Sunday, June 11, 2017

From Fresh to Flavorful

Sundays during gardening season are cooking days in our house. My husband and I gather fresh produce from the garden then figure out what to make with it. Today’s challenge included mustard, kale and broccoli.

It wasn’t hard to figure out what to do with the greens. One of our favorite spring recipes is Mollet Eggs Florentine, a recipe I saw Jacques Pepin make on his PBS show. I combined kale and mustard instead of using the spinach the recipe calls for. I also used fresh eggs from a friend of ours.

Because that’s a rich dish, I wanted something lighter to accompany it. That’s where the broccoli comes in. I heard someone on a cooking show talking about putting broccoli into a food processor and making broccoli slaw so I decided to try that for an easy, no-cook option. I added a few baby carrots into the food processor then scooped it all into a bowl to which I added mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, salt, pepper, honey and apple cider vinegar. The result was the perfect accompaniment to the greens and eggs.

Now the question is what to do with the rest of the greens and broccoli. If you have ideas for make ahead dishes that I can put into the freezer, please share. Mini quiches to freeze are next on my list.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Healthy start to our Sunday

I recently told my husband that I’ve gotten bored with breakfast. I almost always wake up hungry and wouldn’t skip the first meal of the day, but I needed to find a healthy, new way to launch the week. Woman’s Day magazine came the rescue with a recipe for Egg Pepper Rings with Carrot Salsa. I omitted the tomatoes from the salsa since we don’t have any fresh-from-the-garden in February. Although Jim ate his on a homemade bun, I made mine without bread. Instead, I made a fruit salad to accompany the star of the show.

I enjoyed this fresh-tasting morning treat. Although it was quite good, next time I might add a little cheese. That could be the perfect topper to an already delicious dish.

What’s your suggestion for a creative breakfast?

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Stew and pasta for a winter Sunday

What do I have on hand for today’s creation? That’s the question I often begin with when I cook. This weekend I wanted to use some of the vegetables from last fall’s harvest—pumpkin puree that I had frozen and a butternut squash. Those orange vegetables are a powerhouse of goodness for your body, providing Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Potassium, Vitamin E as well as minerals like magnesium. But I’m rarely content with a one-color dish so I also pulled out some locally grown arugula (thank you Berea College Farm Store) and red onions. 

These vegetables sounded like the perfect complement to pasta. With the pumpkin puree I could make a pumpkin alfredo sauce for the dish. But I still needed a protein so I turned to Lydia Bastianich’s Masteringthe Art of Italian Cuisine. She has a Lentil Stew recipe that is hearty and tasty. It’s also great for leftovers later in the week when I’ll likely combine it with rice or barley for a one-dish wonder.

To balance these dishes I also made a fresh, fruit salad. When we finished eating, my husband (who isn’t fond of pasta) said it was the best pasta he had tasted and he thought it was delicious. He liked the mellow undertones of pumpkin and the subtle spices in the dish. Here’s my recipe.

Pasta and vegetables with pumpkin alfredo sauce
1 butternut squash, peeled and chopped
1 small red onion , chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
Olive oil
2 cups arugula
1 ½ TBS butter
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 cup heavy whipping cream
¼ + cup of grated pecorino cheese
Pinch of nutmeg
1 ½ tsp oregano
2 cups penne pasta
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Toss squash with olive oil and salt. Spread on baking sheet and roast 15 minutes. Stir the squash then roast another 15 minutes or until a fork easily pierces the squash.
 Heat salted water to boil penne for 8 – 12 minutes. If you prefer it al dente, check it at 8 minutes to see if it’s done enough for you. Boiling time depends on if you’re using pasta made from a whole grain or refined flour.
Wash and chop arugula. Set aside.
Drizzle large, flat-bottom skillet with olive oil. Heat. Sprinkle in onions and sauté on low until they begin to get soft. Add garlic and sauté for another minute or two. Add butter and melt then stir in pumpkin puree. Slowly stir in cream then add nutmeg and oregano. Sprinkle in pecorino. By this time the pasta should be done. Use a spider to spoon the pasta from the pasta water and into the sauce. The water that comes with the pasta will help thicken the sauce. Spoon in about half of the pasta then add half of the arugula and stir. Next add the rest of the pasta and arugula and stir. Add the roasted squash, stir, then taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper to your taste.
Top with more cheese and serve.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Three food habits for the new year

Yesterday a friend was talking about getting control of her health. That’s something many people attack with abundant energy in the first few days of the new year. Then the routine sets in, we forget, we stray, we’re tempted into old habits. So much for our health.

There are three food habits that I’ve ingrained into my lifestyle over the years that help me stay on a positive nutrition track. They’re easy and straightforward.

          Don’t buy foods you shouldn’t eat. I could eat an entire bag of Lays Classic potato chips in one sitting if it’s available to me when I get a craving. Once I open it, the smell lures me in and I’m lost to snacking world. I know that’s not good for me so I rarely buy them. If I have to leave my house to buy something I’m craving, I’m likely to choose a healthy food I already have in the house instead. Keeping my kitchen free of my food weaknesses helps keep me healthy.

      Eat a rainbow of foods. I’ve been following this advice for more than 10 years. It causes me to be more intentional about my food choices as I consider what’s available and what colors I’m lacking. The rainbow is an easy and visually appealing way to get a wide range of nutrients.
        Eat as many locally produced, in-season fruits and vegetables as possible. The closer to your home something is grown the less time it spends in shipping, which means the foods haven’t had as  much time to lose their nutrients. Fresh foods also mean flavorful foods. Challenging myself to cook primarily from local foods has made me a more creative cook, a fun side benefit of this healthy habit.

Fruit is the area where I most frequently stray from local produce. We do not have an abundance of it available in my area. So check out the picture for an appealing and healthy dish you can create for a meal or snack. I used kiwi, oranges and pomegranates. I’m already thinking about what other fruits I could use to make a flavorful masterpiece for the table.