Vegetables Every Day

Vegetables Every Day
Carrot Tarator with Beets

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Summer is here!!!!

I'm not sure how, but summer kind of snuck up on me.  May was quite gray (and thankfully wet) this year, then I had some time away..  

a few days in Austin (in between floods), including a visit to the Zilker Botanical Garden

then a spectacular week on Lake Powell (which was uncharacteristically cool),

which included grilling pizza on the houseboat one night

then ... wham!  A couple of hot days in Tucson, 

and back to Coronado.  It's not hot, but there are people everywhere! Summer tourist season is in full swing, and the Villa will be busy.  It's going to be a fun one.

Here's a easy recipe for those busy summer day's: refried beans.  Serve with chip's as an appetizer, or with taco's as a side, or to help fill a burrito.  So much better than the refries from a can.  And, if you are more ambitious, you can use beans you have cooked yourself ... they will even be better. 

Refried Beans

Serves 4

1 teaspoon oil
1 strip bacon, thinly sliced
½ onion, minced
Pinch of chipotle or red pepper flakes or diced hot pepper (optional)
Pinch of salt
(15 oz) cans  black or pinto beans, one rinsed and drained, one with liquid.

Cheddar or Jack cheese for serving (optional)

In a medium sauce pan or skillet, cook bacon in oil over medium high heat.  When a nice bit of fat has rendered from the bacon, add the onion and pepper or pepper flakes, and a bit of salt.  Cook until onion is soft.  Add the can of beans with the liquid, and the one without. Heat the beans until boiling, then mash with a potato masher.  I like them a little chunky, but keep mashing if you like them smooth (and if you like them really smooth, get out the immersion blender).  If needed, add a bit of water if too thick, or boil a bit more if too thin. Beans will get thicker when they cool, so target on the thin side.

Serve sprinkled with cheese.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Cooking lesson: Chicken and Kale Stew

My 80+ year old father-in-law is working on learning to cook.  We have collaborated on one dish (Ken's Chicken Dinner) that I consider a winner.  I'm defining a winner as something that you are willing to make (and eat) every week or so.  I'm hoping we have a second winner.

But I think that an important part of learning to cook is to make the same thing over and over.  To get a feel of how hot, how brown, what is enough (or too much), how to season.taste.   To be able to make it without reading step by step through a recipe.  To know what substitutes work.

I think that I'm also getting a better idea of the ideal type of dish that he likes to make:

1. One pot
2. Tasty but not too spicy
3. Not too much chopping
4. It should not make too much
5. It should have some meat in it, preferably chicken
6. Gluten free

Of course, I then add my constraints, like it should have a lot of vegetables and not have any full-of-crap shortcuts (like condensed mushroom soup).

Chicken and Kale Stew

Olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
½ onion, chopped
1 lb chicken thighs or breasts, cut into bite size (about 1/2 - 1") cubes
8 ounces brown mushrooms, quartered if large
½ cup sun dried tomatoes
2 cups chicken broth
1 bunch kale, stems removed and cut in large pieces
¼ cup pitted Kalamata olives
1 15 oz can white beans, drained and rinsed under cold water
¼ cup lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
¼ cup (½ stick) cold butter, cut into 6 pieces

Coat a large sauté pan in olive oil (about a tablespoon) and heat over medium high heat.  When hot, add garlic and onions, sauté until onions are starting to brown.

Add chicken and sear until chicken is brown on one side.  Turn cubes, then add mushrooms.  Cook until the mushrooms are starting to release moisture, stirring occasionally.

Add the sundried tomatoes and broth.  Stir to loosen any brown bits in the pan.  Bring to a simmer, then add kale, olives and beans and stir until the kale softens into the liquid. Bring back to a simmer.

Add the lemon juice, then add cold butter one piece at a time stirring constantly until the butter is dissolved and the sauce is thickened.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Dinner for one: Chickpeas and Vegetable

This is a recipe I'm not sure that everyone will like.  But the beauty of cooking for one is that you are the only one that needs to like it.

This is also a recipe that can be customized to your taste, and what you happen to have on hand.  I am showing this with zucchini, but it works equally well with broccoli or kale.  I'm guessing it would be great with eggplant (especially the long Japanese kind). I have used curry powder for seasoning, and I have used my southwest rub (equal parts chile powder, cumin, and coriander).  I'm guessing it would work with that jar of spice mix you got for Christmas that smells great but you are sure how to use.   Or skip the spice and use some fresh herbs and maybe some olives, like this version from Chocolate and Zucchini, which was my inspiration.  But I have to tell you, my favorite part is the cashews...  I keep a bag in the refrigerator special for this.

And don't worry much about measuring.  Put in about how much of each ingredient that you would like to eat.  Remember the vegetables will shrink, so put in plenty.  Taste as you go when you add spices and lemon juice.    If you want to gild the lily,  add some avocado or some fresh herbs on top.

Sautéed Chickpeas and Vegetable

Serves 1

Olive oil (enough to nicely coat the pan)
½ a small onion, chopped
A good size serving of zucchini, broccoli, kale, or other vegetable (about 2-3 cup) chopped
½ can chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans).  Rinse and drain.
A handful of raw cashews (maybe a ¼ cup or so)
Salt  (skip if your seasoning mix has salt in it)

Spice – curry powder, chili rub, etc.  to taste  (for my curry powder, I use about a teaspoon)
Herbs -- cilantro, parsley, basil

Lemon or lime juice

In a 10 or 11 inch pan, heat the olive oil over medium high heat.  Add the onion, vegetables, chickpeas, and cashews. Add a bit of salt.  Cook, stirring frequently.  When the vegetables are starting to cook, add the spice and stir to mix.  Taste a chickpea to see if there is enough spice and salt.  Continue to cook until the vegetable is just done.   Add a good squeeze of lemon or lime juice.


Sunday, January 11, 2015

Happy New Year... Are you Doing a Cleanse?

It seems a very trendy thing to do this year..  the "1 Week Cleanses" run from the lemon juice/cayenne pepper/maple syrup regimen to only having juice for a week or so, to a "clean eating" diet (no booze, coffee, and about 1200 calories of day of real food).   Since the liver is what does most the cleansing in your body, I think the best thing you can do is consume less toxins for the liver to cleanse... not just for a week, but always. And I just can't fathom starving myself for a week!

I have an alternative suggestion... how about cleansing your kitchen instead?  I'm not talking about getting out the oven cleaner.  I'm thinking of getting rid of the the toxic food in your kitchen, plus any old foods that might be cluttering your freezer or pantry,

The goal is to reduce the temptation to eat less than optimum foods, plus have a kitchen that is easy to work in and a pleasant place to be.

Day 1:  Get rid of any Christmas cookies, candies, etc.  Put away the Christmas mugs while you're at it.

Day 2:  Clean out the fridge.  Beyond the obvious (anything fuzzy, squishy veggies, old dairy), take a look at condiments.  Any mustard or salad dressing that you have not used up in a year or so you probably won't.  Look at labels... seriously consider getting rid of anything full of crap*.

Day 3:  Clean out the freezer.  Get rid of anything that is icy and/or freezer burnt.  I also recommend getting rid of anything that is over a year old as it has likely significantly degraded in texture and flavor (although well wrapped or vacuum packed items are better longer if in a chest type freezer that doesn't have a defrost cycle).  Get rid of (or give away) anything that you don't like (even if its free range organic no sugar added).  Look at labels... seriously consider getting rid of anything full of crap*.   Get things that need to be eaten in the next month or two to the top and front, and make a plan to eat them.

Day 5: Clean out the panty.  Same rules here.. even if its still good, if you haven't used in year, will you ever eat it?  Give it to the food bank before it expires. Look at labels... seriously consider getting rid of anything full of crap*. Also take a look at inventory. Do you really need 8 cans of tuna?  If you at most eat 2 cans a week of tuna and shop most every week, then 3 cans is probably plenty.

Day 6:  De-clutter... maybe not tackle the whole kitchen, but take on one or two things that bug you - that drawer that won't open because it's too full, the corner that is full of who knows what. Plus make a trip to the food bank if you excess canned or packaged food.  

Day 7: Make a meal using foods that are lingering in the fridge, freezer, and pantry, and a list of things to make and eat over the next few weeks.  Soups and stews can use up various meats and frozen veggies (in addition to broth that might be lingering in the freezer waiting for a rainy day), odd bits of pasta or bags of beans.

One of the things that seems to clog my freezer is broth.  Making your own broth is something that is considered to be essential for a serious cook, and most recipes seems to talk about making it a gallon at a time... using a big stock pot. And "bone broth" is trending as a super healthy food among the paleo crowd, it is supposed to be very good for healing the gut, restoring electrolytes, boosting the immune system, even getting rid of cellulite. There are even broth bars popping up where you get a cup of broth instead of coffee. I'm not sure that there have been any definitive scientific studies done, but can millions of grandmothers and their chicken soup be wrong?  

But I have come to the conclusion that making big batches of stock is just not worth the effort. Cooking it is not a problem... but straining, cooling, and storing a gallon of stock is just not easy in the standard home kitchen. And more often than not, when I go to make a soup, I end up reaching for the 1 liter box of broth in the cupboard because either 1) I don't want to spend an extra 15 minutes thawing the broth 2) the soup is so loaded with other highly flavorful ingredients that I don't want to "waste" good broth, or 3) I forgot there was broth in the bottom of the freezer.  But I do still make broth... but in small batches, once in a while.  A quart or two at a time, and usually use most of it the day or day after I make it.  I save chicken backs and innards from when I cut up chickens, plus chicken carcases from roast chicken. It all goes into zip lock baggies and stored in the freezer until I'm ready to make broth.  One thing I have learned (after doing a freezer clean-out, where there were a bunch of chicken bags) is that you need a lot of chicken parts relative to water to make good broth.

Chicken Broth

Chicken Backs, necks, giblets (from 1 or 2 chickens)...  optional: include the skin (I do)
and/or  Roast chicken carcass (Again, 1 - 2 chickens worth)
1 or 2 carrots, diced
1 small onion, diced
1 stalk celery, diced (optional)
A sprig or two of parsley (optional)
1 to 2 quarts of water
1/2 teaspoon of salt

Put everything in a medium pot (no need to thaw chicken parts if they are frozen).  Add just enough water to cover.  Bring to a very low simmer (just a few bubbles) and cook for 3-4 hours.  Using tongs, pull out the big chunks and discard.  Strain the remainder into a large bowl.   You can either use the broth right away (and I don't bother to skim the fat), or chill.  The best way to rapidly cool is to put the bowl in a sink of cold water (adding ice makes it quicker).  When down to room temperature, cover the bowl and into the fridge. After its cold, skim the fat (which can be used to to saute some vegetables or fry eggs). It's best to strain again before using (and leave behind the sediment at the bottom). Store up to 3 days in the fridge, or to freeze, put broth (in 2-4 cup quantities) in 1 quart freezer ziploc's.

Now make some risotto or awesome chicken soup.  Or just have a cup of bone broth.


C: Carbonated drinks
R: Refined sugars
A: Artificial sweeteners and colours
P: Processed foods

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Merry Christmas!

The tree is decorated and most the presents are wrapped, 

The dining room is even decorated this year. 

I'm looking time with my husband, family, and friends over the next couple of weeks. Tomorrow night we are planning to see the San Diego Bay Parade of Lights (boats are decorated in Christmas lights), we have tickets to see the "Festival of Christmas" at Lamb's Theater, and the weather should be nice enough for some beach time.  

Today I'm having a fat fest in the kitchen.  There was almost a pound of butter out to come to room temperature to make cookies, and (this is a first) I am rendering leaf lard.  

There is a local pork producer, Cook Pigs, in nearby Julien that is now selling pork retail.  It's pastured pork, that eats lots of acorns and avocados.  I have a roast in the freezer for Christmas dinner, and on a whim got some lard too (actually it was pork fat, it's not lard until you render it).  Lard is the newest healthy fat.

Most of the year, I make one kind of cookies... oatmeal cookies.  But Christmas just isn't Christmas without sugar cookies.  It's something I remember making every year with my mom.  This year I'm making 3 different cookies, and made all of the dough this morning. One of them I actually baked, the other 2 are refrigerator cookies that I can bake later to have a constant sugar infusion supply of fresh cookies.  

The cookie I actually baked are biscotti, using the Michael Ruhlman recipe.  These are not hard and dry like as most biscotti.  I added some bittersweet chocolate (about a half cup or maybe a little more), a scant 1/2 cup of toasted pecans, and a 1/4 cup of dry cranberries.  

I also made World Peace Cookies.  These are super chocolaty, with a nice hit of salt.  And really easy to make.  I didn't have Dutch process cocoa and just used what I had, natural cocoa. Dutch Cocoa is darker and has a more neutral pH (natural cocoa is slightly acidic) which can throw off some recipes, but the swap works just fine here.  Also, the cocoa needs to be sifted to get out the chunks, but don't use a can type sifter because you will never get the cocoa out.  Best to use a wire strainer.

And of course I made sugar cookies.  These are not your typical sugar cookies.  The recipe came from Harriet, who I think was a neighbor of moms at the house I was born at.  They are the only kind of sugar cookies I ever eat (I learned early on I didn't like any other sugar cookies). They are very thin and crisp, you don't want to put icing on them as they would get soggy.  I usually just decorate with chocolate chips and nuts, but sprinkles and colored sugars are pretty.  They are also hard to roll... The dough needs to be cold, and you should work quickly.   Here is the dough just after making, the one on the left is wrapped in plastic, the other is not... its very sticky at this point!

I think I will wait until mom is here to make them!  Just a couple of more days.

Sugar Cookies

2 cups flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
2/3 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
½ teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon lemon or almond extract
4 teaspoons milk
Decorations – sprinkles, nuts (slivered almonds are a favorite), chocolate chips, etc.

Sift together flour, baking powder, soda, and salt.  Cream butter and sugar.  Blend in egg, extracts, and milk.  Blend in dry ingredients.  Make 2 large patties, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.  

Preheat oven to 350oF.  Roll 1/8 inch thick on lightly floured board. Cut into shapes with cookie cutters and transfer to ungreased cookie pans.  Don’t re-roll the dough more than once (and I find the cookies made from the space between the cutouts are just as beautiful as the cut shapes).  Using parchment paper will assist with clean up.  Decorate as desired.  Bake for 10 – 12 minutes, until just starting to brown.  

Ethan can't wait.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Cooking for One: Fried Rice

December is finally here, and I'm telling myself that I can stop being Grinch-y about Christmas decorations and the like.  I love the awe and wonder of Christmas ... for about 2 weeks.  Yes, do a little shopping and planning, but my tree is not going up for another week!

Until then, life as normal.  Which often means dinner for one. I like to have proper meals, even when I'm alone. I don't really mind cooking for myself, I think it has helped me develop as a cook, to learn more about tasting and adjusting flavors. But there are limits on just how much time I'm willing to spend cooking for just me, especially the cleaning up part.  There are a disconcerting number of these meals that I cook in a 10" or 11" non-stick skillet:
  • Scramble (leftover potatoes, onions, something green, meat or bacon and/or an egg on top)
  • Spiced Chickpea and vegetables (I'll post this one soon)
  • Fried Rice
  • Scrambled eggs with veggies
  • Mini-frittata (well, this uses a 6" non-stick skillet.  Just like this, but just 2-3 eggs)
To make this happen, its very helpful to have leftovers.  Things like boiled potatoes, leftover chicken (or turkey) or sausage, plain rice, or pasta whatever.  The leftovers, combined with some fresh vegetables, allow me to make something completely different from night to night that's healthy and filling and tasty. When I don't have leftovers, beans or eggs or a sausage from the freezer often find their way into dinner for one.

I can tell you that I don't really have recipes for these skillet dinners  I'm going to show you what I do, and write something that looks like a recipe, but don't worry about following too closely. And I'm not worried that my tree is not up yet.

Fried Rice

Get everything out:  leftover rice (enough for one person), leftover meat (optional.. sometimes I'll use cashews or almonds if I don't have meat), aromatics like garlic, ginger, hot peppers (or can use red pepper flakes.. or not if you don't want spicy), onions, and an assortment of veggies so that you have a couple of cups or so when they are chopped.  I have zucchini, carrot, red pepper, and some leftover green beans for this batch.  Other things I like include mushrooms, broccoli, cabbage, kale, asparagus... pretty much what ever needs to be used up.  Plus an egg, some oil, and some soy sauce.

Start chopping.  Finely mince the aromatics, chop everything else. 

Get out a 10 or 11 inch non-stick pan, and heat some oil (a tablespoon or so, enough to coat the bottom) over medium high heat.  Add the aromatics, veggies, and rice.  Also throw in nuts if you are using. Let cook.  Stir occasionally.  You want things to brown a little. 

When the veggies are almost done, stir in the meat.  Then push everything to the side, and put a little more oil in the middle (by the way, I think I actually used chicken fat (schmaltz) here because I happened to have some left from roasting a chicken, but anything works).  

Drop the egg on the oil. 

Then quickly stir to scramble and cook.

When the egg is mostly cooked, mix everything together, and drizzle with soy sauce (I'm guessing a teaspoon or two).  Taste, you can always add more soy sauce if needed.

If you want to make this for 2, use a 12" skillet.  Although I'm guessing that this might make 2 servings for some people (those who don't swim for example).  

Fried Rice

Makes one big serving.

Oil or fat of choice (vegetable, olive, chicken fat, etc.)
1 clove garlic, minced
½ teaspoon ginger, minced
1 hot pepper, minced or ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes (to taste)
½ small onion, chopped
2 cups (or so) of assorted chopped vegetables, such as green beans, broccoli, asparagus, carrots, celery, mushrooms, bell peppers, summer squash, etc.
1 cup (or so) of cooked rice (brown or white)
1 egg
1-2 teaspoons soy sauce (to taste)

Heat oil in 10 or 11 inch non-stick skillet over medium high heat. Add the aromatics, veggies, and rice.  Also throw in nuts if you are using. Let cook.  Stir occasionally -- things should brown a little.  If things are sticking, turn down the heat and add a little water. When the veggies are almost done, stir in the meat.  Then push everything to the side making a well in the middle. Put a little more oil in the middle then put the egg on the oil. Then quickly stir the egg to scramble and cook. When the egg is mostly cooked, mix everything together, and drizzle with a teaspoon of soy sauce. Taste, add more soy sauce if needed.

Saturday, November 22, 2014


I am blessed in that I can eat pretty much anything, and thrive on a diet that includes a lot of vegetables, both raw and cooked.  But not everyone has the time, desire, or digestive track to consume copious amounts of vegetables. I think that juicing is a good way get nutrition from raw vegetables (and fruit too) if you need easy to digest calories because of health issues or endurance exercise and you don't want empty calories.  Unfortunately, juicing has more hype surrounding it that most food preparation methods, with health claims that are more false than true. Finding recipes for juices are a challenge, you need to wade through all sorts of weight loss advertising and "cleanses" which don't have any scientific basis.   And what you find are hundreds of seemingly random combinations of fruits and vegetables with vague quantities and no yields.  Which all just brings out the engineer in me.  I had the chance to do some experimenting with my mom's juicer, and here is what I learned.

Yields...  Most vegetables yield about 50% juice... If you start with a pound (16 ounces) you end up with 8 ounces. Celery is particularly juicy, you get about 75% juice, cucumbers and bell peppers will also will yield more than average.  Fruit, like apples and oranges, yields around 75% juice.   So if you want 10 ounces of finished juice, you should start with about 7 - 8 ounces of fruit or juicy vegetables, and 10 ounces of veggies (just over a pound total).

Flavors... In general, juicing concentrates flavors.  If you don't like the vegetable, you won't like the juice, so don't think that juicing is a good way to get lots of the vegetables you don't like.   Fruit and juicy vegetables are more neutral in flavor (but still there).  Ginger is especially strong, a piece the size of the end of your little finger will go a long way. Vegetables with bitter flavors (spinach, broccoli) will have juice with bitter undertones, and if you are not a fan of bitter, don't use too much of these, there is only so much you can cover up with sweeter or stronger flavors.  My mom even found she could taste the bitterness of carrot peels in the juice, and prefers to peel the carrots first.

Color...  You can get some beautiful red or green juices.  For red, beets, pomegranate pips, red bell peppers, and carrot all give a nice color.  For green, greens (spinach, herbs, broccoli, etc) will add vibrant green to a neutral base.   However, a mix of red and green can result in a fairly  mucky (i.e. swamp water) looking juice, which might taste fine, but you have to get it past your eyes first.

Juices are best when they are first made.  The same reaction that causes cut fruit (like apples) or vegetables to turn brown happens with the juice.  The mint that I juiced had a noticeable brown layer on top after sitting on the counter for an hour or so.   That said, the juices will still be tastely after being in the fridge (sealed in a glass container) up to a day but not longer.  There is a lot written about how the enzymes and other nutrients will drop over time, but it's not clear there is any science behind this (other that the drop that occurs for all vegetables starting when they are harvested).

So here is my advice.  Don't worry about a recipe, because even if you find ones that look interesting, you likely don't have everything on hand  (they are useful to give you thoughts about what else to juice, but leave it at that).    I liked a blend of juicy things (orange, apple, celery or cucumbers)  as a base plus some greens and root vegetables to get a nice color, more flavor and body plus a flavor pop from something like ginger, lime, and/or lemon.  Herbs like mint also give a nice pop, and sometimes a little salt is needed.  Like anything, you need to have a balance between the sweet / sour (acid - like lemon juice) / bitter / spice that can only come from tasting then adjusting.  Salt will balance bitter and grassy flavors, acid will brighten the taste.  Also, mix it up as you are putting stuff through the juicer, end with a good bit of the base, as some of this will stay in the juicer (for example, if you put the ginger in last, you would not get much of it out).  

One thing that everyone needs to tailor is sweetness.  You can do all fruit juice blends and they will be tasty.  But this is a big pop of sugar without the fiber of fruit, which I don't think is the best thing for you other than as a treat, like dessert.  The trick is to put in enough fruit to provide sweetness so its drinkable. Here is another bloggers input on juicing, which comes to the same conclusion.  I liked juices that had a good base of celery or cucumber, some sweeter vegetables like carrot or beet, plus a good hit of lemon or lime and ginger, but most people like to have a bit more sweet from fruit.  And when looking at the juice that you can buy at juice bars, they almost always have a good fruity base (so think of these as a treat, not a wholesome meal).

I'm not ready to go out an get a juicer of my own, but really glad I got to try one out.  Next I'll have to experiment with a Vitamix and smoothies.  Any volunteers with a Vitamix?