Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Pickles Part 2

I am beginning to appreciate exactly what my husband does all day at work. He tinkers one variable at a time to find the perfect model. Whereas, with my training, I could replicate a model for something across a whole state, and figure out how to build an entire system around it. He, in contrast, figures out how to build the original model that should be replicated, through experimenting and patiently altering one variable at a time. He's been applying this method, the one used to cure cancer, to find the perfect pickle recipe. I'm recruiting him next to apply the scientific method to my sorbet recipes.

This second iteration of the pickles was to calibrate the salt for the brine. The original pickle recipe was #7. This round was labeled #7A, #7B, and #7C. The original recipe, #7, had 1t of salt. Too little. #7C had 3T of salt, with A and B in between. #7C tasted like ocean water. It was too much. Our preferred flavor was actually between #7 and #7A. Now with the salt ratio for the brine figured out, the next variable is the spices. Stay tuned. We're getting very close to a stellar recipe here.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Peach Pineapple Basil Salsa

This weekend I felt like we needed some new flavor combinations on our plates. This led to improvising off a Peach Salsa recipe. My incarnation became Peach Pineapple Basil Salsa. It was delicious as part of fish tacos, which included grilled mahi mahi, rice pilaf, all rolled into a warm tortilla.

Peach Pineapple Basil Salsa Recipe:

5 medium size peaches
1/3 of a pineapple (or a slice of the pineapple that is about 4 fingers wide)
1 thin slice of red onion
1/2 cup cucumber (about half a cucumber)
10 cherry tomatoes
1/2 a lime
6 basil leaves
2 t jalapeno pepper (add more if you want it hotter)
Salt and pepper

Peel and cut the peaches, pineapple, red onion, and cucumber into bite size pieces. Put these four ingredients in a medium size bowl. Slice the cherry tomatoes into quarters, add to the bowl with the other ingredients. Juice the half of lime, and add to bowl. Cut basil leaves thinly with scissors, add to bowl. Dice the jalapeno and add to taste. Season with salt and pepper. Mix until combined. Can be made up to a day ahead of time.

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin muffins

Having chocolate for breakfast is a treat. And when you're 3 the only way to request chocolate for breakfast is to ask for it in the form of pumpkin chocolate chip muffins. I make these with some frequency because Rutabaga requests them, and I rationalize that they are a delivery method for pumpkin. I am a big fan of recipes from the Post Punk Kitchen. Her recipes are vegan, yet made with real ingredients, not just soy replacements for other ingredients. We make The Best Pumpkin Muffins.

My edits to the recipe are to reduce the sugar to a scant 1/3 cup and to delete the nutmeg. I also use vanilla oat milk instead of soy milk.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Week 6: Veggie CSA

For Week 6 of the Veggie CSA we received this:

Contents: 1 bunch chioggia beets, 1 pound kentucky wonder beans, 1 head cabbage, 1 bunch cippolini onions, 1 pound new potatoes, 2 cukes, 1 bunch chard, and 2 squash.

My plan for these is to:
- Freeze the beet greens, chard and potentially squash
- Made beet chips again. Rutabaga was just as excited again. Awesome.
- Likely potatoes will get turned into hash browns. Cucumbers will get absorbed into a salad with 
tomatoes from the patio. 
- Need a plan for the head of cabbage and bunch of onions.

What do others have planned with this week's bounty?

Refrigerator Pickles Part 1

The Husband has been talking about making pickles for awhile. See there is place we stop between Boston and points south that has great pickles. It's called Rein's Deli and we talk about Rein's pickles ALL THE TIME. You'd think I was pregnant the amount we talk about pickles. I'm not. Don't go starting any rumors. When we got 12 pickling cukes in this week's veggie share, he decided it was time to finally start experimenting. In true scientist fashion, the man created a spreadsheet with his recipes. I love a good spreadsheet.

Here's the original bowl of 12+ pickles.

He found 8 recipes that he wanted to try, knowing that he was partial to the half-sours. He figured out how to tinker with the recipe to get it down to a pint jar worth of pickle. 

It was the perfect size for sampling. Some of the pickles had a vinegar-based brine. One had turmeric in it, another traditional pickling spices. One had 2 cups of sugar to 2/3 cup brine, and one was the Husband's own concoction.

Here they all are ready for the fridge.

The pickles marinated for 48 hours. Then we had a pickle tasting! In true fashion we invited our friends over and asked them to help. They always so graciously agree. 

I can't say that there was a group consensus, but within our house we both agreed that we liked the clean taste of #7. Generally, we liked the ones with no vinegar. Stay tuned for the next round of #7A, 7B, 7C.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Beet Chips

Success! The beet chips rocked. You know why? Because the Rutabaga ate them. I thought they were pretty tasty too.

I made this recipe from Kid Cultivation, except I heated my oil to 300 degrees (because I originally missed the part of her instructions where she noted the oil temp.)

The beets really are beautiful. The vegetable peeler is completely unnecessary to the recipe. However, they were completely necessary to finding a way to get the Rutabaga involved in the process. He thought of peeling them himself and I let him go with it.

As soon as they came out of the fryer there were hands grabbing for these.

Then I got overzealous and thought I'd try zucchini chips. Those will need some refinement.

All in all a keeper of a recipe.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Lime Blueberry Muffins

Some of those blueberries we picked went into the freezer, and some became delicious Lime Blueberry Muffins. I adapted this recipe from Wilson Farms by Lynne Wilson.

Lime Blueberry Muffins

3 c flour + 1 T
1/2 c sugar
5 t baking powder
2 pinches of salt
8 T vegan butter, softened to the point of melting, + 1T for buttering the muffin tins
2 eggs
1 T vanilla
1 cup oat vanilla milk
1 lime - zest and juice
2 cups blueberries
1 T cinnamon sugar (1 T sugar mixed 1/4 t cinnamon)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix 3 c flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Zest the full lime. Juice the lime. In a separate bowl mix the 8T of butter, eggs, vanilla, oat milk, lime zest and lime juice. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix until the flour is no longer visible. Toss the blueberries with 1 T of flour, then add the floured blueberries to the batter. Butter the muffin tin. Spoon the muffin batter into the tins, until approximately 2/3 full. Top each muffin with a light dusting of the cinnamon sugar. Bake for 20 minutes. Enjoy!

Yield: 16 muffins

Note: The lime is more of a hint than a strong flavor in this version of the recipe. The lime flavor could be amped up by adding another lime and likely an additional 1/4 c flour to balance the additional liquid.

Nourishing ourselves

Friday the Husband and I took the day off and went blueberry picking. Stopping to take the day off - from work and from errands - was a rare treat. So rare that I had to spend the first couple hours continuously reminding myself not to feel guilty that I wasn't at work, but to be present instead. Later in the day I heard a wonderful anecdote that resonated with me about this. The beginning of the anecdote is familiar, but it's the twist at the end which helped me gain perspective. It began with the story of a little girl walking down the beach. She finds lots of crabs washed up on the shore, and she begins to throw them back in the water one by one. An older man came along and grumbled to the little girl, "why are you bothering to throw them back in? Look how many there are. You will never make a difference." And the little girl responded, as she threw another one back in, "I made a difference to that one." Later in the day, eventually, it is time for the little girl to head home for dinner and to take care of her own pets. Had she thrown all the crabs back in? No. But it was still important for her to head home and nourish herself and to take care of her own loved ones. This act at the end of her day allowed for two things. One, for her to have energy to come back again tomorrow. Who knows, maybe by tomorrow she will have thought of a more effective way to save more crabs. Also, by making time to take care of her own pets, she was not creating the conditions for suffering, while working endlessly to prevent it elsewhere. Today was a day to put down the mantle of work for a moment and to take time to nourish my own marriage.

We picked our berries at Doe Orchards and also brought home a flat of B-grade peaches.

We also thoroughly enjoyed a lunch at Strip T's that day. I highly recommend both Doe Orchards and Strip T's.

Friday, July 19, 2013

How to freeze basil for pesto

Pesto is one of my favorite foods. I love basil so much that if there was a basil cologne I would buy it for the Husband to wear. Now that's a lot of love.

Here's how I enable us to eat pesto year round:

1) Buy a bunch of basil or grab some off a plant outside. Take all the leaves off the stems and wash the basil. Give it a spin through the colendar to remove most of the water.

2) Measure out how much basil you have, then adapt this ratio from the Joy of Cooking - 2 cups of basil : 1/2 cup olive oil - to the amount of basil you have. For example if you have 3 cups of basil, you'll mix 3 cups basil + 3/4 c oil, or alternatively 1 cup basil to 1/4 c oil. Pulse the basil and oil in a Cuisinart for about 30 seconds or until the basil is finely chopped, but stop before it turns to paste. 

3. I have repurposed this baby food container for pesto, although an ice cube tray would work just fine also. Spoon in the basil-oil mixture into your freezer container, then freeze for minimum 12 hours. Once these are frozen, pop them out into a plastic bag and store them in the freezer.

4. When you're ready to make pesto. Pull out a hunk of basil-oil. Defrost it until it's liquid again. Put it into the Cuisinart, along with a clove of garlic, a small handful of pine nuts, salt and pepper. Add 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese if desired. Pulse all together. Add oil to thin out to desired consistency. Enjoy on pesto chicken mozzarella subs.

Week 5 - Veggie CSA

This week's bag:

Check out those pickling cukes on the bottom row! The Husband is ready to experiment with them. Expect pickles in the near future of all shapes and flavors.

Contents: 1lb. Kentucky Wonder Beans, 1 bunch carrots, 1 bunch Red Russian Kale,  1 bunch Basil, 1 bunch Arugula, 1 lb. new potatoes, 1 squash and zucchini and 10 pickle cukes.

Plan of attack:
- Freeze carrots, kale, and basil
- Contemplate freezing squash and zucchini or making zucchini bread with them.
- Leave cucumbers for Husband to pickle
- Steam some Kentucky Wonder Beans for dinner and bag the rest to eat during the week
- Need a plan for the arugula and potatoes. Bacon Potato Salad might be on the menu this week. 
- Rejoice that we have a week off from beets.

What do others have planned?

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Fava Bean and Ricotta Crostini

Here's a delicious way to eat fava beans.

1/2 lb. fava beans
1 garlic glove
1 loaf french bread
1/2 c fresh ricotta
glug of nice olive oil
salt and pepper

1) Remove fava beans from their outer pods. Boil a small pot of water. When the water is boiling, add the fava beans. Boil for 5 minutes. Remove from water and drain. As the fava beans cool, slip the outer shell off the fava beans again, leaving you with a bowl of brilliant green colored beans.

2) Turn on broiler. Slice the bread into 1/2 in. thick slices. Broil the bread until lightly toasted.  When it comes out of the oven rub a raw garlic glove over the toasted bread.

3) Scoop about 1 tablespoon of ricotta onto each piece of bread. Top with about 1 tablespoon of fava beans. Repeat for all slices of bread, or until you run out of ingredients. Lightly drizzle olive oil over the whole set of crostinis. Liberally salt and pepper.


Yield: 6-8 crostinis

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Maple Syrup

So now may be a good time to tell you about maple syrup...

See because I make that granola every week, and we love us some pancakes, we go through a lot of maple syrup in our house. I realized that it was so much maple syrup that I was curious to look into buying it in bigger volumes. Now we have this...

Did you know that you can freeze maple syrup? We buy a gallon of Grade B from here. Then I pour some into a manageable size container that lives in the fridge, and the rest goes into mason jars in the freezer. It makes me smile every time I open the freezer door and see that much potential for pancakes. 

Related, some day if I ever get to take a sabbatical, I'd like to go work on a maple syrup farm for the sugaring season. Something about that deeply appeals to me.

Homemade granola

Every week I make this granola. The recipe came to us soon after the Rutabaga was diagnosed with food allergies and it has been a staple of his lunch every day since. By now the recipe is comfortable and familiar, like a favorite pair of jeans. Its taste is sweet, yet it is high in fat and full of protein. It travels everywhere with us. Usually I make it on Tuesday nights and, then while it's baking, call my high school best friend to catch up on the week's news.

Nomnomnom those crunchy bits on top.

Notes about the recipe:

The recipe calls for maple syrup or honey. Either are delicious. Recently I've been using half honey half maple syrup and getting the best of both. I also replace the wax paper with a silpat and cook it for 35 minutes. If you have time to put it in the fridge over night it will harden up. Then I find it is possible to break it into small bits. Otherwise, if left at room temperature the granola will be crumbly, which is perfect for yogurt topping but so easy for toddlers' pincher grasps.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Inspiration from around the web...

A couple articles and posts from the past week...

  • Who knew Chop Chop was from Watertown? Good press about a local cooking magazine for kids. ( <-- Those were most of my favorite words in one sentence.)

  • Weekend Meditation from the Kitchn. How she describes why the kitchen is a place for meditation resonates with me. I try to embody this in this blog. Telling you, yes, some about literally what we cooked, but also what it means in the larger sense about our lives.

  • And lastly, beet chips. I swear this is not going to turn into a blog called 1001 ways to eat beets: How I learned to love beets in one CSA season. But I am motivated to try yet another way to make beets. Reading reviews, a few other fellow less-than-beet-lovers said beet chips were delicious. Here's hoping!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Sweet Cherry Jam

Sweet Cherry Jam. It's the first recipe I've made with Pomona's Pectin, which is a low-sugar pectin.  The concept really appeals to me, because most of the traditional recipes for jam include equal parts sugar to fruit. This has WAY less sugar by design. You can actually taste the fruit, and not just be overwhelmed by sweet. The recipe is from the new Preserving with Pomona's Pectin cookbook. 

This jam has been equally delicious on yogurt and PBJ. I think blueberry jam is up next.

First raspberries from the backyard

Rutabaga found the ripe raspberries as soon as we got home tonight. There were exactly three ready to eat; one for each of us. It doesn't get any fresher than this. Yum!

Week 4: Veggie CSA

This week's bag:

Contents: 1 bunch kale,1 head broccoli, 1 squash, 1 cukes, 1 bunch yellow carrots, 1 bunch fennel, 1 bunch chioggia beets, 1 pound green beans and 1 pound fava beans 

Plan of attack:
- Freeze kale, squash and carrots.
- Steam and eat green beans all week.
- Fava beans - Try to find the recipe we had last year that was so good with fava beans. In the meantime, consider making this one: Fava Beans and Radish Bruschetta.
- Cry that we have more beets, and then roast them and sneak them into the Husband's lunches.
- Fennel?
- Lastly, roast the broccoli to eat for dinner tonight. Here's the amusing part. When I was a kid, my brother would eat the top of the broccoli floret and then hand me the bottom. Now here I am a grown-up and my kid does the same thing. He chomps off the top and hands me the bottom. I love it.

What do others have planned?

Blueberry Peach Crisp

Blueberries are here! I brought some home from the farmer's market and within an hour had this crisp in the oven baking. The recipe I use came from a blog Sweet Mary, but it looks like the blog has been taken down, so here is my modified version of the recipe:

Blueberry Peach Crisp

2 lbs peaches - pitted, sliced, cut up into chunks (used frozen, from last summer)
2 c blueberries
1 T cornstarch
2 T fresh lemon juice
1/6 c sugar

1/3 c flour
Between 1/3-1/2 c brown sugar
Just less than 1/2 c old fashioned rolled oats
1/4 t salt
1/2 t cinnamon
4 T cold vegan butter

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Prep fruit. Take a tablespoon of the liquid from the fruit and mix it in a small bowl with the cornstarch. Then in a large bowl mix the fruit, cornstarch, lemon juice and sugar. Set aside.

Combine the flour, brown sugar, oats, salt, and cinnamon. Cut in butter until butter is the size of small pebbles.

Spread the fruit mixture into an 8x8 baking dish. Pour topping over fruit evenly. Bake for 45 minutes. Enjoy!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Beet Cupcakes

Written Sunday night:

We've been on vacation for a week now, and by today everyone has settled into a rhythm. It's not the same rhythm made from the 60-hour beast of work, but instead it's something that's more familiar and intimate with each other. Today we made the vegan beet cupcakes. It was after a full on melt down from the Rutabaga, which I think was really him trying to say, "Mom, I don't want to share your attention. Can we just stay home and not go see friends today?" but it didn't come out of his mouth in quite such a coherent, direct way. So, we stayed home, played some Go Fish, and then decided to make cupcakes. These were on my mind to make, and the beets were roasted and ready to go.

The best part of it was that in the middle of the process I decided to let go of the need to minimize the mess. I stopped myself from saying things like, "but doing it that way will be really messy, so don't." Instead I opened up to letting him explore and create. From this, I watched as he took the measuring spoons and used them to spoon the batter into each cupcake liner. Drips, drops, splatter. Didn't matter. He was a digger moving the batter into the cupcake tin. It made my heart sing to watch his confidence and coordination as he filled the wells and figured out which needed more batter. Then he tried to lick the spoon before the bowl was empty. It was a good instinct, the batter was tasty.

The mess was easy enough to clean up and I feel like it was a good life lesson to take back from vacation with me. Let in the mess and the exploration more, sometimes you may even get sprinkles at the end.

Postscript: The cupcake's crumb was excellent. It was moist and spongey, which is rare for a vegan cupcake. The flavor was good, but slightly bitter in that way that unsweetened chocolate can be. I thought they were interesting and unusual, but I don't think that I will make them again. Although I am still staring down a full tupperware of roasted beets, so I might still. 

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Book Report: Dinner: A Love Story

Good for a vacation read. Light, straight-forward (and able to be downloaded to my iphone minutes before crossing over into no cell phone territory.) It's a story about family dinner. The author and her husband find cooking and sitting down to dinner together to be a ritual that is foundational and nurturing to their family's life. The book is segmented into the years when the author is newly married, when she has two kids under two, and then once the kids are old enough to sit down for the meal. The whole thing is interspersed with recipes appropriate for each phase.

We already work hard to cook and eat dinner together, so that idea was not new. Instead what I took away from the book was an underscoring that trying to do this when your children are little, and your both working full-time, is hard. Calibrate your expectations. Also, there were several recipes I highlighted and look forward to trying. And lastly, early on in the book the author describes that she is inspired to be her friend's dinner doula. I love that phrase. The concept of being there to support someone in the kitchen and the underlying pay-it-forward value of the idea. Beautiful.

Author's blog: Dinner: A Love Story | Amazon for the book: Dinner: A Love Story

Patio Phase 2 - Complete!

Check it out! Look who's joined the patio party. Those are trellised tomato plants in the background. There is also the beginning of a small container garden over to the right. Currently residing in there are raspberries, strawberries, basil and some other kitchen herbs. Then most gloriously - the cantilevered seating bench. The Husband spent the last two days building the bench and the rock wall which will transition the space. Boy did I marry well.

Recipes I'm thinking about making

Here are a couple recipes I'm thinking about making:

Fudgy Vegan Beet cupcakes - Do I dare adulterate a perfectly good cupcake with beets?!

Summer squash hash browns - Anything to have another excuse to use my waffle maker.

Radish Greens with Breadcrumbs - Next week maybe I'll try saving these greens from the compost pile and cook them instead.

These recipes were all discovered via pinterest.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Strawberry Popsicles

Some of those 8 quarts of strawberries have been reconstituted into Strawberry Popsicles! We're waiting for the Rutabaga to wake up from his nap to try them. I can't wait!

Week 3 - Veggie CSA

Home from Canada in time to grab veggies. This week's bag:

Contents: 1 bunch carrots, 1 bunch red russian kale, 2 squash (zuke or cousa), 1 pound sugar snap peas, 1 bunch kohlrabi, 1 bunch beets, 1 bunch cippolini onions, and 1 head napa cabbage. The additional characters are compliments of vacationing co-share members.

My plan of attack:
- Freeze the kale, the beet greens, 2 of the squash, and the carrots
- Make napa cabbage slaw to go on fish tacos
- Skewer and grill the zucchini and onions to have with grilled chicken
- Place the bag of sugar snap peas strategically in the fridge so they are clearly noticeable for snacking.
- Contemplate sending my mother the beets as a love package. Does it still count as a love package if you don't like beets?
- Find a plan for kohlrabi, rest of napa cabbage and the other whole cabbage still hanging out in my fridge from last week.

What do others have planned?

The view from our favorite Canadian restaurant

We've been at our friend's place in the middle of Lake Memphremagog for the past few days. It's been nice to have nothing to do but catch up with friends and throw rocks off the dock for hours at a time. The view from dinner:

Guest Post: Fashionably late

“Fashionably late” has always been a life style that my wife and I have truly embraced.  So when she walked in the house carrying a full flat (read: 8 quarts!!) of red ripe strawberries 30min before we’re supposed to leave on vacation, how could I be mad?  I was conflicted at best; part “what the *&%!” and part “that is going to taste unbelievable”.
Probably not surprising, but my stomach prevailed over my need to be punctual and I sided with “delicious” and we were late yet again.  I doubt any of our friends will remember the annoyance of a few extra minutes of wait when we’re plying them with fresh strawberry jam or summer sweet strawberry sauce in December.