Saturday, October 30, 2010

Early Morning Grains

I have been eating unique varieties of grains now for nearly 6 years! I can hardly remember a time when I didn't have a pantry full of bulgur, millet, quinoa, amaranth and 5 kinds of rice.  Yet I still have moments when I eat plain, lightly-salted grains for breakfast.  I generally start my day fairly early, but try not to leave the house with a healthy hot breakfast in hand.  I am the girl with the "crazy grains" as some of my classmates would say, and it feels odd to have anything else for breakfast (OK, bacon is always an acceptable substitution!).  But, it can be hard to be creative at 5:30 am, and if I did not prep the earlier in the week, salted bulgur with nothing else will be my morning meal along with my 12 ounces of french press coffee.

This week however, was a strong one, a moment of hope in a gray grain world.  On Monday, my weekly prep day, I cooked a few cups of barley from Finn River Farms. For three days, I reheated the barley with roasted acorn squash (cooked with a sauce of butter, brown sugar and orange juice) for a delicious treat. It was fantastic! Of course then the end of the week hit, I was tired and sick of repetition and resorted to plain old quinoa this morning, not bad in my eyes, but not terribly exciting for a culinary student to be cooking up!

I love pairing my breakfast grains with veggies, something I picked up on a detox diet when I was first introduced to the world of whole grain goodness. This meal planning habit is now second nature to my AM food ritual. When I allow time to actually make something tasty, these are some of my favorite combinations:
Quinoa with Broccoli or Peas
Barley & Acorn Squash (new favorite!)
Amaranth & Zucchini
Corn Grits & Sweet Potatoes (this one was a Karen invention and I love it...and she does a better job than me too!)
Buckwheat & Peas
Millet and Steamed Carrots

The list goes on and on. Fresh herbs & Homemade Seasoning salt (Yum!) add another flavor dimension to experiment with.  Keeping prepped grains, along with frozen and/or pre-roasted veggie options will help you toss together a quick and nutritious breakfast. Even if you're barely awake, the sun hasn't rose and you're tiptoeing around the house, so as not to wake the still sleeping daily routine ;)
OK, I've actually made several dishes from the grain book lately too, so more to come!  The kids loved the Kibbeh too, so I'll be making that again.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Popcorn-Crusted Fish, Pg. 174

Vicki and I have great chats about our weekly cooking adventures.  The conversation usually end how we wish we could be more like the other.  Vicki can be described as the A+ chef.  Instead of barely reading a recipe, Vicki reads it three times.  If a recipe calls for an exotic spice, she refuses to skimp. Vegetables are cut perfect, presentation is everything, serving dishes are used and garnishes are added. Vicki goes all 9 yards.  Her recipe looks like the magazine example.  I, on the other hand, tend to be the unpredictable cook.  I barely read the entire recipe, add three spices in substitution instead of buying a new spice, my vegetables are cut to various sizes, and additional strange ingredients are added.  My finished product looks nothing like the published picture. My husband is asking, "What did you make?"

Let me explain why I needed more "Vicki" in me this week.  I decided to make the popcorn-crusted tilapia from Lorna's book.  I already freak out every time I make fish due to it turning about bad. My husband insists he's not a huge fan, I insist he is!  Popcorn fish sounded like the perfect dinner.

The recipe called for 2 cups of "POPPED" popcorn, flour, and spices.  Here's where the #1 Vicki rule comes into the recipe again.  I GROUND whole popcorn kernels in my Magic Bullet.  What the heck was I thinking?  I battered the fish in hard kernels and proceeded to then brown the fish.  The kitchen started stinking like burnt popcorn, the coating turned black, my fish was still raw, and small pieces of popcorn were popping everywhere.  At this point, I panicked and put on my safety goggles (jk).  Not once did I think to reread the recipe, I just kept on cooking.  Finally I had blackened fish with a gravel-like texture, all fans in the kitchen were on high, and bits of popcorn pieces covered my stove.

 "Shoot, I ruined another fish night!"  I resorted to the taco fish idea and scraped some of the kernel crust to dispose of the burnt evidence.  I layered small pieces of fish on the bottom of a tortilla and turned to my fridge to add every taco-like ingredient I could find on top.  Ben's seemed to not notice, and recipe was completely edible.  (For viewers sake, no pictures will be shown.) Vicki, I can't wait for you to cook this recipe the correct way!!

For a fast snack Ben and I enjoy popcorn in the Stir Crazy Popcorn Popper  with lime and salt or fresh popcorn with nutritional yeast and salt.  Enjoy.  -amy w.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Garden of Greatness - Amy's Organic Garden (AOG)

I started a garden on our patio back in May.  After talking this through with Ben, he was pretty convinced it was not one of my best ideas.  I'm the type of person that will start something without thinking about the entire process.  My husband on the other hand addressed several questions, but will support my decision either way.
"Amy, I'm really busy with school and I don't want this to become one of those WE projects."  No worries, I've read a few people's blogs on container gardening.  I know exactly what I need to do.  Shortly after, Ben is drilling holes in buckets, carring large bags of dirt to the patio, and helping me dump soil into the buckets.  WE started a garden together!!!  

"Amy, maybe you should wait a few weeks to start your garden.  It's still pretty cold at night." Naaa, I think the weather is fine, besides it's starting to warm up.  After planting all of the containers, I realize it's a bit early.  My nightly routine consisted of hauling 7 containers into the living room, telling Ben that I need help because the tomato pot is too heavy. 

Amy, I would still like to be able to grill and put our table and chairs out like we did last year.  Yeah, we'll have plenty of room.  Note to self, if you plant pumpkins and zuchinni on your patio, vines will be everywhere. Welcome to our patio pumpkin patch and watch out for the crazy tomato plants.  October 9th, our table and chairs are still in the storage unit.

For the past 5 months, I've watered, our garden. Every morning, I make three trips with the watering can from my sink to the patio.  Here's the output:

Strawberries -15 berries
Lettuce - 4 servings
Spinach - 4 servings
Basil, parsley, and cilantro - plentiful
Cucumbers - 5
Zuchinni - 0
Pumpkins - 2 (fist size)
Cherry Tomatoes - Maybe 7 tiny tomatoes
Regular Tomatoes - 4

Next year, I should stick to herbs and cucumbers.  I also need to read on how to properly grow tomatoes.  As you can see by the pictures, we had a tomato jungle on our porch.  How did my plants not produce tomatoes?  I guess we will see what next year brings!!  - amy w.