Friday, May 24, 2013

CSA Basket and a recipe

In this week's basket, we received two kinds of lettuce, some mint, a bag of spinach leaves, onions, strawberries and kale. I know I will be making a strawberry spinach salad this week, these strawberries are delicious.  I had planned on buying eggs when I picked up my share this week, but I forgot to take cash with me so I will have to wait until next week to get my fresh eggs. 

Strawberry Spinach Salad

2 tablespoons of poppy seeds
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup of olive oil
1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar (or white vinegar)
1 tablespoon minced onion
1/4 teaspoon of worcestershire sauce

Mix all ingredients together. I usually add everything to a mason jar then add a lid and shake it to mix it all together. It is easy to pour and then store in the fridge. 

10 - 12 ounces fresh spinach leaves torn into pieces
1 quart of strawberries, hulled and sliced
1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted

Combine all the salad ingredients into a bowl. You can pour the dressing over the entire salad and serve or let each person add their own at the table. I normally make extra salad for our lunches the next day so I don't usually dress the entire salad because it tends to not be as good the next day. If we have people over and know that it will probably be eaten, I do go ahead and dress the entire salad.

Friday, May 17, 2013

First CSA basket of the Season!

This is my third year of begin part of a CSA***. I changed farms this year and was very excited for our first pick up this year. This week the basket contained: a head of Cherokee Red lettuce, a head of Jericho Lettuce, a head of bok choy, strawberries, lemon balm, onions, maple syrup, along with a letter from the farmer. I sampled a little bit of everything except the lemon balm. I could not be happier the the appearance or the taste of the items in my basket.

I love to make stir fry and I know that is where the bok choy and some of the onions will be used. Most of the time when I make a stir fry I leave them vegetarian and serve with some rice and maybe some hot and sour soup. I think they make a great dinner choice towards the end of the week when I have a hodge podge of leftovers in the fridge. Here is the recipe for my basic stir fry:

Stir Fry

1-2 cups of chopped bok choy or chinese cabbage
1 cup small broccoli florets
1/2 cup onions
1 small zucchini, cubed
1 small squash, cubed
1/2 cup sliced carrots
1 tablespoon of olive oil

Heat oil in a large pan, and then add onions. Cook the onions for just a couple of minutes and then add the rest of the vegetables and cook until vegetables are tender crisp. 

Really you can add almost anything else to the pot that you like. Depending on that I have on hand, I like to add peas, some water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, mushrooms, some chicken or pork, or anything else that sounds good that night. 

***If you aren't familiar with a CSA: A CSA (consumer supported agriculture) works when a farmer offers a number of "shares" of his produce. The shares range from 1/2 a bushel to a full bushel  of various items. The customer pays a portion or the full amount prior to the season starting to help offset the costs of seeds, greenhouse supplies, repairs to equipment and other farm related expenses in exchange for a weekly share of the farmers produce. The farmer has money upfront to offset his planting costs and knows that he has a market for that amount of produce. The produce that is in each weeks basket changes to reflect what is in season at that time and tend to be pretty generous. Often there will also be additional items that can be purchased at the CSA pickup site such as eggs. Both of the CSAs have provided newsletters, emails or have a Facebook group where they will also share recipes, which is great when you have something in your basket that you aren't that familiar with. Like lemon balm! Lemon balm added to a simple syrup makes an awesome sweetener for iced tea.

In my experience I have found the CSA to be a positive thing. I think my food dollars go a little bit further, especially since I try to buy organic produce. I love the variety of food that I get. I know its fresh since it is picked the morning of the day that I get it, it is local and I am eating what is in season. The flavor of the foods cannot be beat. Even now that I am growing some of my own food, I appreciate the having access to things that I do not grow.

After two years with one farm, I did decide to make a change this year for many reasons. It wasn't a decision I made lightly but I think I made a good choice for our food dollars. One of the reasons I wanted to switch was that this one includes some fruit in their baskets. The pickup is also more convenient for me. There were other reasons too, and I think I will be very happy with this CSA.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Future Food Update

I thought I would do a post to show my gardening progress. The photo above is my lettuce and some carrots that are growing in my community garden plot. I went and worked over there for a couple of hours yesterday and took a couple of pictures before I started weeding. The lettuce looks great and the samples that I ate tasted awesome. There is also some spinach to the lest of the lettuce that I didn't get in the frame. This is the first time I have grown any of of these things. The carrots are sprouting their green tops and growing pretty well.

These are my raspberry and blueberry bushes. I planted these last year and thought that they had died over the winter but they surprised me how quickly they leafed out and started blooming. This is also my first time growing blueberries and raspberries.

And a close up of the blueberries that I am so proud of!

Here are some of the strawberries I am growing too, they are also blooming and I am starting to see berries form on some of the plants. 

In the box that Kip built me, I have some more carrots and two different types of peas. First time growing peas too! 

I am so excited to be growing so many different things. Digging in the dirt really makes me happy. I love my plot at the community garden too, most times when I go there, someone else is either there or will stop by to chat. Last night after we finished working in one of the plots, one of the other gardeners and I sat around and talked for over an hour. We talked about gardening, canning, dehydrating, bees, organic heirloom seed companies and pretty much anything else we could think of to talk about. One of the reasons I was so happy to find a community garden to be a part of, of course, was the opportunity to grow more food, but I was hoping to make some new friends with some common interests. Both goals have been achieved!

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Pickled Asparagus

I absolutely love pickled asparagus. A friend had me over for lunch a few years ago and she served some with lunch. I was hooked with that first bite. When I went to find my own jars, I found out how expensive and tiny those little jars could be. When I started canning again last year, I looked for recipes to can my own. Fortunately I was able to find one. I had already missed the season where the asparagus was at it's cheapest, so I made a small batch last year. I only pulled it out for special occasions! 

This year I was watching the asparagus every week when I went to the store and as soon as it went on sale below a dollar a bunch, I bought quite a bit of it.  We really liked the Taste of Home recipe that I used last year so I made that again. I made enough this year that I don't have to hide it as much as I did last year!

I was very happy when I went to visit my Mom a couple of weeks ago. My parents are canners too but they use mostly pints and quart jars. Mom picks up jars all the time at yard sales and I told her to be on the lookout for jelly jars for me. She went to a sale and found a dozen Ball half pint jars and then another dozen of these Ball pint and a half jars. These are the jars that I really like to use for the asparagus so I was very happy when she shared her find.