Monday, June 25, 2012

Balcony Garden and Canning update

I know you've all been on the edge of your seats awaiting updates of my adventures in growing and preserving local food. Wait no longer!

Balcony Garden:
There's good news and bad news. First the bad: despite rosemary growing like a weed most places in North Carolina, I couldn't keep it alive in premium potting soil on my balcony. I'm guessing it never got enough sun so I had to pull the poor thing. The thyme is also not looking great but seems to still be hanging in there. The good news: everything else seems to be pretty happy. I've added a red basil plant from a friend and re-potted the green basil. The Roma tomato is absolutely thriving and the Early Girl is, well, not dead.

Look how high that Roma tomato is on the far right!
The strawberry jam has been delicious the last couple weeks. I've been using it instead of store-bought jelly, local peanut butter from Simply Local, and Nova's Bakery bread for all my sandwiches. These PB&Js are the perfect triathlon training snacks especially because they have no preservatives and just the sugar of the jam. They also make great gifts for friends!

Because the first experiment was so successful, I tried my hand at peach jam yesterday. I used the same ratio of fruit to sugar as the Pioneer Woman's strawberry jam but added a half cup of lemon juice. I also opted to use pectin this time. After doing some reading up on what it is, I decided pectin isn't that bad for us and will be helpful in keeping the jam good for longer.

My peach jam jars waiting for their lids to pop

Next stop on the gardening and canning adventure ride is tomato sauce once tomatoes are more prevalent at the market and are growing on the balcony!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Not Your Ordinary Tomato Sandwich

Tuesday was a special day. It was the first day that Atherton market vendors had real tomatoes. Not green-housed, not unripe, not from some South American country. Tomatoes grown right here. It mightbe the most beautiful thing I've ever seen.

In addition to tomatoes, blueberries and corn are still filling the market stalls. Houston Farms has had some delicious sweet corn and Berry Busy Farm has had blueberries, blackberries, peaches and small plums. They also sell a variety of great jams and preserves from their berries.

Tuesday, I picked up a beautiful green and red heirloom tomato from the Lomax Farm. I also happen to grab a loaf of Duke's Gorgonzola bread, a gallon (yes, a gallon) of blueberries from Berry Busy and half a dozen ears of corn from Houston. All of these items, alone, would be a treat in the winter months and combined they made a feast.

I used some mayo I made a couple weeks ago for potato salad and some seasoning salt and made delicious tomato sandwiches served with lightly boiled corn and fresh blueberries.

Five minute lunch or dinner!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

More fun with Tofu

Avid readers will know that I went vegan for a month last Fall after reading Dr. T. Colin Campbell's landmark work, The China Study. Since then, our household has cut most animal fat from our diet except for local meat, eggs and cheese. During the Vegan Experiment, I got really into tofu. Like so many ingredients, this is one I knew nothing about and wasn't convinced of until I learned more about it (see, also: turnips).

One recipe I've started making recently is pan-grilling tofu like a pork chop or steak. What's local about tofu, you ask? Not much. I'm pretty sure most tofu is made on the Pacific islands or in some factory somewhere but tofu can be used as a vehicle for local ingredients like green onions, mushrooms, zucchini, squash and shallots that may not stand on their own.

The onions, cucumbers and zucchini came from Houston Farm and you can get mushrooms from Landis Gourmet Mushrooms.

Tofu Steak with Sauteed Vegetables (V)
1 pound extra firm tofu
1-2 green onions, chopped
Handful of mushroom, chopped
5-6 tablespoons olive oil 
  1. Slice tofu into 1/2 inch thick slices. Heat oil in a large skillet till water flicked on it sizzles. 
  2. Place the slabs of tofu in the skillet and saute on both sides until golden brown.
  3. Remove to a plate and drain the oil, leaving just enough to coat the vegetables you've selected.
  4. Toss the veggies in the pan and saute till tender.
  5. Serve veggies over the tofu.
I served with some local cucumbers.
So easy and so good!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Breakfast for Dinner

On a recent trip to the market, I took a page out of Barbara Kingsolver's book and went up to the Berry Busy Farm and told them to give me every berry they had left. This cost me over $20 but it was so worth it. Right now they have blackberries, blueberries, strawberries and peaches as well as jellies and jams. It was pretty amazing. I froze a lot of the berries for later but not before making a delicious breakfast for dinner.

Pan-sautéed new potatoes with green onions (all from Houston Farms)
Scrambled eggs (from Windy Hill Farm)
Blackberry pancakes with strawberry jam (jam I made from berries I got from Houston Farm a couple weeks ago and the blackberries from Berry Busy)

3-4 cups potatoes of choice chopped into 3/4 inch pieces
1-2 green onions
1/4 cup mushrooms (optional)
  1. We cheat in our house and microwave potatoes for about 6 minute
  2. Put them in a large skillet with some olive oil and sauté for 10 minutes or so on relatively high heat
  3. Add the onions (and mushrooms) and saute until the potatoes are your desired tenderness
Note: I strongly encourage adding some Team Sweet Mama's Kansas City BBQ seasoning from the Savory Spice Shop

Scrambled eggs:
For this much dinner, I would use 1 egg per person (usually I use one and a half per person)
2-3 tablespoons milk, Greek yogurt or soy milk
Seasoning salt 
(I'm guessing everyone knows how to make scrambled eggs...)

(This is the recipe from The Joy of Cooking and is so easy to whip up any day of the week!)
1 1/2 cup flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups milk
2 eggs
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup berries of choice
  1. Mix all dry ingredients in one bowl.
  2. Melt butter then add eggs, milk and vanilla. Mix well.
  3. Combine wet and dry ingredients.
  4. Pour 1/3 cup batter onto hot griddle. Place 1-2 berries in the center.
  5. Flip once bubbles appear on the surface and press down to flatten berry(ies) and release juices.
  6. Remove and serve warm with jam or syrup!