Monday, October 29, 2012

Fast Food and Quick Fixes: Apple, Pear and Carrot Salad

Apple, Pear and Carrot Salad 

Apples and Pears--the Ultimate Fast Food Treat

Apples and pears are practically Washington State's trademark, and this year's apple crop is a big one.  The problem is that with such a big harvest, experienced orchard workers are in short supply and farmers are scrambling to find help according to this article in the Seattle Times.  And this NPR story says that the labor shortage couldn't come at a worse time because Washington apples are worth more right now because crops in other states like New York and Michigan suffered from bad weather.   Most seasonal farmworkers aren't documented in this state, and farmers often say it's hard to hire enough American workers willing to work that hard.  Immigration reform is a sticky issue, think what would happen if suddenly all those workers were gone tomorrow.

Apple harvesting isn't easy.  Workers climb tall ladders and carry 40 pound bags of apples for eight hours a day. Some workers can earn $250 a day at $25 an hour.  Maybe Michigan and New York could send us some of their farmworkers.

Love apples, who doesn't?   

I'm fond of new and old varieties, but I have my favorites.
Snow White Apples at Nash's Farm perfect for Halloween

I used some little Seckel pears from Grouse Moutain farm for this salad.  You can't eat just one.  They make the perfect dessert, raw or baked in apple cider.

If you don't have those you can use any kind of pears you happen to have on hand for this quick salad.

Last year we were overwhelmed with so many pears from our friends.

Big or little--you can find a range of sizes at the farmers' market

He's feeling a little devilish with all this apple gazing.  The smells are so much more prominent for dogs. I'm always amazed when someone says: "My dog doesn't eat people food."   Really?  That's all my Cooking Assistant would eat if he got the chance.   

I found these stunning apples at the market last winter, but I didn't catch the name.  Best guess is it's something that includes the word "pink."

Apple Pear and Carrot Salad 
(Serves 2 to 4)
Pick your favorite apple and pears to make this salad.  I favor Fuji apples and Bosc pears.

1 cup grated carrots
1 large sweet-tart apple, diced
1 Bosc pear or 4 Seckel pears, diced 
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1 teaspoon orange zest
2 tablespoons dried tart cherries
6 ounces lemon yogurt--dairy or soy
1/4 cup chopped walnuts

Combine the carrots, apple, and pear with fresh orange juice.  Mix in the tart cherries and yogurt.
Top with walnuts.

Sometimes you just have to dig in.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Quinoa and Red Pepper Fritters

Fall has officially arrived and I'm in the mood to cook a lot more.   I want more comfort foods, and I know somebody who's happy to be on his little rug in the kitchen more often.

 My Cooking Assistant will return in a few weeks.  He's been spending too much time looking for discarded apples and catching up on naps.

He thinks he's king of the sofa.

Quinoa fritters is one of my favorite go-to recipes, especially when I'm craving something with texture.  I've made them before, here, and I adapted the original recipe from The South American Table, one of my favorite inspiring cookbooks. The original recipe listed cheese, but I dropped that and now this recipe changes every time I make it.  The only thing I haven't figured out is how to make these fritters vegan without adding soy.  I don't think I could get the right texture with tapioca flour or potato starch, so if anyone has any ideas about how to get them to hang together that let me know.

Peppers will soon be out of season, so stock up now.  River Farm dehydrates their peppers and seals them with a food sealer.  They sell them at the market through the winter.  I packages lasts a long time.  Sweet peppers can be diced, placed in plastic bags, inside glass jars and frozen.  Glass is less permeable to air and will delay freezer burn for a lot longer. 

Like tomatoes, peppers will turn red if they already have a bit of red on them when you bring them inside.  We lost a lot of peppers to earwigs this summer:(   I had no idea what the little holes in the peppers were, so I took them to the market where Liz from River Farm said they were earwigs, apparently one of the pests that loves peppers.  We saved a few but I'll have to find something to deter the earwigs next year.

Another thing I love about fall is garlic.  I used to get these fantastic garlic braids from Rent's Due Ranch, but they've gone from the market, so I've gathered a number of garlic bulbs, but the price has shot up so much that I'm much more frugal with it these days.  

What's the deal with garlic?  If it's so ridiculously easy to grow, what's with the high price? I know people don't usually talk about that but seriously I got it for $6 a pound in Oregon and here it's $12 to $14 a pound, no one sells it for less than $10 a pound anymore.

We get eggs from River Farm and farmer Jerry said they're quite yellow because the chickens wander all over, picking up grubs and other insects.  Even my assistant is impressed.

Here's the recipe:

Quinoa and Red Pepper Fritters
(Makes 9 or 10 fritters)

1 tablespoon olive or canola oil
1/4 cup minced onion
1 red pepper diced
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
3 cloves garlic, press
1 1/2 cups quinoa
1 cup toasted breadcrumbs
1/2 cup toasted walnuts
1/4 cup chopped kalamata olives
Freshly ground pepper
2 eggs, beaten
Oil (canola, safflower or olive oil)

Heat a heavy skillet over medium heat.  Add oil, onion and peppers.  Stir and cook until vegetables soften.  Add garlic and cook for a few more minutes.

Combine quinoa, breadcrumbs, walnuts, kalamata olives, and black pepper in a large bowl.  Blend in eggs, adding more quinoa or bread crumbs if mixture doesn't seem thick enough to hold together.

Pour enough oil in a heavy skillet to coat the bottom of the pan.  Heat skillet over medium heat.  Scoop about 1/4 cup quinoa and place in frying pan.  Flatten and cook for a few minutes or until lightly browned.  Flip and cook remaining side.  Serve with salsa.

I generally favor salsa for a topping but black bean chili runs a close second.  I hope you enjoy these fritters, I know someone who gave them four paws up!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Peanut Butter-Pumpkin Dog Biscuits

A Guest Post from Finn the Cooking Assistant (aka the dog picker)

We are late posting this week due to harvesting the last of our summer garden, dehydrating apples and pears, and of course baking. I love the rain and change of weather because it means more baking.  I figured we'd make carrot cookies from the recipe posted last week, but something better came along.

Pumpkins.  For these biscuits you can use just about any kind of winter squash.  You could even use the Jack O'lantern pumpkins, but they aren't usually considered good for eating.

Neither are the decorative ones like these with the raised bumps.  But who doesn't want something cool for this time of year?

Spaghetti squash also probably wouldn't work.  But get one of those, too, because those are just plain good eating.

Most of the other squash will work.  The Lady pokes them with a fork and slides them in the oven for about 45 minutes.  Some people cut the squash in half, but the skin is so tough it's hard to cut into many varieties of winter squash.

Our biscuit inspiration came from Trader Joe's.  They have the best dog biscuits and when the pumpkin biscuits came out, I was turning back flips. Sure we could keep buying those biscuits, but homemade trumps everything if you can get the flavors right.

The Lady surfed the net and found this recipe that called for canned pumpkin.  She modified it, since fresh pumpkin seemed appropriate for the season, and of course we used River Farm eggs and Nash's flour.  And she added more peanut butter, and I think it's obvious why we need more of that.  With homemade you have to kick up the flavor. 

The thing you need to remember is the dough must be thick enough to roll out.  If the dough is too sticky, it needs more flour.  More flour, but not too much because you will need even more when you roll the dough out and too much will make the cookies crumble.

Sugar pie pumpkins are the best for this recipe.

We use eggs from River Farm where the chickens lead a good life, but you can use any eggs, and if you want to make these treats vegan, you can use a half-cup of flax seed egg replacer.

Peanut Butter-Pumpkin Dog Biscuits
(Makes 30 to 60 biscuits, depending on size)

2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 eggs
1 cup cooked pumpkin
1/4 cup peanut butter

Preheat oven to 325F.  

Blend flour and cinnamon together.   In a blender combine eggs, pumpkin and peanut butter.  Blend until smooth.  Stir into the flour, adding enough flour for a stiff dough.  Refrigerate for 1 hour.

Flour a cutting board and pat dough out.  Roll dough to 1/4-inch thick.  Cut with any kind of cookie cutters.  Place on a parchment lined sheet.

Bake for 40 minutes.  Turn off oven and allow biscuits to crisp. 

Carrot cookies of a different sort.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

American Grown Goes Vegan--Chocolate Cherry Cookies

A Guest Post from Finn the Cooking Assistant (aka the dog picker)

I've been pawing through the recipes in this book by Michelle Obama.  I was hoping for something good before the book has to be returned to the library andwhen the Lady mentioned carrot cookies, she had my attention.    

These cookies contain my favorite ingredients--

I constantly encounter people who are shocked that I love vegetables.  (I love Kleenexes too, but the Management insists those aren't food.)  Of course I eat my carrots, who doesn't love these orange wonders?

What's up Doc?

Lately we've had 10 pound bags of organic carrots in the refriegerator.  I love carrots and I've learned to be pushy about them.  The squeeky wheel gets the grease in life. These carrots are now commonly referred to as "Finn's carrots."  I push my way forward and stare into the refrigerator.  Who would refuse a cute dog?

This carrot cookie recipe must be tweaked to make it truly dog-friendly.   First, take out the chocolate chips.  Then cut back on the sugar.  I think my next entry will be a further refining of this for canines.
I'm already imagining canine cookie swaps for the coming holiday season.

A dog can dream. . .     I hope you enjoy these cookies as much as I did. (My sister and I got a few made without chocolate chips.)

A note from the chef:
These cookies originally listed macadamia nuts, eggs and white chocolate.  The expense ruled out macadamia nuts.  I wanted to see if I could also eliminate eggs, so I a half a cup of mashed banana--about one of these little bananas.   And white chocolate contains milk and I wanted a dairy-free cookie.  Also, I switched the proportion of cherries to nuts because of the cost and I don't want to use all my dehydrated cherries just yet.  You could probably also take these to a nongluten level by substituting rice and tapioca flour.  Next week maybe we'll have a canine version.

Chocolate Cherry Carrot Cookies
(Makes about 24 cookies)

1 3/4 to 2 cups unbleached or whole wheat flour 
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup earth balance (or butter) 
1 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup mashed bananas (or 2 large eggs, beaten)
1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
1/2 cup dried cherries
1/2 cup chocolate chips (or 2 ounces white chocolate, chopped)
1 cup grated carrots

1. Preheat oven to 350F.

2. Sift flour and baking powder.  In another large bowl, cream together butter, brown sugar and vanilla.

3. Stir in bananas.  Then add the flour mixture and mix until well-blended.  Stir in the carrots last.  The batter should be very stiff.  If it isn't add a little more flour.

4. Drop by teaspoonful on a parchment lined baking sheet leaving enough room in between cookies so they can spread as they bake.

5. Bake 12 to 14 minutes.  Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before removing from baking sheet.  Once they cool, store in a covered container.  

These cookies can be frozen, but I bet they won't last that long!

This is heaven!

Every dog should be so lucky!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Roasted Red Pepper Quinoa with Sweet Potatoes

Easy Seasonal Meals

I love fall--especially when sunny days fade from summer and pave the way.  My favorite time is when crisp celery and the first squash of fall appear. ( BTW--The celery I got from Nash's farm last week was outstanding! ) But with summer fading, who doesn't want to get the best of the season before the season shifts?  The last melons, eggplants, and red peppers--every year, I can't bear to see them go. 

Peppers are high on my must-have list.  I've heard that you can freeze the fire-roasted peppers from River Farm to make them last longer.  Sadly, my food budget doesn't extend to preserving all my favorite in-season fruits and vegetables. And my  freezer is already filled with berries, peaches and cherries, so I feel compelled to load up now with fire-roasted peppers. 

Tom makes  Chile Rellenos with the peppers. He's made them every fall for years too, and sure they're good, but I'm not a big cheese fan and I wanted a meat- and dairy-free healthy one-dish quinoa dinner. Plus it's World Farm Animals Day and what better way to celebrate than with an animal-free dish?

One dish dinners are my specialty. I'm good at them and I have a sneaking feeling it's because I'm a lazy cook.   It's okay to be lazy.  Really--my Cooking Assistant lives by that philosophy.

People tend to look at lazy as a negative trait, but living with hound dogs who are always referred to as lazy, I see the positive side of this word.  Why not take short cuts and favor easy, recipes for lower budgets rather than the fussy, high-end, chef recipes?  And I'm always wondering what would happen if I skipped this step or left that step out.  

Sometimes my experiments don't quite turn out. And that's where  lemon, kalamata olives or good balsamic vinegar comes in. Tweak till the end, if you have to.

This month, I put together some of my quick meal tips for Marlene's Sound Outlook.  Check it out, if you want to hurry dinner along and get to the fun stuff in life.  When I'm in a hurry I use as few dishes as possible.  That's where the one pot meal comes in. 

One dish --well actually two since I sauteed the shallot and garlic, but if you still want to cut time . . . 

This week, I announced that we will eat light dinners from now on.  I'll just say the concept didn't go over well with everyone in the house.

My Cooking Assistant may be going on strike sometime soon.

How a dish is born

I was at Whole Foods looking for quinoa and a store worker showed me this rainbow quinoa.  It looks like a good product, but I've got to say I'm a sucker for this type of thing, I couldn't resist buying it. That's one reason I rarely go to Whole Foods.  But the good news is plain quinoa will do. Rainbow quinoa would probably be better suited in a salad where you can see the different colors.  The colors got lost in this dish and with so much flavor in it, I couldn't tell if it really tasted any different than regular quinoa.  

You could also use any kind of beans, except black beans since they turn everything black.  I keep some canned organic beans on hand just for times like this. 

I had shallots and garlic from the market I found a sweet potato in my pantry.  You could use a regular potato and carrots if you want. 

Here's the recipe:

Roasted Red Pepper Quinoa with Sweet Potatoes and Kidney Beans
(Serves 4 to 6)

1 small sweet potato, diced
3/4 cup water
15-ounce can tomato sauce
1 cup quinoa, rinsed 
3 or 4 cloves garlic, peeled
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 shallot, peeled and diced
15-ounce can kidney beans, drained
2 to 4 tablespoons salsa
1 large roasted red pepper, seeded and cut into small pieces

1. Place sweet potato, water, and tomato sauce in a medium saucepan Bring to a boil, then add quinoa.  With a garlic press, press one clove garlic into the water, cover, reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.

2. While quinoa cooks, slice remaining garlic.  Heat a small skillet.  Add oil, garlic and shallot.  Stir and cook until caramelized.

3. When quinoa has absorbed all the liquid, add shallots and garlic, kidney beans and salsa.  Stir.  Top each serving with roasted red peppers.

Enjoy this meal with a green salad.  

And don't forget who gets to do the "prewash."