I just had to share this with you. I grew this radish from seed in the raised bed in my back garden. I planted it on March 19th and harvested it in late April. It took some water, some TLC (like covering it when it snowed and on cold nights) and some patience. It was two bites...and it was perfection. Gardening is really cool.

More things to do with oats

I just realized I've never posted my method for museli! Probably because it's not very hard and I really don't give it much thought as it's something I do nearly every morning. It's not a super quick breakfast, but it is super delicious and it's worth the effort. In addition, it's one of those things you could start at night to cut out most of the time involved in preparation.

Quality ingredients are key here. If you're going to put some foul, sugary yogurt on top, don't tell me about it. If you're topping it with strawberries in January (and you don't live in the southern hemisphere), I really don't want to hear about it. However, if you can get your hands on full fat, raw milk yogurt from a trusted source, this just might become one of your favorite morning meals.

Morning museli
Serves 1

2 heaping tablespoons of raw oats (the 'quick' stuff from the bulk bin or Quaker are fine)
2 tablespoons milk (skim, 1%, whole...anything works here)
3-4 huge plops yogurt (I use a soup spoon and overfill it shamelessly)
sliced fresh fruit
1 tbsp honey

Optional ingredients: (though I use all of them)
cinnamon, to taste (I use lots as it's meant to be a very beneficial spice)
1 tbsp sunflower seeds
1 tbsp slivered almonds
1 tbsp wheat germ

Place raw oats in a bowl. Add milk. These need to soak for 15 minutes (alternatively, you can do this the night before and whack it in the fridge overnight and resume fixing first thing in the morning). You can continue to add ingredients on top, but make sure you soak for 15 minutes or so before eating. My husband thinks I'm absurd and that it's fine without soaking, but I prefer the slightly soggier texture of the oats after soaking. Add yogurt, cinnamon, nuts, seeds and wheat germ. Top with sliced fruit and drizzle with (local!) honey. Voila! Healthy breakfast that will keep you going all morning.

Roasted broccoli and shrimp

Last night I wanted to make something yummy for dinner without resorting to a trip to the store. I had broccoli, radishes, asparagus and celery in the fridge and all manner of protein in the freezer. Browsing the usual food blogs I like (Orangette, Pioneer Woman, 101 Cookbooks) for inspiration, I was eventually led to a recipe for roasted broccoli and shrimp by Melissa Clark.

As usual, I tweaked it to make it my own. The asparagus wasn't going to get any better sitting in the fridge and it is particularly good when roasted in the oven, so that was getting added in addition to the broccoli. Point is, a lot of vegetables respond well to roasting. And this recipe could not be easier. It's probably 30 minutes start to finish (including prep work), and wham! - you've got dinner on the table for your family.

I dug out a half empty bag of very large frozen shrimp from Costco from the freezer and utterly disregarded the sinister warning that tells you that it's improper to run cool water over your shrimp (they call it 'force thawing') to thaw them, because I didn't take them out in any sort of time to thaw in the fridge. I grabbed the other ingredients and got going.

Roasted green veg and shrimp (by Melissa Clark via the Wednesday Chef with tweaks by the skigirl)

1.5 lb broccoli cut into florets (don't throw out the stems! Peel them with a vegetable peeler and cut into chunks)
1 lb asparagus
1/4 c olive oil
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1.5 tsp kosher salt
black pepper to taste
1/4-1/2 tsp chili powder
Zest of 1 large lemon, lemon cut into slices after zesting
1 lb large shrimp (peeled and deveined)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a large bowl, toss broccoli with 2 tablespoons oil, spices, 1 teaspoon salt and pepper. Spread broccoli in a single layer on a baking sheet. Roast for 10 minutes. Rinse out the bowl then combine shrimp, asparagus, remaining 2 tablespoons oil, lemon zest, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and additional pepper. Add shrimp and asparagus to baking sheet and toss with broccoli. Roast, tossing once halfway through, until shrimp are just opaque and broccoli is tender and getting color on its edges, about 10 minutes. Squeeze lemon juice over everything, add any additional seasoning you think it may need and serve with additional lemon wedges.

I served this with hulled barley that I cooked in chicken broth (takes about 30 minutes), but any grain or rice would work well here. In addition (as is so common in our household) we had some obscenely buttery garlic bread made with a loaf from the local bakery. All in all, this was a ridiculously easy recipe that took virtually no time to put together with a very satisfying result!

Rrrrrrrrrapini! (Spicy broccoli rabe with orecchiette)

I'm afraid I'm going to wax poetic about a vegetable today. Last night was the first time I cooked broccoli rabe (aka rapini). It's a rare day when I see it in the store, but I noticed it last week, so I snapped it up. I've planted quite a lot of it this year, both in pots and in the ground; we'll see how it does. In the meantime, I wanted to confirm that my vague recollections of it were accurate in their remembered rapture. Mission accomplished.

Rapini is a stalky, leafy green with small buds and flowers. It is cooked like a green. To prepare it, you need to cut off the bottom of the stalk roughly just below where the leaves begin. Then cut it into 1-2 inch lengths and plunge into a pot of boiling water for 2 minutes. It is a little bit peppery (though that can vary by batch), and has a lovely flavor and multiple interesting textures (stalk, leaf, bud, flower). It is all edible, though the bottoms that you cut off are too tough to eat.

I made a very simple preparation of spicy broccoli rabe with orecchiette pasta (little ear shaped pasta which is easier to find dried in your local grocery than you might expect). It came together in about 15 minutes. I think it disappeared from our plates in less time than that. If you see broccoli rabe in the store, don't hesitate - buy it! Then try this very simple preparation. You won't be sorry.

Spicy rapini with orecchiette
Serves 4

1 lb dried orecchiette (whole wheat if you can find it!)
1.5 lb bunch rapini/broccoli rabe (use more if you like your veggie to pasta ratio to be higher!)
1/4 c olive oil
1 tsp red pepper flakes
4 cloves garlic (or more if you love garlic)
1/3 c freshly grated Parmesan cheese (omit to feed vegans)
salt, to taste

Bring a very large pot of salted water to boil (preferably with a colander insert). Plunge the rapini into the boiling water and let it boil rapidly for 2 minutes. Remove the rapini from the water and drain well.

Add dried pasta to the still boiling water (and perhaps a little more salt) and cook according to package directions. Meanwhile (when the pasta is at least 1/2 done), heat olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute for 1-2 minutes until it is lightly golden. Add the rapini and the red pepper flakes and toss to coat with the olive oil. Saute until heated through.

Drain the pasta well, reserving a mug full of pasta water. Toss the pasta in the saute pan with the rapini and add pasta water until you are satisfied with the consistency of the 'sauce'. Add the grated cheese and then season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with steamy, grilled garlicky bread.

Breakfast in my belly! (oatmeal, skigirl style)

I learned to love oatmeal after my first cholesterol test as an adult. I didn't want to take drugs to combat elevated LDL (though the rest of my numbers were just fine and nearly brilliant, thank you very much), so I decided to take oatmeal and beans and cinnamon and whatever other food might positively impact my LDL reading.

It started with packet oatmeal. I look back on it now and even the Kashi in envelopes is really not very good at all compared with taking 5 minutes to make some in a little pot on the stove. I graduated to cylinders of Irish or Scottish oats in the oatmeal section. Eventually, I just bought big bags of rolled oats in the bulk bin.

Whether bought in bulk or in a carton, the rolled oats really do only take a few minutes of effort. Boil some water, add the oats, simmer for 5 minutes and viola!, you're done. You can top with fruit, honey, nuts or whatever strikes your fancy.

If you're willing to spend a little more time, I would highly recommend steel cut oats. They look like little pellets (like tiny pet food or something) and take rather longer to cook but are well worth the effort. I swear some days it takes 15 minutes and some days it takes 25, but it probably has more to do with what texture I'm looking for that day. As with anything, taste as you go, and it's done when you think it's ready.

Really healthy (and yummy!) breakfast for two

1/2 c steel cut oats
1 c water
scant dash of salt

chopped nuts
sliced fruit (banana is probably my favorite here)

Bring water to boil in a 2.5 - 3 quart saucepan. Add salt. Slowly stir in oats. Reduce heat to a less vigorous boil and stir oats fairly constantly for about 5 minutes, or until you notice them thicken (whichever comes first). Do pay attention; you are at risk for the oats to boil over if you walk away to get something out of the refrigerator.

Reduce heat to medium low or until you have a slow simmer. Let the oats simmer, stirring occasionally for 10-20 minutes. If the water gets low and you think the oats are still too chewy for your taste, add a little hot water and cook longer. If you think they're spot on but they have too much liquid, serve with a slotted spoon. This really is a matter of taste. I like mine sort of al dente, with some chewy texture left.

Serve in two bowls topped with whatever you'd like. I like to stir in cinnamon, then top with a big dollop of full fat yogurt, sliced banana and then drizzle it with wildflower honey. YUM.

*We are lucky enough to have a source for locally made full fat, raw milk yogurt. A good substitute for this would be (full fat - come on, give it a try) Greek yogurt. Or if you just can't cope with the thought of full fat dairy you could use reduced fat Greek yogurt. But I promise you, it won't be as tasty!

**Heat kills the good bacteria in honey (I assume (but have not researched) that is true for yogurt as well). Honey is a living food. I would advise drizzling it on top of the yogurt if you're using it, not directly on the oatmeal. If you do put it directly in the hot oatmeal, enjoy it anyway...just realize that you're not getting the full benefit of the magic of honey.

Park Burger

For those of you that live in Denver, we have what promises to be an excellent addition to the restaurant scene opening up this week! Park Burger is scheduled to open this Wednesday in the Platt Park neighborhood on the corner of Pearl and Jewell. Jean-Philippe Failyau is not only the proprietor, but a neighborhood resident, and he's serious about bringing tasty burgers to South Denver. His opening adds to the vibrant merchant scene on the Old South Pearl corridor. I'm really looking forward to a (from scratch) veggie burger or maybe buffalo. And don't even get me started on the hand cut french fries!

We're headed to the friends and family pre opening tomorrow night. I'll give you a full report later in the week. Until then, check out the menu and drool...

Mother's Day Brunch Casserole

Yesterday was Mother's Day, and like so many holidays in my family, we center activities on special days around food. My brother had the ingenious idea of bringing brunch/brinner *to* Mom. I volunteered to do the main dish, and also made some (partially whole grain) banana bread to accompany.

I wouldn't ordinarily think of serving eggs in the middle of the afternoon, but I had brunch stuck in my head, so that's just what happened. I have several good breakfast cookbooks (though some would be a little to 'earthy' for some folks' taste!). I turn to them for recipes or just inspiration when I'm responsible for part of meal. Two books came into play when I was browsing for ideas.

Gale Gand's Brunch was recommended on someones food blog recently (can't remember whose!), and I've been pouring over its interesting, innovative and elegant recipes in recent weeks. While I didn't use it for yesterday's meal, I would highly recommend taking a look at it, especially if you're having a more intimate gathering where you do not have to cook for a large number of people.

I did however use a recipe from the Big Book of Breakfast (a wonderful gift from my sister in law, Kathy) to jump off into my own creation. Here's what I ended up with:

Mother's Day Brunch Casserole

12 large eggs (preferably cage free, humanely raised)
2 tbsp flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp dry mustard
1 1/4 c milk (skim is fine)
1.5 c cheddar cheese
1.5 c jack or blend

12 oz bulk Italian sausage (you may use pork or chicken; I used pork here. Again, preferably humanely raised)
8 oz sliced mushrooms (button or cremini)
14 oz asparagus (please leave this out if it's not in season! Use something else that *is* in season.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter or spray a 9 x 13 baking pan. Heat a large skillet over medium heat and begin to brown the sausage, breaking it up with a spoon. After about 5 minutes, add the mushroom and saute for a further 5 minutes. If using asparagus, add and saute for a final 3-4 minutes. Sausage should no longer be pink. (If using another vegetable, add earlier or later depending on how long it needs to cook to become somewhat tender). Pour the sausage mixture into the prepared baking dish.

In a large bowl, whisk your 12 eggs. In a measuring cup, add a splash of the milk (about 1/4 cup) and your dry ingredients (flour, baking powder and mustard powder), and whisk to remove lumps as best possible. Add the remainder of the milk to the measuring cup, then add the contents of the measuring cup to the eggs and whisk vigorously to blend. Add 1/2 of the cheeses to the egg mixture and whisk to mix. Pour the egg mixture over the sausage mixture in the baking pan and sprinkle with the remaining cheese*. Bake in the preheated oven for 40 minutes. Let rest 10 minutes before serving.

Serve with a green salad and some fresh fruit.

Serves 8 hungry people.

*You may reduce the cheese a bit if you would like. It won't suffer terribly if you leave out 1/2 -3/4 cup to save a few calories.

I left our Mother's Day celebration without any leftovers. There were 8 of us. My favorite thing is to leave empty handed!