Sunday, November 4, 2012

Mommy's Mystery Meltdown

My latest brainchild falls under the category of "What was she thinking?", especially in light of my post Halloween tirade just a few days ago. Clearly I am still under the influence.

Last night I suddenly thought, what if we unwrapped all of the chocolate-related candy, cut it up a bit, and then melted it all together. What if we took that mixture and spread it into a pan and made our own original candy?

Well, that is what we did and I'm still twitching.  If there is an AA group for people like me, last night would have been a great time for an intervention. But the kids  thought it was such a cool idea, I had to execute it. Who would think that just a short month ago my kids were eating kale and doing endless photo shoots with zucchini and jalapeno peppers? 

I've Googled "what to do with leftover Halloween candy" and have not found anyone who is smart (dumb) enough to do this. So, I am hoping this is an original idea. At least it is to me!

I had a few rules for this "recipe". Only chocolate. We used Twix, Reese's, Milky Ways, Butterfingers, Snickers, Whoppers, Milk Duds, Heath Bars, M&Ms, Baby Ruth, Three Muskateers. We omitted anything with mint like Junior Mints or Peppermint Patties because we thought it would conflict with the peanut flavors.
Nicolas hard at work unwrapping
Luca happily parting with some of his candy. Ninja focus.
Getting ready for the heat
Yes, I am aware that it looks like poop but don't be fooled!
In the end, it tasted great!
We melted the chocolate over very, very low heat. We lined a baking pan with wax paper, then poured the mixture into the pan. We let this cool a bit and then topped with M&Ms and then stuck in the fridge.

Once it hardened, it was cuttable into a bark or chunks.  You could use this for the holidays too! Or, keep the mixture and then chop it up later to use as a sundae topping.

There are many combinations you could do. I'd love to try one with Mounds and Peppermint Patties or Junior Mints.

What I really liked about this candy bar was that I never knew what I would bite into next. One second I tasted a Butterfinger chunk, the next, a Whopper.  It was really a collision of all of my favorite worlds in one pan.

Of all the meltdowns I've had as a mother, this one was, by far the best! 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Post Halloween Blues

Today is the Halloween Hangover day: The day that all teachers dread  and all mothers step on the scale and say "What the F........"

I read this blog last week about alternatives to giving out candy on Halloween. It's from a well meaning mom in NYC who believes we should think outside the candy bag for once. She offers alternatives to candy like toys, bubbles, trail mix, etc.

At first glance, I thought she was off her rocker. After all, Halloween is just once a year. When else can we indulge in a little treat?

Ha! Let me count the ways. There's Valentine's Day, Easter, B-days, Christmas, New Years,  weekends, Mondays, Tuesdays, PMS Days, stressful days, and right now. I don't need a designated day to tell me when it's OK to eat candy. I do it all the time if it's in an arm lengths radius. As my motto goes, I eat chocolate in the closet, sometimes fist fulls at a time. I eat the kids' fruit snacks; also in the closet and sometimes in the bathroom. An addict will get her sugar whenever she can, even if it's sitting on the toilet with the door closed and her kids think she's doing #2.

So Halloween is not a good time for me. My 2 little boys' combined weight totals 100 lbs. The combined weight of their trick or treat candy from last night weighs (as of this writing) 6 lbs. I actually stepped on the scale with the bag and it was actually a very good inspiration when I saw the added weight on the scale.

Who is going to eat all of this candy? Even if I let the kids eat 1 piece every day for the next 2 months, there will be leftover. So what's a parent to do? Well, like most of you we just eat it. We hide some of it "for later" (like a future pinata or goodie bags) but mostly, we slowly chip away at it and the kids are oblivious. They just don't get the scope of how much they have.

Another school of thought is to throw it away. Well, that is just wasteful when there are empty candy dishes all across America! And truly, it's like throwing money away. I just can't bring myself to trash it. The only good solution is to donate to the soldiers somewhere, but where? Anyone?

So maybe the NYC mom is right? How much candy does one kid need? If the end result is that the parents are eating it for fear of wasting it, then isn't that a sin too? The added poundage which requires so much more gym time, the jittery feelings from too much sugar, and just the general feeling of overindulging are enough to make you re-evaluate Halloween.

I love the dressing up, the decorations, and the kids' excitement. What I don't like is the indigestion, the begging for more and the feelings of self-loathing (and they are palpable....just look at your FB wall today and see what your friends are saying about the "Day After".)

All this crazy talk could just be the sugar talking. If I have scared any of you, I am truly sorry. Boo!!

Friday, October 26, 2012

The Joys of LadyHood and the Rock Solid Case for a Vasectomy

(Just Google it if you don't know what this is. I can't talk about it.)
In this world, there are a handful of men who refuse to get a vasectomy after their wives are done having babies. For some reason, the 'ole "snip snip" scares them and they almost act like this safe outpatient procedure is similar to an amputation.  While nothing could be further from the truth, there is still no convincing the guys who flat out refuse to do it.  While this doesn't personally affect me, it still infuriates me. Why do I care? Because women must endure so much more throughout their entire life spans, starting at a very early age and I've come to the conclusion that not only is God a man but he has a twisted sense of humor when it comes to dishing out torture.

To set the record straight, I love men and I'm not here to bash you. This isn't about who does more housework, cooking, or errands. It's pure biology and for that, you cannot help that you are a male. Guys, you've got it easy.

Here is my case for why all applicable men should do the noble thing. Drive yourselves to the doctor with your heads held high (but not too high or the procedure might not work.)

1.  Bobby pins, barrettes, bows and patent leather shoes

2. Menstruation, bloating, cramps, headaches, mood swings. A wise woman (my mom) once said, "Every man in his lifetime should experience at least ONE period."  Is there nothing grosser than this, every. single. month? After getting mine for 34 years, you'd think that I wouldn't marvel so much about the grotesqueness that is MENstruation.  But I still do.

2. Freedom: You can sit with your legs wide open at work, at the ball field, or at a wedding without anyone calling the cops.

3. You will never hear your male ObGyn say during your exam, "You know, you can have this lopsided breast fixed". Oh wait, you don't have an ObGyn. Sorry.

4.Stirrups. Cold. Metal. Hard. Stirrups.

5. Lip waxing, eyebrow waxing, bikini waxing, plucking and shaving

6. Mammograms. Cold. Metal. BoobVice.

7. You're 12 years old. It's a hot summer day and you have "Your friend". All of your real friends are swimming but you are on the sidelines with striped gym shorts over your bathing suit and  Are You There God, It's Me, Margaret? tucked under your Shaun Cassidy beach towel pretending you have an ear infection.

8. High Heels

9. Post baby bra shopping and getting measured by a perky 24 year old

10. Peri-menopause: Insomnia, mood swings, memory loss, insatiable appetite, hot flashes, did I say memory loss?

11. Menopause: See #10

12. Leaky nipples, leaky bladders, leaky eyes from watching too many Rice Krispy Treats commercials

13. Pregnancy, Childbirth, AfterBirth. The pain, the weight gain, incontinence, the saggy droopy body that follows, the crying, the covering your sore nipples in the shower, never sleeping a full night, ever again. Until you die.

14. Spanx, thongs, under wires, pantyhose

15. Vag Rejuv

16. A closet full of ill-fitting Mom Jeans

17. An encyclopedia of Female problems: Fibroids, Endometriosis,  ovarian cysts,  infertility problems, yeast infections, HPV, tipped uterus, prolapsed uterus, lumpy breasts

18. Putting a maxi-pad on in the dark, the wrong way.

The Prosecution rests.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Lazy or Industrious? You decide....

I do many things the long and hard way. I make pizza dough, chicken stock, and pretty much everything from scratch. However, there are many areas of my life in which I am just a lazy ass which just shows I am a mass of swirling contradictions. Or, am I just trying to find the right balance?

"How lazy are you?" you ask?
  • I am so lazy that if I drop my razor in the shower, I pick it up using my toes so I don't have to bend over.
  • I am so lazy that when I empty the dishwasher and find a fork that is still dirty, instead of washing it by hand, I put it back in the dishwasher. Said fork has endured at least 5 cycles and it's still not clean. And a mug with hot chocolate goop has endured 4 cycles because I feel it is the dishwasher's duty to make it clean, not mine.
  • I am so lazy that if I leave my shoes somewhere in the house and need to put them away, I slip them on my feet and walk myself to the closet. Again, so I don't need to bend over. (Also, I only buy slip on shoes so that this is possible).
  • I am so lazy that the other night I wanted to watch a new DVD. Removing the wrapper was too much effort so I didn't watch the movie.
  • If something is really funny and I don't have the energy to laugh I just say "LOL" instead.
How lazy are you?

Monday, October 15, 2012


Have you ever been at the gym and felt the need to text your BFF? Fear no more. I have come up with a new edition called Textercising.  If you missed out on the Christmas version, click here, or the Hurricane Irene version, click here.

(This blog is dedicated to Kristen and Julie who both know why. What happens in the locker room, stays in the locker room.)

Now, let's get moving. I will not be held responsible if you fall off the treadmill while texting any of the following. (I have you covered for the locker room chatter too.)

1. PWOT:  Picked Wedgie on Treadmill
2. MHIP: Munchkins Hiding in Pockets
3. MMATBA: Meet Me At Taco Bell After
4. SCOHISD: Suspicious Clump of Hair in Shower Drain
5. TOLASASAG: Two Old Ladies Are Sharing A Shower and Giggling
6. IPIS:  I Peed In Shower
7. RBJSCIU: Retina Burnin Just Saw Coworker in Underwear
8. LDAAT: Look Down At All Times
9. IFMFILR: It's Full Moon Friday In Locker Room
10. DTTMMCTLF?: Do These Tights Make My Camel Toe Look Fat?

Saturday, October 13, 2012

A Fond Farewell to a Fabulous CSA Season

This week marks an important milestone for Confreda Farms and Gardens. It is the final Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) pickup *sniff* sniff *  I have gotten really spoiled by farm fresh, unique, flavorful produce. I've photographed it, played with it, stored it, frozen it, donated it, used it for pot lucks, and found ways to cook things I've never seen before.

Mostly,  I was successful.  And other times, I bombed and wasn't brave enough to blog about it. Like the time I made kale chips and added too much salt. My kids were so excited about them (I know, very strange), but then ... it was just a big mess of salty crunchy kale. Inedible. I was so sad. My friend tried to salvage it by transforming it into a kale pesto/salt. We thought of many ways to use it but it wasn't meant to be.

I'll miss the kids playing with their food : )

I learned so much from this experience. I challenged myself to blog about it each week, sometimes more. It was sort of my own personal Julie and Julia project, without the weight gain and marital discord.  Here is a snapshot of what I learned from receiving a family CSA share.

1. A family share is a LOT of vegetables. If you are considering doing this next year and have a small family of 4 like me, then you may want to consider getting a single share.  OR, get the family share and split the cost with another family and divvy it up. It's really fun and creates a great sense of community.

2. The veggies lasted longer in the fridge than I thought they would.  Some items carried over into the next week and were still very fresh.

3. There are no limits to what a zucchini can do. 

4. Jarring food is easier than I thought and proved to be a great alternative to "eating it all" in one week.

5.  Never underestimate the power of a trip to the farm and a box filled with mystery. It will make your kids so excited about trying something new, even a whole jalapeno pepper which will make one of them dance around the house like a Mexican jumping bean. (He should have Stopped Dropped and Rolled.)

6. The following had never crossed my palate until the CSA: Wax beans, kohlrabi, baby Thai eggplant, white eggplant, purslane. Loved 'em all and will now be on the lookout in the grocery stores.

7. It is possible to manage your family sized share with only one refrigerator. Challenging? Yes. But completely possible.

8. I no longer like veggies. I LOVE THEM. 

Thank you Confreda's for a great experience and for broadening the horizons of the big and little people in my house.  We are all much better off than we were 4 months ago, thanks to you!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Apple Crisp: Who doesn't love it?

Who doesn't love a good apple crisp? If you've been apple picking or are a CSA member and have been lucky enough to receive some gorgeous Cortland apples, here is a great way to put them to good use!
The recipe calls for peeled apples but I get too lazy or busy and just slice them and leave the skins on. This is also more nutritious : ). And if you've never seen this classic Honeymooners episode on coring A apple, click here.

Apple Crisp
(4 generous servings)
5-6 Cortland apples
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1tsp to 1TBS lemon juice
1/2 cup water
1 cup sugar, or less if you want
3/4 cup unsifted all purpose flour
1/2 cup butter
Peel and slice the apples into a buttered 9 inch square baking pan. Sprinkle with the spices and add the lemon juice and water over the top.
Mix the flour and sugar, and work in the butter to make a crumbly mixture. Spread this over the fruit.
Bake uncovered in 350 degree oven about 1 hour, or until the fruit is tender and the crumbly crust is lightly browned. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.
  • Use 1/2 cup white sugar and 1/2 brown sugar
  • Add 1/4 cup of quick cooking oats into the flour/sugar mixture before adding the butter.
  • Add some sliced toasted almonds.
  • Throw in dried cranberries or any frozen fruit you have on hand, blueberries, strawberries etc.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

CSA Members Reader Request: Tell us how you feel!

When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade, right? And when Confreda Farms gives you baby Thai eggplant, peppers, squash, tomatoes and apples, you make _____?

This has been the challenge each week. What to make? How do I eat it? How will I store it? And sometimes, What is that?!

I hope that our CSA members have found some useful tips in this blog. It's been a great learning experience for me and Confreda's would love to know how you feel about YOUR CSA experience.  Since they plan on expanding this program next year, your feedback is critical to its success and your happiness.

So, for this week's blog, you all have a mission if you choose to accept it. Please leave some comments below this blog, or even on the Confreda Farms Facebook page if you'd like. 
  • Tell us what you loved or didn't love about the CSA.
  • How did you feel about the selection each week?
  • Was the quality what you expected? 
  • How was your customer service experience at Confreda's?
  • Would you recommend it to a friend?
  • Would you get a family share next time instead of a single share, or vice versa? 
  • Did you find this blog useful? 
  • Are you going to have major withdrawal when it comes to a close?
Please share your thoughts and opinions. And thank you for being the Pioneers of Confreda's CSA program. It's been a blast!


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

50 Shades of Facebook, Part 3

Here is the third part in my series "Fifty Shades of Facebook".  If you've been living under a rock and missed parts 1 and 2, then click here . And then you can catch up here! But seriously, you can read them in any order, kind of like the actual 50 Shades books. Only the positions have changed.

Because we ended on #28 last time, here we go:
(Numbers 34-37 are credited to a loyal fan and friend, Rich Spinella!)

29.  The Jimmy Swaggart:  They are constantly quoting scripture or posting  something wonderful that happened to them today, finishing it off with "God is sooo good!"  (Like he's not good if something bad happened today? Just curious .....)

30. The Barry Manilow:  They only post song lyrics.

31. The Scrapbooker:  She posts Every. Single. Fart. Her kids do. Her positive pregnancy stick is her profile picture for 9 months straight. Until the placenta takes its place on the blessed day.

32.  Wendy Whiner:  She has virtually NOTHING to complain about and lives like a queen, but that's all she does. The world revolves around her.

33. Wendy Wino:  You're not really sure what this girl looks like because she only posts pics of full (or empty wine glasses). The glasses are either resting on a deck ledge, a baby changing table, or the dashboard of her car. The male version of this is The Jimmy Buffet. It's always five o'clock somewhere in his world.

34.  Poster Child: It goes something like this: "If you know someone who knows someone who might NOT know someone, then PLEASE repost this or you are clearly not that person's friend's friend. Let's see who really reads the post's posts!"

35. The User Manual - This person tells you how to use Facebook. "If you don't want people to see your post click the x in the right corner. Hit the icon that had the devil on it, turn three times with your hands in the air saying "Corn, Maize, Corn, Maize" now people can't see what you posted. Oh wait that's to make it rain on your imaginary Farm."

36. The Sandman: "Going to bed now", and you're saying to yourself, "It's 8 o'clock, I just got home from work!"

37. The Rooster:  "Good morning sunshines!" And she posts a picture of her coffee cup to make you feel like you're having a cup together.

38. The Paparazzi: They take pics of people in public doing suspect things like picking wedgies, eating hot dogs with their mouths wide open, or buying a David Hasselhoff CD.

39. The Happy Housewife: "Dear Hoover, you make me wanna be a better cleaner!"

40. The Unhappy Housewife; "How the f*ck does this thing turn on?"

41. The Licensed Joyologist:  They find happiness in just about anything.   "I just love how bananas come in their own special, portable package!"

In the home stretch. Will I make it to 50  Shades? Stay tuned!

Friday, September 28, 2012

I Don't Think You're Ready for this Jelly

I've been a little obsessed with canning and jarring food. You might say I am channeling my "Inner Rico" (my Grampa). He was a master at preserving food from his garden. His methods may have been a bit unconventional, like drying tomatoes and orange peels on the radiator but his end result was always superior. When it comes to canning, I guess it's not about the journey, it's about the destination!

My dear friends bought me a great cook book called PreserveIt and each page is bookmarked with the promise of a new treat in the house.  And I've discovered a great website called Food in Jars which is also feeding my new addiction.

So, I'm just giving you the back story before I tell you what happened to me at the gym last week.

I actually exercised! Yes, miracles do happen, every day apparently.

Following my 40 minutes on the treadmill, thanks to Frasier on the TV, I headed into the locker room to shower. The elderly swim classes had just finished and it was standing room only.  It was a whole room filled with inspiration to keep exercising. Just sayin'.

I waited and waited, and even gave up my space in line for a girl who was running late for an appointment. On this day, I had nothing but time. I continued to wait.

Finally, a shower opened up and a woman came out, clearing the way for me.  I settled my bag on the bench and turned the water on but I was not ready for what waited for me on the metal soap dish. Was I on Candid Camera?

Did you just rub your eyes? Yes, you are seeing straight. That right there is a jelly jar.  In case you cannot read the label, it says "THE MILLERS. PEPPER JELLY 2003".
Are you wondering why I took the jar? (I am too.) You see, this was SO bizarre, that I had to share it with someone. Thankfully, my friend Kristen was in the lobby waiting for me and I know she has a cool I-Phone (is that spelled right?) Anyway, she was all too eager to photograph the evidence/contrajam.

Just for the record, the jar was empty. There was no shampoo, soap or conditioner inside the jar.  No jelly either.

Was I scared to touch it? Yes! But my morbid fascination far outweighed the risk of contracting a rare Jelly Jerm.

So, some cute family (who I picture all wearing  matching Christmas sweaters), made some jelly together. They gave their precious preserves to family and friends. Little did they know their jam jar would end up traveling in and out of a smelly gym bag and  then onto its final destination: BeckysBigBytes

Miller Family, your jam has arrived!

(What's the strangest thing you've ever found in the gym locker room?)

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Savoring the Goodness (and a Squash Soup Recipe)

If you are a member of the Confreda CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), then you might know by now that this week's box was full of Community Supported Awesomeness!!  Here is a list of what you will find (if you haven't picked up your box yet.)
  • cherry tomatoes
  • corn
  • acorn squash
  • butternut squash
  • broccoli
  • Cortland apples
  • green tomatoes
  • red tomatoes
  • peppers
  • eggplant
  • zucchini
  • golden squash
  • yellow wax beans
 What a phenomenal variety! A girl could really get used to this but sadly, our CSA program ends in 2 weeks.  I am trying to savor as much freshness as I can in the mean time.  Do you have a food saver? Do you can or jar food?  Do you like to cook large meals and freeze them for later in smaller portions? These are all practical ways to enjoy fruits of the farm later on. Are you awestruck by all of the tomatoes in your own garden? Then click here for the Gardening Guy.  He has some great tomato tips and tricks up his sleeve!
This week's CSA ushered in 2 autumnal faves of mine; Butternut and Acorn squash. For some great squash recipes, click here .

One of my personal favorites is Cafe Dianna's Harvest Squash soup.  I cut this recipe out of the ProJo a few years ago and it's still my "go to Fall delight".  What sets this apart from other squash soups is the omission of any cream or fat added. It is just pure fruits and veggies. Trust me, you won't miss the cream!
1 butternut squash
1 large sweet potato
6 large carrots
4 medium red potatoes
1 large onion
4 Cortland apples
1 1/2 quarts water or apple juice (I prefer with the apple juice)
salt and pepper to taste
touch of thyme and nutmeg
Cut squash in half lengthwise; remove seeds and discard (or save for toasting.)   Peel and cut the flesh into 1 inch dice pieces. Peel sweet potato, carrot and onion and cut into 1 inch diced pieces.  Cut red potato and apples into 1 inch diced pieces (no need to peel these).
In a large saucepan, add all ingredients and water or apple juice. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until all ingredients are tender. Working in batches, transfer the mixture to a food processor and puree. Return the soup to pot to reheat. Taste to adjust seasoning. Add a touch of thyme and nutmeg. Serve hot.
Serves 6.
** You may also use an immersion blender instead of transferring to food processor or blender**

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Kale Almost Kaled Me

Tonight's posting is from a very special guest blogger. Drum roll please for Aileen McDonough; the unusually perky girl who accosted me 9 years ago in a local deli. I'm glad fate brought us together on that chilly November day!  Our friendship was initially bound by our babies and now it continues on with our shared love of food, writing, and not giving a hoot about "having it all".

Aileen is also a  Confreda CSA member and she shares her recent culinary mishap with a bunch of kale. Read on....

I just sliced my finger making kale soup. Drove myself to the ER for 3 stitches. Came home and finished making the soup. Yeah, I'm a bad ass.

See the recipe below, from my favorite cookbook. Saving Dinner by Leanne Ely. Here is the link to the recipe.

Crock Bean Soup with Kale
Serves 6

3 tablespoons olive oil
3 medium onions, chopped
1 medium carrot, chopped
3 cloves garlic, pressed
1 bunch kale, trimmed and sliced (or use 2 cups frozen greens)
1 pound cannellini beans, soaked overnight (you can also use white beans)
4 cups low sodium chicken broth (make your own or buy canned)
1/4 cup tomato sauce
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper, to taste

In a skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onions, carrot and garlic. Cook until onions are translucent. Add kale and cook till wilted, about 3 minutes. In a crock pot, place soaked, drained beans; add crushed red pepper flakes and the contents of the skillet; cover with broth (add a little water if necessary, but crock pot should be 3/4 full).

Cook on high for 8 hours, or until beans are tender. Once beans are tender, add the tomato sauce and salt and pepper to taste.

Per Serving: 349 Calories; 8g Fat; 19g Protein; 54g Carbohydrate; 13g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 85mg Sodium. Exchanges: 3 Grain (Starch); 1 Lean Meat; 1 1/2 Vegetable; 1 1/2 Fat.

SERVING SUGGESTIONS: Some whole grain rolls and a big salad.

And some Hello Kitty Band-aids!

How to Make Corn Fritters

Every week, there is corn and I couldn't be happier. Thank you Confreda's CSA for feeding my healthy addiction! It's sweet, fresh and needs no frills to make it taste good.  I've even chomped on it raw. It's divine!

Every Wednesday I look forward to The Providence Journal's Food section for inspiration. I particularly enjoy Ellen  Brown's Cost Buster Cooking column.   Check out her "corn tips"  by clicking here.

Here is one of her featured recipes from last week's ProJo. I am making these tonight and will report back with the results.

Southwestern Corn Fritters
11/2 cups fresh corn kernels (from approximately 2 to 3 ears of corn), cobs reserved
1 large egg
2 scallions, white parts and 3 inches of green tops, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons yellow cornmeal
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
11/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Vegetable oil for frying

Place the corn in a saucepan and cover with salted water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Remove the pan from the heat, cover the pan and allow the corn to sit for 5 minutes. Drain and place the corn in a food processor fitted with a steel blade, or in a blender.

While the corn cooks, scrape the pulp and liquid from the cobs using the back of a knife. Add the pulp and the egg to the food processor or blender and puree until smooth. Scrape the mixture into a mixing bowl.
Stir the scallions, garlic and cilantro into the corn. Combine the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, cumin, salt and pepper in another mixing bowl, and whisk well. Stir the dry ingredients into the corn mixture, stirring until just combined.

Heat 2 inches of oil in a deep-sided saucepan or deep fryer to a temperature of 375 degrees. Preheat the oven to 150 degrees, and line a baking sheet with paper towels.
Drop 1 tablespoonful amounts of the batter into the oil. Fry the fritters until they are a deep golden brown, turning them in the hot fat to brown both sides. Remove the fritters from the pan with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Keep the fritters warm in the oven while frying the remaining batter. Serve hot.

Note: The fritters can be prepared up to 2 days in advance and refrigerated, tightly covered. Reheat them in a 375 degree oven for 5 to 7 minutes, or until hot and crispy.
Makes 3 dozen.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

How to Enjoy Purple Kohlrabi

Before I talk veggies, I must announce the Grand Opening of Confreda's Maize. It's not your typical maize so check out the website for details!  The MAiZE opens TODAY, Saturday, September 15, 2012. MAiZE hours will run from 10:00am-6:00pm on Saturdays and Sundays, with the last ticket sold at 5:00pm.

Now, back to business.
Did you find something purple and cabbage-like in your CSA box this week? Did it look like this?

Are you thinking what I'm thinking?  It sort of resembles a beet with the greens attached like this, but don't be fooled. Kohlrabi is part of the broccoli and cabbage families.  I peeled most of mine as I found the skin to be slightly tough but was pleasantly surprised by the inside. The taste resembles a very mild broccoli stem, with the texture almost like a hard apple or potato. It's definitely easy on the palate!

Kohlrabi can be eaten raw as well as cooked and the greens are also edible. For the glowing nutritional benefits of this beauty, click here.

Some ideas:
1. Cut into sticks and dip in Ranch dressing. My 9 year old loved it.
2. Shred it for a slaw
3. Pickle it!
4. Shred or slice and saute in olive oil or butter and season as you wish.

I still had some leftover rainbow carrots from last week's CSA so here is a recipe using 4 different CSA ingredients. I always challenge myself to see how much Community Supported Awesomeness I can squeeze into one recipe. Such a geek, I know!

Asian Kohlrabi/Cabbage Slaw
7-8 cups combined of shredded cabbage, purple kohlrabi, rainbow carrots (or standard carrots)  and chopped red peppers (all from the CSA) (I actually chopped a bunch of small chunks of the kohlrabi so they would stand out and people would ask, "What IS that?")

handful chopped fresh cilantro
4-7 chopped scallions

1/4 cup light soy sauce
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 toasted sesame oil
2 TBS creamy peanut butter
2 TBS cider vinegar
1 TBS rice vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

Place all of the veggies in a large bowl and toss.
Whisk all of the dressing ingredients together until smooth and pour over veggies. Toss well  with the cilantro and scallions, or just one of these herbs. Your choice. Adjust seasoning to taste with salt & peppers.

  • Break up a package of Ramen noodles and mix in with the slaw. The noodles will be crunchy at first but will soften up after absorbing all of the liquid in the salad.
  • Add sesame seeds and/or sliced almonds, or peanuts
  • 1 tsp grated fresh ginger added to the dressing
There are tons of recipes on the internet for Asian Slaw dressings. You can certainly play around with these ingredients without causing any major damage!


Thursday, September 13, 2012

Saving Your CSA for Later: Tips and Tricks

We’re winding down to the last month of our CSA program. It sure has been an amazing experience with surprises in each week’s basket. My biggest challenge has been making room in my side by side fridge at home to accommodate a family share.

The situation was a little dicey last night as I tried to wedge the corn on top of the broccoli and kohlrabi, while also finding space for the containers of leftovers. Worrying that a mutiny would ensue, I actually took food out and ate it, just to make more room and keep the peace!

But truly, I am not complaining and when I opened my fridge today, I felt extremely rich and blessed to have so much gorgeous, locally grown food. I felt like an artist with a blank canvas, ready to prepare my next culinary masterpiece. Even if it’s broccoli and dip….it's still a thing of beauty to me!

To get a grip and lighten the mood in the fridge, I mixed things up a bit. You may want to do the same if you can’t eat all of it in one week but want to savor it later.

1. Wash and steam the green beans for about 10 minutes until crisp tender. Once cooled and dried on a kitchen towel, pop them in freezer bags for later use. You can just steam them again when you are ready to eat them.

2. Shred a bunch of golden zucchini and then squeeze the water out. Freeze them in bags for later use in zucchini bread, fritters, or even mix in with ricotta cheese for lasagna. This a great way to sneak in veggies and it blends right in.

3. I pickled 6 jars of cukes and peppers using recipes from this blog.

4. Chop up all of the yellow tomatoes, cook them in some olive oil and garlic, add some oregano, sugar, basil, salt and pepper. Freeze it for later use in zipper bags or containers. When ready to use, thaw it out and puree it. Heat on top of stove and add some canned tomato paste to deepen the flavor and you have yourself a lovely sauce for pasta.

5. Give some of it away if you don’t think you can handle it all. Your friends and neighbors will love you!

Will share some recipes for the lovely purple kohlrabi in my next edition so stay tuned!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Funny Food

My kids had a blast with last week's CSA. Take a look at the week in pictures. All were created by my 9 year old son:

Beware the SpiderCuke!
(The middle is a Confreda watermelon)
The Itsy Bitsy spiders
Green beans, orange tomatoes & cherry peppers 
Hot cherry pepper head
I'm Corny, not Gumby
Sleeping snowman
White eggplants and watermelon body
Rainbow carrot nose
Shine on little star before you get pickled in a jar

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Yes, You CAN!

In honor of the upcoming election, I think we should all adopt this slogan. I know you are thinking, "Beck, that is soooo 2008!" I guess. But if you are a CSA member or an avid gardener, then it's finally time to consider doing something different with your bounty.

That means, get your Fanny on the Canny Wagon. At some point (and I've reached it), you start to feel your creativity waning a bit. It's not always easy coming up with recipes, even with so many resources around us. And getting into a food rut is easy to do.  Sometimes I think I need to cook and eat it all in one week. Not true!

Perhaps it's time to think outside of the CSA box once again. This is the perfect season to preserve this wonderful bounty to enjoy in the winter months.   There are entire websites devoted to canning and jarring and the possibilities are endless. It's not just about jams & jellies anymore. This amazing site will take you from fruit butters, sauces, and syrups to  "Boozy Infusions", relishes, pickles, salsas, soups and salads. Soba Noodles with Peanut Sesame Sauce.  In a jar? Wow! Sign me up!

I never thought of myself as the "Canning Type" until my friends, M&M, bought me a book called PreserveIt. (The only thing I'd ever jarred were my grampa's garden green tomatoes.) My mom pickles eggplant and she loves the feeling she gets when it's all done. She says she "feels rich" when she looks at all of the jars sitting on the shelf.  My neighbor Dorie shares this same sentiment and is always sharing her lovely jams, relishes and barbecue sauces with us.  That is the nice thing about canning. It makes you want to share the wealth!

So check out the site and say it: "Yes, I CAN".  Look at this week's CSA box and I know you will find at least 3 ingredients to preserve. You don't really need any special equipment. Just a CAN do attitude.

What's your favorite thing to preserve? Please share with us here.

50 Shades of Facebook: Part Two

A few funny things have happened since publishing 50 Shades of Facebook: Part One.  Readers are coming out of the wood work offering up their own versions of "FB Offenders".

They are also doing a lot of "self checking" before they post an update on FB. And now I'm worried that my blog may forever change the landscape of FB.  Are people going to hold back what they really feel because of my influential blog? Where will I get my newest material from if they start posting things like, "Started my new job today. So excited!".  Sure, it sounds benign enough, but you know I'll find something wrong with that post and find a way to pigeon hole you too. Consider yourselves warned.

Without further ado, the list continues. We ended the last blog at #13, so here we go:

14. Chatty Cathy:  She is the one who, as soon as you sign on to FB for some brainless fun and distraction, starts a "Chat" with you. Her greeting is simply, "Hi", leaving you to fill in an awkward conversation with a High School friend you barely remember." You quickly go "offline" and pretend you aren't there while you play Farmville and Bejeweled Blitz with strangers.

15. The Weight Watcher:  "Lost .6 lbs today." (The reader is always curious if this was before or after posting  #13 of the first list. )

16. Drama Mama:  "My poor Ariel didn't make the cheer leading squad because she was texting during tryouts. SO unfair! AND to boot, pink Uggs are nowhere to be found. Ugh!"

17. Jet Setter: When she goes on a trip, you will hear about every leg of her tour.
"Just packed my suitcase! Can't wait for some sun and surf in the Bahamas baby!"
"Going through airport security and hope I don't get felt up! LMAO!"
"Just landed, wow, that was a close one!"

18.  The Arsonist: One who makes a very controversial statement and then walks away as if they just set a house on fire....watching in silence as her friends spar.
(Sent in by my number one fan, thanks Weezie!)

19. The English Teacher:  Her life's mission is to correct every misuse of "their, they're, your and you're" on FB. And girlfriend, there are plenty to go around, so get busy.

20. The Zoolander:  Desperate to post a photo of themselves, they do the classic pose below.

Also known as "The Narcissist",
they have an entire photo album of pics like this one

21. The Peeping Tom: S/he looks at everyone's pictures and posts but never comments on anything. They give off the impression that they are too busy or cool for FB but you know they are out there lurking and smirking.

22. The Houdini: They are on your friend list one day and then *poof* they are gone;  causing you to question if they have "blocked" you. But then they appear again out of nowhere. Was it something I said?

23.  The Anti Socialite:  She "befriends" everyone on the block, yet when you see her in the hood, she makes no eye contact and if you were being mugged, she'd walk right by, pretending to talk on her cell phone.

24.  The Disher: They post a picture of every single meal they eat. They would prefer to be called "Foodies".   (Thanks to Mari SanGiovanni for this suggestion and click here to buy her books!)

25.  The Multi-Tasker: "Deep frying a turkey right now while braiding Janey's hair!"

26. Boo Boo Kitty: She likes to post pictures of her black and blues, her kids' scars and missing teeth, and various body parts zoomed in. She then runs a Facebook contest for you all to guess what the picture is.

27. The Groupie: She creates groups for her own entertainment and tries to recruit her friends. Such groups include "Brad Pitt Wouldn't Date Bea Arthur....or would he?", and "People Against Chimps as Pets", or "I love cleaning the lint trap of my dryer". 

28. The Crypt Keeper: She posts very vague updates like: "I can't believe it." or "Burn in Hell", or my favorite, "Whyyy?"   It's attention seeking behavior at its best. 

Stay tuned....I am committed to 22 more shades. If you have any suggestions, please post them here and I will be happy to give credit where it is due on this blog. Promise!

And now, click here for Part 3!!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Not Your Nonna's Eggplant......or is it?

Why was the tomato blushing?
Because it saw the salad dressing.  

Whether you are a CSA member, a home gardener, or the lucky friend of a gardener, tomatoes are one of those things you should NEVER turn down.  And you can dress them up or dress them down. Nothing beats the garden varieties. Personally, when I go to  a restaurant and order a salad, I can tell if that tomato slice started out green when it began its long journey on the delivery truck, or whether it's a locally grown tomato. Yes, I am a Tomato Snob too.  

It's important to Honor Thy Tomato, don't you think? When you get them home, there is no need to refrigerate them, especially if they have a little more ripening  to do. If they sit too long on the counter, however, you may want to let them chill out in the fridge as you don't want them to rot.   You can make salsa, gazpacho,  homemade sauce, or Panzanella Salad. For my Popping Panzanella Salad recipe,  please click here.  The orange tomatoes in this week's CSA box would also work great here.  

While digging my way through this week's box,  I was thinking,
 "Ok, I've got this. Peppers, squash, corn, tomatoes...."

And then  I struck 4 white eggplants.

"What the....."

My coping mechanism when I don't know what else to do

Seriously, Confreda's, you know how to keep the spark in our relationship alive. Just when I thought we were in the Seven Week Itch, you pulled out all the stops!

From the outside, the white eggplant (also known as Ornamental White Eggplant) looks just like the purple kind, only it's white.  They are denser, creamier and less bitter, even though they can have more seeds. The skin of a white eggplant is tougher than purple eggplant so you should peel it. 

As much as I complain about what a chore making eggplant parm is, it's really not that bad if you have a system in place and know the right short cuts. I decided to put the Ornamental White Eggplant to the test and see how it stood up in its most popular recipe.  This Food Network recipe is pretty darned close to how I make mine, so click here for the recipe.

The result? It was delicious and I think I actually prefer the white to the purple eggplant.

My own tips:
  • To get the water out of the eggplant, click here for a previous eggplant blog which shows you how.
  • After flouring, egging, and dipping in the bread crumbs, let the eggplant slices chill in the fridge before frying them (My neighbor Larry, the chef taught me this one.)
  • Sometimes I skip the flour part and just egg and breadcrumb. I still can't tell the difference when the flour is AWOL.
  • Instead of using shallow bowls for dipping the flour/breadcrumbs, use wax paper as your "dipping stations" instead and you'll have 2 less dishes to wash.
  • If you have 2 large skillets, use them both to fry the eggplant. This will cut your time in half.
  • If you're going to commit to making eggplant, you may as well fry up a whole bunch. You can freeze the fried slices in Ziploc bags for later too.
Thank you Confreda's for making each week sweet and special!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Learning to Love Zucchini

We are more than halfway through the  Great CSA Experiment with Confreda Farms & Gardens. I can't believe how fast the summer has gone by and now the calendar is filling up again with a new school year fast approaching. The veggies keep on coming no matter what's on the schedule and I must find a purpose (or a home) for each one.

Some veggies come and go but the one that keeps cropping up in the box without fail is zucchini. I've tried to make the best of "too much of a good thing" and I have to confess, there are times when I treat it like the prodigal son of the CSA.  I know, it's awful, but I'm sure there are people out there who get things in the CSA box that they may not be crazy in love with.

I'm here to tell you, that is ok.  There is hope and I found a way to learn to love zucchini and yellow squash.  I've sauteed it, grilled it, frittata'd it, and casseroled it.  And I thought I was done with it: Until a lovely reader shared a recipe for her favorite Chocolate Zucchini Bread. Transforming a vegetable into a dessert (that contains chocolate, no less) is something I can finally get on board with.

Before you go crazy on me and think that this can't possibly taste good, you must try it. This bread (really it tastes like a rich moist chocolate cake with no trace or sign of a vegetable in it) would typically use green skinned zucchini but I tried it with yellow squash.  I didn't even peel it, just washed it and used my metal box grater and shredded it. I then squeezed out the water and added it to the recipe as instructed.  I followed the recipe to the letter and of course, added more than a cup of chocolate chips and it came out perfectly.  The recipe makes 2 loaves. I froze the other loaf by wrapping in wax paper, then foil, then in a Ziploc bag. It tasted even better after being frozen for a few days! (The recipe link also includes a lightened up version too which also sounds fantastic.)

Are you feeling overwhelmed by the zucchini too?

 Here is what to do. Shred it up and drain it as I mentioned above. Then freeze it in 1 cup increments in ziploc baggies and then keep in the freezer.  You can use it later on for fritters, zucchini breads, muffins, etc. They don't take up too much freezer space and thaw rather quickly if you run the bags under warm water or defrost in the microwave on low power.

I hope this blog has saved a few squashies from being ostracized. Please welcome them back into the family with open arms and you will realize just how sweet your life will be again!

Monday, August 20, 2012

50 Shades of Facebook: Part One

After logging my fair share of Facebook hours over the last 4 years, I have concluded there are multiple personalities on Facebook.  I've spent HOURS, wait, no, days with 397 "friends".  I have learned a lot; sometimes too much and oftentimes my retinas actually burn.

But I go on, like any loyal Facebook soldier does.

My powers of observation had gotten the best of me so I put them to work.  What started as a tiny list in my head has now exploded like a hot dog in a microwave.  (I feel a part 2 already calling.)

Do you recognize any of these people?

1. The Triathlete:

 "Taught 3 back to back Pilates classes today, then kickboxing!  Went by Delilah's school and totally rocked the PTO bake sale with my vegan, gluten free brownies.  After that I took Jimmy to his baseball game (he looks so cute in his uniform!) and to ensure no time was wasted while watching his practice, I did 1000 Kegel exercises. After that, we went home and I cooked a home grown, organic dinner that he gobbled right up (My little guy is awesome like that!), then did 3 loads of laundry, worked on my novel,  enjoyed a glass of wine with the Hubs while he rubbed my feet and then we really got busy (wink wink!). Phew, I don't know how I do it."

PS. There will be a photo album of the day's events, including a picture of her perfectly pedicured toes propped awkwardly near the Chardonnay glass.

2. The Podium Seeker: This FB friend uses Facebook as their personal political platform.  A post might sound something like this:

 "Dear Obama,
You suck.

No love,

"Mitt Romney really should get a wardrobe consultant, I'm wicked tired of his Grampa jeans and I know his approval ratings are suffering."

"My donut had very little jelly in it today so I returned it to Dunkin Donuts and got a refund. I will NOT be taken advantage of!"

3. The Debbie Downer: Don't read her updates if you're already on the ledge of a window. Hers read like this:

"Ugh! It's Monday, again. And it's raining and I forgot my damn umbrella. *Sigh*. Why me?"

4. The Mike Wallace.  With this FB friend you can guarantee an update at the very least, every Sixty Minutes.

"Jeremy just checked into the underwear department of Walmart"
"Marilyn just checked into OBGYN"
"Karen just checked into the driver's side of her car and is now going to run someone over".
"Sandra is at Midas getting an oil change"
 "Penny is on date night with hubby! Doesn't get any better than this LIFE IS SOOOOO GOOD!"

Or my personal favorite....
"Simon is in  Bed".

5. The Mother Teresa: Her updates are always heartfelt. She is either saving the whales, saving rain water in her blow up pool,  knitting caps for kittens, or raising money for someone's lisp. You can't not like this girl.

6. The Philosopher: They don't like to post personal things so they just post quotes. You look forward to reading them every day since they are your only form of spiritual guidance.

7. The Meteorologist:  "It's raining....again!"

8. The Sally Field:  Their updates are concocted solely for their own self-esteem . With each LIKE that is clicked, they squeal, "You LIKE me, you really LIKE me!"

9. The Seinfeld: Their posts are always witty and timely. They could be experiencing the worst trauma ever but you'd never know it. You keep this person in your news feed just to start your day off the right way.

10.  The Stalker:  This one will click "LIKE" to anything you post. You consider unfriending or blocking, but part of you likes the attention so you keep them on your roster.

11. The Oscar Winner:  When you read their updates, you almost feel like Merryl Streep's name has just been announced again.

"I'd like to thank the following for all their support during this very trying time. I didn't think I would make it through this morning when I lost my Mary Kay Fancy Nancy  lip gloss and my co workers really stepped up and helped me find it. You guys are just the best xoxoxoxoxxoxoxoxoxoxoxo. *Sniff Sniff*."

12. The Stuart Smalleys:  They click LIKE on their own status updates.

13. The Over Sharer:  "Just took a massive dump"

Click here for Part Two

Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Great CSA Experiment Continues: Standoff with a Baby Thai Eggplant

This week has been a soul searching week. I think what has happened is that I may have gotten a little cocky about the CSA. I thought that coming up with recipes each week would be a total no brainer.


The Baby Thai Eggplant surfaced in the box. You would think that something so little and cute would be easy to deal with, but then again, babies are little and cute you do the math!

Fast Facts:
  • Refrigerate in an unsealed plastic bag in crisper drawer. Use within five days of purchase for optimum quality
  • About 30 calories per cup
  • Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Thiamin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Pantothenic Acid, Magnesium, Phosphorus and Copper, and a ton of dietary fiber, Folate, Potassium and Manganese
For the last 3 days, I have had my own personal staring contest with these babies. I've stood at the kitchen sink, holding them, twirling them, and waiting for divine intervention.

Food styling by my 9 year old.
So I did what any loving mother would do. I sliced that baby in half with my shiny CutCo knife. My nine year old, sharing my intrigue,  sniffed it with me like a Bloodhound and we decided it smelled like, wait for it......eggplant.

I had heard (through the Google Grapevine), that Baby Thai Eggplants are very bitter. So I decided it would not be eaten by itself and that I'd have to jazz it up a bit. Surprisingly, there were not many recipes out there but I guess that's probably because they are not a mainstream veggie (actually, they are a fruit).

So here is what I did

I cut off the stems and then sliced into 1/8 inch thick slices. I laid them out on paper towels to see how much moisture would come out. (Not as wet as a traditional eggplant.) Then I brushed them with olive oil on both sides and sprinkled salt, pepper and garlic powder over the tops. I roasted them on a baking sheet for about 15 minutes at 400 to 425 degrees until lightly golden brownish.

They looked like this
They actually tasted good just as is. But of course, I needed to take them a step further and did what I know best. You guessed it, I put them on a pizza.

And then.... 

1. I caramelized 2 large onions. If you don't know how to do this, please click here for directions. And if you've never tried caramelized onions on pizza, you are missing out on a fabulous topping! Even my husband loves them and he hates onions.

2. Spread out the dough in pizza pan. Sprinkled goat cheese or blue cheese over the dough (I did half on one side, half on the other to please myself  and my husband. Wink wink).

3. Laid the onions over the cheese(s)

4. Spread roasted baby eggplant slices over the onions

5. Topped this with some chopped up baby bella mushrooms because they were ready to expire

6.  Place some sliced roma tomatoes from CSA box over the eggplant slices. Seasoned with freshly ground black pepper and hot pepper flakes

7. Sprinkled grated Parmesan over the top and light drizzle of olive oil

8. Baked 20 minutes at 425 or until the crust was golden
Baby Thai Eggplant Pizza
I overcame my fear of the Baby Thai Eggplant!

More ideas:
  • Grill them after marinating in some soy sauce and fresh ginger
  • Use in your favorite grilled veggie wrap, sandwich, or pannini with balsamic vinegar dressing
  • And here's a quick and easy recipe which includes bok choy
Have you cooked yours yet? If so, how did you do it? Please share your ideas here. I may have to create a special Mom's group for this very misunderstood group of babies.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Children of the Corn

My mother is obsessed with sweet corn. She sends my dad out nearly every day to Confreda's to restock her supply so she can get her daily fix. And when she eats it,  it's like watching someone at a religious revival. I think with each kernel she bites into, some person in Nebraska has regained their eyesight and a cure for cellulite has been discovered.

I thought her devotion to zeppoles was strong...... until I saw her eat the corn.

A sole kernel somehow remains on her chin or lip, unbeknownst to her, and I'm convinced it's her subconscious way of keeping a lil' snack for later on.

I love corn too! Sweet corn is one of summer's culinary high points and I understand my Mom's "Eat it now while it's here" philosophy. Before you know it, the corn is gone and once winter hits, we are forced to eat the canned or frozen kind.

Sigh. What's a girl to do? Well, here is a great site to help you store and freeze it so you can enjoy it in the dead of winter when you've just shoveled your family's weight in snow and you are cursing your frozen car door.

I am blessed each week with 6 ears of corn in my CSA basket. I've tried cooking it a few different ways. There is one school of thought that tells you to peel some of the husks then soak the ears in water. Then grill them till they are charred all around. And let me tell you, I'm not a fan of this method. I think it's a total pain in the tuckus.  It's so messy to peel the husks off after you've grilled them so I found an alternate way.  I par boil the husked corn for about 5 minutes or so, dry them off, then I just grill them, turning as needed to get them brown all around. (Remember, we don't want to totally char our food anyway since the carcinogens are very damaging).  I find my method caramelizes the corn even more than if the husks were left on, creating an even sweeter flavor (if that's even possible!).

You can decide. Either way, farm fresh corn totally rocks. Here are a few more ideas if you'd like to dress yours up and try something to impress your friends. Personally, I love its natural sweetness and just eat it au naturale.  Proper dress not required.

More great facts about corn
1 cup of fresh sweet corn kernels (about 1 large ear) has 4 grams of fiber, plus it’s rich in lutein and zeaxanthin, compounds that help keep your eyes healthy as you age. It requires no utensils, kids love it and I heard myself say the other day, "This corn is so tender, you don't even need teeth to eat it!)

Clearly, the torch has been passed to me. Thanks Mom!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Inside the Mind of a Vegetable Madwoman

Many people ask me, "Becky, what is your process like? When you get your veggies home, how exactly do you decide what to do with them?"

Well, my process is very specific.

First, I unload the box on the kitchen island. I let out a small shriek so as not to scare the kids. Next, I breathe heavily into a brown bag. I line up all the veggies and talk to them. I welcome them to my humble home and thank them profusely for feeling so comfortable in their own skins that they don't mind having some group photos taken.  Sometimes a few of them get pushy, like the Cubanelle peppers like to dominate or the Zahara eggplants (the little guys in front) have a Napoleon Complex.  I always say, "Why can't we all just get along?" And then they do.  Somehow they work it out because they know their time is very limited on this island.

The poor beets didn't know how to squeeze in

Standing at attention. (I know they are all sighing though.)

Once the photo shoot gets going, everyone lightens up

Then it's time for a group hug

But then some wiseguy pulls a fast one

Then the hardcore work begins


What big ears you have!
So as you can see, it's all very methodical.  My little helpers keep my Ninja focus in check!

What's your CSA process? Do you have any special tips you'd like to share? Am I the only one freaking out?

PS. My mom thinks I have way too much time on my hands but really it's just toilet cleaning avoidance.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Eggplant Rollatini/Lasagna

Does eggplant leave a bad taste in your mouth? Do you shy away from preparing it because you feel it's slightly bitter? Well, I am here to give you the good news. This lovely veggie is now bred to be milder so you should give it a second chance!

And, it turns out, eggplant is one of the best sources of the antioxidant nasunin, which helps protect the fatty acids essential to healthy brain function.  It's only 20 calories per cup with 3 grams of fiber, vitamins A, B, C, Folate, and minerals like potassium and magnesium, calcium and phosphorus.  Talk about a well rounded vegetable!

Are you sold now? Well, you better be, because if you are a CSA member, chances are you have more than you know what to do with.  And you can't just give it away! Try something new today.

I love lasagna, and I love eggplant parm.  However, both can be sort of heavy on the waistline.  I created my version of an eggplant rollatini and/or lasagna. This is a great low carb recipe too for those who are counting carbs or doing a Paleo type diet. And it's gluten free! You use the same exact ingredients for both recipes  but how you lay it out in the end is up to you. You'll see if you keep on scrolling. This recipe makes two 9X13 pans of filling, gooey, saucy eggplant.

Eggplant Rollatini (or Eggplant Lasagna)

2 medium to large sized eggplants (I don't peel mine but you can if you don't like the skin)
1 15 oz container ricotta cheese (feel free to try fat free, part skim, whatever floats your boat)
8 oz frozen chopped spinach thawed and squeezed of excess water
1 egg
onion powder
small handful of fresh parsley, chopped
dried oregano
garlic powder
1/4 cup grated Parmesan/Romano cheese (plus more for sprinkling later on)
1/4 cup shredded mozzarella, plus more for sprinkling later on
5-6 baby Bella or button mushrooms, wiped with a damp cloth then chopped small
1/4 cup chopped onion
olive oil
4 cups or more of your favorite marinara sauce/gravy. Click here for a recipe which uses canned tomatoes or click here for one using garden tomatoes.

1. Slice the eggplant the long way into 1/8"  slices using a long serrated knife.

When you get close to the end, lay it down and slice horizontally

Layer it between paper towels and then top it off with another dish and then my Mom's trick, a heavy kettle. This helps to squeeze out some of the moisture. Let this sit for about 20 minutes. (Yes, that is a Krispy Kreme box in background)
 2. Spray hot grill pan liberally with vegetable spray and then place eggplant slices on the grill until lightly browned on each side and tender, about 4 minutes per side. Remove slices from the grill pan and allow to cool. (If you don't have a grill pan, you can bake in the oven at 350 degrees, turning once). If using grill pan, be sure to spray the pan in between batches.  Set the cooked eggplant aside on a dish to cool.

3. While cooking the eggplant, heat a small fry pan with a few tsp of olive oil. Saute the chopped onion until soft and then add mushrooms, salt and pepper.  Add 1/2 tsp dried thyme and 1 clove of crushed garlic. Cook 1 minute more and remove from heat. Let cool.

4. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, pour in the ricotta cheese, spinach, 1 egg, the mozzarella, grated parm, chopped parsley, salt, pepper, a few shakes of onion powder, 1 tsp oregano. Stir to combine well. Add the onion/mushroom mixture after it's cooled off and combine well.

5. Next, you decide if you want roll ups or lasagna, or both (which is what I did).
 If rolling up, take a heaping tsp of ricotta mixture and place it about an inch onto the slice. Then roll it up and place it with seam side down in a sauced 9X13 inch pan.

Spoon your sauce over all of the roll ups. Then sprinkle more shredded mozzarella and grated Parmesan over the top. Cover with foil and bake at 350 for 35 minutes. You can remove the foil  halfway through.

If you are doing this like a lasagna, just lay the cooked eggplant slices over the sauced pan. Then spread the ricotta mixture evenly over the slices, more sauce and cheese, then more eggplant, more ricotta, cheese sauce, then end with eggplant slices. Cover with sauce and more cheese.  Same temp and time as above.

Here are the lovely twins! You decide which version you like better. I sprinkled mine with my neighbor's fresh basil. Pretty nice, huh?

1. Make your sauce/gravy ahead of time, even a few days ahead is fine.
2. Clean up as you go
3. Make the ricotta mixture a day ahead and keep it covered in the fridge until ready to use.
4. Feel free to mix it up with different veggies in your ricotta mixture. You can try sauteing grated carrots, shredded zucchini (squeezed well), shallots, or chopped pancetta (which I realize is not a veggie but it's nice to fantasize!)
5. Enjoy the leftovers! This tastes even better the next day.

For more easy eggplant recipes, click here for Rachael Ray's great ideas.