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A Winter CSA

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Community Supported Agriculture. In the dead of winter. Believe it or not, many farms here in the MidAtlantic have crops in high tunnels and greenhouses, all year long.

Recent comments on local blogs and Facebook lament the condition of produce in our grocery stores. Yes, even the higher end stores have slimy produce. We all miss that fresh from the ground delivered produce, ours is only one day from the field.

Here, where we live, there are two winter CSAs. Zahradka and Lancaster Farm Fresh. There are other delivery services, but not all their produce is local. And yes, Zahradka and LFFC bring in regional vegetables to augment the harvests. After all, who would complain about a chance for citrus, or maybe greens from the Carolinas.

Here is our first delivery from LFFC, yesterday.

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Looks good to me, for roughly $26 a share. All organic. About 10 pounds total. A couple of pounds of carrots. 12 ounces of tatsoi. Turnips. Chard. Red beets with their greens attached. Onions. Two absolutely lovely watermelon radishes.

I added many specialty items. Pantry item. Yogurt. Cheese. Bread. I could have added meat or chicken, eggs, milk, tofu, grain and flour, fermented beverages.

It is nice to have a source of fresh food when the farmer’s markets are closed. There are just a handful of us this winter. Thanks to our CSA for keeping us going, even when we didn’t meet the minimum. I suppose we should all be thankful for Roots and David’s and MOM’s, the local organic markets where our driver drops off produce on the same run as our CSA pick up. It’s really nice for us, since our cost is lower than buying the produce there.

I missed having fresh veggies on our four week break. So happy they are back.

Good Grits!

Have you ever cooked with grits? Local grits, from up the road in Bucks County PA.

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Tonight I ended up with a mostly local, and certainly small business provided dinner. Because we got grits in our CSA share. And I really need to expand my basic dinner rotation to include more grains. My flour and grain share provided grits. Alton Brown provided the basic recipe.

I cut it in half and tweaked it.

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Milk, water, salt, boiled. Grits added. Then, I added the juice from my shrimp mix. As for the shrimp. Bought at Boarman’s in a 5 pound bag, Gulf shrimp. Divided into one pound portions and frozen. This one pound portion was steamed, then added to a can of Rotel tomatoes and chilies. A handful of scallions. It simmered away waiting for the grits.

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I kept spooning tomato liquid into the grits to spice them up a bit. Then, when finished, I added some butter and Parmesan.

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Plated with a garnish of CSA cauliflower. Served with a Black Ankle Rosé.

A mix of local and small business foods. You gotta try grits. They are amazingly good.

Great Grains

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I have been slacking off. Forgetting to write about some of the really fantastic additives to my fall Community Supported Agriculture basket from the farmers’ cooperative at Lancaster Farm Fresh.

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My flour and grain share. Two pounds each. Every other week. This past week was the pastry flour and the spelt berries.

Two weeks ago.

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Bread flour and rye berries.

The first delivery last month.

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All purpose flour and cornmeal.

The flours are all from Daisy. They aren’t easy to find. I used to get mine at Atwaters in Catonsville. The Anson Mills which produce Daisy flour are located in Pennsylvania. Atwaters sold bags of their wonderful flour. I am loving the quality of the bread flour for those holiday breads like my chocolate zucchini bread or my pumpkin bread.

The grains, all come from Castle Valley Mill in Bucks County Pennsylvania. Other than wheat berries, which we got from Friends and Farms a few years back, I hadn’t been a big grain cooker. I purposely ordered this add on to my CSA share to remedy that lapse.

I am loving the berries. I found the perfect way to cook them, in my rice cooker. Simple. One cup berries. Three cups liquid. I have used all water. All veggie broth. A mix of chicken stock and water. Turkey stock and water. Add some seasonings. Set on the brown rice setting and let it do its thing. Makes absolutely perfectly cooked berries.

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Served here with a wilted arugula salad. Cranberries, pistachios, a drizzle of Secolari’s lime olive oil. A squirt of lemon juice.

I also downloaded an iBook, called Grain Mains. So many interesting ideas, including a take on a “gazpacho salad” using berries.

Who knows what will come in my final biweekly basket on the 13th of December. I do know that I am loving this addition and will be adding it to my winter subscription.

Filling the Freezer …

… and the fridge, and the pantry. Fall is the season where my nesting instincts kick in. Where I put away preparations to carry us through the winter. Where I stock up on seafood, meat, and in house processed stock items to cook over the winter.

Today’s CSA was one of those major contributors.

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Yeah, there’s a large amount of stuff here that will be cooked and put away. Soup fixings. Staples. Root vegetables (which last for a very long time). The Thanksgiving week delivery is always like that. Including the “extra” that every CSA member got this week.

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The behemoth butternut squash. This time. Nine pounds. The smallest I could find in the bulk bin at the pick up site. This baby will make a pie or two. Maybe some bread. Maybe a reprise of my really excellent squash lasagna.

Add to that, the Fresh Revolution has arrived. Rising from the ashes of Friends and Farms, a small group of dedicated locavores builds the new version of a cooperative food buying club. We started with turkeys last weekend and seafood today.

I got salmon, shrimp, smoked salmon and scallops. The scallops were so good, they were dinner tonight.

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Cooked in brown butter.

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Anyone interested in joining us can email and be added to our mailing list. Let me know in the comments and I will add the email. For Christmas they will be offering meat and seafood to add to your freezer.

Five Years Old

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I made it to five years writing this blog. On November 2nd 2011, I opened a WordPress account and started writing. Somehow I have gone from a handful of readers to over 500 followers. Amazing to me that I continue to find topics that interest me, while plodding along in retirement. Keeping busy. Still dedicated to eating well, volunteering, gardening, and not quite as dedicated to remembering to write about it all.

My second post. About my fall CSA. Which just began again yesterday. I have continued my commitment to eating from small farms, local and regional, as much as I can.

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This fall I expanded my options to include flour and grain. I hope to bake more than I used to do. I do know that the flour will find its way into holiday baking, and that cornmeal just inspires me to make polenta more often than I did.

As for new exotic things to discover, we found a Thai Kang Kob squash in our box. I just made squash lasagna from the triamble squash from a few weeks back.

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It was a good dinner last night for us, and leftovers will feed my better half while I am out with the local bloggers checking out The Turn House, a new restaurant that took over the space in the Hobbits Glen Golf Course.

Both the squash recipe and a report on the blogger party will follow in a few days.

I also need to write about the construction at the Conservancy, and about two great events in the next week.

There is much happening around here. Definitely enough topics to continue my blogging. Think I can keep this thing going until it’s ten years old. Let’s see.

Anyway, I will be seeing the locals tonight in Columbia. Can’t wait to try out a new farm to table option, with a locally raised chef.

Bitter Sweet

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Bitter like the greens. Sweet as the beets.

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It may be a slow improvement, but still. The change to my lifestyle and my eating habits since retiring has been paying off. My annual physical was yesterday. Saw much improvement by moving away from commercially prepared highly processed foods and by cooking from scratch as much as possible.

I considered naming this post “A1C is the new LDL” since decades of eating low fat, or no fat, and not cooking with basic ingredients has impacted our health. Face it, we had significantly more sugar in our diets while we worked and commuted. Too many frozen dinners, carry out meals and high carb restaurant choices like pasta, or pizza.

Now, my generation fights the battle against Type 2 Diabetes. All those low fat meals contained hidden sugars.

I am glad I made the switch. Even though it is time consuming to cook this way. I also know that my CSA is the real reason I don’t give up.

That salad up there. I made the dressing. The greens and beets and berries are from my CSA. So is the cheese.

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The creamy dressing. Yogurt without added sugar. A very tiny bit of preserves. White balsamic and good olive oil. A pinch of salt and pepper.

It’s not the only thing we have added to our vegetable share. We get cheese, fruit, meat, yogurt, and bread. I have added a grain and flour share for fall.

This is the bread we now eat.

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A different one each week. No dairy. No sugar. The miche is awesome with soups and stews. Comes with our CSA delivery. Made in a bakery in Brooklyn NY. This one and the polenta are my favorites.

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Today I threw a whole bunch of things in the crockpot. Minimizing sodium, sugar and preservatives. Yeah, I didn’t skip the fat. Mostly the healthy fats, like olive oil. A layer of greens. A layer of beans. Some lovely beef short ribs from Boarman’s.

I admit it. If I didn’t have a year round CSA delivery, I probably wouldn’t have stuck to the “real food” diet. I would have been lazier and bought some ready made items. Having those vegetables hanging out in the fridge and on the counter reminds me daily that I need to continue this path. I don’t want my golden years to be consumed by health issues. I don’t want to take all sorts of prescriptions to combat something that I can prevent with a little effort.

Here’s to my feeling good about the progress. Here’s to getting better, while not feeling old. Here’s to that heart healthy red wine. Can’t forget that.

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Greens

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An overload of greens, and then some. The return of root vegetable season, and the return of really healthy greens with my weekly CSA basket.

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This week’s medium share had some real weight to it. The turnips, beets and radishes all came with a massive amount of greens attached. Add to that a couple of squash. It is time to dust off the recipes that use greens and squash to make a harvest meal. The easy thing about greens. They can be used in a sauté recipe, puréed, or just torn up, blanched and added to other recipes.

You can also make fancy pesto with them. Like this one. Used in my green tomato pasta. I made a close cousin to that recipe just the other day. This next batch? Will be using radish greens, basil, beet greens and scallions.

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Purple beets obviously have purple “greens”. The color of this pesto should be interesting.

Add to all the goodness from the CSA basket, I found a stray gongura plant in my garden. I think the seeds washed over into my tomatoes from a neighboring plot.

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Sometimes called red sorrel leaves, it has quite a reputation as a staple in many Indian diets, and is not that inexpensive to buy. There are at least 10 plots in our community gardens that have this plant flourishing.

Finally, in the greens world around here, there are the last of the green tomatoes. I harvested three pounds today, to finish off my season. A few will be bagged and left to ripen. The rest are destined to be chopped. Some for a green tomato pasta, and the rest for green tomato jam. My friend, Kirsten over at Farm Fresh Feasts turned me on to this jam. You have to take the time and make it. Slather it on a burger.

Just think. The markets are still open around here. It is also easy to head out to Larriland and pick green tomatoes. And beets. Pestos. Jams. Spreads. Soups. The possibilities are endless for what you can do with all things “green”.

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Buy your root vegetables from the local farmers and make sure you use up those greens. Don’t let them go to waste.