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What to Stock Up on in April

Back yard broccoli

The weather here in Phoenix is absolutely perfect. I know the entire population wishes it would stay this way forever. Alas, we do live in a desert and the summer is almost upon us. Our growing seasons are different than other parts of the country. Despite the glorious days and nights we’re having, the number of locally sourced produce items takes a big hit in April. According to the harvest schedule I’ve been referring to we should see about a one-third drop in variety at the produce stands. Of course, this doesn’t mean we won’t have great produce to choose from but from here on out, we’ll see less and less of it as the desert sun takes its toll on local crops.

Broccoli is no longer on the “stock up” list because its currently out of season here. I was very fortunate to have some fresh cut broccoli, literally out of my friend’s back yard garden and into the saute pan, earlier this month. I’m super impressed because I’ve never known anyone who actually grew broccoli. Second, I was blown away by the flavor.

This experience just seals my commitment to each as much local produce as possible. I extracted this list from a harvest calendar published in The Arizona Republic a few years ago. If you’re not in Arizona, you can find a list for your area by month at the bottom of the page here.

Produce in season – April

Vegetables

Artichokes, Asparagus, Beans/Fava, Cabbage (Green, Red), Carrots, Cauliflower, Cilantro, Greens (Beet, Collards, Mustard, Turnip), Kale, Lettuce (Iceberg, Leaf, Romaine, Spring Mix), Onions (Green and Sweet), Parsley, Potatoes (Red and Russet), Radishes, Swiss Chard, Tomatoes, Turnips

Fruits

Grapefruit (Redblush and White), Lemons, Oranges (Valencia, Sweet)

Grocery Store Sales

April

Easter:  Ham, Eggs, Spices, Baking Supplies: Sugar, Spices, Baking Mixes, Chocolate Chips, Butter, Coconut, Marshmallows, Brownie Mix, Cake Mix
Earth Day: Organic Foods, Energy Saver, Reusable Totes
Seasonal Produce: Artichokes, Asparagus, Beets, Broccoli, Cabbages, Carrots, Grapefruit, Haas Avocado, Mushrooms, Onions, Peas, Rhubarb
Clearance: After Easter sales


How about you? What is in season in your neck of the woods?

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Posted by on March 26, 2012 in Kitchen Basics, Kitchen Savings

 

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What to Stock Up on in March

Is this the last of the local oranges?

Welcome to month three of Kat’s series on kitchen savings. If you look closely, you may notice that every month under grocery store sales there is another list of seasonal produce that goes on sale. I debated how to handle this and decided to leave it be. Even though I’m becoming a huge advocate for buying local, I’m not above saving money on produce even if it ships in from far-flung continent.

Global growing seasons means that more and more produce is available to us year round. In the vein of saving money and sustaining our environment I vote for buying local first and buying what is abundant at the grocery store second.

Speaking of buying local, here again is a list of what is in season in Arizona for the coming month. It surprised me to see some citrus coming off the list. I guess that makes sense since the lemon tree in my backyard is about to start blossoming again. I’ll be watching to see how closely this holds true at my local produce stand.

I extracted this list from a harvest calendar published in The Arizona Republic a few years ago. If you’re not in Arizona, you can find a list for your area by month at the bottom of the page here.

Produce in season – March

Vegetables

Anise, Artichokes, Asparagus, Beets, Bok Choy, Broccoli (and Baby variety), Cabbage (Green, Red and Napa), Carrots, Cauliflower (and Green variety), Celery, Cilantro, Dill, Fava Beans, Greens (Beet, Collards, Mustard, Turnip), Kale, Kohlrabi, Leeks, Lettuce (Butter/Boston, Endive, Escarole, Iceberg, Leaf, Romaine, Spring Mix), Onions (Greenand Kinnow), Parsley, Radicchio, Radishes (Red and Daikon/Japanese), Rapini, Spinach, Swiss Chard, Tomatoes, Turnips

Fruits

Grapefruit (Redblush and White), Lemons, Oranges (Valencia, Sweet)

Grocery Store Sales

March

Frozen Food Month: Ice Cream, Frozen Vegetables (Boxed, Bag, or Steam), Frozen Meals, Foster Farms Chicken, Waffles, Pizza
Seasonal Produce (Global): Artichoke, Asparagus, Haas Avocado, Broccoli, Cabbage, Carrots, Cauliflower, Celery, Chard, Collards, Fennel, Kale, Leek, Lemon, Lime, Mushrooms, Spring Onions, Orange, Peas, Radish, Rhubarb, Spinach, Strawberries, Tangerine

How about you? What is in season in your neck of the woods?

 
 

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Cooking Light’s Amazing One-Hour Dinner Party

Kat is back in the kitchen. In case you hadn’t noticed, I’ve been MIA is in the blogosphere for a while. I’ll get into the reasons why on another post but suffice it to say, I’m back.

What prompted my return to the kitchen (actually it was my friend Vickie’s kitchen) was her request that I assist with a birthday dinner for our friend Brigitte (of the Kahlua making).

As it happens, last year I picked up an issue of Cooking Light magazine in the check out line after the cover story, Amazing One-Hour Dinner Party, caught my eye. I love dinner parties, especially when there are themes involved. My first ever elegent dinner party took two days of cooking so I wasn’t about to pass up a menu that could be ready in one hour. The timing of this dinner couldn’t really be more appropriate in case any of my readers are trolling the net for last minute ways to impress their Valentine.

The dinner went off perfectly and was fairly amazing, if I do say so myself. Vickie and I had everything for the salad, main course and dessert prepped and ready to go according to the directions in the article. The only one change we made was roasting the potatoes before putting the tenderloin in the oven. Otherwise, unless you have two ovens, I don’t see how both the potatoes and roast were going to cook in one hour. For the record, we roasted fresh red potato wedges on 450° for 15 minutes. We covered them to keep them warm and then popped them back in the oven when the roast was resting.

Another change we would make in the future would be to add a small amount of sugar to the whipped cream. We opted to follow the directions because of the agave nectar that the fruit was marinaded in. In hind sight, one-half to one teaspoon of sugar would be a nice addition.

There were a few things that surprised me:

  1. There was no shopping list in the magazine. I created one here.
  2. Two pounds of beef tenderloin didn’t seem like it would be enough to feed 8 people. Vickie got a 4 pound roast. We fed six ladies and there was plenty left over so maybe I was wrong.
  3. The potatoes call for the addition of truffle oil. At $16.99 a bottle, I now know why I’ve never cooked with it before. I did purchase a bottle from a local olive oil producer for this dinner. Based on the cost, rest assured I will find all kinds of new ways to use truffle oil. In the end, though, I didn’t feel like the flavor profile delivered $16.99 worth of value to the potatoes. Perhaps I’m just a heathen, who knows?

I haven’t blogged about wine tasting here but I am an avid wino…hence the number of bottles I brought for the party. It seems like overkill but at the end of the night, they were all gone. I may have splurged a bit on the number of bottles but cost-wise this dinner came in at about what I would have spent had I taken the birthday girl out for a nice dinner.

My wine budget is typically in the range of $10 to $15 a bottle. Here is what I brought to match up with the courses:

Champagne toast: Titziano Italian Prosecco $10.99 with raspberries dropped in the glass.

Champagne cocktail: We substituted vodka for the gin at the birthday girl’s request. I found a lovely bottle of Dr. Loosen Sparkling Riesling for $12.99 and used this as the base.

Salad course: Kung Fu Girl Riesling. This was one of the specific wines suggested for the menu. I was able to find it at AJs for $12.99. It was crisp for a Riesling but balanced well with the flavors of the salad.

Main course: The Pinot Project Pinot Noir. For $14.99 this is a great medium bodied/soft tannin red that paired well with the red meat.

Dessert: Kendall Jackson Vintners Reserve Riesling ($8.99). Sweeter wines pair well with sweet desserts. This Riesling is a little softer than the Kung Fu girl and matched well with the berries and cream.

 

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What to Stock Up on in February

Local farm produce

Want to hear something crazy? I did a little audit of the harvest cycles for Arizona. Believe it or not, February weighs in as the month where we harvest the highest number of local produce items. Crazy, isn’t it? Whodathunk that while a major part of our country is hunkering down with cold, snow and ice, Arizonans would be reveling in the height of nature’s bounty? Right now is the time to start stocking up to take advantage of the tremendous benefits to your health and pocketbook by eating local produce.

According to Local Harvest, “Most produce in the US is picked 4 to 7 days before being placed on supermarket shelves, and is shipped for an average of 1500 miles before being sold. And this is when taking into account only US grown products! Those distances are substantially longer when we take into consideration produce imported from Mexico, Asia, Canada, South America, and other places.

If your goal is to get more bang for your buck, scroll below for a list of produce that is in season for the coming month. If you scroll even further down, you’ll see a list of what grocery items to stock up too.

I pulled this list from a harvest calendar published in The Arizona Republic a few years ago. If you’re not in Arizona, you can find a list for your area by month at the bottom of the page here.

Produce in season – February

Vegetables

Anise/Fennel, Artichokes, Asparagus, Beets, Bok Choy, Broccoli (and Baby variety), Cabbage (Green, Red and Napa), Carrots, Cauliflower (and Green variety), Celery, Cilantro, Dill, Fava Beans, Greens (Beet, Collards, Mustard, Turnip), Kale, Kohlrabi, Leeks, Lettuce (Butter/Boston, Endive, Escarole, Iceberg, Leaf, Romaine, Spring Mix), Onions (Green, Blood and Kinnow), Parsley, Radicchio, Radishes (Red and Daikon/Japanese), Rapini, Spinach, Swiss Chard, Tomatoes, Turnips

Fruits

Grapefruit (Redblush and White), Lemons, Oranges (Valencia, Navel, Sweet, Temple), Tangelos (Minneola and Orlando)

Grocery Store Sales

February

National Canned Food Month: Canned Fruit, Pie Fillings, Vegetables, Meats (Tuna, Chicken, Salmon)
National Hot Breakfast Month:  Malt O Meal, Oatmeal, Eggo Waffles, Syrup
Valentine’s Day:  Chocolate, Hershey’s
Chinese New Year: Soy Sauce, Teriyaki Sauce, Noodles, Canned Water Chestnuts
Seasonal Produce (Globally):  Artichoke, Asparagus, Raspberries, Potatoes, Strawberries, Broccoli, Carrots, Cauliflower, Celery, Chard, Collards, Kale, Kiwi, Avocado, Spinach

How about you? Have you made any changes in your food plans and/or budget?

 
 

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Healthy Oatmeal Raisin Muffins

I’ve never been a huge fan of raisins in food. I like them OK right out of the little boxes. I’m pretty sure I was scarred when I bit into what I thought was a chocolate chip cookie only to find out there were raisins in it instead. Oh the shock and disappointment! That incident sealed my prejudice over raisins for at least a decade or two. I’m about ready to get over myself, though. I’m ready to forgive raisins for their innocent charade only because I may have developed a teeny addiction to breakfast muffins. Said addiction started with the pumpkin quinoa muffins but gained traction with these oatmeal raisin muffins.

I love dense, chewy food and these muffins totally fit the bill. This recipe also helps me stay true to my kitchen/food goals. Since I baked these using whole wheat flour (which I recently purchased for the first time *ever*), these muffins are less processed, low-fat and healthy, too. Plus, they’re portable and can be eaten anywhere…even in the car on the way to work.

I can’t say I’m ready to declare my love for raisins but it’s not their fault they resemble chocolate chips, now is it?

Ingredients:

  • 1-1/4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1-1/2 cups quick-cooking rolled oats
  • 1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup skim milk
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup raisins

Directions:

  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners.
  2. In mixing bowl, combine all dry ingredients; mix well.
  3. Crack the egg into a two-cup measuring cup and beat the egg with a fork. Add the milk and beat again. Add the water and oil.
  4. Pour the wet ingredients in the dry ones and stir until loosely mixed. Add the raisins and stir to combine.
  5. Spoon the batter equally into prepared muffin cups.
  6. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
  7. Immediately remove from tin. Cool completely and store in a gallon size plastic bag.
Yields 12 muffins
Nutritional value:

Calories 170.9  Total Fat 5.8 g  Cholesterol 17.7 mg  Sodium 271.4 mg  Total Carbohydrate 26.9 g  Protein 4.2 g

 
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Posted by on January 12, 2012 in Breakfast, Grains, Low fat, Scratch cooking

 

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What to Stock Up On in January

Moving full steam ahead with my resolutions, I’m busy creating meal plans that incorporate local produce that is in season. I’m sure I don’t have to spell out the benefits.

The Sustainable Table says: “Although today’s global marketplace allows us to buy foods grown virtually anywhere in the world all year round, these options are not the most sustainable.

By purchasing local foods in-season, you eliminate the environmental damage caused by shipping foods thousands of miles, your food dollar goes directly to the farmer, and your family will be able to enjoy the health benefits of eating fresh, unprocessed fruits and vegetables.”

If your goal is, like mine, to stretch your food dollars. Scroll below of a list of produce that is in season. If you scroll even further down, you’ll see a list of what grocery items to stock up on for January too. Although I’m a bit behind this month, I will be publishing these lists each month.

Culled from a harvest calendar published in The Arizona Republic a few years ago, here is a list of produce to focus on in January. Cooking recipes that use local, abundant and cheap produce will help your pockebook. If you’re not in Arizona, you can find a list for your area by month at the bottom of the page here.

Produce in season – January

Vegetables

Anise, Beets, Bok Choy, Broccoli (and Baby variety), Cabbage (Green, Red and Napa), Carrots, Cauliflower (and Green variety), Celery, Cilantro, Dill, Greens (Beet, Collards, Mustard, Turnip), Kale, Kohlrabi, Leeks, Lettuce (Butter/Boston, Endive, Escarole, Iceberg, Leaf, Romaine, Spring Mix), Onions (Green, Blood and Kinnow), Parsley, Radicchio, Radishes (Red and Daikon/Japanese), Rapini, Spinach, Swiss Chard, Tomatoes, Turnips

Fruits

Grapefruit (Redblush and White), Lemons, Oranges (Navel, Sweet,Temple), Tangelos (Minneola and Orlando)

Grocery Store Sales

National Oatmeal Month: Quaker
Diet Foods including: Healthy Choice, South Beach, Lean Cuisine, Special K, Kashi, Smart Start, 100 Calorie Packs, Yogurt
Winter Health: Cold Medicines and Vitamins
Super Bowl Sunday: Pepsi, Coke, Chips, Dips, Cheese, Sandwich Items, Crackers, Snacks, Wings
Clearance: Christmas Decorations, Toys, Wrapping Papers

How about you? How do you incorporate seasonal produce or grocery store sales into your monthly planning?

 
 

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Kat’s First Power Cooking Session

I am tickled to announce that it’s the second week of January and my kitchen resolutions are in full swing. If you recall from my earlier posts, one of my goals was to start a bulk cooking plan. I once talked my sister into going to one of those meal prep places where you go from station to station assembling dinners to stick in the freezer and cook later. Of course, the benefit is that all the planning, chopping and cleaning up is done for you. But you pay a premium for it. I really couldn’t justify the cost of going back especially when I always knew I could accomplish close to the same thing in my own kitchen.

Voila! Yesterday, my favorite kitchenistas and I implemented our first ever power cooking session…which is how this:

3 stores and $300 later

turned into this:

The end result

Pretty impressive, wouldn’t you say? Three of us spent five hours in the kitchen (the fourth BFF couldn’t make it but she was there in spirit). We chopped, sliced, diced, blended and assembled an approximate month’s worth of  meals for four women. Although most of the meals were stored in plastic freezer bags, some dishes were meant to be baked later and assembled in tin pans.

I’m pretty sure I speak for everyone in my group, however, when I say that “We Are Hooked.” For about $75 each we all have a supply of breakfasts, lunches and dinners at the ready. Since we assembled it all ourselves, we know exactly what is in each dish.

Although I often do a mini version of bulk cooking for myself, all the credit for compiling this fabulous plan goes to the team at Once A Month Mom. I did screw myself up a bit for January since what you see here is the result of me volunteering to be a test kitchen for the February Diet menu plan. What this means is that although I can show you the finished product in the photos, I can’t give you any of the recipes until they become public close to February 1st.

Since I can’t divulge what we actually cooked yesterday I will send you right to the Once A Month Mom website where you can pick from six different power cooking series. Each series comes complete with menu plan, grocery list, recipe cards and labels with cooking instructions.

How about you? Have you ever done power cooking sessions. If you have a favorite freezer recipe, please share!

 
 

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