Sorry people, I’m just too pregnant and too hot to blog about what I cook right now. In fact, I’m lucky if I cook anything at all. I hope you come back and visit me when I get back to the kitchen!

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I joined a CSA this year and have really enjoyed it. Lately there have been a lot of garlic scapes, arugula, TONS of lettuce (not to mention the lettuce that we have growing in our garden…lots of salad lately), radishes, turnips, bok choy and spinach. But yesterday there was a new addition: tot soi. I have no idea what to do with this. I’m guessing you treat it like bok choy or any other green leafy veggie, right? Could I sautee it with the bok choy? I just don’t really know where to go with all these green things I have in my fridge right now. It’s a bit overwhelming.

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Don’t hate me, but I’ve come to realize in the past couple of years that I like New England strawberries more than Louisiana strawberries. I know, I know, everyone down South says that the ones from Hammond, LA are the best, but I’m telling  you, you haven’t had these. The “native” (that’s what everyone calls them, I say “local” but whatever) strawberries here are small, deep red, and super sweet. When you bite into them the juice runs down your chin and there’s not a white part to be seen. Maybe I’ve never had the right kind of Louisiana berry, but until I do I’m sticking to my guns. The Massachusetts ones win hands down. I’ve already bought 3 quarts. The one you see above was picked this afternoon by my two year old and I. It was hard to fill the quart because she kept grabbing them from the box and eating them. Next weekend we’re going to a strawberry festival, so there will no doubt be many more consumed.

It’s almost a crime not to just eat them out of hand, or sliced over yogurt and granola or cereal. But, with so many berries I decided to add them to pancakes and muffins. I tried the following recipe and loved it. It’s adapted from Marjorie Standish’s “Perfect Blueberry Muffins” recipe in Cooking Down East, a cookbook specializing in New England recipes (particularly Maine). I used another one of her recipes for my  Maine Blueberry Pie post. I just happened to have some Maine blueberries in my freezer, but if you don’t have access to New England fruit like I do, use whatever you can find. They’ll still be good, I promise.

Strawberry & Blueberry Muffins
Adapted from Cooking Down East

2 c. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
3 tsp. baking powder
1 c. milk
2 tsp. lemon juice
1 well beaten egg
1/4 c. salad oil
1/3 c. sugar
1/4 c. strawberries
1/2 c. blueberries [You can adjust the ratio of blueberries and strawberries to suit your tastes]

Sift flour, salt, baking powder and sugar together. Beat egg well, add milk. Stir in oil and lemon juice. Add liquid to dry ingredients. Stir in oil and lemon juice. Add liquid to dry ingredients. Stir about 20 seconds. Flour should be all dampened, but mixture should still be lumpy. When just a few patches of flour are left, fold in blueberries, gently. Fill greased muffin tins two-thirds full. Bake at 425 degrees for about 25 minutes.

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I know bean salad isn’t really something to get too excited about, but I think this one is great. It’s perfect for hot summer days when you want protein but just can’t bring yourself to turn on the oven or stove (those of you down South with central air conditioners don’t have that problem). The recipe comes from The Modern Ayurvedic by Amrita Sondhi. While I think it’s interesting, I’m not that into ayurvedic cooking, but I find this book has easy recipes that are both tasty and healthful. This one is great for a picnic or a pot luck supper. I put it on salads with avocado; and usually don’t even need dressing. Enjoy!

Mixed Bean Salad
From The Modern Ayurvedic

1 1/2 c. chickpeas (garbanzo beans) cooked or canned [I use a full can of each kind of bean, which is a bit more, and adjust the ingredients accordingly]
1 1/2 c. black beans, cooked or canned
1 1/2 c. red kidney beans, cooked or canned
1-2 tsp. garlic, minced
1-2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. green onions, chopped
3 tbsp. fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
2 tsp. fresh green chilies, minced
1/4 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
4 tbsp. lemon juice or vinegar (your choice of vinegar) [I think it's markedly better with lemon juice]

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients and mix well. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, adjust seasoning if necessary, and serve.

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Fiddlehead ferns are one of those things I’d never heard of until I moved to New England. Every Spring, for a few weeks, you can find fresh fiddleheads in the grocery store. Up here I think it’s the ostrich fern that’s most commonly used. Anyway, they are good. I’m no expert, but they are really easy to prepare. Just snip the ends off if they’ve turned brown. Then you can steam, saute, or do whatever you like. I always just steam them and sprinkle with soy sauce, lemon juice and sesame seeds.

The leafy part in the middle soaks up the juice really nicely.

My CSA starts next week, so hopefully I’ll have more fresh produce to post about.

Well, if there are any of you still out there, I thought I would report to you why I’ve been so absent. That’s right, I’m pregnant again. The last 6-8 weeks have been pretty rough; I didn’t feel like eating, much less cooking, so I’ve been surviving on take-out and frozen food. Remember that I also have a toddler and a part-time job, so blogging just ended up taking the back burner.

I’m slowly starting to come around, though, and once the farmer’s markets and CSAs start I’m hopeful that I’ll feel more inspired. So sorry to have dropped off the face of the earth with no explanation. I’m back, just a little more slowly than before.

I know…it’s ridiculous that I haven’t posted since March. Honestly, I haven’t been feeling well, and am going to take a sabbatical from blogging for a little while. Don’t worry, I’m ok, just have too much on my plate right now. Hopefully I’ll be feeling better in a few weeks and will post more then.

Thanks for understanding!

Aimee

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El Toro Restaurante, Progreso

Although we’ve been back for over a week, I’m still wishing we were in Mexico. It’s been difficult for me to sit down and write this post for some reason, maybe because on this cold New England evening I’d so much rather be in Mérida, where there is no doubt music playing and a warm breeze blowing. In order to make writing easier for me, I’m going to just post a little at a time. This is pt. 1 of a multi-part post on the wonderful food of the Yucatan. I know it doesn’t really fit entirely with the theme of my blog, but bear with me; it’s worth it.

In case you couldn’t figure it out, our trip was inspired by this awful winter that New England has been having. A friend of ours from college lives just south of Mérida with his lovely wife, and we decided that we needed to leave the toddler with my mother-in-law and go visit them for ten days. Another friend joined us for a week in a beach house near Progresso, and then we spent a few nights in Mérida before heading back home. We visited four Mayan ruins (Dzibilchaltun, Uxmal, Xcambo, Edzna), went caving in the Grutas Calcehtok (this was a truly amazing if not frightening experience), swam in cenotes and ojo de aguas, and of course lounged on the beach. But the food! Yucatecan food is in a class by itself. Thanks to our local friends we had the inside scoop on what and where to eat.

We quickly learned that in this part of Mexico the main meal of the day is lunch, which can be eaten early or late. You can definitely find a hearty breakfast, but most people enjoy pan dulce with cafe con leche (the selection is amazing), a big lunch, and a light dinner. So, if you want to go to the real local hang-outs you go out for lunch. Most of the dinner places are really just for tourists. Our first major culinary destination was El Toro restaurante in Progreso. This unassuming local restaurant is a typical seaside joint. We were the only gringos in there. As with most places in Mexico, there was a man playing music, lots of families, and good food to be had. It’s pretty basic stuff, fried fish by the kilo (that day it was grouper), ceviche, etc.  Reasonable prices and all of it very fresh.

Ceviche Mixto

Ceviche Mixto

Pescado Frito

Pescado Frito

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Los dulces

This guy caught my attention fast. Look at this delicous tray of goodies! The merengues were especially yummy, and sweet! He carried his tray around the restaurant, and lucky for us hung around so we could catch him after we were finished eating. I love the picture below; check out the kid. Instead of putting him in a high chair they just stacked a bunch of chairs up until he was high enough to sit at the table! Apparently they don’t worry about lawsuits too much in Mexico. He looked safe enough; I actually thought it was quite clever.

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El hombre de los dulces and a Mexican high chair

After lunch, we stopped at an ojo de agua, which is part of the underwater rivers that run throughout the Yucatan. They pop up as cenotes and ojo de aguas. As best as I can tell, the latter occur in the mangrove swamps and bubble up as little streams. The former are more like big sink holes. Someone correct me if I’m wrong. Anyway, they had dammed this one up to create a couple of pools. One had a rope swing and boy was it fun! I haven’t jumped off a rope swing in ages. Luckily we were all a bunch of rednecks from Mississippi (except for Shirley, who sat dantily by the shore) and we reverted to the hicks we are and exercised our God-given right to hurl ourselves through the air into a pool of crystal clear water. It was great fun.

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My favorite nugget from the trip. The sign to the bathroom (which was just a port-a-john on stilts with cardboard walls):

el bano

el baño

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Cathedral in Merida

Well, finally, we are headed on our getaway to Mexico. I’ll return with lots of pictures and hopefully some fun recipes and knowledge of Yucatecan food. I’ve been practicing my Spanish and look forward to having some good friends as tour guides. More when we return! These pics were taken the last time we were there, on our honeymoon.

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Old hacienda

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oxtinkok (sp?)

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Raw chicken parts floating in cold water.

For some reason I didn’t get a picture of the yummy broth I got from this pot, but you can imagine. Although I haven’t been posting don’t think I haven’t been cooking. I do have a life outside of blogging, you know. I’ve decided to start planning out my meals for the week, and Monday’s supper was flu chaser soup, a New England Soup Factory recipe that was adapted on this blog (thanks to the birthday girl Jen for sending this to me). This is such a delicious soup, and perfect for flu season. It has three, count ‘em, three heads of roasted garlic, lemon juice from three lemons, 3 tbsp. of ginger, and lots of yummy basil and mint. Wellness in a bowl! The thing about it though, is the recipe makes a lot and calls for 12 cups of chicken broth.

The only pot I have that’s big enough for that is my lobster pot, which is ridiculously big, so I usually just make it in my dutch oven, simmer uncovered for a while and then fill with water to the right consistency. It turns out wonderfully. There really is nothing like good home-made chicken broth for a soup like this; I do keep bouillon cubes in my pantry, but just for emergencies. Instead, when I want to cook chicken I buy a whole chicken and cut it up myself. I’ve gotten rather good at butchering a chicken, and one of these days I’ll post about that. Usually I don’t need the backs or necks, so I just keep them in a ziploc back in my freezer. When I’ve amassed enough I just throw them into some cold water with some celery and onion, bring to a boil with a teaspoon or two of kosher salt, and then simmer for an hour or so. Skim off the foam as it cooks, strain, and use however you wish.

There are a million different ways to make chicken broth, and this is certainly not the most refined, but it works well enough for me and is SO EASY.

I’ve been thinking about cornbread a lot lately and don’t want you to think I’ve forgotten my quest for my perfect cornbread. I’m still on the trial, but have gotten sidetracked by work (I do have a day job) and mothering a toddler (that’s my other day job). Also, we’ve decided to take a last minute trip to the Yucatan and leave on Wednesday! I’ll post before then, hopefully. Stay tuned.

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