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!

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Stacy Eats: Tales of CSA Cooking

One of my favorite blogs is Kath Eats Real Food where she basically takes pictures of her breakfast, lunch, and dinner and blogs about it three times a day.  As silly as it sounds, it’s actually given me a lot of inspiration in the kitchen, and good for Kath because she gets paid to do it (seriously, her blog is her job, how awesome!).  Our dinners were pretty simple this week so instead of blogging about the recipes, I thought I’d just share pictures of some of our eats for the week.  We’ve been getting a huge bag of veggies each Saturday from our CSA, so it’s fun to open the fridge and make dinner out of unique local veggies that we normally wouldn’t buy at the grocery store.

Mixed Green Salad with Homemade Croutons, Candied Pecans, Sunflower Seeds & Honey-Balsamic Vinaigrette

Sauteed Kale, Onion, & Scrambled Egg Sandwiches/Pitas

Lemony Swiss Chard Pasta with Parm & Toasted Walnuts

Veggie Fried Brown Rice

Strawberry Salad with Maple-Balsamic Vinaigrette

We still have some beets and kale to use before we get our fresh bag of produce tomorrow, so I’m thinking of trying to perfect kale chips and maybe making some red velvet cupcakes with the beets (you can’t taste them, it’s just a way to make the cake red with using food dye).

My favorite dinner of the week was definitely the strawberry salad.  I’m so happy it’s finally strawberry season, and even though I’m going broke buying an extra pint or two a week, they were certainly a tasty addition to the salad.  I figure this salad was too delicious not to share, so the super simple recipe is below.

Strawberry Salad with Maple-Balsamic Vinaigrette

For the vinaigrette:

Mix 1/4 teaspoon dried basil, 1 teaspoon mustard, 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, 2 tablespoons maple syrup, 2 teaspoons lemon juice, and a clove of minced garlic in a bowl.  Slowly stream in 1/2 cup of olive oil and whisk until the mixture thickens.  Add salt and pepper.  Store any leftover dressing in the fridge.

For the salad:

Toss the dressing with the salad greens.  Top with toasted walnuts and strawberry slices and enjoy!

And of course a food post wouldn’t be complete without a couple Socrates begging photos:

The Chicken or the Egg

Work has been quite slow this week, so while my co-workers were playing online basketball and Facebook stalking, I was catching up on my not-so-guilty pleasure of blog reading (my guilty pleasure is spending hours upon hours on Pinterest, but unfortunately, the big bosses at my company got smart and blocked the site).  While perusing my RSS feed, I came across a post from one of my favorite blogs, Food Renegade, about marketing ploys that egg companies use to advertise their “free-range” and “cage-free” eggs and what those terms really mean.

Check out this awesome short video made by Douglas & Laura Gayeton.

Looking at myself as a consumer a few years ago, I would go to Walmart or Harris Teeter and buy eggs for about a dollar a dozen, never thinking about the alternatives of “cage-free” or “free-range” that were priced a tiny bit higher.  Eventually my husband talked me into buying these eggs that he viewed as “better,” and there are still many consumers today who (logically) assume that they are doing their bit to help animal welfare by buying these cage-free and free-range options.  Knowing what I know now, it really frustrates me that these big corporations are allowed to fool us into thinking that these eggs came from happy chickens hanging out with their other chicken friends while they all munch on plants and peck their way around a big lot of beautiful farmland.

Granted, these options are better than the other factory farming method of having multiple chickens living in a cage the size of a folded newspaper, with their beaks cut off, and being denied food and water for days so that their production will increase (hello, $1 a dozen eggs).  But should these “free-range” and “cage-free” egg companies be able to fill their cartons & advertisements with misleading pictures of healthy looking chickens grazing on farmland while in reality they live packed together in a warehouse so tightly that they can’t grow properly (don’t even get me started on the hormones that they are fed) and maybe have access to a closet sized outdoor area a couple times a week?

So, when you ask me the question of “the chicken or the egg?,” my answer will always be the chicken.

Does this mean that I don’t eat eggs?  No, it absolutely does not, I love eggs!  I’m fortunate to live in a city where CSA’s and food from sustainable and ethical farmers is pretty widely available, and I even posted last week about getting our eggs from Bell’s Best Berries where you can go visit their chickens to see the happy and comfortable environment they live in.  Of course, if you don’t want to make the trip, you can see sweet little Rhubarb and her friends below:

I’m sure an attempt to call up Eggland’s Best Egg Company and try to schedule an appointment to visit one of their farmers chicken houses would be a major fail.We purchase our eggs for $3 a dozen from Bell’s, they are $4.50 a dozen from some farmers at our market.  I’ll gladly pay the extra few cents to know the chickens are being treated well and fed a natural diet of plants, grains, and insects they find while out and about (factory farm chickens are fed a soy-rich diet with antibiotics, hormones, and recycled slaughtered animal meat and bones mixed in, yum).

Not only are pastured eggs more fresh tasting, but they are also a darker yellow, almost orange color, since the chickens were allowed to roam around and eat green grass and plants.

Science lesson: the darker color comes from the beta-carotene in the plants, which is also the same thing that makes carrots orange.

"One of these eggs is not like the other" - the lighter colored yolk is from an organic egg bought at the grocery store. Notice how much darker the farmer's market egg yolks are. Image courtesy of 100daysofrealfood.com

My only conundrum (fun word, right?) about eating eggs is when it comes to eating out.  I love my piece of chocolate cake just as much as the next girl, so it’s been hard weighing my desire to indulge in sweet treats versus being realistic about where the eggs in that cake came from.  Fortunately for me and my sweet tooth, Charlotte is home to one of the only bakeries in North Carolina, maybe even in the Southeast, that bakes with local eggs only (sourced from Cackelberry Farms in Concord).  So, if you’re ever in the Charlotte area, be sure to visit Sunflour Baking Company, where not only will you gain a few pounds before you leave, but you’ll also be able to enjoy treats made with local ingredients including honey, jam, eggs, butter, and flour.

While it’s not possible for me right now, having my own chickens is definitely an item on my bucket list.  I know that if my parents are reading this, they are probably snickering at the thought of me cleaning poop out of a chicken coop, but what can I say, I’ve evolved.  I’ve always loved dogs, but I’ve become more of an all-animal lover over the past couple of years, and I think it would be awesome to have my own hens (not to mention the tasty eggs they would provide).  I have a very silly picture in my head of my dog, Socrates, playing with his chicken sisters in our yard, which, by the way, I am aware is probably not realistic.

I even found the cutest chicken coop ideas for my future babies, who says hen houses can’t be stylish?

Since I don’t have a backyard right now, little Colleena and her friends will have to wait.  For those of you who watch Portlandia, my inspiration for Colleena’s name came from this clip.  For the longest time I told people I wanted to name my future chicken Collin, until someone told me that only girl chickens, or hens, lay eggs (yes, that was a sad day for my intelligence).  So anyway, naturally, Collin became Colleena.

My husband and I seem to be the go-to recipients when our friends have extra eggs from their CSA’s, so hopefully I’ll be back tomorrow to bring you a recipe that uses some of the eggs that we seem to have coming out of our ears.

In the meantime, what about you, do you choose the chicken or the egg?