Monday, May 28, 2012

Strawberry Mint Salad

At our local farmer's market, the strawberries have been amazing recently! We buy whole flats of them at a time, and pop them into our mouths like candy (after washing them, of course). They are so sweet and delicious, but sometimes I want to make something with them besides just eating them plain. Looking at the lettuce and mint that arrived in our CSA, I had an idea. I've probably had a salad like this before, but at a restaurant. I think this is the first time I've ever incorporated fruit into a salad at home and had it work out in such a delicious way. Topped with freshly ground salt and pepper, olive oil, and a dash of red wine vinegar (balsamic would have been too much), this Strawberry Mint Salad is amazingly refreshing on a warm spring or summer evening.

- Red Leaf Lettuce
- Fresh Mint Leaves, torn or sliced into small pieces
- Ripe Organic Strawberries, sliced
- Crumbled Goat Cheese (chevre or feta will work)
- Dash of freshly ground salt and pepper

A Note about Strawberries and Pesticides: When buying strawberries, be sure to buy organic. Please don't assume that because something is at the Farmer's Market it is automatically organic. ALWAYS look for a posted "Certified Organic" sign. You can also ask the grower/seller when you don't see a sign, as sometimes farms will be in the process of being certified, but haven't yet reached the requirements. This means that even though they are following the rules to be certified as organic, enough time has not yet passed for them to use the official "Organic" designation. Despite the phase-out of Methyl Bromide that began in 2005, there are loopholes in the law that allow it's use and the chemical is still used in Monterey and Santa Cruz counties (where close to 90% of U.S. strawberries are grown). The replacement pesticide, Methyl Iodide (sold as Midas), was supposed to be less dangerous but it was pulled from the U.S. market in March of 2012 by it's Japanese manufacturer. My advice is to stay away from the chemicals and buy organic berries!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Fun with Rhubarb

Know what else is in season here in Northern California? Rhubarb! Never heard of it? Don't know what to do with it? Great - this post will explain it to ya!
Raw rhubarb stalks
Rhubarb is a plant that has pink/red stalks and green leaves at the top. Unless you grow rhubarb yourself, you will never see the leaves as sellers take them off before displaying them. The leaves contain oxalic acid, which is toxic. However you would need to eat a LOT of them for the toxic effects to be apparent. Oxalic acid is common in plants, it can also be found in small amounts in spinach leaves, black tea, and sorrell - all delicious things!

Anyway, eating the rhubarb stalks is perfectly safe. And while I've heard of some savory recipes, my favorite way to enjoy rhubarb is to make a pie! Even a health coach has to give in to her sweet tooth every once in a while, right? When I heard the other day that rhubarb was in season, my mouth started watering for my mom's rhubarb pie recipe. While many recipes will combine rhubarb with strawberries, I prefer the taste of rhubarb by itself. It has a deliciously tart flavor that I really enjoy. I scoured the markets to find some so that I could recreate my memory. If you have a pie crust recipe you like go ahead and use it here, but I prefer to buy a pre-made crust. And apparently EpiCurious agrees with my choice for the best tasting traditional pie crust!
I almost forgot to take a picture of a slice, we gobbled it up so fast!

Mom's Rhubarb Pie
Just out of the oven - smells SO good!
2 9" Pie Crusts
3C Rhubarb, rinsed and cut into small pieces
1C Sugar
2T Flour
1 Egg

- Prepare pie crust. If using frozen, allow it to thaw.
- In large bowl, combine the sugar, flour, and egg.
- Mix in rhubarb.
- Put mix into a 9" pie crust.
- Top with a second crust.
- Bake for about 40 minutes at 425 degrees.
- Allow pie to cool for a few hours (or day before) before eating, this lets the inside set instead of being liquidy.

Baked to deliciousness
I had a little extra rhubarb left over, so I experimented with some strawberry and rhubarb crumbles. No recipe for these as I just threw them together, but I thought I'd share the pictures.
Before baking

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Mother's Day 2012 - I learned how to make a frittata!

It was Mother's Day this past weekend, and this year I wanted to do something with my mom that was different. In years past, we've made reservations for either brunch or dinner at some nice restaurant in the area. While the meals were yummy and we had a good time, I think both of us had gotten a little bored with it. So this year, when I saw Food & Lifestyle Coach Jamie G. Dougherty (of jamie|living) was offering a Mother-Daughter Divinely Delicious Cooking Class, I knew we had to sign up! I was happy that my mom was also interested in the class, and I signed us up right away.

Me and Mom, about to eat our delicious lunch!
On the Saturday before Mother's Day, my mom and I met five other mother-daughter pairs at the Soul Food Farm in Vacaville, where we arrived to chickens and dogs running around the beautiful herb gardens. Jamie ushered us inside to a wonderful kitchen where we learned new recipes and fun cooking tips. She divided us up so that each mother-daughter pair worked on each recipe and could spend time doing something together. My mom and I were on the caramelized onion frittata. This was a total score for me, as I've been wanting to learn how to make a frittata for ages! They look intimidating, but it's really not that hard. If you can make scrambled eggs, you can make a frittata. I promise!
Weird lighting, but these were the same: Caramelized Onion Frittata - yum!
Me posing with our hard work.
Mom wanted a pose too.

The final products: A Divinely Delicious Lunch!!

The next day, because my boyfriend was so excited I had learned how to make a frittata, I got to try making one at home. It was a bit different on our electric stove after the professional-grade gas stove Mom and I used at the cooking class, but it came out pretty darn tasty. We received a bunch of spring onions in our CSA this week, so I used those and topped the frittata with some soft goat cheese when it came out of the oven. Notice how orange the frittata is? That's purely from the eggs, and that's what eggs should look like. Yolks aren't supposed to be pale yellow, they should be almost orange in color. The color is where all the vitamins and nutrients are, so the darker the color the more benefit your body is getting from it! Try to find eggs at your local farmer's market, or at least buy the organic, pastured eggs at the store. The difference in taste is amazing.

A good frittata starts with good eggs! We bought these at Soul Food Farms.
Done on the stove, about to go into the broiler.
Out of the broiler, topped with goat cheese and walnuts. Yum!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Mango Avocado Salsa

An organic, sprouted tortilla chip topped with the salsa!
It was Cinco de Mayo this weekend, so we wanted to make a dinner that was inspired by Mexican cuisine. While probably far from being authentic, the salsa I made was a big hit and I want to share it. We put the salsa on organic, sprouted, non-GMO tortilla chips as well as the carne asada and shrimp that came off the grill. It would also go really well with fish. I made my version mild as I'm not a huge fan of spicy, but you could easily add in some jalapenos to give this salsa a kick! All the amounts listed here are estimates, given the size differences of the fruit and your own taste preferences, feel free to adjust the amounts as needed. There are no rules with this one!

Note: When choosing your mangoes and avocados, make sure you pick fruits that are ripe but not squishy - you want them to hold their shape in the salsa.

Mango Avocado Salsa
1-2 Mangoes, chopped
2-4 Avocados, chopped
1 Jalapeno, chopped (optional)
1/4C Cilantro, chopped (more if desired)
1/4 of a small Onion, chopped
1 Lime, juiced

- Cut up (bite size works best) and add all ingredients in a bowl. Add the avocado last to avoid browning.
- Top with the lime juice and stir to combine.
- Add salt/pepper/chili powder if desired.