Archive | June, 2010

How to get a man outside in the Texas summer

30 Jun

Spending time outdoors during the Texas summer is just about unbearable, especially during the heat of the day. I was tying to think of good enticements to get my boyfriend outside to do some work in the garden when I came across the simple yet fantastic idea of cucumber lemonade.

I couldn’t think of any two items that might be more refreshing than cucumbers and lemonade, so I immediately made up a batch (which only took about 5 minutes).

This combination is delicious on its own but, of course, when I had a few friends over, we tried out a few variations.

We added a shot of lemon vodka to a tall glass of cucumber lemonade for a fantastic afternoon cocktail.

We also tried adding a little bit of fresh basil or mint into a few glasses. I preferred the basil – it provided just a hint of flavor, without being overpowering.

The cucumber lemonade was tempting enough to get a bit of yard work out of my boyfriend. I’m not sure that it will continue to work, though. It’s pretty hot out there.

–       1 cucumber (peeled and chopped into medium-size chunks)

–       5 cups water

–       1 or 2 lemons

–       Sugar to taste (about 3 – 5 tablespoons, in my case)

Optional additions:

–       Lemon vodka

–       Fresh basil or mint

Combine cucumbers and water in the blender, and blend until the cucumbers are pureed.

Strain the cucumber/water mixture into a pitcher.

Squeeze one or two lemons into the pitcher.

Sugar to taste.

CSAs – Local, Fresh Veggies Every Week

28 Jun

One of my good friends introduced me to the concept of a CSA last summer, by giving me part of her share. For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about (as I would not have a year ago), “CSA” stands for “Community-Supported Agriculture”. The basic idea is that individuals pay a set amount of money in exchange for a “share” in a farm – those individuals then get a portion of what is grown on the farm for a season. Members generally get a box (or bag) of vegetables every week based on what the farm has available that week.

This board tells me what types of vegetables I get each week

In many cases, a CSA will deliver a box of vegetables to their members every week or two (depending on what you sign up for). My CSA asks that I drive out to the farm to pick up my veggies every week, which I love because it gives me the chance to trade vegetables that I don’t like, for some that I do. Also, going out to the farm once a week is pleasant – meeting the people who work on the farm and seeing the vegetables growing makes me feel even better about what I’m eating.

There are tons of advantages to being a CSA member, so I’m just going to list out a few of my favorite:

–       I get enough vegetables for the week, and rarely have to buy veggies at the grocery store

–       All of the vegetables are organic, and locally grown

–       The CSA “assigns” me certain vegetables every week, which requires me to learn to cook vegetables that I would not otherwise have tried (see, for example, pattypan squash from a few weeks ago)

–      Eating local, in season vegetables helps me to know what I should be eating at various times during the year – and keeps me from eating vegetables that have been bread for shipping and potentially exposed to chemicals and who knows what else

–       The vegetables are fresh and flavorful

Some of the veggies on the farm stand at Green Gate Farms

I go to Green Gate Farms here in Austin, which is a pretty charming place – they grow vegetables, raise chickens for eggs (and for eating, I imagine), raise pigs, and have wildflower bouquets that are readily available at their farm stand.

On a typical week, my share is about two grocery bags of vegetables – most recently lots of squash, tomatoes, cucumbers, herbs, green beans and okra. I split my share with one of my friends which has turned out to be a great thing to do. We share recipes for the vegetables that we have that week and sharing our vegetables means that I don’t have as many to cook. I generally cook for just my boyfriend and myself so having the entire share to myself would be too much.

The biggest disadvantage I’ve found with being a CSA member is that at times, you end up with too many vegetables. Last week, for example, I didn’t have much time to cook so only a few of our vegetables were eaten. My methods for dealing with the occasionally overflowing CSA box are pretty simple:

–       Your friends probably love the idea of farm fresh vegetables – give them a few veggies (or give them your share for the week) when you feel like you have too many veggies

–       Make things that are simple – not everything has to be a labor intensive recipe – I frequently just cut up tomatoes with a little bit of vinegar and olive oil as an appetizer when I have too many

–       Make casseroles or other food that you can eat throughout the week  – that way you can eat your veggies every night, but not have to cook every night

–       I’ve heard that preserving certain vegetables is not difficult, though I haven’t tried it out yet

My CSA has worked out very well for me this year, and I’ll defiantly join again next season. I would recommend it to anyone who likes to cook and is looking to try out new recipes and vegetables that may be a little out of your comfort zone.

Kale Chips

16 Jun

Kale chips dont come out looking particularly pretty, but they are tasty!

Kale is considered a bit of a super-food nutritionally. I’ve read that it’s high in fiber and is a great source of vitamin A & calcium, among other nutrients.

This summer, I discovered “Kale Chips” – they’re super fast and easy to make, but turn out to be a very tasty snack. I’ve almost convinced my boyfriend to stop eating actual chips in exchange for kale chips.

5-6 Large Kale Leaves

1-2 tbsp Olive Oil

Seasoned Salt (about 1 tsp, a small sprinkling)

Tear up kale leaves into small chip-sized pieces and place them on a large cookie sheet, covered with baking parchment. Drizzle olive oil over kale pieces – or use a spray olive oil to lightly coat them. Sprinkle a small amount of season salt over the chips then place in preheated oven at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes.

Kale will look slightly shriveled and be crispy. Eat while warm or store for later.

Pattypan Squash Topped with Vegetarian Chorizo & Cotija Cheese

16 Jun

(Adapted from Eating Local: The Cookbook Inspired by America’s Farmers, by Janet Fletcher)

One of my favorite things about being part of a CSA is that it introduces me to vegetables that I haven’t tried before. This week was the second time that we’ve gotten pattypan squash. The first time, I had no clue what to do with it and it ended up going bad (this happened oddly fast, I have no clue why).

Fortunately this time around, while I was picking up my vegetables, Janet Fletcher was at Green Gate Farms signing her cookbook Eating Local: The Cookbook Inspired by America’s Farmers, One of the recipes in the book was designed just for pattypan squash, and advised topping with wiht chorizo along with some other great ingredients. I loved the idea of the squash with chorizo so I gave it a shot.

We tend to keep vegetarian at my house so I adapted the recipe a little for vegetarians (and for what was available in my kitchen). The results were fantastic.

2 Pattypan Squashes

2 tbsp Olive Oil

2 tsp Dried Oregano

3 tbsp Sour Cream

1 Vegetarian Chorizo

1 Small Onion, chopped

2 tbsp Vegetable Oil

2 – 4 tbsp Grated Cotija Cheese

1 tbsp Fresh Cilantro

Cut off the tops (and bottoms if needed) of the squashes so that they’re flat on both sides, then cut the squash horizontally into two large flat slices. Brush the squash with olive oil on both sides and sprinkle it with oregano.

Place the squash on a grill, preheated to medium. It needs to cook for about 10 minutes on each side.

While the squash is cooking, place the oil, onions, and vegetarian chorizo into a skillet over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally for about 10 minutes or until the chorizo is slightly crumbly.

Remove the squash from the grill once they’re slightly brown on each side. Lay them flat and spread a little sour cream on each squash. Pile a little bit of the chorizo mixture on each squash then sprinkle cheese and cilantro on top.

Sprouts

14 Jun

Today is the first day of “Deliciously Austin,” a blog devoted to experiencing food in every way possible – growing it, cooking it, ordering it, but, most importantly, eating it.

My name is Ashley, and I live in Austin, Texas, where I’m constantly experimenting with new recipes, eating at as many new restaurants as I can, and, now, growing a vegetable garden.

This weekend, I finally planted my first vegetable garden. I say “finally” because it’s taken about three months to prepare the beds to plant (including removing grass that was growing in that area). I looked at quite a few websites to find out how exactly to go about planting my garden. Hands down, the best resource I found was Texas A&M’s AriLife Extension website. They offer several page reports on how, where and when to grow just about everything that grows in Texas. Based on their advice, I’m planning my garden for the fall & spring.

This is my new oregano plant, which was planted this weekend with several other herbs and veggies.

Unfortunately, after I had done the recommend soil test, created the raised beds, etc, it was already pretty late in the season to plant much. If you’re trying to start a garden, now is not really the time to do it – I believe that March or April is more appropriate, but I’m doing what I can. The nice people at the Great Outdoors did point me in the right direction for the vegetables that I could grow during the hot Texas summer. For the moment, I’m experimenting with what they recommended – I now have a lemon plant, some tomatoes, several herbs and spices, squash, okra, strawberries and eggplant growing in my garden.

Since it’s the beginning of my garden, it seems fitting that it should also be the beginning of Deliciously Austin. I’ve been tossing around the idea for a while, but am just now getting up the nerve to post my first entry. I’m certainly not a food “expert,” but like many people, I love good food and I love to try new things with food. One of my favorite ways to learn about new recipes and ideas is to read other people’s blogs. That being the case, I thought it was about time that I too started sharing what I learned while cooking and eating.

I hope you enjoy reading and come back to see me soon. Happy eating!