Tag Archives: Fruit

It’s Clemen-time!

You know what I love about winter?  It’s not the snow or the cold (actually, I hate both of those things).  It’s not even the holidays.  Nope.  What I love most about winter is the clementines!

Look at this guy:

One bite…and I was in love.  It didn’t stand a chance.  The only problem?  (aside from the price $$$) I don’t have nearly enough to last the week!  I love clementines and we try to keep them on hand—they’re the perfect snack.  I bought these guys from the co-op, and they rock my world!  They are a million times more scrumptious than the “cutie” ones we usually buy from the grocery store.

I feel so lucky to have the opportunity to shop at our local co-op, The Good Food Store.  You can find practically anything there!  It kind of reminds me of whole foods, actually—it’s just smaller, filled with local produce, and the people are so much more friendly.  All good things!

I had a few items I wanted to pick up including romaine, herbs, beans, salsa and some cheese.  I’ve got bean taco salads and a pasta dish on the menu for this week, and I’m hoping that a little extra planning will really make dinner preparations seem a lot less tedious.

Since I was out and about, I figured I might as well make a quick stop at Goodwill.  Deals wait for no-one, you know! (haha!)

I want to find a tiny desk for our laptop, but had no luck today.  Instead, I did find an amazing, little serving dish for $3 that will be awesome for chutneys or salsas!

How cute is that?!

After I finished up at Goodwill, I stopped in at Michaels to get some knitting supplies.  I’ve always wanted to learn to knit and never really knew how to make that happen.  I thought about taking classes, but with my work schedule it’s not that easy to commit.  I don’t have a set schedule and it’s hard to get certain days off in during the week.  So, I decided I’d buy some needles and yarn and check out youtube.

It's not much...but it's a start.

Aside from knitting, I’m also doing a little “gardening”…I have green onions growing on top of my refrigerator!

I just threw some old roots in a jar…and wham!  I’ve got onions!

Does anyone know if I can grow other herbs this way?  I don’t think they get the greatest sunlight, but they really seem to be thriving!

Now, it’s Greek for dinner (we got some take out from a local restaurant we haven’t tried before), then some mind numbing television (Teen Mom)  before I shower and head to bed!

Happy Tuesday, everyone!!!

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Black Beans and Rice…Fancy Style!

Happy 2012!

Everybody make some stellar resolutions for the new year?  I did!  …I resolve to see Paris in the spring (or summer)!  …That’s a resolution, right?  I haven’t thought all that much about it yet, but I’m going to figure out how to make it happen!

My holiday weekend was spent working the early shift, which to be honest, does not agree with me!  I’m a complete night owl!  When I wake up at 4am (give or take a couple hours…), I’m worthless by the time I get home from work.  I don’t want to clean.  I don’t want to exercise.  I don’t want to cook.  All I want to do is sit on the couch and watch Lifetime movies.  Lame (and incredibly embarassing!), but true.  Sometimes I force myself to get things done, but I’ve got to say…it ain’t easy!

After work yesterday I had good intentions.  I stopped at the grocery store, Bon Appetit in hand, and filled my cart with veggies, organic chicken breasts, and beans.  I even bought a bottle of sparkling pink grape juice (Piyush doesn’t drink…and I had to be up early for work).  I planned on making an easy…but awesome New Years Eve dinner since neither Piyush nor I wanted to go out.  Well, that didn’t happen! Sometimes good intentions aren’t enough.  I needed motivation, but must have hit my yearly limit…because I found none!  …We ordered sushi instead, and I promised myself I’d definitely cook the next day. Piyush and I enjoyed our sushi dinner (kind of.  It wasn’t the best…) and then I went to bed at 8:30pm!  That never happens!  He woke me up at midnight to give me my New Years kiss, then he went back downstairs to watch golf, or something.  I had a full 8 hours of sleep, and it was wonderful!

Once work was over, I came home and started preparing for dinner.  This way I couldn’t decide to be lazy.  I poached the chicken breasts and made the apple salsa.  I was trying a new recipe I saw in January’s issue of Bon Appetit: Black Beans and Rice with Chicken and Apple Salsa.

As I was paging through the magazine, the recipe jumped out at me…and I knew I wanted to make it.  Well, I mostly wanted to eat it…but it had to be made to be eaten.  This recipe was super easy and really flavorful!  Like, really flavorful!  I think the apple salsa was my favorite part!

I made a few changes to the recipe, but they were pretty minor.  First, I don’t like rotisserie chicken.  Sure, it’s incredibly easy…and cheaper than organic chicken breasts, but there’s something about the flavor that doesn’t sit right with me.  I think they’re too salty.  Instead, I poached two chicken breasts in a pan with enough water to cover them.  I threw in a bay leaf and a few spices…and wham!  In addition to my super tender chicken, I also had homemade broth.  It didn’t have as much flavor as stock that simmers all day long with bones and herbs, but I’ll tell you one thing.  It was way better than canned or boxed broth that has ingredients listed that I don’t even know if they’re safe to consume.  Bought chicken broth usually has that “off” flavor, anyway…and if you get the organic unsalted stuff, it’s expensive!

A quick note on the organic thing, we don’t buy everything organic.  We’d be broke if we did.  Meat is one item I really try hard to purchase as either organic or straight from the farmer who raised it, though.  It doesn’t always happen, but I get sorta creeped out by a lot of the things I’ve read about hormones and slaughterhouses…and to be honest, I want to eat the meat for what it is…not for what chemicals it was injected with. 

Back to the recipe, I also cooked the rice (white rice, because it’s what we had on hand) in our rice cooker in some of that homemade chicken broth.  The recipe didn’t specify to rinse the beans, but I definitely did.  That bean goo creeps me out…and they’re doused in so much unnecessary sodium.  A quick rinse cured both those problems.

I’m so glad we have a lot of left overs and I can’t wait to gobble up that apple salsa again tomorrow! Wooo! Wooo!

The Recipe:

Black Beans and Rice with Chicken and Apple Salsa

Adapted from Bon Appetit (link to recipe here)

  • 1 cup chopped peeled Granny Smith apple
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro, divided
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped red onion, divided
  • 1 teaspoon (or more) fresh lime juice
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped green bell pepper
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 3/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 3 cups low-salt chicken broth
  • 2 15-ounce cans black beans, rinsed and drained
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 cups cooked brown or white rice
  • 1 2–3-pound rotisserie chicken, skin discarded and meat shredded
  • 4–6 lime wedges

Directions:

  • Combine apple, 1/4 cup cilantro, 2 tablespoons onion, and 1 teaspoon lime juice in a small bowl; toss to coat. Set apple salsa aside.
  • Combine remaining onion, bell pepper, and oil in a large skillet. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until completely softened, 6–7 minutes. Add garlic and next 3 ingredients; stir constantly for 2 minutes. Stir in broth and beans; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium; simmer briskly, mashing some of the beans with the back of a spoon and stirring often, until sauce is thickened, 8–10 minutes. Season with salt, pepper, and more lime juice, if desired.
  • Divide rice and beans among plates. Top with some chicken and apple salsa. Garnish with remaining 1/4 cup cilantro and lime wedges.

Winter Jammin’… Strawberry Lavander Jam

Making jam and jellies is something I really enjoy.  I’m not really sure why, but when I’m making jam or jellies I feel so relaxed and all the sudden I have all the patience in the world (which says a lot, usually I have the patience of a 3 year old).  I do most of my canning and preserving in the late spring through early fall, probably similar to most people.  But the other day I was thinking…why not winter?  Sure, I guess the logical and most obvious answer would be:  no fresh produce, but that wasn’t a good enough reason for me.  I mean, I froze tons of berries at their peak of freshness and if they’re good enough for smoothies and pies why wouldn’t they be good enough for jam?

Oh, let me tell you…they were!

Christmas is coming up and I thought a variety of homemade jams, jellies and preserves would make awesome gifts.  Give my family the gift of summer…in the middle of the winter, you know?  That beats unwrapping an Ipad anyday!!!

I  took approximately 4lbs of strawberries out of the freezer (this will yield around 5 cups of fruit/juice when thawed).  Then I got this brilliant idea…what if I added lavender to the jam?  I’m always looking for an opportunity to add lavender to everything and anything I possibly can.  Some would say I’m obsessive (I’m lookin’ at you, husband!).

Love--- in a jar

I googled a few recipes and found that I’m apparently not the only one who decided strawberries and lavender would make a perfect pair, as it’s been done many, many times.  Some of the recipes were more confusing—or time consuming— than I wanted, so I simply ground up 2 tablespoons of lavender buds (you can find these at co-ops and most specialty grocery stores.  I also grow my own.) and rubbed it into the sugar—making lavender sugar!  Then I followed the directions on the box of pectin I bought.  So easy! I don’t always use pectin when I make homemade jams, but this time I wanted to be certain it’d set up well in time for Christmas.

Soon enough, I had 12 beautiful jars of homemade jam!  The lavender flavor was a little overwhelming, so next time (and there will be a next time!) I think I’ll probably cut back the amount of buds to about 1 tbsp.  The aroma of the jam is incredible!  Strawberries and lavender were meant for one another!

And just in case you were wondering, no one would ever be able to tell I used frozen berries.  It definitely tastes like summer in a jar!

I can’t wait to tackle some of those frozen blueberries next…

Great Day to Pick Some Grapes!

The weather here in Minnesota has been really nice the past few days.  It’s been in the 80’s, and feels much more like summer than fall!  I have so much yard work to get finished before we leave for India and this weather has been perfect for it, but I haven’t done any!  Nope.  I haven’t picked up a rake or touched my shears.  I haven’t pulled out the tomato plants from the garden nor have I mulched anything.  Instead, I decided I wanted to buy some grapes and make jelly.  I never actually got around to making the jelly yet (are you surprised?!), but I did make nearly 30 cups of concord grape juice!

After searching online for concord grapes, I was surprised that I could find them right here in Rochester!  I ran a few errands and then plugged the address into my phone.  It was a little outside of town, but very easy to find.  The farm is called Firefly Berries (you can check out there website HERE).  I’ve never picked grapes before and didn’t have any idea what to do, how to tell if they were ripe, or how many I would need to make some jelly and juice.  The lady that helped me was very nice and answered all my questions.  Picking the grapes was kind of fun and it went really quickly.  I picked 17lbs of grapes, and at $1.00/lb, I thought it was a good deal!

I also bought a container of the juice they make there.  I thought Piyush would really like it.  I wasn’t sure exactly how much juice I would get from the grapes I had bought and wanted to make sure we could enjoy some fresh concord grape juice when I was done making the jelly.  I’m not a juice drinker really (probably why that juice diet never really stuck all that well), but concord grape juice is probably the only one I crave once in awhile.  I usually just want a taste.  Man!  The juice they made was awesome!  I can’t wait until next year when I have some time to put up a bunch of grape juice myself.

Once I got the grapes home I became a little terrified of all the bugs hanging out in that box with them.  I didn’t want any bugs or spiders (eeeekkk!) coming inside my house so I got a few bowls and set everything up on the trunk of the car.  I started pulling the grapes off  and sorting through them.  This is when I started wishing Piyush was home because I desperately needed someone to take care of all those bugs!  There were a lot more than I had expected, but I realize that I intruded on their habitat and they weren’t there just to annoy me, so I probably shouldn’t complain too much.  I don’t like to kill them and I don’t like to touch them, so I’m sure my neighbors were laughing at me dancing around in the garage with a stick in my hand trying to coax them away.

They were everywhere!

I survived, thankfully, and then left my bowls of beautiful grapes in the garage while I filled the sink up with water.

I figured that soaking them this way would clean them real good and also allow for any stems (and bugs!!!) to float to the top, where I could skim them off.  It worked well.

I tried using my juicer, but realized it would take forever. Seeds kept shooting back out of the top at me whenever I took the plunger out to put more grapes in.  It just wasn’t going to work.  So I pulled a big pan out of the cupboard and filled it with about 3lbs of grapes and 1 1/2 cups of water.  I smashed the grapes and cooked everything until it boiled.  Once it boiled, I reduced the heat and cooked it for roughly 10 more minutes.  I then dumped everything into a sieve to separate out the juice from the skin, pulp and seeds.  Once the juice was separated I poured it into large jars that went into the fridge.  Making juice this way also took quite awhile, but I enjoyed it.  We ended up with approximately 30 cups of juice!  That’s enough to make about 48 cups of jelly!!!  I don’t think we need that much.  I put some in a pitcher to drink (strained it through a cheesecloth and added some water until I was satisfied with the taste).

I also made a grape cake this morning when I got home from the gym (it’s cooling now, so hopefully I’ll have a post up about it soon!)  For the rest of the juice, I’m going to give some to a couple friends and then freeze the rest for when the “jelly makin’ bug” bites me in the middle of winter…and I know it will!

Oh!  One other thing I learned today about concord grape juice:  Do not give it to a 1 1/2 year old—no matter how much you dilute it (and I diluted it a LOT!)—when you are babysitting.  They will get a major sugar high and act like a crazy animal! And definitely do not give it to them in a sippy cup, even if the sippy cup says “leak proof”.  It will most definitely leak, and grape juice is really hard to clean up (especially on white cupboards!!!)!

Piyush and I were watching my niece, Madelyn, while my sister and brother in law went out for dinner and to a movie.  She’s so cute and I love spending the day with her, but Piyush was definitely not ready to keep up with all her energy.

Madelyn loves picking cherry tomatoes off my decrepit plants. She picked a bowl full last week too.

It was hard to get a photo when they were both looking at me...this is the best I could do.

By the time my sister and Brian got back from their movie (at around 10pm), Madelyn was still going strong…and Piyush was ready to pass out!  It was kind of funny.  But lesson learned.  No more grape juice for Madelyn!