Tuesday, July 8, 2014

My perfect summer cocktail

On my recent trip to Chicago, after a day of bouncing in and out of restaurants and bars in Logan Square, we headed to a little street festival in the Wicker Park area (which also happened to be right next to Big Star - not a coincidence). It was hot, we were thirsty, and beer just wasn't going to cut it. One booth offered a simple cocktail - the vodka soda. Made with Prairie Organic Cucumber Vodka, it was refreshing and just perfect.  To say my friend and I fell a little in love with it might be an understatement.  Seriously, we've texted about it on more than one occasion (Including her photo below).

And while I've certainly had my share of cucumber infused cocktails over the years, the simplicity of this one is what made is so perfectly refreshing. Of course, over the long holiday weekend, the mood for a cocktail struck me, and all I could think about was that vodka soda. So I chopped up a cucumber from the CSA pick up, dumped it in a quart size mason jar, and filled the jar with vodka.  And after a short afternoon of steeping, I enjoyed a delicious cucumber vodka soda on the patio. And then another one.  And just maybe another one after that.  You can change it up by muddling in a bit of mint it or adding a squeeze of lime, but it doesn't need it.  I may never drink regular vodka again.  So, if you're sitting on a crop of cucumber (and if you're not, buy some), go make yourself a cocktail. 

What's in the bag this week?

Pretty straightforward stuff, no?  I tend to get pretty bored with zucchini after a while, but I'm sure, like me, you've noticed that zucchini is joining cauliflower as the new stand-in for grains.  While I personally don't follow a grain-free diet (and although I like cauliflower, you will never fool my tastebuds into thinking it's pizza crust), I'm always up for trying old things new ways.  Try turning zucchini into noodles with a spiralizer  or mandolin and using it your favorite pasta recipe like this Zucchini Noodles with Roasted Tomatoes recipe or shredding it and using it as a pizza crust.  Slice it lengthwise and use it as lasagna noodles. Need something sweet? Try these Zucchini Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies.  Or, try the only way I've been able to get my oldest to actually like zucchini with these Parmesan Crisps.  You can head over to my pinterest boards for more inspiration.

I'm sure we have more beets and kohlrabi coming our way in future weeks, so I have a revamped recipe to share when we do.  If you still have beets from last week and aren't the biggest fan, I ran across this Beet Lemonade from Joy the Baker that might help convert you.  If it doesn't, just add some vodka. Pin It

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Udon Noodle Soup with Bok Choy

I don't know what is going on with blogger, but it published this post prematurely. Sorry for those who were confused by an incomplete post!

Back in January I opened my mailbox to find the latest issue of Bon Appetit magazine. On the cover was a picture of Spicy Pork and Mustard Green soup that prompted me to immediately run to the grocery store, buy all the ingredients and cook it for dinner. It was spicy and warming and perfect. Despite intending to make it again as soon as possible, months passed and I never got around to it. For some reason, when I picked up my bok choy and garlic scapes last week, it reminded me of that soup. Which is odd because neither ingredient is in the original recipe. And I just happened to have the chicken bones from week one simmering into stock in the crockpot. I looked at the forecast and noted that Saturday's high was 70 degrees, as perfect as you're going to get for soup in the summer. I went to the store that morning to purchase some ground pork, returned home, and my husband informs me we're having guests over for dinner. I put the soup on hold and grilled hamburgers instead. Sunday we have friends over for a Father's Day brunch. No soup again. Monday I make tacos for my husband's birthday dinner. No soup again. Tuesday brings 90 degree heat and humidity. Not exactly soup weather. No matter, I'll just crank up the air and pretend it's soup weather. Air conditioner broken. Postpone soup again. So here we are on a hot and sweaty Wednesday, no air conditioning, and I HAVE TO MAKE THE SOUP. So I did. And I liked it. A LOT. Good news for you - the temps are about to fall, and if you're a Fresh Fork subscriber, you are about to pick up a mountain of greens, any of which could be used in this soup. Follow the original Bon Appetit recipe, or this one and swap in your collards, chard, kale, or spinach for the bok choy and the green onions for the scapes. It's all good.

Udon Noodle Soup with bok choy (Adapted from Bon Appetit)

1 lb. ground pork
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp. grated peeled ginger
1 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 Tbsp. coconut oil
Sea salt, black pepper
8 cups chicken stock
2-3 large heads baby bok choy, sliced
1 bunch garlic scapes
4 Tbsp. soy sauce
2 tsp. fish sauce
1 14 oz package of fresh udon noodles

Mix pork, garlic, ginger, pepper, red pepper, and cumin in a bowl. Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add pork mixture; season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring to crumble, until browned and cooked through. Add broth and bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 8-10 minutes. Add bok choy, garlic scapes, soy sauce and fish sauce and cook, stirring occasionally until bok choy is tender, about 5 minutes. Add udon noodles and simmer until warmed through. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

This week's bag:

Small Omnivore

1 pack pork chops (2 chops)

1 bunch Swiss chard

1 head kohlrabi

1 bunch collard greens

1 bunch radishes

1 bunch green onions

1 head lettuce

2 each zucchini

1 quart strawberries

Large Omnivore

small omnivore plus:

1 bunch spinach

1 half pint sorghum

1 bunch kale

1 pack chicken brats

Tons of greens to use this week. That original soup recipe above happened to be part of a fantastic feature on supergreens, so check that out for a few ideas. Or just throw them in smoothies, saute them and fold them into omelets or quiches, wilt them into pastas. One of my favorite things to do when I have an abundance of greens I need to use is to simply simmer them in a little stock with bacon or ham and some onion. I know radishes typically aren't on the top of everyone's favorite list, but I love them sliced and served on baguette slices with some really good butter and salt. Or this Roasted Radish and Herbed Ricotta omelet looks like a great breakfast or dinner with some strawberries on the side. They also make a great garnish for soups or tacos. Or you can combine them with the kohlrabi in this slaw. My husband is a big fan of the kohlrabi when I make it into a puree similar to this one from Barefoot Contessa (I just sub in kohlrabi for the celery root). I also thought this Kohlrabi, fennel, and apple slaw looked good, or you could try it au gratin. Sorghum is like a sweetener or syrup, try it place of honey or maple syrup in recipes or as a topping for biscuits.

I'm spending the weekend in Chicago with some friends, which in my world means food. You can check out what I'm eating there by following me at @melalten on instagram.

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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Rhubarb Scones & Strawberry Jam

When I got to my CSA pick-up site last week, they had strawberries for sale. I bought two containers. Then yesterday I realized one of the local farms opened for strawberry picking. I loaded the kids up, got there at 9:00, and by 9:30 had 8 quarts of strawberries to bring home. THEN, I look at the CSA newsletter for the week and see I'm getting strawberries as part of my share. Is it possible to have to many strawberries? Perhaps not, but I'm guessing we may make ourselves sick trying to eat them all before they rot. So we ate strawberries for a snack. We had strawberries and whipped cream for dessert. I made strawberry jam.

You know that episode of Friends where Monica has the jam plan and Joey eats jam with a spoon? That is Steven, my 6-year-old right now. He's had jam on toast, PB & J, and now he's resorted to just a spoonful of jam as he passes through the kitchen.

Today I am still facing a mountain of strawberries. I made a strawberry rhubarb sauce this morning to use on pancakes, waffles, and ice cream. Maybe I'll make more jam. I'm pretty sure the jam would pair nicely with the whole wheat rhubarb & ginger scones I made this week. They are a little nutty from the whole wheat, a little tart from the rhubarb, and a little spicy from the crystalized ginger. Strawberry jam would add a bit more sweet. I think I just decided on my afternoon treat (Did I just rhyme?)

Whole Wheat Rhubarb & Ginger Scones (inspired by Brown Eyed Baker)

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 T. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
6 T. cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 cup small-diced rhubarb
1/2 cup chopped crystallized ginger
1 large egg
3/4 cup whole milk, plus more for brushing the tops
Raw sugar for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 425*. combine flours, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Cut in butter with a pastry blender or two knives until mixture looks like breadcrumbs. Add rhubarb and ginger. In a medium bowl, whisk together egg and milk. Add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Consistency will be thick! Drop spoonfuls of dough 1/2 inch apart onto a large ungreased baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Scones may be as large or small as you like, but be sure to make them at least 1-inch thick. Brush tops with milk, sprinkle with raw sugar and bake 13 minutes or until tops are golden. Let cool and serve with butter, jam, or whipped cream.

Easy Strawberry Jam (From Ball Canning)

4 cups coarsely crushed strawberries
4 1/2 T. of reduced sugar pectin
3 cups sugar

Place berries in a large saucepan. Gradually stir in pectin. Bring mixture to a full boil over high heat stirring constantly. Add sugar and continue stirring. Return mixture to a full boil for one minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, skim foam if necessary. Pack into jars and freeze or process for longer storage if desired.

On to this week's bag:

My add-ons this week are simple staples: milk, eggs, honey, pasta, coffee, and butter.

We've been set up with all the ingredients necessary for a Mexican fiesta. And if you know me, you know I have a slight obsession with chorizo. Chorizo in beans, chorizo in tacos, chorizo in dips. Chorizo in everything! Since Sunday is Father's Day and Monday happens to be my husband's birthday, I let him decide most of the meals for the week. The ground beef is simply turning into hamburgers on the grill, and the chorizo is joining some zucchini and mushrooms in one of our favorite taco recipes (I use much more chorizo than this recipe calls for!). Of course I'll serve the tacos with the corn crackers and some cilantro spiked guacamole. I'm thinking an Asian style soup with the bok choy, inspired by this awesome recipe from Bon Appetit. I'll sauté the spinach with eggs, or toss it with the Ohio City pasta I added to my order this week. Mixed greens for salads and on top of the burgers. The kids will eat the broccoli with lunch. So that leaves us with the garlic scapes. Grill them up with a steak or burger, use them in a simple pesto, chop them, sauté them, and toss them with pasta, or add them to soup.

Seriously, Steven just made his fourth PB & J of the day. Looks like I need to make more jam.

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Wednesday, June 4, 2014

This post needs to be quick as I'm dealing with a tired and cranky and sick little girl today who will just not allow me to put her down. She was also up at 1:45 this morning and will not go back to sleep.

If you missed yesterday's post, here is a quick snapshot of what I'm working with this week:

Most of these are pretty simple. I would guess the trickiest ingredients for most people are the pea shoots and the rhubarb. Pea shoots have a mild pea flavor and are comprised of leaves and tendrils. I've only used them a handful of times, typically in salads or added to a stir-fry. They would also be a fantastic garnish for any dish that included fresh peas (like this pasta dish or soup) I'm leaning toward a salad this week, similar to this one Green Goddess Detox Salad from Pinch of Yum. As for the rhubarb, Paul has already told me NOT to even think about making a pie with it. Which is absolutely fine since I don't have the greatest track record with pastry dough (read: it usually gets thrown out in favor of a store bought crust). I have a couple of scone recipes saved to pinterest and I have pretty much everything on hand to make this Vanilla Bean Rhubarb-Ginger scone recipe. I may even try making them with some of the wheat flour I'll be getting. Or, since I got a fancy new automatic canning system for my birthday, I may give a shot at some strawberry rhubarb jam. These Rhubarb Custard Bars look pretty awesome, too, as does this French toast recipe. I have actually never made anything with rhubarb before, so it could be fun to experiment!

My tentative plan for the rest of the ingredients:

-Stromboli with the sausage links and spinach or kale (make pizza crust using some of the wheat flour)

-Black bean tacos or quesadillas

-Either Roast the chicken in the oven or put it on our electric smoker whole (be sure to save the bones for stock!) and serve it with cornbread

-A quiche or soft scrambled eggs (please, for the love of God, do not overcook your eggs! Low and slow while constantly stirring yields the most delicious scrambled eggs!) with spinach or kale and some fresh chives from my garden

-The broccoli with a stir-fry or my kids' favorite sweet & sour chicken inspired by this recipe here

My add-ons for the week were just some milk and fresh pasta for a quick easy meal since we are crazy busy through the weekend and won't be home much to cook.

And now I hear the little one up way too soon from her nap. I didn't get a chance to double check all of the links, but I wanted to get this published for those of you picking up a Fresh Fork order today. Till next time.

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Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Here we go again

I'm not gonna lie. I don't know that I should even think about starting up this blog again. Seriously. It's taken me ten minutes to write the first two sentences. I can't take a picture to save my life. I have no idea how to make the page design look half way decent (really, who can help me on this?!) But I am super excited for summer CSA season. And numerous people have mentioned this blog to me lately. And I've been so focused on other things these days that my time in the kitchen has been minimal, which I hate.

I may or may not have just broken up a fight between my boys.

So I'm giving it another go. It may be a little different this time around. I may not (gasp!) create a weekly meal plan. My posts may not always just focus on the CSA. But I'll do my best to share some recipes and ideas and hopefully give you some inspiration on how to use your seasonal ingredients. And excuse my writing skills. They are a bit rusty these days.

I should mention for those that are new to the blog, the CSA my family subscribes to is Fresh Fork Market. We are going all out this summer and purchased the large full access share. This means I get everything in the small bag, plus the large add-ons, PLUS credits to spend on other items each week. Without further delay, here is what I expect in my bag Thursday:

Now I'm off to gather my thoughts on how to use everything.

And for the record, I was only interrupted six times while writing this post. Pin It

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Week 12: Meal Plan

As promised, here is my meal plan for the week.  Again, I am sticking to simple dinners that mostly rely on pantry staples combined with my CSA items.

Friday:  Appetizer Dinner - Crudites (Cukes, tomatoes, radishes, bell peppers, & carrots) with Tzatziki & Hummus for dipping, Baguette slices, Cheese

Saturday:  Grilled Brats, Southern Style Wax Beans

Sunday:  Mushroom & Kale Quesadillas (Eat, Live, Run)

Monday:  Pasta with Fresh Tomatoes & Basil

Tuesday:  A riff on Couscous Casserole (Mark Bittman), using this week's patty pan squash and the ground beef from a previous CSA delivery.

Wednesday:  Leftovers or Breakfast for Dinner

Other recipes you may like based on this week's delivery:

Patty Pan Squash with Eggs (Sunset)
Buttery Patty Pan Squash with Basil (Food Renegade)
Marinated Tomatoes (ButterYum)
Melon & Crispy Prosciutto Salad (Confessions of a Recipe Junkie)
Artichoke, Kale, & Ricotta Pie (The Kitchn)
Shaved Radish Sandwiches with Herb Butter (Bon Appetit)

French Breakfast Radishes

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Thursday, August 23, 2012

Weeks 11 & 12: Bag Contents & (Non) Meal Plan

I realize I missed last week's post.  I didn't forget; it wasn't that I couldn't find the time. Quite honestly, I just never took the time to sit down and make a meal plan for the week.  I thought about it, and I looked at recipes in my magazines and cookbooks.  I browsed through pinterest every morning while I drank my coffee.  But when I actually tried to compose a daily plan of what to serve for dinner, I drew a blank.  This is not to say that we ordered take-out everyday and let our food go to waste (although we did make a last minute decision to visit Barroco Grill one night - an excellent decision); instead, I took stock of the basics I keep in the pantry and refrigerator - things like grains, beans,  stock, cheese, etc - and designed easy meals using those items with my CSA delivery. 

Week 11 bag contents:
-3 lbs red potatoes
-6 ears sweet corn
-2 leeks
-1 bulb fennel
-1.5 lbs heirloom tomatoes
-2 oz basil
-2 lbs slicing tomatoes
-1 lb grassfed ground beef
-2 lbs peaches
-1 eggplant

Large bag additions:
-2 yellow squash
-bag of small red onions
-3 "Italian frier" peppers
-1 canteloupe
-1/2 lb swiss chard
-1 bulb garlic
-1 piece havarti cheese

So what did I serve my family for dinner?  Using just my basics and CSA items, we ate a potato, corn, and leek chowder; a crock pot meal of sausage, fennel, potatoes, and cabbage; a cheesy quinoa casserole loaded with squash and eggplant; panini sandwiches with tomato, mozzarella, and basil; and crockpot refried beans served with sauteed onion, pepper, and chard in tortillas.  If you're a non-meal planner, there are tons of meals you can make based off items you may regularly keep in the house and take little effort.  Here are some of my go-to ideas:

-Make a batch of roasted/sauted/grilled/stir-fried vegetables.  Toss them with pasta, serve over rice, or fold into a quesadilla

-Soup. Combine chopped vegetables, herbs, and boxed or homemade stock; add in some meat or beans if you like.  Make it even easier by dumping all the ingredients it in the crockpot first thing in the morning.

-Breakfast for dinner.  Vegetable hash topped with a fried egg, pancakes with fruit, etc. 

-Sandwiches.  Press veggies and cheese between slices of thick bread for an easy panini sandwich.  Get creative - almost anything can be made into a sandwich, including leftovers!

-Beans.  Using a basic crockpot bean recipe, add whatever veggies and meat you have on hand and let it simmer away all day.  Eat like a stew, or serve with tortillas or rice.

I'm trying to get myself a bit more organized this week and at least attempting to make a rough meal plan. I'll try to get it posted with more recipe ideas sometime tomorrow.  In the meantime,  here are the items I've got to work with this week:

Week 12 bag contents:
-1 bag of oats
-1 bunch red russian kale
-2 ct pattypan squash
-1 lb wax beans
-1 bunch French Breakfast radishes
-1 cantaloupe
-2 Candy onions
-2 green peppers
-1 pint cherry tomatoes
-1 package (1.25 lbs) green onion bratwursts, made from Berkshire pork
Large bag additions:
-1 piece grassfed swiss cheese from Heritage Grass Farms (12 oz)
-2.5 lbs San Marzano roma tomatoes
-1 bunch carrots with tops
-2 cucumbers

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