Sunday, October 31, 2010

Hap-"pea" Halloween!

Sprout is very happy to be a pea.

He is less happy about the fate of most peas.*

*Note: No babies were harmed/cooked for this picture.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Local Eating Challenge: Last Few Days

I've learned a lot about myself, cooking and the bounty of local farms in just 4 short weeks of this edition of the Local Eating Challenge.  To recap, I limited my family's consumption of vegetables, fruit and meat to that produced within 200 miles (often less) of our home.  This wasn't meant to be an exercise in homesteading or living a life in isolation of coffee, cinnamon and olive oil-- none of which is produced to my knowledge in any part of Virginia...or ever was.  The purpose of this was to see if with a reasonable high-cost-of-living-area grocery budget and a reasonable amount of meal planning and prep, eating as local as possible could be done.  I have felt for a long time that local eating from small farms that are either "eco-ganic" or practice Integrated Pest Management is better for the environment and, quite possibly, my health (less exposure to pesticides, fresher produce may have more nutrients, etc).  However, it felt like this would be an expensive endeavor.  Thus, armed with our usual $100/wk grocery budget and a few cookbooks to keep things interesting, I embarked.

And, in the words of my I-Like-To-Have-Pasta-with-Red-Sauce-Every-Week-For-Lunch-No-Matter-the-Season "Ya know?  This isn't as hard as I was expecting."

What We Learned
I was always pretty good about saving chicken bones and parsley stems for stocks, but this challenge has really forced me to use every little bit of vegetables and meat...with delicious results.  Partly because of the original expense of them and partly because the "local eating rules" meant that I couldn't use some other flavoring.  This meant using the water from steaming the broccoli in the broccoli soup instead of plain water (I didn't have any stock using all local ingredients) or saving the green leaves of the turnip for another recipe.

In order to stay within budget, we ate less meat than we usual.  We were used to having a vegetarian meal a few nights a week, but this challenge had us having vegetarian lunches and less meat at our non-vegetarian meal.  While I haven't lost any weight during this month but I do feel more energetic and overall "better."  And, I must say, I think even devout carnivores could enjoy the Vegetarian Cassoulet, African Peanut Soup, or Butternut Squash and Greens Risotto.

Local meat tastes 10 times better than grocery store meat and well worth the price premium.  The pork was especially amazing.

The prep did take a bit longer, though.  Granted, this may be a function of the recipes I chose, but I felt like meals took longer to make.  I had to make my own stock, couldn't use pre-prepped frozen or canned vegetables, etc.  Additionally, meal planning took longer as my usual recipes didn't fit the local eating challenge.  However, it wasn't excessive and after a week or two I got more in the hang of it.  I have a feeling it will be easier going forward.

It wasn't expensive as I thought it would be.  Granted, as previously mentioned, we ate more vegetarian meals, but they were so good, it didn't matter that they were meat-free.  Plus, getting our protein from beans or whole grains, is probably better for us too.  I was expecting to be really pushing out $100 budget each week but for most weeks I was well under...more along the lines of our usual grocery budget.

In the Meantime...
The next month of Local Eating Challenge is May 2011.  Until then, I plan to visit the farmer's market as long as they are open.  And, with the exception of chicken, we'll continue to buy our meat from them.  However, I'm not going to lie...canned tomatoes and out-of-season celery will probably weasel their way back to our menus.  Especially in the winter when nothing fresh is coming out of the fields.

The Final Days
I did it; I went under budget again!  I spent $30 at the grocery store (this included getting some paper towels and toilet paper), not just food.  I did awesome at the farmer's market too; $50 got me: 2 bunches of kohlrabi, 2 big handfuls of green beans, 1 quart of onions, 1 bunch radishes, celery, 2lb carrots, 3lb pork shoulder, 1 tomato, cauliflower, 2 summer squash, 4 asian pears, tomatillos, and lettuce.  Grand total for the week was $80.  (I have no idea why the photo won't go horizontal.)

Thursday (tonight), lunch for weekend: Oven-Roasted Tofu with Apples  (apples leftover from U-Pick, carrots, onions, and mushrooms--local, but from grocery store)

Friday, Saturday, Sunday: Pork Tacos with Salsa Verde and Chili-Roasted Butternut Squash (pork shoulder, tomatillos, some of our hot peppers, onions, cilantro, lettuce, radishes & local butternut squash from the grocery store)

Monday (Nov. 1st!), Tuesday, Wednesday: Bolognese with Pasta (will use some of the carrots, celery, onions.  I have some beef in the freezer I need to use)

My lunch:  Fall Vegetable Curry (tomato, cauliflower, summer squash, butternut squash, onions & cilantro)

Husband's lunch: Pasta with Red Sauce (hehehehehe)

Plus, I got some green beans & 2 bunches of kohlrabi that I haven't allocated to a meal.  Maybe I'll make them as a side dish for the pasta or add them to my lunch.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Recipe: Vegetarian Cassoulet

I know, I know.  Vegetarian cassoulet is an oxymoron.  Cassoulet, after all, is famous for using duck confit & often an assortment of sausages.  My husband & I got a little cassoulet obsessed during our trip to Languedoc this year.  It gave us both heartburn, but it was fantastic.

But, to be honest, I'm not going to be making my own duck confit anytime soon nor am I even sure where to get it locally.  And, I don't have a few days to make one dish.  Thus, while this dish may not be authenic, it is delicious and replicates the flavors of the original.  It's a perfect fall or winter can serve by itself or with a salad and crusty bread.  And maybe some Blanquette wine if you can find it!

Ingredients (Serves 4)
Adapted from

6 scallions (all) or 3 medium leeks (white and pale green parts only), thinly sliced
4 medium carrots, finely diced
3 celery ribs, finely diced (I didn't put this in as I couldn't find any locally, but it would be a delicious addition) 4 garlic cloves, chopped
2 roma tomatoes, finely diced
8 oz mushrooms, finely diced
1 Tbsp olive oil
4 thyme sprigs
1 sprig rosemary
3 leaves of sage
1 small bunch of  parsley, chopped
1 bay leaf
4 c cooked cannellini or Great Northern beans (if using canned, rinse & drain)
3 c stock

1. Saute scallions/leeks, carrots, celery, tomatoes and garlic in oil with herb sprigs, bay leaf, sage, rosemary, and 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper in a large heavy pot over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until softened and golden, about 15 minutes.  Next, add in mushrooms and cook until tender, another 7 or so minutes.

2. Add in beans, then water, and simmer, partially covered, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes.

3. With a potato masher or back of wooden spoon, mash beans a bit to thicken cassoulet.  Remove sage and bay leaves as well as rosemary and thyme sprigs.  Stir in chopped parsley.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Harvest Update: Final Edition?

I left in a few pepper plants, our basil and the Sungold tomatoes and pulled everything else up a while back.  We've pretty much neglected the garden since then as I was preoccupied by other projects, the baby and schoolwork.  With the first frost looming, I decided to throw in the towel and harvest what was left.

Have you ever seen over a pound  of hot peppers (1 lb 3 oz to be exact)?

Well now you have!  I'm not entirely sure what we're going to do with them.  At the moment, I'm a bit overwhelmed with getting the herb garden ready and garlic planted.  Thus, we're just going to freeze them whole & decide what to do with them later.  I hope to try to make a hot sauce.

We also got 2.5oz of basil (most of that was Thai basil) and 6.25oz of green cherry tomatoes.  I'm going to just freeze the basil to use over the winter and try pickling the green cherry tomatoes.

Weeks & weeks ago I planted mustard greens but the squirrels set to work digging in my pots and now something is eating them.  Since the pots are close to the house, I'm hoping that they'll get some reflected heat and grow a bit more.  As it stands, there wouldn't be much there.  So, this might be my last harvest of the season.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Local Eating Challenge: Week 4

Sorry it took awhile for me to post this week.  It is finals week full of tests and final projects, but as of 12pm today, I was *done*.  Until next quarter, of course! I've got a backlog of things to show you...especially my new herb garden area!

Review of Week 3
Nothing really earth-shattering happened.  I made a meal plan, we mostly followed it.  It was delicious.  I felt like I was really in the hang of it.

Lessons Learned
I really miss chicken.  For the markets nearest to me, only the Annandale market has chicken...and it's only available in half-chickens.  No boneless thighs (which we eat a lot of), just half chickens that are like $10, expensive.

I'm also starting to miss canned tomatoes and celery which seem to be in all of my favorite fall comfort foods.  For the time I'm either avoiding those recipes or just leaving that ingredient out.  Needless to say, I've already penciled in a large batch of slow-cooked, local-meat-but-canned-tomatoes bolognese sauce on Nov. 1st.

Week 4
I did amazingly well with budget this week. From the grocery, I got $28 worth of products.  From the farmer's market, I only spend $45 and got: 1 bunch turnips, 1 bunch kale, 1 bunch lettuce, 3 onions, several potatoes, several very large handfuls of green beans, 5 roma tomatoes, 1 bunch scallions, parsley, 2 bunches carrots, 2 zucchini, 1.5 lb broccoli, about 1 lb of Italian sausage and 2 lb ground beef.  Total for the week is $73 which is well under budget.

See the baby feet in the picture?!?

Here's the meal plan for the week:

Friday: was leftovers

Saturday, Monday: Cream of Broccoli Soup with crostini (onion & broccoli and maybe some sage from my garden for the crostini)

Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday: Meatloaf with Root Potato Mash and Green beans (onions, carrots, pototoes, turnip roots, and green beans)

My lunch: An oxymoron- Vegetarian Cassoulet (carrots, scallions, parsley, tomatoes, zucchini)

Husband's lunch: Sausage and Kale Pasta (sausage, kale and onions)

Weekend lunch: Falafels (tomato, lettuce)

Breakfast: Steel cut oats topped with pomegranate kefir

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Recipe: Roasted Vegetables & Wheatberry Salad

I've been wanting to use the wheatberries I bought on a whim a while ago and this week was the week!

I used this recipe as the base.  I'm sure it's good as is, but I prefer roasted vegetables first coated in vinegar and had been meaning to make roasted, crispy kale.  When I can use non-local ingredients, I will add some plumped raisins or dried cranberries like the inspiration recipe.  The sweet hit would be nice.

However, the recipe below is addictive.  I never thought I would say that about root vegetables, let alone wheatberries, but there's something about it that is SO GOOD.  Maybe it's because the wheatberries are slightly chewy and nutty?  That the root vegetables roasted with thyme make you think of fall?  Whatever it is, this is good hot, cold and room temperature.  Perfect for lunch, a side to roasted chicken or potluck dish.

2 cup wheat berries
2 pounds assorted root vegetables; carrots, rutabagas, butternut squash, celery root, parsnips, etc, peeled and cut into thumbnail-sized cubes (I used carrots, parsnips & turnips)
1/2 large red onion, peeled and diced
1 bunch of kale, chopped
Olive oil
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
10 or so branches of fresh thyme
salt and freshly-ground black pepper

1.  Cook the wheatberries according to package instructions.  Preheat oven to 425*F
2.  Meanwhile, toss the chopped root vegetables in as much oil as you dare (I do just a Tbsp) and the vinegar.  Put on a roasting sheet topped with the thyme sprigs and sprinkled with salt & pepper.  Roast for 20-30 minutes, until done.
3.  Turn down the temperature of the oven to 300*F.  Toss the kale with a little oil (I just put a few drizzles) and then spread in a single layer on roasting sheet.  Bake for 20-25 minutes. (Alternatively, you could steam the kale, but I like the charred flavor the oven gives the tips)
4.  Toss cooked wheatberries with roasted root vegetables and kale.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Recipe: Sunday Pot Roast with Double Potato Mash

I believe it was Nigella Lawson that said "Why have one potato, when you can have two?"  My thoughts exactly.  And, perhaps as an added bonus, mixing sweet potatoes into white potatoes gives you more vitamins...which makes it healthier, right?!?

I used this as my base recipe for the pot roast except I added 3 finely chopped roma tomatoes after the onions were cooked and caramelized them.  I added several parsnips and turnips, peeled and cut itno sticks with 30 minutes to go and trimmed green beans with 10 minutes to go.

I've been striving to emulate the English Sunday Roast.  Nothing is lovelier, especially in this weather, than a comforting dish of something that has been cooked slow and low.  Add in a glass of wine and you've got a dinner to linger long as the baby allows.  :P  Lucky for me, Sprout seems to enjoy the idea of a Sunday Roast as much as I do.

Double Potato Mash

4 small sweet potatoes, peeled & cubed
6 medium white potatoes, cubed (I like to leave the skins on my white potatoes. Cut these slightly larger than the sweet potatoes as they cook faster)
1 Tbsp butter
1/2 c 2% milk

1. Put both potatoes in a large sauce pan.  Cover with water and add a liberal pinch of salt.
2. Bring to a boil and cook until the potatoes are tender (time depends on the size you cut the potatoes, but it took me 10 minutes)
3. Drain
4. In the sauce pan, add the pat of butter.  Add the drained potatoes and milk.  Mash with potato masher.
5. Top with gravy or pot roast of your choice!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Local Eating Challenge: Week 3

Review of Week 2
Overall, last week's meal plan went well.  My husband ended up making chicken caccitorie for his lunch using the frozen roasted tomatoes, the half chicken I bought, some garlic/onions and herbs from our garden.  The meals got shifted around a bit and I got lazy one night, so we didn't end up eating the Acorn Squash with Arugula Pizzas (which were fabulous, btw) until Wednesday and Thursday, which was lucky.

I don't know if I'm getting into a groove, but this is getting easier.  And each week I'm still excited about trying new recipes which is saying something as usually with this much cooking I'm burned out.

Lessions Learned
I'm finding that consistently going to the farmer's market makes it infinitely easier to meal plan.  I now have a pretty solid idea of what I can find week-to-week.  It's no longer an Iron Chef situation where I have to think of recipes on the fly or come up with a meal plan only to have it ruined by not being able to find a key ingredient. 

But perhaps the biggest lesson was the awesomeness of local pork.  The ham roast I got last week was indescribably good.  The pork you buy in the grocery store usually tastes like chicken, which is to say it doesn't take like much.  This pork tasted intensely like *pork.*  I only used salt & pepper on it, yet it was full of flavor.  It was also a bit tougher than commercial pork so next time I'll probably brine it first.

I love "2fer" vegetables like turnip and kohlrabi that comes with the root vegetable *and* the greens.  Sometimes I use them in the same recipe, but often I split them up.  It's such a great deal.

Week 3
This week we went to Costco and stocked up on pasta (we do this every month or two).  The husband also brought a block of cheddar.  The total of Costco was $20.  The grocery store was mostly basics & came to $26.  At the farmer's market I got 2 bunches of turnips, 1 bunch of kale, 6 potatoes, 4 sweet potatoes, 1 bunch of carrots, 2 crowns of broccoli, 3/4 lb green beans, 3 roma tomatoes, 2 large onions, 3 large parsnips, 2 heads of garlic, 1 half gallon of apple cider and 3 lb chuck roast...all for $58!  So, we're $4 over budget this week, but since I was waaaaaayyy under last week, it evens out.

Here's the meal plan for this week:

Friday: last of the Acorn Squash with Arugula Pizzas
Monday, Wednesday: Spanish-style lentils (tomatoes, turnip greens, onions), steamed broccoli

Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday: Pot roast (chuck roast, 2/3 of the turnips, 2 parsnips, potatoes, sweet potatoes, green beans, onion, garlic)

My lunch: Roasted vegetable & wheatberry salad (1/3 of turnips, 1 parsnip, 3 carrots, onion & kale)

My husband's lunch
: Homemade mac & cheese (Have you sensed a theme yet?  He likes pasta.  A lot.)

Weekend lunch: I think we're going to go out to eat on Sunday for lunch, but on Saturday we'll made quesadillas from leftover cheese & roasted acorn squash

Breakfast: More steel cut oats.  God, I love these things.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Blog Action Day: The Key Ingredient in Your Garden

What does vegetables, meat, clothing and swimming pools have in common?

Water.  The water that feeds plants--whether you eat them, look at them or weave them into cloth-- and hydrates animals has to come from somewhere...and has to GO somewhere.

When the terms "sustainable food" and "eating local" are tossed around, normally people talk about the miles it took for their food to get to their plate. Rarely is the amount of water used to grow or raise that food discussed or what happens to the water that runs off the agricultural or pasture fields.  And rarely do people think about their water usage in terms of necessity versus luxury activities.

As much as possible, we tried to use our rain barrel to water the garden but even that would run dry with the drought we've been having.  We mulch everywhere we have plants (even in containers) to help the soil retain moisture.  If we use fertilizers, even organic ones, we only apply the recommended dosage and no more (usually a little more diluted than that) to limit run off which pollutes our rivers and streams.

We are all incredibly lucky to live in a place where you can just turn on a spigot & get clean water on demand.  I know I could be more efficient with my water usage.  Just because it's there, doesn't mean you have to use it.

Do you know your water footprint?  You can find out at

Here are some water-footprints of common foods:
It takes 140 liters of water to produce 1 cup of coffee.
It takes 16,000 liters of water to produce 1 kg of beef.
It takes 1,350 liters of water to produce 1 kg of wheat.
It takes 1,000 liters of water to produce 1 liter of milk.
It takes 3,000 liters of water to produce 1 kg of rice.|Start Petition

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Gah. Not again!

I didn't bother trying to go to the Annandale market today with the rain.  I'd just be pissed off if I lugged the baby and all the associated paraphernalia out there only to have it closed...again.  So, I'll be headed to the McLean market tomorrow.  This means no chicken next week (no chicken at McLean) which is too bad because I bought some dried udon noodles & had dreams of a lovely Asian chicken noodle soup for dinner next week.

Good thing I was too lazy Saturday night to make dinner so we got take out and the ham roast meal lasted a day longer than anticipated.  This meant tonight I could make the Acorn Squash & Arugula pizzas I originally planned to make Tuesday/Wednesday.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Recipe: Roasted Tomato Soup

Oh, the big box of tomato saga continues!  We seeded, roasted and froze the vast majority for later use.  And, guess what?!?  This is one of those later uses!

My inspiration recipe was Ina Garten's Roasted Tomato Basil Soup.  I'm sure it's perfectly delicious as-is but the local eating challenge means no canned plum tomatoes and I don't have any chicken or vegetable stock made yet.  Plus, she's using an alarming amount of oil in that recipe! Thus, I used fresh tomatoes and the juice of the roasted tomatoes instead of canned and water instead of stock.  Because I was using fresh tomatoes, I also mixed up the cooking steps.  And, in the end, it tasted so good with minimal basil, I decided to leave it as is.  Oh, and I don't have a food mill.  In short, at the end of the day, my version is probably nothing like Ina's. (Don't you hate it when the comments on online recipes are like "This recipe was fabulous!  I changed everything about it though.  It's a keeper!"  I do.)

Here's my version:

4 Tbsp olive oil, divided
3 lbs slicing/non-paste tomatoes, seeded, quartered. Reserve juice/seeds
2 large slicing tomatoes, chopped
1.5 onions, sliced thin
6 cloves of garlic
1/4 tsp of crushed red pepper flakes (or to taste)
1/4 c basil
3 sprigs fresh thyme
4 c water
salt & pepper

1. Preheat oven to 400*F. Arrange the 3 lbs of seeded tomatoes on a baking sheet.  Drizzle with 1 Tbsp of olive oil, salt & pepper.  Roast for 45 minutes.  Meanwhile, put chopped tomatoes, basil, reserved juice & salt/pepper in a bowl. Set aside.  (You can do this step in advance.)

2. In a large saucepan, add 3 Tbsp of olive oil, onions, garlic and crushed red pepper.  Saute until onions are brown around the edges, about 10 minutes.
3. Add chopped tomatoes mixture to the onions and cook until the liquid reduces by half or until dragging a spoon across the bottom of the pan leaves a channel (like with risotto).  Taste for seasoning & adjust if necessary.

4. Add roasted tomatoes, any juices from roasting, thyme sprigs and water to pan.  Cook for 40 minutes.

5. Fish out the thyme sprigs.  Use immersion blender (or food processor or blender) to puree soup.  Taste for seasoning.  If you want something smoother, you can pour through a fine-mesh sieve.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Local Eating Challenge: Week 2

Recap From Week 1
We pretty much followed the meal plan I set out in the beginning of the week.  I had forgotten to include lunch on the weekend, but we just made a pasta dish with some of the tomatoes from the box my husband got.  Overall, we spent $57 at the farmer's market (McLean's $29 & $28 at Falls Church for a box of tomatoes, parsley & bacon) and $38 at the grocery store...for a total of $95.  That's less than our budgeted amount of $100/wk but more than what we usually spend ($70-80/wk)...and we didn't really buy any meat.

I do have some veggies leftover, though.  I ended up not using the kohlrabi bulbs and we have 2 acorn squash I didn't use. Plus, most of the box of tomatoes went to the freezer for later usage.

First Week Observations
I cheated a bit in my first week which I kind of feel horrible about.  I just didn't want veggies to go to waste!  And, I used fresh ginger.  I tried to console myself that non-local ginger was OK because it is really a spice, but now that I know that local ginger exists, I really shouldn't have used it.  Despite considering myself to be someone that is pretty knowledgeable about what grows in this region & when it's harvested, I find myself learning a lot.  This is a good thing!  I'll do better in the coming weeks!

One thing I am surprised at is that the McLean and Falls Church farmer's market don't have local chicken.  I'm hoping that Annandale does because we mostly eat chicken.

And, finally, I'm finding meal planning to be a bit more time consuming than usual.  Not being able to use a can of tomatoes or lime juice has started to limit my go-to recipes.  Many recipes also mix in- and out-of-season vegetables which is frustrating.  In some cases you can find an easy substitute or just leave it out, but in many cases it's important to the recipe.  In addition, The meals are taking a bit longer to prepare because I can't just dump in a bag of frozen veg or a box of stock...I have to prep the vegetables or make that stock myself.

Week 2
At the grocery store this week I only needed milk, coconut milk, steel cut oats, local mushrooms (no vender at the FFX county markets) and some assorted beans (to replenish our pantry) in the way of food.  Total cost was $25. 

The Annandale market was open & they did indeed have chicken!  I got a half of chicken, ham roast, green beans, onions, turnips, 2 bunches of kale, arugula, a bag full of collard greens, 2 peppers and butternut squash.  All for $53.  The onions were annoyingly expensive though; 4 of them were almost $4!  I did forget, however, to buy some apple cider so we'll do without juice for the week.  I'll make some flavored iced tea instead. 

Total for the week: $78!  This is more like what we usually spend each week.

Menu for the week:

Thursday, Friday & Saturday: Veggie Pot Pie (half the kohlrabi from last week, carrots from last week, green beans, turnips with their greens & onions)

Sunday, Monday: Roasted ham with greens (plus apples from U-pick)

Tuesday, Wednesday: Roasted acorn squash pizza topped with arugula

My lunch: Veggie Thai Red Curry (the other half of the kohlrabi, peppers, and butternut squash)

My husband's lunch: Pasta with roasted tomatoes (tomatoes from last week)

Weekend lunch: Roasted tomato & basil soup with grilled cheese

Breakfast: Steel cut oats with apples or plain yogurt with homemade jam, bacon pancakes on Sunday morning

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Recipe: African Peanut Soup

The name of this soup is a little deceiving.  While peanuts play a large role in flavor, it's sweet potatoes and tomatoes that are the bulk of the recipe.  Perfect for the rainy, cool weather we've had lately.  I served with some homemade bread and a salad, but this could also be a stew served over rice if you reduce the liquid a little, don't puree and leave the peanuts whole.

After I made this, I pondered if fresh ginger counted as a seasoning or a vegetable...meaning, is using non-local ginger a cheat in my local eating challenge?  I think of it more as a seasoning b/c I don't recall are recipe where you *just* eat ginger.  And it stores well.  Hmmmmmm...Does ginger even grow in the greater DC area?!?

Source: Vegetarian Planet by Didi Emmons

Ingredients (Serves 4-6)
1 tbsp oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp grated fresh ginger
1.5 tsp ground cumin
1.5 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 pinch of ground cloves
3 ripe medium tomatoes, chopped
2 large (or about 1.5 lbs) sweet potatoes, peeled & chopped (I'd leave the peel on if you're doing a stew version of this for extra nutrients)
1 carrot, chopped
4.5 c water
1 pinch cayenne pepper
1/4 c chopped, dry roasted, unsalted peanuts
3 tbsp creamy peanut butter (Ms. Emmon's recipe calls for 2 tbsp, but I think a little extra is needed)
1 tbsp chopped cilantro, optional

1. In soup pot, heat a bit of oil over medium heat and saute onion for about 10 minutes or until brown around the edges.
2. Add ginger, garlic and spices.  Cook for another 3 minutes.
3. Add tomatoes, sweet potatoes and carrot.  Cook for 5 minutes.
4. Add water and a good pinch of salt.  Bring to a boil and cook 30 min. or until sweet potatoes and carrots are tender.
5. Add peanut butter.
6. With immersion blender, puree until smooth.  (You can also use food processor or blender, but do not fill the containers all the way when you blend--warm liquid expands!  It might be safer to let it cool a bit too before you puree).
7. Add peanuts & top with cilantro (if using). Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Recipe: Butternut Squash & Greens Risotto

I would have never thought to put greens in risotto if it wasn't for the Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favorites cookbook. This was a delicious hearty meal best washed down with a lovely apple cider (Or hard cider if you wish!).

This is the first recipe of my Local Eating Challenge & I'll admit that I cheated a bit.  I know, first meal and you cheat?!?  Hear me out!  The purpose of this challenge is not only to get more acquainted with where my food comes from, but also lessen the environmental impact of our stomach.  Thus, just letting 3 carrots, some celery and half of a bag of onions that I had leftover from last week go bad seemed to the wrong choice to stay true to the spirit of the challenge.  So, I chopped all those up with additional carrots from the farmer's market today, garlic that I grew myself, salt, peppercorns and bay leaves, and turned it into a very flavorful vegetable stock for this recipe.  The rest of the vegetables in the recipe, along with the rest of the vegetables this month, will be from local sources.  Promise.

You could totally stop with just adding the greens; it's a delicious risotto without the squash.  I used kohlrabi greens because I bought kohlrabi, but the original recipe called for kale and said Swiss chard was an option too.

Ingredients (Serves 4)
5 c vegetable stock
1 c minced onions
2-3 tsp olive oil
1.5 c arborio rice
about 2 c peeled & cubed butternut squash, cooked (either roasted or steamed)
3 c stemmed and chopped greens (kale, Swiss chard, or kohlrabi greens)
salt & pepper
1/4 c Parmesan cheese

1. Bring stock to a boil in a saucepan.
2.  Meanwhile, saute onions in the oil for about 5 minutes...until softened but not brown.
3. Add rice to the pan and toast, stirring occasionally.  Add 1/2 of the stock.
4. Stir often until all of stock is absorbed.  Add greens.
5. Add an additional 1/2 c, stir and wait until absorbed by adding more liquid.  Keep adding liquid this way until the rice is done or all the liquid is used.
6. Add Parmesan, cooked butternut squash and serve!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Local Eating Challenge: Week 1

I was rained out of the Annandale market yesterday, so I decided to try out the McLean one today.  The McLean farmer's market is much smaller than Annandale (and much MUCH smaller than Falls Church) but there was one seller that literally had everything I needed.  And, everything looked GORGEOUS...several types of squash, eggplant, radishes (including a pink daikon!), greens, peppers, onions, beans...really anything you'd want.  I ended up getting everything, save 2 pie pumpkins that I'm going to bake, puree & freeze the contents for pies later, from him.

For $29 I got: 3 very yellow summer squash, 8 baby eggplants, 1 green pepper, 2 bunches of kohlrabi, 3 onions, 3 heads of garlic, 2.5 lbs of sweet potatos, a bunch of carrots, basil, 1 head of romaine and 2 pie pumpkins.  I bought a butternut squash from VA at Whole Foods yesterday when I went grocery shopping because I was panicked that we'd be rained out today & not have anything for dinner on the first night of the challenge!  Tomorrow my husband is headed for the Falls Church market to see if he can score another big box of tomatoes and pick up some bacon and maybe chicken.

The only thing that's got me sweating a bit is that I usually have several pantry meals on hand.  This challenge doesn't quite work with some of my old standbys: Indian simmer sauce/chickpeas/frozen cauliflower over rice, paprika chicken roasted with canned tomatoes & frozen spinach and pasta with red sauce.  So, I'm going to get some local bacon to keep in the fridge.  We always have Parmesan cheese and eggs (local if the vendors don't run out...which they usually do because it's hard for me to get there as soon as they open), so Pasta Carbonara is just minutes away on a night when either we don't have time to cook or ate through our meals faster than usual.

Here's our meal plan for the week, pending what my husband picks up at the farmer's market.  Generally, we cook big batches of things & eat leftovers to save time.

My lunch: Vegetable stir-fry with tofu (I'll use the summer squash, peppers, eggplant & the bulbs of the kohlrabi) over jasmine rice

Breakfast: Oatmeal with apples and cinnamon or toast with peanut butter & sliced apples

The husband's lunch: Pasta with raw tomato sauce (tomatoes we'll be getting, basil, garlic)

Friday, Saturday & Sunday: Butternut squash & greens risotto (using butternut squash, onion and the greens of the kohlrabi)/Romaine with marinated apples dressing (lettuce and apples that we picked last weekend)

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday: Tomato & peanut soup (tomatoes we'll be getting, carrots & sweet potatoes) with bread (I may make America's Test Kitchen's quick Irish soda bread)

Snacks: apples (from U-pick last weekend) and asian pears (from last week's farmer's market)