Zucchini, Red Pepper, and Corn Succotash

I feel like I haven’t shared a recipe in a while, and the truth is, it’s because we’ve been cooking so much with our CSA that we’ve basically thrown meal planning out the window and just cook whatever we get in our bag for the week.  It’s nice to open the fridge and look at all the yummy and fresh ingredients that we have on hand and just pick out what we are in the mood for and create something delicious.

If you told me a few years back that I’d be cooking dinner without following a recipe, I would have never believed you.  I never really cooked until I moved into my own apartment during sophomore year of college, and I literally ate “Shake ‘n Bake” chicken/pork chop, garlic cheese noodles out of a bag, and one of those frozen yeast rolls for just about every meal.  Since then, not only have I given up meat, but I also eat about a million different vegetables/other foods that I would previously turn my nose up at without even trying first (I was pretty much a 5-year-old trapped in a 20-year-olds body).

There’s this place down the street from our current house called Crepe Cellar that Steve and I love to go to. We normally take any visitor’s that we have from out-of-town there just because the food is so good for brunch and dinner, and it satisfies both omnivores and herbivores alike.  My favorite thing to get is their side dish of zucchini succotash, which is a mixture of zucchini, red peppers, corn, spices, and a ton of butter.  My least favorite thing about it is that they give you a bowl about the size of a muffin, charge you five dollars, and three bites later (aka: 30 seconds) I’m left staring at an empty bowl wishing I had more of the buttery veggie goodness.

When I saw that red peppers were popping up at the farmer’s market (yay, late spring/summer!), I knew that I had to pair one with the zucchini and fresh corn we were getting from our CSA farmer to create that delicious dish.  It was super easy to throw together and Steve cooked up some whole wheat spiral noodles and mixed it with some pesto I’d made earlier in the week and tomatoes.  We did a great job of mmmmm’ing our way through dinner that night and probably used significantly less butter than the original dish.  It was so good that I neglected to take many pictures, sorry 😦

So – here’s the recipe:

Zucchini, Red Pepper, and Corn Succotash

Ingredients:

1-2 zucchini (I actually used yellow squash because we had already eaten our zucchini)

2 ears of fresh corn (you could also use frozen kernels)

1 red pepper

Butter for cooking

Directions:

1. Slice the zucchini/squash into ½-inch coins, then slice each coin into fourths

2. Remove corn kernels from the cob

3. Slice red pepper into bite sized pieces

4. Melt a bit of butter in a skillet and add the zucchini and red pepper.  Season with salt and pepper and sauté for about 5 minutes.

5. Add a little more butter and throw in the corn kernels.  Season with salt and pepper and sauté for 3 more minutes.

6. Throw in a bowl and enjoy!

How Sweet It Is: Baking Treats for IOS Customer Appreciation Day

Steve’s store held its annual customer appreciation day on Saturday and I was asked (and paid!) to make a few different treats for the festivities.  They had a hotdog/hamburger cart (which had the best veggie burgers ever), as well as a bouncy house for the kids to go crazy in.

I usually experiment in the kitchen trying to make indulgent treats like cakes and cookies into something a little healthier, and the people at Steve’s store are always happy to taste test some on my creations.  So, when I was asked to make the treats, of course I knew that they had to be a healthier version of your average dessert.  I came up with a list of options for Steve’s boss to choose from, and she ended up picking out five things to be served on Saturday.  I was super excited because I was getting paid to play in the kitchen, but I was also incredibly nervous because my tiny little kitchen was supposed to turn out about 300 tasty treats in one night.

I got home around 5 o’clock on Friday and savored the sight of my clean kitchen for a few minutes before starting to work.  I knew that with all the stirring, whisking, and baking action that would be going on over the next six hours, my nice and sparkly kitchen would be replaced with something that looked like a tornado just spun through it.

And I was right.  I snapped this picture after I had loaded the dishwasher and cleaned up a little, so it definitly doesn’t do the extreme mess much justice.

Overall things went pretty smoothly and I was able to make delicious treats for 200ish people and thankfully everything was eaten by the end of the day.  I didn’t see anyone gag as they took a bite of my whole-wheat, semi-healthy treats, so that was a plus in my book.

I used recipes from some of my favorite blogs, but did a bit of healthy editing by using whole-wheat flour, reducing the amount of sugar called for, or adding a bunch of cinnamon because let’s face it, cinnamon makes everything better.  I normally replace refined sugar with honey or maple syrup in baked goods, but since I was making a ton of treats and on somewhat of a budget, that wasn’t really feasible.  I think my kitchen saw more sugar being used in a six hour period than it has in an entire year, but I tried to at least cut the amount of sugar the recipe called for in half so it didn’t make me feel too terribly.

So, here’s what I made!

Snickerdoodle Blondies (Vegan and made with pureed chickpeas instead of flour)

Whole Wheat Chocolate Brownie Cookies

Peanut Butter Brown Rice Crispy Treats with Sunflower Seeds (Vegan)

Whole Wheat Strawberry Cupcakes with Strawberry Frosting

Cinnamon Honey Popcorn

You can find the recipes here: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

Once I got everything set up on Saturday, I was happy to hang out with Socrates and secretly observe the people gathering around the food table.  Everything seemed to be a hit, and having a couple of vegan options proved to be much appreciated.

We went for dinner at Zucca Pizza, a new restaurant that opened up a couple weeks ago beside our regular farmer’s market.  They had a guy playing James Taylor and other relaxing music, so it was a pleasant surprise to dine outside and enjoy the music.  Later that night Steve watched a movie while Socrates and I crashed from our tiring day.

First solo baking gig = success!

Pretty In Pink

I love Saturday mornings, especially in the spring and summer.  Going to the farmer’s market, seeing all the people and cute dogs, the fresh veggies and still warm bread, and finally getting it all back home and getting to unpack all your treasures and sit down for a nice and relaxing breakfast.

The weekdays usually consist of Steve throwing breakfast together for me while I finish getting ready.  There’s usually no time to sit at the table and enjoy the morning, and eating breakfast on the 5-minute car ride to work really isn’t that ideal for my slow-eating self.  Saturday mornings give me the opportunity to make what I want and actually sit down, take it easy, and enjoy the morning (usually with a little puppy dog sitting in my lap giving me cute/sad/begging eyes).

Normally I have eggs or waffles, but since it was already 80 degrees at 9 am this morning, I decided on a strawberry-banana smoothie with granola and some whole wheat toast with strawberry jam that we bought at the market this morning (it’s made with honey instead of sugar, score!).  It was so yummy and of course pretty because of all the pink.  Socrates wasn’t afraid to embrace his feminine side and proceeded to inhale his portion of our pretty pink breakfast.

Whole Wheat Carrot Oatmeal Cookies

We’ve been getting tons of carrots in our CSA the past few weeks, and I’ve been racking my brain trying to figure out how to use them.  Carrots are probably one of my least favorite veggies, so I usually use them to bulk up a dish like veggie fried rice or spaghetti.  I’d love to be one of those people who just eat carrots raw or dipped in ranch, but that’s just not going to happen (and I have yet to perfect my homemade ranch recipe).  I can tolerate carrots dipped in peanut butter, but it’s still not my snack of choice.  I’ve heard that carrots can be used to help bad doggie breath, so I’m thinking of feeding Socrates about 20 pounds of carrots when I get home today (seriously, that’s how bad his breath is…).

My favorite way to incorporate carrots into my cooking is by using them in sweets.  Carrot cake pancakes have been a breakfast (and dinner) hit in our house, and I recently experimented with these carrot oatmeal cookies.  One of the only good things about carrots is that you can put them in baked goods, like pancakes and cookies, and justify eating a lot simply because it’s packed with nutritious veggie goodness. 🙂

These cookies are actually pretty healthy, but are also still delicious enough to be worthy of the cookie name.  I love that the recipe uses maple syrup, a natural sweetener, instead of refined sugar.  I’m constantly trying to find ways to substitute honey or maple syrup for white or brown sugar in my baking and a lot of times it is hit or miss since you’re dealing with substituting a dry ingredient for a liquid like honey or maple syrup.  Sugar is sugar though, and no matter if I’m using white sugar, honey, or maple syrup, I still try to be mindful of using them all in moderation.

Whole Wheat Carrot Oatmeal Cookies

Adapted from 101 Cookbooks

Yield: 2 dozen cookies

Ingredients:

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour (I used 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour and 1/2 cup oat flour)

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup rolled oats

2/3 cup chopped nuts (pecans, walnuts, etc.)

1 cup shredded carrots (I had a lot of carrots so I used about 1.5 cups)

1/2 cup pure maple syrup

1/2 cup coconut oil (melted until in liquid form)

1/8 teaspoon ground ginger

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment paper (or Silpat)

2. In a large bowl, stir together the flours, baking powder, salt, oats, and nuts

3. Pat the carrots dry to remove some of the excess moisture, add to the dry ingredients, and mix together

4. In a small bowl, whisk to combine the maple syrup, coconut oil, and ginger.  Add to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined.

5. Drop batter onto baking sheets (I used a tablespoon cookie scoop), leaving about 2 inches between each cookie

6. Bake for 10-12 minutes until cookies are golden on top and bottom

Of course Socrates was waiting patiently to try these out.  He gobbled one up in about half a second, so I assume that he approved.

I did store these in a plastic container and they got really soft/soggy/somewhat inedible.  It may have been due to my impatience in waiting for them to cool completely which created condensation in the container.  I do find that baked goods I make using whole wheat pastry flour get a little soggy once stored, so I’ll be doing a little research to find out how to fix that.

Happy Baking!

Play Time With Jake + Whole Wheat Banana Nut Doughnuts Recipe

Steve was in Texas all last week/weekend so it was a perfect time for me to head back to Snow Hill to visit the cutest toddler on the planet (with some work mixed in, of course).  I had to help my mom cater a wedding, but I took the day off on Monday so that left plenty of time to play with Jake and bond with the fam.  I actually took a few pictures of the days adventures, and the pretty weather definitly helped to capture some good shots.

Needless to say, Socrates thoroughly enjoyed his play time outdoors.  It’s rare that he gets to run around freely in the city since he’s not smart enough to not run out in front of the oncoming traffic (silly puppy).  He’s slowly warming up to Jake after over two years of meet and greet sessions, but I still think he holds a slight grudge since Jake stole the love of his Grandma Doris and everything (who could blame him?) 🙂

I scrambled around in the kitchen before I left trying to use up all of my food that may spoil before I returned.  I ended up freezing a bunch of my almost too ripe bananas to make ice cream a little later on this week, but I also decided to try out a banana doughnut recipe that I’d been eyeing for a while (and to finally use the doughnut pan that has been sitting in my kitchen all lonely for the past 6 months).  These were really delicious right out of the oven, especially when coated in a mixture of cinnamon and sugar.

Whole Wheat Banana Nut Doughnuts

recipe adapted from Naturally Ella

Yields: 6-8 regular sized doughnuts

Ingredients: 

3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour

3/4 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 cup pecans, chopped

1/2 cup milk

3 tablespoons coconut oil (melted so that it’s liquid)

1 egg

1 banana

2 tbs maple syrup

Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and grease the doughnut pan with butter

2. In a medium bowl, stir together the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, salt, nuts)

3. In a separate bowl, mash the banana.  Whisk in the milk, oil, egg, and maple syrup.  Pour the liquid into the dry and stir until just combined

4. Using a pastry bag or ziplock bag with the corner cut off (I used a pancake pen), squeeze the batter in even circles around the doughnut pan

5. Bake for 12-15 minutes until doughnuts spring back to the touch.  Let cool for 5 minutes in the pan, and then flip onto a wire rack to cool.

Once the doughnuts were cooled, I sprayed them lightly with olive oil (butter would also work, I just didn’t have any) and then dunked them in a mixture of 1/4 cup sugar and 1 tablespoon cinnamon.  These are sweet enough on their own but I think the cinnamon sugar topping really gave them an extra boost.  Either way, Socrates and I couldn’t keep our hands (paws) off of them!

Zucchini, Red Pepper, and Onion Frittata

We all know how much I love Pinterest, and if I tried to cook my way through every recipe that I’ve pinned, I’d literally be in the kitchen for the next ten years or so.  But, I have to start somewhere right?

After what seemed like a never-ending supply of eggs in our house last week, I decided to put all that time I spent pinning to the test by trying out a frittata recipe from Skinnytaste.com.  I did change a few things as I chopped and sautéed my way around the kitchen.  The recipe called for using half egg whites, but there’s no way I’m throwing out the yolks of my pretty little eggs, so I went with eight whole eggs in all their high cholesterol glory.  No health worries from us though, the frittata actually lasted us through about six or seven meals (we were in an egg-coma by day three), and according to my favorite foodie, Michael Pollan, egg yolks aren’t the evil villain they’re sometimes made out to be.  In fact, eggs from pastured hens (aka – happy grass-roaming, bug-eating hens) have 34% less cholesterol than eggs from factory farm hens.

Enough with my chatter and on with the recipe.

Zucchini, Red Pepper, & Onion Frittata

Ingredients:

  • 8 eggs (preferably from grass-fed/pastured hens)
  • 1 small onion, cut into long, thin strips
  • 1.5 cups zucchini, diced into strips (1-2 zucchini, depending on size)
  • 1 red pepper, sliced into strips
  • 1/4 cup cheese (I used cheddar, but you could use parmesan)
  • 2 teaspoon olive ol
  • salt & pepper
Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  2. Add the oil to a 10-inch oven-safe skillet and turn the heat to medium
  3. Stir in the onion and cook for about 10 minutes until slightly brown
  4. Add peppers and cook for 5 minutes
  5. Stir in the zucchini, season with salt and pepper and cook for three minutes, stirring occasionally
  6. While the veggies are finishing up, whisk the eggs, cheese, and a little more salt and pepper
  7. Add eggs to the skillet, making sure all the veggie mixture is covered.  Cook for about 2 minutes until the edges start to set
  8. Transfer the skillet to the preheated oven, and bake for 10-15 minutes

What I love about this recipe is that it’s incredibly versatile and will work with just about any mix-ins you can dream up.  I can’t wait for the spring vegetables to appear at the farmer’s market to try with this.  Asparagus and gruyere frittata, anyone?  We ate this for dinner, but then re-heated for breakfast and lunch too.  There’s no “eggs are only for breakfast” nonsense in our house.

An EGG-cellent tip (seriously, I’m so funny) – Not sure if your eggs are spoiled?  Drop one in a bowl of water, if the egg sinks it’s good, if it floats it’s spoiled.

Enjoy!

Life of a Locavore

Hello again,

Like the majority of the world, Saturday is my favorite day of the week.  For obvious reasons, of course, like being off of work and having a lazy day to do whatever I’d like, but also because it’s the day Steve and I get to stock up on local produce and goodies at our farmer’s market, Atherton Mill & Market.

Image courtesy of Atherton Market Facebook page

We started our journey to eat local and support area farmers about two years ago, shopping at the Kings Drive Farmers Market in Charlotte.  We were super excited and our “green” attitude was bursting all over the place as we stocked up on lots of berries, pineapple, and veggies.  One day, while enjoying our weekly loot, I was browsing online and little did I know that the proud “green” bubble I had put myself into was about to burst.  While doing some research to find out more about our local markets, I learned that those delicious local berries I was enjoying actually came from Brazil, and the pineapple that was sitting on my counter waiting for me to make a mess while Steve watched in horror as I hacked into it with an oversized knife, actually traveled all the way from Costa Rica.

Image courtesy of Energy Smart Charlotte

So, as it turns out, we weren’t enjoying produce that was just picked the day before and we weren’t supporting our local farmer’s at all, we were basically eating the same produce that they sell at the grocery store, we were just buying it outside and being tricked by our logical assumption that food at the farmer’s market was actually grown and sold by local area farmers.

So, here we are, two years later, still soaking up all the information we can learn about what eating local, or being a “locavore,” actually means.  Produce that you purchase at your grocery store travels about 1,500 miles to get from the farm to your plate.  Obviously, the environmental impact of eating carrots from Harris Teeter versus eating carrots from a local farmer is significantly different.  Not only are those local carrots more fresh, tasty, and environmentally friendly, but we are also able to speak directly to the farmer who grew them, and be assured that they weren’t treated with any chemicals or pesticides that I don’t really want to put into my body. I know that eating local 100% of the time is unrealistic, but we do what we can to eat with the seasons, spend our money so that it supports our local farmers and economy, all the while enjoying the sense of community and good nutrition that comes from incorporating local foods into our diet.

So, back to today!  After a long few months of greens, greens, and more greens, the milder weather has finally stocked the market with a little more produce variety.  We still bought our kale and spinach today, but we were also able to bring home some carrots and sweet potatoes too. We also bought some eggs from the farmers that we’ll be getting our CSA from in the spring, and a couple of the eggs are blue.  Check out the sweet little chickens who provided us with the eggs here.

Veggies from Atherton Market

Eggs from Bell's Best Berries, one of the hens is named Rhubarb!

Another thing I love about our farmers market is the non-food vendors who bring local made soaps, jewelry, and even the sweetest little kid aprons made out of green materials. I’ve had my eye on some bath salts for the past few months, so today I finally picked up a bottle and I can’t wait to try it out.  We also stopped by Savory Spice Shop next door to pick up some ginger and nutmeg so that I can make Steve’s favorite granola.

I’ll be incorporating the veggies that we got today into spinach pockets with marinara sauce, carrot pancakes or carrot breakfast cookies, and probably some sweet potato granola to use as my breakfast cereal, that is, if I ever get out of the relaxation coma that I’m sure will be brought on by my salt filled bath tomorrow.

If you’re interested in eating local, check out localharvest.org to find options near you.

And that’s a wrap for today, have a great rest of the weekend!