Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Green Meatballs (and farmer's market love)

In Grand Rapids, there is one main farmer's market venue that everyone knows about it (well, at least I think everyone should know about it!) And this market is a beautiful picture of how the surrounding rural areas of west Michigan really do produce all kinds of food this time of year. There is beautiful colors everywhere and people are happy and smiling. (It must be all the fresh food making people high on life). And I personally have a love for fresh food, so what a better place to shop and buy some of the best local food you will ever find. Yes, it is a beautiful thing to be able to live in the city and enjoy the farm food on your plate at home. I am truly thankful, and you better believe I tell my farmers that I appreciate all their hard work for me to have a colorful and delicious dinner at home.
I realize that most cities have farmer's markets now days...and in fact because it seems to becoming a little more popular (or trendy if I must say) that they are growing and producing more of a sustaining income to our local farmers. This excites me because I know if you are reading this at your home that is 300 miles away you can still probably participate with a local farm market of your own. And if you are living in another country even, you probably know a local venue where you buy your fruits and veggies.... so fresh food is making it way back to our plates... it's not like you have to give up convenience to do this either... it is just a change of mind. You have to decide that instead of buying fast food or packaged microwaveable food that you go to the market instead and you buy a load of fresh fruit and veggies (and local meat, eggs, cheese and the list goes on...)
My last trip to the bustling market left me with 3 full bags of food for under 25 dollars. Incredible! Really... can you get any cheaper than that?! I bought a pound of free-range grass-fed beef, green onions, pea pods, 2 qts. strawberries, 2 lbs. of rhubarb, a bag of cucumbers, squash, green leaf lettuce and garlic scapes. I could have spent more on little extras like just in season cherries, raspberries, peppers and tomatoes... but I know they will be around for a few weeks and may even find myself going out to one of the farms to pick my own...
Rhubarb is one of my favorite finds... because it is so interesting and can be paired perfectly with other fresh fruit like strawberries... or apricots or cherries as well... And I made sure I bought enough to freeze a little just in case this is the last week it is available at the market. I am not sure how long it will be in season, so for now I indulge :)
The strawberries were on there way out this week as well... Last week they were EVERYwhere and you could smell them a half mail away from the market because they were so perfectly ripe and sweet. This week I bought 2 quarts from my favorite farm that doesn't use spray on the berries. Look how perfect and delicious they are! So yummy. I have not made a large batch of jam yet, but that could be in my future...until then I am freezing some to save for baking and smoothies and of course I will eat as many as I can before they are frozen :) A few of my favorite recipes to make with rhubarb and strawberries are: Strawberry Rhubarb Muffins, Rhubarb Strawberry Pie, and Honey-Sweetened Rhubarb Tart. Those are just some of my favorites, but I am sure you could find many other recipes this time of year to use up those yummy ingredients.

Now, I was trying to share my "green" meatball recipe with you... so back to the green part. They are green because of all the fresh greens in them, but also because all the ingredients are from the local farmer to save on waste. Less packaging, chemicals, and money really. So, why not eat locally?! It can be easy and delicious... so here is my recipe to share...
"Green" Meatball Recipe
1 pound of local ground meat (either ground beef or ground lamb works best)
3/4 cup of freshly chopped green onions
1 clove of garlic minced
handful of fresh basil and sage chopped finely
1 local farm fresh egg
1/2 cup of gluten-free bread crumbs (I have used a slice of my favorite GF bread crumbled, or also you could use 1/2 cup of crushed GF crackers to turn them into a "bread crumb" as well..or there are a few GF bread crumbs brands you can find at health stores.)
1-2 ts of cracked black pepper
1-2 ts of sea salt
2 ts. of paprika
1 TB of olive oil

Mix all of the ingredients in a large mixing bowl, and take a small handful of the meat mixture and form a little ball. This recipe makes about 9-10 large meatballs, or 12-15 smaller meatballs. It just depends on what kind of size you want to do. Put them in a slightly olive-
oiled Pyrex glass baking pan. Bake at 400 degrees for 25-30 minutes, until they are browned and crispy looking and the middles have been cooked through and through.
They should come out of the oven ready to serve. They are pretty flavorful with the green onions and herbs, but if you may need to add some more salt and pepper to them if that is your preference. You could serve these with some marinara sauce or pasta, or alone with another side of baked potatoes or another veggies. They are a yummy way to use some fresh local ingredients, and they are so simple too...but since I had some peas and garlic scapes I wanted to eat I decided to make a little saucing side to serve with the meatballs over some of my favorite gluten-free brown rice pasta. So here is what I did to make the peas tossed over the pasta...
I plucked out a pint of peas from their pods and this was a good serving for one or two, but if you want to serve more people make sure you get a quart or more of pea pods. The peas are so cute sitting in their pods, but after you pluck them you can really see their radiant green color. You can steam them to make them a bit softer or eat them raw too... whatever you want. I decided to saute them with some garlic, olive oil and ghee (clarified butter) and viola you have a nice little sauce to top your pasta and eat with your meat balls. So I put the peas, 2 minced garlic cloves and the heads of 4 garlic scapes with a TB of olive oil and then 1 TB of ghee or butter works too. Saute for about 3-5 minutes until the peas look bright green and the garlic is cooked into the oils. The garlic scapes are what is pictured below. They are these funny looking vines... I have not used them a lot in cooking yet, but I think they give off a lot of flavor and they are kinda fun to use with garlic or in substitute for a garlic clove.
After you saute the peas, garlic and oils then you have an instant sauce with the veggies to pour over your GF noodles, and then add a meatball on the side and viola dinner is served, fresh from the farm to the table.
So easy and yummy too... I hope you enjoy... and don't forget to make a rhubarb strawberry pie for dessert. Fresh food always tastes best and once you change over to fresh foods you may find yourself smiling more and making your weekly trip to the farmer's market. It really is addicting! Not to mention it is fun to check out any new produce throughout the summer. I am looking forward to more peppers and tomatoes in the next few weeks... and of course the fruit... YUM! Enjoy friends and have a great week!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Fudge-Dipped Frozen Banana Bites

Happy Summer Solstice to you! It sure is hot out there! And, I don't think it is only because I am pregnant. It is above-average hot all over the country today and forecasted for the rest of the week. There is relief in the AC, or in little pieces of frozen goodness. Like frozen fruit (berries, grapes and bananas) They are yummy just by themselves, but then to douse them in fudge, you gotta be kidding me. No, I'm not. And, it's gluten and dairy free. And could be considered vegan if you want to swap the honey for some agave nectar or even maple syrup could work. Yummy frozen bites that will keep you coming back for more...

Just look at that little candy-like frozen goodie...oh and don't think I can just indulge in one... maybe two, or three :)

They are a perfect combo of all the comforts you are asking for on a hot summer day. The fudge is so simple too. Just a few pure ingredients to make a gooey goodness that you could use warm on a coconut ice cream sundae, or to frost a cookie or even cake, or to dip some frozen fruit. I have used it for all of the above, and remembered this week to try this when I was looking for a treat. It is also nice because if you are like me, you have most of these ingredients on hand anyways, so if you are looking for a frugal pantry summer treat, this is it. Hopefully, you wouldn't have to run to the store, but if you do... get enough of these staples to have them around awhile.

Hot Fudge Recipe
1/2 cup of honey (or agave nectar or maple syrup) all work pretty much the same
1/2 cup of unrefined coconut oil
1/3 cup of cocoa powder (I use extra 70% dark cocoa powder)
1/3 cup of natural creamy peanut butter or Sunbutter

In a small saucepan, warm all of the above ingredients until warm and fully blended all together. This could take anywhere from 1-2 minutes...don't over cook it, you just want it to get warm to mix it well. If you start to over heat it, then it will be more liquidy and it will take a bit longer to freeze up with your banana chunks. Cut up 3-4 bananas and put them in the freezer while you are making the fudge to help start to get them cold enough. If you don't that is fine too. Then dip each banana chunk in the fudge and put on a parchment paper to cool and get cold in the freezer, or if you have small baking paper tins (what I used) that works too. The fudge will make enough for 3-4 bananas, but if you want to use other fruit or save some fudge for later, then pour the rest in a glass bowl and cover and refrigerate, you can also warm it a bit to get it to the glazy texture you may want or need it to be for an ice cream sundae. Freeze the banana bites for anywhere from 1 hour to days, they will last up to a week in the freezer ( or maybe longer, but I think you might eat them all before then :)
This is a great, easy way to have a simple summer treat. I hope you enjoy and let yourself really indulge in this fudge, because it's good for you! It really is! Enjoy, friends! Have a great summer day, and stay cool!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Honey-Sweetened Oat Rhubarb Tart

Rhubarb is an interesting plant. It technically is a vegetable, but more often it is compared in the fruit family. It has many anti-oxidant benefits and mostly will help with allergies, lung irritation and poor circulation. Which is interesting because those are some of the common aliments this time of year in the spring-summer months when the seasonal allergens in the air are most potent. So, once again, plants that are available and ripe in certain times of the year will naturally help with the common health issues of that season. How interesting that God has provided us with natural alternatives to a health-full life through plants. No need for Claritin here. Just eat some rhubarb and nettles and call it good :) (Well, you may need to build up more immunity, but you get the idea...)

Also, another interesting thing about may not even realize you have some growing in your backyard along with other edibles. I had a naturopath friend recently come over to my new house (in the city that is) and he found many "wild" edibles to be eaten. It was so funny to me because he found wild chives, oregano, lemon verbena, and a few others I don't remember their long names to. I am not sure where you stand on the issue of eating weeds in your backyard, but it is seriously interesting to me. There are so many "weeds" and plants that you can eat for medicinal purposes or for health and you wouldn't even know it. Like nettles, dandelion, different greens that could be compared to lettuces. Instead, we spray chemicals and try to cover up all those plants from a neat and tidy yard space. So, I too, was eager to clean up my jungle of a yard, but now I am going to let myself take the excuse of seeing what is growing back there before I start ripping it all out and putting by the curb to be picked up by yard waste management. Yes, I am a city chic. So, for those of you that have acres of grass or forest to roam in your backyard you may find more interesting edibles like wild morels, berries, greens, herbs for tea, wild onions, or maybe even wild rhubarb. My yard really does need to be cleaned up, I just don't know if it will be done any time soon, so in the meantime before I am able to plant more edibles I have been enjoying rhubarb from the local farmer's market. So this is what I came up this week with a few simple's dairy-free and gluten-free, but not vegan technically because I used honey to sweeten.
Honey-Sweetened Oat Rhubarb Tart Recipe

1 cup of ground gluten-free oats to make a rough oat flour (I grind mine in a coffee grinder)
a heaping 1/2 cup of gluten-free oats
1/2 cup of unrefined coconut oil
3 TB of raw honey (or other sweetener you prefer)
1/2 ts. of sea salt
1 TB of non-dairy milk, I used coconut milk beverage

Mix the base ingredients together and press into a 8x8 baking pan, either circle or square or glass or tin. Whatever you have available. Let it sit in the pan for a minute to stiffen up and let the moisture be soaked up by the oats. Then bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 15 minutes. Pull from the oven when it is getting golden brown and let cool a few minutes. In the meantime, make the filling to pour over the base...

Rhubarb Filling:
2 cup of cleaned, chopped rhubarb stalks
1/2 cup of raw honey
1 ts. of corn starch or tapioca starch mixed with 1 ts. of water
1 ts. of ground cinnamon
1 ts. of ground nutmeg
juice from one lime or lemon ( I used a lime)
optional: 1 ts. pure vanilla

1 cup of ground almonds, or slivered or sliced almonds work as well

Put all of the above ingredients in a small saucepan. Mix the starch with water in a small bowl before stirring it into the saucepan with other ingredients to help it blend in better. Keep the heat on low and let it slowly cook and gel and meld together. This could take 15 minutes of slow cooking, but in the end you will want to have a jam-looking rhubarb mixture that has been broken down into a sweet and tart rhubarb mush. It will be very hot to touch, so make sure not to use your fingers to taste. After cooking for 15-20 minutes on low, turn off the heat and let sit for a minute to gel and cool before you pour it over the cooling oat base. Then pour the filling over the base and top with 1 cup of ground almonds, or sliced almond works too. The almond will soak into the filling a create a crumble crust over the rhubarb. Bake in the 350 degree over for another 30 minutes and then let cool before serving up.
This tart is literally tart, and sweet as well, but not too much. It was perfect alone, warm from the oven...but it would also be delicious with some fresh vegan ice cream on top. It is wonderful as a dessert, but a snack with tea or even breakfast would do just as well. I mean, you could totally eat this oat, "veggie" and almond dish for breakfast and feel like you are cheating the system, but with those healthy ingredients, why not! I hope you enjoy and le the simplicity of the ingredients be your guide. Much love to you...

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Triple Berry Coconut Milkshake (vegan)

Well friends, it's been an insanely busy few weeks. We are in our new home and enjoying getting settled for all that's worth. And the kitchen is gorgeous! My husband worked so hard on it for me and it is really beautiful. Anyways, I haven't been able to get back to the swing of things with cooking, baking and making meals more easy through all the busy-ness. But, there was time for fresh berries and a milkshake. It was defiantly a treat on this hot and humid day. It really reminded me a lot of being a kid and making milkshakes, minus good ingredients like fresh fruit and coconut ice cream. It was a special treat after all the hard work we've been doing...a long awaited refreshment. A special little something to make it through. It was fabulous, and so easy too.
Fresh picked strawberries are in full season here in Michigan. I found these at the local farmer's market. They were full of flavor, juicy, and perfect in every way. You gotta love the freshest strawberries from the farm. They just cannot compare to strawberries being shipped in from the southern states or California. (a tip for the sensitive out there: always make sure you are buying pesticide-free berries, whether they are local or organic). These berries are dessert enough by themselves and then to add coconut ice cream. I feel like I am sinning. Purely decadent! And that's the name of the ice cream to boot. You can't go wrong with vegan coconut ice cream by So Delicious. You will fall in love and never go back to any other vegan ice cream. The. best. ever.
I also added some fresh raspberries and blackberries that I had in the fridge. It made this milkshake full of great flavor and color. This recipe is really as easy and buying fresh berries and coconut ice cream, so feel free to use your creativity here! Eating gluten-free and vegan doesn't have to be miserable. It is fantastic and fabulous in every way!

Milkshakes for Two Recipe
1 pint of So Delicious Purely Decadent Coconut vanilla ice cream
3 cups of fresh berries, I used 2 cups of strawberries, and 1 cup of black and raspberries
1/2 cup of almond milk, rice milk or even more coconut milk (just to get things mixing up well)

Add all the ingredients to a blender, and blend until ready for serving. Serve with a fresh berry on the side or vegan-whip for topping. Enjoy after a long summer day. This recipe isn't really my creation, but I thought I would share a little treat to enjoy. I know I did after being so busy. I am hoping to get into the swing of cooking this week and whip up something fabulous with all the fresh produce that is starting to show it's colors at the farmer's market. hmmmm, summer!
So, take a break my friend, and share in some milkshakes for two. Enjoy the love of summer and don't forget to take a deep breath and let peace and love soak in. Much love to you today!