Friday, December 19, 2008

Titus Farms CSA

Community Supported Agriculture has become more and more available, and I just signed up for a share for next summer and fall!  The basic premise is that you buy a share of a farm's output in advance and then you get a box of food every week (or in my case every other week).  There's a slight risk because you can't count on getting specific crops because the weather may screw things up, but most farms grow such a wide variety of veggies, fruits, and herbs that it's very likely that you'll get a whole lot of things even if they lose a few.  And they're usually very affordable; although it seems like a lot of money when you pay it at once, it's far less than you would pay for veggies at the grocery store.  Plus you get to support a local farm!

I chose to sign up for the Titus Farms CSA mainly because you can by a half share every other week.  I definitely can't use everything that comes in a whole share, and even a half share every week might be too much some weeks.  This way I won't feel overwhelmed with produce and can still make my weekly trips to the market to supplement my box with a few items that Titus may not grow.  I got to know the people at Titus this year, and they seem to be really nice people and have quality produce (I know that I've had their cabbage, potatoes, leeks, and peppers, and all were quite good).  Oh, and the other good thing about Titus is that you get to pick what's in your box each week.  So, if they have 15 kinds of things one week, you get to pick a certain amount of things so that you get what you want, while still getting to try new things.  I can't wait for June!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Meatloaf with oats

The beginning of this week was brutally cold (highs in the teens with wind chills in the single digits).  That, combined with a stressful week (including constant fire alarm tests!) meant more comfort food.  You thought I was kidding, didn't you?  I don't think I've had meatloaf in about 4 years, but that's what came to mind.  I don't like anything fancy with my meatloaf, so I made this basic recipe from Quaker.  I didn't measure anything, and I think I changed the proportions quite a bit (I only had about 3/4 lb meat, but probably used closer to the actual amounts of everything else that the recipe called for).  I also used tomato paste instead of sauce and added some minced garlic.  It's really good, especially with the roasted red potatoes that I made with it.  It has been a bit dry warmed up, but it was perfectly moist the night I made it.  I'm not sure what to do about that, but it's not bad enough to worry. 

I already miss the wheat berries.  The salad got so many compliments, and I had several people ask for the recipe (and MANY requests to explain wheat berries - "no, you don't harvest the flour").  Anyway, I gave some away, and I somewhat regret that because it only gave me enough for about 2 more servings.  I suppose I'll have to make more while I'm home...

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Wheat berry salad with cranberries, apples, and pecans

I'm going to a holiday party tomorrow night and need to bring something, but it has to be something I can make in advance because I'll have to go straight from the lab. I was looking around for recipes, and thought that this would be a great time to try out the wheat berries that Dad got me for my birthday. I used a recipe for wheat berry salad as a guide and went to town. After the berries were cooked, I tasted a few to make sure they were done, but I couldn't stop eating them plain! Anyway, I threw everything else with them, and it's really good. It's a good thing I'm really full from eating the oranges after I juiced them because otherwise I might not have any salad left to bring to the party. I bet it will be even better tomorrow once the flavors have gelled together.

I'm glad I like the wheat berries because I picked up some that were on the clearance rack at the natural foods store (I'm not sure why they were on clearance, and I'm sure they won't be as good as the ones Dad got, but they'll do). I'll have to experiment more with them (next on the docket might be a risotto...).

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Crock pot jambalaya and a roasted vegetable marathon (carrots, rutabaga, potatoes, cabbage, butternut squash)

I've done a lot of cooking in the last few days because starting tomorrow I'll be in the lab until at least 8 every night for the next 4 days, and I need to have leftovers ready.  This weekend I made chicken and shrimp jambalaya in the crock pot.  I screwed it up a little bit, but it tastes really good.  While it still had a little while to cook (according to the recipe), most of the liquid had been absorbed by the rice.  I wasn't thinking about the fact that maybe it was almost done, so I added more water.  Of course the rice had absorbed all that it could and I couldn't make any evaporate.  So, it turned out somewhat gummy, but the flavors are still great.  I think that my crock pot cooks faster than the one they used for that recipe book (the grits were done faster, too), so I need to keep that in mind next time.

Then yesterday I went crazy with the roasting.  I did a medley of root vegetables - carrots, rutabaga, and potatoes - tossed in olive oil, thyme, and rosemary.  That took forever to cook, but it's very hearty and is the perfect winter food.  I also did some green beans (a repeat of Thanksgiving) and some cabbage.  The cabbage is super tasty this way.  I cut it into small wedges, tossed it in olive oil and salt and pepper, and then poured some balsamic on it once it was cooked.  The only problem was that some of the outer leaves fell off of the wedges and cooked a lot faster than the big chunks.  They started to get burnt before the other was even tender.  Next time I'll probably separate all of the wedges a bit more.  I highly recommend trying this, but keep an eye on it and stir it frequently.

And today I roasted more butternut squash for the program's holiday party.  I forgot about the fact that my hand peeled all day after cutting up the squash for Thanksgiving, but quickly remembered when it got bad today.  After a few google searches, I found out that it's a very common reaction.  Perhaps next time I should use a glove while cutting it up.  Anyway, I thought I had made too much, but was excited to bring home leftovers.  Apparently I was wrong because it was one of the first things to go at the party.  Oh well, at least people enjoyed it!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Crock pot grits and green chiles, chili, and mashed potatoes (I mean cauliflower!)

I've been in the mood for comfort foods since I've been back in Michigan (and apparently also in the mood for foods starting with 'C').  It's all because it's been snowing a lot and dark by 4, and that leads to seasonal depression.

I've been dying to try out my new crock pot (thanks Mammom and Papa!), but I haven't been home for more than a few days since I got it.  It finally got a trial run on Monday.  I needed a recipe with a short cooking time because I didn't want to leave it on all day before I tested it out a time or two, but I couldn't stand the thought of waiting til the weekend to try it.  Luckily I found a recipe in one of Dad's books for green chile grits.  This was perfect because I got some local stone-ground yellow grits the last time I was in Atlanta, and kept meaning to cook some.  About the time the grits were done I added some browned turkey sausage slices.  It was so good (and still is!).  I'm not sure why, but things are always better when you cook them for a long time at lower temps.  I found a blog by a woman who made a New Year's resolution to use her crock pot every day in 2008.  That's quite excessive (although sometimes she uses it for non-food things), but she has some good recipes.  I'm excited to try some out!

Today I made some chili.  Al gave me his Chili recipe a while ago, so I finally got it out and gave it a shot.  I only made 1/3 of a recipe because I wasn't in the mood to invite the whole neighborhood, so here's the reduced version with my adjustments:

2 Tbl butter (I didn't use it - just coated the pot in cooking spray)
2 medium onions, sliced
1 lb ground beef (I used 3/4 lb because it worked out more conveniently)
1 can (20 oz) tomatoes (I used 28 oz can diced tomatoes)
2/3 can (6 oz) tomato paste (I used a whole can)
1 tsp salt (I used 1/2 tsp)
2/3 tsp MSG (no thanks)
1/6 tsp tabasco
1 Tbl chili powder
1 can (20 oz) kidney beans (I used 15 oz can)

Melt butter, add onions, and cook until tender.  Add ground beef and cook until brown.  Add everything else except beans, cover and simmer for 45 min.  Add beans and simmer 15 min.

It was good.  Probably not the best chili I've ever had (I may add a few more dashes of tabasco to give it more of a kick), but I'm still excited to eat leftovers.  Perhaps if I'd used the butter and msg it would have been wonderful.  I was excited to try out some of the ground beef that I picked up from the Amish people at my farmers' market (along with the sausage in the grits) before it closed for the winter.  They called it "lean", but the label just said "ground beef."  There was hardly any fat that came out when I browned it, so it must be extremely lean, but it had a really good flavor.  And the sausage was good too!

And finally, I made some mashed cauliflower today.  I boiled the florets until they were falling apart (about 20 min).  Then I let it drain for a while to get as much water off as possible, but it was still wet enough that I didn't add any milk.  I added a little bit of butter, salt, garlic powder (just for you, Dad), and cheese (I used Havarti because it was already grated, but I'm sure anything would be fine).  It is SOOO good, and I swear that it tastes exactly like potatoes.

Settle in for a lot more soup/stews and homey foods until the weather gets better (maybe around July??).

Thanksgiving: turkey, roasted butternut squash, bulgur pilaf, lentil salad, roasted green beans

One of the reasons I've come to hate grad school lately is because it's not challenging anymore.  Sure, it's more frustrating than I could ever imagine, but that's because of things completely out of my control.  That's why I've had so much fun trying new things in the kitchen - it gives me some of the challenge that I crave in life.  And I guess I decided to give myself the ultimate challenge of cooking most of the things for Thanksgiving this year.

As Thanksgiving approached, I became quite nervous.... mostly about the turkey.  I figured that if I screwed anything else up it wouldn't be a big deal, but you can't have Thanksgiving without turkey.  Luckily there were plentiful Thanksgiving episodes on the Food Network, and I decided to try out Alton's recipe from Good Eats.  I think the brine (plus taking it out as soon as the breasts got to 161 degrees) left it moist, and overall it was a success.

Thanksgiving turkey
Plus, it allowed me to get creative.  Hey, you might as well put the squash to good use, right?

Thanksgiving turkey in brine
(it's holding the turkey down in the brine)

I also made a sausage and mushroom dressing (with a recipe from Cooking Light).  I used all whole wheat bread (from a loaf I made earlier in the week), substituted chicken sausage and stock instead of turkey, and left out the marjoram (we didn't have any).  It could have used a little bit more moisture, but I thought it was good.  I also made the bulgur pilaf and lentil salad that I've written about in the past, and roasted butternut squash with lemon, thyme, and parmesan and garlic-roasted green beans with shallots and almonds from Kalyn's Kitchen.

I couldn't have done it without help, especially from Eric and Mom, in the last hour or so when everything was cooking at once.  Mom conveniently cut her finger that morning, but luckily Eric helped me out with all of the chopping, and they both helped me keep track of everything once things got chaotic.  Despite being somewhat stressed about the fate of the turkey, I had a lot of fun cooking (especially since I had good company).  Now I have to find another challenge...

Katie and Eric cooking Thanksgiving dinner