All posts by BudgetEpicurean

Long-time student turned young adult with varied interests, mostly food and frugality. Pursuing wealth so I can help others pursue health.

Review: Asian Farmers Market

 

One of my big priorities when visiting or moving to a new place is finding the good grocery stores. I know, lots of people think I’m crazy but I LOVE grocery shopping! It’s so fun walking up and down the aisles looking at different foods and imagining what I could create with it.  I especially love any type of ethnic foods, foods I’ve not tried yet, strange spices and sauces, and fresh produce.

All this and more is what I found by accident one fine spring day in New Haven.

The original intent was to go to ALDI’s for a stock-up on basics. Those who know me know my love affair with ALDI runs deep. I wouldn’t have eaten nearly as well throughout college without their no-frills rock-bottom food prices. If you’ve never been or don’t have one in your area (like Colorado…) I am very sorry. You could always do what I did and move across the country to be near one.

Anyways, I arrived half an hour earlier than they opened. Silly me, thinking they have normal hours on a weekend. So rather than wait in the parking lot, I decided to explore further up the street since I had not driven east yet.

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To my surprise and intrigue a few blocks down was a large red sign proclaiming “Asian Farmers Market”. We all know I adore a good farmer’s market, so I just had to stop in and check it out.

I was immediately rewarded with a double shelf of fresh vegetables, roots, herbs, and fruits as I walked in the door. There were your typical bananas and oranges, but also dragonfruit and huge daikon radishes. Fresh bunches of Thai basil, lemongrass, and mint lined the shelves.

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Huge stacks of 15, 25, and 50 pound bags of Thai, jasmine, brown, and white rice lined the opposite wall. Baked goods of all types covered the table just inside the door, tempting you the minute you step inside.

As I wandered slowly, drooling over everything, a kind asian man approached and asked if I needed any help finding something. I explained that I just wanted to look around, and we ended up chatting about how I’d just moved from Colorado, and he said he has always wanted to move to Colorado. Funny how that happens. He gave me some advice on the area, and it turned out he was the owner of the store!

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The owner told me many of the items actually come from NYC China Town. Food goods are flown in from Asia, and once a week or so he drives down to pick up a big shipment. Isn’t it great that us smaller town folks can enjoy the big-city luxuries by living so close? I’m glad he will drive into the city so I don’t have to!

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As I wandered the aisles I found tons of great bargains. I snatched up a pack of fresh spring snow peas for $1.50, a hefty chunk of ginger root for stir fry and tea, as well as a bag of sprouts. I grabbed a pound of mung beans, so I can sprout my own at home over the next few months. Some rice noodles, chicken bouillon, fish sauce, and of course Sriracha made it into my cart.

I ended up nabbing the last bottle of Sriracha, just as another customer rounded the corner. I don’t know if they wanted the Sriracha or not, but I hugged my bottle and ran away. I very nearly grabbed a small green jar of the garlic sriracha too, but figured I can always come back. They even had a two gallon jug of Sriracha! I’m sure someone somewhere uses that quantity, but my taste buds cry at the very thought.

All in all, it was a very successful accidental shopping trip, and I am looking forward to many more great curries and stir fry meals now. This will become a regular spot on my weekly/monthly grocery route. For anyone looking for some exotic cooking ingredients or ideas, I would highly recommend checking it out. Located at 913 Foxon Road in New Haven, CT 06513, the Asian Farmers Market is a family-owned, friendly spot.

 

 

Crock Pot Apple Sauce

 

Sure, fall is still a long time away, but now is the time to start stocking up on ideas for the bounty of apples coming our way soon! Last fall, a friend of mine had an apple tree that just went crazy. She gave me a huge bag of apples for free. I ate several as snacks, made some into apple crisp, had some on pancakes, some in oatmeal, and made some into muffins.

Now I have a half bag left… what do I do?

Once you’ve gotten all baked-out, may I recommend trying your hand at making your own applesauce? The jarred stuff at the super market is ok, if that is the only way to get fruits into your kids (or partners) diet, then I’m for it. But imagine knowing exactly what is in that stuff, no GMOs, preservatives, thickeners, emulsifiers, etc.

This is where your handy-dandy slow cooker saves the day yet again! Those things are worth their weight in gold, I swear. If you don’t have one, get on it. Try Goodwill, yard sales, or grandma’s basement if you can’t get one new.

Applesauce is super easy to make, all it takes is a little time cutting up the apples, then you set it and forget it and come home to the lovely smell of apples and cinnamon, and a batch of ready-to-go applesauce.

Apples are naturally sweet, and slow cooking makes them even sweeter. But you can add honey, sugar, brown sugar, and/or maple syrup to taste to make it your own. You can also use cinnamon sticks rather than ground, just remove them before eating.

Ingredients:

  • ~4 cups chopped apples
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp nutmeg
  • Optional: 2-3 tbsp sugar, maple syrup, or honey

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Step 1: Chop your apples, removing the seeds, stem, and core. Peel them or don’t, your call.

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Step 2: Add apples to the crock pot with the spices, cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours. That’s it!

Mash the apples up a little once they are done cooking, or puree in a blender for super smooth sauce. You can put into jars and keep in the refrigerator, or process in a pressure canner for longer term storage.

If you really have a lot of apples, or just want a larger batch, use a larger crock pot and triple the recipe or more.

 

Restaurant Review: Little Owl Coffee

 

In an unobtrusive section of Blake Street in downtown Denver, Colorado, lives a minimalist coffee-drinker paradise. This little gem is easy to walk right by, but once you’ve been inside you will crave its unique, laid-back yet hip vibe, and expertly crafted java jolts with an artistic flair.

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Little Owl Coffee, at 1555 Blake St. in the heart of LoDo (lower downtown), was established in spring of 2013. The interior is clean, natural, and decorated with mainly itty-bitty plants. Live branches, clusters of seasonal gourds, tiny air plants in teeny glass bulbs, and other plant life in bud vases adorn the standing bar and wood tables.

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The place is cozy, small but not too small to work on a laptop or enjoy a teacup of espresso with a friend. Their patio area is boxed in with small hedges, and each table top has its own petite glass jar and miniscule spoon for doling out natural brown sugar in case the espresso is too bitter for your tastes.

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You can watch the downtown foot and vehicle traffic rush by as you sit and sip your hand crafted beverage, including tasty teas, espresso, and a variety of espresso-milk combinations. They also boast fresh hand-made almond milk daily, and plenty of fresh, hand-made pastries and cakes.

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Oh, and of course the baristas are trained in the very adorable art of coffee-pictures. Makes me smile every time.

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If you find yourself in the area, I’d recommend stopping by. My personal favorite is the mocha latte, but there is plenty to choose from. With a variety of local and chain organic, healthy, and/or vegan snack options, hand-made almond milk and pastries, a friendly and talented staff, and a can’t-find-anywhere-else atmosphere, Little Owl is a must-see in downtown Denver.

Tofu Sofritas Lettuce Wraps

 

For those of you who don’t know, or don’t eat at Chipotle, the fast-casual Mexican chain, they have a new vegetarian/vegan option: the sofritas.

This option is shredded pressed tofu, marinaded in sofrito sauce and braised on the grill like their meats. There is debate as to whether it is worth the added cost (if you put guac on it too) over a plain no-meat burrito or bowl, but that choice is yours to make.

Sofrito, or refogado, is traditionally a sauce made from aromatics like garlic, onion, peppers, tomato, and paprika cooked in olive oil. Used in Brazilian, Spanish, and Portuguese cooking, the preparation varies as each cook makes theirs unique based on seasonal cuisine and local taste preferences.

Rather than shell out $8.50 + tax (or whatever a burrito runs in your neck of the woods) how about you make your very own at home for a larger batch at a much lower price? It’s super easy, even if you’ve never cooked tofu before. You don’t even have to press it first, as you usually do with tofu, because you will shred and fry it.

The other ingredients are the things I like in my bowl/taco. Feel free to improvise with whatever toppings you like and have. Try: coleslaw, salsa, tomatillos, hot sauce, jalapenos, beans of all kinds, onions, cilantro, sour cream, avocado, shredded cheese…

Ingredients:

Wrap Toppings:

  • 1 cup cooked rice
  • 1 cup cooked pinto beans
  • 2 tbsp hummus
  • Fresh diced tomato
  • 1 fresh avocado
  • 1 head romaine, outer leaves removed
  • Optional: use tortillas (or make your own)

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Step 1: Drain the tofu, and heat the oil in a pan. Using a fork or your hands, smash the tofu into crumbles.

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Step 2: Dice or crush the garlic, add to the oil until fragrant, then add the tofu. Pour on your hot sauce and spices.

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Because the meat-eater was joining me, I mixed tofu and ground turkey together. Keep it veg/vegan by not adding turkey, or slowly introduce tofu to someone this way.

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Step 3: Keep mixing until tofu develops a nice deep red/brown color, about 10-12 minutes.

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Step 4: Sprinkle the yeast into the tofu, and squeeze the lime juice over top. Take a large romaine leaf, and top with a heaping tbsp or two of sofritas.

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Add the other toppings you like, and wrap it all up.

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This makes a hearty and filling wrap, you can eat two or three and still have a very low total calorie count. If opposed to the lettuce, feel free to make it a bowl or use tortillas.

Tofu Sofritas Lettuce Wraps

Ingredients

  • 1 block firm tofu
  • 1/3 cup sriracha or other hot sauce
  • 2 tbsp red chili spices
  • 3 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • Juice of one lime
  • Several large romaine leaves
  • Other toppings: avocado, rice, beans, salsa, etc.

Instructions

  1. Drain the tofu, and heat the oil in a pan. Using a fork or your hands, smash the tofu into crumbles.
  2. Dice or crush the garlic, add to the oil until fragrant, then add the tofu. Pour in your hot sauce and spices.
  3. Keep mixing until tofu develops a nice deep red/brown color, 10-12 minutes.
  4. Sprinkle the yeast into the tofu, and squeeze the lime juice over top.
  5. Take a large romaine leaf, and top with a heaping tbsp or two of sofritas. Add any other toppings you like, and wrap it all up. Alternatively, make it a bowl, or use a tortilla.
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Kale & Wasabi Pea Caesar Salad

 

Are you getting in the spring of things? Have you begun a whirlwind of cleaning out rooms, old clutter, elbow greasing the bathroom, and sorting through wardrobes? Do you day dream about tender green baby lettuce, the first sweet juicy strawberry, or delicate spring peas that pop in your mouth? I know I am!

Spring is a time of freshness, rebirth, and growth. The world re-awakens after a long, cold, terrible winter.

Though it is hard to believe now, with the still-cold, hard earth brown and bare, soon rain will drench everything, sun will warm it again, and greenery will burst forth! Birds have begun singing, small furry animals are emerging from hibernation, and gardeners all over are just itching to get outside and play in some dirt!

Now might be a good time to assess your food preservation options. If you don’t have canning jars or could use some more, I recommend at least a case of pint jars (wide-mouth can fit more in easily, you can can or even freeze them), as well as a case of quart jars, and if you make lots of different flavored jams, jellies, or salsas, maybe a few tiny 4 oz jars too. These also make great gifts!

Don’t forget the lids, regular mouth lids and  wide-mouth lids. These cannot be reused (they lose their seal) but the rings you can reuse.

Even if you don’t have a garden yourself, canning is an excellent skill to begin learning. You can get steals and deals at the end of the day in farmer’s markets, pick-your-own bushels of fruits at an orchard, or on-sale in-season produce at the grocery store.

Canning is a great, non-electricity-using way to store these seasonal delicacies for the future dreary winter, that we don’t even want to think about yet. Read my earlier foray into canning beans for more information, directions, and especially important safety information to consider if this is your first time (or hundredth).

In honor of this season of green, here is a lovely salad recipe using fresh greens, wasabi peas, sunflower seeds, and other fresh veggies. Feel free to make it your own based on your tastes and what is currently in season near you.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups assorted greens (romaine, kale, spinach used here. also try arugula, watercress, chard, or endive)
  • 1/2 cucumber, washed and sliced
  • 1/3 cup wasabi green peas (use fresh peas if you have them or don’t like wasabi spice/flavor)
  • 1/2 cup homemade croutons
  • 2-3 tbsp Caesar dressing (or Ranch)
  • 2 tbsp sunflower seeds
  • Optional: grated fresh Parmesan or Romano cheese

Step 1: To make croutons, cut 2 slices of old bread into cubes. Toss in 2-3 tbsp olive oil, and sprinkle on seasonings (I recommend Italian). Toast on a flat cookie sheet in an oven at 350 for 10-12 minutes, until golden. Or use store-bought, or omit entirely. Up to you.

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Step 2: Shred or slice the romaine, spinach, and kale, and pile on a plate. Top with cucumber slices, sprinkle on the seeds, peas, and croutons, and add dressing. Toss lightly to coat.

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I had this for lunch with an apple, a piece of homemade corn bread (with canned corn in it) and a big glass of water. Just a perfect amount of crunch and spring flavors to perk you right up. Now if only there was no more frost danger so I can set out my seedlings…

Kale & Wasabi Pea Caesar Salad

Ingredients

  • 2 cups assorted greens (romaine, kale, spinach used here)
  • 1/2 cucumber, washed and sliced
  • 1/3 cup wasabi peas (use fresh peas if you have them or don't like wasabi spice/flavor)
  • 1/2 cup homemade croutons
  • 2-3 tbsp Caesar dressing (or Ranch)
  • 2 tbsp sunflower seeds
  • Optional: grated fresh Parmesan or Romano cheese

Instructions

  1. To make croutons, cut 2 slices of old bread into cubes. Toss in 2-3 tbsp olive oil, and sprinkle on seasonings. Toast in an oven at 350 for 10-12 minutes, until golden. Or use store-bought, or omit entirely. Up to you.
  2. Shred or slice the romaine, spinach, and kale, and pile on a plate. Top with cucumber slices, sprinkle on the seeds, peas, and croutons, and add dressing. Toss lightly to coat.
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This post contains links from the Amazon Affiliates program. If you purchase these items through these links, the price you pay is not affected yet a portion of the proceeds go towards maintaining this blog (and my gardening addiction!). Thank you.

Roast Beef & Garlic Bread Au Jus

 

For those who have been to fancy restaurants and wondered what “au jus” meant, fear not, I have the answer! It is a French term meaning “in it’s (own) juices”.  Therefore, any meat cooked and served with the cooking liquid is au jus.

The most popular au jus meat is of course beef. And the most popular way to serve it is of course as a dipping sauce with a roast beef sandwich. Though jus can be prepared separately from the main dish, for example by reducing beef stock to a slightly thicker sauce, it is best when made using the actual meat with which it is to be served.

In this recipe, I made a beef rump roast which we ate for dinner day 1 with some roasted winter veggies. I saved the jus, and the following day served the leftover roast beef on thick garlic toast drizzled in the jus with some rice on the side. It is fall-apart tender with flavor to spare, and the jus packs a punch all its own. I’d recommend this double-day pleaser anytime.

Ingredients:

  • 1 5-6 lb beef roast
  • 1 plastic roast bag, or crock pot liner
  • 1 packet roast seasonings; or
    • 1 tsp black pepper
    • 1 tsp garlic
    • 1 tsp thyme
    • 1 tsp rosemary
    • 1-2 tsp sea salt
  • 2 large potatoes, diced
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 1/2 cup brussels sprouts
  • 2-3 large carrots, diced
  • 1 cup water or beef stock

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Step 1: Brown the roast in a frying pan over medium heat. Sear until dark brown on all sides, then set aside to cool. Place the meat, seasonings, veggies, and water into the steaming bag. Either cook on high in a crock pot for 2-4 hours, or in an oven set to 350 for 1 1/2 hours.

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Step 2: Once the roast is fully cooked (brown all the way through or slightly pink) remove it and the vegetables to a dish. Strain the liquid with a metal strainer and/or cheesecloth into a container.

Step 3: If the jus is to your liking, serve immediately. Otherwise you can bring it to a simmer and reduce to your desired consistency. You can also add flour or cornstarch for a gravy instead.

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Step 4: The following day, make a big loaf of garlic bread. Shred the remaining beef, and pour over the bread. You can also make it into a sandwich. Serve drizzled with jus, or on the side to dip.

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This salty, tangy, tender beef is amazing with crunchy fresh garlic bread. The jus is delicious and flavorful, and could be used in many other ways, such as in soups, dressings, gravy, and more.

 

Baker’s Dozen: Quick Lunch Ideas

 

Happy Easter my dear readers! Hopefully you are reading this after the fact, because when this is published I wish you all the love of family and friends, good food, and chocolate bunnies. Wherever and whenever you are, thanks for reading! (By the way, you may enjoy last year’s Easter article, or this handy guide of ideas for leftover ham).

Somewhere between 11 and 1 each day, your stomach or your watch will bring up that daily question: What’s for lunch? While leftovers make a fantastic lunch option, you can only tolerate ham sandwiches or the same old pasta so many times in one week.

If you’re tired of the same sandwich every day, if you’re going broke eating out 5 days a week, or if you just want to try something new, look no further! Here are 13 great ideas for lunch today, tomorrow, next week, or forever. Mix it up based on your own tastes, and what you have available.

 

Simple Sandwiches
The classic lunchtime standby, a cold sandwich is the pinnacle of convenience. You don’t need to heat, mix, or do anything besides open the container and enjoy. Of course, if you are at home or have access to a grill/panini press, more power to you! Here are some fun ideas besides the tired PB&J.

Mediterranean Panini – This combination of fresh, Mediterranean inspired vegetables and warm melty goodness only needs one letter to describe it: Mmmmmmmm…

Vurgers (Veggie burgers!) – These little gems can be made 8-12 at a time and frozen for lunch in a flash. Eat them alone, on bread, or wrapped up, with your choice of toppings. I’d recommend cheese, salsa, and/or coleslaw.

Double Turkey BLT – With sliced turkey and turkey bacon, plus fresh crisp veggies, this protein-packed beauty should tide you over until the dinner bell rings.

That’s a Wrap
Wraps are even more simple than sandwiches because you can close the tortilla on both sides so nothing oozes out. And you can put just about anything you can think of into a wrap, don’t limit yourself to just lunch meat. Breakfast burritos are great at noon too.

Vegetarian Wrap – customize this with whatever you have available: shredded carrots, juilenned cucumber or zucchini, sprouts, homemade red pepper hummus, greens, avocado or guacamole…

Caesar Chicken Wrap – wrap up 1 cup of shredded lettuce (try Romaine, kale, and/or spinach), 1/2 cup grilled chicken (hot or cold), shredded Parmesan cheese, a few croutons and a drizzle of Caesar or Ranch dressing for a quick, easy, portable lunch.

Ham & Veggie Burrito – use whatever fresh or frozen veggies you have on hand to create a unique lunchtime treat. Eat cold or hot.

Super Salads
Salads have a bad rap for being “rabbit food”, something only the super healthy or super weird consider a meal, and not at all filling. That is just a downright lie! You can eat a pile of greens the size of your head for fewer calories than a ‘snack-size’ bag of chips, and if you add the right kinds of toppings you can stay fueled all day. Besides, there are other kinds of salads than the leafy green kind.

Kale & Barley Salad – a vegetarian delight, this hearty mix tastes amazing and will keep your tummy from growling for hours.

Creamy Tuna Potato Salad – with lean protein from the tuna, filling starch from the potatoes, and lots of fresh veggies, this meal has it all.

Steak & Orange Salad – thin slices of strip or flank steak pair perfectly with mandarin oranges and a balsamic vinaigrette. Feel free to use pear or apple slices instead and any dressing you like.

Asian Chicken Salad – use that old package of Ramen noodles in a healthier, more creative, and much tastier way than salty chicken water.

Soup’s On
Soups are a classic budget favorite because they are infinitely versatile and super cheap per serving. But if you get creative, there are plenty of filling, portable options, even some that can be eaten cold. Invest in a nice thermos, or take advantage of the microwave if you have one available.

Ham & Barley Soup – with layers of flavor from the ham bones, healthy kale and carrots, and whole grain barley, this soup should keep you going until quitting time. Add a garden salad, some thick hearty bread or crackers to complete the meal.

Baked Potato Soup – Potatoes are fabulous, they are so cheap and are very filling. Try this twist on classic baked potato soup for far fewer calories and your wallet and waist will thank you.

Broccoli Cheddar Soup – Best served in a bread bowl, but also great enjoyed with fresh crusty bread.

 

*Those recipes in italics are vegetarian/vegan friendly! Feel free to add meat if that is your thing.

Fresh Caprese Salad

 

Ahhh the Caprese Salad. Trending for years in America, but traditionally know as “insalata caprese” for centuries in Italy. Typically served as an “antipasti” or appetizer, rather than a salad, the caprese salad all Italian home cooks know and love consists of homegrown or local tomatoes at the peak of freshness, young garden-grown basil, thick chunks of buffalo mozzarella, and the finest olive oil you can afford.

Be warned, the recipe I am about to share violates some of the Caprese purist rules, including using baby mozzarella and balsamic vinegar. My apologies. For a true, simple, Italian recipe, try In Italy.

But as they have pointed out, Americans rarely will accept a very simple dish as-is. Our culture demands experimentation, ostentation, and exaggeration. We want to feel special, trendy, unique. We want validation for spending ten times on a meal what the ingredients to make it at home would have cost.

Enough of my soap box. Here is my at-home version of insalata caprese, enough for one light lunch portion or an appetizer for two.

Best in late summer, when tomatoes are at their peak of season and basil is cheap (or flourishing on your window sill)

Ingredients:

  • 4 oz fresh mozzarella
  • 4 oz cubes fresh tomato
  • 1 oz fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 oz olive oil
  • 1 oz balsamic vinegar
  • Garlic salt & Italian seasoning

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Better yet, grow your own basil! It’s an easy plant to tend, in a garden or a container, and is usually quite prolific. Then you can enjoy the fresh scent and taste of basil in sauces, pastas, and pesto year-round.

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Step 1: Put a large handful of basil leaves into a bowl. Slice the mozzarella on top. Cut the tomatoes into chunks and add those. If you’re going for a nice presentation, use a larger ball of mozzarella and larger tomatoes, and slice into thick rounds. Layer these on a dish, alternating red-white-green. Like the Italian flag.

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Step 2: For the purists, at this point you should add some salt and pepper to taste, and just a drizzle of pure, high-grade olive oil. I also sprinkled on Italian seasoning (a little redundant to add dried basil to my fresh basil but hey, I love herbs!), garlic salt (because there isn’t anything that doesn’t taste better with garlic salt on it), and some balsamic vinegar.

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Dig in! That’s all there is to it. This flavor combination is absolutely heavenly. The classic is of course classic for a reason. However, if this isn’t enough to satisfy your curious taste buds, try one of these variations:

  • Caprese Pizza – use the same ingredients, just slice onto a pizza crust, drizzle with olive oil, and bake
  • Caprese Pasta – dice the mozzarella and tomatoes into cooked pasta, warm or cold, sprinkle slivered basil on top
  • Caprese Bruchetta – put the cheese, tomato, and basil on toasted bread or crostini, sprinkle with oil & vinegar & serve immediately
  • Zucchini slices in addition to tomato
  • Heirloom tomato slices in rainbow colors
  • Pesto, parsley, or mint leaves instead of basil

 

Ham & Barley Soup

 

I don’t know about wherever you were in the world for April 20th, but happy first day of Spring! FINALLY! And… we got snow. About four inches of fluffy, wet snow. Eff you too Connecticut.

So rumor has it some big holiday thing is happening next week. As in, Easter is one week from today. WHO SAID IT COULD BE APRIL? Time needs to calm itself down, have a cup of tea, and stay awhile. Moving and starting new jobs doesn’t help, because you are insanely busy non-stop. Or so it feels like.

And once the weather remembers that it’s Spring now, it will just be crazier. Because I’ve got a window-full of happy sprouts just waiting for fresh tilled Earth! And so many new farmers markets to explore, restaurants to try, and seafood to enjoy!

Whether you celebrate the religious meanings behind Easter or just get excited about peeps and edible bunnies, it is just around the corner. And that means you are likely going to have the typical Easter ham. Even if not, you can take advantage of post-Easter sales and snap one up.

Ham & Barley Soup is a classic “dad recipe”. My dad is the expert, and has been making this for as far back as I can remember. As a kid I didn’t like it very much, but now that my tastes have matured it is one of my absolute favorite cold-weather dishes. Or anytime really. It’s so easy, and so flavorful! It is the perfect use for leftover ham and ham bones, will keep money in your wallet, and fill you up.

Ingredients:

  • Bones from one large ham shank
  • 12 oz pearled barley
  • 4-5 large carrots, cut into coins
  • 2-3 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 1/2 gallons water or stock
  • Optional: bunch fresh kale, torn, extra ham meat
  • Salt & pepper

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Step 1: For this simple dish, the magic is in the time. Simmering the ham bones in the water all day long brings out the depth of flavor. Put the water or stock in a large soup pot with any bones, and simmer for at least 1 hour, up to 12.

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Step 2: Add the carrots, celery, and barley. Simmer for another 30-40 minutes or longer, until everything is softened.

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Step 3: Season to your liking, add extra meat if you have it, or some spinach or kale.

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This soup is deceptively simple but addicting. It makes an awful lot, so be sure you will eat it over several days, are feeding a lot of people, or have some extra freezer space.

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This is the batch I added some kale to once it was cooked. I liked the extra greens, it gave some great color, extra nutrients, and tasted awesome all together. Give it a try, maybe next week!

 

Ham & Barley Soup

Ingredients

  • Bones from one large ham shank
  • 12 oz pearled barley
  • 4-5 large carrots, cut into coins
  • 2-3 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 1/2 gallons water or stock
  • Optional: bunch fresh kale, extra ham meat
  • Salt & pepper

Instructions

  1. For this simple dish, the magic is in the time. Simmering the ham bones in the water all day long brings out the depth of flavor. Put the water or stock in a large pot with any bones, and simmer for at least 1 hour, up to 12.
  2. Add the carrots, celery, and barley. Simmer for another 30-40 minutes or longer, until everything is softened.
  3. Season to your liking, add extra meat if you have it, or some spinach or kale. If using greens, simmer an extra 5-10 minutes to soften them. Serve hot with some fresh bread or biscuits.
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Recipe Review: Overnight Oatmeal from Oh She Glows

 

We all know by now that eating breakfast is a good idea. It gets your metabolism going, and should help keep you from eating everything in sight by 11am. Now, in an ideal world we would all love cooking, be world-class chefs, have a kitchen and pantry stocked with nutritious foods, be able to dedicate an hour every morning to whipping up filling, healthy delicacies, and have a personal dish-washer and house cleaner afterwards.

This is not how the real world works.

Many of you are decidedly *not* morning people, and the thought of heating up a frying pan or dicing veggies before three cups of coffee is repulsive. Many of you have children, and the idea that you will have more than ten free seconds to yourself is laughable. And many just don’t enjoy cooking, don’t want to wake up 20 minutes early to make time to cook, or for whatever reason just don’t want to cook a hot breakfast.

That is totally fine. I have a solution that is far healthier and easier on your wallet than running through a drive through and wasting $8 on a carb-heavy bagel, fatty cream cheese, and overpriced coffee that will just leave you with a mid-morning slump.

At the risk of giving away the secret, I’ll tell you: oatmeal.

Ok, cat’s out of the bag. For those of you who just thought “ugh, I refuse to eat gruel for breakfast”, stay with me.

Oats are a powerhouse food, containing the highest amounts of beta-glucan, a beneficial type of fiber, in any known grain. Beta glucan helps slow digestion, and lowers levels of the ‘bad’ cholesterol. This fiber also helps you feel full longer, by eating fewer calories. They also contain a bundle of trace minerals our bodies need for all sorts of functions.

The FDA claims oats can help lower risk of heart disease, and many publications back up that claim. The only caution against oats is that, although they do not contain gluten, they are often grown in the same fields or near other crops such as wheat or barley. Thus those who truly are gluten-intolerant should be cautious.

Anywhoodles, in order to up your oat consumption without feeling like the little kid from Charles Dickens eating his gruel, there are so many things you can do to spruce up a bowl of oatmeal. And making it yourself at home can also save you tons of money and loads of added calories, sweeteners, preservatives, thickeners, etc. over pre-packaged microwave oatmeal options.

The time-saving factor comes in when you try the recommendation of “Oh She Glows” blogger: overnight oatmeal.

Anyone who has tried using real, raw oats rather than the “instant” or “minute” stuff knows, it takes a looooooong time to cook. So by soaking the oats overnight in the refrigerator, problem solved! The oats are soft and ready to go, you just need to give it a quick blast of heat, then add toppings as desired.

My first go, I followed the recipe exactly. Since then, I’ve experimented with oodles of different toppings. I’ll tell you my current fave at the end of the post!

Ingredients:

  • 1 ripe banana
  • 1-2 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1/3-1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 2/3 cup almond/soy milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tbsp ground flax seed
  • Optional: cinnamon, nutmeg, sugar, sea salt, nuts/seeds/dried fruit

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Step 1: Mash your banana into a glass bowl. Add the oats, flax, and chia. Sprinkle on whatever spices you’re using: I added some cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger.

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Step 2: Add the milk and water, and put it in the fridge overnight.

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Step 3: Now, while you sleep, the oats and chia are soaking up the moisture and getting nice and soft.

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Step 4: In the morning, add any other toppings you didn’t want to get too mushy, like dried fruits, nuts, or honey.

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I added about 1/2 tbsp cocoa powder, dried prunes, and chopped up almonds for a chocolate-banana feel and a little crunch.

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This is my oatmeal in the refrigerator, working its magic.

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All toppings added and mixed, ready to heat!

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Step 5: Just pop your bowl in the microwave for 2-3 minutes, or an oven set to 350 for 8-10 minutes, and enjoy!

 

Since I’ve tried every nut, fruit, and spice I could get my hands on, my favorite combo so far is:

  • 1/3 c oats
  • 1 tsp chia seeds
  • 4-5 dried prunes
  • 4-5 dried dates
  • 1 tbsp golden raisins
  • 1 tbsp almond butter
  • Sprinkle of cinnamon

The dates have such a unique flavor, and the combination of dried fruits lends such a sweetness to the finished product. The almond butter gives it a nice burst of flavor too. I cut back on chia and got rid of the flax, because the original recipe was a little too… chewy for my taste. After all, people use flax or chia and water as an egg substitute, so they do make a bit of a gel-like texture.

Your ideal bowl may be something different, mix it up depending on your tastes, what you have available, and any allergies/sensitivities. But this is a quick, super easy, and economical way to start any day off right!