Thursday, May 30, 2013

Fava Bean Pesto Pasta with Chicken

All packed up for lunches!
We got fava beans in our produce bin a couple weeks ago and I had no clue how to prepare them. So I did some initial research. GreenBean Delivery shared a recipe on their blog for a Spring pasta with fava beans, which sounded great. Other options were making them into falafel, purees for side dishes, and soups. I parboiled the shelled beans I cooked them too long which made them mushy. That means I had to puree the beans. I found a recipe for Fava Bean Pesto from Cat Cora on The Food Network and decided to give it a try. I had lots of basil at home, which make it easy to make with what I had on-hand. Ava really likes spaghetti so I was hoping she would like it too. It turned out great and Aaron told me that he really liked it!

I made a few modifications to the Fava Bean Pesto recipe. Instead of using it on bread as a sandwich, I used it as a sauce for spaghetti pasta. We ended up with an easy, healthy, and affordable meal! 
  • Add pesto to 1/2 pound of spaghetti (reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water)
  • Omitted mint and added extra basil
  • Used 1/2 cup of olive oil instead of 1 cup 
  • Didn't add in Parmesan cheese to the pesto (instead topped some on the finished pasta). This helped lighten the pasta without compromising flavor.
I served it with broiled, seasoned chicken and steamed green beans. We cooked two chicken breasts and sliced them into strips after they were cooked. Since fava beans are rich in protein and fiber you don't need much additional meat. The entire meal stretched to 5 meals. So I packed up the three portions for lunches!

To make all this happen on a busy weeknight. I used these make-ahead steps.
  • Step 1: Shell fava beans and parboil. Let cool and it will be easier to remove from additional covering on the bean. I did this on the weekend.
  • Step 2 - Night before: If using frozen chicken defrost two breasts in the refrigerator or in cold water. Process the pesto sauce. It will be thick. 
  • Step 3: Cook spaghetti and reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water to thin out pesto. Grill or broil chicken breasts. Stir in prepared fava bean pesto sauce to cooked pasta, adding reserved pasta water 1 tablespoon at a time until you have your desired consistency. Slice chicken breasts. Serve with grilled or steamed veggies or a green salad. 
Enjoy! I will definitely make this again!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Garden Week 2

Garden Week 2
Can you see the deer?
On Mother's Day, we planted our garden, a new tradition that we started last year. Except this year's garden is a much better attempt than ever before! We've come a long way from the small container garden we had on our Chicago condo balcony! Aaron built a raised bed and we filled it with rich top soil earlier in the month. We grew many plants from seed and then last weekend picked up some starter plants too. Last weekend, we put the seedlings and starters in the new bed. I have big plans for our garden yields including salsa, pepper sauces, homemade stocks with amazing herbs, and lots of salads!

What's Growing in the Berkey Garden? 

From seed: a variety of 12 kitchen herbs, spinach, zucchini, cucumber, carrots, and romaine lettuce. Our cucumber plants was damaged by the recent storms so I started another two more to be safe. The romaine lettuce was obliterated from the heavy rain storms too. I started more seeds today, but we may need to get some starter plants. Our beets haven't even sprouted. The carrots are tiny, but are doing really well in the garden. Aaron shielded them with a bit of straw. My basil sprouted, but it's not looking good so we'll see what happens. The sage looks great.

From starter plants: strawberries, mint, rosemary, several varieties of peppers (Jalapeno, Poblano, and Bell), 2 varieties of tomatoes (early girl and roma), butternut squash, green beans, and cauliflower. The green beans are already climbing on the trellis.

We have deer that live in our woods. They walk right up to our front porch or anywhere that we have succulent plants. Here's a picture of one that I scared off from the front porch when it was getting close to the lilies. Aaron put netting around the entire raised bed so it's about 5 feet high. The deer are supposed to be held off because they don't like the netting on their face. I hope it works! Last year, they ate our garden like a big salad bowl! On top of last year's drought, we had barely any yield. But this year, I'm excited for food we'll be able to grow.

Compost is piling up!

We're composting now too. We have a large compost bin with yard clippings, coffee grounds, used tea leaves, droopy fresh cut flowers, rinsed and crushed egg shells, and all the cuttings leftover from cooking. The bugs are going to town! We have a compost container under the kitchen sink and I take it out to the compost bin about every 4-5 days. It's covered so it doesn't smell. We're using biodegradable compost bags for our container under the sink, but they are for commercial composting so I'm not throwing those in our bin.

This weekend, I'm going to do some weeding. I'll keep you all updated!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

May Freezer Meal: Italian Beef, Giardiniera, Oven Fries, and Mini Chocolate Peanut Butter Pies

Flash freeze the mini pies in 2 muffin tins
Our freezer meal exchange in May was awesome as usual! I hosted this time and we had a Friday night pitch-in instead of our normal Saturday afternoon meet-up because we were leaving to visit our family in Illinois that weekend. We usually meet on the 1st weekend of the month so that helps keep us on track for planning purposes.

The way it works is that each participating family makes 5 meals for the swap and then we bring them in coolers to exchange, packed and already frozen. We give a brief overview of the meal and how to tweak it if needed and prepare it. We share our recipes and cooking instructions in our private Facebook group. The meals we prepare are healthy and if it contains meat, it is locally sourced and natural. Most of us make 6 meals and so we can keep one for our own family. That leaves you with 6 prepared meals from the freezer for an entire month, which is awesome!

May Freezer Meal Exchange Menus:
  • Erin - Frozen Breakfast Burritos (microwave from freezer), Guacamole, and banana bread
  • Sarah - Broccoli and Chicken casserole, bread slices, and Chocolate Chip Bars
  • Katie - Vegetarian Cheese Pasta, Baked Peas with Water Chesnuts, and Strawberry-Rhubarb Crisp
  • Ann - Marinated Chicken for Grilling, Peas and Corn with Thyme Butter, and Smores Bars
  • Rachel - Mini Meatloaves, Herb Roasted Carrot and Potatoes, and Strawberry muffins
  • Amanda - Italian Beef Sandwiches, Homemade Giardiniera, Oven Fries, and Mini Chocolate Peanut Butter Pies
We had 6 families participate so that means everyone goes home with 5 different meals, plus the one that they made at home. The day after the swap, we had that long drive to Megan and Todd's house so I heated the breakfast burritos and they were delicious.
Amazing Meals for May

Italian Beef stores well inside the tins and a gallon Zip Loc to protect.

If you're going to make my meal, here's the additional details.
  • Italian Beef (from Cooking Light) - I bought 6 pounds of rump roast and cooked them in 2 large slow cookers. It made enough for 7 meals. I shredded the beef with and placed them in the tins with reserved cooking liquid to store in the tins. I bought loaves of bread from Costco and wrapped them for the freezer.
  • Homemade Giardiniera - was easy and so good! After living in Chicago, I love this spicy veggie condiment. You can store it for 2-3 weeks in the fridge in a glass mason jar. I saved small glass pimento jars from another meal and used that to share with the families for the exchange. It makes enough for a quart jar.
  • Oven Fries: These came out a bit crispy, which Aaron loved. But you may want to cut back on the cooking time when you're reheating.
  • Mini Chocolate Peanut Butter Pies (from the Pioneer Woman): I used the Trader Joe's cookies instead of Oreos and their House Whip instead of Cool Whip to avoid the hydrogenated oils in both. This recipe makes 24 muffin tin sized pies. See picture above. To make into minis, spray muffin tins and bake the crust. Then spread the filling in each muffin. Flash freeze for 1-2 hours. Use a knife to gently pop out and freeze flat in a quart ziploc bag. To defrost, place in a ramekin because they will be messy.
Reheating instructions:
  •  Heat oven to 450 degrees. You can reheat the beef from the freezer directly or set it in the fridge overnight. Place the oven fries in the oven for 25-30 (cut back from 30-35) minutes at 450 degrees and place beef tin along side it. Place frozen bread in the last 10 minutes.
  • Slice bread to make sandwiches and serve with giardiniera.