Family Dinner Plan: Mardi Gras

Reading about Pancake Day and Fat Tuesday has inspired me to post a menu this week, the first time this year! I picked up a huge mystery box of veggies from Mariquita Farms last week, which included kohlrabi and cabbage, along with a big bag of spinach, green garlic, fingerling potatoes and wild arugula. Unless I want the chickens to enjoy all this, I best come up with a menu plan for this week:

Monday: Shepherd’s Pie with leftover roast lamb from the weekend, sauteed spinach with green garlic, salad with wild arugula and citrus

Tuesday: Pancake Day – I think I want to try these Spinach Pancakes, but might also consider a filled crepe

Wednesday: Grilled pork chops, kohlrabi salad, roasted sweet potatoes and fingerling potatoes

Thursday: Salmon with arugula pesto, sauteed kohlrabi, quinoa cakes with cilantro, scallions and sriracha

Friday: Take out and Trashy TV (we are currently in the last season of Psych and enjoy Marvel Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D)

What is on your menu plan this week? With spring right around the corner, what are you most looking forward too? Me, the fresh asparagus and I vow to try a version of this Bacon, Egg and Asparagus Salad (the girls recently started laying again!)

P.S. It’s not too late to sign up for the 2014 Mariquita Farm CSA season. Join today and enjoy locally grown veggies from March through November. If you are not in the Bay Area, find a CSA where you live on Local Harvest!

Photo courtesy of Shreveport-Bossier Convention and Tourist Bureau and photographer Jim Noetzel.

Posted in Eat local, menu plan, Spring | 4 Comments

Best of Winter Fancy Food Show 2014

Last week I visited the Moscone Center in San Francisco for the 2014 Winter Fancy Food Show, a production of the Specialty Food Association. Companies from around the world showcase their food products, mostly for buyers from all over (think CostCo). Because of this blog, I qualified for a press pass, which I used to suss out interesting foods for my new low-carb, low-sugar, natural foods, real-food-whenever-possible way of eating. I was also searching for local, family-run, companies. This is what I found, in no particular order.

LAFAZA Vanilla Extract

LAFAZA is a small, family-run business, based in Oakland, California. Using vanilla beans from Madagascar, grown by organic and sustainable farmers, LAFAZA’s product line includes extracts, ground vanilla and vanilla beans. I was drawn to this company because they are local, making a quality product that emphasizes organic and sustainable practices and socially conscious. LAFAZA products can be purchased on their website.

Numi Tea Chocolate Teas

Numi Tea is another small family business, also in Oakland, California. They use only high quality, hand picked organic and fair trade teas in their blends, with no “natural flavors” of any kind. I was drawn to their new collection of Indulgent Teas, chocolate teas in black, herbal teasan and rooibos varieties. They also have a line of savory teas, in flavors such as Tomato Mint, Carrot Curry and Spinach Chive, which to me sound interesting as recipe ingredients and flavor enhancers. These teas are widely available at Whole Foods,

Two Moms in the Raw Grain Free Cereal

Two Moms in the Raw from Lafayette, Colorado, is a raw foods company started by a mother-daughter team focused on food and wellness. I came home with a couple samples and have enjoyed the Grain Free Cereal as a no-sugar snack in the afternoons. Their products are available on Amazon, as well as Whole Foods and other natural foods stores.

A&B American Style Pepper Sauce

It is astonishing how much sugar is in everyday condiments. Just read a label sometime and you will see. I went to the FFS looking for condiment companies making sauces without sugar and found A&B American Style from New York. They are making pepper sauces without added sugar or preservatives, using quality products from local farms. I tried their original Pepper Sauce (which was plenty hot for me) and the ingredients are White Vinegar, Red Chili Pepper, Carrot, Onion, Habanero Pepper, and Salt. Compared with the hot sauce I found in our fridge which has Acetic Acid, Xanthan Gum and Sodium Benzoatte, as a preservative. Love a list of ingredients that I can pronounce and replicate easily! These hot sauces are available on their website.

Seely Mint Peppermint Patties

According to the many press releases I received before the show, Mint is the new “it” flavoring. I am ok with that, I love mint. Seely Mint is a 3rd generation grower of mint at their family farm in Oregon. Sustainably grown from native spearmint stock, the mint is steam distilled once to keep the peak flavors. Most of the mint oil is sold off to other companies, but Seely has retained enough to start their own line of chocolates. I loved the mint flavor and the family-run business aspect of this company. Their products are available through Bi-Rite in San Francisco and on their website.

Hey Boo Coconut Jam

Ok, this product is definitely not low sugar, but it is local, made in the Bayview neighborhood of San Francisco. Hey Boo Coconut Jam, called Srikaya in Indonesia, is an amazing product that I could probably eat straight from the jar. In Original and Mango, alongside a Coconut Caramel (great for ice cream), these three products are all natural, dairy free, gluten free and contain no preservatives. Hey Boo Jams can be purchased at Draegers, New Leaf and other specialty markets.

Super Seedz Sea Salt Pumpkin Seeds 

Pumpkin seeds are a great snack, especially for folks who have nut allergies or need something quick on the go. I loved these sea salt pumpkin seeds from Super Seedz because they have just two ingredients, pumpkin seeds and sea salt. Kathie has other flavors too, including Super Spicy and Coco Joe, and all are available on her website and Amazon.

Neo Cocoa

No samples were available to take home from this delightful company, since the owner Christine makes everything from scratch and the truffles are designed to be eaten, not stored for long periods of time. Another local company (based in Belmont, California) Neo Cocoa truffles are available at the La Cocina Kiosk at the Ferry Building, plus several Whole Foods in the Bay Area. I tried the newest flavor Salted Caramel with Hawaiian Sea Salt, but next time I will look for Almond Butter and Smoked Salt or Cool Peppermint!

Unbound Pickling Dill Pickle

In my quest to find processed food without sugar and a a laundry list of ingredients, I spent lots of time tracking down pickles and fermented foods. Unbound Pickling won a 2013 Good Food award for their Pickled Beans, but I was drawn to their Dill Pickles. Nice snappy taste, made with locally sourced vegetables and herbs. These pickles can be found at most Whole Foods in the Bay Area.

MoonShadow Grove Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Towards the end of my day at the show, I stumbled into the California Olive Oil Council booth and met Diane, one of the owners of MoonShadow Grove. We discovered we live in the same town, except during the summer and most weekends when she and her husband are at their 150 acre grove in Butte County, California, managing their olive trees. MoonShadow Grove is organic and the grove has been producing olive oil since the 1990s. The Ascolano Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil just won a 2014 Good Food Award. Any of the MoonShadow olive oils would be welcome additions in my kitchen!

Spicely Tea Infused Chocolates

I have been buying Spicely Organic spices for several years, mostly when shopping at Whole Foods and I need to replenish something in my spice collection. I like their eco-friendly packaging and selection of unusual spices. At their booth, I discovered they also have a line of loose leaf organic teas as well as tea and spice infused chocolates. And they have a store at 2nd and Market in San Francisco, which I plan to visit Real Soon Now.

Herbal Water Lemongrass Mint Vanilla

I only tried a couple beverages at the show, because many had sugar and other “natural” ingredients. Herbal Water was refreshingly different, offering a wide range of water-based beverages with herb flavorings. No chemical preservatives, no artificial flavors, and all organic ingredients. I tried the Lemongrass Mint Vanilla (remember, Mint is the new It flavor) but was also intrigued by the Peppermint Melissa Spearmint Herbal Tea (Melissa is another name for Lemon Balm). These beverages can be found at Draegers and Whole Foods in the Bay Area.

Note: I was not offered compensation from any of these companies for reviews of their products. In most cases, the sample I tried was on the show floor, along with 5 Billion of my best foodie friends (ie. not ideal sampling conditions). These are my opinions and my opinions alone, developed while walking the show floor, talking with the small business owners and researching these companies online. The only item I received for free was a press pass to the show, a $35 value. 

Posted in Food on the go, Reviews | 2 Comments

Souvenirs of a Kitchen Gadget Girl

As you know, we like to travel, and 2013 has been a great year for us. We have been hither and yon several different times. My family does not tolerate a ton of shopping, but when they let me loose, I love to seek out fun kitchen tools and gadgets to bring home. Here is my collection from this year’s travels:

Germany:

From Kustermann’s in Munich, I found this Clack Egg Topper from Take-2 Design in Germany. I use it to remove the tops of soft boiled eggs for breakfast!

Japan:

From a kitchen store along the Kappabashi Dori in Tokyo, I brought home Tokai stainless steel tongs as a gift of friendship from Kyoko. Very handy for serving at dinner!

Denmark:

From Illums Bolighus in Copenhagen, I found this cute Lucie Kaas Bordfolk (Table People) to bring home for my morning soft boiled eggs (theme, maybe?)

Sweden:

From the Wallåkra Stenkarlsfabrik in Vallåkra, I picked up a Swedish butter spreader, like the one pictured above. Mine is made of juniper wood and has a wonderful aroma, and we use it daily for our butter and toast.

And during a walk around Lund, Sweden, in Western Skåne, I bought a 1dl measuring cup, manufactured by the Swedish company Linden-Jonas. The 1dl is the perfect size to make many of the recipes my Swedish friends have shared!

What is the most interesting souvenir you have ever brought home from vacation?

Photos courtesy of Take-2 Design, Tokai, Lucie Kaas, Ingebretsens, and Linden-Jonas. 

Posted in Gadgets | 1 Comment

Family Dinner Plan: In Season Fruit

Fall is here.

Our box from Mariquita Farms contained Lettuces, Mixed Heirloom Tomatoes, Principe Borghese Tomatoes, Spigariello, Potatoes, Red Heart Peppers, and Avocados.

Here is my menu plan for the week of September 22:

Sunday: Grilled steaks, tomato salad, lettuce salad with avocado, sauteed spigariello (a friend of kale), mashed sweet potatoes

Monday: Slow Cooked Beef and Green Chile Stew, steamed and buttered potatoes, salad

Tuesday: Leftovers

Wednesday: Roast salmon, tomato salad, roast potatoes

Thursday: Taco Thursday! Beef tacos, with salsa, guacamole, salad

Friday: Takeout and Trashy TV

What is on your menu plan this week?

 

Posted in Autumn, Eat local, menu plan | Leave a comment

Family Dinner Plan: First squash of the year

 

Our box from Mariquita Farms contained the above beautiful Padana Squash, which will last for a long time on the counter, until it is more what I think of as squash season, ie. cooler temperatures. For now I am still into the fresh tomatoes and chiles, the squash will come later.

In addition to the Padana Squash, we also found Mixed Heirloom Tomatoes, Green Cabbage, San Marzano Tomatoes, Sweet Peppers, Lettuces and Cayenne Peppers. Honestly, I am punting on the Cayenne Peppers, or maybe I will dry them for decoration.

Here is my menu plan for the week of September 15:

Sunday: Leftover New Mexican food, including pork in green chili, zucchini with green chili, and (wait for it) posole in green chili

Monday: Roasted salmon, tomato salad, sweet potato fries

Tuesday: Pulled pork, coleslaw, peppers and tomatoes to snack

Wednesday: Leftovers

Thursday: Grilled lamb chops with olive tapenade, Greek salad with avocado dressing,

Friday: Takeout and Trashy TV

What is on your menu plan this week?

Posted in Eat local, menu plan, Summer | 2 Comments

Family Dinner Plan: Busy Week

Really, aren’t they all?

Anywho, a couple evening meetings and training sessions means I need to have my ducks in a row for dinner this week (I have told you how important this plan is to my overall mental health, right?)

Onto this week’s photo. Because we have been getting our vegetables (and some fruits) from Mariquita Farms, I am beginning to notice some similarities in my photos. This one was taken same time last year:

Similar, no?

Back to the meal plan, with our box from Mariquita that featured Green Anaheim Chiles, San Marzano Tomatoes, Cherry Tomatoes, Kale, Cured Red Onions, Sommerfield Apples, and a big bag of topless Beets.

Here is my menu plan for the week of September 8 (Happy Birthday Mom, you would have been 81 today!)

Sunday: Grilled lamb, chilled beet soup, green salad

Monday: Dinner out after music lessons

Tuesday: Taco night – chicken thighs in green chili in the crock pot, hand-cut salsa, pot of beans

Wednesday: Curried chicken with ginger and yogurt, rice, salad

Thursday: Chocolate Chili, cherry tomatoes and cucumbers

Friday: Trashy TV and Takeout

What is on your menu plan this week?

 

Posted in Eat local, menu plan, Summer | Leave a comment

Family Dinner Plan: Tomatoes

Three Day Weekend. Feels like the last bit of respite before the downhill spiral into fall schedules and the holiday madness. These menu plans become so important, they help me sort my thoughts out of the week and center my thinking before I get caught up in the minutiae of day-to-day tasks and obligations. The plan is almost meditative, as I think about each day, what my big responsibilities will be, where the other important folks in my life are, and what makes the most sense for our evening dinner.

Our box this week from Mariquita Farms is a seasonal-cusp box, with both Tomatoes and Jonagold Apples, as well as Fingerling Potatoes, Red Chard, Sorrel, French Tarragon and Mixed Sweet Peppers.

Here is my menu plan for the week of September 1:

Sunday: Grilled chicken with tarragon and tomato sauce, potatoes and pepperonata, green salad

Monday: Grilled marinated flank steak, rice stuffed tomatoes, green salad

Tuesday: Roast Chicken, mashed potatoes, green salad, roasted veggie (something from the farmer’s market)

Wednesday: Dinner out after soccer practice

Thursday: Roasted salmon, steamed veggies, brown rice, salad

Friday: Trashy TV and Take out!

I will make this Tarragon Chicken Salad for lunch at least once this week, with leftover roast chicken from Tuesday night. And the chard and sorrel went into a frittata for brunch on Sunday. Tomatoes and apples are staples in lunches, I like my apples with almond butter for an afternoon snack.

What is on your menu plan this week? And back-to-school favorites?

Posted in Eat local, menu plan, Summer | 1 Comment

Family Dinner Plan: Is Fall here already?

Fall begins, I guess. The air smells different, a little crisper. And the shadows seem a little longer, but as Andy, our Mariquita Farms farmer pointed out, the first official day of fall is not until Sunday, September 22. I think in reality it has started a little earlier!

In our veggie box from Mariquita Farms, we found Mixed Heirloom Tomatoes (already inhaled), Early Girls Tomatoes (also inhaled), Carrots, Hungarian Wax Peppers, Kale (already gone in salad), Eggplant, Gala Apples and Cucumbers.

Here is my menu plan for the week of August 25:

Sunday: Grilled lamb chops, roasted ratatouille, roasted potatoes

Monday: Spaghetti and meatballs (I will use Spaghetti Squash for mine), sliced cucumbers and carrots

Tuesday: Masoor Dal and Carrot Soup with Cashew and Cilantro Pistou, grilled pork chops, nan bread, salad

Wednesday: Dinner out after soccer

Thursday: Roasted salmon, brown rice, roasted carrots

Friday: Trashy TV and Takeout!

What is on your menu plan this week?

P.S. Photos will come back soon, I just need to get re-inspired!

Posted in Eat local, menu plan, Summer | Leave a comment

Family Dinner Plan: Back to School

Back to school this week, and yes, I am a little happy. I do love the structure the school year provides, but I am also happy to take several weeks off and unwind. In addition to going back to school this week, we also start soccer, after school music, etc. Its shaping up to be a busy fall.

My menu plan this week is based on what I can cook in the slow cooker and what we have left in the fridge from last week’s Mariquita Farms veggie box:

Monday: Korean beef with rice, kohlrabi and kale salad (we actually mixed the two together on our plates, very tasty)

Tuesday: Taco night with slow cooker chicken in green chili sauce, guacamole, tomatillo salsa

Wednesday: Tortellini with red sauce (I will use spaghetti squash for mine), braised greens, cucumber and cherry tomatoes

Thursday: Rice stuffed tomatoes, grilled pork chops, green salad with kohlrabi

Friday: TGIF and last block party of the season. I am going to clean out the freezer and fridge of any of the summer appetizers!

What is on your menu plan this week? 

Posted in menu plan, Summer | Leave a comment

Party Menu: Summer Bridal Shower

Kate and Matt are getting married later this summer, and I was delighted to be able to host a bridal shower for Kate to meet her extended in-laws. A backyard garden party was planned, and I got my butt in gear and spruced up the patio and surrounds to make everything nice for the day.

Invitations were simple, but fun. I pulled out old card making tools and stamping supplies. The hardest part was coming up with the little verse to open the invitation!

Since it was a cooking and entertaining shower, I asked guests to bring a recipe or two to add to a book for Kate. I went to the handy local stationary store and purchased a 1.5″ 3-ring binder in bright green, a box of sheet protectors (should get heavy duty next time) and a package of tab dividers. Using a cookbook as a guide, I made tabs for most major food groups, such as appetizers, poultry, meat, desserts and beverages. Then I pre-loaded the binder with lots of old family recipes from all sides of the family. As guests arrived, they were invited to sit down and tape their recipe onto a blank sheet of paper, slip it into a protective sleeve and find a good spot in the book. It was fun to see all the great recipes, written by hand and with special stories to accompany.

Lunch was designed to be casually elegant, a summer ladies lunch. We started with spicy deviled eggs (no bridal or baby shower is complete without), Gougeres with Proscuitto and Parmesan, and Gazpacho with Guacamole. Lunch was Tarragon Chicken Salad with cherries served in a butter lettuce cup, along with Pickled Red Onions and bread rolls. And dessert was Glissade Chocolate Pudding, Little Apricot Cakes and berry cups.

Beverages included Blackberry Mojito Punch (non-alcoholic), Prosecco and sparkling water. And the guests went home with little pots of honey from my backyard.

Now, if the weather would have cooperated, we could have eaten outside, but as it was a unseasonably hot day (read: 105+), we stayed indoors. Thanks to Julie for bringing the deviled eggs and punch, and thank you to my friends who helped me with the day, including loaning many of the cute serving items!

 

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