Sunday, July 27, 2014

Ratatoullie

Today was the second cooking demo of the season at my local farmer's market. I really enjoy talking food with people, and mingling with the farmers afterward when I do my shopping! One of the best things about sharing recipes with the market goers is inspiring new ways to enjoy foods (or fostering courage to try new foods)!

It's the perfect time of year, here in Michigan, to enjoy Ratatoullie. A traditionally sautéed dish, my ratatoullie recipe involves roasting--roasted vegetables are beautiful, flavorful, and absolutely delicious! Plus, it's a lazy way to prepare vegetables--just chop, roast, then eat! (I was initially inspired by this recipe online: http://m.allrecipes.com/recipe/18411/ratatouille, and adjusted it to my liking.)


Ingredients
1 zucchini, halved and sliced
1 yellow squash, halved and sliced
2 C mushroom, sliced
2 tomatoes, halved and sliced
1 eggplant, cubed
1 bell pepper, 1/2 inch squares
1 onion, sliced
1 head garlic, minced or chopped
2-4 tbsp olive oil
Salt to taste
Pepper if preferred
Oregano and basil to taste 

Instructions
1. Preheat oven to 350F. (If cooking with stoneware like I do, place it in the oven to preheat for a few minutes.)

2. Sauté 2 tbsp oil and garlic for about five minutes. Toss the eggplant around until coated. (If you prefer larger pieces of eggplant, cook a few minutes.)

3. Place contents of pan and other vegetables and spices into 9x13 baking dish. Add remaining oil, mix around to coat veggies. 
 
4. Bake 30-40 minutes. Don't stir. If you notice water glistening at the base of the pan, it's done! (Remove the dish before too much water leaves the vegetables, as it will act to steam the veggies, leaving them soggy instead of perfectly roasted.)

Serve!

This dish makes a nice accompaniment to any meat, or can be used to top pasta or rice if you eat grains. (Forego pasta or rice if you're keeping it Paleo.)

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp (GF, DF)

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp
(Gluten-free, dairy-free)

I developed this recipe for a cooking demo at my local farmer's market, in an effort to promote strawberries and rhubarb! This dish tastes like summer to me!

You can use any sweetener (honey, sugar, brown sugar, came sugar, erc.) in this recipe; I chose coconut palm sugar as an unrefined substitute for brown sugar. While on the topic of sugar, this recipe used approximately a quarter of what is called for in traditional recipes.
 
Ingredients
Fruit layer:
3 C strawberries, sliced (almost 1 quart of fresh berries)
3 C rhubarb, cut into 1/2 inch chunks (about 4 large, tall stalks)
1/2 C sugar, or less (I used coconut palm sugar)
 
Crisp layer:
1 1/2 C rolled oats (gluten free)
3/4 C shredded coconut (unsweetened)
1/4 C coconut oil (you can use butter if dairy isn't a concern)
1/4 C sugar (I used coconut palm sugar)
 
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375F.
  2. Combine fruit and sugar, mix well and set aside.
  3. Combine ingredients for the crisp layer in a separate bowl and stir to prepare a homogeneous mixture.
  4. Grease 8x8 baking dish (glass or ceramic/stone. If using cermaic/stone, place dish in stove to preheat for five minutes).
  5. Add the fruit mixture to the greased dish, and spread evenly.
  6. Add the crisp layer on top, spreading evenly.
  7. Cover with foil and bake 10 minutes. Remove foil and bake 30 minutes, or until the oats are golden brown. If you question whether it needs more time, poke down with a fork a few times to ensure that the rhubarb is soft. If not, cool a bit longer.
  8. Let cool one hour before serving.
If dairy isn't a problem for you, consider topping with whipped cream! (A quick and easy recipe: 1 C heavy whipping cream, 1 tsp vanilla extract, 1 tsp sugar, optional. Blend or whip until you have whipped cream!) 

A generous scoop of Trader Joe's canned Coconut Cream is a lovely dairy-alternative!

I made probably seven iterations of this dessert, and continually failed to take photos. Here's one that I snapped this morning while doing a cooking demo at my farmer's market.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Bacon avocado cups

One of my favorite Paleo appetizers/mini-meals is bacon avocado cups. I picked up this recipe from Primally Inspired, and it's always a crowd pleaser not to mention delicious and filling.


Ingredients
2 avocados, halved, seeds removed (roll avocados on counter prior to cutting to pull flesh away from skin)
4 slices bacon, cooked and chopped (strain and save your bacon fat for later!)
3 tbsp grass-fed butter
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1-2 tsp minced garlic
Fresh wedge of lemon

Instructions
  1. Place avocados on a serving tray.
  2. Rub lemon wedge against exposed avocado to prevent browning.
  3. Fill each avocado with bacon.
  4. Combine butter, balsamic and garlic in a small sauce pan over medium heat. Stir well and continuously. Kill the heat once the mixture comes to a boil.
  5. Drizzle glaze.
  6. Place any leftover glaze in a small decanter or cup (Iike to eat half of the avocado cup then add more glaze).
  7. Serve and enjoy!
This recipe is easy to scale up. The photo above shows a triple batch.

*Variation: I have also cut up avocados into chunks, added the bacon and glaze, and served it as a side. This could also make a nice topping for chicken or beef (perhaps a burger topping).

Oh, to hoe

I planted my garden between mother'a day and Wednesday, May 13, in accordance with the Farmer's Almanac's recommended planting days. Kevin had tilled the "new section" of the garden last fall, but as I learned, spring tilling would be ideal. I hoed the new beds by hand, which was an immense workout. I found the physicality of it to be enjoyable although demanding, but I'm thinking I might invest in a rotatiller for future planting seasons. Here is a few photos of the prepped beds. 
This is a 10x10 (or so) bed.
Ready for planting!
I only managed to prep about 1/3 of the other 10x10 bed (far side of the photo, next tot he tarp--the tarp is covering the un-prepped portion of the second 10x10 bed). I intend to prep it for a late planting of cold leafy crops.
I will follow-up soon with progress photos, including some of my fruit garden, where strawberries abound!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Mediterranean pizza with cauliflower crust

The only Paleo-ish baked good that's a staple in our household is the Civilized Caveman's Paleo Banana Bread. I make it for the kids; they have a thick slice (I typically make four mini-breads per batch) for their 3:30 snack. I like that there's no added sugar (sweetening is from bananas), and it's a high-fat snack to satiate the kids until our 6pm dinner time. It's also fast and easy (I make one batch every week or two). But every once in a while, it's nice to experiment with a new food, something different to spice things up a bit. My husband had heard about cauliflower pizza crust, has been mentioning it for months, and I finally looked through recipes and decided to try it out.

I'm actually really impressed (and surprised) with how absolutely delicious this pizza is! Prior to "going Paleo" in April 2013, I would have thought a pizza without traditional crust and gobs of cheese to be plain and unappetizing. Yet, while eating this concocted pizza, I had not the slightest interest in pizza-as-I-knew-it-pre-Paleo. I know that my palate has changed significantly since eating a predominantly Paleo diet, and this is one testament to that.

On to the cooking! I started with this recipe, and modified it to my liking.

Ingredients
Crust
2 1/2 C cauliflower, riced
1 C blanched almond flour
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp basil
Pinch of salt
Olive oil for greasing pan/stone

Toppings
6 baby Bella mushrooms, sliced
1/4 C garlic, sliced
1/3 C red onion, sliced into rings
1 jar (3/4 C) marinated artichoke hearts, strained and cut into 1/4 inch thick slices
2 tbsp sundries tomatoes
Olive oil for sautéing
8 ounces prosciutto (sliced in half, then rolled up--next time I will cut the rolls into thirds because I felt the size I used was too big)

1/2 C tomatoes or pizza sauce, or 1 C sliced tomatoes

Instructions
Crust
  1. Preheat oven to 425 F (if using a baking stone, put it in the oven to warm while prepping the dough)
  2. Heat some olive oil in frying pan, add cauliflower and cook about 10 minutes, stirring frequently (medium-high heat). Keep the frying pan for sautéing the toppings later.
  3. Place cauliflower into a mixing bowl and add the remaining ingredients
  4. Mix well (I used medium speed on a stand mixer for about 3 minutes)
  5. Remove stone from oven, and brush with olive oil (or grease a baking sheet with olive oil)
  6. Place dough mixture in middle of stone. Use hands to flatten and spread mixture, being careful not to burn oneself. I used a 16 inch stone and the dough didn't take up the whole thing (doubling the recipe would make a full 16 inch pizza)
  7. Place in oven, and bake 25 - 30 minutes
Toppings
  1. While the crust is baking, heat some olive oil in the frying pan, then sauté the onions, garlic and mushrooms until somewhat translucent (about 10 minutes). Add sundered tomatoes and artichokes, push around to coat, then turn off heat and let everything in the pan. 
  2. Once the crust is finished baking, remove from oven and add the sauce.
  3. Spread the sautéed toppings evenly across dough, and then add the prosciutto.
  4. Bake 10 more minutes
I served this pizza hot, and found that the crust broke apart a bit and was even somewhat soft. We ate it using knife and fork, but it was absolutely delicious!! 

Monday, May 12, 2014

2014 Gardens: New fence, and plantings

Vegetable garden
My husband was kind enough to tear down the deer fence that served as my garden's perimeter for two years at the end of last season;  he also rotatilled enough ground to more than double the size of my gardening space. Once spring was upon us, he designed and bought supplies for the new fence.
I managed to remove a fraction of the countless maple seeds that sprouted in my raised bed, with the help of my oldest son and the girl next door.
The posts are up! Construction is underway; I was so excited to have a solid, new fence, and the boys were equally enthralled! I was already dreaming of the number of climbing plants I could sow along the perimeter!
The fence is complete!!
Enter Mother's Day: I picked up vegetable plants at the Royal Oak in Bloom market after a lovely breakfast at Cafe' Muse (my favorite). Michael chose the flat of petunias as my mother's day gift :-)
A table littered with things to be planted, including the squashes and melons I started from seed.
I began planted green beans, squashes (long island cheese pumpkin, spaghetti squash, acorn squash, cucumbers and pickling cucumbers) and melons (three varieties of watermelon as well as cantaloupe) along the perimeter on Mother's Day, as well as 8 asparagus roots and 1 sweet potato plant. Today I began populating the raised bed; I planted a variety of tomatoes (roma, cherry, yellow pear, and big boy), peppers (red, orange and yellow sweet, plus banana), and cruciferous vegetables (red and green cabbages, broccoli and cauliflower). I planted Brussels sprouts along the remaining open space of the perimeter.
Voila!!
Pretty little petunias!
Fruit garden
The far side of this garden is laden with strawberry plants (all around the lilac bush). When I first started weeding this bed a few years ago, I almost plucked them all, thinking they were weeds. Thankfully I had acquired a strawberry plant amongst others from my colleague; when looking for a place to plant the strawberry, I realized my silliness. 

The strawberries are propagating nicely, and I've decided to add more fruits to this garden (amongst other edibles).
The garden "as-is" (minus some weeds); prior to adding edible plants.
This lattice here is rather lonely. I planted luffa gourd during my first growing season, and they utilized the lattice rather well. Since then, it's just been the clematis (except for some failed cukes one year), which never really flourishes. I grew up playing in and eating from a large grape arbor in my grandmother's yard, which inspired me to start some grapes here with the lattice .
This photo isn't particularly telling, but I planted 4 green zucchini, 4 sage, 1 basil, 1 blueberry, and 2 concord grapes (one on either side of the lattice). I have another grape to plant (I forget the name of it),  and plan to place it near the clematis.
More work to do
I still need to clear the remaining grass from the rest of my vegetable garden, and then get to planting seeds and other root vegetables (such as beets and onions that I bought from the market yesterday). I barely have enough room for everything!!!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Preparing to plant

I grew these babies from seeds!! Gearing up to plant next week, I'm conditioning these plants to the outdoor climate. An hour of afternoon sunshine, and protected overnights (inside garage).