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Winter Veggies

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CSA’s and Markets. The places to get really fresh local vegetables in the winter. Not that easily decaying slimy stuff from the grocery stores.

I mentioned in my last post that I wanted to bring back discussion of local winter sources, like my year round CSA, for vegetables and farm fresh staples.

Lora clued me in on her source, which I hadn’t seen before. Open Book Farm Share. I would love to try this, but it isn’t local to me.

I have been a member of Lancaster Farm Fresh for eight years now. 48 out of 52 weeks a year, I can pick up farm shares with vegetables as fresh as one day out of the ground. Picked on Monday. Packed that night. Delivered on Tuesday.

In the winter, though, many vegetables are root veggies. Picked before bad weather and stored in optimum conditions. We all know that root cellars existed just to keep these vegetables fresh all winter.

Our shares include the standard items like carrots and onions, turnips, potatoes. We also get fresh mushrooms, and last week from the high tunnels, cilantro.

I love the mushrooms. I used two of them to make crab stuffed mushrooms. Thanks to Boarman’s for crab cakes. I also picked up mushrooms at the Catonsville Market, and made mushroom soup.

The classic way. Using Julia Child’s recipe from Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Rich. Decadent. Perfect with tomato pesto smeared toast.

I  also have a grain and flour share.

Last week we got a new cornmeal. Prompting me to use up the last of the old cornmeal to make ribs over polenta.

Castle Valley Mill supplies our CSA with grits and cornmeal. This is a cold weather, “stick to your ribs” rib dinner.

I also get cheese, biweekly.

Cheeses that work as an element on toasts. As a complement to wine. Served over salads. Grated on top of soup.

I know that there will be repeats weekly, at least for the first four or five weeks. Like carrots.

A few pounds of carrots last week. Organic. All you need to do is wash them. Don’t need to remove the peel. I have a favorite method for carrots. Cut them into coins. Boil them for about 10 minutes. Drain them. Put them back in the pot with  butter and honey and cumin. Let them get glazed.

Today, they were used to make beef stock. Winter veggies with beef bones and water. Slow cooked. Ready to make beef barley soup tomorrow night.

It’s soup and stew season and my veggie share is the perfect place to start.

Wazzup Hoco?

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I’ve been absent quite a bit these days. Not that I wanted to be, but I have had all kinds of things happening.

Dead Internet was one.

Cataract surgery, the second. I can now verify that with this second eye done yesterday that I have 20/20 vision in both eyes for distance. Soon to get only reading glasses.

That’s the really good news. As for the internet thing, it’s been a challenge. Kudos to Comcast for solving it (I never thought I would write those words). Ten days total. Teams of people. The final verdict. Cable that was damaged underground, thirty year old cable. They ended up repairing it by digging up the area south of our driveway last Friday night In the rain. Much of the earlier detective work took place during the brutal cold. Guys in buckets on single digit temperature days.

They spliced new cable to give us back our internet.

I suppose that means I should blog more. Giving credit all over the place. Checking out Food Plenty and writing about it.

Giving a shout out to the Wine Bin for their great customer service. We bought a box of Montaud Rose, 2016 vintage, which ended up being sherried. No problem to return.

I really love the small businesses around here.

And, another shout out to Kendall Hardware. For having everything we need, to deal with bad weather, and to feed my feathered friends.

I also made New Year’s Resolutions that I didn’t get to blog about, what with spotty internet. The biggest. Get back to talking about the CSA baskets. A new post soon on that topic.

 

Coping With the Cold

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Cold weather is returning, after a nice couple of days. My little bird friends are hitting the water heavily.

In particular, my friend Flicker. Definitely here because of the heated bird bath. If you have feeders, make sure they stay filled, as the birds depend on you for food.

My bird bath isn’t pretty. But, it’s functional. I need the brick and rocks there to keep the insert from blowing away in high winds.

The blue birds are back, too.

They don’t use the feeders, only the water.

Other things I have paid attention to, as the temps dipped to single digits last week.

Letting the water drip at the most vulnerable place in the house. That bathroom where a pipe burst four years ago. We use the hall bath in the worst weather, just to keep the water flowing. Our master bath is protected. The hall bath is on the west side, where the winds blow and the walls are always cooler.

We also now keep the panel off the access to the crawl space, allowing warmer air to get in there. On the coldest days, I do laundry and run the dryer on high heat, raising the temps in that unheated crawl space full of pipes to the kitchen, laundry room and mud room bath.

We were told a long time ago, do not turn on a gas fireplace, or light a fire, while keeping the glass doors closed. They can shatter from the thermal shock. We have heard of many places where this has happened.

Also, do you know where your main water shut off valve is? Find it out. It makes a huge difference, if a pipe bursts, to be able to stop the water quickly.

We are weathering these cold temperatures so much better, since we took the time to beef up all our insulation. The house is warmer. We are happier for it.

We insulated the attic,

and all the dormers.

Last but not least, for me, the cook. I keep using the oven on slow cook, making soups, pasta meals, and stews, which are comfort foods.

 

The Big B’Day

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Happy New Year!

From my last post you would see that I celebrated a major milestone birthday two days before the end of the year. Did I go out? No. Was it a problem to make dinner? No.

I contemplated calling this the $15 feast. Steaks, $10. Dessert, $5. The sides were down in the noise, so to speak. Dinner took 15 minutes to make. Simple salad with bleu cheese dressing. Couscous with tomato pesto.

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The wines?

birthday dinner 002.JPGMade the dinner, and cost us a fraction of what we would pay if we went out. I mean, how many 20 year old wines can you find on a menu? For $25. Which is what this cost when we bought it. It was exquisite. Cherry bomb, really. Mostly Cabernet Franc.

If you can, try this for a future special event. You could easily have a feast for a fraction of a restaurant meal. Besides. I picked the music for background. Vangelis.

Everything was seasoned the way I like it. No settling for whatever they offered.

There were roses, delivered that afternoon.

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Dessert came from Dandelion Bistro. Raspberry Wine from Big Cork.

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Turning 65 wasn’t all that bad, and the dinner was superb. Thanks to local wineries, and the bakery up the road, and sirloins from Wegmans.

Baking

German Baking. Classic German Baking.

Most of my family is of German descent. I grew up with German influenced cooking and baking on both sides of the family. For me, the discovery of Luisa Weiss’s book, Classic German Baking, was a special treat for the holidays.

I opted to download the eBook when I found a great deal for it. I am glad I did it. I have already made two cookies for the holidays, and have dozens of treats bookmarked for the future.

Luissa’s Pfeffernüsse is far beyond those dry things you buy in the store.

I had to hide the container that I want to use for my Christmas gifts so my husband wouldn’t eat them all. I have to make more of these. I love them. Not really sweet, but just right. The secret to good German baking is finding ingredients. Like Baker’s Ammonia.

Thanks to Amazon Prime and “OliveNation” I had what I needed to make these cookies. For those of us really old, this is smelling salts. Seriously. But, it works to make the cookies vastly different from other non-traditional recipes.

I also made Vanillakipferl. The authentic version of almond crescents.

I went with the use of almond meal, and I also made my own vanilla sugar, by blitzing a vanilla bean, pod and all, in the sugar, and letting it mellow for a few days before using.

Fragile. Fresh from baking, and dredged in confectioner’s sugar mixed with vanilla sugar, these melt-in-our-mouth morsels are a memory of cookies my mom used to make. My paternal grandmother was born in Austria. These cookies are something special to me, as I pay tribute to my heritage.

Next year? I will work in advance to try Lebkuchen, which need time in advance to “age”, and who knows. Maybe I will spring for those Springerle molds.

I also have my eye on a cookie that reminds me of Berger’s cookies. That would be really bad for my waistline.

The Yeast Beast

Conquering yeast breads. One of those “bucket list” type items on an old list of things I wanted to do in retirement. With the challenge in my cookbook club this month being “Genius Recipes”, this one had to be included.

The famous No Knead Bread from Jim Lahey. Catapulted into the limelight more than 10 years ago by Mark Bittman in the New York Times. According to his website, it is one of the top ten recipes that are visited there.

There are many variations. The ratios, though, are fairly constant. The one from the book is a bit different in that it calls for active dry or instant yeast. As I learned later, every other recipe calls for instant yeast. It works with active dry as that is what was in my pantry at the moment, but I think it would be better with instant.

Here is what I did. Twice, now. Once plain. Once with dried rosemary added. First, I invested in a digital scale and made this recipe using weight, instead of measuring with cups and spoons.

Not a fancy scale, but certainly useful. Zeroed out with the bowl in it. Started with 400g of bread flour. Added 5g kosher salt, 1g yeast (I just used a 1/4 tsp for the yeast as it was so little change in weight). I thought it was interesting in the recipe that the 1 1/2 cups of cool water (55-65 degrees F) to be added used 360g for the measuring.

You mix it all together and then let it sit covered with a towel in a warm corner of your kitchen, out of direct sunlight. I let my first one rise for 12 hours, the second one for 20 hours. The longer rise gave me a bread that was definitely different. This scientific approach, although simple, is really quite educational and erased my trepidation with using yeast.

After the first rise, you flour a board. Dump the wet, sticky dough and pull into a round shape. Recommendations to use parchment paper for this will decrease the messiness of using a floured towel. This second rise or 1-2 hours wrapped loosely in the towel will just about double the dough ball. I used cornmeal for my first bread, and flour for the second.

Here is the first bread.

The crunchy cornmeal coating added to the flavor. It was crusty on the outside and dense, chewy, but with lots of air bubbles inside.

The directions call for you to use a heavy covered pot, like a Dutch oven. I used a Pyrex baking dish. It has to have a lid because what you are doing is creating an oven in your oven. The dish has to be preheated for a half hour at 475 degrees before dumping the dough from the towel into it. It will spread across the bottom. If you want a higher small boule, you need a pot that size.

This was my rosemary bread, dusted with flour. It was baked, covered, for 30 minutes, and uncovered for an additional 15 minutes. I have convection ovens so that last timing with the cover off will vary for those without air circulation. The recipe calls for 15-20 minutes uncovered.

The rosemary bread rose a bit more than the first bread.

Fresh from the oven, lifted out of the pot with a large spatula. Be careful as that pot is screaming hot at 475 degrees.

I will be making this easy recipe every chance I get. I do want to try some of the variations, like using a drizzle of olive oil, and adding sliced olives. Or, making a sweet bread with mini chocolate chips and chopped walnuts.

Google NoKnead Bread, if you want to mess around in your kitchen. Me, I need to get some instant yeast and see if it makes the bread rise more than mine. The slow “fermentation” of that 18 hour rise time makes this bread. It is almost foolproof.

Thanks to the Genius Recipe book by Kristen Miglore for rekindling my interest in baking bread, without fuss.

Cookbook Club

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In my last post, where I talk about all the ways we experimented with brining turkey, I mentioned the inspiration of the cookbook club. Friday I started cooking from the 10th book, a different one every month, and sharing it on social media with other “club” members. This version of an online community is managed by Food52, a popular web site for people obviously interested in food.

The club, a closed group on Facebook, has thousands of members. A small percentage of us cook and write about it. What is so interesting to me is seeing results, and comments, successes and failures, by cooks from around the world.  Seasonal cooking as well as regional cooking are thrown for a loop when the Aussies and Kiwis from the bottom of the world, and the Asians, the Europeans, the Canadians, South Americans and those of us Stateside all try and cook from the same book with ingredients we can source.

We vote for the books, three months at a time, a few months in advance. This allows us to reserve library books, or to have a book readily available worldwide.

This month? Food52 Genius Recipes by Kristen Miglore. I am lucky to have a great county library where I can reserve books, and then use online renewals to keep them for up to nine weeks if no one else requests them. I got the book in midNovember and started reading. I like this book quite a bit. Her column on line explores these great recipes in depth, and uses input to make them easy for anyone to tackle. Tweaks to them. Hints. Substitutions.

I needed to make cookies for a cookie party. I spent Friday doing one from this book and one from the latest Ottolenghi book, SWEET. Sweet is the book of the month for the baking version of our little online community. If you have never cooked from Ottolenghi’s books, you should get your hands on any of them and just have fun. I have all of them in eBook versions. The cookbook club in June let us loose on all of his previous books.

What did I bake?

From Genius Recipes I visited an old favorite. Molasses cookies from the Silver Palate. Mine spread too much. I think I didn’t let the dough chill enough. Still, they taste great and they look like lace cookies, which make them perfect tea cookies.

From Sweet, I made these absolutely amazing cranberry, oat, and almond cookies, covered in a white chocolate glaze. These disappeared immediately at our event Saturday. Not sugary at all. There is only a half cup of sugar in the entire batch, which made 48 cookies. The white chocolate is the right touch to make these really good. Perfect with a cup of tea. The online recipe for these cookies is on the Random House UK web page, The Happy Foodie.

I am working on my baking skills this month. In my CSA share, I am getting the flour and grain shares, which will be put to use often, as I work my way through the Genius Recipe book. Jim Lahey’s famous No Knead bread is on my short list, as is an interesting one grain ingredient cracker. More on whether I do these, and if they are successful, later this month.

As for why I am active in this community. I promised myself that I would continue to challenge myself in retirement. Trying new things. Different cuisines. Tackling that fear of baking. Within our little online group, we commiserate. We encourage. We share. Some of us aren’t as good at it as others. Doesn’t matter. We enjoy cooking and by seeing the results, we become determined to try a harder recipe, and expand our knowledge of techniques.

In February, the cooking club celebrates its first anniversary by opening the month to a free-for-all with all the books we used in the first year. I joined the second month, so I didn’t cook from Art of the Pie by Kate McDermott. I will be reserving that book and facing that challenge. To me, pie crust is hard to do.  But what the heck! They may end up messy, but taste is what really counts.

My other favorites from this past 10 months? Deep Run Roots by Vivian Howard. Made in India by Meera Sodha. All the Ottolenghi books. I had three of Ottolenghi’s already on eBooks, and have downloaded the others. CSA farm shares tempt me to dig into those books for good vegetable recipes. And, if it wasn’t for Deep Run Roots, I never would have grown okra in my garden.

Or made these.

Or this.

The okra fries are so easy, and so good. Just olive oil, cumin, salt and pepper. Screaming hot oven or on the grill. Crunchy, salty, spicy. As for that awesome cauliflower cake from Ottolenghi, it will be repeated when we get cauliflower again from the CSA. It is absolutely the best show stopping addition to a pot luck party, and really not that hard to make.

What’s stopping you? Get cooking!