The ‘I got a new job’ post

While this did happen almost a month and a half ago… I figure I should still post about it.

I got a new job.

For those unaware, I was working as a Hall Director at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.  Now I am working as a Residence Director at University of Massachusetts Amherst.  For all intensive purposes, the jobs are essentially identical.  The biggest difference is location.

We moved back to New England as we want to be closer to my wife’s family and many of our good friends.

We are very excited to be back in the region & have been busy re-connecting with many friends.

Professionally, while I am sad to leave SIU and the region (I have many good connections with folks from the region), I am excited to grow my network with professionals at UMass and also in New England.

End status update.

Banana Bread

Had a request recently for our banana bread recipe.  Here goes:

Pre-heat oven to 350F.1375687_10101594666881608_2118844223_n
In a large bowl, mix:
3-4 ripe smashed bananas (we sometimes use frozen ones too)
1/3 cup canola or coconut oil
1/2 cup sugar (we’ve cut this down from other recipes already)
1 egg (pre-beaten)
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking soda
Pinch of salt
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
Typically I mix each item before I add the next item.  We usually sift the flour into the bowl and mix it in every 1/2 cup.  A tip: we typically use a wooden spoon to mix this recipe.

Pour the batter into a prepared baking device.  We typically use one large loaf pan or we have a set of 4 smaller loaf pans that we really like too.  You could use almost any baking device for your banana bread.

For the bigger loaf pan, it takes about an hour at 350.  For the 4 smaller pans, we test the bread after more like 20-25 min.  You are looking for a toothpick to come out dry.

Some folks like to add things to their banana bread.  We often like to add raisins.  Sometimes we’ve added nuts too.  Really just add whatever you want – banana bread is pretty easy & a great snack.

Just one tip for banana bread.  It travels really really well.  I’ve baked a loaf and taken it to a conference to be eaten in the hotel instead of the hotel breakfast.  We’ve baked the little loafs and taken 1-2 of them on a plane ride with us.  Banana bread also does really well on road trips.  Often we will spread peanut butter or honey all over a slice and call that a nice snack. You can also freeze banana bread.  I don’t personally like doing that (just something about the texture) – but, I know plenty of folks who do.

I think the best part of banana bread for me, aside from the smell when it is baking, is that it is good at any time of year.  We don’t make this in any particular season more than any others.

Here are the original recipe cards we had sent to us – you’ll notice some extra notes/comments & other differences:
photo 1

photo 2

 

What sorts of things do you do with banana bread? How is your recipe different?

Eating through the freezer!

That is our mantra right now.

We have done a great job preserving food, finding amazing deals on local meat, and cooking amazing things… and then freezing all of it!  The problem is that we forgot to eat it!

Contents of our freezer currently include:

  • Ham steak from a local pig farmer
  • Two sets of pork chops from two different local pig farmers
  • Beef soup bones from a local beef farmer
  • Ground beef galore from two different beef guys
  • A package of bacon
  • A package of local Italian beef sausages
  • packages of soy sausage
  • at least 5 pieces of amazing salmon (including two full fillets)
  • a gallon of cilantrophoto (13)
  • a quart of basil
  • about 30 egg whites in quart bags (don’t ask)
  • 3 gallons of frozen blueberries
  • 2.5 gallons of frozen bananas
  • a few quarts of frozen strawberries
  • two quarts of frozen raspberries
  • a few quarts of frozen mango slices
  • an assortment of homemade sorbet
  • at least 4 quarts of various vegetable and meat stock

So, while it is awesome to have all of this (and more) — it is frustrating as some of it is from last season (or the season before…) !  We forgot to eat some of this stuff!  The thing that must go the soonest is actually the various sorbets.  I’ve discovered that some of those are actually two years old…

What makes things hilarious is that we just bought some lamb a few weeks ago – ate that within two days.  Then we got some more lamb from a friend – ate that over the past weekend.  Notice a trend there?

Welcome to operation ‘eat through the freezer.’  I’m currently melting a few tubs of the homemade sorbets to include in smoothies – or eat like one might eat applesauce.  I did this last week with some strawberry rhubarb sorbet and it was amazing.  Next up is some peach cardamom I think.

How do you ensure you don’t have food spending eternity in your freezer?

Garlic!

Brian Gallagher:

Great garlic words by Magdalen!

Originally posted on magdalengallagher:

Recently (well, less recently than I’d like), a farmer friend of ours asked if we wouldn’t mind doing a taste test with seven of their garlic varieties, and also take some pictures.  Since both my husband and I love garlic, we readily agreed.

We were given seven brown paper bags labeled with the names of seven different garlic varieties: Duganski, German Extra Hardy, German Red, Inchelium Red, Kettle River Basin, Music, and Red Russian.

Garlic-9088

Differences that I can tell between varieties include: size of head and clove, evenness of cloves, color & thickness of skin, hard- or soft-neck, peeling ease, and spiciness.  Some of those differences are visual, others are not.

We decided we would take pictures first, and taste later.  The first pictures we took were of the whole heads of garlic.  Next I would take a clove (sometimes two) out of the head of garlic, and peel the…

View original 215 more words

Peaches

Here in Southern Illinois we are well into peach season.  Some farmers are running out while others are just getting going.  Either which way, there are lots of peaches at the market.

We were in luck this past weekend, one of the farmers agreed to sell us a big box of ‘seconds.’  For those who don’t know, ‘seconds’ consist of product that is not as nice or pretty as the vender wants to sell (bumps & bruises, bug & animal damage, too small, split pits, etc).   Often, you can get ‘seconds’ for a reduced rate.  With peaches (and most fruit) , if you are willing to spend some extra time picking around bad spots, you can still get some pretty great stuff!  The peaches we got from the market this week have already been made into sorbet, eaten raw, grilled, and frozen in the form of stewed peaches (good for a peach sauce or for sorbet at a later date).

However, first to look at what a peach is.  As usual, from wikipedia, some information about this great fruit!

  • Pphoto (10)eaches are native to North-West China
  • Peaches and nectarines are the same species
  • Peaches generally have a whitish or yellow inner flesh
  • Peaches have a fuzzy exterior (except when they are nectarines, then they are smooth)

When I think of peaches & how to eat them I think of them as dessert items or stand-alone snacks.  With this in mind… here are some good peach recipe ideas:

Peaches on the grill!
Yes, you can grill peaches!  Wash them & cut them in half and put the cut side down.  After it starts smelling amazing… you are good to go!  Take the peach off the grill & enjoy (don’t burn yourself, they’ll be quite hot).

Peaches with ice cream
We did this just the other night.  Washed the peach, cut it into small chunks, and put them in a bowl with vanilla ice cream – sprinkled some cardamom powder on top.  A fantastic twist on a simple dessert!

Stewed peaches
photo (9)This is what we did with the bulk of the peaches we purchased at the market.  Wash them, take the pits out and cut them into chunks or slices, then put them in a big pot (no water added) with the top on in the oven at 300 for a while.  A long while.  I think this pot was in the oven for two or three hours.

We did a variant of this recipe by adding some cardamom pods before sticking the pot in the oven.  Really added a great flavor!  Be sure to remove the cardamom pods before eating…

Peach sorbet
Make a simple syrup (1 part water, 1 part sugar) – add ingredients, bring it to a boil.  Chill the simple syrup (for several hours).  Stew some peaches – you can do this in the oven as mentioned above or on the stove in a pot.  Then cool the peaches (for several hours).  Mix the syrup and peaches – use an immersion blender (or regular blender) to puree the mixture.  Then follow the directions of your ice cream maker.

Peach Salsa
4 large, ripe peaches, diced.  ~1/2 cup finely chopped red onion OR green onion, 2-3 garlic cloves, minced 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped 1 small jalapeño, seeded, and finely chopped.  Add juice of 1 lime, drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper to taste… Increase any of in the ingredients to balance flavors as you like. Salsas have great flexibility for that! You could add chopped cherry tomatoes to this too.  Best if made day before you plan to eat to let the flavors marinate together.

I asked on Facebook for some peach ideas…  Here are some of what I got (I also got the photo you see below…):

  • Peach Jam with maple syrup & ginger 1077760_10100694196012694_1779761661_o
  • Several peach drink recipes
  • Gorgonzola stuffed, prosciutto wrapped, peached (baked) with a balsamic reduction glaze
  • Peach cobbler
  • Peach cake
  • Fruit salad. Peaches, cherries, blueberries, blackberries and strawberries (or whatever else you want to throw in there). Mix together sugar, fresh basil and just a little bit of ground pepper until sugar is moist. Stir in with fruit and let sit at room temp for 15-30 minutes until juicy. Stir in lime juice.

Finally, some peach tips:

  • A peach is ripe when you squeeze it gently the flesh should give slightly.  Also, it should smell amazing (like a ripe peach).
  • To get the skin off of a peach, boil water in a big pot.  Put the peach in the pot (I use a big spoon to eliminate splash).  Let the peach ‘cook’ for 1-2 min.  Then pull the peach out.  It will be HOT!  Let cool & the skin should slide off with a gentle squeeze of your fingers.
  • Both cardamom (as mentioned above) and cinnamon go very well with peaches.

Oh, and let us not forget the Cobden Peach Festival in southern Illinois this weekend!

So, how do you enjoy peaches? Do you have amazing peach ideas to share? 

Basil

It is basil season!  Woah!  It was all over the market last weekend & will continue for the next few weeks I’d imagine.  I love basil season.

photo (9)This was the fresh herb basket at the market the other day.

What I’m currently learning more about are the different varieties of basil.  I knew there was a lemon basil, Thai basil, a purple basil, and sweet basil – photo 1but I didn’t know about the holy basil variety. Holy cow that smells different!  At times, it might be a bit overwhelming.  Our local farmer introduced me to this variety.  It is VERY different.  We have tried it a few different ways this week.

As usual, some background from wikipedia

  • basil is from the mint family (Lamiacae)
  • basil was originally discovered in India & other tropical areas of Asia
  • basil has been cultivated for more than 5000 years
  • most varieties of basil are annuals
  • Sweet Basil is typically found in Italian food
  • Thai, holy, and others are typically found in Asian food

In my head, basil was mostly linked directly to a nice caprese salad.  I also thought of it a lot in red pasta/pizza sauce.  I also knew sweet basil was a primary ingredient in most pesto sauces.  As I have cooked more, I started to use Thai basil more in my cooking.  I actually assumed Thai basil and Sweet basil were totally unrelated.  Go figure!

Basil Pesto:
I’m sure there are a million versions of pesto recipe’s.  A basic one includes a big bunch of cleaned basil leaves, pine nuts, garlic, olive oil, and parmesan (optional) – all blended together in a food processor.  Change the ratio around to taste.  Variants include blanching the basil leaves first, toasting the pine nuts, using pecans or other nuts, or adding other herbs (cilantro!).  Please feel free to post your favorite pesto recipe in the comments.
It is also super easy to freeze pesto.  Make your pesto then put it ice cube trays in the freezer.  After a few hours, it should be solid.  Then transfer the pesto to a large plastic bag.  Label the bag and store it in your freezer.  Whenever you need pesto, just grab one of the chunks!

Basil Pizza:
We make pizza somewhat frequently.  Fresh basil on a pizza can be wonderful.  A very simple pizza can include a light dusting of red sauce, some whole basil leaves, fresh sliced tomatoes, and slices of fresh mozzarella.  Another option is to put the basil pesto on the pizza as your sauce instead of a red sauce.  We LOVE this.  It creates quite an amazing base to your pizza.  Try pesto, caramelized onions, and anchovies – if you want to try a family favorite.

Caprese Salad:
A favorite of mine!  Slice some tomatoes, some fresh mozzarella, and some basil on top.  Be sure to sprinkle some balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and some salt & pepper to taste.  This is a lovely salad is quick and easy.  Try to find some heirloom tomatoes at your local market and experiment with the different tastes.  That can really enhance the flavor profile of your salad!

Basil Lemon sorbet:
Our farmer friend was really trying to encourage us to try something creative with the Holy basil.  There was a sale on lemons at the store.  We used google.  We found this great recipe on the Oh My Veges blog.  Unfortunately we do not have Meyer lemons around- but, normal lemons worked well.  The Holy basil added a HUGE flavor punch to the sorbet.

Basil in your Omelet/eggs:
We regularly make scrambled eggs with herbs.  Cutting up some fresh basil and mixing it into your eggs (while you scramble them) along with some salt & pepper can add some great flavor to your breakfast.

Basil with various other dishes:
Adding basil to sautéed seasonal vegetables can be great.  We were cooking summer squash the other day  with some left over garlic scapes we found buried in a friend’s fridge the other day – added some chopped basil and it was great!
You could also add some fresh chopped basil to baked fish.
Basil as a primary ingredient in a soup stock would be lovely too.  You could freeze that easily for use in the colder months.

photo 2

With all of these great ideas for basil you might want to have basil around throughout more of the year.  Basil is easy to store.  You can wash the leaves, dry them, then put them flat in a large freezer bag in the freezer.  We do this with basil and cilantro.

Lots of great ideas for basil here.  Wondering what are some of your favorite uses? Please leave a comment!

Cabbage

Our local farmers have been bringing cabbage to market for a few weeks now.  I generally think of cabbage as a filler or as something in sauerkraut.  However, this week I found a recipe in Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian that made me do a double take!

photo (8)First off, a bit about cabbage!  According to wikipedia, cabbage is related to broccoli, cauliflower, and brussel sprouts.  Cabbage heads range from 1-8 pounds.  Typically the ones we’ve been seeing at our local market are in the smaller 1-3 pound size.  As you can see in the photo, they come in a variety of colors and have different appearances.

Recipes:

As usual, I asked around on facebook and twitter for recipe ideas.  Most of the suggestions this week came in via facebook.

Pat MacPherson:  sauteed cabbage with dill and caraway. and butter!

Lindsay Iversen Martha knows:http://www.marthastewart.com/939039/braised-red-cabbage

Martha Ware Peaceful Meadow Retreat’s Probiotic Cultured Veggies:http://www.peacefulmeadow.com/resources/recipes/making-cultured-vegetables/

All look interesting!

1002758_10101410101277558_1277705907_nWe made a really interesting dish earlier this week that we recommend for sure!  As I mentioned earlier from the Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian cookbook, she has a Cabbage with Rice and Currants – Tembel Dolma – from Turkey.  This dish was really interesting.  I found another blogger posted the recipe here.  The dish was really interesting!  The spice base was dill and cinnamon, which is a combination I had never heard of (or even thought about).  The house smelled amazing and the dish was great!  It also stayed fresh very well in the fridge for leftovers & was even more delicious paired with a split bean dal.  Strongly recommended.

Anyhow, those are some notes about cabbage.  Sorry, no family secret sauerkraut recipe, although I’d love one! I’ve actually never made it – even though I am a huge fan.

How do you enjoy cabbage? 

Summer Squash

This week we are talking about summer squash!  I figure mid-July is late enough in the year to examine this fruit – that is often treated as a vegetable!

First off, there are many many different items that are loosely classified as ‘summer squash.’  There are zucchini, yellow squash, pattypan squash, tromboncino….  The list goes on & on!  For the most part, all of them can be used the same way & are part of the Cucurbita pepo family.  (Thank you Wikipedia!)

IMG_4723IMG_4721IMG_4719

Photos of some small summer squash we found while in Montreal last week visiting the Jean-Talon Marche.

photo 1Our local farmers are all selling various summer squash now.  We got some amazing zucchini and yellow squash from River to River Farm this week at the Canon Park Market.  They were also selling patty squash.

Interestingly enough, (thanks Wikipedia again) summer squash are really just under-ripe winter squash varieties.  These particular varieties typically have softer outer ‘skins’ which can typically be eaten raw or cooked.

Cooking ideas:
As usual, I reached out on Facebook and Twitter for ideas about how to cook this week’s item.  I received a great idea from @TinaTormey this week:

Screen Shot 2013-07-11 at 6.47.36 PM   CDT    Thursday, July 11, 2013AD

 

 

 

Sautéed:
This is a favorite method of ours.  Wash your squash, cut off the ends (typically a stem is on one end), then slice the squash into bite sized pieces.  We often slice them into ‘half moons’ (usually with zucchini or yellow squash) – to do this, take the squash, cut it lengthwise to end up with two long pieces, then slice the squash up the length of the fruit.  You end up with little pieces looking like half moons.

From there, put some olive oil in a warm skillet, let the oil warm up, and toss the squash in!  Let them heat up some – you will notice them starting to sweat a bit and change size/color a bit.

To spice this up, add some garlic (before you cook them) or really any spices you like.

Grilled:
1044203_10101401048878638_836205514_nI feel like we grill a lot of vegetables!  But, summer squash grills really well too!  On Tuesday, at our weekly grill-out, we grilled up some zucchini.  We had cut them long wise, marinated them in olive oil and salt/pepper.  As a reminder, grilled zucchini (especially cut thicker like I sometimes do) takes a lot longer to grill than you might expect, and if they’re in strips they can slip between the bars on the grill.

In this photo you see the zucchini, some red peppers, and some local beef sausages from Josh at Lick Creek Beef.

Steamed:
Prepare the same way you did the sautéed squash & steam instead!

We also put squash in a wide variety of dishes.  Today, we put some zucchini in a recipe of Dal that we had for lunch.  It was dal-icious!

How do you like your summer squash? What recipes do you put it in?

The flowering top of a cabbage: aka Broccoli!

Yes, in Italian, the word broccolo refers to the flowering top of a cabbage… or so wikipedia tells me.

A few weeks ago we were delighted to hear from our farmer friends at River to River photo (7)Farm that they would have broccoli!  I love broccoli.  There was a time in my life where I ate rice and broccoli doused in soy sauce for most meals.

In this post, I’m going to talk about broccoli and then share three simple ways to prepare broccoli.

But first, some information about this wonderful vegetable.  Yes, it is a vegetable.  Broccoli is high in vitamin C and dietary fiber.  Broccoli has some amazing anti-cancer compound in it.  However, if you boil the broccoli, the power of the anti-cancer compound is reduced (thank you wikipedia…).

You can eat the whole thing.  The stem, the leaves, and the large flower-like head. I typically find the stalk to be pretty tough, but when sliced, it can be quite delicious, too (you can also peel the stalk if you prefer).

Generally I like my broccoli lightly steamed.  I take a fork and fork the broccoli before I start cooking it to see how tough it is – then steam it for a few minutes.  I’ll fork it again and when my fork easily goes in – then I know it is ready (or just past ready usually…).

Three more recipe ideas:

Roasted Broccoli
Rinse the broccoli, cut it into bigger than bite sized pieces, place the broccoli on a roasting pan with olive oil, garlic, and herbs (I like rosemary) – then roast it in the oven for 20-30 min.  You should have a pretty well done broccoli head by then.  I would typically roast it with many other vegetables – but, just broccoli works too!

Raw Broccoli
Wash, cut up into bite sized pieces and eat.  Many folks like to dip their broccoli in various dipping sauces.  I personally love having fresh hummus with mine.  You can also cut the stalk into matchstick sized slivers & make a broccoli coleslaw.

Sautéed Broccoli
Wash, cut to bite sized pieces and add to any stir-fry you are doing.  Broccoli will want to cook less than a carrot but longer than a bell pepper.  Typically for a nice big stir-fry, I would start with oil in a pan, add garlic and onion.  Let that go till the onion is translucent.  Then I’d add any root vegetables (carrots, turnips, parsnips…).  Let that go for a bit.  Now is time for ginger if you are fan – chopped.  If you plan on adding a protein now is the time (tofu, turkey chunks, chicken chunks…).  Add the ‘medium’ vegetables like broccoli.  Add any lighter vegetables like snow peas, peppers, green beans….  From there – I might also add some greens like spinach, kale, or swiss chard.  Finally, I’d add some sort of sauce.  Usually a simple soy/tamari works –  you can spice it up with hot sauce or asian hot sauces.  Serve over a bed of rice.

So, that’s some on the broccoli!  Who knew it was part of the cabbage family! (other than my smarter half… o well.  It is also related to other brassicas such as brussel sprouts.).

How do you like your broccoli? 

Kohlrabi… what?

This week we are talking about Kohlrabi.  By the end of this post my hope is that you are familiar with the vegetable enough to buy one and eat it!

To start with this is what a kohlrabi looks like.photo 1

Kohlrabi is part of the cabbage family.  There are three basic parts to this vegetable.  The leaves, outer skin, and inner parts.  The leaves and inner parts are eatable.  Treat the leaves as you would any cooking greens.  The inner parts are similar in texture to a radish or broccoli stems.  The taste is similar to broccoli stems, jicama, or maybe even a faint apple or potato.

According to the folks at the Natural Agricultural Library… kohlrabi is full of some good vitamins and minerals.

Our farmer friends from River to River Farm asked us to take a closer look at this vegetable this week and present some cooking options.  So, here goes!

Grilled
photo 2After some googling & asking around someone mentioned grilling the kohlrabi.  We have a weekly grilling night with some co-workers so we figured we’d give it a try!  We cut the kohlrabi into ~1/4 inch slices, brushed with olive oil, stuck them on skewers, and grilled for 10-15 min.  They were amazing!  We are definitely doing this again.

Raw
We often try foods raw first.  We sliced the kohlrabi up and put some salt, pepper, and olive oil on them,  They were good.  I see us putting small pieces in salad in the future.

Roasted
We love roasted veges.  Toss an assortment of vegetables in a baking pan with olive oil and let your 350 degree oven do its magic for about an hour.  With the kohlrabi, I’d cut them into 1/2 inch chunks.

Kohlrabi Curry
We have been on a big Indian food kick lately.  Preparing for some upcoming blogs posts…
I googled and found these two posts: Kohlrabi Curry & Kohlrabi Greens Curry - I knew we needed to try them both.  We followed the recipe’s (minus the pressure cooker – as we don’t have one yet) and found both to be a bit bland – but good.

Kohlrabi and feta quiche
Plan on trying this recipe next weekend.  Looks good to me!

So, those are some ways to use this great vegetable!  Who would have thought something that looks vaguely like an alien could taste so good!

What have your experiences been with the kohlrabi? How do you prepare it?