30 Aug

Beet Bundt Cake

16 servings

All I can say is TRUST ME. We use vegetables in other desserts (think carrot cake, zucchini bread, and pumpkin pie), so why not beets?

Ingredients
• 1/2 cup (120 ml) canola oil
• 1 1/2 cups (340 g) packed dark brown sugar
• 2 cups (450 g) puréed cooked (boiled or steamed) red beets (about 3 medium-size beets)
• 1/2 cup (90 g) semisweet chocolate chips, melted
• 1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract
• 2 cups (250 g) all-purpose flour
• 2 teaspoons (9 g) baking powder (look for aluminum-free)
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting
Preparation
Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C, or gas mark 5), and lightly oil a Bundt pan.
In a mixing bowl, cream together oil and brown sugar. Add beets, melted chocolate chips, and vanilla, and mix well.
In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Add to wet beet mixture, and stir until just combined.
Pour into prepared Bundt pan, and bake for 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.
Cool in pan for 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack. Cool completely. Before serving, dust with confectioners’ sugar and top with blueberries, if desired.

Tip: Reserve 1/4 cup (55 g) of the puréed beets (or purée a fourth beet) to create a red/pink frosting or ganache, using confectioners’ sugar and butter. For a ganache, use the water in which you cooked the beets to thin out the topping. For frosting, fluff up using a hand mixer.

 

30 Aug

Roasted Beet Salad

The addition of lightly cooked pears to this classic salad combination will likely make this already sweet vegetable more palatable to even the pickiest of eaters.

Serves: 4

Ingredients

4 medium beets (about 1 1/2 pounds), ends trimmed
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 pears, peeled, cored, and cut into 8 wedges each
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 cups arugula (optional)
4 tablespoons (1 ounce) crumbled blue cheese
Directions
1. Preheat the oven to 425°F.

2. Wrap the beets in foil and set on a baking sheet. Bake for 1 hour, or until a knife easily pierces the beets. Remove from the oven and let cool for 30 minutes. Peel the beets, cut each into 8 wedges (wear disposable rubber gloves if you’re concerned about the beets staining on your hands), and transfer to a bowl.

3. Meanwhile, combine the vinegar and sugar in a small saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat and cook for 5 to 6 minutes, or until reduced by about half and thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Set aside.

4. Place the walnuts in a large nonstick skillet and cook over medium-high heat, shaking the pan often, for 2 to 3 minutes, or until lightly toasted. Transfer to the bowl with the beets.

5. Add the oil to the skillet and return to medium-high heat. Add the pears and cook for 2 minutes per side, or until lightly browned. Remove from the heat.

6. Add the reserved vinegar mixture, the salt, and pepper to the beets, tossing to coat well. Place 1/2 cup arugula (if using) on each of 4 plates and top with the beet mixture and pears. Sprinkle each serving with 1 tablespoon blue cheese.

 

 

25 Aug

2014 CSA – Weeks 10 and 11

Sorry about not posting last week.  I had some heart issues that required an EKG and was feeling out of sorts for a few days.  I am back to normal now!

What a change in the weather, huh?  From the extreme heat to cold and rainy…it seems to be the norm for us here in Montana.  We spent last Thursday out in the rain finishing up the harvest for your baskets, and I have been unable to get out into the gardens ever since as it is so muddy.  When the soil is wet it compacts when you walk, and when the plants are wet you don’t want to harvest because you run the risk of spreading disease like powdery and downy mildew.  This is the perfect time to weed however, so getting down and muddy is on the menu for a few days.

On another note, the Farmer’s Almanac is saying that fall is 4 to 5 weeks early this year (I can see the leaves already turning and some are even on the ground), and that our winter is going to be another cold and wet one…worse than last year!  There will be freezes in parts of the country that usually receive no freeze.  So it is not too early to start preparing.

I don’t know how long the garden will produce and it is always a gamble here, but I have been making sauerkraut, fermenting beets, and drying herbs in preparation for the long winter season.  I encourage you to think about using some of your CSA basket to put some food away, too.  If you need more produce, you can order extra if I have it available.  There are canning basket prices listed on my website.   http://scentsofbalance.com/product-category/garden-produce/   You can make pesto from the herbs and freeze it in zip locks or ice cube trays.  Make some pickles from the beets, cucs and zucchini, make salsa and tomato sauce with the peppers and tomatoes, eggplant can be made into ratatouille, and you can blanch and freeze any of the greens including the beet tops.  I am including some ideas and recipes at the end of this newsletter for you to try.

Food prices are continuing to rise as a result of the challenging weather that the majority of farm lands have been experiencing this past year.  I feel that we must be diligent in continuing to learn how to be more self sufficient as a community.  One of the ways we can do this is by strengthening our food systems.  Continue to support local growers here in Montana and the surrounding area so that they can stay in business.  Source out local eggs, poultry, meat, fruit and veggies.  If you need more information I can certainly give you  some names of local producers.  I am sure that Marlene Wilkin who is our egg goddess will continue to have eggs.  Her production will increase as the summer ends as her new young chicks will begin laying.  I also have a friend in Bridger who has an organic orchard. She will have apple and plums for sale.  If you are wanting any to make sauces or jams, I will post her prices when she begins harvesting.

I am hoping the warmer weather sets in again and stays for awhile so that the cabbages, beans, melons and winter squashes grow big and strong and produce heavy crops.  The lettuce that I planted last month is coming up and will be good for fall harvest.  Radishes, braising greens, scallions and green snap beans will also be ready in a few weeks if the weather holds.  The plantings of cauliflower and broccoli were eaten by those darn flea beetles…again!  There are a few plants still struggling, but if we have an early freeze, there will not be enough time for them to head up.  There are certain challenges when we farm organically…always the weather and then the bugs and soil diseases.  And, everyear is different!  I guess that is how we continue to learn.

This weeks basket should contain kale, beets, tomatoes, summer squash, cucumbers, eggplant, garlic, peppers and basil.  I also have fresh dill seed heads if any of you want them to use in your pickles.  You will have to let me know though, as I won’t harvest  unless you order them.

Here are some of my favorite ways to preserve the garden harvests.

 

Foolproof Fruit Butter

Lower in sugar and much easier to make than preserves or jam, these tasty treats contain no butter. Their name simply refers to the smooth, creamy texture. Perhaps the best-known fruit butter in this country is apple butter, but you can also make peach butter, plum butter, apricot butter, pear butter, berry butter, and even tomato or pumpkin butter.

Makes about 4 pints

Ingredients:

5 pounds fruit (use apples, peaches or whatever is abundant); use an extra pound or two if you’re using fruits with a high water content, such as berries
2 cups cider, fruit juice, or water
Sugar or honey (optional)
Spices (ground cinnamon, cloves, ginger)

Directions:

Peel, core, and seed fruit, and cut into 1-inch hunks. Put the fruit and your liquid (cider, fruit juice, or water) into a large non-reactive pot, bring to a boil, and simmer (covered) for 20 minutes until the fruit is soft and mushy. Stir occasionally, and add a little water if the fruit begins to stick to the bottom, to prevent scorching.

Pour the mushy fruit into a large slow cooker. If possible set the cooker in a sheltered outdoor area so the heat and evaporating water won’t be indoors making an already hot day harder to bear. Cook, uncovered (turn a sieve upside down as a lid if insects are a concern), on medium or low for 10 to 12 hours, stirring occasionally, or until the butter is as thick as you like it. It will get brown and rich. You can’t overcook fruit butter, and in the slow cooker, you can’t scorch it as you can on the stove. If you don’t have a slow cooker, use the thickest-bottomed pot you have on your stove’s very lowest setting and be vigilant about stirring, especially as the butter starts to thicken up. There’s no set time for stovetop cooking; you just need to cook the fruit until it reaches your desired consistency.

When the butter is as thick as you want it, taste it to see if you need to add sugar or honey. I rarely add sweetener, but if you prefer sweet butters, add up to about 2 cups of sugar or 1 cup of honey. This is also the time to add spices if you like. Apples go well with 2 tablespoons of ground cinnamon and a ¼ teaspoon of ground cloves; peaches go well with cinnamon and ground ginger. Stir until the spices are completely dissolved or blended.

Ladle the butter into hot, sterilized jars, and process for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath to seal them.

Sweet Squash Pickles

Pickles are almost synonymous with cucumbers in supermarkets, but you can pickle just about any veggie, and even some fruits, with delicious results. Zucchinis make great pickles, and goodness knows we can all use more ideas for using up an overly generous squash patch.

Makes about 3 pints

Ingredients:

2 pounds zucchinis or other tender summer squash (I especially like the Italian heirloom Costata Romanesco, which has lengthwise ridges that make for pretty slices)
1 pound onions
¼ cup non-iodized salt
2 cups cider vinegar
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon celery seed
1 teaspoon ground tumeric
1 Tablespoon mustard seed
¼ teaspoon ground cloves

Directions:

Slice small squash into ¼-inch rounds. Or quarter larger squash lengthwise, peel, seed, and slice the long strips into ¼-inch slices; it’s OK to use those extra-large squash that grew too big to eat. Peel and core the onions. If using small onions, halve or quarter them, and if using medium to large onions, cut into rings ¼ inch thick. Layer the squash and onions in a stainless steel or ceramic bowl, sprinkling each layer with salt. Add remaining salt and just cover with cold water. Put a plate on top to weight down the veggies and let them soak for 2 hours (this pulls some moisture out of the veggies for crisper pickles). Rinse and drain.

After your squash have soaked, prepare your pickling brine. In a large non-reactive pot (glass, stainless steel, enamelware), combine the remaining ingredients (vinegar through cloves). Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add drained veggies. Cover and let sit for 2 hours, stirring occasionally. Bring to a boil, and boil for 5 minutes. Then, pack into sterilized jars and process in a boiling-water bath for 10 minutes. (Follow the canning instructions the jar manufacturer has provided).

Zippy Zucchini Dills

Similar to the previous recipe, these spicy zucchini pickles can stand in for ordinary dill pickles, and they taste especially good on burgers!

Makes about 3 pints

Ingredients:

3 pounds zucchinis or other tender summer squash
¼ cup non-iodized salt
2 cups cider vinegar
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 Tablespoon mustard seed
6 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced thin
3 fresh dill heads (flowers or seeds), plus 3 big sprigs fresh dill weed, or ¼ cup dry dill seed

Directions:
Slice, soak, and drain the zucchini the same way you would for sweet pickles, allowing it to soak with the salt in some water for 2 hours.

Combine all remaining ingredients. If you’re using the ¼ cup dry dill seed, add that as well, but if you’re using fresh dill, exclude that until the very end. Follow the same process you’d use for sweet squash pickles. When filling the sterilized jars, put one fresh dill head and one fresh sprig of dill weed into each jar before adding the hot pickles.

Create Some Herbal Infusions

If I’m really industrious, I may harvest some of my frost-tender herbs such as basil, chives, tarragon, lemon balm, pineapple sage and lemon verbena to freeze in ice cube trays for winter use.

Feeling even more industrious? Fresh herbs can be used to make herbal-infused vodkas and herb-flavored sugars that you can hand out over the holidays, or just enjoy yourself in a hot toddy or your weekend baking.

 

24 Aug

Linguine and Zucchini with Bagna Cauda Sauce

6 servings

2 garlic cloves, minced
7 flat anchovy fillets, rinsed, patted dry, and minced
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 pound linguine
2 pounds zucchini, cut into 1/8-inch matchsticks

Cook garlic with anchovies in oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring, until golden, about 2 minutes. Add cream and simmer, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Stir in lemon juice and season with salt and pepper.
Meanwhile, cook linguine in a pasta pot of well-salted boiling water until al dente, adding zucchini 2 minutes before pasta is ready. Drain, then toss with sauce.

23 Aug

Caprese Salad Recipe

Basil is an excellent source of vitamins A and K, and a good source of vitamin C and manganese.
• 2 balls fresh mozzarella cheese (about 8 ounces)
• 4 medium-size ripe tomatoes
• 12 red and yellow cherry tomatoes, halved
• Salt
• Freshly ground pepper
• Olive oil
• Balsamic vinegar, optional
• Fresh basil leaves
• Sprigs of basil, for garnish
1. Remove cheese from brine and cut into 8 slices. Slice each tomato into 3 slices.
2. Arrange tomato slices, cheese slices and cherry tomatoes on 4 salad plates.
3. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Drizzle with olive oil and vinegar, if desired. Top with fresh basil leaves. Garnish with a sprig of basil.

 

13 Aug

2014 CSA – Week 9

I have been blessed to have a new volunteer to help in the garden.  Morgann comes 1 day a week and she brings her pet chicken, Clarissa.  She is a heritage bird whose feet were severely frost bitten and her owners couldn’t keep her.  Morgann came to her rescue.  Bodie, Mara the cat and the rest of us love having her here, as she adds to the beauty, wildness and vitality of the gardens.

The new seedlings that we have been planting are starting to come up.  However, the flea beetles are loving them.  I am spraying with various organic sprays to keep them at bay, but with the extreme heat we have been experiencing I am having to overhead water more which just washes the botanicals right off!  All I can do is keep trying.

The first of the eggplant should be ready for you next week, and hopefully some peppers.  This weeks selection will include carrots, beets, kale, zucchini, yellow squash, cucumbers, tomatoes, rhubarb and a selection of herbs.

If you have some favorite recipes that you would like to share with the CSA members, you can send them to me via email and I will include them in my newsletters.  It always so nice to have new material to add to the recipe box.

Marlene will be bringing eggs again this week.  Her chickens have not been producing as many eggs as usual because of the heat. But I should have at least 7 or 8 dozen.

Thank you all for letting me know that you are enjoying the newsletter.  I usually don’t get around to writing it until Wednesday night after I know what is going to be in your share for that week.  Sometimes I am exhausted from the days work, but I try my best to make it informative.

 

10 Aug

Greek Style Roasted Vegetables

 

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2 lbs zucchini, cut in 1/2-inch slices (or use half & half zucchini and eggplant. Make sure you salt to sweat the eggplant before using as they put off allot of water.)

1 lb potato, cut in 1/2-inch slices

2 green sweet peppers, membrane and seeds removed and cut into chunks

5 garlic cloves, crushed

2 cups tomatoes cut into chunks or slices (peel if you wish)

1/2 teaspoon white sugar

2 onions, thinly sliced

salt and pepper

2 tablespoons fresh parsley

2 teaspoons fresh dill or 2 teaspoons fennel

1/4 cup virgin olive oil

Fresh chopped parsley, dill, Greek oregano or fennel (for garnish)

Feta or parmesan cheese or use both!

Directions:

Mix together the garlic, tomatoes and sugar.
Oil an oven dish large enough to hold all the ingredients.
Place some onion on the bottom of the dish.
Mix together the remaining vegetables
Add a layer on top of the onions.
Top with some of the tomato mixture.
Season with salt & pepper.
Sprinkle some of the herbs on top and drizzle with the oil.
Continue layering until all ingredients have been used ending with a layer of the herbs and drizzle with oil (this may be 3-4 layers depending on the depth and size of your dish).
Cover and cook in a 350°F oven for 1-1 1/2 hours.
Uncover and top with cheese for the last 15 minutes.
Garnish with the remaining fresh herbs and serve.

 

 

06 Aug

2014 CSA – Week 8

It’s hard to believe that we are already at the half way mark for the CSA season.  My body is telling me that it is indeed true, but I am certainly not ready for fall just yet.  As much as I have found this past few week’s heat index challenging, I still want to feel some more gentle summer heat and be able to experience the sights, smells and sounds of the vibrant gardens.  Barb and I are still seeding.  In fact, new plantings of orange cauliflower, broccoli, radish, cabbage, kale, swiss chard and beans have been planted within the last few days, in the hope that we will have a long fall and be able to supply you with these veggies before a hard freeze.  Since the early season’s broccoli crop was a disappointment (AGAIN!), maybe the fall crop will be better.

I have the feeling that some of you are not really taking advantage of the newsletter, which is a little disappointing to me.  It was my hope that you would be able to experience through my writing, a sense of what a production garden is all about.  I try to include easy and new recipes for you to try, as I know most of you work and have time constraints as to food prep, especially during the busy summer season.  It takes a certain amount of time to put together this newsletter, so if you would let me know if it is something you are interested in receiving and are finding it helpful, please let me know.  I certainly want it to be interesting, educational and a good read for you.

This week’s harvest will provide for you tomatoes, cucumbers, summer squash, scallions, beets, Swiss chard and the French bean medley, along with basil.

I am planning on doing more fermenting this year.  Last year was my first experience at making saurkraut, and it turned out great.  I am now going to take advantage of the abundance of beets that the garden is producing.  I hope you are not getting too tired of them, but they are such a wonderful veggie and so good for the liver.  Here is a link to a recipe that I am going to try.  Maybe you would like to experiment, too.  http://harmoniousbelly.com/2010/08/lacto-fermented-beets/. 

I know I have talked to most of you about the ease of roasting vegetables.  I have included a recipe for a different method of oven roasting, and this would be a great week to try it.

I will have eggs again.  I only sold 3 dozen last week, so I am hoping that you will take advantage of this offer in order to make it beneficial to Marlene so that she continues to bring them.

 

01 Aug

Cabbage and Pear Slaw

4 servings

Ingredients
• 1 cup chopped pears
• 2 tablespoons canola oil
• 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
• 2 tablespoons apple cider
• 1 teaspoon brown sugar
• Kosher salt, to taste
• Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
• 1/2 head green cabbage, shredded
• 1 medium red onion, sliced
• 1 tablespoon parsley, chopped

Directions

Give the pears a rough chop.

In a large bowl, whisk together the oil, vinegar, cider, sugar, and salt and pepper, to taste. Add the pear, cabbage, onion, and parsley. Toss everything together, taste, and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper