Lemony Chicken Rice with Spring Vegetables

Oh spring! I’m so happy to see you.

This winter was rough and if I’m being honest, pretty lonely. Moving to a new town is isolating in an of itself but add the coldest winter in recent history and you have yourself a recipe for a rough transition. I had to get out of the house!

I started volunteering with a non-profit here called FEAST—fresh, easy, affordable, sustainable, tasty— which is what we think food should be. The goal is to give kids the opportunity to have hands-on experiences with fresh fruits and vegetables whether that’s growing it in the garden or cooking it in the kitchen. The hope is that if they grow it themselves and cook it well they’ll want to eat it and enjoy the taste! We use introduce  lots of seasonal vegetables, teach them how to use them, and try show the kids that, when prepared well, veggies can be really tasty! A few weeks ago I was officially got the offer to contract with them and teach the middle school after school programs. It’s amazing and absolutely the perfect job for me. I am so, so happy to be back in middle schools talking about my favorite thing, food! To say it was a sanity saver is an understatement.

Working with beaucoups of vegetables is so refreshing to me after that long winter. I love celebrating these lovely little gems that the earth {and our local farmers} have given us and learning how to craft them in a way that brings out their unique flavors. Eating close to the earth like this keeps us completely mindful of what is in season and what the earth is giving us at this moment in time.

It certainly draws parallels to our meal planning service, The Seasonal Supper. When pulling together our sneak preview, I snuck in one of my favorite new spring recipes that hadn’t made it on the blog yet. While you should absolutely go download the sneak peek {and you should sign up for The Seasonal Supper while you’re at it}, I couldn’t resist sharing it here too.

So this Earth Day, let’s eat close to the earth and let’s be mindful and thankful for all it gives us.

Lemony Chicken Rice with Spring Vegetables

Lemony Chicken Rice with Spring Vegetables

{serves 2}

for the rice:
1/2 cup brown rice
1 1/4 cup well salted water

for the chicken:
drizzle of olive oil
1 chicken breast
dash of salt and pepper
half a head of broccoli
half a bundle of asparagus
dash of red pepper flakes
1 Tbsp chopped preserved lemon {or juice from 1/2 of a fresh lemon}

for the sauce:
2 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp chopped preserved lemon {or zest and juice from 1/2 of a fresh lemon}

Get the rice started first because it is going to take about 50 minutes to cook. Just follow the directions on your pack of rice and make sure that your water is well salted.

Once the rice is on, go ahead and chop your veggies. Cut the woody end off the asparagus and put them in the compost. Then chop the stalks into about thirds. For the broccoli just cut the flowers off the stalk.

Drizzle a bit of olive oil in your skillet and start heating it up on medium-high heat.

On a separate cutting board, because food safety, cut the chicken breast into bite sized pieces. Sprinkle with sea salt and a few grinds of black pepper.

When the pan is hot, add your chicken. Let it cook for a couple of minutes stirring occasionally until it’s sealed on all sides, then add the asparagus, broccoli, red pepper flakes, and preserved lemon. Stir well and cook for an additional 5 minutes or until the broccoli and asparagus are tender and the chicken is cooked through.

While that is cooking, whisk the sauce together in a small mixing bowl.

Once the chicken and vegetables are done cooking, remove the skillet from the heat and pour the sauce into the pan. Give everything a stir to make sure the sauce is fully incorporated.

When the rice is finished, plate it up and enjoy!

 

The Seasonal Supper

Last weekend, the Kiwi and I hit up the Mother Earth News Fair. It was incredible and worthy of a post of it’s own, but one thing I heard there really struck me. Joel Salatin, of Food, Inc. and The Omnivore’s Dilemma fame, talked about today’s norms, the orthodoxies of our age. He also mentioned that most of us there were, well, heretics, because we went against those norms and that was for the better because they were kind of mind-blowing. One of those orthodoxies in particular though especially burnt my britches.

49% of meals are prepared outside of the home. That’s almost half of our meals being made by other “people”.

If you read our post about our food philosophy then you know why that doesn’t sit very well with me. Usually the other “people” that are making that food are corporations that care more about their bottom line than your nutrition. We also tend to indulge in not-so-healthy treats more often when other “people” are making it for us. When people take a moment to prepare their supper, to sit down at a table and eat, it leads to healthier relationships with food and in turn healthier people. And thats the goal isn’t it? To be healthy?

He followed it up with this—70% of folks don’t know what’s for supper at 4pm. I’m definitely not saying there is something wrong with that. I’ll be the first to admit that is absolutely true for us more often then I’d like to admit. However, I am saying that you’re much more likely to grab fast food, order take-out, or resort to convince foods like TV dinners and frozen pizzas if you don’t have a plan.

Our goal, our mission, is to get people cooking for themselves and having fun with it. Whether you’re cooking just for yourself, for you and your significant other, or for you, your significant other, and your persnickety little people that think vegetables are weird trees, we want dinner time to be a respite, not just another chore. It’s so easy to get stuck in a rut eating the same thing over and over again until you never want to see another baked potato ever again! Eating the exact same thing week after week just isn’t exciting, but we also know that meal planning isn’t easy. It takes planning, time, and lots of mental muscle to do this on a daily basis, so let us take care of that for you. That is why we are introducing…

seasonal-supper-logoEach season {every three months} we will send our members 4 weeks of flexible week night dinner line ups and their corresponding grocery lists. These meals will be balanced, healthy, and definitely in line with our food philosophy, so you’ll only find whole foods on our ingredients lists. You will also receive 20+ healthy recipes, some of which have not made their way to the blog yet, to help you prepare those meal as well as loads of juicy info on seasonal produce and tips on ways to simplify week night cooking. Almost all of our meals take less than an hour and most only require 30-40 minutes of actual hands-on time. We want this to WORK for you, so we are also including meal planning resources like blank meal plans, blank grocery lists, and monthly calendars to pop up on the fridge and keep you organized.

And of course, they’ll be cute. Even the most mundane things can be so much more fun when you have cute paper products on which to organize you life. Don’t you think?!

Here is what you’ll get each season’s collection:

  • 20+ healthy, whole-food recipes that serve 2 people
  • 4 week night line ups + 4 corresponding grocery lists
  • a blank weekly meal plan
  • a blank grocery list
  • 3 monthly calendars
  • plus other surprise seasonal goodies

The whole collection will be emailed to you as PDF files. From there you can download them and print out as many copies as you need. All files are formatted to print easily on normal computer paper and have helpful crop marks on pages that need to be trimmed. Use the meal planning tools to mix and match your four weeks of recipes so that you have an ever-changing dinner schedule that keeps your eater’s tastebuds on their toes and you having fun in the kitchen!

Ready to join?! Members pay $19.99 per season. That’s JUST $7 per month for us to do all your meal planning for you! If you don’t want to subscribe, you can still buy individual seasons for $24.99 per season. We will be rolling out our first complete Seasonal Supper collections on June 1st for the summer and winter seasons depending on your hemisphere. Subsequent seasons will be released September 1st {Fall/Spring}, December 1st {Winter/Summer}, etc.

If you are interested, and if you made it to the end of this blog post I’m pretty sure you are, click the join now button down there to get your name on the list. You’ll fill out a little form that will send me your contact information {no worries, your info is safe with us} and I’ll be sure to get in touch with you when the collection is ready!

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You’re pumped about this, right?! I won’t keep you waiting then. Our first complete season won’t be available until June 1st, but I have a little treat for you guys.

Today, you’re getting a sneak peak—one week of spring suppers! In addition to the line up and the grocery list, we are giving y’all five recipes for wonderfully seasonal week night meals and two bonus recipes that tie in with those meals. We are also giving you a blank weekly meal plan, grocery list, and calendar for the month of May. I really hope y’all have just as much fun using them as I had designing them! To access them you can either click the image below {or here} or visit our freebies page.

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Chard Art Orzo

Monday I talked about our CSA and looking forward to getting veggies I might have otherwise not purchased. We are certainly going to be pushing our creativity and the limits of our vegetable consumption this season because in addition to our CSA one of the perks of my new day-job is that I get to bring home leftover veggies. Not half bad, eh?

Today, I wanted to talk about one of those new-to-me veggies—rainbow chard. I’d certainly heard of it but never cooked with it, and if my students’ reactions when introduced to it are any indication, neither had they. I figured it would be a good chance to experiment. So what did we discover? Like lots of dark, leafy greens, it wilts nicely and, as a bonus, the stem is actually pretty tasty too. {It tastes a lot like celery.} It’s a bit sturdier than spinach, so it retains a nice chew when cooked down and is a great textural element in a dish. Also like its dark leafy green fellows, it packs a nutritional punch in terms of it’s vitamin A and K content as well as being a good source of iron and magnesium. It’s a good thing to eat.

I had been thinking about developing a healthy-ish recipe for a quick, spinach artichoke type pasta for a while now because I mean, who doesn’t like spinach artichoke dip? The chard though. The chard really made everything connect for me. {The bacon doesn’t hurt either.} Each ingredient holds it’s own working together to subtly punch you in the mouth with flavor.

Chard Art Orzo from Kiwi and Peach

Chard Art Orzo

{serves two}

½ cup orzo
1 piece thick cut bacon
9-10 stems of rainbow chard, washed
1 clove garlic
juice from ½ of a lemon {or 1 tsp of chopped preserved lemon}
dash of salt and pepper
2 oz cream cheese
2 tbsp sour cream
¼ cup almond milk
5 ounces artichoke hearts
dash of red pepper flakes

Boil your jug and start heating up your frying pan or skillet on medium.

Get your orzo cooking in a pot with plenty of well salted, boiling water on medium high heat. If this is your first time with orzo, don’t worry about it. It’s just like cooking other pastas. Make sure your water is well salted and set your timer for about 10 minutes. When it’s finished, drain it and sit it to the side.

After you get the orzo started, cut your slice of bacon into small strips and pop them in the skillet. While the bacon is rendering, de-stem your chard and tear {or chop} it into 2 or 3 inch pieces. Peel the garlic and either mince it or put it in your garlic press.

Add the garlic to the skillet and stir. Give it about 30 seconds and then add the chopped chard, lemon juice, and a dash of salt and pepper. Stir well and let that cook down for about 3 minutes. Add the cream cheese, sour cream, and soy creme. Keep stirring it around until it melts and is completely incorporated into the chard.

Chop the artichoke hearts into quarters and toss them into the skillet along with the cooked orzo. Sprinkle the whole thing with red pepper flakes and mix well.

Community Supported Agriculture

Hey there friends! How was your weekend? Did you make the preserved lemons? What did you think?

The Kiwi and I went down to Georgia to run in our very first 5k. We both run pretty regularly, but neither of us had much desire to do it competitively. My dad, however, is very much a competitive runner. Last Father’s Day, in a moment of insanity, I volunteered to run a race with him. Thankfully we were still in Germany, so that bought us a long time before we actually had to do it, but Saturday, Race Day had arrived. Overall, we were really pleased. I set a new PR and the Kiwi got 2nd in his age group! Not bad for a first go at the whole race thing.

Also exciting, we got our confirmation from Blue Meadow Farms, and I am so incredibly pumped to be a part of their CSA this year. This is our first time doing one and I sure am excited to see what Blue Meadow Farms has in store for us!

As I’m sure most of y’all know, CSA stands for community supported agriculture and is an arrangement where you’re basically buying into shares of a farm’s harvest. The money you put in helps cover the operational costs of running a farm for the season and in turn you get a share of the harvest. It’s a great way to support and get to know local farmers and to get local, organic produce on the cheap.

We really like our fruits and veggies so fresh produce tends to eat up our weekly grocery budget—organic produce at the likes of Whole Foods and EarthFare isn’t cheap my friends. For what we spend in total on three weeks of groceries, we will get fresh produce every week for six months. That breaks down to less than $15 a week which is way less than what we spend on produce and if that isn’t a great deal, I don’t know what is.

Being a part of a CSA is also a great way to know what’s in season. In the land of plenty, we can get anything we want at any time of  the year, but just because we can doesn’t mean we should. Produce that is in season is always going to taste better than the stuff that’s been in cold storage. Because of the constant cycle, eating close to nature this way also ensures you don’t get burnt out on certain foods.

If you’re in the WNC area and looking for a CSA, Blue Meadow Farms is still taking members, so be sure to go check them out. If you’re not in our area, you can visit LocalHarvest and find a CSA near you that will fit your family’s needs. Since we are just a family of two, we opted for a half-share that is delivered every week, but each CSA is different. There are usually lots of CSA options in any given area, so just do your research and pick the one that works best for you. I really want to encourage you to at least check it out. Run the math and see how much you can save by eating locally and getting great quality produce from the folks just down the road from you that are growing food.

Aside from saving a wee bit of moolah, I’m also really excited about getting produce in our box that I might not have otherwise bought. I am looking forward to stretching my creativity and coming up with some ballin’ new recipes! That means y’all get new recipes too, so really everyone is a winner here.

Have you guys ever participated in a CSA? What did you love about it? Any surprise veggies?!

Now that spring has sprung, if you’re needing some inspiration on the veggie heavy dinner front, here are some of our favorites from the archives:

Kiwi+Peach: Quinoa Stir FryQuinoa Stir Fry

Watermelon, Feta, and Mint Salad from Kiwi and PeachWatermelon, Mint, and Feta Salad

Kiwi+Peach: Lauren's Summer Favourite {written by the Kiwi}The Summer Favourite
{Sauteed Eggplant, Zucchini, and Bell Peppers in a Coconut Cream Sauce}

Kiwi+Peach: Strawberry Red, White, and Blue Cheese SaladStrawberry and Blue Cheese Salad

Kiwi+Peach: Veggie Drawer PastaVeggie Drawer Pasta

Kiwi+Peach: Chicken and Veggie KabobsPineapple Glazed Chicken Kebabs

Preserved Lemons

A natural extension of not buying super processed pantry items is a foray into canning and preserving. I’ve been a bit lazy because there are TONS of local, ‘homemade’ options available here in Asheville that are made by people who think the same way we do about food. From watching my grandmother do it year after year, the canning process takes lots of work! Why do it myself when I can support local businesses by buying from these folks? Because, it’s a skill, and skills and their concepts are great things to understand. Plus, I’m just curious.

My desire to learn how to preserve food has been fermenting for a while {pun very much intended}, but something keeps stopping me. The truth—I’m scared, way scared. Terrified is probably a more accurate word. Botulism is no joke and this food safety, food-bourne-illness-germaphobe has some real issues trusting that I’m not going to kill my whole family with blueberry preserves. Real issues.

Shortly after our trip to Morocco, the Kiwi started begging me to give Moroccan food a go at home. The food we had in Morocco was out of this world flavorful, so I started doing some research and found preserved lemons in loads of the recipes. Thus began my search for preserved lemons so that I could put that tajine I got Zane for Christmas to good use. I love our local makers, but I haven’t seen preserved lemons here. Probably because most of us didn’t know they were a thing or maybe we think we have no need for them in our cooking. Unless you’ve tried them, you might think the same thing. But just you wait…

Anyway, where was I?

Oh right, I needed preserved lemons but couldn’t find any. I’d been chatting to an experienced food preserver about my desire to learn, the advice was always the same—start with something easy and something highly acidic. I saw Sarah’s post on how she made her own preserved lemons in only a week as opposed to the month it takes to make the real deal and thought that would be just the ticket! It looked so easy! So on a whim and high bout of self-confidence, I embarked on making my hacker version of preserved lemons. Seriously, it’s so simple a kindergartener could do it; well, a kindergartener you trust with a large chef’s knife…

Preserved Lemons from Kiwi and Peach

Preserved Lemons

4-5 organic lemons
around 1/4 cup of sea salt
pint sized canning jar

Scrub your lemons as well as you possible can and then dry them.

As thinly as your knife skills will allow, slice your lemons. As you’re slicing, pick out any seeds from your lemon rounds. Also, sit the ends to the side. We’ll be using them later.

Make sure that the jar you are using has been thoroughly washed with hot, hot, hot water and dried. Alternatively layer the lemon slices with a healthy amount of sea salt between each layer. You will rinse the salt off later when you use them in your cooking, so don’t skimp! It’s important! Pack the layers as tightly as you can, pushing down regularly as you go.

Stop a couple inches from the top and squeeze the juice from the ends into the jar then use the ends to push down and pack the layers really tightly. The goal is for any gap to be filled with juice. You can then toss the ends and put the lid on the jar.

Store it in your cupboard or a cool dark place for a week. You’ll know it’s ready when the rinds are soft.

And there you have it! Preserved lemons that will make you feel oh so fancy!

Once opened, I stored my jar in the fridge and it’s become my super quick go-to for recipes that call for lemon juice. I just sub in three or four rounds, depending on the size, per lemon. It’s been great in some of our older recipes like the pesto and avocado pasta, but it has also led to some wonderful new recipes! Now I just have to tackle the tajine…

chili {perfected}

Holy snow Batman! I thought I’d have to wait until the fall to share this one with y’all, but round three of ‘the vortex’ begged me to reconsider.

Since the beginning of our journey to eliminate processed foods, I’ve had a vice. My ultimate comfort food is my mom’s chili and my mom’s chili is what it is because of the chili seasoning she uses. The chili seasoning she uses comes in a little yellow packet and along with the usual suspects there were lots of extra man-made chemicals and processed corn product in there as well. I pretended they weren’t there.

Of course we couldn’t get it in Germany, but my mom would supply me with packets regularly in the mail and it was like a little taste of home every time. I had to get honest. Deep down I knew that little packet was exactly what we were trying to vanquish from our house and if there was ever a time to learn to make my own it was then.

So we ate chili, lots and lots of chili, and eventually, I nailed it. I know that chili can be a heated topic of debate. Some folks might object to my bean-filled pot, and that is fine—I object to your bean-free concoction. To each his own. If you are in the chili-with-beans camp though, and even if you aren’t {come over to the dark side y’all}, I promise this rezept won’t disappoint.

Every family seems to have their own chili recipe. I’m curious, what kind of chili did you grow up eating? 

{perfected} Three Bean Chili from Kiwi and Peach

Three Bean Chili

{makes 3-4 servings}

for the seasoning:
2 Tbsp chili powder
1 Tbsp cumin
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp whole wheat flour
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1/4 tsp cinnamon

for the chili:
1/2 lb grass-fed ground beef
1/2 medium white onion
1 clove of garlic
1/2 cup black beans, cooked
1/2 cup kidney beans, cooked
1/2 cup pinto beans, cooked
1 can whole tomatoes, crushed with your hands
3 ounces of tomato paste
1 Tbsp adobo sauce
1 tsp chipotle pepper {from the can with the adobo sauce}
2 cups of stock {Chicken, veggie, or beef will do. Beer works well too.}

{If you are a dried bean user like us, measure out about 1/4 cup of each type of bean. Go ahead and soak them overnight and cook them for about an hour before you add them to the chili.}

Mix up your seasoning in a small bowl. This recipe will make about 4 Tbsp of season and you will use all of it in the chili.

Start heating up your skillet on medium heat. While it’s getting hot, dice your onion and get the garlic ready to press. Once the skillet is hot, crumble your ground beef into it and give it a stir. Sprinkle a tablespoon of the seasoning over the meat and work it into the meat. Once a little of the fat has cooked out of the meat, add your onions and press the garlic into the mixture. Stir well and let it cook until the meat is no longer pink and the onions are soft, about 7-8 minutes.

Once the meat and onions are to your liking, transfer them to a 4 qt stock pot on medium heat. Add the beans, the whole can of tomatoes which you’ve crushed by hand—liquid and all, tomato paste, adobo sauce, chipotle pepper, and the rest of the seasoning.

I just buy a can of chipotle in adobo at Whole Foods. The kind I get doesn’t seem to have any untoward ingredients, but be sure to check. You can chop the pepper up if you’d like or you can just pull it apart with your hands. Either way, wash your hands well afterwards. Peppers be hot!

Stir everything in really well making sure that the tomato paste has dissolved and is completely incorporated. Add the stock and bring the whole shebang to a boil. At that point, reduce the heat to low and let it simmer for at least an hour but up to 3 hours. The longer you can leave it, the longer the flavors will have to get to know each other. If you want to leave it for longer than 3 hours, just add a bit more liquid.