Market Monday & 200th Post Giveaway Winner

heirloom tomatoes at the farmers market

I wanted to buy everything at the farmers’ market this week. We’re actually getting both sun and rain here in Iowa (finally!), which means that the more colorful vegetables of summer are finally ready to harvest.

I went to our CSA stand first thing on Saturday morning to get eggs. We’ve become pasture-raised egg snobs around here. First, we love buying the eggs directly from the man who raises the chickens so we know that they really are pasture-raised–we’re not just relying on a sticker on an egg carton at the store. Second, the yolks are brighter, the whites cook up more tender, and we pretty much devour the carton of eggs within a few days of purchase.

From our CSA, we also bought four tomatoes, three cucumbers, three eggplant, a pile of tomatoes, a red onion, a head of garlic, and fennel.

I bought another bottle of Lemon Basil Balsamic Vinegar from Pickle Creek Herbal. We’ve been following the simple (1:2 vinegar to oil ratio with a drizzle of honey) recipe for salad dressing Jocelyn gave us when I first met her and have exhausted our first bottle. She also recommended using it on caprese salad, which I think will be a good use for those four tomatoes. (Or three tomatoes. See how the top one looks a little funky? It looks really funky now.)

I also stopped at a stand to by goat cheese for a muffin recipe I wanted to try for Sunday morning breakfast. I’ll share that recipe with you soon so you can see if you want to start waking up to goat cheese.

We bought the cherry tomatoes and yellow squash from an organic stand that was very friendly and helpful to Dexter one morning as he was getting his stand set up. Dexter loves these cherry tomatoes and will enjoy having them in his lunch in place of the carrots I usually send.

For the sake of full disclosure, I should tell you that we also bought apple cider doughnuts and a savory tomato auf lauf at the farmers’ market. They were devoured much to quickly and ravenously to make it onto the camera.

Some of the cucumbers will probably make it into a salad, but we’ve been using them to add some pizzazz to our drinking water. I fill the pitcher in our fridge with water and add five slices of cucumber and half a lemon, sliced thinly or cut into wedges. (Wedges make it easier to squeeze the juice directly into the water, but I’ve found that slices flavor the water well enough if left to sit.) I usually refill the pitcher without replacing the cucumber and lemon slices once or twice so we can extract all the flavorful goodness from them before tossing them in the garbage disposal. Dexter doesn’t like plain water, but he was enamored with this water when I made it once last month and has been drinking it almost as enthusiastically as he drinks coffee.

I’m not a huge fan of eggplant, but I really want to like it. I plan to bake it (like in the first half of this recipe) and then serve the crispy slices on top of spaghetti. It’ll be my adapted version of eggplant parmesan. (My beef with real eggplant–or chicken–parmesan is that everything gets soggy, and I don’t want to go to the trouble of making something delicious and crispy if I’m just going to dump sauce all over it. Does anyone else feel this way? Am I the only one who has soggy-parm issues?)

The large pile of yellow squash will go into Sunny Summer Squash Soup, which I found on Once A Month Mom’s August Vegetarian Menu. The onion, some garlic, and two of the potatoes will go in the soup, and the rest were eaten, grilled in slices, with Monday night’s dinner.

What I’m left with, however, is a bulb of fennel. I didn’t have any plans for it. It was sort of an impulse purchase. (You know you’re kind of a kitchen dork when fennel is your impulse buy.) Any suggestions for my fennel?

Finally, before I hit the sack on this barely-got-it-posted-on-Market-Monday, I want to announce that Sarah is the winner of the Eating Animals giveaway. Your book will be in the mail as soon as I confirm your address.

CSA! Catching Up

We’ve still been getting our CSA, and we’ve still been eating our vegetables. I just haven’t been blogging. I expected summer to be a carefree blogfest during which I would write to you about my crazy CSA concoctions, how we’re smashing our debt to pieces, and how, as we approach the one year anniversary of closing on our first home, I finally have our house exactly the way we want it.

Since my last post was July 16, work starts in 12 short days, and school starts in 15 days, I’m concluding that things aren’t going to work out how I planned. Luckily, I’ve discovered some great things to do with our veggies–even the ones that I like to let wilt at the bottom of the fridge and throw away on Tuesday nights or cram into a smoothie on Wednesday morning. We’re making headway on our debt. And although there are lots of things I still want to do around the house, the projects that I have gotten done have cleared out a lot of clutter and will make a big difference in day-to-day life. And it’s not as if I haven’t done any blogging. I actually passed by my 100th post while blogging about our fabulous anniversary trip. It seemed a little sacriligious not to stop and do a commemorative post, but I didn’t notice till I was at #101.

Because I’m sure you’re dying to know my CSA price statistics, I won’t make you wait any longer.

Week 5: 6 lbs 15 oz, $1.80/lb (Holy Smokes!)
Week 6: 4 lbs 1 oz, $3.06/lb
Week 7: 4 lbs 1 oz, $3.06/lb
Week 8: 3 lbs 15 oz, $3.17/lb
Average price of produce this summer: $3.37/lb

So far, I’m fairly pleased with what we’ve gotten for our money. Throughout the summer, we’ve let a lot of kale and collard greens go to waste. I got a little burnt out on green smoothies early on, and I don’t like cooked greens. Last fall, I was reading an issue of Vegetarian Times and discovered that you can use greens like kale and collards to make wraps. I assumed they’d be to hearty and that only lettuce would work. So, a few weeks ago, I searched online and recovered the recipe. It required a few ingredients that I don’t keep on hand, but I liked these and they’re a fairly painless way to eat my greens so I think the odd ingredients were worth it.

Ginger-Miso Yam Wraps

Ingredients:

  • 2 small yams or sweet potatoes (1 lb.–I used one gigantic yam)
  • 2 Tbs. white miso paste
  • 1 Tbs. smooth peanut butter
  • 2 Tbs. finely chopped shallot
  • 1 Tbs. minced fresh ginger (I used more than this, but I LOVE ginger)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (2 tsp.)
  • 1 cup frozen shelled edamame
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 6 oz. firm silken tofu, crumbled (1 cup)
  • 2 Tbs. chopped cilantro
  • 8 collard green leaves, stems removed
  • Directions:

    1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Cut thin slice off both ends of yams, and poke skins with knife in several places. Bake 50 minutes, or until soft, turning once. Halve yams, and scoop flesh into bowl. Mash in miso and peanut butter.

    2. Meanwhile, coat skillet with cooking spray, and heat over medium heat. Sauté shallot, ginger, and garlic 3 minutes, or until soft. Add edamame, 1/4 cup water, and cayenne; cook 3 minutes more. Remove from heat, and stir in tofu,cilantro, and yam mixture. Cool.

    3. Place 1 collard green leaf on work surface. Spoon 1/3 cup yam mixture in center of leaf. Roll bottom edge over mixture; tuck in sides. Roll up to top edge. Place, seam-side down, and repeat with remaining ingredients.

    It was difficult to wrap these in curly kale, but they were still edible. I also wanted to remove most of the tough stems of both greens. The collard greens were fairly easy to roll. I cut out the stem and pulled the leaf together so it looked whole again, rolling with the cut side inside the roll.

    Here’s the finished product. The recipe said it would make 8. I got 8 normal sized wraps and one giant wrap–so I would have 10 leaves on hand to make these. If you’re a Weight Watcher’s person, you can eat 2 wraps for a total of 6 points. They are a surprisingly filling meal. I plan to make some of the filling tomorrow morning so we can make some wraps for dinner with our fresh picked greens.

    Impromptu Party con Fuego

    Remember this event for One Nation Education? The one created by my friend/coworker for my student’s community in Haiti? There was a silent auction at the event, and Dexter and I bid on an outdoor fireplace with a grill attachment. We watched our bid with anticipation all evening long (although we didn’t plan to keep bidding), and to our surprise, we won! Dexter’s boss and his wife have had us over for fires in their backyard several times, which is always fun, and I’d wanted to get a fire pit for Dexter for a long time. Once we brought it home, the fire pit sat on our back patio for almost a month without use, until the Friday of Independence Day weekend.

    Fourth of July weekend is always busy for Dexter since the cafe he works for is close to a weekend-long-festival in our city. miraculously, Dexter, Luke (our summer housemate and the assistant manager at the cafe), and Keriann (my sister, the cafe’s gelaterista) all had Friday night off. My summer job had ended that morning, and my freedom compared with the busy schedules of the three baristas garnered a lot of sympathy for them. 

    I didn’t want to spend a lot of time at the grocery store, so I had Dexter swing by the coop for some potatoes and veggie dogs, and I made a quick run to Fareway for some lemonade, ice cream, and onions. We had everything else we needed.

     

    I took lots of kale leaves from the extras table at my CSA pickup that week so I could try out kale chips. They were surprisingly easy to make. While the oven preheated to 350*F, I rinsed, dried, and tore the leaves of 10 stems of kale. I arranged them on baking sheets and baked them for 12 minutes. They came out light, crispy, and slightly brown. I drizzled them with olive oil and salted them. Table salt worked much better than the kosher salt I tried to use at first.

    Keriann really enjoyed the kale chips, but not enough to actually want her picture taken with them.

    I also made up foil pouches filled with Yukon gold potatoes, onion, and green beans.

    We quickly grilled some hot dogs, and waited for the potato pouches to cook. They took about 50 minutes to cook, and could have cooked longer if you wanted softer potatoes.

     

    Dexter was pretty excited about the potato packets. I got a lot of wife points for these.

    We also enjoyed our new backyard landscaping. Our backdoor planting area was a bunch of weeds and a few hostas at the beginning of summer. I didn’t really want to have the project of making it look better.

    Lucky for us, our friend and neighbor Todd loves landscaping, and he agreed to do the work if we provided the money. We still owe him the money.

    We also grilled corn on the cob. I think Dexter was missing his bro-ham (that’s what they say instead of brother…I don’t know why), so he was giving a traditional Wes/Dexter thumbs up pose.

    Luke tried to coordinate so Dexter wouldn’t miss Wes so much. It sort of worked.

    We also grilled peaches in foil pouches. We ate them inside with ice cream. It took a few hours for all our food to cook, but it was a great, relaxing way to share a filling meal on a beautiful evening.

    CSA: Week 1 in Review

    I think Week 1 was a success, despite the fact that we ordered Papa John’s on day two and I counted frozen pizza and cookies as sides tonight. We followed my initial plan for the week fairly closely.

    We used the lettuce for salads served alongside a baked potato and Amy’s Organic Pasta & 3 Bean Soup. Tonight, we had stir fry to use our broccoli, snap peas, and bok choy. I also threw in some carrots and zucchini we had in the fridge. I made the “sauce” by mixing equal parts soy sauce and apple juice and throwing in a few shakes of red wine vinegar followed by a few more shakes of some vinegar we got from our Chinese friends’ pantry before they left the country. I always struggle with what kind of sauce to add to my “Chinese food.” I think I’m finally satisfied with little more than soy sauce now that my definition of ideal Chinese food is not HyVee sesame chicken.

    I used the red kale in a green smoothie–I put yogurt and applesauce in my green smoothies, and this time I didn’t have enough frozen fruit to add sweetness and non-leafy flavor (it was in the basement guarded by a sleeping housemate), so I plopped in a tablespoon or two of grape juice from concentrate. Surprisingly, it was one of the best green smoothies I’ve made yet! I still have regular kale and beet greens that will probably go in smoothies tomorrow morning.

    I let some of my herbs go to waste this week. I put them in a glass with water in the bottom thinking that would help them stay vibrant…but I was wrong. I need to read up on my herb storage and preservation. I did manage to use the oregano (originally known as the mystery herb) in some garlic bread which I served alongside my favorite meal of the week. The meal had nothing to do with the CSA, but it was a great use of leftovers. I’ll tell you all about it tomorrow! (Oh, promises…)

    Total Money Makeover Update: June

    It hardly seems worth it to update this month. We made a fairly normal extra payment on our mini-mortgage (Debt #3) but didn’t see a huge drop in percent. We paid off 1% of our mortgage and now have 89.1% to go. It’s a good thing we dropped from the 90s to the 80s or I might have been discouraged.

    I had a lot of trouble with our cash envelope system this month. My students often ask me change for the vending machines, so I’d take ones out of different envelopes and decide to “remember” to rearrange it later on. Somehow, it got out of control and I had a wallet full of empty envelopes and a pile of cash and receipts. Somehow, we came out under budget. My goal for the summer is to get used to using cash and sticking to my plan.

    Although this month wasn’t what I’d hoped (nor was last month) I am REALLY excited to pay the bills this summer! I’ll be getting my summer paychecks for my “real job” all at once, some checks will hopefully come for some extra “real job” hours, and I have a part-time job for four weeks. We should definitely be down to 82% by the end of the summer, but wouldn’t it be exciting to break into the 70s?

    CSA! Week 1

    Summer fun has begun! School is out, I am doing professional development till Friday, I start a job scoring standardized tests on Monday, and then I get a wisdom tooth out. I’m trying to think of summer starting on July 17, when all of those bits of summer fun are over. Thankfully, one really fun part of summer started today: my CSA!

    CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. What that really means is that in March, I gave some money to a farmer, and for 17 weeks (starting today) I’ll get some vegetables from the farm. We’re splitting a share of the crops with another couple, which means that for $212.50 ($12.50/week) I’ll get an unknown amount of a variety of organic vegetables. Because of the mild, cool, rainy weather last summer, our CSA had a disappointing crop. The first weeks last year were pretty meager, and we didn’t get a lot of tomatoes, sugar snap peas, or peppers during the summer.  I had trouble using up all the vegetables as it was (although it helped when I figured out what some of them were), but I’m hoping for an even bigger crop this year now that I have learned how to use up all the veggies.

    I didn’t keep track of how much produce I got from the CSA last year, so I don’t know how good a deal the produce was. I plan to keep track of it better this year, and post it on the blog to help me do that. I hope to find some creative ways to use up some interesting vegetables and share those recipes with you. I’d love to hear your summer vegetable tips and recipes as well!

    Today, I got 3 lbs 10 oz of vegetables (putting me at $3.45/lb…not a great deal). Here’s my spread.

    From left to right: green onions, rhubarb, beet greens, red kale, broccoli, kale, snap peas, bok choy, lettuce, dill, savory, oregano, and garlic chives.

    I’ll probably throw the beet greens in with the lettuce for salads. Bok choy, green onions, and broccoli will go in a stir fry with carrots, eggplant, and zucchini I have in the fridge. Rhubarb will make a delicious dessert–I have a rhubarb plant that popped up next to our air conditioner to round out the recipe.

    What I’m really stuck on are the herbs. Any suggestions?