Sunday, October 31, 2010

Fall Flavors Highlighted

Yesterday was a wonderful day focused on me!  I didn't do any chores, grade any assignments, or rake any leaves (although they do need raking).  If I didn't do any of that necessary stuff, how could I possibly have passed the time you ask?  There was a good workout, a great hour of yoga, a wonderful hour massage, a couple hours putzing in the kitchen, and lovely visiting time with friends.  Can a woman really take a day that is relaxing and allows her to recover from the week without guilt?  Yes!  Do it my friends!

See full size imageI have a lot of perfect fall vegetables in the house right now, and when I was planning yesterday's dinner, I was focused on using a lovely Kambucha squash, I'd picked up.  Now, I view almost all winter squash as interchangeable as long as you keep in mind some are sweeter or have more water than others.  The Kambucha has the most wonderful deep orange flavor; it's wonderfully sweet, without any added sweetness; and it has a low water content.  I found the perfect recipe, and then of course, changed it a bit!

Last nights dinner really highlighted many perfect fall flavors for me.  It started with a wonderful salad.  I had pears, toasted walnuts, and blue cheese over spinach.  I made a quick Dijon vinaigrette.  And then, I moved on to this Butternut Squash & Roasted Garlic Crostata with Parmesan-Herb Cornmeal Crust.

I found this recipe on the Hungry Cravings blog.  I mostly followed the recipe, but I added a couple cups of sliced Swiss Chard to the roasted butternut squash, before piling it onto the dough.  I do believe almost anything can be improved with added Swiss Chard or Kale!

Do you have kitchen tools that seem unused?  The below scraper has been one of those tools for me.  I usually scoop up the chopped vegetables with my hand or slide them off the cutting board, forgetting to get out these scrapers to scoop them up.  But, as I make more Crostata type things I find this is the perfect tool for slipping under rolled dough to flip the dough over the edges of filling.  Phew, I knew I'd find a use for the scraper that has been in my drawer for 4 years now!

Now ... you guessed it.... I'm off to grade assignments and rake leaves.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Dinner Alone

Joe has been busy lately, as he's started teaching one night a week and then there is hunting and various other activities, so I've been enjoying some dinners alone.  Many of you know I am very lucky.  Joe is great about eating whatever I make and has very few things he doesn't like.  He'll even happily eat meatless meals.  But I do feel guilty sometimes as I do not seem to need meat nearly as often and am quite happy without it.

So, I will share some of my recent meals, of which, many of you will say really?  Where's the meat?  But I adored them! I didn't follow any recipes so will just have to make up names and give general directions.

Chard, Squash, and White Bean Bake
Last night, I looked in my vegetable drawer and started chopping.  I already had some peeled butternut squash, which I could eat every day!  I then lightly sauteed some shallot, garlic, and the stems of the swiss chard, and softened just briefly the chopped swiss chard leaves.  All of this came from our garden!  I mixed the squash, onion and chard, about 1/4 cup of rinsed white beans, salt, pepper, and Parmesan cheese together. Look at those bright colors before putting it in the oven at 350 for about 40 minutes and the wonderful caramelized yumminess after.

Winter Green Fig Salad
Next, you will remember the figs I alluded to in the previous post. They were the highlight of a lovely salad earlier this week.  A very simple light dinner. Using the winter greens growing on my deck full of wonderful hearty flavors like kale and beat greens, I topped the greens simply with a light dressing made of oil, honey, and cinnamon; some cottage cheese and the glorious figs.

I think I'm headed out to cut some of those winter greens for lunch!

Thursday, October 21, 2010


Buying fruits and vegetables is getting complicated for me, which is a little disheartening for someone that eats a large amount of fruits and vegetables. This past Saturday I was excited about the last farmers market in Salt Lake City and entered prepared to spend some money on the fall fruits and vegetables I could store until January or so.  But then I started asking the question I'd been avoiding for a couple years now... "Are your apples organic?"

The only organic apples I found.....

It turns out I walked away from the farmers market with one bag of produce, a little sad, and serious questions in my head.  What was my priority, local, organic, or seasonal?  And why was that my priority? 

For many years I have chosen local and seasonal over organic, but based on the data, it seems like these need to work together.  The EWG (Environmental Working Group) has been putting out a list of the foods with the most pesticides since 1995, the current list gives us the following information.  EWG Shoppers Guide - You can get the guide at this website. 

My decision, even though I want to support local farmers, I can't do that and ignore what I'm putting in my own body.  I'll buy what I can in Utah in summer, but it looks like my trips to SLC in winter are going to include a cooler. I'll be buying many vegetables and fruits outside of (carrots, celery, spinach, and apples - the only ones I can get in Green River) at Whole Foods 2 1/2 hours away.

Dirty Dozen: The foods with the highest amounts of pesticides that you should buy organic or probably not eat.
  1. Celery (What does dirty mean? 2,953 celery pieces were sampled.  95% tested positive with detectable pesticides and some samples had up to 13 different pesticides on them!)
  2. Peaches
  3. Strawberries
  4. Apples
  5. Blueberries
  6. Nectarines
  7. Bell Peppers
  8. Spinach
  9. Kale
  10. Cherries
  11. Potatoes
  12. Grapes (Imported)
Thankfully, I can find organic celery, apples, spinach, and carrots (#15 on the worst foods list) in my store all winter.  We grow a lot of kale in summer.  I've also frozen a bunch to go in soups and stews.

The Clean 15: The foods that always have very low pesticide rates and are safe to eat non organic.
  1. Onions (What does safe mean? 1,482 onions were sampled and only .20% were found to have pesticides and no more than 1 pesticide was found on the sample.)
  2. Avocado
  3. Sweet Corn
  4. Pineapple
  5. Mangos
  6. Sweet Peas
  7. Asparagus
  8. Kiwi
  9. Cabbage
  10. Eggplant
  11. Cantaloupe
  12. Watermelon
  13. Grapefruit
  14. Sweet Potato
  15. Honeydew Melon
I'm just passing on this information.  We all have to make our own decisions based on what is available to us and what we are willing to pay.  I'm guessing most of you have a much larger organic section to choose from than I in mid-winter, and hopefully a farmers market closer than 2 1/2 hours away that has organic produce all summer.  Hmmm ... that just makes me jealous and even more certain that there is a large greenhouse in my future.

To end on an upbeat note, I went through a phase a couple years ago of trying a new different fruit or vegetable each week and Figs came out as my favorite.  If you haven't tried real, fresh figs pay the money and "just do it"!  These were my last figs of the summer and I'd already eaten 1/2 the container when I took the picture.  Shhhhh, don't tell Joe, because I probably won't share!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Football and baking

You may know that I find football and baking to be the best combo for a Sunday afternoon. And after the Badgers womped on the buckeyes yesterday how could I not be in the mood for a little more football?  Add that to a cool cloudy day with Joe off hunting, when I asked myself what do "you" want to do today I knew this was my afternoon activity.  So, I was focused and got my students grading done and a few other odds and ends in the morning, so I could have fun in the afternoon.

That being said, it was a sad football day for me.  Bad luck with the Pack and injuries this year!  :(   So I switched mid-afternoon to Top Chef repeats in the background, while I cooked.  The perfect fall day called for a perfect fall meal and since I was lucky enough to pick up an organic chicken at Whole Foods the day before we had:  Roasted chicken with roasted butternut squash and onions on top of a brown rice and quinoa pilaf, topped with a Walnut Apple Pear Pie.

I do love butternut squash.  I grew up more with acorn squash, but that is hard to peel!  Butternut squash is so easy to peel and cut up, so one can use it in so many more ways.  I remember one time I had people over and I was spreading the precut squash on the pan to roast and they all thought I was putting cubed cheese in the oven....but nobody asked why!

The chicken was perfect, but of course, I forgot to take a picture of it whole.  :)  So a picture of how caramelized the onions and squash looked with the pilaf and just a bit of chicken will have to do. 

The crust is whole wheat but the walnuts gave it amazing flavor and even more color.  Joe prefers crumble pie topping to a 2 crust pie.  It's not very sweet, but that allows the flavors of walnuts, apple, and pear to really shine.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Fall 2

I just can't stop enjoying my surroundings this week.  I know it's fall, I mean I made a batch of chili last night for Joe to take hunting, which means fall right?  But, the weather is so amazing.  I took a mid-day walk yesterday with the dog we are pet sitting and these are the lovely fall views along the Green River here in town.

While attempting to enjoy what we have right now.... you should know secretly I am rejoicing because there is snow in the mountains!

I promise, back to food posts this weekend!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Fall Views

I have to say I love fall, many of you know it's my favorite time of year, but I really love where we live in fall.  First, it's always a surprise how early a freeze affects the garden.  We know it could happen, yet we are never ready.  This year it was the first week of September!  But that freeze was followed with possibly the most perfect September ever, so all is forgiven.

This post is about the views we have.  Of course they are the same views we have all year around, but the direction of the sun and the clouds in fall really make me notice our surroundings even more.  I've found myself wanting to take pictures of the sky and hills lately.

The following picture is something I see every time I drive through town.  The sky on this particular day is a sky I heard a friend refer to once as a "toy story" sky.  I love that term.  It's so blue with perfect clouds, almost like it's fake.

The next sky is a rare cloudy day of the same mountains.

And following is a picture from this past Sunday as I worked in the garden I share with a good friend.  I am very jealous of the view from her backyard and enjoy it as much as possible when working in the garden.  Sunday was the perfect fall day for outside work and I took full advantage of it, working in our yard and both gardens, including getting the shallots and garlic planted for next year!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

French Fries

Yes, you heard me right I made homemade steak fries tonight.  No, I didn't fry them - no, I don't even own a fryer.  That may be the only kitchen tool I have no desire to own.  But, they were pretty good.

A friend dropped by some potatoes from her garden and two of them made great steak fries tonight.  The key to baked fries is patience.... I find cooking in general is a good way for me to practice patience, and since that is an area I always have to practice..... well it's good I like cooking!

In addition to patience, don't skimp too much on the oil and don't cut them too thick.  A trick I've found is to microwave the bowl of fries just a little, I did 30 seconds, stir, and another 30 seconds.  This just seems to start the cooking in the middle, the danger of a hot oven is it can cook the outside of your homemade fries before the inside is done.  Then I baked them at 400 degrees for almost 1/2 hour.  Turn as needed and be patient! 

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The power of sun, blue skies, and new ideas.

 This past weekend I fully enjoyed the Teton Wellness Festival with my friend Kim.  It was held in Jackson Hole and Jackson was amazing, with lots of color in the trees, temperatures in the high 70's and blue skies.  We managed to balance great food, fresh air and walking, and the interesting sessions from the festival.  I find it's always good to stretch my mind in new directions and wonder, "could that work?".

Above, an amazing autumn festival only blocks from where we were staying, the perfect way to relax in the sun for a couple hours in between sessions.

Below, the sunset as we drove home Sunday night was amazing, almost as if to say,
"thanks for coming up - have a good week".