Raccoon Forks Farms newsletter – August 21, 2018

Dear Friends and CSA Partners –

We don’t tend to do things by halves here in Iowa, do we?  At the Farms, we got a couple of inches of greatly-needed rain, yesterday – but many folks got way too much.  We hope you’re okay and not swamped!

As usual, at this time of year, we’re spending most of our time and effort harvesting and cleaning our summer vegetables;  tending to young plants that will be producing in the fall;  and weeding, weeding, weeding!  This week, at our Redfield farm, we’re also setting up more wire trellising for the tomatoes in our high tunnel.

We're using this fencing to trellis new tomato plants in the high tunnel

As you know, we’ve been raising goats, lambs, and sheep this summer, and we’re ready to start accepting orders!  Goat meat, lamb, and mutton will be available early next year, or possibly even late this year, and we’re taking reservations for half and whole animals.  We have lots of options available – you can pick up a live animal at the farm, or pick up processed and frozen meat at the farm or at one of six regional meat lockers.  If you’re interested in reserving some lamb, mutton, or goat meat, or if you have questions, please give us a call!  515/729-8664

A couple of weeks ago, we mentioned that we’d be sending out a survey to find out how our summer CSA shares are going for you.  The survey is done, and we hope to send it out to you this evening!  You’ll receive an email with a link.  Please do complete the survey – it’s anonymous, short, and quick.  We want to offer you the very best CSA shares and program that we can, and your feedback is important to us.  Thank you!

Eggs and vegetables CSA shares waiting for pick-up at Railroad Bill's Dining Car

What’s In Your Vegetables Share?

This week, we’re planning to bring you onions, potatoes, peppers, kale, tomatoes, summer squash, pak choi, and possibly cucumbers.

What Is It?

Pak choi is a delicious cruciferous vegetable, or brassica, related to broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage, among others.  It is sometimes called Chinese cabbage.  There are many different types – and many different spellings – of pak choi!  These include bok choy, bok choi, pak choy, pok choi…we’re going with pak choi, since that’s how the seeds for what you’ll find in your box were named. 

While many pak chois have green leaves, the Rosie pak choi we’re sending you has red leaves!  Both the leaves and their tender, almost sweet stems are wonderful, and can be eaten raw or cooked.  Pak choi has been called a “gateway green” because its flavor is so mild and lovely – so if you know people who are hesitant about greens and brassicas, cook them something with pak choi!

Storing

We recommend storing pak choi without washing it until you’re ready to use it.  Keep it in the refrigerator, wrapped loosely in a towel or paper towel or open bag until then.  Pak choi bruises easily, so you may wish to put it inside some sort of protective container, as well.  While pak choi will be fine in the fridge for a few days, it is by far the best when it’s freshest, so either eat it soon, or preserve it for later use!

Store onions in a cool, dry, dark place with good air circulation.  Don’t store them in the refrigerator or in plastic bags.  If you’ve used part of an onion and want to save the remainder for later use, however, you should then keep it in the fridge.

For information on storing the other vegetables in your share this week, see our produce-storage web page.

What to Make?

The Best Sautéed Bok Choy

(Adapted from geniuskitchen.com)

1 head bok choy, sliced, both stems and leaves

⅓ cup onion, diced

½ Tbsp. grated gingerroot

1 tsp. olive oil

½ tsp. dark sesame oil

1 tsp. fish sauce

1 Tbsp. rice vinegar

1 Tbsp. sesame seeds

¼ cup chicken broth

crushed red pepper flakes

Rinse and drain bok choy and set aside.  Sauté onion and ginger in olive oil and sesame oil until onion is tender.  Add remaining ingredients and sauté for about 8 minutes.

*           *           *

Bok Choy Salad with Peanut Vinaigrette

(Adapted from thebloatedbellywhisperer.com)

2 bunches bok choy, chopped

4 scallions, thinly sliced

Dried cranberries (amount to taste;  a 5-oz. package is not unreasonable)

Sunflower seeds (amount to taste)

Toasted slivered almonds or sliced almonds (amount to taste)

Toss together all of the salad ingredients, above.

To make the vinaigrette, whisk the following ingredients together very well, until uniform consistency:

½ cup olive oil

½ cup white vinegar

¼ cup sugar (or less, to taste)

2 Tbsp. soy sauce

2 Tbsp. crushed garlic

2 Tbsp. smooth peanut butter

Dash of salt and pepper to taste

Toss salad with dressing to taste;  leftover dressing can be saved in the refrigerator for other uses.

*           *           *

Aloo Egg Curry

(Adapted from Indianhealthyrecipes.com)

4 eggs

1-1½ Tbsp. oil

½ tsp. cumin seeds

2-3 green cardamoms (optional)

1½ cup onions (3 medium onions)

¾ cup tomatoes (1 large)

1½ tsp. ginger garlic past 

⅛ tsp. turmeric

salt as needed

1 tsp. garam masala 

½-¾ tsp. red chili powder

3-4 potatoes, washed, peeled, and cut into chunks (whatever size you prefer)

2 Tbsp. coriander leaves (cilantro), chopped

½ tsp. coriander powder or garam masala

Boil the eggs and place them in a bowl of ice water to cool. 

Heat the oil in a large pan over moderate heat, add the cumin and cardamoms, and allow to sizzle.  Add onions and fry until golden, then add the ginger and garlic and continue frying until the raw smell is gone.  Add the tomatoes, salt, and turmeric.  Fry until the tomatoes turn soft and mushy.  Add the chili powder and 1 tsp. masala powder.  Stir and fry for 1-2 minutes.  Add potatoes and fry for 2-3 minutes.  Add water enough to almost cover the potatoes.  Cover the pan, reduce heat, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are done.

While the potatoes are cooking, peel the eggs.  Pierce them randomly with a fork or knife and set them aside.

When the potatoes are done, add the eggs to the pan and stir.  Add chopped coriander leaves and ground coriander or garam masala.   Cook, covered, until the gravy thickens.  To make more gravy, add more water;  or, to make a dry curry, cook, uncovered, stirring frequently, to evaporate the moisture.  If you wish, add a little thick coconut milk.  Serve with plain roti or rice.

Can’t Eat It Now?  Save It For (Much) Later!

See our preserving produce web page for suggestions on how to preserve your pak choi, onions, and other produce from this week’s share.  Pak choi and onions both freeze well, among other ways of saving them.  In addition, consider pickles!  Here are links to a couple of recipes we thought sounded good:

https://www.marthastewart.com/1154966/korean-barbecued-ribs-pickled-greens

https://buythiscookthat.com/dilly-pickled-onion-rings/

Cheers!

Your Raccoon Forks Farms Team

Raccoon Forks Farms newsletter – August 14, 2018

Dear Friends and CSA Partners –

Time is just racing along, isn’t it? It’s the State Fair, already! The Fair is a summer highlight, but it can also seem like a turning point toward the start of the new school year and the coming of fall. Fortunately, it’s high summer in the vegetable world! It’s that wonderful time of year when it’s hot and fresh vegetables are abundant and they’re so good they don’t need much cooking, if any – time for reveling in ripe tomatoes, salads, fresh basil, roasted squash and peppers, and so many more great summer foods!

We’re hoping it’s time for some rain in Iowa, too. It’s dry at the farms. As we write this, there’s a pretty good forecast for rain for our farms over the next 24 hours or so – fingers crossed.

At our Redfield farm, it’s time to change the chicken bedding! We put shavings down in our poultry barns and periodically we dig it all out and put down fresh shavings. This is a big job, but the reward is healthy, happy chickens and a lot of great material for our homemade compost!

When you have as many chickens as we do, you need a lot of bedding!

And at our Runnells farm, we’re still preparing to put in the fencing for our new goat pasture. We’re continuing to clear brush, and we’re marking the trees we’ll need to cut down. Our goal is to be able to move the goats from our Redfield farm to the Runnells farm before the ground freezes this fall!

Fenceposts!

What’s In Your Vegetables Share?

This week, we're planning to bring you peppers, scallions, tomatoes, summer squash, basil, garlic, and possibly cucumbers. The peppers you receive will be a mix of varieties – most, though, will probably be Goddess peppers, which are a mild, sweet pepper.

What Is It?

We think you’re likely familiar with all of the produce that will be in your CSA vegetables box this week! If you’re not, though, or if you have any questions, please let us know. Questions could develop into future newsletter content, in fact. We’d be happy for this newsletter to serve as more of a conversation – send us your comments and questions, and we’ll be happy to respond!

Storing

Don’t wash peppers until you’re ready to use them. Until then, keep them dry and store them in the refrigerator, in an open container or paper bag.

For storage ideas for your other vegetables, see our produce-storage web page.

What to Make?

Huevos Pericos (Scrambled Eggs with Tomato and Scallions) (From mycolombianrecipes.com)

4 eggs
2 medium tomatoes, finely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons chopped scallions
Salt to taste

In a medium non-stick skillet heat the oil over medium heat. Add the tomatoes and scallions and cook about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl beat the eggs and salt. Pour the eggs in the skillet with the tomato mixture and cook over medium heat, without stirring, until mixture begins to set. Stir twice or until the eggs mix with the tomato and scallions and cook about 2 minutes or until the eggs are the consistency you like.

Transfer to a serving plate and serve with arepa or toast.

* * *

Summer Squash Soup
(From naturallyella.com)

[Note: This recipe calls for yellow summer squash, but some of us made it with a mixture of the green and Zephyr squashes we’ve been including in the CSA boxes, doubling the recipe, and it was terrific! Also, we think this soup is delicious both hot and cold.]

1 Tbsp. olive oil
½ cup minced yellow onion
2 cups finely diced yellow summer squash
1 cup peeled and diced Yukon gold potato
¼ cup diced carrot
1 clove garlic minced
¾ tsp. cumin powder
½ tsp. coriander
½ tsp. turmeric
½ tsp. smoked paprika plus extra for topping
¼ tsp. mustard powder
¼ tsp. cinnamon
pinch cayenne pepper optional
¼ cup dry white wine
2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
¼ cup coconut milk plus extra for topping
Salt to taste
Cilantro for topping

Heat a heavy-bottomed pot over medium-low heat. Add the olive oil followed by the onions. Cook until the onions are fragrant and translucent, 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in the squash, potato, and carrot. Continue to cook until the squash begins to soften, 5 minutes or so. Stir in the garlic, cook for a minute then add in all the spices, cooking for another minute more.

Add the wine, scraping up any pieces stuck to the bottom. Allow some of the wine to cook out then measure in the vegetable broth. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and let cook until the potatoes are tender, 10 to 15 minutes.

Puree the soup using a blender or an immersion blender. Add in the coconut milk and continue to heat the soup until hot. Taste and add salt as needed (usually depends on how salty the broth is). Divide into two bowls and top with a drizzle of coconut milk, sprinkle of paprika, and cilantro.

* * *

Linguine with Tomatoes and Basil
(From The Silver Palate Cookbook)

4 ripe large tomatoes, cut into ½-inch cubes
1 lb. Brie cheese, rind removed, torn into irregular pieces
1 cup cleaned fresh basil leaves, cut into strips
3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely minced
1 cup plus 1 Tbsp. best-quality olive oil
2½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1½ lbs. linguine
Freshly grated imported Parmesan cheese (optional)

Combine tomatoes, Brie, basil, garlic, 1 cup olive oil, ½ tsp. salt and the pepper in a large serving bowl. Prepare at least 2 hours before serving and set aside, covered, at room temperature.

Bring 6 quarts water to a boil in a large pot. Add 1 Tbsp. olive oil and remaining salt. Add the linquine and boil until tender but still firm, 8 to 10 minutes.

Drain pasta and immediately toss with the tomato sauce. Serve at once, passing the peppermill, and grated Parmesan cheese if you like.


Can’t Eat It Now? Save It For (Much) Later!

There are many ways to preserve peppers, including freezing, drying, and canning them as is; or, you can make something delicious with them – think salsa, or roasted peppers – and then freeze or can them! One of our favorite ways to preserve peppers is to make quick, refrigerator pickled peppers.

It’s important to use caution when you’re dealing with hot peppers! When cutting them, wear gloves (some of us use our dishwashing gloves, well-washed), and keep your hands away from your eyes! In addition, we want to share this hard-earned knowledge: some of us like to dry hot peppers, then run them through a food processor to make hot pepper flakes. This works beautifully – now that we’ve learned to wear a mask and gloves, provide ourselves plenty of ventilation, and turn our heads away from the work area to breath!

We’ve included links to a couple of recipes, below; also, for other ideas for preserving your peppers as well as other produce, see our preserving-produce web page.

Quick Refrigerator Pickled Peppers

https://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/bell_pepper_salsa/

Wishing you a great week – enjoy your shares!

-Your Raccoon Forks Farms Team

Raccoon Forks Farms newsletter – August 7, 2018

Dear Friends and CSA Partners –

Happy National Farmers’ Market Week! This USDA-sponsored week celebrates farmers, ranchers, and other local food producers and their communities. The Farmers Market Coalition (an independent, non-profit farmers’ market advocacy organization) holds that farmers’ markets have a “…triple bottom line:

  • Farmers earn fair prices for the fruits of their labor by selling directly to consumers.
  • Consumers gain access to fresh, nutritious, local produce.
  • Communities regain a figurative ‘town square,’ experiencing the many positive outcomes of foot traffic and animated public space.”

And of course, community-supported agriculture does much the same thing! And if farmers’ markets are the “town square,” then picking up CSA shares is like stopping by the old corner grocery. As we celebrate National Farmers’ Market Week, we want to thank you, as always, for being our wonderful CSA partners and supporting local food and farmers!

Due to circumstances beyond our control, this week's newsletter isn't quite as newsy as usual. We apologize, and we'll be back up to speed next week!

Also, as we write this, our web page is down, and we apologize for that, as well. Technology! We'll have it fixed as soon as possible.

What’s In Your Vegetables Share?

This week, we plan to bring you cucumbers, garlic, summer squash, tomatoes, potatoes, and kale.


Storing

Fresh cucumbers do not need to be refrigerated. They’ll do fine if you leave them in a shady spot on the counter. If you prefer to keep your cukes in the fridge, though, just make sure they’re dry, and pop them in. There’s no need to bag them or wrap them in anything.

Storage suggestions for each of this week’s other vegetables have been offered in previous newsletters and can be found on our produce storage web page.

What to Make?

Egg, Kale, and Tomato Breakfast Wraps with Hummus
(Adapted from epicurious.com)

[Note: we think these would be great for any meal!]

5 large kale leaves
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1¼ cups grape tomatoes, halved
1 large shallot, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
⅛ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
½ tsp. kosher salt
¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup chopped fresh basil leaves
4 large eggs, at room temperature
4 (10-inch) whole-wheat tortillas
¼ cup store-bought plain hummus

Cut away and discard the stem from the center of each kale leaf. Coarsely chop the kale into 1-inch pieces.

Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the tomatoes, shallot, garlic, thyme, and red pepper flakes, if using. Sauté until the tomatoes and shallot soften, about 4 minutes. Add the kale and sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Toss with until the kale wilts but is still bright green, about 2 minutes. Stir in the basil. Remove from the heat.

Scramble or poach the eggs, whichever you prefer. While the eggs are cooking, using tongs, toast each tortilla directly over high heat until beginning to blacken in spots, about 15 seconds per side. Put the warm tortillas on plates. Spoon 1 tablespoon of hummus on each tortilla and spread to cover, leaving a 1-inch border. Divide the kale mixture over the hummus.

Divide the eggs equally between the 4 tortillas. If using poached eggs, using a slotted spoon, lift each egg from the water, wiping excess liquid from the bottom of the spoon. Put the eggs on top of the kale. Slit the yolks and press on the eggs a bit so the yolks begin to run (this will make them easier to eat).

Fold up the bottom of each tortilla and then fold in the sides, leaving the wraps open at the top. Serve.

* * *

Tzatziki Sauce
(Adapted from themediterraneandish.com)

[Tzatziki sauce is one of our favorite ways to use summer cucumbers – simple, quick, and delicious! You can serve it with Greek and Middle Eastern food, of course, but consider it also as a great dip or sauce for, well, pretty much anything!]

1 medium or large cucumber, partially peeled (striped) and sliced.
1 tsp. kosher salt, divided
4-5 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 tsp. white vinegar
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 cups Greek yogurt (whole milk, 2%, and fat-free are all fine)
¼ tsp. ground white pepper

Grate the cucumbers, then toss with ½ tsp. kosher salt. Place the grated cucumber in a fine mesh strainer over a deep bowl to drain. Then place drained cucumber into cheesecloth or a double-thickness cloth napkin and squeeze it dry. Set aside.

Place the garlic, remaining ½ tsp. salt, vinegar, and olive oil in a large bowl and mix to combine. Add the cucumber, yogurt, and white pepper. Stir to combine thoroughly. Cover tightly and refrigerate for a couple of hours before using.

* * *

Squash Cake
(Adapted from themeaningofpie.com)

Cake
3 cups sugar
3 cups flour
1½ tsp. cinnamon
1½ tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
3 cups finely chopped yellow squash (do not peel)
4 eggs
1½ cups vegetable oil
1 tsp. vanilla
(optional: 1 cup chopped pecans and/or 1 cup golden raisins)

Icing
4 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 (8-oz.) package cream cheese
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
Chopped pecans for decoration
Dried sugared squash slices for decoration (optional)

In a large bowl, combine the sugar, flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir with a whisk.

In a food processor, pulse approximately 4 to 5 yellow squash until they are evenly chopped (chop them into chunks before putting them in the processor). In a medium bowl, combine the eggs, oil and vanilla. Add the squash and mix well.

Add the squash mixture to the dry ingredients and mix until combined, using a large scraper/spatula. (If using nuts and/or raisins in the batter, this is when you will add them and stir them in to combine).

Pour the batter into a well greased 9″ X 13″ pan, lined with parchment paper on the bottom. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 50 minutes to an hour or until a toothpick pierced into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow the cake to rest in the pan for at least 10 minutes. You can either frost it in the pan or turn the cake out onto a large plate.

To make the icing, allow the cream cheese and butter to soften thoroughly. Beat them together with an electric mixer. Add the confectioners’ sugar, one cup at a time until fully combined. Ice the top of the cake with the cream cheese frosting. Decorate the top of the cake with chopped pecans and squash slices, if using.

To make squash slices, slice a squash very thinly. Dip each slice in a combination of cinnamon and sugar (1/2 cup sugar to 1 teaspoon cinnamon). Bake on a rack in a 200 degree oven for an hour and a half. Turn the slices half way through. They will drip sugar and moisture so make sure there is a cookie sheet underneath the rack. At the end of the baking time, they will be dry but still pliable. They are roughly the texture of dried apples. Remove to a piece of parchment and cool.

Can’t Eat It Now? Save It For (Much) Later!

The classic way to preserve cucumbers, of course, is by pickling! And there are tons of wonderful recipes out there – for dill pickles, spicy pickles, sweet pickles, pickle relish, you name it. There are other ways to preserve cucumbers, too, though, including drying cucumber chips; juicing cucumbers and freezing the juice; and making jelly or jam - among others!

See our web page on preserving produce for ideas and useful links for preserving this week’s other vegetables.

Here are links to a few great-sounding recipes for preserving cucumbers, just for fun:

Quick Pickled Cucumbers – Refrigerator Pickles

Cucumber Sorbet

Cucumber Mint Jam

Cheers!

Your Raccoon Forks Farms Team