Sunday, March 27, 2011

Spring Break Down in C'ville

This week was spring break at UMD, so I went down to Charlottesville, VA to relax, enjoy some good food, and drink wine. I visited TJ's Monticello while I was there and got some great ideas for what I want from my garden. Take a look:

It was an amazing trip and I was so happy to get to visit some of my favorite wineries like Barboursville and Veritas:

But, best of all was seeing the University starting  to bloom:

Friday, March 11, 2011

PB&J Muffins

I've been baking more often recently to provide encouragement and show my appreciation for those students, staff, and faculty working with me on the University of Maryland Public Health Garden. Last week, I tried these PB&J muffins.  They are easy and a little different.  Paula Deen always has good ideas.  It is messy to make though!

PB&J Muffins (from Paula Deen)

What You Need

- 2 cups all-purpose flour

- 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup plus 1 teaspoon creamy peanut butter (plus more to stuff the muffins)
- 1 cup milk
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 3 tablespoons butter, melted
- 1/4 cup thick jam, such as seedless raspberry
- 1/3 cup honey-roasted peanuts, chopped
- Compound butter: 1 stick butter, room temperature with 5 tablespoons of your favorite fruit preserve
What You Do
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 12-cup muffin tin with cooking spray.
  2. In a food processor, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.
  3. Pulse in all of the peanut butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
  4. Add the milk, egg, and butter and pulse until combined.
  5. Distribute half of the batter equally among the muffin cups.
  6. Drop a teaspoon of jam into each cup and a teaspoon of peanut butter and cover with the remaining batter.
  7. Top with the chopped peanuts.
  8. Bake until the muffins are light golden, 15 to 20 minutes.
  9. Transfer them to a wire rack to cool. Serve warm or allow to cool completely.
  10. Spread compound butter on top.
Note: Store in an airtight container. The muffins will keep for 1 to 2 days.  Share with friends.

Mac and Cheese Cook-Off

The cover of March Bon Appetit was a claim that they found their favorite mac and cheese recipe. My response was to hold a competition between their "southern charm" mac and cheese and my own. A friend of mine took up the challenge to compete as well.  So, we were left with three mac and cheese recipes to test against one another. Here are the photos: 
A lot of cheese.  All delicious.  In the end my mac and cheese won. But here is the recipe for what sparked the competition:

"Pimiento" Mac and Cheese (from Bon Appetit)

What You Need

- 1 7- to 8-ounce red bell pepper, seeded, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 2 garlic cloves, halved, divided
- 1/2 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature, divided
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided
- 3/4 cup drained mild Peppadew peppers in brine, 1 tablespoon brine reserved
-1/4 teaspoon ground ancho chiles
- 1 1/4 cups (packed) coarsely grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese
- 1 cup (packed) coarsely grated whole-milk mozzarella
- 8 ounces medium shell pasta or gemelli

What You Do

  1. Bring 1/2 cup water, bell pepper, and 11/2 garlic cloves to boil in small saucepan.
  2. Cover; reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer until pepper is soft, about 15 minutes.
  3. Toast panko in skillet over medium-high heat until golden, stirring often, 5 to 6 minutes.
  4. Transfer to bowl; cool to lukewarm. Rub 1 tablespoon butter into crumbs to coat. Mix in 1/4 cup Parmesan.
  5. Transfer bell pepper mixture to processor.
  6. Add Peppadews and 1 tablespoon brine, 2 tablespoons butter, ground chiles, and 1/2 garlic clove; then add cheddar and 1/4 cup Parmesan.
  7. Blend until sauce is smooth; season to taste with salt and pepper.
  8. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  9. Butter 8-cup baking dish.
  10. Cook pasta in pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bite.
  11. Drain; return to pot.
  12. Stir sauce and mozzarella into pasta.
  13. Season with salt and pepper.
  14. Spoon pasta into dish.
  15. Sprinkle with crumb topping.
  16. Bake pasta until topping is crisp and sauce is bubbling, about 25 minutes (15 for individual).
  17. Let stand 10 minutes.
With this recipe, I would recommend trying to find a way to make it a bit creamier. It didn't live up to the "pimiento" in the title. But, we did have a fun dinner party and lots of left overs.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Visit to Accokeek Farm

Yesterday, I attended a wonderful workshop at the Accokeek Foundation titled "Successful CSAs: How to Start and Manage a Community Supported Agriculture Program". The first thing I noticed at Accokeek was their dedication to sustainability.  Below are pictures of their rain barrels and green roof (not so green in the winter). 

Not only was the event fantastic and full of great discussion about different approaches for small and mid-size farms managing CSA, but there was a wonderful local lunch provided by Chef Elaine McVinney. Lunch included mesclun salad, butternut squash lasagna, whole wheat rolls and locally made butter, local goat cheeses, apple custard pie, and whole wheat chocolate chip skillet cookies. 

What an amazing day! We covered topics as basic as "What is a CSA" to more specific details for farmers (and aspiring farmers) finding land, pricing food shares, and determining what products to grow.  I gained some fantastic insight from farmers with 28 year old farms to 2 year old farm.  I also learned that no matter how much you want to give people more food, it is important not to overwhelm costumers with too much produce that they will not know how to use.

I will keep all these lessons in mind for my future farm (you can see me dreaming about it above), as well as for the new Public Health Garden I am working on at the University of Maryland, College Park.

Note: Thanks to Deb at Just Saying for the photos!