Go berry picking (#11)

5.27.2010 Comments: (0)
Everytime we go pick up our CSA box, we get a newsletter along with it. It tells us what is in our box for that week, what the vegetables are, how to store them, and some recipes for how to use them (which has been handy). The second time we picked up our load of veggies, our newsletter had a little headline "Don't forget to sign up for strawberry days!" Turns out, the farm plants twice as many strawberries each year as they predict they will need for the CSA boxes and then opens the farm up to visitors four days a year so we can come pick our own berries.

So, we of course signed up and found ourselves driving up to the farm one lovely sunny Saturday afternoon. We found the farm, drove around and couldn't find a living soul to figure out where the strawberries were. Because we weren't supposed to be there until Sunday. Awesome. We wrapped up Saturday with some outlet shopping and a trip to Costco.

Anyway, on Sunday, we went back to the farm, slathered on some sunscreen and joined about a hundred other folks who were also out picking. Lots and lots of kids, which I can't imagine trying to wrangle and explain the art of strawberry picking to. Strawberries grow close to the ground, the plants probably only grow  about 10 inches, and the berries often lay directly on the ground - there is a lot of reaching and bending involved. Even so, Dan and I persevered and picked about 5.5 pounds of berries to take home with us. We just finished cutting them all up for dessert tonight and we picked them almost 2 weeks ago. I'm super impressed with how long they've kept in our fridge.

It's also sort of boggling my mind how achieving one goal (CSA) directly led to another one being achieved as well. Hopefully this sort of karma continues. There clearly has to be something to the theory that if you make your goals/dreams known, then others will somehow help you achieve them.

That being said, is there anything on my list that you also want to do? Let's make that happen. Or, is there anything you want to do that I can help with? Let's make that happen too.

Transition from plastic to other materials in the kitchen (#34)

5.21.2010 Comments: (3)
We have been making a big effort to transition our entire kitchen from plastic to mostly stainless steel and glass. It took awhile to complete it because every time I thought we were done, we noticed something else was plastic. First we replaced all our mixing bowls and storage containers with Pyrex bowls and food storage. Then, duh, our colanders were plastic and...oops, plastic mixing spoons and spatulas. And, oh hell, our cutting board. Then, shopping trip to replace them with pretty wooden spoons, recycled paper cutting board, and metal colander. And...maybe some other things.

The hardest thing to find were measuring cups that weren't total pieces of crap. We have metal measuring spoons, and glass measuring cups for liquids. But measuring cups continued to elude us. It was really difficult to find options that weren't really flimsy. We found to be any sort of substantial, they had to be one piece of metal instead of cups with the handles fused on separately. And...most of those sets were $40 or more (Paula Deen's were $70). Um....for measuring cups? How about...no? But, when I was looking on a friend's wedding registry, I noticed a $20 set that was exactly what I was looking for, score.

We do still have some plastic items, for specific purposes. We're looking for a non-plastic ladle that holds a decent amount and isn't ridiculously expensive. We kept a silicone spatula to use on our non stick pans, because you can't use metal on them. Also, ice cube trays. Where the hell do you find non-plastic ice cube trays?

Anyway, I'm counting this goal complete because all the things I really wanted to find have been replaced. A lot of people have asked me why this was a goal in the first place. I'm not going to write a long winded report about studies and everything, but the more I read about plastic and chemicals leeching into our food, the more I just didn't want to chance it. Some plastics were safe a few years ago, and now are known to be harmful. Maybe the same thing will happen with metal or glass, but getting rid of plastic is a step I'm taking for now.

The measuring cups in action:

The purée button is my favorite

5.20.2010 Comments: (1)

In the last year, I've learned how much I melt over a well crafted soup. There's soup and then there's soup! I can strangely relate to the passion the Soup Nazi put into his creations on Seinfeld. I can distinctly recall some of the most flavorful and perfectly concocted soups I've had recently (and for when you're in the Bay Area, many of those have been seemingly simple and utterly astounding sips of bliss at Digs Bistro).

Attempting to create my own bowl of fabulousness has become a new found love affair almost entirely attributed to the purée button. I can't really explain it in any logical, reasonable manner that will make any sense, but I just love that darn button! KK will tell you that I actually get a bit disheartened when we make a soup that doesn't call for any purée festevities of any kind - as if it's less of a soup because it isn't puréed! KK dreams of a stand mixer; mine might be an immersion mixer. Regardless, KK says we can stop buying soups in a can since ours have turned out so well. I say it's because of the purée button. But all the fresh ingredients and significantly less reliance on salt to add flavor probably give us an edge up on the canned stuff too.

You'll find the bulk of these ingredients fresh in the summer months. And just a quick lesson learned for today:
  • Lime juice is AMAZING. Try it fresh squeezed over a veggie pizza... holy goodness in your mouth!!!
Southwestern Corn Chowder
Serves 4. Or 3 if you like big bowls of soup like me.

1/2 cup sweet onion chopped
Sauté in 1 tablespoon olive oil in a soup pot until soft.

2.5 cups corn (equates to roughly 5 small-ish cobs)
3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
Add and cook for 10 minutes. Remove 1 cup of solids & 1/3 cup of broth and place in blender. Purée until smooth. Return purée to soup pot and and heat until nearly boiling.

1 medium red sweet pepper chopped
1 small tomato peeled, seeded, and chopped
Stir in and heat another minute.

1/2 fresh lime
3 tablespoons fresh cilantro finely chopped
Squeeze lime into soup and top with cilantro immediately before serving. Garnish options include Tobasco sauce, lime wedges, plain yogurt, or sour cream. (Or if you're classy like us, the salt from a Ritz cracker was a perfect match!)

I blame the French

5.19.2010 Comments: (1)

I blame Julia Childs. Actually, no I blame the French. Why does everything in cooking sound more difficult than it really is? Is it to be fanciful or is it to make you feel as if you could never actually accomplish this feat on your own. ...cooked in a wine reduction sauce and served with a tossed jullienne salad... instead of ...we simmered some wine and cut some vegetables in long thin strips.

I believe the answer to my question lies in the fact that even the simplest task requires significant concentration and skill. The knife skills alone in chopping, slicing, dicing, mincing, creating rondelles or chiffonades such that every cut is identical only comes with dedication and practice. Who cares about identical cut pieces anyway?

Just in case you didn't know, today's cooking lessons learned:
  • Similarly sized pieces will cook the same and thus have a similar consistency/texture throughout your dish. No more biting into one perfect bite of potato or a bigger bite that didn't cook through or a smaller piece that was overdone. Maybe you all already knew that, but I had never really considered the science behind that before I started cooking regularly. You put it in a pot and it cooks!
  • Google how to chiffonade. Seriously made my life cutting greens, leaves, and basil so much easier!
Back to simple tasks. I believe it is Chef Tom Colicchio (Top Chef anyone?) who said his test for chefs applying for a job was to have them cook a single egg. Seems simple, right? After recently making a single attempt for the perfect poached egg, I realize the complexity of the task. One, I don't know how TomTom likes his eggs. Screwed from the get go! Not too mentioned picking ingredients to add, how to plate, how much heat, do you cook it through or leave it a little runny. My brain hurts. Last but seemingly most important, do you add cheese or not!?!

So here's the real question to you all: How do you like your eggs? If you need help, here's 100 ways to Crack an Egg.

We attempted a soufflé. Again, always thought they were complicated. This was SUPER easy, light and delicious!

Brunch Soufflé with Strawberries
Serves 4.

3 cups strawberries (or other fresh fruit of choice)
2 tablespoons sugar
Sprinkle fruit with sugar. Toss gently. Set aside.

1/2 tablespoon butter
Preheat oven to 375F. While oven heats, place butter in a 9 inch pie pan and place in oven to melt. Swirl pan to grease bottom and sides.

3 eggs
1.5 cups milk
Beat together with mixer or blender

3/4 cup flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
Add and beat until smooth. Pour batter into pie pan and bake until edges are golden brown and center is set, 25-30 minutes. Top with berries and plain yogurt.

Bon apétit!

We are what we eat

5.18.2010 Comments: (3)

I've taken far too long of an absence from being a contributing writer to our blog as opposed to merely proofing and editing the KK show here. We're changing all that right now. It's a big day. I have a lengthly list of life updates and topics that somehow never learned how to magically write themselves into interesting posts. There's not an app for that yet. But really, it's an interesting challenge to write about our lives and only hope it is intriguing enough to spawn comments and continued motivation to share. On the other hand, instead of writing about it, I'd much rather just show you our lives.

I don't want to alarm you, but we like food. A LOT. Shocking, I know. Especially considering we don't ever talk about it or blog about it or anything. But then I realized we have never actually written about our own cooking. (Don't worry, we're working on new blogs to discuss other people's cooking too.)

We didn't eat like this before. And if you look at the country as a whole, we're pretty sure most people don't either. Supposedly the trend is swinging back. But, if the saying, 'You are what you eat' is true, then I'm pretty sure we're a couple of organic, sustainable, no added hormone, grit in your teeth hippies. The grit in your teeth isn't to be trifled with. It also means washing greens is time consuming and we suck at it.

The aftermath of joining a CSA is of course figuring out how to cook all the stuff into something appetizing you actually want to put into your body. A few years ago, I don't think I could have told you what Swiss chard was, told the difference between green garlic and green onions, or known that egg yolks are actually naturally much more golden yellow than most of us likely know.

Now I know this isn't actually our food blog, but I'm declaring this Food Week here! Mainly because it'll force me to post once a day, you to check once a day, and KK isn't here to stop me from such a declaration at this time.

We regularly cook 3 or 4 nights at home with all our local fresh goodness. So here's a few cooking lessons we've learned along the way, along with a recipe, and photographic evidence.
  • Best lesson we've learned: Fresh produce tastes amazing!
  • Best cooking advice we have to give: Don't screw up things that taste amazing.
  • Also, don't burn the kitchen down. I'm sure KK is eager to post about my attempts at this one.
  • Balsamic anything is scrumptious. For example, onions grilled in balsamic to top a burger with, balsamic glazed asparagus, balsamic cheesecake (totally made up, but I bet it'd be good!)
Maple Walnut Scones + Chilled Strawberry Soup

(These are two separate recipes that I decided to combine)

Maple Walnut Scones
Yields 10-12 scones.

3.5 cups flour
1 cup walnuts finely chopped
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
(we added a healthy dose of brown sugar in here too)
Combine thoroughly.

2/3 cup butter chilled
Cut in until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

1 cup milk
1/2 cup maple syrup
Stir in and work into soft dough. Knead 5-6 times. Roll out to 1/2 inch thick and about 7 inch round. Cut into 10-12 wedges. Place on greased baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven at 425F for 15-18 minutes or until golden.

Serves perfectly with a bit of honey in the morning or drowning in strawberry soup for desert.

Chilled Strawberry Soup
Serves 6.

1 cup apple juice
3/4 cup water
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
Combine in saucepan and bring to boil over medium heat. Remove from heat and let cool.

3 cups strawberries
1/4 cup water
Puree until smooth in blender. Pour into a large bowl.

2 cups plain yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla
Add to pureed strawberries with apple juice mixture. Cover and refrigerate until well chilled.

It's more smoothie or shake than soup, but I still licked the plate, so enjoy!

Sending you elsewhere

5.14.2010 Comments: (0)
I've hit a bit of writer's block. I don't feel like I have anything interesting to talk about, even though we are doing a lot lately. So, I thought I'd just go ahead and entertain you by sending you elsewhere. Have fun!

13 year old rocking it OUT

Not so mindless entertainment

Because it's important to mind your manners

Maybe you've met her?

The Uniform Project's year in review

Why haven't I visited these places?

Hopefully, soon I'll be out my writing funk. Until then, I think I have enough kitty photos to hold you over.

Join a CSA (#31)

5.09.2010 Comments: (1)

CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. Basically, you pay a farm directly, and every so often you get a box of whatever fruits and vegetables they grow on their farm delivered to you. I'd been wanting to do this for awhile, because I love the idea of the people who grow the crop actually getting paid for it directly, rather than selling it for less than what it is worth to large companies, who sell it to grocery stores, who sell it to you. Also, cuts way down on the amount the food has to travel before it gets to you. This way it gets picked, and delivered...that's all.

The CSA we chose has a pretty wide distribution in the Bay Area and they have the option of pasture raised eggs, which I'm pretty excited about. The picture shows everything we got in our box last week. We get a box every other week because it is actually a LOT of food in there.

If you click on the picture to make it larger, you can see: swiss chard (leafy green with bright red stems), radishes (small, purple and white), onions (huge and purple), a bundle of fresh rosemary, fava beans (right in the middle, they look like huge pea pods), carrots, a bag of fresh baby spinach, asparagus, green onions, strawberries, sweet potatoes and the eggs. The paper bag on the left side has dried peaches in it.

We've picked up two boxes so far, and we're pretty happy with it. It does take some adjusting to, and it does help if you've been comfortable making dishes that rely on vegetables, which we'd gotten used to. But now, we get our box and then have to plan our recipes and go to the farmer's market to pick up anything else we want/need. Also - this is all fresh picked, harvested. That bag of spinach still had dirt and mud, so it is a little bit more time intensive to clean/prepare, but we enjoy it.

I'm not sure we'll stick with this specific farm (we have two more boxes to go on our trial run) but I think the CSA idea may stick. Either way, goal complete.

Can. Not. Take. It. Anymore.

5.07.2010 Comments: (1)
While the blog has undergone a mini makeover, I am SO TIRED of Blogger. We will probably be migrating soon to a new site, stay tuned.

Also, Dan started a (small) fire in our kitchen. We're down two kitchen towels, a knife block, and some knives. Full story to come.