Remember when I told you that apples are in my top 5 favorite foods?
Last weekend I was in bliss enjoying all Southern California’s apple country has to offer. Mountain views, check. Apple cider donuts, check. Walking through apple groves, check. Making our own fresh cider, check.
We’ve been going to Oak Glen every year for the past 4 years and last year was our first time apple picking! Such a fun experience and especially neat if you’ve got little ones. Beware, though, if you don’t make it early enough in the season (September), by the time you get there all the apple trees are picked clean, which was exactly our experience this year. Not to worry, the farms keep some of the trees to themselves so they can still sell apples throughout the season. And even though we weren’t able to pick our own apples off the trees, we made this year a first of its own, pressing our own cider!
You can either buy bagged apples from the farms or pick through apple crates of all varieties until you fill a bucket. We decided to sort through the crates so we could choose each apple and create a special blend.
Then you wash the apples,
and pulverize them…
…into apple mush.
Then you press all the mush…
…until get you cider.
I love that this cider is fresh, raw and unfiltered. And I love that it tastes SO good!
READER FEEDBACK: Have you ever been apple picking or made your own cider?
[Photo Courtesy of 2eat2drink]
Sweet, fruity and decadent.
Figs are a favorite of mine and I can’t describe how excited I was to receive a pound of them in my CSA box a couple of weeks ago. What better way to use them than to make another favorite of mine, fig jam? And coming up I’ll share with you my new wheat free fig bar recipe!
Also, sorry I don’t have a photo of the finished product. I made this the other night as part of my new fig bars and made the bars without taking a photo of the jam. Oops.
Makes approximately 1 1/2 cups
1 lb fresh or dried figs (fresh preferable), quartered
1/2 cup water (for fresh figs) or 1 cup water (for dried figs)
2 tbsp fresh citrus juice (orange works well)
1-2 tbsp honey or maple syrup (optional)
Place diced figs into a small saucepan over low heat. Add water, cover and cook, stirring occasionally. Continue cooking until figs reach your desired jam-like consistency. I cook mine for 20-30 minutes. If the jam is too thick, add more water one tablespoon at a time (keep in mind, thicker is better for the fig bars). Add citrus juice for flavor and preservation. At the end, taste for flavor and add the honey or maple syrup if desired. I find that I do not need any extra sweetener, but you may prefer a sweeter jam.
Keep up to date with me so you don’t miss my reinvented fig bars, this time they’re wheat free!
I’ve really been enjoying this fall weather here in Southern California, or at least what fall weather we do get. Last weekend it hit 86. So much for fall I guess. But the small amount of fall weather has got me craving anything and everything pumpkin, as if you didn’t already notice from these two pumpkin recipes I shared recently here and here. Luckily we got a sugar pie pumpkin in our CSA box a couple of weeks ago. Cha-ching! And the only good thing to do with fresh pumpkin in my book is make a pumpkin pie.
I usually make my own doughs and crusts, but I had a store bought whole wheat pie crust in the freezer that needed to be used. If you wish to make your own whole wheat pie crust, here is a good recipe I posted earlier this year from the strawberry rhubarb pie I baked for my sister-in-law.
For a yummy coconut topping, I found coconut cream at Trader Joe’s, but if you don’t live near a TJ’s, it may be more difficult to find. Don’t fret, you can “make” your own coconut cream, by buying full fat coconut milk, refrigerating it overnight (or at least six hours) and separating the coconut water from the cream (which it naturally does by chilling). Here is a good step by step for you from Oh She Glows. You may also be wondering where my whipped cream topping is since it’s not in any of the photos. Well I made a whipped cream mistake and overwhipped the cream. I ended up pseudo saving it after the fact by freezing and scooping it out like ice cream. Oh well. It tasted yummy all the same.
Coconut Pumpkin Pie
Adapted from Julia’s (Vegan) Kitchen
1 1/2 c roasted pumpkin puree
1 c coconut milk
1 c honey (or to taste)
1 tbsp cornstarch (or arrowroot)
1/2 tbsp freshly ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp freshly ground allspice
1/4 tsp freshly ground cloves
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp salt
3 large eggs
Whipped Cream Ingredients
1 can coconut cream
1-2 tsp honey
1/4-1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Combine all filling ingredients except the eggs in a high speed blender or using a mixer. This way you can safely taste for your sweetener and add more if desired. Then add in the eggs and mix until just combined. Pour the filling into your pie shell and bake for 50-55 minutes, until the edges are set and the center jiggles slightly. The pie will set as it cools.
Once the pie has cooled, make your whipped coconut cream. Simply use a stand mixer or bowl/hand mixer and whip until it forms stiff peaks, just like you would with dairy cream. About halfway through the whipping process, add your sweetener and vanilla to taste. Do not overbeat your cream like I did. It completely fell and started to separate. Also be sure not to top your pie with the cream while the pie is still warm, otherwise the cream melts away into liquid. If you make your whipped cream ahead of time, store in the back/bottom of the fridge where it stays the coolest and re-whip if necessary before using.
I love rice and beans, then to jazz that up with some fresh, raw veggies makes it a meal!
I had an event to work for my farm job over the weekend and wanted something fresh, filling and healthy to bring with me for my lunch one day and dinner another. I also didn’t have much time to prep such a thing, but found quick cooking rice in the pantry along with a variety of fresh veggies in the fridge. Here’s my quick tip: since I don’t care much for chopping tons of veggies, an idea dawned on me: use the grater! I’ve used the grater before for carrots when making carrot cake and such, but never for bell peppers and onions. It worked wonders and I was done prepping in a flash.
Brown Rice, Black Bean and Veggie Salad
1 cup uncooked brown rice (quick cooking or other)
2 cans black beans
1 can whole kernel corn
1 red bell pepper
2 small carrots
1/4 small red onion
1/2 avocado (or a whole one if you like a lot)
7-8 cherry tomatoes
salt and pepper to taste
cilantro to taste (optional, not pictured)
Prepare your rice according to package instructions. Meanwhile, drain your black beans and corn (I drained them together, and saved the mixed “broth” to freeze for making soups later). Grate the carrots, bell pepper and onion. When you grate the bell pepper, the skin might flake off, which is fine, I just tossed the skin. Dice your tomatoes. Toss the veggies together in a large bowl. Now score the avocado half cross wise in two directions to make lots of small pieces, then use a spoon to scoop it from the skin into the bowl. If you’re using cilantro, chop then add to mixture.
Once your rice is done, allow to cool for a few minutes so it’s not scolding hot. Then add into the bowl and mix everything together, adding salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy warm or cold.
As you know, I am very passionate about sustainable agriculture and organic farming. It has been just in the past couple of years that I realized I want to get more involved and that I would love for my career to be involved in it too.
Well that time has come! I am now an Orange County Regional Sale Rep for Farm Fresh To You. It’s a second generation family owned sustainable organic farm that offers a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) service. Originally started in the Capay Valley in 1976, in 2007 the family opened a second farm in San Diego which has allowed them to harvest produce that wouldn’t fare well in the cold Northern California winter weather and it has also allowed them to serve the Southern California region.
When I originally heard about FFTY, I was using another local CSA from a family owned farm that grows organic produce. That CSA was just okay and here are a few reasons why Farm Fresh To You is a great option.
Sustainable and Organic
Not all CSAs are created equal and just because it’s a CSA does not mean the produce is sustainable or organic. My first CSA offered organic produce from their farm (great), but supplemented with conventionally grown produce from other local farms (not so great). FFTY only grows and offers certified organic products, and brings together about 15 other small farms around California to provide certified organic produce to its customers. FFTY and all of the other farms involved are both USDA certified organic and certified organic by the State of California.
Small Local Farmers into the Marketplace
As I said, there are about 15 other small farms that FFTY works with to offer fresh, organic produce to its members. All of these farms are small, meaning less than 500 acres and many don’t have the capacity to get produce direct to the customer at events like farmer’s markets, either because they do not have the capital to attend and/or they are in outlying areas which makes it logistically unfit for the farmers. This way, you’re able to support lots of farmers with each box. You can easily see where each piece of produce in your box comes from too, so you’re never left in the dark about where your food comes from.
Manage Your Membership Online
Once you become a member with FFTY, you will have an account online where you have access to all of your information, you can update your delivery preferences, cancel service and much more. In our digital world, it’s very convenient to log in and manage your accounts. My initial CSA did not provide this invaluable service.
If there are specific items that either you’re allergic to or just don’t like, you can log in to your FFTY account and permanently add specific items to your exclusion list. Those items will be swapped fruit for fruit and veggie for veggie. Also, every Thursday at noon the farm releases its list of items proposed for the following week’s offerings. If there are certain items you wish to replace, you can simply call the farm and they will give you a few options for substitution. Your box is fully customizable.
No Guessing What’s In Your Box
Many times while using my first CSA we would receive items in the box we had absolutely no clue what they were. Luckily the world wide web helped out, but sometimes it was tough. Trial and error. FFTY always includes a list of every item in your box so you don’t have to play the guessing game!
FFTY delivers to your doorstep! My first CSA had pickup locations in each of its serviced cities, so you could pick one near your home. Luckily, there was one on my way home from work, but nothing beats delivery that is included in the price of each box.
Postpone or Cancel Individual Deliveries
Travel often? Weeks get crazy? You’ll never have to worry about getting your box when you don’t want it. If you have a delivery scheduled during a week you won’t be home or a week you don’t want or need your box, you can easily postpone or cancel individual deliveries using your online account or by calling or emailing the farm directly. You can also put a temporary hold on your account. I have heard of a few customers who grow summer produce in their backyards, so they hold their account during the summer months and continue service during the fall, winter and spring months.
Farm News, Featured Produce & Recipes
Another perk that’s included in every box is the lovely Farm News sheet. There is always a story about the happenings on the farm. It’s so wonderful to be able to connect with your food and who grows it. It’s one step closer to building a relationship with your farmer and I love it. Also always included on this sheet is a featured piece of produce that’s in your box that week, with storage and use tips for that item as well as a couple of recipes for the featured produce. Because the produce in the CSA box will change with the seasons, it is often a difficult task to create the weekly meal menu. The recipes listed can be your cheat sheet and get you started.
First Box Discount
Because a lot of people are unaware of CSA services and don’t know you can get fresh, local, organic produce delivered to your doorstep, FFTY offers a discount on your first box as an incentive to at least give us a shot for one box. Just email me at tiffanyffty[at]gmail[dot]com for the promo code and discount prices.
No Contract or Cancellation Penalties
You can cancel at any time by calling or emailing the farm. You’re not signing a term contract, we don’t want anyone to feel stuck or obligated. We understand this service may not be for everyone and that’s ok. That’s why we offer a discounted first box to give you an incentive to at least try us out for one box.
Flexible Delivery Frequency
The farm offers tons of options, so it shouldn’t be hard to find one that fits your family’s needs. You can receive your deliveries on a weekly, every other week, or once a month basis, and there are so many service options too. Because it’s just my husband and me, we get a small mixed box delivered every other week.
To get you started, here are a few links to cool things on the Farm Fresh To You website like recipes, Farm News, their produce seasonality chart and storage and use tips. You can also read About the Farm and About the Family. You might be wondering Why Organic matters, so you can read all about that, too.
They also offer service to restaurants, produce distributors and retail stores, as well as vend at some farmer’s markets. If there’s a need, they will fill it. Got an idea or want in on the action? Shoot me an email at tiffanyffty[at]gmail[dot]com.
How To Get Signed Up
If you live in the Orange County or Los Angeles areas and are interested in signing up, please get in touch by emailing me at tiffanyffty[at]gmail[dot]com so I can give you the promo code for a discount on your first box. Then just go ahead and sign up online.
What Does This Mean for the Blog?
Other than me periodically posting about it and/or agriculture, it shouldn’t change a thing. I plan to continue writing fresh content for you twice a week and hopefully you’ll stick around!
I don’t know about you, but Spring isn’t the only cleaning season around our home. With two cats, a dog and a full grown child (husband), things don’t stay very tidy very long.
On top of the day to day vacuuming and wiping, more heavy duty cleaning is required weekly. Between the floors, bathrooms and kitchen, there are always lots of areas to clean and keep clean.
If you know me at all (and/or if you read this post) you know I’ve really transitioned from using conventional, commercial products to using safe, non toxic and eco-friendly cleaning agents for a number of reasons. It amazes me how many deadly and hazardous chemicals are in the products we use to clean our dishes. What makes you think that if water alone can’t rid dirty dishes of food, that it can rid those same dishes of the chemicals we soak them in? Same goes for laundry and floors and counters and anything else you clean.
While some of the healthy products are a little more pricey up front, it doesn’t compare to the cost of the damage we cause to our bodies and that of our pets and kids when we use products full of dangerous chemicals.
So how do we decipher the good from the bad? Great question. It takes a lot of research and digging to get to the core of this issue. Many companies don’t disclose ingredients on cleaning products and make it a very difficult task to find out. Luckily, the Environmental Working Group (aka EWG) is putting together a “Cleaners Database” to help you out, which they expect to release this fall. In the meantime, however, they just released their Hall of Shame showcasing the worst of the worst cleaning products. I urge you to check it out, you may be surprised at what you see, and it may be that firm kick in the butt you need to clean up your cleaning act.
Two more guides EWG offers are (1) the Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce, where you can read the Clean 15 and Dirty Dozen lists, and (2) the Skin Deep sunscreen database to find the safe sunscreen that fits your family.
Have you switched or have you considered switching to all natural, non toxic, cleaning agents? Why or why not?
I love flowers. Their scent. The freshness they add to a room. With summer looming on the horizon, that’s my inspiration for today’s lavender color palette.
Photo Courtesy of The Wedding Chicks
What are some of your favorite color palettes? Share them in the comments below and post your photo on the Facebook Page!