kitchen scribble

March 25, 2015

Chocolate chip cookies in a hurry (and CSA week 2)

Filed under: CSA, quick eats — kat @ 12:28 pm

This past Saturday, spring finally came stumbling in; when we woke up, there was still a layer of snow coating the ground, but by afternoon everything was balmy and sunny and we could finally see all of our (brown) grass again.

Although we had fresh CSA goodies, not many of them got cooked; we had Pi Day and St Patrick’s Day to contend with, and we have traditions to uphold. I made hand pies and an apple pie for Pi Day, and good old corned beef and cabbage (with potatoes and rainbow carrots) for St Pat’s.

The goodies from week 2 of the CSA (most of them still waiting in the fridge): oranges, sweet potatoes, tangerines, Granny Smith apples, onions, brussels sprouts, beets, kale, garlic, eggs, and bread (Breadery sourdough).

The baby is posing next to the vegetables. For scale.

We used up the kale in a massaged kale salad (with tangerines and apples), and the beet greens got cooked up in some fat that I skimmed off our delicious short ribs (from Carroll Farm to Table; I’ll talk about them some other time), but otherwise most of the pickup is still sitting in the fridge.

The other reason I’m behind on dealing with the CSA bounty is that it’s been a rough couple of weeks; we’ve all been fighting runny noses and sore throats for some time now, but last week the baby got a fever… and then the Little Prince got a fever… and then the baby got a fever again. On top of the nasal congestion and coughing, too. Poor kids. Hopefully we’re near the end of this round of illnesses.

When you’re a worn-down, tired parent, sometimes you just want a homemade chocolate chip cookie. This is how you get one within fifteen minutes, warm from the oven, with minimal effort:

1) go back in time and make a batch of chocolate chip cookie dough. I used smitten kitchen’s recipe. Heck, double the batch; you never know when a cookie emergency will strike.

2) scoop the cookie dough into balls and pack the balls on a cookie tray, lined with a silicone baking mat (or parchment paper, if you don’t have one). You can crowd the dough balls pretty tightly; just make sure they’re not touching. I use a cookie scoop for minimal fuss.

3) the next morning, put your frozen cookie dough balls into a freezer bag. They won’t stick together because they’re frozen.

4) time travel back to the present. When you’re feeling downtrodden and tired, take two or three (or more, I won’t judge) dough balls out of the bag and put them on your oven tray. Pop them in the preheated oven and wait 15 min, or until they’re baked. (Cooking time varies with oven but when the cookies are flat and a little brown around the edges, I call them done.)

5) make yourself a hot chocolate and sit down with a handful of freshly-baked, perfect little cookies, crispy on the outside but still gooey on the inside. Close your eyes and take a deep breath. Life is good.

This technique will work for almost any cookie recipe, not just chocolate chip; it’s also how I managed to execute some pretty impressive cookie platters this past holiday season. Our neighbors were impressed by how I managed a variety of freshly-baked cookies, with two young kids at home. I merely smiled and mumbled something about good time management. Now all I need is more freezer space.

March 13, 2015

spring CSA, week 1

Filed under: CSA — kat @ 4:27 pm

We had great weather for the first day of the 2015 spring CSA; it was positively balmy, the sun was out, and the ground was only a bit muddy from all the melting snow. It was really nice to see all of the working shares at the farm again.

For the first week, we got three Ruby Red grapefruits (citrus from Breezy Willow’s partner farms in FL), rainbow carrots, white potatoes and apples (York and Stayman) from cold storage, spinach and green beans (greenhouse or high tunnel grown), and a generous pound of mushrooms. We also got eggs and bread (Breadery raspberry chocolate, can’t wait).

spring CSA, week 1

The rainbow carrots were especially beautiful to look at.

rainbow carrots at the farm

With St Pat’s coming up next week, the carrots and potatoes will probably get boiled up to go with our corned beef. We’ve already had the green beans with last night’s spaghetti and meatballs (quickly blanched in the pasta water, since it was already heated). The apples will be part of our lunches to go to school and work. That just leaves the mushrooms, which, honestly, go with anything when sliced and sauteed. Or I could turn them into a quiche with the eggs. Anyway, it’s great to get back into the swing of the CSA.

October 22, 2014

summer/fall CSA, week 20; fall salad and pizza

Filed under: CSA, weekend cooking — kat @ 11:19 am

Last week’s CSA was a beautiful fall assortment.

summer/fall CSA, week 20

We got two shares of apples, spinach, kale, Brussels sprouts, yellow onions, carrots, carnival squash, and apple cider, as well as the usual eggs and bread (Breadery sourdough).

We ate the apples pretty much as is; the kid gets half a sliced apple in his school lunch every day, and K and I both eat an apple apiece at work daily, so apples go fast. In the next few weeks I’m probably going to go nuts on the apples at the farmer’s market, too, so I can put some up as applesauce and pie fillings for the winter. Bread was sliced up and eaten that very day, and the cider disappeared quickly as well.

As for everything else…

what happens to CSA veggies

We had some items left over from last week (top right in the collage), so I mashed all the remaining ingredients into two items. I made a fall salad with roasted sweet potato, squash, Brussels sprouts, and kale; I also sautéed spinach, mushrooms, and onions for pizza. The weather right now is perfect to have the oven on, and these made great leftovers for lunches all week.

Fall Salad: everything roasts at different times, which is actually perfect because you can cut up the next thing while the previous thing is roasting. Set the oven to 400 degrees and lightly grease two pans with olive oil (I used a 9×13 rectangular pan and a 9″ pie pan).

Carnival Squash: slice this one up first. Don’t worry about peeling; peeling winter squash is not to be taken lightly and if you can avoid it, do so. Just put the slices in the greased pie pan and stick it in the oven. These need to stay in for an hour or so, depending on how thick you’ve cut your slices.

Brussels sprouts: rinse and cut in halves; toss in the 9×13 pan with some salt and pepper; stick in oven. These need to cook for 35-40 min.

Sweet potatoes: peel and cut in chunks; toss in the 9×13 pan with some more salt and pepper, stirring the Brussels sprouts around as you do so they don’t burn. Put the pan back in the oven. Sweet potatoes need to cook 25-30 min, or until soft.

Carrots: peel and cut in chunks; toss in the 9×13 pan with the potatoes and sprouts. These need to cook 20 min.

Throw in some peeled garlic cloves while you’re at it. Garlic is always nice.

While the root vegetables are cooking: strip kale from stems, tear into pieces, and rinse; blanch the kale in boiling water to soften it. Then drain it so it’s not soggy.

By this point, your roasting should be done! Toss the kale with the roasted root vegetables. The squash should be done at this point too; just cut the cooked flesh from the peel and toss it with everything else. Squirt some lemon juice over all (adds a nice bright note) and drizzle it with good olive oil. Voila, fall salad. Reheats beautifully, too.

As for the pizza, I used the lazy pizza dough recipe from the Smitten Kitchen blog; I put it together Saturday night and let it rise overnight and well into Sunday. It was a bit touch-and-go as the dough was very wet after its long rise, and tore easily; still, having made it, I smacked it down on the pans and pressed it out and hoped for the best.

I had previously sliced and sauteed mushrooms and onions in olive oil, and I had also wilted down some spinach on the stovetop. K had also pan-fried some sausages and cut them into thin disks, so those went on the pizzas as well. I spread jarred tomato sauce in a thin layer over the dough, then strewed the toppings around and covered it all in shredded mozzarella cheese. They went into the oven at a ripping 550 degrees for about 15 minutes.

They turned out amazing. The crust was lovely and the vegetables took on a wonderful roasted texture. Plus, served alongside the fall salad, it made enough for several meals. Definitely doing this again.

October 14, 2014

3 more weeks of CSA

Filed under: CSA — kat @ 12:02 am

The past three weeks of the CSA have been just delightful, really. I’m always sad to see the last of the peaches but honestly, towards the end of the year, they just aren’t as sweet as they are in high summer, whereas the apples are coming into their prime. And now that it’s properly autumn, I love turning the oven on to roast root vegetables, and bake cakes and quickbreads. I also don’t mind simmering stuff for hours on the stove, to fill the house with warmth and savory smells.

Anyway, here are weeks 17, 18, and 19:

summer/fall CSA, week 17
summer/fall CSA, week 18
summer/fall CSA, week 19

Plenty of root vegetables, plenty of apples, lots of lovely dark greens. And I don’t know where Breezy Willow sources these amazing Red Delicious apples, but they totally live up to the name. Red Delicious in the supermarket is uniformly bitter in the peel and tastelessly mealy in the mouth; I never buy it. But the ones in the CSA share have a lovely, juicy crunch, and although the peel remains bitter, it provides dimension to the sweetness of the flesh. It’s mind-blowing. I can’t even believe the two apples are related.

September 24, 2014

Seven! Weeks! of CSA!

Filed under: CSA — kat @ 12:12 pm

I’m so behind on CSA posts, I’m not even going to list what’s in the pictures. I’m just going to post the pictures and let them speak for themselves. Besides, if the adage is true, we’ve got a cumulative six thousand words contained in these pictures. So, here we go, CSA weeks 10 through 16:

summer CSA, week 10summer CSA, week 11summer CSA, week 12summer CSA, week 13summer CSA, week 14summer CSA, week 15summer CSA, week 16

You can sort of see trends in the progression. Summer peaches are giving way to early fall apples. Last week was the first week without corn. Summer squash is dying down and I wouldn’t be surprised to see winter squash coming up shortly. Fortunately the weather is also getting cooler (gloriously cooler) and having the oven on to roast squash would not be a hardship.

This series also includes two “bonus” weeks (they happen every four weeks) in which we got cheese and pumpkin butter. (My son highly recommends Breezy Willow’s pumpkin butter. Plus when he eats it, he starts singing “Peter Peter pumpkin eater.” It’s really cute.)

August 6, 2014

summer CSA, weeks 8 and 9

Filed under: CSA — kat @ 1:07 am

Quick, let’s get this two-week-CSA update out… only just ahead of tomorrow’s pickup.

There’s been a lot going on in this kitchen; we’ve been canning, pickling, and generally inhaling massive amounts of summer produce. I have learned that peeling peaches is actually quite easy, even if you don’t use the scoring-and-blanching method. (The kid loves peach, but refuses peach skins.) I have also chunked up what feels like a record number of watermelons. Two-year-olds inhale watermelons. Good for hydration, right?

Anyway, last week on the CSA: corn, chard, cucumber, cantaloupe, white potatoes, peaches, green peppers, zucchini (I think I could have picked yellow squash, but I like zucchini much better), tomatoes, eggs, and bread (Great Harvest challah).

summer CSA, week 9

The chard got creamed with some spring onions from the farmer’s market. Cucumber got refrigerator-pickled, along with last week’s cucumber. Zucchini was simply sliced, seasoned, and roasted; peppers joined tomatoes, last week’s eggplant, and some salsa for a tasty chicken dish. Corn is, weirdly, still intact in the fridge. I’ll probably boil it up and snack on it tonight, before tomorrow’s pickup.

And the week before that: zucchini, nectarines, eggs, cantaloupe, onions, eggplant, tomatoes, corn, green beans, bread (Breadery Grains Galore), and a bonus item; I picked Breezy Willow’s barbecue sauce. (Verdict: sweet and fruity.)

summer CSA, week 8

Nectarines, cantaloupe, and tomatoes were eaten immediately; green beans were blanched, seasoned, and served up in lunches; corn was boiled and eaten up. Zucchini was sliced, seasoned, and simply roasted in the toaster oven. I don’t remember what specifically happened to the onions, but we use onions up all the time; they probably got diced into something and sauteed.

I like to keep summer cooking quick and easy. With the warm weather outside, who wants to be standing next to a hot stove or oven? (Except when you’re canning. More on canning later. I keep saying that, but someday I’ll actually find the time to write that post too.)

July 22, 2014

summer CSA, week 7

Filed under: CSA — kat @ 2:42 pm

Last week (week 7) in the CSA: zucchini, cucumber, peaches, corn, plums, garlic, blueberries, potatoes, eggs, and bread (Breadery Grains Galore). There should have been kohlrabi as well, but I swapped for more potatoes.

summer CSA, week 7

Fast forward a week and the zucchini and cucumber are still uneaten. I boiled the corn the very first night (fresh corn is the best; it dries out if you leave it in the fridge for too long) and it was fantastic. (Well, except for the one ear I got which hadn’t quite developed all of its kernels. Them’s the risks.) Peaches, plums, and blueberries disappeared in fairly short order as well. We boiled up the potatoes with some onion and Old Bay, to go with steamed crabs this weekend.

I’m reading over the previous CSA post and… I think the kale is still in the fridge too, actually. It’s probably still fine; kale is a hardy vegetable and I washed the leaves and packed them in paper towels, which is a great way to keep leafy greens for longer. Still, need to get to that.

Also, I didn’t get to do anything cool with the eggplant, because K decided to cut it into strips, batter it, and fry it. (He also battered and fried five cut-up tilapia fillets, an entire sliced jalapeno, and an entire onion. This is what happens when I leave him alone for an afternoon and tell him to make dinner. At least our kid loved eating the fried fish.)

Back to kale. Kale possibilities are endless. I usually like to saute blanched kale in bacon grease with garlic and onions, or cook it into a soup (ideally with beans and sausage), or bake it into chips. The weather being what it is, though, I think it’s actually an ideal time to enjoy a massaged kale salad. There are even some mangos in the fridge.

Now let’s just hope the kid will eat it. He’s developed a dispiriting habit of refusing food at home, saying, “I already eat that at school” or “I only eat that at school.” Kid, the food you eat at school is the same food I cook at home. [sigh]

July 10, 2014

CSA week 6: peaches! and other stuff.

Filed under: CSA — kat @ 4:46 pm

I am eating a peach right now and it tastes like heaven. I always resented summer (heat, humidity, chokingly stuffy cars) but now I have a reason to celebrate it: these sweet, ripe, beautiful local peaches.

This is not a freestone peach, so it’s messy; the flesh is sticking to the pit in clumps and strands, and everything is getting stuck in my teeth. Also, my cubemate is doing a valiant job of ignoring the slurps and smacking sounds I’m making as I try not to let a single drop of juice escape to run down my arm. Peaches are not a graceful fruit to eat. But a fresh, summer-ripe peach is totally worth the inevitable assault on your dignity.

Mmm, peaches. I’m going to be haunting the farmer’s market for these.

Right, where was I? This week is week 6 of the Breezy Willow summer CSA. In the pickup:

summer CSA, week 6

Zucchini, green beans, blueberries, garlic, peaches(!!!), cucumbers, eggplant, three tiny heads of broccoli, kale, eggs, and bread (Great Harvest challah). I also grabbed another handful of sage and thyme, which are likely destined to accompany chicken in some way. (Hmm, it’s been a while since I made toaster oven chicken.)

I’ll probably steam the broccoli, and blanch the green beans and kale (all using the same pot of water; let’s not waste joules here). I like cooking vegetables and then sticking them in the fridge for later; I find that having cooked vegetables around greatly simplifies activities like packing lunches and assembling quick weeknight dinners. And, in a pinch, you can at least serve them alongside whatever fast food meal you picked up on the way home because you left work late / got stuck leaving daycare / just don’t have time or energy to cook. (No domestic goddess, me.)

The cucumbers will probably get pickled with the cucumbers from last week’s pickup, since I hadn’t gotten around to that. And the peaches and blueberries will take care of themselves.

As for the eggplant, no concrete plans yet. The eggplant possibilities are endless. We might grill it, if we fire up the grill this weekend (and if so that’s likely where the zucchini will get cooked too), or we could roast it for baba ghannouj (in which case the kale will get cooked then as well), or maybe I’ll try one of those crazy recipes from the Ottolenghi cookbook that we got for Christmas. The world is my oyster! Or my eggplant, anyway.

CSA membership doesn’t take any special amount of creativity; it just takes commitment. Cook, preserve, or freeze, it doesn’t matter. Just get the pickup out of the way; next week is coming, ready or not.

July 8, 2014

CSA week 5, and carrot cupcakes

Filed under: CSA, weekend cooking — kat @ 3:30 pm

Summer CSA week 5: green beans, spinach, broccoli, green peppers, cucumbers, zucchini, red and white potatoes, blueberries, eggs, and bread (Great Harvest challah). I also picked up a handful of thyme and sage.

summer CSA, week 5 pickup

Interestingly, a friend who makes her Breezy Willow pickup at a different site on the same day reported that she got cabbage instead of broccoli. I’m relieved to have been in the broccoli crowd; it’s a vegetable the kid will actually eat. (He picks the beet greens off of his pasta; he would likely be completely unimpressed with cabbage.)

What we’ve cooked so far from the pickup: absolutely nothing! We had a long Independence Day weekend but we ended up just having cookouts and going to other peoples’ houses. We have a lot of grilled meats left over though so my plan is to just cook all the CSA items up separately (well, definitely the beans, spinach, zucchini, and broccoli) so that we have it available for sides for the meats. The cucumbers will probably get pickled, and the peppers and potatoes will be frozen for later (thanks to the Unmanly Chef, I know how to freeze root vegetables! My world will never be the same).

As for the blueberries, what we didn’t eat right away has been portioned off for the kid to take to daycare in his lunch. I’m sure he’ll be delighted.

Although I didn’t make much of a dent in the CSA pickup this weekend, I did manage to get in the kitchen to make some cupcakes. It was K’s birthday weekend, and he loves carrot cake and coconut flavors; I poked around the internet and came up with this combination:

Take 5 Carrot Cupcakes courtesy Food and Wine

Candied carrot cupcake toppers from Food Network

…and a cream cheese frosting, fairly standard: 1/2 block of cream cheese creamed with 1/2 stick of butter, then mixed with 2 cups powdered sugar and a dash of vanilla until smooth.

Honestly the most annoying part was grating the carrots; we grated one and a half carrots by hand until I finally figured out where we’d stashed the grating disk for the food processor. Man, I love technology. Once we had the food processor fired up, I think it took less time to grate all of the remaining carrots and wash the resulting dishes than it would have to grate the rest of the carrots by hand.

I also toasted coconut flakes in the last 5 minutes of cooking, to have coconut to sprinkle over the top. I set up my decorating station so that any mess I made would be contained on top of a baking mat. Those things are so easy to clean.

all set up for decorating

That was when I found out that a plain old cupcake, no matter how badly it’s frosted, will look amazing when you have candied carrot strips and bits of coconut to sprinkle over the top.

cupcakes: decorated!

They were phenomenal, by the way. The cupcake recipe makes an almost magically moist and airy cake, and the rich cream cheese frosting, punctuated by toasted coconut and crunchy candied carrot, is a perfect accompaniment.

And K liked it, which is really all that matters. Happy birthday, K!

June 30, 2014

summer CSA, week 4

Filed under: CSA — kat @ 11:57 am

Last week on the CSA front: spinach, romaine lettuce, beets, cucumbers, yellow squash, mushrooms, blueberries, eggs, and bread (Great Harvest challah). It was also a “bonus” fourth week, so we got cheese; I picked Muenster (my favorite sandwich cheese). We were supposed to get spring onions as well, but I got to the pickup site late, and they’d run out; I got an extra box of blueberries instead.

summer CSA, week 4

See how the blueberry level is lower in one of the boxes? The kid got to them first. I don’t blame him; they were ripe and perfect and very sweet. I may have tasted a couple myself.

I’m pretty proud of how we managed to use up most of the pickup already:

Spinach, mushrooms, some eggs: cooked into (another) frittata
Beet greens: sauteed and mixed into a pasta bake with penne, sausage, cheeses, and tomato sauce
Yellow squash: sliced and grilled
Blueberries: eaten. Really, they’re just gone. I pondered making cobbler, but I turned around and there were only a handful left, so we just ate them all. I don’t think we even got around to washing them.

Still outstanding: beets and cucumbers. I plan to refrigerator-pickle the cucumbers tonight according to my mom’s recipe. The beets were roasted in a foil packet on the grill yesterday, so now they can be peeled, sliced, and served up in basically any way. We picked up some soft sheep’s cheese from the Ellicott City Saturday market that I think would go with them beautifully.

We also took advantage of the beautiful weather this weekend to stop by Larriland farm for some summer berry picking.

Ripe and unripe raspberries at Larriland

The red raspberries were abundant and beautiful. We sent the kid and his grandparents off to the blueberry bushes, where he stuffed himself, while we harvested two generous flats of raspberries. We picked some blueberries, too, but by that point we were starting to get tired and overheated, so there might not be enough for jam; I think I’ll just freeze whatever we don’t eat.

Anyway, I’ve bookmarked a recipe for a simple raspberry jam. I’ll let you know how it goes. I canned my first strawberry jam last week (also from harvested Larriland berries), and it was divine, so I’m pretty excited about canning at the moment. Now we just need space to store all these preserves.

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