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Monday, April 8, 2013

Cooking ahead and freezing individual portions of healthy, good for you food

Chioggia Beets! I chose them at the farmers market yesterday because their greens were so gorgeous. Who said beauty is only skin deep? It turned out they were even prettier on the inside than the outside with their candy cane colored, bullseye striping that didn't reveal itself until I'd sliced them open.

They were diced, tossed in olive oil and balsamic vinegar, sprinkled with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, and oven roasted for 35 minutes. I was delighted to realize the striping was preserved even after they were cooked. Next time I'll have to cut them in rounds to make the dish more showy.

Peppermint and black cherry tomato for the garden.

To oven roast that day I'd also purchased regular red beets, rutabagas on special for $1 a bunch, cauliflower, and a tiny head of red cabbage the size of a tennis ball. I also picked up a tiny head of green cabbage to throw in the crock pot with some Prather Ranch beef sirloin tips, and a peppermint and black cherry tomato plant both from Cole Canyon Farms.

Facebook status update: Stranded (locked out of the car) in Campbell. . .

Hubby had parked on the top of an open parking structure to take some pictures of the surrounding area while I was shopping. When I got there (after trudging up to the third floor with two bags of groceries) I discovered his car was there but he wasn't. He'd gotten bored so he'd walked two blocks (and two flights of stairs) away, but left his car on top of the garage. When I went to call him and ask where the heck he was, I discovered he'd texted me his plan while I was shopping.

Had he taken his car with him I would have walked over to where he was. But since he hadn't I'd have to walk to him and back again with all of my groceries. Um, no thank you.

Because I don't have a copy of his car key I sat on the ground and waited for him to return. It was a gorgeous day though and having just purchased my rutabagas for such a great bargain, I was happy enough to wait but, bored so I had to take a picture of myself to post to Facebok. LOL I thought it was funny the way the rounded corner of a nearby bumper distorted one of my legs making it look twice as long as the other from ankle to knee.

Pasta, roasted veggies, beef portions, lasagna, and more.

I spent the next five hours cooking everything I'd purchased along with four servings of pasta. The convenience of cooking ahead this way once a week and freezing individual portions shouldn't be overlooked. If you find yourself often eating fast food or premade frozen dinners you may want to consider this as a healthful, lower cost alternative. The trick is to freeze the food as it approaches room temperature. Don't leave it in the fridge overnight and the quality of the dishes reheated will be the most comparable to freshly made.

Also if you're unsure if something will freeze well just Google it. That's what I do. There's always plenty of tips about which veggies are best eaten fresh or if something will keep well in the freezer at all.

Another tip: If you're using plastic freezer containers, go with a name brand. I purchased a generic set once just to save money and the lids wouldn't come off without breaking once they'd been in the freezer overnight.

I remove the stalks form the rutabaga greens but cook the entire beet greens.

To cook and serve with my frozen portions of food I preserve the beet and rutabaga greens by cutting them and immediately placing them in containers of water in the fridge. They're nutrient dense, delicious, and basically, come with the root veggies for free!

I just pour a bit of grape seed oil in a saute pan and cook them for a minute or two on medium high heat adding salt and pepper when they're done. Whether I serve them as a side dish, toss them into pasta, or even add them to the top of a bowl of lentil soup, they're fantastic with everything.

I recently learned that if you eat iron rich vegetables or legumes (non heme iron) with animal protein sources of iron (heme iron) , your body will more effectively absorb and metabolize the plant based irons than eating them alone without meat. Interesting and easy enough to do with my fridge full of leafy greens and lentils in the cupboard always at the ready.

Quivira Winery's biodynamic culinary garden.

I guess Monday morning may become my weekend farmers market shopping, cooking in my kitchen, and weekly gardening update day. I'm hoping my garden this year will more similarly resemble the culinary gardens of Sonoma (at wineries like Quivira and Medlock Ames) that have inspired me to grow more of my own food.

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