Farm Fresh: Garlic Scape and Swiss Chard Pesto

Boyfriend and I signed up for our first CSA this year. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture and it is a market system in which people invest money in a farm at the beginning of the season which helps to fund the initial supplies and planting, and then receive shares of the produce throughout the growing season. Today, our first shares came with such wonderful treats as beets, spring onions, Swiss chard, and garlic scapes. Each week, as I open my surprise bag of produce, I’ll be working on a creative way to use it up and will post the results of the experiments in posts labeled “Farm Fresh.”

Our first CSA share! Isn't it beautiful?

Our first CSA share! Isn’t it beautiful?

This week, I was thrilled to see both swiss chard and garlic scapes in the bag. I once had the good fortune to taste Swiss chard and garlic scape pesto, and it was amazing! In my search for ways to fill my new chest freezer, I began searching for the recipe for that pesto. I’ve been waiting since February for the opportunity to try it, and that time is finally here. The original recipe was handed out by the Nutrition Center stand at the local Farmer’s Market two years ago which means that, sadly, I do not know to whom I should give the credit. I’ve made a few minor changes to suit my personal preferences. Boyfriend rates this one 3.5 forks.

Pesto Ingredients

This pesto is relatively mild with a slight tang, perfect on pasta, tossed with steamed vegetables, or spread on a bit of crusty french bread. The addition of Swiss chard and almonds also pump up the nutritional value.

Delicious pesto with sauteed chicken over rice noodles!

Delicious pesto with sauteed chicken over rice noodles!

1/4 Cup roasted almonds, unsalted**
5-7 garlic scapes
1/2 bunch Swiss chard
1/8 Cup lemon juice
1/8 Cup olive oil
1 Cup Parmesan Romano blend or Quattro Formaggio (Parmesan, Asiago, Fontina & Mozzarella)
salt to taste

Clean garlic scapes and Swiss chard. Chop the garlic scapes into smaller pieces and remove the stems from the Swiss chard leaves. Set aside the stems for another use.

Place the garlic scapes into a food processor and process until finely chopped. Add the Swiss chard leaves to the food processor and process until finely chopped.

Add the lemon juice, olive oil, almonds and salt to the food processor and run for another minute. Add the cheese to the food processor and chop until everything is finely shredded and mixed well.

**Walnuts or pine nuts may be substituted for the almonds.

Honey Vanilla Almond Butter

Almond Butter 1

Yesterday, I decided to make a recipe that I found on Pinterest a while ago. I’d forgotten all about it until it popped up on my facebook feed over and over and over again these past two weeks. The recipe was for Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Bites (no flour, oil, or sugar added). *I’ll be posting that one in a day or so.* The recipe calls for natural peanut butter, but with Boyfriend’s peanut allergy, that makes me nervous. He can handle some peanut products (generally the heavily processed ones) like Reese’s and processed creamy peanut butter, but other things like whole peanuts or chunky peanut butter send him into anaphylaxis. Not wanting to kill him (yet), I decided to make some homemade cashew butter to use instead, and my obsession with nut butters began.

Can you call it an obsession after only two days? Actually, I’m not really sure. After making the first batch of cashew butter and adding it directly to the cookie dough bites, I decided that I wanted to make a batch just to have for spreading on things, so I pulled out the blender again last night and got to it. When I put the remaining cashews back into cabinet, I realized that I had almonds just sitting there begging to be useful. I couldn’t just close the door and forget about them! So, when I got home from running errands today, I decided that it was time to try my hand at almond butter…Honey Vanilla Almond Butter, to be exact.

Creamy, sweet, and slightly salty, it is delicious on its own or spread on just about anything. (Yes, I admit it, I scraped the blender jar clean and ate it straight from a spoon.)

Almond Butter 2

1 Cup unsalted roasted almonds (slightly heaping)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1-2 Tbsp honey (to taste)
1/8 tsp salt (omit if using salted almonds)
Canola oil (as needed for blending)

Add almonds to a food processor or blender. Blend on the slowest speed until finely chopped (almond meal). Add the vanilla extract and 1 tablespoon of the honey. Continue to blend until the almonds become smooth and creamy. Taste the almond butter and add another tablespoon of honey if necessary.

If you cannot get the almonds to the creamy stage, add 1 teaspoon of canola oil at a time. Mine were old and a bit dry, so I had to add 2 teaspoons of oil so the blender could finish the job. Once the almonds are completely creamed, add the salt and blend for a few seconds more until fully incorporated.

Store your almond butter in the refrigerator. It will keep for at least 2 weeks.

Microwave Pear Crisp in a Mug

Fresh, ripe, juicy pears are one of my favorite foods. To eat such a pear any way but fresh with the juice running down my chin and through my fingers is almost sacrilegious. However, I came across this wonderful recipe for pear crisp in a mug and decided it was worth sacrificing one juicy pear to try it.

Making Pear Crisp

1 pear, sliced thin
1/2 tsp cinnamon, divided
2 tsp brown sugar, divided
1 Tbsp oat flour
2 Tbsp rolled oats
1/2 tsp butter, melted (for dairy free, substitute canola or coconut oil)

In a small bowl, toss together pear slices, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, and 1/2 teaspoon brown sugar; pour into a microwave-safe ramekin or large coffee mug.

In a separate bowl, mix together the oat flour, oats, oil, and remaining brown sugar and cinnamon. Pour this over the pear slices.

Microwave on HIGH for 1 to 1:30 minutes.

Adapted from Microwave Pear Crisp by Act like a Woman, Eat like a Man.

Easy Microwave Lemon Curd

My Beautiful Mother! (She would probably kill me if she knew I posted a picture of her on the internet, but I've always thought she was one of the most beautiful women I know.)

My Beautiful Mother! (She would probably kill me if she knew I posted a picture of her on the internet, but I’ve always thought she was one of the most beautiful women I know.)

In (slightly early) honor of Mother’s Day, this recipe is dedicated to my mom.

My mother is a wonderful woman, and I have her to thank for my cooking acumen. Growing up, I spent almost as much time sitting on the kitchen counter or perched on a chair helping her cook as I did playing outside with my friends. Despite the fact that we’re both getting older, I still see her as she was when I was small, happily teaching me everything there was to know about cooking and baking. I still call her with questions like how to cook her meatloaf; she keeps telling me that I should write down the instructions, but I like calling her to ask.

My mother made Lemon Meringue Pie every single summer. I remember cracking the eggs, learning how to separate them, stirring in the lemon juice and licking the thick curd off of the wooden spoon; I remember watching her whip the meringue, and using the spatula to form pretty peaks. Unlike most lemon meringue pies, hers had a mildly tangy lemon filling with a lightly sweetened meringue. Her pie tasted like summer. Sadly, her recipe was lost and I’ve never found another like it.

Microwave Lemon Curd

If I could choose one item that encompasses every good memory I have of my mother, this would be it. I found this recipe for Microwave Lemon Curd a few days ago, but I had to wait until I had a free moment to make it; tonight was the night. I’ve never tasted lemon curd before, but everything I’ve read about it suggests it tastes like Heaven in a jar. The moment I licked the spoon, I was transported back to those childhood summers, learning to cook and idolizing the woman who magically turned eggs, lemon, and sugar into one of my favorite treats. This curd isn’t quite as thick as Mom’s lemon filling, but the flavor is absolutely perfect. It might not be Heaven, but it’s close.

Mom, this one’s for you!

3 eggs
1 cup white sugar
1 cup fresh lemon juice (about 4-5 lemons)
zest of 2 lemons
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted

In a large microwave-safe bowl, lightly beat the eggs. Add the sugar and whisk together until smooth and thoroughly combined. Whisk in lemon juice, lemon zest and butter.

Cook in the microwave on full power for 3-5 minutes, stirring after each minute. The amount of time will vary based on the strength of your microwave**. You will know the lemon curd is done cooking when it coats the back of a metal spoon.

Remove from the microwave, push through a fine, mesh sieve and pour into sterile jar.

Notes: **Mine took 5 minutes in an 1100 watt microwave.
This recipe makes just under 3 cups.
Store lemon curd in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Adapted from Microwave Lemon Curd by My Baking Addiction.

Vegetable Laksa (Thai Coconut Curry Noodles)

I consider myself a relatively adventurous eater (thanks Mom!). Growing up, I had to take at least one bite of everything, every single time it was put in front of me. I didn’t have to like it, and I definitely didn’t have to eat it if I hated it, but I had to try everything. To this day, I will try almost anything that’s put in front of me, although I’ve learned through trial and error that some things are never going to taste good (mayonnaise, pickled eggs).

Despite my adventurous palate, I rarely go seeking out new things to try. I’ll taste them if put in front of me, but left to my own devices I’ll happily eat the same things over and over. My definition of “the same things” changed radically when my college thesis advisor took all of her advisees out to an Indian restaurant. I ordered Chicken Tikka, moderately hot, and instantly fell in love. I can’t believe it took me 30 years to find Indian food! All things Indian and curry are now part of my regular rotation. In my search for new dishes, I came across this delightful (and delightfully easy!) soup. It’s hard to believe that it’s gluten and dairy free, relatively healthy, and amazingly flavorful!

Laksa is a spicy coconut-based soup originating from Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia.

Laksa is a spicy coconut-based soup originating from Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia.

I absolutely loved this dish, but Boyfriend only gave it 2 stars. He had a cold at the time and couldn’t taste anything though, so I may try it again and ask for a new rating.

**To make this vegetarian, omit the chicken broth and use 2 cups of boiling water.

2/3 package Rice noodles (about 4.5 oz)
2 Tbsp peanut oil (other vegetable oil may be substituted)
1 lb boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into thin strips (optional)
2oz Thai red curry paste (store bought or homemade)
1 can Coconut milk
1 Cup chicken broth
1 Cup boiling water
2-3 Cups mixed vegetables, cut into thin strips (I used carrots, zucchini, and red/green bell pepper)
handful fresh basil leaves

Chicken Sautee

Raw Vegetables

Soften noodles as directed on package. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile heat oil in a large saucepan over high heat. If you are using chicken, add it to the oil and cook until it is just browned. Add curry paste and stir fry for 30 seconds. Quickly add coconut milk, chicken broth, and boiling water. Bring to a boil and add vegetables. Simmer for 2 minutes or until vegetables are cooked to your liking.

To serve, add noodles to each serving bowl. Pour soup and vegetables over noodles and top with basil leaves.

NOTES: I love garlic and heat, so I added a minced garlic clove and a bit of ground red pepper to mine. This would also be wonderful made with shrimp instead of chicken.

STORAGE: If you have leftovers, place the noodles in a container, lay a wet paper towel over the top, and cover with a lid. Moisten the paper towel when it dries out (once every 1-2 days). Store the soup in a separate container.

REHEATING: Put soup in a microwave safe bowl and heat on high for 2 to 2 1/2 minutes. Add the noodles and heat for 30-45 seconds more.

Adapted from Veggie Laksa by Zen Family Habits.

Curried Chicken with Apples and Raisins

Curried Chicken with Apples and Raisins

I absolutely love to eat curry. I don’t love the amount of time that it takes to make. Some recipes take up to 2 hours including the prep, marinade time, and cooking. I have to admit that it’s well worth the effort, but sometimes I don’t have a lot of time to cook and I want something delicious that comes together quickly.

I’ve been collecting curry recipes on Pinterest, and I look through them occasionally to see what I’d like to make. In a recent search for something I could cook with the limited ingredients I had hanging around the house, I found this one. I have never seen a curry recipe with apples before, so the idea intrigued me.

Although I finally got around to grocery shopping today, I decided to stick with my dinner plans and make this with some Jasmine rice. Boyfriend gave this recipe 3 forks because the chicken was a bit dry and not as flavorful as it could have been. Next time, I think I’ll just barely brown the chicken instead of trying to thoroughly brown it on all sides before simmering.

Sauteing onion, apple, raisins, garlic, and ginger

Sauteing onion, apple, raisins, garlic, and ginger

Curried chicken with  apples, raisins, onion, and spices simmering in coconut milk and chicken broth

Curried chicken with apples, raisins, onion, and spices simmering in coconut milk and chicken broth

Curried Chicken with Apples and Raisins

Curried Chicken with Apples and Raisins

2 Tbsp canola oil
1/2 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 apple, peeled and cored, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup golden raisins
2 tsp fresh ginger, minced
2 Tbsp curry powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon (optional)
2-3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, chopped
1/2 Cup chicken broth
1/4 Cup light coconut milk
1/2 Cup of frozen pea
plain yogurt
naan/rice (optional for serving)

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Add onion and cook until it begins to soften, about 2 minutes. Add garlic, apple, raisins, and ginger and cook for 2-3 minutes. Stir in curry powder and cinnamon (optional). Push the apple mixture to one side of the pan, add more oil if needed, then brown the chicken on all sides (chicken will not be fully cooked).

Stir chicken and other ingredients together then add broth and coconut milk. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, add peas, then cover and cook for 10 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.

Top with yogurt and serve with rice or naan.

Adapted from the Mommy games.

Butter Chicken

Tuesdays are quickly turning into ‘India Night’ at my house. Boyfriend and I both have ridiculously busy schedules and this is the one night each week that we actually get to spend together. I usually try to put together a meal that’s just a little bit nicer than usual, and Indian food usually fits the bill. Besides, we both absolutely love it.

Today, he got called into work so we would be starting our evening together a bit later than usual. I was looking for a recipe that would taste great, but wouldn’t take up too much time. A lot of Indian recipes have quite a few steps and can take a while to prepare the first time until you figure out the best sequence. However, this one looked relatively easy, didn’t have too many ingredients, and sounded wonderful.

Butter Chicken over Jasmine Rice

Butter Chicken is an entry point for many people into Indian cuisine, but after over a year of eating (and LOVING) Indian food, I had yet to try it. I don’t know how authentic this version is, but it tasted wonderful regardless. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did! Thanks to Mique at Thirty Handmade Days for the inspiration.

(Since I so often refer to Boyfriend’s opinion of my dishes in this blog, he requested his own rating system. From now on, you will see the boyfriend rating on most recipes. He scores from 1 to 5 forks, with one being the worst and 5 being the best.)


1/2 onion, chopped
1 Tbsp minced ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 tsp garam masala
1 tsp chili powder (optional)
1 6 oz. can tomato paste
2 C chicken broth
1/2 C half and half
2-3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into pieces
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp salt
1/4 C butter
lime wedges
cilantro, chopped

In a large pan saute the onion, ginger and jalapeno pepper in oil. Stir until the onion is lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add in the garlic, garam masala, and chili powder (if desired). Saute for 2-3 minutes more.

Flavorful Sautee

Put the mixture into a blender. Add in the tomato paste and chicken broth, and blend until smooth.

Blending the Sauce

Pour the mixture back into the pan and add the cream. Bring it to a boil and simmer for 5-10 minutes.

In another pan heat 1 Tbsp butter over high heat and add in chicken that has been salted and peppered. Cook until the chicken is no longer pink. Add in the sauce and stir. Cook for 3-4 minutes more. Add in 3 Tbsp butter and stir until melted.

Melting Butter

Serve over rice. Squeeze lime juice over the mixture and garnish with chopped cilantro.

NOTES: I hate cilantro, so I left it off.

French Toast Pancakes

Doesn’t that sound amazing? I thought so too. I absolutely love the flavor of french toast, but I hate to use up so much bread. This recipe has been slightly modified from the original recipe for Oatmeal Pancakes.

On the Griddle

I actually decided to make these because I ruined my last jar of Homemade “Shake and Pour” Pancake Mix. I woke up substantially later than planned on Friday and spent the morning working on a homework assignment for my Advanced EMT class on Saturday. At noon, I realized that I hadn’t thought to eat and my boyfriend was making rumblings about holding a “Starvation Club” meeting with the cats (if the bottom of the food bowl is showing, they’re starving to death).

I forgot to break the yolk when I added it to the jar, but everything looked perfectly mixed. Then I poured out the first few pancakes and out dropped a whole yolk. Oops…

Desperate for a solution, I found this wonderful recipe. I used whole eggs in place of the egg whites called for in the original recipe because I just can’t think of a good use for 6 orphaned yolks. Except for the syrup, these are actually pretty healthy!

Pancakes and Syrup

3 eggs
1 cup rolled oats, dry**
1 cup cottage cheese
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla

In a blender, blend all ingredients until smooth. Heat a griddle or large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Spray with non-stick cooking spray. For each pancake pour 1/4 cup of batter onto griddle. Flip when they start to bubble. Cook until golden brown. Repeat with remaining batches, spraying the griddle as needed. Makes about 10 pancakes.

**Some brands are processed with wheat. To make these gluten free, make sure that your oats are not processed with wheat or wheat-based ingredients.

Cinnamon-Apple Syrup

I bought some wonderful organic apple juice for the Bourbon Chicken recipe, and I had almost a full jug left over. It seemed like serendipity. Cracker Barrel used to sell the most wonderful apple syrup, and for years it was the only thing I would put on a pancake. This was my opportunity to try to replicate my favorite topping. It is based on a recipe by Hillbilly Housewife.

Syrup 2

This syrup pairs wonderfully with French Toast Pancakes.

1 C apple juice or cider
2 C sugar
1 cinnamon stick or big dash or ground cinnamon

In a quart-sized saucepan, combine the apple juice (or cider), sugar and cinnamon. Place the pan over medium heat. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. When the syrup starts to boil, reduce the heat. Cover the pan with a lid and simmer the syrup for ten minutes without stirring. Remove the lid and continue to simmer until the liquid is reduced by about a quarter. Remove from heat and allow to cool for fifteen minutes. Remove the cinnamon stick if used and transfer the syrup to a pint size canning jar or other container. Makes a little less than 2 cups.

**The cinnamon flavor is strong when the syrup is warm, but once it cools the flavor is much more subtle. If you want to retain that strong cinnamon flavor, add extra during the simmering.

Bourbon Chicken with Steamed Carrots

The Bourbon Chicken recipe was another Pinterest discovery. I made a few modifications to the recipe originally found on Quick & Easy Recipes. Happily, it is completely wheat and dairy free!

Bourbon Chicken

1 lb boneless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
1-2 tbsp olive oil
3/4-1 lb baby carrots
1 garlic clove, crushed
1/4 tsp ginger
3/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 C apple juice
1/3 C light brown sugar
2 tbsp ketchup
1 tbsp cider vinegar
1/2 C water
1/3 C soy sauce*
2 tsp corn starch*
Cold water


Heat oil in a large skillet. Add chicken pieces and cook until lightly browned. While chicken is cooking bring an inch of water to a boil in a medium sauce pan. When the water is boiling, add the carrots in a steamer basket, cover, and reduce the heat to medium. Remove chicken.

To the chicken pan, add next 9 ingredients, heating over medium Heat until well mixed and dissolved. Add chicken and bring to a hard boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Combine the cornstarch and a small amount of cold water and stir to combine. Remove the chicken from the skillet and add the cornstarch mixture. Stir to combine and simmer for 2-3 minutes until sauce has thickened.

Serve over rice with carrots and cover with Bourbon sauce.

* If you are gluten sensitive, double check your soy sauce and corn starch. Some brands contain traces of gluten.