Double Choked Shrimp Brie Soup

Choked Shrimp Brie Soup: a brief history

On a whim, I picked up some sunchokes at the market even though I had no clue what they were. At home, I looked them up —texture similar to potato, flavor similar to artichoke, can be eaten raw or cooked, with or without the peel, great for creamy soups/dishes— then tossed them in the vegetable bin.

A few nights later, my honey and I had dinner at a restaurant where the special soup du jour was shrimp brie artichoke soup. We melted into love for the soup, and I decided to try to recreate it. I remembered my sunchoke discovery and decided to include them.

After culling for ideas online, I made this. If you love shrimp and cheese, you won’t be sorry I took the time to note the process.

Choked Shrimp Brie Soup: The recipe (or something like a recipe)

Ingredientschoked shrimp brie soup

  • 1/4 cup Olive Oil (or part olive oil, part butter)
  • 1 cup chopped carrots (2 medium)
  • 1 cup sliced celery (2 stalks)
  • 1 large chopped onion
  • 4-5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup (or more) peeled and chopped (bite-size pieces) sunchokes
  • 1 quart shrimp stock (you can make these with the shrimp heads/peels. See below)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • salt to taste (I didn’t use any)
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 2 cups (or more) of peeled and deveined gulf shrimp
  • 1 4 1/2-ounce round Brie cheese (I used more like 6 ounces), rind removed and cut up

Optional

  • 1/2 cup (or more) of artichoke hearts cut into bite-size pieces (fresh is what I used, but thawed frozen could work)
  • Croutons and/or chives (optional)

Directions

  1. In a large saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add carrots, celery, onion, garlic, and sunchokes. Cook and stir till tender. Add shrimp stock, white pepper (and salt). Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes.
  2. Add cream and use hand-held blender or masher to cream the mixture (I didn’t completely cream, just a little)
  3. Stir in shrimp, artichoke hearts (if you’re using them), and Brie. Cook and stir over medium-low heat about 5 minutes more or till shrimp are pink, soup is heated through, and cheese is melted. (Stir often to make sure soup doesn’t scorch on bottom of saucepan.) Serve topped with croutons and/or chives, if you like.

Makes 8 side-dish or 4 main-dish servings.

SHRIMP STOCK

To make shrimp stock,

  • Place shrimp heads and peels in about 2 quarts of water.
  • Add quartered onion, 3-5 cloves of garlic, quartered lemon, bay leaf, peppercorns to taste, and thyme (or any mixture of herbs).
  • Boil for 10-15 minutes (reduce to 1 quart).
  • Strain.
©Copyright Pennie Nichols. All Rights Reserved, 2017.

Grill to Oven Grilled Snap Beans with Feta

Looking for something new to do with your beans? Grilled snap beans! This is another grill to oven recipe for using up those generous boxes of summer CSA vegetables. You’ll need a grill basket or grill pan.

You may be tempted to eat these straight from the grill, but that extra step to the oven = feta baked into the grilled goodness. Worth it.


Grilled Snap Beans with Feta

IngredientsGrilled Snap Beans

  • 1 lb snap beans, ends snipped and strings removed (I used wax and snap beans)
  • 1 med to large onion, cut in 1/4 inch slices
  • 1-2 whole fresh tomatoes
  • 1-2 whole fresh peppers, sweet or hot (I used bell)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp dried oregano (sub other fresh and dried herbs and seasonings)
  • salt and pepper to taste (I didn’t use any)
  • ½ c feta cheese

Process

  • Prep
    • Preheat grill with the oiled grill basket.
    • Grind garlic and seasonings in olive oil in mini food processor. (Don’t bother cleaning the food processor yet. You’ll use it again.)
    • Toss beans, onions, tomatoes, and peppers in seasoned oil.grilled snap beans
  • Grill
    • Transfer beans and onions to grill basket, careful not to drip too much oil into grill.
    • Place tomatoes and peppers directly on grill.
    • Grill on high to med high for about 5-8 minutes, stirring beans and turning tomatoes and peppers every couple of minutes.
    • Remove beans to a 9X12 baking dish.
    • Place tomatoes and peppers in a bowl and cover with a lid or plastic to allow them to “sweat.”
  • Oven
    • Preheat oven to 350°.
    • Peel skin off of tomatoes and peppers.
    • Remove stems, and de-seed peppers.
    • Grind tomatoes and peppers in mini food processor (OK to chop if you prefer them chunkier)
    • Pour tomatoes and peppers on top of beans and toss.
    • Sprinkle feta on top of beans. You can leave the cheese on top or toss it into the bean mixture.
    • Bake for 20 min.

Variations

  • If you love garlic-heavy dishes, place a head of garlic in foil, drizzle with olive oil, and place on the grill with the vegetables. Grind the roasted garlic with the tomatoes and peppers.
  • If you like beans with slivered almonds or other nuts, add these when the beans go to the oven.

NOTE: Snap and green and string are all the same thing when they’re a bean.

If you like this grill to oven recipe, check out my grill to oven squash and zucchini.
© Copyright Pennie Nichols. All Rights Reserved. 5016

Baked Chicken with Snap Beans

Snap beans are one of the many perks of summer gardens and CSA boxes. But like zucchini and squash, keeping up with the beans can be a challenge. This baked chicken with snap beans is a delicious one-dish meal. Tweak it to your taste or mood. The possibilities are limitless:

  • Don’t stuff the chicken.
  • Use a different cheese.
  • Don’t use cheese.
  • Use different herbs.
  • Don’t use chicken, just cook the beans!
  • Or maybe, just have a glass of wine and cheese and crackers. Cook tomorrow. 😉

If you are in the mood to cook, this is worth the effort.


Bake Chicken with Snap Beans

Ingredients

  • 4 skinless boneless chicken breasts
  • 1 lb (about 6 c) fresh snap beans* (OK to sub or include wax beans, I used both)
  • 1 fresh tomato, sliced
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • marinade, (I used a tweaked version of my sour cream marinade)
    • Grind the following together in a mini food processor.
      • ½ c sour cream
      • 2 tbsp olive oil
      • 4 cloves garlic
      • ¼ c mango salsa (for sweet and hot)
      • 1 tbsp chipotle pepper adobo sauce
      • 3 tbsp fresh oregano
  • cheese stuffing
    • Grind the following together in a mini food processor.
      • ½ c cheese (I used quesadilla cheese, but you can sub other cheeses: e.g., mozzarella, feta, cream)
      • 1 clove garlic
      • fresh oregano (OK to sub other fresh or dried herbs)
  • bread crumbs
    • Grind the following together in a mini food processor.
      • 1.5 c panko bread crumbs (OK to sub regular bread crumbs but panko tend to be crispier)
      • 1 clove garlic
      • 1 tbsp oregano

ProcessBaked Chicken with Snap Beans

  • Marinate chicken.
  • Beans
    • Remove ends and strings from beans.
    • Steam beans for about 5 minutes (or blanch). This is optional, but I like to do it to make sure I don’t have any tough beans.
    • Prepare cheese stuffing and bread crumbs.
    • Toss strained beans in about 1 tbsp of olive oil.
    • Sprinkle 1 c of bread crumbs on beans, and toss.
    • Arrange beans in a 9X12 Pyrex pan and set aside.
  • Back to chicken
    • Slit each chicken breast to create a pocket.
    • Stuff each breast with 3-4 tbsp of cheese stuffing.
    • Heat 1 tbsp oil in frying pan.
    • Sear chicken for 2-3 minutes on each side, careful to keep the stuffing in the cavity.
  • AssemblyBaked Chicken with Snap Beans
    • Arrange chicken on top of beans.
    • Add tomato slices on top of chicken.
    • Sprinkle remaining bread crumbs over chicken.
    • Drizzle last tbsp oil over chicken.
    • Bake for 30 minutes or until bread crumbs are golden brown.
    • Enjoy!

*NOTE: snap = green = string: all the same thing.

© Copyright Pennie Nichols. All Rights Reserved. 2016

Zucchini Straws

Our CSA boxes from Luckett Farms include zucchini for more than half the year. The new-things-to-do-with-zucchini struggle is real, but I haven’t lost a zucchini yet. Zucchini straws make a great crispy side or snack. Quick and simple. Works with yellow squash too!


Zucchini Straws

Ingredientszucchini straws

  • 3-4 zucchini, spiralized
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp oregano (OK to sub other herbs)
  • 1 tbsp flour or fine corn meal (optional)

Process

  • Preheat airfryer to 330º (if using oven, preheat to 400º).
  • Grind the garlic with the olive oil, oregano, and salt.
  • Toss the spiralized zucchini in the oil mixture, coating well.
  • If using, sprinkle with flour/meal and toss more.
  • Cook.
    • To airfry
      • Place about a third of the zucchini in the airfryer at a time (don’t overfill)
      • Cook in three minute intervals for 9-12 minutes, tossing every three minutes.
    • To bake
      • Spread zucchini “thinly” on a baking sheet.
      • Bake for 20 minutes, tossing after 10 minutes.
      • If necessary, bake another 10 minutes.
  • Enjoy!
© Copyright Pennie Nichols. All Rights Reserved. 2016

Snap Beans and Sausage

Not sure what to do with the abundance of snap beans or wax beans in your CSA box? How about beans and sausage?

Sweet Italian sausage is a great go-to meat for prepping vegetables. I use it with greens, cabbage, eggplant, and squash. This and last week, my Luckett Farms CSA box included snap and wax beans. Tonight I combined my big mess of beans with Italian sausage. This quick, one-pot dish can be served as a main entrée or a meaty side.


Snap Beans and Sausage

Ingredients

  • 1.5-2 lbs loose Italian sausage 
  • a mess (about 2 lbs) of fresh snap and/or wax beans, remove stems and “strings” and snap to desired size
  • 2 onions chopped
  • 2 peppers (sweet and/or hot) chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 tbsp fresh basil (OK to sub other fresh or dried herbs)
  • Season (salt/pepper) to taste.

Process

  • In large pan, brown sausage over med high heat, breaking it up as it browns. If you have excess oil from the sausage, drain. I use a lean sausage and didn’t need to drain oil.
  • Add onions, pepper, and garlic.
  • Sauté until onions are clear, about 5 minutes.
  • Add beans and herbs.
  • Mix and sauté for about 5 minutes.
  • Reduce heat, cover, and let simmer until beans are tender (10-15 minutes).
  • Enjoy!
NOTES:
  • I say snap you say string; I say string you say green: they’re all the same bean.
  • I didn’t use any oil, because the sausage produced just enough. If needed, add olive oil to sauté the vegetables.
© Copyright Pennie Nichols. All Rights Reserved. 2016

Smothered Squash and Zucchini Spaghettis

What to do with all the summer squash and zucchini?

So many things!


Before our Luckett Farms CSA box arrived this week, Kacie, the farmer’s wife, gave a nod to the struggles of members using up the abundance of summer squash and zucchini (the struggle is real!). She wrote about her felicitous purchase of the “veggetti” a couple of years ago.

I decided to invest and looked up the device, only to realize: I already have one! Or something like it. A gift from our nephew and his wife, which I mistook for a German grater that, like the German language, I couldn’t figure out. I grabbed the biggest squash and tried the tool. I hadn’t quite thought that through, but it mostly worked wonderfully.

squash4

Chop the tails, too-fat tops, and other residuals and saute with the rest.

Now that understand my German spiralizer, I have ideas!

  • The usual spiralized squash/zucchini as a substitute for spaghetti noodles.
  • Spiralized squash/zucchini sauteed with sweet Italian sausage, onions, garlic, and peppers.
  • Spiralized squash/zucchini tossed in seasoned olive oil and airfried for a crispy side.

But for tonight I applied my Southern-style Smothered Squash process to the … squashghetti? … spaccini?

I’m proud to note that I used five things from my CSA box: squash, zucchini, onion, bell pepper, and basil leaves.

Ingredients

  • 4-6 squash and zucchini, spiralized. NOTE: You will have some pieces that don’t spiralize for different reasons: the ends, the middle ribbons, too fat. Chop those and saute with the rest. If you don’t have a spiralizer, don’t fret. Slice and/or chop the squash and zucchini.
  • 1 med onion
  • 1 med bell pepper (use hot pepper if you prefer)
  • 3-4 cherry tomatoes (or any tomato in similar amount), diced
  • 4-5 leaves of fresh basil (OK to sub other fresh or dried herbs)
  • 1-2 tbsp honey (I use cowgirl “honey,” a byproduct of my cowboy pepper relish, because I like sweet heat.)
  • ¼ c wine

Process

  • Saute onion and pepper 2-3 minutes.
  • Add squash, zucchini, tomatoes, and basil.
  • Continue to cook on high/med high another 2-3 minutes.
  • Add basil, honey, and wine.
  • Stir and cook on high for 1-2 minutes.
  • Cover and simmer until vegetables are tender (about 10 minutes).
  • EAT!
squash and zucchini

Drizzle with honey.

© Copyright Pennie Nichols. All Rights Reserved. 2016

Greens: Don’t Toss Them Out!

Toss those greens in a pot!!

I’m not just talking about the mustard and collard greens you might get from your CSA. You can also cook and eat that frock of greens on your CSA turnips, carrots, beets, and radishes.

If you’re not a fan of greens boiled with a ham hock, onions, and garlic, try cooking them with bulk sweet Italian sausage. This week our Luckett Farms CSA stash included turnips, carrots, and radishes. I cut off the greens that came with them and cooked them in a one-pot dish. Why would I do that? They are tasty and good for me! They are rich in protein and fiber. They’re also a natural source of vitamins A, B6, C, K, magnesium, and other nutrients., and generally more nutritive than the root that they top. Don’t believe me? Read the green bio!

Here’s something like a recipe you can use as a guideline, and it only takes about 45 minutes.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion: chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic: minced
  • 1 red bell pepper: chopped
  • 1 turnip: diced
  • 2 lbs loose sweet Italian sausage
  • 4-6 c. chopped greens: chopped (I used turnip greens, carrot tops, and radish leaves.)
  • 3 c. chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1.5 c. rice

Process:

ribs of the greens

Ribs of the greens

  1. One medium high to high heat, saute onion, garlic, pepper, turnip, and the ribs of the greens, until vegetables are tender. About 5 minutes.
  2. Add sausage. Break up the sausage as you brown it. About 5 minutes.
  3. Add greens, stirring to smother and wilt them in the sausage and vegetable mix. About 2 minutes.
  4. Add stock and bring to boil.
  5. Add rice. Bring to boil then reduce to simmer.
  6. Simmer 20 minutes (longer if using brown rice).

Serve as a main dish or a meaty side.

© Copyright Pennie Nichols. All Rights Reserved. 2016

DIY Skin Care Part 2: Oily Starters

4 DIY skin care recipes to get you started

I started dabbling in DIY  household recipes as well as DIY skin care two and a half years ago. Although information, advice, and recipes are abundantly available on the Internet, navigating them can be treacherous.

Oily Starters is the second of three posts to ease others simplify into the DIY skin care revolution. Also check out Oily Pantry (a list of staple oils, butters, and waxes for DIY skin care) and Oily Personals (oil information to help you choose the best ones for you).

If navigating the plethora of information wasn’t sufficiently daunting for me, the recipes were. Even when I cook or bake, I can’t bring myself to faithfully follow a single recipe. I review three, four, sometimes more, recipes, and then go to the kitchen to synthesize or “process.”

Cooking by process in lieu of recipe allows me to use of what I have in my pantry and make substitutions. It also gives me the freedom to tweak whatever I’m preparing based on my mood or hankering. Extracting the process from skin-care recipes, however, took me longer than usual because the ingredients were not as familiar as garlic and tomato paste.

The first process I adopted was for dry, itchy skin, and it has become my most popular post: Dry Itchy Skin? Try This First.

The four processes provided here are a synthesis of recipes and information from some of my favorite DIY sites. Whether you need a jump start to launch your DIY adventure or a little affirmation or redirection for the journey you’re on, I hope these Oily Starters along with the Oily Pantry and the Oily Personals help you develop your own, personalized creams, lotions, and washes.

1. Basic Cream: Whipped Face/Body Cream

Getting the right consistency and texture for lotions, creams, and body bars is a challenge. I followed some recipes faithfully and ended up with lotions that separated. Sometimes the bars were more like creams, and the creams more like bars. Finally I found posts about a process that works for me:

melt → mix → chill → whip

The first recipe I found and tried was from Trash is for Tossers. Now I use a similar process for most of my lotions and creams.

 You’ll need

  1. Double boiler (or a heat resistant bowl that fits tightly atop one of your pots)
  2. Mixer
  3. Base and Additional Ingredients that are right for you
  4. Tub or jar to store it

 Base Ingredients

  • 1 part Coconut Oil 
  • 1 part Carrier Oil (select depending on use and needs)
  • 1 part Shea or Cocoa Butter
  • 1 tbsp. Beeswax granules or flakes for each cup of the oil/butter trio

Additional (optional) Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp. Vitamin E Oil for each cup of Base
  • 1 tbsp. Vegetable Glycerin for each cup of Base
  • 5-10 drops Essential Oils per cup of Base

Instructions

  1. In your double boiler, mix and melt the Base Ingredients, along with Vitamin E Oil and Glycerin (if you’re using them). Don’t overheat the mixture, but make sure the Beeswax is melted.
  2. Remove from heat, cover, and place in the refrigerator for at least one hour. Allow the mixture to harden.
  3. After the mixture hardens, take it out and break up the surface a bit.
  4. Add the Essential Oils you’ve chosen.
  5. Whip until you get a creamy, fluffy texture.
  6. Store in a sterilized container (I use re-purposed food tubs with lids that close well).

Notes

  • makeshift double boilerIf you don’t have a double boiler, place a heat resistant bowl over a pot (make sure it doesn’t the bottom).
  • I modify this basic recipe to make Face Cream, Body Cream, Foot Cream, and Lotion Bars.
  • Using different oils, I tweak the recipe to target specific problems or outcomes: thin skin for my mom, mosquito/insect repellent because I live in Louisiana, anti-fungal for feet, anti-aging for my mid-life face.

2. Eye Cream

Although the Basic Cream process can be tweaked to make eye cream, I generally prefer a simpler eye treatment.

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp. Coconut Oil
  • 1 tsp. Vitamin E Oil
  • 1 tbsp. Primrose Oil
  • 3-5 drops Essential Oils (one or a combination of Lavender, Frankincense,  Ylang Ylang, Geranium, Chamomile, Cypress)

Instructions

  • Combine all ingredients in a small mixing bowl or cup.
  • Whip.
  • Store in a sterilized container.

Notes

  • While this recipe is attractive due to its simplicity, keep in mind that coconut oil melts if the ambient temperature reaches about 76oF. If you prefer creamy vs. liquid eye treatment, store it in a cool cabinet or the refrigerator during warmer months.
  • This eye cream can also be used as eye makeup remover.
  • Tiny jelly or baby food jars and contact eye lens cases are great for storing eye cream.

3. Face Wash Oil

I still remember the scent of my grandmother’s cold cream. As a child I had wondered why she would use creams to clean her face. Shouldn’t she use soap? But cream- and oil-based cleaners are actually very effective, even for skin with acne problems.

Ingredients

  • 1 part Carrier Oil (e.g., Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Jojoba, Avocado)
  • 1 part Castor Oil (Wellness Mama also uses Hazelnut Oil)
  • a few drops of Essential Oil (e.g., Lavender)

Instructions

  • Mix in a sterilized jar or bottle.
  • Before each use:
    • Shake.
    • Pour about 1 tbsp. into hand.
    • Apply, massaging into your face.
    • Remove with a wet warm or hot washcloth.

Notes

  • Several DIY bloggers/sites offer oil-based face wash recipes, but I think Wellness Mama does the best job explaining the practice.
  • I use one part EV Olive and one part Castor Oils (my skin is normal).
  • For dry skin, use less Castor oil and more of the carrier oil.
  • For oily skin, the inverse: more carrier oil and less Castor oil.
  • Don’t mix more than about 1 to 2 cups total. Carrier oils have a shorter shelf life than essential oils.

4. Foaming Face Wash

This recipe comes from one of my favorite DIY sites, Body Unburdened.

Ingredients

  • 1 c Water (preferably filtered)
  • ¼ c Liquid Castile Soap
  • 5 tsp. Carrier Oil (Jojoba, Safflower, Sunflower)
  • 2 tbsp. raw Honey
  • 1 tbsp. Tea Tree Oil
  • 15 drops Lemon Essential Oil

Instructions: 

  • Pour the ingredients in your container.
  • Shake.
  • You’re done!
  • To use:
    • Pour about 1 tblsp. into palm.
    • Massage into face.
    • Rinse.

Notes

  • I initially made this for my children because it targets acne. Eventually, I made some for myself because I love the way it makes my skin feel.
  • I alternate washing my face with this and the Face Wash Oil.
  • I often substitute out the Jojoba oil for Avocado or Grape Seed Oil.
  • Sometimes I use Lavender Essential Oil with or instead of the Lemon Essential Oil.
  • Body Unburdened uses a pump for the foamy wash. I usually pour mine into a sterilized plastic dish-soap bottle, which doesn’t shatter in the shower.

Part 1: Oily Pantry

Part 3: Oily Personals

Copyright © Pennie Nichols, 2016. All Rights Reserved.

Thanksgiving Leftovers

Part 1: A circle of thanksgiving

We stand in a circle holding hands, a tradition that evolved in my parents’ home from a combination two traditions, leftovers, if you will: grace before a meal and gratefuls during meals.

Boil these down for gumbo tomorrow.

Every link in our circle has suffered at least one wrench or break from another link in this circle. Yet, here we are. “First, we’ll take turns expressing what we’re grateful for . . . It can be anything,” to ease the younger links into the tradition.

“I’m thankful for this family . . . “

Gratitude has become a bandwagon for those anxious to reap the emotional, spiritual, as well as fiduciary benefits of thankfulness. Rewire your brain! Relieve stress. Improve sleep. Improve relationships. I ride that bandwagon. Gratitude helps me deal with leftovers of relationships, disasters, even meals.

What are we going to do with all of these potatoes?

In gratitude we push away shortcomings to focus on our strengths, we see beyond our losses to be joyful for our blessings, we displace grudges with forgiveness.

“I’m grateful for this time together . . .”

We acknowledge that, like all families, there have been unfortunate turns in our family. Ours comes back to this circle of thanksgiving, woven with the strength of our love for each other, the joy of the blessings we share, and the magic of forgiveness. And food.

Can we freeze the rest of the cranberry relish?

Thankfulness in many ways is magical. When divides —whether political, religious, social, or emotional— feel irreparably deep, gratitude for the leftover goodness mends, a circle of thankfulness bridges gaps between us.

“I’m grateful to be included in this family.”

We all have at least one thing in common, at least one thing we can be grateful for together.

How many pies?

I’m thankful for common ground.

“. . . and for the children, who are present and engaged.”

My dad closes the circle of gratitude with a prayer.

” . . . and for these blessings, we give thanks.”

We squeeze hands and chime in “Amen” before we dig in and begin creating . . . the leftovers.

Part 2: Leftovers

Stacks of dishes, naps on recliners, impossible puzzles, long walks through the fields, disappointing football games, and then the question.

What should I do with this?

For those of you who tuned in for leftover recipes, here are a few ideas.

Turkey Gumbo

In Louisiana, we often pull the okra and sausage out of the freezer and cook up a pot of turkey gumbo on Black Friday. Online recipes for exact ingredients and measurements are plentiful. This is the basic process.

  • Start with a stock.
    • Boil the bones alone or with some herbs (bay leaf, oregano, for example) and vegetable scraps (onion ends and skin, a head of garlic cut down the middle).
  • Make a roux.
    • About 1 cup each of flour and vegetable oil for a big pot of gumbo.
    • Slowly heat the flour in the pot until it becomes golden.
    • Add oil and whisk until it blends smoothly with the flour.
    • Continue to heat slowly until the roux is dark.
  • Add vegetables.
    • Add chopped onion, bell pepper, and celery (1-2 cups of each).
    • Once these are soft, follow with minced garlic (4-5 cloves).
  • Add the stock, leftover (and chopped) turkey, Andouille sausage medallions (Italian sausage will do), sliced okra (1-2 cups), and 2-4 tbsp of Worcester sauce (to taste).
  • Season (salt, cayenne, Tabasco, black pepper) to taste.
  • Bring the gumbo to a boil, then simmer for 20-30 minutes.
  • Serve with rice.

Dressing BallsThanksgiving-2

If you end up with extra dressing or stuffing, make dressing croquettes.

  • Work a beaten egg into a bowl of about 3 cups of dressing.
  • Form balls (slightly bigger than a golf ball).
  • Optional: Fill the balls with cranberry relish or any compatible leftover.
    • Poke a hole.
    • Fill.
    • Reclose.
  • Cook for about 5 minutes:
    • To fry, roll in a little flour then deep fry.
    • To bake, place on cooking sheets and bake at 400º.
    • To air fry, place balls in Airfryer and cook at 330º.

Sweet Potato Chips

Leftover baked sweet potatoes?

  • Slice the cooked sweet potatoes about ¼ inch thin.
  • Season to taste (salt and cayenne or cinnamon and brown sugar).
  • Cook.
    • 300º for 10 minutes in Airfryer.
    • Deep fry for 2-3 minutes.
    • 400º for 10-15 minutes in the oven.

I was the last to leave my parents’, which means my mom filled my car with the leftovers she didn’t want. As I repurposed the turkey, dressing, potatoes, and relish, I reminisced about the week our family spent together. I’m grateful for that leftover lagniappe.

 

Copyright © 2015 by Pennie Nichols, All Rights Reserved.

My CSA Adventure: The First Five Weeks

CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture.

I joined one for the first time this year. My excitement was met with:

  • But you already have a garden!
  • Your mom has a garden!
  • You frequent the farmers’ market!
  • Why!?

CSA Week 4That didn’t stop me. I’m finishing up my fifth week of waxed boxes and so far the only vegetable that escaped me was a cucumber. At week five, I have just two regrets: that slimy cucumber and week 3 (out of town and missed my box).

For general information and history about CSAs, visit Local Harvest.

This post is about my CSA experience, the content of my waxed boxes, and how I used it.

My CSA is Luckett Farms. I found out about them through friends who were already participating in the program. When I knocked on the garden gate, the CSA was in mid-season and not taking any new members. While I waited to join the next season, I read about the program and decided which box size best suited our empty nest.

Luckett Farms offers three share sizes: Senior, Average, and Abundant. I chose Average Share.

  • But you already have a garden!
  • Your mom has a garden!
  • You frequent the farmers’ market!
  • Why!?

Disregarding the possibility that I was biting off more than we could chew, I chose Average Share. I’m a little greedy. I wanted at least one of each thing. I had a couple of habits in my favor: I cook almost every day and I can and dehydrate produce at least once a month, sometimes weekly. If push came to shove, I could shove what we couldn’t consume, can, or dehydrate into our upright freezer. (Note: These are important strategies for CSA members).

My first pick-up day finally arrived. My friend, another veggie aficionada, went with me to claim my first box.

“That’s it?” my friend moaned. She rapped on the door of the home (maybe they can explain). No one answered. She peaked into several boxes as I retrieved my notes from the car.

“Yep. That’s it. That’s the right size.” We were both a little disappointed.

When I returned home, I decided to document my CSA venture because I knew the question was coming: “Did we save money by doing this?”

CSA Box 2

Week 2 of the CSA: the box almost doubled in size, and included locally grown rice!

I pulled out my scale and measured. This first box had eight items of fresh produce weighing a total of 6 pounds and 9.11 ounces. Luckett Farms promises at least eight items. They had delivered that, plus honey, a packet of seasonings, and a couple of recipes. I spoke with a friend who had participated in the CSA. She reassured me that the content of the boxes would vary from week to week not only in selection, but in abundance. (Note: The Local Harvest’s tips is an important read for potential CSA members.)

I took heart. I had already concluded that, even though my first “harvest” was less than I had expected, it was worth the $25 dollars. Based on my friend’s experience, I could expect more abundant harvests in future boxes.

I continued to weigh and document my harvests, except week 3 (dang it!), which, according to the newsletter, included mixed greens, scalloped or patty pan squash, and red beans.

What did I find in the boxes I did collect? Here it is in a nutshell box. To my delight, the number of items and total weight increased each week.

CSA-table-week-1-5-A

Except for one badly bruised tomato in week 4, and stings” on a squash, the produce was beautiful and fresh. We consumed (or stored) all but the one cucumber that turned on me.

This is what we did with our super-fresh vegetables.

CSA-table-week-1-5-applicat

We started out with loads of okra. When I have more than I can use, I typically dehydrate it, then grind it to use as a thickener for soups. Because my dehydrator bit the dust on week 1, I discovered grilled okra. This recipe from Southern Living includes a dipping sauce.

We enjoyed zucchini and squash (also plentiful) grilled, smothered, stir-fried, and in soups and salads. Some recipes I applied:

Cowboy candy and syrup

Cowboy candy and cowgirl syrup

Week 5 has been the most impressive box so far. The most celebrated members of this box were the corn and eggplant. We boiled and ate the corn straight. So sweet! The huge eggplant was perfect! I read five or six eggplant lasagna recipes, then made my own version of mostly this recipe, adding ground turkey and substituting mozzarella and Asiago cheese for the typical ricotta/egg mixture.

My friends get a giggle when I tell them there are peppers in my box. My thing is peppers. Pepper jellies, pepper sauces, pepper relishes, dehydrated peppers, roasted peppers, and it goes on. So what did I do with those jalapeños in my box when I already had a few in the fridge, and many still growing in the garden? I rounded up all my jalapeños and made my own version of Cowboy Candy or candied jalapeños. I have a jar full of leftover jalapeño syrup, which will be great for grill glazing or for that interesting oomph in a dish.

I still have a little time to cook up my sweet potatoes (although they will keep quite a while) and scalloped squash before I pick up box 6.

Am I pleased so far with my venture? You betcha! As I collect weeks 6 through 14, I’ll continue to document the harvests, and maybe I’ll follow-up with more recipes. If you’re considering joining a CSA,  I hope this information helps. Keep in mind, CSA models vary, so study up before you sign up.

Copyright © 2015 by Pennie Nichols, All Rights Reserved.