Saturday, July 23, 2011

Boys of Summer Roast

Let me start by saying just WHERE did July go?  I had a lot on the proverbial plate, which is part of the reason I didn't spend any time blogging, but I must admit it was a great month.  I also was able to sneak in a much needed vacation! 

I met with some really great ladies last night who are also members of my CSA.  We had such a blast...we talked about anything and everything and I was inspired to get back to blogging! 

This week's box contained a gorgeous beef roast, and since it has been so darn hot, I knew immediately that the crock pot would be the lucky winner of this feast!  So here is an incredibly easy yet hearty summer meal that will not heat up your entire kitchen or house for that matter. 

All of the veggies you see here are from my CSA.  I included:  red potatoes, cherry tomatoes, carrots, white onion, red spring onions, and green pepper.  From my pantry I added 2 shallots (roughly chopped), 4 cloves of garlic (smooshed), fresh cracked black pepper, and kosher salt.

Next, I added a few pats of butter to a pan and melted it.  I heavily seasoned one side of the roast (Paul Prudhomme's Meat Magic was the choice today) and placed it seasoned side down in the butter.  Heavily season the up side and then brown both sides. Make sure that baby is really good and seared!  (If you don't brown the roast first, you will end up with a big hunk of meat that looks kind of gray and blah!)

Once Mr. Roast is nice and seared, use a pair of tongs and place him on top of those veggies and then pour the remaining butter in the crock pot.  Add about 1/4 cup of water to the bottom,.  You can add more if you'd like, but I just don't like my veggies swimming in there. 

See how nice and seared the roast is?  That's flavor baby!  Cook on low about 8 hours or so (depending on how you like the texture of the meat).  I cook mine longer because I like it to fall apart.  (And you can shred the leftovers for another meal...if there ARE any leftovers!)

So there you have it - so easy and oh so tasty.  Cheers and enjoy!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

6-22 Delivery - The "Skittles" Delivery

I'm sorry this picture is not the best and does not truly represent the beauty of this week's box.  It was hard to get everything in one picture (and my kitchen table was otherwise occupied at the time!)

So this week's delivery was  a virtual is the breakdown!
R - Red Spring Onions, Beets
O - Carrots
Y - Squash and Corn
G - Green Pepper, Cucumbers, Kohrabi
B -Blueberries
I - Blueberries
V - Blueberries
*If you add white, we also received a huge onion and a white bell pepper!

There really hasn't been a meal plan this week.  My daughter had strep, and my husband and I had a few outings in the evenings that were pre-planned.  So if you want to call it a fend for yourself, free for all, that would certainly be appropriate!

I made an incredible Caramelized Squash and Onion spaghetti as well as a "throw it all in" frittata.  For me, frittatas are my saving grace when it comes to cleaning out the fridge.  I prefer them over stir-fry.  I will be sure to post  recipes both. 

Hope you all have a wonderful week!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Individual Zanyas (A Tutorial)

When I was a kid, I absolutely hated squash - I wanted absolutely no part of it!! As I've **ahem** grown up, I've come to my senses about this super summer veggie.  So if you find yourself with an abundance of crookneck or zucchini, give this recipe a try.  I will admit that this is a little more "handsy" than what I normally promote, but it is oh so worth it! 

What to Gather:
  • 1 Yellow Squash or Zucchini per person (or more if really hungry!)
  • Oil (your choice – I’ve been using Safflower lately)
  •  S&P
  • 1 or 2 pats of butter
  •   ¼ to ½ of an onion chopped (I prefer a sweet onion, but red would also be good)
  •  1 small container of low fat ricotta cheese or cottage cheese (can use a large container if you're making a bunch)
  •  Shredded Parmesan Cheese (about 1/3 cup)
  •  2 tbsp. Basil (dried or finely chopped fresh)
  • Garlic Powder to taste
  • Salt &Pepper to taste
  • Your favorite pasta or spaghetti sauce

What To Do 
  • Preheat grill (outdoor or indoor) and preheat oven to 350 degrees.  
  • Wash and thinly slice the squash lengthwise; these will be your noodles.  (I used my mandolin slicer   which makes perfectly uniform slices!)  
  • Brush each slice with olive oil; season with salt and pepper.
    •  Grill on both sides; you are looking for some nice caramelization and for the squash to be soft.
    •  While the squash is grilling, caramelize onions in butter.
    •  Mix ricotta, parmesan cheese, basil, s&p, garlic powder, and caramelized onions together - do this to your own taste. (Note - if you use cottage cheese, make sure it's drained thoroughly!)
    • In a casserole dish, start layering – squash, cheese mixture, squash, cheese mixture, on and on until it’s how you like it – or depending on how many individual stacks you want; just be sure to end up with  squash on top.
    • Top with your favorite sauce, and more parmesan cheese.
      Place in the oven until heated through and cheese is melted…about 20 to 30 minutes.

      Monday, June 20, 2011

      Garden Memories

      When I was a kid my grandfather had a huge garden.  A garden that fed him, a wife, five kids, and eventually five kids' spouses and thirteen grandchildren.  Fresh green beans (or snaps as we called them back then), corn, potatoes, beets, melons, and on and on and on.  I  remember every summer I would spend a week or two at their house.  In the afternoon, we would sit in the living room with two big buckets and we would "snap" the beans while watching The Guiding Light.  (Oh the good 'ol days!)

      My grandmother would can veggies all summer long and we were never ever without.  Up until my late teens, I'd never eaten a green bean that didn't come out of that garden.  And the only way I'd ever eaten a beet in my entire life was my grandmother's pickled beets. 

      When I moved into my first apartment, I tried very hard to recreate some of the meals I grew up with.  I will never forget the first time I saw a can of beets in the grocery store.  I was sooooo excited to go home and batter and fry some white summer squash and eat beets.  I remember that first bite of canned, ah, this is NOT what I was expecting.  I immediately spit it out and called my mother.  "What WAS that?" I asked her.  All she could do was laugh at me and explained how spoiled we were.  I was horrified!!  I'm still looking for the perfect pickled beets that can come anywhere NEAR my grandmother's!

      So in this age of super centers and fancy "green" grocery stores, take a minute and remember the good times out in the garden.  Plant a tomato or visit a local pick your own farm. It'll do you good!

      Saturday, June 18, 2011

      Caesar Chicken Pasta Salad

      In my previous post, One Chicken - Three Meals, I talked about shredding chicken and putting it away for later.  Well, here's one of my favorite "later" meals which is a great pot-luck dish - or lunch or dinner, get the idea!

      Here is what you'll need to gather:
      • 1 16-oz. box of pasta - I prefer the shaped pasta (i.e. bow tie) over a spaghetti style for this dish
      • 1 bottle of your favorite Caesar dressing (don't worry, you won't need the entire bottle!)
      • 1 portion (about a cup or so) of pre-cooked and shredded chicken
      • 1/3 cup of grated Parmesan cheese (or more if you really like it)
      • Salt and Pepper to taste
      • Fresh shaved Parmesan cheese for garnish
      1- Cook pasta according to package directions. It should be cooked al-dente; if you over-cook it you will have mushy pasta.  (On a side note, I have found that a lot of times these days companies are producing 12-oz. boxes of pasta instead of 16.  If that is the case, adjust your other ingredients accordingly.)

      2 - Drain pasta and run under cool water to stop the cooking process.  When my pasta is sitting in the colander, I like to stir it around a bit...this helps extract more water, and it keeps the pasta from sticking together.  Make sure you  get rid of as much water as possible - you don't want soupy pasta salad :)

      3 - Place the pasta in whatever bowl you plan to serve it in.  (I truly believe in dirtying up as few dishes as possible!)  Just make sure the bowl is big enough so that you can stir it really really good without getting your stuff all over the counter...(come on, admit it, this has happened to you, too!!)

      4 - Pour dressing over pasta and start stirring.  My rule of thumb is that I like all of the noodles to be well-dressed but not swimming in dressing because as the pasta sits, it will soak up the dressing.  You want it to still be creamy when you come back for seconds!

      5 - Sprinkle Parmesan cheese over the pasta and stir until well-incorporated.  (Nobody wants to bite into a big ball of powdered cheese - cough, cough!)

      6 - Add chicken and stir.  Make sure the chicken is evenly distributed throughout so you get some in every bite!!  YUM.

      7 - Now get out a fork and taste.  Parmesan cheese is very salty, so some folks may not want to add salt at this point.  Like Bobby Brown says, "it's my prerogative!"  I, however, will most definitely add salt and pepper at this point.  Keep tasting until it's how you like it.  (This would be my favorite step in the process!)

      8 - Garnish with shaved Parmesan when you are ready to serve.

      What I love about this pasta salad is that at this point you can add extras that really jazz this up.  It's all about what suits you and your family.  My peeps eat it just like this.  Unfortunately, they do not share my love of really jazzed up food, so I personalize my own plate rather than the entire dish.

      • Serve on a bed of romaine lettuce
      • Chop romaine lettuce and incorporate into the salad.
      • Kalamata olives - stirred into the pasta or garnish on top
      • Chopped tomatoes - stirred into the pasta or garnish on top
      • Anchovies (oh yes, my favorite way to freak people out - love them!)

      Wednesday, June 15, 2011

      6-15 Delivery: Squash, Cucumbers, and Peaches!

      Oh it's a beautiful day in the neighborhood.  Anticipation for "the box" was high this week, as I've become friends with other members of my CSA through Facebook who receive earlier deliveries than I do.  And of course, they would taunt me with all of the deliciousness they had already received while I was "waiting for Wednesday."  Not really taunting, it was more like torture! :)  Seriously, what a wonderful group of folks I've met with amazing and super creative ideas...we are all "Veg Heads!!!"

      Now onto this week's haul.  Take a peek!
      I love the variety this week!  Please note that there were originally three peaches, but I ate one immediately upon arrival, fuzz and all - THE JUICIEST peach I've ever eaten.  I also received a half-dozen eggs and 10 (yes 10) pork bratwursts!!!  Notice the cauliflower?  Yes, it really is yellow! 

      Well friends, it is late, and honestly, I haven't had a chance to work out the meal plan for the week just yet.  But I can tell you this...tomorrow night's dinner will without a doubt involve brats! 

      Tune in tomorrow for the meal plan! 

      Sunday, June 12, 2011

      One Chicken - Three Meals

      A couple of weeks ago, my CSA box contained a whole chicken.  It wasn't a huge chicken, but it was just right for my family of three. (And, I knew EXACTLY where it came from, which for me is a really big deal.)  I wasn't ready to "deal" with a whole chicken just then, so I put her in the freezer until I was really good and ready to tango!

      Since I am a work-outside the home, 100-mile round trip commuting mama, I knew the deed would need to be done in the slow cooker (not to mention that it's been in the 90s since the end of May).  So I mustered (not mustard) up one of my favorite recipes (here) which is very quick and easy and off to work I went.  I love coming home to a nice cooked meal where the rest of my effort is minimal after a long day at work.

      Once the bird is done, there are sooo many options. The first of course is to eat it as is out of the slow cooker.  Once you've eaten from the bird, it's time to prepare for other meals - and in my case it's two more.  I love to shred the chicken.  It stretches the meat so much further than any other method (in my opinion).  I pick every single piece of chicken off those bones that I possibly can. It's a little messy, but well worth the reward.  Once you are done pickin' you should have a bowl of chicken that looks similar to pulled pork. (And remember, you can freeze what you picked, too.)

      My two stretch meals were Chicken Nachos and Caesar Chicken Pasta Salad.  Yum and Yum...(recipes will be posted soon!)  Please share your ideas...I would love to know what you would do with the chicken!