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Tuesday, 9 June 2015
Find a Spot for Fresh Herbs
Topic: Home Environment

Find your Spot for Fresh Herbs

I encourage everyone, wherever you live, to find a spot to grow something fresh for your family.

The easiest things to grow in a pot are fresh annual herbs. I keep my perennial herbs—like thyme, sage, oregano, assorted mints, etc. growing in beds in the garden. But annual herbs are often more fragile, so I have taken to growing these in pots, kept near the house, where watering is convenient and they can quickly be moved if weather is particularly harsh, like some of our intense thunderstorms can be.

 

 

 

 Using fresh herbs during the growing season is one of the classic culinary joys of Summer cooking. Plus- snipping them (and using immediately) assures that their health benefits are “alive and well.”


Some reported health benefits of fresh herbs include:

This is a short list—there are many resources available to consult regarding medicinal herbs and plants. However, even if they had no additional health benefits, fresh herbs contribute to increased savoriness of foods and culinary art and for “foodies” that makes fresh herbs essential!

Because annual herbs germinate and grow quickly, you'll have these herbs ready to snip daily in a few short weeks. You may even want to try some of the more exotic herbs, like the pots of Thai Basil seen in my picture above. Wait until that herb is combined with chicken in an Asian inspired chicken salad, or tucked into fresh Spring rolls.

You don't have to wait for your tomatoes to create a super Tomato-Cannellini Bean salad shown below.

I used a large can of petite diced tomatoes (drained, use that tomato juice in a soup or stew or ?) and 1 can of cannellini beans (rinsed and drained) with 2 chopped carrots and 1 small chopped onion. Then snip a large handful of basil and parsley, chop and add to salad. Dress with equal parts of lemon juice or red wine vinegar and olive oil, to which you've added salt and freshly ground pepper. As usual, toss thoroughly, then refrigerate until serving.

And doesn't that salad compliment the plate of Mushroom Lasagne and cooked Green Beans with butter and dill very nicely?


 

 


Posted by Karen at 09:45 CDT
Updated: Tuesday, 9 June 2015 12:45 CDT
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Monday, 1 June 2015
Coq au Vin--for the middle of the week!
Topic: Home Environment

Coq au Vin is a rustic French bistro dish that fills the house with insanely beautiful aromas. If you follow a classic recipe, you probably won't have enough prep time to make it for a weekday meal. But, here are some tricks to get the same effect, while working with ingredients you likely have in your larder.

You'll need a covered heavy skillet—like this:

 


 

 

Then the modified recipe as follows:

Coq au Vin

In a large heavy skillet, brown 3 slices of bacon, cut into 1/2-3/4 inch strips.

Add 1 yellow onion, chopped and carmelized with the bacon.

(Chopped fresh mushrooms may be added also, if desired)

Meanwhile:

Flour 6-8 chicken thighs (skin-on and bone in) with flour which has been seasoned with seasoned salt and pepper.

Brown the chicken on all sides in the bacon and onion pan. Add additional olive oil if there is not enough oil from the bacon.

When browned, remove the chicken to a plate and add 1 generous cup of dry red wine to the skillet, loosening and de-glazing the bits of bacon and onion in the pan with a wooden or non-metal, heat stable spoon. Add more wine if needed so the chicken thighs when returned will be partially immersed in the liquid.

Replace the chicken thighs into the skillet.

Sprinkle Herbs de Provence dried herb blend liberally over the chicken.

Cover and cook on a low simmer until the chicken is thoroughly cooked and tender- about 40 minutes.

Remove the cover from the skillet, and raise heat to "High" to boil and reduce the wine-based liquid by half or more, so that it is reduced to basically a glazing amount of liquid.

Plate with some petite potatoes and carrots, greens—and a little French bread to dip into the juices.


 

 


Posted by Karen at 18:44 CDT
Updated: Monday, 1 June 2015 21:22 CDT
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Tuesday, 26 May 2015
It's Spring!
Topic: Education and Values

It's SPRING!

We are well into the chaotic, amazing, unpredictable Season of Spring! What an exquisite annual rebirth it is!

We have all the expectations of Easter, Mother's Day, the countless graduations, end of schools' year, bridal showers for June weddings, Pentecost and the arrival of the Holy Spirit, —

AND- the new seedling started indoors (they better be outdoors and hardening and ready for planting now!), the new in-ground potatoes and items start-from seeds (hey better be in-ground by now!)

And yet—the joys of pre-planning should be obvious!

We have been harvesting asparagus by the handful for the past month, right?


 

 We have been sniffing the aromas of the lilac bushes in our yards...

(We've been sneaking some of these into our kitchens )

And, if not—now is the time to consider adding flowering bushes and early spring perennials into our lives for the future.

Do you have your planters full of edibles? If not, why not?

Remember that plant foods begin to die as soon as we pick it. The nutrients deteriorate as the fruits and vegetables oxidize. So—plant edibles wherever your patch of Sun is!

Sneak a pear or apple tree into your backyard, instead of one more ornamental.Those little pear buds will be amazing fruits late Summer. 

 

If you absolutely cannot find one spot to plant something harvestable and edible fresh from the vine or cut from the stalk or plucked from the tree—then promise me that you will visit your local Farmers' Market every week and eat plant items that were, literally, just picked, and prepare them for your family.

More to come—recipes for you from vegetables from the Farmers' Markets!


Posted by Karen at 18:16 CDT
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Friday, 17 April 2015
It's Spring!
Topic: Harvest Hills Farm activity

Harvest Hills Farm Activity—It's Spring!


The entire environment can change so quickly with lengthening of daylight hours and temperatures that stay above freezing

I thought my readers would enjoy seeing some pictures of the activity around the farm in April, especially sunrise on Easter morning, the new lambs, the greening of the fields, the new nests...

The lambs are born, the first calf has just been born. The chicken coops are cleaned out.

The seeds are started in the greenhouse. Next week the potatoes go in the ground, to be followed by direct sown seeds a couple weeks thereafter.


 


 


 


 


 


 

Let me also remind you to:

Check our website to reserve your culinary beef order NOW

and watch the website for December availability of culinary lamb!


Don't wait too long to get your reservation in!

Website: www.harvesthillsfarm.org

Email: agoodharvest.usa@gmail.com


Posted by Karen at 15:39 CDT
Updated: Friday, 17 April 2015 15:42 CDT
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Friday, 3 April 2015
Crockpot Meatloaf
Topic: Recipes

Crockpot Meatloaf


I've never made a meatloaf in the crockpot until recently. It seems difficult to imagine since I use the crockpot for slow cooking often. The main reason I use the crockpot is because I usually don't have time to watch an oven and, with the crockpot, there is virtually no chance of over-cooking something. You really can fix and forget while you run out of the house for other projects, then return to find dinner already made.


Here's a very quick preparation meat loaf that's sure to please on those chilly “early” Spring nights. And, you can keep it low carb, sneak in chopped vegetables like kale greens or spinach, maybe some chopped green or red pepper, and use a premade canned soup for the gravy!


Crockpot Meatloaf


Prep crockpot with spray-oil.


Combine in a large bowl:

2 lb. Grassfed ground beef

1 large egg

1 package of dried onion soup

¼ cup tomato sauce

1 cup finely chopped, raw mixed vegetables (spinach, kale, peppers, zucchini, squash combination of these)


Mix throughly, add ground pepper (there's enough salt in the onion soup mix).

Form into a loaf and place in the crockpot.

Add 1can of Beefy Mushroom Soup (do not dilute). Pour soup over loaf.

COVER and Cook on LOW for 8 hours--it'll be done! Remove to serving plate and slice. Serve with some mashed cauliflower, salad to round out your nutrients!

Refrigerate leftover meatloaf and slice when throughly chilled for sandwiches (on low carb bread, of course).


Posted by Karen at 13:40 CDT
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Friday, 20 March 2015
Skillet Pizza Casserole -low carb!
Topic: Nutrition and food safety

Country Skillet Pizza Casserole

(did I mention it's very low carb?)


I am infatuated with my cast iron skillet.

It's not one of those over-priced imported culinary instruments from afar.

Mine is the “best” size--10.5 inches--and is “Made in the USA.”

Definitely old school.

I think I purchased it at Walmart for under $20 and it will last me forever.

A cast iron skillet is the perfect skillet to sear meats, then finish in the oven to correct internal heat, while still retaining the “pink” insides and “seared” outsides. Miraculous! If you need a gift idea for those cooks in your life, then buy them a cast iron skillet.

Using a cast iron skillet is also the cool way to make those Skillet Meals. You know what I'm talking about. The “Skillet Breakfasts” you see on the menus in restaurants are very popular. We know it's no longer recommended to eat uncooked yolks in restaurants or even at home--unless you know the eggs have been pasteurized. Making a skillet of assorted vegetables, cooked sausage, and scrambled eggs is a savory way to eat scrambled eggs in a new form.

But most skillet food recipes still have too many carbs. If you think about it, though, you can reduce those carbs while retaining all the savory goodness.

Here's a savory skillet meal to inspire your own creativity. It's one that incorporates our favorite food flavors of all time—PIZZA! Doesn't this sound good for a Saturday night spread with a great movie?

Pizza Casserole in a Cast Iron Skillet

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Using a 10 ½ inch CAST IRON skillet, brown 2 lb ground beef thoroughly (grassfed is ALWAYS preferred).

Drain excess grease off.

Now build yourself a “pizza.”

Using a heat resistant large spoon, press the beef against the botttom and side like a shallow bowl.

Add- 1 cup of spicy pasta sauce (read the labels for a low carb version or make your own from 1 cup tomato sauce and plenty of seasoning).

Spead sauce over entire base of beef.

Add 6 oz shredded Italian cheese.

Add your favorite toppings. In this picture, I used finely chopped Portabello mushrooms, onion, and chopped kale. (But next time, I plan to use cooked and thoroughly drained chopped spinach and mushrooms. All pizza toppings are fair game!)

Add a little extra fresh herbs and grated hard cheese, to taste.

Now transfer the skillet to the oven for 30-40 minutes until completely baked.

Remove from the oven and allow to rest about 5-10 minutes. Slice into 4 servings and use a large spatula to lift into personal bowls. Accompany with additional cooked vegetables or a salad!


 

 


Posted by Karen at 18:45 CDT
Updated: Friday, 20 March 2015 18:57 CDT
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Friday, 13 March 2015
Sophisticated Low Carb
Topic: Nutrition and food safety

Sophisticated Low Carbohydrate


It will come as no surprise that we all put on a few extra pounds during the Winter months. And, for me, there is only one way to lose weight—that is, to severely carbohydrate restrict my eating habits.

It's hard to do, no question. I was recently at the grocery store, reading labels on everything before the item went into my cart. Unfortunately, the carbohydrate counts have started drifting upwards again. The cereals, even “hearty whole grains,” are ridiculously high in total carbohydrates. And for weight loss, there is no differentiation between sugars and starches. The only subtraction from total carbohydrates you can make is grams of FIBER. Otherwise, every gram of carbohydrate is fair game for counting.

And it makes sense when you think about it. Starches break down into simple sugars. Sugars are utilized as energy, but if you're not burning them then they are stored as fats. And excess circulating sugars can also link onto free amino acids of tissue proteins. Diabetics are familiar with this phenomenon as it is reflected in their hemoglobin A1C. This protein glycosylation—involving sugars of all types, not just glucose—is interesting in multiple disease formation and especially the end-organ complications of diabetes.

So- excessive carbs are bad for us. Yet they are very satisfying to eat and we often refer to foods containing them as “comfort foods.” We need to re-educate ourselves and think about making our low carb foods more savory so we will enjoy them with as much zeal.

Doesn't that brunch/lunch plate look terrific? We have a baked salmon patty and wilted kale with a generous drizzle of lemon-garlic-dill aioli and a lovely easy over egg with freshly ground black pepper. You can choose other sauces for your intense savory addition—how about a very quickly made mayonnaise to which you can add some lemon juice, dillweed, finely chopped onion, salt and pepper? If no time, then open a bottle of quality Cesear's salad dressing (read the label for low carb)

The key is to intensify the flavors of otherwise somewhat bland foods—like fish and kale leaves.

Here's how I made the Seriously low carb Salmon Patties.

Combine in a bowl:

One 14.75 oz can Red Salmon, drained

1 large egg

2 stalks of celery, finely chopped

  2 Tbsp. finely chopped onion

Divide the mixture in the bowl, into 4 patty-equivalents.

Crush 4 Water crackers, finely, and place on a saucer. That will give you all of 3 carbs per patty.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Now heat your cast iron skillet with a little olive oil on a medium high heat.

Using your clean hands, take ¼ of the salmon mixture , form a patty and lightly pat it into your cracker dust. Place patty into the heated skillet. With no binders except egg, this is a delicate patty so keep coaxing it into shape with a heat resistant spatula. Repeat until all four patties are in the skillet. Sear the bottoms of the patties until they are somewhat browned, then flip and do the same on the other side.

 

Then, put the cast iron skillet into the oven and bake about 30 minutes. The patties will firm up and cook through . Note: Make sure you are wearing oven mitts or using a heavy pot holder when you are touching the handle of the cast iron skillet.

 

 

Don't forget to plate with some greens and an egg or two-- like you see in the picture above. And be sure to add a very savory sauce to the salmon patties and side veggies and pepper up that egg. 

 

Refrigerate covered, leftover patties promptly and they will microwave for a similar meal if used within the next four days!

 

 


Posted by Karen at 17:45 CDT
Updated: Friday, 13 March 2015 17:54 CDT
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Friday, 6 March 2015
Split Pea Soup
Topic: Nutrition and food safety

It's March , but the weather still says Winter—and that usually inspires soup.

If you haven't made that pot of split pea soup you saved the leftover ham for, this could be one of your weekends to do so. (Not being food-wasters, I know you put aside some slices of holiday ham into the freezer!)

So here's a recipe for Split Pea Soup, which I've changed a little to incorporate the multi-colored fingerling potatoes I had available. You likely have everything in the house, and that ham is in the freezer! I've also included some food safety points in the instructions.

Split Pea Soup

2 cups diced pre-cooked ham

4-6 fingerling potatoes, diced

4 carrots, cut up

1 stalk celery, chopped

½ small onion, chopped

1 lb.dried split peas

1 tsp dried soup blend herbs (basil, parsley, thyme)

1 tsp. salt

freshly ground pepper

8-10 cups of water

 

Take the diced ham directly from the freezer and “defrost” while cooking over medium heat in the heavy soup pot, in a bit of olive oil. If slices of ham were frozen, then cut first into smaller pieces from the frozen state with a heavy knife. Either way, the point is to bring previously cooked foods to HOT as quickly as possible- technically to 165 degrees F.

Next, you can add the vegetables and additional olive oil, toss and heat through.

Rinse and sort the dried split peas (the point here is to make sure there are no errant stones or physical contamination of the peas).

Add the peas and water and seasonings to the pot.

Bring to boil, then back the heat down to simmer and cover. Simmer for about an hour, stirring periodically to prevent vegetables and ham from sticking to the bottom. After an hour remove the cover and simmer additional hour, until the peas are very soft . Use a heat stable spoon and break-up the softened peas against the side of the pot, while stirring. Alternatively you can run the immersion blender for a couple of pulses. If you desire completely pureed soup, then continue with the immersion blender. Add more water if too thick for your tastes. Adjust seasonings as desired.


 

 


 

 


Posted by Karen at 14:04 CST
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Sunday, 22 February 2015
Apocolyptic Winter?
Topic: Recipes

Apocolyptic Winter

Well, if not actually apocolyptic, at least it has been momentous for most of the country. Rarely have we seen a Winter where people couldn't escape South or West to find some relief. Yet this year, every part of the country seems to have been affected by miserably cold, and often dangerous, weather.

It strikes me that maybe people in some areas of the country, who would never think of making a hardcore beef stew, just might, this year!

So, I am facing subzero weather tonight (again) and here's what's cooking: Beer Beef Stew. Caution-this is rich and intense!

Beer Beef Stew

Saute 4 slices of bacon, sliced into 1/2” strips, in a Dutch Oven, until cooked through.

Add 4 carrots, cut up, 2 stalks of celery diced, 4 small red potatoes, cut up.

Add additional olive oil to saute these vegetables with the bacon, if needed.

Add 1 packet of Lipton's (or equivalent) Beefy Onion or Onion Soup.

Thoroughly mix, heat through, then remove all ingredients to a large bowl.

Next: Toss ¼ cup flour, salt and freshly ground black pepper, with 2 lbs. beef stew meat.(grassfed beef is always preferred!)

Add the stew meat to the Dutch Oven with extra olive oil, if needed and brown the beef cubes on all sides.

Season with 1 tsp. dried Italian Herb blend.

Stir in 1 bottle of beer (your choice, dark or light—I had a bottle of Blue Moon in the refrigerator so that's what went into mine)

Add 1 can (14.5-16 oz) Petite diced tomatoes with the juice.

Add 1 tsp. Gravy Master.

Bring to a boil, stirring everything together, making sure to stir up any crusting on the bottom of your Dutch oven, then reduce heat to simmer. You should be seeing a nice rich gravy.

Add back your bowl of seasoned vegetables and bacon, toss in a couple of fresh Rosemary sprigs, or fresh parsley, if available--cover and simmer about 90 minutes until beef is thoroughly tender. Stir periodically to prevent sticking and make sure that you are cooking on lowest setting with the cover on.

In the last 20 minutes of cooking, add additional green vegetables—I've used ½ cup chopped frozen spinach and 10 oz. frozen green beans, but green peas or other greens are also good ideas.

This is a very rich beef stew so be prepared for a lot of flavors—it might be the one time you think a fresh baguette to accompany dinner sounds like a good idea—and you are burning those carbs and calories with all the snow shoveling, aren't you?


Posted by Karen at 13:49 CST
Updated: Sunday, 22 February 2015 13:56 CST
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Saturday, 14 February 2015
More Heart Healthy Food
Topic: Nutrition and food safety

In keeping with February's Heart Month, I am posting another recipe that is a family-pleaser yet is very low in saturated fat: Ground Turkey Meatloaf!

You know that we raise grassfed beef cattle and that ground beef is also lower in saturated fats and  higher in "heart-healthy" fats, but it's not readily available in all markets. This week, ground turkey seems to be on sale everywhere! Look for the 95% Lean ground Turkey and organic if possible.

I've also tried to make this recipe lower in sodium by omitting worchestershire sauce and adding herbs for flavor enhancement, lower in carbohydrates by using plain tomato sauce instead of a traditional processed catsup or BBQ sauce addition, higher in natural sources of vitamins by sneaking in finely chopped vegetables. All of these things may seem small but if you are on any restriction, they add up in the course of a day. I encourage you to look at your traditional recipes and you'll find there are often ways to improve the "healthiness", without sacrificing the convenience in preps. 

Ground Turkey Meatloaf

1 pkg. (20 0z.) lean ground turkey (95% lean, if possible)

1/4 cup bread crumbs

4 oz. plain tomato sauce 

1 large egg

1/2 red, yellow or green pepper, diced (smart you- you keep frozen strips already in the freezer, saved from last Summer!)

1/2 cup finely chopped spinach or kale leaves

1/2 small onion, finely chopped 

finely chopped fresh parsley, dried or fresh thyme leaves, freshly ground black pepper, salt

Here's a photo of the deconstructed meatloaf before mixing together. Mix these ingredients and form into a meatloaf.

Then ready to go in the oven--note: I decided to drizzle a little more tomato here, it's really a small amount of catsup when "drizzled"! And you can omit it too, but don't put any on the table when you serve--that's where people tend to overuse.  Bake one hour at 350 degrees.

And finally, plated for serving. This will make 4 servings of 5 oz ground turkey each, perfect for any diet. 

Lots more colorful veggies included--a small serving of scalloped potatoes, large serving of steamed Kale with cooked carrots and cannellini beans. I put about 4-6 oz water and about 1 Tbsp. lemon juice in a large skillet, brought to simmer, then added a 1/2 bag of triple washed kale greens, cooking down until wilted (add more lemon water, if needed). Toss in some chopped garlic with the cooked greens. I cooked the carrots separately, then added them to the kale after greens were wilted and tender, and finally stirred in one can of rinsed and drained cannellini beans. Extra lemon juice and ground pepper to taste.

 

 

 


Posted by Karen at 08:40 CST
Updated: Saturday, 14 February 2015 18:27 CST
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