Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Asian Cabbage Slaw

Napa cabbage time!

A tad milder and sweeter than your standard green cabbage, it can be braised, marinated, used as a wrap, added to soups or eaten raw in salads (it's tasty with noodles!). Chop up the white stems and add to a stir fry for a bit of crunch. Such a versatile little veggie.

Asian cabbage slaw is an easy side dish and a happy addition to summer barbeques.

Mix together shredded cabbage, grated carrots, and diced bell pepper. My cabbage was a bit more on the chopped side than shredded. What can I say? I was feeling lazy creative.

Whisk together oil, rice vinegar, soy sauce, brown sugar and ginger.

Toss the dressing with the veggie mix and let marinate a wee bit.

Hello, refreshing alternative to coleslaw! Recipe below, or printer-friendly version here.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The box: week two

New produce box!

This week's haul:
  • 14 oz. sugar snap peas
  • 2 lb. Napa cabbage
  • ½ lb. kale
  • ½ lb. Swiss chard
  • 1¼ lb. mixed greens
The highlight today was definitely the snap peas. "How many can I eat?" asked The Boy. I rinsed them, pulled off the strings, and stuck them in the fridge for snacking.

The kale is destined for a pasta dish, the cabbage for a slaw and--depending on how ambitious I feel--spring rolls. I'm still mulling over what to do with the chard that the kids will deign to eat.  

Friday, June 25, 2010

Strawberry Clafouti

More strawberries! I made a clafouti, only with our little early summer stars instead of the traditional cherries.

I wish I were a better photographer so I could capture how tasty this little number was. Clafouti is a new discovery for me--mellow, fruity, very summery--and now I'm daydreaming about all the other fruits I could try.

And it's easy, too. Went together in no time at all. Toss halved berries in cornstarch and line the bottom of a heavily buttered dish. I used a few more than the recipe called for so that the bottom would be covered. Definitely fit in as many as you can.

Blend flour, eggs, sugar, vanilla and milk, pour the batter over the berries, and bake for close to an hour.

It becomes a lovely dish a bit like custard, a bit like cake. A friend who was over the night we ate this remarked that it reminded her of flan. The berries floated to the top during baking, making a colorful layer.

It would be absolutely decadent at a brunch.

Recipe below, or view a printable version at the Sunset website.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

West African Peanut Soup, or How My Kids Ate Kale

Oh, kale.

I'm supposed to like you. I know you're so very good for me, all dark green and leafy. But you're bitter and tough. That makes me unhappy.

But you won't win, kale. I will keep finding ways to trick myself into eating you. And trick the kids into eating you, too. Maybe I'll even convince them to like you. Stranger things have happened.

I've got one more trick up my sleeve now. This peanut soup with chicken recipe we tried tonight? The kids ate it up. Loved its peanut buttery taste and the almost-sweetness of it. The Boy even said he liked "the green stuff."

So, kale? So far this summer? Me: 1; you: 0.

Recipe below; printable version here.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Useful things: strawberry huller

Looks like it's strawberry week here at the veggie blog!

Behold the Oxo Good Grips Strawberry Huller ($6, I'm not usually a big fan of single-use kitchen gadgets, but I love this little sucker.

It does just what the name promises: hulls your strawberries. True, you can cut those little woody bits out with a knife. But I typically slice off most of the sweet top along with it, which seems like a waste. And the berries aren't the prettiest afterward.

This makes the whole process much more efficient:

Start by removing the leaves
Erm, this picture seems vaguely dirty
Twist and the hull comes neatly out...
...leaving just the sweet fruit.
My one complaint is that the marketing makes it seem like it will take off the leaves along with the hull. I've found that the tool often cuts through the leaves instead, leaving you with bits of green stuck on and in the berry. Now I just pluck off the leaves as I'm sorting through the berries before washing them, to avoid the problem.

If you want to try out the method without buying the gadget, I read that a star tip--the kind you use on a frosting bag--will also pull out the hulls.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The box: week one

Today marked the first produce delivery!

This week's haul:

  • ½ lb. kale
  • ½ lb. Swiss chard
  • 1+ lb. mixed salad greens
  • 1 flat strawberries (about 10.5 lbs.)

I chopped up the kale and chard to use in recipes over the next couple of days. One pound of the berries turned into a a few pints of freezer jam; the rest were hulled and divided between the freezer and the fridge. A few disappeared into tiny mouths hovering around the kitchen.

This is the point in the CSA share in which I think, "What the French toast did we sign up for?" Not because the produce is too overwhelming--just the opposite. The summer bounty doesn't really start until next month and really kicks into high gear in August. Right now the boxes are sparse and heavy on the greens. But this year I know what goodness lies ahead. So we will push through the green weeks and enjoy those red ripe strawberries.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Strawberry Custard Pie

As promised, here is the best strawberry custard pie recipe. Ever.

I'm totally not kidding. Ridiculously tasty.
It takes an obscene amount of time, dirties several dishes and is liable to clog your arteries by the third bite. But you won't care because it tastes so good.

I only make it once a year. (Why? See: above.) But after eating it that first time, it ruined me for other strawberry pies. It seems wrong to make anything else when strawberries are in season.

It is time-consuming, but not complicated. Part of its beauty is that it doesn't take shortcuts. No pudding mixes or boxes of gelatin. Start with a baked pie crust.

Yes, I know it's lopsided. Shush.
Make a simple custard on the stovetop from milk, sugar, cornstarch, egg yolks and vanilla. Oh, and toss a little butter in there at the end. I mean really, why not at this point?

It looks boring now. But just wait.
Back to the stove to whip up a glaze from (more) sugar, (more) cornstarch, water and lemon juice. The recipe calls for a full ½ teaspoon red food coloring, but I always stop after a few drops. I don't need my glaze that red. Add hulled, halved strawberries, gently spoon atop the pie, and chill...

... and you have yourself a pie.

Fair warning: in my experience, it doesn't keep very well after it's been cut. The leftovers get a bit runny the next day and it all turns ugly. All the more reason to gather some folks together to finish it off the day it's created.

Recipe below; printable version here.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Hello there strawberries! Come to mama.

We picked strawberries today.

I could offer you some words about the loveliness of freshly picked fruit or the joy of children discovering the perfect berry.

But the truth? I never get over how dirt cheap u-pick fruit is. We brought home seven pints of organic strawberries for $5. Huzzah!

It wasn't the best picking day, results-wise. The unrelenting rain we've had the past couple of months has really done a number on some of the local crops, strawberries included. And The Girl had trouble figuring out what "ripe" looked like. Although I noticed she managed to eat only the deep red ripe ones. Very suspicious.

But we still brought back those seven tasty pints. Which means tomorrow? We're digging out the recipe for the Best. Strawberry Pie. Ever. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Pumpkin + coconut = muffin yum

I've pulling random items out of our garage freezer all week in preparation for The Great Defrosting this weekend. Today's find: pumpkin purée from autumn past. Since the second-best* use of pumpkin is bread, it was muffin time!

pumpkin coconut whole wheat muffins
A food photographer I am not
I tried out a Mark Bittman recipe that promised a whole wheat muffin that wasn't as heavy and dense as a rock. Could it be true? The recipe was a master recipe of sorts that invited getting creative with the ingredients, so I decided to pair the pumpkin with the sweetness of coconut.

The combination of cloudy morning, hot coffee and warm muffins was a total mood-booster. The recipe lived up to its claim of a fluffy whole wheat muffin and the hint of coconut was just right.  I think coconut may replace nuts as my favorite muffin mix-in for a spell.

To make the muffins dairy-free, I used an all-vegetable margarine and mixed unsweetened soy milk with ½ tablespoon lemon juice as a buttermilk substitute.

Recipe below; printable version here.

* First best use is pumpkin pie, of course.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Homemade refried beans

Since I learned how to cook and freeze dried beans we've pretty much stopped buying canned beans. So much cheaper and no worries of BPA nastiness. But it never occurred to me to make our own refried beans until another blogger mentioned it.

We gave it a try the other month and, holy smokes, I think I'm ruined for canned refried beans forever. Not only was it less expensive to make our own, but they tasted so much better. Now we've got a  few frozen batches stashed away and ready to go the next time burrito night rolls around. A pint container holds about the same amount as a standard can.

I'm still experimenting with some different recipes, but the one below is the one we are using at the moment. It's a mild, plain flavor, just like you want out of your basic refried beans. It suggests smashing the beans with a potato masher, but I like going at them with my immersion blender instead. Much more like the familiar texture of the canned version that way!

Now to figure out how to recreate the green chile and lime refried beans. Mmmm.

Recipe below; printable version here.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Give the kids a knife or two

Melissa and Doug 31 Piece Cutting Food BoxWe try to involve the kids as much as is practical in unpacking and preparing our summer produce. The more they interact with the food, the more likely they are to eat it when served, and I'll take any advantage I can get! At four and two, they aren't quite ready to be handed a knife to help chop. But they can--and do--play with their wooden fruit and vegetable cutting sets while we chop away at the real food. Way more fun than regular wooden play food, these veggies are "sliced" into segments and held together by velcro dots. The wooden knife makes a satisfying thwack thwack as they slice through the foods.

Plan Toy Fruit and Vegetable Play Set
We have two sets that we keep jumbled together. The Melissa & Doug Cutting Food Box (above, $14 at has a mix of breads, veggies and fruits. The other, by PLAN Toys (left, $15 at, is all produce. The PLAN set is a little higher quality and just plain prettier. But the Melissa & Doug set is the winner for including a bigger variety of items and dividing each piece into more segments. It's far more fun--and realistic--to cut a carrot into four pieces than into two.

The Boy just wandered in and I asked him what he would tell people about his cutting sets: "I like them because they're fun! And because I can put them back together in different pieces." He's referring to their game of making Frankenstein veggies by velcro-ing the segments together in different combinations--one thing you definitely can't do with real produce!
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