Learning As I Chop

A Special Place

Posted in Farmers Markets, Gardening/Plants by R @ Learning As I Chop on September 13, 2011

While H and I were in the Berkshires, we stayed close to Gould Farm. Not only is Gould Farm a regular working farm, it’s the first residential therapeutic community in the nation dedicated to helping adults with mental illness move toward recovery, health and greater independence through community living, meaningful work and individual clinical care. To learn more, visit their site. Besides the great mission, they make wonderful food. My personal favorite is the homemade cheddar cheese. I probably ate three blocks in one week. (Dairy is my #1 pregnancy craving.) Let’s visit the grounds.

Fresh tomatoes on the vine

During the weekend, the farm runs a small coffee-shop on site but provides a self-service cafe during the week. Here are some offerings.

I especially love the honor system. This would never work in NYC.

But the motto is probably my favorite part of the whole place. I think some good words to live by. Enjoy!


Hot Enough for Ya?

Posted in Baking/Cooking, Farmers Markets by R @ Learning As I Chop on July 6, 2010

Today it’s going to hit 100 degrees in NYC. Though it’s hot, I’m trying not to complain. I’d honestly take 100 degrees over 10, any day. Especially since I walk to work and would rather sweat than get frost bite. If you live on the East Coast, you probably don’t want to turn on the oven. And if you live in an apartment, and can’t get to a grill, I bet you’re looking for a light dinner that won’t heat up your place. Well, here you go

Israeli Couscous with Asparagus, Peas, and Sugar Snaps Bon Appétit | June 2010
by Jeanne Kelley

Israeli couscous is small, round, toasted pasta with grains about the size of peppercorns. Serve this dish chilled or at room temperature.

Yield: Makes 6 servings

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 large garlic cloves, minced, divided
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon peel
1 1/3 cups Israeli couscous (6 to 7 ounces)
1 3/4 cups (or more) vegetable broth
14 ounces slender asparagus spears, trimmed, cut diagonally into 3/4-inch pieces (about 2 1/2 cups)
8 ounces sugar snap peas, trimmed, cut diagonally into 1/2-inch pieces (about 2 1/2 cups)
1 cup shelled fresh green peas or frozen, thawed
1/3 cup chopped fresh chives
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese

Whisk 2 tablespoons oil, lemon juice, 1 garlic clove, and lemon peel in small bowl; set dressing aside. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in heavy medium saucepan over medium heat. Add couscous, sprinkle with salt, and sauté until most of couscous is golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add 1 3/4 cups broth, increase heat, and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until liquid is absorbed and couscous is tender, about 10 minutes, adding more broth by tablespoonfuls if too dry.

Meanwhile, heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in heavy large nonstick skillet over high heat. Add asparagus, sugar snap peas, green peas, and remaining garlic clove. Sprinkle with salt and pepper; sauté until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Transfer vegetables to large bowl.Add couscous to bowl with vegetables. Drizzle dressing over. Add chives and cheese; toss. Season with salt and pepper.

I made this dish about a month ago and loved it. I was able to use all farmers’ market veggies, which always makes it more fun, and shelled peas for the first time. Some might find shelling annoying, but I found it relaxing. This dish will fill you up and leave you satisfied. Try it on someone who can’t live without meat. It’s so hearty and satisfyingly crunchy that you might just surprise them…

Of course, I managed to forget my memory card yet again. Must work on a new system. In the meantime, I didn’t want to wait until evening to post. Pictures will be up tonight.

As they say, stay cool!


Posted in Baking/Cooking, Farmers Markets by R @ Learning As I Chop on June 30, 2010

Yesterday I happily visited my local farmers market and stocked up on some goodies. Among them was a box fresh blueberries. Geek that I am, the “blueberry scene” (as I like to call it) from The Sound of Music immediately came to mind. For anyone who’s unfamiliar with the scene, it’s where the children tell their father they were picking blueberries when they were actually visiting Maria. In response, Christopher Plummer says “bloo-berries?”. Very pronounced, indicating disbelief. It’s a classic scene from my childhood. But I digress…

I knew that I needed to do something creative with those blueberries. Though I could eat the whole box in one sitting, I thought that would kind of be wasteful. I wanted to put those babies to use, though create something more complicated than my previous summer tart (seen here). At the same time, I had also been craving some kind of cakey dessert. After pondering my options, blueberry coffee cake came to mind. Having no idea if such a thing existed (and I’m not at the point where I can create a recipe myself), I went to my favorite culinary website and typed it in. Voila, there it was!


2 1/3 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup flaked sweetened coconut
1/2 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar

2 large eggs
1 cup milk
1 12-ounce package frozen blueberries, unthawed, or 2 1/2 cups fresh


Combine 1/3 cup flour, 1/4 cup butter, coconut, brown sugar and cinnamon in medium bowl. Mix until moist and crumbly. Set topping aside.
Preheat oven to 357°F. Butter and flour 13x9x2-inch baking pan. Sift remaining 2 cups flour, baking powder and salt into small bowl. Using electric mixer, beat remaining 1/2 cup butter in large bowl until fluffy. Gradually add 1 cup sugar, beating until well blended. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating to blend after each addition. Mix dry ingredients into batter alternately with milk in 3 additions each. Fold in blueberries.
Transfer cake batter to prepared baking pan. Sprinkle topping evenly over batter. Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean and topping is golden brown, about 40 minutes. Cool cake slightly. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Due to a busy afternoon, I decided that tomorrow would be the day. In the meantime, I gave H strict “no eating” instructions and set the blueberries in the fridge. Then sometime around 8pm the craving overwhelmed me. Fresh fruit, combined with watching “The Last Food Network Star” on DVR, overtook me and I knew I needed to bake. Luckily, I had everything but the coconut. So H and I discussed and decided we could ditch it. If anything, we’d know better for next time. So I got to work.

About 1 hour later, bluberry coffee cake came out of the oven. Unfortunatley, it’s not the most photogenic baked good  but picture above. After 2 pieces for H and 1 for me, we decided to rate the recipe. H said “better than Drake’s!”and I agreed. However we both thought the cake wasn’t sweet enough. While reading the recipe feedback, someone suggested adding vanilla, which I might try next time. In the meantime, the cake turned out light and fluffy and the crumb topping is especially delicious. I recommend this dessert if you plan on having company and need a simple crowd pleaser. And of course make sure to use fresh blueberries!