Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Whole Wheat Apple Muffins

I'll try not to say it too often over the next months (although I can't really make any promises), but I absolutely love Fall. Living in New England, it's almost impossible not to get excited about the crisp bite in the air, the beautiful landscapes and the seasonal fall festivals, craft shows and leaf peeping.

Right now, that means apples. We've consistently had at least a dozen apples in the house at any given moment over the past couple of weeks, and we're barely into apple season. My kids and I, though, take this as an open invitation to get creative in the kitchen. My 4-year old son and I did just that with moist, sweet apple muffins, capped off with a crunchy brown sugar topping. We split the batter between 12 regular size tins and 12 mini muffin tins so that he could take some to preschool for snack. Probably the best part of the process for my son was using the apple "machine," my peeler/corer. It's a great time-saver, but also a great way to get kids excited about eating apples.

I found the recipe on, yet another blogging site I recently discovered through a friend. The recipe is originally from King Arthur Flour, a Vermont company (and the oldest flour company in the U.S.) that really does it right. Their flours are free of additives and they are involved in a lot of community projects. And they come up with great recipes, as their Whole Wheat Apple Muffin recipe proves.

Whole Wheat Apple Muffins
From King Arthur Flour, via

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
1/4 t salt
1 T cinnamon
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed (I used light brown sugar)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 cup buttermilk (I used 1 T vinegar + enough milk to make 1 cup = good substitute)
2 large apples, peeled, cored, and coarsely chopped

Preheat the oven to 450. Grease and flour 18 muffin cups and set aside.

Mix together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon, and set aside. In a separate bowl, cream the butter and add the granulated sugar and 1/4 cup of the brown sugar. Beat until fluffy. Add the egg and mix well; stop once to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl. Mix in the buttermilk gently. (If you over-mix, the buttermilk will cause the mixture to curdle.) One note - I could not get the buttermilk to combine, so I started adding the flour, which worked well. Stir in the dry ingredients and fold in the apple chunks.

Divide the batter evenly among the prepared muffin cups, sprinkling the remaining 1/4 cup brown sugar on top. Bake for 10 minutes, turn the heat down to 400, and bake for an additional 5 to 10 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Cool the muffins for 5 minutes in the tin, then turn them out onto a wire rack to cook completely.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Bolognese Sauce

When I dove into Twitter last spring, I realized immediately that the social network is a goldmine for foodies. One of the sites that I became enamored with was Bakerella (Queen of the cake pops!), a treasure trove of creative recipes and incredible photography (some people call this food porn). The first night I discovered her site, I spent hours scrolling through the photographs wishing I had the foodie genius to come up with recipes like she does. A few blog posts detailed Bakerella's visit to the Pioneer Woman, and I was all at once introduced to another culinary maven, a woman named Ree who lives in the country and clearly has a zest for life. While Bakerella (real name unknown) focuses primarly on sweet treats, the Pioneer Woman posts a lot of recipes for hearty cooking. Which made her site the perfect match for me tonight, because I was specifically looking for a top-notch bolegnese sauce recipe. Not a meat sauce, not a marinara with ground beef. Bolognese.

One side note: I served my pasta bolognese alongside a vegetable from my CSA I had never laid eyes on before. Turns out it was romanesca cauliflower. It looked unlike any cauliflower I've eaten before (actually quite beautiful in its own way), but tastied very similar to the grocery-variety. Unfortunately, that meant my kids still didn't want to eat it. Maybe next time!

Bolognese Sauce
From The Pioneer Woman

1-1/2 cups grated carrots
1 large red onion, divided
1/2 cup olive oil
2 pounds ground beef
2 T oregano flakes
2 T dried basil flakes
1 6-oz can tomato paste
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 to 2 cups red wine
2 T Worcestershire
2 28-oz cans whole tomatoes
1 cup milk
Fresh Parmesan cheese

Heat oil in a large Dutch oven or skillet over medium heat. Add grated carrots and onions and cooke for a few minutes. Make a well in the center of the mixture, then add in the ground beef. Cook for a few minutes until brown, gradually stirring it into the carrot mixture. Throw in oregano and basil. Use fresh if you have it; fine if you don't.

When the meat is browned and combined with other ingredients, make another well. Add tomato paste and let it heat. Add garlic and stir to combine.

Make a well in the center of the mixture and add red wine. Stir together. Add Worcestershire and stir. Add canned tomatoes.

Finally, pour in milk, stir, and let simmer for 30 minutes-2 hours. However long you need. Serve with pasta and a generous sprinkling of Parmesan cheese.

I don't have a photo of my final sauce, because all I wanted to do was eat it! But trust me, the step-by-step photos on Pioneer Woman are drool-inducing.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Corn Chowder with Chicken and Buttermilk Biscuits

Continuing the soup kick that permeated my summer, I could not resist the opportunity to use some of my CSA corn for a chowder. Also, I had two large bulbs of fennel, and I read that fennel can be a great addition to soup. Finally, I had both carrots and celery from my CSA, so really, how could I not make some kind of soup?

Homemade chowder is a little tricky for me, though, because I cannot bring myself to purchase any dairy product creamier than 1% (and the 1% was a compromise with my husband - I would really prefer skim). It takes a really special ganache for me to bring out the heavy cream.

Luckily, has an amazing chowder recipe that can use any type of milk (and also uses bacon fat, but somehow I don't have the same reservation about bacon fat...). The way this chowder slowly simmers with an amazing assortment of hearty flavors (bacon, carrot, celery, bay leaf) creates a really flavorful soup.

To me, a hearty, savory soup is not complete without some kind of bread. Tonight, that bread was biscuits. While I periodically have buttermilk in the fridge, I don't keep it as a staple since I can't go through a container fast enough. However, a few years back my mother-in-law let me in on a little secret: powdered buttermilk. Is it as good as the real thing? Not quite. Would I use it in buttermilk pancakes: in a pinch, but don't expect pancakes quite as fluffy and rich. Nonetheless, it works in biscuits! So biscuits we had.

Corn Chowder with Chicken
Adapated from

1 T unsalted butter
1 strip of bacon or 1 t of bacon fat (sub 1/2 T butter for vegetarian)
1/2 large yellow onion, chopped (about 1/2 cup) I was out of onion and substituted fennel, which could also be added with the onion
1/2 large carrot, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
1/2 celery stalk, chopped (about 1/3 cup)
3 ears sweet corn, kernels removed from the cobs (about 2 cups), cobs reserved
1 bay leaf
3-1/2 cups milk, whole or low fat
1 medium Yukon Gold potato, or Ruesset, peeled and diced I was out of potato, and it was fine without!
1/4 red bell pepper, chopped (about 1/4 cup)
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
1/2 t fresh thyme leaves
Leftover chicken to taste

In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the bacon strip and fry until the bacon renders its fat, but doesn't begin to brown, 3 or 4 minutes. Add the onion (and/or fennel) and saute for 4 to 5 minutes, until soft. Add the carrot and celery and cook for 4 or 5 more minutes.

Break the corn cobs in half and add them to the saucepan. Add the milk and boy leaf. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a bare simmer. Cover the pot and cook for 30 minutes. Make sure the heat is as low as can be and still maintain a gentle simmer to prevent scalding the milk.

Discard the cobs, the bacon strip, and the bay leaf. Raise the heat, add the potatoes (if using), red pepper, 1 t of salt, fresh ground pepper, bring to a simmer and reduce heat to maintain a simmer for 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are fork tender.

Raise the heat, add the corn kernels, thyme and leftover chicken. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for 5 minutes.

Serves 4

Buttermilk Biscuits
From SACO Foods

4 T SACO buttermilk blend
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 t baking powder
1 t salt
1/2 t baking soda
2 t granulated sugar
1/3 cup solid shortening (I used butter. Shortening will make for a flakier biscuit, though)
2/3 cup water

Preheat oven to 450. In large mixing bowl, sift together dry ingredients. Cut in shortening thoroughly until mixture resembles corn meal. Add water and mix until dough is pliable. Do not overbeat. Turn dough onto lightly-floured surface and knead for about 30 sec (20 to 25 times). Roll or pat 1/2 inch thick, no less. Cut with floured biscuit cutter. Place close together on ungreased baking sheet. Bake 10 to 12 minutes, or until golden brown. Makes one dozen 2-1/2 inch biscuits.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Earlier this year I discovered a site,, that I have come to rely on for all types of baking recipes. I've made quite a few of their recipes at this point, and have not been disappointed. In fact, their Lemon Tart recipe still stands as my favorite dessert of the Summer of 2009.

I visited again recently looking for a good oatmeal cookie recipe. Earlier this summer I received a 5-pound bag of oats from my CSA. I've slowly been working through it (including bringing it to Maine and back on vacation), but I'm finding now that fall weather is descending upon New England, I'm finding a lot of great recipes that call for oats. One warning (which really applies to any cookie recipe using butter) - I over-softened the butter in this batch, so the final product spread more than it should have. One other note... forgot to take a picture of the final product! (Possibly related to my butter error? No, never....):

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cup walnuts or pecans, toasted and chopped (optional)
3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 t pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1/2 t ground cinnamon
3-cups old fashioned rolled oats
1 cup chocolate chips (I used semi-sweet; other options are white or dark chocolate chips, dried cranberries, cherries, or raisins)

To toast nuts: Preheat oven to 350 and toast nuts 8-10 minutes until lightly browned and fragrant. Let cool and chop into pieces. Set aside.

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), cream the butter and sugar until creamy and smooth (about 2-3 minutes). Add the egg and vanilla exract and beat to combine. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, and ground cinnamon. Add the flour mixture to the creamed mixture and beat until incorporated. Stir in the nuts, oats, and dried cranberries or chocolate chips.

For large cookies, use 1/4 cup of batter and space the cookies about 2 inches apart on the baking sheet. Then wet your hand and flatten the cookies slightly with your fingers so they are about 1/2 inch thick. Bake the cookies for about 12-15 minutes at 350 degrees, or until light golden brown around the edges but still soft and a little wet in the centers. Remove from oven and let the cookies cool a few minutes on the baking sheet before transferring them to a wire rack to cool.

Makes about 20-24 large cookies

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Summer Sides: Baked Beans and Pasta Salad

Admittedly, I haven't been doing as much from-scratch cooking in the past few weeks as I would prefer (thank running my own consulting business and watching my kids for that - wait, did I say that exact same thing last week?). At any rate, during these stretches I'm a big fan of short-cut cooking, which I realize is a little bit cheating. (For more on this, check out Michael Pollan's July 29, 2009 New York Times article Out of the Kitchen, Onto the Couch.) Despite the affect I may be having on the decline on American cooking, sometimes it's just a reality. And the reality I was faced with this week was onions.

Lots of onions.

So I turned to one of my favorite summer side dish recipes, Molasses Baked Beans, which I knew would use at least some onion. The ingredients I used weren't the most local, or the most high-fructose-corn-syrup-free, both of which I normally try to be very cognizant of. However, with scouting out the right ingredients you actually could make it both local and HFCS-free.

Molasses Baked Beans
Adapted from All You
6 slices bacon, cut into a 1/2-inch dice
1 onion, chopped
3 (18 oz) jars/cans baked beans
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup molasses
3 T Worcestershire sauce
1 T dry mustard
1/2 t kosher salt

Cook bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until crispy, about 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to a paper towel-lined plate to drain fat. Discard all but 1 T fat from pan. Add onion to skillet and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in beans, brown sugar, molasses, Worcestershire sauce, dry mustard and salt. Cover and cook over medium-low heat for 25 minutes.
For my second summer side, I really wanted to use as much of my fresh CSA produce and goodies as possible, so I decided to make an impromptu pasta salad. The real key for me in this dish was the fresh feta cheese from Bonnieview Farm in South Albany, VT, that came in my delivery. This cheese was surprisingly unsalty, which complemented nicely with the kalamata olives and Italian dressing I also included in the salad. To make this dish as healthy as possible I used a lot of fresh Pete's Greens summer squash and high fiber pasta (I'm partial to Ronzoni Smart Taste). I just scaled the ingredients to the portion size I wanted, making sure to use serving sizes on any boxes/bottles for ingredients that were not fresh produce.

Summer Pasta Salad
Scaled for 3 servings
3 oz high fiber pasta (such as Ronzoni Smart Taste)
1 summer squash, sliced
1 small jar quartered marinated artichokes, rinsed
8 kalamata olives, sliced
2 T lite Italian salad dressing
Fresh basil or other herbs
Feta cheese to taste

Boil the pasta according to the package directions. Add the sliced zucchini during the last couple of minutes. Drain and rinse with cool water.

Dice the cooked zucchini and toss in a bowl with pasta, artichokes, olives and Italian dressing. Top with fresh herbs and feta right before serving.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Veggie-Leek Chowder

For some reason I've been on a soup kick lately, specifically chowder. I think the catalyst was a soup I had a few days ago from Sweet Clover Market in Essex, VT. It was a tomatillo-corn chowder. Each bite (or slurp) had an incredible burst of flavor, all at once spicy (in an herby sort of way) and creamy and earthy. It was the kind of food experience that I dream about at night and fantasize about days later as I eat a turkey sandwich on stale bread for lunch.

As I told the clerk at Sweet Clover while I was purchasing the soup (after trying a free sample), I love to cook... but I couldn't cut it as a chef. I don't have that talent or education to combine flavors in a way that make people drool for my food a week later.

Despite this lack of James Beard-level cooking ability, I still like to give it my all. So, I looked for a recipe to use a bunch of leeks from my week eight CSA, as well as a glistening container of chicken stock from a previous week. I came across a Potato, Corn and Leek Chowder recipe. First problem, no potatoes in the house. Second problem, only frozen corn (not ideal, but ok in a pinch). So, I made a few adaptations to incorporate more of my CSA veggies, and still managed to get a chowder (a lightened chowder, I might add) on the table. This soup would be great with so many different summer veggies and herbs. Use what you have on hand.

Veggie-Leek Chowder
Adapted from Cooking Light

2 T butter
1 T olive oil (I used sunflower oil again)
1-1/2 cups coarsely chopped leek
1/2 cup finely chopped purple pepper (or celery)
1/2 cup finely chopped red pepper
2 cups whole milk
3 T flour
3 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup frozen corn kernels (or 2 cups fresh)
1 cubed zucchini (or 2 lbs cubed Yukon gold or red potato)
1 t salt
1/4 t freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
3 T chopped fresh chives

Heat butter and oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add leek, purple pepper, and red pepper; cook 4 minutes or until vegetables are tender, stirring frequently. Combine milk and flour in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Slowly add milk mixture to pan, stirring constantly. Stir in broth, corn, zucchini, salt and pepper; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes. Stir in parsley and chives.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Blueberry-Strawberry Salad with Homemade Croutons

Week seven happened to occur right smack in the middle of an incredibly busy week for me (being an independent freelancer has it perks, but sometimes I work ALL the time), so I didn't do a lot of creative cooking. I did, though, manage to put together some basic dishes using the produce, and was especially grateful for strawberries (everyone in my family loves them), zucchini (one of the few veggies my picky 4-year old will eat) and eggs, which are so versatile.

It dawned on me while I was throwing together a simple salad for dinner that every single ingredient in the dish I was making, while not all sourced from my CSA, was local. I was pretty excited about this, as I couldn't remember any other specific example from dishes past that used all local ingredients, from soup to nuts. Or should I say, from lettuce to croutons.

Blueberry-Strawberry Salad with Homemade Croutons

Bag of mesclun greens (Pete's Greens CSA)
1 pint strawberries, sliced (also Pete's Greens)
1 pint blueberries (Paul Mazzas in Essex, VT)
1/2 loaf day-old bread, cubed (Pete's Greens, baked by Red Hen Baking Co.)
1 T butter (I used Cabot Coop)
2 T olive or sunflower oil (I used sunflower oil from CSA)
Maple Grove Ginger Pear Salad Dressing

Place greens in a salad bowl, and top with sliced strawberries and blueberries.

Melt the butter in a frying pan with the oil. Add the cubed bread and sautee until lightly brown. Remove to a cookie sheet (season if you wish) and bake in a 325 oven until golden.

Top the salad with the croutons and salad dressing. This salad would also be excellent topped with a fresh goat cheese or feta cheese. Maple Grove Farms, located in St. Johnsbury, VT, makes some amazing dressings, most of which would be great on a simple salad like this one: Strawberry Balsamic, Maple Fig, Champagne Vinaigrette.

Monday, July 27, 2009


I picked up my 7/15 CSA share... and promptly drove it to Maine for vacation with my family. Considering we had 8 adults and 4 children sharing a small kitchen, I don't actually know where all the week five produce and goodies went. I do know for certain that the five pound bag of local oats was cooked into oatmeal on more than one cool, crisp, lakeside morning (extra good drizzled with local maple syrup, which we picked up on our way out of town at our regular location - the barber shop down the street. How much more small town Vermont can you get?).

The mesclun greens appeared in a few salads, as did the bunch of carrots, sugar snap peas and red and purple peppers.

The purple peppers, by the way, were unlike any pepper I have tasted. The flesh was even more crisp than usual, and the flavor had a subtle bite to it. I've been putting recent purple peppers into chicken salads and soups.

One of these mesclun salads during our vacation appeared alongside our annual Maine lobster boil, joining my mom's homemade bread (nothing makes me wish I was still a kid living at home more than my mom's fresh baked bread) and corn on the cob.

Week six produce arrived while I was vacationing in Maine, so my friend picked it up and enjoyed the haul (aside from a slab of bleu cheese, which she was kind enough to deliver back to me, and we have been devouring ever since). Check out her photo of week six on her blog, Lou-la-la.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Warm Asian Potato Salad

My week four CSA arrived with some pretty impressive looking greens. The colors were really appealing, and practically shouted "I am a summer vegetable!" I was most excited, though, for some of the non-greens produce - red potatoes, an amazing amount of carrots, broccoli (which I later discovered had nice, peppery taste to it - so much more flavor than the grocery variety), plus a kohlrabi.

This was my first experience with kohlrabi, which Pete's Greens, my CSA farm, describes as "a member of the cabbage family... Raw, it is crisp, sweet and clean, strikingly reminiscent of raw broccoli stalks." They go on to describe how it tastes cooked ("milk, nutty, cabbage-like flavor"), but honestly I never found that out. I experimented with kohlrabi raw, plain, by itself, and didn't have much leftover after that. I had just enough to shred into a cole slaw, which was a wonderful addition.

Potato salad, though, is a front-runner for my favorite summer dish. I'm particularly partial to creamy potato salads with a hint of mustard or an addition of pickles. With week four, though, I was looking for something a little different to accompany some stir-fried shrimp and veggies. I found a warm Asian potato salad on that fit bill. It used a few ingredients from CSA (potatoes, green onion, cilantro), but I mainly liked it for its simplicity. This recipe really lets the ingredients and flavor combinations speak for themselves, and was a nice change of pace from traditional summer potato salads.

Warm Asian Potato Salad

1-1/2 lbs fingering potatoes (I used red)
1-1/4 t salt
2 T seasoned rice vinegar (I used regular rice vinegar)
2 T olive oil
1 t Asian sesame oil
1 small red pepper, thinly sliced
1 green onion, thinly sliced
1/2 jalapeno chile, seeded and minced (I left this out because I didn't have one)
1/2 cup (loosely packed) fresh cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped

In a 4-quart saucepan, place potatoes, 1 t salt, and enough water to cover; heat to boiling over high heat. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer 10 to 12 minutes or until potatoes are fork-tender. Drain.

Meanwhile, in medium serving bowl, with wire whisk, mix vinegar, olive oil, sesame oil, and remaining 1/4 t salt until blended. Stir red pepper, green onion, jalapeno, and cilantro into dressing.

When potatoes are cool enough to handle, cut each lengthwise in half. Immediately add potatoes to bowl with dressing; toss to coat.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Chicken and Goat Cheese Strata.

The past week has been so busy (holidays will do that), I hardly remember everything I cooked in general, let alone with my CSA goodies. I'm fairly confident I did cook, as most of my produce is gone and my family seems well-fed.

I was particularly excited about my week 3 CSA delivery, because it included a number of veggies that weren't just greens. I love greens (except kale, see post below), but I was ready for other produce to experiment with:
  • I used the tomatoes and basil for a fresh pasta sauce.
  • I stir-fried the carrots and napa cabbage (both shredded) with chopped garlic scapes, ginger, scallions and chicken, and sprinkled with crushed red pepper.
  • I used the dill for another batch of Dilled Potato Salad with Pickled Cucumbers (I seriously cannot get enough of those pickles).
My next CSA delivery is tomorrow, so tonight I found myself staring at my leftover ingredients, trying to decide how I could incorporate all of them into one dish: chunks of rosemary-olive oil bread leftover from Saturday's brick-pressed sandwiches (bread wasn't CSA, but still quite good), a few garlic scapes, a TON of scallions (why so many scallions? They must grow like a weed. Ha.), local eggs, parsley....


Luckily I had half a package of goat cheese and some chicken (which is actually quite a miracle. I often have a mental block against thawing meat in time for dinner), so I got to work.

Chicken and Goat Cheese Strata
Serves about 6
Adapted from

2 t olive oil
Garlic scapes (to taste), chopped
Scallions (to taste), chopped
Leftover bread, torn or sliced into cubes (equivalent to about 6 large slices)
6 eggs
2 cups milk (or half-and-half)
1/4 teaspoon salt
Pepper (a few grinds)
Chopped parsley
Goat cheese (I used probably less than 2 oz, but you could definitely use more!)
Shredded chicken (I used about 8 oz)

Sautee garlic scapes and scallions in olive oil until scallions are limp. (This step isn't essential, but I didn't want the flavors to be overpowering.)

Spread half the bread cubes in an 11 x 7 baking pan coated with cooking spray. Combine eggs, milk, salt and pepper with a whisk in a medium bowl. Pour half the egg mixture over the bread, top with half the garlic scapes/scallions, half the goat cheese and half the chicken. Repeat layers.

Cover dish with cling wrap and top with three canned goods (to ensure all bread gets soaked in the egg mixture). Allow to sit for at least 15 minutes. May be refrigerated overnight, but bring back to room temperature before baking.

Bake at 325° for approximately 50 minutes, or until strata is just set. Broil under heat for about 5 minutes. Remove from oven and let stand about 10 minutes before serving.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

CSA Week 2: A few of my favorite things.

I cooked up a messy, delicious storm this past weekend, and came away with many new favorite recipes (thank you CSA! I never would have tried a lot of these if not for the produce already in my fridge). Four of the recipes were completely derived from my week 2 CSA produce. One of them had absolutely nothing to do with the CSA, but it's handy to have a sweet treat while creating a CSA masterpiece, yes? I'll get to that later.

First, my CSA creations:

Dilled Potato Salad with Pickled Cucumbers
By far my favorite recipe from week 2 was Dilled Potato Salad with Pickled Cucumbers, first spotted in my Pete's Greens CSA newsletter, which they adapted from Bon Appetit (click for recipe). This recipe first caught my eye because my week 2 delivery included potatoes, dill and radishes, all included in this dish. Also, I love pickles! The crisp, fresh flavor of raw cucumber marinated overnight just can't be rivaled by a store-bought variety. Combined with the other ingredients in this dish, it is a must-try summer recipe.

Dandelion Green Salad
My runner-up recipe for the week was Dandelion Green Salad. This one also came from my CSA newsletter. Once again, I had never used dandelion greens for cooking (are you sensing the trend here?). The process was so quick and simple. While dandelion greens are fairly bitter, the dressing for this salad balanced out the bitterness quite well (plus, doesn't everything taste better with bacon?). I made this on two separate nights. The first time, I didn't make as much dressing and my husband (i.e. "taste-tester") felt it was too bitter. The second time, though, he was won over by drizzling more of the sweet/salty dressing. Since it's so simple, I'll post the recipe:

Three strips of bacon
1-2 TB, finely minced shallots (or onion and a small clove garlic)
2 TB good vinegar (cider preferred)
A touch of maple syrup
A little olive oil
dandelion greens chopped
toasted pine nuts

Chop the bacon and cook in a medium sized skillet over medium heat until they releast their fat and become crispy. Add the shallots and cook 5 mins or so until they begin to soften. Next, add 2 TB of vinegar and cook for a few minutes. Add a bit of maple syrup and olive oil. Pour hot dressing over fresh washed greens, toss and garnish with some toasted pine nuts.

Muffins - Strawberry-Rhubarb and Vermont
I like any sort of baked good, so I jumped at the opportunity to make two different kinds of muffins with this week's CSA delivery. My favorite was the Strawberry-Rhubarb Muffins. After reviewing many potential contenders, I stumbled upon this recipe from Fox News in Providence, RI through a Google search. The original recipe is from Nancy's Fancies in Providence, a bakery I have never visited but would happily sample the next time I'm in town. Which will probably be 10 years from now. If not longer. But at any rate, the best part about these muffins is the crunch topping, made from a combination of oats, brown sugar, cinnamon and butter (just pretend there's not really a lot of butter in this recipe, you'll feel better about yourself). Of course, the combination of strawberry and rhubarb transports me to a sunny, breezy, green pasture on a warm summer day, with clean fresh linens blowing in the wind and happy, laughing children in spotless white clothing running carefree through the fields (too much? Maybe too much.). That feeling alone would make these muffins worth the baking.

The second muffin recipe was Vermont Summer Muffins from Greensgrow Farms. A farm in Philadelphia. Pennsylvania. Yes, I agree, a bit odd for a Vermonter to make a "Vermont" recipe from a farm in Philadelphia. To quote my own personal mantra, "whatever." But nonetheless, these Vermont muffins lived up to their name. They are a wonderful savory dinner muffin, perfect with a grilled meat and salad. I used a Vermont cheddar and local parsley, green onions, dill and eggs. I didn't have zucchini in my CSA box, so I had to make do with grocery squash. My only complaint is I found them just slightly dry, but I'm still figuring out how to fix that. My quick fix was cutting a muffin in half and grilling it on the George (the George Forman grill for those of you not familiar with my sophisticated cooking tools).

M+M Cookies
Finally, on to my last recipe, which had nothing to do with my CSA but was so good I'm still going to share it. I've recently discovered a website called I've made a few of their recipes and have L-O-V-E-D every one of them (you MUST try the lemon tart. Our guests asked, "Did you MAKE this crust?" Um, yes - in about 2 minutes.). My latest recipe, though, was M+M Cookies, hand-picked by my almost-4-year old. The recipe was so simple I thought I missed something. In fact, as they were baking and spreading more than I anticipated, I thought "There it is! I messed up the butter." But they actually came out of the oven looking bakery -ready (if I do say so myself), and stayed moist and chewy for as long as they lasted (a grand total of 2 days). I was pleased that they never crisped up. Maybe my kids will get super lucky, and we'll have M+Ms in our CSA next week....

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Kale update (aka I'd Rather Have Cake).

I didn't like it.

I was really hoping to like it. I thought I was supposed to like it. I almost forced myself to like it. But I didn't like it.

Maybe it was the recipe. Or perhaps the fact that I don't really like sauteed greens all that much in general (although can that really be true? The roasted beets with sauteed beet greens was so amazing I made it twice in two weeks). Maybe I was just in a funk (further evidence of this being the 1/4 chocolate cake I ate after dinner. I even decided to post a chocolate cake picture below instead of kale). Whatever it was, I don't think I'm crazy about kale. I'll try again, though, with a different preparation.

For what it's worth, my husband really liked tonight's kale, adapted from a Cooking Light recipe:

Sauteed Kale

6 cups kale
1/4 cup chicken broth
1 tablespoon stone-ground mustard
1 tablespoon minced shallots

Combine all ingredients in a large skillet over medium heat. Cover and cook 8 minutes or until tender.

While kale might not be my favorite, over the weekend, I made a lot of recipes I enjoyed immensely (think strawberry-rhubarb muffins, dandelion greens salad, dilled potato salad with pickled cucumbers, Vermont summer muffins....), and I'll be posting about those soon!

Also, a word about the aforementioned chocolate cake that I devoured this evening: a friend introduced me to the Maple Grove Bakery chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting about a year ago, and I now make special trips to local stores just for this treat. I was thrilled when my CSA pick-up location, Sweet Clover Market, started carrying Maple Grove Bakery products recently. The bakery is located in Quechee, Vermont, but they make small-batch cakes from scratch and deliver them to locations around the state. This home-style baking is so obvious in the finished product, a moist, dense, rich cake just like homemade (or even better, depending on the cook). Since I'd much rather eat chocolate cake than kale, I'm posting a picture of what's left of tonight's cake (and please note there were four people eating. I did not act alone).

Friday, June 26, 2009

My kale pep talk.

I've hit my first real obstacle with my CSA. Allow me to explain.

In 1998, my sister and her soon-to-be-husband brought home an adorable little dwarf bunny named Duncan (RIP, Duncan). Duncan really lived the high life. Yes, he had a cage, but my sister would also let him peruse the apartment, sniffing here and there, occasionally leaving a small "present" for her to find (although Duncan was largely housebroken, which is another story on its own). He would recline on the floor while they watched TV or studied (they were both grad students at the time. Meaning my sister and her husband, not my sister and Duncan. He was a smart bunny, though. They even taught him some tricks).

Duncan did eat those bunny pellets that looked suspiciously similar to what he left in his liter box, or around the apartment as the case may be. (Are you wondering if I actually just said "liter box" when describing a bunny cage? Yes, Duncan had a liter box. See comment above about being housebroken. Crazy, but true.) In addition to his pellet food, since he was such a well-loved, pampered bunny, my sister always had treats stashed in the kitchen to make the little guy hop for joy. He really did do little joyful hops, too. For such a small bunny, he sure had a lot of nervous energy.

Guess what his favorite treat was.


Not only did my sister always have kale, but only Duncan ate the kale. This was not because he was a diva and would shun us if we tried to sneak his precious treat. Although, if Duncan could speak English, I have a nagging feeling that he may have chastised us for sinking so low. The reason, though, that only Duncan ate the kale was because it was kale. Kale is bunny food. Or so I thought.

Fast forward 11 years. Over the past two weeks I started seeing posts about kale on the Google group I belong to for Cooking Away My CSA. I was secretly wishing that maybe I wouldn't be confronted by any kale. However, on Wednesday I eagerly clawed through my second CSA delivery and discovered my own bunch of Duncan's bunny crack: kale.

I've been keeping my eye on posts about how to use kale, and I'm seeing the words delicious and nutritious repeated. I saw one recommendation for a recipe that may just be the best way to start my kale adventure. I'm planning on trying this out over the weekend. Regardless of the end result, I know Duncan would be proud.


Baked Kale Chips
1 bunch kale
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon seasoned salt

Preheat an oven to 350°. Line a non-insulated cookie sheet with parchment.

With a knife or kitchen shears carefully remove the leaves from the thick stems or tear into bite size pieces. Wash and thoroughly dry kale with salad spinner. Drizzle kale with olive oil and sprinkle with seasoned salt.

Bake until the edges brown but are not burnt, 10-15 minutes.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Turning over a new leaf.

I was initially warned by friends after I signed up for my CSA that I would be totally overwhelmed by vegetables. I pictured myself trapped under a pile of kale and strawberries, digging my way out with a paring knife and steamer basket, trying to force garlic scapes and beets down my family's throats. Kind of a Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout situation, but in a much more sanitary way.

But it didn't happen that way. I used almost everything in the first week. The exceptions were a small bunch of chard (hanging on for dear life as I write), a bunch of cilantro (which I'm freezing in my first herb-preserving experience) and extra cornmeal (which thankfully keeps well in the freezer). My first CSA box was impressively full, too. The sheer volume of produce that I cooked is not the only surprise of the week, though.

Creative Cooking
I had never purchased some of the veggies that I used during the first CSA week. I was absolutely determined to cook (and hopefully enjoy) everything in my box. One of my on-going goals with the CSA is to broaden my family's veggie selections. We've always been good about eating vegetables, but I had fallen into the broccoli-zucchini-peas-corn cycle that I was afraid would spiral into oblivion. But last week we ate swiss chard. And beet greens. And pac choi!! And, they tasted great in a fresh, we've-done-something good-for-ourselves-and-community sort of way.

Shopping Habits
Keeping in line with my goals of being more conscious about wasting food and simplifying our food supply (e.g. we do NOT need 10 boxes of crackers in the pantry), I tailored meals around the CSA produce first, then incorporated what we already had in the house, and used a "quick trip to the grocery" as an absolute last resort. I've emptied out our pantry and freezer of some items that have been lingering there for ages, making me feel more organized and in control of my own kitchen. It also...

Saved Us Money
Hallelujah. Grocery spending has always been one of my family's largest budget items, ridiculously so. In addition to the minor benefits of supporting local farmers and eating healthier and better-tasting food (that was sarcasm, by the way), I was also hoping to lower our grocery bill with the CSA. The first week of our farm share our total grocery spending was almost 20% lower (and that includes the weekly cost of the CSA). This was partly because the CSA cost really is incredibly competitive. But as mentioned above, it was also because of creatively cooking what I already had in the house and a conscious effort to use the produce as a centerpiece of cooking rather than wandering the grocery aisles looking for inspiration.

Eating Habits
This change really makes me the happiest. I'm incorporating vegetables into more of our dishes and am proud of showing my kids a healthy way to eat. I even did a pac choi stirfry to go with our take-out Chinese food. That has never happened. That example also goes to show that not all of our eating habits have changed. But hey, we'd go crazy without a crab rangoon now and then. Overall, though, we are happier and healthier eaters, and feel good about the changes we've made.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

CSA Week 1: Greens and Reds.

Picking up my first CSA box on Wednesday was everything I hoped it would be. Much to my relief, my name was on the list (I've had a paranoid vision ever since I signed up in March of arriving for my pick-up only to be told they had never heard of me). Bags and boxes full of local produce and products covered a corner of Sweet Clover Market. I felt badly for customers in the store who were not participating in the CSA, because they clearly would be missing out on a quality haul. When I arrived home, I took a good look at my ingredients for the next week. I made my first dish that night:

Roasted Beets and Sautéed Greens, adapted from a Coastal Living recipe. I was specifically looking for a recipe to use both the beets and beet greens. While I love beets, I've never cooked beet greens before and didn't want them languishing around the fridge for too long. If not used right away, they had a high probability of becoming neglected beet green mush in my produce drawer.

I started by drizzling each beet with olive oil, sprinkling with salt and pepper and roasting wrapped in foil at 375° for 45 minutes. My beets were fairly small, so larger beets would likely cook 1- to 1-1/2 hours. After roasting, I cooled slightly and rubbed the skin off. Next, I sautéed garlic in a little olive oil, added chopped beet greens, a sprinkle of salt and pepper and cooked until the greens wilted. Finally, I tossed the beets and greens with a light balsamic vinaigrette and topped with toasted pine nuts and goat cheese. The final product was an explosion of earthy, rich flavors.

Skillet Gnocchi with Chard and White Beans
On Saturday night I was looking for a way to use my bunch of swiss chard, which I have never cooked before and was slightly scared of. However, I followed the advice posted on Twitter by one of my fellow Cooking Away My CSA members (@mmmfiber) and made an EatingWell recipe: Skillet Gnocchi with Chard and White Beans. I knew right away this would be a good choice, because it is absolutely loaded with fiber. Having followed Weight Watchers formally and informally for 8 years now, I am always happy with high fiber dishes. This was not just a healthy dish, though. It was also incredibly flavorful and earned an A+ from my husband and me (both my kids ran screaming, but rest assured they will see chard on their plates again in the future).

Raspberry Rhubarb Cobbler with Cornmeal Biscuit Topping
On the day I picked up my box, I wanted to make a recipe for Strawberry Rhubarb Cobbler with Cornmeal Biscuit Topping that was included in my CSA newsletter (adapted from Bon Appétit). Since my box this week had strawberries, rhubarb and cornmeal, I was stocked and ready. However, due to selfish beets hogging the oven, I didn't get to it that first day. By the very next day, the strawberries were completely gone (my kids might not like swiss chard, but they l-o-v-e strawberries). Tonight, though, I adapted the recipe to make a Raspberry Rhubarb Cobbler with Cornmeal Biscuit Topping. The cornmeal gives the topping an unexpected (and welcome) nuttiness. The raspberries did the trick in this recipe, but I would certainly give the strawberries a try next time. ** One Note: When using raspberries, I would recommend leaving out the ground cloves. Doesn't work quite as well as it does with strawberries.** It's hard for other fruits to compete with strawberries when it comes to pairing with rhubarb. This treat, though, was a New England summer on a dessert plate, especially appropriate considering the rising mercury this weekend.
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