kitchen scribble

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.

June 24, 2014

summer CSA, week 3; also, kohlrabi and primaries

Filed under: CSA, local — kat @ 11:24 am

The third week of the summer CSA: two kinds of lettuce (green leaf and “Eric the” red), a bag of spinach, a bag of green beans, three crispy cucumbers, a bag of red potatoes, four “color me” yellow squash, a generous pint of blueberries, a dozen eggs, and bread (Breadery sourdough).

summer CSA, week 3

The picture doesn’t include the blueberries, because they were hiding in the fridge, away from hungry toddlers. The eggs were in the fridge as well.

I also dropped by the East Columbia Farmer’s Market last week, for strawberries from Orchard County Produce. All the sun made the strawberries nice and sweet (they were bland last time due to all the rain). While I was picking up strawberries, they also let me take a picture of their very expressive kohlrabi.

kohlrabi faces

Gotta have fun with that split kohlrabi.

In other news, primary voting is today! I did some extra driving around because I showed up to the wrong location, where they directed me to another wrong location, but I eventually made my way to the proper polling place and cast my vote like a good citizen. I have to say, I was dying for an iced coffee the entire time. I think that doing our civic duty would be a lot more comfortable and inviting if they had a nice refreshments area. Kudos to the people outside gamely waving their campaign signs, who sadly outnumbered the people voting inside. I hope they brought cold drinks today. Dude, if I were a kid on summer break right now, I’d totally set up a lemonade stand just outside a polling place.

I heard someone on the radio saying that the turnout was going to be really low. That makes me sad; voting is one of the most important rights that we have as citizens, and in a country that values and protects free speech, why would you muzzle yourself?

If you need to read up on the races, here’s the official list of candidates, the Baltimore Sun’s incredibly helpful voter guide, and a roundup of candidates on social media at our very own Hocoblogs’ Elections page. I like to eat local because it makes me feel close to the land and the people around me, but eating local is only one of many ways to be a real part of the community.

June 18, 2014

summer CSA, week 2

Filed under: CSA, weeknight cooking — kat @ 12:00 pm

Week 2 of the Breezy Willow summer CSA: kale (good grief, if you combine this with the end of the spring CSA, this made the third or fourth week straight of kale), zucchini, spring onions, blueberries! delicious blueberries!, bean sprouts, green leaf lettuce, kohlrabi, turnips, eggs, and bread (Breadery ciabatta).

summer CSA, week 2

The zucchini was sliced and sauteed right away to go into lunches. The blueberries, of course, disappeared rapidly, and they would probably have been completely eaten on the very first evening if I hadn’t hidden the rest of the box from the kid. For the kale, I used Cook’s Illustrated recipe for “Blanched Assertive Greens with Bacon and Onion”, which is a constant favorite in our household. The spring onions got chopped up with spring scallions and spring garlic (thank you, East Columbia farmer’s market, for selling me items I didn’t even know existed!), and were sauteed with radish greens and mushrooms (both from last week’s share) in a lovely frittata.

spring mushroom frittata

At least I hope it’s lovely. The filling tasted good, anyway, before I poured eggs and gruyere cheese all over it. The picture looked boring, so to create some contrast, I flipped one slice of it upside-down. “Looks like Pac-Man,” was K’s verdict.

Anyway, frittatas are one of my go-to recipes for using up CSA stuff. Just saute everything, bind it all together with egg and cheese, cook it on the stovetop until the bottom is firm, stick it in the oven until the top is firm. Use a nonstick pan so that it’ll come sliding out easily; serve over rice or with bread. Easy dinner. Or lunch, in this case.

As for the bean sprouts, kohlrabi, and turnips… they’re still in the fridge. I was pondering making latkes with the kohlrabi and turnips, but it hasn’t panned out yet. Alas, the sprouts may not be doing well after all this time. And we’re getting more vegetables this afternoon. At least there isn’t supposed to be any more kale.

June 10, 2014

CSA endings and beginnings

Filed under: CSA — kat @ 12:45 pm

A twofer this week — the last week of the spring CSA (ok, that was almost a month ago, sorry about that), and the first week of the summer CSA! Presented in reverse order.

To start off the summer, this is what we got in our pickup: mushrooms, kale, green leaf lettuce, radishes, beets, apples, asparagus, white potatoes, eggs, and bread (Great Harvest challah).

summer CSA, week 1

We ate the lettuce as salad greens pretty much immediately; salad greens are always the first to wilt in the fridge. We had the asparagus already, too, sauteed simply with olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic. Almost everything else is still sitting in the fridge, though, because we ate out a lot this past weekend. (And whenever you go to the Stanford Grill, not only are you awesomely fed, but you can make two more meals out of your leftovers. More than that if you’re a kid.)

Nevertheless! The beet and radish greens should still be mostly okay, because the first thing I did when putting away the vegetables was to separate the greens from their root vegetables; otherwise, the beets and radishes will suck the life out of the greens. I’ll check the radish greens out tonight; if they’re still okay, I’m going to make some radish green pesto.

To finish off last spring, this was the farewell basket from Breezy Willow:

Grapefruit, romaine lettuce, beets, potatoes, apples, mushrooms, kale, eggs, bread (Great Harvest sourdough), and a bonus item. I picked the pickle relish (over the apple bbq sauce and the horseradish mustard). Oh, and there was a bunch of asparagus, too, but I forgot it. Alas.

spring CSA, week 11

We did manage to make it completely through this pile, but we had two extra weeks in which to do it. Well, except for the pickle relish. Still looking forward to that one. May have to get some burgers on the grill.

May 27, 2014

I can’t believe all this butter

Filed under: local — kat @ 10:36 am

I decided to buy an 8-pound tub of butter from South Mountain Creamery. I usually buy butter from Costco in 4-lb packages (each stick is a quarter pound, 4 sticks of butter in a box, 4 boxes in a Costco pack), so I don’t mind having butter around in bulk; it freezes very well. And with constant baking (two sticks of butter in a batch of cookies, or one stick in a loaf of banana bread), as well as constant cooking (virtually every time I heat a pan to saute something, I usually start with a pat of butter and a glug of olive oil), butter disappears from my household at a fairly regular rate.

So, back to the 8-pound tub. Compared to Costco prices, it’s not actually a very good deal; Costco will sell you 4 lbs of butter for $11.50, so that’s $23 for 8 lbs, whereas South Mountain Creamery charges $27.69, plus extra if you’re having it delivered. But it’s from a small operation, from sustainably-raised cows on a local farm, so some markup is not unexpected.

An awesome friend of mine has a recurring delivery from South Mountain, and kindly agreed to add my tub of butter to her weekly delivery, so I did at least save on the delivery fee. It was pretty intimidating to be faced with this giant tub of butter. But I wasn’t about to freeze the whole thing in a solid block, so I got out a couple of tablespoons, my kitchen scale, and some plastic wrap, and got down to business.

portioning out the butter

I figured the best way to portion the butter was in the form I was already familiar with: the standard “stick” of butter, 4 oz each (or 1/4 lb). I set the kitchen scale to ounces, put a piece of plastic wrap on top, and started spooning out chunks of butter. Whenever I had added and subtracted enough butter to equal 4 oz, I wrapped the 4 oz of butter up in plastic wrap and started squishing it into a vaguely rectangular shape, using my phone and the counter surface.

The process started to speed up as I got a better feel for how much butter would be in each 4 oz batch. I ended up getting 30 sticks of butter, plus a bit extra (less than 2 oz) that I stuck in the fridge for later. Here are the sticks in the freezer, all wrapped up and bagged.

split up and bagged in the freezer

I know, right? Only 30 sticks? I had been expecting 32. (Because 30 sticks of 4 oz each actually comes to only 30 x 4 = 120 oz, and 120 / 16 = 7.5 pounds of butter, which is a half pound less than the 8 lb advertised.) I weighed the butter again after I had made it into sticks, just to make sure that I hadn’t messed up during the portioning process, but all of it still came to about 7.5 lbs. I’m kind of disappointed that I didn’t get my full 8 pounds of butter, but on the other hand, this is more butter than I’ve ever had in my freezer at once, so it feels silly to complain.

May 15, 2014

spring CSA, week 10

Filed under: CSA — kat @ 7:51 pm

(This is actually from last week; yes, I’m a week behind. But I’m making this week’s pickup tonight, so I figured I’d better get this one out before I had to do another two-week catchup post.)

Week 10 was a doozy. It took up most of our kitchen table.

spring CSA, week 10

We got kale, two shares of apples, a bunch of rainbow carrots, a head of Romaine lettuce, a bunch of radishes, three Vidalia onions, cucumbers, eggs, and bread (Great Harvest honey wheat).

The honey wheat was perfectly decent. I would ordinarily go for a more adventurous type of bread, but alas, if you get to the pickup site five minutes before closing, your bread choices are pretty picked-over. I don’t blame my fellow Miller Library CSA members — I go for the interesting breads first myself. This week maybe I’ll get there in time to get the Great Harvest parmesan sourdough, if they have it. Oh parmesan sourdough, tangy and chewy and shot through with rich veins of cheesy goodness, how I love you.

I am ashamed to say that most of this pickup is actually still in our fridge; we had a really busy week, full of yardwork and Mother’s Day activities, and so for most of the week we subsisted on leftovers and quick-prep food like salads, ramen, fried eggs with couscous, and sandwiches. (I did manage to cut and wash the romaine, thankfully.) On the bright side, the veggies still look great. And tonight is the last pickup of the spring CSA, so we’ve got a bounty of greenery to tide us over during the two-week break between the spring and summer CSA periods.

Alas, I really wanted to make more carrot green pesto from the carrot greens, but I think I may have waited too long with these; they were wilted and browning a bit last time I looked at them. Oh well, next time.

The flowers were not part of the pickup. Last week was Teacher Appreciation Week, so I picked up this lovely bunch from the East Columbia farmer’s market for the kid’s daycare teachers. People, go to the farmer’s market at East Columbia on Thursday afternoons! It’s got some of my favorite vendors. I bought a tomato plant from Tomatoes Etc that’s actually supposed to do really well in a container, producing (they said) meaty little tomatoes the size of big grapes. We’ll see how much it likes the conditions on my patio this summer.

May 7, 2014

CSA catch-up post, weeks 8 and 9

Filed under: CSA — kat @ 1:16 pm

It’s like I spend my time thinking of very little other than food, what we have, what we need, and what I can do with it, and yet I turn around and find that the food blog has gone neglected for weeks. How does that happen?

Quickly then, let’s recap…

spring CSA, week 8

Man, week 8 really made a beautiful-looking pile on my kitchen table. Three grapefruit, three beets with luxuriant (and tasty!) greens, a head of green leaf lettuce, a bag of onions, radishes with their greens (sharp and peppery when cooked; I love radish greens), six apples, three cucumbers, kale, spinach, eggs, bread (Great Harvest oatmeal this time), and this was a bonus week so we also got cheese, a lovely white cheddar.

I think we managed to eat everything from this week except the radishes (doing fine in the fridge so far) and one onion.

spring CSA, week 9

Week 9: even more green leaf lettuce, three grapefruit, green beans, potatoes, more kale, mushrooms, apples, carrots, eggs, and bread (Breadery sourdough). Generally when I see kale and potatoes, I make colcannon almost by reflex, but I think I overloaded my household with colcannon the last time I made it (we were eating leftovers for days).

But this was the week that I found out, to my delight, that the kid loves kale chips… both to eat, and to fling into the air like confetti. We had to have a stern talk about that.

meatless meal

Here’s a quick shot of last week’s meatless Monday meal: sauteed spinach with grilled mushroom and eggplant, tossed with a splash of soy sauce, served on a toasted hot dog bun that’s been spread with a layer of ricotta cheese. On the side: a bowl of chilled beet soup with a dollop of sour cream. We’ve been having more meatless meals these days, almost by accident; when you have this many vegetables to get through, you tend to make very vegetable-centric dishes.

Today so far has been another meatless day; for lunch I had a giant slice of delicious spinach-mushroom quiche, and that was after a breakfast of Deb’s amazing bran muffins. (With frozen berries baked into the middle, the muffins were a big hit with the kid, until he ran out of berries and demanded a “new one.” He was not impressed when I told him he had to finish his first. Life is tough for two-year-olds.)

Anyway, frozen berries are all well and good, but I can’t wait to try that recipe with strawberries; the strawberry harvest is just around the corner. Right around early-to-mid-May, I start daydreaming about strawberries all the time. It brings an extra bit of joy to spring, which is a delightful season anyway. I love being in sync with the harvest calendar; everything is at its freshest, and you really feel like you’re plugged into the world.

Oh, and today is the first day of the market at Miller Library! And then tomorrow there’s the next CSA pickup as well as the market at East Columbia, and then Friday the market at the hospital, and then Saturday the Old Town Market in Ellicott City will start up… I won’t be able to get to all of these, even though I want to, but it’s lovely to be surrounded by so many opportunities for fresh local food.

April 22, 2014

CSA catch-up post, weeks 6 and 7

Filed under: CSA — kat @ 12:37 pm

We were out of town for the week 5 pickup, but we got back for weeks 6 and 7. I have to say, after eating out for a week, I was pretty happy to get to cook again.

Week 6: six apples (no idea what variety, but they were spectacularly delicious), green beans, Brussels sprouts, a head of romaine, potatoes, onions, kale, eggs, and bread (Great Harvest challah).

spring CSA, week 6

Week 7: multicolored Breezy Willow eggs for Easter, mushrooms, green beans, apples (not as good as last week’s, sadly), eggplant, cucumber, rainbow carrots, green leaf lettuce, red potatoes, and bread (Great Harvest parmesan sourdough).

spring CSA, week 7

The mushrooms and eggs went into Smitten Kitchen’s baked eggs with spinach and mushrooms dish, for Easter brunch. Green beans are disappearing quickly too, since apparently the kid likes having them (blanched, lightly seasoned) in his lunch thermos. When offered them at home, though, he refuses, saying “I eat at school.” Toddlers are weird.

April 20, 2014

dining in Vancouver BC

Filed under: travel — kat @ 10:53 pm

I’ve been incredibly fortunate to a) have family in the beautiful city of Vancouver, Canada, and b) have the opportunity to visit them regularly.

As a kid I never found it odd that so much amazing Cantonese food was always available over there. As I grew older and learned more about the world, I definitely appreciated it. And now, as an adult, I actually have the nerve to get bored of days upon days of Cantonese feasting, and we’ve started to sneak out and avail ourselves of Vancouver’s other culinary delights.

feasting in Vancouver

Top and bottom left: a sample of the aforementioned Cantonese feasting, a lunchtime collection of everyone’s impulse orders at Old Buddies Seafood Restaurant (for dessert, a triple order of adorable steamed “Birthday Rabbit Buns”). Top right, a collection of Beard Papa cream puffs. Middle right, hot dogs and bags of fries from Japadog (and may I heartily recommend the Terimayo dog with the butter-and-shoyu fries? K preferred the shichimi-garlic fries but we sometimes disagree). And at the bottom right, a delicious selection of tacos from La Taqueria Pinche. The best ones in my opinion were the braised beef cheeks (for meat) and the refried beans (for veggie).

Man, I want to go back already.

(Fun footnote: our two-year-old was so enamored of the jellyfish entree at Old Buddies that it was almost all he ate for lunch. The next day, upon seeing the jellyfish tank at the aquarium, he exclaimed, “Yummy! I eat!” Fortunately there was enough ambient noise that he went mostly unheard.)

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