Field Trip: Love Rock Farm

Last week a few of my fellow coworkers and I took a field trip to an amazing little New Berlin Farm, Love Rock Farm, where we get some of the produce for the Restaurant I’m spending my summer working for. A bit about Love Rock: Love Rock is a CSA and market garden that supplies delicious, herbicide and pesticide free fruits and vegetables to over 25 families and a handful of restaurants in the Milwaukee, Wisconsin area. This will be the CSA’s second season and they are excited to expand their offerings by adding eggs, poultry and flower options to the CSA shares this year.

What is CSA? It’s a Community Supported Agriculture farm where you can either use some of their land to grow your own veggies as a volunteer in exchange for food, and you can also “buy in” as a member to receive a box of produce every week, or bi-weekly for a small price. For those that don’t have the time to shop and want fresh goods delivered, this is a great option.

I knew the farm was run mostly by one person, Drew, our head chef’s brother, but I didn’t realize the size of this farm! He’s working long hours, asking for volunteers in return for produce, and hand picking and delivering produce, it’s like 2 full time jobs!

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This is a view from the backside (yes, I said backside) of the farm. to the left were some abandoned crops that had life in them. Being a CSA farm, you are able to use other’s land to use as gardening space if you have none of your own at home.

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The space was much larger than I had expected for being in the city. It was actually gorgeous, and on a lake.

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It’s hard to tell that’s a lake, but it is.

cucumbers

The cucumbers were grown in this tent, to contain them. They grow fast, and spread faster.

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Crops that weren’t quite ready yet.

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Baby crops.

cabbage fields

I loved the cabbage patch. Due to obvious reasons that I grew up in the 80’s and had a cabbage patch. We have a dish at the restaurant that has grilled Ox Heart cabbage, pine nuts, and anchovy oil. SO good! If you haven’t thought of grilling cabbage, consider it.

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This reminded me of the Little Shop of Horrors plant.

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Cabbage presentation.

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One of my favorite parts of the tour was the chickens! I got to hold one. There are about 20 chickens there, and one giant rooster that apparently has his “favorite girls” and you aren’t allowed to hang out with them. It’s like chicken drama. I love it.

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Chicken!

Garlic

There was a LOT of garlic. This barn smelled amazing and can definitely ward off vampires. Drew sells his produce at the Milwaukee farmer’s market every weekend.

pulling potatoes

This is Drew’s mother in law harvesting some potatoes. They pulled 150 pounds that day between her, another coworker, and my fiancée. It was cool to see how potatoes just fall off of the bushes they grow from when you pull them from the ground.

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A view from the barn! There are many varieties of tomatoes, but only a few were ready at the moment.

The Barn 2

The beam sticking out of the top window in the barn is used to attach a pulley and bring produce up to the top floor to dry out.

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I had to take a pic of the great vintage pulley.

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Here’s the beam. We couldn’t have asked for a more gorgeous day.

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Here’s some of the produce at the street front farm stand. Someone doesn’t watch the farmstand, you leave money based on the honor system. It was refreshing to see people act this way in the Milwaukee area.

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Carrots and Cucumbers and Cabbage, oh my! Drew sent Matt (fiancée) home with a box of amazing produce for a day of volunteer work helping out. A lot of farmer’s offer this as a bargain for help weeding, pulling, and harvesting. It’s totally worth it, just bring water, and sunscreen. He told me that as they got hungry pulling veggies, there was plenty of fresh food to snack on.

Happy farming!

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Foraging for Wild Ramps

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The Ramp in it’s natural habitat.

Dating a chef has opened my eyes to many new foods. Truffle salt, sautéed kale, scrambled eggs with sour cream mixed in, and wild ramps to name a few.So, what is a ramp? The wild ramps are a wild onion in the leek family that grow about 3 weeks out of the year then they are gone. They grow wild, in parks, and woods, in moist nutrient rich soil, and if you’re lucky, you can find them in your backyard in the city. They grow sometime in the month of May, depending on what the winter was like. This year, they came later. We are lucky enough to have them grow in his parent’s backyard in Door County. We can only pick them sporadically so they come back the next year which isn’t a problem, because there are too many of them to pick them all!

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All that you see that’s green are Ramps!

Ramps have a mild, onion flavor, rich in a fresh garlic scent when they are fresh from the ground. You can tell if what you have is a ramp or not when you pull it from the ground because of the look and smell. If it smells like an onion, it’s probably an onion. They grow in bunches, and you can’t just pull them, you need a shovel to pull the roots out. (This is a lot of work!) There is a white bulb at the end, and a purple stalk with a dirty thin membrane around the bulb that easily slides off for easy cleaning.

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Here you can see the purple stem and when the white bulb.

What can you do with a ramp? You can cook the WHOLE thing when they are fresh! (After a while the green part will wilt and you should discard it.) Peel the thin membrane off and cut off the roots, give them a wash, and they are good to go. Chop the whole thing and put them in mashed potatoes, or grill the ramp whole and eat next to some good grilled chicken or put on a bratwurst.

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The woods where we found the ramps was pretty gorgeous, even in the beginning of spring when the leaves weren’t on the trees yet.

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Collecting our ramps for later cleaning and distributing.

We sold the ramps to the restaurant we used to work for in Green Bay, and the one that the fiancée works for now. They will turn it into an awesome cream of ramp soup, and the restaurant that he works for now does an amazing ramp pizza with white sauce and mushrooms, a dish with grilled ramps and asparagus with a fried egg, and a wild ramp risotto. The fiancée even dehydrated them and powdered them for a year round flavor additive. If you get to experience ramps at a local restaurant or from a friend, how lucky you’ll be!

Happy foraging!

Project: Backyard Garden, Part 3

I have to say, after a month or so of hard work, (mostly on the boyfriend’s behalf), the garden is looking awesome!

Garden collage 2Here’s a before and after from just a month ago, and today. I’m amazed! The pallets are growing like crazy! We already went and pulled lettuce and arugula off the top pallet shown to make a salad the other day.Garden Collage

Here’s another before and after. The bottom before and after shows the patio we re-assembled that cost me half a fingernail.

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The onions are coming up really nicely. We got a starter pack at the Home Depot for those.

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One little yellow zucchini!

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Mint. I’m ready for Mojitos.

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Those tomatoes are taller than me. Taller than boyfriend. Who is over 6 feet tall. I remember him planting them in the fall and seeing them grow to what they are now.

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MORE tomatoes. We will soon have enough to start a small italian restaurant.

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We built this A-Frame out of two pallets and filled it with dirt, and basil plants.

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We built a rain barrel out of a 55 gallon food grade tub we got on Craigslist for $8. We got about $10 worth of parts at the home depot to finish it off. I’ll do a post about that next!

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No strawberries yet, but when it happens, I can’t wait!

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And this may be my favorite part of the yard… The patio, the path, my patio furniture put to use! I can’t wait to start harvesting the cucumbers, snap peas, strawberries, carrots, onions, radishes, lettuce, arugula, herbs, zucchini, broccoli, peppers… and the many other investments we’ve made in the yard! Happy Gardening!

Banana Muffins and Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

The cooks at work have been giving me old bananas and in return, I bring them banana bread. Not a bad bargain since they give me enough bananas to do 2 or 3 loafs at a time. Here’s the recipe I ALWAYS use, along with a new one for frosting I just found.

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Ok, so seeing as how i’m a health nut, I end up substituting some things for what’s in a recipe. I’ll comment when I like to substitute ingredients.

MUFFINS:

  • 2 cups all purpose flour (I use 1/2 cup ground almond and flax seeds to sub some flour. I also use whole wheat flour.)
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar (I use raw sugar)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 large, over ripe bananas (if you don’t have enough, use 1/2 cup applesauce to sub for a banana)
  • 1/4 C Milk (regular, non fat, soy, almond…)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Spices, if you like. I add a sprinkle of cinnamon, and nutmeg.

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. In a medium bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Mix and set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, mash bananas until mushy. Add milk, egg, and vanilla and mix or process until blended.
  4. Add dry ingredients to wet and mix until just blended. Pour batter into either 12 muffin cups (greased) or an 8″ loaf pan (also greased)
  5. Bake 1 hour if making bread, or 20-25 minutes if making muffins, checking on them after 20 to see if they are done. Cool in bread pan, on a wire rack for about 10 minutes, and then remove bread (if making bread.)

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Frosting! I found a recipe online for carrot cake with cinnamon cream cheese frosting from asweetbaker.com. MMM! I used the one for frosting.

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INGREDIENTS

  • 1 pkg. cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 3-4 cups icing sugar (depending on what consistency and sweetness you want your icing)

INSTRUCTIONS:

In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream together cream cheese, butter, vanilla and cinnamon. Slowly add icing sugar until you reach the desired consistency and sweetness you want.

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These also make a great healthy breakfast to go since they are loaded with goodness like almond and flax seeds. Enjoy!

The Best Coffee Drink You’ll Make at Home

So I started making this coffee drink for myself recently, and it is THE BEST coffee drink I’ve ever had. Seriously. I drink coffee with cream and sugar usually, and that’s about what this is, but better. Maybe some of you already know these tricks, and this is old news, but when I learn new things I like to share them. Here you go!

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So, you start with about a half cup of coffee. You can make stronger coffee for this drink if you like, you’ll be adding a bit of milk to it, almost like a cappuccino.

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Get yourself a sweetener of your choice.

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Get your dairy of choice. This combination worked great for this drink!

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This is honestly the best use of the Magic Bullet I’ve come up with. You need a blender, Bullet, Ninja, or frother of some kind. Even a little battery powered, hand held frother would work.

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Here I added about 1 part half and half to one part coconut milk or skim milk, totaling about 1/2 cup. You can add as much or little as you want to though, really. It’s personal preference. Then add your sweetner. I like to add a squirt of honey and a tablespoon of sugar. Then, microwave for about 30 seconds. If you don’t have a bullet, you can microwave in a coffee mug, then blend for a few seconds, or froth up.

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Blend up!

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Once blended, pour into your coffee, and you’re done! You can lightly stir, but don’t kill the bubbles. They are the best part. I think once you heat it up, it dissolves your sugars, and blending it mixes the sugar and the milk together, adding the froth, and it’s just such a delicious drink, from home too. You can save so much money, and it’s just seconds of cleanup.

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Just look at that! A café worthy cup of coffee.

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Enjoy!

Guest Post: Planting a Vegetable Garden in an Outdoor Space

Planting a Vegetable Garden in an Outdoor Space

Everyone is taking about how important it is to eat enough fresh vegetables, yet far too often it can be expensive to get five servings a day. One of the most cost effective and rewarding options is to plan a vegetable garden right in your own outdoor space. From backyard gardens to rooftop container gardening, anyone can start living the good life as a vegetable grower.

Outdoor Vegetable Garden Ideas

Here are some ways to plant a vegetable garden in any outdoor space, whether you live in the country or the city.

Raised container gardening is very easy to try for a first time grower or anyone looking to control the gardening space. This is especially helpful if you have a small yard, or want something in easy reach. For older people or those with handicaps that prevent a lot of bending and lifting, a raised vegetable garden can be ideal. Start by choosing your raised container type and size. You may want to start with a wooden frame placed on top of a solid surface. Add your soil; get it to the proper pH level, while you start your seedlings indoors. Then, plant for each season of vegetables tending to the weeds and pests.

Porch, veranda and patio gardening offers so many unique opportunities to grow healthful vegetables in limited space, without all the digging and soil prep that a traditional garden requires. Choose the plants you would like to grow and determine the type of root depth and space each plant needs to be healthy. Then purchase low cost containers made from porous material, like terra cotta, and fill with soil and starter plants. Use trellises to support vines, and use the right amount of watering and fertilizer to keep your plants producing. Or you may try an upside-down planter for tomatoes and peppers.

Your back yard outdoor entertainment areas can be a great location for planting a vegetable garden too, because they offer plenty of shade and shelter from the elements. Choose to add a small flower bed along one side of your house and include a few colorful vegetable and herb plants too. Red peppers, carrots, and parsley often look stunning nestled among flowering shrubs. You can also try hanging plant containers and grow your vegetables above your head, somewhat out of sight from guests, but in easy reach for salads.

In many urban and suburb regions, entire neighborhoods are participating in communal vegetable gardening to support a more sustainable lifestyle. This means you may be able to get together with those in your community to earn approval to plant vegetables in a local park instead of letting it go to ruin. While you can benefit from having access to a wider array of fresh vegetables, you can also provide a bountiful harvest for local food pantries and soup kitchens for those dealing with homelessness and poverty. This can make not only a difference in your life, but to others at the same time.

Growing a vegetable garden outdoors can be a highly rewarding experience that’s good for your health, your food budget and your environment.

 

About the author: Lindsay Parrich is a renowned freelance writer with many years of experience with the home & garden industry. She also covers humane rodent control companies such as Bird-X in her free time.

Beer Bread and Corn Soup

With summer wrapping up, I know the fresh veggies in the kitchen will soon be a thing of yesterday. I wanted to take some of the corn from the Farmer’s Market I had shucked, boiled and frozen, and make some soup. How?, I had thought to myself. I have never made a blended soup from scratch before. I have made faux chicken noodle with home made noodles (so much better than store bought!) I did some research, and found a good recipe to start from.

I found this recipe from Bon Appétit for a Summer Corn Soup, and went from there, using ingredients I had in the kitchen already. Here’s what I did:

Ingredients for Soup:

  • 3 cups skim milk
  • 1/4 cup half and half
  • 3 ears of fresh corn, kernels already cut off
  • 2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 large carrot, peeled, thinly sliced
  • 1 celery stalk, thinly sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, pressed
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 fresh rosemary sprigs
  • 1 tsp basil
  • Ground pepper

Garnish

  • 1 green onion, thinly sliced
  • Pinch of chili pepper

Preparation of the Soup:

  1. Bring milk and corncob kernels just to boil in heavy medium pot. Remove from heat, cover, and let steep while sautéing vegetables.
  2. Melt butter in large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion; sprinkle with salt and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes (do not let onion brown). Add corn kernels, carrot, celery, and garlic; cook until vegetables are soft, stirring frequently, about 10 minutes. Add 2 cups water, herb sprigs, basil, and milk with kernels. Increase heat and bring to boil. Cover partially, reduce heat to low, and simmer 20 minutes to blend flavors.

3. Discard herb sprigs, and bay leaf. Cool soup slightly. Working in batches, puree soup in blender until very smooth. Strain into large bowl, (I used a colander, and a screen strainer) pressing on solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Season soup to taste with salt and white pepper and sprinkle on chili pepper powder and green onions. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.

I also made a nice little beer bread to go with my soup. Here’s the recipe I used.

Beer Bread:

  • 2 Cups all purpose flour
  • 1 Cup Wheat flour
  • 3 Tablespoons Sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon Baking Powder
  • 1 Tsp Salt
  • 1 Bottle Beer (12 oz)
  • 1/2 Cup (1 Stick) unsalted butter, melted (I reduced it to 3/4 stick of butter and used the rest in the soup)

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9 x 5 x 3 inch loaf pan.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.
  3. Using a wooden spoon, stir the beer into the dry ingredients until just mixed.
  4. Pour half the melted butter into the loaf pan. Then spoon the batter into the pan, and pour the rest of the butter on top of the batter. Slide a baking sheet onto a lower rack to catch any butter that might overflow from the loaf pan.
  5. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until golden brown. Serve immediately.

Personal opinion of the bread: Tasted like eating flour. It was very dense and not very fluffy. I would use all white flower and omit the wheat. It NEEDED the honey butter I made to go with it. It’s one part honey, one part butter. Sprinkle cinnamon in it to make it perfect. Next time I make the beer bread, i’ll add cheese, and green peppers or green onions. It will have a ton of flavor then! Happy cooking!