Saturday, August 23, 2008

Out of the Box, Week 10

Just popping in to post a picture of this week's spectacular haul.
It's almost too much to fit in the frame!
Okay, let's pull out and see it all:

The quantity of vegetables this week is mind-boggling. We have:
--two small heads of lettuce
--two small bunches of bitter field greens
--two heads of bok choy
--assorted potatoes
--half a dozen onions
--SEVENTEEN tomatoes!
--a pint of assorted baby tomatoes
--three cucumbers
--two small yellow squash
--one delicata squash
--green beans
--six ears of corn

We already had an eggplant, four ears of corn, hot peppers, and garlic left over from last week, as well as a big bag of cucumbers from Dan's boss. I should have no problem sticking to just vegetables this weekend. In fact, I think I'll have to in order to get through all of this.

(By the way, these photos were taken with a borrowed camera - mine's almost certainly beyond repair.)

Friday, August 22, 2008


There's no denying it: I'm in a funk.

Our whirlwind trip to Germany was amazing and wonderful and all that, and I'll post about it as soon as I can figure out how to get the pictures off my broken camera.

See where the funk begins? The last night in Konstanz, I dropped my camera and now it doesn't work.

We left Germany on Sunday and were supposed to arrive in Boston that night, but when a mechanical error canceled the first flight, we missed our connection and had an unplanned stay in Paris.

This is where everyone goes, "Ooh! Paris! How nice!" Not exactly. Not even close. We didn't have enough time to go in to the city at all; we did manage a reasonable night's sleep at a lousy, institutional-style hostel masquerading as a chain hotel.

Between not getting enough sleep before the trip, not getting enough sleep during the trip, and the extra day of travel, I was exhausted. Add to that complete overindulgence (I don't think I ate anything in Germany other than meat products, pastries, and wine), and I look and feel like utter dog retch. My omnipresent purple eye circles have gotten darker. My lower lids are puffing out like a bullfrog's chest. I've got flaming blotches all over the left side of my face. I can barely drag my sorry carcass out of bed and when I do, I have a headache more often than not.

Yesterday I tried baking to cheer myself up and that completely failed. I made this applesauce spice cake with a cream cheese frosting. It smelled amazing, but what a disappointment! The cake was bland and was completely overwhelmed by the too-sweet frosting. I can't remember the last time I baked something and didn't like it. I blame the funk.

So what to do? I have a three-part plan for this weekend.

1. SLEEP. Loads of it. Early to bed and naps in the afternoon.

2. FRESH AIR. To counteract the sleep. I don't want to sleep myself into sluggishness, and I could probably use the shot of Vitamin D.

3. FRUITS & VEGGIES. The only fruit I got in Germany had either been pressed & fermented or baked in to decadence. I don't remember vegetables at all, except for french fries at the 24-hour McDonald's (thickly-cut wedges -- much better than the shoestring ones). Otherwise it was sausage, fleishkase, more sausage, trout, and ribs. I'm going to try to avoid meat, dairy, and grains, and just load my system full of veggies - a nutrient reboot.

We'll see if my plan works. Cross your fingers! I'll report back Monday.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

leaving (yet again)

Tomorrow morning we're heading to Konstanz, Germany for a friend's wedding. The region we're visiting is known for its excellent wines and fish and the hotel we're staying at has a Moroccan restaurant that is supposed to be spectacular, so I should have some great posts when we get back next week.

Monday, August 11, 2008

tasty (but fleeting) hummus

Isn't that a lovely bowl of hummus? Or rather, wasn't it a lovely bowl of hummus? You see, I made this big load of hummus Saturday and intended for it to last several days. We took some Saturday for our hike to Boston Lot Lake, where we had a nice little picnic by the water. Then I had some for lunch yesterday. There should have been plenty left for lunches this week. But the bowl slipped out of my hand and shattered into a dozen pieces, held together somewhat by the glue of the hummus, which was spread over the floor and studded with glazed pottery chips. What a waste!

My whole life, my mother and grandmother have told me that I'm like a bull in a china shop, and I'm afraid it's true. In the past month, I've burned myself five times, hit my head more times than I can count, and stubbed my big toe so bad that the nail split horizontally and vertically and will probably fall off soon. I've got half a dozen bruises of unknown origin, since I'm so used to bumping into things I barely even notice when it happens.

The shards are now drying, having been rinsed of their hummus, and I should be able to glue them back together, though the reassembled bowl won't be any good for liquids. The hummus, however, was unsalvageable. At least I can share this recipe with you; hopefully you can avoid my clumsy fate.

1 cup cooked chickpeas (canned okay, but it's so much cheaper to cook your own!)
1 TBSP olive oil
1 TBSP tahini (sesame seed paste)
1 TBSP minced garlic
1 TSP cumin
1 TSP salt
a small bunch of fresh parsley

Put the first six ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth. You will probably need to stop and scrape down the sides a few times. Add water as necessary to facilitate blending, but don't go overboard! Depending on how soft your chickpeas are and how you like your hummus, the amount of water can range from a couple of teaspoons to a quarter of a cup. Adjust seasonings to taste. When the hummus is as smooth as you want it, add the parsley and pulse a few times. Keeps well for several days in a covered dish in the refrigerator. Serve with crackers, crispbread, or crudites.

Feel free to experiment with the seasonings. This is my preferred mix, but you can also add chili powder, finely chopped red peppers, scallions, or other herbs or spices. You can also use lemon juice in place of water.

For extra-smooth hummus, you need to remove the chickpea skins. Traditional hummus is very smooth and thin; personally, I like a more substantial, hearty dip, so I leave the skins on and make it pretty thick.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

first time - cinnamon buns

Dan's first day back to work was Monday. He asked me to bake a thank-you cake for his co-workers, since they had sent him a nice plant when he was stuck at home recovering. I figured that as long as the oven would be heating up the kitchen anyway, I might as well bake something for us, too. I decided to try cinnamon buns.

I absolutely love to bake, but I usually avoid things that require yeast. Patience is not one of my stronger traits. I found this recipe and while it did take me a bit more than ninety minutes start to finish, overall it really wasn't that hard and I was quite satisfied with it. I baked some buns in the muffin tin and some in a regular pan; the muffin ones came out perfect, while the others had to be tossed because the filling had leaked out the bottom and turned into a horrible, sticky, black, burnt tar. The one change I would make to the recipe would be to add a lot more cinnamon - at least double. I would have done it this time but we had exactly a tablespoon left and not a speck more. Also, cream cheese icing would be best - isn't it always? - but I didn't have neufchatel on hand. Instead I made a basic glaze and added a bit of almond flavoring.

The empty spot on the plate above came about because Dan couldn't wait for me take photos before grabbing one. I certainly can't blame him. Let's go in for a close-up:
Mmmmmmm, yummy! Definitely worth the effort.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Out of the Box, Week 8

Last week, purple peppers; this week, purple garlic! Isn't it beautiful? This must be the garlic that sent off the scapes we got a few weeks ago. I just love this color.

Speaking of color, it's that time of the season when the box is packed with so many different colors (not just green, like we had in June). Of course we are still getting lots of lettuce (curly red stuff, this time), which is good since salads are such a staple in our house. We also got a huge bunch of basil this time as well as a big load of scallions. There's also fennel - another new food for me - and some cucumbers. Beets, carrots, tomatoes, and tender, little summer squashes add punches of color between all the green.

The first thing I tackled was the basil, since we still had some from week 7 and I didn't want any of it to go to waste.

I've heard that the best way to preserve basil is in oil and in the freezer, and pesto is probably the easiest way to do this. I whipped up a few batches of this on Sunday night, some of which went on our pizza. I put the rest in a plastic-wrap-lined ice cube tray so I could freeze it in small blocks, which I later transferred to a freezer bag. Now when we want pesto it will be easy to grab one or two cubes to thaw.

To make pesto, all you need to do is combine fresh basil and pine nuts (about one packed cup of basil and 1/3 c. pine nuts is a pretty good ratio). You can use a blender or a food processor; my mini-Cuisinart works great for this. Once the basil and nuts are well-blended, you need to add a little olive oil. Ideally, you want it to emulsify with the other ingredients, so if possible, pour it in a thin stream while your blender or food processor is running. The MiniCuisinart actually has a small well with a tiny hole built into the lid for exactly this purpose. Once these three ingredients are blended, mix in some grated parmesan or romano cheese (roughly 1/3 c. to 1/2 c., according to your preference). If you are going to freeze the pesto, hold off on the cheese and instead add it to the thawed herb blend right before serving.

We used our pesto on wholegrain pizza dough with some fresh mozzarella and a little feta, served, of course, with a big leafy salad on the side.

two more meals from week 7

We seemed to have a bottomless bowl of confetti salad. It didn't seem like much at first, but I kept serving it and serving it and still there was some left. It was delicious, but after a few days, I started getting antsy for some variety. Here, I served it as a side dish with some spicy Italian turkey sausage that I sauteed with the green pepper from week 7. I was lazy and bought focaccia bread to serve on the side. I always feel bad when I buy focaccia because it only has a few ingredients in it and is one of the simplest breads to make. This night, I just couldn't be bothered to put the time in, so I went store-bought.

Here's where we FINALLY used up the last of the confetti salad! It seemed like a good accompaniment to a hot dog. I don't know what it is with me and hot dogs lately but I have eaten more hot dogs in the past few months that I did in the previous two decades. All of a sudden last April I got a powerful craving for hot dogs. I ignored it for a few days because I don't actually like hot dogs. Or so I thought. When I finally gave in, I was shocked - they were delicious! I think we're now on our third pack since then. These are Hebrew Nationals, which I find to be the tastiest, served on wholegrain buns with sauerkraut and mustard.

The white-ish looking salad in the foreground is my attempt at kohlrabi slaw. Kohlrabi is new for me this year. The two other times we got some in our CSA box, I cut them up and put them in stir fry. This time, I mixed shredded kohlrabi and a shredded Granny Smith apple with scallions, dried cranberries, and an attempt at a sweet-and-sour dressing involving vinegar, lemon juice, and sugar. I wasn't wowed, so I threw in some Bragg's Liquid Aminos, a super-healthy soy sauce alternative. It still didn't do much for me. Luckily Dan thought it was alright so he finished it up and I didn't have to feel bad about wasting food. I know there are a million ways to prepare kohlrabi, so I'll just have to keep trying until I find a way that I like.