Foodie Penpals – March!

And yet again, I participated in Foodie Penpals this month.  My penpal this month was a former vegan and aspiring culinary professional.  Paige, from New York, sent some great products that I’m super excited to try.  Well, scratch that, I’ve eaten most of it already 🙂

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Paige sent me the following:

Justin’s Almond Butter

Justin’s Peanut Butter

Homemade Chocolate Covered Cherries

Homemade Vegan Granola

Bee-Free Honey

Earl Green Tea

The packets of Justin’s almond and peanut butter are a staple in my kitchen. I love their convenience, the all-natural instant punch of protein, and, of course, the delicious taste 🙂

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The homemade granola was absolutely delicious.  I loved the mix of nuts that Paige used in it.  This tasty treat graced the top of my breakfast yogurt for the week after I received my package.  And the chocolate covered cherries?  Well, they didn’t last a week.  I’d be surprised if they lasted more than two days.  Amazing!

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These were the two products I was most excited about!  I had seen bee-free honey before, but had never ventured out into buying it.  This version, made from reduced apple juice, has almost the same taste as a regular honey, but it also has a hint of tang that one would get from a granny smith or other baking honey.  This also topped my morning yogurt 🙂

The green tea is soothing, deep, and unique.  Again, I’ve seen some green Earl Greys out there, and I have always wondered if that would necessarily be a good combination.  I love the mellowness and calming flavor of a mild green tea.  And I love the bite and strength of Earl Grey.  To me, those flavors don’t sound like they’d work together, but work they do!  This tea has the best of both worlds – mellow flavor and unique bite.  Altogether tasty 🙂

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Home Made Pierogies with Roasted Red Cabbage

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I just had to share these pictures.  There is no original recipe to post (recipe for pierogies can be found at The Sugar Hit), but I couldn’t resist sharing my achievement.  Not only did I make pierogies from scratch for the first time, but I also used my pasta machine that I got for Christmas for the pierogi dough!

 

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If you do not know, pierogies are traditional Polish dumplings most similar, in my experience, to ravioli.  They can be stuffed with anything from blueberries, to meats, to my favorite, potatoes and cheese.  While I was in Krakow this summer, I ate pierogies every day!  This was mostly because they were delicious, but also because there wasn’t a great deal of non-meat dishes on the menu.

 

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Oddly enough, after saying that pierogies are a great non-meat meal alternative, I want to inform you about the wonderful sausage I bought to have with these dumplings.  Walking in to the co-op today, my plan was to buy some Tofurky bratwursts.  I looked at them.  They were almost $5 a package, and I really didn’t need a whole package of Tofurky dogs.  Amazingly, the butcher’s counter had house-made, organic chicken bratwursts.  For one large bratwurst, I pair $2.  Score!  The sausage was tasty, mild, and juicy.  I guess I’m teaching myself to eat more meat :-\

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Lastly, the roasted red cabbage was amazing!  This morning, a giant red cabbage was in my produce delivery box, and I knew immediately its fate.  I prepare my roasted cabbage very simply.  I slice then entire cabbage into 1/2″ thick rounds, arrange them on a baking dish, drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and roast in a 350 degree oven for about 20-30 minutes.  Delicious!

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Parchment Packet Baked Salmon with Lactino Kale

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There is not a good back story to this meal.  I love salmon.  I love vegetables.  They came together amazingly well here.  Truthfully, there are not many meals that will cause me to break out the full-sized dinner plates (I usually use 6″ salad plates for my meals), but this was one of them.  I first thought about having salmon and cous cous.  Then I realized that I had a few artichokes left from my delivery last week.  Then, I thought I might as well add some kale and shallots under the salmon.  Perfect.

I could give a recipe, or I could talk about the general construct of parchment packet baking.  I’ll go with the later.  Baking in packets gives so much flavor!  Your food pretty much steams with the ingredients that are put all together, so you want to use some great aromatics.  One of my favorite aromatics to include in parchment packets is fennel, but I used that all in my soup last week.

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Packets, pre-folding, pre-baking.

So, you want to start with a base.  I love greens, in this case lactino (or dino) kale!  I’ve used shaved cabbage, carrots, fennel (as mentioned above) and corn before, too.  You want at least a full cup of raw veggies, if not more.  Next, add in some flavor.  I thinly slice shallots.  You can use onions or garlic as well.  Then, add your protein, in my case fish.  Season with salt and pepper.  For the salmon, I added a slice of butter (about a tsp.) and a slice of lemon.  Next, pour in a little liquid.  A tablespoon of white wine works well.

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Packets, post-folding, post-baking.

Now for folding.  Start with the long sides of the parchment, and bring them together.  Fold the edges over a few times, folding no more than an inch at a time. Now, go to each end, and fold those in to create a packet.  Make sure the edges are nice and tight. and that steam won’t escape in any way.  Bake your packets at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes, or until your fish registers at 145 degrees internal temperature.

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Enjoy 🙂

 

 

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Food Friday – February!

I think I can get very addicted to this whole  Foodie Penpals thing.  Seriously, I love food, I love getting mail, and I love learning about what other people like!  This month my foodie penpal was from Alabama.  I told her that I liked healthy snacking and treats now and then, and boy did she come through!  Shera, my foodie penpal, is also an at-home preschool teacher, so I got lovely little notes from her students.

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Shera’s gifts to me were:

Snapea Crisps

Late July Organic Lime Chips

Tuscan Three Cheese Pretzel Chips

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Justin’s Peanut Butter Cups

Dark Hot Chocolate

Glee Gum

Luna Bar

Wildflower Alabama Honey

Now, let’s talk honey.  I think that honey is one of the most amazing foods out there.  It truly is a local food.  Every honey, if you are buying from sources that are local and minimally processed, will taste different.  It amazes me that the flavor of honey will change depending on what flowers the bees are exposed to and even the weather!  I am really excited to try this wildflower Alabama honey with my morning Greek yogurt and berries 🙂

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Artichoke and Vegetable Soup

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A few weeks ago I noticed that I was going through my produce delivery very quickly!  I was receiving a “regular” sized box of fruits and veggies from Farm Fresh To You every other week.  A regular box is supposed to feed 2-4 people for a week.  Me, myself, and I was going through a regular box in about 10 days.  I decided to step up to their “more” sized box that is supposed to last 4-6 people one week.  I am thinking this will be a much better fix!

The variety of vegetables has increased in my delivery this week.  While I usually get the staples – lettuce, carrots, broccoli, greens of some kind – this week I found that my “more” sized box contained the usual PLUS some shallots, fennel, romanesco, radishes, and artichokes.  I was, however, disappointed to see that the amount of fruit I received didn’t increase greatly.  I eat about 3-4 pieces of fruit a day, so I will have to keep supplementing with co-op and farmer’s market fruit!

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Anyway…I looked at all of the veggies, and the bag of artichokes I bought in Castroville this weekend, and knew that I needed to make something epic.  I decided to put together a lot of the root vegetables (I will save the greens and cruciferous veggies for another day and post) and the artichokes into a soup.  Only the small artichokes from Castroville made their way in, as I want to save the two globe artichokes to roast later in the week.

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I had never trimmed a fresh artichoke before, and the process was intimidating.  However, once I did the first one, it became very simple and quick.  First, you want to pull off the outer leaves until you reach leaves that are completely yellow.  This will probably remove more than half of the leaves.  Next, trim the stalk to a 1/2 inch, and cut off the tops of the leaves.  Using a paring knife or vegetable peeler, remove the tough outer skin from the remaining stalk.  Halve the artichoke lengthwise and remove the fuzzy center.  I used a grapefruit spoon to do this, but a paring knife would work just as well.  Halve again, and you have quartered artichoke hearts!

These will oxidize quickly (think about the brown color that apples get when you leave them out), so you want to do this when you have some water with lemon juice to soak the trimmed artichokes in, or when are at the point in your soup when you can just drop them in as you trim them!

Artichoke and Vegetable Soup

2 tbsp. olive oil

3 shallots, diced

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 fennel bulb, diced

2 carrots, diced

1/2 cup white wine

3 cups vegetable broth

1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes, juice included

1 lb. red potatoes, cubed to 1 inch

6 small artichokes, trimmed and quartered (or one 14.5 oz can)

1 can (14.5 oz.) butter beans, drained and rinsed

1/2 tsp. oregano

1/2 tsp. thyme

2 bay leaves

salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a soup pot or dutch oven.  Add the shallots and cook until translucent.  Stir in the garlic just until fragrant.  Add the fennel and carrots and stir, coating with the shallots and oil.  Cook for 3-4 minutes or until starting to get tender.  Pour in the wine and let cook off for a moment.  Add the vegetable broth and tomatoes, bring to a simmer.

Stir in the potatoes, and when they’re ready, the artichoke hearts.  Season with the remaining ingredients and add the butter beans.  Simmer for at least 30 minutes, until potatoes and artichokes are tender and the broth is the consistency you want.

I served mine with sharp cheddar ciabatta!

 

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Crustless Broccoli and Sharp Cheddar Quiche

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I have not posted in forever!  Work and other commitments have picked up for the season, and plus, the meals I’ve been cooking have been pretty boring (think simply grilling a tofu dog and slapping it in a bun).  But, I finally had a Wednesday evening off, so I decided to cook!

Quiche has always been a go-to meal for me.  It is simple, it is tasty, and full of protein!  Just like a lot of other recipes I post, another bonus is that you can mix up the ingredients to create something new every time.  One of my favorites is kale and goat cheese (try it sometime, trust me), but my CSA last week brought me some lovely broccoli!  So I went traditional with broccoli and cheddar.

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The eggs. Ohh the eggs are amazing. I’m lucky to have a co-worker who sells these lovely, home-grown (is that a correct term for eggs?) beauties for $2 a dozen.

The cheddar cheese I bought (on sale at the Co-Op) is delicious.  It has that tang that only a sharp cheddar can have.  Truthfully, I went into the store looking for a smoked cheese – cheddar or Gouda – because I’ve always found that those cheeses add such a nice savory taste to a vegetarian quiche that you miss when you don’t include bacon or ham.

I will admit.  My loving relationship with quiches began in high school when I baked one up for open house night to get points in french class.  I used an Emril Lagasse recipe.  It did NOT have bacon in it (which is very surprising to me now), but it did have three different cheeses – smoked Gouda, white cheddar, and jack – and a lot of them.  Frankly, I don’t remember what vegetables or other ingredients went into the dish.  I just remember cheese.  Lots of cheese. Add some heavy cream to the egg mixture and you had the most delicious tasting quiche you have ever tried.

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Ambrosia potatoes and carrots ready for roasting!

Needless to say, I do not make that quiche anymore.  I don’t even know where the recipe is.  Now, I scale back on the amount of cheese, the fat content in the liquid, make it crust-less, and I make sure I have plenty of veggies.  I upped the veggie and color content and added a side of roasted ambrosia potatoes and carrots, both from my CSA.  I hope you enjoy the result:

Crustless Broccoli and Sharp Cheddar Quiche

4 cups broccoli florets

4 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

6 eggs

1 cup milk

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp pepper

1/4 tsp garlic powder

1/4 tsp onion powder

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees and coat a pie pan with cooking spray.

Steam the broccoli florets until just tender. Chop the al dente broccoli into smaller pieces, then spread them in the bottom of the pie pan.  Top with the shredded cheddar.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and milk. Season with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder and stir til combined. (You can saute about 1/2 a cup of onion with 2 cloves of garlic and add to the broccoli instead of using powdered if you like).

Pour the egg mixture over the broccoli and cheese and evenly distribute.

Bake for about 30 minutes, or until all of the egg is cooked and set.

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Foodie Penpals – January

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This month I participated in Foodie Penpals, a fun monthly event that connects people from across the country and encourages them to share their favorite food products and home made treats.  My foodie penpal in January was Jennifer of the blog A Hungry Runner.  The treats I received from Jennifer were amazing!

Ginny investigated and knocks over the chia seeds...ohh cat.

Ginny investigates and knocks over the chia seeds…ohh cat.

Jennifer sent me:

RAW Gojiberry Granola Bars

Chia Seeds

Southern Style Quinoa Mix

Himalayan Pink Salt

Wow!  I’m in love with my package of goodies!  The RAW bars are all gone, as I’m pretty sure I ate them within a week.  I’ve been using the salt in everything that I cook, too.  Jennifer was right in her note that it adds a depth of flavor that other salts just can’t achieve.  I have not used the chia seeds yet, but I can’t wait to!  I plan on using them in smoothies when I get my hands on some great berries, and I might try out some nice oat muffin and bake the chia seeds in (keep your eyes out for a post!)

Does anyone have any great ideas for using chia seeds?

Now, I was absolutely in love with the quinoa mix.  I don’t think I can get that brand in CA, but I was highly impressed by the flavor and the fact that it wasn’t over seasoned as many mixes can be.  I’ve already looked on line to find out how I can order more!  This box was paired with some simple sauteed shrimp and steamed green beans…delicious!

Yes, that is Himalayan Pink Salt on the green beans ;)

Yes, that is Himalayan Pink Salt on the green beans 😉

I highly recommend, if you are a foodie or have a food blog, that you sign up for this wonderful exchange!  Just click on the link to Food Penpals and sign up before February 5th to be included in next month’s round.

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