Tuesday, October 27, 2009

My first fingerlings

Remember how excited I was about my first co-op order? So far nothing has disappointed! I've been munching Honey Crisp apples for two weeks, our farm-fresh eggs are creamily divine, you've read about my love of kale, we tried a buttercup squash on Sunday, and we really loved the fingerling potatoes I ordered for a Clean Eating Magazine recipe. They turned out great, though the cooking time was misleading as written. The H called these "juicy." I called them the cutest potatoes I'd ever seen. Seriously, some were the size of a large gum ball.

Lemon Thyme Fingerling Potatoes from Clean Eating Magazine, Sept/Oct 2009

1 1/2 lb fingerling potatoes, about 1-2 inches in length
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp fresh thyme, chopped (I used 1/4 tsp dried)
2 tsp olive oil
Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste

1. Preheat oven to 400*.
2. Cut potatoes in half lengthwise and place into a mixing bowl. Add lemon zest and juice, thyme, oil, salt and pepper and toss to coat. Arrange in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet (I skipped the paper) and place in oven.
3. Bake for 20 minutes* turning once, or until potatoes are golden brown and tender when pierced with a fork.

* 20 minutes was not long enough, even though I had such diminutive spuds. They were in there at least 30 minutes, though I lost track while trying to cook steaks, mushrooms, and grody rabe at the same time. So start with 20 but expect them to take longer.

These didn't crisp up quite like other roasted potatoes I've had, but they were delicious. The thyme was subtle, so I could increase the amount I used next time, and I might even add a bit more lemon zest. Very pleasing flavor combination. Here is the one and only picture I have of these potatoes, taken at the end of the meal when I remembered the camera was sitting next to me. No, I am not a food photographer. At least they don't have bites out of them.

Monday, October 26, 2009

I don't like broccoli rabe.

At least, I don't care for it the way I first attempted it. Even though I boiled it before sautéing, as directed in the recipe, we still tasted quite a bit of bitterness and it wasn't very good. The recipe I followed was from the Eat-Clean Diet Cookbook by Tosca Reno. My only change was to use a yellow onion instead of red, since that is what I had. Any suggestions for other ways to prepare this leafy green veg are welcome, as I still have half of the gigantic bunch I bought for this dish. I served this with sirloin steaks in a mushroom-wine sauce with lemon-thyme fingerling potatoes from Clean Eating Magazine. Those were fantastic! The H even called them "juicy."

Broccoli Rabe Sauté
1 lb broccoli rabe or asparation, trimmed
1 medium purple onion, peeled and finely chopped
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive or avocado oil
3 cloves garlic, passed through a garlic press
Sea salt
Fresh ground black pepper

1. Fill a bowl with cold water and a few handfuls of ice cubes.
2. In a large saucepan bring 2 quarts water to a rolling boil. Add vegetables and a pinch of sea salt and cook until vegetables turn color. Once the broccoli or asparation has just turned color, remove from boiling water and place in ice water. Drain well and place on paper towels.
3. In a medium skillet heat oil until just hot. Add garlic and onion and cook until onions are soft, about 4 minutes. Add broccoli or asparation and cook over medium-high heat until al dente - tender but still crisp. Season with fresh ground black pepper and sea salt. Serve hot.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Dear Kale Chips...

Where have you BEEN all my life? Why has nobody taken the time to introduce me to your crispy, salty, green and wholesome goodness? You are truly one of the most delightful dark leafy greens I've ever had the privilege of consuming, and that is something coming from a person who puts spinach in a breakfast shake and craves roasted Brussels sprouts. My only regret in lunching with you today is that I didn't have the foresight to use a larger cookie sheet when experimenting with your wonderful self. I've learned my lesson. Never again will I think of you, kale, as an awkward cold restaurant-plate garnish.
With adoration,

Baked Kale Chips - inspired by Allrecipes

Curly kale leaves, washed and de-stemmed
Olive oil (in a misting spritzer works best)
Sea salt

Preheat oven to 350*. Lay washed leaves on a sprayed (or foil-lined) cookie sheet. Spritz with oil. Sprinkle with sea salt to taste (don't over do it--they are very thin and the salt isn't going anywhere during cooking, so take it easy). Bake 9-12 minutes or until just beginning to brown at the edges. What worked best for me was baking 9 minutes, then turning the oven off for the next two. EAT and ENJOY.

These chips are everything I love about roasted Brussels sprouts--the crispy, browned, salty outer leaves--without the jaw-popping chewy middles. I made these to go with my lunch today (at home, as these are fragile and not suitable for transporting to work) and ate every single piece before I even took a single bite of anything else. They almost made me not want my Honeycrisp apple... I will try these again when my son is around. Given his love of pretzels and corn chips (the latter of which always seem to get stuck in his throat) I can see these being a big hit with the under-3-foot-tall crowd as well.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Sweet Potato Oven Fries

This is the recipe mentioned in the previous entry. I halved this recipe; my notes are in italics.

Sweet Potato Oven Fries from The Eat-Clean Diet Cookbook by Tosca Reno
Prep time: 15 min
Cook time: 45 min

Eat-Clean Cooking spray (olive oil in a spritzer)
Enough sprigs fresh rosemary to cover a baking sheet (dried worked just fine)
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 medium sweet potatoes (about 1lb), scrubbed and blotted dry

1. Preheat oven to 400*.

2. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray. Spread rosemary sprigs on sheet in a single layer, making sure entire surface is covered. Mix together all other ingredients, except sweet potatoes, in small bowl.

3. Square off potatoes (I had no idea what this meant) and slice into "steak fries." Lay strips of potato on rosemary in a single layer. Sprinkle generously with seasoning mixture. Spray generously with cooking spray. Bake 20 minutes.

4. Spray again. Return to oven for about 25 minutes more or until fries are golden and puffed. (I reserved some of the spices, flipped the fries at this point, and sprinkled the other sides before baking again.)

Poached eggs = fail

Tonight's dinner was going to be toast topped with roasted kale and a poached egg, with a side of sweet potato fries, thanks to inspiration from fellow bloggers CrumblyCookie and SimplyMe (this is my first attempt at linking on my Mac!) Alas, I apparently did not pay close enough attention all those nights during my childhood when my mom would make us poached eggs on toast. I got the boiling water part down, and knew to cook the eggs for as long as it cook the bread to toast, but beyond that, I was winging it. Nobody told me there had to be a certain amount of water in the pan, nor did anyone explain how to get the whites from shredding like cheap toilet paper mid-flush. My two beautiful farm-fresh eggs stuck to the bottom of my pan, and their golden moon yolks were left high and dry (or actually, rather slimy) due to my inexperience. One was salvageable, but the other served as a reminder to the dog that, although he gets reprimanded an awful lot, I do still like him. He was quite the attentive dinner companion after that.

As for the rest of the meal, it was divine. My sauteed kale was cooked in olive oil with garlic, orange bell pepper, and corn. This was my first experience with kale. The texture is "meatier" than spinach or chard, taking longer to chew, and the flavor was an excellent complement to the surviving egg. I liked that it kept its ruffle and did not wilt down to a pile of mush as spinach is wont to do. I used Tosca Reno's sweet potato oven fry recipe from The Eat-Clean Diet book, which is a spicier version of the Sweet Potato Oven Fries in The Eat-Clean Diet for Family & Kids book. The H and baby had a dinner date with H's parents, so I was free to cook for my own tastebuds. And my 'buds like spice.

So even though the eggs didn't go as planned, don't think I forgot about my toast! Ohhh no. I could never forget my toast... it was just a plain ol' piece of sprouted grain bread, until I smeared it with a hearty helping of artisanal cream cheese--one of my co-op selections from last night--that probably supplied my daily value of fat in one fell swoop. The texture was closer to goat cheese than the brick of Philadelphia you may be used to, but once it came to room temperature it was delightfully spreadable. Best.cream.cheese.ever. Thanks, Dancing Goat Creamery!

In case you've fallen asleep reading the previous three paragraphs, here's a recap: Dinner was garlic-sauteed kale with bell pepper and corn, topped with a messily-poached egg and served with spicy sweet potato oven fries and sprouted grain toast with locally-made fresh cream cheese. And it was very good.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Really good oatmeal!

Since my toddler-baby was still sleeping when I got up this morning, I took advantage of the extra time to make myself a bowl of oatmeal--the perfect start to a drizzly gray day. I've been getting bored with my typical clean breakfast (sprouted grain toast, natural peanut butter, honey, and a small banana) and needed to change it up a bit. My oatmeal was so good! haven't had it in so long and I'd forgotten how much I liked steel oats.

Really Good Oatmeal

1/4 cup dry steel-cut oats, quick-cooking variety
3/4 cup water
1/4-1/2 cup blueberries (frozen are fine; just thaw a bit first)
Shake of cinnamon, to taste
1/4 cup chopped walnuts (or other nut if you prefer)
2 teaspoons brown sugar (or sweetener of choice)

1. Boil the water in a medium saucepan (leave room for those oats to expand!) with a tiny shake of sea salt if desired. Stir in the 1/4 cup oats and cover. Reduce heat; simmer 5 minutes stirring often.
2. Meanwhile, put berries, nuts, cinnamon, and sugar in a bowl. Thaw berries in microwave if frozen (about 30 seconds for me).
3. Stir cooked oats into berry mixture. Top with milk of you want.

The oatmeal came out nice and creamy, and just a touch too sweet. I haven't had brown sugar outside of baked goods in a very long time, and I think the 2 teaspoons combined with the blueberries was a tad much. I'll cut that back next time. Agave nectar would be a good substitute, but be careful with the quantity as it's sweeter than sugar. The walnuts were an excellent hearty addition, keeping the whole thing from being too mushy. Combined with my small cup of (half-and-half whitened) coffee, this was an excellent breakfast. My toast just got demoted to "AM snack." Well, at least until my stash of frozen blueberries is gone.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Chicken Barley Stew

This recipe is from Clean Eating Magazine, September/October 2009. This was part pantry-cleanout, part convenience (our running group meets on Tuesdays, so it's nice to have dinner ready when we get home), and part cooking-rut buster. As such, it met every expectation. And it tasted good, too. :)

Chicken Barley Stew (serves 8)

32 oz low-fat, low-sodium chicken broth (I used four packets Trader Joe's stock concentrate)
8 oz water
1 tbsp garlic, minced (I used about 3 cloves)
1 tsp garlic sea salt (I used regular sea salt)
1/2 tbsp thyme (I used 1/2 tsp dried)
1/2 tbsp basil (again, 1/2 tsp dried)
1/2 tbsp cilantro (left it out)
1/4 tbsp dill (I used 1/4 tsp dried)
2 bay leaves
1/2 tbsp fresh ground black pepper
12 oz boneless, skinless chicken breast, cubed (uncooked)
1/2 cup uncooked black-eyed peas, rinsed and picked through
1/2 cup barley
1 medium sweet onion, cubed (I diced it)
20 oz potatoes, peeled and cubed (I used two large ones and did not peel)
10 oz carrots (3 large), peeled and cut into 1/2 inch slices
8 tbsp low-fat sour cream (optional)

Fill a slow cooker with broth, 8 oz water, garlic, herbs, and pepper. Add chicken, peas, and barley, then layer onion, potatoes, and carrots overtop. Liquid should just cover vegetables. Do not stir. Allow to simmer overnight or at least 4-6 hours. Remove bay leaves and stir before serving. Spoon 1 cup into each bowl and top with 1 tbsp sour cream, if desired.

Review: Too much pepper! I will decrease it by about half next time, and bump up the amount of dill. The H said he couldn't even taste the dill, but definitely noticed the pepper. This stew had a very rich, buttery texture. The H said it tasted like it could be the appetizer course of a big holiday-type meal. I would never make this thoroughly-autumnal recipe in the spring or summer, but it was perfect for mid-October. It may even make an appearance on our Thanksgiving table.

I loved the simplicity of the slow cooker for this recipe. It was a far cry from the chicken-rice-and-beans we've been doing in the CrockPot lately. I'm experimenting with freezing a single portion since it makes quite a lot; if it works, this would be great to have on hand for work lunches. Even the baby (who is walking! So I guess he's a toddler now) ate his entire bowlful, carrots and everything. The dog couldn't wait to lick the high chair. If you have this issue of the magazine, please note that my stew looked just like the one in the picture. Overall, a success all around.

Sunday, October 18, 2009


Today was my first official half marathon (I say it that way because while I've run two 25K races before, this was my first clocked 13.1 miles). We were up at 6 and I had my typical pre-run breakfast of sprouted grain toast, natural peanut butter, honey, and a banana. Then it was off to the race! It was FREEZING here, literally, and the adrenaline was flowing. Great day for a run! Sunny and crisp. Though my toes didn't thaw until my shower... Ha! Glad to have that over with.

After the race I was overcome with carb envy and consumed, in the space of 8 hours, the following most-definitely-not-clean-but-ohhh-so-good foods:

2 hotdogs with white buns
A few plain Lays potato chips
1 black bean veggie burger with a wheat bun
2 cinnamon-sugar donuts
Coffee...oh, my sweet sweet coffee! With half and half, of course!
1 cup of cider
Peanut brittle
Sour gummy bears
Slice of chocolate pudding cake
Chili with pasta
2 slices buttered cheddar-garlic bread
1 gluten-free beer

And now I'm going to sleep off my carb coma and crank up the clean eating machine tomorrow. Oh, and I smoked my goal time: finished in 2:16 and was aiming for 2:30.


Thursday, October 15, 2009


Ever have one of those weeks when you just don't know what to cook, aren't motivated to try anything, but feel "blah" about the whole idea of food anyway so it really doesn't matter? This is one of those weeks. I feel like I'm in limbo, waiting for my first co-op pickup next week (Wednesday!) so I am hesitant to buy too much at the grocery store. But at the same time, we are running low on H-approved protein sources (chicken, ground beef, and eggs). Said H had a work dinner this week, leaving me and the little guy to fend for ourselves. Tonight is my girls' run, so I won't be cooking anyway, and then family is coming this weekend so those meals are kind of up in the air.

I'm frustrated at myself for lack of direction in the kitchen, and that indifference has even spread to the kitchen itself. How weird is that? I'm not cooking as much so the dishes are kind of piling up, I badly need to sweep, and there are random piles of mail, Target flotsam, and half-drunk glasses of water around. Sounds like a pit, doesn't it? It's not *gross* just unkempt.

Tonight I have someone coming to finish painting the guest room, where my weekend company will sleep, so maybe having that finished will inspire me to whip the rest of this place into shape. In the meantime, if you have a great recipe to share, I'm open to suggestions. Hit me with a link (or page number in a Tosca Reno book or Clean Eating Magazine), please!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A regression confession

Not even sure if "regression" is the right word choice. It's my short way of saying "I tried having low-fat milk in my morning coffee for a few months, and it was all right, but I've come to the decision that I enjoy it a lot more when I use half-and-half, and since it hasn't negatively affected my weight loss at all, I'm going to revert back to half-and-half because it makes me happy and if something so simple keeps me from eating dessert and sugary crap all day, then I'm going to be ok with that."

This is not really a true confession in that I feel exactly ZERO guilt for choosing half-and-half over skinny milk. It's something that I realize is such a trivial thing in the long run (for as little as I drink daily) but suffering through murky-instead-of-creamy coffee was just not worth it to me. Don't worry, though, I haven't jumped off the clean-eating ship altogether. :)

Friday, October 9, 2009

Breakfast for dinner

The weather here has been gray and drizzly all day, and has now turned cold. Usually I'd make chili in the CrockPot on nights like this, but I didn't have any turkey thawed. Comfort food runner up? Breakfast for dinner! Tonight we had gluten-free veggie pancakes (not as gross as they sound, I promise), chicken-apple sausage, and homemade blueberry syrup. The H said the house smelled like fall, "and maybe a little bit like winter." The pot of half-caff Sumatra-Mandehling coffee he brewed added to the hunker-down homey feeling.

Veggie Pancakes - triple batch
1 16oz bag frozen mixed vegetables (peas, carrots, corn, green beans)
1 bag Bob's Red Mill GF pancake mix
3 eggs, or equivalent (I used one egg + 1/3 cup egg whites)
1 1/2 cups milk (cow, almond, rice, etc. as stated on pancake mix; I used enough for a double recipe, not a triple as I didn't want them runny)
3 Tbsp vegetable oil (could use applesauce, I bet)

Cook vegetables until soft - microwave works great. Let cool slightly, then add to blender and puree with milk; add eggs and oil and blend until smooth. Don't add the eggs with the milk or the might start to cook if your veggies are still quite hot. Mixture will be light green. In large bowl, stir veggie mix into dry pancake mix. Add more milk if you like thinner pancakes (remember I used 2x the milk called for, and 3x everything else).

Heat a griddle over medium heat. Add oil or spray of your choice. Scoop pancake mix by 1/4 cup and pour onto hot griddle. Flip when pancakes are dry on edges; cook another few minutes until golden on the other side. Making a triple batch provided enough for our dinner plus 14 extra to freeze for quick breakfasts or snacks. They do turn out green, but the veggies do not negatively affect the flavor.

Blueberry Syrup
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
1 cup water, minus a few tablespoons to mix with cornstarch
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp powdered stevia (I found mine at Trader Joe's, in a big shaker-style container. I think Truvia would work)
1-2 Tbsp cornstarch mixed with reserved water

Combine blueberries, water (minus reserved), spices, and stevia in small sauce pan. Bring to boil over med-low heat, stirring often. Mash blueberries with a fork if you feel like it. Once the liquid has reduced a bit, stir in the cornstarch + water slurry. Return to a boil and let bubble until thickened the way you want. Pour into small pitcher or gravy boat and serve with pancakes.

For the sausage, I just sliced each one into quarters (giving each piece a flat side) and browned them in a skillet, adding water to keep the pan from scorching. With a small glass of milk and the aforementioned coffee, this was a great filling meal for a cold blah night.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Kitchen-sink pizza

Ever heard the phrase "Everything but the kitchen sink"? Well, that's what went onto my pizza tonight. And MAN was it ever good! I started with a Bob's Red Mill gluten-free crust mix (which is delicious on its own, by the way, and mentioned in Clean Eating Magazine as a good alternative to the real thing) and wanted to use up the pepperoni (nitrate-free) and goat cheese in my fridge. The idea just ballooned from there. Somewhere in the middle of the process, we invited a friend over and she brought even more goodies, plus the fixings for a salad. By the time the (heavy) pan went into the oven, this is what we had created:

1 pan cheese bread, made with extra crust mix, Greek vinaigrette, Parmesan and Cheddar
1 platter bresaola appetizer with arugula, lemon, and olive oil
Salad with Romaine, carrots, red cabbage, tomato, green onion, sweet onion
Pizza with marinara sauce, pepperoni, baby bella mushrooms, maitake mushrooms, two kinds of goat cheese, feta, sundried tomatoes, marinated artichoke hearts, Parmesan, and a smattering of shredded Cheddar.

What a delicious and filling way to clean out the fridge. :)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

OK, I have to stop...

My co-op shopping list is growing by the hour. The ordering window is open for a few more days, and my wallet suffers (or the producers benefit?) a bit more each time I'm online. So far on my list:

Eggs (we already know we love 'em)
Beef (just one small package of steaks)
Watermelon (if it stores well)
Apples (Honeycrisp! The season is almost over!)
Dried cherries (won't they be good in granola?)
Yellow onions
Potatoes (fingerlings, to make a recipe from Clean Eating magazine)
Chard (if it doesn't freeze)
Goat cheese (last batch of the season!)
Cream cheese

Pretty good list, right? I'm not ordering anything in massive quantities. It's a co-op, not Costco. I decided against adding sweet onions, since I just got some at the grocery store, and removed the few non-food items from my list. My purpose for joining is to stay in contact with local *food* so that is what I am trying to focus on this time around, ordering from multiple farms and trying different products. If I view this as taking the place of a trip (or two) to the big-box grocery, it doesn't look that bad at all. Right?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Keeping it local

I'm so very excited to report that I've joined a local co-op! Rather than relying on the farmers' market from May-November, I now have year-round access to fresh, local produce, meat, eggs, and a whole ton more. This is my first cycle with the co-op, so I can't say for sure how I like it yet, but so far I'm thrilled. (The H may not be, once he sees the total, but we have to *eat* right?) :) My desire to eat and shop locally has been growing since this blog began. Reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver has contributed to that quite a bit. It reads like a novel, and while I don't agree 100% with every word inside, I like that the tone is not preachy or holier-than-thou at all. I've already recommended it to my mom, an avid herb-and-veggie gardener, and asked that The H read it when I'm done, so he can understand where my "locavore" tendencies are coming from.

This co-op shopping cycle, I'm trying out a bunch of different producers, ordering things like eggs, squash, potatoes, lean beef, and dried cherries. Did you see that I wrote "squash" there? I know it's not one of my favorites, but I'm really trying to like it. Eating locally means I am choosing not to buy a bunch of warm-weather fruits and veggies until April or May, so I'd better get used to what's available here in the mitten state. I figure getting it fresh and local might help with that endeavor, since that is likely where the best, most flavorful product will come from. My experiments with spaghetti squash and sweet potatoes have turned out well, so I have nothing but high hopes for the other varieties we'll try this winter. Up next: buttercup. Stay tuned. Maybe one day I'll take a picture or two and stick them on here.