Thursday, March 18, 2010

I found the most amazing cookbook...

Today I found The Victory Garden Cookbook at the thrift store. It's awesome. Each chapter is based on a different vegetable and has a bunch of great, easy recipes using that veggie. Say I get carrots in my CSA box ...Oh look here some 20+ carrot based recipes. Say I get something a little different like Jerusalem Artichokes or Kohlrabi or Okra...they all have chapters too. I'm really excited about using this cookbook. I know I could probably find all these recipes online but it's so much nicer to have them all in one place and this way I don't have to print out recipes or run back and forth to my computer while cooking.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Sunday and Monday's CSA produce usage

The Fail: a cautionary tale -

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I tried to make a stuffed acorn squash with what I had on hand. I read several recipes online but didn't have all the ingredients for any of them. I tried to make it work with a frozen veggie mix, leftover chicken, cream cheese and some spices. It wasn't terrible but it wasn't something I'd want to force anyone else to eat. The best part was when the filling was gone and I was able to eat the acorn squash on it's own. Basically the moral of this story is "don't improvise a recipe with a veggie you've never eaten before."

The Win: waste not want not-

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I'd heard of roasting the seeds after you carve a pumpkin so I thought I might be able to do something similar with other winter squash seeds. I looked it up online and pretty much everyone agreed that any recipe that works for pumpkin seeds should work for all winter squash. I (mostly) followed these directions and made some yummy roasted squash seeds to snack on.

And an old favorite-

Since I'm almost out of the chicken broth I made in this post and this post back in January I decided to use the chicken bones and some of the veggies (especially one really old onion) to make another big batch of chicken stock. I really like making my own stock. I can put the spices I like into it and it's a great way to use veggie scraps.

Total produce used so far -
2 heads garlic
1 banana
1/2 bunch spinach
2 carrots
1 onion
2 sticks of celery
1/2 c chopped fresh parsley
1/2 acorn squash

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Friday and Saturday's CSA week produce usage

This is actually pretty fun. I've experimented with making my own recipes and everything has been pretty tasty so far.

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Friday I started by roasting two heads of garlic in tin foil (for the first time). The beautiful white heads of garlic were just too much to resist. I'd missed lunch (bad Lyneya) so the first head's worth was spread out on bread for a quick snack. The second head was split between a chicken dish and making some garlic cream cheese.

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My first disappointment occurred when I tried to find out how to store my spinach and discovered how quickly the nutrients in spinach disappear (considering how long it took to get to Alaska there are probably no nutrients left in my spinach). In an attempt to use my spinach while it had the possibility of some nutritional value, I tossed some chopped spinach, leftover roasted chicken and half a head of roasted garlic in a frying pan with some olive oil. I fried it up a little and it made an amazing dinner with some dehydrated apple chips on the side. (In the future I'd probably use more spinach since it shrunk a lot more than I expected.)

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Then I mixed the last of the roasted garlic with about 8oz of cream cheese and a little basil, oregano, sage and onion salt. It made an amazing spread and a great breakfast on toasted bread this morning (no one else had to smell my breath).

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This evening I got home pretty late and wasn't in the mood to cook. Instead of cooking I decided to make a "green smoothie" like the wonderful ones I'd seen Sheri post on her Green and Crunchy blog. I tossed a bunch of spinach, a banana, some blueberry syrup I made last fall, and some strawberry Kefir in a blender and made a really tasty (kinda weird looking) green smoothie.

Total produce used so far -
2 heads garlic
1 banana
1/2 bunch spinach

Saturday, March 13, 2010

My pretend CSA box

The CSA I'm thinking of joining requires that you pay for your box a couple weeks ahead of the expected delivery date so even if I join today it would be about three weeks until I could expect my first box. Since I'm pretty excited about this concept I decided to get enough veggies and fruit to pretend I'd received a CSA box and see if I actually use it. Honestly, I probably didn't buy as much as I'd get in a box. However, since honey isn't here and I'm the only one eating I thought I'd be a little conservative. I went to the local grocery store and gave myself a free pass to buy anything that interested me (and looked good because not all their veggies do). I lucked out because some of the veggies were being restocked and I was able to wander behind the store employee and get amazingly fresh veggies.

What I'm starting with -
1 bunch Spinach
1 bunch parsley (Usually I have my own window grown parsley but my plant needs a break so I get store bought)
1 Acorn Squash (I made extra money in college working at a farm picking Acorn Squash so I think I should see what it tastes like)
2 bananas (they didn't look great but I really wanted some for smoothies)
1 bunch Celery
2lb Alaska grown Carrots
3 yellow onions
5 heads Garlic (picked them right out of the restocking box. Beautiful and fresh)
1 big bag shredded Cabbage (leftovers from my sauerkraut making class)
1 lemon
1 orange
8 lb apples (leftovers from a big bag bought in bulk a couple weeks ago. I should probably dehydrate some of them)

To some of you this may seem a pitiful amount of fresh produce but if you knew how little fresh produce normally lives in our fridge you would understand how overwhelming this amount of produce looks to me. Where my family lived when I was younger necessitated canned or frozen goods because fresh produce would spoil before it reached us. Plus going to the store was not a regular occurrence. Now that I have regular access to fresh food I need to change those habits.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Is anyone a part of a CSA?

I'm considering joining a CSA (community supported agriculture). We are trying to switch our diets to be more natural and healthy but have encountered a few hiccups.

1 - The produce we can get at the grocery store in AK is usually a step away from spoilage
2- I didn't grow up using a lot of produce so get a little lost when I look beyond the carrots, celery, onions and potatoes
2b- My husband is getting really sick of carrots, celery, onions, and potatoes
3- I'm intimidated by the prices of produce in the grocery store and tend to only bring home an item or two
4- We're both still learning how to cook
5- We need to keep our budget in check

The CSA I'm thinking of joining, Glacier Valley CSA, is Alaska based (not all the CSA's that deliver in AK are actually based out of Alaska farms). They try to use as much local produce as possible from a variety of farms but in the winter they do supplement the root cellar offerings with organic produce sent in bulk from farms in the lower 48. Each box is $35 and you can buy them weekly, bi-weekly or monthly. It seems like you get some staple veggies in each box and some new and interesting veggies to experiment with.

I'm hoping some of my readers who've tried CSA programs or something similar will chime in with their experiences and help me decide. It's a big expense and I'm a little nervous about making a commitment to get boxes of fruits and veggies when we haven't been the best about eating them in the past.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


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A dehydrator only a mother (or thrifty maven) could love. It takes the trays from the dehydrator I bought when I was in college ($40 new), a slightly better dehydrator and it's trays ($5 Salvation Army) and the trays from another used dehydrator ($12 Value Village). All told I can use up to 11 feet of dehydrating space (I'm only using 9 of the trays in the picture). Additionally my thrift store purchases also came with 8 fruit leather trays and I have another functional fan/heater if my favorite one ever breaks. Just the extra trays would have cost me $7-10 each new and the fruit leather trays would have been about $5 each.

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And here's the jams I made in my class at the Cooperative Extension. A nice blueberry jam and a low sugar strawberry. One of the people in the class brought bread she made that morning and a french butter bell. So we got to eat fresh made, still warm jam with homemade bread and nice spreadable butter. Best class ever!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Thank You Grandpa

Thank You Grandpa ...
-for loving so many children no one else wanted
-for taking a chance on a troubled teenage boy
-for unconditional love
-for creative punishments
-for being a man of principle and honor
-for teaching that to your children
-for stories
-for smiles
-for being a cranky old man

I love you Grandpa and I'm going to miss you so much. I'm so glad for you that you don't have to be trapped by your own mind anymore but I'm going to miss your smile and stories so much. You didn't have to raise my dad and you surely didn't have to love him but you did and it changed everything. I hope at the end of my life I have even a fraction of the legacy you've left behind. Thank You Grandpa and I love you.