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Posted By Ondine Brooks Kuraoka

On this rainy day my older son, Roy, 9, baked his first cupcakes. Gathered round the kitchen table, Leo, 7, read his book, John read the paper and I read my magazine while remaining available for troubleshooting. Roy measured, mixed and decanted batter and frosting. We lit a fire, turned on baking tunes and all the while Buddy trolled for spats on the floor. 

So much coziness while the rain pelted down for hours. We ate the cupcakes, which Roy decorated with bits of black licorice and mini marshmallows layered into two kinds of handmade frosting, chocolate and vanilla. They were decadent-sweet for our family, but a fun treat. Even more satisfying was the vision of the five of us around the table enjoying the gift of Roy's inspired baking (Buddy stared up at us from his nearby bed, enthralled as he always is when we eat). Leo's cheeks dimpled with his happy cupcake smile and Roy was proud as he watched the chubby rounds disappear. We saved one to deliver to Grandpa Bill, which is what Roy and Leo are doing now.

I thought back on other favorite rainy days- including some of the wild rain adventures of my younger life- and today is one of the best. I adore this day!


 
Posted By Ondine Brooks Kuraoka

 

John made a fantastic salsa with our CSA ingredients. He roasted the peppers, tomatillos and onions, added some tomatoes, olive oil, balsamic vinegar and salt and pulsed it all together in the little chopper (also from Jen’s garage sale) and voila!

We gave a batch to our dear neighbors/parents/grandparents B&B also. Somehow in all the excitement we forgot to add the cilantro. But mmm… nice bite to it, and the roasted flavor was so roasted-y. It really adds a different dimension to salsa. We drowned our quesadillas with it. Could've bathed in it. Ate it til it was gone baby gone.

Onward and happy munching!

 


 
Posted By Ondine Brooks Kuraoka

Most of us, by the time we reach our 40s are comfortable cooking meat- I mean, come on, most of us have been cooking meat for at least 15-20 years. Well, I’m one of the few who have not been cooking meat for that long. And I haven’t recently renounced vegetarianism; as much as I love veggies, I’ve always been a carnivore- an omnivore.

I just get a bit frazzled by all that can go wrong when you cook meat, it’s always given me an inner spasm of anxiety, so I’ve avoided it as often as I can. For the past 10 years I’ve cooked meat only on a handful of occasions; mainly, I’ve left the meat cooking to John, figuring he’s so at ease with the meat arena, why bother? John cooks the meat and I throw together a big heaping salad- that’s just where my comfort zone in the kitchen has been.

But now that salmonella and e-coli are regularly popping up in Vegetable Land as well, I figure, well, a heck and a scratch, I might as well venture into the land of meat.

So here I am, braving my little wobbly-kneed raw meat fear. And I have to say, it’s liberating! Last night I dug through my recipe box and saw“Turkey Tenderloins and Apricot Sauce,” from the June 2008 issue of Woman’s Day, and I thought, “I bet that would be good with the pork loin roast we have in the freezer.”

So insteadof asking John to make it, by gum I just rolled up my sleeves and got busy. I decided that as long as our meat thermometer is working what’s the big deal anyway? I mean honestly, the likelihood of a car accident is way higher than some nebulous kind of meat accident. No problem! Just call me Ms. Raw Meat.

 After letting it thaw in the fridge overnight it was still pretty frozen, so I did a slow cook at 250 for a couple of hours, on John’s recommend, so the outside wouldn’t burn while it was getting up to temperature.

And I had so much fun mixing up the apricot sauce. I used the last of our Safeway Select Apricot Jam, and then opened the Trader Joe’s Apricot-Orange Fruit Spread we had in the pantry.

The garlic, mustard, soy sauce and jam smelled so good I could have just stood  at the counter and sipped it with a spoon. I didn’t, but I could have.

So there I was, basting the pork loin with this angelic sauce over a couple of hours of slow cooking. It was great- I was even wearing an apron. I felt like Nigella Lawson. The only reason I had the oven on for a couple of hours on a summer day in San Diego is due to a wonderful cool snap- 75 degrees for the past couple of days. Anyway, the pork was so easy and yummy, I’ll definitely be making it again. And John the meat man made veggies (broccoli and carrots) and jasmine rice.


 
Posted By Ondine Brooks Kuraoka

Creamy Cauliflower Soup

(The New Laurel’s Kitchen)

Why am I making soup in the middle of summer, you ask? Well, remarkably, it hasn’t been that hot for some reason, but mainly, I needed a quick way to use the cauliflower and broccoli we had.

This was the perfect antidote to a post-birthday-party weekend. Leo’s skeleton pirate birthday party at the beach included a feast of Subway sandwiches, pasta salad, rice salad, potato chips and Cheetos. It left me craving heaping servings of veggies. So anyway, I threw in broccoli as well, and it turned out great. It’s mild, but I added curry powder to mine (no one else wanted to though), which gave it added oomph.

And the creamy-ness came from potatoes, not cream.

Pasta Casserole

(Cooks.com)

Back to all things cheesy, I couldn’t resist trying this pasta casserole recipe when delivering meals to our new mom-of-twins friend (she’s by no means a new mom- she has two young children as well :O). I would have made the homemade macaroni & cheese recipe that I’ve made before (don’t be shocked- I have been known to follow the occasional recipe every once and again), from the well-worn recipe clip taped inside our Great Meals on a Tight Budget (Family Circle Cookbook), which is the best mac&cheese ever - and sadly we don’t know who created that recipe- but it was a hot day and I just didn’t have it in me to go whole hog. So, though it’s the first time we’ve ever bought a can of Cheddar Cheese Soup, the Pasta Casserole recipe called for it and I just decided What the heck? Why not try it, it’s not like we ladle Cheddar Cheese Soup over our salads every day- it can’t be that bad to throw it into a recipe once in a howling moon.

Instead of tomato juice, I used a can of tomatoes. I used our swanky new Toastmaster stick blender to smooth the tomatoes into the sauce. (I should say the stick blender is new to us- from Jen’s garage sale; we love this thing!) End result: tasty! The tomates and the soup give it a bit of an odd pink color before it’s baked, but after baking it’s beautifully golden with those irresistible crisp noodle tops. I do prefer the homemade mac & cheese, but in a pinch this is good.

The reason I was in a bit of a hurry to make room in our refrigerator is that we’re picking up our first box of produce from Garden of Eden Organics’ Community Supported Agriculture this Thursday. We’re excited!


 
Posted By Ondine Brooks Kuraoka

 

John, Roy & Leo picked up our first Community Supported Agriculture box (Garden of Eden Organics) last Thursday (2 days ago). Included were huge peaches, a lot of blueberries, dates (SO YUMMY!), a bunch of purple carrots, a Persian cucumber, a generous batch of gourmet lettuce mix, 2 huge onions, green beans, cilantro, tomatillos, jalapeno-type peppers and 2 soft-ball size Reed avocados. And all organic!Hmm… now that I read the list, it does sound like a good quantity for about $40, but I must admit that when I first saw the box it seemed just a bit meager. I guess because we’re used to buying on-sale produce at Windmill Farms, and we get a LOT more there for $40. But, sigh, we haven’t generally been buying organic and it’s often not local either. And we want to do what we can to support the local farms, goodness knows it makes sense to do so.

I also need to add that for many families, the quantity in the box is probably plentiful. We just happen to be produce fiends. Actually, we’re kind of like produce vampires; we maul our way through vast quantities of produce every week. And if we don’t get enough of a produce fix we get kind of weak and pale and depleted-feeling. When Grammy comes to visit she is (I’m not exaggerating this time) taken ABACK- STUNNED- by how much produce we eat. So I venture to say we’re on the abnormal side as far as how big our CSA box would have to be to truly feel sated.

Anyway, we’ll see how the boxes go for the next month and then we might make a comparison shop at the local farmer’s market- take $40 and see what we can buy at the organic suppliers there. But what we’ve eaten has been delicious, and we are pleased that so much fruit is included, unlike some other CSAs.