CSA 2016: Weeks 11 & 12

Hey there! Andy and I are back from our off-grid adventures, so I figured I’d take a few minutes to catch up with things here. For those who wondered where we went, we spent 10 days in Glacier National Park and managed to hike more than 95 miles (if my math is right), which is a personal best for us on a trip! It was an incredible trip, and pictures won’t do the place justice.

Of course, the downside to late summer travel is that it makes using our CSA produce and garden veggies a little more challenging. I picked up week 11’s share right before we left.

CSA 2016 week 11

We received:

  • 4 ears of corn
  • 1 banana pepper
  • 1 pint of cherry tomatoes
  • several slicing / eating tomatoes
  • red and yellow onions
  • 1 eggplant
  • 1 zucchini
  • 1 summer squash
  • 1 pound of green and yellow beans

I put the eggplant, beets and pepper in the fridge in my magic produce-saver bags, hoping that they would still look OK when we came home. (And they did. Yay for modern technology!) I knew the onions would keep, so they stayed home as well. Everything else was loaded into the cooler (or the food bin, in the case of the tomatoes – I never refrigerate a fresh tomato) for the trip. I pan-fried the zucchini and summer squash in some butter with a little bit of oregano one day after hiking, and we ate lots of steamed green beans throughout the trip.

Here’s what happened to the sweet corn and cherry tomatoes:

CSA while camping

Just because we’re camping doesn’t mean we have to subsist on hot dogs and instant soup. I roasted the cherry tomatoes in a foil packet with butter, salt, pepper and oregano. Andy really enjoyed them this way – more so than eating them plain. I soaked the corn in water before we put it on the fire, and it turned out really well too.

I don’t have a picture of the week 12 share, as my friend Bethany picked it up, but it looks like it was a good week for her! According to our newsletter, she received:

  • Kale
  • Sweet corn
  • Snap beans
  • Leeks
  • Slicing tomatoes
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Golden beets
  • Zucchini
  • Cucumbers

Bethany did put a cucumber and a zucchini in our fridge for us, along with the beets. I haven’t convinced her that they’re delicious. Yet. 😉


Chili Days

November is one of those months that make me very, very thankful to have a warm, cozy house. It was a gray, rainy weekend, and now I’m sitting here listening to the wind howl outside. It’s perfect weather for chili. (Not that I made this today… we’re having a lazy evening here.) 

This is another recipe from Cooking for Two. (Do you hear me, Taste of Home publishers? You never should have discontinued the magazine!) I’ve tweaked the seasonings, added more tomatoes and doubled the recipe (which are the amounts you’ll see below). After all, our ground beef comes in one-pound packages, and what would I do with the other half-pound of meat? Plus, chili is one of those dishes that taste just as good (if not better) the next day.

It’s my go-to chili recipe. If I did feel like making a mess in my kitchen tonight, this would be the chili I’d make. It’s thick, beefy and full of beans. It’s got a little bit of a kick, and it’s the perfect match to my favorite cornbread. It works well both in the crockpot OR on top of the stove. Serve it up with some shredded cheese and sour cream, and you have a perfect November dinner.

My Wisconsin friends tell me that my chili is missing something – noodles. Chili with pasta is something they do in Cincinnati, not Cleveland. 😀

Slow Cooker Chili

1 lb. ground beef
1 large onion, diced
1/2 cup diced green pepper
1/2 cup diced celery
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 15 oz. can of kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 15 oz. can of chili beans
1 15 oz. can of tomato sauce
1 15 oz. can of diced tomatoes
1/2 cup ketchup
1 cup water (I usually use this to rinse out my tomato sauce can before dumping it into the pot.)
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
pinch cumin
pinch cayenne pepper
dash hot sauce (I use Sriracha.) 
Shredded cheese and sour cream, for serving

(Holy crazy ingredient list, Batman! Don’t let it scare you though – they’re all pantry staples.) 

In a large skillet, brown the ground beef, onions, green pepper and garlic. When the meat is almost browned, add the garlic to the skillet and cook for another few minutes. Add the spices to the meat and stir until combined.

Transfer meat mixture to a four-quart crockpot.* Add the beans, tomatoes, tomato sauce, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce to the crockpot. Add the water and stir to combine.

Place the lid on the crockpot and cook on low for 8 to 10 hours. Serve with cheese and sour cream.

*If preparing on the stovetop, rather than the crockpot, simply add all of the ingredients to your stock pot and simmer on medium-low for an hour or so. Stir occasionally and add more water if needed. 

Adapted from Cooking for Two, Fall 2006

Click here for a printable version

Cooking Club Dish, Round One

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, I have excellent friends. I mean, without them, there wouldn’t be trips to the Wilton tent sale, taco nights, puppy chow parties, or wine coolers. OK, maybe those things would still exist, but I wouldn’t want to experience them by myself. The world would be a much sadder place.

Here’s the latest idea, courtesy of my friend Emily: Cooking Club Nights!

Once a month, several of us girls are getting together for an evening of food and fun. The host provides the main dish and sets the theme, and everyone else brings side dishes, appetizers, desserts, drinks, etc. It gives us a chance to catch up on each other’s lives and try recipes that our husbands aren’t always interested in eating. Which is why I made bruschetta.

This wasn’t a new recipe, but it is one that I hardly ever make, simply because I’d be the only one eating it. (Wait… is this a bad thing?) It’s easy, and it uses lots of tomatoes (always a bonus). Plus, who doesn’t love toasted, garlicky bread? No one I hang out with, anyway. 😀


Tomato Bruschetta

1 loaf of French bread, sliced into 1″ thick pieces
3 garlic cloves, two sliced in half and one minced
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 cups diced tomatoes (The original recipe calls for Romas; I used a mix of Roma and cherry tomatoes.) 
3-5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (I broke out the good stuff for this recipe – Andy’s brother went to Italy and brought us back a bottle of olive oil!) 
1/3 cup thinly sliced basil leaves, plus more for garnish, if desired
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Place the sliced bread in a single layer on a cookie sheet and bake until just golden. Flip the slices over and toast the other side. Remove from oven and rub both sides of each piece of bread with the halved garlic cloves. Lightly drizzle with olive oil, and then sprinkle with grated cheese. Return the bread to the oven and cook just until the cheese has melted.

In a medium bowl, toss the tomatoes with the minced garlic, basil, vinegar and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Allow tomato mixture to sit for five to 10 minutes for the flavors to meld before serving.

Top bread with tomato mixture and enjoy!

From the Food Network

Click here for a printable version.

CSA Week #15

The end is near! The end is near!! (Can’t you picture doomsday people running around, waving signs?) Thankfully, our CSA goes for 20 weeks, so I have a month left, but still! Where does the summer go?

On the plus side, fall brings all sorts of goodies that summer doesn’t. Things like squash and potatoes. I can’t wait for those! Until then, however, I’m going to soak in all that the end of summer has to offer. Especially when it’s sweet corn.

CSA2013 week 15

Yes, it looks like a TON of sweet corn. We received four ears as part of our share, and Andy splurged on an extra dozen because “it tastes so good, and it won’t last forever!” Yet another reason for me to love him. 😀

We also received the cutest little zucchini (too small for fritters, unfortunately), more tomatoes (Romas and grape), some tasty mixed greens, more bell peppers, green and wax beans, kohlrabi and tomatillos! The apples and pears are from one of Andy’s coworkers, rather than our CSA, but I’m still counting them in our produce haul for the week.

I would love to tell you that I tried all sorts of new things with 16 ears of corn, but, like always, we were unable to do anything but eat it straight-up. I did try a new pasta recipe with the grape tomatoes, and we got a few salads out of the greens. I am excited to try something new with the tomatillos, since Andy wasn’t wowed by my attempts at salsa verde last year. I think I’m going to try this enchilada recipe – I just need to find a substitute for hatch chiles. (My default guess would be jalapenos or serrano chiles, maybe? Any suggestions?)

As usual, I’m sharing my CSA goodies with the link party over at InHerChucks. Check it out!


Meatless Monday Win!

It’s time, once again, for another round of “dishes that don’t seem to photograph well.” Today’s guest is one of our favorite “meatless Monday” dinners – chickpea tomato pasta.

All the credit for choosing this recipe goes to Andy, again. I don’t know if I would have ever decided to try this one on my own. In fact, I was very skeptical the first time this was simmering away on the stove. Andy has good taste though, and he definitely picked a winner with this one!

We make this one fairly often – at least, fairly often for someone who likes to try new dishes each week. It’s best in the summer, when my basil plant is going gangbusters, but don’t let that stop you from making it now – dried basil works fine, in a pinch. (Hahaha… “in a pinch.” Get it? 🙂 ) It’s fast enough for a weeknight, and we usually get a couple of lunches out of a batch too. I love it so much that I burn my tongue almost every time I make it because I can’t wait for the sauce to cool before I sneak a taste. You’d think I’d learn, one of these times…

Chickpea Tomato Pasta

28 ounces crushed tomatoes
3 cups cooked chickpeas
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil (I eyeball this.) 
14 1/2 ounces chicken or vegetable stock
12 ounces medium pasta shells
1 spring basil, plus more for serving (or a hearty pinch of dried basil)
Coarse salt, to taste
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Parmesan cheese, grated, for serving

In a large saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and red pepper flakes, and cook until fragrant, but not brown. Add the chickpeas and season with salt. Cook for five minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the tomatoes and broth to the pot, and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, and add the basil spring. Cook until sauce reduces and thickens some, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain pasta and return the cooked pasta to its pot, off the heat.

When the sauce has finished cooking, pour it over the pasta. Serve immediately, and garnish with torn basil leaves and grated Parmesan cheese.

From Everyday Food Magazine, April 2009

Click here for a printable version.

CSA Week #9

Check it out! It’s tomato season! And since I’d rather cook with tomatoes than eat them raw (unless we’re talking about a nice slice on a meaty burger), I was pretty excited to get “regular” tomatoes, rather than cherry tomatoes, in our CSA box this week.

So, what else was, there, aside from the tomatoes and sprigs of basil? Four ears of sweet corn, half a pound of green beans, two summer squash, two green peppers, two more cucumbers, and the world’s tiniest cantaloupe. (Corny joke of the day: Why did the melons have a big wedding? Because they were CANT-ELOPE! Get it?! Hahaha… OK. I’m done now.) 

The green beans are gone already, along with two ears of the corn and one of the peppers. I plan on cutting the corn off the other two ears and combining it with some lime juice, onion, black beans, tomato, basil and cooked chicken, and serving it for lunch in a wrap tomorrow. Sounds nice and refreshing to me. I really could use some new ideas for the cucumbers though. As much as I like them as refrigerator pickles, a little variety would be good. And I’m wondering if the summer squash would be an acceptable substitute for zucchini in fritters. Any thoughts on that?

And thanks to my wonderful friend, Janelle, I now have enough tomatoes to get some canned! She was nice enough to give me a giant grocery bag full, along with some jalapenos and green peppers. Sounds like a good thing for tomorrow’s to-do list.

Be sure to check out the “What’s in the Box” link party over at InHerChucks! Lots of great veggies and ideas.

Everything’s better with bacon

Even cheesecake. Yes, you read that correctly. Cheesecake. The rich, creamy dessert typically reserved for special occasions. I went ahead and made one with bacon. And no, this wasn’t one of those chocolate bacon or maple bacon combos that seem trendy now. We’re talking about a classic bacon combo – the BLT.

Yup. Not only was there bacon in my cheesecake, there was tomato and lettuce. Feel free to be weirded out by this. Andy was. Bacon in cheesecake was just not right, he said. Cheesecake is dessert. Bacon is not. I had a feeling that he would feel that way about this particular dish, so I put the recipe aside for one of those occasions where it wouldn’t matter if he was interested in it or not. So when my friend Bethany decided to have a girls appetizer night I knew exactly what I would make. (Okay, so there were several other possibilities, but I went for this one since I didn’t know when I’d get to try it again.) Turns out, all the girls loved it! And when I took the leftovers to work the next day, most of my coworkers liked it too! And Arron, Karen’s husband, even said, “You combined two of my favorite things – cheesecake and bacon. The result was awesomeness.”

I made a few changes to the recipe, based on my personal preferences and how I wanted to serve the cheesecake. Because I wanted to serve this with crackers, I eliminated the crust and used Erin’s parchment-paper-lined-pan technique when I baked the cheesecake. I also reduced the amount of Gruyere cheese because I was concerned that the flavor would be overpowering. Finally, I substituted a sun-dried tomato spread for the chopped sun-dried tomatoes.

The end result was a smooth, creamy, savory cheesecake with a wonderful bacon smokiness. Topped with lettuce and fresh tomatoes from our garden and served with crackers, it was an addicting appetizer!

BLT Cheesecake

For the cheesecake: 
32 ounces (4 8 ounce bricks) of cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 1/2 cups bacon, cooked until crisp and crumbled into pieces
scant 3/4 cup of shredded Gruyere or Swiss cheese, shredded (about 2 ounces)
2 tablespoons sun-dried tomato paste
4 scallions, thinly sliced
1 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
4 eggs, lightly beaten

For toppings and serving: 
cooked bacon, crumbled
lettuce leaves, torn into bite-sized pieces
fresh tomatoes, chopped into bite-sized pieces
scallions, thinly sliced
assorted crackers

Preheat oven to 325. Line the bottom of a 9″ springform pan with a round of parchment paper. (Here’s something to consider – I see that the magazine recommends greasing the springform pan. I did not do this step. However, if you add a crust to this, that might be a good idea. Your call.) Wrap the springform pan with a large square of aluminum foil, double-wrapping if necessary. (You’re going to bake the cheesecake in a water bath, so wrap the pan tightly and make sure the seams are above the water level.)

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add in the cream and mix until combined. Mix in the cheese, bacon, tomato spread, scallions and pepper. Beat until combined. (Feel free to taste the mixture and add more bacon or tomato spread if you feel it needs “more.”) Add the eggs and beat on low until just combined.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and place the springform in a large baking pan (I use my roasting pan for this, and yes, it’s a water bath way more often than it’s a roaster. But I digress…) Pour boiling water into the large pan until it comes up about an inch on the side of the springform.

Bake for 45-55 minutes or until the center is set and the top appears dull (mine took 55 minutes). Remove the springform pan from the water bath and peel off the foil. Allow cheesecake to cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then run a knife along the edge of the cheesecake. Cool to room temperature, then place the cheesecake in the fridge and let it cool overnight.

Before serving, remove the ring from the pan. Place a piece of plastic wrap over the top of the cheesecake and then flip the cheesecake out onto the counter (so the bottom of the cheesecake and the metal base are face up). Using a large knife, separate the metal bottom from the cheesecake and then peel off the parchment paper.  Meanwhile, have a large serving plate ready. (I garnished mine with large lettuce leaves.) With your hands under the plastic wrap, carry the cheesecake to the serving platter and flip it over so the top is now right-side up. Top the cheesecake with the reserved bacon, lettuce, tomatoes and scallions. Serve with crackers.

Adapted from Taste of Home, April/May 2012 (note: as of 7/29/12, you need to be a Taste of Home subscriber to access the full recipe online)