My Garden Project 2013

I know, I know.  Last year I started a garden project and one family event came along and I let all my seedlings just die.  BUT, this is the first year in three years that I do not have a CSA membership.  So, I have to succeed at my back patio garden project this year or else!  And here are the new babies already peeking out to say hello.

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Updates coming soon!  I already have over 20 seedlings.  I ordered my seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company.  All of my seeds I had saved from my CSA veggies sadly came to a traumatic end so I had to order seeds this year.  I am planting 10 kinds of tomatoes, 1 tomatillo, 4 kinds of bell peppers, 1 cucumber, 1 jalapeno, 1 leek, 1 red bunching onion, 6 herbs, and in the fall I am succession planting 1 type of kale, butternut squash, and spaghetti squash.  As of today all seedlings, except for the kale and squashes, are in eggshells with organic seed starter growing up a storm!

Who else is growing their own veggies this year?


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Prepping and Storing CSA Shares

Washing spinach in the sink

I believe I mentioned someone told me at my last CSA pick up that their spinach had gotten slimey in the refrigerator before they had a chance to use it.  This can be a common problem when you have a ton of greens you are waiting to eat and little time to deal with properly storing what you bring home.

I got in the habit of cleaning on properly storing all of my CSA basket items as soon as I get to the house.  I recommend making whichever day of the week is your pick up day, usually a Saturday, CSA day in your house, or at least most of the morning anyway.  It takes me a few hours to wash and put away everything even after I have spent a few hours at the farm.

First I wash all the greens in batches in a clean sink.  Just fill it up enough so the greens are in standing water and the dirt has room to fall to the bottom of the sink without still touching the leaves.  I use my hands to shake them around in the water some then let them sit for about five minutes in the water.  I take them out of the water, making sure not to stir up the dirt from the bottom of the sink, and put them directly in my salad spinner.  Once dry, I dump them out on paper towels.

Kale on top, spinach and mustard greens underneath

After everything is washed, spun, and laid out on paper towels, I use clean kitchen towels to press the leaves together and get any excess water still on the greens.  I use fresh paper towels to layer the greens on top and bottom, then slide into a gallon size resealable bag.  You can also use your green stay fresh bags here.

You can use this method for any kinds of greens including your lettuces.

For asparagus, basil, green onions, radishes, carrots and other root type produce, you can place in a container that will allow the root ends to sit in a small amount of water with the veggie standing upright, just like you would fresh flowers.

The most important tip I can give to help keep things from going bad is eat what you can’t freeze first.  Lettuce has to be eaten before the greens you can saute and asparagus for example.  That doesn’t mean I don’t eat the other things at all if I don’t want to.  But if I have a ton of greens and lettuce, I’m going to eat salad twice a day in some form until it’s gone before I eat anything else.  I will saute and freeze the rest for later.

What tips do you have for helping to prep and store your fresh produce?


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CSA Baskets 101: Second Pick Up

Everyone got a pint of strawberries.

When the greens come in, the greens come in.  Thank the Lord for the perfect cooling of the weather and rain to make them abundant for the CSA members at Madison Creek Farms this week!  You can tell by all the pics there were a ton of goodies in our baskets this time around.

Almost everyone got a red leaf lettuce.

Most everyone received a red leaf lettuce and a romaine lettuce.  I got a buttercrunch and a romaine lettuce.  I like them all so it really didn’t matter to me :)

Spring Braising Mix

If you are new to surveying the many types of greens there are, this is definitely an exciting week for you to experiment.  Braising greens are just a random mix of different types of greens sewn together in the field.  To cook them simply use a little olive oil, onion, garlic, a dash of vinegar if you like, and salt and pepper to taste.  Sometimes after I saute them I use a little sprinkle of slivered almonds for crunch.

Kohlrabi

Alot of you had never seen or heard of kohlrabi.  Kohlrabi come in green or purple, can be eaten raw or cooked, and taste a lot like broccoli stems, radishes or cabbage. The word kohlrabi is German for cabbage turnip (kohl as in cole-slaw, and rübe for turnip) though kohlrabi is more related to cabbage and cauliflower than to root vegetables.  You can even use the kohlrabi greens to cook with your braising mix.  You can make a kohlrabi and apple slaw or make quick kohlrabi pickles.

Kohlrabi Apple Slaw:

  • 1/4 cup cream
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 tablespoon good mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • Fresh mint, chopped
  • 1 pound fresh kohlrabi, trimmed, peeled, grated or julienned
  • 2 apples, peeled, grated or julienned

Whisk cream into light pillows – this takes a minute or so, no need to get out a mixer. Stir in remaining dressing ingredients, the kohlrabi and apple. Serve immediately.

Quick Kohlrabi Pickles:

  • 1-2 small kohlrabi bulbs, trimmed, peeled, and cut into cubes
  • Good olive oil (optional)
  • Rice wine vinegar
  • Kosher Salt
  • Fresh Black Pepper
  • Pinch of sugar or squeeze of honey

Place the kohlrabi chunks in the bowl of a lidded, airtight container.  Drizzle with a touch of olive oil, a good splash of vinegar, and honey.  Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper.  Replace the lid and shake well.  Taste and adjust seasoning.  Place in fridge, shaking occasionally.  They are best after they have marinated for a few hours.

Mustard Greens

You can cook the mustard greens the same way you would any other greens by sauteeing with olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper.

Kale

Our CSA owner, Peggy, led a workshop today showing everyone how to saute kale and make a dish that can be a side or a main meal depending on how you finesse it at the end.  My favorite way to enjoy kale is in an Italian soup I make every winter with potatoes, Italian sweet sausage, kale and crushed red pepper.

Radishes

Romaine

If you guys have never tried grilled romaine lettuce for a salad, you should.  It’s delicious!  You can grill the lettuce on an outdoor grill or an indoor grill pan, either way works fine.  It gives the lettuce a completely different flavor and texture alongside a wonderful summer dinner.

Buttercrunch Lettuce

Tea Rose

Ahhh the flowers, a wonderful perk to my CSA.  Tea roses and peonies made it into my bouquet this week.  It’s a great way to bring some of the beauty on the farm into my home and enjoy every day.

Remember to use everything from your baskets!  You can replant the onion and lettuce bottoms to grow more at home.  All the trimmings can be washed and boiled into stock.  I will only be composting the kohlrabi bulk peels and the radish tops.  I will even use the trimmed strawberry tops to make homemade strawberry mint lemonade syrup.  If you want to know more about this type of cooking to get the most out of your CSA basket, check out my ebook, Don’t Compost It, Cook It.

What did you get in your basket lately you are excited about trying?


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CSA Baskets 101: First Season Pick Up

Nothing, and I mean NOTHING makes me happier than fresh, organic produce from my CSA Madison Creek Farms.  The people there are like my family.  So it’s not just healthy, delicious food that nourishes your body, it nourishes the soul.  I know the hearts behind the people who help bring this to us so generously, I know their hard working hands that tend the fields to diligently, and I know the  imprint left on my soul grows deeper each time I get to visit and just be in the presence of that little spot of Heaven on Earth.

This morning I found myself restless and unable to go back to sleep at 4 a.m.  After my devotional I decided to be productive.  I figured it was time to clean and put away everything from my first basket pick up Sunday afternoon.  We were blessed with asparagus, spinach, buttercrunch lettuce, spring onions, mint, cilantro, and parsley.

The herbs are all drying on the kitchen table.  The lettuce is now part of a salad I am having for lunch today at work.  The asparagus is in the freezer waiting to be made into sesame noodle stir fry for the 15 year old.  The onions are also cleaned, chopped and tucked away in the freezer.  But some of the onions and all of the spinach made their way into my breakfast this morning, a Greek omelet and toast with honey.

Saute spinach and garlic until wilted.

Add two scrambled eggs.

Flip and add feta cheese.

Viola!

Don’t be afraid to get creative and try new things with a CSA basket.  And PLEASE, don’t throw things away!  I implore you, be curious and figure out a way to make every last bit of what’s in that basket nourish your family.  For example, After I finished going through everything, all I threw away was some dead leaves.  Virtually everything in that basket can be used/consumed.  The onions, after a thorough cleaning, all of the trimmings you can keep for making broth/stock.  You can use the ends of the asparagus you trim to make cream of asparagus soup.  And the ends of the onions and lettuce can be replanted to grow more vegetables at home.  I have done this, it does work I assure you!

If you are curious about other things you can do with items from your baskets you might want to check out my ebook, Don’t Compost It, Cook It: How to Make the Most Out of Nothing in the Kitchen.  It teaches you all about how to use everything to its’ fullest for maximum value and health for your family.

What have you made with ingredients in your CSA basket?

Shared on the Hearth & Soul Blog Hop.


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Freezer Cooking

This past week I have done some batch freezer cooking every time I’ve been in the kitchen.  Recipes I’ve put away are 6 breakfast burritos, 18 beef and bean burritos, and 6 chicken verde taquitos.  Plus, I pre-chopped 5 pounds of onions, 6 bell peppers, and 3 zucchini for the freezer.  Here are the recipes if you are interested.

Breakfast burritos:  7 whole wheat flour 6″ tortillas, 14 eggs-scrambled, 14 turkey sausage links-chopped, 1 box of frozen spinach-sqeezed completely dry, and 1 cup of any kind of cheese you like.

I did not season the scrambled eggs.  I try to use very little sodium.  Plus, I used pepper jack cheese which is full of flavor.  I mixed all the ingredients together then scooped approximately 1/2 cup onto each tortilla shell and rolled up.

Tip:  These are decent sized breakfast burritos, not huge, but decent.  You can cut these in half with a serrated bread knife before you microwave it and just eat half with a piece of fruit yogurt and coffee and have a very filling, nutritious breakfast and make the burritos last longer.

Beaf and Bean Burritos:  8 inch flour tortillas, 1 lb of fajita seasoned ground beef with onions and peppers, 1 cup chopped zucchini, 1 bag of birdseye southwestern seasoned rice-or 2 cups of any rice your have that is precooked, 1 bag of black beans-2 cups-cooked from scratch, 1 cup of cheese, and 1 can of diced tomatoes.

I always cook my beans from scratch to control the sodium and seasonings.  To reduce gas and stomach upset, I recommend the quick soak method on the back of most dry bean bags.  It has worked every time I make a pot of beans.  For these black beans I added light salt, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder and chili powder, not much because the meat has fajita seasoning.  When the beans are finished I completely drain them.  I just browned the ground beef and drained it.  Then in the same pan I sauteed the onions, peppers and zucchini.  I saute separately so the grease from the beef doesn’t absorb into the vegetables.  Mix together all ingredients in a large bowl.  Lay out each tortilla shell and scoop approximately 3/4 cup of the mixture onto the shell.  Fold over one side of the shell to cover the bean mixture, then fold in the ends, then roll the shell on over and close it up.  This makes a sort of pocket burrito with a square shape.

Tip:  I plan on serving these with a guaca salad and fruit for a nutritious, quick lunch.

Chicken Verde Taquitos:  6 whole wheat tortilla shells, 2 cans chicken breast meat-drained, 1 box frozen spinach-completely squeezed dry, 1 package cream cheese, and 1 can of diced green chiles.

Mix together all ingredients.  Scoop approximately 1/2 cup of mixture onto tortilla and form into a thin, long strip.  Tightly roll up tortilla and place in freezer bag.

Tip:  I plan on baking these on my pizza stone and spraying with smart balance cooking spray.  This will save calories by not frying them in grease as is the traditional preparation but  not sacrifice any of the brown crispy goodness.  I will also be serving these with guaca salad.

What are recipes you use for freezer/batch cooking?


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