What I Made This Week: Catch-Up Stir-Fry

If you’ve been a member of a CSA for a time, say four or five weeks, you might find yourselves getting behind on using your veggies.  Maybe there are a few too many peppers than you would normally have use for.  Maybe you have too few beans for a full meal.  Perhaps you don’t know what to do with that eggplant.  And there are always too many squash.

Over the last few years I’ve discovered a solution… stir-fry.  Just chop everything up, throw it in a pan with some seasoning, and serve it with rice or noodles.  It’s faster than soup and more tolerable in the summer heat.  And it can stave off the panic of having two full crisper drawers on the night before you have to pick up your next share.

Last night was stir-fry night.  I’ve been known to make stir-fry out of anything.  Last night I used okra, two kinds of summer squash, a bell pepper, the yard-long beans, garlic and a can of chickpeas.

CSA Stir-Fry

The key, I’ve discovered, to making a stir-fry taste good using anything, is to not over-cook the veggies and use a good sauce.

The sauce can be really simple: 2 parts soy sauce to 1 part rice vinegar, minced garlic and fresh ginger, some red pepper flakes.

You can change it up by adding some lime juice, green onions, or fish sauce instead of soy.  Use a little sesame oil if you want a deeper flavor.  If you like it sweeter, add orange juice or brown sugar.   Make extra and thicken it up with a corn starch slurry if you want it to coat your noodles.

Or you can use a peanut-based sauce, especially if you’re trying to use up basil.  Peanut butter and rice vinegar or lime juice, some fish or soy sauce, and a good dose of sriracha.

After a big stir-fry, I can breathe a little easier, knowing there is room in the fridge again for next week’s veggies.  The kids always like it (H ate three servings last night).

What do you cook to catch-up on your veggies?   What are your favorite stir-fry sauces?


Categories: CSA, Recipes | 3 Comments

In the Shares This Week

Koch Week 4

Anyone else drowning in squash and okra? These past weeks we sure have got a lot of both.  Monday I shredded about 8 cups of summer squash for Rick to use for zucchini bread.  And we have tried okra almost every way we can think of.  Our favorite okra recipe so far has been from Scott Arbor.

It’s simple:  just trim the okra, slice it in half lengthwise, toss with olive oil and salt and roast at 450° for about 35 minutes, tossing about halfway through.  It comes out a little crispy and not at all slimy.  The kids loved it as much as we did and it is a quick way to eat up a pound or more of okra at one sitting.  Rick commented that it was like fries… only okra.

SA Week 4

We also plan to freeze some okra as well as some shredded squash for bread this winter.  It feels good to be putting a little something in the freezer for later.  It’s not hard-core food preservation or anything, but sometimes just the baby steps we take can make a huge difference.  Every bag of okra we freeze is one meal less that we have to buy this winter.

The last couple of weeks, San Antonio has had their Hatch chile festival going on at the grocery stores.  I don’t even know if they do this in Colorado.  Back in Denver, around chile time, there are big roasters on the side of the road and little farm stands that pop-up where you can just stop and buy chiles by the bushel, but I don’t think I’ve seen them advertised at the grocery stores.  Not here.  Rick went to the market and bought 4 bags – by that I mean about 4 quarts, of roasted chiles.  They were labeled mild and “spicy.”  The spicy ones were still pretty mild by my standard.  But we peeled them and put them away in the freezer for winter pots of green chile and pozole.  I hope to buy more before the “festival” is over.

In the mean time, we’ve made lots of pizza. I’m finding that it’s too hot and I’m too lazy to stand over the stove and cook this week.  If you haven’t yet tried roasted green chiles on your pizza, I HIGHLY recommend it.

Our menu this week looks something like this:

Sunday: Homemade pizza with bell peppers, green chiles and fresh tomatoes
Monday:  –we ate out–
Tuesday: Pizza with sautéed squash, peppers, sage and mozzarella
Wednesday: Crepes with cream cheese and yogurt, roasted okra and peppers
Thursday: Chick-pea and summer squash stir-fry with noodles
Friday:  Eggplant lasagna with spicy greens
Saturday: Beef and calabacita tacos

Last week’s menu highlights (since I forgot to post them) were:  stuffed peppers with garlic sausage, chicken and sage risotto, chicken chilli with Hatch chiles, and beef and okra stew with tomatoes.

What do you do with the veggies that overwhelm you in the summer?  I’d love links to recipes, if you have them to share!

I’ve linked up to In Her Chucks’ What’s in The Box.

Categories: CSA, Menu Planning, Recipes | 4 Comments

CSA Shares This Week

Last week I fielded several, “What is a CSA?” type of questions.  CSA stands for community supported agriculture.  Essentially it is when a farmer or rancher sells “shares” of produce (or meat) to members of the community before they are harvested.  These shares provide the farm with capital for operating expenses and saves them from having to market.  It assures them their produce will be sold, and guarantees an income, rain or shine, for the farm.

In return for paying upfront, the members get a “share” of the harvest. It is usually high quality, harvested right before you get it and, in my experience, a lot of produce.

Because of the inherent risks of farming (it all depends on the weather), members and farmers alike are not guaranteed anything. You may have a light year of tomatoes, but great harvest of corn or melons. You basically get what you get.  By using this direct sales method, farmers guarantee that they have sold their crop which reduces their financial burden and consumers (members) get really great produce at a really reasonable price.  Win-win.

We’ve purchased a CSA share every year since 2008.  Both in Colorado and now that we’re here in Texas.  I’ve written about it quite a few times.  You can read all my CSA related posts by selecting the CSA category here or from the drop-down menu on the right side bar, and I’ve provided a few links to CSA related posts at the bottom of this post.

This is what we got in Sunday’s share from Koch Ranches:

Koch Week 2

Okra, 3 green bell peppers, eggplant, 4 saucer squash, 2 yellow squash, arugula, collard greens, 4 pints of cherry tomatoes, a cucumber, another cucumber that I think might be a white Puneri Kheera cucumber, 2 field tomatoes, purple carrots, radishes, sage, basil, parsley, garlic chives, 1.6 lbs beef short ribs, 1 lb ground goat, and a dozen eggs.

Wednesday’s share from Scott Arbor had:

SA 8/7/13

A cantaloupe, basil, eggplant, yard-long beans, tomatoes, yellow squash, zucchini, jalapenos, sweet peppers, cucumbers and okra. 

With all of this, we are planning to have:

Sunday: Herb flatbread with a tomato, basil and mozzarella salad.  I substituted homemade pizza crust instead of making the naan bread, since I didn’t have buttermilk on hand. I guess it was really fresh herb pizza.

Monday: Goat sliders with grilled saucer squash and green beans.

Tuesday:  Eggplant focaccia bread and cherry tomato salad

Wednesday: Ratatouille with pasta

Thursday: Beef short ribs with mashed potatoes and okra

Friday: Herbed sweet-pepper omelets with arugula-cucumber salad 

Saturday: Bacon-jalapeno poppers with yard-long beans, grilled squash, and whatever else we have left and can throw on the grill.  Yep – that’s how I roll. 

I guess I better make some pesto.  And I might try to persuade Rick into making some zucchini bread if we haven’t eaten the zucchini by Saturday.

A side note, San Antonio is getting ready to have a Hatch chili festival.  I am very excited about this, since being a Colorado girl, I am missing my green chiles.  What is UP with TexMex and no sauce???

Categories: CSA, Menu Planning | 2 Comments

What’s in the Bag(s)?

Koch Week 1

I thought I’d show off what we received in our share bag last week and what my menu plan for the week was.  I know I’ve always been curious what other CSA shares contain, but up until now I had only ever had the one from the Monroe’s in Colorado.  Also, the blog, In Her Chucks, has more than once invited me to be a part of her CSA box roundup, so I thought I’d finally take her up on it.

From Koch Ranch, we are receiving the full-mixed share which means vegetables and grass-fed meat.  Since my camera is NOT behaving, and only wants to take blurry pictures indoors, here is a list of this week’s vegetables:

A bag of okra, four turnips with lots of greens, four saucer squash, four yellow summer squash, two green bell peppers, small bunch of kohlrabi greens, carrots (with tops), small bunch of chard, one eggplant, a pint of tomatoes, one red onion, two pickling cukes, two fancy cukes (I think, I’m not positive), one kohlrabi, a watermelon, a honeydew melon, four peaches, and bunches of herbs: garlic chives, purple basil, another kind of basil (not sure what), parsley, sage, and some tiny hot peppers.

The meat comes frozen.  Our share includes three meats per week, with a dozen eggs substituted for one of the meats every-other week.  This is a three meat week:  1.25 lbs polish sausage (beef & pork), 1 lb lamb chops, and 1 lb feral swine kabobs.

Feral Swine

Ok, two out of the three of those are new to me.  I’ve never cooked lamb before last week, and certainly not feral swine.

I decided to save the swine kabobs for something later – maybe some pozole in the fall or on a cooler day.  I also had some  kale and mushrooms in the fridge that needed to be used, as well as some potatoes and onions in the pantry and some chicken in the freezer.  Our half-a-week’s dinner menu looks like this:

Sunday: Polish sausage with potatoes, onion and turnip greens.

Monday: Ratatouille with pasta: eggplant, squash, peppers, basil, and tomatoes; peach cobbler for dessert.

Tuesday: Grilled lamb chops and okra with squash fritters.  Watermelon for dessert.

The rest of Sunday’s share was used primarily during lunches and snacks this week.  The kids killed off the carrots the day we got them during lunch.  The tops we donated to some neighborhood chickens.  We made a cobbler with the peaches so they could easily be shared (there were only four peaches and there are five of us).  They were so sweet fresh it was almost a shame to bake them.  Tuesday’s grilled lamb was just delectable.  We’ve decided we love lamb.  More lamb please!

Scott Arbor Week 1

We received our second CSA share of the week on Wednesday night.  This one is an all veggie share from Scott Arbor.  We got 3 large burpless cucumbers, 2 eggplants, a large bag of basil, two colored bell peppers, tomatoes, a honeydew, a zucchini and a yellow squash, and a bunch of yard long beans.

Wednesday: Steamed eggplant and mushrooms with peanut sauce and coconut rice.

Thursday:  Mustard grilled chicken with chard, kale, onion sauté, and mashed turnips and potatoes.

Friday:  Grilled pizza with fresh tomatoes, basil and sweet peppers

Saturday:  Black bean-zucchini tacos with bell peppers and Spanish rice.

The yard long beans and cucumbers made a lunchtime (dis)appearance.  Extra basil went into pesto for the freezer.

We picked up our second share from Koch Ranch on Sunday.  I’ll post pics later in the week so you can compare week to week along with me.

Are you participating in a CSA?  What does your share look like, and what are you doing with it?  Have any killer feral swine kabob recipes to share?

Categories: CSA, Menu Planning | 6 Comments

Squash Fritters with Parsley & Garlic Chives

Tuesday I tried a recipe for the first time that I just had to share.  Squash fritters.  I have never made squash fritters before this week, but they were surprisingly easy, and everyone loved them.  Even my anti-squash eaters.

This recipe is based on the zucchini fritter recipe from Smitten Kitchen.  I took her recipe and substituted what I had on hand from the CSA share this week.

Squash fritters

Squash Fritters with Parsley & Garlic Chives

1 pound summer squash (I used two small yellow squash and a white saucer squash)
1 teaspoon coarse or Kosher salt, plus extra to taste
1/3 cup +/- fresh parsley, chopped fine
1/4 – 1/3 cup garlic chives, minced
Freshly ground black pepper
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Olive oil for frying

Trim the ends off your squashes and then use a food processor or the large holes on a box grater to shred your squash.  Toss the squash with 1 tsp salt and place in a colander to drain for ten minutes.  Use your hands or a spoon to squeeze the liquid out of your squash.  Then place the squash in a clean kitchen towel or cheese cloth and really wring out the squash.  A lot of water will come out.  This extra step is worthwhile.

Place your squeezed and wrung out squash in a large bowl.  Add in the parsley, chives, and black pepper.  Taste for salt and add any if needed.  Mix in the egg.  In a separate bowl, mix together the flour and baking powder.  Add to your squash mixture and mix all thoroughly.

Heat oil in a cast iron pan over medium to medium-high.  Once hot, place the fritter batter, one spoonful at a time in the pan.  Flatten each fritter out into a little patty.  Work in batches, making sure not to crowd them.  Let fry 2-3 minutes per side.  Flip when they are golden brown.  If they are browning too quickly, adjust the heat on your pan.

Drain the fritters briefly on paper towels before transferring them to a baking sheet in a 200 degree oven for 10 minutes to finish setting and keep them crisp until serving.

Serve with a dollop of sour cream (or plain yogurt) and lemon juice if you like.

Lamb, fritters, okra

Categories: CSA, Recipes | 7 Comments

Rebuilding Our Food System

We spent HOW MUCH on groceries last month?!? 

Since our big move to Texas from Colorado, I have truly felt the pain of losing an established food system.  The pain of having food that doesn’t taste as fresh, the pain of less healthy food, and most of all, the financial pain.

In Colorado we had a large garden, a CSA farm share and a freezer full of meat and fruit that we harvested ourselves.  Oh yeah, and eggs and honey from the back yard.  We basically had the freshest, healthiest food possible, at a really low cost.

This is what our grocery budget looked like:

Meat (hunting licenses, fuel, ammo, misc. expenses for trip): $250/year average
Vegetables from CSA: $520/year average
Garden, bees and chickens: $400/year average
Fruit from Western Slope (including gas for trip):  $400/year average

Total yearly expenses: $1570/year or $131/month

Everything else from grocery store: $600/month average
This includes grains, dairy, beans, nuts, occasional imported fruits like oranges, limes, avocados, occasional meats like chicken, fish or bacon, canning ingredients like sugar and vinegar, misc. ingredients like soy sauce, salt, spices, etc., plus laundry detergent, shampoo, toilet paper, etc. because I’m too lazy to separate those things out.

Total average grocery spending: $731/per month for a family of five eating mainly organic, local and sustainable food.

*These averages were calculated from our actual spending totals in 2010, 2011 and 2012.  I rounded up to the nearest ten dollars.  In 2010 we only had two kids, so that year’s grocery totals were lower by about $50-100 per month than 2011 and 2012 bring the average down a bit. 

When we found out we were moving, we had 8 weeks to empty that freezer full of meat and western slope peaches, eat through all our canned goods, and generally try to get through our pantry of stocked up food.  Luckily it was January when we got the news and not September.  Whatever we couldn’t eat, we gave away.

After the move, our grocery budget literally doubled…  without the quality or quantity.

No more eggs that were just laid that morning.  No more freezer stocked with meat.  Telling the kids that no, they couldn’t have a peach smoothie because we don’t have frozen peaches.

We expected the jump in price the first month or two, but we really started to feel the pinch as time went on.  The loss of the CSA and the garden hurt the most.  I feel starved for a real tomato.  I missed the asparagus harvest.  And the pale grocery store eggs…  sigh.

Plus we just didn’t have enough… I realized my menu planning revolved around my CSA share and that I was struggling with what veggies to even buy at the store.  I’d get there and see the choices: conventionally grown with pesticides or organic but from across the globe.  All of it over-priced and lacking flavor.  I felt paralyzed, and often left the store with a big bill and too little veggies for my family who was used to a seemingly unending supply during the summer.

It wasn’t just the veggies.  All the stores here carry different brands of food than I usually bought in Denver.  I found myself reading labels again where I had been used to being able to just pick up what I knew.  This made grocery trips much longer (with three kiddos in tow) and often discouraging.

Dinner time came around and I had no plan for what to make.  We had chicken and frozen broccoli so many times the kids and Rick protested.  We went out to eat way too many times.  I gained almost fifteen pounds from the eating out, and sitting around not gardening.

Finally, I got my wits about me.

I made a giant run to Costco and bought the pantry items we needed to start rebuilding.  Lots of canned tomatoes, pasta, chicken stock, brown rice, nuts, flour and sugar, frozen berries.  I made a big trip to the bulk section of the grocery store and restocked on beans, rice, oats, quinoa and lentils.

I looked up the CSA’s I had researched before we moved.  I called them and I signed up, even though we were halfway through their seasons.  That’s right, them, their seasonsI signed us up for shares from TWO different CSA farms.  One is an all vegetable share from a farm northeast of us, and the other is a mixed share of vegetables and grass-fed meat from a ranch to the southwest of us.

I picked-up up our first ranch share from the the farmers market Sunday.  Wednesday I will get our first share from the farm.

Kids with Koch Week 1

It feels good.  Good to have fresh, organic, locally grown veggies in the house.  To know what to make for dinner.  To have in-season food with actual flavor.

So starting with an empty pantry, no freezer (it sits unplugged in the garage), and no garden, building our food system here will take time.  Restocking will take time.  But it is time well spent, so here’s to a fresh start.

Categories: CSA, Food | 5 Comments

Removing Bitterness from Eggplant without Salt

Some years are corn years and some are melon years.  This year is the year of the eggplant.  I keep seeing pictures of beautiful aubergines all over Facebook, from the West coast all the way to New York.  Local Kitchen has called it “Eggplantocalypse 2012,” a term which totally cracks me up.

It seems like eggplant is either a love-it or hate-it fruit.  I think a lot of people want to love it, because lets face it, eggplant is beautiful.

I received this amazing Nubia eggplant in my CSA share last week.

The problem is eggplant tends – heavily – toward the bitter.  Coupled with its weird texture, it just becomes hard to palate.

Eggplant also has a thick, rubbery skin.  Unless I really feel sentimental about its pretty color, I usually peel it completely.  I will at the very least peel half.  In general, the skin is a bit too tough to really enjoy.

I’ve heard all about salting eggplant to help remove the bitterness, but honestly, I don’t like this process.  I’ve never felt it helped all that much, plus it takes too long.

I recently read a novel in which a French man taught a young South American boy to cut and cook an eggplant.  The Frenchman told the boy to remove the seeds.  The boy forgot, but cut the eggplant so beautifully, the man did not care.

This got me thinking, “How would one remove the seeds from an eggplant?  Why would you, since they are totally edible.”  But then I remembered that eggplant is a member of the nightshade family.  It’s the same plant family as tomatoes and peppers.  The pith and seeds of bell peppers are bitter.

I decided to try it.  I sliced my eggplant length-wise and used a spoon to scrape out as many seeds as I could.

Then I chopped it and cooked it up in some ratatouille.

It was sweet and delicious.

Could it have been a fluke!?  Rick suggested I try it again to prove my theory.  So I did, again and again.

All summer long, we’ve been enjoying sweet eggplant… without salting it.

Suddenly I’m hearing my three-year-old say, “I love eggplant.”

I felt like I discovered a whole new way to get kids to eat eggplant!  Wait, no…  I know how to get people to eat eggplant!

It’s magic!!  I know how to remove the bitterness from eggplant!

I searched online to see if anyone else knew about this.  There wasn’t much, although I did discover that eggplant is also related to tobacco and that is why the seeds are so bitter.

There are a few applications when seeding an eggplant is not really desirable, like eggplant parmesan or for a pizza.  For those recipes I use a Japanese eggplant instead, as they tend to be less bitter to start with.

For everything else, seeding is the way to go for me.

Easy Lunch-Time Summer Pasta with Eggplant

1 eggplant
1/2 small zucchini
1 bell pepper, any color
1 large heirloom tomato
olive oil, salt and pepper
pasta, any shape

Slice, peel and seed eggplant.  Seed and chop pepper, halve and slice zucchini and chop tomato.  Combine and toss all with olive oil, salt and pepper in a shallow pan.  Roast in a medium-hot oven (375-400°) for 20-30 minutes, until the vegetables are crisp-tender, being careful not to over cook.  If the eggplant roasts too long it will become mushy.

Meanwhile, boil pasta in salted water until al dente.  Reserve 1/3- to ½-cup pasta water and drain.  Toss cooked pasta with roasted vegetables and reserved pasta water.  Enjoy.

And, here’s the proof…

Categories: CSA, Food, Recipes | Tags: , , , , , | 16 Comments

What I Made This Week: Turnip, Pea & Kohlrabi Stir-Fry

I published a post today on our CSA’s blog, Monroe Organic Farms.  Just a quick one with a stir-fry recipe at the end.

If you’re here from the Monroe blog for the first time, feel free to look around and see what crazy farm-style hijinks we are up to here in the city… bees and chickens and garden, and a few other odd projects.  Plus green cleaning, clothes lines and other green-style stuff.  Welcome.

Also – there are a couple of days left to vote on this… Pick me!

Categories: Community, CSA, Food, Recipes | Tags: , , , | 7 Comments

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