Sunday, July 29, 2012

Greek Salad

I've been going heavy on the Greek-ish salad this week. I say "Greek-ish" because I don't really know how authentic these recipes are, but they are good.

Part of the reason is that it is summer.  We're getting the right ingredients from the CSA and the garden.

I cooked up a big pot of chickpeas in the pressure cooker last weekend, then made myself a little salad with cucumber, tomatoes, peppers, goat cheese, and kalamatas.

Then yesterday, I made a  HUGE salad.  We headed to the annual Greek Festival for lunch (gyros! spanakopita!)  Turns out my kid loves gyros too.  We chowed.  The canned lemonade was overpriced.  Live and learn, I should have packed water.  Man, with a baby you end up packing a ton of stuff.  And on the way back to the car, we found a kid on his front stoop selling lemonade and water, way cheaper than at the festival. 

I skipped the Greek salad at the festival (4 gyros were $28 and the lemonade/spanakopita were $16, I was feeling poor).  I was pretty impressed with my 6 year old.  He really wanted to play on the jumpers.  They aren't free at these festivals (like they are at birthday parties).  When he realized that they were $4 for 5 minutes, he decided to go play in the playground instead.  That gives me some ideas for August.  I will be keeping him home in August.  My MIL will be here for 2 weeks, but my spouse will be gone for one of those weeks.  This particular park also has a wading pool (18") for the kids that I think he will like.  I am looking for other things to do during the month.

Sorry about the digression there.  Anyway, I had three tiny tomatoes from last year's tomato plants.  (I think I'm not going to get any from this year's.)  I had peppers, cucumbers, avocado, feta, and kalamatas.  And yummy leafy greens.

So I googled "Greek Salad Dressing recipes" and found THIS ONE.  I wanted one with lemon juice.  This was very good.  I made it in the blender.

Other than this, there's been not a huge amount of cooking.  I made pasta with marinara and chickpeas this week, and another good friend brought over dinner (pasta with sausage).  We've been eating leftovers and salad mostly.  I'm trying to plan for the time when my MIL is here, but it's going to be rough.  Little baby boy here is fussy from 9 pm to midnight, and that's not my calmest, best time.  When my hubby is gone, I'm going to have a hard time.  We did just try out the pacifier yesterday for the first time, and he took it for a few minutes.  I wanted to wait another week until he was 4 weeks old, but the crying was getting to us.

I did make another batch of banana muffins (and now I only have TWO frozen bananas in the freezer!) and another batch of green tomato relish (ended up with 5 pints this time) because we got green tomatoes from the CSA.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Banana bread muffins

I love banana bread.  I have worked on perfecting a healthy banana bread.  I like it, my husband likes it, my kid - not so much.

I buy bananas every week, and then at least one or two end up mushy and in the freezer.  But then the next thing you know, you have 15 bananas in the freezer.  I wish I were exaggerating.  I decided to look for a new muffin recipe that maybe my kid would like, and I found this recipe.

So, when I adjust recipes to healthify them, I do a few things:
1.  cut the sugar
2.  substitute some whole wheat flour for regular
3.  cut the fat by subbing applesauce

On this recipe, I decided to only cut the sugar in the main recipe from 3/4 c to 1/3 c.  I mean, really, the recipe says that it makes 10 muffins.  I got 12.  But 3/4 c sugar is 12 Tbsp (not even counting the streusel topping), so that's 1 Tbsp sugar per muffin, which is a lot.  And bananas are sweet.

In any event, these were awesome.  I have to say that using the full amount of butter and using all regular flour made them moist and fluffy compared to my usual muffins.  Maybe next time I'll try a teeny bit of whole wheat flour.  I also added 1/2 cup of peanut butter chips.  And the topping - I didn't pack my brown sugar, just loosely scooped.

Now if I could only get rid of the fruit flies that seem to love my bananas.

Learning to let go

Not a food related post today people.  Today I'm going to write about learning to let go.  Of your control.

I don't know about you, but I'm a bit of a type-A control freak.  I do best when insanely busy, and I like schedules.  I've got my gym days, my spouse has his.  When I train for my events (running/triathlons), I like keeping a schedule.  I plan out my meals in advance.  And the same thing happens at work too.

But having a baby changes ALL of that.  And it's good for you (and me).  When you are at home nursing a baby, you are completely on someone else's schedule.  Sure, you can wake the baby up with a diaper change if you want to get a feeding in early, or go for a ride in the car to put them to sleep.  But otherwise, your time is not your own.

So you learn to go with it.  Feeding, diapering, cooking, showering - all of this flows organically from one day to the next.  In order to be happy, effective, and efficient - don't fight it.

Baby sleeping extra long?  Eat breakfast before nursing and pumping.

Running late to go somewhere?  Brush your hair and shower later.

In the kitchen making lunch?  Consider doing prep work for dinner.

Baby falls asleep on you after nursing?  Lay your head back and get a 10 min snooze.

I really think that learning to go with the flow has really helped me be more efficient at work.  At work, like at home, I have several things going at once.  If I hit a stumbling block on one project, then I set it aside and work on the next.  I get more done that way.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Potatoes and Fennel

I'm going to fess up: I don't like fennel.  I've never really liked it.  My family feels even more strongly than I do about it.  But the last 2 weeks at the CSA, we've gotten 3 bulbs of fennel.  And the only thing in the trade basket?  More fennel.

So I brought it home.  This week we also got 1 lb of new potatoes (yellow and purple).  We also got an email on how to make great fennel.  And an email on what to do with purslane.  Which is still in the fridge, staring at me when I open the door.  I think the answer to that may be: put into compost.

Anyway, I mixed together the fennel recipe with my roasted onion and potatoes, then threw in some chard because...I never know what to do with chard.  It was delicious!

Roasted potatoes, fennel and onion with steamed chard:
1 lb potatoes, sliced 1/4 inch thick
3 bulbs fennel, sliced 1/8 inch thick and heart removed
1/2 onion, sliced thin
3 cloves garlic, sliced
one sprig rosemary, chopped
salt, pepper, olive oil

1 bunch steamed chard
3-4 Tbsp grated parmesan

Prepare the vegetables, garlic, and rosemary and put in a parchment lined pan (if you hate cleaning) and toss with salt, pepper, and olive oil.  Roast at 400F for 30-40 minutes, or until they look right to you, stirring at least once.  Mine looked like this half way through:

Meanwhile, steam the chard, cool it, and chop fine.  When the roasted vegetables are done, stir in the chard and toss with parmesan cheese.

If you forget the garlic and rosemary, like I did, you can add it half way through the cooking time.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Eggs, rice, veggie lunch - baby took a nap!

You never know when your baby's nap is going to be 20 minutes or 2 hours.  Yesterday, he napped long enough that I could make lunch (which took 45 minutes), AND eat it.  I keep Trader Joe's frozen meals on hand for the short nap days.

I shredded 2 zucchinis and a half an onion.  Sauteed them until cooked through and crispy.  Tossed over reheated white rice.  I added some sesame oil and soy sauce to the veggies and rice, then topped with fried eggs.  And sriracha, of course.

The big challenge for me at home in the summer with the baby is the CSA veggies.  Getting through all of them is difficult, and I'm not into planning meals like I was last time around.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Green Tomato Relish

I had a couple of green tomatoes from the CSA, and this recipe came to my inbox.  So I decided to try it.

Now, I didn't have enough to make a big batch.  And I didn't feel like it anyway.  And I learned you should never really work on something that needs to be simmered for an hour when you are nursing a baby, as it's all too easy to lose track of time and burn the crap out of everything.

But I digress.  I scooped out the top and my husband cleaned the burned bits out of the pan.  It's very tasty.

I cut the recipe in 1/4.  I still didn't have enough tomatoes, so I added zucchini.  I cut the hot peppers in half (used only one).  I could have used two.  I'm the only one eating the stuff anyway.  I got about 1 pint. 

Yesterday, I made a ham panini on my George Foreman and slathered it with this tasty stuff.  Yum!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Pesto Potato Salad

I made Joanne's pesto potato salad, and it was delish!

I made adjustments based on what we had.  I used new potatoes (purple and yellow).  No pine nuts (didn't have them), no scallions (ditto), a teeny bit of red onion, and I used tarragon vinegar instead of white balsamic.

My garlic is STRONG though - holy cow.

I think my mother in law would be aghast at using new potatoes...those are to be boiled and served with dill and butter.  Period.  Still good though!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Bean and Sausage Creole

So, there was this recipe that I got from Light and Tasty years ago, that I really liked.  I made it once or twice.  It was called Shrimp Creole.  I think I even bought the annual cookbook so that I could have it. 

That cookbook is long gone.  I may have actually saved the recipe somewhere...not sure.  But luckily, there's this wonderful internet thing, and I was able to find it here, and here (apparently, it was from 2003).

Now, I love shrimp, and I actually have some.  But the family isn't really into shrimp.  I decided to use the lone chicken sausage link in the fridge and I went out and bought some kidney beans.  I need to eat more beans.  It's a regularity thing.

I edited the recipe a bit (of course), by using canned diced tomatoes instead of the tomato paste/ clam juice.  I quadrupled the recipe, because it's "for two", and who does that?  Maybe singles or people who don't like leftovers.  But I need leftovers.

My normal method of cooking when I had my first son was in fits and spurts.  Spend 15 mins early on chopping veggies.  Go back to it later to do more.  Then, I only spend about 15 mins at a time and I don't get overwhelmed.

Due to a 2 hour nap today on the couch with a baby asleep on my chest, that didn't happen.  So I cooked this all at once.  And I overdid it.  Your post-childbirth body tells you that very quickly.  I won't do that again.  Spouse will be doing a lot of the cooking in the next week.  That and Trader Joe's.

Bean and Sausage Creole:
2T canola oil: 0.10
6 chopped celery ribs: 0.60
1.5 onions, chopped:  0.60
1 green bell pepper, chopped: 0.50
1 red bell pepper, chopped: 1.30
4 cloves garlic, minced: 0.20
1 link chicken sausage, chopped: 0.70
little bit of white wine to deglaze pot: 0.30
2 14.5 oz cans diced tomatoes, pureed in food processor: 1.20
2 14 oz cans kidney beans, drained and rinsed: 2.50
1 Tbsp tomato paste: 0.15
2 tsp dried thyme: 0.10
2 Tbsp dried parsley (I didn't have fresh because it's not growing - a gopher got my last plant): 0.10
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper: 0.05
2 Tbsp chopped hot pepper (that I roasted last summer and froze): 0.20
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp salt

Total: $8.60 for about 8 servings, or $1.08 per serving.

In large pot, saute the onion, celery, peppers, garlic until soft.  Add the pureed tomatoes and drained beans and spices.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until right consistency, about 20 mins.  Add tomato paste to thicken if desired.

Serve over brown rice.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Welcome Home Sweet Boy

Our little one has finally arrived, and on his due date no less.  While I didn't have a "birth plan" per se, I certainly did NOT plan for him to come so fast (just over an hour after getting to the hospital).  My husband barely made it back from dropping off our older son.  That meant no pain killers whatsoever.  So.  If you've given birth, you can imagine.  If you haven't...well, there's a reason why some wonderful person invented the epidural.  But at least it was short.

They say sleep when the baby sleeps, so as soon as I brush my teeth, I'm going to do just that.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012


Okay, the apricot-blueberry jam was delicious!  One of my breakfasts this week:

Whole grain English muffin: half with butter and jam, half with butter and egg.
And a banana sliced in half with local farmer's market crunchy almond butter (sooooo good).

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Summer Pasta and a Nice Salad

I  haven't been doing so much on the meal planning lately. I'm on mat leave, somewhat impatiently awaiting the arrival of my new little man, and so, why bother?  I am home most of the day to cook, and I never know if I'm going to be home during the day to eat.  As it goes, my cooking has continued in the pregnancy-tiredness vein, meaning: some pre-prepared stuff in the freezer and some ingredients in the fridge.

Satruday I made pizza with homemade pesto.  Yes, basil season has arrived.  I just never use pine nuts enough, or any nuts besides nut butters and walnuts, so my pesto tends to be nut-free (basil, parmesan, garlic, lemon, olive oil).

Sunday I decided to go with pasta. I had a plethora of veggies from the farm - onions, zucchini, and a bunch of peppers - anaheim, green bells, and probably poblanos.  They were listed as "sweet", but I haven't tested the poblanos.

In the morning, I took 15 minutes to chop the veggies and toss them in a tupperware.  Then about an hour before dinner, I cooked them in my dutch oven until soft, added spices, a jar of marinara, some sun-dried tomatoes, a little bit of white wine, and some chicken sausage.  Let simmer.  For awhile.  I opted against the skillet pasta this time because my skillet isn't quite big enough now.  Instead, after draining the al dente pasta, I tossed 2/3 of the sauce with the pasta and we used the rest to throw on top.  It was very good, and I love things that you toss into a pot and only really have to stir occasionally.

We also had two big bags of salad mix this week. One baby hearts, one spicy mix.  My spouse washed all of it at once (I've had days in a row of salad with the spicy mix.  By day 4, it gets very tiring.)  We've now had two big salads and enough for one more huge salad tonight.

My salads have been simple and lazy lately - greens and Marie's ranch dressing.   This time, I actually made it a little fancier (back to my norm).  I made the dressing with olive oil, lemon juice, dijon, garlic, sugar, pepper, and parmesan.  I added olives and carrots and toasted walnuts.  Yum!  It really could have  used some avocado, but none of mine are ripe.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Mini Jam Session

So, three things have happened in the last couple of weeks.
#1, I read about this book and this blog on The Kitchn, and started to get SERIOUSLY interested in small batch canning.
#2, We got a pound of apricots from our CSA.  I don't really like apricots.
#3, I am 42 years old, 39+ weeks pregnant, it's hot, so in an effort to "move things along", I went blueberry picking for 2 hours with a friend and our combined 5 kids (most of them hers right now).  It was 73F when we started and 88F when we finished.  I ended up with almost 5 lbs of blueberries (our 2nd batch of the year).

I have been interested in canning for quite awhile.  I grew up in rural PA, and we did a lot of canning.  It was a necessity thing for us - not a lot of money, and we had a garden.  We would can vegetables (corn, peas, beans), tomatoes (juice, tomatoes, salsa, spaghetti sauce), pickles, and jams in the summer time.  One summer we canned so many pickles and strawberry jam in so many sessions that I had the recipes memorized. I was probably 12 or 13 years old.  It was hot, steamy work, but I loved helping my mom can.

Then I became an adult who didn't cook, much less can.  I tried my hand at freezer jam (pretty easy).  Eventually, a combination of the books I read, the "pick your own" days at our CSA, and my history gave me the canning bug.  So a few years ago, I bought a canning kit.  You know, the big black canning pot and stuff.  We've done a little bit here and there.  Strawberry jam one year, salsa and spaghetti sauce the next year, tangerine marmalade (we have a tangerine tree).  It's a lot of work though. 

The processing of the ingredients is step one.  A bit pot of ... something.  We made our tangerine marmalade out of 9 lbs of tangerines, for example.  It's a lot of chopping and cooking when you are making that.  Then there's proper sterilizing of the jars (the dishwasher helps with that), the lids (on the stove, but then you are up to a 3rd burner you need), you get the picture.  It's a big production.

Then I read about this "small batch canning" method.  I swear I am going to buy this book and some of the equipment.  But I am going to wait a few weeks.  Make sure I really mean it.  One one hand, I'll be home for 3 months this summer and will have "time".  On the other hand, I'm about to give birth.  I probably won't have "time" if past history is any indication.  But small batch canning can be done in an hour or two.

I decided to try a mini-batch of apricot-blueberry jam, because I googled "apricot blueberry recipes", and that's what came up.  I used this recipe, and made a half batch (but did add more sugar, as recommended).  It made slightly more than a pint (I don't have any 1/2 pint jars, need to get those).  I didn't water bath can it - since I only got two jars, one went into the freezer and the other half into the fridge.  The advantage of this small batch method is that it took about an hour to make it because it cooks down so quickly in a small skillet.

Chop the unpeeled apricots and heat over medium-low with the sugar (I used 2 c apricots and 3/4 c sugar)

When the apricots have cooked down a bit (15-20 min), add the blueberries.

Continue to cook for a total of about 45 min, until the jam looks like...well, jam.

Pour into clean or sterilized jars (are you going to freeze or can?) and enjoy!

I would say that the big disadvantage of canning is from a health standpoint.  In order to preserve many fruits as jams, you need a LOT of sugar.  On the other hand, how much jam do you use on a daily basis?  A tablespoon or two?  It's probably okay.