Don’t Toss the Microgreens from Your Organic Garden!

Hey, all, I was doing some gardening today when I realized how many times I’ve tossed seedlings that I’ve thinned. About a year ago, I realized that I was just tossing nutrient-rich microgreens. From arugula to kale to spinach, and all types of lettuce, they’re all edible and delicious! I especially love beet seedlings. I used to toss them because I only got about a handful. But that’s more than enough to use as a garnish on top of seared salmon or to add to a salad. They’re loaded with vitamins, nutrients, and flavor. I’ll keep this short: don’t toss the microgreens. Just wash and enjoy.

Advertisements

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 🙂

Chopped Kale Salad with Tumeric Basil Vinaigrette & My Much Needed Metamorphosis 

 
I’ll preface this post by saying that if you’re only here for the totally amazing kale salad recipe, go ahead a skip down the page. I won’t be offended. I promise.

For the rest of you, if you don’t remember me, let me reintroduce myself. I’m Jenna. I garden, I cook, I eat, I own a business, and I write about all of it. I’ve been away from blogging for a bit because I’ve been reevaluating things. I’ve decided to quit my job in academia to pursue my business, Happy-Go-Lucky Foods, full-time, we’ve moved to the mountains of Western North Carolina, and I’ve been eating a gluten-free and dairy-free diet. Because of some “lady issues,” my acupuncturist, Doctor of Oriental Medicine, and friend (all the same person) advised me to change my diet (on top of the Chinese herbs I take daily). It’s been about six months and I’m feeling great. My primarily vegan diet has helped me so much, and I wanted to learn to cook all over again. So here I am. I’m back. I’m different, but I’m back. It’s nice to see you. 
I may be a little rusty at this whole food blogging thing, but here goes…

I’ve been eating tons and tons of fresh produce. From squash to tomatoes to beans, corn, grapes, and kale, I’ve been a total veggie glutton. And living in the Asheville area, I’m so fortunate to have it all at my fingertips. Organic, fresh, local produce perfection is all here, and I couldn’t be more excited. Sometimes, I get a little overzealous, though, and buy more than I can chew. This is totally fine, though, because I get to be extra creative. An overstocked fridge with a spectrum of veggies (some cooked) and an unbridled sense of kitchen adventure led me to my new favorite salad. Are you ready?

For this healthy monster, you’ll need:

  • A couple handfuls of kale, chopped into small pieces 
  • Palmful of cherry tomatoes, halved
  • Small but of purple onion, diced
  • A few fresh green beans of any variety, cut in small bits
  • Corn, cooked and cut from the cob, about two tablespoons
  • A smidgen of fresh or pickled jalapeños (add as much as you like if you’re brave)
  • Several chunks of roasted and cubed sweet potato (I roasted these babies for soup, but couldn’t help myself)
  • Two tablespoons of the dressing that follows
  • Mixed nuts for a crunchy garnish

  
For the dressing, you’ll need:

  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup plain rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • Several grinds fresh black pepper
  • Pinch dried basil
  1. Place all ingredients in a ball jar and shake like crazy. If you don’t have ball jars falling out of every cabinet like I do, use whatever you have. That’s all there is to it. The turmeric gives the dressing the most gorgeous color and the smell is to die for.

  
Now for the fun part, toss the salad with the dressing, and eat. You’ll have plenty of dressing leftover, but you won’t be able to keep your paws off it. It’s good. It’s really good. 

Kale and turmeric and super foods, and the rest isn’t so shabby either. Food like this makes me forget that I’m eating vegan. I don’t want for anything.

Happy and healthy munching, my friends. I’ll talk to you soon.

Easy Peasy Garlicky Roasted Ichiban Eggplant 

Too much eggplant? No such thing. But should this situation arise in your garden, I suggest you roast it.

First, and on a total side note, I find it awkward to tell people about my “eggplant plants.” It sounds weird and redundant. I accidentally find myself talking about my “egg-plants,” but there (sadly) aren’t eggs growing on them. Turns out, eggs come from chickens and other assorted animals. I can’t be the only one who’s experienced this. It’s a minor crisis, I know, but still worth the cathartic rant.

Now onto the roasted tasty discs of eggplant…

Take as many eggplants as you want. The more the merrier, and they roast down to an iota of their original some.

Cut them in 1″ discs and lay them out on a baking pan in a single layer.

Lightly coat them with a flavorful olive oil and sprinkle them with salt and pepper. Add a clove or two of finely minced garlic and toss around to spread the garlic love around. Don’t leave anybody out. (On a side note, beware with how much salt you use because the eggplant will shrink when the water content evaporates and the flavors, including salt, will concentrate and intensify.)


Put into a preheated 375 degree oven and roast for about 20-25 minutes. Be sure to peek in at about the halfway mark to make sure things aren’t going from delicious to burned. If your cook’s intuition is telling you the oven is too hot, reduce it to 350 and be vigilant.

I like to serve this eggplant as a side dish or add to a salad once it’s chilled. Or, as in the case the other night, I eat it before I can even take a photo of it. It’s so darn good.

Happy gardening and blissful eating to you!

Until next time,

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

It’s UnCANny: Vegan Refried Black Beans

We’ve been working toward eliminating canned goods from our pantry for quite some time, and last night, we finally said adios to canned refried beans. Honestly, refried beans from the grocery store shelf are fairly disappointing. First, we don’t love pinto beans. Second, finding organic refried beans is difficult. Third, they’re salty. Fourth, they’re not worth the money. Fifth, we like to have control over what we eat. Making these organic, vegan refried black beans from scratch was incredibly simple and very inexpensive. You’ll never go back again. I promise.
You’ll need:
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups cooked black beans
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
Method:
In a non-stick skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Once hot, sauté the diced onion until soft and translucent.
20140624-163604-59764447.jpg
Add the garlic and stir constantly for 30 seconds.
20140624-163603-59763523.jpg
Add the cooked black beans, cumin, oregano and lime juice.
20140624-163602-59762645.jpg
Begin mashing with the back of a large wooden spoon or a potato masher. Mash until your heart’s content. I prefer mine smoother rather than chunkier, but it’s up to you.
20140624-163601-59761741.jpg
Give the beans a taste and adjust the seasonings if necessary.
20140624-163600-59760738.jpg
I made an amazing quesadilla with these beans, but the possibilities are endless. You could serve them along side enchiladas, have them on a vegan taco salad, or eat them with saffron-scented rice. Regardless, be proud that you’ve said goodbye to a canned pantry staple.
In the next few weeks, I’ll be re-creating more unCANny favorites, and I hope you’ll join me as I work toward reducing our household waste.
Until next time…

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

Garlicky and Lemony No-Fail Kale

This stuff isn’t just a garnish, people. (…although I admittedly used to think so.) If Popeye only knew about this super veggie, he’d be singing a different song…one that rhymes with kale. I understand why kale recipes are everywhere. This leafy relative of broccoli and cauliflower is easy to prepare, can be eaten raw or cooked, is very versatile, and is loaded with oodles of vitamins and minerals. And did I mention it’s delicious?

Last night, I was tuckered out. I spent five hours gardening (not the casual, flower-picking, clean fingernail kind of gardening either). I hauled bags of soil, turned compost, pulled impossible weeds, planted flowers, sewed seeds, potted up, and then had to put all the stuff away. Dinner was the last thing I wanted to do, but we gotta eat, right?

I ended up making seared tiger prawns with Israeli couscous and (drumroll, please) kale. But ignore the first two parts of this meal; the kale stole the show. Fresh lemon, garlic, extra virgin olive oil, red pepper flakes, and sea salt turned this sturdy green veggie into a robust, bright, melt-in-your-mouth, amazing side dish. What’s more is that it took less than five minutes to make.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound organic kale, roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced (click here for a time saving tip)
  • juice from half a lemon
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 cup water

Method:

Place olive oil and garlic in a large skillet. Bring heat to medium.

20140210-170600.jpg

Add the chopped kale to pan and give a good stir.

20140210-170716.jpg

Add the water and place the lid on the pan. This will help steam and soften the kale.

20140210-170751.jpg

Cut a fresh lemon and enjoy the smell.

20140210-170836.jpg

Remove the lid after about a minute and squeeze the lemon juice into the pan (avoiding the seeds). Also add the red pepper flakes and sea salt. Stir again.

20140210-171116.jpg

Once the majority of the water has evaporated, the kale is done. Magical, isn’t it?

20140210-171204.jpg

Taste and adjust the seasonings as necessary.

That’s it. That’s really all. I promise.

Happy and healthful eating, everyone!

Heavenly Roasted Chicken with Crimini Mushroom Gravy

20130918-132738.jpg

Here’s a post from a while back that may really help the blogosphere with Thanksgiving. This roasting method and from-scratch gravy are super easy and incredibly savory! Read on: Heavenly Roasted Chicken with Crimini Mushroom Gravy.