Tuesday, August 31, 2010

How to CSA: 8/26/10 + Menu Planning

Better late than never, right?  I swear, I had every intention of posting this last Thursday night, but something or another distracted me.  Probably severe exhaustion (I'm pretty sure the baby had a growth spurt last week, causing me to eat everything in sight, feel constantly over tired, as well as overly stupid).

Delicious looking, no?


haruki turnips

lots of roma tomatoes (all of which, along with another entire case of romas, have already been processed into puree for freezing) and one yellow tomato (which has already been used in another round of Stuffed Bell Peppers, which I froze in preparation for new baby hell)
we filled 4 of these giant food service bowls with quartered romas
using the old Victorio to puree - LOVE this thing too!

stock pot full of puree (brought to a boil)

a white onion (little helper had to get his hands in at least one shot)

red bell peppers


red creamers (and one lonely yukon gold)


romano beans

Due to time constraints, this CSA's meal plan will come in 2 parts: one for this week and one for next.

Monday 8/30: Columbia “1905″ Salad, bread
Yeah, we didn't get around to making this last week.
Market ingredients: bread
Garden ingredients: tomato, oregano

Tuesday 8/31: Hot dogs, leftover corn on the cobb, cauliflower
Um, I need to grocery shop.
Cook's notes: Use first batch of homemade pickles?
CSA ingredients: onion, cauliflower
Market ingredients: corn

Wednesday 9/1: Farmer's casserole, romano beans
Cook's notes: Use leftover baked ham, add tomatoes, some kale, and red bell pepper.
CSA ingredients: red creamer potatoes, kale, red bell pepper, romano beans
Market ingredients: green onions
Garden ingredients: tomatoes

Thursday 9/2: Shake n Bake Style Chicken, yellow wax beans, wild rice
Market ingredients: chicken, yellow wax beans
Garden ingredients: herbs

Friday 9/3: Unknown
Possibly homemade hummus, salad, and the like... otherwise, it's Take Your Family Out For Tacos or Sushi Night.  The baby craves sushi.

Monday, August 30, 2010

How to CSA: Wrapping up Installment #1

Just in time (actually, making late) installment #2!

Monday 8/23: Fried Green Tomato Grilled Cheese, salad

On homemade wheat bread.  I finally started using my inherited bread machine, and I LOVE that freakin' thing.  Beyond easy, and voila!  Bread!  We used cheddar and muenster, because that's the way I roll.  Bryan did a cornmeal breading on the tomatoes.  And the sandwiches rocked.  Oliver suddenly discovered he loves salads (previously, he'd eat the raw veggies but wouldn't touch the lettuce), and ate three bowls.
CSA ingredients: radishes, tomatoes, kohlrabi
Market ingredients: cucumber
Garden ingredients: green tomato

Tuesday 8/24: Grilled Ground Lamb Kebabs with Fresh Hot-Pepper Paste, couscous with herbs and butter, white eggplant

We deviated from the recipe in order to accommodate Oliver, so it wasn't as spicy as the last time we made it.  I didn't like it as much - too lamb-y.
CSA ingredients: onion, garlic
Market ingredients: cilantro, white eggplant
Garden ingredients: herbs

Wednesday 8/25: Stuffed Peppers with Ground Pork and brown rice 
The original plan was to stuff tomatoes, but Bryan thought peppers would go better.  They were so very delicious, I forgot to take a picture.
CSA ingredients: onions, garlic
Market ingredients: green bell peppers
Garden ingredients: herbs, tomatoes



Thursday 8/26: Breakfast-for-Supper Tofu Burritos

I am not sure we stuck to the inspiration recipe at all.  We did use tofu, but we also used egg and cheese because, you know, it was a breakfast burrito.  The filling made great leftovers, too.
CSA ingredients: tomatoes, onions, summer squash
Market ingredients: bell peppers, cilantro
Garden ingredients: tomatoes

Friday 8/27: Sweet n Sour Pork Balls, rice

Yummy, yummy, yummy.  The pork meat balls may be on the less gourmet side, but I'm trying to get us through the rest of our pig before the next one takes up residence in the freezer.  Still, very good.  And of course we used fresh pineapple, not canned.
CSA ingredients: garlic, onions, red bell pepper, romano beans
Market ingredients: bell pepper

Saturday 8/28: Fish with honey curry glaze, yellow rice, cauliflower

I didn't make the Indian inspired stuffed potatoes I had planned on doing, since I was doing a million other things that day and could find neither the time nor the energy (which is a shame, since those potatoes are scrumptious).
CSA ingredients: onion, red bell pepper, summer squash
Market ingredients: cauliflower

Sunday 8/29: Baked ham, romano beans, corn on the cobb, roast potatoes with garlic and rosemary

This was an unplanned meal.  Did I mention I wet cure hams?  I just did three, so we had one for dinner.
CSA ingredients: romano beans, potatoes
Market ingredients: corn
Garden ingredients: rosemary

Monday, August 23, 2010

How to CSA: The Weekend Report

So here is the first official How to CSA / Menu Planning Report.  We didn't stray too far from the plans; a few substitutions there, a few extra additions here.  What can I say, I get overly excited when I'm at the market and tend to get extras to toss in wherever I can.

Wednesday 8/18: Rotisserie Chicken, Mexican Quinoa Salad

The quinoa salad was a big hit with everyone.  We skipped the spinach; added onions, tomatoes, corn, bell pepper, zucchini.  It turns out there is no better way to cook a whole chicken than rotisserie on the grill - the entire bird was crazy tender and juicy.  And it cooked in no time flat.  WIN.
CSA ingredients: garlic, radishes
Market ingredients: corn, chicken, zucchini, bell pepper
Garden ingredients: tomatoes 


Saturday 8/21: Pork chops, Wheat Berries With Sesame, Soy Sauce and Scallions, summer squash

I marinated the pork chops in teryaki, then grilled them.  The mushroom guy at the market suckered us (very willingly) into purchasing oyster mushrooms, which Bryan sauteed with a little butter.  Even Oliver liked them.  The squash was so, so sweet.
CSA ingredients: onions, yellow squash
Market ingredients: oyster mushrooms, scallions

Sunday 8/22: Chicken fried steak with white pan gravy, roasted red potatoes with rosemary and garlic, corn on the cob, fried okra

The corn was so sweet and tender it was practically ridiculous.  Bryan made a fantastic meal, but the corn was pretty stand out (made me glad we just froze a dozen to store for winter!).  Oliver happily munched on the okra until he ate the coating off one and tried the okra plain.  Then it was, "Mom, what is that?!"  And not in a good way.
CSA ingredients: red potatoes, garlic
Market ingredients: okra, corn
Garden ingredients: rosemary

One more batch...

baby food: pears

pears in white grape juice

five 1/2 pints baby food plums; two 1/2 pints pickled orka (one spicy, one not), one pint pickled thai peppers, one pint pickled jalapenos

And with that, I'm done with fruit.  I swear.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Myth of the Rabid Locavore

Kerry Trueman posted a really fantastic article on the Huffington Post about eating locally.  In it, she addresses an extremely mis-informative, short sighted, horribly sourced, and thoroughly inaccurate article Stephen Budiansky wrote for the New York Times.  In his article, Stephen explains why eating local is actually bad (huh, WHAT?). 

In her retort, Trueman points out some of the facts Budiansky managed to completed ignore:

"But energy efficiency is only one small part of the equation when you add up the reasons to buy local. Other factors include: flavor and nutrition; support for more ecological farming practices; reduction of excess packaging; avoidance of pesticides and other toxins; more humane treatment of livestock and workers; preservation of local farmland; spending one's dollars closer to home; the farmers' market as community center, and so on."

"Again with the energy usage! Geez. As if that were our big beef with fertilizers and chemicals. What about soil erosion, pollution, loss of biodiversity, the rise of superweeds and antibiotic-resistant infections, the dead zones in our oceans and rivers, exposure to contaminants, and all the other environmentally disastrous consequences of 'conventional' farming?"

She also points out that some of Budiansky's "reasons" apply to everyone, regardless of who or where you buy your food from - "the miles we drive to do our grocery shopping and the energy it takes to run our fridges, dishwashers, stoves, etc." ; the amount of edible food discarded by people within the U.S.

I strongly urge you to read both articles.  The pull to "eat local" is rooted in a deep care for the environment, the local economy, and personal health.  These things are no longer a joke, but necessary input when deciding what to buy and who to buy it from.  Do the research, get the facts, and revolt.

Vote your fork.  Your future depends on it.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

How to CSA / Menu Planning: 8/12/10

Here I am falling down on the job already, as usual.  My plan to publish a post with each use of our CSA items is not totally happening.  But perhaps I'll just post the interesting ones?

We ate the broccoli with homemade sausage pizza (both the sausage and the pizza being homemade), and used a tomato, some yellow squash, and an onion in veggie quesadillas (along with a green bell pepper and some pumpkin leaves we picked up at the Tosa Farmer's Market).  We can all make pizza and quesadillas, no need for photos, right??

To help with this whole concept, I have decided to post my upcoming menus here, similar to the menu widget on my blog.  Whether I will maintain a widget here as well or manage this just via tags and posts remains to be seen (give feedback on that!).

Our upcoming plans include:

Monday 8/16: White-Bean-and-Pancetta Pizza 
Cook's notes: Homemade crust; use bacon instead of pancetta, add mushrooms
CSA ingredients: garlic
Market ingredients: mushrooms
Garden ingredients: rosemary

Wednesday 8/18: Rotisserie Chicken, Mexican Quinoa Salad
Cook's notes: Use other green
CSA ingredients: garlic
Market ingredients: corn, cilantro, chicken 

Thursday 8/19: Hamburgers with smoked cheddar, corn on the cob
Market ingredients: corn

Friday 8/20: Columbia “1905″ Salad
Garden ingredients: tomato, oregano

Saturday 8/21: Pork chops, Wheat Berries With Sesame, Soy Sauce and Scallions, purple beans
Cook's notes: Use JenEhr onions instead of scallions; marinate chops - teryaki?
CSA ingredients: onions
Market ingredients: purple beans

Sunday 8/22: Chicken fried steak, roasted red potatoes
CSA ingredients: red potatoes

Monday 8/23: Fried Green Tomato Grilled Cheese, salad
CSA ingredients: radishes, tomatoes
Garden ingredients: green tomato

Tuesday 8/24: Grilled Ground Lamb Kebabs with Fresh Hot-Pepper Paste, couscous with herbs and butter, summer squash
Cook's notes: Make 1 non-spicy kebab for Ollie
CSA ingredients: summer squash, onion, garlic
Market ingredients: cilantro
Garden ingredients: herbs

Wednesday 8/25: Stuffed Tomatoes with Ground Pork and rice 
Cook's notes: Use summer squash, greens, fresh herbs
CSA ingredients: onions, garlic
Garden ingredients: herbs, tomatoes

Thursday 8/26: Breakfast-for-Supper Tofu Burritos
Cook's notes: Add extra veggies, make homemade salsa
CSA ingredients: garlic, tomatoes, onions, summer squash
Market ingredients: bell peppers, cilantro
Garden ingredients: hot peppers, tomatoes

Friday 8/27: Sweet n Sour Pork Balls, rice
CSA ingredients: garlic, onions
Market ingredients: bell peppers
Garden ingredients: tomatoes

Saturday 8/28: Fish with honey curry glaze, Cheese Stuffed Potatoes with Yogurt Spice Paste and Sesame Seed Crust
Cook's notes: Make a not spicy potato for Oliver
CSA ingredients: onion
Market ingredients: bell peppers, cilantro
Garden ingredients: serrano chile

The interesting part with come if when I post pictures, seeing how the menu has changed...
Last night's take:
- one 1/2 pint salsa
- two pints + one 1/2 pint cinnamon applesauce
- three 1/2 pints ginger pickled radishes
- two 1/2 pints pickled radishes
- one 1/2 pint sweet mustard pickled radish

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Food Preservation: Canning

If the thought of canning food conjures up images of Grandma in an apron, sweating over a pot of boiling water in a hot kitchen in late summer, jars littering the kitchen counters... you're about right.  If you're just putting up a few jars of pickles or preserves, canning is probably a rather enjoyable and relaxing experience, in a fun, "Hey, look at me, I'm retro!" kind of way.  But if you're canning to preserve this year's harvest through the next... refer back to Image A.

Don't get me wrong - canning is not difficult.  It is, however, time consuming, and, well, hot.  The majority of produce comes into season during the hottest months, and no matter how high you crank up the A/C, a few hours with pots of boiling water and simmering food in an enclosed space = SAUNA.  (At least it's good for my pores, right?)  But with a little forethought and some practice, you, too, can become an efficient canner.

So why do I subject myself to the very real possibility of melting?  Believe me, the bounty you have preserved for the coming year makes it so very worthwhile.  We have the ability to preserve fresh fruits and vegetables at their peak ripeness (which also means when they are at their cheapest), so we can enjoy them all year round; since we lean towards being locavores, you won't find us eating much out of season.  That may seem crazy to restrict ourselves like that, but does anyone really enjoy the insipid taste of a peach in December, or strawberry in January, especially after paying a premium for them (to be shipped in from South America, I might add)?  Not I, said the Peters Family.  I'd much rather freeze or can a perfectly ripe strawberry, eat it in the dead of winter, and remember why I love May so very much.  Those of you who know us know, as well, we're pretty big on the "made from scratch" thing.  If I can make my own pickles, salsa, jam, tomato sauce, et. al., then I most certainly will.  They provide me the opportunity to make use of local raw ingredients.  They have less ingredients, and I know what each of those ingredients are, and where they came from.  They do not require chemical preservatives.  They show some extra love.  And hot damn if they don't taste better, too. I'm also preserving a food tradition that used to be a way of life.

So surely after that rousing speech, you, too, want to can, right?

Equipment you'd need:

1) A canner: Here's where you will have to make your first choice, based on what you plan to can.

The simplest is a water bath canner - essentially a very large, deep pot with a wire cage at the bottom (to hold the jars off the bottom of the pot).  If you plan on canning just a few jars, you can accomplish the same with any large stock pot you already have - just make sure it's deep enough to cover the jars with about an inch of water, and to add some type of wire cage to the bottom.  This type of canner can be used for any foods which contain some sort of acid - pickles, fruit based items, tomato sauce, etc.  A water bath canner does not get hot enough to safely seal foods which are not acidic (green beans in water, for example).

My inherited water bath canner (see, it doesn't have to be fancy at all):

If you plan to can items which are not acidic, then you will need a pressure canner.

2) Canning jars (a.k.a., Mason jars).  The most common brands are Ball and Kerr, and you can find them in most big chain grocery stores (look in the seasonal or foil/baggie/plastic wrap aisle).

3) Food to can.

Seriously, that's about it.

The number one thing that I have learned this year is to separate - process the food one day, can it the next.  Rather than spending all night in the kitchen, peeling, coring, and then cooking apples into sauce, and then immediately turning around to can them, it turns out it's much easier to make the applesauce one night, and can it the next.  Ah ha!  Talk about a light bulb moment. You'll have to reheat the sauce before canning (to help guard against botulism), but that's easy enough to do while you're sterilizing your jars.

Following that route, your basic steps are:

1) Prepare your food.
2) Sterilize your jars and lids (heat them in the canner for about 10 minutes).
3) Fill your jars (both the jars and, in most cases, the food, should be hot).
4) Place the filled jars in the canner for the appropriate amount of time, depending on the food inside and the size of the jars.

Since this isn't really intended to be a step by step how to, that's about all I will give you.  I highly recommend picking up a booking on canning, such as the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving.  You can get recipes and tips from those far more experienced than I.

As I alluded to above, I may have gone a little crazy when it came to the fruit this year.  In past years, I've done some fruit jams and sauces, and various pickles, and that was about it.  This past winter was long, and by doing my best to stick to the more in season fruits (which isn't much in Wisconsin during winter!), I was seriously fruit deprived come spring, which you must remember for us in Wisconsin is actually June.  Thus between freezing and canning, we have a lot of fruit to enjoy this winter.  A lot.  Including the 60 lbs (not a typo) of strawberries we variously froze and canned, I have canned:
- nectarines in white grape juice
- peaches in white grape juice
- plums in white grape juice
- apricots in white grape juice
- fruit cocktail in white grape juice
- cherries in syrup
- strawberry syrup
- strawberry preserves
- peach preserves
- applesauce (chunky plain, cinnamon, and strawberry)
- pureed applesauce (for baby)
- pureed peaches (for baby)
- chow chow (a summer squash relish - both sweet and spicy versions)
- bread and butter pickled jalapenos
- dill pickles (both cucumber and zucchini)
- spicy dill pickles (using the above recipe and adding cayenne peppers to the jars)
- salsa (mild, medium, and hot)

I have yet to do pears... and peppers haven't fully come in yet... and there is another bowlful of apples to deal with... and I found some interesting pickled radish recipes... and this list does not account for the fruit and vegetables we have froze (and have yet to freeze).  And since I have recently discovered that I can indeed can baby food, I figure I have a few dozen more half pints of pears, plums, and the like to put up.  Thankfully, Mom and Dad have a pear tree, so I have ready access to at least a couple hundred pounds of pears (stop groaning, Bryan, I promise I won't pick them all!).

Let's just say recently in our house, "I am not going to can any more fruit!" is very quickly followed by "Hey, I could can that!"  My mantra as I am standing on sore feet in a 200°F kitchen (while 29 weeks pregnant, mind you), has been "We will be so happy in the winter.  We will be so happy in the winter.  I'm so hot I could cry - no, no! - We will be so happy in winter!"

I swear I'm not crazy though.  I can't prove it to you yet... but wait until December.

(that's 3 layers deep, folks)  

Nope, not crazy at all.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

How to CSA: 8/12/10

For those not yet familiar, a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) is similar to a co-op.  You sign up with a local farm for a share of produce, meat, dairy, or some combination thereof.  Some may include honey, cheese, flowers, eggs - really, anything a farm can produce.  You then receive a box of goods directly from the farm weekly or bi-weekly.  CSA share seasons generally run with the growing season.  The most common is a summer share, usually available from May/June through October/November.  Some farms also offer spring shares, with early spring produce like lettuce and asparagus, and winter storage type shares, for cold storage items like winter squash, onions, potatoes, and carrots.

CSAs benefit all involved: The farmers have a dedicated consumer base, and selling directly to these consumers mean the farmers receive all profits from the sales.  Supporting local businesses is critical to a strong local economy.  You as a member benefit by receiving farm fresh goods at a great cost.  And I feel that developing these types of relationships strengthen the food community.  The closer people are to their food sources, the more people know about where their food comes from, the more they will care.  To me, this is a critical piece of food production, personal health, and environmental impact.

We have belonged to a CSA for a few years.   We joined one while living in Atlanta.  While it was rather unorganized, we enjoyed the concept.  After getting settled in here in Milwaukee, we knew it was something we wanted to do.  Luckily for us, Wisconsin is an agricultural state, and the local food movement is thriving.  Around the time we began our search, the Urban Ecology Center held a CSA open house.  The Center hosts a wide variety of farms from around the state.  After talking to a number of farms and discussing our options, we decided on JenEhr Family Farm.  They are an organic farm, the pick-up location was close to our house, they offered an optional chicken share, and we just had a really good feeling after talking with Kay, one of the farmers.  I don't think we could have picked a better farm.  Not only are we thrilled with our share, but Kay and her family have become a family to us.  But that is, perhaps, another story.

We are rather adventurous eaters, but one thing many are unprepared for is the unknown variety of goods you receive each week.  Rather different than menu planning and shopping, with a CSA you get a "mystery box" and have to be quick on your feet to plan with what you get.  I very often get asked questions about how to deal with this.  The first piece of advice I can give is to not be afraid.  Try everything you get, even if it's new and seems scary.  Chances are you can find a recipe you'll like.  The second thing I tell people is to put it in a salad.  Most vegetables can be eaten raw, and a salad full of raw veggies is not only delicious, it's extremely healthy.  The addition of vegetables of course adds nutrients, and raw vegetables are insanely nutritious.  There's more to be had in a salad than tomatoes, cucumbers, and carrots - try raw beets, radishes, kohlrabi, turnips, summer squashes, herbs.  Sliced, diced, or grated, whatever works for you.  JenEhr also provides a weekly newsletter and updates their website with what will be coming in that week's box.  So we have a little head's up to help with our menu planning.

It may take an adjustment, but once you get into the swing of things, it's not only fairly easy, it's lots of fun.

That brings me to the real point of this post.  As I said, I get asked questions about our CSA, and how do deal with certain fruits and vegetables.  I wanted to post information on what we get in each share, and then provide subsequent posts to show what we've done over the week with what we've gotten in that share.  It's also a good excuse to post some gratuitous food pictures.

This week's share included a bounty of August produce:

Nothing too unknown, right?  This week, we have:

red potatoes

tomatoes (can't have too many of those in August!)

cured garlic

white onions (somehow the dirt makes them even more appealing to me)


summer squashes




The broccoli barely made it through the photo shoot.  My assistant, Oliver, loves broccoli, and nibbled a good bit of it!

Stay tuned for more good things.

Find your own CSA.  Some things to consider while choosing your CSA:
- What products are included?
- What is the length of the season?
- Is organic/sustainable important to you?
- Pick-up location (Are they close enough to my home/work?)
- Cost / Payment options (some farms will offer payment installments, work shares, and other ways to help defer costs)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


My blog started out as a food blog.  Over time, as our lives changed, my blog evolved, and it's now time to give the food it's own plate.

I spend much of my free time elbow deep in food in one way or another.  Reading, researching, menu planning, cooking, canning, freezing, and actually eating - all things I thoroughly enjoy.  To me, food and how is is grown/raised is critical to the food not only being good, but to our physical and mental health, as well as health of our environment.  I hope to explore all these aspects via this blog.