Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Ethan's Garden Fresh Salsa

This morning Ethan decided that he wanted to try making salsa with ingredients from our garden. He surveyed the garden to see what he could use, and came back with two ripe tomatoes, a banana pepper, a small jalapeno pepper, some cilantro and parsley. After I gave him a few pointers on how to safely chop and dice the produce, he ended up with a very tasty salsa.

Here are the ingredients that Ethan used for his homemade salsa. Almost everything came from the garden.

1 very large tomato, chopped

1 small cucumber, chopped

1 banana pepper, chopped

1 very small onion

4 sprigs of cilantro, chopped

2 sprigs of parsley, chopped

1 clove of garlic, chopped

jalapeno pepper, about 1 tsp chopped

1 tablespoon of olive oil

salt and pepper

Monday, July 28, 2008

Cantharellus Cibarius

For a few short weeks in July, you can find these little gems, "Cantharellus Cibarius" otherwise known as Chanterelle mushrooms. Cantharellus Cibarius is the scentific classification, Cantharellus being the genus and Cibarius the species (I'm trying to impress the family biologist here). Chanterelles are edible wild mushrooms which are harvested from local forests. They have been available for the last couple of weeks through our farmer's market and CSA.

Every year I look forward to these distinctively flavored, golden mushrooms that are well worth the wait and price. Not only are they golden in color but also golden priced. My favorite way to prepare these are to simply saute them in olive oil, with garlic and parsley and serve over rice or pasta.
In this recipe, I sauteed the the chanterelles as described above, but added shrimp and a light cream sauce. For the cream sauce, I reduced about 6 ounces of white wine and then added 1 cup of chicken stocked and reduced it further. I then added about 4 ounces of heavy cream, and a roux made with 2 tbs butter and 2 tbs flour. I let the sauce cook and thicken for a little longer and then tossed all the ingredients together with pasta. Simply delicious!

Saturday Farmer's Market

We are truly blessed to live in this city, and one of my all time favorite things about Bloomington is the Saturday Farmer's Market. Our farmer's market runs April through October during which time you can find a variety of locally grown produce, plants, flowers, even fresh baked breads. You will also find several local dairies that sell cheeses and yogurts, local farms selling grass-fed, free-range chicken and beef, and fair trade coffee that is roasted locally.

When you enter the market you can't help but feel a sense of community. It is a social occasion for many and the one day of the week where you can meet up with your friends, shop for local foods, enjoy listening to local musicians, and even get a free chair massage. There is something for everyone including the kids. Mine especially like playing in the fountain, visiting with the Humane Society dogs that are up for adoption, and eating the freshly popped kettle corn.
Pretty sunflowers are one among many different varieties of flowers sold at the market.

Fair trade coffee that has been locally roasted.

This is the line for the most popular vendor of the market. No matter what time you go you will find a line for this corn vendor, unless you go too late and they're sold out. There are many vendors that sell corn at the market but this one definitely has the best variety and is the best tasting, as you can tell by the line.These are the empty crates showing how much corn has already sold this morning, and it's only 10 am.

Need to relax, try a free chair massage.

The goat cheese from this vendor is out of this world!

This is the infamous fountain that acts as a child magnet. Although you can't see from the picture, it channels around like a snake. If you lose track of your kids this is the place you're sure to find them, especially on a hot day.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Apple Cakes with Caramel Glaze

Yet another week of Lodi apples from the CSA. These apples have such a short shelf life that if you don't find something to do with them fast, you'll end up throwing them out. They start to crack and go rotten quickly and a few of mine went into the compost.

I thought about making another pie with this batch but then decided that I would try a cake instead. This recipe was actually for a layered spice cake before I made a few changes. I decided to cook the apples into a sauce and use it in the cake. I caramelized my sugar and then added the peeled, cored and chopped apples. I coated them in the caramel and cooked them until they became soft and saucy.

I used a basic cake batter and added nutmeg, cinnamon, baking spice, and ginger. The home-made apple sauce made the batter very moist . I made sure there weren't any apple chunks in batter for fear that if there were, the eldest child would not eat it. Instead of making a layer cake, I used my mini bundt cake pans, one that I've had for a very long time and the other that I inherited from a friend. I still had to bake the cakes in two batches, though as my batter yielded 16 cakes.

Although I thought these cakes were very yummy on their own, I wanted to do some type of glaze to make them look prettier. So in a sauce pan I combined, brown sugar, heavy cream and butter, and cooked it until the sugar dissolved. What I ended up with was a caramel type sauce, that I poured over the tops of the cakes. These little cakes go perfectly with a cup a tea.

Apricot Jam Session

On a recent working trip to California, I had promised a friend that I would bring back some apricots. Since I was staying in Irvine, my old stomping grounds, I knew the area well and was able to walk to a nearby natural foods market. However, when I asked the produce guy why there weren't any apricots he told me that although it was apricot season he just didn't have any. So I made my way to a local grocery store which was about another mile and a half away. It was a beautiful southern California day and I had the company of another crew member so the walk was enjoyable as well as productive.

My apricot mission was a success and I ended up bringing back a little over three pounds of apricots which to my surprise made it home with only a few bruises. My friend and I decided that we would combine our efforts and make apricot jam. We thought that this would be the best way to prolong our apricot bounty.

I love having apricot jam on hand as it works perfectly for coating cake layers and tarts. The nice thing about making apricot jam is that there is very little prep work. Removing the pits and crushing the fruit is they only thing you need to do before cooking it.

I used five cups of crushed apricots combined with 1/4 cup of lemon juice. Add one box of pectin and bring to a boil. When fruit comes to a rolling boil, add 7 cups of sugar all at once and bring to a boil again. Boil for one minute and remove from heat and place in hot sterilized jars. Be sure to check your pectin recipe insert because the recipes vary depending on the brand of pectin that you use.

Cooking the apricots and pectin.

One of the best tips for making sure your jars seal, is to be sure you wipe down the rims before placing the lid and rings on. There's nothing more satisfying then hearing the popping of the lids as they begin to seal.

We had so much fun making the apricot jam that we decided to make peach and blackberry jam the next day. We used fresh peaches from our local farmer's market and some blackberries from my CSA.

The end result - a cupboard full of jam!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Apple Crumble

We've gotten a lot of apples in our CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) basket during the last two weeks and I needed to find a use for them. These apples are very tart and tangy, so much so that kids don't really enjoy eating them. However, when made into a pie it's a different story altogether.

Since I recently made a blueberry pie, I wanted to make more of an apple crumble. I used a combination of recipes and decided to use my pie plate instead of 9 x13 pan. I used the crumble on the bottom of the pie plate as well as on the top and it turned out pretty well.

Almond Crumble:
1 3/4 cups of flour
1 cup of almonds, finely ground
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup butter, cut into small pieces

I put all the ingredients into my food processor and pulsed them a few times to combine. Then I added the butter and pulsed again until the mixture resembled coarse crumbs.

I pressed about half the crumbs into the bottom of my pie plate and then froze it for 15 minutes until it was firm.

I cored, peeled and cut about 10 apples. Then placed everything in a large bowl and mixed in the following ingredients:

2 tablespoons of lemon juice
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp baking spice
1/4 tsp salt

Pour mixture into the pie shell and dot with 2 tablespoons of butter. Sprinkle the remaining crumbs over the apples. Bake at 350 until the crust turns golden and juices bubble, about 1 hour. Enjoy!

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Don't Rain On My Parade!

Instead of being spectators at this years 4th of July parade we agreed to participate on behalf of our friend Geoff (who is running for county council) and his campaign.

The parade was scheduled for 10am which is a much more welcome time than in the previous years when it's been in the late afternoon. However, what none of us anticipated was the drenching rain that we would encounter on our walk.
When we arrived at 9am to start lining up, it was only sprinkling and most of us were grateful for the cooler temps. By 10am, and what seemed to be perfectly timed with the start of the parade, the rain poured. Surprisingly enough, there were quite a few spectators, who seemed to be staying a bit drier than those of us walking in the parade.
Despite the rain, we all had a great time. Even the kids enjoyed handing out soggy candy and bubble gum. It certainly made the event more memorable.

Geoff's float, which he shared with another candidate who is running for judge, won the prize for Best Use of Theme. It was a fabulous float and certainly one of the more spectacular entries. The parade which marked not only the nation's birthday also celebrated 100 years of our county courthouse.

After the parade we all came home, took hot showers and drank hot cocoa.

Blueberries, Blueberries, Blueberries!

Last week Steph and I traveled to Owensburg, Indiana, about 40 minutes away, to go blueberry picking. This is a yearly tradition for me as I have gone every year since we moved to Bloomington 6 years ago. It's the second year that Steph and I have made the trip together.

This year our timing was perfect in more than one way. We didn't realize until we got there that it was the first day for picking. Usually the season starts during the last week in June; however, the season started late this year and when we arrived the first week in July we were delightfully surprised at the abundance of big, super sweet berries.

We planned our picking time perfectly. We left Bloomington at 7am and we finished picking around 9am. As we started our drive home the skies opened up and it poured all the way home. We arrived home untouched by the rain with a bountiful of berries.
Blueberries are one of the easiest fruits to pick. You don't have to bend over and there aren't any thorns on the bushes.

Here's Steph picking the berries and as you can see by what she's wearing, it was a very cool and overcast morning something else that was to our advantage.I picked 10 pounds of blueberries and found it hard not to eat them by the handfuls. However, I did find some other uses for them as well.

I made two fruit tarts to bring to a 4th of July cookout that we were invited to. Also on the tart were freshly picked black raspberries that I bought at the farmer's market.

I also made some blueberry jam. The recipe I used, calls for 4 cups of crushed berries, 4 cups of sugar, 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, and a box of fruit pectin.

First you mix the crushed berries with the lemon juice and pectin, and then bring to boil over high heat. Once the mixture comes to a rapid boil you add the sugar all at once and then bring to a boil again. Once it comes to a rapid boil for the second time, you boil it for one minute (which can get sort of messy) and remove from heat. Stir with a metal spoon and remove any foam.

The jam then gets poured into hot jars that you have previously sterilized by boiling. You need to wipe the rims clean and then top with lids and rings that have been sitting in hot water. The jars then get turned upside down for five minutes before turning them back over. As they cool you will hear the seals popping. This lets you know that jam making was a success, and your jars are sealed and can be stored on a shelf up to one year.My last use for the blueberries went into a blueberry pie for Keith. I'm not a big pie fan but blueberry pie is Keith's favorite. I used a recipe from Martha Stewarts Baking Handbook, and I think it turned out really well. Although, Keith will have to be the "true" judge as he will actually eat a piece. The pie even had a 4th of July theme with the cutout stars on top.