Wednesday, March 31, 2010

How the heck do I use fennel?

And by fennel, I don't mean fennel seeds, I mean a large, knobby, frond be-topped bulb (see post below to view an actual picture of said bulb).  Well, I'd only ever used it in a potato stew of sorts, something akin to a potato leek soup so I decided to do a search and I found a recipe for Braised Chicken with Fennel, Cherry Tomatoes, and Capers.  It turned out fine, except that the chicken was a little dry...I wonder if that always happens when you braise chicken?  I still consider myself new to this whole cooking game so there's much I don't know about the culinary arts.  The great thing about the meal as a whole was that I got to use my fennel, tomatoes, and asparagus from my bountiful basket.  I added some quinoa made with chicken broth, the chicken (obviously), and some grated Pecorino Romano atop the quinoa (the capers we buy at Costco in bulk because we use them a lot).  The asparagus was lightly steamed with lots of butter and celtic gray salt, and the meal was accompanied by a glass of kombucha.  Quite tasty!  

Oh, and I'm writing all of this as if I cooked it wonderful husband did.  He's a keeper that one.  ;)

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Bountiful Basket Order Day

Today was the order day for Bountiful Baskets in my state so I decided I'd share some pics from last weeks order and describe the process for those interested.

Basically, BB is a group of volunteers who work together to get their fruits and veggies at a discount.  Because the produce is purchased in bulk, they only pay what the grocery store pays...meaning that if you buy the conventional basket (where the fruits and veggies are not organically grown but conventionally grown) you would pay $15 for approximately $50 worth.  Amazing savings right?  On the organic side of things, you would pay $25 for approximately $50 worth.  Still amazing.  Organic produce for 1/2 off what I'd pay in the store.  Sign me up.  There are also some brilliant packages that you can buy along with your basket, that change weekly.

Because BB is not a money making venture, it relies on it's volunteers to get their hands a little dirty.  Here's a quick run down on exactly how it works:

STEP 1:  Go to the website (linked to above) and place/pay for your order on your assigned day.  

STEP 2:  Print out your receipt and stick it in your purse, pocket, man-purse, whathaveyou, so that it is on hand on Saturday, when you'll be picking up your basket.

STEP 3:  If you choose to volunteer, (which you should...seriously...not that hard...just do it...) then get your sorry butt up at the crack of dawn to go to the delivery site on the following Saturday.  Await further instructions which, in a nutshell, are comprised of setting out the baskets, unloading the truck, distributing the food into the appropriate basket pair (one side gets veggies, one side gets fruit...each pair of baskets equals one BB), and thawing your frozen fingers from having just dealt with all those crazy leeks packed in ice.  Oh, and have great conversations with like-minded people while you work.  This is what the organic line of baskets looked like last weekend.  We had 48 basket pairs on our side and 48 basket pairs on the conventional side.  Yes, we were sold out.  In fact, the organic baskets were sold out in 20 minutes when they went on sale, because again, this is an amazing deal.  Here's some pics of the basket parade: 

Pictured below you can see the long line of customers waiting patiently to be able to check in (using their receipts) and pick up their food.  Another advantage of volunteering is that there are always extras once the baskets have been filled.  Guess who gets to take some extras home with them?  That's right...and if you know me at know I loves me some extras.  So I guess that brings me to:

STEP 4:  Pick up your basket and any additional package you ordered.  Bring your reusable bag along as the lovely white laundry baskets pictured are not included in the purchase price.  Go home happy with tasty produce in your car and mo' money in your pocket!

So, pictured below is what we got:  The organic basket for $25 which included asparagus, a ginormous fennel bulb, oranges, apples, bananas, mangoes, tomatoes, strawberries, cucumbers, shallots, a bag of yams and lettuce. For volunteering I got an extra bunch of asparagus, and another bag of oranges.  We also ordered their Honey Whole Wheat bread, 5 loaves for $10 and a case of organic mangoes (20ct) for $8.50.  (Truth be told, I gave my bag of yams to the site coordinator so she could make baby food out of them for her baby.  I hate yams...don't care how good they are for me...bleah.)

Currently, BB is only available in NV, UT, ID and AZ.  I can't imagine that there isn't something like this in your area though and if there isn't, I challenge you to start one up!  If two mamas can get together and start this up with no prior business knowledge or grocery store contacts...anyone can!  This is an amazing service that is being provided to us in these hard economic times and I am extremely grateful for it.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Freezer Paper Stencil Discovery!

So money is tight, and increasingly we rely on hand-me-downs, garage sales, Goodwill treasures, and creativity to fill our needs. My oldest is currently obsessed with Astro Boy and so I was inspired to try out a new technique using materials that were already in my possession: freezer paper, fabric paint, a plain t-shirt, an iron, and the patience to wait for paint to dry.

STEP 1: Find an image that you want to use and trace it onto the matte side of a piece of freezer paper (so put it shiny/plastic side DOWN). I used a lightbox to help me trace but you don't need one if you have enough light.

STEP 2: Using an Xacto knife, carefully cut out the outline of your stencil, and keep any inner detail bits that you'll want to add back in.

STEP 3: Place your t-shirt (or other fabric of your choice) onto your ironing board, place a piece of blank freezer paper inside behind where your image will go (plastic side UP) and lay out your stencil in the position you want it on the shirt. (The reason for the paper inside the shirt is so that it will adhere to the fabric as well and give you a more slip-proof surface on which to paint). Iron it down with your DRY (no steam) iron set on whatever type of fabric you have (I used the cotton setting). This will temporarily adhere the freezer paper to your fabric. Once you have the large outline stencil stuck down, you can take your time laying out the individual detail pieces and ironing them down one at a time. It's better to use a pressing motion with your iron, rather than a traditional back and forth motion which could pull up your stencil edges.

STEP 4: Take a dry brush and, using a stippling motion, fill in your stencil with the fabric paint color of your choosing. Here I used white and ended up putting two coats on. Try not to drag your paintbrush across the fabric so that you don't inadvertently pull up an edge and cause bleeding along your outline.

STEP 5: Wait for paint to dry overnight. This is, by far, the hardest step of all. In fact, it nearly drove me mad...but I persevered and it paid off. The next morning, peel off your freezer paper very carefully. The small detail bits may need a little help from the tip of your Xacto knife to get them off.

STEP 6: Follow your paint's instructions as to how to heat set your image once you're all done. Some you can just throw into the wash (inside out) after 72 hours, some require you to heat set them with a hot iron...make sure you follow their specific directions.

STEP 7: Enjoy the smile on your little one's face when you present them with a custom made shirt with their (current) hero on it. :)