Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Lobster Tail and Maple Pudding

No, this is not a post about avant garde desserts. This is a post about having lobster tail for dinner and maple pudding for dessert. I'm not that weird.

Our local fishmonger had Maine lobster tails on sale for $5.99 each. It doesn't really match the $4.99 a pound whole lobster price that I found this summer on Cape Cod, but it's not bad for down here. I bought three tails and grilled them. I made a basting sauce with melted butter, fresh garlic that I put through a press and fresh lemon juice. I cut the tails down the middle, smothered them in the baste and grilled them flesh side down for five minutes and flipped to the shell side for three minutes. I also made local grassfed sirloin steak from the same fishmonger. I salted the sirloin with smoked sea salt and let it sit at room temperature for about an hour, then put olive oil on it for grilling. I rounded off the meal with boring old steamed broccoli. (I also had steamed cauliflower, but I'm the only one who eats it, so I didn't put it in the picture.)

Craig and I each had three halves of the lobster, plus steak. Craig said the whole dinner I made was perfect. This is high praise as he is brutally honest and will tell me from time to time, with no sugarcoating, that the dinner I made was just fair or contained too much ginger. The boys ate steak and broccoli. I got to use "You can't have your pudding if you don't eat your meat!" And it made sense in this case! Sometimes I use it, complete with fake accent, to get them to eat their dinner. It felt great to use it with actual pudding and meat involved. And yes, I know that pudding in British sense doesn't really mean pudding, but hey, who cares?

My boys (husband included) wax and wane on how much milk they drink. I buy two gallons every two weeks of Wainwright Dairy's pasteurized, non-homogenized grass-fed milk. This seems to be a slow milk using week. I still have a gallon and a half left and we're at the halfway mark! Usually we're cracking open the second gallon. I decided pudding was a great way to use up a bunch of milk.

I love pudding and homemade pudding is super easy to make. I also love the taste of maple syrup, so instead of using sugar, I decided to sweeten it with 100% pure maple syrup instead of sugar.

Maple Pudding
2 cups whole milk (I haven't tried it but you can substitute whole coconut milk)
2 T butter
1 T vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup maple syrup
3 T tapioca flour (You can also use arrowroot starch or cornstarch)

Place double boiler in a pot with water in it. (You can jury rig a double boiler by putting a smaller pot into a larger pot, but I have a dedicated stainless steel double boiler. My younger son uses it as a helmet sometimes.) Turn on high so that the water boils. Make sure it does not boil over the side; pour some out if you need.

Heat milk and butter until butter is melted. Add vanilla and salt to milk and butter mixture. Whisk together beaten eggs, maple syrup and tapioca flour. Add it to milk mixture and whisk together until it thickens. You may need to use a Cuisanart Quick-prep or similar to really mix the lumps away.

Pour into either a large bowl or multiple smaller bowls and put in refrigerator until cool and a skin forma. I happen to love the skin, so I let it cool that way. My supertaster said it was just okay, but my younger son with more expansive taste buds is eating seconds. So is Craig! Victory all around tonight!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Chocolate Beet Cake, Grain-Free!

I'm back! I had to take some time off to help care for my grandmother (94 and still going strong!) and play chauffeur (chauffeuse?) for my kids this summer while they enjoyed camps on Cape Cod while I drove around.

I did get to eat local food on the Cape, mostly lobster and lobster rolls. Lobsters were an insanely cheap, $4.99 a pound at the supermarket, and I really should have eaten more than I ended up ingesting.  I also got an abundance of fresh produce from our wonderful neighbor Jim across the street. I made kale chips (parmesan cheese and garlic powder were divine), tzatziki sauce and chocolate zucchini muffins.

Jim also gave me beets with the tops attached. After washing the tops three times to get the sand out, I sautéed them in bacon grease as a nice green side. But what to do with the beets themselves? I knew I could roast them, but that wouldn't get them into my kids. I knew from the past that they will eat chocolate beet cupcakes because I called them cupcakes.

I wanted to make a grain-free version so I could also enjoy them. These do contain almond flour, so obviously if you have an almond or tree-nut allergy, please don't eat these.

2.5 cups puréed beets
1/4 cup melted butter
3 eggs
3/4 cup coconut sugar (or plain sugar)
1 T vanilla
2 cups almond flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/4 cup tapioca flour
1.5 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup Chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 400F.

Boil peeled beets until soft. Retain cooking water. Place beets in blender or food processor and purée. Add as much water as necessary to thin the beets enough to easily purée. You don't want beet soup, so it should be a thickish consistency.

Let the purée cool somewhat in a bowl. Whisk in three eggs, melted butter, sugar and vanilla. If you don't let it cool, the eggs with cook and then you'll have beet custard. Actually, that may be pretty good!

In a separate bowl, combine almond flour, tapioca flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. Stir until mixed.

Pour beet mixture into flour mixture. Stir until well mixed. Stir in chocolate chips. Pour into greased 9x13 baking pan.  Bake at 400 about 30-35 minutes or until cake is firm and slightly pulled away from edges.

Cool on rack. Refrigerate for best consistency.

Buttercream Frosting:
1 stick butter, softened.
1 pound confection sugar
1 T vanilla
1 T reserved beet water for color (more or less depending on color desired)
1/4 tsp salt

Cream everything together in mixer. Ice cold cake. Eat entire cake because it's so good.

I separated the batter into two cakes, one iced, one plain. Here's a picture of the plain cake:

The plain cake isn't as sweet without the frosting, but it is very rich. The consistency is almost brownie like in that it's thick and gooey.

Here's a comparison of the two cakes:

If you have leftover liquid from the boiled beets, feel free to drink it. It's quite yummy after it's been refrigerated. That way you get all the nutrients you may have lost from boiling the beets. You can add it to smoothies, too!

How do I figure out how many beets make up 2.5 cups of puréed beets? I overestimate. Three or four really large beets make that much or 12 really small beets. It's better to overestimate than underestimate because you can eat the boiled beets in salads later.

I hope you enjoy this! This is my very first original recipe that I've published, so please feel free to link to my site, but remember that I retain all copyright to this! 

Sunday, May 6, 2012

An Entirely Local Meal!

This month, Hogtown Homegrown is once again hosting the Eat Local Challenge. The challenge is self-explanatory. Try to eat local, seasonal foods at home or in locally owned restaurants every day for the entire month of May. Since I buy local, pastured eggs, this is incredibly easy for me as I eat them everyday for breakfast. But what about an entirely local dinner? Could I have a well-rounded meal from local sources? Yes!

It's almost an embarrassment of riches! Local, grass-fed sirloin! Local cherry tomatoes! Local corn! Local green beans! Local broccoli! Local zucchini! The only thing not local was the olive oil I used to grill the zucchini. I let the sirloin marinate for 24 hours. Usually I'm not this organized; I was intending to cook this meal last night but after my son's seventh birthday party, I was so tuckered out that I just couldn't bear to cook. I had Craig pick up a rotisserie chicken from our supermarket. The kids were so full from the party they didn't even eat dinner! I choked down the chicken, but it was so dry and tasteless. It was nothing like a local pastured chicken tastes. 

Honestly, eating local food has kind of ruined my tastebuds. Everything pops with flavor! Factory and industrial agriculture foods taste bland and boring. Plus, I can't really enjoy most restaurants anymore either, since almost all cook with nut and seed oils that start turning rancid as soon as they are pressed. I guess I'm stuck with cooking for myself. This is a true First World problem, I know.

Even dessert was local! One of my favorite farms sold these tiny melons, about the size of a grapefruit. I filled it with fresh blueberries. Delicious! 

Friday, May 4, 2012

Two Drink Minimum

I usually eat with my parents and my grandmother every night. My mother is a little frazzled by taking care of my 93 year old grandmother, so I help out by cooking for them and my three boys (husband included). We got our CSA share when all seven of us were eating together. However, my parents, being snowbirds, have migrated North for the summer. I have a ton of CSA produce hanging around that I can't seem to finish as all three of my boys can be picky. I can only eat so many vegetables, you know.

What about juicing, you say? I have a Jack LaLane Power Juicer sitting around that I've never really used. I browsed some juicing websites and thought, "nothing ventured, nothing gained." (Really, I did. Sometimes I think in clichéed adages.)  Here's the result:

I juiced one beet, one (spicy?) pepper, one enormous cucumber, about 20 leaves of red leaf lettuce, one gala apple and a hunk of ginger. The first four ingredients were from the CSA. The end result was such a brilliant fuchsia! I may have put too much ginger in because it was sweet and spicy at the same time. Or maybe it was a spicy pepper, I have no idea. I think I may be hooked on juicing the extra veggies and fruit. I didn't take any pictures of the initial juicing; let's just say that I didn't have all the pieces of the juicer on properly and there were little pieces of dry beetroot everywhere. Luckily my friend Kim helped me figure it out! I won't offer this particular juice to the boys because of the spiciness, but I will start juicing things for them that are on the sweeter side.

Here's the second drink, this one definitely for adults.

This was a variation on my drink from Saturday Night Special post. I had some extra watermelon lying around (sadly not yet in season here in Florida) as well as the last blueberries from the blueberry farm. I poured strained watermelon juice in a tall glass about two-thirds full. Then I added the blueberries, mint and firewater. I finished it off with frozen watermelon cubes to keep it cold. Make the frozen watermelon cubes but cubing the watermelon and then freezing it. Pretty self-explanatory. Should I have even given directions for it? Anyhoo, it was delicious and I will repeat it. I'm sure rum or vodka would be a great alcohol in it.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Cooking Shortcuts.

No, I'm not Sandra Lee and I'm never going to make a terrible, horrible cake. (I found out that Semi-Homemade is trademarked. That was the original title of this post but I'm not bringing her wrath on me by using it!)

I got my CSA share today. Michael and Mariana, the farmers, gave everyone onions, cucumbers, zucchini, peppers, lettuce and basil. I'm kind of sick of cucumbers because I don't like them very much and I've gotten them for the past three weeks. I love tzatziki sauce, but how much can I really make? I started thinking about global agriculture and how lucky(?) we are to have an almost unlimited variety of fruits and vegetables available year round. Of course, it really isn't unlimited as we have lost hundreds, maybe thousands of heirloom varieties of fruit and vegetables due to big agribusiness. Before, when people had to rely on their own gardens and local farmers, seasons ruled availability. You ate what grew that day or the day before or you ate canned or preserved food from prior seasons. If you pined for something different, tough. As my son's kindergarten teacher says, "You get what you get and you don't pitch a fit." I appreciate that I am getting fresh, local food, even if it repetitive and not always what I would have picked.

Enough philosophical waxing! On to dinner!

I sauteed diced onions and sliced zucchini in extra virgin olive oil. I then added jarred tomato sauce and some of the fresh basil and let it simmer. I poured it over rice noodles and baked chicken. Delicious! And for the record, I can make homemade tomato sauce, but I didn't have the time today to do it. Have I failed my Italian grandmother? Probably, but I'll make and freeze my own tomato sauce when tomatoes are in season, to enjoy when fresh tomatoes are no longer in season. I also didn't amok my own rice pasta. I'll leave that to the experts.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Take-a-Chance Tuesday

I love that I have a wonderful fishmonger nearby. (The word "fishmonger" is woefully underused, by the way.) Not only do they have fresh Florida seafood, but they also have local grassfed beef in the freezer. I opted to get shrimp fresh off the boat from St. Augustine for dinner tonight. Neither of my boys eat shrimp so I decided to get a little creative with the meal.

I melted a mixture of butter and coconut oil in the skillet. I added some chopped ginger (from a bottle, sadly. My fresh ginger root had become moldy because I didn't use it quickly enough.) and let it infuse the oil. Next I added the shrimp. I was going to leave it at that, but then I saw a jar of Thai Kitchen Green Curry Paste in the fridge. Why not? The kids certainly weren't going to be eating it. I added a tablespoon of the paste and stirred, then about 1/4 cup of leftover Chardonnay. Chopped scallions I bought at the farmers' market on Saturday finished the dish. I also added some leftover chicken from a roasted chicken from last night. (The chicken was pastured and this farm produces the most delicious chicken I have ever tasted. It tastes like chicken.)

I had leftover sweet potato from last night's dinner and put the shrimp on top of it. Side note, you should only ever bake sweet potatoes. Microwaved sweet potatoes are gummy and bland. Baked sweet potatoes have caramelized and are soft. End Note. I had a sauté mix from the farmers' market that included mustard greens, chard, spinach and other mystery greens. After I put the shrimp on the potato, I sautéed the greens in the same pot to get the curry flavor on the greens. That was okay, not great. Mustard greens and curry don't mix well, FYI. Maybe fresh greens with a curried dressing might be interesting...

However, the spicy shrimp paired with the sweet sweet potato was perfect! I'm totally doing this again!

My picky eaters ate broccoli yet again. Don't they ever get bored of it? At least they're eating some vegetables...

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Saturday Night Special

I'm pretty sure the general rule is don't drink and blog. Uh oh. I just broke it. How could I resist a blueberry mojito made from mint I purchased this morning at the farmers' market and blueberries I picked today at a farm owned by a friend of a friend?

A mojito calls for rum, but the only rum I had was Black Strap Cruzan, a very strong rum with a molasses smell. I kept looking through my seldom used liquor cabinet (I'm not a big drinker, honest). I found this fire water I won for making the best tortilla in Guatemala. Okay, not the entire country of Guatemala, but the best tortilla from among the mostly geriatric cruisers on my shore excursion in a tiny port town in Guatemala. It really wasn't that hard to do.

I crushed the blueberries slightly, then put in the mint, fire water, club soda and a liberal sprinkling of sugar. Top it off with ice cubes and I had a delicious dessert mojito.

I had one last pork shoulder roast left over from the pig I bought from my friend Angie. I decided to go whole hog (man, I am on fire tonight!) and slow-cook it using a recipe I made up. I didn't even google to get a base! I cut up an onion from my CSA share and added two diced gala apples (organic, natch). I placed the shoulder roast on top of them and poured a bottle of Angry Orchard Apple Ginger Hard Cider over the roast.  I salted the shoulder roast with some Hawaiian black sea salt and poured apple butter on top. The roast cooked on high heat in my slow-cooker for six hours. Craig said it was the best one I've made.

I was driving back from an appointment yesterday when I saw ducks in the nearby pond (and a Mother Goose, Father Gander and 6 super cute goslings, though Ryan was absent). That made me start thinking about alternatives to chicken eggs. Why not duck eggs? I didn't want to go through the hassle of stealing eggs from nests by that and other ponds in town, so I contacted my egg source yesterday and asked if he had duck eggs. He had one dozen available, and I picked them up at the farmers' market this morning. Duck eggs are heavier and more expensive than chicken eggs. The farmer told me to use them for baking as they have a strong, rich taste. My kids love corn muffins, so I made my gluten-free honey corn muffins using two duck eggs, local grass-fed milk and local raw honey. The duck eggs really did make for a richer taste. Or maybe it was the 1/2 cup of melted butter in the muffins rather than the 1/4 cup that the recipe called for. For whatever reason, the muffins were fantastic.

I sauteed Swiss chard that I grew in pots on my patio. I've been cutting off leaves here and there to put in scrambled eggs and the chard has grown back. But it's getting hot down here, so the season for chard may be coming to an end. I wanted the chard to go out in a blaze of glory, so I cut every leaf and sautéed them in extra virgin olive oil and salt. I also steamed the beans from the CSA share and some store bought broccoli for my picky eaters. At least they ate the pork, broccoli and corn muffins. Also the coconut rice I made, which is the farthest from local you can get. I think both the rice and coconut milk were from Thailand.

I made a salad from the CSA share  - a delicious dark leaf lettuce, purple and orange carrots and cucumbers. I have chives growing on my patio, so I snipped off some flowers and added them to the salad for a garlicky taste. I topped it off with my gas-station mustard salad dressing.

I went all out tonight and made chocolate chip cookies. I used almond flour and adapted the recipe from the back of the Honeyville almond flour bag. I substituted maple syrup instead of agave syrup and used melted butter instead of grape seed oil. How do you think they turned out? I'll give you a hint: I only needed a small container to store leftovers.

I'd love some ideas for topics. I will post why eating local and organic is important to me, but I know it's been done to death all over the blogosphere.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Bloomin' Onions...

Actually, that should read onion blossoms or flowers. I saw these at the farmers' market this past Saturday and I could not resist! Here's a before picture.

Tonight was a grill night. I made aluminum foil packets for my veggies and roasted them at the same time as the chicken thighs. I put the blossom tops in a packet with extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) and smoked salt.  (The stems are edible, but take longer to soften up).

I also peeled and diced ribbon beets I got at the farmers' market two weeks ago but hadn't used yet. They are so pretty! Like candy cane beets, but not so minty! I prepared them the same way.

The onion flowers became so soft! The farmer, Trace, advised me to eat them like a roasted garlic bulb; eat the inside and discard the outside. The flavor was reminiscent of garlic, but much milder. I ate them straight, no bread needed. I would definitely buy them again.

The rest of the dinner included grilled chicken thighs with tzatziki sauce (I have got to figure out a different recipe for cucumbers, since I don't like them in salad,) sautéed kale from the farmers' market and roasted small potatoes. Sadly, I bought the potatoes at the supermarket. 

Also, I've decided that chicken thighs are so much more delicious than chicken breasts. (That makes me a leg-girl?) The taste is deeper and richer, especially when seasoned with smoked sea salt. 

The onion flowers are the top left. Unfortunately, the ribbon beets lost their shiny, pink luster when roasted although no taste disappeared. Tzatziki sauce tastes better after a day or two because the garlic has deepened and spread through the yogurt. 

Any cucumber suggestions? Maybe I'll make little sandwiches with cucumber as the bread and cream cheese and smoked salmon as the inside.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Farmers' Market Bounty

I have a hard time not going crazy at the local farmers' market. The produce is so luscious! This morning I bought local honey, brussels sprouts, onion flowers (a new one for me!), kale, spinach, green beans, blueberries, and eggs.

Nathan's holding the brussels sprouts we bought. It's almost as big as he is! Not only do we get the sprouts from the stem, but the leaves are also edible! I may try a collard style dish for them.

I chopped the brussels sprouts (after snapping them off the stalk) and used left over bacon grease to coast them, then roasted them at 400 until soft and brownish. Sprinkle some sea salt on them for a candy taste. Seriously, the can taste caramelized! My mom used to steam brussels sprouts until they were limp, soggy, grey and generally the grossest vegetable out there. The smell from steamed brussels sprouts used to linger in the house for hours afterwards. Blech. I had no idea that they actually tasted good! The secret is to roast them with either olive oil or lard and salt them. They become soft, but not soggy. Some leaves brown and crisp and have a satisfying, salty crunch. I also roasted sweet potatoes with olive oil and salt at the same time in the oven. The kids ate steamed green beans from the market, because they sure won't try anything new unless it's a dessert or grain based. Then they'll eat it up.

Tonight's main course was a slow roasted local grass-fed chuck roast. It's so easy to make them! Get out your cast iron pot, brown the meat with some butter, then put onions on the bottom of the pot. Put the roast on top, sprinkle salt and pepper on the meat. Add some water or beef broth and cook on 275 for hours and hours and hours (this cooked for about 5 hours). The meat was so soft! I sautéed some onion and crimini mushrooms to put on top of the steak.

Last on the dinner menu was a gluten free honey corn muffin. I try to bake as many gluten-free items as I can because I think my kids eat too much wheat. Wheat is in everything and it's a gut-irritant. I might as well give their digestive system a break if I bake things at home from scratch. I just substitute half white rice flour and half tapioca starch for whatever wheat is called for in the recipe . The milk, eggs and honey were local. I also love Bob's Red Mill Masa Harina as the corn meal base for the recipe. Masa Harina has been treated with pickling lime; too much untreated corn can lead to pellagra, a niacin deficiency.

I'm now making bone broth using the left over bones, fat, meat, drippings, carrots, celery, onions and a little apple cider vinaiger to help pull out the mineral from the bone. The broth will cook over night to keep pulling out as many nutrients tomorrow. My plan is to make french onion soup tomorrow night using the broth.

The lettuce and carrots are on there to make the plate look healthy. I ate them, but I seem to be the only one eating salad right now. Why is that? I guess I'll have salad for breakfast. I have a lot leftover.

I realize that the pictures are pretty awful. I'll have to work on better lighting and a better camera. Maybe a better plate, too?

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Zucchini Season

Zucchini season has arrived in Florida. The Windsor Zucchini Festival is May 12 this year. Craig and I went years ago; it's a cute small town festival. Maybe we'll take the kids this year. They love zucchini. Haha. Not.

I got two kinds of zukes in my CSA share yesterday, the regular dark green kind and a bi-color yellow and light green color-blocked one. I'm planning on making grain-free chocolate chip zucchini muffins in the next couple of days with the dark green ones. Tonight I made zucchini noodles with the bi-color ones. Use a vegetable peeler and peel strips from the zucchini until you reach seeds.You can toss the seed part of it into the pan as a chunk. Heat up extra virgin olive oil and toss the noodles in the oil until soft. I seasoned them with Italian seasoning and garlic powder, no salt needed.

A huge bag of basil leaves was also included in the CSA bag. What do you do with basil, besides making mojitos? Pesto! Walnut pesto, to be exact. I ordered raw, organic walnuts through the local buying club, so I have some hanging out in the freezer.

My cooking and baking philosophy is to use recipes as jumping off points. I like to tinker with recipes I find online or in books. I found a basil walnut pesto online and followed it, but didn't measure. I just eyeballed and tasted until it was yummy. I had to use a Boar's Head parmigiano reggiano because that was the only p-r available at Publix! However, it was a raw cheese imported from Italy. If the ingredient list says milk instead of pasteurized milk, you're eating a raw cheese. Also, if there is a seal from the country of origin that looks "official", it most likely is a controlled name cheese. That means it is made in the traditional manner from unpasteurized milk.

 I served the pesto on baked chicken breasts and rice noodles.

I experimented for dessert. I baked a butternut squash yesterday and didn't use it. I whipped up a butternut squash soufflé for dessert. It...wasn't great. After putting the squash in the mixer, I added three eggs, maple syrup, heavy cream and cinnamon and baked it on 400.  The maple syrup as sweetener just wasn't enough.The texture was fine; the taste was a little flat. I sprinkled some succanat on top to sweeten it up. Meh. Maybe I'll fry some up tomorrow morning in coconut oil for breakfast and put an egg on it, just to use it up. I didn't bother to feed it to the kids. I knew they would turn their noses up at it. I almost did.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Beige Dinner

Tonight's dinner is a perfect example of "good personality" cooking. Looking at the plate, I realize that it's pretty monochromatic. It's a beige dinner, with a bit of blue mixed in. But once I ate it, WOW! Taste sensation!

I roasted red, white and blue small potatoes with sliced garlic, onions and crimini mushrooms. Drizzle EVOO, liberally sprinkle smoked sea salt and roast until soft on 400. I learned about cleaning mushrooms from the original Iron Chef. "Give them a shower, not a baaaath." (Please read this in Chairman Kaga's voice.) I hope I remembered the instructions correctly.

Today's farm share included wax beans. I knew my super taster wouldn't even eat them steamed, so I decided to save them for DH and me. I sautéed them in EVOO, white wine and smoked sea salt until soft. I'm not sold on the white wine. I didn't enjoy the flavor, although DH liked them. Grilled chicken thighs purchased through the buying club marinated in EVOO and smoked sea salt rounded off the main meal.

The colorful part came from the entirely local salad. Two kinds of lettuce, tri-colored carrots, cucumber and carambola/star fruit. An extremely simple tangy vinaigrette contrasted nicely with the sweet star fruit. The vinaigrette is EVOO, white balsamic vinaiger and gas station mustard.

What is gas station mustard? Dijon mustard that costs .75 Euros purchased in a rest stop in France. My little sister lived for a year with a French family and her French mother swore by gas station mustard. It truly is the best mustard I've ever tasted. If you can't acquire that, use a sharp dijon and just imagine how much tangier it would be with gas station mustard.

Unusual Breakfasts

Breakfasts can be unusual in my house. My three year old cannot stand eggs. He refuses to touch them in any form except pudding. I cannot in good conscience feed him pudding for breakfast. Sometimes he'll deign to eat Greek Yogurt with a spoonful of chocolate syrup mixed in. (I like Santa Cruz Organics chocolate syrup). In desperation one day I asked him if he wanted meat sauce for breakfast. He said yes and ate the whole serving. Why can't we eat dinner for breakfast? The Chinese traditionally eat the same food at breakfast as they do other meals. My mother used to feed my younger sister generic meat ravioli cold from the can in the mornings. At least I warm up the meat sauce, Mom.

I take a pound of grassfed ground beef, fry it up and mix it with some tomato sauce. I can freeze it in small batches and can get about 8 meals from it. I heat it up in the microwave and we are good to go.

My six year old is another finicky one. He needs a lot of dense food including protein and fat to keep his blood sugar in check. I make an oatmeal custard for him. I prepare rolled oats like usual with water. Once the oatmeal is creamy I break some eggs into the pot and stir it until cooked. You can tell because it looks like a custard. If it isn't cooked it looks like slimy oatmeal. I finish it off with a dollop of extra virgin coconut oil and brown sugar. Oatmeal refrigerates very well. I make enough for about 3-4 days; when it's time to heat it up, throw it in the microwave for about 45 seconds, stir and sweeten.

My breakfast yesterday and today was leftover collard greens sautéed in bacon grease with a fried egg on top. I heated up the collards and used a ton of butter to fry the egg over easy, leaving a runny yolk to break over the collards.

Collard greens are plentiful this time of year. I got a ton in farm share last week and wasn't sure what to do with them since I'm the only one who eats them. (I think the boys inherited their food reticence from their dad. I ate a ton of varied food while pregnant and breastfeeding. You'd think they would eat everything!). While the bacon was cooking I folded each one over and laboriously cut the stems from about 30 leaves. The stems are edible but can be tough. I prefer to avoid them. Then I rolled up the leaves and cut them into strips, tossed them into the pot, poured a little water in there, covered and let them cook for a good ten minutes. I'm sure this isn't the traditional Southern recipe. I'm a carpetbagger; I've only been down here for 15 years. I just do what's easy and tastes good.

Do you have any unusual breakfast ideas you'd like to share? I'm always looking for grain free alternatives!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Welcome to Good Personality Cooking!

I love cooking. I especially love cooking using local and fresh ingredients. Strange, I know. Luckily, North Central Florida has a vibrant food community. We have a great growing season in the winter when you poor Northerners are subsisting on canned blueberries and withered tubers. I have decided to share my adventures in cooking using my Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) share, bounty from the farmers' markets and various underground food sources, both literally and figuratively.

I call this Good Personality cooking because while the food may not be plated elegantly, it sure tastes good. I'm also not going to spend a ton of time arranging or lighting my food for photos. I got the "good personality" brand in my youth, so I'm not trying to bring up bad memories for people.
I know it's a tired trope. Is there any other kind?

I pick up my CSA share from an organic farm down the block about 2 miles on Wednesdays. I never know what I'm going to get. Will it be veggies I'm familiar with and cook all the time? Or will I have to figure out how to prepare something new? Saturdays I go to the farmers' market and find local chicken, eggs and produce. Mondays, I pick up an order from a friend who runs an organic buying club that includes local grass-fed meat for a pittance.

I try to cook everything from scratch. Sometimes I cheat and use jarred tomatoes. I also buy fruit leather from Target because I am not Superwoman, people. I do not own a dehydrator (yet). The fruit leather is organic, however. I have some standards. I also can't replicate cheddar bunnies for my kids. It's the original Annie's Organics or nothing.

Without further ado, here's tonight's dinner. Click on the picture below for a larger view.

Clockwise from top left: grilled bi-color summer squash, collard greens and bacon, grilled chicken with tzatziki sauce and sweet potatoes prepared on the grill. The squash, collards and cucumber in the tzatziki sauce were from the CSA. The bacon, chicken, yogurt and sweet potatoes came from the buying club.

I've never made homemade tzatzkiki sauce before. It is so easy and unbelievably delicious. I used full-fat Fage greek yogurt, which is impossible to find it in stores because people are too afraid of fat. Non-fat greek yogurt is so boring and flat. I peeled, deseeded and chopped fresh cucumbers, then mixed it into the yogurt along with crushed and chopped garlic. Fresh lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, dill, salt and pepper finish it off. It was delicious fresh and even better the next day. I ate it over eggs this morning. YUM.

The sweet potatoes were super easy. Peel, chop into cubes, wrap in foil with extra virgin olive oil and salt. Put it on the grill until you can poke the cubes easily with a fork. They tasted like candy.

Lest you think my six and three year old boys have sophisticated palates and eat everything I whip up, I usually end up making a second meal for them. Every night the boys eat steamed broccoli or green beans. They will not touch any sort of tuber. The older only eats plain meat or chicken without sauce and the younger one only eats meat sauce or stew meat and refuses to touch chicken. I'm hoping they grow out of the bland phase. I can't even get them to eat a "polite bite." They gag like I'm forcing them to eat maggots.

I'll be back Wednesday with a list of CSA veggies. I'll take suggestions!