some canola oil and started frying the fish. They were thin, delicate filets and cooked in about 5 minutes. I did one piece at a time and then dinner was ready! Leftover rice reheated in the microwave completed this meal and we were setting down to the table in no time at all!

Tomorrow I get off work a little earlier, so I will try roasting the carrots and the beets. I think I will use the broccoli in a bacon and cheddar soup. I will have to check out the suggested recipes on the SLO Veg website to see what to do with the salad sprouts and white squash. Fun, fun, fun! : )


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Looking forward to the next Box

Fruit, Vegetable, Herb, and Juice List for 01/14/2013 - 01/18/2013
"Organic" Salad Sprouts (Red/Green Lentils, Pea Sprouts, Mung Beans, Adzuki Beans) ~ great sauteed or raw, "Organic" Purple Carrots, "Dino" Kale, White Acorn Squash, Broccoli Crowns, "Haas" Avocado's, Golden Beets, Red Leaf Lettuce, "Organic" Fuji Apples, Vine Ripened Strawberries, Sweet "Pomelo" Grapefruit, and Naval Oranges


So this is what we get to look forward to this week. The salad sprouts should be interesting. We usually buy an organic blend of lettuces from the grocery store, and we will probably still have that on hand, but these sprouts should jazz it up a bit this week. Lee likes to take a salad to work every day. I don't always have time for salads at work, so I try to keep my lunches to something I can eat out of hand or heat in a microwave and eat quickly.

The red leaf lettuce will be a nice change up. I have seen purple carrots, but I never tried them. Well, there's always a first time... We love squash, and broccoli is pretty much a staple in our house, as are avocados. We live in an avocado region, but its funny that most of the stores carry avocados from out of the area. Every so often I go to the Avocado Farm on Hwy 41 and pick up some good, local avocados. I'll have to ask Rachael where this week's avocado come from.

It's only been in the past year that I have gained an appreciation for beets. My dad used to love them, but they were usually canned beets...yuk! He grew some in his garden, but I don't think it ever occurred to my Mom to roast them. She boiled them and made a lot of Borscht, though. After I read a recipe from Guy Fieri for a roasted beet salad and tried it, I am hooked on roasted beets! That's the only way to go, as far as I'm concerned. Also, his Tarragon Dressing is like my favorite one to whip up in a hurry! So delicious!!!

Looking forward to all the fruits. I love Fuji apples and strawberries and oranges. Not so much a fan of grapefruit, but Lee loves them, so I am willing to give it a try.
Now on to the recipe search. One thing at the top of the list is SLO Veg's "Broccoli, Red Pepper and Cheddar Chowder". I have a red pepper in my frig now, so I will save it for the soup! 

Broccoli, Red Pepper, and Cheddar Chowder (Broccoli,/Bell Pepper/Potatoes/Onions) 

Servings: 4 or 6 Cups Ingredients: 1 small head broccoli (1/2 pound) 1 large boiling potato (1/2 pound) 1 large onion, chopped 1 red bell pepper, cut into 1/2-inch pieces l large garlic clove, finely chopped 2 tablespoons unsalted butter 1 teaspoon ground cumin 1 teaspoon salt 1/4 teaspoon black pepper 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour 3/4 cup heavy cream 6 oz sharp Cheddar, coarsely grated (1 1/2 cups)
Preparation: Discard tough lower third of broccoli stem. Peel remaining stem and finely chop. Cut remaining broccoli into very small (1-inch) florets. Cook florets in a large pot of boiling salted water until just tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to a bowl of ice water to stop cooking, then drain. Reserve 3 cups cooking water for chowder. Peel potato and cut into 1/2-inch cubes. Cook potato, onion, bell pepper, broccoli stems, and garlic in butter in a 3- to 4-quart heavy pot over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened, 8 to 10 minutes. Add cumin, salt, pepper, and mustard and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add flour and cook, stirring, 2 minutes. Add reserved cooking water and simmer (partially covered), stirring occasionally, until potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in cream and cheese and cook, stirring, until cheese is melted, then season with salt and pepper. Purée about 2 cups of chowder in a blender until smooth (use caution when blending hot liquids) and return to pot. Add florets and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until heated through, about 2 minutes.   

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Friday' s Box

In case you were wondering what was in the box for Friday, it was a Philly Cheesesteak pizza from Domino' s. Saturday night' s box was leftover swordfish from Tahoe Joe' s.
Getting down to the end of the first box. I still have some brussel sprouts...might try freezing them. I used up most of the cilantro in a Chimichurri sauce, and the kids used most of that on their fish tacos. I still have an orange and a big head of to make a big salad today with that.  Can' t wait for Rachael' s email this week telling us what to look forward to on Thursday...

Thursday, January 10, 2013

My night off

Let me start by stating the best thing about this SLO Veg delivery service is that I am not an expert at gardening and the grower's that they get their produce from are just that--experts, that is! After my trial garden stint last Spring, I am convinced that gardening is best left to the pros. Last year we tried to enhance our sandy soil enough to grow something, and the squash started off promising enough. However, once day I went out to water and the leaves were covered with "powdery mildew". Its too wet here! The fog kept the plants too wet all the time. Yuk! My little cherry tomatoes turned red, but the skins were so tough it was like eating shoe leather. My carrots were puny. I did get a few green beans and sweet peas and some lettuce, but thats about it. Plus, our water bill about doubled. I decided then and there that the Farmer's Market was the best bet. Only I would forget to go on Mondays because we were too busy going to the dentist...or we would go and that dang Olive guy would give us samples and we'd end up buying $20 worth of olives!!!

The best part about tonight's dinner is that it was Lee's night to cook. I asked him last night if he would mind making his famous shrimp in a garlic-butter sauce. No problem! He even got home a little early, so by the time I arrived, dinner was almost ready!

 This shrimp dish is his specialty. I don't know exactly how he does it, but it's got butter, garlic, wine, lemon, shrimp and fresh basil leaves on a bed of pasta.

He roasted some of that nice green broccoli from the SLO Veg box with olive oil and sea salt, and we rescued half a tomato and sliced it up with some sea salt and balsamic vinegar. The kids had use half of the juicey red tomato on a sandwich earlier today! Sacrilege! We almost lost out. That beautiful, lush tomato was ours!

Lee follows direction fairly well. He asked if he should steam the broccoli, and I suggested roasting it and finishing it with a squeeze of lemon. It turned out beautifully in about 20 minutes at 400 degrees.  Since we didn't have any cheap white wine, we used our Curtis Winery Heritage Blanc. I am sure it enhanced the pasta dish, but we drank the rest, and it was awesome. They say you shouldn't cook with any wine you wouldn't drink.

So here was the finished product. All I had to do was slice the tomato and put some marinara into a little dish. Of course I had to do the dishes, but I did them right away and was all done by 8:15. Not too shabby. I'm happy. We put the leftovers into containers for our lunch, but then the kids came home and they were hungry. I guess it's tuna fish sandwiches for tomorrow... 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Oh boy! Bok choy!

Bok Choy is something we buy to feed to the Bearded Dragon, Spike. I did cook it once, early on in Lee' s and my budding relationship. He was like, "This is really good, but it is Spike's food." Oh. So from then on, I just bought it and fed it to Spike, but then she (Spike was a she) passed away a couple of months ago from old age. I haven' t bought bok choy since then.

We got gallon-sized baggie full of baby bok choy in this week's shipment of vegetables. Young, succulent baby bok choy. I had also picked up a pork shoulder roast to cook in the crock pot, so when a recipe search turned up something incorporating both, I knew it was a winner.

Of course I didn't follow the recipe exactly.I didn't have any Nori or chow mein noodles. I already had a pork spice rub with brown sugar left over from something I made a month or so ago. And this other recipe called for citrus. Since I had oranges and lemons on hand, I had to incorporate that idea, too.So this is really a slow-roasted pork with citrus and garlic with chow mein vegetables recipe--a conglomeration.

I sliced up an onion and put it in the bottom of the crock pot early this morning. The pork shoulder went on top, and I squeeze a lemon and half an orange over the top. (The other half of the orange went into my lunch box, and wow! it was a treat!) I spread the spice rub over the top, nice and thick. For good measure, I put the squeeze-out lemon and orange into the pot, as well, and put the lid on it. Since I leave about an hour and a half before my husband, I left him instructions to program the crock pot to cook 8 hours on Low temperature. I figured that would be enough time, and it automatically goes to Warm when the time is up so it wouldn't overcook into mush. I texted our son about 5 pm and had him check if it was on warm, and he confirmed it for me. Perfect!

Anyway, it all would have gone exactly as planned if I hadn't come home to a sink full of dishes. Granted, I had left some, but they procreated or something while I was at work, so first I had to wash dishes, then start my stir-fry vegies. The kids had already gone off somewheres. So much for eating at 7:30...maybe 8 if we're lucky. The one redeeming benefit of preparing fresh vegies versus, say, dumping some frozen vegies into a pan straight from the freezer is that chopping it all with a sharp knife is very therapeutic. I sliced the ends off of the bok choy and gave them a rinse in the colander. I still had a leek, so I sliced that up along with a couple of cloves of garlic and put them into a cold saute pan and added some olive oil. I would have also added fresh ginger if I'd had any. As I brought that up to temperature and gave it a stir, I tossed in some small baby carrots that I had halved lengthwise, and one head of broccoli that I had trimmed down into small heads and a few sprigs of cilantro. (Gotta make chimichurri, soon!) After stirring to coat the vegies in oil, I added about a cup of water and a teaspoon of granulated chicken boullion along with a few shakes of ground ginger and put the lid on it. I poured about a half cup of soy sauce into a cup and stirred in two teaspoons full of cornstarch and mixed it until it was smooth. Then I mixed that into the steaming vegies and watched the sauce thicken up like magic. Lee had been shredding the pork while I stir-fried the vegies, so then Presto!  Dinner was ready.

The bok choy was tender and flavorful. The broccoli and carrots were slightly crunchy and the leeks were a nice change, as well. I don't know if it was the vegies, or the chicken boullion, or the soy sauce or the ginger, but the blend came out beauifully and I think it is the best stir-fry I have ever made.

My sweet husband poured me a glass of Hearst Ranch Tempranillo and then washed the dishes after we ate. All is well again, and we have some leftovers for tomorrow's lunch. The pork will make lovely sub sandwiches, too!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

What to do with Swiss Chard? (hint: add bacon!)

Well, even though the vegies were delivered 4 days ago, we still haven't made a dent in using them all up. I have two square baskets of brussel sprouts, so we will be having them a couple time in the next 10 days. I have a large bunch of cilantro which will probably become a green sauce. Then there is that bok choy, which I want to cook with a pork roast I just bought. But tonight, I think I will cook up the Swiss Chard.

Swiss chard was a favorite garden item of my late father's. He grew a vegetable garden every year and Swiss chard always flourished. I think my Mom just steamed it in the pan and added butter. Of course, that was good, but I want to take it a bit further.On to the recipe search...

I found a recipe on the Eating Well website, usually a good bet if you want something made with fresh vegetables. I used bacon instead of pancetta, onions instead of shallots, but I did have walnuts--plenty of walnuts leftover from Christmas baking!

What else to serve with Swiss chard? about quinoa? More protein that brown rice or potatoes, more "primal" so my husband will be pleased. I was also thinking chicken breasts, but a quick check of the freezer came up blank. I did have some hamburger, so Greek Meatballs it is!

I put the hamburger in the microwave to defrost, and rinsed the Swiss chard in a colander. The meatballs called for Greek seasoning and I have a Spice Hunter's blend on hand in my spice rack, so that was simple, I added some fresh chopped spinach that came in the SLO Veg box, and diced up some red onion. I added some basil leaves from the plants growing in my kitchen window. A raw egg, a splash of Balsamic vinegar, and a couple of dinner rolls turned bread crumbs in my chopper, and the meatballs were ready to go in the oven. I loosely followed Alton Brown's meatball recipe, except I used all beef and feta cheese, but I love his tip about putting the meatballs into a mini muffin tin. They cooked perfectly!

While the meatballs were baking, I pulled out my rice cooker for the quinoa. So simple, just put in a cup of quinoa with 2 cups of water and a teaspoon full of chicken boullion and set it and forgot it! Then I turned my attention to the Swiss chard. I trimmed off the stems, then minced a couple of cloves of garlic and chopped up about a quarter of an onion. I also coarsely chopped a handful of walnuts and set them aside. I chopped two slices of my thick bacon into small pieces about 1/4 inche wide and sauteed them in the skillet. When the bacon was crisp, I removed it to a plate and put the onion and garlic in to cook. I added a teaspoon of dried thyme and stirred it all together for a minute. Then I put the Swiss chard into the skillet, added some fresh squeezed lemon juice and about a cup of water. The lid goes on the skillet and I let it steam for about 10 minutes. I drained off the juices just before serving it up, and tossed in the bacon bits and walnuts.

I was taking the meatballs out of the oven as my husband was walking in the door. He washed up and we sat down in front of the TV to watch the DVR'd first episode of Rachel vs. Guy Celebrity Cookoff! Lee paired his meal with an Firestone 805 while I finished off the bottle of Cabernet from last night. Can't drink it all in one sitting now, can I?

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Collard Greens

Remember those Collard Greens? Well, I attempted to cook them today. Attempted--because I blew it!

Since today is my late son Andrew's birthday and he liked to explore his Portuguese heritage, this is a nod to him. I found a recipe on from Chef Emeril Lagasse for Portuguese Feijoada with Accompaniments: vinaigrette, rice, collard greens. The meal consisted of rice topped with a ham-hock and black bean soup, topped with collard greens sauteed in beer and finished off with a tomato-onion relish. I got to use those beautiful red tomatoes in a vinegar and oil dressing, which turned out beautifully. The fresh parsley really finished it. I really could have eaten that alone!

The main part of the meal was the Feijoada (black bean soup with ham hocks, linguicia sausage and bacon). It was kind of an overkill on pork, but hey, who's complaining? The recipe also called for corned beef, but I just had to stop. I used one of the leeks and some garlic with the bacon to start it off, then, since I had canned black beans instead of dried beans, I added about a quart of water and cooked the ham hocks for a couple of hours. The recipe call for an quartered orange, and I used one from the box. I tossed in one big beautiful bay leaf that I got from my last trip to New Frontier Foods. You can buy spices there from their bulk bins, and I got 15 or so bay leaves for .05 cents. I can fill up most of my spice jars of anything for under a dollar. Anywy, then I added three small cans of black beans from the pantry and cooked the soup down to a thick sauce.

Then to tackle those humugeous collards! I put some olive oil in a large skillet and sauteed some chopped garlic for a minute or two, then add the collards which had been sliced into strips. I sauteed that for a few minutes, then poured in a whole bottle of beer and put the lid on it. I checked it a couple of times as it cooked down. After about 30 minutes, the collards were still a bit bitter and crunchy, so I put the lid back on for more cooking time. I sat down to visit with my brother and help him program his new cell phone. I should have added a little water to the skillet, because all of a sudden I was smelling something...I went to check and yep! I burnt the collards! Dang it. I added some water and gave them a stir, because I was going to eat them anyway. Next time I will cook them lower and slower, allowing about an hour to an hour and a half cooking time.

So we dished up the rice, then the beans, and put a little bit of collard greens on the side, then topped the whole dish with the fresh tomato relish dish, which Emeril referred to as a vinaigrette sauce. Okay, the greens tasted burnt, but it was okay. My brother Alan joined us for dinner and he liked it, too! I paired our dinner with a 2008 Cabernet Franc from Santa Ynez Valley's Buttonwood Farms.

I also made Andrew's favorite mayonnaise cake for dessert, but right now we are too full  to try it. I think I will save it for tomorrow and share it with his sisters when we meet up tomorrow evening.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

What's in the First Box

My husband and I signed up for a vegetable delivery service called SLO Veg. It's fresh, organic local produce delivered right to our doorstep on a regular basis. We also opted to add the fish component, so with each delivery we will get a pound of fresh, local fish.

The exciting part is the variety, as we will be getting some fruits and vegetables that we may not have tried before, or don't think we like. The challenge will be to try some new foods and recipes and see what comes out of that. The bonus is that we will be adding more fresh, organic vegies to our diet and support the local farmers at the same time! It's going to be like a fun adventure in our kitchen.

So, the very first delivery began this week. We signed up for a bi-weekly, medium-sized box. The gal emailed us and let us know when it would be delivered and advised us to put out an ice chest with an icepack for the fish.

This is from the SLO Veg website:
Happy New Year 2013! New item ~ Collard Green's, Brussels Sprouts, Green Leaf Lettuce, Broccoli Crowns, Cilantro, Leeks, Vine Ripened Tomatoes, Spinach, "Shanghai" Bok Choy, Almonds, Satsuma Tangerines, Naval Oranges, and Kiwi "

They tell you what farms the food came from, suggest some recipes from their website, and basically support your vegies habit in every way they can besides cooking it for you!

So its Friday night and I get home at 7pm. Lee has already brought in the box and sent me a pic of the contents. But I set down my purse and open up the box. Oh boy, lettuce! A bag of bright, dark green spinach! Some large and small orange thingys, and some kiwis. Baby bok choy. A little baggie of almonds with the growers sticker on it. Lovely red red tomatoes. Some cilantro -- gonna have to make a chimichurri sauce outta that! A humungeous bunch of leaves...must be the collard greens! Some nice big bunches of broccoli. Leeks...2 feet long! and three little baskets of -- Brussel Sprouts.

The first week's box! Lotsa stuff to feed 3-4 people!
To appreciate the significance of the brussels, how need a little history: Lee hates them! He has actually gone so far as to state that no brussel sprouts shall ever cross our threshold! Oh, well, that barrier has been broken down. Now what to cook?

I grab my Trisha Yearwood Southern Cooking recipe book and look up collard greens -- I remembered her writing about them and how lovely they were. But as I browse quickly over the recipe, I see it takes an hour to cook them down. Not tonight, dear! Well, I know Rachael had a few recipes for brussel sprouts on the SLO Veg website, so why not tackle that right outta the gate? Over to the computer I go and search the site for brussel sprouts. I see one for roasted brussels with mustard and pancetta or prosciutto or something. Well, I have some bacon and Lee loves mustard, so that seems like a good one.

"Hey Lee, while I am starting dinner, could you pour me a glass of wine and assemble an appetizer plate with some of this leftover cheese? I think we have some olives, too."  Lee added some of the almonds from the box, and we had munchies while we cooked. One sip of the wine and I am on my way...

I quickly halve the brussels, chop one of the leeks (white part only) and lay it on a roasting pan. I pour on a bit of olive oil, mix together, season with coarse salt and pop it in the oven on 400 degrees. It will take 20 minutes or so to roast, so then I check out the fresh caught Thresher shark. We received two steaks, about 8 oz each in vacuum-sealed bags. So I open them up, give them a rinse and pat them dry with a paper towel. Then I cut each steak in half and put them on a platter to season them. I just use some coarse sea salt and pepper. I get out some flour and put it on a plate. Grab a skillet and put in half a cube of butter. Okay, that's ready.
Collard greens? I wasn't sure if we were to eat it, or wear it!

Now, what was in that mustard sauce? This is the recipe I found on the website:
" Roasted Brussels Sprouts in Creamy Mustard Sauce with Prosciutto and Cranberries 

Serves 8-10 45 minutes to prepare 2 lbs Brussels sprouts, trimmed 3 TBS butter, melted and divided 3 TBS olive oil, divided 1/2 tsp sea salt 1/4 tsp ground pepper 1/4 cup chopped prosciutto (about 1-1/2 ozs) 1/2 cup minced shallots (about 2 medium) 3 TBS sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar 1 TBS Dijon mustard or Wasabi mustard 3/4 cup whipping cream 2 TBS chopped parsley 1/4 cup dried cranberries
Preheat oven to 425 degrees Cut Brussels sprouts in half lengthwise, toss to coat evenly with 2 tablespoons butter, 2 tablespoons olive oil, sea salt, and pepper. Bake on jellyroll pan at 425 for 18 minutes or until Brussels sprouts are tender and outer leaves are golden brown and slightly crispy, stirring halfway through. Heat large nonstick skillet over medium heat; add prosciutto. Cook 6 minutes or until crisp, stirring occasionally. Remove from pan; set aside. In same skillet, heat remaining 2 tablespoon butter and oil over medium heat. Sauté shallots for 2 minutes or until translucent and cooked through. Add vinegar; reduce heat to low, cook 1 minute. Stir in mustard and cream; bring to a low boil. Let simmer and reduce about 5 minutes or until sauce is thick and creamy. Toss Brussels sprouts with parsley, prosciutto and cranberries, and drizzle half the warm sauce over the top. Serve remaining sauce on the side. "

Okay, I grab the bacon and take out three slices, chop them in half and start cooking them in a skillet. I hunt for the sherry it! Dijon mustard? Well, I have some horseradish mustard -- good enough. Heavy whipping cream? How about buttermilk? I just bought a quart of that for pancakes. Parsley? Check. Cranberries? All out. Oh well.

I check my brussel sprouts and give them a turn. They are roasting nicely, beginning to show some browned edges -- almost done. I take the bacon out of the pan and add some chopped onion and sherry vinegar. I throw in a 1/4 cup or so of flour and then add about a cup of far so good. Chop some parsley, stir the sauce. Now to start the fish. But first I take the brussel sprouts out of the oven.

I coat the fish in flour and add to the skillet with the melted butter. All but one large piece fits in the skillet, so I let it brown on one side, then flip it. Oh geez, Lee, look what happened to my sauce! Its separating! How about adding some sour cream? We ended up with two large quarts after the holidays, anyway. Okay, so we stir in some sour cream and seems to smooth things out. Lee tends to the sauce as I tend to the fish.When I am down to cooking the last piece, I put the brussel sprouts into a large dish and pour some of the sauce onto it. I take a big spoon and toss it all together and stir in the broken bacon pieces. I taste a piece of brussel sprout...yum! I think this will work for Lee!

"Honey, can you quarter one of those lemons for me?" Last thing is I take some leftover white rice from the frig, put it in the microwave to reheat, and dinner is done. It's 8:00pm. Where's my glass of wine that Lee poured for me a half hour ago? Okay, ready to eat.

So we move the junk on the dining room table and set down to eat this fresh feast. Thresher shark? Yum! It is thick, flakey and not at all fishy...almost like a steak. A little bit of fresh lemon and its perfect. The rice is perfectly reheated, and the brussel sprouts? May I say "divine"! Lee just couldn't bring himself to comment, on purpose, but he really did like them. I know because he asked to have the leftovers put in his lunch for the next day.

The glass of red wine I had topped it off. It is from Cayucos Cellars, a blend of 75% Petite Sirah and 25% Grenache grapes from the Paso Robles region, called Devil's Gate IX/X. The owner's son assisted in making it and designed the cool label. Very local, very good.
Our completed fish and brusssel sprouts dinner adventure.