Renewal: Just Like Spring

Dear readers and friends, how we’ve missed you!

Both Tracy and myself have gone through some significant changes in the last year, and regretfully, Karma in the Kitchen has been lightly placed on the back burner.  However, it was not our intention to abandon the site forever and I’m looking to renew my commitment to posting regularly (I was kind of a slacker in the last year anyway!).  I have been cooking a lot recently and asking myself why I’m not blogging about it.  The goal of the blog initially was to share. Share our kitchen successes and nightmares across the states and timezones and keep up our cooking and eating community. Please, if in looking back through the posts on this blog, you find things you wish we’d written about or expanded on, let us know.

My goal is to start posting again in late August or early September, but in the meantime, I will be posting pictures and recipes to our Facebook page.  Please like our Facebook page to stay up to date and interact with both Tracy and I.  We really appreciate your support, your likes and your stories.

Best wishes and happy cooking!

 

A Season for Baking

I know that fall has arrived and feels like it has already passed in many parts of the country.  Now that we are in Chapel Hill, the signs of fall are less abundant.  You have to search for auburn leaves crackling in the wind. While the grocery stores are filled with mums, winter squash, and pumpkins I am wearing short sleeves and sunglasses.  My windows have been open all day and the dogs have been basking in the sunshine.  The only hint of real autumn is the crisp air in the morning.  The temperatures are dropping at night into the forties only to climb back into the mid-seventies by late morning.  I feel pulled and dragged back and forth between summer’s sunshine and fall’s ingredients.  What foods are “in season” here?  There’s a whole new cooking learning curve for me.  Good thing the farmer’s market is just a brisk Saturday morning walk away.  In the meantime, I am taking advantage of the cool mornings and evenings to crank up the oven to make some “every” season favorites.

 

 

 

 

Since the first time I made homemade granola, I haven’t spent another penny on a box or bag of it.  It takes a little bit of time, but it comes together quickly and easily. You mix up the ingredients, spread them on a cookie sheet, and bake on a low heat until golden brown and your house smells like sweet, roasted nuts and oats.  It doesn’t get much better than this.

First chop up 2 cups of nuts.  I used 1 cup of cashews and 1 cup of almonds this time, but you can use anything you like.  Mix them with 3/4 cup of shredded, unsweetened coconut (You can leave this out, if you have coconut haters at home, but I suggest you try it.  I have converted many a coconut hater with my granola). Finally add 3 cups of old fashioned oats, 3/4 t of salt, and 1/4 cup plus 2 T dark brown sugar.  I have used regular brown sugar before, but the dark gives a lovely depth of flavor.

In a separate bowl combine 1/4 cup plus 2 T real maple syrup, honey, or agave with 1/4 c oil and mix well with the dried ingredients.  Spread it on a baking sheet with a lip or a 13×9 baking pan.  Bake at 250 for 1 hour and 15 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes.  I find it is best to keep track of how long it’s been in the oven.  I use my dry erase board to keep track of the minutes, burning your lovely granola will not be lovely.  After the first stir, you will notice that the house is beginning to smell heavenly.  This is only one of the reasons to make your own granola.  I don’t think a candle company has replicated this aroma.

After an hour and fifteen minutes, the granola will be golden brown and the nuts will be wonderfully toasty.  If you can wait, let it cool.  If not, grab a handful.  You will not be disappointed.

Feel free to add your own flair.  I generally mix some ground flax seeds to the granola after it comes out of the oven.  Adding cinnamon, nutmeg, or other spices to the mix is also lovely.  Raisins or other dried fruits are a natural addition to granola.  A bit of vanilla extract or vanilla bean infused in the liquids can’t be wrong.

Personally, I eat my granola every morning with a bit of Greek-styled yogurt and local honey or a bit of fruit.  Someday, I will have to share with you how I make my yogurt so you can know how amazing that process can be and how delectable the outcome!  The Philosopher drowns his granola in milk and adds fresh berries or bananas.  Since it’s fall, roast up some apples with cinnamon in the oven and top them with some granola and a little vanilla ice cream.  Simple apple crisp!  Toss your granola in your homemade trail mix, toss a few pieces in your pancakes after pouring them on the griddle for another breakfast treat, or give it away as a gift.  People love granola, yet most don’t realize how easy it is to make!  Last year, a good friend made homemade granola and packed it in gift bags for the holidays. Yep, that’s a great gift!

Store your granola in a container with a tight-fitting lid.  One batch usually lasts a few weeks around here.

So dear readers, wherever you are and whatever season your body thinks it is, cook and eat well.  How are you enjoying the changing seasons?

 

 

 

 

Canine Karma

Sophia:  Do you smell that?

Penny: Yum! But you know that when Tracy bakes, she never shares with us.

They were wrong this time.  The oven was filled with puppy treats today.  I haven’t made dog bones in a long time, the last time they were holiday gifts for my doggie owner friends and family.  I did not do a cost calculation, but I suspect that my batch of bones, made with ingredients I would eat myself, probably cost less than the high-end grocery store versions I usually buy. They were easier to make than cookies and smelled delicious.  The Philosopher thought they were people cookies!

I know you are reading this and trying to figure out if you are really about to read a recipe for dog cookies.  Here’s the thing.  Rachel and I write about how we use our kitchens to support and build our community.  In my house, the puppies are a pretty integral part of our lives.  They are our cuddle partners when we watch movies.  They bask in the sunshine with us while we eat lunch on the patio.  They hike with us to keep us fit.  And help us meet neighbors and members of our new community while at the dog park.  We don’t chose to break bread with them in the same way as our human friends, but caring for their needs is a small price for the benefits they offer us.  So, today I baked dog treats.  Jump on the bandwagon.  Your puppies will love it!

I adapted a few basic cracker recipes to create these.  I still have a large selection of gluten-free flour from our diet, so I integrated them into the recipe but you could use a mix of whole wheat and unbleached white flour or only plain flour. Doing a little research revealed that while garlic can be harmful to dogs in large quantities, in small amounts is repels ticks and fleas, naturally.

First, mix together the following dry ingredients:  2 c flour (1/2 c garbanzoflour, 1/2 c brown rice flour, and 1 c unbleached white flour), 1/2 c old fashioned oats, 1 t baking powder, and 1 t garlic powder.  Add 1 c of peanut butter (Use the real stuff, the oil should separate.  It’s better for you and better for the doggies!).  Next, I added 1/2 c chicken stock and 1/2 c water.  I did not have homemade stock, so I diluted it with water.  If you make your own stock and can control the seasonings, use a full cup of stock here, the pups will love it.  I found that my dough needed a little more flour, so I floured my counter top and mixed more into the dough by hand.  I rolled the dough out til it was approximately 1/4 inch thick.  I used a pizza cutter to create biscuits.  If you have an appropriate cookie cutter and these are for a gift, use it here.  I have seen fire hydrant and biscuit-shaped cutters, but my dogs don’t know the difference.  And you readers would think I was even crazier if I baked cookies in perfectly cute shapes.

 

 

 

 

These guys didn’t spread out at all.  So you can put them together closely on the cookie sheets.  Pop them in a 375 degree oven for 15-20 minutes.  I found that the thicker cookies took closer to 20 minutes, but some were thinner and were crisp and golden after 15 minutes.  I removed the thin ones after 15 minutes and popped the rest in for a few more minutes.  If you are more careful at rolling out the dough than I was, you can likely resolve this problem.    Place them on a rack to cool.

 

 

 

My pups tasted the recipe.  I received barking good reviews from the doggies.  This made exactly enough to fill my dog treat container.  I know it’s hard to tell, but I have two happy customers here!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Take good care of your canine community.  It’s good for your kitchen karma.  Another great way to take care of your doggie friends is by reading my friend’s blog or by liking her facebook page.  She’s an excellent dog trainer, volunteer, and owner.  And a great, engaging writer.  Trust me, you will learn something and your pups will thank you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Departing The `Bus

Good night, good night! Parting is such sweet sorrow, That I shall say good night till it be morrow.

It’s pretty amazing to me that an author writing to an audience 400 years ago could capture my emotions so completely today.  So many adventures await us in the Research Triangle of North Carolina.  Yet so many friends and memories tug me back to The `Bus.  I am pretty reminiscent about the last 2 years here.  Columbus, a city that began to feel like a real home so immediately.  A block of neighbors that reshaped my idea of what community really is.  A campus that challenged me beyond my wildest hopes.  A group of close friends who reached out to The Philosopher and me in ways I can’t begin to recount here.  I find myself tugged towards a future, yet I am not ready to give up my home.  I feel I am fortunate to have had my time in The `Bus and am pretty sure that if Ohio pulls us back someday, it will be Columbus calling. We wrapped up our time in this city with a lovely, wet evening a few weekends ago.  We built our last backyard bonfire, cooked up some of the last ingredients in our fridge, and poured from those few remaining liquor bottles for a final night with our friends.  Our community.  The makers of our home.  During that damp, cool night, I stared into the fire and talked to a new `Bus resident about how great it is to call this city home.  I began recounting my favorite local events, restaurants, and bloggers, encouraging them to learn more about all that this city offers.  Soon, I was being urged to create my personal Best of the `Bus List.  So here it is.  Tracy’s Favorite Columbus “Stuff” List.  Like all “Best Of” lists, I should say that this is from my limited perspective and income.  In fact, let’s not call this a “Best Of” list.  Let’s call it Tracy’s Lived in Columbus for 2 Years and Discovered Some Awesome Stuff List.  This city is huge in opportunity.  If you are new to The `Bus, I would be happy to serve as a part of your city introduction, but I want to also encourage you to explore on your own.  This city is pretty awesome.

First, it should be noted that I spent a fair amount of time on campus.  The great thing about OSU is that there are more interesting, intellectual, exciting things to do than I usually had time for.  See a play, go to a speaking event, and watch an obscure film.  I often found that stepping out of my College of Public Health’s list of events and speakers opened new doors and introduced me to amazing people.  The Wexner Center has great foreign films at reasonable prices.  As a student, a large amount of campus time was spent studying.  Prior Health Sciences Library has a great coffee shop with extremely friendly staff.  You can also reserve a room for your study group.  The Thompson Library also has great meeting rooms.  I am certain that my limited knowledge of biostatistics was developed in one of those meeting rooms with a dedicated group of very intelligent women who never let me fail!  Lastly, my friends and I ate many meals at the OSUMC cafeteria and Hang Over Easy.  OSUMC’s cafe allows for packed lunches, so all members of our group could meet weekly to share our ideas for how to change the world.  I am certain that we got pretty close a time for two!  Hang Over Easy was a great place to stare at a computer, editing that group project one last time.  No matter how long we squatted at a table, the servers refilled our coffee cups!

I ensured that our cupboards were never bare by running to Weiland’s Gourmet Market.  The fish, produce, and meat is fresh and local (when possible), the staff are extremely knowledgeable, and it always reminded me of my local grocery store growing up.  The faces were familiar, the smiles warm, and the food comforting.  I also found local food at the Clintonville Farmer’s Market.  As The Philosopher and I grew more experienced, we found that talking to the farmers became easier, we knew what we valued in our food and we never hesitated to ask questions about how something was grown.  This task was immensely easier because of the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association.  Our membership kept us in the loop about Ohio agriculture.  We loved the annual potluck and talking to the crusaders of the local, organic food movement in Ohio.  After meeting Warren Taylor, I knew all of my future milk purchases would support Snowville Creamery.  Four Seasons City Farm is working in our community to bring produce into our inner city with urban gardens.  You should look them up and volunteer.  They are doing good work and I am sorry that my time working with the organization has been so short.  This year, I expanded our personal garden with the help of the Como Yarden.  Our tomatoes and peppers were vibrant, tasty, and in varieties I had never heard of.  Finally, I have written much about our experience with a Community Support Agriculture share with the Sippel Family Farm.  Leaving farmers we trusted and produce that never failed to be of the highest quality, is very difficult for us.  Ben and Lisa were highly skilled at communicating with us non-farmers about the highs and lows of the growing season.  They offered us recipes and food advice and folded us into another community in The ‘Bus with their monthly potlucks at their home.

Speaking of food, The Philosopher and I enjoyed eating out in The ‘Bus. Clintonville is filled with fabulous options.  We frequented The Wildflower Cafe with some of our neighbors.  It was near our home and reliable for a great breakfast at reasonable prices.  We also dropped into Mozart’s Cafe for breakfast often.  The atmosphere is great, especially their outdoor seating.  The homemade pastries are delicious.   You can find the keys of a piano chiming throughout the day and evening.  Stopping in on a Friday evening for the live music and a glass of wine is the perfect end to a busy week.  When I needed a caffeine fix, I found my way to Yeah Me Too.  During my first visit, I learned that it was a cash only establishment.  Disappointed, I began to walk out as I only had a credit card, when the owner told me to pay the next time I returned.  Well, return I did.  My last visit was Friday, the day my movers arrived.  After chatting with the owner, he again sent me on my way with a free cup of joe, as his going away gift. Yeah Me Too feels like my best friend’s home.  The coffee will be ready soon and the person pouring your cup is someone you hope you can one day emulate.  As a graduate student, I completed many projects and homework assignments with my dear friend at Global Gallery.  It’s a great place to linger over a cup of coffee or to discuss healthcare reform in a group meeting.  My friend and I also nibbled on muffins and cinnamon rolls from Pattycake Bakery when exam time rolled around.  Another Fine Mess:  Desserts by Dorie is another great way to get delectable study treats.  A scoop of Jeni’s was always the perfect reward at the end of a long quarter, as well as a martini from Sage.  When The Philosopher and I wanted a low-key evening out with friends, we found our way to India Oak.  The bar feels an awful lot like the television show Cheers.  Let me just say, that graduate school taught us how to celebrate!  The Philosopher and I occasionally needed a pizza to get through the weekend.  Thankfully both Hound Dog’s and Dante’s never failed to disappoint.  Many an evening was spent on the patio of Northstar.  As one of the few restaurants we could enjoy while on our detox diet, our already deep love of the place grew and expanded even further.  From my post-yoga cup of coffee and biscuit to the mid-week break from cooking for a ginger ale and Northstar burger, The Philosopher kept going back for more.  And we took each of our coworkers, visitors, and new ‘Bus transplants.  Lastly, Cafe Bella may be one of the ‘Bus’ best kept secrets.  The patio is beautiful with the trickling sounds of the hydroponic system. Since there is no menu, it feels like you dropped into your forgotten Italian grandmother’s house with your own bottle of wine for dinner.  You don’t know what will be on the plate in front of you, but you will certainly love it.  I tried to get the recipe for their amazing eggplant parmigiana, but Vince, the owner, had no secrets to share.  I guess you all will have to find visit soon to this culinary delight!

The Philosopher and I loved to eat in The ‘Bus.  And we didn’t just eat in Clintonville.  The North Market was the place we took every visitor to our home.  One of my favorite memories of the North Market was when my best friend and I spent a morning sipping coffee, watching local farmers deliver their produce to the various stands, and feel the market began to grow and swell with electric excitement in the space.  Skillet wasn’t close to our home, but it was never far from our weekend breakfast thoughts.  The menu is filled with comfort food you can feel good about.  The best restaurant in The ‘Bus has to be Alana’s.  There is no better way to celebrate an occasion than to sit on this patio and await the wonders of Alana.  The Philosopher still talks about the best pasta we have ever eaten from her kitchen.

Finally, The Philosopher and I never had a boring Saturday.  Or Tuesday.  The ‘Bus is filled with great ways to spend your time.  The museums and parks are great.  The movie theaters and local organizations never left our To Do list empty.  Pecha Kucha is a great way to find all the great things going on in The ‘Bus:  great music, great speakers, and food carts.  Wild Goose Creative has events for every person.  We have attended events from foodie parties and improv comedy events in this space.  The Park of Roses offered a space for leisurely strolls and energy-filled doggie playdates.  Two good friends kept my eyes happy with their photography skills.  While both of them take amazing photos of graduating seniors and wedded bliss, their specialties are my favorite!  Moments by Kelsey will make you want to grasp a baby’s hand or wonder over their tiny toes.  Photo Kitchen will leave you salivating while reading Edible Columbus or will send you out to the grocery store to make her newest posted recipe.  WOSU filled my car, bathroom, and IPod with the news and stories that were important to me.    The Philosopher and I found that the Drexel in Bexley was the best place to see those hard to find foreign films that we craved.  They also have great opening nights.  Studio 35 may be the local business we frequented most.  They show all the OSU football games on their big screen for free.  We also watched most of the World Cup games with a few hundred of our closest Clintonville friends.  Many nights we could be found in a seat holding a great beer and chowing down on some Pizza Primo awaiting the previews or cheering on the Buckeyes.

I read nearly everything written by local bloggers.  These individuals kept me in the loop about the new and the old ‘Bus favorites.  Thank you to Hounds in the Kitchen, The Pizza Slayer, Itinerant Foodies, Breakfast with Nick, the CMH Gourmand, The Green Between, the Columbus Foodie, Nothing Better to Do, and Columbus Food Adventures for showing me around.

Finally, I am challenged to acknowledge those individuals who made The ‘Bus my home.  No combination of cool places to shop, eat, and play will make any city feel like home.  It’s the people who fill your life and your backyard who make the difference.  I have used this space to try to express my deep feelings of connection with our friends in The ‘Bus.  I have gathered with old and new friends to swap nice belongings we no longer wanted or needed or new things we didn’t know we wanted or needed.  Ask me about the Swap Parties — you should plan one for the friends in your neighborhood.  I enjoyed countless bottles of wine and delectable treats with The Vertebrates, the book club that breaks all the book club rules.  I am proud to have been one of the two outcasts at the College of Public Health’s orientation.  We found ourselves speaking out in the classroom, surrounding ourselves with like-minded, beautiful and strong women, standing up when we knew that changes had to happen, seeking ways to change the world, and learning all the things we didn’t know that we didn’t know.  Scarecrow, I think I will miss you most of all.  The Philosopher and I hosted countless dinner parties and backyard bonfires.  We broke bread with people whose intersecting lives have profoundly changed ours.  We have laughed and cried and screamed together in frustration and excitement.  We have hugged and high fived.  We have found comfort and care in people who have shared our table, used the spare key to turn off our oven we we accidentally left town with tomatoes drying inside, joined us for drinks, dropped in to help a stranger move into their new home, chased Penny through the neighborhood, talked about philosophy and religion and healthcare and politics, served us the perfect homemade pizza, watched great and horrible movies, became immediate friends while chatting at the bus stop, challenged us, inspired us, helped us when we most needed it, and made us redefine everything we ever imagined the words community and neighbor could possibly mean.  We are different, better because of each of you.  My growth as a person, as a professional, as a cook, as a gardener, as a writer, as a friend, in my marriage, in the classroom, in my relationships, is because of you.  I look toward my future with excitement and hope and promise because of my community in The ‘Bus.  You compose my memories of the last 2 1/2 years.  Thank you for everything.  You always have a place in our home.  And we will be visiting you again soon.

Love always,

Tracy, Bradley, Sophia, and Penny

 

KitK Cooking Extravaganza

 

This post is sadly delayed.  Rachel and I spent a glorious couple of days together early in August.  We went to see my friend Catherine Murray of Photo Kitchen perform at Columbus’ Pecha Kucha.  We explored the Columbus Zoo with the Philosopher’s family.  We ate fabulous breakfasts at Skillet and Northstar.  All in all, I would say it was another Karma in the Kitchen reunion success.  And like last time, Rachel and I cooked.  A lot.  I roped Rachel into joining me in the sweaty world of canning.  I ordered extra tomatoes from The Sippel Family Farm to make tomato chutney.  I scoured the local peach and blueberry options to make jam.  And I purchased tons of Snowville milk and cream to make homemade ricotta.  Oh yes.  We stayed busy in the kitchen!

First, we prepped tomatoes for tomato chutney.  We used this recipe as a base, but we significantly reduced the amount of sugar (by half).  Here’s what we ended up doing:

8lbs of tomatoes, peeled, cored and chopped (the easiest way to do this is score an X on the bottom of a tomato, drop it in boiling water for a few minutes and then put in cold water.  The skins should pop of easily.  Then remove the core and chop.)  , 2 heads of minced garlic, 2 chopped onions, 1c brown sugar, 1/2c white sugar, 3c apple cider vinegar, 3 limes, zested and juiced, 2T fresh minced ginger, 4t dried hot pepper flakes, 2t cumin, 1c golden raisins chopped roughly by hand, and salt and pepper to taste.  We combined the ingredients in a stockpot and simmered all day.  I think it took about 5 hours for the chutney to finally thicken.  Stir it often, as the sugar will make it scorch easily.  We ladled the chutney into 1/2 pint jelly jars, leaving a 1/4″ headspace.  They were processed in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.  We ended up with 12 jars of chutney.

 

Next, Rachel and I prepped peaches and blueberries for jam.  We peeled, cored, and roughly sliced 10 pounds of peaches (save the peels!).  We added 2 quarts of blueberries, washed well.  3 lemons were zested and juiced and added to the fruit.  We added sugar to taste, I prefer a slightly tart and less sweet jam.  So for our fruit, we added about 5 cups of granulated white sugar.  The fruit simmered happily on the stove until thickened.  I used a bit of Pomona’s Universal Pectin near the end to finish firming it up well.  Test for firmness by putting a bit of jam on a spoon and popping in the freezer for a few minutes.  When you have reached your desired firmness, you are ready to can.  We used 1/2 pint jars, placed 1t of bottled lemon juice on top of the jam after leaving 1/4″ of headroom, and processed in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.  We ended up with 12 jars and a good sized bowl to go with our dessert that night!

I know you are trying to figure out why you should save your peels.  Well, here goes.  We simmered the peach peels with sugar and water making a simple syrup.  We then combined the strained syrup, fresh mint, sparkling water, a dash of fresh lime, and Middle West Spirits vodka together for a fabulous after dinner cocktail.  You should definitely save the peach peels!

Lastly, we made a batch of homemade ricotta using Smitten Kitchen’s recipe.   Her instructions are so clear and easy to follow, I am not going to retype them for you.  But I am going to insist that you drop what you are doing, grab some local milk, and MAKE RICOTTA CHEESE.  Immediately.  Rachel and I were sneaking bites while the ricotta was still straining.  We just couldn’t help ourselves.  We decided that a piece of bread, topped with a smear of ricotta and some tomato chutney was a fabulous way to begin our dinner.  The play of the sweet and spicy chutney against the creamy goodness of the ricotta kept us reaching for more.  And more.  Happy faces all around that evening.  And into the next days lunch.  And breakfast.  And snack.  And dinner.  Oh ricotta.  You made us so happy!

 

 

 

 

 

A quick glance at the table reveals that I also made my infamous tomato tart.  Now, I bet you wish an invitation to our dinner party had graced your door, huh?

But I haven’t even covered dessert yet!  You should know that a meal like this requires a beautiful, tasty, butterfat-laden dessert.  Unfortunately you will have to go without a picture, but trust me, this recipe for a ricotta cheesecake should not be ignored.  The only changes to the directions were made because the recipe made more filling than my pie pan allowed, so we filled two small oven-safe glass bowls also.  We also popped an oven safe bowl filled with water in the oven to produce a nice, steamy environment for our baking dessert.  You should immediately forget everything you ever thought you knew about cheesecake.  Cream cheese has nothing on this heavenly light, slightly lemony dessert.    Perfect for leftovers!  We dolloped some peach and blueberry jam and ate to our hearts content under the stars of an August night.  It doesn’t get much better than this!

Ah Rachel.  Never is my kitchen karma so great as when I have the perfect cooking partner.  It’s comforting to know she’s willing to experiment with me.  Tasting something again and again.  Tossing in a little of this and a little of that until we both find our own recipe nirvana.  We work well together also, Rachel and I.  While I chopped onions and minced garlic for the chutney, she was peeling and coring tomatoes.  While she peeled peaches and washed blueberries, I was at the store for a few forgotten items (ok, ok.  I ran to the store twice in 20 minutes for twice forgotten items!)  What’s great is that cooking is the perfect way to catch up on the last few months.  A phone call here or a gchat there is great, but nothing beats a sweaty, sticky day in the kitchen to learn about new friends, new apartments, new jobs, and old stories.

This is going to be my last post for awhile.  The Philosopher was offered a job at UNC Chapel Hill and I am currently packing up our belongings, getting estimates from moving companies, and selling our collected stuff!  I hope to be back to blogging and cooking by the beginning of October.  Our new city has a year-round farmer’s market that is apparently in the top ten nationwide.  I would certainly say that the south sounds welcoming to me!

Unfortunately, we are also having to say goodbye to our dear friends and neighbors.  While Columbus is a great town for many reasons, the people whose lives have intersected ours have truly made this city our home.  From old colleagues, to new classmates, neighbors, children, doggies, and coworkers, we have been fortunate to have our lives filled with amazing people that have loved us and supported us.  We have many warm memories and many homes that we plan to visit again soon.  A piece of our hearts and our lives will be left in this town and we truly have you all to thank for it.  While we welcome the challenge of forming a new community in NC, we will continue to stay connected to those people who made the Bus our home for 2 years.  Thank you all!  We love you dearly!

Squash Slaw Crazy

 

I can’t help it!  It all began with the salsa verde and I have now been salsa/taco crazy.  I made that salsa verde for snacking at a backyard picnic, then found myself using the leftovers in fish tacos for friends.

The good thing, is that this taco craziness has led to some creative uses for squash.  We have received abundant yellow squash and zucchini this year in our CSA, but I also ordered extra to make more squash pickles.  It should go without saying that we have had a lot of squash-based meals, have a lot of squash in the freezer, and have had lots of squash baked goods.  I have also begun using squash to make various ‘slaws’ as side dishes or toppings for other meals.  A few weeks ago, I made squash slaw with tomatoes and fresh mint for a picnic at the Franklin Park Conservatory for our anniversary.  Squash provides a fantastic foundation for your favorite flavors.  It’s a great backdrop to the menu’s cuisine for the night.  Tonight, I made a squash slaw to top fish tacos.

Of course you could make chicken, tofu, or beef tacos also.  In fact, I encourage you to try your favorite taco recipe with this slaw on top.  The lovely crisp texture and distinct flavor should compliment your favorite taco stuffing.

First, I used my mandoline to thinly slice 2 medium squash.  I lightly salted the squash pieces and left them in a colander in my sink to drain all the excess liquid.  I stirred the salted squash and shook out the excess moisture a few times over the course of an hour or so .  (You could do this while you are at work.  Just place the colander in a bowl and pop it in the fridge.  When you get home, stir the squash, shake out the moisture, and throw the rest of the ingredients together.)  At about 45 minutes in, I prepped the other ingredients.  First, I thinly diced two bell peppers that were half red and half green from my mother’s garden.  I added the kernels from two grilled ears of corn and then I roughly chopped a generous handful of cilantro.  I tossed them together with the zest and juice of two limes.  I added the squash and mixed all the ingredients together well.  I have found that the salt on the squash is usually enough.  I did add one rounded teaspoon of cumin and a few generous pinches of chili powder to the mix until I found the seasoning to be right for me.  I would recommend using spices from your cupboard instead of prepackaged taco seasoning, as you are unlikely to need the extra salt in the commercial mixes.  Don’t be scared of seasoning by taste, this is an extremely forgiving recipe.  Add some spices, stir and taste.  Is it good?  Stop.  Does it need a little something?  Trust yourself to add a bit more cumin. Or some cayenne. Or fresh hot peppers. Or more cilantro. Or another lime.  Or all of them.  This is your dinner, enjoy it!

I seared a small piece of fresh fish from my local market quickly and warmed up some corn tortillas in the toaster oven.  The juice of half a lime and more fresh cilantro on the fish, and dinner is ready.  I topped my tacos with feta as I could not find queso blanco in my market today.  And when the tacos lost my interest we ran out of fish, my homemade pico de gallo and slaw happily topped my chips and filled my belly.  Personally, my favorite part of squash slaw is its versatility.  I eat it on chips, in a tortilla, with a fork.  This is summer right?  What’s better than the flavor of sunshine and some hard work on your plate?  Plus, you barely have to cook anything.

When the produce is this fresh, life is good.

These are the days to thank my farmers.  Their willingness to toil means I don’t have to.  A few chops and slices in my kitchen is about all it takes.

I hope you are all eating as well as we are!  Happy August, dear readers!

The Surprises of Summer

Please forgive me.  I have been an absentee blogger.  I promised lots of CSA-inspired recipes and have failed to deliver.  Its not that I have not been cooking, I have.  It’s not that I don’t have lots of time on my hands.  I do.  Unfortunately, sometimes life just fills that time in unexpected ways.  Like this one.  6 hours were spent one evening in the emergency vet.  This is what happens when you decide to have dog-children.  Sometimes you have to have a cone of shame at  your house.  Although we now call her “Flappy Ear Penny”, we still totally love her.  I mean, what’s not to love?  Look at that cone-headed beast!

This week’s CSA was gloriously summery!  We received 7 various squashes, 2 hot peppers, 1 1/2 pounds of tomatoes, 1 pint of tomatillos, 1/2 lb of green beans, 1 melon, 2 eggplant, 2 green peppers, and one bunch of basil.  It’s been a week’s worth of cookouts.  Our block watch celebrated National Night Out with a potluck cookout.  I keep saying it, but it’s still true, we have great neighbors.  While our house isn’t usually included in the block watch, we have been welcomed to their events, newsletters, and local crime updates.  We carried grilled squash with fresh basil and oregano down the street and soon The Philosopher and I were talking to neighbors new and old.  We shared recipes and gardening secrets, heard stories about our street from years ago, and broke bread with our community.  All good things in the Karma in the Kitchen world.

Last night, The Philosopher, our neighbors, some family, and a friend spent a few hours enjoying the fountains at the Scioto Mile.  And evening of grilling adventures followed as each of us managed to run out of gas in our grills before all of dinner was cooked.  Ah well.  I am certain the children never wiped smiles off their faces.  Thankfully, I made a roasted salsa verde right before we left for out water adventures.  As you can see, I had one of the world’s largest tomatillos (seriously, I think it rivaled a tennis ball!).  I peeled and rinsed my tomatillos and popped them on the grill (I still had plenty of gas then!) with 3 jalepenos, 2 large garlic cloves, 2 medium tomatoes, and one onion, quartered.  When everything had browned nicely, I popped the ingredients in the blender with the juice of 2 limes, 1 teaspoon of coarse salt, and 1/2c of fresh cilantro.  After a few minutes of whirling I tasted and decided it may be too spicy for some of the younger diners.  I added one avocado and blended it up well.  The finished product was perfectly spicy and creamy.  It was a delicious dip and a perfect snack while we waited for the rest of dinner to finish cooking on the stove.  Oh summer.  So full of [wonderful] surprises!

Welcome Back Dessert!

It’s been a long, cold spring.  Well it certainly felt that way without the the three fires of sugar, gluten, and dairy to keep us warm.  We survived and now, we celebrate.  Albeit the celebration is still fairly sugar, gluten, and dairy-free around here.  Or at least very light on those things.  Thankfully, summer produce offers us many scrumptious dining options without much of those heavy hitters.  Peaches have arrived in Central Ohio, which obviously calls for grilling those little treats and topping them with Jeni’s Pistachio and Honey ice cream.  This Jeni’s variety is mildly sweet, allowing the caramelized, peach flavor to shine.  Oh what a glorious time of the year!  This week, our CSA grew to include 5 summer squash!  Call me excited!  It’s time for zucchini bread!

We had a few events this weekend that called for just such a dessert.  Gaining inspiration from David Lebovitz, I tired a gluten-free  and lower sugar version of his Zucchini Cake with Crunchy Lemon Glaze.

First for the gluten-free flour mix.  I ran across this recipe in the NYT recently and have used it for waffles, pancakes, pumpkin bread, and zucchini bread.  It seems to be up to most typical glutenous challenges.  The cornmeal and oat flour offers this blend a nice texture that I have appreciated in my cooking so far.  You may want consider texture when deciding how to best develop your flour blend.  The NYT article further suggests that a ratio of 70% grain and/or nut flours and 30% starches will yield the best blend.  The grain/nut flours include rice, cornmeal, sorghum, amaranth, teff, buckwheat, garbanzo, or almond.  The starches include potato, tapioca, arrowroot, and cornstarch.  With all those options, the combinations seem endless.  As always, I say it’s time to play!  Stop worrying about following recipes and have fun.  Your stomach will likely thank you in the end!

So, using this gluten-free flour blend, I made a zucchini cake.  Here’s what I did.

First, oil and flour (use the GF flour) 2 bread pans, 2 round cake pans, or a bunt cake pan.  Chop 1c of toasted almonds, walnuts, or pecans (I used almonds for my cake).  Grate 2 1/2 cups of zucchini or other summer squash.  I did this by hand, but a food processor would do just fine.  I often find that grating squash leads to lots of liquid.  I say keep it and make sure it gets in your batter.  That is the stuff of gooey, moistness.  In fact, I have been known to freeze shredded squash for winter baking.  The defrosted squash usually has a good layer of liquid that separates.  KEEP IT!

Ok, rant complete.  Now on with dessert.  Next I sifted together the dry ingredients:  2c GF flour, 1t baking powder, 1/2t baking soda, 1t salt, 2t cinnamon, 1t ground ginger, and 1/2t nutmeg.  In a separate mixing bowl, I creamed 3 room temperature eggs (if you want to go egg-free/vegan, use 3T ground flax and 1/2-3/4c water) with 1 1/2c sugar and 1c safflower oil.    I beat these together for about 3 minutes on a medium setting.  I added 2t of vanilla and began to slowly add the dry ingredients until they were all well incorporated and mixed an additional 30seconds.  Stir in the nuts and zucchini.  Spread into your pan(s).  I made 2 bread pan-sized loafs and they baked for 50 minutes at 350.  I began checking them at 40 minutes, if you opt to make a 2 cake pans, you may want to check fairly early also.  When a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, pull the pans out and let them cool for about 10 minutes.  I would suggest you place a cookie sheet or some foil under your cooling rack to collect the best part of this recipe.  The glaze!

Remove the cakes from the pan and mix together 1/4c freshly squeezed lemon juice (this was about one lemon for me), 1/3c granulated sugar (that’s the regular stuff), and 1c powdered sugar.  Mix until well incorporatedand brush over the top of the cake, allowing it to run gently down the sides.  Allow your cake too cool at least until the glaze has hardened.  The crunchy exterior is the best part!  The lemony glaze is so bright and vibrant!  It really makes this cake sing!

Serve on your patio to your friends/neighbors/[family members] while watching your dog attack the neighbor’s boxer puppy.  Smile.  That’s summer.

We May Have Overeaten…

“You have to love a nation that celebrates its independence every July 4, not with a parade of guns, tanks, and soldiers who file by the White House in a show of strength and muscle, but with family picnics where kids throw Frisbees, the potato salad gets iffy, and the flies die from happiness. You may think you have overeaten, but it is patriotism.”   ~Erma Bombeck

Yes, I know that the fourth of July is a faint memory as summer’s time whizzes by.  But I ran across this quote somewhere and couldn’t help feeling that it summarized my last week so completely that I had to share it with you readers.  Our Monday was a day filled with some of my favorite things; dogs, children, friends, neighbors, and food.  Have I mentioned lately how fortunate we are to be surrounded by awesome people?  A random conversation one day suggesting a cookout soon turned into a gathering of old and new friends, two- and four-legged family members, laughter, culinary treats, games, smiling, sparklers, beer, and happiness.  We may have overeaten, but celebrating my community is a pretty good way to commemorate the fourth.  Here’s evidence of the event.

think it is safe to say that all enjoyed the day.  I mean, what’s not to love?  My friends are fabulous cooks.  The dogs children are always well-behaved.    And the conversation always ripples through, punctuated by laughter.  A good evening, ended with a walk to the Park of Roses to watch Clintonville’s firework display.  The Philosopher ended up with a wide-eyed 5-year-old in his lap.  I don’t know if the flies died from happiness, but I suspect few faces fell asleep without a smile on their lips.

Tuesday’s CSA pick up was an exciting event as summer squash had arrived.  I received another huge head of lettuce, a bunch of beets, kale, a kohlrabi (with leaves), 2 yellow squash, and one zucchini.  While my own plants are beginning to show signs of life, it’s nice to be able to trust the Sippel’s to keep my refrigerator packed.  I recently rediscovered cornmeal in my house.  Since our detox diet eliminated corn, I had buried my supply deep in the recesses of my basement.  I recently unearthed many lovely treasures and found them loving homes on my kitchen shelves again.  The zucchini was calling for polenta.  I just knew it.  I made two 8″ round (but square pans would work well also) of polenta and popped them in the fridge around lunchtime.  At dinner, I heated them in a large skillet lined generously with oil.  I sauteed an onion and a few cloves of garlic in a separate skillet until the onions were soft and added the zucchini, cut into 1″ pieces, and a large can of crushed tomatoes.  (Just think, my time of canned tomatoes is nearly reaching it’s end!)  I also added fresh basil and oregano from my garden, red pepper flakes for some heat, kosher salt, and a bit of agave for some sweetness.  When the zucchini had begun to soften, the polenta was golden brown.  After topping a piece of polenta with the veggies and adding a sprinkling of basil on top, the season’s first zucchini reached my lips.  Welcome summer!  In your kitchen, feel free to make the polenta the night before and keep it in the fridge until it’s time to make dinner.  You can also simply put the pans in the oven or under the broiler.  I suggest spraying or brushing the top with oil so the top browns nicely.  It will likely take about the same amount of time, but if you are like me, you are staying far away from the oven these days!

The week ended with the lovely celebration of my nephew and father-in-law’s birthday.  Again, the afternoon was filled with the excited sounds of children; on bicycles, helping to open presents, and enjoying a story together.  My brother-in-law who is stationed in Las Vegas in the air force had arrived the day before to surprise his parents and attend a friend’s wedding.  A few hours in the sunshine with important loved ones strengthened the bonds and commitment of this caring family.  I couldn’t help snapping a few shots to help the birthday boy remember how his birth caused such celebration three years later.

Few occasions aren’t improved by a dinosaur cake and the gift of a sword.  As the long-distance aunt, it’s amazing to see the transformation of my niece and nephew into little people, with their own unique personalities.  Each visit, each year, each celebration shows a little more of them.  Who they will be, what the will become.  It’s a great honor to be a part of such a magnificent process.

And the remains of our CSA found a good home at another fabulous evening as last night we gathered with fellow CSA friends and other members of our extended Clintonville circle to enjoy a delicious meal.  I had the kohlrabi, beet greens, and lettuce remaining from our share this week.  If you are not familiar with kohlrabi, don’t be alarmed.  I think my neighbor said it best when she asked something like, “Who would have ever looked at that thing and thought to themselves, ‘I should eat that’?”  Well, I don’t know who that person was, but I gladly accepted the fruit of their ingenuity.  I found this recipe on Epicurious and thought it was a perfect use of my leftovers.  I made some changes, obviously.  I didn’t have the kale, so I used the kohlrabi greens and my beet greens.  I also felt it need a little more crunch than my one kohlrabi could offer, so I added the better part of my head of lettuce.  Finally, I used sunflower seeds as they were already in my cupboard.  It was a perfect side dish to the falafel, tzatziki sauce, and french bread made by our hosts and was followed by a lovely banana cream pie.  What a great way to share in our kitchen skills and produce.  Eating with friends makes everything taste a little bit better!  A nice balance of texture, punch of lime juice, and garlicky goodness made this a pleasant summer salad.  Don’t have an alien-like kohlrabi laying around? I would try this again using a small head of cabbage, I think it would still be lovely.

I hope your week was filled with a form of patriotism that makes you proud.  Proud to be a citizen.  Proud to meet and mingle with all those other citizens.  Proud of the good feelings you get when we come together.  Proud to serve as both leaders and servants in the rest of the world.  Proud to learn from other nations forging new paths forward.  Proud of your own families, friends, neighbors, and communities.  We may have overeaten, but we truly found a way to honor the occasion.

Inaugurating a New Kitchen

Hello friends… I haven’t posted in a while, partially because I am the delinquent child in this blog relationship.  But also because in the last month or so I have picked up all of my belongings and carried them to a new home.  I’m still in the city of Chicago, but I’m now inhabiting a place with a spacious kitchen.  This is a huge relief and something I was looking forward to as soon as I set foot in my previous apartment.  I tried not to complain about it too much, but I had a galley kitchen with basically no counter space to speak of.  It was a hallway leading to what should have been an actual kitchen.  Sigh.

Now, however, I have a lovely kitchen with lots of space to cook.  It’s beautiful.  Another new thing that’s begun recently is a CSA I’m sharing with a friend of mine.  As I’m sure most of our readers know, this spring was unusually cold, so a lot of the yield thus far has been in the way of lettuce.  It’s weird to have so many different types of lettuce just kicking around.  I’m not a huge lettuce eater, but I obviously eat it more when it’s being delivered to me on a weekly basis.  We are starting to see a transition out of all lettuce and into heartier stuff, such as snow peas, turnips, green beans and cucumbers.

Not that cucumbers are hearty.  We were really hoping for a lot of dark leafy greens, and really I chose this CSA because they promised kale.  I wanted a bunch of kale every week, at least, if not 2-3 varieties.  Alas, we work with what we’re given, the motto of CSA subscribers everywhere.  Luckily, turnips mean turnip greens, which aren’t kale, per say, but are nice sauteed and are good for nutrients.  For a quick dinner, I sauteed turnip greens in olive oil and salt, laid them over some polenta and fried up a chicken sausage for the side.  I also roasted turnips, garlic scapes, onions and a non-CSA sweet potato in the over with garlic and herbs until the veggies were soft and munched on it quite happily.

Sweet potatoes tend to sneak their way into a lot of impromptu meals, but one situation in which I’ve found them particularly useful is in the creation of frittatas.  I posted before (as part of the donut post) about a frittata I made back in March. I used a recipe then, but decided this time that it wasn’t even necessary.  There are two tricks to a delicious frittata I have learned in my experiments.  Browning thinly sliced potatoes in the pan (sweet or otherwise) and leaving them there as a crust adds a good foundation to the dish.  When you bite into it, you get the eggs and cheese and fillers on top, and then there is that constant golden brown potato in every bite.  Very satisfying.  Sweet potatoes are my choice because not only is it golden brown, it’s also a little creamy and sweet to boot.  Who is turning down golden brown, crispy, creamy sweet vegetables?  Not me.

The other trick, or it might be essential depending on how technical you are being about your frittatas, is to finish it off in the oven.  For this you will need a pan that can be put in the over.  Generally, these are anodized and don’t have plastic on their handles.  So when you finish the frittata on the stove, usually by adding a generous layer of cheese, you can just pop the whole thing in the oven to brown on top.  The only truly aggravating thing about creating frittata is that it takes a long time.  To slice the thin potatoes, to brown the potatoes, to prep and sautee the other veggies, to mix the eggs, to get the whole thing together on the stove and then to brown it in the oven takes some serious cooking time. However, I have found the process to be worth it, 100%, each time I have concocted a frittata.

Something I did this time, was take the frittata and flip it onto my large wooden cutting board to cut it.  This saved the integrity of my pan a little, made sort of an interesting serving dish, and made me feel pretty skilled for being able to deftly flip a large pan full of food onto another surface without destroying it.  My roommate was impressed anyways.

In other non-frittata related news, I recently discovered a way of making my gluten, yeast, dairy, egg free BFF a real chocolate cake.   This is how it went down.  I said I would have her and her boyfriend over for dinner.  Knowing the constraints this would put on my menu choices, I chose pork roast, roasted root veggies, and corn on the cob (something I know she likes).  We were talking online day of and she was lamenting about how she would never be able to eat real cake again, and it struck me that my mother had made eggless cakes for our family growing up all the time, because my father was allergic.  It was called a screwball cake, probably because the recipe sounds kind of crazy.  Since GF folks are pretty numerous and pretty vocal, there are some decent GF baking flours on the market.  So I picked up a bag of GF baking flour, and I baked her a cake.  So, for those of you who battle dietary restrictions including, gluten, dairy, yeast, and/or egg, here is a recipe for you to have your cake and eat it.  All of it.

Preheat oven to 350 F.  Mix 3c flour (GF if necessary), 2c sugar, 1/2c cocoa, and 1/2 tsp salt in a large bowl.  You might need to sift the mixture together, as GF flour likes to clump a little more than wheat flour.  Once it’s all combined, you make three holes in the mix.  (Nothing fancy, just dig out three holes equidistant from each other.)  In one hole, put 2tsp baking soda, in the next hole put 2tsp white vinegar, and in hole #3, put 1c oil (it’s not all going to fit in the hole, relax.  This deviates from the recipe a little, but I throw a little vanilla in at this point too, with the oil, or before the oil in hole three.  Then you pour 2 cups cold water over the top of everything, and mix it all together.  Pour into a 9×13 ungreased pan and bake for 45 mines.  Voila, gluten free, egg free, dairy free, yeast free cake!  I made a topping with powdered sugar, almond milk, and cocoa to pour over the top.  It was a hit with my friends for sure.