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Monday, November 3, 2014

Salads in Jars

Yumminess before the jars.
A couple of years ago, I made my first set of salads in glass jars for lunches; they were convenient and delicious, but I fell into my old habits and reverted back to leftovers and soups. This past week, our CSA box contained a bag of spinach and another bag of salad greens and carrots and celery and radishes and broccoli and I thought -- hey! I should really get back to those salads.

By the way, making salads in mason jars for weekly lunches is so much faster than making a pot of soup. Duh, right?

The brilliant news is that jar salads stay fresh for a solid 5-7 days. I'll post a picture of Friday's salad later this week just to confirm.




What are the rules?
  • Put the dressing at the bottom. I used 2 Tablespoons, which was plenty for me.
  • Then, put something that can serve as a barrier between the lettuce and dressing. Obviously, this layer is going to get the most exposure to the dressing, so choose a more sturdy vegetable. I used carrots, celery, radishes, and broccoli for this week's salad. Use whatever you have. 
  • Next, add a grain or noodles, if you'd like. I used a quinoa this week.
  • If you're up to it, a protein such as cheese or hard-boiled egg goes next.
  • Finally, the greens themselves.
How do you eat it?
  • I take a bowl to dump mine into, but you could also try your luck just diving right into the glass jar.
  • Just dump it right in!
I use Myfitnesspal.com to track my calories and nutrition information, and I got an immediate green (which is good!) on the fiber section. The other side benefit of making salads in jars is for the sheer aesthetic pleasure of it! They are beautiful.


Monday, August 25, 2014

New Brooder Equals Unrivaled Space

Our friend Fjud spent his Sunday building our chicks a bigger brooder. Because we got the chicks so late in the season and because winter here is so brutal, we are going to  have to keep these babies inside a bit longer than we have when we've gotten them before, in the spring or early summer. Not wanting them to get crowded, we proposed a sort of inside coop/brooder to our construction-savvy friend. He was up to the challenge.

This is what former chicks and the newbies have resided in....




Now, check out their new digs....


Notice the perching bar to the left.

Easy access to allow chicks out to play. This will be useful for introductions to the big hens, too.

View upon opening the above door.

View of entire operation






We couldn't be happier with the results. This is a project that will benefit us for all future poultry endeavors. Thanks, Fjud!

A Flock in Chaos: A Tumultuous Week of Backyard Chicken Keeping

Spindy, on one of her in-home nights
This week, we put down Spinderella (our favorite hen), got a set of 4 baby chicks, and buried one of said baby chicks. It was a tumultuous week for the flock and for its owners.

Back in July, Spinderella began acting lethargic, not excited for the mealworms or cherry tomatoes she so loved. We found a local vet who often works with hens; she diagnosed Spindy with fatty liver. She predicted that we may have called too late, but she gave us instructions to feed Critical Care (actually made for guinea pigs) through a tube twice daily and to give Spindy some R and R inside. We followed instructions, and Spindy's crop got nice and full.
Some TLC

As soon as we put her outdoors again, Spindy began riding a roller coaster of health. One day, we thought she was better; the next she spent the day puffed out under a tree. When the heat index increased on Friday and Saturday, she began floundering around, unable to stand. Even in the air conditioning, she was panting, and we knew it was time.

To all of those hard-core farming types out there, this is where we former city-dwelling, inexperienced, overly compassionate and sentimental homesteaders fail. We took Spinderella to the emergency vet and paid to have her put to sleep via injection. I rationalize this expense by remembering why I wanted backyard chickens to begin with: to give animals who provide me with food a happy life, filled with dignity. There is just no way either my spouse or I have it within us to end her life in the more traditional methods, though we have discussed seeing if we can buy the injection supplies needed for future situations. At the vet, both of us felt the pain and stress of putting a pet down, which to me, means we had succeeded in giving Spindy the type of life I had wanted for her.

On the other end of the week, on Monday, the 18th, four chicks hatched at My Pet Chicken and were shipped our way!  Their fuzzy little bodies are a delight to anyone!

Our friends' kids have flocked here this week, and we've personally enjoyed watching these little ladies grow feathers and flutter around. Our flock is comprised of hens with musically-related names, and this year we let our nieces and friend's daughter name the hens.

We have a:
Eleanor Annie Cosette (Eleanor for Eleanor Roosevelt - strong woman; Annie for Annie Lennox, Cosette from Les Mes)



P!nk


Katy Perry


One of the chicks, our Buff Orphington, didn't make it.

RIP Little Taylor Swift
We came home from dinner (the same day on which Spindy was put down) to find our little chick face-down in the brooder. We are unsure what happened, but we suspect heat. It was a sad day around these parts.


For now though, we'll enjoy the sound of our little peepers singing away in their brooder...and so will the mammals

















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.