November 26, 2007

Week 12

Since we’re family, let me share a couple of personal experiences from the last few days.
Last Saturday, our son Erik competed in a Strong Man event which we attended in Las Vegas. You know where they flip 800 lb. tires and see how far they can carry 350 lbs in each hand. (they call that the “farmers walk” so he better be good at that one) They see how fast they can carry 820 lbs 80 feet and pick up 380 lb concrete balls. A national event with 60 competitors where he took 8th. You can meet Erik on the website.
On Sunday, my grandpa passed away at 96. He lived my whole life 3 miles east. A favorite destination to ride my horse to or spend the night with cousins. I believe there are 92 of us kids, grandkids, great grandkids, great-great grand kids and spouses mostly living within a few miles of Kingsburg. He set a tremendous example of hard work and character.
Now back to the Organic stuff and specifically the chicken we’ve started offering as an add-on. I always want to be direct, frank and honest so, here’s the challenge we have. The Pitman’s package the chickens in a case with either so many chickens or trays of parts (breasts, drumsticks, etc) per case. They are packaged with the specs that you see on the web and that means there’s a defined range of weight in a package. Abundant Harvest pays by the weight of the case. You, our beloved subscribers however are charged by the average weight of the individual packages or bird. What that means in plain English is that one time you might get one that’s a bit bigger than average (good deal) and the next, one that’s smaller (bad deal). If you buy 10 over time, you’ll be cool, but any given week any subscriber will vary. If you can live with that, I can tell you the exact same product at that other unnamed purveyor of of Organic products that rhymes with role roods would cost 40% more. If you can’t live with it, I understand.
As we grow, and increase volume, I’m sure we can narrow the spec. For now, on average, this is a great deal for Organic free range chicken.
We’ve discontinued the whole chicken temporarily in favor of parts, but if enough want ‘em back, let us know.
It will be after Thanksgiving when you read this, but a genuine attitude of deep gratitude has never been more necessary or more called for than by us right now in this place where we find ourselves. An attitude of gratitude sets the stage for hope and true joy that will lift and encourage.
Eat healthy! Vernon

“You are what you eat”
Victor Lindlahr, Nutritionist

The beautiful leaves of the kale plant provide more nutritional value for fewer calories than almost any other food around. One cup of kale contains just 36.4 calories, but provides 192.4% of the daily value for vitamin A, 88.8% of the daily value for vitamin C, and 27% of the day’s needs for manganese.
Kale should be wrapped in a damp paper towel, placed in a plastic bag and stored in the refrigerator crisper. It should not be washed before storing since this may cause it to become limp. Kale can be kept in the refrigerator for several days, but the longer it is stored, the more bitter its flavor becomes. Kale needs thorough cooking as it will be unpleasantly chewy if only barely cooked. Here are a few hints for ways to prepare your kale.
Sauté with fresh garlic and sprinkle with lemon juice and olive oil before serving.
Braise chopped kale with apples. Before serving, sprinkle with balsamic vinegar and chopped walnuts.
Combine chopped kale, pine nuts and feta cheese with whole grain pasta drizzled with olive oil.
Steamed kale is a wonderful topping for homemade pizza.

Don’t forget to log on and give us your opinion of what you got in your box this week.

Leeks have a more delicate and sweeter flavor than onions, and they add a subtle touch to recipes without overpowering the other flavors that are present.
Fresh leeks should be stored unwashed and untrimmed in the refrigerator, where they will keep fresh for between one and two weeks. Wrapping them loosely in a plastic bag will help them to retain moisture.
Leeks may be frozen after being blanched for two to three minutes, although they will lose some of their desirable taste and texture qualities. Leeks will keep in the freezer for about three months.
Add finely chopped leeks to salads. Put them in broth and stews for extra flavoring, or add sliced leeks to your favorite omelet or frittata recipe.

Not only are boiling onions great cooked whole in stews and pot roasts, try them whole on the skewer when you are cooking kabobs. Alternate them with mushrooms and a meat of your choice.

Here is what you will find in this week’s box.
-Baby Beets*
-Nantese Carrots
-French Breakfast Radishes
-Red Russian Kale*
-Italian Sweet Peppers
-Red Leaf Lettuce
-Red Butter Head Lettuce*
-Junior Bunch Turnips*
T & D Willey, Madera
-Russet Potatoes
-Boiling Onions
Family Farm, Madera
-Butternut Squash
Dynasty Farms, Salinas
-Satsuma Mandarin Oranges
John France, Porterville
-Crimson Royal Seedless Grapes
The Peterson Family, Kingsburg
*Denotes Abundant Box Only
Contents may vary due to availability on date of delivery.

This Week's Recipe
1 Butternut squash halved lengthwise and seeded
2 Tsp brown sugar or maple syrup
2 Tsp butter
Salt and pepper
Preheat Oven to 400º
Place Butternut squash halves on a large baking sheet flesh side up, Place 1 Tsp of butter in the middle of each half. Sprinkle with brown sugar or drizzle with maple syrup. Season with salt and pepper. Roast for 25 min., until fork tender.

1 Butternut Squash seeded
Salt and pepper
1 ½ cups chopped onion
3/4 lb smoked sausage or kielbasa cut into ¼ inch pieces
2 cups corn kernels
1 Tbsp chopped parsley
2 Tbsp olive oil
8-10 cups chicken stock
1 cup wild rice
1 ½ cups half and half
Preheat oven to 400º
Season the squash with olive oil, salt and pepper. Place on a baking sheet and roast until fork tender. Remove from oven and cool completely. In a blender or food processor, puree the squash with 2 cups of the chicken stock. Puree until smooth and set aside.

In a saucepan, over medium heat, bring 4 cups of the stock and ½ cup of the chopped onions to a simmer. Stir in the rice and cook until the rice is tender and the liquid is absorbed, about an hour, stirring occasionally with fork. Remove the rice from the pan and cool. In a large saucepan, add the
remaining oil, heat up and add sausage and brown. Add remaining onion and the corn. Season with salt and pepper. Sauté. Add the remaining chicken stock and squash puree. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium, cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Skim off any fat that may rise to the surface. Stir in the rice and continue to cook for 10 min. Remove from the heat, stir in the half and half and season if needed. Stir in parsley and serve.

November 17, 2007

Week 11

What a great day this has been. My friend Paul and I went on a leisurely expedition to Weaver Lake. We’d never done leisurely before. About an hour hike at 8,700’. Caught some fish, laughed and had a great day. Got home, checked the website and what do you know? You all can now go on and see what’s coming this week. A bit like shaking the presents under the tree before Christmas to see what you’re going to get. If you don’t want the surprise spoiled, don’t peek. But this knowledge could help when you’re making a shopping list. But wait, there’s more!! You can also rate the items in last week’s box both for quality and quantity. This is sooo important. Just yesterday I had a friend tell me they were getting too many potatoes, and I got an email saying “we need more potatoes” I can guarantee we can’t nail it for everybody every time, but this is your deal every bit as much as ours and we take very seriously your comments and suggestions. Now we have a mechanism to quantify this input which will help Abundant Harvest to better reflect your needs and desires.
I hope your Thanksgiving is filled with friends and family and all the people you love. Mostly I hope that Thanksgiving could be a part of our daily lives throughout the year.
Eat healthy! Vernon

As Vernon told you there are some new and exciting things available to you. Right now your Subscription Dashboard is your key to these tools. Our hope is that you will participate fully in this venture by using them. To see what is in this week’s large box and small box you simply log in and on your Subscription Dashboard you will see a button labeled “View Case Contents”. This information will be available for the previous week, and you will be able to view the current week by Tuesdays, after all of our ordering is complete. Soon “View Case Contents” will be available from the Home Page also, so you will not have to log in to see this information.
Once your delivery day has passed you will be able to go to your Subscription Dashboard where you will see a button labeled “How Are We Doing?” When you select this button, you will be provided a list of what was in your box, and given the opportunity to rate each item individually for quality and quantity. At the bottom of that page is an area for you to tell us, in your own words, what you loved and what could have been better. Not only does this help us, but the ratings and your comments will be passed on to the farmers so they know where they can make improvement. Vernon alluded to it and we are very aware of that old adage “You can’t make all of the people happy all of the time”, but without your input we won’t know what makes the majority happy.
Soon we will have a testimonial page that newcomers will be able to view on the website. These testimonials will be taken directly from your comments.
As is evidenced by the number of orders, many of you have figured out how to select add-ons. For those of you who have not visited that area of the site, this too is done through your Subscription Dashboard. Where you see the option “Edit This Week” you can select that button and it will take you to a list of the add-ons available for the coming week. You simply enter the quantity you would like to receive and the site will do the rest. You will be charged, when your regular subscription is charged, on Monday morning. It is for that reason that your add-on orders must be placed prior to 9:00 am on Monday morning.
Very soon another exciting addition will be our Recipe Pages. They will be available from the Home Page and will be categorized by the main commodity used as an ingredient in the recipe. This will give you access to recipes previously included on the Fresh Facts Newsletter, and to additional recipes that will be posted there.
Many of you have asked to have previous newsletters available to you online. We have heard you and that option is currently being developed by our web design team. We hope you enjoy, and will use, these new tools to improve your experience as we journey together to improve the way our families eat, and at the same time support the family farmers that grow the food for our health and pleasure

Those flavorful turnip greens can’t go to waste. Whether braised, used as part of a soup, or folded into pasta, these greens are full of flavor and nutrients. Turnip greens contain high levels of vitamin A, vitamin C, and folate. Once they are cut from the turnip they should be used quickly; they will stay fresh for two days in the refrigerator if wrapped in a paper towel and stored in a plastic bag. If they do become wilted chop them finely and use them in a soup.
After removing the stems and heavy ribs, place the leaves in cold water in the sink. Let them stand a few minutes to loosen grit and sand. Repeat this procedure, several times if necessary, depending on how gritty the leaves are.

Store turnips, unwashed, in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Here is what you will find in this week’s box.
-Fuyu Persimmons
Olsson Family, Kingsburg
-Fuji Apples
Ridder & Son, Watsonville
Bunny Organics, Salinas
-Loose Carrots
Wm Bolthouse, Bakersfield
-Yellow Onion
Dynasty Farms, Salinas
-Green Beans
-Italian Parsley*
- Butter Head Lettuce*
T & D Willey, Madera
Doreva Produce, Livingston
-Crimson Royal Seedless Grapes
The Peterson Family, Kingsburg
*Denotes Abundant Box Only
Contents may vary due to availability on date of delivery.

Peel, quarter and boil your turnips with your potatoes.
Add boiled turnips to your mashed potatoes.
Substitute turnips for potatoes in your turkey soup.
Many vegetables are delicious when cut up, drizzled with olive oil, seasoned with salt and pepper and roasted on a cookie sheet at 400º. Try mixing several together. Vegetables that work well are turnips, yams, potatoes, green beans, onions, and garlic. Use your imagination!
Add garnishes like pine nuts, slivered almonds or pecans to your vegetables before serving them.

This Week's Recipe
6 cups cooked and mashed yams
4 eggs
2-12 ounce cans evaporated milk
2 cups sugar
2 sticks butter
2 Tsp vanilla

2 sticks butter, melted
1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
2 cups brown sugar

Place yam mixture in a 9 x 13 buttered dish (Cut recipe in half for an 8 X 8), sprinkle topping over yam mixture and bake in a 350º oven for 25 minutes.

“Not what we say about our blessings, but how we use them, is the true measure of our thanksgiving.”
W. T. Purkiser

Happy Thanksgiving

November 12, 2007

Week 10

I’m going to be a bit more verbal this week because there’s just so much to cover.
FUYU persimmons are the Chinese type. They’re sweet and crisp and you eat ‘em like an apple. (honest). They’ll also keep a month as table decorations.
If you’re new (1 month instead of 2) our family has been farming here in Kingsburg about 115 years. We grow stone fruit, (peaches, plums, nectarines apricots) table grapes and chickens. There’s a lot we don’t know, but I’m going to speak about what I do know from daily experience and what we’re trying to accomplish here with Abundant Harvest Organics.

Organic farming is all about the soil. This is a most important and most overlooked key. We are privileged managers of this living world beneath our feet. The compost and amendments we use to feed the soil provide a complete living nutrient rich diet for this world. What you’re enjoying so much each week tastes so great and is so nutritious because it’s coming from a nutrient rich living soil. You are experiencing nutrient density plus freshness that your taste buds rejoice over. I could have told you that 2 months ago, but it never would have resonated the same. However, the greatest benefit of Organic produce in my opinion is the lack of fungicides. Everybody talks about pesticides and herbicides, but fungicides are applied post harvest to keep produce from spoiling. If it kills microbes on the produce, it’s gotta kill ‘em in your gut as well and the microbes in the gut are the center of your immune system.
Now, let’s talk about organic chicken. What’s the difference, and why the price? Well, there’s the stuff anybody would think of. The feed they eat is organically grown, and costs almost double. They’re “free range” (a weasel word because legally any bird that’s not in a cage is free range). But here’s the bigger deal. *These chickens are fed a “vegetarian diet” so we don’t blend in animal protein. That gives you a more natural leaner chicken.
*They’re much healthier. We’ve got no plan B with their health, so the production focus shifts from feed conversion to bird health. As an example, on our home ranch, we have 65,000 chickens where we used to grow 100,000 but we also give them outdoor access. When I was there yesterday afternoon, 90% of them were outside pecking and scratching and taking dust baths and basically “being chickens”. Their color was bright. My manager had the feed shut off because “they’re all outside”. Birds that are eating less are gaining less, and they’re taking longer to achieve market weight. But they’re healthier by far.
*No antibiotics. That’s the reason we have no plan B. If we crowd ‘em or let litter conditions deteriorate, we can’t medicate. If the flock does get sick and we have to medicate, that flock goes to conventional which means you’ve got 250% higher feed cost coupled with ½ the yield/sq’d (less birds +slower gain) yet you’re paid conventional which =’s economic suicide. Healthy, healthy, healthy is the only way it works. And folks, just like the fungicides on the produce, the greatest benefit, in my opinion from our organic chicken is the absence of antibiotics.
My friend Sherri Glaum uses
exactly the same approach with her Organic eggs.

Why are we doing this crazy thing anyhow?
When I’d talk to people, especially moms, about Organic food, there was an excitement usually followed by “it just costs too much and the quality and flavor are disappointing”. I thought “If we could take these products straight from the farm to the fork in a day or two that would solve the flavor problem and if we could bypass all of the unnecessary packaging and unnecessary distribution costs I bet we could deliver Organic at the price of conventional. We could with one project make healthier families and healthier farms and restore a connectedness between the two that’s been missing at least two generations now.”
Well, we’re going. This week has been especially trying for Kathy because of the add-ons. It seems that every solution creates its own problem in e-world. Stuff that worked quit or messed up. All of you got messages and charges and vacations and who knows what all that have created a full time job for her to sort out and help debug. I’m sure you can see we’re working real hard to progress. Know that anything wrong will be fixed. You have my word on it. Also let Kathy know how much you appreciate what she’s doing. Tal and I get to have all the fun meeting you and passing out the goodies. She’s stuck all day dealing with problems she didn’t create and can only bring to the web guy’s attention. They are building a very sound web product and there’s not a good model for adding weekly one time orders to recurring orders so they’re working from scratch. (That’s their story anyway) Here’s where we really need even more of your help. This is entering a critical period as we embrace the add-ons and I want to continue to be as honest and open and frank as we’ve always been with each other. If we need a lot of product from a farmer, he will rearrange his harvest schedule, and bring it to us in a reusable container that keeps our cost down while his return is up. Win/win. If we need a little bit of product, we get it from his broker at their distribution center in standard packaging. Lose/lose. Bottom line folks we intend with your help to change the way America produces and sources its food. Our little white truck doesn’t look like much in the face of giant food chains but it’s a start and this project you’re participating in is worthy and righteous from any angle you want to slice it. We are going south from Kingsburg first and expect to be in southern California after Thanksgiving. Share the dream with your family over Thanksgiving dinner. You love ‘em and they deserve the best. Take them to the website enter their credit card # and they’ll have one more thing to add to the “I’m thankful for…” list next year. By the way, we’ve got a few fresh Organic Turkeys available for next week’s delivery so get ‘em while you can. We’re also supposed to have “rate the produce” on the website in a day or two which will be critical information for our farmers and us so we can keep improving. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your support and patience.
Eat Healthy! Vernon

Spaghetti squash can be stored at room temperature for about a month. After cutting, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate up to 2 days. Spaghetti squash also freezes well. Pack cooked squash into freezer bags, seal, label and freeze. Partially thaw and then steam for about 5 minutes.

Here is what you will find in this week’s box.
-Field Tomatoes
Chateau Fresno, Caruthers
-Colossal Garlic
Christopher Ranch Organics, Gilroy
-1 liter Carrot Juice*
Wm Bolthouse, Bakersfield
-Fuyu Persimmons
Olsson Family, Kingsburg
-Crimson Royal Seedless Grapes
-Royal Autumn Grapes
The Peterson Family, Kingsburg
-Braeburn Apples
Ridder & Son, Watsonville
-Sweet Basil
-Romaine Lettuce*
T & D Willey, Madera
-Russet Potatoes
Family Farm, Madera
-Spaghetti Squash
-Red Onion
-Red Leaf Lettuce
Dynasty Farms, Salinas
*Denotes Abundant Box Only
Contents may vary due to availability on date of delivery.

Be sure to check out the add-ons available for next week’s delivery. Orders must be placed by 9:00 am on Monday.

This Week's Recipe
1 Spaghetti Squash
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt & freshly ground pepper
Approx 4 cups marinara sauce

Preheat Oven to 450º
Split the squash in half and scrape out the seeds. Line an oven tray with foil. Season the spaghetti squash with olive oil, salt and pepper. Place flesh side down and roast for 30-40 minutes until fully cooked. Remove from the oven and let rest until cool enough to handle.

When squash is cool enough to handle, using a fork, flake out the strands of squash from the inside of the skin. It should appear like spaghetti. Heat marinara sauce (Alfredo sauce, sautéed vegetables such as mushrooms, tomatoes, broccoli, onion, garlic, and carrots; and shrimp sautéed in garlic and butter garnished with grape tomatoes also make great toppings for spaghetti squash) and place on top of the prepared spaghetti squash. Serve as a main dish or a side dish.

Spaghetti squash can also be prepared by placing it in a steamer on top of the stove for approximately the same amount of time or until it can be pierced with a fork.