Sunday, January 25, 2015

New Year, New Place

It's been a while since my last post. My computer was on the fritz then we got into the holidays and well, I just got out of the habit of blogging. I was doing pretty good there for a while, hoping to get to it most weeks this year (a continuation of my resolution for last year). One of the things that has been keeping me busy of late is that my landlord informed me right after the first of the year that she's giving up the house. Lots of drama there and frankly I'm glad to be out of the place soon - the smoking, the wonky washer, the running toilet! I think I will be MUCH happier in the new place. Here are some pictures!

Look at all that counter space!!

Much more open concept and the dreaded desk (which is currently in the hallway of my old place) will fit! Success!

One thing I have learned about myself is that apparently, I am a spice hoarder. You will see below that I have three (count, them 3!!) reusable grocery bags of spices. Now to be fair, the blue bag has 2 bins of bags of spices, so that's not too much and the insulated bag has my box of herbs/spices for bitters. So I guess it isn't really that much (the rationalization of a true hoarder)...

After packing it all up, I vowed that I was going to go through it all. There has to be duplicates, right?

As it turns out, not really that many duplicates. Oye. As any good, OCD, pharmacist, I made a list of the weirder spices that I have and gave myself a deadline of using everything at least once in 6 months. If I don't, then it is getting thrown away. I'm sure some of it isn't even good anymore, I mean some of those spices are from when I lived in Tucson (which was almost 4 years ago). There is some sentimental attachment to most of these though - spices I brought back from Bali (anyone know what to do with black chilly?), lemongrass and galangal powder from the Indonesian Super Bowl party my mom, aunt Lora and I threw, Turkish salad seasoning and curries from when my mom went to Turkey, Indian curry from when she went to India, my friend Ravi's dad's special home mixed garam masala he brought back for an Indian dinner party, chile from Tucson, the list goes on an on.

I am so looking forward to breaking in my new kitchen using all of these spices! Will keep you all posted how it goes along the way.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

CSA Week 12

In the box:
Bok choy
Kabocha squash
Brussels sprouts
Spaghetti squash

Cabbage (2)
Hot peppers

Pasta alla Norma (America's Test Kitchen)
Roasted Brussels sprouts (repeat from Week 10)

Wasabi salmon. I had salmon burgers in the freezer and a deep desire to not go to the store on Friday, so salmon burgers it was. I also could not find shitaki mushrooms, so I used baby bellas. This was very good - the veggies were light and the wasabi mayo was a nice way to cut the richness of the salmon.

Here are a few dishes that don't have all that much color but the flavor....yum. This is a recipe I saw on Food Network, a warm lentil salad with roasted acorn squash. The dressing is somewhat like a green goddess - lots of fresh herbs in a vinegarette then add in yogurt, perfect. The recipe made a lot and I thought I would be sick of it but I've eaten it every day for lunch and am still happy for it.

Another not so colorful soup. This is smothered cabbage soup with rice. So simple and yet the flavor is rich and delicious. You add butter and cheese at the end, just perfect for a cold fall day.

Kielbasa, potato and cabbage soup. If you haven't guessed, I had a lot of cabbage to use up. The recipe called for lager beer but all I had was Guinness (yes, still from St Patty's), so I was a little concerned that it might not turn out that well, but I didn't have to worry. I did add in the whole bottle of beer (it called for room temp beer and only 1 cup, ummm no, that's all going into the pot). Also it called for 2cups of passata (a fresh tomato puree popular in English cooking) but the jar I had was 3 cups, so in it all went. In all, it was pretty quick and would make a pretty quick weeknight dinner.

Pasta alla Norma. A recipe from America's Test Kitchen. They do an interesting trick where they par cook the eggplant in the microwave. I think it worked pretty well (I usually don't mess with the ATK recipes, they test them 100s of times, why mess with all that work?). Although I didn't have anchovy so I used bacon fat....probably not the most direct comparison, but it was pretty tasty!

On the docket this week is finish the recipes out with the brussel sprouts and the kale/potato side dish. Will probably get to it Wednesday or so. I keeping the winter squash around for a few weeks - the box will be ending in about 7 weeks, so I think I can keep these around and use the veggies that will spoil faster first. 


The roasted Brussels sprouts with garlic aioli surfaces again. I am not ashamed to admit that this was my breakfast on Saturday :)

Masamba- African potatoes and greens (in this case, kale). It's amazing that you can make such a complex sauce with salsa and peanut butter. Really good. Of course, I couldn't resist putting fried eggs on top for breakfast this morning.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

CSA Week 10

Sorry for the late post. It's been pretty busy around my house since I just got back from my major test and a much needed vacation. Most of the recipes were for my veggie box friend's going away party. So for the next boxes I will be on my own. **tear**

Here's what's in the box this week:
Acorn squash
Butternut squash
Spaghetti squash
Brussels sprouts
Bell pepper

I used the butternut squash instead of the canned pumpkin. I first roasted it until it was tender. With the canned squash, it is pretty much like a dump cake - you dump all the ingredients into the pan and cook. Tastes just like an upside down pumpkin pie and super easy.

yum, yum, yum

These were a quick weekend breakfast. I took a page from America's Test Kitchen and precooked the potatoes in the microwave. I then put them in the hot pan and didn't disturb them (that's my biggest problem, I can't leave them alone!) Add some fried eggs and a delicious breakfast was had.

America's Test Kitchen zucchini bread...again. this really is the best recipe - they featured it on their radio show recently, so I think you can find the recipe on their website. 

I decided to pair the sweet bread with the salty whipped feta cheese dip. The mix was sooo delicious. This dip is really good - veggies and crackers alike are wonderful with this on it. 

Now I wish I had more zucchini - this was so good. Even at room temp, it was perfect. Not sure how it would be reheated, but I don't think we had that problem!

The roasted eggplant dip comes out again. This time I had a red pepper, so it's a different color than last time, just as good. 

The brussel sprout colcannon just sounded delicious. It was a recipe from Gourmet originally and you can tell - way too fussy. Peel the potatoes? Not happening. Whip the potatoes with a mixer? Not happening. Pipe the potato mixture into the brussel sprout leaves? Not happening. Even with all that taken out, it was still really good. I did add in some cheese - what is colcannon without cheese? It was a hit at the party.

This seemed like an interesting use for spaghetti squash and since I was doing all appetizers, it worked out well. I didn't make the pesto as in the recipe, but used my premade pesto. Yummy, but kinda hard to eat. 

Crispy brussel sprouts with garlic aioli. Yum! These were totally gone and that aioli is a keeper.  

Homemade Hot Sauce

Apparently I am turning into a fermento. That's a person that preserves food by the use of fermentation (think sauerkraut). Also, if I have an excess of something, like peppers, my first thought is to pickle them! My CSA has been overflowing with peppers and I'm not really someone that loves peppers in everything, so hot sauce seemed like something fun to try. I used a recipe from the Joy of Cooking, with a modification - I added an air lock to my jar so that I wouldn't have to stir the mash every day (mainly since I was going to be out of town) but also I didn't want to deal with mold.

The first thing you do is you weigh out your peppers to figure out what would be a 2% by weight salt brine.

Then you cut up the peppers and put in a jar. Add your salt and top with a sweet wine. As you can see, I added an air lock to my jar. I found this set up looking for recipes - it is a recap top, a #6 stopper with a drilled hole and then the air lock. The recap tops can be made to fit either wide mouth or regular mouth jars. Pretty nifty.

After about a month, the peppers look about the same - although my cool green heritage jar might not be helping with trying to see a difference.

I then put the peppers and brine in the blender and poured the mash through a strainer. I was thinking about saving the strained mash, but there are too many seeds.

Once the mash has been strained you measure what you have and add in half as vinegar. I used rice wine vinegar. In all, it's pretty liquidy, and hot, of course. More of a Tabasco-style sauce.

I got more peppers, so I'm going for a thicker sauce now. See you in a month, sauce. 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

CSA Week 8

Here's what's in the box this week:
bell pepper
hot peppers

zucchini from work friend
pumpkin puree

Cheesy corn bake. Allison got to use her roux skills again this week with this dish. Yum yum yum.

Zucchini Buffalo chicken bites. I'm not sure what the zucchini really adds to this's in the breading, but overall the chicken was very tasty and buffalo-y. The breading had A LOT of components and then just gets covered with hot sauce....not that I am saying that's a bad thing! And for those of you that don't know what to do with the left over buttermilk that you always seem to have around, I use buttermilk powder for these type of things. I found mine on Amazon.

Zucchini Fries. I keep seeing these on Pinterest and so decided to give them a try. I just love zucchini...think this may be my last batch since the days are getting colder.  :(

Southwest Pizza. We took some liberties with this recipe. As you can tell from the grill marks, we decided to throw the dough on the grill. Since we were doing that, I mixed all the topping ingredients together so I could just spread them on the pizza. It was very tasty. I also made the avocado cream with yogurt instead. The dough was one of my no knead bread recipes, I used an olive oil whole wheat dough.

Spiced Pumpkin Syrup. I came across this recipe while going through my rss feed on Saturday morning. It was pretty chilly in the house and it sounded sooooo good. I had some squash puree in my freezer from last season and thought this would be a good use for it. I had 1 cup of squash so I doubled the recipe and added in the whole amount of squash (what would I do with that extra 1/2 cup anyway???). When doubling the syrup, I didn't double my sugar (maybe 1.5 rather than 2x), so in the end this wasn't too candy sweet as some syrups can be. This would be great over pancakes or french toast...or of course in your morning coffee.

Since I now have all this wonderful syrup, I decided to find a zucchini bread recipe that used maple syrup and just swapped them out. This happens to also have whole wheat flour...guess I'm making up for the sins of our casseroles from last week.

Roasted eggplant spread. This is when having a food processor really comes in handy. You roughly chop your veggies then roast them. Add them to your processor and whiz away. I don't usually have tahini in my house since I don't have much use for it other than hummus so I subbed almond butter instead. Yum! Great with tortilla chips, but would also be a great sandwich spread with something sweet like honey roasted ham...

Sausage and pepper pasta. I still had 2 bell peppers left over from last week so needed something to use them up. I like the idea of sausage and peppers but didn't want to make a sandwich, so trolled the internet for a reinvention of these flavors and found it in a casserole. Last week I grilled up some chicketta patties thinking I would put them in a pasta later on and thought they would be great in this dish. Chicketta is like porchetta only with chicken not pork. It's an Italian slow roasted dish with lots of herbs and fennel. These smell and taste a lot like sausage, so that's why I used it here. I get these at the Italian market down the street from my house, and I don't let myself go in there that often...they have real prosciutto there...deadly to my wallet!

Not pictured is the broccoli cheese potato soup, as I haven't made it yet. Will probably get to it tomorrow. I also have decided to make hot sauce with my hot peppers. I found a recipe that uses a similar approach to how Tabasco makes their hot sauce and it involves fermenting...I'm very excited!! Just waiting for the peppers that are turning red to fully turn, then I will be on my way to hot sauce!!

Extra weekend project:

I also decided to try making my own liquid soap from some bar soap I had laying around (and probably wouldn't use). I used this recipe. I came across it a while back on Pinterest. The above photo isn't totally accurate as I had to use 2 bars of cetaphil to get the 8 oz needed for the 1 gal of water. I had read that bars with extra moisturizing ended up being too liquidy so I added in an extra bar from Bath and Body Works for insurance. I don't think I let my soap completely dissolve the first time around since I still had some foam on top 12 hours later. I heated it up again and added more glycerin and gave it another go.

I now have a gallon of this stuff. It's still a bit more liquid than soap you buy but I think it would work great for what I want and I used stuff I probably wasn't going to! Score!!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

CSA Week 7

In the box this week:
Bell pepper
Red chile
Poblano pepper
Cherry bomb pepper


Well, it's finally happened - I have veggies left over for next week - lots of peppers. There may be roasted peppers in my future. Also, for some reason this week seems to be very carb loaded...this is what happens when I have potatoes coming out of my ears. Apparently I'm not a huge potato eater. Who knew. 

Beer braised cabbage. I used Guinness, since I still have some left over from St Patty's. It's probably not all that great to drink, but I was great in this dish. Better than it's current use as my back door stop! I added some flour at the end to thicken the sauce. It was great for breakfast with a fried egg on top.

Quinoa side. Sometimes I should really read the recipe before I start cooking - maybe that would help! I started cooking the quinoa separately before I realized it was to be like a pilaf. Oops. It still turned out well and was tasty, so I guess I didn't perform a fatal mistake.

Jalapeno popper mac and cheese. Kinda hard to see the pasta at this angle. Once again, I should read my recipes before I start to make them. I was under the impression that this was baked in the oven, but it is actually a stovetop dish. This week could also be known as "teach Allison how to make a roux week". A roux is a very powerful tool in the kitchen. A roux is equal parts fat (usually butter) and flour that is cooked into a paste. This is then used as a thickening agent in a bechamel sauce - add milk to roux and you have bechamel (as an aside, if you add chicken stock instead of milk you get veloute, these would be 2 of the 5 classic sauces of French cooking. A veloute would be used for something like chicken pot pie). Then add cheese to bechamel and you have a cheese sauce and for our purposes, mac and cheese. This was very yummy and creamy with the addition of cream cheese.

To add insult to the carb injury, we have pierogi casserole. Basically the components of pierogis in casserole form - mashed potatoes, pasta and deliciousness. It was really easy to put together and in the end very good. I did have to do some advanced math to determine how many potatoes would make 4 cups of mashed potato - after some research, I decided that 2.5 lbs of potatoes would make about 4 cups mashed, if you were wondering. We used turkey bacon for both the quinoa and this dish, so that we don't feel totally bad about all of this very heavy food. I think I need to make a green salad....

And finally moussaka. I knew once we were getting eggplant, I wanted to make moussaka. This also goes along with "teach Allison to make roux week" - that's her bechamel handiwork there. The thing I love about moussaka is the meat - there's cinnamon in the meat and it's not enough for you to know it's cinnamon but you know it's different. It is sooo delicious. Perfect for today, which is nice and cool compared to yesterday.

The cantaloupe was devoured quickly with prosciutto. The corn was stripped from the cob and put in the freezer. All that is left is chiles...roasting sounds like a great idea...maybe then preserve in oil? Will have to think on that for next week. 

Monday, September 1, 2014

CSA Week 6

In the box this week:
cherry bomb peppers
bell peppers
japanese eggplant

large baking zucchini
thai basil
sweet basil

Basil and Oregano. Look at the size of that!!

Thai Basil

Bruised, overripe and ugly tomatoes. Perfect for sauce!

Caprese Salad
Zucchini bread
Cabbage Thoran
Thai Corn Soup
Soba Noodle Salad
Yellow Curry Eggplant
Apple Zucchini Muffins
Zucchini Pizza Casserole
Spicy Savory Sweet Watermelon Rind Pickles
Pickled Watermelon Rind Salad with Feta and Salami
Southwest One Pot Pasta

Well the box this week was super full - guess it's a good thing I had an extra day to cook it all because I needed it!!

Pesto galore! Both the sweet basil and the oregano pesto were made in the typical pesto way - nuts, oil, cheese, herbs. I didn't have pine nuts so I used walnuts, just as good and not as expensive. Amazing how so many herbs can pack down into something so small! I decided to put the pesto in ice cube trays then pop them in the freezer. The Thai basil was mixed with coconut oil and cashews. Looking at some recipes online AFTER I made the pesto, some people added fish sauce and sesame oil, which would be a nice addition. I may add that to what's left after making the soba noodle salad...

Here's my version of a Caprese salad - tomato, mozzarella and a pesto vinaigrette. Yum!

Zucchini bread. Different recipe than I have used before. We made these at my friend, Patty's house. We were very liberal with the add ins - cranberries, golden raisins, almonds, cherries, sunflower seeds, chocolate chips and Heath Toffee bits. Very tasty.

Cabbage Thoran. This is an Indian dish we made at Patty's house. She just had her cousin visit and had all fresh new spices for us to play with. It is a very quick dish - so the shredded cabbage is still somewhat crunchy. There's nice heat from the chiles and the coconut helps cool the heat some. Very good.

Now on to Thailand. Found this recipe for a corn soup without cream. Was disappointed to not be able to find Kaffir lime leaves but used lime zest as a replacement. Subtle heat and complex flavors in a short time.

This soba salad was something I made up on the fly. I knew I wanted to use the Thai basil pesto in a cold noodle salad, so then added some broccoli, grated carrot and sesame oil. It turned out better than I would have thought!

This yellow curry eggplant is a real winner. Simple to make with coconut milk and curry paste. Just throw in your ingredients and it's done pretty quick. Lots of flavor!!! The recipe calls for sweet potato but I substituted regular potatoes, since that is what I have the abundance of. Served over rice, it would be a great weeknight take out substitute.

These strusel topped apple zucchini muffins are sooo delicious. We used applesauce I canned last year in my first canning adventure (still delicious, by the way) and apples from the farmstand. Homemade at it's best!

Taste of Home has something here with this zucchini pizza casserole. It's really good and filling. It also uses a lot of zucchini, for when you have a lot! We used our homemade sauce for this, and that may be why it's soo good. I was quite surprised how much the sauce cooked down! We took half and put that in the oven to make tomato paste and the other half to make sauce. I think we got 3 dishes worth out of the batch - so one went into zucchini pizza casserole, one went to Patty and I took the last. Kinda sad how all that work went into so I need to think of the perfect dish for that delicious sauce!! The tomato paste went into the ice cube trays and now in the freezer - you only use a few tablespoons at a time anyway...

More watermelon rind pickles! This is a sweet pickle, which I will have to decide what to do with. It is also much softer, since you boil the rinds before you pickle them. Probably would be good with roasted meat on a sandwich, or anytime you want a sweet pickle. Unfortunately, I don't have a picture of the salad I made with the other pickled watermelon rind...probably because I was so excited to eat it each time I made it that I dug in before getting the picture! Check out the recipe, it sounds weird, but it's really good.

The only thing left to make is the Southwest One Pot Pasta. I'm about to start on that for dinner. It will use of the last of the corn and I'll probably end up putting most of it in the freezer for later. Happy Labor Day everyone!