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I first got a juicer years ago in college. I grew wheat grass on my windowsill and juiced everything in sight. The juicer was of centrifugal design and involved intense cleanup, especially if allowed to sit. But I loved it anyway, it was fun and fresh and made me feel as if I were drinking liquid energy. Then I moved, and moved again. I put my stuff into storage to travel, cook and write and when I returned I no longer had a juicer. I think I loaned it to a friend and just never remembered to get it back.

Recently, I was gifted another one. This one of auger design, fit for making not only juice, but pasta (and sausage?!). And here I am, juicing again. Liquid sunshine in a glass, and the cleanup isn’t as hard as I remembered, or maybe I’m just a bit more responsible. I need to stop putting it into the cupboard after use. When I first received it the poor juicer languished in a cardboard box, waiting patiently for its day. Once on the counter exposed, part kitchen appliance, part workshop drill, it reigned.

In celebration of my lovely juicer and its healthy addition to my life in these dark, overcast winter times, I’ve come up with the following recipe – well, maybe not exactly a recipe, so much as a guideline:

Full Circle Vegetable Juice

3 carrots
2 stalks of celery
a small piece of ginger
a handful of spinach or chard
1 pear
1 apple

Cut into chunks, don’t peel. Juice it!

Seriously. That’s all I have. I mean, you can go crazy if you want. You can add potatoes, turnips, minneolas. You can make straight spinach juice or even the best, freshest Bloody Mary mix ever (but wait till summer when the heirloom tomatoes are fit for bursting), or you can just grab a few things, juice it up and drink it. It is awesome.

If you don’t have a juicer, I suppose you could use your food processor and then put it through a sieve or squeeze it through cheese clothe  – now that’s hard core. The only thing to remember is, there are no rules. Juice, juice, juice away. And don’t forget the ginger, aids in digestion, gives it extra kick and spice and makes the blood vessels tingle. Better than coffee, swear it. And if you happen to be watching Q13FOX Tuesday morning, February 1st, for 6am to 9am, you may just catch a glimpse of Full Circle’s founder and owner Andrew Stout sharing a glass of juice with FOX’s Kaci Aitchison!

As for next week’s box:

Celery                     Red Leaf Lettuce
Rainbow Carrots       Red Chard
Broccolette               Navel Oranges (sub minneolas)
Shallots                    Mangos (sub grapefruit)
Green Beans            Red D’Anjou Pears
Cremini boomers      Gala Apples

It sounds like stuffing is in order. I’ve got my hands on a nice free-range, organic fed turkey and since I wasn’t home for Thanksgiving, and it feels like enough time has passed that turkey sounds good again, it’s time for Thanksgiving in January! Not like you can ever give enough thanks. So if I’m making a turkey, I’m definitely making stuffing, and all the necessary starters are right here – celery, carrots, shallots and mushrooms. From there its just a little step to the oyster and hazelnut stuffing I wanted to make (but my sister vetoed). Plus green beans for casserole and some chard for a side dish, and all the fruit for fruit salad. Are you kidding? I better invite some friends over.

Maybe next month we’ll have another Christmas. I doubt you want to hear about stuffing recipes in January really, but I’ll come up with something exciting and give you a review of my try at grill smoking a turkey, which I’ve never done but always wanted to do. Until then, eat well and be well.

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The sunrise this morning was amazing. Crimson streaks across the bluebird sky, the Cascade Mountains nestled purple in dark shadows beyond. And now as I write this I swear I’m seeing blue skies and actual – gasp – sunlight! Can you believe it? In these dark months we better not waste these bright moments.

In a quiet celebration of this brief interlude I’m going to fire up the grill tonight, slow cook some country style ribs in my very own kahlua pork sauce and make some pulled pork sandwiches (either that or I’ll just stop by Bob’s Meats and get some sausages). Partially inspired by the sunshine, but really a reason to make one of my favorite and quickest slaws. This variety goes well with any tangy teriyaki sauce or soy-based marinated meats.

Cabbage salad, or really coleslaw, is a must have with any barbecue and most are a slimy concoction of mayonnaise and mustard. This version is light and quick. Most of the prep is in cutting the vegetables, the rest is in the wait. Although you can eat it immediately, the cabbage will soften as it sits and the flavors will meld together.

It’s best to make at least an hour or two ahead to give the slaw enough time to soften and meld. Add the sesame seeds before serving to retain their crunch. You can easily adjust this slaw to meet any flavors in your accompanying dishes. Going for a lemon tandoori chicken? Try adding some Meyer lemon zest and a lemon juice instead of vinegar to the dressing and peanut oil instead of sesame oil. Aiming more for a Thai flavor in your curried shish kabobs? Mix some mint in with the cilantro and leave out the sesame seeds, try mixing in a little tahini and olive oil instead of sesame oil. Want more of a Korean flavor? Try making a batch of kimchi style slaw with radish, hot chili powder, ginger, fermented bean paste and garlic.

A simple, crunchy and light salad to match all of your grilling ambitions.

1/2 green cabbage, thinly shredded
2 carrots, peeled and julienned
5 scallions, thinly sliced
1 T ginger, minced
3 T sesame oil
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 cup cilantro leaves, chopped
Salt and pepper
1 T black sesame seeds

In a large bowl, toss cabbage, carrots and scallions. In a small bowl mix ginger, oil, vinegar and pepper flakes. Add dressing to cabbage mixture and toss to coat. Salt and pepper to taste. Cover lightly and let sit for 1-2 hours. Before serving toss with cilantro and sesame seeds. Adjust seasoning if necessary.

I was thumbing through one of the many cooking magazines I have recently and I came across an article in Fine Cooking on meatloaf. As we’d been trying to come up with a simple, basic, yet delicious meatloaf recipe for our Good Food Combination for this week, I couldn’t help but to get excited when I saw it. They had basically broken up meatloaf preparation into a few steps with seemingly endless choices.

You soaked your bread in milk, you picked your aromatics, what I have always termed my mirepoix – a mixture of base vegetables, usually celery, carrots and onion, though it could consist of anything from shallots and leeks, to ginger and garlic – and then you chose your meats, your accents, your spices, your glazes and sauces and that’s it, your done.

And it really is that easy. Where cooks get lost, where I tend to get lost anyhow, is starting without a plan. Not even a plan so much as a path, a flavor profile for lack of a better term. I tend to think of it as regional – though even this mindset can be limiting. Do I want a Mediterranean flavor, an island flavor, Asian influence, Latin, French or just hints of one or the other. It doesn’t get me all the way, but it tells me which direction to go at least.

A really good chef sees all this and can grasp those minute, simple flavors that bind those variant paths together, the Malaysian influence that brings the Thai and Chinese cooking together. Or the Moroccan flavor that can blend the West African spices with the Spanish flavors. But for us, the daily home chefs, the family cooks, the foodie turned kitchen scientist, it’s hard to know where to start.

Like the meatloaf, there are a few dishes that combine the best of what nature has to offer in one hardy dish. Meals that follow what the season brings, but have basic flavors that can be gently molded to fit any world flavor you care to test. Lately for me, this dish has been a mixture of grains, squash and greens.

Winter squashes are easily interchangeable, and even though they have their various subtleties they all have one thing in common – they all taste great roasted. So that’s where I start, roast squash. Last time I tossed them in a variety of fresh herbs, savory, thyme, and tarragon, dusted them with smoked paprika and honey, a little olive oil and that was it, roast to a nice soft brown.

The second step is the grain. I’ve used farro, barley, quinoa, short grain brown rice, wild rice,  and even millet. A pilaf of different kinds of grains is also a great way to go. These too can be flavored using spices or sauteed briefly with a mirepoix. The last step, the greens, is the easiest. Just a large skillet, some butter or oil and a brief saute of onion, shallots, leeks or other alliums along with ginger or garlic and then a quick toss of the greens and finish with vinegar, stock or citrus juice. Between the wide variety of different ingredients and the choice of spices and herbs, there are countless preparations. All easy, quick and amazingly different. I haven’t found one I didn’t like yet.

Here’s what my box looks like this week:

Cucumbers
Parsnips
Spinach
Red Onions
Eggplant
Bunched Carrots
Green Leaf Lettuce
Green Kale
Fairchild Tangerines
White turnips
D’anjou Pears
Cameo Apples

I think you know where the greens are going. And I switched out the kiwis for more white turnips. I plan to make a salad out of them with the tangerines. I can’t wait. I think it’s almost time to get the grill going again. I made some burgers last weekend and they were so good i might just have to grill up some eggplant this week. Although, i found a great recipe for an eggplant curry I’d like to try. The rest really says salads to me, I’ve been craving some different styles. And I might try my hand at creamed spinach come next week too.

I’m excited to try out some new recipes, and look for some new ways to bring old favorites back to life. Have a great weekend and I’ll talk to you next week.

I love my hash browns, have I mentioned that? Being from Idaho must have something to do with it, that or all the Sundays my family spent at local Greasy Spoons. If it’s breakfast or even lunch for that matter, don’t give me a plate of ‘home fries’ or ‘country potatoes’, I want my hash browns. And you can bet that come Sunday at our house my cast iron skillet will be hot, bacon will be cooking in the oven and grated potatoes will be frying away merrily.

I’ve tried many different ways of cooking them. I’ve tried grating them into water, water with sugar (said to help even browning), into a towel to squeeze out the excess moisture and best of all, using baked potatoes from the night before. Each has their benefits and drawbacks, but makes a pretty decent hash brown. I mean what does a good hash brown need to be? A crispy pile of starch with a fluffy interior, a nice bed to lie down a couple of poached, over-easy or sunny eggs, that’s it.

My favorite is the baked potato. And if I have the time, or happened to have the foresight to make a few extra, they make the fluffiest, lightest and wonderfully crisp browns of all. You can cook them in the microwave and then grate them, which works alright, but its not quite the same. But what if you don’t have the time to bake a potato?

My second favorite then is this recipe, or to be more specific this method. And it just so happens that this method also works well for incorporating other wonderful root vegetables, like beets, carrots or parsnips, or shredded squash of any type, winter or summer. One flip, put on the cover to steam them in their own moisture, and there you have it.

Parsnips are one of the best winter veggies. Full of nutritious vitamins and minerals that our body craves this time of year and with a light carrot-ish flavor, at once earthy and clean. You can actually make hash browns solely from parsnips, but I prefer the softer fluffy starch of the potato mixed in. So, give this recipe a try next time your looking for a great addition to your eggs and bacon, or use the parsnip variation as a bed for an entree for dinner.

2 large Russet potatoes, peeled and grated
8 ounces parsnips, peeled and grated
1 egg, beaten
2 Tablespoons flour
5-6 Tablespoons olive oil
1/3 cup Gruyère cheese, grated (optional)
Parsley, chopped (optional)
Salt and pepper

In a clean dish towel or paper towel squeeze the grated potato to release as much moisture as possible, place in a medium-sized bowl. repeat the process with the parsnips. Add egg and flour and mix in thoroughly. Heat a couple of tablespoons of oil in a large caste iron or non-stick skillet over medium heat.

Place a layer of hash browns down in portions, three or four and press lightly with a spatula to form a layer or patty. Season with salt and pepper. The center of the pan will inevitably be hotter than the outside, by placing the browns down in portions it allows you to rotate them so they cook evenly.

Cook the shredded portions for two minute, then rotate and cook for another two minutes. At this point they should be fairly sturdy, as the starch will hold them together. Lift up an edge and check to be sure, then flip and cover with a lid. Cook for another 3-4 minutes. Remove, sprinkle with grated cheese, add parsley or chives. Serve hot.

Sometimes I just pull everything out of my Farm-to-Table box and stare at it. I imagine the journey each carrot, each tender green, the parsnips, the potatoes, the vacuum-packed shrimp, the yogurt, all of it has taken to end up on my counter. It’s really incredible when you think about it, something I often take for granted. It’s amazing to have such easy and simple access to such good food.

I wanted to do something this week in line with my new attitude of eating simply. I wanted to include some local and seasonal vegetables and dress them minimally, leaving their natural flavor and nutritional value intact. What I came up with, after a few tries, was really a simple basis for a variety of great salad. In the last few days I’ve made this salad a few different ways, but I give to you here my best variation and you can take it from there.

It’s base is thinly sliced beets, carrots, greens and onions – I made it with both red and white onions and I tended to like the stronger flavor of the red, though either will do. It’s dressed with salt and pepper, vinegar and olive oil. The only other seasonings I tried where cumin seeds, fennel seeds and finally settled on just a dash of ground cumin. I wanted something that was reminiscent of the pickled veggies that grace the counters of taco trucks and Mexican food stands, but retained a fresher, crunchier texture and a brighter flavor.

After making a couple batches I chanced upon a wonderful addition. Something that not only complemented the carrots, but brought the subtle flavor of the beets to a bright and distinct taste. I used chopped up pieces of fresh mandarins, though oranges, tangerines or other citrus would work just as well.

What I ended up with was a delightfully bright and tasty salad made from winter fare in spring colors. Although my final plating didn’t have any green cabbage, I’m including it in the recipe because its addition gives a nice body and crunch to the salad, even after it sits in the vinegar overnight or for a day or so. This green addition could easily be substituted with other greens, like a chiffonade of kale or chard or a handful of chopped endive. The vinegar will slightly cook and wilt the greens and remove their more bitter qualities.

2 baby beets, peeled and thinly sliced
1/4 green cabbage, julienned
3 carrots, peeled, and thinly sliced on the bias
1/4 large red onion, julienned
2 mandarins, sliced into small chunks, de-seeded
3 T cilantro, roughly chopped
1 t ground cumin
1/4 red wine vinegar
Extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Start by thinly slicing the red onion. Take the sliced onion and place it in a bowl of ice water while you prep the rest. This will remove some of the onions bite and soften its flavor so it won’t overpower the others. When your peeling and slicing the beets rub a little olive oil on your fingers, this will keep them from becoming stained with the beet juice. Place the beets in a medium bowl and sprinkle with vinegar. Let sit for 10-20 minutes. Add carrots, onion cabbage and season with salt, pepper and cumin. Prior to serving mix in cilantro and mandarins. Plate and sprinkle with olive oil to serve.

That’s it, a simple and delicious salad just bursting with nutritious vegetables and fruit. Enjoy.

I’ve found some new inspiration. Something I’d forgotten, but an integral part of my cooking and my kitchen life has been brought back to life. Basically, it’s just a simple phrase found in the pages of a cookbook handed to me this morning. The phrase is “what grows together goes together” and the cookbook is Tender by Tamara Murphy. Tamara has always been an early and staunch proponent of local food, of supporting the farmer that grows what you eat and savoring the flavors of the table. She has been a friend and supporter of Full Circle for many years and has just recently released this self-published book.

When Andrew handed me his copy to browse today the first thing I noticed was the smell. Soy-based inks smell like nothing else – like following a bio-diesel truck running used doughnut frying oil down the road – the scent of vegetables and dirt in the inks are familiar and easy to remember. the cookbook is also beautiful, heavy, with thick pages and large pictures, because what’s a cookbook without great pictures? But what really got me was her gentle admonition to slow down and start eating naturally again. Stop trying so hard and just put together what grows together.

I found a few recipes I love, which I’ll share after I’ve tried them, but they sound delicious, and above all – they sound easy! Now that’s what I’m talking about. Believe me, I have many cookbooks that contain incredible recipes that take a day or more to prepare, and while these books are awesome and the food contained within is amazing in its complexity, it’s also a little daunting. Which I suppose is why they’re also a little dusty.

Within Tender I found a few recipes I am already excited to make. Mediterranean Carrot Salad, Spinach in Risotto with Shell Beans and Bacon, Smoky White Bean and Ham Hock Stew (this one has lightly wilted kale greens in the soup and calls for a lightly poached egg on top. I’m already sold, anything with an egg on top and you need not say more)!

A lot of the recipes seem too easy. I mean, they are almost so simple I thought something was missing. But that’s part of the beauty. When you have the quality of produce that we are lucky enough to get, we don’t need much more. No frills, not a lot of heavy seasoning or pounds of butter. Just food, simple, nourishing and delicious.

So that’s what I’m going for in the weeks to come. I’m going to rediscover the flavors of my Farm-to-Table box in all their natural glory. No substitutions this week,  I’m just going to work with what I have (well maybe I’ll sub out the kiwis for some red chard). So my box contents look like this:

Cucumbers
Parsnips
Spinach
Red Onions
Eggplant
Bunched Carrots
Green Leaf Lettuce
Green Kale
Fairchild Tangerines
Red Chard
D’anjou Pears
Cameo Apples

Cucumbers and red onions will make a nice Greek salad, along with some tomatoes, and as my co-worker suggested, some mandarin slices and fresh oregano. Parsnips will join some red potatoes in a masher heavy with roasted garlic. Eggplant will get grilled in strips for a side dish or blended in baba ganoush.

The carrots I’ll make for next week, using Tamara’s Mediterranean Carrot Salad as a starting point. Green leaf will hold some spiced beef strips, fresh basil, bean sprouts and fermented bean paste in little burritos served alongside some basmati rice. The kale and chard I’ll probably make in my new favorite style!

Not sure yet what the fruit will go with, maybe lunches or desserts, though I’m happy to report our new fruit juicer has made a strong introduction in our house with a New Year’s day brunch Bloody Mary bar and some fresh apple-pear juice with ginger. I think that’s about it, let me know if you have any box veggies you can use help with or need recipes for!

Have a great weekend and I’ll see you next week when my box arrives and I make – Mediterranean Carrot Salad

I recently read this article in the New York Times by Mark Bittman about three simple recipes that can get people to begin eating at home again. He recommends a stir fry of fresh vegetables, a salad, and a bean or lentil and rice dish. With these three, Bittman suggests, a home cook can open the door onto a loaded pantry of styles and tastes. As I was reading Bittman’s article I began thinking about some of my favorite dishes, my go to meals when I’m hungry, but in a hurry.

My most often cooked meals are usually the easiest to prepare, but for their simplicity they are not lacking in flavor. They are also my favorite dishes because they highlight the ingredients, the freshness of the vegetables, the sharp bite of vinegar. Nothing hid, nothing unidentifiable. But full of the raw flavor of earth and rain. It happens that my favorite and often most cooked of all of these simple go-to recipes is sauteed kale.

When I first discovered sauteed kale I was astounded by the flavor, the sweetness of the green even when lightly wilted or brightly crisped in the oven. I began preparing it in a number of different ways, southern style braised, lightly wilted and tossed in a salad with rice and radishes, and just slightly sauteed with garlic, onions and finished with lemon juice.

Good food, doesn’t have to be complex. And all though I love my eggplant parmesan, I realize that a dish that takes a good hour and three pans might be too much for some people. In fact, it is often too much for me. Unlike some food bloggers that I admire and read religiously, I don’t spend my days skipping through the kitchen, my afternoons perched on the sofa reading old recipes, or prepare mid-week five course meals for my friends over a hardwood fire. I work like many of you do, eight hours a day and then come home hungry.

It is to this hunger that I offer up this recipe. A simple, quick and easy sauteed kale recipe that works in infinite variation. In fact, the last time I made this I used collard greens and frisee with country ham we brought back from Kentucky. I think the reason I like this recipe more than others is that it’s the best of both worlds. The sweet, silky texture of braised southern greens, with the crisp and crunchy texture of lightly sauteed greens. All tied together with your choice of cured meat, or none at all. Finished with lemon juice, or any vinegar and you have a great dish. Add on top of wild rice and you have a meal.

All in less then about 15 minutes. Enjoy.

1 bunch green kale, cleaned, de-stemmed and thinly sliced
1 bunch green chard, cleaned, de-stemmed and chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 pound sliced pancetta, bacon or ham, chopped
1/2 cup stock
2 T olive oil
1/2 lemon, juiced
Salt and pepper

Start by heating the olive oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet or saute pan. Add pancetta, bacon or ham and saute until lightly browned, remove most of grease when browned if using bacon, leaving 2 tablespoons. Add garlic to meat and saute lightly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Do not let garlic brown. Add the softer of the two greens, in this case the chard, and saute until fully wilted, about 5-8 minutes. Add stock and cover until chard is fully wilted, about two-3 minutes. Add kale and mix in until just tender and bright green, about 2-3 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste and finish with lemon juice. Serve as a side, over rice or with eggs for a healthy breakfast.