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Summer must be here: look at all these berries!

Frozen

Becoming fruit leather

Simply drying

In the fridge

And that’s not even all of them! There are more macerating (mix with a bit of sugar and let sit – they get really juicy. I’m going to make Pavlova later and put these on top), we ate some last night as shortcake, and there are even more in a container in the fridge! Also, there are 4 layers of fruit leather and 2 of drying strawberries. Hooray!

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Real time cooking Coq au Vin for dinner:

{The Ingredients}

Peter’s out of town for a week, so I have the house to myself.  I figure with all this time alone, I should experiment in the kitchen.  So I’m trying to make Coq au Vin from Julia Child’s cookbook – but just for me.  The recipe usually serves 4 – 6, so I have to make it significantly smaller.  I decided to cut it in half so that I can eat the leftovers tomorrow.

{Boiling the Bacon}

First step: simmer some bacon for 10 minutes.  I’m not entirely sure why, but the recipe says to do it, so here it is.  Simmering.  Next I fish it out, dry it off and then fry it in a pan (with some butter.  I love French cooking – frying bacon in butter!).

Next up: the chicken.  It gets fried in the bacon fat with the butter, seasoned with salt and pepper, then the bacon gets added back in, it gets covered and cooks for 10 minutes.

Then the fun part, I pour in some cognac, then light it on fire and it burns itself out.  Fun times with flames in the kitchen.  It flamed way more than I thought it would!  After this you add some wine and chicken broth.  It turns out my 10 inch frying pan isn’t deep enough for this.  I had to pour it into my other skillet, which the lid fits on better anyhow.  Now I let it cook slowly for half an hour.

{The brown-braised onions.  They cooked way faster than I thought they would.}

In the mean time, I’m making some brown-braised onions and sautéed mushrooms.  For the record, boiling onions aren’t very fun to peel.  But right now the kitchen is smelling AMAZING!  I can’t wait to eat.  I’m wishing right now I had someone here to share this with.  Yum.

{That’s some tasty Tempranillo!}

Did I mention that  I’m watching some old school Star Trek: The Next Generation on Netflix (currently the one where Q gives Riker powers).  Good times.  I think I will listen to Julia Child and have some wine while things cook.  Now that I’m done with the fire and all.

{Grapes.  Like you needed a note in curly brackets to tell you that.}

Also, I got hungry, so now I’m eating grapes too.  Can’t eat too many; I have to eat all this dinner myself!  (For the record, Riker is looking very smug right now.  Also, he’s very cocky.)

As I get further and further along in this recipe, I’m trying not to think about just how much butter I’m using.  It’s going to be delicious.

Just got to the part where I skim the fat off of the top.  You don’t need to see how much I took off.  Let’s just say it was a lot.  Then I got impatient and said to myself, “some fat is good, right?” and left the rest.  But I did take off a lot.  I promise.

Now that the chicken has boiled and the mushrooms and onions are down, I reduce the broth down to 1 and a bit cups.  There’s a lot of liquid, so I wonder how long that will take.  It’s already 6:47, and I’ve been cooking since 5.    As soon as it reduces down, I thicken it with some flour and butter and then put it all together.  I can’t wait.

Ha!  Now it’s an episode with Diana’s mother.  She’s the funniest character.  Holm too!

 

{It doesn’t look amazing, but I swear it was delicious.  I’m still licking the sauce off of my plate.}

So, the coq au vin is done.  The sauce is thickened, the chicken, onions and mushrooms all basted with it.  It doesn’t look amazing, but I tell you it smells divine.  Cutting the recipe in half seems to have worked well, I think there will be enough for dinner, plus a little for lunch tomorrow and another dinner.  Now the question is do I freeze a dinner’s worth or just eat it tomorrow night?

{The final product.  It was delicious.  I went back for seconds.}

Was it delicious? Yes!  The greenness of the parsley and peas went perfectly with the richness of the chicken.  I would certainly make it again. It will most definitely not make it all the way to the freezer.

P.S. Now the Star Trek episode is based on the holodeck in San Francisco!

I was at the market on Wednesday and picked up a three pack of strawberries.  It’s that delicious time of year when all the fruit is coming in to the market and I can’t resist ANY of it.  (I also got peaches, apricots, nectarines and plums.  See what I mean?)

When I got home I was reading some of my favourite blogs and I found these two recipes over at Food in Jars and Sugar Crafter.

So I set about chopping up strawberries, putting them in jars (at 11:00 at night).  They sat there until tonight in a jar where they soaked in vanilla and sugar and turned delightfully juicy.  Peter even asked me how much water I’d added!  None – those were just some very juicy strawberries.

And then, oh and then.  I got to pick a lemon from my lemon tree!!!  I picked it up last year when we moved here in an effort to be more Californian and it keeps trying to grow fruit and failing.  But at last I’ve been able to harvest my first lemon.

Some zesting later, it was ready to add to the jam.

Lessons learned: I needed more jars, and a bigger pot.  Now I know for next time.  Also, I needed to cook the jam longer.  But – check out the end result!  It set and it tastes delicious.

Now I just have to wait for the scones to come out of the oven and I’ll have a delicious evening snack.

 

 

 

Avocados!

I couldn’t believe it!  2 mangos! Signs of spring are here.  The news letter talks about peas and berries and peaches.  I’m so excited!

We blasted our way through our first Farm Fresh box.  I even ate the lettuce (although, it was just as a snack – lettuce leaves and ginger dressing).    Since we made it through with lots of time to spare, we decided to get a bigger box this week.  Turns out we eat a lot more vegetables than I thought!

This week’s box has a lot more greenery in it.  I look forward to the challenge of using it all.

Here’s what we got:

4 Granny Smith Apples (we’ll just eat these as snacks, although one might end up in a salad.)

2 Navel Oranges (ditto as the apples)

4 Minneola Tangelos (yum.)

1 Eureka Lemon

2 Cara Cara Oranges

1 bunch of Broccoli

1 bunch of Chard

1 bunch of Collard Greens

1 bunch of Fennel

1 bunch of Leaf Lettuce

1 bunch of Celery

1 lb of Yellow Onions (aka 2 onions)

1 lb of Russian Banana Potatoes

I made this tasty recipe last week with the collard greens that my friend sent me.  I served them with a side of quinoa and a poached egg.  But, I think I’ll try a different recipe this week.  Any suggestions?

The lovely people at Farm Fresh included a couple of recipes with this week’s box.  One for Sauteed Chard, Stems and all! and another for Fennel Orange Salad.  Could be interesting.  Definitely a place to start!

A few weeks ago, we decided to try getting a CSA box every couple of weeks.  We wanted to see what kinds of veggies they would send our way and we wanted to see if we could figure out how to use the ones that we had never tried before (like collard greens!)

We got our first box on Wednesday.

What we got:

4 fugi apples

4 minneola tangelos

1 bunch of carrots

1 bunch of collard greens

1 bunch of green onions

1 bunch of red beets

1 bunch of lettuce

1 yellow onion

So far we’ve eaten half of the apples, three of the oranges, and all of the carrots.

I used the bunch of green onions in some cheddar onion buns (from Peter Reinhart’s Artisan Breads Every Day)  They were delicious.

Tonight I’m making a Roast Beet and Balsamic Quinoa salad to use the beets.  I’m generally a huge fan of both beets and quinoa, so I hope it’ll be delicious.  The only problem so far is the pearl onions!  Why oh why do they make my eyes hurt SO MUCH MORE than regular onions?  Something I learned: If you’re going to cut your pearl onions in half anyhow (which I was), if you do it before you peel them, it’s a lot easier to get off that super fine layer of onion skin.

So, now I’m left with the collard greens and the lettuce.  The apples, oranges and onion will take care of themselves since I like eating apples and oranges and I use onions all the time.

For the collard greens, I think I’ll turn them into a side dish for something.

But the bunch of lettuce?  I don’t eat lettuce straight up.  What should I do with it?  I can only eat so many salads.  I’ll use a bit in sandwiches, but …  I need help!  Any interesting suggestions for a bunch of lettuce?

Techniques on eating Cheerios with chopsticks:

Try to skewer one on each chopstick.  You can continue to stack them until you get impatient and eat them.

Hold chopsticks together and try to scoop them into your mouth using the side of the cup for support.

Try to traditionally chopstick them (I suppose it’s not very traditionally since you’re eating Cheerios, but you get the idea).  This method is the least successful and often leads to Cheerios shooting out of the chopsticks and onto the floor.  Careful here, nobody likes stepping on slimy Cheerios.

Have you ever seen raw peanuts before?  At the market last weekend, we saw some on a vendor’s table and bought a handful to try them out.  Turns out you have to boil them!

{The peanuts fresh from the water}

Salt some water, put the peanuts in and let them boil for twenty minutes.

{It looks pretty wrinkly.  Tastes delicious!}

Drain and eat.  Don’t let them sit around or they get kind of slimy.

{The empty shells}

They had an interesting texture.  A lot more like lentils than the peanuts I’m used to.  I imagine I could roast them after boiling and get to the peanuts I’m used to eating.  I might get some more from the market on Sunday and experiment a little.

We boiled them before going on a hike, ate some before we left, and ate some more along the way.  A good pocket snack.

{a view from along the way}

The prince and I went to the Jelly Belly factory yesterday in celebration of my birthday.  He was finally able to take a day off of work (tip: it’s best to go during the week when the factory is running), and we booked a zipcar and drove the hour up to Fairfield to get there.

We weren’t allowed to take pictures on the tour, so I didn’t bring my fancy camera with us, but I did manage to take some not-so-good pictures with my cell phone.  It was a pretty great tour.  You should go for a visit if you’re in the area.

unpolished jelly beans

{Photo by me being sneaky.  These are the unpolished jelly beans.  They sit and cure for a while before being polished.}

the yellow robot

{Photo by me being sneaky.  This is a yellow robot.  Those of you who have played the game Factory Manager know how awesome this is}

The sorting machine

{Photo by sneaky me.  This is the sorting machine.  It has a grill that first lets the small beans fall through, and then a grill that lets the regular beans fall through.  The small ones and the giant, misshapen beans then got put into bags and sold as “Belly Flops” for super cheap.  This is what we spent our jelly bean budget on.}

The rest of the day we spent touring around.  We found some fresh picked strawberries (IN NOVEMBER) and gorged ourselves on strawberries and jelly beans for the drive.  This, of course, ended up with me being rather grumpy because I’m not used to eating that much sugar.  However, my prince was rather charming and fed me some bread, and all was better again.

{Photo by me.  Sorry it’s so fuzzy… it’s hard to take a picture on my phone without looking.}