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Category Archives: Bountiful Baskets

Sweet and Sour Chicken

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I received two pineapples in my Bountiful Basket this week.  One of them was immediately earmarked for a sweet and sour stir fry.  Feel free to use whatever vegetables that you prefer along with the pineapple to make an all natural sweet and sour sauce.  Brown rice vinegar and pineapple are all you need to make a great sauce.

You can make this same recipe with your favorite meat, just make an even trade.  Shrimp and pork are good choices.  Today, I had chicken available in the freezer, so my decision was easy.

If you don’t have a fresh pineapple, you can use canned.  If you are concerned about the texture of the chunks of pineapple, pick crushed and it will practically dissolve into the rest of the stir fry.

Traditionally you dredge the meat in corn starch, but I substitute tapioca starch for little man.  I keep meaning to try a whole grain flour, but haven’t yet.  Please let me know if you find a different flour that works well for you.

Sweet and Sour Chicken

If you have some on hand, this meal is great with a sprinkling of sauerkraut.

Sweet and Sour Chicken

3 cup brown jasmine rice, cooked according to package instructions.

1 lb chicken breast or tenders, cut into 1” cubes
1 cup tapioca starch
1/2 cup safflower oil (I like to add a Tbsp of sesame oil for more flavor)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 inch knob ginger, minced
1 onion, sliced
2-3 carrots, thinly sliced
2-3 stalks celery, thinly sliced
8 oz sugar snap peas
4 oz. (6-7) mushrooms, sliced
1 tsp salt, to taste
half to whole pineapple, to taste, cut in bite sized chunks
3 T. brown rice vinegar, to taste
3 T. coconut aminos (optional, sometimes I don’t have any)
drizzle honey if needed

Start the rice.

Heat oil in wok over medium high.  Dredge chicken in cornstarch, until well coated.  Place in wok and pan fry until done.  Don’t over crowd the pan or they will boil instead of fry.  It normally takes me 2-3 batches in the wok to cook them all evenly.  Remove from pan and reserve for later.

Add garlic, onion, carrots, and celery to the remaining oil in wok. Add a little more oil as necessary.  Cook until almost done. Then add mushrooms and snap peas until completely cooked.

Add pineapple, chicken, coconut aminos, and vinegar. Stir until warm.  Taste, adjust salt, and drizzle a little honey if you would prefer your stir fry a little more sweet than sour.  I’ve managed to wean the kids off honey, but I used to add a little bit.

Serve over rice.

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Honey-Mustard Chicken Tenders with Pear-Fennel Salad

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Today has been a day full of roasting and pureeing pumpkins for the freezer.  I freeze the puree into two cup portions, chill them in the fridge, then freeze them for the next year.  I make soups, muffins, pies, smoothies, sauces, and now pancakes with the spoils of cooking all our fall decorations.  Between now and the Nativity fast, I will be processing the rest of the squashes that have been decorating my house for the last month.   I even got a great deal on some hail damaged butternut squash from a nearby chemical free farmer.  Buster has requested that we try butternut pancakes, and I think it’s a great idea.

I am also on the lookout these next few weeks for a couple of well priced turkeys for the freezer.  I cook one and shred it for quick meals after Christmas.  The other goes straight into the freezer and waits until the first round is cooked.  “Why so much turkey”” you ask.  I like variety and this time of the year is the best time to get well priced turkey.  My mom and sister are also both allergic to chicken and beef.  This method of stocking up allows me to cost effectively cook for them.  Other cuts of turkey any other time of they year are out of my price range.

Tonight’s dinner is a favorite around here.  It is fast and easy, but and is made with things around the house instead of a bottled marinade.  It is based off a meal we were served once at a friend’s house.  My very talented friend Anita, is also a wonderful cook.  Anita grilled these on skewers, but I’ve modified the recipe for the oven.  I change up the sides based on what is in the house, but oven roasted potatoes are always on the side.  It’s the green stuff that varies.  Normally I don’t make quite so many sides, but I had a little of a lot of different things and hungry tummies to fill.

Today I served the chicken over sauteed purple and white cabbage.  That cabbage was left over from last week’s spring rolls and the borscht I made yesterday.  I’m still working on the borscht post, so you haven’t missed anything.  Then I sauteed up the long beans from last week’s CSA with a little onion in the same hot pan.

This week from Bountiful Baskets, we got lots of fennel and some pears, so I tried a fennel salad for the first time.  That fennel salad outshone the chicken!  Every kid ate it quickly, and the pickiest of them said, “It was mostly good.”

Honey Mustard Chicken
Tomorrow I promise to post what we always prepare with the rest of the package bacon.  This dinner is always prepared when the next morning is not a fast day.  The kids are always excited when we have this meal, because they know what is coming for breakfast.

Honey-Mustard Chicken Tenders

1.25-1.5 lbs chicken tenders
1/3 pkg of bacon strips cut in half, 1/2 slice per chicken tender (optional)
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp dried tarragon
1/2 cup dijon mustard
1/2 cup honey

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.  Mine is usually already cooking the oven fries at this temperature, so it’s ready to go.

In a large (9X13) glass baking pan or casserole dish, whisk the dijon and honey with the spices and spread evenly over the bottom of the pan.

Place the chicken tenders in a single layer in the pan.  Evenly coat both sides in the honey mustard.

Put a half strip of bacon on each chicken tender if desired.  Bake for 20-25 minutes until the chicken is cooked throughout and still juicy.  Serve with a generous slathering of the honey-mustard drippings.  Sometimes when I’ve only got lettuce for a salad I drizzle the cooled drippings as dressing.

Pear-Fennel Salad

1 bulb of fennel, thinly sliced (everything, bulb, stalks, and fronds)
3 stalks celery with leaves, thinly sliced
3 pears, diced
3 Tbsp olive oil
3 Tbsp golden balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp honey
1/4-1/2 tsp salt, to taste

Toss everything together in a large bowl.  Enjoy!

Persimmon and Millet Stuffed Winter Squash

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Tonight’s dinner is one that takes more effort to prepare than many of our other dinners.  Nevertheless, it is well worth the time.  It has been a resounding success two years in a row, but this year I tried something a little different.  Last year I used pears and mushrooms, but this year I tried persimmons in the stuffing mix.  The results were so good, I’m dreaming of planting a persimmon tree in my backyard now.  If you can’t find persimmons, you can simply use pears or apples instead.

I discovered persimmons last year when they came in my Bountiful Basket.  They were great in cookies and sweet bread in our first experiences with them.  Now they’re back again this year, and I wanted to see if we could use them differently.

If you are a persimmon novice, like I was, start with the fuyu persimmon.  They are sweeter when firm and much more forgiving for a first experience.  This is also the variety that is easier to eat fresh and make into jam.  Fuyus are good when firm and soft, so you have a lot more time to use them before they go bad.

Hachiya persimmons are best used for baking and aren’t sweet enough to eat raw until they are soft like an over ripe tomato.  Hachiyas are best when they are so mushy that their skins split when you gently handle them.  That can be a little “off-putting” for a first experience, unless you know what to expect.

Winter Squash
You can stuff any squash you like with this recipe.  Last year, I only used acorn squash and mini tiger pumpkins.  There is a larger variety in my pan this year since my harvest packs included new varieties.  I’ve got two white patty pan squashes, one white acorn squash, four mini tiger pumpkins, one small carnival squash, two white mini pumpkins, and one orange mini pumpkin.  All in all, I think my family will get two and a half meals out of this batch.  The kids had lots of fun over dinner sampling the different flavors and textures of the various selections.  Little Man was very proud of himself for eating a whole pumpkin.  What is your favorite winter squash?

Also, if you want a vegan stuffing, you could use mushrooms or pecans instead of the meat.  I actually missed the mushrooms I put into last year’s version.  On the other hand, I’m probably the only one that noticed the difference.

Don’t forget to save those squash seeds for roasting.  Put the kids on it.  The task is a great sensory experience and good for fine motor skills, too.

Stuffed Winter Squash

Stuffed Winter Squash
(Note:  This was enough to stuff my whole selection of squashes, so cut down on the filling if you are making a smaller batch.)

A selection of winter squash, washed, dried, cut in half,  and seeded.  Brush the insides and edges with olive oil.

Put in oven cut side up for 45-60 minutes at 400 degrees (F).  Some of the smaller ones may be ready earlier, so take them out as needed.  They should all be fork tender, but still retain their shape when you remove them from the oven.

4-5 cups of cooked millet (measured after cooked, this is a great thing to do with leftovers).  Start it cooking now if you don’t have any leftover.

2-3 Tbsp olive oil
4 celery stalks with leaves, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 lb ground pork or turkey
4 green onions, chopped
1 T fresh thyme (1 tsp dried)
2 T fresh sage, minced (2 tsp dried)
Salt to taste  (I used about 2 tsp today)
1 1/2 cups diced persimmon, peeled if desired (5-6 fuyus)
4-6 mushrooms small diced (optional)
2 cups kale or swiss chard, cut into ribbons

In a deep skillet, heat oil over medium heat.  Add celery, garlic, fennel seeds, and salt.  Saute for 5 minutes.

Add ground pork and saute until almost cooked, 8-10 minutes

Add the rest of the ingredients to the pan and saute until the greens are wilted and the mushrooms are fully cooked if you have included them.

Toss with fluffed millet and evenly distribute.

Stuff winter squashes and bake another 20 minutes.

Serve with a side salad and a simple oil and vinegar dressing.

Sweet Potato Minestrone

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People here a have been complaining about sore throats all day.  John came home from work sick.  Good thing there was soup on the menu.

Sweet Potato Minestrone is a seasoned favorite around here.   My mom found this recipe somewhere years ago.  The original suggestion was to use mild Italian sausage, but no peppers for Buster (and Grandma) leaves you hunting for an alternative.  After a little tweaking I finally came up with a spice combination that gets close enough to sausage for my palate.  I hope you agree.

I have had a bumper crop of swiss chard this season, so rather than buy spinach, I just substituted chard in this time.  I still think I prefer spinach in this soup, but the chard definitely holds it’s own in this application.  You won’t be sorry either way you go.

This leads me to my budgetary tip of the day.

Herbs and Spices: Start an herb garden.  Fresh herbs taste the best, but they are priced at a premium in the grocery store.  Start with perennial varieties like sage, oregano, and rosemary.  They come back year after year and grow like weeds and are just as easy to care for as weeds.  Eventually you will be handing out samples to the neighbors.  Herbs will definitely boost your gardening ego.  The cost of those little plants will be recouped many times through the years.

Those who don’t want to brave a garden, but still want to save money on herbs and spices?  Buy them in bulk and refill the containers you already have.  Look at health food stores for their selections.  Central Market and Sprouts are my preferred stores.  When you buy a bottle of any herb or spice at the regular grocery store, you are mostly paying for the bottle.  When you buy in bulk, you can often refill your bottle for less than a quarter.  Use the saved money to try a new spice.  Check your local Bed, Bath, and Beyond for empty spice bottles.  They generally run about a dollar each.  You can even bring that 20% off coupon to save enough to fill with something new right away.  Laugh if you will.  A penny saved is a penny earned.

Sweet Potato Minestroni

If you are looking at that picture with a puzzled expression, you are in the same boat my daughter was in at dinner time.  “Mama, where are the sweet potatoes?”  They are in there. The variety that came in my Bountiful Basket last time was pale yellow instead of orange on the inside.  The flavor was great, the color left something lacking this time.  Though next time I go to the Asian grocery store, I might have to snag some of these to try instead.  I’m sure Snuggle Bunny will love it!

Sweet Potato Minestrone

2 Tbsp olive oil
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 medium onion, diced
3 medium carrot, sliced
3 ribs, chopped celery, chopped
1 lb ground pork or turkey
4 tsp fennel seeds
1 Tbsp thyme
3-4 medium, peeled, diced sweet potatoes
4 cups cooked great northern beans (measured after cooking or 2 cans)
2-3 Tbsp fresh oregano, chopped
enough water to cover
3 generous handfuls of spinach (or swiss chard)
salt to taste

Heat the olive oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the garlic, onion, carrots and celery. Lightly salt. Cook until soft, about 5 minutes.

Add the ground meat, fennel, and thyme, and cook until lightly browned.

Add sweet potatoes, beans, oregano, and water. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for about 25 minutes.

Stir in spinach and cook until the leaves wilt, about 2 minutes.

Quick Sunday Dinner

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We love leftovers at our house.  Well at least I do.  My family doesn’t complain.  Leftovers are my coping strategy for having to cook almost everything from scratch.  I try to cook large recipes Monday through Friday and use the leftovers for lunches and the weekend meals.  Remember, we don’t do sandwiches much around here, so our homeschooling lunch is often leftovers.  I really like to avoid cooking on Sundays, too.

Sometimes, that plan doesn’t work out so much.  Sunday evening came and there was only lettuce ready to eat in the fridge.   Little Man would not approve of solely bunny food for dinner, so something had to be done.

Saturday morning I volunteered at my local Bountiful Baskets site.  Most weeks I contribute to this co-op on Monday.  Then, Saturday at a local school a big truck arrives.  You never know what is going to come out in cases, but $15 (plus a small handling fee that varies based on location) gets you a basket of fruit and a basket of veggies.  Volunteers help sort the cases into shares and distribute to other contributors.   Volunteers get to take home a little something extra from the items that don’t distribute evenly.  This week, I got an additional bunch of asparagus to bring home.  In addition, my basket contained: apples,  bananas, bell pepper, carrots, green leaf lettuce, mangoes, potatoes, tomatoes, grape tomatoes, what might be the world’s biggest yam, and the initial asparagus bunch.  There are also add on items you can get at additional cost.  I got three princess pumpkins and a pear pack that included bosc, bartletts, d’Anjou, red, and asian varieties.  The beauty of this co-op is that you contribute weekly.  If you don’t need anything this week or you’re going to be out of town when the truck comes, don’t contribute.

This morning I contributed towards a harvest pack that will have multi-color corn, mini pumpkins, and other winter squashes.  This is the time to stock up on winter squashes.  The best prices come in October and November.  Today’s decorations will be tomorrow’s food!

Now back to Sunday dinner.  The credit for this new recipe goes all to my husband, John.   I really didn’t want to go to the store to get anything, but I kept coming up an ingredient or two short.  Normally when I make this recipe I use broccoli, but this time John suggested I saute up some swiss chard from the garden.  The results will be repeated, but could be done with any tasty green you have on hand.

Baked Potatoes with Turkey and Swiss Chard

10 potatoes, baked using your preferred method
1 lb cooked shredded turkey from the freezer
1/2 medium onion diced
plenty of swiss chard from the garden (8-10 leaves), washed
2-3 T olive oil
salt to taste

I scrubbed the potatoes, and Snuggle Bunny jabbed them liberally with a fork.  We got them in to cook despite Little Man’s best efforts to practice his pitching skills.

Out to the garden to snip off many leaves of chard, a few of kale, and four okra while we were there.

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large pan that has a lid.  Add the onions and start cooking with a pinch or two of salt.

Then remove the stems from chard thinly slice stems.  Add the stems to the pot and let Little Man stir vigorously.  Make sure you use a pan with a high enough sides that you don’t lose half of dinner in the process.

Cut the leaves into ribbons, and add with the cooked turkey when the onions and chard stems have turned translucent.  Stir it until the veggies are incorporated.  Cover with the lid and allow to steam for a few minutes until the chard has wilted.

Place potatoes on the plate.  Slice and mash slightly with a fork.  Drizzle with olive oil or coconut oil and a pinch of salt.  Top with turkey and chard.

I served this with steamed green beans from the freezer, but a salad or fruit would have been nice, too.

What about the kale and okra from the garden?  The okra waiting happily in the fridge for another day.  The kale was sauteed and cooked with scrambled eggs Monday morning for breakfast.  Well at least for the ones who can have eggs.  I like to snatch a few bites before the eggs, or sometimes cook it with some breakfast sausage instead.