Summer Squash Sauté with Goat Cheese

Hello!  I feel like I should apologize for my long absence.  In the last several weeks, real life has trumped cyber life and I decided it would be best to wait until things settled down before getting back into the kitchen and on dishesanddishes.  There was the wrap-up of my final term in nursing school, graduation(!), a visit from my parents, and a trip up to beautiful Orcas Island off the coast of Washington.

The view from outside our hotel.

The San Juan islands are amazing.

On the ferry to Orcas.

Even Dan got to enjoy his favorite activity.

I’ve been catching up on sleep, reinstating some self-care (hello exercise and yoga!), and working through the process of getting my nursing license and looking for jobs.  I tend to shy away from instability and uncertainty and so I’m sure these next few months of battling it out in a tough job market and seeing what turns up will be a real learning process for me.  The up-side of unemployment?  I have time to cook.  :)

Yay cast-iron!

My mom gave me a cast-iron skillet as a graduation gift and a used it for the first time with this simple sauté of crookneck squash, red onions, spinach, and goat cheese.  It was a delicious side dish and the perfect answer to the end-of-summer’s glut of squash.

Enjoy it while it lasts.

How do you deal with change?  Do you welcome it or dread it? 

Summer Squash Sauté with Goat Cheese
makes 6 servings
inspired by Happyolks taco version

Ingredients
– 1 tsp olive oil
– 1/2 red onion, finely chopped
– 3 crookneck squash, cubed
– 1 tsp red wine vinegar
– 1 tsp dijon mustard
– a few handfuls of spinach
– 2 oz goat cheese

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add onion and cook until softened, about 4 minutes.  Add squash, increase heat to medium-high, and cook for an additional 5 minutes.

Stir in red wine vinegar and mustard until well incorporated.  Add spinach and stir for another minute, just until wilting.  Remove pan from heat and crumble goat cheese over vegetables.  Toss a few times and serve warm.

* I shared this post with this week’s Superfood Sunday and Seasonal Celebration Sunday.

Summer Vegetable Salad with Quinoa and Pickled Cherry Tomatoes

My oh my, I can’t believe it’s been almost a week since I put up my last recipe.  Between wrapping things up for graduation (I finish in 2 weeks!) and lying in pools my own sweat (ew) in my hot apartment, I’ve been seriously lacking in energy lately.  I tend to believe that there are few problems a good helping of nutrition can’t solve…does anyone have any good tips for breaking out of a low-energy slump?  If so, I’d love to hear them.

Because of the recent temperatures and my unfortunate lack of air-conditioning, I’ve been focusing on creating meals that require little, if any, cooking, baking, or boiling.  While this one does not completely fit that mold, it comes pretty close and the leftovers kept me happy for days.  I even ate a few servings for breakfast with a fried egg on top.

This recipe was inspired by a similar one from Whipped.  I changed the ingredients based on what I had in my kitchen and I omitted the mozzarella because…well, I was dealing with the discovery that I now have cellulite on my thighs.  I really recommend taking an extra few minutes to make the pickled cherry tomatoes.  They provide amazing little bursts of flavor and are easy to make.

Summer Vegetable Salad with Quinoa and Pickled Cherry Tomatoes
makes 8 servings
adapted from Whipped

Ingredients
– 1/2 cup quinoa
– 1/4 cup dried shiitake mushrooms
– 1 cup diced zucchini (about 1/2 large)
– 1 ear corn, kernel removed
– 1 cup frozen shelled edamame, thawed
– 2 handfuls spinach, roughly chopped
– 1 cup pickled tomatoes (see recipe below)
– 1 Tbsp fresh oregano, finely chopped
– 1 Tbsp olive oil
– 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
– salt, to taste

Start by pickling the cherry tomatoes.  They will need at least an hour for the flavors to come together.

In a large bowl, toss vegetables together.  Drizzle with oil and vinegar and toss again.  Finish with a sprinkle of salt.

Pickled Cherry Tomatoes
adapted from Plate to Plate

Ingredients
– 3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
– 3/4 cup water
– 4 tsp salt
– 2 tsp sugar
– a pint of cherry tomatoes, halved
– 2 garlic cloves, gently crushed
– 1 tsp red pepper flakes

Mix vinegar, water, salt, and sugar together until salt and sugar are dissolved. Mix the halved tomatoes, garlic, and red pepper flakes.  Pack gently into a glass jar and pour vinegar mixture over until covered.  Replace the lid, give it a few good shakes, and leave it at room temperature for 1-3 hours.

Store in the refrigerator for up to a week.

* I shared this link with this week’s Fat Tuesday and Traditional Tuesday.

Paleo Beef Liver Meatball and Cabbage Soup

Yup, I said it.  “Cabbage” and “liver” in the same recipe title.  But trust me, if I didn’t find it to be 100% delicious, I would not be sharing it with you.  I’ve been intrigued by the amazing health benefits of grass-fed liver for a while now, but I wasn’t really sure of how to introduce the topic on this site.  Liver is not something that most people tend to get excited about and so in order to sell it, I knew I’d have to find an incredible way to prepare it.  I’ve tried the classic liver and onions, a chopped liver sandwich, and even a curried version (which was actually pretty good but I forgot to write down my recipe).  This is the first that I feel I can confidently promise you will love.  Now, on to a discussion of the health benefits.

Beef liver is an extremely nutrient dense food, providing an abundance of vitamin A, B vitamins, copper, zinc, iron and folate.  These vitamins are essential for proper functioning of the immune system, combatting fatigue, promoting healthy metabolism, and protecting against oxidative stress.  On top of all that, it is very high in protein.  I find that when I eat liver, it takes hours for me to feel hungry again.  Which is unusual for a snack-monster like me  :)

The nice thing about this recipe is that there are many layers of flavor that make the liver much less noticeable.  There is a savory, salty broth made with a parmesan rind, lots of hearty vegetables, and the meatballs which contain ground beef, liver, and spices.  You can also adjust the amount of liver according to your taste.  Try just 1/4 pound if you’re not sure about the stuff or go all the way to 3/4 pound if you’re a liver-eating pro.

Do you include liver in your diet?  If so, what are your favorite ways to prepare it?

Beef Liver Meatball and Cabbage Soup
makes 12 servings

Ingredients
– 1 Tbsp olive oil
– 3 large carrots, sliced lengthwise and cut into 1/4″ pieces
– 4 large cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
– 1 zucchini, quartered and chopped into 1/2″ pieces
– 1 large head of cabbage, shredded (about 8 cups)
– 8 cups vegetable broth or chicken stock
– 1 parmesan rind
– salt, to taste

- 1 lb ground beef (grass-fed, if possible)
– 2/3 lb beef liver (use more or less, to taste)
– 1 egg
– 1 Tbsp ground flax
– 1/2 tsp salt
– 1/2 tsp paprika
– 1 tsp dried oregano

1. Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.  Add carrots and garlic and sauté for about 5 minutes.  Add zucchini and sauté another 5 minutes, until vegetables are starting to soften.  Add cabbage and allow to cook for about 10 minutes, stirring often.

2. Add broth or stock and parmesan rind.  Bring to a simmer and prepare meatballs.

3. Place liver in a food processor and blend until smooth.  Place in a large bowl with ground beef, egg, flax, salt, paprika, and oregano.  Mix ingredients until uniformly distributed.  In a large sauté pan, heat a little more olive oil.  Drop beef mixture by tablespoonfuls into the pan and cook for about 1 minute on each side, until lightly browned.  They do not have to be cooked all the way through as they will continue cooking in the stock pot with the soup.

4. Add meatballs to the soup and simmer, covered, for about 15 minutes.  Add salt to taste.  Serve hot.

* I shared this post with this week’s Whole Foods WednesdayReal Food WednesdayAllergy Free Wednesday, Gluten-Free WednesdayFrugal Days, Sustainable WaysHearth and Soul HopFat Tuesday and Slightly Indulgent Tuesday.

Strawberry Beet Smoothie

Lately, my kitchen creations have been much more off-the-cuff than usual.  I normally enjoy planning my cooking adventures for the week, making a grocery list, going to the store, and then coming home ready for my next round of experiments.  But being on night shift has made me completely lose my organization.  I’ve been making recipes based on what’s in the pantry, what’s on sale, and what won’t take too long.  Luckily, my new approach resulted in this amazing strawberry and beet smoothie.

Last week, I stumbled on the amazing deal of 5 pounds of beets for the price of 1.  I think the farmer had more than he could handle and was just trying to unload as much as he could.  The beets were enormous with the beautiful leafy greens still attached.  I baked them by wrapping them in tin foil (method here) and washed and spun the greens.  The next morning when I went to make my usual green smoothie, I added both the roots and the greens.  And the berry and beet smoothie was born.

Berry and Beet Smoothie
serves 1

Ingredients:
– 1 cup frozen strawberries
– 1 cup steamed or roasted beets
– 1 cup milk (dairy or non-dairy)
– 2 cups beet greens, washed
– 1 Tbsp honey, if more sweetness is desired

Blend all ingredients until smooth.  Drink immediately.
Related articles

I added this post to this week’s Wellness WeekendPennywise PlatterGluten Free Wednesday, Whole Foods Wednesday, Real Food Wednesday, and Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways.

Cherry Tomato and Yellow Squash Crumble

Just last week, I noticed the first cherry tomatoes and summer squashes in the farmer’s market.  We had a cool spring and so it seems that everything has been a bit delayed.  Now that summer is in full swing and I’m beginning to wonder just how we are supposed to survive without air conditioning, the local tomatoes and squashes have decided to grace us with their presence.  In another month, we’ll probably have more than we can handle.  For now, they still feel like a treasure.

I baked them into a savory crumble (although the vegetables’ natural sweetness also shone through) and we enjoyed it on our patio with tuna melts.

Later that night we went to a CD release show for a local band, Monarques (they are amazing!), and then met some friends at our favorite late-night spot.  Yup, summer.

What signals the arrival of summer in your world?

Cherry Tomato and Yellow Squash Crumble
makes 6 servings
adapted from Vegetarian Times Magazine, July 2012

Ingredients
– 2 Tbsp butter
– 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs (use gluten-free if you like)
– 2 Tbsp finely chopped parsley
– 1 small yellow onion, chopped
– 3/4 lb small yellow squash, diced
– 1 generous pint (about 3/4 lb) cherry tomatoes, halved
– 1 clove garlic, minced
– 2 Tbsp shredded Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400F.

In a small bowl, mix breadcrumbs and parsley together.  Melt butter in a skillet over low heat and pour a little more than half of it over the breadcrumbs, leaving enough in the pan to sauté vegetables.  Mix butter into breadcrumbs.

Add onion to skillet and sauté over medium-high heat until soft, about 7 minutes.  Stir in squash and cook another 4 minutes.  Stir in tomatoes and cook about 2 more minutes.  Season with salt.

Transfer mixture to a 9-inch square or equivalent baking dish.  Sprinkle cheese on top and then evenly sprinkle breadcrumbs over everything.  Bake 25-30 minutes until top is lightly browned.  Serve hot.

Related articles

I shared this post with this week’s Hearth and Soul Hop, Slightly Indulgent TuesdayMelt in Your Mouth Monday, Mix it Up Monday, My Meatless Mondays, and Seasonal Celebration Sunday.

Roasted Vegetables with Red Curry and Coconut Sauce

For some reason, I have recently been reminded of my age at every turn.  In epidemiology class, we were presented with statistics about birth problems related to women over 30 (I’m 27, unmarried, and just don’t see a pregnancy on the horizon…even though every little child I see sends me into “wannabe mommy” mode).  When filling out paperwork, I have to think for several seconds before remembering just what my age is.  And at my annual exam, my healthcare provider told me that I was really getting to the age where I need to be doing my monthly breast exams.  I’ve never been told that before!  I’m investing in more high-quality skincare potions and thinking about when I’ll be ready to take the leap and buy my own house (hint: not anytime soon).  The truth is, that I just thought that I’d have more things figured out by now.

On the bright side, I’m learning to love certain foods that my childhood self would have cringed at.  I now consider olives to be a treat and, just in the last few months, I’ve begun to reconsider the eggplant.  Once a completely unwelcome guest at my table, eggplants are showing up in more and more of my dishes.  It started with my ratatouille and continues with these thai-inspired vegetables.  Of course, the dish is completely malleable to your personal tastes.  If you don’t like eggplant, choose another vegetable you do like or need to clear out of the fridge!  If you’re on the fence about eggplant, give it a try…you may be able to coax out your inner eggplant love!

What foods have you learned to love since childhood?  

Roasted Vegetables with Red Curry and Coconut Sauce
makes 2 servings
adapted from Love and Lemons 

Sauce Ingredients
– 1 Tbsp red curry paste
– 1 Tbsp white miso paste
– 1 Tbsp honey
– 1/4 cup olive oil
– 1/4 cup coconut milk (the kind from the can)
– salt and pepper to taste

Vegetables
– 1/2 onion, thinly sliced
– 1 small eggplant, quartered and cut into 1/2-in pieces
– 1 bell pepper, sliced
– a few handfuls spinach, washed and dried

- cooked rice or quinoa to serve

Preheat oven to 400F.

Prepare the sauce.  Mix all sauce ingredients together except for coconut milk, set aside.  You will use some to cook the vegetable in and some will be reserved to complete the sauce.

In a large bowl, toss prepared onion, eggplant, and bell pepper with about 1/2 of the sauce.  Mix until vegetables are coated.  Spread vegetables on a baking sheet and bake for 10-20 minutes, stirring about halfway through, until they are soft and beginning to brown.  Remove from oven and pour into a large bowl.

Place the spinach in the same pan the vegetables were just removed from.  Put in the oven for 2-4 minutes, until wilted.  Add to the bowl with the other vegetables.

Complete the sauce by whisking the coconut milk into the reserved half of the miso-curry mixture.  Pour over the vegetables and stir well.  Serve hot over rice or quinoa.

* I submitted this post to this week’s Fresh Bites Friday, Fight Back Friday, Foodie Friday, and Wellness Weekend.

Kale Salad with Slow-Roasted Tomatoes

You guys, this could be one of the most beautiful plates of food I have ever made.  Dark green kale littered with juicy roasted tomatoes, crunchy radishes, and salty-sour capers.

With such a picturesque plate, I had no choice to but to enjoy my meal out on the patio.  Some things just aren’t meant to be eaten on your living room couch with your laptop open in front of you.

The recipe is adapted from a gorgeous cookbook I recently picked up from the library, Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty.  Flipping through each beautiful page makes me want to run to the grocery store for any fresh produce I can get my hands on.  My only complaint is that some of the recipes have ingredients that I consider to be quite obscure (verjus, anyone?). This is the exception rather than the rule, though, and I think this would be a great book to check out if you’re looking for some new and creative ways to eat those vegetables.

source

To me, the real star of the show here are the slow-roasted tomatoes.  The balsamic vinegar makes them wonderfully sweet, a nice balance to the astringency of radicchio.  Yes, they take one-and-a-half hours to roast.  And they are entirely worth the wait.  Trust me.

Things have been a little slow around here lately.  Jeremy is about halfway done with his 3-week tour and the novelty of having the apartment alllllll to myself has worn off.  I’ve been doing a good job of increasing my socializing accordingly, but I’ve become painfully aware of just how many hours there are in a day.  I mean that even after my work is done and my social obligations fulfilled, I find myself with a few too many empty hours at the end of the day.  It doesn’t help that I don’t like watching TV or movies by myself.

What’s your favorite way to use “alone time”?

Kale Salad with Slow-Roasted Tomatoes
adapted from Plenty

For the dressing:
makes enough for 3 large salads
– 1 garlic clove, minced
– juice from half a lemon
– 1 Tbsp olive oil
– 1 Tbsp grapeseed oil
– generous pinch of salt

Mix ingredients in a small bowl.  Each entree-sized salad should get about a tablespoon of the dressing.  It will keep in the refrigerator for a few days.

For the salad:
Ingredients here are enough for 1 large salad.  Adjust amounts accordingly depending on how many you plan to serve and whether the salad is an entree or side dish.
– 2 medium or large leaves of curly green kale
– 1 Tbsp dressing
– 1/2 cup radicchio, thinly sliced
– 5 radishes, sliced
– 5-6 slow roasted tomatoes (recipe below)
– 1 tsp capers

Remove stems from kale leaves and roughly chop into bite-sized pieces.  In a large bowl, combine kale leaves and dressing.  With your hands, massage the kale for about a minute, until the leaves are a vibrant dark green and soft.

Add radicchio, radishes, and tomatoes.  Toss together.  Top with capers and serve.

Slow-Roasted Tomatoes

Ingredients
– 1 pint grape tomatoes
– 3-4 sprigs of fresh thyme
– 1 Tbsp olive oil
– 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
– salt

Preheat the oven to 275F.  Cut tomatoes in half and place in a baking dish.  Top with thyme sprigs and drizzle olive oil and balsamic vinegar over the whole thing.  Sprinkle with salt and roast for 1.5 hours.  Remove thyme sprigs and allow to cool.

* I shared this post on Summer Salad SundayMy Meatless Mondays, Just Another Meatless Monday, Slightly Indulgent Tuesday, and Monday Mania.

Ratatouille…for breakfast!

Well, I didn’t actually make ratatouille for breakfast.  But I did find that it’s hard to beat a warm bowl of leftover ratatouille topped with a fried egg or two in the morning.  For those of you unfamiliar with this french dish, it’s just a mélange (apparently I think I’m french now) of perfectly cooked, flavorful vegetables.  This is not fussy cuisine.  In fact, I think it may be comfort food at its best.

As a template, I used the recipe from Laura Calder’s book, French Food at Home, which I highly recommend for anyone who is interested in learning about, well…cooking french food at home.  I changed the amounts of the ingredients based on what I had available and I really took to heart her comment that “some people insist that it’s better when made with slightly overripe vegetables”.  I decimated the “half off” shelf at the food co-op and turned my bag of unimpressive-looking veggies into a mouthwatering mess of goodness.  You can make this a meal by serving it with a nice piece of crusty bread, perhaps topped with some melty gruyere cheese.

Ratatouille
serves 4
adapted from Laura Calder’s French Food at Home

Ingredients
– 1 large (28 oz) can whole, peeled tomatoes
– about 1/3 cup good quality olive oil, divided
– 1 medium onion, sliced
– 3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
– 1 bay leaf
– 1 rosemary branch
– 2 Tbsp tomato paste
– 3 zucchini, sliced
– 2 red or yellow peppers, seeded and sliced lengthwise
– 1 eggplant, cut in half lengthwise and sliced
– salt and pepper
– a handful of chopped fresh parsley
– a handful of chopped fresh basil

Preheat the oven to 450F.

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat in a large pot and cook the onions until softened, about 10 minutes.  Add the garlic, cook for another minute, and then add the can of tomatoes.  Using a wooden spoon, roughly crush the tomatoes into big, bite-sized pieces.  Add bay leaf and rosemary and allow to simmer as the other vegetables are roasting.

In a large pan, toss the zucchini and peppers with about a tablespoon of olive oil.  Bake for about 30 minutes.  In a separate pan toss eggplant with a generous amount of olive oil.  I like for these to have quite a bit more oil than the other vegetables because they soak it up well and really take on the flavor.  Bake for 20-25 minutes.  Stir all vegetables about halfway through.

Add vegetables to the pot on the stove as they come out of the oven.  Season with salt and pepper and add the parsley and basil.  Drizzle with olive oil and serve it warm or at room temperature.

* I added this post to this week’s Mix it Up Monday, My Meatless Monday, Just Another Meatless Monday, and Melt in Your Mouth Monday.

Freestyle Cooking: Roasted Carrots and Fennel + Baby Potatoes with Carrot-Green Pesto

I’m one of those people who is almost incapable of making a recipe without tinkering with it in some way.  It’s not that I’m necessarily trying to improve upon the original…it mostly comes down to what I think is going to be the healthiest/easiest/most economical way to get something to the table.  If a recipe calls for a tablespoon of sour cream and I happen to have plain yogurt in the fridge, you can bet that I’m going to be making the substitution.  Or maybe I forgot to buy something that the recipe called for (or I accidentally bought parsley instead of cilantro, dang it!)  Or perhaps there were some beautiful bunches of local carrots and baby potatoes on sale at the co-op this week.

My lunch today was a tribute to the “waste not, want not” philosophy that I try to employ in my kitchen.  Why toss away those beautiful, delicate carrot greens when they can be transformed into something just as special as the roots?  I did a little bit of google-ing before putting my plan into action, though, because I vaguely remembered hearing once that carrot tops were poisonous.  It’s not true.  I think the origin of this piece of misinformation is that carrot greens resemble hemlock, which was famously used to poison Socrates.  Now that that’s cleared up, I’m never throwing my carrot greens into the compost again.

I call this “freestyle cooking” because I didn’t use exact measurements.  I think it can be empowering to walk into the kitchen with an armful of ingredients and the confidence that you will be able to turn them into something great without consulting a recipe for each step.  I was inspired by Green Kitchen Stories for the roasted veggies but the pesto was an experiment…one that turned out quite well.

Now that the bounty of spring is starting to creep into the produce section, I encourage you to challenge your creativity by freestylin’ in the kitchen now and then.  I’ll bet you come up with some fresh, delicious meals that will save you money.  Don’t forget to drop by and let me know how it goes!

Roasted Carrots with Fennel
from Green Kitchen Stories

Ingredients
– a bunch of whole carrots, peeled and sliced lengthwise if they are large
– a bulb of fennel
– olive oil
– fresh sage, torn into pieces
– anise seed
– salt and pepper
– goat cheese

Preheat the oven to 375F.  In a large pan, toss carrots, fennel, and olive oil together until vegetables are coated.  Sprinkle with sage, anise seed, and salt and pepper.

Bake for 45 minutes to an hour.  Add goat cheese about 5 minutes before you take the vegetables out of the oven.  Serve warm.

Baby Potatoes with Carrot-Green Pesto

Ingredients
– a few handfuls of baby potatoes, washed
– a bunch of carrot greens, tough inner stalks removed
– fennel fronds (optional)
– 1-2 cloves garlic
– a handful of walnuts
– juice from half a lemon
– olive oil to reach desired consistency
– salt, to taste

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil over medium-high heat.  Cook the baby potatoes for 15-20 minutes, until tender.  Drain.

While the potatoes are boiling, place remaining ingredients in a blender or food processor.  Start with 3-4 tablespoons of olive oil and add more as needed to reach the consistency you are looking for.

Spoon pesto over potatoes or use it as a dipping sauce.  It would also be great with pasta.

* I added this post to this week’s Fat Tuesday, Traditional Tuesday, Hearth and Soul Hop, Whole Foods Wednesday, Gluten-Free Wednesday, Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways, Real Food Wednesday, These Chicks Cooked, and Slightly Indulgent Tuesday.

A Recipe for St. Patrick’s Day – Cream-Braised Cabbage

If you are at all skeptical about how delicious cabbage can be, I have the recipe for you.  And just in time for St. Patrick’s day.  I actually made this last week after coming across the recipe on the blog Bon Appetempt.  You see, I had half a head of cabbage that was threatening to waste away in the bottom of my refrigerator.  I was having trouble becoming inspired enough to make it into my favorite coleslaw or sauerkraut…and this recipe changed my plans entirely.  I ended up skimping a bit on the cream compared with the original recipe because I realized that I was probably going to eat the entire pan in one sitting, which I did.  It was still plenty decadent for me, but you could always bump it up a notch if you plan on more reasonable serving sizes than I did.

Excellent.

Sorry for the short post today.  I’m wrapping up the school term and so it’s been a doozy of a week…good but busy!

Cream-Braised Cabbage
serves 2-3
adapted from Bon Appetempt

Ingredients
– 1/2 a head of green cabbage (cut lengthwise)
– 2 Tbsp butter
– a pinch of salt, plus more to taste
– 2 Tbsp heavy cream, more if you like
– a squeeze of fresh lemon juice

Cut your cabbage into 4 pieces, slicing lengthwise so that each piece will retain a bit of the core.  This will help keep the pieces together as you cook them.

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the cabbage slices and cook for 5-8 minutes, until the bottoms are starting to turn a nice golden-brown.  Gently turn the wedges to the other side and allow to brown again.  Add the salt and the cream and cover the pan with a lid.  Reduce heat to medium and allow to cook until everything is nice and tender, about 15 minutes.

Squeeze lemon juice over cabbage and serve.  Understand just how mouthwatering cabbage can be.