Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Foraging for Farm Camp

I'm always amazed at how I can pull together a meal when I look in the fridge and feel like we're out of food. Some leftovers, berries from the bush, the last few pieces of bread, mother-in-law's rhubarb jam...voila!
Ryan & AJ's lunches: spicy baked tofu; shiitake mushrooms; berries (for Ryan) & raisins (for AJ); cucumber slices; carrot sticks; 1/2 pbj sandwich. They also shared some of the farm's daily Stone Soup, having contributed a can of kidney beans.
This was AJ's first time at "Farm Camp". The weather couldn't have been more perfect for him...overcast and 70.
I told him, "I'm glad you had such a great time at camp today."
And he said, "No, you mean, The Best Day Ever!"

An hour after they got home, I went back to the farm to pick up our weekly share: a couple heads of lettuce, mixed baby salad greens, beets & greens, cabbage, various summer squash, carrots, swiss chard, peas, peas shoots, garlic scapes, strawberries, and all manner of herbs.

Just as the strawberry season
comes to a close, the raspberry
season begins. I picked a pint
of black raspberries from our
bushes yesterday, and my
husband picked another pint
today...in addition to what goes
directly into the boys' mouths,
or Ryan's "iron chef" creations.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Is it really summer?

It sure doesn't feel like summer, well, except for the mosquitos. Rain rain rain and more rain. Temps in the 60s and 70s. And did I mention the rain?

Here are some "leftovers" from the last few days...
I managed to make myself a bento: mixed berries & cherries; cucumber slices; pasta w/sundried tomato, garlic & walnuts.
Kids' meal of leftovers:
stuffing; tofu spinach stuffed
pasta shells; snap peas;
carrots; strawberries; roasted
potato half; beet salad.

And a muffin tin meal:

Row 1: kettle corn; pear slices; corn thins; green bell pepper.
Row 2: carrot sticks; farmer's market bread; blueberries; vegetable matzoh crackers.
Row 3: farmer's market toast w/sunflower butter; cucumber slices; peanuts; strawberries.

Poor Ryan tried to eat
an apple, and couldn't,
because he's missing all
of his front teeth! The
new ones are on their
way in quickly though.
I'm sure he'll be able to
eat them again by fall
apple season.

We did manage to have
a picnic on the only sunny
weekend day...
Simple onigiri, edamame, strawberries & blueberries.

The only reason I know the calendar isn't lying is that the black raspberries are ripening!

I'd better get out there and
pick some quick before they're gone!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

the family & the farm

For two-thirds of the year,
much of our family activities
revolve around our local CSA
. Farm work, farm camp,
produce pickups, preparing
the food, eating the food, and
freezing and putting up food
for the other third of the year.

Thanks to the new mobile
greenhouse and root cellar,
the growing season has been
extended, and we're getting ever closer to having local food available year round. Check out the sunflower already twice as tall as a person inside the new greenhouse!

Three varieties of peas are
grown at the farm: snap peas,
snow peas, and shelling peas.
In addition, a fourth kind is
grown that is specifically bred
for its foliage, not its legumes.
These pea "shoots" or "tendrils"
are harvested when young and
tender for use in salads and
other dishes. In previous seasons I've turned to our CSA's newsletter and recipe collection, online recipes, and Gourmet's Fresh cookbook. But this year I've been doing my own thing. I also asked a few friends what they usually do with their pea shoots. One of my neighbors said she makes them like her mother did, sauteing them in olive oil, garlic, and a little white wine. The trick with quick preparations like this is to use only the most tender segments of the plant, otherwise you will end up with tough chewy bits.

I decided to expand this idea to make a pea shoots risotto, which also allows for use of some of the slightly tougher section of the plant due to its longer cooking time. If you want to get picky, separate the tougher and more tender parts, adding the tougher sections early in the cooking process, and saving the tender bites for the last few minutes or even as a garnish.

Pea Shoot Risotto

3 T. olive oil
1 T. margarine
1 onion, chopped
3-4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 cup arborio rice
3 1/2 - 4 cups warm vegetable
broth/stock and/or water
1 tsp. salt
12 stems pea shoot/tendrils, roughly chopped or torn
1 tsp. fresh thyme, chopped
1 T. fresh flat parsley, chopped (optional)
2 T. nutritional yeast (optional)
1/3 cup white wine
1/4 cup grated soy parmesan (optional)

In a large saucepan, heat olive oil over medium-low heat and saute onion until soft, 5-10 minutes. Add garlic and margarine, cook for another 3-5 minutes. Do not brown.
Add rice and 2 cups broth. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium, add salt and tough sections of pea shoots. Stir almost constantly, adding more broth or water as necessary to keep rice from sticking to bottom of pan. This process takes about 40-50 minutes. Add nutritional yeast about half way through. Add herbs and remaining pea shoots near the end.
After you've used 3 1/2 cups
of the broth/water, add the
wine. When rice is tender, stir
in soy parmesan (if using). Add
more liquid if necessary.

Serve hot. Stir in a little more
liquid if there are leftovers.
Or add thick leftovers to a bento!

One thing to remember, your primary flavouring agent is your broth. Buy or make one you really like the taste of. I used 1 cup vegetable broth, 1 cup water from soaking sun-dried tomatoes, and 2 cups water.

The kids are usually included
in food purchasing/picking and
preparation. Choose an age
appropriate task for each child's
ability and interest.
Maia is learning to use the
salad spinner. This has been a
favourite of all the kids at an
early age. It's lots of fun.

Even the kids' computer games
reinforce menu planning and

At the farmer's market, Nate
eagerly tries a sample of
fresh kettle corn.

Maia was happy to sit in the
grass and try some farmer's
market purchases too...along
with the very local clover

Saturday, June 27, 2009

cookbook challenge

So a bunch of online friends of mine are doing the cookbook challenge where you vow to make at least one recipe per week from one of your lesser-used cookbooks. I've read Tomato Blessings and Radish Teachings, by Edward Espe Brown cover to cover, but made maybe one recipe. It's a great read, but now time to taste it! I vow to make one recipe per week through the end of the summer.

My first recipe is: Beet Salad with Watercress

I was feeding this to the kids too, so I opted to use some mixed greens from the farm instead of the watercress. Ryan especially loved the beets, which I was pleasantly surprised about, considering they're seasoned heavily with balsamic vinegar and allspice...

So what are you waiting
for??! You know you've
got a pile of cookbooks
just waiting to be used.
Join the challenge! What
new meal will you be
trying this week?

Friday, June 26, 2009

beloved kimchee

I love kimchee. I love to eat
it with rice. But I also like to
think of ways to eat it almost
on its own, just so no one
thinks I'm too crazy. Gyoza, or
dumplings, are a perfect
kimchee delivery device.

As I'm all about convenience and
simplicity (and what parent isn't), I head to the Korean market and pick up some jumbo gyoza skins. They're about 3 inches in diameter, with simple ingredients: wheat flour, tapioca starch, salt. If you're vegan too, you may have to check a few packages to find some without eggs, because probably three-quarters of the gyoza skins I've seen contain egg white...Or you could make your own pretty easily. As for the kimchee, I buy mine at Whole Foods or a regular supermarket...saves me from combing through non-vegan bonito-laden kimchee at the asian markets that look delicious but alas contain one or more vegetarian un-friendly ingredients.

I usually thaw a package of frozen gyoza wrappers for an hour on the counter, then refrigerate overnight until I'm ready to use them. I often use half the package, then pop the rest back in the freezer. The re-freezing hasn't affected their quality in my opinion provided I use them with the month.

When making vegetable gyoza/dumplings, I prefer the health benefits of steaming or microwaving. But when dealing with my kimchee obsession, I recommend frying in peanut oil all the way!

Kimchee Dumplings

1/2 package jumbo gyoza skins
water for sealing
1/4 cup kimchee
peanut oil
soy sauce (optional)

First, lay out your thawed
gyoza circles on your work
surface. Next, place a small amount of drained kimchee in the lower half of each circle. Dip a finger in a small bowl of water and dab around half the edge (sort of like painting a smiley face wth watercolors). Fold down the top half of the gyoza skin. Then pick it up a crimp a few times--I usually start with one crimp in the middle, then do two more on each side.

Next, pour enough peanut
oil in to cover the bottom of
a non-stick skillet or wok.
Heat the oil over med-high.
Gently add your dumplings,
arranging them so they do
not touch (it usually takes me
two batches). Cook about 45
seconds, then turn over with
a pair of tongs (I use tempura tongs). Cook for another minute or so. Drain on a paper towel or tempura paper.

Serve with soy sauce for dipping (optional). The crunchy, spicy, vinegary taste of the kimchee combined with the crispy, savory fried gyoza skins is soooo tasty...and a quick dip in salty soy sauce is delish.
I love these with some cold soba noodles and sliced green onion...for breakfast. LOL.
And my pickiest son AJ will gladly eat them with me! Imagine!!

Of course he'd prefer to
follow that with his favourite
lunch of tofu-spinach stuffed
pasta shells!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Oh Joy, It's bok choy!

I love the spring and fall crops of baby bok choy at the farm. So delicate and tasty compared to the gargantuan white stemmed variety at the regular supermarket (though the asian market always carries the light green variety).

Bok Choy Joy

3-4 heads young bok choy,
or 1 large bunch
1/2 yellow or white onion,
roughly chopped/sliced
1 T. peanut oil (or substitute
canola or sunflower oil)
3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 tsp. hot chili paste (I use my own, but any hot store-bought sauce or paste will do, or use dried chili flakes)
1 T. soy sauce
1 T. cooking sherry
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp. sugar
1/2 cup vegetable broth
1 heaping tsp. cornstarch + 2 T. water

Wash and cut bok choy, separating the thicker stems from the leaves. Chop onion & garlic.
Heat oil in large pan or wok. Add bok choy stems, onion, garlic & chili paste. Stir fry 2-3 minutes over medium-high heat.
Add chopped bok choy leaves, soy sauce, sherry, salt, sugar. Stir fry another 1-2 minutes.
Add vegetable broth, bring to a boil. Lower heat to medium, cook 2-3 minutes, until bok choy stems are tender.
Turn off heat. Add
cornstarch & water
mixture. Stir gently.

Great with rice or noodles.
Also, if you are a protein
fiend, you can add your
favourite thin pieces of protein
fodder at the beginning with
the bok choy. I like tofu, tempeh, chik'n strips, "beef" strips, or cashews.


Another thing I end up with a lot of are chard stems. Often I just add them to a soup base...sort of a mirepoix + chard...very colorful!
You can use them in many
places you'd normally use
celery. Or just chop them
thinly and use them along
with your swiss chard
leaves. I usually prefer to
keep them separate though.

Lots of delicious produce from
the farm this week despite all the rain: kale, swiss chard, collards greens, lots of flat leaf parsley, garlic scapes, zucchini, radishes, beets & greens, spinach, scallions, strawberries, snap peas, carrots, tea herbs.

AJ had his first kindergarten
playdate at the playground
next door. Luckily the incessant
rain actually stopped for a few
hours! Maia came along in the
backpack of course.

And Nate brought a lollipop...
a reward for using the potty
without fuss before we left and
his first day in underwear!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Cool Cones

While in Florida, I picked up 4 of these Cool Cones at the grocery store to try. Instead of Nate wandering leaving his bowl of ice cream melting on the table or dribbling out the bottom of a soggy cone, he happily carried one of these around. He's a slow eater, unlike his brothers. When his ice cream was almost melted, I could pop the top on and stick it back in the freezer. I did this twice before he got through it all. And to my amazement, it never leaked!
And Maia had her first taste of soy ice cream in one of the Cool Cones...

She thought it was awesome...

...except for the part where it's
all gone! :-(

They are reusable of course, and
top rack dishwasher safe.

Friday, June 19, 2009

first last day of kindergarten

Last day of the school year for Ryan!
Ryan's last lunch of the schoolyear: rice & bean burrito; peas; strawberries; 2 slices homemade pizza; Lake Champlain dark chocolate w/almonds.

I didn't have a huge selection
of lunch food to choose from,
but he was psyched about the
pizza, burrito & chocolate to
be sure!

For his teachers, Ryan took
with him gifts of strawberry
pints that we picked from
the farm. I labeled them, and
Ryan made his own notes for them...

To celebrate the last day
of school, I made a big
strawberry rhubarb tart.
Right up my husband's
alley too!

AJ was very interested
in the pastry. For the
past few months he has
been telling everyone he
wants to be a baker when
he grows up!

AJ ate his ice cream first,
then picked up the tart
slice in his hands. Nate
watched him do this and
has dubbed this dish "ice
cream pizza"!

AJ has already gotten
quite the list of homework
to do over the summer for
his kindergarten class in
the fall. One of the assignments
is to "help someone make
dinner". He was eager to
get started, so I had him
help me make pizzas last
night. I forgot to take a pic
until they were half-eaten!
They were topped with soy
cheese, black & green olives,
onions, garlic, spinach,
mushrooms & fresh

Thursday, June 18, 2009

wet spring weather

This has been the coolest, wettest spring I can remember! Hopefully the local crops won't suffer too badly.
Ryan's lunch: snap peas; peanuts; carrots; blueberries & strawberries; Italian pasta salad.

I try not to get stuck in a rut
with certain foods. We get
a big bunch of swiss chard
pretty much every week from
June to October. So I force
myself to try new things...

Baked Cheezy Chard

1 large bunch swiss chard
(about a dozen big leaves)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper or to taste
1 cup bread crumbs (I use
whole wheat panko variety)
2 T + 2 T margarine (I use
Earth Balance buttery sticks)
3 T flour
2 cups plain almond milk
1/4 cup soy parmesan
1/4 cup grated soy cheese (I like monterey jack or mozzarella)
1/2 tsp. garlic powder

Wash swiss chard and remove stems. Chop. Place in oiled baking dish. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
In a bowl, mix 2 T softened margarine with the breadcrumbs.
In a small saucepan, melt the other 2 T margarine. Add flour. Stir with fork for a minute or two or low-med heat. Remove from heat, add almond milk, mix. Return pan to stove, bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add the cheeses.
Pour sauce over swiss chard carefully. Top with breadcrumb mixture. Sprinkle garlic powder on top.
Bake at 450 for 25-30 minutes.
Goes great with roasted or stuffed tomatoes, or a pasta with red sauce.

In the yard after dinner...

AJ was determined not to get his picture taken...so he was constantly in motion!