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!

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!

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.

A Season to Grow

Both Rachel and I have shares in CSAs this year.  I had a great experience last year with the Sippel Family Farm, you can read about my year in food throughout the blog and check my financial analysis of our decision to purchase a share here.  My farmers began delivering produce last week.  Unfortunately, due to class and work schedules, this was our first week of harvest.  This summer, I am going to try to update you weekly on the produce I receive and recipes that I invent from the produce.

So here goes.  This week we received a HUGE head of beautiful leaf lettuce, a bag of spinach, a head of escarole, and green onions.

Tuesday night I did what became a norm last year, sauteing veggies together in a skillet and enjoying the beauty of the harvest.  Escarole, ground turkey, green onions, salt, and pepper braised together happily, then rested atop a helping of quinoa, and filled excited bellies as the first flavors of Ohio reached our excited lips.  This week we have happily eaten many lovely things filled with that head of lettuce.  Oh lettuce wraps.  You make a fabulous lunch.

Tonight I used another favorite CSA produce cooking method.  I made a frittata.  You don’t hardly need a recipe for frittatas, the best part is throwing lovely ingredients together and cooking for a short while on the stove, then covering with lightly whisked eggs and popping it all in the oven.

If you are a recipe-follower, here’s a basic guideline to brinner at our house.  First chop potatoes and toss with a generous amount of olive oil.  Top with paprika and kosher salt and pop in a 400+ degree oven.  Tonight mine was set at 425.  Forget about them while you chop some veggies.  I tend to stir potatoes every 10-15 minutes while roasting.  They will likely need ~30 minutes in the oven, depending on how big your chunks are.

Choose a large, oven-safe skillet.  Chop 1/2 of an onion (or throw the whole thing in if you want more onion and less other veggies)  and saute in oil until translucent.  Add asparagus from your mother’s garden cut into 1″ pieces and cook another 2 minutes.  Add spinach and 1-2 tomatoes and cook until the spinach has cooked down.  In the meantime, scramble ~8-10 eggs.  I had 5 leftover egg whites in my fridge from a previous cooking experiment, I added 4 more whole eggs.  Add coconut milk (or a milk of your choice), salt and pepper.  Whisk together well.  When veggies are ready, turn off the heat and top the veggies with the eggs.  Pop in the oven on a middle rack (move the potatoes down, if you have to).

Check the fritatta periodically and remove when the center has set fully.  Run a knife around the edges to gently loosen from the skillet.  Place a plate over the pan and flip onto the plate to serve.  Add a sprinkling of chopped green onions and serve.

Those of you allowed to have cheese should never hesitate to add a handful to the frittata before popping in the oven.  You should also consider this a great opportunity to eat hot sauce.  As you can see, my frittata got a little brown around the edges, which prompted The Philosopher to excitedly state, “That’s ok, it looks like pizza!”  I am not exactly sure it tasted like pizza, but brinner has always been one of my favorite surprises.  I am pretty sure that only good things come from eating breakfast at dinner time.  Especially when the ingredients are local and the farmers have become part of your community.

That’s comfort food.

Spring’s Splendor

My graduate school experience and this tulip have a lot  in common.  We enter the new phase in our lives excited to experience the sunshine of academia.  We often forget the long,  cold  winter that must first pass before we can show our splendor. We walk in the doors of our glorious institutions and find ourselves humbled by the vast ocean of knowledge we must cross before graduation.  Exams and snow storms challenge our confidence.  Critical critiques make us certain that the sun will surly not rise again high in the sky to warm and refresh us.  Finally, just as we feel our strength is gone completely, we find that through that season so filled with despair, we have gathered a wealth of knowledge that has provided the nutrients needed to emerge gloriously in the spring!  We burst through our suffering renewed and refreshed as we see how far we have come.  We spend time lavishing in the sun renewed.  Knowing we can conquer the final hurdles.

Then our energy begins to wane.  All the passion put into final papers leaves us feeling exposed, weak, and vulnerable.  Our petals begin to droop.  The search for the next career move feels overwhelming and we feel the need to hide again.   To all my dear graduating friends, remember that you are capable.  The last two years have prepared you well.  You have grown in your ability to communicate through writing.  You are likely the expert on the healthcare system among most of your family and friends.  You are a capable leader.  Do not hide like Ms. Penny here, show your face to the sun once more.  Stretch your petals and be prepared to grow once more.

Now.  It’s time for the important stuff.  School has pulled me away from cooking and blogging for too long.  Make this dinner.  Share it with your neighbors.  Be renewed and strengthened.

Almond Crusted Chicken Cutlets

Purchase an appropriate number of bone-in chicken breasts for your family.  Thinly slice cutlets off the bone and save the bone for future use (I froze mine.  Chicken soup, perhaps?)In a large skillet, warm enough oil to cover the bottom then add slightly more.  My stove was set to medium heat and was warmed through in about 5 minutes.  I used safflower oil, but any high heat oil with a mild flavor will work.

Place 3 plates on the counter.  In the first, cover with brown rice flour, salt, and pepper.  In the second, place milk of choice (I used unsweetened almond milk).  The the third, add almond meal.  I purchased a bag of pre-made almond meal (in the gluten-free section of the grocery store).  This is an expensive investment at more than $10/pound, but the results are well worth the expense.  If you have a food processor that can grind almonds well or a coffee grinder, those may be preferred methods for your kitchen.  Note my almond meal was made using non-roasted, non-salted almonds.

Cover a cutlet with the rice flour, then milk, and finally the almond meal.  Test the oil by dropping some almond meal in.  If it quickly begins to “fry” you are ready.  Place the cutlets in the oil and cook until browned on both sides, 3-4 minutes each side.

I covered them with chopped fresh parsley and served to my happy customers.  Tell your children these are “chicken tenders”.  I am pretty sure they will lick their plates clean.  And you will certainly enjoy the satisfying crunch and delicate almond flavor of this intensely satisfying meal.

Tomato, Asparagus and Basil Pasta Salad

This is quick and easy to make.  Simply choose a gluten-free pasta and cook according to the directions in well-salted water.  Rise the pasta well as soon as it is finished cooking and toss with olive oil.

In the  meantime, grill one pound of lightly oiled asparagus on the grill.  You could also boil it with the pasta or steam it above the cooking pasta, if you do not have a grill and would prefer not to turn on the oven.  After grilling, I cut the asparagus into one inch pieces and tossed with the salad.  My grocery store had lovely tomatoes on the vine that actually tasted good!  I chopped a few and added them as well.  Cherry tomatoes or diced, canned tomatoes would also be good choices.  Finally, I thinly sliced about 1/4c of fresh basil and added it to the bowl.  A helping of salt and pepper and dinner was ready to serve.

How are you renewing your energy now that the sun is out and the weather is toasty?