Tag Archives: Quick

Year of the Vegetable (and Pasta Puttanesca)

I have very exciting news.

News that involves vegetables.  Many vegetables, coming to me once a week in a box from a farm just a little further east on Long Island.  A CSA box.

CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture, and it’s a system where the consumer (that’s me) buys directly from a farmer (that’s them).  It’s a bit expensive for our budget, but I talked Fritz into letting us try it this year.  It averages out to about $21 a week (our grocery budget is around $50 a week).

From June 1st ’till the end of November we will be picking up a box of CSA veggies from a drop-off point close by our apartment.  I’m really excited because I can’t wait to have fresh-picked local vegetables at my disposal for 26 weeks.  I’m also looking forward to learning how to use some new vegetables that I’ve never had the opportunity to use–the farm grows over 100 varieties of vegetables, and they promise 6-10 different types of vegetables in each box.  Of course, I am a little nervous about getting stuck with a giant pile of kale every week for 26 weeks–but their list of last year’s boxes has a lot of variety, so I remain hopeful.  I also have wanted to really dive into making us eat a lot more fresh and green vegetables this year, so with this system I’m stuck finding a way to use what I’ve been given (plus I hate wasting food and I love a challenge so…).

The farm we are using is called the Golden Earthworm Organic Farm, and here’s their website if you want to learn more about CSA or their farm: thegoldenearthworm.com

In other exciting vegetable news, our baby tomato plants are growing like wildfire.  On some advice from Mom, I knew I needed to thin them out ASAP since a lot more of them were growing than I anticipated.  I bought some peat pots for $1.50 and got to work.

To prepare the pots, poke a hole in the bottom, fill with potting soil, and drench with water until the pots are saturated.  Transplant the babies, and voila!

Obviously I would rather not be transplanting baby plants when they are this small, but the pots got overcrowded really fast and I didn’t have much of a choice.  Hopefully now with more room these 14 plants will prove their worth (’cause I’m dreaming about fresh salsa and canning tomato sauce already).

I think that Henry also considers himself their watchdog/mother/guardian angel.  He’s constantly watching over them, sniffing them, and not yet eating them.

Not yet.

Lastly, here’s a recipe for a fresh  new pasta sauce I tried for the first time ever tonight: pasta puttanesca.  It’s quick and simple (and I left out the anchovies, so it’s not fishy), and I absolutely loved it.  I normally don’t even like olives, but between the brine and the bright bites of parsley that I harvested from our herb garden (already!? I know!!), it was my favorite pasta sauce ever.

Pasta Puttanesca (adapted from America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook)

  • 1 box whole-wheat angel hair pasta, cooked according to directions
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 3-4 cloves garlic (I only had dried garlic so I did my best)
  • 1 t red pepper flakes
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 C black olives, pitted and roughly chopped
  • 1/4 C minced fresh parsley
  • 1 T capers (optional–I didn’t have them)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Cook the pasta according to directions on box.

Over medium heat, saute the garlic in the olive oil.  Before it starts to brown, add the olives, red pepper flakes, and tomatoes.  Let the sauce simmer until it begins to thicken, then add the parsley.  Flavor with salt and pepper to taste.

Dinner was conceptualized and on the table in less than 20 minutes, including picture time.  Love when that happens.

Light and fresh is really the best way to describe this meal.  Sprinkle some fresh parsley on top for a springtime finish.  We also added a dash of grated parmesan cheese–serious yum.  Fritz did wish that he had some chicken in there.  Sometimes I forget that there are other people in this household who crave meat in their meals–sorry Fritz.  It’s an easy addition for next time, though.

Fritz and I are watching a movie called Creation about Charles Darwin’s life.  I strongly recommend it, even to those of you out there who aren’t giant nerds.  And especially those of you who are (Mom!).


Filed under Entrees, Vegetarian

(Not Your Grandmother’s) Tuna Salad

I found this recipe in Cooking Light magazine, and I decided to make it as a lazy post-gym quick yet satisfying meal.  Only once I realized that it was going to score high marks in the all-important triumvirate of cooking did I think to take a photo.  It was:

  1. Cheap
  2. Easy
  3. Healthy

I mean, what more could you ask for?  Oh wait–delicious!  That’s the last thing I expected, because I have never been a fan of canned tuna, and even less so of tuna salad.  But this is a whole ‘nother kind of tuna salad.

So here’s my recipe and one picture of my unintended success.

Not Your Grandmother’s Tuna Salad (adapted from Cooking Light)

  • 6 oz (half a box) of whole-wheat penne
  • 7 oz can of tuna, packed in water
  • 1 large (any color) bell pepper
  • 1/2 C cooked spinach, drained (I used frozen, but fresh would be even better)
  • 1/2 C cooked peas (I used frozen again)
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 2 T red wine vinegar
  • 1 t olive oil
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste

Boil the pasta according to directions on the box.  Meanwhile, cut the pepper in half lengthwise, remove the seeds, and place skin-side up on a foil-lined baking pan.  Broil in the oven until the skin is blackened, about fifteen minutes.  Dice into small pieces.

Once the pasta is cooked, drain and put in a large bowl.  Add the rest of the ingredients and toss well.  If using fresh spinach (or arugula), toss in the rinsed leaves and allow the hot pasta to wilt them.  Otherwise, heat the frozen veggies and drain before adding them in.

Serves four–and for the record, it’s good microwaved the second day too.

Since I don’t have any other pictures of dinner for tonight, I thought I’d let you feast your eyes upon the Christmas gifts that I made for some of my favorite ladies in my life.  Homemade vanilla extract.

It’s super easy–vanilla beans, vodka, and a cute bottle.

Let it sit for about six weeks until it turns dark and fragrant (much darker than these bottles–these pictures were taken the second day).  Then top it with an ornament and BOOM! Perfect presents!

Only eleven months ’til Christmas!  I think it’s about time to start planning some gifts, right?

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Filed under Entrees, Side Dishes

Mexican Quinoa Skillet

This is a pretty exciting recipe.

Not because it is gourmet, or terribly difficult, or requires any skilled technique whatsoever.  Actually, for all the opposite reasons: it’s cheap, healthy, super easy, uses only one pot, and most importantly–it’s delicious and very filling.  I mean–what else can a woman ask for?

Oh, yes–leftovers.  This recipe makes about 6 servings, which means when I was busy studying for finals, Fritz could toss a big spoonful of this into a Tupperware, bring along a whole-wheat roll-up, and make himself a hearty Mexican-style wrap for lunch at school.

So basically, this is a recipe for perfection.


Mexican Quinoa Skillet (adapted from this recipe)

  • 3/4 to 1 lb ground turkey
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 1 14-oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 T chili powder
  • 1 t ground cumin
  • 1 C red quinoa, rinsed
  • 1 1/2 C water

Saute the onions and peppers in a large pot/skillet over medium high heat in 1 T olive oil, or until browned.  Add the ground turkey and brown until thoroughly cooked, drain the excess fat, then toss in the spices and stir for two minutes more.

Next, add the tomatoes, quinoa, and water, and simmer on low uncovered for 20-30 minutes, until quinoa is cooked and unfurls.  If the water evaporates too quickly, cover and add a bit more water as needed.

Once it’s ready, serve hot in a giant bowl and enjoy yourself some quick-n-easy comfort food.  You can copy Fritz and eat it in a wrap, topped with some salsa and grated  cheese.  He’ll be flattered.

With all the shopping and wrapping I have to do, it’s nice to have a dinner that doesn’t take long.  What’s your go-to speedy meal for a crazy night?


Filed under Entrees

Almond Chocolate Fudge

This is the last candy recipe that I’ll have on here for a while–I made these to go with the Mocha Melt Truffles for the dental students, and since it’s such a quick and easy recipe I wanted to post it for anyone needing last-minute Christmas gifts.  It’s a basic but still yummy recipe, and looks great with the almonds on top–perfect for stacking in a jar and giving away.

Speaking of chocolate, Mom told me about Lindt’s Excellence 90% cocoa “Supreme Dark” bar, and I found some at Wal-Mart on sale today.  I am an instant believer.  It is bitter and sweet and so, so dark.  You should probably go out and buy some right now.  I also grabbed a bar of salted dark chocolate, because I’ve told Mom about it and I want her to try some ASAP.  I was thinking about trying a salted fudge recipe too, but that one will have to wait until I make a few non-candy recipes.

Almond Chocolate Fudge

  • 18 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 14-oz can sweetened condensed milk
  • dash of salt
  • 1 1/2 t vanilla
  • 3/4 C chopped almonds and a handful whole almonds for the top

Combine the first four ingredients in a saucepan and melt over medium heat.  Once melted, mix in the almonds and pour into an 8×8 pan lined with wax paper.

I topped with whole almonds (because it’s cute), then stuck the pan in the fridge for a few hours while I made the truffles.  Once chilled, they can be cut into squares–they’ll hold their shape at room temp, so don’t worry about keeping them in the fridge.  However, since this is quick fudge, it doesn’t have the crystallized texture that old-fashioned fudge has, but a smoother, more creamy taste.  Can’t have everything!

It’s always fun to make presents for people.

In other happy news, I successfully finished finals week for the fall semester!  To celebrate (and save money by not going to PT Prom at $72 a ticket), we went to a fun dinner at John Harvard’s with the Jensens.  It was so nice to just hang out and chat with two of our favorite people and not feel guilty about the fact that I should be studying.  That dinner kicked of five weeks of vacation.

Five. Weeks. Of. Vacation.


Jeff and Cait had the worst lighting possible...but they still manage to look good!

Cait ate as healthy as always with soup and salad, and I had a garden burger with mozzarella, mushrooms, and roasted red peppers. Mmmm.  The boys celebrated the way boys do with giant smoked stackhouse burgers (or something like that) with carmelized onions and bacon.  In an evening full of classic girl moments, Cait and I did not order fries and instead snuck Fritz’s and Jeff’s fries all night.

Science has proven that fries are healthier when you didn’t order them.

The evening also consisted of some beer, wine, and good conversation–basically a perfect way to end a jam-packed semester.

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Filed under Desserts

African Safari Beer Bread

Fritz and I got married on May 30, 2009 (a year and a half ago yesterday!).  For our rehearsal dinner, the Zietsmans threw an “African safari”-themed dinner for all the relatives and friends that had gathered ’round for the occasion.  I still dream about that lamb roast…

But that’s besides the point.  One of the fantastic ideas they had was to buy me a safari-themed cookbook (A Kitchen Safari) that everyone signed to give us their best wishes.  Of the best signatures:

 Lauren and Fritzy,

You guys are pretty much the best thing that’s ever happened to me (and each other, I guess) further proving the perfection of our triangle.  I love you both!


Dearest Lauren & Boeta,

May your home be filled with love, blessings, hugs, smiles, memories, and good food (by Lauren), good cabinets (built by Fritz), & most important…the two of you, side-by-side!  I am so overjoyed to see the two of you tie the knot!  Love, unconditionally…


La and Fritz

I am without words…too much lamb.

Grandpa Charles

So perfect for reminiscing.  As I was paging through this book a few days ago, I was re-inspired about how much I love everything South African, and found a lot of recipes I want to try.  The first one I tried was a tremendous success–African Safari Beer Bread.  That’s right, beer.  And weirdly enough, I actually had some in the fridge.

African Safari Beer Bread (from A Kitchen Safari, called “Camping Bread”)

  • 750 ml bread flour (a little over 3 C–I used 1 1/2 C whole wheat flour and 1 1/2 C all-purpose flour)
  • 5 ml salt (1 t)
  • 5 ml ground cumin (1 t)
  • 15 ml baking powder (1 T)
  • 2 ml bicarbonate of soda (1/2 t–what a great name for baking soda)
  • 1 x 340 ml can of beer (1 1/5 C or 11 1/2 oz)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 5 ml rock salt (1 t, coarse sea salt)

Pre-heat the oven to 160 degrees C–for us Americans, that’s 320 degrees F.  Mix together the dry ingredients (not the rock salt–that’s for the top later).  Add in the beer.  You can drink the rest if you want…it was a little too early for me.  Oh, and I hate beer.

The dough will be firm and a bit sticky.  Shape the dough and place it into an oiled bread pan.

Using a pastry brush (or your husband’s silicone grilling baster brush), spread beaten egg over the top and sprinkle with the coarse salt.

Here’s the best part–it doesn’t have to rise!  Bake in the middle rack of the oven for an hour.  Turn out and cool.  The book suggests serving the bread with apricot preserves and mature cheddar cheese–a combo which I’ve found to be quite popular with my favorite South Africans. 

The bread is salty and has a perfect touch of cumin.  Fritz took one bite, look puzzled, and took a second–then proclaimed it was “his favorite bread ever”.  The crust is dee-vine.  The egg and salt brushed on top give it almost a homemade soft-pretzel feel, and the bread underneath is moist and not too dense.

By far the fastest bread I’ve ever made.

I have a lot of hope for the rest of the recipes in this book!  I’m going to try a second one now for the married group meeting tomorrow: granola muffins with raspberry preserves.  Fritz might faint when he finds out–that man loves granola. 

And eventually I’ll find some time to study.


Filed under Breads