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Oh dear.  Where have I been?  Well the obvious answer is in grad school.  There’s probably a more complicated answer as well, but let’s just go with that one, as grad school has become my catch all excuse for everything.  Anyway, the semester is over (!!!) and summer school has begun.  And while I honestly really love school, it’s nice to have a bit more time, with the more relaxed schedule.  More time for things like, knitting, reading cooking and hopefully blogging.  But definitely a lot of cooking, especially since CSA season has begun again.  So I’m just gonna show you somethings I’ve been whipping up lately.  And there’s yarny content coming soon, I promise.

As it’s late Spring/ early Summer, I’m sure you can imagine that a lot of what I’ve gotten in my boxes so far are greens greens greens.  In the most recent box (which was actually my second, the first one happened during finals and ended up getting gifted to my Mom), I got Kale, Spinach, Butterhead Lettuce, Bok Choy, Parsley, Green Onions and a few Potatoes.  So fresh and crispy, but largely monochromatic.

I made some Olive Oil and Kale Mashed Potatoes and discovered that adding Kale to a food I actually like doesn’t neccessarily make me like Kale.   Not that it was bad, it just wasn’t my favorite.  But maybe this recipe will make me like it.  I also made this recipe for Pasta with Asparagus and Spinach.  It was in a béchamel sauce, that I managed to make without burning on my finicky little gas stove.  Oh my gosh, was this stuff good.  Sadly, it didn’t photograph so well.  So you’ll just have to take my word for it.

I’ve always been a better cook than a baker.  But I’d like to try and change that in some of my free time this summer.   So inspired by this recipe, I decided to make some shortbread.  Because I really, really love shortbread.  Instead of her lemon chamomile variety, I decided to make Lemon Earl Grey shortbread.  Mostly because despite a growing appreciation for herbal tea in the last few months, I still prefer black tea.

I think that preferred shortbread consistency is one of those things that is so completely personal, a bit like which toilet paper you like (ok maybe not quite THAT personal).  Every type is a valid preference, but you like what you like, and you like it because it just feels right.  For me perfect shortbread is richly buttery and never dry.  I prefer softer, so a little crumbly is ok, but the kind of crumbles that come from softness not dryness.  I had never made shortbread before.  But I was a bit suspicious that the flour to butter ratio in this recipe might lead to a slightly drier shortbread than I like, but having never made shortbread before, I didn’t want to muck around with changing things.  In the end, it was a bit dryer than I would like.  But the flavor is fresh and light, and washed down with a cup of tea, it is really lovely.  Next time I’m going to try Jamie Oliver’s recipe from Jamie Cooks.

While that was in the oven, I decided to make something heat free for dinner.  So I threw together some easy avocado salsa.  Boy was that tasty!  Loads of lime, cilantro and a little Sriracha were used to spice up the flavor of the veggies.  I know Sriracha in salsa is a bit unorthodox, but it’s the only hot sauce I have, and while I normally think of it as a very different type of burn, it worked!  I ate the salsa with chips on Monday and on top of a piece of easy grilled chicken last night.  I love it when I can get that kind of milage out of food.

So now you’ve had a peak into my kitchen, I promise next time you’ll get a peak into my knitting bag!

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So my CSA box has done just what I hoped.  It has inspired me to cook more often and more interesting things.  And it’s overflowed to things that have not one ingredient from the box as well.  Like the Snickerdoodle cookies I made for my guy before heading down to DC for the weekend.

These cookies were more of the aforementioned payback for all the help he has selflessly given me of late.  They were made from this recipe by Martha Stewart by way of Smitten Kitchen (my favorite cooking blog by far).  They are a wonderful cookie for those who don’t like things TOO sweet, because the overall flavor is more of cinnamon than of sugar.  They came out really nicely even in spite of the fact that the pilot went out in my oven in between preheating it for the first time & trying to preheat it for the second time once the dough had properly chilled.  It’s an old oven and I ended up reaching into the broiler drawer with lit match in hand (after clearing the room of gas of course) in order to be able to complete my cookies.  After all I was far too excited about the surprise to show up empty handed even if he wasn’t expecting anything.

In the end the pilot was lit, the cookies were saved and they were met with a stamp of approval from all who tasted them.  Including myself.  Since I couldn’t help myself from testing at least one from every batch.  You know, just so I’d know which batches were the best.

After showing up with cookies (and a new, but still un-photographed hat) in hand, we cooked together with some of the veggies from my box that I brought with me for just such an occasion.  I really wanted to find something to do with that Daikon radish, so I did some internet searching for a recipe that used it in a way I could get excited about and I found this recipe for Vietnamese Sticky Chicken with Daikon and Carrot Pickle.

This yumminess is served lettuce wrap style, which is absolute heaven when you just happen to have a head of the freshest lettuce you’ve ever tasted.  In general it’s a pretty straightforward recipe but it comes out tasting delicious.  The spiciness of the chicken is nicely balanced out by both the lettuce and the slightly sweet, peppery taste of the pickle.  The only change we made was in how the chicken was cooked.  The recipe recommended grilling the chicken in a grill pan, but we were cooking in Steve’s kitchen, which is grill pan-less, so instead we cooked it in a wok.  We first put in the chicken with all the marinade and cooked it like that for a few minutes.  Then we drained the liquid out and put it to the side allowing the chicken to brown while being cooked stir-fry style in the wok.  Once the chicken was nicely browned, we slowly added the marinade & juices back in little bit at a time, allowing all the liquid to cook off before adding more.  This turned out to be the happiest of accidents since doing it this way left the chicken coated in marinade and incredibly flavorful.

In the end, for this I used the Daikon radish, the lettuce and some of the garlic from my CSA box.  Not a bad start.  There’s been a bit more cooking going on and there’s sure to be more to come, with exciting success stories such as these, so I’ll show you more of what I’ve been making and eating soon enough.

And last I just want to mention that Kirsten of Through the Loops is doing another Socktoberfest Mystery KAL this year.  You might remember just how much fun we had last year.  So hop on over to the TTL group on Ravelry to check it out.