The farm that converted me to a CSA

Right now you’re thinking either, “Ooh! CSA!” or “CS…what?”

It’s Community Supported Agriculture. And I love it. What it means is that The Yankee and I essentially bought into a local farm, and in exchange we get a box of food every week. I wanted to do a CSA for years but I couldn’t hide from the truth of our eating habits: we’re too picky. Kale? Kohlrabi? What? I have lovely friends in Nashville who get all these lovely veggies every week and love it and say that opening the box every week is practically Christmas. They come up with beautiful menus and use every bit of their boxes (I’m especially looking at you, Erin and Kira).

And then I found Avalon Acres. And they had me at hello. Well, not so much “hello” but at “meat and eggs package.” Now you’re speaking my language!

Now all the eggs in my house are from local, free-range egg laying hens.  The chicken we eat was raised in a pasture without antibiotics, chemicals or preservatives. The heirloom pork is free range and amazingly tasty. Our beef is Piedmontese, which has the highest amount of good fats, and much lower bad fats and calories. It’s so tasty and so lean! When I brown up a pound of ground beef I almost never have any grease to drain off at all, but the flavor is incredible. And, like the rest of the meat, there are no hormones, artificial chemicals or preservatives. Check out this page for lots of great information.

So why am I telling you all this? Because I love this program. And because it’s not too late for you to join the spring and summer program! After that there’s even a fall and winter program with lots of yummy winter goods including homemade bread that is out of this world. If you’re not eating from here you’re missing out. Click here and check things out — pick a package, build your own package, pick and choose what sounds good. And let me know what you choose! I love hearing how creative people get with their shares from the farm.

Caesar dressing

We had one glorious almost-70-degree day here in Nashville and it made me SO READY for spring rightnowthisinstant. This, of course, made me want a good salad! I found this dressing recipe in Rick & Lanie’s Excellent Kitchen Adventures, which I love. The recipe is insanely quick, easy and good, which I also love.

Caesar dressing

Ingredients

  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 Tbsp. water

Instructions

  1. Crush peeled garlic (putting it in the microwave for about 5 seconds first will make this easier) into a 2-cup glass jar with a lid
  2. Add all remaining ingredients into the jar, cover tightly and shake
  3. Store in jar in the refrigerator for up to two weeks

Enjoy, y’all. Spring is coming!

Pimento macaroni and cheese

I love the simplicity of this one-pot macaroni and cheese; however, after 20 hours in the car with Kiddo (who, by the way, was a car-traveling champ) in the last four days I wasn’t really feeling the urge to watch the pot as closely as I would need to in order to avoid a boiled-over-milk scene on the stove.

I also had some pimentos that had ripened in the garden while Kiddo and I were gone.

So I crossed my fingers and totally made up tried this — and it worked!

Pimento macaroni and cheese

Ingredients

  • 3 Tbsp. all purpose flour
  • 3 Tbsp. butter
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. dijon mustard (optional)
  • 1.5 cups dry pasta
  • 2 cups shredded cheese
  • 3 fresh pimentos, peeled (like this, only tiny), seeded and minced

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375F
  2. In a heavy, oven-safe sauce pot melt butter till foam subsides, then add flour and whisk until fully combined; add milk while whisking and turn off stovetop heat
  3. Stir in salt, mustard, dry pasta, cheese, and pimentos; cover pot and place in oven
  4. Cook for 30 minutes, stirring halfway through; top with additional cheese and uncover for the last few minutes if you so desire

That’s it!

Southern style green beans

When I was 14 and babysitting for a family in town the mother called home around 4:00 in the afternoon and asked me to cook some fresh green beans for supper. I immediately called my mother and asked her exactly how to cook them. “For today?” she replied incredulously.

Fast forward ten years (or so… ahem) to the first trip The Yankee and I made together to his homeland of the frozen tundra Detroit area where I ordered green beans at a restaurant. What arrived on my plate was something bright green and very crunchy. They were, er, not my favorite part of the meal. Mine start cooking by noon for supper that night. ;)

Southern style green beans

Ingredients

  • Green beans from last year’s garden (they’d been frozen; I try to avoid the BPA in canned ones)
  • A slice or two of bacon or pork jowels
  • Olive oil
  • Chicken broth from the freezer
  • Garlic
  • Salt

Instructions

  1. Pick a heavy-bottomed pot and pour in enough olive oil to cover the bottom; use that to fry a couple strips of bacon or pork jowls
  2. When the bacon is cooked through toss in a couple handfuls of fresh green beans, a clove of garlic, a sprinkling of salt and enough chicken broth to cover the beans; cover pot with lid and gently simmer… for a long time

Ingredients

  • Green beans from last year’s garden (they’d been frozen; I try to avoid the BPA in canned ones)
  • A slice or two of bacon or pork jowels
  • Olive oil
  • Chicken broth from the freezer
  • Garlic
  • Salt

Instructions

  1. Pick a heavy-bottomed pot and pour in enough olive oil to cover the bottom; use that to fry a couple strips of bacon or pork jowls
  2. When the bacon is cooked through toss in a couple handfuls of fresh green beans, a clove of garlic, a sprinkling of salt and enough chicken broth to cover the beans; cover pot with lid and gently simmer… for a long time

- See more at: http://oneparticularkitchen.com/2010/08/13/southern-style-green-beans/#sthash.82WD34zf.dpuf

You can also add some red pepper flakes and or some Worcestershire sauce into this if you’re so inclined. It’s pretty fabulous.

This is easy, right? And of course you can control exactly how cooked they are this way.

Now if only I could get the Yankee to try them….

Cornstarch: your friend in the garden

Just like last year, I planted a bunch o’ tomatoes in the garden in the back yard. Unlike last year, my tomatoes this year came under attack (ATTACK I say!) by bugs. First it was worms (tomato worms? Hornworms? I don’t know. Icky worms). Then came the stinkbugs. All my tomatoes were being eaten and rotting before they even started to ripen and I hadn’t gotten a single tomato for me to eat.

I wanted to evict the bugs, for sure, but I didn’t want to do it with a bunch of chemicals — sort of defeats a large part of the purpose of growing them in the back yard, you know?

Enter: cornstarch. Seriously! Now my garden looks like this:

I use a powdered sugar shaker full of cornstarch to cover the leaves, the tomatoes, and the ground around them. The plants look ridiculous, sure, but guess what? The tomatoes are MINE again!

I’m not sure exactly why this works, honestly — I don’t know if it kills off the bugs or if it just keeps them away; as long as I’m the only one eating the tomatoes, I’m good. It even deters Vinny the squirrel a bit which is an unexpected bonus. A quick wash in the kitchen sink removes all the cornstarch and I’m good to go. Tomato sandwiches for everyone! :)

Garden update!

Remember this post?

This:

Turned into this:

Pretty awesome, huh? And this is after I pulled a few things, too — like the green beans, which were taken over by ants. Grr. But I did get a bunch of them blanched and frozen first.

In my little 8×4′ garden I grew:

  • Brandywine tomatoes x2
  • Early girl tomatoes
  • Roma tomatoes
  • Lettuce
  • Green beans
  • Cayenne peppers
  • Jalapeno peppers
  • Bell peppers
  • Strawberries
  • Basil
  • Cilantro
  • Onions
  • Carrots

Pretty impressive for such a little space, huh?  And the majority of it was grown from seeds, so I spent very little on the actual plants, and ate ridiculously good food all summer long. I highly recommend the Square Foot Gardening book! This is good stuff. And easy. This was my first garden beyond tomatoes, so imagine what I could do if I actually knew what I was doing!

You see that I had to add chicken wire. We have a plentiful bunny population around here, and they were enjoying the fruits of my labor a bit too much. Unfortunately chicken wire is merely a ladder to this guy — I have named him Vinny:

Some of Vinny’s handiwork:

I thought this one was particularly lovely. I watched him carry my tomato up to the top of my 6′ fence. He munched a while, then left, leaving the tomato there. To taunt me. Apparently came back and got it later. I am currently accepting applications for squirrel hit men. Don’t tell Vinny.

I did get hit with some tomato blight this month, but it wasn’t awful. I had to pull one Brandywine and cut back the giant Roma, but nothing tragic.

How did everyone else do? What did you grow? What did you eat?

How does your garden grow?

Wanna know how much The Yankee rocks? A LOT.

He built this:

And, because that line in Rocky Top about the dirt being too rocky by far is all true, we filled the raised bed with this:

Saturday morning we headed out to Home Depot with The Kiddo. We checked out all our options, lumber-wise: we didn’t want pressure treated lumber because we didn’t want the chemicals from it to make its way into our garden. Then cedar was suggested as an option: the Home Depot guy said, “Oh you could use cedar! It would do great. I mean, you’d have to build a new one every season, though.”

After a few seconds of blinking and telepathic communication, we did not pass go, but went directly to the Trex. This was more our style! More sturdy than anything else in the store, and safe to use around food.

“Oh yeah,” says Home Depot guy, “You could eat off it.”

Uh, okay.

All told, it cost $93 for the supplies to build this garden (not including the fill dirt), which is eight feet by four feet. Expensive? Sure, a little. But we have to do it only once. And we used screws to assemble it, so we could theoretically take it apart and reassemble it every year. But smart money is on me leaving it there. ;)

So far The Kiddo and I have planted four tomato plants (because, really, what’s the point of a garden without the prospect of tomato sandwiches?), two pepper plants, some cilantro, some basil and some strawberries. I’d love to add onions and carrots and green beans.  This nifty online planner shows how many of what you can plant in a square foot (thus my semi-obsessive square foot markers… made from The Kiddo’s yarn), then gives instructions for each plant you picked. How great is that?

So tell me! Do you garden? Do you have any advice, this being my first raised-bed garden? Any thoughts on how to keep away bunnies and other unwanted guests at the salad bar? Lay ‘em on me!