Saturday, 30 July 2011
Cooking for One? An Upscale Casserole?
I've been up at the Farm by myself over the last few days and found that I needed to make a really determined choice to eat right when cooking for just one person. It's too easy to blow off making the effort for a single person and instead throw something frozen in the microwave. Or worse--grab junk food.
But I've no reason to punish myself with those options.
I know the concept of an "upscale casserole " sounds like an oxymoron. But, a casserole is something in which you can accomplish two very important things: using up leftovers and making sure that you eat a balanced meal--especially when you are cooking for one person. This recipe will cover both goals and also will assure that you eat a good dinner for two nights--unless you decide it'll be a casserole for two!
Ground Grassfed Beef and Vegetable Casserole
8 oz ground beef, browned and then mixed with
4-6 oz of marinara sauce (or pizza sauce or diced tomatoes with a squirt of tomato paste and Italian seasoning, you get the idea)
1 medium-large zucchini, sliced 1/4-1/2" and browned in oil with 2 cloves of garlic
2+ cups of chopped fresh greens (spinach, kale, chard) sauteed in oil making about 1 cup when cooked-- saute the greens with 1 medium onion, chopped
Layer the zucchini on the bottom layer, sprinkle 3 oz crumbled blue or Gorgonzola cheese (or 4 oz shredded Mozarella or other cheese-remember we're cleaning out the fridge).
Next layer: greens and onion.
Top layer: ground beef mixture.
Add some chopped fresh herbs or shaved hard cheese.
Picture shows layered assembled casserole.
Bake at 350 degrees until thoroughly heated through about 30 minutes.
(Note: You may need to pat the zucchini with a paper towel to take out excess moisture if it seems to be too soggy.)
Here's a picture when baked. My goodness-was this tasty even re-heated on Day 2--and a lot better for you than a frozen pizza or other junk food.
Posted by Karen
at 18:31 CDT
Friday, 29 July 2011
Cucumbers in the Garden?
Cucumbers in the Garden ???
This collection of “cucumber facts” was forwarded to me via email. And, having made it’s way through many forwardings—is sadly without a credit. So, I apologize in being unable to credit whoever collected these facts about cucumbers, but I’m sure you’ll agree, it’s worth a read.
The above photo shows 2 freshly picked cukes from my garden.
1. Cucumbers contain most of the vitamins you need every day, just one cucumber contains Vitamin B1, Vitamin B2, Vitamin B3, Vitamin B5, Vitamin B6, Folic Acid, Vitamin C, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium and Zinc.
2. Feeling tired in the afternoon , put down the caffeinated soda and pick up a cucumber. Cucumbers are a good source of B Vitamins and Carbohydrates that can provide that quick pick-me-up that can last for hours.
3. Tired of your bathroom mirror fogging up after a shower? Try rubbing a cucumber slice along the mirror, it will eliminate the fog and provide a soothing, spa-like fragrance.
4. Are grubs and slugs ruining your planting beds? Place a few slices in a small pie tin and your garden will be free of pests all season long. The chemicals in the cucumber react with the aluminum to give off a scent undetectable to humans but drive garden pests crazy and make them flee the area.
5 Looking for a fast and easy way to remove cellulite before going out or to the pool? Try rubbing a slice or two of cucumbers along your problem area for a few minutes, the phytochemicals in the cucumber cause the collagen in your skin to tighten, firming up the outer layer and reducing the visibility of cellulite. Works great on wrinkles too!!!
6.. Want to avoid a hangover or terrible headache? Eat a few cucumber slices before going to bed and wake up refreshed and headache free. Cucumbers contain enough sugar, B vitamins and electrolytes to replenish essential nutrients the body lost, keeping everything in equilibrium, avoiding both a hangover and headache!!
7. Looking to fight off that afternoon or evening snacking binge? Cucumbers have been used for centuries and often used by European trappers, traders and explorers for quick meals to thwart off starvation.
8. Have an important meeting or job interview and you realize that you don't have enough time to polish your shoes? Rub a freshly cut cucumber over the shoe, its chemicals will provide a quick and durable shine that not only looks great but also repels water.
9. Out of WD 40 and need to fix a squeaky hinge? Take a cucumber slice and rub it along the problematic hinge, and voila, the squeak is gone!
10. Stressed out and don't have time for massage, facial or visit to the spa? Cut up an entire cucumber and place it in a boiling pot of water, the chemicals and nutrients from the cucumber with react with the boiling water and be released in the steam, creating a soothing, relaxing aroma that has been shown the reduce stress in new mothers and college students during final exams.
11. Just finish a business lunch and realize you don't have gum or mints? Take a slice of cucumber and press it to the roof of your mouth with your tongue for 30 seconds to eliminate bad breath, the phytochemicals will kill the bacteria in your mouth responsible for causing bad breath.
12. Looking for a 'green' way to clean your faucets, sinks or stainless steel? Take a slice of cucumber and rub it on the surface you want to clean, not only will it remove years of tarnish and bring back the shine, but is won't leave streaks and won't harm you fingers or fingernails while you clean.
13. Using a pen and made a mistake? Take the outside of the cucumber and slowly use it to erase the pen writing, also works great on crayons and markers that the kids have used to decorate the walls!!
And let me add a couple of other reminders:
Cucumber water is THE most refreshing Summer palate cleanser and hydration--thinly sliced cucumber in fresh water--keep in a pitcher in the refrigerator.
Cucumber salad is a quick Summer "go-to" salad- peel and slice a cucumber length-wise. De-seed with a teaspoon slid down the middle. Then slice the cucumber thinly, dress with vinegar-and-oil , salt, pepper, and dillweed. Serve at room temperature after preparing or chill and it will keep a couple days' in the refrigerator.
Posted by Karen
at 13:08 CDT
Updated: Friday, 29 July 2011 14:47 CDT
Friday, 22 July 2011
Enchilada Casserole--in the Crockpot!
This July 2011 heat wave has been so oppressive. I can't fathom cooking, not even grilling!
So, my stash of canned goods in the pantry and frozen leftovers are coming out for a crockpot casserole. This recipe takes about 10 minutes of prep, uses readily available ingredients, won't heat up your house, and it's good!
First, I hope you are a carcass picker--I know that sounds gross. But, what I mean is that I hope you are a person who plucks all those little pieces of chicken or turkey that are left on the frame of a roast chicken or turkey. They are too little to put on a serving plate as a roast, but too much to waste!
Put those pieces of poultry in a food safe plastic bag and freeze them. Then you will always have roast chicken or turkey available to include in soups or casseroles. And you'll have the satisfaction of knowing that you didn't waste anything.
Turkey (or Chicken) Enchilada Casserole
- Prep crockpot with spray canola oil.
- In a separate pan, saute 1 onion, chopped with 2 cloves of garlic
- Add 1 lb of chopped chicken or turkey pieces (from your frozen stash) Heat through so that the temperature of meat hits 165 degrees.
- Add 1 can of "GRILLIN' BEANS- Black Bean Fiesta" with the sauce and 1 can (14.5 oz) of chili-ready diced tomatoes with the sauce.
- Check seasonings. Add extra cumin, salt, pepper as your tastes indicate. Remove from heat.
This meat mixture will be layered in the crockpot along with 4 tortillas and 4oz. (1 cup) of shredded Mexican cheese blend as follows:
Put a layer of meat mixture on bottom, then--
Put 1 tortilla on top, a layer of meat mixture, 1/4th of cheese.
Repeat twice (3 tortillas used).
Take the last (4th) tortilla and slice into strips. Sprinkle on top along with any remaining cheese.
Picture left shows the casserole in crockpot, layered, before cooking.
Cook on "low" about 8 hours.
Here's what it looks like after 8 hours.
Serve with sour cream, salsa, and/or guacamole as desired, and a side green salad.
I use low carb flour tortillas, but you can also use corn tortillas, other high fiber tortillas, or even create a thicker tortilla layer by doubling the tortillas used in the three layers (total 7 tortillas instead of 4)--your preference.
Posted by Karen
at 18:52 CDT
Updated: Friday, 22 July 2011 19:32 CDT
Oops--it's a GIRL!
Topic: Harvest Hills Farm activity
Not sure how I thought the calf was a male (note the pronoun selections yesterday) --probably because of the umbilical protrusion made more obvious by her skinny state.
SHE is a little girl.
Here's an updated picture of her, being fed by Mike. His arrival here also allowed me to peek under the tail.
And, of course now that we know "she's" a "she"--her future holds a nice long life at Harvest Hills. Maybe we'll name this one.
Posted by Karen
at 18:42 CDT
Wednesday, 20 July 2011
The Bottle Calf
Topic: Harvest Hills Farm activity
We are having a miserable run of heat with temperatures in the upper 90s-100 and a heat index of 111 today. And, wouldn't you know it--a heifer gave birth at the beginning of this temperature run, then got separated from her little male calf when all the cattle decided to go through a fence. Before you knew it, Mom's on one side of a fence, baby on the other and in the shuffle, got abandoned for nearly a day...long enough for the heifer to become emotionally detached from her baby. So, our Farm helper Randy, bottle-fed baby in the field yesterday. But even by the evening, Mom had not reclaimed her (very cute) little tyke. So Randy wisely made the decision to bring the calf into the barn and feed him again. The heat would've killed him.
This morning, the heat was so awful, we couldn't even consider trying to re-unite the calf and cow. I checked in on Mom (we've got all cattle tagged so we know who-the-baby's-mama is). All of the cattle were lined up laying head-to-tail in a creek--like a long row of sausage links. No bellowing mom was looking for her baby, either last night or this morning.
SO-- baby's hunkered in a horse stall with fresh bedding, fans are circulating the air, the radio's on (country, can't find a classical station in range) and I'm playing peds doctor...feeding cow infant formula, making eye contact, cooing, talking to him and monitoring stool and urine...like I was trained, right?
A bit sleepy before late afternoon feeding, but once the bottle's out...
I should weigh about 80 or 90 lbs. I'm about 60, but with normal stool and bright eyes so I should make it! You should hear ME bellow!
Posted by Karen
at 17:22 CDT
Updated: Wednesday, 20 July 2011 18:00 CDT
Sunday, 17 July 2011
Yellow Pear Tomatoes-- first up
In an earlier post today , you saw the huge garden I am lucky to have at Harvest Hills Farm. However, here's a photo of my first ripe vegetables.
It looks pretty lame...Now, I know next week, there will be more green and yellow beans than I can count, and by the end of July, more zucchini than any community can consume. But today, there's only 7 ripe Yellow Pear tomatoes.
I will not waste not one. (and--That should be everyone's mantra. )
So, I've decided to put my seven photogenic tomatoes mixed with some cooked and chilled lentils, leftover green beans from last night's dinner and a lemon( a leftover fresh one extra from Bastille Day)-- and-- oil dressing with dillweed, salt and pepper.
This can be your Summer "go-to" idea for a chilled salad--mixed veggies (mostly fresh from the garden, raw or blanched, depending on what you have at hand), a complex starch-whole grain (barley, beans, rice, lentils), and a simple vingarette or lemon (any citrus) juice-with-oil dressing. Salt, Pepper. Chill THOROUGHLY. ADD chopped FRESH HERBS...then serve with your favorite indirect grilled meats--or a quick burger (whether beef, lamb, turkey or veggie)!!!
Posted by Karen
at 11:19 CDT
Gardens Follow Up
I am giving you a little follow up on our two sites of gardens.
For reference, we all hopefully made (at the least) a window sill herb garden in spring and re-planted it outside into a larger container in the Summer. This larger window box should serve us for fresh herb cuttings through out the Summer and early Fall. Whether you live in an apartment or house, there is room for fresh herbs (and even another window box for fresh lettuce or greens)...even if it has to stay by the window and has no outside space.
For those lucky enough to have space for a full garden, here's a photo of where we stand with the Farm's
Kitchen Garden." It's still not too late to plant some things from seed in our Midwest area. You can still plant multiple varieties of beans and cucumbers and zucchini, and have them reach maturity this growing season. Also--when the ridiculous heat backs off, you can plant more greens and lettuce for fall harvesting.
Posted by Karen
at 11:09 CDT
Updated: Sunday, 24 July 2011 21:48 CDT
Friday, 15 July 2011
Bastille Day 2011
Topic: Party planning
Bastille Day 2011 was an evening of French flute music presented in casual recital followed by the most amazing French food in the outdoor courtyard--
all performed by flute students and afficiandos of our iconic flute teacher, Susan Levitin.
On a very personal note, Bastille Day will always be our own version, but it's based on the memory of what hubby and I view as the ideal of French appreciation--in memory of Lorraine Hooker, the owner of The French Kitchen who retired in 1997 at the age of 80.
The French Kitchen on 63rd Street in Chicago was exactly as stated--a typical French kitchen, that made you feel like you walked into your grandmother's house and she'd been cooking all day in anticipation of your arrival...relax, have some wine, a leisurely dinner and excellent conversation. Bastille Day at The French Kitchen was that and a little more. You really were transported to a Parisian bistro.
Last night, we had music covering the 18th to the 21st centuries, enough food, desserts, and cheeses to sample the world of French cuisine, and what everyone wishes for...some leisure time with great friends and great conversation.
Julia's almond cakes getting ready for take-home gifts for guests.
The Flute Gnome in the garden.
How very true...
Posted by Karen
at 16:51 CDT
Updated: Friday, 15 July 2011 17:16 CDT
Saturday, 9 July 2011
Food Safety for Summer Parties
"If you like it then you shoulda put a lid on it..." Beyonce's song goes something like that, doesn't it? Well, if not, the Summer food safety mantra sure does!
Let's take this quiche as an example.
Say I wanted to bring this to an outdoor party for an appetizer.
I plan to make the quiche at home in advance of the party, using good food practices covered in an earlier blog posting (check under topic "Education" to pull out similar posts).
It's now a hot quiche straight out of the oven. Am I going to serve it immediately? No. The party is several hours from now so I immediately refrigerate the quiche.
Principle 1. Get your previously heated foods out of the temperature danger zone as quickly as possible. The temperature danger zone is between 41 degrees and 135 degrees Fahrenheit. It's called the"temperature danger zone" because that it the temperature at which bacteria replicate most quickly.
Think about it, you just killed bacteria in the baked quiche by baking it and raising the internal temperature over 165 degrees. But your kitchen isn't sterile, so you try to mitigate recontamination by getting your food covered and into the refrigerator.
Now you have to decide if you want to have that quiche served cold or heated. If it's going to be re-heated, you'll have to reheat at your hostess' house so make sure you plan that with your hostess in advance.
Principle 2. You must reheat previously heated foods to an internal temperature of 165 degrees.
Since you don't want to stress out your hostess with one more thing, you thoughtfully decide that chilled quiche appetizer would be yummy. So, you will follow Prinicple 1 again by keeping your food out of the danger zone by transporting it chilled in a cooler packed with ice to the party.
Once at the party, make sure your chilled food is eaten cold by serving it immediately or keep it cold by placing it on ice. And keep a lid on it! Or at least use some covering that will prevent random insects from contaminating your food.
Food will get contaminated--through handling with utensils touched by many, by inadvertent touching during self-serving, but again--we are trying to prevent bacteria from multiplying and causing food-borne illness. So, reduce the risk by keeping hot foods hot and cold foods cold! Both hot and cold need to be kept out of the danger zone--41 to 135 degrees Fahrenheit.
If food is going to be kept out buffet-style for longer periods of time, it's wise to check the internal temperature of foods with a thermometer (and be careful not to cross-contaminate!).
Every year we hear about the potato salad or deviled eggs at a picnic causing food-borne illness. Sometimes the food preparer directly contaminated the food by
Those are sloppy mistakes that clearly should never happen.
- failing to wash their hands,
- preparing food while ill or with open wounds or
- failing to prep the food safely.
The world is not sterile so we still have to follow all the rules when preparing food that is served to others. And the risks can be reduced with a commitment to the above principles.
Posted by Karen
at 10:37 CDT
Updated: Sunday, 24 July 2011 21:49 CDT
Friday, 8 July 2011
Tandoori Spices on Turkey and an Indirect Grill
Who doesn't like interesting, but easy, on a hot Summer day?
Why not let your indirect grill work for you this weekend while you attend to all the rest of the household chores, errands, or other yard activiites you might have. It's super easy and always appreciated.
Here's an interesting take on Tandoori Chicken.
How about using the usual Tandoori spices as a rub on a boneless turkey breast? The indirect (or Kettle) grill will guarantee that you have a nice crisped, browned outside while the inside of the meat stays nice and moist, while still getting smokey overtones.
Tandoori Spiced Turkey
For the Rub, combine the following spices:
Garam Masala, Cumin, Tumeric, cayenne pepper, minced garlic and minced ginger--amounts depend upon the size of your meat. The cayenne is hot so obviously adjust proportions of it and the other spices, according to your personal tastes.
Mix the above spices with some lemon juice for a paste-like rub.
(Great Hint: Always keep a stick of ginger in your freezer. It shreds easily when frozen and it's always available!)
Rub mixture over the boneless turkey breast, leaving the skin on, and refrigerate until the grill is ready.
Prepare the grill by placing about 15 or so charcoal briquettes each on both sides of the grill. The space in the middle should have a metal drip pan positioned. And--You should pre-start the charcoal burning in 1 or 2 charcoal chimneys (preferred method) and then pour them into their two respective sides. Otherwise start them burning directly in the grill.
Put the grill top in place. Put the kettle top on and allow the grill to get hot before putting the turkey in place.
Put the refrigerated, rubbed down turkey in the middle. Put the kettle top back on and let it cook undisturbed, no peeking, for about two hours. You can cook it longer and it will still stay moist. If you use a whole turkey, add an hour or more depending on its size. You can also use this same rub on chicken parts or a whole chicken. No matter what poultry you are using or whether parts or whole-- always check your meat with a meat thermometer to make sure it hits 165 degrees before you declare it "done".
Interesting sides to go with your turkey.
The popular Indian cucumber dish, Raita--is shredded cucumber with yogurt, salt and pepper.
How about a clever relish of fresh fruit, tomatoes, melon?
Add mashed sweet potatoes seasoned with a little smokey spices blend?
Here's our plate...
Posted by Karen
at 16:43 CDT
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