Fresh Fork Market: Weeks 8 and 9

???????????????????????????????Rain and cool temperatures have made for an interesting summer here in northeast Ohio.  And my schedule has made for an interesting summer as well!   My Fresh Fork Market bag arrived last Wednesday with blueberries, lettuce, cheese, eggs, squash, and some other delicious freshness.  With company in town,  I was able to use several of these items quickly, which made my menu planning easy. However, I did not get my blogging time in-thus, no pictures or food ideas.   This week I am headed out of town, so I will not be picking up my FFM bag today.  This is another great feature of Fresh Fork Market – the flexibility of the plan.

Fresh Fork Market, I have learned, is actually a Farm Buying Club. Though similar in its roots to a CSA (community-supported agriculture), a farm buying club is more like a co-op in that several farms contribute to the organization, thus providing more variety to their customers.  This benefits the consumer, obviously, but this also benefits the farmer because any one farm does not have to provide all the produce being distributed.  Fresh Fork Market works with these farms and plans distribution based on what is available each week.  In addition, Fresh Fork Market allows the customer to cancel a weekly pick-up in advance, due to vacation plans, for example.   Not picking up this bag means I will receive credits to use for produce in the remaining season.  Next week my pick-up plan will resume as usual.  And all of this can be arranged online at the Fresh Fork Market website.

So if you have given some thought to trying the Fresh Fork Market plan, I have given you another reason to sign up.  I look forward to next week’s pick up and a new adventure in fresh foods.  Have a great week!

Fresh Fork Market: Week 7

???????????????????????????????Here in Northeast Ohio we are reaching our mid-point of summer.  July 4th is a memory, back-to-school sales are popping up, and Labor Day is beginning to loom on the horizon.  But my Fresh Fork Market fun is only one-third of the way complete, as their program continues until the end of October – so my fun food journey continues!

This week’s FFM newsletter  apologetically explained that our recent cooler Northeast Ohio temps have slowed the harvest of some produce which is usually available by now.  No need to apologize here!  I am still experimenting with new foods and recipes when I come home every week with something I would not have normally purchased at the grocery store.  This week’s bag was no exception. Filled to the brim with fresh lettuce, Swiss chard, cabbage, carrots, candy onion, beets, yellow squash, tomatoes and a pork shoulder roast, these ample delights will keep me busy for the next week.  I added a dozen fresh eggs and a loaf of homemade wheat bread I picked up at the truck (which I again forgot to take a picture of while there!)

I began by slow-cooking the pork roast in the crock pot with some onion, a celery stalk, and a bit of salt and fresh-ground pepper.   I added about a cup  of water and turned the crock pot to a low setting, then allowed the meat to cook most of the day. (I learned on a TV cooking show that we tend to put too much liquid in the crock pot with our meats.  Generally meats require no more than 8 oz. of liquid when cooking in a crock pot. The meat will generate its own juices, and when these combine with too much added liquid, we tend to drown the meat and diminish the flavor.) When I removed the pork roast from the crock pot, it was fork-tender and shredded easily.  I added some barbecue sauce and placed the meat in a freezer bag for a quick,easy summer meal later next week when I have company arriving.

There were two medium cabbage heads in my FFM bag.  The last time I received cabbage we made a delicious cole slaw recipe for our July 4th picnic. This time I am going to attempt making stuffed cabbage rolls.  I have always enjoyed these when others have served them, but I have not made these myself.   Fresh Fork has motivated me to conquer kale chips, kohlrabi, Swiss chard – and now cabbage rolls.   We will see how this goes!

???????????????????????????????In addition to receiving my FFM produce, this week also included our family’s once-a-year blueberry picking event.  We love blueberries at our house and make sure we have enough to enjoy year-round.  Blueberries freeze well and are easily used for so many recipes, from baked goods to pancake syrup to layering in a breakfast yogurt parfait.  My husband, daughter and I spent an hour or so out in the country, at Voytko Farms, enjoying the early evening sunshine and cool breeze as we picked 21 pounds (at only $2 a lb.)  of some of the best-looking blueberries I have seen.  On our way home, we stopped in the delightful town of Chagrin Falls, grabbing a light supper at a local diner and taking in the sights of the beautiful waterfall there.  The drive home took us past stunning historic homes with magnificent architecture and equally breath-taking landscapes.  My husband asked me, as I was drooling on the car window, if I was wishing I lived in the country.   My reply:  I love our suburban home – but a ride in the country once in a while satisfies my internal itch to be a farm girl.   Arriving home, I spent the rest of the evening freezing blueberries and planning to make blueberry jam and even try some bread-and-butter pickles later this summer.  Who says you can’t be a country girl even if you only have a small kitchen and a suburban yard?  Where there’s a will, there’s a way!

Fresh Fork Market: Week 6

??????????????????????????????? Today is Wednesday, now one of my favorite days of the week.  I used to dread grocery shopping.  The list-writing, coupon-clipping, decision-making, cart-loading process can be long and tiring, even discouraging when I think I have stocked up a bit but most everything I brought home is gone in a week.  Fresh Fork Market is changing the way I plan my menu and shop for food.  My pick-up point in Brecksville is easy and delightful.  Now I can spend my time looking for new recipes using the fresh, healthy ingredients I bring home  in the FFM bag each week. And because the weekly ingredients are so fresh, usually cooking them is often a quick process as well.

This week my FFM bag included a whole chicken (soon to be cooked in the crock pot and used for a variety of chicken dishes), 3 zucchini, yellow beans, a large fresh candy onion , a green garlic bulb, 1 pint of cherry tomatoes and 1 pint of fresh blueberries.

I also picked up a jar of roasted heirloom tomato marinara sauce today.  I still  had a bag of roasted red pepper linguini from Ohio City Pasta, so I cooked the pasta for dinner and added the marinara sauce on top – delicious!   The pasta is $5 and the marinara sauce is $6, but since my husband and I only ate half of this amount (lunch leftovers, yeah!),  we enjoyed a healthy, tasty meal for $2.75 a piece – less than the cost of a fast-food meal with twice the flavor!

Since I still had a fresh tomato, cucumbers, and half of a large candy onion left over??????????????????????????????? from last week, I made one of our favorite fresh salads to go with our pasta dinner.  This Cucumber-Tomato Salad is quick, easy, and hard-to-beat with its fresh summer taste.  I am sure there are many recipe versions online. Here is the recipe I have used for years (not sure where it came from):

Cucumber-Tomato Salad

  • 3 cups unpeeled (or partially peeled) sliced cucumbers (about 2 medium)
  • 2 cups chopped tomato (about 1 large)
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion (I used the Candy onion and it worked great)
  • 1/2 cup rice vinegar
  • 3 Tbsp Splenda (or other sweetener; I use about 2 Tbsp. sugar)
  • Salt and pepper to taste, if desired (I do not use any).

Combine chopped veggies in non-metal bowl.  Combine rice vinegar and sweetener; stir until sweetener is dissolved.  Pour over fresh veggies, stir to mix.  Refrigerate at least 30 minutes; serve chilled.  (The flavors blend even better if you let it set all day before serving it).

Last week I mentioned I would take a picture of the Fresh Fork truck today.  Well, I got so excited about seeing what was in my bag and what else was available today, I completely forgot!  I will do my best to remember next week.  On another note,  I did attempt to make Berry Sorbet using the black raspberries I picked up last week.  While the recipe was not difficult and the taste of the frozen sorbet was flavorful,  I was not satisfied with the texture and final consistency of the sorbet.  So I think I will try this again and see if I have more success next time before sharing the recipe.

Be sure to check out the Fresh Fork Market Canning Club‘s first canning session on July 19th.  Sign up is limited to the first 4o people, so don’t delay!  Canning is a part of my Once-A-Year Cooking plan.  Canning and freezing allow me to stock up on the freshest ingredients at their peak and enjoy them all year long.  No need to go out for fast food when I have jars of fresh peaches, applesauce and more stored away.   If you have never tried canning before, Fresh Fork Market’s Canning Club is a great place to start.

 

 

 

 

A Taste of Summer – Fresh Strawberry Pie

Last week I was able to purchase 2 flats of fresh, locally grown strawberries from Fresh Fork Market. I was able to order these a day in advance through the Fresh Fork Market Canning Club on Facebook. Normally our family goes strawberry picking at a local farm, but our schedule this year prevented this from happening. I was thrilled to still be able to enjoy fresh strawberries. In addition, from my 16 quarts of strawberries, I froze strawberries for smoothies year-round, made strawberry freezer jam for the year and froze a dozen pints of strawberry shortcake topping for great-tasting desserts in the middle of winter.

My first strawberry project involves making our favorite strawberry pie. We have one recipe we turn to every year. This recipe, given to me by my sister-in-law in 1988, includes a cookie-like crust you mix right in the pie pan. Here’s the basics if you want to try it:

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Mixing crust in pie plate

Pie Crust

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 2 Tbsp. milk

Mix this together in a 9-inch pie plate ( I use a fork.) Press out with fingertips to form a crust. Prick with a fork. Bake for 15-18 minutes at 425 degrees.(15 minutes is usually enough.)  Cool.

Pie Filling

  • 1 cup water

    The filling mixture before I boiled it.

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 Tbsp. cornstarch
  • 2 Tbsp. white corn syrup
  • pinch of salt

While the pie crust is baking and cooling, boil these ingredients in a medium saucepan until the filling becomes clear and thick.  Remove from heat and immediately stir in 2 Tbsp. strawberry flavored gelatin.  Allow this to cool.

To cooled filling, add 1 quart fresh strawberries, sliced in half.

Pour strawberry mixture into crust and refrigerate until completely cool and set.  Top with whipped topping and fresh strawberries if desired.   This pie is absolutely delicious – enjoy!

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Fresh Fork Market Week 3: Meet Kohlrabi

Today was a busy day as I tackled a paint job in the kitchen I have wanted to complete for a while. But I made sure to work Fresh Fork Market Week 3my project around my Fresh Fork Market pick-up at 3 p.m. I was eager to pick up my bag for the week and introduce myself to a new friend – my little green Kohlrabi.   I think it is the strangest looking vegetable I have ever met.  This odd little ball-shaped veggie has a few leaf sprigs popping out of the top, giving the illusion of an unkempt hairstyle.  The funny little wrinkles in the outer leaves almost create a mesmerizing facial expression.  How can I possibly eat something so cute!  If I drew two eyes and a nose,  I would have something closely resembling the infamous “Wilson” volleyball, the faithful companion of Chuck Noland (played by Tom Hanks) in the movie “Cast Away”. (Can’t you see him looking at you in my picture?)  But alas,  I need to eat it, vitamins, fiber and all.  I am sure I will enjoy the taste and texture of whatever my kohlrabi turns into this week.

My kohlrabi was joined by a stunning bunch of green onions, some Swiss chard, two zucchini, gorgeous lettuce, collard greens, a quart of delicious red strawberries, and pork chops (not pictured).   In addition, I brought home some beef cubes for kabobs later this week,smoked kielbasa, a ham hock to use with my black beans (which I still need to cook up),  and 2 flats of strawberries for my once-a-year strawberry freezer frenzy (more on that later).

stir frySince my kitchen is in disarray due to my painting project and I am the only one home this evening, I needed dinner to be quick and easy.  First stop, the  Fresh Fork kielbasa.  Stir fry meals offer great flexibility with ingredients and flavors, so I opted to try a kielbasa stir fry tonight.  I sliced 1 smoked kielbasa into bite-size pieces and fried it in a skillet with a little oil.  Then I added a chopped green onion, half of a zucchini sliced thin, a finely chopped garlic scape from last week, and a little bit of carrot.  After stir frying  until the veggies were tender, I served this over a bed of basmati rice and added a salad of fresh lettuce greens topped with fresh strawberries,  finely chopped pecans and a drizzle of strawberry poppyseed dressing.   Dinner in 15 minutes – presto! Now if I could just get my painting project done as fast…

kiebasa rice dinner

 

Fresh Fork Market: Week 2

I have to admit, I felt like a kid going Christmas shopping this afternoon – I couldn’t wait to get to my Fresh Fork Market pick-up to get my bag of great food and see what other goodies they had waiting for us! I had received the email yesterday telling us what the contents of this week’s bag would be, and I got a bit nervous as there were several items I have never used before, and a few I didn’t even recognize.  But one goal I have is to learn to cook and eat differently, so I shall not shrink from this new challenge! I visited the Fresh Fork website last evening (www.freshforkmarket.com) and ordered some additional items for the week.  Here is what I came home with today:

  • 1 # chorizo ( a seasoned ground pork with a Mexican flare, I think)
  • 1 bag corn crackers (organic, non-GMO ingredients)???????????????????????????????
  • 1 head lettuce
  • 1 bunch spinach
  • 1 bunch garlic scapes
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • 1 pint fresh salsa
  • 1 sleeve bok choy
  • 1 quart strawberries

I see a Mexican night in our immediate future – can’t wait to dip into that fresh salsa!

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My add-on items came to $45 and included the following:

  • 2 loaves of wheat bread (1 for the freezer to serve later in the week)
  • 1 24 oz. vanilla yogurt (loved this for breakfast all week)
  • 1 package barbecue shredded chicken
  • 1 lb ground beef (my daughter begged for a repeat of the cheeseburgers from last week)
  • 1 smoked cheddar cheese cube
  • 1 dozen eggs
  • 1 quart strawberries (I forgot to put 1 of the strawberry quarts in my first picture)

So for $70, I think I have meals for my family for the next week, with the help of a few extras from the grocery store.  Here’s my basic plan:

Wednesday: Tomato-Basil Linguine with Roasted Heirloom Tomato Sauce (didn’t get to use this from last week, plans changed)

Thursday: Mexican Night – using the chorizo, cilantro, salsa, corn crackers, lettuce = taco salad or something similar (still have some organic black beans from last week I might use in here somehow)

Friday:  Cheeseburgers, per daughter’s request (thinking of shredding some smoked cheddar and mixing it in before grilling)

Saturday:  BBQ Chicken, do something with garlic scapes – I hear they are wonderful!

Monday: Strawberry-Spinach Salad with cheese and crackers on the side

Tuesday:  Something with the bok choy – will have to figure that out…

This week’s FFM email listing the bag contents also included several recipes for this week’s items, so I will be looking at these very closely.   The email also explained how the spring harvest is coming in slowly due to a cold spring season and other variables, making it difficult for them to stock the bags with as much variety as they might like.   No problems here – this variety looks great and is more interesting than anything I have purchased at the grocery store in recent history.  Thanks, Fresh Fork Market, for making cooking interesting again!   Oh, and as a PS:  I lost 2 lbs this week, without even thinking about it – had so much healthy stuff to try out I didn’t even miss the potato chips!

Happy munching on that bok choy —  will post pic/recipe, whether it is a success or failure – stay tuned!

Fresh Ideas for Fresh Foods

Since Wednesday, when I brought home my first Fresh Fork Market bag,  I have had a lovely frozen pasture-fed young chicken staring at me from my fridge. While I am not intimidated by a whole chicken, I usually use them for soup.  But the long hard Cleveland winter of 2014 included one too many batches of chicken noodle soup for me.  I needed to come up with another chicken plan. Fresh Fork Market recipe to the rescue! On their website (www.freshforkmarket.com) I found a plan for using a whole chicken in several meals for a week.

The chicken-for-a-week plan begins with roasting the chicken. I followed the recipe ???????????????????????????????instructions exactly – well, almost. Instead of softening the butter, for unknown reasons I melted it in the microwave. So much for spreading an herb butter under the chicken skin. I put my melted butter in the fridge, hoping it would harden up quickly while I chopped the veggies. A few minutes later, not much progress on that butter. I needed to keep things moving, so I opted to use some minced garlic, dried basil and dried Italian seasoning (not in the recipe) to make a very soft paste with my now semi-melted butter. Using the back of a large spoon, I was able to spread this under the chicken skin. In about 20 minutes’ time, I had this “spring chicken” ready for roasting.

While the chicken was in the oven, I did a little gardening, a load of laundry and even took a 15 minute power nap – no time wasted there! A little over 3 hours later, with the house smelling wonderful,  I pulled this juicy, tender chicken from the oven. Removing the legs cooked chickenand wings and slicing the chicken breast was a breeze and are now ready for a quick dinner and some chicken salad for a lunch. The bones and carcass will be used to make chicken stock tomorrow, which will go in my freezer for later use. (This is all explained on the FFM instruction/recipe sheet.) Not bad for about 30 minutes of actual work!

On a side note: Last evening, using the fresh  strawberries from my FFM bag, I made my daughter’s favorite summer bedtime snack – Strawberry Watermelon Slush. I’ve been making this refreshing easy recipe for so long I don’t even know where it came from.   Here’s the simple details if you want to give it a try:

  • 2 cups strawberries, hulled and sliced in halfyummy-strawberries_2753390
  • 2 cups watermelon, cubed
  • 1/3 cup sugar or other natural sweetener
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice (I prefer fresh squeezed)
  • 2 cups ice, crushed if possible

Process the first four ingredients in a blender until very smooth.

Add the ice and blend until ice chunks are gone.  Serve immediately in beverage glasses.

Garnish with a sliced strawberry if desired. Now that makes it feel like a Cleveland summer!

The Great Food Experiment

Today officially began The Great Food Experiment I have embarked on with Fresh Fork Market (www.freshforkmarket.com) for the next 22 weeks. Having fresh veggies, cheese and wheat bread on hand is motivation to consume them while at their peak of freshness.  My sister-in-law is visiting for a few days and loves to eat healthy foods, so I knew she would be willing to try anything I cooked. So here is where my food journey took me today:

Breakfast:  Vanilla yogurt with some fresh strawberries (both from FFM), along with a piece of wheat toast lightly buttered. I have to tell you, the wheat bread I purchased from the Fresh Fork Market truck on a whim yesterday is by far the softest, most flavorful wheat bread I have ever tasted!  Some wheat breads can be dense and a bit chewy, which is not my preference in breads. The ingredients for this bread are amazingly simple. I have a feeling this will become a regular on my weekly list.??????????????????????????????? The vanilla yogurt from Fresh Fork was delicious also.

Lunch:  Since the weather was a bit cooler today, it provided the perfect opportunity to try a soup recipe. I knew I needed to use the kale but didn’t see my family eating this in a salad just yet. So I found a recipe at Health.com (www.health.com) called Two-Bean Soup with Kale.  This ???????????????????????????????took about 30 minutes of prep time, including chopping the veggies, but I could begin cooking the soup while I was chopping, so it didn’t seem to take long at all. This vegetarian soup was filling and flavorful, though next time I would add a little more garlic and a bit more herbs for seasoning. I also ended up with about a quart of leftovers which will store well in the freezer. (By the way, I had a piece of that yummy wheat bread for lunch too!)

Dinner: Our plans changed for Friday evening, so I made the pizza tonight. I made a homemade pizza crust using the Betty Crocker pizza crust recipe I have used for years-only I added 1 cup of the whole wheat flour that came in my FFM bag yesterday. After baking only the crust for about 7 minutes, I removed it from the oven and brushed it with a little olive oil. I had already opened my jar of roasted cherry tomatoes and pureed ???????????????????????????????about 1/2 the jar for a little bit of sauce, which I spread sparingly over the olive oiled crust. Next I sprinkled it with the fresh mozzarella I got yesterday, which I had shredded. Then I spooned the remaining un-pureed roasted cherry tomatoes on top of the cheese, added a touch of freshly ground pepper and topped it off with some fresh basil and oregano from my garden. After baking it for seven more minutes,we were pulling out this gourmet-looking pizza, feeling like we were eating at an expensive pizza place.  Oh what fun!

I am not sure all of my recipe attempts in my Great Food Experiment will be this successful, but at least it was a good Day #1 – and I’m already looking forward to seeing what will be in my Fresh Fork Market bag next week!

CSA Wednesday

Today marks the beginning of a new adventure in food for me. Earlier this spring I committed to being part of a CSA – Community Supported Agriculture. Essentially this is an agreement which exists between a group of local farmers and a group of local citizens. I agree to pay them for what they provide and they agree to supply me with locally grown produce, meats, cheeses and other items every week. It is a win-win for the consumer who wants to eat healthy food from local sources and for the local farmer/merchant who either cannot or does not want to complete with the large food conglomerates that largely control the grocery store market of America.

I have come close to doing a CSA for the past three summers. I have also talked myself out of it for the past three summers. What if all I ever get are bags of cabbage and onions?  What if I get stuff I don’t know how to prepare? This spring, however, I found a CSA with a little different twist – the Fresh Fork Market (www.freshforkmarket.com). This CSA works with several local farmers and is thus able to provide a greater assortment of foods as well as additional items from local merchants that can be purchased with a weekly membership. The price is reasonable, the pick-up locations are convenient and the website has great resources – no more excuses for me. For the next 22 Wednesdays I will pick up a bag of fresh local food in Brecksville between 3-6 p.m. I still might get stuff I don’t know how to prepare, but their website is full of ideas. I have a hunch some of you share in my uncertainties, so I am going to post my experiences with this CSA so you can come to your own conclusions about whether this could work for you.

So, what did I pick up today? I pre-selected the “Small Omnivore” bag for each week, which is generally designed for a family of 4 or less and includes meat. Vegetarian and vegan options are also available, as is a “Large Omnivore” bag, etc.  Here’s what came in my Fresh Fork Market bag for about $25:

  • ???????????????????????????????1 whole chicken, pasture-fed
  • 1 dozen organic eggs
  • 1 bunch kale
  • 1 head of lettuce
  • 1 bag of pea shoots
  • 2 lbs. organic whole wheat flour
  • 2 lbs. organic black beans

Each week Fresh Fork Market has add-ons that can be ordered in advance and picked up with your regular bag.  Here are the items I added on this week:

  • ???????????????????????????????1 lb. grass-fed ground beef
  • 1 lb. sausage-bacon breakfast patties
  • 1 lb. smoked turkey slices
  • 1 lb. fresh tomato-basil linguine
  • 24 oz. vanilla yogurt
  • 8 oz. fresh mozzarella
  • 1 jar roasted cherry tomatoes
  • 1 jar heirloom tomato sauce
  • 1 quart strawberries

The total cost of these add-on items was $50.  So my total cost for this week was $75. When I arrived at the pick-up point, I paid for a loaf of homemade wheat bread as I had run out of bread today.

Because Fresh Fork Market sends out an email a few days before pick-up each week, I was able to make a menu in advance and then add on what I knew I would use. So here’s my menu for this next week.

  1. Wednesday: Burgers and a salad (using pea shoots with the lettuce)
  2. Thursday: Kale and Bean Soup for lunch, Roast Chicken for dinner
  3. Friday: Homemade pizza using the mozzarella and roasted cherry tomatoes
  4. Saturday:  Black Bean Enchiladas
  5. Monday: Breakfast for dinner – Eggs with the sausage patties
  6. Tuesday:  Linguini with the Heirloom tomato sauce with a side salad

(Lest you worry that we starve on Sundays – we usually eat out! )

Stay tuned for updates on whether my recipes and cooking skills work to make the most of this week’s products.  On to making my first salad with pea shoots – who knew you could eat those?!