Roanna Martin

"make [food] simple and let things taste of what they are." {Curnonsky}


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Green and Gold

I needed a ray of sunshine tonight. Just a bit. It was dreary and drippy and my shoes got wet walking home from my rotation.

 Please don’t get me wrong- I was thankful for my raincoat, and my umbrella, and my warm home to dry off in. But my spirits needed an extra boost. In addition to exercise, nutrient-dense fruits and veggies are a great way to stave off the winter blues.

Every Wednesday night I gather together with a group of friends for dinner, and tonight I was asked to bring a vegetable side dish. I didn’t want to spend a long time cooking, and I was ready for something fresh and raw. 

I pulled a handful of carrots out of my mega-bag that I have been chowing down on the past few weeks.

I scoured the outsides well with a vegetable scrub brush. I don’t bother to peel my carrots- I buy organic carrots- because that way I get to keep a bit of the extra fiber and nutrients, and there isn’t as much waste.

Speaking of food waste, I just happened across this article about using carrot peels (byproducts of the ready-to-eat vegetable industry: aka baby carrots) to create an antioxidant high dietary fiber powder. Cool! But, I’d rather just buy whole carrots, and eat the entire thing, rather than buy pre-cut ready-to-eat baby carrots that create a lot of waste. That being said, if you want convenience food, baby carrots are still a MUCH better snack than a bag of chips!

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I haven’t costed it out, but I am nearly certain that it is cheaper per ounce to purchase whole organic carrots than pre-cut conventionally grown. And considering that I took me only 5 minutes to transform  the above pile into a full bowl of short, easy to munch on carrot sticks, this is a worthwhile way to pinch your pennies at the grocery store.
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To accompany my little Vitamin-A rich spears, I decided to make Green Surprise Dip. I first made this with my supervisor from Joshua Farm when we were giving a demonstration on fresh veggies to a group of moms at a local pre-school. 

It’s super easy.

I steamed and drained a handful of kale, and measured out plain yogurt, chickpeas, a bit of mayo, some garlic, onion, lemon juice, and  a of salt.

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Then I threw them in my handy-dandy food processor, and voila, I had a delicious dip.

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I modified the recipe slightly from the original. My onions and garlic were really strong (they’ve been stored for a while!), and I wanted to keep the concentrated green color so I actually reduced the amount of those three ingredients.

Here’s the recipe:

Green Surprise Dip

1 cup steamed kale, Swiss chard, or spinach

3/4 cup plain yogurt

1 cup cooked chickpeas

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1 clove garlic

1/3 cup onion, chopped

1 Tablespoon lemon juice, or to taste

1/4 teaspoon salt or to taste

The dip didn’t quite get RAVE reviews like an herb veggie dip that I’ve made before, but I really like this one. A bit more salt, and more experimentation with spices would perk it up a bit, but I was on a time crunch.

It only took 15 minutes from when I started cutting the carrots to when I had this dish assembled. But then I had to clean up- and that was another 12 minutes. With a few tunes playing and some dancing around my kitchen, it was a pleasure.

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Delicata Squash: A Template

Who wants to know what I ate for dinner tonight? Well, I didn’t really think anyone would… but Emily encouraged me to blog about this, so here goes:

For $2 at the Morgantown Farmers’ Market on Sunday, I picked up a wee little gem: a Delicata Squash.

Photo Courtesy of Serious Eats

They are typically about 5 or 6 inches long, and 2 or 3 inches in diameter, and make a perfect meal for two people.

I first discovered the beauty of cooking with these fall vegetables last year, at which point I called them: “My New Favorite Convenience Food” on my previous blog. 

Chop the squash in half lengthwise, and scoop out the seeds.

Place both halves cut side down in a container with a little bit of water. Then either microwave the squash for about 4 or five minutes, or bake for about 15 minutes.

Then, turn the squash over so you have little “canoes”. Fill with items such as cooked beans, tomato chunks, cooked rice, cooked ground beef, sauteed onions, and whatever spices you please. This is a great way to use leftover chili, or pieces of chicken, or anything that’s in your fridge, really! Top with a sprinkle of reduced fat cheese.

Return to the microwave for five minutes or until contents are thoroughly heated and cheese is melted.

For those of you who like measurements and ingredients, here is what went into mine tonight.

Combine in bowl:

1 cup cooked kidney beans

1/2 c shredded low-fat mozzarella cheese (reserving a small amount to sprinkle on top)

1 tsp chili powder

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Place mixture in partially cooked squash, and return to oven or microwave to finish cooking.

When you pull it out, top each half with 1/4 cup salsa.

 

 

When prepared this way, each squash half contains:

252 calories

6.4 g fat

34.8 g carbohydrates

10.2 g fiber

14.9 g protein

66.4% RDA of Vitamin A

(Nutrient Analysis: Recipes.Sparkpeople.com)

Winter squash is a more-than-excellent source of vitamin A, which is known to help promote and maintain healthy skin, teeth, connective tissues, and vision. So, rather than pay money to pop a pill, why not try some real food that’s super high in vitamins and minerals?


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Vanilla Sugar, Tempered Chocolate, and Apple Cake

The bakery.

A place to bake crusty hearty rolls, and craft decadent treats. Today I had the privilege of working with WVU’s pastry chef, and I fully enjoyed my time in the bakery.

All sorts of treats were being whipped together, and I got to help with a few of them.

After mixing together a batch of Mexican Wedding Cookies, I was flipping through a recipe book, and “vanilla sugar” was mentioned. I had heard of vanilla sugar before, but I had never made it. In fact, I don’t think I had ever touched a real vanilla bean before. They’re a slightly pricier gourmet item, but something that I may add to my christmas list this year- simply because they smell amazing, and I’ll admit that sometimes I’m a foodie. So, to my great enjoyment, I got to make vanilla sugar, by slicing open a vanilla bean, scraping out the inside and rubbing sugar over it with my hands to infuse the scent and flavor.

Then I scraped a slab of white chocolate to make shavings for topping off some banana cream pies. I also learned a bit about the process of tempering- another process I’ve never done. I did not actually temper chocolate today, but discussed the process with the pastry chef, and then did a bit of research tonight.  Tempering is simply heating and cooling the chocolate to specified temperatures to control the crystallization of the cocoa butter  to avoid a mottled appearance on the surface of the chocolate and ensure that it will snap rather than crumble when broken.

And apparently I wasn’t “pastried out” when I left the kitchen today, because I came home to my own kitchen and mixed up one of my very favorite fall cakes. I love moist, dense, hearty cakes, and this one fits the bill. Plus, all the whole wheat flour and apples make it a pretty nutritious dessert!

Apple Cake

adapted from Simply in Season Cookbook, Herald Press

16 servings

5 cups apples (unpeeled and chopped)

1 1/3 cups sugar

Combine and let stand while mixing other ingredients.

1/2 cup oil

2 eggs (slightly beaten)

2 teaspoons vanilla

Combine in a separate bowl.

1.5 cups whole wheat flour

1/2 cup flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon each ginger and cloves

1 teaspoon salt

Combine in a third bowl.

Stir flour mixture into apples alternately with egg mixture. Pour into a greased 9×13 inch baking pan. Bake in preheated oven at 350 degrees F, 50-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Caramel Drizzle

1/3 cup brown sugar

2 Tablespoons skim milk

1 1/2 teaspoons flour

While cake bakes, heat to boiling, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat.

3 Tablespoons powdered sugar

Mix in. Drizzle over hot cake.

 

And the final step to any recipe: savor and enjoy!

Nutrition Facts, analyzed by Spark Recipes:

232 calories, 7.8 g fat, 314 mg sodium, 41.1 g carb, 2.7 g fiber


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Salsa Making

I spent the labor day weekend with my family, and came home to West Virginia with about 3 dozen pints of salsa.

Delicious. Fresh. Summer in a jar.

My mom and one of my best friends and I spent about 4 hours picking, chopping, stirring, mixing, cooking and canning on Saturday.

Here are the ingredients for a tested recipe from the National Center for Home Food Preservation

  • 7 quarts peeled, cored, chopped paste tomatoes
  • 4 cups seeded, chopped long green chiles
  • 5 cups chopped onion
  • ½ cup seeded, finely chopped jalapeño peppers
  • 6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 cups bottled lemon or lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons ground cumin (optional)
  • 3 tablespoons oregano leaves (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro (optional)

We started by gathering the necessary produce- including picking peppers straight off the plant.

We cleaned the onions outside, on a wooden board placed right over the compost bin.

The next step was to chop everything. Be sure to wear plastic gloves when chopping hot peppers- capsaicin is a potent compound!

After removing the skins from the tomatoes by submerging them in boiling water for about twenty seconds and then dropping them into ice water, we removed the pulp and seeds with our fingers and cut the tomatoes into chunks.

Chopping peppers by hand keeps a slightly chunkier texture, although we used the food processor for onions to minimize the tear-inducing effects of this powerful vegetable.

For a bit of background on why cutting onions makes you cry, onions and other members of the allium family, are odorless until they are cut or bruised. Slicing open an onion causes an enzymatic reaction that releases a distinctive-smelling sulfur compound. Pyruvic acid is also formed, contributing to the pungent odor of an onion and irritates tear ducts.

Combine ingredients in a large pot, except cumin, oregano and cilantro, and heat, stirring frequently, until the mixture boils. Then reduce the heat to a simmer for 10 minutes. Add in the spices, and simmer for another 20 minutes. Pack into clean, hot jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Wipe, and put on canning lids, and process 15 minutes in a boiling water bath for altitudes less than 1000 ft.

For more detailed instructions on water bath canning, refer here.

Salsa is a great way to add flavor to many dishes- including omelets, rice, tacos, and baked potatoes.  Two tablespoons of this salsa is only about 9 calories, and 75 mg of sodium. Compare that to the 20 calories and 160 mg of sodium in 1 tablespoon of ketchup (or 40 calories and 320 mg sodium in 2 tablespoons if you eat that much), and you can see that salsa is a  great choice nutritionally.


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Lubia Polo

A group of friends was coming over for dinner, and I volunteered to make a “mystery main dish” (so named because I couldn’t decide what I wanted to make!)

I stumbled upon a pound of ground beef in the freezer from my dad/brother’s farm. I don’t often cook meat for myself, so I decided to make it to share. I also had a decent amount of frozen green beans from last summer, and I had just bought a bag of brown Jasmine rice from the middle eastern grocer down the street.
So, as I am wont to do, I just googled my ingredients: “ground beef green beans rice recipe”.
And I think I stumbled upon a future staple for a filling weeknight dinner. Not to mention that it’s a bit exotic.
Here’s to my first attempt at Persian cuisine.
Please meet:

Lubia Polo

Not the most visual appeal, but the flavor is exemplary. The group I was cooking for has quite varied palates, so I was pleased with the unanimous positive feedback.
The following is the recipe as I made it:
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1-2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • 1 tablespoon turmeric
  • 5 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • 2 cups green beans, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 3 cups uncooked brown jasmine rice, rinsed and drained
  • 3 tablespoons oil

 

      1. In a large pot over high heat, brown the ground beef and onion. Season with pepper flakes and curry powder. Stir in chicken broth and tomato sauce. Bring to a boil, and stir in green beans. Cook for 5 minutes for frozen beens or 15 minutes for fresh beans, until they are tender.
      2. Stir in rice, and cover pot. Reduce heat to medium, and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, or until much of the liquid is absorbed.
      3. Remove entire contents to another container, and return pot to the stove.
      4. Heat oil in the bottom of pot over medium heat.
      5. Dump rice mixture back into pot.
      6. Wrap a clean dish towel around the inside of the pot’s lid (the ends of the dish towel will be folded over the edges on top of the lid,) and put the lid on the pot.
      7. Cook for 1 hour on low, without uncovering or stirring.
      8. Remove lid and place a large plate on top of the pot, then carefully flip it over.
      9. The rice should hold the shape of pot with a nice crust on top called ‘tah digh.’

 

Suggested modifications for future attempt:

  • Double the amount of green beans.
  • Either use a non-stick pot, or skip the step of removing the rice mixture and returning to the pot with oil on the bottom. Mine semi-held its shape, but in an attempt to improve the nutritional profile of the recipe, I think skipping the extra oil would be just as good, not to mention save 2 extra dishes if you just serve it right out of the pot!