Wednesday, August 31, 2011

CSA Heaven

Today I picked up our first CSA share from Heritage Farm. Blissed out. As I drove up the dirt road past the pastures, past the farm stand, past the gardens and to the little red store I felt a huge sense of joy. Was this because I had a new lens and family in the van to watch over the kids? A little. Cam met me inside and showed me the ropes and the beautiful tomatoes I will be canning tomorrow. Giddy. Seriously, I was giddy. Camera out and bag in hand I didn't know what to do first. Pictures of those luscious tomatoes left for me to weigh and purchase. Lucky me! 




On her way out she told me to grab a bouquet of fresh flowers, I almost started crying.



 When I came to the Heritage to collect my shares two years ago, I loved it. I appreciated it.


Honestly, I didn't, not the way I do now. After two summers of growing on my own, I have a tremendous amount of respect for what these hard working and talented people present us with each Tuesday. It is truly a gift. I gathered my share and then grabbed the handful of items from the fridge.


I stepped back outside and sighed a big heavy sigh as I looked out across the long rows of cabbage, lettuces, zinnias and more...and more. On the far side, I spied a gathering of sunflowers with their golden faces aglow and their feet busy with Nasturciums. Oh dear. Waterworks. I couldn't help it. I can't grow sunflowers. I have tried and tried. Seeds, seedlings, some starts did ok, but nothing like these magestic giants. Bees were doing their thing and the sunflowers just towered. I believe if there were to be royalty in the plant kingdom, the Queen would definitely be the Sunflower.




 
Here is this week's pick up list:



  • Bagged chard
  • Bagged mizuna
  • Beets
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Cucumbers: slicing and pickling
  • Fennel
  • Flower Bouquet
  • Garlic
  • Herbs: basil, korean mint, summer savory, parsley
  • Kale
  • Onions
  • Potatoes: blushing duchess and all red
  • Scarlet runner beans
  • String beans: yellow wax and royal burgundy
  • Summer squash: zucchini, eight ball zucchini, crook-neck and patty pan
  • Tomatoes: cherry, stupice and heirlooms
  • Turnips



Yes, this is for THIS WEEK. And you wonder why I feel like I am in heaven?


For dinner we BBQed local steaks, had crash potatoes and grilled carrots, zucchini, and crookneck squash. A big hit for everyone at the table.


Any suggestions for the rest of the week?


Crash Potatoes a la Val

So, I saw a link on Pinterest, which led me to a link I couldn't open, so I had to Google it and OF COURSE I landed on The Pioneer Woman...again. She is everywhere or we are meant to cross paths, or both. Love ya Ree.


She has this wonderful recipe for Crash Hot Potatoes...mine are just Crash. She offered a great starting point and I simplified and complicated it a little.


Crispy on the outside and smooth on the inside with a salt and herb kick in the pants, these potatoes are good.
CRASH POTATOES a la Val
Prep Time: 15 minutes Cook time: 35 minutes


Ingredients:

  • 10-15 Whole New Potatoes, if they are larger than a golf ball, cut them up
  • 6 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • Kosher Salt
  • Black Pepper
  • Finely chopped Rosemary, Summer Savory or Thyme
  • 6 cloves of minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan

Instructions:
Turn your oven up to 450 degrees.


Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add your potatoes and remove them when you can easily pierce them with a fork.


On a sheet pan, generously drizzle olive oil. Don't be stingy. Spread it around so your potatoes don't stick to the pan. Place your lovely tender potatoes on the cookie sheet in rows with space between.


With a potato masher, smash each little potato flat with one quick and gentle smash. Sprinkle the top of the potatoes with the kosher salt, black pepper and fresh herbs of choice. Drizzle olive oil horizontally and then vertically across the sheet pan. Some folks like to make them as individual little potato piles. I say, make them all friends.


Bake in a 450 degree oven for 20 minutes. Remove the sheet from the oven and sprinkle Parmesan and return to the oven for 5 more minutes.


In your serving dish, put your minced garlic cloves on the bottom of the dish. Remove your potatoes from the baking sheet and into your serving dish. Give it a light mix and a touch more Parmesan if you lean that way. Serve immediately.


Other possibilities: add red chili pepper flakes or bacon pieces at the end. My husband better not read that last recommendation or he will request it every night.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Coming up this week...

Blackberries have been picked - need to pick more for eating, freezing and making jam
First CSA pick up on Tuesday
Picking up tomatoes for canning
Canning tomatoes

Phew!

Friday, August 26, 2011

{This Moment}: onion harvester


A Friday ritual from Amanda at Soule Mama.
A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week.
A simple, special, extraordinary moment.
A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.
If you’re inspired to do the same, leave a link to your “moment” in the comments for all to find and see.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Recipe Roundup - Zucchini

Well, we have zucchini and it is that time of year here where people start to lock their doors out of fear of the load of zukes that might be left in their car or just inside the front door.

Our zucchini is beautiful this year and we will happily grill some each and every night. Both of my kids love it, it is so simple to prep and my husband grills it to perfection.

Although I am posting a plethora of recipes from my favorite sites, straight off the grill is my fav. We cut them into approximately 3-4" sections, then into quarters. Toss them in a large bowl with fresh pressed garlic and/ or some freshly minced Rosemary, hand off to your Grillmaster and then serve. My son will eat 6-7 wedges on his own and the babe will work her way through one.

This is the taste of summer in our house.

The oven is fixed and I am going to make that Terrine as soon as possible. On the Feta, Pinenuts and Dill Stuffed Zukes, I think I will change it up to Feta, Pecans and Basil...just because. As I looked through all of the stuffed zuke recipes, I started to chuckle. The beauty of this veggie is you can shove it full of just about anything and it will taste good. Here's to trying! Please share your favorite zuke recipes since I am sure we will need them.

CSA: Heritage Farm

Two summers ago, we were members of a local CSA at Heritage Farm and I loved it! The food was amazingly fresh, delicious, plentiful and full of variety. As my son was getting older, however, I wanted him to have the experience of growing his own food and last year we were successful in doing just that.

This year, with our newest addition / edition, our garden grew fast and furious and I wasn't able to keep up with it. Now our once verdant beds are showing the signs. So we are heading back to Heritage Farm through the end of November.

Pick ups are on Tuesdays, so I will be meal planning for the week on Tuesday nights. Once upon a time, prior to child #2, I planned our meals veggies first. Which produce would we be eating that night and what protein would accompany it? Pasta one night a week. Whole grain. More quinoa and brown rice. Recipe hunting galore to keep it fresh, spicy and interesting.

A wonderful thing about Heritage Farm is that they include recipes every week that go along with the bounty you pick up. I am really excited about this. They are a small, sustainable farm on San Juan Island, WA. They have cows, a W.S.D.A. certified Grade A raw milk dairy, chickens, and vegetables. I am going to check into the chicken situation.

The remainder of this week is with veggies from our garden.

Wednesday- Chicken Tikka Masala With sauteed summer squash and onions and green salad
Thursday - Grilled Thai Chicken Pizza with grilled summer squash and green salad
Friday - Teriyaki Bowls with baked tofu, summer squash medley and onions on brown rice
Saturday & Sunday...we will see what I pick up from the Farmer's Market.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

New ideas

Ok, I am not going to lie. I couldn't motivate to take pictures of my garden today because it looks so sad. It has been terribly neglected this summer and I am amazed and thankful that it provided us with so many potatoes, onions, lettuce, zucchini, cherry tomatoes, peas and strawberries. But, it is almost done and I haven't planted anything for the fall.

So, Plan B is going to be activated. We are going to join up with a local CSA through Thanksgiving. This does mean that our diet will be largely vegetarian, so I had to confer with my hubby.

On Mental Chew, I will be sharing our weekly pick up list, what we are doing with the bounty and what we are supplementing with from what is left of our garden.

On one hand, I feel a little sad knowing that our garden fed us through October last year. Reality tells me, however, that gardening with a baby is challenging and we did pretty well. And secretly, I am really excited to get all of the winter squash they will be offering!!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Soup's On: Chicken Enchilada Soup

Yes, it is still August, but I knew it was time when I woke up to rain and the thermometer read 59 degrees. Today would be a soup day and I found just the recipe I wanted to tweak, so here it is and it did get "repeater" status from the family.



Chicken Enchilada Soup a la Crockpot
Serves 8


Ingredients:
4 cups of organic chicken stock
2 boneless, skinless organic chicken breasts
28 oz. can of organic diced tomatoes*
3 tsp. cumin
3 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. cayenne
4 jalapeƱos, seeded and minced 
6 cloves of garlic, minced
1 large onion, diced
2 cups of frozen organic corn
1- 15 oz. can of organic black beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup tomato paste
1/2 cup corn masa
8 oz. shredded pepper jack cheese

For garnish:
Cilantro
Cotija Cheese (we used Beecher's Cheese Curds)

Place all ingredients, up to and including the tomato paste, into the crockpot. Gently mix together. Turn on High setting and walk away...for at least 4 1/2 hours!!

At the end of cook time, use an immersion mixer 4-5 times quickly in the pot. Add pepper jack cheese and stir until melted. Sprinkle in masa little by little while gently mixing with a wooden spoon.  Top with your garnished of choice and serve hot.


Notice the half empty bowl!! He chowed it down and the hubby had two bowls full!!

** Canned tomatoes are an item I use frequently, but not without reservation. I am in the process of looking for an affordable alternative and I am open to suggestions. If I could can my own, I would.

How to Really Love a Child by Sark

I found this on Pinterest and had to share.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

{this moment}: case of the sillies



A Friday ritual from Amanda at Soule Mama.
A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week.
A simple, special, extraordinary moment.
A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

If you’re inspired to do the same, leave a link to your “moment” in the comments for all to find and see.


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

{this moment}: silhouette

=====UPDATE====
I won a BLUE RIBBON at the San Juan County Fair for this picture. Kinda proud because of the content of the photo. Love these kids.

2nd update: This photo won the People's Choice Award too! Feeling pretty lucky.




From May, but I wasn't sharing "My Moments" then and this is a very special one in my heart.

A Friday ritual from Amanda at Soule Mama.
A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week.
A simple, special, extraordinary moment.
A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

If you’re inspired to do the same, leave a link to your “moment” in the comments for all to find and see.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Taking a Break

It is Fair Week on our island so we are going to be busy, busy, busy.

See you next week!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

{This Moment}: The Octopus's Path

A Friday ritual from Amanda at Soule Mama.
A single photo (um, hmm) – no words – capturing a moment from the week.
A simple, special, extraordinary moment.
A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

How Does Your Garden Grow?

Oh the garden is a'growin', but before I get into that I just have to comment on how much I learn from my readers. I ended up removing my FREEZER JAM post because I am a worrier. Thank you for your feedback and perspective, it is good to be reminded who my audience is through your comments and I appreciate each and every one of ya. Mwah!

Ok, so the garden. Weird things are happening. We have had a very cool summer and the two consecutive days we had with temps in the 70s made my garden panic a bit, I think. The pumpkins are very happy, but the foliage looks like it is at the end of the season. The same could be said of all of our squash. Gone are the large verdant leaves of weeks past. The yellow zucchini we planted is our champion producer this summer; I just pulled 9 more last night. Our Delicata should be ready soon and the zukes are slow and steady, which is a good thing given the number of plants I have. Our cherry tomatoes turn the corner to luscious red a handful at a time, usually just enough for C to run out and snatch them in the morning. Today I was lucky enough to be gifted the tiniest of the harvested rubies. He wants to eat tomatoes, who can complain? Well, ok, I would like to eat a few too. Oh, the sacrifices we make as parents. *giggle* The peas are DONE and I really have to go pick my shelling peas yesterday. I tore out my snap peas and now the shelling peas are begging for the same to be done to them.

It feels like summer just started this week for me, but looking at the calendar, I realized we are closer to school being back in session. Maybe that is why my garden is looking so melancholy.

Wistful feelings aside, our big garden joy this week was our Yukon Gold potatoes. My guys went outside after dinner tonight, pushed up their sleeves and dug in their hands to the soft soil. Chucking handful after handful into the wheelbarrow - a squeal and giggle and cheer. C found the first potato and he was hooked. Digging. Digging. I think potato harvesting might be right up there with Easter Egg hunting for my lil' guy. Each one brought out an, "Oh man!" and such delight. My heart warmed as I watched my husband coyly slide aside the soil time and again with his big, strong hands to leave it so C's next dig would hit treasure. Smiles all around and, of course, some grunting from the babe. She could see what fun her brother and dad were having. Satisfied with his work, C threw his hands on his hips and said, "Man, are we going to eat these bad boys up or what?" He said it twice since he knew we were chuckling after the first round. We all laughed and took the dirt, I mean potatoes, inside. After washing up, we took our 20+lovely Yukons out to the drying rack. We have some special guests coming next week and C thinks that is when we should use them. For now, he just wants to show them to his friends.

Yeah garden. Thank you.






Making Freezer Jam

Note: This method does not kill E Coli. Please make sure you wash your hands thoroughly when working with food. I am posting this due to an outbreak from a single farm in Oregon made the news. Cooking / canning methods kill these bacteria if they are present. 
The berries are here! We have been taking full advantage of berry season whether it is at the grocery store snatching up a 1/2 flat of Skagit Valley berries or at the Farmer's Market eating up Sweet Earth Farm's delicious Tri-star strawberries that we just can't seem to get enough of into the mouth of a certain 4 year old. 


In years past, I have grabbed blackberries from our "berry orchard" (read: wild berries) at the end of our driveway and frozen a few gallon bags for over the winter. We are such berry lovers that they are always gone by mid-December and I am always promising myself we will gather more "next year". 


Throughout the years, I have always been envious of the families that had fresh berry preserves the whole year through while I was buying jar after jar at the store. Growing up in Orange County didn't really include spending summer days making jam, so I never had it in my repertoire of skills and figured it was beyond me...same with vegetable gardening. Since I tackled the later, I figured I could dive into jam (doesn't that sound fabulous?). My one reservation was dealing with a huge boiling pot of water and hot jars while I have a curious 4 year old and a VERY squirmy 8 month old who, um, interact a lot these days.

Last summer, one of my dear friends was raving about freezer jam. "It is SOOOOO easy". She is sooooo right! Here is the recipe I used and Cole could help! No heat! I imagine this would be wonderful for those of you who live in places where the temps are soaring as well.

Just a note about the recipe. As I looked at various recipes online and in my 4 preserving books (yes, I have them and read them. I just haven't dove into the process yet, but I am getting there). I liked this recipe because it had considerably less sugar in it. This is the recipe on the  Ball Real Pectin container. It is a keeper.

Also, make sure your jars and lids are CLEAN. I like to throw mine in the dishwasher on the "sterilize" cycle right before I use them. 



BERRY FREEZER JAM - makes 6 - 8oz jars of jam


Supplies:
Potato masher or hand mixer (the hand mixer is GREAT for the blueberries)
Flat bottomed bowl for mashing / mixing fruit
6 - 8 oz clean straight-sided jam jars with lids
5 cups of crushed fruit (single berry variety or mix & match)
2 cups of granulated sugar
6 tablespoons of Ball Real Fruit Pectin Instant Pectin


Procedure:

1) Wash fruit and prep. This means remove stems, hull strawberries, if you want to get technical. Make those berries look pretty.

 2) Place berries into flat bottomed bowl, one layer at a time and mash, mix, practice a little anger management. Pulverize that fruit using your potato masher or hand mixer.


3) In a separate bowl, mix sugar and pectin.


4) Add fruit mash to pectin / sugar mixture and stir for 3 minutes.


5) Ladle into clean 8 oz jam jars and cover. When filling jars, leave 1/2 inch headspace to allow for food expansion during freezing. Let stand for 30 minutes and use immediately or freeze.



THAT IS IT!!! DONE! JAM!! It is good for 3 weeks in your refrigerator or up to a year in your freezer. Really, that is it. Can you believe it?


Now for the taste test....



EASY PEASY!!! Now it is your turn. Try it out. Seriously, you can do this!

Now you can do this with Strawberries, Peaches or Pears, Raspberries, Blackberries, or Blueberries and Cherries. If you use peaches, add 3 tablespoons of lemon juice.


To be honest...I am giving mine a round in a pressure cooker. I will keep you posted on the results.

Friday, August 5, 2011

{This Moment}: Shoeless

A Friday ritual from Amanda at Soule Mama.
A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week.
A simple, special, extraordinary moment.
A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.



By other big project this week was launching my new site: WHYZE-WORDS

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Processing Zucchini / Summer Squash - Part II: Grating & Freezing

This time we are going to look at another method for keeping all of that delicious summer squash into the winter. It is so straightforward, you will be shocked. Grating and freezing. This method is great for storing up squash to use in baked goods, soups, casseroles and more. In addition, this is a great way to use your zucchini that have mysteriously turned into baseball bats overnight. While they aren't the best for grilling and eating fresh, they are a great source of summer produce over the winter months.


Method Two - Grating and Freezing


Supplies needed:

  • Zucchini
  • Sharp kitchen knife
  • Cutting Board
  • Ziploc freezer bags
  • Plastic Straw
  • Sharpie
  • Cookie sheet

Procedure:


1) Harvest those larger than large zucchini and rinse them with clean water.



 2) Slice the zucchini in half from top to bottom and then across the center.


 3) IMPORTANT!! Those big bad boy zukes have some tough and nasty seeds in them which is why we don't just slice them up and grill them. Using a tablespoon, scoop out the large seeds and dispose of them.
  
 
4) Using a food processor (mine just went KAPUT...do you see a theme here?) or grater, grate your zucchini into a large pile of wet mess.


Side note:  If you leave your cutting board level, you will end up with a puddle of zucchini juice somewhere around your board and then on your floor. If you place a folded washcloth under the board on the counter side and lean the opposite side over your sink, it will all run into your sink. Guess who remembered this a little too late.



 5) Measure out appropriate amount of squash for your favorite recipes. My favorite zucchini bread recipe requires 1 cup of zucchini, so I made each of my bags 1 cup full.


6) Spread the zucchini out so it is in a smooth layer in the baggie. Zip the baggie closed with the exception of a small opening at the end. Place a straw at least 3 inches into the baggie and suck the air out. Zip 'er shut!! Removing the air will reduce the chance of freezer burn.


7) Place bags onto a cookie sheet and freeze. I like to put these smaller bags into a larger freezer bag once they are frozen for organization sake in our freezer. I label the large bag and place it on top of the cookie sheet when I put it in the freezer. You know, in case life happens and I don't get back to the freezer to process everything until I need my cookie sheet (which right now could be forever since our oven is KAPUT).


 8) Mission completed! When you defrost your zucchini, drain all of the excess liquid before using it. This can easily be done by trimming a small hole in a bottom corner of the baggie and squeezing out the water.

If you haven't seen my post on Blanching and Freezing your zucchini / summer squash, check it out!

Processing Zucchini / Summer Squash - Part I: Blanching & Freezing

It is the second day of August and my zucchini is BOOMING! My oven has gone KAPUT though, so I am feeling really limited as to what I can accomplish with my zucchini. As a result, I decided I would start processing it now and write a little post about it. My dad and his partner were visiting and could watch the wee ones, so that helped with the timing as well.


I will review two methods for keeping some zukes for the winter months. First, blanching and freezing which is great for adding summer squash to winter stews, soups and casseroles. Blanching is a process where you immerse the vegetable of choice in boiling water for a set period of time and then immerse it in ice water. This is great when serving them fresh, but it is a really great way to preserve them as well. Click here to see Method II: Grating and Freezing.


Method One - Blanching and Freezing


Supplies needed:

  • Zucchini
  • Sharp kitchen knife
  • Cutting Board
  • Large Pasta Pentola
  • Large bowl
  • Ice packs
  • Strainer
  • Ziploc freezer bags
  • Sharpie
  • Cookie sheet
Procedure:

1) Harvest zucchini when it is 6-8" (to 10") long for this method. I will have another way to keep it if it is longer.


2) Rinse zucchini clean with fresh water.
3) Using a sharp kitchen knife, trim off ends and cut the rest into 1/4" slices.



4) Prepare your ice bath by placing clean ice packs in a bowl. I like to use ice packs because they seem to melt slower than ice. 


4) Fill a pasta pentola 2/3 of the way full of water. I like using a pentola because I can remove the squash immediately from the water when the time is up and add more squash to the already boiling water to keep the processing going. 


5) Once your water is boiling add your sliced squash to the pentola. I would suggest processing one type at a time.


6) Wait for 3 minutes and remove the strainer of the pentola and give it a few, quick shakes over the pot to remove excess water.


7) Pour your squash into the ice water. Gently run cool water over the hot squash to cool the temperature and then place the ice packs on top. Wait at least 5 minutes. This will stop the cooking process.



 8) Pour cooled squash into a strainer. I suggest labeling your bags before filling them. Make sure you include veggie type, processing date, and amount. At this point you can use a FoodSaver to preserve your squash or you can place it into a single-ish layer in your Ziploc bags.




9) Zip bags shut except for a small hole at the end. Stick straw in at least 3 inches and suck air out of bag. Quickly slide the straw out and zip 'er shut!



11) Place flat bags on a cookie sheet in a freezer that is at most 0 degrees F.  After a couple of hours, you can remove the cookie sheet and you will have beautiful, easy to stack and store bags of your freshly grown summer squash.


Frozen squash is good for up to one year when kept in a freezer that is 0 degrees or cooler. After defrosting, drain the excess liquid before adding the squash to your recipe.

ENJOY!