one year ago

making meatballs

I think I know what I’m cooking up for our little guy tonight.

First Foods: Asparagus

asparagus tips

We haven’t made it to our local indoor farmers market nearly as often this year as we have in years past, but when we heard a rumor that we might find the season’s first asparagus there today, we woke early and headed on over. We were rewarded with all this:

market haul, 4.21.2012

Two little bundles of spears of varying length and thickness, plus wee radishes, a dozen gorgeous eggs, and a bunch of tiny carrots. I removed the tips from the two fattest asparagus stalks and cooked them in a bit of browned butter, showering them with a bit of salty Pecorino, and when they were cool enough to touch, I gave them to the boy.

First Foods: Asparagus!

I think our little locavore is off to a great start.

farmers market lunch

I shaved the rest of those two stalks into thin ribbons and tossed them with a mustardy vinaigrette, then piled them on top of some watercress, adding crumbles of soft goat cheese, snipped chive blossoms, and a couple of beautiful pastured eggs fried in that same browned butter.

Parents gotta eat too, you know.

First Foods: Carrots!

First Foods: Carrots!

The carrots were braised along with some lamb necks we got from the butcher. I fished them out of the pot and mashed them, letting J help himself once they were cool enough to touch. He loved them.

a manifesto

Helping mommy make meatballs.

If you cook, your family will eat dinner together.
If you cook, you will naturally have a more sustainable household.
If you cook, you’ll set a lifelong example for your children.
If you cook, you’ll understand what goes into food and will eat more healthily.
If you cook, you’ll make your home an important place in your life.
If you cook, you’ll make others happy.
If you cook, people will remember you.

The Food52 Manifesto

I couldn’t have said it better. And I couldn’t love this video more.

Helping mommy make ricotta

Helping mommy make ricotta (cc: @jenniferperillo)

Helping mommy make ricotta. It’s so, so good.

last night’s dinner

Seared pork skirt steak, farro, baby napa cabbage, anchovy-herb sauce, olive oil fried egg

Seared pork skirt steak, farro, baby napa cabbage, anchovy-herb sauce, olive oil fried egg. Guess the old girl’s still got it.

Adventures in DIY: Homemade Granola

I wasn’t much of a fan of granola until about a year ago. I was born and raised in Michigan, where Kellogg’s was king and granola was strictly for west coast hippie types. Growing up, my breakfast cereal choices were pretty much limited to your standard wheat flakes, puffed rice, or toasted oat “O”s, with the occasional packet of instant oatmeal to warm us during the winter months.

Mike and I began to keep granola around when he started biking some of the beautiful local trails here regularly. A scattering of granola over a scoop of our favorite yogurt was quick and easy to prepare, and would sustain him on those long rides without weighing him down. Once I learned I was pregnant with Julian, a bowl of granola, yogurt and berries became my preferred weekday breakfast – easy on my stomach, but with enough staying power to get me through my long morning commute and into my workday. It’s what I still turn to most mornings.

getting it started

While we’re lucky to have a great locally-made granola available to us from The Providence Granola Project, I thought it would be fun to start playing with our own blends. I recently asked friends on Twitter to send me their favorite recipes, and soon fell down a granola-filled rabbit hole. There were so many options! From oils to add-ins, it seemed the possibilities were endless, and I gave myself a good week to parse and plan before tackling my first attempt. We picked up a big bag of Maine oats at our new neighborhood market, and I was ready to get started.

DIY granola

I decided to begin with a very trusted sourceMelissa Clark, and her Olive Oil Granola With Dried Apricots and Pistachios. I didn’t have enough maple syrup, so I used honey instead, and I skipped the cardamom since we didn’t have any pre-ground. This first batch was quite good, if a little flat (due to my omission of the cardamom, I’m sure), and I was eager to punch up the flavors.

baked, cooling

So I made a second batch last weekend, tinkering with the ingredient list even more to incorporate some of the nuts and seeds we had on hand, plus adding back the maple syrup and cardamom from the original recipe. I decided to crack into a jar of virgin coconut oil that I’ve been wanting to play with for ages, using it in place of the olive oil. The result was a lovely, deeply golden and intensely fragrant granola that we just can’t stop eating – with our yogurt or just by the handful. As far as DIY foodstuffs go, making granola at home couldn’t be easier, and we’re already talking about how much fun it will be for Julian to have a hand in making his own favorite blends once he’s old enough to enjoy it with us.

mmmm, duck

Our Spin on Homemade Granola
(this borrows heavily from Melissa Clark’s recipe, linked here and above)

3 cups organic rolled oats
1 cup organic raw almonds (feel free to substitute other nuts here, or combine almonds with pistachios or another nut of your choosing – I just used what we had on hand)
¼ cup flax seeds
¼ cup sunflower seeds
½ cup pumpkin seeds
½ cup toasted wheat germ
1 cup unsweetened coconut
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
6 cardamom pods, shells removed and seeds ground with 1 teaspoon coarse sea salt (I used grey salt)
½ cup organic virgin coconut oil, liquefied (you can substitute an equal amount of extra-virgin olive oil)
¾ cup grade B maple syrup
¼ cup organic light brown sugar
¼ cup muscovado sugar
¾ cup chopped dried fruit (I have used combinations of dried plums and currants, or apricots, black mission figs, and papaya. Use your favorites.)

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Combine all the ingredients except the dried fruit in a large bowl, and stir to combine. Spread the mixture on a large, ungreased baking sheet and bake for a total of 45 minutes, stirring the mixture gently at 10 minute intervals. (Note: Clumps are good! You want clumps. So don’t break them up when you stir, if you have them.)

Remove the baking sheet from the oven, scatter the dried fruit over the top, and allow to cool, then transfer to a large air-tight container.

Helping mommy prep yogurt and fruit for the week

Helping mommy prep yogurt and fruit for the week

Helping mommy prep yogurt and fruit for the week

Continuing the conversation about crock pots…

I really appreciate your comments and advice in response to my last post – thank you! – but now I’m going to ask for a bit more.

We do own a crock pot – an old cheap number that I bought when I moved to Boston in 2001. It has been on its last legs for a while now, with a broken handle and very inconsistent heat. On top of that, it’s a little tippy, so I have never felt comfortable leaving it on unattended – which kind of defeats the purpose, no? Despite its flaws, we’ve used it for making stocks and confits in addition to the usual soups and chili, so I do think that an upgrade is in order, and that we’d get a lot of use out of a newer model with more features.

I’ve got my eye on this Cuisinart model, but it is a bit spendy, and while I do think that we’d get a lot of use out of it, ultimately justifying the expense, I do want to know if there are similar, less expensive options before jumping on it. A removable crock is probably a necessity. Programmable is a plus. And if it allows you to actually brown or sauté right in the unit before adding liquid so you can do a true braise without dirtying an extra pan, well, that’s even better.

So tell me – what are your recommendations for crock pots?

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