Tomato Pie

While the pie was a rousing success, I failed totally on getting a picture of it with my “real” camera. In my defense, I feel that I did well to bake a pie on a workday and still make it to work without forgetting shoes or the baby. I guess I’ll be forced to bake another one for photography purposes…

When I joined my CSA, I immediately began pinning recipes to try with my newfound vegetable wealth. And I knew from the start that Tomato Pie would be one of them. I’d never actually eaten Tomato Pie but I have a friend who loves it and I’d seen the recipe before in a magazine. I chose to use Paula Deen’s recipe. When I’m looking for a good ole Southern/country recipe, I start with my mom and if she doesn’t have the answer I turn to Paula. I don’t consider myself a Paula fan really but in her early years of Food Network, before she became so orange and loud and over the top with the butter and the accent, she was just a good ole country cook that I enjoyed watching. I’ve tried and loved many of her early recipes.

I lightened this recipe up a little and I can’t say that it suffered any. It was gobbled up in a half hour by my co-workers and me. Tomato Pie was a new experience for them as well and reviews were positive. I did neglect to notice though that I was supposed to peel the tomatoes. It didn’t hurt the taste any to have the peel on them but it did make it a little more awkward to slice.

I used tomatoes and green onions from my CSA.

Tomato Pie

Ingredients

4 tomatoes, peeled and sliced
10 fresh basil leaves, chopped (or 1 tsp dried basil)
1/2 cup chopped green onion
1 (9-inch) prebaked deep dish pie shell
1 cup grated mozzarella
1 cup grated reduced fat sharp cheddar
¾ cup light mayonnaise
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the tomatoes in a colander in the sink in 1 layer. Sprinkle with salt and allow to drain for 10 minutes. The salt will help bring out the liquid in your tomatoes. Pat dry with paper towels. If your tomatoes are too wet, your pie will be soggy so don’t skimp on the patting.

Layer the tomato slices, basil, and onion in pie shell. Season with salt and pepper. Combine the grated cheeses and mayonnaise together. Spread mixture on top of the tomatoes and bake for 30 minutes or until lightly browned.

To serve, cut into slices and serve warm.

Adapted from this recipe by Paula Deen.

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Fresh Strawberry Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

All good things must come to an end and so it is with strawberry season. I decided to close out the streak of strawberry laden CSA boxes with this cake recipe that I found on The Country Cook’s website. The frosting recipe that accompanied seemed a little lacking in cream cheese for my taste so I drug my old faithful Betty Crocker cookbook and used that recipe instead.

Not only did this cake turn out delicious, it’s also very pretty. It would make great cupcakes too. And a new summer tradition is born…

Fresh Strawberry Cake
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1 box vanilla, white or yellow cake
1 3oz box of strawberry Jell-O
4 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup water
1 cup crushed fresh strawberries*

Preheat oven to 350. Spray a 9×13 baking pan with cooking spray.

In a bowl, combine cake mix and Jell-O and stir until combined. Stir in oil, eggs and water. I used an electric mixer to get everything mixed up well. Then, stir in the strawberries. Gently mix in with a spoon until strawberries are mixed throughout batter. Pour into pan and bake 30 to 35 minutes until done. Test for doneness by using a toothpick; if it comes out clean, your cake is done. Let cake cool completely before frosting.

*To obtain a cup of crushed strawberries, you will need about a pint of fresh strawberries. Wash them, pat dry, cut off the stems, and slice in half, then put them in a heavy Ziploc bag. You can then crush them with a rolling pin or with your hands. These farm fresh strawberries were so tender that I was able to crush them just by squeezing the bag with my hands. Store bought strawberries may be a little more resistant.

Cream Cheese Frosting

1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 cups powdered sugar

Beat cream cheese, milk and vanilla in medium bowl with electric mixer on low speed until smooth. Gradually beat in powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time, until smooth and spreadable. Resist the urge to stick your head in the bowl and eat all of the frosting because it will occur.

CSA Adventures…A little green and a lot of bacon

There’s an amazing recipe for Fresh Strawberry Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting coming soon. But first, so that you won’t think I’m turning all of my CSA goodies into baked goods, let me share what else has been going on.

A couple of weeks ago, the CSA bag began filling with greens. While mustard greens remain one of the few foods I cannot stomach, I’m pretty open to other green, leafy veggies. The first one that I decided to tackle was this beautiful Swiss Chard.

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My first rule of cooking is “When in doubt, ask Mom.” And my mother didn’t fail me. She told me I could prepare my chard in a manner similar to how I would prepare spinach. I felt confident going into this that I could conquer any vegetable with enough butter and bacon grease. Sticking true to that, I fried a couple of pieces of lean center cut bacon, then sautéed my chard in the grease. Center cut bacon really doesn’t produce very much grease so it wasn’t nearly as artery clogging as it sounds. Then I grumbled my bacon up with the chard. Mom was right, it tasted very much like spinach to me.

chard

I served it with a meatloaf that I made using fresh sage and oregano from my CSA bounty. I honestly would not have thought to use those herbs in meatloaf but my CSA’s blog suggested it and it was a great suggestion! It really gave the meatloaf a fresh taste.

Another green in the bag that I was more familiar with was red leaf lettuce. I eat a lot of salad so that one seemed like a no brainer. But I decided to experiment a little. Growing up, my mom loved fresh lettuce and green onions from her garden dressed with bacon grease. It wasn’t something she ate often-for the obvious artery clogging reasons-but it was a nice summer tradition. I thought it was repulsive and was shocked when I reached high school and one of my best friends told me how much she loved lettuce, onion and bacon salad.

It turns out that this salad is a fairly beloved delicacy around here. I still wouldn’t try it even after I delivered my bff Starr some fresh lettuce and green onions from Mom’s garden a few summers ago so that she could make a salad. However, I decided that after 37 years (dang, I forget how old I am sometimes!) it was time to try it.

Having been advised by Starr that “cornbread is essential”, I made myself a small skillet of bread (cornbread MUST be round!), and while the bread baked, I worked on my salad. It couldn’t be more simple: chop up lettuce, chop some green onion, fry up some bacon then top salad with bacon and drippings. Serve cornbread on the side, and viola!

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Starr calls this “Killed Salad” while others call it “Wilted Salad”. Because I’m a food and history nerd, I did a little research online and found that Killed (“Kilt”) Salad is a traditional Appalachian salad and is often associated with the mountains of Tennessee. Obviously, it made its way north to Kentucky at some point. Most of what I read confirmed what Starr told me, one must consume this with cornbread.

As you can tell, I’m really enjoying trying some new foods and spending more time in the kitchen!

Strawberry Cream Cheese Bread

Of all of the fruits and veggies that I will encounter in my CSA adventures, I daresay that strawberries will be one of the easiest ones to find recipes for. I had no trouble gathering strawberry recipes and I chose this one because I love bread, and also because it called for buttermilk, which I had on hand from making the Strawberry Cornmeal Muffins.

There are several versions of this recipe out on the inter webs and I used one found at The Baker Upstairs. I made no changes to her recipe; there was no need to! My taste testers told me that they enjoyed the bread even more than the muffins. And they really liked the muffins!
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Strawberry Cream Cheese Bread

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 cups strawberries, rinsed, dried and chopped

Spray a 9×5 inch loaf pan with cooking spray. Using an electric mixer, cream the butter, sugar and cream cheese until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time. Mix in vanilla. In separate bowl, mix flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Blend flour mixture with butter mixture just until blended. Add buttermilk and stir until just combined; do not over mix. Carefully fold in strawberries. Dough mixture will be thick. Bake in a 350°F oven for 50 to 60 minutes.

Shout out to my honey of a hubby who came to my rescue when my stand mixer got out of whack during mid-recipe!

Strawberry Cornmeal Muffins

I’ve been slow getting posts ups because I’ve just been dang busy. But with the long Memorial Day weekend here, I’m finally getting some time to work on the ole blog. I had hoped to update weekly as I receive my CSA boxes but that just hasn’t happened. And frankly, you haven’t missed much. The star of each week has been beautiful, sweet strawberries. It’s just too early in the season for much else.

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My first CSA box came with a sample of Strawberry Cornmeal Muffins. I was a little skeptical. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve eaten enough cornbread in my life to fill a football stadium. But I don’t like mine sweet. It’s one of those things like Coke vs Pepsi, you either like sweet cornbread or not-sweet cornbread. I liked the samples though and decided to make my own using some of my strawberries and the freshly ground cornmeal that came in the box. Because my CSA farmers are awesome, they had emailed us the recipe earlier in the week.

I ended up loving these muffins! When served warm with a little butter, it was just like cornbread with strawberry jam. I took some samples to work and they were a hit. I will definitely be making these again!

Strawberry Cornmeal Muffins

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For 12 regular muffins or 24 mini-muffins
1 cup white cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup granulated sugar, plus a little more for sprinkling on top
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 egg, beaten
¼ cup oil
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup chopped strawberries

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and grease muffin cups or line with cupcake liners.

Sift together dry ingredients, then form a well in the middle of the mixture and add the egg, oil and milk. Stir thoroughly with a whisk or spoon until just combined. Fold in strawberries and pour into muffin cups, about ¾ full. Sprinkle a bit of sugar on top.

For regular muffins bake for 20 minutes, for mini muffins, bake 12-15 minutes. Cool, remove from muffin tins and enjoy.

Try them warm with a dab of butter. And if your idea of a dab is like a tablespoon, well, I won’t judge.

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First CSA Box is here! Now what?

Yesterday, my 16 week journey as a CSA customer began. Here’s my first box:

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I have strawberries, oregano, freshly ground white cornmeal, and dried shell peas. You can also see 3 mini muffins that the farm threw in as a sample. They were made using the corn meal and strawberries.

I admit I felt a little like a Chopped contestant as I looked into my bag even though I knew ahead of time what I would be getting.

I’m planning to make the strawberry corn meal muffins and also strawberry bread.

I found a split pea soup recipe that uses oregano too so I plan to try that. My peas aren’t split peas exactly but I think it will work.

The adventure begins!

To CSA or Not to CSA…

The concept of a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) was relatively unknown to me until the last couple of years. And even then, it seemed like something unlikely to be available in our area. Imagine my surprise when I found out there are actually a couple of CSA farms that deliver in my town-one even delivers to my workplace. I was intrigued! So, when our wellness program at work hosted a “Meet the Farmers” type lunch to allow two local CSA farmers to explain their businesses, I quickly signed up. Plus, you got free lunch. Can’t beat that.

Simply put, a CSA works like this. You, the customer, pay the farmer a fee upfront for a portion of his or her crops for the year. They deliver the food in a weekly box. You eat it. Everyone wins. Still, the farmers were both quick to point out, a CSA is not for everyone. As I mulled it over, here were some factors that influenced my decision making:

Pros:
-It’s just a good thing all the way around. You’re helping a local farmer by buying his/her products and funding him/her upfront to help with farm expenses. You’re getting freshly picked produce that’s organically grown (at least both of the farms who presented are USDA Organic Certified), and that hasn’t traveled hundreds of miles to get to you.
-It’s a chance to try new things. I’m guilty of not being too adventuresome when it comes to vegetables. With a CSA box, you can break out of your comfort zone and try new foods. Kohlrabi anyone?
-My baby boy is just starting to eat solid foods and I make his baby food myself using organic produce. How convinient it would be to have that food delivered to me and to be able to experiment with new foods with him.

Cons:
-It ain’t cheap. You’re looking at a couple of hundred bucks up front to participate. Of course, the CSA season is long: 16 to 22 weeks depending on your farmer. Spread out over the season, the price isn’t that bad. But it still can be a little off putting.
-The pressure is on to cook. The farmers were very clear: If you do not like to cook or do not have time to cook, this is not for you. The veggies keep coming whether you use them or not.
-You are at the mercy of the season and Mother Nature. You don’t pick what comes in your box. You take what they give you depending on what’s available.

After thinking it over and talking it through with my husband, I decided to join up. I’m pretty excited about it to be honest. I look at it as an adventure, a challenge to try new recipes and eat healthier. I also feel like it’s a good thing to do for my little boy. I admit that I’m a little worried that I’ll get over run with cucumbers or that more will end up in my compost bin than my belly. But I want to at least try.

The first box will arrive in May. I’ll be posting my veggie tales here: both good and bad. I’m already pinning recipes to my CSA board on Pinterest.

Have you ever participated in a CSA? Any suggestions?