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

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

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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.

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

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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.

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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

 

 

 

 

Introspection, Food-trepreneurship, and Being Happy-Go-Lucky

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Hi, friends, I’ve missed you. It’s been quite some time (well, two weeks, actually, but it feels like a million years)…

As some of you might remember from my “The Long and Winding Road: Saying Goodbye to Cottage Law” post from the Spring, I’m doing my best to make it as a food-trepreneur. Happy-Go-Lucky Foods (formerly Happy-Go-Lucky Granola and, before that, formerly nameless) has gone from zero to sixty in seven months, and I’m taking a moment to catch my breath and write about my experience thus far. I’ll begin by saying that I never thought I’d make it this far. I really didn’t. I wanted to, but was wanting to enough?

Desire only can take a person so far; having a plan (not necessarily in the full-on business 101 sense of the word) is uber-important. Being aimless and being successful in business don’t correlate well. I told my new friend, Amanda, of Amanda’s Amigos this when we spoke last week. I’m sure I was more eloquent then, but…

I met Amanda at my farmers market booth a few months back. She bought a few Apricot Ginger granola bars, we chatted for a moment, and she was off. A few weeks later, I was tickled to be included in her Daytona Beach is Vegan Friendly post. Amanda was on vacation from Alaska! A-L-A-S-K-A. How cool (no pun, I promise.).

A couple of weeks ago, she emailed me and asked if I’d have some time to chat; she wanted to know how to start her own vegan-based business. And, so, while chatting, laughing, and experiencing the joy of cross-country internet-related issues, I had the chance to reflect. Sometimes, when life is so busy, we forget to look inward. Amanda’s thoughtful inquiry encouraged the introspection I so desperately needed. From our chat, I learned the following:

Have a plan, but know that it’s OK to deviate from it.

Being too rigid can hinder you from following your intuition. If you know something’s not right or could be better, allow yourself to re-envision your path. Be flexible.

Any feedback is good feedback.

Listen not only to yourself, but those around you. Feedback is important; take advantage of it. You don’t have to jump at every suggestion you hear, but allow yourself the liberty to explore feasible options. When a regular customer tells you that she has to repackage her granola bars as soon as she gets home from the market because the moisture leaches out onto the kraft paper bag that they’re packed in, get different bags! And feel free to thank the honest individual who cared enough to share her thoughts with you. Everybody likes to know they’re being heard.

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Acknowledge mistakes, learn from them, and move forward.

If I never admitted that I bought cellophane bags that were too small for granola clusters, I’d still be spending double-time cramming too much product into too small of a package. My boyfriend said they were too small, and, while I absolutely didn’t want to admit he was right, I did. I now buy bigger bags. It’s OK for him to win once in a while.

Don’t buy whims in bulk.

While a great deal on organic dried Zante currants in bulk might seem too good to pass up, consider if you really need them or not. Case in point: I gave tons of currants to my neighbor.

Don’t go into unnecessary debt.

My financial goal was to let Happy-Go-Lucky Foods pay for itself as it grew. I knew that I’d have to pay for testing, licensing, permitting, equipment, etc. as I moved forward with adding hummus to our product line, but I let the sales from selling granola under Cottage Law pay for the expansion. While hummus was always the plan, being patient prevented me from taking out loans. It was the best decision I could have made.

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Be grateful for every customer, no matter how much they buy.

It still amazes me that people shell out real dollars for the hummus and granola that we make. They work hard to earn money and choose to spend some of it with Happy-Go-Lucky Foods. I smile every single time I think of it. I’m ever-so-grateful. Whether someone spends one dollar or fifty, I know they don’t have to spend any at all. Never take any customer for granted.

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Be consistent.

McDonalds is so popular, in part, because they are consistent. The fries taste the same from coast to coast and even across continents. People love consistency. If you’ve got a slew of people who love your banana walnut bread just as it is, don’t add nutmeg. We all know what happened to New Coke.

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Enjoy the ride.

Enjoy every moment of being an entrepreneur. It takes guts to go out on a limb and do your own thing. Breathe it in. Know that you’re courageous. Believe that you can do it. And don’t forget to smile.

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Thanks for seeing this post through to the end, my friends.

Until next time,

Jenna

P.S. Thanks, Amanda, for encouraging me to look inward. Good luck on your adventure.

 

 

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

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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Add the caramelized onions back to the pan and toss.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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Spicy Indian Cabbage with Mustard Seeds and Turmeric

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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.

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

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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.

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Happy healthy eating, everyone!

 

Calling all Foodies: It’s Crunch Time for our Broccoli Harvest

We find broccoli easy to grow around here. No joke. It’s one of the few things that doesn’t give us problems. We always get an amazing yield, and the harvest is sweet and tasty. Starting them from seed indoors in December is easy peasy…

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Hardening them off in late January is a safe bet and, planting them in February is a piece of cake.

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We love the brassica family around here. Pests aren’t an issue, and we find them slow to flower. There’s a long sweet spot with these plants and, therefore, they’re a staple in our winter-spring garden.

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The one issue with the ease of growth (stupidest phrase you’ve ever heard, right?), though, is trying to come up with unique recipes for these perfect florets.

Broccoli slaw? Check.
Roasted broccoli? Check.
Broccoli and orzo pasta? Check.
Steamed broccoli? Check.

What to do, what to do…

This is where you, my friends of the blogosphere, come in. I need some new and interesting broccoli recipes! Healthy or coated in cheese and butter (oooooooh, breadcrumbs, too), all things not mentioned above are welcome. And, what’s more is that if I make it successfully and love it to bits, I’d love to post it to Delicious Daydreams!

Thank you, culinary whizzes, for your help. Happy cooking!

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“…gonna kick it root down!”

It’s Fiesta Friday, and The Novice Gardener throws a wicked party! I’m wearing a leopard baby doll dress, hot pink jelly shoes, three slap bracelets, and the biggest Aqua Net bang wave you’ve ever seen. And what’s more is that the Beastie Boys “Root Down” is bumping in the background. I’m partying like it’s 1994. And, my friends, this song is the inspiration for these roasted, locally-grown golden beets. I hope my bangs don’t catch on fire.

Look, there’s a party goin’ on, and I don’t want to waste this outfit in the kitchen. This recipe is a quick and dirty one, so I’ll be flirting with the cute boy in one-strapped overalls and a Kangol bucket hat in no time. See him over there drinking a Zima? He’s all mine.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound golden beets
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Large pinch of sea salt
  • Cracked black pepper to taste

Method:

Peel and quarter the beets.

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Toss all ingredients in a non-stick oven-safe vessel.

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Roast for 30 minutes in a 375 degree oven until the beets start caramelizing.

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That’s it! Sweet, tender, earthy, sexy beets. These root veggies have my heart, and the simpler they’re prepared, the better.

Now where’s that cutie? Oh no, really?!? He left with the girl in the cropped velour blazer and high-waisted Bongo jeans? Seriously? Oh, I get it. She drives a Miata.

Who wants the next dance? The Beastie Boys are on again, and it’s totally my song!

My Secret Life as a Granola Pusher

Happy Fiesta Friday, everyone! My name is Jenna, I own Happy-Go-Lucky Granola, and my Fridays are crazy. For the past two months, I’ve baked lots and lots of vegan and organic granola products for the City Island Farmer’s Market in Downtown Daytona Beach, Florida. Happy-Go-Lucky Granola is my pride and joy. It’s also a source of near exhaustion, but, friends, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. It’s my hectic, yet amazing, reality.

These are my granola bars…

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This was my first day at the market (and things have changed a lot since then)…

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These are my friends that come to buy, nosh, and chat…

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This is my happy-go-lucky life.

Happy Fiesta Friday, friends,

Jenna