Asparagus and Cauliflower Rice Bowl

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Spring is here, and in North Carolina that means one thing–the return of the dastardly yellow pine pollen. It coats everything in its smothering path. Cars. Sidewalks. Window screens. Our cat. When we finally have rain, the roads feature yellow rivers of stormwater. Lakes start to resemble chemical waste spill sites. Our dog (a hound mix) lives for sniffing everything, so she spends about a quarter of her waking hours sneezing. In my book, there is little to celebrate about this crazy tree sex business. Except aspargus.

Yellow pine pollen season, while annoying, is a visual marker of the seasonal change from winter to spring. It also means fresh, local asparagus is due at the farmer’s markets, and that is definitely something to celebrate. I love fresh asparagus in stir fry, steamed or sauteed. But my favorite way to eat asparagus is to roast the spears with a little olive oil and salt. Simple and easy. If we eat outside on the deck, they also get a slight dusting of pollen, but we won’t complain.

This bowl meal is easy to put together and is really delicious. If you haven’t tried making cauliflower rice, give it a go–it is very easy and a great, grain-free substitute for rice. The eggs give this dish some needed protein, but you could replace them with sautéed tofu for a vegan meal as well. We are hearty eaters, so this recipe fed two of us, but you could add more vegetables and stretch it out to four servings (it could also serve four if you have lighter appetites than we have!).

Spring is here! Clean off the deck furniture, wash off the pollen and enjoy a fresh season of delicious fruits and vegetables!

Asparagus and Cauliflower Rice Bowl
Serves two hungry adults

1 bunch fresh asparagus
1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1 head of cauliflower
2 tablespoons coconut oil (or other vegetable oil)
1/2 onion, peeled and chopped
4 farm eggs
1 tablespoon coconut oil
4 tablespoons homemade vinaigrette dressing
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil.
Trim the asparagus stem ends, removing the tough bottom 2 inches, if necessary. Add asparagus to the baking sheet.
Add the cut bell pepper to the baking sheet.
Toss the asparagus and pepper with the olive oil, salt and pepper and arrange vegetables in an even layer.
Roast vegetables for about 10 minutes or until your desired level of roasting.
While vegetables are roasting, wash the cauliflower and trim the florets of the stem and leaves.
Add cauliflower florets to the bowl of a food processor (you may need to do this in two batches).
Process the florets on low until the cauliflower is in rice-sized pieces (about 30 seconds or so).
Heat he coconut oil in a deep skillet over medium heat. Add the cauliflower and cook for 7-8 minutes or until the cauliflower is cooked and slightly soft, but not mushy. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat and keep warm.
Remove vegetables from the oven and keep warm.
In a small skillet, heat the remaining tablespoon of coconut oil and cook the eggs until your desired doneness (I like the yolks to be a bit runny).
Assemble your bowls by dividing up your cauliflower rice, topping that with the asparagus and peppers, and topping all of that with the eggs.
Drizzle the bowls with the dressing and a bit of grated cheese.
Serve immediately.

Orecchiette with Asparagus and Smoked Salmon

20140712-111932-40772767.jpgWhen I was growing up in the 1970s, there were four kinds of pasta know to us in suburbia: spaghetti, macaroni, lasagna noodles and, if we were feeling very exotic, manicotti. That was pretty much our full repertoire of Italian pasta (I’m not counting Chef Boyardee ravioli because I don’t think it counts as any distinct food group at all). I was well into adulthood before I experimented with pasta dishes that didn’t involve meaty tomato sauce or tons of cheese. Now, however, I love to experiment with all kinds of pasta dishes as well as pasta shapes. On our trip to Italy, Tom and I had the opportunity to try many local pasta dishes that we continue to make at home–none of them drowning in sauce and all of them featuring fresh, seasonal vegetables and seafood. Yum. It was astounding the variety of shapes and sizes of pasta available in Italy. I wanted to fill my suitcase with them!

One of my favorite pasta shapes is orecchiette (or “little ears”) pasta. Shaped somewhat like a little hat, this pasta holds sauce well and is very satisfying. I think you can find this pretty much anywhere now, but if you can’t find it, you can easily substitute penne.

Now that we are seriously increasing our running mileage, I am trying to incorporate more pasta dishes into our meals. This dish is one we experimented with this week and it is really delicious! I’m a huge fan of smoked salmon, but you could easily substitute some grilled or pan seared salmon instead and it would be fabulous (or shrimp…or chicken…pasta is flexible that way). We have been lucky to score some local mushrooms this week and we added them to the dish for an earthier, meatier flavor. So good!

Give this a try for a nice summer supper!

Orecchiette with Asparagus and Smoked Salmon (serves 4-6)

  • 16 oz. orecchiette pasta
  • 2 tbsp. organic butter
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2-3 cups fresh mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
  • 1 lb. fresh asparagus, trimmed
  • 4 oz. smoked salmon
  • Zest of 1 organic lemon
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • Freshly grated or shaved Parmesan cheese
  1. In a stock pot, bring heavily salted pasta water to a boil.
  2. Add orecchiette to the stock pot and cook according to directions (12-13 minutes)
  3. In a large saute pan, heat the butter and olive oil over medium heat until butter is melted and begins to foam.
  4. Peel and mince the garlic. Add to the saute pan. Cook 1 minute.
  5. Add the sliced mushrooms and saute for 3-4 minutes.
  6. Chop the asparagus into bite sized pieces and add to the mushrooms. Cook an additional 3-4 minutes.
  7. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  8. Pull or chop the smoked salmon into bite sized pieces and add the salmon and lemon zest to the saute pan.
  9. Heat for 2-3 minutes until salmon is warm and vegetables are cooked, but still a bit crisp.
  10. Reserve 1 cup of pasta water and set aside. Drain the pasta and add to the saute pan. Toss all together until well combined.
  11. Add small amounts of the pasta water as necessary to make a light sauce. Correct seasonings if needed.
  12. Serve immediately with a sprinkle of freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

 

 

Roasted Asparagus and Potato with Egg

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Throughout the spring, this became a favorite quick dish of mine. It is very easy to prepare, absolutely delicious and super clean. I ate it frequently for dinner, but it would make a terrific breakfast as well if you have some time to wait for the vegetables to roast! You can vary the vegetables with what is in season for you and create something new every time!

Roasted Asparagus and Potato with Egg (makes 3 servings)

  • 1 lb. fresh asparagus, washed and trimmed
  • 1 lb. small, red potatoes
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 3 farm eggs
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. line a baking sheet with foil.
  2. Scrub your potatoes and chop them into 1-2 ” dice
  3. Toss the potatoes with half the olive oil and distribute on the baking sheet evenly.
  4. Roast the potatoes for approximately 15 minutes.
  5. Toss the asparagus spears with the remaining olive oil and add to the baking sheet.
  6. Roast the vegetables for about 10 minutes more or until the asparagus are done to your liking (I like them just a bit browned).
  7. While the vegetables finish, cook three eggs, sunny side up.
  8. Remove the vegetables from the oven and distribute on three plates. Top each plate with one egg.
  9. Sprinkle with cheese and serve!

 

Week 21 Budget and Menu

We are gearing up for another exciting, busy week. Softball season is keeping us hopping and we are enjoying every second of it! Our menu this week reflects not only our need for quick dinners, but also our celebration of Memorial Day! We haven’t had beef on our menu in a long time and we are going to enjoy every bite of these grilled hamburgers!

Our budget is under budget, even with wine from Trader Joes 🙂 Happy Memorial Day, everyone! Let summer begin!

Budget [$88.58]

  • The Produce Box (asparagus, romaine lettuce, garden peas, cilantro, strawberries, spring onions, kale): $27.50
  • Locals Seafood (crab cakes): $10.20
  • Mae Farm (smoked pork): $6.00
  • Melina’s Pasta (spinach fettucine): $6.00
  • Black Hoof Run Farm (heritage, grass-fed ground beef):$6.32
  • Trader Joes (burger buns, organic onions, organic chicken, frozen fruit, wine): $27.56
  • Mitchell Family Pantry (roasted pepper ketchup, jam): $5.00

Menu

  • Wednesday–Scrambled egg tortillas
  • Thursday–Pasta with smoked pork and garden peas
  • Friday–Salad with strawberries, pecans and goat cheese
  • Saturday–NC crab cakes, creamy grits and asparagus
  • Sunday–Grilled beef burgers with bacon-onion marmelade, green salad, fruit parfaits
  • Monday–Barbecued chicken, deviled eggs, broccoli salad
  • Tuesday–Leftover buffet

White Bean, Grilled Asparagus, Fried Egg Stacks (reblog)

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Sometimes I see a blog post and my jaw just drops. And then I start drooling. This is a little embarrassing when I’m checking on blogs at work, but whatevs. Today is such a day. I saw a Facebook post from fellow blogger, Let Them Eat Healthy, that combines creamy white beans, grilled asparagus, a fried egg and bacon crumbles. Oh. My. Goodness. I love roasted asparagus topped with a poached or sunny side up egg, but this looks like a little party for your mouth. And what a great Mother’s Day brunch idea!

I reworked one meal this week to include a variation of this amazing, awesome recipe. Every ingredient in this dish is a favorite of mine and all except the white beans are available from local farmers! We roasted the asparagus instead of grilling and used some local, thinly sliced, smoked country ham instead of bacon–DELISH!!! The photo above is our version!

HERE is the link to the blog post and recipe. Definitely check it out. This is way better than anything I had ready to post today!

One of the wonderful things about connecting to the larger blogging world is all of the wonderful people and new ideas!

Week 18 Budget and Menu

This is the craziest spring I can remember. It is May 1 and I still have flannel sheets on the beds because the weather is so chilly. Last year, we had an early spring and most crops came in 2-3 weeks early. Not so this year! We do have plenty of salad greens, onions, asparagus and kale coming in. And the Swiss chard in my garden is STILL going gangbusters!

This week’s menu reflects our need to use up what is left in the deep freeze as well as take advantage of all the spring greatness that is out there. We have some quick meals on tap due to softball schedules and a science fair–gotta love spring! We are under budget just a bit at $97.45!

Budget [$97.45]

  • Locals Seafood (shrimp): $12.00
  • The Produce Box (organic veggies: broccoli, kale, arugula, sweet potatoes, radish; conventional asparagus): $28.75
  • Homestead Farm (eggs, chicken, chorizo): $20.00
  • Trader Joes (sliced turkey, tortillas, pineapple, organic banana, frozen fruit, yogurt, organic mushrooms, organic black beans): $36.70

Menu

  • Wednesday–Turkey, cheese and arugula pesto roll ups, fruit salad
  • Thursday–Swiss chard and kale with eggs
  • Friday–Roasted broccoli and shrimp over organic rice
  • Saturday–grilled chicken, asparagus, sautéed greens
  • Sunday–Sweet potato/black bean/chorizo quesadillas, harvest grains
  • Monday–homemade pizza, salad
  • Tuesday–pasta with homemade tomato sauce

Have  a healthy and tasty week!

Pasta with Asparagus and Prosciutto

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Some foods are wonderful BFFs. Asparagus and prosciutto, for example (really, asparagus and any ham product). I was going to make another salad for dinner, but we had salad for lunch and–I have to be honest–I hit the salad wall. I was craving something a bit more substantial, but I didn’t have a lot of non-salad ingredients on hand. And it was getting late. Tick, tock, time to eat. What I did have was prosciutto and fresh asparagus from our Parisian salad. Hmmmmm. Paired with some whole wheat pasta, it was a delicious, simple and quick dinner. Now I’ll be ready for more salad tomorrow! This recipe makes three servings, but you can adjust ingredients easily to feed more or fewer people.

Pasta with Asparagus and Prosciutto (serves 3)

  • 4 oz. whole wheat pasta (about 1/2 package)
  • 3-4 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter from grass-fed cows
  • 1 shallot
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 pound asparagus, trimmed
  • 5-6 slices prosciutto, torn into bite size pieces
  • Grated Parmesan cheese
  1. In a stock pot, boil water for pasta.
  2. While waiting for water to boil, peel and thinly slice shallot. Peel and mince garlic. Set aside.
  3. Chop asparagus into bite-sized pieces. Set aside.
  4. Heat butter and olive oil in a sauté pan.
  5. Add salt to boiling water and add pasta to the water. Reduce heat and cook pasta according to directions on package.
  6. Add shallot and garlic to sauté pan. Cook over medium heat for 2 minutes. Add asparagus and cook for another 5 minutes.
  7. Add prosciutto to the pan, stir and turn off heat.
  8. Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water.
  9. Add the drained pasta to the sauté pan. Use tongs to toss and combine all ingredients. Add pasta water as needed to make a light sauce.
  10. Serve immediately with grated Parmesan cheese.

Pickled Asparagus

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Fresh, local asparagus was the start of our pickled asparagus with mustard seed!

Last year, I added asparagus to my list of controversial subjects. So far, they include politics, religion, college basketball and cobbler. And now asparagus.

If you’ve been reading along with us for a while, you know that Ellie and I took a canning class so we can continue to eat some of our favorite local foods all year. Actually, we now have a three-pronged approach to food preservation–canning, freezing and drying. We’re looking at what is available at the market each week and considering whether or not we enjoy it enough to try preserving it for the bleak winter months. It’s fun to seek out new recipes to try–dried fruit leather was a big hit. One of the recipes that piqued our interest is pickled asparagus with mustard seed. We love asparagus. We love pickles. So, what’s not to love about pickled asparagus?  I’m all about trying the DIY version, although local asparagus is fairly pricey at $6/pound.

I couldn’t decide whether this sounded really good or just really odd, so I posted an inquiry to my Facebook page asking the question: “Pickled asparagus. Good? Gross?” The overwhelming judgement was “gross.” Or at least “why?” as in “why would do that to a perfectly good asparagus?” A few people commented on texture issues with asparagus–would they be mushy? Ellie The Brave was all about it though, so we forged ahead. I picked up asparagus at the farmer’s market and apple cider vinegar at the grocery store and we got started. This recipe uses quite a bit of garlic, which made the kitchen smell great. I managed to get over my fear of canning garlic, which seems to be strongly connected to botulism if not done properly.

The end result was some semi-attractive jars, although not as perfect looking as the grocery store variety. I was concerned about stuffing too much asparagus in the pint jars, but in hindsight, the hot water bath cooked them slightly and they shrunk up a bit, so next time I will pack the jars pretty full.

How do they taste? Actually, very good! The asparagus are tender and not crisp like a true pickle, but also not mushy like asparagus from a can. The brine is good–tart, but with good seasoning from the mustard, garlic and pepper. They will be good with salad or even with deviled eggs. The garlic  helps to balance the vinegar and give the pickles a nice savory flavor. If you like asparagus and want to keep it around past asparagus season, this might be something to try (you can also blanch them and freeze them). This recipe is from “Put ‘Em Up” by Sherri Brooks Vinton. If you are interested in canning, I highly recommend this book–it is by far my favorite canning book and my constant “go-to” book for delicious and unusual canning recipes.

Pickled Asparagus with Mustard Seed (makes about 3 pints)

  • 4 lbs. asparagus, washed and dried
  • 4 cups cider vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 4 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon celery seed
  • 1 tablespoon mustard seed
  • 1 teaspoon peppercorn
  1. Trim the asparagus to lengths 1 inch shorter than your pint jars and pack vertically into the clean, hot jars.
  2. Combine the vinegar, water, salt and sugar in a medium nonreactive saucepan. Bring the brine to a low boil, stirring to dissolve the salt and sugar, and then remove from the heat. Divide the garlic, celery seed, mustard seed, and peppercorns among the jars. Pour the hot brine over the asparagus to cover by 1/2 inch. Leave 1/2 inch of head space between the top of the liquid and the lid.
  3. Use the boiling water method. Release the trapped air from the jars. Wipe the rims clean; center lids on the jars and screw on jar bands. Process for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat, remove canner lid and let jars rest in the water for 5 minutes. Remove jars and set aside for 24 hours. Check seals, then store in a cool, dark place for up to 1 year.

Pasta with Shrimp, Asparagus and Mushrooms

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The azaleas and dogwoods are blooming, the spring pollen has coated everything with a fine dusting of yellow and asparagus are back at the farmers market. Spring is finally in full swing! It was hard to contain myself at the market this week–I see all that beautiful (and very temporary) asparagus, and I want to buy it all up. But that would be wrong. Still, I did manage to bring home some lovely, fresh-picked asparagus along with some NC shrimp from Locals Seafood for this pasta dish. I love this pasta. Satisfying, yet much lighter than our heavier winter pasta creations, this recipe was made on the fly with what we found at the market (except lemons–they do not grow here!).

For this dish, use very good quality olive oil, butter and cheese! I’ve started buying organic butter from grass-fed cows and it is expensive, but really wonderful in a dish where you will taste the butter (and no growth hormones!). I saved the trimmings from our asparagus (I wanted more of the pretty tops and less stem in this dish) and I will use the tender stems minced in our veggie risotto tomorrow night!

In theory, this feeds 4 people. But Tom and I were ravenous for some reason, and nearly finished the pot between the two of us, so if you have a hungry household, make a salad to go with this.

Pasta with Shrimp, Asparagus and Mushrooms (serves 4)

1 lb. orecchiette pasta (little ears)
1 shallot
2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons fresh, grass-fed butter
1 lb. medium shrimp, peeled and cleaned
1 lb. fresh asparagus, washed and trimmed
8 oz. fresh mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1 lemon zested and juiced
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Kosher salt and ground pepper

Peel and mince the shallot and garlic cloves. Set aside.
Fill a large stock pot with water for pasta. When pasta water boils, add a healthy scoop of salt to the water along with the pasta. Lower heat to medium high and cook pasta for 10 minutes.
While pasta is cooking, combine the olive oil and butter in a large sauté pan and melt over medium heat. When foam subsides, add shallot and garlic. Cook for 2 minutes.
Add the asparagus and mushrooms and salt/pepper to taste. Stir and cook for about 5 minutes.
Add the shrimp, lemon juice and zest. Cook until the shrimp are just pink. Do not overlook!
When pasta is done, drain, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water.
Add pasta and all vegetables to a large serving bowl. Toss, adding some pasta water to make a light sauce.
Sprinkle with cheese and serve!

Week 16 Budget and Menu

Well, while I was gone last week, spring finally arrived in North Carolina! When I left, the trees just had little leaf buds and nothing was blooming. I came home to green, green, green and beautiful spring flowers everywhere!  What a glorious time of year!

In addition to all the flowers, our farmers markets are showing signs of spring as well. We have asparagus, strawberries, lettuce and onions! Yay!!! And our Produce Box deliveries start this week as well. Double yay! We are a bit over budget at $106.60 and interestingly, we are not eating much meat this week, but we are eating more seafood, which tends to bump our budget up a bit.

This week’s menu is taking advantage of our spring crops as well as the delicious salads we had in Paris last week. Now that we have reworked our menu for spring, I need to find time to rework my closet!

What’s fresh at your farmer’s market this week?

Budget [$106.60]

  • Rare Earth Farms (buttermilk, mozzarella, eggs): $14.28
  • Locals Seafood (shrimp): $10.00
  • The Produce Box (organic kale, organic cucumber, organic hothouse tomato, organic radish, organic pea tendrils): $22.00
  • Various farmers market vendors (asparagus, greenhouse tomato, strawberries, romaine lettuce): $19.00
  • Trader Joes (chicken thighs, mushrooms, salmon, lemon, frozen fruit, yogurt, Ezekiel bread):$41.32

Menu

  • Wednesday–Power Salad (kale, lettuce, tomato, avocado, pine nuts, egg)
  • Thursday–Slow cooker cashew chicken, rice
  • Friday–Pasta with shrimp, asparagus, mushrooms
  • Saturday–Salmon with veggie risotto and citrus beurre blanc
  • Sunday–Egg salad on toast
  • Monday–Tomato and cheese pizza, salad
  • Tuesday–Omelettes, salad
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