Meet my Bountiful Basket

Mmmm, fresh green beans! Really good ones too.

This week I ordered from Bountiful Baskets, a fruit and vegetable co-op with weekly Saturday deliveries of fresh produce.

For $15 I get a ton of fresh veggies and fruits. Approximately 50% vegetables and 50% fruits. They are as local as they can get for the season I am told. And the produce is excellent.

There are several spots to pick up your “basket” in Spokane. Check out the Bountiful Basket Site, basket pick up sites are available in many states. They even have organic baskets and weekly specials. This weeks special was 8 lbs of strawberries for $11, we took advantage of that and are in strawberry bliss, I just need to get my hands on some fresh rhubarb (oh how I swoon over rhubarb).

Reasons I think Bountiful Baskets are awesome

1. Saves $$$

2. Provides variety

3. Increases our fruit and vegetable intake

And Matt and I, when we put our mind to it can eat it all in one week. Mmmm, yum.

Here is a sample of the bounty. I’m conjuring up great recipes to use it all up this week, stay tuned!


Lemon Cookies with Blueberry Curd

Rosauers had the most beautiful, chubby, lemons for sale this week, swoon! They were beautiful, take a look.

Whilst loading up my bag with lemons I got the “La la la la Lemons” song stuck in my head. Have you heard it?

It goes something like this (with the addition of my abridged internal dialogue)

“. . .La la la la LEMONS (These are beautiful lemons, what can I do with them?)

 . . . la la la la LIGHT BULB (I have a great idea, I’ll make lemon curd for blueberry scones!)

. . . la la la la LAMP POST ( That’s too boring, I’ll make blueberry curd with LEMON scones).

. . . la la la la LUMPS IN MY OATMEAL (oatmeal? oatmeal cookies? COOKIES, lemon cookies and blueberry curd, EUREKA!)”

And thus this recipe was born.

Lemon cookies are pretty straight forward. I wanted to use as much of those lovely lemons as possible. I started with the peel.

I got a lemon zester with an order to Pampered Chef like a decade ago. It is one of my favorite kitchen gadgets.

Mmmm, the zest, made my hands and kitchen smell good.

A note on zesting: don’t press too hard, you just want the yellow peel, not the pith (white part), it’s bitter.

Lemon juice as well as lemon zest made these cookies so good.

This cookie dough does well with some refrigeration. I got it off of allrecipes.com

Lemon Cookies

1 stick butter, softened

1/2 cup sugar

1 egg

1 1/2 flour

Juice of 1 lemon (3-4 TB)

Zest of 1 lemon (2 TB)

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

Cream sugar and butter together, add egg & lemon juice. Sift flour, soda and salt together, mix together. Refrigerate for awhile . . . an hour or more perhaps?

The blueberry curd, however, meant venturing out into the unknown. I foolishly didn’t Google blueberry curd before formulating my own version. I did look at a recipe from allrecipes for lemon curd, to get the general idea, and I read the Wikipedia article, good enough to make me think I knew what I was doing.

Blueberries: it’s still April, and in Washington we really don’t have fresh blueberries, not even California stock yet. So I used frozen.

I de-forsted and blended them

A large part of curd, evidently is the butter egg combo. . . interesting

And since it was a mix of egg, butter, sugar and fruit I figured a double boiler would be best so I didn’t cook the egg in the berries (EW!), but I didn’t have one, so I went all MacGyver and came up with this slightly dangerous solution

Not ideal by any means, but it got the job done.

I mixed the blueberries, eggs, butter and sugar and 4 TB cornstarch together, and cooked it on high, whisking constantly, it took about 30 minutes

Blueberry Curd

1 cup sugar

1/2 stick butter

3 Eggs, whisked

Zest of 1 lemon

1.5 cups blueberries, pureed

4 TB cornstarch

Ideally in a double boiler, fill the bottom full of water, heat to gentle boil, in top portion of double boiler put butter, sugar and lemon zest, stir gently till butter is melted, slowly add eggs, add blueberries, whisk gently, slowly add the cornstarch 1 TB at a time, cook till temperature of curd is 170, cook 5 minutes. Take off heat and allow to cool for 20 minutes, cover and chill.

Serve on scones, cookies, toast, cake, on top of ice cream, really so many ideas. Tell me what worked best for you!

So, after this run around with the blueberry curd I found that I was late for a very important date, so instead of rolling out the lemon cookies I “drop cookie-ed” em’ and called it good.

Not too pretty but popular.

The cookies tasted great, but looked kind of “meh”.

Fast forward to today, I had some left over dough and some cookie cutters . . .

Much better already.

Absolutely adorable, if I do say so.

These cookies can be spoon dropped, chilled and rolled out or balled up and rolled in sugar and baked that way. These have a BIG lemon taste without the artificial lemon flavor. Just zest and juice from actual lemons.

Enjoy!


Spinach Quiche

Spinach is such an awesome vegetable.

I was a undergrad when a nation-wide spinach recall occurred. My roommate and I commiserated over our un-fullfilled cravings for this terrific green veggie. We ate Romaine lettuce instead, but after those 2 months were over I was thankful to see it back on the shelves and bought two bags for good measure.

My spinach covetousness at this time brought into light how utterly spoiled I am by our modern food system and supermarkets. And really, how ridiculous it was for me to feel inconvenienced or annoyed that I couldn’t readily purchase spinach for a little while. “Get it together Laura, there are children STARVING IN AFRICA and you are whining about fresh spinach REALITY CHECK!”

So here I am, I am thankful for spinach. If it disappears again I won’t be a brat in my heart about it, but I’ll happily await it’s return.

CAUSE SPINACH IS SO FREAKIN GOOD.

(I digress)

. . . back to the quiche . . .

Quiche is my ultimate comfort food, so during this week of finals, scary practical exams and papers I decided it would be a good investment to make a couple of quiches. For layway on busy evenings when I don’t want to cook.

I made my own crust, whole wheat with oil instead of butter, I followed a recipe I had used in the past, but it was very disappointing. I will not include it here, I’ll work on it a bit more before I share it with you guys. So as pretty as this quiche looks the crust wasn’t too great.

But I did take a beautiful picture of the dough ball, want to see?

I would encourage you all to use your favorite pic crust recipe or buy the pre-made kind (really sort of bad for you, but I’ll turn a blind eye).

Take time to caramelize the onions for this recipe, they are sooooo good. A little time consuming, but delicious.

This recipe uses frozen spinach. People have this weird thing with frozen veggies, but if you are concerned about eating food that still contains the same amount of nutrients as it did fresh or pre-processed and you have a choice between frozen and canned, totally go frozen. On every account, spinach, corn, carrots etc. Frozen has higher levels of water-soluble vitamins than canned does.

Spinach Quiche

2 10 oz boxes frozen spinach thawed, drained slightly

2 cups half n’ half

6 eggs

2 onions, chopped

12 slices of bacon, chopped

1 TB oil

3 tsp Salt

3 tsp Pepper

1.5 tsp Nutmeg

1 cup shredded cheese (optional! I didn’t use any, but it makes it yummy).

1/2 cup shaved Parmesan

Take chopped onions and cook on medium low with bacon and oil (if needed, some bacon is so greasy you don’t need it), stir regularly with a lid on your pan to carmalize your onions. Take yer time with it, cook slow, stir often.

If you are using a pre-made pie crust make sure you’ve brought it out of the fridge, it needs a little time to get to room temperature to roll out easy.

Mix spinach, half n’ half, eggs, salt, pepper and nutmeg till eggs are incorporated (cheese too if you are using it). Once onion and bacon are cooked pour into spinach egg mix slowly so you don’t cook your eggs.

Form your pie crust to two pie pans. Pour your quiche mix into it sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top.

Bake for 45 minutes – 1 hour,at 350°  OR as they say “. . . until a tooth pick comes out clean. . . ”

I use far more toothpicks for testing baking food then I ever do as an actual tooth pick.

I prefer my quiche chilled with sriracha sauce on it. Matt prefers it served hot with Valentina sauce.

It stores well, freezes well too.

Shout out to my sweet friend Laura M. for letting me borrow, steal her beautiful white plate, it really is lovely. I will return it shortly.


Crunchy Tofu Cabbage Salad

During Christmas break, I was grocery shopping with my mom and she sent me into the produce area with one goal in mind, pick up 4 bags of coleslaw. When I asked, WHY in the world we need FOUR bags of chopped cabbage in the middle of December she answered “Your father is addicted to cabbage.”

I laughed, it’s true though, my dad eats cabbage with almost every meal, usually in raw chopped form with dressing on it, or wrapped in a tortilla with other goodness. He uses cabbage instead of any other leafy green because he loves how it tastes and it stores well. Who could blame him really, cabbage is one of my favorite foods too. And not to go all nutritional on you, but it’s packed full of healthy things, Vit C, the B-complex not to mention lots of fiber!

My sweet friend Sarah makes a Teriyaki chicken salad that this recipe is reminiscent of.

I loaded this recipe up with healthy oils, from almonds to seasame seeds, even sunflower seed oil, it’s vegan too! Mmmm. It’s good, even better the next day around. Great large crowd side dish.

Crunchy Tofu Cabbage Salad

1 head of green cabbage, chopped (but for kicks and giggles feel free to do half red & half green)

5 green onions, chopped

1 cup carrots, shredded

3/4 cup sliced almonds

2 packages ramen noodles, broken up

1 package Trader Joes Teriyaki fried tofu, cubed

1/4 cup  toasted sesame seeds

1/2 cup sunflower oil

1/3 cup low sodium soy sauce (Trader Joe’s is THE BEST soy sauce Evah!)

3 TB white vinegar

3 TB honey

2 TB sugar

Toss cabbage, onions, carrots, noodles, tofu and sesame seeds together, mix gently. Mix oil, soy sauce, vinegar, honey and sugar together, pour on top of cabbage mixture. Toss together until incorporated, refrigerate overnight for best results.


Simple Coconut Rice Pudding

Matt and I eat more rice than any other starch, this is a terrific use of leftover rice. This is a simple recipe, whips up quick for a simple dessert. We like basmati rice the most. It’s an aromatic rice, and has a lower Glycemic Index than other white rices (that’s a good thing).

I knew I wanted a Thai flair for this rice pudding, that is where the cardamom comes in. Often rice pudding has raisins in it, I didn’t have raisins around, but I always have dried cranberries around, I think they worked splendidly!

Simple Coconut Rice Pudding

4 cups cooked coconut rice

3/4 cup dried cranberries

3/4 tsp ground cardamom

2 cans light coconut milk

1 large box instant vanilla pudding

Mix vanilla pudding mix according to instructions, substitute milk with coconut milk, whisk in cardamom. Mix in cranberries and rice to pudding, stir gently until incorporated. Top with toasted coconut, granola or fresh berries.

Serves 8

If your rice is fresh this pudding can be devoured hot! I haven’t experimented heating it up, but I’m sure it can be!


Tamales

A good tamale might be my favorite food. Not those nasty chewy thick lard ladden things you get as part of a combo plate at your local Mexican restaurant. Not the high-calorie frozen kind either.

There has to be the perfect ratio masa to filling, the masa needs to be flavorful but not greasy.

I’m picky, but stupid, I’ll order the tamale/bean/rice combo at a mexican restaurant every time, hoping for a really good tamale, I am very often dissapointed.

Growing up in rural Eastern Washington, we often met ace tamale makers,their wonderful recipes yielded spicy, smooth tamales with a perfect ratio of meat to masa, that is my gold standard.

One of my favorite wedding gifts was this thing

It’s a larger steamer/pressure cooker/stainless-steel pot of awesomeness. When Matt and I opened it up it went something like this . . .

Matt – “Um . . . what is this?”

Laura – (after a brief gasp) “IT’S A TAMALE MAKER”

I had never made tamales, and I really didn’t know how they were made, I never dreamed of making them, but this kitchen contraption inspired me so I did some searches on the internet.

Many of the recipes I found called for lard (EW! I’m not convinced lard is as bad for you as it’s touted to be, but I really didn’t want to cook with it).

I fumbled around, a few rounds of hit and miss and I came up with a recipe that I could be proud of. I made a sack of them for my Dad for Christmas and my Grandma for her 80th birthday.

I’ve played around with chicken and pork, haven’t tried beef, going to try vegan/veggie/breakfast tamales once school is over.

I’ll show you the pics, then give you the recipe, how’s that?

Laura’s Basic Tamale Recipe

5lbs lean Pork Roast

2 cans Enchilada Sauce

Tapitio Sauce to taste

Cut Pork roast into 1 lb pieces, place in slow cooker on low for at least 12 hours (overnight works well) cover with enchilada sauce. After it has been cooked, remove fat and shred with a fork, add a little (1 cup) of the enchilada sauce to shredded pork for flavor.

8 cups of masa mix

1 quart chicken broth

2 cups canola oil

4 tsp salt

4 tsp cumin

2 tsp garlic powder

2 tsp ground cayenne pepper

3 tsp ground pepper

I like to heat up chicken stock a little, it makes mixing a lot easier. Mix masa, oil, chicken broth and spices together well (feel free to add a little more water or chicken broth for consistency.

Take a soaked corn husk and spread some masa on it evenly, place 2 TBs of meat in center, bring up both sides of masa to cover the meat press gently to seal it, fold corn husks around tamale tightly, repeat 50 times (approx). Place upright in tamale steamer, make sure there is ample water in the steamer (and check water levels OFTEN!), PLACE LID ON entirely, steam on high heat for 2 hours (1 hour 45 minutes). Be careful, I get a steam burn almost every time I make them, because I’m not paying attention.

Enjoy! Matt and I add a lot of hot sauce to the meat, so they are very spicy, pretty much emptying a bottle of valentina hot sauce into the shredded meat. So good, eat right out of steamer or refrigerate and heat up later. They also freeze very well.

Yum.


Chicken sausage, eggplant spread pizza

Have I mentioned how much I enjoy Trader Joes? I really should apply for a job there . . .

I’ve made this pizza several times, my favorite time was when I used crimini mushrooms, mmmm yea! The above version is my lazy version with fried eggs instead of chicken sausage. It’s all about using lavish bread and the eggplant garlic spread for sauce, after that anything goes.

Oh my word. Love this stuff. I almost always have a few jars around, not only as a dip, but as a spread on a tortilla or as a mix in with lentils and beans, yum! So good.

And lavish bread, it has a thickness somewhere between a tortilla and pita bread. Thick enough to make hands only pizza, but thin enough to rival any pre-made thin crust pizza. Yum.

Oh yea. Another TJ product I always have in my freezer. I really do not like sausage, this is my one and only exception. No nasty hunks of fennel (I HATE FENNEL) or gross chewy casing, just smooth, relatively low-fat chicken with spices. The spicy jalepeno is just one of many flavors available at TJs, Matt and I like it the best, but it is spicy, be warned.

So, caramelize some onions, chop up some spinach and tomatoes . . .

Oh, and bake for 10 min at 350°F, then broil for 5 min. Watch carefully, sweet hubby did that part for me.

And then you eat it, it’s good. I like a lot of spinach on mine, Matt likes less spread and more onions. So we make our own. Heats up great the next day too.

Chicken sausage, spinach, tomato and eggplant spread pizza

2 package of  Trader Joe’s Spicy Jalapeno Chicken Sausage

2 Onions, chopped

2 TB canola oil

1 package Trader Joe’s Lavish bread

4 Roma tomatoes, chopped or thinly sliced (your choice)

1 bunch fresh spinach, chopped

1 cup shredded mozzarella

1/2 cup Trader Joe’s Shaved Grana Padamo Parmesan cheese

1 jar Trader Joe’s Eggplant Garlic Spread

12 Crimini Mushrooms, sliced (not shown, but very good)

Serves: 6. This recipe should make about 6 pizzas, 6 sheets of lavish bread worth with ample toppings

1. Saute sausage and onions in oil until onions are soft and semi-caramelized. (saute mushrooms)

2. Preheat oven to 350°F

3. Spray a few non-stick pans, lay out your lavish bread, spread on eggplant spread, top with spinach, tomatoes, onions/chicken sausage/mushroom mix, top with cheese.

Bake at 350 for 10 minutes, and broil for 5 minutes.

Cut and serve, enjoy!