A Brand New Blog and Blogger!

Hi! I’m Joy, a seven-year veteran of Vollmecke’s CSA, and if you all don’t mind, I’m going to start blogging about my love, life, and relationship with the farm and all that it gives me. Vegetables, eggs, comfort, connection, and happiness all included. My very short bio is that I’m a wife of one husband, mom of two littles (Yunni: 4 and Max: 20 months), a mental health therapist to a few, and a cooker of many many vegetables.

Through my seven years enjoying the Vollmecke’s harvests, I have learned a lot, changed a lot, and cooked, frozen, and canned a lot. And as we close out this season and look ahead to winter, I am grieving the loss of tomatoes and beans and peppers and looking forward to gorging on squashes and greens and potatoes for as long as I can. Thank heavens for winter orders!

So if you don’t mind, I’ll show up on here every once in a while with some recipes, thoughts, and perspectives on CSA membership and all that it offers and requires. Until I see you here again, put some pumpkin butter with a little almond butter and honey on your toast in the morning. You’ll feel like a new a part of your soul has opened up by the end of the slice.

toast

My Week of Eating from the Farm

Guest Post from longtime work share member Meghan

The CSA shares at the farm have certainly been a bounty of delicious veggies over the last few weeks. Four years ago, when I started as a work share member at Vollmecke Orchards & CSA, it was a learning curve to get used to using everything each week. I have gotten much better at planning and experimenting with all of the wonderful produce, so decided it was time for a greater challenge.

shareHow hard would it be to spend a week eating only food from the farm? This would include using the local products that Vollmecke sells such as beef, fish, yogurt, cheese, bread and eggs, in addition to the produce in my share. My exceptions to my little experiment were seasonings, condiments and beverages. As a relatively non-adventurous chef, I was a little nervous about trying this for a week, but after telling my farm friends of my idea, I was committed!

I picked up my share one Friday afternoon and also purchased eggs, a salmon filet, beef grillers, bread and cheese. I wrote down everything I had on hand and planned out the dinners for the week. So how did the week look? Breakfasts were fruit (raspberries and melon) and bread most days. I had Vollmecke Orchards’ apple butter on hand already, which is fantastic on Wonderful Good Market’s multi-grain bread. One weekend morning was classic eggs, potatoes and fruit. Lunches included egg salad sandwiches, green salads with tomatoes & Blazing Horizon cheese (also from Wonderful Good Market), and dinner leftovers.

Dinners were where the fun occurred:

Did I cheat? Yep. Over the course of the week I had two spoonfuls of peanut butter, and I added avocado to my fish tacos.

Was it hard? Not really! It took a little bit more planning ahead than I usually do, but it was fun to try some new things. Not having pasta, rice and beans was weird since they are staples in our pantry. The best part of the week was realizing that I snack on processed food too much. It’s so easy to grab a handful of goldfish crackers or make a quick stop at Wawa. This was a revelation for me, and one thing I will really take away from this experience.

Will I keep going? As much as I can. I am going to make a greater effort to eat more locally, especially at this time of year when it is so easy to do! Stock up on things you love that can be frozen or canned–you will love pulling them out in January!

A new season is upon us

Here we are, getting ready to start our third full week of the CSA season…and I am just now writing our “welcome” blog. Gives you an idea of how nuts it has been this year! The weather has been full of extremes: a cooler and way drier than normal spring…moving into summer with days of extreme heat and drenching rains.vibrant rhubarb

Because of the cool dry spring, many early season crops were a little late getting in the ground…BUT, this also allowed us to get many of our summer crops planted much earlier. There is always a flip side in farming…

One of my goals with this blog is to present ideas on how to use your share. It does neither of us any good if you pick up a crate of vegetables each week, just to have them slowly rot away in your fridge. We take the utmost care to make sure we harvest early in the day, and get the produce into the cooler as quickly as possible, to make sure that it stays as fresh and tasty as possible. Once you get your share home, here are a few tips to help you store your veggies correctly. Now that you have everything stored correctly, what do you do with it???

Eating seasonally can take some getting used to. When people picture joining a CSA, they often have visions of cucumbers, melons, tomatoes and peppers dancing in their heads. not necessarily kohlrabi and turnips. BUT, all of the above make their appearance later in the summer–July at least, so, we grow what does well in season until we get to “the good stuff.” Another goal of mine is to get our members to see all of the produce as good stuff! Just because you have never heard of it doesn’t mean it isn’t good!

If you find yourself stumped for ideas, check out the word cloud on the right hand side of the page. Click on whatever vegetable interests you and you will see all the blog posts written on that topic.  Other social media sites are full of ideas: Facebook and Pinterest are great places to see what is happening with food.green onions

One of my favorite food blogs, and where I often go for inspiration is Alexandra’s Kitchen. She is a devoted CSA fan and has many wonderful, delicious ideas to get you going. As the mom of two young kids, her recipes are pretty easy to follow and don’t tend to involve any overly complicated kitchen sorcery.

Some of the recipes I have shared lately are Rhubarb Glazed Shrimp and Roasted Rhubarb and Asparagus Pasta Salad.

Without a doubt, one category of produce that continues to mystify and overwhelm people is GREENS. Particularly Asian greens: bok choy, Chinese cabbage, Yukina Savoy, Asian Salad Greens. These are pretty abundant in the spring and fall. They are so good for you, and so tasty once you figure out what to do with them!

Most of the time, a simple saute or braise can be used on many of our greens. They cook way down, so what seemed like a lot, becomes much more manageable. Fritters and slaws are a great way to handle many veggies as well. Fresh bok choy and apple slaw makes a great cool side dish–perfect for a hot day.

 

Revisiting the Flavors of Summer

A frequent theme we hear during the summer is, “I love all this produce, but I don’t have time to cook it all!”

We feel your pain. This is one of the great ironies of being a farmer–you are surrounded by all this gorgeous, fresh, organic produce…and we have no time to cook it. I used to try to can my leftovers, but frankly, it was too much work. I still made some pickled carrots, okra and turnips this year, but that was about it. FREEZING produce is much more my style.

Many types of produce can be frozen with little or no prep. Some may need to be par-boiled or peeled first, but most things can just be slipped into a ziploc bag and be stored until you need it. Like now.

eggplant burthaI have been using my frozen green peppers (remember when we got TONS of those this summer?) in chili and gumbo. Over the weekend I found a bag of grilled eggplant I had tucked away. I had made baba ganoush with the last batch I found, so wanted to do something different. I found a recipe that we gave out to members this summer: Eggplant Burtha, from my friend Sujata. It is absolutely delicious!

Eggplant Burtha
Two large Italian eggplants
2 Tsp. cooking oil
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
One green chili, finely chopped
One clove of garlic minced
Two vine ripened tomatoes, chopped (I cheated and used 1/2 a can of diced tomatoes)
One tsp. ginger, finely chopped
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. chili pepper
1 1/2 tsp. coriander powder
1 tsp. salt
Finely chopped cilantro (plus a little extra for garnish)

Roast whole eggplants in the oven or on an outdoor grill. Let cool, then remove the skin. Mash with a potato masher.

Heat the oil in a medium size frying pan. Add cumin seeds. Once they are brown, add green chili and onions. Fry onions to golden brown (keep stirring so they don’t burn). Add garlic and tomato and fry for few more minutes to reduce the juices.

Add all other dry spices and fry for 2–3 minutes. Once the juices from the tomato have reduced, add mashed eggplant, salt and cilantro. Add minced ginger and cook everything for about five minutes on low heat or until all liquid has reduced. Garnish with extra cilantro.  Serve with steamed rice, roti, or naan.

What else is in that freezer?

Yesterday I unearthed a bag of frozen peaches. You may remember that our peaches were a little funny looking this summer–some were on the small side, some were freckled and weird looking. These were some of the sweetest most delicious peaches I have ever had though, and I didn’t want any to go to waste! My daughter has been enjoying them in smoothies all winter, but I wanted to try something else. So yesterday morning we had peach scones. What a treat on this brutally cold winter day!

chopped peaches

Work share member Meghan must have been thinking of warmer days as well. I saw a post from her on Facebook that she found a bag of frozen garlic scape pesto leftover from June. She and her family enjoyed garlic scape pesto pizza using pre-made naan from Wegman’s. How easy is that? garlic scape naan

I guess the lesson I am trying to impart today is, even if you don’t have the time or the interest to deal with your produce during its peak, try to set aside 10-15 minutes and save it. Not for a rainy day, but a miserably cold one like today–you will be very happy you did!

Farewell Summer, Hello Autumn

Guest post from Work Share member Kris. We love the enthusiasm she brings to the farm as well as her endless interest in “playing” with her food!

SFC_potatoes_sweet_labeledAs we say farewell to Summer favorites like corn, peppers, and tomatoes, we welcome warm and hearty vegetables into our share. Crops that have been growing strong all Summer long are now producing hefty fruits of their (our) labor! Winter squash, sweet potatoes, beets, parsnips, carrots, celeriac, and of course, dark leafy greens, are all making their way into the Autumn harvest and your shares. As sunlight diminishes and the air cools, we begin to desire something more satisfying than a light salad in our tummies. This is where our Autumn harvest comes in.SFC_parsnips_labeled
SFC_kale_lacinato_labeledMy favorite thing about the Autumn harvest is that many of these crops mingle well together. I encourage readers to get away from strictly following recipes, and instead experiment with your ingredients in basic cooking. For instance, try:
  • roasting your root vegetables with the winter squashes with a few garlic cloves thrown in
  • throwing everything into a crock pot to make a hearty stew.
  • wilting your leafy greens in a skillet then stirring them into spaghetti sauce or a frittata.
  • sauteing a medley of greens and squash, mix in your favorite dried fruits and nuts (walnuts, cranberries and winter squash are always good together!), and throw it all over some rice.
The possibilities are endless, and trying different combinations will keep your taste buds intrigued. Get out of your comfort zone and play with your food!
To help you along in your cooking adventures, here are some tips to make things easier:
  • Roasting: Chop up your vegetables into similar sizes. Use a flat cookie sheet with a lip (to give your vegetables onto more surface area). Roast at a fairly high temperature, around 400. Use a good high-temperature oil (extra virgin olive oil or grape seed oil). Go crazy with spices! Also, I like to add some Balsamic vinegar and/or honey, depending on the vegetables being roasted.
  • Squash: Sometimes winter squash can be a real bear when you want to make dinner quickly. You can get around this by cutting your squash in half (or quarters, depending on the size), scooping out the seeds and putting it in a microwave safe casserole dish with a little bit of water at the bottom (you want the skin side DOWN in the water). Cover with a piece of parchment paper, and cook on high for approximately 5-10 minutes, depending on the size of the squash. This speeds things along nicely when you are incorporating squash into a dish, but I wouldn’t recommend eating it straight from the microwave. You can then mash it, or fork out spaghetti squash noodles, or mix it into a warm salad. Another possibility is quickly sauteing it in some oil or butter; that will add nice texture and dimension to your squash. SFC_squash_spaghetti_labeled
  • Soups/Stews: I highly recommend a crock pot for soups and stews. There is nothing like throwing all of your ingredients into a crock pot in the morning, and then coming home from work to a fully cooked dinner. Again I would suggest chopping your vegetables into similar sizes. Don’t be shy with herbs and spices. Experiment with liquid bases–broth, water, wine, tomato sauce, vinegar, or juices, and be sure to try different combinations of each! Don’t leave out pureed soups, they can be wonderfully filling, yet exceptionally healthy if you use thickeners like beans or starches. Also, soups freeze well, so don’t be afraid to make a big batch. You’ll thank yourself later this winter!
  • Warm salads/sides: Start with a base: rice, noodles, quinoa, barley, hearty grains, or potatoes. Add vegetables: roasted, sauteed, wilted, or steamed. Pick a protein: meats, beans, nuts, seeds. Sprinkle in accents; dried fruits, herbs, spices, oils, vinegars, condiments, or sauces. Throw it all together and enjoy!
SFC_spinach_leaves_labeledSo welcome fall with open arms (and empty stomachs!);it is not the end of the growing season, but the beginning of a new harvest! Have fun, and good luck on your food journey!

Grillin’

Guest blogger Bill Wedo offers his take on grilling vegetables.

to be grilledWhen your daughter is a vegan, your wife works at a CSA and your mother-in-law gives you a shiny new Weber, grilling vegetables is not just an option.

It’s your destiny.

Now, accepting your destiny is one thing, controlling it another. Great thing about grilling veggies is that with a little thought – and some EVOO – you can you give the people what they want (mostly) and still enjoy that IPA. Here’s how:

Know your audience. Not everyone enjoys okra or beets. Do some food preference polling over the pre-meal drinks. I have a relative who actually enjoys Korean Kim chi. (Hint: It’s not me)

Know your veggies. Some cook faster than others. Some need prep. Anyone who has had to secretly feed Blackened Pepper Krisps to the dog under the table gets this.

Know your grill. Even the most high-end stainless steel Food Network star is not a Viking convection built-in. There are hot spots waiting to burn the onions and grill slots aching to swallow a too-thinly sliced zucchini. Incidentally, if you are a control freak, order take-out.

grilledHere is a simple grilled veggie medley that you can adapt to whatever your happens to be in your share.

1. Prep. We always soften the beets and potatoes to equalize the cooking time with the other veggies. We also marinate for added flavor. And, there is flammable liquid to throw on the grill so we can enjoy the flare-ups. The cook has to have some fun, you know.

A simple and tasty marinade uses an olive oil base with soy and balsamic vinegar added to taste. If you have garlic or ginger, all the better. In fact, you should experiment. I once whisked in some Old Bay and it tasted great. Unless you are a Yoda/Mr. Miyagi Zen-type master of the tongs, slice veggies thickly and widely. Give yourself a fighting chance of not losing them through the grill surface spaces. Cooking time depends on the lid up or down. I start with it down to warm things up a bit before flipping and sliding. The food, I mean.

chopped2. Pay attention. The zukes and the squash cook much faster than the eggplant. Be ready to move them around from hot spot to not-so-hot spot. If you have to pile them on that little warming rack, go right ahead. It ain’t pretty but it works.

on the grill

3. Perhaps, the most difficult aspect of grilling. Be sure and get all the other knuckleheads to the table BEFORE you plate the food. Nothing worse than having to microwave because your diners are engrossed in Honey Boo Boo. I mean, Downton Abbey.

4. Enjoy.

ready to eat