Sunshine State

Beach baby, beach baby out on the sand from July March til the end of… well, December in Florida.

Saturday morning at the Palafox Market. One day this mama will have a table there… one day.

 

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CSA: In the Box (Week 6&7)

Clearly I am behind on sharing the wealth of CSA goodness – not because it isn’t scrumptiously satisfying, of course. We have been like a small hive of bees around here, buzzing around all over the place. I like the busyness and bustle, however, that’s about all I can muster the energy for…

Enough with the excuses and justifications.

Yesterday was an especially exciting CSA pickup & market day for me because I got to go on my own (the boys were left sleeping at the house) and because we were having the summer staff (about 20 folks) over for an appreciation supper for all of their hard work and love they’ve poured into camp the past several weeks. There is something wildly satisfying about feeding a brood of folks as close to “farm to fork” as possible on a budget. Especially when they are mostly college kids who eat out of boxes and the frozen section most of the year.

Even with the extra squash, lettuces, peaches, berries, & tomatoes that came home in my basket, my favorite purchase at the Market yesterday was a non-edible goodness that I have been eying for several weeks:

Fresh cut flower vase by Stony Clay Station Pottery

I love fresh cut flowers – even of the weed variety. I pulled off the side of the road just last week to bring home some purple, vine-ish flowers & a few white baby’s breathish type flower (picture above) for a mason jar on my kitchen table. I had big plans of doing the same yesterday on my journey home to fill up my new handmade vase, had my spot picked out in my head, and lo and behold when I got back this way the county mowers had plowed down my little purple specks of loveliness. Sad day.

No worries. I still love fresh cut flowers (as you can see – I had to improvise this time. I stopped at our local florist and bought a few fresh stems from her…). And really love my new vase. Check out Stony Clay Station on Facebook or stop by the Dixie Lee Farmer’s Market – they are usually a front table at the market.

Back to the edible goodness.

A couple of weeks back we had turnips in our share box.

  1. I hate turnips. Always have. (No, mom. I will not try them again. I am 20-something and know that I do not like them. Thanks.)
  2. I have never cooked them before, except the time that I pureed them for the boy and that went horribly wrong. Which brings me to #3…
  3. I don’t think anyone in my familia will partake in the rooty grub.

So what’s a southern gal to do?

Fry them, of course!

A Little Bit of Turnip Fries

Handful of turnips
Salt
Paprika
Garlic Salt
Olive Oil
Fresh Parmesan Cheese (grated)
  1. Wash and peel turnips. Slice into “french fry” size pieces.
  2. Toss the turnip pieces in a bowl of olive oil, coating them well.
  3. Combine dry ingredients in a plastic bag. Throw in turnips and shake, shake, shake until turnips are coated well in mixture.
  4. Place turnips on a baking sheet and put in a preheated oven (425) for about 20 minutes. The outside should be nice and crispy, the inside tender and warm.
  5. Serve with a dill dipping sauce or homemade ranch.

Frying something you don’t know what to do with is always a good choice.

Most always a good choice.

There are a few exceptions

CSA: In the Box (Week 4&5)

After a mad dash to the market due to a power surge overnight that left us sleeping until 11:22am (it takes 35 minutes to get to Dixie Lee – and we have to pick the box up before noon, you do the math) last Saturday, cooking a scrumptious Saturday Supper for six, and a clingy little fella under my feet (Noah was pretty needy, too), I just didn’t have it in me to bring the CSA goodness recipes last week – which means, lucky for you, I am doubling up this week.

Small share ($17/week): (from bottom left) snap peas, strawberry jam, onions, summer squash, lettuce, cucumbers, turnips

 

Saturday Supper = summer staff enjoying  home-cooked, farm fresh delish to accompany whatever protein they bring to grill while hanging out with our family in our home + CSA doesn’t go bad before it can all be consumed + jovial conversation and lighthearted fellowship + I get to cook and try new recipes on real live people.

Clearly everyone wins.

Onto the recipes…

Fresh Dill Loaf (for bread makers – the kind that your dad buys your mom for a gift and it sits in the box for 10+ years until it is passed on to you…)

11.5 ounces of warm water
2 tbsp butter or margarine
4 cups bread flour
2 tbsp sugar
1 3/4 tsp salt
1-1.5 tsp dill
2 tbsp dry milk
2 tsp active dry yeast
 
1. Add liquid ingredients and butter to pan.
2. Add all dry ingredients, except yeast, to pan. Tap pan to settle dry ingredients, then level ingredients, pushing some mixture into the corners.
3. Make a well in center or dry ingredients; add yeast.
dill-icious.
 
4. Place pan in break maker, select crust color and bread type.
5. Let the bread maker do all the work. Wait 3.5 hours, let cool, and enjoy.
 

This makes a 2 lb loaf and is plenty big and more for six people. I would recommend either freezing or refrigerating what you don’t eat in the next day or so to keep it from growing green things.

I am have a hard time picking just one other recipe from last night’s SS – we had a caprice salad of sorts, pan-fried rosemary new potatoes, green salad, oven-fried turnips, sauteed summer squash with fresh herbs – so much lovely color and flavor.

Funny thing, looking at my list, there’s only one dish that we (my dearest friend & one of Noah’s “aunts”, Krystal and her hubs, Dan stayed the weekend with us on their way to the mountains) actually followed a recipe for – either that means I might know my way around the kitchen a little or I have sweet friends who eat my cooking because they love me and it’s free.

So I guess it’s not too hard to pick – otherwise the recipe would read “a dash of this – a smidge of that – cook til it looks edible”…

Slow-Cooked Thin-Sliced Summer Squash Showered with Herbs

2 lbs mixed summer squash
3 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup simmering water
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1/3 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
2 tbsp torn basil leaves (or marjoram or oregano)
 
1. Slice the squash 1/4 inch thick.
2. Heat the oil in a wide skillet. Add the squash and cook over medium-low heat, flipping the squash in the pan every 3-4 minutes until it’s tender and golden, about 20 minutes. Add the water and continue cooking until none remains. Season with salt and pepper and shower the herbs all over. Slide onto a platter and serve.
 
*Recipe from Local Flavors, my market companion cookbook.
 

I suspect my culinary skills have been refined over the past few years and people aren’t just being polite – we had thirteen people ’round our table last night!  For us, this must be a record… for the Colvins, the folks that brings us our farm flavors, this is a regular supper for their family of fifteen.

Oh, Mama Colvin, bless your precious heart… and teach me the wonders of your ways.


CSA: In the Box (Week 3)

The Dixie Lee Farmers’ Market delivers again – adding to the veggie selection cucumbers (one of my fave!), broccoli, cilantro, & beans. After a stop at Earth Fare for a couple Grainger County tomatoes (local to Knox), lime, 

and a jalapeno, I whipped up this amazing recipe from the The Pioneer Woman Cooks (if you don’t own this book, you just aren’t living yet).  At least your tastebuds aren’t…

Pico de Gallo (Ree Drummond – The Pioneer Woman)


 
Yellow or red onions
Tomatoes
Cilantro
Jalapenos
Lime
Salt
 
1. Dice up an equal amount of tomatoes, onions, and cilantro.
2. Slice a jalapeno in half. With a spoon scrape out the seeds. Dice very finely.
3. Dump the four ingredients into a bowl.
4. Slice a lime in half and squeeze the juice in the bowl.
5. Sprinkle with salt and stir together until combined. Be sure to taste the pico de gallo and adjust the seasonings.
 

We have been crafting this recipe since last spring and can never get enough. I like this recipe best when the tomatoes are in season and local – not hydroponic or green house ‘maters. It makes all the difference in the world

(literally) when you use fresh and local goodness.

Equally as exciting, in many ways, is the way we brought our loot home from the market this week. Some of you folks may have received a crochet gift from me in years past. Chances are if you all compared notes you would learn that you all were gifted a lovely scarf or (feeble) attempt at a hat – that’s because I don’t know how to read

crochet patterns. At all. I think my scarves are delightful, but the buck stopped there – until now.

Call it inspiration or my competitive nature to not be defeated (by my mother’s crochet ability or my lack of following directions well), I found this pattern yesterday and kept at it until I ended with this:

Crochet Market Basket

This might be my new favorite thing to make (until the next thing I make, of course).  One, because I’ve proven to myself that I can read a pattern, 2) because it is super easy to whip up – which makes me one step closer to potentially having a table at the market, and 3. because how flipping cute and sustainable to carry home my beloved produce!

I am halfway through my second market basket – this time in red and slightly different fiber.

I promise I won’t neglect the rest of my life to crochet. Today.

 
 

CSA: In the Box (Week 2)

“doe to duh mahh – kitt”    (translation: go to the market)

Good things definitely come in small boxes – kale, bok choy, spring onions, spinach, snowpea greens, lettuce – oh yes! 

Not to mention good conversation and recipe suggestions from the two Colvin boys at the market (we’ll get to one of those in a minute) – I think I am just as keen on small-talking with the boys as picking up our weekly goods.

 

When we walk up to the table I hear, “Hi Noah – I see you still have your green crayon.”(It somehow stays and travels in our market basket week to week.)

Noah does a little happy dance.

My heart does a little leap for joy.

The younger boy is also Noah and he is playfully aware that he and my Noah share a name – possibly even a sweet spirit of adventure and innocent mischief. Whether the kindred likeness is only my imagination or is actually true is neither here nor there. Life is mostly perception anyway, right?

At the recommendation of Caleb and Noah, I bring you this week’s recipe, courtesy of Smitten Kitchen:

Baked Kale Chips
Adapted from a bunch of inspiring places

1 bunch (about 6 ounces) kale
1 tablespoon olive oil
Sea salt, to taste

Preheat oven to 300°F. Rinse and dry the kale, then remove the stems and tough center ribs. Cut into large pieces, toss with olive oil in a bowl then sprinkle with salt. Arrange leaves in a single layer on a large baking sheet (I needed two because mine are tiny; I also lined mine with parchment for easy clean-up but there’s no reason that you must). Bake for 20 minutes, or until crisp. Place baking sheet on a rack to cool.

                                                                                                   photo courtesy of smitten kitchen

I know. Totally weird. And totally tasty.

What the heck else do you do with kale?

You make pasta, of course – but you’ll have to check back for that one.


CSA: In the Box (Week 1)

Saturdays are my new favorite – my reason for plugging on through the work week – what I look forward to starting on Sunday – a little slice of heaven – the silver lining – the junk in my trunk.

And that junk tastes like dirt. Colvin Family Farm dirt to be exact – because Saturday is CSA day!

Oh yes.

And in the spirit of my thankfulness for our friendly farmer and his family who supplies the goods to our table for (more than) half the year , each week I will post one (at least) farm fresh recipe inspired by our weekly box. Hopefully you will be encouraged to find a CSA or Farmers’ Market near you (you can click the Local Harvest link on the right and put in your zip code and it will find it for you – handy, I know) and cook up something tasty and healthy for you and your little people.

Frick’s Bok Choy Salad

2 packages of Ramen noodles (I used all natural Somen noodles)
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
3 tbs slivered almonds
1 bok choy (CSA)
5-7 spring onions (CSA)
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
3 tbs soy sauce
1/2 cup sugar
 
1. Brown noodles, seeds, & almonds in pan.
2. Toss & mix chopped onions & bok choy with noodles, seeds, & almonds.
3. Mix olive oil, vinegar, soy sauce, & sugar.
4. Mix & toss mixtures with bok choy mixture.
5. Stuff your face and enjoy.
 

Easy peasy & dee-licious!

And because I didn’t take a photo of the bok choy, here’s a photo of a CSA-fresh spinach salad, complete with CSA strawberries & leaf lettuce, almonds, sunflower seeds, and fresh Parmesan:

Mouth watering yet?

Next challenge – what to do with radishes?

Herbs the Word

I would like to think of myself as creative person, an artist even – usually.  I can sew, write, crochet, cook, bake, photograph (decently), felt, etc. to the extent that I would give someone one of the aforementioned creations.

What about painting, you ask?

Not. So. Much.

But that’s okay – because if I weren’t as bad as a two-year-old, blindfolded with their arms tied behind their back I would have never had (what I think) is this genius idea for an herb drying rack:

Putting on the finishing touches…

Drying: chives, oregano, & thyme

So this canvas was supposed to be a solid color with the words “Happiness is not a destination, it is the Journey” – inspired by an overpriced, “Made in China” version we saw last weekend in a store that shall remain anonymous. It was not my best work, so I slathered on a few more layers of reds to cover the words not really knowing what I wanted to do with it. It was about 10pm and I started scurrying about the house looking for eyelets and wire, totally focused on the goal – and voila! an herb drying rack.

I was so impressed with myself that I made two more 8×16’s  – one which is headed out to a special someone tomorrow. As soon as canvases go on sale again I will be racking up, whipping ’em up, and putting them in the shop to sell. If the Farmer’s Market (or booth already there) will have have me, I will try and sell them there as well.

How much would you pay for kitchen art with a purpose?

Sidenote: Herbs are great when dried. Hang the rack in a sunny and dry place – snip some  fresh herbs from your garden or buy some from your local market, bundle them up and hang with a clothespin, wait a couple weeks, then store your dried herbs in a glass jar. Use half the amount in recipes when using dry vs. fresh. Some good herbs to dry: thyme, oregano, sage, mint, dill, chives, rosemary, lavender…

Rocking in the CSA

Noah is jazzed about the upcoming party in his belly…

You would be, too, if your family just became proud owners of a small share in the Colvin Family Farm’s CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) for the 2011 harvest season (May-October)!

There were several options, surprisingly, in the 100-mile radius of our bustling metropolis. I researched most of them from what I could find – they are farmers, not internet gurus – and there was something about this simple family (if you can count having thirteen children as simple) that I was drawn to, that I could relate to (give or take twelve children), that I could appreciate.

A few things that I deemed important that set them apart:

  • More convenient pick-up location – about thirty-five miles rather than sixty.
  • Maw Colvin provides recipes for the goods in the box each week – now I will know what to do with three pounds of parsnip and arugula.
  • All of the children are an integral part of their family business. We eat well because of them, they eat well because of families like us. It’s a win-win.
  • The farm hosts various events where their CSA members can come out to the farm, meet them, feel the dirt under our boots, put a face and a handshake to a name, take hold of a unique situation and nurture the relationship of farmer-locavore.

With our cow being ready sometime this month, the CSA, Farmer Joe down the road, fresh breads made at home, the chickens, & our non-chemical cleaning supplies – our monthly grocery bill will be cut in half by our projections. Sure, there are start-up costs and care for the birds, upfront payments for both the cow & farm, and bulk orders for various herbs and plants – but the improvement in our family’s health and lifestyle and the relief – though small it may seem – on the earth’s resources is worth every penny, whether it’s more or less pennies in the long run. Though the beauty and reality is that we have more pennies at the end of the day to put toward other things. Good things. Good people doing good things.

So…between now and harvest season my plan is to collect recipes, stock up on canning supplies, find a second-hand pressure cooker, start seeds for our garden, build our chicken coop, and make new friends to invite over to share in our bounty. Here is your official invitation, friends, to join us for a meal this summer/fall – just give me a day’s warning and bring your favorite dessert.

If you are interested in finding a CSA in your area, please visit Local Harvest. You will find information there about CSA, farmers’ markets, local produce, and a host of resources to help navigate your decision.

Local agriculture – it’s the new black.

Ford Excursions

Cheesy, yes I know.

In case anyone was worried, Hotel de Ford is back in full swing after a sweet little lull right at the close of the summer season. As mentioned before, we kicked it back off with the Giusti family escaping the heat of their AC-less house and getting in one last footloose jaunt before the booger picker, I mean, Mason started Kindergarten. (I am wrestling with whether or not I should re-word the previous sentence because I could potentially make my sister cry for two different reasons in-between that capital letter and period containing only thirty-five words. Well, if she’s going to cry anyway, might as well leave it.)

This past weekend Matt and Heather, the married ones, made the eight hour trek from Savannah to come and spend a way-too-short weekend with us. This was their first time to our house (Matt came last summer to the first house we lived in at camp, remember, the big one.) and we were so glad they came up. The funny thing with them is that we go long periods of time without seeing each other, like since Christmas, and then it seems like we see each other a few times close together, like in two weeks in Tallahassee.

We ventured out to the Market Square Farmer’s Market on Saturday morning, admittedly our first time going since we’ve moved here, and let me just say, I may have found my heaven on earth – or at least my heaven in Tennessee.

Fruits, vegetables, fresh bread, jellies and jams, handmade goods, hippies, diaper-clad bathing beauties, and sideshow-Joes galore. Heaven. We even got on “the list” to join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) in the spring! We could have joined now for the rest of the year, but we decided that we would save up our cash and join next May – $17/week for a half-box containing 5-7 variations of farm-fresh goodness. I wish I could remember the name of the farm, but crazy enough, I didn’t write it down or take a picture of their stand – come next May, say good riddance to Kroger’s produce aisle.

The five of us grabbed lunch at Tomato Heads which happens to be right in the middle of Market Square – how convenient. And delicious. They are all about the local, in season, and fresh – music to my ears.
Our pizza was phenomenal and a victory all in one – it’s not very often you find ONE pizza that all four folks, especially with me around, will agree on and love. And that’s saying a lot considering I typically pick off at least one topping on every pizza I eat, but when you know it’s so fresh and local it’s hard to disregard the hours of love that have been put into that mushroom and olive.

Matt, Chris, Heather & Noah at the Market
Accordionist on stilts and his lovely lady.Noah and his daddy playing in the water.

Next year he will be one of the naked babes running around.This kid loves the water. Loves.

You would think after being surrounded by food galore we wouldn’t be able to eat for at least a week. For us, this is not so. In Ten Mile fashion, we had to take Matt and Heather to eat at the Marina – it’s a must if you stay with us for more than one day. And the Braves game was on – bonus!

Noah is trying out new smiles these days.
I am partial to this one.

The gang outside the Marina.Matt & Heather at Watts Bar Lake.

Sadly, or not so sadly depending on how you look at it, the more I educate myself about food, our food industry, where it comes from, where it doesn‘t come from, I find myself more and more picky about what I eat. Maybe not so much picky as I expect food to look good, taste good, and that I feel good about eating it. For me, this was not so with my selection at the marina. Breaks my heart because I love the little place, but it opens up a whole world of questions about the quality that they are serving when I can visually see the problem – makes me wonder what I can’t see.

Anyway, that’s for another post.

We had a briskly wonderful weekend with the married Uncle Matt and Aunt Heather…they have to come back when they can stay longer.

Oh… and one more thing:

Happy Birthday to my mama!
She had me 26 years ago so that makes her at least 37.
Here’s to a year full of blessings and bliss!