Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Parsley season

We're again subscribing to the Eatwell Farm CSA, and we've been getting at least on large bunch of parsley a week for several weeks. Now, parsley does last awhile but not long enough for us to use up 5 bunches! This weekend, I decided to dry 4 of the bunches in our food dehydrator (has to be used sometime!). My son had a blast crushing the leaves and removing the stems when they were ready. It's amazing that 4 bunches can fit in half a sandwich bag when done. What do you do with your excess of herbs in the summer?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Eco-Friendly Menu Planning: How We Use Asana

In my new job at work, I am responsible for a team of staff who research and select technologies to make staff work easier.  We came across Asana as a task and project management tool.  It has revolutionized our work, and while we may not stick with it for project management in the office, my husband and I have learned about its amazing domestic applications.

Asana is a cloud-based web application, meaning that all of your data is hosted by Asana and is accessible via URL by any PC, workstation, or device.  It's very slick and easy to use with its real-time updates.

You can have different and separate workspaces in the application.  I have a workspace for my department at work, one for home projects with my husband, and one for personal and private projects.  Workspaces can be shared with anyone through an invitation.  Check it out!

Here's how we use it for menu planning:

First, we create a project, called Weekly Menu.  We add each recipe as a task and add a URL to the online recipe or a note about the recipe book and page number in the right hand pane that contains notes.  When we've made one of the recipes for the week, we check it off, and it becomes archived.  The next week when we are planning, we can see our archived list and revive our favorite recipes for the weekly menu by un-checking them as complete.

We then write up the grocery list in a different project, categorized by sections of the grocery store.  Each ingredient is a task.  You can move the tasks around to different categories.

We both have smartphones, and Asana has an app for both iPhone and Android.  When either one of us are at the grocery store, we just check off what we've purchased.  It's cool that you can see what you still need in real time.  We could technically both shop in different stores at the same time and be able to communicate with each other about what we've already selected for our grocery carts.

Have you used Asana for menus and grocery lists?  If so, what are your tips?

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Penne with Basil, Spinach, and Ricotta Pesto

These days, we often plan our dinners in a kid-friendly fashion in hopes that our son will eat a nutritious meal.  I refuse to make a completely different dinner for my son because I don't want to instill bad habits, but I also think that in order to do this, you have to make something appropriate for kids.  For example, something super spicy or full of alcohol probably isn't wise!

Because I work during the week and my husband stays home with the boy, he makes dinner during the week, and I get the weekends to be creative.  Usually by the weekend, we've run out of everything, and we haven't planned anything specific.  I'm too tired to go shopping, and this gets done during my hubby during the week anyway.  So, we usually have some sort of clean-out-the-fridge dinner.

This night, we had penne with a unique (I think) and good pesto.

Penne with Basil, Spinach, and Ricotta Pesto

1 pound dried penne pasta
2 cups basil leaves
1/4 pound baby spinach
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 ounces ricotta cheese
olive oil

Bring large pot of water to boil and cook penne according to package directions.

Heat medium skillet over medium heat and drizzle with olive oil.  When hot, add garlic and cook until fragrant.  Add spinach and cook until wilted.  Remove from heat and allow to cool.  There is no need to drain the spinach.

Place spinach mixture and basil leaves in a food processor with enough oil to thoroughly chop and puree the greens.  Place the puree in a bowl with ricotta cheese.  Add hot pasta.  Toss and enjoy!!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Banana Bran Molasses Muffins

Here's another healthy recipe that our son enjoyed this past weekend and which also came from a "box." We had Bob's Red Mill Wheat Bran in our cupboard, which is technically not in a box but a bag. The original recipe was for Moist Molasses Bran Muffins. I replaced the applesauce with mashed bananas, and the result was yummy! There isn't a grain of sugar in this besides what is contained in the fruit and molasses.

Other adaptations of ours for our kid include putting in walnuts, finely chopped, and cooking the muffins in a mini muffin tin.

I also experimented with two different kinds of paper muffin cups, and I highly recommend If You Care Baking Cups. They are unbleached, greaseproof, and they don't stick to your muffins. Amazing!

1 cup Wheat Bran
1 1/2 cups Whole Wheat Flour
1/2 cup Raisins (Unsulfured)
1 tsp. Baking Powder
1 tsp. Baking Soda
1 cup Milk
1/2 cup Blackstrap Molasses
3/4 cup Mashed Bananas
1/4 cup finely chopped Walnuts
2 Tbsp. Oil
2 Eggs, beaten

Preheat oven to 400F. Combine wheat bran, flour, baking soda and baking powder. Stir in nuts and raisins. In a separate bowl, blend bananas, milk, molasses, oil and egg. Add to dry ingredients and stir just until moistened. Spoon into greased muffin tin (or paper muffin cups) and bake for 15-20 minutes. Makes 12 marvelous muffins.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Success! Creamy Tomato Soup with Alphabet Pasta

Do you moms or dads out there ever feel like you slave away in the kitchen to make something special for your little one just to find out that they hate what you made? I try not to get mad, sad, or as my husband says, "butt hurt," but it's very difficult! It would be easy if we just made cakes, sweets, and processed foods full of sugar and salt, but I can't bring myself to feed him unhealthy food every day.

So, I've been searching for good recipes that are easy enough that I won't get "butt hurt" if he doesn't like them. The Cooking Light Mac & Cheese using butternut squash instead of butter was a failure (I liked it, but it didn't pass the texture test for our 2 year old, and he loves mac and cheese). But, here's one recipe that my son liked so much that he ate 3 toddler-sized bowlfuls, and he still wanted more!!

Yes, this recipe is from a box. This is something I try not to do because I guess I associate these kinds of recipes with convenience and processed food. But, this recipe comes from a box of organic vegetable alphabet pasta from Eden Organics, and reading the recipe, there really isn't a processed component to it other than canned tomatoes and pasta. My husband dislikes soup, and he also really liked it!

Here is the original recipe, and the following is our adaptation. Try it. Do your toddlers like it, too?

Creamy Tomato Soup with Alphabet Pasta

1 Tablespoon olive oil

1 cup onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup carrots, diced
1/3 cup celery, diced
1 1/2 cup homemade chicken stock
28 ounce can organic crushed tomatoes
1 tablespoon fresh basil (the original calls for 1 teaspoon dried, but we have so much fresh basil right now that we used fresh)
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup Eden Organic Vegetable Alphabets (our son really likes the letter and numbers, so having more than 1/2 cup was good for us)
1 cup 2% milk (the original called for soy milk. We are not vegan, and I am allergic to soy, so milk worked better for us)

Boil water in a medium pot, and cook the pasta for 9-11 minutes. Rinse, drain and set aside, covered.Heat the oil in a medium soup pot. Sauté the onions and garlic for 2 minutes. Add the celery and carrots. Sauté for 3 to 4 minutes. Add the basil, oregano, black pepper, sea salt and tomatoes. Mix, cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the flame and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes until the vegetables are tender. Puree the soup in the pot with a hand blender. Mix in the milk, and bring almost to a boil, but do not boil. Reduce the flame to low and simmer 1 to 2 minutes. Spoon over pasta in a bowl and serve warm.
If feeding to a toddler, tell them which letters or numbers are on their spoon before they eat each spoonful. "N" stands for "nincompoop!"

Saturday, January 16, 2010

This week's menu

Hello folks, I'm back! I'm not sure how often I'll get to post with a new little one in the house, but I'll try. Our baby was born on October 1st, 2009, and it's been quite a ride! We had some amazing friends bringing over their homemade food for the first couple of months which helped us immensely, and we've recently started cooking food that's typical for us instead of just take out or prepared stuff. I started up our CSA again so have had to think about a menu for this week. Here we go!

This week's box:
Navel oranges
Fuji apples
Savoy cabbage
Collard greens
Red leaf lettuce
Yellow onions
French fingerling potatoes

And the resulting dinner menu:

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Garden Vegetable Polenta Lasagna

We recently joined another CSA, called Farm Fresh to You. What I really like about it is the choice of boxes from small to large, from mixed, fruit only, to quick and easy to cook fruits and veggies. Since it's only my husband and myself for now, we're currently getting a weekly small box, and it is working out well. They send wonderful recipes with the box, and the vegetables are adequately cleaned before arrival. The best part is that they deliver to your home or workplace. These are all things that I missed with our last CSA.

So, I'm back to getting creative to finish off the veggies. This week, we had an assortment of cheeses left in the fridge, as well as some herbs and veggies. I had made an heirloom tomato sauce earlier in the week. Not only was this simple to make, it was actually quite delicious. I recommend serving it with a simple, green salad and some fruit for dessert. Sorry, there are no pictures -- we dug in too fast!

Garden Vegetable Polenta Lasagna
Serves 4-6

2 tubes Trader Joe's Polenta, sliced into 1/2 inch slices
1/2 recipe heirloom tomato sauce (I added small bits of smoked ham at the beginning of cooking the sauce)
15 oz. container ricotta cheese
1/3 cup chopped basil
1 egg
pinch nutmeg
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion (I used a white spring onion...not a green onion, but a young onion with the green tops still attached), chopped
8 oz. blue lake green beans, washed and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Heat olive oil in a skillet and add onions. Cook until soft. Add green beans and 1/4 teaspoon salt and cook until the beans are crisp-tender.

Combine ricotta, basil, egg, nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste in a small bowl.

Pour 1/4 cup or so of tomato sauce on the bottom of an 8 by 11 glass baking dish and swirl to coat the bottom. Layer slices of polenta from one of the tubes. Top with ricotta mixture, followed by the cooked green beans and onions. Top with the rest of the polenta. Pour the remainder of the sauce on top and sprinkle the mozzarella cheese. Cook for 35 minutes in the oven.
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