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Archive for the ‘farmer's market’ Category

Every fall I am overwhelmed by a desire to surround myself by pumpkins and winter squashes, one of the most enduring symbols of autumn’s bounty.  Every year I make pumpkin soup.  Every year Mr. Homesteader eats the soup politely but, I must admit, not that enthusiastically.  Knowing his love of exotic flavors, I’ve tried lots of variations:  with cinnamon and sweetness, with ginger and curry, with southwestern flavors.  It was my most recent rendition of the perennial pumpkin soup, however, that won his heart and had him polishing off his soup in record time.  And it was the most basic I’ve ever made.  I present it to you here.  I know it’s basic, but he really thought it was good!

Pumpkin sizes vary so much and this recipe is so easy that I offer this recipe casually, with no precise measurements.  Begin by washing well and whacking in half one eating pumpkin or large winter squash.  Scoop out the seeds and stringy flesh. Save those seeds, cleaned free of the flesh!  Roasted, they’ll make great healthy snacks with lots of good omega-3s. Bake the pumpkin halves in an 350 degree F oven for about 30 minutes, depending on size.  If you can cover the pumpkin, put just a couple of tablespoons in the cavities where the seeds were located. If baking uncovered, fill each cavity about 2/3 full.  After you’ve baked the pumpkin for 10 minutes, add one  clove of garlic, unpeeled, to the pan and let it roast with the pumpkin for the remaining 20 minutes.

Scoop the roasted flesh from the skin, letting it cool a bit to make sure you can get every last bit.  Cut off the tough end of the roasted garlic and squeeze it into a cooking pot with the pumpkin flesh.  Add a splash of chicken, turkey, or vegetable stock and a splash or two of cream and/or milk.  Blend everything with a stick blender, in a food processor, or in a stand blender, adding more cream or milk to get a smooth consistency.  Season with salt and black pepper.  Add a pinch each or so of finely ground cayenne pepper, nutmeg, and rubbed sage.  Heat gently and serve.

Does your family eat pumpkin soup?  Do you have a favorite pumpkin recipe to share that you think Mr. Homesteader would like?  He’s mighty adventurous!

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.  Short excerpts and tweets are fair use, as long as you provide a full URL.


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Latkes–fluffy, savory pancakes made of grated potatoes–make a filling base for a cold-weather meal.  We make them with regular potatoes, but we also like them made with sweet potatoes, whose bright orange color fits our fall mood so well.  Sweet potatoes are also loaded with nutrients, so be thankful if they’ve been showing up at your farmers market or in your CSA basket recently.  The problem with making latkes from sweet potatoes is how to get the sweet potato to cook through without burning the exterior, since sweet potatoes’ sugar content make them susceptible to excess caramelization.  I’ve discovered a secret, though, that I’ll share with you today; just keep reading!
Ingredients
  • about two cups grated sweet potato
  • 1 tablespoon whole wheat flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2-1 teaspoon jerk seasoning OR sausage seasoning OR cajun seasoning OR a dash each of cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and a pinch of salt and pepper–Use what you have and what goes well with your meal.
Method
Grate the sweet potato using a course grater. Try to get long strips of potato as well as shorter ones.  Now--and this is one of those secrets I hate to give up–microwave the grated sweet potato for 2 minutes on high.  The sweet potato should take on an almost rose-floral scent as it starts to cook.  If you don’t have a microwave, bake the grated sweet potato in a covered casserole dish at about 350 degrees F for about 15-20 minutes.  You should get similar results.
Let the grated sweet potato cool a bit and then stir in the flour.  Add the egg and your chosen seasoning and stir to combine.  Heat a heavy-bottomed pan (you know me:  I’ll use cast iron!) to medium heat (about 300 degrees) and add about a quarter to half an inch of oil.  Drop latkes in with a big spoon and spread a little to form pancake shape.  Cook on each side until they’re crispy, about 5 minutes per side.  You can hold the cooked latkes in a warm oven on toweling while you cook the rest.
Try sweet potato latkes with a dollop of sour cream or plain yogurt or even some apple butter.  I served our recent sweet potato latkes with plus cabbage and onions, grilled organic turkey bratwurst, and a sweet, sour, and crunchy fall salad that I’ll post tomorrow–I promise, it’s already written!
Do you like sweet potatoes?  What’s your favorite way to eat them?
Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.

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A few weeks ago I had a chance to meet part of my Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner.  I don’t want to offend the vegetarians, but this picture very well may include that bird.  I snapped a shot of these birds at Falling Sky Farm, now of Chime, Arkansas.  Mr. Homesteader was so impressed with the operations that for a week afterwards, no one could say chicken without him launching into an explanation of Falling Sky Farm’s operations and attributes.  The things that make Falling Sky Farm stand out include the freshness of the graze, the complete lack of odor, and the cleanliness.  Falling Sky Farm, naturally producing healthier food, stands in stark contrast to the factory farms that resulted in the recall of billions of eggs.

All of the animals at Falling Sky Farm graze on pasture.  What is most remarkable is that they get moved to fresh pasture either once or twice a day, depending on the animal.  Look at how rich this light grazing technique leaves the pasture, even after Arkansas’s extraordinarily hot summer and drought.

Frequent moving of the animals lets the manure composts easily on its own, in place, never leaving a strong smell like you find on factory farms.  The lack of concentrated manure also means that flies aren’t attracted in large numbers. With this system, animals never rest in their own waste, reducing disease.  Here you can see the chicken “tractors” in the distance and the rectangles indicating where they were in the past few days.

overlooking the chicken "tractors"

Pasture raising also eliminates bad bacteria from animals’ guts; the bacteria just don’t grow on pasture feed.  Finally, pasture raising increases the good Omega-3 fatty acids, helping you balance out the cholesterol that can come with eating animal products.  This hen promises she’ll produce better eggs!

Happy Laying Hen

As Congress debates a new food safety law, the Senate concluded that small farms with less than $500k in annual business that direct market within 275 miles of the farm should be exempt from tighter regulation unless they’re found guilty of distributing tainted food.  I think the amendment exempting small farms makes sense both for supporting local, diverse food sources and for saving tax payers’ money.  Well-run small farms are naturally healthier.

Have recent food recalls changed the food that you buy and how you shop and eat?

(edited Nov. 19, after the Senate included the exemption.)

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I don’t remember having creamy tomato soup that often as a kid, but I do remember how comforting a can of Campbell’s could be as I moved out on my own and couldn’t afford much else.  Today creamy tomato soup still speaks comfort to me, but I quit that red can long ago in favor of brands that have fewer artificial ingredients.  The “natural” and organic brands are pretty expensive, so how about just making our own creamy tomato soup at home?  This recipe will let you use up some of that bushel of tomatoes that showed up in your CSA basket, that caught your eye at your local farmer’s market, or that mysteriously appeared in your garden or on your doorstep.

serves 2-3

Ingredients

  • 1/3 medium sweet yellow onion, diced (about 1/3 cup)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1/2 tablespoon butter
  • about 1 medium carrot (2 if the carrots don’t taste too carrot-y), diced (about 1/3 cup)
  • 2 1/2 cups (or more) of fresh or home-canned peeled tomatoes, as many seeds as you can removed (but keep the juice)
  • pinch of salt (more to taste after you cook everything)
  • pinch or two of sugar
  • tiny, tiny pinch of allspice or nutmeg
  • 1/2-2/3 cup whole milk (or more, to taste) or cream, if you’re feeling decadent
  • optional:  garnish with fresh herbs

In a non-reactive, heavy-bottomed pot with the lid on, sauté the onions over low heat in the olive oil and butter until the onions just barely start to color.  Add the carrots and let them get a little color too.  Remember to keep the lid on to retain the moisture.  Add the tomatoes, salt, sugar, and allspice or nutmeg and simmer the soup on low heat until the tomatoes start to break down and the carrots are soft.  Purée using a stick blender if you have one.  If you don’t have a stick blender, let the mixture cool a bit and then blend it in a stand blender or food processor or even run it through a hand-crank food mill.  Bring back to a simmer and add the milk.  Be careful not to boil after you add the milk, or the soup will curdle! Taste and add salt if needed.  Serve hot with a grilled cheese sandwich (or turkey-ham and cheese, like we used).

Have you developed a favorite comfort-food recipe?  If you serve tomato soup, what do you serve with it in your home?

Remember to check out the Homestead’s first ever giveaway.  You could win a Dutch oven, just for saying you’re interested.

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.

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We raise a lot of our own food, but this year we’re growing less than usual, and I’m grateful that  we’ve now got a farmers market relatively close–Searcy–, where I can fill in the gaps.  It’s too far from my house for me to go regularly, but in my two visits I’ve been impressed with the produce at a this small but still excellent farmers market.  I have a good friend who goes weekly to this market who says she always gets great produce.

Several of the farmers grow chemical free produce, and  Kelly Carney (pictured here) has even gone through the process of getting his farm, North Pulaski Farms, certified organic.  

Kelly and a few others, such as Eddie Stuckey of Kellogg Valley Farms (not pictured) and the Latture Family of Freckle Face Farm, who come to this market on Wednesdays, are also part of the Locally Grown network I use some Fridays in another Arkansas community.

Mitchell Latture of Freckle Face, pictured below, specializes in chemical-free, pasture-raised poultry and meat.  I met two of his his kids on my most recent visit and discovered why the farm is called Freckle Face!

Some farmers here specialize in specific produce, like the shiitake mushroom man, who also grows darn good eggplants and other produce:

The market was hot, hot, hot–around 106 degrees F, so only a smattering of customers came the day I took these pictures, but the farmers hung in for the few like me who ventured out in the heat.  I hope that this market grows and grows.  It provides a great place to meet neighbors, find out how and where your food is grown, and get much better produce with different varieties than you can get at any of the local grocery stores.

Do you sell at a farmers market?  If you are a farmers market customer?  Do you have a favorite farmers market?

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.

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The USDA has declared August 1-7 as National Farmers Market Week for 2010.  The USDA started charting farmers markets in 1994.  Since then, farmers markets nationwide have grown steadily.  The USDA will let you search for farmers markets in your area here.

The first farmers market I attended regularly was the huge one around the state square in Madison, Wisconsin.  My favorite vendor was a Quaker man and wife team who made muffins.  I’d buy a half dozen muffins a week and eat one each day except Saturday.  My favorite was pumpkin chocolate chip, which had a perfect blend of spices and used chocolate mini-chips before I saw them widely in stores.  I’d usually get 4 pumpkin chocolate chip and then two other different muffins for variety.  Of course, the Madison farmers market is also where I learned how to cook an acorn squash.  And I absolutely loved being able to sample my way around the capitol, trying cheese the whole way.  And being able to afford all the great vegetables, fruit, and dairy products was wonderful too, since I was a poor graduate student on a very tight budget.  With no offense to any other farmers markets where I’ve shopped, Madison remains my favorite because it was sooooooo huge!

Celebrate National Farmers Market Week by visiting a farmers market!  Where is your favorite farmers market?

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.

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Meatless Mondays are making a comeback that they haven’t seen since the Great War–um, meaning World War I.  Okay, yes, they had a resurgence in World War II, but that war was much less about slogans and much more about the reality of rationing.  All that history aside, Meatless Mondays are a healthy way to add more vegetable protein to your life and help save our planet.  They can also be incredibly tasty and, frankly, more satisfying and filling that meat-filled days–especially if you include such a rich dish as baba ghanouj (baba ghanoush).  Baba ghanouj can form a centerpiece of a perfectly light, healthy, and cool summer meal.

I got introduced to Mediterranean and Middle Eastern food more than a quarter of a century ago when I lived in Boston.  I doubt if I’ve ever had authentic, but I know that the large ethnic enclaves in Michigan where I lived more recently got pretty close.  Baba ghanouj, believe it or not, was probably the first way I had eggplant. I really like it.

Today we can get beautiful smaller eggplants like Japanese varieties that have little bitterness and form the ideal foundation for baba ghanouj for two.  Two Japanese eggplants should serve four.

For two servings, roast at 350 degrees F for 20-30 minutes a Japanese eggplant, slit but not cut through, in a glass or cast iron covered pan along with 2 to 4 (or more) garlic cloves, peeled and tough ends cut off but otherwise intact.  Slice the eggplant in half, scoop it out of the tough skin, and mash it with the garlic and about a tablespoon or two of tahini (sesame paste).  Yes, it’s okay to let everything cool a bit. That’s it.  What you’ll have is a thick dip ready to serve at room temperature that has an unexpected sweetness from both the garlic and eggplant.  The tahini has the advantage of being the only food that can actually lower your cholesterol without drugs–that is, sesame does that!

Serve baba ghanouj with whole-wheat pita wedges (yes, you can make pita at home too, but that’s another post) and slices of chilled seasonal vegetables like zucchini, cucumber, carrots, peppers, and radishes (in cooler climes) for dipping.

Baba ghanouj works great as an appetizer but also works for a whole meal.  We like it with falafel (fried chickpea patties, easily made from mix or homemade, to stuff in more pita) and tadziki (thick yogurt with diced cucumber, dill, and lemon) to increase the protein content of the meal.  I’ll post those recipes in the near future.  Meanwhile, consider baba ghanouj for a cool summer supper or your next picnic or potluck.

Copright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.  All rights reserved.

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Tonight we had huge noodle bowls for dinner, relying on fresh produce and poultry from our back yard or Conway Locally Grown.  These noodle bowls are packed with veggies, spice, and cooling coconut milk (which, alas, is not local at all).  Unfortunately, after I planned the dish, I discovered that my neglected fresh ginger was no longer fresh, so I found other ways to get ginger flavor.  If you have fresh ginger, by all means grate it and use it.  Use a wok for this one-pot meal.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut in half lengthwise and then thinly across the grain
  • 1/4 cup Sriracha or homemade pepper sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sherry
  • 2 tablespoons extra-ginger ginger beer
  • natural soy sauce
  • walnut oil (or peanut oil)
  • toasted sesame oil
  • 2 small carrots, cut into pennies
  • pickled ginger juice
  • broccoli (garnish)
  • pea pods (a couple of cups)
  • big pile of shittake mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 baby bok choy heads, trimmed and cut diagonally
  • optional:  splash of hoisin sauce
  • 2 big pinches dried ginger
  • 2 red peter or other hot pepper, seeded if you want, and then sliced thinly
  • leek bottom, cut in half lengthwise, cleaned, and thinly sliced
  • broccoli florets
  • handful per person of prepared Thai rice noodles (like very white fettucini)
  • 1/2 can to 1 whole can coconut milk (light okay)

Method

Begin by marinating the sliced chicken in the Sriracha, sherry, ginger beer, and a splash or two of soy sauce.  While the chicken gets nice and spicy, prep your vegetables.

Wait–where are the snow peas?  Oh, here they are!

In a good wok over high heat, pour in a little of the nut oil, add your carrots, and pour on a tablespoon or two of pickled ginger juice.  Stir-fry the carrots until they get tender and maybe have a little caramelization on a few. Most of the liquid will have cooked off too.  Distribute the carrots in the bowls you’ll be using for eating.  Next, add a little toasted sesame oil, the snow peas, and a splash of soy sauce to the wok.  You can add a splash of water too if you want, but make sure it all cooks down.  Stir-fry the snow peas until they are tender.  Portion them out in your eating bowls to one side.

Now it’s time to stir-fry the shittake mushrooms.  Add a tiny bit of oil to the wok and toss in the mushrooms.  The mushrooms will give up a little liquid; that’s good, as it will help them cook.  Help them a little more by pouring in another splash of pickled ginger juice.  Is most of the liquid cooked off?  Out of the wok they go and into the bowls!   Be sure to put them in the half where you didn’t put the snow peas.

Next toss in the sliced bok choy with a little more nut oil and some of that ginger juice.  If you have it on hand, add a little hoisin sauce.  As the liquid cooks down, find a spot in your bowls for the bok choy.

Next up are leeks and chile peppers.  We just had a few florets of broccoli, so I added them in here.  Same story–different verse. Use a little oil.  Add a little more ginger juice if you think they need it.  Add in the prepared rice noodles and stir-fry to combine.  Plop in the bowls.

Last is the chicken.  Taking care to get chicken but little marinating liquid, add the chicken to the wok and stir-fry until the liquid is cooked down.

Now pour in 1/2 can to a whole can of coconut milk and heat until it gets bubbly.Distribute the chicken in the eating bowls and then pour on the coconut milk, which is now conveniently infused with all of the goodness that you stir-fried through the whole prep.  Yes, we just used coconut milk to deglaze the wok.

Eat.  Enjoy.  Since we separated the elements as we stir-fried them and again going in the bowls, you can get a different mouthful of flavor each time you dive into the bowl and pull out a morsel.  Use chopsticks for the most fun, with a soup spoon to get every tasty drop in the end.

Variations

This dish would be delicious with cilantro or Thai basil on top, but, alas, we had neither ready to pick right now.  We also sometimes use Asian eggplant in this big bowl of yummy, but we don’t have that yet either.  Feel free to substitute shrimp for the chicken.

What’s the largest number of local produce and protein that you’ve managed to get in a single dish?  Do you cook a similar pan-Asian dish?  Do tell!

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.  Short excerpts with full URL and attribution to Ozarkhomesteader are welcome.  Please contact me for permission to use photographs.

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We went from wondering if another ice age was on its way to believing in global warming again this week.  The unseasonably warm weather cried out for a cooler dinner, and gigantic chives and Asian mustard that went from salad size to mandatory cooking overnight made me think of some of our favorite pseudo-Asian meals.  Tonight we’re having spicy peanut-sesame noodles with broccoli, coconut-crusted chicken, and a mess of mustard greens finished with hoisin sauce.

I first had peanut-sesame noodles a couple of decades ago at a Chinese restaurant in a country house outside Madison, Wisconsin.  Come to think of it, I’m not even sure if the place was licensed as a restaurant, but it got a big following quickly.  The food was good, but the most fun was the owner’s enthusiastic teenage daughter, Sunshine.  After we’d visited a few times, Sunshine told us that she was going to order for us that night, not from the menu but one of her favorite things that her mother made for the family.  Out came the noodles.  I was in love.  These probably bear little resemblance to those, but I can make them with ingredients I have on hand.

Spicy Peanut-Sesame Noodles

This recipe will make more than enough noodles for a whole family of four (or more).  I used whole-wheat spaghetti noodles, but you could use udon noodles or thick rice noodles too.

Serves 4-6

  • 1/2 box whole-wheat spaghetti noodles
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth (or veggie–also okay to use water, but then you’ll need to increase the other ingredients a bit)
  • 1/3-1/2 cup good peanut butter
  • 1 hot pepper (chile), diced finely–I used a red peter pepper I had in the freezer.  Feel free to use more peppers if you like it spicier.
  • 1 crushed garlic clove or several garlic chives, diced finely
  • 2-3 dashes rice wine vinegar
  • 6-7 dashes soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • optional:  freshly grated ginger or pickled ginger, slivered
  • 2-4 scallions or chives, sliced across the grain (both whites and tops)
  • carrot, slivered or coarsely grated
  • optional garnishes:  cilantro, coarsely grated radish, snow peas, shelled edamame

Begin by prepping the sauce for the noodles.  Heat the peanut butter and broth to get everything moving.  I heat them in a one-cup pyrex measuring cup in the microwave and then use the measuring cup for mixing everything else. Add in the hot pepper, garlic, rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, and sesame oil.*

Now prepare the noodles according to package directions.  Pour off the cooking liquid and while the noodles are still hot, add the sauce and stir well to combine.  Stir in some of the scallions, carrots, and garnish and pile the rest artfully on top.  Set the noodles aside or refrigerate.  You’ll serve these noodles at room temperature or even cold.

Do you want to make this a vegetarian one-dish meal?  Use the veggie broth, and toss in shelled edamame or stir-fried tofu.  By the way, this sauce is an excellent appetizer dip for vegetables!  When we take it to parties, people love that it’s not the same-old ranch or bleu cheese dip, and it’s a lot healthier for you.

Go ahead and take a closer look.

Quick Broccoli

I used two cups of florets, fresh from our garden, and tossed them in salted water in the wok.  That’s all!  Then I used them as additional garnish on the noodles.

Coconut-Crusted Spicy Chicken

serves 2-4

  • 1 chicken breast, about half a pound, cut into strips (half of the thickness of the breast, about 3/4-inch wide each)
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 2-4 tablespoons lime juice
  • optional:  2 tablespoons rice vinegar (use if you only use 2 tablespoons of lime juice)
  • 1 large jalapeno or other chile, diced fine (or more to taste)
  • 1 egg, beaten  You don’t need to double the egg if you double the recipe.
  • 1/3 cup coconut

Start by making the marinade by mixing together your liquids and prepped jalapeno.  Process everything with a stick blender or in a regular blender.  It’s okay if some of the pepper remains unprocessed.  If you do not have a blender, just chop the pepper even more and let it meld with the marinade for a little while..

Pour the brine/marinade over the chicken breast strips and let everything soak for several hours, turning regularly to make sure that the marinade reaches all parts. (If you’d like to let the chicken soak overnight in the mix, add 1/4 cup water to make a brine.  Otherwise, the acid in the juice and vinegar will “cook” the chicken and make it tough.)

To have un-crusted chicken, pour off the marinade or brine and stir-fry the chicken in a little coconut oil.  To crust the chicken, pour off the brine, dry the chicken well, and dip it first in the egg and then in the coconut.  Place the chicken pieces on a greased cookie sheet and bake it in a 325 degree F oven for about 20 minutes, turning the chicken over half way through, until the chicken is golden brown on the outside (and, obviously, cooked through inside.)

I also served dinner with mustard greens in hoisin sauce (pictured in the upper right corner of the bowl).  Simply prep a mess of greens (see photos above and below for what constituted a “mess of greens” tonight!) by stripping off the tough stems, chopping everything roughly, stir-frying quickly in sesame oil, and tossing in some hoisin sauce to finish wilting the greens.  As hot as it’s been outside, the greens were really sharp.

*If you have a family member who’s a little leary of new things, reduce or leave out the toasted sesame oil altogether and add a bit more chicken broth and vegetable oil to thin the noodle dressing. Sesame oil has a distinctive (some say acquired) flavor.

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Tonight we’re feasting on sweet roasted root vegetables, beet greens, and roasted chicken breast.  Except for the chicken, goat cheese, and olive oil, the meal is coming from our garden, a harvest of root vegetables that got a head start over the winter and are now yielding Yum! Whether you’re feasting on fresh root vegetables from your garden, a spring-opening farmers market, Community Supported Agriculture, or a veg box, roasted root vegetables that are really fresh are a wonderful treat that may make the whole family like beets and turnips.

I roasted the vegetables in a cast iron fry pan, covered with a cast iron lid, at about 400 degrees F for about 45 minutes.  I included leek slices, beet wedges, radishes slices, carrot chunks, and turnip wedges.  I roasted the vegetables simply, with olive oil, salt, and a little dried oregano.

I slathered red pepper relish (red peppers, vinegar, sugar, salt) on our chicken breast (briefly brined) and then baked and sliced it after it rested.  Even though the breast was boneless and skinless, the relish helped it retain moisture.  The breast was really juicy.

I braised the beet greens in a little oil and then added a little of the chicken cooking liquid.  Finally I sprinkled on the goat cheese.

The sweetness and savoriness of the red pepper relish and  the vegetables balanced with the tanginess of the goat cheese made for a delicious meal.

Beware any woody vegetables.  Roasting will not make them better.  If you can’t easily cut through the veggies when they’re raw, they are woody.  Discard them.  Feed them to your farm animals or your compost pile.  They’ll appreciate them.  And, yes, I learned this the hard way.

What are you favorite preparation for root vegetables?  What sort of seasoning do you like to use?

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.  Short excerpts with full URL and attribution to Ozarkhomesteader are welcome.  Please contact me to use photographs.

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