killing time between meals

where talking about what's for dinner while you're at lunch is totally acceptable


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Easy Eggplant Dip

Before this summer I had never cooked an eggplant. Sure, I’d eaten it many times at restaurants, but for whatever reason the bulbous, dark purple ingredient intimidated me. I don’t know why. They  look friendly enough.

Thanks to my CSA, I got one and had to figure out what to do with it. Enter the most simple, delicious eggplant dip in the world. Now I am buying eggplant at the grocery store! I know what you’re thinking. And yes, I am such a risk taker.

This dip has been a huge hit at recent gatherings, like a Greek dinner I attended with my Bible study girls. (You can barely see it along the top left corner under the saffron rice.) So many people have asked for the recipe that I figured I should post it.

Easy Roasted Eggplant Dip
Adapted from Ina Garten (who else?)
Serves 6-8

1 medium eggplant
2 red or green bell peppers, seeded
1 red onion, peeled
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons good olive oil
1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons tomato paste

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  • Cut the eggplant, bell pepper, and onion into 1-inch cubes. Toss them on a baking sheet with the garlic, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Spread in a single layer and roast for 45 minutes, until the vegetables are lightly browned and soft. Turn once during cooking.
  • Place the vegetables in a food processor with the tomato paste and pulse 3 or 4 times to blend. Taste for salt and pepper. Serve with pita chips.

Veggies pre-roasting. Sorry, this is my only pic!

Side note: This would also be great spread on sandwiches or little crostini as an appetizer.


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You Say Tomato, I Say Mater

I know I’ve been talkin’ a lot of tomato lately, but can you blame me? They are everywhere and taste good in everything. After all, the tomato is a uniter, not a divider, bringing together fruits and vegetables. OK, I stole that witty little line from the Tomato Art Fest slogan, which happens to be this weekend. You should definitely brave the heat to eat tomatoey treats and see whimsical tomato creations at the Art & Invention Gallery like this:

Melba & Her Maters by Vicki Sawyer                          via Art & Invention Gallery

In honor of Tomato Art Fest, a plethora of Bradleys in my CSA, and wishing fall would hurry up and get here, I decided to try a simple tomato soup recipe by Ina Garten. Tomato soup is my favorite comfort food when I’m at my parents’ house in the winter. My mom and dad used canned tomatoes from their garden and serve the soup up with cornbread or grilled cheese—a meal that always satisfies on a chilly night. But turns out this cozy winter go-to isn’t so bad in summer either.
   

Fresh Tomato Basil Soup
Adapted from Ina Garten
Serves 4

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 red onion, chopped
1 carrot, unpeeled and chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 vine-ripened tomatoes, coarsely chopped (I also threw in some leftover heirloom cherry tomatoes)
¾ teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon tomato paste
12 (or so) basil leaves, chopped (reserve a bit for serving)
2 cups chicken stock
½ tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup half-and-half

  • Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add the onion and carrot and saute for about 10 minutes, until very tender. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.
  • Add the tomatoes, sugar, tomato paste, basil, chicken stock, salt, and pepper and stir well. Bring the soup to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes, until the tomatoes are very tender.
  • Add the half-and-half and purée with an immersion blender until you reach desired consistency. I left mine a little chunky.
  • Garnish with basil leaves and serve with cornbread, grilled cheese, or garlic toast.

   


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In the Weeds

When restaurant servers get behind, they say they are “in the weeds.” I know this because I was a server and often found myself in this predicament. Well, history repeats itself because I have started about 10 new posts but haven’t been able to complete a single one. But it’s for a good reason—I’ve been repainting my house and making my kitchen an even happier place to be. And you know how renovating calls for eating out rather than in. But everything is shaping up, so I am ready to get back in my kitchen and back online.

Before (sorry about the terrible photos):

   

After:

Y’all. I am in heaven in this new space! I painted the living room, kitchen, and laundry room all the same shade of gray for more flow and to open up everything. I also changed out my cabinet hardware. But the most important thing I did was declutter. Everything on the walls and countertops came off, and only my favorite things returned.

This week also brought the best CSA box yet. This thing was heavy and full of variety!

Here we have corn, new potatoes, banana peppers, bell pepper, carrots, blackberries, peaches, giant cucumbers, the most gorgeous cherry tomatoes, squash, garlic, onion, green beans, and the ever-present kohlrabi. I have loads of cucumbers to get through, so I went ahead and made this tomato and cucumber salad. Here’s how I did it.

Easy Tomato & Cucumber Salad
Serves 1-2

1 large cucumber, halved lengthwise, seeded & diced
2 Roma tomatoes, seeded & chopped
¼ red onion, chopped
Fresh mint leaves, chopped
3 splashes red wine vinegar
3 splashes olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

  •  Toss everything together in a bowl. Let stand at room temperature for an hour, stirring occasionally.
  • Serve at room temp or cold.


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Just Beet It

I like beets. A lot of people don’t. Or maybe they just think they don’t. No one should eat those pickled beets out of a can. Ick. But roasted beets on a salad with a little goat cheese? Nom, nom, nom.

Needless to say, I don’t mind getting beets in my CSA. But I have had to come up with new ways to use them. Some searching turned up a recipe for pink hummus. For some reason when I saw this recipe, my mind thought of a soft rosy pink. I don’t know why. So, you can imagine my surprise when the pink hummus turned out to be more of a magenta. Or was it fuchsia? Either way, it was bordering on neon. There’s nothing mild mannered about this savory treat. Not the color. Not the flavor. This hummus is as tasty as it is whimsical.

Hot Pink Hummus
Serves 4-6

4 small to medium-sized beets
1 can chickpeas, rinsed & drained
3 cloves garlic
1 lemon, juiced
1 tablespoon tahini
¼ teaspoon cumin
¼ cup (or so) extra virgin olive oil
Salt & pepper

  • Trim off the ends of the beets and place them in a saucepan with just enough water to cover them. Bring the beets to a boil, cover, and continue cooking over medium-high heat for about 25 minutes. Be sure all of the water doesn’t evaporate as your beets cook because they will burn. (Not that I know that from experience or anything.)
  • Once the beets are cooked and have cooled a bit, peel off the skins and place in the bowl of a food processor. Add the chickpeas, garlic, lemon juice, tahini, and cumin. Pulse a few times to get things going. Stream in olive oil until desired consistency is reach. I like mine just slightly on the chunky side.
  • Season with salt & pepper to taste. Serve with pita chips.

At the end, my kitchen counter looked more like a crime scene than a place where lovely treats are made, but all cleaned up easily.

Next time, I think I’ll:

  • Toss in a little cinnamon. I saw that in one of the recipes as I perused, and I bet it would be a fun addition.
  • Be sure to change out of my white shirt before I start messing with beets.


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Knick-Knack Patty Whack, Give a Girl Some Squash

Yet another CSA box has arrived, and this time I felt like I could post about it because there were some non-green things inside.

Here we have blueberries, beets, onion, bok choy, cauliflower, pattypan squash, kale, snow peas, mint, and green onions.

As much fried, baked, boiled, and sautéd squash as I’ve had in my life, I have never eaten pattypan squash. True story. And after trying this recipe that my friend Christi found, I sure am glad it turned up.

Roasted Pattypan Squash with Herbed Chickpeas
adapted from Chocolate & Zucchini
Serves 2-4

2-4 small pattypan squashes
Olive oil
Salt & black pepper
1-2 scallions
1 handful cilantro
8 mint leaves
1 tablespoon capers, rinsed
Cayenne pepper to taste
1 lemon, zested & juiced
1 can chickpeas, rinsed & drained thoroughly

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut off the stem and root ends of the pattypan squashes, and cut each of them into 8 sections, all about the same size. Place the sections on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and toss to coat. Roast in a single layer for 30-40 minutes, until cooked through and browned.
  • While the squash is roasting, finely chop the herbs and capers together. Place in the bottom of a medium-sized bowl and add a drizzle of olive oil, cayenne pepper, lemon zest, lemon juice, and black pepper. Whisk together to create a dressing.
  • Add the chickpeas to the herb dressing, and let rest in the refrigerator. When the squash has cooled, toss with the chickpeas and serve.

I swear it kinda smelled like sweet pancakes when these babies were roasting. And then, they tasted buttery sweet. Yum! So nice to meet you, pattypan squash. I have a feeling this won’t be our last encounter.

Confession: I realize the title of this post is silly. And I’m sorry. But I was at a loss, people. You try making everything you say come out witty and see if you don’t come up short now and then.


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Gimme Three Steps

I have a feeling that most of my recipe-related posts for the next 20-some-odd weeks will center around the CSA box. I hope it doesn’t get old (to you or to me), so I’ll do my best to keep things interesting. But with all this new produce, I find myself making new yummy stuff that I simply must share. You understand, right?

After discussing this week’s leftover items with my friend Julie (who happens to be a lovely person and fantastic cook) and gleaning advice from her, here we have the next Asian item on the menu. The three parts (dressing, veggies, crunchies) come together for a toasty-tasty treat. Don’t let the three steps trip you up. It really is super simple.

Asian Salad
Serves 4-6
or 3 hungry girls who are watching The Voice with a side of Totino’s pizza bites (just sayin’)

Dressing:
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
¼ cup sesame oil
¼ cup olive oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/3 cup sugar

Crunchies:
¼ cup butter, melted
1 package Ramen noodles, broken (discard seasoning packet)
½ cup sliced almonds
¼ cup sesame seeds

Veggies:
1 Japanese cabbage or bok choy, diced
5 scallions, chopped
1 kohlrabi, cut into matchsticks (I used this because I had it, but you could easily substitute shredded carrots or another crisp veggie.)

  • In a large bowl, whisk together vinegar, oils, soy sauce, and sugar. Set aside.
  • Melt butter in a small sauté pan. Add Ramen noodles, almonds, and sesame seeds. Sauté until toasted. Drain on paper towels.
  • Meanwhile, chop remaining ingredients. If serving soon, add to the prepared dressing. If not, set aside until ready.
  • Just before serving, toss toasted crunchies into salad.

  

Next time, I think I’ll: Add red chili flakes to the dressing for a little kick.

Side notes:

  • Can I confess something? I was embarrassed to buy those Ramen noodles. I mean, what am I, 19? And here’s the best part—there was one other person on the isle with me, and he was a college student (I know this because he was wearing a fraternity T-shirt). Did he buy Ramen? No. Just me. Did he judge me? Probably. I mean, I would have judged me if I were him. So, I bought an extra package to save myself from future humiliation.
  • Can I confess something else? All these years I thought it was “Tostino’s Pizza Bites” (which, for whatever reason, I’m not that embarrassed to purchase, but I should be). Turns out, it’s “Totino’s Pizza Rolls.” To be such a stickler for grammar and spelling, I sure did miss a few beats there. I even Googled “Tostino’s” and got the whole, “Did you mean: Totino’s?” Wow. Google is so condescending sometimes.
  • The “Side Notes” section will now be known as “Confessions.”


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LaLa the Bounty Hunter

The second CSA bounty has arrived!

OK, technically it arrived on Wednesday. But hey, I’m a busy girl, so I just got around to washing and storing all my produce this weekend. From left to right we have: Japanese cabbage, scallions, romaine lettuce, swiss chard (2 bags!), cauliflower, strawberries, and kohlrabi.

This is my first time with Japanese cabbage. Here’s a close-up:

It took me and the other CSAers a few days to decide exactly what this was. I made the green curry again and subbed it for the bok choy. The result was excellent!

Look at these strawberries.


Have you ever seen anything more lovely? I may have had a little shortcake & whipped cream with them. Mmm …

I love CSA day and can’t wait to see what this Wednesday holds! Although, hopefully I’ll be able to get through this week’s green stuff before the next box shows up. What should I do with all that swiss chard? I need ideas. Otherwise, you know my philosophy: When in doubt, sauté with garlic.


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You’ve Got Kale

Yet another CSA treasure got cooked up yesterday in my kitchen. This time the special ingredient was the oh-so-hearty green favorite, kale. Although I have sautéed kale with garlic and added it to soups many times, I had never made kale chips. So, it seemed like the right thing to do. And guess what? It was super easy and turned out to be a delightfully salty little snack. My dear friend Caroline, who is gluten intolerant and therefore always looking for new GF munchies, wholeheartedly approved. And like she said, “I could eat this instead of popcorn while I’m watching a movie!” Indeed. We should put it in zip-lock bags and go see “Bridesmaids.” Because that movie theater popcorn is like a million dollars. (You know, if I did the math right.)

Baked Kale Chips
Serves 2 during a 90 minute film

1 bunch kale, rinsed & dried thoroughly
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ teaspoon kosher or sea salt

  • Preheat oven to 350.
  • Remove tough stems from kale and tear into bite-sized pieces. (Keep in mind that the kale will cook down quite a bit, so tear accordingly.)
  • On a baking sheet, toss the kale with the olive oil and salt using your hands. Arrange in one layer.
  • Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until the kale is browned but not burned. Be sure to watch the time—too little and the kale will be soggy, too much and you’ll have char on your hands.

Side notes:

  • Go easy on the salt. I used 1 teaspoon and it was too much, which is saying a lot because I love salty stuff.
  • These are called “chips,” but don’t expect something sturdy that you could use for dipping. The texture is more like tissue paper and about as filling.


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1 CSA Delivery, 2 New Recipes

I got my first CSA delivery. Yay! The contents included bok choy, scallions, strawberries, kale, kohlrabi, romaine lettuce, and a couple bites of baby broccoli. Check it:

Maybe it’s just the novelty, but I’m in love with the CSA. It was so exciting to open the box and see what was inside, and then I had to figure out how to use some of this stuff. Bok choy + kohlrabi = Asian to me, so I went with this recipe that my sweet friend Laura turned up (she’s part of my CSA group and also got kohlrabi, which no one knew what to do with). This recipe used three of the treasures in the box, so I decided to try it. And I felt so adventurous because:

1. I’ve never cooked Asian food at home. (My mom used to make chop suey out of a can. I kid you not. I’m not even trying to pretend that counts. Gag. It’s a wonder I wasn’t scarred for life.)
2. I’ve never cooked with bok choy. (Though I have eaten it many times.)
3. I’ve never seen or heard of kohlrabi. (Called me sheltered if you must.)

Though the deck seemed stacked against me, I went for the above recipe, and it was a-ma-zing. Below is my final take.

Veggie Green Curry with Brown Rice
2 liberal servings

1-2 cups brown rice
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 red onion, sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 small- to medium-sized kohlrabi, trimmed, peeled, and cut into batons
1 baby bok choy, leaves and stems cut into bite-size pieces
1 can light coconut milk, plus ¼ can water
2-3 tablespoons green curry paste, to taste
Kosher salt
Red pepper flakes, to taste
1 scallion, thinly sliced
  • Prepare rice according to instructions.
  • Heat sesame oil in a medium sauté pan.
  • Sauté onion with a pinch of salt for about 5 minutes, until softened and starting to turn golden.
  • Stir in garlic, cooking for 1 minute.
  • Add kohlrabi and sauté 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Add bok choy and cook another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Add coconut milk, then fill can ¼ way with water and add to the pan. Stir in curry paste. Season with salt. Cover and simmer until vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Serve curried vegetables over rice, and garnished with scallions.

Next time, I think I’ll:

  • Cook the rice properly. Or invite over a friend who knows how. I never make rice, so I wasn’t sure what to buy, and mine was not good. Ick.
  • Add mushrooms and/or tofu and/or other veggies and/or seafood. You could put dirt in this sauce and it would taste good.

Side note: Did I mention that this dish was incredible? I couldn’t believe how easy and delicious it was. Plus, my kitchen smelled yummy-sweet like coconut milk. Mmm … I can’t wait make this again and try to improve it.

I did say two recipes, so here you go.

These heavenly little berries were also stashed in my box from Avalon Acres, so this Strawberry Tart recipe from Cooking Light sounded like a good idea.

Lovely Strawberry Tart
Serves 8-10

Crust:
36 honey graham crackers (9 sheets)
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons butter, melted
4 teaspoons water
Cooking spray

Topping:
6 cups small fresh strawberries, hulled and divided
2/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons sliced almonds, toasted

Filling:
2/3 cup (about 5 ounces) 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened
¼ cup sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon almond extract

  • Preheat oven to 350°.
  • To prepare crust, place crackers in a food processor; process until crumbly. Add 2 tablespoons sugar, butter, and 4 teaspoons water; pulse just until moist. Place cracker mixture in a 9-inch round tart pan lightly coated with cooking spray, pressing into bottom and up sides of pan to 3/4 inch. Bake at 350° for 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool completely on a wire rack.
  • To prepare topping, place 2 cups strawberries in food processor, and process until smooth. Combine strawberry purée, 2/3 cup sugar, and cornstarch in a small saucepan over medium heat; stir with a whisk. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to low; cook 1 minute. Remove glaze from heat. Cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally.
  • To prepare filling, combine cream cheese, ¼ cup sugar, and extracts in a medium bowl; stir until smooth. Spread cream cheese mixture evenly over bottom of cooled tart shell.
  • Combine the remaining 4 cups strawberries and lemon juice; toss to coat. Arrange berries over filling. Spoon half of glaze evenly over berries (reserve remaining glaze for another use). Sprinkle toasted nuts around edge. Cover and chill 3 hours.

Side notes & next time: Let me just say, this thing was a process. Not a difficult process, but there were many steps and dishes to deal with. And then, I went and screwed up several things. Like:

  • The original recipe says to use a 9-inch dish. Well, mine was more like 12 inches.
  • Also, I had to make the crust twice. (Of course twice, MKR.) I accidentally added 4 tablespoons of water instead of 4 teaspoons the first time, and it turned into a paste rather than a crumble. It was a delicious paste, but a paste nonetheless.
  • The recipe says to use half the strawberry glaze and to use the rest “for another use.” I’m thinking, Why on earth would it tell me to do this? What other uses? (Although, in its glazey state it smelled and tasted like raw fruit roll-up matter. Incredible. I could make my own fruit roll-ups. But let’s not get too ahead of ourselves.) So, I used it all, reasoning that my pan was too big so maybe I needed the extra. The tart tasted delish, but it was kinda runny.

What a great first-time CSA experience! I tried new ingredients, new recipes, and a new style of cooking. I even made new mistakes. Sometimes those are happy accidents and sometimes they are flat-out wrong, but there’s always room for a great learning opportunity.


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Eat, Drink & Be Good

I’m officially a joiner. Today I signed up to be a part of a local CSA through Avalon Acres located just outside of Nashville. Yippee!

I’ve been wanting to do this for a couple of years, but I’ve wavered in the past because I’m afraid I won’t be able to eat everything before it goes bad. And maybe I won’t. But I figure:

1. I’ll be eating seasonal, locally grown, farm fresh fruits, vegetables & herbs.
2. I’ll be more creative with my meals since I’ll have to work around whatever I get.
3. It’s a fun surprise every week (and I like surprises).
4. It will probably beef up my blog. I can see many “What on earth do I make with this?” posts in the future.
5. I’m supporting local farmers who are bringing this stuff right to me (aka less time & money at Whole Foods).

So, I’m good on the veggie front for the next 26 weeks. Now, what about beverages? Last week Daily Candy informed me about CoffeeCSA.

Starting at $20 a month for 2 lbs. of coffee, you can really get to know your joe. Choose a specific farmer (who you can even correspond with!) from a particular country, or, if you’re into bean variety, go with the farmer-of-the-month plan. With no minimum sign-up period and the knowledge that you are helping small-scale farmers survive, how can you not feel good to the last drop?