Baby Greens & Roasted Beet Salad

  
The busier I get, the more simply I find myself eating. I keep certain staples on hand, and, these days (and with the abundance of fresh organic produce Asheville and western NC has to offer) it’s lots of roasted veggies. Beets are one of my favorites, and they star in this super healthy salad. 
Ingredients:

  • organic baby greens (they’re all good, so take your pick)
  • thinly sliced onion
  • roasted beets, chilled and cut in bite sized pieces
  • raw pecans, chopped
  • balsamic vinaigrette (see below)
  • drizzle of sriracha (optional)

Method:

Add all ingredients to the bowl, and use your judgment for how much of each you want. My only recommendation is to make sure you have plenty of greens to balance out the other things. Oh, and don’t overdress the salad! Go slowly and mix gently as to not badly bruise the greens. 

Balsamic Vinaigrette:

  • 1 cup good olive oil
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon honey or agave (for vegan option)
  • 2 cloves minced garlic

Method:

Combine all ingredients in a mason jar or other tightly lidded vessel and shake, shake, shake. Refrigerate leftovers. (By the way, this dressing is a super marinade.)

See how easy that was? Now you’ll know what to do with those leftover beets. Happy and healthy eating!

Homemade Local Blueberry Jam

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What does one do with a massive bag of freshly picked summer blueberries? Sorbet? Sure. Frozen and dropped into a glass of Champagne? Absolutely. Blended into a fancy schmancy BBQ sauce? Sign me up. Cooked into  the perfect jam? YES. Today, I vote for jam!

This is the second post in the “It’s UnCANny…” series, and making homemade fruit jams are a fantastic and simple way to break free from the store-bought stuff.

To make this summery-sweet blueberry jam, you’ll need:

  • 6 cups of fresh blueberries, washed and picked of stems
  • 3 cups sugar

I realize I use a lot less sugar than a lot of jam recipes out there, but perfectly ripe berries are sweet enough on their own. Feel free to up the sugar ante if you’d like.

Method:

Using your favorite heavy saucepan or enameled cast iron pot (my personal preference), place the berries first and then the sugar. 

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Over a low heat and while stirring, cook the mixture until the sugar dissolves.

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In about five minutes, it should look like this.

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Turn the heat up to high and bring to a boil.

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Boil until the mixture coats the back of a spoon. This batch took about 10 minutes.

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Enjoy the taste of summer.

Until next time…

Jenna

 

Fall Comfort Food: Roasted Butternut Squash Alfredo

Roasted Butternut Squash Alfredo

The farmer’s market is currently packed with fall favorites. This is prime roasting season and, much like people go bonkers for pumpkin everything as soon as October hits, my heart goes pitter patter for butternut squash in November! Last Saturday, I did a double take at the most gorgeous butternut babies perfectly arranged on a rustically rickety wooden table and nearly tripped over my own feet to get there. Without flinching, I threw money down on the table, snatched my squash baby, and headed for my car in a dreamlike state considering all the culinary possibilities. The squash was my oyster. Thank goodness I opted for the autopilot option.

Then it hit me: roasted butternut squash alfredo! Cheesy, creamy, squashy, yummy…

My friend, Celeste, is a butternut aficionado and was our dinner guest. (She’s pretty much our guest every time she’s in town. We love her.)  And, short of me smacking her hand every time she tried to steal a piece of hot squash from the oven, she awarded this dish the Celeste Seal of Approval.

So, for this super flexible recipe, you’ll need:

  • 2-3 pound fresh butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cubed
  • Canola oil
  • 5 tablespoons organic unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup organic 2% milk (you could use whole, too)
  • 2 cups, preferably homemade, organic chicken stock or broth (see my stock recipe here)
  • 1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • A splash’s worth of organic cream or half and half
  • Cracked black pepper
  • Sea salt
  • Fresh grated nutmeg (optional)

Method:

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Toss the cubed butternut squash with a tablespoon of canola oil, a nice pinch of sea salt, cracked black pepper to taste, and a smidge of fresh grated nutmeg if you so choose. (I didn’t have any in my pantry, so I didn’t include it this time.) Line an oven-safe vessel with parchment paper and lay out the squash in a single layer.

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Roast the squash for about 30 minutes until it starts browning. Caramelization is your friend.

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Next, get out a nice heavy pot; I prefer to use enameled cast iron. (Actually, I always prefer these.) It’s time to make a roux! This is just a fancy way of saying to melt the 5 tablespoons of butter over medium heat and vigorously whisk in the 2 tablespoons of flour until you get a smooth paste. (For my gluten-free friends, try white rice flour.) This is what will begin to thicken the sauce. Cook this roux for 3-4 minutes while whisking constantly.

Now add the cup of milk and 2 cups of chicken stock (For my vegetarian friends, use veggie stock). Keep whisking and bring this all to a gentle simmer for 5 minutes. It should slightly thicken. Add more liquid (more stock or water would be fine) if it’s too pasty.

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Now it’s time to add the roasted butternut squash. You should have about 5-6 cups, give or take, of the roasted veggie. It doesn’t have to be exact. Be gentle! I don’t want you splashing hot liquid all over yourself and saying I told you to do it.

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Hopefully, you have an immersion blender handy because this’ll make your life really easy. If not, a large food processor or blender would work just fine. (Truth be told, I like to do as few dishes as possible.)

Turn the heat to low, and blend the contents of the pot until nice and smooth.

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This took me about 2 minutes. (Look, a rare glimpse of me cooking! You thought it was all a clever ruse, didn’t you?)

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Next add two small handfuls, about a cup’s worth, of fresh grated parmesan cheese and a healthy splash of half and half or cream. I usually have half and half on hand for coffee, so I used this. Like I said, this recipe is super flexible. Bring this back to a gentle simmer for 2-3 minutes, and give it a taste. I added cracked black pepper and a pinch of sea salt to mine.

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Serve this roasted butternut alfredo over your favorite pasta, but I do recommend a tube-shaped pasta like rigatoni, ziti, or penne. The sauce finds its way to the hollow center and, for sauce gluttons like myself, this is the only way to roll.

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Happy stretchy pants season, everyone! I’m so happy Fall is finally here.

Easy, Breezy, Eggplant Parmesan Casserole

I do this thing where I go to the farmer’s market, buy the most perfect, tender organic eggplant, and then they go bad and end up in my compost bin before I get to use them. Well, not this time, my friends. Oh no. I present to you the whole reason I buy these babies: Eggplant Parmesan Casserole.

I’m almost ashamed to show how easy this is. Seriously, it’s a piece of pie (pumpkin, of course)! And one of the greatest things about this recipe is you can make it with just about any amount of eggplant, sauce, or cheese you have on hand. It’s very forgiving.

Regardless, there are some ingredients you’ll need:

  • Fresh, firm organic eggplants (I used white, but you could go with any you like)
  • Bread crumbs (seasoned with granulated garlic, salt, and pepper)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • All-purpose flour
  • Your favorite organic tomato sauce (marinara, pomodoro, or whatever you like)
  • Mozzarella or provolone cheese
  • Fresh grated parmesan cheese

First things first, get your breading station ready. In three different bowls, put the beaten egg, about a cup of flour, and a cup of seasoned bread crumbs.

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Preheat your oil to 375 degrees in a heavy skillet or pot. Fill the vessel just a couple of inches; it’ll be more than enough.

Next, slice your eggplant in nice, even slices. I used six small eggplants for this because my boyfriend is crazy and doesn’t like eggplant. It’s an offense punishable by breaking up. (Kidding…or am I?)

Some people like to salt them and let them drain for few minutes to draw out the bitterness, but the white ones are so sweet. I  honestly don’t even do this with the purple ones. I just skip it altogether. They’ll start browning a smidge, but it’s OK; they’ll be fine. The taste isn’t affected whatsoever.

To fry the eggplant, dredge first in flour (shake off excess), next dip in the egg, and coat in bread crumbs. This is sort of messy, I admit, but it’s well worth it. One by one, place in the oil. Do this in small batches as to not bring down the temperature of the oil by overcrowding. You want things to get nicely browned and crispy. And, for the love of all that’s good, don’t put the eggplant on paper towels to drain. Use a wire cooling rack to allow the oil to drip down. Paper towels only make things soggy. That’s not good eats. (Alton Brown’s so smart.)

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Then, in your favorite casserole dish, start layering. Think lasagna. I place a layer of fried and drained eggplant, some sauce (by the way, here is the link for my favorite sauce recipe), some grated parmesan, some shredded mozzarella, and repeat until you’re all out of ingredients. Make sure, though, whatever you do to top with sauce and cheese. Because, let’s face it, that bubbly layer of cheese is why you’re all here.

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Bake in a 350 degree oven for 35-40 minutes or until the top is all brown, bubbly, and perfect.

Let cool for a few minutes (resist the urge to pick all the cheese off the top), slice, and eat. Finally, thank God for creating the eggplant.

Happy eating, everyone!

Oh, by the way, sorry about not having a final photo. Melted cheese is my siren song, and I forgot. I’m so weak.

Take a Cheap Vacation with this Mediterranean Potato Salad

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I reeeeeally need a vacation. Unfortunately, I won’t be taking one, at least for the near foreseeable future, and so I decided my tastebuds could at least experience a change of pace. They always have the most fun. So, for this flavor-cation, I’m going to the Mediterranean with this light, bright, organic and super tasty potato salad. It’s even a win for my gluten-free and vegan friends out there, too.

For this recipe, I used:

  • 2 pounds red potatoes, cooked in salted, boiling water until soft; cut into large chunks and let cool in the refrigerator for at least an hour before incorporating the other ingredients
  • 1/3 cup diced red onion
  • 10 basil leaves, cut into ribbons
  • 2 tablespoons chopped sundried tomatoes (the ones packed in olive oil work best)
  • 2 tablespoons capers
  • 2 tablespoons kalamata olives, sliced
  • Zest of one lemon
  • Dressing to coat
  • Sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste

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Method:

Place all ingredients in a large bowl once the potatoes are fully chilled and carefully combine. As for the right amount of dressing, you just want the salad to be lightly coated. Add a little at a time until you’re satisfied and remember the potatoes will absorb some. Keep refrigerated until you’re ready to serve.

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For the dressing:

  • 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 4 basil leaves
  • Juice of one fresh lemon
  • 1 teaspoon fresh garlic
  • Pinch sea salt
  • Cracked black pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon honey (or sugar if you’re vegan)

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Method:

Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender and blend until smooth and creamy. It shouldn’t take more than 30 seconds. You’ll have plenty left over after making this potato salad, so enjoy it on fresh greens, on bruschetta, or brushed on grilled shrimp!

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Safe travels, everyone, and bring me back a magnet! 🙂

 

Condiment Heaven: Lime Basil Mayo

 

 

20131001-154832.jpgLast night was a night to use up leftovers. Leftovers = some kind of sandwich. We had some mexican-spiced skirt steak, caramelized onions, shredded sharp cheddar cheese, and fresh jalapeño cheddar bread that my magical unicorn of a boyfriend made. Now all we needed was the perfect condiment. (Did I hear someone say “mayonnaise?” If so, you’re correct! Read below to find out what you’ve won!)

For me, mayo is pretty much unrivaled…utopian, even. It’s perfectly versatile, and can elevate nearly any addition to condiment heaven status. And I absolutely love condiments.

Ready for this? It gets pretty complicated.

Small food processor or blender? Check.

Small handful of fresh lime basil? Check.

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Teaspoon fresh garlic? Check.

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One cup of full-fat, delicious mayonnaise? Check.

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Throw all of the ingredients in a food processor or blender and let rip. Stop when it’s a nice, homogenous mixture.

Put in a non-pretentious vessel, but be sure to garnish with a pretty lime basil leaf for pretty’s sake.

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That’s it. Bravo and enjoy. (By the way, that skirt steak sandwich I mentioned will be on a forthcoming, mouthwatering post tomorrow.)

Organic Creamy Garlic & Dijon Salad Dressing

The thing I crave the most is a big, fat salad. Maybe it’s because Florida is always painfully hot and heating up a kitchen is no fun, or maybe it’s because a salad can be uber satisfying. Whatever the case, I had a hankering for an uncomfortably large kitchen sink salad with only-this-will-do Creamy Garlic and Dijon Dressing.

I first had this dressing while working as an intern for a copywriter. Because I worked out of her home, I’d catch glimpses of her super hero-esque mom activities: on the phone with clients while whipping up baked chicken nuggets, doing conference calls with students while making “big salad” with this dressing, making lunches for her husband and/or kids, all while standing on her head and mopping. I was supposed to be learning about copywriting (which I did…maybe) for my collegiate studies, but the big take-home point was this dressing!

While I’ve adjusted it over the years to suit my tastes, the basic idea remains unchanged: lots and lots of garlic.

Ingredients:

  • 10 cloves fresh organic garlic, peeled
  • 1/2 cup organic extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup organic white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon organic dijon mustard (Tree of Life brand is my favorite)
  • 2 teaspoons organic honey (go local to help with seasonal allergies)
  • 5 grinds of fresh black pepper
  • Large pinch of sea salt

Method:

1. Place garlic in food processor. I use my small four cup one for this; it’s just the right size.

2. Add the olive oil.

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3. Pulse until it’s completely blended and paste-like.

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4. Add the vinegar, honey, black pepper, and salt. Pulse for about 30 seconds until it’s all blended. If your food processor has the option for chop and grind like mine does, alternate between both. The clockwise and counterclockwise chopping helps to break everything down. If not, it’s not a big deal.

5. Once it’s all blended, add the dijon. I do this last because I like to see how much it thickens the dressing. Dijon is a fantastic emulsifier. Pulse again for another 30 seconds. It should be super thick and creamy besides smelling like heaven.

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6. Finally, choose a pretty, transparent container. I really like to use my vintage cruet that I got for a quarter at at thrift store.

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This dressing keeps very well in the fridge, but I’d use it within a couple of weeks. Trust me, though, it won’t last that long. Oh, and by the way, if your’e feeling gutsy, add some tarragon! The anise flavor really gives this dressing an unexpected and pleasant twist. Happy eating!