From Garden to Table, Fast Food at Home and Meatless Mondays

We must be turning the corner (slowly) on winter, ‘cause I think I see light at the end of the frozen tunnel.  Days are getting longer, and soon clocks spring forward again. The seed catalogs that graced my mailbox are well-read and dog-eared, and I’m planning my summer garden. I’ve got organic seed starting mix and all my recycled containers ready, and I’m starting to collect seed packets!  I will not plant seeds that aren’t heirloom or organic.  It isn’t just pesticides; now we need to be mindful of GMO’s as well. Everyday there’s more evidence published pointing out the harmful effects GMO’s have on humans and the environment. I want to know what’s in my food, and I’m not willing to gamble my family’s health! Eating out’s been a favorite family treat, but we find we want to eat at home more than ever to stay healthy. I don’t want cooking to feel like a chore, so on hectic evenings, I’m armed with recipes that aren’t only delicous, but fast and healthy, too! Come see what I’m cookin’ and plantin’…

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This year, two new stars to my garden will be kale and eggplant. I love eggplant dishes, like eggplant parmigiana, but it’s tedious to make often.  (I believe Heaven’s got a kitchen filled with fried food, but if I’m gonna indulge in somethin’ fried, I can think of other goodies before eggplant). I do like eggplant…it’s beautiful with its its glossy, colorful skin. As a newlywed over twenty years ago, I bought a cookbook filled with recipes for “healing foods”, and eggplant was listed. Unfortunately, the recipe wasn’t very tasty, and called for peeling the skin off the eggplant and “salting” it for forty minutes before cooking to remove bitterness. It was a disaster, and I never made eggplant again.  Last summer, my friend Valerie had little Italian eggplant in her garden; she told me to forget those old rules and saute it, peel and all, in olive oil and curry.  Delicious! Each time I’d add something more, modifying it until I created a new family favorite, a one-dish meal that’s fast and easy for super-busy weeknights or “Meatless Mondays”.

To make “Eggplant Curry”, cut several small Italian eggplant, or one large traditional eggplant into slices, then into chunks. Peel and chop an onion, and two big cloves of garlic.

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To effortlessly peel fresh garlic, tuck the clove into a rubber jar opener, and roll on the counter.  I've got two of them, both free swag with ads on one side. Re-purposing, and perfect peeled garlic everytime!

To effortlessly peel fresh garlic, tuck the clove into a rubber jar opener, and roll on the counter. I’ve got two of them, both free swag with ads on one side. Re-purposing, and perfect peeled garlic every time!

Brown the eggplant chunks, onion and garlic over medium heat in a large skillet with several tablespoons of olive oil.  You may need to add more a little more oil, if you have a really large eggplant.  When the onion has browned, add one can of chopped tomatoes (do not drain), one can of drained garbanzo beans, and a few handfuls of torn kale leaves. Season with two tablespoons of curry, and ½ each teaspoon of ginger and sea salt. Cover and let simmer on low for twenty minutes, or until the vegetables become soft .  Before serving, stir in one cup of cooked rice.  (Jasmine rice would be flavorful, too).  I’ve used leftover rice, or just cook organic rice quickly in my pressure cooker while the eggplant simmers.

An easy one-pot meal.

An easy one-pot meal.

Some busy nights when I’m pressed for time, I also like to throw together pasta and fresh veggies.  Boil whole-wheat penne pasta. When the water is boiling, during last three minutes of cook time, add halved grape or small yellow tomatoes, a handful of chopped kale, and a small bunch of snipped fresh asparagus before draining.  (The veggies should stay crisp).  In winter, I will add frozen organic broccoli instead of the asparagus, since I always have that on hand.  Drain, and toss with ½ cup olive oil, one minced clove of garlic and the juice of one lemon.  Sprinkle with salt, fresh basil leaves, and fresh parmesan or feta cheese.

IMG_6645Of course, there’s always pizza, but unless it’s made with organic ingredients, it’s probably made with enriched, bleached flour. I’ve found I can whip together a homemade one in the same time it takes to order take out, and it tastes so much better with fresh organic ingredients from the garden. (For my easy crust recipe, check out the comments section of my blog “Flying Chickens and Other Kitchen Mishaps”, here: http://www.farmgirlbloggers.com/1186#ore-1186).

Of course, planting season here is still a ways to go. Yesterday we had a lunch hour with white-out conditions, and everything’s “fifty shades of gray”, (and I don’t mean the novel). Seed starting and garden dreaming makes me feel refreshed! I just can’t wait to get my garden going, and be able to answer “What’s for dinner?” with “What’s ready to pick from the garden?”

"Please, dear Lord, send spring our way soon!"

“Prayin’ for spring!”

****Do you have any favorite, fast and healthy recipes you’d like to share? What are you planning to plant this year?  Say ‘hello’ by leaving me a comment.****

Until next time, Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

Leave a comment 16 Comments

  1. Adrienne says:

    As a big fan of the veggie/vegan lifestyle, I enjoyed “Forks Over Knives” and tried some of the recipes mentioned during the movie. I especially like kale and my simple salad now is just washed and torn kale, lemon juice and an avocado mashed through the kale with your hands. “Purple soup” was created with beets, red cabbage and a red onion I had on hand. It’s not quite borscht nor cabbage soup but is a lovely color. I’m also adapting to the anti-cancer diet so turmeric is added to most dishes, and I use chia seeds and nutritional yeast as often as possible. Try nutritional yeast on popcorn instead of salt and cheese–yum! Here’s to spring!

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Adrienne, I haven’t seen that movie, but will look for it. Organic popcorn is one of my favorite things to make for my daughter as an after school snack (organic, popped popcorn, not microwave). I will have to try your suggestion with the nutritional yeast…thank you for suggesting it. Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  2. Diana Henretty says:

    Good Morning From The Ozarks,
    Winter is on it’s way out, we hope so anyways, its been long and hard and so cold here in Missouri.
    Love your recipes you posted, they look so yummy and healthy.
    Here’s one that is simple, good for you, and so delicious.
    Stir fry a sweet potato, onion, bell pepper, zuccinni, yellow squash, mushrooms,
    in canola oil. Brown well.
    Its wonderful!!
    I too have my collection of seed packets in a Coca Cola tin, sitting where I can see it and wish and hope, cant wait to walk barefooted thru our garden soil once again!
    Hugs from the Ozarks, Diana, Noel, Mo

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Oh, Diana, that sounds so good, too! I love sweet potatoes! Thank you for the suggestion – can’t wait to try it. Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

    • Pat says:

      This sounds wonderful. I think polenta as the base would be excellent. I like to add cheese to it, but not necessary.
      I will tell you that I save the corn cobs in the freezer after summer processing for winter corn. I then made corn “stock” for using in polenta or corn chowders. Adds a great depth. I just made the stock when I had time later in the early winter.

      • Nicole Christensen says:

        Hi Pat, I never thought of adding polenta. That is a great idea for variation. Sometimes, I’ve added green pepper to the mix, too. Love how you save corn cobs. I’d love more info from you on how you use them for polenta and chowder. Do you boil them, use a food processor…? Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

        • Pat says:

          I take about a dozen cobs and cover with water, add a rough cut onion, celery stick, and carrot and just let them boil (salt to taste) about 1/2 hour. Strain in colander. then take the back of a knife and run down each cob as soon as you can handle (you will get stray corn pieces and more milk. Divide the result and freeze with some of the corn residue in each. Vegetables get tossed, just like any stock. Adds great flavor, especially if you had grilled the corn before saving the cobs :-)

        • Nicole Christensen says:

          Thanks for the instructions, Pat! Sounds good. Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  3. Oh my goodness, what a useful post this is. I’m definitely going to get a rubber jar opener for my garlic. Brilliant! And your meal planning is excellent.

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Thank you, MaryJane! You know, I give you full credit for getting the Christensens to eat so healthy and organic! Much love, Nicole

  4. Beverly Battaglia says:

    Very good, Nicole. I used to fry eggplant slices before you were born, breaded in cornmeal after soaking in salt water. Your Greek grandmother taught me because I had never even eaten eggplant! Yours sounds better. I need to try kale too. Never have.
    I like the pictures, very colorful. Hope winter ends soon.
    Love, Mother

  5. I live in Dallas, Texas. My kale is already up! Planted from seed in January. I have all sorts of other veggies growing too. Exciting!

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Talya! That is something I really miss about Texas…lots of warm weather! My dad told me he has had good luck with kale in his garden, too. Enjoy! Farmgirl hugs, Nicole

  6. Rose says:

    Nicole, Your recipes sound yummy! Thanks for the inspiration to start cooking again. I will try with a homemade pizza. You are right; by the time we order and pickup takeout, a homemade pizza can be made and healthier!

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