Category: Healthy Eats
Friday, July 22
The first time I planted tomatoes, the plants died. I’m 99.9999% sure the soil in our garden plot was diseased, so I don’t blame myself entirely. But it still felt like a big failure.
This year I decided to give tomato growing another go. I had several friends tell me they had great success growing tomato plants in pots, so I decided that would be our approach this time. And, so far, so good. No diseased soil. My plants are staked and growing upward. I’ve fertilized every 7-10 days. I’ve taken care of the suckers. And we’ve actually gotten some tomatoes this year (they sure were yummy in the watermelon salad). Woo-hoo!
But then…then…last week, I went to my friend Natalee’s house for dinner and saw THIS on her back porch.
Just to give some perspective, this is my pot of tomatoes compared to Natalee’s.
Left: My ‘Charlie Brown Christmas’ tomato plant. Well-loved, but seriously more of a novelty at this point. Right: Natalee’s organic behemoth of a tomato plant.
Both of our planters only have two tomato plants planted. And they get the same exact sun exposure. And yet, it’s downright stunning how different our plants are. I asked Natalee what in the world she did. She and I are at about the same level of tomato growing expertise, so her bounteous plants give me hope that one day I will be able to to grow decent tomatoes.
- She used an EarthBox garden kit. Natalee swears by this system. It basically allows you to water your plants perfectly and you can grow all kinds of vegetables in them. Natalee bought her EarthBox planters at one of our local nurseries, but you can also buy them online, and you can use them year after year.
- She used a soil that the local nursery recommended highly for growing tomatoes. Apparently that soil has a little pixie dust mixed in because seriously, look at those plants!
That is ALL she did differently than me. The pot was a little different and the soil was tailored for tomato growing. When I first saw the plants, she hadn’t even fertilized them yet, if you can believe it! She’s still planning to fertilize, of course, but, yeah, whatever. Her tomato plants are still knocking my socks off.
Maybe next year I’ll actually get tomato-growing all figured out!
Calling all green thumbs! If you actually know what you are doing with tomato plants, please share your tips!
Thursday, July 21
Last Friday night I did something I haven’t done in a while…I actually picked up a magazine (in this case Martha Stewart Living) and read it cover to cover. And I’ve decided I should do that more often because I was inspired to make a fabulous dinner on Sunday night. Of course, by the end of preparing all the food my sciatic nerve was literally screaming at me and I hobbled around the rest of the night (yes, I’m officially a hobbling pregnant woman…no more heels for me, boo-hoo!), but our dinner was worth the pain.
One of Sunday night’s creations was a Watermelon Salad with Tomato and Cucumber. There was a recipe for this salad featured in the magazine that involved making a fancy basil oil. I’m sure it’s wonderful, but I simplified things a bit in my preparation. I loved the salad – super easy to prepare and the oh-so-summery flavors all blended so nicely together. I wasn’t entirely sure what the girls would think. They love watermelon, and this savory twist on a favorite fruit seemed a bit risky. But I’ll tell you what…every person in the family happily gobbled down the salad! It was a great success! Will definitely be adding this salad to the rotation, at least during the summer when all of these lovely ingredients are fresh and in season!
Watermelon Salad with Tomato and Cucumber
Adapted from a recipe in the August 2011 issue of Martha Stewart Living
- Half a watermelon, cubed (I know, so exact…my watermelon was medium in size)
- 2-3 handfuls of small tomatoes, or 2-3 larger tomatoes sliced into wedges (I used a bunch of baby tomatoes we have growing on the back porch)
- One cucumber, chopped into bite sized pieces
- Olive oil (about 1-2 tablespoons)
- Salt and Pepper
- Fresh Basil, about 5-10 leaves chopped
- Original recipe calls for 4 oz crumbled goat cheese – I left this out because we were having another cheese-based side dish, but also I just wanted straight up produce in the salad
Combine the watermelon, tomatoes and cucumber in a large bowl. Drizzle with olive oil, just enough to cover the fruit and veggies. Sprinkle with the chopped basil, about 1/2 tsp salt and pepper to taste. Toss to coat evenly and serve!
Thursday, July 14
Last week when it was time to put my order in for this week’s CSA bag, garlic made its first appearance on the list of available produce. I have been waiting for this moment. I love fresh garlic. But I HATE buying garlic bulbs at the market that end up being old…you know, you cut into a clove and it’s already sprouted green inside. Which happens probably 90% of the time. It seriously makes me bonkers.
Of course I added garlic to my order as quick as I could. And I picked up my CSA bag yesterday. AND this is what I found:
SO MUCH GARLIC. I am super excited about it, don’t get me wrong…but what am I going to do with all this garlic?
I think this giant bag of garlic is just screaming for a Call for Recipes, don’t you? And this Call for Recipes is also a Call for Tips…as in, if you have good tips for storing garlic or ways to use it up that doesn’t necessarily involve a recipe, please share! And, as always, we love it when you share recipes, too!
I’ll start us off Roasted Garlic Bulbs. Heaven.
So, put your garlic thinking caps on and let’s get this party started.
Tuesday, July 12
No, I’m still pregnant. But we do have a new member of the family…well, of my cutting board family, which continues to multiply like bunnies. I think I may be addicted to beautiful wood cutting boards. Just maybe. Anyway, I spotted this beauty at the Ferry Building a few weeks ago and knew I had to get it. We needed a small cutting board – the one we had was yucky and cracked. Plus, I knew that every time I would use this, it would make me happy. And I was right. You can’t put a price on that!
The board is made by Russell James Ooms from Walnut Grove, CA. He is a cabinetmaker/woodworker who saves the cut-offs from commissioned work and combines that with found wood to make these cutting boards. The shop where I found this board was also selling big, beautiful mosaic cutting boards that Ooms makes (you can click here to see a sample). BUT…I didn’t need a big board, so I resisted. See, I do have self-control!
Doesn’t the board look absolutely stunning paired with mango?
Which leads us to topic #2. My dear friend Liz commented on Sunday sharing a great technique for cutting mangoes. Nate and I have tried so many different ways of cutting up mango I’m surprised we never thought of this one…especially since this is how I “chop” avocados.
You cut off the wide sides, cut a grid into the fruit, without cutting through the skin, then scoop the fruit out with a knife. Genius!
The core portion still has plenty of yummy fruit on it, so I cut the skin off around the edge and then just sort of hacked off the remaining fruit.
I have to say, the spoon is more blunt than a knife, so the pieces were a little mushier and I feel like I get closer to the skin when I cut slices and then cut the fruit out with a knife. BUT…it really was MUCH faster to cut it this way, which is good when you’re hungry and/or pregnant. Plus, it felt a little safer and more in control since these slippery little buggers can be downright dangerous when you introduce a sharp knife to the mix!
Thursday, June 23
This week I did something in the kitchen I’ve never done before: I shelled fresh peas. I remember clearly a picture book from my childhood where a little girl who lives in the mountains shells peas with her grandmother on the back porch. That scene is so clear in my mind, soaked in nostalgia, what I perceived as the perfect childhood pastime. For whatever reason, however, fresh peas in the pod have never crossed my path, whether on a back porch in Appalachia or in my own kitchen!
Last week we received a bag of English peas in our CSA bag. I was super excited to eat super fresh peas, to see if it made a difference in flavor. So, on Sunday, I set to work!
First off, shelling them was actually kind of fun and satisfying…just what I thought it would be years ago reading that story as a child. BUT…you have to shell a LOT of pods to get not-so-very-many peas. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!
Secondly, they did taste better. I mean, they’re still peas. If you don’t like peas, then fresh or frozen, you’re probably not going to fall in love. They tasted how I expected, maybe just a bit fresher. But the real advantage is the texture was better, crisper, fresh.
It’s official: freshly shelled peas are great!
If you like peas…
And if you don’t mind manual labor…
But really, they’re great!
As always, feel free to share any pea recipes you love!
Tuesday, June 7
We haven’t done a real honest-to-goodness Call for Recipes in ages. It’s about time, don’t you think? I love getting you all to share your favorite recipes and I really should make you do it more often!
I have a big old bag of green beans sitting in my fridge from last week’s CSA bag. They want to be eaten, and they want to be eaten well. I usually just steam green beans then sauté them with olive oil, salt and pepper. It’s delicious. But today I was thinking, green beans have so much more potential!
So let’s tap into that potential, folks. Summer is here. Green beans are too (or will be soon!). Share your best most favorite recipes with green beans or your favorite way to prepare them. Nate loves green beans, so I have a feeling he’s going to be very happy with today’s post!
P.S. If your recipe involves a can or frozen bag of green beans, bring it on! We are equal opportunity green beaners around here.
Wednesday, June 1
When I went to college in Boston a while ago, there was an Italian restaurant called Vinny Testa’s (I frequented the locations on Boylston Street and in Lexington). Vinny Testa’s was similar in style to Buca di Bepo, except not a national chain, so automatically more awesome. I think maybe the best thing they served was roasted garlic bulbs with bread. The first time I saw those bulbs I thought, “What the?!?” But I tried it. And it was seriously amazing. For some reason you think the garlic will be overpowering and strong, but it’s surprisingly not and is in fact divine.
Side note: I think Vinny Testa’s might be closed. Can you Bostonians fill me in? I have a sneaking suspicion their roasted garlic bulbs will now forever be a memory.
This weekend we went to Monterey for a day trip and, on the drive home, we stopped in Gilroy to buy cherries. And of course I had to buy some garlic, it is the garlic capitol after all. With four garlic cloves on my hands this week I decided it was the perfect time to try out roasting some bulbs on my own! And the result was fantastic…Cate was seriously sitting at the dinner table last night after all the bread was gone salivating and chanting in a low, obsessed voice, “Garlic, garlic, garlic.”
It is SUPER easy to make and such a great side to serve with dinner. Your house (and your breath) will probably smell pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty garlicky (any Larry David fans in the house?), but it will be worth it! Spread this garlic on your bread and you will be eating hands-down the best garlic bread ever.
I tried roasting the garlic two ways – wrapped in foil and not wrapped in foil.
As you can see, the bulb that was not wrapped in foil went kind of nutso…beyond caramelized, the bulbs popping out of the bulb. It also cooked much faster this way.
I personally liked the bulb cooked in foil better. The taste wasn’t different, but I felt like the cooking was more controlled, albeit a little slower. You still get a bit of caramelization on top, but all the bulbs behave themselves. Here’s a side-by-side, cooked with no foil on the left (after I cut the crazy tops off) and cooked in foil on the right.
Roasted Garlic Bulbs
- Garlic bulbs (as many as you think you’ll eat…probably two small or one large is enough for several people at a meal)
- Olive oil
Peel off the papery outside of the garlic bulb, leaving the cloves in tact and their individual skins attached.
Cut off the top of the bulb so the cloves are exposed, probably about 1/2″ or so. Sometimes you get a few bulbs around the outside that are too low to make the cut, so I just cut their tops off individually.
If you are going to cook the garlic in foil, place the bulb in a piece of foil, then slowly drizzle olive oil all over the bulb, letting it seep down into the cloves. Wrap the foil around the garlic and place on a baking pan or dish.
If you are not going to use foil, place bulb on a baking dish and drizzle slowly with oil as described above.
Bake garlic in a 400-degree oven for approximately 30 minutes in foil or 20 minutes if not in foil. You basically cook the garlic until the cloves are nice and soft.
Let cool a bit then serve with a knife. Dig the cloves out of the bulb with the knife then spread on your bread.
You could also use the roasted garlic for cooking (think sauces, vegetables, the possibilities are endless!).
Tuesday, May 3
I’ve tried to convince you to like beets before, and I’m not going to stop until I get at least one of you beet haters on the beet bandwagon. As a beet convert myself, I know it’s possible. And, today, I’m going to make it even easier for the beet haters to give them another try.
Here’s the secret: eat golden beets. I don’t even know where you can find them because I found them in my CSA bag the week before Easter. But all of you (beet haters and lovers alike!) should try to find fresh, in-season, golden beets sometime. The flavor is milder and, well, just plain yummy. (I think the food magazines are knocking on my door after that amazing description.)
Before I get you thinking golden beets don’t taste like beets, they do. And, I’ll be straight with you…the non-beet lovers at the Easter feast did not gobble these beauties up. But the non-beet lovers did admit these beets are better than your average, run-of-the mill red beet. I consider that success.
Plus, they’re gorgeous. Seriously. My camera ate them up almost as enthusiastically as I did.
Roasted Beet Salad with Spinach and Goat Cheese
From Jane Maynard, Inspired by Cafe Borrone
- Beets (golden if you can find them)
- Goat cheese
- Your favorite salad dressing…Girard’s Champagne dressing is awesome with this salad
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Cut the greens and ends off of the beets and wrap each beet in some foil. Place in a roasting pan. Roast 40-60 minutes, until beets are pierced easily with a sharp knife. Let cool a bit, then peel of the skins.
Slice beets then top with spinach, crumbled goat cheese and salad dressing.
Friday, April 29
Last week we spent a day in Yosemite with Nate’s parents. (It was beyond breathtaking, by the way.) On the way home, we drove through California’s Central Valley (you know, one of the world’s best spots for growing food). We passed acres and acres of fields and orchards. On the particular road we were on, there were a gazillion almond trees. Here are a few unripe almonds from some of those trees. Aren’t they pretty?
None of us had ever seen an almond tree. We were intrigued. You could tell the fruit was in its early stages and Nate’s mom, Pat, was dying to hop out of the car to get a closer look. We finally found a spot where it was safe to pull over. As the car came to a stop, we noticed a “Beware of Dog” sign on a fence surrounding the orchard’s farmhouse. It was a few yards off and we kind of figured it was more of a sign to scare people. Nate’s mom hesitated before getting out, but we told her, “It will be fine. Go ahead!” So, she hops out of the car and walks to the nearest tree.
As her hand reaches out to feel what the almonds are like, we suddenly hear barking. We are all surprised. Yeah, we saw the sign. But still. Really? There is an actual dog to beware of? Nate’s mom sort of starts to panic. With only inches to go before her hand will reach the forbidden fruit, we all see it. The dog. It’s small, but scrappy, and has a fierce bark. And he’s running our way. Fast. Pat tears for the car, all the while yelling, “I’m just going to look at them! I’m not picking them!” For some reason, the dog didn’t listen.
Did you know that mini van doors close slowly? Well, they do. Thankfully, it closed just before the dog got to us.
As we drove away, laughing hysterically, I asked Pat, still recovering with adrenaline coursing through her veins, what the almonds felt like. “I don’t know, I didn’t even touch them!” Of course we laughed harder.
A mile or two down the road we saw a fabulous produce stand, surrounded by almond trees. We stopped to buy some nuts. Nate and Pat recounted the close call with the dog to the woman who owned the market. She told them they were more than welcome to look at her almonds and even pick a few to look at more closely. She wouldn’t even sic any dogs on us.
Thanks to Pat’s persistence and bravery, we all got a close-up look of an early-stage almond. And we all learned a lesson. If an orchard has a “Beware of Dog” sign, probably best to beware!
Tuesday, April 26
A while back I shared a video showing how to make 60-second Brussels sprouts (thanks once again to my culinarily-geniused friend Lindsay for sharing that with me so long ago). The idea behind the recipe is that you slice the brussel sprouts thinly, allowing them to cook quickly (hence the 60 seconds), which keeps the sulfur from emerging and stinking things up.
Nate’s parents were here for Easter and Nate’s dad loves Brussels sprouts. Pat was telling me how her niece Morrigan recently roasted Brussels sprouts with maple syrup, and that they were deeeeee-licious. I then told Pat about this quick cooking technique, which she had never tried. We decided to combine the two ideas and created a very delicious side dish for our Easter feast last week.
It’s quick, it’s easy, and the subtle sweetness of the maple syrup complements the flavor of the Brussels sprouts really nicely. I may never use lemon again!
60-Second Maple Brussels Sprouts
- 15-20 Brussels sprouts
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup (the real stuff!)
- Salt & pepper to taste
To see how to prepare the Brussels sprouts, click here and watch this handy dandy video. Here’s what you do in words: cut the Brussels sprouts in half lengthwise, cut out the core, then thinly slice the sprouts, so it looks like sliced cabbage for coleslaw (see photo above).
Heat the olive oil and butter over high heat in a large skillet, preferably with high sides. Once the pan is hot, add the maple syrup, stir quickly, then add the Brussels sprouts. Cook them for 60 seconds, stirring throughout the cooking time. Remove from heat, season with salt and pepper, then serve immediately.