Friday, June 25, 2010

Strawberry Lemonade

Do yourself a favor and make this delicious early summer treat to celebrate the season. It's simple and easy, but you'll look like a pro if you bring it to a party in a fancy pitcher.

1. Roll 3 or 4 lemons on the counter to get their juices going, halve them, squeeze juice into a pitcher. Watch out for seeds. Maybe quarter a couple after squeezing and drop them right in.

2. Drizzle some simple syrup* in. Don't ask me how much exactly, just err on the side of less--you can always add more once you taste.

3. Fill the pitcher most of the way with cold water and stir.

4. Throw in a couple handsful of the strawberries you managed to freeze before anyone devoured them. They'll act like little ice cubes. And also turn your drink a lovely pink color.

5. Taste and adjust ingredients for flavor.

*Simple Syrup
1 part water
2 parts raw or granulated sugar

Bring the water to a boil, remove from heat and immediately stir in sugar. Let it cool a little, then pour it in a fancy bottle and refrigerate. (You can add vanilla or other extracts for flavored syrups).

Camp Menu Planning

I will be away next week, working at one of my favorite places ever--Creation Week Camp. It's a camp for middle and high schoolers that uses community building to nurture creative energy and spiritual growth. This year, I was charged with helping a fellow staff member create a menu for the week.

Last year's food was pretty dismal--lots of meat, over-processed, bland--so this year our job was to turn that around. We can't really claim to be nourishing people's spirits while we're feeding their bodies junk. We created a menu focused on local ingredients, meals made from scratch, where meat is a side rather than an entree. We tried to aim for meals that would be familiar to most of the kids. I thought I'd share the menu plan with you here.

1. Scrambled eggs with fresh veggies and cheddar cheese cooked in
2. Buckwheat pancakes with fresh fruit and bacon
3. English muffin egg sandwiches with cheddar cheese and optional sausage
4. Oatmeal with topping choices (honey, maple syrup, milk, almonds, raisins, berries, coconut)
5. Egg and vegetable frittata over potato hash browns

Alternative options available at breakfast everyday:
Yogurt, granola, corn flakes, Rice Krispies, toast, bagels, fresh strawberries, apples, and cherries

1. Sandwich wraps with any combo of turkey, cheese, sliced veggies, and sprouts, plus tomato soup
2. Whole grain pizza with cheese and vegetable toppings
3. Vegetarian chili with rice
4. Hummus and pitas, vegetable tray and yogurt dipping sauce, vegetable soup
5. Chicken and rice soup with green leaf salad

1. Tacos with rice and beans or turkey meat
2. Sloppy Joes with option of either ground turkey or bulgar and beans, roasted green beans
3. Vegetable stir fry over brown rice with option to add chicken
4. Turkey or veggie burgers, baked sweet potato fries, tomato and cucumber salad
5. Spaghetti with meatballs on the side, green leaf salad

Alternative options available for lunch and dinner everyday:
Peanut butter and jelly on whole wheat bread, green leaf salad, fresh apples, strawberries, cherries

We're already getting some mild pushback from the cook, who is afraid kids won't go for these dishes. I don't really agree, and frankly, I'd rather have kids complain about too many vegetables than be docile and happy eating junk food. What do you all think? Will teenagers like this? Will they eat it? Any suggestions?

Spring Salads

This blog would really be better with more pictures. I promise I'm on it. Really.

I got the first share of my CSA (more on CSAs later) last week, and it was overflowing with greens. It included (among many things) a super-sized bag of varied lettuces. I am not very good at using up greens before they wilt, so I devised a plan.

I washed all the lettuce at once, let it dry on towel, and tore it into bite-sized pieces. Then I divided it all among 5 of my lovely glass Pyrex tupperware containers. I added some sugar snap peas, chopped in half, some chopped garlic scapes, and some grated farmhouse cheddar (all from the CSA) to each container. I added sliced strawberries to just two of them (because I ran out), and put all the containers back in the fridge.

Every morning this week, I grabbed one of the containers from the fridge, and brought it to work for lunch. I dressed them with some homemade strawberry balsamic dressing* I already had in the fridge.

I had the interesting experience of sitting with a co-worker on Wednesday who was eating some kind of reduced-fat microwaveable plastic-wrapped food-like mush because she is "eating healthy" to try and "lose weight." I was quietly grateful that all I'm doing is "eating real food" to try and "enjoy meals."

*Strawberry Balsamic Dressing

1 spoonful of last season's strawberry jam
1 part balsamic vinegar
2 parts olive oil
salt and pepper
a little dill if you want to go crazy

Put it all in a small mason jar (really great to use the last bit of jam in the jam jar). Shake vigorously.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp

If you just had a delicious meal of, say, ravioli with garlic scape pesto, and you're hankering for some dessert, guess what's in season? Rhubarb! And since rhubarb is pretty sour on its own, its sweet little strawberry buddies ripen up at the same time of year just to bestow on us the pleasure of pairing the two. Aren't we lucky? Let's make a crisp to celebrate:

1/2 - 3/4 quart strawberries, sliced
5ish stalks rhubarb, (soaked in water for 30 minutes if they're more than a day old), chopped
the juice of a lemon
1-2 cups sugar or honey
1 tbsp flour

Mix all this together and put it in a glass or metal baking dish. Let it sit in the fridge for 20-90 minutes so the sugar can suck the delicious juices out of the fruit. Then stick it in the oven at 375ish degrees F for 20 minutes. During that time making the topping...

1 stick cold butter, sliced into tbsp-sized pieces
1 cupish brown sugar
1 heaping cup oatmeal

Pulse these ingredients in a food processor until the butter is in pea-sized pieces and well mixed. Crumble over top of the fruit and return to the oven for another 10-15 minutes, and voila! Strawberry-rhubarb crisp!

The Great (e)Scape!

Sometimes I'm hesitant to write recipe posts for lack of step-by-step kitchen pictures. Mostly I forget to take pictures while I'm cooking. Sometimes I do TAKE beautiful kitchen pictures, but then I lose my camera cord or just plain don't bother to upload them. The thing is, I should just post recipes anyhow. So, put your imagination caps on, y'all, we're making pesto. Here we go:

Step 1
Get yourself to the local farmers market and pick up some garlic scapes. They are the green stems of garlic plants that need to be trimmed off in the spring. And consequently, they are in abundance everywhere right now, but will disappear in about a week. They have a flavor like garlic but are much milder. Grab some locally made cheese while you're there--Parmesan is ideal, but any hard, aged cheese will work.

Step 2
Gather the rest of the ingredients from your pantry or neighborhood food co-op: some kind of nuts--almonds, walnuts, pine nuts, whatever--olive oil, salt, and pepper, and some lemon juice wouldn't hurt.

Step 3
Break out your food processor (unless you're a slob like me and it's already sitting on your counter because you never put things away). Throw in a handful of nuts plus 3-4 bite-sized chunks of cheese and pulse a few times. Then throw in a heap of roughly chopped scapes, the juice of one lemon, salt and pepper, and stream olive oil in while you process until you have a saucy consistency. If you can't stream the oil in, just add a bit at a time, blending between each drizzle.

Step 4
Eat it over pasta, spread it on bread, crackers, bagels, or anything! Mmm...

Friday, June 4, 2010

Geezer Granger's Kitchen Hints

The Geezer has many years of cooking and eating experience and I've been asked to share some of these. From time to time I'll post a recipe, an idea or a tip. Where to start? Let's go back to the very beginning, as if you were just starting to set up for cooking.

Basic things essential to a successful kitchen:

Butter, not margarine
Olive oil
Apple cider vinegar
Sweeteners; honey, maple syrup, molasses, brown or raw sugar
Spices; thyme, marjoram, rosemary, sage, oregano, basil will do for a start

And the reasons why:

Margarine, the last time I looked, is made with processed oil(s) and chemicals. Butter is a more natural food containing milk, cream, and salt. Now, if you are watching your fat and salt intake read the label to see how much is there. But, we're using this to flavor and enhance the food, not to eat it by the spoonful.

Get a good quality extra virgin oil from a single source, that is, one country not a blend from all over the Mediterranean. There are volumes written about different olive oils, look it up!

The apple cider vinegar is preferred over the white distilled vinegar, it has more flavor and contains trace amounts of minerals.

Notice white sugar is not listed. The other sweeteners are natural or less refined, have trace amounts of minerals, and are much more flavorful. Buy the honey and maple syrup(we're talking the real thing here) locally.

I've listed a few of the basic spices to get you started. As you try new recipes and become adventurous in your cooking, the number of spices in your cupboard will grow exponentially. Buy them in small quantities, the fresher the better.

Read the labels on salt in the store. You might be surprised to find other ingredients. Try sea
salt. Don't worry about the lack of iodine, you don't need that much. You can look that up also!
Pepper? 'cause I've always used it.

Onions and garlic are natural foods. They are good and good for you. Flavor enhancers par excellence!

Let's make a salad dressing. This is not an exact recipe, just the outline, fill in the blanks!

Some olive oil
Half as much vinegar
Sweetener(add a little at a time and taste it)
Two spices (over time, you'll get sense of what goes well together)

Next time I'll share some salad dressing formulas.