Winter is Coming

The nights are getting cooler and the days are getting shorter. Already, the farmer’s market has cut Wednesdays out of its schedule and vendors are disappearing for the winter months.

Fall is my favorite time of year, but the transition from summer’s bounty of delicious fruits and veggies to the hearty squashes and root vegetables of winter is difficult…at first. Keeping with Rushing’s and my resolution to eat as much local food as we can, I decided make the most of the waning days of farmer’s market bounty by canning and freezing as much as I could.

First up was salsa! We go through an obscene amount of salsa, so when an ultimate frisbee teammate had a bumper crop of jalapenos, I knew exactly what to do. CAN!

Ingredients
Step One: Assemble ingredients and make salsa!
Decanting
Step 2: Decant salsa into jars. A funnel helps. But I don’t own one ūüė¶
Sealing!
Step 3: Seal! This was the hardest part. I had to try a couple of times on a batch.

My canning project yielded 10 jars of homemade salsa, now awaiting chips or tacos in our fridge and pantry.

The other project was freezing some summer vegetables for later in the season when they wouldn’t be available locally. I chose eggplant, bell peppers, green beans, and lots and lots of okra!

Frozen veggiesSince freezing tends to negatively impact the texture of fruits and veggies, I’m planning on using the eggplant and bell peppers saut√©ed in pasta dishes. The okra is going to make a whole mess of gumbo throughout the winter!

I know I missed some opportunities- peaches were too late in the season when I began freezing, and so was corn. But that just means something to try next year!

Cabbage Wraps

I get tired quickly of my lunch options. I also hate when leftovers go to waste. Consequently, I end up eating a lot of reimagined leftovers for my lunch.

My most recent innovation is Shrimp Cabbage Wraps, and they are AWESOME.

STEP 1:

Assemble your desired fillings.
Assemble your desired fillings.

STEP 2:

I started with rice as the base, and topped with shrimp and peas.
I started with rice as the base, and topped with shrimp and peas.

STEP 3:

The trick to these is SOY SAUCE. Throw some in now, save some to dip your rolls in later.
The trick to these is SOY SAUCE. Throw some in now, save some to dip your rolls in later.

STEP 4:

Fold the bottom up like a pocket
Fold the bottom up like a pocket
Close one side of the pocket
Roll over!
Roll over!

STEP 5:

I microwaved mine for 1-3 minutes in a tupperware with a little water in it to stem the rolls.

Just dip in soy, or any sauce, and enjoy!

My Meal Planning Secret

There is a secret to how I get anything and everything done in the kitchen. It’s actually quite simple: I’m a planner.

At the beginning of each week or grocery cycle (and I try to arrange life so the two coincide), I conference with the boy and figure out what we’re eating each night that week. We have this great chalkboard which makes it easy to remember everything:

Menu from a couple weeks ago.
Menu from a couple weeks ago.

Usually we have just returned from the grocery store where we’ve picked out our proteins and veggies for the week, and writing it out on the chalkboard keeps us organized. That way one of us will remember to thaw out the chicken and no one gets home at 7 from working out asking,”What are we having for dinner?”

Weekends, except for Sunday, are more relaxed so ¬†we don’t usually plan those out. We never know what last-minute plans we might encounter, or there’s the off chance one of us will be gone for the weekend, leaving the other to fend for themselves.

This week’s menu was dictated by leftover pot pie makings, and some finds at the farmer’s market this weekend:

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Yummmm!

It takes some time to get organized and even more time to make this little ritual a habit, but we’ve found it is¬†totally¬†worth it. We can regularly have meals that look like this:

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Roast turkey breast with mushroom risotto

Or this:

Spicy shrimp & noodles
Spicy shrimp & noodles

Instead of this:

Takeout

Happy Planning and Happy Eating!

Tossed Salad & Scrambled Eggs


It’s 11am. Maybe you had coffee at 8am and couldn’t decide what to eat for breakfast. Maybe you ate breakfast but your stomach isn’t going to wait until lunchtime. Maybe your car had to go to the shop, then you had to go to the grocery store for baking supplies, then bake and there was no time in between for breakfast.

If any of those scenarios sound like your life, let me introduce you to my mid-morning meal of choice: Tossed Salas & Scrambled Eggs.

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It is partially inspired by the Frasier theme song and partially inspired by low-key dinners my mom would make and tell us were “French.”¬†I like my salad with simple balsamic vinegar and salt & pepper in lieu of dressing and my scrambled eggs soft. Yum.

Sometimes I like to go mexican with my eggs and wrap them up in a tortilla with cheese and salsa.

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Any way you go, tossed salad and scrambled eggs are always a good choice.

 

2012 In Review- Part III

Part III of my year in review highlights some of my culinary adventures at home. The selected represent only the yummy meals I thought to photograph- many other amazing meals were too scrumptious to wait for a picture before devouring.

Duo of braised beauties
Duo of braised beauties

This fall we discovered kale, and what a discovery it has been! Matt cooks a mean  braised kale which he does by starting off by frying bacon in a pan. Then he adds garlic, maybe some onion, and the kale. His braising liquid is apple cider vinegar and chicken broth, and he finishes the whole thing with chopped apple and the bacon. It. Is. Phenomenal.

Best braised meal:¬†In the above photo I braised some chicken in red wine to go with our braised kale, served with some quinoa or cous-cous (I can’t remember which!) to balance out the whole dinner. Yum!

Homemade pizza happiness
Homemade pizza happiness

Thanks to Trader Joe’s, I discovered whole wheat pizza dough and the amazing-ness that is homemade pizza. The boy and I have been enjoying homemade pizza at least twice a month all fall and into winter, burning our mouths more times than we care to remember.

Favorite toppings: spicy Italian sausage, mushrooms, pepperoni, TONS of cheese.

Worst idea: making home-made. It came out looking and tasting like tomato-basil soup.

Asian Night!
Asian Night!

Matt’s favorite culinary region by far¬† is Asia. Thanks to my parents’ easy access to authentic Chinese noodles (Oh Shanghai), we’ve been experimenting with buckwheat, glass, and some varieties we can’t identify due to the Chinese-only packaging. My favorite is buckwheat with chicken or shrimp and veggie stir fry. No sauce needed, just some soy and Sriracha to top it off !

Best Chinglish packaging instructions: “Heat the water. Put the stuff in the hot water. Remove the stuff from the water. Eat the stuff”

Cornish Game Hens, meet butter.
Cornish Game Hens, meet butter.

So one time this fall, Cornish game hens were on sale at Kroger. I HAD to buy them. When life hands you adorable baby chickens on sale, you say YES.

I had a BALL prepping the little birds- they’re so cute! We slathered those babies in herbed butter inside and out, then plopped them on a bed of potatoes, carrots, and onions. It was some of the most fun food we had all fall!

Best way to enjoy your Cornish hens: Making them dance while prepping them.

Curried Mussels

Recently mussels have been on sale like CRAZY at out grocery store. Tonight was the third time in the past month and a half we’ve had mussels and I think I’ve found my favorite recipe!

Every other time we have made them in a tomato sauce and served them over pasta. This was only “eh” to me. It wasn’t very flavorful and and grit from the mussels made the sauce awful.

So this time we went for a preparation of the Asian persuasion and it worked BEAUTIFULLY! We used this recipe from All Recipes and just subbed chicken stock for white wine and sauteed red onion for the green onion. At the end I threw in a can of bamboo shoots and we served it over rice with Sriratcha sauce to taste.

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Seriously y’all, go make this! Any grittiness from the mussels doesn’t show through AT ALL. I used hot Madras curry powder which led to a buttery yellow, delicate curry sauce. There were plenty of leftovers making a full recipe and serving 2, so you can bet we’re eating this tomorrow night too!

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The one thing I am curious about is does anyone know any good tips for avoiding shell breakage while steaming mussels? I’m always picking out shell fragments at the end of cooking.
Also I love a good beer pairing with dinner if anyone has any suggestions for a good beer pair with curries? With this, Matt had Franziskaner and I had Rogue Dead Guy (just because that was all we had) and those Ales seemed to work with the dish!

3 Things from my kitchen.

It was really difficult coming back to my little apartment from Christmas and New Years vacation. ¬†I just couldn’t put my heart back into meal planning, cleaning, and cooking after those blissful weeks at the parents’ house. ¬†But the school routine has put me back in my place and I’m back trolling the internet for new dinner ideas!

Lately I have made a few discoveries in the kitchen that have helped give dinner planning a little lift:

1. Mashed Potatoes-  This was by FAR my favorite food growing up and now it is  in regular rotation as a dinner side.  Buying a bag of red potatoes is a cheap way to get a lot of mileage from one purchase, which my wallet really appreciates.  This past week when I was making a batch to go with Salmon burgers (sans bun), I realized we were out of milk and sour cream. Depression set in for about 10 seconds until I found a tub of ricotta in the back of the fridge.  The cheese gave the potatoes the same amount of creaminess as sour cream and milk with some added richness. It was great! I really want to try this with goat cheese next time.

2. Spaghetti squash- Holy. WOW. I will eat spaghetti squash any way it is served to me! My favorites have been with butter, oregano and thyme, plus a little parmesan on top, or in stir-fry.  Stir-frying the baked squash strands was just the most brilliant idea in the world, which I think I got from Mark Bittman.  We just mixed in mushrooms, onions, and other veggies, topped with some teriyaki  and went to town. It is FANTASTIC.

3. The crock pot- I’m so happy I finally have a crock pot in my possession! It has given me so many more options in the kitchen. ¬†I have made pot roast, jambalaya, and even Rotel cheese! It’s great to prep everything in the morning and have Matt turn it on around lunch time so he can eat before ultimate practice and I can eat when I get home. ¬†My next big plan is to get a pork butt and make either great barbecue or carnitas. If anyone has a good recipe, send it my way!