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Archive for the ‘Tips’ Category

Cabbage is a wonderful thing. Once you meet a local cabbage, you look at cabbage completely differently. It’s a vegetable with great flavor and texture. And a cabbage is a good friend when you find it weeks later in the back of the crisper. Peel off a layer or two, and you’ve still got a lovely head of cabbage. That’s what happened to me last year. Chris and I enjoyed every bit of that head of green cabbage.

Green cabbage

Green cabbage has a tightly-wrapped, round head and can last a long time in the fridge. Here’s an extraordinarily large example of green cabbage from last year in the center of this pic.

And here are the two best recipes we’ve found for green cabbage. (more…)

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How not to use a corn stripper

While cleaning upon our return from vacation, I stumbled across the instructions for the corn stripper.

So I totally see now how Kitchen Kung Fu got gored. These instructions are dumb and dangerous. I must have either missed or ignored them because here’s how I’ve been doing it.

First, shuck the ear, but don’t remove the stem. It’s handy to hold on to.

Then brace the top of the ear in the bottom of a bowl, like this.

Works for paper towel rolls, too!

Then you can push downward with more force, more safely. You have a lot more control pushing down than pushing up, and your non-cutting hand stays out of the danger zone.

Hope this helps – stir-fried sweet corn is too good to miss!

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Freezing eggs

Did you know you can freeze eggs?

It’s a bit of a process but really useful when you suddenly need an egg or when you need a bunch of yolks or whites.

The first step is separating the eggs. While there are tools that help with this, I find it easier to use my hands. First, crack the egg into a bowl.

Then carefully slide a hand under the yolk and pick it up. Carefully shift the yolk from one hand to the other. After a few times, all you’ll be holding is the yolk and the whites will be in the bowl.

(If you break a yolk, it’s no big deal – you’ve still got an egg. Put it in the fridge and use it in a day or two.) (more…)

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Got flies?

We have our first fruit flies of the season, so I laid out a couple of the fruit fly traps that worked so well for us last year.

Here are some other trap ideas from Instructables.com.

And this fruit fly article just has the best title: Time flies like the wind — but fruit flies like bananas.

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CSA meal planning at my house

Feeding a family takes planning – especially with a CSA subscription. Here’s an overview of how I plan our food on a weekly basis.

Sunday: Check the CSA menu and online store

Usually, updates to the weekly menus and online store are available by Sunday afternoon. The CSA menus are just for getting an idea of what might come. There’s simply no way to predict what will be available, so I’ve learned not to make hard plans from this list. It’s good for getting my brain going, though. (more…)

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Get some style!

Sometimes diversity is not so good.
Consider sticking with a style of cooking for a couple of weeks or even a season. For instance, in the summer, we cook a lot of Italian dishes.  Sticking with a style makes for more efficient use of leftovers. You can throw things together in a pot or at least on the same plate and still feel like it’s a meal. This won’t work if you’ve got, say, an Asian-inspired vegetable dish and want to add it to leftover spaghetti with lots of Italian seasoning.

Getting good is good.
In addition to using leftovers, sticking with a style lets you develop expertise quickly. You learn what will work, how long it will take, what the pitfalls are, etc. This makes cooking more fun and you get more out of your bag of produce.

Be cost effective at Costco.
Also, you only have to keep certain spices or other dry staples around when you stick to a style. These are usually cheaper when bought in bulk, but you want to make sure you’ll use them up.

Change with the seasons.
Eventually, you get tired of cooking and eating the same types of things. Plus, different seasons bring different produce that lends itself to different styles. Once you’re comfortable with a style, think about what you want to try next and give it a shot. I’d like to get better at Asian cooking, so that may be my next challenge.

Some suggested styles…

  • Asian-inspired style: mix and match leftover stir fries or make fried rice. A lot of summer vegetables are good in stir fries: yellow squash, zucchini, eggplant (purged!), garlic. In the fall and spring, you can switch to broccoli, cabbage, onions, and carrots. Prep vegetables by chopping them all the same size. Learn how long vegetables take to stir fry and segregate them by cooking time. Matching staples: soy sauce, fresh ginger, rice, chow mein noodles, sesame oil, corn starch.
  • Italian-inspired style: great for summer time vegetables. This is my house. My family loves Italian food, so it works really well for us. Tomatoes, zucchini, garlic, and basil just beg to be cooked together and thrown on top of pasta. Use tomatoes fresh or slightly cooked. I don’t like to cook tomatoes all the way down because they produce so little sauce. Better to use the CSA tomatoes to spike a can of crushed tomatoes if you need a lot of red sauce. When in doubt, saute chopped veggies in olive oil and toss over pasta with fresh herbs and parmesan. Bellissimo! Matching staples: olive oil, pasta, Italian seasoning (in case you run out of fresh herbs), Parmesan or Romano cheese.
  • Good ol’ Southern cooking: cooked vegetables, biscuits or cornbread, and a chicken or pork dish. These leftovers could be turned into casseroles or pot pies or just different combinations. My mother’s family is from Georgia since a long ways back, but this really isn’t my favorite cooking. It’s a good match, though, for locally grown produce. Matching staples: cornmeal mix, Bisquick, salt, ham hocks or other pig parts in the freezer.
  • French country?: During the fall, we stop being so Italian and switch to salads and baked and roasted vegetables. I don’t know if French is the right; I certainly don’t go crazy with the sauces. The meals are simple, and we use the oven a lot. Lots of soups, stews, and casseroles. Comfy food that you imagine eating on a chilly night. Matching staples: herbes de Provence, bread mix, onions, butter, various cheeses.

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Meal planning

Getting a grab bag of seasonal produce requires more weekly meal planning. After all, you have to figure out what to do with all this interesting (and already paid for) food. .

Here are some tips for planning

  • Read the weekly CSA email. Patricia sends this around after the bags are delivered. It explains what’s in the bags, suggests some uses, as well as bringing up other CSA business like renewals and new drop-off locations. The preview emails are fun to read. But you never know what’s going to happen, and I’ve found it best not to plan for real until I have my bag. Who wants to plan twice? The preview emails are a good reminder to check the online store, though. If there’s something you really want to make sure you have or have enough of, you can order it before Sunday night.
  • Schedule separate time for planning. Not much time – maybe twenty minutes. It often makes sense to combine this time with prepping. Both should be considered distinct from cooking. Otherwise, you’ll drive yourself mad trying to do it all meal by meal at 6:30 every night.
  • Weekends work. If you can’t plan till the weekends, that’s cool. Just make your plan from weekend to weekend. Your new fresh CSA produce will wait patiently in the fridge from Wednesday to Saturday with a few exceptions.
  • Google is your friend. My laptop is one my favorite kitchen tools now. Just figure out what you’ve got and search for recipes. I still write out my meal plan longhand on a piece of paper, though, because I like to scratch out and draw arrows and make other notes. Then I make my grocery store list on the side and tear it off to take with me.
  • Shop second. Try not to go to the grocery store until after you’ve planned the coming week. Then you have a plan and a list and will shop more efficiently.
  • Cookbooks work, too. If you don’t have any useful cookbooks, see what your friends and relatives have. A lot of people end up with cookbooks they never use and might be happy to loan them out.  If you want your own, here are a few recommendations.
    How to Cook Everything
    How to Cook Everything Vegetarian
    More-with-Less Cookbook
  • Find a style. Sticking to a style of cooking for a couple of weeks or even a season has a bunch of benefits. Find out more here.

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