Monday, November 17, 2008

Thanksgiving Anytime

We had our own little mini Thanksgiving this weekend, and it was such a treat. The cool thing is, that it was so easy and healthy, I had to share it with you. I bought a boneless turkey breast roast at the grocery store. I had gone in looking for a bone-in turkey breast, but they didn't have any, just the full turkeys. We don't really like the dark meat, and that just seemed like a lot of work. I was a little bit nervous about the boneless one, but I shouldn't have been. The roast was simple, defrost (or not, if you have more roasting time) and bake at 325 degrees on a rack in the bottom of the oven. Et Voila, a perfect turkey breast, moist, fresh, lean and healthy.

We rounded out our meal with a trip to Trader Joe's, where the rest of the ingredients came effortlessly together. I wanted to keep it light, just to see if we really missed anything. Of course, since we just had a turkey breast, there was no stuffing, so it wasn't really Thanksgiving. We did, however have mashed potatoes, green beans, a spinach salad, and homemade cranberry sauce. I tried to keep each item true to it's roots, but update it just a tad. Here are the recipes, plenty for two with leftovers.

Creamy and Fluffy Mashed Potatoes with a little less guilt
3 large russet potatoes, peeled and sliced for boiling
1 cup 2% greek strained yogurt (recommended brand, FAGE at TJ's)
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons 2% milk
salt & fresh ground pepper to taste
Measure out the yogurt and leave on the counter to come to room temperature. Boil the potatoes until tender, drain and mash with the remaining ingredients.

Crisp-Tender Green Beans in a flash
1 package french green beans (pretrimmed is a bonus, look for them in the fridge section at TJ's)
Spray olive oil or cooking spray such as Pam
Salt, to taste
Line a baking sheet with foil. Spray with the olive oil and add the green beans in one layer. Sprinkle with salt, and mist with a light spray of oil. Bake with the turkey at 325 for about 10 minutes, or until crisp-tender.

Lower Sugar Cranberry Sauce
1 package (12 oz) fresh cranberries
zest & juice of 1 orange and 1 lemon
1 3-inch piece of vanilla bean, scraped
3/4 cup agave nectar (look in the baking section at TJ's)

Rinse the cranberries in a colander under cool water. Add to a medium saucepan. Zest and juice the lemon and orange into the pot. Add the vanilla bean seeds, and place the remaining pod in the pan with the fruit. Add the agave nectar (spritz your measuring cup for a second with cooking spray to make it easier to pour) and heat over medium heat until simmering. Simmer, uncovered, over medium-low heat for about 10-15 minutes, or until most of the cranberries have burst. Let stand at room temperature for a couple hours (while the turkey cooks) to thicken. Serve at room temperature, or chilled.

Pictures to come soon!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Finally free

Don't you just love Fridays? Seriously, I think it is my favorite day of the week. If only there was sleeping in involved, it would be perfect. The actual working part of work aside, it is great, you get to see all your work friends, everyone is in a good mood, and then it's like the last day of highschool at the end. Freedom!! You've been saving up your "want to do list" all week and it's finally time. But really, there is usually only time on Friday evening for a nice meal, potentially a drink, and maybe some dessert. But that's all you need. 'Cause it's Friday. You've got time to get to all that other stuff. So relax, enjoy, and savor it tonight. I know that I will.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


I used to participate in a CSA- which stands for Community Sponsored Agriculture. For about $120 every couple months we would get a share of the produce from a local farm. I love this idea for so many reasons. 1. The produce is organic. 2. You're supporting local agriculture. 3. By not purchasing from a traditional grocery store, you are helping to conserve the use of fossil fuels. I know that we tend to think about cutting down on fossil fuels by driving a hybrid or carpooling, but we often forget about the miles logged on the things we buy. As nice as it is to be able to get asparagus in November, the fact that it is even at the store means that it probably took some jet fuel and truck fuel to get here. My last bunch said "Product of Peru", so that definitely is not a good thing. As much as I liked my CSA membership, we just weren't using all of the things that they gave us. I am not a big fan of swiss chard or kale, and Chris wasn't interested in the bok choy. The fruit was fantastic and there was always zucchini! Even though I stopped my membership, I did find one store that stocked my farm's produce. Win win.

I hadn't been going to Jimbo's lately, even though I love their selection of organic produce. They also tell you where the items are from, and whether or not they are organic. The majority of things are, but there are a few things where organic doesn't matter as much. I filled my cart with so many wonderful things, broccoli, butternut squash, red cabbage, celery, green leaf lettuce, yellow delicious apples, and these beauties:

Have you ever seen a purple carrot? Or a red one, for that matter? I could not pass these up. Grown right here in California, no jet fuel added. I can't say that I am always perfect, sometimes you just have to feed that craving and give in to the out of season items if it's what you really want. However, sometimes you find something that you didn't even know exists which is better than the other thing altogether. I guess we just have to keep looking- and every little bit helps. Hope you find an unexpected treasure sometime soon!

More info on CSAs, Farmer's markets, etc.:

Monday, November 10, 2008

Rustic Apple Pie

I was rearranging my freezer the other day when I came across a frozen homemade pie dough. I knew it was there, I hadn't really forgotten about it. However, I could have sworn that I had two of them in there. I took it out and put it in the fridge to defrost, not quite sure what I wanted to do with it. Then it occurred to me that I had a lot of apples in the fridge.

As much as I love apples on their own, I hadn't made an apple pie, and figured it would be a nice treat. I really wanted a double crust pie, a la the cherry pie I made earlier this year, but I decided my one pie crust would have to make do. However, I followed a trick that I learned from the King Arthur Flour website in which you just fold the overlapping crust over on top of the pie. You can leave it like this, or fill it in with a crumble topping. I opted for crumble, but it would be great any way.The nice thing about an apple pie is that you really don't need a lot of sugar, because the fruit is pretty sweet on it's own. I only used 1/4 cup of light brown sugar.
The crumble topping isn't necessary, but it's yummy. I used a half stick of butter, 1/4 cup flour, and 2 tablespoons brown sugar. There is no need to be too technical with this, I used a pastry blender to cut it all together, but you can also just use your fingertips. Just cube the butter into small dice and squish all the ingredients together. Sprinkle on top right before you bake.

I thought this pie was great, and I used 5 apples. Three granny smith, 1 figi, and 1 golden delicious. I think the trick is to slice them quite thin, and try to overlap the slices as much as possible. For the filling, I also used lemon juice and zest, as well as my favorite new spice blend, Chinese 5 spice blend. Chris liked the layers of apples overlapping each other. The flavors were right on, not classic apple pie, but it was a great update.

One pie crust, store bought or homemade.
For the filling:
5 large apples, peeled, cored, and sliced. Any combination of granny smith and other less tart apples, try figi or yellow delicious.
1/4 cup brown sugar
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 & 1/2 teaspoons Chinese 5 spice blend
1 & 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
For the crumble topping:
1/2 stick butter, cut into small dice
1/4 cup flour
2 tablespoons brown sugar

Butter a 9 inch pie plate and assemble the pie. Brush the crust which overlaps with a mixture of 1 egg, beaten with a little cream. Sprinkle with coarse sugar, if desired. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes, until filling is bubbly.

Oh and look at who is still hanging around... I thought I had to throw these away when I wrote about them last week, but Chris just suggested changing the water again. It worked! They are still here!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Get Fresh

Remember those flowers that I couldn't pass up at the farmer's market? Well, I certainly got my money's worth! I think I am actually going to have to throw them away after work tonight, but they lasted a long time! They continued to look great almost two weeks after they were purchased. Makes me think that buying at the farmer's market was the way to go for freshness.
I also employed a couple tricks of my own, including a splash of bleach in the water, changed every 3 or 4 days, or when it starts to look cloudy. I only cut the stems once, after I changed the water the second time. The bleach inhibits growth of bacteria which prevent flowers from drinking. If they aren't drinking, they won't stay standing. I'll be sad to say goodbye this evening, but glad that I had their company for so long. Happy Thursday- we are almost to the weekend!