While structure is helpful for discipline, routine can often be deadly to creativity. I have been feeling that my cooking was getting a bit humdrum so I signed up for a local veggie box delivery. Perhaps one of the things I love about it most is what puts many off, you don't always get the same thing. True, it can be daunting if you have your set meals for the week, but there are far more advantages.
You are supporting local and organic food producers, the produce and other items are fresher than getting them in a store and you may end up trying foods you wouldn't normally buy.
There is also, in my opinion, a more important philosophical point to consider however. That is the idea that excess of choice is not a good thing. We have become so disconnected from what eating is all about and modern convenience means we assume that we should get tomatoes in December regardless of where they come from, how they are grown or how they taste. Eating seasonally is so much more satisfying in terms of flavor and effort and since the produce tastes so good because it is in its prime growing season, cooking can be less complicated than you might think.
In my box I got quite a variety. Some early tomatoes and lettuces, sweet potatoes, rutabagas, kale, pak choi, and I also ordered some meat and fish. The rutabagas and sweet potatoes will be wonderful roasted together, since the natural sweetness of the two vegetables will compliment each other nicely. Or, I can mash them for a healthier and tastier alternative to mash potatoes. Stay tuned for a post on using them in a hearty soup.
The pak choi and kale would both be great in my healthy ramen, or stir fried of course. Are you still feeling reticent, then join my Facebook Page and ask me directly for more cooking ideas for what's in your veggie box!
Delicious with fish or chicken or spooned over cooked veggies. Use a good quality mayo. I use Sir Kensington's, it's rich and creamy and full of flavor, without the acrid aftertaste cheaper mayos can have.
I like Equal Exchange cocoa powder and use whenever I need some chocolatey indulgence.
I really love pappardelle for this super simple dish. Don't skimp on the cheese!
Sage and apple work magically here to create a distinct and satisfying sausage flavor. I use these sausages to make vegetarian toad in the hole. I suggest making a large amount, cooking them all and then freezing so that you have your very own homemade sausage to go whenever you need it!
You don’t need yet another post on how great smoothies are. You wouldn’t be here otherwise would you? But there is always room for another recipe!
I prep my smoothies the night before and then add the banana in the morning, blend pour, into my jar and I am off to work with a halo of healthiness over my head.
Sometimes the best recipes come from ransacking cupboards and fridge. The forgotten ingredient is often your closest ally, and so it is with this dish that contains some left overs from Christmas - dried fruit and Marsala wine. The flavors are quite Sicilian. That tiny group of islands with one foot in Europe and one foot in Africa, is home to some truly exotic and exciting food.
A word on pans. This works best if you have a wide pan that is somewhat deep and preferably not non-stick. I like to use my Le Creuset dutch oven, but it has also worked well in a cast iron skillet. What ever you use, you need a lid. You can substitute the Marsala with medium sweet sherry, vermouth or wine.
- 1/4 cup of raw pine nuts
- 1 tablespoon of light olive oil (NOT extra virgin)
- 4 - 6 chicken thighs preferably with skin(depending on the size)
- A 4 oz package of pancetta
- 1 large garlic clove finely chopped
- 1/2 cup of Marsala wine
- 1 tablespoon of finely chopped rosemary
- 1 tablespoon of finely chopped sage
- 1/4 cup each of raisins and dried cranberries
- In a small NON-STICK frying pan on a low heat, dry roast the pine nuts.
- The nuts should be in a single layer in the pan. You will need to shake the pan often to ensure the nuts are colored all over.
- When they are a rich golden brown and start to release their earthy fragrance, remove from the heat and set aside.
- In your large pan with a lid, heat the oil on a medium high heat
- Brown the thighs, you may have to do this in batches, don't overcrowd the pan.
- Once browned remove them to a plate.
- Add the pancetta to the pan and reduce the heat to medium, you may have to add a little oil but be judicious, the pancetta will have its own fat that will render down.
- Let the pancetta cook until it starts to go brown.
- Add the garlic and cook briefly
- Now add the wine to de-glaze the pan. Use a wooden spoon to loosen any crusty bits, this where the magic flavor resides! Let the wine reduce so you don't have that nasty alcohol taste.
- Return the chicken to the pan.
- Add the herbs, fruit and salt and you can add a little hot water if you think the wine is drying up too quickly.
- Turn the heat low, cover.
- Cook for about 20 - 30 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through (not pink). Turn the pieces of chicken once at about the halfway mark.
- Check for seasoning.
- Scatter the pine nuts over the chicken.
- Serve with rice, pasta, potatoes, bread - anything to soak up the velvety juices - plus salad.
These two soups are so easy. I don't peel my butternut squash which makes it even easier. Since for both soups you purée them, you barely notice the skin. Immersion stick blenders are great for soups because you don't have to purée them in batches. The second soup is vegan and gluten free, it's a staple when I have large groups of people over because it feeds about six or eight people - even those with the most specific of diets!
Butternut, Tomato and Lentil Soup with Pesto
- Fill the empty can from the tomatoes twice over with water and add to the pot and cover with lid
- Bring to a boil then lower to a simmer
- Cook until the lentils are soft and the squash is tender - about 30 minutes or so
- Remove from the heat
- Add the pesto and salt
- Purée until smooth, take care as the soup will be hot
- Check for seasoning
- Eat with toasted ciabbatta or baguette, drizzled with olive oil
Thai Inspired Butternut and Tomato Bisque
- Hit the oil in a large pot with a lid
- Fry the shallots until they start to caramelize
- Add the garlic and spices and cook for one minute
- Add the curry paste and stir through
- Add the remaining ingredients except the coriander
- Cook until the squash is tender, about 20 minutes
- Purée and hot water if the soup is too thick
- Check for seasoning
- Garnish before serving with the coriander
- Eat with warm naan bread
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