Tag Archives: vegetable

Stuff Your Peppers for a Snow Day

The sun’s out today but we won’t be working in the fields. They’re still blanketed in this week’s super snow, giving me time to post about one of our favorite winter meals, Stonebridge Stuffed Peppers, which we made for last night’s dinner. (While they were baking, the sky turned an amazing shade of blue.)

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The first blue sky we’d seen in days, brilliant blue right before twilight, framing the evergreen and apple trees by the guesthouse, a former chickenhouse.

I wrote about this recipe a year and a half ago because Women Thrive Worldwide, an organization that promotes women’s opportunities and rights in developing countries, included it in their $2 a Day recipe campaign to highlight the fact that millions of people live on very little income—2.5 million on less than $1 a day.  You can view the recipe here on their website or with more pictures here on mine.

The only thing I’d add now is to put ¼ inch of water in the bottom of the pan to help the peppers steam as they bake, especially if you’re making them without some kind of salsa or marinara on top.

We grow our own peppers and the vegetables we use to stuff them. We make a lot of our own cheese. If we didn’t, this recipe would cost more than $2 to make in this country, but it is still a very low cost, healthy meal that can be prepared quickly, is filling, and tastes great the next day too.

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A poblano pepper on the vine. We trellis these peppers because the vines grow four feet high and are filled with peppers.

Stonebridge Stuffed Peppers also takes advantage of how easy it is to freeze peppers, the wonder vegetable of what we call “high summer”—August and September and even into October until the first frost on Colorado’s Front Range. We use poblanos but any pepper with a filling-sized cavity, sweet or hot, will do. To freeze peppers, you can either core them and freeze them whole as shells for winter stuffing or core and slice them to freeze for sautéing in stir fries or sauces. No blanching required. You don’t even need to thaw them before using. Just pull the shells out of their freezer bags and fill. How easy is that?

What also makes stuffed peppers remarkable is that you can fill them with whatever you have on hand. Really. Our filling is usually a quartet of whatever cooked grains/grated or sliced raw veggies/cheese/nuts we have in the fridge and pantry.

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Baskets of poblanos in the barn

If you’ve got the ingredients ready to go, it only takes a few minutes to put this dish together. I’d already cooked the quinoa at lunch, so I threw the ingredients together while John walked out to the bluehouse to get spinach.  Talk about easy. It’s the equivalent of the 1950s casserole but, with its fresh ingredients, much more healthful. I hope you’ll try them! And then let us know: What do you stuff in your peppers?

Note: For people in the Boulder area, Stonebridge is hosting the monthly Mile High food swap this Sunday. You can see a video of last fall’s Stonebridge swap here. We’d love to have you join us so sign up here!

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Horoscope, July 2012

I don’t follow my horoscope on a regular basis, but occasionally, I’ll read a particularly unconventional version in one of our local weekly newspapers. Last week’s summarized in trendy terms something I’ve been thinking about for a while. It started by defining a new type of mind/body practice that combines yoga, massage, and acrobatics (so already you see the Boulder theme) and then connected this idea to the Aries forecast: “I’d love to see you work on creating a comparable hybrid in the coming months, Aries—some practice or system or approach that would allow you to weave together your various specialties into a synergetic whole.”

The hipness of “synergy” aside, the idea of weaving parts of my life together is appealing to me because I’m always searching for balance in my busy life. In my yoga practice, I’m terrible at balance—positions like crane and tree and cactus are always hard for me. Maybe it’s just an inner ear problem, but I can’t help but interpret the difficulty of standing on one foot for long as a metaphor for my life.

Right now, balance is particularly challenging because of a wonderful change in my life to which I’m trying to adjust: our new grandchild arrived on July 8th to our awe and delight. Every moment I spend with him or talk about him or look at his pictures brings me joy.

Everyone with a grandchild has told me that grandparenting is different than parenting and now I know they’re right but it’s hard to put my finger on why. Somehow the passage of time is involved more in my sense of connection with a grandchild than it was with my own child—I sense of his life extending much beyond my own in ways I can’t even imagine and I’m trying not to be afraid for the future he might find. When I hold him, it’s easy to focus on the here and now and not worry about what’s next because each moment feels precious. That’s the word other grandparents exclaim to me over and over and now I know in a new way how much that word is true.

In the midst of this joy, I’m also happily bringing an important writing project to fruition—more on that in the coming months. I’m also spending more time on my photography (see an interview about this on photographer Martha Hughes’ blog, Dragonfly Photography, here). We picked the first eggplant for our farm shares last Saturday, the zucchini are over-running the barn (facilitating the need for more zucchini recipes), the garlic’s picked and waiting in trugs, and the farm season is almost half over with the bulk of the vegetables still to be harvested. Tomatoes slowed down in the 100 degree heat but the peppers will be on soon. The fall garden is progressing just fine and we’ve had time lately to spend celebrating the farm’s bounty with friends.

Is this” synergy”? Does the fact that I wake up happy each morning mean I’m weaving a “hybrid” life? Most days, I think I just about am. I don’t need a horoscope to predict that 2012 will continue to be a year my many “specialties” will coalesce in some new form of family, farm, friends, and creative efforts. Instead of worrying about how they’ll come together, I need to remember to be grateful for all the many experiences and relationships I have in my life and to follow what each brings, day after day.

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This is What Fresh Tastes Like

“What passes for cookery in England . . . is cutting off the delicious skins of vegetables. ‘In which,’ said Mr. Bankes, ‘all the virtue of the vegetable is contained.'”

                                                            Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse

At Stonebridge Farm, we like to say that fresh is a flavor. Some students discovered that this weekend when our friend brought four of her sustainability students to the farm to help us weed the newly emerging spinach and carrot beds. As we worked with horis and hoes in the soft spring sun, one young man, a former student in John’s calculus class, asked me what my favorite thing was at the farm.

“Besides John?” I teased him.

I have so many favorites here, I had to think a bit. “The flowers,” I said, “and the chickens because they’re so friendly.” From his laughter, I don’t think he’d ever heard that chickens are friendly before.

Another new discovery was the taste of vegetables right out of the garden. After we finished weeding, we picked radishes for everyone to take home. I told the students they could eat some as they picked. “Is this what a radish tastes like?” one asked in wonder. “I’ve never tasted one like this before.”

“That’s because,” another friend said, “you can’t get a fresh radish at a grocery store. Not fresh like this anyway.”

“Fresh is a flavor,” I told them. “This is what fresh tastes like.”

When we moved to the spinach bed, another student declined the offer of spinach. “I don’t like spinach,” she assured us.

“Just try a leaf, okay?” She tentatively chewed a piece–and then smiled.

This is spinach? . . . Okay, I’ll take some.”

I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry. How sad for 18-year-olds—from upper middle-class families who undoubtedly have some access to raw vegetables in stores—not to know the fresh taste of vegetables. A salad bar may be the closest they’ve encountered and that’s just not the same.

Fresh is a flavor. Years ago, before processed food composed the majority of people’s diets in this country, even the Morton’s salt company knew about the flavor of fresh. Here’s an ad from a 1940s Life magazine that features the taste of “tender, young” vegetables as part of a flavor duo:

At Stonebridge, spring means fresh, tender vegetables like the ones pictured in the ad. Our members anticipate the sweetness of newly harvested spinach and the sparkle of plump radishes on opening day. Our season starts a few weeks earlier than most CSAs in our area because we can grow early vegetables so well in our foothills microclimate. Green onions, radishes, and lettuce offer a first salad to our members, while spinach and chard are the main ingredients of so many of our favorite meals: lasagna, fritters, enchiladas, quiche, and pastas. Even fresh chives can flavor the filling for a goat cheese tart.

In the foraging class we recently hosted, we learned about other spring plants that provide delicious and nutritious meals. Dandelion greens, of course, are great in salad (watch a 92-year-old cook prepare her Depression-era salad here), but did you know that nettles make a wonderful saag? We got to sample some, along with nettle gnocchi, at our workshop, right after we picked nettle tops for everyone to try at home, a new taste for spring since it’s one of the first plants to emerge. (You can learn more about foraging at Hunger and Thirst for Life).

Asparagus, too, means spring. We have two patches on the farm, one we planted and another along the fence line that we didn’t. There the birds “plant” the asparagus as they sit on the wire and sing. We let some of those plants go to seed every year to help them spread.

And in the foraging class, our teacher discovered another wild spot for asparagus near a bridge over our irrigation ditch where we’d cleared willows last fall.

With asparagus at $5 a bunch in the store, we’re rich in asparagus. Tonight I’ll drizzle some fat spears with olive oil to roast and eat with grated goat cheese and walnuts over pasta. Last week, I placed a few spears left out of the previous night’s quiche on a pizza—delicious as it roasted on top of the cilantro pesto.

This is what fresh tastes like as April turns to May: the virtue of spring vegetables, the scent of lilacs and dogwood, and the down of dandelions drifting in the breeze.

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Red, Red Barn

2011 marks not only the 20th season of Stonebridge’s CSA but the 100th anniversary of the farm itself. To celebrate both, we decided to paint the barn. We’re not sure when it was last painted, but judging from the weathered red wood, probably 30 or maybe even 40 years ago. We thought it was time to give this century barn a new coat of good paint to help it last another 100 years, so we invited our members to a community barn painting and pancake breakfast to kick off the morning’s work.

I have to admit that ever since I’d come up with the idea, I’d been worried about this barn painting business. Our barn is a former dairy barn, a huge building with high sides on the east and west and old wood that looked like it could soak up buckets of paint. I worried about people climbing ladders and falling off the roof and finding the right color and feeding everyone while they worked. I worried we wouldn’t get it done in a day, leaving us with a half painted barn.

But when I woke up the day of the barn painting, I decided I didn’t need to worry any more. We’d finish what we could. If we didn’t get it done, we’d get to it later. I mixed up enough batter for three huge batches of oatmeal/cornmeal/whole wheat pancakes (you can find the recipe on our website) so I knew we’d have enough food. And then as I walked outside in the fresh morning air, I realized that I wasn’t going to have to paint that barn alone. Like everything we do at Stonebridge, the community pitches in and the work soon gets done.

After 20 years of CSA, Stonebridge runs like a well-oiled machine—most the time, anyway. We trust each other’s skills and count on each other’s enthusiasm and support to accomplish whatever we need to do, not only on Saturday mornings when we get the vegetables into the barn, but any day when something needs doing. John and I make sure the supplies are handy or the prep work done—like buying the paint, power-washing the barn walls, or mixing the pancakes—and then our friends take it from there.

Tim flips the pancakes, everyone brings toppings to share, Sarah and Hunter mix gluten-free batter, and after everyone eats, Sandy and Rajni do the dishes. Michelle, Eva the Younger, and Eva the Elder start painting the sunny south side before the day gets too hot. Lisa, Steve, and Joe (still glowing from headlining the local festival the night before with his band Crow Radio) are joined by Jenny, Mike, Sarah, and Angus on the tall west side with brushes and buckets of Country Redwood. Seeing 10-year-old Angus with a paintbrush can’t help but remind me of Tom Sawyer’s trickery–make the work seem like fun and everyone will want to do it.

Soon, the lower part of the west side is done and we start to worry that we’ve got enough paint, but everyone votes to keep going, even though we’re starting to sweat in the late morning sun. Michelle and Luca cheer us on from the tire swing. Lloyd volunteers to climb up to the roof to paint the cupola, so John and Tim join him and soon it’s done.

Then Gretchen, Michael, Avi, and Sharonah arrive to help finish the short south side with a couple buckets to spare. Eileen shows up as reinforcement and doesn’t mind painting high on a ladder to finish the west side, so we haul up the ladders for Gretchen and John to join her, while Mike, Lisa, Tim, and Julie climb up to finish the east. Good thing we have a lot of ladders.

In the midst of this work-turned-party, a dear former member arrives with a beautiful engraved stone for our entryway, so Joe, Lloyd, and Mike dig a deep hole to set it in place. We stop to admire the new look of our entryway and then head back to finish the west side and clean up. We’ve painted the entire barn in a little over three hours with a half-bucket of paint to spare! Hungry again and not ready to break up the celebration, we fire up the griddles for another round of pancakes with Jenny’s peanut butter ice cream, some cold watermelon, and a few beers.

Why did I worry about painting the barn? I should have known from years of experience on this farm that many hands make light work. This is the crew that can polish off a weedy bed in the remaining minutes after a pick; the same folks who show up when the tomatoes need harvesting before an unexpected first frost; and the same people who keep Stonebridge going year after year.

And now, the barn is done, except for a little white trim that we’ll get to when the crops have settled down and the days are cooler once more. I doubt John or I will paint the barn again in our lifetimes and that feels good. Good to know that the hard work of the best kind of people can carry on beyond our time. This is how work used to get done on farms–from barn raising to threshing crews to harvesting. We’ve lost that tradition in this country but maybe, in these times, working cooperatively will come back, not only out of necessity, but from desire for community.

Stonebridge is more than a Tom Sawyer farm. We don’t have to trick anyone into anything here because we all realize what we have. We know we are lucky to share this piece of land that sustains our families while bringing us closer together in joy throughout the seasons. Closer in comfort and care for the land and each other–that’s the true meaning of the “C” of CSA.

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