Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Year of the Zookeenwah!!

2012 was the year of the Kale Salad in our house.  That recipe that Jen mentioned or posted about a couple weeks back, with the kale, chick peas, feta, raisins, shredded carrots, onion, etc. and a dressing of Bragg's soy, lemon juice and oil.  It remains a favorite around here and I've tried all sort of variations that haven't failed me yet.  My kids screech with joy when Kale Salad is on the menu and I enjoy this time of life before school and peer pressure and 'coolness' begins to trump taste buds.

Anyway, 2013 is a new year and although Kale Salad will continue to be tops with the Barnyard clan, there's a new salad in town.  I think I may be the biggest fan of this one, but I think it will grow on everyone and I anticipate it being the next big thing.  I can say with confidence that this is my favorite recipe that I've posted on here as of yet, and I've only made it twice.
It's so simple and has this amazing, super light and fresh flavour, with a just a hint of kick hidden somewhere in each bite.

Zuquinoa Salad (get it!?  zuchinni-quinoa!? Not just a pretty face! Clever too!haha)

I'm not great at measuring things and for this one it really doesn't matter, so here's what you need (and I'm pretty sure you have nearly all of this in your fridge/cupboard).
Cooked quinoa (if we ever had leftover quinoa we'd use it, but I just cook some and then run it under cold water-same thing.)
Shredded carrots
Shredded zucchini
Fresh dill
Olive Oil
Vinegar (I've used both balsamic and red wine vinegar and they were both good, will try white wine next).
salt and pepper.

That's it.  Seriously.  Sounds kind of bland right?
I think it's the dill that does it for me.  (In all fairness Mark made a subtle comment that suggested maybe I'd gone a little overboard on the dill, but I thought it was just right, so add it to your taste).  I've only used Jen's fresh dill so I don't know what dried dill would be like, but I think it's the freshness of everything that makes it so light yet satisfying.  I used a lot of zucchini (one whole smallish one of both green and yellow) and a fair bit of feta, but I could have cut back on both without affecting the final product.  I wasn't wasting the new candy baby carrots on shredding so I used old, last season carrots and they were fine.

 This is not the most appealing picture, but I was too excited to eat it that I forgot to take a proper, pretty, plated one, so this is the best I've got.
The other great thing about this recipe was that it was super kid-friendly.  They all got to grate something and I've found that the minute that kids participate in the cooking, they are then invested in the eating.
 small hands cutting the dill and feeling pretty important. (Admittedly for a different recipe than this one, but it makes my point that kids will nearly always eat what they (help) cook.)

I plan on taking this recipe with me to any potluck, family gathering, etc. that I go to from now on.  In a world of cheese-laden casseroles, sweet bbq meats, heavy white breads and sugary desserts, this will be such a pleasant taste of sunshine (not that we don't all love some cheese and ham and butter on white bread!). 

Go make this right now. 


Thursday, July 25, 2013

Flower petals, fish scales and swiss chard

It's easy to get caught up in this chip rage of turning anything and everything into chips, as if it will make super nutritious vegetables go down like junk food to even the most discerning of veggie-discriminatory eaters.  I'm a victim of the rage as well and this week decided that our household was rather radished-out and maybe trying them in chip form would go over well.
Are those watermelon radish gorgeous or what!?  
 Anyway, I sliced up the daikons and the watermelon radish with the mandolin slicer, had my kitchen helpers lay them out on a baking sheet and seasoned them with olive oil, salt and pepper.  We broiled them until they started to brown and then turned them until they looked ready.
They shrunk considerably but were very pretty as they cooked.  Lucy and I couldn't decide if they looked like big translucent fish scales from a tropical sea somewhere or flower petals.  Maybe it was because they were so pretty and we raved about their appearance so much that we set ourselves up for disappointment, or maybe it was because the pretty pink was deceiving and we forgot that they were radishes, but these were not the raving success I had hoped for. 
Don't get me wrong, they were good.  Well, they were as good as radishes are, so if you love radishes you would love these chips.  I think getting creative with the seasoning would be good next time. Maybe add some garlic powder or curry or something would be good.  My four year old felt they needed some dip, but he is a big advocate for dip with just about anything, so take that as you will.

Anyway, since those were only marginally successful, we decided to make the best of our big beautiful swiss chard.  Again, this is a Canadian Living recipe and again, uses chicken (you may notice a trend heavy on the chicken side in the next little while).
Chicken and Swiss Chard Pasta
1 lb swiss chard
Olive Oil
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, sliced thinly.
1 onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 red peppers (I used one)
3 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. fresh rosemary
4 cups pasta of choice (I used an organic veggie spiral)
2 tsp. arrowroot starch (recipe calls for 4 tsp. cornstarch)
1 1/2 cups chicken broth (you could probably get away with salted water)
1/4 cup parmesan cheese

Separate the chard into stalks and leaves and chop both.  Set aside separately.
Cook chicken.  Transfer to plate, keep warm.
Cook onion, garlic, pepper and chard ribs until softened, over med. heat. 
Return chicken to the pan.
Add vinegar, rosemary, chard leaves, cover, cook, stirring occasionally until chard is wilted.
Cook pasta, drain well, return to pot.
Add chard mixture and toss to combine.
Whisk starch into broth, add to skillet and cook over high heat, whisking until thickened. 
Stir into the pasta.
Sprinkle with parm cheese to serve.
The swiss chard, leaves separated from the stalks.  A picture of the final product from the cook book in the foreground. 

This recipe was a big winner.  I think it will make a really good cold pasta salad as well, maybe without the chicken.
 The chard added so much colour, but lost it's sometimes overwhelming flavour and added just enough kick to make you remember how good this is for you! haha.

We'll definitely be making this one again. And we may just try the radish chips again sometime and get a bit more creative next time.

Have fun cooking!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Like White on Rice...or NOT!

There are rare moments in the exhausted life of a mother of four young kids when the light shines down from above and there is affirmation that I might actually be doing something right.  When I brought this week's share to the van and the kids started riffling through it, shrieks of delight over, "YES! KALE!" and "PEAS!? TWO kinds!?!!" and "Are those beets!? BEETS FOR SUPPER!" I decided that in at least one part of their lives, I'm not entirely messing up.  :)  Thanks Jen, for making me look like a good mom to my kids.  haha!

My own personal shriek of delight came when I saw the cilantro.  It's a true love/hate food and I'm planted firmly in the love category.  I'll save my favorite cilantro recipe for when the tomatoes come on, but that pretty green bouquet had me inspired to make a stir-fry with Cilantro Lime Rice.  If there's something that cilantro loves, it's citrus.  And curry.  Or both.  Always a reliable garnish for curry, cilantro is especially good with sweeter Thai curries.  It's got just enough bite to lighten the sweetness a bit.   
I'm a huge Jamie Oliver fan because although I appreciate the nutritional emphasis of his cooking, I appreciate even more the simplicity of his recipes and that he proves that real, good food can be made with simple ingredients in a short time (if necessary- slow food is good too!).  The rice recipe is his and as per usual, elevates a typically boring dish like rice, to new heights.  Good with most stir-fries, if I had had the ingredients for a Thai curry with coconut milk, it would have been my first choice for a companion.  This recipe is also good with Mexican dishes, as the lime brings the brightness I associate with the spices from that part of the world.

Anyway, if you weren't aware, I have recently take on the venture of a chicken CSA (there's still a couple shares left!), so I had some fresh tenders in the fridge that were in need of cooking and they were calling out to those glorious snow peas (that I feel I can appreciate since I helped picked them last year and know the feeling of seemingly hours of picking only to have the bottom of the trug barely covered).  So I made this quick chicken and snow pea stir-fry and served it over the Cilantro Lime rice.

Cilantro Lime Rice 
(Basmati is my go-to rice, but you could use most any kind with this recipe.  The key to keeping the basmati from getting sticky is to resist the urge to stir it as it cooks, or while it's cooling.  Just trust that it will do it's thing.)
So, cook the rice. (Whatever quantity you like)
Chop up a big bunch of cilantro (again to your taste, whatever quantity suits you best)
2 limes (who keeps limes on hand!?  This is what the recipe calls for, but I always just use some good quality lime juice that I have in the fridge).  If you DO have limes, be sure to use the zest and the juice.  This can be a lot of juice, so start with one lime (or a glug of bottled juice) and add to your taste from there. 

Jamie says to add the cilantro and lime to the rice, drizzle over a glug of olive oil (he can't make anything without some evoo, but I think you can get away without it here if you don't have any on hand) and then season with salt and pepper as you see fit.

Very simple, but adds so much to otherwise plain ol' rice.  In the chaos that is mealtime here, I failed to get a picture of the rice, but you can probably picture white rice with lots of green flecks. :)

My stir-fry was pretty basic and quick (as stir-fries should be), but if you're looking for a nice, go-to home made sauce, this is an easy one:

1 tbsp. Bragg's soy seasoning (this is a great GMO-free alternative to regular soy sauce- find it in the natural section at the grocery store)
1-2 tsp arrowroot starch (typically this is cornstarch, but I don't trust the corn to be GMO-free so I've adapted my recipes to use arrowroot starch instead-also found in the natural section of the grocery store.  It's nearly the same as cornstarch, but can get a bit gelatinous if there's not enough liquid with it, or it heats too quickly.)
1 tbsp. sugar
3 tbsp. broth (or usually water, since WHO has 3 tbsp. of broth around!?)
If I have hot sauce, a dash of that could go in, but usually I just toss in a big pinch of red pepper flakes for some heat.  Cayenne pepper would work too.

Wisk that together and have ready to add to your stir-fry ingredients at the end of cooking.

The other two key ingredients are garlic and ginger (fresh or powdered), which should cook along with the ingredients from the start.

In mine, seen here, I had chicken, snow peas, red pepper, peanuts and walnuts.  Cooked the chicken first, set aside, very quickly sauteed veggies and then combined everything with the sauce.  Voila.  Not the BEST companion with the cilantro lime rice, but better than plain rice for sure.

 If you're one of those people who just simply hate cilantro- don't feel guilty.  Apparently you have a genetic variant that causes it to taste like soap to you, so it's not your fault!  It's sad and unfortunate, since you're missing out, but not something you can help.  Go chop up your basil and do something fantastic with that instead.  Give your cilantro to a genetically unvariable neighbour and maybe you'll get something great and unsoapy in return. :)


Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Week 3- Don't Turnip Your Nose At This!

Each week when I pick up my veggies the first thing that we all dive for are the white turnips.  The kids and I usually devour them like apples before we even get home, but today I hoarded them in the bottom of the bag and we all munched on the broccoli instead (which was just as big a hit with everyone).  I had big plans for my turnips tonight.  I had saved last week's pretty pink turnips so that I could make a bigger batch of this recipe and it turned out to be just enough for the 5 of us (little Sol is a ways from munching on turnips just yet) with the pink turnips from this week and last and the white turnips (minus one for the chef to munch on) from this week.
I had the privilege last fall, in one amazing week, to eat at a number of nice restaurants in Charlottetown that had sourced Jen's sweet and crunchy summer turnips (it was coincidence, I wasn't on a Jen's-turnip-hunt, although that's a great idea!).  The chefs had prepared them different ways but perhaps my favorite was a sidedish at Sim's, which I remember as being aMAZEing, but the details are fuzzy.  In an attempt to recreate my fuzzy delicious memory, I threw some of my favorite things in a pot and it came out pretty darn good!

 So, I cut up the bigger turnips into quarters or halves and left the babies whole (even with a little top on- in a futile effort to feel more like a foodie- a fail according to the kids).  Tossed them in a thick bottomed pot (a dutch oven would be great) along with butter, salt and a splash of maple syrup (yep, that pretty much sums up my favorite things). 
 I let it all simmer for about 8 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent the syrup from burning.  Surprisingly there was a fair bit of liquid, so I took the cover off for the last bit to let it steam off and really carmelize.
An important factor in recipes for me is that I can do it while getting everything else ready and deal with four needy small humans at the same time.  I could easily read a book, kiss a boo-boo, jiggle a carseat, get multiple glasses of water and answer a terrible, home made knock-knock joke while letting this do its thing. 
 My only tips are to resist the urge to leave that pretty pink peel on the turnips- they seemed to get even more bitter with cooking. And the white turnips cook faster, so maybe leave them in bigger pieces.  Leaving the tops on made for pretty presentation, but they were hard to cut off for those who insisted they not be eaten (I ate my tops and they were fine, but apparently the under 5 set are not into that).

For a summer meal on a hot night, after a busy day, this was quick, easy and really tasty.  The variations with this could go far and wide too.  I'm sure braising carrots and onions with the turnip would be awesome too- and that's just the beginning.  Maybe some Bragg's soy sauce instead of the syrup for a more savoury dish?  So many possibilities! 


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Week 2- It's Easy Eatin' Greens!

At the risk of sounding like I'm having trouble 'using up all the greens', this weeks post is my two favorite ways to get the lesser known/loved greens into our family of 6 (varying from a large, hard working farmer to a picky, non-verbal 2.5 year old).

It starts with a recipe from Mark's cousin, Vanessa, who lives simply and beautifully and this recipe reflects just that. 
 A rule of thumb in this house is that bacon generally makes all things better.  So when I'm testing out a new, unsure ingredient or recipe, I can usually rely on bacon to help me cause.  Bacon is an extra special treat around here because GMO-free bacon is nigh impossible to track down.  We raised two of our own pigs last summer and this recipe used up the last three slices of bacon until this year's pigs will be ready (September!).  I've conceded and bought a box of pork from a local farmer whose pigs get to at least happily roam around outside, to get us through the summer, but I can't wait to have some GM free pork again come fall.
Easy Greens User-Upper
lemon juice  (Superstore carries a really good organic one, in the health food section)
greens (I used mizuna and tatsoi, but most anything would work)
parmesan cheese

1. Fry bacon (quantity up to you, but three or four slices of thick cut was enough for us.)  If I have time and resources I also cut up veggies to cook with the bacon for the last couple minutes; red pepper, onion, mushrooms maybe, etc.  Oh!  Add the garlic for the last bit of cooking as well, although if you forget, it's fine just tossed in the hot pasta afterwards. 

2. Cook pasta.  (I used organic veggie spirals (sourced from Speerville Mills) in this picture, but long pasta works even better.  Anything will work. Keep it simple.)

3.  Drain the pasta, add the bacon and garlic (and guests if veggies included), add a splash of lemon juice, pepper and half the parm. cheese.  Toss quickly.

4. Add greens.  I only used half the bag of mizuna and half the bag of tatsoi, but I sort of wished I had used it all.  The mizuna was especially perfect with this recipe.  It looks like a lot for a minute, but...

...once it's tossed in, and left to wilt for a few minutes, it shrinks away pretty quickly. 

5. You can toss in more parm at the end if you want. 
What I love most about this recipe is that it's wide open to interpretation. You can add or take out whatever you want (although I think the garlic and parm is pretty key, along with the lemon juice).  Everyone in this house loves it and it's so quick for those busy meal times when 'you just don't have time to cook'. 

Last year, when working with Jen at the farm and working on expanding my repertoire of vegetable intake I ran up against two veggies that I just couldn't make friends with.  It got to the point where I would try to trade off harvesting them because I hated the smell of them that much (a bit dramatic, but that's sort of my gig I guess).  I don't like licorice, so fennel was out and as much as I wanted to like it, arugula made me gag.  It's in the same pool as cilantro in terms of being a 'love it or hate it' food and I have always fallen into the latter category. 
But not tonight.  Tonight I found a way to love it.  A lot.

Wilted Arugula on Pizza
 Pizza dough:
1 1/2 cup flour (a mixture of white and whole wheat)
2 tbsp. of flax (if I have it on hand and remember to add it)
2 1/4 tsp. yeast (or one package if you buy it that way)
2/3 cup warm water
2 tsp. honey
2 tsp. olive oil

Mix dry ingredients.  Mix wet ingredients.  Combine, knead for a couple minutes, let sit (if you have time- if not, slap it in a pan while you get everything else ready.)

(I've got a great home made sauce recipe, but let's be honest, most of the time I crack open a jar of organic tomato and basil pasta sauce and it works perfectly well.)

My secret to perfect pizza is to very quickly cook my ingredients before putting them on the dough.  So I cut up everything as per usual and just toss it in a hot pan to soften it a bit and bring out a little different flavour.  The key to incorporating a ton of arugula is to slice it up thin before wilting it.  

This pizza also has a lot of fresh basil sliced up, on top of the cheese as well, so it was flavour city!  But needed no bacon and was a huge hit with my crew.  Accompanied with fresh romaine lettuce, home made croutons and my Ultimate Ceasar Dressing from last week's post- life IS good!

I never intended for these posts to be this long, but I'm so inspired by the quality of this food that I can't stop!  The kids and Mark now never touch anything until I've given the ok, just in case I want to take a picture of it.  haha. 

Here's to good food and great farmers!