Sunday, June 26, 2011

CSA Week 7: Tomatoes!

This week's delivery is really the reason I bothered to get a CSA in the first place, and I can explain it in two words: fresh tomatoes!

This delivered included a bag of fresh green beans, two green bell peppers, eight ears of corn, 10 red potatoes, two cucumbers, four zucchini and five tomatoes. This is my most exciting delivery since the first one, which included strawberries and blueberries.

Price breakdown

  • 1 lb. fresh green beans: $1.99
  • 2 green bell peppers: $3.98
  • 8 ears of corn: $11.92
  • 10 red potatoes: $4.84
  • 2 cucumbers: $3.38
  • 4 zucchini: $5.24
  • 5 tomatoes: $9.98
      • Total: $41.32
    • Total saved: $20.32
    This total seemed higher to me than normal, but I realized that I was able to price for almost all organic produce, and this delivery was huge. The tomatoes, by the way, are delicious. Like food-gasm delicious. Seriously, I was making groans like Sally (from When Harry Met Sally) and the other restaurant patrons next to me said, "I'll have what's she's having." 

    Sunday, June 19, 2011

    Surprise bloom

    All this time I've spent talking about my tomato plants and I haven't really mentioned the citronella plants I purchased on the same sight-seeing trip I took to Anderson's for this blog post. While there I bought two tubs of citronella plants for $9.99 each. Yes it is that citronella and no they don't really work to keep the mosquitoes at bay as just plants. They do smell lovely though and if you take rub a crushed leaf on your skin it does seem to help a bit. This year we've been pretty blighted with mosquitoes, so every little bit helps.

    Anyway, citronella is actually a citrus-scented geranium, so they do bloom. My mumsy-in-law grows them and said that in five years she hadn't seen a single bloom. But this year, her mother accidentally triggered the blooms by forgetting to water them for a few weeks. Turns out that not watering a blooming plant tends to do the trigger a survival instinct that pops out flowers to start the reproduction cycle:

    Though some of my plant has turned yellow and brown, it has some gorgeous blooms on it now!

    Saturday, June 18, 2011

    CSA Week 6: Yellow gold

    This week's CSA included some usual favorites (pattypans) and my favorite summer treat: corn!

    My bag included a pound of fresh green beans, eight ears of corn, three green bell peppers, five pattypans and 10 red potatoes. The plan is to grill the corn and pattypans with my steak tomorrow. Oh yeah, and I'm making steak tomorrow. Yum!

    Price breakdown

    • 1lb. fresh green beans: $1.99
    • 8 ears of corn: $7.98
    • 3 green bell peppers: $5.97
    • 5 pattypans: $8.41
    • 10 red potatoes: $4.84
        • Total: $29.19
      • Total saved: $8.19
      The only organic items are the bell peppers and the yellow squash (which I use as a pricing for the patty pans). I got the "farmers market" corn, which at Harris Teeter means it came from somewhere in the area, as opposed to the cheaper corn that's from Mexico. Everything else is just regular old produce.

      Healthy dessert: Chocolate zucchini cake

      OK, it may not actually be healthy, but chocolate zucchini cake is a great way to not only use up the tons of zucchini I've been getting from my CSA but also to sneak some veggies into an otherwise totally unhealthy cake. And did I mention it's delicious? Plus it was an excellent opportunity to break out my racy red Kitchen Aid:

      Isn't she the most beautiful thing you've ever seen?

      First up, I should mention that this cake is closer to a brownie in texture than a cake. It's quite dense, and so moist that it never really made it to the light crumbly texture most cakes have. And that's alright with me, and all of my taste-testers (these certified testers include my husband and coworkers). The taste-testers, by the way, ate up all my cake before I could get a picture of just a slice by itself. It looked fairly close to this image, from Chocolate & Zucchini blog, which is where I got my recipe from:

      I frosted mine with a thin layer of whipped cream cheese frosting, mostly because I was out of powdered sugar. Here's the star of this post, the recipe:

      Chocolate Zucchini Cake
      • 2 cups all-purpose flour
      • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
      • 1 teaspoon baking soda
      • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
      • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
      • 1 cup loose dark brown sugar (as opposed to packed)
      • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
      • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
      • 2 tablespoons strong cooled coffee
      • 3 large eggs
      • 2 cups unpeeled grated zucchini
      • 1 cup chopped chocolate (I used milk chocolate, but I would recommend getting a semisweet bar instead, since the milk chocolate chunks lost almost all flavor in the cooking)
      • Confectioner's sugar or frosting (optional)
      1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Grease a 10-inch round springform pan or 8 1/2-inch square pan.
      2. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In the bowl of a mixer (or by hand in a large mixing bowl), beat the sugar and butter until fluffy. Add the vanilla, coffee, and eggs, mixing well between each addition.
      3. In a large mixing bowl, combine the zucchini, chocolate chips, and about a third of the flour mixture, making sure the zucchini strands are well coated and not clumping too much.
      4. Add the rest of the flour mixture into the egg batter, half a cup at a time. Mix until just combined; the batter will be thick.
      5. Fold the zucchini mixture into the batter, and blend with a spatula without overmixing. Pour (or scoop, mine was super thick) into the prepared cake pan, and level the surface.
      6. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer onto a rack to cool for 10 minutes, run a knife around the pan to loosen, and unclasp the sides of the pan. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature. Sprinkle with confectioner's sugar, frosting or a chocolate glaze, if desired.
      Being a new recipe, I have several things I would do differently. I would likely add about 1 tablespoon cinnamon, 1 teaspoon nutmeg and a 1/2 teaspoon cloves, just to spice things up a bit. I was even thinking some ginger, cayenne pepper or cardamom would all be good ways to kick this recipe up a notch. Finally, I think I'd want to either leave it unfrosted or go with the powdered sugar, maybe even the coconut pecan frosting that normally goes on German chocolate cake. Now for the photos:

      That's my cup of coffee. And yes, there's caffeine in this cake, but not very much. And you can't really taste it. It merely adds depth to the chocolate.

      This recipe utilizes the classic cake-making steps: Mix dry ingredients in one bowl...

      Cream butter and sugar in another bowl...

      Add the rest of the wet ingredients to the creamed mixture. Traditionally the flour is added to the creamed mixture in a few parts and then you're done.

      But I was adding chocolate chunks (hand-chopped from a Symphony chocolate bar) and zucchini.

      So this means that I had to worry the additions would clump together and not distribute properly.

      But that's not really a worry if you remember a simple step: Mix your additions with a third of the flour mixture. The floury coating will help the additions evenly distribute in the batter. I'm not an expert on the science, but I know it works.

      My Kitchen Aid came with an attachment that helps me funnel the dry ingredients into the bowl without flour going everywhere, which is a big problem with stand mixers. I essentially added the flour in 1/2 cup increments until it was all incorporated.

      The recipe calls for a springform pan, but you don't need to use it. I did because I got a set of three for the wedding that I still hadn't used. They are also much deeper than any of my round cake pans, which meant that my batter would definitely not overflow.

      The walls of the springform pan are separated from the base. The black clip essentially tightens the ring around the base, creating a seal that keeps batters from leaking out.

      When the batter is cooked, you release the clip and lift of the ring and...

      Viola! You have lovely cake with perfect sides that didn't require a lot of effort and finger-crossing to remove from the pan.

      Friday, June 17, 2011

      Tomato tragedy

      Apparently I fail as a tomato baby mama.

      After the first peek of red, I let my babies mature, content in their relative safety in my suburban backyard. And then tragedy struck, in the form of the dastardly birds that I had, only a few months ago, welcomed as a sign of glorious spring. 

      The horror! There are puncture wounds all over my beautiful bounty, but they didn't even bother to eat any of the little guy. This is truly murder. If only I had a BB gun I'd show those bloody birds what's what! Anyone have a better solution to protect my lovelies?

      Thursday, June 16, 2011

      CSA Week 5: Pattypans and (more) peaches

      It's been a few days and I've actually already cooked a lot of what I received in my recent delivery, but it's never too late to review my bounty from this week's delivery.

      This week I got a pound of peas, two cucumbers, four zucchini, six yellow squash, two green bell peppers, ten red potatoes, six peaches and four pattypans. So far I've made oven-roasted potatoes, sausage-stuffed pattypans and chocolate zucchini cake.

      Price comparison

      • 1 lb. of fresh peas (priced for frozen): $3.99
      • 2 cucumbers: $3.38
      • 4 zucchini: $5.24
      • 4 yellow squash + 4 pattypans: $13.46
      • 2 green bell peppers: $3.98
      • 10 red potatoes: $4.84
      • 6 peaches: $4.70
          • Total: $39.58
        • Total saved: $18.58

        Wednesday, June 15, 2011

        Tomato Battle: Glimpses of red

        I looked out my window the other day and I almost shrieked when I saw the flash of red among the green.

        From my kitchen window, I can see the potted tomato plant, and on that plant was a tomato that was just turning red.

        But this doesn't mean the potted plant is winning. When I went out to inspect my tomatoes, I learned that a tomato on the topsy turvy had also blushed.

        I had forgotten the simple excitement of seeing something you nurture succeed.

        Saturday, June 11, 2011

        CSA Week 4: A little late but a lot of delicious

        Sorry to post this so late, but I felt like I needed a break from life. Now that I've recovered, I figured it's time to share the down-low on last week's delivery. I'm saddened to say that it's not just the posts that I've had trouble keeping up with: I've been having some trouble eating the deliveries as well.

        Last week I received a pound of fresh peas, two bell peppers, four yellow squash, three zucchini, two heads of bok choy, eight round zucchini and four peaches. The peaches, by the way, were absolutely delicious, and I was able to use up all the round zucchini on Monday, when I had a cookout. I grilled up all the zucchini over the fire with some olive oil and Italian seasoning.

        Price breakdown

        • 1 lb. fresh peas: $3.49
        • 2 green bell peppers: $3.98
        • 4 yellow squash: $6.73
        • 3 zucchini +  8 round zucchini: $14.40
        • 2 heads of bok choy: $2.54
        • 4 peaches: $3.13
            • Total: $34.46
          • Total saved: $13.46
          The bok choy, by the way, is delicious brushed with a butter seasoning mixture and grilled over the open flame for a few minutes.