Monday, December 5, 2011

Suzie's Farm: Week 6, final week

I picked up my final week's CSA box from Suzie's Farm on Saturday. It contained the following:
  • 1 head lettuce (8.5 oz)
  • yellow beans (13.25 oz)
  • bunch of carrots with greens attached (10.25 oz)
  • bag of spinach (4.5 oz)
  • bag of arugula (6 oz)
  • sweet yellow snap peas (9 oz)
  • bunch of white turnips (13.5 oz)
  • 1 small Romanesco cauliflower, with lots of leaves attached (1 lb 14 oz)
  • small crowns of broccoli (11.75 oz)
  • container of pea greens (4 oz box), originally supposed to be sunflower greens
  • 2 small Sweet Pepper Golden treasure (3 oz)

Can I make anything with the pretty greens attached to the carrots?

I mostly finished everything from last week's box except for the squash and herb mixes. Lots of salads and soups.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Suzie's Farm: Week 5, "Thanksgiving" box

I picked up my "Thanksgiving" box (it was labeled as such) this weekend from the Poway market. Unfortunately, since it was already Saturday, I didn't get to use the items for Thanksgiving. Some of the items like the herb bouquet would have been nice to have. The Thanksgiving box contained:

  • butternut squash, in place of the pumpkin (1 lb 12.5 oz)
  • spring raab, 1 bunch (11 oz)
  • broccoli (8.5 oz)
  • bag of arugula (8.25 oz)
  • bag of chopped spinach (6.25 oz)
  • purple beans (13.5 oz)
  • sugar snap peas (13.5 oz)
  • 2 medium acorn squash (2 lb 5.25 oz)
  • 2 large brown onions (1 lb 10.25 oz)
  • bag of pear tomatoes (14 oz)
  • wheatberry sprouts (6 oz container)
  • herb mix (rosemary, thyme, sage) (1.25 oz)

The enclosed note from the farm raves about the "pumpkin pie" pumpkin we were supposed to get in the box, but it looks like they ran out and replaced it with a butternut squash. That was disappointing since I was looking forward to trying the pumpkin. No fruit again, but that's okay because I am loving all the greens this week.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Box Mix-up

There was no Suzie's Farm Week 4 box posted because I accidentally forgot to pick my box up last week. I had changed my pick-up location to Poway, then gone on vacation for a week, and promptly forgotten that it was still set to Poway. I thought I was picking it up at Hillcrest and fully intended on going there on Sunday. On Saturday afternoon, my error dawned on me and I hurriedly called the farm, leaving them a message and asking whether I could pick it up on Sunday. No answer. I even went to the HFM on Sunday to ask if there was anything they could do. The worker in the booth recommended I sent them an email. I did this when I got home and received a reply on Monday stating that I was out of luck. :(

I know this is my own fault for not picking up the box, but I this was still upsetting and annoying.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

What is a trip to Palm Springs without a little Cheeky's?

Cheeky's has easily become our breakfast place while visiting. The service is attentive and the food is great. Let's not forget about the flight of bacon ($4):

Each time we go it's been different strips. This time it was: extra thick, apple cinnamon, pepper, jalapeno, neuske's. We agreed we liked the jalapeno the best.

Rich had the soft scrambled eggs with English white cheddar and prosciutto ($10). It also came with a side of toast. I tried the buttermilk and fresh corn pancakes with blueberries and bacon ($10). It was 2 large pancakes with corn kernels mixed into it. For some reason, I was envisioning the pancakes to be made from cornmeal but I think I read the description wrong. They charged me $1 to add blueberries, which was disappointing since there didn't seem to be anywhere near $1 worth of blueberries in the pancakes. The pancakes themselves were great though -- fluffy, moist and delicious. I love that they also provide real maple syrup.

It's a semi-expensive breakfast at about $30 for both of us, but until we find a better alternative, we'll stick it out here.

Jake's: Living up to the Hype

On Saturday night, we decided to try out our surprise favorite from last year, Jake's Ready to Eat. Last year we thought the combination of good service and value made this a win. But had we hyped it up in our minds and would it live up to our expectations again?

Jake's isn't a big restaurant and although our first reservation time slot wasn't available, they were able to reserve a table for us within 15 minutes of the time we originally wanted. This time, we sat on the outside patio, next to a heat lamp and covered by a tent to keep the rain out. With the dim candle on the table and green hedge of a backdrop, it made for a pretty and relaxed atmosphere.

The amuse-bouche was a beet skewer with goat cheese. Two of my favorites!! Rich was generous and let me have his portion. Excellente.

They added a few new items to their menu since the last time we were here, including an option to get a three course meal for $29. A select number of entrees were allowed for this option. Since I was already planning on getting a salad and one of the entrees, this made more sense economically. The organic mixed greens salad was good (no cheese!) and for my entree, I had the fettuccini a la vodka ($16) with heirloom tomatoes. It was very heavy and rich, but also really delicious. I couldn't finish the entire dish.

Rich had the (surprise!) filet mignon ($26) with mashed potatoes and asparagus. He enjoyed it and said he thought it was better than the filet he had the previous day at Chop House.

For dessert, I was allowed to choose anything on the dessert menu. It was a toss up between the toffee banana crunch cake and the coconut cake, but the waiter said the coconut cake was better (hands down). Rich had a giant brownie ($6) which he said was good, but preferred a less cakey brownie. The coconut cake was very good. It was HUGE (3 layers) and moist with delicious cream cheese frosting. None of that gross buttercream stuff. I only wish there was more coconut flavor in the cake itself.

We were stuffed by the time we finished and they still surprised us by bringing out two bites of a pecan tart, just like last year. The owner (guessing?) also came by to ask how everything was. The service was awesome. We love Jake's.

Another weekend in Palm Springs

We were in Palm Springs again last weekend, trying a few new places as well as a couple of favorites from last year.

First up was the Chop House restaurant for Rich's steak fix. It is right across the street from LG which I found funny but there seemed to be a good number of patrons at both establishments. The decor is dark and reminiscent of a traditional steakhouse. We were seated on the patio which was less stuffy than inside and plenty warm with the overhead heat lamps.

I started with the organic beets salad (without the gorgonzola cheese). It was on the small side for a hefty $9 with maybe only 4 slices of beets total for the entire 1-2 cups worth of salad. It was fine, but I could have easily eaten a double or triple portion.

Rich had the regular (8 oz) filet mignon ($31). He said it was good, but not knock-your-socks off good. It was good enough that he finished his plate though! All of the menu items are a la carte, which in my opinion, just makes dinner more expensive. He had a side of french fries ($5), and was disappointed they didn't carry any potato options he would have liked (i.e. roasted potatoes).

For my "entree", I had two side dishes, the brussel sprouts hash ($7) which was caramelized onions, mushrooms, shredded brussel sprouts and truffle oil and the wild mushroom ragout ($8) which contained a mix of shitake, portabello, chanterelle and button mushrooms. They were a bit too oily for me, but the flavor was very good.

 For dessert, we tried the NY style cheesecake ($7) which we both thought was dry and not very good.

Overall, it was a decent but expensive meal. We'd probably go back if we had to, but would rather search out other options.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Suzie's Farm: Week 3

Since I wasn't able to make it to the Hillcrest Farmer's Market this morning, I arranged to have my box picked up at the Poway Farmer's Market. I like that the Suzie's Farm CSA website allows you to easily switch the location. I had never been to the Poway market before and although it is smaller than Hillcrest, there is still a good number of fruit and veggie booths and not a lot of craft ones (a plus!).

This week's box contained:
  • red russian kale (5.25 oz)
  • cabbage cone (1 lb 5.5 oz)
  • basket of serrano and cherry bomb peppers (6 oz)
  • more zucchini (2 lb 7.5 oz)
  • 2 bunches onion purplette (4.5 oz)
  • 1 bunch parsley (2.25 oz)
  • 2 golden treasure peppers (4.5 oz)
  • 2 red bell peppers (5.75 oz)
  • 1 red kabocha squash (1 lb 13.25 oz)
  • 1 bunch radish (8.5 oz)
  • pea shoots (4 oz)
  • cannellini beans (shelled weight = 4.75 oz)

I'm not sure if I'm not trying as hard to use my produce (possible - I haven't been cooking as much this week) or if Suzie's Farm is giving me more food than the Inland Empire CSA (possible - I was getting their "small" box), but I have a lot of leftover produce from last week. I still have the zucchini (with more zucchini this week!), 1/2 of the onion purplette (I'm finding it hard to figure out what to do with these), radish greens, and some peppers.

I am enjoying the selection so far (with the exception of maybe the 3 weeks of onion purplette and zucchini), and also that most of the box is VEGETABLES! The only other complaint is what to do with all the "hot" peppers. As a person who doesn't eat hot peppers, I have had a basket of them every week. I usually use serrano peppers in salsa, but I don't know if I can use a whole basket of them. And the cherry bombs? Are those hot?? I haven't seen those before. Maybe Maddie the crazy hot-pepper eating dog wants to try one?

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Halloween Spookiness

For Halloween, we had "spooky" chili, cornbread, and a spooky dessert.

The chili contained all ingredients from Suzie's Farm except for the beans. I cut out bat shapes from cheese to make it "spooky." Heh.
For the spooky dessert, I made these Devil's Food Cake cupcakes from Martha Stewart. I generally don't like making cupcakes because they tend to come out dry when I make them, but these were moist and fudgy. My original plan was to fill them with strawberry preserves to make them ooze "blood" when bitten into, but I ran out of time to do this. They were still yummy on their own. And of course, they tasted even better with spooky faces on them!

Suzie's Farm: Week 2

Sorry, it's been a really busy week so no picture this week or weighted values, but I can at least provide the list of items in this week's box:

Suzie's Farm - Week 2 box contents:
  • acorn squash, 2 small
  • 1 bunch mint
  • 6 small zucchini
  • 2 large brown onions
  • bag of small tomatoes
  • two small heads of fennel
  • mixed sweet peppers (golden treasure, red pimiento)
  • head of lettuce
  • basket of habeneros
  • red russian kale
  • bunch of radishes
  • 2 bunches of onion purplette

I used a lot of last week's items to make chili for Halloween.  I'm still working through the fennel and acorn squash.  And the habeneros?  I took those into work and didn't dare try them myself.  I was coughing just chopping jalapenos the other day.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Real gardening at last!

Landscaping is officially done and I now have a real garden. No more patio container gardening for me! Off to the nursery...

Monday, October 24, 2011

Suzie's Farm: Week 1

This week I begin a trial run in the next CSA I'm trying as part of the CSA Smackdown:

Suzie's Farm

Suzie's Farm doesn't offer a "trial" period so the shortest subscription you can purchase is 6 weeks. Since there is no trial period, there is also no pesky "new joining/registration" fee that some others have.

Reading some reviews on Yelp, I saw that there were some complaints about the boxes containing too many vegetables and not enough fruit, but for me, this is probably a good thing. :) They also do not allow any substitution of items as Inland Empire did. However, their prices are cheaper. I was on a small box at the Inland Empire CSA for almost $35/box and the small box at Susie's is $18/box. Since the regular size box was only $25 (still less than Inland Empire's small box), I went ahead and signed up for the large box. It was $150 for 6 weeks ($25/box).

I picked up my first box yesterday at the Hillcrest Farmer's Market. The boxes are all in the back of a big truck and they expect you to bring your own bags, transfer the produce to your bags, and break down your box. I checked off my name and put all of the produce into my 2 bags. They were pretty heavy bags when I was done! One nice thing I noticed is that there is a printed list of everything in the box so I know exactly what I'm getting. Another nice thing is that a couple of recipes related to the box contents were also included:

Here is what week 1's box contained:
  • 4 cucumber (2 lb 6.75 oz)
  • 3 green peppers (11.25 oz)
  • tomatoes (1 lb 3.5 oz)
  • 2 brown onions (1 lb 14 oz)
  • sweet pepper mix (7.25 oz)
  • 1 butternut squash (1 lb 7.5 oz)
  • 1 bunch mint (1.5 oz)
  • 2 small heads of butter lettuce (9.25 oz)
  • 1 bunch celery (10.5 oz)
  • purple onions with the greens on (11.75 oz)
  • 8 zucchinis (1 lb 11 oz)
  • basket of jalapenos (8 oz)
  • 1 green melon (don't know what kind) (7 lb .5 oz)
  • dragon beans (8 oz)

The interesting items in the bunch were the dragon beans:

What am I going to do with these?

Otherwise, I'm thinking this box screams CHILI.

What is it?

Here are pictures of the final melon from the Inland Empire CSA. What is it??

Whatever it was, it was sweet and delicious. The watermelon and oranges were also especially sweet. Tomatoes were too ripe and several went bad in a couple of days.

I finished all of the produce this week from the CSA except for a few lemons and an orange.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Very Best Vegan Bac'n

I signed up to be a recipe tester for an upcoming vegan cookbook. First recipe...

Vegan Tofu Bacon!

Or should I say Facon?

I was excited to try this recipe since the MorningStar vegetarian bacon strips I've sampled in the past aren't vegan (they contain egg whites and milk) and it would be nice to have an acceptable substitute. Also, I don't know about you, but I like recipes that have non-scary ingredient lists. Look at the ingredients in the MorningStar strips:


I'm not even sure what half of those ingredients are and some of them are downright scary. What are "natural and artificial flavors" anyway?

This recipe was pretty easy. Although I'm not allowed to print the actual recipe, it involved marinating sliced tofu for a few hours before either pan-frying or baking them. None of the ingredients included TBHQ, Yellow #6, or sodium sulfite.

The result?

Not bad, but a bit too salty to me! If I sliced the tofu thin enough and cooked them long enough, they crisped up just like the Facon. They were good eating alongside scrambled tofu and in a FLT (Facon Lettuce Tomato) sandwich. If I was craving bacon, I'd make these over both real bacon (hello saturated fat!) and the processed and pricey vegetarian bacon strips.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Inland Empire CSA: Mystery Week 5 box

It turns out I had another box waiting for me from the Inland Empire CSA. I'm not sure what happened or why I have another box, but I'm not complaining!

This time, the note under my name said "no grapefruit" and there was ZERO grapefruit in the box.

Week 5's box:
  • 1 bag arugula (6.25 oz)
  • fingerling potatoes (1 lb 1/2 oz), not pictured
  • heirloom tomatoes (2 lb 4.75 oz)
  • 6 round zucchini (2 lb 5.75 oz)
  • romaine head (9.75 oz)
  • mystery melon (2 lb 6.5 oz)
  • part of a large seeded watermelon (3 lb 12.5 oz), not pictured
  • 2 ears corn (1 lb 9 oz)
  • 3 lemons (10.75 oz)
  • 5 oranges (1 lb 11 oz)
  • 1 eggplant (9.75 oz)

I should be able to use all of the contents this week... but I'm wondering what I'll do with all of the zucchini...

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Beet Burgers

I read this article from the Union Tribune on different veggie burgers around town. I'm always looking for good meat-free options and the article made mention of a few I haven't tried yet. Although I have been to Neighborhood, I had their black bean burger while there and not the beet burger. Imagine - a restaurant that carries not one but TWO homemade veggie patty options!

Since I didn't see myself going to Neighborhood any time in the next few weeks and we had a BBQ to cook for (with vegetarians coming), I tried making the beet burger recipe from the article.

The wide range of ingredients made it a time-consuming recipe to make, especially if you make the seitan from scratch. But the result was worth it. Beautifully pink-red patties with a nice texture, the vegetarians and I loved them.

Here's one shown with sliced heirloom tomatoes, red onion, and hummus spread on the bun:

Beet Burgers
Serves 10 (as 6-ounce patties)

Craig Jimenez, the chef at East Village’s Neighborhood, recommended this recipe for do-it-yourself cooks. He suggested using the freshest ingredients possible, which contributes to consistent texture.

“We are looking for the same salivation we get from eating an aged beef burger — its juiciness, flavor, bite resistance,” Jimenez said.

Note from Veggie Choices: The beet burger is just as mouthwatering to non-meat eaters.

4 to 6 large striped beets, (roasted, then peeled, then grated)
1 1/2 cups lightly roasted cooked chickpeas
1 to 1 1/2 cups toasted and ground flaxseed
1 cup cooked red quinoa; cooked according to package directions, then lightly roasted in a sauté pan
1 cup prepackaged plain seitan or homemade seitan (recipe follows)
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon roasted garlic
Coarse sea salt, to taste
Freshly ground black Tellicherry peppercorns, to taste

Combine all ingredients until they form a ball. Add more toasted ground flaxseed for the right consistency. It should come together smoothly and not be dry or too soft or mushy. Remember, the texture of each ingredient should be visible and provide bite.

When your patties are shaped to a 1/2-inch thickness, sauté in a nonstick pan. Place on a toasted whole-wheat bun and top with aged cheddar or Gruyere cheese, fresh tomatoes, red onions, butter lettuce, pickles and spicy brown mustard. Chipotle hummus also makes a nice spread.

Homemade Seitan

Ever since I found out that the fake meat they serve at most vegetarian restaurants is "wheat gluten", I've wanted to try making it myself. Call it a weird food fascination. I finally had a reason try making it a couple of weeks ago. I was making veggie burgers and the recipe called for homemade seitan. What was even better was that the recipe included a seitan recipe to make it at home.

It was relatively easy and the final product is... not bad. I haven't passed final judgment on it yet, mostly because I haven't made anything with it except for the veggie burgers. The veggie burgers had a lot of other ingredients included and I couldn't tell where the seitan was hiding. Like tofu, seitan doesn't really have a distinct flavor and instead soaks up the flavor of whatever it is cooked with.

The recipe was simple and didn't involve too many ingredients... just vital wheat gluten, some spices and a mix of water and veggie brother. I followed the instructions exactly and kneaded the dough as required.

Much kneading and resting later, I had an unappetizing brown log of sponginess.  I cut the dough into strips and boiled it in veggie broth for 45 minutes.

It greatly expanded in size. After 45 minutes, the pieces were drained and rinsed in cool water to prevent further cooking. They still looked unappetizing, but then again, most fake meat does.

Homemade Seitan Gluten Dough
This can be made ahead of time.

2 cups Bob’s Red Mill Vital Wheat Gluten Flour [I used the Arrowhead Mills brand]
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 1/4 cups water or vegetable broth
3 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
4 cups vegetable broth
4 cups water

Combine dry ingredients and mix thoroughly. Separately, combine liquid ingredients. Add wet dough to dry with a fork and knead. Rest the dough for 10 minutes, then knead for 5 minutes, folding it into the middle. Roll the dough into an oblong shape with a diameter of 4 to 5 inches. Rest for another 10 minutes.

Bring the broth and water mixture to a simmer.

Cut dough (it should feel tacky) into 2-inch strips, cover and simmer in the broth for 45 minutes. Add more water if needed. Strain out the liquid and rinse under cool running water. Dough can keep in the fridge for 3 days.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Inland Empire CSA: Wrap up

This week marks the end of the 4-week trial with the Inland Empire CSA. We had a lot of food to finish up from the BBQ we hosted last weekend, so I didn't do as well finishing last week's CSA contents. I still have an apple, 1/2 bag of arugula, the watermelon, the green beans, and 2 grapefruits (surprised?). I plan on taking this week "off" and officially starting the next CSA next Sunday.

Since this was my first CSA, I don't have much to compare it to, but here are some things I liked and didn't like about the Inland Empire CSA:

  • a good amount of fruits and veggies for me (one person, voracious produce eater), although I did supplement by buying greens for the week
  • ability to swap out items I didn't want at the farmer's market

  • cost seems higher when I compared it to other CSAs
  • most of the produce needed to be eaten immediately (e.g. the tomatoes were almost over-ripe and would get moldy in a day)
  • too much grapefruit, but more importantly, they ignored their own message to not put grapefruit in my box!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Maple Blondies with Butterscotch and Chocolate

I have a lot of maple syrup to use up soon (thanks Costco!) and was looking for a treat that would use some for the monthly potluck. This recipe from "The Ultimate Brownie Book" uses a half cup of pure maple syrup and was exactly what I was looking for at 7 pm when I didn't want to go out to buy something I needed. I had all of the ingredients I needed in the house. I opted not to use cocoa nibs and did a mix of half butterscotch chips and half chocolate chips (3/4 cup each).

This was a fairly sweet, maple-flavored... cake. I wouldn't exactly call them blondies. They weren't bad by any means... I just expected something else. The "blondies" were moist and light in texture with hints of sugary maple and a nice kick of chocolate.

I probably won't make them again since I don't enjoy cake-y brownies, but there was no shortage of people trying them at the potluck.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Inland Empire CSA: Week 4

We had a BBQ at our house on Sunday so Kameran picked up my final box from the Inland Empire CSA at the farmer's market. Obviously I didn't trade anything out. I was a bit annoyed to find 3 grapefruits in the box again, especially because I noticed that they had a noted under my named label: Note: No grapefruit

Apparently the person packing the box did not read that part, or didn't care!

Week 4's box:
  • heirloom tomatoes (1 lb 2.5 oz) - probably more than double this, because I had cut some up for the BBQ before I weighed them
  • bag of arugula (8.75 oz)
  • small bag of green beans (8 oz)
  • small watermelon (5 lb 3.25 oz)
  • 3 large grapefruits (2 lb 4 oz)
  • 8 oranges (2 lb 14.25 oz)
  • 4 yellow squash (13.5 oz)
  • 2 small green bell peppers (5.75 oz)
  • 2 green apples (9.25 oz)
  • 2 onions, brown (10.25 oz)
  • 3 small heads garlic (2.5 oz)
  • 1 bag fingerling potatoes (15.25 oz)
  • 2 melons, not sure what kind (2 lb 11.25 oz)
  • 1 small melon with green stripes, not sure what kind (14 oz)
  • 2 small heads of garlic

I did pretty well with week 3's box, finishing almost everything except for the onions and garlic. Those keep longer though so I'm not worried about using them up.

Monday, September 26, 2011

What to do with the long green eggplants?

Since the person at Sage Mountain Farm told me these were Thai eggplants, I thought I'd try to make a Thai eggplant dish from them. I loosely based it off of this recipe but found it too salty (and I used half of the soy sauce than the recipe called for). I also added cashews for crunch, though peanuts probably would have been better (didn't have any).

It was edible and "okay" but I'll keep looking for a better recipe.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Tomato "Chirashi" (Scattered Sushi)

A few days ago, I had about a pound of gorgeous heirloom tomatoes from the CSA that were about to expire pretty soon. I just so happened to be reading Shape and they had an article on tomato recipes. Even though Shape isn't exactly high on my list for recipe sources, this one appealed to me. Tomato sushi??? What an odd mix of flavors.

I made the recipe as written, except that I didn't have any scallions. It tasted like sushi rice with fresh tomatoes with a nice vinegar dressing. It was delicious and a good way to use up those tomatoes!

Tomato "Chirashi" (Scattered Sushi)
Serves 4
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour

2 1/3 cup water
1 cup short-grain brown rice
1 T sugar
1 T rice vinegar
1/3 tsp coarse salt
1 lb tomatoes in different shapes, sizes, and colors
2 scallions (white and green parts), trimmed and thinly sliced
2 T reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 T mirin
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
2 tsp toasted sesame seeds

In a large saucepan, bring water to boil. Stir in rice; reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for about 40 minutes or until rice is tender. Turn off heat and let pot rest, covered for 10 minutes. [I just cooked the rice in my handy rice cooker - MUCH EASIER]

Meanwhile, whisk together sugar, vinegar, and salt for about 2 minutes or until sugar has dissolved completely.

Transfer warm rice to a large bowl. Drizzle a little vinegar mixture over rice and cut across rice using a wooden rice paddle or spoon. Continue drizzling and cutting, then gently scoop paddle under rice and turn over a few times to evenly distribute mixture. Divide rice among four shallow bowls.

Cut large tomatoes into wedges and halve cherry, pear and/or grape tomatoes. Divide evenly among bowls of rice and top each with scallion.

Whisk together soy, mirin, ginger and sesame oil. Drizzle an even portion over each bowl of chirashi and garnish with sesame seeds.

Inland Empire CSA: Weeks 2 and 3

Since I'm already in week 3 of the Inland Empire CSA, I'll do a recap and post what was in each box.

Week 2's box:
  • heirloom tomatoes (3 lb 5.5 oz)
  • 3 large grapefruits
  • oranges (1 lb 2.25 oz)
  • fingerling potatoes (12.75 oz)
  • 2 small heads of garlic
  • 3 small passionfruits (3.5 oz)
  • 3 small onions, brown (6 oz)
  • 1 Thai? eggplant (5.5 oz)
  • bag of arugula (10.5 oz)
  • melon (not sure what type) (2 lb 1.5 oz)
  • bunch of radishes, which I swapped out for a bunch of collards

I did pretty well with Week 1's box and was able to eat everything in it. The only thing I didn't particularly enjoy were the radishes. I don't normally buy them and were at a loss at what to do with them. I tried putting them in a salad but found they had too much bite for me. I sauteed them a bit and they tasted "okay" but not wonderful. I ended up giving the rest away to a coworker who loves radishes. However, I was able to eat the radish greens. I sauteed those up with some cauliflower and made a curry out of it.

I had some lazy lunches and dinners (i.e. went out to eat) during week 2 so I wasn't able to use everything up. By the end of week 2, I still had 1.5 grapefruits, 1 passionfruit, 1 onion, the eggplant, and 1/2 of the arugula.

week 3 box

Today I picked up the box for week 3. There were 3 large grapefruits in it again. I like grapefruit and the ones I had were very sweet, but there is only so much of it I can eat! I swapped those out for several bunches of green leaf lettuce and one small bunch of Swiss chard.

Week 3's box:
  • fingerling potatoes (1 lb)
  • 4 brown onions (1 lb 6 oz)
  • bunch of collards (8.25 oz)
  • bunch of radishes (1 lb)
  • heirloom tomatoes (2 lb 1.5 oz)
  • green leaf lettuce (1 lb)
  • swiss chard (11.5 oz)
  • yellow crookneck squash (1 lb 2.75 oz)
  • 3 cucumbers (1 lb 1.5 oz)
  • 4 Thai eggplants (8.75 oz)
  • melon, not sure what kind? (2 lb, .75 oz)
  • melon, not sure what kind (2 lb 6.25 oz)

Looks like I have to figure out something to do with the Thai eggplants. And what to do with the radishes?!

Inland Empire CSA: Week 1

The day I signed up with Inland Empire CSA, one of the workers was able to make a box up for me and I took one home. The four week trial for a small, weekly box costs $140 ($10 is a one-time processing/joining fee) which works out to $35/box. One feature I like about this CSA is that they allow you to swap out things you may not want if you pick your box up at the farmer's market.

Week 1's box contained:
  • basket of figs
  • salad greens (9 oz)
  • collards, 2 bunches (12.5 oz)
  • 1 large grapefruit
  • bunch of carrots (11.25 oz)
  • 1 cucumber
  • bunch of green onions (6 oz)
  • zucchinis (1 lb 5 oz)
  • summer squash (9.5 oz)
  • 2 melons (not sure what type these were), (2 lb 2.75 oz)
  • brown onions (8 oz)
  • 1 bunch radishes (8.25 oz)
  • heirloom tomatoes (1 lb 9.75 oz)
I know it's "type-A"-ish that I actually weighed everything but it's the engineer in me! How else am I going to be able to compare?

CSA Smackdown!

I've been wanting to try a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) for a long time. I love the idea of supporting local farmers, getting organic fruits and vegetables for less, and being challenged to make new dishes out of things I normally wouldn't eat. My two main issues have always been price and consumption. I shop at farmer's markets and some of the cheaper grocery stores and think I do pretty well and am able to buy a lot of produce for my money. I am also nervous about that I wouldn't be able to finish an entire box of fruits and veggies by myself.

A few weeks ago, Kameran and I were at the Hillcrest farmer's market and after talking with Sage Mountain Farm, I finally decided to bite the bullet and sign up for a four-week trial period with Inland Empire CSA.

I was able to take home a box that day, and when I got home, I did a little more research on the various CSAs in the San Diego area. I might have done "okay" but based on reviews, I may want to try other CSAs as well and compare them. This will be my little experiment to document what I get in each week's box, what I make with the items, and which one is the most "worth it" for me. Who knows, maybe I'll fail miserably and none will work out. Or I may find something a whole new way of buying produce and eating... stay tuned!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Cha Siu Bao (BBQ Pork Buns)

I've been craving a lot of Asian food lately, particularly Chinese pork buns. Kameran and I tried it a couple times before using this recipe, Pork Buns, but it just didn't quite hit the delicousness you find at restaurants. Thinking back to one of the Asian food websites I do like, I decided to search on and Sure enough, I found two great recipes:

Cha Siu (BBQ pork)

Steamed Buns With Roast Pork Filling

I followed the recipes and although a little time consuming, it was definitely worth it. The only thing I would change is maybe add a little more sugar to the BBQ pork meat. The restaurants seem to be a bit sweeter with their meat. Oh and FYI, pork cushion is the 99 Ranch name for pork shoulder.

My pictures definitely don't do it justice as I don't have parchment paper and just ended up using spinach instead (notice the little green bits creeping up the side of my buns :P). Also my bamboo steamer is in storage so I was forced to use a metal steamer that has handles that would hit the bun :-\. Either way, still tasty!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Baked S'mores

About a month ago, we went camping.  The hubby decided he wanted s'mores.  I'm not a fan of marshmallows and find s'mores a bit too sweet.  After camping, we had a lot of leftover graham crackers and marshmallows.  I decided to make a dessert for baked s'mores.  I found this recipe but was a little hesitant to try it.  I made her red velvet cupcakes previously and wasn't impressed so was a little weary to try this recipe.  I followed it exactly except used graham cracker toppings instead of Ferrero Rocher.  The marshmallows were very difficult to spread.  I would advise melting them in increments of 10 seconds and doing it in a 4 batches to make it easier to spread.  Mine came out in a big lump of marshmallows that was difficult to spread.  So I had to make some smaller batches anyway to help coat the top.  Broiling the marshmallows only needed about 1 minute as mine started to slightly burn at the 1 minute mark.  The end result was delicious!  I thought the dessert would come out really sweet but it wasn't.  The graham cracker crust and chocolate cake on top was a great combination.  Adding nutella on the top with little bits of graham crackers added the perfect touch.  What did you think?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Giant Strawberries Strawberry Pie

Since being pregnant, I have been eating a lot more fruits.  Every time I go to Costco, I decide on 2 fruits to buy and finish them all in about a week.  Costco had 4 pound of strawberries for $6.99 the past few times I've been there.  The first time I got them, I finished all 4 lbs on my own in less than a week.  They are giant strawberries and very sweet.  The second time I got them, I decided to make a strawberry pie.

I bought store bought crust because I find it a pain to make it on my own.  After baking the crust in the oven according to directions, I coated the bottom and 1/2 of the sides of the crust with a thin layer of chocolate.  I often find strawberry pie to be soggy because of the glaze.  The chocolate will prevent mushy crust.

For the glaze, put about 8 oz of strawberries and 3/4 cup of sugar into the food processor.  After processing, add the mixture to a pot and bring it to boil.  In a separate bowl, mix 3/4 cup of water with 3 tbsp of cornstarch.  After the strawberry mixture boils, add the cornstarch/water to the pot.  Stir until it thickens. 

Arrange the 24 oz of strawberries in the baked crust, pour strawberry glaze over berries.  Chill in the refrigerator for a few hours so the glaze will set.  Top with whipped cream and serve.

We devoured the pie!  The entire pie was gone in less than a day!  One of our guest tasters said it was so good he couldn't believe how fast he gobbled it up.  That's what I like to hear...

Very Dense Red Velvet Cupcakes

Last year, I made purple velvet cupcakes for my mother-in-law's birthday.  Since then, I have been searching for a red velvet cake recipe that actually tasted good.  A recipe where people said "mmm, I want some more."  I was watching this show called "The Next Great Baker" and contestant, Pam, made red velvet cupcakes that won her the top award during that challenge.  I found her blog and recipe.  So I decided to make her version and hoped they were to die for.

I followed her recipe completely and the results were a little disappointing.  The cupcakes looked good and were very red.  But they only tasted slightly better than okay.  The flavor was good but the cupcakes were too dense.  They weren't at all fluffy and didn't taste like cake.  The recipe made 24 cupcakes and good thing I was able to give them all away.  I guess I'll have to continue my search for a better red velvet recipe.

Monday, March 28, 2011

PB + Jelly = always a good combo

These have been on my "to try" list for quite a while.

The only changes I made were to use raspberry preserves instead of jelly (yuck), use 1/2 whole wheat flour, and a little less sugar.  Even though I had never made the recipe before, they tasted great to me!  I also did not line the pan with parchment and just used non-stick cooking spray.  The dough was easy to work with and I was able to spread it with my fingers.

I gave them all away and am now wishing I had some left!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Southern Lemon Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting and Strawberries.

For hubby's birthday this year, I decided to make 2 desserts.  I made chocolate hazelnut cupcakes for his actual birthday and a southern lemon cake for his birthday weekend (which involved his parent's company).

The chocolate hazelnut cupcakes came from a cupcake book that I got from my sister-in-law 2 years ago.  The book hasn't been too successful in providing good recipes.  I've used it to make Rocky Road cupcakes and Purple Velvet Cupcakes.  Neither recipes were that great!  I decided to give the book one last chance to impress me and if it didn't succeed, then the book was history.  The chocolate hazelnut cupcakes were decent.  They were edible but nothing to brag over.  The cupcake part was a bit on the dry side but it might be because I halved the recipe.  I won't even attempt to add the recipe to our blog though since it's not something I'd make again.  The book will stay on my shelf from now...

I've been watching TLC's The Next Great Baker for the past 8-10 weeks.  It's one of those shows where candidates compete to win money and a chance to be hired on as "The Next Great Baker" in Carlos' Bakery.  Every time I watch the show, I get hungry for cake.  I'm not much of a cake fan at all. But the cake designs are so appealing and some of the things the candidates bake look delicious.  In one episode, Dana makes a Southern Lemon Cake.  The judges are blown away by his cake.  Since then, hubby has been talking about Dana's Southern Lemon Cake.  So for hubby's birthday weekend with his parents, I decided to make a Southern Lemon Cake.

I searched hard for Dana's recipe on the internet, but of course it is no where to be found.  I looked up some recipes for southern lemon cake and lemon cake.  I ended up using this recipe from All Recipes but with a few modifications based on some reviews and things that I wanted in a lemon cake. 

Southern Lemon Cake


3 cups cake flour
(I didn't have cake flour so I used all-purpose flour.  1 cup cake flour = 1 cup all-purpose flour minus 2 tbsp of flour)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 eggs, separated whites and yolks
2 cups white sugar
1 cup butter, softened
3 grated lemons, zested
1 1/2 lemons juiced
1 small container lemon yogurt


1. Sift the flour, baking soda, and salt together. Set mixture aside.

2. Separate the eggs -- egg whites and yolks. In a medium bowl, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually add 1/2 cup of the sugar, beating until stiff glossy peaks form. Set aside. (I actually did this all by hand.  It was tough work.)

3. Cream butter or margarine and 1 1/2 cups sugar.  Add egg yolks, lemon zest, and lemon juice together until fluffy.  Add flour mixture alternately with the yogurt to the egg yolk mixture.  Gently fold in the egg whites and pour the batter into the prepared pans.  (I used 2 8" round cake pans.)

4. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 30 to 35 minutes or until cake comes out clean. Let cake cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a rack to finish cooling.

The lemon cake came out dense, almost like a pound cake.  The lemon flavor wasn't too tart or overpowering.  I might actually add a little more lemon juice or lemon yogurt.  Other than that, it was delicious! 

On The Next Great Baker, Dana makes his Southern Lemon Cake with a cream cheese frosting and tops it with strawberries.  I found a cream cheese frosting recipe on All Recipes that got close to 2000 reviews at 4.5 our of 5 stars.

Cream Cheese Frosting

2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups sifted confectioners' sugar


1. Cream together the cream cheese and butter until creamy. Mix in the vanilla, then gradually stir in the confectioners' sugar. 

Add vanilla and confectioners' sugar to taste.  Some reviewers said this frosting was too soft, too sweet, not sweet enough, not enough vanilla, etc.  I followed the recipe exactly because it was just right for my taste.  It would be perfect with a carrot cake or red velvet cake as well.  To change it up, I might add some food coloring, change the vanilla to almond extract, or maybe add some cocoa powder for a chocolate frosting.  It's definitely a recipe to keep.

With the cake baked and cream cheese frosting made, I had my first chance to decorate my cake.  I cut off the tops of the cakes to even them out for a flat surface. 

I frosted the first cake.

Topped it off with sliced strawberries.

Added the second cake. 

And frosted the entire cake, topping it off with a few strawberries.

Let me say, getting the cake to be smooth is a big challenge.  It's no wonder people use fondant.  It probably makes a difference to have the cake tools to help smooth the frosting, which I don't have. 

And Voila!  My version of Southern Lemon Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting and Strawberries.

A huge hit!  The cake and frosting tasted great with the strawberries (or any berries).  It wasn't too sweet, too lemon-like or anything.  And for once, I actually ate all the frosting off my cake.  (I usually pick off all frosting from cakes.)  My in-laws asked for a small piece of cake, probably because it looked really sweet with the frosting.  After their first piece, they immediately helped themselves for seconds.  As for my hubby -- Happy Birthday Honey Bunches!

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