Tuesday, September 29, 2009

CSA week 17

Tomatillos! I've never worked with them before... I'll have to look up what to do with them on Cook's Illustrated! Everything else is the usual: corn, tomatoes, potatoes, onions, and an assortment of peppers and chilies. Fun stuff! It should be getting down to the end soon... bummer! Last year (according to my friend who convinced me to join the East Farms CSA) they received shipments until the last week of October.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Acorn Squash

One of the things we got this week from the CSA was an acorn squash that weighed one ounce shy of 2 pounds. Jason and I have never cared for winter squash when served by our parents in the past, and so I put off making it. But, I didn't want to waste it, so I looked up "acorn squash" on my favorite food website, Cook's Illustrated, and found their method of cooking it. (Cook's Illustrated is like the Consumer Reports of food - you have to pay for a subscription to their website; $25 a year; and they do recipe testing, equipment testing, and product testing that is all unbiased and really reliable.) Anyway, the acorn squash was a big hit. It tasted so delicious, and was wonderfully textured. Here is the article and recipe from Cook's Illustrated:

Tired of mealy, stringy squash that takes an hour to bake? We wanted it faster and better.

The Problem

After what seems like eons in the oven, it often lands on the table with little flavor and a dry, grainy texture.

The Goal

At its rare best, it is characterized by a sweet, almost nutty taste and moist, smooth flesh - a result that should not take hours.

The Solution

Believe it or not, microwaving took first place in cooking methods, presenting a squash that was tender and silky smooth, with nary a trace of dryness or stringiness. Hammering out the details was easy: Microwave on high power for 20 minutes, and the squash is perfectly cooked. It was best to halve and seed the squash before cooking; whole pierced squash cooked unevenly. Last, I learned that when added before cooking, salt seemed to better permeate the squash. Filling in the only remaining gap, equal portions of butter and dark brown sugar gave the squash ample - not excessive - sweetness. And for a smooth, cohesive filling mixture, combining the butter and sugar with a pinch of salt and briefly broiling the final product eliminated the nagging sticky glaze problem.

Squash smaller than 1 1/2 pounds will likely cook a little faster than the recipe indicates, so begin checking for doneness a few minutes early. Conversely, larger squash will take slightly longer to cook. However, keep in mind that the cooking time is largely dependent on the microwave. If microwaving the squash in Pyrex, the manufacturer recommends adding water to the dish (or bowl) prior to cooking. To avoid a steam burn when uncovering the cooked squash, peel back the plastic wrap very carefully, starting from the side that is farthest away from you.


2 acorn squash (about 1 1/2 pounds each), halved pole to pole and seeded

table salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons dark brown sugar


  1. Sprinkle squash halves with salt and place halves cut-sides down in 13- by 9-inch microwave-safe baking dish. If using Pyrex, add 1/4 cup water to dish. Cover tightly with plastic wrap, using multiple sheets, if necessary; with paring knife, poke about 4 steam vents in plastic wrap. Microwave on high power until squash is very tender and offers no resistance when pierced with paring knife, 15 to 25 minutes. Using potholders, remove baking dish or bowl from oven and set on clean, dry surface (avoid damp or cold surfaces).

  2. While squash is cooking, adjust oven rack to uppermost position (about 6 inches from heating element); heat broiler. Melt butter, brown sugar, and 1/8 teaspoon salt in small saucepan over low heat, whisking occasionally, until combined.

  3. When squash is cooked, carefully pull back plastic wrap from side farthest from you. Using tongs, transfer cooked squash cut-side up to rimmed baking sheet. Spoon portion of butter/sugar mixture onto each squash half. Broil until brown and caramelized, 5 to 8 minutes, rotating baking sheet as necessary and removing squash halves as they are done. Set squash halves on individual plates and serve immediately.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Count Chocula

My kids are dead silent at the breakfast table this morning because of.... Count Chocula! Usually they eat cheerios, or oatmeal, or whole wheat toast, but at the grocery store I saw that they had (for Halloween) Count Chocula... ah the childhood memories. So I bought a box, and served it to the kids this morning. Chocolate cereal with chocolate marshmallows. What more could a kid ask for? I ate a bowl myself... it was delicious. Its only redeeming quality is that it only has 110 calories per serving! But the kids are LOVING it. Lizzy already told me it was "so delicious"! And I've never seen Rachel eat so much instead of throwing it on the floor. On a side note: I got the yogurt burst cheerios last week, and Rachel would pick out all the pink yogurt covered cheerios and eat them, and throw the regular cheerios on the floor! Anyway, here's to letting the kids eat junk every once in a while!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

CSA week 16

This week brought a ton of really amazing vegetables, and quite a few that I had never seen before! Such as a purple bell pepper, and a white eggplant! We also received corn, green onions, white onions, tomatoes, zucchini, potatoes, poblano chiles and an anaheim chile, green bell peppers, and an acorn squash. Wow. This time, Jason took the picture of the veggies, and he had me put my hand in the photo so you could judge the size of the veggies. They are HUGE!!

Happy Birthday to Jason!

It was Jason's 31st birthday yesterday. We had a fun day - he had it off work, and so we were able to spend the day together. We didn't really do anything in particular, just hanging out with the family. For his present, I made him a really fancy dinner, by his request. I made Steak Oscar, which is filet mignon steak topped with crab meat, asparagus, and bernaise sauce. I also made a 3 berry pie, ciabatta bread, and vegetable gratin. To do all this, I began cooking at 1:00 pm and finished at 6:45 pm. It was all incredibly delicious, though, and Jason loved it. My mom and Jason's friend Lane also came to the dinner. After we had all cleaned our plates, I realized I should have taken a picture of one of the beautiful plates to post on here, but... alas, it was too late. Anyway, take my word for it that it was a piece of food art. :) Ha ha ha!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Photo Session

My little sister, Katrina, is in to amateur photography, so I had her do a little photo shoot with
my girls... turned out cute, eh?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

CSA weeks 13, 14, and 15

Week 13 we were in Las Vegas, so Jason's co-worker picked up our veggies and made good use of them. I was very jealous when I found out later that her load included peaches!! No fair. We picked up week 14 the day we got home from Las Vegas, and we received onions, corn, tomatoes, an eggplant, a cantaloupe, apples, and green bell peppers. I made the tomato and eggplant casserole with the tomatoes and eggplant. This week, week 15, we received potatoes, green onions, corn, tomatoes, a cantaloupe, green bell peppers, and a green chile pepper. I didn't take a picture this week, sorry! How about some chiles relleno, courtesy of Rachael Ray:


  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock, divided
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 cups white rice
  • 4 large poblano peppers
  • 6 ears corn on the cob or 3 cups frozen corn kernels
  • 3 tablespoons corn, peanut or vegetable oil, divided
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 (15-ounce) can fire roasted diced tomatoes, drained well
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin, 1/2 palm full
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, eyeball it in your palm
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1/2 pound spinach leaves, deveined and coarsely chopped
  • 4 scallions, coarsely chopped
  • 2 limes, zested, juiced
  • 1 cup shredded Chihuahua cheese, Asadero or Monterey Jack


Preheat broiler or grill pan to high.

Heat about 3 1/2 cups stock in a sauce pot with a bay leaf to boiling. Add rice, cover pot reduce heat to low and simmer 18 minutes until tender.

Place poblanos under broiler or on hot grill and char evenly all over, 15 minutes.

While peppers and rice are working, scrape the corn off the cobs or defrost frozen corn and dry by spreading out on clean kitchen towel. Heat 2 tablespoons light oil in a skillet over high heat. When the oil smokes or ripples add corn, onion, jalapenos and toss until the vegetables char at edges and onions are tender, 4 to 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-high and add in garlic, fire roasted tomatoes and season with cumin, oregano, salt and pepper. Cook another minute or 2 then turn pan off.

Place the cilantro, spinach, scallions, lime zest, half a cup of stock and a tablespoon of oil in food processor and process into coarse green paste. Stir into your rice pot in the last 3 to 4 minutes of its cooking time.

Sprinkle the lime juice over the corn mixture.

Split the charred peppers open but not in half with small sharp knife then scoop out the seeds with a small spoon. Place peppers in a shallow baking dish and stuff each split pepper with lots of the corn mix, top each pepper with 1/4 cup cheese and place back under broiler to melt and char the cheese.

Serve peppers on beds of green rice. Yum-o!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Las Vegas!

We just got back from a week long trip in Las Vegas. It was SO fun! We did a ton of stuff with the girls. Our hotel was the Tahiti Village. It's a condo style, so we had a bedroom, bathroom, living room, kitchen, and deck. That was good, because then we could eat a couple of meals a day in the condo and save some $$, and there was plenty of room for the girls to play. The hotel had a huge pool with little inlets and a fake sand beach, so the girls loved that, and then they also had a lazy river - that was WAY cool. They had innertubes and you'd float along the lazy river. There were little waterfalls and stuff that would spray you along your ride. We went to the pool and lazy river every day, and then part of the day we'd go to one of the big hotel/casinos, walk around, and eat a meal (usually lunch). The first day we got there, we had 2 hours before we could check in to our hotel, so we walked around the Caesar's Palace forum shops. Wow, those are AMAZING. It's like every single super high end fancy name shop you've ever heard of is in there - manolo blahnik, prada, etc... you could spend SO much money in there. We ate at the cheesecake factory there, and it was really delicious... we got the dulce de leche cheesecake for dessert! Mmmmm. The next day, we went to Mandalay Bay, because they have a huge aquarium and shark reef there. Lizzy is a fish nut, so she LOVED it. It is an enormous aquarium at the beginning, with tons of fish, jellyfish, stingray petting pool... the usual, and then the whole second half is one gigantic shark tank. It's got tunnels you can walk through with the sharks swimming all around you, and a gigantic viewing room in the middle of the tunnels with glass in the floor, too. They had hammerheads, and swordfish... it was so cool! Lizzy was just squealing with delight, and when a shark would swim overhead, she'd ask Jason to lift her up so she could touch the shark! After Mandalay Bay, we walked over to the Venetian and walked around and ate lunch at this little Italian "Tratorria" called "Reggiano." It was the meal of the trip... what a find! It was SO good. The best Italian we've ever had. First of all, they brought us bread with olive oil and balsamic vinegar for dipping, and I looked at the balsamic and realized it was REAL balsamic vinegar. Now, most of you have probably never had real balsamic. The stuff they sell at the grocery stores and serve in any restaurant that's under $100 a plate is going to be red wine vinegar with sugar and coloring added, and labeled "balsamic." The real stuff can only be found in specialty shops or ordered on line, it is EXTREMELY expensive, because it is only made in one little town in Italy by 2 manufacturors, and it has to be aged in wood barrels for 25 years. The real stuff is SO good... you could eat it straight with a spoon. They were selling the bottles of it at the restaurant for $20, which is a great price, so we bought one. Anyone who comes to our house for dinner can have some homemade ciabatta with real olive oil and balsamic for dipping. You won't believe how good it is. The day after that, we went to the Dolphin Encounter and Tiger Habitat at the Mirage. Now that was cool. You could walk right up to the edge of the dolphin pools and sit on them. The trainer would bring them over so they were right there in front of you and have them do some tricks. There was also an underwater viewing area where you could see them swimming around. Then, they had a big jungle-like area with tigers and lions. All kinds of them - the white ones and the gold ones. They were beautiful! They're the trained animals for the Sigfreid and Roy show. After that, we went to the Mandalay Bay seafood buffet and gorged ourselves on crab legs, shrimp, and fruit tarts! Ha ha! We didn't eat any dinner that night! The next day, we went to the MGM grand and saw the lions... that's a free exhibit and it was really crowded. The lions were just laying there, too, so it wasn't that cool. Then we walked over to New York New York and walked around there. That's a cool place! We ate lunch there at a little New York style (of course) pizzaria. We contemplated taking turns riding the roller coaster there, but it was $14 a ride, and so we decided not to do it. Same with riding the gondolas at the Venitian... it was going to be $16 a person for me, Jason, and Lizzy... so we didn't do it. The day after that, we went back to the MGM grand and ate lunch at the Rainforest Cafe. It's a lot like the Mayan restaurant, except it's all jungle-y, with gorillas, elephants, and fish tanks. The animals would all animate and make noises every 15 minutes, and in between there was a "thunderstorm." The kids thought it was half cool, and half scary. The food wasn't so great... and it was more expensive than any other place we'd eaten, so we were disappointed in that. We recommend going to the cafe and ordering a soda (except even the sodas were $3.50 a piece!!) just to see the atmosphere. After lunch, we walked over to Excalibur, because Lizzy was SO excited to see the "Castle." We also walked through Luxor so she could see the "pyramid." Those two are cool outside, but not too cool inside. The last day, we went to the Paris for lunch, at their fancy buffet. It was really good... all kinds of delicious French food, and crepes made to order... we ate lots of roasted meats... lamb, duck, pork, chicken, and some exceptionally delicious clams and mussels. There was lots of delicious bread, and we ate creme brulee and eclairs for dessert. No dinner that night either! We also walked around the belagio, which was so cool... they have an indoor flower garden that is amazing! We took the kids outside the belagio too, and watched the fountain show... it was super awesome, but Rachel was scared. That night we had one last time at the Lazy river, and then we drove home yesterday. It was really a great trip. Here are the photos!

At Belagio
By the Lazy River

Gondolas at the Venetian

White tiger at the Mirage

Dolphin at the Mirage

Playing at our hotel room.