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CSA 2016: Week 6

Let’s start with the important stuff this week. Do you see what I see?!? TOMATOES! I was extra excited to see these in our share Tuesday night. My friends and I had were talking about menus for the week, and Bethany said she was going to make bruschetta, which sounded like a really good idea, except for the fact that the tomatoes in my garden are completely green. And no one should make bruschetta with grocery store tomatoes in July.

Our CSA came through for me though, with four beautiful tomatoes! So, bruschetta it is. I actually think it will make a good snack next week at Airventure, as long as I prep the bread at home before we go.

CSA 2016 Week 6

Here’s the rundown for week 6:

  • 4 tomatoes
  • 2 cucumbers
  • 2 small heads of fennel
  • 1 kohlrabi
  • 1 onion
  • 1 pound of green and yellow beans
  • 1 head of cauliflower
  • 1 zucchini
  • 1 summer squash
  • 1 bunch of garlic scapes

The cucumbers are probably going to wind up in our cooler next week. The scapes are destined for pesto, and I am probably going to caramelize the fennel. We started eating through our kohlrabi stash this week, so now I am down to just three in the fridge. I took my sister-in-law’s advice and oven-roasted them with olive oil, salt and pepper. They were all right, but I may turn the next batch into fritters.

I’ll probably roast the cauliflower, since that’s our favorite way to enjoy it. As for the onion, well, I put onion is almost everything, so I’m sure it will be consumed rather quickly. I’d like to use the zucchini and summer squash in this galette.

Which brings us to the green beans. When they are fresh from the garden, they are one of my favorites. I steamed some with dinner the other night, and I’ve been taking a handful to work each day for easy snacking. Between our garden, the CSA and our generous neighbors, we have a LOT of green beans in the fridge. I might get to can some for winter enjoyment at this rate!

 

 

 
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Posted by on July 22, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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The Perfect Summer Side

Ah, summer. The season of picnics and cookouts, graduation parties and camping trips. You know what all of those things have in common? Food! Whatever’s happening, people need to eat, right? And most of the time, there will be pasta salad on the table. Sometimes it’s good. Sometimes it’s drowning in mayo and isn’t so good. Sometimes, much to Andy’s dismay, it’s the only side dish at the party.

Unless, of course, this pasta salad is available. It’s so good that Andy (who says pasta salad makes him gag), eats more than just a polite serving. He goes back for seconds and thirds. And then he raids the fridge for the leftovers.

The first time I tried it, I was amazed  that something so simple could be so delicious. It’s just orzo, lemon juice, olive oil, fresh basil, feta and dried cherries, with some greens thrown in for good measure. My friend Bethany made it for a get-together, and wow. It was summer loving at first bite for me. Clearly, this was something special.

Like any good summer salad, this one is easy to throw together. It tastes good straight out of the fridge or at room temperature. I can’t decide if it’s the basil, the cherries or the feta that puts this one over the top. Maybe it’s all three together, in a trifecta of awesomeness.

I didn’t have arugula on hand, but I’d gotten a bunch of Swiss chard in our CSA the week beforehand, so I figured that would work out OK. I ended up sauteing the stems and then the chopped leaves, since I think they’re a little tough and chewy raw. It didn’t take that much longer, and it gave me something to do while I waited for the pasta to cool. Good thing too. Otherwise I might have eaten all of the feta before it made its way into the salad.😉

I almost skipped the pine nuts because they were ridiculously expensive in my grocery store but decided to splurge when I found a slightly cheaper package of them. I used some of my awesome Italian olive oil from Andy’s brother, Dan, and I think it really made a difference in the end result. So if you have the good stuff, this is the time to break it out. And then you may want to keep it out, since you’ll probably need to make a second batch to take to a picnic or something.

OrzoPastaSalad

Tri-Color Pasta Salad

1 lb. uncooked orzo pasta
3 tablespoons plus up to 1/4 cup of olive oil, divided
2 cups chopped greens (arugula, spinach or Swiss chard)
3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/2 cup dried cherries
12 fresh basil leaves, torn
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
1 1/2 teaspoon salt (I didn’t measure this.) 
1 teaspoon pepper  (Again, I didn’t measure.)

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta according to the package directions, then drain the pasta and quickly rinse it with cool water.

Spread the cooked pasta in an even layer on a large rimmed baking sheet and drizzle with three tablespoons of olive oil. Set aside to cool.

While the pasta cools, prepare the rest of the salad.

If you’re using Swiss chard, separate the stems from the leaves and chop the stems into 1/4″ pieces. Add some olive oil to a large skillet and saute the stems until they are crisp tender. Chop the leaves into bite-sized / manageable pieces and then add them to the skillet when the stems are almost done. Take the pan off the heat.

If you’re using spinach or arugula, simply wash the leaves and tear them into bite-sized pieces.

Place the greens in a large bowl and then add the pine nuts, cherries, basil and feta cheese. Scrape the orzo into the bowl and add the lemon juice. Gently mixed until everything is well-distributed. Drizzle with the remaining olive oil (up to 1/4 cup) until the pasta is well-coated and doesn’t appear dry. Mix everything one more time, then season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve cold or at room temperature. Hide store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

From my friend Bethany

Click here for a printable version.

 
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Posted by on July 19, 2016 in Side Dishes

 

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CSA 2016: Week 5

Week five! And I’m actually sharing it the same week that we picked it up. I’m making progress!

CSA 2016 Week 5

This week, we brought home:

  • One Walla Walla onion
  • One head of lettuce
  • Two cucumbers
  • Two summer squash
  • One bunch of beets
  • Two kohlrabi
  • One pound of green beans
  • One bunch of garlic scapes

For once, the lettuce is not going into salads. We’re having tacos Sunday night, so I’m earmarking it for them. I plan on using the summer squash in our other favorite zucchini / squash dish soon. The cucumbers are going into salads and lunches for the next couple of days, and I am sure that we’ll simply steam the green beans until they are crisp-tender. I could make something with them, but why mess with perfection?

I used the beet greens from both week 4 and week 5 in last night’s dinner: bacon, scrambled eggs, and sauteed beet greens. A few years ago I wouldn’t have thought to cook the greens, but I’m older and wiser now. I sauteed the greens with chopped garlic scapes and onion in bacon grease. They were so good that I even had some for breakfast the next day. (Much better than a green smoothie, if you ask me.) I’ll probably roast the beets for dinner one night when it’s not 90°+ outside.

I need to do a little reading before I use the onion. If Walla walla onions are something special, I want to do something out of the ordinary with it.

For those of you keeping track at home, we are now up to FOUR kohlrabi in the fridge. I need to do something with them before things get out of hand. Fritters, maybe? Hmm.

In addition to our CSA goodness, our garden is coming into its own. I picked one and three-quarter pounds of snap peas this morning, and I really want to make this. Andy doesn’t love dollops of ricotta like I do, so I either need to make it when he’s gone or make a second dish for him. It looks like we’ll have beans soon as well. And as long as the cucumbers don’t completely invade the tomato plants, we should see fresh tomatoes in a few weeks too. Exciting stuff!

 
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Posted by on July 13, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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CSA 2016: Weeks 2, 3 & 4

Let’s catch up, shall we? We are a month into the 2016 season, and I am loving it! Except for the fact that I’m feeling slightly overrun with lettuce. We received two heads of lettuce for the first three weeks of the CSA and one head for week 4. Plus, our neighbors shared some lettuce from their garden, and now our lettuce is ready to go! Can you say salads?

I was pretty pumped for week 2: Asparagus, garlic scapes and sugar snap peas? Be still my beating heart. CSA 2016 Week 2

We received:

  • One bunch of kale
  • One kohlrabi
  • One bunch of garlic scapes
  • One small bunch of asparagus (the last of the season!)😦
  • One head of Romanie lettuce
  • One head of Bib lettuce
  • Two heads of broccoli

CSA 2016 Week 3

Week 3 introduced us to something we hadn’t tried before: pea shoots. I used some of them in a quinoa salad with dried cherries and feta cheese, and some of the shoots ended up in a stir-fry. (I used this recipe for the sauce and went with chicken instead of shrimp, just because it was in the freezer, and an assortment of veggies from the fridge.)

Week 3 included:

  • One small bunch of rhubarb (the last of the season) 
  • One bunch of pea shoots
  • One pound of sugar snap peas
  • One head of broccoli
  • One head of Romaine lettuce
  • One head of head lettuce
  • One zucchini
  • One bunch of Swiss chard
  • One bunch of garlic scapes

CSA 2016 Week 4

Which brings us up to the present: Week 4. Here’s this week’s loot:

  • 1 1/4 pounds of peas
  • One head of lettuce
  • One bunch of beets with greens
  • One kohlrabi
  • One zucchini
  • One summer squash
  • One bunch of kale
  • One bunch of garlic scapes

I’m sure you’re wondering what we’re doing with all of these veggies. Besides eating salads, that is. Well, the sugar snap peas are gone before you can blink. It’s like we have es-cape-peas! Hahaha…

The broccoli is making its way into salads and stir fries. Some of the garlic scapes made their way into stir fries as well, and the rest of them are destined for pesto. The zucchini and summer squash will be fritterized by Thursday evening because, yes, we are that predictable.

The kohlrabi… um… yeah. It’s still in the fridge, waiting for inspiration. We don’t hate it, but I haven’t found a way to love it yet. I’m not sure what we’ll do with the kale either. I tossed the first bunch with some pasta, sauteed garlic scapes and Parmesan cheese, which wasn’t bad, but we both thought it was missing something. Bacon, perhaps?

As for the Swiss chard, I’m hoping to use it in an orzo pasta salad that my friend Bethany makes. It has basil, feta, pine nuts and dried cherries, and it’s the only pasta salad that Andy truly likes. It typically calls for arugula, but I think I can sub in the Swiss chard with no problem. I plan to serve that with some salmon (and a salad, of course).

So there you have it.Three weeks of summer-time goodness. Like I said before, it really is a wonderful time of year.

 
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Posted by on July 5, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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Neighborly Love

As soon as Andy and I bought our house, we knew we’d won the neighbor lottery. We closed on the house on a June afternoon, and, like any newly-minted homeowners, went right over to see our new place. Duane and Joyce came over to introduce themselves and gave us a quart of fresh-picked strawberries from their garden. Welcome to the neighborhood, indeed.

Since then, they’ve shared lots of fresh produce with us – everything from tomatoes and zucchini to butternut squash and the world’s largest cabbage. They spend lots of time cultivating their garden, and it shows. The veggies are in neat rows, without a weed in sight. The tomato plants are twice the size of ours. The lettuce plants don’t even have dirt on their leaves! (They put a ground cover over the dirt next to the lettuce, so the rain doesn’t splash mud on the plants. So smart.) It’s as close to perfect as a garden can get. Maybe someday ours will look half as good.

One day early on, Joyce asked us if we liked rhubarb. I told her that I thought we did, and she gave us a plate of rhubarb squares to try. If we liked them, she said we could have some rhubarb from their flourishing rhubarb plant. We ate the squares in record time, so I made sure to get the recipe along with some rhubarb from Joyce.

We now have our own rhubarb plants (which have started to take over the entire garden), and this is the first rhubarb dish I make each spring. You use the same mixture for both the crumb topping and the bottom crust, which saves time AND dishes. It’s a flexible recipe too, letting you swap rhubarb for strawberries or apples (or a combination if you choose), but, nine times out of 10, I’ll make the rhubarb version. And every time we eat it, I’m so glad we live where we do.:)

rhubarb squares

Rhubarb Squares

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup old-fashioned oatmeal
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) butter, melted
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups chopped rhubarb

Preheat oven to 350°.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, oatmeal and brown sugar. Pour the melted butter over the top of the flour mixture and mix until combined. (It will be crumblier and looser than a batter – more like a pie dough.)  Reserve one cup of the mixture for the topping.

Press the remaining mixture in the bottom of a 9″ x 13″ baking pan. Set aside while you prepare the filling.

Whisk the sugar, water and cornstarch together in a medium saucepan. Cook, stirring constantly, over medium-high heat until mixture thickens and becomes clear. Stir in vanilla and then add chopped rhubarb. Pour filling over the crust in the prepared pan. Sprinkle the reserved crumb mixture over the top of the filling.

Bake for 45 minutes, or until filling is bubbling and the top is golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool before slicing.

From my neighbor, Joyce

Click here for a printable version.

 
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Posted by on June 30, 2016 in Dessert

 

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CSA 2016: Week 1

Editor’s note: Yes, I’m behind with things (again). We had an unexpected trip come up last weekend, which means that by the time you read this, we’ll be just a few days away from receiving our third week of produce. Better late than never, right?😛

Finally! I have been oh-so-patiently (ha!) waiting for this moment since last November.

This is our fifth season eating farm-fresh produce from Olden Produce (soon to be Olden Organics), and I think I enjoy this a little more each year. I thought I’d talk about why I like participating in a CSA, since I don’t know if I’ve ever said anything besides, “IT TASTES SO GOOD!”

  1. It’s good to know where your food comes from. I mean, I’m pretty sure that everyone knows that the grocery store shelves aren’t magically replenished by elves or something, but it’s still nice to remember how much work goes in to growing food.
  2. You’re supporting a local business, so more resources are going back into your community, which is always a good thing.
  3. It forces you to try something new. With a CSA, you get what you get, and it’s never the same. Each week is something different. Sometimes you get your favorite thing (Asparagus! Broccoli! Strawberries!), and sometimes, well, you get eggplant. Or fennel. Or kohlrabi. You have to make the best of it because no one likes to waste food. What can I say? I like a challenge.
  4. Finally (and, most importantly, in Andy’s mind): It really does taste SO good. There’s nothing like a fresh strawberry or tomato, and garden carrots have so much more flavor than their grocery-store counterparts. Honestly, once you have the real thing, you’re pretty much ruined for anything else. (Which is why I’m a sweet corn snob. Go ahead and thank my parents for that one.) 
CSA 2016 Week 1

See those extra two quarts of strawberries in the background? They’re from our awesome neighbors.

Besides, what’s not to love about this loot? Here’s the rundown for week 1:

  • 1 quart of strawberries
  • 1 pound of asparagus
  • 1 pound of popcorn
  • 1 bunch of kale
  • 1 bundle of rhubarb
  • 1 head of Bib lettuce
  • 1 head of Romaine lettuce

So, what did we do with all of this? Well, the strawberries were gone right away. There’s nothing like fresh strawberries in June. The popcorn is waiting for a lazy Sunday evening. (Still not sure when we’ll get one of those, but that’s neither here nor there. Popcorn keeps well in the pantry.) I roasted some of the asparagus, and the rest of it ended up in this pasta dish. The kale is still hanging out in a produce saver bag, just waiting for inspiration to strike. The rhubarb is waiting for the perfect dessert opportunity. So many options, so little time.

As far as the lettuce goes, we are embracing the “loaded salad” concept this summer. I fill our plates with lettuce and then pile on the toppings, which helps us stay on top of the lettuce situation. Two heads of lettuce a week is a lot for two people! For a salad to be satisfying enough for dinner, I think it needs the following components:

  • Protein (hard-boiled eggs, grilled steak, grilled chicken, grilled shrimp, bacon)
  • Cheese (feta, Parm, cheddar, blue)
  • Something crunchy (croutons, slivered almonds)
  • Something sweet (sliced strawberries, dried cranberries, dried cherries)
  • Lots of veggies (peppers, onions, snap peas, carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, etc. This obviously changes based on what comes in our weekly share!)

So there you have it! Here’s to a summer full of delicious fruits and veggies.

 
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Posted by on June 26, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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Frozen Treats, Upgraded

When I was a kid, popsicles were pretty much just sugar and food coloring in a plastic sleeve. You know, the kind where you cut off the top of the wrapper and suck the ice out of the wrapper, turning your tongue a crazy shade of purple or green? My mom would make us eat them outside because, inevitably, someone (my brother, I’m sure) would drop part of the popsicle all over the ground. Ahh, memories…

While our ice cream maker gets a workout regardless of the weather, I seem to forget about popsicles until summer rolls around. Which is a shame, especially when you consider how easy they are to make and how fast they’re ready to eat. Let’s be honest, patience has never been my greatest asset.

I’ve also discovered that popsicles can be so much more than frozen juice. You can use them as a vehicle for frozen versions of other desserts. I mean, key lime pie popsicles that mix up in minutes and are ready in just a few hours? That’s the perfect summer food, if you ask me.

I almost never have key limes on hand, so I used regular limes for the juice and zest, and things turned out just fine. I also didn’t measure the graham crackers, as three cups of crumbs sounded like a lot for 10 popsicles. Instead, I simply crushed a few crackers at a time, rolled the popsicles in the crumbs and crushed more as needed.

The final result was cool and refreshing, with the perfect combination of tart and sweet. Of course, they didn’t last long at our house, which probably means we’re due for another batch.:)

keylimepopsicles

Key Lime Pie Popsicles

3/4 cup of fresh lime juice, plus two teaspoons lime zest (I find that one lime yields enough zest, but it usually takes 4-5 limes for the juice, depending on how juicy they are.)
1 14-ounce can of sweetened condensed milk
1 cup of half-and-half
pinch of salt
crushed graham crackers for rolling (I used about 4 large crackers.)

In a large bowl (or a 4-cup Pyrex measuring cup for easy pouring later), combine the lime juice and zest. Pour in the half-and-half and sweetened condensed milk. Add a pinch of salt and then whisk together until the mixture is thoroughly combined.

Evenly divide the mixture among your popsicle molds.* Insert sticks into the mixture and freeze until frozen solid. Place the graham cracker crumbs in a shallow dish.

To remove the popsicles, dip the mold in lukewarm water for a few seconds and then gently pull from the mold.

After removing from the popsicles from the mold, lay each one in the graham cracker crumbs, pressing each side down into the crumbs to make sure they stick to the popsicle. Place popsicles on a baking sheet lined with waxed paper and return them to the freezer. When the popsicles are completely solid again, place them in a zip-top bag for storage.

As seen on Smitten Kitchen,  originally from Paletas by Fanny Gerson

*I own this popsicle mold, and this particular recipe fills the entire thing, yielding 10 popsicles.

Click here for a printable version.

 
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Posted by on June 11, 2016 in Dessert, Uncategorized

 

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