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Archive for June, 2009

Whew! Glad it’s a little cooler today.

We’ve been enjoying frozen berries during the heat wave. (I don’t like fresh berries because of the gushy texture. But freezing removes the gushiness.) We had little bowls of strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries for dessert one night last week.

fruit

This weekend, we made yummy blueberry pancakes. The three grain pancake mix is really good! Better than plain old Bisquick. There’s still one pancake in the fridge that’s been calling my name all day today. Maybe I’ll have an afternoon snack later.

I broke down and bought some lettuce at Kroger. I wasn’t sure what else to do with carrots, radishes, and cucumber but make a salad! The salad was fine, but it was a good reminder of how much tastier fresh lettuce is.

Last night’s supper was tilapia with fines herbes, roasted purple potatoes, stir-fried squash, and sautéed French green beans. Everything turned out good this time.

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The tilapia recipe was very easy: sprinkle fish with herbs, salt, and pepper. I dusted them with a little cornmeal mix, but most of it fell off. Then I sautéed them in a good bit of olive oil for two minutes a side. They finished before the vegetables but kept well in a 200 degree toaster oven. Butter melted on low with garlic, fines herbes, and lemon juice made a nice sauce.

My next stop is a stir-fry to use up some left over cabbage as well as some chard, radishes, and possibly the last squash.

And I’m looking forward to seeing what’s in tomorrow’s delivery!

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Welcome back to Summer CSA 2009!

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  • three grain pancake mix
  • green beans
  • blueberries
  • chard
  • cucumbers
  • blackberries
  • eggs
  • chives, chervil, tarragon, and parsley
  • radishes
  • carrots
  • chocolate raspberry muffins
  • lettuce (not pictured because we ate it all Wednesday night!)

Hmmm… Blueberries and pancake mix… blueberries and pancake mix. Ideas, anyone? Ha! Talk about a no-brainer. Saturday morning we’re having blueberry pancakes!

The green beans are my favorite skinny kind. I’ll blanch and then sauté some of these in garlic and olive oil. All of the herbs will go well with sautéed green beans, so I’ll play around with them, too.

The chard’s really pretty. I’m thinking about trying it with raisins and pine nuts like in this recipe. And some of it may end up in the week’s fried rice along with a couple of radishes and some squash from the farmers’ market. One of us is seriously anti-carrot, so I don’t put carrots in fried rice. But that’s okay because the other two of us love to snack on raw carrots.

To be frank, it’s hard to get excited about blackberries when you’ve got 2 pints of fresh blueberries lying around. (I ordered an extra from the online store.) So I just froze the blackberries for later. They’ll have their moment – probably as blackberry crumble or just yummy frozen fruit bites.

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Here are a bunch of leftovers from the past couple of weeks.

Cheese toast!

The Leiden cheese makes good cheese toast or good cheese and crackers for an afternoon snack. The best part about the cheese toast is the cheese is the same shape as a piece of bread.

(more…)

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Last week while the CSA program was on vacation, I went to the Powder Springs Farmers’ Market. Here’s what I got.

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  • raspberries $5
  • garlic $1
  • green tomatoes $4
  • yellow squash $4
  • purple potatoes $4
  • tamales $5

(more…)

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The CSA program is on vacation this week, so my neighbor and I are trying out the Powder Springs Farmers’ Market tomorrow. It’s in downtown Powder Springs every Thursday from  4 to 8 pm through September. Can’t wait to see what they have.

Click here for a list of other Atlanta area farmers’ markets where you can get your local food fix this week.

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Getting fennel, leeks, and Savoy cabbage this week sent me running to my copy of How to Cook Everything.

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Cabbage

How to Cook Everything calls Savoy cabbage the best of cabbages.

6-10 savoy

I’ve still got that whole head of Napa cabbage in the fridge. Logic says to use the older cabbage first, but that’s not always the best plan. The difference between the Napa now and in a few days will be minimal. However, I have a chance to use the Savoy super-fresh, so I’ll probably use it tomorrow either sautéed or quickly boiled and buttered.

The Napa cabbage will be split between fried rice and a side dish of cabbage sautéed with ginger and soy sauce. Other items going in to this week’s fried rice are celery leaves, peas, onions, and all the beet greens and stems. I’m tired of shrimp, so I’ll either use some chopped pork loin or just go with eggs.

Fennel

I had to do some research on fennel. It seems you cook the white bulb at the bottom and save the fronds and stalk for garnish.

6-10 fennel

The one fennel recipe in How to Cook Everything sounds like a good place to start. You chop up the bulb, cover it with chicken stock, a little olive oil, and salt and pepper. Then top it with bread crumbs and Parmesan and put it in a 375 degree oven for 45-50 minutes.

I read somewhere that you can steam fish on a bed of fennel fronds. I’m not good at cooking fish, though. It’s on my list of things to get better at.

Leeks

Once again, How to Cook Everything comes through – with Crisp Sautéed Leeks. You wash and julienne the leeks and crisp them in a little oil with garlic. The trick seems to be limiting the number of leek sticks in the skillet at a time. If you put too many in, the collective moisture ends up steaming them rather than crisping them. After they’re crisped and are draining on paper towels, you sprinkle them with spices.

My plan is to crisp the leeks and then serve them over salad with crumbled goat cheese, sliced roasted beets, and maybe some more raspberry vinaigrette. However, this salad may have to wait until later in the week. Last week, I learned that leaf lettuce (as delicious as it is) doesn’t stand up to goat cheese and pecans. I’m not sure how leafy this week’s lettuce is, but I plan on trying it as a simpler salad before dumping sautéed leeks on it. If it’s leafy, we’ll eat it first as simple salads and on sandwiches before turning to the romaine from our garden for the leeks.

Even if beets don’t get to go on the salad, I’ll still serve them sliced and topped with crumbled goat cheese, chopped dill, and chives. I’ve been dreaming about this dish since I stumbled into it a couple of weeks ago.

Raspberry vinaigrette

My mom taught me a great trick for making up a fruity vinaigrette – use whatever jam you have in the fridge. You mix up some vinegar, water, salt and pepper, and any jam. Then add some olive or canola oil to thicken it and shake it some more. Just keep tasting it as you go to get the proportions right. For two people, I use about two tablespoons of vinegar, a teaspoon or two of water, pinches of salt and pepper, a tablespoon of jam, and only about a tablespoon of oil. We like our dressings pretty vinegary. You could use fresh or thawed strawberries instead of jam, but you might need to add a little sugar.

Too many “sides”

With all the fresh produce, I often find myself with too many side dishes and no meaty ideas.

Exhibit 1: last Tuesday’s lunch

  • sweet potatoes with butter
  • steamed peapods with goat cheese
  • carrot sticks
  • some vinegar-based coleslaw

Was that really a crazy meal? Or have I become accustomed to thinking that a meal’s not a meal unless there’s a main (and meaty) dish?

As the summer goes on, I know I’ll make more of these all side-dish meals, so I’m going to revisit Diet for a Small Planet to make sure we’re getting what we need.

Here are some ideas I’m considering to complement our occasional stretches of spontaneous vegetarianism.

  • make cornbread: Cornbread’s yummy, and I bet it’s even better with a fresh egg and whole grain corn meal. Also makes great breakfast. (Cornbread, honey, and goat’s milk for breakfast. Mmmm….)
  • use the whole grains from my member pack: I was so excited to get them, but since then they’ve settled in at the back of my fridge. It’s time to pull them out and see what those babies can do.
  • order a loaf of whole wheat or 5-grain bread from the online store: Boy, would my husband love this one.
  • make scrambled eggs: Boy, would I love this one. I could look into other eggy dish options, but scrambled fresh eggs are so darned good, I’m not sure why I’d do that!

In the meantime…

I’m defrosting some turkey drumsticks. I’m going to bake them like this recipe for chicken drumsticks from simplyrecipes.com. (I hadn’t been to simplyrecipes.com in a while. Silly me! All the latest recipes look wonderful. Like Jamaican Jerk Burgers, Noodles with Mushrooms and Lemon Ginger Dressing, Gingersnap Cookies, and Chocolate Ganache Torte.)

Since turkey legs are bigger than chicken legs, I’ll expect to leave them in at least 45 minutes. I’ll cook all three legs (What kind of crazy turkey was that?!) and expect to have some leftover. In any case, it will be good to have something to put in the oven along with the beets that need roasting.

Maybe the best part of living with a CSA subscription is that vegetables naturally become the focus of meal planning and meat the afterthought.

How to Cook Everything

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Ever notice the change in color between May and June? Sometime in May, spring ends and summer begins. The change comes in color as much as temperature. The landscape shifts from playful spring green, colorful blossoms, and budding oak trees to the serious-business green of summer.

6-10That intense summer green is what my box of produce makes me think of. (Maybe it shouldn’t because almost everything here is a spring crop. But it does.)

  • leeks
  • peas
  • eggs
  • celery!
  • lettuce
  • cucumbers
  • fennel
  • Savoy cabbage
  • chocolate-raspberry-pecan muffins
  • stevia
  • mint of some variety
  • Leiden cheese

Before I put everything away again, I turned the plastic bags inside out. The bags were wet on the inside, so it seemed like a good idea.

Beets

In addition to my regular subscription, I also ordered a pound of beets from the online store. Aren’t they beautiful?

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Celery

I love celery! What a nice surprise! I don’t think of celery as a Georgia plant.

6-10 celery

This celery has really nice leaves on it. Celery leaves are great to chop and put in tomato sauce, soups, and salads. I use them instead of chopped celery in recipes that need the celery flavor but don’t require any crunch. And, of course, celery sticks make great snack food.

Garlic scapes

Check out the chaos that is garlic scapes.

6-10 scapesI’m going to look for something other than pesto to make with garlic scapes. Pesto will be the fall back if nothing pans out.

Herbs

Although I couldn’t read what my herb mix was this week, the smell and taste made it very clear. One of the herbs is a very nice mint although I’m not sure which kind.

6-10 mint

The other herb I didn’t recognize until  I took a tiny nibble. It was incredibly sweet and unmistakably stevia.

6-10 stevia

In fact, stevia’s so sweet that the taste reminds me more of Sweet N Low than sugar or honey. I could sweeten my tea with it for sure, but I’ve got enough mint syrup to keep me going for a while. I found a recipe for making an extract from dried stevia leaves. I always have a problem air-drying herbs. Nowhere in my kitchen is ever really a cool, dry place. So I’m thinking about hanging these in my bedroom closer to an air conditioning vent. If my stevia leaves dry right, I’ll keep you posted on the extracting.

Muffins

We’re always happy to get more chocolate-raspberry-pecan muffins.

Yep, they're as good as they look!

Yep, they're as good as they look!

I’ll be back with ideas for fennel, cabbage, and more tomorrow!

Celery

Celery! I love celery. What a surprise! I don’t think of celery as a Georgia plant. This celery has really nice leaves on it. Celery leaves are great stuff to chop up and put in tomato sauce, soups, and salads. And, of course, celery sticks make great snack food.

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pestoandsalad

Two meals

One was a bit of a disappointment considering how much thought and work went into it. The menu was

  • Salad (lettuce, carrots, radishes, goat cheese, and toasted pecans with raspberry vinaigrette dressing)
  • Garlic scape pesto and shrimp pasta (I cooked the shrimp to almost done in a little olive oil and then turned the heat to low, added the pesto, and let it simmer for ten minutes or so.)

The salad didn’t mix up right. The leaf lettuce didn’t go as well with the goat cheese and toasted pecans as I imagined; I should have saved those for some of our romaine or field greens and just served the leaf lettuce with carrots and radishes.

And I wish I had served the salad separately and early rather than on the same plate as the pasta. The flavors weren’t well-matched, and the pesto cooled down too quickly. It’s not nearly as good when it’s not hot. It would have been better to eat the salad and leave the pasta on the stove. I’ve shied away from doing serving courses in the past because it seemed too fancy (and my husband would grumble about extra dishes). But I guess some things are really better eaten in succession rather than on one plate.

Yesterday’s much simpler – but still delicious – lunch finished off most of our produce. We had yummy sweet potatoes baked in the microwave, steamed pea pods from our garden topped with goat cheese and dill, carrot sticks, leftover coleslaw, and some dried apples for dessert.

Leftovers

  • Napa cabbage: will use in fried rice dishes and also as a cooked cabbage side dish.
  • Dill: combine it with goat cheese on vegetables. I ordered beets from the online store this week just for this purpose.
  • Dried apples: continue to eat as a snack. Mmmm….

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Ah, summer! Fresh tomatoes, sweet corn, and oodles and oodles of crawly things.

I’m relatively tolerant of bugs. Most bugs I try to escort outside. Ants I have learned to kill on sight in the house – not because I want to but because I’ve learned the hard way what happens if you don’t kill the scouts immediately. I kind of like big ants when they’re not in the house. They’re big enough to be interesting individually, and the colony organization is amazing. Little ants I don’t like at all because we have a history. One day years ago, I found a trail of them leading to the pantry where they had swarmed a bag of chips. You could hear them chomping on the chips. I had nightmares about that for days.

Chiggers may be the worst. I can’t go outside in our (admittedly overgrown and woodsy) yard without getting bit by chiggers. Skin So Soft lotion prevents them from biting sometimes, and Liquid Bandage makes them stop itching sometimes. But what a nuisance! The mosquitoes have been bad this year, too, with all the rain. At least, these mosquito bites only itch for a few minutes.

Ticks

And the ticks are out in force this year! I’ve only seen a couple of ticks over the past several years here, but we’ve already found four of what I think were male deer ticks on us – thankfully still walking around!

ticksI killed these ticks by dumping them in an old pill bottle, adding some acetone, shaking it up, and leaving them there. Rubbing alcohol is what people usually recommend, but I didn’t have any of that at the time.  I saw a vet doing this with a jar that was slop full of dead ticks. It seems safer and easier than trying to destroy them physically. If the tick bit you, it’s also a good way to keep the tick around for identification purposes if you get some symptoms later. Here’s more info on what to do if you find a tick already firmly attached. Above all, I recommend not doing Internet searches about ticks. It’s given me a bad case of the willies!

So remember to check for ticks after being outside in tall grass or woodsy areas even if you’ve never had a problem before.

Fruit flies

But what I really want to write about today is fruit flies.

fruitfly

In the past summers, we’ve had serious problems with fruit flies in the house. They don’t carry disease, but they’re very annoying. We assume they come in with food through the kitchen, but they wind up all over the house. They seem to like computer screens.

Last year, we finally found a solution that really works. Fill a bowl near where the flies are with a tablespoon of natural apple cider vinegar (the kind with the mother), a tablespoon of sugar, a couple drops of dish soap, and a cup of water. The flies cannot resist the smell, and they drown in the bowl. Yellow bowls seemed to work best and dark bowls the worst.

I think the necessary ingredients to attract the flies are sweet (= fruit) and fermenting (= decaying) liquids. So you could also try fruit juice and some kind of alcoholic beverage. Just don’t forget the detergent! This year, we’re going to try trub, a yeasty byproduct of brewing beer, instead of the relatively expensive apple cider vinegar

We got rid of a bad infestation in a week or so using this bowl method. We had a bowl in the kitchen, a bowl in the bathroom, and a bowl at both  of our desks. After we cleared out most of flies, we just left a bowl in the kitchen for the rest of the summer. It caught the newcomers quickly so they never spread to other parts of the house. Hooray!

This year, we haven’t had any problems yet, but if (when?) they arrive, we’ll know what to do!

And, tomorrow, I promise to return to more appetizing blog fare.

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Goats are great!

Here are some things I’ve learned about goats while visiting Jacque and Nancy Garry at Red Hott Tomatoes in Bowdon, GA.

1. Goats make great stuff.

At Red Hott Tomatoes, I got to meet some goats and sample some of their wares. I had goat milk, goat cheese, and goat kefir. I’d had goat milk before and hadn’t liked it too much. So when Nancy handed me a big glass, I was prepared to sip and smile. Wow, was I surprised! It was really good! The goat milk I had on the farm wasn’t pasteurized, and Nancy and Jacque said that makes a big difference. Having met the goats and their milkers, I had no qualms about downing unpasteurized milk, but anything I had from the store would have been. Sadly, raw milk can’t be sold for human consumption in Georgia.

But goat cheese can! The goat cheese was terrific and not only because I had it on Nancy’s homemade biscuits. It’s wonderfully tasty and useful stuff. It’s got a mild but intensely fresh flavor! After using it in a few recipes, I think you could pair it with any vegetable or herb. The creamy, fresh taste enhances other flavors without overwhelming them. It’s great on roasted beets, on steamed peapods, in salads with toasted pecans, or just in hunks wrapped in sorrel leaves. Mmmm…. It’s like whipped cream for vegetables!

I donate to Heifer International which provides families with goats for milk to drink and sell (and other livestock, too). And they send around wonderful catalogs with happy pictures of the families. Before drinking Nancy’s goat milk, I felt a little bad for these smiling kids with milk moustaches. I’d think “If only they could have real, good-tasting milk from a cow.” Now that I know what their goat’s milk really tastes like, I smile along with them.

2. Goats have character

The lady goats were sociable creatures browsing and hanging out together with Rosie, their guard dog. Like the rest of the animals at the farm, they seemed faintly curious about me but didn’t seem to mind my presence.

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Except for Pixie. Pixie is the largest of the farm’s dairy goats. We probably weigh in about the same. So I saw a big goat, and she saw another female threatening her place in line next to Jacque. She never charged, butted, or bit me, but the threat of all three was in the air. She put herself in my way again and again maintaining eye contact the whole time. If she’d been a dog, I would have ignored her displays of dominance until they turned overtly aggressive. Was this overtly aggressive for a dairy goat? I didn’t know. I didn’t want to back down and look like a wuss in front of Jacque (or Pixie), but I surely didn’t want to mix it up either. Thankfully, Jacque was there to keep all this chick drama in check. He’d grab Pixie’s collar or swat her to distract her or keep her in line.

Pixie's on the right.

Pixie's on the right.

I appreciate divas of all species, so, to be clear, I have no problem with Pixie, and I’m sure we would have come to an understanding in time.

Divas aside, the buck pen held the most charisma. This bachelor pad is across the farm from the dairy goats and is home to three billy goats, a young bull (or maybe a steer), and a burro named Eeyore. Check out this adorable pair.

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And then there’s the billy goat who posed for me like a dog at Westminster.CIMG1334

And then it was Eeyore’s turn.

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3. Goats have good friends

Rosie is a dog with a job who was born knowing her business: keeping her herd safe. That’s a full time job with coyotes and roaming gangs of domestic dogs in search of thrills. Jacque says the local dogs are the worst threat because they’re badly behaved in groups and not scared of people smells. But Rosie’s a big girl, and I can imagine a couple of dogs out on a lark would think twice before going a round with her. She has different barks for different critters, and Jacque says he never sleeps as well as when Rosie barks through the night.

Rosie on break

Nancy had the best Rosie story, though. For the past few days, Rosie had not been letting the goats deep into the woods to browse. Nancy even saw them one morning where “Rosie had them lined up for a staff meeting telling them not to go into the woods.” Later, Nancy and Jacque heard from a neighbor that a bobcat had taken up residence in the area. See what I mean about this dog? Rosie sensed a new threat, decided she couldn’t ward it off on her own, and took preventative steps to keep the herd away from danger. Can we vote Anatolian shepherds into public office?

In the buck pen, Eeyore is the guard. He’s a rescue burro from Colorado, and I didn’t get his whole story, but it’s clear he’s wary of people. Eeyore loves his goat buddies, though.

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He once killed a fox that got into the pen, and Jacque said he could take on a dog.

4. Baby goats are cute.

The baby goats were fun, too. They’re not quite babies any more, more like, well, little kids. They followed Jacque around their pen falling over themselves to find out what he was up to. (He was putting up fencing around the apple and pear trees so the growing goats wouldn’t eat the bark).

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And then they had a quick chat with Nancy.

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These goats are bottle fed three times a day and have been from birth. Sadly, unlike me and the happy kids from Heifer, the baby goats get pasteurized milk.

Jacque’s a pro and can feed two kids at once.

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I was content with my one.

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So that’s just some of what I learned about goats. Thanks to Nancy and Jacque for letting me butt in on the farm, and I’ll write more about other animals later!

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