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!

Pucker Up: Perfectly Pickled Banana Peppers 

Last weekend, North Carolina got pummeled with a ton of rain. The farmers market got rained out, there was no going and playing outside, and the only thing left to do was pickle everything in the refrigerator.

My fiancé’s mom came to visit from Michigan, and she brought with her a whole slew of pale yellow banana peppers that she had just picked from her garden. (And potatoes, and a 16″ zucchini, tomatoes, and gorgeous onions.) As soon as my honey saw those peppers, he said “let’s pickle them.” Any fervency in the vegetable direction gets no argument from me. So, they were saved…despite my wanting to immediately devour at least half.
With pickled lots and lots of things in the past. From cucumbers it to beets to carrots and celery, we’ve always come up with a new recipe for each. But the last time we pickled jalapeños, the recipe was nearly perfect. We decided to make a few tweaks this time, and the result was flawless.

For this recipe, you’ll need:

  • Five 6″ or larger banana peppers cleaned, seeded, and cut in rings 
  • One cup white vinegar
  • One cup water
  • 3 tablespoons kosher or pickling salt
  • 3 tablespoons white sugar
  • Any or all of the ingredients from the optional list below

Optional:

  • Bay leaf
  • Few garlic cloves
  • Peppercorns
  • Hot peppers prepped the same way as the banana peppers (we added two jalapeños for a bit of kick, but one nice Datil pepper would be awesome, too)

Method:

Prep the peppers if you haven’t already.

  
  

Place the vinegar, water, salt, sugar, and any spices you choose to use in a non-reactive saucepan. I use my trusty old nonstick. Bring to a boil over high heat.
  

Once the mixture comes to a boil, add the peppers, put the lid on, and set a timer for 12 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat source. I just move mine to another burner.

  

Make sure you have a mason jar or other clean vessel for when the timer  dings. A heat-safe glass jar is my favorite.

Once the timer dings, carefully transfer the peppers to a jar with tongs and then very carefully pour the liquid over the top. I like to strain mine to avoid any seeds, but you don’t have to.  NOTE: Feel free to let them cool as long as you’d like so you’re comfortable handling them. Remember, though, you want to cool them as quickly as possible to avoid then becoming mushy. 

  

Screw on the lid and place the lidded jar in an ice bath. 

 

Place the jar in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours. I think the crunch really sets in by that point. Enjoy these banana pepper rings on sandwiches, salads, with cheese and crackers, on chili, or straight out of the jar. Although they will last for a very long time, mine won’t live out this week. 

Happy crunching and munching,

Jenna 🙂

Freakin’ 5-star Restaurant: Curried Sweet Potato and Coconut Milk Soup

IMG_3429

It’s almost March. Where has the time gone? I swear it was only yesterday when there were trick-or-treaters at my door rifling through the bowl of candy for the last Snickers. But, alas, time goes on, and it always speeds up throughout the holiday season. So what happened to January? What happened to February. Valentine’s Day isn’t enough of a time suck to count as a holiday. Needless to say, I suppose I’m short on time. And what happens when we’re short on time? We (I definitely mean me) eat whatever bits of food are left around the kitchen. Brownies? Sure. Cheese? OK. Monumental amounts of carbohydrates? Absolutely. I exercise less and eat more.

But, (thank goodness there’s a “but” in all this) I did decide to dedicate a cool-ish day to making some soul-warming, vitamin-packed soups…for my mother. She recently had a hip replacement and couldn’t drive her car, go to work, or exercise the way she’d like for six weeks. I wanted her to have some yummy meals that she could just pop in the microwave when her tummy starts a’rumbling.

I will say that I didn’t set out to make a sweet potato soup. I’ve never had sweet potato soup before. I wasn’t even craving it. The potatoes just looked so good at the store…and they were on sale. Really, my goal was to make different veggie soups. But this gem, THIS ABSOLUTE GEM, happened. Sometimes my kitchen is overtaken by the dancing pots and pans of Fantasia. I don’t know what happened or how we got to this place known as perfection, but nonetheless…

I’m going to share with you the soup that my aunt called “a trip to a freakin’ five-star restaraunt.” I hope you experience the same magic.

Ingredients:

  • five sweet potatoes, cut into 1: cubes
  • mild-tasting oil (canola, grapeseed, light olive oil)
  • 14 oz can unsweetened coconut milk
  • quart veggie stock (homemade is always best)
  • tablespoon sea salt
  • 1/2 tablespoon cracked black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Method:

Coat the cubed potatoes with one to two tablespoons of oil and sprinkle about a teaspoon’s worth of each sea salt and cracked pepper.

IMG_3413

Place in a 400 degree oven for 30-40 minutes. until everything is soft and a nice golden brown.

IMG_3425

In your favorite soup pot (mine is a great enameled cast iron Le Creuset knock-off from World Market), add the roasted sweet potatoes and veggie stock. Bring to a simmer over medium heat.

IMG_3427Turn the heat down to low. Now add the coconut milk and, using an immersion blender (or transferring to a traditional blender if you don’t have one), blend until totally smooth.

IMG_3426

Once silky smooth, add the curry powder, cinnamon, and cayenne pepper. Give it a good stir and add the salt and cracked black pepper to taste. Because the sweet potatoes add a lot of sweetness, I added quite a bit of salt to balance it out a bit. Altogether, I used approximately a tablespoon’s worth of sea salt.

IMG_3428Stir again and let simmer for 15 minutes on low.

IMG_3429Isn’t it gorgeous? I’m so glad I took a chance and snapped some photos.

Happy soup slurping, everyone! Stay toasty warm,

Jenna

 

 

 

 

The Perfect Breakfast: Veggie Frittatas and Rainbow Potatoes

Photo-3

Thanks to Daylight Savings Time, I was up way too early on Sunday. And so with sleep in my eyes and a major case of bed head, I had the urge to make a fancy schmancy breakfast for me and my honey. We had mini frittatas with raw pepper jack cheese, sautéed yellow and red bell peppers, and onions. I also made slow and low breakfast potatoes with baby Yukon Gold and Peruvian Purple potatoes. Just writing about it makes me long for bites of old…

Frittata (makes 4 minis):

  • 6 large local eggs, beaten
  • 2 tablespoons raw whole milk
  • 1/2 cup local, raw pepper jack cheese, shredded
  • 1 cup red and yellow bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 cup yellow onion, diced
  • non-stick spray
  • S&P to taste

Breakfast Potatoes (4-5 servings): 

  • 15 baby potatoes, gold and purple, washed and quartered
  • 1 cup red and yellow bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 cup yellow onion, diced
  • organic olive oil
  • S&P to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon organic dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon organic granulated garlic
  • unsalted butter

First, you’ll want to get the potatoes started. You’ll need to wash them thoroughly and quarter them into relatively even pieces.

IMG_3343

In a very large skillet, add two tablespoons of olive oil to the pan and heat to medium. Add the quartered potatoes and a nice pinch of salt and some cracked pepper. Toss to coat with oil and seasonings and let them cook. Don’t move them around too much or they’ll fall apart before they end up browning.

IMG_3355

Meanwhile, sauté the onions and peppers. Heat your favorite large, nonstick skillet, to medium-high. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and all of the diced onions and peppers to the pan (If making both frittatas and potatoes, combine the peppers and onions for this step and divide in half later.). Sauté for about five minutes and transfer to a dish.

IMG_3352

After about 5 minutes, check to see if the undersides are browning. If so, flip them over with a spatula to start browning the other sides. Repeat this process and, please note, I’m crazy methodical about this. I like all sides to be browned, but I don’t expect anyone else to be this neurotic about potatoes.

IMG_3351

Once they’re nice and brown (should take between 10-20 minutes), add the sautéed peppers and onions. Also add the thyme and garlic. Give everything a good stir, reduce the heat to very low and let them hang out while giving them the occasional push around the pan. They’ll be ready when you are.

IMG_3350

For the frittatas, add the milk and desired amount of S&P to the beaten eggs. Spray your mini cast iron casseroles with nonstick spray, and divide up the remaining amount of sautéed peppers and onions to the bottom of each vessel. (If you don’t have mini-cast iron casserole dishes, you can use one large stovetop and oven-save pan. And, truth be told, my mom got these for me last Christmas, and I’ve never used them until today.)

IMG_3349

Divide up the beaten egg mixture between each vessel and top with a nice pinch of shredded pepper jack cheese.

IMG_3346

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Only do this step if you have a glass range. Place the casseroles directly on your cooktop over medium-high heat. I was actually able to get them all on one large burner. Within 2-3 minutes, the egg should start to set. This is what you want.

IMG_3347

Now, place the mini casseroles in a baking dish (I used a 9″x13″) and fill with 1″ of water. Sprinkle with a tad bit more cheese.

Place the entire shebang in the oven and cook for 5 minutes. Cook for 3-5 minutes more if you skipped the stovetop step. Remove and check doneness with a toothpick. It should come out fairly clean, but moist. Let them sit for a minute or so.

Loosen the edges with a rubber spatula, invert onto a plate, and voila!

Photo-2

Phew.

Help yourself to a heaping pile of potatoes, grab your favorite hot sauce, and chow down.

Until next time, my friends,

Jenna

The Art of Winging it (and Creamed Corn)

I swore this wouldn’t work out. But something (well, my boyfriend, really) told me to take photos anyway. I shrugged and said “what the heck.” A couple of nights ago, I looked at three ears of perfectly cooked corn on the cob and knew I had to do something with it. I’d been slathering butter and garlic all over those perfect ears for days now, and I (Don’t even think I’m going to say that I got sick of it, because that could never happen.) felt compelled to try something different. I didn’t want to mess with perfection, but, against my better judgement…

“Creamed corn,” he said. I’d never made it before. The concept was simple enough, and if being a southerner has taught me anything (I’m barely a southerner. I’m from Ft. Lauderdale.), it’s that I know how to do corn. And, I’ll tell you, I’d save a couple of ears again to make this easy peasy creamed corn…with garlic. (I had to work the garlic in there. I had to.) That business came out soooooooo gooooooooood.

Ingredients: 

  • 3 ears cooked ears of corn, cut off the cob
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • pinch of cornstarch
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup half and half
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method:

Melt butter in your favorite skillet over low-medium and add the minced garlic to the pan before it starts to bubble.

photo 1

Add the corn to the pan and toss. Keep the heat at low-medium. Meanwhile, make a slurry by adding the pinch of cornstarch to a small amount of the milk and whisking. The goal is to just get the clumps out.

photo 2

Add the milk, half and half, and slurry to the pan with the corn and bring to a slight simmer.

photo 3

 In a food processor or blender, take out about half of the corn mixture and blend. It’s up to you how pulverized you like your corn to be. (I’d actually blend less next time because I’d like more texture.) Add the blended bits back to the pan. Simmer over low-medium heat for about five minutes until it thickens. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve.

photo 4

 There. Creamed corn. With garlic. Yum.

20140730-112513-41113028.jpg And, yes, I’m eating it out of a ramekin. I’m eating it as I type. Don’t judge me. 😉

 Happy creamy corn, everyone!

Jenna

Homemade Local Blueberry Jam

20140720-160845-58125264.jpg

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. 

20140716-194732-71252713.jpg

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

20140716-194933-71373293.jpg

In about five minutes, it should look like this.

20140716-195046-71446506.jpg

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

20140716-195144-71504647.jpg

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

20140720-160845-58125264.jpg

Enjoy the taste of summer.

Until next time…

Jenna

 

Angel Hair with Lemony Kale, Caramelized Onions, & Ricotta Salata

Kale is the new little black dress. Sautéed, baked, raw, braised, or fried, it all works. And I’m so fortunate to have oodles of the stuff from my favorite local farm. We’re always coming up with new ways to infuse the leafy lovelies into our meals, and this pasta dish may be my new favorite.

For this dish, you’ll need…

  • approximately 50 leaves of curly kale, stripped from the spines, washed and dried (use your salad spinner)
  • four tablespoons of EVOO
  • two yellow onions, thinly sliced
  • five cloves of garlic, minced
  • half fresh lemon, juice and zest
  • Sea Salt & Pepper to taste
  • 12 ounces Angel hair cooked al dente

Optional:

  • Balsamic vinegar reduction
  • Ricotta Salata cheese, crumbled

To begin, heat two tablespoons of EVOO in your favorite, very large, skillet over medium heat.

Add the sliced onions to the pan and a small pinch of sea salt.

photo 2-1

Keep the onions moving so they don’t burn until they start to soften. Reduce the heat to low-medium and let them caramelize. This should take about five minutes. Once they’re done, transfer them to a separate vessel.

Add one more tablespoon of EVOO to the pan and add the kale.

photo 1-1

Using tongs, toss the kale a lot as this will help it wilt. You’ll want it all in the pan, but it takes patience. Cooked kale, like any other green, cooks down to a minuscule portion of its original size once the water content is gone. The result is concentrated, amazing flavor.

photo 1

Add the lemon juice and a large pinch of sea salt. Give it another good toss. Put the lid on the pan. The kale will really start to break down because of the steam. After about a minute, remove the lid and check the progress. If it’s not soft, put the lid back on and wait another minute.

Remove the lid and make a well in the center of the kale. Add the minced garlic and give it a good stir. Add a bit of olive oil to help the sautéing if you desire.

photo 4-2

Add the lemon zest and stir again. Have cute boy help in the kitchen.

photo 3

Add the caramelized onions back to the pan and toss.

photo 2

Add the cooked pasta, drizzle in the remaining tablespoon of EVOO, and add salt and pepper to taste. There, you’re done!

photo 4But, if you’re like me, you’ll want to garnish this dish with crumbled ricotta salata cheese and a hefty balsamic reduction drizzle (yes, we always have this on hand). If you don’t have ricotta salata, feta cheese would be a great substitute.

photo-1

Until next time, my friends, happy eating!

 

Fresh Jalapeños: We can pickle that!

I’ve never looked at a basket of garden-fresh organic jalapeños and thought “Mmmm…I’d love to gnaw on those!” So when I was gifted with some uber-spicy jalapeños from my friend at the farmers market, there was only one option: pickling. These are great for perking up a sandwich, sprinkling on nachos, or serving on top of a steaming bowl of chili.

This is such a simple process as this isn’t a proper canning. But it’s great and so very quick!

You’ll need:

  • 1 pound fresh jalapeño peppers
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 tablespoons kosher or sea salt
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled

Cut one pound of fresh, washed jalapeños in rings.

20140520-143008.jpg

Soak the rings in a bowl of cold water. Swish around with a long-handled utensil every now and then as this will help some of the seeds fall to the bottom. Please don’t do this with your hands and then touch your eyes! Gently scoop out the pepper rings without getting the seeds that have fallen to the bottom and transfer to another vessel.

20140520-142937.jpg

In a non-reactive saucepan, combine the water, vinegar, garlic cloves, salt, and sugar together and bring to a boil. Add the drained jalapeños to the pot.

20140520-143144.jpg

Cover with a lid and let sit for 15 minutes off the heat.

20140520-143228.jpg

Transfer to your favorite jar and keep in the refrigerator. They’ll last for quite some time even though they’re not properly canned.

20140520-143321.jpg

The Crabbiest Cakes

20140402-203407.jpgWhat’s not to love about crab cakes? Barring any food allergies or other dietary restrictions, there’s nothing about this little piece of decadence that the tastebuds of the world shouldn’t fully appreciate. The more crab, the better.

I’ve had some of the tastiest Alaskan King crab leg meat frozen and just waiting for the right opportunity. Crab bisque happened. And now this. I painstakingly bashed those shells myself; I need this. I’m so happy, I could cry.

One of the best things about a top notch crab cake is the simplicity. They’re easy to put together and easy to make. They’re puuuuuurfect.

Ingredients:

  • 10 ounces of crab meat (you don’t have to use Alaskan king crab legs)
  • 4 ounces of saltines or other plain Jane cracker, processed or crushed (for my gluten-free friends, go with your favorite gluten-free cracker)
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
  • Juice from half a lemon
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • Cornmeal (optional)
  • Butter or canola oil for frying

Method:

Make sure all of the crab is free of shell pieces and coarsely shredded or chopped.

20140402-202644.jpg

Combine all ingredients in the list except for the cornmeal and butter or oil.

20140402-202821.jpg

Form into patties, and choose any size you like. I prefer them on the smaller side. Then let them rest in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes. This will help the patties set and stay together during cooking.

20140402-202944.jpg

One by one, coat in cornmeal. Just lightly press in the cornmeal and brush off the excess. A light coating is perfect. I love the added texture of this step, but you can omit it if you prefer.

20140402-203105.jpg

In your favorite skillet, add about a tablespoon of oil or butter and set the burner to medium-high heat. Gently add the crab cakes one by one to the hot skillet.

20140402-203147.jpg

In about two minutes, flip them over.

20140402-203407.jpg

See how easy that was?

No smoke and mirrors here…just delicious crab cakes. Oh, by the way, they freeze perfectly in an air tight container. Serve with a squeeze of lemon, a citrus aioli, or your favorite tartar sauce.

Crabby eating, everyone. Enjoy!

 

 

Spicy Indian Cabbage with Mustard Seeds and Turmeric

20140324-183640.jpg

This is the long overdue part two of the nobody-knows-what-to-do with-this-cabbage post. If you have the memory of an elephant, you may remember the Pretty Purple Vegan Cabbage Slaw recipe that I posted in February. This, friends, is what I did with the other half of that gorgeous head of crunchy purple leaves.

Inspired by this Girl Cooks World recipe, I made a little spicy sautéed cabbage of my own.

Ingredients:

  • Half head of purple cabbage, cut in chunks and leaves separated
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons yellow mustard seeds
  • 6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Method:

Heat the oil over medium-high in your favorite heavy-bottomed non-stick skillet and add the mustard seeds. They should start popping in just a few seconds. HINT: a splatter guard is your best friend in times like these.

20140324-183127.jpg

Once the seeds stop popping, remove the pan from the heat and add the garlic, turmeric, and cayenne.

20140324-183321.jpg

Add the pan back to the burner, add the cabbage and salt, and toss to coat with the oil and spice mixture.

20140324-183430.jpgSauté for two to three minutes if you like the cabbage to still have a considerable crunch. I like mine cooked a bit longer, so I go for about four minutes. After it’s cooked to the texture you prefer, add the balsamic vinegar, toss to coat, cook for another 30 seconds, and that’s it! Serve at any temperature you like.

20140324-183539.jpg

Happy healthy eating, everyone!