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Eat All the Vegetables: CSA Adventures


After taking two summers off from gardening, I’m back to discovering how green my thumbs can be. I had considered doing a CSA at the beginning of summer and then decided to DIY with gardening and farmers market. I started out this spring with some container gardening — think super small planters, not a container box on the ground. The arugula, strawberries, butter lettuce, and basil did really well until June or July. And after moving mid-summer, suddenly I had a 75% volunteer garden! We’re still overflowing with tomatoes – cherry, sun gold, heirloom, roma… There’s a little bit of basil still hanging on, tons of rhubarb, mint, rosemary, sage. The blueberries were amazing, but long gone. Pumpkins – surprise! And the only thing that didn’t turn out well from our super volunteer garden was the corn.

weekly CSA

As the summer ends, tons and tons of tomatoes are the only veggie we’re still juggling from our garden. So when a friend asked if I wanted to take over the last couple months of his CSA share as he moves to Seattle, I accepted the challenge.

I thought it would be fun to document here some of what we’re receiving each week and how I’m making myself actually use it!

This Week’s CSA bounty:

  • Dragon Tongue Beans
  • Jimmy Nardello and Padrone peppers
  • Criolla Sella peppers
  • 2 tiny onions
  • Eggplant
  • Mixed Tomatoes

 Eat All the Veggies Strategy:

1. Roasted Eggplant, Tomato, and Feta Salad - I ended up combining a couple recipes and using what was available, for this salad. It was super tasty– eggplant, tomatoes, feta, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper, red pepper flakes, and basil.
Roasted eggplant salad

2. Dragon Tongue Beans with Butter and Garlic – While these purple and white beans are fun to look at — they ended up not being my favorite. I sautéed them with butter and garlic and added some basil. The purple color faded, which obviously doesn’t impact the taste — but I was more into the garlic, butter, and basil sauce than the actual beans.
Dragon Tongue Beans

3. Feta-stuffed Peppers – My sister had just sent me a quick recipe she created, so I knew exactly what I was going to use the mini peppers for when I saw them in the CSA this week. This is one quick and tasty starter. RECIPE: After halving, and de-seeding the peppers, boil or steam them for about 5 minutes. Mix 1/2 to 3/4 cup of feta, 1+ TB of olive oil, and salt and pepper. Then fill the pepper halves with the mixture, place on a baking sheet and broil on a lower rack in the oven for about 5-10 minutes. So good!

Feta-stuffed Peppers

The only unused veggies this week were the few tiny spicy peppers – hot sauce maybe? And the small onions, which will go in almost anything next week.

CSA Verdict?
After the first week, I’m super excited about getting out of my current cooking rut! I love cooking and trying new recipes, but all too often I get in little routines of making the same dishes on my meal plan. Another thing I noticed was that if I have something to use up, I’ll go searching for a recipe to make, but in the grocery store I usually just quickly run through my typical things. I wouldn’t have gone out of my way this week to pick up eggplant, peppers, or dragon tongue beans.

What new thing have you cooked lately?

Photo by Schoolyard Farms

Best Caramelized Onions Recipe – Seriously


Predictable? Accurate.

Me: You know what would be really good right now?
Him: A veggie burger with blue cheese and caramelized onions?

My favorite burger is:  blue cheese, caramelized onions, smokey BBQ sauce, lettuce, tomato, on a whole wheat bun, with a veggie burger (Morningstar Farms griller patty is my favorite). And quite often, when I get it in my head that I need to make this vs wandering about town looking for the perfect veggie burger, I misplace my “perfect caramelized onions” recipe and search the Interwebz in despair, before finally finding my trusty recipe that I got from a Sur la Table cooking class instructor during a Mediterranean class I took a couple year ago.

So in the hopes that in the future, I can just remember that I blogged about it – horray digitized, and that you may also find this to be the best onions, ever, here’s the recipe.
Caramelized Onions

How to Caramelize Onions

Serves 2-ish

  • 1 yellow or sweet onion (Walla Walla sweet are the tastiest, IMO)
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil (I use olive oil, depending on what’s handy)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/8 cup red wine vinegar
  • salt/pepper
  1.  Cut the onion in half (from top to bottom), and then slice in super thin slices
  2. Add oil and butter to skillet (I use my cast-iron skillet usually), turn to medium.
  3. Let the oil/butter get hot, then add the onions, salt, pepper, & vinegar.
  4. Stir occasionally (like every 5 is usually fine)
  5. Wait, wait, wait. The onions will slowly start to turn colors – usually about 20-30 min

As long as you remember to stir occasionally and not crank the heat up, they’ll be tasty, tasty onions. So, while you can make anything with these tasty onions: pizza, burgers, flat bread, eggs… I usually start them first since they’re so slow and then while I occasionally stir them, I get everything else ready. Then, I don’t feel like I’m watching a pot or whatever that saying is.

Bonus: If you can manage to NOT eat all the onions, saving a tiny bit for tomorrow and making an omelette with them is awesome: 2 eggs, a bit of blue cheese, a bit of caramelized onions, pour a tiny bit of BBQ sauce on the top. Delicious.

Cheese & Crack + Sangria + Portland Flea = Weekly Love


Ah summer!

This Week:

Bar Avignon – I love Bar Avignon, but I wish they had better happy hour prices on cheese. Regardless, summer sangria!

Cheese & Crack cheese cart – speaking of cheese, there’s a new cheese cart in town. It was $8 for a little “pizza box” full of cheese, crackers, berries, honey stick etc. I ate it all for lunch, but I’ll be back to use as picnic supplies soon!

new Townshend’s Teahouse on Division – same great tea, new cool building. I love the furniture and chill atmosphere.

evening rides & cocktails at Central – I hadn’t been to Central since last summer when we did our ‘cocktail crawl’ by bike. They took my fav (PB Jewel) off the menu, but still a great place to chill in the Ankeny alleyway.

Roman Holiday in the Park – After watching North by Northwest in the park last summer, I was super excited about Roman Holiday, however it got rained out. I hope they re-play this one at some point during the summer.

Bouldering at the Circuit – I went bouldering at the Circuit Gym on the Eastside. Fun and a good workout.

Farmer’s market picnic – PSU Farmers Market is one of my favorite ways to start a Saturday. I picked up Willamette Valley Cheese Co creamy havarti, ciabatta rolls from Pearl Bakery, rainier cherries, raspberries, blackberries, apricots, and treats from Two Tarts and then rode to the park for a picnic.

Portland Flea – I stopped by Portland Flea on Sunday, and found a cute Washington Apple crate (which of course kitty thinks I purchased for her).

Hippie Bowl – I also finally gathered the ingredients to make my own hippie bowl like some of my favorites around town. It’s kind of a combo of my favorite ingredients. Here’s my hippie bowl recipe.

What are you happy about this week?

The Hippie Bowl – Kale, Avocado & Tahini Rice Bowl Recipe


I was commenting a few days ago on the difference in how you feel just after eating some thing good vs something good [for you]. Post-cheese plate, I feel like “mmmmmmm… that was good, I feel satisfied and full and now I want some more wine and a nap” vs post-‘hippie bowl’, I feel like “mmmmmmm… that was good, I’m so good, I make good choices and I’m healthy. I should go running in a bit and then in the morning I’ll make green drink.” OK, maybe slightly exaggerated, sometimes I have a drink after eating healthy. Balance!

My point though, is that I spend too much money at Portland’s many amazing veg-friendly restaurants, like Prasad, and the newly-opened Canteen, on their “hippie bowls” — rice, beans, greens, seeds and Japanese ingredients I don’t know the names of, and magical dressings. So this week, I decided to take matters into my own hands and make my own! Here’s what I came up with.

I must preface this recipe with saying that you can make this recipe the easy, quick way or the slightly healthier –do it [all] yourself — long way, your pick.

Hippie Bowl Recipe

Serves 2 (or just you and lunch tomorrow, yay!)

  • Small bunch of kale
  • 1 cup rice (white or brown) — that’ll be 2 cups when it’s cooked
  • 1 can of pinto beans (drained/rinsed) — if you want to cook your own, knock yourself out.
  • 1 avocado
  • 2-3 tablespoons of tahini sauce (Trader Joes has a pre-made sauce, or you can make it with tahini, lemon juice, garlic, salt etc)
  • 1 tablespoon of soy sauce or liquid aminos (I just used low sodium soy sauce)
  1. Cook 1 cup of rice (with 2 cups of water). I have a rice cooker. It’s awesome. If you don’t, make rice.
  2. Warm the beans.
  3. Wash the kale and break the leaves off the stems, tearing into smaller pieces. Put the kale in pan with a bit of water (1/4 cup?), on low-medium heat with lid on to steam the kale. Remove from heat and drain water out when the kale starts to soften and looks slightly brighter green. (You don’t want it completely wilted, just steamed)
  4. Layer the rice and then beans into bowls, pile with kale and slice a half an avocado on each bowl.
  5. To make the dressing, just whisk together the tahini sauce and soy sauce (you can of course make your own, but getting the tahini sauce at Trader Joes is easier. Yay!).
  6. Pour dressing over the top of you bowl and devour.
This recipe is similar to the Dragon Bowl at Prasad, but with more basic ingredients. I also love that it’s filling and you’re not starving like 2 hours later (it’s been known to happen when I’m eating vegan).

Do you have a favorite hippie bowl recipe? Do share!

3 Things I Learned from a French Laundry Alum

I don’t care if cake pops are the new cupcakes. I despise them. Pie pops I could probably get behind, but cake pops… no. Just no. So I remain convinced that the next best thing since cupcakes is still the French import of macarons.

Several weekends ago, I took a “Mastering Macarons” class at Sur La Table. While we may not have totally mastered them (oh, please, we totally did… ok, I guess that will be determined after we make a second go of it), it was fun learning about a treat I knew so little about! Turns out the teaching chef, Ben Whitten, was a French Laundry alum (& also chef of Candybar — a dessert lounge in San Francisco). That’s one of the things I love about cooking classes, they’re like a fun, easy, and short version of culinary school. One of my 30 Before 30 items was to take a cooking class, and since it was so much fun the first time around, I thought a dessert class should be next.

So here are three cooking tips I learned this time:

1. To separate egg yolk from the white, use your hands.

How do you best remove the egg yolk, leaving just the white? You know the whole “crack an egg and then toss it back and forth between the cracked shell to strain out the egg white” trick? Turns out there’s a better way. Chef Ben taught us a much simpler step. 1. Crack the egg in a bowl. 2. Cup your hand, and scoop the yolk straight out of the bowl, straining out the white. Obviously you need to have clean hands. It really is simpler and since you need to wash your hands after either way, it’s actually much cleaner, as salmonella can be on the shells too.

2. Vanilla extract is the single worst ingredient.

“The more money you spend on fancy vanilla bean extract, the more money you’re throwing away.”  I’ve always been a fan of “true” vanilla extract vs imitation, but “true” vanilla includes alcohol which makes the vanilla burn off anyway if you’re cooking with it. A better (and comparably priced) option is vanilla bean paste.

3. You’re in control of the heat, not the food.

Sometimes when I’m cooking I get a little too busy or if I’m cooking a new or more difficult recipe I can feel like I’m starting to fall behind. At this point, for whatever reason, I often feel like I’m at the mercy of my stove & the recipe (which specifies med-high etc). Note to self: You’re in control of the heat, not the food. Such a good reminder to ignore the recipe, go with your intuition and turn down the gosh darn stove. :)

4. Bonus tip: You can never have too much buttercream frosting.

Yes, I made this one up, and you probably can have too much buttercream frosting, but since there were some leftovers, I felt like grabbing the bowl and running out of Sur La Table was the best option. Instead I stayed and finished building every last macaron that I could.

Have you taken any cooking classes lately?

Olivia Raymer
Things I ♥: travel, food (I'm a pescatarian), the Pacific Northwest, bikes (I ride an orange mixte), beer (IPAs), summer, coffee, lists, and kitties. Travel enthusiast, former product manager, dabbler, and currently helping small businesses with digital strategy at Early Bird Strategy.

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