Archive for September, 2012

September 10, 2012

Sweet and Tasty SSFC Meal: Southwestern Shepherd’s Pie

Hamburger and sweet potatoes. That is what I had in my need-to-prep local food stash. Hamburgers and sweet potato fries would have been easy, but I didn’t have any buns. And, besides, it seemed kinda boring – which is one of the biggest challenges with cooking, at least for me.

So I pulled up my Epicurious app, put hamburger and sweet potato in the search list, and picked Southwestern Shepherd’s Pie. A one-dish meal that allowed me to pull from ingredients in my pantry, and my back yard. We modified a bit as a function of what was in the house…something I never used to do, but now find that I do regularly!

With no further ado, here is my featured SSFC meal for the week:

1. Dice one medium onion (from our CSA, Potomac Vegetable Farms) and one small green pepper (from our garden). Sautee in 2 tablespoons olive oil for about 10 minutes or until soft.

2. Add 2 cloves garlic (from our CSA) and one chopped green jalapeno (from our garden).  Cook for another 2 minutes.

3. Then add 1 pound ground beef. Ours came from South Mountain Creamery. Brown for 5 minutes.

4. Then the recipe says that you should add tomato paste, chili power, cumin, cinnamon, salt and pepper, and simmer. We just added some barbeque rub, and let it simmer. Then, the recipe says to add tomatoes, black beans, and corn. We added some diced fresh tomatoes and a can of Wolfgang Puck tortilla soup. I know that sounds odd, but I didn’t have any prepped black beans. So, I added in this can of soup that needed to be used.  And 4 tablespoons of cilantro from PVF. And it simmered away.

5. Meanwhile, I had peeled, chopped, and steamed the sweet potatoes (6 medium sized ones). They were nice and soft at this point, so I massed them, and mixed them up with 1/2 cup of milk and 2 tablespoons of butter. Both from South Mountain.

6. Then I put the meat filling into a baking dish, covered it with sweet potatoes, and baked it for about 30 minutes in a 400 degree oven.

Next to it in the oven, a pan of corn bread was baking.

And, then, it was dinner time. Served with cilantro on top and sour cream.

The verdict: 3 thumbs up (me and the boys), 1 okay (it was a bit too sweet – from the Man of the House), and 1 there is no way I am trying that (guess who?!).

Next time – more beans and corn to balance the sweet, I think, but it will reappear!

September 9, 2012

What’s For Dinner? Lessons Learned from Week 1 and Planning for Week 2

Last Sunday I wrote about our meal plan for the week – reflecting my hope that by planning I could reduce some of the stress associated with the start of a new school year. Before I jump into a discussion of what we think we might eat this week, I want to do a quick recap of how last week went.

So here was the plan and what we actually ate:

Sunday, we ate out. No changes there. Food was good, and it was a nice way to start of the school year.

Monday, we had a green meatless Monday. Pesto pasta, roasted green beans, cucumber and tomato salad. Visited South Mountain Creamery and got the andouille we needed for the gumbo.

Tuesday, we did have the gumbo as planned. We ate dinner quite late though — so Lesson 1 in menu planning – don’t plan long cooking times unless you’re sure you are going to get dinner started as early as you had anticipated…

Wednesday was the night that I was out. The man of the house decided to go with the frozen pizza and other “fending” items. This meant that the hamburger that was defrosted for his use needed to be prepped on Thursday. This led to the first modification of the plan for the week.

On Thursday, we were going to make a black bean and sweet potato chili but we needed to cook the hamburger….so, I pulled up Epicurious on my Nook and found a recipe for a Southwestern Shepard’s Pie. That made use of both the hamburger and the sweet potatoes…I will share the recipe tomorrow in my SSFC blog. Accompanied by corn muffins and roasted green beans, it hit the spot for all of us (well, not the Picky Eater, but you probably already knew that).

Friday I was up for making the leek, chard, and corn flatbread…but the rest of the crew turned their noses up. Instead, we made a pizza using up the last andouille from South Mountain and red peppers.  Accompanied by another cucumber and White Queen tomato salad it was quite tasty.

Last night, all bets were off as the power went off — again — so we went out to dinner to the East West Grill and had wonderful kebabs.

So, what else did I learn from my first week of planning?

Lesson 2. Having recipes in mind is great, but sometimes recipes are too much work in the middle of the week.

Lesson 3. Knowing what is in the fridge makes deciding what to make much easier, even if the meal plan doesn’t work.

Lesson 4. Plans only work when you share them with other chefs in the house.

Lesson 5. Planning on Sunday doesn’t take into account the CSA very well (since the CSA comes on Tuesday).

And for Week 2? I think I’m going to just list out the recipes I’m thinking we’ll make, but not associate them with a date….many of these come from the latest edition of Saveur that conveniently arrived on my Nook on Saturday. Recipes aren’t showing up yet on the Saveur site, but will link up when they are there!

Sunday (well, this one I can do because we’ve already eaten). Pork tenderloin, corn on the cob, green salad.

Senate bean soup with Gougeres (cheese puffs)

Seared salmon with green peppercorn sauce, rice, sauteed swiss chard

Chicken fingers, colcannon, summer squash salad

Cheese tortellini with roasted Roma tomato sauce, green salad

Gan bian si ji (dry roasted green beans with ground pork), lemon grass chicken rolls from Trader Joes, rice

Carbonnade (Belgian beef stew)

So this is where I am – I will need to run to the store to get a few basics that I am out of, but otherwise we should be good to go – and as the evenings are going to be cooler this week, cooking will be something we look forward to!  In fact, I think I’m already hungry…

September 9, 2012

Ugly Tomato Contest Finalists – Please Vote!

Ugly Tomato Contest Finalists – Please Vote!.

One of my favorite farm blogs. Take a moment and vote for your favorite ugly tomato. Now, if only we could taste them too!

September 3, 2012

What’s For Dinner? First Week of School Edition

School starts tomorrow.

It’s a big year for us. The Eldest is going to be a senior in high school…when the heck did that happen?!?…and the twins are going to be eighth graders. Lots of consequential decisions being made this year, and I haven’t filled the calendar in yet because I am relishing the illusion of emptiness for a couple of more hours.

But knowing that schedules are going to be insane, I am going to try to do some menu planning this fall. If it goes well, I might even extend it into 2013 :).

So, here’s what this week looks like in my house, I think:

  • Sunday (last night): Dinner out at the Mad Fox Brewing Company in celebration of the end of summer.
  • Monday: Pesto pasta, roasted green beans, cucumber salad.
  • Tuesday: Gumbo (but with season-appropriate okra instead of asparagus), corn bread. We get our CSA delivery today, so veggies for the rest of the week will depend upon what we get!
  • Wednesday: I have a dinner engagement, so it’ll be up to the Man of the House. There will be hamburger so he could do tacos, or straight up hamburgers. And there are mushrooms, so he can sautee them to accompany.
  • Thursday: Black bean and sweet potato chili with polenta. I’m going to make it in the slow cooker.
  • Friday: Leek, Chard, and Corn Flatbread from SmittenKitchen.
  • Saturday: Chicken Normandy, to feature some of the delicious apples that I will get at the market.

We’ll give it a go, and see how it works!

Hope the first day of school is smooth for everyone who starts tomorrow.

September 2, 2012

The Eldest Cooks Now and Then

As a little boy, the eldest loved to help out in the kitchen. Especially when helping meant that he could be part of the cooking itself. I was browsing through pictures this afternoon and found two pictures that captured his favorite type of participation.

Making Dinner Then

Dad stirs.

The Eldest adds corn to the wok.

What is wonderful is that his comfort in and love of the kitchen continues to this day.  He spent the past year working in the kitchen of our local beer garden and deli, and has had the opportunity to work closely with professional chefs. Best of all is that we now get to benefit from his expertise and ease in the kitchen.

Returning home from a visit to my mom the other day, the Eldest and I were talking about what to make for dinner.

“What,” he asks, “do we have in the kitchen?”

“Hmm…” I said, “we have some ground pork from South Mountain that I’d to use.”

“Okay,” he said, “any veggies?”

“I think we have some red peppers, tomatoes, and onions from the CSA.”

“I know,” he said, “I can cook all that up, and add them to some pasta, and we’ll be good to go.”

At this point, I am sure that I looked over at him with a huge grin.  He’s not headed to college for another year yet, but I know that he’ll be able to cook for himself…although I believe the reputation of college cafeterias remains a key component of his decision to apply to some colleges over others!

Making Dinner Now

We got home, and he got right to work.

First, he cooked the ground pork.

While the pork was cooking, he chopped the peppers, and got the water boiling for the pasta.

Then, he exhibited some professional kitchen skills (at least they looked that way to me). He moved the pork to one side of the frying pan, and added the peppers in so that they could sautee (and the meat stay warm).

Meat to the side of the skillet, peppers cookin’ up!

Meanwhile, he found some parsley in the fridge, and chopped that up nice and fine while the peppers cooked.

Check out the excellent chopping form

Then he mixed up the peppers and pork, and added the parsley, 

Mixing them up

and some wonderful cherry tomatoes to the mix.

It’s more fun when you can “flip” the tomatoes.

To finish it up, stir in the rotini.

Ta da!

Pork Pepper Pasta a la Eldest

Besides no longer needing to stand on chairs to cook, the main difference these days is that doing the dishes doesn’t have quite the same draw that it used to.

Doing the dishes used to be fun!

Happy Sunday all!

September 1, 2012

First of September Many Colored Market

I never realized how colorful the end of summer market is. I used to think that when the peaches and tomatoes were in prime season that the colors at the market would be most plentiful. But as we walked and shopped this morning, I was struck by the variety of colors that are available now – as the melons come into prime season, and the peppers ripen to reds and yellows and oranges, and as the eggplants are exploding in many different shades of purple.

If I cut open these beautiful canary melons and cantaloupe, we would add some more yellows and oranges to our color spectrum.  We added one of these amazing cantaloupes to our basket.

It was hard to walk away from these eggplants, but I have some from the CSA and anticipate getting more on Tuesday.

I really just want to roast all of these peppers and store them for the dark days of winter.

Rainbow peppers

The okra is an amazing color isn’t it!

Purple okra

It’s hard to believe it’s time for apples already!

After enjoying the colors, and after a crepe and some donuts, we left with several bags of delicious produce. The mushrooms are for a mushroom lasagna, the okra for gumbo, the sandwich steaks for mini-fajitas…the sausage and loaf of country white were consumed at brunch already!  Sweet potatoes, green beans, and corn will make wonderful side dishes over the week.

From the East Falls Market on the first of September

And tomorrow we’ll visit the Westover market to add peaches and apples from Twin Springs to our weekly haul, andouille for the gumbo, shallots for the lasagna…and more I’m sure!

Hope you are getting lots of wonderful food from your farmer’s market visits this weekend!

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