At our house, we have a saying..."Don't yuk my yum!". We are trying to raise kids that aren't picky eaters by exposing them to many different kinds of food. It wasn't that long ago that one of my kids asked "Why can't you cook food like everyone else? Like tater tot hotdish?" The reason? It's not very healthy or creative and I think it's kind of gross. I don't cook like that. I like to use fresh, healthy ingredients to make great tasting good for you dishes. I've created this blog to share my favorite recipes with you.

Follow my kitchen adventures from using up vegetables from our weekly CSA box to baking and creative cooking.

Friday, October 28, 2011


When we first started getting weekly vegetable boxes from Red Goose Gardens, we were a little overwhelmed.  There were a lot of items in those boxes that we were unfamiliar with.  I posted about tomatillos a few weeks ago, which was one of the veggies that puzzled me.  Another vegetable I had no experience with was eggplant.  Maybe it's growing up in the midwest, maybe it's living in the United States, or maybe it's just my family, but I had never tried eggplant before 2009. 

I decided that with my two small children, if I make it look yummy, they would eat it.  I was right!  I bread it, bake it, cover it with homemade marinara and cheese and bake it some more.  Served with or without pasta, it is delicious.  My kids say it tastes like chicken nuggets, and one of them even claims my "Eggplant Parmesan" is her favorite supper.  

Eggplant Parmesan
1 large eggplant (or a few smaller ones), cut into 1/2 " slices
1 c. breadcrumbs (see this post for how to make your own)
1/4 c. grated parmesan cheese
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 c. milk
salt and pepper
1 c. Marinara sauce (I make my own, check it out!)
1/2 c. mozarella

Mix breadcrumbs with parmesan and a little salt and pepper.  Mix eggs and milk.  Heat oven to 400.  Spray a large cookie sheet with nonstick spray.  Dip eggplant slices in egg/milk mixture, then coat in breadcrumbs.  Lay on cookie sheet.  Bake for about 20 minutes until they start to brown.  Put a spoonful of  marinara and some cheese on top of each one and bake for about 10 more minutes, until the cheese is melty and browning. 

Depending on my mood, I may or may not serve this with whole wheat spaghetti and more marinara.  Sometimes, if I'm in the veggie mood, it's served with broccoli and some other vegetable.

I have also frozen the breadcrumb coated eggplant slices with success, but you have to peel and blanch them for about a minute before you dip them in the egg/milk mixture.  I then freeze them on a cookie sheet then put them in a baggie when frozen. 

We got about two dozen small eggplants one week this summer, and I had a hard time figuring out what to do with them.  They were too small for parmesan and I already had three baggies of that in the freezer.  I took the advice of Jaclyn at Red Goose Gardens and roasted it and froze it in meal-size portions.  I wash it, dice it up into 1/2 inch cubes, toss with olive oil, salt and pepper and roasted for about 45 minutes in a 400 degree oven.  I froze it in baggies and plan to use it in pastas, on pizzas, etc.  I hear it kind of tastes like mushrooms.

That's the eggplant on the left.
As is the case with a lot of items in our weekly vegetable delivery, the eggplant will last far into the winter.  When I want a quick and healthy supper, I can just pull out a baggie of eggplant and have parmesan or mix the cubes into marinara.  Can't beat the taste of summer all year 'round.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


I wrote about my love of fresh herbs a few weeks ago in this post.  This love is relatively new, but I now grow many of my own herbs throughout the year.  Basil is one of my favorite herbs.  I grow a little of my own, but will buy it in bulk if I can find it.  For about 6 weeks this summer, we got huge bundles of it in our boxes.  In addition, I also bought an additional two pounds early in the season.  I do several things with this basil.  First, I make pesto.  Second, I make marinara sauce. If there is any leftover (and there often is!), I freeze it. 

Basil Pesto
4 c. fresh basil leaves (make sure they're pretty, with no brown spots and unwilted)
2 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
4-6 T. olive oil
1 t. lemon juice
1/3 c. walnuts

In food processor or blender, combine 1 c. basil, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice and walnuts.  This gets all the non-herb ingredients mixed together.  Add more basil as the basil is combined.  Add a little water if you have trouble blending it together.  Use fresh or store in the freezer. 

Freezing pesto is super easy.  I put it in ice cube trays or mini muffin cups and throw it in the freezer.  When they are frozen, I put the cubes in baggies.  These keep forever and are great for a quick meal.

I use the pesto plain on hot pasta with a little parmesan cheese.  I also use it to punch up tomato-based pasta sauces on occasion.  My favorite way to use it is as an alternative to pizza sauce.  Top it with parmesan, chicken, black olives, sun dried tomatoes, onions, etc.  Delicious...

While it is certainly easier to buy a can of spaghetti sauce at the store, none are as good as homemade.  I like to think that my recipe is pretty easy, and a little work at the front end pays off huge with this amazing sauce: 

Homemade Marinara Sauce
1-2 T. Olive Oil
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed
2 14.5 oz cans of diced tomatoes (I use fire roasted) OR the equivalent in fresh tomatoes (I have several bags frozen from abundant times, so I sometimes use those)
1 T. minced fresh rosemary
a pinch or two of red pepper flakes
2 c. fresh (or frozen) basil, chopped

Heat oil in large pot.  When oil is hot, add onion and garlic, cooking until softened and fragrant.  Add in tomatoes, rosemary and red pepper. Cook for about 30 minutes on a low simmer, stirring regularly.  As the sauce starts to cook down and come together, add the basil.  Cook for about 15 more minutes, tasting for salt and maybe more pepper. 

I serve this over pasta chunky like it is or will use my immersion blender to make it nice and smooth.  Sometimes I cook it down even further and spice it up a little more and use it for pizza sauce.  More often, I freeze it in meal-sized containers and serve with pasta or eggplant parmesan. 

Freezing basil is easy.  I make sure it's clean, then put it in baggies and freeze it.  Sometimes I spread it on a cookie sheet first and then put it in baggies after it's frozen, but the end results are the same.  I use it in any cooked recipe that calls for basil.  It will not turn out as fresh and green as fresh basil, but the taste is the same.  I can't tell the difference, and it's a great way to carry over the taste of summer well into the winter.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Pumpkin Bread

Last weekend I baked the three kabocha squashes we got from our delivery from Red Goose Gardens.  I did a little research on them and discovered that they are a great substitute for pumpkin in most recipes, so I decided to bake them. 
Kabocha squashes.  I had three of them about the size of a baby's head.  Together, they made 6 cups of puree. 

To bake the squashes, I washed them, then just threw them in a 350 oven for about an hour.  I let them cool a little, then cut them in half, removed the seeds and stringy stuff and then scooped out the flesh & mashed it with a fork. 

I froze four cups in two cup portions for later baking adventures.  With the 2 cups I didn't freeze, I made pumpkin bread.  It's that time of year when the smell of baking pumpkin the the spices that go with it is just so delicious.  This recipe is totally stolen from, which always seems to have the exact recipe I'm looking for.  I made it my own by altering the spices a little, adding brown sugar and substituting plain yogurt for some of the oil, but the basic recipe is theirs. 

Pumpkin Bread (Makes one loaf.)
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 t. of salt
1 c. sugar (I used half white sugar and half brown sugar)
1 t. baking soda
1 c. pumpkin purée (or squash)
1/2 cup olive oil (I used plain yogurt for half of the oil)
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 c. water
1/2 t. nutmeg
1/2 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. ginger
1/4 t. ground cloves
1/2 c. chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350.  Mix together the flour, salt, sugar, and baking soda. Mix the pumpkin, oil, eggs, 1/4 cup of water, and spices together, then combine with the dry ingredients, but do not mix too thoroughly. Stir in the nuts.  Pour into a well greased  9x5x3 inch loaf pan. Bake 50-60 minutes until a toothpick poked in the very center of the loaf comes out clean. Turn out of the pan and let cool on a rack.

Tastes and smells like fall!  I doubled the recipe and froze one of the loaves for later.  Iwent out of town for a few days and looked for the extra loaf in the freezer when I got home, only to find it gone.  Phil and the girls had eaten it for breakfast.  Guess I'll have to make more!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

We're popping!

This post could just as well be titled "Things I could buy but I make them instead".  My goal today is to share my recipe for Jalapeno Poppers, but in order to get there, I need to talk about bread crumbs first.  Why buy a can of bread crumbs in the store for $2 when you can make your own out of the heels and leftovers of the bread in your fridge and freezer?  I save up these leftovers until I have quite a few pieces.

I usually try to dry them out a little by putting them in a low oven or leaving them on the counter for a day or two.  When they get a little crispy, I just put them in my food processor and grind them until they are crumbs.  This tray of bread made about 2 c. of crumbs. 

I freeze the crumbs in a big baggie and take them out as needed.  I use them for meatloaf filler, eggplant Parmesan, breading chicken or, in this case, jalapeno poppers.  

Jalapenos are not something I usually buy, but we have been getting an unusually large number of them in our weekly boxes from Red Goose Gardens.  As I showed in this earlier post about tomatillos, I sometimes roast them for later use or use them in salsas. 

Since Phil and I both like to order Jalapeno Poppers in restaurants, I wanted to find a recipe for baked poppers that would still be delicious but not so bad for us.  I hit the nail on the head on the first try with this recipe from Emeril.  I have made it many times and the only problem is that sometimes what I think are jalapenos are serranos and they are way too spicy for me to eat on their own like this.  Luckily, Phil doesn't care if I take a bite and decide they're too spicy, he'll eat my leftovers. 

This recipe is a little putzy, especially if you don't have the "Essence" herb/spice mix on hand, but it's easy to mix and the end results are delicious.  As I stated, this recipe is 100% stolen from the Food Network's website, so  Emeril gets the delicious credit for this one. 

Baked Jalapeno Poppers
12 fresh jalapeno peppers, halved lengthwise, stems, seeds and membranes removed
6 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 c. grated Monterey Jack or mozzarella cheese
1/2 t. cumin
1/2 t. cayenne, or less, to taste
2 large eggs
2 T. milk
8 t. Essence, recipe follows
1 c. dry breadcrumbs
1/2 c. flour

Preheat the oven to 350. Lightly grease a baking sheet and set aside.  In a bowl, cream together the cream cheese, Monterey Jack cheese, cumin, and cayenne.  In a small bowl, beat together the eggs, milk, and 2 teaspoons of the Essence. In a shallow dish, combine the breadcrumbs and remaining 4 teaspoons of Essence. In a third dish, combine the flour and remaining 2 teaspoons of Essence. Spread 1 tablespoon of the cheese mixture into the middle of each jalapeno half. One at a time, dredge in the flour, dip into the egg mixture, then dredge in the bread crumbs, pressing to coat. If necessary, repeat the process. Place the coated peppers, cut side up, on the prepared baking sheet and bake until the filling is runny and the crust is golden, about 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and serve immediately with ranch dressing.

*Essence (Emeril's Creole Seasoning):

2 1/2 T. paprika
2 T. salt
2 T. garlic powder
1 T. black pepper
1 T. onion powder
1 T. cayenne pepper
1 T. dried leaf oregano
1 T. dried thyme
Combine all ingredients thoroughly and store in an airtight jar or container.

Obviously this is too many for the two of us, so I try to make them when we have company or when we are at the lake.  Hopefully, they reheat well because about half the pan is leftover in the refrigerator.  Lunch anyone?  

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

What to do with Tomatillos?

We have been getting loads of  tomatillos in our CSA boxes from Red Goose Gardens for the past few weeks. In Spanish, the word for tomatillo (tomato verde) literally means green tomato.  They are usually about the size of a golf ball, so a little smaller than most tomatoes.  They are used often in Mexican cooking and I tend to stay with that theme.  90% of the time, I make salsa verde out of the tomatillos.  First, I remove the papery covering, wash them and roast them in the oven to get good flavor out of them.

I roasted hot peppers at the same time, used a few for the recipe and froze the rest for later.  Not sure what I'm going to use them for, though.   
When they are cooled enough to handle, I make them into salsa verde.  There are many recipes for this out there, but this is my favorite: 

Salsa Verde
1 1/2 lb tomatillos
1/2 c. chopped white onion
1/2 c. cilantro leaves (I leave this out if I don't have it)
1 T.  lime juice
1/4 t. sugar
2 Jalapeño peppers, stemmed, seeded roasted (I roast them with the tomatillos)
Salt to taste

Place tomatillos, lime juice, onions, cilantro, chili peppers, sugar in a food processor and pulse until all ingredients are finely chopped and mixed. Season to taste with salt. Store in refrigerator or freezes well in baggies. 

This salsa is often eaten with chips just like any other salsa, but I think it's a little sour for that.  As I said in a previous post about Chicken Enchiladas, I most often use this salsa as enchilada sauce.  This time, however, I used it as a base for Chicken Tomatillo Stew.  This recipe is a combination of recipes I found online, so I have a hard time citing my source.  My biggest influence is probably once again. 

Chicken Tomatillo Stew
2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes
Salt and pepper
Olive oil
2 onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1 t. cumin
1 t. coriander
2 c. chicken stock (I had homemade but boxed or canned is fine)
2 c. salsa verde (you can buy this rather than make it)
1 t. oregano
2 T. chopped cilantro

Heat about 2 T. of oil in a big soup pot over medium heat.  Add cubed chicken, seasoned with salt and pepper.  Brown chicken on all sides.  Remove chicken.  Heat a little more olive oil in the pot, then add the onions, cumin and coriander, cooking until onions start to soften.  Add back the chicken, then add chicken stock, tomatillo sauce and oregano.  Heat to simmering, then cook for about 20 minutes longer until chicken is done.  Stir in cilantro right before serving.  Serve over rice and topped with sour cream to cool down if the spice from the jalapenos in the salsa verde is a little much for you.

I forgot to remove the seeds from the peppers before I made the salsa so ours was pretty spicy.  I think the girls had just as much sour cream as stew in their bowls, but they both said they liked. it.  Everyone agreed that this recipe can be added to our regular rotation.  It's a great way to use all that salsa verde in the freezer!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Muffins for Breakfast!

I woke up yesterday morning in the mood to bake.  Olivia had a friend sleep over and I promised them I would make "Egg Muffins" for breakfast.  This recipe is one that I use with my students often.  It is easy, relatively inexpensive (especially with our fresh eggs) and pretty dang delicious.   The other day Phil came home with a magazine full of recipes and pointed at this one and said we should make it.  I had to laugh, because I make it all the time, just not at home.  I was happy to share this recipe with my family. I was hoping for leftovers to put in the freezer, but the five of us easily devoured 24 muffins, with Olivia claiming she ate 7. 

Egg Muffins (makes 24)
1 can of flaky biscuits (8 biscuits)
6 eggs, beaten
1/2 c. milk
1/4 c. bacon pieces or chopped ham (bacon is better)
1/4 c. shredded cheddar

Preheat oven to 400.  Spray muffin tin or cups with olive oil or nonstick spray.  Separate each biscuit into 3 layers and flatten each layer like a pancake.  Lay each pancake in a muffin tin, these will be the crust.  Sprinkle in a few pieces of bacon or ham.  Combine eggs and milk in a glass measuring cup with spout.  Pour egg mixture into muffin tins.  Top with cheese.  Bake for 20 minutes. 

These little silicon muffin cups are so cute and easy.  This kids love them and I love that they wash up nice, nothing sticks to them and they don't take up much space in the cupboard. 
 After the egg muffins were devoured, the girls asked for muffins.  I decided on banana chocolate chip because they're super easy and I know the kids love them.  I almost always have bananas in the freezer that are past their prime, but are still great for recipes.  I either make smoothies or shakes out of them or save them for baking. 

This is a recipe straight out of the Betty Crocker Cookbook I got for a wedding gift.  Once in a while, Betty gets it right, especially with the baking recipes.  I still use the chocolate chip cookie, banana bread, apple pie and apple crisp recipes from this cookbook as well.  The cookbook has spent so much time on my counter the pages are stuck together and some are missing.  I may have to go on ebay or amazon to find a replacement once of these days...

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins (12 muffins, but I always double it and freeze some)
3 medium mashed ripe bananas
3 T. vegetable oil
1 large egg
1/3 c. sugar
2 c. Bisquick
1/2 c. chocolate chips

Heat oven to 400.  Grease bottoms of muffin cups.  Beat bananas, oil, egg, and sugar until blended.  Stir in Bisquick, then chocolate chips until moistened.  Divide evenly between muffin cups.  Bake about 15 minutes until golden brown.

Combined, these two recipes made a great start to the weekend.  I honestly wish I had the time and energy to bake like this all the time.  I'll have to settle for getting my fix on weekends and making double batches to get me through the week.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Our chickens provided our supper

All eight chickens eating supper to make my supper!
 I am not a farmer, but I have chickens.  Eight of them.  If these chickens produce eggs at the rate they're supposed to, that means we'll be getting about 50 eggs a week.  That's a lot of eggs.  So far, we have been able to stay on top of them by using or selling them, but I'm thinking that eventually, there's going to be a backlog of eggs in my refrigerator.   Want to buy a dozen?  My kids charge $2 and split the proceeds as their fee for collecting the eggs and making sure the chickens have food and water. 

Aren't they pretty?  I learned early on in this process that the chickens with white feathers lay white eggs and the chickens with brown feathers lay brown eggs.  Since the brown chickens aren't all the same color brown, we have a variety of egg colors. 

It won't be long before I have enough eggs for a baking binge, and I'm working up to it.  Banana muffins and chocolate chip cookies have been in my thoughts lately, so look for those recipes soon.  

Until I really get the urge to bake, though, I am going to make do with supper.  Tonight's supper was a fritata.  When we first started getting our vegetable boxes from Red Goose Gardens a couple years ago, I was always looking for a way to use up the greens we got every week.  I discovered an easy, flexible fritata recipe online somewhere and have definitely made it my own.  Now that my goal is twofold, using up eggs and greens, I have even more reason to make this delicious meal.  I have served it for breakfast, lunch and supper.  It is good hot and at room temperature.  Whatever I do to this recipe, it turns out delicious, so just throw in what you have and don't worry about it. 

1 T. Olive Oil
1 small potato, washed and diced into 1/4 inch pieces
1 small onion, chopped into 1/4 inch pieces
1 small green pepper, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced (I use the stuff from the jar)
(if I have some zucchini, I will thin slice it an throw it in as well)
1/2 c. chopped ham
2-3 c. greens, washed and chopped (spinach, chard, beet greens)  frozen works too
handful of chopped basil
1/4 c. shredded cheese (swiss, cheddar, pepperjack, whatever you like)
6 eggs, beaten
1/4 c. milk or half and half

Heat oven to 400.  On top of stove, heat oil in oven proof skillet on medium.  Add potato, onion, pepper and garlic.  Cook, stirring often, until the veggies start to get soft, about 5 minutes.  Add ham, greens and basil.  Cover the pan to let greens wilt.  Cook, stirring often until the greens have shrunk down.  Turn off heat.  Top with cheese, then dump in egg mixture.  Slide into the oven and bake for about 20 minutes until the eggs are done. 

This goes well with nearly any fruit or vegetable side.  I have been known to cut up a melon, make a salad or heat up some frozen vegetables to go with it. In the spring, asparagus is an amazing match for this dish.  Tonight, we had Kale Waldorf Salad, also a result of an online search for ways to use up greens.  Kale is a sturdier green and I prefer it raw rather than cooked.  This salad is best on the second or third day after the flavors are blended, so plan ahead.  It lasts for a few days, so don't be afraid to make a lot, I eat it for lunch often lately.  The recipe is vegan and does not use mayonnaise, but the dressing is still creamy and delicious.

Kale Waldorf Salad (borrowed from the Whole Foods Website)
4 cups packed finely chopped raw kale, preferably dinosaur kale
1 large red apple, chopped, divided
1 cup thinly sliced celery
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped, divided
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons raisins or craisins, divided
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons water, more if needed
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/8 teaspoon sea salt

Place kale in a large bowl. Add half the apple to kale along with celery, 1/4 cup walnuts and 1/4 cup raisins. Put remaining apple in a blender along with remaining 1/4 cup walnuts, remaining 2 tablespoons raisins, mustard, water, vinegar and salt. Purée until well combined and slightly thick, adding water if needed to thin. Pour dressing over kale salad and toss to combine. 

Kale Waldorf Salad
Ok, I admit it.  Eating all these vegetables has me craving some chocolate.  I just ripped open a bag of dark chocolate chips and dug in.  Hey, dark chocolate it supposed to prevent heart disease or something, right?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

An easy weeknight dinner

Confession time.  I grow my own herbs.  In the prime of summer, I love sitting on my front porch with my basil, chives, cilantro, sage and rosemary plants and enjoying their wonderful aromas.  If Phil is sitting with me, I run my hands through the plants and quiz him to see if he can tell which herbs are which by their smell.  Now that it's fall, I have brought in the sage and rosemary to enjoy for a little while longer. Not only do we get two nice plants to make the living room look pretty, we also get delicious flavors for our meals.    I don't use them very often, but when I do, it's totally worth the effort of watering a plant twice a week.  Other herbs are waiting in the freezer to be used over the winter.  I made a ton a basil pesto for pizzas and pasta and have just plain frozen basil, parsley, thyme, rosemary and cilantro waiting to be thrown into a recipe as well. They don't look as pretty after they've been frozen, but they taste them same, which is way better than dried. 

Sage and Rosemary
 It's a proven fact that I love to cook.  I also love to eat really good food.  Sometimes, I either don't have the time to cook a big meal or I don't have the desire to spend  a lot of time in the kitchen.  Tuesday nights are like that at our house.  We've been at work and school for two days, our shorter nights of sleep are catching up with us and the to-do list is getting longer and longer.  For all of those reasons, tonight's supper revolved around a bag of frozen cheese ravioli and a big handful of fresh sage. This super easy recipe is one of my creations, so it bears my name :). 

Vicki's Cheese Ravioli with Sage
1-2 T. olive oil or butter (I use a combination)
4 garlic cloves, minced (I used the stuff out of the jar)
a big handful of sage leaves, washed and chopped
1/4 c. white wine or chicken broth (tonight I used chicken broth, but I prefer the wine version)
1 bag of frozen cheese ravioli or tortellini
1 pre-cooked chicken breast, shredded or cut in a tiny dice (we had roasted chicken for supper last night, so I just saved some.)
1/2 c. half and half
1/2 c. shredded parmesan cheese
salt and pepper

Heat a nonstick skillet on medium heat to melt the butter or heat the oil.  When the oil is hot, add the garlic and the chopped sage.  Cook until garlic and sage begin to brown, but don't burn them.  It takes maybe three minutes.  Add frozen ravioli and wine or broth to the skillet and cover.  Stir occassionally, cooking for about 10 minutes, or until the ravioli is no longer frozen.  Add chicken and cook for a few more minutes.  Just before serving, pour in the half and half and cheese.  Keep stirring.  As the half and half and cheese heat, they will melt and combine into a creamy sauce.  Add salt and pepper if you like and serve. 

It's not the healthiest meal I cook and it's not going to win any awards, but we all like it and it's super easy to throw together if you have all the ingredients.  To make up for the lack of vegetables in the main dish, I served it with a big lettuce salad with lots of veggies mixed in.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Add a little spice to your life!

I love my crockpot!  Just the other day I used it to cook up a huge batch of dry navy beans, which I then portioned into baggies and put in the freezer.  I often use it to make a roast or reheat soup from the freezer.  Twice in the last few weeks, I have used it to make chicken taco filling for enchiladas.   A little work earlier in the day or the night before pays off huge when you walk in the house and smell dinner cooking.  While I love to cook, there are some days when it's so nice to not have to put a lot of effort into supper.  

Chicken Taco Meat
2-3 frozen chicken breasts (I used 2 huge ones, just use common sense)
1 packet of taco seasoning
1-2 c. chunky salsa (however much you like)
1/2 c. water

Sprinkle the taco seasoning in the bottom of the crock pot.  Top with the chicken breasts.  Pour the salsa and water over the chicken breasts.  Cook for 4 hours on low.  Shred chicken with a fork. 

Before cooking.  It took about three minutes to get it all together. 
Just turn on the crock pot and walk away.  It takes care of itself!
I use the meat for chicken enchiladas, but it would be even easier just to make chicken tacos out of it.  This would be great for a taco bar when company comes over.  You can do all the prep in advance and just enjoy the conversation and a margarita.  This recipe could be easily doubled, you would probably just need to increase the cook time.   
After a few hours on low.  All I did was mash/shred the meat with a fork. 
Chicken Enchiladas 
8-10 flour tortillas
Chicken taco meat
Enchilada sauce (I  use homemade frozen salsa verde, but red or green sauce from a can would work, too.)
Shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 400.  Spray bottom and sides of 9 x 13 pan with nonstick spray.  Put some meat filling in each tortilla, amount depends on how big the tortillas are. Place enchiladas in pan, seam side down.  Top with salsa verde or enchilada sauce.  Sprinkle with cheese.  Cover with foil (I always spray with nonstick spray so it doesn't stick to the cheese) and bake for about 30 minues. 

These are delicious fresh out of the oven, but also reheat well for lunch the next day.  They can also be assembled in advance and refrigrated until you're ready to bake them.  I like to serve them with chips and salsa and  black beans on the side.  Sometimes I put the beans inside the enchiladas, it just depends on my mood and memory. 

I like a recipe that's flexible and this one definitely is.   So take my recipe and make it yours.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Eat your veggies!

We have been getting weekly vegetable boxes from our CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), Red Goose Gardens for the last three summers.  Starting about mid-June until the end of October, we get a big box full of assorted veggies every Wednesday. Early boxes may include honey or granola to supplement the strawberries, lettuce and spinach.   Later boxes are overflowing with  cucumbers and zucchini.  This time of year, the season is winding down.  The good weather has kept the tomatoes and peppers going strong in addition to the more seasonal cabbage, beets and squash.  While the quantity of vegetables every week can sometimes be overwhelming, I try to freeze and can what I can't use quickly.  In addition, things like cabbage, kale, peppers, carrots, onions and beets keep for a long time in the refrigerator, so I just put them in a baggie and use them as I can.  
This weeks box (week 15 of 18) contained, from left to right, kale, parsley, beets, spaghetti squash, tomatoes (heirloom), tomatillos, peppers (serranos, poblanos and bell) and cabbage.

While it looks like a lot, I have some plans....I will blanch and freeze most of the tomatoes, make and freeze salsa verde with the tomatillos and give away some of the cabbage (I now have 6 cabbages!)

One thing I do with some vegetables is roast them....

On the left is roasted eggplant.  Last week we got a ton of tiny eggplants, the last of the season, so I cut them up into small pieces, drizzled them in olive oil then sprinkled with salt and pepper.  Once cooked, I divided it into baggies and threw them in the freezer.   I will use the eggplant for pasta and maybe pizza. 

On the right is roasted acorn squash, carrots (yes they're purple) and onions.    I cut up a bunch of carrots, an onion and cut a squash in half and seeded it.  I drizzled all with olive oil, sprinkled with salt, pepper and fresh thyme (from the freezer from last year).  I baked all of the veggies at 400 for about 45 minutes, until they started to brown.  These I roasted for a recipe for Acorn Squash and Carrot Soup.  It was amazingly delicious, but it turned out brown because the purple and orange carrots mixed with the yellow squash is not a pleasant combination.  Needless to say, I will not be posting that recipe.

I love getting the boxes of vegetables every week and miss them desparately in the winter.  I count down the months and weeks until we get fresh, locally grown vegetables again.  In the meantime, I try to slowly portion out the zucchini, eggplant parmesan, herbs, pesto, salsa verde and tomatoes so they last as long as possible. 

Monday, October 3, 2011

Sunday Dinner

How many people still make "Sunday Dinner?"  Once in a while, I decide that I want to make something really big and delicious to cap off an awesome weekend.  Last night, I made Chicken with 20 Cloves of Garlic.  I found the recipe in Relish Magazine a few weeks ago and this is the second time I have made it. Of course, I changed it a little to fit our tastes, but this is essentially the recipe as I found it.   What really makes the meal is the baguette slices served on the side that you top with the roasted garlic and cherry tomatoes.  I often find day old baguettes on the clearance cart at our local Wal-Mart of all places.  When I find them, I buy them all and put them in the freezer for later. 

Chicken with 20 Cloves of Garlic
Chicken hind quarters, cut apart and skinned (I use 3, but use as many as you need to feed your family)
1 T. butter
1 T. Olive oil
salt and pepper
20 cloves of garlic, peeled
1 c. cherry tomatoes
1/2 c. chicken broth
20 slices of baguette, lightly toasted in oven

Preheat oven to 425.  Heat butter and oil in oven proof skillet.  Brown chicken about 3 minutes on each side, seasoning with salt and pepper.  Remove chicken from skillet.  Add garlic to pan, browning for about a minute, maybe two.  Remove from heat.  Put chicken back in pan.  Add cherry tomatoes and chicken broth.  Bake for about 30 minutes. 

Should look like this when it is done. 
On the side, I made Quinoa with Vegetables and Sauteed Kale.   Never had Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah)?  Give it a try, you just might like it.  Quinoa is a seed grown in South America.  It is high in protein and fiber and relatively low in carbs.  I use it in place of rice in a lot of dishes.  The cheapest way I have found to buy it is in bulk at Amazing Grains in Grand Forks. 

Quinoa with Vegetables
1 c. quinoa, rinsed in colander
2 c. liquid (I used a combination of chicken broth, water and white wine...I was drinking anyway, so I decided to share a little with the food)
1 c. small mixed vegetables (carrots, peas, beans, corn)

Put quinoa and liquid in small pot.  Bring to a boil and simmer for about 15 minutes.  You will know it's done when it looks like there are a bunch of planets with rings around them in the pot.  When they are almost finished, add the veggies and cover the pot.   Simmer until the liquid is gone and keep covered to heat up the veggies.  Add salt and pepper if you like.

I also made sauteed kale.  Okay, so greens are not my favorite, but we keep getting them in our weekly vegetable boxes from Red Goose Gardens, so I have to come up with ways to use them.  This time, I just decided to use them up.  Phil loves sauteed greens...the girls and I, not so much.  The way I see it, it's a good way to get your veggies, and you don't need very much.  I had a huge colander full of washed and torn greens and it cooked down to a cup or so. 

Sauteed Greens

A whole bunch of greens, large ribs removed (Kale, Chard, Spinach, etc., whatever you have)
2 crushed & minced cloves of garlic
1 T. Olive Oil
1/2 c. chicken broth
salt and pepper

Heat oil in large nonstick skillet.  Add garlic and cook for a minute or so.  Don't burn it!  Add greens and stir until coated with oil.  Add chicken broth, cover and cook for about 15 minutes, stirring often.  Add salt and pepper if desired before serving. 

This is Phil's plate, isn't it pretty?
 Now don't get me wrong, I don't always cook like this, sometimes we just order Chinese (yes, they deliver all the way out here!), but I like to when I have the time and energy.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Vegetables are a must on a diet, I suggest carrot cake, zucchini bread, and pumpkin pie.

I find it kind of funny that I made an eggless brownie recipe when we have eight chickens that lay eggs nearly every day (six eggs so far today). Earlier this week, Olivia came home from school with a cookbook that she had checked out from the library. She marked a couple of recipes she thought looked good and asked if we could make this one, Zucchini Brownies. This confirmed that she is definitely my child. I totally do this. I regularly check out cookbooks at the library. Reading cookbooks is actually one of my favorite leisure activities. I have five recipe apps on my phone. I love to browse recipes in my spare time. I'm glad one of my children is learning something from me, anyway. On a totally unrelated note, said children discovered a stash of baby teeth in my bedroom closet in baggies labled "Anna" and "Olivia"... you know what that means...

So Olivia and I made these brownies this morning with shredded frozen zucchini leftover from one of my CSA boxes from Red Goose Gardens. (I just shred it like cheese and put it in 2 cup portions in baggies.) I was a little confused about the no egg part in the recipe so checked out a few similar recipes online. All the comments were good, so I decided to give it a shot. They are more cakey than brownieey but still pretty delicious. I don't believe in sneaking vegetables into my children's diet (they should know what they're eating and like it!), but if I did, this would be a good way to do it. If you have zucchini still sitting in the fridge or in the freezer, this is a good way to use it up. I modified the recipe a little, substituting yogurt for half of the oil (I always do this with baked goods. Unsweetened applesauce works too) and doubling the amout of cocoa powder. I also added chocolate chips instead of walnuts, though either one would be delicious.
Zucchini Brownies:
2 c. flour
1/2 c. cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 c. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 c. shredded zucchini
2 tsp. vanilla
1/4 c. vegetable oil
1/4 c. nonfat plain or greek yogurt
1/2 c. chocolate chips

Mix together dry ingredients then stir in wet ingredients. It will be drier than you think. When it is all moist, stir in the chocolate chips. Bake in a greased 9 x 13 pan for 30 minutes at 350. Chocolate frosting would be a great finishing touch.

Oh, and credit to Jim Davis, creator of Garfield for the inspiration for today's title.