Thursday, July 28, 2011

A Cacophony of Carrots

Yes, we looked it up. "Cacophony" translated means a loud, confusing, wailing sound. Carrots do not make a loud, confusing or wailing sound, unless you count the crunching they make while you are chewing them. How loud would it be if 30 people ate carrots in the same room at the same time? That could be a cacophony for sure.  I also believe if you substitute "24 pounds" for the word "sound" in the definition you might understand how confusing it is to be in possession of 24 pounds of baby carrots. Wailing is not out of the question either, as I must quickly come up with uses for Daucus Carota before it's too late and I cry. Well, I won't really cry, but I might whine.

Carrots! We all know that carrots are good for us. They are rich in fiber, minerals, antioxidants and vitamin A (which is metabolized from the orange Beta Carotene coloring). Even though I pawned off 2 pounds to Ann, 2 pounds to Mom 2 pounds to Joseph's friend Steven, and 8 pounds to various intrigued neighbors, I was still left with 10 pounds of carrots. That's a whole lot of good! The recipes below took care of 5 1/2 more pounds. We might eat ourselves orange by the end of the week!
24 Pounds of Carrots + My Bags
Photo taken at the Info Booth
Allstate Arena

How did it start? Food madness is becoming a regular event in the Wolff household and this time, it developed so quickly that within mere moments, I found myself laden with an extremely heavy bag filled with 24 pounds of carrots!

What initially attracted me to the "carrot booth" was the hanging display of reusable grocery bags bearing fruit crate label designs. I do love my fruit crate labels, and happen to own several tin signs and plates with this theme.  So, I chose a nice bag with pumpkins. Simultaneously, John (who literally appeared out of nowhere) quickly deposited 2 complimentary 2-pound bags of carrots (4 pounds) into my nice new bag. He said, "That's what the bag is for".  But wait a minute! Why was he there? How did he see me? Why the carrots? I had that funny feeling again...the madness was encroaching.

First, let's backtrack a little. Due to the nature of my job at the flea market, I often pass booths without looking at the vendors faces.  Apologies to anyone who may think I am ignoring them or being rude! I really love you all! My mission is to inspect the merchandise as efficiently as possible; keeping early morning chit-chat in check. In this case, I did the same thing-just zeroed in on the merchandise-the bags. So, after John plopped the carrots into my bag, I took a good look at the seller and realized: "Hey, it's the Pineapple Guys, reinvented as the Carrot Guys!" I congratulated them on the material their juicy fruits provided for my pineapple project, and told them to read the blog post. Their enthusiasm was evident.

Immediately, the word dayenu passed through my thoughts. Four pounds of carrots were sufficient and I thought the best thing to do at that point was to say thank-you and be on my way. But, before I knew it, I heard myself saying, "Give me $5 worth of carrots!" This statement quickly resulted in the placement of 20 more pounds of carrots into my fruit crate bag!  Even though 24 pounds of carrots is not 52 pounds of potatoes (a different story), they don't carry themselves and I needed a little help to get them into the building.

Three times is the charm, I thought. If I could face 52 Pounds of Potatoes and a Preponderance of Pineapples, surely I could rise to the challenge lurking within this huge cache of carrots. Before even leaving the flea market, a plan was hatched. There were many possibilities and suggestions from customers and staff: carrot cake, carrot soup, carrots and dip, glazed carrots, carrot tzimmes, carrot veggie dip, Naomi's carrot casserole and carrot juice. Let me just say that the idea of a vegetable becoming a juice makes me leery, but Adam Weisz swears that it's delicious and he even told me what type of juicer to buy- Acme-just like the Looney Tunes brand. We'll see. I never did make it to the store to buy a juicer. Maybe next time. Below are 5 recipes

DAY 1: Carrot Tzimmes
DAY 1CARROT TZIMMES
I only offer this recipe in video form, as it would be confounding to put into words. You'll know what I mean if you follow this link:   Carrot Tzimmes
Ingredients:
beef
carrots
sweet potato
white potato
dried apricots
pitted prunes
onion
cinnamon
honey
black pepper
flour for thickening


DAY 2: Crudites: Veggies & Dip
DAY 2:  Crudites

C is for carrots, cucumbers & celery served with a cool ranch dressing dip

Not too creative, but healthy and refreshing on a hot summer day!










DAY 3: Vegetable Spread
DAY 3:  VEGETABLE CREAM CHEESE SPREAD:
In keeping with the "You've been cooking long enough. You can figure it out theme" (you will only understand that line if you watched the Tzimmes video above) I give you only a list of ingredients and minimal directions.

low-fat cream cheese
plain Greek yogurt
carrots
chives
garlic
broccolli
onion
green pepper

Chop vegetables. Place cream cheese, yogurt and vegetables in food processor and mix until creamy and blended. Serve with your favorite crackers or bread. Use instead of mayo on sandwiches.

DAY 4:  Carrot Cake-3 Ways
DAY 4:  CARROT CAKE
I doubled the Better Homes & Gardens New Cookbook recipe for carrot cake and was able to make regular sized muffins, mini muffins and 2 - 8 x 8 cakes. Also used the BHG recipe for cream cheese frosting, but cut down a little on the sugar.
2C flour
2C sugar
1t baking powder
1t baking soda
1t cinnamon
3C finely shredded carrots
1C oil
4 eggs

1. Spray 13 x 9 x 2 pan
2. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon. Add oil, carrots, eggs. Mix well.
3. Bake 350 for 30-35 minutes (less for muffins)


FROSTING:
Beat together 6 oz. cream cheese, stick of butter, 2t vanilla until light & fluffy
Gradually add 2C sifted powdered sugar. Add up to 2C more sugar if desired for sweeter frosting
DAY 5: Carrot-Sweet Potato Soup


DAY 5: CARROT-SWEET POTATO SOUP (Marisigan Family Recipe)
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
3 large carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
2 shallots or 1 medium vidalia onion, chopped
2 T butter or olive oil
1/2 C white wine
5 C chicken or vegetable broth (I used vegetable)
1 C heavy cream
lemon juice

Melt butter or oil in large stock pot over medium heat. Saute shallots or onions until they begin to caramelize, about 5 minutes.  Add carrots and sweet potatoes and saute another 3 minutes.  Add white wine and cook off alchohol.  Add broth and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and cover.  Simmer for 30-45 minutes or until vegetables are fork tender.  Puree with hand blender or in a blender or food processor.  Put puree back in the pot and cook uncovered over medium/high heat until reduced by 1/3.  Add heavy cream and lemon juice and heat through.  You can serve with a pureed parsley or basil oil for color.  Garnish with fresh basil and serve with your favorite crusty bread.

Note from Chris M: "I usually make this in the winter but for summer, I would just leave out the cream so that it is not so heavy".
More carrots, please!
It's all about self control

Is that a cacophony of questions I hear? Why did you bring 24 pounds of carrots home? Don't you know better? Don't you have any more friends to give them to? How weird is it to give your neighbors carrots? Who is to blame? How long will it take to use them up? What will you cook? Who will wash the dishes? Who will eat all this food?

TIP: If you can't eat the rest of the carrots before turning orange from the beta-carotene, just share them with your friends & neighbors or freeze.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

A Preponderance of Pineapples

Pineapples from Wolff's Flea Market
Remember when I ended up with 52 pounds of potatoes? We hope you enjoyed our creations. The situation has now repeated itself in the way of pineapples. In true Wolff's fashion, one pineapple just wasn't enough, so I ended up with 7 of these ripe, juicy fruits. Not one to shrink from a cooking challenge, I have been busy creating pineapple concoctions all week. Below are the recipes.

Tip 1: Don't even think about buying the pineapple(s), putting it in your car and then going back to shop at the flea market. We won't go into detail, but let's just say that we don't recommend it.  That said, on to the fun.

DAY 1: We just ate pineapple!
DAY 1:  FRUIT SALAD
Cut & enjoy!
                               
Tip 2: How do you cut a pineapple? Easy! Just follow the directions on this website, coincidentally named howtocutapineapple.com









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DAY 2:  Breakfast Smoothie
DAY 2: BREAKFAST SMOOTHIE
Combine in blender & enjoy!
pineapple
blueberries
banana
strawberries
1C soy milk
1C plain Greek yogurt
2T honey (or more, to taste)



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DAY 3:  Mini Upside-down Pineapple Cakes

DAY 3: MINI UPSIDE-DOWN PINEAPPLE CAKE
INGREDIENTS
2 C flour
1/2 C white sugar
1T baking powder
1 pineapple, cubed
1 egg
3/4 C milk
1/4 C melted butter

STREUSEL
1/4 C melted butter
1/4 C cinnamon
1/3 C packed brown sugar
1/2 C flour

DIRECTIONS
In large bowl, combine 2 C flour, white sugar and baking powder
Puree pineapple in food processor
Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients
Add pineapple, egg, milk and 1/4 C melted butter
Mix until blended

In separate bowl, combine cinnamon, brown sugar, 1/2 C flour, 1/4 C melted butter

Spoon batter mixture into greased muffin tins. Drop pea size bits of the streusel onto each section. Streusel will sink to the bottom during the baking process, but this becomes the top!

Bake 30-40 minutes in preheated oven, or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool for a few minutes. Carefully run a knife around the edges of each muffin to loosen. Place baking sheet over pan and flip over, releasing the cakes.  They will be moist, rich and heavy. Store in airtight container or fridge. Reheat in microwave and serve with a scoop of ice cream.

Tip  3:  I found out that pureed pineapple tempts even the pickiest non-fruit eater when baked into these cakes!


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DAY 4: PINEAPPLE CHICKEN
DAY 4: Pineapple Chicken
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Sliced fresh pineapple
4 1/2 T honey
1/2 C rum (alcohol will evaporate during the baking process)
3T olive oil
2T brown sugar

Combine honey, rum, oil, sugar in large bowl
Chop 2 slices of pineapple and whisk into marinade
Add chicken and turn to coat evenly
Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour
Spray roasting pan with Pam
Arrange chicken pieces and marinade in pan and top with rest of pineapple slices
Bake at 400 degrees until chicken is tender

Serve over brown rice
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DAY 5:  PINA COLADA (Really, it's DAY 4, but it's hot and who's asking anyway?)
Recipe by Paula Deen
DAY 5: Pina Colada
Wondering why it took so long to reach the pina colada recipe? Good things come to those who wait.  It's now time to reward myself for slaving over the hot stove all week...Prepare this drink with or without alcohol. Makes 4 servings
INGREDIENTS
Ice cubes
1/2 C rum
3/4 C coconut cream
1/4 C coconut milk
1/4 C pineapple chunks
Sliced pineapple & strawberry for garnish

Fill blender halfway with ice cubes
Add remaining ingredients. Puree.
Put your feet up
Enjoy!

Tip 4: Leftover pineapple freezes well. Just slice and place in ziplick freezer bags or air tight container for future use.