Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Grain-Free Squash Bars

Even though I've had to give up grains I have not been deterred from giving up all treats. I do eat them less often, which is a good thing, but occasionally I experiment and come up with something tasty. 

Not only am I not eating grains but am also not eating nuts or much coconut so almond and coconut flours are out. Coconut is a weird flour to bake with anyway. Plantains to the rescue! 

Plantains look like giant bananas but are firmer and only eaten cooked. Dead ripe, with a black skin, they are usually used as a dessert: fried, baked, mashed, all sorts of recipes. On the other end of the spectrum, green plantains are a neutral starch, good for replacing flour in various recipes. Depending on the individual plantain and the recipe, there can be a hint of banana taste or absolutely none at all. The greener the plantain, the less banana flavor. A more complex recipe also hides small amounts of banana flavor. 

My first experiments with plantain were with plain plantain muffins. Pretty good, but they tended to be wet in the middle. I fixed that by making mini muffins so they could cook through more easily. Next, I played around with pancakes. I got closer and closer to what I wanted, then just used my old reliable recipe, subbing plantain for the flour, and it was wonderful! 

Thanks to Pinterest and Preparing it Paleo I've found that, in many recipes, I can sub one plantain per cup of flour. I haven't measured this by weight or volume to find an exact amount, but so far have used forgiving recipes such as pancakes. Someday I'll stop and measure and take notes! 

My biggest accomplishment yet was to adapt a recipe that I had already adapted to significantly change the flavors. I love Winter Squash Bars from Simply in Season and wondered if I could make them with summer squash puree instead of winter squash. Or immature winter squash (which is first cousin, if not sibling, to summer squash).  

Baby pumpkin or round zucchini? (baby pumpkin)
Summer squash, with some flavor adjustments, makes a fabulous substitute for winter. It needs to be drained very well, as it tends to be wetter than winter squash. For flavoring I used lemon peel with a hint of ginger and cloves.

This, however, was all with flour. Granted, the flour type did not seem to matter too much: white, whole wheat, or a combination all worked. But what about plantain? This is a moist bar and I wasn't sure if plantain would take it over the top. After a few tries I can confidently say it works, though I have to make sure drain the puree well and use a little less squash.

Working with green plantain is a little tricky. It needs to be pureed and it's tough! I recommend a sturdy blender (I use a vintage Oster with a new blade) or heavy-duty immersion blender. I understand a food processor will work but it does need to be pretty strong to get a fine puree. I begin the process with just the plantain, add the butter, then the eggs. In addition to on Preparing it Paleo, find tips for working with plantain from the Paleo Mom and The Paleo Secret.

Plantain on the left, white flour on the right

You can see that the plantain bars are darker, at least than a white flour version of the bars. I was surprised, as plantain pancakes taste and look just like white flour pancakes. The bars are sweeter, too, so perhaps it's extra sugars browning. I'll probably experiment with less sugar in the future, too. 

For the regular flour version, see the Main St. Farmers Market blog

Grain-Free Summer Squash Bars
Adapted from Winter Squash Bars from Simply in Season by Mary Beth Lind and Cathleen Hockman-Wert

Whisk together:
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
1 Tbs poppy seeds
Set aside

1 green plantain with, first:
⅜ cup (6 Tbs) butter, melted, then:
2 eggs

Mix together in a bowl:
generous 3/4 cup summer squash puree (about 1lb fresh squash, immature winter squash, or spaghetti squash)
¾ cup sugar
1 tsp grated lemon zest

Stir in plantain mixture, then salt, soda, and seeds

Pour into greased 9” x 13” pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes and cut into bars when cool (or cool-ish!).

Printable recipe

Saturday, June 4, 2016

I Love Chard

Surprise, surprise, right? Not only do I love chard for cooking and eating but also for growing. It is the only green to reliably survive our hot summers, it is not from the cruciferous family so no pesky cabbage worms, it can make it through most winters under a row cover, and it is so pretty! What's not to like? 

Don't get me wrong: gardening is work. I took a few years off from much gardening and let local farmers do most of the work. There's soil prep, planting, weeding, feeding, and this spring the watering was threatening to do me in. 

Look at those weeds! And I garden intensively so I will be doing all of it by hand, if not by tweezer. 

But off of only about a half dozen of my plants I got this much chard: 

Thursday night I needed a quick and easy meal again (birthday party the next day!) and opted for what I consider an all-in-one: Potato-Kale (Chard) Hashbrowns. It has eggs, potatoes, and chard - that covers all the food groups, right? I still think in food groups, no pyramid, steps, or plate for me. 

As long as you understand the differences among the various greens they can be used interchangeably in recipes, sometimes with little tweaks. I find most kale recipes do not call for cooking the kale enough and lend themselves well to chard instead. 

I used frozen hashbrowns to keep it quick and easy. Chop an onion (shallots are even better), slice some of the chard into ribbons, and mix with all the other ingredients except the oil. 

I love orange yolk eggs.

Cook in a skillet or griddle (or both as I did to speed up the process) in a little of your choice of fat. I thought these were good with both palm oil and butter. 

The griddle was our first wedding present. Grandma's ice cream scoop measured the right amount per cake.  

I ate a little chicken and leftovers with mine. The kids scrounged for leftovers to go with theirs. A protein side would be nice for those that need it, or a veggie side. 

Potato Kale Hashbrowns (adapted from a recipe by Rosemary Mark)

16 oz frozen shredded potatoes
1 - 2 cups kale (chard, spinach) leaves cut in thin strips 
4 - 5 eggs (depending on size)
1/4 cup or more finely chopped onion (shallots, leeks, etc.)
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
Salt to taste (taste it!)
Freshly ground black pepper
Fat for cooking (olive or palm oil, butter, whatever you like)

1. Combine all ingredients except oil(s) in a bowl. (The original author says you can cover and refrigerate up to 12 hours before cooking, perhaps for breakfast)

2. Heat a little oil in your skillet or griddle - I used a medium heat, enough to cook quickly and brown well, but not too quickly. Stir whenever the mixture separates. Scoop about 1/4 cup and mound onto your pan, then flatten to make a cake. Cook until brown on one side, flip and cook until brown on the other (to your taste). Repeat with the remaining potato/kale mix. This served five people with few sides, there would probably have been leftovers had I provided more sides. 

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

An Easy Meal

Sometimes I like to have an easy meal, quick and simple. Fish is something I prepare simply and paired with leftovers and/or basic sides supper is on the table without much effort. I was so excited the first week Pickett's trout was at the Main St. Farmer's Market and have purchased it several times. Today I pulled it from the freezer, having saved it from last week. I grabbed some frozen cauliflower, too, as I had not quite purchased enough veggies at the last market to make it a whole week. That plus some leftover sweet potatoes and rice with sprinkles of fresh herbs (at least some from MSFM seedlings from various vendors) was a satisfying meal. Tonight I asked Zachary for his professional touch with the photos and he sweetly took them all for me. 

For fish I prefer Martha Stewart's recipe for fish en papillote: fish in parchment paper. It has proved to be foolproof for me - even on vacation recently with a wacky oven to work with, despite being overcooked, the fish melted in our mouths (the one fillet whose paper unsealed got rubbery). The original recipe I work from is called parchment bluefish but every kind of fillet I have used has worked so far. First I cut some herbs: one to two stems of each kind I wanted to use per fillet, plus some more herbs for the veggies and rice: 

Left to right: common thyme, parsley, chives, lemon thyme, garlic chives, oregano, and mint.

I made circles of parchment per Martha's advice, a little less than her recommended 14-16" (Martha must not have used Costco parchment, if there was such a thing in 1988; it's not wide enough.):

Plenty of times I am lazy and just use rectangles but the circles are really easier to fold and make a good seal. 

I seasoned both sides of the two fillets I had (I never use enough salt, salt them well!). Then I chopped up a few sprigs each of lemon thyme, parsley, chives, garlic chives and oregano (the other herbs went on the veggies and rice). I sprinkled them on the fillets and added a pat of butter to each:

Then I folded them up, beginning in the middle, and crimped them well. They need to be sealed well to hold in the moisture: 

I baked in a preheated 450° oven for 10 minutes. Yes, only 10 minutes. Quick and easy! Often I don't even chop the herbs, just throw on some sprigs, but the kids don't like that as much. Voila:

Supper's ready! I like common thyme with my sweet potatoes and both kinds of chives plus parsley with the cauliflower. Rice with herbs and sautéed onions were another option tonight.

Chard, Three Ways

Sometimes I am not very good at doing things with restraint. For instance, last Wednesday at the Main St. Farmer's Market I bought two bunches of beautiful Flamingo Swiss Chard from The Healthy Kitchen. I neglected to take a photo of it before cooking but here's a good example.

I also had some bolting plants leftover from the fall that needed to go to make room for this spring's seedlings (fall and spring seedlings from Crabtree Farms). That's a lot of chard! My go-to recipe for chard greens is to combine them with some sautéed onions. For the stems we like to bake them with butter and parmesan. But I was in the mood for something different! Well, I found it: Swiss Chard Hazelnut Dessert Tart (and made use of Healthy Kitchen's eggs, too). Apparently this is not specifically a health food but an old French recipe. I imagine chard's high oxalic acid gives it appeal in a dessert much the same way rhubarb does. 

I decided to go with the old standby of baked chard stems, sautéed greens, AND the new tart recipe. Dinner was a little late that night. I also baked my fresh Chicken Club whole chicken from Hoe Hop while messing around with the chard.

The result? Success! Since I cannot eat them myself I left off the hazelnuts and tart crust of the original dessert recipe and it was still good and appreciated by everyone. I'm sure it's even better with the nuts and crust. 

The baked stems are still colorful, though not the bright pink of the original. The browned butter and parmesan help make up for the color change. 

I did not take a photo of the sautéed greens as they were not as pretty as the other dishes. I tried with the beautiful brown chicken but I had knocked some skin off one leg. It was still yummy! Here's a mini shot.

Find the tart recipe on Michelle Redmond's blog Stone Soup.

Here is my version of Jack Bishop's Baked Chard Stems with Butter and Parmesan (adapted from Vegetables Every Day):

1 pound chard stems (about 12 large stems)
3 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup parmesan cheese 

1. Arrange the chard stems in an appropriate size dish (chard stems sizes vary - I usually use 8 x 8 but this night I had enough and large enough for 9 x 13). Leave some water from washing on the stems and/or add a couple of tablespoons of water to the dish. Salt lightly and cover the dish (foil, a lid, a cookie sheet). Bake at around 350° until tender (about 15 minutes). 

2. Melt the butter, pour over stems, then sprinkle on the parmesan. Bake until lightly browned, about another 10-15 minutes or so. 

Note that this is very flexible recipe. The oven temperature can easily go up or down and the time will vary with the size of the chard stems. It is hard to overcook it in the early stages, just watch the browning at the end. 

Monday, October 8, 2012

Fall Break

First day of Fall Break:

Kind of a dreary, rainy morning, huh?

Those droopy sunflowers in the background say it best. Time for pumpkin scones! From Money Saving Mom's suggestion I used the recipe from Sweet Pea's Kitchen: http://sweetpeaskitchen.com/2010/09/pumpkin-scones/ When it was time to make the glaze we found we are out of powdered sugar. Lexi was very sad but they were very good anyway. This is breakfast, not dessert, right? This was all that was left after just four of us dug in and later Zachary ended up eating another:

So, a couple left for Millie (who did not feel like eating at all) or maybe some for snack. I'd call these a success. 

Money Saving Mom posted these as part of a successful freezer cooking session: http://tinyurl.com/monsavpumpscones

I hope to be making more pumpkin recipes this week-a mix of old favorites and new recipes. 

Saturday, June 9, 2012

What's for dinner?

Over the past week (Friday-Friday):
Pizza (of course):

Birthday dinner of tofu and greens plus onion rings and cake:
(Millie helped bake the cake and both girls sifted sugar for frosting)

Assorted roasted veggies, bread and salad:
Friday night pizza with a twist: Easy Bake Oven!
Jeffrey made some regular size, too:

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Feliz Cinco de Mayo!

Only one month late. :)  Saturday, May 5th, after Jeffrey finished the 3-State, 3-Mounatain Challenge (best time ever!) we went to watch the girls scrimmage with the group they've been taking a soccer clinic with:

Afterwards we decided we were too tired to even supervise supper making. Never mind that Zachary needed to leave at our usual suppertime to get to the CFC soccer game. He won a season pass when his team won the neighborhood soccer cup. We decided to do something totally outside our norm: go out to supper at a Mexican restaurant on Cinco de Mayo. We don't go out to eat a lot and we take the kids even less often. And I hate crowds and noise. Somehow, though, it sounded like fun for once. We went to a local spot, not far from Jeffrey's office-Taco Mamacita. They serve local food which I love. And we went early. Talk about a cultural experience! There were certainly a lot of people there and I did not notice any other kids (I did as we left). We had to show i.d., not at the door, but still in the parking lot! We got wristbands, too. The kids _tried_ to, then we explained. There was a wait only long enough for a potty break ("I drank all my water bottle in the car!") and we got seats with a good view of the t.v.:

"Mommy, I want the white horse to win and it's winning!" Oh, yeah, it's time for the Kentucky Derby. Zachary had his own entertainment. The horses were almost enough and when they weren't there was a guy in Mexican garb to watch and crayons for coloring:

Why color the kids' menu when you can color the pretty lady on the coasters? While we waited for our food I looked up Cinco de Mayo on Wikipedia. It's primarily an American holiday to celebrate Mexican heritage. It is also observed in some regions of Mexico, mainly in Puebla where it celebrates victory over a battle with the French. We enjoyed it the typical American way; as an excuse to eat some yummy Mexican food.