Tag Archives: local foods

Mashed Cauliflower

mashed cauliflower

I’m just finishing my first CSA box of foods  and decided to make mashed cauliflower accompanied by a salad of my remaining salad greens.

The wonderful thing about cooking with fresh, local foods is you don’t need to do much to make them taste good … they’re at their peak of freshness.

Mixing the lettuce with a dab of your favorite salad dressing is all it takes to make a delicious salad. I used a vinaigrette on this salad. If you’d like to make your own dressing, here’s a quick recipe for an olive oil and vinegar salad dressing.

The mashed cauliflower was also super simple. As I was cooking for just my husband and me, I used only half the cauliflower. Just double the following recipe to use the whole head.

yogurt salsa dip

Yogurt Salsa Dip

I cleaned and separated the total cauliflower into florets and stored the remaining half in a plastic bag in the fridge. It should keep well for at least four days; use by adding to salads, eat as is, or serve with a dip.If you have some salsa and yogurt in your fridge, try combining two parts plain yogurt with one part salsa for quick, flavorful dip (for example, mix 1 cup plain yogurt with 1/2 cup salsa). Or, roast the cauliflower; directions follow below the Mashed Cauliflower recipe. 

Mashed Cauliflower

Mashed Cauliflower

  • Servings: 2 generous servings; double the ingredients to use the whole head
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 1/2 head cauliflower, washed and cut into florets
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1-1/2 tablespoon butter or margarine
  • 1 small clove garlic, minced OR 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • Salt (if desired), to taste
  • 1/4 cup grated cheese (you can use any cheese)

Directions

  1. In a large sauce pan (use a Dutch oven if cooking the entire cauliflower), bring an inch of water to boil.
  2. Add cauliflower; cover and cook for 5 to 10 minutes or until tender. (Test by sticking a fork into the cauliflower.)
  3. Drain the cauliflower and return to the pan. Add the milk, butter or margarine, garlic, pepper and salt. Mash with a potato masher until combined. OR, place the cauliflower and other ingredients (except the cheese) in a mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer. (NOTE: I prefer to stop mixing while the mixture still contains some small chunks of cauliflower than until it is perfectly smooth. This is a matter of personal preference, however.)
  4. Stir in the cheese.

Credit: Recipe developed by Alice Henneman, MS, RDN

Roasted Cauliflower

roasted-cauliflower

Roasted Cauliflower

Roasted Cauliflower

Roasting adds flavor to the cauliflower and reduces the volume slightly. You may be surprised by how much you and family members eat when you roast cauliflower. (NOTE: Just halve the following ingredients if only using half a head.

Ingredients

  • 1 cauliflower head
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
  2. Remove outer leaves of cauliflower. Cut florets off the stem. Wash and drain.
  3. Combine oil, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Toss the cauliflower florets in the oil mixture.
  4. Spread cauliflower on a large rimmed baking sheet.
  5. Roast in the oven at 450 degrees 15-20 minutes until the cauliflower starts to soften and begins to brown.
  6. Sprinkle with cheese. Continue to roast for 5-10 minutes.

Recipe source: University of Maryland Extension. Food Supplement Nutrition Education Program at USDA’s What’s Cooking.

Foods in my CSA share are courtesy of Pekarek’s Produce. 

Salad in a Jar

salad-in-a-jar-new

csa-week-1.jpg

Foods received in my Week 1 CSA box

“Salad in a Jar” seemed perfect for my second recipe this year using local, seasonal foods. My first share of foods for the summer in a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) box from a local farmer included the cauliflower, radish and lettuce used in this recipe.

Local, seasonal fruits and vegetables are at the peak of freshness when purchased either directly from a farm, at a farmers’ market or in a grocery store. Or harvested from your garden.

In my first post, I gave a recipe for a simple lettuce and radish salad dressed with olive oil and vinegar. So none of these fresh, tasty foods goes to waste, I made two Salads in a Jar to enjoy at work this Thursday and Friday.

These salads are so easy to make! You don’t have to use all the ingredients; however, it is very important to put the salad dressing on the bottom followed with a layer of hard, moisture-resistant vegetables to protect the remaining layers from getting soggy.

My salad includes:

  • Salad dressing (I used a vinaigrette)
  • Chopped cauliflower
  • Sliced radishes
  • Black beans (as a source of protein)
  • Shredded cheese
  • Lettuce

Here are the basic ingredients …

Continue reading

Cooking Local Foods – Week 1

 

csa-week-1.png

It’s that time of year again when fresh-from-the-farm foods are available at Farmers’ Markets and through CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) shares.*

For most of the weeks from now until the end of September, I’ll share with you tips and recipes for preparing fresh, locally grown foods. Also, I’ll help you avoid wasting fresh fruits and vegetables through storage and freezing tips, plus give recipe suggestions that help you use every last leaf, stalk, ear, etc.! I’ll be using foods currently in season in Nebraska and provided in a CSA share courtesy of Pekarek’s Produce. 

Here’s how I’m using some of the produce from this week (shown in the top photo) in a salad. I will post more ideas and tips as I continue to enjoy my CSA share.

Last night, as an accompaniment to a pasta meal, I prepared a quick salad, using a technique learned on a recent trip to Spain. Here’s what I did:

  1. I washed and dried the lettuce in a salad spinner (helps remove the water and make salad dressing stick better, plus you can use less dressing AND add fewer calories). Also, I sliced a few of the red radishes.
  2. Each person at the table (last night, it was my husband and me) got a salad bowl with the lettuce and radishes.
  3. Next, each of us added a splash of vinegar followed by a couple of splashes of extra virgin olive oil. Use a ratio of about 1 part vinegar (such as balsamic, sherry, red wine or a fruit-flavored vinegar) to 3 parts olive oil. Eyeball it at about 1 teaspoon vinegar to 3 teaspoons olive oil per about 2 cups of salad. (NOTE: If desired, add a dash of salt at the beginning).
  4. Toss and enjoy!

The benefit of this easy recipe is you control the amount of ingredients plus you don’t have any of those aging bottles of salad dressing in your refrigerator that eventually get tossed! And … you don’t have to mix up a salad dressing in advance. Pretty cool!

If you’d like to take just a little more time and include a few more ingredients, prepare a salad dressing for the total salad using these steps for making an olive oil salad dressing.

Making your own salad dressing


 

*Community Supported Agriculture consists of a community of individuals who pledge support to a farm operation so that the farmland becomes, either legally or spiritually, the community’s farm, with the growers and consumers providing mutual support and sharing the risks and benefits of food production. Typically, members or “share-holders” of the farm or garden pledge in advance to cover the anticipated costs of the farm operation and farmer’s salary. In return, they receive shares in the farm’s bounty throughout the growing season, as well as satisfaction gained from reconnecting to the land and participating directly in food production.  Source: USDA National Agricultural Library

Clean Out the Fridge Potato Salad

Clean Out the Fridge Potato Salad

Have you ever looked in your fridge and found a little bit of this and a little bit of that? And … it should all be used … SOON!

When that happens, I often make potato salad! (Note: Potatoes should be stored in a cool dry place in your house for best quality … not in the refrigerator.)

Follow these quick  “1 … 2 … 3” steps!

  1. After my cooked* potatoes had cooled slightly, I cubed them and  sprinkled them with a bit of apple cider vinegar — for added flavor — while they were still warm.  (Tip: You can leave the skins on young, tender potatoes and Yukon Gold potatoes).
  2. While the potatoes were cooking, I cleaned and prepared the following ingredients from my fridge. Use your own preference as to amounts of ingredients.
    • Red peppers
    • Peas
    • Onions (part of an already cut onion in the fridge)
    • Carrots
    • Radishes
    • Dill
    • Pickle relish
  3. The last step was combining the potatoes and veggies with mayonnaise. Or, use your favorite homemade or purchased potato salad dressing. Then, chill your potato salad for about an hour before serving, to let the flavors meld.

Some other foods you can add to potato salads include:

  • Hard-cooked eggs
  • Celery
  • Cheese
  • Parsley
  • Green pepper
  • Grape or cherry tomatoes (halved)
  • Capers
  • Olives (pitted and sliced)
  • Chives.

* If you’re unsure of how to cook potatoes, use these directions from the Pennsylvania Nutrition Education Program:

  1. Scrub the potatoes, and peel them.
  2. Cut the potatoes into 1-inch cubes.
  3.  Put the potatoes into a saucepan. Cover with water.
  4. Bring the potatoes to a boil on medium heat.
  5. Let the potatoes simmer for 15 minutes until they’re soft.
  6. Drain the hot water, and let the potatoes cool.

Celebrating National Farmers Market Week

My purchases at my local Farmers' Market this week

My purchases at my local Farmers’ Market this week

August 3 – 9 is National Farmers Market Week! If you’ve never visited a Farmers Market, this is a great week to check one out! A variety of fruits and veggies are in season.

This is one of my favorite recipes that I look forward to making every summer.

Tomato Basil Bruschetta

Tomato Basil Bruschetta

Tomato Basil Bruschetta

 ingredients

  • 8 ripe Roma (plum) tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 red onion, Spanish onion or sweet onion, chopped
  • 6 to 8 fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 loaf Italian or French bread, cut into 1/2 inch diagonal slices

directions

  1. Combine tomatoes, garlic, onion, basil and olive oil in a bowl. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste.
  2. Arrange bread on a baking sheet in a single layer. Bake about 5 to 7 minutes until it begins to brown slightly.
  3. Remove bread from oven and transfer to a serving platter.
  4. Serve the tomato mixture in a bowl with a serving spoon and let everyone help themselves. Or place some on each slice of bread before serving. If adding the tomato mixture yourself, add it at the last minute or the bread may become soggy.

alice’s notes

If you’re short on time, the tomato topping (minus the basil) can be made earlier in the day and refrigerated. Wait until you’re ready to turn on the oven for the bread before chopping and adding the basil. Set mixture aside at room temperature while the bread is toasting.

So … check out a Farmers Market. You’ll be glad you did! The U.S. Department of Agriculture has compiled a list of Farmers Markets through the United States that may help you locate a market near you.

Old Cheney Road Farmers Market, Lincoln, NE

Old Cheney Road Farmers Market, Lincoln, NE

 

 

Hear! Hear! for Fresh Herbs

Basil

Basil growing outside my front door … ahhh!

“An herb is the friend of  physicians and the praise of cooks.” ~Charlemagne

If you’d like to “garden” but feel you don’t have room, try planting herbs. They’re  like mini-vegetables, easily grown in a pot, and very forgiving if you occasionally neglect them.

Best yet, they add flavor and color to foods without adding sugar and fat calories or salt. Here’s a potato I “nuked” in the microwave and topped with yogurt, presented with and without chopped chives. That little sprinkle of green makes all the difference in appearance and flavor!

baked potato with and without chives

A sprinkling of herbs adds color and flavor.

Looking for a spot for growing herbs? They need at least 6 hours of direct sunlight daily. No place to plant? Put them in a pot.

Thyme growing in a pot

Thyme is a hardy perennial herb and looks beautiful grown in a pot.

Add a little extra color by combining herbs with a flower that requires the same amount of sunlight, type of soil, and watering schedule. Check with your local Cooperative Extension office or garden store for more information about plants that go together well in your area. Find your local Extension office at this link: http://www.csrees.usda.gov/Extension/

parsley and straw flowers

Italian (flat-leaf) parsley and straw flowers combined in a pot.

Cooking with Fresh Herbs

For best quality, fresh herbs can be stored in a perforated plastic bag in your refrigerator crisper drawer for about a week. Perforated plastic bags (bags with small holes in them) allow some air to move in and out of the bag yet retain most of the moisture in the bag. This helps prevent condensation within the bag and reduces shriveling. Either purchase perforated bags or follow these directions from University of Wisconsin Extension to make  a perforated bag:

“You can make holes using a standard paper punch or a sharp object such as a pen, pencil, or knife. Punch holes approximately every 6 inches through both sides of the bag. If using a knife to create the openings, make two cuts — in an ‘X’ shape — for each hole to ensure good air circulation.”

Wash herbs in a clean colander under running water, tossing them around so all surfaces are rinsed well. Consumer Reports recommends, “If greens are particularly dirty, loosen dirt and sand by swishing them in a clean bowl of water (not the sink), then rinsing.” I like to use the removable strainer basket from my salad spinner for washing herbs. And, then use the basket to spin my herbs dry in my salad spinner.

Wash herbs under running water

Wash herbs under running water just before using them.

Pat herbs dry with paper towels or use a salad spinner. Before buying a salad spinner, give it a spin at the store to test if it spins easily.

Drying herbs in a salad spinner

Drying herbs in a salad spinner.

A quick way to cut herbs is with a kitchen scissors. For some dishes, you can cut the herb directly over the food itself.

snipping chives

Snipping chives with a kitchen scissors.

Some general guidelines for cooking with fresh herbs are:

  •  Use three times as much as of a dried herb. For example, if a recipe called for 1 teaspoon of a dried herb, use about 3 teaspoons of a fresh herb. The drying process reduces the size of dried herbs, making their flavor more concentrated.
  • Add more delicate herbs a minute or two before the end of cooking or sprinkle on food just before it is served. Examples include basil, chives, dill leaves, parsley, and mint.
  • Less delicate herbs can be added about the last 20 minutes of cooking. Examples include oregano, rosemary, thyme, and sage.
Basil added to a cooked food

Add more delicate herbs, such as basil, a minute or two before the end of cooking or sprinkle on the food just before serving.

For many recipes, it’s not important to be exact with the amount of an herb. Just sprinkle in a little for color and flavor.  Popular herb and food combinations include:

  • Basil: A natural snipped in with tomatoes; terrific in fresh pesto; other possibilities include pasta sauce, peas, zucchini
  • Chives: Dips, potatoes, tomatoes
  • Mint: Carrots, fruit salads, parsley, peas, tabbouleh, tea
  • Oregano: Peppers, tomatoes
  • Parsley: The curly leaf is the most common, but the flat-leaf or Italian parsley is more strongly flavored and often preferred for cooking. Naturals for parsley include potato salad, tabbouleh, egg salad sandwiches
  • Rosemary: Chicken, fish, lamb, pork, roasted potatoes, soups, stews, tomatoes
  • Thyme: Eggs, lima beans, potatoes, poultry, summer squash, tomatoes
melon and mint

Add a pop of mint to dress up a fruit salad.

“If the day and the night are such that you greet them with joy, and life emits a fragrance like flowers and sweet-scented herbs, is more elastic, more starry, more immortal- that is your success.” ~Henry David Thoreau

sage and coneflowers

Sage and coneflowers grace the table at an outdoor meal.

(For a printer-friendly copy of this information, use the “Print & PDF” button in the “Share this” section below this post. You can choose to remove images and parts of the post and also determine print size.)

References

Storing Fruits and Vegetables from the Home Garden. Roper, T., Delahaut, K., and Ingham, B., University of Wisconsin Extension. Retrieved 8/5/2012 at http://learningstore.uwex.edu/assets/pdfs/A3823.pdf

ShopSmart Helps You Avoid Dangerous Food-Prep and Storage Mistakes. Consumer Reports. (6/12/2012) Retrieved 8/11/2012 at http://pressroom.consumerreports.org/pressroom/2012/06/my-entry-1.html

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Fresh Peaches – The Slice Is Right

“Life is better than death, I believe, if only because it is less boring and it has fresh peaches in it.” ~Alice Walker, author

It was love at first bite when I sampled the peaches at the farmers market.

After I brought them home, I started googling for peach recipes. Then … I thought, why try to improve on perfection. I simply peeled and sliced them. I added a little Fruit-Fresh (R) Produce Protector according to the directions on the container to keep them from browning. Mixing in a small amount of citrus juice (lemon juice, orange juice, etc.) would also help prevent browning.

Fresh sliced peaches – the slice is right!

Caring for Fresh Peaches

For the perfect peach:

  • Avoid buying green, brownish, or wrinkled peaches, or peaches that are very soft, or with large bruises or signs of decay. Hard, green peaches will never ripen properly.
  • Handle peaches gently to prevent bruising.
  • Determine if a peach is ripe by checking if it is firm but yields to gentle pressure and has a strong, sweet smell. A reddish “bloom” on the peach isn’t a sure sign the peach is ripe. Look for a deep yellow or creamy white under color.
  • Store peaches in a single layer at room temperature, out of sunlight.
  • Ripen peaches by putting them in a loosely closed paper bag at room temperature. Check daily. They should ripen in one to three days. Do NOT use plastic bags to ripen peaches.
  • Store ripe peaches in the refrigerator up to one week in a perforated plastic bag to prevent water from condensing on the inside of the bag and causing storage rot. The University of Wisconsin Extension gives the following directions for making your own perforated bags: “You can make holes using a standard paper punch or a sharp object such as a pen, pencil, or knife. Punch holes approximately every 6 inches through both sides of the bag. If using a knife to create the openings, make two cuts — in an ‘X’ shape — for each hole to ensure good air circulation.”
  • Wash peaches just before eating or cutting them. Washing peaches before storing may promote bacterial growth and speed up spoilage. Wash peaches under running water, rubbing the peach gently with your hands. Do not use use detergent as this may affect taste and safety.
  • Quickly skin several peaches by dipping a few peaches at a time in boiling water for 30 to 60 seconds. Plunge into cold water and slip off the skins.Use immediately or toss with citrus juice or use a commercial ascorbic acid mixture, such as Fruit-Fresh (R) Produce Protector. Place in a covered bowl in the refrigerator and use that day.

(For a printer-friendly copy of this information, use the “Print & PDF” button in the “Share this” section below this post. You can choose to remove images and parts of the post and also determine print size.)

References

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Sweet and Simple Sweet Corn

Fresh-from-the-field sweet corn purchased at Old Cheney Road Farmers Market, Lincoln, Nebraska.

Sweet corn time is one of my favorite times of the year. Just shuck, boil, and eat for one of the tastiest foods on the planet.

Some people who grow sweet corn start the water boiling before they pick the corn to capture the best of its sweet flavor! While we don’t have sweet corn growing in our back yard, buying it from our local farmers market is the next best thing.

If you can’t eat sweet corn immediately when you get home, store it in the refrigerator and eat it as soon as possible, preferably that day. If you wait too long, its sugar turns to starch and that special sweetness is gone.

If you must store sweet corn … refrigerate it, still in the husk, in a perforated plastic bag. To make your own perforated bag, just punch holes into a plastic bag with a sharp object … for example, use a small paring knife to carefully poke holes (about 20 holes per medium-size bag).

Boiling Corn on the Cob

Boiling sweet corn

I boil my corn in a pasta pot and use my strainer insert for easy removal. A long-handled tongs also works well.

Start a large pot of unsalted water boiling while you remove the husks and silk. Use enough water to cover the corn. Place the corn in the boiling water, cover, and return to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and cook for 3 – 5 minutes or until tender.

Testing corn tenderness with a sharp knife.

Testing corn tenderness by removing an ear and and poking it with a sharp knife.

How Sweet It Is!

Dinner on the deck along with something from the grill and a side salad was never sweeter … or simpler!

eating sweet corn

My husband and I enjoy brushing our sweet corn with a little olive oil. Perfect!

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