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Archive for the ‘Cooking’ Category

Well, I picked up my first Chow Locally Share bright and early on Saturday morning, and I was very impressed to say the least.

It was pre-washed and packaged nicely in this very cute and hefty wooden crate. I’m a little anal though, so I washed it all again.

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When you sign up for the CSA, you pay an additional $20 in your first week for the box. Each week, you bring your box back and you are given another with your next share. If you decide to discontinue your account, you have the option of returning the box and they will give you your full deposit back.

Here were the contents of this week’s share: 

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  • Carrots
  • Green Chard
  • Winterbor Kale
  • Spring Onions
  • Asian Melons (these made a very tasty snack!)
  • Mixed Zucchini
  • Mixed Squash
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Heirloom Cherry Tomatoes

They also included several recipes – many of which I was able to adapt to make vegan. So far, I have made squash gratin, kale and sun-dried tomato gemelli, green chard with tomatoes, and an adaptation of Whole Foods vegetarian paella using the squash and the carrots (pictured below.)

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Needless to say, I will certainly be continuing with Chow Locally!

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In an effort to eat as organic and non-GMO as possible, we have decided to start a home vegetable garden, compost, and join a CSA.

The garden is really just in the beginning stages, and most of what we have planted won’t be ready to harvest until July or August. There will also be a lot of trial and error, so bear with me as I learn all about seed saving, avoiding cross-pollination, and finding crops that can sustain our harsh Phoenix weather.

Here are a few of my seedlings so far:  

I am working on the rocks… This area was completely covered in gravel, so it’s going to take a while to pick them all out by hand.

So far, we are growing:

  • Romaine Lettuce
  • Swiss Chard
  • Turnips
  • Cantaloupe
  • Jalapeno
  • Zucchini
  • Snow Peas
  • Red and Green Bell Peppers
  • Chinese Cabbage
  • Tomatoes
  • Carrots
  • Eggplant

I will try to keep you posted on their progress as much as possible. I can’t wait for the harvest!

On Composting:

When it comes to organic gardening, I have been told that composting is very important. It provides the necessary nutrients that plants may not find in soil, and it allows you to grow large and healthy plants without the use of chemically based fertilizers.  Also, since Arizona soil does not have many nutrients, I think it will prove doubly important in our case.

So, here are our compost bins.

I found them at Home Depot for $7 each! They were marked down from $49. We have two because the plan is to fill one bin for 2 months, and then let it work it’s magic while we fill the other bin and so on. Therefore, we will ideally always have compost available.

Lastly, I mentioned that we decided to join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture.) They provide you with one box each week of organic, locally grown produce and the fee is typically around $20 per week.

Most CSAs require at least 3-months payment up front in order to pay for their next season’s crops. Now, that’s all well and good, but for someone like me who has never tried a CSA, 3 months is quite a committment.

My reasons being:

  • It might prove too difficult to plan my weekly menus around what I am given in my share.
  • There may be a lot of waste if the share is too large.
  • We might get a box full of veggies we don’t usually like to eat.

That’s why I felt lucky to find Chow Locally, a week-by-week CSA with a pick up location at the Phoenix Public Market! I’m usually there on Saturdays anyways, so it’s the perfect pick up location, and I was able to purchase some produce at the market this weekend from a few of the farms that they work with. We were very impressed with the quality… especially the carrots and onions which were much more juicy than anything I have found at Sprouts.

I pick up my first box on Saturday, and I will have to let you know what we get.

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I was recently inspired by my good friend, Beth and her post on pantry organization.

As you can see from the picture below, it was difficult to find just about anything in our pantry… especially spices. They were staked about 10 wide and 20 deep, and you had to lift each one to read the label if you were trying to find something.

Bags of bulk food were also a big issue…  So, I headed down to The Container Store in hopes of finding something to fix my problem, and I came home with the following items. (By the way, if you spend $100 in-store this month, you get a $15 gift card to use in June!)

 

Then I stopped by Hobby Lobby to pick up some craft supplies.

So I could do this:

Please ignore the burn mark on the counter under the cashews. Someone (hmhm)…. put a very hot pot there and the counter pretty much melted. Oh well, new countertops are on the list, so we won’t have to look at it for long.

Overall, I think the pantry looks much more organized now, and it’s certainly more functional. I still need a few more containers (Apparently we have a lot more food than I thought we did)… and I would like to find a solution for the cans, but overall I am happy with how it turned out.

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Why We Veganized…

Yes, you read that right… As of about a week and a half ago Matt and I decided to go vegan. Actually, what we are doing is called a whole foods, plant-based diet. It  goes a little farther than a regular vegan diet in that we don’t eat any processed foods, bleached flour etc.

If you know us (i.e. Matt) very well, you probably think we’ve gone crazy. Matt is was a “meat and potatoes kind of guy,” who used to make fun of vegans or anyone else who told him that fried foods were not good for you.  He once ate 3 rotisserie chickens, a couple of sides and a piece of cake at ONE political fundraiser, and I’ve already mentioned the year he ate several Thanksgiving dinners. (Don’t worry about me making fun of him. He’s very proud of these accomplishments. )

Before I get into our reasoning, let me preface by saying that we are not doing this to, “save the animals.” Animals are great, don’t get me wrong, but that’s not what motivated us.

Actually, we decided to go this route after watching a documentary called Forks over Knives. 

It’s available for instant view on Netflix if you’re interested.

 I would never want to try to convince others to eat a certain way or even judge them, but we have been getting a lot of questions about our decision, so I’m trying to find the best way to explain it to people without making them feel like I’m trying to sway them…

So far, I’ve given a brief overview of the film, and if they seem genuinely interested, I elaborate. Other than that, I just say “because it’s healthier.”

I don’t think it’s been that difficult to make the switch. There is definitely a learning curve when it comes to cooking this way, but we’ve managed to find several great recipes, and I am working on re-building my recipe box. 

Here’s one of our favorites so far:

 

 

 

 

Butternut Squash and Macaroni Casserole
Prep Time: 15 mins | Cook Time: 1 hr | Servings: 8 servings | Difficulty: Easy
Ingredients:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 butternut squash (about 2 pounds), peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 (15-ounce) can coconut milk
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon chopped sage
¾ pound dried elbow macaroni
½ cup chopped toasted walnuts
½ cup bread crumbs
Directions:
Pre-heat oven to 350°F. Lightly oil a 9- x 13-inch casserole dish; set aside.
Heat oil in a medium pot over medium heat. Add onions and cook, stirring often, until softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Add squash, coconut milk, salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to medium low and simmer until squash is tender, about 20 minutes. Stir in sage and simmer 1 minute more. (This part can be made ahead, up to 1 day in advance.)
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add macaroni and cook until tender but still firm, about 8 minutes. Rinse in cold water, drain well and transfer to a large bowl. Transfer squash mixture to bowl with macaroni. Add walnuts, salt and pepper and toss to combine. Transfer to prepared dish and top with bread crumbs. Bake until just golden brown and hot throughout, about 30 minutes.
Nutritional Info:
Nutrition Per serving: 430 calories (170 from fat), 19g total fat, 9g saturated fat, 0mg cholesterol, 210mg sodium, 54g total carbohydrate (6g dietary fiber, 5g sugar), 11g protein

Source: http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/recipes/2349

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Boozy Pops!

This weekend, Matt and I decided we wanted to try making some shotcicles! So, we headed over to Williams-Sonoma, and picked up one of these clever tools.

We popped the Zoku in the freezer for 24 hours, and then we prepped our ingredients.

 So far, we’ve made margarita pops using plain ol’ margarita mix, and a little bit of tequila. We also made  pineapple pops using pineapple juice and vodka.

To answer your question, no, we do not just plan to use this to make alcoholic pops. In fact, I have some cherries in the refrigerator, and I think I will try a watermelon-cherry pop later today. 

Tricks to using the Zoku:

  • Allow the unit to freeze for 24 hours.
  • Do not wash with water until completely thawed (they recommend only washing it every 4-5 batches).
  • They say not to use artifical sweetners, as they may be difficult or impossible to remove from the mold. (Does anyone have experience with this?)

Matt and I bought the smaller 2-pop version because there are only 2 of us, and we didn’t want to always have an extra pop. Overall, we have been very impressed. They really do freeze right before your eyes!

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How can it be???

Theurel & Thomas is a beautiful little french macaron shop in Mexico!  They opened in 2009 in San Pedro, to be exact. 

Of course, this only means one thing… San Pedro is now on my vacation list! I figure a city with a store like this must have more to offer.

Oh, and I’ve also decided to try to make my own macarons! Stay tuned for updates.

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