Wow, I must sound really lazy. I do like going to farmer’s markets, and I love shopping for organic produce at Whole Foods, but there is something pretty nice about getting a box of fresh, organic produce delivered to your door each week.
First, the contents of the box is a surprise (if you want to ruin your surprise, you can check the CSA’s website the prior Friday). I quite like it, though - the excitement - it’s very much like opening a Christmas gift. And it challenges you to try new foods and recipes. I love this part, because we normally buy the same dozen or so produce items, and if I venture out of the norm on my own, the new item runs the risk of getting wasted.
And second, it’s a novel luxury that also supports California organic farms. Love that combination.
Anyways, Farm Fresh to You in the Capay Valley called me a few weeks ago to let me know they were now delivering in our area. I signed up immediately, and had a box of produce the following Wednesday. I ordered the smallest box of fruits and vegetables, at $25/week, but they have a ton of different options to choose from. I thought I’d start at the bottom and work up if we needed to. After two deliveries, I think we’re just fine for our family of 3 (And we’re almost 4! Hence the long hiatus from this project!).
Here’s what was in this week’s box: Navel Oranges (2 lb), Eureka Lemons (1.5 lb), Braeburn Apples (2 lb), Bacon Avocadoes (2), White Mushrooms (0.5 lb), Collard Greens (1 bunch), Red Leaf Lettuce (1 bunch) and Leeks (1 lb). Admittedly, we haven’t used the collard greens, and are not quite sure what we’ll do with them yet. But the lettuce - which we don’t buy on a normal basis (I know, we should!) - Dan has made a nice side salad for us each night, and it feels so good to be eating greens regularly. Their leeks are amazing! We made a creamy potato leek soup last week. Ryan loves the apples, and I got Dan to taste a bit of sauteed mushrooms (he hates them currently but we’re working on that).
In the coming weeks, I will try my best to post photos and the recipes we make from our fantastic boxes of fresh produce!
There’s nothing like fresh baked bread for noshing, with salads and pastas, french toast and pb&j’s. MMM. Dan has been experimenting with our favorite bread of the french baguette variety for over a year now and has come up with a delicious recipe that he’s finally sharing with us!
If you haven’t made bread before, don’t be scared! This isn’t as time consuming as it may seem. You just have to stick around the house while it’s rising. And once you do it a few times, it’ll be second nature.
A few items that will help make this bread come out perfectly:
a stand-up mixer
unbleached bread flour
active dry yeast
a baguette pan (we use this one from Williams-Sonoma)
Dan’s French Bread
Total prep time with two 45-60 minute rises: about 2 hours
Baking time: 25 minutes
2 cups warm water (about 110 degrees)
2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
1 tsp sugar
5 cups + 3 tbsp unbleached bread flour
2 1/2 tsp salt
1 egg white (optional, for shine)
Combine water, sugar and yeast in your mixing bowl and stir by hand a few times. Let sit for 5 minutes, until a little frothy. Here you’re proofing the yeast, to make sure it hasn’t gone bad. Add the flour and salt to the bowl and mix on low until just incorporated. Turn mixer up to medium speed and let it kneed the dough for 8 minutes. Check the dough after 2 minutes; it should be moist and elastic, but not stick excessively to your fingers. If that is the case, add a little more flour.
Remove the dough from the bowl temporarily, and coat the bowl with a non-stick spray. Put the dough back into the bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let it rise for 45-60 minutes at room temperature, or until doubled in size.
Remove the dough from the bowl and punch it down (gently kneed it with your hands to release excess air). Sometimes, just pulling it out of the bowl and moving it around in your hands will do the trick. Don’t fold it or work it too much here. Divide the dough in two equal parts with a dough cutter or sharp knife - but don’t tear the dough.
Next you’ll shape the baguettes. Gently stretch each section of dough, or allow gravity to pull part of it down out of your hands, to form two long baguettes the length of your baguette pan. Spray the pan with non-stick spray and lay the dough baguettes into the pan. Cover with a towel and let rise for 45 minutes. At this point, pre-heat the oven to 400-425 degrees. 400 for a softer crust, 425 will give you a crunchier crust.
If you’d like a shiny crust, lightly brush the egg white wash onto the baguettes before popping them into the oven. If you’d like a rustic crust, leave off the wash. Take a sharp razor blade or knife and make one long slit down the center of each baguette, about 1/8″ deep. Be careful not to press down onto the bread too much, so as not to deflate it. The slit allows for expansion in a controlled way, and also looks mighty nice.
Bake for 25 minutes. Put baguettes immediately onto a cooling rack and let cool for as long as you can wait to slice into it. Ryan and I usually whine right away and Dan cuts us off a piece while it’s still hot. With a little butter - oh the yum.
This absolutely delicious recipe is shared by Elisa, a wonderful mom, wife, teacher, friend and cook…
We just returned from a trip to Turkey where we fell in love with this dish. It is so wonderful I serve it daily. Everyone else loves it, too, even the kids eat it up! It is great eaten immediately and holds well in the refrigerator for days – just like yogurt usually will. I like it best with a medium tart yogurt, and a little heavy on the salt. It is great made with full fat to nonfat yogurt. I especially love it on its own or in a bite with grilled lamb. It has inspired me to explore more ideas with plain yogurt – including making my own. YUM!
Haydari – Turkish yogurt with garlic and dill
(Recipe adapted from Binnur’s Turkish Cookbook)
2 cups creamy yogurt
3 – 5 medium garlic cloves, finely minced
½ tsp salt – to taste
4 tbsp fresh dill, finely chopped
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Pinch of crushed red pepper
Combine all the ingredients. Serve plain or with olive oil on top. Serve as a salad, side dish, or as a dip with pita slices, pita chips, or crudite.
Does anyone belong to a local CSA? Which one? What do you think?
I’ve researched a number of them recently, and am anxious to buy-in, especially if I can get fresh organic produce delivered to my door each week! CSA’s vary so greatly in product variety, price, delivery/pick-up location, that I am just not sure which one (or two!) to go with. At the bottom of the post, I list four local CSA’s, and information on how to subscribe. The pincher with CSA’s (especially with delivery) is that you need to have at least 10 subscribers within the same zip code or neighborhood to get in. SO… if you are at all interested, please submit your interest to the CSA so that more people can join in!
If you’re unfamiliar with CSA’s, here’s a quick run-down. Don’t worry, I didn’t know what they were until about a year ago…
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 farm offers a set number of “shares” to the public. The share generally consists of a box of fruit and/or vegetables, and may also include eggs, flowers or meat. Local consumers can purchase a share (or “subscription”) and in return receive a box of seasonal produce at regular intervals (weekly, monthly, etc) throughout the farming season.
CSA offers many benefits for both the consumer and the farm. Some of these may include…
Benefits for farms:
Add another way to market their product, in addition to farmers markets, restaurant sales, etc.
They often receive payments early in the season, helping with the farm’s cash flow
Have an opportunity to get to know the people who eat the food they grow
Benefits for consumers:
Eat ultra-fresh, often certified organic food
Get exposed to new produce and new ways of cooking
Usually get to visit the farm at least once a season
Develop a relationship with the farmer who grows their food
Here is a list of four local farms with CSA’s. I’m sure there are more of them, but these are the ones most readily accessible.
1. UNDERWOOD FAMILY FARMS currently has 4 CSA programs - Camarillo, Moorpark, VUSD (employees only), and Kaiser Panorama City (employees only). If you can’t participate in one of the current programs, you can submit yourself for a new CSA. Once they receive interest from 10-20 people in your area, they will set up a local delivery point. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
2. RIO GOZO FARM has two distinct CSA programs, a hands-on CSA where subscribers are welcome to join in chores like planting, weeding and harvesting. The farm is at Highway 150 and the Ventura River. Weekly box pickups of the resulting organic produce take place at The Farmer & the Cook, the cafe/bakery/market in Meiners Oaks.
The second CSA program supported by Rio Gozo Farms is a smaller one, designed to serve 45 Ventura families, with pickup sites at Path Tree Yoga on Palm Street and The Art Barn on Thompson Boulevard.
3. MCGRATH FAMILY FARM has a seasonal farm stand in Camarillo at Central Ave. and the 101, and also offers an organic CSA. Subscribers pick up their produce boxes every Tuesday at the stand.
4. FARM FRESH TO YOU is a family-run farm in the Capay Valley that delivers your produce directly to your door. They just started delivering in the Conejo Valley, and not many areas have enough interest to form a delivery route. Once there are 20 interested families in a zip code, delivery in your area will begin. Email them to submit your interest, or check their website to see if your area already has a delivery route scheduled. The delivery fee is included in your subscription, and subscriptions range from $23-110 per box. Bonus with this CSA: you can choose what’s in your box, and you don’t have to commit to any length of time - one week at a time is fine with them.
Written by Renee, Special Contributor
I recently made an awful discovery…I’m gluten intolerant. Truth be told, I suspected it for a long while, I just didn’t want to give up all of that amazing gluten filled food, so I lived in denial. But then there’s nothing like horrible stomach pain and digestive “issues” to push someone out of denial. For a self-proclaimed “foodie” this was a devastating realization. I know that sounds dramatic, obviously there are many, many more horrendous things…but I’m sure those of you who are faced with the same issue are feeling my pain. No more bread, pasta, brownies, cookies, etc…unless I wish to consume one of the myriad of “gluten-free” alternatives out there. Yes, I’m grateful to be living in a time when there truly are a multitude of options, but so far my foray into those options has, with a few exceptions, been less than appetizing.
Being half Italian and growing up in a family where food (specifically pasta) was love, one of my first priorities was to find gluten-free pasta. I tried Trader Joe’s brown rice pasta with less than happy results. Simply put, it was gummy, regardless of my efforts not to overcook it. I then searched a few blogs and found that several recommended Tinkyada, which is another brown rice pasta. I purchased a bag of fusilli and I carefully followed the cooking instructions (as advised by the bloggers). Sadly, I wasn’t impressed. The texture was a little too soft and the taste was well, like brown rice (what a surprise).
Still on the hunt, I ventured into the Simply Gluten Free Specialty Grocery (behind Roxy’s deli on TO Boulevard), and I asked for a recommendation. The woman told me that there was a brand that was virtually indistinguishable from the real deal. I was in, or at least willing to give it a go. I purchased two packages of Schar (made in Italy…and Europe’s #1 gluten-free pasta!). To my surprise and delight, it was actually very good. Not indistinguishable from the real thing, but good nonetheless. Two minor complaints. Number one, if I’m going to pay nearly 6 bucks for a package of pasta, please give me a full pound! The Schar packages are 12 ounces. Number two, the pasta fell apart a bit when I reheated it to eat as a leftover. All in all, I’m loving my Schar pasta and I’m bellyache free!
Stay tuned for quest #2…best gluten-free brownie!
is currently my nemesis, but I’m working on it. I have always adored beautiful food photos, and I am determined to master both my camera (a Nikon D40x) and my photo editor (Photoshop CS4) in the coming months. I have to at least try to do justice to all the gorgeous food we’re making!
All of the images on our blog are our own (with the exception of the restaurant photographs) and I am proud to say that my photography has come a long way. We’ve tried various methods of setting up proper lighting, which is ultra-important, and plating (also ultra-important) as well as timing! The food only stays piping hot for so long, and it’s often a challenge - can I wait to eat it to photograph it? The struggles of a novice, I’m sure.
Of all the resources I’ve scoured, none have helped as much as Jugalbandi. It’s a lifestyle blog with a really well-developed photography section, and they offer many tips and shortcuts for food photography. I am inspired by their hands-on, do-it-yourself approach because I am impatient and like to get things done right… now!
Dan and I even followed their helpful advice on making a make-shift food photography studio. The Do It Center provided the $30-worth of material needed, and it was a really fun project to do together. In the end, it is just not convenient for me to take the food out to the garage and use the poor little lights, especially when I learned how easy it is to manipulate light levels in Photoshop. Now I just plop the plate onto our dining room table and shoot away, adjusting for bad lighting later — yet another Jugalbandi tip.
Anyways, this may just be an apology/excuse-filled rant for my current sub-par photos, and a forecast of much better photos to come. I hope you all stick around to see them.
Written by Cris, Special Contributor
There are few things I will turn the oven on for during the summer, this clafouti (cla-foo-tee) is one of them. Sweet summer fruit is delicious enough, but sometimes I want something rich and sinful. Being health conscious creates some guilt, adding fruit to the mix gives me a reasonable excuse to indulge. I have tinkered with this recipe over the years, reducing both sugar and fat, while upping the fruit. Friends have enjoyed all versions and liked the lighter ones just as much. The fruit would sometimes sink and disappear, so now I cut the peaches into thick slices, 3/4″ thick, so they will not be buried under the batter. My lighter version is so full of sweet, healthy fruit that I feel good about treating myself and others.
1/2 cup (one stick) butter
2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
4 tsp baking powder
1 1/4 cups milk
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
3 Costco sized peaches, peeled and sliced (about 3 cups)
1/2 cup fresh blueberries
2 tbsp raw sugar
Put butter in 13×9-inch baking dish in 350-degree oven till melted, set aside.
Whisk flour, sugar, salt (skip if using salted butter) and baking powder in large bowl. Add milk and vanilla, and whisk until blended. Pour batter over melted butter and cut through a few times with a rubber spatula. Make sure to push batter into corners of the pan.
Drain any juice from peaches and place slices evenly over batter, dot with blueberries next. Don’t worry if the fruit sinks.
Bake at 350 degrees until top is browned, about 50 minutes.
Sprinkle with raw sugar for a nice crunch.
Serve warm, with vanilla ice cream or a little whipped cream. Heaven!
Oh the yum. A little spicy, but not too much. Keep the guac cool (don’t add jalapenos, even if you normally do!) to offset extra heat from the chiles.
These were so good that we had them 2 nights in a row. You’ll end up with a little extra chile sauce and guac, so if you have extra beef, too - save the extra ingredients just in case you want them the next night, too!
Here’s what he did:
Green Chile Sauce
1 poblano, 1 anaheim and 1 serano chile roasted, peeled, seeds removed and then diced
2 tsp water
salt and pepper to taste
Gently pulse ingredients in a food processor for 10 seconds, until sauce is still chunky but has a saucy texture. Taste it before you serve it! Fresh chiles vary in heat.
2 ripe but firm avocados, mashed coarsely (still chunky)
1/2 of a white onion, finely diced
4 tbsp chopped cilantro
salt and pepper to taste
Combine ingredients well in a large bowl.
1lb 22% ground beef at room temp
salt and pepper
2 slices jack cheese
2 slices cheddar cheese
2 fresh onion buns, toasted
Very gently combine the beef and seasoning, with as little mixing as possible to incorporate the salt and pepper into the beef. Form 2 thick 1/2 lb burger patties.
On a pre-heated skillet, toast the buns, then set aside in a warmed toaster oven to keep warm. In the same pre-heated skillet, cook the burger patties for 4 minutes per side for medium rare, adding a slice of each cheese to the patties when flipped.
Place the guac on the bottom bun, then a patty, some chile sauce and then the bun on top.
Serve with chips and dip or fries, or just some coke on ice. Enjoy!
Written by Cris, Special Contributor
Located in the Babies-R-Us shopping center in Calabasas, this casually elegant destination was just the place to celebrate a recent birthday. I found it as I was looking for the phone number of an all-time favorite, Tuscany il Ristorante, in Westlake Village. They are both owned by Tommaso Barletta, also owner of Rustico in Oak Park. With that kind of reputation preceding it, I was counting on my friend Elisa being in for a treat.
We were not disappointed as we sampled a number of dishes and stuffed ourselves silly. I couldn’t resist ordering the Frito Misto with a spicy tomato sauce for starters, it was just as crisp and delicious, with a squirt of lemon, as we’d had at Tuscany. This is probably the only fried dish any of us would ever order, and very few places make it as tasty and grease-free as they do (Galetto is a close second, but theirs is strictly calamari, which is not a bad thing).
We really wanted a glass of wine, but hesitated knowing a siesta was not in our near future. The waitress graciously offered to split a Chardonnay three ways, and right there we knew the service and staff would shine as they do at Tomasso’s other restaurants.
Deciding what to order presented a challenge, so many things sounded so good. After listening to their specials in detail twice, my friend Polly settled on the Nicoise Salad with Seared Yellowtail Tuna. I had to assume she liked it since she cleaned her plate leaving nothing behind. Elisa chose the Roasted Lamb, Grilled Eggplant and Roasted Bell Pepper sandwich, served with these skinny, super crispy fries. Lucky me, she shared it with me. I ordered the Cioppino of Fresh Seafood, knowing that my friends would love to taste it. I remembered having this at Rustico, a huge assortment of seafood so well seasoned and prepared I had had a hard time not eating it all despite the fact it easily serves two. It was, as were all the dishes, more than you’d expect for a lunch portion, and plenty to share between two, especially if ordering an appetizer, or if wanting room for dessert.
This we agreed to skip this time, realizing we had shamelessly enjoyed every bite of our meals. However the waitress surprised us with a lovely dish of rich vanilla ice cream surrounded by berries with a birthday candle on top. Not wanting to be rude, we managed to share it making it the perfect ending to a very nice luncheon with special friends.
Riviera Restaurant and Lounge
23683 Calabasas Rd
Calabasas, CA 91302
Sunday-Thursday for 30% OFF on the
total check for Happy Hour in the Lounge from 4PM-7PM!!
Monday-Friday: 11:30 - 2:30
Monday-Thursday: 5:00 - 10:00
Friday-Saturday: 5:00 - 10:30
Sunday: 5:00 - 10:00
I like eating healthy, but find it difficult to do all the time because I just don’t crave all that healthy stuff, like wheat and greens and apparently, quinoa (disasterous quinoa experience the other night, I’ll try it again later). So I’ve developed a few tricks to fool myself into eating better on a regular basis. I keep healthy staples on-hand (and very few no-no items) and put them together in ways that do taste delicious to me. Here are my tricks, hope you can use them.
1. I keep greens around. I feel too guilty to let them go bad (though there are some weeks I let it slip), so I force myself to whip together a small salad for lunch. Here’s my favorite salad combo that’s super easy to make and really tastes great. Sub any of the items for your favorite type of greenery, nut, fruit, soft cheese, etc.
Arugula and Goat Cheese Salad
Dried tart cherries
Sesame Miso Dressing (or any dressing on the healthier side - you know, low-cholesterol, low-fat, etc.) This particular miso dressing, by Follow Your Heart, is also preservative and dairy-free, and tastes like it has bacon in it, it’s so delicious.
2. I make snack mixes, aka trail mixes. Dan loves these and so does Ryan. I follow suit, because I eat what I’m making them for snack!
Easy Snack Mix
unsalted, unsweetened nuts
unsweeted dried fruit
plain or multi-grain cheerio-type cereal
and because you need a little sweetness, a few chocolate chips (dark are healthier) or Annie’s Bunny Graham Friends