It was Colonel Mustard in the Library with the Rope!

Yes, I’m a big fan of Clue – great game, and even better movie!! Lately I’ve been very lax on blogging and for that I’m sorry! Every year it seems that I disappear for a month, or two and alas it happened again. I’ve had some big life changes going on that have diverted my attention: I started a new job (in marketing), and we purchased a new home! Selling your home is the pits – it was a lot of hard work getting the home packed up, but we cannot wait to move into our new home. It has a great big yard so the puppy will be thrilled, and it has a double-oven, so get ready for some awesome recipes! In selling and purchasing we have had a lot of DIY projects going on. At some point I’ll transition some of the before and after pictures into a quick blog post with some short tutorials on basic projects that y’all may enjoy.

As I’m sure its true for many folks that enjoy writing I’m an avid reader. I just love scoping out websites and articles online, in person, at the food store, etc. I’m also buried in some type of book, magazine, journal, etc. Magazines are an especially fun group to page through! There is something about those glossy pages that just draws me in! I love Martha’s magazine – all the pages are always beautiful (usually the projects are a bit impractical for my day-to-day life but gorgeous to look at!). I also enjoy Real Simple, Better Homes and Gardens, The Washingtonian to keep up on my local area and whatever else my friends pass my way (Cosmo, Health, etc).

And in the hours that I’m not pinning my life away of pinterest you can find me reading the following blogs:

http://virginiabloggers.com/ (Great compilation of various VA bloggers)
http://mileoneandcounting.wordpress.com/ (Running, fitness, overall health and inspiration)
http://whitsweather.wordpress.com/ (If you live in the DC area – here is your local weatherman!)
http://exploreandlovenature.wordpress.com/ (Great blog featuring outdoor activities and reflections on nature)
http://tastebuds101.wordpress.com/ (Cooking!!)
– http://jessiecarty.com/ (poetry, writing, etc)

As I mentioned before I read pretty much anything I can get my hands-on. The folks at the library definitely recognize me because I’m there quite frequently as I go through books rather quickly. Travel books seem to stick with me more than other types of books, so is a smattering of some travel (and other) books I’ve read that have stuck in the front of my mind as worthwhile recommendations. I used to keep a book focused blog at freelanceallison.wordpress.com – there are a bunch of book reviews there if you are handkering for more.

Honeymoon with my Brother (Wisner)
The Last Lecture (Pausch)
Into Thin Air (Krakauer)
Gone Girl (Flynn)- GREAT summer (or anytime) reading!
French Dirt: The Story of a Garden in the South of France (Goodman)

So that’s the scoop on where you can find me and what I’m reading when I’m not over here writing about the various crops we are collecting and cooking!

What are your favorite blogs? I always LOVE a good blog (book or magazine) recommendation!!

Calzones: Pizza’s Favorite Cousin!

I am Italian, it’s evident in the amount of pasta on hand, at all times, in my pantry as well as my meal choices. If it were up to me I’d likely have some version of pasta every single meal (yes, even breakfast), so finding italian recipes that are quick, easy and tasty are something I’m always on the lookout for. We love making homemade pizza but making the same recipes week after week can get a little boring, which is why we decided to really branch out (not) and try out our calzone making skills. It was a success! The calzone was plentiful, tasty and easy! It is a recipe we will deifnitely be using in the future!! I would imagine that for kids making mini-calzones would be a fun project since they get to really pick and choose their fillings and shape the calzone, so if you have children around this could be a fun way to make dinner more engaging and interactive…Calzone, Creative Crops

Ingredients:

1 lb pizza dough
1 cup ricotta cheese, drained
4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
2 tbsp italian seasoning (we used a garlic, oregano and parsley combo)
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 tsp minced garlic
2 tbsp olive oil
Mix-ins: pepperoni, sausage, veggies, etc
Handful of cornmeal

** Heated marinara/pizza sauce for dipping

Directions:

Pre-heat your oven and pizza stone to 450 F. Mix ricotta, mozarella, garlic, seasonings and mix-ins in a large bowl. Add a pinch of salt and pepper to taste (optional). Have a cornmeal coated area ready for your dough. Roll out your pizza dough over the cornmeal to form a circle and spread your mix-in and cheese mixture covering only 1 side of the dough and make sure to leave some of the edge available so you can seal up the calzone.

Fold the un-covered half of the dough over the mix-ins and cheese and ensure the ends meet. Your calzone/dough should be in the shape of a semi-circle now. Pinch the edges/crust togeter to seal them and use a fork to get the ‘crinkled’ look as you continue sealing them together.

Brush the calzone with olive oil, cut a few small slits in the top, like you would a pie, to allow steam to escape and move it onto your pizza stone for baking! I always make sure there is cornmeal on my pizza stone so that my pizza and calzones in this case don’t stick, so if you haven’t added a thin layer of cornmeal to your pizza stone during the heating process add a bit now before adding your calzone on top of it. Calzones are quick to bake and only need about 10 – 15 minutes depending on their size. You know your calzone is done when it is a golden brown color and is considerably larger than when you placed it in the oven.

Once the calzone has had a few moments to cool and not burn your mouth, dig in! We love dipping ours in pizza sauce, so I usually heat that up while the calzone is cooking. You can add some pizza sauce inside your calzone with your mix-in and cheese combinations if you’d like too.

The combinations of what you can stuff inside the calzone are pretty endless. Have a fun dinner and let everyone go to town creating the calzone of their dreams!

Slammin’ ‘Slaw

Two weeks ago we had a threat of snow, today it is supposed to climb to the low 80s, so I’m taking this is as a sign that we are skipping spring and heading into Summer – I’ll take it! Since it’s my version of summer here are two slaw recipes that are out of this world! They’re a great compliment to pulled-pork, burgers, or anything else that involves your grill and al fresco dining. As with many of my recipes they’re pretty easy to make and don’t require too much time. If you’re in a pinch time-wise you can use those handy bags of coleslaw mix in the lettuce section of the food store instead of shredding cabbage at home yourself (we have recently received cabbage in our awesome crop-share, but on the weeks we don’t we absolutely cheat using this!).

Carolina Slaw

Adapted from this recipe

IngredientsCreative Crops Coleslaw Homemade Recipe

– 1 large head of finely shredded cabbage
– 1 sweet onion, finely chopped
– 2 grated carrots
– 1/2 cup sugar
– 1 tsp salt
– 2/3 cup vegetable oil
– 1 tsp dry mustard
– 1 tsp celery seed
– 1 cup cider vinegar

Directions

Combine cabbage, onion and carrots in a large bowl. In a small pan over medium heat combine the sugar, salt, oil, mustard, celery seed and cider vinegar and bring to a boil. Simmer these ingredients until the sugar is dissolved and then pour over the veggies and toss well.Creative Crops Coleslaw Homemade Recipe

This is best served chilled, so after everything is done move it to the fridge until it is really chilled, and then dig in!

 

Asian Slaw

Adapted from Food Network’s recipe

Ingredients

– 1 bunch of trimmed and thinly sliced scallions
– ** shortcut alert!!** 2, 16 oz bags of coleslaw mix, OR 1 head green, 1 head red cabbage shredded
–  1 thinly sliced small, red onion
– 1/4 cup soy sauce
– 1/4 cup lemon juice
– 1/4 cup vegetable oil
– 2 tbsp grated fresh ginger
– 2 tbsp white vinegar
– 2 tbsp brown sugar
– 2 tbsp sesame oil
– 2 tsp sesame seeds
– 1 tsp salt
– pinch of ground black pepper

Directions

Food Network directed us to rough up the scallions a bit so the layers of the scallion whites separated. When I first read this I felt like I wasn’t reading English – what did this mean? It was pretty simple – use your fingers to roll the scallions around a bit, it sounded harder than it was, thankfully!

Combine the coleslaw mix, or shredded cabbages, red onion and scallions in a large bowl. To make the dressing, in a small bowl  combine all of the remaining ingredients together until well blended together. Pour over the cabbage and veggie mixture. Food Network suggests serving this within 1 hour of adding the dressing to avoid wilted cabbage. We dressed it all at once, then ate it for the next 2 – 3 days and didn’t find that it lost flavor or got too soggy, but it may just be personal preference. CreativeCrops Asian Slaw

Happy Grilling!

Asparagus Chicken a la Pinterest

I’m not sure about any of you guys but I LOVE pinterest. The amount of time I spend ‘pinning’ is definitely bordering the unhealthy… I have finally started getting around to really trying out the various recipes I have pinned. To date, this is one of our favorite pinned recipes! It’s easy to make on a weeknight, cooks very quickly and fresh asparagus is just so incredibly tasty! The pin was to this recipe, which we adapted pretty heavily…

Ingredientscreativecrops asparagus chicken

– chicken cutlets – pounded thin
– 1 bunch of asparagus
– 1 tsp olive oil (we used our garlic infused olive oil)
– Cheese – we’ve used both mozzarella & Gruyère on different occasions, both were tasty!
– pinch of salt
– pinch of pepper
– panko bread crumbs (regular bread crumbs will do as well!)

Directions

Pre-heat oven to 375 F. Sautee the asparagus in the olive oil until bright green in color, then set aside. Line your creativecrops asparagus chickenbaking dish with either non-stick cooking spray, a bit of olive oil, or a small pinch of butter to prevent the chicken from sticking.

Season your chicken with salt and pepper, and lay the breasts out. Arrange the asparagus in the middle of each chicken breast – we usually averaged about 2 – 3 stalks of asparagus per chicken. Spring the cheese on top of the asparagus inside each chicken, then roll the chicken around the asparagus. Place them all seam side down in the backing dish. Spring the bread crumbs on top of the chicken and put it all in the oven. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until chicken is safe to eat (internal temp of 160 – 165 F). Since the chicken is sliced and pounded so thin the oven cooking time should be very minimal overall.

creativecrops asparagus chicken

Martha’s Weeknight Shrimp Jambalaya

My husband loves spicy food, anything with a good kick he automatically moves to his favorite food list. I’m not as into the spicy overtones in food and tend to get overwhelmed by spice quickly. We were in the hunt for a recipe that had some spice, but not too much AND was easy for a weeknight when we forgot to defrost meat which is how we stumbled upon Martha’s Shrimp Jambalaya. Since I’m not Martha I, of course, modified her recipe to fit our flavors and worked based off of her reviews online. Below is our version of Martha’s Shrimp Jambalaya. It wasn’t too spicy for me and my husband added some extra spice to his own dish to better suite his palate. It was quick and easy to make, required no defrosting of anything and contained ingredients we generally alwasy have handy in our kitchen. Definitely a great recipe to add to the weeknight rotation!

creative crops recipe, shrimp jambalayaIngredients

1 tablespoon canola oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, ribs and seeds removed, diced
3 celery stalks, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
Pinch of salt and ground pepper
2 teaspoons paprika
8 plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 cup long-grain white rice
1 pound medium shrimp (about 30), peeled, deveined, and tails removed
1/2 cup thinly sliced scallions, for garnish
2 cups water

Directionscreative crops recipe, shrimp jambalaya

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, bell pepper, celery, and garlic; season with salt and pepper. Stir occasionally while it cooks until onion starts softening which will take about 5 minutes. Stir in paprika; cook about 1 minute (Martha suggests until it is fragrant).

Add tomatoes, rice, and water to skillet; cover, and simmer over medium heat until rice is cooked and has absorbed all water, about 15 minutes. Add shrimp and cook, covered about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from heat; season with salt and pepper, as desired. Garnish the dishes with your scallions before serving!

Shrimp Jambalaya creative crops

Pulled Pork – Just in time for spring BBQs!

Nashville is one of the best cities I’ve ever traveled to for work. Why did I love Nashville so much? Pulled Pork. It was everywhere and it was delicious! Now that I’m getting into this pulled pork I’m finding that

Creative Crops PUlled Pork, recipe, food

MMM – Look at the juicy pork ready to cook!

there are a lot of places that offer scrumptious pulled pork around, and there are a ton of varieties to be had! Based on my love of pulled pork I wanted to try making this at home. One issue I ran into is that my dear Husband is not much of a BBQ sauce person (I know, its shameful!), so I wanted to find one that was light on the BBQ flavor. This was more of a Carolina variety and really delivered. We mashed up this recipe based on checking out a wide variety of other pulled pork recipes and going with our gut on what would combine well but be without BBQ sauce. Making it in the crock-pot was a snap too, just keep in mind that this will take a few hours to be ready to eat – so start early in the day for dinner!

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 1 (4 pound) pork shoulder roast
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 large cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon dried yellow mustard
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 extra large onion, quartered
  • Salt & pepper
  • 8 hamburger buns

Directions

Heat oil and brown the pork on each side. As the pork browns, whisk together ketchup, garlic, vinegar, sugar, Worcestershire, and all spices in separate bowl. You will likely need to cut the pork so that it fits in the crockpot. Once its cut, put it in the crockpot so it can start cooking! Pour your sauce mixture over the pork and add your quartered onions.

Set your crockpot to low and cook for 8 hours. Every few hours check on it and turn the pork so that it cooks more evenly. After 8 hours feel free to dive in! Before you start devouring the pork (which will be a desire you have) discard the onions and use a fork (or tongs if you’re feeling fancy) to shred  the pork. Load up your buns and voila – pulled pork sandwich ready for you to eat!Creative Crops PUlled Pork

Drinking Locally – Our Favorite Northern Virginia Wineries

Back in 2008 when I moved to the nation’s capital I had no idea that wine country would be just a short car-ride from my door. (Politics and wine? That can’t be a healthy combination….)But it is true – Virginia is home to over 200 wineries (yep, 200!). Since living here and unpacking all of our many boxes we have started to venture out further and further into this wine country to see what it is really all about and do as many tastings as we can. Virginia has been voted as one of the 5 up and coming wine regions by Travel and Leisure magazine, and not surprisingly Virginia wines have been gaining international recognition.

Here is a recount of the wineries we have sampled to date, as our winery visits continue this spring and summer  I may have a Part 2 to this post (here’s to hoping so!)

Best Tasting:
Pearmund Cellars: This was an easy win. We were absolutely wowed by their tasting offerings. Their wines were fantastic (we purchased a case!) and the tasting gave us the chance to sample almost all of their options! Located in Warrenton, Virginia they are not too far from DC and one of the closer wineries. Overall the feel of the tasting room was busy but not too crowded that it was unenjoyable. We were able to have great conversation and learn a lot about the wines were sampling. It was a very pleasant experience and we have gone back since.

Most Unique:
Narmada Winery: Located in Amissville this is still reasonably close to DC. This winery sits a gorgeous property, there is so much to look at on the property, and I can imagine that it would set the scene for a beautiful wedding. Their wines are made to pair well with Indian food, which is unique and not something I had expected to find in VA wines. It was a unique but very tasty spin. You are able to sample about 11 wines for about $7. They do offer tours (for an additional fee). If I didn’t know as much about wine-making in general from other tours it may have been something we would have done but just relaxing and looking at the land was enough for us.

Prettiest Tasting Room: 
Sunset Hills Winery: A beautiful tasting room with lots of rustic wood. There were many windows from which to view the sunsets but the combination of well-kept antiques and well-cared for wood rafters really made this tasting room stand out as soon as you entered. Simply beautiful! The tasting was lovely as well with friendly staff and tasty wines.

Favorite White Wine (to date):
Fox Meadow Winery: Similar to the way we have stumbled upon many other wineries that is what happened with this one. We were going from place to place and passed this and figured we would stop in – good choice! They had our favorite white wine, to date: Freezeland White. It is described on their website as being a unique blend of Chardonnay, Vidal, and Rkatsiteli, a Georgian varietal. It was sweet but not too sweet, overall just a nice, different, white wine.

Best Celebration: Casanel Vineyards: Casanel Vineyards This is a younger winery in Loudon County but they sure know how to party! We visited this winery on Canaby Rd, by chance, on their first birthday celebration! They had food offerings on a great patio, lots of people there to celebrate, wine-infused cupcakes (which were delicious!), and a great staff on hand! The staff was fabulous in relaying to us their history and plans for the future, and their wine was really tasty!! ** Bonus: Designated Drivers get a free soda at this winery!!

Favorite Variety: 
Willowcroft Winery:  Willowcroft Farm Vineyards This is the original Loudon County winery. They were such a great place to visit and man do they have a wonderful tasting. What I really enjoyed about this winery is that they have a lot of ‘mixed’ wines. I’m sure this would irritate a lot of sommoliers but I really enjoyed getting to taste a variety of wines created from blending varied grapes together.

Cheers to your wine adventures!

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