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.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Granny's Pumpkin Bars

My dinner menu this week was nothing to write home about, so I'm just going to post about my Granny's Pumpkin Bars.  Trust me, they're worthy of their own post.
It all started out as a squash-roasting session.  I had a bunch of squash that looked enough like pumpkin that I decided to treat it like pumpkin.  I cut them in half, scooped out the seeds and put them cut side down in a pan with a little water.  I baked them for about an hour at 350, until they were nice and tender.  After they cooled a bit, I scooped out the flesh and pureed it.  I was just going to freeze it all in 2 cup portions when I got a call from my sister in law telling me to bring dessert for supper that night.  Then she suggested pumpkin bars with cream cheese frosting.  She didn't have to tell me twice!

I have always loved my Granny's recipe for pumpkin bars.  She used to make them for us whenever we visited her house in Williston.  After much begging, she shared the recipe with me a few years ago.  I even have the recipe in her handwriting!

These make a huge pan, but they never last long.  And be careful...I think I gained ten pounds in the last two days eating these!
Granny's Pumpkin Bars
1.  Mix together:
4 eggs
2 c. sugar
1/2 c. canola oil
1 can pumpkin ( or 2 c. fresh roasted and pureed pumpkin or squash)

2.  Sift together:
2 c. flour
1 t. baking soda
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. nutmeg
1/2 t. salt
2 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. ginger
1/2 t. cloves

3.  Combine wet ingredients and dry ingredients, mix well.
4.  Pour into an 11 x 17 pan or two smaller pans that have been greased and dusted well with flour.
5.  Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.
6. After cooling top with Cream Cheese frosting:
1 brick cream cheese
1 stick butter
1 t. vanilla
1 T. milk or cream
3-4 c. powdered sugar
(Combine in a bowl, adding enough sugar to make it yummy!)
The original recipe called for a full cup of oil, but I thought that was a little much, so I cut it in half to see what happened and I couldn't tell the difference.  Also, I didn't have any ground cloves, but the bars were delicious without.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Chicken Enchiladas

Even in October, I still open the fridge to a crisper full of peppers, so this week, I once again attempted to use them all up before our next produce box arrived on Wednesday.   I call my first attempt Steak and Pepper Kebabs, but don't be limited by the name.  A quick marinade made from soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, chopped rosemary and garlic (if I remember it) makes for a very tasty steak.  Pair it with bite sized peppers and onions and some oven roasted beets (peeled beets, cut into 1/2 inch slices and drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper, baked at 400 for about 45 minutes) and you have a super tasty meal.  I  like to add mushrooms if we have them and I always add onions.  I didn't even make them into kebabs this time, I just roasted the peppers and onions and sautéed the cubed steak.
Steak and Pepper Un-Kebabs with roasted beets
The abundance of apples this time of year and my sweet tooth collided in this amazing Monday night dessert...Baked Apples.  I consulted a few recipes, but for mine, I just cored the apples (from Red Goose Gardens), and filled them with a mixture of a handful of brown sugar, a small handful of raisins and and equal amount of craisins and chopped walnuts, sprinkled with cinnamon and covered in a cup of apple juice.  I baked at 350 for about an hour, basting with the juices every 10 or 15 minutes.  The apple juice and brown sugar cooked down into a yummy syrup that nicely went over the ice cream I served with these apples.  A healthy dessert?  I can tell myself that.
The baked apples look kind of old and wrinkly.  Maybe I'll peel them next time.  But there will be a next time.  
On Tuesday, I had a little bit of extra time in the evening so I threw together two make-ahead meals for later in the week.   First, I used up some of the abundant peppers in the fridge by making some Stuffed Peppers, from my own recipe posted in January.
Green peppers stuffed with Mexican style ground beef and quinoa.
The peppers were delicious served with a sliced up giant roasted beet we got in our box from Red Goose Gardens.
Check out how huge this beet is compared to the average sized apple.  Crazy!
I also made some Spinach and Sausage Lasagna Rolls, from my own recipe adapted from the Eat This, Not That guys.  This recipe is for a double batch, so I stashed a pan in the freezer for another night.
mmm...Sausage and Spinach Lasagna Rolls
Friday night was sleepover night at our house, so I planned ahead and made some pizza dough at lunch time so we could have some home made pizza for supper.  If you haven't made pizza dough, give it a try.  This recipe is super easy and doesn't require a lot of kneading.  I topped the  pre-baked pizza crust with a bunch of stuff I had in the fridge and freezer:  jarred pizza sauce, mozzarella and shredded parmesan cheeses, sliced red, green and purple peppers, sliced onion, sliced mushrooms and a little pepperoni.  The result?  Crispy, chewy deliciousness that disappeared in about five minutes.
Look at the crispy crust and nicely browned cheese on this home made pizza!
For breakfast the morning after the sleepover, I whipped up some "Baked Pumpkin Donuts" that I actually made into mini muffins because I don't have a donut shaped pan.  No worries, they were still delicious and they disappeared quickly.  The recipe makes 48 mini-muffin sized "donut holes".  I used the last frozen container of last year's pumpkin crop (actually kabocha squash) instead of canned pumpkin, which I discussed in this post last October.
I call them donut holes, but they are probably Pumpkin mini-muffins.  Either way, they are yummy!
This weekend, my cooking blitz included Chicken Enchiladas, Crock Pot Butternut Squash Soup, Stuffed Mushrooms and Kale Waldorf Salad.

The enchiladas are my own concoction that I have developed over the years, see below for the recipe.  Orignally, I used canned enchilada sauce, canned chicken and a whole brick of cream cheese, but I have made an effort to make this much more healthy.  The six enchiladas I made are so overstuffed, they will provide two suppers for the four of us.
These two enchiladas fed me and both of my kids.  Very filling!
We got a ton of different kinds of squash in our produce boxes over the last few weeks, so I am always looking for recipes to use them in.  I found this easy recipe for Crock Pot Butternut Squash soup on pinterest and gave it a shot.  Roasting the squash and onion really brought out the sweet flavor. I used one butternut and one acorn squash, because I only had one butternut.  At the end, I stirred in some sour cream, half and half and some garlic powder on top of the coriander, salt and pepper.   A perfect accompaniment to a crispy kale salad.
Squash soup and kale waldorf salad
On Saturday night, I decided at the last minute to whip up an appetizer of stuffed mushrooms to enjoy before our Chicken Enchiladas.  I was looking for something that used ingredients I already had, so this recipe with bacon, cream cheese and onions fit the bill.  Needless to say, they were amazing and made my eyes roll into the back of my head.  A definite "make again" recipe.
Look at the cheesy bacony goodness of these stuffed mushrooms!
Off to study for my teacher licensure exam...hope it's not as difficult as the study guide makes it seem.  You would think that earning a 4.0 in my Master's program would be proof enough that I can teach special education.  Oh well, what's one more hoop to jump though, right?

Chicken Enchiladas
2 chopped cooked chicken breasts or the equivalent (canned works, too)
1/2 brick light cream cheese
1/2 jar salsa (I used corn black bean salsa)
1/2 T. Mrs. Dash Southwestern Chipotle Seasoning
6-8 flour tortillas
1 pkg spanish rice, cooked
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 jar salsa or enchilada sauce (I used frozen Salsa Verde and 1/2 a jar of regular salsa)
1 c. shredded cheddar cheese, divided

1.  Cook spanish rice according to package directions, stir in black beans and spread in the bottom of a greased 9 x 13 pan.
2.  Mix together the chicken, cream cheese, salsa, seasoning and 1/2 c. shredded cheese.
3.  Evenly divide chicken mixture between tortillas, roll up and place seam side down over rice and beans.
4.  Top tortillas with salsa or enchilada sauce and the rest of the shredded cheese.
5.  Bake, covered with foil, for about 30 minutes in a 400 oven.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Sausage, Pepper and Fennel Pasta

This week started so beautifully.  We had unseasonably warm fall weather, with the high temperatures hitting the mid-70's.  Then the snow came.  I had the worst drive to work ever on Thursday, with a ton of slushy snow and wind.  I was happy when school was released at noon and I got to spend the afternoon at home with my girls.  After we watched "The Goonies", we took a little time to make a double batch of my Rosemary Focaccia Sandwich Bread, which I cut into meal-size portions and stashed in the freezer for later.  I could get used to working half-days.  Think of everything I could accomplish!

Focaccia bread--for sandwiches or dipping in olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

For supper on Thursday, I used a bunch of items we got in our produce box from Red Goose Gardens. We had red, green and purple peppers, a bunch of tiny fennel bulbs, onions and tomatoes.  I sliced and sautéed the peppers, fennel and onions, then added about a dozen two-inch tomatoes that I chopped and a little rosemary-garlic seasoning I picked up at Sams Club.  I love how tomatoes melt down into a delicious sauce and make everything taste so much better.  I tossed the resulting sauce with hot pasta (the end of two boxes) and some chicken italian sausage (which we got in the meat clearance bin at the grocery store) I sliced up and sautéed.  Seriously delicious.  As I told the girls, they are so lucky their mama can cook! See my recipe below.

Sausage, pepper and fennel pasta.

Then Thursday night I still had the cooking bug, so I whipped up some Salted Caramel Pretzel Bark.  You should make it.  Seriously.  I'm not sharing my batch.  Pretzels coated in butter and brown sugar boiled into caramel sauce and topped with melted chocolate chips.  Cool, break apart and eat.  Enough said.  
Salted Caramel Pretzel Bark

Figure skating started this week.  Yep, October 3 was our first evening at the arena.  The girls really enjoy their time on the ice learning new moves and visiting with their friends while Phil and I walk many laps around the quarter-mile track.  With the start of figure skating, our Wednesday nights became very cramped for time.  We had a couple of avocados aging on the windowsill and I had a bunch of cilantro in the fridge and some limes leftover from last time I made mojitos, so I searched online for recipes that incorporated all of those ingredients.  I came up with Creamy Avocado Pasta, a recipe in which I threw the avocados, cilantro, lime juice and garlic into the food processor and tossed the pesto-like sauce with hot pasta.  I decided the meal needed some protein, so I dug a couple of chicken breasts out of the freezer and baked them topped with chopped cilantro, minced garlic and a squeeze of lime juice.  I'm not sure I would make the pasta again, but the chicken was sure yummy.  

Creamy Avocado Pasta topped with a chicken breast.
I also made my favorite breakfast foods for supper this week--Eggs Benedict and Hash Browns.   As I have discussed in the past, our chickens are good little producers.  Right now we have ten chickens, but only five of them are of laying age.  The other five are still maturing.  Nonetheless, the three or four eggs we get each day are enough for our needs.  I used six of them to make Eggs Benedict.  I had ham and english muffins in the freezer and bought a packet of  Hollandaise sauce mix and poached the eggs.  Almost as good as Perkins, though they probably make their own Hollandaise.  Along with the Eggs Benedict, I served hash browns (shredded baked potatoes) that I cooked on the waffle iron to get them nice and crispy (thanks Pinterest!) and an acorn squash I quartered, baked and sprinkled with cinnamon and brown sugar.

Eggs Benedict with waffle iron hash browns and brown sugar squash.

This weekend, we got together with my family to celebrate a couple of birthdays.  We grilled steaks and shrimp skewers and served them with sautéed green beans and Pioneer Woman's Crash Hot Potatoes.  Have you tried these potatoes yet?  They have been circulating around Pinterest for quite awhile now and I saw them in the Grand Forks Herald a couple months ago.  If you haven't had them yet, give them a try.  They are totally worth the effort of the two step recipe:  First you boil the potatoes, then you crush them, sprinkle them with with seasonings (I used rosemary and cracked pepper) and bake them until they are crispy.  Every time I make these, my girls beg for more!  My brother suggested that they would be really good with cheese on them...why not add bacon, too?

Pioneer Woman's Crash Hot Potatoes
For dessert, I made Apple Crisp with vanilla ice cream.  I always use the recipe from the Betty Crocker cookbook we got for a wedding gift.  An old standby that is always delicious...especially with apples from my Grandpa's trees.

Apple Crisp

Tonight for supper, it's chicken cooked in the crock pot.  I jammed two frozen chickens in my large crock pot at lunch time today, sprinkled them with seasoning and turned the cooker on high.  By 6:00 tonight, supper will be done and I will have leftovers for at least two meals this week and the makings of home made chicken broth that I will stash in the freezer for another day.  Check out this link for the recipe!

Two whole chickens roasting in the crock pot.
Sausage and Pepper Pasta
1 package chicken Italian Sausage
3 sliced peppers (one red, one green, one purple)--about 2 cups total
1 sliced red onion--about 1 cup
5 small fennel bulbs, sliced--about 1 cup
12 small (2-inch) tomatoes, cored and chopped
seasoning to taste
cooked pasta

1.  Slice and sauté the sausage over medium heat until mostly cooked.  Move to a plate.
2.  In same skillet, drizzle a little olive oil, then add in peppers, onion and fennel.  Cook for about 10 minutes, until the vegetables begin to soften.  Add the tomatoes and seasonings (I used a garlic rosemary seasoning mix and some salt and pepper).  Simmer for about 20 minutes, until the sauce comes together.  Add in sausage for the last ten minutes to blend all flavors.
3.  Serve over or mixed with hot pasta.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

A New Format

It has been about a year since I started this blog, and in the last few months, I have been less than diligent about posting.  It's not that I haven't been cooking, because I have, I just haven't felt like writing about my cooking.  I haven't even been taking pictures of my cooking.

So I was thinking that it's time for a format change.  Once a week, I'm going to make an effort to post about what we ate that week.  I will post recipes or links to recipes, along with pictures of our food.  To get to the recipe, just click on the link.  I may break from this format once in a while and post about individual recipes or a list of favorites, but I want to try something new.

To get started, let me say that while October is only a day away, we are still getting our weekly produce boxes from Red Goose Gardens.   According to their e-mail this week, we should get at least six more boxes this fall.  I love to see how the contents of the boxes change with the seasons.  What started out in early June as a half-full box of peas, lettuce, and green onions has evolved an overflowing box with additional bags containing the week's harvest.  This week, among many other things, we got our fall pumpkins for decorating!  We also got a bunch of peppers--bell, poblanos and jalapeños, a huge head of cabbage and a bunch of tomatillos.

Friday afternoon had me dreaming about bacon (as usual) and thinking about what I could do with the package I had in the freezer.  Then it dawned on me...I had just seen a recipe for bacon-wrapped jalapeño poppers on pinterest!  So I made them for supper when I got home from work.  Yes, we had only Bacon-Wrapped Jalapeño Poppers for supper.  And wine.  I love Fridays!

This is the Saturday's batch.  We cut the bacon in half lengthwise to stretch the recipe, but it was just as good.   
 Then my sister came to visit on Saturday and we made the poppers again.  This time, we also made Baked Chile Rellenos to go with the poppers.  Think that was enough peppers in one meal?  I only needed one Zantac to take care of the heartburn, though.  And wine.  I love Saturdays, too!

Today, I started my weekly Sunday cooking bonanza by boiling a head of cabbage and preparing the meat mixture for some crock pot cabbage rolls.  So we had these cabbage rolls for supper tonight and they were delicious!   I have to say, when it comes to cabbage rolls, I have learned my lesson.  Add way more seasoning than the recipe calls for and NEVER just use tomato sauce!  I followed the technique described in this recipe for Sweet and Sour Cabbage Rolls in the November 2012 issue of Family Circle Magazine, but see below for my own recipe for the cabbage rolls, because I did not follow any recipe I found, I just made it up as I went along.

Along with the cabbage rolls, I also roasted a pan of tomatillos, as I described in this post from last fall. After they cooled, I put them in the freezer and will make stew out of them another day.

Then, I made another recipe I found on pinterest, Banana Oatmeal Muffins.  These muffins have no flour in them and are loaded with yummy breakfast ingredients, so I decided to whip up a batch and throw them in the freezer for easy breakfasts this week.

I added a few chocolate chips on top for extra goodness!
I also used three bananas instead of only two and added an extra half cup of oatmeal.  My recipe made 15 muffins.
That's it for this week.  I hope to be back next week with another exciting episode of "What's for dinner at the Huck's!"  
Crock Pot Cabbage Rolls
1 head of cabbage
a little olive oil
a couple onions, chopped
a green pepper, chopped
a few cloves of garlic, minced (or from a jar)
1 can diced tomatoes
1 jar marinara or spaghetti sauce
1 lb. hamburger
1/4 c. breadcrumbs or crushed crackers
1/4 c. milk
salt and pepper to taste

1.  Core the cabbage and boil the whole head in a large pot of salted water for about 15 minutes, removing 12 leaves as they become pliable.  Drain well, then remove tough stem; cut leaves in half.  Shred remaining cabbage a place in bottom of crock pot.

2.  Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat.  Add the onions, peppers and garlic and cook about 5 minutes.  Scoop out about half of the onion mixture and add to a mixing bowl with the hamburger, breadcrumbs, milk and salt and pepper, if desired.  Add tomatoes and marinara to the onion mixture still in the skillet and cook a few minutes until the flavors are nicely blended.

3.  With stem ends of cabbage leaves facing you, place 2 heaping tablespoons of meat mixture in center of leaf and roll up. Place rolls, seam-side down, in crock pot. Pour sauce over top. Cover; cook on LOW for 5 hours.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Tomato Cucumber Bread Salad

Here's another great idea for those ripe summer tomatoes and cucumbers fresh from the garden.  This super easy recipe combines a juicy tomato, crisp cucumber, red onion, basil, olive oil and red wine vinegar together in a delicious salad that is made even more delicious by the addition of some day-old bread.  In Italy, this is called "panzanella" and it seems like every recipe I found has a different combination of vegetables and a different dressing, so I used what I had.

Tomato Cucumber Bread Salad
For one big salad (as a meal) or two small salads (as a side)
1 medium ripe tomato
1 smallish cucumber
a little red onion
a few basil leaves, shredded
olive oil
red wine vinegar (it would also be good with balsamic vinegar)
salt & pepper to taste
day old bread, cut into bite sized pieces and left out while the salad marinades in the fridge

The bread you use should be good bread, not sandwich bread.  I have made this twice.  The first time I used an old baguette, the second time I used some of my rosemary focacccia I had in the freezer.

Dice the tomato, slice cucumber and onion (I used about an eighth of a medium red onion) and shred basil and combine in a bowl.  Add a few Tablespoons of olive oil and a few teaspoons of red wine vinegar and some salt and pepper if you like.  Taste it, then adjust flavors as necessary.  Let sit in fridge for an hour or so to meld flavors.

To serve, dish vegetables on a plate, top with bread cubes, then drizzle with additional dressing.  Let sit for a few minutes so the bread can soak up some of the dressing.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Summer Bruschetta

I have been waiting since May for my single tomato plant to start producing.  I have a self-confessed "black thumb",  but this year I wanted to try a topsy turvy with a tomato plant by my front door.  I have often heard that they don't always work, but surprisingly, mine has grown really well.  Last week, my patience was rewarded.

Believe it or not, this round tomato actually came off of a Roma tomato plant.  Mutant tomato, I guess. Now tomatoes have never been a vegetable (fruit?) that I like to eat on their own.  I love them cooked in most any shape and form, but raw tomatoes?  No, thank you.  Unless I make Bruschetta.  I know in Italy, Bruschetta is just bread, but I call my delicious tomato mixture I eat on bread Bruschetta because I can.  What better way to enjoy a fresh tomato?  Chop it up, add a chopped up garlic clove, a little chopped onion, a few shredded basil leaves, maybe some olive oil and some salt and pepper.  Eat it on some crusty bread, grilled if you like, and it tastes like summer.

 Like much of my cooking,  I don't use an exact recipe, but here's the general idea:

Summer Tomato Bruschetta
1 chopped ripe tomato
1 minced garlic clove
2 T. minced onion
a few basil leaves, shredded
a little olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Mix it all up and put in the fridge to marinate for an hour or so (if you can wait that long) and serve on fresh crusty bread.  I like to brush the bread with a little olive oil and either grill it or place it under the broiler for a minute so it gets warm and chewy.

Now that recipe is just my portion :).  If you are planning on sharing with someone else, you should make more.  The middle bread in the above picture has a little basil pesto under the tomato mixture.  Either way, it's pretty amazing.  Eat it by itself for a light meal or pair it with a salad or some pasta.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Rosemary Focaccia Sandwich Bread

I woke up on Friday morning thinking about fresh rosemary bread. I had been indulging in my favorite past time...reading cookbooks, and stumbled on an amazing recipe for Rosemary Focaccia that I dreamed about all night. Literally dreamed about bread. Do I have a problem or what? So I checked the recipe in "Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone" by Deborah Madison, which I took out from my local library. I was so excited to see that I had all the ingredients to make it, thanks to the pot of rosemary that is growing out of control on the south side of my house.

When I turned on my oven to preheat, I thought I smelled my fireplace burning again (this has happened a couple times now), so I looked for the smell and couldn't find anything. When I thought the oven should be heated up, I came back and noticed the clock on the stove wasn't on. I opened the oven and the light didn't come on. I went downstairs and flipped the circult breaker. Nope, that wasn't it, either. So I grabbed a screwdriver and took apart the back of the stove, only to find this:

Yep, whatever that piece is called (I looked it up, it's a "terminal block") was all melted. There was an electrical fire in the back of my oven. Crap. No bread for me today. For most people, a broken oven is cause for celebration, as in "Yay,I can't cook, let's go out!". For a foodie like me it was a huge tragedy... Then my awesome neighbor came to the rescue. The next morning (after an extra slow rise in the refrigerater overnight), I baked my pan of bread next door. It seems like a mean trick...I made their house smell like amazing fresh rosemary bread, then I took the bread home with me. I did share about a third of the pan with them later, so I paid them back.

Sandwich Focaccia with Rosemary
2 c. warm water
1 envelope (2 1/4 tsp) active dry yeast
1 t. sugar
3 T. Olive oil, plus extra for the top
1 1/2 t. salt
3 T. finely minced rosemary
6 c. all purpose flour

Dissolve yeast and sugar in water and set aside until foamy.

After about 10 minutes, in a large mixing bowl, combine yeast mixture, olive oil, salt, 2 T. rosemary and 1 cup of flour. Wisk together until smooth. Slowly add the remaining flour, until too hard to stir, then turn out onto counter and knead until all the flour is worked in and the dough is smooth. Place it in an oiled bowl, cover and let rise until doubled, about 1 1/2 hours.

Oil a large sheet pan. Place the dough in the pan and press out to the edges with your fingers, making sure it is all the same thickness. Cover and let rise for another hour.

Preheat the oven to 400 during the last 15 minutes. Right before putting in the oven, dimple the dough by poking it with your fingertips, then brush it with olive oil and sprinkle with the remaining rosemary. Bake in the bottom third of the oven until evenly browned, about 30 minutes.

After allowing to cool most of the way, I cut 4 squares of the bread through the middle crosswise to make sandwich bread for lunch on Saturday. It was fresh bread, so it was delicious, of course. I put the rest in the freezer and I know someday soon it will go well with another meal. I cannot wait to try it warmed and dipped in olive oil and balsamic vinegar!

Recipe adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, by Deborah Madison.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Pasta with Arugula Pesto and Snow Peas

After an extended break, I'm back.  May, June and the first part of July had me swamped with my final classes in Grad school and teaching summer school for a few weeks.  I am happy to say I now hold my Master's degree in Special Education-Learning Disabled and have a whole lot more free time!  I have been taking pictures of my cooking like crazy, but I just haven't had time to write anything. 

A couple weeks ago, our CSA, Red Goose Gardens started their weekly deliveries and I am so excited to cook with the "mystery" vegetables when they arrive each Wednesday afternoon.  For the summer months, I will try to focus my posts on how I use this fresh produce. 

Our box this week had lettuce, arugula, snow peas (edible pods) and carrots.  Last week we had fresh raspberries and the week before that we got strawberries!  Both were delicious with some yogurt or vanilla soy milk and the fresh granola that came in our first weekly boxes. 

We have been getting lots of lettuce each week.  In fact, the small bag in the upper right of this photo represents the smallest amount of lettuce we've received in any week.  That's okay, we get tired of eating so many salads and the baby greens really only last a couple days. 

Last night, I grilled the carrots (just like hot dogs) and basted them with a butter/balsamic vinegar mixture.  They turned out very good.  It's a no recipe recipe.  Season how you like, cook until done (careful, they burn easily!). 

Arugula is an aromatic salad green.  I really don't like arugula in it's raw form.  It's kind of peppery and can be bitter.  Not my favorite flavor.  So I started to browse the Internet looking for recipes and kept coming upon arugula pesto recipes.  Now I'm no stranger to pesto.  I grow my own basil, and even posted my pesto recipe last fall.  Based on that, I decided to try arugula pesto.  I found a recipe on my epicurious app on my phone for "Arugula Pesto and Peas with Pasta", which sounded like a perfect way to enjoy two ingredients in our box this week.  The arugula and peas came together very nicely tonight for a pasta dinner.
First, I made the pesto.  As you can probably see, the arugula has a lot of little holes from bugs, so I washed it VERY thoroughly and made sure I touched each leaf, taking off the stems and inspecting for little bugs.  I ended up with about 5 packed cups of the leafy green.  Pesto usually calls for a green herb, olive oil, garlic and nuts.  After consulting a few recipes, here is what I did:

Arugula Pesto with Pasta, Snow Peas and Chicken

First, The Pesto:
5 packed cups arugula
2 small garlic cloves
1/3 c. olive oil
1/2 c. walnuts

Put garlic, half of the oil and the walnuts in the food processor.  Slowly add the greens.  As it becomes more difficult to blend, add in the rest of the oil.  I added some water toward the end as well to help with blending. This made about a cup and a half of pesto.  I froze half of it in a mini muffin pan.  I will put the pesto cubes in a plastic baggie once they are frozen through.

Don't feel bound by this recipe (or any recipe, for that matter!). Don't like garlic?  Don't put it in.  Have almonds, not walnuts?  Use them instead.  Be flexible.  Next time I might cut back on the arugula and substitute some basil for a little different flavor. 

This ugly green paste is Arugula Pesto
I then washed and stemmed the peas and took out some shredded Parmesan cheese and the rotisserie chicken I had in the fridge from the other day.  I put a big pot of water on to boil.  I first blanched the peas for about a minute, so they were crisp-tender.  I took the peas out and put them in a bowl with about a cup of diced chicken, 3/4 c. of pesto and about a half a cup of cheese, mixing well.  I cooked a box of penne pasta.  When it was done, I drained it and added it to the pea/pesto/chicken/cheese mixture. 

So my recipe looked like this:
1 box penne pasta (I usually use whole wheat, but we didn't have any)
3/4 c. arugula pesto
1 c. cubed cooked chicken
2 c. blanched snow peas
1/2 c. shredded Parmesan

This turned out very good.  I served with with garlic bread on the side.  I decided that with this many veggies in the pasta, we didn't need any on the side.  My kids raved about it.  I think it would be really good with broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini...pretty much any veggie that shows up in our box over the next three months. 

Enjoy the taste of summer while it lasts!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Spinach and Strawberry Salad

It's almost time for the first fruits and vegetables of the season to ripen. Lately, I have been craving fresh fruits and vegetables, but what I can buy in the store just doesn't live up to my expectations.  I can't wait until we start getting our first CSA boxes from Red Goose Gardens.  It won't be long until one of our first boxes contains spinach and strawberries, which go so well together in this salad.

Spinach and Strawberry Salad
strawberries, washed, stemmed and sliced (I used a whole pound)
spinach, washed (1 big bag)
dried cranberries (1/2 c.)
goat cheese (a couple Tablespoons, crumbled)
sunflower seeds (a couple Tablespoons)
balsamic vinegar (a couple Tablespoons)

Feel free to adjust/add/omit ingredients to fit your tastes.

I like to slice the strawberries the morning I am going to serve this salad or even the night before and sprinkle them with a little balsamic vinegar. This allows the strawberries to "marinate" a bit and I have found that no other dressing is necessary. 

When ready to serve, toss all ingredients in a big bowl and sprinkle with additional balsamic vinegar if you want.  Spinach is a pretty tough green and if there are some leftovers, this will keep for a day or so in the fridge. 

To make this salad a meal, you could easily top it with grilled chicken.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Grilled Sweet Potatoes

It's getting to be grilling season.  For most of us, this involves throwing some sort of meat on the grill with side dishes as an afterthought.  As fresh vegetables become more abundant, I like to focus on the side dishes and even skip the meat sometimes.  Most anything can be cooked on the grill.  I can't wait until asparagus season...mmmm....grilled asaparagus. 

Almost as good as grilled asparagus is grilled sweet potatoes.  Sweet potatoes are a relatively new discovery for me.  I didn't grow up eating them, but as I began to eat healthier, I started looking for ways to cook sweet potatoes that aren't loaded with butter and sugar.  They are a great way to get your veggies but feel like you are eating carbs.  I love carbs more than grilled asparagus...

This is a recipe I use all the time, for both white potatoes and sweet potatoes.  If you use the microwave to pre-cook the potatoes about halfway, they cook quickly on the grill along with whatever meat you are cooking.  I credit my parents for this recipe, which we use at the lake all the time. 

Grilled Sweet Potatoes
Whole sweet potatoes (I use two for the four of us, but use as many as you need)
nonstick spray or olive oil
seasoned salt
chopped rosemary and garlic or rosemary garlic seasoning

Wash sweet potatoes (don't they look pretty?), then cut into 1 inch discs.  Place discs on a microwavable plate and spray with nonstick spray or brush with olive oil.  Sprinkle lightly with seasonings, as shown below.

Cook in microwave for about 5 minutes, until they are about half cooked. 

Place on top rack of pre-heated grill while your meat is cooking and cook for 5-10 minutes per side.  As you can see from my picture, they don't always cook evenly and the high sugar content makes them brown (or even burn).  I think the crispier they are the better, but keep an eye on them so they don't get over cooked!  Serve with a little butter if you like. 

If you have a person in your family that doesn't eat sweet potatoes, feel free to substitute regular potatoes or use both for a variety.  Of course you can also vary the seasonings.  Personally, I love rosemary and garlic together, but Mrs. Dash would be good or just seasoned salt and pepper.  Whatever you like will work for you, be flexible!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Caramel Rolls

Who doesn't love them?  Especially warm out of the oven.  Warm, sticky, sweet caramel rolls.  This isn't a recipe for the dough, I just buy the frozen rolls at the grocery store.  This super easy recipe is for the caramel. 

I make these when we have company or on holidays when there are going to be a lot of people around because if I made them at home for just us, I would eat them all.

These take less than 10 minutes the night before, then 30-40 minutes in the oven the morning you are going to eat them.  Very little hands on time, your house smells amazing (even before you bake them!) and you get fresh caramel rolls.  Win-win-win, right?

I couldn't tell you where I first got this recipe, probably from a church cookbook somewhere.  Over time, I have adapted the amounts to fit our tastes and you should do the same.

Caramel Rolls
For each package of 8 frozen rolls, you will need:
9 x 13 pan, greased
1/2 stick butter (real butter!)
1/2 c. brown sugar
2 scoops vanilla ice cream

 Melt all these ingredients in the pan. I just put it in the microwave for a couple minutes, checking and stirring often. If your pan isn't microwave safe, you could use a bowl instead. When the ingredients are melted, put the frozen rolls in the pan as shown:

Cover with plastic wrap and put in cold oven to rise overnight.  They will be huge in the morning:

Take the rolls out of the oven and pre-heat the oven to 350.  Cover the rolls with aluminum foil and bake for 30-40 minutes, checking at 30 minutes for doneness, uncovering if they aren't browning.  They should look evenly browned and puffy when they are done:

Tip the rolls over onto a jelly roll pan or wax paper so they are caramel side up.  Eat them while they're hot!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Favorites II

I haven't been very creative in the kitchen lately. For that matter, I haven't cooked very much lately. Between the kids activities, work, grad school and a bum tooth, food hasn't really been a priority. For today's topic, we'll have to make to with a favorites list: 

1. Homemade Artisan Bread.  This is seriously easy.  Flour, water, salt and yeast are all the ingredients you need.  Oh, and time.  You need at least 12 hours of rising time for this recipe, but it is so worth it!  Total hands on-time is about 15 minutes and you end up with a delicious round loaf of bread that you would have paid a lot for in a bakery.  That's my loaf shown above...I could hardly believe I made something that looked so professional!  Eat it with soup, slice for sandwiches, or my favorite, put in pan while cooking eggs so it gets toasty and spread with jam.  Yummy!

2. Slow Cooker Baked Potato Soup.  Another super easy one...potatoes, garlic, onion, chicken broth in slow cooker for hours, then made creamy with cream cheese.  Of course it's delicious, just don't make a habit of it... this is not a healthy way to eat your veggies!

3.  Home Made Body Wash.  I don't know why, but when I saw this recipe,  I just wanted to try it.  It seems like I always have body wash on my shopping list.  It's kind of expensive and doesn't really last very long.  I ordered soap (Tom's of Maine) and vegetable glycerin from and bought distilled water at the grocery store.  Grate the soap and combine it with the glycerin and distilled water in a big soup pot.  Heat until melted and combined, then put in bottles to use. I use it for body wash and hand soap.  Kind of a lot of work, but I like knowing that I made it and I don't freak out when the kids dump a half a bottle down the drain "by accident". 

A couple weeks ago, I attended a Taste of Home Cooking School event in Fargo.  It was a lot of fun and I got some great recipe ideas from the presenter.  We also got two limited edition Taste of Home magazines full of recipes and a year subscription to Healthy Cooking.  A few of the recipes I have tried so far:

4.  Johnsonville Sausage Meatballs.  Using Johnsonville Italian sausage links as the meat in these meatballs adds great flavor.  These were really quick to make and went great with my homemade marinara and pasta. 

5.  Emeril's New Orleans Garlic Chicken.  All I can says is Yummy...try it and you will see.  Emeril takes "simple" breaded chicken breasts to a whole new level.  Phil doesn't eat breading, but he said this chicken was so moist and tender I can make it again.  That's a definite compliment coming from him!

6.  Grilled Chicken, Pesto and Two-Cheese Naan Pizza.  Using naan (Indian flat bread--I just buy it at Walmart off the clearance cart) as the crust, this pizza is super easy.  Pesto sauce (which I still have a ton of in the freezer from last summer), chicken red peppers, olives and cheese all combine into this delicious meal.  Try cooking it on the grill for a summery twist!
A few that I have bookmarked and will be trying in the near future:

1.  Stacked Roasted Vegetable Enchiladas.   Any excuse to get veggies on the table is a good one in my book.  Roasting the veggies before putting this dish together just adds another dimension of deliciousness!

2.  Spaghetti with Garlic, Olive Oil and Pepper Flakes  Simple as that, nothing else.  Whenever I cook pasta, I try to make double and stash some in the fridge for later in the week.  I have a big baggie of spaghetti just waiting for some garlic and hot pepper flakes.  As Rachel Ray would say...Yum-o!

3.  Tomato, Basil, and  Fresh Mozzarella Salad.  I can't wait until summer comes and we start getting our weekly CSA boxes...this is what I dream about all winter when I'm eating frozen or store-bought produce.  Maybe with the early melt, the deliveries from Red Goose Gardens will start early?

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Sausage and Spinach Lasagna Rolls

Who doesn't love lasagna?  Layers of meat, pasta, sauce and cheese all come together to create a delicious flavor combination in your mouth.  Unfortunately, all that deliciousness is not very healthy.  I stumbled on a version of this recipe last summer in a cookbook by the "Eat This, Not That" writers.  I am always on the lookout for new ways to use veggies and I must have had a ton of spinach when this one caught my eye.  I made the recipe as written, and have since tweaked it to fit our taste buds and preferences. 

I think this recipe is way easier than making the layered lasagna and with all the spinach in it, it has to be better for you!  While this is not a favorite of my children, they have mostly learned to "shut up and eat it".  The quantities I am providing makes enough for 36 rolls, which is a ton.  Make it for company or do what I do and  divide the rolls between two pans and freeze one for later.  You could also easily cut the recipe in half for a more manageable batch, but to me, it's just as easy to make enough for two meals at once.  One pan feeds the four of us with leftovers for lunch the next day for both me and Phil. 

Lasagna Rolls
1 box lasagna noodles (18 noodles), cooked al dente, then cut in half cross-wise (see picture below)
1 lb. italian sausage (the original version calls for chicken or turkey sausage, but whatever you prefer is fine. I used pork this time but it was equally good with turkey.)
2 bags frozen spinach,, thawed & squeezed out (not the block, but the loose stuff)  Fresh works, too.
1 15 oz. container part skim ricotta
1/4-1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (more or less to taste)
salt and pepper to taste
marinara sauce (1 big jar should do it.) I used homemade
1 c. shredded mozzarella cheese

Brown sausage in large skillet.  Drain fat and add in spinach and red pepper flakes.  Cook until warmed through (drain any extra water from the spinach).  Remove from heat and stir in ricotta, adding salt and pepper if desired. 

Spray two 9x13 pans with non-stick spray or put a little marinara in the bottom of each pan.  I have done both and they work equally well to prevent sticking.  Lay the noodles out as shown below, placing a large spoonful of spinach/sausage mixture at one end and rolling up.

Put rolls in pans. 

Top each pan of lasagna rolls with marinara sauce (as much/little as you want) and sprinkle with mozzarella cheese.  Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 400 for 15 minutes, then remove foil and bake for an additional 10 minutes, until cheese is bubbly. 

If you freeze one pan, bake it at 400 until the cheese is bubbly, about 40 minutes.  I use a metal pan so it can go straight from the freezer to the oven, but be careful if you have a glass pan because it could break with the temperature change!