Posts Tagged garden

FRIDAY FAVORITES: SALAD EDITION

I’m in a bit of a salad phase. Blame it on the hot weather or blame it on the abundance of greens in my garden — whatever the reason may be, I’ve been craving and consuming a lot of salad.

Tis the season, I suppose.

For this reason, I decided to post a round up of my favorite spring and summer salads. Here, in no particular order, are a few of my favorites.

FRIDAY FAVORITES: SALAD EDITION

asparagus arugula feta salad

1. ASPARAGUS & ARUGULA SALAD WITH FETA AND MINT

apple fennel celery salad

2. SHAVED APPLE, FENNEL, AND CELERY SALAD

peanutnoodles

3.SPICY PEANUT NOODLE SALAD

avocado slaw

4. RED CABBAGE SLAW WITH CREAMY AVOCADO DRESSING

radishy

5. RADISH LEAF PESTO PASTA SALAD

Basil Watermelon Salad by Rosemarried

6. THE PRETTIEST WATERMELON SALAD WITH BASIL, BALSAMIC AND MOZZARELLA

blackberry grnbean2

7. GREEN BEAN AND BLACKBERRY SALAD WITH GOAT CHEESE AND CARAMELIZED ONIONS

cornsalad1

8. GRILLED CORN SALAD WITH CHERRY TOMATOES AND AVOCADO

Fire Roasted Tomato Sauce

I’m not making any claims that this is the best tomato sauce of all time. If you’re looking for the best tomato sauce of all time, you may want to consult Scott Conant, Mario Batali, or some other famed Italian chef. This isn’t one of those tomato sauces.

However, I can claim that this is a good tomato sauce recipe. A really good tomato sauce recipe – one that I invented myself, with a little help and inspiration from others. At the end of the day, it’s a basic tomato sauce made with the last of the ripe tomatoes from my garden.

All that to say, I’m not going to go on and on about tomato sauce as if I’m an expert on the subject. I’m not. But, I do have a few tricks up my sleeve when it comes to making (and using) tomato sauce. First of all, I figured out a way to make tomatoes peel themselves. You see, I hate (hate!) blanching, peeling and de-seeding tomatoes. It is a tedious and obnoxious task. So, then, I figured out that if you quickly roast the tomatoes underneath your broiler, the skins pretty much just come right off. I simply halve the tomatoes, sqeeze out the seeds, and then broil them for 8-10 minutes (or until the skins blacken and loosen from the tomato flesh). It’s a win-win situation: the tomatoes get a bit of smokiness from the ‘fire roasting’ and the skins come off easily. No blanching required!

Secondly – and this may sound painfully obvious – use high quality or heirloom tomatoes when making tomato sauce. Your sauce will taste as good as the tomatoes you put in it. Those sad, bruised, unripened Roma tomatoes at the grocery store? Don’t use those. It’s as simple as that.

And lastly, I want to share with you my new favorite way to enjoy tomato sauce: baked with rounds of goat cheese, and enjoyed with a fresh baguette. And yes, of course, I eat a lot of tomato sauce with pasta. But I made a giant batch of this sauce and was looking to use it in a number of different ways. And let me tell you, baking goat cheese in tomato sauce is dangerously delicious. I made it one evening while Nich was at work and I may have devoured it al by myself. Oops?

So, then, the actual recipe that I’m posting is for my fire roasted tomato sauce. But my helpful suggestion is to bake some goat cheese in that sauce. Just make sure that someone else is around to ensure you don’t gobble it all down by yourself. :)

FIRE ROASTED TOMATO SAUCE
(Inspired from recipes from Smitten Kitchen and Vie La Table)
5lbs of tomatoes
1 small carrot, diced
1 small onion, diced
1 stalk of celery, diced
2-3 cloves of garlic, smashed
1 bay leaf
1 Tablespoon butter
1/4 cup red wine
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 sprigs fresh oregano
1 tablespoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
Pepper, to taste

First, halve the tomatoes (from top to bottom) and cut off stems. De-seed the tomatoes, by either squeezing them over a bowl (or trash can) or by using a spoon or your fingers to remove seeds. I find that fingers work best!

Turn on your broiler. Place halved tomatoes, skin side up, on a rimmed baking sheet (be sure to use a rimmed baking sheet, as there will be a lot of tomato juice!). Place baking sheet under the broiler and roast the tomatoes until the skins have blackened (about 8-10 minutes). Repeat this process until all tomatoes have been roasted. Set tomatoes aside and allow to cool. Once tomatoes are cool enough to handle, remove their skins and pour off any juices. The skins should come off very easily (the roasting does the work for you).

In a dutch oven or large pot, heat butter (or olive oil) over medium heat. Once butter is melted, add in onion, celery, carrot, and garlic and cook until the vegetables are tender and beginning to brown (10-15 minutes). Deglaze the pan with red wine, and add in the bay leaf, rosemary and oregano sprigs. Allow to simmer for a few minutes, and then add in the roasted tomatoes, dried basil, and salt & pepper. Allow to simmer over low heat for 30 minutes or more. The longer you let this sauce simmer, the better it will be. When you feel the sauce is ready, remove from heat. After 30 (or more) minutes, taste and adjust seasonings as desired. Blend with an immersion blender (or food processor) until smooth. Serve over pasta (or bake with goat cheese!). The sauce will keep in the fridge for a week (or more).

Preserving the Harvest: Pickled Green Beans with Rosemary and Lemon

This summer, I’m giving myself a crash course in preserving the harvest. I’m grabbing up fresh produce whenever I can and am trying my best to preserve the spoils of summer. There is so much goodness to be had, and I want to do everything I can to make sure I can enjoy this summer produce throughout the rest of the year.

That being said, this past week I found myself with five pounds of fresh, local green beans. I happily devoured a bunch of the green beans, of course (steamed, pan fried with brown butter, tossed in this incredible potato salad), but I knew I wanted to save a good portion of them for mid-winter eating. Because, the sad reality is that green beans don’t grow all year round (at least, they don’t in Oregon). And since I’ve made a commitment to do my best to eat seasonally and locally, green beans aren’t something I tend to eat in the winter months. The good news is, however, that I can preserve some of the harvest so that I have a few green beans to snack on all year long.

I decided to go about preserving the green beans in two different ways.

First, I froze a bunch of them. This takes little to no time, and is a fantastic way to preserve this particular veggie. Essentially, all you have to do is quickly blanch the green beans in boiling water, rinse them with cold water, pat dry, and separate them into various ziplock baggies for freezing (For a full post & instructions on freezing green beans, see this tutorial). Frozen green beans are great additions soups, stews, stir fry, curries and more. I’m sure that frozen green beans could even be used for the infamous Thanksgiving side dish, green bean casserole. :)

Secondly, I made a big batch of pickled green beans. I came across this lovely recipe for pickled green beans with lemon and rosemary. The recipe was simple, the flavors sounded perfect, and so I made (and canned) a big batch of them. I have to wait 3 weeks until I open the pickled green beans, so I can’t actually tell you how they taste yet…but I will say that they look fantastic! And I can’t imagine that the combination of green beans, lemon, garlic, and rosemary would be bad. In fact, I’m quite positive that these green beans will be nothing short of amazing.

I am pleased to say that after my preserving efforts, I have 4 pints of pickled green beans and 3 freezer bags full of green beans. Neither method took much time or effort, and now I have a stash of green beans to get me through the winter. Green beans are one of my favorite summer veggies, and I feel a sense of accomplishment knowing that I’ll have some to carry me through the winter.

If you’re interested in preserving some of your summer bounty, please see this fantastic website, which has over 85 different recipes for canning and preserving all sorts of different fruits and vegetables. .

Pickled Green Beans with Rosemary and Lemon
(Adapted from Urban Spork)
Note: While I normally like to write my own recipes, I am still learning all the tricks of canning and pickling and so I stuck close to the original recipe.

Equipment
4 pint sized jars with lids, sterilized

Ingredients
2 pounds green beans
4 sprigs fresh rosemary
4 large cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped (or 8 small cloves)
8 small strips of lemon peel
2 1/2 cups water
2 1/2 cups white wine vinegar (could use plain white vinegar as well)
3 Tablespoons pickling salt
2 Tablespoons sugar

Method:
Trim the ends of the green beans to fit inside the jars. Pack the green beans into the four jars and evenly divide garlic, lemon peels and rosemary among the jars.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot (canning or stock pot) of water to a boil.

In a medium pot, combine the water, vinegar, salt, and sugar and bring to a boil. Simmer for 2-4 minutes, stirring to dissolve the sugar and salt. Ladle the vinegar mixture into the jars, leaving a half inch of room at the top. Wipe the rims with a clean cloth, affix the lids and seals, and seal tightly. Process the jars in a hot water bath for 15 minutes. Carefully remove with tongs and set aside to cool. Let sit in a cool, dark place for at least 3 weeks before opening.

Zucchini Roundup: Grilled, Pickled, & Pancaked.

There’s a saying that goes something like this: “If you plant zucchini, be sure you have a lot of friends.”

I’ve heard it said before, but it wasn’t until this year that I truly understood what these words meant. This year I planted not one, but two zucchini plants. We aren’t even at the height of zucchini season and I feel like I can barely keep up with the abundance of zucchini!. Every time I turn around, there are magically five (or more!) ripe zucchini that are just begging to be eaten. Not that I’m complaining, mind you. I’m not tired of zucchini, yet. And thankfully, it is still early in the season I have friends who are willingly allowing me to pawn off some of my zukes on them. We’ll see how long that lasts…

Really, though, I am thrilled to be harvesting (and enjoying) my very first crop of zucchini. This year, I planted two heirloom varietals: Black zucchini and a lovely striped Cocozelle zucchini (pictured above). These squash are colorful, firm and flavorful and I’m having a great time coming up with new and exciting ways to prepare them! As much as I love a good zucchini bread, I knew I needed to branch out and find interesting recipes to highlight these tasty squash.

So, for this post I’m including 3 zucchini recipes that I’ve tried recently and loved! Each preparation is unique in its own way, and each recipe highlights the zucchini in a different way. In addition, at the end of the post I’ll include a few links for more fantastic zucchini recipes. Because, let’s face it: zucchini season is far from being over. If you’re like me, you’ll need more than 3 recipes to get you through the season…

Grilled Zucchini Bruschetta

I saw variations of the recipe online and just created my own version, using simple ingredients and fresh basil from the garden. The key is to quickly grill the zucchini over high heat, so that it gets good char marks but doesn’t get mushy or soggy. To me, this tastes like summer on a piece of bread. The flavors are simple, elegant, and summery.

Ingredients
3-4 small to medium sized zucchini, sliced in 1/4 or 1/2 inch rounds
4-5 cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 cup of olive oil (plus a little more for grilling)
3/4 cup (or a generous handful) of fresh basil, sliced thinly
1 Tablespoon lemon zest
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
2 Tablespoons good quality balsamic vinegar
Salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 baguette, sliced

Method:
Toss zucchini rounds with olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper and half of the minced garlic. Let the zucchini set in the mixture for 15-20 minutes, to fully absorb the flavors.

Grill zucchini: If using a gas grill, turn on the grill and set to ‘hot’. If using a charcoal grill, ensure coals are good and hot before you begin to grill. Place zucchini rounds on grill, and grill each side for 2-3 minutes or until you see grill marks. Be sure not to overcook the zucchini, as you want to retain some of the original texture. Remove zucchini to a plate and allow to cool. Once cool enough to handle, cut zucchini into small cubes (an 1/8 inch dice).

Toss zucchini cubes with basil, the rest of the garlic, lemon zest, and balsamic vinegar. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Serve immediately atop a piece of grilled baguette, crostini, or bread of your choice. This is best served warm, straight off the grill!


Korean Zucchini and Carrot Pancakes
(Adapted from Kitchen Wench)

I’m not sure how I originally stumbled upon this recipe, but when I saw it and it called out to me. I’m a sucker for Asian flavors and thought that these savory ‘pancakes’ would be the perfect way to use up some zucchini. Turns out, they were! Other than the 30 minutes you’ll need to allow the zucchini to drain (so you don’t have soggy pancakes), this comes together quickly and make for a great easy weeknight meal option.

Ingredients:
2-3 small to medium sized zucchini
2 teaspoons salt
2 small carrots, grated
1 small yellow onion, grated
2 cups all purpose white flour
2 large eggs
2 – 3 cups water
Salt and pepper, to taste

Dipping sauce:
4 Tablespoons soy sauce
2 Tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Ponzu
1 teaspoon Sriracha hot sauce

Slice zucchini into very thin julienned strips (could use a grater or mandoline, I just used a knife). Toss zucchini strips with 2 teaspoons of salt and allow to drain in a colander for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, beat together the eggs. Add in flour and whisk until incorporated. Add in the water gradually, whisking after the addition of each cup. Add water until the batter is the consistency of a slightly runny pancake batter (thin, but not too watery). Once the batter is mixed, add strained zucchini, grated carrots, and grated onion. Stir until combined.

Grease a medium sized non-stick frying pan with oil, and heat pan over medium heat. Once the pan is heated, pour a thin layer of the batter into the pan (about 1/2 cup, depending on the size of your pan). Working quickly, use a spatula to spread the vegetables in the batter into an even layer to ensure the pancake cooks evenly.

Once the bottom of the pancake is nicely browned, and the top is set, carefully flip it over and cook the other side until it is browned and the pancake is cooked all the way through. Once finished, remove from pan and allow to cool on a paper towel. Repeat process until all the batter is cooked. (I got 4 large-ish pancakes out this recipe). Serve warm with dipping sauce.

Bread & Butter Zucchini Pickles
(Adapted from The Oregonian)

It was the week after I made these tasty pickles that I saw an article on the Best Burgers in the USA from Saveur Magazine. In the article, they mentioned one burger in particular that stood out from the rest that was topped with house-made zucchini pickles. I’ve been thinking about burgers with zucchini pickles ever since (it sounds SO good) and I simply cannot wait to try it. I just haven’t gotten around to it yet, as I’ve been too busy snacking on these pickles straight out of the jar.

Ingredients:
1 pound zucchini, trimmed and very thinly sliced (preferably using a mandoline)
1 medium yellow onion, very thinly sliced
2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 cups cider vinegar
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons dry mustard (*I was all out of mustard powder, so I just used extra mustard seeds)
1 1/2 teaspoons yellow mustard seeds
1 teaspoon ground turmeric

Method:
Combine zucchini and onion in a large shallow bowl. Add salt; toss to combine. Add a few ice cubes and enough cold water to cover. Allow to sit until zucchini are slightly salty and softened (about 1 hour).

Drain the zucchini and onion mixture (discard any remaining ice cubes) and dry thoroughly between two towels or in a salad spinner (excess water will thin the flavor and spoil the pickle). Rinse and dry the bowl. Return the zucchini and onion to the dry bowl.

In a saucepan, combine vinegar, sugar, dry mustard, mustard seeds and turmeric over medium heat; simmer for 3 minutes. Remove from heat, and let stand until just warm to the touch.

Pack zucchini and onion into sterilized jars (I fit mine in 3 8oz jars). Pour the brine over the zucchini until it is covered, and allow 1/4 of room left at the top. Cap with sterilized lids. Refrigerate and allow to sit for at least 2 days before eating. The zucchini pickles should keep for up to 3 months in the fridge.

***

And now, as I’ve promised, here are a few wonderful zucchini recipes that I plan to make this summer. Enjoy!

ZUCCHINI RECIPE ROUNDUP

Cornbread with Real Corn and Fresh Zucchini from Brooklyn Supper

Zucchini Cupcakes with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting from Tasty Kitchen

Zucchini Salsa Verde from Pearl and Pine

Zucchini Thyme Butter from Kitchen Confidence

Zucchini Crudo from Kiss My Spatula

Chioggia Beet Salad with Raspberry Mint Vinaigrette and Feta

So, a couple months back I wrote about my newfound love of beets. And while I was enjoying the wonderful world of beets, I also made sure to apologize to all the beet haters of the world and promised that I would cool it on the beet posts for awhile. I did mention, however, that I had just planted a bunch of chioggia beets and said that I would probably post about beets again when I harvested my beets. Well, my friends, that time has finally come. My beets are ready!

But let me back up for a second. As you can probably tell from the above photo, this is no an ordinary beet. Chioggia beets are an Italian heirloom varietal of beet, known for their gorgeous red and white striped flesh (they are also called candy cane beets, which makes perfect sense!). I first heard about this type of beet when I read Barbara Kingsolver’s book, “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle”. While I had mixed feelings about the book, I did come away from it with a clear understanding of what it means to cultivate heirloom vegetables. Currently the term ‘heirloom’ gets thrown around a lot in trendy restaurants and high end food stores. However, there really is something to be said for planting (and eating) heirloom foods.

I won’t attempt to take on the whole of the American food system today (I’ll save that for another day!). Instead, I would simply like to point out a few major changes that have taken place in the agricultural system. As you can see in the diagram below, the availability of different types and varieties of vegetables has greatly dwindled. Just take beets for an example: 100 years ago, there were 288 varieties of beets. Today, there are just 17 varieties of beets in existence.


(Graphic from Prana.com)

If nothing else, these figures are incredibly sobering. Fruits and vegetables are now bred and modified to be resistant to pests, to last longer on grocery store shelves, and to look more appealing to the eye. While the nutritional value of heirloom vs. genetically modified produce is often debated, I happen to believe that heirloom vegetables simply taste better. I also love the variation and beauty that is often found heirloom varietals: purple, yellow and green tomatoes; black zucchini; candy cane striped beets, and more.

It is for these reasons (and more) that I am personally a fan of heirloom vegetables. If nothing else, I find that they are often much prettier than their hybrid counterparts! (Note: To learn more about heirloom varietals and ongoing attempts to save and share heirloom seeds, visit the Seed Saver’s Exchange)

As for the recipe, I made this salad when I was home alone one evening. I went to my backyard, picked some raspberries, mint, and beets…and an hour later I had an incredibly fresh and tasty dinner (I ate the salad alongside a baguette and Salted Molasses Butter). Sadly, the chioggia beets lose a lot of their candy cane brilliance once you roast them, but they still taste amazing!

Roasted Beet Salad with Raspberry Mint Vinaigrette and Feta

4-6 small to medium sized beets (If you can’t find chioggia beets, red or golden beets will also work)
1/2 cup fresh raspberries
1/3 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons fresh mint
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar (could substitute lemon or lime juice)
1 small shallot, minced
Salt & pepper to taste
2 Tablespoons feta cheese, crumbled

Method
Roast the beets: To roast the beets, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Wash and trim beet greens off (reserve for other use), leaving 1/4 inch of the stems in tact and leaving the skins on. Wrap each beet individually in aluminum foil and bake until tender when pricked with a fork or knife (30-45 minutes). The times will vary depending on the size of the beets. Set beets aside and allow to cool. Once cooled, peel off beet skins. The skins should come off easily when rubbed with a paper towel (or you can just use your fingers).

To make the vinaigrette: Macerate raspberries and mint in a small bowl. Whisk in shallots, olive oil, vinegar and salt and pepper. Add more olive oil if you desire a thinner consistency. Allow vinaigrette to set for 30 minutes or more, to allow the flavors to meld together.

To assemble the salad: Slice cooled beets into quarters, and arrange on a plate. Sprinkle crumbled feta over the beets, and drizzle raspberry vinaigrette over the beets and feta. Garnish with fresh mint. Serve immediately. (Note: this beet salad could be served atop a bed of arugula, spinach, etc.)

Fennel and Kale Meatloaf (with Bacon)

There are two main factors that contributed to my decision to make meatloaf in the middle of the summer:

1. The overabundance of kale in my garden.
2. The meatloaf pan my father-in-law gave me for Christmas.

I really wish I could just leave it at those two (odd) reasons, but I feel that I should provide you with somewhat of an explanation.

As for the kale, I feel it (mostly) explains itself. The stuff grows like weeds. Try as I might, I just cannot keep up with it. I’ve eaten kale with cheesy polenta. I’ve eaten kale in a raw kale and apple salad. I’ve thrown kale on a pizza. I’ve used kale in pesto. I’ve taken to giving away bags of kale to my friends. And, still, the kale keeps on comin’…

So, it should go without saying that I’m always on the lookout for clever kale recipes. When I stumbled across Good Stuff NW‘s recipe for Kale and Fennel Meatloaf, I felt like I hit the recipe jackpot. Not only did it incorporate kale, but it gave me a chance to use my meatloaf pan.

This brings me to the second reason I made this meatloaf: the fact that my father-in-law bought me a meatloaf pan for Christmas and I had yet to blog about meatloaf! I think this makes me a bad daughter-in-law (I kid, I kid). To be totally honest, I’ve made meatloaf a few times since receiving the meatloaf pan, but I hadn’t gotten around to actually posting any meatloaf recipes. Let’s be honest…while meatloaf is one of the tastiest comfort foods of all time, it isn’t exactly pretty to look at or photograph. Since meatloaf is so very un-pretty, I haven’t exactly been inspired to blog about it. Until now, that is.

But, let’s rewind a second. You’re probably still wondering what on earth a meatloaf pan actually is.

I wondered the exact same thing the first time my father-in-law told me about one. He told me (in no uncertain terms) that every chef must own a meatloaf pan. I’d never heard of such a thing, much less purchased one. And then he gave me my very own meatloaf pan for Christmas and my eyes were opened. Essentially, it is a pan within a pan. Let me show you:


(Image courtesy of HarrietCarter.com)

As you can see, the inner pan rests inside a larger outer pan. The inner pan has handy holes which allow the grease to drain out of the meatloaf and into the outer pan. This ensures that the meatloaf cooks evenly and quickly, and the end result is a moist meatloaf that isn’t overly greasy.

However, like the great Alton Brown, I am not a proponent of single task kitchen gadgets. I hate things that take valuable drawer space and only do ONE thing, i.e. strawberry hullers, garlic presses, etc. So, I can’t in good conscience go tell you all to go buy a meatloaf pan. It is quite singular in its purpose. For the sake of argument, though, I will say that the outer pan could easily double as a bread pan (when it isn’t catching your meatloaf drippings). And, this was the best darn meatloaf I have ever eaten, and I feel I owe it all to the magical meatloaf pan. So take it for what you will.

So, a big thank you to my father-in-law for the gift of a meatloaf pan. And thanks to Kathleen from Good Stuff NW for giving me a fabulous meatloaf recipe to try (and tweak). I could not have been happier with the end result.

Fennel and Kale Meatloaf with Bacon
(Adapted from Good Stuff NW)
Serves 4

Ingredients:
1 onion, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 fennel bulb, finely diced
2 c. kale, sliced into chiffonade
2 lbs. ground beef
6 strips bacon, cut into 1/4″ pieces
1 egg
1/2 c. milk
1/2 c. bread crumbs
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 Tablespoon tomato paste
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 Tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon fresh minced herbs: I used fresh oregano and dried basil (use whatever you’ve got on hand!)
1 Tablespoon pork lard/fat*

*Note: traditional meatloaf recipes call for a mixture of ground beef and ground pork or sausage. I didn’t have ground pork or sausage so I substituted bacon and pork fat. It worked out wonderfully.

Method:
Preheat oven to 350°.

In a large frying pan or skillet, cook bacon pieces over medium heat until crispy. Remove bacon from pan, set aside to cool. Pour off excess bacon fat into a container, set aside for use in the meatloaf. Leave 1 Tablespoon of bacon fat in the pan.

Return pan to heat, and cook onion, garlic and fennel bulb in bacon fat for 2-3 minutes. Add in kale and continue to cook, until vegetables are soft and the kale is wilted (5 minutes). Remove from heat, and allow mixture to cool.

Combine ground beef, egg, milk, bread crumbs, salt, pepper, Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste and herbs in large mixing bowl. Add in bacon pieces and stir in reserved bacon fat. Gently using your hands, mix in the fennel and kale mixture, until everything is combined. Gently press into a meatloaf pan or bread pan (or form into a loaf and place on a baking sheet).

Bake 45 minutes to an hour, or until a thermometer inserted in thickest part reads between 140-150°. Remove from oven, tent with foil, and allow to rest for 10-15 minutes before serving.

Serve with mashed potatoes (or whatever else you want to eat it with!). I doused my slice of meatloaf with just a dash of Lucille’s BBQ sauce.

the latest and greatest.

Holy smokes! I’ve been a busy little bee.

Come to think of it, when am I not a busy little bee? Let’s be honest: for me, busy is normal. I thrive in the midst of the hustle and bustle. I wouldn’t have it any other way. So, when I say that I’m a “busy little bee” – I’m not complaining. Rather, I’m commenting on my own amazement at how full (and wonderful) my life is.

There’s just so much goodness happening, and so little time to share about it all! But I’ll do my best to tell you about some of it, especially as it pertains to this blog (i.e. the food related stuffs). As a person who loves to cook – and who cares about what type of food I eat, where my food is grown/raised, etc – I’m really excited to share about some of these things. So, then, here’s what I’ve been up to:

1. I joined the Food Buying Club through the Montavilla Food Co-Op. The club allows members to join in on bulk orders of local produce, grains, coconut oil, frozen berries, meat, butter, etc. For example, Chris from Lost Arts Kitchen did a bulk butter order from a local creamery earlier this month. She sent out an email to the food buying club: we then each ordered (& prepaid for) however much butter we wanted, and then picked up the butter at a specified drop point. Easy as cake. Since then I’ve also ordered local grassfed ground beef (for $3/lb) and free range corn-free eggs (for $3.50/doz). I absolutely love this system of buying food! It feels like so “old world”; like a long-forgotten way of doing business. I personally think it is a fantastic way to support local farms and businesses, while connecting with my community.

2. It’s finally garden time! Now that I live in a place with a quaint little yard, I can finally have a real garden. Nich and I have our own private side yard and share a big back yard with our next door neighbor, Rowan. Rowan is quite the gardener and has grandiose plans for our backyard (and I am going to soak up her knowledge!), and so this weekend we set about planting our spring garden. It is a bit early to plant warm weather crops (tomatoes, zucchini, etc) but in Oregon you can plant winter greens and peas around this time (“Peas in by President’s Day!”). I am just so excited about my garden, as I think that gardening is one of the most simple and cost effective ways to eat whole foods. I’ve not had the luxury of having much of a yard in the past, and so I am overjoyed at the prospect of having a real garden this year. This is a cook’s dream! (And here’s to hoping I don’t kill all my lovely plants!)

3. I am the proud godmother to 3 wonderful chickens: Jackie O., Amy Grant, and Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (SCJRB). Godmother, you ask? Let me explain. A while back, my friend Beyth mentioned that she was considering getting chickens. I was envious, as we can’t have chickens at our place. But how I wished I could have chickens! Alas, Beyth and I hatched a plan for communally raising chickens. I would help pay for chicken feed and take care of the chickens whenever Beyth was out of town. In exchange, I would get paid in eggs. Beyth got the chicks this past August, and we were told that we could expect them to start laying eggs in late spring (of 2011). But, to our surprise, the little chicks grew up fast and they started laying in January! Each chicken is consistently laying one egg per day. Even though I get just a share of the eggs (as Beyth and her husband Joe really do all the work caring for the chickens), the chickens are laying a lot and I’m really quite pleased with how many eggs I’m getting! Having access to fresh eggs from chickens I know (and love) is the best feeling. Seriously. If you’re like me and you don’t have the ability to raise chickens of your own, I strongly encourage you to try out a system of communal chicken raising. So far, things are going splendidly! I owe a huge thanks to Beyth and Joe for allowing me to be part of their chicken’s lives. :)

Pictured below: Jackie O. (Photo by Joe Greenetz)

4. And, lastly, I have started volunteering for my local farmer’s market: The Montavilla Farmer’s Market. I really love this little market and am so thrilled to be part of their marketing and outreach team. I haven’t done much for them yet (as this is the quiet season for the market) but I did just write a new blog post for the market blog (which is called Seasonal Abundance). After shopping at the last winter stock up market, I was inspired to cook a Root Vegetable Soup. See below for a photo and a link to the recipe!

Pictured below: Winter Market Root Vegetable Soup. For full recipe, see my blog at the Montavilla Farmer’s Market site!