Know Your Produce? Cipollini Onion

I am excited about these onions! we are featuring them in our beautiful Variety Boxes this week.

Cipollini onions (pronounced chip-oh-lee-knee) were once a rare treat only to be found at fancy restaurants and the occasional gourmet market. We’re glad they’re finally becoming more common because they are truly delicious! Their name literally means “little onion” in Italian, and indeed they are! Cipollinis are about the size of a golf ball with a slightly flattened appearance. They’re thin-skinned and have translucent white flesh with more residual sugar than your average yellow or white onion. Which makes them incredible for roasting or caramelizing.

Roasted whole in the oven or cooked in a little butter on the stove top, cipollinis become soft and practically melt in your mouth. Those residual sugars caramelize and concentrate, leaving behind none of the astringent raw onion flavor. Even you onion-haters out there might be swayed!

Looking for an easy recipe? We love this recipe for Easy Roasted Cipollini Onions over at Serious Eats.

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Keeping the Love Alive with REAL. GOOD. FOOD.

One of the things that helps keep the spark alive between myself and the culinary arts is continuing try new foods and techniques. The possibilities really are limitless! Sometimes the twenty years that have past since I first fell in love with preparing real food with amazing fresh ingredients feels like forever. Back then it was so fun and exciting to cook exciting dishes for the two of us and test out gourmet dishes at dinner parties. The years rolled by and we entered a new season.

Preparing food became a little less exciting and a little more challenging with an infant in my arms. Then more beautiful little blessings came into our lives one by one. One day I woke up and found myself for seemingly the millionth time preparing a feast for eight seemingly unappreciative family members. It was at this time I started to really wonder if I loved culinary arts at all. Maybe cooking wasn’t so fun after all. As I pondered this I realized that my love had not grown to match the season I was currently living in. I was making something that should be fun into plain old hard work. I decided to reevaluate my current situation and my love with culinary arts began to shift. My new mission was to make REAL. GOOD. FOOD. taste amazing, yet be simple enough to prepare with my children. Three meals each and every day for eight people. I found that spark was alive and well and reignited with this new mission.

Today I am enjoying the best of both worlds. I love try new and gourmet meals occasionally. We still have plenty of nights where quick real food is on our menu because of Kids Club, Youth Group, Swimming Lessons, Boy Scouts or a combination of all. I am very thankful that my husband also enjoys cooking and all my children enjoy and have learned to cook by being a part of our kitchen experiences day in and day out. It is nice to delegate the after school smoothie or veggie tray preparation to older children or share the responsibility and JOY of cooking together.

I have to give a lot of the credit for my ongoing love for cooking to real food showing up on my door step. If I wouldn’t have had the food, especially fresh fruit and vegetables, in my refrigerator I don’t think I would have remained inspired. Also to my Grandma who told me stories of how hard her family worked, but still made time to put a pie on the table nearly every day. These stories capture my imagination and have inspired me to try find deep enjoyment and create lasting memories in the kitchen and around the table.

Four tips for keeping your love for culinary arts alive year after year. (also know as preparing REAL. GOOD. FOOD.)

  1. Keep the REAL. GOOD. FOOD. coming. For me this mean a weekly delivery from Brown Box Organics.
  2. Don’t think it has to be complicated or take a lot of time. If you are in a busy season of life take a little time to prep your fresh foods so you can pull a meal together on those busy evenings in about 15 minutes. You might even save time over ordering at a restaurant and you will certainly save money even when buying organic food. One good resource is this blog. Search “quick” for recipes that come together fast.
  3. Try something new to keep it exciting. Try a new fruit, vegetable, seasoning or technique. If you order Variety Boxes with Brown Box this will happen at your door step. The Sur La Table local classes are a great resource that I have personally enjoyed. See my class reviews here and here.
  4. Food is a necessity, but also such a blessing. Take a moment to appreciate the colors and flavor. Laugh together in the kitchen and build memories around the table. Thankfulness is the ingredient makes even the simplest meal taste amazing.

 

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Local Cooking Class Review: Taste of Thai

One of my two top tips to keep things interesting in the kitchen is simple: Try new things and learn new things. Many things have changed over the years I have been enjoying culinary arts. (Also known as cooking REAL. GOOD. FOOD.) One thing that hasn’t changed is my child like excitement when I discover new food or techniques. How many times have I thought I didn’t like something only to learn I LOVED it when I paired it or prepared it differently.

One really great opportunity to learn something new and also try something new are the local cooking classes at Sur La Table in the Village. This store in itself is a culinary inspiration to me. I recently took the Thai Restaurant Favorites and would definitely recommend the classes.

The menu and recipes are interesting, but there is so much more to the class. The Thai Restaurant Favorites menu included:

  • Minced Chicken Lettuce Cups (Larb Gai)
  • Perfect Pad Thai
  • Panang Coconut Curry with Shrimp
  • Coconut Lime Sorbet

Honestly, none of the recipes descriptions blew me away at first glance. I was most excited about learning more about Pad Thai. I love Pad Thai from a couple restaurants I have tried in other cities. Here in Boise Mai Thai is our favorite. At home I just can’t seem to get it right so I was excited to talk with the chef and learn more about what I might do better when making this seemingly simple recipe. All of the recipes sounded tasty and fun to prepare.

When I arrived at the class the chef and sous chefs were preparing and greeted me. I love the warm feeling like I am in a friends (very spacious and well stocked) kitchen. My husband and his parents came to the class with me, which made it a special time together. It is a fun scene with many of the ingredients are already prepared in small dishes ready for you to cook alongside cutting boards. After I put on my official Sur La Table cooking class apron the team asked if anyone would like coffee. The coffee they serve is good. 🙂 The chef who would be teaching then gave an overview. I listened with a warm mug in my hand and then the fun began.

Cooking with other people is important to me. It’s a special kind of bonding to make something and eat it together. It is exciting that my husband now likes Thai food and curry. Just a few years ago he thought he hated it. I would not have dreamed he would be at a Thai Cooking class with me ten years ago. But there we were.

As the cooking class got started the chef described techniques and tools. Some were very familiar. Some of the techniques, especially knife handling, were great reminders for me. Knowing how to hold a knife can make a big difference on how long it takes to make a quick meal if it includes a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables as our menu normally does. The class environment has enough of the ingredients prepared to really let you stop and take a moment to try a new tool or work on a technique. It’s very relaxing.

Next we began to prepare the Minced Chicken Lettuce Cups (Larb Gai). The ingredients smelled amazing as they came together. Nothing ground breaking, but a good opportunity to laugh about how much heat we can take from those Thai Chiles. I especially loved the shallots the recipe they shared called for. I had only used onion in the past and the shallot added a great flavor. I will be opting for shallots in the future when making this kind of dish.

The next recipe we began to work on was the Perfect Pad Thai. After scanning the recipe packet I was excited to see an ingredient new to me: preserved radish. After speaking with the chef about my past Pad Thai fails he was quick to point out that no two ingredients are exactly the same. I know this should be obvious to me, but after talking with him it dawned on me that the type of fish sauce I was using was more concentrated than others I had used in the past. It was a light bulb moment. The Pad Thai turned out very good and I fished the last bite I determined to go home and make really good Pad Thai. As it happened we had a pot luck with Asian theme the following weekend where I was able to test my new knowledge. Everyone said the Pad Thai was delicious.

Have I mentioned once or twice that I really LOVE curry? My friend first taught me a simple recipe not so long ago and since then I have been expanding my menu to include many different curries. The Panang Coconut Curry with Shrimp was recipe looked good. I found myself very excited as I read the recipe and realized that I had never made curry with shrimp. Never. Something new! I also love lemon grass, but I could not remember using it in curry. I thought I was looking forward to preparing this recipe, but it got even better when we got out the tagine to begin cooking. I have wanted to try one, but had not had the opportunity. It seems like I get to try some new tool each time I take a class.

The finale was the Coconut-Lime Sorbet. When I read the description I thought those were the flavors added. I didn’t realize it meant that it would be made with coconut milk. The preparation requires and ice cream machine and it was surprisingly quick. It made me reflect on the twenty year old ice cream maker we have and consider something new for this coming summer. It was really delicious and got me thinking of all the cold delicious things our family hopes to make once it gets hot outside.

Did you know you can save 20% Off local cooking classes with Sur La Table in the Village when you mention Brown Box Organics? Click here to learn more.

 

 

 

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Farm Eggs. What Is the Difference?

If you haven’t had pasture raised eggs before you are missing out! Taste test them yourself and if you are really curious we invite you to do a side-by-side comparison of a commercially raised egg from caged chickens and natural pasture raised eggs. Eggs are a staple at our house. We go through about four dozen each week. Does that make me an egg expert? No, but even a novice can see and taste the difference with these beautiful local eggs.

People ask me all the time about where to start when transitioning from the SAD (Standard American Diet) to a healthy diet and because of my story I always suggest Organic Fruits and Vegetables first and foremost, but eggs are a good runner up. I am not a doctor so these might be great questions to ask your doctor and nutritional specialist. One thing I know for certain: There is a big difference between eggs. 

First thing you will notice is that the shells are less uniform on farm eggs and typically harder. This is a good thing! Healthier birds that have plenty of minerals in their diet produce thicker shells. The second thing you will notice is the difference in color inside. Commercially raised eggs are runnier and have less color in the yolks. Organic and commercial free-range are bit denser and have more color but nothing compares to a “real” free-range, fresh local egg. You’ll notice the local has much more substance, even in the egg’s white. And the yolks, you’ll notice a rich yellow/orange color and firmer yolks. The deeper color comes in part as a result of having higher levels of beta carotene which is a rich antioxidant. Birds with free access to the outdoors, sunshine, pastured greens and even bugs are happier, healthier and actually more nutritious.

EggsComparision

Farm eggs are not just healthier. They also taste way better. Last summer when we were travelling and had conventional eggs our kids were so surprised by the color and the flavor difference. They are also help turn out really great baked goods!

The statement I made about “real” pastured eggs being more nutritious is based on some “real” research that has been done. Don’t take my word for it, check it out for yourself: Pastured Chickens Lay Nutritious Eggs

I love that a local farm is raising healthy hens and bringing us these great local eggs. I also love that the eggs have a great shelf life. The USDA recommends that eggs be refrigerated an consumed between 4-6 weeks from packing date. I hope you end up loving these eggs just as much as I do. Now through May 30th, 2017 email and mention this post and save $1 off one dozen local eggs with any order.

Egg Featuring Recipes:

California Style Eggs Benedict

Know Your Produce? Gold Beets and Natural Egg Coloring

Free Range Organic Egg Difference

Quiche and Frittata

Ten Foods I Keep On Hand

 

 

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