Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Summer Chili

Although it's been John Blazin' hot outside around these parts, I was still craving something spicy, warm, and filling one night after work. I also knew it needed to be good enough to save for leftovers for lunches. I found a recipe online for something called Spicy Skillet Mac, which seemed like a recreation of a dish my mom used to make when I was young, lovingly called "Friday Night Special." It was ground beef and and pasta and cheese with a spicy tomato sauce.

I was immediately intrigued by the idea but knew I wanted to keep it gluten free. (Not that we have gluten intolerance, but we try to eat as gluten free as possible). Combine that with an overwhelming amount of summer squash from our garden, and this idea was born.

I call this summer chili - it still has the beans and the meat (faux for us vegetarians) and the spiciness. But the zucchini keeps it lighter than normal, and you could easily add in any other veggies that float your boat. We used onion, bell peppers, jalapenos, and squash from our garden, but I could see carrots, corn, eggplant, and a host of other options.

Oh, and for those keeping track - I did actually use my stove for this, making a grand total of 3 times since May.

Summer Chili
Serves 6-8

3 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 cup diced onion
1 1/2 cup diced green pepper
2 jalapenos, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
6 cups diced zucchini
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp chili powder
1 tsp ground chipotle chili powder
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried thyme
1 (12oz) package Morningstar Crumbles
1/2 cup water
1 (15oz) can petite diced tomatoes
1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce
1 (15 oz) can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup roughly chopped cilantro

In a large stock pot, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Add onion, pepper, and jalapeno.
 Saute for 3 minutes, then add zucchini and garlic. Saute for another 5-8 minutes, until peppers and onions are soft. Add remaining ingredients, except for cilantro, and stir well. Bring to a boil and then lower heat to a simmer. Cook for another 15-20 minutes until zucchini is soft. You can let this simmer much longer if you need to. Stir in cilantro before serving. Enjoy!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Fresh Herb Marinade

One of my favorite things this year about my garden is the herb box I put in. There is something about going out the back door, walking a few steps, and harvesting some fresh herbs to add into meals. And there's just nothing like fresh herbs. The flavors, the smells - amazing.

My basil and parsley has been doing very well, so I wanted to use a bunch of it up. Obviously, it needed to be a grilling recipe (I've only used my stove once since the beginning of May) so it seemed like the perfect idea to make a marinade for fish. This marinade would also do well on chicken or pork, if you are so inclined.

And the recipe is dead easy. Chop up a bunch of fresh herbs, add a few more ingredients and you have a marinade!

You could easily bake or saute your protein once it's marinated for awhile, but grilling turns the herbs into little crispy flavor chips of deliciousness. But regardless how you cook it, I think you'll be pleasantly surprised at how easy yet flavorful this marinade is.

Fresh Herb Marinade
Makes 1 batch

1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 tbsp lemon juice

Whisk together all ingredients in a bowl. My favorite way to marinate anything is to throw it into a Ziplock bag. Allow fish (or other carniverous things) to marinate at least for a few hours. Discard any leftover marinade.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Kale Salad with Garlic Vinaigrette

Man, our garden is overflowing and we're loving every minute of it. You just can't beat going outside to harvest something and then eating it an hour later for dinner. It's probably one of my favorite things this summer.

Our kale has done so well this year. I planted it in our larger garden area up against the fence and was worried about it earlier in the season, as I was afraid the fence was blocking out some of the afternoon sun. Turns out it's the perfect space, as it keeps it from that blazing hot sun that can cause it to get woody and end the harvest! We're still getting pounds of it weekly, and I'll take it as long as it wants to keep growing. This is our delicious Red Russian Kale that we grew from seedlings.

One of our favorite things to experiment with this summer has been making our own vinaigrettes. Not only is it easy, but there are so many variations you can make it just minutes. Seriously! This recipe took about 5 minutes from start to finish, and most of that was just shaking the jar.

So you can have a healthy homemade dressing on the table in a flash. Imagine how that'll impress last minute dinner guests. "Oh this delicious dressing? I just threw it together."

The secret to a tasty kale salad is in the preparation of it. You really have to massage it for the perfect texture. "Excuse me - did you say massage?" Yep, I sure did. Don't worry - it's an easy process. But it really helps to soften up the leaf and gives it an amazing texture! You just simply pour the dressing on, and then mix it well with your hands for a few minutes. It's a little bit messy of a process, but I promise you the rewards are so well worth it.

Kale Salad with Garlic Vinaigrette

1 large bunch of kale, washed and torn into bite-sized pieces

Garlic Vinaigrette
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup tarragon vinegar (or white wine vinegar)
1 tbsp stone ground mustard
1 tsp agave
3 cloves minced garlic
salt and pepper to taste

Add all ingredients to a small mason jar. Place lid on jar and shake until well combined. Yup, that's it. Then drizzle over kale and mix with hands for a few minutes until well dressed. Serve and enjoy!
This also lasts well in the fridge overnight, so it's perfect for taking to work the next day for lunch!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Banh Mi Salad with Grilled Mahi Mahi and Spicy Peanut Dressing

Seriously, I love me some summer. I mean, there just isn't anything I don't like about it. I'm even one of those weird people that love that feeling that you get when you walk outside in the blazing humid heat and feel like you can't breathe because the air is so thick and heavy. I wait for that feeling every year.

This summer is even better because we're enjoying our yard for the first full season and everything that comes along with it. My DVR'd tv shows are happily piling up, due to the fact that we spend almost every free minute we can outside in the garden, either working, reading, eating dinner, or just relaxing.

This recipe sort of came together when I was looking for something to do with some mahi mahi filets. I also had just picked some snow peas from the garden and really wanted some sort of salad to include them. As I kicked around some ideas, I remembered the Banh Mi sandwich, which is a traditional sandwich with some sort of protein, carrots, herbs, and other pickled vegetables. I also thought about how much I love that little spicy sauce that comes along with my favorite noodle bowl from the local Vietnamese restaurant. I pulled a few ideas together and shazam - here we are.

Although the salad doesn't contain all the ingredients found on a Banh Mi, you can really add to or subtract whatever you want from it. This one contains slivered carrots and cucumbers, sliced red bell pepper, fresh snow peas, and chopped scallions. I then topped it with fresh cilantro and mint for a real flavor explosion.

Then came the mahi mahi. I liberally slathered it with red curry paste, let it sit in the fridge for a few hours, and then grilled it. Although I used fish, you could easily substitute chicken breast and prepare it the same way if you're one of those meat-eatin' folks. (funny story about curry paste - I have a weird thing with it. Every time I see it in the store, I have to buy a can of it, regardless of how many I have at home. Sort of like that "Catcher in the Rye" obsession Mel Gibson has in Conspiracy Theory. Good thing I love it.)

And that's it. Assemble the salad and go. It's delicious and easy and the flavors are AMAZING. There's some heat from the curry paste and then the cooling flavors of the fresh vegetables and peanut dressing. So go ahead and give this recipe a try. I promise it won't disappoint.

Banh Mi Salad with Grilled Mahi Mahi and Spicy Peanut Dressing
Serves 4

4 mahi mahi filets (thawed if using frozen)
1 can red curry paste

1/3 cup fresh lime juice
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 tsp Asian garlic chili sauce (or sriracha)
2 tbsp natural peanut butter
1 tsp agave

1 head romaine, torn into pieces
Few handfuls of snow peas
2 Carrots, cut into slivers
1 Cucumber, cut into slivers
3 baby red peppers, sliced
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
1/2 cup mint, chopped

Rub red curry paste into fish and allow to marinate in the fridge for a few hours or overnight.
In a small food processor, add all dressing ingredients and process until creamy and well combined.
Preheat grill to medium high and grill fish until cooked. (My mahi mahi filets took about 4 minutes each side) Assemble salad ingredients on a plate and drizzle with dressing. Place cooked fish on top and enjoy!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Strawberry Rosemary White Wine Sangria

There is nothing like a glass of cold sangria on a hot summer day. And although I love the recipes that have plenty of fruit and other ingredients and take a few hours to blend flavors, sometimes you just need something quick.

I love this recipe. Not only did it make good use of the absolutely delicious strawberries we picked last week, but I was also able to use some of the gorgeous rosemary growing in my herb garden. And not only is this tasty, it's extremely quick to make! So now you have the perfect quick little drink to offer guests this summer.

You can make this recipe with whatever white wine tickles your fancy. Here I used Pinot Grigio, but you can also use Sauvignon Blanc or Moscato if sweet is your thing.

Strawberry Rosemary Sangria
Makes 1 drink

5-7 strawberries
1" sprig of fresh rosemary
2 tsp St. Germaine liquer
4 ounces Pinot Grigio
Club soda & ice

Muddle 5-7 strawberries and the rosemary in the bottom of a cocktail glass. Add St. Germaine to the muddled mixture. Fill glass with ice and pour Pinot Grigio into glass. Top up with club soda. If you're feeling fancy, garnish with another sprig of rosemary and sliced strawberries. Serve and enjoy!

Friday, June 06, 2014

Garden Update

Well, the garden is in full swing and things have gotten busy around here. It is literally bursting with fresh produce and we are having so much fun devising new ways to use it, as well as enjoying sharing it with friends and family.

We had a few very hot days last week, which were great for some things and not so good for otrahers. Our broccoli raab bolted, but we harvested almost 2 pounds of raab before it did. But some of the other plants loved the hot weather.

This past weekend was all about strawberries. The local berry farm finally opened for the Pick-Your-Own at $1.45/pound. We picked a little over 22 pounds for under $30. You just can't beat that - not only in the price, but in the delicious taste! They are the reason why I can't bring myself to purchase strawberries from the grocery store in the winter. And I'm a very bad blogger - not a picture to be had of the fresh berries. But what if I promise you a strawberry recipe this weekend???

And speaking of strawberries, check out how cute the little blossoms are on our cinder block berries!

Ready for some more garden pictures?? How neat are these radishes? We planted watermelon radishes this year, which are white on the outside and red on the inside. These are still growing and will become a deeper red on the inside, but aren't they already gorgeous?? I just wish I liked them. Thankfully my husband is a huge fan, so this radish harvest is all him.

Our peas are doing wonderfully well. Tonight I'm hoping to pick them and will freeze a good portion so we can enjoy these all winter. I'll have to save some for eating now, though, since they are so amazingly delicious. We've literally just been eating them straight off the plant.

Our carrots and onions are also doing very well. I'm going to dig up a carrot soon to see how they are growing.
We've also had quite the good kale and lettuce harvest. Our butter crunch lettuce is wonderfully delicious and tender. I just wish there was a way to enjoy it all year long. It's so good. Our eggplants and pepper plants are also doing well. This is my first time growing eggplant (and we did it from seed!) so I can't wait to see how this harvest turns out. The plants are looking good though.
And our cauliflower and broccoli finally started to make an appearance. Isn't this cheddar cauliflower just the cutest little thing?
The rest of the garden is looking great too. Our potatoes continue to do well in their baskets, and our raspberry plants are looking really good. We started zucchini and cucumber plants form seeds and they are growing quickly. Can't wait for those to start producing.
I'll leave you with pictures of the flowers. They are doing so well and I love the color they add to our little backyard farm. Happy Thursday, y'all!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Perfect Recipes for Spring and Summer Produce

One of the things that I love about summer is the overabundance of fresh vegetables and fruit. And not only is it abundant, but prices are super cheap at local Farmer's markets and roadside stands. This year, I'm also excited about my own garden, which is steadily churning out an abundance of fresh veggies.

I thought I'd start highlighting a few recipes from the 28 Cooks archives that are perfect for using up that spring and summer produce. I'll do this every other week or so, so be sure to check back often for other great recipes. And without further ado, on to the recipes.

Sofrito is such a wonderful flavor base for almost any Mexican or Indian recipe. The combination of peppers, onion, and cilantro makes a wonderful addition to guacamole, dips (Black Bean Dip, anyone??), and sauces. Plus, it'll rapidly use up those fresh peppers and herbs that are soon to be coming from your garden.

We are loving ourselves some asparagus this season. I can't believe I didn't even like it as a kid, as I can't get enough of it now. This asparagus pesto is a great way to use up some of the bounty this spring. Use it as a sauce for pasta, or it's even better as a dip for raw vegetables.

Cilantro Zucchini Hummus anyone?? I had completely forgotten about this recipe until I started digging through my archives looking for recipes to highligh. This is one tasty and fresh recipe - plus, it's raw and vegan, which makes it even healthier. I guarantee you'll want to keep this recipe around this summer!

And finally, this is a great pickling recipe that can be adapted to almost any vegetable you have in the house. Plus, it's super easy! None of that tricky canning stuff here!


Well that's all for today, folks! I'll be back later this week with some recipes that are making good use of our rapidly expanding garden.