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.

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 about 6 servings}

for the seasoning:
2 Tbsp chili powder
2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp whole wheat flour
2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1/2 tsp cinnamon

for the chili:
1 lb grass-fed ground beef
1 medium white onion
1 clove of garlic
1 can black beans
1 can kidney beans
1 can pinto beans
1 (big) can diced tomatoes
1 can of tomato paste
2 cups of stock {Chicken, veggie, or beef will do. Beer works well too.}

{If you are a dried bean user, 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, and the rest of the seasoning.

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.

The Cooking Cure Week 1: Brekky

Have you heard about the Kitchn’s Cooking Cure?

They’re trying to help folks like me {and you} refresh their routines in the kitchen and get us cooking everyday. We’re reexamining our routines for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and pinpointing areas we where we’d like to see change. Last  week the focus was on breakfast.

The Kiwi and I have a pretty solid breakfast routine that we are totally happy with. Our regular breakfast repertoire consists of oatmeal, or as the Kiwi says porridge, on weekdays and a bowl full of my special homemade granola and yogurt at the weekend. Both provide the quickly-acessed fuel I need to go lay down a few miles at the park and it keeps us full until lunch time. I love our morning routine and neither of us are hankering to change it up that much. It’s only a rut if you’re tired of it right?

We might not be changing up our morning meals, but thinking about it definitely made me consider how it balances with the rest of what we eat and what it does for our bodies. It also made me reconsider my alarming dependency on that magical elixir, coffee. Something, candidly, I thought you would have to pry from my pickle juice covered hands whenever we decide to procreate. Taking the time to reflect on what you eat and why you’re eating it is a great exercise. You never know, you might surprise yourself.

Are you doing the Cooking Cure or have you ever done something like it? What revelations did you have?

Cinnamon Raisin Crunch Oatmeal from Kiwi and Peach

Cinnamon Raisin Crunch Porridge

{serves 2}

2/3 cup rolled oats
1 1/3 cup almond milk
1/4 cup raisins
big handful of chopped almonds
1/2 tsp cinnamon
dash of nutmeg

In a sauce pan on medium heat, start heating up the milk. Add the oats and raisins and bring it to a boil. Cook for 10 minutes or until most of the liquid has been absorbed or evaporated. While it’s cooking chop the almonds then go about your morning routine. When it’s finished, remove from the heat and stir in the almonds and cinnamon. Serve it up and top with a dash of nutmeg.

Happy Pancake Day!

Hello there. It’s been a minute, hasn’t it? First of all, I want to thank you all so much for the sweet comments about my D’daddy’s passing. As a wise friend said, “Grandfathers are simply wonderful things that shouldn’t be allowed to die at all.” I so agree, but unfortunately that isn’t how life works. I am incredibly thankful that I had so much time with him and so many happy memories. Thank you for your patience and for giving us time to reflect on them.

But on to happier topics… It’s Pancake Tuesday! I think we will be trying a variation of our favorite Whole Wheat Pumpkin Spice pancakes, but maybe with sweet potato instead of the pumpkin, and sorghum syrup instead of honey and I’ll replace the pumpkin pie spice with cardamom, ginger, and orange zest, and while we’re at it, top it with pear compote, so really not like our favorite pancakes at all.

What are you whipping up today?

Whole Wheat Pumpkin Spice Pancakes from Kiwi and Peach

Whole Wheat Pumpkin Spice Pancakes

{makes 6 pancakes}

the wet:
1 1/4 cup buttermilk
1 egg
1 Tbsp butter, melted

the dry:
1 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda

for the pumpkin mix:
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1 Tbsp honey
1 tsp fresh diced ginger {or 1/2 tsp of the powdered ginger}
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
dash of allspice

Start heating up your griddle or, in my case, a pan on medium heat. {I actually use two pans because it makes it go so much quicker!}

In a large bowl, whisk together your wet ingredients. If you don’t have buttermilk on hand you can always mix 1 1/4 cup of milk with 1 tablespoon of lemon juice. It will get the job done.

Put a sieve over the bowl and measure your dry ingredients. Using a fork, mix the dry ingredients in the sieve and then give it a shake until all the dry has fallen through. Gently stir it all together. There might be some lumps but the key here is to not over mix it. The buttermilk and the baking powder are getting to know each other and we want to give that relationship some room to grow if we want perfectly fluffy pancakes.

In a separate bowl mix all of the pumpkin spice ingredients together then add it to the batter. Gently stir it in.

Now lets make some pancakes!

Drop a bit of canola oil in the hot pans, and using a 1/3 cup measuring cup pour in the batter. Let it cook for about 3-4 minutes or until it’s looking pretty solid then flip. I usually only cook it on the other side for 1-2 minutes, then transfer to a plate. For a bit of extra crunch and burst of flavor, sprinkle a bit of whatever homemade granola you have laying around on top of the pancake just after your pour the batter into the pan. It’s delicious!

Repeat until you’ve used up all of your batter.

Sprinkle some spiced pumpkin seeds over the top and serve with warm maple syrup! Enjoy y’all!

This recipe was originally published in a guest post I wrote for Charming Lucy. I’m reposting it here to provide some inspiration for Pancake Day! 

The Kiwi’s Rock Cakes

Growing up in New Zealand, Rock Cakes were a Kiwi classic known to practically every family through their presence in the ubiquitous Edmonds Cook Book—the mainstay of Kiwi home baking for the better part of a century. We used to eat them at half-time while watching rugby on TV, or as a treat for lunch on a cold winter Sunday. This Sunday being the occasion of the Super Bowl, you {not us though—we don’t have a TV} have the opportunity to sort-of combine both. Maybe eat them halfway through the first quarter, before they get cold.

This recipe is adapted from an ancient version of the venerable Edmonds Cook Book owned by my maternal grandmother, and originally used Edmonds “Cake Baking Powder”. This was a substance introduced during wartime rationing to replace eggs. Lauren tells me that egg is used not only as a binding agent but also as a leavening agent, and I believe Cake Baking Powder fulfilled the latter purpose. When it was eventually withdrawn from sale in the late 1980s, it was to howls of protest, widespread stockpiling and supermarket riots as old grannies fought each other in the aisles for the last few cans as over baseball bats in a Zombie Apocalypse. OK, I made that last part up, but the stockpiling was real.

Cake Baking Powder was replaced in this recipe by regular Baking Powder, and everyone agreed that you couldn’t tell the difference.

The Kiwi's Rock Cakes from Kiwi and Peach

Rock Cakes

{makes 8-10 cakes}

110g {4 ounces} butter
¼ cup sugar
1¾ cups flour
110g {4 ounces} dried currants
1 heaping tsp baking powder
½ cup milk

Preheat the oven to 390°F/200°C.

In a large bowl, soften {but do not melt} the butter in the microwave. Cream the butter and sugar together, then sift in the rest of the dry ingredients and add the currants. Add enough milk to make the dough stiff—the measurement is not exact and depends on how soft the butter is.

Cover a cold baking tray with baking paper and spoon around 8–10 dollops of your mixture onto it using a pair of spoons. Don’t worry about making them neat and round—that’s very much not the point here.

The Kiwi's Rock Cakes from Kiwi and Peach

Bake at 390°F/200°C for 15–20 minutes until they just start to turn brown {test with a skewer if you’re not sure}. Turn them out onto a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes.

Rock Cakes are best eaten warm, liberally buttered on the flat side. They’re good with jam too. And, if you want, they’re not a bad snack to have around for the next days lunch. Butter a pair and stick them together and you can even take them to work with you without making too big a mess.

The Kiwi's Rock Cakes from Kiwi and Peach

Butternut and Beer: A Mac and Cheese Challenge

After a whirlwind of a weekend, the Kiwi, Dooley, and I are back from DC, no worse for the wear, and full to the brim from good food and lots of laughter. Did you enjoy your long weekend? What did you do with your day off?

In Germany, we had lots of these random days off in the middle of the week. {Thank you, Bavaria.} Most of the time we were able to schedule travel around those days, but sometimes we just stayed home, cooked ourselves a nice meal and relaxed which also happens to be one of our favorite ways to spend a lazy Sunday, but that’s beside the point. Days like that are perfect for tackling those longer recipes that won’t be weeknight staples, but are nice to have up your sleeve for a dinner party or when you want to impress folks. This recipe is kind of like that.

Wait, mac and cheese? Impressive? You bet your buns it’s impressive. Though I’ll allow that this isn’t your average macaroni. No Kraft boxes or neon yellow ‘cheese’ sauce to be found here. What we have instead are layers of complex flavors like sweet, earthy vegetables, strong, creamy cheeses, and malty, caramel-y beer that work together to create a very grown-up party in your mouth. It’s also chock full of winter vegetable nutritional powerhouses like spinach, squash, and onions so you can feel good about it too.

I’m not going to lie to you, it’s a long recipe and it has a number of steps—but when you get right down to it, it’s really pretty easy. You can do it and when you do, you’ll feel like you’re the next Alton Brown! That’s my favorite part of trying new challenging recipes, that instant gratification for challenging yourself and succeeding. Plus you get to eat the results so that isn’t half bad either.

Beer and Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese from Kiwi and Peach

Beer and Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese

serves 4

{My inspiration for this one came from Amanda over at The Marshalls Abroad. I loved her idea of using the butternut squash as a thickener for mac and cheese. While I stuck with her method for making the squash roux, the rest of the recipe is my own.}

The Roux
1/2 of a large butternut squash
drizzle of olive oil
dash of sea salt
3/4 cup milk

The Pasta
1/2 pound of whole wheat pasta {I recommend using shells or actual macaroni.}

The Mixers
1/2 of a large onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic
drizzle of olive oil
2 tsp sweet whole grain mustard
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp chili powder
dash of green pepper sauce
1/4 cup sour cream
1/2 cup beer {I recommend a dark, malty beer like a brown ale or a stout.}
3 ounces spinach

The Cheese
1 cup of a strong cheddar, shredded
1 cup of goat cheese

The Crumble
4 ounces crackers {I use the Trader Joe’s multigrain ones that kind of look like Ritz.}
1 1/2 tbsp butter

First things first. Fire up the oven to 400°F/200°C and boil your kettle.

You only need half of a large squash so go ahead, cut it in half, and put the other half away. Scoop out the seeds then peel the half you are using and cut it into 1/2 inch cubes. Spread the cubed squash out on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil and salt. Give it a stir until all the squash is coated, and pop it in the oven to roast for 30 minutes.

In a stock pot on medium heat, let’s get your pasta on to cook. I usually knock a couple minutes off the cooking time because the pasta will keep cooking while the mac and cheese is baking later. Don’t forget to salt your water! When the pasta is finished, pour the pasta into a strainer to drain the water and set it to the side. Return the pot to the heat.

While the pasta is cooking, I use that opportunity to dice my onion and peel my garlic. Once the pot is back on the stove, drizzle a bit of olive oil in the pot then toss in your onions and press your garlic. Cook for 4-5 minutes until the onions are starting to soften.

About this time the squash will finish roasting. While the onions and garlic are cooking, take the squash out of the oven and transfer it to your food processor. Add the milk and then puree to make the roux.

Reduce the temperature on the oven to 350°F/180°C.

Add the squash roux to the onions and garlic in the stock pot then start adding the mixers. The mixers are there for flavor, so feel free to substitute if you don’t have a particular ingredient or if you’re feeling creative. Do be mindful though of the wet ingredient ratios—they’re kind of important. The last thing you want is a too dry or too soupy mac and cheese.

Once the mixers are in, let it simmer for a few minutes to give the flavors some time to settle in.

While it’s simmering away, grate your cheeses and make the crumble. For the crumble, I put my crackers in a ziploc bag and take the rolling pin to it. In a bowl, melt the butter then add the cracker crumbs to it. Using a fork press the crumbs into the butter until all of the butter is absorbed evenly.

Remove the pot from the heat. Remember the pasta? Go grab that and stir it in to the mix. While you’re at it, add the cheeses too. Keep stirring until the cheeses have melted and the pasta is evenly coated.

Pour the mixture into a baking dish and top it evenly with the crumble. Pop it in the oven and bake for 30 minutes. You’ll know it’s ready when the crumble is browning and the mac and cheese is bubbling. Take it out and let it cool for about 5 minutes to let it set, then dig in!

Beer and Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese from Kiwi and Peach