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, 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!