Wednesday, May 25, 2016

How Your Freezer Can Save You Money

When it comes to preserving food, I'm much more likely to use my freezer than to break out the canning equipment. Granted, I have a bigger freezer than most, but even without tons of space there are plenty of ways you can preserve food in your freezer to save time and money in the future. Here are my favorites:



Citrus Zest

Organic produce is expensive, and I try to use every bit. Whenever I am using citrus for it's juice, whether it be lemon, lime or orange, I first zest the peel. If I don't want to use it in the current recipe, I simply put it in a small container in the freezer for the next recipe I come across that calls for zest. That way I don't have to buy a whole new fruit just for the zest!

Ginger

Ginger is one of those ingredients most people buy for a recipe, and then months later find the remaining stub in the back of a fridge drawer, dried up or moldy. No more! Simply wash your ginger well and stick it in a bag in the freezer. I don't even peel mine- you'll never notice. When you're ready to use it, simply let it sit out for a few minutes to thaw slightly, and using that handy microplane, grate the amount you need. You'll notice most of the peel will just remain on the top of the microplane anyway. The rest goes right back in the freezer. Frozen ginger will last for up to a year!


Fruit and Vegetables

When the harvest season is in full swing, I try to stock my freezer with a number of vegetables that can be enjoyed year round. My favorites are: roasted red peppers, herbs (as pesto or as whole leaves), lightly steamed edamame pods, corn cut off the cob and berries.

Beans

It is much cheaper (and tastier!) to cook your own beans than to buy cans. But who has the time and energy to soak and boil every time?!? No worries- simply cook off a large batch at once, and freeze the cooked beans in smaller portions in freezer bags to be pulled out as needed. You could freeze them in can-size portions (about 2 cups) for added convenience. You don't even need to plan ahead- if you need the beans right away, pull them out of the freezer, dump them into a strainer and run hot water until they are thawed. I usually have both chickpeas and black beans stocked in the freezer at any given time, as well as whichever other varieties have caught my fancy recently (right now that's adzuki and cannelloni beans).

Grains

It's easy to end up with leftover grains, rice in particular. Instead of letting them go hard sitting in the fridge unused, I freeze my leftover grains and pull them out the next time I want to make veggie burgers. Throw them in the food processor with whatever other ingredients you are using (beans, vegetables, cheese, tofu, herbs etc.) and you're off to a great start!


Frozen Meals

It is much easier to double a meal once in a while than have to cook every single night. I try to do this regularly, and freeze the extra portions in freezer bags, so that I always have a variety of meals to choose from when I just don't have the time or energy to cook. Right now I am stocked with: Pumpkin Baked Mac and Cheese, Tamale Pie, Beet Burgers and Black Bean and Sweet Potato Burritos. Also perfect for a last-minute lunch to bring to work.

I hope this post helps inspire you to put that freezer to work! If you need any extra convincing, it is true that a full freezer actually takes less energy to run than an empty one.

Happy freezing!

Relax. Eat Well. 





Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Peppercorn Pickled Ramps


Ramp season. You know it's my favorite. But it is so fleeting! This recipe will allow you to preserve your ramps to enjoy for months to come. 


For more on where to look for ramps, how to harvest them sustainably and a recipe for the greens you won't be using here, check out my Wild Dandelion and Ramp Pesto post. Or hop over to find out how to make them into a seriously addicting compound Ramp Butter. Both are great ways to fill your freezer so you will never have to be without. 


I happened to have some beautiful pink peppercorns for this recipe, straight from California. In the case that you don't, regular black peppercorns will be just fine. Don't let the type of vinegar stop you either- any mild white vinegar will do- white wine vinegar or rice vinegar for example. 


Peppercorn Pickled Ramps

Recipe inspired by Bon Appetit

Ingredients

1 cup ramp bulbs, greens saved for another use
1 tsp pink of black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
2 red chilis
1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup water
2 tbs. raw sugar
3/4 tsp. salt

Directions

Clean ramps well and remove bulbs from greens. Dry and save the greens for another use- they are great in salads or pestos.

Place ramp bulbs, peppercorns, bay leaves and chilis in a pint size mason jar.

In a small pot, bring vinegar, water, sugar and salt to a boil. Pour over ramps to fill the jar. Cool, cover and store in fridge for weeks to months.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Pumpkin Mac and Cheese with Toasted Breadcrumbs


This is pure comfort food. Since it is April and still feels like winter, I'm allowing it. 

Finding a love for whole foods can be a journey, which sometimes takes years to develop and cement. It's a transition, and like any other transition, baby steps are often necessary. This is a great recipe for a transitional kitchen, one that helps convince skeptics that whole foods and healthier ingredients can still be delicious and satisfying. And so the momentum builds. And bellies are warmed.

For the deepest flavor, I highly recommend roasting a pumpkin (or any winter squash) and scooping out the inside to be used in this recipe. If you are short on time or energy, canned pumpkin puree can be used, and will still be delicious (just not as delicious!). So no excuses.

This recipe can be made vegan by simply omitting the cheddar cheese. Or you can swing the other way and increase the dairy by using cow's milk in place of soy milk. Either way, I promise you'll love it. 

You can even make a double batch, and freeze the second one in lunch size portions. One of our secrets to weekday success is having a stocked freezer from past meals. I chill the second one, cut it into desired portions, place those on a parchment paper lined baking sheet to freeze, and then move each one into a labeled quart sized freezer bag. 

Pumpkin Mac and Cheese with Toasted Breadcrumbs
Serves 4-6

Ingredients

3 Tbs. olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
2 1/2 cups soy milk
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 tsp. salt 
pinch of nutmeg
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
a dash of turmeric, optional
Additional salt and pepper, as needed

1/2 lb. whole wheat pasta shells, cooked
1/2 cup breadcrumbs

2 tbs. sage leaves, sliced thinly

Directions

Cook shells al dente, according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Heat olive oil over low-medium heat in a medium pot. Add diced onions and cook until translucent. Sprinkle in flour and stir constantly for one minute, to toast slightly. Slowly pour in soy milk, a half cup or so at a time, stirring with a whisk to prevent clumping. Once incorporated, add pumpkin and continue to cook for 15-20 minutes, stirring often, or until thickened. Add shredded cheese, salt, nutmeg, black pepper and dash of turmeric. Taste and season with additional salt if needed (don't under-salt!)

Mix pumpkin cheese sauce with cooked pasta shells and pour into a oiled baking pan. Top with breadcrumbs. Bake in 350 degree oven for 25 minutes, or until sides are bubbling and breadcrumbs are toasty. Serve garnished with sage. 

Relax. Eat Well.



Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Florida Lime Pie


I have warm weather and sunshine on the brain- we leave for a quick trip to Captiva Island, off Florida's coast, on Saturday. To me, that means: citrus. Bright, zesty and fresh, citrus is like a shot of sunshine no matter what the weather is really like outside.


So this is an ode to the classic Key Lime Pie- with some serious upgrades. Soaked raw cashews and coconut milk lend the requisite creaminess, while sticking with whole foods. Maple syrup replaces the sugar, but could just as easily be raw honey.


The crust is a nutty mix of almonds and dates, minced up and packed down into individual cupcake cups. You can find these stiff cups, which are a bit taller than normal, in most specialty kitchen shops. I love them because they peel off and leave you with a stunning individual-sized dessert.


Ingredients

1/2 cup raw almonds (pecan or walnuts will also work)
1/2 cup soft medjool dates, pitted
¼ tsp. sea salt
1 cup raw cashew, soaked for 4-12 hours, drained
3/4 cup coconut milk
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup lime juice, about 3 large limes, reserving zest
1/2 cup maple syrup

Directions

Place almonds and dates in a food processor with sea salt and pulse until finely chopped. Test by pressing the dough lightly to see if it holds together. Press into the bottom of 10 stiff cupcake holders. Set aside.

Place drained cashews along with remaining ingredients (except lime zest) in a high power blender. Process until very smooth, scraping down as needed. Pour into cupcake holders over nut crust until full. Top with lime zest and freeze until firm. Remove from freezer 10-15 minutes before serving.

Relax. Eat Well.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Rosemary Pesto


On the first day that truly feels like winter, I have a little throwback to summer for you. 

Remember those herbs we talked about preserving at the end of the harvest this year? Dig those rosemary sprigs out of the freezer and let's get started. 

If starting with frozen sprigs, simply let them sit out at room temperature for 30 minutes or so, until they are easy to strip off the stem. 



Pesto can be the basis for so many wonderful dishes- I love to have a few different types in my freezer, ready to be pulled out for a quick dinner. Trying varying the herbs for some new twists.

Try this one instead of tomato sauce on a flatbread, with caramelized onions, fresh chèvre, and a sharp cheddar. Or tossed with some pappardelle noodles with blanched broccoli and toasted pine nuts. Or folded into a quick frittata with sun-dried tomatoes and mushrooms.

Rosemary Pesto

Ingredients

2 garlic cloves
1 cup packed rosemary leaves- from fresh or frozen
1 1/4 cup toasted walnuts
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 tsp. sea salt
Zest of one lemon
2 tsp. lemon juice
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Directions

Peel garlic, and mince in food processor. Add rosemary through lemon juice and continue to puree, drizzling olive oil and scraping down as needed in to achieve desired consistency.

Store fresh in the refrigerator, or freeze in ice cube trays to be used later.

Relax. Eat Well.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Golden Turmeric Milk


Although we have been graced with possibly the nicest November on record, there is still a bite in the air that comes with this time of year, leaving me craving a warm mug in my hands.

I think I have mentioned my constant effort to incorporate turmeric into my daily life before. It is the ultimate anti-inflammatory, which is endlessly beneficial to our overworked bodies. Pair that with its load of antioxidants (apparent through its rich orange coloring), and you have a powerful medicine that can help prevent and treat whatever ails you.



With that said, there are a few kitchen tricks that can help you assimilate and incorporate all of the health benefits from this amazing little root more effectively. The first is to not overheat it- excessive heat or boiling will start to deteriorate it's nutritional prowess. The second is to enjoy it with some sort of fat. The active component in turmeric, curcumin, is fat soluble, meaning that it needs to be consumed with a source of fat to be fully absorbed. And finally, add a pinch of black pepper, which also boosts it's bio-availability substantially.


So what does that mean for this recipe? Don't let the tea boil too much- you want to get it to a simmer, and then let it steep. If you are worried about this step, you can heat your milk to a simmer and then add your turmeric, ginger and black pepper to steep. Don't skip the few pinches of black pepper, and add a tsp. of coconut oil if you are using a skim milk or nut-based milk.

It is not hard to find fresh ginger or turmeric in the produce section of your local health food store. When you find it, buy a good amount, give it a good wash and store it in a bag in your freezer. It will last forever this way, and actually grates easier with a microplane (just take it out to thaw for a few minutes before grating, and it is truly a breeze). Then throw the rest back in the freezer for your next use.



Golden Turmeric Milk


Ingredients
Serves 2

2 cups whole cow's milk or hazelnut milk (or milk of choice)
1-inch fresh turmeric, grated
1-inch fresh ginger, grated
a few grinds of black pepper
1 tsp. extra-virgin unrefined coconut oil, if not using whole milk
1 tbs. raw honey or maple syrup, to taste, optional

Directions

Place all ingredients in a small pot and heat until simmering, over low-medium heat, watching carefully to avoid a boil-over. Cover and turn off heat, letting it steep for 10 minutes. Stir in sweetener, if using. Strain into container of choice. Enjoy hot or cold.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Curried Coconut Squash Soup


As the weather continues to turn towards fall, I have been getting back into soups and stews, and it was one such craving that inspired this Curried Coconut Squash Soup. Simple, with a creamy decadence from coconut milk and flavor-bursts from curry spices, it is my ideal weekend lunch.


I happen to know that it freezes well, as I made a big batch to hand out to a few friends who could use the spare time these days.


Side note: did you know that grilled cheese freezes well too? I gifted the soup with a bag of frozen Grilled Cheese Croutons (grilled cheese smothered with scape pesto and cut into bite sized cubes). Pop the thawed soup in a pot and the croutons on a baking sheet, and you have a comforting meal ready in no time flat.

Curried Coconut Squash Soup
Serves 6

Ingredients



1 tbs. coconut oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbs. fresh ginger, minced
1 tbs. curry powder
1 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp coriander
2 carrots, sliced in half moons
1 medium red kuri squash, unpeeled, cubed (mine was about 3.5 pounds whole, 10 cups cubed)
1 can coconut milk
3 cups vegetable stock
2 tbs. tamari
1/4 tsp. cayenne (optional, for heat)
1/2-1 tsp salt (optional, to taste)

Directions

No need to peel the squash- it will puree smooth and you will benefit from the added fiber and time on your hands.

Heat coconut oil in a medium pot over medium heat. Add chopped onion and sauté until translucent. Add minced ginger, garlic, curry powder, cumin and coriander and continue to cook, stirring often, for 1 minutes, making sure not to burn spices. Add carrot and squash cubes, as well as coconut milk and vegetable stock. Turn up heat and bring to a boil, and then down to a simmer for 20 minutes. Check to make sure squash cubes are completely cooked. Remove from heat, add tamari and blend with an immersion blender. Once smooth, taste and adjust seasonings by adding more salt and/or cayenne pepper for heat.

Notes: Other winter squash varieties would work here as well- try buttercup, butternut or blue hubbard.