Tag Archives: produce

Pinterest Challenge: Gluten-Free Cauliflower Pizza Crust

27 Oct

It’s officially time for Sherry Petersik and Katie Bower’s Pinterest Challenge! While I’ve been soldiering on with recipes this year in the spirit of their challenges (such as this one, this one, and this one), I can now officially submit mine to the Petersik’s blog paradise. Hurrah! For the official Pinterest Challenge submission, I decided to tackle something that I’d seen repeatedly in the hallowed … pages (?) of the Pin: Flour-free Cauliflower Pizza Crust.

While I’m not vegan, nor am I gluten-free, I like exploring veggie-based meals for both environmental (fewer methane emissions? Woot.) and health (fewer calories + more nutrients? Dietary goodness FTW.) reasons. With more than a few friends and relatives with Celiac’s disease and other gluten struggles, I’ve explored gluten-free baking and cooking with mucho curiosity. And with pictures like this circulating on Pinterest, my interest was officially piqued:

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Kitchen Tips and Budget Eats: Making a Menu and Using a Grocery List

6 Oct

Image sourced from themetapicture.com

This weekend, I — like many of you — will be heading to that mecca of munchies, that forum of food, that headquarters of hunger-quenching, the grocery store. (Did you like that one? I did, too. Hehe.) And while I love to head to my local Giant Grocery to stock my kitchen, pantry and fridge, I don’t love a recent trend: the steady, upward crawl of grocery prices.

Have you noticed this, too? Due to circumstances like the recent Midwestern drought, increased costs of shipping and/or production, and that pesky little inflation thing, food costs are continuing to rise in the U.S. (Granted, they’re still often lower than costs elsewhere in the world — Europe, I’m looking at you — but for us American consumers, it’s still noticeable.) Less rain = fewer harvested veggies = animal feed becomes more expensive = meat & dairy, inevitably, become more expensive. All this adds up to a bigger and bigger impact on your wallet every time you step through that produce section or frozen foods aisle.

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Food Shopping: My Hipster Farmers Markets Are Less Mainstream than YOUR Hipster Farmers Markets

1 Sep

Public artwork in Mount Pleasant. Love!

Disclaimer: I am far too mainstream to be any sort of legitimate hipster. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

2nd Disclaimer: Today I am consumed with college football. These photographs were taken last weekend. Can’t say I was at a farmers market while Notre Dame was playing Navy at 9am this morning. I was, however, at the only open watering hole in the DC metropolitan area. #Breakfastofchampions.

It’s been a while since I wrote a farmers market post, and after my recent venture to the Columbia Heights and Mount Pleasant farmers markets here in DC, I felt inspired by seasonal goods and local vendors. Both markets are within a mile or so of each other in Northwest DC, easily accessible on the Yellow and Green Metro lines (Get off at Columbia Heights to hit up the CoHi market on 14th, then walk less than a mile due west to Mount Pleasant’s Lamont Square). Win!

For more information about both markets, hit up this site for Columbia Heights, and this one for Mt. Pleasant.

We’re now in that delicious late summer phase, when some of the summer’s best seasonal veggies are making their debuts (or singing their swan songs) at farmers markets. First, I found …

So many watermelons, so little time.

…watermelons! So beautiful and in-season, watermelons can be used in more versatile ways than just slicing up a wedge for a summer night’s dessert. Try topping a tomato-based gazpacho in diced watermelon for a sweet crunch to balance the soup’s tangy flavor, or dare to be … daring with this excellent Watermelon Feta Salad recipe from the folks at PBS. 

Next, I spotted these beautiful heirloom tomatoes.

Is it weird if I visualized one of these bad boys as Bob the Tomato from Veggie Tales?

While heirlooms can be a bit pricey, their flavor is unmatched and so unique from tomato to tomato. (Tomato, to-mah-to, to-tasty…) I recommend slicing them, salting them lightly, and adding to a grilled cheese sandwich with something distinct and flavorful — say, shredded Gruyere or a slice of soft, lovely Fontina? They’re also phenomenal in salads — try this lovely-looking take on a Panzanella (read: best use for stale bread aside from French Toast EVER) Caprese salad from Bites Out Of Life, using diced or sliced heirlooms.

After that, I spotted these lovely little pints of raspberries. They looked fresh and juicy, ripe (heh heh, puns … oif.) for the taking.

Raspberries have about a million excellent uses in various recipes — top your morning yogurt and granola with raspberries and a drizzle of honey for a tart-sweet topping, or stir them into warm oatmeal with a drizzle of maple syrup for a pink-tinted breakfast treat. For a surprising twist, try this savory raspberry sauce with garlic, chicken stock and even jalapenos (!) over pork chops. Thanks to Amy’s Cooking Adventures for such a killer recipe.

I also discovered — hurrah! — some great-looking oyster mushrooms.

Yup, photobombed by a pint of tomatoes.

Oyster mushrooms impart a savory flavor to any dish, such as a stir-fry (add them towards the end — they’ll cook very quickly) or a rice bowl (cooked brown rice + sauteed mushrooms + 1/2 cup chicken broth + soy sauce + chopped green onions and sesame seeds = MMM). They’re best in the fall, and will likely keep showing up at your local farmers market for weeks to come. Here’s a slide show of recipes using oyster mushrooms from Martha Stewart, including a divine-looking Mushroom Soup.

Lastly, I spotted these plums at a great price, which is clutch when they’re in their peak late-summer season.

Oh yeah. Look at those bad boys.

Plums might be one of my top 3 favorite fruits, which is saying a lot for this fruit-and-veggie-loving gal. Try them in my Skillet Upside-Down Cake for a lovely dessert, or if you’re in more of a savory mood, this decadent Chanterelle, Bacon, and Plum Salad with Blue Cheese from Jaden Hair at Steamy Kitchen. Wow!

That’s all for this farmers market roundup. Get excited for fall produce! I’m seeing lots of dark greens in your future …

Budget Eats: All Your Salad Base Are Belong to Us.

30 Aug

I’m going to nerd myself out a little bit and link here to explain that ridiculous post title. Enjoy. Or just shake your head with a smile on your face. (Please?)

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There’s a rumor going around that fresh fruits and veggies are way too expensive for the average budget chef to afford. As a result, those of us with tighter wallets are preconditioned to believe that produce is out of our proverbial price range. (How’s that for alliteration? English teacher FTW.) Huge sad, indeed.

However! There’s always a balance to strike. First, frozen veggies are frozen at the height of their freshness, resulting in a solid alternative that’s slightly friendlier to one’s budget. Second, if you balance fresh and frozen produce, as well as focus on buying what’s in season (fun fact: apples are WAY more expensive if you feel like buying them in February), you can fill out your diet with the nutrients your body needs.

Note: For some quick info about which veggies are prime during which seasons, check out this link from the wise folks at Fruit & Veggies: More Matters.

With that in mind, I was inspired to write this Budget Eats post about one of my favorite meals: A great big, veggie-laden salad. The reasoning for that title, however, is two-fold: First, this IS a wallet-friendly way to nosh upon nutritional goodness in salad form. Second, this is a “base” recipe — a simple, tasty and aesthetically pleasing salad that you can top with any sort of protein and other fixins that you choose. I’ll have recommendations and tips posted below the recipe.

Simple Salad Base — Serves 1-2. (Easily multiplied for 3, 4, or more!)

You’ll need:

  • 1 cucumber
  • 5-10 baby carrots, or 1-2 large carrots, peeled
  • 2-3 roma tomatoes, or 1 large tomato
  • 1 “wild card” veggie of your choosing (green peppers, red onion, mushrooms), sliced or diced according to your preference
  • 1/4 a head of lettuce — I recommend Bibb, Romaine or Red Leaf.
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • Chopped fresh herbs to garnish, if desired (basil and chives are muy delicioso)

Here’s what you do:

  • Prep your cucumbers: Peel if they’re waxed. Split the cucumber in half length-wise. Cut each length into half moon shapes, about 1/4 inch thick. (You can decoratively peel these, or run a fork down the sides of a peeled cuke for extra texture.)
  • Slice carrots on the diagonal, about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick.
  • Slice tomatoes — if roma tomatoes, slice into small rounds (between 5 and 8 per tomato); if a larger tomato, cut into wedges.
  • Slice or dice additional veggies according to taste and preference. Add ALL veggies to your serving bowl, along with a sprinkling of salt, pepper & fresh herbs, if desired. Toss gently and set aside.
  • Wash lettuce leaves; dry using a paper towel or clean kitchen towel. (Wet greens + dressing = no dressing on your greens. Oil and vinegar are not friends.) Tear or chop gently into bite-size pieces. Add on TOP of your other veggies and refrigerate until ready to serve.

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  • When serving, toss the entire salad gently. Dress and top with additional toppings as desired. Nosh upon the veggie goodness.

Why place the lettuce on top and wait to toss? It keeps the lettuce from wilting under the weight and moisture of other veggies.

Fun toppings for Salads — Vegetarian:

  • Chick peas, crumbled feta, and Greek dressing
  • Grilled marinated tofu (see this post on tofu scrambles for tips on how to prepare the tofu), crispy wontons or Asian noodles, sliced oranges and Sesame or Ginger dressing.
  • Black beans, salsa, grilled corn, a sprinkle of cumin and chili powder, and Ranch dressing that’s been spiked with taco seasoning.
  • Ricotta Salata cheese (thicker, grate-able ricotta), vegetarian pepperoni (such as Smart Deli), pepperoncini peppers, and thick, crusty croutons.
  • Hard boiled eggs for a bacon-free cobb salad taste.

Fun Toppings for Salads — Meat Included

  • Grilled chicken, marinated with balsamic vinegar, lemon and rosemary; parmesan cheese; and a simple oil & vinegar dressing.
  • Thinly sliced grilled steak, grilled corn on the cob (sliced off the cob), and bleu cheese crumbles.
  • Canned salmon or tuna, mixed with mayo, dill & a drizzle of lemon juice to make salmon or tuna salad. (Add a few squirts of Sriracha chili sauce for extra oomph!)
  • Indian-inspired  Chicken salad — 1 diced cooked chicken breast, 1-2 tbsp mayo or Miracle Whip, chopped cashews, golden raisins, and curry powder to taste. Add sliced apples for extra crunch, and serve with grilled Naan bread.
  • Antipasto-style: cooked tortellini (spinach or cheese are great), sliced salami and prosciutto, small chunks or balls of melon, mozzarella cheese (shredded or cut into chunks), and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil. Serve with breadsticks and a lovely glass of Chianti.

Next time on Budget Eats (for real this time): How to make a big ol’ pot of stew, soup or chili and save / freeze individual portions. Happy eating!

Kitchen Tips: Broiler 101

26 Aug

If you’re new to your apartment kitchie – and new to baking or cooking in general – you may have noticed the “BROIL” function on your oven’s temperature dial. What does a budding chef need to know about her or his broiler?

From a post on theKitchn all about broiler use. How SWEET is this gas broiler?? Looks like a torture device. Or something used to curl celebrities’ hair.

  1. It’s HOT – when you broil anything, whether it’s a fish fillet or a grilled cheese sandwich, watch it carefully. It’s easy for food to go from “just about done” to “totally fantastic” to “oh good Lord, what’s that fossilized brown chunk on my baking pan?” when you’re not watching the broiler carefully. Often times, you can (and should) leave your oven door slightly ajar while food is under the broiler, which allows you to check for doneness frequently. No fossils!
  2. It’s FAST – If you want to broil a salmon fillet, you’re talking about 10 minutes of cooking time. If you’re broiling an open-faced sandwich, you’ll max out at 5-7 minutes before your cheese gets gooey and fabulous.
  3. It’s HEIGHT-SENSITIVE – Raise your oven rack to the position closest to your oven coils at the top. That’s the best spot for broiling, as it allows for serious direct heat.
  4.  It CAN be a budding chef’s best friend. Broiling allows for a fabulous browning / charring that adds such a great finishing touch to your dishes. If you’ve made a big tray of baked ziti, let it sit under the broiler for another 5-10 minutes, and watch that gooey cheese topping become a crispy, brown and bubbly masterpiece.

Fun things to do with your broiler:

  • Toast muffins! Split them in half — a “top” and a “bottom” — and broil for 3-5 minutes. When brown and toasty, top with peanut butter, regular butter, jams or jellies.
  • Make English Muffin Pizzas or open-faced sandwiches — if the “dough” is already cooked through, it’s easy to melt and brown the toppings (cheese, pepperoni, veggies) using your handy-dandy broiler.
  • Top an oven-safe bowl of soup with a round of French bread and oodles of cheese. Five minutes later, you have your own version of “French Onion Soup,” complete with cheesy crusty bits for nibbling. Mmm!

Image sourced from simplyrecipes.com. You, too, could have soup that looks this delicious. Nom nom nom.

  • Toast nuts or seeds for a few minutes (1-3 is probably best, and watch them carefully to make sure nothing burns) to bring out their essential oils and deepen their flavors.
  • Restore semi-stale cereal by spreading cereal grains into a single layer on a baking sheet, and broil for about a minute. The moisture will leech out of the grains (which caused them to go stale in the first place), leaving you with fresh cereal. Watch this one carefully to avoid accidental crispiness.

Here’s a recipe I whipped up recently from that mistress of all things fun and friendly in the kitchen, Rachael Ray. This dish uses cod, a basic white fish, but you can easily swap it out for haddock or tilapia. I’ve modified the directions slightly, but the essence, ingredients and method are the same. *Note*: If you’d like to reduce this recipe to a serving for one, use 2-4 slices of eggplant, a handful of cherry tomatoes, and a single-serving fish fillet (pre-packaged, or ask the fishmonger at your grocery store for help.) Happy broiling!

Why yes, dinner can always be this pretty.

Broiled Cod with Eggplant, Tomatoes and Basil – serves 4-6

You’ll need:

  • 6 tbsp olive oil
  • 5 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 eggplant, trimmed (ends cut off) and sliced into ½ inch thick slices (peeling optional)
  • ¾ lb skinless cod fillet, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1/3 cup shredded fresh basil, or 2-3 tsp dried basil

Here’s what you do:

  • Preheat the broiler. In a skillet, heat 3 tbsp olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and cook until golden – watch carefully to make sure it doesn’t burn. Remove with a slotted spoon and place in a small bowl. Add the tomatoes to the pan, cooking on one side for 5 minutes. Flip and cook for an additional 5-10 minutes or so.
  • Line a cookie sheet or baking sheet with foil. Transfer eggplant to prepared sheet in a single layer. Drizzle and brush with remaining olive oil, and sprinkle with salt & pepper. Broil, flipping once, until tender and brown (about 8-10 minutes).
  • On the baking sheet, spoon your tomatoes on top of eggplant slices. Place cod chunks on top of the mixture. Broil until the fish is cooked through, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a serving platter; top with freshly chopped basil and precooked garlic, and serve.

Do you guys use your broilers much? Or are you more likely to be toaster oven and microwave people? Do you like cod, haddock, or other fish?

Food Shopping: When to Go Organic?

26 Jun

ImageWhen I think of “organic produce,” a few images come to mind:

1. Glowing yoga masters consuming oodles of freshly-juiced fruits and veggies

2. A guilt-monster gnawing at my stomach for not buying more “green” produce, given that I pride myself on going green elsewhere in my life. (Woohoo recycling!)

3. Fields upon fields of beautiful, and HELLA expensive, green things.

4. My rapidly emptying wallet.

Strugglebus much?

Which is why, when I recently read an article on Treehugger discussing which produce items to buy organically (and which wouldn’t blacken your soul if you didn’t), I was intrigued. According to their wise and well-researched folks, these foods should definitely be organic:

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Who would’ve thought? The number 1 evildoer!

1. Apples (apparently 98% of apple varieties had detectable levels of pesticides! Ew!)
2. Celery
3. Sweet bell peppers
4. Peaches
5. Strawberries
6. Imported nectarines
7. Grapes
8. Spinach
9. Lettuce
10. Cucumbers
11. Domestic blueberries
12. Potatoes

They call them “The Dirty Dozen,” which I found pretty hilarious.

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I don’t always eat my vegetables, but when I do, I go organic.

In contrast, the “Clean Fifteen” included the following winners:

1. Onions (They’ll make you cry, but not because of their pesticides! Heh heh, I kill myself.)
2. Sweet corn
3. Pineapples
4. Avocado
5. Cabbage
6. Sweet peas
7. Asparagus
8. Mangoes
9. Eggplant
10. Kiwi
11. Domestic cantaloupe
12. Sweet potatoes
13. Grapefruit
14. Watermelon
15. Mushrooms

So the running theme: If it’s got a peel that you plan on eating, give it a wash or go organic. If it’s on the latter list, you’re probably either avoiding pesticides overall, or peeling / removing its outermost layer will help mucho in the non-pesticide-eating process. Who knew?

For those of you counting your pennies (and dimes, and quarters … ), I think it all comes down to balance. Remember that not every veg has to be organic in order for your conscience to be clean. Also, going local is just as beneficial for the environment, especially when many small-scale farmers (like the type you’ll find at your nearby farmers market) are likely farming pesticide-free anyway. If you buy some of the “Dirty Dozen” produce at your farmers market, and in season, your conscience will be clear. For more tips on how to make healthy eating decisions, check out sites like Best Food Facts or Treehugger.  Go internet! Beat non-informed-consumption-of-green-things!

(Lee Marvin could use some of those organic veggies, huh? The man looks pretty vitamin-deficient.)