The Kitchen Sink

For the love of food, life and everything in between.

Month: April, 2013

Popped Amaranth

This post is dedicated to the very talented blogger behind Edible Perspective. Had I not stumbled upon her blog I’m not sure how long it would have been before this post would have occurred. So thank you Ashley for such inspiration!

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For a few months now, maybe longer, I have been subconsciously debating picking up a bag of amaranth. I walk past displays of Bob’s Red Mill even though I have a kitchen stocked with milled flax, chia seeds and the like. I pick up bags of ancient grains, I turn them over, read the stories on the back of the package, I wonder about Bob and I think, “maybe next time I’ll try something new.”

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I have never directly expressed an interest in cooking amaranth, like many, I wasn’t even sure what amaranth was or what I would do with it. I like to try new things and given the nature of my profession, I often feel compelled to be comfortable discussing, cooking and eating a wide variety of foods.

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So back to this wonderful evening when I was making virtual stops at a few of my favorite food blogs, one particular site gave a shout out to Edible Perspective and naturally, I had to see where the link would take me. I got to poking around through various recipes when I landed on popmaranth. Popped amaranth! And just like that, I knew that I needed to go out and get myself a bag of this stuff and get popping.

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Though my love for amaranth is new and evolving, I thought I would use this post as a platform to educate those that may have no idea what I am talking about. And yes, you can definitely expect to see variations of breakfast posts inspired by amaranth in the future.

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  • Amaranth has quite the history in Mexico and is considered a native grain of Peru.
  • Amaranth is not only full of protein, serving up 8 grams per uncooked 1/4 cup, it is also considered a complete protein.
  • 1/4 cup of dry amaranth contains about 80 mg of calcium, that’s almost as much as 1/3 cup of milk! It is also high in Magnesium and serves up 7 grams of dietary fiber per serving. 
  • Amaranth is naturally gluten free, proving to be yet another option for those required to follow a GF diet. 
  • Lastly, amaranth itself seems to have a very neutral flavor much like quinoa. This of course means that the flavoring possibilities are nearly endless. 

It may take a few times to get the cooking technique down but once you’ve mastered it you’ll be popping like a pro.

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Head over to Ashley’s site for some much needed cooking tips.

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Add in’s are endless including a combination of any of the following just to name a few: Shredded coconut, cocoa powder, vanilla extract, cinnamon, fresh or frozen fruit, dried fruit, chocolate chips, milk, yogurt, honey, maple syrup, peanut butter. You get the idea…
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So what are you waiting for? Get popping!

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Honey Banana Parfait

Sometimes I have a really difficult time naming the things I create in the kitchen. I often have to resist the urge to name every single ingredient in the dish out of fear that I may sound like I’m reciting my grocery list. But then I ponder which ingredients are the most important and which can be left out of the title.

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Who am I kidding though, they’re all important or else they wouldn’t have made it into the recipe. No but really, this causes some minor anxiety in my life. For this breakfast parfait I’ve stuck with honey and banana because those were the two ingredients I woke up thinking about. The rest just kind of fell into place. And yes, that’s correct, I wake up thinking about things like bananas and honey.

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I happen to be a big believer in the fact that quinoa is one of those foods that you should always make more than you need. Also, I have yet to truly determine what 1 cup dry quinoa equates to once cooked. Sure, I could take the time to measure it out but I usually just take what I need and then stow the rest in a tupperware. As I said in  a post not so long ago, quinoa can be incorporated or substituted in a variety of dishes and it’s a fantastic source of plant based protein. More recently it has found its way on to my breakfast plate, and really, I never saw that day coming.

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In this in between phase of (fairly) warm days and chilly nights I wake up indecisive as to whether I want something warm like stick-to-your-ribs oatmeal or something cool like a refreshing bowl of yogurt, fruit and nuts or a simple bowl of cereal. This parfait seems to be a nice mix of both temperatures.

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Banana Honey (Quinoa, Peanut Butter, Greek Yogurt) Parfait

Serves 1

Inspired by Edible Perspective Blog

Ingredients: 

1/4 cup plain, nonfat Greek yogurt mixed with 1/4 tsp pure vanilla extra and 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon.

1/2-3/4 cup cooked quinoa (warm – I microwaved mine for about 45 seconds)

1 medium sized banana, sliced thinly

1 TBSP peanut butter, melted

1 tsp honey

Start by layering greek yogurt, banana slices then quinoa in a glass. Repeat layering technique, making sure to end with quinoa on top. Save a few banana slices for the top or garnish, then drizzle melted peanut butter and honey over the quinoa. Dig in!

Optional variation: include some raw or toasted walnuts or almonds.

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Square Foot Garden Update

Happy Earth Day everyone!

Regretfully, today wasn’t the kind of day that I spent all day outside, appreciating Mother Earth. Soaking up rays and Vitamin D, basking in the blooms of spring or even walking barefoot in grass in need of a trim wasn’t on my agenda. The gusts off the river kicked up white caps and my ears rang when I retreated indoors. While it’s not as if we have snow on the ground or anything, it wasn’t exactly the most balmy of spring days.

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In honor of this day I thought I would share a little square foot garden (SFG) update.

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The last two nights have brought temps that dipped into the lower thirties/upper twenties. This of course was not something I anticipated as I planted my seeds in shorts and a tee just about two weeks ago. The frost advisory had us quickly turning to Google for the quickest way to save our sprouts. Hay wasn’t an option as the sun set over the back stonewall, casting a deep shadow on the garden. A layer of leaves were feasible but sounded messy and a bit time consuming. Plastic bottles with the tops sliced off to cover the seedlings sounded nice, except we had only a few bottles and many sprouted tufts of beginner radishes and kale. An old comforter from a Macy’s Bed in a Bag circa 1998 and a tarp pulled from the garage seemed to be our best option.

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I would be lying if the scene from Gilmore Girls didn’t cross my mind. You know the one were Jackson, Sookie, Michael, and Lorelai sleep atop/beside the beloved zucchini monitoring for frost for the sake of an unscathed crop?


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(Photo courtesy of FanPop.com)

Though tonight may bring another evening of “tucking the garden into bed” so to speak, the comforter/tarp method appears to be saving the young leaves and for that I am thankful.


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Seeds planted so far include kale, lettuce, beets, carrots, radishes and sugar snap peas.

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Peppers have not been transplanted yet, as they are still snuggled up under the artificial warm glow in the living room.


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May will bring the opportunity to plant winter squash, cucumbers and miniature pumpkins for a fall harvest.

Kale Parmesan White Bean Patties

I hear it all the time.

Eating healthy is too expensive.

Eating healthy is too confusing.

Eating healthy takes too much time.

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I tend to be a no-excuses kind of girl and so I must resist the urge to say make time, spend the money and figure it out. Of course I don’t really feel this way. One of my favorite parts about nutrition is the opportunity to teach people how to make nutrition work for them; in their financial situation, within their schedule, and on their budget.

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 I can’t give out money and I can’t take away soccer practices, family affairs and job responsibilities; but I can help people navigate their way through twisted web of nutrition information overload and devise a game plan to stretch the food dollar without sacrificing good taste or good nutrition.

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Personally, one way I tackle the woes of limited time is by gravitating towards meals that can be easily transformed from weeknight sit down dinners to on-the-go lunches. I also love the idea of cook once, eat twice. I use whatever spare time I can find during the week or weekend to plan ahead, for planning is a huge priority of mine.

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These kale parmesan white bean patties are yet another take on the home made veggie burger. After years of eating mediocre packaged veggie burgers, I finally took my own advice and made my own. By making extra, I  have been able to make them just as convenient as their pre-packaged counterpart but with far more flavor, fiber and protein than anything the freezer section could ever offer. By storing a few patties in the freezer to be thawed and cooked for weekday lunches or dinner in a pinch, I feel I’ve established a sort of nutritional convenience.

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Kale Parmesan White Bean Patties

Adapted from Kitchen Simplicity

Makes six patties

Ingredients:

1/2 of a yellow onion, diced

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 large leaves kale, stems removed, leaves chopped

2 tablespoons water

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/8 teaspoon paprika

2 – 15 oz. cans white beans, rinsed and drained

1 teaspoon red wine vinegar

1/4 cup grated parmesan

1/4 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes

1/4 cup pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds)

1/2 cup breadcrumbs

2 eggs

salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

In a medium skillet, heat a drizzle of olive oil over medium heat until shimmering hot. Sautee garlic and onion for about 3-5 minutes. Add kale, water and spices and cook until kale has wilted. Removed from heat and allow to cool slightly.

Add 1/2 the beans to the food processor with half of the kale mixture, all of the grated parmesan, pepitas, red wine vinegar and sun-dried tomatoes. Pulse several times until a chunky puree forms. Add in eggs and the rest of the bean and kale mixtures. Pulse several more times, transfer mixture to large bowl and mix in bread crumbs. Form into patties.

Heat patties in a skillet drizzled with olive oil until both sides of the patties are browned and golden.

Side Note: Patties may be frozen and thawed for future use or stored in the fridge until dinner time.

 

 

 

 

 

This One’s For You, Boston.

An incoming text from a Bostonian friend of mine lights the screen of my phone early Monday morning. It reads everyone in Boston is off today but me. In my usual point-blank manner I replied, yes, it’s Patriot’s Day and Marathon Monday. You should have stayed home.

Little did I realize what kind of meaning those words would take on several hours later.

The tragedy seems unthinkable and unimaginable. A nation reeling in the aftermath of yet another instance of innocent lives being plucked from our earth far too soon. I feel uncomfortable talking about it, for I am so fortunate to not know anyone who was harmed or present on that catastrophic city block as the explosions went off.

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I flip on the news Tuesday, it’s five AM, I expect the usual stories of traffic and small town events, for a split second I forget what has happened. As I wipe the morning from my eyes the images from Monday flash like a horror film across the screen.

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I get into the car and drive up to Massachusetts for work, my Boston-based radio stations share stories of heroism and hope, fear and loss. I enter through the doors of work and words like amputation, explosion and terror plague the conversations I hear as I walk through a crowded lobby.

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But Tuesday morning brought the most lovely orange sunrise I’ve seen in quite awhile. I couldn’t help but recall the blazing hues of pink and orange that washed across the sky the morning following the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting. Like clockwork, the sphere on the horizon shed light on a day filled with what if’s, how come’s and what’s next?

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I never have the chance to photograph the sunrise and soft light I witness as I race up Interstate 95 in the morning. But I am occasionally fortunate enough to be home in time to catch the other side of the sun and the way it sits on magnolia blooms and patches of daffodils.

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I vow to continue my efforts to find joy in the simplest of things. Stacking them against the reality of uncertainty and the fragile thing we know as life.

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Princess {Beet} Pasta

DSC_0045One of my favorite things to pick up while at Whole Foods is a big bushel or three of orange and red beets. Beets offer a host of health benefits, can be fairly versatile, easily adapted into recipes and their ability to serve double duty (think beets and leafy greens) are just a few of the reasons I try to pick up a bunch whenever I pass through the produce section.

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As far back as I can remember, my mother has eaten beets like they were going out of style. Pickled with onions, prepared from the store mostly. But recently, I’ve been grating, slicing, roasting and baking beets into a variety of dishes. Beet chips, beet burgers, roasted beet salad, I feared I was running out of ideas and perhaps my family was fearing there would be no end in sight so long as beets remained in season…

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Though the beets at the farmer’s market are a bit smaller than the gigantic counterparts residing at Whole Foods, the color is rich, the produce is local and I am very thankful to find them in such fresh and convenient proximity.

I’ve found that beets are to goat cheese what jelly is to peanut butter so it was a given that my next dish would feature the two together. I was very surprised that several beet pasta recipes do not require the act of making homemade pasta. Thank goodness for that.

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This was also a perfect opportunity to pluck a handful of chives from the backyard garden which is thriving as spring fever floods the region.

If you’re wondering about the name, the other day I attended a nutrition conference in which a psychiatrist spoke about a feeding disorder clinic. The technique of adding sour cream to ketchup to boost calories in picky eaters was so perfectly recalled as princess ketchup. I felt that the sweet pink/magenta hue of this pasta was deserving of a similar name. Though the beets do not significantly boost the caloric content of the pasta, they do pack an added punch of fiber and antioxidants.

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Princess {Beet} Pasta

Serves 2 to 3

Adapted from Not Without Salt

 Ingredients:

1 pound cooked bow tie pasta (I love Ronzoni Smart Taste for its ability to look and taste like a white pasta with the fiber content comparable to whole wheat pasta)

drizzle of olive oil

1/2 small yellow onion, roughly chopped

1 clove of garlic, minced

one bunch of beets, washed and grated (my bunch contained four beets that were slightly larger than golf balls)

juice from 1/2 of a lemon

salt and pepper as desired

3/4  cup of toasted walnuts

crumbled goat cheese as desired

5 or 6 chives, chopped

Cooking Instructions:

Cook pasta according to package directions, reserving 3/4 cup of cooking liquid.

Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a deep skillet or pot over medium heat. Once shimmering hot, add garlic and onion and cook until soft, about 5 min.  Add beets and cook 10 minutes.

Add cooking liquid to beet mixture, stirring frequently until the majority of liquid has evaporated.

 Add lemon juice, then salt and pepper to taste.

Add beet mixture to pasta and toss until pasta is evenly coated.

Top with chopped chives, toasted walnuts and goat cheese.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Banana Maple Breakfast Quinoa


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Through a mix of general curiosity, a genuine interest in food and feeling compelled to keep current on the zillions of food products out there, I often find myself traipsing through grocery stores, reading labels, evaluating packaging and trying different products in addition to bringing home pantry staples, seasonal produce and key ingredients for my latest cooking endeavor.

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Recently, I attended a nutrition conference which featured a talk on probiotics. The speaker touted Kefir for its many strains of viable probiotics. I like to think that most often, if someone can make a good argument for the beneficial aspects of a food I will do my best to try it out for myself.  With a reputation of sour taste, like a drinkable yogurt, the Kefir has yet to make it off the shelf and into my basket. One day soon my friends.

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On a grocery store trip back in January, a product which did peak my interest was a pre-packaged, breakfast-on-the-go, banana cinnamon quinoa. I’m always looking for more ways to incorporate quinoa into my meals but I had yet to attempt to eat it anytime before noon. I stood in the crowded, somewhat claustrophobic aisle of Whole Foods, scanning the label for fiber and protein content. It passed initial inspection. Feeling fairly confident, I purchased and tossed it in my purse for breakfast at work come Monday morning. Hot or room temp, the packaged encouraged me to grab a spoon and fuel up on the warm undertones of banana, vanilla and cinnamon. Unfortunately, it didn’t even pass what I like to call the “sniff test.” I don’t know what flavor exactly led to the wave of nausea that followed. I persevered for this was my breakfast and goodness knows I could not face the day without early morning sustenance. Let me leave out the finer details and cut to the chase, I dumped the quinoa and used my orange as a crutch to get by until I could have my lunch.

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This less than optimal breakfast quinoa experience has meant that I have continued to pair savory quinoa with salads, formed it into patties (I promise to share a beloved quinoa burger recipe soon), heck, even as a side dish. But quinoa has yet to be invited back to the breakfast table. Until this morning.

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With a bit if planning, I believe this take on banana maple quinoa could be just as portable and convenient as its disappointing, pre-packaged, Whole Foods counterpart.

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Banana Maple Breakfast Quinoa
Serves 2

1 1/2 cups cooked quinoa
2 Tbsp toasted, chopped, walnuts
2 TBSP maple syrup
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp ground nutmeg
2 fairly ripe bananas
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Cook quinoa according to package directions. This step can easily be done ahead of time. I usually cook up a batch and keep it in the fridge to add to recipes as needed.

Preheat oven to 350F, spread walnuts onto a baking sheet and toast for 8-10 minutes. Remove from oven, allow to cool slightly and roughly chop into smaller pieces as desired.

Mash one banana with a fork, dice the other banana and set aside.

In a small bowl, combine quinoa, mashed banana, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla and maple syrup and stir to combine. In a skillet over medium-low heat, add quinoa mixture and cook just until heated through, about 1 minute. Transfer into two bowls for serving, top with diced bananas and toasted walnuts.

Oatmeal Cookies with Dried Cranberries, Miniature Chocolate Chips and a Hint of Ginger


This past weekend I got to thinking about just how much of my life involves food, both voluntarily and involuntarily.

For the sake of my health and my waistline not all of my food endeavors involve eating. Not all at once anyways.

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This past weekend we headed up to Whole Foods after we caught word that they carried a few varieties of compost (Thanks Sue!). Ideally, I would have liked to have been able to scoop some up from a bin at a local farm, but I wasn’t making any headway on that front and the time for planting the garden was quickly approaching.

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As the nearest Whole Foods is about forty five minutes away, it isn’t exactly our go-to spot for grocery shopping. But it sure is fun to stock up on some items that I know are typically hard to come by… think, frozen organic mango. Had anyone told my younger, less nutritionally-focused self that I would think of visiting a certain grocery store as a treat, I would have surely been the first to give them a strange and unforgiving look.

When applying to the dietetic internships I was challenged to do a bit of self reflection into why I was so interested in food and nutrition. Now and again I revisit this topic as I often find more clues along the way than I would have expected.

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One of those moments was a mandatory lecture I attended one night during my sophomore year of college. It was a lecture on sustainability. I am rather embarrassed to admit, it was the first time I really understood the meaning of sustainability. It was a topic brought to life by the famers and guest speakers that fueled the discussion panel.

The following year, I attended the gathering, this time on my own will, seeking more information. One of the speakers was Amy McCoy, a local blogger, farmer and new author of the cookbook, Poor Girl Gourmet. I started to seek out produce from farmer’s markets, I developed an appreciation for the farm stand supplying our corn in the summer and began to question the origins of my food, but I never did pick up her cook book. Looking back, it would have been the ideal time to do so, with limited funds and excessive assignments to complete, cooking up some of her recipes would have been a great outlet for me without busting my bank account.

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I’d like to write this off as a “better late than never” endeavor of sorts. With the help of my father, and the local book store, I can finally say that I have my very own copy of Amy’s cookbook in my kitchen.

The first recipe I attempted was oatmeal cookies with dried cranberries and crystallized ginger. Well, sort of. I wasn’t about to return to the grocery store as I had just been over the weekend, so of course some substitutions did occur. I also was feeling like I needed a bit of chocolate in my life, hence the addition of some miniature chocolate chips. The other motivating factor to baking these was an opportunity to use my brand new SILPAT baking liner. No more parchment paper. Hooray for less waste!

Here is the recipe, barely modified from Amy’s book, Poor Girl Gourmet. You can visit her fantastic and hilarious blog here.

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Oatmeal Cookies with Dried Cranberries, Miniature Chocolate Chips and a Hint of Ginger (try saying that with a mouthful of these cookies)

Makes about 40 (As Amy suggested, I took half of the dough, formed a log and tossed it in the freezer. A brilliant idea.)

Ingredients:

1 cup whole wheat flour

3/4 cup unbleached, all purpose flour

3/4 tsp baking soda

3/4 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp kosher salt

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

1/2 tsp ground ginger

2 sticks (16 TBSP) unsalted butter, softened

1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar

1/4 cup granulated sugar

2 eggs

2 tsp vanilla extract

3 cups old fashioned oats (not, I repeat not, quick-cooking oats)

1/2 cup dried cranberries

1/2 cup miniature chocolate chips

In a large bowl, combine flours, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger. Whisk to distribute ingredients equally.

In a stand mixture, fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars at medium speed, about three minutes until fluffy. Add in eggs and vanilla and mix again to combine.

Slowly add flour mixture and mix just until combined and moist throughout. Using a wooden spoon, mix in oats, cranberries and chocolate chips.

Form dough into one inch balls and place on a baking sheet, about 2 inches apart. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, rotating pan halfway through baking time.

Amy recommends baking for 8 to 10 minutes but I like my cookies with a little extra brownness (word?) and crunch, hence the additional baking time.

Sunday Square Foot Garden Start Up


On a Friday not so long ago (let’s say early March), we awoke to a ground covered in fresh white powder, with several inches still to fall in the midday hours. It didn’t seem like the greatest day to head to the garden center, but it was the plan for our day off. The 4’ x 4’ frame had been built and we’d picked up our own copy of Mel Bartholomew’s second edition of All New Square Foot Gardening.

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The green house at the garden center was eerily vacant with piles of pots and beginnings of spring showcases yet to be built. With list in hand we lugged cubic foot after cubic foot of soil components to the counter top and then, with the Jeep in four wheel drive, we sauntered back to the house in search of warmth and shelter.

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The bags of peat moss and vermiculite and soil would sit in the basement untouched for several weeks.

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Today, the temperature just barely made it to fifty degrees and with the wind a bit gusty it felt more like it should have back in early March. Chilly air aside, it was time to fill the frame and lay the groundwork for the square foot garden.

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The most challenging part so far has been finding compost. We did our best though, finding three varieties as well as a potting soil mix that supposedly tries to accomplish the mixture we were creating of equal parts peat moss, vermiculite and compost.

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This little sprout was hitching a ride in there.

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After mixing the soil ingredients with the help of a large tarp and some adequate watering to settle the dust, we headed indoors with flushed cheeks to sort seeds and plan out our square foot plots.

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Here’s the first draft.

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As I admired the excel spreadsheet I thought, if even one seedling sprouts I will be happy. After all, this is only my second attempt at gardening.

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May the bright and sunny disposition of these daffodils bring you happiness and hope as you embark on another Monday!

 

Beet Burgers


DSC_0036I would love, love, love to say that spring has arrived here in Connecticut and while daffodils have sprung and the fuzzy green bases of May poppies march alongside the garage, the air still carries an aftertaste of winter. Without a doubt, the yearning for spring is in the air. With tree buds and voices alike, everyone seems to want to know, where is spring?

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Easter did not feel quite like Easter this year, for an egg hunt outside certainly would have required jackets at the very least, pale green flats look silly and premature and my white pants continue to crouch in the very back of spring clothes bin.

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I am trying to be patient, the square foot garden frame sits idle and empty in the backyard, while sprouts thrive under the glow of 18 hours of artificial light indoors.

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As my lunch companions may tell you, I am still on a kick of salads topped with warmth these days. The latest concoction boasts a handmade beet burger.

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While the pink tinge seems to linger on my palms despite several scrubbing sessions, the bouquet of flavors and textures quickly reminds me how rewarding a homemade veggie burger can be. This was also an opportunity to use up some of the red wheat berries and sprouted lentils from last week’s farmer’s market excursion.

Beet Burgers

Lightly adapted from Sprouted Kitchen and The New Persian Kitchen by Louisa Shafia.

Makes 8 to 10 patties, freezing the extra patties, highly encouraged.

Ingredients

3 TBSP extra virgin olive oil

1/2 medium yellow onion, roughly chopped

1 cup chopped walnuts

1/2 cup raisins

1 cup grated beets

3 cloves garlic, smashed

2 tsp. sweet smoked paprika

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. pepper

1/2 cup sprouted lentils (like I said, I used a mixture, including wheat berries.

1 egg

2 cups cooked brown rice

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat until shimmering hot. Add in chopped onion and cook until slightly browned, about 10 minutes. Add in walnuts, raisins, grated beets, garlic, paprika and cook for about 10 more minutes. Allow mixture to cool slightly and transfer to a food processor. Pulse several times, until garlic is adequately minced and a chunky consistency is reached.

Transfer mixture to a large bowl and mix in pepper, salt and half of the lentil/wheat berry mixture. In the food processor, pulse the other half of the lentil/wheat berries, egg, and rice a few times, until you have a coarse puree. Add rice mixture to beet mixture and mix until combined.

Form mixture into 1” thick patties and cook in a skillet, drizzled with olive oil, over medium heat. Cook until each side has achieved a browned, firm crust.

A word of caution, the patties are fairly fragile, try to leave them undisturbed while browning up in the pan until it is time to flip them.

Serve warm with veggies on a bun or atop a salad of mixed greens and cheese as I did.