Monday, June 28, 2010

CSA.. Vermont Valley

We are members of a Community Supported Agriculture farm. CSA for short. For us this means that in th summer we go and pick up a box of veggie every other week. Our farm is Vermont Valley.

I personally would love to see us do once a week but at this point we can’t go through what we get every other week.

I hope to publish photos of what we get when we get it but so far I am not doing a great job. We got our first box on June 3rd we were on vacation and had a friend pick up our second box and I never got picture of that as one must tell one’s husband the plan before he get home with the veggies and put them away.

So here is finally the picture of what we got the first week

Flowering chives (yummy and they smell good, lettuce, spinach, more greens, radishes, small turnips, potatoes (left form late last fall) a basil plant and rhubarb.

The spinach became lasagna, the lettuce and greens were either given away, eaten in a salad, and the rest ended up in the compost, the chives flowered for a while and a few were added to some dish we made  and recently composted, we still have lovely radishes and turnip in the fridge (although the radishes are yummy and I have eaten some.) The basil plant is in our garden and the rhubarb is cut and in the fridge. The potatoes became two potato au gratin dishes.

I remember that we got more lettuce, radishes and strawberries last week but beyond that I don't know what we got.

We get our next box this week. I can’t wait there will be sugar snap peas.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

52 Weeks of Baking week 7 (5 for me)

I vowed to make something savory this week. So I an effort to come up with some more vegetarian lunches for myself that are easily portable I decided to experiment with mini quiches. Since I wanted to experiment before I made too many lunches I decided to do them for super. I figured this was a dinner that easily customizable to the individual.

I was in a hurry and didn’t want to make a crust so I decided that I would use hash-brown potatoes as a crust but also gave my kids the option of no crust.

I used a standard muffin/cupcake pan too make the quiches. Besides eggs hash browns and a little milk, the chosen fillings were onion, tomatoes, artichoke hearts, chicken, bacon, spinach, mushrooms, and cheese.

I sprayed and floured the muffin cups. I then put approximately 1 to 1 ½  tablespoons of hash-browns on the bottom each cup that was going to have a hash-brown crust for the adults I added about a half tablespoon of chopped onion and I also added some seeded  chopped tomatoes (about I teaspoon). I put this in the oven at 450 for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile I cut up the cooked bacon, the cooked chicken, the artichoke hearts, spinach and mushrooms. I mixed 1 egg per “muffin” with a little milk. I was using shredded cheese left over from a meal earlier in the week. Once the five minutes was up I took the muffin tin out of the oven and started to layer the ingredients in the cups as per the requests of the various members of my family. In the end before I put in the egg mixture there was ¼ to ⅓ cup of fillings in each muffin cup. I lowered the temperature on the oven to 350.

I filled each muffin cup so each cup was about ¾ of the way full. I then sprinkled more cheese on the top of each eggy cup. I put it in the oven for 20-30 minutes.

My son declared his crustless chicken and cheese quiche superb. My daughter said her bacon and cheese potato crust ones were delicious. My husband and I both enjoyed ours. Mine was veggies and cheese his was veggies (no artichoke hearts) and bacon.

In the future I think we will brown the onion and the hash browns before putting them in the oven skipping the step. I thin the flouring of the pan was essential as the quiche muffins did release well.

We also think that more fillings might be a good idea and possibly a little seasoning.

I am really enjoying this adventure of baking something every week. Next up baked custard.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

52 Weeks of Baking week 6 (4 for me)

I baked a bunch of cookies again this time my sons school bake sale in conjunction with the rummage sale and a cookies exchange here on Swap-Bot.
I like a little challenge and my swap partner wrote that she loves bar style cookies. My attempt at a bar cookie years go resulted on burned edges and uncooked middle. So I decided that I would try again.

I looked at all the recipes I had in my specialty cookie books and they all required refrigeration for storage and that would not work for either the bake sale or sending the cookies out. I finally grabbed my Better Homes and Garden book and found 2 recipes for bar cookies that seemed to fit the bill.

The first I made was a simple bar, called Terrific Toffee bars, I omitted the nuts as the school requests that all baked goods be nut free. Personally I think the nuts would have distracted from the toffee flavor.  I found the recipe quick easy and painless. I made the spreading of the chocolate chips easier by putting it in the warm oven for 30 seconds. The toffee bits I used were pre-broken heath bars that I found next to the chocolate chips at my local grocery store.

I found the bars that I made following the recipe closely were tasty but thin. I wanted something a little thicker. I decided to make another batch this time in a smaller pan. I also added ½ cup of chocolate chips to the dough. The resulted in a chewer and thicker bar but with little taste difference. The bars were interchangeable really.

Next up was the oatmeal bars I wanted to make something fruity. I had a vision of a blueberry cookie bar. What I found was a recipe called Fruit Filled Oatmeal Bars. I have attached a copy of that one as well. It gave me four filling options I first chose to do the raisin filling using regular raisins instead of golden raisins. I found it quite tasty but I felt that not having a pastry blender was hard to work.

After some thought I decided to employ my pastry method for the second batch. I put the ingredients, except the oatmeal, for the oatmeal layer to my food processor and pulsed it until it began to resemble crumbs. I then added the oatmeal pulsed about 5 more times until it was well combined but not ground. I then followed the rest of the written directions. For this second batch I wanted to make it blueberry and I used dried blueberries and the same method for filling as the raisin filling with half the sugar knowing that dried blueberries are very sweet. This second batch was definitely a better batch although still quite sweet. I probably could use even less sugar next time.

So my swap partner for the cookie exchange has already gotten the package (so nice when she is only one state away) and loved them all saying that the toffee were her favorite. I watched all my bars get sold at the bake sale on Saturday and the few left for my family are gone. My kids would not eat them My husband liked them all but said that the toffee was his favorite as well.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

52 Weeks of Baking week 5 (3 for me)

This is definitely a long write up of my baking session WOW I hope I don’t loose you in the details.
In my house Thursday is becoming “Baking day”. But It has taken a while for me to get this all written up because I was so tired after all of it.

This week I had to make 10 dozen cookies for a swim-meet. My daughter is a swimmer on a swim team and they are hosting their spring meet this weekend. Yea I did volunteer. In the end I got the most wonderful thank you’s both by email and in person.

So I chose to make 3 basic cookies an oatmeal raisin, a Snickerdoodle, and of course Chocolate Chip.

I decided to use different recipes than I have in the past. And I decided I needed to double each of them

For the Oatmeal raisin and the Sinckerdoodles I enlisted my fun cookbook that recipe from "Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar", I am not vegan but I was introduced to some of these cookies at Christmas time. I received a box of cookies at Christmas from a good friend who is vegan and they were great I wrote about it here. The two recipes are “City Girl Sinckerdoodles” on page 46 and Oatmeal Raisin on Page 75

For the Chocolate Chip I decided to go high tech I have an iPod touch and it goes everywhere with me. A good friend of mine let me know that one of my favorite cook book now had an app. Mark Bittman’s How to cook everything. It has the whole book. I have the book it is really big.

So I paid the $1.99 and checked it out. It makes the book more searchable by ingredient and for me vegetarian. So I decided I should test it out. I chose the Classic Chocolate cookies recipe.

I did some math and came up with 7 dozen from single batches of each and that is not accounting for dropped, burned and taste-tested cookies and other manners of reducing donation count.

OK so I had some other thing I needed to do on Thursday besides bake cookies and so I shopped for the extras I needed and planned out the attack. I decided that I would work by oven temp starting with the low temp and working up and then by simplicity.

First up were the oatmeal cookies, I loved the caramel color that the dough was before adding oatmeal and raisins. These ended up a with darker undertones visually that I am used to with Oatmeal cookies. I hoped then for some caramel undertone which they sadly lacked. Don’t get me wrong they were good.

Next up was the City Girl Snickerdoodles, as I double this recipe I miscalculated how much margarine I had in the house and had to replace with some vegan shortening and a little butter.
I was so surprised at how fluffy the dough was. The making the balls was a lot easier when I put a couple table spoons of the Cinnamon and sugar mix on a small plate and rolled the balls that way. Holly loved these cookies. I will be making them again for her. Unfortunately I burned one sheet full. It was sad as I had hoped to keep more than one for the family.

Lastly at the end of the day was the Chocolate Chip cookies. So very traditional. It it is in the print version as well as the iPhone/iPod Touch app.

This is a flat chewy chocolate cookie recipe. Not a cake style one. Alton brown has a long segment on the differences in chocolate chip cookies on his good eats show. Every one in my house loved them.

I was so busy making the cookies (180 in the end that proved my insanity this week) That I didn’t take as many pictures as I would have liked.

This is my HUGE box of cookies. 10 1/2 Dozen! What a day of baking!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

52 Weeks of Baking weeks 3&4 (or 1 and 2 for me)

I, Vicki, have joined swap-bot and in there there is a challenge for 52 weeks of baking. As many of my loyal readers may know I have a love for making cookies. Well, I like other baking as well and I will try to make other things.

I Have decided that once my partners rate me (I send to at this point 2) I will post here what I got well the rating from the last two weeks are in.

The challenge is this (I am quoting from the swap coordinator RedRubyOnFire, who has a blog on blogger too)

“If you like me, find baking therapeutic, calming and satisfying join me on this challenge - 52 Weeks of Baking!
What we will swap - 1) A little paragraph about the day of the baking and the experience gained that day. 2) A photo of the result 3) A link to the recipe if found on line or state where it is found, and a review of it - eg: if it's good or not, or if you made some modification
All the above is only for the baking you did within the swap dates (20th - 27th April) and not those you have done previously. The challenge is to bake once a week.
What you can bake - anything!”

So this is what I have done:

April 13-20th : Peanut Butter Chocolate Pillows

I chose as my first is a recipe from "Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar", Peanut Butter Chocolate Pillows.
I am not vegan but I was introduced to some of these cookies at christmas time. I received a box of cookies at christmas from a good friend who is vegan and they were great I wrote about it here.  I am challenging myself to make as many of the recipes out of it. I chose one of my favorites from the box I received.
As my readers will note this is not the first time I have cooked from this book. And this time I was really surprised at the ease of this recipe. The last recipe I made from this book involved reducing some pureed pumpkin and this was “mix and roll”.  See Here is me making them.

What I may do differently next time is reduce the amount of oil a little as it is quite oily as you can see from the sheen of my hands. I was surprised that they flattened out so much. My taste testers all liked them. I found them very sweet.  I don't know how to change that other than possibly buying unsweetened peanut butter or making my own. I suspect it would only slightly reduce the sweetness.

April 20th-27th Banana Bread

I was exited Last Thursday when I got out of bed. I was going to make Banana bread. I have a nice typed out recipe card that I got years ago from the assistant to my dentist and the mother of a kid I worked with. The bananas were at the point where the kids generally wont eat them and they are perfect for bread.

I hopped down stairs and began to get things together, but I could not find the recipe card. I hadn’t used it since February but it was not in any of the usual places. I saw 2 bananas were riper than I thought so I felt I was at a do or die point. So I went to the cook book shelves (yes I have a lot of cook books) Looked at many but in the end I went for my Better homes and garden cook book. I found a recipe and after reading it through decided I would adapt it. I began to get the ingredients together and grabbed the 2 very ripe bananas only to discover that they were the only 2 Bananas in the house the children had eaten the rest for breakfast.

As I had measured the flour and cracked the eggs I decided to adapt the recipe further by filling out the 1 ½ cups of bananas with some apple sauce - unsweetened simple apple sauce.

Finally I got all the ingredients mixed.

At this point I realized the oven was not on. I had set the timer for 3 hours and 50 minutes instead, ah these modern ovens with all the buttons.

So on went the oven. About 5 minutes later I started to small burning. Now this was a problem earlier in the week when my husband was making a quiche. He said the exposed crust was burning but now I know that something was spilled in the back of the oven. (I'll spare you a picture of that)

Finally about an hour after I had started to make the quick bread I put it in the greased pan and put it in the oven.

I then started this took a shower and started to clean up my mess.

At 45 minutes in I put foil on the top to prevent over browning as the book suggested. And then back in for another 15 minutes. That is all it took! The skewer came out clean. (I always use a wooden 6 inch kebab skewer instead of a tooth pick)

Here is my recipe adapted from Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook limited Edition (2005). Page 119. (the Pink for Breast cancer edition)

1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour (book calls for 2 cups all purpose flour but I like to use as much Whole wheat flour as I can)
1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon cinnemon
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ nutmeg (OK I never measure nutmeg any more I have whole nut megs that I grate using a micro-plane grater and just guess)

1 ½ cups mashed bannanas and apple sauce
½ cup canola oil
1 cup sugar
2 eggs

¾ cup chocolate chips (not in the book but I always put chocolate in my banana bread)

(Book calls for nuts and a streusel type topping neither of which appeal to me. So I didn’t do them)

Preaheat oven to 350
Grease or oil a large Bread pan (book says 9X5X3) I am not sure the size of mine
Combine Dry ingreadents in a bowl and set aside
Combine wet in mixer bowl ans beat until well combinded
Add half of dry and stir until wet add remained and stir until mixed.
Stir in chocolate chips

Put in greased pan and in to oven Bake for 45-60 minutes until wooden tooth pick comes out clean and is golden brown If necessary cover with foil for the last fifteen minutes to prevent over browning (I did this it was amazing I have had trouble with over browned tops and underdone insides It didn’t happen this time!).

So you ask how it tastes? I liked it there was a nuttiness from the whole wheat flour and it was not too sweet even with the full cup of sugar, fruit, and chocolate chips.  Griffin said it was so-so, I think he could tell the recipe change. Bill liked it and ate about half the loaf. Holly never the fan of baked good skipped out on it.

Now to plan for next weeks baking.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Long time gone and Its orange

I know that I have been gone from here for over a month. I did cook and will try to make up some posts in the next week.

I want to tell you about the orange day.

Tuesday I cooked in orange.

I had two cooking experiments to do today one was butternut squash gnocchi and the other was “Sell Your Soul Pumpkin Cookies” from “Vegan Cookies Invade your Cookie Jar”.

Both seemed like huge undertakings. I was making the gnocchi from scratch, something I have only done once before with regular potato gnocchi. I was a little nervous, probably due to the fact that in the two recipes I was looking at both referred to ability to make gnocchi as if it was some mystical power.

Well I read the two recipes and decided to use the one I found on Too Many Chefs. The article mentions that she has no real idea how much flour she used and called for 1 butternut squash. The other called for 1 butternut squash that was about 1 ½ pounds. I had 2 butternut squash and was planning on using the smaller on that weighed closer to 2 pounds. So the vaguer recipe seemed the better fit to my situation.

A comment (and in the directions to the recipe I saw at Gourmet Sleuth) mentioned that one should let the freshly cooked squash sit in a sieve overnight in a bowl to let it give off some of it’s liquid. Not something I wanted to do last night but cooking the squash in the morning and letting it sit for about 4 hours was what I could manage. It gave off very little liquid in that time. So I’m not sure that would have been a benefit for me with this squash.

As always, cutting the butternut squash was hard. I ended up jamming the vegetable cleaver in to the cut I had made and pounding the works on the cutting board until it split. The result was not a pretty cut but it didn’t need to be presentable so it was not a problem. I used vegetable cooking spray to coat it for roasting, easier than trying to brush some on. (Word to the wise, don’t use baking spray that has flour in it for this application.)
Roasting the squash in the oven gave off the best aroma. The result was wonderful. I grabbed the end just under the shell/rind/skin and it lifted off with ease leaving only the golden soft sweet smelling flesh. I was easily able to scoop up the tender squash and put it in my microwave steamer basket to use as a sieve. I let it cool this way for 4 hours.

4 hours later it was time to also do the most complicated step of the cookies: reducing a cup of canned pumpkin to a half cup of pumpkin. So I put the pumpkin in a sauce pan and the eggs for the gnocchi in the bowl of my stand mixer. Taking some knowledge that I picked up from Alton Brown on one of his many “Good Eats” shows, I cracked the eggs on a plate and I mixed the eggs and squash using the whisk style beater. I slowly added the flour until it was very sticky and then slowly removed the beater while it was still on so that I didn’t have to scrape it and slow enough not to make a big mess.

Every so often I stirred and checked on the pumpkin. It said it could take an hour to reduce and then it would have to cool. With all this cooking of orange vegetables for lengthy times I was beginning to think I had a theme going and might be a bit crazy.

As I added and added flour until I had a sticky dough. Nothing went wrong with pumpkin no browning no burning and it did indeed reduce down like it said. I also ended up with a large amount of beautiful gnocchi dough.

As the pumpkin cooled I rolled and cut the gnocchi dough. I made the “snakes” of dough about a thumb thickness and cut them into 2 ½ finger width pieces.

Boiled them until they floated and returned them to the rinsed clean vegetable dish with strainer that I had cooled the squash in earlier. The kids could hardly wait and attacked them with forks and pronounced them good.

We had dinner with them in a garlic and roasted tomato jarred sauce and grated parmesan. Very yummy. I made so many that some needed to be frozen (“some” equals 119) I put the cooked gnocchi on sheets of waxed paper and left to dry for an hour (just to get the excess water off before they go in the freezer)

While they were drying I made the cookies. I’d never made vegan cookies before, at least not specifically. These turned out to be very easy after the pumpkin was reduced and cooled. It was, in the end, put everything in the mixer and blend it all together.

I put them in the oven and they were beautiful

I never took a picture of them finished. And by the time I realized that, we had eaten them all.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Some time simple and easy is perfect

I have been under the weather for the last few days. This has meant I haven’t been up to cooking much or thinking to hard about food. It also means I got to the end of my planned menu and did not make a new menu or shopping list.

So here we got to tonight and a plan needed to happen. We had plenty of leftovers. We could of had some of that. But the kids have not been pleased with what is left.

I surveyed our fridge and cupboards. Protein in the house was turkey bacon a variety of beans and eggs. Having had plenty beans and it being Meatless Monday Eggs won.
We had a half cup or so of cheese so I thought either cheesy scrabbled eggs or a cheese omelet.

Veggies We actually had a rather large bag of green beans in the crisper. They were in great shape so there is our veggies.

We don’t have enough potatoes for a full dinner and I wanted to round out the meal the bread in the house is a wonderful whole grain and the kids don’t like it much too seedy for them. In the cupboard was several boxes and bags of pasta none of which is enough for a meal but together they work.

So we had a simple dinner of cheesy scrambled eggs, green beans and buttered pasta.

Every one was so pleased that a picture could not be taken.

So here is to really keeping it simple.