Friday, June 18, 2010

The BEST salad dressing ever!

Well, the best you can buy. I've been suffering for a year without my favorite salad dressing. I won't lie to you but I first tried this dressing because of the low calorie count and the fact that sugar wasn't the first ingredient. But after one bite, I was sold forever. Saved me when I was doing Weight Watchers. I've been searching all the local stores for this dressing but it really was only sold on the west coast in specialty stores like Wholefoods and sometimes (if you're lucky) in certain Ralph's or Albertson's grocery stores.

I don't know what made me look for it today--maybe it was all the greens delivered this week or my fast sprouting garden--but I looked online to see if I could get it shipped and right at the top of their website, an update that Weis markets agreed to start carrying the dressing in PA. Whoo hoo! So after work, I dragged Secret Agent Man to check it out but both of us had the same thought: PA usually means Philadelphia or Pittsburg not middle of nowhere town. So with baited breath we went up and down the dressing aisle. No mas. Then I checked their refrigerator section. I swear, I started jumping up and down (as much as a 5 month pregnant woman can)! So here is the famed salad dressing:

They have four flavors and each and every one is yummy. These two are my favorites: Caesar and Miso. Don't let the miso turn you off, it's not a heavy flavor and in fact, the caesar doesn't taste like miso at all to me. The Caesar is tangy and savory and refreshing all at the same time. The Miso flavor is on the sweeter side and I like to alternate between the two. Not only are they low cal (14 calories for 2 Tbsp!), no MSG, AND you'll recognize and be able to pronounce everything in their ingredient list--there's nothing surprising or unusual.
LOVE this stuff. Definitely try it out if you happen to see it at the store. Oh, and it's made in Newport Beach. Yum.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Stawberry Freezer Jam

Even with all the eating out of hand and two pies, I still had enough strawberries to make jam. I can have fresh strawberry flavor all year long!

So I cleaned and sliced up a few pounds of strawberries.

You'll need a packet of pectin which can be found at any grocery store near their canning supplies. Look specifically for the low or no-sugar freezer jam packet and buy two. You can follow the directions on the back of the packet which calls for a ton of sugar. I only used 1 cup of sugar and 1 packet of pectin. Mix well.

The packet calls for 4 cups of mashed strawberries. I, of course, used 8 cups. Again, if your strawberries aren't really sweet, you'll probably want to use more sugar. Mash the strawberries really well but don't use a blender or food processor. It just doesn't set right.

Yum. Let it set up for 30 minutes. If it is still not "jammy" enough for you, then sprinkle some of the pectin from the second packet and stir it in well. Of course, you have to taste the product.

The rest of the jam can be spooned into sterilized jars or freezable plastic containers. It'll keep about 3 weeks in the refrigerator or a year in the freezer (often times, it'll last longer but that's what it says on the packet).

Now, I just have to decide whether I should be greedy and pick more strawberries this weekend (last chance for this season's crop!) or just hold out until the following week for Cherry Season!!
Loving summer,

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie

So what to do with all the lovely strawberries we gathered for my birthday?

I hate super sugary strawberry pies but I sure do love pie. I saw some rhubarb at the farmers' market and thought that it would go beautifully with fresh, sweet, strawberries. So, pie it is!

Start by washing the rhubarb.

Slice the rhubarb diagonally in half inch pieces to expose the most surface area.

Add 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup white sugar, and 1/4 cup cornstarch (or 1/2 cup tapioca starch). You can add up to another 1/2 cup of sugar if your strawberries aren't as sweet or you just prefer it sweeter. Stir.

I was lazy for this round and used store-bought refrigerator pie dough. I suggest the pillsbury brand dough (you'll need two boxes). I tried a different brand and the dough was on the soggy side-probably because it used all shortening instead of some butter. Pat into a rimmed baking sheet. I believe this is a 9" x 12" sheet.

Place the pie sheet in the refrigerator if it's quite warm out and make sure your oven is preheated to 375 degrees. When ready, pour the filling into the shell and try not to mound it too high.

Use an egg wash around the edges of the dough and top with another layer of dough. You can get fancy and make a lattice top but here, I just covered it the best I could, crimped the edges well and rolled it inward to keep juices from flowing off the pan and burning in the over. Slice some vents in the top.

I also brushed the top with egg wash and sprinkled it with some sugar. Feel free to use white, brown, or turbinado sugar.

Forty to fifty minutes later, you get this:

IMPORTANT: Do not slice into this pie until completely cool. This may take up to 24 hours.

I had extra filling so I made a 9 inch round pie too. If you have a crowd to feed or you especially like a higher ratio of crust to filling, the slab pie is the way to go. If you like more filling, go with the round pie.

I topped this round pie with vanilla pudding filling but cool whip would work well too.

Take a bite! Rhubarb really brings out a true strawberry flavor.


Sunday, June 13, 2010

First CSA delivery!

The first CSA delivery of the season came today!

Lots of greens in this delivery-including some garlic scapes.

Can't wait to see what this season brings.

Saturday, June 12, 2010


I Love Strawberries! I can't get enough of these jewels when they are in season. I could easily eat a pound or two in one sitting. So, we went to a local farm to get some fresh berries. We could buy a quart of strawberries for $4.50 OR we could pick our own for $1.50 a pound. Considering that I would eat that quart in two seconds flat, we went out into the fields. Here's our yield!

I went for the small ruby red berries and Secret Agent Man was really good at finding the really big berries. All together we pulled in nearly 8 lbs! I'm so excited that I can't decide how I want to make use of these gems. So I started simple: Fresh Strawberry Topping (or otherwise known as Macerated Berries).

You'll need to wash and quarter about a pint of strawberries.

Sprinkle on a tablespoon of sugar--add more if your strawberries are somewhat weak in flavor or unripened.

If you are feeling particularly naughty, add a splash of vanilla extract or grand marnier or chambord. Then stir it up and let it sit in the refrigerator for about 20minutes.

In the mean time, to make a pretty garnish for various strawberry desserts, take one pretty strawberry.

Make a slice about 3/4 ways from the bottom to the top but do not cut all the way through the stem area.

Make a series of parallel slices being careful not to slice through the stem.

Then carefully, fan it out slightly.

Ta dah! Simple but effective. Especially when paired with a mint leaf on vanilla ice cream in my favorite mug.

Ahhh, but remember, I can't get enough strawberries! So out comes my macerated berries! As you stir it around, you'll notice the syrup it made and how much the strawberry flavor comes out.

Then, pour as much of the strawberries over ice cream, pound cake, shortcake, pancakes, custard, vanilla pudding, chocolate mousse, or spoon directly into your mouth as much as your heart desires. I won't tell.

This is also a quick and easy dessert to make for guests. Just macerate a bunch of different berries or peaches or plums. Add a few sprigs of mint and top with some fresh whipped cream and you've got yourself a classy summer dessert with no fuss.

Stay tuned for more strawberry desserts (I do have another 7.5 pounds to go!).

Friday, June 11, 2010

Update: Secret Agent Man

This is the image I saw one day coming home from work:

Don't worry, he was just starting it up and not actually riding it but it was a funny sight seeing Secret Agent Man on a motorcycle with a back brace. He's doing really well and almost fully recovered from the accident. All of his bones have healed 100% and he's back to normal everyday living. His only restrictions are to keep using his backbrace and not to lift anything really heavy. Sometimes it is still somewhat painful but since he's started physical therapy, it has been getting easier and better with each day. So thanks to everyone for all of your well-wishes and support! We couldn't have done it without you.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Blasted Rabbit and First Harvest!

Finally, summer is upon us and the volatile spring weather has gone. So we got to planting our vegetable garden!

Without fail, within 24 hours of planting our vegetables, this happened:

Blasted rabbit. I spotted a wild rabbit or two when we first moved in but thought nothing of it when we planted our garden--except that we shouldn't plant strawberries since it'll be a waste of time since the rabbits or the birds would get to the fruit before we could.

So, to solve our rabbit problem we had to cage in our vegetables.

It worked so well, that within three weeks, we got our first harvest! Mostly lettuce and arugala. When I would try to grow this in California, it would bolt in a blink of an eye and become really bitter. These are quite tender and sweet.

Dressed with a light vinegrette, it makes for a lovely lunch.

Here's to a bountiful harvest this season!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Burrito Bowls

So, I know we're limited in our ethnic food choices here in our small town. I came here with my eyes wide open to that possibility but I didn't expect to miss Mexican food sooooo much. I'm talking simple stuff like rice & beans, tacos, salsa.

Secret Agent Man and I decided to try a Mexican restaurant in town--it's a chain that will remain nameless. The food itself was pretty good as haole Mexican can get but the experience here has everything to do with the college kids working there.

We have to show our IDs at the door (as you can imagine, lots of drinking gets done here) and get seated at a booth. We take a look at the menu and Secret Agent Man asks the waiter, "is there something here like Chile Verde?" The waiter is a bit stunned for a second and asks "what exactly is Chile Verde?" Of course, I start laughing and Secret Agent Man has to stutter out "green sauce" with a straight face. We're in a Mexican restaurant that hasn't ever heard of Chile Verde. Hmm...not a good sign. But we chose a carnitas enchilada and told them to make it with their tomatillo sauce so we got something pretty close to Chile Verde.

To make matters worse, another group comes in and is seated next to us. We were having an early dinner so it really was only us and that other group. The other group consisted of adult Korean nationals and when the waiters asks them if they had any questions or if they wanted to order, one of them asks for a "Burrito Bowl." Of course, that waiter was all confused. Now, in California, they wouldn't blink an eye at this request since many people like to eliminate the tortilla to reduce carbs or for whatever reason. Secret Agent Man was thinking--"this isn't Beef Bowl!"

I know what the waiters were thinking---"What's up with these Asians!" At least we were asking for something Mexican....

I was THAT person

You know when you're sitting on a plane waiting for take off and that harried passenger runs up on the plane within two minutes of take off? And all you can think is "man, that person should get it together!" Yeah, that was me...

I arrived at the airport TEN MINUTES before take off. Who does that?? We underestimated how long it would take to get to the airport from home--it seems like it's only 10 minutes but ended up taking a good 30 minutes. Of course I had a bag to check. BUT get this, the airport is small enough that I could run up to the window next to the boarding area, wave at an agent, and get her to come out and check me in. Again, WHO DOES THAT?? Not only did she check my bag, but she took care of everything and told me to run to the gate and she didn't give me one ounce of attitude. LOVE HER.

Granted, running to the gate means going through security and taking 5 steps to the doorway to the tarmac. But since it's such a small airport, it took me 30 seconds to go through security, even with them performing their duties to the fullest. And everyone was super nice even at 6 in the morning. I just can't believe how nice and lucky I was. There's no way you could get onto the airplane arriving 10 minutes prior to take off at any other airport. I love flying out of our local airport. =)