Saturday, May 21, 2011

2nd Annual Brown Bag Challenge

A few weeks ago I led a group of energetic staff of the R.Kirk Landon Learning Center in their 2nd Annual Brown Bag Challenge. The idea was for them to use their creative minds and make an appetizer using all of the ingredients in the brown bag they selected. When we did this last year, I took much of what they needed in way of tools and small equipment, but this year, I just brought knives for them to use. There is a small kitchen at the center so I knew that they could find whatever else they needed. Like the outcome of last year's challenge, this year's was just a spectacular.

I have an outcome in mind when I am putting the individual bags together and it is always interesting to see if the group comes up with what I had in mind. Some do, adding their own twist to it, and some don't, which then gives me new ideas.

As with last year, they were tired after a long day and seemingly a bit leery about the whole challenge, but within minutes of choosing their bag and getting to their work area, they are back into full swing. The laughter and craziness was non-stop for the next 45 minutes. It was so much fun to go from group to group and interact with them. The group that had the dessert bag was having a bit of a time deciding how to whip the heavy cream and were just about to head to the kitchen to see if a hand mixer could be found when I shared with them that they could easily whip the cream by hand with a whisk in a matter of minutes. They did and were so surprised of the ease! They later told me that they were going to do this with their kids at the center. What a great learning experience!

At the end of the 45 minutes, each group had to present their dish. They had to tell what items were in their bags and what their final product was. I only wish I had a video of the group that rapped about their dish! I laughed until I had tears in my eyes!

I went from group to group taking "action" photos. Unfortunately my camera battery died at the start of the event so I was left to use the camera on my Blackberry, which doe not always take great pictures. I apologize.

Here is a picture of their creations as they presented them.

Upper left: Veggie sushi rolls
Upper right: Parmesan pizza bites
Right middle: Tomato bruschetta
Lower right: Creamy hummus and pita points
Lower left: Puff pastry "shortbread" with strawberries and whipped cream

Looking forward to our 3rd Annual Brown Bag Challenge next year!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

CSA - Community Supported Agriculture

I have known about CSA's (Community Supported Agriculture) for some time, but have never participated in them until this year. For those who do not know much about CSA's, here's what says about them:

Over the last 20 years, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) has become a popular way for consumers to buy local, seasonal food directly from a farmer. Here are the basics: a farmer offers a certain number of "shares" to the public. Typically the share consists of a box of vegetables, but other farm products may be included. Interested consumers purchase a share (aka a "membership" or a "subscription") and in return receive a box (bag, basket) of seasonal produce each week throughout the farming season.

I went into this venture knowing that I will be paying a bit more for my vegetables than if I purchased them from the grocery store, due to the farmer using organic practices. I am okay with this.

My first CSA pickup was last Saturday. I have used some of the vegetables up already, like the carrots, but for the most part I have been able to stretch the rest of them out. We still have sugar snaps, a small head of broccoli, green onions, chives, oregano, lettuce and bokchoy left for this next week.

One of the natural things to make with these goodies is a stir fry. I used the bokchoy, broccoli, green onions, carrots and sugar snaps and added garlic, ginger, cremini mushrooms, water chestnuts, a splash of soy sauce and dark sesame seed oil. A quick stir and served over steamed rice made for a delicious and low calorie meal.

I also had some spot sticker wrappers in the fridge left over from a cook day so I decided to make pot stickers to go along with the stir fry. I don't really have a recipe but here's how I made mine.

No-recipe Vegetarian Pot Stickers
Make about 12

8 or 9 cremini mushrooms, destemmed, cleaned, and chopped
about 1/2 cup shredded napa cabbage
about 1/2 cup shredded carrots
1 or 2 green onions, chopped (both green and white part)
about 1 tablespoon Hosin Sauce
splash of soy sauce
Pinch of red pepper flakes
small clove garlic, finely minced

You want to have about 2 cups of the filling when you are finished.

Put about 1 tablespoon of filling in the middle of the wrappers. With your finger, wet the edge of the wrapper. Fold the wrapper in half and press the edges together.

Using a steamer basket sprayed with non-stick spray, steam the wrappers over a small amount of simmering water for 10-12 minutes. Do this in batches so as to not crowd the pot stickers. Keep the cooked pot stickers warm in a low heated oven.

I made a dipping sauce to go along with the pot stickers. I used soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, minced garlic, minced ginger, sugar, thinly sliced tops of green onions, and a bit of black pepper. Stir and serve.

I can't wait to see what next week's CSA share will have in it. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

April in Pictures

I knew that I had not posted in a while, but was really surprised to see that it had been an entire month! April was a very busy and very good month for my business...cookdays, crockpot set ups, private events, teaching at Viking, and family.  I'd like to have few more months like it. Here's what April looked like in pictures.

Cooking away on a very old stove!

Caramelized pears over baked Camembert with endive spears and baguette slices
Glazed Brussels Sprouts with Almonds


First CSA offereing of the year

Korean Short Ribs over Steamed Rice


Pre-prom Picture Party

One of my clients raises chickens and these are some of their eggs! Beautiful!

Client freezer after a cookday. This client lives on the 39th floor or a 40 floor high rise!

Making a new sidewalk