Tag Archives: cooking

City girls visit a Farm

20140912_170346I don’t even like to camp, much less dig up dirt with my fingernails and root up a carrot or potato, but I had a rare opportunity to visit a local farm.  It was awesome!  My daughter’s class had a field trip to Miller Farms in Platteville, and it was a great experience.  Sure, it was a crisp, cold 30-degree day in early September, but we managed.  The kids couldn’t feel their fingers and toes by lunch time, but they managed to still pack a bag or two, three or four of fresh, organic produce to take home.   Miller Farms has a fun play area for kids, and places to take pictures, and burn off steam.  If the weather would have been nicer, the kids might have played harder too!

20140912_120716Since the field trip, we are enjoying the yummy eats so much, I am considering going in on a farm share or visiting a farmer’s market weekly.  The tomatoes taste fresh and so darn good that you can just bite into them.  The fresh sweet corn is edible without cooking.  In fact, kids were removing the husk and eating the corn on the tractor, as we went from field to field, picking fresh produce right off the vine, husk, or digging them up from the dirt.  The potatoes were great, and the carrots are sweet and perfect.  We got peppers and onions, and enjoyed green beans.  With all this great produce, plus the squash and zucchini from my neighbor’s garden, we are eating very well in our house.  Menu planning for tomorrow: DONE!  Carrots as snacks, mashed potatoes, and corn, with a pasta dinner.  Tonight, I made a quinoa salad with spinach, black beans, garlic, and the tomatoes and fresh peppers we picked.  YUM!  I made samosa puffs with the potatoes, added20140912_102635 peas and wrapped them in croissant dough – baked up and yummy.  Last night, we enjoyed vegetable stir fry with the green beans, squash and zucchini,  buttered corn on the cob, and peeled carrots.

If you know of a good organic farm share, let us know your thoughts in the comments.  I think I am really liking the idea of making fresh, yummy things at least a few times a week.

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Easy Vegetable Pulao (Rice) or Biryani Dish

Rice Dish ready to eat- in a serving bowl

Pulao or Biryani are terms for an Indian rice dish.  In Punjab, Biryani is prepared differently than where my parents are from: Gujarat, where we call it Pulao.  All in all, rice dishes are central to Indian diets and any variations are fine.  I did not bake mine but one optional variation is to bake it after it cooks on the stove top.  The other option is to cook it in a skillet with no pre-cooking of rice or veggies.  Any variation is fine.

The one we made today was stove top and cooked separately before mixing.  Honestly, it turned out very good so I wanted to share the recipe here, and add in some variations to try as well.  Let me know how it goes by leaving a comment and definitely suggest alternatives if you try something different.

The starting point for my recipe today was a good recipe I found at this website: http://www.archanaskitchen.com/indian-recipes/rice/118-hyderabadi-vegetable-biriyani

Again, it was only a starting point because I tend to do my own thing and I don’t add a lot of the ingredients discussed above.  Ingredients:  Basmati Rice (1 cup), ginger (hubby hates it so I put very little finely cut and sauteed), Onion (I use very little b/c I do not like them but the flavor is priceless), Garlic (2 cloves), Parsley or Cilantro (for garnish) Carrots, Peas & green beans (I use a bag of frozen veggies), 1 potato (thinly sliced and diced), 5 small cauliflower florets, Spinach – fresh leafy (about 10-15 leaves), fresh Tomatoes (1-2), Olive Oil (that’s right folks, I use olive oil not ghee), Clove (about 2-3), Cinnamon sticks (1 large or 2 smaller sticks), turmeric (pinch), Mustard Seed (about 10 or so), red cayenne paper (depends on how spicy you like it- I put a teaspoon), Garam Masala (1 tsp- small), salt & pepper to taste.  OPTIONAL VARIATION:  You can use a pre-mixed Biryani Spice Mix from the Indian store instead of combining all the separate spices/ingredients above.  MORE VARIATIONS: You can add in green chili paste, “imlee” paste (For a darker color), and/or fresh green chiles.  We do not like it too spicy so we keep ours mild.

First, go ahead and wash and rinse 1 cup of the Basmati rice and boil it for about 4 minutes in olive oil and salt.  Keep it crunchy.  OPTIONAL VARIATION:  You can cook the basmati rice in veggie broth to give your Pulao or Biryani some flavor but not necessary if you have all the spices above.  Set the semi-cooked rice aside and off the heat to prevent overcooking.

Now, chop all veggies you’d like in your vegetarian Pulao or Biryani (except the Spinach – do not boil this yet), and boil them to where they are not soft or cooked but al dente (so to speak).

All is mixed and ready to simmer

Third, go ahead and start your skillet or large enough stove top pan with a tablespoon of olive oil/corn oil etc… while on medium to low heat, add in onions, garlic cloves (minced or crushed or however you like it), with tomato paste, or tomatoes (I used 2 fresh tomatoes- chopped), cinnamon sticks, mustard seeds, turmeric, and garam masala.  Try to brown the onions slightly and then throw in the semi-cooked veggies first with warm/boiling water; let it simmer with the spice mix for 2 mins or so on medium heat.  Then, add in the semi-cooked rice.  Make sure all your ingredients are in now… add the Spinach in last with any remaining salt, pepper, or spices.  You can add the parsley or cilantro at this time too. Stir it all up, and let it simmer at MEDIUM TO LOW heat, covered for about 15 minutes.  A lid with a small hole in it is the best for rice but it is fine to be covered too.

Vegetable Pulao or Biryani

Check to see if the water is gone- all water should be gone and not visible.  It should look like a rice dish. Remove from heat, garnish further if you need and then serve.  You can see the finished the dish to the left here.  Another VARIATION:  You can not cook the rice or veggies at all and then put it all together as described above but then you will need more water.  If you pre-cooked, use less water.  I felt I used too much water and took too long.  If you are going to bake it after this, put it in a dish and bake further for crispier texture.

Enjoy- you can garnish with yogurt, or raita and add mixed pickle to taste as well.

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Nutella- simply yum!

My friend, @CrunchyGreenMom, had an amazing Nutella party.  She was selected to host this party in order to promote Nutella.  What a great time!  I had no idea you could do so much with Nutella.  She made these amazing chimichangas and I have to say, I have to try this at home- it had Nutella, bananas, cayenne pepper and cinnamon – oh wow!

Then, of course, there was a great fruit dip made with Nutella and cream cheese.  You can modify it to make it with yogurt and even with greek yogurt.  All I can say is… yum!  There are some great ideas and recipe ideas from Connie Evers, who is a registered dietician and has written books on Nutrition for Kids.  Check out her website!  She had some great recipes and ideas for healthy eating and how to incorporate Nutella into breakfast, etc., to make kids eat the healthier foods.  It was a great party, yummy eats, and great recipe ideas.  I had a blast!  I remember when I lived in Europe, I used this in place of peanut butter and had tons of crepes with Nutella and bananas.  It just made everything taste better.  I think the next time I am at the Air Force Base, I am going to pick up a jar of Nutella (they are cheaper at commissaries for some reason), and then enjoy again.

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Perfect Moment Monday- Life Lessons From Apron Strings & Muffins

It’s about time I get to post a perfect moment again. For sometime I have been working hard and losing sight of what is truly important. This weekend I was able to refocus on those things that are not stressful. Because let’s face it- being a mom takes the stress cake on most days. Due to a lot of external factors out of my control, I have been blessed to see the perfect moments elsewhere especially with my family, and kids. After all, 30 years from now, I am not going to be that person who says, “Gosh, I wish I had accomplished more in my job or I wish I would have played the game to get ahead.” It’s just not that important to me– what is important though, is what I do at home and what type of legacy I will leave.

This weekend I found my perfect moment…
okay, there were a few. But, this one rose above (pun intended) the rest…. apron strings and muffins with my little cuties. Saturday night, we had girls night as daddy went off to have guys’ night. So, we had a dance off after dinner, and then ended the evening by baking blueberry and chocolate chip muffins as the girls wore their new personalized, pink princess aprons. They both helped add key ingredients, shared stirring the bowl, lined the muffin pans, and finally, and most importantly- licked the bowl. Yum! The muffins were sweet, wholesome, and full of goodness and love because they were made with love and the right ingredients.

This got me to thinking how important ingredients are to every thing we do- whether it’s baking muffins, raising a family, or even working in an office where not all the people are adding the right ingredients into the mix. In the end, no matter what others add in, we as individuals hold the key and the ability to turn that mix into something more sour or bitter or alternatively, we can turn it back into something sweet and full of goodness. Like the muffins my daughters and I made this weekend, the muffins we all make in our daily lives can be wholesome, sweet, and full of sweet perfect moments or just plain bitter. In the end, only we have to eat what we create.

I think I learned a lot from my perfect moment and my innocent little girls who do not yet understand politics, work stress, or anything else stressful. Tomorrow, as I venture where I may face a little more bitter and a little more sour, I hope I am able to draw on my perfect moment, and take all of that, mix in a few of my own ingredients, and turn that batter into pure goodness. In fact, I pray that every time I face adversity or a challenge, I would be able to draw on this perfect moment. That would be… sweet!

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