Saturday, April 25, 2015

10 Years, 10 Best: Spring Salads and Sides

Spring and fall are my favorite seasons. Here, in the Midwest, if you blink you miss the beautiful weather. We tend to have very short bursts of spring and fall before it's either hot and humid or stark and cold. No wonder I love it so much. We humans tend to appreciate things most when we don't have them but for a short and wonderful time.

Hello, Spring.

I'm massively busy. So thank you to all these new views of the book's Facebook page and the new likes. I haven't earned them much lately, but I am glad you are stopping by. Busy also translates to me leaning heavily on my favorite recipes for the season and not creating a lot of new ones. A good time to be celebrating a decade of blogging with a review of the best of the best.

I made this dish just last week. Our good friends are farmers and their chickens have been working overtime with the good weather. We have, I kid you not, 12 dozen eggs in our fridge. (to those at work who know me, I will be sharing). The mint plant I had "contained" took over part of the yard, so we also have mint aplenty and our spring CSA is bringing in about 5 lbs. of greens per week. Add a bit of asparagus from the farmers market today … 

We have kind of a crazy love of beets around this place. The kiddo does not share the love, but she'll tolerate their earthy flavor as long as there is feta cheese involved. Make extra of the roasted beet dressing, it's a favorite.

If you have more asparagus, in season now, try a simple raw, Marinated Asparagus, too.

Of course, it can't all be salads. I'd eat breakfast salad if I could, but not everyone agrees. This one works for kids, too, as a gateway path to beets.

My favorite Easter side, and really anytime I can get good fennel and carrots and potatoes, is this dish. It takes a bit of time to prep all the veggies so each is cooked perfectly, but it's got a lot of complexity and flavor going on here. Enough to overshadow the main dish.

And, the Beet goes on.

Spinach is abundant now, this Asian-inspired version of Goma Ae (Chilled Spinach with Carrot Ginger Sauce) is unique, but very simple.

Late spring, the tender greens give way to the hearty ones like bok choy.

Alrighty, last bit of citrus, first bit of spring. Grapefruit and mint salad.

Friday, December 12, 2014

How do you like your apples?

Apples, not cooler days or back-to-school time, are my first sign that I know fall is coming. Even while there are tomatoes and peppers and summer bounty at the farmers' market, when I see the first of the apples I know the season is changing. At the end of October and last two markets in early November, I buy all the apples for our Thanksgiving meals, because it's not just apple pie on our table. The menu includes Cranberry-apple Sauce, Brussels Sprouts with Bacon, Shallot and Apple, Kale and Apple Salad, and we even use an apple and apple cider in my husband's turkey brine.

When the Thanksgiving cooking is done, I freeze extra applesauce for winter. We have a bit of an obsession with applesauce variations. We make a different version every year for Thanksgiving.

For holidays, we pair apples with fine cheeses for holiday parties and just eat them plain. Because, how many snacks come in their own individual servings, have an edible wrapper, and the bits left make compost and even provide seeds to make more food?

I just realized today this blog is in its tenth anniversary! What a great experience it's been sharing a decade of food with everyone kind enough to come visit here. Over the decade, I've written a few recipes! I even forget how many until I look back in the pages.

Here's nine apple recipes from the past decade of blogging, plus a new one to make ten:

Bourbon Molasses Applesauce:
8 Gala or Granny Smith Apples, cored, peeled and sliced thin
Juice of one lemon
1 cup apple cider
1/4 cup blackstrap molasses
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 oz. good bourbon
1/4 cup honey
Seeds of 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, discard pod or put in sugar bowl to make vanilla sugar
pinch salt

Place the apples and cider and lemon juice in a large pot, cover and heat to a simmer to cook apples. Add the molasses, boron and honey. Simmer for about 20 minutes or until apples are soft. Add the vanilla bean and salt.

Stir the apples to break them up into a chunky "home style" applesauce.


Sunday, October 05, 2014

Sweet Potato and Quinoa Cakes with Chipotle Aioli and Micro Greens

I pretty much hate "veggie burgers." It's not for a lack of trying. My taste buds have endured one too many "chikn" patties that taste worse than the box they come in. My heart goes out to vegetarians and vegans everywhere. You people have had to endure a lot of lousy stuff for the sake of your choices.

These kind of mock versions of meat-type dishes may be the reason why more people don't try a vegetarian meal now and again. Or even venture to a "healthy" option. 

The best approach to vegetarian cooking, for me at least, is when I just focus on how to make the vegetables taste good instead of creating any veggie version of a meat item. You're not fooling anyone, right? So why not just make something that tastes good.

I seriously considered NOT stating that this recipe is vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free. There's just too much "cardboard" flavor associations with those terms. Let's just say it's good. It's easy. It's healthy.

And leave it like that.

Sweet Potato and Quinoa Cakes with Chipotle Aioli and Micro Greens

2 cups cooked sweet potatoes (about 1 and a quarter lbs. raw), mashed well
2 cups cooked quinoa
4 oz. (half can) canned black beans
1 clove garlic, chopped fine
1/2 small red onion diced finely
1 small or 1/2 large red pepper diced finely
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. cumin
2 tsp. smoked paprika
Canola (non-GMO) for pan searing

Chipotle Aioli
Mix together:
1/4 cup Vegan mayo, or regular mayo
2 Tbs. Chipotle sauce, get a good one for this

3 cups micro greens or baby lettuces

Heat 1 tsp. canola in a saute pan. Saute the pepper, onion and garlic until lightly browned. The cakes are not cooked for a long time, so you want to sauté these now and not have that raw onion and pepper hard edge. Add the sautéed items to a mixing bowl.

Add the other ingredients. (You can peel, cube and steam the sweet potatoes, cook in peel in microwave or oven and scrape out flesh. Whichever you have time for.) Mix these well to incorporate.

Shape into cakes. I like making two smaller ones because they stack nice on the plate. The recipe makes 12 servings or 24 appetizer-sized single cake courses. Did I mention these make good appetizers?

Heat more canola in the pan (you can wipe the pan out from before, no need to wash it and do that extra work). Sear the cakes about 2 minutes per side. 

To serve: Place a cake (or two small) on a plate. Add a tsp. of the chipotle aioli (fancy word for mayo), and top with micro greens.

Don't call it a burger or vegan, or healthy prior to serving.

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Chilled Spinach with Carrot Ginger Dressing

I'm a bit behind. Over on The Cleaner Plate Club and Edible KC, the resolution series is still going. But, I've not posted much for recipes or updates here. Life's busy, I do this for free. Even the book has cost more to promote and create than it has in sales.

I do believe in getting kids to eat real food still. My real life is just getting in the way of posting!

Here is a recipe from spring I tossed in a drawer to post and it's August and I am posting it. Give me some time, I'll catch up. 

The pink specks are a pink sea salt, you can use any coarse salt, I just liked the color. Swap sesame seeds for the sunflower seeds as well if you like. This is based on a Japanese cold spinach salad I love called Goma Ae. The dressing happened because of my odd habit of trying to put vegetables in the salad dressing, not just in the salad. (It works really well).

For the spinach: 
12 oz, or one bunch spinach, cleaned, large stems removed and chopped
2 spring onions, sliced thin.
1 tsp. olive oil

Heat the olive oil and sauté the onions until translucent. 

Add the spinach and sauté just until wilted. Allow to cool, then squeeze out the water. Shape the spinach into 4-6 mounds. You will be shocked at how little spinach there seems to be. Spinach loses most of it's volume in water. Chill the mounds.

4 medium carrots, peeled and steamed to tender
1 small clove garlic
2 Tbs. white vinegar 
1 Tbs. lemon juice
1 Tbs. soy sauce
1 Tbs. grated ginger (a jar variety is easy and works well)
1/2 cup canola and coconut oil blend (or just one or the other oil)
pinch of salt (1/8 tsp.)
2 Tbs. honey

Blend the dressing ingredients in the blender until smooth. You will want to serve this room temperature. It's a very thick dressing when chilled. Spoon dressing into 6 small bowls, about 1/4 cup per each. Add a mound of spinach in each dish. Top with sesame seeds or sunflower seeds and coarse sea salt.