Sunday, July 30, 2006

I think I can, I think I can

Last week I decided that it was time to try canning some veggies. My parents always put up tomatoes and tomato sauces, so in the perfect world residing in my head, I pictured me and dad (mom is out of town) in his kitchen, preparing tomatoes together while trading memories of us kids growing up, preserving nature's bounty, and maybe sharing a laugh or two.


In reality, dad had tickets to see Cirque du Soleil and I was left with his ancient copy of Stocking Up, some old Ball jars and rings, a jar-grabber-thingie, and assurance that I would have no problems. Oh, and did I mention that it's like, 90 degrees with 80 percent humidity here? And we have no air conditioning? Yeah. Good times.

I wanted to jar some tomatoes this weekend, not because we had a bounty of them, but because I've never preserved vegetables or fruits. I thought it'd be a good idea to experience the learning curve before I had 20 pounds of tomatoes taking over the kitchen. Turns out, this was a good idea. My learning curve was an hour of researching and a steaming hot two hours of jarring.

In addition to Stocking Up, my resources were, an Ohio State University Extension fact sheet, and a blurb in the back of From Asparagus to Zucchini. Once I thought I had my head around the process, I gathered my supplies and hit the (already hot) kitchen.

Step One
Gather the gear, start water boiling, and hope to goodness that you don't mess up. Oh, and notice how hot it is already in the kitchen.

Step Two
Prepare the tomatoes by boiling them for a minute or two, then dropping into ice water to split skins. Peel and core tomatoes. And save skin for the compost pile :)

I used a combination of Blooming Glen tomatoes which were a variety of yellow, orange, and red colors, and some early roma tomatoes from our home garden.

Step Three
Place mixture into a jar, clean the rim, put on the lid, screw on the ring. Put jar into pot of boiling water, making sure that two inches of water cover the jar. Cover pot and boil for ten minutes. Note the elevating temperature of the kitchen, and fear that you might melt.

Step Four

Remove jar, and wait for lid to pop, insuring that it's sealed. Upon hearing the popping sound, jump up and down and clap hands. Call boyfriend into kitchen to look at sealed jar. Call dad to tell him that, it worked! It really, really worked! And that you heard it pop!

Overall, the experience was... hot. Very, very, very hot. But, totally worth it :) At one point, I actually started to heat the tomatoes in the jar in a pot of boiling water. I thought I read that one should heat the jar and its contents to 170 degrees, then lid and boil it. Turns out, I was reading canning directions. So, I lost about 30 minutes there, but hey, that's why I put up the tomatoes this weekend - to learn what to do and not to do.

I definitely want to make some sauces and salsas to jar. Any favorite recipes? More importantly, any jarring advice? Please, do tell :)

Broccoli, tofu, peanut sauce

We harvested some pretty amazing jalepenos from our little garden yesterday. I'm on a mission to use our amazing veggies as they come in, so I went on a hunt through my archives for a recipe.

Tonight, I made a broccoli tofu stir fry with spicy peanut sauce for dinner. I've seen the recipe a bunch of places online, but I think it originates from The Broccoli Enchanted Forest. Here is the recipe I had:

Broccoli and Tofu in Spicy Peanut Sauce

1 pound firm tofu
1 pound broccoli (or another leafy green vegetable)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 cups chopped onion
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
2 tablespoons minced or crushed garlic

Spicy Peanut Sauce:
3/4 cup natural-style smooth peanut butter
3/4 cup boiling water
5 tablespoons rice vinegar
3 tablespoons soy sauce
4 tablespoons blackstrap molasses
cayenne pepper
1 cup coarsely chopped peanuts, lightly toasted
2 green onions, minced (include both whites and greens)

Cube tofu in 1 inch pieces and put in a saucepan with water to cover, then heat over medium heat until boiling. Reduce heat and simmer for about 10 minutes (or until needed for recipe). While tofu cooks prepare sauce.

Place peanut butter and 3/4 cup boiling water in a medium bowl and stir until homogenous. Whisk in vinegar, soy sauce, and molasses. Season to taste with cayenne.

Trim broccoli or cauliflower and cut into bite-sized pieces. Heat a wok or large skillet over high heat, then add oil and swirl to coat the pan. Add the onioin and stir-fry for a minute or two. Add broccoli, ginger, garlic and salt. Continue to stir-fry over high heat for another 5 minutes, or until broccoli is bright green and tender-crisp. Stir in tofu and stir-fry for another minute or so. Lower heat to medium and pour in sauce. Stir until everything is well coated.

Serve immediately over grain, topped with peanuts and minced green onion.

We replaced the cayenne pepper with three lightly sauteed and seeded homegrown jalepeno peppers. I sauteed them with a bit of the onion and threw it into the food processor, along with the rest of the peanut sauce.

Served over a bit of quinoa, and a side of the High Life.

The meat-eating boyfriend gave this vegan-licious dinner five stars, as did I :)

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Flowers and farmers

Jason, Cinder and I went to the Indian Valley Farmers Market this morning. Clearly, we do not need any more produce, but man... it was still hard to pass it all by!

We did get a perennial hibiscus and a white phlox (photo on left) from Ray's Greenhouse and two pounds of pasture-raised chicken breast from Deep Springs Farm.

We also stopped by Brumbaugh's farm stand (photos below), where they had some very pretty cut flowers, lots of hanging baskets, yummy vegetables and some early fruits. We got three stems of zinnia (one for Jase, Avery and Mikaela) and one stem of lisianthus (photo above right).

Oh, and even at 9am, it's freaking hot and humid here. Blech. I think we'll be hiding indoors, under a ceiling fan until the sun starts to go down this afternoon.

Kegger Jammer

So, Avery Cain is with his pops this weekend, and our neighbor asks us, "what are you going to do?"

"We're going to have a kegger jammer," said Jason.

Um, yeah.

Either that, or we're going to harvest our little garden.

See those pumpkins? How freaking sweet cheeks are they? Back in March, when we tore up the back yard, we moved the compost pile - literally a pile - into the spot that would be our garden, as a sort of fertilizer starter for our veggies.

The previous October, Avery and I picked up some adorable little pumpkins from a local roadside stand. They were cute decorations, then began to rot, then were deposited into our compost pile. Apparently, some seeds from the pumpkins did not decompose, but rooted themselves into our new garden instead.

Ironically, or interestingly, or whatever, the pumpkins are actually vining out of the garden, through the new fence, and over/into/through the for real compost bin (that was built using our old fence pieces).

Now, wtf to do with pumpkins in July?

PS: Although she didn't actually make a recommendation, my seester delivered a yummy eggplant lasagne-type thingie to me yesterday. I was especially excited because, since "re-becoming" an omnivore, she rarely makes veggie meals. We're big meal sharers, so Jason has been enjoying her awesome cooking all by himself. It was nice to enjoy a sister-made meal again. The lasagne was great - even the eggplant part!

Sunny heads

They weren't pictured in this week's CSA Bootie Shot, but Avery and I picked a bouquet of flowers at Blooming Glen on Tuesday. Unfortunately, they were quite wilted by the time we got home. In addition to picking the flowers first (of course, we should have done all our other picking and saved the flowers for last), we have a couple other Tuesday stops (including a stop at Bolton's for local milk and eggs) after the CSA. Next time, we will havea jar with some water on hand. See, we can be trained!

Tricia wrote in the farm's newsletter this week:

"Even if we don't like the heat, the crops sure do, especially the gorgeous flowers. Speaking of which keep an eye out for the bright yellow goldfinches who perch on top of the sunflowers, munching on the seed heads."

Although we didn't see any finches, we saw honey bees on a bunch of the sunflowers - three on one even! The sweeties wouldn't stay still for a photograph, though :)

Thursday, July 27, 2006

He cooks, too.

In addition to being a brilliant student, a handy homeowner, a compassionate boyfriend, a patient parental figure, a loyal friend, and an all around amazing guy, Jason also cooks. A perfect ten, I'd say!

Just when we thought that our zucchini couldn't get any bigger, we pulled three upon returning home from Rhode Island, that were approximately the size of my thigh. We gifted one to the fabulous neighbors who watered the garden while we were away, one to the neighbors who are really our family (and who know everything), and kept one. I steamed about one-third of ours with some garden string beans and onions a few nights ago and Jason made this lovely dinner with the remaining.

It was sooooo good. So good! He sliced, soaked and breaded the zucchini. Then, he spread some tomato sauce (from the co-op) on a cookie sheet, placed the zucchini on top, added some sauce and fresh chopped herbs (including PURPLE BASIL), and slices of grandpa Dan's tomatoes to each, and baked them for about 20 minutes. He finished them all off by broiling some yummy cheeses on top for a couple minutes.

Boyfriend = Awesome.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Before + After

Before. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . After!

What an improvement! Because we've been away, the refrigerator was almost completely bare - which actually worked out great for the share this week. The crisper drawers look so much happier, don't they? Here are some close-ups of this week's CSA bootie (as always, click 'em to make 'em bigger):

The eggplant photo was taken at the farm - I'd never seen white eggplant before. Avery picked out one purple, one purple and white speckled, and one "boomerang" eggplant. We shaped them into a little smiley face (bottom left) when we got home.

I have an aversion to eggplant. It's just so mushy when I cook anything but Eggplant Parmesan. Funny, isn't it, that when you batter and fry a veggie it doesn't get mushy :P Anyone have any recipe suggestions for these purdy little eggplants?

CSA crop share 10, brought to you by...

Bluex Kittie!

Just so you know, Miss Bluex is the sweetest and cuddliest kittie ever. Both she and her brother Azrielle (known to most as Tubby), love to check stuff out when we come home. I think they love it even more when we considerately spread it all out like this.

Here is what is pictured above (click the image to make it larger - and check out the cute "how-to-cut-the-flowers" doodle):

It's so great to be back. I! Love! Produce!

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Lavender locks

I was running early to pick up Jason from work yesterday, so I decided to take the long way to his office, driving around the lake. I was taking in the views and listening to David Sedaris' voice coming through the car speakers (reading his book, Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim). Sigh. So perfect.

It was a brilliant little break between work and home. You know, when there's just enough time to do nothing and not feel guilty about it? Yeah, that's where I was.

And man, was I relaxed just enough to remember the lavender farm? Oh yes, I was! I stopped in and picked up a treat for the family. Our hair is going to be the envy of the block! Next time you see one of us, ask for a whiff :o)

Friday, July 21, 2006

CSA crop share 9

Our wonderful friend Jen picked up the CSA share for us while we were away. She was kind enough to take this fabulous photograph for the blog:

Thanks Jen! I'm loving the flowers and sunset-colored tomatoes...

We had a wonderful holiday, and we're so looking forward to sharing once again the Blooming Glen love this Tuesday.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

CSA crop share 8

No pick up this week - we're camping in Rhode Island! :D

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

CSA crop share 7

Wow, it's been seven weeks picking up lovely produce from Blooming Glen.

Here's what Jason picked up this week:
1 1/2 pounds potatoes
1 pound tomatoes
1 chinese eggplant
1 cabbage head
1 radiccio head
1 bunch of beets
5 fennel
1 bunch of basil
1 big zucchini
3 little zucchini
1 pound ok kale/swiss chard
1 beautiful red sunflower!

We're going camping for two weeks, so stay tuned for guest posters. We're looking forward to seeing what the next couple weeks have in store for us. Especially since we got a red sunflower this week!

See you when we return :o)

Monday, July 03, 2006

What team are you playin' for?

I don't particularly like the Local vs. Organic argument, because the obvious implication is that it's either one or the other. At our house, we try and usually succeed to get both. Of course, I say that now, in early July - and while living in an agriculture-rich area :P

I ran across an article, Local vs. Organic, making choices that plainly lists the pros and cons of each. Really. I't s more a list than an article. There are occasions when one does have to choose between the two, and this article will certainly contribute tidbits to your side of the argument, no matter what side that might be.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

It's a wrap

Yummy build-your-own wraps for lunch today:

That's Blooming Glen cucumbers, farmers market onion, BG kale, BG radishes and BG snow peas. We each grabbed a whole wheat wrap, smeared it with the dressing of our choice, added cheese and/or meat, and piled on the veggies. This lunch was all Jason's gold star idea.

And, I'll even add an extra photo because I actually managed to get a crisp close-up shot with our temperamental camera :-D (Click on the image to make it larger.)

Blooming Glen pick up day is coming up on Tuesday, and we're leaving for Rhode Island on Thursday. Our mission: to consume as much produce before we leave, and to come up with some sides and salads for what's left.

Wish us luck!


Yesterday evening into night was a bit... peculiar. Or something. I don't know, it was kind of an "off" night that started with police trying to get into our neighbors' house and ended with dinner at 10pm. Everything's been a little strange around here lately.

Perhaps we've overdosed on the freedom of summer vacation. Both Jason and Avery are out of school and our whole schedule has changed. At first, we were giddy with thoughts of no bed times, no homework, no homework battles, approaching camping trips, taking bike rides, going to the ocean, having sleep-overs, playing video games, all those sweet, sweet treats summer vacation affords us. It's finally summer break! :-D

But now I'm feeling like, maybe we ate too many of those sweet, sweet treats too quickly because my belly kind of hurts. Celebratory drinking on weeknights for Jase and me, and sleep-overs that don't actually include sleep for Avery may be good in moderation, but we seem to have thrown that concept out the window. Maybe the same is true for the neighbors. Everyone seems a little edgy, a little cranky...

Of course, none of this has to do with conscientiously consuming, does it? No, it doesn't, but this does:

Bow chicka bow wow. Focaccia porn! Click the photos to make them bigger... go ahead, I know you want a close-up view.

On top of the focaccia bread from Bakers on Broad (picked up at yesterday's farmers market trip)There is a layer of olive oil (from the co-op), chopped beet greens (from BG) and a little sprinkling of soy cheddar and mozzarella cheese (from Clemens).

After that, I layered:
Whole basil leaves - from BG
Sliced tomato - from the farmers market trip
The cutest zucchini in the world - from BG
Choppped purple onion - from the farmers market trip
Chopped kale - from BG
Cut chives - from our garden
Cut rosemary - from our garden

To go with the sexy little focaccia, I sauteed the "purple string beans that turn green when you cook them" in some olive oil, kosher salt and lemon juice, and Jason did... er, something to the chicken. (If he would post here, he could tell you what he did, nudge nudge.) At 10pm, it was all done and we ate everything outside, at the picnic table.

And shot roman candles in the sky above our neighbors yard (The ones who know everything).

They shot some back, and we shared our leftovers.

I told you it's been weird around here!

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Shopping for farmers

The momma, Brookie (who took these photos with her fancy cell phone) and I went to the Indian Valley Farmers Market in Telford this morning. After the insane quantity of rain pouring, pouring, pouring down on us the last couple weeks, it was especially nice to get outside and feel the sunshine on our shoulders. Speaking of sun...

The first vendor we visited was the Sunrise Sunflower Farm where I picked up sunflowers, an onion, broccoli and a pint of blueberries. It's quite possible that the woman running the stand has found a way to collect the sun from her flowers and inject it into her personality. She was smiling and laughing non-stop :o)

At RayÂ’s Greenhouse, I picked up some purple string greens. Have you seen these? They turn green when you cook them. Fun!

Next stop was Bakers on Broad. I got their incredibly delectable focassia bread that I plan on piling high with fresh local veggies and cheese sometime this weekend. Brookie got a sourdough loaf and an olive roll, and the momma got sliced multigrain and sliced rye.

At Deep Springs Farm, Brookie and I each bought a package of frozen chicken breast (she bought eggs, too). This is also where we learned that farmer Andrew Knechel, who took over Deep Springs about four years ago, rode a tractor to school at the end of one school year. That's just awesome :o)

Finally, we visited Windy Springs Farm where I saw zucchini whose size rivaled that of the Monster Zucchini from our garden. I picked up a tomato (already?!) and beets. I heart beets.

It was a great morning. I've heard people talk about the relatively small size of this farmers market (there are five farms represented). There is that "something" lacking in the air, I suppose. The excitement and loudness isn't there as it is at the Italian market or Reading Terminal market. But I've never left the Indian Valley market feeling like I needed anything more. I've always been able to pick up enough fresh and local goodies to last the week, and just as importantly, always been able to make a connection with the people responsible for those goodies :o)

Now, what do I have in the fridge to put on that focaccia...