Archive for September, 2011

Crop-Share Testing Wrap-Up

The past six weeks of crop-share bliss have flown by! I cannot believe it has been six weeks since we started on this adventure. Since I originally created a post (https://creativecrops.wordpress.com/2011/08/19/hello-world/ ) about why I had wanted to get into the crop-share pilot program at our local ‘farm’ I thought it was only fitting to do a quick recap, see if we met our goals, see if we changed our goals and overall really sit down and assess the crop-share experience from our perspective, so here goes!

One of my top goals was to be more creative in my cooking and food choices and by golly have I succeeded! When I visit a regular grocery store I spend much more time in the fresh produce section. I am more knowledgeable and how to incorporate really fresh ingredients into the recipes we make and find myself really picking up a wider variety of foods to cook with in the upcoming week. Greg and I are being pressured to be more open-minded and try a wider variety of foods and while we don’t’ like them all, we have added quite a few new recipes to our ‘rotation’.  I definitely feel that our diets have changed for the better and we are much less wasteful in what we toss weekly.

While I have upped the number of fresh foods I am purchasing I have noted a sharp decrease in the number of foods we are throwing away. While there is still more waste we could be saving, we have really gotten much more creative with how to use the food that is almost on its way out. Case in point – we had some strawberries that were definitely on their last legs. At this point they would have been much too sweet for us to eat but with the addition of cream and our ice cream maker we had ourselves some really delicious strawberry ice cream with no need for added sugar. It was a great feeling seeing something that I previously would have chucked be used in an alternative way.

A hesitation I held about joining a crop-share would be that it wouldn’t be worth the money – I wouldn’t like the foods that I was given and thus was throwing my money away. I didn’t find this to be true. There were weeks when I didn’t like as much of the food as other weeks but most of those times Greg dug that food OR we shared with someone else. This is a crop share after all, and giving good food away to someone who will appreciate and enjoy it is a good way to go. Another bonus of sharing like that is that they often reciprocate by sharing the end product with you and it may change your mind about that particular item…

The quantity seemed to work for us. It wasn’t an overwhelming amount but we did find ourselves dehydrating, freezing or long-term storing bulkier items on a weekly basis. The benefit of that is that we now have some great fresh herbs including dill and thyme to use at a later date and have a nice stock-up of a variety of pasta sauce for the winter as well as some other good staples. It has made cooking at home much easier because it has changed our mindset. Now when we have a late night of meetings, sports and whatnot we can come home and defrost and reheat something we previously made, like chili, pasta sauce, or even chicken and couple it with some freshly steamed veggies that takes no time at all. In our past habits we would come home, feel we had ‘nothing’ to make and head out to pick something up. While the crop-share isn’t directly responsible for this, being that it only provides produce, it did help us open our eyes to this habit and change our mindset. We buy far fewer packaged foods (like hamburger helper – even though it is still delicious!) than we did pre-crop share and I know I personally don’t look for that ‘easy’ food anymore.

It’s a nice feeling to get a better idea of where your food has come from, getting to know the smiling face you see weekly when you pick up your produce and know that this purchase is supporting the local economy around you. I love shopping, but there are plenty of malls, I would much rather do my share and buy local produce to keep that farm as my neighbor instead of becoming neighbors with another strip-mall.

The crop-share worked for us! We really enjoyed it, we were excited every week to see what we would be getting and then paged through numerous cookbooks and online recipes to find ‘the one’ to try with that item. It was exciting, it was fun and it helped us get to enjoy each other’s company working towards a common goal – eating! This is something we are going to sign-up for and look forward to continuing to be a part of. Crop-shares may not work for everyone or every lifestyle but it is definitely something we are glad to pick-up weekly!

Crop Report Week 6 (final week!)

Again – sorry for a late post here! I’ve been a little off the rails between work and personal obligations but I’m back in the game! We actually had a bye-week last week so this is 2 weeks old at this point…sorry for the delay! Now that the bye-week is over we are going to be moving into the first of our 5 week fall crop-share.

So far the transition between summer and fall crop-sharing has been fun. We are moving into hardier foods and veggies. The nicest thing about the new foods we are getting is that they last a bit longer. They have a longer ‘shelf life’ for us and it isn’t as much of a scramble to use things up quickly.

Contents: image

– Broccoli
-Carrots
– Organic Potatoes
– Spaghetti Squash
– Rainbow Swiss Chard (also organic)
-Mushrooms
– Onions
– Gala Apples
– Sweet Potatoes
– Collard Greens

Ah – fall at last! If you saw my post yesterday you will see that I used the spaghetti squash with a simple marinara as a great side-dish with chicken. It was really tasty and something we both agreed we would like to make again!

We used some of the carrots, mushrooms and some of the broccoli in a stir-fry. The remainder of the broccoli was steamed and used with oil and garlic and cavetelli pasta in a simple pasta dish. Steamed, fresh broccoli is so wonderful! Receiving fresh broccoli like this reminded me that I must start buying broccoli fresh and not frozen more often!

The potatoes made a few handsome potato pancakes – potato pancakes, bacon and eggs: YUM! We also boiled a few of the remaining potatoes (we got a bag full!) as a side dish with some mild seasonings to compliment steak one evening.

The swiss chard and collard greens I did not have time to figure out how to use them and I was nervous that they were going to go bad and thus be wasted so I shared them with a neighbor who knew how to cook them and was delighted to have them. I’m going to check in with her to find out what she made and how and if they should find their way into a crop-share box of mine again I will be prepared to cook them up! (And of course let you all know how it goes!)

Last but certainly not least I believe we have perfected, PERFECTED, our sweet potato fries! We have cut them up into steak frite size so they are a bit thicker and are using a pinch of salt, a bit of olive oil and minced garlic on them for a nice seasoning. We then place them on a foil-lined baking sheet in the oven (preheat to 350) for about 20 minutes and voila – deliciousness in the look of an orange French-fry!

Spaghetti Squash – Simple and Tasty!

‘Tis the season for squash! Spaghetti squash was a variety I had never tried but was eager to. My crop-share paid off and provided us with a spaghetti squash – what luck?! This may be the easiest recipe I post so here goes…

 

Ingredients

– Marinara Sauce (we make our own but a jar would work too) – try to get something with a bit of a kick.

– Spaghetti Squash (get 2 if you have more than 2 people)

 

 

What to do

Preheat your oven to 325. Cut your squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Place your squash on a foil-lined baking sheet that is spread with a bit of olive oil facing down (my pictures have the squashes flipped from how I cooked them, so put them facing down, not as they are in my pictures). Heat up your sauce while the squash cooks.  Once your sauce is heated, scoop some of it into the serving bowl you plan to use. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes until the inside of the squash can easily be skewered and is started to get nice and gold around the edges.

Once you have removed the squash from the oven and let it cool off for 5 minutes use a fork to ‘scrape’ the squash and you will see that it very easily forms strands – similar to spaghetti. I was hesitant about this part because I nervous I would scrape it incorrectly and ruin the squash but it seemed to naturally form these strands so it was easy! Put your strands of squash into the serving bowl and about half way through add a bit more sauce then keep ‘scraping’ strands out of the squash and placing them in the bowl. Top off your spaghetti squash with the remainder of your sauce (the amount you use is to taste, similar to pasta), mix it together in the bowl to evenly coat the spaghetti squash and serve!

This made a great side-dish to chicken. It’s a nice compliment to any lighter main course I’m sure, and it wasn’t too filling but also didn’t leave us hungry. It was really nice for fall! I’ll have to post a recipe of our marinara sauce so you can have the full experience!

Honey Balsamic Butternut Squash

I was going to wait to post this in a few days/weeks BUT I woke up and the air was crisp, the temperatures were low, the humidity was non-existent and I knew it was finally fall!! Since it’s fall that means it is time for some more ways to make your butternut squash into a delicious treat! This is a really simple side-dish and it comes out great!

What you will need:

Butternut Squash – either fresh or pre-packaged, peeled and cut into 1” cubes – I use 1 fresh squash.
1 tbsp Olive Oil
1 tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
1 tbsp Honey
¼ tsp black pepper

Instructions:

Pre-heat your oven to 325 F. Line a baking-sheet with non-stick foil . In a bowl combine the squash, olive oile, honey and vinegar and mix. Get the squash as evenly coated as possible. Put the squash onto the baking sheet and try to evenly space the cubes.  Pour any leftover ‘juice’ from your mixing bowl over the squash. Evenly spread your black pepper over the squash and pop into the oven for about 30 minutes. You will want to cook the squash until they are nice and tender.

This is a quick and relatively effortless side dish and again, it tastes great! The balsamic really gets into the squash with the honey. Overall, if you want some squash and want to put as little effort as possible into making it delicious, this is the route to go!

Crop Report: Week 5!

Wow, this is extremely late and I truly apologize for everyone who was on the edge of their seat waiting to hear what we received this week! This is the second to last week – how did the time fly so quickly on this?! Since we received our share on Friday and it’s now almost a week later, this post will focus a bit more on how we used the food this week…

Contents:

– Canary melon
-Green peppers
– Italian roasting peppers
– Honeycrisp apples
– Chinese Pear
– Peaches
– Corn
– Zucchini
– Thyme
– Acorn Squash

Corn made a comeback! We didn’t get corn last week so we were definitely excited to have it back. We did the same ole with the corn – grilled it up!

Greg is really digging the canary melon. We have found that is similar to a honeydew melon with a more ‘fruity’ taste. He was excited to have it back and cannot wait to cut it up. For anyone looking to sample a canary melon –  if you purchase one in the store you will know that is ripe and ready to eat when the outside starts to feel a bit waxy. This may seem strange, but pet the melon and you will know when it’s waxy and ready…

The apples and peaches were used in part for snacking and in another part on the dehydrator. Having dried fruit around is a wonderful snack! I really have gotten used to just passing the jar I keep it in and having a wedge of fruit – Yum! I also dried the thyme to use for the future. I really had no idea what to use it in this week so I dried it up and will save for the future, didn’t want to waste it!

We love zucchini, well I do at least I do, so I was happy to see it in our box. We didn’t do anything too thrilling with it – just cut it up and used it in shrimp scampi with garlic and oil and some of the green peppers. It came out wonderful. Zucchini, when done right, is just so refreshing and wonderful. I’m not sure if I like squash or zucchini more – tough call!

The squash may be used for a new recipe. I’m not sure as what yet but I’m looking around for some good options for the next two days. I want to use it a little differently. I’m thinking maybe try it as some sort of side dish. Results will be posted of course!

Garlic Mashed Acorn Squash

All of you squash fans get ready for a new and awesome way to eat acorn squash. I am so glad that Fall is just around the corner so that I have a nice excuse to make this dish frequently.  Similar to our mango salsa this is a take on a Food Network dish, please click here to see the original recipe that led us in this direction – http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/marcela-valladolid/roasted-acorn-squash-and-garlic-mash-recipe/index.html .

You can easily double this dish to make it for more than 2 people but since it’s just 2 of us, this is how we made this…

Ingredients:

1 acorn squash – halved and seeded
1 head garlic wrapped in foil
5 tbsp  butter (unsalted is preferred)
3/4 leek – diced (white and pale green parts only)
1 gala apple – diced
pinch of salt
1 tsp thyme

Directions:

After preheating your oven to 400 F, place the squash cut side down in a baking dish. I’m not the most experienced cook and I don’t have the best tools so I used a shallow dish meant for my toaster oven for this. Next I put water half-way up a glass baking dish and put the pan with my squash on it atop the water-filled glass baking dish. (I will supplement this post with a picture for better explanation this evening). Put the foil-wrapped garlic directly on an oven rack. Roast the garlic and squash until very tender – most likely in and around an hour. You can use a small skewer in the squash near the end to test the firmness.

Near the end of the hour, melt 1tbsp of your butter in a small skillet. Add the leeks and apple and sauté them just until they are tender but still crisp. Add salt as you go to taste.

Once your squash is out of the oven and somewhat cooled off, scoop out the flesh of the squash into a large bowl. Use a potato masher to mash until it is smooth. Squeeze most of the roasted garlic into the squash (you will really only need about ½ – ¾ of what you roasted, use the remainder on some bread and voila fresh garlic bread!), add the rest of your butter (4tbsp) and mash. Stir in the thyme and add more salt (to taste). Right before you serve this dish top the mashed squash with your apples and leeks. Enjoy!

Again, this is the 2 person version; if you are cooking for more than 2.5 persons please visit the food network site for the full recipe as that will be what you need. It really came out quite delicious and we are looking forward to having this again in the future, seems like a great meal for fall, or even Thanksgiving!

Squash on the right and steamed kale on the left - both delicious!

Failed Apple Dumplings

To date, there are many recipes we have tried that we have enjoyed, and I’ve started sharing those recipes, now I would like to share a failure. Since it’s a failure I’m going to leave out the recipe but give us all some time to laugh at the results – cooking is fun because of the wonderful things you create and the excellent stories you have to tell of the less than edible food you have concocted…here goes terrible:  

Apples dumplings, this seems relatively easy. It is similar to an apple pie but mini, what could be so hard?! A few months ago I snagged a great star shape mini pie maker so I figured with the apples cut small enough this would be the PERFECT time to put this mold into action. The apples came out pretty good actually. We cut up the apples into really small pieces so that they wouldn’t overwhelm the mini molds. At the same time we made a caramel honey sauce – Cinnamon, honey, sugar, brown sugar all boiling in a pan. It smelled like fall!

Since I was making sauce and cutting apples I had to draw the line at making dough, I opted for the Giant brand; in the past Giant pie dough has served me well. I am pretty crafty so cutting out the molded dough was no problem. I put the apples and sauce into the molds, put them on a baking sheet and sent them on their journey into the warm oven for about an hour. This is when things got interesting.

For the first ½ hour they still smelled delicious and looked normal during cooking as well. In the last 10 minutes we looked again and (I’m happy to report) none of them were burned but they just didn’t have any fluff to them at all anymore. And about half of them had ‘popped’ open. Overall, they smelled nice but were looking less than attractive to say the least.

Once they cooled we scraped them off their baking sheet and made a face at each other, it was officially a standoff. I made them, but he helped, who would be the first to try them, did either of us really have to eat them? Greg is pretty polite so he didn’t want to offend me and claimed they looked good, but he had already had dessert so he may wait until tomorrow to eat them. I really was not feeling adventurous so piled them into a storage container for tomorrow. The next day came and while alone I took a little nibble, yeah they were nasty, but I wasn’t ready to admit this so I left the container. I looked at the container daily but never uttered a word about them neither did Greg. I feel bad poisoning the guy so I didn’t suggest he eat them, but he also never offered…. Overall I think we were both afraid.

Garbage day came and then they were suddenly gone. Either Greg pitched them or a gnome snuck in to do away with the disgusting apple dumplings but either way they were gone and I could breathe easy not having to feel bad about how horrible they turned out. I have no idea where we went wrong on this recipe but I’m too afraid to try again, for now…

%d bloggers like this: