Green Tomato Salsa

This is my year to make green salsa. I posted about the tomatillo salsa I made back in August. This month – it’s was with green tomatoes. It is more golden than green…but just as tasty. As usual for my culinary experiments, I was prompted by getting a key ingredient in my Community Supported Agriculture share:

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Green tomatoes (3 of them…about a pound). I’d also gotten some of the other ingredients: a red jalapeno pepper, some medium ‘heat’ peppers, and 3 garlic cloves. I put everything in the food processor with some ginger preserves, a little salt and cracked pepper, and 3 tablespoons of lime juice…pulsed a few times. Then it cooked for 15-20 minutes. Yummy!

I used it as a savory side for grilled chicken, a salad dressing, and in lieu of stir fry sauce. It didn’t last long!

Favorite Summer Foods

I have two favorite foods that are new-to-me this summer.

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The first is one I started when my freezer was close to overflowing with frozen veggies from the early weeks of the Community Support Agriculture (CSA) season (while I was traveling). I started making green smoothies for breakfast: vanilla soymilk, frozen ‘greens,’ frozen banana, protein (peanut butter, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, raw cashews).

I put them all in the Ninja without measuring exactly; the consistency is thick shake to soft serve ice cream…always cold and yummy. Perfect for summer mornings. The past few weeks I have been getting cherry tomatoes at the CSA. I freeze them…and combine tomatoes and greens. Then the banana can be room temperature. The smoothies are a great way to start the day.

The second favorite for this summer is tomatillo salsa. This was the first year for tomatillos from my CSA. We’ve had two weeks where the share included a pound of tomatillos. I had to so a little research to decide what a wanted to do with them. I decided on salsa. The husks of the tomatillos are star-like…I enjoy the shape before putting them into the bin to go out to the compost pile.

I pan roast most of the ingredients in a skillet first.

After they are cooked and cooled – I put them into the Ninja along with the cilantro (one time I used parsley because I had a big bunch of it) to make it into salsa….and then store in glass jars left over from other salsa or preserves. It lasts for a least a week in the refrigerator. The salsa goes fast since I like it for salad dressing, stir fry sauce, a topping for hamburgers, or dip for chips/veggies.

Savoring the flavors of summer!

Flowers on Table

I have been enjoying the cut-your-own flowers from my CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) this summer. It’s great to have the color on the table – changing every week. A small bag with scissors for that part of the share pickup has been added to the larger bags for the heftier veggies. I often get some herbs as well. Fresh oregano and thyme are my two favorites. I rinse the herbs and put them on a small plate on the counter using it up in a few days or letting it dry so that it crinkles easily into a steaming pot of sauce or stir fry.

Ten Little Celebrations – June 2019

There was a lot going on in June – the last of the spring field trip season with Howard County Conservancy, the Wings of Fancy shifts, helping my daughter move from Pennsylvania to Missouri….and there were a lot of little celebrations along the way.

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Springfield Art Museum – The first visit to a museum is always the best…because everything is new. This one was no exception….and it was free!

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Luna moth – Finding a Luna Moth at a rest stop in Missouri was the high point of a long day of driving toward home. I celebrated that it was there….and that it was a pleasant surprise in an unexpected place.

First week of CSA – I am always thrilled to get the fresh produce from the Gorman Farm Community Supported Agriculture. Every meal I prepare with the CSA veggies is a celebration.

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Frogs at Mt Pleasant – Finding the frogs in the small pond is like working a puzzle…you look carefully and finally see….and celebrate. I celebrated along with my hiking groups of elementary aged students too.

Perfect field trip weather at Belmont – I was braced for June field trips to be overly hot…but the weather for all of them at Belmont was near perfect. The pre-schoolers at Belmont celebrated being outdoors and I did too.

My summer office – I moved my home office to a room that doesn’t get direct sun in the afternoon (so doesn’t heat up) and celebrated that the new location provided a better vantage point to the bird feeder while I am working at my computer.

Kombucha – My new food find of the month was mint lemonade kombucha from Wegmans. I didn’t drink the whole bottle all at once…wanted to savor it so I had about 1/3 each day for 3 days. Yummy! I might not get it every week…maybe only for a celebration.

1st monarch butterfly and caterpillar sighting of the year – I celebrated a Monarch butterfly on some milkweed at Brookside Gardens and then a Monarch caterpillar on another milkweed nearby. It’s always a milestone for the butterflies to make it Maryland and start laying eggs. The milkweed is blooming and sweet…plenty of food for the caterpillars.

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1st Zentangle® class is history – I celebrated leading my first Zentangle class…and the tiles created by the students.

Fledglings – I celebrated seeing several fledglings come to our birdfeeder over the past few weeks: downy woodpecker, titmouse, Carolina chickadee, and catbird. Our maple tree seems to be a popular place for many of these birds….or maybe they just come through that tree from the forest and return to the forest the same way.

Community Supported Agriculture – Hurray!

The Gorman Farms CSA summer season started last week. As usual – I am enjoying the bounty and not buying any produce at the grocery store. I’ve had stir fry and salads…seasoned mostly with garlic scapes and spring onions that were part of the share. Will I be able to use all the first share before I pick up the next one? Probably not. I can always use the bunch of kale to make chips; they always getting eaten fast. I’ve discovered that I like to process the salad greens in the Ninja or food processor to make very green slaw rather than tradition bigger chunks of green.

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When I got the veggies home – I just put them in the crisper as they came from the farm. It means there is a little more prep to use them than there would be if I did the first round of prep before I put them in the refrigerator. It also means that they won’t last quite as long as they would in a bag or more airtight container. Maybe I’ll do the work when I pick up the share this week.

CSA Share

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The Gorman Farms CSA season is about done but I am enjoying everything in the shares we are getting. A recent share filled the ceramic top of my stove. There are carrots with more top that carrot – but I like the tops in salads and soups; as soon as I got them home I cut the tops off, cleaned them and put them in a plastic bin with the parsley. I’ll eat the carrot tops first since they won’t last as long as the parsley. The carrots themselves will be eaten with hummus for snacks. They were very muddy. Heavy rain and mud has made harvesting more challenging than usual in our area.

I haven’t tried the watermelon radishes yet but I have enjoyed them in seasons past. We’re still getting a couple of onions every week which fits well with the way I cook. I’m a little behind on the winter squash; at some point I’ll cook them all and freeze the pulp to use like pumpkin. There were three tiny versions of butternut squash in this share; supposedly they are even sweeter and cook faster because they are small. The purple cabbages are small – struggling in the soggy fields probably. The peppers are holding strong; there were bell, banana, and roasting peppers in the share. And then there are sweet potatoes…several pounds every week; I’m saving the ones that are cured to eat after the CSA is over for the year. There was quite a selection at the overage table and I picked the fennel; I’ve developed a taste of it…since joining the CSA several years ago; I’d never tried it before that.

Good eating in October!

Fall Harvest

My freezer and refrigerator are overflowing with foods from my CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). In the freezer I have a build up of items that I couldn’t eat quickly enough from the beginning of the season: zucchini and garlic scapes from the beginning, some kale that I chopped up in the food processor and then frozen in a sheet, tomatoes. Each week has brought more bounty, so I haven’t drawn down on much once it went to the freezer. Sometimes I manage to finish off everything from the share the week after I got it.

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Right now the refrigerator is very full. My strategy is to eat the parts that will spoil most quickly, wait a little for the winter squash…but not too long (I already have 2 in the refrigerator)….and try not to freeze anything else. That looks tough with two crispers, two plastic bins, and squashes overflowing into the other part of the refrigerator along with 2 pounds of freshly harvested sweet potatoes.

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What not to like about 3 kinds of peppers and scallions and tomatoes and tatsoi and Romaine lettuce and Napa cabbage and fennel and onions and collards and butternut squash and acorn squash….it’s just the volume that is the challenge.

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I made a yummy ‘pudding’ this morning in the food processor with half of a leftover (cooked) acorn squash: acorn squash, 1 tablespoon almond butter, ¼ cup soy milk, a little honey. I sprinkled cinnamon on it right before I ate it. Yummy!

Ten Little Celebrations – July 2018

The little celebrations of every day add up to far more joy that the big celebrations of the years. I always find it easy to highlight 10 each month. For this month – I celebrated

Being home again after being away the last 3 weeks of June. I always appreciate being able to have my quiet time…sleep in my own bed.

The CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) bounty. I sign up for the smallest share but it is still a lot. Still - love the fresh veggies and find it easy to ‘eat healthy’ with the abundance and variety.

 

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Compost in Howard County. I learned a lot when I toured the compost facility in my county and celebrated that they are building a second phase.

A free compost bin. I picked up a free compost bin from the county and have started my one composting – so far so good. I trained enough to be dangerous.

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Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC). I’m always exited to find new/interesting places that are close enough to where live to explore again and again. I am waiting until it is a little cooler to return.

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Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens. One of the places we’ve enjoyed in June-July for the past few years. Lotuses are always worth celebrating.

Photo shoots with summer campers. It’s been a summer volunteer gig for the past few summers – always some results worth celebrating. This year I discovered that it was still good even with it rained.

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Wings of Fancy. Butterflies area always worth celebrating…and being At Brookside frequently enough to notice other people celebrating too.

Saddleback caterpillars and sawfly larvae. I always celebrate when I see organisms I’ve heard about but not seen before (I’ll be writing a post about these soon).

Cleaned out flower beds. The vegetation in front of our house was overgrown by the time I got back from Texas. I celebrated when several mornings of work begin to make it tidy.

First CSA Week for 2018

Yesterday was the beginning of the weekly shares from Gorman Farms CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). I picked strawberries last week and picked up a head of lettuce that seems to be in overwhelming supply right now….but this was the first really share. They enlarged the layout for the pickup so the ‘medium share’ subscribers have a whole side to themselves; it’s much easier to move around – weigh what needs to be weighed, find a place to perch the bags if things are too heavy. I was surprised that zucchini was already in the distribution this first week and have already found my favorite zucchini bread recipe to use the increasing amount that will probably come in the upcoming weeks; a pound seems easy enough to use over the next week or so.

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When I got home I piled it all on the top of the stove…it took most of the space. From left to right – the overage head of lettuce and garlic scapes in the plastic bin, kale and butter lettuce and tatsoi next, and then charge and pac choi last.

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I’m glad my daughter is coming to visit this weekend. I’m going to send home one head of lettuce with her and more. For once, I am not going to be overwhelmed by the first week of the CSA!

Changes at the Grocery Store - a little history

When I first started doing my own grocery shopping back in the 1970s – the checkers still had to know the prices (no scanners), there was only one kind of bag and it was paper, and I paid cash or wrote a check.

Then the scanners came along and plastic bags although paper bags could be requested. At some point, paying for groceries with a credit card took over from checks. The credit card processing hand changed over the years…from the checker swiping it through a part of the register, to me swiping it through a device, and most recently, to me inserting the chip end of the card into the upgraded device. That finally step has eliminated the signature requirement.

I started using my own reusable bags about 8 years ago and now seldom get the plastic bags any more (and never from the grocery store). Sometimes my husband requests paper bags that we use for collecting paper to be recycled.

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The last plastic bags I’ve eliminated are from the produce department; I’ve started taking a reusable plastic bin for those items – weighing them so the checker can easily scan the weight/price for those items. In a recent trip I eliminated 3 plastic bags; I always am pleased when I can take a simple action and reduce plastic use!

Of course, once the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) season starts in June, my purchases from the grocery store produce department are dramatically reduced.

HoLLIE – Week 5

The Week 5 of HoLLIE (Howard County Legacy Leadership Institute for the Environment) class focused on farming in our area of Maryland, conversations that change hearts/minds/behavior, and protecting watersheds from storm water.

The day started out cool and damp…with lots of birds moving about and making noises. I took a short walk around Belmont, but the birds were not still enough for photography (and the light was not very good. I did get some silhouettes of pigeons in the sweet gum.

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I had better luck with buds on trees

seedpods from last summer,

and the bark on the river birch.

Then it was back indoors for class.

The farms in our area are generally small and generally must specialize to be successful. The country is down to 3 dairy farmers and will probably lose one of them this year. We were encouraged to ‘buy local’ and I felt good that I already have signed up for the 2018 version of the Gorman Farm CSA (community supported agriculture).

By the end of the day – we were all hoping the rain would hold off for our field trip to see different ways Columbia, MD ‘slows the flow’ of storm water runoff. It remained cloudy...but no rain! We stopped at a bioretention area near Wilde Lake to handle the runoff from a large barn so that it does not dig a trench on it’s way to the lake (carrying the slope sediment with it). It was an attractive depression the grasses and other plants with interesting seed pods (this time of year).

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The next stop was a stream restoration where a series of stepwise pools has been constructed that will slow water letting it soak in  with the series of pools or drop sediment before it moves on town to Lake Elkhorn. The project is completed except for plantings.

The last stop was an inline bioretention facility, Homespun pond, and a nearby residential rain garden. I listened but was busy photographing what turned out to be a male and female hooded merganser on the far side of the pond!

It was another good class day!

Previous HoLLIE posts: Week 1, Week 2, week 3, week 4

Ten Little Celebrations – October 2017

October 2017 has a myriad of little celebrations – just as every month – but there was a big one this month as well: my daughter was awarded a grant that will fund her post doc research for 2 years! My husband and I celebrated as much as she did…such a relief that she can continue her work.

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There were several celebrations associated with the Staunton River Star Party:

  • Anticipating the trip…noting the improving weather forecast for sunny days and clear skies as we got closer.
  • The warmth of our mummy sleeping bags in the early morning when it dipped below 40 degrees.
  • Four clear nights for observing the stars and solar prominences observed on 2 days – what makes a star party worthwhile.
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I celebrated the finale of this year’s CSA – all the fabulous fall veggies in very generous portions. I’ll miss the CSA this winter and celebrate when it begins again next June.

The butternut squash soufflé I made with maple syrup rather than sugar – fabulous.

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The butternut squash soufflé I made with maple syrup rather than sugar – fabulous.

The Fall Festival volunteering – big map and pumpkin painting – was a great way to celebrate the season too.

Bioblitz days with 5th graders are an annual celebration of nature through the eyes of students.

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Finding a caterpillar new-to-me – a sycamore tussock moth caterpillar – was something to celebrate on another day.

Visiting Soldier’s Delight was a celebration of being outdoors on a sunny fall day.

End of the CSA Season

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The end of our Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) season was this week. I’ll miss the weekly share – bursting with freshness and flavor.

There are some things that will keep and be used over the next few months  - white potatoes that I’ve stored in paper bags, sweet potatoes that are simply spread on a tray in my darkened dining room, and winter squash that I’ll eat up before the potatoes.

I have tomatoes, diced hot peppers and leafy greens for soups in the freezer. I’m planning to eat up all the other fall offerings over the next few weeks. They are fresh enough to last that long in the refrigerator: carrots, beets, turnips, cabbages, peppers, scallions, cilantro, arugula, lettuce, spinach, and broccoli in salads and stir fries. The eating will be so good…

Spaghetti Squash

The Gorman Farms CSA shares in recent weeks have included winter squash; the first one was a spaghetti squash and I have thoroughly enjoyed it.

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I cooked it first – whole, skin pricked with a fork, for an hour at 350 degrees. At the end of the hour I took it out cut off the top and then cut it in half to let it cool a bit. I had decided the first meal from it would be ‘spaghetti’ so I started the sauce: spicy tomato sauce from a jar poured over eggplant cubes that needed to simmer a bit. Back to the squash: I used a spoon to life out the mass of seeds and pulp in the center then teased out the ‘spaghetti’ that I wanted into a small non-stick skillet; I added a little oil and stir fried the squash a little to drive off excess water. I cut up some arugula for the topping while the sauce continued to bubble and I added some shelled edamame for protein. When the squash we ready I poured it into a bowl…the added the sauce and the generous handful of arugula. Yummy!

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I used about 1/4th the squash for the ‘spaghetti’ dinner. The next fourth was used for a dessert! I soaked raisins in apricot brandy for a few hours. I started the dish by sautéing the squash with a little butter in a non-stick skillet, adding cinnamon + maple syrup + raisins with brandy as it cooked. I let the liquid cook down almost completely. It smelled wonderful and tasted yummy – eaten warm. The squash is naturally sweet so no much syrup was needed. This is something I will make again.

I still have more spaghetti squash in the refrigerator…planning to make a frittata since I will be out and about a lot over the next few days and that is easy to make ahead for a quick meal when I get home.

Next up – acorn squash.

Overwhelmed with Tomatoes

The tomato season is in full swing at our Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). There are different kinds and some weeks there are choices. This week we had a choice between yellow and red small tomatoes; I picked the yellow…and then 2 large heirloom tomatoes. I eat all of them in salads.

The two pounds of red tomatoes that were also part of this week’s share are more challenging. I used some of them in a soup yesterday…but may have some left next Wednesday when there will be more tomatoes coming (in the next CSA share).

I’m freezing the red cherry tomatoes I had left from last week. I just rinse them and put them in a Ziploc. It’s easy to take them out a handful at a time after tomato season for soups if it is cool outside or veggie smoothies if it is a hot day.

The important thing – no wonderful tomato is wasted!