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A while back I won the Pioneer Woman Cooks cookbook – very exciting! I don’t check the site all that often, but I am very familiar with the Pioneer Woman. She’s like a slightly less buttery, younger, and less annoying Paula Deen.
All the recipes in the book look great, and none look that complicated. Photos are shown for every recipe and most every step of every recipe (husband: “Oh good! They show you how to cut carrots.”). The only gripe I have with the format is that they oddly decided to put the steps vertically instead of across the page. I tend to want to read across the page, so often this has me skipping from step 3 to step 7 and becoming momentarily confused about how I am supposed to have already blended something together. I think they did it this way to avoid unnecessary white space when some steps have longer sets of directions, but it seems awkward to me and I’d change it if I was the editor for the next reprinting. The outside of the book is lovely though. While I am mildly perturbed that there is an edible flower on the cover (nasturtium) and it does not seem to be in any recipes, I’ll get over it. I’m in the habit of taking dust covers off if books are going to be displayed, and this book is a really gorgeous hardcover. The material of the book is also nicely coated and not just cloth – easy to wipe cooking messes off of!
There are all sorts of fun little asides in the book, too, which is nice. If you’re not familiar, the Pioneer Woman is a former city girl who fell in love with a cowboy and now lives in the country with him and her children. All a very cute story and the asides are nice, but I don’t know, they eventually get annoying to me. The way we ONLY know her husband as “Marlboro Man,” they way she always waxes poetic about the vast countryside and her hardships of being a cowboy’s wife. Like I get it, but it gets annoying to me after a while. She even has the audacity to include a (beautiful and cool) photo of her shadow doing a “ballet stretch” under the long arch of a rainbow – IS SHE EVEN A BALLERINA?!? [EDIT December 29, 2009: I guess she was. Forgiven.] Perhaps I am overly sensitive to these things. I AM a ballerina, and my hometown is somewhere between city and country (I tend to lean toward wanting to live the more country way). Am I jealous of her lifestyle? Hell yes. Maybe that’s why I’m bitter about her stories. The “I’m homey! And city mouse/country mouse!” just gets to me after a while. But anyway – the recipes are GREAT. Typical home-cooking stuff you’ll go back to again and again.
My hubby was on duty Christmas night and who knows what’d be open for him to eat dinner, so I made him a nice xmas lunch – the Chicken Pot Pie from the cookbook. It was great! Of course as per usual, I modified it a bit both because we were missing ingredients and because I wanted to use some stuff. So, modified from the Pioneer Woman, here’s the recipe.
Chicken Pot Pie
•3 or 4 chicken breast tenderloins
•about 2 cups of carrots, chopped small
•a couple handfuls of winter greens (kale, collards, etc – need to use those CSA greens!)
(whatever veggies you want, really, but I think carrots and peas are key)
•chicken stock (about 1 can)
•bouillon of some kind (I used my trusty pork soup seasoning)
•about 1 cup of heavy cream
•one pie crust dough (top half) – she has a recipe to make it that I will try eventually, but I happened to have one leftover that broke when making a fruit pie, so I rolled that out and used it
•salt and pepper
•thyme and sage (I used lemon thyme and sage mix from my garden)
•1/2 stick of butter
•1 cup or so of flour
•1 cup or so of heavy cream
Preheat oven to 400°
1. Cut the chicken up small and brown it.
2. Melt the butter in a pan. Once melted, add in the greens, carrots, peas. Cook them over med-low heat until carrots are softened.
3. Add cooked chicken to veggie mix. Stir a cook a minute or so.
4. Add flour to mix and stir. Cook for a bit.
5. Pour in chicken stock and stir. This will make a kind of gravy. Cook for a minute or so and stir.
6. Add in heavy cream and stir. Cook for a minute or so.
7. Add in seasonings – salt, pepper, lemon thyme, sage. Add to taste and make sure it’s salty enough or it just won’t taste good. Cook for a minute or so.
8. Dump it all into a pie plate.
9. Roll out pie crust and place on top of pie plate. Cut a few slits in center for ventilation. Tuck in any excess crust over the sides, as per a normal pie crust.
10. Cook for 20-30 minutes, until pie crust topping is done and golden brown.
11. Cut and enjoy!
I served mine with a slice of Vermont Cheddar on top, cooked kale with cider vinegar and mashed red potatoes (both leftovers) as side dishes. Very good, and hubby enjoyed it! This is pretty much just as easy as the good old soup and Bisquick pot pies I usually make, and definitely a step or two better.
On Thursday I picked up the first box of our winter CSA membership. This one was more expensive since it runs from November to approximately March, but my friend and I decided to try it out for a year to see how it’ll work out. So far, so good!
– Peach Mama Peppers – Haven’t tried any yet, but they’re beautiful! The pic makes them look orange, but they actually are a gorgeous peach color.
– Kale – I love kale, and I’m going to try kale chips at some point next week. I think I’m going to have to ger creative with this if we get a lot, bc my hubby isn’t a big fan. If I get too much, I can always pawn it off on my mom. My dad loves kale – specifically the kale my Mom Mom used to make (add bacon/ham hock and boil/simmer for evvver), but any kale is good kale to him 🙂
– Salad Mix – I actually got less than half of this because I didn’t realize that the bottom of the bag was the radishes when I was splitting things up (pictured above is only what I took). Very good tho – ate it that night!
– Radishes – I love radishes in salads or roasted (salt, pepper, olive oil, oven until toasty). Again though, hubby is not a fan.
– Sweet Potatoes – always a winner! These seem perfect for fries. It was actually a very full small brown paper bag. What you see is prob only 1/4 of the total – I took less because my mom had just given me a big bag of large sweet potatoes.
– Bell Peppers – I don’t like them and my hubby likes them but doesn’t eat them much, so I gave them all to my CSA-mate.
All in all, a great start for the winter CSA! It’ll be interesting to see what we get through the winter. Hopefully I don’t have to bog my hubby down in greens, which I like but he can only handle so much of.
You know all the stuff that I mentioned I had to do before it gets cold in this post? I still have to do all of them. Well, not *entirely* true—I did pull up the big gigantic zinnia, bringing in a bunch of blooms before sending it on its way into the woods. I’m hoping maybe it’ll reseed next year randomly there? A girl can dream. The nice thing about cut zinnias is that you can but them when they’ve just barely started blooming and they’ll still finish and be pretty.
But ummm besides that, I really haven’t done anything outside. We’re even still waiting for the shed moving to be scheduled (Note to self: take pic of the yard before it gets moved for reference). The gravel pad is done, but it’s still not moved.
Perhaps this weekend. We have some tentative plans (including organizing the sheds if we move the new one on Friday), but I could prob fit in a few garden tasks. Siiiigh.
Question: Do you plant your decorative mums each year or treat them as annuals? I can’t decide what to do. I want to plant them, but I don’t really have a ton of space for mums. I have 4 very small ones and 2 slightly bigger ones to think about. hmmmm.
I pick up the first CSA delivery of the fall/winter season tomorrow! Will report back.
I should really get out and take some pics of some flowers, eh? The first of the tiny mums I got on clearance last year for 50¢ each have started to bloom already, and I’m thinking about killing my hanging baskets, which never really looked great this year (they’re the same I did last year and I was very happy with them then. Annoyed about that). So it seems that fall is upon us. But since I still have one more beach vacation left in a couple weeks, it’s not over for me yet, dammit.
The CSA theme lately has been TOMATOES. It’s great, of course, but what with the CSA, my garden, and all that I got from the neighbor, at this point I’m kinda like gaaaaah tomatoes!?!?! I used the last of what I had a couple days ago to make more pasta sauce and this Carmelized Cherry Tomato Sauce (minus the onions – I used onion powder), which was very good – though I still have some to use). I might use the batch from this week to make some more salsa or something. I don’t know.
All in all, I’ve been VERY happy with the whole CSA deal! My CSA sharer and I are planning on signing up for the winter harvest as well. I’ve found a couple new things I like (courge de longe squash, squash fritters, green tomatoes, real new potatoes), have gotten some new skills (um spaghetti sauce by the bucketload), and have even gotten the hubby to try new things (tomatoes, eggplant, squash, okra) – some of which he actually liked! My only complaints are sometimes being overwhelmed with one thing (esp if I was taking a whole share! And I know this sometimes can’t be helped), and not having some things I was looking forward to (corn! more cucumbers! and peppers for salsa would be nice, although I grow enough of those in my garden anyway). It’s also a bit of a drive for me to get there once a week, but since I’m sharing with a friend who lives closer, we’re able to work things out so I don’t always have to drive all the way there. But all in all, I’ve had to buy very little produce all summer and we’ve been very well stocked. I highly recommend CSAs, especially for those who really don’t want to do any gardening of their own and still want delicious, home grown, produce. And it really is a good deal, too – I would have had to pay a lot more for this local produce if I’d bought it from the local grocery store that stocks local produce.
I’m trying to figure out a few things for fall/winter. I have some hostas planted in large plastic pots. Do I need to put them in the ground (prob temporarily in the veggie garden)??? Also I’m not sure if I want to try any fall crops. If I do, I’m not really sure when to start them or where to get them. I don’t really see any veggie starts around in the fall, so I feel like I’d have to start them myself, which I haven’t done yet. Plus it’s still in the 90s here, so it’s too hot to plant anything outside that really wants cool weather. Advice?? I do have a fun thing planned for my pansies this year, so I’m excited about being able to plant them when the time comes.
I’ll try to get more flower news next time. I have to take pics of my zinnias (all in bloom now, and a bunch in colors other than pink!) and the crazy long mutant sweet potato vine that is growing like 6 inches a day on the deck. And to close, some pictures of cats being bad.
I happened upon this little gem (don’t even remember how) the other day and joined. So hello to all you others! So every time I post a CSA-involved recipe or whatever now, I’m going to link back there. Now if only I could manage to take better food pics. My kitchen really doesn’t have great lighting for it, which certainly isn’t helped by the fact that this stuff is usually done at night. Oh well. Trust me, if I share a recipe, it’s good!
I’m going to get this week’s CSA stuff tomorrow after work (partner wasn’t able to pick it up today), but I have stuff to share anyway. I am STILL drowning in tomatoes (and this week’s CSA declared that it is “the year of the tomato” at Even’ Star Farms – so uhhhh more to come), and I think I’ve perfected my tomato sauce recipe. While this one is good, I have a variation…
1. Cut the tops off a bunch of tomatoes. Paste tomatoes or roma preferred, but throwing in a few slicing tomatoes, grapes, or cherries is good.
2. Throw them in a large pot of boiling water. Boil until the skins start to peel back. Then spoon out tomatoes and put them in a bowl of ice water.
3. Once cooled enough to handle, remove skins by squeezing tomatoes into a blender. Puree tomatoes, discard skins.
4. Chop up (throw in blender or by hand) a handful of oregano and basil. A little lemon balm too, if you have it.
5. Put it all in a sauce pan and add some olive oil. Also a small amount of white wine, if you have it. Also add to taste: sugar, salt and a bit of pepper.
6. Add tomato paste and stir (without the paste, it tends to be too runny and won’t stick to any noodles). Depending on how thick you want your sauce, you may want more of less paste. (I like a bit more.) Cook on med-low covered until it starts to bubble, then turn it all the way down to low for about 10 minutes uncovered. Stir occasionally (you’ll need to mix in that paste once it starts to warm up).
5. Enjoy! It’s best after being in the fridge for a day or so, but also great right away. And I have quite a few bags in the freezer for winter as well.
Simple Squash Fritters
These are SO GOOD. My husband wasn’t quite as excited as I was about them, but he really enjoyed them too (he doesn’t get excited easily – possibly I do). This is a great way to use a ton of squash. Kids would love them too, trust me. Sorry – you are forewarned that I don’t really measure in the recipe. It’s based on this recipe, but modified a little.
1. Roughly slice up some squash and stew/boil until soft. No need to peel. Once soft, strain/drain and puree the squash. Put a pan of oil (I used vegetable oil) on med-high to start it getting warm.
2. Mix in the following ingredients to taste (you can taste as you go) until you get a slightly un-firm batter. I am listing the ingredients from MOST to LEAST: squash puree, corn meal, flour, sugar, salt (just a touch), baking powder (just a touch).(Ignore the random herb leaf in my pic.)
3.Put small spoonfulls (maybe quarter size) into the hot oil. They don’t need to be covered all the way. Once the start to turn golden brown, flip them over. Once done, put them on a paper towel/rack to dry/drain. It only takes a minute or so for each batch to fry.
4. Enjoy! Soooo good. THe outside is crispy and the inside is gooey/bready with the sweetness of the sugar and squash. Yum! This would probably also be good with various winter squashes or other veggies – zucchini, eggplant maybe?
I also dried some tomatoes. There are a ton of recipes out there for this, but the time was WAY off on all I looked at. They took FOREVER and still aren’t totally dry (they were very ripe/juicy – I head from others on Twitter that theirs too way longer than they thought, too), but I figure instead of storing them, I’ll just use them up over the next week or so. I cut them thin, sprayed them with olive oil and sprinkled salt and pepper. Put them in the oven on 200° for probably about 6 or 7 hours total (3 last night, then covered and left them sitting out today, then a few more hours tonight). They’re very good. They taste like seasoned sun-dried tomatoes. This might be good to do with sub-par grocery store tomatoes in the winter.
So allllll that, and I still have this many tomatoes left! Plus I have a bag from the neighbors’ that I will force upon my CSA sharer, plus I have more coming from the CSA tomorrow.
And you know, I might be going crazy, because it almost seems as if the tomatoes are MAKING FACES AT ME!! This is clearly bad.
This week our CSA guy dubbed “the week of tomatoes” – and holycrap he was right! Combine what we got with the CSA stuff and garden stuff I had from last week and ummm I’m going to be making some salsa and sauce and freezing it or SOMETHING! Plus today apparently our neighbors across the street came over while my hubby was outside and said that they are going on vacation next week, so we could take as many tomatoes as we wanted from their (VERY large tomato section) garden so they won’t go to waste. How nice is that?! I’m going to leave them a nice little thank you note, and maybe some dried herbs in their door with it? Or would the herbs be weird? I guess I can see if they have any of their own, and if not it might be nice. I don’t really know when they’re coming back, so I don’t want to leave anything that will spoil. hmm. (Yup, I will probably also sneak a couple pics.)
- cut dead blooms off of heucheras
- pull dead foliage off of daylilies
- pull dead bloom sticks off of daylilies and harvest seeds
- cut back cosmos and save some more seeds to share with others
- trim evergreens in pots so that some of the trunk is showing – this will hopefully allow them to get water better, since they’re drying out
- have hubby help plant the last of the perennials I got on sale – heuchera, echinacea, aster, rudbeckia, hosta
- also plant the chamomile I started from seed not too long ago so it can bloom and go to seed this year and spread next year – somewhere in the side garden
- clean car
- watch hubby play vs local radio station in softball game
- do Bloom Day post
- do post on our Cash for Clunkers experience (we got a new truck!)
I feel like all I’m posting lately is my CSA goods! Oh well. I just haven’t been doing much in my own garden lately, though I do hope to get the rest of the perennials in the ground next weekend with my hubby’s help. I’ve been heavy into tomatoes lately, which is fine. Between the CSA and my garden, I have a ton! I’ve lately moved on from salsa and have started making my own spaghetti sauce with actual tomatoes (I usually make my own sauce anyway so I don’t have to deal with onions or meat, but I used a can of tomato sauce and and a can of paste and my own herbs and seasonings. Using actual tomatoes is a very different taste – both are good, but this one feels very fresh and summery. Perfect with some angel hair pasta.). So before the CSA tour, a quick recipe.Jennah’s Fresh Summer Tomato Sauce
OR try Jennah’s EVEN BETTER Summer Tomato Sauce on a later post…
1. Chop and mince well (I use my small electric chopper – a food processor or blender would probably also work well) about a quart or so of roma and cherry tomatoes. Throw in some yellow and orange cherries if you can. If you are using very juicy tomatoes instead of roma, you may want to strain them a bit before adding them to the saucepan.
2. Chop up (in chopper or by hand) a handful of oregano and basil. A little lemon balm too, if you have it.
3. Put it all in a sauce pan and add about 2 tablespoons or so of olive oil. Also about 1/4 cup of white wine, if you have it. Also add: about 1/2 cup of sugar, salt to taste (about 1 teaspoon?) and a bit of pepper.
4. Add 1 small can of tomato paste and stir (without the paste, it tends to be too runny and won’t stick to any noodles). Cook on med-low covered until it starts to bubble, then turn it all the way down to low for about 10 minutes uncovered. Stir occasionally (you’ll need to mix in that paste once it starts to warm up).
5. Enjoy! It’s best after being in the fridge for a day or so, but also great right away. Lmk if you try it!
And now for the tour of Even’ Star Farms, my CSA. The farm is very pretty, but I will say it’s not “neat.” Certainly they have better things to worry about than cutting the grass and (gah) trimming, but it is a bit hairy (it’s also organic, so no evil things to get rid of weeds, I suppose). Not that I care, just sayin’ sometimes I want to bring over my lawnmower and tidy it up, as is my nature as a neat-freak. I’d also just love to stroll around the place because it’s sooooo tranquil and gorgeous. Most of it is edible farming, but they also have several areas of cut flowers and just decorative flowers (sometimes they include cut flowers with CSA membership stuff, reportedly) which I haven’t explored as much, especially up closer to the house, which you pass when going to pick up your goods (people DO live there, after all!). Such a pretty place, though! Farm pick-up members just drive up, park, walk to a room in the barn, and pick stuff up! I was a little confused this Thursday because the door I usually use was bolted, but I figured out that we were supposed to use the back door.
Sorry – bad about posting lately. Busy, I suppose. I got outside and did some deadheading today and planted one of my double coneflowers. I tried to plant the rest of the stuff left, but the ground is just too frigging hard. It did rain today later on, so maybe that helped. But I told my hubby that he’s going to have to help me plant them the next weekend he’s off, because I just can’t do it! I am very bad at digging holes. Had fun last night, though – got to go out with a bunch of friends to celebrate bdays at The Pub (yes, it is called “The Pub,” I’m not just being fancy). And with that night ends the crazy month and few days of birthdays!
I plan on getting out this week and getting some updated pics of my veggie garden. In the mean-time, here is the load for CSA week 4 (my half). I am LOVING the white cucumbers, and the crazy green striped squash is yummy! Also kind of excited to try the white eggplant – I haven’t liked them when I’ve had them in the past, but I really WANT to like them – so we’ll see.
Between the CSA and my garden, I have a LOT of tomatoes right now. I still have this many, plus another quart container I picked today. Time for more salsa, I suppose. I’m proud of my hubby, though – he has never liked tomatoes (likes them in sauce and stuff). Lately he’s been trying them! I actually used to not like them (the goo freaked me out) and I still pretty much never eat them when they aren’t bright red and fresh, so I get where he’s coming from. But it’ll be MUCH easier to use them if he likes them in things besides salsa and sauce!
I rarely see monarchs at my house – usually it’s the blue and black butterflies. So when I saw this guy, I ran and got the camera. He likes the zinnias (as do the other butterflies). I have one gigantic zinnia in the veggie garden that a goldfinch likes, too! They pick off the petals, but that’s OK with me. Now if he could only find his way to the other side of the house where the finch feeder is…hmm. My hubby says he’s been there all week long. Yay!
Forgot to share CSA week 2’s stash, but here is week 3 (from last Thursday). Again, keep in mind that this is half of a full share – I’m sharing with a friend.
I also got a bonus!
Boxes PLUS the possibility of some green produce-like thing = Alice in a box.
And now some pots I like that I made. In other words, the second installment of …..my favorite pots!
Also happy birthday to me! I turned 26 today and my hubby did last Thursday!
This summer, I’ve joined a local CSA. I’m splitting the subscription with a friend. This week was the first summer harvest, and I went and picked up the first box today! It’s really well organized. They send out an email each week telling you what you’ll be getting (exact names and everything!) with a few suggestions for prep or storage. They also have a great looking cookbook written by them that they’ll sometimes refer to with the box (ie next week they are supposed to be giving us stuff that will make some salad dressing in the book).
Note that what’s pictured is only half of the box, and a few of the things are one-offs to give us a taste of what’s to come.
- new potatoes
- carrots w/tops
- grape tomatoes
- a bag of basil (didn’t take any of this since I have more than enough of my own!
And now, a couple questions. Are these green tomatoes? Don’t be a smartass. Like, I mean I know they are green and are tomatoes, but are they that will forever be green and are, as such, ready to pick and somehow be eaten? I don’t know how to tell! It’s one of my mystery hybrids. Help!
And question #2 is: Why do calatheas hate me? I gave up on one, but this other one has been doing well in my office for a few years. I keep it moist like it likes and have it in standard office lighting. Now all of a sudden, the bastard is turning yellow on me! I’ve already cut off the brown/yellow a few times but it continues to spread down the leaf. Gah why do they hate me? Well if this one doesn’t make it, no more calatheas luring me from the plant rescue rack at Lowe’s!