I’m more than a little excited about the opening of our local farmer’s market. Our veggie CSA is also starting up and getting our weekly bag always feels to me like opening a present. What will it be? What will we make? I plan to post some of my favorite seasonal recipes here and will also be on the look out to try new ones that make the most of our shares.

one for the basket one for me

one for the basket one for me

four quarts with one toddler - not a bad haul

four quarts with one toddler - not a bad haul

In the meantime, strawberry season is upon us! It looks like a good one and not a moment too late. We just finished our last frozen berries earlier this week. Time to restock the freezer while we are eating our fill of fresh berries (and rhubarb!) Sounds like a pie is in order.

flowers on potatoes should mean good eating down below

potato flowers signal good eating down below

We’ve got someone in our household I lovingly call the finisher*. It might be the last apple or the last scoop of ice cream. Usually, the last bit of cheese or the last few tortilla chips. The last piece of chocolate – definitely.

This morning’s victim was the granola (and me who had plain yogurt instead – I make a good victim.) Seriously, who finishes the last bit of granola knowing it will only add to someone’s morning crankiness?

not a good start

not a good start

Time to make another batch, I guess. I’ve been digging this granola recipe ever since I started making my own over a year ago. I forget which blog I got it from, but it was originally credited to Nigella Lawson. The blogger had modified it to her liking and I’ve changed that recipe, so I’m not sure if it even remotely resembles the original or not. The thing about this recipe is that you can really play with it. Make it as is and I’m pretty sure you will like it. It may be too sweet (or not sweet enough), or too nutty, or it won’t clump nicely. That’s fine, you can tweak it next time, but it will still be pretty good in the meantime. The first recipe I followed was too sweet for my tastes, so I reduced the sugar(s). Over time, I found that I wanted more clumps, so I no longer reduce the sticky sugars (rice syrup and honey), but cut the brown sugar back instead

dry ingredients at the ready

dry ingredients at the ready

While everything is out and I’m measuring anyway, I always make a second mixture of the dry ingredients, seal it, and put it in the freezer. The next batch just needs a few wet ingredients and granola is ready to refill a jar that has mysteriously emptied itself.

* If you haven’t guessed, our finisher is the male of the species and is probably reading this going, “who me?”

following in her daddy's footsteps

following in her daddy's footsteps

Granola

The following is the combination I made this morning. The type of nut, applesauce, or honey used can make a difference in how it tastes, but I haven’t found a bad batch, yet. This recipe is very adaptable to whatever you have on hand.

Dry ingredients:
5 cups rolled oats
2 to 3 cups nuts (I like pecans best, have also used walnuts and raw almonds or even a mixture)
1 cup hulled raw sunflower seeds
3⁄4 cup sesame seeds (have omitted if I didn’t have on hand)
1⁄2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1⁄2 cup light brown sugar
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. salt

Wet ingredients:
3⁄4 cup unsweetened apple sauce (homemade is preferable)
1⁄4 cup brown rice syrup try a scant 1/3 c. and go from there)
scant 1⁄4 cup honey
2 Tbsp. coconut oil (or other vegetable oil)

Set racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Preheat the oven to 300°F.

In a large bowl, combine all of the dry ingredients. Stir to mix well. In a small bowl, combine all of the wet ingredients. Stir to mix well. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ones, and stir well.

Spread the mixture evenly on two rimmed baking sheets. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until evenly golden brown. Set a timer to go off every ten minutes while the granola bakes, so you can rotate the pans and give the granola a good stir; this helps it to cook evenly. When it’s ready, remove the pans from the oven, stir well – this will keep it from cooling into a hard, solid sheet – and set aside to cool. The finished granola may still feel slightly soft when it comes out of the oven, but it will crisp as it cools.

Yield: about 10 cups

it's what's for dinner

it's what's for dinner

Start a blog and then disappear – that sounds like a good plan! Since the last post, our family has increased by one and our life has changed as you would expect. Now that things are relatively stable around here, I thought it was time to get back to it (whatever it is). Especially after the way we’ve been cooking around here lately. The last of the winter weather is making me anxious to get regular food preparation patterns in place and to dip into some of the more precious winter stores.

So where to start? There are stories of yogurt and cheese and lentils and lard all waiting to be told. But I think I’ll start with compost. Well, what would have become compost if it made it that far: the discarded remnants of our daughter’s Christmas gift. This year for Christmas, our family got the gift of citrus! Oranges and grapefruits are peak around the holidays and are a much appreciated diversion from our frozen and bottled fruit stores. I also love the fact that once they are consumed, there isn’t anything left to clean, organize, or maintain. And if you candy the peels, they are a gift that keeps on giving.

My first experience with orangettes (chocolate covered candied orange peel) was on a trip to Maine. I was visiting with friends and after a beautiful hike, we stopped in at a popular shopping attraction. Since none of us are all that attracted to shopping, it was a quick trip, but long enough for a friend pop into a chocolate shop and tuck away a purchase that we enjoyed that evening with a bottle of champagne. I was hooked from the first bite. I guess anything that gets boiled in sugar and dipped in chocolate can’t be all that bad.

I’ve checked out a variety of recipes and have come up with a technique that works for me. It is only slightly fussy, but doesn’t need a lot of direct attention.

remaining orangettes

remaining orangettes

Did I mention that these are totally addictive? Don’t say I didn’t warn you. While taking these photographs, I found myself eating the “ugly” ones and rationalizing that I was just improving the photos. I had to put them out of their misery quickly. They taunt you, these delicious treats that were once destined for the compost bin.

candied, ready, and waiting

candied, ready, and waiting

Orangettes (candied orange peels)

The left over sugar solution can be used as a simple syrup to flavor any number of drinks from iced tea to your favorite cocktail.

peels from about 5 large oranges (just save them in the refrigerator until you have enough to work with)
salt
granulated sugar
water
powdered sugar
4 oz. dark chocolate

Slice peels into 1/4 inch strips. Boil orange peels with 1 tsp. salt for 15 minutes – drain and repeat 2 more times. After the final boil, use a sharp knife to remove the pith – it should slide off pretty easily and the remaining strips will be thin.

In a medium saucepan, combine sugar and water in a 1:1 ratio (in this case 2 c. sugar and 2 c. water), bring to a simmer, and stir until sugar is dissolved. Add orange peels and simmer for 1 hr. stirring occasionally.

Remove peels from the syrup with a slotted spoon and place on a cooling rack (you may want to use parchment paper or a cookie sheet under the rack to catch dripping sugar syrup). Separate if necessary and allow peels to cool (I usually let them sit overnight). When they are fairly dry, dust or roll them in powdered sugar.

If you want to dip them in chocolate (highly recommended!), chop 4 oz. of a good, dark chocolate and place 2/3rd of the chocolate in a metal bowl over barely simmering water (don’t let the bottom of the bowl touch the water). Melt the chocolate stirring frequently until it reaches 113 degrees F (this part isn’t critical unless you want to temper the chocolate which gives it that nice look when it solidifies.) Remove from heat, add remainder of chocolate, and stir until chocolate cools to 87 degrees F.

Dip away! If the temperature seems to drop too much, place the bowl back over simmering water.

Try not to eat them all in one sitting – it’s tempting!

The noise outside is picking up. We sit here waiting as tropical storm Hanna makes a beeline for our neck of the woods. The phone rang this morning. It was a friend informing us that the farm across the street was looking for people to help them pick the apples and peaches from their trees before the storm arrived. The predicted winds would do major damage to the heavily laden branches that already sagged under the weight of the late summer bounty.

Another reason to become more connected to your local foodshed and the farmers that produce it. With the coming storm, we made sure to secure anything that might be a projectile in the coming winds, but it didn’t cross our minds to think about how this might effect the local crops that we’ve been depending on. Now we know.

It felt good to spend a morning laboring – even in the choking humidity (“just rain already!” I kept calling out). Besides the satisfaction of being useful, it was a wonderful opportunity to further connect with people in our community who feel strongly about supporting local food and farmers.

After a few hours of picking, we walked home hot, wet, and generously rewarded with as many apples and peaches as we could carry. The apples are already tucked away in a cool closet. Soon we will put the peaches in jars and add them too our growing collection of winter staples.

Meanwhile, we will hope that the trees make it safely through another tropical storm. Even with all of the bushels of beautiful fruit safely placed in cool storage, there will inevitably be more work to make use of the windfall that is sure to follow.

My husband said to me the other night, “when are you going to actually start this food blog of yours?” What??? It isn’t normal to have an imaginary blog that you take photographs for while writing posts in your head? I think he was just getting tired of waiting to eat as our dinner posed for its close up. Whatever the reason, it finally gave me the kick I needed to get this blog out of my head and onto the Internets.

I’ll let go of my worry of not posting frequently enough or of caving to the pressure and my own perfectionist tendencies. Instead, I’ll just close my eyes and jump in.

So, what was my husband itching to dig into the other night? Stuffed zucchini, sweet corn from a farm just up the road, and seared local yellowfin tuna.

the star of the show

OK, it really was mostly the tuna – simply marinated and perfectly seared on the grill, but the zucchini turned out to be much tastier than I expected, so I will give you my rendition here.

Stuffed Eight-Ball Squash

Others have posted stuffed squash recipes, but I couldn’t resist making this one my own. Using olive oil, this recipe is a vegetarian version, but if you would like to add ground meat or sausage, I’m sure it would work beautifully.

2 eight-ball zucchini
1 tsp. bacon drippings (or olive oil)
2 sm. onions – medium dice
2 fresh garlic cloves – minced
1 anaheim pepper, most seeds removed – diced
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. coriander
~1 c. brown rice
1 medium tomato – medium dice
1 T. cilantro
1/2 T. basil, sliced into ribbons (I used a mixture of thai and purple)
salt and pepper
olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Slice the tops from zucchini and save to use as a lid. Use a spoon to scoop out the flesh – dice and reserve. Season the inside of the zucchini with salt and pepper.

Heat bacon drippings or olive oil in a pan and sauté onions, garlic, and peppers. Add cumin and coriander and heat until fragrant. Add diced zucchini, season with salt, and cook ~2 min. Add tomato and cook ~2 more minutes. Add in brown rice and toss until combined. Remove from heat and add basil and cilantro. Stuff zucchini with the rice mixture, top with zucchini caps, and drizzle with a little olive oil. Add some water or broth to bottom of pan, set zucchini in middle and bake for ~ 1 hour.