Easy veggie recipe #1: Quick Garlic Butter Green Beans

In my effort to make vegetables more approachable, the theme of these recipes is going to be simply, easy to remember, without the need for much measuring. This is as easy as it gets, in my opinion, while still being amazingly tasty. Also, very easy to customize and add on to to create a different flavor, or a "fancier" dish.

Quick Garlic Butter Green Beans

A handful of green beans per person, I usually make this for two, so two handfuls, I also prefer haricot verts over american green beans (About 1/2 lb)
1 spoonful of butter
A couple rounds of the pan of olive oil (About 1 tablespoon)
1 spoonful of minced garlic (About 1 tablespoon)
Salt and pepper to taste

Place a saute pan over medium to medium high heat. Add the butter and oil. Heat until rippling. Reduce heat to medium, add the garlic and the green beans. Stir to coat. Saute openly for 3-4 minutes, then cover. Let cook another 2 minutes or so, stir and check for doneness. I like my vegetables very crisp-tender, so I'm usually done at this point, or another minute or two. But, you can cover for another two minutes, then check again for softer green beans. Or if you are using thicker ones. After the first time, you'll be a better judge of how long you need to cook them.

Sometimes I openly saute without covering, and let them get a little blackened. Other times, when using thicker green beans, I steam them for a couple minutes, blanch them to retain their bright color, then add to some garlic sauteeing in butter just to reheat and serve.

Sometimes I cook some chopped bacon first, then take out the bacon, add the garlic and green beans, and serve with the bacon over the top. Nuts are a lovely addition, as are herbs. Bacon and hazelnuts would be delicious. Pepitas would be fantastic. We've done pearl onions with them. I'm doing bacon, caramelized shallots, and pepitas with them for Thanksgiving. Whatever you want!

For a fancy presentation of simple green beans, try cooking the green beans in garlic butter until very crisp tender, and setting aside. Cook bacon until cooked through but not crisp. Wrap 4-5 green beans in a slice of bacon, secure with a toothpick, and bake for about 10 minutes to crisp up the bacon, and finish off the green beans. Take out the toothpick, and serve! Looks amazing, but is suuuuper easy.

On a side note, I'm a very precise and logical person. Not measuring things for recipes I'm sharing is totally out of my comfort zone. But, when I cook my simple veggie side dishes, I never measure, so I'm not sure why I feel the need to do so for the recipes I share.

I hope you enjoy. Although, how could you not... I mean, come on, garlic and butter!? You can throw that on anything...


Veggie recipes on hold

I underestimated my free time this week. I've been working 9 hour days then doing 5 hours of moving. I haven't had any time to cook! Maybe tonight? No promises. Hoping to be unpacking next week, though!


A week of vegetables for those who don't know they LOVE vegetables (yet!)

I'm a huge vegetable fan. Huge. I don't think I can express to you how much I love a perfectly steamed crown of broccoli with a little lemon juice and some sea salt. Or how much I swoon over a giant salad of mixed greens topped with broccoli, grated carrot and apple, cucumber, seeds, and craisins. Or how often I crave crisp-tender steamed green beans, blanched, and quickly sauteed in a touch of garlic butter. Honestly, anyone who eats with me often gets annoyed at how regularly during a meal I proclaim "I LOVE (insert veggie that I just swallowed here)!" In case you were wondering, it's usually around ten times. My mom thinks I love them so much because as a toddler, I'd sit in my high chair and "help" her make vegetable soup. I always enjoyed the kitchen, and apparently vegetables, too. Today I realized that's not the case for everyone. My friend, Elyse, (of Elyse Kufeldt Photography, who takes strikingly gorgeous photos--she did our engagement&wedding&newlywed shots!) wrote a blog post the other day about her and her husband's attempt to eat more vegetables this month. She inspired me to share some easy to prepare, and easier to love, vegetable recipes. So I've decided to do a week of them! Or... however long I feel like sharing! Since we're moving, I might not be too awesome at keeping up, but I'll do my best.

Let's start off with easy ways I've found to eat more produce:

Keep them in the house: Every week, you should do your grocery shopping. About twice/week (depending on how much produce you eat--for us it's our CSA box+Costco+a grocery store run) you should do your produce shopping. Make a list of what you normally purchase, put it on the fridge, and when you run out of something, immediately mark it down (instead of waiting until you are getting ready to go to the store, and trying to remember what it is you stock up with). Buy seasonally for the best flavor and freshness! Honestly, about 2/3 of your fridge should be fresh fruit and vegetables. The same goes for your diet, so it's only logical.

Be prepared!: Figure out what it is you like to snack on and do the prep work now. For example, if you like vegetables and hummus, as soon as you get back from the store, cut celery, carrots, and cucumber into sticks, and pop them in the fridge. Make individual servings of fruits/veggies in baggies or tupperware for easy grabbing. That way, when your blood sugar is low, and it's more tempting to just reach your hand in a bag of chips, you can just as easily reach your hand in a bag of grape tomatoes.

Utilize the freezer: In some cases, frozen vegetables can be just as great as fresh. I like to keep 3-4 packages of frozen vegetable blends in the freezer. If you forgot to do your produce shopping, a Trader Joe's bag of broccoli, cauliflower, and green beans in a light herbed sauce, can complete your meal. Also, frozen vegetables work great for adding into larger dishes such as stir fry and pasta. (Tangent: Also, I like to have frozen "back ups". Buy two packages of deli meat, and freeze one. So mid-week, if you run out, instead of going all the way to the store for just that, you can take one out of the freezer. Also, if I'm baking muffins, pancakes, breads, anything that can be frozen, I like to make extra, and freeze individual servings for quick grabs.)

Eat colorfully: You're a lot less likely to crave carrots if you had carrots for lunch and dinner the past three nights, so it only makes sense to add variety. Try to eat a rainbow of fruits and vegetables, to surprise your palate (this is also nutritionally better for you, as well). Don't be afraid to try new things. If you don't like the way you prepared something the first time you try it, don't give up, just try a different way next time. If you don't like raw mushrooms, that doesn't mean you won't looove sauteed mushrooms! (Not saying that's a really healthy recipe--but it's a start!)

Community Supported Agriculture: Eat local! Ideally get a membership where you can pick your produce once a week--not even I do this, though. I would love to, but these days we don't have the time. I plan on making this a high priority when I have children, though. A much easier method: pick up a box of produce at a local community location, go to your local farmer's market, or have a box dropped off at your house once a week or every other week. We use Full Circle Farm from my hometown of Carnation.

Juice!: Buy a juicer. Just do it. Don't hesitate. It's worth every cent. You can throw anything you might not know what to do with in that thing (think beets, kale, chard, grapefruit), pop in a carrot, an apple, and some pineapple, and you will love it. I guarantee it. I have so many amazing juice recipes. I would advise about 2 servings of fruit/vegetables through juice. You still want to eat whole fruits and vegetables for the fiber, though. You can also try smoothies if you're too lazy to get a juicer (but you should get one)! Really, we use it at least twice a day. We buy organic apples and carrots in bulk, then use whatever fruit and vegetables that we don't know what to do with, have excess of, or didn't meal plan for. My mouth is watering. Freshly made juice will have you boycotting any and all packaged juices.

MEAL PLAN: This is the most important point in my opinion. Whenever I hear people complain about wasting food, spending too much on groceries, not eating enough vegetables, not having anything for dinner, etc, it's usually because they haven't taken the care to meal plan. They go to the store, grab what looks good, and then mid-way through the week have a fridge full of things that don't go together, and have to grab fast food for dinner. Every Sunday, I like to sit down and meal plan. We have a white board we use that has breakfast, lunch, dinner, and another blank spot under each week day.
I plan dinners first. First, I check to see what's coming in our CSA box. Then, I see what kind of meat we have frozen, like some ground turkey, or what's in our pantry, like some lentils, and plan around that (turkey meatloaf muffins one day, vegetable lentil soup the next). I also think of what sounds yummy I haven't had in a while, what recipes I've read in blogs that week, and ask my husband what he's craving. I also take into account how busy we are and plan slow cooker or easy meals on days we won't be around until dinner time. That usually fills in all seven meals for us. Sometimes, we leave one open for leftovers, or just a free night for me to eat weird dinners like yogurt and warm pita bread (it's sooo good).
I plan lunches based on what dinners will have leftovers, then add in easy things to have on hand like deli meat sandwiches, soup, or pita with falafel (sometimes we make a big batch of vegetable filled soup at the beginning of the week to have for in between meals/lunches).
I do breakfast last, based on our schedules. Most mornings I'm up and out the door before the husband is awake, so I like grabbing a whole grain muffin filled with grated fruit and vegetables, some pumpkin-zucchini bread, or almond butter multi-grain toast and an apple. While on weekends, I'm up early and free to make a full meal like quiche filled with broccoli, onion, mushroom and bell pepper for Mr. Husband so he can be prepared for a full night of work. Our go-to breakfast: vegetable filled omelets with multigrain toast and yogurt.
Then I add the prep work. That's what the blank spot is for. If we're doing turkey vegetable meatloaf muffins on Tuesday, on Monday I write: take turkey out of freezer / chop vegetables. You get the idea. Anything you have to do the day before, like thawing frozen things, you write here. Anything you can do to help yourself out the next day, like chopping vegetables or preparing sauces, you write there, as well. Then, whoever in your household is around, can check to see what needs to be done for the next day's meals.

That said, look forward to some delicious vegetable recipes! And have fun. Honestly, cooking and eating nutritious meals is, like most anything, much more fun when you are adequately prepared! :) I think you will be surprised at how easy and quick it is to cook a fresh, nutritious meal if you take the time to prepare--in some cases, just as quick as running to grab take out!


Slow Cooker Pot Roast

I'm not the biggest fan of red meat. My favorite meal as a child (I kid you not) was filet mignon, baked potato, a big salad, and a dinner roll. I requested it every birthday. I looooved steak--especially my mom or my grandpa's filet mignon. An 8 year old asking for a filet mignon over chicken nuggets is weird, right? When I was a teenager I gave up red meat (and attempted vegetarianism for a while, which led to passing out, IVs, and a nutritionist--that's another story). I only began eating red meat again about two years ago. So last Spring when my parents wanted to split a side of beef with my husband and I from my hometown of Carnation, I agreed. Since then, I've been trying all kinds of new cuts, and new recipes. Like cube steak--didn't even know it existed. Anyway, to get to the point, this means we have about 6 roasts sitting out in my parent's freezer. A few weeks ago my mom and dad were raving about the pot roast she made, so this week, we decided to make one, too! This is a throw it all in the slow cooker recipe, not a from scratch recipe :) (Weird for me, I know. But it turned out good! And you could totally substitute from scratch ingredients--and I will try that next time to lessen the sodium...and other junk that's in those types of things...)

Mom's Slow Cooker Melt-in-Your-Mouth Pot Roast

For the pot roast:
1 onion, quartered (we used a Spanish onion)
2 carrots, in thirds
2-3 potatoes, quartered
5 1/2 pounds pot roast
1 can condensed cream of mushroom soup
1 packet onion soup mix
1 1/4 cups water
1 tablespoon beef Better than Bouillion
1/2 cup red wine
1/4 cup worcestshire sauce

For the gravy:
2 tablespoons corn starch
1/4 cup cold water

Begin by throwing the carrots, potatoes, and onion pieces in the bottom of the crock pot. Trim the fat off the pot roast, and lay it on top of the vegetables.

In a small bowl, combine the soup, soup mix, water, bouillion, wine, and worcestshire sauce. Pour it over the pot roast. Cover and cook on low for about 6 hours or until the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees.

Switch to warm. Remove two cups of the roast's cooking liquid and place in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, then slow down to a simmer. Meanwhile, in a prep bowl mix the cornstarch with the cold water. Whisk into the gravy, return to a simmer, and cook until reaches desired consistency.

Serve roast with potato and carrot, and some freshly steamed vegetables as well.

Or you could mash up the potatoes, like we did, with a little butter, buttermilk, parmesan, garlic, salt and pepper :)


Matzo Ball Soup

Besides those two days of 70 degree plus weather we had this week, it's been cold, windy, and bleak. To fight off some of the gray, tonight I'm making Matzo Ball Soup. :)

The first time I had matzo ball soup, my boss made it for me. I was sick, but she really needed me to nanny for a few hours. When I got to work, she had made me yummy matzo ball soup. I had some, it was amazing, I took it home, and ate it for the next 2 days. I felt better; it's true--it cures everything ;)

Matzo Ball Soup with Chicken and Vegetables
Serves 2 as main course, or 4 with a salad on the side

1 tablespoon butter
1 carrot, 1/2 inch dice
Half an onion, 1/2 inch dice
1 hearty stalk of celery (2 if it's thin), 1/2 inch dice
1/4 cup white wine
4 cups Chicken Stock
1/2 cup shredded chicken
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons oil
2 tablespoons cold water
1/2 cup matzo meal
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

In a medium sauce pan over medium high heat, saute the onions, carrots, and celery in the butter until soft and just starting to brown -- about 5 minutes. Deglaze the pan with the wine; let the wine cook off completely -- about 2 minutes. Add the stock and the chicken. Bring to a boil and let simmer.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl mix together the eggs, oil, water, matzo meal, salt, and pepper. Mix well, then stick in the fridge for about 20 minutes while your soup base simmers.

With wet hands, pinch of ping pong size globs of matzo ball mix, form into a ball, and drop into the soup base. Continue until all matzo ball mix has been used. Cover and let simmer for about 25 minutes, or until matzo balls have almost doubled in size, and are all poking out of the top of the soup.

Serve :)