Trying New Things…And Liking Them!

Yesterday we (my husband is home on vacation this week) went to our CSA pick-up site for our weekly goodies.  We arrived rather early, but this week was more organized than last week and they were ready and took us early.   Our goodies this week are broccoli, arugula, green leaf lettuce, turnip greens, green garlic/scapes, bok choy, strawberries, and eggs.

Slow Cooker Citrus Fish with Wild Rice Pilaf and Turnip Greens with Mushrooms and Green Garlic/Scapes

As soon as we got home I put the goodies away and got to work on dinner.  I had planned on making the Slow Cooker Citrus Fish by Leanne Ely of Saving Dinner over a week ago, but plans changed.  If you listen in to Leanne’s weekly show and you are in chat, even if you aren’t chatting, a menu mailer is posted once they reach 100 listeners.  The mailer that this recipe came from was from a few weeks back.  I love all the recipe’s of Leanne’s that I’ve tried so far.  When I chose to try this particular one, I was a bit hesitant.  Fish in a slow cooker.   It just didn’t sound natural to me.  You fix soups, stews, whole chickens, and roasts in a slow cooker, not fish.   I was still hesitant when I put everything in my slow cooker, but it was fast and easy.  Plus, I could fix the rest of dinner without having to check on it constantly or worry about when to put it in the oven.

I had no idea what green garlic/scapes were, let alone what to do with them.  Thanks to the internet I found lots of information on them.  If I hadn’t been so focused on fixing dinner I would have taken pictures of them before I sliced them all up for later use.  The link I provided are some Google images I found.  Everything I read said that it is milder than garlic and can be sliced and used like green onions.  Our CSA newsletter even came with a pesto recipe using them.  I used some of them last night for dinner and the rest are sliced up ready for future use.  While I was slicing, I kept tasting different parts of it.  the lower stalk part of it really was mild.  I found the darker parts really had no taste for me.  The lighter the part, the more garlicky, and I love garlic.

I’ve never used turnip greens either.  My husband, being a good ol’ Kentucky boy, knew what to do with them and I knew enough to ask him.  All he had to say was to use it like I would spinach or kale.  I knew immediately how to fix them and what I wanted to fix them with.  I wanted something early to contrast the brightness of the citrus fish.  I washed the bulk of what we got and chopped it up.  I heated up a pan and added some olive oil, then tossed in a handful of the green garlic/scapes.  After a minute, I added a couple of handfuls of sliced mushrooms.  I let the mushrooms soak up the oil and then added the chopped turnip greens.  I let them get nice and wilted before added salt, fresh ground pepper and about a teaspoon of balsamic vinegar.

Moment of truth.  I discovered turnip greens taste just like kale.  Considering it was my first time fixing them, I think I did a pretty good job and I wanted more.  My husband usually nods and says it’s good when I ask how it is, which is what he did last night.  So, he either liked it or he didn’t and isn’t saying anything.  The fish.  TO. DIE. FOR.  The recipe called for it to cook for 1 1/2 hours.  I let it go about 70 minutes before turning it off.  I left it covered while the rest of dinner was finishing.  It was tender, flaky, moist, and melt-in-your-mouth delicious.  I could have eaten the whole fish.  I took leftovers to work with me today for lunch.  Even after reheating it in the microwave, it was like I just took it out of the slow cooker.  That never happens when I have leftover fish.  I devoured it and found myself wanting more, again.  I loved it so much I had to leave a comment for Leanne on her Facebook page.  Yes, I’m a dork.  But, this was the best fish I’ve had outside of Hawai`i.

Just goes to show, if you don’t try new things, you’ll never know if you’ll like them or not.

Gluten-Free In Chicago

We were in Chicago this past weekend so my husband could go to a chado (Japanese tea ceremony) seminar on Saturday.  My Dr. Cousin lives in Chicago so she put us up for the weekend and she had the weekend off so I got to spend lots of time with her.  When we got in we had a little talk on gluten and what it was since she really didn’t know.  However, she was a wonderful cousin and looked up gluten-free restaurants in Chicago before we got in.  Surprisingly, she found quite a few, including a gluten-free pizza place, that was specifically gluten-free.

Mini Godzilla, Ocean Roll, and Vegetarian Supreme

We went to Aki Sushi for dinner Friday night.  Usually in Japanese restaurants, I stick with sushi without shoyu (soy sauce) or tempura because of the gluten in the wheat and the potential for gluten in the tempura batter.  Some people make tempura without regular flour, but to keep from being the one asking a million questions, I just tend to keep away from it.  That night though I did have a little exposure to tiny amounts of shoyu and tempura.  Dr. Cousin wanted agedashi tofu, which has some shoyu in the sauce and is tempura battered.  Some places serve the dipping sauce on the side, but this place had poured the sauce over it and so it was served sitting in the sauce.  I had one piece.  On the left are pictures of 3 of the rolls we had that night – Mini Godzilla, Ocean Roll, and Vegetarian Supreme.  We also had the Totoro Kani, Alaskan, and White Dragon rolls.  I think the only one we weren’t too thrilled with was the Totoro Kani.  The Totoro Kani roll also had some shoyu decorating the plate, but I think I was able to get pieces that hadn’t touched it.  Then, the White Dragon roll had shrimp tempura inside, of which I had several pieces.  I only meant to have one piece, but it was so good I couldn’t stop myself.  I love that I can normally have dessert in a Japanese restaurant.  Mochi is a rice flour dessert that I grew up eating.  Aki Sushi had regular mochi that was filled with red bean paste (very common in Japanese desserts) and mochi ice cream.  My husband and Dr. Cousin had mochi ice cream, while I had regular mochi.  I knew I was bad enough that day having had an Almond Snickers on the road (which was so sweet it will be a LONG time before I have another one).

Dr. Cousin and I had planned on going to the opening day of her Farmer’s Market on Saturday, then going to Aloha Eats for lunch before going downtown to the MCA and Mag Mile.  Dr. Cousin slept pretty late and I didn’t wake her.  I have a thing about waking my host or even my guest unless it’s really important that they get up.  We wound up missing the Farmer’s Market and started off with the MCA.  My husband called saying he was done not long after we started our self-tour, so I told him to go ahead and have lunch with his friends and we’d hook up later.  I called him when we were done and they were still eating. We wound up playing phone tag for a bit after that.  The stores were so loud and crowded I couldn’t hear my phone then he had poor reception in the Hancock Building on their Observatory tour.  Before my cousin and I realized, it was 4pm and we hadn’t eaten lunch. Since my husband was in the Hancock Building, we walked back there to check out the places there to eat.  We came across The Cheesecake Factory and she mentioned she had never been.  I was shocked.  The Cheesecake Factory was something Granny and Auntie Boogie always took me to.  It was tradition when we went to Rodeo Drive.  So, I told her we had to go.  However, the wait was insane and my husband and his friends had come to join us, but his friends had to leave.  We wound up getting cheesecake to go and eating it outside.  I asked for the crust to be cut off of mine and when I opened mine, it was still on.  I was very careful about how far down my fork went and when I got near the outside crust, I stopped.  My husband and cousin were ready to take it back in and make them cut it off, but it was too crazy inside to mess with that.

Kalua Pig and Cabbage

After a lot of walking around downtown through the Mag Mile and the parks, my cousin and I declared we were done with walking.  We got about 6 hours of walking in with a break on the train to downtown, a small one in the MCA while watching one of the videos, and to eat cheesecake.  We had already decided to save Aloha Eats for dinner so my husband didn’t feel like he missed out.  Walking into the place was like walking into one of the drive-ins back home.  I felt like I was home.  Everything on the menu is local food.  Local meaning, local Hawai`i foods.  Teri beef, BBQ chicken, katsu, loco moco, Spam musubi, mac salad, haupia, and even Hawaiian juices.  Most of the menu items are not gluten friendly at all, which will pose an interesting challenge the next time we are home visiting.  I knew the Kalua Pig and Cabbage is gluten friendly and pretty much had my mind made up that I would have that.  In Hawai`i, plate lunches come with the entrée, two scoops rice, and  1 scoop mac salad.  At Aloha Eats, you could choose either the mac salad or fries.  I was prepared to say neither, but when I ordered, she asked if I wanted extra rice instead of the mac salad or fries.  So yes, I had extra rice.  My husband got the same thing only he had the mac salad.  Apparently he enjoyed it so much, he had a dream about kalua pig Saturday night.

Gluten-Free Organic Hearty Vegetarian Breakfast Wrap

For our last meal, my cousin took us to The Buzz Cafe in Oak Park.  It was reminiscent of many cafe’s on Bardstown Road in Louisville that support local artists.  This was the best part of the place though, they offer their dishes either organic or non-organic.  While trying to figure out what I wanted, my cousin noticed on the menu that gluten-free bread or wraps could be substituted for 50 cents more.  I was all over that.  I got the Organic Hearty Vegetarian Breakfast Wrap with the gluten-free wrap.  I also had the Mexican Spiced Hot Chocolate, which I recommend to anyone who loves chocolate and cinnamon.  The wrap was pretty good, but the wrap itself was a little tough.  I think I chewed off all the calories as I was eating.  There was also goat cheese in it which I hadn’t noticed on the menu.  I think I was too excited about real gluten-free options and the veggies in the wrap to notice the goat cheese.  I was nearly done and had opened up the wrap to just eat the veggies and egg without the wrap.  I was trying to figure out the white stuff still on the wrap.  I knew it wasn’t cream cheese, mayo, or sour cream.  My cousin is the one that said it was goat cheese.  No wonder I couldn’t figure out what I was tasting!  I’m not fond of goat meat or any goat by-products because of something that happened when I was little.  It is very rare that I actually want to eat feta.  So, it’s not surprising that I couldn’t place something I’m not used to eating.

Now, I must get back to catching up on my routine.  I love weekend getaways, but I have a ton of cleaning to do.

The Fruits…And Veggies Of Someone Else’s Labor

I feel I have been neglectful of my blog since my last post and I hope I am forgiven.  I have used the last few days as a break and give myself some “me” time to do whatever I wanted without being beholden to anyone.  I did miss writing though.  The nearly daily exercise I’ve made of blogging has helped me keep doing something I love.  At some point I will transition from blogging frequently to just writing my stories instead and blog once a week or so.  I don’t want to give it up completely, knowing I’ve inspired others and helped educate.

Yesterday, I had my first ever CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) pick up.  I arrived pretty early with my reusable bags in hand and I stood behind another first timer.  The goods were set up farmer’s market style for us.  We checked in and they checked their list and told us what we were to pick up.  I left with a bag full of arugula, mesculin (or mesclun), radishes, green onions, spinach, and strawberries.  It wasn’t until I got home that I realized I should have probably had more.  So, last night I emailed the CSA asking if I was supposed to be told about the rest of the shares I was supposed to pick up or if I was supposed to ask about them. Today, I got a rather confusing email, so I emailed again asking for clarification.  I’m still waiting on an answer, which probably won’t come until tomorrow.

Last night, while on the phone with my husband, I let him know about what we got and asked if he was okay with me making salads for us to take with us on our way to Chicago.  I figured it would help us use up the greens without letting it go bad and it would give us a faster lunch stop without having the worry of trying to find a place to eat gluten-free on the road while trying to beat rush hour traffic in Chicago.  By rush hour traffic in Chicago, I mean missing a drive that would take us 3 hours to get from the city limits to my cousin’s place rather than the hour it took us the last time.  Good ol’ Chicago traffic.

Fresh Greens Salad

My husband agreed to the idea of the salads, so I spent some time this afternoon while making my late lunch, preparing our lunches for tomorrow.   I used just the arugula and mesculin for the greens because I’m using the spinach for my smoothies.  I fried up the remainder of the bacon I had to get rid of it.  I buy bacon rarely, so the faster I get rid of it the better.   I boiled some eggs, chopped up some of the green onions, an avocado, and pulled out some pre-chopped zucchini and bell peppers (red, orange, and yellow) I had in the refrigerator.  After laying out the greens, I tossed on a handful of the green onions, crumbled a piece of bacon, tossed on a handful of the peppers and a handful of the zucchini.  I placed the sliced avocado in the center and placed the quartered egg around the plate.  I dressed it with Leanne Ely’s simple dressing: 3 tablespoons olive oil, 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, 1 teaspoon dried oregano, and 1 pressed garlic clove.  I left the garlic out of it this time around because of the amount of green onions I used on the salad.  I didn’t want the onions and garlic completely taking over the salad.  I use very little dressing on my salads and today I used only about 2 teaspoons drizzled over the salad.

I still have some yummy garlic bread I made on Monday with a gluten-free baguette made by Against the Grain that I found at Whole Foods last week.  Simple ingredients in the baguette and it was well worth it to just have it once even if it was costly.  I still plan on making my own bread, but it was a find.  Not only gluten-free, but sugar-free, as well, which is why I have shied away from other store bought gluten-free breads.  The bread has to stay frozen so I made sure to put the leftover garlic bread in the front.  I’m going to have to write myself a note later reminding myself not to forget it.

I also chopped up the radishes and will be taking those as well, along with some carrots and humus, and some fruit.  The ride there should be fully covered.  Now if only the ride home would be as easy.  At least with the ride home, we won’t be trying to beat rush hour and can take our time to find a place that will have some options for me.

Now, off to do more packing!