First Harvest

Thankfully, the garden survived the high temps while we were gone over the weekend.  In fact, I think it flourished with the 90º temps, thanks to the good soaking I gave it before we left.  The straw bales seem to be doing a good job keeping the tomatoes, cucumbers, and zucchinis hydrated. I’ll try to get a picture in the future, but these were not from the straw bale part of the garden.

The foods from my first harvest were from the original garden bed that came with the house and some containers of herbs.

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Sugar snap peas, larger than expected.  Rex thought they were delicious and scarfed one down before they made it into the house.

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Enough basil to make pesto for dinner.  Rex loved pulling the leaves and was very sad when we were done picking.  I washed up the basil and then threw it into the food processor with some parmesan cheese, a few walnuts, lots of garlic, and some salt. I blended it up while drizzling grapeseed oil in until it looked about right and p(r)esto!

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I served the pesto up on some organic pasta from Costco (I don’t remember what this shape is called) with a side of asparagus.  Rex had three helpings of pasta in addition to his asparagus!  I’m hoping my basil plant will continue to flourish and there will be many more pesto dinners in our future.

Tomorrow we’ll talk about the mint that was picked with the basil. It became something else entirely.

Winning Pins

Today, I’m sharing some winning pins that are now on permanent rotation in our house.  I’ve had a streak of good luck trying recipes and DIY food things from Pinterest and I’m hoping you like them as much as we do.

Homemade Freezer Biscuits

These are ridiculously easy and really tasty!  I’ve always been afraid of making biscuits because of the cold butter thing and the rolling.  Turns out, it’s not that hard.  Or at least, this version isn’t.  These biscuits are a huge hit with both the adults and kids and really do cook up nicely from the freezer.  I let them thaw about 30 minutes or so before putting them in to bake and they turn out nice and fluffy.  The entire recipe takes 5 ingredients, and you can pronounce them all.  I usually make up a batch when I need them, and have the time, and freeze the other half for when I need them, but don’t have the time.

Whole Wheat Waffles

These are a recent addition to the Tried and Awesome board.  We were recently graced with a visit from the Shunn Clan (minus Puck and Tucker) and they braved my first attempt at these waffles.  The verdict?  We are whole wheat waffle converts!  The addition of cinnamon and honey really takes this waffle recipe to the next level.  The use of whole wheat flour gives the waffles a more complex flavor and makes them cook up just a bit denser.  I think the next batch I make will be doubled so I can have freezer waffles on hand for easy toasting.

Condensed Cream of Whatever Soup

I hate canned condensed cream of (insert flavor here) soup.  There. I said it.  It is so salty and tastes like chemicals.  No longer do I have to bring that crap into my house.  This homemade version takes 5 minutes in the microwave and can be made into whatever flavor you need.  I left mine plain and it still worked beautifully. My only piece of advice is to make this soup right before you need it.  Otherwise, it sets up a bit and you have to warm it and whisk it back to the right consistency.

Homemade Spreadable Butter

This is another one of those foods that you think, “Oh, I couldn’t make that.  It’s a specialized thing.”  I now say, “PFFFFFT!”

Seriously.  Spreadable butter is ridiculously easy.  My 2 sticks of rock hard butter transformed into a beautiful, spreadable whipped butter.  I ended up with around 14oz of olive oil infused butter with a cost of $1.25 vs. $4 for 15oz of questionable canola infused butter.  Add to that the convenience* of making it at home and I’m sold on the homemade version.

*Yes, making it at home is more convenient for me than pre-packaged because I don’t have to cart the baby to the store.

Baked Ravioli

Oh. My. YUM! This dish is so easy and so delicious.  Frozen ravioli (we used the spinach and cheese kind from Costco), spaghetti sauce (in our case, leftover marinara), and cheese (a block of shredded mozzarella). Layers of pasta and sauce and cheese, all baked together to form a gooey dish of awesome for your tummy.  This dish makes great leftovers and reheats well.  We served it with steamed mixed veggies.

Bread Machine Cornbread

A month or two ago, I scored a Breadman TR800 on Craigslist for $20.  Since then, I haven’t bought a single loaf of bread.  This cornbread is simple and goes great with chili.  On my machine, I use the cake setting and it turns out fluffy and golden.  Whenever I make this cornbread, the kids wolf it down.  I like mine with butter and honey.

So there you have it.  We have been trying very hard to cook from home and be frugal and these recipes have allowed me to put my grocery budget to better use.  Hopefully some of these great recipes will make their way into your kitchen rotation.  Happy cooking!

Simple Spring Rolls

I’ve been watching a lot of Good Eats lately.  Having finally gotten rid of the first trimester nausea, I am once again able to cook.  And have been doing so with a vengeance.  The super-sensitive pregnancy nose makes complex flavors a must these days.  Inspired by Use Your Noodle 5, I attempted spring rolls.  Mine were much less complex than Alton’s version (mainly because I didn’t have all the ingredients on hand), but tasty none the less.

Here, I’ll show you.

Tasty looking, eh?  Want to make some?  Here’s what I did.

Simple Spring Rolls

Ingredients:

  • 1 carrot
  • 2 – 3 large cabbage leaves
  • bean threads
  • shrimp
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce (separated)
  • 1 tablespoon Sambal Oelek
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice (fresh squeezed)
  • 2 teaspoons sugar

Directions:

Start by soaking the bean threads in hot water (out of the tap) for 15 minutes.  Meanwhile…

In a pot, boil 1 tablespoon soy sauce and enough water to hold about 2 handfuls of the bean threads (mine came in a bag of 8 little packages, I used 2).

While the water is coming to boil, use a peeler to peel your carrot into ribbons (munch on the core while you keep cooking).

Chop the cabbage leaves into small pieces.  Cook in hot water until they turn bright green and just start to soften.  Drain

When the water has come to a boil, cook your shrimp.  (I used pre-cooked, frozen, tail off shrimp, so I just used it to reheat mine.)  DO NOT DRAIN THE WATER!  Just fish your shrimp out and let cool.

Drain the bean threads from the plain water and add them to water the shrimp came out of.  Let that boil for 3 – 5 minutes.  Drain.

Mix the rest of the soy sauce with the Sambal Oelek, sugar, and lime juice.  Add the bean threads to the sauce mixture and let it soak it up.

Chop up the shrimp into little pieces.

Assemble your spring rolls one at a time.  Don’t over soak your rice papers or they will be hard to work with.  I soaked mine about 10 seconds in hot tap water and then assembled like a burrito (ingredients on one end, roll over, fold over both ends, and continue to roll).

A Few Notes:

If you are unsure how to assemble spring rolls (or burritos for that matter), do a search on youtube and you’ll get the basic idea.

These are just as tasty hot or cold, just give the rice paper about 2 minutes to set up in roll form before consuming.  Assemble just before eating of they will not be good eats.

I used these rice papersthese bean threads, and this Sambal Oelek, but do yourself a favor and buy them locally.  If your favorite Asian section doesn’t have them, find a local Asian market.  All told, my bean threads and rice papers cost under $5 and came from my normal grocery store.  The Sambal Oelek I got at an Asian market for around $3.

Sambal Oelek can be a little hot if you’re not used to spicy.  You can totally cut it down if you’re worried.  Start with a teaspoon and work your way up.

I didn’t make dipping sauce for mine, but if you feel it necessary, Alton has a good recipe here.

These are fantastic when served with Jasmine Oolong tea.  Just sayin’…

Tortilla Cracker-Chips

The original goal was to make homemade tortilla chips.  But the consistency doesn’t come out quite right for that.  Instead, these warm pieces of floury, salty goodness are not quite crackers, but not quite chips.  


Tortilla Cracker-Chips

Ingredients: 

  • 4 soft taco sized flour tortillas
  • Kosher salt
  • Coconut oil
Directions:

Use a pizza cutter to slice tortillas into fairly uniform pieces.  Spread pieces out on a cookie sheet and brush with oil. (Or, you can place the pieces in a lidded container or zip top bag, pour in the oil, and shake.)  Sprinkle salt to taste.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes, or until desired crispiness is reached.  Remove from pan and consume as soon as they are cool enough to handle.

Notes:

  • You could put salt and pepper or cinnamon and sugar or whatever flavor you like on your crackers/chips.  Go crazy and experiment!
  • If you sub in corn tortillas, you may need to adjust your cooking time.
  • Coconut oil is not essential, but it was what we had on hand and was delicious.
  • This is totally cheaper than buying a bag of tortilla chips from the store.  I buy my tortillas in bulk (a large 3 pack) at Costco and then freeze them, thawing as needed.

(Confession: I made these originally on Tuesday night, but didn’t get any photos before they were scarfed down in their entirety.  So I had to make another batch.  The things I do for the blog…)

Peanut Sauce

I had a craving for peanut sauce today.  It’s the second one I’ve had in the last few days.  I must be lacking whatever nutrient is in peanuts, because I can’t get peanut butter out of my mind.  Being that tomorrow is payday and we’ve already blown the fun money on Thai food last Saturday, I decided to attempt it again myself.  I have attempted peanut sauce in the past, but it never came out right.  I am pleased to report that I finally nailed it.

I served the peanut sauce with diced chicken breast and broccoli over rice noodles (not pictured).  It was phenomenal, if I do say so myself.  (And the rate at which it was eaten by the husband is a good indicator that I’m right.)

Peanut Sauce with Chicken & Broccoli

(Loosely adapted from Williams-Sonoma)

Ingredients:

  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter (I used fresh ground)
  • 1 green onion, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • Juice of 1 small lime
  • 1 Tbs. soy sauce
  • 1 tsp. curry powder
  • 1 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin (Optional for Liisa)
  • 1 tsp. fresh ginger, grated
  • Red chili flakes to taste
  • 4 – 6 chicken tenderloins
  • 2 cups chopped broccoli
Place all ingredients in a small sauce pan.  Set to medium low heat.  Whisk to combine.  Cook until desired temperature and consistency is reached, whisking often to keep sauce from burning.
Meanwhile, cook chicken tenderloins in oil until done.  Remove from pan.  Add broccoli and saute until heated thru.  Chop chicken and add back to pan.  Pour peanut sauce over broccoli and chicken and simmer until everything is the same temperature.
Serve over rice or noodles as desired.  Makes approx. 4 servings.

Zucchini Bake

I had an abundance of zucchini recently and decided to attempt a zucchini bake.  I started with a recipe found in The New Cookbook for Poor Poets (and Others) by Ann Rogers and then modified the heck out of it.

It’s basically a conglomeration of food that was in the fridge that were going to go bad.  And it was amazingly delicious.

Zucchini Bake – A Sort of Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 5 or so chicken tenderloins, cooked and chopped
  • Sliced zucchini (about 4 cups)
  • Most of a red onion, chopped up
  • A few cloves of garlic, diced
  • A can of diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 cup shredded cheese (I used cheddar)
  • 2/3 cup almond meal or chopped almonds
  • 1 tablespoon of flour
Cook the chicken and then remove from pan.  Saute the zucchini, onion, and garlic with some Italian seasoning until tender.  Mix in the other ingredients (except some cheese for sprinkling on top) and bake at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes.
It’s even better the next day!

Biscuits and Scramble

The blog has been long neglected (save for Friday Flowers) due to a variety of factors (Grandma’s death, Sock Summit, preparing for newsletter, etc.).  July kind of exploded and spiraled out of control.  So I’m calling a do-over in August.  I plan to actually post things (instead of just composing posts in my head), whether or not the picture is grainy.  I love my iPad 2, but the picture quality is not fantastic.  But often that is what I have with me.  So, prepare for grainy pictures and random content.

First up is today’s amazing breakfast.  After being sad and badgering my husband all day yesterday, he agreed to drive all the way home (we were originally going to stop and stay at my sister’s a couple hours from home).  I slept so well in my own bed, that this morning I awoke with biscuits on the brain.  I know, I’m just weird.

Anyway, I made cheddar yogurt biscuits using my homemade yogurt.  They were served with a scramble that contained peppers, green, yellow, and red onions, mushrooms, and bacon.

No, I didn’t spend my morning chopping vegetables.  That was the beauty of this meal.  Even bumbling about in a pre-coffee stupor, it took about 45 minutes total.  How?  The veggies were pre-chopped and frozen by yours truly.  Knowing I was about to leave for nearly a week and having delicious farmer’s market veggies in the fridge, I set about chopping and freezing the day before I left.  Peppers, onions, mushrooms… They all found their way diced and bagged.  It was the perfect way to prevent waste and make life easier on myself.  I highly recommend it.

P.S. The biscuits are amazingly moist and tasty.  It’s probably a very good thing that this recipe only makes 6.