Monday, September 26, 2011

Ah fall...

The leaves started to fall this weekend. We had 3 weeks of summer this year and it didn't start until after school began. So my classroom was a billion degrees for the first three weeks of school (AC was broken, of course) and then today it was freezing, I had to wear my Northface, that is how you really know it is fall (obviously as the temperature dips, the AC magically gets fixed).

By the way, if you couldn't tell, Atticus loves the fall.

End of the garden time always means lots and lots of zucchini. Of course, I did not have any because my garden stunk. However, they are very very cheap at the farmer's market so I didn't feel too guilty about buying and not growing. I really wanted to make a quick bread that didn't have too much sugar and I could put some healthy ingredients in for a quick b-fast.

Here is what I came up with...(I made some adaptations to a regular zucchini recipe):

1 egg
1/2 vegetable oil
3/4 c. sugar
1 c. grated zucchini (2 medium zucchinis)
1/2 t. vanilla
1 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 t. baking powder
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1 and 1/2 t. apple pie spice (or a mix of cinnamon, nutmeg, etc.)
1/2 c. flaked unsweetened coconut
1/2 c. walnuts (I used more because I love walnuts)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a loaf pan. In a mixing bowl combine the egg, oil, sugar, vanilla, and zucchini in a medium bowl.
In another bowl, combine the flours, baking powder and soda, salt, apple pie spice, coconut and walnuts. Pour the dry mixture into the wet mixture and stir until just moistened.
Pour into the pan. Bake for 1 hour (check at 45 minutes with a toothpick). Let cool and eat.
I apologize for not taking a "done" picture, I forgot and then I ate the entire loaf (not in one sitting). But trust me, it was golden and delicious.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Scales, Ales, and Sneaky Pesto

Last Friday Erik and I attended a fundraiser at the Audubon Aquarium. Yes, now that we live in New Orleans we are the type that attends fundraisers. Next thing you know we will be lunching and summering and verbing all sorts of other nouns.
Scales and Ales attracted us because one: all you can eat and drink, and two: the opportunity to see penguins. Also it raised money for sea turtles and marine mammals, which seems like a good thing.
It was very dark and crowed at the event, so I don't have a lot of great pictures. But we ate donuts (from blue dot!), gorgonzola cheesecake, beignets, tomato crostini, kettle corn, cupcakes, hot dogs (Erik), and had many glasses of wine and beer.
I pet a snake, but we didn't get a shot of that. Me petting a giant fake clam will have to stand in.
Please excuse my Michelle Bachmann eyes.
A childhood dream come true for me.

This fellow was an all white alligator.
The sponsors of the Gulf of Mexico tank...
On to the sneaky pesto!
We had pizza night last week and of course I used my never-fail quick pizza crust recipe. But the sauce, oh the sauce is where the innovation came in. 
Just about my favorite color.
Broccoli Pesto 
Inspired by a recipe from an old copy of Sunset Magazine

2 cups frozen broccoli florets 
1/3 cup walnuts
1 big handful of fresh basil
2 garlic cloves
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1/4 t. salt

Turn oven on to 400 degrees. Toast walnuts on a baking sheet for 4 minutes. Watch these carefully! Meanwhile defrost the broccoli and drain excess water. In a food processor (or magic bullet) pulse to combine broccoli, nuts, basil, garlic, and oil until relatively smooth. Add cheese and salt and blend until well mixed. There, you have sneaky broccoli pesto!

This stuff was addictive. I might make a double batch next time and have it over pasto or quinoa. We topped our pesto pizza with mushrooms, olives, and fresh mozzarella and baked it at 450 for 12 minutes.  Delicious! 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Donuts and Meat Sticks

Since moving to New Orleans Erik and I have developed a Saturday morning tradition of heading to the Crescent City Farmer's Market. Last week we decided to make a small detour before stocking up on the healthy treats like okra, peppers, and tomatoes.

I'm not sure where we first read about Blue Dot Donuts, but both of us became a bit obsessed with the idea of trying them. I'm not even that huge of a donut fan - I usually prefer a croissant or pastry - but the reviews and promise of 50 donut varieties convinced me that we NEEDED Blue Dot Donuts.

So on Saturday we stopped by to stuff our faces with sugary friend dough before going to buy local vegetables. Blue Dot Donuts is pretty cute on the outside, with a nice welcoming sign. (The Name Blue Dot comes from the fact that it is owned by 3 NOLA cops).

The menu is so extensive we had a hard time choosing which ones to try. I wanted a red velvet donut but sadly they were sold out. We settled on 5 to try. (Yes, we ate 5 donuts between 2 people in a single sitting, WHAT OF IT?)
I had the Dulce de Leche and the chocolate glazed with coconut. The donuts themselves were quite good. You could tell they were freshly baked, light, very fluffy. The toppings didn't do it for me however. They were both too sweet (I know, it's a freaking donut), and tasted too much like canned frosting. I was disappointed with myself for not going with my instincts and trying the basic glazed. Next time!

Erik loved his maple glazed with bacon. I think he ate it in 3 bites. I don't even remember him eating the blueberry cake but it got gobbled up at some point - probably when I was sneaking some bites of the peanut butter and jelly.

They also sell donut ice cream sandwiches (why have I not thought of this?!?) which I for sure want to try next time.

Post donuts and market we stopped by the New Orleans Seafood Festival so Erik could get some meat on a stick. I think it was some type of shrimp? I will leave you with the following pictorial representation of how that went.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The garden miracle...

Look at all the amazing produce that my garden presented me! Yet not. As my students say,"Oh Mrs. Longoria, quit clowning me."
I have to admit that only about 1/3 of the tomatoes are mine and pretty much nothing else came from my garden. The rest is from the lovely little German grandmother who lives next door to us. What did I do wrong? Which gardening god did I tick off? What can I do to appease the universe's karma?
It is finally hot enough for tomatoes to start taking off, but wait, it is Sept. which means in 2 weeks the frost date will arrive andgrowing season will be over.
I digress...
In good news, my back to school whoopie pies are delicious. I made a bunch, wrapped them individually and keep them in my freezer to put in my lunch each day (and, of course, I shared with other fellow teachers). I used an official whoopie pie pan, which looks sort of like a shallow muffin pan. However, I have been told by many people that you can scoop out the batter like cookie dough and drop it on a sheet pan for a more free-form pie. The middle (or the whoop of the pie as Daniel likes to call it) is good 'ole fashion marshmallow fluff straight from Beantown.
Here is what I used for my "back to school red velvet whoopie pies":
3 c. flour
1/3 c. cocoa powder
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1/2 c. unsalted butter
1/2 c. crisco
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 c. regular sugar
3 t. vanilla extract
10 drops red food coloring (more or less if you prefer)
1 c. buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease whatever sort of cookie sheet or pan you are using.
Mix together: flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl and set aside. Beat together in a separate bowl: butter, crisco and both types of sugar. Mix on low until just combined then increase the speed to medium and beat until fluffy (4-5 minutes). Next, add one egg at a time while beating the batter. Add food coloring and vanilla. Next, add half of the flour mix and 1/2 c. buttermilk to the batter, after it has incorporated into the batter, and the rest of the flour mix and buttermilk.
Use a cookie scoop and put about 2 tablespoons of batter into each cup of the whoopie pie pan (or see above if you do not have this pan). Bake for 10 minutes. Here is my warning as I over baked about 1/4 of my pies :( Check at 8 minutes and do a toothpick test. As oven is on longer, the latter batches will cook faster. Burnt whoopies=a sad baker.
Fill with marshmallow fluff, jam, or cream cheese.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Rain, wind, and chard...oh my!

I survived my first tropical storm this weekend. In all honestly it was pretty much a bust. Heavy rain and wind but not much else. The glorious consequence of Tropical Storm Lee is the lovely weather it left in its wake. Today's high was 80 degrees. 80 degrees. Without a doubt the best day I have experienced in New Orleans. I even went for a run in the afternoon. It felt like a nice spring day back in Boston.

My "garden" didn't much like the torrential downpours and lack of sun, but I think everything will survive. Last week I even had my first mini harvest. I planted the chard seeds too closely so I pulled some out in order to thin them a little.
Like I said, the harvest was very mini
As soon as I pulled them out my mind filled with ideas about what to do with my bounty. Make an amuse-bouche salad? Use them to garnish my tacos? Feed the world's smallest rabbit? Friends, when you have half an ounce of baby chard on hand the possibilities are endless. I elected to stay true to my roots (heh) and use them for a green smoothie!
Baby chard, beets, frozen bananas, frozen cherries, yogurt 
I have been exploring our new neighborhood and last week I tried out the local bakery. La Boulangerie is really cute from the outside and I was wowed by the delicious smells emanating from the interior. However the rest of the visit was a disappointment. My experience with the the staff seems typical of the complaints on yelp. Rude people who ignored me for 5 minutes so they could yak to one another (I was the only person in the store at the time.) I picked out an olive loaf and an almond croissant (my favorite pastry treat.) Sometimes you get olive bread and there are 3 tiny pieces in the whole loaf so I was pleased to see several whole large olives throughout the loaf.
Overall the loaf was just ok. A little too rustic for my tastes but not terrible. It made me miss being in Milwaukee and the lovely soft chewy olive bread at Breadsmith's.

The almond croissant was another story. I was MAD I wasted a pastry eating session on that abomination. It was like they took a regular croissant and dunked it it simple syrup. Then they threw a bunch of almonds and powdered sugar on top. Grr.
This will haunt me
But enough with the whining! I will leave you all with a simple recipe (an idea really) that I have been gobbling up lately.

Sweet Potato, Kale, Black Bean, and Goat Cheese Burritos

1. Cook a sweet potato (oven or microwave, boy's choice)
2. Steam some kale in veggie broth for 5 - 7 minutes (I used miso paste instead of broth)
3. Rinse and drain a can of black beans.
4. Mash up the black beans and sweet potato. This will warm the beans at the same time.
5. Add bean/sweet potato mixture to tortillas and top with drained kale and goat cheese.
6. Nom nom nom.