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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Something From Nothing ~ Week 18

Before I show you what I made from "nothing" this week, I'd like to address a problem some of you may have with a less-than-healthy-eating partner. Although I usually will partake, in some form, wherever he is eating, sometimes what Dear Husband is having just will not do it for me.  Case in point: we frequently travel to Dear Husbands' home town. Although we always have fun, and are treated like royalty, the food choices are sometimes not for me. Dear Husband usually proceeds straight to yonder hot dog joint, for a dog with chili and onions....and while that is sometimes alright with me....this time, I saw it coming, and I was prepared.

I remember back in Alaska, when I was practicing at least partial vegan and vegetarianism, that I went to lovely Genas' site which discussed making a meal-sized salad. I was intrigued! By the first time I made a salad with the smooth but filling squash, combined with the crunch of vegetables and seeds...I was SOLD! I am very good at listening to my body (even yes, when it is screaming YOU NEED CHOCOLATE.....NOW!), and I must have needed some beta carotene or other element, because I could not get to the store and buy an acorn squash fast enough!  Here was the plan.....bake the squash the morning of our trip, make the meal-sized salad, and take along to resist the fast-food-death dogs that always leave me feeling A: a little sick, and B: horribly guilty.  So....first I coated the squash with oil, poked a few holes in it, and baked it for 45 minutes at 375...



Then, I wrapped one half (for later squash cravings), and got the other half ready...


Then, I got it together with some choice salad ingredients...



Clockwise from bottom, carrot, celery, scallion, cucumber, pumpkin seeds, green leaf lettuce, red bell pepper, iceberg lettuce, and the baked and cooled half of an acorn squash.

I got my little "fit and fresh" (I certainly hope I am both...tee-hee) container and layered the iceberg and green leaf lettuce into the bottom...



Then, added and tossed shredded carrot, chopped cuke, sliced bell pepper, celery and scallion into it...



Already looking munch-tacular! I cubed the squash, and layered on top of the salad...


Then, put the dressing and the pumpkin seeds into the two little containers that come with the "fit and fresh" system.



These containers fit right into the main box, for easy transport and chilling...



All ready to put into the cooler....and it is not even ten in the morning, yet!



The verdict? A great, healthy and (thanks to the squash), filling picnic lunch for me, whilst Dear Husband happily munched on his lunch.


In case you are wondering about the whole "squash with salad" thing - let me persuade you to try it. Just once, I promise! I was actually borderline grossed out by the thought of such a thing, when I first saw the recipe - but something about it just made me have to try it. Let me be the first to tell you, that once you get hooked on the silky texture of a squash.....with some salty, crunchy pumpkin seeds, crunchy vegetables, and your dressing of choice.....there will be no going back! I'm addicted to it, now...(the real reason the other half of the squash went into the fridge.....so I could hoard it for next time)!  On to this weeks' Something From Nothing. THIS...is what I had to use up, or risk tossing into the trash....and at $2.99 a pound - that's sort of waaaaaay against anything I believe to be right in this world....



I know....beautiful, right? However, they were going South....and fast! What to do? Well, when it comes to using up anything in the produce realm, I turn to my old friend...


And when I say old....I'm not kidding - yes, that IS tape attempting (and failing) to hold the cover on!Oh well, it's what is inside that is most important...namely "Pepper Slaw". I tried to find a link to the actual recipe...but could not.  This does not have many ingredients...so just follow along...



From left to right...cabbage, the bell peppers (use any kind you have), garlic, celery seed, pepper & salt, olive oil, brown mustard and pickled jalapeno.  Not shown: vegetable oil, and red wine vinegar.  First, slice your peppers as thinly as possible...think coleslaw here...



This salad is as pretty as it is tasty and crunchy!  Then, slice about one half of a small cabbage into thin shreds and add to the bowl. Add in the celery seed and pickled jalapeno, or hot peppers...to taste..


then...get the dressing together...


In the salad cruet to the left, I mixed one pressed clove of garlic (next time, I will only use a half a clove), 5 Tablespoons olive oil, 4 Tablespoons vegetable oil, a teaspoon of brown mustard, two Tablespoons of red wine vinegar, and some salt and pepper. Shake well to emulsify...


Toss the slaw in it, and place in the fridge for a few hours to blend. I also went into the fridge to taste-test, um.....stir the slaw every now and again. The results?


Colorful, crunch-tastic...and a great side dish for our supper that night! All from those three bell peppers that were about to turn to water....and a few pantry/fridge ingredients. Yes, next time I will only use a half a clove of garlic, as I want the slaw ingredients to take priority in the flavor profile...but, yes, a winner that I will make again!

What is your go-to recipe for bell peppers?

Eat well, my friends...and in a few days we'll spy on those Kitchen Angels, and more importantly....see about the CORN REPORT! 

Love and kindness to all,

Pixie




Monday, June 4, 2012

Something From Nothing ~ Week 17

If you love something.....RIP IT OUT OF THE GROUND, AND EAT IT!  Seriously though, my lovely arugula lettuce simply cannot take the heat, and is bolting and going to seed rapidly, see?


I have been enjoying it's nutty, unique flavor in salads all Spring long...but, alas....it is past it's useful production time frame. What to use all this arugula in? Snap! Pesto! So, in the house it comes in a giant bowl...



And many, many washings and rinsings later...here it is, ready to use.



I did want to add some basil of course, so I asked my lovely Kitchen Angels to help me pick some from the kitchen window plant...


They were happy to help.  I also got out the rest of a bag of walnuts, about a quarter cup of olive oil, salt and pepper, and three cloves of garlic...


Into the processor with everything but the olive oil....


A few quick pulses to turn it into a paste......


Then, I taste-tested it, and it needed more basil, and even more salt...


After blending with the olive oil, I scraped the mixture into a bowl...


And this, my friends, was when things first began to go horribly wrong.  I forgot the Parmesan!  No problem, I quickly grated some on top, and mixed it into the pesto....


Now was my chance to use a new, whole-grain pasta that I was dying to try.


When the pasta was cooked, I mixed it with about 4 Tablespoons of the pesto, a little of the starchy cooking water from the pasta, and about a half Tablespoon of butter, just to give the sauce some body, and mellow out the assertive nature of the arugula.  The results?


It.........was.......HORRIBLE! Yes, that's right - I'm admitting a dish of mine turned out badly.  Why? Well, because cooking is an experiment in flavor, and when something does not turn out right, you must find out why, to better your skills for the next time! The arugula was simply too bitter for pesto....next time I'm sticking with spinach or basil pesto.  Seriously, it was so bad I threw the whole batch out, and rinsed the pasta to be rescued, and used in something else.


What to do?  Well, obviously from the great pesto disaster, I was in need of some comfort. I cannot even remember the last time I made something "unworthy"! Then, it struck me, every kids' favorite comfort food - Mac and cheese!  After all, I had all of this in the house....


I had a bunch of tail-ends of cheddar, that were rapidly approaching their demise (corners getting hard, darker, you know the sort of thing), and the rest is simply butter, flour, salt & pepper, dry mustard, cayenne pepper, and milk. The two-two-two rule is in effect, so I melted 2 Tablespoons butter, and whisked in 2 Tablespoons flour....



Then when it became all incorporated.....I whisked in the two cups of milk..


I shredded all that glorious cheddar thusly...


Then got out some turkey bacon....(we are trying to eat healthier, here...have you SEEN what pork fat does to arteries?)...


Take your kitchen shears, and snip three slices in half...then sizzle away in a skillet with a little vegetable oil, as turkey bacon is very lean....and needs a little something to get it going...


Your milk mixture should be thickened by now, so whisk in your cheddar, about 1/4 teaspoon each cayenne pepper and dry mustard, and salt & pepper to taste....
 
 
You really cannot taste the cayenne and dry mustard in the final product....it's more of a background note.  Voila! You have a cheese sauce...
 
 
Now, as much as I advocate for less processed, more wholesome food, I am also a realist.....and have also had children. So yes, if you want to add a few drops of red food coloring to approximate the color of that horrendous mac and cheese in a box...go for it. I did it this time, only for this post. I will also state, just for the record, that I did not add the food coloring to my mac and cheese when my children were growing up....however, they had not gotten used to the unnatural glow of the macaroni and cheese from a box, either. Here is the sauce with approximately 3 drops of red food coloring added...
 
 
It definitely looks a little more orange....now, we assemble the dish. I placed the rescued pasta (from the un-tasty arugula pesto) into a bowl, and topped with some frozen peas. If your children are dead set against anything green, go ahead and leave them out. However, some kids actually do love the little "pop" of the frozen peas, and you are getting a vegetable in them! And of course, you can use elbow macaroni, or wagon wheels, or any other shape your children like...I just had to use the lovely whole grain spaghetti, so that it would not go to waste...
 
 
Then, break up your bacon-of-choice into manageable chunks, and toss it in there..
 
 
Now, pour over enough sauce to thoroughly mix in with the dish, and enjoy! My results?
 
 
Really, really good! AND I felt better about the whole arugula pesto disaster. So you see, that even expert-level, or gourmet cooks DO have the occasional dish that comes out all kinds of wrong....it can be turned into something quite good!
 
A note about the garden here in Pixie-land.  I cannot talk about my desire to grow corn without mentioning this story.....when Lovely Daughter S was a toddler, I would occasionally play a movie of combined cartoon features, to let her relax, and enable Mom to collapse in a corner um, prepare supper or do chores....and we happened to love this "Silly Symphony" from Disney in particular....click here to see what I mean...
 
I know, but it's just quirky enough to make us giggle still, all these years later. Of course, the morality lesson in the cartoon, is that you should be unselfish and giving of your time and energy....and not just when it is time to eat the corn! So, as I love fresh corn with a passion, I set aside two large blocks in the Pixie-Patch for planting.  The first block was planted a few weeks ago.....and this is what I got.
 
 
A few, ....very few corn seedlings. I think the seed I used was dated, and no longer viable...so, armed with a new, larger (more dangerous....since now I will plant the stuff everywhere) packet...
 
 
It was time for me to re-address the problem.  I made new furrows in the soil, carefully trying to avoid the corn that did sprout....
 
 
And painstakingly placed the seeds a good four inches apart....
 
 
Then, I covered each row with two inches of good, organic bagged soil....
 
 
 
We're going to be singing "Can you help me eat my corn" before you know it! I WILL conquer the corn patches this year! Oh, and in case you think it is all doom and gloom in Pixie-land today....get a load of how healthy the broccoli plants are...
 
 
What failure in the kitchen or garden did you turn into a victory?
 
Eat well, my friends, and stay tuned for a new "Something From Nothing" post....and, what I am clearly going to have to call....THE CORN REPORT! Love and kindness to all,
 
Pixie