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Sunday, June 1, 2014

CSA: A Bi-Weekly or Weekly Venture?

Everything consumed in time for Box 2!
For years, we've picked up a weekly CSA box on Saturday mornings from the first weekend in May to roughly the end of January. As our farmer predicted, by year three, we had a system to either eat everything or freeze or can that which we did not consume in a week's time. We did well. Our friends would marvel at how we, two people, managed to eat so many veggies.

Well, those days seemed to be over last year. With the purchase of a quarter cow and half of a pig (to be eaten by the omnivore in the family), we found ourselves with loads of roots and greens that ended up being chicken treats by week's end. Additionally, our gardens have grown exponentially in the past half decade, and when we bought a house in the country, we had hoped to someday be much more self-sustainable.

It seemed the time had come to downsize our CSA box, but we have commitment problems hence no children, no addition to the house...you get the idea. Even downgrading our CSA order seemed so daunting, but we took the leap (sarcasm intended for those of you who can never figure out my sense of humor!).

Well, on May 10th a CSA box was delivered to our normal pickup site, and we weren't on the receiving end. Admittedly, we felt a bit deflated. We doubted our decision. Then, May 17th rolled around. What a joyous occasion to see overwintered spinach and parsnips, freshly dug sunchokes, thick pink stalks of rhubarb, and the bright spring green of sorrel. Heavenly.

We think we made the right decision as this past Saturday, the 31st, we picked up our second box and were able to fit all of our new veggies in the fridge because ... get this: all of our other veggies had been consumed in the past 2 weeks. Regardless of how this first month went, we're going to keep track of how often we run out of veggies too early, how often the chickens are benefiting from our lack of consumption, and how much our gardens are contributing to our overall eating plans. We want to be decision-ready come 2015's order.

Something I made last week that was springy, healthy, and entirely local was Sunchoke-Parsnip soup, adapted from our very own Harmony Valley Farm newsletter. Here's how I made mine:

3 sunchokes
4-5 parsnips
2 Tbs. olive oil
1.5 tsp of salt
1 Tbsp butter
2 Tbs. chopped ramps (onions would work too)
1 quart water
2 cups fresh spinach
1 Tbsp lemon juice
ground black pepper, to taste

Instructions:
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut parsnips and sunchokes and put them into a baking dish with oil and salt. Roast for 30-45 minutes, or until vegetables are tender 


2. Melt butter in a small saucepan. When the butter has melted, add the ramps and saute. Add the roasted parsnips and sunchokes and water and bring all to a simmer. Simmer for 10 minutes.
3. Remove from the heat and stir in the spinach. Once the spinach is wilted, transfer all to a food processor and blend until smooth. Adjust the seasoning and serve.

Makes 4-6 servings.
Nutritional information per cup:
Calories: 113
Carbs: 10
Fat: 8
Protein: 2
Sodium: 28
Sugar: 5








Monday, April 21, 2014

Spring!

It is spring, my favorite season of the year. So much potential. So much excitement. So many new beginnings. More than at New Year's, I find myself coming up with resolutions to do better, be more focused, use my energy in more productive ways, and to find happiness in everyday moments. This winter has been especially trying for me as my father passed away the day after Christmas, in the middle of what always seems to be a difficult season anyway. But just like the green grass in spring always can be counted on to appear, one always finds herself on the other side of grief. Spring affirms that there is always new life, new love, new opportunities. This spring, I plan to capitalize on the positive energy that the re-arrival of warmth, plants, late and sunny nights, and all things green give me. One of the ways in which I hope to be better and more productive is to write more about the happenings around the homestead and keep up with this blog.

So, here it goes:  spring in Dane County has arrived!  In the quiet of the morning, the sounds of birds chirping and the hens scratching, purring, and clucking are ever-present. Rocky, the rooster, is back at his business with the ladies, and we find 3-4 eggs in the coop per day.

The spring flowers are up, and buds have formed on all of the perennials. Last year, we planted honey berry plants, service berry trees, and gooseberry plants, and they are shiny and green. We haven't seen any bees buzzing around, and we've yet to remove the insulation from the hive, so we're not sure of the state of the hive, but most hope that they've survived the many negative temperature days is gone.

Despite the bees, spring remains the time in which I feel everything gleeful rests on the horizon.
Honeyberry plant

Garlic shoots

Aronia and grapes
The dark, cold winter is over for now, and I plan to live every moment of spring in the present, basking in it all.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

A Ratatouille of Sorts

My last post was based off of another person's recipe. This post is based off of another person's recipe. Apparently, I've been more into reading recipes than  I have been into whipping up original creations lately. That said, this ratatouille feels like the answer for every overzealous gardener who finds him/herself with an abundance of veggies. Like the Swiss Roll recipe I posted last month, the ingredients in this recipe are flexible; I've made two different versions during this week alone.

The inspiration for this comes from The Week magazine's "Recipe of the Week" page. Officially called "Ratatouille tian," this is often served over rice or as fillings for a sandwich. Here at our house, we simply make it and serve it up. We also don't have the proper baking ware -- the tian is actually the earthen baking ware used traditionally. We simply used a glass pie pan, which seems to work just fine.

I also would recommend adding in sliced sweet peppers or other vegetables that would caramelize well. 

This recipe is easy to put together, but does require about 1.5 hours of baking!

Ingredients:
3-4 small eggplant
salt
3 tsp herbs de Provence
3-4 zucchini
6-8 Roma tomatoes
olive oil
2 yellow onions
8 fresh sage leaves, minced
2+ garlic cloves, minced

Directions:
1. Cut eggplants into 1/8-inch sections.  In a colander, toss with a teaspoon of salt. Let sit for one (or more) hour(s). Transfer to a bowl, and add a teaspoon of herbs de Provence.
2. Cut zucchini and tomatoes into 1/8-rounds. Put into two separate bowls. Sprinkle each vegetable with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1 tsp herbs de Provence.
3. Preheat oven to 350. Lightly oil baking dish. Thinly slice onions. Spread them evenly on the bottom of the pan. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt.
4. Arrange a row of one of the vegetables along the side of the...pack them tight enough that they almost stand upright. Follow with another row of vegetables. And then the other. Alternate to fill up the pan. If you have extras at the end, simply stuff them into the rows.
5. Drizzle with 3 Tbsp olive oil, spread the minced garlic and cut-up sage leaves among the veggies, and cover loosely with foil. Bake for 30 minutes.
6. Turn up the heat to 425, and bake 30 more minutes.
7. Remove foil, and bake for 30 more minutes or until the veggies are tender, and the tips are lightly browned.
8. Serve  hot, warm, or cold.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Swiss Chard Rolls

The recipe I want to share with you all today is not my original recipe; it is stolen, but it makes such a delicious and healthy product that I feel compelled to write about it. And it was "stolen" from our CSA newsletter, which makes me feel a little bit more okay with my almost-recipe-plagiarism.

All wrapped and ready to go.
Anyone who has ever grown Swiss Chard and/or collard greens knows that it can be hard to keep up with cutting, using, and really maximizing all of bounty that a few plants offer. I freeze bags full for smoothies and winter stews, but enjoying it in its actual season, and near its raw state, is satisfying. This recipe lends itself to just that.

And one word about the ingredients: like any fold-able food (think burritos, egg rolls), the ingredients in these rolls can vary. I enjoyed the creamy texture that the avocado provides with the slight kick from the jalapeno in this version, but building these really requires a grain, a sauce, and some diced veggies. I intend to play with various versions and spice combos, but I do not doubt that I will come back to this exact version from time to time.

We enjoyed this at an evening at Concerts on the Square with a bottle (or two) of Chardonnay.

Swiss Chard Rolls 
by Chef Beth, Harmony Valley Farm

Makes 8 rolls

8-10 large chard leaves (we also used collard greens)
1/8 cup yellow squash, small dice
1/8 cup cucumber, small dice
1 half avocado, small dice
1/2 cup black beans, rinsed
1 cup seasoned quinoa, cooked
Juice from one lime
1/2 jalapeno pepper, small dice
2 Tbs mayonnaise
1/2 medium sweet Spanish onions, small dice
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp coarse pepper

1. Bring large sauce pan of salted water to a boil. Blanch each chard or collard green leaf by holding onto the stem, placing the leaf in the boiling water for 15 seconds. Then, transfer to a towel and pat each leaf dry.
2. In a mixing bowl, mix all other ingredients. One by one, fill the leaves, ribbed side facing up, with a spoon of the mixture.
3. Fold in the sides of the leaves, and fold into a roll. Finish by cutting the stem and cutting each roll in half and place on a serving tray. Serve.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Barbacoa, Take Three

I have been on somewhat of an unintentional blogging hiatus. Work and life sped up, and blogging took a backseat. This Memorial Day weekend's barbacoa rejuvenated me in more ways than one, and I've revived my writer's bug. There exists nothing quite like a day of cooking with people whom you love to get the creative juices flowing.

In years past, along with our friends, we have tried to put goat or lamb meat in the ground under a fire. Once we burned through the pot, and the second time, we didn't cook the meat enough and had to reheat it in the house. This year, we attempted another approach: we put the meat, water, and maguey leaves in a pot and set it on top of the fire for the day. It seems like it was quite the success: according to the meat-eaters, the meat tasted tender and juicy.

While the barbacoa turned out well, we did have a bit of a fiasco with our carnitas. My good friend, Gaby, came over in the morning to prepare both the lamb meat for the barbacoa and also get the pork meat going for the carnitas. I watched as she added containers of lard, orange juice, milk, and a bit of caramel to the pot, and finally the pork. It smelled delicious. She left to get ready for the day; I went outside and, being the non-meat-eater that I am, I figured all was well with the cooking meat. But, by the time Gaby returned, the pork had turned to charcoal.  As a vegetarian, I felt guilty that the pig meat was a waste...but mistakes happen, and next time, I'll know to pay more attention. No use crying over burnt pig.
Carnitas before they became charcoal


Friends arrived, and the feast exploded. Someone brought carnitas (thank you!). Salsas, rice and beans, berry pie, chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting (with a cayanne kick), beer, beer, beer, tequila and lime drinks, hibiscus tea, Thai tea, chorizo, tortillas, fruit salad, and more salsa filled three tables. We gorged ourselves. Some of us took naps. Others of us needed coffee to help digest. A few of us poured insane amounts of leftover grease onto the campfire (yes, we  have a pyromaniac on our hands). Friends told stories. New friends got to know one another. All of us laughed.
Who knew dumping grease on a campfire could be so fun?

Despite the cool Memorial Day weekend, I haven't felt so cozy warm all year. The fire helped, but what really did it were the presence of such wonderful people, the vast amount of such amazing food, and the joy of such a blissful day of cooking. Barbacoa, take three, proved to an enormous success. 

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Date Balls

Yesterday, in my blog post about chocolate-covered peanut butter balls, I mentioned that I don't get too into baking for the holidays. Yet, here I am, about to write about another holiday sweet. Today's delight is a bit healthier. It's entirely vegan and raw. I'm writing about date balls!

Medjool dates arrive to our house every year in our CSA box, and often, I don't know what to do with them. They are deliciously sweet and are packed with nutrients (weight for weight more potassium than bananas,  full of fiber, good B-12 complex vitamins...and fat-free), but their caloric make-up is high (65 per one Medjool date). A recipe for Date Balls came with our CSA box this week, and since we're on a running kick in our house, the timing for this recipe seemed perfect. Plus, what a wonderfully healthy addition to the holiday sweet table. Leftovers from there will serve as energy boosts before some big runs or snowshoe adventures in the upcoming weeks.

The recipe couldn't be simpler, and the amount of ingredients is small. Most of the ingredients cannot be bought locally here in Wisconsin, but dates and oranges are in season right now in other places.

Ingredients
1.5 cups of pitted dates
1/4 cup of shredded coconut
3 Tbs. of cocoa powder
optional: 1 tsp. of espresso powder
optional: 1 tsp. of orange zest  

To cover date balls, you could just use one of these or you could make a variety:
coconut flakes
toasted sesame seeds
toasted and finely chopped hazelnuts
toasted and finely chopped pistachios
...and I tried Eden Organic Seaweed Gomasio (Sesame Seeds, Seaweed, & Sea Salt) for some of the balls

Directions:
1. Pit the dates.

2. Mix the pitted dates, the 1/4 cup of coconut, the cocoa powder, and the optional ingredients (if you're using them) in a food processor. Mix until the mixture forms into a ball. If it is too dry, add a teaspoon of water at a time. If it is too wet, add more coconut.

3. Put the date ball coverings into their own bowls.
 
Form 1-inch or smaller balls of the date mixture in your hand, and then roll them in the desired coverings. I got creative here and did some simple, one-covering balls and some mixed.
4. Refrigerate.












Saturday, December 22, 2012

Peanut Butter Balls: A Yummy Tradition

We don't get too into making Christmas cookies here at our house. There is an annual tradition in our extended family for all the ladies to get together a few weeks before Christmas and turn the kitchen into a bakery, so  the family as a whole is plenty stocked come Christmas Eve. However, here at our place, we do create one sweet delectable every December: peanut butter balls. Usually, we give them as gifts at work and save a few for our own holiday festivities; this year, because of two snow days in a row, we have Peanut Butter balls galore.


Other than the rolling-in-chocolate part, these sweet treats are super easy to make.

Ingredients:
2 cups creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup butter
4 cups powdered sugar
3 cups Rice Krispies
...for chocolate sauce...
one 24 oz. bag of chocolate chips
2.5 Tbs of butter

Directions:
1. Melt peanut butter and 1/2 cup butter over stove top.
2. Mix together powdered sugar and Rice Krispies.
3. Pour peanut butter mixture over powdered sugar mixture. Mix well.
4. Form mixture into 1-inch balls. Freeze.
5. Once the balls are frozen, use a double boiler (or a bowl over a pan of hot water like I did) to melt the chocolate. Dip the frozen balls into the chocolate, using a teaspoon. Place on cookie sheet. Freeze again to set.

Without a double-broiler, I just put hot water in a  pan and  put my other ingredients in a metal bowl.

These are always a crowd-favorite, and they make wonderful gifts. Enjoy!