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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Gallo Pinto: Costa Rican Rice and Beans

My husband and I celebrated our honeymoon in Costa Rica almost seven years ago. I saw this as a minor moral victory because we take most of our vacations in German-speaking countries, which, although beautiful, isn't really known for its tropical feel or warm beaches. I am from California, and beaches are in my blood. So when we settled on Costa Rica for our honeymoon, I did a little dance inside.

One of the hotels we stayed at on the west coast served the national dish, Gallo Pinto, every morning for breakfast with a side of scrambled eggs and delicious tropical fruit. I bought a small cookbook just for the Gallo Pinto recipe and was not disappointed. I have made adjustments over the years and make this whenever I get the chance. It's inexpensive to make, but delicious and filling. One note: it would seem that it wouldn't matter about how old the rice is, but "day-old rice" really does taste better in this dish than fresh rice.

Gallo Pinto

3 slices of bacon, cut into matchsticks
1 Tbl olive oil
1/4 cup finely chopped bell pepper
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1 can black beans (or ~2 cups freshly cooked black beans)
2-3 cups day-old rice
1 Tbl Worcestershire sauce, plus more to taste
1 Tbl hot sauce
2 Tbl chopped cilantro

Fry the bacon in a large pan until crispy. Remove the bacon and set aside.

Add enough olive oil to the bacon grease to make about two tablespoons of oil. Sauté the green pepper and onion until the onion starts to soften. Add the can of black beans, including the liquid, and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the rice, Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3-5 minutes, until the mixture comes together and is warmed through. Add cilantro and bacon. Salt and pepper to taste.

Serve warm alone or with scrambled eggs.

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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Our Weekly Menu: August 22-28, 2010

I'm a little slow posting our weekly menu this week, and I'll be lucky to post a recipe later on in the week--because my husband and I both work for a college, and tomorrow is freshman move-in, we're just a little bit busy. It's an exciting and fun time on campus, but it means lots and lots of meetings and last-minute organizing. We're lucky to eat at the same dinner table during the first couple of weeks of school, but we're doing the best we can this week! Before we had kids, we probably would have ordered a pizza or two and just eaten off of that for the week, but now that my daughter is four years old, I feel guilty doing this (even if she would love it). As it is, we're doing lots of leftovers to get us through healthily.

Here's what we're eating this week:

Sunday, August 22
Thai Peanut Chicken

Monday, August 23
Dinner Party
Homemade pizza for Sophie and babysitter
(Sauce made from tomatoes from CSA)

Tuesday, August 24
Leftover Arroz al Horno
Patatas Bravas
(Fingerling potatoes, tomatoes for sauce from CSA)

Wednesday, August 25
Nachos w/ leftover shredded beef
(Beef from local farm)

Thursday, August 26
Gallo Pinto (Costa Rican Rice and Beans)

Friday, August 27
Homemade Pizza
(Sauce made from tomatoes from CSA)

Saturday, August 28
Rogan Josh
Indian Spicy Rice
Green Beans
(Jalapeños from CSA, lamb and green beans from local farms)

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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Warm Chickpeas and Chorizo

Because I lived in Spain for a year after college as an au pair, I have a soft spot in my heart (and stomach) for Spanish food. It's flavorful, fresh, and often inexpensive. The other night I made a tortilla española (a Spanish omelet), and because of its rusticity and simplicity, I like to pair it with a flavorful but simple side. Normally, I like to make a gazpacho to go with it, but this time I was low on tomatoes, so made this dish. It comes together in about 10-15 minutes and tastes great at room temperature. You can even make it ahead and keep it in the fridge, but make sure to warm it up a little to get those oils flowing again!

Spanish chorizo is a cured, hard sausage. I buy it at a local liquor store that happens to carry a lot of imported foods. If you can't find it, I'm sure you could improvise with another hard, strongly flavored sausage. (But don't use the uncooked Mexican version of chorizo!)

Warm Chickpeas and Chorizo
Serves 4 as a small side dish

1 Tbl olive oil
1 small onion, minced
1 can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp paprika (Spanish if you have it)
1/2 cup Spanish chorizo, halved lengthwise and sliced
Salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbl roughly chopped parsley

Heat the oil in a skillet. Add the onions and sauté until softened. Add the chickpeas, garlic and paprika and sauté, stirring occasionally, for about five minutes. Add the chorizo and sauté for another five minute, stirring occasionally. Taste and add salt and pepper to season. Add chopped parsley and stir. Serve warm.

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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Our Weekly Menu: August 15-21, 2010

This week's menu has already changed because we've made plans to go out twice and because of soccer practice. I'm going to have to start paying attention to our calendar when planning meals again!

I highly recommend the sausages from Bavaria Sausage in Madison. You can order them online (which isn't very local unless you're in Wisconsin, but hey, it's more local than ordering from Germany!) My in-laws brought down five pounds of these bratwursts last time they visited, and we're making them last!

The tortilla (which means "omelet" in Spain) is an easy, cheap meal that can be made ahead. I actually prefer this room temperature, so it's a great meal when you're busy.

What are you cooking this week?

Sunday, August 15
Nürnberg bratwurst
from Bavaria Sausage in Madison, WI
Stovetop Roasted Basil Fingerling Potatoes
Caprese Salad
(Potatoes, basil, and tomatoes from CSA)

Monday, August 16
Tortilla Española
Warm Chickpeas and Chorizo
(Eggs and potatoes from CSA)

Tuesday, August 17
(Homemade pizza sauce from CSA veggies, local onions)

Wednesday, August 18
Cookout at friends' house

Thursday, August 19
Mexican Rice
(Beef from local farm)

Friday, August 20
Eat out at Restaurant

Saturday, August 21
Peanut Chicken

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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The World's Best Fettuccine Alfredo alla Romana

My husband makes the best fettuccine alfredo. I never order this dish in a restaurant because it always comes with that gloopy creamy mess that's supposed to pass for alfredo sauce, but I actually beg him to make his version (which is adapted from The New York Times Cookbook). I think this also holds a place in my heart because this is the first dish my husband cooked for me for our first Valentines Day. Now you can all say it together....awwww!

But really, this is a great version of the dish. The prosciutto adds a nice saltiness, and if you can get your hands on it, a good parmesan is worth the extra money. We've used plain ol' frozen peas from the grocery store in the past, but we had some frozen peas from a spring CSA share earlier in the season that really popped in your mouth. Next year, I'm buying extra and freezing them for the winter!

Fettuccine Alfredo alla Romana
Adapted from The New York Times Cookbook

This is not a lowfat recipe, but compared to other recipes that I've seen, it's the lower fat version!

1 lb fettuccine
1/4 lb butter, cut into 8 parts
3 cloves of garlic, minced
Freshly ground pepper to taste (We like lots of pepper in ours.)
1 cup half-and-half
1/4 lb grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup freshly cooked or frozen peas (no need to thaw)
1/2 cup finely shredded prosciutto

Cook the noodles in boiling salted water until al dente. You don't want to over cook the noodles as they will cook more and absorb the sauce later. Drain the noodles and place in a dry pan.

Gently heat the noodles. Toss them gently while adding the butter and grinding the pepper over them. Add the garlic and cook for a couple of minutes.

Add the half-and-half and allow to heat thoroughly, tossing once or twice, until most of the half-and-half has been absorbed.

Add the cheese, peas and prosciutto. Heat, still tossing gently, for 2 to 3 minutes, until the noodles are evenly coated with the melted cheese. Serve immediately.

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Sunday, August 8, 2010

Our Weekly Menu: August 8-14, 2010

I think it's universally known that when you plan your meals out and then go shopping with a list based on that plan, you save time and money. I often loosely plan out the week's meals, but lately, I've been more strict about when we'll eat which meal because local fresh produce just doesn't last as long as grocery store produce. If I'm not careful, I go crazy at the farmer's market, and then half of the food goes to waste because I don't use it fast enough. I'll be posting our weekly meal plan here, partly so you can see what we do with our produce/meat, but also to keep me accountable! Whenever possible, I'll link to the recipe and come back to make notes on how we stuck to the menu.

This week's menu is a little strange since my husband will be out of town and I'd like to use up what's in the fridge (and also because I asked for my four-year-old daughter's input this week!).

Sunday, August 8
Fettuccine Alfredo
Salad with baby romaine, bell pepper, tomato and mozzarella
(Peas, bell pepper and tomato from CSA/farmer's market)

Monday, August 9
School Picnic Dinner
Leftover Green Potato Salad
Homemade Pickles
(Potatoes and cucumbers from CSA/farmer's market)

Tuesday, August 10
Scrambled Eggs
Beets w/ chive cream
(Eggs and beets from CSA/farmer's market; Bacon from local farm)

Wednesday, August 11
Pasta with Roasted Tomatoes
(Tomatoes from CSA/farmer's market)

Thursday, August 12
Rice with Tomate Frito and Fried Egg
(Eggs from CSA)

Friday, August 13
(Tomato sauce made from tomatoes from CSA)

Saturday, August 14
Pork Chops
Stovetop Roasted Dill Fingerling Potatoes
(Potatoes and dill from CSA/farmer's market; Pork chops from local farm)

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Friday, August 6, 2010

Turning a New Leaf

It's been a while since I've posted here. I've not forgotten this little blog, nor have I completely lost the desire to write and share about food, but little things like, oh, having a baby and living life have gotten in the way. (Yes, I had my baby back in May--a little Mother's Day gift! His name is Alex, and he's adorable.) I realized this week that I also lost focus too. This blog started out as a way to document my food life in France as well as how and what I was learning to cook. When I returned to the United States, that purpose disappeared.

I would like to come back to this place (if you'll have me!) again, but with a different focus in mind. I'm still working through this, but since returning from France, we have moved more and more toward local and organic foods whenever possible. (For an article I wrote for Fake Food Free as a guest post about this cultural move back to the States, go here.) Surprisingly, my little town in Kentucky is alive with local farmers who sell anything from veggies to honey to beef to lamb, at least during the summer. There's also an organic co-op about 45 minutes away that supports local farmers. The local Kroger has expanded its organic section, even if it's not very local, and we just found out that a butcher shop that focuses on natural meat is opening up nearby. We've been shopping more and more at these places, and I'd like to share my journey here.

Carl, the farmer in charge of our CSA shares six months
out of the year, from Rolling Fork Farm

We're just a normal family (now of four!) who is trying to eat deliberately. Does that mean that I'm giving up my occasional Coke? No. It means that I'll cut back a little, but also keep an eye on all of that other high fructose corn syrup in our foods (and try to sneak Mexican Coke--made with sugar-- whenever possible!) Does it mean that we won't buy imported foods? No. It means that whenever we can, we'll buy locally or organically, but we love our cultural foods too much to cut out the imports completely. What I'd like to show here is that a normal family can cook and eat responsibly without breaking the bank...and, oh, enjoy their food as well!**

**Just a couple of days ago we ran into the realities of supporting local farming. We received an email from our CSA farm (a certified organic farm) apologizing for the low levels of produce we're going to be receiving until the fall crop comes in because of very hot, very wet weather here in central Kentucky. We won't be receiving as much as we're used to, but I feel like this type of problem is even more reason to support local farming. It's also interesting because it makes me think more about what the "farms" that supply chain grocery stores have to do to make their produce grow in such adverse conditions. I'd rather cut back or repeat veggies than eat whatever it is that's put on the produce or in the ground to make that stuff grow!

And Carl, if you are reading this, we appreciate all you do to bring us fresh, healthy veggies every week!

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Monday, August 2, 2010

Excuse the mess...this blog is under construction!

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