Chocolate chip cookies in a hurry (and CSA week 2) Wednesday, Mar 25 2015 

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.

spring CSA, week 1 Friday, Mar 13 2015 

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.

winter bread and bones Friday, Mar 6 2015 

With the snow piled up high and thick outside, it’s hard to believe that Breezy Willow’s spring CSA starts up next week. It really feels like I need the CSA to prod me into posting. Every year I promise myself that I’m going to post during the winter break, talk about Thanksgiving frenzy and Christmas cookies, not to mention the soups and scones and winter braises that are filling my kitchen… and yet I never seem to get myself together enough to even log onto the site. Too easy to put it off, I guess.

The biggest news: over this past winter — just about a week after the last time I posted on this blog, actually — our household expanded by one new member. With the new little girl, we have now returned to gender parity. Since there’s now more than one kid, I’m promoting the boy formerly known as “the kid” to his new title, “Little Prince.” He kind of behaves like one anyway…

His new baby sister (little princess?) is a good eater so far. I look forward to introducing her to purees in just a couple more months; too early for the new spring/summer fruits, but there should have plenty of cold storage apples and carrots to mush up for her.

Everyone’s sick of winter by now but I confess I still love it. I still love wrapping up in scarves and soft knits to go outside, and I love looking out the window into a winter wonderland, all the trees and branches outlined, a simple palette of brown and pine and gorgeous, fluffy white.

Since daycare was closed for yesterday’s snowstorm, we all stayed home. We had some marrow bones from our Wagon Wheel Ranch cow in the freezer, so we roasted those up for a nice post-shoveling treat. Roasting marrow is so easy: set the bones cut-side-up on a pan, sprinkle with salt and pepper, put them in a 450 degree oven until the marrow starts to bubble – 20 minutes or so. Once it’s cooked you can just scoop it out with a spoon… or a piece of bread.

We went with the Speedy No-Knead Bread. Easy as anything, and perfect for a snow day: mix flour, water, yeast, and salt in the morning, let it rise 4 hours, dump it onto an oiled pan and fold it over, let the dough sit half an hour more, dump it into a preheated pot (the pot has to be fiery hot, or your bread will stick) and bake for about an hour, uncovering the pot halfway through. It creates a rustic, round loaf with a toasted crunchy exterior and a chewy, bubbly interior, and we ate the entire loaf in a day. Four common ingredients and a heated pot, barely any work, and out of that you get a wonderful loaf of artisan bread. Baking is like magic.

After scraping out the marrow bones with bread, we dumped the empty bones into a stockpot full of water to extract a rich, fragrant stock. It simmered late into the night, and then I just put the entire covered pot outside on the patio to cool down. Winter: nature’s freezer. We’ll bring in the pot tonight, skim off the fat, strain out the solids, and pack the resulting stock into the freezer for later.

And as a bonus, the hot oven (450 F, for both bones and bread) heated up the inside of our house quite nicely, and the simmering bone stock on the stove filled every room with a delicious beefy scent. Really, winter is the best.