root veggies and then some

Check. It. Out. My friends …

| 1. Carrots | 2. Radishes | 3. Cabbage | 4. Onions | 5. Spinach | 6. Potatoes | 7. Beets | 8. Leeks | 9. Celery | 10. Sweet Potatoes | 11. Jalapeños | 12. Garlic | 13. Mizuna | 14. Parsley |

I call all of that cause for celebration!

Thank goodness I’m currently living with my very large family, rather than on my own. I’m not sure how I would get through all of this before it goes bad.

As the beautiful red and orange and yellow leaves have disappeared thanks to Hurricane Sandy, my thoughts are turning to winter. I haven’t had a substantial winter since 2010, as last year was primarily spent between Southern California and Southern Florida. Confession: I hate the cold. But here I am, back in the suburbs of Philadelphia, just in time for cold weather to hit (which, for me, is anything below 65 degrees).

The positives of this? Aside from the unlimited time with my family, being in Pennsylvania for the winter means being able to drink hot tea and eat soup without sitting in front of an air conditioner (a relatively common occurrence for me in LA). Now I can curl up next to the wood stove, wearing mukluks and a sweater, book in hand, enjoying the smells of the fire and the steam from a bowl of homemade soup. This is the next best thing to hibernating. Sometimes I wish I could be a bear.

So, what to do with all this food?

Carrots get eaten raw. They are too tasty. Puppy likes carrot tops.

Carson and his tops.

I still haven’t found anything to do with radishes. These got given away, along with a bunch of parsley. Next time that won’t happen. I WILL find a tasty recipe for them! As for the greens … boiled cabbage, anyone? It’s one of my mom’s favorites. Parsley works well in it.

Speaking of parsley, when I saw two huge bunches of it in my box, I was a bit overwhelmed. What are you really supposed to do with that green leaf that is typically seen as decoration? Answer: everything. Thanks to this post, I have a newfound love and respect for parsley. I regret giving one of my bunches away, I can assure it will not happen again. I used my remaining bunch to make a very simple pesto.

Parsley Pesto

1 large bunch of parsley
3 Tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves fresh garlic
1/2 cup toasted walnuts
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Throw all of the ingredients into a food processor. Eat to your heart’s content. Seriously. I dare you to not eat it all with a spoon. Perhaps my mom and I did just that, while a pot of pasta boiled, waiting for the pesto that never made it as a topping …

I was excited for the leeks, after trying my employer’s homemade potato-leek soup the other day. I attempted my own (her recipe), and I am SO pleased with it.

Potato Leek Soup

5 leeks, washed and chopped (use white and light green parts)
1 liter bouillon/stock
4 potatoes peeled and diced
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup milk
1/4 cup heavy cream
chopped chives for garnish

1. Cook leeks in oil for five minutes without browning (everything I’ve learned about leeks online says that you do not want to ever brown them, they’ll taste burnt). Add bouillon and potatoes, season with salt and pepper, simmer for 20 minutes.

2. Remove from heat and let cool a bit. Pour into food processor (or use immersion blender) and blend until smooth (it took a bit of time to blend it all, as I could only do a little bit at a time … an immersion blender would be like magic for this). Transfer back to pot, stir in milk and cream. Heat to preference. (The recipe actually calls for it to be cooled before eating. I disagree. Do what you want.)

I used only the three leeks and three potatoes pictured above. I did not peel the potatoes. I used a 32 ounce box of vegetable stock. I used over one cup of milk, and over 1/4 cup of half and half, and no cream. I had no chives, it didn’t matter. I used dried thyme and parsley along with the salt and pepper. It’s a hearty soup that takes a small bit of experimenting to get the consistency that you’re partial to.

My attempt tasted pretty good after immediately making it, and it tasted amazing a day later after reheating it on the stove (during reheating was when I added a bit of extra milk). My mom is also in love with this soup, and I’ve a feeling this is not the last time it will be made this winter. I imagine that adding chopped carrots and celery to the pot in step one with make this soup even more flavorful. I will be attempting variations at some point, stay tuned!

The other night I re-tried the recipe for a Chocolate-Beet Tea Loaf. This time I used the melted butter, as called for, instead of an avocado. I followed the directions almost exactly (didn’t measure the grated beets, just used a large one and a medium one), and it turned out DIVINE. Do try this recipe, if you’ve not yet experienced the wonderful pairing that is chocolate and beets. Also, be assured this is coming from someone who doesn’t even like beets.

I am happy for some good food and new recipes that will be mainstays. I’d love to hear your thoughts on how you would use some of this food. What is your comfort food during the winter months? Is there any recipe you could share that could get me to enjoy sweet potatoes or radishes? Are there other tasty, hearty, homemade soups out there that I should be trying? Have you other east coasters stayed safe in the wrath of Sandy? Please leave some thoughts!

CSA in PA (vegetable stir fry with masala!)

I take back what I said about having no CSA haul while on the east coast. As my job (location) is on an organic farm, it has been decided that I will be given a box of fresh produce every Friday as I leave work. What a deal! Pictured below is what I brought home this past Friday … so much produce that I still am unsure as to how some of it will be used! I took advantage of Saturday afternoon to take my time (2 hours worth!) cooking up my version of an Indian-inspired dish, essentially vegetable masala. Details below, but first … the produce!

1. Eggplant
2. Radishes
3. Spinach
4. Swiss Chard
5. Garlic
6. Mizuna (or arugula?)
7. Fennel (had to look that one up)
8. Onion
9. Parsley
10. Lettuce
11. Leeks
12. Cabbage
13. Sweet Potatoes
14. Potatoes

Oh the glorious produce! On top of all that we still had swiss chard to cut from the garden before Sunday’s frost (it is TOO cold here).

I haven’t yet spent much time looking up / inventing recipes for the produce that I’m not used to using- the fennel, radishes, leeks, and eggplant. I imagine potato-leek soup should be pretty tasty, and the eggplant should be easy enough to adapt into something delicious. The fennel and radishes have me a bit stumped, as I’ve never sought them out before and they are not familiar tastes to me. I welcome any and all suggestions for recipes that cater to someone who is not particularly familiar with these flavors!

Cooking on Saturday was a blast. I cut the remaining swiss chard from the garden (10-15 large leaves) and washed that, along with the chard from my box and the mizuna as well (or is it arugula?) I put a generous portion of sunflower oil in a large wok and used my favorite cooking tool- the garlic press- to crush five large chunks of garlic into the oil. I also coarsely chopped up a large onion and added that to the wok as well. I put the burner on just over medium heat and within one minute, everyone in the kitchen was commenting on how nice it smelled. I think that one should always have a saucepan of fresh garlic being sauteed while they are cooking, if only for the wonderful smell it fills the kitchen with!

Once the onion was tender I added all of the greens to the wok and let them wilt while mixed in with the onion and garlic.

Mizuna, yes?

beautiful colors on the swiss chard

My mom chopped up a small bag of fingerling potatoes and all the raw carrots we could find in the house (which did not amount to many), and we boiled them together for a little over 10 minutes.


Once the roots were a sufficient consistency, I drained them and put them in the wok with the greens and added some peas, green beans, and broccoli that I had found in the freezer (I had them out to thaw for a bit first). I kept the wok on a burner at a little under medium heat and mixed everything together.


It was at this point that I remembered to make some rice, so dinner got postponed a bit while the rice took 20 minutes on the stovetop. Mom also cut up boneless chicken breasts into bite-sized pieces and stir-fried them in a bit of teriyaki sauce. I poured two jars of tikka masala sauce into a saucepan and heated that up in the meantime (I would have added the sauce directly to the stir fry in the wok, but I was cooking for a variety of palates, and not everyone wanted “Indian” food).

After two hours of standing, chopping, and cooking in the kitchen, I was very ready for my meal. I’ve no pictures of my plate, but suffice it to say I drowned my very large helping of stir fry and rice in the masala sauce and ate until my plate was clean. I did the same for seconds! (I also had leftovers for dinner tonight.)

This was a great meal to make for my family because of the variety of options- my Dad ate the stir fry with chicken mixed in and no masala, one brother just ate rice with soy sauce (he’s our carb boy), another picked the potatoes out of the stir fry and ate them with rice and chicken. A few people added some masala sauce to their plates. My Mom and I got to eat vegetarian with no hassle. It was a win-win for all!

*I’ve joined the link party at In Her Chucks … you should check it out!

fresh food

As I’ve switched locations (ie: coasts) for the time being, I’ll no longer be subscribing to a CSA. Here I can’t necessarily get all the wonderful fresh goodness I was used to in southern California (or the sunshine that goes with it).

Perhaps it was kismet, then, that my newly acquired job in a sense involves an organic farm. I was sent home last Thursday with fresh picked(or dug) heirloom tomatoes, basil, sweet potatoes, onion, garlic, and fingerling potatoes. Also freshly jarred homemade tomato sauce made of ingredients straight from the farm. Doesn’t get any better.

My parent’s 26th anniversary was a few weeks ago and they never went out to celebrate it (it’s a bit difficult to do with all the kids running around the house). On Friday, a family friend came and took the four kids out for pizza and tennis and insisted my parents relax and enjoy each other’s company. I took the opportunity to utilize my fresh produce and make them dinner (which I did enjoy with them. It’s hard to get rid of all of us at the same time …)

I wanted to use the fresh basil as soon as possible, so I incorporated that and the tomatoes into a pasta dish (naturally). I like making pasta dishes because of the variety of ways you can prepare them. While there are the typical flavors in most dishes across the board, you can still personalize them to exactly what you want- and I love almost any vegetarian food/spice/flavor that goes with pasta.

I googled around to find a recipe that would be a variation on the inventive dish I made that one lazy day. Anything with fresh tomatoes and basil would do. And I was in the mood for mozzarella cheese, so I added that in to my searches as well. I came up with a few promising ones that were basically just the pasta with each of the ingredients chopped separately and tossed in. But then I found the winner. In preparation, it is essentially each of the ingredients chopped separately and tossed in. But in actuality, the way this dish is prepared makes the flavors pop and stand out better than they do on their own.

Heirloom Tomato-Basil Pasta:
This recipe calls for feta cheese and olives, I omitted each of them and included my own portion of fresh mozzarella cheese.

I used these beautiful heirloom tomatoes.

And this fresh basil.

I cut up the tomatoes inside the bowl I mixed everything in, in an effort to contain all the juice they lost. I added 1/4 cup of olive oil to the bowl and left the tomatoes to sit while I prepared everything else- I cooked the pasta (I only had whole wheat egg noodles to work with, so that’s what I used), cut up the basil and mozzarella, took the garlic to the garlic press, added it to the tomato mixture, and all was ready to serve, just like that! I had more tomatoes and mozzarella to use up, so I made a small caprese salad (sans vinegar, I just don’t like it). I served the tomato mixture separate from the pasta- apparently there should be enough sauce for the entire pound of pasta, but it didn’t appear so to me. And I wouldn’t know with the leftovers either, as my mom liked it so much she ate the rest of the tomatoes out of the bowl.

Caprese salad with an heirloom tomato.

My take on the heirloom tomato-basil pasta.

It was so good the dog even wanted some!

While on the subject of fresh food, there is still some swiss chard in the garden outside, so I cut it  up and sauteed it with some fresh onion and garlic. I toasted two slices of bread, added sharp cheddar cheese and roasted pepper bruschetta, topped it with the sauteed swiss chard, and voila- a take on a childhood favorite- pizza bread!

Pizza bread with fresh ingredients!

And off the subject- on non-fresh foods- I recently made Pioneer Woman’s recipe for blackberry cobbler. No dry ingredient changes, full-fat, and with frozen blueberries that were picked from our bushes this past summer. Delicious, delicious, delicious. I loved the texture/consistency. The flavor was amazing. This is not a recipe to mess with. Make it and indulge yourself!

Blueberry Cobbler!

a lazy day

I am not the type of person to lay back and take a rest. I like to make my days as productive as they can be. I always have something to work on and finish, and there seems to never be enough time in a day. I give myself 9 hours of sleep a night (yes, I realize this is high compared to most people. It’s what I know I need, so I get that but no more. If I could function off of 6 hours, that is what I would allow myself). I always set an alarm for the morning. I hate sleeping in. I wake up an hour and a half before I need to leave for work every morning just so I can make the most of my mornings instead of rushing off to work. I do not take naps. I do not sit in front of the TV. I like to be productive, and I like to be efficient. I hate doing nothing.

Point in case- I was on the phone with a friend the other day. In this phone conversation we were just catching up, talking about normal day-to-day goings ons. Before hanging up, she said to me “You should take a nap before getting to your to-do list for the day.” Hah- she knew me so well that she just figured I had a list of things to accomplish for the day. And she was right. So perhaps I am like this to a fault.

That to say, I woke up this morning, after 10 1/2 hours of sleeping and waking up at the late hour of 9am (unheard of), sat on my computer for a few minutes, and promptly moved from my bed to the chair in front of the TV. What?! I then watched an hour and a half of The Office season 8 (it will never be as good as when Steve Carell was on it), and then made myself french toast for a late brunch. Double what?! My normal routine is to wake up and get dressed. Then make an egg sandwich almost immediately. Breakfast is Important! And sugar should not exist with breakfast! And pajama days do not happen for me! Well, my friends, I didn’t bother changing or putting in my contacts until 2pm. I ventured outside at that point to walk to the store and back. I changed back into my pajamas upon my return. I sat back in front of the television. I ate chocolate ice cream. I ate chocolate candy. I watched way too much of The Office. I talked to five different people on the phone. I accomplished next to nothing today.

Around 6pm I realized I couldn’t do this for the rest of the day (which, for me, lasts only until 10pm or so. I love early bedtimes.) What could I do to feel like I accomplished something of worth today? I could cook something for dinner that looked and tasted amazing!

I recently cancelled my CSA subscription due to all the transitions in my life at the moment. But the other day I made some falafels from scratch (Yum! First attempt, and they were so good!) and had fresh parsley left over. I also bought some cherry tomatoes at Whole Foods recently because they were on sale. I had on hand some feta packed in brine. I had sunflower oil and lemon juice. I had half a box of pasta. I had a variety of dried seasonings. So I got to work.

At 6:45 I sat back down in front of the television (seriously, what?!), but this time with a large plate of goodness.

Wheat pasta shells, cherry tomatoes (halved for texture purposes), feta, fresh parsley, sunflower oil, a hint of lemon juice, dried oregano, black pepper, crushed red pepper, and a dash of garlic powder. All organic. I just cooked the pasta and added everything in once the hot pasta was on the plate.

 

I suppose my day was productive after all. At least I’ll keep telling myself that.

What do your lazy days look like? What do your productive days look like? What else would taste good with this dish?

 

muffin update, summer update

Well friends, if you read my last post, you know that I attempted gluten-free, vegan muffins. I experimented with a recipe I found online, making some changes including adding an avocado, lowering the baking temperature, and using a different amount of baking soda and baking powder. This experiment did NOT go exactly as planned, but in the end I am still calling it a win.

After the muffins were in the oven for an hour and a half, at varying temperatures between 280-350, and a knife inserted in the center of them was STILL not coming out clean, I turned off the oven and just left them sitting there for a while with the oven door closed.

After another half hour or so of staying in the cooling oven I took them out and put them onto a plate to cool a bit more. I cut one in half with my fingers crossed, but it was to no avail. They simply did not cook through. They were not going to cook through. So, I decided to be thankful that I used only vegan ingredients and I bit in to one.

It was almost like biting in to a jelly-filled donut, except with applesauce! Warm applesauce (and some other batter, yes) gushed out of the cooked parts of the muffin and it tasted WONDERFUL. So, there you have it. Applesauce-filled muffins. That’s what I ended up making. I am pleased with them. And I will be attempting them again, but with the correct amount of baking soda and baking powder, and perhaps no avocado, and starting at the correct baking temperature to begin with. Until then, I will continue to enjoy my applesauce-filled gluten free vegan carrot avocado muffins.

Posts after today may very well become few and far between for the next two or three weeks. I’ll be out of the country, celebrating my sister’s marriage(!!!!!!) I have a layover at London Heathrow while on my way to Belfast. This layover is on the day of the opening ceremony of the Olympics. Perhaps I’ll have some stories to tell about that? I have NO idea how these travels are going to go, given the state of London right now.

So, until my next CSA pickup in three weeks, perhaps you’ll find a post or two about the beauty of Northern Ireland; I can’t wait for this trip back!

a day for recipes

Life has been busy recently with a trip home, a weekend of celebrations, and a full work week. I’ve been looking for uses for my CSA batch from Sunday and have made a few nice dishes.

The broccolini was great over a bed of orzo, fresh tomato, feta, lemon juice, and olive oil.

I used the entire head of lettuce and a handful of kale for another of my standard Chinese-style stir-fries and ate it alongside some vegetable gyoza from Trader Joe’s.

lettuce, kale, egg, garlic, peanuts, crushed red pepper, soy sauce, rice vinegar, and a bit of sugar

I decided to try something “different” with the kale today. “Different” only meaning a different flavor of stir-fry … it’s a start! I sauteed a handful of it with olive oil, lemon juice, oregano, and black pepper, and added crumbled feta just before eating it. VERY tasty!

My win for the week may very well be the homemade pesto I made this morning. I used my friend Megan’s recipe, I love how simple it is with only five ingredients. My basil has been slowly dying over the week, so I knew that it was today or never. It was so easy to make! I just put the ingredients into my tiny food processor and blended them all together. The smells when I took the lid off were AMAZING! Fresh basil is something that words can’t describe. I love catching a whiff of it! This was the first time I attempted homemade pesto, and it was a fair first try. I over-did it a tiny bit on the lemon juice (accidentally!), and added extra garlic on purpose but maybe that wasn’t the best idea. However, I am confident this pesto will taste wonderful when paired with fresh tomatoes and cheese for a sandwich soon. PS, my friend Angie took the following picture; it is her book underneath the pesto. Angie is, in one week’s time, getting her Master’s of Fine Arts. Check out her portfolio here.

I currently have these muffins (with some changes) in the oven. They are not cooking through. It is a hot day. I’m taking a break from the kitchen while they continue to sit in the heat. Hopefully they’ll get to an edible point and will taste DELICIOUS. I am really excited about these muffins because 1. They are vegan, and 2. They are gluten free. Angie is staying with me and wanted to be able to eat them, so I used her gluten-free pancake and baking mix as a flour substitute. This mix already has some baking soda and baking powder in it so I only added another 1/2 tsp of each to my mix. I also used allspice instead of nutmeg because that is what I have in my pantry, did not include walnuts, and I added a whole avocado just to see what would happen. I did not measure the carrots, I probably used a little more than a cup. I started baking them at 300* because of the avocado, and over the course of this past hour (yes, an HOUR), have lowered it down to 280* and raised it to 340*. They look great and the batter tastes great, but the centers are still gooey. We’ll see how it goes …

Before being cooked. I’ll be taking them out of the oven in 5 minutes time, regardless of how they are in the middle. I find a way to use the parts that aren’t done …

Any suggestions as to what I did wrong with the muffins? The bit of reading I’ve done in the past few minutes makes me think it has to do with the baking soda or baking powder. Does it at all have to do with the use of gluten-free flour? I’ve never baked gluten-free before. (I’ve never baked fully vegan before either.) Any suggestions for next time? This recipe really does look good and I’d like to do it right!

I still have potatoes and patty-pan squash and more carrots to use from Sunday’s CSA pick up. Some sort of stir fry is probably in order again.

I’ll be linking this post with this week’s link party at inherchucks … you should check it out and add your recipes too! Happy weekend!

July 24th addendum- Read this post for the rest of the muffin saga, and how it all turned out for good.

Sunday CSA Birthday- a few of my favorite things

Here are some thoughts that are all related somehow:
(Actual CSA stuff about halfway down.)

You know it’s a good day when a CSA pickup falls on your birthday, right?

Especially after a wonderful birthday weekend to boot.

The best part about now being a quarter of a century- it means my parents have been married for 26 years. I am so thankful to have such good role models in my life.

I was with my family on the east coast last week, and spent my birthday back on the west coast. Family is fantastic, and so are friends- and I have the best friends here in LA. It’s the only way to stay sane in this crazy place.

My birthday weekend included frisbee at the park in the sunshine, sea salt and turbinado sugar dark chocolate almonds, multiple episodes of Parks and Rec (the only TV show I actively watch (and re-watch, and re-watch, and re-watch. I’m on my 3rd time through season 4. Season 4 just ended two months ago. It is the BEST show)), Kerrygold dubliner cheese, fresh tomato, and sundried tomato pesto sandwiches on ciabatta, and games of Farkle and Bubble Bobble while in the company of a small group of friends. My birthday day brought about a three player game of Canasta (hand and foot) and dinner at India’s Tadoori because there is nothing better tasting than vegetable korma over rice with naan. Nothing, you hear? And of course, my CSA pick up, which ended up being probably the best one yet. More about that in just one second.

Presents were a vegan cookbook, teacups, and tickets to see Mumford & Sons at their sold out festival in Monterey.

What does all this mean, really? It means I am surrounded by people who love me and know me almost better than I know myself. Honestly. Everything listed above basically describes who I am. Right down to the fact that I celebrated with just a few friends. In fact, that was the most important of it all. I love having a small community. My introverted self needs time and ability to interact on a personal level with those who I love. A weekend spent with only my closest friends is my favorite way to spend time. Huge kudos to Jeremy, who has been a significant part of my life for two years now, and has learned all of these things about me and more, and planned everything that happened this weekend.

I talked with my littlest siblings (who aren’t that little anymore) on the phone at the end of the night, and naturally each of the three of them asked me “What did you get for your birthday?” I simply listed the three things I just listed above (trying to explain quality time, and good people, and good food, etc, wasn’t going to work- they only wanted the tangible), and two of the little ones were not entirely impressed. But the other, my 9-year-old brother, had a reaction that almost brought me to tears:

“The small things in life matter the most.”

It is SO the truth. But what 9-year-old child can really know that and truly believe it? My little brother is among the few, or the only. He is one of the most sensitive and beautiful kids I have ever known.

An old picture, but one of my favorites. I love this little kid. And the rest of my siblings.

So, with all that to say, I’ll stop the sappiness and get on to the produce. Would you LOOK at this lot?!

Basil, kale, lettuce, apricots, plums, nectarines, patty pan squash, carrots, broccoli, onions, and potatoes.  I mean, seriously now! Everything here is AMAZING!

I am beyond excited for the basil, because I’ve been wanting to try my hand at homemade pesto and use my friend Megan’s recipe. I’ve always avoided making pesto because most recipes I come across call for pine nuts. My grocery budget does not have room for pine nuts. So when I read Megan’s blog and found she uses sunflower seeds, I went right out and bought a package, and they have been sitting in my pantry ever since, waiting for the right time to help me with my pesto endeavor whenever it should happen. Well, it will be happening in a day or two. And I can’t wait!

I was getting tired of not having kale in my fridge, so I bought some curly kale from Whole Foods last week and made four cookie sheets of kale chips with garlic and cayenne pepper (and ate them all) within two days. This kale is not curly kale, and I’m getting tired of kale chips for the moment anyway, so I’m not sure yet what will become of my kale. Perhaps a green smoothie along with my lettuce- because, as always, I never know what to do with a head of lettuce. It’s just not appetizing to me. But it is a beautiful head of lettuce. I tore it into bite-sized pieces and rinsed it all out yesterday, and it’s nice and fresh and a beautiful color. If only I enjoyed it more.

I also recently had a want for carrots and bought a two pound bag just last week. I’ve been craving muffins, and so when I saw that I now have an over-abundance of carrots, my brain immediately went to baking. I’m thinking of trying something truly vegan, with avocado and applesauce included in the ingredients list. I have to do some looking around to figure out how to make that happen; there will definitely be a post about it once I make the muffins.

The fresh fruit, as always, will be (and already has started to be) consumed as is. I know there are a ton of delicious recipes for stone fruit, but I like snacking on it way too much to justify making something different out of it.

The broccoli is being had for dinner tonight alongside orzo with feta, lemon juice, and olive oil. The squash and potatoes will find their way into some roasting pan or stir fry.

What does your CSA look like this week? What exciting recipes would you make with some of these veggies that I use so matter-of-factly and simply? What are some of your favorite things? What would your perfect birthday weekend look like? Have you ever baked with applesauce? (Because I haven’t and I’m just crossing my fingers that it will work.)