Weekend mornings...

are for special breakfasts! Ryan loves helping me make pancakes or waffles, so I try to make them once a week or so. My favorite waffle recipe includes whole wheat and pecans (very yummy with sliced bananas or peaches on top), but recently we tried a new recipe from Cook's Illustrated that was quite tasty.

I can always count on Cook's Illustrated to come up with a novel way to make familiar foods. A few years back I tried their vodka pie dough (yes, you read that right, vodka pie dough) and I may never use another pie crust recipe. It's super-easy to work with and turns out a flavorful, flaky crust (and you don't taste the vodka). Well, today's waffle recipe had a surprise ingredient too: seltzer. Many waffle recipes call for separating the eggs and then beating the whites and folding them in to the batter; this gives you nice light waffles. While doing their usual tinkering with ingredients and techniques to come up with the "best" waffle recipe, the folks at Cook's Illustrated discovered that seltzer would provide that same lightness in the batter without the extra effort of separating the eggs and whipping the whites.

And whaddaya know? The waffles baked up nicely, had a great tang from both sour cream and buttermilk powder, and were light and fluffy as promised with a crisp exterior. A bonus for Mr. H.: they are less eggy than our usual waffles (in addition to being anti-condiment, Mr. H. is also anti-egg). They were a great backdrop for some sliced berries from the CSA farm.

Oh happy morning!

CSA 2010: Week 3

9:56 AM by Stephanie 0 comments
Greens galore! This week's share:

2 bunches kale
4 heads lettuce
1 lb. spinach
1/4 lb. arugula
1/2 pint strawberries

I know the berry quantities sound puny, but it's still early in the season. In past years, the first day of strawberry picking wasn't even until Memorial Day weekend, and in 2010 we're already at week 3 of berries. So I'm hoping that much larger yields are still to come!

I've already used most of the spinach and all of the arugula. I'm planning to blanch, chop and freeze the kale for later use- it stands up really well to freezing- or maybe make my favorite potatoes and greens dish. And as for the lettuce...salad days continue!

Ooh La La!

Another Friday sandwich night at our house, and this time Ryan got to choose the sandwich. He paged through a cookbook of mine and selected one called the "Ooh La La!" Since the recipe title gives nothing away, I'll fill you in. The Ooh La La consists of turkey, melted brie, raspberry mayo, and lettuce, all piled onto a buttery croissant. I described this to my sister on the phone last night and she said "That sounds...kind of disgusting." Hee.

Actually, it wasn't a terrible combo at all. I skipped the raspberry mayo (which was simply raspberry jam stirred into jarred mayo) and just used the jam* (see my mini-rant on the jam later). Mr H., as I've mentioned, is generally anti-condiment and mayo is the most evil condiment of them all in his book, but he likes jam. I was out of lettuce (gasp! can you believe we finished 3 heads of lettuce with a day to spare before the next CSA pickup?!) so I used some fresh spinach leaves. And my sandwich was, of course, turkey-free.

So, I made the sandwiches. The croissants get split open. The bottom halves are piled with turkey (or not) and topped with slices of brie, then run quickly under the broiler just until the cheese is nice and melty. Once out of the oven, I laid a few spinach leaves over the cheese, spread jam on the other half of each croissant, and placed them on top.

The verdict? My turkey-free version was fine- a little rich between the brie and croissant. Mr H. seemed to like his. Ryan ate half his sandwich rapidly, then said suspiciously "What's THIS?" referring to the cheese. Ryan is weird about cheese. He likes REAL parmigiano-reggiano. He'll eat mozzarella on pizza and sometimes will eat melted cheddar in a quesadilla. Otherwise, he's down on cheese. I told him the brie was fancy French cheese, since he is currently obsessed with Paris (don't ask), but he was unmoved. Sigh. So he nibbled away at some of the turkey on the second half of his sandwich but didn't finish it. Overall, probably not a repeater, but definitely a unique entry in our Friday sandwich night series.

Next week, we're having very special guests for dinner, and they'll be making the sandwich selection for us!

*The jam rant: My usual jam of choice is Polaner All-Fruit. But recently this seems to have been replaced on store shelves with Polaner All-Fruit with FIBER. And that's what Mr. H. brought home last night from the store, not realizing it was any different from what we usually buy. Can someone please explain to me why we need added fiber in JAM? I'm so tired of finding surprise ingredients and additions in products I previously liked. Seriously-if you need fiber in your diets, people, eat whole grains, beans, and fruits and veggies.

Salad days...

Two heads of lettuce down, one to go...

It is hot hot HOT here, and I don't know about you, but on 90+ degree day I have no desire to turn on the oven or eat a heavy meal. We have no problem making a meal out of giant salads!

Last night's salade du jour was arugula with fresh mozzarella, kalamata olives, white beans, and red onions, with a lemon-basil vinaigrette and crispy onions on top. Lots of big flavors in there- slightly bitter arugula, salty olives, sharp red onion, and then the textural contrast of the crisp onions. Yum.

And tonight, we went with a Greek-style salad. Feta, olives, cucumber, onion, tomatoes, bell pepper, radishes from our garden, and onion along with a big pile of greens. To make the meal a little more substantial, I made a quick batch of chickpea patties- basically, just chickpeas, garlic, parsley and spices smushed in a food processor, then pan-fried until crisp. Think pared-down falafel. They made a nice topper for the salad.

We'll knock off the last head of lettuce in side salads the next two nights. Now I just need to figure out what to do with the spinach...and then I can enjoy empty crisper drawers for about 12 hours, until the next CSA share is doled out on Saturday morning!

CSA 2010: Week 2

Time to get out the salad recipes!

This week's share included:

3 heads of lettuce (green leaf and red leaf)
1/2 lb. spinach
1/2 lb. arugula
1 pint strawberries

As usual, the strawberries are already gone. We ate them unadorned at lunch and dinner. They were utter perfection. I figure there's no point in hoarding them when they're at their best freshly picked. Ryan had better watch out- he used to have dibs on the berries but now that Aiden has discovered how delicious they are, Ryan has competition! Aiden scarfed down berries as fast as I could cut them up for him today.

The lettuces are HUGE. I bought lots of salad ingredients at the grocery store today, so we'll see what I can come up with this week. When we were walking to the strawberry field, we passed a huge bed of all kinds of lettuces, which I'm sure we'll be receiving in our share in the weeks to come. Usually I manage to get through a few weeks of 3+ heads of lettuce/week before I start to lose steam and tire of seeing bags of greens filling both crisper drawers plus several shelves of the fridge!

Friday night is sandwich night!

Last fall, in an effort to simplify weekly meal planning and get Ryan, age 4, involved in the process, I declared that Friday nights would be pizza nights. Not takeout pizza- homemade pizza. Each week, one family member gets to pick the toppings and that's the pizza I make. It was fun and easy- Ryan looked forward to it every week and tried some new toppings, and when Aiden's teeth started to come in, he decided he liked pizza a lot.

Now that summer is approaching and it's getting hot out, I'm not so inclined to turn the oven on to 500 degrees every Friday night. So for the summer season, we're replacing pizza night with sandwich night! Again, the idea is to keep things nice and easy, and give each family member a turn at picking out a sandwich for me to make. This is a meal we can easily enjoy while relaxing on the deck, with a cold end-of-the-week drink for the grown-ups, and there's minimal cleanup involved for Mr. H.

This week was Mr. H's turn to pick, and he chose a variation on grilled cheese: grilled cheddar with apples and baby spinach on sourdough. Sounded good to me, and it was! I slathered some honey mustard on my bread before adding the other fillings; Mr. H is anti-condiment so his sandwich was mustard-free. I was surprised and pleased that Ryan didn't even hesitate to eat this combination- I *almost* made him a plain grilled cheese, but then I went ahead and made him the same sandwich as the grown-ups, and he ate it. Even Aiden scarfed down some baby-sized bites of sandwich! On the side we had potato chips, and a salad of bibb lettuce and strawberries in a sweet poppyseed vinaigrette. Nice way to end the week, right?

Weeknight potato salad

I love potato salad. All kinds of potato salad. But the husband hates mayonnaise, which automatically removes approximately half of all potato salad recipes from contention for the dinner table at our house. Drat.

This recipe, however, does the trick when I want a fairly quick potato salad to go with sandwiches or veggie burgers. It evolved from one that I found years ago in one of Mollie Katzen's cookbooks. In her recipe, she calls for boiling diced potatoes in a mixture of one part vinegar to five parts water, until the potatoes are just tender . That's pretty much the only part I remember at this point, but it's the key information. What you do next is up to you. Here's what I do:

-I use about 2 lbs red potatoes, cut into about 1/2" dice. I don't bother peeling them.
-For the vinegar, I use red wine or white wine vinegar
-I put about a teaspoon of kosher salt into the pot along with the potatoes

Once the potatoes are tender, drain them and transfer to a bowl. Then the fun begins. While the potatoes are still warm...

-Drizzle with olive oil
-Season with salt, pepper, or other spices
-Toss in some chopped fresh herbs: chives, basil, oregano, cilantro- whatever you like
-Mince a clove of garlic and stir it in- or not.
-Add anything else you like- halved cherry or grape tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, kalamata olives, roasted garlic, some minced chipotle in adobo sauce, diced bell pepper or roasted pepper, minced red onion or scallion, thinly sliced zucchini, corn kernels, black beans, white beans...
-Taste and adjust seasonings- a little more olive oil? a squeeze of lemon? more freshly ground pepper? Go for it!

And then serve warm, at room temp, or chilled. If you serve it cooled/chilled, you can also add a bit of grated or crumbled cheese to the salad.

But really, all you need to remember is this: 1 cup of vinegar to 5 cups water. Then make it your own and enjoy!

ADHD and pesticides?

2:47 PM by Stephanie 0 comments
Today, CNN published a story about new research linking childhood ADHD with pesticide exposure.

Oy. Yes, it's just one study. Yes, the study has some limitations (such as the fact that they only measured pesticide levels one time per child- we don't know how much those levels might fluctuate over the short and long terms). No, there's no definitive causal link between the two at this point. But in my opinion, it's yet another reason to be particularly thoughtful about the choices we make when feeding our kids, and it makes me feel even more committed to choosing organic and/or local produce for my family whenever possible.

If you haven't already seen it, the Environmental Working Group recently published its 2010 Shopper's Guide to Pesticides, which includes a list of the "dirty dozen" most contaminated fruits and veggies (would you have guessed that celery would top the list?), and the "clean fifteen" that are least likely to be contaminated. You can even print out a handy wallet-sized copy of the list to carry with you to the store. I know it will help me make more informed decisions in the produce section.

Dinner Tonight: May 16

I've had a mini-cold for a week and am pretty sleep deprived thanks to the baby, who thinks it's cool to wake up with the neighborhood "dawn chorus" of birds at 5 A.M. each day. Days like this call for an easy meal- easy to prepare, easy to clean up.

So here's what we tried: Liar's Soup. What? Yep, Liar's Soup. This recipe's been around on the internet for a while; I think it originated in Real Simple magazine. I think the idea behind the title is that it's so good you could get away with saying you slaved over a hot stove all day to make it. What's in it? One jar of Rao's marinara sauce* one can of cannellini beans, one cup of vegetable broth, one clove of garlic, a squeeze of lemon, some salt and pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil. What do you have to do? Dump it all in a pot, blitz it with a hand blender til pureed, heat it up, and eat it. Yup, that's all. What's in it for you? A flavorful, satisfying, and EASY meal. Alongside, we had bread and an arugula (from the CSA!) salad with shaved parmesan and almonds.

And there you go. A healthy dinner in no time flat.

*I've never been to Rao's restaurant in NYC, or even tried their marinara sauce before today. I mean, $9 for a jar of spaghetti sauce? Not generally in my budget. But it was on sale this week, and I remembered this recipe. I tasted the sauce before pouring it into the pot, and will admit it's very, very good. The soup recipe as I found it says the sauce "must be Rao's." Of course, I read that as a challenge, and now I have to try it with another (cheaper!) brand. If I do any experimenting, I'll let you know what I find.

CSA 2010: Week 1

Woo hoo! The farm is open for the season! After a morning trip to the dentist and two newly filled cavities (boo), Ryan and I headed out to Honey Brook. Beautiful day, too- sunny, breezy, warm but not hot.

Our share today was small- arugula, lettuce, and just 1/2 pint of strawberries- but it's always exciting to get out there and see all the plants that are just getting started for the season. Rows and rows of miniature lettuce heads that will provide salads for weeks (or even months) to come, raspberry canes sprouting new leaves, perennial herb beds springing to life, and lots of freshly plowed fields that will soon be home to tomato transplants and other crops. Plenty of deliciousness to look forward to.

The strawberries are perfect. Red through and through, juicy and sweet, and just about gone already! We can't wait for more next week

I'll use the arugula in a simple salad tomorrow night. The recipe is from the June issue of Everyday Food: Arugula Salad with Almonds and Parmesan. Now I just have to figure out what to serve with it...