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Plenty from the farm

I just finished week 2, in which the CSA basket became more plentiful. Can you guess everything here before you scroll further to see what I cooked?

OK, so you probably identified most of those items.

First up was coconut basil chicken with asparagus. I needed to finish the basil from week 1, as I had a new supply in week 2. I have no trouble keeping up with the asparagus.

Tuna sandwiches are better with basil. That's a kohlrabi carrot slaw in the tiny bowl. No, you didn't see the odd shape of kohlrabi in the basket spread photo, because that's another item from the previous week. I always have to look up recipes for kohlrabi. I remember liking the vegetable, but never remember how it's used.

Lemon basil salmon and chard. I cooked the chard with my single garlic scape. But such a small mild garlic flavor wasn't detectable.

Fresh sautéed veggies are a light and flavorful dressing for pasta. I used kale, tomatoes, and cilantro.

June means farm-fresh veggies

Last week, I picked up the first CSA basket of the season. My local farmer now has a greenhouse, which means that we're getting tomatoes from the start. The first basket is always the lightest, but it did include lettuce, asparagus, peas, radishes, basil, and strawberries. And another vegetable, but I forget what it's called and haven't yet used it.

I ate strawberries plain, in cereal, and with cheesecake. I even used some in a salad.

But not in this salad. That was simply lettuce, tomato, and radish. And, yes, an asparagus omelet.

Tuna sandwich is better with fresh herbs, lettuce, and tomato.

I finished the asparagus and peas in vegetable fried rice.

Cooking in layers

CSA season has not yet started, which means that I'm not drowning in vegetables. Even without all those fresh veggies, I do cook throughout the year.

The other day, I made shepherd's pie. But instead of topping it with mashed potatoes, I topped it with sweet potato casserole.I liked this combination and might repeat it.

And in other cooking news: coconut cake.This cake look and tastes rich and creamy, but is dairy free. It was the first time I made dairy-free frosting instead of dairy-free royal icing. Coconut milk was a helpful addition to the cake, and coconut cream to the frosting. Also, shredded coconut. Because there cannot be too much coconut.


Cooking from The Food Lab

The Food Lab is more than a cookbook. It's a treatise on the best ways to prepare food at home, based on science and experiments. At about 1,000 pages, this is a heavy book for bed-time reading and heavy to lug into the kitchen.

I cooked this stew way back in the winter. Unfortunately, I don't remember much. Except that the book advised to buy a big cut of meat and cut into chunks.... not to buy the meat ready-cut for stewing.

Peas with pine nuts and prosciutto. I learned that frozen peas taste the best, because they are frozen shortly after harvest. Next time I get fresh peas from the farm, I should use them the same day.

Mushroom omelet. The secret to fluffy omelets is to add salt to the eggs, whisk thoroughly, and then let the eggs sit 15 minutes before cooking.

Pan-fried chicken with mushroom sauce. The main secret to cooking any meat or fish is to use an instant read thermometer.

This book has a recipe for risotto that does not require constant stirring.


I'm reading a couple of books about food and cooking:
* Eating on the Wild Side
* The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science

Both books seem interesting. Eating on the Wild Side focuses on vegetables and fruit. It will be most helpful when CSA season starts again in the spring. There are some useful tips on how to store items that I'm already putting into practice. For example, onions last longer stored in the fridge, but should be stored on a shelf - the vegetable bin is too humid and will cause onions to sprout.

The Food Labincludes recipes, and I already tried a few.

Pan-fried salmon with cherry tomato relish was more moist and tender than I usually prepare. However, I didn't manage to get crispy skin and will have to try again.

Pasta with shrimp scampi was a different way to serve pasta. Unfortunately, my shrimp were pre-peeled, so I didn't use the shells to add extra flavor to the oil.

Although The Food Lab includes recipes, it is more about the science of cooking. I'm looking forward to reading, learning, and experimenting.

What are your favorite non-cookbook books about food?


Which came first, the chicken or the egg

Back when I picked up the last basket of the CSA season, a chicken from the farm had wandered to their market.

A little girl kept chasing the chicken, so it jumped out of the way on the table of sauces and pickles.

There are a few last items from the CSA in my fridge, and more in my freezer and pantry.

Soon I'll finish the eggs. I have a modest amount of corn in the freezer. And jars of preserves in the pantry. Pictured above is peach butter. It's not overly sweet and delicious on toast.

It's hard to see way went into this stew.

The potatoes were from the supermarket. I finished the carrots from the CSA. What else came from the farm? Tomatoes and zucchini. I froze both during the summer and fall.

This year we mostly got giant zucchini. The large size is sometimes fun to serve stuffed. However, the flesh is not as flavorful as when small, and the peel becomes incredibly tough and must be tossed. I have too much zucchini in my freezer. The zucchini seemed to work out well in this stew, and next time I might try to use more.


Throughout the 20 weeks of CSA season, I enjoy fresh vegetables. But I freeze what I don't eat. After I finish the remaining fresh vegetables, I start cooking from the freezer.

Don't those beans look as fresh as summer? Unfortunately, that's it for local beans until next summer.

I still have a small amount of onion. Onions keep quite a while in the fridge. But I pulled eggplant out of the freezer and added it to this stir-fry.

My freezer is full of frozen vegetables.

Enjoy the colors of autumn food

Although the bright yellows and reds of summer corn and tomatoes are long gone, autumn food doesn't have to be  boring.

This year, I got lots of purple potatoes from the CSA program. Here, I enjoyed them roasted with the last of the beets.

Squash is abundant in autumn.

One squash soup looks very much like another. This is butternut squash soup.

I mixed eggplant with shrimp and tomato sauce for this pasta dish.

Leeks and mushrooms accompanied chicken and potato.

The vegetable bins in my fridge are nearly bare, but I have a freezer full of the CSA bounty.

Reading challenge accepted

UPDATED: December 26, 2015

namastefreund posted a challenge on their FaceBook page:

the first person to complete this challenge (and tag namastefreund on twitter, facebook, or instagram with each book as they are crossed off the list) before this time next year (September 18, 2016) will win a custom designed bookmark and a gift certificate to get a second one to give away as a gift.

  1. a book you own but haven't read

  2. a book that was made into a movie

  3. a book you pick solely because of the cover

  4. a book your friend loves

  5. a book published this year

  6. a book by an author you've never read before

  7. a book by an author you love

  8. a book at the bottom of your "to be read" pile

  9. a book with a colour in the title

  10. a book set somewhere you always wanted to visit

  11. a book you started but never finished

  12. a book with a lion, a witch, or a wardrobe

  13. a book with a female heroine

  14. a book set in the summer

  15. a book of poems

  16. a book you learned about because of this challenge

  17. a book that will make you smarter

  18. a book with a blue cover

  19. a book you were supposed to read in school, but didn't

  20. a book "everyone" but you has read

  21. a book with a great first line

  22. a book with pictures

  23. a book from the library

  24. a book you loved. read it again

  25. a book that is more than 10 years old

  26. a book based on a true story

Books I Read
As I read books in this challenge, I'll update this post. I'll cross items off the list above, and provide details here.

a book you own but haven't read - Thinking Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kahneman. Finished reading April ?, 2016. I don't remember exactly when I finished this book. I've had this book a while, and it was recommended to me. I really liked the first parts of this book and the research into how people think. There were some sections that didn't interest me so much about economics, but overall the book was worthwhile.

a book your friend loves - Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline. Finished reading January 1, 2016. One friend really enjoyed this book and suggested that I read it soon. And while it was next in queue in my TBR pile, a couple of other friends posted that they really disliked this book. I went in not knowing what to expect. It turned out to be a fun fast romp, set in the future but filled with pop references to 1980s pop-culture (along with some 1970s and 1990s references), especially arcade games and early computer games, but also movies, tv, and pop music. The opening scenario hooked me, which kept me slogging through the next 50 or so pages until it really took off for me. But then I couldn't put it down.

a book by an author you love - Shattered Pillars, by Elizabeth Bear. Finished reading November 14, 2015. I love so much that Elizabeth Bear writes, although she often writes something new and different from what she previously wrote. Shattered Pillars is the middle book in her epic fantasy trilogy, set along a reimagined silk road. I prefer Elizabeth Bear's science fiction, but this story is gripping. I especially enjoy the animal characters - Hrahima, a tiger, and Bansh, a horse.

a book published this year - House of Shattered Wings, by Aliette de Bodard. Finished reading December 25, 2015. This story is poignant, haunting, and unusual. House of Shattered Wings is set in an alternate Paris. Fallen angels populate the city. They can perform magic, and their body parts can be used by mortals to perform magic. Paris is in ruins from a great magic war in the early 1900s. Woven into this tale are the colonial subjects from Viet Nam, subjugated by the French but with their own magic. The world is much larger than this book, and I look forward to reading more books in this series.

a book by an author you've never read before - What Matters in Jane Austen? 20 Crucial Puzzles Solved, by John Mullan. Finished reading February 11, 2016. This is a book for fans of Jane Austen. I'm not sure it would make much sense without great familiarity with her novels. However, if you do love her novels, this book is great fun. Each chapter asks a question. Some chapters focus more on aspects of her writing (which significant characters never speak? how experimental was Austen's writing?) while other chapters focus more on the period (what do people read? what games to people play?).

a book with a blue cover - The Rosie Project, by Graeme Simsion. Finished readin February 24, 2016. This light romantic comedy is from the point of view of a man who is possibly on the autism spectrum. It's very funny, and the characters are both likable and interesting.

a book with pictures - The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking through Science, by Kenji Lopez-Alt. Finished reading January 30, 2016. This near-thousand-page tome is a combination of textbook and cookbook. The term "textbook" is entirely too dry. This book covers lots of theory, along with the results of Kenji Lopez-Alt's experiments to discovering better ways of cooking - where better might mean faster, more efficient, or with a tastier outcome. Much of this book is light-hearted and funny. And filled with lots and lots of pictures. Not just of the finished results, but sometimes all steps along the way.

a book from the library - Locked In, by John Scalzi. Finished reading March ?, 2016. I've been very bad about updating this list, so I'm not 100% sure when I finished this book. I didn't get the physical book from the library. I did, however, visit the library to get my library card. Then I signed up with OverDrive, so that I can check out e-books from the library. This is really convenient. And I like the idea of reading books without having to own them. This is a science fiction book that deals with virtual reality, disability, and identity. It's fun and fast-paced.

Books I read that don't fit the challenge
Because I enjoyed The Rosie Project so much, I ready the sequel The Rosie Effect in less than a week. There were parts of this book that I didn't enjoy as much as the first book, but overall, it was fun. If another sequel comes out, I'll read that, too.

I just had to read The Goblin Empereror, by Katherine Addison. This is the pen name of Sarah Monette, who wrote some excellent but disturbing fantasy novels. The Goblin Emperor has wonderful characters and a richly built world. Although there is pain and danger in this book, there is also hope. I highly recommend this book.

I needed something light and upbeat and turned to Exploring Calivin and Hobbes, an exhibit by Bill Watterson. The essay and interview were interesting. The cartoons are always fun, and the curation enjoyable.


How many ways can you cook pumpkin?

This fall, I got several pumpkins in the CSA basket. I start all my recipes by roasting the pumpkin.

Pumpkin pie is a favorite. I love using fresh roasted pumpkin. I get a slightly chunky texture that makes clear this is pumpkin.

What became of the pumpkin  behind the pie?

Pumpkin soup! This recipe included coconut milk. Great combination.

I had slightly too much pumpkin. So, I saved the odd amount.

Mashed with apple chutney, it made a great side dish. I was glad to have a sweet side, as the jalapeño parsley cheese omelet was spicy and needed balance.

What are your favorite pumpkin dishes?


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