Thursday, June 30, 2011

CSA - Week 5

I love my CSA. Here we are at Week 5 of 26 and I feel like it's only getting better and more exciting. Even though I was really psyched to have beets for two weeks and snap peas for one, I'm okay with them being left out of this week's box. That's the whole point, after all. I'm trying new things and this week is no exception.

Yellow Scallions - 3/4 lb.
Baby Collard Greens - 3/4 lb.
Cabbage - 2 3/4 lb. (1 head)
Kohlrabi - over 2 1/2 lb.
Mizuna - under 1/2 lb.

I have been a vegetarian for about half of my life. I will be the first to admit that for the first couple years, i was doing it all wrong, as many do when they first start out. Here I am nearly 15 years later and I'm still discovering new vegetables. The first I heard of kohlrabi was last night, and then it showed up on my doorstep a few hours later. I feel like that must have some kind of significance, but since I can't play kohlrabi in the lottery, I'll just go ahead and hope that it's tasty.

The cabbage came at a good time because I can make a nice fresh coleslaw for the 4th of July since I already have organic carrots on hand. I also plan to do something different with mizuna since I've repeatedly made the same dish since discovering the green a few weeks ago. I have leftover spinach from the Italian Wedding Soup, so I'm thinking of making this, but with vegetable broth. My daughter picked out some organic whole wheat letter-shaped pasta and thinks "green sauce" is weirdly excellent, so I feel like that's a dinner waiting to happen.

Have a fun and safe holiday weekend! Yay America!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Garden Growth

I thinned out the cucumber plants because they were all growing like crazy and were going to kill each other. Now, one of the 4 I had left is injured and they also have some company. Squash Bugs. Sad Face. I was hoping that my organic garden would just avoid these types of problems all on their own, but I know that's not at all realistic. Bugs are just a part of the process, and I need to safely deal with it. I read that I could use organic pyrethrum, which is from chrysanthemums. I want to look into it more before going that route. Another option is making a soapy spray. Add 1 tablespoon of soap to a gallon of water and spray a fine mist on the leaves. The soap I use is all natural anyway, so I'm thinking that would be okay? Does anyone have experience with this? The bugs especially dislike peppermint, and I have organic tea tree and peppermint shampoo and wonder if that may also do the job. Aside from the research time, the major con of using the organic pyrethrum thus far would be the shipping time for it to get here.

Otherwise, though, the garden is looking great! One of the tomato plants is just a beast and I can't wait to make some pico! Canning is something else I plan to get into in the next year, but doubt I'll have the opportunity to preserve much this year. I don't expect the garden to produce much more than we can eat, but if it does, I have family members with whom I can share. The one exception may be basil, but that's so versatile that I doubt I'll have a problem with consumption.

Tomato Beast - 6/28/11 - Day 24 post-transplant - Day 53 from seed

Lettuce - 6/28/11 - Day 24

Basil - 6/28/11 - Day 24

I got to use my basil for the first time today! I met with some girlfriends for a vegan potluck and I made a vegan Italian wedding soup. Although the recipe didn't call for fresh basil, I felt the need to use it anyway, and it paid off.

Vegan Italian Wedding Soup
courtesy of Vegetarian Times

Serves 6

4 Tbs. olive oil, divided
1 medium white or yellow onion, finely chopped (1 cup)
2 cloves garlic, minced (2 tsp.), plus 1 whole clove, peeled, divided
¾ cup diced carrot
¾ cup diced celery
1 Tbs. Simply Organic Oregano
1 Tbs. Simply Organic Basil Fresh basil from your amazing garden
1 Tbs. Simply Organic Parsley
6 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
¾ cup ditalini pasta
1 pkg. vegan meatballs, defrosted (I used Nate's brand Italian flavored. Many brands are not vegan, but these are)
1 5-oz. pkg. fresh spinach
2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice

1. Heat 2 Tbs. olive oil in large pot over medium-high heat. Add onion and minced garlic; sauté 5 minutes, or until beginning to soften. Stir in carrot and celery, and cook 5 minutes more, or until onion is soft and just beginning to brown. Add oregano, basil, and parsley, and cook 1 minute. Stir in broth, and bring to a boil.

2. Reduce heat to medium, add ditalini, and cook at low boil 5 minutes, or half of cooking time stated in ditalini package directions. Add meatballs, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer 10 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, heat remaining 2 Tbs. oil in skillet over medium heat. Add remaining garlic clove, and crush with wooden spoon in oil while heating. Add spinach; cook 3 to 5 minutes, turning constantly so spinach becomes evenly coated and wilted, but still bright green. After meatballs have simmered, add spinach and lemon juice to soup, and season with salt and pepper.

Monday, June 27, 2011

I am not a food blogger.

I know this because I rarely think to take pictures of my meals.

Today, I finally used the Swiss chard from last week. Ideally, I would have used it immediately when it was perfectly fresh, but I was out and about a lot over the past few days. I put about 2 tablespoons of olive oil in my wok and tossed in some sliced garlic and a pinch of red pepper flakes. I then cooked the Swiss chard, which had been cleaned and chopped into ~1 inch pieces. I had already discarded most of the stems. Cook for about 5 minutes, flip over, and cook for another 5 minutes or so. If you need to add moisture, just throw in some water during cooking. That's it! It was really good!

I was given more produce by someone who is going on vacation, so I am excited to cook up a storm in the next few days. I have a lot of lime. Besides buying a case of Corona, what should I do with a bunch of limes?

Sunday, June 26, 2011

CSA - Week 4

This week's CSA box made me really happy. We got more beets, which I will touch on shortly, and the sugar snap peas and Swiss chard made their debut! Here is the rundown:

Swiss Chard - nearly 4 1/2 lbs.
Sugar Snap Peas - nearly 2 lbs.
Beets - 6 1/2 lbs.
Yellow Scallions - over 1/4 lb.
Mizuna - 3/4 lb.

I teased you with talk of pink pancakes last week when we first got beets. I made them this week, and they were a huge success. In fact, I need to double the recipe in the future. It's a good thing I now have frozen beet puree at the ready!

Pink Pancakes

3/4 cup water
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1/4 cup beet puree (see below)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup pancake mix
1/4 cup grated apple
nonstick cooking spray
*1 tablespoon canola or vegetable oil
pure maple syrup or fruit, for serving

1. In a blender or food procesor, combine the water, ricotta cheese, beet puree, vanilla, and cinnamon and blend. Dump the mixture into a medium bowl, add the pancake mix and apple, and stir until just combined. Do not overmix - the batter will be a little lumpy.

2. Coat a griddle or large nonstick killet with cooking spray and set it over medium-high heat. When hot, add the oil*. Spoon the batter onto the griddle or skillet, using about 1/4 cup batter for each pancake. Cook the pancakes until bubbles form on top and the batter i set, 1 to 2 minutes. Then flip the pancakes with a spatula and cook until golden brown on the other side, 2 to 3 minutes. Serve warm, with syrup or fruit.

Mine were slightly undercooked, but since there was no egg, I wasn't concerned. First my griddle wasn't hot enough, and then it got too hot. We'll get it just right tomorrow...I mean, um, next time I make them whenever that might be.

*I did not use oil
Courtesy of Deceptively Delicious by Jessica Seinfeld

How to make perfect beet puree:
1. cut the greens off of the beet leaving about 1 inch.
2. wrap in foil.
3. roast in a 400 degree oven for about an hour.
4. refrigerate just long enough that you luckily remember to puree them before they go bad.
5. remove from fridge.
6. peel skin off and cube.
7. frantically search for blender lid so you don't end up with a pink kitchen.
8. blend, taking a break every 5 seconds to stir beet mixture and dream about this.

I scrambled up a couple of eggs and we were all happy. My son would eat anything, as long as it looked like a pancake. As I said, I'm not generally a fan of hiding fruits and veggies just to get your child to eat them. However, since my kids are luckily pretty good about it, I don't see the harm in making recipes like this to give them even more. Plus, since they are always helping me in the kitchen, they know exactly what they're eating. Well, they sort of know. Z calls beets "boots," so he may be chewing on his shoes a little more tomorrow. We'll play that by ear.

Monday, June 20, 2011

It's Just Toilet Paper

My desire to have my own vegetable garden is what started me on this road. Interestingly enough, it now seems like that's the least productive aspect of what I'm doing. I know that I planted late, so I can't expect overnight results, and I'm okay with that. I'm annoyed that my peas were looking so great for a week or two and then just died one day, seemingly out of nowhere. I haven't been using anything on my plants except for water, and I now realize that's not enough. Through research, I'm realizing that I need some organic fertilizer to feed them, and I'm making that my mission for this week. I have a compost bin, but nothing's ready to go yet, so I can't use that to feed my soil at the moment.

I tasted a tiny piece of lettuce and it was good! The basil smells like basil and the cilantro smells like cilantro. I love to rub a leaf of the tomato plant between my fingers and smell the tomato scent. Soon enough, I'll be making my own tomato sauce and pico de gallo, and it will have all been worth it.

I plan to weed tomorrow, though the weeds are all outside of the bags anyway. I guess it's pretty funny that I'm concerned about the weeds making my garden area look ugly, but meanwhile my garden is a bunch of bags on the ground.

I never did update you on the Seventh Generation toilet paper and that's because there's not really much to say. It's just toilet paper. But I think considering how much better it is for our environment, it's a smarter choice for my family. I'm also very pleased with their powder laundry detergent, and I only use the cold cycle. I have had zero problems in that department and hope to try my hand at making my own detergent soon.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

CSA - Week 3

Well, poo.

I forgot to take a picture of my CSA box today before I divided it up and sent half with my mom.

Here's what was waiting for me today!

French Breakfast Radishes - just under a pound
Mizuna - 1 lb.
Kale - 1 1/4 lb.
Mustard Greens - 1 3/4 lb
Beets - 3 lbs (6 beets)

I am WAY excited about the beets. While I generally think that hiding vegetables in your kids' food in order to get them to eat them is a bad idea, and that they should just learn to enjoy actual vegetables, there are some pretty yummy recipes in Jessica Seinfeld's book Deceptively Delicious. I'm talking about you, pink pancakes. And I will see you this weekend.

For my first mizuna experience, I made a dish that was featured in the farm's newsletter. I replaced the soba noodles with spaghetti, since that's what I had on hand. I also replaced the 4 green onions with 2 yellow scallions, since those were in last week's CSA box and I hadn't used them yet.

2 cups mizuna leaves, washed, stemmed, and chopped
2 carrots, sliced diagonally
4 thinly sliced scallions
1/2 cup thinly sliced radishes
2 cups cooked soba noodles
1 T toasted sesame oil
1 tsp ground ginger
1 clove minced garlic (I actually sliced mine because apparently I didn't read the recipe well while throwing it together. Honestly, I think i'd slice it again. I think that I would be so bold as to edit my recipe doc and save it.)
2T soy sauce (I use low-sodium tamari.)
2T sesame seeds

Bowl 1: mizuna, carrots, scallions, radishes, and noodles (which I cooked, drained, and placed into cold water to cool off quickly)

Bowl 2: garlic, ginger, oil, soy sauce

Whisk the contents of bowl 2, add to bowl 1, top with sesame seeds, mix, devour.

I am a HUGE fan. Mister A4S was a fan. It wasn't what he ate as his meal, but that's only because of the fact that there were leftovers that needed to be eaten. O, the 3 year old with an "I ATE MY GREENS!" certificate framed on her bedroom wall, loved it. Z, the one who generally will eat anything, but is way too stubborn for spaghetti, really thinks we need to start buying different types of pasta. Once I mentioned that I was sitting "criss-cross apple sauce," he suddenly wanted something else to eat.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

CSA - Week 2

Since it has been so hot, and was still really hot overnight last night, I set my alarm for 2am so I could go grab the produce from the hot porch and keep it cool. The box was completely full, which surprised me after the heat wave we had.

Unfortunately, there will be no more arugula this Spring, since the heat caused it to flower. No arugula goat cheese pizza for me!

(Un)fortunately, we did get two huge bundles of mustard greens, so my mom and I each get a whole one. I have yet to cook them in a way that I like, but I am determined to keep trying! If I can get my kids to eat them, I'll be both thrilled and shocked. Keep in mind that I do share this with my mom, so I keep half of what is listed and pictured. Here is the breakdown:

French Breakfast Radish - 1 lb 2.8 oz
Purple-Top Turnips - 1 lb 12.8 oz
Yellow Scallions - 6.2 oz (4 scallions)
Mustard Greens - 2 lb 6.9 oz
Mizuna - 14.4 oz

Recipes to follow!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

It's hot.

Really hot.

So, as you know, I'm new at this gardening thing, and I mostly had to sow directly into the soil without seedlings due to time constraints. Now we have apparently skipped the rest of June and all of July, and it's August. The leaves of my pea plants are completely dried up. Sad. Maybe that's normal, but I wouldn't know. I've done some poking around online, and I've read conflicting things. "Make sure you water your peas a lot." or "Hey, don't you dare over water your peas!!!! AHHHH!" If you have any feedback on the issue, by all means, let me know. I can't post a picture right now because there's a major thunderstorm heading our way and it just got super dark. Mr. Aiming for Sustaining did tell me that the cucumbers decided to show themselves today, so that's exciting!

Because of the heat, my CSA was delayed twice this week, and understandably so. It was 105-110 degrees with the heat index at the farm yesterday and today. I'm not sure what will be in it yet, but I would be psyched if there was more arugula so I can use that and the rest of my goat cheese and make a nice pizza. I'm thinking this, but with a homemade whole wheat crust.

I look forward to my next blog entry when it's in the 70's. I think I'll need a sweater.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Home Sweet Home

Today was a great day. I woke up in NYC and closed out the day in my suburban garden. We finally got almost everything planted. As I've said before, life got in the way of planting earlier in the season, so I'm just doing it when I can. It's a learning process, and if my plants produce, they produce. If they don't, I try again next year knowing more than I do now. We planted herbs and lettuces, and transplanted our tomato seedlings. We also sowed pepper seeds hoping that they take. The seedlings didn't take at all, so I'm not really sure what's going on there.

I sauteéd mustard greens from the CSA Week 1 box the other day, and I was not impressed. None of us were. I still have some and will try cooking them another way tomorrow. I'm sure I would enjoy this recipe (minus the mushrooms), but I'd rather try to find a way to enjoy mustard greens in a more healthful manner. I made arugula pesto on whole wheat thin spaghetti tonight, and it got a rating of 3 out of 4. The little guy wasn't impressed, but he is old enough to want to feed himself, and too young to grasp the concept of long thin noodles, so I'm hopeful.

And as promised, a cute kid with garden tools:

Friday, June 3, 2011

CSA - Week 1

I got my first CSA delivery last night! I purchased a share from an organic NJ farm and I am splitting it with my mom this year to see how it goes. Normally, these posts will be done on Thursdays, but I got my delivery a day late this week because of thunderstorms on my normal day.

1 1/2 lbs. Mustard Greens
3/4 lb. French Breakfast Radishes
1/2 lb. Yellow Scallions
1 1/2 lb. Arugula
1 1/2 lb. Purple Top Turnips

I am very excited to dig for new recipes and cook with vegetables I've never purchased! The yellow scallions, in particular, smell ridiculously amazing. I feel a great sense of pride knowing that the vegetables I will feed my family tonight were just picked yesterday 14 miles away.