Life can get so busy sometimes, that its easy to just forget about goals set in the past or what I’ve accomplished. The other day I took a look at my “Life List” and realized that I could tick off at least five things – wow! (It had been probably a year since I’d seriously looked at the list.) I tend to just add things when I think of them, and then usually forget. It gave me a really good feeling, that I could cross these goals off my list. They were:
1. Climb in Italy (September 2009)
2. Climb Cathedral Peak in Tuolumne Meadows (July 2010 – not only did I climb it, but I LED the whole thing)
3. Figure out how to combine passion for outdoors with helping people (August 2009 – started working for Wilderness Youth Project)
4. and 5. Run a 50k trail race (I’ve done three in the last year, and also ticked off the next goal – run a 50k in under 6 hours!)
6. Backpack in San Rafael Wilderness (October 2010 – girls trip out to the Manzana Narrows)
While I’m not really one for New Year’s resolutions, I now believe strongly in the power of setting goals. Setting a very specific goal means that you then need to devise a plan on how you’ll reach that goal, and if you go so far as to set it in writing on a calendar, that really holds you accountable. While I haven’t always been successful (I dropped out of my first 50k attempt), the failure can provide additional motivation to accomplish it.
My 29th birthday is coming up in a few short days, so I decided to take on a month-long birthday challenge that will hopefully set me up for some longer-term habits to support my running and climbing goals for the year. While we eat healthy most of the time, I’d like to really ramp it up and see how my body responds. I’d also like to be more consistent about writing and certain aspects of my athletic training.
1. Eliminate meat and dairy (we’ll still eat the few eggs our chickens are laying), refined sugars and grains. Increase raw meals (green smoothies, salads, etc) and do 2 new raw recipes a week.
2. Write something every day (and post to Garden Eats at least once a week!)
3. Follow a strict training plan for the entire month, that includes strength training, yoga, and track workouts every week.
Because this is a food blog, I suppose I should include a recipe, right? This one is incredibly easy – and perfect for a cold, windy, rainy day like today. Over the weekend I finally tried a meal my vegan housemate had been raving about – sauteed walnuts and kale over brown rice – but today I didn’t have brown rice, so instead I put the kale and walnuts over a ready-made soup from Trader Joe’s. The soup isn’t vegan – so its a good thing my birthday challenge starts tomorrow! This would also work as a camping recipe (the original version over rice worked well this weekend – I used Trader Joe’s already cooked brown rice).
Tomato & Roasted Red Pepper Soup with Kale and Walnuts
Trader Joe’s ready-to-use soup of the same name (although there are probably other ones that would work just as well)
Handful of kale, chopped up
Small handful of walnuts
1-3 garlic cloves, chopped (optional)
Heat enough soup for one bowl. Saute the walnuts in olive oil until they begin to sizzle. Add in the kale and saute another 1-2 minutes, adding the garlic in at the last 30 seconds. Top the soup with the kale mixture, and enjoy!
I’ve been feeling re-inspired by our winter garden lately. Maybe it is because spring arrives early in Santa Barbara. Or because I’ve been planting seeds and watching them pop up, always amazed at the wonders of good soil and water. Whatever it is, I get a LOT of delight out of wandering my gardens every morning, watering and plucking out weeds. And daydreaming about what dishes I will make with its abundance…
I’ve noticed for awhile that I had beets that needed to be pulled. But I don’t like to pull them until just before I eat them, and since my favorite way to eat beets is to roast them, and that is a long-ish commitment (clean, roast ~1hr, peel off skins, slice), I’ve just been putting it off. But I finally went for it – and got 4 large Detroit reds and 2 Golden beets for my efforts, that translated into two nights worth of dinner.
I am a huge proponent of using the entire beet, from root to stem to leaves. The leaves do have an earthy flavor that would probably be a little deterring for people who never eat green leafy vegetables. But if you’ve grown an affinity for spinach or kale, then the step to beet greens isn’t much further. In my cooking, I freely substitute beet greens, chard, kale, and spinach for each other – whether it be quiche, soups, pasta sauce, scrambled eggs, or green smoothies. I try to stuff leafy greens into anything I can, and I can’t think of one instance where it didn’t work out (most of the time it goes un-noticed).
I’ve chopped up the stems before and sauteed them like celery or onions, but this time I decided to roast the stems. I had some fennel leftover from the gigantic bulb I harvested earlier in the week, and I also couldn’t resist pulling up a few carrots and roasting them too. I sauteed the beet greens in a bit of garlic and oil until they just wilted, then squeezed on some lemon and salt.
All of that work went into a Monday night dinner of salad with roasted beets and fennel, with a side of beet greens and crusty bread. But the second dinner came after a wet and cold bike ride home in the rain (I checked the weather beforehand and it said NOTHING about rain!), and I was craving hot soup. So I decided to experiment with making a roasted beet (and assorted vegetables) soup. From other pureed soups I’ve made, I was fairly sure that all I needed to do was saute an onion and some garlic, heat the roasted vegetables, add stock and puree. And I was happy with the result, although I think if the greens had been left out it would have been even silkier, and the color from the beets that much more vibrant. But I wasn’t going for aesthetics – I wanted warm and healthy. And that is exactly what I got! Somehow I managed to not take a single picture of this creation – but in truth it wasn’t all that pretty (kind of a muddy maroon color).
Roasted Beet and Vegetable soup
A collection of roasted vegetables – I used beets, fennel, carrots, and sauteed beet greens. But the fennel and carrots could easily be left out, and other vegetables added in.
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-3 cups vegetable stock
handful fresh herbs – I used oregano, thyme, and marjoram
Squeeze of lemon or orange
Saute onion over medium heat. Saute garlic for 1 minute, then add in the chopped roasted vegetables and beet greens. Heat, add in 1 cup stock. Turn off heat and use an immersion blender to smooth it out. Add more stock as necessary until it reaches desired consistency (I pureed longer than I thought I needed to and could tell it was that much less chunky). Reheat until warm. Top with either sour cream, or a bit of goat cheese. I broiled ciabatta slices with goat cheese spread on top!
As I mentioned a few weeks ago, we had lots of yellow squash coming down the line. It hasn’t been too overwhelming – but I could probably be picking them twice as often as I do! The squash get to ~4 inches, and if they aren’t picked they start to go rotten on the plant, starting from the end with the blossom. I can’t quite figure out the problem – the squash taste great, they’re just slightly smaller than what you’d see at a market. This afternoon I saw a few bees buzzing around the blossoms, and I got to witness pollination – the bee went to the male blossom first, and then made his way over to a female blossom. Amazing.
The magazine Cooking Light has been a favorite of mine in years past. Their website was the first I would go to in search of new recipes, and while I do still use them, it is now one of many that influences what I prepare. In the last few months I’ve been going through old issues, ripping out favorite recipes and articles, and compiling them into a binder (complete with sheet protectors. Organized, I know!). One of my favorite menus was from the July 2005 issue. I have made the Roasted Corn, Poblano and Cheddar Pizza many times (I may well feature it later this summer, since I’ve changed it a bit), and right next to it was a recipe for Summer Squash Chowder. Perfect for this time of year!
Its not too fussy on the prep, comes together quickly, and is a great way to use up an abundance of squash. The original recipe calls for the addition of milk at the end (which could easily be soymilk for those of you who can’t have milk), but I decided to step it up a little by infusing the milk with fresh herbs first – marjoram, basil, and oregano. This gave the soup really nice herbal undertones that rounded things out nicely. I’m planning on serving this soup for dinner tonight along with Stuffed Baked Potatoes, but fresh bread and salad would be great accompaniments as well.
Summer Squash Chowder, original recipe from Cooking Light
5 1/2 – 6 cups diced yellow squash (about 1 1/2 – 2 pounds)
1-2 cups fresh corn kernels (whatever 2 ears yields for you)
1 cup chopped yellow or red bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped onion
16 oz vegetable broth
1 3/4 cups milk
3/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp white or black pepper
handful of fresh herbs – basil, oregano, marjoram
Combine squash, corn, pepper, onion, and broth in a large pot; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes. Let it cool for a few minutes, and then either puree with a handheld immersion blender, or puree in batches in a regular blender.
While the squash is simmering, chop the herbs and combine them with the milk in a small saucepan. Heat over medium until the milk is hot, turn off heat, and continue to steep for 10 minutes. Strain the milk mixture into the pureed squash mixture; discard herbs. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cook over low heat until thoroughly heated, stirring occasionally. If you like, serve the soup garnished with fresh herbs and a small drizzle of olive oil. (Or put some olive oil on a plate, sprinkle with the herbs and some salt, and dip your bread in that!)
Filed under: Soups
The other week, I pulled a big handful of carrots from the garden. We try to plant carrots every few weeks so that we have a constant harvest throughout the year, and they are often mixed in with other vegetables (carrots grow well with just about anything). Carrot seeds require constant moisture to germinate, so when we get spells of dry hot weather it is almost impossible to keep the soil consistently moist, and they just won’t grow! But then we’ll get a good rain, and all of a sudden we get lots of carrot seedlings popping up, sometimes in unexpected places.
One of my favorite go-to recipe websites is 101 Cookbooks. Heidi Swanson posts a great collection of interesting vegetarian recipes using whatever is in season at the moment, and it is the simplicity (and deliciousness) of the results which keeps me coming back time and again. Her recipe for a carrot soup caught my interest, I happened to have all the ingredients on hand, and it was nearly lunchtime. The recipe calls for fresh lemon juice, and luckily a friend had just dropped off a pile of Meyer lemons from her tree (by the way, if you’ve never had a Meyer lemon – they are unlike any you’d had. Tangy and brightly flavored yet not bitterly sour, you could almost eat them straight!). After I had made the soup, I decided to add potatoes for a little extra chunk and thickness, which I thought made it slightly more filling and even better.
In the notes for the original recipe, Heidi mentions that an oregano pesto would make a good topping. After some Google searching, I found an oregano pesto recipe at Food&Wine (original found here). Fortunately, the herb garden is in full swing so I was able to harvest some fresh oregano, and I added some fresh marjoram and parmesan/romano cheese as well to round out the flavor.
1 1/4 lbs carrots
+/-8 fingerling potatoes (or 2 medium-sized potatoes)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 medium cloves garlic, minced
1 large yellow onion, chopped
3 cups+ vegetable stock or water
Juice of 1/2 a lemon (Meyer if possible)
fine grain sea salt (to taste)
Take the tops off the carrots and scrub them (I don’t usually peel mine unless they are really dirty looking). Cut the carrots and potatoes into 1-inch segments and set aside. Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy soup pot over medium heat. Add the garlic and onions and saute for a few minutes until the onions start to get translucent. Add the stock, carrots and potatoes and bring to a gentle boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes or until the carrots and potatoes are tender. Try not to overcook. Remove from heat and cool for a few minutes.
Puree with a hand blender, either completely smooth or leave it a little chunky, then stir in the lemon juice. Salt to taste until the flavor pops.
Finish with a drizzle of the oregano pesto (see recipe below). Serves about 4.
1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped oregano
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
2 tablespoons chopped marjoram
1 small garlic glove, minced
In a mini-food processor or using a hand blender, combine the olive oil with the herbs and garlic. Pulse to a coarse puree. Season with salt and parmesan cheese. Add more herbs if it looks really runny and you want to thicken it up. *Recipe makes more than you’ll need for the soup, and tastes great in sandwiches or as a salad dressing.