Farm Fresh: Tomatillo Curry

Tomatillo Curry

What in the world is a tomatillo? That’s the question I found myself trying to answer this week. Although I’d seen them a few times in the grocery store, I was never interested enough to try one. Then, I found myself saddled with three pounds of them! Roommate has been out of town for nearly three weeks now, so I have double the produce to use up.

At the beginning of the summer, I spent a lot of time looking up canning recipes that I’d like to try this year. One of the recipes I came across was for Curried Green Tomato Sauce from Ann Gardon’s book “Preserving for All Seasons.” After a bit of research, I discovered that tomatillos have a flavor quite similar to that of unripe tomatoes with a decidedly citrus-y twist. It seemed like it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to substitute tomatillos for the green tomatoes. With a few minor tweaks, I was quite pleased with the outcome.

1/4 Cup butter (or olive oil for a dairy free/vegan option)
2 Onions, diced
3 lbs Tomatillos, washed and cubed (do not peel or remove seeds)
4 Tbsp Curry powder
1 Tbsp Cumin
1 Cup Water
1/2 Cup Brown sugar
1/2 Cup Golden raisins
3-4 Tbsp Lemon juice
1 tsp Salt (or to taste)

Melt the butter over medium heat and saute the onions until soft. Stir in the curry powder and cook 3 minutes more. Add the remaining ingredients and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

This recipe makes 4 pints (8 servings). It can be canned or frozen for later use.

To can this, ladle the sauce into pint canning jars leaving 1/2 inch head space. Seal and process in a boiling water bath for 30 minutes or in a pressure canner for 10 minutes.

Serve over rice as a vegetarian meal or as a side with grilled chicken or fish.

Farm Fresh: Spicy Sesame Cabbage

Spicy Sesame Cabbage
This week, I was so excited to see cabbage on the CSA list. I’ve never been very interested in cabbage, but it has such interesting possibilities. A few nights ago, I made Ginger Garlic Green Beans for dinner, and I loved the sauce. I thought it might make a great pairing with cabbage and honey ginger marinated chicken. At first, I only sauteed half of the cabbage, and it was delicious. Despite Boyfriend’s noisy complaints that I was feeding him “healthy green crap” again, he asked for more. When I told him we didn’t have anymore but that I could make some, he asked me to fry up the other half of the cabbage! Now THAT’S an endorsement if ever I’ve heard one!

6 Garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbsp + 1 tsp Soy sauce**
3 Tbsp Ginger, peeled and grated
1 Tbsp + 1 tsp Rice vinegar (not seasoned)
4 Tbsp Canola oil, divided
1 tsp Sesame oil
1 Head of cabbage
1 Tbsp Sesame seeds, toasted

Combine the first four ingredients and 2 tablespoons of the canola oil and set aside. Cut the head of cabbage in half, remove the core, and cut into 1/2 inch slices. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of canola oil and sautee the cabbage, turning every 5 minutes, until the edges of the cabbage start to brown. Toss with sauce and sprinkle with sesame seeds just prior to serving.

**Soy sauce often contains gluten, so be careful when choosing one if you want this recipe to be gluten-free.

Recipe adapted from Ginger Garlic Green Beans on Epicurious.

Farm Fresh: Vegetable and Beef Stir-Fry in Peanut Sauce

I made this for Boyfriend to take for lunch, hence the sad tupperware.

I made this for Boyfriend to take for lunch, hence the sad tupperware.

I’ve been out of college for just over a year, but I still remember the days of monotonous dining hall food quite clearly. I have to admit that Bates College is better than most, but the same recipes week after week and month after month do get boring and old. Many of the students created a variety of concoctions to combat the boredom and the college eventually took notice, creating a ‘Bates Chef’ competition so the students could show off their creations and compete for the top prize. I had plenty of my own creations (chocolate crescents, garden pesto pizza, Chana Masala chicken wraps, etc.), but my favorite by far was the winner of ‘Bates Chef’ during my senior year. My friend and fellow psychology aficionado, Mikey Pasek, created a recipe for Peanut Sauce Tofu.

Garden Fresh Vegetables

Ultimately, his recipe inspired this one over a year later. Our CSA this week included beets, lettuce, carrots, summer squash, snap peas, potatoes, dill, and small cloves of garlic. I’ve been struggling to use all of the produce some weeks, but I hate throwing it away, so I’m trying to be much better about squeezing veggies into our meals whenever possible, and what better way to use a lot of vegetables than in a stir-fry? I would usually toss in a bit of sesame oil and teriyaki sauce into my stir-fry, but I was out. As much as Boyfriend tries to put up with my healthy cooking, I knew he wouldn’t go for straight up vegetables over rice so I needed another sauce, and that is where Mikey’s peanut sauce came to mind!

Sauteed Veggies

1 Cup Creamy peanut butter
1/3Cup Soy sauce
3/4 Cup Hot water
1 Tbsp Brown sugar
2 tsp Crushed red pepper flakes
Pinch Curry powder
1 Tbsp + 1 tsp Sesame oil or butter
1 Cup Squash, cut into 1×1/2″ pieces
6 Small to medium carrots, cut in half
1 Cup Sugar snap peas, trimmed
1/2 lb Thinly sliced beef, optional
2 Cup Cooked Jasmine rice, prepared according to package directions
Toasted sesame seeds, optional
Minced chives, optional

In a small sauce pan, combine peanut butter, soy sauce, water, sugar, red pepper flakes, and curry powder over medium-low heat. Stir until fully combined and creamy; cover and set aside.

In a large skillet, add 1 Tbsp of the sesame oil and heat the pan over medium heat. Add the squash spread in a single layer, cooking over medium heat; turn it after 4 minutes. As soon as the squash is started, add the remaining sesame oil and the beef to a medium skillet and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until fully browned. When the squash is turned, add the carrots and continue cooking the vegetables for 4 minutes longer, stirring occasionally. Add the snap peas and cook for 1 minute on each side. Remove from heat.

Add the beef and sauce to to the pan of vegetables and stir to combine. Serve over rice and garnish with sesame seeds and chives if desired.

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.

Homemade Microwave Chicken Pot Pie

I love mug cooking, but with the exception of macaroni and cheese, I can’t find many savory recipes. Most of them are great for breakfast (Blueberry Muffin in a Mug) or dessert (Minute Brownie in a Mug), but not for dinner. I started hunting for a microwave recipe for chicken pot pie, but apparently no one has been quite that brave. Even after broadening the search to any single-serving microwave pie, I still came up empty handed. The few that called themselves “pie” were actually little more than fruit with some oatmeal crumb topping.

I knew that it had to be possible. Connie Stewart finally gave me the information I needed to figure it out. I have to admit that this isn’t a true microwave recipe because I finished mine up in the oven to get the golden brown color I’m used to seeing on a crust. However, that’s not absolutely necessary and it tastes great either way.

It works! Homemade chicken pot pie can be made in the microwave!

It works! Homemade chicken pot pie can be made in the microwave!

I’ve been making white sauce on the stove since I was knee high to a grasshopper, but I wanted to make this as simple as possible so every part of the recipe can be made in the microwave. I used leftover chicken and frozen vegetables to speed the process, but you could cook chicken in the microwave while you dice up fresh vegetables and prepare the rest of your ingredients. The recipe includes the crust, white sauce, and filling. It may seem a bit overwhelming at first, but it really comes together quickly.

1/2 cups flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 Tbsp unsalted butter (1/2 stick), cut in pieces
scant less than 2 Tbsp ice cold water

In a small bowl, stir together flour and salt. Add in cut butter. Work the butter through your fingers, massaging it until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs with pieces no larger than the size of small peas. Drizzle ICE COLD water over the flour butter mixture and swirl the bowl around until the water is coating everything. Gather the dough together and press it into a rough ball, don’t really knead it, just gather and flatten once or twice. It’s easy to overwork the dough at this stage because it is very crumbly and seems like it can’t be right. Trust me, it works; don’t gather and flatten it more than 2 times.

Flour your board or counter and dump the dough onto it. Cover with a sheet of parchment paper and let it sit for 10 minutes. If you’re kitchen is warm you may want to let it do the sitting in the fridge.

While the dough is chilling, make the white sauce and assemble the filling.

Making the RouxWhite Sauce:
1 Tbsp butter, melted
1 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1/2 Cup milk
Salt and pepper, to taste

Melt the butter in a microwave safe 1 quart bowl on high for 15 to 30 seconds. Stir in the flour until blended and smooth. Stir in the milk, salt and pepper.

Microwave on high for about 2 minutes. Stir and microwave on high for 1 to 2 minutes more or until thickened.

1/2-2/3 Cup diced mixed vegetables, fresh or frozen
1/2 Cup cooked chicken (may substitute canned, drained)
1/2 Cup prepared white sauce

Place the vegetables in a microwave safe bowl with just enough water to cover the bottom, and microwave on high for 2-3 minutes. Drain the vegetables.

Combine the vegetables, chicken, and white sauce, and set aside.

Pie CrustTo roll out the dough: keep the parchment paper on the dough and roll or press the dough into a rough rectangle. There are going to be bits and pieces of dough falling everywhere-its ok, just stick them back in and keep on doing your thing. Fold over one side of the dough into the middle like a letter . Cover with parchment again and press back into a rectangle. Repeat this with all four sides, folding in and rolling out-you don’t need to roll out a lot just enough to make the whole thing look like a rectangle again. By the last fold your dough will come together and look like something you can work with. Then roll it out to 1/4 inch thickness. For more help with the crust, check out the pictures at The Purple Spoon.

If you plan to brown your crust in the oven, preheat it now to 350°.

Chicken Pot PieUse your container (I used a ramekin) to cut out a circle for the bottom and top. Place the bottom in the ramekin, then use the remaining pieces to fill in the sides. It doesn’t have to be perfect, just make sure it’s all covered. Prick the bottom and sides with a fork. Pour in the filling and cover with top crust. Pinch together the edges with a fork, and use a knife to cut several vent holes.

Microwave on high for 4-6 minutes until the top crust is dry to the touch. Place your pie in the oven and bake for 5-7 minutes, until the crust turns a light golden brown.

Allow to cool for 5 minutes and enjoy!

Method adapted from Fruit Pies made in the Microwave by Simply Simple Stamping.
Pie crust adapted from Perfect Pie Crust by The Purple Spoon.
White Sauce adapted from Microwave Basic White Sauce by JupiterLady63.

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.

Dark Chocolate Hot Fudge Sauce

I am on a quest…a quest to replicate my favorite brownie mix, Betty Crocker Ultimate Fudge Premium Brownie Mix with Hershey’s. I am famous for these brownies. I’ve been making them for several years, baking them in cupcake tins and serving them still warm; they quite literally melt in your mouth. I’ve also been known to bake them in a square cake pan and serve warm “pile-of-brownie” because I can’t wait long enough for them to cool before attempting to cut and serve them.

Now that I am working to eliminate processed foods and unnecessary chemicals from my diet, my poor brownie mix is out of the question (much to the disappointment of my friends). Unfortunately, I hate homemade brownies. I find them too cake-like, dry, and flavorless. However, I am bound and determined to find a solution. My friend, Roland, has been waiting for brownies since well before I began eliminating processed food, and I can’t let him down now.

My first task in my brownie-making quest was to replicate the fudge sauce. My favorite boxed mix includes a packet of fudge sauce and melt-away chocolate chips. I can live without the chips, but the fudge sauce makes so much difference in the texture and flavor. I found this recipe for Hershey’s Hot Fudge Sauce from MasterCook and decided to give it a try. This recipe makes approximately 2 1/2 cups; it just fit in a pint-sized canning jar.

Fudge Sauce in a Jar
3/4 C Sugar
1/3 C Light corn syrup
1/2 C Hershey’s cocoa (I used Special Dark for this one)
1/3 C Butter
5 oz Evaporated milk
1 tsp Vanilla

Simmering Chocolate Sauce

Combine sugar and cocoa in small saucepan; blend in evaporated milk and corn syrup. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture boils; boil and stir one minute. Remove from heat; stir in butter and vanilla. Serve warm.

Butter and Vanilla

I put mine in a sterile canning jar, allowed it to cool, and stored it in the refrigerator.