Washington Boro Tomato Festival 2012

The Washington Boro Tomato Festival took place this past Saturday at Washington Boro Park. If you missed it this week you have one more chance next weekend. The festival always runs the 2nd and 3rd Saturdays in July, at the peak of Washington Boro’s tomato season.

I had a great Saturday this weekend! It started with my usual Saturday morning visit to Central Market. I rode my scooter and had quite an enjoyable ride downtown. A couple pulled up next to me at a stop light on a bicycle built for two – how cute!

As I pulled up to market, I heard the lovely music of Leo DiSanto and Jeff Bryson. They were standing outside on Market Alley playing to promote their music show that took place that evening – the Lancaster Original Music review, part II. I’m sure there will be a part III, so check the Lancaster Dispensing Company‘s website for show times and updates.

I went into market and loaded up on veggies – they are all local right now! Everything has come into season around Lancaster and all the veggies are fresh, vibrantly colored, and taste delicious!

I walked back out of market and I was going to head home, but Leo and Jeff were still playing outside. I couldn’t really leave when they were singing “All I Have to Do is Dream…” It made everything seem to slow down and seem dreamy. So I sat down next to my friend Steph and her kiddos and wasted some time listening to the rest of Jeff and Leo’s songs… or maybe it was time well spent…

I rode the scooter home and unloaded my veggies. Monk really needed to go for a walk and it was slightly cooler than the rest of the week, so we took him up to the dog park .

We made a little stop to celebrate National Ice Cream Day – one day early. We went to Splits and Giggles, our neighborhood ice cream shop. They had two awesome flavors of frozen yogurt – wildberry (I got this one) and honey cinnamon (Dan got this one). I am getting a scoop of each next time!

We headed down to the Boro and the Tomato Festival was in full swing. We were greeted by a giant tomato and her red tomato bug.

The band was playing and the line for tomato sandwiches was quite long by the time we got there.

Don’t worry… we got our fill of sandwiches and enjoyed some time down by the river.

I don’t think white squishy bread has ever taste so good…

You still have time to get down to the Boro and get yourself a sandwich – next Saturday (July 21st). Don’t miss it, the tomatoes are yummy! You can also buy the famous Washington Boro tomatoes at the Tomato Barn on route 999. The Tomato Barn is open pretty often but you’ll have to make your own tomato sandwiches at home… and they probably just won’t taste the same..


Natural Dyes: Black Walnuts

I have been really interested in natural dyes this year. Remember my Easter egg dye experiment? I used onion skin and herbs to color eggs and they came out rather beautiful.

I am taking a class this summer designed for teachers that is all about “materials science.” I am learning a lot of cool stuff and performing pretty interesting labs that have to do with polymers, magnets, solar panels, dyes, wood, paper, and so many other  cool science things. We spent a whole day on dyes (natural and chemical) with the Chemistry professor and part of a day using natural dyes with the Botany professor. Needless to say… I was excited!

I had to do an assignment comparing two different materials dyed with black walnuts – silk and cotton. Here’s the recap of how to dye using black walnuts and the results for the different materials:

Here is what the black walnut tree looks like. The walnuts start off really green and hard and turn brown and fall to the ground as they mature. You want to use the walnuts that have turned brown and have fallen on the ground. Fall is the perfect time to harvest them, so you might need to plan ahead if you want to use them for dyeing.

You’ll need to crack open and remove the husk from the hard shell inside. There is a dark substance between the husk and the nut shell that is going to provide you with the dark brown color for the dye.

I think the best way to crack the walnut it is smash it between two heavy rocks, boards, etc. I chose to use some bricks from my back yard. They made crushing the walnuts pretty easy. DO NOT try to cut the nuts with a knife, they are very hard and you can easily slip and cut yourself!

Here are my crushed up black walnuts. I am using 16 walnuts to 16 cups of water for my dye. This will give you a nice brown color, you can add more or less depending on how dark you want the dye.

In the kitchen… bring the water and nuts to a gentle boil in a pot large enough to add whatever you are dyeing. Once it is boiling, give it a stir and reduce the heat down to medium heat. Allow the liquid to gently simmer for about 15 minutes. While the walnuts are simmering in the water, prepare your material to be dyed. Turn on the ventilation fan on your stove! The walnuts give off a strong odor when boiling.

I am using an old 100% cotton t-shirt and 100% silk scarf. Which of these materials absorb and retain the brown dye better? There’s only one way to find out…

Soak your material in warm water and ring it out.

if you want to make patterns on your shirt of scarf, you can do so by folding it in different ways. I am going to try to make a classic swirl pattern on my shirt and scarf. Here’s how its done:

Pinch a small area of the shirt/scarf and twist it in a circular motion. You can use rubber bands to secure your twist… but I used bakers twine and tied up my twisted patterns on the t-shirt to hold them in place. I think the bakers twine was actually easier and held better than the rubber bands, so you might want to try it!

I made about 5 twists on the shirt, all secured with the twine.

I did the same with the scarf.

Submerge the prepared shirt/scarf into the black walnut dye and make sure they are covered by the water.

You can leave your project in the dye anywhere from 2 hours to a day. Depending on how dark you want your piece of art work to be.

I left mine in the pot over night and through out the day for 18 hours! Here’s what it looks like when it comes out:

I placed my shirt in the sink and rinsed it while I was cutting the bakers twine off. I didn’t want to make a big mess and splash the dye all over the place, so the sink was a good place to remove the twine.

Rinse the shirt/scarf thoroughly with water until it runs clear.

Check out your pattern!

Both the t-shirt and the scarf look pretty good. I think the silk really took up the dye better than the cotton.

Wash your items in the washing machine… by themselves! You may get brown dye on other items if you wash the dyed clothing with other clothing at first.

After the wash, it appears that the silk did take up the dye better than the cotton. Are you ready for the explanation? I might get a little nerdy…  but I’ll keep it simple.

Silk fabric has the ability to form ionic bonds with the dye. Ionic bonds are strong! Silk also has more places in its chemical structure to which the dye can bond. What does that mean? That means your dye won’t wash out of the fabric very easily and it will appear to have a richer color for a long time.

The cotton fabric forms hydrogen bonds. These are not as strong as Ionic bonds. So your fabric might fade from a lot of washing and your color might not appear as rich.

I haven’t tried this yet but if you add a stronger acid (like vinegar) to your dye bath, the brown color will be altered a bit. You can also add a base to change the brown to a different hue. I still need to do some research on that to figure out what kind of household acids and bases I can use.

It’s amazing how many natural things you can dye fabrics with! I’ll be sharing some of my other natural dye experiments as I work through them. I have a white tank top that I am going to try dyeing with turmeric next. There are so many foods and plants that will turn things beautiful colors. Leave a comment if you have tried dyeing fabrics with other natural dyes – I am always looking for new ideas!

Thank You!

I took a brief (or kind of long) hiatus from blog writing the past few months. So much has happened since my last post – I can’t believe how busy I have been and I can’t wait to share it with you!

The past few months have been filled with events and experiences that have changed my life. Bridal showers, end of school activities, wedding planning, fun girly trips, concerts, quality time my friends, a super fun science class, and GETTING MARRIED!

I have had some amazing food experiences and I have been experimenting in my own kitchen as well. I think I photo-documented all of this stuff pretty well so I am going to be sharing some pretty cool things on the blog.

I had a awesome (both fun and stressful) time wedding planning. It turns out that Dan and I had some pretty cool ideas, we worked hard to pull everything off, and it all made for an amazing wedding day. I’ll go through the details (with some how-to’s) as soon as I get my photos back.

A very big THANK YOU to everyone that has helped me and Dan move into the next chapter of our lives. Our friends and family provided so much help in so many ways, I am still overwhelmed with happiness and gratitude. Our families were supportive and I couldn’t believe how excited everyone was that we were getting married. I knew I had a pretty special group of friends but they blew me away with how much everyone was willing to help out and play a part in our wedding. I am eternally grateful for all of you.

One more thing…

It is the peak of summer time and there are so many fresh veggies to be had, including my favorite thing… tomatoes! The next two weekends are the Washington Boro Tomato Festival. I am going on Saturday and I suggest you try to make it out for one of those squishy tomato sandwiches that they are known for… don’t worry I’ll post the group shot of us eating sandwiches on Sunday 🙂

Strawberry Festival Saturday!

I haven’t posted on here for quite some time! I have less than a month to go until my wedding day and planning has been keeping me pretty busy. I have had so many culinary adventures in the last month. I’ll be posting about some of my new kitchen equipment soon, so please check back.

Today was the strawberry festival at the Lancaster Central Market. My friend Janeen and I put on our fancy hats and headed down for so homegrown goodness.

I knew it was going to be a good morning when we saw this dreamy guitar player outside getting ready to strum some of his lovely tunes:

The very talented Leo Disanto provided the soundtrack for our strawberry breakfast.  Check him out, buy a record, you won’t be sorry 🙂

The Friends of Central Market had strawberry shortcake outside, made with Lancaster County strawberries, whipped cream and homemade shortcake. It was fresh and delicious!

We paired the berry breakfast with some iced coffee drinks from my favorite coffee stop: Mean Cup. I love this barista… oh sorry, I don’t think he likes to be called a barista… the infamous Vogan Gabor!!!

He remembers my coffee drink every time I go there: iced soy Chai charger. It makes me feel like a VIP. I don’t even have to place my order, he just gets it ready for me before I get through the whole coffee line. It makes me feel like “yea, I’m awesome” when I get my coffee drink and everyone else looks and wonders “who’s that cool girl?”

I love you Mean Cup… Don’t ever go anywhere because my market experience just won’t be the same with you.

There were strawberries for sale at most of the stands but they were selling out pretty quickly. I am going to head back down on Tuesday to see if I could get a few more cartons of the little ruby-red gems. I am going to try to make some home-made strawberry jam this year!

Enjoy strawberry season! It will be here and gone before you know it!

Yard Sale Success

I made it through making food at my first yard sale of the season! I did make a net profit – not a huge one but at least I covered my costs and made a little spending money…

I did had a fun morning… I knew it would be fun. A lot of my friends came to visit and I sold a bunched of pickled items too!

I forgot to take a few good pictures of my setup. I thought I did a pretty good job – I set up a table with my Cuisinart Griddler (one of my favorite kitchen appliances), a toaster, and a buffet server to keep things warm.

Here’s my baked goods:

I used this recipe for the trail mix cookies, with some substitutions… I swapped the walnuts for almonds and I added roasted pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds. They came out really good… so good that I ate about 4 of them today. I also made these muffins that I named “Power Muffins” and they were awesome! I usually make zucchini muffins but I wanted to try something a little different. I read that these freeze pretty well so I made a double batch… although I don’t really know if they will last that long because they are so good. I did sell a bunch of them but I have enough left over that I can take them for my afternoon snack at school this week.

Here’s my eggs and sausages in my buffet server.

They look pretty nice, though I was disappointed in the buffet server, it didn’t stay hot for very long and it was hard change and relight the sterno. I ended up just heating everything on the Griddler – which worked out great! If you don’t have one… get one! You can heat up anything in a flash! You can also make great Panini sandwiches and the heat plates are interchangeable so you can turn it into an electric griddle. I could have done everything today with just this appliance.

Overall I had a good experience. I am definitely going to set up a stand at my yard sale in a few weeks. It will be even easier to have this at my house. I just have to carry stuff outside and I will be able to use my oven. I also think I might sell more food because we usually have a block sale, so everyone on the block is out and a lot of people in the neighborhood stop by.

I’ll post about my next food table set up soon!

Thanks to all that stopped by and ate breakfast with me!

Yard Sale Saturday!

I have decided to take on a little adventure this weekend and make breakfast at a yard sale. My friend Matt is having a yard sale and asked me if I would be interested in making food. I was a little hesitant at first and I had a lot of questions to ask myself. The biggest problem I was having is deciding what items to make and how many people to prep for. Are people going to want to buy food from me? How much should the items cost? What if I don’t sell anything?… that would just suck.

I decided to just go for it. I know I will have fun and I like a little challenge. If I have a lot left over, I’ll just have people over for breakfast on Sunday 🙂

I am turning all of this stuff and more…

…into the following menu:

Trail Mix Cookies: oats, dried cranberries, sunflower seeds, nuts, and pumpkin seeds

Power Muffins: zucchini, carrots, and apples

Breakfast Quesadilla: eggs, cheese, black beans, mild salsa, onions, cilantro, red and green peppers

Frittata: potato, parsley, spinach and onion

Country Turkey Sausage Links: from the turkey lady at market!

Egg Sandwich: toasted oat bread, baked eggs, cheese, sausage and onion

I will have bottled water and some assorted pickled items for sale!

Please come out tomorrow! I know you will get some really cool yard sale stuff and I can feed you breakfast. Bring your dollar bills and change, it is going to be a beautiful day! It’s right around the corner from Queen Street so you can take a lovely stroll down the 300 block as well.

Time: 9am-12pm (or until all this stuff is gone!)

Place: 23 East Walnut Street, Lancaster, Pa 17602

Happy Easter!

I spent last night dyeing Easter eggs with some of my friends. My friend Janeen had a bunch of different egg dyeing kits that we used. I also wanted to try some natural egg dyes, like onion skins and purple cabbage.

Here’s some photos of our creations:

We painted some with metallic dyes…

We also made some really cool patterns by twisting rubber bands around the eggs and dipping them in different colors:

Here’s our eggs we dyed with onion skins. they came out with some pretty neat patterns. We use fennel fronds and cilantro to make patterns by placing them between the egg and the onion skin.

Here’s a link to give you some more specific instructions on how to use onion skins and other natural dyes to color eggs. We didn’t get to use the purple cabbage. I’m saving that one for next year.

Over all, I really like the mix of patterns and colors that are in my egg display this year.

There is no way we are going to be able to eat all of these beauties this week so I intend to pickle a bunch of them!

I followed this night of dyeing eggs with a great baked egg breakfast. I made my favorite frittata with a big salad made with local early spring greens.

For the Frittata…

Scramble 8 eggs with 1/4 cup of light cream and season with salt and pepper.

Mix in 1/2 cup grated Gruyère cheese, 1/2 chopped ham, 1/4 chopped parsley, and 1/4 cup minced sweet onion.

Pour it all into a baking dish (sprayed with non-stick spray) and bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes (until the center is firm).

A delicious and easy brunch to start off the day! If you’re lucky enough to have tomorrow off, give this recipe a whirl! It is also great to make and put in the refrigerator. It heats up in the microwave just fine so it makes a great quick breakfast.

I hope everyone had a great Easter!

What should I do with the left-overs? …Grilled chicken and smokey vegetables

I had about half of my smokey vegetables left over from my first grilling session of the season. I often have left-overs from the dinners that I make. I am really only cooking for two (me and Dan) and I usually portion out dinners to feed at least four people. I do this for two reasons; I like to have an easy lunch the next day or I like to create an easy dinner the next night.

If you grilled the chicken and veggies from my last post, you can easily prep for tomorrow’s dinner as you are packing up your left-overs to stash in the refrigerator. Just a few simple extra steps makes the next day easier.

As I was getting ready to store my extra grilled chicken, I pulled all the meat off the bones. This is a much easier task when the chicken is still warm. You can even cut it into cubes if you are going to make this recipe. You can prep the veggies as you clean up that night too, but it is just as easy to get them ready the next day. I just took the veggies off the skewers and put them all into a container to go into the refrigerator.

Here’s what I came up with to use up my left-overs:

Creamy Chicken and Veggie Pasta

4 pieces grilled chicken, meat removed from the bones and cubed.

about 2 cups left over grilled veggies (onions, artichokes, small sweet peppers)

1 tsp olive oil

2 cloves garlic

4 tbsp butter

4 tbsp. flour

4 cups milk

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley

16 oz. mini penne or shell pasta

For the sauce: Heat up the olive oil in a large deep pan or sauce pot. Add the garlic and saute just until fragrant, melt in the butter and add the flour, whisking to make a golden-colored roux. Whisk in 1 cup of the milk at a time until it is all incorporated and your sauce is thick and creamy. Add in the Parmesan and parsley and season the sauce with salt and pepper to taste.

Prepare you vegetables (if you haven’t already last night). Cut the onions in half because we cut them a little big to fit on the skewers the first time. Cut the peppers into smaller pieces and remove the stem and small amount of seed that are inside. If you decide to cut the artichokes in half, only cut the larger size ones and cut them carefully because they will fall apart easily.

While the pasta cooks, mix the chicken and vegetables into the sauce to heat them through. Cook you pasta to al dente. Save a little of the pasta water when you drain the pasta in case your sauce is too thick. This is how I like to thin the sauce out, it is better than just adding cold water to your sauce because the pasta water is seasoned a little with salt.

Mix you pasta with your sauce, chicken and veggies. If the sauce is too thick, add the pasta water a little bit at a time to thin it out. Serve the pasta dish with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese and fresh cracked pepper on top.

I used whole wheat shells for this dish but I think it would be better with just regular pasta. I like whole wheat pasta with tomato-based sauces and regular pasta with creamy sauces. Either way, it was pretty good!

I also had a great idea for a pasta dish that you can eat at room temperature. Just add the chicken and veggies into cooked pasta and mix it up with a vinaigrette dressing – you could use olive oil and the garlic vinaigrette that we used for the marinade and add some fresh basil. It would be a great dinner for a summer night.

Spring Grilling Tips, Perfect Chicken and Smokey Veggies

It has been incredibly lovely outside in Lancaster!  On Tuesday I walked home from work without a coat and I decided it was time to clean out the grill and make something smokey.

I had chicken legs and thighs in the refrigerator that I had planned to bake in the oven, but I decided to prepare them for grilling as soon as I got home. I would normally marinate them overnight but I only had an hour and I really wanted to be outside using the grill. I cleaned up my 6 bone-in, skin-on chicken legs and thighs, rubbed them with salt and pepper and placed them in a zip-top bag with 1/4 cup of Garlic Expressions vinaigrette and 1/4 cup of olive oil.

While the chicken was marinating, I cleaned up the grill and got my charcoal heated up. I like to use a charcoal grill so much that I got rid of my propane gas grill when we moved a few years ago. I have a simple Weber One-Touch and some of their accessories. A lot of people think it is too much work to get the coals lit and ready, but if you get one of these contraptions it makes your charcoal heat up pretty quickly.

It’s called a chimney starter. You stuff the bottom with a piece of newspaper (or fire starters) and light it. The cylinder shape shoots the flames up into the coals like…yes… a chimney! I’ll share my secret for getting the coals to light even faster: Twist up a piece of newspaper so it looks like a wick to a candle. Place the wick in the center of the starter standing up and surround it with your coals… like the wick of a candle. You can light the newspaper on the bottom and the top and your coals will catch fire even quicker… if you are really the impatient type.

While the chicken is marinating and you have the grill coals heating up… get your veggies ready!

I am using a medium size sweet spanish onion cut into large chunks, a box of frozen artichoke hearts (thawed), and about a pound of mini sweet peppers. The peppers can go right on the grill, they are large enough that they won’t fall through the grates but I put the onions and artichokes on bamboo skewers so they won’t get lots through the grates. Drizzle all of your veggies with the same garlic vinaigrette as we marinated the chicken with and olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Ready to grill!

I have spent a lot of time perfecting the way I cook chicken. Chicken is such a staple… it’s cheap, it’s readily available, and if it s cooked bad, it’s can make your dinner a disaster… if it’s cooked good, it can make you a star chef! Here’s how I set up the grill to get juicy, perfectly grilled chicken. It takes a little longer but it is so worth it.

Put your hot coals on one side of the lower grill grate and add enough extra briquettes to last you about 1 hour of cooking time. Place an aluminum foil pan on the other side. You can buy disposable ones at the grocery store or you can just make your own out of two sheets of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Make sure the sides of your pan are at least 2 inches high, you are going to want it to hold about a 1/2 gallon of water. Fit your pan in next to the coals and pour in the water. Here’s what my set up looks like:

Replace the upper grill grate and put the lid on the grill with the vents open. Allow the grill to heat up for a few minutes. Then remove the lid so that you can clean the upper grate. I like to use a triangular wire grill brush. It easily scrapes away anything on your grate. Make sure you heat up the grill grate before scraping, it makes it a lot easier to clean.

Take your chicken out of the zip top bag and place it on the side of the grill above the water pan (skin side up). Reserve the rest of the marinade in the bag for when you flip the chicken. Cover the grill and allow the chicken to cook for about 20 minutes. Here’s what it looks like after about 20 minutes:

Flip the chicken over (skin side down now) and brush some of the marinade onto the pieces. Look at the grill marks that are starting to form!

Cover the grill again and allow the chicken to cook for another 20 minutes.  Use a thermometer to check the temperature of your chicken, the thermometer should read 160-165 degrees F. Flip the chicken over (skin side up) onto the other side of the grill (right over the hot coals). Only leave the chicken there for a few minutes and repeat on the other side. This will crisp up the skin but be sure to watch it because it will burn quickly!

Remove the chicken and place it onto a piece of aluminum foil. Wrap the chicken and let it rest until you have grilled your veggies.

You can start the veggies while you are crisping the skin on the chicken. Here’s a grill full of deliciousness!

Place the veggies on the side of the grill over the water pan and cover for about ten minutes. The veggies will get warm and a little softer without getting burned on the outside. Remove the cover and place the veggies over the hot coals for a few minutes on each side, just to get a little char around the outside.

Remove the veggies and place them onto a platter. You can serve everything family style but I like to create a plate for each person.

Serve the chicken and veggies with a nice salad topped with this vinaigrette: 2 tsp. fresh lemon juice, 2 tsp. of the garlic vinaigrette that was used for the marinade, 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. My salad included baby spinach, baby pea tendrils, mustard greens, and shredded romaine lettuce.

I like to make a little extra dressing and toss the artichokes in it because they can get a little dry on the grill. Pile everything onto your plate and enjoy. The colors really look lovely together, don’t you think?

A perfect grilled dinner on a beautiful day! We paired this dinner with a cool Nugget Nectar from Troegs Brewing Company and ate out on the back deck, here’s to an early start to spring!

P.S – Check out what I’m doing with the left overs in my next post!

Italian Night: Stuffed Peppers

I have been craving some pasta and sauce so I made stuffed peppers last night. I really can’t go very many nights without eating some form of Italian dinner involving pasta. The stuffed peppers do not include pasta stuffed inside but I like to cook some and serve the pepper on top of a mound of macaroni.

Whenever I make these it reminds me of home. My mom used to make stuffed peppers a lot when I was growing up… which is probably why I get cravings for them now. I put my own little twist into them every time I make them. This version includes hot Italian sausage and ground beef.

Spicy Stuffed Peppers

1 lb. hot Italian pork sausage

1 1/2 lbs. ground beef

6 large bell peppers (green are traditional, but I  use all colors)

1/2 large yellow onion

4 large cloves garlic

1 tsp. rosemary leaves

1 tbsp. flat leaf parsley

2 tsp. thyme

6 pieces day old white bread (I use bakery bread that’s getting a little stale)

2 eggs

2 tbsp. light cream

1 28 oz. can tomato sauce

salt and pepper to taste

Cut the tops off the peppers and clean out the insides. You will be left with a pepper you can stuff your filling into and it should stand upright. I use a chili pot that six bell peppers fit into nicely.

Remove the stem from the top part of the pepper. You’ll have pretty good amount of left over bell pepper from the six tops you cut off. This will be mixed into the meat filling.

Add the pepper tops, onion, garlic, rosemary, thyme, and parsley to a food processor. Pulse the veggies and herbs until they are mixed and cut into small pieces.

In another bowl, beat the eggs and cream together.

Cut the bread into small cubes and sprinkle it with a little water to make it moist.

Add the vegetable mixture, eggs and cream, sausage, meat, bread cubes and salt and pepper to a large mixing bowl. Mix everything together using your hands until well mixed and it is sticking together. Divide the mixture into 6 portions.

Stuff each pepper with the mixture and place them into the pot, standing upright. Pour the tomato sauce over the top of each one and cook over medium heat for about 30 minutes, spooning the sauce over the tops of the peppers periodically. Turn them down to low and let them simmer for 30 minutes more.

The peppers will become soft and tender, the stuffing will be super moist, the sauce will become thin and a little spicy. Serve the peppers on a bed of cooked small pasta (like elbows or ditallini) or with some nice crusty bread and butter to soak up all the yummy sauce.

Mmmm…. Just like my mom used to make.