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Archive for the ‘Vegetables’ Category

There’s nothing like fresh tomatoes. Straight from your garden or a real farmer’s market, fresh tomatoes are one of life’s amazing gifts. Sadly, this seasonal fruit (yes, fruit) has but a brief few months before they’re gone and you find yourself in the middle of February with some canned tomato paste and a sad face.

Now, no canned tomato is going to hold a candle to that summer Beefsteak. But here we are in (hopefully) the tail end of winter and our choices are limited. However, we do have some good choices! My favorite canned tomato is Muir Glen Organic Fire Roasted Tomatoes. They actually do taste fire roasted, they’re organic, the cans are BPA free and they are the best tasting canned tomato I’ve tried thus far.

You can actally get them at a decent price from Amazon. If you do subscribe and save it’s $1.86 per can for 12-pack and you get them delivered to your door. If you’re an Amazon Prime member you can get them through the Prime Pantry program for $1.38 per can. If you’re a Costco member you can get them right now for $6.89 for a 6-pack which is only $1.15 per can – not bad at all.

Here’s some of the things I like to do with these ‘maters:

Bruchetta

Mix a can of fire roasted tomatoes with three cloves of minced garlic and salt and pepper to taste. Slice a loaf of French bread on the diagonal and toast in a 400 degree oven for a few minutes, then top with the tomato mix. Broil for 4-5 minutes. Top with shreds of basil and freshly grated parmesan.

Lazy Pasta

Cook 8 ounces of the pasta of your choice (I find small shaped pasta best for this purpose – fusilli, rotini, large shells, etc.) according to package directions. Drain and return to the pan and put on low heat. Stir in a can of fire roasted tomatoes, about two tablespoons of basil paste or a handful of shredded fresh basil to taste, a cup of shredded cheese (any good melting cheese will do) and about a half a cup of heavy cream. Heat through and salt and pepper to taste.

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Dehydrated Tomato Goodness

Dehydrated Tomato Goodness

For my birthday I finally bought myself something I’d been kicking around for several years but couldn’t bring myself to lay out the cash. A dehydrator. More on that to come in another post, but the giant metal monstrosity arrived and I couldn’t wait to try it out. I looked around my kitchen like a mad scientist thinking “what can I shrink??”

Those plump roma tomatoes caught my eye. Within moments they were sliced about 1/8 inch think and spread out on one of my racks. At 125 degrees and about 6 hours later, we had dehydrated tomatoes.

Test subject Bill was the first one to take a bit. He nodded approvingly and said, “It’s like candy!”

Tomato candy?

I took a bite. Indeed, the sweetness of the tomato had condensed into these slightly chewy little rounds of goodness. And now I know how to turn the world’s undercover fruit into a sweet snack!

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In one of my favorite movies, So I Married An Axe Murderer , the main character, Charlie, visits his parents to discover that his mom has purchased a Juice Tiger and “juices everything now” ala the Weekly World News Garth Brooks Juice Diet. While Charlie’s Mom did refer to a tabloid as “the paper” she may have been onto something with the juice…

Juice Fountain, Juice Tiger. Whatever you call it, it juices stuff at a prodigious rate.

Juicing fans believe that by juicing vegetables your body is better able to absorb the vitamins. They are not damaged by cooking, and you can consume a lot more vegetable nutrients in a glass of juice than you could eat in a sitting (or a day, or a week for some people!) Dr. Mercola has an excellent article on juicing here. If you want more reasons to juice, watch Fat, Sick, & Nearly Dead or The Beautiful Truth: The World’s Simplest Cure for Cancer or Hungry For Change. (These are all great documentaries, by the way, regardless of if you want to start juicing or not!)

So I went out and bought myself a Juice Tiger. Ok, it’s actually a Breville BJE200XL 700-Watt Compact Juice Fountain . And let me tell you, I’ve been having more fun with this thing than should be permitted! Sticking stuff in and watching it tear it apart never fails to make me feel better. It generates so much lift that if you take your hand off the plunger when it’s running, it almost pushes it back out. Now that’s entertainment.

KKF Green Juice ingredients.

I made fresh orange juice this morning. 5 oranges for two people was perfect. And amazingly delicious. But more fruit (and the sugar therein) is not my primary goal for this new gadget. It’s veggies. I’ve discovered that for the most part, just throwing stuff in there (say, carrots, celery, parsley, ginger and a cucumber) and letting it rip results in a brownish juice that does not taste terrible. And that’s fine in a pinch, but I recommend going with some tried and true recipes. Generally, a bunch of veggies and a piece of fruit will do the trick. The little bit of sweet helps offset any bitterness in the veggies. Of course, some carrot juice is sweet all on its own…

Here’s a juice recipe I adapted from the cookbook that came with my copy of Hungry for Change.

KKF Green Juice

1 cucumber

1 small green apple

1 kiwi

2 inch piece of ginger, peeled

3 stalks of celery

bunch of parsley

bunch of cilantro

large handful of kale

1/4 head of fennel

Juice according to your juicer’s instructions. Makes one large serving.

You can't even taste the kale!

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We just got back from vacation. As usual, I am starving for nourishing foods when I got home. Vacation food is delicious, but not always nutritious! I looked around the kitchen and this is what I came up with. Apparently it was good because Test Subject Bill devoured it!

KKF Creamy Winter Squash Soup

2 medium sized winter squashes, peeled and chopped into cubes

1 large onion, diced

3 T butter

6 cups chicken stock

1 can coconut milk

1 T garlic powder

1 T dried marjoram

1 1/2 T ground sage

salt and pepper to taste

Saute onions in butter until soft. Add cubed squash and stock. Simmer, partially covered, for about 20 minutes. Stir in seasonings and simmer covered for another 10 minutes. Cool for a bit, then puree in food processor, blender or using a stick blender. Return to heat, stir in coconut milk and adjust seasonings. I like lots of pepper. Enjoy!

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Grilling out is a sign of independence. Humans. Fire. Meat. Electricity optional. Maybe that’s why it’s so popular to have a cookout on the 4th of July. Maybe it’s because this style of cooking was very popular during the early years of the USA, as it’s easy to feed a large crowd. Whatever the reason, it’s a great idea. And since I’m still in the honeymoon period with my Big Green Egg, I’ve been giving it a workout this holiday weekend.

Today’s meal was the epitome of simplicity and was heavenly delicious. I formed burger patties (no filling or binder) out of some dry aged beef I picked up from my local farmer last month and used the rub from Sarah Fragoso’s Everyday Paleo
(a great cookbook and her website is also great, btw). I cut some red onions, rubbed them with olive oil and salt and pepper and skewered them on metal skewers (no more charred wooden skewers for me). Finally, I made a simple tomato salad (recipe below).

Everyday Paleo burger, KKF tomato salad, grilled red onions and a few of Bubbie's pickles for good measure!

The burgers were unbelievably delicious and moist. I’m going to do them this way from now on, whether it’s with Sarah’s rub or with another seasoning. I always thought hamburger mix had to have egg and/or breadcrumbs…forget about it. Oil your gril (I used spray coconut oil), rub on your rub and slap them on the grill. I cranked up the Egg to about 650, put on the burgers and closed the lid. After two minutes, I opened, flipped, closed and left it another two minutes. Burgers were perfect. Oh, and I was doing all this in a FRIGGIN RAIN STORM. Yes, about three minutes before my grill got to temperature it started pouring.

Luckily the Egg works just fine in the rain. Test subject Bill was an excellent umbrella holder as I brought out meat and flipped and swapped. I think the struggle made my rain burgers taste even better.

KKF Too Easy Tomato Salad

1 pint farmer’s market fresh cherry tomatoes, halved

1/2 small red onion, chopped

small bunch fresh basil, cut into thin strips

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

sea salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste

Mix everything together and let it marinate at room temperature while you’re preparing the rest of your meal. Deee-licious.

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Happy Salad

Just in time for your holiday weekend (if you’re in the US) a quick and delicious salad to accompany your burgers, steaks, etc. This is a great way to use leftover roast chicken and/or another use for that package of bacon you’re opening for bacon cheeseburgers this weekend. If your spouse permits, adding shallots, onions, or green onions would probably be a tasty addition to this salad. Everyone have a fun, safe and delicious weekend!

KKF Memorial Day Chicken Bacon Salad

4 oz cooked chicken

5 slices bacon (home made recommended)

1 avocado, cut into chunks

1/2 cup chopped fresh broccoli

6-8 lettuce leaves (romaine or other leafy lettuce – not iceberg), cut into bite-size pieces

2 cloves garlic, finely minced

1/3 cup mayonnaise (home made if you got it!)

1/2 tablespoon red wine vinegar

salt and pepper to taste

Cut your bacon up into little chunks and fry until crisp. Whisk together the mayo and the red wine vinegar to make the dressing. Combine chicken, bacon, avocado, broccoli, lettuce and garlic and pour dressing over mixture. Mix thoroughly and salt and pepper to taste.

Makes two large or four small servings.

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Clearly, the fall school semester has begun. That’s when I practically drop off the face of the earth. But I’m surfacing this morning to reminisce about the fun I had with tomatoes this summer. Although it almost still feels like summer in Georgia…kind of annoying as I’m ready to start wearing sweaters! I was actually still able to get tomatoes at the farmer’s market two weeks ago…amazing! Anyway, here is a happy memory from this summer’s tomato haul:

When you make every effort to eat seasonally, tomatoes are one of those things that are truly treasured. A fresh, homegrown tomato in the heat of summer is a special thing. But I don’t want to forget that in the middle of winter. “Fresh” grocery store tomatoes are a sad, tasteless waste of money. Enter the water bath canner and 24 pounds of tomatoes I picked up from a happy vendor at the farmer’s market.

As I was picking through the tomatoes for my canning projects I heard another market customer come up to the farmer and tell them in a hushed voice about how they had the best tomatoes in the whole market. This is the kind of stuff you want to hear when you’re preparing to drop sixty bucks on ‘maters. The farmer replied that it must be the soil…or the love they have for growing. Ah. That’s something you can never buy at Publix.

When I got home I had several ideas for what I wanted to do. I knew I wanted to make the garlic-basil tomato sauce from the Ball website. But how much did I want to make? And there was something else nagging at me…

I recently pronounced my disgust for jarred salsa. Yet when I was home in Iowa for my niece’s wedding in July my sister in law provided me with a taste of a jar of her home canned salsa and it was good enough for me to ask for her recipe. Perhaps I was too quick to judge. Maybe I shouldn’t condemn all jarred salsa until I have tried my own…

So I ended up with three different salsa recipes. Janet’s recipe, one from the Ball website, and one from Cooks.com. It was going to be a salsa brawl to the finish, and a really really long weekend in the kitchen. I had pickled jalapenos to can as well.

Basil garlic tomato sauce/soup.Tasty!

The tomato sauce turned out delicious, but very thin. Next time I may strain the tomatoes a good bit. Or just eat it as soup…it bares a fair resemblance to my tomato-basil soup.

The three salsa recipes smelled fantastic cooking away on the stove prior to filling the hot jars. Only the Ball recipe called for cilantro, one of the ingredients I feel a good salsa needs to have. But after tasting Janet’s cilantro-free salsa I am in a bit of a quandary as to whether it really is a requirement.

 

 

Janet’s Salsa

5 cups tomatoes

1 green pepper

1 red pepper

1 large onion

1 banana pepper (optional)

½ cup vinegar

¼ cup tomato paste

1 T sugar

2 tsp crushed red pepper

1 T salt

1 tsp garlic salt

Bring to a boil, reduce heat and cook for one hour. Pour into hot jars and process for 30 minutes.

I used about four pounds of tomatoes for this and it yielded six half-pint jars. I did not use banana pepper but did use two large and one small jalapeno peppers. (Later I made the same recipe again but added fresh garlic to the mix. I am incapable of leaving anything alone.)

At first I thought the addition of tomato paste was really odd, but as things got cooking and I saw how liquidy all the salsas were I understood, and I actually ended up adding it to both other salsa recipes otherwise they would have been soup instead of dip. Next time I am definitely being more cautious about how much juice I allow to make it into the pot.

For the pickled jalapenos, I didn’t have any carrots to include so I used some of the multi-colored bell peppers I got at the farmer’s market instead. Hopefully that doesn’t wreck the recipe. I plan to include these pickled peppers in black bean soups and such this winter.

I was excited to be able to use almost exclusively items from my farmer’s market for these recipes. The tomatoes, of course, but also the red and green peppers, the jalapenos, and the onions. Only the cilantro and seasonings were store-bought.

Canned pickled jalapenos, salsas and tomato sauce.

At the end of the weekend, I had six pints of garlic-basil tomato sauce, six half-pints of Janet’s salsa, six pints of pickled jalapenos and onions, and three pints each of the Ball salsa and Cooks salsa. I’m still a big fan of Janet’s salsa, but the Cook’s salsa kind of caught me by suprise. It was the one I was least excited about but turned out to be the most interesting (and a little hotter than the other two). Test subject Bill likes the Ball recipe with the cilantro. A suprising success story for all three recipes, and I stand corrected. I will eat jarred salsa if it’s home made!

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