Garden Lunch

garden lunch

This was my first meal from my garden. This was my first attempt at a garden! It was actually thrilling to grow my own cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers and basil and construct these humble ingredients into a healthful meal. I felt invigorated all day with these wholesome foods in my belly.

I never realized that I would be so deeply affected by something so simple, so primal. Is this how our ancestors felt? Does this feeling explain the elaborate and brutal ritual sacrifice practices of ancient cultures? Did they realize the tenuous and fragile balance of nature which allowed them to produce food? Were they in awe? Were they grateful?

I wonder if we would be more humble, more grateful for our food if we were more deeply connected to it. Would we eat as much meat if we had to raise, care for, and slaughter animals ourselves? Would we value the complex nutritional components of vegetables and legumes if we watched them grow and saw the sun and rain turning tiny seeds into beautiful plants and fruits?

When you can taste the sunshine in a tomato do you not feel completely connected to the Universe?
I did. If just for a moment I was grateful.

Cherry Tomatoes with Cucumbers and Basil
Cherry Tomatoes
Cucumber
Basil
Olive Oil
Sea Salt
Lemon juice

Chop, toss together, drizzle with olive oil, sea salt and lemon juice.

Tuna Steak with Peppers

4 oz Tuna steak fresh or frozen
Garlic
Pepper

Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees
Chop pepper and garlic. Place tuna on foil (enough to completely wrap).
Toss pepper and garlic on top, sprinkle with sea salt. Add a drizzle of olive oil. Wrap completely. Place in oven and cook until the tuna is right where you like it!

Black Beans in Coconut Oil

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The secret is in the coconut oil and garlic for this recipe. The coconut oil lends a silken texture and a complexity of flavors that makes this a rich and satisfying component to many dishes. I often use this as a meat substitute or in traditional dishes calling for beans.
The addition of garlic makes this a full compliment of flavors.

Using a high quality, virgin cold-pressed and unrefined coconut oil is important. I like Spectrum and Now brands. They are both organic and widely available. Just read the labels and you can find a quality product near you. It should smell like coconut and it will be solid unless it is really hot out side!

I hesitate to add anything like onion or pepper in the beans because I like the texture and the simplicity of the combination and its ability to adapt in a variety of recipes.

Ingredients

Two cans of black beans
1 Tbn virgin coconut oil
4-5 cloves of thinly sliced garlic or to your taste

Method

Slice the garlic and drain the beans, reserving the juice.
In frying pan or skillet over medium heat add the coconut oil, add the garlic and let them cook together slowly without browning the garlic. After a few minutes add the beans.
As everything starts to simmer it may need a more liquid. Add the reserved juice as needed. For more coconut flavor you could also add a little extra oil; to your taste.
Mash the beans with a potato masher. Slowly pushing down create a creamy mashed bean mixture. Let simmer for about thirty minutes keeping your eye on the consistency and continue to add juice as needed. They should be like mashed potatoes.

Remove from heat and serve.

Serving ideas:

Black Bean Quesadilla:

Fresh cilantro
Corn
Chopped tomato
Avocado
Chopped onion
Manchego Cheese

Black Bean Burrito:

Brown rice
Mexican Blend cheese
Onion
Red pepper
Sour cream
Green onion

Check out this link for more info on the benefits and many uses for coconut oil

http://www.coconut-info.com/

For the Love of Lentils!

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What do you cook when you want to treat your body very well, are on a tight grocery budget or need a comfort food to feed your soul?

This is one of my favorite comfort meals; staple go-to cheap dinner of all time.
You can vary this dish in so many ways. I have added tofu, broccoli and spinach; or any veggie on hand, spices, coconut milk, mushrooms, etc. I also eat this hot or cold, sometimes adding a bit of olive oil to create a kind of lentil salad.

I have also served it over brown rice on cold winter days with a dollop of yogurt and fresh herbs.

With a warm chunk of crusty bread and a nice glass of Pinot Noir is probably my favorite way to enjoy this inexpensive, highly nutritious favorite.

Ingredients

3 Cups of lentils
3-4 cloves garlic
5-6 medium sized carrots
6-7 celery stalks
1Cup White wine
2TBS olive Oil
3-4 Cups water (vegetable stock)

Method:

1. In a large skillet or pot add olive oil, thinly sliced garlic, chopped celery and chopped carrots. (Adding these ingredients together helps to maintain enough moisture in the oil to prevent the garlic from browning).

Cook until vegetables become soft.

2. Add lentils and stir them around to get coated in the oil and vegetable mixture.

3. Add the wine and let simmer for a minute or two.

4. Add veggie stock or water; place a lid on the pot and cook until liquid is completely absorbed.

Add salt to taste.

This is the basic recipe. I have added crushed red pepper, sun-dried tomatoes, cumin and curry. (Not at the same time, just variations on a theme) I like to keep a container of lentils in the fridge and eat them in pitas with yogurt. I also like them burrito style with fresh veggies and cheese.

You can also make this dish with chicken; sautéing the chicken in the olive oil before adding the veggies and adding chicken stock to cook.

Ode to Betty

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This page of my Betty Crocker cookbook, which my mother gave to me when I was in college, is ridiculous! It is covered in crusty splotches and is unreadable in spots due to dried cake batter and greasy spots from butter spills.

Although I‘ve had this book for more than 20 years it is only within the last 10 or so that I have grown to truly appreciate the beauty and simplicity of “Betty”.

As a budding gourmand in college this book was a guide to cooking basics and old standbys. Basic cakes and bread recipes taught me techniques that would serve me well into the future. I learned how to truss chickens and beef roasts. I learned how to blanch stuff.

The biggest bang was this Banana-nut Bread. Everyone loves it. Some like it cold, some like it hot. I often make this for gifts at holiday time.

I have adapted this recipe over the years and experimented with healthful whole grain ingredients, and turbinado sugar. I’ve tried vegan versions and lo-cal substitutions. The best recipe is the one which I will present here and it seems to be everyone’s favorite. It is basically Betty Crocker’s recipe with a few minor tweaks which have made this perfect for my 2 loaf pan preparation. I have created a highly portable Banana Bread type treat which can be toasted and carried on the way to school or eaten cold with a cup of coffee or a glass of ice cold milk.

Banana-Nut Cake

(Adapted from Betty Crocker)

2 ½ cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup sugar ( I sometime use turbinado which can add moisture so I then add 2 tbs flour)
5-6 medium sized mushy bananas
2/3 cup finely chopped nuts
½ cup butter
2/3 cup buttermilk
3 eggs
1 ¼ tsp baking powder
1 ¼ tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2/3 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips ( or your desire)
Method
Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour 2 8 ½” x 4 ½” x 2 ¾” loaf pans.

Mix eggs, sugar, buttermilk, and butter until creamy. Sift together dry ingredients, add chocolate chips and slowly add to the wet mixture. (Hand held mixer produces the best result) Beat on high speed for 3 minutes scraping the sides of the bowl. Pour into pans.

Bake until wooden pick comes out dry, about 40-45 minutes.

Remove from pans immediately and allow to cool on cooling rack.
I like to wrap mine in aluminum foil at once and place in the fridge. This ensures that the loaves are moist and delicious!

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