Thursday, January 13, 2011

CSA Week 5

   It is a blessing to our family to be “your farmer”. We have a blessed life working and learning together as a family. Sometimes it takes someone else pointing out the blessings to us when we are in the midst of a long day of picking and packing. Last week, as we were packing your vegetables and those for market sales, a government weights and measures inspector came to the farm to test our scales. Mr. Matthews, the inspector, is 82 and has seen many a farm. I first greeted the elderly gentleman with a heavy farm duck jacket on (hood and all!) with a cold handshake, as I was packing 50 pounds of baby spinach in the walk-in cooler. He stayed for a long time, seeming to enjoy himself a lot. He kept telling me (I was making wild flower arrangements by then.) how rare it was to see whole families working together, what a joy it was to watch everyone busy at their appointed tasks, and what a beautiful farm we had. He acted like he didn’t want to leave…After giving him a large loaf of fresh bread and sending greetings to his wife, Mary, he left. For me the “fog” of a long, busy day (that ended at 3:40 A.M.) had been lifted. The Lord sent an “angel” out to be an encouragement to us. We pack vegetables on three days a week, but Friday is our busiest day by far as we are packing for 3 markets and your shares. If you think of it, pray for our family on that day…especially in the evening.
     The farmer’s wife took a semi-vacation this week. I only sprouted lentils for table sales. If you have enjoyed the sprouts, be on the lookout for them next week. I bought 25 pounds of seed for each of the following: mung beans, lentils, alfalfa, clover, and radish. They may only be available through direct sale, we’ll see.
      I spent my “free time” this week sewing three play dresses and thirteen pairs of pantaloons for my girls. Free time is a relative term to a Momma, and especially to a farmer’s wife. My job is to listen to the vision for the farm my husband and young men have, and do all I can to make them a success…from praying diligently for them to banding onions and radish, sitting by Steve at 2 A.M. to finish up sorting the lettuce. And of course there is the laundry, (around 30 loads a week) countless loaves of bread baked, and meals that disappear so quickly I wonder if they ever happened! It’s a high calling from our Lord, and I love to serve Him! He has set me in a beautiful place to serve Him! Where else can I work and watch the mist burn off a field first thing in the morning, or listen to a whippoorwill make his rounds calling as he goes? Fringe benefits for a farmer’s wife come in little dirty hands filled with wild flowers, or a growing young man leaning over to give me a kiss on my cheek as he hands me a bag of spinach or asparagus he “acquired” for me from the walk-in while packing. One of the biggest benefits I have in this “job” is laying down at night and feeling the contentment I have to know I have worked alongside the God of creation all day…and his benefit of a being given a good night’s sleep. Soon I pray I will have the benefit of meeting you, the shareholders we serve.
     This week you’ll find Joy Choy Chinese Cabbage in your shares. Like I’ve written before, these greens are versatile! Adam’s favorite way to eat Bok Choy is explained in one of the first letters I wrote you with Sautéed Swiss Chard. I experimented with a new recipe this week that my great Aunt from New Hampshire sent me. Since the directions were sparse, I now know how to make it better. I like the sweet/sour taste, but Farmer Steve says he would leave the sugar out. Experiment and have fun!

Bok Choy Salad
½ cup slivered or sliced almonds
1 package of Ramen Noodles, crunched and without seasoning packet
¼ cup sesame seeds
¼ cup butter
1 small head of Joy Choi Cabbage (or any variety of Chinese cabbage)
3 green onions
Melt butter and add first 4 ingredients. Brown carefully not letting seeds burn. Next cut up cabbage and onions, set aside.
¼ cup oil
2 Tablespoons vinegar (I used apple cider vinegar)
¼ cup sugar (I used natural cane crystals)
1 Tablespoon Soy Sauce (I used natural Tamari)

45 minutes before serving mix all ingredients thoroughly. Cool in the refrigerator, stirring if needed.  Option- Add cooled, diced cooked chicken to make a complete meal.

I grew up in San Juan, Puerto Rico on an Army Navy base. Our neighbor’s wife was from Korea. She taught my mother how to stir fry, and we enjoyed her classic oriental cooking. So, I grew up with many dishes that a “normal” child of the 60’s and 70’s didn’t usually experience. So, my first thought of Bok Choy is of all the stir fry dishes I enjoy at the Chinese Buffet Restaurant.  Farmer Steve enjoys stir fry also and we hope you will too. Below I share my basic stir fry recipe with you…each one I make is a little different, depending on what I have on hand. I believe it’s important for a CSA shareholder to learn many new ways to prepare vegetables so they don’t go to waste. It’s an exciting challenge!  This recipe will help you on the day you clean out the refrigerator and prepare for a new share to come home. On the other hand, this also is a great meal to prepare ahead of time. It cooks in minutes once preparation work is done. Quantities in this recipe are basic guidelines. The Chinese cabbage is the filler, so adjust how much you will need when you actually start cooking. Leftovers can be easily sautéed later for another meal. Chinese cooking, like partnering with our farm, is an experience!  IMPORTANT: cut the ginger in slices that can be easily removed after cooking. It was a family joke as a child to see who bit the ginger slice! I was always on the lookout after the first time I found it the hard way!                                                                                 
 Basic Stir Fry
3 Tablespoons oil, roughly divided
2 cups of boneless meat (chicken, pork, beef, or shrimp) cut in thin strips
2 thin slices of fresh ginger (can use powdered if fresh is unavailable)
About 2 cups of bouillon the same flavor as the meat
3-4 Tablespoons Cornstarch
          A variety of vegetables cut in the same thickness: Onions, (a must) broccoli, snap or snow peas, mushrooms, green beans, cauliflower, sprouted lentils or mung beans, carrots, summer squash, baby corn, green/red peppers, tomatoes, Chinese Cabbage, etc.
          Cut your choice of meat into small pieces. This is put into a small bowl (sometimes with a 1/3 cup of soy sauce, 1 teaspoon of garlic powder, and two tablespoons of cider vinegar to marinade). Using a large round tray (adapt to fit what you have). Put your small bowl of meat in the middle of your tray. Now, cut the vegetables in bite sized chunks of similar thickness. I start with the seasoning vegetables like ginger and onions. I put these on the tray at 12:00. Next, I cut the vegetable that takes the longest to cook, usually carrots. Then in descending order of cooking time, place the vegetables around the tray to the mushrooms or tomatoes if they are available. Each vegetable is placed on the tray around like a clock face…the carrots usually are at 1, and the mushrooms are around 11. If this is cut up ahead of time, cover with a damp towel or plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator until cooking time.
     Our family likes this on a bed of rice, so I start my rice cooker around 45 minutes before supper. When the table is set and the rice is about done, heat your wok or large skillet up on HIGH. Add 1 T oil, then meat. When the meat has lost its color, remove to your small bowl again. Next, add the remaining oil and your seasoning vegetables (ginger and onions). Sauté for about one minute. Add vegetables in order on your tray, stirring constantly and leaving a few minutes between the carrots and the next vegetable until all vegetables (except tomatoes if you are using them) are being stirred. When your arm grows weary, add the bouillon water. Cover and let steam to desired tenderness, remembering Chinese stir fries are cooked al dente!  Add your bowl of meat and its juices. Add tomatoes at this point if you are using them.  Lastly, add cornstarch as needed to broth to thicken gravy. Serve immediately over a bed of rice or Chow Mein Noodles.
     Time for me to eat “humble pie”. ..No recipe needed, just a humbled spirit. Last week I gave you the family favorite recipe for spinach salad. We have so enjoyed it again this year. When I went to make it I thought I’d look at the “From the Farmer’s Wife” where I printed it. I had typed the wrong dressing to it! Oh my! I’m sorry!! Steve’s Aunt had two recipes and the following is our FAVORITE! Please forgive me!
Spinach Salad Dressing
1 lemon, juiced (1 Tablespoon)
2 teaspoons prepared mustard
½ cup mayonnaise
dash of nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste           Whisk together and serve over a fresh spinach salad. J
          May God bless your family this week as you serve Him where He has placed you. He is faithful to the end. Each time you receive your share, you are receiving the bounty of His blessing!

Abundant Blessings From,
Your Farmer’s Wife,