Thursday, August 31, 2006

Pennypacker Farm, the other CSA

Our friends Justin and Kelly (not that Justin and Kelly) belongs to the Pennypack Farm in Horsham. The farm, actually called Pennypack Farm Education Center for Sustainable Food Systems, was was established in 2003 by an 11-member Board of Directors, and is a registered 501(c)3 non profit educational organization. Their mission is to:

"Increase public understanding of the health, economic, ecological and social issues involved in sustainable local food systems. We work with individuals, families, communities, environmental and educational institutions to raise awareness about sustainable local food systems by offering educational programs and a community supported agriculture (CSA) demonstration project."

Which in part means, that they put together and host some super awesome classes. Classes like, Food Preservation Workshop (Drying/Freezing). Although Kelly's been pretty keen on "playing things by ear" lately, and I cherish my Sunday afternoons, she signed us up for the one hour Sunday session. And, I'm really, really glad we actually made it there :)

The workshop was run by farm member and food preserver extraordinaire, Jo Ping. JP has that certain earth mother vibe every food preservationist needs, but it's uniquely infused with just enough bespectacled scientist to make you pay close attention and take notes when she's speaking. See how she's got her hands on her hips? Yes, ma'am! :)

JP walked the group of eight through the basics of storage, pickling, freezing and jarring seasonal produce to last through the fall and winter months. Some gems I picked up from the session:
  • Go ahead and freeze herbs, there is no benefit to drying them. Chop and place into plastic freezer bags, then tear off pieces as you need them.
  • When freezing basil toss the stems, but when freezing parsley, use the stems.
  • Always filter tap water that you use for pickling and jarring. The chlorine in tap water can deter the fermenting process needed for these types of preservation.
  • Use sea salt or kosher salt when pickling, it just does a better job.
  • When blanching veggies for freezing, retain the water for soup stock.
  • Yes kids, you really need to blanch before freezing. See how they turn pretty, bright colors when you do that? That's a good thing.
  • The best veggies for pickling are anything firm; radish, kohlrabi, carrots, eggplant, cabbage, broccoli stems.
  • Jarring tomato pulp seems to preserve more flavor than freezing it.
The best part of the class though, was JP sharing her Kim Chee recipe:

Cut in half, one head of nappa or Chinese cabbage. Hint: to reduce loose pieces, cut only through the stem, then tear the halves apart. Then quarter halves. Rub leach leaf with salt, using about three tablespoons per quarter. Place cabbage into a lidded plastic or glass container (not metal because the salt will corrode it), to let leaves soften, anywhere from one to five hours. Meanwhile, mix the following in a bowl to form a paste:

* one grated carrot
* one julienned green onion
* two TBS of sugar
* three cloves of garlic
* one TBS of ginger
* two TBS of hot pepper powder

Remove quarters and rinse off the salt in clean, cooled boiled water. Paint the mixture onto each cabbage leaf, place back into container, cover and store on counter top for two days. Then, place into refrigerator and store up to two months - although, it is best eaten sooner :) Serve with a protein (barbecue tempeh or chicken, fried egg) and steamed rice.

Of course, I'll post here when I tackle the Kim Chee. If you have the chance, check out the other classes offered by Pennypack farm - I highly recommend them :)

Pennypack Farm:

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

CSA crop share 15

Number 14 is here :) Not pictured (but listed on the board) is two quarts of string beans, one pint of strawberries, thyme and a wild flower bouquet. It wasn't so much the rain, but the thunder and lightening that kept us out of the field for the pick-your-own stuff.

Yay for Tuesdays! :D

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Breakfast Fave

My new breakfast fave is 99% local, 99% vegan and 100% dang good!

And yes, I'm still working on that rating system :P

So, over there you see Bakers on Broad complet bread toasted and spread with just a bit of Earth Balance, a phenomenally delicious Blooming Glen tomato, fresh Blooming Glen green onions and basil, and our own garden chives.


Saturday, August 26, 2006

Saturday night in D-Town

Support your local eateries, musicians and clubs!

We celebrated Jason's momma's birthday tonight. Sharon is many things, but food adventurer is not one of those. Jase asked around and found a real American restaurant right in Doylestown, aptly named, The American Kitchen; as well as a great after dinner music spot, Puck.

At the American Kitchen, Jason had the Four Cheese Pasta with Shrimp, his brother Dean had the Meatloaf, Sharon had the Salmon and I had the Goat Cheese with Spinach Salad and Beets appetizer for dinner. Yummm.

A couple blocks walk after dinner, and we were at Puck on Printers Alley. For a $7 cover charge, we were jamming to the sounds of Steve Brosky + The Big Little Band. Puck is in a basement level space, and oozes a Chicago blues funk, f the man vibe. The neon red vertical- reading Puck sign on the side of the building is the perfect avante garde backdrop to the club's outdoor seating and eating area. The patio is defined by, and centered around, a huge, phenomenally beautiful mermaid garden fountain.

Past the outside area, your drawn downstairs by a set of cement, red velvet roped stairs and into the bar. There, your sure to be met my an outgoing, friendly and hip staff. And more red velvet ropes :) Once through the lobby, the popping red and black color scheme and basement factory tone becomes lush and welcoming.

We had a couple drinks at the bar, then moved to a small table toward the stage. Once the band started, a space cleared for a dance area, drinks flowed and the bodies jammed. The band was playing the crowd quite nicely and even acquiesced to Jason's hollering of "DOMINO" after they mentioned Neil Young. Of course, they made him (and his girlfriend and mom) get out onto the dance floor once they started playing his request :)

One thing about partying in Doylestown? There's no cab service. Make sure you have your designated driver process in place. We didn't. I tried calling for a cab from the closest taxi company, in Horsham (with the help of an incredibly gracious, sweet, funny and knowledgeable Puck team member), but they wouldn't pick us up. Boo. We ended up walking to Sharon's house and going back to pick up the car later.

Still, we had an awesome time. We'll absolutely be back to The American Kitchen, Puck and to see Steve Brosky + the Little Band again :)

Friday, August 25, 2006

Friday Lunch Munch

Pictured is Jason's Friday lunch (mine looked the same). I'd estimate this meal as about 90% local. I really should come up with some type of standard system for rating the "local-ness" of these entries. I'll get on that :)

That's Sloppy Joe mix (recipe below) ready for re-heating and eating with Bakers on Broad multigrain bread and Blooming Glen lettuce. The nearly 100% local salad has Blooming Glen lettuce, tomato, sweet peppers and carrots, our own garden string beans, onion and broccoli, and some totally not local, not organic, canned black olives. I know, I'm so ashamed :P

On my quest for quick, nutritiously-complete, veg*n dinners that are not stir fries, I found this recipe for Tempeh Sloppy Joes at I altered it a bit, increasing the servings by adding TVP, and upping the flavors by adding fresh sweet red bell, poblano, paprika peppers (all local from Blooming Glen), and a sprinkling of cayenne pepper.

Serves: 10
  • 1 tablespoon light olive oil
  • 2 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 10- to 12-ounce package tempeh, any variety, finely crumbled
  • 1 cup TVP
  • 1 cup water, stock or broth
  • 1 chopped green bell pepper
  • 1 chopped red bell pepper
  • 2 chopped poblano peppers
  • 1 chopped paprika pepper
  • 1 jar thick tomato sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Bragg's Liquid Aminos
  • 3 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon each: chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, cayenne pepper
  • Whole wheat rolls or pita bread
  • Shredded lettuce
Heat the oil in a skillet and sauté the onion until it is golden. Add the crumbled tempeh and fresh peppers and saute over moderate heat until the tempeh is lightly browned.

Add the remaining ingredients (except the last 2), stir well, and cook over low heat for 10 minutes. I kept an extra bit of broth nearby and added as necessary. Serve hot on whole wheat rolls or in pita bread with shredded lettuce.

Jason absolutely loved these, and it's his current favorite dish. Thanks for making me look good, Veg Kitchen :) Of course, thank goodness for the local farmers and bakers, too!

Thursday, August 24, 2006

And after dinner?

Another quickie football practice night dinner :)

This is Jason's plate: clockwise from left that's a Blooming Glen baked potato with a pat of Earth Balance, juicy slices of beautiful Blooming Glen heirloom tomato, steamed broccoli from the Delaware Valley Farmers Market and a Morningstar Farms Spicy Black Bean Burger with horseradish cheese imported from a local cheese shop in Western PA via my momma's visit with her boyfriend to see his family. My plate looked the same and monster's had no tomato and extra broccoli.

And after dinner? After work and camp and rushing to practice and running home to make dinner and quick tucking Avery in and taking my dad to pick up his car and finally getting home at 10 o'clock? After all that? We relaxed by scrubbing the floors and giving Cinder an unscheduled bath. Or four.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

CSA crop share 14

We got some insanely gorgeous peppers: long skinny sweet red peppers, orangey-red sweet bell peppers, bright red paprika peppers. Actually, there was a lot of red this week, too :) Including some perfectly ripe and sweet, sweet strawberries.

Last Saturday, Jason and I went to the farm to finish up our hours. We did just a bit of weeding in one of the greenhouses (but the weeds? Were CRAZY. We needed a shovel and a pitchfork to get them out!), then peeled and separated onions (into "suitable for bedding" and "not" piles), then spread buckets of very heavy, but thankfully not stinky, compost throughout one of the hoop houses.

Anyway, my whole point here, is that the onions we helped with were at the pick up this week :) It was really neat to see them from the field to our kitchen.

Monday, August 21, 2006

JAM*stir fry

I think I'll rename this blog to JAM*stir fry. Seems like that's all we've been eating these days. It's never the same stir fry, not even close. In fact I don't know that I've ever made the same stir fry twice, but still... I'm kind of getting bored with cooking the same type of dish.

Besides being quick, healthy and appealing to all three of us, stir fries have been the perfect way to use up veggies before we pick up our crop share each week.

Although I'm dying to get in the kitchen to preserve some more produce for the winter, our share each week (which we split with my sister) combined with the harvest from our little garden really doesn't justify preservation. Unless of course, I wanted to preserve one jar at a time. Seems like the embodied energy of one jar of tomatoes or string beans just wouldn't reconcile, you know?

So, stir fries usually win. And seriously. What else could I have possibly made with a package of seitan and this?:
This is what we had in the fridge and on the counter. A handul of this, one of that, two of these. It's not enough to do a whole meal with just a couple ingredients - we need to use up a few of these. Stir fries are good like that :)

Last night's stir fry included some of the above, with the Blooming Glen long red sweet peppers and our own garden green string beans co-starring. Like I said, I've been getting bored with stir fries, and in order to compensate for that, I've been doing little things like cutting up the veggies in unsuspecting ways.

While I lightly fried some purple onion and the above green onion in a couple drops of olive oil, I cut the peppers and string beans into disc shapes. Once the onions were tender, I added torn up seitan strips and fried for seven or eight minutes, until the seitan was just starting to crisp on the edges.

I removed the seitan from the pan, added the pepper, beans, broccoli and some water, covered the pan and steamed everything for five or six minutes. Meanwhile, I pricked the potatoes with a fork, microwaved them for a few minutes (until tender, but not baked, so they could hold up in the pan) and diced them. I diced tomatoes as well, then added them with the potatoes, a bit more water, fresh chopped basil, some nutritional yeast and the cooked onions and seitan to the pan, covered and let simmer for a couple minutes.

Now, usually Jason eats the veg*n meals I cook exactly as they are. However, there is the rare occasion that he wants to make additions or adjustments. Such was the case for this meal. He wanted scallops. How does an omnivore and a veggiesauraus both get what they want? Like this:Separate, but together. See how we did that? :)

Jase seared his scallops in some earth balance, green onions and hot banana peppers from our garden. Once they were done, I scooped some of the veggie and seitan mix into his pan and he mixed it all together.

Tolerance, people. It's always a good lesson :)

Sunday, August 20, 2006

"Farmers Market"

It's in quotes you see, because it's not actually a market. But as these photographs prove, we're all farmers, especially this time of year. These roadside stands are one of many reasons why it's great to live around here - in August ;)

We saw the following on our 12-mile drive to Ott's. There was also a place with a "Fresh Eggs!" sign, but I couldn't get the camera together in time. Just imagine it, somewhere between photo number two and three :)

I'm not sure how common this is outside of Montgomery and Bucks Counties, PA, but these "stands" in our neighbors' front yards are so usual, that I didn't think to include them here until recently :)

Friday, August 18, 2006


One of the most fabulous benefits of living in this area is Ott's Exotic Plant and Nursery. What is Ott's, you say? Well, it's a plant place.

That has a rain forest.

And two ponds with fish, turtles and frogs.

And a mountain that blooms pansies in the spring and mums in the fall.

It houses fruit trees, exotic plant species, and when went today, we saw a hummingbird and a swallowtail butterfly inside one of the greenhouses.

I'll stop talking now, just look :D Clicking a photograph will open a larger version in a different window. Check out the purple passion flower. To. Die. For.

Oh, and when you're done looking, go see everything - and much more! - for yourself (853 Gravel Pike, Schwenksville, PA 19473).