One of my favorite vegetables is asparagus. There are plenty of fancy ways you can cook it, lots of delicious ingredients that you can combine it with. The best in my opinion though? Fresh asparagus, roasted with olive oil, sea salt and cracked black pepper. This weekend the farmers market had a few bunches of asparagus and I stood in line to make sure I had one!
Snap the woody ends off - they'll break naturally at the tough point.
Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper (I like to crack it fresh over the spears before putting it in the oven)
400 degrees, 10 - 15 minutes depending on how browned or crunchy you like it
This past weekend I was sprawled about watching Giada on the food network and she started rolling out pizza dough and arugula on a cream cheese base...and I was drooling. Knowing I had arugula in the fridge from the CSA pick up that day before, I was wondering if I could somehow make pizza myself. Most of my future attemps at pizza have failed epically...making pizza is my husbands department. Nonetheless, I headed off to the Coventry Farmers Market with pizza on my mind.
I was about to leave the market when I stopped by one last vendor who was selling bread, cookies and assorted other baked goods. They were also selling prebaked pizza shells. No rolling or rising of the dough, no stretching it into perfect little circles, all the work was done for me! How does it get better than that? I bought them with every intent on making pizza - I just wasn't sure how the ingredients were going to fall together yet!
Tonight - I had pizza success. There's nothing very healthy about this pizza, but it was delicious and used up some stuff in my fridge as well!
I had leftover spinach dip from a baby shower this past weekend and instead of a cream cheese base as in Giada's, or the standard white or red sauce, I spread a layer of spinach dip on each pizza crust. I then topped it with big handfuls of arugula from my csa share. Shaved parmesan and mozzarella cheese and in the oven at 400 degrees they went for about 15 - 20 minutes, until nice and browned.
YUM! The dip base and the cheeses provided for a decadent, rich pizza - almost too rich so I could only eat a couple pieces, but it was very satisfying!
In May, Aimee and I went to White Silo Winery for their annual asparagus festival!
The asparagus based menu was amazing - asparagus blt's, asparagus soup, teriyaki asparagus stir fry, lemon chicken and asparagus stir fry, asparagus frittata...My favorite on the menu was the asparagus blt. If you friend White Silo on facebook, the recipe's on there - I can't wait to try to duplicate it!
The grounds were beautiful, the people awesome and of course we had to do a wine tasting. White Silo specializes in fruit wines (my favorite!) and the tasting sure did not dissapoint. I left with two bottles of raspberry dessert wine, along with a bottle of blackberry wine.
Since there was still time in the day - we next checked out Digrazia Vineyards and this was such an awesome place. Relaxed atmosphere, great people, really, really great wine. I've been a fan of Digrazia for quite some time anyways, but had never visited before, and it was so nice to do a tasting and try some of the other wines avaliable. At home I had already had a bottle of their Autumn Spice wine (tastes like pumpkin pie) and a bottle of their Wild Blue (blueberry wine with brandy), but I ended up leaving that day with a bottle of Pomegrenate and Pear Wine. Can't wait for the chance to drink it!
Last winery stop of the day was Gouveia Vineyards,
The whole place was gorgeous - you can just imagine attending a wedding here as the sun's setting. The wine wasn't necessarily to my tastes, except for a white wine which I bought a bottle of. I would definitely return here with my husband and a picnic lunch though and just relax for a little while. The view makes it well worth it!
The best part of the day, other than the obvious wine drinking, was knowing that with every purchase I made I was supporting a local vineyard, and in many cases - a family business. When I look at my wine rack, I'm thrilled that most of the bottles on it come from places where I can get to within an hour or two drive. My husband's coming home in a few short months, and I'm trying to save these bottles to share with him...but that's getting more and more difficult. Another winery trip might be in order!
According to blogger...the last time Aimee or I posted was April 7th! Goal for the current: get better at updating blog. We have had plenty of food adventures in the meantime and hopefully I can get some updates and pictures up asap!
I have a tendency to lean towards lazy when it comes to cooking....at least I have the past 9 months that I've been in my apartment alone every night while my husband serves our country. Now, there are plenty of lazy meals that I could actually make....grilled cheese, soup, real food. Not for this girl - my lazy meals involve a take out menu, a telephone, car keys and a debit card. Chinese and grinders rank up there right at the top of the list, followed next by the hot bar at the local grocery store less than 5 minutes down the road. When neither of these options are viable, because it's 11pm at night and I just realized I never ate dinner, a box of crackers and a brick of extra, extra sharp cheddar will suffice. Healthy? Not at all.....
I've been saying for most of the past 9 months that I need to start cooking again. When Jer was here, we would cook almost every night of the week. Due to busy and often conflicting schedules, it was actually easier to cook a meal, leave it on the stove and the person getting home last would just serve themselves. We rarely ate together during the week but we also rarely ordered take out. Once Jer left it was easy to justify not cooking. One - I didn't feel like it. Two - I was going to have leftovers that I wasn't going to eat. Three - no one was here to tell me that the meal was good. Four - I was settling into a new routine, my husband had just deployed and I was trying to figure everything out and keep everything going - bills paid, animals fed, house cleaned....cooking and eating well fell way down on the priority list.
So, I decided when Lent rolled around this year to make cooking for myself and eating well a priority again. I also gave up Diet Pepsi (this was a nightmare at first...I'm a caffeine junkie even without the diet pepsi, but wow, I felt horrible). Was I successful? Let's see....
At the beginning of the Lenten season I had a full meat share in my freezer (10 lbs of beef, pork, chicken) along with various bags of frozen vegetables. In the other freezer I had seafood and fish (which were sufficiently freezer burned and mostly ended in the garbage...what I get for not cooking I guess). I had plenty of staple items in the cupboards. So, I would avoid take out for Lent, minus going out to eat (that doesn't count - I'm not eating alone). I managed to cook almost every single night that I was home. I did cave in and order a grinder once - just once and just a grinder. I didn't even order the jalapeno poppers on the menu (this in itself is a miracle). I did have a night where I ate crackers and cheese....but it was either that or order Chinese. The result? I have more energy and feel better, my clothes fit better even if the scale stayed the same, I learned how to make stir fry and my freezer, as of last night, has no meat in it - I have cooked a full CSA meat share for the first time ever. Tonight's the monthly pick up and I'm so excited to see what I have!
They say it takes up to 3 weeks for a habit to stick....I agree. I don't want to go back to ordering take out or eating at the grocery store. I've stopped buying lunch every day because I'm taking the dinner leftovers to work with me. Food's become exciting again. I decided that I'm worth cooking for. There's also more money in my bank account.
As for the diet pepsi habit? Success. I still gaze wistfully at the Pepsi cooler at the store, but I'm determined to stay away from my fake sugar chemical lover....
I'll just come out and say it - I don't like goats. I think they're strange animals and not very friendly. The one exception is the goat the was kept as a pet at the farm I get my meat CSA. On that note - I only think this one was friendly because he was raised by a little boy. Friendly might not even be an accurate term....once it grew out of goat toddlerhood into an adult goat - it bit me and would butt me in the leg with its head. Did I have some childhood trauma involving a run away goat chasing me down? No, not at all. The only goats I saw as a child were in a zoo or from the distance. I don't know where my irrational dislike of goats came from, but it's there.
I never liked goat cheese either - didn't care for the texture or the taste. I'm a cows cheese type of girl and much prefer a sharper cheddar over anything else. Cabot and Granville Country Store would rank at the top of my list of preferred cheeses - Private stock and Seriously Sharp from Cabot, and any of the cheddars aged past 12 months from Granville. Delicious - sharp cheese heaven.
A couple weekends ago, Aimee and I were up at Robinsons Farm in Hardwick, MA and when I was picking up some beef bones to make beef stock and she was getting some raw milk, I noticed that they carried goat cheese made by Westfield Farm. I must admit - it did look really pretty in its little rolls and the varities sounded so good. So, maybe it was the warm weather going to my head and causing me to lose my senses, but I purchased a little package of Chive goat cheese having no idea whatsoever what to do with it OR if I would even like it. For a couple weeks it just sat in the fridge, taunting me...it ended up pushed to the back after that. Last night I checked the date on it - still good. So, I bit the bullet and took it out. I cut a tiny piece off, took a deep breath and took a bite - it wasn't bad. Tangy, sharp, a little bit crumbly but creamy and not repulsive at all. I couldn't see myself eating it on a cracker tho so now I was trying to figure out what to do with it. I ended up stuffing it in a couple pieces of chicken and tossing it in the oven. I lost track of time tho and where as the chicken wasn't overcooked, the cheese had melted out of the chicken. Tonight was take two - I made hamburgers and sandwiched a slice of chive cheese in the middle of each burger before cooking. Believe it or not, it wasn't bad. It was creamy and a little bit tangy, but I would eat it again.
I can't see myself ever giving up my sharp cheddar, but I'm more open to trying new cheeses that I wouldn't have gone near before. And where as I don't see myself ever having a goat as a pet, I would definitely recommend checking out Westfield Farm and their cheeses. If I liked it, I'm sure you will too. www.chevre.com
I've been to a lot of weddings over the past several years which means I've returned home with a lot of wedding favors. Everything from matches to a cd of songs the couple loves to bottles of wine. Candles, packages of seeds to plant to remember the happy couple every time a flower blooms and coffee cups. This past weekend though - I came home with perhaps the coolest wedding favor yet - a bag of coffee. Not just any coffee but fair trade, organic coffee distributed by a company called Dean's Beans in Orange, MA. I don't drink coffee, but my husband does so for us it's a very useful gift and I loved coming home with something that wasn't going to end up collecting dust on a bookshelf or be quietly (and feeling very guilty) tossed in the trash pile a year down the line. You can check out Dean's Beans at http://www.deansbeans.com/ .
And....most important of all....Congrats Steph and Will!
I was greeted after a long Monday by the smell of my beef stew and it was heavenly! Everything turned out really well! The veggies were perfect and the juices and wine made a very tasty "broth" (with the help of a garlic and herb soup packet... sorry, no fresh herbs.) My only complaint is that some of the meat was a touch on the dry side and these were the pieces that weren't covered by the wine. Also, a seven plus hour work day is just slightly too long for grass fed beef in a crockpot even on low... Might I suggest a day when you will be home or not out for more than four to five hours and keep the meat closer to the bottom of the crock pot so that it is covered completely. (Mind you, any crockpot maven already knows these basics, but I am a beginner, so indulge me!) All in all this was hugely successful if I do say so myself! Well done Robinson Farm on some really tasty beef!
Can't wait for my next locally grown food adventure!
I received the confirmation email today that our reservation has been confirmed for the CSA at Oxen Hill Farms! Can't wait til early June when we receive our first share. You can check out Oxen Hill Farms by clicking on the link to the right!
For the past few years, my husband and I have purchased our meat through Chestnut Farms in Hardwick, Ma. You can check out more about them by clicking on the link over on the right of this page actually! It has been one of the most rewarding things that we've ever done.
Once a month I go up to their farm and pick up my monthly share. Rich and Kim always invite you to walk through their barn with them, to pet the animals and are more than happy to answer any questions you have. We've seen just born animals so many times, we've been able to hold newborn sheep and baby chicks. We've watched a calf stand for the first time. The animals here don't get pumped full of antibiotics and unnatural ingredients. They all eat the diet that nature intended. Babies stay with their mommies as long as possible. The cows are grass fed their whole lives with a hay supplement in winter.
The taste is exceptional! As Aimee mentioned in her previous post, it is much leaner beef though and overcooking it is common. Trust me, I have overcooked grass fed steak SO many times. I celebrated this past fall when I cooked a steak correctly for the first time ever. In addition to the beef, we also get chicken and pork in our share. They do have a lamb option, but neither my husband or I like lamb so we skip that. I highly recommend to anyone who wants to become more aware of what they're eating and supporting our local farmers, please check out Chestnut Farms and your local meat farms. There are more out there than people are aware of. There are two in Ellington, CT alone that sell grass fed beef. We chose Chestnut Farms because, even though it's a little bit of a drive for us, it's also one stop shopping - we get beef, chicken and pork. We're thrilled to support this wonderful family, and keep our freezer full with the highest quality meat I could ask for. It IS worth every penny as you do really get what you pay for.
Becky and I spent a gorgeous early spring afternoon driving up to Robinson's Farm in Hardwick, Ma in a quest for raw milk... so off we went! It was a great drive through fields and woods bordered by old stone walls. We finally got to the farm and saw that the "stand" was just a little room off of the main house, but inside there were treasures to be had! Robinson Farm sells organic eggs, organic raw milk, yogurt, some goat cheese (cheveres), and then there is grass fed veal and beef! I definitely needed milk and there was one 1/2 gallon so I take it as a sign that it was meant for me! But in the freezer there is grass fed stew beef and beef bones! I feel like I've hit the jackpot! I have never had grass fed beef before and I haven't gotten to really cook in my new appartment yet, so I picked up two pounds of stew meat.
I am currently reading Real Food by Nina Planck. I read something very interesting about cooking grass fed beef. As I understand it grass fed beef is a bit leaner than factory farm beef, so one of the problems is that it is a little easier to overcook. Planck recommends two methods, either "cook it very quickly and keep it rare; or cook it slowly with moisture." (Planck, 119-120) So I plan on making a beef stew in my slow cooker. So a couple carrots, celery, potatoes, onions, along with a onion and herb soup packet and several hours on low will hopefully give me a nice beef stew tomorrow! I also found a bottle of Jerram Winery Northeaster... a red wine from a local vineyard here in Connecticut... I am hoping that the bottle, which has been sitting around for a while, will still be good and that it will add some depth to my stew. I look forward to trying it out!
It's maple season and Becky and I hope to check out some sugar houses now that the thaw is upon us! As I eat beef stew I will be dreaming of pancakes and french toast with local maple syrup!
Today I sent off the deposit for my very first veggie CSA. I've been familar with the csa concept for quite some time, and every year it was one of those, I should really do this thoughts that never came to be. Before I knew it spring was here and CSA memberships had been filled. This year, I was searching online for CT CSA's and there's not too many of them around this area, and the couple that there are - they were filled. I did find one however and had a lovely conversation with one of the girls that runs it last night and today I sent out my check for the reservation! Once I get the confirmation I'll make sure to share the info!
I'm really excited about this! I like how you buy into the farm at the beginning of the season and you take the risk along with the farm themselves. One of the hardest parts of farming is never knowing if mother nature will ruin your plans of perfectly laid fields and bountiful harvest. Once your fields are gone, you're done....so many bankrupticies happen because of just one bad season. Especially when you're competing with national chains that are trucking in produce from out of the country for pennies. It's a hard life. With the CSA concept, you pay for your share in full at the start of the season - no refunds. Sure, it's a risk - last year CT got hit really hard by tomato blight and it was hard to find tomatos at the farmers market and farmstands. If it's a heavy rain season you're going to have vegetables that rot from too much moisture, too dry of a season you're going to have wilt. Anyone that has ever grown so much as a container garden knows how fickle the summer can be in New England. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. I'm ok with the risk with this - I'm ok with giving my hard earned money to someone that's investing everything they have into what I'm putting on my table. If my investment helps them keep their family farm going for another year, I'm happy with that. I hope for a great summer of plenty, but if I end up with little because the weather doesn't work in my favor, I can live with that too.
This CSA share season, I'll be getting a full veggie share and splitting it with Aimee. I look forward to getting vegetables that I normally wouldn't pick up for myself and figuring out how to cook them. I like to think I'm an adventerous eater, but if I don't know how to cook it I'm not buying it. If I don't know what it tastes like, not buying it. Guess I'm not that adventerous after all! Not having a choice over what's in the CSA basket is going to be wonderful - hopefully I'll find some new things that I like, and new and exciting things to do with the old standby's. So exciting!
I was really excited when Becky suggested we do this blog as a way of learning about eating and cooking locally and seasonally! I happen to love grocery shopping... the doctor says that there is no cure, so I am coping the best that I can. I have always loved food and cooking (albeit sometimes unsuccessfully!), but it wasn't until a year or two ago that I started to really get interested in where my food came from. I was always reading wonderful articles about farmers, locavore restaurants, etc. and I got to thinking... How can I not do this?
But where do you start? The answer was so simple: at the local farmer's stands and pick your own orchards... having lived in Enfield for almost my whole life I had no idea that we even had a pick your own fruits and veggies place. But tucked away off of Broadbrook road there is Easy Pickin's Orchard... a little place you can go and pick berries and summer squash and dig carrots out of the dirt to your hearts content! And there are other places near you... Becky and my goal is to help you find them!
I've since moved and my favorite little pick your own place is now too far for me to frequent as much as I like... but for a small state Connecticut has so much to offer! Wineries, farmer's markets, locally sourced restaurants, and other such treasures are waiting to be found! We hope you join us on our adventure... and a tasty one it will be!
This blog was started so that Aimee and I could keep track of our adventures through the world of local eating, sourcing local food and cooking it. The shorter distance from the farm to the table the better. Eating local is really important to me - it keeps the money in the local economy and keeps family farms in business, the taste is far superior to anything you can find in the supermarket, and it's how it should be. Just because you can get any vegetable year round at the local grocery store, does that mean you should? I frequent farmers markets during the warmer months, I try to freeze as much as I can to get me through the winter, but I fall victim to the convenience of produce aisles and the freezer section. I'm often dissapointed - a salad in February is not the same as a salad you make yourself with fresh ingredients in July.
So, this is the first post...not very exciting but it makes the blog page look a little bit better! We both hope to update this frequently with our thoughts, meals, ongoings, etc.