A Quick Food Friday Update

Terra's Kitchen Wagyu Beef and Red-Pepper sauce. Very good, very easy. Way too much asparagus--this was one serving and I had far more than twice this amount of vegetable.

Terra's Kitchen Wagyu Beef and Red-Pepper sauce. Very good, very easy. Way too much asparagus--this was one serving and I had far more than twice this amount of vegetable.

Here's just a quick update on something I posted a few weeks ago. I'd mentioned that we were trying Terra's Kitchen meal subscription service to see if it would help us eat healthier, more easily, on a more regular basis. This week was our third box (we skipped one week when we were out of town). As I unpackaged the ingredients for the meals, I was surprised and extremely disappointed at the number of packets I was sent. I've tried to reconcile myself to so many plastic containers for the pre-measured, pre-chopped ingredients, even though I always felt slightly guilty (it was all recyclable). But foil and plastic packets of condiments I'd find at a ball park? I expect better from a "healthy and environmentally friendly" meal service.

Terra's Kitchen expects that you have olive oil in your home. But apparently it doesn't expect that you have:

  • butter (for the second week I've gotten several foil-wrapped pats of butter)
  • mayonnaise (two plastic packs)
  • mustard (two plastic packs)
  • honey (one plastic pack)
  • balsamic vinegar (one plastic pack)

I get that maybe not everyone has honey, mustard, or balsamic vinegar on hand, although I have plenty of all of them. But butter? If I have olive oil, don't you think I'd also have butter? Seems an odd choice on their part. And that means I have several extra little pieces of greasy foil to deal with somehow.

Plus, instead of sending a bulk container of dried cranberries, I got four or five individual snack-sized boxes of Craisins. I buy my dried cranberries in bulk from the store so I don't have to have all the cardboard of the packets. Sure, it's recyclable, but really? Plus, for the price I'm paying for the subscription service, I wouldn't expect I'd get wholesale snack packages resold to me.

On the plus side:

  • The meals were generally faster to prepare as almost everything was pre-measured and pre-chopped for me. For the most part, meal prep was just a matter of "open package and dump." Very handy on a busy weeknight.
  • The meals were generally very good. There were a couple of things I'd have doctored here and there if I'd gotten them again, but even that would've been pretty minimal.
  • The meals I chose were definitely healthy. I was able to put the ingredients into my Weight Watchers app and figure out the points for each, and they were well within what I'd typically budget myself for dinner.
  • We ate more fish than we usually do because I would choose one fish recipe each week to supplement all the chicken we were eating.

On the negative side:

  • All that recycling, and those packets!
  • Although they periodically posted a new recipe here and there, after four weeks I'd already pretty much cycled through everything that was in my husband's and my wheelhouse. I suspect they're still fairly new so the selection isn't huge, unless you want chicken. Lots of chicken.

I cancelled Terra's Kitchen today and told them I was doing it because of all those stinkin' packets. I'm debating trying another service that is partnered with Weight Watchers so you get the Points info as you're choosing the meals, but they're not pre-chopped and such, so I'm not sure it would be any real help during the week. For now, we're back to our own cooking. Time to get the slow-cooker and Instant Pot out again!

Fight the Funk Friday--Back on Track!

My first "Fight the Funk" report is to say that, as you're reading this, I'm on a quilt shop hop with some of my quilty friends! I have some vacation days to burn up before the end of the year so I'm taking the rest of the Fridays in December off. This week I'm doing the "Mom Memorial Shop Hop" with some friends. This is a trip my Mom and I did several Decembers (I often end up taking Fridays off to burn up vacay). We would to Amish country and go to a few different fabric stores and then have a fabulous Amish lunch. Now, when I have a Friday off in December, I try to do this trip with some friends in memory of my mom, hence referring to it as the "Memorial Shop Hop." Unfortunately, the Amish restaurant Mom and I always went to is now closed, so we have a less-fabulous lunch, but I still spend a day with my friends and have fun! Definitely a great way to fight the winter funkiness.

I'm happy to report that my neck has been behaving itself this week. My PT was quite pleased by my progress at this week's appointment. Unfortunately, he's now given me the Epley maneuvers as homework. For those of you not "in the know," these maneuvers are basically designed to cause head spins. They're not fun--but they do eventually work to make the head spins go away. That being said, he worked me up to these. I've been in PT for about 5 or 6 weeks now and we didn't even go near doing these until this week--until I've made enough improvement that the Epley maneuvers don't make me want to wommit. I spin, but I don't seem to get nauseous--a HUGE improvement over past times I've tried these. So, yay.

I also beasted my session with my physical trainer this week (and last week, for that matter). What's an even better sign? I wasn't nearly as sore two days later as I expected to be. My body's starting to get used to this physical stuff! Yippee! My about-to-leave-trainer is going to work with the gym director to connect me with a new trainer who will be a good match based on what she knows I like to do, so hopefully I won't have any disruption in training when she leaves. I mostly want to get on a new trainer's roster before that January rush!

It's starting to get harder to do my hourly walks in the backyard because we've had some really cold winds this week, so my daily step count has slacked somewhat. The ambient temperature hasn't been too bad for December, but the wind makes it pretty biting. I've gotten bundled up a few times to make the trek but that adds time to the walks (it takes awhile to get all those layers on!) so it doesn't happen as often. I have had a couple of days, though, where I noticed in the evening that I was within a couple grand of my step goal for the day so I just paced the house while listening to a podcast through headphones. Antisocial (my husband was watching TV in the other room both times) but productive.

Not great weather for walking outside, but perfect weather for some healthy comfort food! My slow cooker and Instant Pot are getting real workouts these days--often both for the same meal.

Here's a recommendation for you: The Skinnytaste blog has fantastic, easy, healthy recipes. For those doing Weight Watchers she has the Smartpoints listed for each recipe. I bought both of her bookbooks: The Skinnytaste Cookbook and Skinnytaste: Fast and Slow. I've used a lot of recipes out of both of them and haven't had a clunker yet. The picture is her Slow-Cooker Bolognese Sauce from the Fast and Slow cookbook. I'm in serious love. DH doesn't like meat sauce so this is all mine. Woot! The recipe made enough that I've got some in the freezer along with my leftovers in the fridge this week. I had it on pasta the first night as my daughter had left some leftover spaghetti, but I've had it on cauliflower rice (thank you, food processor) and on spaghetti squash (thank you, IP) for lunch a couple of times since. Pasta is still best, but some days we have to make adjustments where we can! The cauliflower rice and spaghetti squash do the purpose, since it's all about the Bolognese anyway. 

Meanwhile, I used my Instant Pot to do a batch of brown rice the other day and then froze what I wasn't eating for dinner in ice cube trays like these (I don't have this brand but these are pretty much the same thing). I got the idea from one of my Craftsy classes last year but this is the first time I've done it. It's a 2" ice cube tray which is the equivalent of a half-cup serving. The rice freezes really well, and then you transfer the frozen cubes into a ziploc freezer bag. You just pull out as many cubes as you need for a particular meal. Since I'm the only one who eats brown rice, this is another great way to have fast, healthy meals on tap for lunch or dinner. (The brown rice was for Mexican Chicken Burrito Bowls, another Skinnytaste slowcooker dinner that I loved!)

It's good to be fully mobile again, I've been loving having meals ready and waiting for me when I get home from the gym at night, and in general, life has been good this week. I like weeks like that.

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Craftsy Class Review: Love Your Vegetables with Anna Bullett

Time for another food class review: Love Your Vegetables with Anna Bullett. It's been awhile since I've done a foodie post. However, for this one, I don't have any photos of dishes I've made from the class since I'm holding off trying the recipes until my CSA begins in another couple of weeks. So you'll be hearing more about the recipes themselves later.

I decided to do this class because of the aforementioned CSA, or Community Supported Agriculture. If you're new to my blog, just a short backstory: I've subscribed this summer to a CSA, and deliveries start the second week of June. I've done CSAs two other years but skipped last year because I travel a lot during the summer and was having problems juggling the schedule. This year, I found a CSA much closer to me so doing the weekly pick-up will be a lot easier, and I think I'm getting a smaller share, so it should be easier to keep up with the produce. I don't have time for canning and I have limited freezer space so I really do need to be able to use the produce up the week I get it, as much as possible. That means collecting a ton of vegetable-focused recipes. This class seemed just the ticket.

One of my 2013 CSA pick-ups

One of my 2013 CSA pick-ups

Anna Bullett reminds me a bit of Rachel Ray in terms of perkiness. If you love Rachel Ray, you'll probably really enjoy Anna Bullett. 

As a learning experience, it was a good one. Each lesson focused on a particular family of vegetables and, through the recipe or recipes covered in the lesson, Anna gives rationale behind different types of preparations for the vegetable in question. She also gives all sorts of good tips for washing, slicing, and storage. There are several recipes that I'm looking forward to trying when my produce starts rolling in.

Another ghost of CSAs past

Another ghost of CSAs past

Additionally, every lesson except the last includes a "Chef's Tip," or a brief tidbit of additional information about something else you can do with that family of vegetables. These were nice little additions--one of them helped me understand why my attempt at Kale chips a couple of years ago failed miserably. I think I'll be better prepared for the inevitable influx of Kale from the CSA this year. 

If you're looking to expand your repertoire for vegetable dishes--either as a side or a main--I do recommend this class. Just be prepared for the perky.

The Basics

  • 8 lessons, ranging from 15 to about 30 minutes; most are in the 15-20 minute range.
  • The first lesson starts right out with one of my all-time faves: butternut squash. Generally I want to rush my CSA through to get to fall so I can get my hands on the various forms of winter squash. I'm a fan of pretty much all of them.
  • Lesson 2 is root vegetables, lesson 3 "hearty greens" (aka Kale and the like), lesson 4 is Cabbage & Friends (including the very Dr. Seussian Romanesco broccoli)--and included a very helpful tip on keeping your cole slaw from going watery; lesson 5 may convince me to give eggplant another try; lesson 6--the beautiful tomato (yum); lesson 7 is about fava beans which I will likely never buy raw because I don't see myself putting that much work into a bean; and lesson 8 ends with a couple of ways to make easy, quick refrigerator pickles that will definitely be happening in my kitchen at some point this summer.
  • The class materials are extensive: 26 pages including 30 recipes. You're basically buying a cookbook with this class. The recipes are all quite do-able, too--only a couple have ingredients you may not already have in your pantry (depending on your fave styles of cooking).
  • The recipes are mostly side dishes but there are quite a few that either are, or could easily be, main dishes if you're going meat-free. In my case, there were a couple that I thought we could make vegetarian so my daughter could eat it, and then I could just throw in some diced cooked chicken in my portion to meet my more carnivorous needs. 

Two thumbs up. Basically, Love Your Vegetables with Anna Bullett is just increasing my yearning for Tuesday, June 9, when I get to do my first CSA pick-up of the season. I can't wait to dig in!

(Using Craftsy links on this website helps support my podcast and blog. Thank you!)

Fight the Funk Friday and Food Friday--on Saturday (oops)

I couldn't quite get it together enough yesterday to get my usual Friday post out. Oops. So I'm catching up today.

I'm still a bit of a slacker in terms of exercise--or, rather, I'm focusing on my physical therapy exercise and not so much getting to the gym. The PT exercises are increasing each session and lots to do at home so there is that. I guess it's a good sign when your PT exercises leave you a bit sore afterwards--yep, those muscles were pretty underdeveloped, clearly! So there's good progress being made there.

On the other hand, I did show a loss at my Weight Watchers meeting this week--yippee! First loss in a while, but then, it's also been awhile since I was consistently attending my meetings and really paying attention to what I was doing. Gee, funny how those things go hand-in-hand, isn't it? 

We were encouraged to share favorite healthy recipes at this week's WW meeting. One of the other members shared her recipe for Southwest Chicken Chili. I'm not generally a big fan of Southwest flavors but when I read through the ingredients to this one, it sounded pretty good. Even better? It's a "dump it all in the crockpot and walk away" recipe. It was simple enough that, when I discovered the recipe had fallen out of my purse somewhere in the grocery store, I could remember everything and recreate it easily in my kitchen. My son and his BFF were coming over for dinner and I'd heard rumor a few others may be joining us, but no actual count or ETA (life with young adults), so a simple crockpot recipe was the way to go. It was really, really good. My son, his friend, my nephew, and his girlfriend all came and, basically, licked the crockpot clean. 

So, here's the recipe (again, from memory, but I'm pretty sure it's very darn close. If not, it was good anyway!)

Southwest Chicken Chili

Southwest Chicken Chili

Southwest Chicken Chili 

  • 1 1/2 lbs of chicken breast (she suggested, and I used, frozen grilled chicken strips for simplicity--worked fine)
  • 2 cups medium salsa 
  • 3 @ 14.5 oz cans petite diced tomatoes
  • 2 @ 15.5 oz cans black beans
  • 1 @ 15.25 oz can corn (could also easily use frozen or fresh, of course)
  • 1 package taco seasoning (I didn't have any on hand, so I used chili seasoning instead)
  • 1 package Ranch dressing mix

Put all ingredients in slow cooker on low for 4-6 hours. Serve with shredded cheese, sour cream, tortilla chips, etc.

Clearly, it's a chili so all the amounts are fungible. Chilis are pretty flexible. I would say you probably don't want to go any more on the tomato products as it would quickly get too soupy.

When I put this into my Recipe Builder in WW etools it comes out to something like 5 points per serving (not including toppings), assuming you're getting about 12 servings out of the total. I didn't measure but I went by the number of people eating and the number of times they refilled their bowls.

It's finally really spring! And that really does help me fight the funk.

It's finally really spring! And that really does help me fight the funk.

I have another tricky week coming up, although in a different way, as I have a work trip for the early part of the week. However, in the grand scheme of work travel this is one of the easiest for me to continue healthy habits: I have a fairly normal schedule, time to use the work-out room in the hotel, and the ability to choose what I'm eating. (Most trips aren't quite that straight-forward!) So I'm not overly worried.

Meanwhile, Sammy and I are warming up our fetch muscles again, now that it's far more consistently warm and dry out. My pitching arm was a bit rusty last week, but I'm giving him more of a run for his money now--and boy, does he need the run! 

Fight the Funk Friday

Fightthefunk.jpg

I'm home! I've had a whole week home! Woo woo!

Don't get me wrong--my trip last weekend was a great one. I just had a string of travel that prevented me from being in any sort of decent exercise routine at all. In fact, the two most recent trips involved hours spent in planes or cars--so they were even more sedentary than usual.

And then, just when we had a beautiful weekend and I was out walking for the first time in weeks, my knee started whining at me again.

But here's the good news: Because I'm home, I finally had time to deal with insurance referrals and back-and-forth with my doctor and...yay...had an appointment with a physical therapist yesterday. She did things. Painful things. I cried a little tear inside.

Actually, it wasn't bad, but my knee was quite ticked off with me by the time I got home so there was more Advil and ice in my life. That being said, it turns out it's not my knee muscles I need to be focusing on, but my hip muscles. Who'd-a thunk it? I'm now armed with a series of hip-focused exercises and a resistance band. I'm planning on trying to get some gym action in again this weekend; basically, she gave me the go-ahead to do anything "unless it hurts." Words to live by.

So, exercise--not so much, unless you count physical therapy. Which it does count, I suppose. But it's not really racking up the FitBit steps. I hope for better this weekend, though I'm going to keep reminding myself to take it slow for a bit. But just you wait until my knee is fully back in working order. The dust will be flying behind me!

A CSA delivery from 2013

A CSA delivery from 2013

On the food front, I'm back to planning and tracking pretty well, and getting lots of fresh produce in the house. I'm counting down the days until my CSA deliveries start--June 9 can't come fast enough! Yep, for those of you in warmer climes, early June is the first we can really expect to start seeing any harvest in these parts, and even that's pretty early--I imagine it'll be mostly greenhouse stuff at that stage. Most of our gardens start producing for real at the end of June or early July. Then we get swamped. But that's a zucchini story for another day.

Oh, and I also got my temporary crown put on this week, in the continuing saga of the broken tooth that started last 4th of July. The final crown is May 7. Can't wait to have it completely done--and I'll be pretty vigilant the rest of my life to make sure I never break a freakin' tooth again. What a pill.

All that means is this week's Fight the Funk post is mostly about preventative medicine and getting myself back into shape for making good progress later. This is a more "reactive funk-fighting" at the moment, but I'll be back to proactive mode shortly!

It may not be Friday, but... Parmesan Crisps and Dipping Sauce

I haven't done a Food Friday in a long time, but was inspired today, despite it being Sunday. If you're a purist and want to read a Food Friday post on a Friday, I'll forgive you if you don't comment for a few days.

We're having our last big family hoo-hah of the Thanksgiving season today at my husband's aunt's house, and I was asked to bring an appetizer. After having cooked (and cleaned up after) Thanksgiving dinner this past week, I was in the mood for something very easy with limited dishes involved. After hearing them referenced on the most recent episode of The Splendid Table, I decided I wanted to try my hand at making Parmesan crisps. I did a little Internet research and ended up combining notes from a few recipes, then putting my own spin on it anyway. So here, for what it's worth, is my (usual kinda-sorta) recipe.

By the way, I used a really good Parmesan for this--none of the inexpensive pre-grated stuff that comes in a tall green jar (that shall remain nameless). That would likely work fine, but I've recently become a Parmesan snob and buy chunks of the good stuff at the grocery store and grate it myself. It's more expensive, but the flavor is so fantastic that a little goes a long way. And since this recipe is all about the Parmesan, I'd recommend ponying up for the good stuff. 

parmesancrisps.jpg

Sandy's Italian Parmesan Crisps

Ingredients: 

  • A great Parmesan, shredded. (I used a Parmiagiano Reggiano available in my local grocery store). I ended up with about 4 cups, but it all depends on how many crisps you want to make.
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • Onion powder, garlic powder, dried Italian seasoning, dried basil leaves (to taste)
  • Salt to taste

1. Preheat oven to 375. Make sure rack is in center of oven. Prepare a baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper. 

2. Mix the ingredients together well. The flour will tend to want to head for the bottom of the bowl so I used my hands and kept tossing everything until I felt the cheese was well-coated with the seasonings. 

3. Drop cheese mixture in about tablespoon amounts onto parchment paper, spacing it about 3-4" apart. Spread out the cheese mounds until they're relatively flat but still tightly enough together that the cheese will melt into one piece. The more the cheese is mounded, the chewier the result is; a good crispy texture requires a fairly flat, rounded shape. Also, holes among the cheese will remain holes and make finished product more breakable--parmesan doesn't spread too much when it melts. So keep the cheese close together. My first two batches were a little trial-and-error to figure out what worked best

4. Bake for about 4-7 minutes, depending on your oven. They'll bubble first, but don't take them out while bubbling. They need to get a little past that point. You want them nicely browned but not burned. 

5. After removing from the oven, let the pan sit for about 5 minutes so they finish setting before sliding them off the parchment with a very thin-edged metal spatula. Move them onto a cooling rack covered with a piece of paper towel to finish cooling and setting. They're extremely delicate, so handle with care!

I believe my yield was something like 3 dozen crisps, but I wasn't really counting. Your yield will depend on how big you make your crisps. I'm carrying them to the party in a tupperware container with a lot of paper towel between each layer mostly to try to keep them from pulverizing themselves on the drive.

I also made a sauce to go with them. I needed something very lightweight so it wouldn't break the crisp when dipped, so I made a sort of marinara thing:

marinarasauce.jpg

Sort-of Marinara Sauce for Crisps:

In food processor, blend 1 can (28 oz) of diced tomatoes and 1 tbsp tomato paste with onion powder, garlic powder, and italian seasonings. (I used an Italian seasoning blend plus extra dried basil since I'm a fan. We're past season for fresh herbs here, but if I did this in the summer fresh herbs would definitely be the thing. I'd have used a real onion instead of onion powder if I'd had one in the house: This was sort of a make-do recipe.) Add salt to taste, and a pinch of sugar. Process until mostly smooth but with some nice texture to it.

The sauce is just thick enough to cling to the parmesan crisp but not break it. And yes, you could use leftover sauce next time you have pasta. :-)

I confess to having "taste-tested" several. Quality control and all that. I'm taking some risk posting this before actually taking the crisps to the party and finding out what everyone else thinks, but I'm fairly confident!

Reverse Dyeing (better known as: Discharge), and Some Food

I finally got around to doing something I've been wanting to play with for months: discharging dye. This is a process whereby you remove the dye you so painstakingly put in there in the first place.  

Remember: mad quilt scientist. It's not supposed to make sense. It's art. 

Tee hee.

I don't recall if I posted pics a few months back of the fat quarters I'd dyed using the two blacks available through ProChem. One is supposed to have a warmer cast, and the other a cooler cast. Honestly, I had difficulty seeing the difference when I had my dyed fabrics side-by-side, but that may simply require more experimentation. I also didn't end up with the graded values I'd hoped for using the technique I did. But that's okay, since I still came up with eight great fat quarters ranging from very, very black to mostly black. I can live with that. 

Now I'm working on adding texture through pattern. So this time I'm working with discharges and color magnet.  

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Once upon a time, there was a stencil languishing on a shelf.

Along came some deColourant Mist Spray and some black fabric.  

spirals.jpg

24 hours later, and a hot steam iron, and the stencil was pleased to see that she had helped make this happen. 

(I was surprised to see blotches appear, then realized the steam was making them come out more. I decided I dug the effect and steamed the heck out of it from there. A hot, dry iron makes the resist work. A hot, steam iron makes the resist work even more. So there's even a lot of room for playing in the end game.)

 

brushandstamp.jpg

Then the stencil called her friends, Brush and Stamp, to come play too. 

This time they invited Jacquard Discharge Paste to the party. 

(Unfortunately, Stamp gave her life to this job. She fell apart when being washed afterwards. Apparently Jacquard played a little rough with her. Or she was just old. We don't really know where she came from in the first place so her pedigree is uncertain. And next time we'd prefer to play with Brush's tougher friend with stiffer bristles, if we can find him.)

leavesandtexture.jpg

The nice hot steam iron made magic happen! 

(This is a technique I can definitely improve but I love love love love the brush stroke effect.) 

leavesdetail.jpg

I'm thinking this one might even be worth a close-up. 

Dig that crazy brush-stroke, man. 

I'll save the color magnet results for my next blog post.  


Turkey Burgers with Cranberry Herb Mayonnaise

And now, for a quick foodie post. I made my first-ever homemade turkey burger with homemade cranberry herb mayonnaise this week. I was inspired after having yet another very bland, very dry turkey burger at a burger joint earlier this week. "I know it's possible to make a good turkey burger," I whined to my husband. Said husband then promptly skipped town for a few days so I decided it was a good time for some experimentation. What I offer here is inspiration, not an actual recipe, because as usual I didn't measure a darn thing when I was making it.

turkeyburger.jpg

I mixed ground turkey (96% lean) with the same herbs I usually use on my roast turkey: garlic powder, onion powder, ground thyme, ground rosemary, white pepper, kosher salt. Ummm, might have been some sage in there, maybe some celery seed, and perhaps a touch of savory--that last one I don't remember for sure. (I used my usual sniff-test method to decide what I wanted to add in.) I added just a titch of olive oil--maybe about a tsp or less--to make sure it was moist.

For the mayonnaise, I mostly followed the recipe that came with my Cuisinart: egg yolks, Dijon mustard, a little fresh lemon juice, emulsified with olive oil. However, I added fresh rosemary and thyme from my garden, then threw in dried cranberries at the last minute. I also used more lemon juice at the end. It turned out pretty well for a first try, but in the future I want to decrease the Dijon, and increase the lemon juice or use some white vinegar as well, so it's a little lighter in flavor. And having dried rosemary in the burger with fresh rosemary in the mayo really made me want to name this a Seriously Rosemary Turkey Burger. So I'd be a little more light-handed with that next time, though I'm a fan of rosemary.

By the way--the toast was originally because I didn't have burger rolls on hand. But it turned out to be the perfect accompaniment--crunchy, warm, toasty. A regular roll wouldn't have done it. And the lettuce helped with crunch too.

And my son (who was home for dinner and did the grilling--perfectly!--for me) is now a convert to turkey burgers and cranberry herb mayo.  

Hey, keep an eye out: I'll be posting more about #LDSI and the Banned Book Challenge tomorrow!  

Food Friday Begins Again: CSA 2013 Week 1, "Faux Frittata"

It's CSA time again, so I get to kick Food Fridays back into gear! I was thrilled last week to get the email telling me that this week would be our first pick-up for our CSA. (If you are just joining me and are unfamiliar with CSAs, check out my blog post about it from last year.) Up here in Western New York we're just barely getting gardens in the ground at this time of year, so actually getting fresh produce from the farmer feels like a special treat.

Transient

Week 1 is small and extremely manageable. They like to lull us into a false sense of security, only to get that cold dash of reality in August of "OMG What am I going to do with all these vegetables???" For this week, I got:

  1. two bunches of asparagus and
  2. a small bag of spinach.

I'm a big fan of spinach. I remember when I was in second or third grade, suddenly realizing that none of my peers liked spinach and the fact that I did like it might render me permanently uncool. So I hid my love of spinach from the general public for years. I was still rendered permanently uncool just on general principle but at least spinach wasn't the culprit. As an adult, doing my own grocery shopping, I was then hindered by a husband and kids who were none too keen on it. It's only been in recent years that spinach has returned on a permanent basis to my household--I love tossing baby spinach leaves in my salads and occasionally wilting some into scrambled eggs.

Asparagus and I have a much more mixed history together. As much as I loved spinach as a kid, I hated asparagus. I mean, hated it. And we had it regularly because my parents grew it. I thought it was bitter and nasty. Although I tried it once or twice again in my adulthood years only to confirm my hatred of it, I avoided asparagus quite successfully until my husband and I were at dinner at a friend's house and she made steamed asparagus and baby carrots as a side. I steeled myself to choke it down only to be polite and was quite surprised to find I actually liked it. Hers was quite sweet, even though she hadn't put anything on it. A week later I tried cooking it myself by sauteeing it with olive oil and garlic. Not bad. I have sense gotten a little more adventuresome with asparagus (roasting, grilling) and have gotten to the point of saying that, in certain preparations, I can actually like asparagus. Not all preparations--still hate it boiled--and I wouldn't say "love," but now I can deal with it with much more aplomb.

When I picked up my delivery of spinach and asparagus this week, the first thought that popped into my head was "Goat cheese! Woohoo!" Basically I assess most foods on a how-are-they-as-a-goat-cheese-delivery-device scale. Spinach and goat cheese are a particularly good pairing. My next thought was, "frittata." Never mind I've never made one. Never mind I really don't think I've ever even eaten one. But spinach+asparagus+goat cheese just seemed to = frittata. I did a quick check on my cell phone of a couple of recipes to check what ingredients I needed, made a quick run through the grocery store on the way back from the farm, and set about chopping and dicing as soon as I got home. I never consulted a recipe after that quick-pre-shopping-check, so I only had the most vague impression of what was involved and probably made some moves that aren't true frittata territory. Hence...

Transient

Sandy's Faux Frittata

Ingredients

  • olive oil
  • 1 half Vidalia onion, sliced thin
  • 1 bunch asparagus, stems removed, chopped into 1" pieces
  • 1 roasted red bell pepper, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 handful spinach
  • bread crumbs (I think I threw in about a half cup, maybe 3/4)
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 egg whites
  • Approximately 1/4 cup of skim milk
  • 3-4 Roma (plum) tomatoes
  • Goat cheese
  • salt and pepper
  • finishing oil (optional)

Heat a medium-sized fry or saute pan on over medium heat until pan is warm; add a tablespoon or two of olive oil and let the oil heat until it shimmers. Add onion, separating the half-rings, and let it begin to cook down and caramelize, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, prep the asparagus, put in a bowl with a tablespoon or so of water, cover with plastic, and cook for 2-3 minutes in the microwave (otherwise it'll take longer to cook than everything else in the pan). While asparagus and onion are cooking respectively, dice the roasted red bell pepper and mince the garlic cloves. When asparagus is done in the microwave and onion has begun to turn slightly brown, add asparagus to pan and saute for a minute or two. Then add red pepper and garlic. Finally, add spinach and let it wilt. Season to taste.

When the spinach is wilted, add the bread crumbs and stir to combine. You may need to add a little more oil and seasoning now as the bread crumbs will soak up all the moisture in the pan. However, you don't want it soggy since you'll be adding the eggs in a minute--the oil will just help the bread crumbs and vegetables hang out together better.

While the bread/vegetable mixture is cooking, whisk the eggs, egg whites, and milk together thoroughly. Feel free to add salt and pepper here too. Pour egg mixture over bread/vegetable mixture in the pan. Stir only enough to make sure the egg has saturated completely and evenly. Then cover the pan, step back and leave it alone.

Mine took about 7 minutes, but the size of your pan, the heat of your flame, and what vegetables you've included will affect the cooking time. You'll know it's done when it acts like a pancake--the edges are a little on the dry side and the middle is set. (My edges crisped up very nicely--I loved that. If you don't want dry edges, you can call it "done" earlier but make sure your egg is cooked through. No salmonella here.)

Frittatas can either be cooked completely on the stovetop or finished in the oven. I let mine cook almost completely on the stove top, then I added my tomatoes and sliced goat cheese over the top and put it covered in a 375 oven for another 5-7 minutes. I took the cover off the pan and let it bake for another 3-4 minutes. Taking it out of the oven, I let it rest for about 5 minutes before slicing and eating.

Transient

Notes:

  1. For the olive oil, I used a flavored oil, "Sage and Wild Harvest Mushroom." It gives it just another layer of flavor, so I highly recommend using a flavored oil if you've got one. I also drizzled just a little "Tuscan Herb" flavored olive oil over it at the end because the bread crumbs did make it a little more dry.
  2. To be honest, I have no idea where the bread crumb concept came from. I could swear I'd seen it listed in my very brief perusal of a couple of frittata recipes before I went into the grocery store, but I never saw that listed anywhere else so who knows. (Some frittata recipes have potato in them so I'm thinking one starch is much like another in this case!) I had some leftover dinner rolls so I tossed them in my food processor to make crumbs while I was slicing my onion, and I felt all kinds of virtuous about using them up in such a creative way. 

The goat cheese never melted--goat cheese isn't a particularly melty cheese. And the bread crumbs made it more of a strata-like casserole and less of a frittata, I think, but boy was it tasty. And could I have crammed any more vegetables into a single meal?