First Harvest!

In early May we planted three gardens on the farm. I’ve never had a garden before, and it’s been amazing to watch our plots of dirt transform into lush, green spaces. We planted a variety of vegetables and fruit: potatoes, garlic, peppers, tomatoes, beets, onions, pumpkins, all kinds of squash, cucumber, strawberries, asparagus, watermelon, and honeydew…just to name a few. I’ve always wanted a garden and it’s been an awesome learning experience… Learning what each plant looks like as they first began to come up out of the ground; trying to differentiate between the tiny, new beet plants and the weeds that surrounded them; watching for certain kinds of bugs — some beneficial to the plants and some that are not good at all.

As the plants have continued to grow, I’ve been anxious for the first thing that we could pick or cut or pull up out of the ground and eat! This week I was able to cut garlic scapes, and pull up our first radishes! So exciting! Really, there is nothing like pulling a vegetable out of the ground and thinking, “I grew this!” I don’t know why more people don’t grow their own veggies.

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Well, you probably know what a radish is, but you might not be familiar with garlic scapes. I had no idea what they were until the other farm intern and his wife made us some garlic scape pesto recently. (So good!) The garlic scape looks like part of the stem on a garlic plant. It shoots up in between the leaves and you’ll know it’s ready to cut when it’s curling at the end. It’s actually beneficial to cut the scape off so that the garlic plant can use more energy to go toward growing the garlic bulb itself. And, bonus, you get to eat the delicious garlic scape! I wanted to try out my own pesto with the scapes, so I decided to use them all up, slather it on some bread, and top with thinly sliced radishes. Mmm, delish.

Here are a whole mess of garlic scapes in all their glory. Aren’t they pretty?DSC_0027 DSC_0029

This pesto was ridiculously easy to make. We whipped it up in just a few minutes. Along with the bread, radishes, and some white wine, we had ourselves a simple summer meal. You could also definitely serve this as a yummy appetizer.

Head to your local farmers market to try to hunt down some garlic scapes! They have them at our market now, so I’m hoping you’ll find some at yours. Looking for a farmers market? Check out this website to find one in your area: http://www.localharvest.org/farmers-markets/

Garlic Scape Pesto (makes about 1 cup)
10-20 Garlic Scapes
Handful of fresh Basil
Olive Oil
Grated Parmesan Cheese
Walnuts or whatever nut you’ve got on hand (almonds, pine nuts, etc)
Salt and Pepper (optional)

Chop up your scapes, leaving off the white pointy end. Toss them in a food processor along with your basil, about 1/3 cup of olive oil, 1/3 cup of cheese and a handful of walnuts. Blend for a bit, stopping once or twice to scrape down the sides with a spatula.

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Add more oil and cheese if you like. Pesto is great because you really just add what you like until it’s the consistency and taste that you like. I added probably another 1/4 cup of oil to get it to a smoother consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste.

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Ta-da! Pesto, with bunny ears.

I slathered this deliciousness on some toasted bread and topped with sliced radish and a bit more cheese. I would have preferred to use a nice loaf of french bread or a baguette that had been toasted in the oven. That would have been amazing, but of course I didn’t have a baguette on hand so I just used some wheat bread that I had. Still delicious! Either way, this is a really simple meal with lots of fresh ingredients. Enjoy it.

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Zucchini and Pesto Pita Pizza

This is one of those throw-together-whatever’s-in-the-fridge type of recipes that turned out  to be really tasty!

I am a huge fan of pizza, but after joining weight watchers and realizing how many dang points a slice of pizza is, I try to find creative ways to still get my pizza fix without all the points (the bulk of which come from the dough, FYI. Boooo).

Here is one such way: using a whole-wheat pita in place of dough.

I didn’t have any pizza sauce, but had a ton of basil so I decided to make my own pesto. If you’ve got a food processor, fresh basil, garlic, olive oil, and nuts (walnuts or pine nuts) you’re in business. Pesto is really easy to make. The only annoying thing, of course, is cleaning up the food processor after.

Homemade Pesto
2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup pine nuts or walnuts
3 garlic cloves
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan (optional)
Salt and Pepper to taste

Combine basil and nuts in food processor; pulse a few times to mix. Add garlic, pulse a few more times. Add olive oil while food processor is running. Add the cheese if you want it, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Stop and scrape down the sides of the food processor, and pulse a couple more times. Voila! This makes about a cup of pesto, which will keep for a week or two in the fridge. You can also freeze it if you want to keep it for longer!

In addition to the delicious fresh basil, I had ground cherries and zucchini from the farmers market! I had never heard of ground cherries before, have you? Here’s what they look like. Kinda like baby tomatillos. They actually are in the tomatillo/tomato family. You just pop them out of their little husk and eat them. Now, I am not a fan of eating straight up tomatoes, even cherry tomatoes. But these are sweet enough that I really enjoyed them. So yummy just to snack on. They would be a really good addition to homemade salsa, too.

For my little “pizza” I used pesto, baked zucchini, ground cherries, goat cheese, and mozzarella cheese. So good. This was just what I had, though. Feel free to use whatever you’ve got. It would be great with mushrooms, regular tomato, spinach, broccoli, squash, whatever. Also, if you want to cut down on points/calories, you could use tomato sauce instead of pesto.

Pita Pizza (serves 2)
1 whole-wheat pita, divided (cut all the way around the edge so you end up with 2 circles)
1/2 medium zucchini, thinly sliced
Pesto
Olive oil
Ground cherries
1 oz goat cheese
1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (part-skim)
Salt & Pepper to taste

Slice up some zucchini and toss with just a little bit of olive oil (1 or 2 tsp). Season with salt and pepper. Place the slices on a baking sheet and bake at 350° for about 10 minutes. (Just until they are softened up.)

Pop your pitas in the toaster oven, and toast halfway. You’re going to put it back in the toaster oven (or in the real oven) to melt the cheese once you’ve added your toppings, so you don’t want it completely toasted yet.

Spread each pita with pesto (about 1 to 1 1/2 Tbsp per pita). Top with zucchini slices, ground cherries, goat cheese, and just a little bit of shredded mozzarella. Put it back in the toaster oven to melt your cheese, and serve right away!

1 serving = about 9 PointsPlus

Black Bean, Pineapple & Avocado Salad

I’ve been obsessed with black beans and pineapple lately. In the past couple of weeks we have had friends over a couple times, and both times I have made a delicious pineapple & black bean guacamole. Unfortunately I haven’t taken pictures either time, but I will make it again and get it on the blog soon! Another great pinterest find.

Since I found that recipe, I have been putting pineapple and black beans together more often. Since Ric is at work it’s just me for lunch today. I wanted something easy, so this is what I came up with. I don’t usually make a lot of salads, mainly because I think a really great salad has a lot of ingredients that I don’t usually have in the house or am too lazy to prepare. I love going to salad bars and having all kinds of things already chopped up and laid out before me. Those salads, I love. But the thought of doing all that prep work myself — bleh. No, thanks.

Fortunately this salad was easy to throw together, and I had everything I needed. It made for a big salad that filled me up. Exactly what I needed after splurging on pancakes for breakfast.

Black Bean, Pineapple, and Avocado Salad (1 Serving)
1/4 cup black beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 medium avocado, chopped
1/4 – 1/2 cup pineapple, chopped (put in as much as you want!)
1/4 cup salsa
1 Tbsp shredded cheese of your choice
Lettuce
A squeeze of lime juice
Dash of cumin

Toss everything together, and you’re done! What could be easier?

On another note, for anyone doing Weight Watchers, I have been doing it online for the past couple of months and it works great for me. I’ve found that I really need structure in all areas of my life — meals included. WW helps give me that structure, keep track of my eating, and make much healthier choices. All of that to say, I will now try to include the WW points plus value to my recipes. This filling salad is only 4 points! Hurrah!

I enjoyed mine with some fresh pineapple and watermelon.

Baby Potatoes and Brussel Sprouts

If you read the title of this post and were turned off by the idea of brussel sprouts, you’re probably not alone. But wait, let me convince you to try them!

For some reason a lot of people have this idea that brussel sprouts are really disgusting. And they can be — if they’re overcooked. If you overcook them, they release a nasty sulphurous odor, and I assume, don’t taste very good. Oh, and according to Wikipedia, they’re actually called “brussels sprouts” not brussel sprouts. Who knew?

Anyway, if you’ve never actually tried brussels sprouts, you really should! I tried them for the first time last year, and I love them. They have this delicious, nutty flavor, and taste good cooked a number of different ways. Also, they contain something called sulforaphane, which is supposed to have anti-cancer properties. Bonus!

A couple months ago Ric concocted a little somethin’ somethin’ using fingerling potatoes and b-sprouts. Trader Joe’s actually calls the potatoes “teeny-tiny potatoes,” and they are! They’re so cute. This recipe is so yummy and easy, and all you need are 3 main ingredients.

If you’re at the store looking for brussels sprouts, check to see if they have them available on the stalk. This is a crazy-looking alien-like beast of a vegetable (Google “brussels sprout stalk” and you’ll see what I’m talking about), but don’t be scared. The sprouts that come on a stalk are so much fresher and yummier. Look for tight, bright-green heads. Avoid yellowing or loose-leafed sprouts.

If you can’t find them on the stalk, don’t worry about it. You can buy them in a bag, too. But make sure you buy fresh, not frozen!

Before I get to the recipe, let me say that I don’t have exact amounts for how many potatoes or sprouts you should use. When we make this, it’s just for the two of us, so we probably use about 10-12 sprouts cut in half, and maybe 15-20 potatoes cut in half. Use as many or as little as you think you’ll need.

Baby Potatoes and Brussels Sprouts
Fingerling potatoes, cut in half lengthwise
Brussels sprouts, stemmed and cut in half
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp. light-colored oil (canola, olive oil, grapeseed – whatever you’ve got)
Salt and pepper to taste

To prepare the brussels sprouts, cut off the stem, and remove outer/bruised leaves. Once you cut the stem, the outer leaves will fall off pretty easily on their own.

Once you’ve de-stemmed them, rinse the sprouts in cold water, drain, and set aside.

Now rinse your potatoes and chop them up.

Pour oil in a large sauté pan and arrange potatoes face down. Set heat to medium and cover the pan. Cook until golden brown. (About 3–5 minutes)

Once your potatoes are nice and golden brown, push them to the side and set your brussels sprouts face down in the middle. You might want to add a bit more oil to the pan at this point, but remove the pan from the heat before doing this! Otherwise it will splatter, and this is not fun. Trust me.

Cover the pan. You might want to turn your heat down a bit. Cook for 3-5 minutes, until browned. Be careful not to burn them! As you can see, some of mine got a little bit charred. Oops.

Once they’re cooked, add in the garlic, salt, and pepper to taste. Mix thoroughly and cook for one or two more minutes on low heat.

Serve hot from the pan, and enjoy your brussels sprouts experience! I hope you like them as much as I do!

Polenta, Beans & Bok Choy

Since my last post was very non-vegan, I decided to go the vegan route this time around. Something a bit healthier for us as we prepare for another holiday where we (OK, I ) will inevitably stuff our faces with entirely too many desserts, etc. I usually try to plan out at least one meal per week. I’m not the type who can plan the entire week’s meals (planning ahead is not my strong suit). As I was thinking about a healthy meal I could make this week, I remembered this delicious and easy recipe I discovered last year. You can find the original on Fat Free Vegan Kitchen.

This recipe is super flavorful, super good for you, and of course 100% vegan.

The original recipe calls for making your own polenta with a pressure cooker, which of course you are free to do. But if you want to be lazy, like me, just buy it pre-made at the store. If you’ve never tried polenta before, it looks something like this (at Trader Joe’s anyway). You’ll need two of these little guys for the recipe.

I’ve also modified the original recipe because I did not have fresh herbs on hand, and I’m not a huge fan of peppers, so I left those out.

Herbed Polenta with Beans and Bok Choy
1 recipe herbed polenta, below

3 cloves garlic, minced
8 oz. baby or regular portabello mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup veggie broth
6 oz. baby bok choy, sliced
1 14 oz. can kidney beans or cannelloni beans, drained
1 tsp. dried basil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp. white balsamic vinegar (If you don’t have any, don’t worry about it. I forgot to add mine in, and the recipe still tasted great!)

Herbed Polenta 
2 polenta logs (18 oz. each)
2 Tbsp. olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. dried basil OR 3 Tbsp. fresh
1 1/2 tsp. dried parsley OR 2 Tbsp. fresh
2 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried rosemary

*I did not have parsley or rosemary. Instead, I used 2 tsp. basil, 2 tsp. oregano, and 2 tsp. herbes de provence

Cut the polenta into 1 inch pieces. Mix with herbs and sauté in a large pan with olive oil until golden brown on each side. Stir frequently.

Keep warm until ready to serve.

In a separate large skillet, sauté the onions with a bit of olive oil for 3-4 minutes, until soft. Add the garlic and mushrooms, cooking over medium-high heat, stirring until mushrooms soften.

Add the broth, bok choy, beans, and basil, and stir well.

Cover for 5 minutes or so until the bok choy is wilted, but still bright green. Season with salt and pepper to taste and stir in vinegar. Serve over polenta.

Simple Thanksgiving Side Dish

Seeing as Thanksgiving is in just a few days, I thought I would do some extra posts this week and share a couple of ideas for what to bring if you’re not hosting, or what to make if you are. If you are looking for a super easy side dish, look no further.

Since becoming a vegetarian, sometimes people assume I’m missing out on all of the Thanksgiving delicacies, but this is just not the case. Trust me, I can fill my plate with side dishes galore, and I enjoy my meal every bit as much as others enjoy their turkey. I can also enter into a food coma without the turkey tryptophan. Impressive, right?

There are so many delicious vegetables and fruits that are in season right now: sweet potatoes, parsnips, carrots, sunchokes, rutabaga, winter squash, pomegranates, pears… and these all make for some incredible side dishes.

The other night I wanted to make something quick and easy for dinner, so I thought I would glean some inspiration from my ugly lentil soup recipe, and use some of those ingredients for a side dish. I combined sweet potatoes, onion, apple, and spices for a really yummy side. I’m not actually making this for Thanksgiving, but you could!

Sweet Potato Side Dish (Serves 3-4)
4 sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1 inch pieces
2 apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
1 onion, diced into small pieces
1/2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/4 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. cumin
A few pinches of cinnamon
1/4 tsp. fresh grated ginger
A sprinkle of chili powder
Salt & peper to taste

Preheat oven to 375° F. Mix all ingredients in a baking dish, cover and bake for 30-40 minutes (until potatoes are soft).

I chose to eat it as is, but I bet it also would be good if you mashed it up. I think I’ll do that next time. Let me know how yours turns out!

Winter Squash Quesadillas

I’m back, y’all. I’ve missed you.

I could make lots of excuses for being gone for two. whole. weeks, but really I just need to plan my time better. Story of my life. I have realized that if I don’t plan ahead for a recipe to post each week, it may not happen. So, barring a natural disaster, or me getting pregnant* or something, get ready for posts every week. Hopefully.

Anyway. I am really excited about this recipe. Last week my dear friends and I decided to have dinner together before heading out to a Halloween party. I assessed the situation in the fridge. Hmm… tortillas, squash… umm?

Then I had a stroke of pure genius. OK so maybe it wasn’t genius, but it was pretty good. I thought, let’s make squash quesadillas! So I gathered what I had: a buttercup squash, garlic, shallots, tortillas, mexican-blend cheese, some spices. And hey, it turned out pretty good.

But I didn’t feel like taking pictures that night, so tonight I made it again, except I made it even better, because I actually followed a recipe. I remembered my friend had made these yummy sweet potato quesadillas last year, so I decided to go off of that recipe, modifying it a bit. My friend found this recipe in the awesome Mennonite cookbook: Simply in Season.

Disclaimer: I totally messed up at the store tonight. I meant to buy flour tortillas and I bought corn instead. I was too busy paying attention to the labels: whole grain or white flour, high fiber or low carb, blah, blah, blah. I saw this one that had “whole grain and flax,”  and I thought, hey, that sounds good. So I bought it and then I got home and realized they were corn tortillas, which aren’t really good for quesadillas, because you can’t fold them over — they just kind of break in half. So I made sort of a tortilla sandwich. As you will see, they don’t look as good as a real, flour-tortilla quesadilla would look. My apologies. (They still taste good, though!)

Winter Squash Quesadillas
1 1/2 cups minced onion
2 cloves minced garlic
2 tsp. dried oregano
1 1/2 tsp. each dried basil, marjoram, chili powder
1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin (optional)
A pinch of ground red pepper or to taste
4 cups winter squash (roasted and mashed)
8 FLOUR(!) tortillas
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese (shredded)
Serve with salsa

For this recipe, I used an acorn squash. I think you could pretty much use any type of winter squash. (Like I said before, I used a buttercup squash when I originally made this.) Whatever floats your boat. The original recipe called for sweet potatoes, which is also delish. To roast the squash, cut in half and stick face-down on a baking sheet with a rim. Roast for about 50 minutes at 375° F. The time will vary depending on the size of your squash. It’s done when you can easily stick a fork through the skin.

Scoop the squash out of the skin and mash it up. Add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

Saute the garlic and onion with 1 Tbsp. olive oil (or light-colored oil of your choice) in a large sauté pan, until they are translucent. (I made R chop that onion. Muahahaha!)

Add the spices, and cook for another minute.

Add squash and heat through. Stir frequently. When it’s all heated, add some more salt & pepper if needed.

Spread about 1/2 cup of the squash mixture onto half of the tortilla. Sprinkle some cheese on — as little or as much as you’d like. Fold tortilla in half. Place on lightly oiled baking sheets. Brush tops lightly with oil.

Or if you have corn tortillas, get creative.

Bake at 400° F until golden brown, about 15-20 min. Serve with some yummy salsa. (I regretfully did not have any salsa on hand.)

Look at that gooey, cheesy, squashy goodness. (Sorry vegans).

*Please do not read into this that I think getting pregnant is equivalent to a natural disaster. But it would be sort of bad timing. Let’s finish up grad school first, shall we? Yes, thank you.