Welcome to Sarah's Adventures in Culinary Experimentation

This blog is for posting recipes I've experimented with while teaching myself to cook. Some I have taken from my favorite recipe books, others are purely my own experimentations. My audience is usually just my husband, my toddler daughter, and I and we are living on a tight budget. Sometimes you might find a splurge.

Hopefully you'll find something here that you like!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Damhead Organic Farm and Shop

About a month ago I received an e-mail from my University Student Association. In it was a note about fulfilling the requests of students to get discount organic produce delivered straight to their doors in Edinburgh, since living in the city makes it hard and expensive to find good organic produce. This notice intrigued me, not simply because I have enjoyed cooking and have fallen in love with a wide variety of fruits and vegetables since expanding my mind to embrace more healthy cooking, but because 90% of my friends are vegetarians!

When I lived back in the United States, I knew one vegetarian. And even that one vegetarian was pretty loose in her interpretation of being a vegetarian (she was 12 when she started consciously accepting the lifestyle and is now 15). I know the lifestyle, as it was all the rage for a while in the media and due to protests. So I was familiar with the different levels of being a vegetarian that sprung up in the United States. Most of my friends, though, were so anti-vegetable that they listed themselves as strictly meat and potatoes people! That too was a bit too extreme for my taste. I liked a decent amount of vegetables, but they were not my favorite thing in the world.

In March 2007 I started making changes to my lifestyle and the types of things I was eating. Immediately I started focusing on adding more fruits and vegetables to my diet so that they consumed the bulk of what I was eating. I started eating bell peppers (raw and cooked), as well as raw tomatoes (which I HATED). Since moving to Edinburgh in August 2007 (where being a vegetarian seems to be a popular way of life, fully rejecting meat and meat products), I have become what I like to call a "part-time vegetarian." The bulk of what we cook is vegetable, but we still enjoy meat and other non-vegetarianism things in their various forms. But our emphasis on fruits and vegetables as accounting for at least 75% of what we eat in a day is strong.

So when I saw that notice, I thought "what a great idea!" Fresh, organic fruit and veg delivered straight to my door?!?! And what a cooking challenge to be assigned different fruits and veg each week! I've never cooked with swede (rutabaga) and parsnip before. The only vegetable we eat tons of that doesn't seem to appear in the more recent boxes is broccoli, but our local grocer provides it really cheaply (1pound a head). Its not strictly organic, but we love broccoli too much to be picky.

Let me share the website with you, so that you can see what I am talking about. They are called Damhead Organic Farm and Shop. They are based right outside of Edinburgh and deliver your food to you weekly, fortnightly or monthly. You can order from their organic store or you can sign up for box deliveries. We signed up for a box delivery. For our first week we ordered the small fruit and veg box and a fruit bag. Ray LOVES his fruit and I am trying to eat more fruit for breakfast (mostly apples and bananas), plus they had a good selection in their fruit bag this week.

I am excited to see how this will work out. The extra fruit bag was a little splurge on our part, but the vegetable box is reasonable (only 12 pounds) and I get a 10% student discount and free delivery! Then the rest of our money would only have to be spent occasionally on some meats, grains, and dairy. But considering 70% of our diet consists of fruits and vegetables, I think 12pounds (or this week for example 22pounds) is a really great deal!

So my goal is to start thinking about the different ways I can use the items supplied in the box and I hope to post recipes for them. I also think it is a great way to help support local farmers and the local economy. So might I recommend that if you are interested in fresh, organic produce, you check out your local area and see what is available. It might be worth it and you might cut down on your grocery bill, as well as gas and other bills depending on your lifestyle and what offers are available.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Garlic Bread Soup

I got this from marthastewart.com and it just looked so delicious! We had it as an accompaniment to the stuffed peppers. It turned out ok and was VERY garlicy. So be prepared.

Garlic Bread Soup
Makes 5 cups; serves 4

Use a high-quality olive oil for the best flavor in this rustic soup. If you don't have stale bread on hand, lightly toast fresh bread, and tear it into small pieces.

Prep: 10 minutes
Total: 40 minutes

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, preferably Spanish
2 TBSP garlic paste
2 cups bite-size pieces stale crusty bread (4 ounces)
5 cups homemade or low-sodium store-bought chicken stock
1 bay leaf
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
3 large eggs, beaten

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-low heat until hot but not smoking. Add garlic paste; cook, stirring occasionally, until very fragrant but not browned, about 10 minutes.

Add bread, and stir to coat. Stir in stock and bay leaf; season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer 10 minutes.

Discard bay leaf. Stir in eggs. Cook, stirring occasionally to break up eggs, about 10 minutes. Serve soup garnished with parsley leaves.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Beef and Potato Burritos

Beef and Potato Burritos

For less spicy burritos, remove the jalapeno ribs and seeds before chopping. I think I got this recipe from marthastewart.com, but I am not sure. It was part of a list of recipes I compiled from online that I wanted to try. This one turned out pretty good.

Prep: 30 minutes
Total: 30 minutes
Serves: 4

1 large baking potato
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3/4 pound ground beef
1 onion, chopped
1 jalapeno chile, finely chopped
1 can (14 ounces) chopped tomatoes with juice
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons paprika
Coarse salt
flour tortillas (10-inch)
cup sour cream
grated Monterey Jack or preferred taco cheese

1. Peel potatoes; cut into 1/2-inch dice. In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add potato; cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 6 minutes.

2. Add beef, onion, and jalapeno; cook, breaking up meat with a spoon, until beef is thoroughly browned, about 4 minutes. Add tomatoes and juice, cumin, paprika, and 1 teaspoon salt; cook until liquid has evaporated, about 6 minutes.
3. Heat tortillas, one at a time, in a dry skillet over medium-high heat, turning once, until lightly browned, about 10 seconds.

4. Leaving space on bottom and sides, layer tortillas with sour cream, lettuce, beef mixture, cheese, and cilantro, if using; squeeze lime juice on top. Fold bottom upward, covering filling by 2 inches. Fold each side to overlap, leaving the top end open. Serve garnished with lime wedges.

Savory "French Toast" and Molho

Savory "French Toast" and Molho
3-4 Servings

6 eggs
1 TBSP chilli powder
1 TBSP cumin
salt & pepper
1 foot long loaf of ciabatta bread

Beat 6 eggs with chilli powder, cumin, salt and pepper.

Cut your bread into thin slices (1/2 inch or less).

Soak the bread slices in the egg mixture and then put into hot frying pan.

Cook as you would french toast. Make sure you don't burn them. Flip back and forth until you feel they are cooked through. It should make about 20 pieces (including ends).

Arrange the slices on a plate and spoon molho over the bread. Don't be scared to add some of the juices. The bread will soak it up.

I use molho all the time as a get way to add vegetables to many dishes that might otherwise have simply filler veggies (like lettuce). I always keep a container of it in the fridge. I got the recipe from my mother-in-law who got it from her mother, I think. I use it so often and I have dabbled with it so much that I really should make a little log of "101 Ways to Use Molho". We'll see.

Here's the recipe (altered a tad) so you can use it with this recipe. I will post an entry again discussing the recipe.

3/4 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp minced garlic
2 onions diced (I alternate between onions to create different flavors)
2 diced bell peppers (I alternate colors to create differents flavors)
2-3 tomatoes diced (or 6 small tomatoes if you're in the UK buying those packs)
1 ½ teaspoons salt