Monday, May 31, 2010

CSA Time!

I just got my first email newsletter about what to expect for my first pickup of my farm CSA basket (which I am doing through Enterprise Farms). I can't even express how so so so excited I am! Here's what could be included in my basket this week:
  • Baby Bok Choy: Enterprise Farm (see picture to the right)
  • Lettuce (Redleaf/Greenleaf/Romaine): Enterprise Farm
  • Salad Mix: Enterprise Farm
  • Romano Beans: Mt. Vernon, Georgia
  • Yukon Gold Potatoes: Craig Farm, PEI, Canada
  • Grape Tomatoes: Somerset Organics, Florida
  • Zucchini: Cottle Farm, North Carolina
  • Acorn Squash: Somerset Organics, Florida
  • Bunched Beets: Lady Moon Organics, Florida
  • Blueberries: Eastern Carolina Organics, North Carolina
  • Dandelion Greens: Enterprise Farm / Lady Moon, FL
  • Vidalia Onions: Bland Farm, Georgia
While I won't be getting everything on the list (especially since I ordered a small share) I am still way excited to start cooking with this wonderful stuff. My newest cookbook purchase also includes a delicious sounding bok choy recipe as well as something for grilled onions and potatoes. YUM! My first pickup is this coming Thursday, stay tuned to see how this all pans out... (Dandelion greens? This sounds fab.) Cheers!

Monday, May 24, 2010

New Cookbook, New Cookbook!

For all my hard work in the kitchen I bought myself a new cookbook : The Slow Cooker Bible. It's packed with 200+ recipes for the slow cooker (duh) and includes tasty things that I'm adding to my "to make" list like:

Honey-Mustard Chicken Wings
Parmesan Ranch Snack Mix
Party Mix
Honey-Sauced Chicken Wings
Slow Cooker Taco Shredded Beef
Hearty Chili Mac
Slow Cooker Mesquite Beef
Mediterranean Meatball Ratatouille
Coq au Vin
Easy Homemade Barbecue Sandwiches
Double Thick Baked Potato-Cheese Soup
Potato & Spinach Soup with Gouda
Hamburger Soup
Campfire Sausage and Potato Soup
Potato and Leek soup with Bacon
Chili with Chocolate
Peasant Potatoes

If you would like to see what else I have on my "to cook" list check out my page "Yummy Things I Want to Cook from My Cookbooks."

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Beans, Beans, the Musical Fruit…

Contrary to how it may seem based on my taunting, child-like rhyme that I titled this blog post, I do indeed love beans. Not only do I think beans are quite amazing, they have led to this wonderful double meal blog post.

Day one: Bean dip, salsa, and rice & beans.
Day two: Tacos!

For dinner number one, I decided to make a salsa verde salsa, spicy black bean dip, and rice & beans and then use the leftovers in the next day’s Mexi-fest. The black bean dip is an invention of mine that spun out of an attempt at making salsa a few weeks ago. I chopped up tons of veggies and peppers and tomatoes and then grinded them up in my little food processor for a salsa verde. The result was pretty good but not awe-inspiring. I didn’t use enough spice or something and it was a tad too bland. However, I decided to throw in some leftover black beans and the result was fabulousness. The mix of veggies plus beans all chopped/pureed together resulted in a delicious dip that was perfect for my Tostitos scoops (aka the best invention ever for holding lots of dip on a chip.) As before, the black bean dip came out great again, and with an extra jalapeno pepper throw in it also has a rockin’ bit kick.

I then used my second can of black beans and some instant rice (and some of the leftover peppers and tomatoes) to make a vegetarian bean and rice mixture to eat for dinner but also to accompany the next day’s tacos/fajitas.

Spicy Black Bean Dip
It’s relatively easy and you can really throw in any ingredients you prefer to satisfy your own tastes. What I used:
1 medium red pepper
1 medium yellow pepper
1 large sweet onion
3 medium tomatoes
2 jalapeno peppers
1 can black beans
Chop all ingredients and then combine in a food processor or blender until a smooth consistency. (You can also make a bit chunkier so it resembles a salsa verde with beans.)

Black Beans and Rice

1 can black beans
3 cups cooked white rice
A couple of spoonfuls of the chopped pepper, onion and tomato mixture from the dip
Spicy Mexican sauce to taste (I used Chalula)

Mix together and heat for a few minutes over medium heat.

Meal Numero Dos: Taco time!
I headed to Whole Foods and loaded up with an orange pepper, avocado, limes, small onion, corn tortillas, skirt steak, cilantro, shredded cheddar & Monterey jack cheese and sour cream to accompany my previously created bean dip, rice & beans, and salsa. It was a veritable cornucopia of Mexican goodness. Talk about amazing.

These were the best make-your-own tacos. Ever. I got so excited eating and making them that I forgot to take pictures… but you can imagine: picture heaping mounds of medium cooked steak bits, sautéed veggies, cheese, sour cream, sliced avocado, etc. YUM! As with most Mexican meals I make I think the best part is the ‘do it yourself’ method where you can throw in anything you want at any time and mix it up. The key is just to have fun and be creative!

Overall score: 10 out of 10.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Nacho, Nacho Time!

Ohhhh, myyyy loooove, my darling, I hunger for…. nachos.

Yeah, my intense passion for Mexican food continues with these scrumptious veggie and meat covered nachos. I love making nachos because I have an odd obsession for chopping veggies into tiny little pieces… really, there’s something very therapeutic about it. When making nachos (like my homemade guacamole) I always fly by the seat of my pants – no measuring cups allowed! Typically here are the things I include: red pepper, yellow pepper, jalapeno pepper, onion, cilantro, tomato, black beans, and smothered in sharp cheddar cheese. 

This time I was in for a yummy treat and these nachos were topped off with some leftover chicken. I also recently purchased a cilantro plant so the cilantro that I used in this nacho batch had a special place in my heart (and my cat’s, since she likes to take nibbles of the plant when she thinks I’m not looking.)

Personally I think nachos are the perfect way to use up the extra veggies that are left over from kabobs, soup, stew, or whatever I’ve made a few days earlier, which makes them both economical and quick to make.

My score is obvious here: 10 out of 10. Complete success!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Being Cute in the Kitchen

Who said cooking and fashion can't go hand in hand? And really, what's the point of cooking and baking if you can't look cute while doing it? After misplacing my bland, boring, ugly, apron during my move to Boston, I decided it's time to get a new one... while also adding some spice to my kitchen (and wardrobe). I searched around a little online and here are four of my favorites so far:

This one is from the Etsy store Lover Dovers Clothing. I LOVE the vintage style and the bright, bold colors. I feel like I should be strapping on some roller skates and serving up milkshakes, burgers, and fries.

I also love both of these next two aprons from the Etsy store Boojiboo. The patterns are great, the cut is flattering and flirty, and pockets are always a plus when cooking!

The black and white damask pattern is great and looks especially pretty with the bright red trim. 

However, Pink + Cupcakes = Apron fabulousness.
And finally, this one I found on Amazon.

All of these aprons are so darn cute it's going to be hard to pick just one! Is it possible to start wearing aprons out as normal clothes? These are cuter than a lot of dresses.

Do you know of another great place to buy an apron? Leave me a comment and I'll check it out!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

BBQ Bonanza!

Ok, I suppose the title of this blog post is a bit more exciting than it deserves but I had a lot of fun creating this meal. After living 2.5 years in a grill-less existence, I finally know someone with a grill! And it's starting to get warm outside,so, what better way to welcome in the spring than with a little grilling?

Three yeas ago (when I was the proud owner of a grill) I bought a cookbook full of BBQ sauces, rubs, marinades, etc. Since I moved back East, the cookbook has been gathering dust on my bookshelf, so it was wonderful to have the opportunity to crack it open again! I decided to make two things for this meal:

First, a BBQ rub. Basically that’s a mixture of dry spices that I turn into a super-spice (the elusive 6th spice girl?) and then rub all over meat. When I told the butcher at Whole Foods what I was planning on doing, he helped me pick out a skirt steak, which he said would grill up quickly as well as have a lot of flavor. The rub I used (recipe below) had a great flavor when combined with steak, it was savory and it had a little kick. I think it would also go pretty well with chicken, especially oven baked chicken wings or chicken drumsticks (yes, I’m back on the chicken wagon!)

The second thing I made was a BBQ sauce. What intrigued me the most about this sauce is that it’s made with Coca-cola, which gave it both a sweet and spicy flavor. According to the cookbook, pot roast braised in Coca-Cola is a favorite in Venezuela. Along with the steak, I also grilled up veggie kabobs (heirloom tomatoes, green peppers, yellow peppers, mushrooms, and onion). The BBQ sauce was really tasty with the steak but it was great to dip the grilled veggies into.

Bonus about this meal: I was able to prepare four hours in advance (since the steak marinated with the rub for a few hours). Also, there is leftover rub and BBQ sauce that will last at least a month so that I can always whip up something very quickly when I’m feeling like a lazy cook but still want an air of fancy, homemade goodness.

Overall score : 8 out of 10.


Ingredients –
¼ cup coarse salt (kosher or sea salt)
¼ cup (packed) dark brown sugar
¼ cup paprika
3 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon dried onion flakes
½ - 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon celery seeds

Directions –
Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and stir or whisk to mix. Transfer to a jar, cover, and store away from heat and light. The rub will keep for several months. Makes 1 cup.

Recipe – Coca-Cola Barbecue Sauce (Compliments of Barbecue! Bible : Sauces, Rubs, and Marinades, Bastes, Butters, and Glazes)

Ingredients –
1 cup Coca-cola
1 cup ketchup
¼ cup Worcestershire sauce
3 tablespoons A1 Steak Sauce
1 teaspoon onion flakes
1 teaspoon garlic flakes
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions –
Combine all the ingredients in a heavy nonreactive saucepan and gradually bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat slightly to obtain a gentle simmer. Simmer the sauce until reduced by a quarter (6-8 minutes). Use right away or transfer to a large jar, cover, cool to room temperature, and refrigerate. Makes 2 cups. Will keep for several months.


It was a Saturday morning and I had a craving for cookies. But it went beyond just ravaging a package of Oreos from the 7-11. I wanted to MAKE cookies. As I mentioned before, I’m an aspiring children’s book writer (both middle grade and young adult). I’m currently working on a young adult novel where my seventeen-year-old main character, Tess, who loves cooking, receives a family cookbook for her birthday and decides to cook her way through it as a way to uncover/connect family history/secrets. Her family is Polish-American (they immigrated in the early 1900s) so what she’ll be cooking is predominantly Polish and Polish-adapted food. I figured to get a real sense of some of her potential recipes I would buy a few Polish cookbooks and turn my kitchen into Tess’ test kitchen.

With that in mind, I figured I would throw caution to the wind and not whip up a batch of classic chocolate chip or sugar cookies –- I would be adventurous and try something new. I picked out Piernik (which I knew nothing about) but the ingredients of honey and sugar intrigued me (as in they are both delicious ingredients).

The first thing I remembered once I started to make the dough was that I don’t have a rolling pin and it’s pretty hard to roll out dough without one. I substituted a rolling pin for a wine bottled that I wrapped up in wax paper – it did the trick, all be it sort of sloppily. (I went out and bought a rolling pin a day later.)

I lack any kind of Polish vocabulary (and I thought a google search for "Piernik" would be cheating) so I knew that whatever was going to pop out of my oven would be a total surprise. Well, it turned out to be a good surprise… apparently Piernik means gingerbread!

Unlike thin gingerbread (the kind you think of when you picture of gingerbread houses or those crispy gingerbread men whose arms you can snap right off when you’re have a fit of man-hating rage), these Polish cookies were a bit thicker and had a nice, hearty consistency and feel. Even though the recipe didn’t call for it, I iced a few of them and let the icing harden which I think made them all the better (let’s get real, icing improves everything. Unfortunately, I didn't take any pictures of the iced cookies so you'll have to settle for seeing them naked.)

These were definitely a nice fall/winter cookie, but since I love cookies I enjoyed them for the spring, too. They aren't a candy-like, sugared-up, kid-friendly cookie, but they ARE a perfect accompaniment to tea or coffee and for people who don't like sweet-sweets.

Overall rating: 7 out of 10.
Recipe-- Pierkink (Compliments of Old Warsaw Cookbook)

Ingredients --
4 cups flour
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 cup honey
2 t. baking soda
½ t. cinnamon
¼ t. ginger
powdered sugar
1 t. vanilla
1 T. water

Directions --
Beat the eggs well. Add sugar and blend in honey and vanilla. Then add the soda dissolved in 1 T. of water. Slowly stir in sifted flour, salt, cinnamon and ginger. Mix all the ingredients together well. Roll dough to a thin layer on a floured board and cut into large heart shapes. (I did stars since I didn’t have a heart cookie cutter.) Brush with egg white and dust with powdered sugar. (I also only did this for half of the cookies, the other half I iced with pretty pink icing.) Bake in a moderate oven for 15 minutes, on a greased floured baking sheet.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Crazy Cupcakes

I found this post earlier today -- these are some awesome cupcakes, I just had to share! The post is called "The 20 Most Inventive Cupcakes Known to Man" and they really live up to that hefty title! These cupcakes really put my own to shame (even with my signature bedazzling of icing polka dots, stripes, sparkly colored sugar and sprinkles.) But these cupcakes featured go above and beyond!

Personally, I love these Glee-inspired cupcakes that were made by 2010: A Bake Odyssey (compliments to them for the pic). 


Thursday, May 6, 2010

Dinner Out : Tasca

Last Saturday a pipe broken outside of Boston causing all drinking water to be undrinkable. Left with the option of purchasing bottled water or boiling water in a pan (which I have since heard gave a very unpleasant tin/pan taste to the water) I opted out of drinking water for the day, in favor of sangria. Same went for cooking/doing dishes, so I chose to eat out. We went out to dinner in Brighton at a Spanish tapas place called Tasca. 
I was quite famished after an afternoon of walking around in the intense heat and humidity so six tapas were selected: 
-- Calamari  
-- Brie and apples  
-- Garlic bread toasts with anchovies 
-- Sliced ham with cheese (pictured above) 
-- Empanada (I think) 
-- Mussels
    I really enjoy Tasca, this is the second time I’ve been. I love the idea of tapas because I always have a really hard time selecting a restaurant for dinner and selecting only one item off of a menu because I always want to try a bit of everything -- which obviously makes tapas the perfect solution.

    And as a result of the water ban, we also had a pitcher of tutti-frutti sangria – delish! 

    Overall score : 9 out of 10.

    Wednesday, May 5, 2010

    Chicken & Apple Pot

    Last week was unseasonably cold in Boston –- though the tides have turned and I’m currently writing this from my sweltering 80+ degree apartment. But last week was a different story, I needed a good old warm-me-upper so I decided to make a soup/stew recipe out of my slow cooker cookbook. The choice: Chicken & Apple Pot.

    As you may have heard me mention before, I don’t like cooking with chicken, and really I can’t even remember the last time I did cook with chicken. I think I might have been about nine years ago when I made homemade BBQ chicken wings and my kitten jumped on the door of the hot oven. True story. (No kittens were harmed in the cooking of the chicken wings -- he turned out to be fine.)

    Anyway, I figured this recipe would be different from other chicken recipes because: a) slow cooking chicken will make it very moist and tender and b.) I don’t have to fear under-cooking as the chicken simmers in the slow cooker for nearly 8 hours. Sudden realization when it comes to chicken: chicken is cheap! I mean, really cheap! I got 5 pretty big drumsticks (the perfect amount for 2 people) at Whole Foods for a whopping $3. I think I may be welcoming chicken back into my kitchen.

    This recipe was quite easy to make and tasted very good. The chicken literally fell right off the bone and caramelized apples as a garnish were very delicious. I was told however that next time I might want to think about swapping out some of the apples in favor of some potatoes –- a suggestion that will be duly noted. 

    PS: It also went wonderfully with Harpoon Summer Beer –- I’m so glad summer beer is back in season!

    Overall score : 7 out of 10
    Recipe (Compliments of Slow Cooking by Linda Doesser)

    Ingredients –
    1 tbsp olive oil
    4 chicken portions, about 6 oz each (I used 5 big drumsticks for 2 people)
    1 onion
    2 celery stalks
    1 ½ tbsp flour
    1 ¼ cup apple juice
    2/3 cup chicken stock
    1 cooking apple cut up
    2 bay leaves
    1-2 tsp honey
    1 yellow pepper, seeded and cut into chunks

    Garnish –
    1 tbsp butter, melted
    1 apple sliced and cored
    2 tbsp raw brown sugar

    Directions –
    1. Heat the oil in a heavy skillet. Add the chicken and cook over medium-high heat, turning frequently for 10 minutes, until golden brown all over. Transfer chicken to a slow cooker.
    2. Add the onion and celery to the skillet and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes, until softened. Sprinkle in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes, then remove the skillet from the heat. Gradually stir in the apple juice and stock, then return the skillet to the heat, and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Stir in the cooking apple, bay leaves, and season with salt and pepper.
    3. Pour the mixture over the chicken, cook and cover on low for 6 ½ hours, until the chicken is tender and the juices run clear when the thickest part is pierced with the point of a sharp knife. Stir in the yellow bell pepper, re-cover, and cook on high for 45 minutes.
    4. Shortly before you are ready to serve, preheat the broiler. Brush one side of the apple slices with half the melted butter and sprinkle them with sugar. Broil for 2-3 minutes, until the sugar has caramelized. Turn the slices over with tongs, brush with the remaining butter, and sprinkle with the remaining sugar. Broil for a further 2 minutes. Serve the stew garnished with the caramelized apple slices.
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