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Vegetable Stir Fry

INGREDIENTS:

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic scapes, chopped
2 tablespoons peanut sauce
1 cup chopped broccoli
1 cup sliced carrots
1 cup sliced green cabbage
1 cup sliced celery
1 cup fresh snap peas
1 cup sliced zucchini
1 cup sliced tomato
1 cup chopped green onions
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon cornstarch

Directions:

  1. Heat oil in a wok or large heavy skillet. Add garlic and peanut sauce, and stir-fry for 4 minutes.
  2. Stir in broccoli, carrots, cabbage, celery, snap peas, zucchini, tomato, and green onions. Season with salt, and stir-fry for 6 to 8 minutes.
  3. In a small bowl, mix together water, soy sauce, and cornstarch. Stir into vegetables, and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, or until sauce is thickened.
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Fresh This Week Tips – June 28, 2011

GARLIC SCAPES:

STORE: Garlic scapes store well, though freshly cut scapes taste the best. You can keep them in the refrigerator for a month or more, in a paper bag to avoid turning them into a slimy science project. They freeze well, too–blanched or not–but they tend to lose some of the garlicky heat during storage. You can remove the stalk tip above the pod before using; some people use the whole scape, but the pod and tip are more fibrous than the tender stalk.

USE: Scapes tend to get tough and/or lose flavor if overcooked, so start simple. To learn how much cooking is enough and how much is too much, cut scapes to desired lengths and sauté in a little olive oil over medium heat, adding salt and pepper to taste. The end result should be a side dish that is elegant and tasty.

PREP: Whether you’re sautéing, pureeing, or dicing them, garlic scapes are a great addition to many different meals. Great in multiple forms, this ingredient gives many recipes an extra dash of flavor that will compliment a variety of summer dishes like mashed potatoes, stir fry, omelets, pesto, or pasta.

YUKON GOLD POTATOES:

STORE: Select potatoes that feel firm to the touch, with no bruised or bald spots, cuts, sprouts or green areas. One potato with a soft spot or damaged area will hasten the deterioration of the rest. They need a cold environment, 40 to 50 degrees F., and 90 percent humidity is optimum. Store gold potatoes in a paper bag (preferable) or perforated plastic bag in the refrigerator vegetable crisper drawer, and use within a week.

USE: Do not wash before storing, as you will remove the protective coating. Lightly scrub just prior to using. This all-purpose potato is good for just about any cooking process, so feel free to experiment using golds in any recipe calling for traditional white potatoes. Gold potatoes are great for those who love potatoes but want or need to avoid butter or margarine. They have a natural buttery flavor built in. Potatoes can be boiled, baked, cooked, grilled, or microwaved, so the possibilities for their use are endless.

PREP: While the skin of potatoes is perfectly fine to eat, and delicious, feel free to use a vegetable peeler to remove the outer layer as needed. If you are leaving the skin on, make sure to scrub the potato under cold running water to remove any dirt remaining on the skin. Using a sharp utility knife or the tip of a vegetable peeler, remove eyes, blemishes or green spots. A potato masher is the perfect utensil for creating mashed potatoes or homemade baby food.

D’ANJOU PEARS:

STORE: Keep d’Anjou pears in a loose plastic bag in the coldest part of the fridge. They need consistent cold temperatures and will hold seven to 10 days. Ripen pears, only as many as you can use, for two to three days at room temperature. Once a pear hits peak ripeness, consume it within a day or so.

USE: Since the main draw of any fruit is its great flavor, the subtle sweetness and slight tanginess of the d’Anjou pears make it an instant favorite. They are great in salads and eaten raw by themselves or paired with cheese. Sweet juicy d’Anjou are perfect for baking into desserts like tarts or pies.

PREP: Eat this pear as you would an apple, or use it fresh in salads. I find that fresh slices will hold an hour or so without oxidizing and turning brown. But it’s a versatile pear variety and can also be baked in dishes. The core of the green d’Anjou is thicker than most other varieties so it’s worth cutting out.

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Summer Camping

Last weekend was one of those weekends where there was way too much to do to get it all done. Joelle was busy going to a baby shower on Saturday and hosting a baby shower on Monday, which meant she would be preoccupied with those responsibilities and could use some concentrated time. So, on Saturday, I made the bold snap decision to gather up the five youngest and head to Oso to camp for the night. I knew that this was going to be an adventure camping with our younger children, ages 15 months and 4, 6, 9, and 13 years.

My grandparents used to live in Oso and I have been going to the river property for family outings since I was in the womb. I called Aunt Linda to check on availability and got the go ahead. I quickly scratched out a packing list and my son Andrew gathered everything, even two tents just to make sure we had enough poles to get one up! As Andrew was busy gathering and loading the van, I was busy planting beans, corn, fennel, and dill. Everybody got their clothes and pillows and we were off.

An hour later we were all alone on the Stillaguamish River, putting up the tent and making camp. We built a fire, had some dinner, and waited for the bats. Yes, bats! As long as I can remember I have enjoyed watching the bats fly in front of the campfire from our vantage point overlooking the river. That night I was excited to show these flying marvels to my children. Just as planned, at dusk, they started darting to and fro. And then we watched the stars appear; one by one, starting with the North Star, the sky began to reveal its majesty.

As you can imagine, we have a large tent – you know, the 10-12 man size. Usually we need every square inch, but with only six of us it seemed, well, downright palatial! So as the temperature dropped and daylight diminished we headed for the tent. It was cold and for some reason the ground seemed harder than when I was a kid?!?!

Finally, we were all tucked in. Although the baby wasn’t excited about the change in routine, because she was tired she eventually nodded off next to me. About an hour later, Maleah, the 6 year old, got up and, walking over everything and everyone, joined the baby and me in my sleeping bag. Another hour later, Stephen, the 4 year old, popped up and said in earnest, “Daddy, I got to go to the bathroom!!” In my hurry out the tent door, as one can imagine, I caught my foot and fell back onto the tent from the outside and landed on Andrew, who was sleeping. After making sure Andrew was okay I grabbed Stephen who, thankfully, was still waiting to go to the bathroom. Mission accomplished, I crawled into another, more roomy sleeping bag and for some reason the ground was hard in that spot too!?!

In the morning, we had breakfast around the campfire, had a devotional, and went for a long bike ride, played some ball, built sand castles, and went to the Oso General Store for some ice cream, just like I did when I was a kid.

It has been somewhat of a taxing farm season and I think I needed that connection with my heritage more than my kiddos did. For them it was a fun time with dad, away from the crops, cows, weeds, and work. But for me, it was about sharing the past (the river, the bats, the stars) with the future.

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Cucumber, Cantaloupe, & Summer Squash Salad

Looking for a creative alternative to the traditional garden salad? Try this refreshing and delicious recipe for a Cucumber, Cantaloupe and Squash Salad! Simple to make and effortless to enjoy, this will quickly become a staple for your summer get-togethers this season!

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
Finely grated zest of 1 lime
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
3 summer squashes (about 1 pound), unpeeled
1 cucumber (about 10 ounces), unpeeled
1 1/2 tablespoons unseasoned rice-wine vinegar
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1/4 large cantaloupe, rind removed

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Make the dressing: Combine yogurt, lime zest and juice, salt, cumin, and pepper. Cover, and refrigerate 20 minutes.
  2. Make the salad: Using a vegetable peeler or a mandolin, shave squashes and cucumber into wide ribbons, stopping when you reach seeds.
  3. Toss with vinegar and salt. Cover, and refrigerate. Shave cantaloupes into ribbons and refrigerate.
  4. Just before serving, drain cucumber and squash ribbons and toss with cantaloupe. Drizzle with dressing.

Recipe courtesy of MarthaStewart.com

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Fresh This Week Tips – June 21, 2011

GINGER:

STORE: Fresh ginger will keep for several weeks in the refrigerator or several months in the freezer. Since freezing makes it easier to peel, slice and crush, you might as well freeze it as soon as you get it.

USE: Ginger can be used in Indian curries, and in Chinese, Japanese, and European spice blends, or in the always-popular ginger snap cookie! You can also add ginger flavor without any texture by juicing the root. Extract juice from a small piece of ginger by putting it through a garlic press. A juicer can handle much bigger chunks and extra juice can be frozen in ice cube trays.

PREP: To properly prep ginger, start by taking a “hand” and separate it into “fingers” Cut off any protruding “nubs” with your knife and then peel with the edge of a soup spoon using a downward scraping motion. Using the edge of a spoon is not only quicker, but it will result in a better yield since all that’s being removed is the ginger’s paper-thin skin. Next, cut the peeled ginger “finger” into round chunks about a quarter to a half inch thick. Using a traditional mincing motion, mince ginger to desired size.

ZUCCHINI:

STORE: Keep the zucchini in a cool place and store, if needed, in a perforated plastic bag. That will allow this vegetable to last approximately a week without perishing. Don’t store a zucchini in the refrigerator if at all possible. The cold inside the unit is not the best environment for a zucchini and can prematurely age it. Fresh zucchini doesn’t freeze very well. So if you want to freeze it, cook it in a recipe and then freeze the dish.

USE: Zucchini’s make a great and colorful addition to almost any dish. Whether you chop them up and roast them in a hot oven with olive oil and salt. They go well with tomatoes and onions, and add some herbs like oregano or thyme if you like. Or consider cutting them in half, scooping out the seeds and making zucchini boats to cook in the oven. The beauty is they can be stuffed with almost anything.

PREP: When it comes to preparing zucchini’s, the beautiful thing about this vegetable is that it’s hard to go wrong. Dicing, slicing, or mincing, this vegetable tastes great with the outer layer on or off. Simply rinse it off with water and enjoy them raw, cooked, boiled, or roasted.

KIWI:

STORE: Kiwis are a very simple fruit to please. You can keep a ripe kiwi for several days in your fruit bowl at room temperature. If you’re looking to keep it for an extended period of time, putting it in the refrigerator will make it last up to four weeks. When you’re ready for it, bring it out and allow it to ripen.

USE: Kiwis are a beautiful fruit and their sweet, green insides look fantastic when combined with raspberries, blueberries, oranges, and other fruits. They’re terrific pureed! You can use the puree to sweeten strawberries or raspberries, drizzle it over ice cream, or put it in ice cube trays, freeze, and eat like sorbet (there’s no need to add sugar).

PREP: While some believe you need to peel a kiwi in order to eat it, let us be the first to tell you, you don’t! Simply washing a kiwi will suffice. The thin brown skin does not taste bitter, and it holds the fruit together for eating out of hand.

KIWI ICE POPS:

Ingredients:

–  1 3/4 cup(s) water

–  1 cup(s) sugar

–  4  kiwis

–  1/2 cup(s) (about 4 limes) fresh lime juice

Directions:

    1. Make the syrup: Combine 1 cup of water with the sugar in a small saucepan and bring just to a boil. Set aside to cool.
    2. Make the ice pops: Using a paring knife, cut kiwis into quarters, peel, and remove the white core and seeds from each piece. Place the seeded kiwi pieces in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade and purée to a liquid — about 1 minute.
    3. Combine the puréed kiwi, 3/4 cup syrup, lime juice, and remaining 3/4 cup water in a large bowl.
    4. Pour the mixture into molds and freeze until solid, for about 6 hours.

      *Recipe courtesy of Countryliving.com

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      Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)

      Recently, I gave a talk on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). Sometimes GMOs are referred to as Genetically Engineered (GE) foods or more boldly labeled as Frankenfoods. GMOs have been on the market since 1996. Remember the famous Starlink corn that found its way into corn chips and caused a huge uproar? Why is the whole GMO debate so intense? After all, GMOs help farmers grow more food (supposedly), farm more acreage (definitely), and use less labor (absolutely true).  Ironically, not a single GMO has been developed to increase nutritional content in crops being grown.

      GMOs are developed by chemical companies who profit from selling the seeds that are Genetically Modified and also the chemical they are resistant to. There are two primary types of GMOs on the market: those that are resistant to herbicides (the most popular herbicide is Round Up or Glyphosphate) and those that actually have a pesticide placed in the plant (Bt or bacillus theringensis is pretty common). And, of course, there is the combination of both.

      In America we spend approximately 15% of our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on health care. Americans don’t live as long as other “developed” nations like Japan, England and Switzerland who spend upwards of 8% of their GDP on health care. We have a higher infant mortality rate as well. And if you factor in that about 30% of our population is obese, one could conclude that Americans spend a lot of money on health and don’t get very good results!

      So what is the rub? I think America’s health problems are directly associated with its food and farm policies.  Presently, I believe Americans are a part of a large experiment. The USDA wrongly assumes that just because GMO corn or soybeans look like non-GMO corn and soybeans everything is okay! Of course, the chemical companies developing these products control the testing and the reporting. And to no one’s surprise, all is well and a few of us radical organic environmental types are out to lunch.

      There is no way on earth that any corn or soybean is ever going to naturally become a pesticide or herbicide host. It is against the laws of nature! Sure some seeds may be able to tolerate an herbicide application, but there is no way that an application of an herbicide transfers into the seed and becomes a part of its DNA. That only happens in a laboratory. Hence, the name Frankenfoods. Sadly, GMOs are in the mainstream food supply and Americans are now a part of the experiment that will take a few generations to tabulate the results.  However, I believe we are beginning to see the results in our nation’s health now.

      The only solution to stop this foolishness and this human experiment is labeling. Every person should have the right to full and honest disclosure about how their food is grown. Has it been irradiated (I’ll save this topic for another newsletter) or has it been corrupted by a GMO? If 5% of Americans, about 15 million consumers, would stop buying foods that have GMO ingredients in them, these multinational companies would take notice and respond to the consumers. Why? For the simple reason that these companies are driven by profits, and diminishing sales speak loudly!

      Thankfully, vegetables and fruits are easier than processed boxed foods, since most of the GMOs have been developed for corn, soy, cotton and canola. Read your labels carefully and only buy those foods that are organic or non-GMO certified.

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      Fresh This Week Tips – June 15, 2011

      BANANAS:

      Store: Keep bananas at room temperature, as they will continue to ripen over time. If you’re not able to finish all the bananas in the bunch, don’t worry! Even ripe or overripe bananas are good for some recipes.

      Use: Bananas are beloved by people of all ages. They’re perfect for a delicious afternoon snack, a quick bread ingredient, or with some pancakes on Sunday mornings. Ripe bananas can also be peeled, cut in half, and stored in a zip loc bag in the freezer to add to recipes or smoothies later!

      Prep: Under-ripe or barely ripe bananas are perfect for stir-fries, stews, curries, or deep- frying. Ripe bananas are perfect for fruit salads, fruit tarts, bread or rice puddings, or with a roast. Very ripe bananas have many brown dots on them and are ideal for sandwiches, and grilling or to compliment dessert treats like sundaes, cheesecake or crepes. Overripe or brown bananas are great for smoothies, breads, or pancakes.

      NECTARINES:

      Store: Nectarines will keep up to five days if stored in a plastic bag in the coldest part of the refrigerator. However, do not store nectarines in the refrigerator until they are fully ripe, as the cold will stop the ripening process.

      Use: Nectarines are a great fruit because they can be used in many different areas throughout the kitchen. Whether they are eaten alone as a snack, or added to a fruit salad, pie, jam, or meat dish, their fresh, juicy flavors compliment many unique dishes.

      Prep: Peeled or sliced nectarines will have a better flavor once they have been set out of the refrigerator and given time to warm up. Once sliced, squirt a small amount of lemon juice on them to keep the insides from browning. Nectarines can also be sliced, peeled and frozen to keep for extended periods of time or to make into a pie or jam.

      FLAME GRAPES:

      Store: Pick through the grapes and discard any that are damaged. Wrap the container of grapes in a plastic bag or towel and store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Grapes should be rinsed in a colander under running water and then should be warmed up a bit in order to experience their full flavor.

      Use: Grapes provide the perfect accent for any summertime dish. Red flame grapes are sweet with a crunchy texture. They would make the perfect addition to a fruit salad or with a tangy glazed chicken.

      Prep: Many grape varieties have a white powdery coating called “bloom.” This delicate natural protection helps keep the grapes from losing moisture, so wait to wash them until just before serving.

      WATERMELON FRUIT SALAD:

      Ingredients:

      * 1 medium watermelon
      * 1 (15 ounce) can canned diced pineapple in juice, drain juice and reserve
      * 1 pound seedless flame grapes
      * 2 nectarines, peeled and chopped
      * 2 apples – peeled, cored and chopped
      * 2 bananas, cut into bite-size pieces

      Directions:

      1. Cut the watermelon in half lengthwise. Hollow out the insides using a melon baller, reserving rind for later use. Drain pineapple, and discard juice.

      2. Cut apples in half, remove cores, and cut into bite size pieces. Cut nectarines in half and cut into bite sized pieces. Peel bananas, and slice in to bite size pieces. Rinse grapes under cold running water, and pat dry.

      3. In a bowl, toss together the watermelon balls, pineapple, apple, nectarines, banana chunks, and grapes. Divide fruit salad among the watermelon “bowls,” and serve.

      *Recipe Courtesy of Allrecipes.com

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      Pancakes

      The other day, I set out to make pancakes and scrambled eggs for the family.  Most of the clan was home, maybe 9 out of 11! So I went to allrecipes.com and found the perfect recipe (you know, the one with 4000 reviews and a 4+ rating), read a few comments to see if there were any important changes recommended and then went for it.

      I don’t know how my wife does it. Trying to get that first batch of pancakes not too runny or too thick. Do I double, triple or quadruple it? Let’s triple it. Get out the mixing bowls, one for dry and one for wet ingredients. Oops, I picked out a mixing bowl that was too small for the tripled recipe. But instead of washing another dish, I prudently chose to mix carefully!

      Before I headed out to feed the horses around 5am, I checked the quantity of milk in the fridge – “A half gallon, we’re good.” Came back in and started to pull it all together. Got all the dry ingredients together, started on the eggs, oil and milk. Oh no! Between my feeding the horses and other chores our #3 son had gotten up, had breakfast and headed off to work, and in the process had used up most of the milk for his breakfast – the milk that I was planning on using for pancakes! Those teenage boys can consume a lot! Well, he had saved enough for almost the amount I needed. Hmmm…now what? Okay, improvise. Back to the fridge. Oooh, we have some half and half! Catastrophe diverted.

      Now comes the challenge for me. How do I get the eggs and the pancakes to be ready at the same time to feed my army of eaters? The eggs are on stove and the electric griddle is on the breakfast bar, about six feet from each other. I have decided this time to cook them slower at a lower temperature. Start the first batch, get out the butter, jam and syrup, turn on the oven to “keep warm,” finish the first six pancakes and start on the eggs. Next, wake up the kiddos, get them to set the table, say grace and start eating. I would have never thought that sleeping was a strenuous activity, but those kiddos polished off 30 pancakes and a plate of eggs. One would have thought they had worked a full day on the farm!
      What is your favorite pancake recipe?

      Happy Father’s Day!

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      Fresh This Week Tips – June 7, 2011

      PEARS

      Store: Stand pears, unwashed, on their bottoms and let them ripen at room temperature for up to 5 days. When they’re ready to eat, the flesh on the neck will give a little when pressed. Refrigerate ripe pears for up to 5 days.

      Use: Pears take well to baking, roasting, sautéing, or poaching in wine; when cooking, use the pears that are still most firm.

      Prep: If you’re serving uncooked pears, cut them just before using; sprinkle the flesh with lemon juice to prevent browning.

      PEACHES

      Store: Even firm, unripe peaches are delicate, so handle them carefully to avoid bruising. Ripen hard fruits at room temperature, stem-side down, until the flesh feels soft when pressed and they begin to emit a subtle fragrance. Refrigerate peaches only after they’ve ripened, which can prolong freshness for up to 5 days.

      Use: Grilled or roasted peaches make an excellent accompaniment for pork, fish, and chicken.

      Prep: If baking, look for freestone peaches, whose pits are easier to remove. To slice, cut through to the pit all the way around the seam, twisting each half to dislodge the stone. A squeeze of fresh lemon juice can prevent sliced fruit from browning. To remove the fuzzy skins before baking, submerge whole fruits in boiling water for 10 seconds, then slip off the skins.

      STRAWBERRIES

      Store: Pick through the berries and discard damaged or moldy ones. Wrap the container of remaining unwashed berries loosely in a plastic bag or paper towel and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

      Use: Strawberries are perfect in pies, just right in jams, and a sweet-tart touch in salads. But they’re at their best raw, served at room temperature, topped with freshly whipped cream.

      Prep: Wash the berries and trim the caps just before using.

      STRAWBERRY PEACH SMOOTHIE Recipe

      Ingredients

      • 1 cup sliced fresh strawberries
      • 1 cup fresh or frozen unsweetened sliced peaches
      • 1 cup plain or vanilla yogurt
      • 1 to 2 tablespoons sugar (For a healthier approach we recommend substituting 1-2 tablespoons of raw honey.)
      • Dash ground cinnamon

      Directions

      • If desired, set aside a few strawberry slices for garnish. Place the remaining berries in a blender; add peaches, yogurt and sugar or honey. Cover and process until smooth.
      • Pour into chilled glasses; sprinkle with cinnamon. Garnish with the reserved berries. Serves: 2.

      *Recipe taken from Taste of Home