Spring and Summer CSA Shares are Now Available

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barrel-of-garden-vegetablesIn spite of a few hiccups, sign-ups for this year’s Spring and Summer CSA shares is now underway.  To reserve your space, go to www.texasdailyharvest and create or update your account.  Prices are the same as last year. Instead of one long CSA, we have broken it into two 10 week seasons. 
I have been trying some new recipes that I will share here soon.  Stay tuned for Sourdough Whole Wheat Tortillas, Cashew Butter, and Tangy Sauteed Cabbage.
 
Here’s a little “CSA Spring produce preview” to get your mouth watering ~
 
 
cauliflowerspinachcarrots1broccolichard
beets
kale

Thanksgiving Ideas

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I just opened a blog post from Food Renegade (click the photo below to see the original blog entry) and found a recipe I wanted to share.  That made me think of some other recipes that might interest you, so here we are.  My first blog post in let’s don’t discuss how long…

Bacon Wrapped Sweet Potato Bites – Click for Recipe

Butternut Squash / Beet / Granny Smith Apple Casserole

I found this recipe in the Spring and modified it to make it my own.  I hope your family enjoys it as much as mine did.  Just watch your fingers on the finger-eating mandoline!

Ingredients:
5-6 golden beets (or red if that’s what you have and you don’t mind the color bleeding – it looks funny but tastes good)
4 granny smith apples
1 butternut squash
1 red onion
1 tbsp sucanat (optional)
1/4 cup fresh thyme, roughly chopped (I have used other herbs, try what you have or what you like)
1/2 cup cold-pressed coconut oil, warmed to liquid (I have used olive oil)
Fresh ground black pepper
Fine ground sea salt

Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

Slice your onion on the mandoline and add it, 1 tsp of coconut oil and sucanat, to a pan and brown over medium-high heat 10 minutes. Stir occasionally. While onions brown, peel and slice your beets on the mandoline and set aside. Slice your apples (do not peel, the green is pretty) on the mandoline, and cut out the core/seeds on the slices where you find it.

Peel your butternut squash and slice as well. Using a pastry brush, or your fingers, grease your baking dish.

Place a layer of beet rounds in the casserole dish. Paint with coconut oil. With a very light hand, sprinkle—SPRINKLE!—a touch of sea salt and pepper on your rounds. It’s important to season all layers, so be sure to be delicate with your amounts. A tiny pinch will do. Imagine, if you had to (or could) count, you’d make it so only 20 little grains of salt/pepper are on each round. I you are not a fan of pepper, use it every third layer instead of on each one.

Sprinkle beets with fresh thyme. Now place a layer of apple slices on top of your beets. Then place a thin layer of onions on top.

Paint with oil. Add a pinch of salt/pepper. Now place a butternut squash round on the apple/onions. Season with pepper/salt. Repeat this order until the dish is full (or you run out. It will bake down some.  Sprinkle grated Parmesan throughout the layers as desired.

Again, use this order and repeat until full:
Beet: coconut oil, fresh thyme, tiny pinch salt/pepper
Apple: coconut oil, tiny pinch salt/pepper
Onion
Butternut squash: Coconut oil, tiny pinch salt/pepper

No matter what layer you finish on, make sure you top it with fresh thyme, salt and pepper.  Finish with a generous layer of grated Parmesan.

Bake at 350°F for 45 minutes.

If you want to use the cream, while the casserole is baking, place cream ingredients in the blender and mix until ultra smooth. Drizzle over warm gratins and serve!

You can prepare this a day in advance. Just make sure it is covered well and you reheat it in the oven, never a microwave. Always use fresh cream sauce to drizzle, too.  This casserole reheats very well, the leftovers were devoured in our house, not a bit was wasted.  It is surprisingly sweet and the flavors meld very nicely.

For more Thanksgiving Real Food Recipes, check out Cheeseslave!

2012 Organic Produce CSA Shares Now Available!

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2012 Organic Produce CSAWe have opened the registration for our 2012 Organic Produce shares.  You can read all about it and sign up on our website.  To have your share delivered, you must also sign up for our Home Delivery if you are not already a member (separate sign -up on the website).

The main page of the website is www.TexasDailyHarvest.com

Or you can go straight to the CSA Page for more information.

Kefir!

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While I liked the kombucha ok that Kelly made (and we posted about not too long ago) it just wasn’t “my cup of tea”.

I had been reading about kefir, a fermented milk product along the lines of yogurt, and decided that was what I wanted to try.  I did a little searching and found I could buy kefir grains on ebay (of all places).

Kefir fermenting in the kitchen

Kefir is created by putting kefir grains in milk.  The kefir grains have bacterial and yeast components that culture the milk.  When it is done, you strain the kefir to remove the grains, and they can be used again (and again, and again…)  They will even grow and divide, so you can either make more and more kefir, or you can share grains with your friends.  You have a very healthy, digestible, probiotic drink that is slightly effervescent and very tasty.  Sky even likes it plain (but I need it sweetened a bit to really enjoy it.)

After buying my grains on ebay, I found that Nick’s Naturals (the seller) is the same people as Savvy Teas and Herbs.  They sell kefir grains and so much more.  They also make their own vanilla extract and have many really cool things.  When you buy grains from them, they send you very detailed instructions on how to use them, and take care of them.  You can buy directly from the website above and avoid giving ebay your money.  Not to mention you get lots more choices in the store.

I have since purchased teas and herbs from them, along with some other stuff (like arrowroot powder and vanilla extract) and even some water kefir grains.  These are similar to milk kefir grains but make a probiotic soda type drink.  My hope is to break Kent of his soda addiction.  I’ll share more on this as I get into the project.  Right now the water kefir grains are still in the bag they came in, waiting patiently to be rehydrated.

Kefir grains floating in the fermenting milk

In the meantime, I am thoroughly enjoying my milk kefir.  I like it flavored with honey and a bit of the vanilla extract I mentioned earlier.  You just put the grains in milk, cover with a cloth, stir occasionally, and let it culture for 18-24 hours at room temperature, depending on the temperature and your individual culture.  I just strain my grains out, rinse out the glass bowl, put the grains back in, and add more milk.

I either drink the kefir immediately or put it in a quart jar in the fridge for later.  I have found that honey stirs in better at room temperature.  And I really like honey in my kefir.  I will, by the way, be adding local honey to the store as soon as I get around to it.  In case you were wondering what the kefir is sitting on in the picture above, here it is.  Kent got this old refrigerator at a garage sale one day.  It actually works, but mostly it just takes up space and looks cool.

Isn't this a cool old refrigerator?

I keep the finished kefir in the regular refrigerator in a canning jar.

A jar of kefir, whey, and stock

Here it is, along with my jar of whey above, some butternut squash I cooked today and will make soup with tomorrow, and the chicken stock which will also go into the soup.  I’m really getting quite pleased with my refrigerator.  I am gathering quite a collection of “real food” basics in there: grassfed butter, raw milk, whey, kefir, stock, fermented pickles, fermented beets, pastured pork and beef…

Sometimes I feel like I’m not making much headway on improving our eating, but looking in there tonight, I know that I am.  Or at least I’m doing better at filling the fridge, I just have to make sure we all eat the stuff, too!

Happy, healthy eating ~ Ramy

Kombucha

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Kombucha is a fermented drink with a zing.  It is a wonderful way to support gastrointestinal health.  Kelly is one of our Home Delivery Site Hosts, and has become a friend over the last few months (though we have yet to meet in person.)  She has introduced us to kombucha, and has shared her brew with us.  From the information she provided for this post, I intend to begin making my own.  Here is a guest post from Kelly regarding her experience with kombucha.  I hope you enjoy it.

Terra

So…I did the cancer thing a couple years ago…double mastectomy and 8 rounds of chemo. I was done with the bad stuff and ready to start over with the new me. Ready for reconstruction surgery…(a sort of a trophy for my hard work!) all I needed was a quick blood test to make sure my counts were good. I got a call from the plastic surgeon…had to postpone surgery at least a month and we’d check again. I was heart broken.

I decided I would eat/drink whatever it took to raise my counts. As that commercial used to say I read to the end of the internet. While I was reading I kept coming across the Weston A. Price foundation and Nourishing Traditions…an organization that goes WAY back in time and teaches how ancients and native societies from around the world prepared food for a healthier way of life. They place a lot of emphasis on raw, fermented and probiotic food sources. One of which is Kombucha.

Kombucha…a traditional, probiotic, and enzyme rich beverage consumed for centuries in China and Russia. Kombucha is helpful in cleansing and detoxifying the liver and other organs. So off I went…found it at the local health food store and started drinking. It was an odd taste at first but I found that the more I drank the more I wanted almost like my body was craving it and at 3.50 a bottle it was an expensive craving!

SCOBY

Again I went back to the internet and decided I’d start making my own. Kombucha Kamp became my obsession…followed the blogs, read all the info, and decided to take the plunge. I was going to grow a Kombucha SCOBY…Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast. So it came in the mail, craziest thing I’ve ever seen. Knowing that it was a living culture I decided to give it a name. I call her Terra Madre. Terra is a continuous brewing system that keeps my Kombucha on tap at all times…there is also a single brew method. I set it up, tried very hard not to touch it for 7 days as instructed in the Kombucha Recipe, and then there it was…my first SCOBY baby was born. When it’s finished I am even able to bottle some of it with flavors like cranberry and blueberry. It’s easy and fun!

I had that surgery one month later and my counts remained normal from that point on. I don’t know if it was just the Kombucha that did the trick but I do know that when I go a day or two with out it my body let’s me know. If you’re looking to enhance your organic lifestyle I recommend you try a bottle too!

 

Home Made Lard

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I finally got around to making some more lard last week.  I will tell you about my experience, direct you to more information on the web, and tell you about what I learned from this to do differently next time.

Fill the Slow Cooker with Fat

Here is my slow cooker full of fat.  Next time, I will grind the fat or at least cut it into very small chunks.  I will show you why in a moment. I know, some of you are wondering why in the world I would be making lard, aren’t you?  If you do a quick internet search, you will find many articles talking about the renewal in interest in and use of lard.  We have been told for years that animal fats are bad, we should cook with vegetable oils, right?  Well, as use of the vegetable oils has increased, so has the rate of heart disease.  Our ancestors ate large amounts of animal fats without the rate of heart disease, cancer and other health issues from which our society now suffers. Real foods are what kept them healthy, and real foods do not come in a box.  Real lard is made at home, it does not come from a shelf in the grocery store. Check out this post from Earthy Delights, or this post from Nourished Kitchen, and this one from Healthy Diets and Sciencefor more information.

Fat Heating

There are several methods of rendering lard.  Some people use a large, heavy stock pot in the oven or on the stovetop.  I was happy with the results I got from the slow cooker (set on low – this is important).   Some people don’t like the smell of the heating fat, but it did not bother me.  Our fat did not have a “gamey” odor in my opinion.

Solids Sink to the Bottom

As the fat cooked and the liquid came out, I found that my large pieces retained a lot of the liquid.  This is when I decided smaller pieces or grinding would have been a good idea.  I stirred the pieces and broke them up at this point to release more of the liquid, but it would have been easier and more effective to have done it to begin with. As the fat is released, the solids begin to sink to the bottom.  At this point it becomes easy to ladle off the liquid, and you can do so at any time.  I found that as long as I did not stir up the solids, I could ladle the golden liquid without needing to strain it.

Clear Golden Liquid Lard

You want your liquid lard to be clear,

Cooling Lard

then as it cools, it will turn white.  Overheating the lard will give a tan color. Here are three jars at various stages of cooling, from warm and clear, to cooling and cloudy, to cooled and white . It is important to remember that this is not the same product as store-bought, hydrogenated, shelf-stable lard.  This lard needs to be refrigerated.

Finished Product

It can also be frozen for long term storage. The final product, a white, solid lard, is wonderful to cook with.

We basically no longer cook with olive oil.  We use our lard, butter, and are trying to use more coconut oil (which makes great fried yellow squash, by the way.)

Butternut Squash Soup

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I do not even remember where the original recipe came from.  Somewhere in the internet, I am sure.  It is very rare that I follow a recipe exactly, quite often because of lack of advance planning.  Most things in our life end up being the wing-it variety.  We usually don’t know what our plans are until they’ve already happened.  Wait, I was talking about soup, wasn’t I?

Butternut Squash Soup with Sausage

Butternut Squash Soup.  It has become a favorite at our house.  The first time I made it, Kent was less than enthusiastic about soup for a meal.  It turned out to be one of his favorites, and he now lets me know when we have not had it in awhile.

One thing I remember about the original recipe is it called for nutmeg, and I don’t like nutmeg.  So I substitute ground cinnamon (because that is what I had).  Sometimes my substitutions work out, sometimes they don’t.  Eating my experiments is often quite an adventure at the very least.  Some of them are definitely inedible.  Not this soup, though.

I bake a butternut squash, sliced lengthwise and face down in a quarter inch of water, for 30-40 minutes until tender to a fork.  I’ve tried peeling them and boiling the chunks, but I like to keep the skin on my hands.  Peeling a butternut squash is a monumental task, I find baking them to be much easier.   Then I can just scoop out the cooked squash with a spoon.  I put it in the blender and puree it until smooth.

Soup bones cooking to make stock

Stock is jelly-like when cold (the good stuff is anyway).

Normally, I add an equal amount of home made chicken stock.  Tonight it was beef stock made from our soup bones.  I made beef stock for the first time yesterday.  For this soup, I think I prefer the chicken stock, but I will try other things with the beef stock.  I also got a large amount of tender meat out of the stock pot, which Sky has been eating.  There was enough for Kent and myself to have it for supper last night also, these are very meaty soup bones.

Browned Suasage

So, you have pureed squash and stock in the pot. This is when I sprinkle with ground cinnamon and add a bit of Redmond Real Salt and black pepper.  I heat over low heat to liquify the stock and simmer the two together to blend.  At the same time, I brown a package of sausage, usually venison sausage around here.  Whatever bulk sausage you like, our pork breakfast sausage would work great.  We just didn’t bring any of it home because we have so much venison in the freezer already.

I also sautee some onion in another skillet.  When the sausage and onions are done, add them to the pot.  Add water to get the consistency you like.  Simmer for a bit to let everything blend, then serve.

Sky Likes Butternut Squash Soup!

Tonight, we tried adding creme fraiche.  It gave a nice creamy taste and was pretty good.  We also added our cottage cheese.  This was hands down the favorite.  Kent, Sky and I ate about 3/4 of a 16oz. container of cottage cheese tonight.  In the soup, it got soft and then had a definite squeak when chewed.  If you don’t understand what squeak is, you’ll just have to try it.

This soup is a very flexible recipe.  I want to try it with sweet potato next time.  It stores well in the refrigerator, just reheat and add water as needed to get the texture you want.  We like it pretty thick , but you could thin it down to stretch it out.  It is quite filling (I am still stuffed as I write this at 11pm).