Saturday, May 15, 2010


Living with someone who has had a very sheltered food life can have a very limiting influence on what I'm able to prepare. Having been raised always eating the same foods, prepared in the same way, when he comes across something new his instinct is to stare at it and question what it is and what it will taste like. Fortunately, lasagna is something very familiar and sneaking in spinach (and zucchini and green pepper) is something I can accomplish with this recipe very easily since it is really quite yummy and easy to do!

SPINACH LASAGNA by Barbara Kingsolver with Steven L. Hopp and Camille Kingsolver
This recipe and more can be found on

1 lb. whole grain lasagna noodles—Prepare according to package directions [I cheated and used the take out of the box and bake kind here]
4 cups chopped spinach—Steam for 2-3 minutes, let excess water drain [and puree; this is how I also get away with adding the zucchini]
16 oz. tomato sauce
2 cups fresh ricotta
2 cups mozzarella

Spread a thin layer of tomato sauce on the bottom of a large casserole. Cover surface with a layer of noodles, ½ of the ricotta, ½ of the spinach, 1/3 of the remaining sauce and 1/3 of the mozzarella. Lay down another layer of noodles, the rest of the ricotta, the rest of the spinach, 1/3 of the sauce and 1/3 of the mozzarella. Spread a final layer of noodles, the remainder of the sauce and mozzarella, bake uncovered at 350 for 40 minutes.

The verdict: a recipe that I'm keeping and I'm ready and willing to try other recipes that were in the book. I quite enjoyed reading about their year of eating seasonably. Knowing how to eat with the seasons from local produce truly is knowledge that is rare to find anymore. Maybe this book will help change that.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Asparagus Season is Here!

Yummy, yummy asparagus season is here! I never realized how much better it tastes when it's fresh and local. 

I cut the asparagus into 2" lengths after breaking off the ends and parboiled it for 2 minutes. Drained it and then dressed it with olive oil, lemon zest, real parmigiana cheese, and a little salt and pepper. Perfection! Thank you goes to the Italians for coming up with this one. They definitely seem to understand how to cook simply with fresh ingredients.

When reading Animal Mineral Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, I discovered the possibility of staying on a working farm in Italy. Apparently it is quite common there to stay on a working farm in lodgings similar to a bed and breakfast to truly taste the region you are in. ...sounds very, very interesting to me! Who wouldn't want to stay somewhere like this:

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Gado-Gado—Otherwise Known as Indonesian Peanut Sauce

Four words: not worth the effort.

I now have a yogurt container full of a peanut sauce that was more like peanut butter with some onion chunks. I'll try to mixed it with more tomato sauce and chili flakes to see if I can turn it into something Tim and I will enjoy, but I don't have high hopes for this one! It was so blah, I'm not even going to bother sharing the recipe with you. The chicken that I made with it was fine, it was just plain cubes of chicken seasoned with salt and pepper, and I made a curried rice noodle, although next time I'll add even more curry powder and maybe some chili flakes.

That's 0 for 2 from the recipes in Diet for a Small Planet by Frances Moore Lappé. Greek cheese and spinach wedges wasn't a real hit either. . . they've actually been relegated to the "let's not have this again category".

I took my birthday money from mom and bought How to Cook Anything, I have higher hopes for that book!

Time for blueberry pancakes just like Aunt Brenda used to make! Yummy! And then we are off for a picnic in Niagara Falls!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Swiss Chard....hmmm

Who would have guessed growing up with a vegetarian as my second Mom, there would be a veggie that I haven't tried. Well, the Good Food Box this week has taken care of that. It's here, in my apartment and I have to find some way to turn it into something one of the pickiest eaters in the world will eat. 

My cook books weren't much help, but my good old Dr. Richter's Fresh Produce Guide didn't let me down on this one! There are cooking instructions here. 

Turns out chard is like two vegetables for the price of one. Good deal! According to Dr. Richter, the stalks can be cooked like asparagus spears and the dark leaves can be steamed or stir-fried. Peak season is June through October. The leaves only last 2 days, and the stalks 4 days in the refrigerator however.   :o(

So what did I end up making with it? I have no idea what it's called, but this is what I did (mostly following Dr. Richter's instructions):

Clean thoroughly. Remove any strings. Cut stalks into think slices. Sauté in olive oil, covered [I forgot to cover it], over low heat for 15 minutes, or until tender. Add strips of chard leaves. Cook over medium heat until wilted. Sprinkle with lemon juice [I used a whole lemon because it didn't say how much and it was smelling pretty good when I added it], golden raisins, and pine nuts [I also threw in a handful of dried blueberries cause I had them]. 

The verdict: Not bad. I enjoyed it and Tim ate it, but he wasn't big on the leaves. It did have a really nice flavour with both the acidic lemon and sweet blueberries mixed together.

We also had potato salad made with Renée's cucumber and dill yogurt vinaigrette and fresh parsley, and a green salad with cucumber, mushroom, and strawberries with Renée's spring herb Italian vinaigrette. I LOVE Renée's dressings. I never find any crap added to them. For the most part it's exactly what I would put in if I was making it from scratch. Poor Tim, another vegetarian dinner.

This week's Good Food Box

In this week's Small Good Food Box we received:

1 head of green leaf lettuce
1 medium English cucumber
3lbs of local Spartan apples
1 bag of local carrots
4 oranges
1 big bunch of broccoli
1 bunch of swiss chard
2.5lbs of local russet potatoes
8 oz of local mushrooms

Not bad for $12 dollars! Now I just have to figure out what to make with everything...any ideas?

Friday, April 2, 2010

Stale bread, a pepper starting to turn, and a Lemon anyone?

Using every piece of food we bring into the house and not turning it into waste is my goal, but it can definitely take some creative thinking, or at least a good snuggle in a comfy chair with a pile of cookbooks and some time on your hands.

Thank you to Donna Dooher and Claire Stubbs who gave me a free, signed copy of their cookbook Out to Brunch: At Mildred Pierce Restaurant which has a fabulous way to use up some really, really stale bread and a starting to wrinkle red pepper. Tonights dinner includes a slight variation to their Roasted Pepper and Basil Strata.

Serves 6 [hopefully this thing freezes well since there are only two of us]

Before you start...
The night before, remove all the crusts from the loaf and slice bread into 3/4" cubes. Spread the cubes out onto a baking sheet and leave out to dry overnight. The drier the bread, the better our results will be. [Hopefully crust isn't too much of an issue since my bread dried out somewhere around 3 or 4 weeks ago in the fridge.]

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup onion, thinly sliced
1 loaf of their perfect breakfast brioche (page 32 in the cookbook) or crusty Italian loaf, cubed and dried (about 10 cups)
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1/2 cup fontina cheese, grated [I had cheddar in the fridge, so I used that]
1 cup roasted red or yellow peppers, peeled, seeded, and sliced [I didn't feel like the hastle of roasting them, I just used fresh]
1/4 cup fresh basil, chiffonade
5 large eggs
1 cup milk [it called for 2%, but we're skim people so that's what I used]
1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt [I used sea-salt since I'm out of kosher salt]
1 teaspoon dry mustard

Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until soft and just beginning to brown, about 10 minutes.

In a large bowl, toss together the dry bread cubes with the onions, feta, and fontina cheeses, roasted peppers, and basil.

In a small bowl [Tim's not going to be happy about the number of dishes this meal causes!], whisk together the eggs, milk, salt, and dry mustard. Pour the egg mixture over the bread cubes, gently tossing to combine.

Divide the bread mixture evenly into a buttered jumbo muffin tin (for 6 muffins). Cover lightly with plastic wrap and leave in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Remove the plastic wrap and place the muffin tin on a baking sheet. Bake the strata for 40 minutes until puffed and golden brown. Enjoy immediately.

~::~ After the Meal ~::~

Wow! I need to have stale bread around more often. Who knew bread as hard as a rock can actually be turned into something other than just bread crumbs? These were delicious! Even Tim liked them.

The chicken breasts I baked with thyme, lemon zest, lemon slices, salt, pepper, and orange juice, were okay, but a little dry. But it used up that lemon that was leftover from the Sole I made a few weeks ago.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Kale and Sweet Potato Soup

Kale and Sweet Potato Soup
from If the Buddha Came to Dinner by Hale Sofia Schatz with Shira Shaiman

Serves 6 to 8
preparation Time: 25 minutes
Cooking Time: 50 minutes
Seasons: Fall/Winter

1 head of garlic
2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
4 small leeks (in my case I used a locally grown onion)
1 sprig fresh rosemary (I used dried)
4 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut in 1/2" pieces (I only had two sweet potatoes in my basket this week, so I substituted the two I was missing with red potatoes)
6 cups water or vegetable stock
1 small bunch kale, fibrous stems removed, leaves chopped (I have no idea if my bunch was small or not...)
1 teaspoon salt (I use sea salt)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Slice off the top of the garlic head, exposing the cloves slightly. Place the garlic in a small shallow baking dish. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of oil over the top of the exposed cloves, cover, and bake for 2- to 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool, squeeze the cloves out of their papery shells, and set aside.

2. Trim the roots off the leeks. Slice off and discard the tough green leaves from the tops of the leeks. Wash the remaining white and light green portions thoroughly in cold water. Make sure to rinse in between the layers, removing any sand. Shake dry, then slice them thinly on the diagonal.

3. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large soup pot. Saute the leeks, rosemary, and roasted garlic cloves over medium heat. Cook until the leeks become translucent. Add the sweet potatoes and continue cooking, stirring frequently, until the potatoes begin to soften, about 10 minutes.

4. Add the water or stock. Bring to a low boil, cooking until the potaties are tender, about 12 minutes. Add more liquid if a thinner consistency is desired. Add the kale, cooking just until it begins to wilt, about 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

For a creamy consistency, puree some or all of the soup in a blender before adding the kale.

~::~ After the Meal ~::~

Overall the soup is okay, although we aren't sure we're big fans of the texture of the kale in it even after zipping it through the blender.

Inspired to Cook, and Willing to Share

Thank you Jamie Oliver for opening my eyes to the point that pushed me over the edge. I've seen the light and I'm now taking the plunge to cooking my own food from scratch using fresh (and as much as possible, local) ingredients. It probably won't be easy, but I think my picky eater of a partner and I will be better off from it.

Now don't get me wrong, it hasn't been just Jamie's influence that has gotten me here. I'm not a mainstream do-what-everyone-else-is-doing kind of girl. For example, I'm seriously obsessed with green methods of construction and permaculture. I've been trying to prepare more food at home so I can control the amount of garbage going into my body for the last six months. But it wasn't until watching Jamie's TED speech this winter that I realized I was really willing to take the plunge and make my meals from local, seasonal foods as much as possible without spending an arm and a leg. I recently signed up for a "Good Food Box" from a local not-for-profit group that is trying to help farmers waste less of their food, farmers find a local market to sell their produce, and give the community a cost effective manner to get more fruit and veggies into their diet.

With the Earth Hour an hour away, I think this is the perfect point to start talking about what I'm doing. I'll probably also use this to track what recipes are working for me and which ones aren't.