Eat Your Veggies

Last week, we went grocery shopping and bought tons of veggies.  I love having fresh veggies in the house, but we sometimes struggle with using all of them up before they go bad.  One great way to take care of this is to roast them.  They are tasty as a side item, or I also use them cold in salads.  Since we had so many veggies, I spent a couple hours this morning prepping and roasting them…which made the house smell awesome I might add!

DSC_0254Starting at 12:00 in this image and going clockwise, there’s Kimchi Brussels Sprouts (recipe from Real Simple), Lemony Carrots (recipe from Real Simple), Roasted Chick Peas, Roasted Sweet Potatoes (both from Oh She Glows), Roasted Zucchini, and Roasted Radishes (both simply done with olive oil, salt, and pepper).  Not pictured but also roasted today were some beets (they were just out of the oven when I took this pic).

These were all awesome, and it was fun to try some new-to-me recipes.  Though, I have to give a big shout-out to the Kimchi Brussels Sprouts and the Roasted Chick Peas in particular – wow, so much flavor!  For lunch, I had a big salad with all of these.  I just put them on a bed of romaine, kale, and purple cabbage and dressed it with a walnut oil, balsamic, and dijon homemade salad dressing.  And, yes, those are anchovies on top, which probably grosses some of you out, but I’m here to tell you that the white anchovies pictured here are extremely mild, as opposed to the regular anchovies you’re thinking of…these are delicious! 🙂

DSC_0269

Looking forward to some healthy and flavorful lunches and dinners this week!

Irish Soda Bread + A Sweater!

I know, it’s been forever since I blogged!!  But, things have been crazy busy with work travel, which means no blog time.  I do have stuff to write about, though! 🙂

First of all, I made Irish Soda Bread (with my own special twist), using the White Soda Bread recipe on this website.  The twist was that I added some chopped fresh rosemary, and OH MY, it was amazing!  The recipe itself couldn’t be easier.  I did use unbleached flour, and I found that I needed to add more buttermilk that it called for to get the right dough texture (it should be a very sticky dough).  I just added a tablespoon at a time until it was right.  Two days after I made it, we even sliced up some pieces, put butter and garlic on them, and put them in the broiler on low for a few minutes to heat/toast them.  SO GOOD.

Image

Next:  I made a sweater while we were on vacation.  I started it on the plane, and 9 days later it was knit.  I even blocked it and wore it on the plane on the way home.  The yarn was my handspun from a Hello Yarn Patchwork Kit, which just had various leftover bits of wool from different colorways.  The pattern is Driven by Veera Välimäki.  It was such a fun and easy knit!!  The sweater involves unique construction that’s super easy and also NO SEAMING.  I didn’t make many modifications…just made it slightly shorter than the pattern called for, knowing it would grow lengthwise with blocking.  My specific modifications are detailed on my ravelry project page.  This sweater took about 850 yds of worsted/aran weight yarn, which seems like a small miracle to me. Not much yardage but still a full sweater. Crazy!  I couldn’t be happier with this sweater.  The colors are divine, the fit is flattering, and it’s just super comfy!  Yay sweater!!

Image

Rhubarb Cucumber Salad

We continue to receive wonderful veggies, greens, etc. from our CSA share.  This week brought us arugula, lettuce, collard greens, green onions, mint, and rhubarb.  This time of year brings us a ton of greens, so I’m forever searching for ways to use them quickly and did just that with the collard greens.  I simply prepared them by sauteing them in a little olive oil, garlic, and chicken stock.  Cover with a lid put it on high heat for 5 minutes.  Uncover, let the liquid cook away (if there’s any left), then add a few dashes of red wine vinegar, red pepper flakes, and some salt.  Delicious!!  William thought they were amazing, and to me, this is a huge compliment since he’s from the South.

As for the rest of the CSA bag, I looked at the rhubarb and thought…hmm, I don’t have any idea what to do with that.  Some of my friends who are way better cooks than me just rave about all the things to do with rhubarb, but true confessions, I’ve never tried rhubarb on its own.  I didn’t know what type of flavor it has…only that people like combining it with strawberries in pies.  I’ve tried strawberry-rhubarb pie, and to be frank, I don’t care for it.  So, I knew I needed to find something else to do with it.

Fast forward to Friday evening, and William and I went to one of our favorite restaurants for dinner.  I had the crab-stuffed tilapia special, which came with some sort of rhubarb salad.  How fortuitous!  They had combined the rhubarb with cucumber and a bit of mint, and it was delicious and refreshing.  Since we had received both rhubarb and mint in our CSA share, I knew I had to try and make a variation of this at home.

We bought a cucumber at the store, and I set off to figure out how to make the salad and what flavors would pair nicely in it.  I cut up the rhubarb and tried a bit on its own.  I can see why people like combining it with strawberries because it tastes like a tart strawberry combined with celery.  This came out absolutely delicious and dare I say, better than the restaurant version.  It is cool and refreshing and pairs nicely with a rich meal, just to lighten it a bit.  At any rate, here is what I did.  I tried to keep a bit better track of quantities this time as well.

Rhubarb Cucumber Salad

Image

  • 8 rhubarb stalks, finely diced
  • 1/2 Hothouse cucumber, finely diced (these are the cucumbers wrapped in cellophane; I use them exclusively because their skin is less rubbery, and they are seedless)
  • 1 Tbsp chives, finely chopped
  • 2 Tbsp mint, finely chopped
  • 1/4 c. apple cidar vinegar
  • 1/4 c. sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • Pepper to taste

In a small saucepan, heat the vinegar and sugar until the sugar dissolves.  Add salt and pepper to the vinegar mixture.  Put into a glass, and place it in the refrigerator to cool for ~20-30 min. (it’s ok if it’s still luke warm).  Meanwhile, chop the rhubarb, cucumber, chives, and mint finely, and combine in a medium bowl.  Once the vinegar mixture has cooled to lukewarm, pour over the top of the salad and stir.  You can serve this immediately.  Makes 4-6 servings.  Enjoy!

Salad Niscoise – A Variation

Image

It has been unseasonably warm here lately, and it has thrown my palate into wanting tasty salads with delicious ingredients.  This was further spurred by a couple of experiences in the last week as well.

First of all, last weekend, we went to a vineyard luncheon at a fancy restaurant near our home.  They do this once a month and choose a specific region, bring wines in from that region, and then make a meal to match the wines.  Typically, it’s 4 courses, and it’s fantastic.  This time, the region was Southern France.  One of the courses was Salad Niscoise.  I’ve had this salad before, it is delicious and flavorful and just lovely.

Secondly, we joined a CSA for the spring season.  What is a CSA you ask?  It stands for Community Supported Agriculture.  Basically, you buy a “share” of a local farmer’s harvest.  You get fresh veggies weekly straight from the farmer.  Most of the time a “share” is sufficient for a family of four.  Since we are just 2 people, we are sharing the share with another couple.  Prices vary for CSAs, but the one that we are part of works out to be $20/week for a full share, so $10 for each couple per week.  Not too bad for fresh veggies that are much higher quality than anything you could buy in the store.  This time of year, the veggies consist of mostly greens.  We got Asian greens (2 different types), chives, kale, and micro greens (pea shoots that taste just like peas!).  So, given all of the greens we have to eat this week, salads it is!

So, as a way of being creative with the lettuce and also a means of recreating the special lunch that William and I had, I decided to get all of the items (outside of the greens) to make Salad Niscoise.  I didn’t have a recipe just a basic idea of what is included in the salad.  I love making my own salad dressings at home, so I knew just the thing to do for that as well.  It turned out great, and William loved it just as much as at the restaurant, so YAY! 🙂

Below is a rough outline of what I did.  I won’t call it a “recipe” per se because I don’t really measure when I’m cooking on the fly.  It will give you a good idea of what to do if you want to recreate this delicious salad for yourself.

What you’ll need:

  • Greens – I used a mixture of Asian greens from our CSA – kind of looked like spring mix + romaine…one that tasted like regular lettuce and one that was a little more bitter, but any of your favorite greens will do.
  • Tomatoes – I used baby heirloom tomatoes, which are super flavorful and hearty.  Again, any favorite tomato will do.
  • Chives
  • Fresh green beans – I bought those that come pre-cleaned and ends snapped off in a steam-in-the-microwave bag.  Easy peasy. Steam them in the bag, and then immediately put them in an ice bath to cool them down quickly.
  • Fingerling potatoes (or any small potato that can be eaten with the skin on) – boil them in water with the skins on until fork-tender.  Plunge them immediately into an ice bath to cool them down quickly.
  • Hard-boiled eggs – sliced thickly (4-5 slices per egg); I put 1 1/2 on each salad.
  • 1 small package of yellowfin tuna packed in extra virgin olive oil for each salad.  You could use a different type of tuna (I’ve also tried Albacore white), but they don’t quite have the right flavor for the salad.
  • Optional:  micro greens to give a little extra flavor and pretty topping
  • Salt & pepper to taste

For the dressing, and this is the hard part because I just added ingredients until it “tasted right.”  So, the amounts of each ingredient below are total guesses and are just a start.  Add more or less of each item until it suits your taste.

  • Olive oil, start with 1/4-1/2 cup
  • 1 clove of garlic, chopped finely.  I add the garlic to the oil and put it in the microwave for about 15 seconds to get the garlic to infuse through the oil.  I have no idea if this really changes the taste of the dressing, but I get the sense that it takes out some of the strength of the garlic.
  • Red wine vinegar, start with 1/4-1/2 cup (equal parts oil & vinegar to start)
  • Honey, start with 1-2 tablespoons
  • Country dijon mustard, start with 1-2 teaspoons
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • Whisk everything together and add more honey, vinegar, or mustard depending on your taste

I chopped the lettuce and chives, diced the tomatoes, sliced the potatoes and eggs, left the green beans whole, and just used a fork to chop up the tuna.  I salted & peppered the salad ingredients lightly before adding the dressing and micro greens.  Drizzle the dressing with a spoon…I found that 2-3 tablespoons is plenty for a large salad.  Then, I just added the micro greens to the top for a tasty decoration.

And, yes, that pic at the top of this post is my actual salad that I just enjoyed for lunch today.  Delicious!

Out with the old, In with the new

Well, 2011 was really a trying year for us, so I’m pretty happy to see it kicked to the curb.  We’ve had a host of medical problems in our family right up to the bitter end of the year, some of which are still unresolved but are hopefully on their way to being resolved soon.  Work was busy and stressful.  There were rivers of tears.  And, there has been some family drama that I don’t really care to repeat again.

Of course, there were plenty of good things throughout the year as well.  We had a ton of fun and took some really amazing vacations.  I think I’ve learned a lot about myself as well as new crafty things to do, new things in the kitchen, new things with photography, and definitely new things at work.  I think I’ve grown a ton with all of these new learnings.

Here’s hoping that 2012 won’t be quite as trying and that we are on to bigger and better things!  In the mean time, here are a couple of pretty pictures of some fun remaining things for 2011.

First up, my Hansen miniSpinner, a super generous Christmas gift from my husband.  I’ve had a ton of fun playing around with this, and I think I’m starting to understand the adjustments I need to get the yarn I want.  This is so different from my wheel but good all at the same time.  I love the portability and ease.

Next up:  I’m kind of obsessed with making this Orange Chocolate Chunk Cake (recipe here), which I got via Angry Chicken’s blog (if you don’t read it, you should…link to the right on here).  I’ve made this cake 3 times since Thanksgiving.  Most recently, I made it for my husband’s birthday at the end of December and finally got a decent picture of it.  It is a bit labor intensive as far as cakes go, but it is so so so tasty!  The recipe is definitely a keeper.  This last round of making it, I made one minor modification to the recipe, which I think I’m going to do from now on.  That is that instead of taking the cake out of the pan before putting the syrup on it, I left it in the pan and drizzled the syrup on the bottom.  I found that putting syrup on the top of the cake after removing it from the pan, you lose a lot of the syrup.  This way, it all goes into the cake to help keep it moist.

That’s it for now!  Here’s wishing you and yours a happy and healthy 2012 and a better year than 2011! 😉

Christmas Treats!

For almost as long as I can remember, at Christmas time, my mom and I made fudge together.  Sometimes, we’d pack it up in little tins and gift it as gifts, and sometimes it was just brought to her office party or a family function.  I’ve read lots of places how fudge can be “complicated” to make, sometimes with not so fabulous results (grainy texture, etc).  Perhaps certain recipes are fussy and that way.  However, I’ve always found our recipe to be easy and pretty much fool-proof every single time.  It takes only 15 min. of prep/cook time and setting up overnight in the fridge.  See?  Not that hard!

I have made this so long that I have it memorized, and now I bring it to office parties, friend’s Christmas parties, and pack it in little tins.  There is even a guy at my work who demands requests 😉 that I make it each year.  For the record, my mom still makes it as well.  As far as the origin of the recipe, I think we originally found it in a cookbook that was put together by the moms of my girl scouts troop.  It has been at least 20 years ago that we started making this.  I’ve looked around on the internet a bit and have found recipes that are close but not quite the same as what we do.  So, I think it’s ok to post it here. Here are some in-process pictures too just to entice you! 🙂  I made it today for a cookie exchange with work friends.

Ingredients:

  • 2 sticks butter
  • 4 cups sugar
  • 1 cup milk
  • 25 large marshmallows (Jet-Puff is better than generic)
  • 2 1-oz. bars unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 1 12-13 oz. bag semi-sweeet chocolate chips
  • 1 12-13 oz. bag milk chocolate chips (can modify the recipe easily by substituting mint-chocolate chips, raspberry chocolate chips, or peanut butter chips to make different flavors…I have done all of the above with great success)
  • Walnuts (optional, I never add them due to potential food allergies)
  • 2 9×13 EZ-Foil sheets (makes it SO MUCH easier to cut the fudge once it’s set up), alternatively, line a large cookie sheet with foil (not easy to cut)

Directions:

Grease the pan(s) with a small amount of butter.  In a large pot, melt the butter at medium-high heat.  Once melted, add the sugar and stir.  It will be a grainy consistency.  Add the milk, and stir until smooth.  Continue heating until the liquid is warm.  Add the marshmallows, and increase to high heat.  Continue heating until the marshmallows are melted (Pro tip:  smash the marshmallows against the sides of the pot with a wooden spoon once they start to melt to get them to melt faster.  Otherwise, the mixture will start to “grow” quickly in the pot as it is heated).  Once the marshmallows are melted, turn off the heat.  Add the unsweetened chocolate and stir until melted.  Add the semi-sweet chocolate chips, and stir until melted.  Add the milk chocolate chips, and stir until melted.  If adding nuts, do so at the end, and stir until incorporated.  Pour into pans, cover with foil, and allow to set up overnight in the refrigerator.  Makes 5 lbs.

Marshmallows getting melted:

Freshly poured fudge:

And after it’s been cut…all ready to serve:

And totally unrelated…we are in the middle of Christmas frenzy here.  This means that at least one of our guest rooms gets overtaken with the presents and all of the stuff to wrap them.  I’m maybe only halfway through wrapping (if that), but things are coming along nicely as you can see below.  Happy Christmas! 😀