Monday, May 20, 2013

Let's Go Hunting...for Morels

Let's Go Hunting! 

It's morel season. Yeah!  As an avid lover of the outdoors and food, it's a win win for me to live in Northern Michigan where they are so prevalent, if you know where to look.
Never hunted for morels?  Why not?  It's a fun, outdoor activity that is great for families to work together on , like an Easter egg hunt, but way more delish.  Not sure what to expect?  Jack Czarnecki, author of The Cook's Book of Mushrooms says it best, "Morels are the aristocrats of the forest and have a great flavor complexity and are more interesting to me.  A lot of it is because of the hunt, for the thrill and the pure joy of being in the woods."
So, let's get you out and into the woods.  Here are some tips for you novice Morellers:
  • Look for a forest with lots of hardwoods and cedars mixed together.
  • Go in the springtime, after a good rain, so the leaves make it easier to see the forest floor.
  • Go slowly so you don't step on your morels.
  • Look for mossy areas and around tree trunks for the little gems.
  • Once you find one, look closely around the spot as they typically clump together.
  • From time to time, squat down low and look all around you, sometimes they are hidden.
I'll leave you with one last thought that I learned from morelling.  When you feel overwhelmed by all of the surroundings and can't find what you are looking for, get low, dig deeper and you just might find what you are looking for right under your nose.

Although, you would probably rather know my secret morel spot, I'm going to give you a great recipe instead.

Asparagus "Fettuccini" and Morels

Cooking technique tip: Shaving asparagus with a vegetable peeler transforms the texture or a raw stalk into silky strips.  This revelatory technique works well with all kinds of vegetables, from carrots to zucchini.  

-12 large asparagus spears (or 1 pound), trimmed and peeled
-1/4 cup finely grated parmesan plus a piece for shaving
-1 1/2 TBSP fresh lemon juice
-1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
-Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
-8 oz. fresh morel mushrooms, halved if large and soaked in cold water
-2 TBSP butter
-1/4 cup (packed) sliced shallots
-2 1/2 TBSP chopped fresh chives, divided

Cut large morels in half and soak in a large bowl of cold water with a splash of white vinegar.  After 10 minutes, take them out and drain on paper towel. Meanwhile, working with 1 asparagus spear at a time, use a vegetable peeler to shave spears into long, thin shavings.  Transfer to a medium bowl, (the tips will snap off as spears get thinner; add to bowl).

Melt butter in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add shallots and fresh morels; saute until shallots are tender, about 6 minutes.  Turn the heat to high, add asparagus and cook 1 minute.  Remove from heat and add 2 TBSPs chopped chives.

Combine grated parmesan and lemon juice in a small bowl and slowly whisk in oil until well blended.  Season vinaigrette generously with salt and pepper.  Drizzle vinaigrette over shaved asparagus and morels and toss to coat.  Divide asparagus and morels among plates.  Use peeler to shave more parmesan over if desired and sprinkle with chives.

This dish is great paired with a lean protein.

*This recipe is best with morels, however, if you are not hunting for them, they are pretty pricey to buy at the supermarket.  If you are going to swap out the mushroom type I suggest shiitake mushrooms.
Kelly Bowlin
Kelly Bowlin
Administration Director & BAC Foodie :) 
Bay Athletic Club
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Monday, May 13, 2013

Spring is in the air and that means I'm out of the kitchen and back on the porch with my grill.  It will cook just about anything and grilling vegetables is a great way to bring out sweet, toasty, caramelized flavors that other cooking techniques won't.  Plus, there's very little prep involved.  All you need to do is toss the raw veggies in olive oil, sprinkle them with Kosher salt and get them on the grill.
Here are a some tips on how to make the most out of your grill:
1.  You can't grill veggies the same way you grill a steak.  A steak needs a very hot grill, whereas vegetables are more delicate and need a more moderate temperature.
2.  Not all vegetables are suitable for grilling.  For example, potatoes will take an hour and peas will fall through the cracks.
3.  Choose vegetables that have a decent water content like summer squash, zucchini, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, onions, mushrooms, bell peppers and eggplant to name a few.
4.  Start with a very clean grill, since any cooked-on food particles can give your grilled veggies an unpleasant flavor.
5.  A buildup of smoke can also make your veggies taste bad, you should grill vegetables uncovered.
6.  Rotate and flip often.  A little blackened flavor is good, burnt is bad!
Although I am a home cook, I try to think a little like a professional when deciding what to make for dinner.  That means I think, "what do I feel like having and what needs to be used up?"  This past week, I had some amazing vegetables to choose from that were left over from a trip to a Farmer's Market last weekend.  If you don't have these vegetables on hand just use what you do have. Chances are, they will taste amazing and grilling them only makes it better.  I paired my vegetables with some chicken and pan sauted butter beans.
-2 baby bok choy heads, split in half or substitute mature bok choy cut into 2 inch vertical slivers root to tip
-1 head of broccoli
-2 cipollini onions or 1 small sweet onion cut in half
-1 TBSP anchovy paste or filets of anchovy chopped
-1 TBSP fresh rosemary, chopped
-salt and fresh cracked black pepper

Add the anchovy paste, salt and pepper (about a TSP of salt and 10 turns of a pepper mill) and oil to the bottom of a large bowl and stir well.  Toss in the vegetables to coat with oil mixture.  Meanwhile, heat your grill to medium high, clean well with a wire brush and add the vegetables.  Using long tongs, turn you vegetables and rotate around the grill every 3 to 4 minutes.  The vegetables will be done in about 8 to 10 minutes.
Kelly Bowlin
Kelly Bowlin
Administration Director & BAC Foodie :) 
Bay Athletic Club
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Wednesday, May 8, 2013

If you're looking for a super healthy food that's also easy to prepare, not to mention extremely affordable, try lentils.  These legumes are packed with nutrients, protein and fiber while containing no fat.
Reasons to have them regularly in your meal plan:
-Very inexpensive! A whole bag can cost as little as $1.50.
-They decrease your risk of colon cancer with 15 grams of fiber per serving.
-They help reduce cholesterol.
-Lentils are rich in protein.
-They give you 90% of your daily dose of folate in on serving.
-They reheat like a dream, making them a great option for meals on the go.
On another note, where most legumes require you to soak them overnight before you cook them, lentils require no overnight soaking.  Just quickly rinse them off, looking for any foreign particles, then you can start cooking them immediately.
Still not sure what to do with them?  Try them in my super food stew below!

Lentil, Quinoa, Millet and Carrot Stew

I love this combination of easy to prepare grains and lentils with sweet carrots, spicy and fragrant aromatics and healthy fresh herbs so much that I have it daily for lunch. At work, it is so easy to simply pop into a bowl and enjoy a healthy, low fat and completely warming, filling meal that doesn't seem as good for me as I know it is. People always ask me what I'm eating, well, now you know!
-1 cup lentils
-1/2 cup quinoa
-1/2 cup millet
-5 carrots, washed and grated
-2 garlic cloves, minced
-2 TBSP olive oil
-2 bay leaves
-3 whole allspice pods
-1 TBSP ground Turmeric
-1 TBSP Himalayan pink salt (or sea salt)
-10 turns of a black pepper grinder
-1 TBSP fresh rosemary fronds (sub in 2 tsp dried rosemary if needed)
-1 TSP ground cloves
-1 TSP ground cinnamon or 1/2 cinnamon stick
-8 cups fresh water

In a large stock pot or Dutch oven, over medium heat, add the olive oil, carrots and garlic.  Stir frequently for 4 minutes and then add the rest of the ingredients.  Simmer over medium low heat for 35 minutes, stirring occasionally and remove.  Allow the stew to cool slightly before storing in glass mason jars.  Makes 5 servings.
Kelly Bowlin
Kelly Bowlin
Administration Director & BAC Foodie :) 
Bay Athletic Club
Like me on Facebook 

Monday, May 6, 2013

Coconut, Dark Chocolate and Nut Energy Mix 

Did you know that nearly one third of the world's population depends on coconut to some degree for their food and their economy?  That's incredible!  If you look through Facebook or Pinterest, coconuts in one form or the other, are all the rage here stateside.  I think we Americans have discovered what other cultures have long known, the coconut is highly valuable.  
Coconut is a  functional food since all elements of it can be used for some purpose. Coconut also possesses healing properties, is a good source of food and hydration and the oil is used not only to cook with but also as a medicine. Heck, I've even seen posts about people using it as toothpaste!
I'm not going there with you, don't worry.  I am encouraging you to purchase some flaked, unsweetened coconut and simply combine it with some nuts and dark chocolate.  It is my new favorite energy mix and I keep it next to my grapefruit in my office :).

Coconut, Dark Chocolate and Nut Energy Mix

  •  1 12oz bag of unsweetened flaked coconut (recommended Bob's Red Mill brand)
  • 1 11.5oz bag of 60% cocoa chocolate chips (recommended Ghiradelli brand)
  • 1 cup of raw pecans
  • 1 cup of raw almonds
  • 2 cups of raw walnuts
Toss in a bowl, mix well and keep safe in a re-sealable bag.  Simple, nutritious and delish.  It's high in calories, although the healthy kind, so limit yourself to a handful a day.

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