kitchen scribble

April 7, 2015

spring CSA, week 4

Filed under: CSA — kat @ 1:45 pm

Every four weeks, along with the delicious vegetables, fruits, eggs, and bread, Breezy Willow throws in a locally-sourced “bonus” item. This week, it was Wild Pea hummous.

The full share: kale, beets, red potatoes, rainbow carrots, Brussels sprouts, apples (7 Fuji, 5 York), Minneolas, eggs, and bread (I picked Great Harvest challah).

spring CSA, week 4

And, of course, the hummous. I may have held up the line for a teensy bit while I dithered over which hummous to take home. (For the record, the choices were curry, “vampire slayer” garlic, Old Bay, or “Asian fire” chili. I eventually decided to go local and went with the Old Bay.)

hummous spread

I also had to get another shot of all those gorgeous rainbow carrots.

rainbow carrots

I think the rainbow carrots are always so pretty – not just the colors, but the unique shapes. I read an article recently (NPR: Think Nobody Wants to Buy Ugly Fruits and Veggies? Think Again) about how “ugly” produce is saved from waste bins, and when I looked at the pictures of the ugly produce, I was shocked. They looked perfectly good!

Then I remembered that whenever I go back to produce-shopping in the winter, after the CSA has ended and the farmer’s market has closed, I’m always a little put off by the shiny perfection of the vegetables. All the carrots are straight, all the apples are round and shiny, the greenery gleams with freshly-sprayed water droplets; if something is bruised, crooked, or dirty, it looks out of place. It’s like shopping out of a catalog: unreal, almost plastic.

Poor lumpy, dirty vegetables; in that context, I can understand why stores wouldn’t stock them. But they’re just as tasty, and I really do feel closer to the source of my food when I peel a crooked carrot, or flick a little green worm off the tip of my corn cob. It’s good to know where your food comes from, and all the different shapes in which it can present itself. And imperfections can actually be good indicators of quality. My dad used to say, whenever I found an apple with a hole pecked out of it: good choice; the birds know which apples are the tastiest.

April 1, 2015

spring CSA, week 3

Filed under: CSA, weeknight cooking — kat @ 11:53 am

week 3 of the spring CSA: gold potatoes, carrots, ruby red grapefruit (3), minneolas (6), spinach, green beans, bean sprouts, mushrooms (in the brown paper bag), eggs, and bread (Breadery cinnamon raisin walnut).

spring CSA, week 3

Already cooked (though not yet eaten): all of it! This past Saturday I decided that I was sick of all the uncooked produce in the refrigerator, and in a frenzy of industry, I stirfried the bean sprouts, wilted the spinach, and sauteed the mushrooms, wiping out the Dutch oven between batches (fewer dishes). The carrots and potatoes went into K’s slow-cooker chicken curry, and the eggs into a big breakfast scramble with some shredded cheese and leftover barbecue meat. The fridge is now full of easily microwaveable side dishes, instead of produce that demands cleaning and chopping before it can be consumed. In a household with two working parents and kids that need to be fed immediately after coming home in the evenings, this sort of prep is key to retaining sanity.

I am a little disappointed with the bread, though; it crumbled a bit too easily and fell into pieces in the toaster oven. Too dry, I think, even though we carefully kept it twist-tied in its paper bag. Guess I’ll avoid it the next time around.

The bean sprouts were not clearly not a hit with the CSA crowd:

bean sprouts on the trade table

The major pitfall of the bean sprouts is that they go bad really quickly; turn your back for a few days and they’ve gone all brown and slimy, and before you know it you’re throwing away food and feeling horrible about it. Just wash them and eat them raw as a snack or in salads, or stirfry them and eat them alongside, well, practically anything. Their taste is clean, bland, and inoffensive; mix them into your cooking and I guarantee you’ll barely notice their presence.

(…unless you’re a three-year-old. Little Prince has x-ray vision and, if he’s in a mood, he’ll object to even the smallest shred of vegetation in his meals. Except, oddly, broccoli.)

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.

March 6, 2015

winter bread and bones

Filed under: local meats, weekend cooking — kat @ 1:47 pm

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.

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 15, 2014

The French Twist Cafe

Filed under: local — kat @ 2:13 pm

…has ruined me for hot chocolate.

So when I was a kid, I loved Swiss Miss hot chocolate – you know, the packets of cocoa and sugar and whatever that you can mix with hot water. I particularly liked the ones with the little mini marshmallows; I loved chasing them around in the cup and trying to drink them before they dissolved. Suckers always floated to the far side of the mug, too.

Then, when I was a teen, I discovered that Starbucks made hot chocolate with milk. It blew the watery Swiss Miss away. Starbucks hot chocolate was creamy and sweet; they steamed the milk as if for a latte, but then mixed it with sweet chocolate syrup. The richness of the milk won my heart. I now made my hot chocolate at home with hot milk and cocoa mix (nothing but sugar and cocoa in the ingredient list, thank you very much).

But then, along comes the French Twist Cafe.

It’s a tiny little place, tucked away on a side road off the Main Street of historic Sykesville. It’s warm, cozy, and very welcoming, and they make fantastic crepes. I had their autumn special crepe, with applesauce and salted caramel drizzle, and it was delightful; with the seasonal gingerbread chai alongside, I really felt like I was celebrating fall.

autumn apple crepe and gingerbread chai at the French Twist Cafe

But forget all that for a minute and let’s talk about the hot chocolate. I think they call it “chocolat chaud,” which as far as I can tell is just French for “hot chocolate.” I ordered a hot chocolate and watched them steam the milk; then, to my surprise, the only thing that went into the milk was a generous scoop of bittersweet chocolate chips, stirred until melted. I think the lady said the chips were 70% cocoa, which is pretty darn bitter if eaten on its own. And that was it! No syrup, no sugar, no artificial flavorings of any kind.

It was a revelation.

The taste is pure chocolate, rich and creamy with the milk, no cloying syrupy aftertaste. I was amazed. The next time I got Starbucks hot chocolate, it felt far too sweet on my tongue; I missed the uncomplicated simplicity of nothing but bittersweet chocolate and hot milk, whisked together. Thanks a lot, French Twist Cafe; you’ve ruined me for hot chocolate forever.

Guess I’ll just have to go back.

hot chocolate at the French Twist Cafe

Ignore how the drink looks. It looked much prettier when they gave it to me, but I couldn’t resist taking a sip or three before I took a picture.

(They sweeten their whipped cream with honey. Get the honey whipped cream on top. It’s heavenly.)

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.)

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