Tuesday, September 10, 2013

...Tastiness (CSA Style) - Roasted Salsa

Six or seven years ago, B and I had one of those house guests that you just couldn't shake - my little brother.  Luckily, it was a good fit - we helped him out by providing him a place to stay, and he helped around the house and was a constant source of entertainment.  He also kept us in supply of fresh salsa, replenishing the stock before we ever ran out.  And 6 years later, I still think about it every day.  I freaking love fresh salsa.

Our CSA box has been FULL of tomatoes lately of all varieties, especially heirlooms.  Couple that with B's dad bringing us Romas every week, and this tomato loving family has them coming out of our ears.

So I called my little brother up with a "Remember that time you used to make me fresh salsa weekly?  How did you do that?"  And he did me one better.  Instead of telling me how he made the salsa years ago (see below - without the roasting, but first blanching the jalapenos), he told me his new favorite way to make it.  Two weeks in a row of making it - and 4 and a half pints in my fridge later - it's become my favorite way, too.  The best part is that the only ingredients not from our CSA box are the garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper.  Not too shabby.

First, in pictures:

6-7 Tomatoes (Various Heirloom, and Romas)
3 Jalapenos
1 White Onion and 1/2 Red Onion
5-6 Cloves Garlic
Everything but the tomatoes

Moments later

The finished product

These pictures are from my first attempt last week.  This week, I roasted the veggies a little longer and seeded the jalapenos before roasting for a milder flavor.  H complained.  He liked the salsa and wanted to eat it on everything, but it made his mouth "on fire".  No complaints from B or myself.  L hasn't met a spice she can't handle!

Roasted Salsa

One of the great things about this recipe is that you can make as much or as little as you'd like, and vary the heat to your liking.  Cilantro would be a great addition at the end, too, but I just didn't have any.
  • Tomatoes - I had 4 big heirlooms and 3-4 Romas
  • Jalapenos, stems removed - remove seeds for milder salsa
  • Onion - red?  white?  both?  it doesn't matter
  • Garlic - 4-5 cloves, to taste
  • salt and pepper
  • Olive Oil - just a drizzle
  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with foil.
  2. Clean and quarter tomatoes and onions, remove stems (and seeds?) from jalapenos, peel garlic cloves, and arrange on baking sheet.
  3. Drizzle veggies with a little olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  4. Roast veggies for 20-25 minutes.  Keep an eye on them.  They should get lightly brown around the edges, but not too brown.  (The second batch I made, I roasted a bit longer and it is even more flavorful!)
  5. Once veggies are roasted, add all veggies but the tomatoes to your food processor, and pulse until slightly larger than your desired salsa consistency.  *Note: I only ended up adding 2 of the 3 jalapenos shown in the picture and the salsa is plenty spicy.
  6. Add the tomatoes.  You'll only need to pulse the food processor a few times (3 or 4).  If you pulse it too much, your salsa will be pretty liquified.
  7. Transfer into your vessel of choice and refrigerate.  It should keep for 2-3 weeks.  Some might choose to go through the canning process here in order to preserve the salsa for much longer.  Because I don't know how to do this, I just throw it in the fridge.
  8. Enjoy!  I'm loving this salsa on egg whites every morning, in salads at lunch, and many other ways.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

...A Whole New World

I have a kindergartner.  A real live 5 year old, who the next time I blink, will be unpacking in his dorm room.  Honestly?  It makes me a little bit sad and so unbelievably excited.  Each stage thus far has been so different and truly enjoyable (well, except for the incredibly picky eating stage), that I can't help but look forward to watching to see who H is going to be.

The night before he asked, "Mom?  Should I dress handsome or maybe fancy for school tomorrow?"
We settled on handsome.  I suggested fancy (i.e. a bow tie) might be overkill for the first day.
School can be an anxiety trigger for so many kids, and I knew that H would really have to work through some of this.  The kid tends to get anxious over hypotheticals rather frequently, and he was pretty open about his concerns all summer long -- especially the fact that his group of best preschool friends will be attending the school where I teach and not the one where he'll be attending.

Ready for orientation with a backpack full of supplies

Luckily, his school has a separate Kindergarten Orientation day.  B, H, L, and I walked to school - just like he'll do on days he's home with B.  He lined up at the door with the 22 other nuggets - varying from bouncing off the walls with excitement to full on tears (we were somewhere in the middle, thank God) - and off they went for a mini class with is teacher while we listened to the principal and toured the school.  When it was all over, we got to help him unpack his supplies and check out his classroom.  It's so surreal being on the other side of it all!

First Day Sillies

Unfortunately, my first day back to school was also H's first day.  But maybe this was easier on both of us.  Even though my principal generously told me I could scoot out of meetings to take him, B and I decided to try to make his first day as similar as we could to the way the rest will be.  As soon as I knew he'd be back at home after picking H up, I called to hear the rundown of how the day went from B.  Only then did I lose it.  And that was when I realized that I wasn't crying because I was sad.  I'm just so happy my kid LOVES school as much as we knew he would.  First Day.  Check.  Bring on the new adventures.

Like unscheduled play dates?!  About 4 seconds after I walked in the door today, the doorbell rang.  It was a little girl from his class wanting to play.  Having lived in a neighborhood without kids for the last 8 years, I think B and I were a little gun shy at letting him run out the door to a house we've never seen (with "it's the one after the bushes that look like blocks" as the only address provided by the nugget), to play with a girl we've never seen, and be supervised by a parent we've never met.  So, trying not to be a psycho, I walked behind the kids (only about 4 or 5 houses away - yay!), and asked H's tiny and adorable friend to have her mommy come out and meet me.  She did.  She may have thought I was crazy, but 25 minutes later, both of her children were upstairs in my house with both of mine, and it made me feel better.

I guess this means he's growing up.  Might as well embrace it.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

...Tastiness (CSA Style) - Summer Bean Salad

Throughout the chaos of moving, our CSA box has continued to keep eating interesting.  Roasted kohlrabi?  Yes, please.  Nevermind the fact that it makes the kitchen smell like ass when it's cooking.  H has a new obsession with beets.  So what if I had to tell him that eating a lot of beets would turn his pee a funny color to convince him to try them?  It worked!  Yesterday at the farmers' market, he begged me to buy some because there weren't any in the box this week.  Um...Of course!!!  Unfortunately I made this salad before the farmers' market on Wednesday.  I'd have preferred to use some of the incredible basil and cherry tomatoes we saw there.

This week, our box contained fresh green and wax beans.  I LOVE fresh green beans!  I remembered a salad that I had found several years ago (maybe in Rachel Ray's magazine?  I have no idea.) and attempted to recreate it from memory.  Whether I was right or not, the end result was delicious.

Boil beans for about 5 minutes.

Blanching in an ice bath

Grape Tomatoes

About this much basil - close to half of a container

The dressing

Mix it up

A strangely angled shot of dinner:
Bean salad, homemade "creamed" corn, rice and pork loin.

Summer Bean Salad

  • Fresh green and wax beans (roughly 1 lb green and 1/2 lb wax, but any amount would do!)
  • 1 pt. grape tomatoes, sliced in half
  • Fresh basil, chopped - close to 1/2 cup depending on your taste
  • 1/4 c. red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Clean beans by snapping off the stem end and rinse.
  2. Add to boiling water.  Bring back to a boil and allow to boil for around 5 minutes - until their color brightens.  You want the beans to remain firm.
  3. Blanch the beans in an ice bath to stop the cooking process.  
  4. Meanwhile, slice your tomatoes and basil, and whisk the vinegar, oil, salt and pepper together to make the dressing.
  5. Drain the beans, and pat dry.
  6. Mix beans, tomatoes, basil and dressing.  I never end up using as much dressing as I make, as I prefer my salads not to be "soupy" with the dressing.  Use as much or as little as you like.
  7. Serve cold.  This salad is even better the next day.
  8. Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

...That Deeeelux Apartment in the Sky-yyyyyy

For the last 8 years we were living in a shoebox.  That's not true.  It only became a shoebox when we added L to our family.  While it worked for awhile, we were just outgrowing the space.  H and L can't share a room forever.  When we bought our 2 bedroom, 1.5 bath home more than 8 years ago, we had NO intentions of staying in it for more than 5 years or so.  The best laid plans...

After an incredible amount of searching:  soul-searching, financial planning/saving, and a great real estate hunt, we finally found our house - at nearly twice the size of our first home.  A real forever home in a community we always dreamed of living in - with incredible schools, great restaurants in walking distance, and an adorable neighborhood.  

And so we packed and packed and packed.  And by we, I mean B, my mom, Amee, H and I tried to pack faster than L could destroy our efforts.  On July 11th, we signed our names a million times and got our keys.  

Now I will post an absurd amount of "before" pictures.  Most of these were taken on day 1 - the house is empty and my mom and I started cleaning right away.  Our new home is going to be a work in progress for quite some time.  But we couldn't be happier here.  At least finishing rooms will give me something to blog about?

Our first photo!
I can't wait to have a Christmas Tree in that bay window.
And we could use a little landscaping.

The upstairs bathroom
Pink and burgundy were apparently all the rage in the 40s

Upstairs bath 
View from the master into the hall
2 linen closets
I'm in love with all the doorknobs

H's lovely closet doors
These beauties can also be found in L's room and the family room
Must go

Because there are 4x as many cabinets in our kitchen, my mom brought me my grandma's crystal
I just like to open this cabinet and dream of the fancy dinners I probably will never host

L checking out the grapevines and planters on the patio

I put L's bed together all by myself
Well, my mom helped a little

Spice Rack

Dining room chandelier that I hated.  But now I LOVE.
It's a keeper

View from the kitchen into the dining room.  Family room is on the right.

L's bedroom - before

Lovely fixtures found in H and L's rooms.
Must go.

Move in day.  These are all toys.  Can you say garage sale?

My dad's first meal in our house

After one of many dinners on our new patio/back porch
L checking my progress with pride

Before rugs - these kids make the mess, they might as well clean it up, too!

Bike injury caused by endless riding up and down the driveway
We have a driveway!  Unfortunately for H, it ends in a garage door.

Sweet dreams in her big girl bed.
Within one week, we moved, she no longer is in a crib, and the paci-fairy came and took her pacifiers.
Big Girl, indeed.

Play time in the formerly formal living room
Now it's a formal playroom

Quite possibly the perfect top shelf

Selfie on the new family room rug
I guess it's comfier than the kitchen floor?

View from family room through dining room to the living room
All three rugs are finally down!

Worn out kiddos
Why?  Why is she always topless?

So that's it.  For now.  I'm dying to get some paint on these walls, but everything must happen in time.  First the basement must be waterproofed - so the toys can move downstairs - and the storage stuff can be organized.  It's just so hard to be patient!!!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

...Not so Lazy Days of Summer

I am fortunate to have a career that I absolutely love.  And I am even more blessed that this career allows me to spend so much time at home with H and L.  But I'm not going to lie, summer days can sometimes feel really long.  I've been working on finding a balance in keeping us in a somewhat of a routine (because that's how my kids thrive) while trying to stay busy outside of the house.  With the big move coming in a few weeks, we'll be spending a lot of time getting unpacked and set up in our new digs, so I'm trying to make the most of this little bit of calm before the storm.

On Friday, I was skimming Facebook, and saw pictures of a friend who had taken her daughter strawberry picking.  And ala Phineas and Ferb, I told H, "H!  I know what we're going to do today!"  We had been to Stades several years ago to pick pumpkins, so I knew where I was going.  After swim lessons, I fed, bathed, and loaded H and L up and we headed Stades.

H finding the perfect berry

L ate her way through the field
A little dirt never hurt anybody

After a few hours of overwhelmingly cute berry picking, we returned home with a little over 7 pounds of strawberries.  What to do?  What to do?  I did some research and decided we'd make jam.  So the next day when L was napping, H and I set to work.

H - the strawberry hulling machine

Mashing berries

Pot-stirring selfie
Truth time:  I've never made jam.  And I couldn't find the freezer kind of pectin.  And I didn't really want chemicals in the jam because I've become kind of crazy like that.  So I used a recipe that just called for sugar and lemon juice.  And we really made more of a strawberry sauce than a strawberry jam.  But darn it, it's going to be so good on pancakes and ice cream and angel food cake!  Or toast.  A little will go a long way!  

We've got 8 of these little guys
7 in the freezer for later

 After all that, our strawberry supply hadn't been depleted.  So we made popsicles.  H got to be the creative genius behind the lemon juice, strawberry, banana, and orange juice popsicles.

The smoothie popsicle man
All that strawberry hulling didn't go so well for the Captain America shirt
What do you do to stay busy on these not so "lazy days of summer"?


Monday, July 1, 2013

...Tastiness (CSA Style) - Grilled Bok Choy with Soy Ginger Sauce

Our box contained 3 large heads of bok choy (bok choi?).  I've only ever prepared bok choy by chopping it up and adding it to stir fry.  So I thought I'd try something a little different this time, and sticking with our preferred method of summer cooking, I prepped it and had B throw it on the grill.  This recipe was inspired by this recipe I found on Pinterest.

First...in pictures

Bok Choy, sliced and ready to be brushed with olive oil and toasted sesame oil

Sauce Fixin's
Green onion (from CSA box), ginger, lime, rice vinegar and soy sauce

The sauce

On the grill

Time for dinner!

Pork Chops, Corn on the Cob, and Bok Choy with Soy Ginger Sauce
Check out Ashli's easy fail-proof method for perfect corn on the cob here.
You have to try it!!!!  I doubted, but am not a complete corn convert.
 Grilled Bok Choy with Soy Ginger Sauce

  • Bok Choy (We had 5 small heads)
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons Toasted Sesame Oil
  • 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil - plus more for the grill grates
  • 1 Tablespoon grated fresh peeled ginger
  • 3-4 Green Onions, whites and a little bit of greens, thinly sliced
  • 2-2 1/2 Tablespoons Seasoned Rice Vinegar
  • 1/4 cup Soy Sauce
  • Juice of 1 lime
  1. Sauce can (and probably should) be made ahead of time so flavors can meld.  
  2. Whisk together ginger, onion, vinegar, soy sauce, and lime in a small bowl
  3. Heat clean grill to Medium Heat.  Once the grill is heated, generously oil the grates using olive oil so bok choy doesn't stick.  We like to fold over some paper towel and dip it in oil, then use it to "grease" the grates.
  4. Slice each head of bok choy in half.
  5. Combine Toasted Sesame Oil and Olive oil.  "Paint" bok choy with mixture generously.  
  6. Grill bok choy directly on medium heat for 4 minutes.  Turn.  Grill for another 3-4 minutes.
  7. Enjoy!