Friday, June 28, 2013

CSA Basket and an Update on the Raised Bed

This week's CSA basket included a kohlrabi, a head of purple cabbage, squash, zucchini, some beets, onion, tomatoes, green beans, cucumbers, red potatoes and regular potatoes.

I am loving all of the tomatoes and cucumbers that I have been getting. Everything has been very good, but I tomatoes and cucumbers are some of my favorite things to eat in the summer. I eat them plain, or love to slice them together and add just a bit of ranch dressing and some pepper.

The kohlrabi is new to me, I have never used it or eaten it before. Getting new things has been one of my favorite things about being a part of a CSA. Anytime I have gotten something that I wasn't familiar with or had never cooked before, all I have to do is ask and can get some suggestions. I love it that the person bringing us our shares always has ideas, but if there are other people there art the pickup time, they are usually quick to offer additional ideas too.

Last week I blogged about how we built and set up my new raised bed garden. This past weekend, my Dad came up for a visit and added this fencing to use as a trellis to the back of the bed. I have green beans and cucumbers planted on the back row and this will allow them to grow up onto the fence instead of just growing out. This is how he grows his cucumbers in his garden and I wanted something similar. I can't wait until it is covered!

Here is my Dad attaching some zip ties for extra support:

And here is a shot of the growth so far:

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

New Apple Recipes

A couple of weeks ago, I got an unexpected call from my mother-in-law asking me if I would be interested in a box of apples that someone had given her. She took a few of the apples home with her, but the majority of the box she gave to me. I had already canned all of the apple pie filling, applesauce, apple syrup and dehydrated a bunch of apples too. I went searching for some new apple recipes and this is what I ended up making (l-r)

Maple Apple Jam
Red Hot Cinnamon Apples
Caramel Apple Jam
Lemon, Honey Apple Jam 
Canned, Sliced Apples

The apples were an unexpected gift and I was happy to get them. It was also nice to find some new apple recipes. I think all of these will be made again. We have already been enjoying the apple slices, and here is one of the ways I prepare them:

Warm Spiced Apples

1 pint of canned apple slices, drained
2 tablespoons of butter
2-3 heaping tablespoons of brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg or allspice

Double all ingredients if you are using quarts.

Melt butter in a saucepan. Add drained apples. Sprinkle with brown sugar and spices and cooked until apples are heated through.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Egyptian Lentil Soup

I am a huge fan of soups and can eat them year round and for any meal of the day. This lentil soup happens to be one of our favorites. One night I had planned a Red Lentil and Chicken soup for dinner and Kip called and asked if I cared if he invited a friend over. My philosophy is there is always room at my table, I just like a heads up if possible. I would rather have to add something to the dinner than not have room for someone. I had only met this friend of Kip's once before and I knew he was a vegetarian. I couldn't remember if he was vegan or not or what kind of vegetarian he was. I did a quick Google search for "red lentil soup" and found this recipe. It was a huge hit and has been made many times since then. 

Here are all the ingredients chopped and ready to go in the pot. I don't think I had ever had lentils until I was an adult. I have made several different kinds of lentil soups with the hard brownish green lentils you can buy in almost any supermarket. I guess about three years ago I had some recipes that called for other kinds of lentils. I like these small red ones, but none of my local stores carry them. When I drive to the other side of Nashville to either Whole Foods are Trader Joe's I try and stock up on them.

Cooking the spice mixture just until they start to release their smell makes a difference for this soup.


The final step is using an immersion blender to make the soup smooth. 

I serve this soup with fresh bread and it makes a nice, hearty flavorful meal.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Cheese Class

Samantha is my cooking buddy. She loves to come over and try out new recipes and cooking techniques. A couple of years ago, for her birthday her Mom enrolled her for a pasta making class. I was thrilled that she included me too! The three of us learned how to make pasta, ravioli, a yummy salad dressing and a couple of different pasta sauces. Since then we have taken a couple of other cooking classes as well. 

This past Christmas, I asked Samantha if she wanted her gift to be something to have or something to do. She chose something to do. I found a cheese making class that I knew she would enjoy. It took a while to get a class that we could get into, but our class time finally came around on Thursday.

We drove to a nearby farm where they teach cheese making classes. Standing Stone Farms is in Gallatin, TN and has a herd of Nubian Dairy Goats. 

The picture above is right after we arrived. I have a thing about being late for anything and so we got there about 30 minutes before the class started. 

The class started with making butter. Samantha has made butter here with me before, but she was still pretty happy with the butter she made. This is her pouring the "buttermilk" off of her butter.

And here she is helping stretch the mozzarella that they had just made.

She really enjoyed tasting the cheese too!

After the class was over, everyone was offered the chance to milk a goat too. 

Feeding the baby goats.

I didn't know what to expect from this Parent-Child cheese making class. I knew that we would be making butter and mozzarella. Since Samantha has made butter before, I didn't know if she would be bored with that part of the class or not. I also didn't know if this was going to be a very basic class and might be geared for very young children. Even though she is still pretty young, Samantha has been in the kitchen doing things since she could stand at the counter and actually has pretty much mastered a lot of different skills. 

I have to say, this class exceeded all of my expectations.  The teacher (and owner) Paula was fabulous. She did a great job talking to the kids and also to the adults. She also shared some of the history of cheese and the chemistry of cheese making. It was presented in an easy to understand manner for the kids, but not "dummied down". All I knew before is that I love cheese, and now I know more than I did before. If you are local and have the opportunity to take a class  here, go for it! They also offer more advanced classes and I am hoping to get in on one of these.

Samantha was beyond thrilled too. She talked about the class all evening. When I took her home, she went through the entire class with her Mom. She can't wait to make cheese at home. We bought a cheese making kit so hopefully we will have the opportunity in the near future. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Setting Up a Raised Bed Garden Plot

My birthday was last month and I told my husband that all I wanted was wood and dirt. Well, that and some sweat on his part! We have a nice sized backyard that is great for sitting and enjoying a book and a good cup of coffee or tea. It isn't however that great for planing a garden. The majority of the yard spends most of the day in the shade. The back patio and the area just past that get enough sun and I have had luck the past couple of years growing tomatoes, herbs and a couple of other things in pots on the patio. Just past the patio is a basketball goal that we don't use. I decided that area would make a good place for a raised bed. For my birthday, I wanted a raised bed garden built and then filled with dirt. Originally we had planned a cookout and my FIL and BIL were going to help Kip get the dirt and help him fill my garden bed. We were still able to have the cookout, but the dirt was going to have to wait until the following weekend. I was a little bummed at first, but decided that it was for the best because it would allow me to layer my bed.

Here is the box that Kip built for me:

I don't have a tiller, so I broke up the ground with a shovel and hoe. It took me a while, but I was so excited about getting it done so everything would be ready when the dirt arrived.

After tearing up all the grass and weeds and breaking up the dirt I covered that area with cardboard. For my reading, I saw this done on several sites and should help with weed control, help retain moisture and as is breaks down, adds some compost material.

On top of the cardboard went a layer of newsprint.

And on top of the newsprint, I added some kitchen scraps mixed with compost and manure. I do compost everything that I can so the compost came from my compost bin that is on the back part of our yard. Adding in the layer of kitchen scraps will allow the scraps to decompose and provide fertilizer for the plants. 

And finally on top of that is a load of garden soil.

Here is my finished birthday garden box, full of dirt and the first plants. Someone had told me a few years ago that they used pinwheels in their containers to help keep the birds away. I have these four that are a pretty good size that I bought at a Dollar Tree and then several more  that are smaller but made from a metallic material. Both of them spin freely and make a small amount of noise which supposedly helps scare away birds. I am not sure how well it works, since I still battle the birds for my berries, but I kind of like them.

When everything really starts growing I will update with new photos!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Banana Nut Muffins

I am really trying to break several bad food habits and one of them bring waking up late, rushing to get ready for work and out the door on time. If I have not planned breakfast this means one of two things; either I will be eating out of the vending machine at work or I will go through a drive through on the way there. If I even really liked the fast food breakfasts, it would be okay on occasion, but for the most part I really don't even like the food I am eating. The honey buns in the vending machine are another story, I do like them a little too much. 

I try to have some healthier options on hand and one thing I like to do is have muffins in the freezer. I prefer to take them out the night before to defrost in the fridge. Banana Nut muffins are one of my favorites that I try to keep on hand. I use the recipe here, subbing some of the white flour for whole wheat or oat flour.

I like making my own because I know exactly what is in them, I can control the portion size and in the long run they are much more cost efficient. 

Adding in the nuts. This recipe calls for pecans and that is what I used for this batch but I like to use walnuts sometimes too.

Ready to pop in the oven. 

Yummy! They are all done and cooling. I will save a few out for breakfast for the next couple of days, and the rest will go into the freezer to be eaten later.

I love the pan that I use for baking cupcakes and muffins. A long time ago I taught preschool and I used to cook with the kids in the classroom  a lot. One day one of the parents came in with this pan that had been used at the business where she worked. She knew I also loved to cook at home too and when they were giving these away, she grabbed one for me. I have used this heavy duty pan for many, many years and every time I do I remember that sweet parent of one of my preschoolers. 

Friday, June 14, 2013

CSA Share

This is my CSA box for this week. I was so excited to see more peas, they were so good last week. And I really got excited when I got down into the box and saw the cucumbers. Nothing in the store can touch a home grown tomato or a cucumber. This week's box contained salad greens, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, lots of squash, cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, peas, and zucchini. 

We have already gotten a couple of tomatoes over the past couple of weeks and to me, a ripe, home grown tomato is the sign of summer and all the delicious things that can be found in abundance from local gardens. That first tomato though, there is nothing like it. I made Greek Chicken, pitas and hummus for dinner one night last week. I had my pita stuffed with some chicken and hummus, and lettuce and tomato from the CSA. Biting into that tomato, the flavor of summer just danced on my tongue. 

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013


Last week I had 24 pints of blueberries, 3 gallons of strawberries and about 6 pints of raspberries to work with. I have already posted the blueberries and strawberries and will finish with the raspberries. I do love these berries too but rarely find them on sale cheap enough to make to ton of stuff. The same week the blueberries were on sale, I was able to get some raspberries too.  Samantha loves raspberries too and since I had so many other berries to work with, I washed the berries and measured them so that I could make jam with her when I was done with the strawberries.

In the photo above you can see (l-r) Raspberry Lemonade Concentrate, Raspberry Jam and a Mango-Raspberry Jam. They are all very tasty, but the one with the mango is just amazing. Another favorite jam! Our favorite way to enjoy the lemonade concentrates is to mix them with ginger ale. I have added them to plain water too, but the ginger ale is our favorite.

Samantha has been cooking with me at my house and at home with her Mom since she was just tiny. At 10, she is a pretty confident cook, understands kitchen safety and has quite the collection of her own kitchen supplies, including her own knives. She loves to try new recipes and was excited to make raspberry jam. Last summer, she made her first batch of jam and she was excited to be able to do it again this year. Since she loves raspberries so much, I saved that project for a day that she would be here with me. She is tall enough that she doesn't really need a stool anymore but when we are cooking with a deep pot, she uses one so that she is above the pot she is stirring so that she doesn't get burned. I supervise of course, but she understands the basics of making and canning jam now. After finishing she pronounced everything worthy of two thumbs up.

I swear I clean my stove! I normally have my water bath canner on the front burner there and I cook on the back burner. Samantha arms are long enough yet for that she when she is here I reverse it. After canning so many jars of berry products in just a few days, that front burner looks like that a lot, but I really do clean it!

Monday, June 10, 2013


Strawberries have always been one of my all time favorite foods. I just love them.  I remember my Mom making me strawberry pies for my birthday when I was a little girl and a couple of times taking birthday cupcakes topped with strawberries to share with my friends at school. 

A couple of weeks ago I made some Strawberry Jam, some strawberry lemonade concentrate, some Strawberry Vanilla Jam and dehydrates some to use later in oatmeal and in granola. 

On Sunday afternoon a co-worked sent me a text letting me know he could get a good deal on some strawberries. He also asked if I could make him some jam if he bought all the supplies. In exchange, he picked up and delivered my berries to him and gave me a discount on them. I got two gallons of berries for myself and then he sent me another gallon to using in making his jam.

Three gallons of strawberries, washed, capped and sliced. When I run out of bowls, I often pull out my crock pots! They hold a lot, and don't take up as much room as another set of mixing bowls would since I already have the two crock pots on the shelf.

This is what I did with my strawberries: I made my friend a batch of strawberry jam and a batch of strawberry ginger ale jam and then for my pantry I made strawberry syrup, strawberry pie filling and the Maple Strawberry Smooch recipe from the Ball book. I hadn't planed on doing strawberry pie filling, but when I asked Kip if there was anything he wanted me to make that was his suggestion. And I am so glad I made it too!! It will be made here every year if I can, it is that yummy.

This was the Strawberry Vanilla Jam that I made a couple of weeks ago.

To finish my days of strawberry canning, I had strawberry shortcake with fresh whipped cream. I may have had this dessert more than once!

Friday, June 7, 2013

CSA Basket June 6

Thursdays are my CSA pickup days and this is what I got in this week's basket: summer squash, tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, strawberries, two heads of lettuce, mesclun salad mix, onions, and peas. I love strawberries and the ones that I have gotten in this basket have been so tasty, but I think I was even more excited about the peas! I don't think I have ever had fresh peas before, at least I know that I have never cooked them before. I love peas though and did decide to grow some this year. 

We have already eaten some of the lettuce and tomatoes with last night's dinner. Since Thursdays are CSA pickup days I get home a little later than normal so I have been making Thursdays "sandwich night". It just makes it a little easier on me to make a quick dinner. Last night we had roast beef sandwiches on onion rolls and then I had some white cheddar cheese, made some horseradish mayo and lettuce and tomato from my basket.

The squash and the onions will probably end up in tonight's fried rice dinner, the strawberries will be eaten as snacks and with breakfast and the lettuce will make some fine salads. I am not sure about the peas yet, I haven't decided if some of them will also be in the fried rice or if I am just going to have a big bowl of peas for lunch today!

I think this is the fourth week of pick-ups with the new CSA and I have to say, I have been very happy with everything I have gotten. Switching farms wasn't a decision that I made lightly, but I really do think this was the best decision for us. The variety seems to be greater already and I am happy that this farm also included fruit in their baskets. 

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Grapefruit Marmalade

This was the first time that I have ever work for citrus for a canning project. I bought a case of grapefruit and a case of oranges. I love grapefruit so I decided to start with a Grapefruit Marmalade from the Ball book. 

I started by thinly peeling the grapefruit and the scraping away all of the white from the inside of the peel.

Then the peel was cut into small strips.

After that I followed the directions in the Ball book to make and then process the marmalade.

Final Product:

I decided that working with citrus really is a lot of work! I will probably do it again, but buying a much smaller quantity of citrus. I had a lot of it and every recipe that I made seemed to take me much longer than anything else I have made. I told Kip that this is liquid gold it took me so long to do! I made a few other citrus recipes from the same book and h ad mixed results. I canned some Crimson Honey Grapefruit that was supposed to stay in sections, but completely came apart on me. I don't know if is was a beginner error or what. They still tasted great and I eat them with breakfast, but it is definitely an eat with a spoon jar. Hopefully before citrus season rolls around again I will have found someone to give me some helpful hints.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Blueberry Days

Once a year Whole Foods has a one day only sale on organic California blueberries. It is a good enough sale to make me drive to one of the most congested places in Nashville. I love shopping over there, but there is never a good time for traffic in that area. Fortunately these sales happen on Fridays which happens to be a day off of work for me. 

I purchased two cases of berries, which is 24 pints. Most all of my blueberries that I will eat this year will come from these two cases. If you have looked here before, you have seen pictures of my blueberry bushes. This is the first year that they have produced any fruit, and while I have a bunch of clusters of berries there will be enough to snack on, but not enough to preserve in any way. I can't wait to snack on them though. Something about growing them myself makes it so much sweeter.

I had already decided what recipes I wanted to make this year. For some reason last year, I made way to much blueberry jam so I was set there. I did however want to try making a blueberry lime jam. I made a batch of that and blueberry syrup, blueberry butter and several jars of blueberry pie filling. I also have four pints of berries that I froze to be added into muffins, pancakes, yogurt or whatever recipe I happen to come across.

Oh yeah. and blueberries will stain your counters!

I also found raspberries on sale and as soon as I finish them, I will do a post with my jars of raspberries.