Monday, January 31, 2011

Has Beans

I'm still holding fast to my personal challenge of eating up the food I put away for winter. So far this year, I've spent just over $50 in groceries for myself. That doesn't count what I spend on ingredients for the business, and admittedly there's a little overlap (since who eats the leftover stuff but me?), but I've done well at remembering to pull vegetables from the freezer and use what I have in the pantry. The number of empty canning jars in the cupboard has probably doubled this month!

That said, I'm the first to admit that the meals I make from these preserved foods aren't always glamorous. I've blogged about my broccoli pizzas here so much over the years that it's not worth posting yet another picture, and the same must also be said for my hash brown concoctions and other staple dishes.

Once in a while, though, I do try something a little different.

Case in point: Last week I had a couple of small pizza crusts left over from the market, but I didn't want the same ol' broccoli topping. Instead, I thawed a bag each of green beans and wax beans, and in the process I also unearthed a jar of frozen peach salsa.

You see where I'm going -- salsa for the sauce, beans on top, shredded cheddar over all, and a quick cook in the oven, all of which left me with a tasty new lunch pizza variety.

Tonight, too, I made the best of what I had. After making a batch of pac choi filling for this week's rolls at the market, I had some spicy peanut sauce leftover. Out came the rest of the thawed beans, into the pan they went, and the leftover sauce helped heat up the vegetables for my dinner. (I even crumbled the last sesame crackers into the mix for a little extra pizzazz.)

I think this is one of the best parts of food preservation. True, eating thawed vegetables from the freezer or cracking open a jar of tomatoes doesn't begin to compare to eating fresh produce. But with just a little out-of-the-box (literally!) thinking, I can throw together meals without a whole lot of fuss, measuring, or stress. That means a lot to me this time of year.

So what are you doing with the need-to-be-eaten has-been food from your freezer this year?

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Saturday, January 29, 2011

Dig These Roots!

Guess who turned one year old today? Local Roots Market!

To celebrate our first full year as a store, we held a "Get Back To Your Roots" Festival at the market, complete with music, kids' activities, and a delicious birthday cake!

The store has grown in a big way in the past year -- we've pushed past 550 members, are open four days a week, and have seen sales steadily climb. But in the next year, we're going to grow some more. We received a grant from the Ohio Department of Agriculture to take the first step toward a commercial kitchen, and that means it won't be long before the "and Cafe" part of the business name becomes a reality. (We also need to raise funds for new public bathrooms in order to meet code as we open the cafe.)

Best of all, the market-loving community continues to grow. Local Roots is THE place to be, especially on a Saturday, and it's a great community center where you can sit and visit with friends, make new contacts, and learn new things.

And, of course, it's the place to find the best local food -- whether the raw ingredients found on the shelves or, in Saturday's case, some delicious dishes from the excellent cooks among the membership. (Here are three of my favorite fellow producer-members, all of whom had tasty dishes in the festival's cooking contest.)

One year! And we have done so much in that time, making Local Roots a real community center.

Let's keep growing!

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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Rice and Shine

Still snowy outside. Still cleaning out the pantry inside -- or at least making the best of what I've got.

Tonight's challenge was to use up -- or at least most of -- the vegetable stock remaining in the refrigerator. Problem is, none of the soup recipes I had bookmarked really appealed to me tonight as last night's pot pie satisfied my potato craving for a day or so.

So, I started looking through other recipes and decided to make a baked risotto.

The recipe I have calls for asparagus and spinach, and though it's nowhere near asparagus season yet, I did get spinach at the market last weekend and though I could round it out with some dried carrot shreds and thin slices of the radishes that the Renaissance Man shared with me today (from the Winter Harvesters via Local Roots).


This dish even cleaned out the last of the arborio rice in the cupboard and almost the last of the Parmesan-style cheese from my bud at Canal Junction Farmstead Cheese. Add to that good flavor and leftovers for another meal or two, and I'd say it all turned out fine.

In fact, I'd call it a shining example of a frugal pantry meal!

Addendum: Per request, here's the recipe:

1 T extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
sea salt and black pepper to taste
1 c Arborio rice
2 c vegetable broth
4 c spinach, rinsed and chopped
2 radishes, thinly sliced
1/4 c dried carrot shreds OR 2 carrots, peeled and shredded
1/4 c shredded Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Saute onion in oil over medium heat. When lightly browned, season with salt and pepper. Add rice and stir to coat, then pour in broth and add vegetables. Bring to a simmer. Stir in half the cheese. Pour mixture into a 1-quart ovenproof baking dish and top with remaining cheese.

Bake for 40-45 minutes, until liquid is fully absorbed. Serve immediately.

Serves 2-4

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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

We'll Have a Pot Pie In the Old Town Tonight

I've been hoping over the past couple of weeks that -- now that holiday baking is done -- I could get back to cooking decent meals for myself while using up some of what I set aside for winter.

It hasn't happened much, but since today brought a winter weather advisory and the prediction of several inches of snow, it seemed like the ideal time to make a vegetable pot pie.

This is the time of year when I particularly enjoy pies: I have a little more time to wrangle with the crust, and the idea of wrapping dough around vegetables (or eggs, for a quiche, or fruit for dessert) just sounds comforting. And with vegetables that needed to be used up, a pot pie just sounded right.

So I peeled and cut up a potato (from The Cheerful Lady), a sweet potato (homegrown!), a couple carrots, a parsnip, and a turnip, and I threw them into a pot to cook until soft. (I also tossed in some dried peas. Couldn't hurt.)

Once I'd drained those, I chopped and sauteed an onion with salt, pepper, thyme, and a splash of tamari (for a rich, hearty flavor). I mixed that with the vegetables and tumbled it all into a spelt crust I had made earlier, topped it all with shredded cheddar cheese, and laid the top crust over it all.

The prep work can take a little time, but when the snow is coming down in thick clumps and piling up fast, kitchen work keeps me warm and happy. And the end result? SO worth it.

The Renaissance Man was easily lured in to share the meal with me, and we rounded out the meal with the last pieces of baklava and big mugs of my new favorite winter herbal brew (nettle, peppermint, sage, and rose petal).

Snow storm? Who cares? Not I, when I have a hot homemade meal waiting...

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Monday, January 03, 2011

You Make Me Fillo Like Dancing...

I recently decided that I needed to start actively using what I tucked into my pantry and my freezer. Since I'm coming into a lean time of the year income-wise, I'm trying my best to be extremely frugal in my grocery shopping, looking at what I have at home first and making the most of it.

That means dealing with leftover ingredients as much as what's put up properly. And I faced this evening with a few such leftovers: part of a squash, some chèvre that really needed to be used, and less than half a package of fillo dough. (The first half went to the last pan of baklava; several additional sheets ended up in a makeshift spanokopita.)

It occurred to me that if I combined the squash and chèvre with other ingredients, I'd have a tasty filling for something like ravioli -- so why not use the fillo dough instead of making pasta?

Not a bad idea, I thought. So this afternoon/evening I slipped a little jazz (Pink Martini, my new favorite) into the computer and bebopped my way around the kitchen while I cooked.

Here's the recipe (sort of):

--Peel, seed, cube a small squash (or half a large one) and steam or boil until tender. Drain.

--In a small skillet, melt 1 T butter and toss in some dried sage and chopped walnuts. Add salt and pepper to taste, then remove from heat once the sage becomes fragrant.

--In a food processor, combine squash, about 4-6 oz chèvre (to taste), the sage-walnut mixture, and a drizzle of olive oil.

--Let 'er rip. Taste and adjust seasonings.

--Lay one sheet fillo dough on a clean surface. Fold in half lengthwise. Brush with olive oil. Place a heaping spoonful of filling on the lower right corner.

--Flip filling over to the opposite corner and continue folding as you would a flag.

--Set finished turnover on parchment-lined baking sheet and brush lightly with olive oil. Repeat until pan is full. Bake at 350 F for about 30 minutes or until golden brown.

I had homemade French onion soup left over, so I spooned that into a bowl (over chunks of a leftover baguette) and served it with a couple of turnovers. The turnovers ended up light and flaky with the creamy filling -- utterly irresistible!

Definitely a meal to make me dance with delight!

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