Happy to Color Outside the Lines!

Archive for July, 2013

Peaches!

I love peaches. I’m trying not to eat too many peaches, but I love peaches.

Ordering “seasonal fruit mix” in my CSA box is always a risk. I could end up with 2 pounds of plums, which may result in me eating 2 or 3. There is always the chance, however, that I will end up with delicious, amazing peaches, in which case, I will likely eat all but 1.

The texture of the peaches I have been receiving is unlike any peach I have ever eaten. It almost has a gelatin quality to it. So creamy…delicate, but not smooshy. Really, really exquisite. Just look at the color:

fayalberta

I wasn’t sure if they were so amazing because they were some super special variety that I have never heard of (like the purple long beans that surprised me a few weeks ago) or if they were that delicious simply because they were organically, patiently grown. SO, because I know my farmer, I asked her. Here is her response (which also filled my “you learn something new every day” quota):

“Fay Alberta…super fragile old school variety. We often have our crew pick them with gloves on ’cause they bruise at the touch! Enjoy 🙂 Glad they arrived looking good!”

So there you have it. Fay Alberta Peaches. My new favorite.

As awesome as they are right out of the box, they are also really great in baked goods. I don’t do much baking these days, but I really do love to bake. In fact, I miss it.  I tend to avoid baking these days because grain-free baking usually tastes gross can be hard to execute well.

This recipe from White Apron Health  for grain-free apple cinnamon bread is one of my faves, though. Want some amazing peach and cinnamon bread?  Sub 2 peeled and diced fresh peaches for the apple, preparing the bread according to the recipe in every other way. Top it with a cinnamon/honey compound butter, and you’re set. Add a cup of coffee, and prepare for paradise.

While you’re there, take a look around. Brigitte is a wealth of information.

Soak it up, gang…summer only comes once a year. Which means peaches only come once a year. Head out to your farmer’s market and try something new. You may never know what a peach is supposed to taste like until you do. 🙂

Creamy Quinoa

I have found that when it comes to my dietary restrictions, one of the issues I have is that I miss certain textures. I miss crunchy, for example. It’s a hard thing to come by when you can’t eat grains and starchy veggies.

I also miss  rich & creamy. Pasta in alfredo sauce. Mashed potatoes. Risotto.

Risotto is actually what led me to the following recipe. My doctor recently cleared me to eat quinoa so I have new options! I am so excited. Quinoa is often referred to as a grain, but is, in fact, more of a seed. Furthermore, it is closely related to leafy greens, which is pretty awesome. Never had quinoa? Check this out:

quinoa-infographic-large-green

I had some red quinoa on hand, and when my CSA box arrived, I was inspired by the smell of purple basil. What I really wanted was an amazing creamy risotto…or a basil cream sauce over pasta.

What I came up with was creamy quinoa.

I gathered my ingredients, All of my veggies/herbs were in my CSA box this week. Perfection. This could very easily be made into a vegan dish by skipping the cheese and subbing the butter. 🙂

1 pint of baby roma tomatoes

1 small white onion

3-4  cloves garlic

1 handful basil, finely chopped. (mine was purple…italian is good too.)

1/4 cup parm cheese (I think mozzarella would be yummy too!)

4 TBSP butter, divided

For the quinoa:

1 cup dry quinoa

2 tsp raw apple cider vinegar

1.5 cups water or bone broth

It was a very simple process and came together quickly. Just know that quinoa requires some soaking in order to remove the bitter coating on it. I always thought I hated quinoa until I learned to soak, and not just rinse it!

At least a few hours before preparing, soak your 1 cup of quinoa in about 1 cup of water. Add two tsp of raw apple cider vinegar (I always use bragg’s.) When you are ready to prepare it, rinse it really, really well, and add to your saucepan. Add the 1.5 cups of liquid (broth really makes a difference!) and bring to a boil. Once boiling, Put a lid on, drop the heat to low, and let it cook for about 15 minutes. You will know it is done with the liquid is gone, and all of your quinoa looks like it sprouted little white strings.

Set the quinoa aside.

In a blender or food processor, puree your onion.

Sautee the puree in 2 TBSP of butter.

While these are cooking, puree the tomatoes and garlic. ( I don’t rinse the processor out.)

Once the onion is translucent, add the tomato/garlic puree.

Cook until the liquid dissolves and it starts to thicken. (This took about 5-7 minutes)

Now, add the remaining butter, the parm cheese, and the quinoa. Toss until the cheese is melted and it starts to become creamy.

Top with basil at the very end, and toss to coat.

Serve  hot…or room temp…or cold. It’s good no matter what.

I topped mine with chicken breast…so yummy. I took a picture of it, but frankly, it doesn’t look appetizing. Terrible picture in bad lighting. Made it look like cafeteria food. 😉

It wasn’t risotto. Wasn’t pasta w/cream sauce, but it certainly was a tasty change from my usual protein + meat combination. Tasty, healthy, frugal and satisfying. Give it a try!

Compound Butter

Ever made compound butter? It’s a great way to use up fresh herbs either from your garden, a great sale at the supermarket, or as I did – with herbs from my CSA box.

Before I continue, I want to address a common misconception.

Butter is not bad for you.

Butter is not giving you heart disease like you’ve been taught.

I could go on, but I am just inviting trouble if I do. 😉

If you are a vegan and therefore fundamentally opposed to butter, just ignore me.  🙂

A quick bit on butter from http://www.weedemandreap.com

butter-infographic-weed-em-and-reap

Oh, and a pretty great blog entry about butter and its benefits can be found HERE. I really recommend you take the time to read it.

Back to the recipes. 🙂

I’d love to say my compound butters turn out like these from Bon Appetit Magazine:

compound-butter-tower--310

but they don’t.

Here is how I made a couple this week.

1.) Find an awesome sale on a good quality butter. (This step can be skipped if you are not as fortunate as I was this week. 😉 )

The best butter I can find locally is Organic Pastures. It is the best of three worlds: Organic and grassfed, AND RAW. Most importantly to me, I feel confident that they aren’t going to sneak random grains into their cows like Kerrygold did. 😦  I am not able to budget Organic Pastures for everything, however, so I will continue to buy the best grassfed butter I can, and that will probably mean Kerrygold will still be in my fridge. Organic Valley is another good option, as are many locally-sourced butters.

If all of this is overwhelming to you, and money is tight, just use store-bought butter! It is still so much healthier than margarine! Please, just please stop eating margarine.

2.) Gather your favorite herbs, and some inspiration. I was inspired by my desire to roast a chicken in herb butter and to top a grain free peach bread with a cinnamon and honey butter. 🙂 (Recipe coming soon!)

3.) Take about 20 minutes out of your day to make something amazing.

For the herb butter, soften one stick of butter. Add 1 tsp each of your favorite fresh herbs. I added one tsp rosemary, one tsp thyme, and 1 tsp marjoram. All organic, and all from my CSA box, fresh as can be.

Mix the herbs into the butter.

If using immediately, or rather soon, store in the fridge. If you want to save it for later, put it into a freezer-safe container, label it, and tuck it in the freezer for later use.

For my cinnamon butter, I again start with one stick of softened butter. Add 1 tsp cinnamon and 1 TBSP of raw, organic honey. Mix to combine, and stir in the fridge for 3-5 days. Freeze for later if desired.

The options are endless, guys.  Try some other ideas (that also happen to be really CSA friendly:

To make a butter that would be really amazing over fresh pasta or roasted root veggies, use 1 stick butter, a couple TBSP of fresh basil, 1 tsp fresh oregano,  and a tsp of minced garlic.

For garlic bread spread, try 1 tsp minced garlic, 2 TBSP raw parmesan cheese and 2 tsp chopped parsley.

For an awesome pancake butter, add a handful of fresh berries or 1 peeled and chopped peach, 1 tbsp raw, organic honey and mix well, until the fruit breaks up into the butter. Imagine it: French toast, sprinkled with cinnamon, topped with peach and honey infused butter? Yes please! (Goodness, I miss that.)

Get creative guys. Find a use for those extra chives…that dill that you said you were going to use in oven roasted fish and didn’t, chocolate bits, your favorite cheeses, nuts, olives, sundried tomatoes…the sky is the limit!

Remember: Butter makes everything better.

GRAIN FREE PIZZA! (Yes, Really! Purple Pesto Too!)

I am so excited about this, you have no idea.  I have officially (perhaps accidentally) made the world’s most delicious pizza, and it’s not on the list of forbidden foods.

Also, that is an exaggeration. Nothing beats Me-n-Eds pizza. I miss it so much. This may be the world’s most delicious grain free pizza, however.

I will still claim this is a victory, and victory is sweet.

I have tried a few grain free pizza crust recipes and was not terribly impressed. Then I found one made from tapioca flour and it was decent. Then I ran low on tapioca flour and substituted half of the needed amount of tapioca with arrowroot and OMG it was perfection.

When made with tapioca flour, it had a certain pie crust quality to it. It was delicious, don’t get me wrong, but the arrowroot allowed it to be a bit more cracker-y, which I really, really liked. I will be saving the original recipe, however, to make the pie crust topping for my favorite  chicken pot pie soup. I thought I was going to have to go without it this winter…there is hope once more. 😉 I love beautiful accidents. For the original recipe, go HERE.

Back to the pizza.

I made a very simple but delicious pizza using some delicious CSA items the other night. Cracker crust, purple pesto (recipe to follow), sliced chicken breast tossed with some of the pesto, mozzarella cheese and bell peppers.

I started with the pesto. I really might cry when my CSA stops offering the purple basil. It’s so incredibly flavorful and yet more mild that its italian counterpart.  I’m obsessed. To make the pesto, I gathered the following:

purplepesto1

4 cups purple basil leaves (this was two bundles for me)

1/2 cup raw almonds (cashew would work beautifully too, but they are on our “forbidden” list right now)

2 tsp crushed garlic

1/2 tsp real salt (any salt you have will work, this is just the one I have been using.)

at least 6 TBSP cold pressed olive oil

In a food processor or blender, pulse the almonds until they are fine and almost powdery. Then add the basil, and pulse until combined.  Add garlic and salt and continue to pulse or blend until all is combined. Drizzle in olive oil until pesto is at the desired consistency. I like mine to have enough oil to be spreadable. I probably used about 1/3 cup of olive oil in mine. Keep in mind, from here on out, and I never professed to be a food photographer.

purple pesto done

I will admit to you that it’s not a very pretty color. It sort of looks like potting soil. The taste is so worth it though, trust me. I also love to use almonds or cashews in pesto because pine nuts are so darn expensive. Also, this pesto does not call for parmesan cheese, so its vegan approved. 🙂

Set the pesto aside and get to work on the pizza crust now. 🙂

For the crust, you will need:

1/2 cup tapioca flour/starch

1/2 cup arrowroot

1/3 cup raw shredded parm cheese (I love TJ’s)

4 TBSP of refined coconut oil or other high-heat oil such as high-oleic sunflower

1 TBSP water

1 organic egg

Combine all ingredients. It will be sticky and kind of gummy.

Prepare 2 pieces of parchment paper the same size as your pizza pan ( you can trim the edges later)

BRUSH BOTH PIECES OF PARCHMENT WITH OLIVE OIL. IF YOU DO NOT DO THIS, YOU WILL END UP WITH A STICKY MESS.

Scrape the batter/ dough onto the first piece of parchment (on the greased side.) Now lay the other piece, greased side down, onto the dough. With a rolling pin, roll the crust out into a circle.

Peel the top piece of parchment off and discard. Put the crust, parchment and all, onto your pizza pan.

Carefully, with the back of a spoon, spread your purple peso over the entire thing. You will use about 1 cup. Reserve the rest for later.

purple pesto spread

Now, top with cheese.

purple pesto cheese

If you would like meat on your pizza, sautee some thinly sliced (about 1/4 in thick strips) chicken breast in a bit of butter or refined coconut oil. (I used 2 chicken breasts) Season with salt, garlic, and then about 1/2 cup of your pesto. Once cooked, add to the top of your pizza, along with whatever other goodies you want. I added some bell peppers from my CSA box. 

purple pesto chickenpeppers

Trim excess parchment off of the edges and Bake for 20-25 minutes at 400*.

purple pesto pizza slice

 

ENJOY!

Chile Verde Anyone?

Oh, Chile Verde, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways…

 

I’ll spare you the ways. I will just say this. I love it. A lot.

I rarely make it, but I’m not sure why. It is such an easy thing to make! I guess, maybe, I just don’t eat pork very often, but when Sprouts had pork roasts on sale last week, I decided it was time. This was affirmed when I looked a the available produce list for my CSA this week. Chilies, tomatillos, onions, garlic…It was like the stars aligned! 😉

Technically, chile verde is made with a mild chili in addition to spicy ones. Chilies like new mexico hatch chilies or poblanos. My CSA didn’t have anything of the sort of the list. I didn’t have any, nor was I deterred by the lack of specific peppers. I just went with it. You can too.

The process is simple, and the results are magnificent. I made a double batch so that I could freeze some…feel free to cut the recipe in half. 🙂

I started with just a few ingredients:

chileverdeingredients

1 onion

4 jalapenos

2 chilies of a less spicy variety (I used santa fe)

If you have poblanos or hatch chilies, add four of those as well. 🙂

6 cloves of garlic

3 pounds of tomatillos, husked removed

High-heat oil, such as refined coconut oil or high-oleic sunflower

sea salt

2 tsp cumin (not pictured, lol)

2 cups of water or broth

2.5-3 lbs boneless pork sirloin roast, cut into 1 inch cubes

**Brown cow yogurt lid on your floor is optional.**

And now, the process:

Puree the onion, or chop fine.

Sautee in the oil.

cvonions

While onions are cooking, pulse the peppers and garlic in the food processor or blender. You can chop these too, but I prefer not to touch either one. It always results in me screeching in pain because I touched my eyeball or frustrated because I can’t get the garlic smell off of me. 😛

Once they are ready to go, set them aside.

In the oil/onion mix, add the meat. You are not looking to cook the meat at this point, just get things cooking together.

Add the chili/garlic mix. Stir to combine.

cvonionspepperspork

While this is cooking (over medium heat) get your tomatillos blended up. 3 pounds of tomatillos was equal to my cuisinart food processor being filled twice.

Once they are  good and pureed, dump that into the pot too.

chileverdetomatillos

At this point, add your water or broth, cumin, 2 tsp of salt, and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, then drop the heat to med/low, cover, and let simmer for about an hour, stirring occasionally.  I’d like to see you use that many commas in such a short paragraph.

I let mine cook down for about 2 hours, stirring about every 10-15 minutes.

It will thicken up quite a bit!

I served it with “upcycled brown rice”  (and a wooden spoon.)

chileverderice

CSA box MAGIC.

Good quality, fresh, nutritious food is not an impossible thing to attain. With proper planning, smart shopping, resourcefulness, and aligned stars, you too can eat like a king. 🙂

Upcycled Leftover Brown Rice

UPCYCLING:   the process of converting waste materials or useless products into new materials or products of better quality or for better environmental value.

At least, according to Wiki.

Tonight, I took brown rice that would have been waste material if it wasn’t eaten soon, and converted it into a better quality product for better nutritional value. Close enough. 😉

I love being able to make use of leftovers. I rarely, rarely ever throw anything out. So many people say “I can’t eat like you because the food is too expensive.” To that, I say, it is possible. Is eating organic, fresh, quality food more expensive? Yes and no. On one hand, the ingredients can be more expensive, but I use them very responsibly. I carefully plan out meals to avoid waste. We use every bit of leftover food. We eat less meat than the average family to compensate for the fact that it costs twice as much. This is not a bad thing, because we tend to fill our plates with fruits and veggies now, where once there was meat and potatoes. There are five of us in this house. Two adults, and three kids, aged 13, 11 and 9. There is lots of eating going on here. Furthermore, we homeschool, so every.single.meal. is eaten here. It adds up.

That said, my grocery budget is between 150-200 dollars per week. Sometimes even less. Not bad for three meals and snacks, every day, seven days a week. Really not bad when you consider we are about 80% organic, our meat is *usually* grassfed or pasture raised, our eggs are free range (and local), and we don’t eat “fillers” like potatoes, most breads, and many grains. It is possible…but only if I make use of every bite…like I did tonight. 🙂

Tonight’s menu? Chile Verde. One of my faves. I usually would eat it with refried beans and tortillas, but that’s off limits for me right now. I really wanted something on the side.

I opened the fridge, looking for inspiration and found brown rice from last night’s dinner. I also found the last few tomatoes from my CSA box, a chili pepper, and a few other CSA goodies.

I forgot to take pictures of everything, so I will outline as simply as possible. It was very, very easy. Everything I used was organic too, which made me happy. 🙂

Gather ingredients:

1/2 of an onion (I used white)

2 garlic cloves

3 tomatoes (I used roma)

1/2 of a chili pepper (I used santa fe)

pinch of salt

2 cups leftover (or just cooked)  brown rice

2 tbsp of oil (refined coconut or high-oleic sunflower preferred)

Steps:

1. puree the tomato, onion, pepper, garlic and salt in a food processor or blender. Set aside.

2. in a 12 inch skillet, heat the oil.

3. add the rice, stirring constantly. I use a little metal spatula to continually scrape the bottom so it doesn’t stick.

4. add your tomato puree.

5. stir to coat, and keep on low heat until the rice and puree are both nice and warm. 🙂

Serve! (P.S., I am not a food photography blogger.)

upcycled rice

Verdict? It will not taste like the spanish rice you are familiar with. It really isn’t meant to. It is, however, a fresh tasting side dish with just enough kick. 🙂 It is also kinda nice that the veggies haven’t had all the nutrition cooked out of them. Making them into a puree first keeps you from having to cook them down a ton. 🙂

A definite upcycle…but still not beans and tortillas. 😉

Accidentally Awesome Tomatillo & Chicken Stew

I’ve said it before, but I love the challenge that a CSA box brings. Sometimes I pick random ingredients just to see if I can make something amazing out of them. It’s the same excitement I feel when I need a flawless outfit for an event and walk into a thrift store with $10.00. It’s the challenge.

This week’s CSA box was simple. Serrano chilies, baby roma tomatoes, white onions, heirloom tomatoes,  italian basil, (which made pretty great basil pom-poms.)

basilpompoms

and TOMATILLOS.

csabox

I picked the tomatillos, thinking I would make chile verde, but soon realized that the hatch chilies I thought I had in the freezer, were, in fact, not in the freezer. Fear not. This week’s box has tomatillos and sante fe chilies coming. Chile verde is SO happening soon.

So what do I do with two pounds of these fantastic little green globes?

Well, I make a delicious accident with some of them. The remaining 1.5 pounds? Not sure  yet.

Wanting to use as many ingredients from my box as possible, and hoping to use the leftover chicken from last night’s dinner, I came up with an idea. I would make a salsa, then make “tacos” out of grain free pita and top it with the salsa.

The idea evolved into something else, but here is how it started.

Start with:

6 tomatillos, husks removed and sticky stuff rinsed off

2 cloves garlic

1/2 of a white onion

juice of one lemon

1 tbsp. raw organic honey

1 serrano chili

pinch of sea salt

tomatillostewingred

In a food processor or blender, puree all of the ingredients until you have a smooth green salsa. I quickly decided that it needed to be cooked. I’m sure it was fine the way it was, but I wanted to develop the flavors a little bit.

I added about a tablespoon of olive oil to a medium sized pot, then added the sauce.   Once it came to a boil, I popped the lid on it, reduced the heat to a simmer and left it for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. I then added the cubed, cooked chicken I had leftover from last night’s dinner and let it continue to simmer for another 10 minutes.

It thickened up nicely and the flavors melded together so well. Serranos are pretty hot peppers, so it had real heat, but the sweetness of the honey balanced it beautifully. My only regret is that I am out of cilantro. And sour cream. A little bit of both would  have made it perfection.

I never made the pita (which I use as tortillas) because I really didn’t need them. It was so good on its own.

tomatillochickenstewfinished

Some of the best food is simple and cooked on the fly. Don’t be afraid to try new ingredients in new and different ways.

Lord knows I have a few more experiments to do. Tomatillo margaritas anyone?

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