It’s asparagus season in West Michigan! It’s now time to pickle asparagus, make salad or soup with it, or (and this is one of my favorites), have it with eggs for breakfast, lunch OR dinner. (You may also have it for brunch, if, unlike me, you enjoy brunch.)
These are two delicious egg + asparagus recipes. They’re anytime-meals, and even more Michigan-y with the dried cherry scones.
from Cooks Illustrated, May/June 2007
Makes 1 large omelet, which serves 2 people
I don’t try many Cooks Illustrated recipes because they’re so complicated. However, this one seemed simple and it is certainly delicious.
Recipe Note: When cooking the eggs, it is important to lift the edges of the omelet rather than push them toward the center.
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 pound asparagus , trimmed of tough ends and cut on bias into 1/4-inch pieces (about 1 1/4 cups)
Table salt and ground black pepper
1 medium shallot , halved and sliced thin
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
5 large eggs
1 1/2 ounces Gruyere cheese , finely grated (about 1/2 cup) (Joy’s note: You can also substitute another cheese, based on what you have on hand. )
1. Heat 1 tablespoon butter in 10-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat; when foaming subsides, add asparagus, pinch salt, and pepper to taste. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes. Add shallot and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until asparagus is lightly browned and tender, 2 to 4 minutes longer. Add lemon juice and toss to coat; transfer to bowl. While asparagus cooks, beat eggs and salt and pepper to taste with fork in small bowl until combined.
2. Wipe skillet clean with paper towel. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon butter in skillet over medium-low heat; when foaming subsides, pour in eggs. Cook, without stirring, until eggs begin to set, 45 seconds to 1 minute. Using rubber spatula, lift edge of cooked egg, then tilt pan to one side so that uncooked egg runs underneath. Repeat process, working around pan edge. Using spatula, gently scrape uncooked egg toward rim of skillet, until top is just slightly wet. Entire process should take 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Let pan sit on heat without moving for 30 seconds. Remove pan from heat, sprinkle asparagus mixture in even layer over omelet, then sprinkle cheese evenly over asparagus. Cover and let stand until eggs no longer appear wet, 4 to 5 minutes.
3. Return skillet to medium heat for 30 seconds. Using rubber spatula, loosen edges of omelet from skillet. Slide omelet halfway out of pan onto serving plate. Tilt pan so top of omelet folds over itself. Cut omelet in half; using large, thin spatula, transfer to individual plates and serve immediately.
If you have a hankering for a more simple recipe for asparagus and eggs, try:
Not Your Mother’s Scrambled Eggs
1/4 C. garlic scapes, chopped
1 T. olive oil
6 asparagus spears, cut into 1/2″ lengths
1 T. water
4 oz. crumbled French goat cheese
Heat olive oil in a skillet (nonstick or cast iron) on medium-high heat, add garlic scapes. Saute’ for 1 minute. Add asparagus and saute’ for 3 minutes more. Add eggs beaten with water to skillet, stirring until almost set. Add goat cheese; stir until barely melted.
Before you cook the eggs, stick a batch of these in the oven. You may, of course, substitute other dried fruits for the cherries, but the cherries are quite delicious!
Dried Cherry Scones
from Gourmet, August 2008
- 4 cups sifted cake flour (not self-rising; sift before measuring)
- 1/2 cup sugar plus more for sprinkling
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 1 cup dried cherries
- 1 large egg
- 1 cup heavy cream plus additional for brushing (I have used 1/2 and 1/2 to cut down on fat.)
Preheat oven to 375°F with rack in middle.
Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Scatter butter on top and blend with your fingertips until mixture resembles coarse meal. Mix in dried cherries.
Whisk together egg and cream in a small bowl, then fold into flour mixture until dough just comes together (dough will be quite delicate).
Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface. With floured hands, press into a 1-inch-thick rectangle. Cut out rounds with cutter and arrange 2 inches apart on a parchment-paper-lined baking sheet. Gather scraps together and cut out additional scones.
Brush tops of scones with cream and sprinkle lightly with sugar. Bake scones, rotating baking sheet halfway through, until tops are golden, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool on a rack about 10 minutes before serving.
When I was in college, some of my friends decided to ban hummus from their weekly gatherings because it was the new popular vegetarian staple and everyone would bring it. Thus, the weekly gatherings were becoming more and more mundane and it was the hummus’ fault. It is probably stories like this that have influenced the evolution of hummus. Traditionally, the ingredients have been standard: chickpeas (garbanzo beans), tahini (sesame seed butter), lemon juice, garlic, and spices. Now, however, you can find all sorts of hummus, variety enough to feed groups of friends week after week without being overly repetitive. Here are three recipes for hummus. The first one can be made with a pot and a spoon; the others will be smoother if you have something to process the hummus in (like a food processor or blender).
Red Lentil Hummus
This is the easiest hummus recipe I have ever seen or tried. It’s hardly “hummus,” in the pure sense of the word, lacking 3 of the standard ingredients, but it works. Though red lentils are a gorgeous orange before they’re cooked, during cooking, they sadly turn brownish yellow. (This recipe is adapted from The Essential Book of Jewish Festival Cooking.)
2 C. red lentils, picked over
2 bay leaves
1 ½ teaspoons salt
4-5 large garlic cloves, pressed
1 ½ to 2 teaspoons dried oregano (make it tablespoons for fresh)
1/4 C. olive oil
Rinse the lentils by covering them with water, swishing them around, and draining the water with a sieve or small colander. Rinsing is a very important step. Do this until the water is clear.
Put the lentils and bay leaves in a large saucepan with water to cover the lentils an additional one and one-half inches. Bring to a boil and lower the heat. Skim off the foam that develops on top. (You don’t have to baby-sit the pot, just keep an eye on it and remove the foam when there’s a lot. You probably won’t get it all; that’s OK.) Cover and cook over low heat for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Continue to keep an eye on the top. Sometimes the foam will reach the lid and boil over. If this happens, turn the heat down a bit and wipe up the mess. There should be a bit of water left on the top when the lentils are finished. Remove the bay leaves.
Beat the mixture with a spoon until it is a smooth mash, and the water is mixed in. In a small bowl, mix the salt, garlic, oregano, and olive oil, and stir briskly into to lentil mash. Add black pepper to taste.
Adzuki Bean Hummus
A more traditional recipe, this hummus uses adzuki beans, an important legume in Korea and Japan. This recipe also calls for kombu or kelp, an edible seaweed. When we lived in BC, I used dried BC kelp, which I could get at many markets that specialize in Asian and health foods. (You can leave it out, if you want, but the hummus will be less flavourful.) You could substitute nori (sushi wraps) for the kombu.
1 C. dry adzuki beans
4 inch piece kombu or kelp
Place the above ingredients in a heavy pot with water to cover the beans several inches. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer, and cook for at least 1-2 hours or until soft.
2 T. tahini
4 T. rice vinegar
1 ½ t. ground coriander seeds
1-2 T. fresh grated ginger
½ t. sea salt or Kosher salt
lime juice (optional)
Mix together. If you have a blender or food processor, process until smooth. If not, mash together with a potato masher. Add lime juice if necessary for flavor, if you like.
Pinto Bean Hummus
Pinto beans are medium-sized beans, beige overlaid with brown dappling. I just made this recipe with Evelyn again last week; we picked mint and wild chives from our yard. Evelyn loves to eat mint! She’ll eat a whole sprig as a little snack.
To make this recipe, follow the instructions for the above hummus recipe, using the following ingredients:
1 C. dry pinto beans (or 2 cups cooked)
1 C. chopped scallions (green onions)
1 T. roasted garlic (Roast the 3-5 unpeeled cloves of garlic in the oven; when it is soft, squeeze it out of the skin.)
¼ C. fresh mint leaves, sliced (or 1 Tablespoon dried)
¼ t. ground black pepper
½ t. sea salt or Kosher salt
1/8 t. cayenne pepper
2 T. lemon juice, more for thinning if necessary
If you like, add the scallions and mint after the hummus is processed or pureed for added colour and texture
Hummus can be eaten with tortilla chips, pita wedges, or with lettuce, tomato, yogurt, and feta cheese in pita halves. Or, if no one’s around, you can just dip your finger into it and lick it off.
Maybe you’re imagining a whole pumpkin. Maybe, in your imagination, it was one that had been carved for Halloween and it now has icicles hanging out of its eye holes. Well, if you are imagining this, please know that my freezer is not that exciting–especially at this time of year. I have a confession: I think I like winter squash and pumpkin more than I actually like it. I think it’s mostly bland, unless it’s cooked with sausage or a roast. And I can manage it in baked goods.
In the fall, like all other falls, and with a heart full of good intentions, I purchase a box or two of winter squash at the Farmer’s Market. And every year, without fail, some (3? 5? 7?) of those squash end up in our compost. Thank God we compost, or I would keep this my dirty little mouldy squash secret. Sometimes squash seeds start growing in the compost in the spring.
Also, without fail, I take the rest of the squash, bake it, scoop out the insides, and freeze it. This is the pumpkin at the bottom of the freezer. And it will behoove me to say that it I am using the royal “I” here. My husband, much to his chagrin, often helps with this chore. And he has made it very clear to me that he is even more ambivalent than I am about winter squash.
“So,” you ask, “Why have you waxed so eloquently about squash in the past?” Well, maybe I was doing what I thought was good: encouraging vegetable consumption. And I do like squash, I just don’t love it. It’s like that friend that you always know will be there, but sometimes they’re just not that fun. (Maybe we’re all like squash at times. Maybe it’s the realization that we’re not all hot-shot fancy tomatoes.)
But I am using the pumpkin at the bottom of the freezer to make food and have been trying quite a few new (and old) recipes. Here are some we’ve particularly enjoyed.
Cider Pumpkin Bread
- Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour bottom only of 9×5-inch loaf pan. In large bowl, combine brown sugar, pumpkin, oil, apple cider and egg; mix well.
- Lightly spoon flour into measuring cup; level off. Add all purpose flour, whole wheat flour, baking powder and cinnamon; stir just until moistened. Stir in nuts and raisins. Pour into greased and floured pan.
- Bake at 350°F. for 55 to 65 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes. Remove from pan; cool completely. Wrap tightly and store in refrigerator.
Peanut Butter Pumpkin Bread
3 cups sugar (I usually reduce this to 2 cups.)
1 (15 ounce) can solid pack pumpkin OR 2 C. frozen, thawed & drained pumpkin puree
1 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup water
2/3 cup peanut butter
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (Substitute up to 2 C. with white whole-wheat flour.)
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
In a mixing bowl, combine the sugar, pumpkin, eggs, oil, water and peanut butter; beat well. Combine the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Gradually add to pumpkin mixture; mix well. Pour into two greased 9-in. x 5-in. x 3-in. loaf pans. Bake at 350 degrees F for 60-70 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks.
Delicious Pumpkin Cake
- 4 eggs
- 1 2/3 Cups sugar
- 2 Cups pureed pumpkin (Libbys in a can is good)
- 1 Cup vegetable oil
- 2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 2 Cups flour
- 2 tsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/2 Cup chopped nuts (walnuts or pecans)
- 3-4 oz. cream cheese (about half a small size package)
- 1/2 Cup butter (room temperature)
- 3/4 Cup powdered sugar
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350°. In a large bowl, beat eggs until frothy. Add sugar, pumpkin, oil, pumpkin pie spice and vanilla and beat until well blended. Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and nuts, mix gently to combine. Pour into an ungreased 9″ x 13″ pan, bake for 30-40 minutes, until the cake is golden brown. It should be pulling away from the sides of the pan a bit, and will spring back when lightly pressed. Remove from oven and let cool at least an hour before frosting.
To prepare frosting: Beat cream cheese and room temperature butter with powdered sugar and vanilla extract until well blended and fluffy. Add a bit more powdered sugar if a stiffer frosting is desired. Spoon the frosting onto the center of the cake and spread toward the edges until the cake is evenly frosted. If you want to be really decadent, the frosting recipe can be doubled for extra thick icing, a real kid pleaser. (I have not done this, but let me tell you, I am tempted.)
Because Earth Day falls in April, my friend Kelli Trujillo interviewed me for her blog. I’ve copied the interview below, but you can also visit Kelli’s blog here.
Kelli writes: “I love a good, healthy, homemade meal. And one of the best cooks I know is my dear friend, author, playwright, and food-blogger Joy-Elizabeth Lawrence. Today she joins us in a great dialogue about how food & eating relate to environmental stewardship. Keep on reading . . .
Joy, can you tell my readers a little bit about yourself?
I’m in my 30’s, married with one daughter. I work in and out of the home in a college theatre and in my community. I drink coffee in the morning and green tea in the afternoon.
Where and how we get our food is becoming a topic of growing interest and importance for many Christians. In a nutshell, what are the main issues Christians ought to be concerned about? Why?
It’s really easy to think that our food comes from the grocery store. Period. Maybe it comes from the farm or field that’s pictured on the packaging, and we romanticize it and think about the farms we read about when we were children. But that’s not the way it is anymore. Where our food comes from and how it was grown or raised has many ethical considerations: the treatment of the soil, treatment of animals, and the treatment of people working with the food. And many times, in order to make cheap food (which many Americans consider a right) compromises are made. For instance, nitrogen is used to fertilize a lot of crops in the United States, including corn and soybeans. The nitrogen from the fields makes its way to large bodies of water, causing large algae blooms, which is detrimental to fish populations and causes “dead” water because it depletes the oxygen.
Also, in order to get food to us, a lot of fossil fuels are used. In fact, the second largest use of fossil fuels in the United States, after transportation of people, isthe transportation of food. This is wasteful, especially if food is produced near to where you live. Both Barbara Kingsolver and Michael Pollan write about these issues in their excellent books.
These issues can seem overwhelming and discouraging! What encouragement can you offer for how we can approach these matters in a positive, hopeful way?
In Wendell Berry’s poem, “Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front” he says “Be joyful, even though you have considered all the facts.” So, my advice is that. First, consider all the facts. Read up on contemporary food ethics. It’s not difficult and some of it is very good writing. Start with what I recommended above. Another great new book is Year of Plenty by Craig L. Goodwin about how his family approached some of these issues and changes they made in their life. Another book I recommend (partially because I was a contributer) is Eat Well: A Food Road Map. This is a collection of essays about food and ideas about how to eat more mindfully. Then, after you’ve considered all the facts, don’t be afraid. Be joyful. Remember, as Christians, Christ has already overcome evil, we are just waiting for the consummation of God’s Kingdom.
For many, the idea of eating sustainably sounds difficult and expensive. What are your thoughts on balancing a need for cheap food (for a family on a tight budget) with a desire to eat locally, seasonally, or generally just more healthily?
What surprises people is that often, local and seasonal food is cheaper than conventional food. Now, if you’re buying local prepared food, like pickles, jams or bread, it will be more expensive, but it will also be of a higher quality. However, local produce, when in season, is usually very affordable at the farmer’s market–especially if you purchase it in bulk and then take it home and preserve it by canning or freezing.
I get a big thrill in August and September when supermarket peppers are $1.50-$2.00 each and at the farmer’s market I can get them three for a dollar.
Local meat is affordable if you buy it in bulk, such as half a pig or cow. It’s expensive all at once, but if you purchased each cut separately from the butcher, it would be far more. You can also learn about how a local farmer treats his or her animals–do the cows graze? Do the chickens graze? (You want the answer to be “yes” to both of these. Check out Joel Salatin’s books for a balanced Christian perspective on how animals were created to be treated.) Eating locally and seasonally means that you have to plan ahead. Look at it as a challenging game, not as a burden, and it will be a lot more fun.
Can you share some specific ideas or tips for how a Christian can develop what I’d call a more “green kitchen”—habits, attitudes, and choices that connect food consumption with creation care?
Here are some questions to ask yourself when purchasing food:
1) How much packaging does this have?
The more packaging an item has, the more wasteful it is (yes, even if you recycle the packaging). For instance, rather than purchasing yogurt in small containers, purchase a large one and the serve the yogurt in bowls or put it in a reusable plastic container for your lunch. You will also save money this way.
2) Where is this from?
Often, it doesn’t say. More and more grocery stores are labeling food when it is locally produced, which is helpful. Purchasing locally produced food helps keep money in your community or state. It also means the food has fewer food miles on it. If it is produce, it means that the produce is fresher, and has more vitamins and minerals in it.
3) Would my great-grandmother recognize the ingredients?
(With apologies to Michael Pollan.) If she wouldn’t, I wouldn’t recommend purchasing it. Your body doesn’t need it.
Here are a few ways to green your kitchen without spending a lot of money:
Read More with Less. This is an old cookbook from the 1970’s, but the philosophy it teaches about food is timeless. It gives a lot of hints about ecologically conscious AND economically conscious food. You can do both. You just can’t by organic prepared food and do both.
Learn to cook with legumes, preferably dried ones. Yes, it is possible. And legumes are far more than baked beans. There are plenty of bean soup recipes that also include meat, but the beans stretch the protein, provide fiber, and make an economical and healthful addition to your menu. There are plenty of resources about this, but the Mayo Clinic has a fairly concise and comprehensive one here: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/legumes/NU00260
Learn to freeze and can. When something is in season and cheap, buy a lot of it and then put it up. Canning is not rocket science (if it were, I would be a rocket scientist), but it is important that you do it properly. You can find great resources about canning from your local extension office and online.
Consider prepared food a luxury. You’ll save money, eat less sodium, and learn more about cooking. I’m not saying never have prepared food, just have it less often.
I could go on and on with more hints, but these are a good start. Most of all, enjoy your food. Say a blessing over it and bless all the people that touched it before you did.
Thank you, Joy-Elizabeth! Readers, you’ll get great recipes and more insights for healthy, sustainable cooking on her web site.“
Over two years ago, I posted a recipe for Homemade Laundry Soap. I have made it on-and-off since then and started making it again about a month ago, but then my Kitchen Aid needed to trot off to the repair shop and I couldn’t finish grating all my soap. (Well, I could have, by hand, but that is rather time-consuming and dries the hands.)
Meanwhile, I started brainstorming about other things I may be able to make at home and so I googled “homemade dishwasher detergent.” It seems we’re always buying dishwasher detergent. We either buy the expensive green detergent, or the cheapest store brand, and I am not particularly compelled by any of them. And I found a recipe at diynatural.com!
Making your own household cleaning products is a win-win-win situation.
Your budget wins because you save money.
Your health and the environment wins because you use fewer toxic chemicals to clean.
You and your family wins because of both those reasons!
Homemade Dishwasher Detergent
Mix together in a an old yogurt or cottage cheese container:
1 C. Borax (It’s sold at most large grocery stores with the laundry supplies. Borax is the brand name for sodium borate, a boron compound. It is fairly safe unless you ingest a ton of it, but there is no reason to ingest any.)
1 C. washing soda (NOT baking soda; I find mine at Ace Hardware.)
½ C. citric acid (This is easy to find at home brewing stores. It costs about $4 for one pound.)
½ C. Kosher salt (available at all grocery stores)
When your dishwasher is full, use 1-2 T. detergent and fill the rinse compartment with white vinegar.
This mixture will cake because of the citric acid, so you will need to chop it up with a knife to get the chunks out. You may also have to experiment a little depending on the type of dishwasher you have and the type of water that comes out of your tap. (Note: I do not wash plastics in the dishwasher, so I don’t know how this will work with plastic dishes.)
You can find tons of other household product recipes on diynatural.com for things including toothpaste, deoderant, shampoo–plus lots of troubleshooting tips about homemade dishwasher and laundry detergent!
I love hot chocolate. At one point, in graduate school, I would buy giant containers of instant hot chocolate and drink it all myself. I realized, 2-3 containers later, that this may not be a good idea, so I stopped. I think I lost several pounds, and I haven’t regularly kept hot chocolate in my cupboard since.
Maybe you’ve experimented with different chemical combinations of hot chocolate before–non-dairy creamer, powdered milk, powdered sugar, Nesquick, cocoa powder in various combinations. Maybe you’ve enjoyed some and others have needed a good dose of hot milk or more sugar. (I’ve made and tried both types.)
However, I recently tried an amazing recipe for instant hot chocolate. Well, “instant” may not be the right word, because this does require that you heat up milk. But that’s all you have to do once you make it. It is delicious and the perfect combination of chocolate and cocoa. Maybe you know this, but I only just learned the actual difference between “hot chocolate” and “hot cocoa”–one is made with shaved chocolate, the other is made with cocoa powder. (It should be a given, but I’d never considered the difference until I started making it myself, from scratch, not a packet of non-dairy creamer in sight.)
This makes a small batch, but it is fulfilling.
Mexican-Style Hot Chocolate Mix
Makes 1 cup mix, enough for 16 servings.
1/2 C. sugar
2 T. whole almonds
1 oz. bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/4 C. cocoa powder
1 t. vanilla extract
1 t. ground cinnamon
1/2 t. ground cloves
Combine sugar and almonds in a food processor. Process until almonds are finely ground. Add chocolate, cocoa, vanilla, cinnamon and cloves. Process until mixture is finely ground. Store in an airtight container; this will keep about 6 months. (Probably not a problem.) To make 1 cup hot chocolate, heat 1 C. milk with 1 T. mix. Whisk until frothy.
I have very fond childhood memories of eating pot roast on Sunday afternoons. My mother makes excellent pot roast, which (I believe) is the same recipe my grandmama used. Both included carrots, potatoes, and onions which surrounded a roast in an enameled pan. Hot roast with rolls, green beans, and some kind of fancy Jello salad take me back to the early 1980’s and cold Georgia winter afternoons outside in an unbuttoned coat.
I make a lot of roasts in the slow cooker, but not often for Sundays. We’re a week-night roast family and a Sunday leftover (or sandwich) family and I’ve become OK with that. Here’s the favorite pot roast recipe I use, though I think that nothing can beat my mother and grandmother’s recipe. (I’ll try to share that soon, but I think I don’t even have it!)
Mexican Pot Roast
2 T. olive oil
4-5 lb. beef pot roast
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 can (16 oz.) chopped tomatoes
2 bay leaves
1/2 t. thyme
1 C. fresh sliced mushrooms or canned mushrooms (optional)
1 C. white wine (optional)
Heat olive oil in a skillet. Sprinkle roast with salt and pepper and brown well on all sides. Remove from skillet and set aside. Place remaining ingredients in the slow cooker and stir. Add browned roast; set cooker on low and cook for 8-10 hours. Roast is done when meat is tender enough to be cut with a fork.