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Month: April 2016

Roasted Artichokes

Roasted Artichokes

This week has been all about the easiest route to fresh, good food.  I believe in elaborate snacks at my lunch – the best way for me to get through the day is to have good food to look forward to. Given the time constraints this week, I didn’t have hours to prep this weekend.  I had a few vegetables languishing in the vegetable tray and I wanted to make sure I used them before they became compost.  One of those vegetables was a pair of sangria artichokes we’d picked up last week at Trader Joe’s.  I love artichokes – whether they are designer or not.  I’ll eat them, I’ll grow them and I’ll even let them go to full flower, because they are so lovely (in addition to being tasty).

artichoke_flower

But back to the sangria artichokes.  In addition to being a beautiful deep purple hew, these are named after sangria – and since I also love sangria, I figured the artichokes must be good.  I did a bit of research to find that these are a new kind of artichoke, coming exclusively out of California. I didn’t notice a particularly significant different taste, though they did roast up perfectly with all leaves being very tender.  I think they are just pretty – and what’s the harm in enjoying a pretty, in addition to tasty, snack at work?

sangria_artichoke

Roasted artichokes take about an hour, but the prep time itself is minimal.  I didn’t do anything to these to eat them other than toss on a bit of salt.  If you are going to eat these at work, be sure to have a spoon or knife with you to remove the fuzzy parts from the heart.

artichoke_roasted

Roasted Artichokes
Serves 2

2 large artichokes, stem trimmed and leaves gently spread out
1/2 lemon
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt to taste

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Place each artichoke in a large piece of aluminum foil (large enough to fully wrap the artichoke).  Before you wrap it up, drizzle the artichokes with lemon juice and olive oil.  Sprinkle with salt.  Wrap up the artichokes in the foil and put in a pie pan or on a baking sheet.  Bake for 75 minutes or until a knife can easily pierce the base of the artichoke.  Serve as is or with melted butter with garlic salt.

 

 

Easy Chicken Salad

Easy Chicken Salad

I’m looking forward to a week or two that is a normal week.  These past two weeks have been anything but normal: I’ve spent a lot of time away from my desk for meetings and a good portion of the weekend away from home doing some work out-of-town.  I had high hopes for some interesting meals while I was out-of-town, and ended up eating Wendy’s chicken nuggets and fries for dinner one night and a Chipotle veggie burrito the next.  Not healthy, not interesting, and barely food in the case of the first meal.  This week isn’t much better, though I’m hoping for some interesting restaurant food in a few days – we’ll see if that actually works out. 

In the meantime, here’s a quick and easy recipe that makes for a great lunch you can easily eat at your desk. This is one of my favorite ways to use up leftovers from my favorite roast chicken recipe.

chickensalad1 chickensalad2

Easy Chicken Salad
Serves 4

2 cups chopped, roasted chicken
2 small pickles, finely chopped
3 celery stalks, finely chopped
2 tablespoons stone ground mustard
3 tablespoons ranch dressing

Combine all ingredients and mix.  Serve on romaine lettuce leaves for a low-carb meal or with tortilla chips. 

Morel and Asparagus Quiche

Morel and Asparagus Quiche

Morels are one of those ingredients that are a harbinger of spring for me.  I first found morels at the farmer’s market three years ago.  I’d heard about them, certainly, prior to that – morel recipes would often pop up in my Pinterest feed.  But morels are not something the grocery stores in the areas I’ve lived carry and the first several years I went to the farmer’s market and encountered morels, I wasn’t quite brave enough to figure out what to do with them. 

morel

My first morel experience was daunting.  There’s much conflicting information regarding how, exactly, to treat morels – to soak or not to soak, to wash or not to wash, and so on.  What’s consistent is that morels need to be well cooked, otherwise they can be toxic.  What’s also consistent is that morels are products of the wild – and such, they often come with bits of forest still attached to them: a pine needle here and there, an itty bitty white worm or two.  What I’ve landed on is this: a few hours in salty water doesn’t seem to hurt them and seems to reduce the number of itty bitty white worms that wriggle their way out in the frying pan.  Also, white worms are just protein – and morels are tasty enough not to worry about it too much.  My favorite preparation of morels is sautéed in a lot of butter and served on a burger with bacon.  Since I didn’t have time for burger or bacon this weekend, I think that a quiche with morels and asparagus will do.

morel

Morel and Asparagus Quiche
Serves 4-6

¼ pound morel mushrooms, soaked for 2 – 3 hours in salt water, then chopped
2 cups chopped (2 inch or so pieces) asparagus
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup milk
5 eggs
½ cup shredded cheese (I used a combination of parmesan and mozzarella)
1 teaspoon salt
A few grinds of fresh pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees

Melt the butter in a non-stick pan.  Add morels and sauté until they are soft.  Add water as needed if they start to stick.  When morels are soft, add the asparagus and sauté for another five minutes or until the asparagus has softened.

morelandbutter asparagusand morel

While the morels and asparagus cook, measure out the milk in a bowl or large measuring cup.  Add the eggs and beat until smooth.  Add the cheese, salt, and pepper and combine.

Put the morels and asparagus in a well-oiled baking pan (a glass 8×8 dish works well).  Pour the egg, milk and cheese over the vegetables. 

quiche pre bake

Bake the quiche for 35-40 minutes or until set.  A knife inserted in the middle will come out clean when it is set.

quiche1

This freezes well, so makes a good lunch meal.

What I Ate and What’s Coming Up

What I Ate and What’s Coming Up

I feel like I’ve been eating my way through the Portland and Salem metro areas.  We’ve been trying out the various Pho places near where we live – and have found a definite favorite.  We have at least one more to try.   I’ve also been traveling quite a bit – I was fortunate to spend the morning in Salem at my favorite coffee shop:  Archive Coffee.  In addition to making a perfect dry cappuccino, they also serve amazing scones and muffins – each with a particular herb or spice featured.

salemmuffin

Saturday was all about the farmer’s market.  Asparagus is in season here – I think we may have bought three pounds of asparagus – not sure what we’re going to do with it all.  I think there is a fermented asparagus recipe in my future.

Sunday was all about dim sum.  We went to the House of Louie in downtown Portland and ate, and ate, and ate some more.  I am not entirely sure what we ate – I just know it was all so good.

dimsum3 dimsum1 dimsum2 dimsum4

We went to dim sum with my cousin and her significant other.  She sent us on our way after with a cherry tomato plant, because it’s planting time, and a home-brewed, micro-brew IPA.

IPAHomebrew

But Monday is looming, so it’s back to little lunches.  Coming up this week: a recipe featuring morels!  And one with pickles! It’s going to be a tasty week.

morel pickleandchicken1

Quick and Easy Focaccia

Quick and Easy Focaccia

In some ways, this is a TBT post.  Many, many years ago, I found a book on making focaccia at some bookstore or another.  It’s a small volume, but what was significant for me was learning how to a multi-stage bread: one that requires a starter or sponge that ferments and that then is incorporated into the dough.  The focaccia made from the recipes in that book were a revelation for me – they were a thick risen slab adorned with garlic, herbs, olive oil and salt.  I made focaccia religiously every Christmas, as it was one of my uncle’s favorite foods.  I rarely, if ever, found time to make it any other time of year.

Some time ago, when I was doing some Pinterest browsing for bread, I came across a no-rise focaccia recipe.  As much as I would like to take the time to make a full sponge, full rise focaccia, I find that I just don’t have the time.  No-rise bread comes to the rescue on those nights when focaccia makes sense as a side and I haven’t done any sort of planning ahead to make the real deal. 

This is also a great side for a lunch salad.  It’s easy to make the night before, and in the recipe below, easily makes two cake pans worth of bread.  For the first dozen times I made this recipe, I used fresh rosemary, chopped finely, for the topping.  Since we moved, I don’t have a rosemary plant yet, so have used red pepper flakes and Italian seasonings and salt instead.

focaccia prebake

focaccia

Quick and Easy Focaccia
Serves 8

2 cups warm water
2 teaspoons active yeast
2 teaspoons salt
4 cups flour
Chopped rosemary and salt or dried Italian Seasonings and red pepper flakes to top
Olive oil to drizzle

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Sprinkle the yeast over the warm water.  Add the flour and salt and mix well.  Split the dough into two sections and spread them into two well-oiled eight-inch cake pans.  Drizzle with olive oil and top with seasonings.  Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Fromage Fort

Fromage Fort

This is less a recipe and more of a confession: sometimes my cheese tries to get away from me.  As we were preparing to go shopping this past weekend, Clay says to me, “you know you still have cheese in the refrigerator, right?  I think it’s gone off.”  I did remember I had cheese still – honest.  I was also pretty sure it was just fine, even though Clay thinks just about any cheese I buy that has the capacity to ripen and run has gone off from the minute I first pick it up in the store.  As long as it isn’t funny and it still smells like cheese, I’m usually not worried about it.  This time, though, I was aware of the fact that I will be away from my desk and at meetings this week, so might not be able to save my cheese in time.

Fromage fort to the rescue.  Fromage fort is strong cheese (not, unfortunately, building a fort out of cheese, hiding inside with a bottle of wine and nibbling one’s way out).  It’s a spread or dip made out of cheese that’s been lurking in your fridge, white wine, garlic and herbs.  As far as I can tell, the garlic and herbs are optional.  The white wine is not.  I made my batch with two of the cheeses leftover from my cheese plate cheeses of several weeks ago, along with about a half cup of parmesan cheese.  I doused it gently with white wine – just enough to keep the consistency spreadable – and blended in the food processor until it was smooth.  It’s been good on toast and on bagels.  It guarantees that the cheese will all be used up. 

Some recipes note that it’s wise to include blue cheese in fromage fort in sparing quantities.  I can attest to this – about half of what I had was a very ripe blue cheese and the flavor is definitely strong – fromage fort strong after all. 

fromage fort 2 fromage fort

Dried Blueberry Granola

Dried Blueberry Granola

Who knew that making granola could make a person so happy?  I’ve been about two months now without making my own granola for breakfast.  We broke down and bought granola when we first moved.  We tried to stick to the all-natural and (theoretically) healthier granolas, but the taste just wasn’t right to me.  I’m not sure, especially in the last batch we bought, if there were actually oats in the granola, which leads me to wonder if no oats, then what was it exactly?  I cook because I don’t like having to wonder what’s in my food, so having the time to prepare my own granola again this weekend was wonderful.

I stuck to a simple combination of oats, nuts, dried fruit, honey and olive oil.  The one thing I did a little differently this time was to drizzle a little additional honey over the mixture before it went in the oven, which I think led to an additional crispiness.  It’s strawberry season in the PNW, so it made my Monday morning to have yogurt, strawberries and granola.  I meant to take a picture of this, but I’m just barely functional before coffee and completely forgot to.

granolablueberry

Dried Blueberry Granola
Serves 10

4 cups oats
1/3 cup honey + 1 tablespoon to drizzle
1/3 cup olive oil or other oil
¼ cup dried coconut flakes
1 cup cashew pieces
½ cup dried blueberries

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Combine the oats, 1/3 cup honey, oil, nuts and coconut flakes.  Spread the oat mixture on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper.  Drizzle with the remaining honey.  Bake in ten minute increments for thirty minutes.  Let cool and then stir in dried blueberries.

Pea Shoot Pesto

Pea Shoot Pesto

I first learned about pea shoots a few years ago – it seems that they were all the rage for a while on food blogs and cooking shows.  I have to confess though that I hadn’t actually eaten a pea shoot until this past weekend, as I could never stand the thought of pinching off any part of a pea plant that might produce a pea.  We were at the farmer’s market, and one of the vendors had hearty bunches of pea shoots for $2.00 a bunch.  I had to have some.  I took them home, washed one shoot off and nibbled – pure pea concentrated.  I was in spring overload. 

I’ll pesto just about any green you put in front of me, so I had to make pea shoot pesto.  I saved about a quarter of the pea shoot bundle for a salad – pea shoot pesto, pea shoots, asparagus, assorted micro-greens, and hard-boiled eggs have made the perfect mid-day meal to get me back on track for eating real food.  This makes me think it would have been worth it to sacrifice a few pea pods just to eat the pea shoots – it’s that good.

pea shoot pesto prep

pea shoot pesto

Pea Shoot Pesto

1 bunch pea shoots
12 basil leaves
2 cloves garlic
½ cup pine nuts
½ cup parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon lemon juice
½ cup olive oil

Combine ingredients from pea shoots through lemon juice in a food processor and process for a few pulses. Add olive oil slowly and continue to process until the pesto is a smooth paste.  Pesto can be frozen for several months. 

This Week in Little Lunches – Week of April 10

This Week in Little Lunches – Week of April 10

spring pesto salad with radish macaron2 fromage fort granolablueberry pea shoot pesto farmers market bounty early spring

Just a little preview of what’s coming this week on fixmealittlelunch.  Oh the happiness of being settled enough to go to the farmer’s market, cook some good food, and make granola again.  Check back this week for recipes for Dried Blueberry Granola, Pea Shoot Pesto, Fromage Fort, and Quick and Easy Focaccia.

Spaghetti and Kale

Spaghetti and Kale

This has been one of those weeks where I’m just barely at my desk, which was probably a good thing, since I just barely had time to prepare for this week as it was.  Fortunately, I had some random leftover kitchen supplies from last week, including a bunch of curly kale, some gouda goat cheese, and plenty of dried spaghetti.

I’m not sure when I first encountered the combination of kale and spaghetti.  I just know that this has been an occasional go to meal over the past ten years.  I especially like the kick the red pepper flakes provide, and really wonder what it might be like to add pine nuts to this – I’ll probably try that next.

spaghetti and kale

Spaghetti and Kale
Serves Two

1 bunch curly kale
½ package dried spaghetti
1 tablespoon white wine
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ teaspoon salt
¼ – ½ teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
¼ cup shredded parmesan, asiago, or other hard cheese

Wash and de-stem the kale.  Fill a saucepot about half way with water and put it on high heat.  Bring to a boil and cook the spaghetti according to directions, reducing the cooking time by a minute if you are going to reheat this for lunch.

In the meantime, heat the olive oil in a non-stick pan.  Add the kale, the white wine, the salt and the dried red pepper flakes and sauté until the kale is wilted.

Drain the spaghetti and combine with the kale.  This hangs out well in the fridge for reheating the next day for lunch.

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