here’s one thing to do with a pumpkin…

Make risotto. Roasted pumpkin, mushroom and fresh herb risotto to be specific. Sadly, I ended up with only a few pumpkins this year – nothing compared to what I thought I’d have. Some strange insect took over my pumpkin patch and that was the end of my plentiful pumpkins. I ended up with 5. Not very many when compared with what was growing. *sigh*  Oh, the ups and downs of growing your own…but in the end, what’s done is done and I intend to find out what those little buggers were and then do my best to prevent them next year! In the meantime, I’m taking advantage of the few pumpkins that managed to outwit those little creepy-crawlys and risotto made the list.

Risotto, I know is time consuming (I have a 2 yr. old, remember – time is precious, I know) -you have to stand at the stove, stirring – constantly – for up to 30 minutes, but the results are worth it. Pour yourself a glass of wine, a cup of tea, or if your like me, a straight up martini, put on some good music and stir away – sip ‘n stir… Put all those good vibes into the food and well, you’ll have nothing short of spectacular.

Here you go – Roasted Pumpkin, Mushroom and Fresh Herb Risotto;

First step is to roast the pumpkin. If you don’t have pumpkin, butternut squash is a superb substitute.

1 pie pumpkin or small-medium butternut squash;

Cut pumpkin in half, de-seed (separate seeds from pulp, salt, and roast – super yummy snack) and remove peel.

Cut into wedges and then into chunks, roughly one inch chunks (try to keep size uniform, to ensure they all cook equally).

Place into roasting pan or skillet, drizzle with olive oil, toss and coat, place into preheated 400 degree oven for roughly 30 minutes, or until soft (pierce with fork to test tenderness).

Meanwhile, get going on the risotto…by the time your done with the risotto, the pumpkin will be ready to add. By the way, I didn’t use all this pumpkin – only about 1-2 cups of it (roughly half the pumpkin) The rest I froze for another day. But add as much or as little as you’d like.

You’ll need;

12 oz Arborio Rice (1.2 cups)

4 cups heated stock (vegetable or chicken)

1 small onion, chopped

1/2 + a bit more tablespoon butter  (I use a full tablespoon)

1 cup sliced mushrooms

4 oz. dry white wine or 1/3 cup lemon juice

1-2 cups roasted pumpkin

1/8 – 1/4 teaspoon fresh or ground sage

small handful chopped parsley

1 good handful + a touch more, parmesan cheese/asiago, grated

In a medium-sized heavy bottomed pot, saute onion and mushroom in butter until softened and golden.

Add the rice and stir until well-coated and translucent. (this step is a quick one)

Add the wine (or lemon juice) and cook until evaporated. Taking care to continue stirring while wine is reducing/absorbed.

Stir in one cup of heated stock and simmer gently. Again, and most importantly, keep stirring while rice slowly absorbs stock. Once the stock has been absorbed, add another cup and continue to stir…continue doing this until all stock has been used (average 18-20 minutes) and absorbed.

Add sage, parsley, parmasan cheese and roasted pumpkin.

Salt and pepper to taste.

Top with a squeeze of lemon juice, if desired. (I just love lemon juice!)

Serve with a salad or sauteed greens and rustic bread – dinner is served!

enjoy

green beans galore + heirlooms

The garden is finally looking lovely…

as a garden should, on the coast of Maine, by mid-August…and the green beans have been abundant.  It’s amazing how many beans grow on one bush, organically…here’s a super simple recipe for green beans and it’s yummy served warm or cold.

2 pounds fresh green beans, trimmed

Zest of 1 lemon

2 Tbsp. lemon juice (about 1 lemon)

3 Tbsp. olive oil

1 tsp. kosher salt

1/2 tsp. cracked black pepper

2 ounces goat cheese, softened and crumbled

In a large pot, bring salted water to a boil. Add green beans. Cook 3 minutes; drain well. Set beans aside in colander; do not rinse (they will continue to cook).

Whisk together lemon zest, juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Toss with beans in large bowl.

Transfer to serving platter and sprinkle with crumbled goat cheese.

*This vinaigrette can be made up to a day in advance, covered, and refrigerated, and brought to room temperature before serving.
I just have to mention the heirloom tomatoes too. I picked (and enjoyed eating) my first ripened black krim tomato. They are so incredibly delicious and luscious I had to include them…everyone should be able to experience the taste of a REAL tomato – not one which has been trucked across the country, green, ready to ripen ‘on route’ – no.
A tomato which has truly been vine ripened, without chemicals, pesticides or been biologically mixed with some other life form…and not one which you have to take out a loan to afford…one you grow yourself. Simply slice, salt and enjoy – your taste buds will love you!

simple summer sandwich

This sandwich has many faces…at its most basic it’s deliciously nutritious and simple to prepare. Hummus, tomatoes (whatever type you have on hand), avocado and fresh basil topped with a light sprinkling of salt and freshly ground pepper assembled between freshly baked bread and yum, lunch is served! The great thing about this sandwich is its’ flexibility – add some shredded carrot, a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, fresh baby spinach or lettuce, sprouts, goat cheese or perhaps cheddar – and you will enjoy a blending of fresh flavors sure to delight… especially on a hot summers day. Try it yourself – experiment with a variety of fresh veggies and see what works for you. Enjoy.

what’s your favorite summertime sandwich?

Eating well – budget or no budget

I love cooking – more importantly I like to eat.  Eat well that is. It doesn’t have to take a lot of skill or a lot of gadgets and it doesn’t have to mean spending heaps of cash either – it can of course, but it doesn’t have to. I’ve been keeping my grocery bill under $450 per month.

We eat very well. Roasted butternut squash soup, chive potato pancakes, soba noodles with gingered sesame dressing, pinto bean veggie burgers with white mushrooms and edamame, fish tacos with freshly shredded cabbage and lime, beet and cumin soup, swiss chard and goat cheese tart, spinach, walnut and cranberry salad, coconut curried fish, veggie pot pies, spinach and ricotta tart, black beans and rice, eggs prepared in a myriad of ways, pancakes, roasted chicken, lasagna and ricotta stuffed shells, curried lentil soup topped with yogurt, tempeh with spaghetti and red sauce, maine shrimp and pea risotto, banana and blueberry muffins…these are a few of the meals I commonly prepare. The key to eating well is knowing what basics to always have on hand and what to do with what it is left in the pantry. It’s also about knowing the basics of how to cook. You don’t necessarily need to know the difference between a sauce pan and saute pan, you just need a few basic tools and a willingness to try along with a desire to eat well.

Many meals may be made from just a few basics. Add a few ‘extras’ to your basic list and your choices of what to make increase… being flexible with substitutes helps too.  For instance, a recipe calls for swiss chard and you don’t have any, but you do have fresh spinach, then use that or even frozen spinach may do. (just remember you have to use frozen veggies a little differently than fresh…) If a recipe calls for sour cream and your out, try plain yogurt. Or if you need buttermilk, try squeezing the juice from a lemon into a measuring cup (1 cup size) and fill the remainder with whole milk – you’ve just made soured milk which can be used in a pinch for buttermilk….

Below is a list of ‘basics’ I like to keep on hand and make a variety of meals from. Sometimes it’s just soup, salad and fresh bread, other times it’s stuffed shells (actually quite easy to prepare), or fish tacos and other times it’s a mixture of left overs reheated – it’s really whatever time allows for and what I have on hand. I also try to use up all my ‘stores’ before heading back to the grocery/market/health food store – this helps me keep my costs down. How many times have you ‘run into’ the store to buy a few things and spent way more than you had intended? I have, so I try to do ‘big’ shops (stocking up on the basics) with little ‘shops’ (replenishing the necessities) between – doing my best to keep to my list on the little shops.  It keeps me creative in the kitchen too – Hmmm, what  can I come up with these ingredients…?

I choose not to shop the box stores. I shop my local health food store, trader joe’s, local grocery, local butcher, local fish market and local farmers market. And my own garden while in season.

Perhaps your someone who wants to cook (but doesn’t quite know where to start), someone who is looking to reduce their grocery expense or someone who simply would like to eat at home more often, and above all else, eat well. Well, here’s a basic list of things to include on your next visit to the grocery market (add delete according to your dietary preferences of course).

Vegetables

carrots

celery

potatoes (white and sweet or any variety you like)

spinach (frozen if fresh is too costly)

swiss chard – grow it if you have space, it’s a super easy veggie to grow

mushrooms (fresh only)

frozen peas and corn (fresh when in season if budget allows)

onions

garlic

cabbage (keeps well for awhile and is great in fish tacos)

*I love all veggies, I’ve only listed the basics for cooking ideas – the more variety on hand the better.

Fruit (to be used in recipes) 

bananas (if they start to turn brown before you’ve had a chance to enjoy them, peel them and freeze them. Use to make banana muffins, bread, in pancakes)

blueberries (frozen when not in season or too expensive)

dried cranberries (use them on salads or in yogurt – you don’t need to use a lot)

limes

lemons

*I love all fruits (with the exception of papaya – not one of my fav’s); I’ve only listed the basics for cooking ideas – the more variety on hand the better.

Dairy

milk (cow or goat)

goat cheese – buy the larger sized logs, much better value and it lasts.

cheddar cheese

yogurt – if you love yogurt, buy bigger containers – better for your budget and the planet.

fresh parmesan cheese (not the packaged dry stuff) or asiago (very similar to parmesan oftentimes less cost)

ricotta (fairly simple to make at home too)

sour cream or plain whole milk yogurt

butter

*Eggs – I realize eggs aren’t dairy, but they are typically near the dairy section…

Beans and Legumes  – all dried – they are actually very easy to cook and more cost effective, especially if you buy organic…

black

pinto

cannellini

white

lentils

kidney

tempeh (freezes well too)

Dried goods

wheat and unbleached white flour (or whatever flour you can tolerate)

bread (if you find a good deal, buy a few loaves and freeze)

brown rice

cous cous

pasta – choose a variety.

corn tortillas

flour tortillas

soba noodles (nice for a change and fairly inexpensive)

 

Spices etc.

salt

fresh peppercorns (invest in a decent pepper grinder)

cumin

curry (as spicy or not – whatever your preference)

fresh cilantro

fresh parsley (if you don’t use either fresh spice quickly enough,  chop and place in a bit of water in an ice cube tray, freeze – pop out when frozen and keep in baggie in freezer)

olive oil

vegetable oil

fennel seeds

cinnamon

*add to your spices over time as needed – there are so many wonderful spices out there…

Baking needs

Wheat and unbleached flour

baking soda

baking powder

vanilla

brown sugar

white sugar (both sugars and flours keep well in freezer)

Odd’s n ends

canned tuna

peanut butter

jelly

coconut milk

vegetable or chicken stock

organic popcorn (not the prepackaged microwave stuff – actual popcorn kernels – it’s a great inexpensive snack and simple to prepare)

salsa

tamari (keeps well in fridge)

crushed tomatoes (makes simple and delicious sauce)

Meats/fish

I do not eat meat, though I do enjoy fish, dairy and eggs. My partner on the other hand is a meat eater so I do prepare it on occasion – though I only buy it from our local butcher so it’s a bit more than the grocery store and less than the health food store, but so worth it!

chicken breasts or half a chicken (depends on cost – usually 1-3)

white fish (1-3 pounds depending on cost)

*if your a big meat eater, consider eating it only a few nights a week or in smaller portions or include it in pot pies, stews, baked zit – dishes like that to stretch your spending ability…

These are some basics (for cooking + baking) I like to keep on hand, add to each group as you wish or as your budget allows. Remember to think about the life span of certain ingredients. For instance, if your going to make a swiss chard tart, you may want to plan to make that fairly soon after you’ve visited the grocery store or the farmers market….swiss chard has a fairly short time span once it’s been picked. On the the other hand, if your thinking about making a potato and corn chowder, utilize that recipe for a night when a lot of your ‘fresh’ ingredients are running low and simply use frozen corn with fresh potatoes (potatoes have a longer life span if kept in a dark and cool place). What I’m saying is don’t let good food go bad. Think ahead.  Most importantly, have fun, include the kids (if you have any), have a drink and enjoy!