Happy New Year–Get Your Garden On!

Well, 2013 has been one crazy ass year. Many wonderful highlights and several struggles, but all-in-all a good year. Like many of you, I’m hoping to make 2014 an even better year. I have several goals for the new year and here they are:

  • Finish reading at least one book a month. I used to read all the time–now I mostly nod off by 8:30. So, I will try to actually finish books.
  • Run at least one road race each month of 2014. January 1 is our first race of the year, so at least we are starting off right!
  • Find better work/life balance. I struggled with this in 2013 and I’m not sure how exactly I’ll make it work in 2014, but I’m trying.
  • Publish my children’s book about chickens.

I thought I would end 2013 with a wonderful video of two ladies from different parts of the world who have found the nurturing, nourishing aspects of urban farming. Watch the video, toast the new year, and get your garden going!

 

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Seafood Casserole

A steamed tail-on shrimp.

I wanted to post this recipe yesterday, but I was pulled into the swirling vortex of holiday shopping known as “the mall”. It was exhausting, but I did finally finish up the last bits of Christmas shopping on my list. I did do a good amount of local shopping, but I couldn’t avoid the mall entirely. I need to plan better next year.

This seafood casserole is a passalong recipe from a volunteer at a previous job. I’ve made it every Christmas Eve for the past 12 years and it has become part of our Christmas tradition. It is very good, very rich and not what I would call healthy food. This year, we are using as many fresh, local ingredients as we can, including all of the seafood.

  • 1 cup rice
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 onion, peeled and diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped celery
  • 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh dill
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 pound scallops
  • 1 pound raw shrimp
  • 1 pint shucked oysters (you can omit if you really don’t like them)
  • 1 pckg. frozen fake Krab
  • 1/4 c. all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 c. milk
  • 1 8 oz. pckg. cream cheese
  • 1/4 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh bread crumbs or crushed butter crackers
  • 2 Tbsp. butter, melted
  • Chopped fresh parsley
  • Lemon for serving

1. Cook rice according to directions. Stir in egg and 2 Tbsp.of the parsley. Set aside.
2. In a large skillet, melt 1 Tbsp. of the butter over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot and celery, stirring occasionally. Cook for 3-4 minutes or until vegetables are soft.
3. Stir in 1/2 tsp. of dill and salt and pepper to taste. Transfer vegetables to a large bowl.
4. Wipe skillet clean. Pour 2 cups of water in the skillet and bring to a gentle simmer over medium heat. Add scallops and poach until just opaque, about 3 minutes. Remove scallops and add to the bowl.
5. Poach shrimp in the liquid for about 3 minutes or until pink. Remove shrimp to the bowl.
6. Poach the oysters in the liquid for about 2-3 minutes. Remove oysters and add to the bowl.
7. Reserve 1 cup of the poaching liquid and discard the rest. Wipe the skillet clean.
8. Chop the Krab into bite sized pieces and add to the bowl.
9. In the skillet, melt the remaining butter over medium heat. Whisk in flour and cook, whisking constantly for 2 minutes. Do not let flour brown.
10. Gradually whisk in reserved poaching liquid and milk. Cook and stir for about 5 minutes, until thickened. Whisk in cream cheese, remaining dill, salt, pepper and thyme and cook an additional 3-5 minutes until cheese has melted and sauce is smooth.
11. Stir sauce into the seafood mixture along with remaining parsley.
12. Line bottom of a greased 13 x 9 baking dish with the rice mixture.
13. Pour seafood mixture on top of rice. (At this point, you can cover and refrigerate up to 2 days)
14. Mix bread crumbs or crushed crackers and 2 Tbsp. butter. Sprinkle over the casserole.
15. Bake at 350 degrees for about 50 minutes or until heated through and topping is golden and crunchy. Garnish with parsley and lemon wedges.

Curried Coconut Carrot Soup

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What do you do when it’s cold and rainy and your CSA delivers 5 pounds of fresh carrots? Make carrot soup! This soup is very easy to make and has only a few ingredients. The coconut cream gives a rich flavor and mellows out the curry without tasting too coconutty.

Fresh carrots have a wonderful, sweet flavor that their grocery store cousins often lack, so if you have access to fresh dug carrots, I would use them here! Also, if you are not a fan of curry, you could substitute fresh ginger for the curry and have an equally delightful soup! This soup freezes well, so while it makes a lot, you don’t have to eat it all right away!

Curried Coconut Carrot Soup (makes about 8-10 servings)

  • 1 yellow onion, peeled and chopped fine
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 tablespoon organic coconut oil
  • 3-4 lbs. fresh carrots
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 can full fat coconut cream
  • 1 heaping teaspoon red curry powder
  • Kosher or sea salt and ground black pepper, to taste
  1. Scrub, peel and chop all the carrots into 1″ pieces. Set aside.
  2. In a stock pot or large Dutch oven, heat the coconut oil over medium low heat.
    Add chopped onions and sauté until very soft and transparent (about 3 minutes). Add the garlic and cook 1 minute.

  3. Add all the remaining ingredients to the pot, cover and simmer over medium low or low heat for about 1 hour. Stir frequently.
  4. When carrots are very soft, use an immersion blender (CAREFULLY as soup is hot) to blend all the ingredients to a smooth consistency.
  5. Add a bit of water if the soup is too thick or cook a bit longer if you want a thicker soup.
  6. Taste for seasoning and correct if needed.
  7. Serve immediately.

Warm, Brussels Sprout Salad

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This salad wasn’t on my weekly menu, but I made it anyway. Those of you who are Brussels sprout haters will not understand, but I was completely craving these little cabbages. This is one of my favorite winter salads because it is packed full of flavor and served warm, which is comforting on a chilly evening. I am not sure where this recipe originated–I thought I dreamed it up, but it is everwhere, so I’m guessing I am not such a genius!

One note: use FRESH sprouts, not frozen. It makes all the difference in the world. We can get Brussels sprouts fresh at our farmers markets during the cooler months, but we also buy them still on the stalk at Trader Joes for about $2.99, making this a very economical as well as nourishing meal. If you can’t find fresh sprouts, you could substitute broccoli, and that would be tasty as well!

Warm Brussels Sprout Salad (serves 4)

  • 4 cups cooked grains (quinoa, barley, or rice)
  • 1 lb. fresh Brussels sprouts, washed and cut in half, lengthwise
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 sweet onion, peeled and sliced thin
  • 3 strips local, pasture-raised smoked bacon
  • 1 cup new crop pecans, toasted and roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup blue cheese, crumbled
  • 1 lemon, zested and and juiced
  • Good quality balsamic vinegar
  • Kosher or sea salt and ground pepper
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Toss the Brussels sprouts with the olive oil and spread on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast in the oven for about 40 minutes, gently stirring sprouts every 10 minutes.
  3. While sprouts are roasting, cook the bacon until crisp. Crumble bacon and set aside on paper towel to drain, reserving 2 tablespoons of bacon fat in the pan.
  4. Heat the pan over medium heat and add the sliced onions to the bacon fat and sauté for 20 minutes or so, until onions are caramelized. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  5. When sprouts are roasted and browned on the edges, remove them from the oven.
  6. In a large bowl, gently toss the sprouts, onions, blue cheese, cranberries, crumbled bacon and pecans.
  7. Divide cooked grains among serving bowls and top with warm salad mix.
  8. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and a squeeze of lemon. Garnish with lemon zest. Serve immediately.

Turkey Hash

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I love having leftover turkey after Thanksgiving. In fact, I have been known to buy a second turkey after Thanksgiving, just so we could have more yummy turkey dishes. Crazy, right? Crazy and delicious!

This dish is a family favorite–we all look forward to decorating for Christmas and enjoying a hearty bowl of this simple combination of turkey, herbs, stock and vegetables. In fact, this recipe uses up a lot of those leftover bits of vegetables and herbs that seem to linger in the refrigerator after Thanksgiving. Efficient, delicious, hearty and healthy–what could be better?

Turkey Hash (makes 4 servings)

  • 1 yellow onion, peeled and chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3-4 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 4 ribs celery, washed and chopped
  • 2-3 cups chopped, cooked turkey
  • 1 lb. potatoes, washed and sliced thin
  • 4 cups chicken or turkey stock
  • 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh sage, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper to taste
  • Cooked rice (optional)
  1. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. When oil is hot, add the chopped onion. Cook for 3-4 minutes or until the onions are soft.
  2. Add the minced garlic and saute for 1 minute.
  3. Add the carrots and celery and cook for 2-3 minutes.
  4. Add all remaining ingredients except rice, stir well, reduce heat to low and simmer uncovered for about 45 minutes. Vegetables should be very tender and stock should have reduced by half.
  5. Check seasonings and correct if needed.
  6. Serve immediately in bowls as is or over cooked rice.

Week 49 Budget and Menu

How are we at week 49 of 52 already? I feel like the spoiled child who doesn’t want to go to bed yet. The year can’t be over–I’m still awake and having fun!

This week’s menu takes advantage of our seasonal vegetables and some last Thanksgiving leftovers. We are also trying some new gluten free pizza crusts delivered by our local Produce Box. We usually make our own, but this seemed like a fun way to support another local business!

Budget [$109.71]

  • The Produce Box (organic salad mix, pesticide free baby sweet potatoes, organic rutabegas, organic acorn squash, organic green kale, organic radish, organic broccoli, organic spinach, gluten free pizza crusts): $40.50
  • Trader Joes (frozen fruit, chia seeds, almond milk, yogurt, onions, Ezekiel bread, steel cut oats, goat cheese): $39.21
  • Mae Farm (pork roast): $16.00
  • Locals Seafood (shrimp): $14.00

Menu

  • Wednesday–Chicken, cranberry, goat cheese salad w/sweet potato biscuits
  • Thursday–Soup and grilled cheese (Band concert night!)
  • Friday–Roasted broccoli with shrimp over rice
  • Saturday–Sweet potato pasta with bacon and kale
  • Sunday–Roasted pork loin with cranberry apple chutney, maple squash, rutabegas
  • Monday–Pizza Palooza! Make your own pizza night
  • Tuesday–Leftover buffet

Spiced Sweet Potato Biscuits

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This is one of my favorite holiday recipes. We had these biscuits again this Thanksgiving, and they are marvelous! The recipe comes from Monticello, home of Thomas Jefferson, where I was lucky enough to intern in graduate school. I’ve altered the recipe a bit, replacing lard with butter (you’re welcome) and increasing the spices. They are sweet, spicy and moist, with enough flakiness that they are a true biscuit and not a roll. Great with ham or with soup!

This recipe makes a LOT of biscuits. If you don’t want quite that many, you can freeze the uncooked biscuits for later and just pop them onto a baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes at 400 degrees. Or you can just halve the recipe!

Spiced Sweet Potato Biscuits (makes about 3 dozen biscuits)

  • 5 c. unbleached flour
  • 1 c. packed light brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp. baking powder
  • 1 Tbsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 tsp. ground allspice
  • 1 c. solid very cold butter, cut into small cubes
  • 2 c. roasted, mashed and cooled sweet potato
  • 1 c. heavy cream
  • 1/2 c. chopped pecans

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
2. In a large mixing bowl, stir together flour, brown sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, ginger and allspice. Combine well.
3. Cut in the butter with two knives or with your fingers, until crumbly.
4. In a separate bowl, combine the sweet potato, cream and pecans.
5. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the potato mixture. Stir with a wooden spoon to combine.
6. Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and roll or pat dough to about 2″ thick.
7. Cut biscuits with a 2″ cutter and place biscuits about 1″ apart on an ungreased baking sheet.
8. Bake for 10-15 minutes until golden brown.
9. Serve warm to happy guests!

No Bake, Vegan Gingerbread Cookies

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I have to confess that I ate quite a lot over the Thanksgiving holiday. Lots of turkey and ham, of course, but also more refined sugar than I’ve had in a while. Sugar, I have found, takes no time at all to make me feel bloated and irritable. The longer I eat cleaner foods, the bigger the impact sugar has on me, and it is not good. So in the midst of the holiday food extravaganza, I was very happy to find and try these no bake, gluten free gingerbread cookies from blogger My Whole Food Life! If you haven’t checked out her blog, you might want to mosey over there. She has a wonderful array of lovely–and healthy–snacks, desserts, and entrees. I made her recipe with just a couple of tweaks for my flavor preferences. I like gingerbread to be heavy on the ginger and molasses, so my version reflects that. HERE is her original recipe, which would be perfect if you want a more delicately flavored cookie, and especially if you are making these for children, who might not want the fresh ginger kick.

I took a couple of these cookies with me to fuel up for our 11 mile training run this weekend and appreciated them so much!

No Bake, Vegan Gingerbread Cookies (makes about 16 cookies)

  • 2 cups raw pecans, shelled
  • 10-12 medjool dates, seeds removed
  • 1″ piece of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
  • 4 pieces honey candied ginger (not sugar crystallized)
  • 1 tablespoon blackstrap molasses
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground clove
  1. Put the pecans in your food processor and chop until fine.
  2. Add all other ingredients and process until mixture is a thick dough. It will be quite moist.
  3. Roll into 2″ balls, put dough balls onto a parchment lined baking sheet and flatten each ball slightly with the bottom of a glass.
  4. Chill cookies in the refrigerator for at least an hour.
  5. Store cookies in an airtight container for up to a week.
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