It’s not Easy being Green

Farmer Season is drawing to a close.  Last week was our last regular season box, so after 4 more weeks of extended season, we’ll be done for the year.  We received a giant bunch of Swiss chard, a bag of baby Swiss chard, and for some reason I was temporarily insane enough to grab an extra bag of baby chard from the discard box.  I gave one bag to Jin, but I had already pulled this recipe in anticipation of the chard.  We did get rainbow chard earlier in the season, but we had to make do with the green stuff this week.   The recipe is from Better Homes and Gardens’ June 2016 issue.

http://www.bhg.com/recipe/black-bean-rainbow-chard-tortillas/

Black Bean & Rainbow Chard Tortillas

We topped these beauties with sour cream, sweet chili sauce, and a generous squeeze of lime.  Despite the tostada connotation, we did roll them up and eat them like tacos.  Verdict:  Fantastic!  The recipe was light on prep, and I do love anything that gets cooked in one pan.  The tortilla was slightly crispy and the beans added a creaminess that was unexpected.  Great for meatless Monday or any day of the week.  You could easily use spinach or arugula or a blend of greens in place of the chard, but it was pretty perfect as is. Will definitely make these again!

Cat Treats for a Dog’s Birthday

About a year ago, one of my first posts was about frozen treats I brought to a doggy birthday party.  Almost 100 posts later, I attended Billy and Skeeter’s birthday once again.  This year, I made this recipe for their birthday treats, a clipping I’ve literally been holding since their last party.

The recipe was published in Family Circle, August 2015.  I couldn’t find a link to the Family Circle recipe, but I found the actual person who submitted the recipe to the magazine!  Check out her gorgeous and photogenic cat here:

http://www.thecookierookie.com/3-ingredient-salmon-cat-treats/

10 oz canned salmon (undrained)
1 egg (beaten)
2 cups whole wheat flour

  1. Heat oven to 350°. Pulse 10 oz canned salmon (undrained) in a food processor and chop as finely as possible.
  2. In a stand mixer, combine salmon, 1 egg (beaten) and 2 cups whole wheat flour until dough forms. If dough is too dry, add up to 1/3 cup water. If dough is too wet or sticky, add a bit more flour. Dough should be tacky but not sticky.
  3. Roll out dough on a floured surface until about 1/4 inch thick. Use a 3/4-inch cookie cutter in the shape of your choice to create your treats.

Some very slight adjustments that I made include mashing up the salmon right in my mixing bowl, and beating the egg in the bowl, not before adding it to the bowl.  I needed more than 1/3 cup of water, but it was easy to tell when the dough was the right consistency to stick together.

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Halloween birthdays get Fall and Halloween-shaped cookies.  I made the tiny bits and balls for our cats, but ended up giving most of the treats to the birthday boys.  My 3 doofuses weren’t interested in freshly baked treats, though Husband was able to get 2 of the 3 to each eat one at official “treat time”, instead of when I finished baking the stinky things.  This recipe is not difficult if you don’t despise roll-out cookies (I usually do).  The dough was quite easy to work with and didn’t require a lot of extra flour when rolling them out.  I wouldn’t make these again, only because my cats weren’t interested in the finished product.  I would happily make them for my friends’ cats and dogs (if you don’t tell the dogs about the cat treat part).  Happy birthday!

 

 

Vegetable Cake: Good, and Sort of Good for You)

Carrot cake: polarizing? Or something that everyone loves? I wasn’t a big fan as a child, but somewhere along the way my mom borrowed a recipe from a lady (I think my brother’s friend’s mom) whose secret to carrot cake was baby food carrots.  No grating, no mess, and the moistest (sorry Jen!) cake you ever ate.  Even as a child I was the odd person who thought frosting was too sweet, so my mother would literally leave a quarter of the cake without its cream cheese adornment.   I pulled this recipe from Good Housekeeping, September 2014, a couple of years into our relationship with the Farmer.  We received parsnips in one or two boxes each season, which I promptly turned into a delicious puree, but I thought parsnip cake sounded intriguing.  Unfortunately we’ve only received turnips this summer, so adjustments had to be made.

http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/food-recipes/a15941/spiced-parsnip-cake-recipe-ghk1014/

TOTAL TIME: 1:20
PREP: 0:30
LEVEL: Moderate
SERVES: 16

Ingredients
Cakes
  • 1 small butternut squash
  • 2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 c. granulated sugar
  • ⅔ c. brown sugar
  • ¾ c. vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 3 c. coarsely grated peeled parsnips
Brown Butter Frosting
  • ½ c. butter
  • 2 packages cream cheese
  • 2 c. confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 pinch salt

Directions

  1. In glass baking dish, combine butternut squash and 2 tablespoons water; cover with vented plastic wrap. Microwave on high 10 minutes. Let stand, covered, 5 min. Drain well; transfer to food processor. Puree until smooth. Cool completely.
  2. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease two 9-inch cake pans (or eight 4 1/2-inch pans). Line bottoms with parchment; grease.
  3. In med. bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, ginger, cinnamon, baking soda, salt and nutmeg; set aside.
  4. In lg. bowl, with mixer on medium speed, beat eggs, sugars, oil, vanilla, and 1 1/2 cups squash puree until well combined. (Reserve remaining puree for another use.) Add flour mixture; mix just until incorporated. With rubber spatula, fold in parsnips. Divide among pans. Bake 35 to 40 minutes (25 to 30 for small pans)nor until toothpick inserted into centers comes out clean. Cool on wire racks 10 minutes. With small knife, loosen layers from sides of pans. Invert onto wire racks. Peel off parchment; cool. Can be wrapped in plastic and refrigerated up to 1 day or frozen up to 2 weeks.
  5. Place 1 cake layer onto cake plate. Top with one-third of frosting (recipe below); spread evenly. Add second layer on top. Spread remaining frosting on top of cake. Cake can be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated up to 3 days.
  6. To make the frosting: In 1-quart saucepan, cook butter on medium 8 to 10 minutes or until brown and very fragrant, swirling frequently. Transfer to small bowl; refrigerate until just starting to set, about 30 minutes.
  7. In medium bowl, with mixer on medium speed, beat brown butter, confectioners’ sugar, and pinch salt until smooth. Makes 3 1/2 cups.

So I’ve made this recipe twice in the last 3 weeks.  The first time I used farmer squash, a winter variety called Hubbard. It’s pumpkin-like with a thick dark green skin.  I’ve roasted them and tried to eat them like acorn squash, but it’s on the drier side and clumpy, so I haven’t found a great application (until now).  I cut it in half, scooped out the seeds and roasted it (375°-400° until a fork pokes through easily, 40-60 minutes), cooled it slightly and scooped it from the shell. I used it in place of the butternut squash and subbed my turnips in for the parsnips (the grater disc on the food processor did this in a minute).  The layers baked perfectly and the mixture reminded me of a classic spice cake.  I used reduced fat cream cheese, which worked perfectly.

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Yesterday, I used farmer pumpkin in place of the squash and made cupcakes instead of layer cakes, plus a 5 inch cake in a springform pan (dinner party next week!).  To use all of the pumpkin I’ve roasted in the last 3 weeks, I quadrupled the recipe (into 2 double batches), which made over 80 cupcakes.  The second bunch of turnips only yielded about a cup and a half of shreds, so I also grated a bag of baby carrots and mixed the 2 together.  I also reduced the white sugar to 2/3 of a cup (the frosting is sweet enough to make up for the change).

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Verdict:  I cannot rave about this recipe enough!  Simple, versatile, adaptable, and delicious.  A definite keeper.  Even vegetable haters will eat this cake.  I put half of the unfrosted cupcakes in the freezer and have already pulled out a 1/2 dozen to frost for another occasion: cake is still tender and tasty.  Seriously, make this cake!

Clean Eating Pie

August Pie time came after a week of gluttony on our first-ever cruise to Alaska.  I caught a bug either the last day on board or the night we ate out upon returning home, and I was pretty convinced that I was never cooking or eating again.  But I got my strength back after the better part of a week, and we made this pie to honor our pie tradition while trying to get back on track to better eating habits.  The recipe came from the August 2016 issue of Prevention.  After much searching, I’ve decided this recipe is not anywhere on the web.  So there’s no link, only the recipe for the crust and the pie as published in my print issue.

The crust came together beautifully in the food processor, although the first time I made it I added too much water.  The dough was very sticky from my mistake, so it took a little longer to chill.  Other than that mishap, it was easy to handle (I used white whole wheat flour), rolled out easily (you can patch it; it’s very forgiving), and baked well (I used this dough as a crust for another pie requiring a pre-baked shell and experienced similar success).

Basic Whole Wheat Pie Dough

In food processor, pulse 2 1/4 C whole wheat flour and 1/2 t kosher salt.  Add 12 T (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, diced, and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add 4-6 T cold water and pulse until mixture just comes together.  Add more water if necessary but do not overmix.  Divide into 2 equal pieces, wrap each in plastic, and chill at least 30 minutes.

I hate biting into a freshly baked pie only to find that the center of the crust is all soggy and limp.  Though pre-baking is a terrible pain, it’s often worth the effort.  I was dubious that this crust didn’t call for a short pre-bake, but it turned out fully cooked after the filling did its thing.

Cleaned-Up Blueberry Streusel Pie

Serves 10
Prep: 10 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 20 minutes

6 cups fresh blueberries
1/3  cup tapioca flour
1 T lemon juice
2 t lemon zest
1/8 t nutmeg
3/4 cup brown sugar, divided
1 t cinnamon, divided
pinch salt
1 cup old-fashioned oats
1/4 cup sliced almonds
1 T unsalted butter, cut up
1/2 recipe basic whole wheat pie dough

Heat oven to 425°. Combine blueberries, flour, lemon juice, lemon zest, nutmeg, 1/2 cup of the brown sugar, 1/2 t of the cinnamon, and the salt.  In a separate bowl, combine oats, almonds, butter, remaining 1/4 cup of brown sugar, and remaining 1/4 t cinnamon.

Roll dough into 12″ round, press into 9″ pie plate, and crimp edges.  Add blueberry filling and top with oat mixture. Bake until topping begins to brown, about 20 minutes.  Reduce heat to 375° and tent pie with foil.  Bake until filling bubbles, 40 to 50 more minutes.  Cool before serving.

I realize that this recipe still has a lot of sugar and butter, and struggle with how this pie is justified as “clean,” but we do like our sweet treats in this house (I’m just putting it out there that I know this isn’t a healthy recipe choice, despite the title), so we’ll walk a little bit more after indulging.

Husband and I have executed many a terrible fruit pie fondly (or not so fondly) known as pie soup.  Fruit fillings can be so wet, since you can never count on the water content of the fruit or the amount of juices that can be released.  We met a pie cookbook author at a local book signing, and her recommendation is to pre-cook those fruit fillings on the stovetop with lots of cornstarch.  They magically transform from fruit to filling that literally looks like it came out of a can.  Tapioca flour has the same gelatinizing qualities, so I wasn’t worried about the filling in this pie being soupy.

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We used a disposable pie plate because we cut the recipe in half (we only had 3 cups of blueberries), and it didn’t look like the filling would be enough to fill our favorite deep-dish pie plate.

Verdict: mixed reviews.  We ate the first slices after the pie had chilled overnight, and it was perfectly jelled, slicing like a bakery pie.  However, I felt like the chill dulled the flavor of the filling.  The texture of the crust and the filling was textbook.  The next night we heated the slices in the microwave for 30 seconds or so, and the flavors (the lemon and the blueberry) were more pronounced.  If using this recipe again, I would reduce the tapioca flour by about a tablespoon.  I’d prefer a little juice as opposed to a slice that completely stands up on its own.  I’m definitely using the crust recipe again (there’s a 1/2 batch in my freezer right now, and September’s pie used the other half.  That recipe is a keeper for sure.

Farmer Leeks

I’ve been waiting and waiting for leeks in the CSA box.  I know we’ve received them in the past, and I have been planning to make this soup for weeks and weeks.  My house has also been relying on chickpeas lately as a vegetarian protein source all summer long, so I’ve been stockpiling them (canned and dried) like crazy.  The best part of the leek showing up when it did was the opportunity I had to use up the rest of a bag of wilting power greens: baby kale, chard, and spinach.

http://www.bhg.com/recipe/chickpea-leek-spinach-soup/#page=0

Chickpea, Leek & Spinach Soup

Any tender green could take the place of the spinach. Try baby kale, watercress, or even dandelion greens.

  • Makes: 4 servings
  • Serving Size: 2 cups
  • Yields: 8 cups
  • Total Time: 25 mins

Directions

  1. In a 4-qt. pot heat oil over medium heat. Add leeks. Cook, stirring occasionally, 5 to 7 minutes or until very tender but not browned (reduce heat if leeks begin to brown). Stir in chickpeas and garlic. Cook about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  2. Add stock and 1 cup water. Bring to boiling. Reduce heat. Add lemon juice. Simmer, uncovered, 5 minutes. Gradually stir in the spinach and thyme. Cook until the spinach is wilted, about 1 minute. Season to taste with kosher salt and black pepper. Serve immediately. Makes 4 servings.

Nutrition Facts

Per serving:  265 cal, 10 g fat (1 g sat. fat, 2 g polyunsaturated fat, 5 g monounsaturated fat), 0 mg chol, 856 mg sodium, 33 g carb, 9 g fiber, 6 g sugar, 13 g pro

The recipe calls for 2 leeks, but the farmer only gave me one.  I didn’t want to halve the recipe and have only 2 cups of soup as an end product, so I supplemented the leek with three big green onions.  Everything else I did as written in the original recipe.

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I love this recipe!  Cooking the leeks was relatively hands-off, and they were so fragrant as they softened.  The rest of the cooking steps went quickly and I was tasting in no time.  I added salt and pepper in two stages.  The lemon in the broth was bright and fresh, and the rich onion-y flavor was deep and wonderful.  The greens gave an earthiness and the chickpeas were little grainy pops of texture.  Verdict:  I would definitely make this again. Happy soup weather!

Spaghetti (Squash) Bolognese

Farmer has been sending us so many spaghetti squash! I begged my friend Meghan to take one off my hands; I made a HUGE lasagna with squash strands instead of noodles; one is cooked in my refrigerator waiting to become Pad Thai; 2 more arrived yesterday (at least those 2 are tiny).

Recently I made a variation on the healthy version of spaghetti Bolognese linked here:

http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/food-recipes/easy/a36265/light-spaghetti-bolognese/

Ingredients

  • 2 small spaghetti squash
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 medium red pepper, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 12 oz. lean ground turkey
  • 1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 oz. grated Pecorino cheese
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper

Directions

  1. Poke holes all over spaghetti squash; microwave on High 15 minutes.
  2. In large saucepot, heat olive oil on medium-high; add onion, red pepper, garlic, and salt. Cook 10 minutes, stirring often. Add lean ground turkey, breaking up meat with side of spoon. Cook 5 minutes. Add crushed tomatoes. Simmer 10 minutes. Stir in grated Pecorino cheese and black pepper.
  3. Cut squash in half lengthwise; scoop out seeds and scrape strands with fork. Serve sauce over squash. Garnish with Pecorino.

About 435 cals, 25 g protein, 59 g carbs, 15 g fat 94 g sat), 14 g fiber, 790 mg sodium.

It was paired with a classic spaghetti Bolognese in the same feature in January 2016’s Good Housekeeping (http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/food-recipes/easy/a36264/classic-spaghetti-bolognese/)

LEVEL: Easy

SERVES: 6
 
Ingredients
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 lb. ground beef chuck
  • 1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 oz. grated Pecorino cheese, plus more for serving
  • 1/2 c. milk
  • 1 lb. spaghetti
  • basil leaves

Directions

  1. In large saucepot, heat olive oil on medium-high. Add onion, garlic, and salt. Cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add ground beef chuck. Cook 5 minutes. Add crushed tomatoes. Simmer 10 minutes.
  2. Stir in grated Pecorino cheese and milk. Toss with spaghetti, cooked. Garnish with basil leaves and Pecorino.
About 575 cals, 27 g protein, 70 g carbs, 21 g fat (7 g sat), 6 g fiber, 485 mg sodium.

I didn’t necessarily want this dish to be meatless; my original intent was to make spinach lasagna and serve it in the squash shell, but I came across this recipe and managed to morph the two for a healthiER version of the classic.

I did use a pound of lean ground beef, which I cooked with the onion and a yellow pepper (and the garlic and some basil salt). I added about a quart of homemade marinara instead of the crushed tomatoes. I spooned the sauce over the squash strands and topped it with a Parmesan Reggiano blend (I was too lazy to go to the garden for some basil, which would have rocked the photo).

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Verdict:  My sauce was a little heavy on carrot and yellow tomatoes, so the sauce came out more orange than red.  Other than that, I thought this dish was fantastic.  The flavors were bursting with the tomatoes, garlic, and seasoned beef, and the squash was sweet and a little crisp in spots.  The recipe wasn’t too labor intensive, and other than the time it took to microwave the squash, it came together pretty quickly.  I would definitely make this dish again.