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Savoring Summer

If you listen closely, you can just start to hear it. It’s the voice of fall whispering. She calls out through the cool mornings and evenings, through the few leaves starting to drop, and through the subconscious longing for apples, pumpkins and warm foods.

For now, I’m not listening. I’m tuning out her voice and soaking in these last beautiful sun-filled days. One of these days I’ll wake up with eagerness to make our annual trip to the orchard. I’ll be dreaming of pumpkin pie and kids in costumes seeking out treats. But not now.

Currently, I’m still enjoying bathing suits, iced tea, and simple meals that taste of summer. The kind of meal where you quickly run in from outside not knowing what to make, but finding yourself with plenty of produce, you have dinner ready in an instant. The one where you forage through your pantry grabbing at a few staples, your imagination going wild and your stomach rumbling in anticipation. These meals are like delicious Kodak moments that I tuck away into an edible memory bank, knowing that I will long for these tastes about six months from now.

I reach for a can of white beans and a jar of sun-dried tomatoes. I grab a zucchini, which I always have on hand and often don’t know what to do with the current bounty. A quick trip outside to my little garden and I have a small handful of rosemary. I open the can, rinse the beans, add a few hefty spoonfuls of the tomatoes and the flavorful oil that comes with it. The rosemary gets a tender mince and all is tasted and adjusted with salt and pepper. On top, a vegetable peeler slices perfectly thin and elegantly long strips of zucchini. If I happen to have feta, goat cheese, or Parmesan on hand, that gets tossed in as well. A hearty tug on a loaf of crusty bread and dinner is served.

All the while the splashing outside continues. The iced tea flows freely and we savor the last burst of heat, the sounds of gleeful laughter ringing throughout the neighborhood, and the tastes of summer. Soon there will be fall, I’m almost ready.

by Ashley Rodriguez

Chef, food blogger, and full-time mom. Read more of her writings at www.notwithoutsalt.com

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Klesick Family Farm Festival

Come on out to Klesick Family Farm and join us for an old fashioned farm celebration!

Saturday, August 20th 10:00am-4:00pm


Celebrate the season with us by enjoying a fun-filled day with live music, wagon rides, a pioneer play area, tug-o-war, balloon toss, gunny sack race, raffle prizes, farm walks, good food, and a produce stand – all set in the picturesque Stillaguamish River Valley.

We’ll also have a farm tour with Tristan so you can see exactly where your fruits and veggies are grown.

Directions: Klesick Family Farm, 24101 Miller Road, Stanwood, WA

For more information, check out our Facebook event and be sure to RSVP!

We look forward to seeing you at the farm!

*Please bring your own picnic blanket or chairs.

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Planning For Gray

Imagine yourself sitting inside this winter, watching the rain drops race one another down the windowpane. The constant drizzle and gray days have come and you now wonder if you’ll remember what the sun looks like or if you’ll ever see it again. The thought of roasting another root vegetable is too much to bare. You dream of drinking cold lemonade on bright green grass, where a sudden shock of cold spray from the sprinkler refreshes and quenches under the heat of the sun. For some reason, the drizzly rain of our winter is nothing like the welcome sprinkler in the summer.

I want you to really think about your future self, sluggishly meandering through those long gray months, when you long for a taste of summer – one of the tastes that we presently have in abundance.

The saying is true: “Live in the moment.” Eat raspberries right off the vine. Bite into a peach so juicy you are forced to eat it over the sink. Pluck peas off the vine. Eat a tomato that has fully ripened on the plant with just a whisper of salt. These are the summer moments you will cling to when the sun fades. Preserve these moments. Soak up as much of our northwest sun as you possibly can. Eat a sweet, juicy apricot now and freeze the rest in order to attain a taste of summer in the winter. Stock up on this bounty, then can it, jam it, pickle it, or freeze it. Your future self will thank you.

Recently, I spotted a 20-pound box of apricots. I had to have it. My husband, ever the realist, pointed out that this is a very busy week and we are leaving on vacation next week. Would I have the time to deal with 20 pounds of fruit? Valid question. But these are apricots – fresh, sweet, local apricots. They might not be around by the time we return from our week-long trip. In my mind there was no option.

I immediately set out to work and a mere two days, pounds of jam, bags of frozen fruit, and three tarts later, I paraded an empty box in front of him.

With a freezer full of rhubarb, strawberries, apricots, and jam I anticipate the cold, gray mornings! I’ll be there, hot coffee in hand, with a slice of butter wheat toast slathered with apricot jam.

by Ashley Rodriguez

Chef, food blogger, and full-time mom. Read more of her writings at www.notwithoutsalt.com

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Lazy Summer Lasagna

Ingredients

  • Fresh pasta sheets, cut into eight 5” squares (note: you can use store-bought lasagna, cooked, cooled slightly, and cut into 5” lengths)
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 small zucchini, sliced thin
  • 1 small yellow squash (or more zucchini), sliced thin
  • 2 cup fresh whole-milk ricotta
  • 3 tablespoons chopped, summer savory (or oregano)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped, basil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tomato, sliced thin

Directions

  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta sheets, two at the time (to prevent sticking), 3-5 minutes until al dente. Transfer, with tongs, to a plate.
  • In a sauté pan, add oil over medium-high heat. Stir in garlic and onions, and cook 5-7 minutes until golden brown, stirring frequently to prevent them from burning. Transfer garlic and onion to a medium bowl, and set aside. In the same sauté pan, add zucchini and summer squash, and cook 6-8 minutes, stirring, until translucent.
  • Add ricotta, summer savory, basil, salt and pepper to the bowl with garlic and onion. Stir well and season to taste.
  • To assemble, place one pasta sheet on a plate. Spread with ricotta-herb mixture. Top with zucchini, summer squash and tomato slices. Finish with an additional pasta sheet, if desired. Season to taste with additional herbs, salt and pepper. Repeat to make a total of four lasagnas.


From www.fresh365online.com

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Bitter, Short, and Ugly

No, the title has nothing to do with my personal description—ummm, I’m not bitter :). It has to do with some of the challenges we faced last week in our effort to bring you the freshest quality organic produce available.

Our goal at Klesick Family Farm is to deliver a box of produce that will “Wow!” our customers and leave them with the feeling that we have served them the way we ourselves would want to be served. Tristan working the crops in his field, Marty coordinating with our suppliers and planning the produce for the week, Mike and Brenda processing hundreds of customer orders, our warehouse crew quickly hand packing a multitude of boxes, and our delivery guys scurrying throughout our region to place a box of good at your doorstep, all have one goal—to serve our customers with perfection.

Now, of course, this perfection of service sometimes gets a bit of interference from Mother Nature and human fingers. Last week, for example, the baby leaf lettuce we planned on using from our farm was bitter so we had to change to regular lettuce. We ended up short on the russet potatoes because we were accidentally sent a few cases of a different type of potato. We also had to cancel many orders for fresh raspberries because, although scrumptious, they arrived partially juiced.

These last minute hiccups usually require us to adjust your order or change what we had planned for your box of produce. We feel badly when these things happen because we know at times they may inconvenience you. But because we will never intentionally send you a wrong or bad product, sometimes we do end up having to make changes in order to serve you well. If we end up having to change an item(s) in your box from what we had originally planned, please know that you are always receiving the same value.

You are why we are in business and to serve you well is our goal. We appreciate your understanding when changes happen as we work to bring you the freshest quality organic produce available.

Wishing you all the best,

Jim Coleman

Office Manager

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Barn Swallows

I love those voracious consumers of insects. Often when I am working with a tractor or my horses there will be squadron of swallows following me around the field.  I notice them more when I am clipping (mowing) pasture. These beautiful birds are fun to watch. It almost reminds me of a Star Wars movie. Here I am on this big tractor motoring my way through acres of grass and my squadron of swallows usually six or seven swooping here and there, darting this way and that.

At one time swallows built their nests in caves, but now they have an affinity for man-made structures. Hence the name barn swallows. I have been systematically adding habitat for wild life on our farm and the increasing populations and variety of feathered friends is impressive and beneficial.  Most birds have a specific function, whether it is an affinity for weed seed, grubs, or flying insects.  Swallows love flies and mosquitoes, and their babies love to eat about every 15 minutes or so.  Some swallows will fly over 600 miles a day on their feeding missions to try and stay off their young ones’ appetite.

My only challenge with swallows is that they have now discovered my front porch! Eeeeeeek! They are welcome to the sides of my barn, the rafters of my stables, but the front porch is not going to work. I definitely don’t want swallows hanging around and making a mess on the front porch, but I definitely do want those insect eating machines living on the farm.  I also know that once that nest gets built, it will be inhabited for generations to come and when those critters have babies they will be dive bombing us every time we leave the house trying to protect their little ones.

So I have been conflicted over how to handle this invasion of good on my porch. We keep knocking down their front porch nesting efforts, but those critters are more determined than a strong-willed two year old! For now, I am going to treat them like a two year old and keep persisting one more time than them.

Working with nature to raise good food,

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The Picnic Basket

I found it in a stack along with other picnic baskets but I immediately knew this was the one. It’s quite rare when you go antiquing with something specific in mind and you walk out with that very thing, and for a good price, I might add. That’s when you know that purchase is meant to be.

Her woven weave is thick, not dainty. The lid closes just slightly askew, letting you know that in her day she was well-loved and frequently used. Her body is deep, leaving plenty of room for a blanket, multiple Tupperware filled with dips, spreads, cheeses, etc. and a nice bottle of wine, if one chooses. She is the color of a hearty loaf of artisan bread and already we love her.

Picnic season is a happy one around here. I am not sure if I love them most because the birds take care of the majority of the clean up or because my favorite meal is a simple one of fresh fruit, fine cheeses, a crusty loaf of bread and a crisp, clean wine.

We don’t travel far for our picnics with many of them being a few inches from out front door but the lure of dining outside remains. The squirrels and crows look on with anticipation just waiting for us to drop a taste for them. Sitting in the midst of our modest garden, I dream of the summer day when the snap peas are at their peak and we can pick our picnic food straight off the vine.

The beauty of food that can be eaten outdoors is that it often can be made well in advance. The best picnic food doesn’t require the extra load of utensils and begs to be scooped up with crackers or bread. Which is what makes this week’s featured recipe – red pepper relish – simply perfect for picnics. With the addition of cream cheese it instantly becomes a sweet and savory spread. Slathered on a tortilla and rolled up with turkey and lettuce you’ll find yourself with an irresistible wrap. Or simply scooped up on a wheaty cracker or a crispy baguette with a pillow-like interior. Without the cream cheese it stores in the fridge for weeks or can easily be made in bulk and then canned.

My family, including our new picnic basket, and I want to wish you all a very happy picnic season!

by Ashley Rodriguez
Chef, food blogger, and full-time mom. Read more of her writings at www.notwithoutsalt.com

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Acid and Alkaline Diet

Spring is here, the weather is warmer and probably the most asked question I get is, “How can I lose weight?” or “Which diet works?” When thinking about losing weight, it’s not always the decreased number on the scale that we are looking for. It is the way it makes us feel: the increased energy, the lithe movements, how our clothes fit and our skin feels. It is not simply the weight but the health too! With so many diets in the media now, how do you know which is the best choice for you?

Well, “diets” never work because they eventually end and we go back to eating the same bad food choice s. When considering weight, health and all those good feelings, a “lifestyle change” is most important. These choices can really vary too, so in my next few articles I will walk you through some interesting diet choices that you may have never thought of.

Acid and Alkaline Balance Diet.  The goal of this diet is to help your body maintain a healthy pH level for all organs and systems to function optimally. This is an interesting theory that I have struggled to understand for years. Many Acid/Alkaline advocates believe that this diet will cure all kinds of diseases. I’m a little more skeptical on that part. We are too complex of a system for it to be that simple. It is imperative, however, that our body maintain its pH; otherwise, cells die…we die. So how could a diet help when our body has so many checks and balances to stabilize pH on its own? Well, some of those checks and balances are dependent on minerals. Where do we get minerals? Our bones, muscles, teeth or our food. If our food isn’t balanced then our body steals what it needs from other areas (bones, muscles and teeth) to correct the imbalance in the blood. So you can see, our health can really decline if our body has to work hard to compensate for our poor food choices.

All foods have acid and alkaline forming properties. Again, it is the balance within that food or meal that matters. Foods that cause an overly acidic condition are foods high in animal fats, animal proteins, sugar and refined grains like white flour products and white rice. Artificial chemicals, flavorings and additives can also create an acidic condition. Foods that increase an alkaline condition are fruits, vegetables and organic whole or sprouted grains. This can be confused with healthy foods that are acidic themselves. Citrus, kiwi and bell peppers contain acids and can be irritating to an ulcer but they create an alkaline condition when absorbed by the body because of other beneficial nutrients. Coffee, alcohol and sugar…well, they are acidic to an ulcer and your body.

Generally, alkaline-forming foods should make up at least 75% of our diet to maintain optimal health. There are many lists available in books and on the internet if you are interested in a further look. My thoughts: alkaline foods are healthy choices, high in nutrients and low in calories, and are non-inflammatory foods. It may be worth a try.

Stay tuned for the next article on the Raw Foods Diet. 

by Rebecca Dirks, N.D.
Associate Physician, NW Center for Optimal Health
Marysville, 360-651-9355
Producer & Co-Host, Healthy Living, KSER FM 90.7

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Know Your Farmer

As a farmer, I need to be a full-time lobbyist for common sense. The USDA and folks in Washington D.C. can create a lot of extra work for us small farmers! One seemingly little law or rule change can seriously impact our lives, farms, and future.  Currently, there is one such proposed bill going through the US Senate and also a rule change being considered for beef cattle and grazing with the USDA.

I’ll admit that I barely have enough time to run the farm, let alone the country! I rely upon a few key groups to highlight the big concerns that require a little more attention. I pay attention to the Cornucopia Institute and American Farmland Trust as my primary sources of information when it comes to healthy food and farmland preservation.

While I am busy raising food, the folks in Washington D.C. are busy making life a little more interesting. Currently, there is a food safety bill going through the US Senate that will do nothing, in my opinion, to improve food safety, but it will certainly be easier for the large food processors and large farms to comply with. Why do most laws seem to benefit the large mutinational corporations?

The same goes for the USDA. Currently, the USDA is considering allowing certified organic beef cows an exemption that allows them to be raised for up to 120 days in a feedlot. This is a rule that is purely being considered to make it easier for feedlot owners to be able to label their animals as certified organic. As a farmer who is concerned for the animal’s welfare and the environment, the feedlot is the last place I would send my animals! (Granted, there are seasons when animals need to be confined, like during heavy rain storms and the wetter months, to protect the grass and grazing pastures during their vulnerable stage.) But this loophole is not designed to protect the environment, it is so the feedlot owners can “finish” the beef before harvesting them in a conventional way and still get the benefit of using the organic label.

I am firmly committed to the “Know your Farmer, Know your Doctor, Know your Mechanic” concept.  The more people with whom we have relationships, the more tangible and authentic the service and/or products will be! This country is too big to expect Washington D.C. to manage or micromanage everything. Somehow, some way, we the citizens need to have more input, and it needs to be at the local level. 

I have posted these two e-mail alerts I received from the Cornucopia Institute on our Box of Good blog: http://blog.klesickfamilyfarm.com/. As a farmer I can respond, but to really affect change I need voters to “chime” in and support local, sustainable farming!  These laws and rule changes affect me as a farmer and my livelihood, but they also affect your health and, potentially,

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Spring!

This time of year is filled with such eagerness and new beginnings. The cold, gray winter is fading fast and we welcome the sunny, cool days of spring. With each coming season new joy and excitement emerges.

For me, spring is marked with the planting of seeds. Our windowsills are lined with little pots studded with seeds of carrots, ground cherries, tomatoes, and spring onions. In our “petite” garden patch we’ve already planted sugar snap peas and arugula. Each day, with anticipation, my sons and I check the status of our seedlings and dream of hot sunny summer days playing outside and eating the sweet-as-candy peas from the vine.

My next step in welcoming spring is rhubarb. Its bright red stalks roasted in the oven with a touch of sugar and orange zest make the most decadent compote that tops anything from ice cream to oatmeal. My mouth puckers at its tart bright flavor and I smile at this memorable taste that, to me, screams spring.

The recipe I have for you this week highlights what this season has to offer. A variety of citron green vegetables are stirred into fresh eggs then topped with cheese and broiled until golden brown. A frittata is the perfect weekday dinner. Served with a simple green salad, this dish is a welcoming light meal after a long winter of heavy and hearty foods. “Frittata” is basically just a fancy way of saying omelette (those Italians always know how to fancy things up a bit). A frittata, however, is usually a bit lighter, as the eggs are whipped more than a traditional omelette. The resulting texture is lighter and more fluffy. Nearly any vegetable can be substituted and diced ham, bacon, or turkey can easily be added. I’m sure you too will add the frittata to your weekly meal plan.

What a joy to live in this beautiful green area that produces an abundance of fresh produce. From the slender, sweet stalks of asparagus to the pungent and peppery garlic greens – I welcome it all with open arms and an open mouth.

by Ashley Rodriquez
Chef, food blogger, and full-time mom. You can read more of her writings at www.notwithoutsalt.com