Happy almost-July, everyone! It’s a sizzling hot weekend around here, but we got up early to beat the heat (and some of the crowds) for our fresh produce.
We started the day out at Cuff Farms for one last round of strawberry picking. It was the best picking we’ve seen all season, so we each filled a flat and came home with about 27 pounds of berries. The only question is what to bake first! 😉
We stopped at the farmer’s market on our way home, and I snagged a lot of tasty veggies. This week, I brought home:
1 bunch of beets
1 bunch of kale
2 heads of broccoli
nearly 2 pounds of sugar snap peas
So, what are my plans for this pile of goodies? I’m super excited to make this pasta dish again, and, if I’m being honest, that’s about as far as I’ve gotten. I might do a stir-fry or some rice bowls with some of the other veggies. Our lettuce is going strong in our garden, so I’m working lots of salads into our menu as well. The cucumbers in our garden are coming along nicely, so it won’t be long before we’re enjoying some pickles along with all of our meals.
It’s finally farmer’s market season around here! We stopped by Olden Organic’s stand to pick up our punch card, and I decided to do a little shopping at the same time.
I picked up a head of lettuce, and more than a pound of sugar snap peas. I also learned that we’ll need to get to the stand before 9:30 AM to have a chance at getting asparagus or garlic scapes.
The lettuce is destined for a bunch of salads, and we’ve been snacking on the peas already. More of the peas will end up in a stir-fry later on this week.
Speaking of scapes, they’re just starting to appear on our garlic. Garlic scape pesto, here we come! Strawberry season has started here as well, so we’re planning to go picking sometime soon. Yay for summer produce!
Oh look at that… I let May go right by without writing ANYTHING. Whoops. I’d like to promise that it won’t happen again, but let’s be honest… we’ve been here before. (Plus, I’d hate to lie to all five of the people still reading this blog. Ha.)
I might not be writing, but I am still cooking. I’ve acquired a new cookbook (thanks to Karen!), and the more I read it, the more I’m convinced that I could be friends with Bridget and Julia. (That’s not weird, right? I’m just cooking their recipes; not camping out at ATK in Boston.) 😀
I’m also monopolizing the library’s copy of The Perfect Cake, which is counteracting all of my summer exercise. So far, I’ve tried one of the mug cakes, the chocolate sheet cake, the icebox Margarita cheesecake, the strawberry dream cake, and the Boston cream pie. I’m hoping to make at least a couple more cakes before I hit the renewal limit in a couple weeks. 🙂
We also planted our garden! We’ve added a raised bed, so things are a little less crowded (in theory… somehow we still ran out of room), and our lettuce just started to poke up through the ground yesterday. Grow, baby, grow! Our rhubarb is up and thriving, so I’m going to start filling the freezer and make a few desserts along the way.
For the first time in five years, we aren’t participating in a CSA. Our CSA farm isn’t offering a CSA share this season, so we’re going to try their market share instead. I have mixed feelings about it, but I am excited for the season to start! (I’ll definitely miss the “grab bag” aspect of a CSA, since it forces me out of my comfort zone, but it will be nice to get to the farmer’s market regularly. And I won’t miss trying to find ways to use the kohlrabi.)
That pretty much brings us up to the present. I do have an ice cream recipe to share soon, so hopefully June isn’t as quiet here as May was!
I’m pretty sure that I mention this every April, but it’s BIRTHDAY MONTH (for another few hours anyway)! And while there are multiple people to celebrate, I only made a few desserts this time around.
We kicked off the April celebrations with dinner at one of our favorite places. We filled up on appetizers (alligator bites and cheese curds), drinks (coffee brown ale and vanilla stout), and dinner (burgers for Andy and me, of course). And while I’m sure Stone Arch serves a decent dessert, there was no way I could have eaten anything else by the time we were done with our meal. Plus, I knew that there was cheesecake waiting for us at home.
I’d been monopolizing the library’s copy of “Just Add Sauce,” and what I really wanted to make was the chocolate-caramel pecan pie from the book. However, it has peanut butter in it, and Arron, for whatever reason doesn’t like peanut butter. Weirdo… And then there’s Josiah, who claims to “not like dessert.” Also a weirdo. However, both of them love cheesecake, so when I saw a cheesecake recipe in the back of Just Add Sauce, I figured I couldn’t go wrong. (My other choice was going to be the New York style cheesecake from Cook’s Illustrated, but it looked like a much bigger project, and I didn’t have time to tackle that one.)
This cheesecake was pretty easy to put together (everything gets made in the food processor!), and because ATK includes weights, I was able to use minimal measuring cups. It took a while to bake and cool, which kept me up later than I would have liked, but the results were well worth it. There were no unsightly cracks in the top of my cheesecake, and it had a rich, creamy texture. We all loved it. In fact, Andy liked it so much that he licked both his plate AND Josiah’s plate clean. The dessert of unity, indeed. 😀
Cheesecake with Blueberry Cinnamon Coulis
For the crust:
6 whole graham crackers, broken into pieces
2 1/3 ounces sugar
2 1/2 ounces AP flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
For the cheesecake:
2 pounds cream cheese
8 3/4 ounces sugar
4 large eggs
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
For the coulis:
15 ounces fresh or frozen blueberries (thawed if frozen)
1/4 cup water
5 tablespoons sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
To make the coulis:
Combine the berries, water, sugar, and salt in a medium saucepan. Bring the mixture to a gentle simmer over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolves and the berries are heated through.
Use an immersion blender to process the mixture until it’s smooth. Place a fine mesh strainer over a medium bowl and strain the blueberry sauce through the strainer, pressing on the solids to extract as much puree as possible. Stir the lemon juice into the strained puree. Taste the mixture and adjust with additional sugar if needed. (I didn’t think mine needed any extra sugar.) Cover and refrigerate until well chilled, at least an hour. Stir to recombine before serving, and if necessary, thin with water before serving. (I also didn’t need to thin mine out.)
To make the cheesecake:
Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 325°. Grease a 9″ springform pan.
In a food processor, combine the graham cracker pieces and the sugar for the crust. Process until the graham crackers are finely ground, which should take about 30 seconds. Add the flour and the salt, and pulse a few times to combine. Then, add the melted butter to the bowl and pulse until the crumbs are evenly moistened, about 10 pulses.
Spread the crumb mixture in the bottom of the springform pan. Use the bottom of a dry measuring cup, firmly press the crust into the pan. Bake until the crust is fragrant and begins to brown around the edges, about 13 minutes. Remove the crust from the oven and allow it to cool completely. (This will take longer than you expect. Trust me. I put it on the front porch to help speed things up.) Reduce the oven temperature to 250°.
When the crust is almost cool, make the filling. In a clean, dry food processor bowl (yep, you need to wash it between steps), process the cream cheese and the sugar until it is smooth, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary. With the food processor running, add the eggs, one at a time, until they are just incorporated, which should take about another 30 seconds. (I found it helpful to crack the eggs, one at a time, into a small bowl so I could easily transfer them to the food processor while it was running. If I tried cracking them into the food processor, I figured I’d get shells in my cheesecake!) Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then add the cream, sour cream, and vanilla. Process to combine, about 30 seconds.
Pour the cheesecake mixture onto the cooled crust, and then gently tap the pan on the counter to release any air bubbles. Use the tines of a fork to gently pop any bubbles that rise to the surface.
Make sure that your oven is at 250°, and then place the cheesecake on the middle rack. Bake the cheesecake until the edges are set and the center jiggles slightly when shaken. If you have an instant-read thermometer, the internal temperature should register 155°. The bake time will probably be somewhere between 1 hour and 20 minute and 1 1/2 hours.
Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let it cool completely, about two hours. Refrigerate the cheesecake until completely cold, at least six hours. (Mine was in the fridge for about 20 hours.)
To remove the cheesecake from the springform pan, run a paring knife between the edge of the cake and the side of the pan. Then, unclamp the ring and remove the sides of the pan. Slide a thin, metal spatula (I used my large offset spatula here) between the crust and the bottom of the pan to loosen it, and then slide the cheesecake onto a serving platter.
Before serving, let the cheesecake stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Use a warm, dry knife to cleanly slice the cheesecake into wedges. Serve with the coulis. Store leftovers in the refrigerator.
It’s time for a weekly menu! I haven’t done a great job of sticking to a menu lately, so I’m putting this out there so I have a little bit of accountability. 😉
Monday 4/23 – Meatless Monday this week with Zucchini fritters!
Tuesday 4/24 – I’m leaving Andy to fend for himself while I get tacos with some girlfriends. Hopefully there are still leftovers by the time we get to Tuesday night. 😉
Wednesday 4/25 – Skillet Lasagna. This is one of my favorite things from Cook it in Cast Iron. I’m pretty pumped for dinner on Wednesday.
Thursday 4/26 – Brats with TBD sides. I have almost no inspiration right now, so we’ll see what sounds good when Thursday actually rolls around.
Friday 4/27 – Pizza! I think we’ll order out this time. Glass Nickel sounds like a good way to start the weekend.
When it comes to holiday menus, I kind of forget about the drinks. I get so caught up in balancing the classic, “we have to have this because it’s TRADITION” recipes and the new “this looks intriguing” recipes that I forget about having something to drink besides water. It’s not that I’m not into other beverage options; I just have more fun making food. Plus, it’s usually more fun to eat your calories, rather than drink them. (Fair warning if you come to our house – the beverage choices are probably rather limited.)
We hosted several friends for Easter again this year, and I spent the week beforehand looking at ham recipes and trying to decide which type of rolls to bake. It wasn’t until Saturday afternoon, when the rolls were rising, that I realized I didn’t have anything to drink besides water. And I wasn’t going out to the grocery store the Saturday before Easter. No thank you.
After a quick survey of the fridge, freezer, and pantry, I decided that strawberry lemonade was the way to go. I still have a fair amount of strawberries in the freezer from last summer, and there were some lemons kicking around in the crisper drawer. Plus, the recipe I found got good reviews and was super easy to put together. Puree, strain, mix, and chill. The perfect amount of prep for a holiday weekend!
The original recipe says to mix the strawberry-lemon mixture with three cups of water, so that’s what I started with. I gave Andy a sample sip, and, well, you should have seen his face. 😀 I added an extra 1 1/2 cups of water, and we thought it was the perfect balance of sweet and tart. (Of course, you may feel differently… adjust to taste!)
With as easy as this one is, I might start serving drinks more often!
1/2 pound frozen strawberries, thawed
1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, divided
1 cup sugar
3-5 cups cold water
Place the strawberries in a blender (or a deep bowl, if you’re using an immersion blender) and pour two tablespoons of lemon juice over the berries. Puree the strawberries until they are smooth.
Set a fine mesh strainer over a 4-cup measuring cup and pour the pureed strawberries through the strainer, straining out any seeds. Add the lemon juice to the strained strawberry juice. Add the sugar and stir until the sugar dissolves.
Pour the strawberry-lemon concentrate into a large pitcher. Add 3 cups of water to the concentrate and stir to combine. Taste the lemonade, and if it is too strong, add additional water until lemonade reaches your desired strength. Serve cold.
Andy loves baked beans. I’m talking a level of love that most people reserve for chocolate. Or coffee on Monday mornings. In fact, he once bought a 10-pound can of baked beans for himself because “they were the best deal per ounce” and “who wouldn’t want that many beans!?”
So, when Andy saw Bridget and Julia making these beans, he was interested right away. I wasn’t opposed to the dish (I mean, there’s brats and bacon in it), but I didn’t catch all of the ingredients and steps during the TV episode. I didn’t write it down, so I moved on to other recipes.
Luckily for Andy, our PBS channel airs a lot of reruns, and we happened to catch the same episode again. This time, I took notes, and waited for the right time to make a batch of beans large enough to feed an army. Late January rolled around, and when I asked Andy what he wanted for his birthday, these beans were at the top of his list. I’m a big proponent of eating what you want for your birthday (even it’s boring vanilla ice cream), so I was all in for birthday beans.
Andy, of course, loved them. So did Arron and Karen. I enjoyed them too, and the four of us did our best to put a dent in 116 ounces of beans. In fact, we liked them so much that I made them a few weeks later to share with Janelle and Josiah (and all of the kids) too. They were a hit again, and even after feeding six adults and 12 children, we still had a decent amount left over. (To be fair, we also ate pork roast, mac and cheese, salad and bread that night, but still…)
So, this makes a ton of beans, obviously. OK, not a literal ton, and maybe I should have realized that by the ingredient list, but still. It filled every inch of my 9″ x 13″ pan. It’s a good thing that I took Bridget’s advice and put the pan on a cookie sheet before it went in the oven, otherwise I’d been cleaning baked bean sauce off of the bottom of my oven.
It’s very obvious that this recipe comes from the Cook’s Country side of America’s Test Kitchen, instead of the Cook’s Illustrated side. First of all, it calls for canned beans. And not just cans of plain beans. You use two cans of prepared baked beans and a can of Ro-tel. Then there’s the sauce. It’s part ketchup and part prepared barbecue sauce, plus some spices and other items. Finally, it’s super easy to put together, which, as most people know, is not always the case with recipes from CI.
Easy beans with lots of brats and bacon? That’s a birthday win for sure.
Backyard Barbecue Beans
1 1/4 pounds of bratwurst, casing removed
2 onions, chopped
2 28 ounce cans of baked beans (CC used Bush’s; I’ve used both Bush’s and Aldi’s baked beans with good results.) 2 15 ounce cans of pinto beans, rinsed and drained
2 15 ounce cans of cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 10 ounce can of Ro-Tel tomatoes
6 slices thick-cut bacon
For the sauce:
1/2 cup ketchup
1/2 cup prepared barbecue sauce
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons spicy brown mustard
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon liquid smoke
Brown the brats in a 12″ skillet (you guessed it; I used my Lodge again), breaking up the pieces with a wooden spoon. When the meat is almost completely browned, add the onions to the pan and cook until both the onions and the brats are nice and brown.
While the brats and onion are browning, cut the bacon into 1″ pieces and set them aside. Preheat your oven to 350°.
Whisk the sauce ingredients together in a large mixing bowl. Add the brats and onions to the bowl, and stir to combine. Add the Ro-Tel and the beans to the bowl, and gently stir to combine all of the ingredients.
Pour the bean mixture into a straight-sided 9″ x 13″ metal baking pan. (Trust me on this one. Your glass 9″ x 13″ Pyrex dish will not have enough room for all of the beans, meat, and sauce.) Lay the bacon pieces over the top of the beans in an even, single layer. (It always looks like there won’t be enough bacon to cover the entire pan, but it’s worked out perfectly both times I’ve made this. Trust the source.)
Place the baking pan on a rimmed baking sheet, and baked for 90 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and let cool 15 minutes before serving.