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Food & Recipes

CSA Adventures: Lemon Cucumbers

Posted by on Sep 3, 2014 in Food & Recipes | 0 comments

CSA Adventures: Lemon Cucumbers

When you think about colorful vegetables, cucumbers don’t usually come to mind. But I’ve gotten green, white and, now, yellow ones in my CSA share this year. Lemon cucumbers are round, yellow cucumbers with a slightly milder flavor than a regular green cucumber. Since the yellow skin is tender, they’re the perfect quick fix for adding color to a salad. Just wash and slice. Or you can quickly pickle cucumbers with salt, vinegar and sugar. These Sweet and Sour Cucumbers are ready in less than a half hour. Like this post? Subscribe to our email list, like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter and Pinterest for more green living...

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CSA Adventures: Cooking With Eggplant

Posted by on Aug 20, 2014 in Food & Recipes | 2 comments

CSA Adventures: Cooking With Eggplant

If variety is the spice of life, my CSA this year has offered a lot of spice in the form of eggplants. I’ve gotten at least three different types of eggplants this year and not one was the solid purple kind typically sold at the grocery store. Eggplant is a relatively new addition to my cooking repertoire and one thing I’ve learned is that it’s usually not a quick meal. Cooking it takes a while. Roasting it takes longer. Grilling means the eggplant has to soak first. Broiling slices is the only quick fix, it takes about 10 minutes. But it’s worth the time. No matter how you cook it, you’re rewarded with a filling dish. Some of my and Nicole’s favorite eggplant recipes are: Roasted eggplant – It doesn’t get any easier than this recipe. There’s no peeling, no flipping, and minimal prep work. But you need time since it takes a half  hour to salt the eggplant and an hour to roast. I usually skip the last two steps – letting the eggplant cool and drizzling lemon or vinaigrette on it. I just turn the eggplant over with tongs and scoop out the flesh. Eggplant and Goat Cheese Sandwiches – Use your eggplant, red peppers and greens to make this delicious sandwich. I’ve followed the directions and broiled the eggplant. I’ve also grilled the eggplant, which requires soaking the slices in salt water for a half hour first. If you don’t have arugula or like it’s strong taste, substitute baby greens. Baba Ganoush Sesame Burgers with Salat Yerakot Yisraeli – Between the burgers and the vegetable side salad, this recipe makes good use of summer staples: eggplant, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, green onions and parsley. Eggplant Parmesan – A classic dish, perfect for meatless Mondays. Go get your eggplant on! Like this post? Subscribe to our email list, like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter and Pinterest for more green living...

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CSA Adventures: Squash Recipes & More

Posted by on Aug 13, 2014 in Food & Recipes | 0 comments

CSA Adventures: Squash Recipes & More

One of the joys and challenges of having a CSA share is the surprise factor. You don’t have much, if any, warning about the food you’ll be getting that week – some farmers send emails a few days before but others don’t – and it’s likely you’ll get some food you’ve never seen or eaten. One of the best ways to experience a CSA is with a friend so you can share recipes and cooking tips. While we’re getting started with this series pretty late this season, we hope that our weekly posts will prove a useful source of ideas for the rest of the season. Just consider us your virtual CSA buddies. And please share your tips and tricks with us too! Squash: Beyond The Side Dish There seems to be a plethora of squash throughout most of the CSA season but this week was a challenge because the new arrivals from my Country Dreams share were added to last week’s leftovers. Usually, we grill our squash (toss cut squash with olive oil and lemon pepper to season, then grill) as a side dish but, this week, I had to step it up and make squash the main dish. Enter this fabulous stuffed zucchini recipe. While the recipe calls for zucchini, I use any (and almost every) squash I had that could be halved and laid on its side. For the filling, I had a CSA onion and used two pounds of ground beef instead of the recommended beef/sausage mix because our freezer was full of ground beef from my Brookford Farm meat CSA share. I considered substituting fresh tomatoes for the can of crushed tomatoes but was glad I decided against it because the fresh tomatoes might not have offered as much liquid. I ended up stuffing a half dozen squashes and making a tasty dish. This dish reheats well so I enjoyed it for lunch the next day. Squash & Tomato Gratin Even after making the stuffed zucchini, I had a few more squashes left. Nicole sent me a simple recipe last year that has become part of the regular rotation at my house in the summer. The recipe can easily be sized up or down depending on how many you’re feeding. Over the weekend, I used one large tomato and two squashes to make this dish in a 7×7 pan. Squash and Tomato Gratin 2015-03-06 16:25:05 A simple side dish for garden fresh veggies. Write a review Save Recipe Print Ingredients 2 small zucchini or squash 4 small tomatoes 1 tablespoon fresh basil salt and pepper (to taste) 1/2 cup parmesan cheese (grated) 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese (grated) Instructions Slice zucchini and tomatoes into ¼ inch thick slices. Lightly coat a 9x13 inch casserole dish with cooking spray. Overlap tomato and zucchini slices alternately in prepared dish. Sprinkle with basil, salt and pepper. Combine cheeses and sprinkle on top. Broil 6 inches from heat for 5-6 minutes or until heated and cheese is lightly browned. A Green Routine http://agreenroutine.com/ Preserving Beans & Peppers Green beans and wax beans were also in abundance this week....

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Blueberry Vinegar: How To Make And Use It

Posted by on Aug 7, 2014 in Food & Recipes | 0 comments

Blueberry Vinegar: How To Make And Use It

For blueberry season I wanted a few new recipes to go along with my favorite vanilla blueberry jam recipe from last year. My search for something different led me to a blueberry vinegar recipe from Put ’em Up! Fruit by Sherri Brooks Vinton. It’s super simple and the resulting vinegar can be used to make light, summery dressings for the rest of the summer, through the fall. Blueberry Vinegar 2015-03-06 16:31:01 Easy to make, this blueberry vinegar only takes a little patience while you wait for the blueberries to infuse into the vinegar. Write a review Save Recipe Print Prep Time 15 min Prep Time 15 min Ingredients 2 cups blueberries 2 cups white vinegar 2 cup sugar Instructions Sterilize a 1 quart mason jar by placing the jar in a pot of boiling water for 10 minutes. Remove the jar from the hot water bath and add blueberries. In small pot bring the vinegar and sugar to a boil. Stir the mixture until the sugar dissolves. Pour the mixture into the jar over the blueberries and place a large square of wax paper over the mouth of the jar and then screw on the lid . This will prevent the lid from rusting. Shake the jar and place it in a cool, dark place for a week. Continue to shake the jar daily. By Sherri Brooks Vinton A Green Routine http://agreenroutine.com/ For my dressing I mixed 2 tablespoons of good olive oil, 1 tablespoon of blueberry vinegar, 1 tablespoon of honey and salt and pepper. I was lucky enough to have a blood orange infused olive oil on hand, but a splash of juice or a teaspoon of zest from an orange, lemon or lime would also add the taste of citrus. I poured this over a seasonal salad of baby greens, plums and slivered almonds. How will you use your blueberry vinegar?   Like this post? Subscribe to our email list, like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter and Pinterest for more green living...

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Product Review: Waring Pro Vacuum Sealer

Posted by on Mar 5, 2014 in Food & Recipes, For Your Home | 5 comments

Product Review: Waring Pro Vacuum Sealer

Long, cold, snowy winters like this are often followed by the best fruit and vegetable seasons. Last year was my second year with a CSA share and buying produce in bulk for canning. Taking my learnings from the year before, I did a much better job of storing the extra food. Two years ago, berries I didn’t can were frozen for baking or smoothies, while the excess of vegetables were mostly frozen to cook with later in the year. I froze everything the cheap way, by putting the food in freezer safe bags or containers, packing them tightly and removing air to prevent freezer burn. This worked well until I opened the bag or container, removed the first portion and closed it back up. Then I would do it again and again. Each time more air would get in and ice would eventually build up in the container. I knew I needed a vacuum packer so, last year, I went shopping. I’ve been a fan of Waring Pro since I bought their immersion blender a few years ago. Frustrated with all the bad online reviews for immersion blenders (most are said to be cheap and break quickly) I searched for a company that makes kitchen products in the U.S., assuming they would be a better quality. That’s how I discovered Waring Pro. I’ve been very happy with the immersion blender, which is used constantly and works perfectly. So buying a Waring Pro Professional Vacuum Sealer was a no-brainer. Waring Pro Vacuum Sealer Review The price of the vacuum sealer ($66.99 on Amazon) is comparable to other vacuum sealers but this one comes with some major advantages: It’s a professional model so it will withstand frequent, consistent use. It’s a pistol, which takes up less counter space than the more common countertop sealing systems. The bags are BPA free. The bags are reusable so you can open a bag, use a portion and reseal it. This is the best part because I don’t have to waste time sealing individual portions or be wasteful throwing away single use bags. After my first year using the product, I’ve been thrilled with it. Tips For Freezing Food The taste of food that was frozen properly at peak flavor offers a little taste of summer in the dead of winter. Here are some tips for making the best quality frozen food with your vacuum sealer: Fruits and vegetables should be ripe. Food should be washed and dried. When freezing soup or other liquids, stand the bag up while sealing and store on a paper plate in the freezer in case there is a leak. For soft food, like raspberries, freeze them on a cookie sheet first so they don’t squish when you vacuum pack them. When you’re using a portion of the food, immediately reseal and place the bag back in the freezer. Eating locally is rewarding, but it can be challenging. We hope this review and these freezing tips will help you get the most out of your garden, CSA share and...

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Using the Whole Chicken: Chicken Broth Recipe

Posted by on Feb 13, 2014 in Food & Recipes | 2 comments

Using the Whole Chicken: Chicken Broth Recipe

Although I’ve primarily bought locally grown fruits and vegetables for the last few years, until recently I wasn’t buying local meat on a regular basis. That changed this winter when a local farm offering a meat CSA began distributing in my town. I’m about 4 months into the meat CSA and it’s been a great experience. I eat a much wider variety of meat products and the food simply tastes better. It also feels good to know my food dollars are supporting a local farm. Speaking of dollars, it’s a bit pricey to buy locally and sustainably raised meat so I’ve changed some of my habits to get every bit of value out of the CSA. To make the most of the two broiler chickens I get every month I’ve started making broth from the bones and leftover chicken bits. Making broth is simple and with a slow cooker it requires very little effort. Just pile the chicken bones into the slow cooker, add vegetables and seasoning, and cover everything with water. Cook the mixture on low overnight and strain it in the morning. Then refrigerate the broth for about eight hours to allow the animal fat to rise to the top. Skim off the fat before cooking with or freezing the broth. There are several different ways you can make the broth. You can use cooked bones, raw bones or a mix. Typically, I used all cooked bones. If your chicken comes with the organs, you can also add those to the broth. (Mine doesn’t so I’ve never done this.) Here are a few tips for making your broth: Flavor the chicken broth with any vegetables or herbs you like, keeping in mind what you’ll be using the broth for. I tend to freeze all of the broth so I go light on the herbs and then season it when I’m using it to cook. The vegetables and herbs that tend to go well with stock are the ones you typically find in soup: celery, carrots, onion, pepper, rosemary, thyme, bay leaves, and garlic, for example. Instead of cutting up fresh vegetables for the soup, consider saving and freezing vegetable “leftovers”. Save the ends of carrots, celery and onions, as well as the centers of tomatoes, and other vegetable leftovers in a bag in the freezer. You can even save the onion skins to give the broth a nice caramel color. When it’s time to make the stock, add a few handfuls of vegetables to the crock-pot. Doing this saves time and money because you’re not buying or cutting up new vegetables. The amount of water you use will play a role in the stock’s consistency. If the final product is too thick (more like stock), you can add water. If you’re freezing the broth, you may like to save space by freezing it in the thicker form and then adding water when you’re ready to use it.   Like this post? Subscribe to our email list, like...

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Product Of The Month: Organic & Fair Trade Chocolate

Posted by on Feb 7, 2014 in Food & Recipes | 0 comments

Product Of The Month: Organic & Fair Trade Chocolate

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, and do you know what that means? Americans are about to spend $448 million on candy, which includes 58 million pounds of chocolate. With so much controversy surrounding cocoa production, specifically regarding the use of child slaves and rainforest destroying practices, we’d like to encourage you to make a change and buy organic and/or fair trade chocolate this year. Before you hit the store, arm yourself with some knowledge to help you figure out what products will meet your standards. What To Look For On A Label Not all companies with fair trade practices have a fair trade label. Unfortunately these certifications can be expensive, so small companies can’t always afford them. In the absence of a fair trade label, read the information printed on the wrapper. Brands that advertise “bean to bar” or single-source cocoa are less likely to employ child slaves. “Bean to bar” means the brand owns the whole supply chain, while single-source indicates the company gets their cocoa from one region or set of plantations. If the country of origin is listed, pay attention! West African cocoa plantations are notorious for using child slaves, so it’s best to avoid chocolate from Ghana and the Ivory Coast. When buying organic chocolate, first look for the USDA Organic label. It’s not often you’ll see this label on imported chocolate, so if  a product says “organic” on the packaging, flip it over and review the ingredients. I’ve found that most chocolate brand will specifically mark which ingredients are organic.  In some cases it’s only a few ingredients were organic, which means they may not be eligible for an organic certification, in others it was all of them. Use Buycott Buycott is an app available for Andriods and iPhones that makes buying based on your ideals easy because it lets you to scan products, which it then compares to your campaigns and it tells you if that product is OK for you to buy. For tips on setting up your profile and using Buycott, see Kim’s recent post about it. What About Hersheys? I can’t write an article about chocolate with mentioning Hershey’s, the chocolate I grew up eating and one of the most popular chocolates in the United States. The Hershey Company has promised to ensure it’s supply of cocoa is free of child labor by 2020, and in 2013 it purchased 18% of it’s cocoa from fair trade certified sources. This is a step in the right direction and I commend Hershey’s, but for for a guilt-free Valentine’s Day this year, it won’t do. 3 Chocolate Reviews I went to Mon Aimee Chocolat, in the Strip District area of Pittsburgh, this weekend to pick up some chocolates to taste test. I’ve heard their prices are a bit higher than grocery stores, but since I’m not so experienced buying this type of chocolate that I know exactly what I want, I preferred to pay a little more at a speciality shop because it offered me the opportunity...

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Homemade Vanilla Extract: 2 Ways!

Posted by on Nov 17, 2013 in Food & Recipes | 0 comments

Homemade Vanilla Extract: 2 Ways!

This year I tried thinking about homemade Christmas gifts early to avoid the fiasco of last year when I was making and labeling body butters the night before Christmas. To my further shame I have to admit those were gifts for my boyfriend’s family who are Serbian Orthodox and celebrate Christmas on January 7th. Somehow, the holidays always sneak up on me, no matter when they fall. Kim and I teamed up for this homemade vanilla extract experiment because neither of us wanted to get in too deep if it wasn’t going to work out. Kim made a traditional vanilla extract, which is done using vodka, and I went for a flavored extract using Captain Morgan’s Spiced Rum. Unfortunately, I can’t take credit for the idea of making vanilla extract with spiced rum, my friend Helene gave it to me awhile ago. First, let’s talk about the basics. How to choose your alcohol Making homemade vanilla extract is very easy, but there are some rules to be followed when choosing your alcohol. Choose 70-90 proof alcohol. Too low and the flavor won’t be extracted, too high and your beans will dry out. Use a clean tasting vodka to make the type of vanilla extract you buy in the store. Use bourbon, rum or brandy for artisanal vanilla extracts. This makes a great gift for bakers! Use an alcohol meant for consumption. I felt the need to state this because the internet is full of bad ideas and apparently some people try to be super thrifty and use rubbing alcohol. That is not safe. Choosing and buying your vanilla beans There are many types of vanilla beans. I’ve listed the 3 most popular below, but if you are interested in making artisinal vanilla extracts read this guide to vanilla varieties on Vanilla Garlic. Madagascar Vanilla Beans These are the beans used to make the most common variety of  vanilla extract. Aroma:  Sweet and buttery Flavor: Rich, dark and creamy Tahitian Vanilla Beans Aroma:  Floral with tones of ripe fruit Flavor:  Rich with notes of chocolate, licorice and caramel Mexican Vanilla Beans Aroma:  Subtle tones of smoke Flavor:  Rich and smooth In the Blueberry Jam with Vanilla Bean Recipe we shared this summer, we recommended buying your vanilla beans at a home brew store because it is often 85% less expensive than the grocery store. For my homemade vanilla extract I headed to my home brew store but they were out of vanilla beans and pointed me to ebay and Amazon, where they normally get their beans in bulk. Ebay has a larger variety of package sizes and organic vanilla beans, while Amazon offers faster shipping. Both offer bulk beans purchases, which means it costs 50-75% less per bean than my local home brew store, depending on the vendor and the size of the package. On these sites, you can find beans for .50-1.00 each. When shopping online you’ll see the vanilla beans are given a Grade A or B rating. Grade B...

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