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Archive for the ‘Storage and Prep’ Category


zucchini

To be at the farmers market last Saturday and see the beautiful fruits and vegetables gave me hope that summer is just around the corner.  I had almost given up hope as I listened to the rain beating down lately.  We are truly blessed to have professional farmers that are able to overcome the weather challenges of southwest Missouri and grow beautiful fruits and vegetables.

 Recently I did a cooking demonstration that focused on Cooking for One or Two (people).  Sometimes the quantity offered at the market seems a bit overwhelming for a small household.  So think about multiple uses for that food.  For example, when purchasing a basket of tomatoes you may use them in a salad, a sauce, sliced eaten alone, a BLT or taco, or even tomato and cottage cheese.  Planning ahead will prevent waste from your purchase.  Looking at the many vegetables at market Saturday I could see multiple uses:  salads, stir fry’s, roasted, a simple soup. 

 Another idea suitable for many vegetables is to preserve them for later use by blanching and freezing.  Blanching is a process that stops the enzyme action in the vegetable and will help preserve the color and texture when it is frozen.  To blanch a vegetable, drop the vegetable in a pot of boiling water for a few minutes, remove and place in ice cold water to stop the cooking process and then drain.  Once the vegetable is drained you can place in a freezer bag, remove as much air as possible and freeze.  This is a great way to package in servings for 1 or 2.

The following recipe is so easy and  can be reduced or multiplied to fit your family size. Place the meat and vegetables in foil or parchment paper and bake or grill until the meat is done.  The freshness of the market vegetables will make this a delicious simple dinner.  Feel free to substitute with what’s available at your market.

Chicken en Papillote with Garden Vegetables

Serves 4       

  • 4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts (6 oz each) 
  • 1/2 tsp salt 
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper 
  • parchment paper 
  • 1 whole lemon, thinly sliced 
  • 4 oz baby zucchini, quartered lengthwise 
  • 4 oz baby carrots 
  • 4 oz cherry tomatoes, quartered 
  • 16 asparagus spears, trimmed 
  • 16 fresh morel mushrooms 
  • 1/4 cup shredded basil, plus more for garnish 
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine 
  • 2 tbsp olive oil 

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 425F. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Place each piece of chicken in the center of a 14-inch square piece of parchment paper (or foil) and top with lemon slices, zucchini carrots, tomatoes, asparagus, morels, and basil, dividing evenly. Sprinkle each with 3 tablespoons wine and 1/2 tablespoon olive oil.

2. Bring the edges of the parchment to the center and fold together twice to seal tightly, leaving space between parchment and contents. Place the 4 packets on a large baking sheet.

3. Bake until parchment is browned on edges and center puffs up, 14 to 16 minutes. Remove from oven, put each packet on a dinner plate, and serve, letting people pierce the center to reveal the food.

Nutritional Facts per serving

Calories         355.3 calories

Fat                  11.9 g

Saturated fat2.1 g

Cholesterol   108.9 mg

Sodium          516.6 mg

Carbohydrates          13.3 g

Total sugars              4.4 g

Dietary fiber              4.9 g

Protein                       41 g

From:  http://recipes.womenshealthmag.com/Recipe/chicken-en-papillote-with-garden-vegetables.aspx

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When I told folks I was going to make my own homemade baby food..they laughed. “Yeah, we will see how much time you have for that after the baby comes…” It’s mind over matter people!

Well, if you were to come on over to my house and see the bags of baby food I made over a year’s times for my son- you would be impressed. I was always experimenting with new combinations of flavors and textures.

I choose fresh vegetables mostly (shopped at local farmers markets), and the fruits and vegs that are high in pesticides typically, I purchased either locally or frozen.

If you are unsure about the differences in homemade baby food compared to the jarred stuff- just make a batch of sweet peas.  I used this example the other day for a Parents As Teachers baby food cooking class I put on.  I made sweet pea puree and showed how brightly colored the peas were. The jarred stuff looked like a brown-green color and I’ve never known a baby to like peas. Well, mine did, it was one of his favorite foods as a baby and as a toddler.I’m also made sure Caston had an adventurous palate by incorporating things like avocado, salmon, pumpkin, butternut squash and even kale. I think kids are picky eaters bc they aren’t shown how fun food is!  By making your baby’s own food, you can show them the adventures of the food pyramid and the farmers markets is a great place to start.  And, don’t fret…just because it’s winter doesn’t mean that all market are closed.  There are many communities that offer winter markets.

If you are interested in making your own baby food check out these resources:
Baby Center
Wholesome Baby Food

Cookbook: So Fresh

Once a week I took about an hour and made a couple batches of baby food and froze the food in ice cube trays and some freezer cups. Then, when ready to use some of the food pull out only what you will need (yeah- no waste) and you can either thaw overnight in the fridge or microwave in a bowl.

I whole-heartily believe this is the best food for your baby….no preservatives and additives just fresh and healthy food!  Give it a try, you won’t be sorry.

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Cooking with My Son, Caston

I await autumn each year not only for the cooler weather and fall color, but the food. Pumpkin tops the list of some of my favorites: pumpkin muffins, pumpkin pie, pumpkin soup, pumpkin cake…you get the idea.

And, no recipe that calls for pumpkin is complete unless it’s homemade pumpkin puree.  Making your own puree is very simple and freezer bags help you store the puree very easily.  Here is my method for processing pumpkins this fall.  And, I’ve got a special recipe that I made with my son this morning- Pumpkin Cake with a rich and buttery dark brown sugar glaze.  You never know what a little experimenting in the kitchen will bring…

How to Process Pumpkins
Split the pumpkin in half, remove all seeds and strings. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Take pumpkin and place in a large cake pan. Place pumpkin pulp-side down into the pan. Add 3 cups of water to pan. Bake the pumpkin for about 1 hour in the oven. You will know when the pumpkin is ready by pushing on the skin and it feels soft to the touch. If the pumpkin is still hard, let it remain in the oven for another 20 minutes.  You may have to add more water throughout the cooking process, so be sure to check on the level throughout.

After you have your pumpkin cooked, remove all the pulp and place in large bowl. I remove the pulp with a large metal spoon and scoop it out.  With a blender add 1 cup of pulp at a time, along with 1/4 cup of water. Blend together.

Let pumpkin cool, add to freezer bags and freeze flat. I like to place 2 cups or 1 1/2 cups of pumpkin in each bag, for cooking purposes.

Pumpkin Coffee Cake

Pumpkin Cake with a Buttery Sugar Glaze
⅓ cups Water
2 ½ cups pumpkin puree
2 Large Eggs
1 Tablespoon Vanilla Extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon nutmeg
1 box French Vanilla or Golden Butter Cake Mix(18 Ounce Box and I always use Duncan Hines Moist Deluxe)
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
1 cup Dark Brown Sugar, Divided
½ cups Flour
½ cups Walnuts, Chopped
4 Tablespoons Butter, Melted
2 Tablespoons butter
¼ cups Granulated Sugar
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
¼ cups Heavy Whipping Cream

Preheat the oven to 350F.

In a large bowl mix together the water, pumpkin, eggs, 1 Tablespoon of vanilla, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg until well combined. Next add the cake mix and baking soda and mix well.

Pour mixture into a greased 9 x 13 pan.  Then, in a small mixing bowl make your crumbled topping.  Mix together ½ dark brown sugar, ½ cup flour, toasted walnuts and melted butter and mix until the topping resembles chunky cornmeal.  Sprinkle over the top of the cake mixture and bake for 30 minutes or until a knife inserted comes out clean.

While the cake is cooking make your rich glaze.  Combine ½ cup dark brown sugar, ¼ cups granulated sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla, 2 tablespoons of butter and ¼ cup heavy cream.  Bring mixture to a light simmer for 5 minutes and remove from heat.

When cake comes out of oven, take a knife and poke holes in the top of the cake.  Pour the glaze over the entire cake and let cake sit for at least 30 minutes.

 

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Heirloom Tomatoes from the Farmers Market

It’s tomato season and farmers markets are busting with colorful arrays of tomato varieties.  I’m going to be sharing secrets to finding the perfect tomato and I’ve got a tomato dish that is simply delish.

How to Buy Tomatoes
-Don’t worry about tomatoes with weird shapes. Even cracked skin is okay, but leaking juice and soft spots are not.
-Choose tomatoes that feel heavy for their size.
-Smell Tomatoes should smell earthy and tomato-y, never musty or flat
-Taste This is where farmers market shopping really pays off – you can often taste the tomatoes before you buy them.

How to Store Tomatoes
Treat tomatoes gently. Heirloom tomato varieties, in particular, tend to be quite fragile. So don’t pile the tomatoes in a bag where their weight will squash one another, and always pluck vine-ripening tomatoes off their vines (or the vine stem off them) to avoid having the sharp vines poke holes in your precious cargo. But above all never refrigerate tomatoes (one of the biggest mistakes many make). Temperatures under 50° turn tomatoes mushy and mealy.

Now that we know how to choose tomatoes and store them properly – let’s get cooking!

One of my go-to’s in the kitchen for an easy recipe is always homemade tomato sauce.  And, making your own homemade sauce is simple and healthier- as the canned and jarred stuff (which is okay for a substitution occasionally) is full of added preservatives. 

1.) Get Your Tomatoes Started
Both large and small tomatoes work great for sauces – like beefsteak and plum.  First, you will need to remove the skins of the tomatoes.  The easiest way to do this would be to par boil them.  On the bottom of the tomatoes, cut an “X”.  Then, place the tomatoes in a pot of boiling water for 60 seconds or until the skin begins to come loose.  Remove the tomatoes from the water and place in an ice bath (large bowl of ice water).  Once the tomatoes have cooled, remove the skins and chop the tomatoes.

I make a couple batches of par boiled tomatoes and then freeze the cored, peeled tomatoes to cook sauce in the winter as well.  This will allow you to savor the tomato season year-round.

Classic Tomato Sauce

2.) Your Seasonings
When it comes to seasonings I like to say recipes are just “roadmaps” to guide you, but that you don’t have to follow.  I typically add onions, garlic, oregano, basil and olive oil – which are tomato sauce basics. But, feel free to also add parsley, thyme,red wine,  fennel seed and even bay leaf.  I also try and use fresh herbs from my garden, but remember if you use dried herbs use less because the dried version is much more potent.   Want some more zing to your sauce, then try a couple shakes of red pepper flakes.

Saute the onions and garlic, then add the par boiled tomatoes and roasted 3 roasted carrots.  (Yes, carrots.  I always add roasted carrots to my sauce.  I have found it makes a richer tasting sauce.) Add the other ingredients of your choice and cook on medium for about 40 minutes, until thickened.  I puree my sauce in a blender for a smoother sauce, but you can leave in chunky.

Season with salt and pepper.

3.) Store Your Sauce
I freeze my sauce in gallon freezer bags and I also can my sauce throughout the summer.

Savor tomato season year-round with your own homemade tomato sauce.  Check out your local farmers market for a variety of tomatoes to get you started!

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Eggplant is one specialty crop that gets overlooked at the market.  Most consumers know one way to cook these delicious produce- deep fried.  But, there are many other avenues to travel down when searching for eggplant recipes.

Before you run out to your local market to purchase eggplant, there are a few tips I want to offer.

Eggplant Season: Mid-July through September.

Growing:  Eggplant lives off hot weather and sun, yum yum!

Expectations:  Pick ‘em with firm, shiny skins and resilient flesh for freshness.  Smaller, younger eggplants like you find at the market have thinner, edible skins, & smaller seeds, unlike the big purple-black ones, which have to be prepped to cut their bitterness, concentrated around their larger seeds.

Nutrition:  Eggplant is high in fiber and low in calories.  It has a fair amount of potassium, anti-oxidants, and low amounts of a variety of other nutrients.

Storage: Keeps a week in the fridge if in an open plastic bag – it needs some air, but the bag will keep it from drying out, too.

Why buy it local: Variety!  There are wide array of colors and lengths of eggplant at the farmers market.  Be sure and ask your farmer about the varieties they offer.

Preparation Tips:
– If your eggplant is the large classic kind, you should salt it to leech out the alkaloids that cause bitterness.  Cut into ½ inch slices or cubes, and sprinkle with salt all over.  Let sit about an hour, then rinse well and squeeze to remove extra water.  This is not needed for little eggplant varieties, which are much lower in these unpleasant compounds.

– Salting also helps prevent excess grease absorption during cooking, by compressing the little pockets of moisture which also pull in the fats.

– With the big kind, you may also want to peel it if it seems tough.

Ways to Cook Eggplant
– Roasted (My favorite): For whole little ones, pierce a few times with tip of a knife to vent steam, & place on tray in 350 oven for around 30 minutes, until very soft.  For big ones, cut in half, salt as above, & place cut-side down on oiled baking sheet & bake longer.  Or grill ‘em- so worth the smokey flavor.

– Stir-fried: The little ones work best.  Slice & add to a heated oiled skillet.  Stir frequently over high heat until well browned (try mixing with quartered mushrooms & splash of soy sauce).

– Fried-fried: Cut in ½ inch thick slices, & salt & squeeze your eggplant well for this one.  Heat half an inch of oil in a skillet until very hot (but not yet smoking), and gently slide in eggplant. Don’t crowd the pan, or they’ll be soggy. Turn a few times until well browned and tender.

Eggplant Spread

Eggplant Spread
4-6 roasted small eggplants, skinned and minced
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 T. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. cumin
Handful of chopped clinatro
2 T olive oil

Warm oil in skillet and cook onion until soft and lightly browned.  Stir in garlic add eggplant pulp.  Simmer for 10-15 minutes.  Season to taste with salt, pepper, lemon juice, cumin and clinatro.  Perfect served with pita chips.

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Grilled peaches from the Christian County Farmers Market

Nothing spells summer like fruit.  And if there is one fruit that symbolize the heat of the summer- it’s peaches.  There are two major types of peaches: “Freestone” and “Clingstone”. Freestone peaches have flesh that slips easily away from the pit. With Clingstones the fruit clings to the pit!

How to tell if the peaches are ripe?

One thing to keep in mind is that once a peach is picked from the tree the fruit will not ripen any further, they only soften.

Softness: unless you like your peaches very firm, pick your peaches with just a little “give” when gently pressed. Peaches at this stage are great for eating, freezing and baking.

Odor: It should smell sweet and ripe!

I’ve picked up some peaches here at the market from a local orchard that are perfectly ripe.  I’m going to be grilling peaches today- one of my family’s favorite ways to enjoy in the taste of the summer.

I grilled up peaches from Ozark Mtn. Orchard in Highlandville, Mo., today at the Christian County Farmers Market and consumers raved about this simple dessert.  My family loves to throw some peaches on the grill while the coals are still hot, plate the peaches and then top with vanilla bean ice cream.

Fresh from the Farm

Grilled Peaches
4-5 peaches
1 stick of butter
Cinnamon
Sugar, optional
Vanilla Bean Ice cream

Slice peaches in halve and coat with melted butter and sprinkle with cinnamon.  OPTIONAL- sprinkle with sugar.  Grill until soft, about 3 minutes per side.  Top with ice cream.

When you come home from the market with a peck of peaches try spreading the peaches on towels and separate any damaged fruit immediately.  Put a couple of days supply into the fridge, wash and cut the others and freeze them up to savor the peach season.

Head on out to the market today and enjoy the sweetness of the season.

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Fresh peaches at Ozark Mtn. Orchard

Nothing spells summer like fruit.  And if there is one fruit that symbolize the heat of the summer- it’s peaches.  There are two major types of peaches: “Freestone” and “Clingstone”. Freestone peaches have flesh that slips easily away from the pit. With Clingstones the fruit clings to the pit!

How to tell if the peaches are ripe?

One thing to keep in mind is that once a peach is picked from the tree the fruit will not ripen any further, they only soften.

Softness: unless you like your peaches very firm, pick your peaches with just a little “give” when gently pressed. Peaches at this stage are great for eating, freezing and baking.

Odor: It should smell sweet and ripe!

One of my family’s favorite ways to enjoy in the taste of summer fruit is to grill peaches and serve them with ice cream.  I will be grilling up peaches today at the Christian County Farmers Market in Ozark at the Community Center from 5-7 p.m.  Stop in to do some shopping from your local farmers.

Grilled Peaches
4-5 peaches
1 stick of butter
Cinnamon
Sugar, optional
Vanilla Bean Ice cream

Slice peaches in halve and coat with melted butter and sprinkle with cinnamon.  OPTIONAL- sprinkle with sugar.  Grill until soft, about 3 minutes per side.  Top with ice cream.

When you come home from the market with a peck of peaches try spreading the peaches on towels and separate any damaged fruit immediately.  Put a couple of days supply into the fridge, wash and cut the others and freeze them up to savor the peach season.

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