What We Did With all the Apples

Two weeks ago Junia and I picked 20 pounds of apples.  When we got home I looked at all the apples, looked at Junia and said, “what are we going to do with all these apples!”  She said, “eat ’em”.

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Yes, she’s a smart two-year-old.  But since it would take a while to eat that many apples, and since most were Granny Smith and thus not the best for eating raw, we set out to prepare them in other ways.

First, we made a delicious apple coffee cake from our cookbook.

Second, we ate one apple.  Junia wanted skin off, I wanted skin on.

Third, we made apple pie filling and put it in the freezer.  Now we have four apple pies ready to be made and enjoyed.

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Fourth, we made applesauce.  For this I used half of the yellow delicious and half granny smith.  Granny Smith are not the best for applesauce, but I hadn’t planned ahead!  The guy at the orchard asked if I wanted baking apples or eating apples and I said baking.  So Granny Smith it was.  I found a recipe for applesauce with the skin on (since the skin is filled with good nutrients).  We added some sugar but it is still not that sweet.  But sugar is over-rated, and can always be added when eating it.  Now that I’m writing this, I can’t find the recipe we used.  We used the slow cooker, which was fun.

Fourth, we ate two more apples.

Fifth, we made a beet salad with apples: Beet, Orange and Apple Salad.  The only change we made was we didn’t have any oranges and we added some cheese.

Sixth, we made squash apple bake.  This will go great with ice cream.

Overall, our apple picking, preparing and eating was a success.

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Slow Cooker Chicken Corn Soup (CSA style, with celery root)

Growing up in Pennsylvania Dutch country, I know what rivels are – they are little dumplings one finds in good, PA Dutch style chicken corn soup.

Yesterday I betrayed my heritage, making chicken corn soup without rivels.

That said, my soup was pretty good.

Our summer CSA has inundated us with corn on the cob.  With so many ears of corn needing to be eaten, I decided to make chicken corn soup.  I perused a number of recipes in cookbooks and online before putting it together.  I decided to use a slow cooker because…its just easier.  The CSA had also given us a celery root on Tuesday, so instead of buying celery I assumed this would be a decent substitution.  I peeled and chopped up the root and tossed it into the soup along with a few of the leaves.  In place of rivels I threw in the remains of a bag of egg noodles we had in our cupboard.

Oh, and I also added a cup of cheddar cheese because…because its cheddar cheese.  Heck, if I had any bacon I would have added that too!

Slow Cooker Chicken Corn Soup (with celery root)

Cut up about 1.5-2 pounds of chicken and place in slow cooker with 4 cups chicken broth (I used 2 cups chicken and 2 cups vegetable broth).

Add one celery root (peeled and chopped), some leaves from the celery root, one onion (chopped), two cloves of garlic and a dash of salt and pepper (not too much, my wife said the soup was salty with only a little bit).

Remove the corn from 5 ears of corn (or more, if you want) and add to slow cooker.

Cook on low for 8 hours.

Add egg noodles in the last half-hour.

Add cheese at the very end.

Enjoy!

What to do with a beet?

Before two years ago, I knew two things about beets:

1. They were the main ingredient in something called “Red Beet Eggs“.  My family often had these around when I was growing up and I never tried them as they looked awful.

2. Dwight Schrute farmed them on The Office.

Then Emily and I joined a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) and began getting beets on a somewhat regular basis.  Now we had to figure out what to do with these hard red root veggies.  The first question is: how do you make them soft?

A little research showed there are two basic ways to soften the beets.  You can wrap them in aluminum foil with a little oil and roast them in the oven, or you can boil them in water.  Either way, once they are done (stick a fork in!) you wait till they are cool and peel the skin off.  A third way to do this is to use a peeler to peel the skin off while they are hard.  Depending which way you plan to eat them, you may want to soften them in different ways.

Now you’ve got your beet and you want to eat it.  What do you do?

1. Roasted Beets n’ Sweets

This recipe makes for a delicious side dish along with some sort of steak or chicken.  It could be a main dish too.  Emily and I have had this many times already.

2. Beet Salad with Pears and Goat Cheese

I like this the first day, but it is not as good as leftovers.  The trick is to keep everything in separate dishes: the pears, beets, cheese, dressing – and let each person mix it together in their own bowl.

3. Beet Muffins

Emily is not a fan of these, but I am.  Not only are they tasty muffins that make a good breakfast or snack, they are at least somewhat healthy due to the inclusion of our friend, the beet!

Do you have any beet recipes you enjoy?

PS: Don’t throw out the beet greens, they can be eaten too!

Spicy Sweet Potato Soup…Mmmmm….

We get a lot of Sweet Potatoes in our CSA.  I think, with summer setting in, we’ll get less now, but over the winter we got some nearly every week.  I like sweet potatoes, but I am sick of them by now.  So the question has been: what to do with these sweet potatoes?

A few months ago I discovered a recipe for a sweet potato soup.  I tried it on a Sunday night when we had friends over and the reviews were great.  Everyone loved it.  Since then I’ve made it two more times.

Spicy Sweet Potato Soup (via AllRecipes)

INGREDIENTS:

1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon grated lime zest
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and
cubed
1 tablespoon butter
1 onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, sliced
4 cups chicken stock
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger root
1/4 cup smooth peanut butter
1 lime, juiced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
salt to taste
1 large roma (plum) tomato, seeded and
diced
DIRECTIONS:
1. In a small bowl, stir together the sour cream and lime zest. Set aside in the refrigerator to allow the flavors to blend.
2. Melt butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion and garlic, and cook for about 5 minutes, until softened. Add sweet potatoes, and chicken stock. Season with cumin, chili flakes and ginger. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes, until potatoes are tender.
3. Puree the soup using an immersion blender or regular blender. If using a counter top blender, puree in small batches, filling the blender just a bit past half way to avoid spillage. Whisk peanut butter into the soup, and heat through. Stir in lime juice, and salt.
4. Ladle into warm bowls, and top with a dollop of the reserved sour cream, a few pieces of diced tomato, and a sprinkle of cilantro.

I only made a few changes.  First, since we have a toddler in the house who is not a fan of spicy food (not to mention my wife, who is not a fan either), I cut down the crushed red pepper flakes.  On the other hand, my wife loves cilantro.  So in addition to having a small portion on hand to sprinkle on top, I tossed some in while cooking.  Finally instead of pureeing it I used a potato masher to mash, leaving it a little chunky.

Delicious.

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Snow in October = No Lettuce This Week!

It snowed in October for the first time I can ever remember.  I read that one year in the late 1970s was the last time there was enough snowfall in October to actually measure.

Many people in the area are just now, days later, getting electricity back.  For most of us though, life is pretty much back to normal.

Yesterday I picked up our bi-weekly Community Supported Agriculture box and was surprised to see there was no lettuce.  When we signed up we knew we were going to have to start eating lettuce a lot more as it was promised to be in every single box.  So why no lettuce?

The snow killed it.

Here is a copy of the Crawford Organics CSA Newsletter which explains what happened to the lettuce, and other vegetables, on the farm during the storm:

     The cold weather last week did more damage than we expected. The snow was pretty and we enjoyed a more leisurely day while it fell. However, after the snow stopped, the cold came. We had 22° at our place on Sunday morning. I had to carry water to the chickens before we left for church. Their usual waterers weren’t frozen very solid, but it still took several hours for them to thaw. It warmed up Sunday afternoon and quite a bit of snow melted. Sunday night it got cold again, though not as cold as Saturday night.

On Monday we waited till noon to start harvesting. We can’t pick anything while it is frozen so we waited. We also wanted to let some snow melt before we tried to harvest. Only once we started picking did we see exactly how everything fared through the cold. Most of the kale was okay, though there were a few damaged leaves. When we went to get the lettuce, we found that it wasn’t so happy. Many of the ribs had frozen and cracked. Several of them were already beginning to decay. When we stripped all the bad leaves off, there wasn’t anything but the heart left. We were planning to send lettuce in the boxes this week. We checked both the older and the younger group that was left outside. They were both equally bad. We checked the next younger group that was in our high tunnel. They were fine, just way too small. There will probably be a couple weeks here without any lettuce. We will have to wait for the young group to grow big enough that we can pick it. We had also planned to send bunched beets. However, their tops were badly scarred from the freezing weather. We were thankful to see that the roots were unharmed. We sent just the roots in the box this week. We just barely had enough cauliflower to put in the boxes. We didn’t think we would have any, but there were just enough that survived. This will be the last time we can send it. (With all the rain this fall, both broccoli and cauliflower have had a lot of disease trouble. In a drier year, the cauliflower would normally last much later into the fall. The broccoli is still trying, but it is growing very slowly. At the moment there isn’t enough to send.) We are sending peppers this week. We had just a small patch inside one of our high tunnels. All the peppers outside are totally dead. The plants inside are damaged, but the fruit is still in good shape. We hope to have peppers for another week or two.

One blessing we have by living in America today is that we can head to the grocery store and buy pretty much whatever we want whenever we want it.  Occasionally there may be a shortage of something due to a bad crop somewhere.  I recall a couple years ago stores were short on canned pumpkin.  Prices may be cheaper when specific fruits and veggies are in season.  But for the most part, we have a tremendous amount of variety at our fingertips.

It is a blessing.  Perhaps it is also a curse.  We have little to no connection to God’s creation.  That is why I thought it would be cool to do the CSA.  We have some connection to the people who are cultivating the ground, growing the food.   Not all of it of course.  But it is a bit satisfying that later this week I will be eating beets, cabbage, carrots, red peppers, cauliflower AND POPCORN (which is awesome) that were grown right down the road.

But no lettuce, because there was a snowstorm in October.  In a CSA it is not just the farmers taking the risk, having to worry about losing a crop to weather.  In this community, we all eat lettuce or have no lettuce together.

I encourage you to look into Community Supported Agriculture.

Community Supported Agriculture Rocks

I love to cook.  

When I was in high school a representative from culinary school visited our home economics class.  I gave my name as someone who was interested in pursuing that path.  It was not until after I graduated from college that they finally stopped sending me things in the mail.  I like to joke that I still occasionally get postcards from the culinary school.

I did not cook much in college and seminary, mostly because it is no fun cooking for just yourself.  But I have cooked quite a lot since marrying Emily.  Emily has encouraged this hobby by getting all kinds of cool toys like a deep fryer, panini maker and rice cooker!

A couple months ago we heard about Community Supported Agriculture (CAS) and decided to give it a try.  Every other week we get a box of vegetables from Crawford Organics, a farm in East Earl, PA (which is where the mecca of buffets is, Shady Maple).  The cool thing is that we do not pick the vegetables, so we are forced to try new things.

Beets – I knew two things about beets: my family used to eat red beet eggs when I was a kid, and Dwight on the Office owns a beet farm.  When we got beets in our first box I was apprehensive.  But I found a great recipe for a beet salad with pears and gorgonzola cheese.  It was delicious.

Kale – Kale looks just like lettuce, to me.  I found a soup recipe that apparently is a knock-off of a soup The Olive Garden sells.  As far as I can tell, I made it correctly.  It was okay, but not amazing.  We just got kale again today and I am searching for new recipes, having already found some possibilities.

Rhubarb – Apparently the leaves of rhubarb are poisonous!  But rhubarb, or just red celery, is quite tasty.  Emily made rhubarb bars with the rhubarb (yes, Emily cooks too).  They were yummy!  And there is an entire website dedicated to rhubarb, how cool is that?

Eggplant – I had experimented with Eggplant over the summer, making ratatouille.  It was okay, but I think I found some recipes that look better.  When we got an eggplant in our CSA the farm had included a recipe for Easy Eggplant Mousaka, which was quite similar to Eggplant Parmesan.  Delicious!

Radishes – Today we got radishes.  Not sure what we’re going to do with them.  Emily might end up making a salad before I get home.

Besides eating whatever we are given and being forced to try new things, I have enjoyed knowing exactly where my food (well, some of it) is coming from.  If you enjoy cooking, and eating, check out CSAs!