Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Sweet and Simple Strawberry Rhubarb Sorbet

If you hail from the Pacific Northwest, you get the whole rhubarb thing. It's always the first to mature and a sure sign that summer is just around the corner. And the leaves! They're oh so magical and larger than life. Don't eat them though, they contain various poisonous toxins. Did you know that rhubarb is also a "strong laxative"? TMI? Maybe, but good to know! Anyways, this was the first year I harvested my own rhubarb. This giant mop of greens all started from a couple measly stalks I dug up from my grandma's yard last year. How wild is that?!

For the past two weeks we've been getting the most flavorful strawberries I have ever laid my tastebuds on in our CSA box. They are so naturally sweet and pure bliss to gobble up. It doesn't look like we'll be getting them in our box again anytime soon, but I'm sure thankful for the times we've shared. To commemorate, I crafted a sweet and simple strawberry sorbet. At only 60 calories per serving, this is a healthy way to take in the first fruits of summer harvest (by the way, rhubarb is considered a vegetable). If you don't have an ice cream maker, here are some alternative methods to freezing your ice creams and sorbets.

Sweet and Simple Strawberry Rhubarb Sorbet
3/4 pound rhubarb (5 or 6 thin stalks), trimmed
3/4 cup sugar
10 ounces fresh strawberries (about 1 1/2 cups), get the most flavorful ones you can find!
1/2 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

Cut the rhubarb into half-inch pieces. If your rhubarb stalks are more than an inch wide, slice them in half lengthwise. In a medium, nonreactive saucepan, bring the rhubarb, two-thirds cup water and the sugar to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer until the rhubarb is tender and cooked through, about 5 minutes. Cool to room temperature. This is also a perfect time to pull out a spoon and enjoy some rhubarb-y goodness!

Slice the strawberries and purée them in a blender or food processor with the cooked rhubarb mixture and lemon juice until smooth.

Note: It is important to make sure you are using the most flavorful strawberries you can find. This will affect the outcome of your sorbet. If your strawberries are not very sweet, try slicing and covering them in a tablespoon of sugar. Let them sit for 30 minutes and then puree.

Chill the mixture thoroughly, then freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.

This is a fat free and low calorie dessert with only 60 calories per half-cup serving.

Recipe:, Adapted from David Lebovitz's "The Perfect Scoop."
Nutrition facts:

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Ten Reasons Why I Love My Husband: Two months in

To my love,

Two months into our marriage, these are the top ten things I love about you:

1. You make the bed every morning without me ever asking.
2. You never lose hope in the fact that we are growing, and it's hard, but we'll get through it.
3. You are trying so hard to find a career that will provide for our family.
4. You love making smoothies.
5. You are faithful in reading your bible and encourage me to as well.
6. Sometimes you spontaneously decide to shark the floor.
7. You desire to know my heart and learn what makes me feel loved.
8. You are learning how to follow a recipe really well!
9. You keep tabs on what's happening in the world and fill me in.
10. You wake up every morning with me to make sure I feel loved before I head to work.

Here's to a million more good morning hugs and mango smoothies. 


Monday, July 11, 2011

Chaing Mai Tofu Noodles

So far our big CSA adventure has been going great! Week one was a bit of a learning experience for us as we ended up wasting a bit more of our produce than I would have hoped. One bunch of arugula, a bunch of cilantro and sadly, the majority of our bok choy went into the trash. I figured out after I made this recipe for Chaing Mai Tofu Noodles that I should have put the whole bunch of bok choy in, not just one individual "bunch". I know we're still learning, so I'm trying to have grace with myself as I make mistakes. Still, it's hard not to feel ashamed for wasting. A few years ago I used to waste a lot. It would hardly bother me to pluck a small handful of herbs and let the rest go to rot, or buy produce with the hope it would force myself to eat it, but really I had no meal plan in place to use it. I was convicted over time that this wasn't being a good steward to the resources I was being blessed with and needed to be more diligent with using what I had on hand.

Before I get to the recipe, let talk about bok choy. Bok choy can come large or baby-sized (pictured in this post). In cooking, you would treat both the same way. These sweet, succulent and nutritious stalks are a popular crop in oriental regions, which is why we find it in many asian dishes. Bok choy is very low in calories, but high in dietary fiber and vitamins, such as C and A, which help our bodies resist infection and support our immune systems. Additionally, it is a good source of Vitamin K for bone health, and contains a good amount of minerals like calcium, phosphorous, potassium, manganese, iron and magnesium. Lucky for our bodies, bok choy can be eaten raw! It's important to remember that most vegetables lose nutrients once they are cooked, so eating your produce raw when applicable is always best. Bok choy can be stored up to 3-4 days in your refrigerators vegetable drawer without loss of nutrients.

Have you met my new friend, garlic scapes? They are A.M.A.Z.I.N.G., like a garlicky stalk of buttered asparagus. Garlic scapes are the flower that the garlic plant sends up. They have to be snapped off to convince the plant to send its energy down to the bulb. I'm not sure where you find them other than a CSA box or farmers market, but if you happen to run into them, do not hesitate to buy. They are so delicious. You can honestly add them into anything. We even cut up a few for a mushroom and garlic scape omelet the next morning. Drool.

Chaing Mai Tofu (or Chicken) Noodles
- Chop up 5-6 garlic scapes into 3 inch pieces, discarding the last 2 inches of the flower bud. If you don't have access to garlic scapes, you don't need to add them in, just forget-about-em!
- Chop 1 bunch of bok choy (as in the whole bunch pictured in the first photo) into ½ inch pieces, then wash well.
- In a large sauté pan over medium high heat, add 1 TBS grape seed or olive oil and the chopped scapes.
- Sauté for a few minutes then add the chopped bok choy.
- Cook for about 5 minutes until bok choy is just tender.
- Then add 1 tsp ground turmeric and 2 TBS red Thai curry paste (more or less depending on your spice tolerance).
- Stir for 1 minutes and then add 1 can of coconut milk and 1 cup chicken stock.
- Add 1 block of tofu and/or 1.5 cups cooked chicken and cook at a simmer for 15 minutes.
- Season with 2 Tbsp light brown sugar and 2 tsp fish sauce.
- Cook 1 package egg noodles according to package directions. Drain noodles.
- Divide noodles into (up to) 4 bowls
- Spoon the tofu/chicken curry over top and sprinkle with any/all of the following:
3 TBS chopped cilantro, 1 red chilli which has been halved, deseeded and shredded, some chopped green onions and some lime wedges.

Nutrition facts:
Recipe: Came in our CSA newsletter and adapted from Food from Plenty by Diana Henry

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Guest Post: Rachel Z. on Eating Locally While on a Teacher's Budget

We’re not trendy West Seattle-ites like the Kings, but us Zupkes do know a thing or two about living the good life.  I’m Rachel and my self-assigned job in our 2 person, 2 cat, and 1 dog family is to plan delicious meals, source the ingredients as locally as possible, and do it on a budget.  My husband, Ben, and I moved to Everett this past summer, purchasing our first home, a 1910 built Craftsman with original hardwoods, hearth, and crown molding.  My sustainably focused husband went right to work figuring out how to make our house more energy efficient.  I, on the other hand, found the nearest farmer's market, researched CSA's, and kept right on meal planning like we always had.

Long story short, we’ve always lived on a budget.  Since getting married in August 2008, we have lived on as little as $1800/month.  The occasional parent-funded trip to Costco has also help keep us afloat.  That means that our meal planning has had to be spot on or we were going to have enough $ for next month’s rent, utilities, you get the picture.  Basically, we (me with Ben’s input) sat down on Saturday with a few issues of Everyday Food and a cookbook to determine what we were going to eat each night for the next week.  Then we’d go grocery shopping Sunday after church, careful to only purchase the ingredients needed for our week’s worth of meals.  We ate oatmeal or cereal for breakfast and the previous night’s dinner leftovers for lunches to keep our costs even lower.  Having meals planned also meant that when we got home from long days of teaching science to [unruly and disrespectful] teenagers, we didn’t have to have that awful “What are we going to have for dinner?” discussion.

When we followed God’s leading to buy our house in Everett, we knew we’d have to stay tight on the budget to continue to be good stewards of the public school teaching salaries He blesses us with.  They may seem like conflicting goals – eat well, stay on budget – but then we added in eating locally and might as well have given up on the whole saving money thing.  We had to reevaluate what was most important and decided we could ease up on our food budget to eat well and choose local over corporate whenever possible.

Required reading for this endeavor included In Defense of Food and Plenty, both very well written nonfiction books that both inspired and intimidated me.  Instead of being discouraged by this, we charged forward, going by the following guidelines: buy local; if we can’t do that, buy from small companies versus corporations; and buy organic if you can’t do the first two.  We’re big into being a part of our community, including attending a church within walking distance and praying for jobs in the Everett School District.  Buying local seemed like the next most obvious task.

The first thing we did was become members of the Sno-Isle Foods Co-op, only 1.2 miles from our house.  Maya (our newly rescued Siberian Husky) loves walking there with us, even if she has to pull the wagon of groceries, because they always have treats for her as she does her job of honorary greeter while we shop.  Shopping at the co-op made it much easier to purchase locally, including milk from Skagit County, yogurt from Nooksack Valley, lettuce from Whidbey Island, and eggs from Sultan, just down Hwy 2 from us. We wanted to join a CSA so after much research, we signed on with Klesick Family Farm and got a Northwest Box (delivered to our doorstep!) every other week.  The Northwest Box delivers produce grown at Klesick or other Washington farms.  There was a very steep learning curve of what to do with some of the vegetables that I had never seen or heard of before.  Like any good descendent of Midwestern stock, I knew my starchy vegetables very well but not my chards, kales, or other not-so-run-of-the-mill veggies. The first thing I made was a Chipotle Veggie Stew.  My carnivore husband declared that he felt satisfied after the meatless meal.  This was huge because normally Ben says, “This would have been so much better with [insert your meat of choice here].”

After a few weeks, we fell into the pattern of forming new habits and cutting corners elsewhere in our budget.  It was well worth it to bake with Stone-Buhr Shepherd's Mill Flour.  This flour especially excited me because you can type the “Best Buy” date into the Find The Farmer website, see where your wheat came from, and watch a video/read a bio of your farmer!  If you know me at all, you know that baking is one of my favorite things to do in the kitchen.  That, along with canning my own Orondo peaches in every August and hopefully some of the produce we get out of our newly planted garden this year, puts me next in line for Miss Suzie Homemaker of the Year.  Saving the harvest for later, along with batch cooking and freezing, helps us take advantage of what is in season while not blowing our paychecks.

What have we been learning over the past year?  That the following equation is true: meal planning + choosing local whenever possible + doing prep work like canning and batch cooking = less stress at the end of long workdays, staying within budget, eating better than we ever have, and supporting the local economy of the region God has lead us to live and serve in.  We are really excited for all that He has for us here in Everett and that He can use us to be examples of frugal, healthy, and sustainable eating.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

CSA: What does it mean?

My husband and I own 1/1000th of a farm. How awesome is that? Our farm is 85 total acres and full of lush greenery and wildlife. It's located 86.6 miles from where we live, and approximately 1/4 of the food we eat each week comes directly from it. Sound familiar? We are part of a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program. A CSA basically connects farmers with people who are looking for local, fresh and organic fruit, veggies, herbs and flowers, and sometimes eggs, honey, mushrooms, poultry or meat (image source). We get a box delivered almost to our door each week for 18 weeks, mid-June through end of October, and everything in our box is grown, harvested, washed and packed by our farm, Helsing Junction Farm in Rochester, WA.

From my research, I learned that not all farms are equal in terms of being a CSA, so be sure to research a reputable one that fits your needs. For instance, some farms source items from other local farms (which is mostly okay), include items that aren't organic, or even include items in your box that can come from as far away as Mexico (not very local at all). This isn't to say these are all bad, but you should at least be aware of where your produce is coming from before you commit to one. I chose Helsing Junction because of the low cost per box, good reviews, and for the fact that they weren't sourcing anything that would come in our box, it was all grown by them and entirely seasonal (image source). By eating seasonal, we are taking in our fruits and veggies at the peak of their flavor and nutrients, which is great for our tastebuds and our bodies. While our farm isn't the most flexible option (they don't deliver to our door and we don't have options to switch out items that might not sound good or cancel for a week while we go on vacation), it did rank for us as the most responsible choice, being that our priorities were to eat local, seasonal and organic.

We're only on week two of this new local experiment, but so far it's going really well. It was such a rush picking up our first box last week. Because the transaction is essentially done up front, it just feels like we're being delivered these goodies for fun. It's also encouraging knowing that the food we are choosing to eat is supporting local agriculture and not large corporations. The biggest challenge has been forcing myself to find something to cook every night. Luckily most farms, including ours, will send you recipes that utilize the ingredients they are sending in your box for that week, which has been incredibly helpful. We're also just starting to get the hang of which veggies go rotten or lose their health benefits the quickest. Did you know that your fresh foods lose nutrients each day from the time they are picked? This is especially true for greens.

Will you try a CSA? We didn't know anything about them until just last year when a few friends starting talking about eating locally! It's not too late to do one for this year either. Helsing Junction Farm, in particular, still has about 75 shares available and will prorate you for the weeks you missed. I even convinced one of my coworkers to join last night. Stay tuned for more stories and recipes from our new CSA adventure!