Eating Seasonally: Summer’s Bounty and a CSA Update

Hi!
Summertime is winding down here in the Pacific Northwest; the days are starting to get shorter and the mornings and evenings have a bit of crisp chilliness to them. 
Its raining today, which is welcomed! It seems like we’ve had a pretty dry summer and its nice to see rain. I know the plants appreciate it too.
Interestingly enough, my 4 year old daughter Ellie is out playing in the kiddie pool even though its raining. She sure loves the water!

We didn’t do a garden this year,but decided instead to participate in a CSA with a local organic farm. With baby Olivia joining our family in March I knew I wasn’t going to be able to get any seeds in the ground or take good care of them. I’m so glad we made it a priority to still have fresh vegetables every week!
Its been so much fun trying new veggies and learning to eat things that I NEVER would have tried otherwise.

Here are a few new veggies that we’ve eaten:

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Hakurei salad turnips. I had never even had turnips before, let alone put them in a salad! I absolutely love these turnips! They are crisp and fresh and sweet and seriously I can just bite into them and eat them like an apple. They’re that good. If we plant veggies next year, these will be one of the must-haves.

Beets. I’ve had pickled beets before and they weren’t my fave, so I was kind of scared to try fresh beets and had no idea how to cook them. It turns out, they are good peeled and sliced in salad, they add a really nice flavor to stir-fry (although they turn everything pink!) and are also yummy roasted with other root veggies.

Asian Greens.  This includes bok choy, pak choy (they’re two completely different things- pak choy is smaller), and this other really good one that I can’t remember the name of. They add such a nice flavor to stir-fries and soups! And of course they are good in salad too. 

Rainbow Chard. I was nervous about being able to find ways to eat this one as well, because I’d tried steamed chard before and hated it. But its super yummy in stir fry (see a theme? we have stir fry at least once a week now and love it!) and also good in salad. The lovely bright colored leaves and stalks are so pretty! 

Of course we have gotten all of the “normal” veggies that are usually front and center at the grocery store- carrots, tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, radishes, green beans, peas, spinach, kale, lettuce, basil, parsley, dill and many more. 
I’ve even been able to put up a few baggies of extra green beans and peas that we couldn’t eat, as well as some chard and kale for fall and winter soups. If you’re thinking of participating in Consumer Supported Agriculture, I definitely recommend it! Our CSA ends at the end of September and I’m already kind of sad that its almost over. If we can afford it I’d love to do it again next year, I really enjoy getting a nice big bag of delicious surprises every week. 

Honestly, there hasn’t been a vegetable that we’ve gotten and not liked. There are definitely favorites that we each have, but overall every single vegetable has been super fresh, flavorful and delicious.  

My grandpa has been giving us zucchini and cucumbers and potatoes and squash and corn from his garden as well, so my mom and I have been putting those up, blanching and freezing and making pickles and zucchini bread. 

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Lemon Cucumber Refrigerator Pickles

Now the apples and prunes are getting ripe and the blackberries are just finishing up- which means jam and pie and applesauce and maybe cider. Eating with the seasons has such a lovely rhythm to it. I love it!

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What do you think about eating seasonally? Have you tried it? Did you like it, or would you rather just go to the grocery store and get what you want year round? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

 

 

 

Learning To Eat In Season

This spring, we decided to purchase a CSA for our summer/early fall vegetables from a local organic farm school.

I’m so excited! My hubby and I have wanted to do a CSA for a couple years but haven’t been able to financially make it work til this year.  We’ll get to experiment with veggies we’ve never eaten and try new recipes to accommodate them, which will be fun and interesting to see how it works out. I’m going to be planning our weekly dinner menu around the veggies we get instead of making a menu and grocery list and then going and getting the food we’d need to make the recipes. The thought of this kind of makes my head spin- it’s completely opposite of what we’ve been doing.

What is a CSA?  It is community supported agriculture- you pay a local farmer and they give you a variety of fresh veggies every week for a set time- like 20 weeks, from June to September.  You may be able to find farms that offer CSA’s in your area by visiting localharvest.org or by doing a Google search. It’s a good way to support your local farmers and get delicious, pesticide and chemical free produce!

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I’m kinda stuck.

I thought I’d try to get some practice in and start this month, buying veggies and fruits that are on sale at the grocery store and trying not to buy stuff that is out of season. It’s harder than I thought it would be. I normally love making lists and planning what we’ll eat but I’m finding myself somewhat stumped this time around, trying to evaluate if what I’m thinking of making requires ingredients that are out of season or not. Maybe I’m thinking about it too deeply.

Looking at the grocery store sales paper; I had mixed feelings of what was on sale. Some things are great- like the organic oranges and lemons, but they still come from far away places like Mexico and Florida, which isn’t local by any means. Bananas are on sale, and we’ll buy them because they are cheap ($0.49 a lb!) and delicious, even though they are not from anywhere close by. And if we don’t eat them all, I can freeze them or make banana bread. yum!

Other things, like apples; are getting more expensive at the grocery store as the supply is beginning to dwindle. And honestly, apples at this time of year are not always that good- they can be mealy or over ripe and taste weird. But I love my peanut butter and apple slices and am sad that I have to wait until next fall to eat them again. Since I live in Washington, apples are always around…they just shoot WAY up in price, especially for organic ones. And paying $4 a pound is not my favorite thing to do, so we’ll probably cut back on the apples and peanut butter snacks and substitute something that is less expensive.

Broccoli is on sale, and we’ll get some of it for salads and as a side, and I like to have carrots and potatoes on hand for impromptu days of rain, which calls for chicken soup. But other than that, I’m having trouble.

So…could you help me out?

There are tons of greens that are in season right now- kale, spinach, lettuce, chard, Asian greens like bok choy. I’ll have to learn how to cook the chard/bok choy. I have no idea how to prepare them! So….if you know how to eat them and make them delicious, could you help me out and post a link or a recipe ? I’d SUPER appreciate it!

Also, I’d love to know your favorite spring vegetable and how you eat it, to give me some ideas. 🙂 Thanks!

Crock Pot Applesauce- an easy recipe

It’s the beginning of apple season and one of the best ways to use the lesser quality apples (Transparents, Crab apples) is to make them into applesauce.

My great-uncle and aunt have Transparent apple trees and they got a ton of them this year and graciously gave a few boxes away to my mom and I.

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Transparent apples tend to be kind of mealy and are not very good to eat just off the tree, so they are the perfect candidate to be made into applesauce.

Since I work most afternoon/evenings, I don’t have time to cook applesauce over the stove and then can it, (although I would LOVE to) so I’ve taken to just making applesauce in the crock pot and then freezing it.

It’s SUPER easy.

Basically, you take your apples, peel, core and slice them.

Throw them in the crockpot.

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Put on the lid, turn it on high for about 2 hours or on low for 4-ish hours, until your apples are soft and mushy.

I don’t puree it or anything, just let it cook til it’s soft and stir it up really well, and it gets pretty smooth on it’s own.

Then I let it cool, and put it in mason jars (with an inch or two of headroom) or gallon ziploc freezer bags and stick it in the freezer.

And that’s it!

So easy and delicious. You don’t need to add any sugar or anything for Transparent apples, although I might add some kind of sweetener for Crab apples as they tend to be a little more tart. I’m going to use my applesauce for making Mom’s Multi-Grain Bread, or just for a “dessert” in the winter. It almost tastes like apple pie, it is so yummy.

What is your favorite way to make applesauce?

Do you can it or freeze it?? I’d love to hear from you!

Poached Eggs on Toast

When it comes to breakfast; up until recently I’ve been a toast, granola, or steel cut oats with blueberries and maple syrup kinda girl.

Then my sister introduced me to poached eggs on toast and I have to say, I’m in love.

Enjoying delicious homemade bread toasted to perfection with a farm fresh egg poached just the right length of time- it’s great! Yum!

Plus, I kinda feel English when I eat it. Because in my mind, this is what British people eat for breakfast. I have no idea if that’s actually true. (Any English people want to set me straight? ) 😉

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The trick is to drop the egg into boiling water and push down the toast in the toaster immediately afterwards. Then when the toast pops up, your egg is done!  (as long as you like your toast semi- golden/bordering on dark)

I’ve always had a phobia of slimy egg whites. I mean, they’re just…ew. Not appetizing at all.

But when you use this method, the egg gets cooked just enough that it’s not slimy and the yolk is still nice and soft and runny.

Chop the egg up so the yolk runs all over the generously buttered toast.

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Serve with a cup of tea or coffee and you’ve got a fantastic breakfast!

Rhubarb! (And a recipe)

Rhubarb is one of those things I don’t really think about eating until I see it and think, “Hey, I should cook something out of that.”

On my parent’s property there are several small patches of rhubarb that spring up every year.  I think the plants have been there quite a long time since this land was my great-grandparent’s way back in the day and they are near where the old barn used to be. Perennial vegetables are so cool!

I’ve been waiting for a while for the rhubarb to get big enough to pick, this week it was finally time to snap off the first few crimson stalks and cut them up to make a strawberry rhubarb crisp.

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The kids helped pick and prepare the rhubarb- they love cutting up veggies for me.

I love that they love to help!

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To the bowl of cut rhubarb we added some sugar, lemon juice and sliced strawberries along with some chia seeds for extra protein and mixed it up and poured it into a greased baking pan. Next we mixed a cup each of flour, rolled oats, some butter and a bit of brown sugar til it was crumbly and sprinkled it on top of the fruit. We baked it for about 25 minutes and it was so good! The rhubarb was super juicy and still tart and had a tiny bit of firmness to it (so if you like it softer, cook the crisp a bit longer) and the topping was delicious.

I used this recipe from Ina Garten as a guide and followed it loosely- mostly I just used the measurements and added and subtracted a few ingredients.
The crisp turned out so yummy I forgot to snap a picture before it was gobbled up, but you’ll have to take my word for it that it was actually as pretty to look at as it was good to eat. 🙂

Once strawberries are in season and cheaper than they are now, we’ll be making strawberry rhubarb jam. I can’t wait!

What dishes do you use rhubarb in? I’d love some new ideas!

Lentil Soup Recipe

I used to hate lentil soup.

It was mushy, it was brown, it tasted…healthy.

Then I found this recipe.

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It is SO good!!

I found it on Allrecipes.com, but sadly I can’t find it again to link it for you! The link is to the lentil soup page on allrecipes, where there are lots of great variations on lentil soup for you to try.

This is how I make it:

Lentil Soup

Makes 6 servings

Takes about 1 hour

You Need:

1 cup dried lentils, rinsed

6 cups chicken or vegetable broth or water

1 onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 Tbsp olive or coconut oil

2 (15 oz) cans diced tomatoes

2 cups sliced carrots

1/2 tsp thyme

salt and pepper

Any other veggies you have in the fridge you need to eat up- in this case, it was green beans.

What to do:

Pour olive or coconut oil into a pot over medium heat. Add onions, carrots and garlic. Sweat veggies til onions are translucent, stirring occasionally. Add tomatoes, lentils, broth, spices, stir together, adding more water/broth if needed as the lentils expand.

Simmer, covered,  on medium low heat til lentils are soft, about 1 hour.

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Serve with buttered whole wheat bread and enjoy!

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This is a perfect meal for those lingering cold nights- it warms you and makes you feel all cozy without being too heavy. The tomatoes make a nice rich broth and the lentils provide heartiness while the buttered bread dipped in the soup chases all your troubles away.

At least that ‘s what it feels like . 🙂

Homemade Flour Tortillas

I wrote a couple days ago on my Facebook page that I’d made tortillas to go with dinner, and promised to share the recipe later, so here I am! 🙂

I’ve been baking all kinds of things for years, even made my own pasta  for a while, but for some reason making my own tortillas didn’t occur to me. Or when it did,  I was kinda scared to think about doing it. What if I burn them? How do you cook them?

Flour tortillas are so easy to make! I wish I’d gotten up the courage to try before now. I don’ t think we’ll ever buy tortillas again- they are so much more flavorful and less gummy than the flour tortillas you get at the store, and don’t have any of the weird preservatives in them. All you need are a few simple ingredients you probably already have in your house.

You also get to get your fingers into the dough and get messy, which is so much fun! If you have little helpers at home, they will love this. I love it too! Flour is so soft, and it just feels nice between my fingers.

Homemade Flour Tortillas

Makes 8-10 tortillas per batch

3 cups all purpose flour

1/3 cup Coconut oil or olive oil or lard from pastured pork

1 1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp. baking powder

1 cup very warm water

Put the flour in a mixing bowl, add the coconut oil and smash around with your fingers until you have a bunch of tiny lumps throughout the flour.

Add the salt and warm water and mix until it turns into a nice dough.

Form into balls, let sit for at least 30 minutes.  It won’t really rise, but the dough needs to sit.

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Get out your rolling pin and on a floured surface, roll out your tortillas til they are just thick enough to stay together when you try to peel them off the counter. Supermodel thin. They will rise when you are cooking them, so make them thinner than you want to start with.

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I made them too thick the first time and they kinda turned out like pita bread instead of tortillas. Which wasn’t bad, per say; but they were more bready than we were shooting for. All of my tortillas also end up being  fun cool shapes, more like a rectangle or a stretched animal skin than round.  It gives them character. Makes eating more interesting. 🙂

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Cook your tortillas in a cast iron skillet on medium high heat til bubbles form on the first side, then flip the tortilla and let it go another few seconds. If I roll out one at a time, I can usually get another tortilla rolled while one is cooking. And if you happen to burn it a little- it’s okay. I did the same thing. They still tasted amazing.

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If you have any leftover from your meal or are making them for wraps, etc, then stick the tortillas immediately into a 2 gallon ziplock bag. A one gallon bag will work if your tortillas aren’t too big, but I tend to make larger ones so I need a bigger bag. Remember that these tortillas don’t have any preservatives in them so they won’t keep for a month like store bought tortillas will. Freeze them, or eat them right up. We haven’t had a problem with any sticking around for more than a week so far, since they are so good. I’m not sure beyond that how well they will stay.

This is what I used my tortillas for. Chicken Enchiladas. Delicious. 🙂

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Have fun making tortillas!

This post is shared at WildCrafting Wednesday.

Cranberry Maple Granola

I’ve been making homemade granola for a couple of years now, but it never was….

quite exactly what I was looking for.

It was pretty good, but not the kind of granola you get at the store and bite into and go, “oooh, yum!”

It was not super sweet, not super crunchy. . .

Just “pretty good”. And healthy.

Until last week. Well, it’s still healthy. But it tastes a lot better!

I went to make granola, but was out of a few things I usually put in. Like honey.

So I subbed maple syrup, added a few lavender flowers and extra vanilla, and it was really good. Still not too crunchy though.

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Then, yesterday I went to make granola again- we eat a lot of granola in this house- Eliana would eat it every meal if she could-  and my friend Laura suggested I check out this recipe.

I didn’t have all the ingredients that it called for, but I took the idea of using coconut oil in the granola instead of the olive oil I’d been using and ran with it.

The granola turned out delicious. Crunchy. Sweet. Can’t-stop-snacking-on-it good.

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Sometimes changing things up turns out really well! I’m excited that I finally came up with a granola that isn’t just okay, but really really good!!

So, if you want to make some of your own crunchy, sweet, yummy granola, here is the recipe:

(oh, and I actually don’t really measure…..I just mostly dump in the ingredients. So these are rough estimates.)

Cranberry Maple Granola

What You Need:

6 cups rolled oats

3/4 cup- 1 cup coconut oil- I use Tropical Traditions Virgin Coconut Oil

1/2 cup maple syrup

1/2 cup organic cane sugar

1 Tbsp vanilla

sprinkle salt

two pinches dried lavender flowers (optional, but it gives it a nice taste)

1 cup dried cranberries

What to do:

Warm the coconut oil and maple syrup together in the microwave, til the oil is liquid.

Put everything else in a large baking pan.

( I use a roasting pan, that way I can stir the granola and it doesn’t spill everywhere)

Pour the maple syrup/coconut oil over the top and mix, then put in the oven at 300F and cook for 1 hour- 1 hour 10 min, til golden brown.

Stir at least twice while the granola is baking, to help it cook evenly.

Let cool completely before putting in a container.

We eat the granola by handfuls,

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sprinkle it in our homemade yogurt,

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and of course, eat it like cereal with milk. It would also be good over ice cream.

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What is your favorite way to eat granola?

 

Shared at Wildcrafting Wednesday

Make Your Own Yogurt

Hi!
I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas; we had a lovely, relaxing day full of food, movies, board games and lots of wrapping paper bits littered all over the carpet.  The tree has been taken down and the ornaments put away, and I’m thinking about the upcoming year.

I’m excited to share a recipe with you today that has been a long time in the making. If your new year’s resolution includes making more healthy foods from scratch like mine did last year, here is a good place to start!

I’ve been making yogurt for around a year and while the first few tries were hit and miss, I think I finally have the process figured out enough to share with you. So, if your yogurt doesn’t turn out at first, don’t give up! You’ll get it eventually. Just keep trying. 🙂

Store-bought yogurt is so expensive, and when you eat it as often as our family does, it goes way too quickly to justify paying 3-5 dollars or more on something that will be gone in a day or so.

Making homemade yogurt is decidedly more economical; you start with a gallon of milk and you end up with a gallon of yogurt. Which is awesome. So essentially you’re getting twice as much yogurt for the same price!

It’s also healthier, without any mystery chemicals to “add flavor and preserve freshness” and really, wouldn’t you rather put raw, local honey and fresh or frozen berries in your yogurt instead of scraping mushy, sugar laden fruit off the bottom of your yogurt cup? I know I would.

Yogurt is great for regulating your digestive tract and providing good bacteria to your body to help fight off infections and strengthen the immune system. If you’ve got a cold or are fighting off some bug, get some good bacteria in your body to help ward off those icky germs!
So, to make yogurt you need a few supplies. You might have all of them in your kitchen and not even know it!

You need:

A large, heavy-bottomed pot (I use my enameled cast iron dutch oven)

A whisk

Measuring cup or funnel or both for pouring the milk into the glass jars

Glass jar (s) to put the yogurt in

A thermometer. A candy Thermometer is best, but a meat thermometer works too. Or you could get a fancy digital one.

A cooler big enough to hold your jars.
Then, of course you need:

Milk  (remember, how ever much milk you start with will be your ending quantity, so make as much/little as you think you’d eat)

A starter  culture of yogurt. I just use a little container of plain Greek yogurt from the grocery store. I use the Greek yogurt because it’s thicker to start with, and I think it makes better yogurt. I may just be making that up, but it does seem to produce thicker yogurt in the end.

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Make sure your starter has live and active cultures, or else your yogurt won’t set. You need 1/2 cup per gallon, but I usually use the whole container no matter what size yogurt I make. That way the yogurt can just have extra cultures in it. 🙂

The Nitty Gritty:

Start by putting your milk into the pan on a medium- low heat. You want the milk to heat slowly to 175-179F degrees, just under the boiling point; without scalding.

DON”T let it get to boiling! The milk will explode and over flow and separate into what looks like ricotta cheese.

Just keep checking the temperature with the thermometer and stirring the milk  every few minutes and when it starts getting tiny bubbles on top, you know you’re getting close.

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Once you get to 175-179F, turn off the stove and remove the pan from the heat.

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Let your milk cool until it gets down to 120F. This will take several minutes. I usually load the dishwasher while I’m waiting. 🙂

Once the temperature reads 120 degrees, carefully whisk in your starter culture of yogurt.  If you add the yogurt cultures before you get down to 120, the heat will kill the bacteria and your yogurt won’t set, so make sure you wait until it’s the right temp.

Whisk until the clumps are broken up. The milk will already be starting to get little tiny bits of solids in it. Pour your milk into quart or half-gallon or even gallon-size wide mouth glass jars.

I use this old, gallon-sized peanut butter jar.

I use this old, gallon-sized peanut butter jar.

Wipe off the excess milk you spilled and then place your jar(s) into a cooler.
Pour 120 degree water (if your hot water heater is on the lowest temperature, just turn your sink to hot and that will be the right temp) into the cooler until water is about 1 inch below the lid of the jar and close the cooler.

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Let your yogurt set for 12-24 hours in the cooler at room temperature.

I usually let it go the whole 24 hours to ensure that it gets nice and thick. The yogurt will get more sour the longer you let it set, but it won’t spoil unless you leave it out way longer than 24 hours.

Check to see if the yogurt is thickened, then place in the fridge to chill.

There will be a yellowish liquid in with your yogurt; which is called whey. This is normal.
It’s actually full of proteins and you can save it to put into bread, or feed it to your animals, or just mix it into the yogurt. Or if you think it’s gross; pour the whey out.

Once you’ve made a successful batch of yogurt, save out 1/2 cup to a cup of your yogurt for the next batch. No need to buy a starter every time!  How cool is that?

This is the consistency that your yogurt should be- kind of thick but it won't be super thick.

This is the consistency that your yogurt should be- kind of thick but it won’t be super thick.

The yogurt will taste different than store-bought plain yogurt- it will be more sour but by no means bad. Just add some honey or jam and top with granola or fresh fruit and enjoy your healthy, delicious, homemade  yogurt!

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Shared at Wildcrafting Wednesday  and

The Self Sufficient HomeAcre