Friday, August 28, 2009

Produce Overload and Planning Ahead

Oh my, if being here for almost two weeks has taught me anything (unrelated to chemistry), it is that I do enjoy a good Farmers Market. Until recently, I had not attended a good weekend market since the beginning of May! For me, this is an unbelievable oddity. Here, there is so much great produce that I almost don't know what to do with myself and I'm in danger of buying more than I can eat in a week. But there is a solution for that...

I've been trying to plan ahead and stock up my freezer with in season produce and quick meals, though the quick meals are still a little lacking. (I blame this on the fact that I've been eating rather simply while the produce is still in season and very fresh.) I got an extra two pounds of tomatoes last weekend and made some pasta sauce from scratch, blended together an olive oil and basil base for quick pestos or sauce additions, as well as chopped up and froze some hot peppers. As soon as I spot red bell peppers at the market, I am going to snatch them up to freeze as well. (The lack of sighting might be due to the fact that I visited the market rather late the past two weekends...)

Tonight, a batch of V'con vodka tomato sauce was thrown together, and I think that the block of tofu in my fridge is begging to be made into cashew ricotta for either pizza or calzones; I can't decide. Any leftover dough will be saved and frozen for later use. Once fall starts, not that I want the warm weather to go away any time soon, I'll make sure to make a bunch of fresh soups and freeze them as well. I want to be fully prepared for when the semester gets crazy and, heaven forbid, I don't have the time to spend an hour or two in the kitchen on a regular basis. It is bound to happen since I started mapping out the semester today to see when intense lab grading weeks fall at the same time as tests and other busy times for my own classes. Oh, the life of a first year grad student...

As a bonus, here is a lovely view from my excursion last Sunday to the state park in Watkins Glen!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Ithaca Beginnings

Well, I've officially moved to Ithaca, NY. I'm excited that this is my place of residence for the next five years not only for the vegan friendly-ness but for the nature as well. My new apartment is so cute in a 1920's arts and crafts style house with the original wooden doorways and window frames! I've also got a very nice sized kitchen with lots of cabinet space, and a gas stove.

At least it is a self lighting gas stove, as opposed to the one I used in Berlin last summer. However, as someone who has used electric for most of her life, it takes some getting used to. I've managed to cook some simple meals as I am still getting used to how long it takes for things to heat up and such. My very first meal in the new kitchen wasn't even picture worthy as it was a thrown together curry of sorts with rice noodles. (Plus, I hadn't figured out that I could still have the burner on and not be on the high setting, silly me.)

So, my first real meal consisted of sauteed chard with tomatoes and fingerling potatoes with a spicy mustard/thyme/caper seasoning. My, my is the potato dish addicting. I meant to save half of it for my lunch the next day, but I couldn't help myself from eating it all. Apparently I have a new food addiction/craving once I get more potatoes. Plus, the meal was made from produce exclusively from the Saturday Farmer's Market!

In other news, I finally bought a copy of Vegan Brunch! I had received a gift card for my birthday and acquired it after a random trip to the bookstore on Saturday. I'm really excited to start trying out recipes. My first foray consisted of highly modifying the mushroom and tomato stuffing for the Poblano pepper recipe. Despite my tweaks and serving it over millet, it was quite the delicious meal.

And as a little extra on Ithaca; check out these photos that I took while walking/hiking the Cascadilla gorge. There are so many beautiful nature areas here, and I hope to take advantage of them before my study schedule gets super busy!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

cherries, cherries everywhere

Last weekend my family took a mini vacation in Door County, WI when picking up my younger brother from his jazz band camp. Located on the WI peninsula jutting out into lake Michigan, this county is also known for producing as much as 13 million pounds of cherries every year. Luckily, it was the peak of the growing season, and you could find multiple pick your own farms while driving along the highway.

I got to go picking twice. The first time was with my dad just south of the town Egg Harbor, where we were staying. Picking your own is great fun as you just get handed a bucket and told to have fun! It was such a great activity, and the loaded cherry trees were absolutely gorgeous. In an hour, we each had filled a bucket of our own. The buckets are a great deal as you get several pounds of cherries. At this stand we only paid $6 per bucket, which is almost a steal considering how much they are in the grocery store.

The next day we went picking with the entire family just south of Sturgeon Bay. Again, the whole family worked on two buckets, and this farm even had ladders for pickers to use to get the higher up fruit. The buckets here were $8, but averaging $7 isn't such a bad deal. One of those bags was left with my Aunt whom we visited on the way home.

Now, what is one to do with so many cherries? Well, if you are going to bake with them, then you have to pit them. I was too lazy to buy a cherry pitter, so I used the curved end of a bobby pin. It worked out really well, actually, as the curve was just the right size to grab the pit if you go in through the stem hole. Plus, the cherries look nicer since you only have a hole on one side (if you are good and don't rip them open in the process...). After several hours pitting, two buckets of cherries were frozen to be used later in the fall and winter. Those two buckets produced 10 quart sized bags, which is a lot of cherries.

The other bucket of cherries is being used this week in a variety of ways. Yesterday about two cups were combined with a half cup of sugar and two tablespoons of corn starch to make a compote for serving over french toast. It was my first time using the fronch toast recipe from Vegan with a Vengeance, and I was pleased, especially after adding a little vanilla extract and cinnamon so that they tasted like the french toast of my childhood.

Even more cherries were used this evening in a cherry cobbler along with the addition of two peaches on one side. Served with some quick banana ice cream (frozen bananas and a little soy milk blended together) for myself, it was the perfect summer evening snack.