Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Raspberry Tarts

Just for Fun - Raspberry Tarts

A sweet old Italian man lives on the corner; he has basically adopted my cat and my boys. Minnie, the cat, actually spends more time with him than at our house. I am trying to convince her to bring her dead birds trophies to him, not me. This week Tony, the neighbor, brought me two big bowls of fresh raspberries that he picked out of some friend's garden. He gave me one bowl on Sunday and a big bag today. They are so fresh and mushy that I had to do something with them quick or they would be no good. My friend dropped her kids off with me for a few hours today, so we made pies. The current Martha Stewart Magazine cover has cute little berry tarts with stars and stripes lattice crusts. The picture was our inspiration, but with a 5 and 8 year old we did not quite pull of Martha quality. I like to think our pies are better for their creativity and taste just as good!

Raspberry Tarts
Source: the basic recipe found in most cook books, magazines and websites for any berry pie.

4 rolls of prepared pie dough
4 cups fresh raspberries
1 cup sugar
Juice from 1/2 a lemon
1/4 cup tapioca
1 egg
a few teaspoons of sugar to top it

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Mix berries, sugar, lemon juice and tapioca in a big bowl. Line the bottom of a small pan with one pie dough. I used disposable small fudge pans so I could give them away,you could just make one pie in a standard pie pan. Trim pie crust to fit pan. Fill pans with berries evenly. Roll out, on flat drt work surface, two additional pie crusts. Use pastry tools and cookie cutters to make fun shapes to create lattice work pie crust. Place pieces on top to create a lattice or fun design. Brush top pie crust with an egg wash and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 10 minutes at 425 degrees then drop heat to 350 degrees and bake another 30 minute or until crust is brown and berries are bubbly. Cool and serve with whipped cream. Delicious!

This is the first bowl Tony gave me. He gave me more today fresh off the berry bushes.

Mixed the berries with sugar, lemon juice and tapioca. Save a few pretty ones for the top of the tarts.

Berries in the pie crust. Abigale is topping it with the firm berries.

The Martha magazine covered with our crust work. Embarrassing - I don't own pastry tools or even any good cookie cutters. We used Play Dough tools. Washed them and they totally worked! Had a nice star fish tool to make stars with.

Ready for the oven, egg washed and sprinkled, with a heavy little hand, with sugar.

Still bubbling as they come out of the oven! One went home with Declan and Abigail, my little helpers. The other was cut in half and sent to Tony, our raspberry fairy.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

CSA Week 2

I was so proud of myself last week, I used everything, no waste! Consuming all this week will be harder - holy lettuce! Going to be a big salad week. Got 5 heads of salad greens. Also received some great things like green beans, yellow squash, cabbage and a huge thing of basil. Got another darn kohlrabi, this time it is purple. Hope the purple one is more exciting. I think I'll start this week with a big batch of pesto from the basil. I grow basil too so I should be able to pull of a nice big bowl of pesto. I bought some ground turkey and think I'll make stuffed cabbage. Planning a soup with the chard this week and any other veggies I can throw in it, probably some purple kohlrabi. And on the side or every meal will be a big big salad, with lots of radish!

Week Two Box
3 heads of lettuce
2 bunches of mixed salad greens
1 bunch Swiss Chard
1 Head of Cabbage
3 Yellow Summer Squash
Box of Green Beans
Bunch of Beets
2 big bunches of Radishes
Scallion Onions
Purple Kohlrabi
Bunch of Basil

Can you say SALAD!!!

Monday, June 28, 2010

CSA - Kohlrabi

The kohlrabi did not get a vote of approval from the family. It is just kind of boring. Everyone told me it is like a turnip and we should cook it like one, so I started with a simple steamed kohlrabi side dish. Very bland. Also, when I described the size to my parents, they said these particular kohlrabies might be too big. Guess they should be small, tennis ball sized at the most, these are softball sized. Multiple people told me they would be woody. What kind of description is that? Turns out a good one. When they were steamed they were woody. There were small hard fibers in them that you kind of had to spit out. After the steamed kohlrabi got the axe, we didn't give up (mostly because there was still another one waiting), I tried it grated on salad, by far the best way to eat it. Looks like cheese on the salad but that is the kohlrabi. Gives it some crunch and the flavor is strongest this way. So far raw is best for kohlrabi.

Finally I tried baking sliced kohlrabi topped with Parmesan. I found this recipe several times when searching on-line and it was one of the suggested recipes by our CSA. It was not too impressive either, maybe I roasted it too long. I think I just haven't found the right recipe. There are many international dishes using it, but they required several ingredients I just didn't have handy. I wanted to try it in a simple form, but it seems it might be best in a heavy medley or just raw.

Baked Parmesan Kohlrabi

4 kohlrabi bulbs, peeled
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat an oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C).
Cut the kohlrabi into 1/4 inch thick slices, then cut each of the slices in half. Combine olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Toss kohlrabi slices in the olive oil mixture to coat. Spread kohlrabi in a single layer on a baking sheet.
Bake in the preheated oven until browned, 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally in order to brown evenly. Remove from oven and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Return to the oven to allow the Parmesan cheese to brown, about 5 minutes. Serve immediately.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

CSA - Radishes

My relationship with radishes consists only of making roses to pretty up a table. I took a bite of a fresh radish and realized I may never have really eaten a good radish. It was hot! Seriously strong with a hard bite. When you slice them thin and use them, they are not too strong, but just to eat them plain, wow!

I had friends over on Saturday night, so I took the opportunity to make some fun appetizers. I served classic English radish sandwiches and fancy looking cucumber radish bites. The cucumber/radish bites were a bit hit, not just for the upscale look, but they were yummy. The radish sandwich was good, maybe too simple to wow, but a nice combination.

English Tea sandwich, open faced

Source: several sites, seems to be a pretty standard sandwich in England

Thin sliced radish
Coarse Sea Salt

Assemble - so simple. Enjoy!

Herbed Cream Cheese Cucumber Radish Appetizer recipe adapted from Bon Appetit

Makes 12 Appetizers

4 ounces Cream Cheese, softened
2 tablespoons fresh mint, thinly sliced
1/4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon salt
pinch of cayenne pepper, or to taste
3 teaspoons fresh chives, snipped, divided
1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest, divided
English cucumber, trimmed, sliced 1/8-inch thick
3 small radishes, trimmed, sliced 1/8-inch thick
French sea salt for sprinkling

In a small bowl combine cheese, fresh mint, lemon juice, salt and cayenne. Add 2 teaspoons chives and 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest reserving the remainder for garnish.

Stack a cucumber and radish slice together with a dab of the cheese mixture between to hold slices in place, then top each with 1/2 teaspoon of the cheese mixture.
Garnish with the remaining zest and chives, place on a platter, sprinkle with sea salt and serve immediately.

My friend and fellow CSA Member, Janice, used her radishes in a simple stir fry and served it with pasta. She said it was great, gave some crunch to her stir fry and a bit of a bite. She just cooked the vegetables in oil and garlic. Nice and colorful!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

CSA - Swiss Chard

As I begin to dig through and plan my first CSA box I feel like I am relearning something. It is like reading a book 20 years after the first time you read it. My parents have always been pretty adventurous with produce, so I was exposed to more than just the common vegetables as a child. As an adult, I have to admit, I have not really ventured out of the usual vegetables when cooking. I am excited about the CSA as it will challenge me to experiment with new vegetables as well as remember some that I just haven't had since I was a kid. Like kohlrabi and beets. Still stewing on what to do with them. The CSA is a true adventure in discovering new things!

I started with the Swiss Chard because everything I read about it says the fresher the better. I made it very simply, just sauteed in olive oil with some garlic and salt. I might have over salted, or is this a salty vegetable? Are there any salty vegetables? Not sure, but it was bit salty.

This is not a true recipe, but a bit of my step by step

Big bunch Swiss Chard
2 Tablespoons of Olive Oil
1 Clove of Garlic
Salt and pepper to taste

The bright red celery like stems are so beautiful and crispy. Almost to perfect to chop and cook. I started by removing those red stems, but saves some and cut sort of Julianne strips for the dish.

I learned this by watching Rachel Ray. She washed spinach by filling the sink with cold water and floating all the spinach. The dirt falls out and sinks to the bottom. I drained it and ran it through the salad spinner. Was really quite dry and perfectly dirt free.

I chopped some of the beautiful red stems and sauteed them in the oil for about 10 minutes prior to adding the chard. It took about three or four batches added slowly to fit it all in this small skillet. It is always amazing how those huge firm leaves can all cook down to this small little mass.

Not the cover of Gourmet Magazine, but this is what dinner looks like at our house. It killed me to chop those fresh from the ground carrots and just boil them in water, but I know my audience (1 and 3 year old) so I cook what will be eaten. I was pushing it with the chard, we needed simple carrots. All was delicious!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

CSA Week 1

Got our first box of the CSA today! The harvest is quite plentiful. All my fears of waste are running rampant. And what on earth am going to do with a kohlrabi? No, make that two kohlrabi? Google will be buzzing tonight with crazy vegetable searches. I think I will first tackle the Swiss Chard. Seems easy enough, just doing a simple saute recipe like I make spinach. Hoping to use some of those radishes for appetizers this Saturday night when I have friends over,maybe there is a beet dip or something I can find. The rest will mix into our everyday meals easy enough except that darn kohlrabi. I remember my mom making it once. Think I need to call Mom.

Week 1 Box
Swiss Chard
Beets 2 or 3 kinds
Radish 2 kinds
Scallion Onions
Fresh bunch of Cilantro
Pint of Fresh Cherries

Monday, June 21, 2010

Blog in review

Blogging is a strange thing, I have been blogging now for about 5 months now and I still can't say that I totally get it or understand my draw to it. You can take two approaches to blogging; 1. writing for yourself or 2. writing for an audience. When you write for yourself, it is like journal and can be very therapeutic and easy to share your feelings, but it is also sort of creepy because it is out there for the world to read. It is like leaving the tiny key to your diary out at a slumber party, everyone gets access. Writing for an audience is a full time job. Oh and you have to collect an audience, count that as another full time job in PR and Marketing. I still am not sure what approach I am taking with my blog, maybe a mix of both. I am enjoying the writing, though I feel my writing skills are not up to par with other bloggers. Reading other well written blogs has been fun and gives me new recipes and ideas. Secretly I sort of do want blog fame, but why? And who will read it? There are a million stay-at-home-mom blogs. Who knows why I am doing it, I like it and I guess that is enough, so I am going to keep going and will add a few new features to the blog. May was a light month on the blog as we did some traveling and the excitement of summer's arrival took up much of my time. I am back in the game, there will be travel and many fun summer adventures, but I will try make time for the blog.

Contesting Update
The contesting is not going so well, but I am not giving up!! As I said, May was a slow month for me, I was cooking, but not much for contests. Currently there are not many contests running that I feel passionate about. I feel like when I try new recipes from cook books I am really just training and becoming a better cook which all helps me in my progress to contest success. I will win a contest someday!

New feature - CSA Community Supported Agriculture
My CSA starts tomorrow! I am very excited and slightly intimidated. It is crazy how nervous I am about the responsibility of using all this fresh produce. The CSA is my first step at being a responsible consumer and feeding my family safely grown foods. I really want to be one of those people, but change is hard. I feel very torn by the whole "organic & local" movement. I can't bring myself to buy organic milk for $6 a gallon when the regular milk is only $2.50. Why!?! Shouldn't my family's health be more important than saving a few bucks? The CSA will be a great introduction to the "healthy life" for us all and maybe it will help me begin to make that change. I will do a weekly blog on the CSA box: what's in it and what I make out of it. I would also like to invite my fellow CSA members to contribute their recipes and CSA success. I'll post pictures from our first box tomorrow!

New feature - Cooking For Fun
I love writing about my contest dishes, but we make great meals everyday. I have been holding myself to this silly strict rule that the blog is only about contesting. No more! I will begin blogging about good meals we cook just for fun.

So to wrap it up, I like my blog and am going to expand it slightly so I have more things to write about. Who knows if I will every achieve "blog fame". As long as I am having fun blogging and if I don't put too much stress on myself over it, we'll keep it going. Let's see what we can cook up this summer!