May 28, 2011

saturdays, family-style

The work week is challenging on our schedules and our stomachs.  We're busy, and it shows in our diets (and our messy house).  Saturday mornings are reserved for slow, easy family time.  Sometimes that's just staying in our pajamas until noon.  Sometimes it includes a walk to our favorite places.  Most every time it means the search for good food.  One recent Saturday we hit the jackpot.  Our brood of five visited three different places, all boasting delicious, healthy, local products.  The best part?  We didn't have to travel more than a couple miles total.

Here are the highlights:

The Produce Place, which features a bounty of local, organic and otherwise delicious foods, was holding their annual strawberry festival.  Here are two of the eager taste testers, Anna Banana and Sonny Bunny (at 12, don't think I can call him that much longer).

Free sample, indeed, and so much more than water to taste.

Mini shortcakes were the perfect way to sample the guest of honor, strawberries. 

Anna Banana loved the ice pop samples from a new vendor, Chilly Pops, which I just learned more about this week.  Her pick?  Strawberry, naturally.

Love, love, love. The folks at Olive & Sinclair couldn't be nicer, and their chocolate is really something special.  I paired their chocolate with marshmallows from Bang Candy Company to make a fancy s'mores gift basket for a visiting relative.

These little bees are responsible for making Tru Bee Honey, which we're really enjoying.  I'm ready to try some with peaches and a soft cheese from The Bloomy Rind, our area's supplier of delicious cheeses.

Sonny Bunny was VERY adult while drinking his coffee sample. 
My guess = 10% coffee, 40% cream, 50% sugar.

The rainy day didn't dampen our experience.  Anna Banana never turns down ice cream.
We loved visiting The Produce Place, and even ran into a friend.

You'll just have to take my word that we had a fun time at the West Nashville Farmers Market.  The rain poured down, and photos just weren't possible on top of juggling eggs, empanadas and the cauliflower that made a cameo in my last post.

Also on our morning agenda - a stop to pick up our CSA share.  We switched to Fresh Harvest this year, and we like that we can shop online each week for only the items we want.

Little Pistachio didn't make it into any of our photos because he was behind the camera with me. But he had a great time and can't wait until he's old enough to eat with us. 
But just to make sure you get a day's worth of cuteness:

It's a baby in a wheelbarrow!

Here's our bounty from the morning.  I think we did pretty well!

I wish every Saturday could be like this.  Today, Saturday means laundry and Cheerios.  We do what we can, when we can.  What's your Saturday morning like?

May 17, 2011

roasted cauliflower with curry

Cauliflower is a bit of an underdog. It's often mixed in with more flavorful, more colorful veggies.  We've all gotten the side of oversteamed broccoli, carrots and cauliflower on our plates.  It's boring.  For a long time I thought I hated cauliflower.  I dined at The Palm in Nashville recently and the vegetable of the day was roasted cauliflower with curry.  I ordered it, not because I thought I'd like it, but because it sounded healthier than the alternative - the deliciously fried half and half (fried onion strings and homemade potato chips).  I'm so glad I did.  This cauliflower was incredible - it had a nutty, toasted flavor, the texture was perfect, and the slight spicy curry was surprising.  Consider me a cauliflower convert.

I've been hoping to recreate this dish at home, so I was delighted to see locally grown cauliflower at my local farmers market last weekend.  I'm really happy with the result.

There are just a few simple ingredients, about two minutes' prep time, and no measurements.  It's easy, delicious and a really elegant side dish (I served it with homemade crab cakes).

Roasted Cauliflower with Curry
cauliflower, washed and chopped into bite-size pieces
Sea salt to taste
curry powder to taste

olive oil (just enough to coat)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Place cauliflower directly into oven safe roasting dish and top with olive oil, curry and salt.  Toss until coated.  Roast in the oven 30 minutes, or until cauliflower is cooked through and edges become crispy. 

I must admit, I enjoyed this dish all by my lonesome.  The kids wouldn't touch it, and Darling Husband's review was "if I have to eat cauliflower, this is the way to go."  I'm calling that a minor victory.

(This photo is so much better than the others because Darling Husband took it for me.)

May 15, 2011

thanks, mom

(Note to you, solitary reader: I have four or so posts in queue right now.  But I'm a mom of three and have a full time job, and blogging has to fall somewhere between laundry and sleep, so forgive me for being so slow to update.  More coming!)

My love of cooking comes from my mom. Period. Others have influenced and inspired me, but mom showed me that food is so much more than food.  In our family, we plan events and vacations around food. We give gifts of food. We comfort and nourish body and soul with food.  It's important.

So Mothers Day has traditionally been a laidback, fun day where we do what we love most: shopping for, cooking and eating delicious food.  I spent this year with my amazing mom, sister, nieces and my kiddos.  In fact, we had so much fun I forgot to take pictures until the dessert course.  (bad blogger)

We made a twist on carbonara, and let me tell you, it was really special and so simple.  Pasta is something I could never, ever live without.  That, too, came from mom.  We ate it at least once a week growing up.  For Mothers Day, I wanted to show mom a dish that she's never made.  Enter carbonara.  It's deceivingly rich and creamy, soul satisfying, and with these little twists, a really beautiful dish.

Carbonara with Parsley and Tomatoes (Adapted from Rachael Ray's recipe.)
serves 4-6
1 large, ripe heirloom tomato or 4 plum or Roma tomatoes, chopped 
1 pound spaghetti, linguini or other long pasta
2 tbs Extra Virgin Olive Oil
4 strips thick cut, good quality bacon
5 to 6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
crushed red pepper to taste
1 cup dry white wine
A generous handful flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
4 large, organic egg yolks, lightly beaten
Lots of freshly grated Pecorino cheese

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt boiling water and cook pasta to al dente. Reserve a cup of starchy water for tempering the egg yolks.

Meanwhile, heat a pan over medium to medium-high heat with oil. Add bacon and cook until almost crisp. Add garlic and red pepper, stir a couple of minutes, then add wine and reduce by half. Add parsley and tomatoes, and reduce heat to low.

When pasta is about ready, add about 1/2 cup starchy water to the eggs while beating them with a fork to temper them. Turn off heat, then toss the pasta and eggs vigorously a full minute, using more starchy water if needed until a creamy texture is achieved.  Toss in bacon/tomatoe mixture until blended, and s
erve immediately with Pecorino at the table for passing.

I really wish I had snapped a picture of this before we gobbled it up.  We enjoyed it with a simple, green salad and crusty bread.  I call this an organic process success. Make it for your mom sometime.

I took a (horrible) photo of the dessert course: homemade pound cake with strawberries and whipped cream.  In Tennessee, local strawberries are perfect (heavenly, amazing, life-changing) in May.  These were no exception.  The pound cake recipe was something I tried for the first time, and it was just ok, so I'll advise you to stick with your favorite recipe (or call your favorite bakery).  This, for me, was a reminder to use what's local and in season, prepare it simply, and let it shine.  Here's a pic (with mom in the background):

May 4, 2011

I know what you’re thinking, dear readers, solitary reader, my husband.  This is my first real post, and it’s about jarred spaghetti sauce?  Yup.  I want my reader(s) to be people who come from a place of real.  Sure, there are some amazing, superhuman people out there who can work full time, raise children, keep a pristine house and have time to braise organic, grass fed meat and serve it with their very own organically homegrown produce - on a week night.  I long for the day I can do it all, but in the meantime I do what I can, when I can.
Last night I found myself in an exceptionally tight time pinch because Darling Husband was working late and a superhuman I am not.  However, I do have one superpower under my belt, at least when it comes to the kids.  Pasta!  They love it, enough that they usually don’t question what’s mixed in with it.  There are many occasions when I use this starchy, delicious item as a vehicle for introducing fresh, delicious ingredients to my kids, but last night was no time for experimentation.  Enter jarred spaghetti sauce.  By incorporating what’s already in my fridge and pantry, I had a hot meal on the table in 30 minutes and the approval of two really, REALLY picky kids.   Even better, they were eating vegetables and had no clue.  I know I’m not the only one to do this, but there’s a reason why it works.
So, is this recipe something of a food superhero?  Nope.  Think of it as a trusty sidekick.   It’s there for backup when you can really use it.
Before I share the recipe, I should say that I’m not a fan of precise measurements or strict instructions, except when it comes to baking – there’s a science to that.  So feel free to doctor these as desired.  Use what you have.  Eliminate what you don’t.  If you don’t like it, change it. 
serves 4-6
1 lb pasta of choice, cooked until al dente
1 jar prepared spaghetti sauce
1 small can tomato puree
½ cup steamed and pureed carrots (or whatever veggies you have at home – sneak it into the little darlings’ diet)
½ cup chopped onion
olive oil to taste
fresh/dried herbs/spices to taste: salt, pepper, garlic, basil, crushed red pepper

1 ¼ lb ground sirloin
½ cup frozen spinach, thawed, squeezed dry and pureed
¼ cup parmesan cheese (or whatever you have around. Last night, I used shredded cheddar. Yes, really.)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
a handful (how’s that for measurement?) of water
½ cup breadcrumb (superhero parents: you’ll probably toast and make these yourself. Showoffs.)
Salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste

Saute chopped onion in olive oil until cooked.  Add remaining sauce ingredients and simmer.
For meatballs, combine all ingredients in bowl and mix by hand (or use a stand mixer if you have one).  Form into meatballs and drop into simmering sauce.  I actually had enough mixture to make 12 meatballs (enough for the four of us) and used the remainder to make a mini meatloaf that will become another meal or snack.  See?  I've just given you the gift of time.  You're welcome.
Cook meatballs in sauce for at least 10 minutes.  Toss with hot, cooked pasta.
Supermommy?  Nope.  Superhero? Not even close.  But Sonny Bunny and Banana Girl thought this was a super meal.  Good enough for me.  It's an organic process.
Until next time...I've got to go pick up my CSA (seriously).
(by the way, I'm horrible at food photography.  it's always going to look/taste better than the photo. trust me.)