Sweet Potato Chili w/ Greens

My garden is not very extensive this year due to other commitments, but ahhh the pleasures of hearty greens!  Swiss chard in particular is easy to start – easy to grow and it keeps on coming back!  Especially when the rain and sun alternate so regularly as they have been doing here in Middle Tennessee.  This was the only plant that I managed to start indoors and then transfer to the ground this year, so it makes me smile every time I look at it.  (I’m pretty easy to please, no?)

Ain't it purty?

Ain’t it purty?

 

One of my favorite things to do with hearty greens (chard, kale, collards, spinach, mustard greens, beet greens – I’m sure I forgot one!) is toss handfuls into soups, stews and chilis.  They are much less offensive to the non-greens appreciators in the crowd that way but still bring a bang of nutrition and some color to any dish.  They also make dinner feel fresh when what you’ve really done is open the pantry door and said, “Hmmmm – I’m not very prepared, what can I throw in a pot and call dinner tonight?”

 

You guessed it.  I was doing just that recently and am about to share the results.  As always, Little Sis and I encourage you to see our recipes as food for thought as well as body in that substitutions are encouraged, welcomed and will probably make it taste better as well ;-)  It takes a village to make a really good meal!

So I give you Sweet Potato Chili w/ Greens Continue reading

Winter Pesto – Delicious Pasta!

Once mid-August arrived, I was hit by school.  And school did hit me hard with a, “Look at me when I’m talking to you Woman!”

Alas, the fresh, fragrant basil in the garden froze before I made that big batch of pesto to use throughout the winter.  And Holy High Herbs Batman, have you seen what you pay for fresh herbs in the grocery store?  Or for pre-made pesto for that matter?  Yikes on both counts… Truly – “yikes, yikes!”

With the additional problem of wanting to make dairy free pesto (a la the lovely and talented Little Sis), for my dairy free husband, I had to come up with something.  So I bought a big old jar of dried basil.   Gauche?  Perhaps.  Cheap?  Definitely.  A solution? Hooray!

I started with my hybrid sunflower seed / cashew cheese mixture that can also serve as a base for a cheesy flavor inclusion in burritos or sandwiches or right onto a cracker or carrot… This cheese goes either way depending on whether you add nutritional yeast flakes & a little water, or basil and some olive oil.

Here’s the recipe for the sunflower/cashew cheese spread – this time destined for pesto-ey pleasure.

Quick sunflower seed / cashew cheese

This is an attempt to combine some cheesy offerings we have shared in the past (sunflower cheese & cashew cheese) but without the extra work and time involved in making firm cashew cheese.
1/2 cup sunflower seeds & 1/2 cup cashews soaked in 2 cups of water in the frig (put these in to soak in the morning and they’ll be done by dinner)
juice of 1/2 lemon (about 2 Tbsp)
1/2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1-2 cloves garlic
1/2 – 1 tsp salt
1-2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 -3 Tbsp. dried basil

Mix all in food processor until creamy, scraping down sides as needed

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I actually split the above recipe between cheesy filling for burritos and this pesto – simply removing half of this cheese BEFORE adding basil and olive oil, mixing those by hand and placing nutritional yeast flakes and water in to complete the cheesy filling.  I mixed the basil and olive oil in by hand:  IF YOU CUT THE CHEESE (okay, okay) IN HALF, ALSO HALF WHAT YOU ADD AFTER CUTTING IN HALF>

DSC07590Taste as you go (always good from many angles), and add basil and olive oil (as above) to preferred taste and consistency.

Place this concoction on pasta of your choice with veggies of your choice, such as…colored bell peppers and swiss chard:
3 orange peppers
1/2 large bunch (about 3 large leaves, stems removed)
1 – 2 cloves garlic
Tbsp. olive oil
Saute the above – garlic first, then peppers, then chard:

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Cook your pasta to package directions.  Top with sauteed veggies and a generous dollop of pesto cheese.

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This was very tasty and it was fun to make the 2 ‘cheeses’ from a base on one night.  The cheese step the second night was then very quick.  I also doubled the pepper and chard saute and froze half of it for an easy base for this or another dish on another night.  I love having those frozen back ups that lack the usual additives of frozen foods.   Cheap pesto rocks!

Soccacia / Gluten Free Pizza crust

Going gluten free to treat my husband’s colitis has introduced us to lots of new foods!  As of yet, nothing that feels quite like wheat bread, but I find that if I think of the gluten-free foods as something new and exciting rather than as a meager substitute for bread, I am often more than pleasantly surprised.  I know, it is not earth shattering news, the impact of positive attitude, but I am indeed trying to take some of the advice I freely give my 11 year old regarding trying new foods.

Back to the GF adventure… We have made a doubly pleasant discovery in the easy and flexible form of dosas and now Soccas.  Socca is a mediterranean snack that is basically a baked or broiled chickpea crepe/tortilla/crust/dough type thing.  It is really similar to a dosa except that instead of cooking the chickpea batter like a pancake, you bake it.   A gluten free dough-type thing I can bake in the oven is begging for topping.  “Please Ma’am,” it says in a nasal chickpea tone, “slather me with veggies and perhaps tomato sauce and vegan cheese!!”

I love it when my food speaks to me.  I also love combining elements of a meal so that I don’t have to serve a bunch of different items.   Throw it all together Baby, it all ends up the same place anyway, right?

I did not venture for pizza tonight as I didn’t have the ingredients or time for vegan cheese, (hubby is not eating dairy either) but a socca pizza is definitely in our future.  Tonight, I figured I’d experiment with this Socca thang and just plop some sauteed whatever-needs-to-be-picked-from-the-garden on top.

Swiss chard wins!  And Swiss chard rules by the way, so I was delighted to have a big armful.

Here is the recipe for socca that I used (borrowed from The Vegan Chickpea):

1/2 cup garbanzo bean flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill)
1/2 cup cold, filtered water
1-2 garlic cloves, sliced
1/2 tsp sea salt
Preheat oven to 375.  Prepare a 9″ round cake pan by cutting out a round piece of parchment to fit the bottom of the pan and then lightly greasing the sides of the pan and parchment. (Don’t go all crazy cutting this out perfectly, but pour carefully so it doesn’t go under and know that whatever hits the pan will stick a little.)

In a medium sized mixing bowl, combine garbanzo flour, water, garlic, and sea salt and whisk until completely combined and no lumps remain.  Pour into prepared cake pan.  (It is quite wet and I was sure I wouldn’t be able to post this because it wouldn’t work… but it did!!)

Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes.  (You can see below that it dries and firms up.)

Add your sauteed toppings and pop back if needed to synchronize warmth.  I sauteed onion with the swiss chard in a little olive oil and salt and pepper, but really the possibilities are endless.

Much more filling than wheat dough crust with some leftovers to take to work.  Easy dinner and easy lunch… That’s the way, uh-huh uh-huh, I like it!  Hubby is getting better as well, making all of the GF adventure very rewarding indeed!

Neighborly Sun & Shade : Backyard Gardening Lightens Up

My suburban backyard garden is testing me.  Big surprise, I know.  Gardens are full of opportunities for growth (yuk yuk) via tests of mere human patience and ingenuity.  Beyond the ubiquitous challenge to all growers of being unable to control the weather, the backyard gardener also can not control the sun and shade.

My backyard borders the backyards of wonderful neighbors who have trees on their sides of the property line which we enjoy immensely.  We have but one neglected Bradford Pear inside the fence to mow around, shuffle around leaves, etc., yet we enjoy myriads of birds and beautiful foliage and the shushing of breeze through the trees just outside of our property.  These trees also shade a good portion of my ‘growing medium’.  While trying to utilize the sun I do have, I face the extra problem of requiring room for football right in the center of the yard (away from precious garden beds) as it is the longest area that is flat enough for safe play.

Lessons from last year’s garden (my first full summer in this house) had a lot to do with understanding more clearly which beds received which kind of sun and for how long.  Some parts of my 2 sets of 8′ X 17″ raised beds receive sun 6 hours, while some receive 8 hours with shorter periods and dappled shade for parts of those areas.  This year I planned and planted accordingly.  Then my neighbors cut down a Bradford Pear that was providing the morning shade to one garden.  The increased sun opens all kinds of possibilities like more room for pepper plants and beans, but I’ve already got lots of more tender vegetables in the ground.  I fear that the lettuces and leeks in that bed do not have long to go in the Middle Tennessee heat, although it is blessedly cool today!  (The above pictures are both ends of one of my 8′X17′ raised beds taken at 8:30 in the morning, a time when this bed used to be in shade.)

Meanwhile, my other set of beds are shadier still and usually host the greens and lettuces.  Before the pear tree came down I thought I’d try to ameliorate the shade there by cutting down some of the tree  branches hanging over the fence creating too much shade.

So both my beds are less shady and my plans are ruined, right?  Well, if there’s a way to spend money to set things right…. I went to the store to see if I could get lettuce, chard and any other greens to put in the OTHER bed now that my shade garden will not be cool for long.  Nary a leaf of lettuce, spinach, chard or collard to be had in Middle Tennessee folks.  There was nothing but summer crops out.  Poop!  I mean manure!

So back to square one in the form of a square brown peat pot and a bunch of seeds.  I am notoriously bad at watering seeds enough once the weather is warmer and less wet, so I am going to start lettuces, chard and spinach indoors until they are bit stronger.  It seems I’ll have to re-arrange my plans.  Gee, I haven’t done THAT before in my garden.

This whole growing food thang is STILL a test, … but am I passing?  I maintain that as I’m STILL gardening, philosophically, I am passing the test.  I am enjoying (most of the time), reaping benefits from (always psychologically and nutritionally and sometimes financially) and I am in a wonderful group of people who call themselves gardeners… Now if I can get MORE vegetables out of the garden beds, I’ll be a happy and satisfied, flexible gardener who EATS lots of rewards for passing the test.  Good luck with the gardening tests you face this year!  We’d love to hear about them.  Maybe we can help each other keep on passin’ the test.

Sneaking in the Greens

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Most people don’t consider me very sneaky, but when it comes to getting vegetables into my kid… I’ll do just about anything.  I have found that the good ol’ American grilled cheese sandwich is rife with opportunity for treachery (mwoo hoo hahaha)!  Read on, if you dare….

One can spread a layer of a number of both pureed or simply sauteed vegetables into a grilled cheese sandwich.  My first foray into the covert vegetable operation was to spread a layer of pureed broccoli on the bread before placing the layer of cheese.  I began pureeing broccoli (along with lots of other things) to make baby food.
1) Puree in the blender or VitaMix with enough water to let the blades turn
2) Scoop out and place in ice cube trays
3) Cover trays with wax paper to aid stacking and avoid frost
4) Pop out and store in container in freezer when solid
Then you can defrost as much as you need per the size of your bread and the breadth of your child’s tolerance or gullibility.  So broccoli, cauliflower or spinach seemed to work best in our house for the kids.  As my now 11 year old aged and realized that it was indeed possible to have a grilled cheese sandwich WITHOUT anything green in it, we had to negotiate a bit…. “Do you want your broccoli in the sandwich or on the side?” worked very well for a while.  And of course my husband and I ate and enjoyed the broccoli/cheese sandwiches as well.

However, there is something better than broccoli for the grown-ups and thus the lovely picture above… mustard greens sauteed in a little oil and garlic make a stupendous extra layer in a grilled cheese sandwich.  Stir some up for dinner and make a little extra.  Doesn’t take long – just a clove of garlic and a little olive oil in a pan, tear the leaves smaller and cook until they are quite wilted.  Stick the leftovers in the frig.  You don’t have to heat the greens up – they’ll heat as the cheese melts around and into the nooks and crannies.  Delicious!  You can also use swiss chard or collards or kale.  And of course, for the grown-ups you can vary the cheese as well.

You do get some funny looks when your child asks their friend who is staying for lunch, “Do you want your grilled cheese with or without broccoli?” but no funny look equals the pleasure of sneaking vegetables onto the plate and into the mouth!
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In this case the words are ‘sandwiched’ between the greens.  Yuk yuk yuk…. just what a lot of kids say when it comes to vegetables.