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      Easy Peasy Soup Stock

      Easy Peasy Soup Stock

      My daughter Carly and I were talking about "garden guilt" recently.  That's when you have more produce than you can eat and not a lot of time to can or freeze all your garden goodies.  If you have a crock pot here is an easy technique for turning an abundance of garden produce into a tasty yummy stock that you can freeze and enjoy summer's bounty on a cold winter day.

      Easy Peasy Soup Stock made with tough garden vegetables.

      If the garden gives you tough green beans make a stock.  You can use basically anything to make your stock.  I like to start with a nice chunk of kelp.  Kelp is a wonderful seaweed that adds depth and flavor to cooked dishes especially stocks, soups and beans.  The rich flavor that seaweeds add to foods is known as umami.  It's the Japanese word for the fifth taste sensation. Umami is a great substitute for meats in your stock.  Another way to boost the umami flavor is to use dried mushrooms.  There's no hard and fast rule for making this broth and it will be different each time you make it- it all depends on what's available in your garden and farm market.  For more information about cooking and enjoying sea vegetables check out the cookbook Sea Vegetable Celebration.

      DIY Garden Stock

      The next step is to load your crockpot up with vegetables, onions, beans, tomatoes, squash, carrots, greens, whatever you have an abundance of including bunches of herbs.  This is a perfect opportunity to use older and tough vegetables including clean skins.  Turn the crock pot on and let it simmer away for hours.  I like to cook mine over night, the house is cooler and you wake up to a lovely savory smell.

      When everything is cooked, strain the stock.  You can stop here and freeze a soup base or you can use gorgeous, lovely vegetables and make a soup.  For this step I like to use the best veggies I can.  Tender and sweet.  I'll put onions and carrots in to simmer until tender and will lightly simmer other veggies including corn, beans, peas, chopped greens and herbs.  I freeze my vegetable soup without any grains, pasta or rice.  It takes up less room and I can quickly cook up my choice of starch to add to my soup before serving.

      It's not a lot of actual work making the stock, it takes awhile for the broth to simmer and then simply pop into your choice of containers and freeze.



      Plastic Free Friday- DIY Salad Dressing

      Plastic Free Friday- DIY Salad Dressing

      The 3 R's

      Everyone knows the 3R’s- reduce, reuse and recycle but did you know the order of the R’s is important?  Reduce is the most planet friendly way to help our world and recycling is the least effective.

      Single Use Plastic   

      On a recent trip to the grocery store I checked out the salad dressing aisle.  My mind is on salads this month because it is easy, fun and tasty to eat lots of salad with all the wonderful veggies, fruits and flowers available.  There are a lot of single use plastic bottles sitting on the shelfs. By making your own salad dressing you can eliminate a lot of single use plastic bottles. 

      One of the reason there is so much plastic in our lives is convenience.  In our busy lives we often look for time savers and plastic is the way most time saving items are packaged.  Bottled salad dressing is so easy to use.  Open and pour.

      Why Not Make Your Own Salad Dressing?

      If you have 10 minutes and a glass of wine you can make a delicious and tasty salad dressing- and you’ve just eliminated a plastic bottle form the waste stream.  And since most store salad dressing contains unnecessary and unhealthy ingredients the quality of your salad will improve with a simple homemade vinaigrette.

      A basic vinaigrette recipe is ¼ acid to ½ to ¾ oil.  The fun part is deciding what acid and what oils.

      Acids are basically vinegars.  Choose from red wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar, white wine vinegar, cider vinegar, rice vinegar and fruit vinegars.

      Next pick an oil, you’re going to save quite a bit of money making your own salad dressing so splurge and buy a good quality oil.  The most popular is extra-virgin olive oil.  Other oils to try are Grapeseed, Canola and Nut oils.  The Nut oil works quite nicely with fruit vinegars.

      The Difference Between Glass and Plastic Bottles

      Remember when shopping for items look for oils and vinegars packaged in glass not plastic.  Here’s why- when glass is recycled it is turned back into glass.  It can be recycled over and over and it still turns into glass.  Plastic on the other hand can not be recycled into plastic bottles.  It can be turned into plastic carpet or plastic lumber but not a plastic bottle.  The term used to describe the reality of plastic recycling is “downcycling”.  

      Once you’ve decided on your choice of acid and vinegar you need to find a bottle for your dressing.  Hopefully, you’ll be using this bottle for many years so pick a wonderful jar.  You can go out and buy a new bottle but it’s more fun and earth friendly to find one you can reuse.  Maybe a trip to your favorite antique shop- there a a lot of fun ones here in Maine.    

      Making your own salad dressing is easy and helps you reduce your plastic consumption.

      No Plastic Bottle Salad Dressing Recipe

      ¼ cup acid- your choice ½-¾ cup oil

      1 teaspoon salt ½ teaspoon pepper

      2 teaspoons Dijon or other mustard (optional)

      First combine your acid, salt and mustard in a small bowl if you’re using a small mouth bottle or put in your wide mouth bottle and shake.  Add the oil slowly and continue to whisk or dump in the jar and shake, shake, shake.  Take a small taste?  Decide if you need more oil.  Store in fridge.

      I like narrow neck bottles because they are so pretty and to fit everything in use a small kitchen funnel.  Another advantage is it’s easy to pour the right amount on your salad.  But, a wide mouth jar makes it easier to mix and taste to see if the proportions are right.  The most important feature is choosing the bottle that brings you joy and looks great on your table.

      My Favorite Cookbooks

      I love cookbooks- they are mini vacations.  In fact, while traveling I try to buy a regional cookbook as my trip souvenir.  I love to read about how someone discovered the joy of food, different ways to cook and new ingredients or twists on old standards.  Here are some of my favorite cookbooks.

      The Irish Seaweed Cookbook is filled with novel ways to seaweed.

      The Irish Seaweed Kitchen is my all time favorite cookbook.  I began my seaweed journey because I was looking for a natural solution to a chronically itchy scalp and seaweed gives me lasting relief.  But then I wanted to know all about seaweed.  Prannie Rhatigan’s book really opened my eyes and the photos are stunning.  She covers everything seaweed from starters, to main dishes but for me the revelation of using seaweeds in baked goods, especially paired with chocolates really changed my baking.  My book is well loved now and as familiar as an old friend.

      A newer book I really like is The CSA Cookbook- “No-waste recipes for cooking your way through a community supported agriculture box, farmer’s market or backyard bounty.”  There are so many recipes that tell you to “save the stems for another use” and you have no idea what the other use is.  Well, author Linda Ly has recipes for “other uses”.   How about kale stem pesto?  Or chard stalk humus?  The most interesting use of ingredients has to be using tomato leaves in pesto and sauce.  According to Linda, the leaves, “add another dimension, making it richer, more fragrant and more tomato-y”  I can’t wait to start experimenting.

      The CSA Cookbook is filled with ways to use every bit of harvest bounty.

      A great book for busy cooks is Food That Works.  Author Malia Dell has put together a comprehensive guide for busy people who want to eat good food and cut down on take out meals.  “Food That Works is a cookbook-guidebook hybrid that eases you into eating more meals from home and fewer meals out. It provides you with weekly meal plans to fill your calendar with wholesome, fresh dishes you already know and love (burgers, tacos, chili, BBQ chicken, and so on). “  Have you ever seen the meals in jars with beautiful layers?  Well, this cookbook will explain the method and before you know it you will be eating good food and feeling better.  

      My old favorite is The Settlement Cookbook- it has lasted longer than my marriage.  My sister gave it to me over 30 years ago.  It is so loved and my favorite page- brownies is covered with chocolate smears.  

      Do you have a favorite cookbook?