Yay CSA

We finally got around to joining a CSA this year.  I’ve loved the idea for a while, but it definitely involves some pre-planning, a trait at which I do not excel. For those of you that don’t know, CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture, and it means you buy a share in some farmer’s bounty but you have to pay the farmer way before harvest time.  You know, when they need the money to plant things, and fertilize the soil, and buy new boots or something.  Now for twenty-five weeks we’ll receive a surprise mix of fresh local crops.  We picked up the first edition last Thursday. Behold.

Our food comes from the Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative (www.lancasterfarmfresh.com).  They have a drop off at Sean’s church which is our sole reason for choosing this particular CSA.  No research required but great recommendations from Sean’s peeps.

I’m excited to play this personal version of Iron Chef (is that the cooking show with the secret ingredients?) for the next several months.

Fun fact: I’ve never cooked or even liked radishes before.  Probably because my only radish experiences are raw radishes in salads or on tiny fancy sandwiches.  My biggest challenge this week will be finding a yummy way to make these into a side dish this week.  A little internet research tells me I can roast or braise them, so I’ll let you know how that goes.

The asparagus (SPARGELFEST!) is gone already, grilled and consumed with Monrovia Farm steak last Friday.  It was super delicious, but how could asparagus in May suck?

Anyone want to play CSA-along?  Like Iron Chef but less Bobby Flay and everyone wins?

Amazing Broccoli Salad to Make for People You Like

Want to watch me make broccoli salad for the fantasy football draft I am attending tomorrow night? This broccoli salad tastes best after chilling for 24 hours, so I always try to make this the day before. Hre’s how you do it, for a crowd. Make broccoli salad, I mean.
Ingredients:
First, like all good recipes, cook some bacon. Since this bacon is to be crumbled anyway, I chop it first.
That was a 16 ounce package of bacon for those of you keeping track at home.
Next, trim the trees. Or chop the broccoli, Dana Carvey-style. Your choice.
The wine glass is there for scale (and for my enjoyment). That’s how much broccoli you need.*
Ok, next chop half of a giant red onion. Or a whole tiny red onion. Or 2/3 of a medium red onion. It looks like this.
Some people like measuring.  Beware — it might be sad.
Onions are stupid.
Now put this stuff together.
Almost a cup of Splenda. But only sprinkle some in at a time.

Half a cup of reduced fat mayo. But don’t be cray and think that’s all the mayo that’s going in this concoction. It’s two cups, a half at a time for mixing purposes. And put a bunch of the onions in. And about two capfuls of vinegar. I used apple cider but I don’t really care what kind you use. Also, add fresh ground pepper each time you add the mayo. I took that picture before I added the pepper. Pretend there is pepper in there.

Add 8 oz of cheese because cheese. Add a bunch of the crumbled bacon. You crumbled that, right?

Looking delish.

Rinse and repeat the mayo/splenda/pepper/capful of vinegar dance until you’ve done this four times total with a half cup mayo each time. And make sure the rest of the onions and bacon gets in there. (STOP EATING THE BACON. PUT IT IN THE BOWL.)

Then add another half package of cheddar because CHEESE. But just a half.

Stir, stir, stir. I usually need to separate it and stir in another bowl.

Then put it back together for that magic.

This yummy (not at all healthy) broccoli salad is my go-to ‘please bring a side’-side. If I like the people I am visting, anyway. If I don’t, I’m probably just going to buy some macaroni salad at Harris Teeter on the way to the loser’s party. And then I’ll leave early.

*I don’t possess the skills to cook for less than ten people. Since my husband and I live alone most of the year, we usually have leftovers.

**My husband who reads cookbooks for fun and reads recipes ALL THE WAY THROUGH suggested I mix the Splenda and vinegar and mayo together first, in a seperate bowl. This sounds smart. I think you should try it.

Radishes that Don’t Suck

Ok, you guys.  I love radishes now.  I hated them up until about two hours ago.

Pro tip for those that hate raw radishes and love baked potatoes.  ROAST THEM.
High heat, like 450, for 10-20 minutes.  It varies, so check them.
And you can put anything else in the pan that you like (within reason, folks).  I do not recommend whole eggs or uncooked rice or meth, among other bad ideas.
No-Recipe Recipe
Rinse the radishes and cut off all but a centimeter of the green top bits.
Cut the radishes in half lengthwise.
Chop up a friend for the radishes.  Parsnips, leeks, carrots, onions, apples (??), whatever you have and think might work.
I chopped up some of the CSA walking onions. I had never heard of those either but they were leek-y in taste but small like scallions.
These are the bits I used.
Put the veggies in a bowl with a drizzle of olive oil and some seasoning.  I used pink salt, fresh ground pepper, and dried thyme.
Roast in a preheated 450 oven for 10-20 minutes.  (Not pictured.  These went about 17 minutes but I like things extra done.)
Voila!
The radishes were really yummy with the onions and seasoning, and very reminiscent of red potatoes.    Maybe some chives, bacon, and cheese next time for a low carb loaded potato?

Sunday Scoreboard: Emeril – 1 Jaguars – 0

Today the Jacksonville Jaguars played the New Orleans Saints.  Like every week, I optimistically believed my Jags would triumph.  And like most weeks, lately, they did not.  But I was the winner of Sunday Dinner with my Saints-inspired Jambalaya.

I used Emeril’s recipe here, with some tweaks in the portions because we love freezing one-pot meals for weekday lunches in my house.

First, I mixed up the Creole Seasoning here, exactly like Mr. Lagasse said so because he is the boss of New Orleans.

– 2.5 tablespoons paprika
– 2 tablespoons salt  (I only had kosher; it seemed to work fine.)
– 2 tablespoons garlic powder
– 1 tablespoon fresh ground black pepper
– 1 tablespoon onion powder
– 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
– 1 tablespoon dried oregano
– 1 tablespoon dried thyme

Combine all ingredients thoroughly.

Yield: 2/3 cup

You will end up with extra; I saved it in an empty paprika container.  But I suspect any empty container will work.

Then comes my favorite part of cooking:  chopping.  I see all the pros chopping at lightening speed on Iron Chef, Next Food Network Star, etc.  But I much prefer Leisurely Chopping.  Below are the ingredients as I made them, but for a small batch you can refer back to the original recipe.

  • 25 medium shrimp, peeled, deveined and chopped
  • 2 chicken breasts, diced
  • 2 tablespoons Creole seasoning, recipe follows
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 1 chopped red pepper
  • 3 large stalks celery, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons chopped garlic
  • 14 oz. can diced tomatoes
  • 6 bay leaves
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 teaspoons hot sauce
  • 1.5 cup cup rice
  • 5 cups chicken stock
  • 1 12 oz. package Andouille sausage, sliced (I used Aidells)
  • Salt and fresh ground pepper
Rub the cajun spice mixture all over the chicken and shrimp so it can get yummy and flavory.  Then wash your hands about five times.

Heat the olive oil on medium-high in a pot that you think is going to be big enough.  When the oil gets runny, add the onions, peppers, and celery.  Let it cook for a little while (the recipe says 3 minutes but I let it go about 6-7) while the veggies get a little soft.  The onions will start to get translucenty.

Add the garlic and give it about two minutes to brown a bit in the hot oil.

Add the can of diced tomatoes, juice and all, along with the bay leaves, Worcestershire sauce, and hot sauce.  I used dried bay leaves only because I forgot to buy fresh ones and I had the dried kind on hand.  But I think you should use fresh.  Next time I will.

Once the tomatoes and juices are hot, stir in the rice.

Slowly begin to add the chicken broth.  At this point, if you are me, you may find that the pot you originally chose is too small.  And then you may notice that you only have one other pan and it is gigantic.  Heat up the giant pan on medium heat with a bit of the broth in it (so you don’t burn the pan) and then transfer everything to the larger pot.  Or….just start out with a bigger pot in the first place, but still turn it down to medium heat at this point.  Totally up to you.

When the rice is no longer crunchy, after about twenty minutes or so (longer if you have to change pans), add the chicken and shrimp, along with a little salt and pepper.  Keep it on medium while the meat cooks.  Once you’ve tested it (and tested and tested, depending on how hungry you are), you can turn it down to simmer for awhile to really mix all those flavors.  I left it another 30 minutes and it was perfect.

BONUS KNOWLEDGE:  I discovered a cool trick while making this dish.  It turns out, my stove is made of METAL.  And do you know what sticks to metal?  That’s right!  Magnets!  I can keep my printed out recipes right in front of my face while cooking.  Convenient.  Did everyone already know this trick?  Yeah, I thought so.

More Food That Starts with the Letter Q

I kind of feel like quinoa is the new It Food.  I see it everywhere now, like we just invented it. Reminds me of blood oranges back in 2007, though I doubt adding quinoa would improve a martini.  Who knows?  I’m sure there’s a restaurant somewhere sprinkling three grains in the bottom of a Quinoa Martini.
I’m totally on board, however, because it is a perfect (healthier!) alternative to rice.  I like to make one-pot dishes that are usually meant to be served over rice.  Except I don’t care for rice.  At all.  Ok, I hate rice.  I used to use couscous, but apparently quinoa is much better for me.  Plus it sounds fancy, and I love faux fancy foods.
I learned about quinoa when my bff (The Most Awesome Person in the World) lived with me in 2009 and did a lot of cooking.  She left many mysterious items in the cupboard when she jetted off to Europe, including bags of this grain.  It apparently comes in different colors.  The all-knowing Google taught me how to cook it, and I’ve not looked back.
Tonight I made a delicious meal in the crock pot.  I quick seared some boneless skinless chicken thighs, about two minutes on each side.

I put them in the crock pot along with onions, carrots, a little butter, garlic, lemon juice, and about a cup of chicken stock.

I cooked it on high for about four hours, then turned it to low for the last hour and a half.  Just before they were done, I made some quinoa for the bottom of the bowls.  When quinoa is cooked, it grows little tails, like freaky little Darwinian grain.

I had never made chicken thighs before (sheltered, I know) and DUDE THEY WERE SO TENDER.  I have had bad experiences with the crock pot, so i was really surprised.  I might be a slow-cooker convert now.  It makes me look good.

Actual dinner conversation:

Taste tester 1:  Darlene, this is really good.
Me:  Thank you, that’s nice of you to say.
Taste tester 2:  Thanks for making it taste good so we don’t have to lie.

Aw.

The recipe came from here, if you’re interested.  You should be interested.  It’s really good.

Fat Tuesday, Y’all

Yay, Mardi Gras!  Parades. Jazz.  Beads.  I have been to New Orleans exactly once and enjoyed every meal minute there.  I didn’t make it to Cafe du Monde until the last day of my trip, so I only had a breakfast of their famous beignets once.  I’ve been looking to recreate that ever since. Also, my DVR is full of food porn…er…food network shows.  Paula, Ina, Alton, and Rachel.  (Oh, and also a litte Guy Fieri, because, come on, he wears his sunglasses backwards.  He’s ridiculous.)  Last month I saw a New Orleans themed episode of Paula’s Best Dishes, wherein she made BEIGNETS.  I knew I needed a plan:  How can I make an entire batch of these babies in a way that doesn’t seem like I just want to sit there and eat all of them?  (Even though I kinda do.)  I know: a Mardi Gras dinner party. I started with the New Orleans holy trinity of cooking:  onions, celery, and peppers.  I used red and orange peppers; I like them better than the green ones.  And I put them in just a little bit of bacon grease.

I then added canned crushed tomatoes, ground pepper, and chopped garlic, and let it cook for about twenty minutes.  Then I added a bunch of shrimp and sliced andouille sausage (it was turkey sausage…shhh) and crumbled bacon.  Cooked about ten more minutes until the shrimp and sausage was done.  Put over a mixture of grains, the Harvest Blend from Trader Joe’s.  Yum.

This was adapted from the South Beach Diet’s recipe for Big Easy Shrimp.  I just added way more veggies and the sausage.  (The recipe calls for only ONE celery stalk.  Come on, South Beach Diet, I thought you LOVED vegetables.) Then we put the Fat in Fat Tuesday.  Beignets are just fried dough.  Little rectangular donuts covered in powdered sugar and eaten while still warm.  SO FREAKING DELICIOUS.  I was a little worried they wouldn’t hold up to the ideal beignets in my memory, but they turned out really good.    I couldn’t find a written version of the recipe online, so I hung out with my pause button and took notes while watching Ms Paula Deen make them on the show.  Here you are, for your recreating pleasure. Paula Deen’s Beignets First measure out seven cups of bread flour.  You’ll need it when you don’t have time to measure it out. Mix together in a large bowl 1 1/2 cup lukewarm water 1/2 cup granulated sugar 1 envelope yeast Let sit for ten minutes. In a smaller bowl, mix together 2 eggs slightly beaten 1 1/4 teaspoon salt 1 cup evaporated milk Beat together slightly, then add to yeast mixture.  Whisk together. Add about three cups of bread flour to the yeast mixture.  Keep whisking (a helper is nice for the constant whisking). Add 1/4 cup of solid Crisco to the yeast mixture. Keep whisking.  (Seriously, recruit a friend for this part.) Add the rest of the flour.  Whisk it on it there. Knead the mixture together.  Leave on all five of your giant rings.  (Apparently.  Paula did.) Spray a bowl with some sort of non-stick spray can stuff.  Put the dough in the bowl and cover it with a clean towel.  Let it sit for about two hours. (Now go have a glass of wine with your friends, cook dinner, eat dinner, and save room for dessert.) Heat ole…ohl…(I think she means oil) to 350 degrees.* *You know, in the deep fryer that you have built into your countertop.  What?  You don’t have one of those?  I really hate when the cooking show hosts don’t give alternate instructions when they start using equipment that only restaurant cooks and cooking show hosts have access to.  And maybe rich people.  In this case, I used a Fry Daddy.  Instead of 350, I turned it to ‘ON’.  It seemed to work ok. Sprinkle a liberal amount of flour onto your cutting board.  If you have a normal residential-use sized cutting board like I do, only roll out half the dough at a time. Roll out the dough, not too thick, not too thin.  I did the first batch a little too thin, and it was still good.  It worked best when the dough was about the thickness of a slice of bread. Cut the dough into little rectangles.  She calls them squares, but they are not square.  More like fat rectangles.

Cook them in the oil.  As soon as they pop up to the top, flip them.  I flipped them pretty frequently, so they didn’t get too done on either side.

When you take them out, first put them on a paper towel to drain a bit of the oil.  Then quick put them in some powdered sugar to get all yummy.  Then eat them while still warm.  Share (or not) with your friends.  At least share with the friend that helped you with the whisking.

Food That Starts with the Letter Q

I have a super sneaky trick for using up vegetables that are becoming, er, not-so-fresh.  It’s really easy but I like to pretend that it’s not, kind of like the mom on those old Rice Krispie treat commercials from the 1990s.  I can be all, “oh look what I have made for you, because I love you so much and I want you to have a healthy and delicious homemade breakfast to start your days this week.”  When it’s actually more like, “oops, i bought too much spinach and the onions won’t keep any longer and what other kind of vegetables do I have in here?”

Just spray the inside of some muffin tins with some olive oil and add the chopped vegetables along with some fresh ground pepper and whatever kind of cheese you have on hand.  If you have some sad-looking herbs left over from some earlier recipes, chop them up and toss them in too.  Beat up some eggs with a little milk, cream, half & half…whatever you have.  You just need a splash to make the eggs fluffy.  Pour the eggs into the tins, about 2/3 or 3/4 full.  Bake at 350 for 30ish minutes.  And voila!  Quiche!  The name even sounds fancy.

When they cool, wrap them up individually.  Instant healthy portable breakfast.  I like to pop them in the microwave for about 45 seconds.  But mostly I like to say, ‘there’s quiche in the fridge for breakfast.’  It sounds so gourmet-bed-and-breakfast-y.