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Category Archives: Food

Peaches and Peppers

And other things being done in the kitchen.

I’ve literally been overwhelmed with peaches this year.

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There’s a few reasons for it. Besides getting peaches most weeks in the CSA, I was managing the site for a month while the site host was on vacation. Add to that, it was August. Lots of members didn’t show up. I ended up with the host’s peaches a few weeks, and a few leftover fruit shares. One week, we had six watermelons left. Food bank got most of it, but the peaches. Became a gateway to preservation.

I made peach syrup. I vacuum sealed a few bags. I have just enough left to make jelly, using the peaches and the jalapenos from my garden. We ate copious amounts of juicy fresh peaches for lunch. And breakfast.

As for the peppers.

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The last week I hosted, I had my sweet pepper item, plus some from the swap box, and a share I picked up for a vacationing member. Yesterday, I blanched, sliced and froze four bags of peppers. This winter there will be lovely bright peppers on chicken, or fish, or pasta.

The beauty of having a CSA share is that ability to preserve and freeze the extras. In the dead of winter, those ingredients will liven my dinners. Grab a bag of peppers. Some tomato sauce. Some caramelized onions, maybe. Some pesto. Mix and match.

Those bright red Amish paste tomatoes in the picture above became tomato sauce. A quart of it. The slicing tomatoes met the same fate. Two pint jars. The freezer is almost full. Winter won’t be dull and dreary around here.

Whole Foods

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Opened in Howard County ten days ago. Now, I suppose we are complete as a upscale grocery store containing county. We have the Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Wegmans trilogy.

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Everyone knows that I support small local businesses, mostly family owned, but still, there is something about stepping into one of these specialty grocers that brings the “foodie” side to the forefront. We headed off Monday morning to have an early lunch and see if Whole Foods had a few items I can’t find at other stores.

First of all, you can’t beat the view from the “dining” area.

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Second, where else in a food store do you find flowers on the tables?

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I think they did an excellent job of transforming the former Rouse Building into something exciting, open and interesting. I also have to give them credit for using local purveyors and acknowledging it.

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We tried a link of each of the two homemade lamb sausages, one Greek and one Moroccan. The verdict, liked the Merguez, and tossed the Lukanika. It had way too funky of a smell to it. Not a good fit.

I also got caught up in trying the handmade gnocchi. The spinach one.

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Made it for dinner, with meatballs. Used some of my freshly made sage butter for the pasta.

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All in all, it will be a place we use to find bulk items, like spices, rice, grains, nuts. They have a very large selection. The seafood also looks good. Right now, I head to Wegmans for seafood, but Whole Foods is closer.

And, Friday morning at 9:30, it was easy to pop in and grab a few hard rolls for an egg salad lunch, and some pita for my eggplant dip. I do like their bakery items.

First impressions. Favorable.

Inspiration

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That one item.

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Today it was tarragon. When I picked up my Friends and Farms basket yesterday, tarragon just inspired me to get out the poultry recipes and start using them.

At the pick up site, there were quite a few people picking up sample baskets. I am thrilled to see the interest in eating regionally and seasonally, and seeing people get excited to try this way of sourcing our foods.

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This week was one that would give you ideas on menu planning. We got apples, cantaloupe, kale, cucumbers, potatoes, heirloom tomatoes, green onions, mushrooms, and lettuce mix. Add to that the proteins in my individual share.

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Chicken legs, eggs, yogurt and pork loin.

The tarragon and chicken inspired me to make soup. The pork loin and apples sound like a meal pairing to me. The yogurt and cucumbers made tzatziki tonight. Eggs went into an egg salad today.

I like the thought process the company uses to put together cohesive baskets. I also like that small size, perfect for an individual or a couple. Just the right amount of protein, and not overwhelming amounts of any one item.

Well, except for that tarragon. There is quite a bit in that package. I think I may be drying some of it. To use later in soups and stews.

Lima Beans!

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Fresh. In shell. Something I have never encountered before today.

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They were in the swap box today for our CSA pick up. I had to get them and gave up radicchio to do so.

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Already shelled and part of a simple dinner tonight. That also included this salad.

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Heirloom tomatoes and some African blue basil from my garden. That absolutely awesome mozzarella from last week’s CSA cheese share. Secolari’s white balsamic vinegar and Sevillano olive oil.

There were also potatoes and Merguez sausage for dinner.

But, let’s get back to the CSA basket.

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Spaghetti squash
Amish paste tomatoes
Slicing tomatoes
Baby sweet peppers
Baby bok choy
Green Beans
Cubanelles

As for fruit.

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Apples. Plums. More peaches (like we need more peaches).

Things I am thinking of making. More tomato sauce, obviously. Pickled peppers. Spaghetti squash with butter and Parm.

As for the chicken share, not pictured, there were two boneless breasts of chicken, and a package of whole chicken legs. Chicken salad will be made this weekend.

Lancaster Farm Fresh comes through again with a mix of very interesting favorites and a few surprises.

Tomorrow: What I did with the Friends and Farms Individual basket.

Using the Crock Pot to Preserve

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Sounds like a strange way to preserve food, but my crock pot is a way to easily transform excess vegetables into freezer ready meals, soups, or simple ingredients to use all winter long.

I went looking through my pictures, and some of my best preservation techniques aren’t recorded anywhere.

Like this really simple one.

Caramelized onions. Fill your crock pot halfway with sliced onion rings. Melt about half a stick of unsalted butter. Mix the butter all over the onions. Put your crock pot on low for at least 10 hours, or better than that, 12-15 hours. I then let the onions cool and put them in my largest ice cube trays. Freeze them. Pop them out and store them in the freezer in a large container. Take out one or more whenever you feel the urge to have onions, on burgers, beef, potatoes, etc. They are easily cooked in a frying pan and used for all sorts of meals.

Spiced apples are another simple recipe. Take all the apples that will fit in your crock pot. Add some cider for moisture. Some cinnamon and sugar. A little nutmeg. Slow cook for 10 hours. I cool them and put them in pint jars. To make flavored yogurt. Fill a pie crust. Make a galette. They are happily resting in my freezer waiting to be used.

Soups. Stews. Stocks. All can be easily made in a crock pot. After one meal, the rest goes into pint jars or containers in the freezer. All winter long, I can pull out chicken corn chowder, bean soups, Tuscan bean soup. Even more. Any of the soups on my compilation can be frozen to use out of season.

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This soup, my Grandmother’s tomato cream soup, freezes well. Or, like in the post, can be made with frozen tomatoes and stock.

What else can be made in the crock pot? So many ways to go, with fresh or frozen ingredients.

Refrigerator Pickles

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I had many jars of pickles ready to take to Saturday’s program. I have discovered the fun of pickling vegetables so you don’t have to spend large amounts of money at the local stores to buy those items so loved on antipasto trays.

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I’ve been all over the map in terms of the ratios I use to make refrigerator pickles. I’ve also used crocks in the past to make pickles. These I did put in the hot water bath in order to have them stay fresh longer, but I keep them in the refrigerator no matter how I make them. Thankfully we have a small beverage refrigerator under a counter in the laundry room. Lots of stuff gets stored there.

I like my pickles garlicky and sour. I use very little sugar, if at all. Sometimes I do buy pickling spices, but mostly I just throw in whatever is still in the spice rack. I use garlic (or once I used scapes). I use garlic powder. I use salt, pepper, mustard seeds, dill (fresh or dried, whatever is here). Sometimes allspice, whole.

I use a heavy vinegar mix. Two parts vinegar to one part water. Some people like one to one ratio. Figure on four to five ounces of mix for every pint jar. I boil it all together, and sterilize the jars in the dishwasher. A small pot sterilized my lids and seals. For refrigerator pickles, meant to be eaten in a few months, and never left out of the fridge, I don’t use the hot water bath for processing.

The jars above hold some of my shallots. Some sweet peppers. Dill pickles. I have also processed swiss chard stems. Zucchini. Beets in a mix that does include candied ginger and a cinnamon stick.

Be creative. Next I am doing another mix of yellow and red peppers.

Today though, we checked out the Whole Foods Market pickling “bar”.

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My husband picked out some of them to try. Caper berries? Green beans. How about carrots? All sorts of ideas.

Some Tips and Tricks for Food Preserving

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A few random items from my food preservation program today. Things we discussed and things I forgot to mention. It was a very enjoyable morning for me, and I think all the attendees had a good time. I sent them home with herbs to dry, and a couple of them got “prizes”, like a cookbook.

Think Small

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We talked about the use of ice cube trays to freeze fruit, pesto, butters and herbs. I use different sized trays for strawberry puree, mint in ice, chive butter, sage butter, basil oil, bacon fat (yes, bacon fat), blackberry or blueberry simple syrups.

I mentioned that I use those trays pictured above to make herb butters. Two sticks of butter, melted. Herbs cut in advance and placed in trays. Pour cooled butter over the herbs. Each segment of a tray holds one tablespoon of butter. Nice proportions to use for pastas, potatoes, eggs, gnocchi and more.

Freeze ingredients, as well as finished products. I freeze one cup packages of shredded zucchini to use for breads or fritters. I freeze carrots and celery leaves to use in soups and stocks. I freeze caramelized onions, just because they are awesome in so many recipes. Oven roasted cherry tomatoes. Oven dried plum tomatoes.

This way I can pull out a bunch of bags, pop them in the crock pot and make soup or sauce.

I freeze veggie scraps to make veggie broth. Carrot tops. Lettuce root ends. Celery root end. Onion skins. Green bean ends. Stems from parsley. Carrot greens. Possibilities are endless.

Keep those shrimp shells. Crab shells. Fish ends. Make fish stock from them.

Buy bulk turkey legs from Maple Lawn. Use them for soups. After making the crock pot soup, boil the living daylights out of the bones to get a small amount of very rich stock to use as a base for couscous or other grains or rice.

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There’s nothing like the taste of these locally raised birds. So much flavor. I also use local chickens for stock, and buy smoked ham hocks to keep around for when I make bean soups.

I need to find some of my other recipes to add. But this is certainly a good start to using up the summer’s bounty and keeping it available to make winter just a little warmer.

Like cauliflower leek soup.

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What in your freezer might inspire you this fall?

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