Veggie Tales … Conquering New Culinary Frontiers

Yesterday was my organic Christmas morning, (that now comes bi-monthy!)  I recently signed up to have a box of fresh, organic fruits & veggies delivered to my house, all from local farms. (The company is called Farm Fresh To You, in case you’re interested.)

The Bounty | The Fairly Good Mother
The Bounty | The Fairly Good Mother

I guess I forgot to specify that I don’t like sweet potatoes & I only wanted to try the lacinto kale,  not the curly kind.  Oh well.  The cool thing about this service is that it forces me out of my comfort zone & into new culinary territory.

I actually promised a friend of mine that I would give kale a chance, since I’ve only ever thought of kale as a garnish.   My friend is a really cool pescatarian, by the way, and actually has the life that many people envy!  She and her husband both work from home, so “home” can be anywhere & her home happens to be an Airstream trailer.  Several years ago they sold everything, bought an airstream & went on the road with their dog, Curtis.  They’ve got a blog where you can follow them along on their adventures as they tour the country in their custom Airstream.

Anyway, back to my veggie tales … I have always turned up my nose at kale, but promised to give it a try & even though it was the curly kind of kale, I still went ahead and, (per my Pescatarian pal’s suggestion,) made this salad from Oh She Glows, with a few minor substitutions.  I used golden raisins instead of goji berries, yellow tear drop tomatoes, added some yellow pepper & used pepitas instead of the hemp seeds.  As far as the Tahini-Lemon dressing goes it was amazing – so creamy & delicious, (if yours is too thick, just add more water,) but I omitted the nutritional yeast (mainly because I didn’t feel like buying a huge jug of that for $15 when I only needing a smidge,) and it didn’t seem to make a difference in either the consistency or the taste.  Perhaps the nutritional yeast is just for extra nutrients.  I don’t know, but this salad is a meal in and of itself.

Kale Salad
Kale Salad

Next up, the sweet potatoes.  I have always hated sweet potatoes ever since I was a kid & my aunt would try to make them appealing to us kids at Thanksgiving by putting marshmallows on top of them.  What to do with those?  Well, I found a scrumptious recipe for a Gingered Sweet Potato & Carrot soup from Women’s Health Magazine, (<—that link there has a ton of sweet potato recipes!)  I want to make the soup again immediately.  It was so yummy & super easy to whip together!

Gingered Sweet Potato & Carrot Soup | The Fairly Good Mother

Finally, I made a healthy Turkey Meatloaf with Sauteed Sherry Mushrooms on top.  That’s my own recipe that I am constantly tinkering with but here’s a gander at what it entails:

Turkey Meatloaf with Sauteed Sherry Mushrooms

1 lb ground turkey meat (white) *Sometimes I only use 3/4 lb & throw in some grass-fed ground beef for additional flavor
1 medium brown onion (chopped)
2 cloves garlic (pressed)
1 egg (or 2 egg whites)
half a small can of tomato sauce (reserve the other for the topping)
1 cup of breadcrumbs (panko or italian)
couple dashes of Wortsteshire sauce
1 1/2 tsp of dijon mustard
dash of nutmeg
dash of white pepper
dash of garlic powder
Loaf Topping:
2 strips of bacon (optional)
2 tbsp of brown sugar
rest of the can of tomato sauce

Mushroom Topping:
10-12 white button mushrooms, cleaned & sliced
1-2 large shallots
1 tbs unsalted butter
1 swirl of olive oil
1/4 cup sherry or red wine

Mix together loaf ingredients (use your hands, be sure to scrub them good afterward.) Form into a loaf shape & put into a greased loaf pan (if you don’t have a loaf pan, then shape into a loaf & put on a cookie sheet covered with foil.)  *If it seems too dry, add a little more tomato sauce; likewise, if it seems too wet, add some more bread crumbs.  Mix the brown sugar & the tomato sauce together and spread on top, then place bacon on top.  Bake for an hour at 375.  Drain & let sit for 5 minutes before slicing into it.

About 15 minutes before the meatloaf is done cooking, melt the butter & heat the oil in a saute pan on medium heat.  Add shallots & mushrooms.  Cook until they are nice and then add the sherry & lower heat until liquid it cooks off.

Turkey Meatloaf with Sauteed Sherried Mushrooms | The Fairly Good Mother
Turkey Meatloaf with Sauteed Sherried Mushrooms | The Fairly Good Mother

The Husband loved this meal … Well, of course he did, it was “light & healthy” with pretty much no dairy, (both The Husband & I are lactose intolerant, but take dairy pills to indulge.)  And then tonight he gets leftovers, (that kale salad is good for up to 3 days in the fridge apparently.)  Bon Appetite mon ami!  (and yes, that’s about all the french I know aside from a few cuss words.)

Butternut Squash Risotto

I recently signed up for this service where they will deliver a box of fresh, organic produce directly from local farms to your doorstep. I was leery of doing this because I’m a planner & you don’t know what you’re going to get until you open the box, but there was a special offer on Groupon, so I figured what the hell. The box comes every other Wednesday, so on those weeks, I can only meal plan for Monday & Tuesday until I see what I’m working with produce-wise.

This past Wednesday, I opened the door and shrieked like a child on Christmas morning. “It’s here! It’s here!” The Boy was thrilled by my enthusiasm & we dragged the box inside & opened it up, exclaiming with excitement at each item we pulled out.

Carrots, Meyer Lemons, Fiji Apples, Spinach … Butternut Squash!! It was very exciting, let me tell you … ok, that makes me sound like a housewife whose life is not very eventful, getting all excited over produce. Or maybe it just makes me sound like an enthusiastic cook. In any case, it was a great opportunity to talk about each fruit or vegetable with The Boy.

I have concocted a really delicious recipe for Butternut Squash Risotto. Allow me to share it with you. But before I do, let me give you a few insights about Risotto. It’s a dish that requires attention. You can’t just walk away from it, it needs to be stirred consistently.  It’s a fun dish to make with a friend / lover / spouse, so you can take turns stirring the risotto.  Using the correct heat is also important ~ if you cook with the heat too high, the grains won’t cook evenly & using too low heat will render you a sticky, gluey risotto.

I usually make this on Thanksgiving, but this year I was on my own in the kitchen with a house full of boys who were busy watching football, so I decided to skip it … Lucky for me, my first farm fresh delivery included 2 perfect butternut squash so I got to make this last night.

butternut squash risotto

serves 4-6
(a lovely side dish, but filling enough for a main dish as well)

1 butternut squash (2 lbs) Peeled, seeded & cubed into 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch cubes (about 6 cups)
1/4 tsp nutmeg
smidgen of cinnamon
2 tbsps olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
6 cups chicken stock (you can use vegetable stock instead if you prefer)
6 tbsps unsalted butter
1/2 cup minced shallots (2 large)
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice (10 oz)
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 tsp saffron threads
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Place the squash in a bowl and toss with the olive oil, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, 1/2 teaspoon of pepper, the nutmeg and just a dash of cinnamon.  Toss well to coat all the butternut squash cubes.  Roast for 25-30 minutes, tossing half way through cooking time.  Be careful not to overcook the squash, otherwise it will turn to mush.  You want it fork tender.

While the squash cooks, heat the chicken stock in a saucepan, leave on low heat to simmer.

In a heavy-bottom pot or a dutch oven, melt the butter and saute the shallots on medium-low heat for about 10 minutes, until the shallots become translucent but not browned.  Add the rice and stir to coat the grains with the butter / shallot mixture.  Add the wine and cook for about 2 minutes or until the wine is mostly absorbed.  Add 2 ladles of stock to the rice, plus the saffron, 1 teaspoon salt & 1/2 teaspoon pepper.  Stir and simmer until the stock is absorbed (about 5-10 minutes.)  Continue to add the stock – 2 ladles at a time – stirring every few minutes.  Each time, cook until the mixture seems a little dry and then add more stock.  Continue until the rice is cooked through, but still al dente – about 30 minutes total.  You may not use all the stock, don’t fret!  Taste frequently to gauge the doneness of the risotto.  Off the heat, add the roasted squash cubes & the Parmesan cheese.  Mix well & dash with a tiny smidgen of nutmeg.  Serve & enjoy!