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Recipe Roundup: The Mysterious Artichoke

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The artichoke. We all know this beauty and most of us love them too, but their mystic can be somewhat… intimidating. But don’t let the perceived “hassle” scare you away, and I promise you are not the only one who might be shy around an artichoke.

First, get oriented with this great article on 9 Ways to Make the Most of an Artichoke. When you are feeling more adventurous check out these 10 recipes that use the artichoke in a variety of ways, from salsa to on the grill.

Simple Grilled Artichokes – Kristi’s Farm to Table

Pan-Roasted Artichoke with Lemon and Garlic – Cooking Light

Raw Artichoke, Celery, and Parmesan Salad – Bon Appetit

Artichoke Halves Stuffed with Beef – Leite’s Culinaria

Artichoke Salsa – Cooking during Stolen Moments

Grilled Artichoke with Yogurt-Dill Dipping Sauce – Bon Appetit

Minted Tomato Artichoke Salad – Fork and Flower

Braised Artichokes – Simply Recipes

Creamy Artichoke and Asparagus Lasagna  – Cooking Light

Spinach and Artichoke Stuffed Mushrooms – Hummusapien

Garlicky Leek and Artichoke Soup – C’est La Vegan

Continue to unravel the mystery with our Artichoke Pinterest board.


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Austin Food Bloggers’ Hunger Awareness Project: Beets Two Ways

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As I considered what I would make for my final Austin Food Bloggers’ Hunger Awareness Project for the Capital Area Food Bank, I found myself thinking of what it feels like to be in the place of choosing between buying food and other essentials like medicine or paying rent.  What most of you may not know about me is that I know that feeling all too well.
Many years ago I made a series of truly regrettable and painful choices that turned my life upside down and forced me to start over.  For the two years before I started the blog, I lived on a budget so tight that I had $25 per week for food – $1.19 per meal.  Lisa Goddard from the Capital Area Food Bank told me that I probably would have qualified for SNAP, but I never asked for the help.  
I made it through that period because I had a safety net of friends and family who loved me through it and kept me fed, inviting me over for dinner and sending me home with more leftovers than we ate.  I also found a job where I traveled quite a bit and my clients often picked up the tab for my meals.  I was lucky, but not everyone has such fortune which is why the SNAP program exists – to help people fill those gaps so that they don’t have to make those choices.  
One of the great lessons I learned on that tight budget was to use every little bit of food.  Scraps that I used to throw away became valuable commodities and I would seek out foods that could be used for more than one purpose.
Beets became a new favorite in my kitchen then.  Before that I wasn’t really sure what to do with beets other than roast them and I had never considered eating the greens.  My friends Ana and Sandy changed all that.  Ana gave me a recipe from Mark Bittman for beet pancakes, similar to a potato pancake, that can be eating on their own or as the patty for a veggie burger and Sandy taught me to saute beet greens like spinach.  
I started making the two together using the beet pancakes as my entree and the beet greens as the side.  For $3-$4, I could make two vitamin-packed meals.  Perfect. 
Now you know why I am so passionate about helping end hunger in Central Texas and why I still volunteer for the food bank today.  If you agree that hunger is unacceptable, please donate to the Capital Area Food Bank.
Beet Pancakes with Sauteed Beet Greens

Adapted from a recipe by Mark Bittman

Makes 4 servings
Time: 20 minutes
1 to 1 1/2 pounds beets
1 teaspoon coarsely chopped fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup flour
3 tbsps olive oil
1 clove of garlic, chopped
1 bunch of beet greens, rinsed
Separate the beets and the beet greens.  Rinse the beet greens in a colander and set them aside to dry.  Tear the beet greens from the stems into bite sized pieces and set aside. 
Trim the beets and peel them as you would potatoes.  It helps to leave part of the stem on the beets so that you have something to hold on to while you peel them.  After the beets are peeled, you can trim off the ends.


Beet greens

Grate the beets in a food processor or by hand.  If you grate by hand, place a towel over the bowl to keep the beet juice from getting all over the kitchen. (Thanks Hector for the tip.)

Toss the grated beets in a bowl with the rosemary and salt, then add about half the flour; toss well, add the rest of the flour, then toss again.
Form patties with the beets – four smaller patties or two large patties. 
Preheat a skillet over medium heat and heat two tablespoons of the olive oil.
Place the patties in the skillet and turn the heat to medium-high.  Cook until the beet cakes are nicely crisp, 6 to 8 minutes. Flip the cakes and continue to cook, adjusting the heat if necessary, until the second side is browned.
Remove the beet cakes from the skillet, and either heat the final tbsp of olive oil in a new skillet or add it to the previously used skillet.  Add the garlic and beet greens and saute until the greens are wilted.

Plate the beets and greens.  If desired, add a small dollop of sour cream to the top of the beet cakes.

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Austin Food Bloggers’ Hunger Awareness Blog Project: Ricotta Stuffed Zucchini

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I was delighted when I learned that the first formal activity of the newly formed Austin Food Blogger Alliance would be an internet campaign for the Capital Area Food Bank.  I learned so much from last year’s education campaign and I am looking forward to exploring new ways to end hunger in Central Texas because hunger is unacceptable.
This year our focus is on how important the SNAP program can be for fulling in the nutritional gaps for low-income families and individuals.  Many people who qualify for the program don’t apply because the forms are onerous, requiring that you prove the identity, income and expenses for you and every member of your immediate family every six months to a year.  If you receive toward the high end of the benefit (several hundreds dollars for a multi-person family), then it is more clearly worth the time invested.  But for many individuals who might receive the minimum amount, $16 per month, it is easy to dismiss the amount as too little to justify the effort.  
We are exploring healthy, nutritious recipes that you can create with $16.  For my first recipe, I picked a dish I could make from items bought primarily at the farmers markets.  Many markets accept SNAP funds including the SFC Triangle Market by my house.
I wanted a dish that was healthy and satisfying, could be used as a side dish or a main course, and was easy enough that kids could help prepare.  I’ve been excited about the first of season zucchini and decided a stuffed zucchini fit the bill.  Dos Lunas Artisan Cheese is selling light, creamy ricotta at the market and it makes a terrific filling for the zucchini.   I also like this dish because it looks “fancy” and is an easy way to dress up an every day meal.   
This recipe takes about 25 minutes to make and you an easily prepare the rest of dinner while the zucchini are baking.  If you are using the zucchini as a main course, you could serve it with a salad and a pasta or grain on the side.  Or, you could pair it with a main dish like grilled chicken or pork chops and serve with a salad.  
The cost for the dish was $8.00 with the two key ingredients coming from the farmers market.  Here’s the break down:
$1.50  zucchini, ($3 for 4, used 2) 
$5.00  rictotta for 8 oz
$1.00  parmesan (Not purchased at the market – $3 for cheese, used 1/3)
$  .50  basil (Not purchased at the market.  Mine was free because I grow it, but it would cost $2 for a bunch at the grocery and I used two sprigs – about 1/4 of a bunch)

I priced the zucchini and ricotta from the grocery store as well.  The zucchini was $1.38 per lb and two equivalent sized zucchini were 1 lb.  The ricotta was $4.88 for 15 oz.  Using the grocery store ingredients, the price of the dish would have been $5.48.

If you agree that hunger is unacceptable, please donate to the Capital Area Food Bank today.

Ricotta Stuffed Zucchini
Serves 4
2 zucchini
8 oz ricotta
2 oz parmesan, grated
2 sprigs of basil – about 8 leaves
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Cut the zucchini in half.  Scoop the center (seeded) portion out with a spoon [great job for kids.]  As you scoop, make sure you leave enough flesh on the sides and bottom that the zucchini can act as a “boat” for the ricotta stuffing.
Scraping out the zucchini
Pull the basil leaves off of the stem.  Stack the leaves on top of each other and roll them like a cigar.  With a sharp knife, but the basil into strips.  This is called a chiffonade (in case you want to impress your friends.)
Rolling the basilChiffonade of basil
In a bowl, combine the ricotta, parmesan, basil, salt and pepper until the mixture is even and smooth.  
Ricotta filling
Spoon a fourth of the ricotta mixture into each zucchini boat.  Place the zucchini in a baking dish and place in the oven.  Cook for 20 minutes.
Ricotta stuffed zucchini before cooking
 The cheese should be gooey and the tops lightly browned.

Ricotta stuffed zucchini

Note: I’m participating in a one month challenge with other Austin Food Bloggers to raise awareness for the Capital Area Food Bank about the SNAP program.  We were asked to create fresh, healthy recipes for $16 or under from the locations where someone could use SNAP funds.  

I’ve chosen to do 4 posts total – two on each of my blogs.  I’m using a maximum of $16 for each blog (approx $8 per post.)  The two posts on Austin Farm to Table will be made primarily with farmers market ingredients as SNAP participants can buy from the market.  For comparison purposes, I will list the grocery store price as well, but SNAP participants aren’t limited to the store.   The posts on Ditch the Box will use grocery store ingredients.  
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Caprese Salad

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I love fresh tomatoes. I have tried many different recipes for Caprese salad – a tomato, basil and mozzarella salad – and have adapted to this one. Only serve this when tomatoes are fresh and in season. It is not going to taste the same in the winter. And don’t skimp on the mozzarella; get the good stuff.

Serves 4

2 to 3 fresh tomatoes, depending on their size. I like to get a couple of different kinds of tomatoes if they are available because they have different acidity and sweetness.

6 oz of fresh mozzarella

8 to 10 fresh basil leaves, you can use any type of basil, but I enjoy the lemon basil if it is available

1 lemon

salt and pepper to taste, I use ground sea salt and fresh ground pepper

extra virgin olive oil

Slice the tomatoes to the desired thickness, usually about ¼ inch. You need a good sharp knife to do this without mutilating the tomatoes.   Slice the mozzarella to desired thickness, again about ¼ inch.

There are a number of ways you can plate this. One is to place a slice of tomato on a plate, then slightly overlap it with a slice of cheese, and then a piece of torn basil. Repeat until the plate has a single cascading layer of tomato, cheese and basil. You can also chiffonade the basil rather than tear it and sprinkle the cut basil leaves between layers. If you would like to dress up the presentation, you can make Caprese stacks. Start with a tomato on bottom, then stack cheese, basil, tomato, cheese, basil and tomato.

Whatever presentation you select, finish the dish by squeezing fresh lemon over it, drizzling a bit of olive oil (don’t drown it!) and adding salt and pepper to taste. Let the dish stand at room temperature for at least 30 minutes to allow the flavors to meld.

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