Fun with Phyllo

Phyllo roll

Ruts.

We all get in them unintentionally, despite our best intentions. You get busy, and before you know it, you are smack dab in the middle of a rut: Taco Tuesday, Grilled Cheese Wednesday, Stir-Fry Thursday. These meals are easy-peasy-just-get-my-family-fed necessities, but after so many taco nights, one just needs a change.

This was the case on a rare free-day a couple weeks ago: I was sick of churning out the same foods, over and over again, and wanted to try something radically different.

Enter: Phyllo Dough.

Now, I have not worked with Phyllo Dough myself, but I remember my mom working with it at some point during my childhood, so I reasoned that this vicarious experience warranted the thought “how hard can it be?” Ha. Famous last words.

First, I made the filling. Now, this is a pretty flexible recipe, meaning, I dumped a variety of different herbs and spices into my mixture of whatever I had on hand, until it tasted good. So, take it all with the proverbial grain of salt.

What I did happen to have on hand were the staples our home has nearly always: cauliflower, kale, garlic and tempeh. I chopped all of the ingredients into very small bits (a food processor would also do the trick!), and pan fried with olive oil, vegetable broth, Thyme and Rosemary. I simmered all of this down, adding salt and pepper as needed, until I had a nice consistency.

Meanwhile, I took out the waiting Phyllo (keep in mind: the phyllo needs to sit at room temp for 2 hours before you start working with it).

I grabbed my first sheet of phyllo and immediately ripped it in half. I instinctively reached for the remaining half in an attempt to salvage the sheet, and it disintegrated in my hands. This happened for a few more sheets until I figured out a technique that worked for me… I gingerly laid the whole stack of phyllo over my left arm, then slid the top sheet off onto the pan below. This seemed to work okay, though I still had a few hiccups throughout the process.

Once I had the sheet placed on the pan, I coated with the melted butter, folded in half, and repeated with another coating. Now, as I have mentioned before many times: I love butter. So, I probably went a little overboard, but I melted an entire stick for easy spreading and added flavor. Maybe not the heart healthiest, but dang… you cannot beat that flavor.

Then I placed the next sheet on top of that, butter, fold, repeat. After 6 or 7 full sheets (12 or 14, folded), I put the cauliflower/kale/tempeh mixture in the middle of the phyllo, folded the short ends in, and then folded the long sides in, rolling the entire log onto the pan, seam side down.

I then coated the entire log in butter, and baked at 350 for 50 minutes, until crispy and flaky.

The result?

A completely non-boring weeknight meal, that is labor intensive but totally worth it.

 

Recipe: Tomato, Spinach and Basil Pasta

pike place bountypasta

Friday was my last day of classes for the quarter, and during my lunch break, the skies parted long enough to take a walk to Pike Place Market with my dear friend Janet. We did not have any specific destination in mind – we simply wanted to stretch our legs and get some fresh air. However, when we wandered into my favorite produce stand (Sosio’s), they had these gorgeous on-the-vine compari tomatoes that smelled that sweet/spicy smell of in-season tomatoes. Of course, they are not in-season… these are greenhouse tomatoes, but  still, I could not resist. I also grabbed a head of spinach and a bunch of basil, with the thought of making fresh pasta for dinner. The result? A super fresh, incredibly delish vegetarian pasta that went beautifully with a bottle of Malbec. Here is how to make it…

What You’ll Need:

1 Bunch Basil, torn into small pieces
2 lbs / Compari Tomatoes
1 Head / Spinach, chopped
1/4 c. Balsamic Vinegar (divided in 2)
3 Cloves of garlic
Salt
Olive Oil
Whole Wheat Pasta

What You’ll Do:

1) Slice tomatoes in halves, lengthwise.
2) Toss in wide skillet with high walls (or medium size sauce pan) with olive oil, garlic and salt
3) Heat over medium heat for 15-20 minutes, until the tomatoes break down and a thick sauce begins to form.
4) Meanwhile, heat water in separate pan for the pasta
5) Stir in half of the balsamic to tomato mixture
6) Once pasta is in the water, stir spinach in mixture…stir until spinach has begun to wilt, then turn the heat to low
7) When there is 3 minutes left on the pasta, stir the basil and remaining balsamic into tomato sauce
8) Drain pasta, toss with sauce, serve.

 

 

 

Recipe: Chocolate Chia Pudding

It’s Wednesday! Which is not only hump day, but also when I work swing shift. My body has finally acclimated to staying up late, but a new challenge has presented itself: the munchies. At around 11:30pm or midnight, I’m craving anything sweet, and since my work is volunteer manned, there is usually a lovely assortment of baked goods and treats to partake in. Unfortunately, this has not been boding well for my healthy eating plan. I find myself tempted by donuts, cupcakes and other desserts, which are lovely, but… how many donuts does one girl need in a night?

So today, in a preemptive strike, I decided to create a concoction of chocolatey goodness. I wanted to make something that would satisfy my sweet tooth craving, while giving me vital nutrients to keep me awake through the night. I have been obsessed with chia seeds lately, so I created this little gem for my late night craving. It is very decadent tasting, and while maintaining my health.

What you need:

1/2 cup of chia seeds (buy ’em in bulk at Whole Foods!)2 1/4 cups of almond milk (I used the original unsweetened version)
1 scoop of Vega Vegan Protein Powder (Vanilla!)
2 tbs of unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Ghiradelli)
5 packets of Truvia sweetener (any sugar-free stevia would do the trick)
1 tsp. Vanilla extract

What you do:

Add all ingredients in large bowl – stir until thoroughly combined.
Let sit on the counter 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally
Put it in the fridge overnight for ideal consistency – though it will be ready to eat when it has thickened.

Easy, peasy! And a 1/2 cup serving will give you: 124 calories, 9 g. of carbs, 8 g. of fat (good fats, though!), 7 g. of protein, 7 g. of fiber, and only 1 g. of sugar!!

chia pudding

Hello again.

My oh my, Seasonally Seattle, how I have neglected you.

It’s been almost a year since my last (meager) post. Was I lost at sea? Did I move to France? Was I captured by a circus, my existence now a myriad of small towns, clowns, and rickety roller coasters?

Nope.

I have just been in Grad School.

This has been my first year pursuing my degree in Mental Health Counseling, which, between the classes, the papers, the endless reading, my awesome new job, and my lovely husband, I have had very little time to do much of anything else.

Still.

This summer, I have decided to take a mental health break from school, so I will have all the time in the world to cook, create and explore… all of my exploits to be posted here regularly. For reals. So here I am, dusting off my little space on the web, getting it ready for my summer plans:

  • Canning: Last summer, I canned 93 pounds of tomatoes. I also began exploring making jams and salsa, so this summer, I’m super excited to try some new fun projects
  • Gardening: I have not had much of a garden in the last few years. This summer, I am hoping to explore container and small space gardening.
  • Cooking & Creating: As usual, there will be lots of fun experimentation in my kitchen.
  • Farmer’s Markets: Last summer was the summer of the CSA. This summer, I am thinking with my free time, I will be at the Farmer’s Market on a weekly basis, soaking up inspiration.
  • Friends & Entertaining: Needless to say, I have been MIA for the past year. This is about to change. I declared to my husband that I would throw a party every week this summer… recognizing my, ahem, tendency of biting off more than I can chew, he suggested once a month. Right now our negotiations are at twice a month… we’ll see.
  • Triathlons: I know this has nothing to do with Seasonally Seattle. Still. I wanna do some triathlons.

Today seemed to be the first day that I have felt like my old self, and have been inspired to do anything besides school. My quarter is nearly done, my homework is winding down, the sun was shining brightly, and all the cherry blossoms seemed to be flowering. I felt the skip back in my step as the pressure of the quarter lifted, and I realized, this is my favorite season. There is something so gorgeous and rejuvenating about Spring in Seattle. The clouds seem to part, the rain stops, and all of the green seems to shine with special brightness. It is absolutely lovely.

So, Seattle, here is to a fabulous spring and summer ahead!

Quick, random jamming – How To!

ImageWednesday is always our pick-up day for our fruit CSA from Tonnemaker Farms, so I realized this morning I better find something to do with the many apricots we had left over from the week before.

I was in a conundrum – the apricots were small, so I didn’t think I would have enough to make much jam, but I also had too many to simply disregard. That was when I began rooting around my fridge for another solution – and that was when I saw the four peaches I had left over from last week. Peach and apricot? Does that work? I certainly haven’t had any jam like that. Then I noticed I still had a whole cup of raspberries from Nash’s CSA.

Peach, Apricot and… Raspberry Jam?

Why not.

So I quickly ran some jars through the dishwasher, got my water ready, and prepared my fruit. I had exactly 4 cups of fruit which was supposed to make exactly 4 – 8 oz jars. This time I had too much in the end, but I did get four full jars and a small bowlful which I’ve been nibbling on throughout the afternoon. The verdict? DELICIOUS! It’s tart, yet sweet, with a lovely raspberry finish.

I think my technique is improving as well. I’m cooking the fruit longer, and that is making for a thicker consistency, and I can crank out four jars of jam in about 45 minutes, start to finish. Fabulous!

If you are interested in trying this combo, here is what I did:

Prepare your jars:

Add clean jars to your canner – fill them nearly full with hot water; fill canner so water covers shoulders of jars. Heat to nearly boiling.

Prepare you lids:

Add your lids in a small saucepan with enough water to cover them; heat to nearly boiling (do not boil)

While your water and lids are heating, prepare your fruit:

* 3 cups of diced, slightly mashed apricot
* 1 cup of raspberries
* 4 peaches (about a cup), peeled, sliced and diced.

I softly mashed all of this together, then added it to a pan to cook with calcium water (4 tsp) and lemon juice (1/4 cup). Bring to a boil and let it cook 5 minutes or so.

In a separate bowl, combine 1 1/2 cup of sugar with low-sugar pectin (I use Pomona’s: http://www.pomonapectin.com/) – add to boiling fruit mixture. Bring to a boil, and let cook for a minute, stirring to help dissolve sugar.

Prepare your filling station:

On a separate counter, put a trivet down for your fruit mixture, and have a jar grabber (found in canning supply section of grocery store) ready. Also have two towels – one for under your jars, and one for grabbing. Bring your fruit over once cooked.

Pull one jar full of water out with jar grabber – with thick towel, pour the hot water back into canner. Bring over to your station; fill with fruit. With a magnetic lid grabber (also found in canning section) – pull a lid out of water. Wipe jar mouth clean with wet paper towel, and put lid on mouth. Screw the lid top on – and with jar grabber, put back in water. Keep up this process with remaining jars – then at the very end, add the hot water from your lid pan into your canner. Put lid of canner on loosely, and bring to a boil. Cook in canner for 10 minutes, and with jar grabber, pull them out to sit on counter to cool.

Listen for the pops! The lids will pop when sealed – and what a great sound that is! If you leave the house, just check the lids to make sure they do not pop down and up before storing. If they do – throw them in the fridge and eat within a week.

Good luck, and may the canner be with you!

Jamming

One of the reasons we chose Tonnemakers for our fruit CSA is their wonderful 10# Club, which allows you to pre-order 10# boxes of whatever they offer. The magic of this is you typically order in March or April, when August seems very far away. Then you go on with your life and forget all about it, only to realize that when you pick up your weekly CSA, this is the week that you have 10 pounds of peaches on your hands. Surprise! It’s already August.

This was the case on Wednesday.

I came home and put the ten pounds of super-ripe peaches in the fridge while I contemplated the many ways I could use them. I could freeze them! I could bake with them! I could dehydrate them! The one thing I did not consider… jam them.

It’s not for a lack of loving jam. I love, love, love jam! And usually I get giant jars of jam from my mom from the fruit she picked herself, which my husband and I indulge on throughout the year until she makes more the following summer.

In addition to being spoiled by amazing jam from my mom, the other reason I avoided jamming was that canning intimidated me. The entirety of my canning experiences in my adult life have involved hauling tomatoes up to my mom’s cabin, where I process the tomatoes in an assembly line fashion, doing exactly as my mom says (see that experience here: http://seasonallyseattle.blogspot.com/2010/08/canning-take-one.html). And tomatoes are easy! There is no pectin, there is no calcium water, there is no sugar-to-fruit ratio to figure out.

But when a girl is faced with a 10 pound box of rapidly decaying fruit, she does what she has to do. Face her fears.

So yesterday, I dusted off the unopened box containing the canner my mother-in-law bought us, cleaned and assembled it, and slowly took myself through the steps of making jam: par-boiling and peeling peaches, cleaning jars, warming jars in the canner, simmering the lids.

I created a recipe that consisted of low amounts of organic cane sugar, organic peaches, organic lemon juice, and the proper amounts of pectin. I did the math, and assumed I would have 7 jars worth of jam, and so prepared the jars and lids accordingly. And then I began filling the jars.

Apparently, I’m bad at math.

I ended up getting 2 jars of jam. That’s right. 2. Never have I appreciated the 10 or so jars of jam of this size that I get from my mom every year.

But I did it. I faced my fears, and today I’ll be experimenting with sweet cherry jam. Only in smaller jars.

Peach Jam