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2010 CSA Pickup #1

Happy Solstice!

The longest day of the year is one of my favorite days, but I always feel melancholy as the daylight fades. Every year, I feel the need to spend the day making the most of the sunshine, but the day slips away, and before I know it, it’s dark. And, from today on, the days get shorter – before summer’s even begun, really.

So far, it hasn’t really felt like summer here in the Garden City. This month over three inches of rain have fallen in the area – normally we get under one inch in all of June!

Each day that I’ve awoken to rain pattering on the windows, I’ve not despaired though, because I knew the rain was working it’s magic on the gardens in Missoula – including our community garden. Today, on solstice, I was rewarded for my grudging patience with the rain with this bounty of green:

Lucky us!

Today’s pickup included collard greens, mustard greens, scallions, red leaf lettuce, spinach, radishes, bok choy, and a cup of dried yellow eye beans.

Mac filched the radishes as soon as this picture was taken, and both of us munched on spinach as we carried the goods into the kitchen. We made quick use of the scallions and collard greens at dinner (recipe and pictures tomorrow) and I have vague plans for the rest of the greens and beans throughout the week.

As I write this, the longest day of the year is coming to a close. I know the rains will fade, and the sun will shine, and the golden days of summer, full of juicy, ripe tomatoes and fuzzy peaches and sweet corn are still to come. Still, I feel melancholy. But I also feel full, and glad, and fortunate for the bounty we’ll receive this summer.

This isn’t the healthiest French toast recipe out there.

But, it’s delicious, and it’s a great breakfast for a lazy Saturday morning.

The Best French Toast

4 slices wheat bread
4 jumbo eggs
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
2 tbsp butter, divided into 8 equal pieces
8 large strawberries, sliced
1 tbsp sugar

  1. Combine the eggs, cream, vanilla, and cinnamon. Beat with a fork until smooth.
  2. Combine the sliced strawberries and sugar.
  3. Heat a griddle on medium-low.
  4. Using tongs, dredge each slice of bread in the egg mixture, letting it soak about 30 seconds on each side. Remove to plate.
  5. Heat the oven to warm or 250-degrees. Put two plates in the oven to warm.
  6. Add one piece of butter to the griddle for each slice of bread that will fit. (I did two at a time.)
  7. Cook the bread 2-3 minutes a side, until golden brown. Remove the cooked pieces to the warmed oven, add a pat of butter to the top of each.
  8. Once all the pieces have cooked, remove the plates from the oven (carefully), and top each slice with 1/4 of the strawberries. Dust with powdered sugar and serve immediately.

The recipe is also posted at Livestrong’s MyPlate, the site I use to track my daily calorie intake.

What? Oh yeah. The whole calorie thing. Blame this lady.

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This ziti is one of my favorite dinners. The layers of fresh basil, pasta, tomatoes and spicy italian sausage and three cheeses; ricotta; Parmesan; and fresh mozzarella melt together into a gooey, satisfying, compulsively edible conglomerate. Pair a dish of this creamy, tomato-ey pasta with a caesar salad, crusty bread and a glass of wine and you have the perfect comfort food dinner.

Baked Ziti

Makes two medium baking dishes or one really large baking dish, about 12 servings

1 pound ziti or penne pasta
Olive Oil
1 pound Italian sausage
4 tbsp tomato paste
Red Pepper Flakes
2 14.5-oz cans tomato sauce
1 14.5-oz can diced tomatoes
8-oz cream cheese, room temperature
16-oz ricotta
1 1/2 cups shredded Parmesan cheese
8-oz fresh mozzarella, shredded
Italian Seasoning
Fresh Basil, chiffonade(d)
Salt & Pepper

  1. Bring a pot of water to a boil for the pasta. Salt the water and boil the pasta until quite al dente. We’re going to bake the pasta, so we don’t want it to be overdone. Drain and set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  3. In a large saute pan or dutch oven, heat a drizzle of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the Italian sausage and cook until browned. Drain off fat if needed.
  4. Add tomato paste and red pepper flakes and cook for one minute.
  5. Add the tomato sauce and diced tomatoes, stir to combine. Season with salt, pepper and Italian seasoning to taste. Turn the heat to low. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally.
  6. Mix the cream cheese, ricotta cheese, and half of the Parmesan together until well combined. Salt and pepper to taste.
  7. To assemble the ziti, coat the bottom of your baking dishes with a scant layer of the tomato and sausage sauce. Follow up with 1/4 of the cooked pasta, then 1/4 of the ricotta mixture. Sprinkle 1/4 of the fresh mozzarella, and 1/4 of the basil. Repeat with another layer of tomato sauce, then the pasta, ricotta and basil. Sprinkle with mozzarella. Repeat in the second dish.
  8. Cover the dishes, and bake in the oven for 30 minutes. Then, uncover and cook 10 to 15 minutes or until brown and bubbly. Let stand about 10 minutes before dishing up.

Fall Update

Ahem.

I promised myself when I started this blog I wouldn’t post any I’m-sorry-I-haven’t-updated-in-two-months posts, but …

I’m sorry I haven’t posted in two months.

Things have happened since August 17th.

Here’s a list of ten:

  1. School started. Now I’m halfway through the semester, and two-and-a-half semesters away from graduating … except for a pesky internship, but I’ll cross that bridge … you know.
  2. Mac and I made our annual trip to Plains, Montana for the Fair and Demolition Derby. I thought Mac was going to miss it for the first time in four years, but he made it after some amazing twists of fate. Sometimes fire season chooses to give, rather than take away.
  3. Then fire season decided to start. In September. It was quite inconvenient, what with me having papers to write and exams to study for. It lasted about two weeks. Then…
  4. It snowed. On October 9th. On the day of my first exam of the semester, that started at precisely 8 a.m. I couldn’t find my ice scraper. It was not exactly a delightful morning in the little house. I got a 70 percent on the exam…after an eight point correction factor (I’ll clarify – it added points). Painful.
  5. After fire season ended but before it snowed (that was about six days), I went to Reno for my mom’s birthday. I flew in without her knowing (on a Friday afternoon flight connecting to Reno and Las Vegas – talk about a party plane!), sneakily took the airport shuttle to the hotel, rode an elevator up 18 flights, praying the whole way that she wouldn’t have a heart attack, and knocked on the door. She might’ve cried, but she didn’t die, and she was surprised. It was an amazing trip, just my mom and my sisters and I. We went to the Melting Pot. I dipped a chocolate marshmallow in molten milk chocolate. Oh yes, I did. Oh! And my sisters rode the mechanical bull at a Cadillac Ranch. There was tequila, and cab rides we were sure would end in fiery death, and pajamas and grilled ham and cheese sandwiches from room service at 4 a.m., and a spa day, and we lost mom for a little while but then we found her again, and I almost beat up some guy for something I don’t really remember. Did I mention there was tequila? Then we went to my hometown and I saw the rest of my crazy wonderful family, and it was one of the best weekends I’ve had in a very, very, long time.
  6. Suddenly I have two yellow dogs. One of them is just a loaner, but I’m considering denying her existence when they come back for her. Her big droopy eyes and gangly legs and giant paws kill me. Yellow Dog loves her, especially when she chews on his neck so much we can’t find his collar and I seriously consider that she might have eaten it.
  7. These two shows started!
  8. The Griz are still undefeated…but this guy is kind of raining on my (and his team’s) parade.
  9. I’m involved in this Swap-O-Rama-Rama Missoula thing. It is going to be awesome. I am not just saying that because about 40% of my grade in a class I have to pass to graduate depends on it. It really, really is going to be awesome. You should come, and bring everyone you know, and swap clothes that don’t inspire you anymore for something else that does. Then use sewing machine stations and a silk screen machine to alter it into something completely yours. Turn a t-shirt into a cardigan, or a pair of jeans into a skirt, or a kilt, or a hat, or shoes. You’re creative, you can do it. Let Swap-O-Rama-Rama unleash that creativity, November 8, 2009 from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. in the North Ballroom at the University Center on the UM Campus. Please.
  10. Oh, wait. This is a food blog? Fine. Here’s a sub-list. This still counts as ten.
  • The CSA ended on October 5th – that’s one bonus week! It was going to stretch another week, but then it snowed (see #4 above).
  • I made a red velvet ice cream cake with cheesecake ice cream for a friend’s birthday. It was amazingly delicious. The cheesecake ice cream with lemon zest was the perfect complement to the rich cake. I have no pictures, but it was gorgeous. I used Smitten Kitchen’s red velvet cake recipe, and yes, before you ask, it calls for three small bottles of red food coloring. Three.
  • Um. That may be the only thing that I cooked worth mentioning.

That probably brings us full circle. Between life and the living of it, I haven’t been cooking much. There’s been a shameful amount of takeout, Top Ramen, and cookies consumed in the little house for the past two months. There was a pot roast sandwich that was pretty heavenly … but that’s about it.

So here’s to fall – to pumpkins and cider, to soups and stews, football and blustery days, and … to blogging again.

CSA Pickup #8

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CSA Pickup #7

102_0801This CSA pickup was a very special one. Besides all those glorious! tomatoes! my mom was able to come with me to the pick up. Her and my Dad are in town visiting for a week. We spent the day on the river, then went into town to pick up this tasty plentitude – three bags worth! It was sundrenched day, and this bouquet of flowers my mom helped me pick, then arranged on my kitchen table, brought some of that sunshine inside.

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Mixed Quasi-Grill

102_0789What do we do when the mass of CSA veggies completely overwhelms us? When the fridge almost won’t shut, and when we do open it and hazard to move the milk, onions roll across the floor?

I take everything out, and I cook it. All of it. Well – almost all of it.

This is one of those meals. Those meatballs are actually venison burger from the freezer, seasoned and grilled. They’re served on a pita with a drizzle of homemade ranch dressing (we had no yogurt to make tzatziki, unfortunately) and Sriracha. The vegetables were originally skewered and taken out to the grill, but we didn’t have enough coals to really cook them, so I ended up sauteing them in a nice hot cast iron pan to get a grill-type char on them and cook them until just crisp-tender.

The meal could’ve been a massive fail (the meat, it was close. Did I mention I put it on sticks first? That was a ridiculous idea) but it ended up working out, deliciously.

No recipe here – just desperation.