You’ve gotta try these jalapeno poppers!

If you like jalapeno poppers, then I’ve got a treat for you!  We got jalapenos in this week’s share, and I combined them with the hot pepper cheese curds from the Fun Share, some roasted garlic cheese, cream cheese, and feta cheese (that’s the secret weapon!) for an out-of-this-world spicy treat.  Best of all, they are baked, not fried.  I cooked mine on the grill this week just because I didn’t want to turn on the oven and they turned out beautifully.  The recipe is here.  Give ’em a try and I hope you love them as much as I do.

My amazing little artichoke is flowering

Upon re-reading my title, I realized it might actually sound a little bit naughty…if you are the type that keeps your head in the gutter, that is (and apparently I am one of those people if I thought this in the first place.  Hmmm.).  Upon even further reflection though, I think the thought came to mind because years ago, when I was teaching biology, I was doing an internet search for an image of an artichoke to use in a lecture.  One would think that searching for “artichoke” is innocent enough, but I guess I was naive because I stumbled across an image of a very well-endowed woman wearing, well, not much of anything.  How exactly was that related to artichokes?  I’m still trying to figure that one out.  If you happen to know the answer, please let me know.

Anyhoo…moving on.

My artichoke–the plant…in my garden–the one that survived the -22 degrees F winter last year.  Oh, right…that one!  Yes, well, I let a few of the flowers bloom in the hopes that I can save the seed and propagate some Montana hardy globe artichokes.  Because starting the seed in January is sort of a pain and I would rather not dig up my plants every year to overwinter in the basement, only to have the aphids hatch out of the soil and suck them dry a few weeks before they were to be replanted (Harumph!).  You see, I would absolutely love to offer artichokes to our CSA members!  And I will make it happen.  Maybe next year, maybe not next year, but it will happen.

Have you ever seen an artichoke in flower?  They are BEAUTIFUL!

artichoke-bloom

And they are humongous.  And the bees love ’em.  This one actually has a bee on it (on the right side you can just barely see some its black & yellow fuzzy body tucked down in the purple petals).  Here’s a few more pictures:

artichoke-plant

And these were the small heads I let bloom!  I harvested the big ones!

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We have at least a month, and possibly a lot longer, before the first freeze is expected, so these babies should have plenty of time left to set seed.  When the time comes to clean the seed from the flower head, I’ll post some photos and/or video because it is quite a process to clean them!  The first time I cleaned the seed, I was surprised at how involved it was.  Teaser: needle nose pliers were involved.  That’s all I’m gonna say.

This weekend Hubby is continuing work on the fence.  It’s been on the wish list for a few years now, and I’m so happy it’s finally coming to fruition.  The deer will have to find other peppers, cucumbers, beans, strawberries, peas, tomatoes, potatoes, rhubarb, sunflowers, kale (the list is pretty much endless) to eat because this buffet is closing its doors.  The chickens will have a much larger space to roam, so that will make them very happy.  It will make me very happy, too, because it means the Girls won’t have access to the backyard and the deck anymore–which means: I won’t be stepping in chicken poop anymore when I go out on my deck!

Ah, it is the simple things in life that bring me the greatest pleasure.

Grilling in the backyard: summer squash, fennel, & tomatoes!

This week’s share gave us patty pan squash (y’know, those little squashes that look like flying saucers?), fennel, and Roma tomatoes.  Oh!  And BASIL.  So I decided to grill for dinner last night, and I added a sweet onion, a few mushrooms, and some Brie cheese to the mix.  Then I topped everything with a balsamic vinegar reduction.  It. was. yummy.

To make the reduction:

1 cup balsamic vinegar

1/2 cup red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon olive oil

Combine everything in a small saucepan and bring to boil.  Reduce heat and simmer, for about 20 minutes, until the vinegar has reduced to a thick syrup.  Turn off heat and let cool.

For the few leftovers that remained, I tossed them into my butter lettuce salad with some cucumber, bell peppers, and sunflower seeds.  Then I topped with the balsamic vinegar reduction for the dressing.  I’m pretty excited about lunch today, too.

For our CSA members: if you are looking for ideas on how to use your fennel, check out these sources:

http://www.finecooking.com/recipe/tomato-soup-with-fennel-leek-potato  You might save this one as we’re going to get leeks and more fennel in the next week or so.

http://www.marthastewart.com/286398/fennel-recipes

http://www.cookinglight.com/food/in-season/fennel-recipes

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/11/fennel-recipes_n_1152097.html

These should get your brain humming wildly with fennel possibilities!  And for this week’s video…

 

More summer knitting, including a new design– the growler tote!

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I don’t usually knit much in the summer–it seems like such a winter activity, something to do on those long winter nights while cuddled up in front of the wood stove.  But this summer I’m keeping the knitting needles busy because I have had a couple of knitting orders to fulfill.  The good thing is I’ve had quite a bit of windshield time traveling for work this summer, which has allowed me, as a passenger, to do something productive while on the road.  It works out rather nicely.  I never knit while behind the wheel, just to be clear.  I’m a proud multi-tasker, but even that one is beyond me!

A woman in my barre class loved my little Kindle bag I made earlier this spring so much that she wanted me to make one for her friend, whose birthday is this month.  The only requirement was that this friend liked orange, so I was free to mess around with colors.  This is what I came up with:IMG_2619

And the inside looks like this:IMG_2621

I’m please with how it turned out, so I’ve got a couple ideas for the next one I’m going to make.  While looking for a little decorative bling to sew on the outside, I found these really cute little octopus pendants–so my next design will be an ocean theme with blue and/or turquoise yarn and hopefully I can find some cute aquatic-themed fabric to go along with it.

And then there’s the growler tote.  I designed it earlier this summer and I just finished it last week.  It’s knit with 2 strands of yarn to create a thick fabric and I lined it with a fleece pocket to keep the beer cool and to add additional strength to the bag.  I think it turned out pretty rad.  IMG_2625

And I think it’s going to carry well, even when full:IMG_2630

The woman who bought the above Kindle bag wants me to go down to one of our local breweries and show it off to see if anyone is interested in buying one.  She thinks the tote will be a hit–because this community takes its beer very seriously.  We have 3 breweries in Helena and a 4th one is in the works.  For a town of this size, that’s nuts, especially since we can barely seem to hang on to a decent restaurant around here.  So we’ll see what happens.  I might have a busy winter ahead of me!

 

 

Heat got your appetite down? Maybe this bean and grain salad will sound good!

Dang it’s been hot lately!  I think July is going to set some records here in Helena and elsewhere around Montana.  When it gets really hot sometimes my appetite goes the way of the dodo and nothing sounds good to eat.  I tend to focus on juicy fruits and vegetables–apples, nectarines, tomatoes, cucumbers, sugar snap peas (my favorite!)–that way I am eating, but I’m also getting lots of water, too.  It seems like a win-win situation.  That was the inspiration for this week’s CSA recipe.  This salad combines a ton of veggies with a tangy balsamic vinaigrette and plenty of herbs.  I hope you’ll try it!  Looking for the recipe?  It’s here.

Roasted garlic & arugula spread

I know I’m a little late posting this video this week, but I think the wait was worth it!  This is a 2-part recipe: a roasted garlic & arugula 1) butter and 2) cream cheese.  I put the garlic arugula butter on some toasted bread and it was terrific!  Then I made a sandwich with the cream cheese and loaded it up with some cucumber and turnip slices–that was one of the most delicious, most refreshing lunches I’ve eaten in a while!  Intrigued?  Check it out and make it!  It’s so easy and so yummy.

 

Homemade ranch dressing & dip mix

I love ranch dressing–and I love the powdered mix you can buy in those little packets in the grocery store, but they are expensive, and they always have hard-to-pronounce ingredients in them, including monosodium glutamate, or MSG.  MSG has its issues (I have a friend who claims it gives her migraines) and so I try to avoid it whenever possible.  Thus this copy cat recipe for making my own ranch dressing/dip mix.  It’s perfect for mixing with some sour cream to dip snow peas in (if they even make it out of the garden, which most don’t).  But I also toss this mix with potatoes and a little oil prior to roasting, and I also sprinkle it on popcorn.  And what about ranch Chex mix?  Yes, please.  I’ll post the recipe…one of these days when I get a little more time to write it up.  Until then, you’ll just have to pause the video to make sure you have all the ingredients!

Garlic scape obsession

Garlic scapes have arrived with Week 3 of the CSA–one of my all-time favorite produce items.  Many of us get really excited when the garlic scapes arrive.  There are a lot of ways to use garlic scapes, but this is my go-to recipe because it is so versatile.  You can add any number of herbs, nuts, cheeses, or other goodies (sun-dried tomatoes, anyone?) to the base pesto mix of garlic scapes, salt, and oil–you have limitless possibilies!  I also made a loaf of bread stuffed with the pesto and some Brie cheese–talk about a yummy taste bud experience:

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Today’s garlic scape pesto uses oregano, a touch of basil, parsley, green onions, and sunflower seeds.  Last year I showed you how to make 3 different garlic scape pestos, including sage and walnut, the Asian pesto, and another parsley variety.  I’ll post those recipes on my website soon–but there are other priorities right now, like harvesting buckets o’ strawberries, for example!  Yesterday I harvested about 3 pounds of strawberries from the garden, and there’s more to come later this week.

But the video will show you the basics until I get get around to posting those recipes!  Enjoy–and be on the lookout for vampires!

So many greens: how to preserve them

This early in the season, we get a lot of greens in the CSA shares: bok choy, chard, spinach, arugula, lettuce, kale…that’s what grows in Montana this time of year.  I’m not complaining, though.  After a long winter, the abundance of greens is most welcome.  That said, there are only so many days in a week.  So what to do if you can’t eat all of those greens before the next CSA share arrives?  Preserve them!  This video shows you how I prefer to freeze my greens and enjoy them well into the winter, long after the CSA is over.