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First Frost

Those chilly nights you have been feeling outside resulted in a few nights of frost here. Frost can happen any temperature 2 degrees and below when you have clear skies. We normally have a frost in September, but this week we had 3 frosts in a row, which is quite unusual. We went out and covered the eggplant and peppers which certainly helped, but you can see how the plants have been affected. I had hoped for peas this week but they were heavily damaged by the frost. Fingers crossed that the plants (which look healthy), may grow some more peas.

Frost is a strange thing- on the one hand it’s sad to see many plants die, but also it can come as a bit of relief. Just a few less items to be worrying about. The days are getting shorter, which means a forced shorter work day in the field. It’s all part of the change of seasons and the cycle of things. It’s hard to imagine living anywhere without the 4 seasons.

It’s funny how all of the sudden I am craving (and cooking) comfort food and having the sudden urge to bake, despite not really having the time. Speaking of thyme, we added a bunch to our whole shares this week. I added mine to homemade chicken noodle soup, and it made us an awesome Sunday dinner with the addition of homemade tea biscuits.

Recipes

Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 full instant pot of bone broth (I used the bones leftover from a roast chicken along with a few chicken leg bones, added a head of garlic, 1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar & 1 tsp. salt.)
  • 1 tbsp. vegan butter
  • 1 small white onion, finely chopped
  • 5 stalks celery, chopped, greens included
  • 4 medium sized carrots
  • 5 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 3/4lb baby bokchoy
  • 1 1/2 cups gluten free rotini or noodle of choice

Directions:

In large stock pot of instant pot, saute onion in butter until translucent. Add chopped celery and carrots until lightly softened. Fill pot with bone broth and bring to a boil. Cook for 8 minutes or until carrots are mostly softened on medium-high heat or on the sautee function in the instant pot.

Remove cooked chicken from chicken bones, or if there is none, cook a cup of chicken and add chicken to the soup. Add fresh thyme (whole sprigs). Add pasta and cook until al dente (7 mins or so). Add chopped bok choy in the last 4minutes of cooking. Soup is ready when the pasta is cooked. If using gluten free pasta especially, remove from heat and even cook down with a few ice cubes to prevent overcooking. Remove thyme stems and serve, garnishing with more thyme as desired.

Serve with tea biscuits if desired. Since I have misplaced my Grandma’s recipe, I went to Pinterest and found this recipe with ample instructions from Sugar Spun Run. I doubled the recipe to freeze some and ended up with about 16 biscuits.

Sausage and Pepper Penne

Here’s a simple and hearty dinner idea that makes for some fabulous leftovers. My eldest would 100 percent prefer hot lunches like this pasta in his thermos over a sandwich for school. The peppers really make the recipe for me! Get the recipe here. Honestly, this is a dish you can totally pull off without the recipe once you have tried it once or twice because it is so very simple.

Fennel Salad

Ingredients

  • 1/2 bulb fennel
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp apple juice
  • pinch sugar
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • your choice of greens
  • snap peas, cherry tomatoes, choice of nuts

Directions

Slice fennel in 1/2 and then julienne into thin strips like an onion. Let soak for an hour. Remove fennel from brine and toss with other ingredients. Add salad dressing of choice.

Italian Stuffed Peppers

Are you getting an accumulation of bell peppers from your farm shares? Here’s another simple and delicious idea.

Finally, wondering what to do with that fennel bulb? Try this simple salad, recommended by a chef friend of one of my staff.

Crispy Apple & Kohlrabi Salad

Kohlrabi is another newbie this week. Just peel it and enjoy it raw in this salad. The taste is reminiscent of broccoli and the texture is nice and crisp.

And here are you farm shares for the week:

Whole Shares: butternut squash, carrots, red bell peppers, red beets, yukon & red potatoes, celery, bok choy, eggplant, fennel, red leaf lettuce, cabbage, kohlrabi or broccoli, white & red onions, sweet chili/banana peppers, cucumbers, thyme, ground cherries
Fruit Shares: BC nectarines, BC bartlett pears, avocadoes, lemons, and bananas

Have a wonderful week full of hearty, organic and delicious foods!

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It’s Sunflower Week!

They are everywhere on the farm! If you take a drive by, you will see a whole row right by the road. Feel free to stop for a selfie. You wouldn’t be the first, but maybe don’t tell every single person on your friends list 😉 so we don’t block the roads where farmers on tractors are hard at work and families are bustling to and from school and work. My big 2 went back to school again this week and I had a little shadow for much of the day. He was so into it! Harvesting cabbages in the tall weeds (his job was to carry them to the baskets) or helping mommy collect all the onions, not to mention helping me out collecting eggs and chasing runaway chickens, this little boy was a great helper today, and I relished the time with him (even if it meant being climbed on whilst trying to harvest things ;). Back to those sunflowers, i am attempting to send you all one with your farm shares. I am definitely not a florist, so trying to figure out how to get these to you looking as nice as they do in the field will be a challenge. I hope the sunflowers make you smile and remind you of the goodness in little things.

With the sudden nip in the air and the risk of frost, we covered the peppers and eggplants, which are still doing fantastic out there but have very little tolerance for frost. The first frost almost always comes this month, but this one seems to have snuck up on us since we have had a pretty balmy September so far. This week we are enjoying sweet banana and sweet chili peppers. They may look like hot peppers, but they are mild and sweet with not even a hint of spice for what I can tell. With their smaller size, they make a perfect snack, or would be great to stuff with cream cheese and wrap in bacon like a jalapeno popper but without the spicy. I like this super simple recipe.

I don’t know about you, but I have been hankering for comfort foods again. Chili con carne made it back on my menu this week with the addition of the sweet chili peppers. My kids to be honest are not the biggest pepper eaters (pains me because these are one of my favourite vegetables), but in chili they never mind them at all and are getting loaded up on vitamin C. Did you know sweet peppers are a better source of vitamin C than oranges, pound for pound? Hope you enjoy them both for their taste and benefits. As for the chili, I make it with about 3/4 cup each navy beans and red kidney beans from fresh acres (available in our online store) or the mixed beans and cook them from raw right in my instant pot. It only takes 35 mins cook time (leave about 15 minutes for it to pressurize). I had the ground beef pre-cooked, added about 4 cups of pureed fresh tomatoes (just threw them in the blender), added 4-5 sweet chili peppers, chopped, 1 small white onion, chopped, 1.5 cups total of fresh acres dry beans, added chili powder, coriander, salt and paprika and some extra water for the beans to absorb (about 1.5-2 cups) and put it on the chili cycle on my instant pot. I left this all prepped in the fridge so my hubby (not the family cook!) could literally just put the instant pot together and turn it on while I finished up my work and I came home to dinner! We love to serve chili with shredded cheddar cheese (or daiya/goat cheese shreds for my son), plain yogurt and tortilla chips. The yogurt or sour cream cools down the chili for little eaters and makes it more appealing all in one!.

Celery is back again this week and was totally the inspiration for me making Chicken Pot Pie. I decided to go all out and do a full gluten free vegan crust, top and bottom, with a pound of chicken, 5 celery stalks, 4 carrots, 7 small potatoes, and one medium zucchini and butter and chicken broth thickened with gluten free flour as my filling. The ingredients are pre-cooked so your oven time is just about cooking the crust and melding all the flavours together. Note: watch out for the gluten in chicken broth if you are highly gluten sensitive. It often contains barley malt extract when purchased in the carton. I used this recipe as a very loose guideline, added WAY more veggies, and used this recipe for the gluten free and vegan crust . I’ve used it before and while I won’t tell you it’s exactly like the real McCoy, us gluten-eaters enjoyed it too. The only thing I will remember for next time is don’t be afraid to let the filling be a little more moist and “soupy” as the crust/cooking process does thicken it up some more.

Another item we haven’t seen in a while is onions, and what good timing, with the recalls of US onions. This is the benefit of buying local, friends. Knowing where your food comes from! We are Canada Gap certified, which means we follow a pretty exhaustive list of food safety protocols to prevent any contamination that could make you sick. When you know where your food comes from, you don’t need to worry about these massive food recalls because your food can be traced directly back to our farm. No wondering where the heck it came from! Hope you enjoy the savoury flavour enhancing onions do in almost any dish!

One more thing- winter shares are now ready for purchase! If you like the idea of keeping going with this local food journey, and also love the idea of staying cozy at home while your produce is delivered directly to your door, we have winter shares to offer you! They are mostly local, always organic and now we are offering 2 different sizes to meet the needs of larger families as well. Add a fruit share and fresh, organic produce with be coming your way through the fall, winter and spring months. Deliveries run biweekly or monthly. We explain your options here: You can order right on the website.

Well, that’s all for now folks. Hope you have a lovely week full of sunshine and cozy moments…and always, good food!

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A Wilderness Getaway to Close the Summer

Hello, friends. I am freshly back from a little long weekend camping trip with my family. You may wonder, do farmers take vacations? Well, the answer is normally not very often or very long, but just like you, we’d like to have our kids look back and remember we did things other than work in the summer, here and there ;). We headed up to Samuel de Champlain National Park, because, let’s be honest, it was the closest one that wasn’t booked for every weekend (all the way in North Bay area!) and wow, was it lovely! The weather definitely did some cooling down and we had one solid day of rain, but we managed to get in some great hikes and beach time before packing up to resume another busy week on the farm.

The blog is here just to let you know all the great items in your shares this week, and to remind you that summer is fleeting, so please do soak up the sun and have a little fun. And probably eat a watermelon while having fun in the sun…because they are a perfect pairing. This should be our last week of watermelon, at least for everyone, to savour it!

No pretty box photos because this slacka was on the road home from her trip 🙂

Half Shares:

  • spinach
  • green onions
  • red peppers
  • grape tomatoes
  • zucchini
  • chinese cabbage
  • red or green leaf lettuce
  • watermelon
  • carrots
  • red beets

Whole Shares: same as above with added:

  • russet potatoes
  • field tomatoes (near end of season)
  • banana peppers (not spicy)
  • ground cherries (sweet little tropical tasting fruit with adorable little wrappers)
  • mint
  • green beans

Simply 6 Shares

  • strawberries or ground cherries
  • carrots
  • spinach
  • red pepper
  • grape tomatoes
  • zucchini

Fruit Shares

  • 6 organic Sunrise Apples (BC)
  • 1 Zephyr Organics Watermelon
  • 4-5 organic peaches (BC)
  • 3 organic mangoes
  • 3 organic avocadoes

More Canadian fruit options are coming in from British Columbia this month and next. A lot of our organic fruits come from the Okanogan Valley in BC because the high elevation means less pest pressure from insects and yields a higher quality fruit. The abrupt temperature changes from fall to winter and winter to summer (did we even have spring this year?) means our own fruit trees did not yield barely anything at all. This after so many hours pruning them, painting them with dormant oil and even scratching my cornea trying to help the apples thrive. There is always next year! BC plums are on their way next week and taste scrum-diddily-uptious! Hope you enjoy the fruits of a good Canadian summer :).

Crispy Baked Zucchini Fries

Are you looking for a new way to enjoy zucchini? Fries always seem to be a sure bet…and parmesan is one flavour we can’t seem to get enough of! Try the recipe here. Vegans and folks looking to cut back on dairy? Did you know you could make your own Parmesan cheese? Only 4 ingredients too. I think I should be able to figure this recipe out.

Enjoy, friends!

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The Joy of Helping Hands!

Hello friends of the farm! This week I am feeling super grateful for a few reasons, and many of those reasons are the beautiful gift of some helping hands. This weekend I was determined to get all the ripe watermelon in the cooler (we had been harvesting them each day, but wow, there were a lot of watermelon out there!). It just so happened, the time I finally could carve out for it happened to be Friday evening, near the end of our Friday farm store day, and I had a vehicle and the good trailer, so I was going to do it, darn it! No matter that everyone has Friday afternoon/evenings off and I was flying solo. I got out there, stubborn thing that I am and started picking…and picking…and picking….making pile upon pile of watermelons, until before I knew it, I was thoroughly in over my head. Then in came Angel- I mean Angela of FN Happy Farms, a fellow local farmer lady extraordinaire, coming to the store for a few red peppers for her delicious gazpacho (see recipe below) for the Uxbridge market.

She sees me knee deep in a substancial amount of work and, bless her heart- volunteers to help me haul all 400 or so watermelons from the fields to the cooler. No small feat when each of these melons can weigh between 3 and 18 pounds! She stuck it through with me until the job was done, and provided me with the best company all the while- a fellow farmer who gets the joys and challenges of farming, and an all-around super awesome boss lady! She spoke of the incredible blessing a volunteer can be, and was eager to pay it forward (and joyfully), even if it meant spending her Friday night hauling melons with me. Thanks Angela! If you are in the Uxbridge area on a Sunday come see her at the Uxbridge Farmer’s market for a healthy and original lunch made with truly local ingredients.

My next batch of volunteers may not be able to haul many melons, but their sunny personalities and curiosity put the fun in farming. Don’t worry, we were stopped when this photo was taken! I’m not taking any chances with these cutie pies. They are just too precious. We even spotted a nest of baby birds in the tomatoes that we have been checking up on since they hatched. Here they are pictured at about 4 days old.

My biggest kid got to try his hand at driving the new lawn tractor this week, and to say he is enthusiastic about this opportunity is an understatement. Not sure if it is the “farming genes” or the way that he is so concise and careful, but this boy is handling it like a pro already, and not chewing up mommy’s chicken-watering hoses. Kudos!

Whole Shares offer: Red watermelon, grape tomatoes, green beans, carrots, golden beets, romaine lettuce, field tomatoes, bok choy, red and green peppers, and green onions, spaghetti squash, new russet potatoes, chinese cabbage, garlic chives, cucumbers, strawberries or ground cherries. I tried to put 17 items in this week but they just wouldn’t fit with all those big items (watermelon, spaghetti squash and chinese cabbage)

Simply 6 Shares: Red watermelon, grape tomatoes, green beans, carrots, golden beets, romaine lettuce

Fruit Shares: 1 yellow doll watermelon (Zephyr), 5 BC peaches, 6 bartlett pears, 6 nadorcotts, 1/2 pint blueberries

Recipes

Watermelon Fresca (drink)

Now for your veggie boxes and recipes! I am sure you can guess by my mammoth watermelon harvesting that we would be enjoying watermelon this week. Are you getting tired of just eating watermelon? Try this watermelon fresca recipe, inspired by Angela’s market offerings.

Are the tomatoes, peppers and last week’s cucumbers accumulating? Try a refreshing gazpacho, a soup served cold that will hydrate you and fill you with vitamins.

Gazpacho, as shared by Angela of FN Happy Farms

Ingredients

  • 3 cups ripe heirloom tomatoes
  • 1 cup cucumber
  • 1 small green pepper, red pepper
  • 1 small jalapeno
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 10 basil leaves (anyone still have their basil plant from June?)
  • 1/2 tsp good quality salt

Directions

Add all ingredients to blender and add your choice of 1 tbsp citrus juice and 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil. Strain or leave chunky. Add ice cubes to chill, water or extra tomato juice. Add extra salt and pepper to taste.

Grilled Beef & Bok Choy Salad

A fellow farm share couple shared how bok choy is something they get excited about now, with this awesome recipe. The recipe calls for baby bok choy, but the white bokchoy in your shares would also be great, but might need a couple extra minutes to soften.

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup each vegetable oil, rice vinegar & soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 2 tbsp Ontario honey
  • 3 cloves Ontario garlic, minced
  • 1- 1 1/2 tsp Asian chili sauce (7mL)
  • 2 Ontario beef striploin steaks
  • 4 Ontario baby bok choy (or your 1lb + bokchoy in your shares)
  • 2 cups Ontario snow peas, trimmed
  • 4 Ontario radishes, halved and thinly sliced
  • 6 cups Ontario mixed greens
  • 1 tbsp sesame seeds

Directions

In measuring, combine vegetable oil, vinegar, soy sauce, seame oil, honey, garlic and chili sauce. Pour 1/4 cup over steaks, turning to coat. Cover and set aside in refridgerator to marinate.

Meanwhile, trim ended from bok choy, cut in half lengthwise. In large bowl, toss bok choy with 1/4 cup dressing to coat. Grill over medium heat, turning once, for about 8 minutes. Return to bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let stand until tender-crisp, about 10 minutes.

Grill steaks over medium-high for 3 to 4 minutes per side or medium rare, or to desired doneness. Let stand covered 5 minutes before slicing.

Meanwhile in a large pot of boiling salted water, black snow peas for 1 to 2 minutes or until tender-crisp. Drain and plunge into bowl of ice water. Drain and dry.

Drain any liquid from bok choy. Cut each in half again lengthwise and return to bowl. Add snow peas and radishes, drizzling a little of remaining dressing to coat. Place greens on a large platter. Top with bok choy mixture and sliced beef Sprinkle with seame seeds. Serve with remaining dressing.

Grill time: 15 mins. Prep Time: 25 mins. Cooking time: 10 mins. Serves 4.

Fridge Cleaner Stir Fry Veggies

Does your fridge end up with bits and pieces of pushed-aside veggies by the end of the week? Why not bring them together for a colourful side dish that comes together quickly and wins you some fridge space back :)!

Ingredients: these are flexible- always start with root or harder veggies first, and soften a little before adding the softer veggies. In this one I started with sliced kolhrabi and zucchini, then after a couple minutes added red and green peppers, snow peas, and finally some frozen corn (fresh of course is wonderful too!). I added baby bok choy and cooked just until wilted, and “dressed” the stir fry in a mix of olive oil, apple cider vinegar, a little vegan butter, a couple tbsp honey, salt and pepper. Really tasty!

When in doubt- chop up your veggies and stir fry them!
Betcha didn’t know….chickens adore watermelons! They are helping me not waste the ones that accidentally split. They don’t mind one bit!
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Farm Share 2020 Week 12 (Aug 18-22)

Hello from the farm! We are enjoying the cool mornings of August here. On Sunday I found that the weather was so mild during the day that I needed a sweater! Everything feels cool when you are used to working in 40C with the humidex! I was able to take my little girl shopping for back to school after the farm store closed on Saturday (masked and well sanitized, of course). What a strange year, when masks are on our back to school shopping lists! I am sure among you that have kids there are those who are sending them back (probably with a little trepidation like me), those keeping them home for the first time, and those who have been home-schooling all along. Wherever each of you are at I just want to encourage you that we have all made it through a long haul without a lot of support…a summer without the camps, play dates and outings that kids so look forward to (and so do parents). I hope that you made a lot of good memories in the back yard (and still are doing so), and rediscovered the simple joy of being home with your people. Maybe the to-do list suffered, and the house is a mess. Maybe the kids were on screens too long. In any case I hope you and your family have been healthy, and can be thankful for that. Through the long, tiring summer days in the fields, we have enjoyed good health, and our kids, while eager for a break from farm life sometimes, have been well cared for.

These cooler nights have been ushering in some changes, like the sweet peppers turning. We did mixed green and red peppers this week to make sure everyone got a taste of that red pepper goodness! Don’t worry folks, there are lots more red peppers to come. Whether the traditional bell or the more elongated sheppards peppers, or the skinny yellow banana peppers, all your peppers are sweet rather than spicy (banana peppers might have the teensiest hint of spice). There are so many things you can do with peppers, from simply slicing them up and enjoying with dip (like that baba ghanouj from your eggplant, or sauteeing with onion, or in fajitas, or in fresh tomato salsa. I used some smaller campari tomatoes, yellow tomatoes, green pepper, banana pepper and green onion in mine and served it with tortilla chips for an easy side.

Out of a wild looking field we have some lovely green cabbages. The small ones are nice and easy to grate with a box grater in cabbage coleslaw, and the larger ones lend themselves well to cabbage rolls. I adore cabbage rolls but they are one of those little extra effort meals, so I will save them for slower days ahead. Coleslaw is quick, easy and cool, so that fit the bill for me. Making the slaw is as easy as washing and grating the cabbage (I used about 3/4 pound of cabbage and 1 medium carrot grated with the coarser side of my box grater and made a similar dressing to this one. However, I did not think 2 tbsp. of sugar seemed necessary as the cabbage already has some sweetness to it.

On to your boxes!

Whole Shares: Green cabbage, yellow doll melon, romaine lettuce, green & red sweet peppers, grape tomatoes, green onions, cucumber, field tomatoes, carrots, green beans, red leaf lettuce, parsley, baby bokchoy, banana peppers, ground cherries or strawberries, zucchini
Simply 6: yellow doll watermelon, grape tomatoes, red/green peppers, green onions, green cabbage, romaine lettuce,

Half Shares: yellow doll watermelon, grape tomatoes, red/green peppers, green onions, green cabbage, romaine lettuce, green beans, carrots, field tomatoes, cucumbers

Fruit Shares: Zephyr red watermelon, BC peaches, strawberries, avocadoes, nadorcots

Have you ever even heard of a nadorcott? I hadn’t until I ordered them, no word of a lie! Once I bit into one I decided I need these in my life. They are are a type of tangerine, nice and easy to peel like a clementine and super flavourful. Hope you enjoy them as much as I have been!

Whole Share members are getting introduced to a new fruit this week (unless you got strawberries), grown right on the farm! The are ground cherries. They are these pretty little orange pearly fruits encased in delicate little papery wrappers. Just slide back the husk and try ’em. They have a tropical taste to them (reminiscent of pineapple), but with a tomato-y texture. A new taste sensation for you. You can eat them as is, add them to a salad, or even use them as pretty and tasty toppers for cupcakes. How cute!

May you never lose the simple wonder of a child! Have a wonderful week!

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Farm Share 2020 Week 11 (Aug 11-15)

Hello from your farmers at Zephyr Organics. I want to thank you all- I was a little more vulnerable that normal on my last blog post, just admitting some of the struggles this year has brought, and the response from you all has been so very gracious. Thanks for supporting us through the ups and downs of farming.

I think we should name this one, “Miracle”

I had a very big up and down this week and it all centred around a tiny kitten. We have a new litter of kittens from one of the farm cats, and have just located them now at about 2 or 3 weeks old. Mama cats often find a very secret den for the first weeks of life to keep their babies safe, and when their kittens start to open their eyes and move around, they find a new den a little closer to their food source, in preparation for the babies eating solids. Well, one of these little kittens was heard crying in the basement, and L and I were on a mission to rescue her! We were sure we heard her in one of the large duct pipes, so we strategized and tried this and that until eventually making a hole in the drywall and removing a section of pipe to liberate her. We were surprised and dismayed to find she was not in the pipe at all! We still heard those desperate mews coming from behind the wall. A piece of plywood nailed into a sturdy wood frame appeared to be the only way in. I struggled and struggled with those tiny nails, sunk deep into the wood and got it open enough to reach my arm inside to get the kitten, but to no avail. I bruised my ribs, got all filthy and sweaty, and even got the cat bite of my life trying to bring her mother on the scene to help, but to no avail. I was exhausted and out of ideas and then I remembered I have kids to care for too. Well, today, after being in there for 2 nights all alone, her mom must have found a way in (maybe where we wedged a gap, maybe another way), but the kitten was found out on the floor. I was so beyond overjoyed! I had tried and tried and come up short, but the miracle I had hoped for came in its own time. The kitten is safe and back with her mom, and I am just so thankful that that little ball of cuteness is in with her brothers and sisters.

I’d better get to the veggie part. The item that really has me jazzed this week is carrots! It feels like I have never waited for anything so long in my life- lol, maybe a slight exaggeration. I do have 2 children that overstayed their welcome by an extra week in my womb, but still! I wanted these carrots so badly to send you, but my dear husband would not let me have them till they were big and beautiful. And here they are- big and beautiful! Enjoy your carrots. A good scrub and you may find the peels are not bothersome, as these carrots are fresh and young.

Watermelon is in season…and the flavour and hydration watermelon provides are truly unmatched. This week we are enjoying sugar baby watermelon, which have dark rinds and bright pink insides. More of a traditional type of watermelon. Yellow or red- what’s your favourite type? Do you have a method for cutting your watermelon? If you don’t, or want to try serving it in a new way, check out this cool blog post, which’ll have you chopping it up like a pro.

Another sign of good things to come are the sweet peppers, already ripening up to red! These often don’t come on until September, at least in plenty. The whole shares will get to sample them and tell us what they think.

Most of the sweet corn is still growing slowly- between that and strawberries, which are slowly increasing in yield as more plants start to bear, I am hoping to get enough for everyone. If not, I will find something else delicious for you 🙂

Eggplant is back in black this week. Check out our blog post from 2 weeks ago for lots of ideas on how to enjoy your eggplant. Farm Share is a great chance to try new things that you wouldn’t necessarily select from the grocery store. The results are often surprising, and leave you with a more varied diet rich in vitamins and minerals.

Tomatoes are getting more plentiful and prettier. We lost a lot of them due to the super heavy rains. It split through anything remotely ripe. Now we are bringing in lots more tomatoes and should have some for bulk sales soon (including romas!). Look for these next week or at the farm store this weekend 🙂

Recipes

Here’s a refreshing idea from Farm Share member Suzanne for your cucumber and mint (from last week)

2. We’ve been making yogurt in our Instant pot. I usually use 1 bag of milk at a time, less fussing with a measuring cup. I also prefer my yogurt to be thicker, so I drain it through a coffee filter for a half hour or so. But what to do with all that liquid?!?! Sad to see it go down the drain. Soooo ….. 
Save it in the fridge and make this cold drink!
In a large glass, add ice cubes (5-6). Add about 150mL drained COLD liquid. Add about 75mL coarsely shredded cucumber ( about 5 cm piece). Add about 50 mL mint syrup. Stir. Enjoy. 
Mint syrup: Measure out 250 mL white sugar into a small pot.  Using mortar and pestle, grind together 50 mint leaves (I used spearmint) with some of the sugar, to make a paste. Add the mint paste to the sugar, with 250 mL boiling water. Stir over medium heat until all sugar dissolved and bring syrup to a boil. Let simmer 2-3 mins. Cool. Strain into a bottle and keep in the fridge for up to 2 weeks ( so delicious it won’t last that long). 
If you don’t like sediment, strain through cheesecloth. I just use a small strainer, since I like the look of the sediment floating in the drink. 
I made my first batch of syrup from mint in my box of goodies, and the second from mint in my garden. Next I will try with peppermint! This recipe is adapted from “Beverages”, in the Time-Life series “The Good Cook”
3. What to do with zucchini? Only so many zucchini quick breads one can manage …. Cut into 2 cm chunks. Sauté with garlic and a good helping of chili garlic paste. Yum. 

Zucchini, Zucchini, are you getting sick of it yet?

What’s so good about this veggie, anyways? Well first of all (maybe you should sit down for this one) – it’s considered a fruit. Seriously, it’s like when Pluto lost its planetary status! Now this fruit is basically a vitamin A rockstar with 40 % of your daily value in one little cup (cooked). Vitamin A supports your vision and immune system. Keep it raw to maximize the vitamin C content. In addition, it’s great for your digestion because of it’s ample water and fibre content.

One of the simplest ways to prepare it is to slice it into sticks and use it as a crudite (a raw veggie) for dipping in your favourite dip, like say, baba ghanouj made with your eggplant and garlic chives! Bonus points- zucchini is much easier on more sensitive stomachs.

I have been thoroughly enjoying tossing it in olive oil and grilling it in my grill basket on the barbecue. Don’t forget a sprinkle of salt and pepper, and keep an eye on it as it cooks quickly. I really brings out the flavour.

One of my go-to’s is always chopping it up small and adding it to my taco meat mix. It helps the mix not dry out, acts like a sponge soaking up all the great flavours, and is a good way to get zucchini into kids that don’t like it! Grate it up for the truly picky youngsters and it is pretty much undetectable. I normally add the zucchini when the meat is mostly cooked and cook until quite tender.

Want to dive in to all the zucchini goodness? Try Greek Zoodle Salad! Bonus points you can enjoy a variation on pasta salad with a lot more nutrition density and less carbs.

Enjoy your summer, and eat well!

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Farm Share Week 10 (Aug 4-8, 2020)

After losing most of our first one, a new beet crop emerges looking beautiful. In a farm there is always new seed and with it, new hope.

2020- it’s been a wild ride, hasn’t it? When the year began we used to saunter around the grocery store without a care in the world, look forward to big events with 100s or even thousands of people, and wouldn’t have dreamed of wearing a mask in public…unless of course we were at a masquerade party. But here we are! I am not feeling too hard done by by all the changes and restrictions, though I miss freely interacting with others without worrying about the distance. I am mostly thankful- thankful that covid has not touched my little circle or visited the farm. We are still going to be cautious until the threat dissipates more, as we know that thousands rely on us for their food supply (in farm share and beyond) and many workers have travelled far from home to feed you all, and we need to return them home safe and sound.

This has to be the most challenging year I can recall since first heading up Farm Share, 11 years ago. Maybe the years of returning to work just a week or 2 post-partum, or harvesting and running a business while babywearing or nursing have grown a little fuzzy and maybe even nostalgic in my mind, but a variety have factors have all collided to make this one for the books! The insects, the weeds, seem worse than I have ever seen them, brought out by the drought and heat. In the same conditions, some crops have hobbled along and some have been lost altogether. This year feels like a fight- a fight for each crop. The cucumber beetle, the weeds, the swede midge bug, the raccoons, the drought…all threatening to steal all our sweat-borne efforts away, and the labour we have is less that we did on years where the conditions were more favourable. Each watering, each organic pest control measure, each and every weed removed for the third time from that same crop- all take precious time from a precious few of us. Entire crops have been lost- and we know that other farmers are in this same struggle too. But, we are passionate about what we do- passionate to bring forth bounty from the dusty land; passionate to feed your family well; passionate to make the most out of this thin hand we’ve been dealt, and thankful, so despite the losses and the struggle, beautiful crops are emerging. The baskets this week make me smile with their colour and variety. I am grateful, and I hope you are too.

Thank you to those of you who have been cheering us on. Other businesses closed for a while and had time to re-tool. Farmers carried on like every-day, but harder, as many of them were left short-handed. We are tired, but we are some of the most stubborn, determined folks you will ever meet. A customer brought her lovely family to see the chickens (socially distanced of course), and seeing her family’s wonder, curiosity, and appreciation buoyed me up for another week. Serving you, feeding you well, means so very much to us. We hope that these baskets bring you happiness and good health.

The most exciting addition this week is definitely watermelon. The variety in your veggie shares this week is yellow doll, and I think you’ll see when you open it up just where it gets that name! It should be a nice bright yellow colour on the inside. You be the judge- is it actually sweeter than red watermelon?

We also have some sweet corn for the whole shares (or are trying our dardnest to get to it before the raccoons). Apparently, raccoons prefer organic too. There is lots more nice sweet corn still ripening, so we are hoping for more in the coming weeks.

Whole Shares: romaine, cucumbers, zucchini, tomatoes, green peppers, yellow doll watermelon, green beans, baby bokchoy, rainbow swiss chard, grape tomatoes, japanese eggplant, banana peppers (only a teeny hint spicy), mint, cilantro or onions, radish, sweet corn or snow peas
Fruit Shares: massive Ontario organic watermelon, 5 pink crisp apples, 3 plums, 1/2 pint blackberries (US or local) or cherries or 3 lemons, 3-4 organic avocadoes, organic red grapes
Handle your boxes with care people and carry it supporting the bottom- those watermelon are HEAVY!

Recipes

This week I did a remake of the Fajita Rice from last week, adding some of the new ingredients now available like banana pepper and fresh cilantro. It definitely took it to the next level! My daughter decided we should eat by candlelight, and it was late- but I indulged her. Sometimes you just gotta create some beauty and live a little, and kids totally get this. That’s something so cool about kids and why I need them around. They teach me a lot :).

Chicken Fajita Rice (Serves 4-5, depending on the size of the eaters 😉

Ingredients

  • 1lb chicken breast (I used our own organically fed chicken!) vegetarian option- use cooked black beans!
  • 2 tbsp olive oil (for sautéing)
  • 2 green peppers, diced
  • 1-2 banana peppers, diced (they are quite mild still- you can try a little nibble and see how much you want to use- your head will not blow off)
  • cooked rice (mine was leftover and made this meal nice and speedy)
  • approx 3 tomatoes or 1lb plus tomatoes, diced
  • taco seasoning mix
  • 3-4 tbsp. fresh cilantro
  • grated cheddar cheese (to serve)

Directions

  1. Cut chicken breast into small cubes and place in a large pan with olive oil. When almost cooked through, add green & banana peppers and sautee a couple minutes or until slightly softened. Add cooked rice and tomatoes, stirring for even cooking,
  2. Add taco seasoning mix and a little water if the juices from the tomatoes have evaporated
  3. Garnish the cilantro or mix in after cooking is complete. Top with cheddar cheese.
  4. Alternate serving idea: add above ingredients minus the green pepper and stuff right in a green pepper and bake…or….fill a soft tortilla and you have a burrito.

Watermelon Feta Salad

This one is traditionally done with red watermelon, but will also taste just as nice with your yellow one (or the large red ones in your fruit shares). You can also expect more watermelon this week, so this is a fun idea if you get bored of just snacking on watermelon on it’s own. Bonus, you also have a perfect place for your mint, whole share members 🙂 Find the recipe here.

Making a special trip just to get the last few bags of beans last week, and I was greeted by this vista! That’s rye growing in the field, to enrich the soil for future crops, the natural way. Look at those clouds!

That’s all folks. Here we are in August, my favourite month on the farm and in general. Hot days, cool nights…a whole lot growing. Enjoy!

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Farm Share 2020 Week 9 (July 28-Aug 1)

Hello from the farm! My favourite farmer (aka husband) and I celebrated 12 years of marriage this weekend. We have sure come a long way from those two starry-eyed lovebirds who thought the world was our oyster! Lol. Well, maybe it still is, but we had no idea how much work it was getting to the pearls. However, those pearls of our commitment to each other, walking with God, raising kids, and running and growing this farm- they have been so worth it! In a fashion in step with a busy 12 years so far, we dug up our backyard to fix a septic line, then I booted over to the farm to receive a new flock of young laying hens, and put ourselves together enough to spend an evening celebrating. We have much to be thankful for.

A nice full wagon teeming with eggplants, green peppers and tomatoes!

I do hope that this new bunch of laying hens sees our egg production go up enough to have a little extra to sell here and there, but I do plan to get through this week supplying all our egg share customers regularily, without any early morning visits to the hens to get just those last few eggs!

I am stoked to be offering our own roasting chickens, fed organically and kept on pasture from 4 weeks on. They are now available on our website and can be delivered with a farm share or be picked up from the farm store. Please note they are frozen and we need someone to be home to receive them or a cooler left out with plenty of ice packs.

A beautiful sight to my eyes! This year has been just wicked for pests. I hardly even knew about the cucumber beetle until this year as it has been making a mess of our cucumbers. After a couple applications of a clay powder spray, the cucumbers (and plants) are looking wonderful. Wahoo!

Now on to the veggies! This week the tomatoes are finally in plenty enough for everyone to get some. You may receive a typical beefsteak (red) tomato, a brandywine heirloom tomato (with green top and red bottom when ripe), campari tomatoes (small red tomatoes), or other heirloom varieties (one is yellow with green stripes when ready). The heirloom varieties are less hardy and tend to split more easily. The taste is truly worth any irritation! Tomatoes are best kept out of the fridge at room temperature, and are ready to enjoy when they turn from super firm and get a little softer, just like a regular tomato. We hope you enjoy tasting the amazing flavour of in season tomatoes and get a chance to taste test a couple varieties over the tomato season.

This week we also have some stunning eggplant! I could not resist putting it in all your boxes as it is just so beautiful. You might be a little reluctant to try eggplant, but it is so worth getting to know. First of all, it is best kept out of the fridge (ideally in a cooler space), but room temperature is ok too. The trick to cutting out any bitter taste is to peel, slice and then lightly salt the eggplant slices. I enjoy then baking the slices (a couple millimetres thick) spread out on a greased baking sheet at 425 degrees for about 8-10 mins or until tender. Then carefully remove them with a spatula and use as you would noodles in lasagna! Don’t forget the spinach…totally essential in lasagna in my opinion.

Recipes

Easy Fajita Chicken & Rice

If I can manage this on a Monday night (Mondays are my craziest day of the week), you can too!

Ingredients

  • 1lb chicken breast, cut into cubes or small chunks
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil, for frying
  • 2 green peppers, cores removed and chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 3 roma tomatoes (or other tomatoes, diced)
  • 1 package taco seasoning mix (or make your own with chili powder, cumin, salt, etc.)
  • 1 1/4 cup dry parboiled rice
  • 2 1/4 cups water

Directions

I started by pouring the water into a medium saucepan along with the rice, and bringing it to a boil. Then I covered it and let it simmer until cooked (see package directions).

Meanwhile, I cut up my chicken and sauteed it in a wok in the olive oil. Once mostly cooked, I added the chopped green pepper and tomatoes and cooked until tender (around 5-7 minutes), adding the taco seasoning part way through. The juice from the tomatoes gives it some liquid to make a nice sauce.

I served the fajita mix on a bed of rice, garnishing it with cheddar cheese, a sprig of thyme and even offered my kiddos a little plain yogurt with it in case it was too spicy for them. I got lots of “thank you, mom”s, and “this is good!”s, and lots of empty plates…so I’m gonna call that a big win for a dinner where I was admittedly winging it. I hope you like this recipe as well!

Eggplant Parmesan

Try this classic recipe to make the most out of your eggplant. Tip: the eggplants in your shares are about 1-2lbs in size. If your eggplant seems a little small to fill your dish, try using your zucchini and breading it up along with the eggplant in the same way. Hopefully you still have fresh basil from your basil plant to add some extra flavour to this dish.

Ratatouille

Want a recipe for your eggplant that is low carb and also vegan? Try This Ratatouille Recipe: https://cookieandkate.com/best-ratatouille-recipe/

Baba Ghanouj

Have you tried Baba Ghanouj? Sounds kinda funky, but it is one amazingly delicious garlicky dip made of eggplant that you’ll want to have with everything. Bonus- also uses your garlic and parsley from your farm share.

Curly Endive Salad With Bacon and Poached Eggs

I don’t know what it is, but endive just pairs so nicely with eggs and bacon! Last time I had endive I simply sauteed it in the bacon fat after cooking some bacon and a couple fried eggs. If you want to take it to the next level, try this recipe.

Greens Hack (Think kale, swiss chard) from a fellow Farm Share member

She says: “I’ve really enjoyed trying a variety of greens I wouldn’t normally buy, and feel diversifying my diet has had a positive impact on my and my family’s health.  My kids are pretty picky eaters but I have found a ‘greens hack’ that works well.  I take the kale, chards and other ‘sturdy’ greens and turn them into chips. 
Basically, I remove the stems and tear the greens into small pieces.  Then I massage the following into the greens: olive oil, garlic powder, smoked paprika, salt (I use Herbamare Herbed Sea Salt) and a generous sprinkling of nutritional yeast flakes. The key is to work the oil and flavourings into the greens, making sure each piece is covered.   I lay them in a single layer on a parchment paper covered tray and cook them in an oven set around 250 to 275 degrees, until they are crispy.  If you can believe it, my boys literally fight over these veggie chips.  Admittedly, my hubby and I find them super addictive, too. 
Actually, I use the same technique/ingredients for making the veggie chips (as listed above) using the salad lettuces instead, except I don’t cook it.  I add some diced avocado and anchovies to the ‘dressed’ salad greens and call it my ‘Twisted Caesar Salad’.  I’m sure croutons would be a good addition but I try to avoid grains.  It’s quite tasty! “

Thank you for sharing, C.C.

Have a great hack for helping your family enjoy their veggies? Bring it on. I’d love your ideas via email or over facebook. Thanks for sharing your genius! 

In your Shares This Week:

Fruit Shares Get: 3 mangoes, 6 oranges, 1/2 pint blueberries or local blackberries, 7 plums, 1.5lbs cherries (a special treat, crazy expensive, but just had to spoil you this week). The blackberries will be ready for thurs-fridays deliveries- they are awaiting the rain and we can pick them. If you don’t get them this week, don’t worry, next week we should have more. Pray for rain!
Simply 6 Shares get: green peppers, eggplant, spinach, tomatoes, green beans, and cucumbers
Half shares get: Shares get: green peppers, eggplant, spinach, tomatoes, green beans, and cucumbers, parsley, zucchini, green kale, peas or alternate (not in picture)
Half shares get: Shares get: green peppers, eggplant, spinach, tomatoes, green beans, and cucumbers, parsley, zucchini, green kale, sugar snap or snow peas, assorted lettuces (in short supply right now), green cabbage, broccoli, beets or surprise!, white onions, garlic, curly endive

So many ideas this week! Happy cooking! Stay cool and hope you all get a chance to dance in the rain 🙂

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Farm Share Week 8 (July 21-25)

Can you tell which one is a male chicken? (cock). It’s the one that looks like he’s bossing the ladies around. Don’t worry though, these chickens were super easy going and got along famously

Warning: vegetarians might want to skip this first paragraph :). Last week felt like a whole lot of crazy at least for me! I am now finished with the white rock chickens, and they are now in the freezer and ready for purchase. Loading the chickens up for their final journey, I found myself thanking them for the wholesome nutrition they would provide us. I’ve always held the whole process happily at arm’s length (like most of us), but now raising them, it’s gotten a lot more real. For me what matters most is how they are raised- I want to know that they’ve lead good lives, mostly outdoors, with space to move and peck about. I want to know that they have been cared for to the greatest extent and fed nutritious, organic feed. And having raised them myself, I have this confidence. They also took more time, money and energy that I could have imagined so it’s a relief to just have the one batch this year. In the mean time we have a small amount of roasting chickens for sale (soon to be on the website), mostly 4-5lbs in size.

On to the veggies! This week was full of surprises. I feel like I had all but given up on the carrots and beets. The drought had done a number on them, leaving them struggling for survival instead of vibrantly growing, but some recent rains must have saved the day. While they may be hidden in the weeds (I swear we weeded them each like 3 times!), we managed to get a good bunch of them for your shares this week. If the carrots in your bunch are a little small, they don’t need peeling! Just give them a little scrub and save yourself the trouble. As young and fresh carrots, their skins are much more tender.

Surprise # 2: I planned to check out the garlic, having been warned that they might be a little small…but wow, some really nice big ones! I had such fun with my fork harvesting them. It was so satisfying! When you get into growing things and get back to the soil, it’s amazing how enjoyable some of the garden tasks can be. The garlic in your far, shares is fresh from the garden and can be used as is. If you want to store it for more than about 3 weeks you may want to try curing it- basically a process of drying it out for longer term storage. Find out how to cure garlic here.

Green beans are finally here! (after me starting them down for weeks lol). These really are a low effort veggie. Try lightly steaming them till they turn an even brighter green and adding butter and a dash of salt. They are also delicious raw, if cooking them seems like way too much effort. Yum!

Another new item is fennel. This might be outside of your regular dinner rotation and could certainly shake things up with its crisp texture and unique flavour. Grab you fennel, sautee it with some garlic as in this RECIPE and you’ve got a tasty and different side that pairs beautifully with fish.

Tip: While proper storage of the veggies will make them last WAYYYY longer and help cut down your waste, many of our customers also tell us how much their dogs enjoy sharing their veggie baskets. Many dogs love items like bok choy and they are so good for them! So, find yourself a little overwhelmed with veggies? Maybe fido can help :). Here on the farm, the leaves that fall off lettuce or bokchoy as we trim it are used to make the chickens very happy and healthy. They always run over to me as I give them their veggie treats.

Grilling zucchini brings out all the flavour!

Recipe: Grilled Zucchini

I forgot just how delicious zucchini is grilled! We were cooking bbq chicken drumsicks on the barbecue. When almost cooked, we lightly tossed sliced zucchini in olive oil and spread it out on our grilling basket. Then we sprinked the slices of zucchini with salt and pepper and grilled until tender. Watch for burning on the underside as it cooks quite quickly! We paired it with white rice with butter, chopped fresh mint, and chopped fresh heirloom tomato for a satisfying summer meal. Bon apetit!

T wanted me to take this picture because he caught a chicken! These hens can really give a good chase when they escape 🙂

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Farm Share Week 7 (July 14-18, 2020)

We got rain!!! Off and on all weekend. It was glorious! Every farmer facing this drought is united in our NEED of rain. It was getting rather desperate for some crops, even with the irrigation. Just a little rain and you can see the plants that were looking slumpy and sad perk up again. The drought has brought with us a delay in some crops- beets and carrots are normally here by now, but they weren’t able to thrive and grow as well under the sweltering temperatures and lack of rain. The beans grown ever so slowly, and now are just days away from being ready! Not for this week’s farm share, sadly, but they will be out in full force for next week. The hot and dry weather seems to bring out the insects with a vengeance. We’re kept hopping trying to manage it all organically, and for the greenhouses, to do it all before the heat becomes too unbearable for the workers. I’ll tell you- they are tough!

The blackcurrants are finally ready this week and tasting nice and sweet (for a currant of course, they are a tart berry :). Why not try this easy but sophisticated sauce with duck or chicken? You can also try making an easy jam. Rhubarb pairs very well with it in jam to make it go a little farther. If you have an ice cream maker, why not try making Minted Blackcurrant Sorbet?

The biggest surprise this week was finding ripe tomatoes….what!? I cannot recall ever finding them this early before. Don’t be alarmed if your tomatoes look dark red and partially green. We grew some of the brandywine variety and they are this colouration when ripe. When you notice it turn from hard to softer, you know it is ready to eat. Their delicious juicy insides and thin skins make them both scrumptious and sensitive, so treat them with care and eat them asap! I just cored mine and made it into little slices to go with a throw-together dinner of chicken and fries. I love the veggies that don’t require any cooking on a busy night! We also have some little red campari tomatoes, and others will receive japanese eggplant. Have you wondered why your box as written on the blog on Monday is not 100 percent the same? I do my very best to anticipate and plan for your boxes each week. More often than not, the fields have other plans and I don’t get all of what I hoped for or maybe don’t have the quantities I thought I had (like the redcurrants last week). That’s when we do our best to substitute with a similar item. The nature of gardening/farming is that things don’t always go exactly as planned, and you learn to “roll with the punches”, and enjoy what is there while being patient for what is not yet. I hope that farm share gives you a chance to experience that a little, while making sure you always have something good, wholesome and beautiful to eat!

L-R green leaf lettuce, radish, green kale, spinach (or alternate), cucumbers, rainbow swiss chard, romaine lettuce, bok choy, sugar snap peas, blackcurrants, tomatoes or japanese eggplant, mint, green onions & zucchini (not pictured: dill)

Fruit Shares: 3 red grapefruit, 3 avocadoes, 6 red plums, 6 bosc pears, 3 mangoes (all organic)

Recipes

Sesame Ginger Bok Choy

Loading with iron, calciumphosphorous, and potassium, vitamins A, C, K and folate, bok choy deserves a place at your table. It’s wonderful in stir fries, like this simple Sesame Ginger Bok Choy. If your family (or you) is reluctant to try it, slices it up small and have it with rice, in noodle soup, or even hidden in spaghetti sauce or lasagna!

https://cookieandkate.com/15-delicious-kale-recipes/Not sure what to do with your Kale? It’s a nutritional powerhouse, and also super versatile. Here are 15 Delicious Kale Recipes to Pick from.

And for that Mint, how about a Cucumber Salad With Mint?

I make a simpler recipe all the time with just cucumbers, vinegar, salt and pepper. The mint makes it all the more flavourful. I don’t worry about taking the seeds out either- I’d rather not waste any of the goodness in the cucumber 🙂

And for the radishes, dill and green onions, how about some nice Creamy Potato Salad with Radishes, Lemon and Dill?

It’s simply dill-icious!

Wishing you beauty, health and happiness this week!