Friday, December 31, 2010

My New Year's Resolutions

Tonight is hopefully going to be all about a sparkly dress and glass after glass of champagne. Despite losing my last two grandparents and becoming single again, this year has been excellent. I learned a lot about vegetables, I got the Pink Lady, and I now live in a really awesome apartment with a good friend. I feel that I learned a lot about living a greener life. Let's not forget the best part of 2010 - I started this blog! For eight months now I have been showing small households how to enjoy fresh foods.

I never resolute to lose weight, because my health is always something I want to work on everyday of my life. Also, I will no longer promise to life a greener life. I am actively working on that every day... so no need to beat a dead horse. I am never good at picking one thing, I usually have two or three I want to do. So here they are...

1. Have a dinner party once a month: Some will be formal, some will be casual - but I want to bring people together to enjoy seasonal foods. I want to see all my friends around the table, drinking wine, and laughing so hard that we almost choke on mashed potatoes.

2. Obtain the perfect American Girl look: Meaning I want to find the perfect white t-shirts, blue jeans, and cowboy boots. This is my just for fun resolution.

3. Community Involvement: I want to try and volunteer at least 60 hours this year. I probably volunteered right about 20 hours this year. I already regularly volunteer for the Birmingham Museum of Art, but I would like to also volunteer regularly with at least two more organizations.

How are you ringing in the New Year? Got any resolutions you are excited about? Just point, click, and leave a comment!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Grow Alabama's Special Treat

I have been using Grow Alabama as my main source of produce for over a year now. With a name like "Grow Alabama" you would think it would be pretty self explanatory. I signed up late last summer all excited about supporting Alabama farmers. Then winter rolled around and I noticed that some of the produce wasn't coming from Alabama.

Don't get me wrong, I wasn't mad about the citrus from Florida or even the mushrooms from Tennessee. In my mind, it was some sort of fair trade with neighboring states. Then I saw spinach from Arizona last winter, a red flag sprung up.

I sent Facebook messages asking if this was true. I stated that if the only crop Alabama could grow was cabbage and sweet potatoes, then I would passionately eat them all winter. They explained due to the harsh weather that summer, a lot of crops weren't successful. So they were supplementing until the farmers could really develop their winter selection. Um... I guess that's okay. Maybe not everyone is so passionate about their cause that they're willing to eat cabbage soup all winter (but maybe you should be!).

Well, during the 2010 growing season I went to Pepper Place Market several times and to a workshop at Jones Valley Urban Farm. I found myself no longer content with just getting a box at my doorstep. Something was missing. I was yearning to have a deeper connection. So I thought that meant I wanted to try and start a container garden on my back patio that gets three hours of sunlight. Um... negative.

Well, I settled back in with the box and as it got colder the idea of container gardening left. I was getting tomatoes well into November and December and that was making me nervous. I distinctly remember getting mostly cabbage, roots, and greens this time last year. Well then I received avocados in my Grow Alabama box... in December. They came with a note explaining that due to a harsh freeze that week, green beans were being replaced with this special treat. WTF?

I became angry. I knew quite well that avocados could not bear fruit in the state of Alabama. On top of that, the only place that you could possibly grow them is Southern Florida. These avocados looked just like someone had gone shopping at Publix. So what does this someone do? Oh no... I didn't call. I am too passive aggressive for that. No... I sent an angry Facebook message.

Where did the avocados come from? I highly doubt they came from Alabama. Y'all make me nervous when you put stuff like that in the box.  I'd rather have a box full of Alabama grown cabbage than have produce from other states. If that's all there is available, then I will happily eat that. I support your organization because it supports Alabama.

Then their reply was...
There was a note in your box about the avocados. When the beans froze out last weekend i had to make a quick substitute and decided to do something daring and take the opportunity to do something rarely done. they came from california. We have more from alabama at this time of year than Alabama has ever had. enjoy the avocados.
What makes me really angry about this "daring" action is that Grow Alabama consistently spouts off figures about how much money Alabamians throw into the pockets of Californians. They even villianized their strawberries earlier this spring. For an organization who wants so desperately to put money back into a true food system, they sure are quick to throw it somewhere else when times get tough.
I stand by what I said... I'd eat cabbage and sweet potatoes all season if it meant an Alabama farmer was getting a real paycheck.
So... the point of all this? I am currently searching for a new CSA. I want to meet the people growing my food and talk to them. Grow Alabama was a great starting point and hopefully they'll get to their goal, but my days of supporting them are coming to a close end. I've already contacted a few organizations for information. So as all this unfolds, I will share what I find with my readers.
Do you have a CSA or support any local farms? Is it something you are interested in? Please share any information you can in the comments section.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Apple Turnip Mashed Potatoes

I hope you aren't tired of root vegetables yet. We've got a long way to go my friends! This is one of those great recipes for people scared to try a new root vegetable. I made this once or twice last winter and really enjoyed it. The turnips are there and if you look for them, you can taste them. But the garlic and apples help blend everything together into a really great mash. When my room mate tried it she said "I don't know what turnips taste like." I then told her to look for the taste that wasn't potato. She then nodded and said she could kind of taste them, but on the whole - the garlic, apples, and bacon hide the taste.

This recipe comes from Southern Living: 2008 Annual Recipes. Yes it serves eight, but with a little effort it can easily be cut down for two. When making it for two, I use two small sized of each turnips and potatoes, 1 bacon slice, 1/2 an apple, 1/2 head of garlic (maybe less), a couple of tablespoons of buttermilk, 1/2 tablespoon of butter, and then salt and pepper to taste. This is not a science... so don't worry about exact measurements. Oh yes... and for anyone who doesn't know. To roast garlic you put whole head or whole cloves into a packet of foil with some olive oil. Put in a oven safe dish and bake it for like an hour 350-400F. Your garlic should come out a beautiful golden color and just squish out (after you let it cool - of course).

This also makes the perfect dish to bring to winter parties. It's seasonal and something different than regular mashed potatoes. I made it for a party end of the semester party at a friends house. I even made it vegetarian for the friends party - which just means I cooked the apples in vegetable oil and left the bacon out completely. . Yeah... it's not the same but they all enjoyed it - and I guess that's what Christmas is about? Making others happy?

Did you make any new side dishes for your holiday dinners? Are you mashing roots together and hoping no one notices? Share your tips, tricks, and recipes in the comments section!

Apple Turnip Mashed Potatoes
(Serves Eight)

1 lb turnips, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 lb Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
3 bacon slices, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
2 medium-sized Golden Delicious apples, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup roasted garlic
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
3/4 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoon melted butter
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Bring the turnips, potatoes, and salted water to cover to a boil in a Dutch oven; cook 15 to 20 minutes or until tender. Drain.

2. Cook bacon in a medium nonstick skillet over a medium-high heat, 5 to 6 minutes or until crisp; remove bacon, reserving 2 tablespoons drippings in skillet. Crumble bacon. Saute apple in hot drippings in skillet, 6 minutes or until tender and lightly browned.

3. Combine apples, turnips potatoes, garlic, and thyme in a bowl; mash until blended (will be chunky). Stir in buttermilk and butter. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to a bowl.

4. Serve immediately. Sprinkle with bacon just before serving.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

The Tiny Tables test kitchen is closed today. However, I will leave you with a photo recap of my holiday season.

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Santa's Trail Mix

Sometimes cookies and milk aren't going to cut it for Santa. He's got a lot of places to go and only a limited amount of time. Early on, we noticed that Santa only took a single bite from his cookie. That's not good! Santa, you have to keep your energy up! Kids all over the world are too excited to have you crash from a lack of sugar.

So my mom, the genius that she was - found the perfect recipe. Santa's Trail Mix! It's got everything Santa could need. Let me refer to you the major food groups at the North Pole - Candy,  candy canes, candy corn, and syrup! So for Santa's grab and go snack we have candy galore, with some cinnamon cereal and white chocolate pretzels (just for that touch of saltiness).

This makes a lot! So fill Santa's to-go bag to the top and then dole out the rest to your friends and family.

What will you be leaving for Santa tonight? Cookies? Or are you one of those people who leave  veggies? Share your Santa meals in the comments section!

Santa's Trail Mix
(Makes 16 cups)

1 pkg (16oz) M&M's
1 pkg (15.4g) Chocolate-covered raisins
2 pkg (7 1/2g each) White fudge-covered pretzels
6 c. cinnamon graham cereal

Combine ingredients in a large bowl. Store in an airtight container in a cool place.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Turkey and Dressing

So this is what it's all about! Turkey and dressing. Yes, this recipe calls it stuffing - but here in Alabama we call it dressing. Deal! The wonderful thing about cooking for two - no leftover turkey. (Though if you do have leftover turkey you should make Turkey Curry).

Remember those corn muffins I posted about the other day? Yup... that's right, I used them for this EatingWell Serves Two recipe. This was very simple to make and very tasty! You should probably ask for the cookbook next Christmas, because it NEVER lets me down.

As a group of Southern taste testers sat around the table with me to eat this food, almost everyone agreed that this was good. All in all... there wasn't anything left of my Christmas Dinner - which is why I love cooking the Tiny Tables way!

How do you like your dressing? Simple and classic? Or complex and new? Leave a comment, people!

Turkey and Dressing
(Serves Two)

4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 small onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, sliced
2 small, homemade corn muffins or 1 large store-bought corn muffin, crumbled
1 tablespoons minced fresh sage or 1 teaspoon dried rubbed sage
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth, divided
8 ounces turkey cutlets
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1. Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onion and celery. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 4 minutes. Add corn muffin and cook, stirring often, until lightly toasted, about 3 minutes. Add sage, cranberries and about 1/2 cup broth and cook, stirring, until heated through, about 2 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a medium bowl and cover with foil to keep warm. Wash and dry the pan.

2. Season turkey with salt and pepper. Place flour in a shallow dish and dredge the turkey in it. Heat the remaining 2 teaspoons oil in the pan over medium-high heat. Add the turkey and cook until golden and cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate and over with foil to keep warm.

3. Return the pan to medium-high heat. Add the remaining 1/2 cup broth, wine, and mustard. Cook, scraping up any browned bits, until slightly reduced, to 4 minutes. Serve the sauce over the dressing and turkey.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Buttermilk-Herb Mashed Potatoes

No words are needed to describe this simple side dish from EatingWell Serves Two. It makes just enough for a couple of bites of mashed potatoes. I used chives as my herb. Just make them and enjoy!

Buttermilk-Herb Mashed Potatoes
(Serves Two)

Peel 1 large Yukon Gold potato and cut into chunks. Place in a small sauce pan and cover with water. Add 1 peeled garlic clove. Bring to a boil; cook until the potato is tender. Drain; add 1 teaspoon butter and 2 tablespoons nonfat buttermilk, and mash with a potato masher to the desired consistency. Stir in 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh herbs. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Creamed Spinach

When you don't have spinach, you can just use kale or probably even collards. This was a popular dish I made last winter. I remember hearing scepticism from the recepient. I think the word "creamed" makes it sound like you are going to dump a can of cream soup into the mix. Not the case at all! This is probably the yummiest way to enjoy your greens and it's the kind of decadence I try to resserve for holidays and special occasions. Butter, heavy cream, and parmesan pretty much cover up the taste of the greens. Eating this everyweek would cause some havoc on my waist line!

This recipe comes from America's Test Kitchen Cooking for Two 2009. (I know everyone is as excited as I am about the 2011 edition coming out in a few months!) You wilt the greens and drain the excess water. Then you saute the onions in butter, add the cream and parmesan, add the greens back and mix. I didn't add a tomato because I didn't have one on hand.

Do you have a recipe that basically kills the nutritional value of the vegetable in it? Point, click, and comment!

Creamed Spinach
(Serves Two)

1 teaspoon olive oil
4 ounces curly-leaf spinach (about 4 cups) stemmed and torn into bite-sized pieces.
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 small shallot, minced (about 1 tablespoons)
1/4 heavy cream
1 tomato, cored, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 ounce Parmesan cheese grated (about 1/4 cup)

1. Heat the oil in a large skillet saucepan over medium-high heat untils himmering. Add the spinach, a handful at a time, until wilted. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the spinach is uniformly wilted and glossy, about 40 seconds. Drain the spinach in a colander an dpress on the leaves using the back of a large spoon to release any extra liquid.

2. Wipe out the saucepan with paper towels. Melt the butter in the saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallot and 1/4 teaspoon salt and cook until softened, about 2 minutes. Stir in the cream and cook just until warm, about 30 seconds. Off the heat, stir in the drained spinach, tomato, and Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve.

Pan-Roasted Rosemary Carrots

Another carrot recipe! Perfect for your Tiny Tables Christmas dinner. I found this recipe in  Cooking for Two: 2010 one of those America's Test Kitchen cookbooks I love so much. This is a very simple side dish and even if you don't like carrots, you'll probably like these. I watched my taste testers devour these bad boys with no question.

Sure, you could make green bean casserole (hopefully with green beans you froze from the farmers market this summer). But here at Tiny Tables, we're all about enjoying the produce of the season. My carrots were kind of large, so I used three instead of four. The rosemary came from a neighbors yard (they have like three huge bushes - I never pay for rosemary).

Really simple recipe. Basically, you are sauteing the carrots until they get a nice browned look. Then you add the chicken broth and rosemary, cover, and steam the carrots in the liquid until they become tender. Then you take the top off and let the broth evaporate to form this really nice glaze. Voila!

Do you have a recipe that has simple ingredients but flavorful results? Share your recipe in the comments section!

Pan-Roasted Rosemary Carrots
(Serves two)

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
4 carrots, peeled and sliced 1/2 in thick on the bias
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 small sprig fresh rosemary

1. Heat the oil in a 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the carrots, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the carrots are golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes.

2. Stir in the broth and sugar, then add the rosemary sprig and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally until the carrots are tender, 6 to 10 minutes.

3. Uncover, remove and discard the rosemary sprig, and continue to cook until the liquid evaporates, about 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Old-Fashioned Corn Bread

Everybody needs a corn bread recipe, but I don't need a pan of corn bread going stale on my counter. Corn bread is one of those foods that I only really enjoy fresh out of the oven. So when I found a Small Batch Baking version of this southern classic, I was thrilled. This would go great with many of the soup recipes I have written about.

These muffins do come out a little dark due to the molasses. So they don't really remind me of traditional southern cornbread, but they are tasty on their own (I tried a few bites before I used them in another recipe). I used a regular muffin pan instead of a jumbo muffin pan and all was okay in the world.

This particular batch is not going to be enjoyed on its own. I'm making this cornbread recipe for another small scale recipe that I will be sharing with you tomorrow! That's right, this recipe is the first in my Christmas Dinner 2010 series! It starts today and ends Wednesday. By then you will have enough recipes to serve the perfect Christmas Dinner for two! Complete with dessert!

How are you spending these last few days before Christmas? Are you done with your shopping? Doing any last minute fun holiday activities? I want to hear all about it in the comments section!

Old-Fashioned Corn Bread
(Serves Two)

1/3 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons light or dark molasses
White or 1 large egg
1/2 cup yellow or white cornmeal
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons unsalted butter, melted

Pan Required:
1 jumbo muffin pan (3/4-cup capacity)

1. Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 450F.

2. Place the buttermilk, molasses, and egg white in a small bowl and whisk to blend.

3. Place the cornmeal, sugar, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt in a medium-sized mixing bowl and whisk to mix well. Add the buttermilk mixture and whisk just until the batter is blended.

4. Place 1 1/2 teaspoons of the melted butter in each of 2 muffin cups. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups, dividing it evenly between them. Fill the empty muffin cups halfway with water to prevent them from scorching. Bake until the corn bread is crusty around the edges and springy to the touch, 9 to 10 minutes. Remove the muffin pan from the oven, and place it on a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes. Carefully pour the water out of the empty muffin cups. Turn the muffins out of the cups and serve hot or warm. (they are best eaten the day they are baked but will keep for up to 1 day in a plastic bag at room temperature.)

Saturday, December 18, 2010

My Christmas Tradition | Part Three

Kristen over at The Frugal Girl wrote a really great post about giving back during the holidays. Specifically, how she is raising her children to give back. I was truly touched and made me happy to have a mother who taught me to do the same.

Kristen shared this amazing video that I am also posting below.

It's a little pompous of me to say that I am downsizing my Christmas when I can't really go all out regardless. But I am not going to disregard my desire to keep holidays simple. Currently, I am trying to take a stand on Christmas that will hopefully stay with me for the rest of my life.

For me, I hope Christmas will always be about tacky sweaters from thrift stores, seeing Christmas movies at the Alabama Theatre, giving to those in need, decorating with my mom's homemade ornaments, eating lavishly with good friends & family, and cooking up sausage balls on Christmas morning.

Do you think about simplifying Christmas? Or do you love the luxury of the season too much to do otherwise? Tell us all about it in the comments section.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Sauteed Chicken with Radishes

I was actually getting to the point where I had at least one recipe for every vegetable that was coming in the box. Then Grow Alabama put radishes in the box and they wouldn't let me swap them for anything else.

I mean come on, radishes? They are probably one of my least favorite vegetables. I don't care for them in salads and no matter how many times it's suggested - I don't want to dip them into hummus. There just isn't much you can do with these things. And truly... looking for a recipe that actually cooked them was kind of hard. Finding one that was scaled down for two? Even harder!

I finally came across a recipe in a cookbook simply called Cooking for Two. I have used this book before and before I discovered Eating Well Serves Two, it was the one I had the most success with.

This is a very simple recipe, so simple it took me less than 20 minutes to put together. I used actual white wine and regular white vinegar because I couldn't find either Vermouth or any of the suggested vinegars at Western. Mallory had never eaten a radish until I sliced her off a peice the other day. She claims she really liked this recipe. I served it with green beans I froze earlier this summer and sweet potatoes that I baked last week. It was a simple and easy dinner.

Do you like radishes? Do you cook with them? If so, how? Share your tips and tricks for radish cookery in the comments below.

Sauteed Chicken with Radishes
(Serves Two)

Two 6-ounce boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
4 large radishes, washed for sand and thinly sliced
1/4 cup dry vermouth
2 teaspoons Champagne vinegar, or white whine vinegar
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature

1. Place a sheet of plastic wrap on your work surface, lay the two chicken breasts on top with about 4 inches between them, and cover with a second sheet of plastic wrap. Pound the breasts to a 1/4-inch thickness, using the smooth side of a meat mallet or the bottom of a heavy saucepan. Remove from the plastic wrap, season the breasts with salt and pepper, and set aside.

2. Heat a large skillet or saute pan over medium heat. Swirl in the oil, then slip the seasoned breasts into the pan. Saute for 3 minutes, then turn and saute for 3 more minutes, or until lightly browned and cooked through. Transfer to two dinner plates with tongs or a slotted spoon, tent the plates loosely with foil to keep the breasts warm, and return the pan to medium heat without removing any of the pan's residual fat.

3. Stir in the sliced radishes and saute for about 2 minutes, or until they begin to go limp and are very fragrant. Pour in the vermouth and scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Bring the vermouth to a simmer, cook for about 15 seconds, just until slightly reduced, then pour in the vinegar. Stir once or twice, then swirl in the butter and take the pan off the heat. Keep stirring until the butter is melted and incorporated into the sauce. Remove the foil from the breasts and pour the sauce evenly over each of them, spooning radishes onto the plates as well. Serve at once.

Nutrition Info:
Calories - 378
Fat - 18g
Fiber - .4g