30 June 2009

Urban Farms and Gardens Tour 2009

An "urban" farm, I am told, is any farm where you can stand up in your field and see your neighbors. Well, I saw many neighbors in each of the neighborhoods I visited Sunday during the Urban Farms and Gardens Tour. Neighbors and all kinds of visiting folk from around the metro area were out an about throughout the city's urban farms and gardens.

a beautiful day for a farm tour

It was a beautiful day to go from farm to farm and see what grand diversity of food-growing there is within the city limits. From the Kurlbaum's lush, green, and secluded tomato farm in Wyandotte Co to Natural Grown, a suburban backyard in Johnson Co - and many farms in between.

Cross-Lines Community Outreach Garden

I started at Cross-lines Community Outreach on Shawnee and 7th St Tfwy in KCK. Cross-lines is a non-profit organization devoted to providing basic services to people affected by poverty. Their Community Garden provides an array of fresh vegetables that are available for their food pantry and for purchase at a reduced rate and which help Cross-lines address both hunger and nutrition in the community. Carey Sterrett, who directs emergency services, also heads up the community garden along with a master gardener who is on the Cross-lines board and other employees who contribute their time and effort to growing and harvesting food.

Hun's Garden

I headed west, down Argentine Blvd, over the Kansas river, through Amourdale, to Hun's Garden. I saw old parts of the city that were all new to me - entire neighborhoods that I had no idea even existed. Hun's Garden is a big, big piece of land, down the hill from the street. It's just off of I-635, near the railroad, off a main thoroughfare, and the garden (farm, really) is right next to Alvey Park, where it sounded like there was a game going on the day I was there. Pov Hun gives a very detailed tour so that you will see all the incredible productivity among the weeds that he allows to grow. Pov challenges all the recommendations and suggestions for successful vegetable growing and grows so much great food. Also Hun's is the Midwest's only ginger grower. All of their organic urban veggies can be found each weekend at the City Market Farmers Market.

Kurlbaum's Heirloom Tomatoes

Things got a little more rural-y when I went north of the Kansas River to find Blue Door Farm and Kurlbaum's Heirloom Tomatoes. Both are nestled in cozy, verdant neighborhoods and both grow an amazing amount of food on their beautiful land. The Kurlbaums farm on land that has been in the family since the 50s and they grow a stunning number of heirloom tomatoes using dry-farming methods that don't require any watering besides the rain. (They sell their exotic tomatoes to a number of upscale restaurants in the metro area.) The generous folks who own and live on the beautiful property of Blue Door Farm rent their land to Laura Christensen who runs a CSA and sells at the Brookside Farmers Market.

Blue Door Farm

I headed back down I-635 and into Johnson County for my last stop of the day. Just off of Long Street and Shawnee Mission Parkway is Natural Grown, Warren Messinger's backyard farm and garage farmers market. From this garden/farm I could see LOTS of neighbors everywhere I looked in the densely populated suburban neighborhood. And from what Warren says, it was the neighbors wanting to buy from his big garden that got him started with the weekend markets. He has loyal customers for his naturally grown, suburban vegetables.

Natural Grown

I can only imagine how impressive a full tour of all 31 farms might have been. There's a lot of growing going on around here.

Check out all my the sights (urban, suburban, agrarian and surprisingly pastoral) on my Flickr page. A few of my faves...

27 June 2009

Resources for Food Preservation

For all of my freezing and preserving, I have been using some very helpful documents from the University of Missouri Extension program where I took a canning and preserving class last summer. I thought I'd include a link here to share some of those documents. You can find tips for freezing all sorts of veggies - blanching times for them, etc.. And there are canning documents, too.


Check out all of the "Quality for Keeps" guides in the Food Preservation section under "Nutrition and Health".

Here's a link to K-State's as well:

In the Publications section of this site, look for all the instructions on Food Preservation.

Preserving Traditions

Last night at Badseed, I did a demonstration on freezing greens as part of Brooke's evening of Food Preservation Demos. I briefly showed everybody who had gathered around the sweltering Badseed kitchen the step by step process of blanching and freezing chard and kale. When I was through, Brooke began demo number two and talked about pickling and canning, that old fashioned staple of homesteading.

I had to scurry away while her demo was going on so that I could make it to the first ever concert for Luna Cantera, Sergio's newest project and collaboration with his sister. They were invited to participate in the Cup of Kindness Summer Benefit Series at Coffee Break, a summer-long series that will benefit a number of organizations in Kansas City.

Tonight's event benefited (and raised over $200 for) Wuqu' Kawoq, an organization that supports the preservation of Mayan language and culture. The performance was a preservation of culture too, if you ask me. Sergio and Christy played several traditional Mexican songs, very heartbreaking tunes that were beautiful. Their own original songs were as charged and moving as the traditional pieces, as well.

And the evening of music flowed nicely, even if the air in the coffee house didn't. The show started with Nick Baker on the marimba, a sound that was cool and refreshing in the heat of a venue with temporarily-out-of-commission AC. Luna Cantera played next. After Sergio and Christy left the stage, Emily Tummins took up her guitar to play some old fashioned tunes (You're the cream in my coffee; you're the salt in my stew with a ukulele, no less) and a Beattles song she just discovered that she loves.

She even took a request from me at the end when I asked her to play You Are My Sunshine, just a little bit more old (and heartbreaking) music to close out the evening of traditions well preserved.

The Cup of Kindness series continues on Fridays: July 17, 24, 31 and August 14, 21, 28. More great music and more great organizations to benefit: March of Dimes, Bridging the Gap, KKFI, Midwest Music Foundation, Rockhill Academy, & The Ronald McDonald House. All events held at Coffee Break at 54th and Troost.

25 June 2009

Swiss Chard

chard at Fair Share Farm

A couple of weeks ago at the Fair Share pick up, someone asked me how to fix chard. Then last night when I stopped in at the Hallmark CSA pick up at work, I heard many similar inquiries. So I pulled together three chard recipes to share: a simple one for making chard as a side dish, a more complex one for something more hefty, and a very nice soup as well, which I've talked about before in this venue. The leaves can be eaten raw if they're small enough, but I prefer them cooked. Freezing chard is a great way to save for use later; I did a lot of that last fall.

Basic info on Swiss Chard (from a Fair Share Farm newsletter of old):
A relative of the beet, Swiss chard is grown for its beautiful large leaves and stems which are good fresh or cooked. Chard is similar to spinach and beet greens, and high in vitamin A, calcium and potassium.

Simple Chard
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 cloves garlic
2 pinches red pepper flakes
1 lg. bunch of chard, stems and leaves chopped separately
juice of 1/2 lemon or a few teaspoons of red wine vinegar

Heat the oil with the garlic and pepper flakes in a wide skillet over med-high heat until the garlic begins to color. Add the chopped stems of the chard and cook until softened a bit. Add the chard and toss to coat it with the oil. Add 1/2 cup water and cook until it's absorbed and the greens are heated through and wilted. Season with salt and a little lemon juice or vinegar.

Stuffed Chard Leaves (from Laurel’s Kitchen)
1 bunch Swiss Chard
2 1/2 cups cooked rice
1/2 cup chopped parsley
white part of 3 scallions/green onions – or 1 medium onion, chopped
2 tbsp chopped green garlic or garlic scapes
1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/2 cup ricotta or cottage cheese
1 tbsp chopped dill
1 egg beaten

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
Sauté onion in olive oil
Mix all ingredients except chard
Wash and dry chard leaves remove stems
Place 2 tbsp of fillin no the underside of each leaf a third from the bottom. Fold over the sides of leaf to make a square packet. Place seam side down in a greased baking dish.
Cover and bake for 30 minutes of until done

You can also pour tomato sauce over this dish before baking, or even top with your favorite cheese.

from the free Wild Oats magazine, Jan/Feb 2007
Acquacotta means "cooked water," but that doesn't begin to describe how delicious this soup is! It also freezes beautifully, so double the recipe if you like. Adding a Parmesan cheese rind to the soup while it's cooking is a clever Italian method for deepening flavors.

1 lb. Swiss chard or kale
4 Tbs. olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped (optional)
1/2 tsp. salt, or to taste
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper, or more to taste
2 Tbs. tomato paste
1 cup tomato puree (or - in lieu of the paste and puree, use just over a cup of canned tomatoes and 4 cups of broth/water instead of 8)
2-inch Parmesan rind (optional)
6 1-inch-thick slices Italian bread
grated Parmesan cheese for garnish (optional)

1. Rinse chard in several changes of water until completely free of grit. Drain, stack leaves on cutting board, and finely chop. OR wait until the last minute to remove a hunk of frozen local greens from your freezer.
2. Heat olive oil in large pot over medium heat. Add onion, carrots and celery, and cook, stirring often, about 10 minutes, or until softened. Stir in salt, crushed red pepper and tomato paste; cook 2 minutes.
3. Reduce heat to medium low; add 8 cups water, tomato puree, Parmesan rind and chopped greens. Cook, partially covered, 45 minutes, or until very thick, stirring occasionally; add more water if needed. Season with salt and pepper. Remove rind.
4. To serve, place slice of bread in bottom of each bowl. Fill with soup, sprinkle with cheese, drizzle with oil, and serve.

22 June 2009

Citrus Chicken (or Tofu) With Vegetables

I know, I know - citrus is not local. But nearly everything else in this dish (besides the rice and sesame seeds) is - and it turns out there is something that grows locally that is surprisingly citrusy: lime basil. I'd never heard of it nor tried it, but when I smelled it last week at Badseed, I decided I had to have it. It smells and tastes just like lime. How do they do that?

up close and personal with lime basil

This dish is the perfect home for this basil. It's an old recipe from The Pillsbury Cookbook ("The All-Purpose Companion for Today's Cook") that my aunt gave me when I moved away, a dense paperback tome that has all the basics in it. This recipe is in the poultry section (of a book that has no "vegetarian" section). I used to actually make this dish with chicken, back in the day. Now I use tofu or seitan. Regardless of the protein, the citrus, rosemary and vegetables - plus that magic lime basil - are wonderful together.

Citrus Chicken (or Tofu) With Vegetables

serves 4

1/2 lb green beans, trimmed
1 cup julienne-cut carrots (about three carrots)
1 1/2 cups sliced zucchini (about two zukes)
1/2 lb sugar snap peas
1/4 cup flour
2 - 3 Tablespoons sesame seeds
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 - 2 teaspoons dried oregano
16 oz Central Soyfoods tofu (firm) sliced in half (top to bottom, side to side). Press both pieces of tofu between two cutting boards (to remove excess liquid) for a good 30 minutes then slice in long strips - should make 16 strips
*** or ***
2 whole chicken breasts, skinned, boned, cut into bite-size pieces
3 Tablespoons margarine (no) or butter from Shatto (yes)
1/2 cup of orange juice
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
1 - 2 teaspoons rosemary, crushed
1 teaspoon oregano, crushed
1 teaspoon thyme, crushed
chopped parsley and (drum roll) Lime Basil! to garnish

Steam beans and carrots for about 10 minutnes - steam zucchini and sugar snap peas for 5 or 6 minutes (don't over cook). Set aside.

Combine flour, sesame seed, salt, pepper, and oregano in a bowl or a plastic bag. Add chicken or tofu strips to coat. Melt butter in a large skillet. Saute chicken/tofu over medium heat until completely cooked and golden brown, about 4 to 5 minutes for chicken (longer for tofu). Remove from pan and set aside.

Remove drippings and excess crumbs from pan. Stir in orange juice, lemon juice and herbs; bring to a boil. Add cooked vegetables, stirring until heated. Add cooked chicken/tofu; toss gently.

Garnish with plenty of lime basil and a bit of parsley.

Serve with rice or couscous.

Citrus Tofu with Vegetables, rice, and bread with Shatto butter

21 June 2009

Pizza and Movie night

two pizzas and totoro

Last night we stayed home to watch a movie, just me, Sergio, Christy, and Nina. The movie we watched was My Neighbor Totoro, on loan from our friend Nina - Nina the elder. Nina the younger, as best we could tell, enjoyed the film, and managed to sit relatively still the whole time ... or at least stay in the same room as the movie. We watched it in the living room where Sergio constructed a fine theater using his giant screen and projector.

I made pizzas to go along with our movie - one pizza with Field Roast Italian Sausage and the very last of my canned tomatoes from last summer. The other pizza was squash and asparagus with local feta and for that one I used a local crust from Bread of Life bakery. Both were pizzas treated with onions and oregano that were (wait for it) local.

Squash & Feta Pizza with Asparagus
3 small summer squashes sliced
a small bunch of asparagus
slivers of onion
half a hunk of feta

Roast the sliced squash in advance - put them in the oven with olive oil, salt and pepper, at about 400 degrees for about 20 minutes. In the last 10 minutes of that add the asparagus (chopped), and the slivered onions.

Transfer the squash, asparagus, and onion to the pizza crust and crumble on generous amounts of feta. (I went without any sauce on this one; it didn't need it.)

Bake for 15 minutes at 375.

"Sausage" Pizza

two links of Field Roast Italian Sausage
about half a quart of canned tomatoes (or just use tomato sauce)
mozzarella cheese, grated
slivers of onion

Chop the "sausage" into small chunks and saute in olive oil until brown. Drain the tomato juice from the canned tomaotoes (save for tomato ice cubes if you feel so inclined!). Chop the tomatoes in to smaller chunks. Spread them on the pizza crust in lieu of sauce. Top with "sausage" and cheese and bit of onion.

Bake for 15 minutes at 375.

20 June 2009

Mema's Garden

A few weeks ago I went to OKC for Mema's 88th birthday. She didn't know I was coming - not at first anyway. Mom and Dad picked her up at her house to take her for a ride - not telling her where they were going - and came to the airport to get me. When they took the exit for the airport, she began to suspect. When they pulled up at the airport and she saw me waiting, she wagged her finger at me through the windshield knowingly and smiled.

Mema and me

That night we had dinner on Mom and Dad's back deck and talked about flowers. Lots of different flowers - what Mema grows, what Mom and Dad grow, what came in that bouquet that someone gave Mema, and so on. But my 2 cents worth in the conversation was to talk about edible flowers. Just the night before I'd bought some edible flowers - nasturtiums, to be exact - at the market. I told Mema we'd been eating them in our salads and that they were delicious.

Dad was on the computer researching the difference between Delphinium and Larkspur, which Mema had in that bouquet she'd been talking about. (Wikipedia says they are the same by the way.) So when we started musing on just what kinds of flowers were edible, we did a bit of googling to find a comprehensive list. Some common ones cropped up - carnations, chrysanthemums, dandelions, gladiolas. With each one I named off, Mema sort of guffawed at the thought of eating them. I'd only gotten as far as Hibiscus in the alphabetical list when she finally said, "Well, it just ruins the flower if you go and eat it like that." You can see where Mema's priorities are.

The next day was the birthday party / Sunday Lunch at Mema's house. Dad and I took a walk with our identical cameras to look at Mema's garden. The roses are past their peak (I've missed them every year for years). The poppies that Mema had said were taller and more abundant than ever were also beginning to wane.

Roses after their glory. I didn't dare remind Mema that roses are edible, too.

hot poppies

But we found a full array of other flowers and plants, a number of which are quite edible indeed.

Garlic? Or chives?

The blossoms were huge...

Blackberries, on their way to being black - Mema freezes these and makes Blackberry Dumplings. So good...

Dad says this is called "poke salad" - or at least he thinks it's called "poke salad" - Mema has no Google, so we didn't look it up ...

Dad pointed out this Lamb's Quarter (I had just bought some of this at the farmers market a few weeks before) and said that as a kid, he would go on his bicycle to get Lamb's Quarter and bring it home to his mom to cook - but he never much cared for it.

We cut our garden tour short when it was time to go in and eat. For dessert Mema (and the rest of us) enjoyed a superb coconut pie that my aunt Joy made.

Happy Birthday, Mema!

parting shot: Ling with blue nails and a blackberry

16 June 2009

Tuesday Night Stir Fry

Sometimes we are kind of busy and can't carve out the time for elaborate meals. But we still want to eat something interesting, something local, something at home. So we have a couple of secret weapons in our arsenal that enable us to do that easily. One of them is Peanut Sauce. I find that no matter what vegetables happen to be in my fridge, it is possible to use them to make an amazing stir fry. Especially as one CSA week is ending and what's left over is odd numbers or paltry amounts, things that won't work for much on their own: a solitary kohlrabi, a lonely pair turnips, just a handful of broccoli.

Steaming or frying the vegetables seems to work just fine and I often use both methods (steam first - toss altogether to fry). This 'recipe' is amenable to a variety of protein sources - Central Soyfoods Tofu, Parker Farms meat, etc. You can use rice or those rice noodles that cook (or soak, rather) in a matter of minutes - those are a real time saver. Then the peanut sauce pulls it all together.

If you've got the time, you can make a peanut sauce yourself - The CSA Chef has a great recipe for that. If not, there are always several choices at the grocery store for a variety of stir fry sauces.

snow peas, turnips, kohlrabi, broccoli, onions and tat soi

This Tuesday Night Stir Fry includes:

one kohlrabi (Root Deep Urban Farm*)
harukei turnips (Fair Share Farm)
broccoli (FSF)
snow peas (FSF) peel off the spine, but the pods are edible and delicious!
tat soi (FSF)
stir fry mix (Badseed Farm*)
onions (one from Squash Blossom Steve* and one from Hun's Garden*)
mint and garlic scapes for garnish

Steam the first four ingredients vigilantly, removing those vegetables that seem to steam faster (broccoli & snow peas) and allowing the others (kohlrabi & turnips) to remain just a touch longer. Sauté the onions in a bit of oil on medium heat then added the greens and encourage them to wilt a bit - but not too much!

Toss it all together with, of course, peanut sauce.

Serve over rice or noodles. Garnish with mint and garlic scapes.

*These farms and many others will be on the Urban Farms and Gardens Tour coming soon on June 28!

15 June 2009

"You Can't Eat Gold," Urban Grown, June 2009

For the last six months I have been volunteering with the KC Center for Urban Agriculture, helping to plan their 2009 Urban Farms and Gardens Tour (which is going to be here in less than two weeks!). The following is a piece that I wrote for the June issue of the KCCUA newsletter - Urban Grown.

"You Can't Eat Gold" Urban farms tour volunteer chooses to invest in food, relationships during economic crisis.

Emily Akins is an editorial director at Hallmark, Inc. by day and an avid locavore by night. She is a member of Fair Share Farm in Kearney, MO. She is on the coordinating committee of the Kansas City Food Circle, works with the Kansas City CSA Coalition and is a first-time volunteer with KCCUA. She blogs about food and more at www.everythingbeginswithane.blogspot.com.

There are only a few weeks left until all the efforts of KCCUA staff and volunteers culminate in the 2009 Urban Farms and Gardens Tour, aka Food from the City for the City. Our committees have been meeting and planning since the cold, long evenings of December. But my path here started even before then.

Last September I went to Salina, KS, to attend the Land Institute's Prairie Festival. Barbara Kingsolver and Steven Hopp--authors of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle--were guest speakers. I had just finished reading their book over the summer and had been transformed. Actually, that was not the very beginning either. In truth, the transformation began in 2005 when my decision to join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) planted the first locavore seed in me. The cycle has long since taken hold and I can't imagine my culinary world without my weekly share of genuinely fresh vegetables, my trips to the farmers markets to get the best of each season, and, now, my preserved harvest during the winter.

After I read Kingsolver and Hopp last year, my interests grew even stronger, and when I was presented with the opportunity to help plan the 2009 Urban Farms and Gardens Tour, I gladly took the chance. I am impressed with KCCUA's not-just-local-but-urban approach that brings the vital process of growing sustenance right into our own neighborhoods. I believe it is significant to have farming in the foreground since food is an everyday element in our lives. Urban agriculture and the local food movement make farms more visible so that perhaps some day growing will be as familiar as groceries. Even as I love the beautiful land of the more rural farm of our CSA, I also love knowing that I can happen upon an urban farm on my way to an art gallery during First Fridays; I love that more farmers are creating productive urban spaces and making the city limits a lot less limiting. This broad range of farms makes for a rich and valuable agricultural portfolio right here in Kansas City.

But back to Barbara Kingsolver's talk in the big red barn at the Prairie Festival: Kingsolver told us that a friend of hers had asked if, given the economic crisis, we all should be investing in gold or something. Kingsolver's response was to tell her friend that "you can't eat gold." The essentials should be our focus. "Food," she told us, "is the one consumer choice we have to keep making." Food is fundamental and isn't to be overlooked, even--and especially--at times like these.

In the process of getting to know my food and where it comes from, I've begun to see how critical it really is. Yesterday at work I was eating a salad I'd brought from home. I came across a surprise sprig of thyme and in my excitement hollered to my cubicle neighbors: "Hey! There's thyme in my salad!" One colleague seemed surprised and asked incredulously if I'd gotten my salad in the cafeteria; "No," I told her, "it came from the farmers market." But beyond that it came from Lew, Steve, Sherri, Brooke and Dan and I surprised even myself when I found that I was actually able to point out which parts of my salad came from which farmer. This is how urban agriculture and local food build community. It is essential in more ways than one--it is food, yes, but so much more.

Being a locavore has taught me about new vegetables and recipes and about the nutritional value of food. Being in a CSA has enabled me to see relationships that surround food. Being a volunteer for KCCUA has given me the opportunity to learn more about the impressive effort that goes into producing good food, urban food. And I know that the effort it takes to grow food goes a long way to grow communities and relationships, too. Growing food in sustainable, reliable ways is an incredible investment to which I am pleased to be able to contribute.

Our thanks to Emily and ALL the wonderful volunteers working on Food from the City for the City.

14 June 2009

Happy Gillis

The first time we tried to go to Happy Gillis Cafe and Hangout in Columbus Park, it was "Sad to be Closed," according to the sign. But today we went and they were "Happy to be Open" - I was happy, too.

We placed our order with the Happy Soupmaker himself - Todd Schulte, whose daughter is the artist behind the inviting spatula-wielding face that greets you on the business card and sign. Schulte answered all our questions ("What's a bialy?") thoroughly and eagerly. We wanted to know what was the soup of the day and did he happen to know if it was vegetarian? He said he did know because he'd made it and it was not only vegetarian, it was vegan. It was also, we soon found out, delicious.

To go along with our South Indian Tomato Lentil soup with Almonds and Thai Basil, we had sandwiches - a Caprese on Ciabatta and a Smoked Salmon with asparagus, egg, pea shoots, and green goddess dressing, on a bialy. And to drink - a mimosa (that came with a mermaid on the side, literally) and a bloody mary (that came with a Slim Jim on the side which neither of us ate). Sandwich, soup, and drink were all equally divine. Every bite of these classic flavor combinations was superb.

We didn't want the deliciousness to end, so we ordered dessert, suspecting that anything we might order at this Cafe and Hangout would be good. We were right. Todd's wife Tracy wanted to know which one we liked best. But that was an impossible decision: The Best Brownie Ever and The Breadiest Cookie Ever were a neck and neck tie all the way to the last bite.

I could have stayed at Happy Gillis and hung out (as the name suggests) for much longer than we did, but we scooted out shortly after they began closing and pulling in the thousand-and-one-spoons railing that marks the edge of their lovely sidewalk seating. We said good bye to the charming squirrel s&p shakers, the bubblegum pink bathrooms, the orange couch, the wall of abandoned artwork of the week, and the proud proprietors. And we vowed to come back soon for more incredible food.

Happy Gillis Café & Hangout on Urbanspoon

The Fit is Go

The Fit with license plates

It's been one month since we bought our Honda Fit. I registered it and got our new license plates last week and Sergio installed them today. Our Fit is official now.

The day we bought the car, Sergio suggested we name it; he came up with a clever name, too. We decided in the end not to give it any name at all; but I still treat it tenderly as a thing which has been named. The Fit is cute and fun - a very well behaved pet. And it is the most fun I've had driving since I was 16. Driving a standard - now and then - makes me more in tune with the procedure of operating the vehicle and this makes it all more fun.

The newness of the car is a challenge to maintain. A bit of a fool's errand that we'll give up eventually, I'm sure. But for now we foolishly plow ahead with our lint roller and Armor All wipes and the - ahem - occasional trip to the car wash. I am relieved to have the Fit broken in with a smudge here or some dirt there. But it is also fun to remove those bits of detritus and restore the car to shiny and clean.

09 June 2009

Jam Session

There were a number of extra strawberries to be had at last week's Fair Share Farm pick up. I emailed ahead and ordered 4 quarts and decided to make jam. Then on Saturday at City Market, it seemed like everyone around me was buying rhubarb - everywhere I looked I saw red stalks sticking up out of white plastic bags. I'd never cooked with rhubarb before, but I had been researching rhubarb recipes for a friend and was feeling bold so I bought some.

On Sunday, using my trusty water bath canner from Westlake Hardware, and my Ball Blue Book of Preserving from Planters, I set out to make some jam.

Oh, but first I hunted down pectin. (At the Sunfresh in Westport it's on aisle 10 ... with the pet food ... and automotive materials. ??) Having made jam once before and been absolutely appalled at the unholy amounts of sugar that most recipes call for, I was pleased to find "No Sugar Added Fruit Pectin" - I bought a box of that and one of the original pectin. I know from the canning class I took last year that you can leave out a lot of the sugar and it'll still be okay so I took that route when modifying my recipes.

Strawberry Jam
5 cups of strawberries
1 cup of unsweetened apple or grape juice (I used strawberry juice and water)
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 packet of No Sugar Added Pectin
sugar (optional: you could leave it out completely - I added 1 1/2 cups)
YIELD: 4 to 6 (8 oz) half pints

Strawberry Rhubarb Jam
2 cups strawberries chopped
2 cups rhubarb chopped
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 packet of pectin
5 1/2 cups of sugar (I only used 3)
YIELD: 4 to 6 (8 oz) half pints

Directions (for both recipes):
1.) PREPARE boiling water canner. Heat jars and lids in simmering water until ready for use. Do not boil. Set bands aside.
2.) COMBINE fruit with lemon juice and sugar (if using) in a 6- or 8-quart saucepan. Add up to 1/2 tsp butter or margarine to reduce foaming, if desired. Bring mixture to a full rolling boil that cannot be stirred down, over high heat, stirring frequently.
3.) ADD pectin, immediately squeezing entire contents from pouch. Continue hard boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim foam if necessary.
4.) LADLE hot jam into hot jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Wipe rim. Center lid on jar. Apply band until fit is fingertip tight.
5.) PROCESS jars in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes, adjusting for altitude. Remove jars and cool. Check lids for seal after 24 hours. Lid should not flex up and down when center is pressed.

In retrospect, I think I shouldn't have tried to have two recipes going at once - I was working fast and I think one batch sat on the back burner too long and I didn't have time to skim the foam blahblahblah. So next time I'm going to try one recipe at a time so I'm not sloshing strawberries all over the kitchen in my mad dash to get my jars filled.

I am definitely not the "lead jammer" - but I'm pretty pleased with how my jam session turned out...

Click HERE to watch the video!

06 June 2009

First First Friday: A Photo Essay

Christy, Armando, and Nina - heading out for their first First Friday in KC

First Friday first stop: Fresher Than Fresh Snowcones - Hi, 'Lil Snowie!

Next stop: "In Stereo" - the show of our friends Rachel Kort and Ellie Kort, who are twins

At Ellie and Rachel's show we met up with friends Chris, Mirna, and Alex

Mirna led us to the exhibit of Betsy Timmer whose tender and moving artwork is currently exhibited in a show with artist Tom Witzofsky called “I'll Show You Mine …” at The Base Gallery which is inside the Leedy-Voulkos Art Center

Jerry Bleem's artwork is also on display at the Leedy-Voulkos Art Center, including this quilt, made entirely of plastic bags, and titled "Remind me again why we're depleting the earth's resources and burying them in landfills"

Another Jerry Bleem piece made of stamps arranged in four different canvases that spell out "Sic Transit Gloria Mundi" which means "Thus passes the glory of the world"

Nina having a good time

We ended the evening with Thai food at our favorite place - Lulu's

02 June 2009

Pasta with Kale, Vitamin Greens, and Sausage

Last week in our Fair Share share we got Vitamin Greens. I had no idea what to do with them and still am not quite sure what they are or why they are named so ... redundantly. (Aren't all greens vitamin-ous?) But I do know that they taste good.

vitamin greens and kale

Kale and sausage are a happy combination. I should mention that it's "sausage" for us - we use Field Roast grain meat sausages which are soy free, vegan, and delicious. So we set out to make a pasta with kale last night and added the vitamin greens, too. We sauteed them in oil with onion and garlic, added crushed red pepper, then added those to the pasta along with a few of my canned tomatoes; we sauteed the sausage separately and added it at the end. Our side salad was Fair Share Farm lettuce, Badseed edible flowers, and radishes - the first of the year, finally! - from Steve Mann.

to be sauteed

with sausage, cheese, and local basil

salad with flowers and radishes