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Monday, May 30, 2011

Meatless Monday: Eggs and Asparagus Two Ways in 15 Minutes & Nursery Beginnings

Apologies for not getting this post to you sooner.  This long weekend has been relaxing and renewing for me, and I've wanted to soak up every minute of it, which I just can't do in front of the computer.

This is the issue with being a food blogger who loves seasonal produce:  the time of the year that I have the most to talk about (now-November) is also the time that I have the least interest in sitting in front of a computer.

Don't pity me too much.  I have been going to farmer's market, tending our backyard plots (between bouts of rain) and reading this book voraciously.  (It's getting really hard to read books like this and keep my day job.  I hadn't heard of a saltwater farm, where the farmer's land includes the sea in front of their property, before reading this book but now I feel the strong urge to leave everything I've ever known and buy one.)

We've been busily preparing for the baby girl, too.  Last night, at 21 weeks and 3 days into this whole thing, Tim finally got to feel the baby kick.  The expression on his face is a memory that I expect to replay in my mind for the rest of my life.  I'll never forget the moment I first felt her move inside me, when the whole pregnancy suddenly became physical after months of feeling like it was all in my head.  Now we spend entirely too much time with both hands on my belly trying to coax her into another big kick.

I also spent a full day hitting up five thrift stores with my mother getting the nursery ready.  My parents are gifting us the crib, and we were lucky enough to find almost everything we need for the room for very little money.  We found a beautiful vintage rocker for only $30.  I'll make a cushion and pillow to make it softer, but it's already surprisingly comfortable.

DSC02068We're using this bird print for inspiration and trying to pick the perfect shade of robin's egg blue for the room.  I am absolutely terrible at choosing paint colors and will leave the final decision up to Tim and the bff.

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We found some lace curtains for $3 each and will be combining them with white shades to keep the light out.  I just love their scalloped edges.  The boxes will be painted white and filled with little books, and hung in a different way.

DSC02071We found this pretty little mirror but don't know where it'll go yet.  (You can almost see my little bump in this picture...)  The rose mirror was a Christmas gift and should go perfectly in this room.  That scroll of paper is old bathroom wall paper and I'm adamant about finding a place for some of it in this room.

DSC02072We also found a big gold mirror at Goodwill, and will hang it above this dresser which will double as a changing table.  The dresser was a hand-me-down from my mother, who refinished it years ago.

DSC02073I know lots of new parents walk into a store and buy a set of matching furniture, but this is just not our style.  I like a room to look personal and most of all simple, so we're letting each little piece come to us as it will.  We still have a few months before we have to worry too much about having everything all ready, and know she'll be spending the first few weeks in our bedroom with us anyway, so putting the nursery together has been more fun than I expected it to be.

Oh and speaking of baby, here's her profile.  You can see her BRAIN, and that's her hand on the right.

Cropped

All this nesting and gardening has made me hungry but also exhausted, so I've been throwing together simple meals with two of the best parts of spring: eggs and asparagus.  We're lucky to be able to get good local pastured eggs all year, but asparagus is very much a fleeting treat and it's finally at its peak here.  We bought a bunch from Echollective (a farm that is, no exaggeration, 10 blocks from my house) and used it for three dinners straight.

First I'll share photos and instructions for these two quick dinners, and then, since Jill asked for it (read her blog!)  I'll post the recipe for the frittata but don't have pictures since it got composed and eaten far too quickly.

Dinner one is as basic as it gets: scrambled eggs.

Scrambled Eggs with Spinach and Asparagus

For each serving:

2 eggs

2-4 stalks asparagus

1 large handful fresh spinach  (you can use frozen if you want, but be sure to drain it very well)

1/2 shallot or green onion

2 tbsp. milk or cream (non-dairy alternatives are fine)

1-2 tbsp. sour cream or cream cheese (optional)

a handful of herbs, especially chives

salt and pepper

DSC02044Note: It's always best to have your eggs and dairy at room temperature.  Leave them out for around half an hour before you start cooking and you'll have much better results.  They won't stick to the pan as much, and will blend with other ingredients more easily.

You'll have to decide the ratio of green to egg that you prefer.  I'm mostly interested in the green stuff here, so the eggs just barely brought everything together.  If you prefer mostly eggs with the vegetables as a complement, halve the greens or increase the eggs.

Fresh spinach from the market is so dark and green, not to mention full of iron.

DSC02046Cut off the bottom part of the asparagus and remove any length of the end that is woody and hard.  Chop up the stalks into equally sized pieces.  This can be tricky because they're all different, so make sure the thinner stalks are cut into longer pieces and the thicker ones are shorter.  The tips also cook more quickly than the stalks.  Slice up the shallot.

I cook my eggs in cast iron because it's the best non-stick surface I have.  I don't cook with teflon, and a properly seasoned cast iron skillet works just as well.  (Though it is a major pain to photograph because it sucks up light like a black hole, so apologies for the less than stellar photos.)

Melt 1-2 tbsp. butter or oil in the pan and add the asparagus and shallot.  Season with salt and pepper.

DSC02056Once the shallots are starting to melt and the asparagus is bright green but still firm, add your chopped spinach leaves.  They will begin to wilt.

As the vegetables are cooking, mix your eggs with your milk and sour cream.  The milk helps keep the eggs moist and light, and the sour cream or cream cheese gives them richness.  (Again, these will come together much more easily if they are all at room temperature.  If the sour cream is cold, it will be very difficult to whisk into the eggs.)  If you want to add any herbs, add them to the egg mixture.

Once the spinach is all wilted and the asparagus is as cooked as you like it, pour the eggs evenly throughout the pan, covering all of the ingredients.  Season with salt and pepper.  Let the eggs sit until the bottom layer is fully cooked.  Then, use your spatula to slowly scrape up the bottom layer of eggs while you shake the pan back and forth.  Scraping the eggs will create your 'curd' and shaking the pan will redistribute the uncooked eggs.  Keep repeating this cycle of letting the bottom layer form the curds and scraping it up until everything is just less than cooked through, around one minute.  They will look slightly underdone, but I promise you they will keep cooking once you remove them from the pan.

Sprinkle with cheese if you want, or serve as is with crusty bread.  (Hot sauce wouldn't be a bad idea either.)  Scrambled eggs should be fluffy, light, creamy, and moist.  They should never be browned or firm.

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The second easy egg dinner is one I've featured on here before: baked eggs.  Those baked eggs included bacon and goat cheese, so you should check them out if you're a meat eater.

Baked eggs are a great quick dinner because they're so easy to throw together and it takes the same amount of time to make one as it does to make 20.

Use any oven-safe dish you have, but keep it in proportion to the egg yolk.  These little ramekins hold less than half a cup of liquid.  If you use a bigger container, use more eggs.  You want them to be as deep as the yolk so it's buffered from the heat by white.

Some people bake eggs in a water bath, and this is a great idea because it bakes them more gently and you're less likely to overcook the eggs.  That said, water baths are a pain in the butt and sort of ruin the point of a quick and easy dinner, so I skipped it.

Baked Eggs with Asparagus

Per serving:

1 stalk asparagus

1 egg

1-3 tbsp. dry cheese, grated (Pecorino or Parmesian would be best)

1 tsp. milk

1 tsp. butter

any herbs you like (chives get along really well with eggs)

salt and pepper

Preheat your oven to 350.

Sautee your asparagus in a pan.  If you like onions or shallots, you could include them too.

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Begin by greasing your ramekin with butter or cooking spray.  Add half of the cheese to the bottom.

DSC02015Add your asparagus.

DSC02017Add your egg and your milk.

DSC02019Add some salt and pepper, and cover with the remaining cheese.

DSC02021I love to put a little asparagus tip on top because the leaves get crunchy and delicious, and it just looks special.

DSC02023Put your ramekins on a sheet pan just in case they bubble over.  I do this with most things I bake because it's much easier to clean a sheet pan than the bottom of your oven.

DSC02026Bake the eggs until the whites are cooked almost entirely (remember there's carryover cooking after you pull them out of the oven) and the yolks are still liquidy, for us around 15 minutes.  You can adjust this time to have a more or less done egg.

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Crack into the eggs once they're cooled a bit with a spoon, and serve with crusty bread.

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We had ours with a big plate of radishes since we're up to our ears in them.

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Finally, a quick frittata recipe.  (See my recipe for another asparagus frittata with miso and shitake mushrooms here.)

Spring Frittata

Serves around 10 as a side, 6 as a main.

12 eggs

1/2 c. milk

1/3 c. sour cream or cream cheese

1 bunch asparagus, chopped

1 leek, green parts only, washed thoroughly and thinly sliced

1 shallot or half of a small onion, chopped

1-2 c. crimini mushrooms, sliced

2+1 tbsp. butter

1/4 c. cheese of your choice

salt and pepper

Heat your oven to 350.

Melt the 2 tbsp. butter in your cast iron pan.  Add the onions and leeks, season with salt and pepper, and cook in the butter until they melt.  Once the leeks are translucent but not brown, add the asparagus.

Meanwhile, combine the eggs, milk, and sour cream.  Season well with salt and pepper.

Once the asparagus is cooked to your liking, add the other tbsp. of butter.  Once it's melted, add your egg mixture.  It should come up most of the depth of the pan, leaving around 1 inch between the top of the mixture and the edge of the pan.

Sprinkle the top with cheese and bake until the eggs are cooked through, around 30 minutes.  (Your cooking time may be very different, so check your frittata starting at 20 minutes and every five minutes thereafter.  You can jiggle the pan to check for doneness.  When they're cooked, the eggs in the middle will not wiggle.)

Remove the frittata from the oven and let it cool.  Then slice it up like a pie and enjoy!

Eggs and asparagus are perfect spring foods, and I hope one of these recipes inspires you to make them this week.

 

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Simple Lives Thursday

I'm going to have a quick and easy spring dinner for you that involves eggs, asparagus, and 20 minutes of your time, but it has to wait until tomorrow.  Today, I'm just going to put up the Simple Lives Thursday stuff and let it speak for itself. 

Remember we ladies host:
Annette at Sustainable Eats  


Monday, May 23, 2011

Rhubarb Berry Crisp, plus Gardening and Baby Updates

Greetings everybody! Iowa is welcoming spring with characteristic weather this days, including lots of thunderstorms, (tornadoes already!) humidity, and days of sunshine.  This year, I have two garden plots in the backyard and a friend of mine has been kind enough to lend me a plot at his place.  He has a few raised beds and is lending them out to anybody who is willing to grow food.
DSC01899 While I feel lucky to have the extra space, it's also really great for him because the best thing you can do to improve soil quality is to grow something in it!  The beds are stuffed right now with early crops, including lettuce and radishes.  (Note that this is what happens if you don't properly thin your seedlings.) DSC01895Here's our plot before we dug in.DSC01891And after.  While it doesn't look like much, I hope it will soon.  Each side is lined with lettuce and radish seeds, and there are tomato, pepper, and eggplant seedlings running through the middle. DSC01910 This year, we dug up part of of our front yard for an herb garden.  We squeezed in about eight basil plants here. DSC01954 Along with some jalapenos, fennel, and a rosemary plant you can't see. DSC01985 The potted oregano is thriving. DSC01986 In one of the two backyard plots we squeezed in 18 tomatoes, four peppers, and four kale plants in with the garlic and radishes already growing in there.  Everything in all these photos looks pretty rough because we had a storm earlier in the day, but it meant a lot of rain and heat, and the seedlings managed to survive the winds.DSC01978 It also brought us some after-storm clouds, which are always spectacular. DSC01969 This weekend brought house guests, and luckily one of them is an excellent cook.  My friend Julia and I cooked up a frittata with asparagus, leeks, and mushrooms.  She fried up all the veggies in the cast iron, starting with the asparagus and removing it once it was just green.DSC01914 She dumped it back into the pan before we cooked the frittata in the oven with a good layer of cheese on top. DSC01916 While Julia cooked, I baked.  Baking has a reputation for being fussy, and lacking the freedom to improvise that accompanies regular cooking, but I think this is unwarranted.  Some recipes are very forgiving, and modification comes naturally and easily after you've gained a little know-how through practice.  I saw rhubarb at the farmer's market and knew I wanted to make a cobbler.  Usually I improvise cobblers, but I wanted to give you guys a good recipe to share that is well-tested, so I started with the great Dorie Greenspan.  This recipe is modified from her rhubarb crisp recipe in Baking From My Home to Yours, which you should totally own.


Rhubarb Berry Crisp
adapted from Dorie Greenspan
Crumble:
1 c. white whole wheat flour
1 c. unrefined sugar (you can use brown sugar)
3/4 c. old fashioned oats
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger

5 chunks crystalized ginger (total around 2 tbsp. minced)
1 stick butter, melted and cooled
1/2 c. nuts, chopped (I used half walnuts and half almonds)

Filling:
1 c. strawberry jam (or make your own quick strawberry jam, using this technique)
3 tbsp. cornstarch
1/2 c. cold water
1 lb. fruit (use a combination of rhubarb and sweeter fruits, fresh or frozen.  I used 5 stalks rhubarb, 1/2 c. frozen sour cherries, and 1/2 c. frozen raspberries.)

Begin by greasing a 9 in baking dish.  I used an oval dish. Combine the dry ingredients for the crumble (from the flour to the ginger) DSC01918Mince the crystalized ginger.  Yours might be hard, so boil it or let it sit in warm water for a couple minutes to soften.  (The liquid from it makes a great tea if you're having digestive trouble, too.) DSC01922
Combine the ginger with the melted butter.
DSC01924Mix these and the nuts into your dry mixture with a fork.  Press half of this into the bottom of the pan, reserving the other half for topping. DSC01927Sprinkle your fruit on top. DSC01929Grab your jam.  This has been waiting to be used since I made those peanut butter pancakes. DSC01931Make your assistant combine the cornstarch and cold water into a slurry and then combine this with the jam in a pan and heat just until it boils and starts to thicken. DSC01932Pour the jam mixture over the fruit and sprinkle the remaining crumble mix on top. DSC01936Bake at 350 for 45-60 minutes.  The top should be golden and the fruit should be bubbling out the sides.
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It's best served warm or at room temperature, and with something cold and creamy like vanilla ice cream or fresh whipped cream.
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Finally, we had the big ultrasound this week (I'm 20 weeks into this pregnancy already, can you believe it?)  to make sure the baby has everything in the right place and to find out the sex.  My mother and sister both had strong feelings that it was a boy, and I really wanted to surprise them when we finally found out.   So I made some cupcakes and stuffed them with frosting based on what we saw on the ultrasound and let them dig in at my sister's birthday party this weekend.  Here's everybody getting ready to take a bite.
DSC01939Iphone photo of what they saw when they dug in:
Cupcake
And the reaction shot.  Notice Vanessa's excitement at being completely wrong, and that my mother is totally cheating by just ripping hers open instead of taking a bite.  (She's Nana though, so she can go what she wants.  She eventually ate this cupcake and one more later on, so I wasn't offended.)
And yes, my nephew was quick to voice his disappointment and quickly told my sister that she needed to get pregnant again soon and this time make sure it's a boy, ok?DSC01940So, now you're up to date with the big news that we're having a little girl.  I hope big things are happening in your kitchens and gardens, too, this spring.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Rosie's Best Sampling Event, and Simple Lives Thursday

Greetings y'all!
It's been a crazy week and this post has to be a quick one because my internet connection is being extra fussy. 
I spent all day yesterday preparing for my very first sampling event at the New Pioneer Food Cooperative in downtown Iowa City.
This involved making some fresh peanut butter
and coconut butter
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and lots of great smells.
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I love working with these ingredients.
DSC01878I set up my little table and sampled granola along with some local yogurt.
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I got lots of great feedback and made quite a few sales.  My favorite part was definitely getting called "Rosie" over and over.  Some people were curious about the nutrition, others were impressed that granola could taste so good.  I felt really lucky to have people understand and appreciate what I'm doing, so you can be sure that there will be more sample events in the future. (and of course I'll give better notice here!)
Time to get to this week's blog hop!  First, the featured posts, and then the linky at the bottom.  Take a look around and link up!

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