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

Sweet Potato Black Bean Burgers

Ever made your own veggie burgers? We had always bought pre-made until we found this recipe last summer. Now this is our go-to burger. It’s really flavorful, packed with sweet potato, black beans, and spices. Even our meat-eating friends loved them! And for you vegan and/or gluten-free people, this burger is safe. Original recipe here.

If you think making your own veggie burger is going to be complicated, don’t worry. This recipe is really easy. The prep work is a little bit time consuming, but nothing too crazy.

Sweet Potato Black Bean Burgers (Makes 6-8 burgers)

  • 15 oz black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 3 c cubed sweet potatoes (skin on)
  • 1/2 c frozen or fresh corn
  • 2/3 c finely chopped onion (1/2 medium onion)
  • 2 large garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1/2 c cooked quinoa
  • 6 Tbsp rolled oats, partially ground (we use our coffee grinder to grind them)
  • 2 Tbsp sunflower seeds (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Black pepper
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1/4 tsp coriander
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne (optional)
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil

Before doing anything else, you’ll want to cook your quinoa, and steam your cubed potatoes. For the quinoa, just follow the directions on the box. To cook the potatoes, I usually put them in the microwave sprinkled with a tiny bit of water and microwave for 5+ minutes, until tender.

Preheat the oven to 375° when you’re done cooking your quinoa and potato.

Wondering what quinoa is? First things first, it’s pronounced keen-wa, and it is really good for you! It is a great source of protein, and contains all 8 essential amino acids (I don’t really know what that means, but it’s probably good). You should be able to find it in any grocery store. Try it as a substitute for rice in any recipe; you can also substitute it for the pasta in my pasta salad.

Back to the recipe!
1. After you’ve rinsed and drained your beans, mash half of them in a bowl until it is paste-like. After they are good and mashed, add in the rest of the beans, and very lightly stir/mash just until combined. Set aside.
2. In a large bowl, mash your cooked sweet potatoes, but leave it a little bit chunky. While each cube should be mashed, you don’t want the creamy texture of mashed potatoes.
3. Stir in the salt, pepper, oregano, coriander, chili powder, cayenne (if using) and olive oil, until combined.
4. Mix in the onion, garlic, corn, black beans, quinoa, sunflower seeds, and ground oats, until just combined. Feel free to taste at this point and add more spices if you think it needs more kick.

Using your hands, form the mixture into balls and flatten into patties, between 1/2″ to 3/4″ thick. We usually make 6 patties, but you can make up to 8.

Place the patties on a pan lined with parchment paper. Bake for 30 minutes, flipping the burgers halfway through.

We usually serve on a bun with pepper jack cheese and ketchup. It’s also good with avocado and/or roasted red peppers!

If you make 6 patties, each burger (without bun & toppings) is 4 PointsPlus. If you make 8 patties, each burger is 3 PointsPlus.

Summer Squash & Black Bean Tacos

Hi, remember me? …. Me either. Yes, I’ve been gone forever! Forgive me! It’s been a crazy summer, one whole month of which was spent traveling to four different states, all over the country (Washington, Maine, Massachusetts & Tennessee, if you’re curious).

I’ve been meaning to update my blog  for weeks, but me being a classic 9 on the enneagram (if you’re not familiar with the enneagram, google it! It’s fascinating. I am a 9 down to a tee!), I have trouble getting things started back up once I haven’t done it for awhile. But thanks to the encouragement of many friends, I’m back in action.

For a quick lunch today, I rustled up some leftovers: black beans, summer squash, zucchini, salsa, and corn tortillas. It made for a delicious, easy, and filling lunch. I didn’t measure anything, so these are rough estimates. Change it up as you please.

Squash & Black Bean Tacos
1/2 a can of black beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 – 1/2 cup salsa
1/2 small-medium summer squash, diced
1/2 small zucchini, diced
1 Tbsp plain greek yogurt (you can use sour cream if you don’t have yogurt)
1/2 medium white onion, diced
1-2 Tbsp fresh cilantro
Corn tortillas
Dash of cayenne pepper
Pinch of cumin
Dash of chili powder
1 Tbsp canola oil
Salt & pepper to taste

Sauté squash, zucchini, and onion with the oil. Add some salt & pepper, and your spices. Cook for a few minutes, stirring often, until onions are soft. Stir in the beans, salsa, and yogurt. Turn the stove off and keep the pan on the burner to stay warm.

Now grab another pan to heat the tortillas, and turn heat to med-high. Heat each corn tortilla on each side until soft. If you have a gas stovetop, you can actually just hold each tortilla over the flames for a few seconds so they get a little crispy. My friend grew up in Ecuador, and he tells me this is how they do it in South America… much more auténtico.

Fill each tortilla with a little bit of the squash & black bean mix. Top with cilantro and shredded cheese. Enjoy!

Portobello Caprese Salad

Ric and I have spent the last couple of weeks getting settled in our new apartment. We are now officially residents of the northwest suburbs, which is kind of weird. It’s so different from the city. Sidewalks are a rare sight, which makes walking anywhere difficult. And Ric was used to biking to work every day, which is now much more difficult. These roads were not made to accommodate bikers. But, there are some lovely aspects of the ‘burbs as well.

1. It’s quiet. Like, really quiet. In the city, we would hear ambulances/police/fire trucks about every 5 minutes. I think maybe I’ve heard one in the two weeks we’ve lived here. It’s awesome.

2. We live right next to a big forest preserve, which is beautiful. Yesterday we biked about 6 miles of it, and it was so nice. I often felt claustrophobic in the city… I just need some nature in my life. And now I have it, right across the street.

3. We have a balcony at our new place, which we both love. It’s so nice to sit out there, and read or eat and enjoy the sunshine. One of the things we both really want one day is a garden, and while that’s not quite possible here, we made our own little garden with a balcony planter.

Isn’t it pretty? These little flowers make me so happy every time I look at them. In addition to the two kinds of flowers you see, we also planted basil, rosemary, cilantro, mint, and oregano. Yay! Our little basil plant is thriving.

I love basil so much. I could use it in everything. One of my favorite summer recipes is caprese salad: tomato, basil, fresh mozzarella, and a drizzle of olive oil & balsamic.

Yesterday Ric and I went to the farmers market and stocked up on tons of fresh veggies and fruits. We had some tomatoes and portobello mushrooms, so I decided to make a caprese salad with a twist. I give you portobello caprese salad. You’re welcome.

Ingredients:
Portobello mushrooms (small-medium size, 1 for each person)
Tomato, sliced
Fresh mozzarella (I can’t stress the importance of fresh enough, it makes a world of difference)
Fresh basil
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Fresh ground pepper

Preheat your oven to 350°, then get your mushrooms cleaned. Run them under the faucet making sure to clean off any dirt.

Now cut off the stems, take a spoon and scrape out the gills. You can skip this step if you want, but I would recommend it. Sometimes there might be dirt hiding in the gills, and you don’t want your salad to be gritty.  This is a pretty quick and easy step.

Drizzle a little bit of olive oil on both sides of the mushrooms. Place them on a pan with aluminum foil and bake for 15-20 minutes. I pulled the sides of the foil up over the mushrooms to make a little tent so they didn’t get burnt.

Once your mushrooms are done, put a slice of tomato on each, a fat slice of mozzarella, a sprig of basil, and drizzle with a little bit of olive oil and balsamic. Season with freshly ground black pepper. Enjoy this yummy summertime treat!

Black Bean, Tomato, and Feta Pasta Salad

Yeahhh… so, this is kind of a summer recipe.

Turns out, it’s not summer. But I wouldn’t know that judging by the weather the last couple of weeks. Last week was beautiful — in the 80s and sunny almost every day. Only now has the temperature gone back to normal spring temperatures. Boo. I was getting used to the no coat thing.

Well, last week being what it was, I was feeling a little inspired to make some summery-feeling recipes. We didn’t get to this one ’til tonight, when, alas, the hot weather is long gone. But it still tasted delish. I got this recipe from a friend a few years ago, and it has proven to be a summertime favorite. The beans and tomato combined with the spices, citrus, and heat of the tabasco sauce give this salad a kick.

This is such a simple recipe. The only annoying part is seeding and dicing all the tomatoes. But once you get through that, there’s really not much prep work at all.

Black Bean, Tomato, and Feta Pasta Salad
1/3 cup olive oil
2-4 large garlic cloves, minced (the more, the merrier… or garlicky-er)
2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed well
2 lbs. fresh tomatoes, seeded and diced (I prefer roma tomatoes)
Grated zest of 2 limes (Or a splash of lemon or lime juice)
2-3 teaspoons tabasco sauce
1 tsp. dried oregano
2 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. salt, or to taste
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16 oz. bowtie or wagon wheel pasta
8 oz. crumbled feta cheese
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Combine all of the ingredients above the dotted line in a large bowl and set aside to warm to room temperature.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain pasta and combine with other ingredients in the bowl. Add cilantro and feta cheese, mixing well so everything is evenly coated.

I suggest pairing this with a margarita, or some other fun, summery drink. You can pretend it’s summer, while the springtime weather catches up with you. Slowly but surely. Hopefully we’ll get some more warm weather again soon. Enjoy!

One last summer salad

Well, it looks like fall is here after all in the Windy City. On Monday it was 85 and sunny. Today is 62 and cloudy. I love fall! I love the crunchy leaves on the sidewalk, a chill in the air, and most of all soup! I love making soup in the fall. But I shouldn’t get ahead of myself. More on fall soup recipes another day.

I had most of the ingredients on hand to make one last summery salad. This was my faaaavorite salad this summer. Oh my goodness, so flavorful and so simple. I made it for parties, cookouts, and potlucks and everyone loved it! Everyone. Really. I first discovered it on a friend’s tumblr, but I recently found the source of the recipe on Pinterest.

Side note – can we talk about how much I love Pinterest? I could spend hours scrolling through everybody’s pins (especially the food. Drool.) Want to be my Pinterest friend? You can find me here.

OK, anyway – a friend pinned this recipe, so I was able to find the original source of this tasty dish. It came from Jehan Can Cook. Thank you Jehan!

I modified the recipe just a bit.

Corn, Avocado & Tomato Salad
1 pint grape tomatoes, cut in halves. (I prefer heirloom tomatoes)
2 ripe avocados, roughly chopped
3-4 ears fresh sweet corn OR one bag frozen corn (of course, it’s way better with fresh corn!)
2 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped

Dressing
Juice of 1 lime (Lemon juice is fine, too. I’ve got a big bottle of it in the fridge, so that’s usually what I use)
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp honey
1 tsp sea salt
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced (the original calls for 1 clove, but hey, garlic is awesome. go crazy)
Ground pepper to taste
Dash of cayenne pepper

As you can see, I’m doing the lazy version of the recipe, and using frozen fire roasted corn from Trader Joe’s. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any fresh corn. Also, I didn’t have cilantro. It’s still good without it, but the cilantro adds the perfect flavor to the recipe, so I would definitely recommend using it.

If you’re using fresh corn, you can grill it as the original recipe calls for, or if you’re like me and don’t own a grill, boiling is fine. If you’re using frozen corn and making the recipe a few hours before it will be eaten, you can just throw the corn as is in the bowl, and it will defrost on its own.

If you’ve got fresh corn, after grilling or boiling, cut the corn off the cob and set aside to cool.

Add all of the ingredients for dressing in a bowl, and whisk to combine.

Mmmmm, can’t you just smell the garlic? (If you’re wondering what the floaty things are – that’s the garlic skins. I pull them out of the garlic press after I use it and throw them in. I don’t like to waste food.)

Now add your tomatoes…

Look at all those pretty tomatoes! …. After you’ve admired your tomatoes, you can add the avocado, corn, and cilantro! Mix gently, making sure not to smush your avocado. You can throw it in the fridge for an hour if you want to serve it chilled, but I think it tastes great, warm corn and all.

Voila! This recipe will serve 6-8.

Enjoy this one… because it’s going to be a long time until summer comes around again.