Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Tomato-Pesto Pasta

Okay I admit it; I absolutely love pasta- I don’t quite know what it is (that’s a lie Mags and I spent several months in Italy in the old days and love affair began there). I love that it is so easy and you can throw anything together with it and make it a meal. Part of my difficulty in this blog has not been writing 20 entries just about pasta with vegetables. But some are really better than others. When these winter months come around – I sometimes miss the taste of summer. My husband makes pesto in the summer when basil is all around – (see the lemon pesto chicken entry only I prefer it with heaps more garlic), and then we freeze it in ice cube trays and it lasts like that for months.

This week I spotted some beautiful heirloom cherry tomatoes at the market and couldn’t resist.

I rinsed and cut up the fresh tomatoes into quarters.

Boiled the pasta and mixed in the frozen pesto cubes while it was still warm, added the raw tomatoes and Voila! Taste of summer.

Super easy and quick and you really only have to dirty the pot you make the pasta in, which is the type of thing that really sweeps me off my feet.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Lemon Blackberry Coffee Cake- definitely not the healthy part of the diet

Okay so this recipe isn’t exactly diet appropriate but it was delicious and I felt obliged to pass it on. I had some left over sour cream from Hanukkah - which inspired the decision to make this cake.

Cake Recipe:

2 ½ cups all purpose flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. baking powder

pinch of salt

10 tbsp. unsalted butter @ room temperature (about 1¼ sticks)

1 cup sugar

3 eggs

2 tbsp. lemon zest

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1¼ cup sour cream

2 cups blackberries (but I think 3 cups would add to deliciousness)


3 tablespoons flour

3 tablespoons brown sugar

2 1/2 tablespoons butter

1/8 teaspoon salt

9x9 inch pan- plus a little pan in case you have extra batter (very likely)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9x9 baking pan.

In a bowl mix together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt

Use an electric mixer with the attachment to cream butter and sugar until light fluffy.

Add eggs one at a time, until blended well.

Add vanilla and lemon zest.

Add flour mixture and sour cream and beat just until combined.

Fold in blackberries and spoon into buttered pan and sprinkle topping over top of cake.

Bake until golden brown and a knife comes out clean about 50-60 minutes.

I have rationalized that I could consider this part of the Farmer's Market diet by eating much more responsible portions that I might have otherwise done. Plus this was super delicious so I really needed a good reason to be able to eat it.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

"Lebanese-ish" Red Lentil Soup

Towards the end of each week I seem to be left with a strange variety of produce in the fridge. I find myself resorting to a dinner made entirely of things from my pantry because I’m not quite sure what to do with my Farmer’s Market Leftovers. I hate throwing any food out because it has gone bad, so I have made it my quest to start putting in the time to finding recipes that contain my random scraps or can be adjusted to what I’ve got around.

This week when I came down to the final produce selection this is what I had:

Several lemons with no rind (I had already used the zest for another meal)

Cilantro- 1 bunch

Brown Onions

Lots of options but not so much substance… I don’t think my hubby would be super satisfied eating pickled onions for dinner and not quite the hearty winter meal I was hoping for.

I ended up making a “Lebenese-ish” Red Lentil Soup that I adapted from allrecipes.com


6 cups stock (you can use chicken or veggie)

2 1/3cups dry red lentils

3 tbsp. olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

2-3 cloves of garlic

1tbsp. cumin

½ tsp cayenne pepper (you could also use red chili flake and I think it would be similar)

½ bunch chopped cilantro

¾ cup lemon juice

Salt and pepper to taste

Bring the lentils and stock to a boil and then cover and simmer for 20 minutes. In a separate frying pan sauté onions and garlic until clear and then add the onions mixture and cumin and cayenne to the simmering lentils. Simmer until the lentils are tender (~10-15 minutes).

At this stage you can puree the soup – but I prefer the more rustic version.

Stir in lemon juice right before serving and top with a hearty portion of cilantro. I found this really brightens up the flavor. Serve as a soup or make it a meal by adding some brown rice to amp up protein and hearty-ness.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Veggie Rice

It's been exactly a month since Sheesh's wedding. It was a beautiful wedding and the most fun I've had (past 10 pm) in a long while. Also, the food was amazing. My favorite things were the delicious short ribs and the "veggie paella" (which was basically veggies and rice). It was so delicious and the kicker was that it was vegan, so no chicken stock, no butter! I have no idea how they did it. But I set out to make a non-vegan version of the dish. It came out good, nowhere near as yummy as the original, but good. And I of course had to resort to my old flavor standbys of chicken stock and a little butter.

Here's the recipe:

Veggie Rice
tblsp. olive oil
1/2 cup diced onion
1 cup white rice
2 cups chicken stock
1-2 cups diced veggies (I used red pepper and carrot and was going to use mushrooms, but forgot and left them sitting in the fridge)
1-2 tblsp butter
kosher salt to taste

In a medium pan heat olive oil, onions, and other veggies on medium heat for about 6-8 minutes.
Add rice and stir into the veggies until everything is combined. Let the rice cook like this for about 5 minutes to get a little bit toasty.
Add chicken stock, throw in the butter and a pinch of kosher salt. Bring to a boil and then reduce and simmer covered for 15-20 minutes.

I serve the rice with salmon which was seasoned with Everyday Seasoning from Trader Joes and broiled for about 7 minutes and kale that was cooked a la salty chard, but with less salt. Overall it was a good meal!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Not All Markets Are Created Equal

So, I went to the Santa Monica Farmer's Market a couple of weeks ago. I usually don't, because it's not close to where I live. But my friend was in town, so I met her there. There are pony rides and there's live music. It's a fun Sunday morning activity for sure.

However, when it came to the actual buying of produce, that's where it got a little suspect. My first stop was at a stand that sold fruit. I got three peaches and a couple bunches of grapes. When I went to pay the man said that it would be $11. $11?!? For three peaches and some grapes? WTF? I looked at him in shock for a second and then begrudgingly pulled out my cash.

At the markets that I normally go to, these items would have been half as much. I guess, like everything else, if you're in a high-rent district, you're going to pay more.

Lesson learned: Go to the Santa Monica Farmer's Market for the pony rides, not for the peaches.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

What's In Season- Early Autumn?

This applies to California. We Californians are so lucky because we pretty much grow everything here! It might apply to other states too, I'm not sure. I hope this color-coded list is helpful.

Valencia Oranges
Pears, Asian

Beans, Green
Brussels Sprouts
Peas, Black-eyed

Lemon Pesto Chicken & Roasted Vegetables

This is an easy and delicious and farmer's market-tastic meal:

Pesto is delicious and so easy to make. I never actually measure anything and it always comes out great!

1 bunch basil
1-2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup walnuts or pine nuts
pinch of Kosher salt
some good olive oil
some good parmesan cheese, grated

Blend basil, garlic, nuts, salt in food processor until well-pulverized. Then drizzle in olive oil until you reach the desired consistency.
Remove from food processor and stir in parmesan cheese.

(*Pesto freezes well, but if you are going to freeze some, leave the cheese out and add it once you have defrosted it)

Marinate chicken in good olive oil, fresh lemon juice, salt, pepper, and a tblsp.
of the pesto
Grill or pan fry until cooked through (about 6-8 minutes per side, depending on thickness of the chicken)


Pre-heat oven to 375
Clean, peel (if necessary) and chop vegetables into similar sized chunks (root vegetables work well- potatoes, beets, sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips, turnips. Pretty much anything in season will be delicious!)
Toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper and spread out on a cookie sheet.

Bake for 35-40 minutes until golden brown and roasty!

Sprinkle with dried parsley flakes, for a little color and pizzaz.

Side note: My husband complimented me on the roasted vegetables (score one for me!)

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Meat Police

Sheesh doesn't have this problem because she's a veg.  But in my house, we eat meat -I'm a recovering vegetarian and my husband is a big, meat-loving man (I call him the meat police, because if I ever leave any morsels of meat on my plate, he leans over and grabs them off my plate and eats them.  And then  every time, without fail, he says, "You weren't going to eat that!?  That was good meat." Oh, and my daughter is often heard uttering the phrase "mo meat, mo meat" at dinner.

They don't sell meat at farmer's markets.  So...what to do?

Well, I have devised a plan that is not exactly simple, but it works for us.  I try to prepare, natural, organic, grass fed, wild, meat products as much as possible, and these types of meat products tend to be pricey.  So I make a monthly Costco run.  There, I pick up organic chicken, ground turkey, and wild salmon for great prices.  Then, for red meat, we go to the meat market, usually about once a month also.  Our favorite is Marconda's Meat Market at The Original Farmer's Market in LA.  They have great grass-fed beef and all natural pork (great bacon!) and they have good old-fashioned butchers (our favorite is Mike).  So we buy all this meat and poultry and stick it in the freezer and then we have it at our disposal.

Yum, meat.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Pasta with Sundried Tomatoes and Mozzarella

This recipe is from Ina Garten, Barefoot Contessa. So, I can't claim it. But what I can claim is that I realized it would be a perfect Farmer's Market Diet recipe. And that it would be a perfect dish for my dear friend, and blog co-author's bridal shower. Almost everything in this recipe is directly from the market (with the exception of the olive oil, red wine vinegar, and pasta).

5 sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained
2 tbls red wine vinegar
6 tbls olive oil
1 clove of garlic, diced
1 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp black pepper

Blend all above ingredients in a food processor until well-blended like a vinaigrette, set aside.

chop 3-4 ripe tomatoes
dice 3/4 cup good black olives, 6 sun-dried tomatoes in oil (drained), and 1 lb fresh mozzarella
Wash and julienne 1 cup of basil leaves
Set aside chopped and diced ingredients.

Boil 1/2 lb of fusilli pasta

Toss pasta with chopped an diced ingredients and dressing.

Top with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
Eat. Don't eat too much, remember you're trying to lose weight.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Adventure Girl/ Salty Chard

Now days, my idea of adventure is going to the farmer's market and buying produce that I have never bought before (I know, I'm a wild and crazy daredevil). So, on my last visit to the market, I decided to be brave and buy two things that I had never purchased- Swiss chard and long beans.

Cooking swiss chard is daring for me, in part because I knew that it would be a tough sell for my husband. He is the type of guy who "likes" vegetables. And by "likes", I mean he only enjoys vegetables when they are cooked in bacon fat until there is no nutritional value left in them. So one of my goals in life is to make my vegetables so delicious (without bacon fat and with nutrients still left in them) that even he will eat them.
So, I set out to cook yummy Swiss chard...

I washed it really well and chopped it- stems and all.

Then I put about one tbls of olive oil in my trusty cast iron skillet and took 1 garlic clove and pressed it down a little (to help the essential oils come out).
Then I sauteed the garlic in the oil for about 2-3 minutes.
(I watch it very carefully so that it doesn't burn)

Then I put the Swiss chard in the skillet. I added some salt (this is where it all started to go wrong) and let it cook for about 20-25 minutes until it was tender.

When it was done, I tasted it and discovered that it was way too salty :(

It would have been very tasty otherwise.

I choked it down, but my husband refused (mission: not accomplished)

Lesson Learned: Don't salt your chard before it's cooked, because once it's cooked down you can taste it and salt it to taste.

Oh well. On to the next adventure...

Friday, July 23, 2010

Green Curry or bust!

This week I decided i would try and be a bit adventurous and bought Thai green eggplants ( I admit it i bought them because i thought they were super cute - you know, the cuteness factor, always the best way to choose your food).

I have made thai curries plenty of times and thought these eggplants would be a fun addition, plus i thought I could be a little experimental and try out some new cooking techniques that would be a bit less fatty. Okay, I also admit, i didn't want to fall flat on my face with something super difficult for the first food entry on here. I read a couple of recipes and then decided to wing it (usually the way I cook). Most recipes said to quarter these bad boys before they went in, and so that is what I did. I also used onion, red pepper, an italian sweet pepper (also something new found at the market) tofu, and a mixture of other tiny eggplants. There was not a particular rhyme or reason to these ingredients other than i thought they were a good color mix and what happened to be in my fridge. Okay bear with me, I'm not the most exact measurer of things when I cook. This does sometimes bug my friends when they ask for my recipes and i act like a grandma and say i used almost a handful or two of this or that. Hopefully as the blog goes on i'll get a bit better at it.

I stir fried the vegetables with a small amount of oil and half a package of green curry paste, and then to try something new I added some boiling stock instead of more oil, when i thought it was going to stick to the pan. Yes that's right, I learned this trick from watching the chef at panda express. You never know where you might pick p something helpful!

I finished up by adding a can of coconut milk when the veggis were cooked through. I served the curry on top of some steamed rice. WhalaaH, a beautiful dinner.

Or so I thought. The curry was actually quite good, and i think the boiling stock worked really well, the eggplant cooked through way faster than normal ( a Rachel Ray style 30 minute meal) and I was able to use a significantly smaller portion of oil. But boy those little Thai eggplants were super seedy! I wish i had at least cut them in to eighths instead of quarters because they were big and the texture was a bit hard to get used to. They absorbed flavor better than the japanese eggplants I'm familiar with, but it might take me another dish to get used to all those seeds.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Farmer's Market Diet: Here's the premise

Mags: I woke up one morning and my pants wouldn't button. Oh, I also had a flabby belly and muffin top, too. It probably happened more gradually than that, but I was so busy chasing after my toddler, that I didn't notice. In the 20 months that my little girl has been in the world I lost all 52 lbs of pregnancy weight and then dropped below my normal weight. I chalk that up to breastfeeding one very hungry, very chunky baby. And then... Somehow, in the last few months all that extra weight popped back on and then some. I'm still going to go ahead and call these extra few pounds "baby weight", because I have a baby, so I feel entitled to use that excuse.

I need to drop these pounds. I'm thinking about baby number two soon, but there is no way I am going to have this weight be my "
pre-pregnancy" weight. If I start out here, I will end up over 200 pounds, and, pregnant or not, that's not a place I want to be.

And at the same time, I need to be more healthy, for myself and as the culinary leader of my family. Being a busy work-from-home mom of a toddler does not leave me with tons of time. In order to feed myself and my family I have been resorting to take out and fast food (gulp!) way too often.

That's about to change. I live in Los Angeles, where there are Farmer's Markets throughout the city every day of the week. A variety of fresh, local, organic food is right around the corner and I should take advantage of it, right? right!


Sheesh: I went to grad school and in the rush of stress in trying to complete my program I miraculously gained 18 lbs. The culprits of that miracle were multiple repeat dinners of Chinese takeout and an almost unbelievable amount of candy. Since I pride myself on being vegetarian and a pretty health conscious person and I do love to cook, I was a bit dumbfounded on how this could have happened over about 3 months, then I remembered the culprits.

About 10 years ago this had happened to me as well and I had just eaten better and exercised a bit more and the weight pretty much just fell off. Only this time I am over 30 and even after a year of simply “trying to eat better” I realized pounds no longer just fall off. I am getting married in the fall and while I am content not getting my teenage body back, I would like to get rid of the last 10 painful lbs. that just won’t seem to disappear.

Being currently unemployed, I am opposite of busy working mom Mags. I have lots of time but not so much money, and we don’t get to eat out so much anymore. I have gotten very bored with my regular cooking and would really like to be more adventurous. The Farmer’s Market in Los Angeles has an unbelievable variety of produce and I want to try it all! In order to eat healthy and fresh (and affordable) I will push myself to make meals from things I’ve never seen or heard of before.


So here we go! We are setting out to start a Farmer's Market Diet. We will cook and eat food from our local Farmer's Markets as a healthy way to lose these extra pounds and improve our health and the health of our families. We plan to post about our trials and tribulations, successes and failures along the way. And we'll post our tips and recipes too.