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CSA 2015: Week 2

We may have gotten an extra second on the clock today, but I don’t feel like it added much to my summer. We’re only two weeks into our CSA share, and it’s already taking me almost a week to write about it. Seriously, where do my summers go?

CSA 2015 Week 2This week’s share included: 

  • 1 bunch of radishes
  • 1 head of Bib lettuce
  • 1 beautiful, giant head of romaine lettuce
  • 1 head of broccoli
  • 2 kohlrabi
  • 1 bunch of kale
  • 1/2 pound of sugar snap peas

So, what did I do with all of this bounty? I added the radishes to my “stash” from last week. (Still saving them for the brown butter treatment. Thankfully, they keep well in my produce saver bags.) The snap peas went into our lunches the day after they arrived at our house. We munched on the broccoli while we enjoyed one of my favorite seasonal pizzas one night. I’ll probably make chips out of the kale (unless I add it to a pasta dish), and I’m saving the kohlrabi for some fritters.

The lettuce has made its way into some beautiful salads, and we tried using some of the Bib lettuce for lettuce wraps for our tacos tonight. Let’s just say that I’m not skilled enough to actually make that work – most of my taco filling ended up on my plate, rather than wrapped in the lettuce. (Of course, Andy tells me that’s because I overfill my taco… details…) 

Rumor has it that week three’s share will include things like zucchini and summer squash, so it looks like we’re rounding the corner into true “summer” veggies. I can’t wait. :)

 

 

 
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Posted by on June 30, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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One Worth Getting Up For

Last weekend, we got up at the crack of dawn just so we could pick some strawberries. (OK, 5:30 A.M. Not quite the crack of dawn here in June, but still.) As I’ve mentioned before, we lack self-control when it comes to fresh fruit, which meant that we came home with more than 60 pounds of fresh, sweet, ruby-red strawberries. We froze 40 pounds (perfect for off-season snacking), and I made a batch of strawberry-vanilla jam. I also tried a couple more desserts (popsicles, ice cream and ice cream pie, if you must know), but that still left a lot for eating.

I put them on salads for dinner. We ate them at breakfast and with lunch. They just seemed so snackable. All was well, until the strawberries were almost gone, and I realized that I still had so many things I wanted to make. Scones! Cake! Biscuits! Shortcake! I was trying to decide which recipe was worthy of the final few berries, when Andy caught wind of my plans.

“You’re going to BAKE WITH ALL OF THEM?! What about eating them? There are never enough to eat!”

“ALL you want to do is eat them! I’ve only made ONE batch of shortcake this year!”

So, naturally, we did what any rational person would do. We got up at the crack of dawn (again) and picked 25 MORE pounds of strawberries. After filling my largest Pryex bowl with sliced berries for snacking, I went right to work, checking recipes off of my strawberry bucket list.

Scones in the freezer, check. Biscuits in the freezer, check. Strawberry vinaigrette dressing for dinner, check. Strawberry cake for immediate enjoyment, check.

Immediate enjoyment for sure. This cake was amazing. The batter mixed up in no time (all pantry staples), which is perfect for a busy summer Saturday. After pouring the batter into the prepared pan, you cover the batter with an entire pound of strawberries, giving you an incredible berry-to-batter ratio. The batter puffs up and around the berries, which get soft and jam-like in the oven. The hardest part is waiting for it to cool before cutting into it.

The cake is supposed to be baked in either a 9″ deep-dish pie pan or a 10″ standard pie pan. Since my largest pie pan is only 9.5″, I opted for my 10″ cast-iron skillet. (Plus, I love serving food out of the skillet. It just looks so pretty.) :) I think the skillet helped speed up the baking time too, as my cake tested “done” with about 12 minutes left on the timer.

Andy gave this a 6 out of 5, so it’s safe to say that he won’t mind if the last few berries wind up in another cake. After all, we won’t be picking any more berries… right?

Strawberry Summer Cake

Strawberry Summer Cake

6 tablespoons butter, at room temperature, plus extra for the pan
1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
1 egg
1/2 cup of milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 pound of strawberries, hulled and halved

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 10″ cake pan or cast-iron skillet. Set the pan aside while you prepare the batter.

In a small bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and one cup of sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg and milk, and then add the vanilla. Gradually add the dry ingredients, mixing just until the batter is smooth.

Spread the batter in the prepared pan. Place the berries, cut side down, in an even layer on the top of the batter. (I did have a few berries that overlapped.) Sprinkle the reserved sugar over the berries.

Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees. Bake until the cake is golden brown and tests done with a toothpick, anywhere from 38-60 more minutes. (Deb’s recipe said 60 minutes; mine was done at about 38.) Remove from the oven and allow to cool before serving.

From Smitten Kitchen, who adapted it from Martha Stewart

Click here for a printable version.

 

 
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Posted by on June 28, 2015 in Cakes & Frostings, Dessert

 

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CSA 2015: Week 1

Ten years ago, if you had told me that I’d get practically giddy over a bag of fresh veggies, I’d have thought you were nuts. (I probably would have also started seriously questioning where my life was headed. I mean, who writes about food for fun? Hmm. Probably a good thing you can’t see into your future.) But here I am, (older and wiser) geeking out over the season’s first CSA share from the good people at Olden Produce.

CSA 2015 Week 1 Bag

CSA 2015 Week 1

 

Week 1 included: 

  • 1 bunch of radishes
  • 1 bundle of rhubarb
  • 1 bunch of kale
  • 1 head of Bib lettuce
  • 1/2 pound of sugar snap peas
  • 1 bag of popcorn
  • 1 quart of strawberries

So, what am I going to do with all this loot? Well, the snap peas are gone. In fact, we’re lucky they even made it into the pictures, as Andy wanted to eat them from the moment he picked up the produce. They were our vegetable for dinner last night. I’m still trying to decide what to do with the kale, although this salt and vinegar idea is the current front-runner. We had salads with dinner tonight, and we’ll probably do that again tomorrow, so that takes care of the lettuce.

I’m using the strawberries on our pizza tomorrow night, and I can’t decide what to make with the rhubarb. It’ll probably wind up in a pie. (Cook’s Illustrated has an improved strawberry rhubarb pie, and I saw a recipe for a rhubarb meringue pie as well, so now I just need to make up my mind.) 

Remember my brown butter obsession? That pretty much guarantees that I’m going to do this with the radishes.

We love popcorn with movies and game nights, so I’m sure I’ll make some of it the next time we Redbox something. Or, if I’m feeling fancy, I’ll give the popcorn the brown butter treatment as well.

That’s week one! I can’t wait till next Wednesday.

 

 

 
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Posted by on June 18, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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What We’re Eating 6/15-6/19

Guess what??! Fresh produce is FINALLY here. Our garden is starting to grow, and our neighbors shared some fantastic lettuce and strawberries with us! We’re also planning on picking some strawberries of our own next week. And if all goes well, we will pick up our first CSA share of the season this Wednesday. I’m hoping for asparagus and garlic scapes!

Monday 6/15 – Salmon with strawberry avocado salsa and salad
Tuesday 6/16 – Grilled steak salads (or wraps, depending on what we feel like) 
Wednesday 6/17 – Chicken and rice with a TBD vegetable (New recipe for the week!) 
Thursday 6/18 – Grilled pork chops, corn and a TBD vegetable
Friday 6/19 – Strawberry balsamic chicken pizza (maybe we’ll make this one on the grill!) 

And there you have it! The nice weather is definitely influencing my meal planning for the week. It’s one of my favorite times of the year. :)

 

 
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Posted by on June 14, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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My Latest Obsession

A few weeks ago, I had a life-changing experience. OK, maybe just kitchen-changing. Either way… my friend Bethany started experimenting with browned butter, and, well, let’s just say that I am going to BROWN BUTTER ALL THE THINGS. Seriously. She made two batches of butter pecan cookies (one with browned butter and one without), and the flavor difference was amazing. And then we got together and made brown butter cupcakes, and from there, things have been spiraling out of control. I made brown butter rice krispie treats (another Smitten Kitchen win). I got irrationally excited when we accidentally browned the butter for some scrambled eggs.

Like I said, it’s out of control. Once you brown butter something, you’ll never go back. (I’m even starting to ponder the idea of brown butter ice cream….)

When I ended up with lots of extra rhubarb compote, I decided to turn it into cupcake filling, and naturally, I went with the brown butter cupcake. I thought it would go well with both the rhubarb filling and the cream cheese frosting. The brown butter batter is so great; it’s actually a shame to bake it, as the flavor after baking isn’t nearly as prominent. I’m still trying to figure out a way to fix that. Until then, I’ll just settle for licking the beater while the cupcakes are in the oven. :D

A couple notes about these cupcakes: Annie’s recipe says that the recipe makes about 28 cupcakes. I must have under-filled mine or something, because I got 24 full-sized cupcakes and 24 mini cupcakes out of one batch of batter. The first time Bethany and I made the cupcakes, we got about 28 out of the batch. If you wind up with about two dozen cupcakes, one batch of frosting should be enough. (I raided my “extra frosting” stash in the freezer to take care of my extras.)

Brown Butter Rhubarb Cupcakes

Brown Butter Cupcakes with Rhubarb Filling and Cream Cheese Frosting

For the cupcakes:
2 sticks of unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
3 cups of cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 eggs, at room temperature (I take the eggs out of the fridge when I start browning the butter.)
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 1/4 cups buttermilk, at room temperature
~ 3/4 cup of Rhubarb Compote (click over to the rhubarb ice cream sandwich post for the compote recipe)

For the frosting:
10 ounces cream cheese, chilled
6 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 1/4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
4 teaspoons vanilla extract

To make the cupcakes, place the butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat. (Here are my brown butter tips. #1: Do not use a cast iron skillet – you won’t be able to see when the butter is brown. #2: Lower heat may take longer to brown, but it splatters SIGNIFICANTLY less than a higher heat, and I’d rather wait an extra 5 minutes for brown butter than spend 10 minutes scrubbing the kitchen, but that’s just me.) Let the butter melt. Cook, swirling the pan occasionally, until the butter is a deep golden brown color and smells delicious. (Tip #3: DO NOT LEAVE THE BUTTER. It’s as needy as risotto. It’s also prone to burning if left unattended.) When the butter is browned, remove the pan from the burner and pour the butter into the bowl of your stand mixer. Allow the butter to cool slightly.

When the butter has cooled for a few minutes, add the sugars to the mixing bowl. Beat on medium speed until the mixture is smooth and the bowl is slightly warm to the touch.

While your mixture is beating, preheat your oven to 350 degrees and line the pans with cupcake liners. Set the prepared pans aside, and, then, in a medium bowl, whisk together the cake flour, baking powder and salt.

Beat the eggs into the butter/sugar mixture one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. After mixing the last egg into the batter, add the vanilla and mix until combined. Reduce the mixer speed to low. Add the dry ingredients alternately with the buttermilk in three additions, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Mix until just incorporated.

Pour the batter into the prepared pans, filling them about two-thirds of the way full. Bake until the cupcakes test done with a toothpick, about 18 minutes. Remove from the oven. Allow the cupcakes to cool in the pans for a few minutes before removing to wire rack to cool completely.

To make the frosting, cream the butter and cream cheese together on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Add the powdered sugar and mix on low speed until blended. Add the vanilla and beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy.

To assemble the cupcakes, use a paring knife to cut a small cone out of the center of each cupcake. Fill each cupcake with a heaping teaspoon of rhubarb compote. (Leftover cake scraps and compote make an excellent snack for the cook… and the resident taste-tester.) Frost with cream cheese frosting. (I used a piping bag and the Wilton 1M tip.) Store frosted cupcakes in the refrigerator.

Cupcakes from Annie’s Eats, who adapted them from Confections of a Foodie Bride. Frosting originally from Annie’s Eats, also originally from Confections of a Foodie Bride. Rhubarb compote from Smitten Kitchen.

Click here for a printable version.

 

 
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Posted by on June 11, 2015 in Cakes & Frostings, Dessert

 

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Seasonal Eating

I have to admit, as a food blogger, I’m kind of jealous of people in other parts of the country right now. I mean, Kirsten’s farm share started this week. (If you want new ideas for your veggies this summer, she is the woman to follow. Seriously.) Shawnda is PICKING PEACHES ALREADY. (Yes, she lives in Texas, and I live in Wisconsin. Let’s not get hung up on the details here, people.) I feel like everyone else in the world has all sorts of tasty, seasonal produce at their disposal, and here I sit, wondering why I have NINE measly bean plants coming up when I put an entire seed packet into the ground three weeks ago. Something must have been wrong with those seeds. Grrr.

Right now, rhubarb is the only pickable thing in my garden. So, rather than moping about the situation, I’m embracing it. I’ve made rhubarb muffins. And rhubarb lemonade. And now, rhubarb ice cream sandwiches. Oh yes. Last year, when I made rhubarb ice cream, I mentioned that my original idea had been a vanilla custard with a rhubarb swirl. I took that idea and turned it into the world’s most portable frozen dessert: the ice cream sandwich.

Based on last summer’s success with Annie’s lemon raspberry ice cream sandwiches, I used the same method for these bad boys. (Except, just like last year, I went with graham crackers from the store. I’m sure homemade graham crackers are amazing, but I only have so much free time. And if I’m going to bake something, it’s going to be more exciting than graham crackers. Just saying.) I used a slightly modified (one less egg yolk) version of my favorite vanilla ice cream. I went with a custard-based ice cream, rather than Andy’s favorite Philadelphia-style ice cream because the custard ice cream doesn’t melt quite as fast, which is important for both assembly AND for eating. I lined a 9″ x 13″ metal pan with waxed paper and spread the freshly-churned ice cream in an even layer on the bottom of the pan. Then I swirled the rhubarb compote through the vanilla ice cream and put the whole thing in the freezer to firm up overnight. The next morning, I cut the ice cream into squares and sandwiched it between the graham crackers, and then returned the sandwiches to the freezer for a final freeze.

Oh my, these were good. The only people who didn’t love them were the ones who don’t like rhubarb. (AKA… weirdos, haha.) The graham cracker softens slightly, and you get a perfect mix of tart and sweet. There’s one sandwich left in the freezer, and there could be a fight over who gets the last one… unless I eat it when Andy’s not around. ;)

Rhubarb Ice Cream Sandwiches

A couple notes about the compote: This makes WAY MORE than you’ll need for the ice cream sandwiches, which I probably should have realized BEFORE I made the entire batch. I actually upped the rhubarb quantity in the compote, just because that’s what I had in the fridge. I also increased the brown sugar to an entire cup, since I had an extra three or four ounces of rhubarb. You could cut the recipe in half, or you could just make the entire batch, and do exciting things with the rest of it. (So far I’ve filled brown butter cupcakes – SO GOOD – and I’m hoping to take the rest of it and make a rhubarb version of these popsicles.) It’s also really good by itself, and I’m guessing it’d be a nice addition to my morning oatmeal. In other words, I’d rather use extra compote than do the math to reduce the recipe. :)

Vanilla Rhubarb Ice Cream Sandwiches

For the ice cream:
5 egg yolks
1 cup whole milk
2 cups heavy cream, divided
1/2 vanilla bean, split and scrapped
3/4 cup sugar
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the rhubarb compote:
1 3/4 lbs. of fresh rhubarb, diced
1 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped

For assembly: 
Graham crackers, broken into squares (I used about 1 1/2 sleeves of store-bought graham crackers.)

To make the compote,combine the rhubarb, brown sugar and vanilla bean and seeds in a medium saucepan. Heat the mixture over medium low heat and cook, covered, until the mixture is saucy, about 15 minutes. Remove the lid and cook until the mixture thickens, about 15 minutes or so. Allow the compote to cool completely before using. Remove the vanilla bean before storing in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

To make the ice cream, combine the milk, one cup of the cream, sugar, salt and the vanilla bean and seeds in a medium saucepan. Heat the mixture over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is warm to the touch. Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks together in a small bowl until smooth. (I use my 2-cup Pyrex measuring cup.) Gradually add the warmed milk mixture to the egg yolks, whisking constantly, until the mixture is warm and well-combined. Pour the entire mixture back into the saucepan and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture has thickened and coats the back of a spoon.

Place the remaining cup of cream in a large glass bowl (again, I use my 8-cup Pyrex measuring cup) and set a fine mesh strainer over the top of the bowl. Pour the cooked custard through the strainer and into the cream. Mix the custard and the cream together and add the vanilla extract. If desired, you can remove the vanilla bean pod from the strainer and add it back into the custard base (after you make sure there aren’t any cooked egg chunks stuck to the pod).

Cover the bowl and cool the ice cream base in the refrigerator until it’s thoroughly chilled. (You can speed this process up by putting the bowl in the freezer and stirring it occasionally.)

Churn the mixture in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. While the ice cream is churning, line a 9″ x 13″ pan with waxed paper, leaving an overhang on the edges. Spread the churned ice cream in an even layer (about an inch thick) in the bottom of the pan. If the ice cream seems really soft after this step, put the pan in the freezer for about 15 minutes to allow it to firm up.

Dollop several spoonfuls of rhubarb compote across the top of the vanilla ice cream. (I’m guessing that I used about 1/2 cup of compote, but I didn’t measure.) Using a table knife or a wooden skewer, swirl the rhubarb through the vanilla ice cream. Cover the pan and return it to the freezer to freeze completely. (I left mine in the freezer overnight.) 

To assemble the ice cream sandwiches, remove the pan from the freezer and cut the ice cream into squares, using your graham cracker as a guideline. (I made my ice cream squares slightly smaller than the graham crackers so there wouldn’t be an overhang that could potentially melt before you had a chance to enjoy it.) Use a metal spatula to remove the ice cream squares from the pan and sandwich the squares between the graham crackers. Return the sandwiches to the freezer for one last time, and allow them to freeze until solid before enjoying. Store in an airtight container in the freezer.

Ice cream base adapted from Annie’s Eats, who got it from David Lebovitz’s “The Perfect Scoop.” Rhubarb Compote from Smitten Kitchen, who adapted it from “Good to the Grain.” Method from Annie’s Eats, who adapted it from Tartelette.

Click here for a printable version.

 
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Posted by on May 29, 2015 in Dessert, Ice Cream

 

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Ready for Summer

A few weeks ago, I put a new salmon recipe on the menu. The salmon was tasty (probably a 3.75 on the Andy scale), but, for me, the dressing was the real winner. I love having something new for my salads, especially when it’s an easy as “cook, blend, stir, serve.”

The recipe called for fresh blueberries, but since I put several pounds of blueberries in the freezer last summer, I saw no reason to buy out-of-season, trucked-for-miles blueberries in the store. (Obviously, I did buy the out-of-season blackberries a few weeks later. They were on sale, and it’s a LONG time till berry season here, OK?) Per Annie’s instructions, I did remove a few tablespoons of blueberry sauce (to glaze the salmon) before I added the vinegar, but unless I’m making the fish again, I don’t think I’ll bother with that step. And since I’m still not the biggest fan of goat cheese, I opted for feta on my salad.

The result was a fresh, slightly sweet twist on a standard side salad, which will definitely come in handy when our lettuce is ready in a few weeks. (We planted seeds two weeks ago, and now we have the cutest little lettuce plants popping up in the garden!) Come on summer! We’re ready for you!

Blueberry Salad Dressing

Blueberry Vinaigrette

4 ounces of blueberries, fresh or frozen (no need to thaw if using frozen berries)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons of honey
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
kosher salt and fresh pepper

In a small saucepan, combine the blueberries, oil and honey. Cook over medium heat, stirring every so often, until the berries are soft and juicy.

Remove the pan from heat and use an immersion blender to puree the mixture until the berries are smooth. Add the vinegar and whisk until the mixture is smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Allow the dressing to cool before putting it on a salad.

Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. (Mine kept for a few weeks without any issues.)

From Annie’s Eats

Click here for a printable version

 
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Posted by on May 25, 2015 in Marinades, Dressings & Sauces

 

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