Friday, August 26, 2011

In which I reveal just how impressionable I can be

I work in a retail setting, and although my current store is far to busy to allow me to keep up with celebrity gossip the way some of my former stores did, I do have a clear view of the magazine display at our checkout counter. For the last month, the cover of Martha Stewart Living has been teasing me, especially on the days that I don't get a chance to eat.

That deliciousness is marinated heirloom tomatoes with pasta, and it is damn near perfection for a summer dinner.

We threw this dinner together Tuesday night after I got home from work, so it's a good thing it's a quick and easy meal. It wasn't as garlicky as I thought it would be after reading the recipe, but it had a really great flavor, and it's just so pretty!

We used a mix of heirloom tomatoes from the CSA and our garden. Definitely going into the arsenal of recipes to use up tomatoes without making the typical pasta sauce.

Friday, August 12, 2011

CSA Week 11

So apparently I've skipped a couple of weeks of the CSA. There hasn't been much variety in the pick ups, so while delicious, things have not been overly interesting. Gabriella is fingerpainting at the moment though, so we can chat a bit about yesterday's pick-up.

Lettuce, two huge sweet onions, green beans, potatoes from North Star's potato breeding project, tomatillos, and a couple zucchini and eggplant.
Think it looks a little light for a farm share in the height of the growing season? You're right, it is.

Well, it's August, which means ...

Seven pounds of tomatoes in fact. Did I mention that we have 7 purposely planted and a few volunteer plants of our own and we're swimming in tomatoes. Yeah, there will be some sauce making in the near future.

Here's the actual bounty picture from yesterday

Since last night was the official return of football, even if it was just preseason, we needed an easy to eat in front of the TV meal. Add in 7 pounds of tomatoes, and we opted for pizza again.

One of my favorite things about pizza is just how versatile it is. Start with the same simple dough and you can end up with a ton of different meals. Of course, Peter is a traditionalist, so we made another margherita for him. 
Basil pesto, fresh tomato slices and mozzarella

We piled quite a few things on "my" pizza. Yes, it was a more labor intensive preparation, but I think it was worth it
Whoa, scary hand there.
Roasted eggplant and cherry tomatoes, caramelized onions, green peppers with ricotta and mozzarella

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

It can't be good to crave time off so much

I actually have a pretty decent schedule as far as retail pharmacy is concerned. Because I work the one 14 hour day, I'm off two full days during the week. I look forward to Monday and Thursday like nobody's business. Since this past weekend was my turn to work, I didn't get a ton of fun time with the munchkin, so yesterday, we decided to ignore the chores that should get done and have a fun family day.
We started the morning

at a local supermarket/restaurant, Dutchway. They have an awesome breakfast buffet which is normally a good deal (I think it's $6.99 for adults & $0.50/year of age for children), but had a special through July that it was only $4.99 on Mondays. I'm not sure the three of us could go to even McDonald's for breakfast for less than 15 dollars, and we definitely wouldn't have eaten nearly as much or as well.
I'm really bad at showing restraint at buffets, so since we all consumed approximately 80 million calories at breakfast, we then headed to Wolf's Hollow county park for some exercise. We did a combination of the blue and yellow trails, so we're approximating that we did about 2 miles of hiking.
Overall, the terrain isn't too difficult (says the one who didn't carry the toddler), but there are some steep hills
This picture really does not give that hill justice
We saw some wildlife
Big ass spider


Crazy grasshopper hanging out on my leg
and some beautiful sights
Taken at Lover's Leap, although there isn't much of a leap this far into the summer. Maybe in the winter when all the plants are dead. Yesterday, it was so dense that we could hear the creek, but couldn't see even a glimpse of it

The bullfrog was in those reeds next to the little semi island

Peter was worried about my getting over the fords with dry feet since I only had sneakers and no boots. I reminded him that it's been in the high nineties for a week. The creek was quite low

I love standing on fallen trees over water
The best thing about the hiking trails in this park is that they are all in fairly heavily wooded areas. I didn't even bother with sunscreen, and it was relatively cool. It was a great way to spend a couple of hours together.
She's not in pain, she's saying cheese

Plus, even though Peter carried her for a lot of the hike, Gabriella did walk and run a lot. There is nothing like a tuckered out child for having an easy bedtime.

Friday, July 22, 2011

A taco theory

I have a theory on taco meat. I'm very nearly convinced that as long as you use taco seasoning, you can put it on almost anything and you're going to think it's tacos. This is not an exclusive theory. Anyhow, we've often thrown some strange things into our taco meat, and it tastes just fine. Last week, I really pushed the envelope.

That is shredded kohlrabi and patty pan squash, along with some ground turkey, because I cook for Peter, and he does not share my theory. The vegetables still far outweighed the turkey in that concoction and honestly, I think we could get away with dropping the meat completely. Maybe I couldn't in good conscience call the results tacos, but they would still taste good and fill us up. Of course, I'd have to try it without telling Peter.

This could easily be a vegetarian meal

CSA Week 7

Now we're settling into the summer crops and there isn't as much variation in our shares from week to week. I'm still a week behind, so this bounty is actually from last Thursday. We got beans, patty pan squash, lots of beets, eggplant, carrots and a head of lettuce. The big zucchini is not technically from the share, it was on the "seconds" quality table which is take whatever you can use. I grabbed that one planning for a batch of zucchini bread.

Since it was an odd number week, we also got our cheese share, which was tailor made for Peter.
Habanero cheddar and and fresh mozzarella
One of the things we're kind of struggling with when it comes to the cheese CSA is using the goods. Not that they don't get eaten, but we've both kind of got a mental block against eating them in anything but their pure form. For instance, I suggested we use the mozzarella to make pizza since it doesn't have the shelf life to keep around like the aged cheeses have. However, we both kind of hesitated - is it a waste of the "special" cheese to mix it with other ingredients, even if the end result is delicious? On the other hand, isn't it pretty silly to buy crap mozzarella from the grocery store when we've already got good stuff in the fridge?

We got past the hangup about cooking with our cheese
Technically, we compromised with the hangup. We had a few tastes of the pure mozzarella and put the rest of it on a pizza. We made two pizzas actually (in the regular oven, not the woodburning one. That thing is awesome, but a ton of work for just 2 1/2 people). The mozzarella went on one with a basil pesto base and fresh tomatoes for a slight twist on a classic margherita, and the other was spinach and onions with some of the garlic and chive chedder from week 5. The spinach one was good, but the margherita was terrific. I always forget how much I like fresh tomato on pizza until I have it, and then I'm sad that I had forgotten and deprived myself of fresh tomato pizzas for any period of time.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

I wasn't kidding when I said I was born 200 years after my time

As I mentioned previously, SuperFresh had a great sale going on blueberries a couple of weeks ago. Between baking and eating, we went through most of our first 6 pints before the week was out, so I stopped by on my way home from work and got more. It was a crazy amount of blueberries for 3 people, but there aren't many things that Gabriella likes more than blueberries and peanut butter and jelly, so I wanted to make some blueberry jam.
I love making canned goods, it's really not THAT hard, but people don't do it, so when you do the general public seems to think you're amazing. I look for any opportunity to stoke my ego, trust me.
Anyhow, to make this jam you need



Acid (either lemon or lime juice)
Jars. Maybe. More on that in a minute
I decided to make one batch of blueberry jam and one batch of mixed blueberry and strawberry jam. For each one you need 6 cups of berries (the mixed I did in a 1:1 ratio, so 3 cups of each), 3 cups of sugar and 1/4 cup of the acid. Easy peasy recipe, just like I told Peter when he was concerned that I be able to remember and duplicate the results in the future.
For the actual jam making, you combine the fruit and sugar and cook over medium heat until it reaches the gelling point.

You then add the acid and cook for a few minutes. If you're afraid of canning, you could just refrigerate it and use it quickly, but since it makes a decent amount, it would make more sense to suck it up and learn how to can things safely.
Obviously, the big enemy with preserving food is bacteria. No one wants botulism. There are tons of resources out there which detail the correct methods to follow, so I'll sum up with clean equipment and a proper processing time at a full rolling boil if using a hot water bath method.
After boiling to sterilize, you keep the jars in hot water until the jam is ready to fill them
 After filling the jars, I boiled them for 15 minutes, then let them cool for  before taking them out of the bath. I'm pretty sure that every jar sealed as I lifted them out of the water.

The strawberry-blueberry mix set up a little better than the straight blueberry, but they are both definitely firm enough to use as jelly. I ended up with 5 half pint jars of mixed berry and 4 half pints of blueberry. We've enjoyed the mixed with peanut butter and on some delicious crepes stuffed with nutella and banana.

CSA Week 6

Since it has come to my attention that someone other than Peter and Jen is reading this (Hi Gigi!!) I am going to ignore the fact that I stood in one spot for 14 hours today with only 2 quick pee breaks and update on last week's pick up.

Eggplant, red cabbage, tomatoes, sugar snap peas, patty pan squash, a crapload of cucumbers and carrots.

The day of this pick up, Peter suggested I take Lil G out so that he could do some much needed straightening around the house. I am not really one to suggest otherwise when someone else is offering to clean, so we hightailed it out on a Mommy and Me adventure. We hit the Indian Market, the super big branch of the library, and my mecca - Joann's. We also stopped for lunch at my most favorite fast food establishment, Chik-fil-a. One of the side effects of only rarely eating fast food, is that when you do indulge, it kind of sits in your stomach like a rock for a day. Even after a nice visit with my parents after we got our veggies, I still wasn't really hungry, so it became a fend for yourself evening.

I have no clue what Peter ate (probably cereal), but I made myself a hummus and cucumber sandwich and ate it with a handful of peas and nice thick slices of tomato. Light, delicious and just what my spicy chicken filled tummy could handle. 

Thursday, July 7, 2011

CSA Week 5

Yes, I realize that today was the pick up for week 6. I never was a) a prolific writer or b) good with deadlines.

So, last week here's what we got at our pick up

It's huge, right? I actually asked Lisa if the signs meant we got one head of lettuce or one head of each kind because holy crap that is a lot of produce. Luckily she confirmed, it was one head of each type. Plus a monster bunch of swiss chard, eggplant, sugar snap peas, carrots, potatoes, beets, summer squash and dill.
This is perhaps a perfect opportunity to mention the costs associated with the CSA. Previously, North Star had offered two different size shares, but this year they simplified things and just made every share the same size and cost. The share cost 500 dollars for 22 weeks of veggies. That works out to just under 23 dollars a week. Now look at that pile above and realize that this farm grows using organic practices, although they are not certified as organic. Anyone want to venture a guess as to what that would have cost at a regular grocery store? Actually, that might be a fun thing for me to do one week.
Peter also pointed out that I have neglected to talk about our cheese CSA. This is merely a consequence of it being a million and five degrees outside and things like cheese going into the refrigerator the second I walk in the door and therefore not being photographed in the moment. We did get a pick up in week 3 and 5.
Week 3
2 weeks out from pick up, so quite a bit has been enjoyed, but here is Citrus Sunrise fresh cheese (my favorite, it tasted like a danish and was amazing on toasted baked goods like blueberry bread), fresh cheese with peppercorn, and a block of colby.

Week 5

A block of garlic and chive chedder and a wedge of Westbrook, which I don't think is a "real" cheese name (at least google doesn't seem to think it is). It's pretty mild, but has a tangy aftertaste, kind of like a not sharp provolone.

Ok there's week 5, will it take me a week to get up week 6?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

CSA potluck and the farm

One of the really great things about our CSA (and maybe all, but I only have experience with North Star), is how they try to make the CSA a community instead of just a place you show up to once a week to get vegetables. A prime example was this last weekend.
Every year at the start of the CSA season, they host a potluck dinner for CSA members. Everyone brings a dish and a blanket to sit on and Lisa and Ike provide the drinks, entertainment and a place to put that blanket. It's a lot of fun, and there are always a ton of delicious dishes.
Our contribution - Blueberry cake with lemon glaze
 Ooh, and in case you didn't know, Superfresh has blueberries on sale this week 6 pints for only $6.99. It's a lot, but you can freeze them!
Peter gets artsy with the camera

A father daughter team provide music

Yummy food
After we ate, Lisa convinced Ike to give one last garden tour. We've toured the farm a couple of times already, but this time we had the camera!


Parsley being provided with dappled sunlight

The greenhouse where they start plants before setting them out into the real beds. They also have a row of tomatoes and cucumbers going so we got them way before they're usually available in this region

Peter is obsessed with these seed starting blocks

Enough so that he took a picture of the block maker



Garlic being allowed to go to flower so they can save the seeds for next year

Onions being saved for seed

Swiss chard

Bolted broccoli