Happy to Color Outside the Lines!

Archive for June, 2013

Staying Hydrated…With FLAIR

because that’s how I do things. Last week, you may remember me mentioning that I ordered primarily herbs in my CSA box. I put them to use in some pretty amazing ways.

Lemon balm pesto, purple basil pesto (OMG THE BEST EVER. I am working on a pizza recipe post) and I managed to stick some in a few delicious beverages. So grateful for such an amazing source of organic produce!

I know I already told you about mint tea, so here are a couple ideas for making infused waters. Haven’t tried infused waters yet? Take a look here. Mind you, this is only a guideline, but the idea is:

infusedwaters

Pick a berry (or other sweet fruit), pick a citrus, add an herb and/or something “extra” such as cucumbers (not in my cup!)  and add your favorite water. Not only are you drinking your H2O, but you are managing to get some extra vitamins and antioxidants into your system as well. Here are two that I came up with after being inspired by the lovely stuff in my box. Lemon and Lavender Water:

lemonlavendar

One sliced lemon and 2 TBSP of lavender buds (about 6 sprigs of lavender for me), added to about 2 cups of hot water, steeped for 20 minutes, then filled with water and refrigerated until cold. I really loved the subtle sweetness of this. My husband said “It tastes like bath water…in a good way.” I’m not sure what that means, but it was too funny to keep to myself. I am sure it threw him off because I use so many lavender products. It has a very nice herbal and slightly floral thing going for it. Refreshing and elegant, I thought. Strawberries would have be delightful in this, I’m sure.

Purple basil, blueberry, lemon:

basilblueberrylemon

In a half gallon container, I added 1/2 of a sliced lemon, 1/2 cup blueberries and a handful of purple basil leaves. I then added about 2 cups of hot water, and let everything steep for about 20 minutes. I then filled it with cold water and capped it up for the fridge.

This has been my favorite so far! It was bold and different in every good way possible. I love, love loved this one. I was inspired by a cocktail my brother made for me once. Fresh squeezed lemonaid, muddled blueberries and a sprig of basil…oh, and vodka. Definitely a more exciting way to enjoy these flavors, but certainly not as health conscious as my concoction. 🙂

Italian or Thai basil would be just as delicious I am sure!

I’m working on a few other combinations and will pass them on if they pass inspection. 😉

In the meantime, try out some fun combinations of your own. You deserve water as fabulous as you are. 🙂

Advertisements

Herbs and Eggplant and Tomatoes, Oh My!

Alternatively titled: “How to cram a ton of veggies onto your plate making you feel less guilty for eating fried chicken.”

veggieforks

 

 

 

 

 

So in my CSA box this week, I went heavy on the herbs. Herbs are not only so good for you in so many ways, but they are very inspiring in the kitchen.

Here’s what came in this week’s box from “The Farmer’s Daughter CSA.” 

2 bundles of lemon balm

4 bundles of purple basil

2 bundles of lavender

2 vidalia onions

2 lbs of heirloom tomatoes

4 medium sized eggplant

Lemon balm is my new favorite obsession. The stuff smells like lemon drop candy, you guys. It is AMAZING. I made some mint/lemon-balm tea this weekend and it was fab. If I was eating sugar right now, it would have made some amazing mint/lemon-balm lemon-aid. Also, it is good for you, in so many ways. As someone who struggles with anxiety, I was very happy to see this from http://www.naturalsociety.com:

lemonbalm infographic

Here is how a ton of it ended up on our dinner plates last night:

1.) Lemon balm pesto. Yes, even with all that basil, I still chose an unconventional pesto approach.

It’s SUPER.EASY.

Start with this:

2 cups Lemon balm leaves

3-4 heirloom tomatoes or 1 jar stewed tomatoes

1 vidalia onion

4 cloves garlic

1/2 cup olive oil

1/2 tsp. sea salt, pepper to taste

lemonbalmingredients

*Take the leaves from two bundles of lemon balm (about two cups), put them in a food processor

*Add four heirloom tomatoes, quartered and seeded.

*Toss in one vidalia onion, quartered.

*Add four garlic cloves, 1/2 tsp sea salt, pinch of pepper

Puree.

lemonbalmpesto

Once all ingredients are smooth and combined, add 1/2 cup olive oil through your food processor cap. This can be done in a blender too. 🙂

lemonbalmpesto2

You can eat it raw, (with crusty bread, or over fresh mozzarella cheese maybe?) or cook it down to reduce and make a pasta sauce out of it.  (30 minutes at a simmer until some of the liquid evaporates.) I reduced it, added about 1/2 tsp of arrowroot to thicken it, and threw it in the fridge until dinner time. Of course, we are not eating pasta right now, so we put ours over some awesome roasted eggplant and tomatoes. 🙂 No lie though, I pretended it was pasta.

“Roasted eggplant and tomatoes?  Who needs pasta?”,  you say?

Exactly! By now you have probably caught on that I am pretty determined to figure out eggplant.

Here’s how I made another step towards mastering the art of eggplant preparation:

Gather ingredients.

Heirloom tomatoes (you decide how many, I used one large tomato)

Eggplant (I used two small/medium ones)

1/4 cup basil leaves (I used purple)

A couple of sliced garlic cloves

Pinch of sea salt and pepper

2 TBSP (or so) of olive oil.

roastedeggplant1

The rest is very easy.

*Slice eggplant in 1/4 in disks. Put into mixing bowl.

*Slice tomato the same. Add to bowl.

*Pull basil leaves off stem. Yep, add those too.

*Slice garlic, and throw it in…

*Sprinkle w/sea salt and pepper

*Drizzle with olive oil.

Toss.

Lay everything out over a parchment paper line cookie sheet.

eggplantsliced

Bake at 425* for 35-40 minutes.

We ate ours with reheated lemon balm pesto and *ahem* gluten free fried chicken. I will post that recipe separately so as not to taint all of this veggie goodness with our decadence.

friedchickeneggplant

Next time you go to Farmer’s Market or order your CSA box, try a new herb! It’s amazing how much your kitchen creativity expands when you stretch yourself. 🙂

Pasta-Free Lasagna

So, the other day I told you about how determined I was to conquer eggplant. Today, I’m going to tell you how the conquest continues.

In my CSA box from The Farmer’s Daughter CSA (or TFD) this week, I received not only eggplant, but italian zucchini in abundance. I use them in so many ways in the kitchen. Typically, I use them shredded to stretch a pound of grassfed beef or to thicken soups and stews. Tonight, I used them in a new and interesting way. I used them as pasta.

I know this is not a new practice, but it is the first time *I* have done it, so I am kind of excited. What made it more exciting is that I used the eggplant too. 🙂 I love this recipe because of  its versatility. Not interested in using veggies? Use pasta. Vegetarian? Skip the meat. Vegan? Skip the meat, use cashew cream cheese and your fave cheese alternative. It’s a good base to start with and modify to your tastes. Love a meal like that.

Also, I used some other amazing produce from my box to doctor up and stretch a jar of organic pasta sauce. 🙂 Let’s start there, shall we?

I began with a jarred sauce for several reasons. The top two being:

1.) It is a good “jumping off point”. All the right flavors are there, and we are just adding a few fresh ingredients to “freshen” up the jar and make it taste more homemade.

2.) I’m tired. It’s faster. The end.

When tomatoes are out of season, I will simply use two jars of sauce. Hopefully they will be sauce I canned myself at the end of summer, but we will see. 😉

I began w/a jar of Trader Joe’s brand Tomato and Basil Marinara sauce:

Good place to start.

Good place to start.

I also collected the remaining ingredients. :

1 lb. Organic Grassfed Beef

4 organic heirloom tomatoes (TFD)

1 cup organic basil (TFD)

1 small yellow onion (TFD)

5 cloves of garlic (TFD)

1 tsp salt

1 tsp crushed red pepper

1/2 tsp italian seasoning (That I mixed together using various dried herbs from my CSA.)

2 TBSP good quality olive oil. 

2 TBSP of your fave red wine. Mine is Nelle. Wine is optional…if you don’t want it in your sauce, it will still be delicious. 🙂

Brown the ground beef over medium heat until cooked thoroughly in a large soup/sauce pot. Remove meat and set aside. Quarter the onion, and the tomatoes, seeding them. Add the garlic, onion, tomatoes, basil, salt, red pepper and italian seasoning to a food processor or blender. Pulse or puree until everything is combined the way you like it. I don’t like chunky sauce. You might. Do what makes ya happy.

Heat the olive oil in the same pot you cooked the meat in. Once oil is heated up (but not burning..olive oil will burn rather quickly!) Add the sauce. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down to low, and simmer with the lid on for about 30-45 minutes.

sauce

Once it has simmered for 30-45 minutes, add the wine, stir to combine, then add back the meat. Allow to simmer another 20 minutes or so. While the sauce is simmering, prepare your cheese filling. You can use whatever cheeses you enjoy, but my go-to is a ricotta-based filling with fresh herbs, mozzarella, parmesan, & an egg. Of course, I realized this morning that I forgot ricotta cheese when I shopped last week, so I had to make some. It is really easy, believe it or not. The directions I followed are here. It turned out beautifully. See?

ricottafinished

Anyway, I gathered my cheeses. I love this parm from Trader Joe’s. It is made w/Raw Milk. 🙂

lasagnacheese

In my food processor, I combined:

one ball of mozz cheese (I believe its an 8 oz package)

all of the ricotta I made (which is about the same as one small container from the store)

1/2 cup of grated parm cheese

1/2 cup fresh basil (TFD)

1/4 cup fresh parsley (TFD)

1 farm fresh egg.

Pulse (or blend) to combine. You want it to be creamy.

Once cheese in combined, put it in the fridge until you are ready to assemble.

You sauce should almost be done now, so give it a stir, and then let’s get to preparing your “pasta”.

You will need:

 3-4 small-medium organic eggplant (TFD)

4 organic italian zucchini (TFD)

Peel them, then slice lengthwise into 1/8-1/4 inch strips. They need not be uniform in length, but if you can keep the thickness uniform, it will help the outcome. Set those aside.

zucchinieggplantpasta

Now you can turn off the heat on your pasta sauce and start to assemble the lasagna.

Put a layer of sauce on the bottom of your 13×9 glass dish to keep any sticking from happening. Then put down one layer of the eggplant. With a spoon (or cookie scoop in my case) put dollops of the cheese filling over the top of it, about every couple of inches:

lasagnaassemble

Now, add a couple of large serving spoon-fulls of your amazing sauce over the top, and use the back of the spoon to spread the cheese out. If you try to spread the cheese before the sauce is poured over it, you will just drag the cheese and “pasta” all over the pan. It does not have to be perfectly even. When it bakes, the cheeses will melt into the dish, and the whole  thing will be amazingly cheesy.

lasagnaspreadcheese

Repeat the process, using the zucchini strips now. Zucchini, cheese dollops, the rest of your sauce and spread once more.

I had a few pieces of eggplant and zucchini left, and I’m not one to waste, so I added another layer of “pasta” to the very top, and dabbed the little bits of remaining cheese filling over the top. I topped the whole thing with about 1/2 cup of organic cheddar. Mozz would have been better, but I used all of mine in the filling. 😛  If you have already used all of your veggies, you can just top it off with the cheese of your choice after you finishing spreading your 2nd layer of cheese and sauce. Personally, I had to hide the top layer of veggies from my kids. 😉

you end up with something that looks like this:

lasagnaassembleddone

If you are me, you then cover it in foil, put it in the fridge until dinner time, sit down, write the majority of this post out, and bake later.

If you’re not me, cover it with foil,  pop it in a 375* oven and bake for about an hour. I would take the foil off the last ten minutes or so to brown it all up nicely. 🙂

Also, don’t hurry to serve it. It needs some time to set up. We were overwhelmed by how good it smelled and sliced it  bit early. It didn’t hold together, but we didn’t really care.

lasagna done

The verdict? The sauce does not taste like jarred sauce was ever involved. The herbs are flavorful and add a certain lightness to the dish. It was tasty. The hubs said it was “bomb.” This is saying something…he can be hard to win over, especially with these “replacement” type meals.

I hope you’ll give it a shot, it was worth the effort!

Baba Ganoush & Tabouleh Salad

Summer has definitely arrived. I don’t know about you, but I really hate summer for so many reasons. Hot, disgusting weather, poor air quality (at least where I live), bugs, high electric bills…ugh.

You know what I love about summer though? All the wonderous things coming out of the ground. Strawberries anyone? How about Heirloom tomatoes and basil? Yeah, it almost redeems my $400.00 PG&E bill.

My CSA, The Farmer’s Daughter, provides awesome food year round, but there is NOTHING like the summertime CSA boxes.

Here is a look at what I got this week:

If only you could smell it, seriously.

If only you could smell it, seriously.

Heirloom tomatoes, basil (caprece anyone?), mint, parsley, eggplant & zucchini is what I chose this week. Love that I can *choose* what I get in my box!

As soon as I saw the list of available items this week, I was struck by the word “eggplant.” I have heard myself people say that they don’t get eggplant in their boxes because they either don’t use them, don’t know HOW to use them, or just don’t like them. I am about to change your mind on that. I felt challenged by the eggplant…like it was some sort of mission for me to conquer. I would order the eggplant…and I WOULD USE IT!

I instantly thought of baba ganoush when I saw it. If you like hummus, you will likely enjoy baba ganoush. Being that I am off beans of all kinds right now, it seemed like the perfect way to quench my hummus craving. 🙂 Baba Ganoush made me think of Tabouleh salad, so I scanned the produce list and picked out several items for that. Mint, parsley, tomatoes…oh yes.

One problem: I am off grains too. Tabouleh is made with bulgur, which is essentially poached, crushed wheat. Obviously contraband for me. Then I thought about the fact that I had been making cauliflower rice…maybe I could pull this off!

And so, I give you, grain-free, gluten-free, vegan, raw tabouleh salad!

I started out with this:

helllooooo gorgeous!

helllooooo gorgeous!

Four heirloom tomatoes

One head of organic cauliflower (yeah, obviously not local…sorry ’bout that.)

2 bundles of organic parsley

1/2 of a bundle of organic green onions

1/4 – 1/2 cups chopped organic mint(depending on how much you love it)

1/4 cup lemon juice

1 tsp of sea salt

1/2 cup of good quality cold pressed olive oil, such as Bari.

Technically, There should be a peeled, chopped cucumber in there too, as I have never seen a tabouleh salad without one, but I had two issues with that. One, I didn’t have a cuke, and two, I *hate* cucumbers. If you are a cucumber lover, toss one in…I hear it’s delicious. 😉

I chopped the cauliflower into florets, cutting off the stalks. I added the cauli and the green onions to the food processor and pulsed until the cauliflower resembled something small and grain-like. If you don’t have a food processor, just chop the heck out of it.

tabouleh 1

It took 65 pulses. I counted for you. I ended up with this.

tabouleh 2

Dump your cauliflower “bulgur” and green onions into a large mixing bowl. Next, core and seed the tomatoes, and chop fine. Add to the bowl. Pulse the parsley and mint (or chop fine if you don’t have a food processor) until the herbs are very fine also.  Dump the herbs into the bowl. Sprinkle the mix w/the salt and drizzle the olive oil and lemon juice over it all.

Now, mix.

Here, I display how to use fancy equipment to combine the ingredients:

High-Tech.

High-Tech.

Now, pour it into a serving bowl and refrigerate for several hours to allow the flavors to merry and develop. 🙂

taboulehfinalni

While your salad is in the developing process, get to work on your baba ganoush.

First, take three medium-sized organic eggplants. Prick them several times w/a fork  and roast them over your gas burner, turning frequently, until evenly charred. If you do not have a gas burner, (and do not feel like pulling at the bbq to do this), don’t worry about it. It’s not a *necessary* step, but the smokey flavor sure is nice. Once charred (or not), put the eggplant on a cookie sheet and  into a 350* oven for 20-25 minutes until a knife can be poked into them w/out resistance.

Collect your ingredients:

babganoushingredients

3 roasted (and possibly charred) eggplants

1/2 cup organic parsley

1 TBSP cold pressed olive oil (Again, I like Bari)

5 cloves of garlic, peeled

3 TBSP lemon juice

1/2 tsp sea salt

1/2 tsp crushed red pepper

1/3 cup tahini (That Cedar’s brand was amazing, seriously!)

It’s a simple process. In a food processor (or blender if you don’t have one), Add the tahini, salt, lemon juice, parsley, crushed red pepper, olive oil and garlic cloves. Then, peel the skin back on the eggplant, and scoop out the pulp. Add eggplant to the processor/blender. Pulse several times until creamy.

Garnish w/parsley (or in this case, mint, because I used all my parsley between the tabouleh and the baba ganoush, lol), a bit more crushed red pepper,  and refrigerate until ready to eat. Serve w/pita chips or veggies. I made these grain free pitas, chopped them into triangles, and toasted them up to make chips.

babaganoushfinished

The flavors of summer are some of the best. Don’t miss your chance to eat plenty of fresh, delicious ingredients this time of year. You will never regret the time you spent in the kitchen to create yummy food. You also won’t break the bank on these dishes, which is good, considering your air conditioner is out to bankrupt you.

Don’t forget to look into CSA’s in your area. It’s a fab way to save a few bucks, nourish your body, and support your local farmers all at the same time.

Eat up and enjoy!

Mint Obsession

Mint is an amazing herb. I picked up my CSA box yesterday and within 2 minutes, the entire car smelled like a minty wonderland. I LOVE the stuff. I’m totally hung up on all forms of mint right now.  I think it’s because it makes me feel cooler. It’s freakin’ hot here ya’ll. I hate summer.

I use peppermint essential oil in my Rainbow “Rainmate” to help with headaches and fatigue. I use my Dr. Bronner’s peppermint soap every day (which is pure bliss, btw), and I suck down mint tea like nobody’s business.  No sweeteners, no additives, no foreign, strange ingredients. Just mint, tea, and water…pretty awesome stuff.

Mint is good for so many things. Here’s the breakdown from http://www.medicinalplants-pharmacognosy.com:

Amazing stuff!

Amazing stuff!

This stuff is also killer for headaches. A little peppermint oil on the temples and the relief is almost immediate. It’s like magic.

I had three bundles of mint in my box yesterday. It doesn’t keep especially long so I had to get to work puttin’ it to use. I LOVE me some mint iced tea in the summer so I thought I would share with you my system for having it on hand whenever the need for more mint arises.  Doing it this way not only saves me time in the long run, but allows me to use up the mint while it is still potent and flavorful.  If I was to do several small batches, it would dry up before I was able to use it all in its fresh minty glory. Dried mint works too, but I happen to prefer it as green and tender as possible 🙂

Here’s the scoop:

Wash your mint. Pick off any darkened or otherwise undesirable leaves. Add to a large pot and fill about 3/4 of the way with water:

The smell is only rivaled by fresh basil.

The smell is only rivaled by fresh basil.

Next, prepare whatever you will be freezing your mint tea “concentrate” in. I use mason jars. Yeah, I know..you’re not supposed to be able to freeze in glass. This is not entirely true, you just have to use common sense. Liquid expands as it freezes, therefore, you must leave ample space for the expansion *and* use only WIDE MOUTH mason jars. If you use narrow necked ones, it will most certainly break in the freezer. Truth be told, I break several mason jars every time I freeze in bulk, mostly because I over-fill them. If you don’t want to risk this, the Ball company makes some great freezer containers. I have also used quart sized yogurt containers or re-purposed kefir bottles. I like the kefir bottles because I know my dairy uses BPA free plastic. If you are using plastic containers, please do not fill your containers until the tea cools. Heat and plastic are never a good combination. Not only because of its tendency to melt, but because of the nasty chemicals it can release when heated.

While you are preparing your containers, your tea is brewing. It should turn a light shade of green:

Almost there...

Almost there. Also, I wore turquoise yesterday.

Allow the tea to stay at a low boil for about 10-15 minutes. Strain out the leaves, and prepare to fill your containers. I always use a canning funnel to cut back on the mess.

Careful, it's hot!

Careful, it’s hot!

Do not fill it too high if you are using mason jars.

leave at least 2 inches of  headspace.

leave at least 2 inches of head space.

Allow your tea to cool completely before freezing. If you are using glass, you may want to freeze with lids OFF initially, so see if there is enough space after expansion occurs. This would have saved me two jars yesterday. Use common sense, remember? 😛

This pot of mint tea yielded 8 pints of tea “concentrate” as well as enough leftover for a gallon of iced black mint tea.
minttea5

After I filled my eight jars, I took the leftover quart (or so) of mint tea (while it was still blazing hot) and divided it evenly between two half gallon mason jars. The tea was still plenty hot to steep my black tea bags. I added four organic black tea bags to each jar and walked away for about 20 minutes.

My fave tea. $3.00 and change at Whole Foods. :)

My fave tea. $3.00 and change at Whole Foods. 🙂

Once 20 minutes had elapsed, I filled the jars with water, fished out the bags (which are awesome for my compost heap), covered, and stuck in the refrigerator. Here is a fun tip: The green lid of your parm cheese can fits the top of a narrow necked mason jar perfectly. Makes a great pouring spout:

mintteajug

One pint of “concentrate” w/four black tea bags will make one half gallon of perfectly minty iced tea. When you are ready to use it, just pull the frozen concentrate out, let it thaw for a bit, steep your black tea bags in hot water for about 20 minutes, add the mint tea, and fill to make 1/2 a gallon. Serve with sprigs of mint, lemon slices or just plain ol’ ice.

Enjoy, be refreshed, and nourish your body all at the same time 🙂

Tag Cloud