Beka To Basics

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Archive for the tag “Garlic”

The Gleaning

It feels rather ominous to use that word.  I can’t describe it any better than that, ominous.  Also ominous?

The Reaping

Maybe that’s what it’s making me think of.  But why would farming terms make me feel like something bad is going to happen?  Why are they used in horror movies?  Really, reaping and gleaning HAVE to come after sowing.  And ALL of it has to come before eating.

Enough of light philosophical thinking. 🙂

My CSA ended and I’ve had a week to think about it.  I really enjoyed it, but not at first.  You have to change the way you think about eating and deciding what to eat.  I have always thought about what I want, made a list, gone to the store and cooked what I bought.  It backwards.  You can’t tell what veggies to be ripe when you want them to be.  You can’t will it to be spring, with it’s strawberries and salad greens.  You have to work with what’s ready.

I was really resistant to that at first.  In fact, I hated it.  I thought every week – now I have to figure out how to fit all of this freaking food into my already made plan.  Wrong.  Try again.

Embrace it.  Realize that what you have actually makes it’s own plan.  There are SOME things you have to think about.  Like a bitter melon, or a quince, but there’s a reason so many eggplant recipes also have tomatoes.  They are ready at the same time.  Think about how we used to eat, before we had easy access to anything we wanted at any time we wanted.  We had to eat what we could find, when it was ready to eat.

Once I got over planning meals and then getting food and switched my thinking to getting the food and then making something with it, I really started to enjoy it.  It started to come really naturally.  Once a week, I would get an email telling me what was coming the next day and I already had a plan for the upcoming week.  Almost without having to think about it.  I’m telling you, it was liberating.  If food can be liberating, I suppose.  Maybe I’m blowing my experience out of proportion, but I figured I would share.

Now, back to THE GLEANING

After the CSA ended, my farmer (yes, I refer to him as my farmer 🙂 ), invited the share holders out to his farm. To glean.  So, to glean I went.  I got some extra veggies and two dozen eggs and enough garlic to last through the winter. That is if I don’t just roast it up and eat it like popcorn in one sitting.  Have you ever seen garlic on it’s stalk, drying out?  Yeah, I brought a bunch home. 😀











Featured in the Food Festival: Fat Tuesday.


Chicken Cordon Bleu and Sweet Poatoes

This is another fancy dish, but it’s actually pretty easy once you get the hang of it and it’s so good.

The first time I made Chicken Cordon Bleu, I actually took chicken breast and pounded them until they were thin.  Dumb, and a lot of work and half the time I ended up with chicken pieces instead of an actual thin piece of chicken breast.  Well, I got smart and started to cut the chicken into thin slices.  Much easier and faster.  I didn’t take any pictures of this, but if you look up how to butterfly a chicken breast, I’m sure you can find something.

I ended up with 5 pieces of chicken, so that’s what this recipe calls for.  Just use as many ham slices and cheese slices as you have chicken slices and it’ll all work out. 🙂

Chicken Cordon Bleu

  • 5 thin pieces of Chicken Breast
  • 5 slices of Ham
  • 5 slices of Swiss Cheese
  • salt, pepper, garlic powder, Italian Seasoning = thyme, marjoram, rosemary, basil, sage, parsley (I actually don’t think that’s real Italian seasoning, but close enough, right?

Chicken Cordon Bleu before baking

Season the chicken on both sides with salt, pepper and garlic powder.  Take one chicken piece and put a slice of ham on top – the ham should basically cover the chicken.  Put a slice of cheese at the bottom of the stack and roll it up and place it seam side down in a baking dish.  Repeat until they are all finished.  Season the top with Italian Seasoning and bake at 350, covered for about 20 minutes. It may take longer, depending on how thick your chicken is.

This is also really good if you bread it before baking or pan fry instead of baking.  I like baking because it’s easy.  If you bread and bake them, take the cover off the dish for the last 10 minutes to get the breading all crispy.

I also make roasted sweet potatoes that turned out really well and is a little different than the traditional sweet potato dish.  I know I’ve seen a similar recipe somewhere, but I can’t find it to be able to link back to it.

Roasted Garlic and Thyme Sweet Potatoes

  • 1 Sweet Potato, if they’re small, use two
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Pour some olive oil into a baking dish and crush the garlic into it.  Add thyme, salt and pepper and stir.  Peel and cube the sweet potatoes and put them in the baking dish.  Mix until all the pieces are well coated.  Cook at 350 for about 30 minutes, or until the potatoes are cooked through and slightly crisp on the outside.

When everything is done, you have a really cute plate of food for dinner! Yes, I referred to my dinner as cute.

On the fly soup

You know it’s been too long since I talked about soup. 😉

I made an awesome soup with random leftovers the other day, which means the four meals I got from it were basically free.  It’s really simple to do.  Just freeze all your extras.  Yes, even if you only have enough to fit one of those little itty bitty containers.  I know someone who is irritated by those little tiny containers that only have a couple bites in them (you know who you are 🙂 ).  While I understand the frustration of having these tiny things hanging out in your freezer, they really come in handy sometimes.  Like On the Fly Soup.

I had two little containers with beans (a mix of black, pinto and lentils), some CSA jalapenos and garlic, frozen sauteed onions and green peppers and chicken stock.  I just let everything thaw in the fridge while I was at work. I came home and chopped, then sauteed the jalapenos and garlic in a little butter, added the other veggies, the beans and the stock.  I seasoned it with some thyme, salt and pepper and let it simmer for about ten minutes.  Soup’s ON!!


Add a fresh baked bun and some brie and you have a very happy Beka!

Even the cat wants some!


How to Feed Two People Five Dinners with $13 and 1/4 Lb of Beef

Sometimes I get tired of spending money, even if it is to buy food.  That might be my politically correct way of saying that sometimes there isn’t a lot of money to spend on food.  And Mom, before you ask, Yes, I would ask you for help if I needed 🙂

But really, it IS nice to not have to spend a lot on food.   I haven’t really gotten into the money aspect of food on purpose.  A lot of people think that eating from a CSA or the Farmer’s Market is always going to be more expensive than going to the grocery store.  I often hear people saying something along the lines of Oh, I went to the Farmer’s Market and spent SOOOOO MUCH.  Well, here’s a secret, you can also go to the grocery store and spend SOOOOO MUCH. Both of which I used to do, until I started paying attention to what I was buying.  Just go shopping at the Farmer’s Market with the same attitude (and list!) as the grocery store.  And Yes, have an extra $5-10 in case something you weren’t expecting looks SOGOODIHAVETOHAVEIT!  Even if you spend a little bit more than at the grocery store, at least the whole holy cow, how did I spend all the money at the market guilty feeling, won’t be as bad.

The Farm

Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of ways to spend more money eating real food (yes, I know, define real food, I’ll be skipping that one fore now).  For example, milk.  Milk from a farm is always going to cost more than milk from a grocery store, why? The farmer is limited to the number of cows that they can actually care for and milk and has to charge accordingly.  Grocery store milk comes from giant farms who have money to invest in large feed areas, industrial sized milking machines, and hormones to make the cows produce more milk.

Meat: same idea as milk, so yes, meat directly from a farm will cost more than going to the grocery store.  Unless of course you happen to live near a large scale meat factory that will sell directly to you.

BUT, you don’t have to blow your entire budget on food, hence the ten meals for cheap post.  So, wait for it… wait for it… your mind might be blown when I tell you how easy this is:

STEAK QUESADILLAS (with cost, let’s talk about transparency)

  • 1/4 lb Flat Iron Steak (1.92)
  • package of tortillas (2.99)
  • 1/2 cup mix of black and pinto beans (made from dry beans .35)


  • salt and pepper (50? if that)
  • soy sauce for marinade (.20)
  • garlic clove (.20)
  • olive oil for marinade (.20)
  • 1/2 onion (.75)
  • 1 tomato (1.00)
  • pepper (.50)
  • block of cheese (4.00)

Total? 12.61

Season the beef with olive oil, salt and pepper, soy sauce and crushed garlic overnight.  Cook the steak. Cut up the steak.  Assemble quesadillas with a little shredded cheese on a tortilla, topped with a few pieces of steak, some beans, chopped onion, chopped tomatoes, chopped peppers and add a little more cheese, top with another tortilla. Or only put the filling on one half of the tortilla and fold it over to make a moon – I find this way easier to flip.  Fry the quesadilla in a pan until one side is toasty, then flip and fry until the other side is toasty and the cheese is melted.  These are good, really good, I know because I had one for dinner every night this week!

Roasting a Chicken in the Slow Cooker

As everyone already knows, I love having chicken broth around to cook with.  Well, this requires cooking a chicken from time to time (at least once a month). Sometimes, it’s too hot to roast a chicken in the oven, especially when your oven heats up the whole house even when your AC is working, which it isn’t, which isn’t fun.  I have my hot face on.

I also bought a fresh chicken, which needs to be cooked basically right away.  Fresh chicken is chicken that was just slau… um… harvested (to put it nicely) and hasn’t been frozen at all yet.  I’ve only ever had frozen chicken, just because it’s easier to buy, tick in the freezer and thaw when I know I’m going to have time to cook it.  Since I hadn’t had a fresh one before, when the opportunity came about, I had to take it.

I’ve cooked pork shoulder and beef roast in the crock pot before and don’t get me wrong, I’ve cooked plenty of chicken pieces in

Whole Bird in the Crock Pot

liquid in the crock pot, but did you know that you can roast it in the crock pot?

The skin doesn’t get quite as crispy as it would in the oven, but I’m ok with that since it made dinner without having to turn the oven on.  If it was a problem, I could have put it in the oven for a few minutes to crisp up without having to heat the whole house. Hello, Salad and Chicken.

Basically, you just put 1/4 of liquid in the crock pot, season the chicken however you like, put the lid on and cook for 5 hours on low (or until it’s cooked through).  Luckily, my crock pot has a timer to switch to “Keep Warm,” so I was able to come home to a coolish house and a cooked dinner.   This time, I seasoned it with Dijon mustard, garlic, salt, pepper and tarragon.  Mix all that together and rub all over the chicken before putting it in the crock pot.  The recipe is based on a Rachel Ray recipe, but I can’t find the link right now – I like to give credit when it’s due, so if you know the link, let me know!

The chicken creates it’s own gravy while it cooks and you really only have to reduce it down a bit to make it the right consistency.  Or you could do like me and make a gravy by cooking the drippings with roux, cook up some squash, green peppers and onions with rice, gravy and chicken.  Your Mom and Sister will really appreciate having dinner delivered, promise. 😉  It’s also why I don’t have any pictures post cooking, it was all gone by the time I thought of taking one.  You can bet that the bones are already in the crock pot again simmering away for some broth.
Featured in What’s in the Box? and Fat Tuesday

We’re getting fancy

I don’t know why, but anytime I hear the word braised, I think fancy.  I know its not, or at least doesn’t have to be, but it makes me think fancy.  Maybe it’s because we didn’t really have anything braised while I was growing up or because I feel like it’s just a giant pain to braise something.  In reality, braising is just about as easy as making a soup and putting it in the oven.  Seriously, it’s that easy.  The catch for me is – I have cooking pots for the stove and I have cooking pans that go into the oven. So, to me, braising is a pain.  Sear meat, remove from pan, saute veggies, add liquid, remove everything to another pot that DOES go in the oven, cook for a few hours, take it out and pour the liquid into another pot that goes on the stove, reduce, serve over braised meat, wash the 5 million dishes you made dirty while preparing braised meat.

I forgot that I have cast iron, which can be used in the oven and the stove top.  I used to use cast iron for very specific things (bacon, corn bread), but I didn’t really use it for every day cooking.  The more and more I cook, the more I tend to use it for everything. Recently, I pulled out the back up cast iron for every day use, so now I have two 🙂

Back to the fancy meal for tonight.  I bought some short ribs that I am finally going to braise.  Here we go…

  • Short Ribs
  • 1 Carrot
  • 2 Celery Ribs
  • 1/2 Onion
  • Garlic
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1 or 2 cups of water or stock

Preheat the oven to 350. Season and sear the short ribs in a little bit of olive oil and remove them from the pan.  Add the veggies, season and saute for a few minutes, then add some wine and water or stock.  Bring the liquid up to a simmer and add the ribs back in, cover and put it in the oven for a few hours until the meat is cooked through an tender.  AND, if you don’t have a lid for your cast iron… No worries!

Stuffed Squash

I’ve never made these before, so I was guessing the whole time I was coming up with the recipe.  Sometimes this guessing method works, sometimes its disastrous.  Happily, tonight was one of those sometimes. 😀

I admit, I had some help.  The sage pork sausage is from Mt Vernon Farms and it is absolutely wonderful. It’s sausagey, but not TOO sausagey (I think it’s because they found a good balance between fennel seed and sage).  I had it in my freezer from when I made sausage gravy and biscuits which only needed 1/2 lb of sausage.  Anyways, the filling was quite tasty, but I’m sure you could sub any ground meat or beans and it would still be good – Just know that there is something heavenly about buttery squash and rich sage pork combined (just sayin).

Pork Stuffed Squash

  • Squash
  • 1/2 Green Pepper. diced
  • 1/2 Onion, diced
  • Garlic, diced
  • Butter/Olive Oil
  • 1/2 lb cooked Pork Sausage (homemade or bought)
  • Cheese (I used Havarti)
  • Salt and Pepper

Cut the Squash in half, lengthwise.  Drizzle them with a bit of olive oil and roast, cut side down, in a 350 oven for about 20 minutes until they are tender, but still hold together.  While the squash is roasting, make the filling.  I sauteed the Green Pepper and Onion for a few minutes in a butter and olive oil mix, seasoning them with some salt and pepper.  When they were tender, I added the Pork and heated it through.

Take the squash out of the oven and when they have cooled a little, cut a little off the back so they will sit flat when you turn them over to stuff them.  On the cut side of the squash, use a fork to pull some of the squash insides out, so it looks like a little canoe.  I mixed the squash insides back into my filling cause I didn’t want to throw them away.  Fill the canoe with the pork filling, top with a bit of cheese and bake until the cheese is melty.

Come see many other recipes and tips at Fat Tuesday!

Garlic Scape and Sorrel Soup

I love Garlic Scapes. I love Sorrel. Naturally, I must combine the two. And obviously, I have to combine them in my favorite mode – soup.  I don’t care that it’s the hottest day we’ve had this year.  I want soup. It’s still soup if it’s served cool, right? Or does it have a different name?

Garlic Scapes

Garlic Scapes

Garlic Scape and Sorrel Soup

  • 1 cup(ish) chopped Garlic Scapes
  • 1 cup(ish) chopped Sorrel
  • 1 chopped garlic clove (or more if you really love garlic)
  • 2 chopped medium potatoes
  • 1 quart chicken broth (make your own 🙂 it’ll taste better)
  • butter
  • salt, pepper, any other herb that strikes your fancy
  • Milk – enough to thin out the soup or to taste

Saute the garlic scapes for a few minutes, then add the garlic clove and saute a few more minutes. Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil and add the potatoes.  Cook them until tender.  Add the sorrel and let it wilt for a bit and then blend everything until smooth. Add milk. Taste and add seasoning as needed.

Extra delicious with a slice of fresh bread with butter.

Scape and Sorrel Soup

Making Cheese

Yes I did

You are looking at cream cheese sitting the the cheesecloth I wrapped it in to drain.  And, I just want to say one more time.  Yes I did.

Ok, Ok, now that we’ve gotten past my gloating, it’s not TECHNICALLY cream cheese… Its Labneh  – A middle eastern cheese that’s easy to make if you’re already making yogurt, which I am.

It tastes and acts a lot like cream cheese and you can use it just like cream cheese, at least I think you can.  I used it to top my chicken and bean casserole instead of cream cheese.

This casserole is soo easy too.  Its just shredded chicken, 2 cups of beans (any kind), 1 cup of corn, 1 jar of salsa – bake until bubbly and melt in cream cheese or labneh 🙂

But, my real victory this week was the garlic peppercorn pork tenderloin I made to replace the one I used to buy at Trader Joe’s.  I used this recipe and it is to die for delicious.

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