2013 CSA Week 4

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Week 4.  We are not quite getting through things fast enough, and this basket is huge for us!  Expect lots of new recipe posts as we try to use this.

  • Eggs
  • A whole green cabbage
  • Whole beets
  • Tomatoes
  • Broccoli
  • Sugar snap peas?
  • Strawberries (these ended up being too far gone, even by the time we got them.  Could have been the bad weather lately, or when the farmer picked them.  We’re not sure.)
  • Green onions
  • Asparagus
  • A head of lettuce

Passing Conversations #2

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  • I spent the past week reading Fat Chance: Beating the Odds against Sugar, Processed Food, Obesity, and Disease. It was a surprisingly easy read despite containing a lot of detail about biochemistry, and offered great insight into the science behind obesity. I’ve been trying to lose weight for a while, and this explains why a lot of the common diet tricks don’t work, but I felt like it didn’t tell me much that I didn’t already know, other than the biochemistry. Recommended for anyone who is interested in eating well, but hasn’t read other sources.  Great source on why sugar is really bad for you.

  • This recipe for Beet Greens. Got to make them for the first time this past spring, but this recipe can be used for any dark, leafy green. It’s more of an idea/method than an actual recipe, and I will be employing this in the future.
  • The Idea Channel on Youtube. My husband introduced me to this, and I instantly fell in love. The show poses some thought provoking questions, and most of it relates to nerddom in some form or fashion. They also encourage discussion on the topic in the comments, and then respond to some of them in the next episode. Almost makes me think about making a youtube show, but seriously, that would be so much more work.
  • Corgis on a treadmill!

Slow Cooker Wednesday: Baked Potato Soup

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In this edition of Slow-Cooker Wednesday, I offer you a version of that favorite restaurant classic, Baked Potato Soup. It’s creamy, it’s savory, it will stick to your ribs on a cold winter night.

This recipe is based on the recipe from Slow Cooker: The Best Cookbook Ever. We’ve just changed the process a little. This is my favorite slow-cooker cookbook right now, mainly because it always uses whole ingredients. So many slow-cooker recipes rely on instant onion soup mix or other things that I don’t really consider food. The slow-cooker is supposed to make cooking a long meal easier, why take even more shortcuts with the ingredients?

Many of the recipes (including this one) assume a 5 to 7 quart slow cooker.  Mine’s only 4.5 quarts, so I cut the recipes into halves or three-quarters to not overload it.  The recipe below uses the amounts for the original recipe.

Ingredients:

  •  4 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 medium leeks, finely chopped, using the white and some of the tender green parts
  • 4 large russets potatoes, peeled or unpeeled and cut into 1/2 inch dice OR 6 medium red or Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch dice
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 cups finely shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
  • 6 green onions, finely chopped, using the white and some of the tender green parts
  • 8 strips bacon, cooked crisp, drained, and crumbled
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 cup sour cream for garnishing

Directions:

Heat the butter in a large skillet over med-high heat.  Add the leeks and saute until softened, 2 to 3 minutes.  Transfer the leeks to the insert of your slow-cooker and add the potatoes and broth.  Cover the slow cooker and cook on high for 3 hours or low for 5 to 6 hours, until the potatoes are tender.  Using an immersion blender, puree the soup, or cool the soup and puree it in a blender. (You have to cool the soup first for a normal blender or you might get burned.)

Reduce the heat to low and add the milk.  Cover the slow cooker and cook for an additional hour.  Season with salt and pepper, and garnish with the remaining ingredients.

Serves 8-10.

Notes: For the potatoes, you can use any kind you want, but the kind will determine how smooth or chunky the soup is. If you’re using the russets, they make a rich creamy smooth soup.  The reds or golds are best for a somewhat chunky soup. If you leave the skins in, they will add a slightly earthier flavor to the soup. Also, make sure that the potatoes are really cooked, as the texture could be thrown off otherwise.

It reheats well, but you probably want to add more broth or water to it, as it can thicken up quite a bit in the fridge.  Also, this would make a great bread-bowl soup.

Blog Roll and Feedly

So, I was originally inspired to start blogging because I read so many blogs. It’s kind of strange to me now. I have moments where I’m like “Nobody reads this, and I often have huge breaks between posts. I don’t even come up with my own recipes half the time! What on earth do I think I’m contributing to the Internet by writing this stuff?”

Then I remember how excited I get when I’m trying a new recipe, and figuring out the best way to plate it for a pretty photo, and how I found this new cool thing I want to share, and look at what my garden is doing, and—*gasp for air*. Yeah. But I had to start somewhere, and the somewhere that I started at was reading other blogs. I started with bento-related blogs, as I was just starting to bento, and I was a bit of an otaku back then. From there I moved to regular food blogs, fashion blogs, gardening blogs, and more.

If you’d like to see what I read, you can check out my blog roll on the right. It doesn’t have everything I read (I read blogs written by friends that I’m not sure they’d be comfortable with me sharing), but a lot of my favorites are in there.

Now, something that’s been going around the internet lately is the news that Google is closing the doors on Google Reader, their RSS aggregator. This was the way that I’d read my chosen blogs for many years, and so I had to find a new way to read them. If you also use Google Reader, I recommend checking out this Lifehacker post. They have some great suggestions for other readers. The one I’ve chosen to go with is Feedly. It’s actually a Chrome extension, but since all my copies of Chrome are synced through my Google account, it works just fine for me. I like that I can group the categories, and I LOVE the magazine view. (Before you make fun of me, I never wanted to take the time to dissect the Google Reader settings.)

Another thing that I really love about Feedly is that since it syncs through my Google account, I can also use the mobile app on my Android phone.  What I like to do at home is go through the posts and clip things I like or want to remember to Evernote.  If I’m using Feedly on my phone, I can mark certain items as “Save for Later” and then do the clipping at home. (The Evernote app for Android is cool too, but they don’t really clip well together.)

If you’re looking for a new RSS feeder to replace Google Reader, or you’re just getting started in the world of collecting blogs (seriously, it becomes an addiction after a while!), I recommend giving Feedly a try.

2013 CSA Week 3

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We’re still working through our previous baskets, but as of tonight, we’re almost caught up.  I’ll be having a post up soon about how I used up a bunch of the veggies all at once.

This week we have:

  • Swiss Chard
  • Green Kale
  • A head of lettuce (not sure what type, romaine, maybe?)
  • Eggs
  • Radishes
  • Asparagus
  • Green Onions
  • Strawberries (huzzah!)

Recipe du Jour: Cracker Pan-Fried Fish

dsc01473Over Christmas break, I discovered that I liked breaded tilapia. Not surprising, really. I grew up eating fish sticks like almost every other American kid, and very few things are bad when they are breaded and fried. So, I started looking for a recipe for a really good breading.

This is a good one. I hesitate to call it the only one I will use, because it relies on processed foods, but I’m hoping that I can modify it later. For now, it works really well for us. My friend Erin was eating the breading straight before we put it on the fish, and Andrew used it later for some pork chops that he had.

I did a little bit of tilapia and Erin brought a big batch of crappie (pronounced kraw-pee, at least by her). Both were delicious, with sweet potato fries on the side. Unfortunately, we were all so hungry, that I didn’t get a picture of the actual meal. The picture above is of a bento I made for lunch the following day with the leftover tilapia. It’s one of the first bento that I’ve really focused on making pretty in a long time, so I was really proud of it.

This recipe originally comes from here.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup oyster crackers
  • 1/3 cup Ritz crackers (a generous handful)
  • 3/4 cup parmigiano-reggiano cheese
  • 1/3 cup parsley leaves
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 tablespoon Old Bay seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder or granulated garlic (optional)
  • Flour, for coating
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • Splash whole milk (original recipe calls for cream or half-and-half)
  • Extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO), for frying
  • 4 tilapia fillets, rinsed and patted dry
  • Salt and pepper
  • Lemon wedges, for serving

Directions:

  •  Using a food processor, grind the oyster crackers, Ritz crackers, parmigiano-reggiano, parsley, chives, thyme, Old Bay seasoning and garlic powder, if using. Transfer to a shallow bowl. Place the flour in another shallow bowl. In a third shallow bowl, beat the eggs and cream.
  • Fill a large skillet with enough EVOO to reach a depth of 1/4 inch and heat over medium-high heat. Season the fish fillets with salt and pepper. Coat the fish with the flour, shaking off any excess; coat with the egg mixture, then with the cracker crumbs. Working with 2 fillets at a time, fry the fish in the skillet, turning once, until deep golden, about 5 minutes.

Notes: Do not walk away while you are frying the fish. It cooks very quickly, and you do not want to overcook it. You may also need to replenish the oil, depending on how much fish you are cooking. This made enough breading for 3 tilapia fillets, about 10 pieces of crappie, and a couple of boneless pork chops. This is good with the lemon or without, so don’t worry.

Gardening 2013

I live in Oklahoma, and have for the past 10 years. I should be aware of the crazy weather here, but when the weather started to warm up in March, I got very excited for my garden. I had learned from last year. I would do better this year! We bought some plants and more supplies just after Easter, and by the end of the week, we had a pretty looking collection of containers.

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From Left to Right: Miniature Rose, Lettuce Bowl, Herb Bowl (with Tri-Color Sage, Spice Island Rosemary, and French Thyme), Strawberry Hanging Basket

What followed is the most bipolar set of weather I think I’ve ever seen. It would be warm, and then a storm system would move in with the threat of wind, hail, or tornadoes. The temperatures would dip back to winter levels. This repeated for the better part of a month.  We did our best to bring the smaller pots indoors and cover the big ones with buckets (with stones on top).

From Left to Right: Arp Rosemary (training for topiary), Strawberries (from last year!), and Parsley (from last year, it'll just go to seed this year, but I want to see it)
From Left to Right: Arp Rosemary (training for topiary), Strawberries (from last year!), and Parsley (from last year, it’ll just go to seed this year, but I want to see it)

Then there were the birds. They attacked my previous gardens, but only on one side of the house, and when I put netting over the plants, they stopped. This spring, they attacked plants on the other side, too! And managed to attack the plants as much as they could through the netting. My poor little plants didn’t stand a chance.

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Clockwise from Top Left: Juliet tomato (new this weekend, supposed to be Oklahoma hardy), Patio Tomato and Picklebush cucumbers, Stevia (needs to be trimmed!), Baxter’s Bush tomato (barely holding on) and Sweet Basil, and Peppermint in a separate container.

As I write this, my plants are looking pretty shabby. All the photos above are from this weekend.  Part of my problem is that my kitchen is not bright enough to have plants indoors, so I have to take my chances with the elements. I did acquire another tomato to replace one of the dead ones, so hopefully we’ll have better luck.

How are everyone else’s gardens doing? Do you have hopes that the summer won’t be so harsh because the spring was more cool? Are you just giving up and growing things indoors?