Thursday, April 28, 2011

My First CSA Box!

Within the past few weeks, I've head several of my friends raving about the boxes they have received through Community Supported Agriculture programs - so I got my own to see what it's all about.
My first CSA box
I ordered my from South Central Farmers, since they delivered the box to my work. It was like I was in an episode of Chopped.
My first CSA box
I got a lot of greens in this box. A lot. We have here (left to right): Bloomsdale Spinach, Black Kale, Red Romaine Lettuce, Green Romaine Lettuce, Fava Beans, Collard Greens, Detroit Red Beets, and Turnips. I have to be honest, I've never had some of these greens - particularly Kale and Collard Greens. So, what did I make first?
Making Kale chips
Kale chips!
Kale chips
A little salt and a tiny bit of oil and in the oven until crisp. Not bad! Brian still favors potato chips, but I can see converting. Next, I made a Green Romaine Lettuce salad with some Detroit red beets, with a lemon garlic vinaigrette. It was so yummy. I immediately started my love affair with beets. I had no idea how tasty beets were!
Romaine & Beet salad
So, I combined my new love of beets with my other new love of fresh, homemade pasta.
Beet Pasta dough
I roasted 2 beets, then pureed them as much as I could. Those dark red spots on my dough are larger bits of beet that could not get pureed down all the way, but it didn't seem to matter once the pasta was made.
Making beet pasta
After cooking the pasta, I added it to the sauce of salmon, onions, dill, vodka, and cream.
Beet pasta with Salmon, Vodka, Dill Cream sauce
It was probably the tastiest of all the pastas I have made. Brian agrees.
Beet pasta with Salmon, Vodka, Dill Cream sauce
Next, I made lemon, garlic Collard Greens.
Collard Greens with garlic and lemon
Then, roasted Turnips with sour cream.
And finally, I added some Fava Beans in my stir fry.
Stir Fry with Fava Beans
Unfortunately, I couldn't keep up with the rest of the vegetables and they didn't get used. Now, while all the vegetables I did get to use were all delicious, I had one big problem. The bugs. I know, I know.... no pesticides, so lots more bugs. The problem is, I'm terrified of bugs. It was difficult. I had to wash my lettuce one leaf at a time, around 3-4 times each leaf to make sure all the bugs were gone. It was so time consuming - which is why I didn't get to use a large portion of my box. Despite the bugs, I think I'll do it again. Though, I need a bug break for a little while.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Lemon Theme Night!

Yes! Lemon was my surprise theme for my first official theme night! Now, at first, the theme lemon might not sound that exciting - but ohhh, it is. On the menu: Homemade lemon pasta with a rosemary vodka lemon cream sauce, a mixed green salad with lemon mustard vinaigrette, all served with a limoncello and orange cocktail. For dessert, we have a low fat/calorie homemade lemon ice cream! A little more exciting, right? On top of it all, I dressed up in my most yellow 50's party dress and had a big pouffy flower in my hair! Theme night was awesome!
All the lemons I used for the ice cream
So, the first thing I actually made was the lemon pasta, which you can read all about here. The next thing I made was my ice cream. I have been making banana ice cream a lot lately, so I decided to change it up. In the fridge, we had tons of lemons, so I went for it. Making lemon ice cream is tricky though, especially if you are using all non-fat ingredients. Lemon and cream can curdle real easy, especially when there isn't enough fat. Somehow, I got really lucky. I was very diligent about my whisking and it all creamed together, so wonderfully.
Making lemon ice cream
I used a lot of lemons, as pictured above, both their juice and their zest. I strained the zest out, before letting my mixture cool. The next day, I added a little more non-fat half and half, then into the ice cream maker it went.
Churning some homemade lemon ice cream
Once it was thick enough, I packed up my ice cream and got started on the next lemon dish.
A pint of homemade lemon ice cream
I started off chopping all of my ingredients, washing the salad, and basically making a big mess. Luckily, I made a lemon mustard salad dressing the night before, so the salad was ready to go.
I really wanted to surprise Brian, but I had less than an hour to get everything done! I started on my sauce, by sweating some sweet red onions and shallots, with a little bit of rosemary.
Sweet onions and rosemary
I added a few shots of vodka, a few squirts of lemon, and my cream. Since I used lots of fat free ingredients (low cal butter and fat free cream), I noticed a little bit of curdling. Gross, I know. To fix that, I just added a big piece of fatty, glorious, wonderful butter, which totally saved the day.
Salmon, Rosemary, Vodka cream sauce
Did I mention I was making my pasta at the same time? Excuse the dark, somewhat blurry photos below. Making pasta, taking pictures, and being in a hurry all add up!
Homemade Lemon Pasta
Making the pasta wasn't bad. Sure, I had to start over on a few pieces, but overall, it was a decent first time, for doing it by myself.
Homemade Lemon pasta
For some reason, the pasta machine didn't fully cut the fettuccine, so a few of them clumped together when I boiled them. I think I might need more flour, next time.
Homemade Lemon Fettuccine
And finally, the last thing I did was make the cocktail.
Limoncello Orange Cocktail
Our friend, Michael, gave us a bottle of his homemade Limoncello - so delicious. I made a little cocktail that was 3 parts orange juice, 1 part Limoncello. It was so light and tasty! And finally, dinner was served.
Homemade pasta with salmon, cream, and rosemary / Limoncello cocktail / Green salad with lemon mustard dressing
Again, I apologize for the dark pictures!
Homemade pasta with salmon, cream, and rosemary / Limoncello cocktail / Green salad with lemon mustard dressing
We finished the night off with our homemade lemon ice cream.
Homemade Lemon Ice Cream
It was dreamy.
Homemade Lemon Ice Cream
All in all, everything was good. The lemon pasta was very subtle and it was cooked really perfectly. The sauce was yummy - though, I might cheat next time and use some real, whole fat cream. The cocktail? Amazing. The salad? Totally good. The ice cream was delicious, though, I might use 1-2 less lemons next time -the flavor was good, but it was strong. I wouldn't say too strong - but it was more strong than I'd like it to be.

Lemon day was awesome. Now, what shall I do for my next theme night? Hmm...

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Homemade Pastas

Any normal person would probably want to come home from a long day of making pasta and relax. I'm clearly odd. The moment I came home, from pasta making class, I made pasta.
3 types of pasta: Lemon, Rosemary, and plain
Sure, it's not much in it's little packages there, but tonight I will put it to the test. First, let me show you what I made! As you can see above, I made 3 different bundles: Lemon, Rosemary, and a plain pasta. It all started with a simple dough of flour and eggs.
Making pasta dough
I did a lot of kneading and separated my dough into 3 equal parts.
Pasta dough
I basically just took a look in the fridge to see what we had around to flavor the dough. We had a ton of lemons! Lemon pasta with salmon... that could be good, right? Let's hope so, anyway! So, I went ahead and zested some lemon and kneaded it into one of my doughs. If you look close enough, you can see the pretty little specs of yellow!
Lemon Zest pasta
Next, we had so much fresh rosemary - we love rosemary.
I chopped it real small and added it to my second round of dough.
Rosemary pasta
Once all the rosemary was evenly incorporated to the dough and all of the rounds were kneaded, I wrapped them in layers of saran wrap, labeled them, and put them straight into the freezer. Did I mention I don't have a pasta maker? Well, I didn't anyways... I have one now! And tonight one of my bundles of dough are coming out. I've already warned Brian that it's a theme night tonight. Oh yes, blogger friends, I'm having a theme night. I can't wait to surprise Brian with what I have planned... It will all be revealed soon!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Pasta In Casa! Hip Cooks, West LA

Well, happy valentine's day everyone! I was a little bummed out that Feb. 14 landed on a Monday, but it's given us the excuse to celebrate all weekend long. Saturday was massages and home cooking/baking and Sunday was "Pasta in Casa!" class at Hip Cooks in West LA. We got a gift card from Brian's sister last April, for our wedding and have finally put it to some good use! On the menu we had a Roasted butternut squash ravioli with sage butter (both Brian and my favorite, not pictured), then a Dill fettucine, salmon cream & vodka sauce. Making the dill fettucini sounded a lot more complicated, but it was basically the same pasta dough, with a little dill added to it The pasta itself was so pretty, here it is being put into the pasta machine.
Dill pasta
It was so much fun!
Dill pasta
We all had turns putting the pasta through the machine, here's Brian having a go at it.
Dill pasta
And it came out so delicious. Definitely our second favorite pasta of the day.
Dill fettucine, salmon cream & vodka sauce
The next pasta we made was called, Caramelle with mint, ricotta & lemon.
Caramelle with mint, ricotta & lemon
And finally we made a Portobello mushroom & spinach rotollo, red pepper tomato sauce.
Portobello mushroom & spinach rotollo, red pepper tomato sauce
Ugh, it was all very delicious. It was all so, so, so good.
Portobello mushroom & spinach rotollo, red pepper tomato sauce
The people joining us in class were all so nice and made the whole class a lot more fun and lively. Brian and I are already planning our next date over some Hip Cooks classes. Yay!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Baked Alaska with Homemade Banana Ice Cream, Brownies & Chocolate Covered Strawberries

This weekend has been a dream. We got messages, had a delicious brunch at one of our most favorite places, relaxed, and made some incredible food.

Baked Alaska


So, the night started with Brian making me a nostalgic dinner, one he made for me 2 years ago today, when he proposed.

Pork chops, apples, green beans and rosemary garlic mashed potatoes

It was awesome. So many good memories! Brian agreed to let me make the dessert and I knew I wanted to make my guy something really special, cause I've got to admit, he's pretty awesome. I wanted to stay true to the dessert he made me that night, chocolate brownie with vanilla ice cream and strawberries, but I wanted to amp it up. So, first I made one of our current favorites, a low calorie banana ice cream I've been making a lot lately. I paired the ice cream with a low fat brownie mix, except I added a little coffee to it too. Then, it came time to layer and freeze.

Chocolate brownie and Banana Ice Cream

To layer, I just lined a bowl with some saran wrap, then layered brownie, ice cream a couple of times, until the bowl was full. I froze the layers until they were set, then prepared my meringue. I didn't really measure the meringue, but just used the typical few egg whites, a little cream of tartar and about 1/2 cup sugar - then came the fun part.

Baked Alaska

Piping! Now, I probably could have got my peaks a little stiffer, but I was so excited to get this guy into the oven!

Baked Alaska

And that's all it took! I paired the Baked Alaska with a few chocolate covered strawberries and we were instantly in heaven.

Baked Alaska

To celebrate today, Brian and I are taking a couple's pasta making class! It sure is a good weekend for our hearts and our bellies. Yum, yum, yum.

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone! xoxo!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Chocolate Covered Strawberries

Chocolate Covered Strawberries

This weekend, Brian and I are going all out and celebrating our first married Valentine's Day. Brian's making me dinner and I'm going all out for dessert. Above you see a little side step in my Valentine's Day dessert surprises for Brian. My homemade banana ice cream is step one in my big fancy dessert surprise, but as a side treat, I thought I'd make us some chocolate covered strawberries for some late night snacking.

Chocolate Covered Strawberries

What are you doing for Valentine's Day?

Friday, February 11, 2011

Homemade Banana Ice Cream

Homemade Banana Ice Cream

With Valentine's Day just around the corner, I have big plans for my Brian. It's our first Valentine's Day as a married couple, which is pretty special -and to top it off, February 13th is the second year anniversary of the day Brian proposed to me! To celebrate, Brian is making me the same meal he cooked for me the day he proposed and I've convinced him to let me take care of dessert this year. Since I've only got dessert to take care of, I'm going all out. Of course, we are somewhat dieting, so I'm trying to make it a little healthier, but still kind of bad. I've been very much into this Banana Ice Cream recipe lately, which is very low in fat and calories, but tastes like we're cheating on our diets, so we enjoy it quite a bit.

Homemade Banana Ice Cream

3 cups fat-free half and half
1 cup fat-free egg substitute
1 cup sugar
3-4 bananas
pinch of salt

1. In a food processor, process the bananas until smooth. Add a pinch of salt.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar and egg substitute.
3. In a sauce pan, heat the half and half.
4. Carefully combine the egg mix with the milk to form a custard.
5. Add the banana mixture to the custard and let chill overnight.
6. After the mix has chilled, add it to your ice cream maker, and enjoy!

Homemade Banana Ice Cream

Now, just to clarify - this is only step one in the Valentines dinner dessert - there's a lot more to come to the big plans I have for my special valentine. It's going to be delicious, I can't wait!