Archive for November, 2011

Baking Kale Chips

After writing about how I was going to make Kale chips for months I finally bucked-up and did it. I wish I had done it sooner – seriously such a great treat! They have a certain taste to them but that’s what really makes them unique and a good treat! If you are into junk food you may really enjoy the taste and texture of this ‘chip’. Preparing them was a breeze, I’m honestly shocked at how easy it actually was. My biggest suggestion with this is to store them out of sight – otherwise you will devour them all in no time! I ‘created’ the recipe I’m sharing below after reading through a bunch of kale chip recipes on the web, this combo is what I used and it worked out well!

Kale tossed with olive oil and salt

Ingredients:

1 bunch of kale
1/4 tsp of salt
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

To Bake:

Pre-heat your oven to 400 F. Line two (maybe 3 depending on how much kale you have) baking sheets with parchment paper for easy clean-up. (Parchment is optional but make clean-up a breeze!).

Kale on the baking sheet

Wash your kale and remove all of the tough stems. I used the curly kale because that is what I had, but after reading online it seems that really any kale variety should do the trick. Ensure that your kale is mostly dry after washing and cutting it up – patting it dry with a paper-towel post washing should do the trick. Put your clean kale into a large bowl.

Drizzle the olive oil over your kale and either by hand or with a spoon (or salad tongs) mix the kale and oil together. Once the oil and kale are mixed sprinkle the salt in and mix the kale up again.

Kale chips ready to crisp in the oven

Place your salted and oiled kale on your baking sheets. You want to ensure that your kale does not overlap and that it is as flat as possible. We were able to use just 2 baking sheets but they were pretty packed. I’m sure using a third baking sheet would not have been the worst idea out there. Once your kale is on the baking sheet sprinkle a bit more salt on, but not too much, really just a pinch.

Bake the kale in the oven for about 15 minutes, or until most of the leaves are crisp. It will be really easy to see when the kale is looking crisp. Once you take the kale out of the oven allow it to cool for about 15 minutes before stuffing your face. Enjoy this healthy treat!

The delicious baked kale chips!

Winter Crop Share Week 2 Report

Winter crop-share week 2! Again, still thrilled we went with the smaller size – while we get some great items it seems that our social calendar is pulling us in a few different directions, most of them away from our kitchen, so having a smaller quantity has prevented waste. We haven’t had too much time to test out some of our items from last week so luckily this week we received more familiar items that don’t require quite as much creativity and planning for cooking.

What we received in week 2:

– Yellow & Green Squash
– Pickling Cucumbers
– Grapefruit
– Acorn Squash
– Kale
– Broccoli
– Green Peppers
– Grape Tomatoes

In the Kitchen:

Again, our week(s) have been busy so it’s nice that our share this week contained more familiar produce items.  With that being said, there isn’t too much exciting going on in our kitchen with this week’s share. We are going to use the green and yellow squash in a shrimp scampi dish to give it a nice burst of veggie flavor.

I plan to pair the green peppers with eggs in an omlet and then for salads for lunchtime meals. I’m hoping to finally try making kale chips with kale. I still haven’t found much beyond steaming that I like in kale so maybe this could be a breakthrough for me and kale. Broccoli – steamed and enjoyed, still one of my all-time favorite veggies! We are also going to try a new recipe for a pickling cukes – the last ones came out good but nothing to write home about so hopefully this batch will be what we are imagining.

And everything else we have in our kitchen will go towards a fantastic set of meals for this holiday weekend. If I don’t get a chance to post a few words before the holiday – Happy Thanksgiving!

Southwestern Stuffed Spaghetti Squash – Delicious!

Another delicious squash dish – who would’ve guessed?! This one really was tasty and was passed onto us from the folks that provide us with our weekly crop share. I was nervous at first that it may not be enough food to really fill us up, but it was. I suppose through the beans and squash it was more than enough to make us feel nice and full without any other side dishes or meats. The presentation of this dish was also great – it looked VERY unique. Overall, it was an easy dish that we cannot wait to make again!

Ingredients:

– 1 spaghetti squash
– 2 tbs. extra virgin olive oil
– 1/2 red onion, chopped
– 3 minced garlic cloves
– 1 jalapeno pepper, minced (the more seeds = more heat)
– 1 chopped red bell pepper
– 1 tbs ground cumin
– 1 tbs Mexican oregano
– 1 tbs chili powder
– 1 can black beans (drained & rinsed)
– 1 cup corn (frozen & thawed works, OR canned)
– coarse salt & freshly ground pepper
– 1/2 cup torn cilantro
– 1 lime
– 1 cup grated cheddar cheese

Directions:

Pre-heat your oven to 375 F. Roast the squash, uncut, on the baking sheet for 50 minutes. Let it cool for about 30 minutes, then cut it in half. Spoon out the seeds, then with a fork scrape the flesh to make spaghetti. Be careful not to ‘fork’ the outside of the squash because you will put your meal back in the squash to serve, so preserve the ‘shell’!

While the squash is cooking heat oil in a medium skillet. Add the onion, jalapeno and red bell pepper. Saute for about 2 minutes. Add cumin, mexican oregano, chili powder and a heaping pinch of salt and pepper. Saute for another minute, or two. Add the beans, corn, and cilantro and stir. Squeeze in the juice from the lime and stir to mix. Add about 1/2 to 3/4 of the spaghetti to the bean mixture and stir to combine. Add some more salt or pepper if needed.  Switch your oven to broil, and while that is heating up stuff each half of your squash with the mixture and grate cheddar on top. Put them back into the broiler until the cheese melts, garnish with extra cilantro.


What really made this dish a breeze to cook is that it really only took up a cutting board, some knives, one skillet and a baking sheet – very light on the dish load. It also looked really great being served in the squash halves! I started working on cooking up the entire bean mixture when my squash was cooling, so as I was cooking up that mixture my squash was cooling. I used the last 15 minutes of my squash cooking time to prepare my beans, peppers and other ingredients to be sautéed. Overall, it was easy to multi-task and clean up with this meal. We really are going to put this into a semi rotation!We found that we had waaaay more of the bean mixture and spaghetti left over after we stuffed the squash halves and placed them into the broiler. It tasted just as good the next day re-heated in a bowl. Just mix up the remaining spaghetti you have with your leftover bean mixture and enjoy another day.

Winter Crop Share Week 1 Report

The Fall crop-share has ended and our winter share has promptly started. I’m thinking this is more of a late-Fall share instead of a solid Winter share, but either way, we are picking up some crops weekly and I’m here to tell you all about it, and our plans to use them! I am expecting the same variety of heartier veggies that we saw in our last crop-share as the colder weather sets in. We also decreased the size we were receiving, I believe we used to receive a bushel amount and this time we opted for the Peck size. We have a lot going on and there are only two of us so I wanted to see if the smaller sized share satiated our appetites and still allowed us the same flexibility to experiment with new foods but also give us time to have some standard favorites we enjoy making. We shall see how it goes over the next month or two!

What we received to start the ‘Winter-Share’:

– White Sweet Potatoes
– Radishes
– Spinach
– Tangerines
– Kohlrabi
– Turnips
– Mushrooms
– Fuji Apples

Upcoming Meals:

There were definitely some interesting looking items in our basket this week. I have never seen, heard of or worked with Kohlrabi before. Is is supposed to be similar tasting to cabbage, but looks very different. I’m excited to find a recipe to work this into!

We really enjoyed our turnip mashed potatoes so we are looking forward to using our turnips for that paired with either chicken or steak this week! Similarly, our radishes are going to used in conjunction with mango for mango-radish salsa on our shrimp tacos. We haven’t eaten shrimp in weeks so that was a welcome treat in our baskets.

I have never cooked with white sweet potatoes and am eager to see if they have the same great taste as ‘regular’ sweet potatoes. I’m not sure how to cook these guys yet but am definitely on the hunt for something enticing to test them out! Spinach, mushrooms and extra radishes will be used in my daily lunch salad, which will be delicious and hearty!

The smaller portion this week definitely worked out this week for us. It’s allowing us some new recipes but also not an over-abundance of pressure on how to cook such a large quantity. I am looking forward to sharing some details about the kohlrabi once we cook that up!

Spoiler Alert – Food Storage Tips

Part of my crop-share experience was receiving food that I had never worked with or purcahsed before. There were many items that I wasn’t even sure how to store, and didn’t even recall seeing in a food store to have a ball-park idea of refrigerate versus counter. Food waste due to inadequate storage really bothers me. I think there are many safe approaches to food storage that protect both the person enjoying the food and the food itself. Through the Summer and Fall crop-shares I did a good amount of reasearch into food storage, and thought this would be a nice time to share these tips I have learned.

Brussels Sprouts
The brussels sprouts I received were on a tall stalk. I have seen markets such as Trader Joes also sell them this way. The best way I have read to store them is to cut the sprouts off of the stalk and keep them in the fridge. I kept mine in an open brown-paper lunch bag in the crisper drawer.

Tomatoes
Little known fact – once you put a tomato in the fridge you drastically reduce its flavor. Many people put them in the fridge to help them ‘keep’ for longer but the better solution is to buy less tomatoes at one time. Keep your tomatoes on the counter if possible. Once I cut them I move them into the fridge but keeping them on the counter keeps them fresher and more flavorful.

White Mushrooms
I like to keep my white mushrooms in an open brown-paper lunch bag (like the brussels sprouts) in the fridge. I’m still looking for other ways to store mushrooms for days at a time, if you have any tried and true methods please do share them!  

Lettuce, Spinach, Kale (leafy green group)
The most important part for storing this group is not to wash them until you are ready to use them! When we get these greens from the crop-share they are usually dirty but we wait to wash them – washing them too soon makes them wet/damp and then takes away some of their ‘survival coats’. Keep ’em unwashed until use. I have also found an amazing way to store these types of greens: http://www.amazon.com/Progressive-Lettuce-Keeper-LKS-06/dp/B000WL5WNW . It allows you to also store some herbs as well and even can be compartmentalized if needed. There are various instructions for keeping water in the bottom and opening air vents to really keep your produce in there as fresh as possible. It is extremely handy and I love it! Definitely worth purchasing for extending the life of your greens.

Kale, Part 2
I found that another great way to store kale, if you enjoy snacking on it particularly, is to clean it and then dry it thorougly. Then put it in a gallon sized zippered storage bag with a paper towel. The paper towel will soak up any leftover moisture in the kale and it will keep with this method for a week or two. If you dont want to invest in the product listed above you can follow this method as well for unwashed kale, spinach, green onions, and a lot more!

Potatoes
Typically I don’t have too many potatoes on hand at any given time but through my crop-sharing I have found myself with a ton of potatoes…and ways of storing them. I previously would keep them in the fridge but to be honest my fridge space was at a premium so the potatoes had to find a new home. In my pantry I keep potatoes in a brown paper-lunch bag. They do great at room temperature for a few weeks this way! One note – potatoes and onions shouldn’t be stored that close to each other as they have a chemical reaction and spoil each other quickly (cooked in a stew they get along just great though!)

Yellow Onions
Another one I keep in my pantry – brown paper lunch bags in the pantry keeps these guys for a few weeks as well. I used to keep them in the fridge as well but again ran out of space. These guys do just as well in the fridge as I’m finding they do in the pantry, so really wherever you have more space should do the trick!

Additional Resources
When I’m just not sure how to store an item my first go-to checking point is http://stilltasty.com/ . It doesn’t always provide me with storage tips but it does give me good advice on how risky it is to eat certain items I still have hanging around.

The foodsaver is also an excellent way to keep things fresh. I can use this to help freeze once fresh items that I’m looking to use in the coming months (like too sweet bananas that would be great in bread! Or meats). It really is a great investment if you buy in bulk or really make ahead lots of items that you find later on are getting freezer burn. This is also great for lengthening the life of cheese blocks and jars in our fridge that are used, just not quite quick enough…Not for everyone, but we love it!

Those are my tips that I’ve learned and found extremely useful thus far. I’ll be sure to write up more tips as I come across them! Are there any ones that have changed your food storage life? If so please do share!

Quick and Easy Cauliflower, Spinach and Pasta

It was a Sunday evening, dinner was planned to include chicken, cauliflower and spinach. Maybe other ingredients but these were on the chopping block so to speak and needed to be used in the meal. I was a bit out of ideas on what to make and decided to turn to the Food Network for some inspiration. After searching for cauliflower and spinach the first result seemed like a winner – “Paccheri Pasta with Cauliflower and Spinach” by Guy Fieri. I scanned the recipe and it looked easy enough, had good reviews and included our ingredients so we went to work. This was an excellent recipe. I say this often but I really mean it every time – we are definitely going to plan on cooking this again. It really took only a half hour so I can envision us making this on a weeknight when we get home a bit later and want something ‘quick’. As with most recipes we did do some modifications, you can find the full recipe from Food Network here: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/guy-fieri/paccheri-pasta-with-cauliflower-and-spinach-recipe/index.html , but here is how we made it:

Ingredients
3 tbsp minced garlic
1 tbsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil
1 head cauliflower cut into florets
2 tsp red pepper flakes (or a bit more than a pinch since that’s a ridiculous thing to have to measure out)
1 bunch of fresh spinach
1 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes
1 lb of pasta – rigatoni would be great, we used Wegman’s Riccioli (http://www.wegmans.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/ProductDisplay?langId=-1&storeId=10052&catalogId=10002&productId=699547)
1 lb of chicken, cubed
1/4 cup chicken or vegetable stock

To Cook:

Bring water to a boil in a medium stock pot (be sure to choose one large enough to cook your pasta in). Once the water is boiling toss in your cauliflower. Stir and cook for about 5 minutes. While the cauliflower is going, get a medium saute pan (one that is big enough to fit your cooked pasta, cauliflower, crushed tomatoes, etc in) heated up with the olive oil, red pepper and garlic for about one minute. Also start slowing cooking your chicken in another pan. You can also grill your chicken if you prefer, either way get the chicken rocking in a separate pan.

Gather up the cauliflower from your boiling water and add it to the oil and garlic in your saute pan. Do not add any of the cauliflower water, but do not dump it out either, you’re going to use that water for your pasta so leave it warm on your stove for now. Saute your cauliflower with the oil, garlic and red pepper until the cauliflower starts to lightly brown (about 4 minutes). Add your chicken stock to deglaze the pan, add your spinach and cover for about 2 minutes until the spinach begins to wilt.

At this point feel free to start your pasta as your sauce should be ready in about 5 minutes. If your chicken isn’t quite ready then wait until the chicken is nearly finished to cook your pasta. Remember, your pasta should be slightly al dente for this recipe, you definitely do not want to overcook the pasta!

Add your crushed tomatoes to the spinach and cauliflower mixture and stir, reducing the heat to a simmer (also remove the cover at this point). When your chicken is done add that to your ‘sauce’, and after draining your pasta add your cooked pasta to the sauce as well and toss. If you want to add a bit of the starched water from the pasta pot that would also work, some people enjoy the extra flavor a bit of that water adds. Toss everything in the saute pan, and then move to your serving bowl (or if you are lazier like us, throw a trivet on the table and serve!). You can also add cheese, extra red pepper, black pepper, etc to taste. I’m not one to add anything, so I didn’t but Greg did add extra red pepper to give it a kick.

This meal produced a great quantity for two people, so we both had our leftovers as lunch the next day and it was just as good as the night it was served. Again, this took about 30 minutes total, it was easy to get the next/upcoming ingredients ready as the first few steps were moving along and it only took 3 pans for a delicious meal! Definitely recommended by us! If you try it the Guy Fieri original way that we didn’t follow I’m sure it would be just as if not more delicious, at least the recommendations say so! Enjoy everyone!

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