Grilled Fresh Figs with Balsamic Reduction

How to make grilled fresh figs with a sweet balsamic reduction drizzle:

Ingredients-  Balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, white sugar, fresh figs (white or black). I picked mine up at the local farmer’s market!

Pour balsamic vinegar into a small sauce pan and bring to boil. Lower heat to simmer until the vinegar reduces and thickens. Add a little brown and/or white sugar to taste, remove from heat and let cool. There are plenty of other recipes for this with other ingredients like honey, lemon, etc. added.  I like just adding a little sugar, because it’s easy and you end up with a sauce that still truly tastes like balsamic vinegar.

The figs are simple. Cut fresh figs in half, coat the outside in olive oil, and the inside with balsamic vinegar. Grill cut-side up for 5-8 minutes with the grill lid closed. Remove, drizzle with balsamic reduction and enjoy! 

Grillin’

So I know I’ve been posting about food a ton lately..but hey, I like to eat! After visiting the market yesterday I had so many veggies that we decided to put all of them on the grill! And even a little fruit! That is one of my favorite things about summer, cooking outside makes everything taste better. We tried a few new things on the BBQ this time. We grilled apples and watermelon, which we’ve never had before. I loved the apples, but I’m not sure I’ll do the watermelon again. I found a recipe online that said to rub honey on the watermelon before grilling and I didn’t really love the flavor combination.

What is your favorite thing to grill?

 

Another Farmer’s Market Wednesday

Today I visited the farmer’s market twice. Once around 10:30 to beat the crowd and buy my fruit and veggies, and the again when I met my husband for lunch and we walked around to enjoy the weather and music. There is usually some sort of music playing at lunch time in the park on Wednesday’s and today it was especially good. I walked around listening to the man playing the sax and after a few seconds of wondering “why does this sound so familiar?” I realized he was playing a Michael Jackson song. I’d never heard a saxophone rendition of any Michael Jackson songs, but it was good! Gotta love Wednesdays!

Giant heirlooms. I wish mine grew like this!

The flowers at the market are so cheap!

The bundles were only $6 and the larger ones are just $10!

How to: Make Delicious Chicken Tortilla Soup

I work a 9-5 Monday through Friday and eat lunch out way too often. When I don’t bring my own lunch I end up spending too much money on unhealthy food and regretting it later. So, this weekend I decided to make an easy meal that I could take to work for a few days during the week. I wanted something easy that I could just throw together in my slow cooker, but I wanted it to be healthy as well. So I pulled out my old slow cooker recipe book and found this one. Tortilla Soup! Notice my handy-dandy cookbook stand? This was a wedding gift that I absolutely love. You can still find it at Crate and Barrel.

Here is what you will need:

4 boneless skinless chicken thighs (I use organic)

4 large fresh tomatoes, diced

1 yellow onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 can green chilies

1 cup chicken broth (I use organic)

4 Thai chillies finely chopped (use one-two jalapenos if you have them)

1 Avocado, sliced

2 tablespoons fresh cilantro

4 corn tortillas, sliced into ¼ inch strips

1 teaspoon cumin

Salt and pepper to taste

*The recipe in the book called for canned tomatoes, but I really prefer fresh ingredients. Everything listed above I either picked from my garden, or bought from my local farmer’s market.

Place the chicken in the slow cooker. Mix broth, cumin, onions, garlic, chillies, salt, pepper, and tomatoes in a large bowl. Pour over chicken and cook on high for 3 hours (or slow for 6 hours). Take chicken out once cooked all the way through and shred into pieces. Return shredded chicken to slow cooker. Before serving add sliced tortillas and cilantro and stir. Serve with sliced avocado and garnish with fresh cilantro. This recipe was so easy and delicious! And very easy to transport to work. Enjoy!

Mixture of tomatoes, onions, garlic, and chillies

Gotta go organic!

All the ingredients in the slow cooker. The chicken is underneath.

These are the thai chillies I used because our jalapeno plant didn't make it this year.

Topped with sliced avocado and fresh cilantro

The finished product.

Tomatoes, Tomatoes, Tomatoes

Our first cherry tomatoes ever. Iphone photo

I love tomatoes. And my husband really loves tomatoes. When we bought our first house about 3 years ago, we decided to plant one tomato plant and one basil plant in the backyard. We didn’t know what we were doing as neither of us had ever had our own garden, but we were pleasantly surprised by the outcome– Fresh tomatoes! And basil!

We had so much fun with that one tomato plant that we decided to plant more the following year….lots more. I let my husband pick out the plants and he became obsessed. He bought a new tomato plant every time he left the grocery store, hardware store, and he even made special trips to the nursery for them. In the end, we had about 15 tomato plants, just for the two of us. We ended up with such an abundance of tomatoes that I began bringing bags upon bags into work to give away. We also planted jalapenos, green onions, zucchini (we had way too many zucchinis and had to give them away by the dozens all summer), bell peppers, and a few different herbs. We made salsa every week, spaghetti sauce from scratch, fajitas with the peppers, and the list goes on and on.

Just some of the fruits and veggies from our yard

Having our very own vegetable supply a few steps away from the kitchen was the coolest thing to us. Why hadn’t we been doing this for years? Oh yeah…because it’s a ton of work. Our drip system doesn’t work very well so in the heat of the Sacramento summer we have to water these plants almost every day. And then there’s the weeding, oh the weeding. It never ends. After a summer of wedding planning and working, and trying to keep our garden alive and healthy, we decided we would scale back a little the following year. This was just too much work.

Before

After

The next year came and we decided to plant some tomato plants from seeds this time around. We would buy seed packets and little containers to start the plants and keep them inside until the weather permitted their move to the outdoors.

This is what the tomato starters looked like in the beginning

We planted tons of seeds thinking only a few would take because that is what we’ve seen in the past. Although we had never planted anything inside. So, to our surprise,  they all took. They all grew into tiny little tomato plants and when it came time to move them outside, we couldn’t bare to get rid of any of them. So we planted them all. Which ended up adding up to well over the 15 we had the last year. So much for scaling back.

This year we have romas, shady ladies, yellow pears, red cherrys, red grapes, early girls, lemon boys, and multiple different heirlooms who’s names I have forgotten. We also have a slow-producing zucchini plant, an overgrown monster-of-a-squash plant, we had lots of grapes before the birds ate them, we have green and white onions, thai chili peppers, a few bell peppers, and a crazy overgrown raspberry that we planted and now wish we didn’t. Oh, and my favorite vegetable of all time, artichokes. We had one artichoke plant that produced about 6 delicious-but-small artichokes. Yum.

Our first artichokes

Here is a mix of what we're growing now!

Spicy Thai Chilis

Little Cherry Tomatoes

We had so many onions!

Grapes..before the birds ate them all!

This year my favorite tomato plant has surprisingly been the roma plant. This is the first year we have planted them and I really love their flavor and texture. They stay nice and firm for days after they’re picked! They are perfect for my homemade spaghetti sauce (with extra basil).

Here is a recipe that I basically just throw together from the veggies I find in the yard-

What you’ll need (amounts aren’t listed because I never measure, I just throw it all in!):

– as many roma tomatoes as you can harvest (you can mix in other varieties as well)

– yellow onions

– olive oil

– fresh garlic

– fresh basil

– fresh oregano (or dried if you can’t find fresh)

– a little red wine

– salt and pepper to taste

What to do:

Blanch washed tomatoes in boiling water for 30 seconds. Remove and cool under cold water while peeling off skin. Saute onions and garlic in olive oil in a large deep pot. Dice tomatoes and throw into garlic and onion mixture once onions start to look clear. Add a little red wine and bring to low boil. Throw in oregano, basil, salt, and pepper, and reduce heat to low and simmer up to 2 hours. I usually do the faster version, simmering only for 30 minutes.

Top with fresh basil and shaved parmigiano reggiano and you’re done! Oh and this next part is mandatory- pair with a delicious glass of red wine.

Homemade spaghetti sauce with angel hair pasta

Actually, a pretty nice little Wednesday

I love Wednesdays! All because of one thing- the farmer’s market. There is a great one directly across the street from my work and I try to go every week. I stock up on way more than I can usually eat, but I just can’t help myself. I love watching the stands change over the weeks and months from the beginning of the summer until fall. I try to get something I’ve never tried at least a few times a month so I can have fun experimenting with cooking whatever new vegetable I choose. I’ve learned so much since I started going to this market 2 years ago. This weekend my husband and I are both going out of town (sadly to two different locations) so I didn’t want to buy a whole bunch this week. Instead, I helped my co-worker carry her abundance of veggies while snapping pictures of all the pretty fruits and veggies with my iphone! I’d say today has been ” actually, a pretty nice little Wednesday.”