Thursday, July 29, 2010

Beautiful Bounty

I have heard others speak of going to a farmer's market and thought, who would seriously want to go shop somewhere where you are only buying vegetables that could comfortably be bought at my local grocery, in the air conditioning with all the other things that I needed to buy on my list. But it wasn't until I went that I realized the variety of items you could purchase. The biggest pull of course is the local produce, but there are also, free-range meats, homemade jams, scratch made pastries, bagels, breads, local honey, flowers, local maple syrup, and items made all from beeswax.

What is great, is that I have pretty much replaced my grocery store shopping with the farmer's market. I have only bought a few items from the store the past few weeks to supplement my menu plans.

Below is a picture of the beautiful bounty I brought home left to right, front to back:
garlic, green tomato, red tomato, hot peppers, green tomato, beets, asiago cheese bagels, zucchini, yellow squash, free-range ground beef, 2 dozen ears corn

Since my kiddos were spending the night at grandma's, a big plate of veggies was perfect for dinner. Roasted beets, sautéed yellow squash & zucchini with garlic and fresh tomato with balsamic vinegar.

The tomato was so flavorful with the balsamic vinegar & fresh cracked pepper. But, some of the vinegar leaked over to the beet side of the plate and that did not make the beets taste good to me. A tiny drizzle of local honey made it better.

Do I usually eat a plate of just veggies for dinner? No. But I figured since I had an ice cream cone for lunch that this was probably my best choice. LOL! Some day I will learn, but I'm doing better than I was before.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Roasted Beets

Here's a great way to start a food blog... I'm not a fan of beets.

At least I'm not a fan of how other people make them. Beets come canned, in balls as a garnish in a salad, as Harvard Beets and probably some other ways I don't want to try. None of these have captured my fancy. However, I read an article in Martha Stewart's Living magazine a long time ago that touted the wonders of roasting vegetables and it changed my perspective on many veggies I have disliked in the past. One in particular is butternut squash. I turned my nose up to every way I had ever tasted it, until I roasted it and now we love eating it. We've also roasted parsnips, carrots, and leeks and have had great success with those too.

My drive in trying the beets roasted was that I had learned the deeper the color of your veggie, typically the more nutrients they pack in. The darker your lettuce, the more worth eating it is. Iceberg lettuce is a waste of time. It's like eating crunchy water... just say no. So when I was picking my way through our local farmer's market, which by the way carries more than fruits & veggies, I noticed a small organic stand. Truth be told, it was the only organic stand there. What a sad statement. However, the produce they (ahem) produced, was beautiful. They are smaller, not perfect, and not blown up and out of proportion to suit the likes & tastes of American consumers. What caught my attention were these small, almost golf ball sized beets. I simply had to buy them. This was my opportunity to give these deep colored menaces one final chance on my plate. I am so glad I did. Enjoy the journey of color below!

Only wash your beets when you're ready to roast them. It's the same concept as strawberries. They go bad quicker once they've been washed.

I run them under warm water and use a scrubby to scrub all the dirt off. You're supposed to peel them, but if they're organic I don't see the point. They were delicious this way and didn't need peeled. But do as you like... it's your beet :)

As I scrubbed them, I laid them on a paper towel to drain. It was like watching tie-dying happen because they "bleed" their liquid once scrubbed.

Because the liquid does stain, I use a kitchen glove on one hand. Cut off the top & the bottom.

Then cut in half, then slices, then cubes. They were around 1/2 inch square.

Put the cubed beets in a glass bowl. Why glass? So it doesn't stain your plastic.

Drizzle with a little Extra Virgin Olive Oil and some cracked Sea Salt. Toss well so all the pieces are coated with the oil.

Spread in a single layer on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper or on a baking stone and place in your oven on the middle rack at 450 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour.

They will shrivel and get dark, but that just means the natural sugars in the beets are caramelizing on the outside. This is when they become yummy. Up until this point... bleh. Do you see how they shrunk in size?

I served the roasted beets as a side to a grilled cheese sandwich. Don't skimp on this. If you're going to take the time and pamper yourself with a delicious roasted veggie with such a decadent color, make your own bread (like below) or buy some of your favorite bakery bread. Also, use good cheese. Not the highly processed logs or cheese slices packaged in individual pieces of plastic. It's like they are stored in their own personal plastic coffins. On this particular day I chose Muenster. It complimented the sweetness of the beets just perfectly!

I will say honestly, that beets are not my favorite vegetable. But I sure do like them made this way and will continue to serve them at my table simply because they are so healthy. I have not been able to convince my munchkins that roasted beets are yummy, but they do eat the small portion they are given without complaining anymore.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Chipotle Butter & Roasted Corn

One of the telling signs at our home that summer has arrived is when I break out the Chipotle Butter. We found this recipe from a grilling cookbook and have made it every summer since. It is a huge hit with everyone in the family and makes your corn on the cob, rolls, fresh green beans, etc. taste so smoky and warm.

Here's just a little bit of back information before we move forward. You should always know a little something about the food you put in your body. Chipotle Peppers are smoked jalapeno chili peppers. These chilies are usually a dull tan to coffee color and measure approximately 2 to 4 inches in length and about an inch wide. As much as one fifth of the Mexican jalapeno crop is processed into chipotles.

What you'll need: 1 stick butter (8 Tbsp.), 1 chipotle pepper, fresh garlic, salt & pepper
Also... a coffee grinder (spice grinder)!

(I always make a double batch because we use it for more than just corn)

Place softened butter in a bowl. I don't use margarine. The idea of ruining something so delicious with a chemically altered oil product just doesn't seem right. Natural is best.

Cut the stems off the chipotle peppers, then cut them in half longways. This will give you the ability to remove the seeds if you want. I've heard the seeds carry more heat. I would use 1 medium sized chipotle per stick of butter. Then cut the halves into smaller pieces.

Place the chipotles in your coffee grinder and pulse until they are finely ground. Please heed the safety tip!!!

Safety Tip: Put the grinder on your stove and turn on the hood fan. This will suck up the spicy oils that are released into the air from grinding the peppers so fine. Keep the fan running when you take the top off the grinder too. If you don't do this, you will be choking. I guarantee it!

Next, pull apart the fresh garlic (1-2 cloves per stick of butter depending on your fondness for garlic. I would say use 3 extra large ones, but other people will be enjoying this besides myself). Remove all of the outer skin by twisting the clove between your fingers and peel away.

You can either mince your garlic or press it right into the bowl with the butter. I find pressing it to be much easier and less sticky.

Next add the salt and pepper to taste. Don't go too heavy on the pepper, or it may overwhelm the smoky flavor of the chipotle.

Go ahead and empty the chiptole powder into the butter. Tap out as much as you can. Be sure to wipe out the grinder with a damp cloth to remove all the chipotle oil or you will have an interesting cup of coffee tomorrow morning :)

Once you thoroughly combine the ingredients, turn the butter onto a sheet of plastic wrap. I always scoop some out into a small container to send home with my mom & step-dad. They love this stuff.

Use the plastic wrap to help you form a log about the length of a corn cob. Then wrap it up completely and refrigerate for at least an hour. Overnight is best so all the flavors can meld.

Roasting the Corn: Keeping the corn in the husk, soak it in water for about 1/2 hour. Throw it on the grill and cook on medium to high for 30-40 minutes. You want the husks to get burned, like in my picture below the corn is protected and steamy good on the inside. Please be aware that burned husks are a messy deal and I would recommend peeling them over a trash can. Only peel what you are going to eat right then. The husks will continue to keep the corn nice and hot if not peeled ahead of time.

Unwrap the chipotle butter log and place it on a plate. Lay your corn on top and start rolling.

Oh my gosh, this is smoky-melty-crispy-juicy-spicy goodness all over your face!!

I usually store the leftover chipotle butter in a container and use is to sauté fresh green beans, or over steamed broccoli. You can even put a pat of it on top of a perfectly grilled steak for some added zing. Oh Enjoy!

Friday, July 23, 2010

A Small Success

It was a moment. A small victory, but a victory nonetheless.

You see, I'm in training. Now when some of you think of training you may think of Crossfit. I can only watch that with my mouth gaping a little. My training is a little different... O.K. a lot different. I don't take elevators anymore and I walk a mile each evening after dinner and sometimes two if the mosquitoes are not too hungry. We live by a boggy area with nary a bat to be found (I may try building a bat house this summer). I've been doing these things religiously for a little over 3 weeks now. I have upped my speed some and after the first week I reversed my route to make the walk more difficult. Again, these are small things.

But tonight when we went to pick our son up from a week away at camp I did something I didn't think I could do. I did something that I feared. I didn't wheeze, I didn't trudge, I didn't put my hands on my thighs to push myself up, I didn't pick my way, I marched up this steep, high hill to my sons dorm without huffing, puffing, stumbling or missing a beat. And when I got to the top I didn't need to stop and catch my breath.

No one else noticed my smile, no one else knew I wanted to do the Rocky dance (0:49), no one knew the fear welling up inside me when I started that climb. What if I fell, what if I had to take a break before I could continue up, people would be watching me not be able to do this. But when I got going, I just felt that I was going to do it, and do it well. I felt good. I felt able. And I made it to the top better than some of the others.

I faced a fear head on and because I worked on building up my strength, the fear didn't win. I am one step closer to living a life not ruled by my fear of the unknown. I am one step closer to my goal. I am one step closer to becoming a Warrior Princess (LOL).

Tonight was a good night. A very good night.
I think I'll walk 3 miles tomorrow morning because I believe I can.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Significance of Stuff

Someone close to my family is moving far away. They are consolidating a life's worth of things into an extremely small house that had already been furnished by them as a vacation home. To watch their inner struggle of selling off not only their things, but the memories attached to them has been difficult. A comment was made to me this evening that "Someday you'll get old and stuff will mean something to you!" I realize that statement spoken in anger was made in their grief of having to let go of yet another piece that meant something to them. No amount of sympathizing or empathizing on my part is easing their pain. I have used so many techniques to help with this process that I am tapped out.

For those of you who don't know me personally, one of my past professions was as a Professional Organizer. I have done training seminars, speaking engagements on several occasions over the years for various organizations and have loved helping others make changes in their lives as they deal with the stuff in their homes and businesses. It was an amazing time in my life to actually work in my "sweet spot." I helped people deal with emotions, make decisions, de-clutter, find freedom, and breathe deeply. People would cry and hug me after a session because they were so relieved that someone helped them through the process. Their weight had been lifted.

And yet... this one is different. No amount of rationalizing or logic has been helpful. And so when rational thought and logic fail what is left in helping them to work through this transition? Why is it so hard for them to let go? What has happened in their past that causes them to cling to their things so deeply? I am continually reminded of this verse in Matthew...

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. Matthew 6:19-20

As I look around my comfortable home I can say without pause, that if I were to lose my house tonight and all of it's contents, there is not a stick of furniture that I would cry over, not a knick-knack that I couldn't live without. It's all replaceable. If I could save something it would be our photographs. That is the story of our lives, the book we have written and the witness of our love for one another over the years. They are our shared memories. Our memories are tied up in the people of our lives, not our stuff. Even if I were to lose these, I could still find solace in knowing that the amazing people God has put in my life are still with me. The people I made those memories with are still here for me to love.

I believe that's what Matthew meant when he wrote those verses. Don't worry about your stuff here on earth (cars, boats, houses, 50 year old ashtrays). Invest in sharing Jesus' love for others by loving them. And by doing that, you send your love ahead of you.

Let God be the one who stores up all your love and forget about your stuff.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Perfect Hard Boiled Egg

To quote a slogan... "The incredible, edible egg." It comes prepackaged naturally, at one point it had the potential for life, they are all-natural, packed with nutrients, vitamins and minerals, high-quality protein and antioxidants.

However, the best way to go, is to purchase free-range. This means the chickens are actually outside, eating bugs, pecking the ground and foraging for their food just as God intended. Thus, if you eat free-range, you will get from that egg what you are supposed to. I can not say the same for the mass produced egg typically purchased in your local grocery.

I enjoy eggs in different forms: over easy, pickled, as an omelet, a late Sunday dinner fried egg sandwich and hard boiled to name a few. But I have had some bad hard boiled eggs in my time. You know the type that are cooked beyond recognition where the white has turned to rubber and the delicate yellow resembles grey chalk. Nothing says pass the salt and a large glass of water more than a poorly cooked hard boiled egg. So I would like to share some wisdom that was given to me by my lovely step-mother, Miss Meyer. She could cook an egg like I had never had before. It was poetry to watch her remove the shell. And so now I will give you the golden nugget you have longed for and I promise perfect results every time. Miss Meyer would never steer you wrong.

*Safety Note: I'm sure there are some regulations on salmonella and all. If you're interested, go ahead and Google that. Otherwise, on with the show.

Place fresh eggs in a pot. You can cook as many as you like as long as they rest on the bottom of the pan in a single layer. Fill the pot with enough water to cover the eggs by about an inch. Turn your burner on high and bring those beauties to a boil. Once the water boils, turn the heat down so that your water is at a gentle simmer. Simmer for 15 minutes.

After 15 minutes, remove from the heat and very carefully pour the water out of the pot. Not all of the water will leave the pot, or you would have Humpty Dumpty in the bottom of your sink.

Run cold water over the eggs for a good minute. This will cool the pan and the eggs at the same time.

Use whatever you have lying around to collect some ice cubes. I had just washed some grapes, so my ugly yellow colander was still close at hand. Let the ice sit in the water until it is completely melted.

Add Image

Take the egg in your hand and give one of the ends a sound rap on the side of your sink.

Turn the egg around and tap the other end.

This will loosen the shell on both ends and make peeling much easier.

Roll the egg gently between your hand and the side of the sink. This will loosen the membrane of the shell from the egg.

Cooking the eggs this way and cracking the shells as instructed will have you amazed at how easily the shell comes off.

It will most likely peel off in large pieces.

Swish your egg in the cool water in the pot to rinse off any stray pieces of shell.

Then place your eggs on a paper towel to drain. They're so pretty.

No grey chalky center here. Just a beautiful yellow that is delicate and melt in your mouth.

If you are planning on serving these as simply hard boiled eggs, you can store them in a plastic zip top bag until your ready to use them. They will "weep", or give off a clear liquid if they are stored for a few days. This does not mean the eggs have gone bad. It is a natural occurrence.

I hope if you have had struggles in the past, that the lovely Miss Meyer's technique will give you many years of success.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Walls of Perfume

I have a daughter. She is an amazing little person. I look at her sometimes and wonder where the last 10 years have gone. She truly is the most beautiful young lady I have ever seen. Her hair is thick and long and golden blonde. Her eyes are blue and caring. Her skin tans like a champ even through sunblock. She has the sweetest dimples when she smiles. And her laugh... her laugh can turn my day around, make me stop my housework and send me into giggling myself. She has an advanced sense of humor, impeccable timing with jokes and can do imitations better than anyone I know. But those are superficial.

What makes her the most beautiful to me is the person she has become. She loves people. She is kind, considerate, gentle and caring. She is, and always has been, happy to be wherever she is. She can make a friend out of thin air because everyone she meets has potential.

I am 100% in love with this bewildering princess.

The past week and a half, I have been walking the mile loop in our neighborhood after dinner. And each time I have asked her if she would like to walk with me. It has become one of the most wonderful pieces of my day. I think back about how I have spent my time in the evenings before I started this and it was never with her alone. The conversations we have had and the questions she is asking at this age are scary and wonderful all at the same time. And I think, when would she have asked that question if we didn't have this time alone? Would she have sought me out and specifically asked or would she have asked a friend and gotten incorrect information?

I love that she is comfortable asking about how her body is changing and what life was like when she was an infant, why do cars stop at the white line at a stoplight, can mosquitoes see color, why is soda pop bad for us, if milk is to feed babies, why are we drinking it? She is light to me!

So the other morning as I was getting ready for work, I walked into my bedroom and smelled this heavenly fragrance. I turned the corner into the bathroom and it was stronger. It wasn't the air freshener, but my best bottle of perfume. I went out and asked who had sprayed it and she confessed. I explained that it was costly and that if she wanted to wear some I would help her put it on next time. As I walked back down the hall with a grin on my face, I realized that she wanted to smell like me. Just like when her Nana got her a pair of sandals with a heel and she told me "Now I sound like you when I walk."

But the thing is, I don't believe any of the perfume made it on her body. I think she sprayed the wall on accident. And so for four days now my bathroom has reminded me that my daughter is always watching. She wants to be like me. And sometimes perfume on the wall is a good thing, because it reminds me to be who I want my daughter to grow into.

I wish you could know her the way I do, and you too would fall in love.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Frozen Watermelon

That's right kiddies... it's my first food blog! Eeee! I'm pretty excited.

A friend of mine posted on facebook the other night that her new obsession was frozen watermelon. I am a big fan of all things cold, so I thought I'd give it a whirl. Even better... I'll get my monkeys involved. What child wouldn't like a watermelon Popsicle?

Items you'll need:
  • Watermelon (preferrably from your local farmer's market)
  • Bamboo skewers
  • Kitchen scissors
  • Large knife
  • Cutting board
  • Gallon-size zip-top bag
  • Container

I bought a whole watermelon knowing that we would plow through it pretty quickly. So after I cut it in quarters, I cut off about a 2 inch slice.

*Safety Note: Put a damp dish cloth or damp paper towel under your cutting board to keep it from sliding around. This is especially helpful when your working with large, awkward pieces.

*Safety Note: If you place a paper towel so it is laying partially on your cutting board, it will soak up the excess juice from the melon and keep the top of you board from getting slippery.

Then, cut the slice in half. Make sure you don't cut too far past the white part of the rind. That needs to stay in tact so the melon doesn't flop around.

Next, cut the melon across in about 1/2 to 1 inch increments. Again, be sure not to cut into the white rind too far or the whole slice will fold open.

Then lay the slice on it's side and cut in 1/2 inch piece across. Cut from white to white.

This will give you the most uniform cubes possible from a round fruit. Now if you are on the adventurous side, go ahead and gently squeeze the sides of the melon and you can pick the whole thing up off the board and deposit your cubes in a container. Once all the inside cubes are out, you will see the odd shaped ones left. It's still good melon, just not a perfect cube. Use your knife to cut with the shape of the rind to release the pink flesh that's left.

After you have cubed the whole melon, now the fun begins. Carefully slide the watermelon cubes onto the skewer leaving enough room at the bottom for a handle.

*Safety Note: Use your kitchen scissors and snip off the pointy end so they don't poke their little fingers while they're helping or their tongues when it's time to enjoy.

I would recommend placing the fruit all the way to the top of the skewer.

We learned the hard way and the pointy end (that we didn't snip off) poked through the plastic storage bag. Putting the fruit all the way to the end should alleviate that issue. It made it a problem when placing the bag in the freezer. It had to be upside down so the juice wouldn't leak out the little pin holes in the plastic. You could also use a container instead of a plastic bag. Do whatever works best for you.

We waited about 4 hours to try our frozen treat. It was pretty firm, but had a nice slushy consistency. However, the next day we pulled them out to have another go and they were completely frozen and hard. It didn't seem to slow my monkeys down any, but I preferred them at the semi-frozen slushy state.

What delicious leftovers.

My little princess helper.