100 Ways to Prepare Asparagus

Ha. Sorry to deceive, but I am not that creative! Besides, Id most certainly have a marital revolt on my hands if I made (and served) 100 different asparagus recipes in under a week or even over several months! Nonetheless, Mr. Green Me, several of my neighbors, my mom and myself, all swear that the asparagus that I picked last week is the BEST asparagus we have ever eaten. I’ve eaten freshly picked asparagus in the past, but I tend to like asparagus, so until I read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, Id never really considered why some asparagus is simply good, while other asparagus is absolutely divine.

The Monroe Farms asparagus was divine. And, I did find a variety of tasty ways to serve the asparagus over the weekend and into this week. The first night, I flash sauteed the asparagus in a little olive oil and salt. Mmm mmm. Next, I made a crustless quiche with asparagus, fresh free-roaming organic eggs, Maverick Ranch Bacon and Hazel Del mushrooms. Delish. We had the quiche for breakfast AND lunch.

Next I broke out my canning equipment (sounds complicated, but not so) and I pickled six 1 quart jars of asparagus. I had to make my own pickling spices, as the only pickling spice I could find premade had suspect ingredients, and the recipe that I chose to follow suggested removing the cloves. (Please note that follow is a relative word when it comes to me and recipes.) The bad news when it comes to pickling is that you cant eat your wares for 3 to 4 months! Since I was itching to know what my product might taste like down the road, I cooked a few spears in the remaining pickling brine. They were good. Difficult to describe, but I could definitely taste the cinnamon and the coriander, which I think sort of gave the asparagus an extra earthy and smoky flavor.

And last but not least, I made Cream of Asparagus Soup which, much to my pleasure, has less cream than Id feared. My father is a self employed painter and illustrator. When I was a kid I would often spend holidays and summer days at home with him in his studio while my mom was at work. Our standard lunch was a can of Campbell’s Soup and a sandwich. On occasion we had cream of asparagus or cream of mushroom soup. Although Campbell’s may have been the chef I thought these creamy soups were fit for a Queen.  As an adult, I admit to food snobbery and so I don’t buy Campbell’s.  You’d think Id have made my own soup before, but I haven’t. The process was pretty easy and I followed this recipe (although I added a shake of cayenne & paprika, and a cup of sauteed mushrooms). The soup is very good, although not quite perfect. Ill have to play with the recipe (or if you have a divine one, please share)!

In conclusion, my asparagus adventure ended with 5 ways to eat fresh asaparagus: raw (sweet & crisp); sauteed (yum); quiche (divine); pickled (wait and see); and creme of asparagus soup (perfect for our cold and rainy weather this week).

Green Clean Mom Hits the Big-time!

You may have noticed the badge on the left Green Me margin, which proclaims yours truly to be a member of Green & Clean Moms. Well, the original Green & Clean Mom is moving her blog on June 1st. Sommers current site is very green and very sexy, but the new Green & Clean Mom site wont be just a blog it will be a complete resource for fellow Green & Clean Moms! To celebrate she is hosting a wonderful give away, so go check out her current site today and sign up for her RSS or email feeds, so you don’t miss the move!

We love the Farmers Market!

When we bought our home two years ago we didn’t realize that we were just down the road from the local Farmers Market, which sets up on Saturdays at the County Fair Grounds. However, since we discovered the market and have gotten into the habit of visiting, it is our favorite Saturday activity. We did not buy much in the way of greens or any eggs for two reasons. First we have a bunch of green lettuce, spinach and arugula in our very own yard. And second, we wanted to save some room in the crisper for eggs and whatever else that we find at the Ollin Farms grand opening this afternoon!

This week we were fortunate to have a few extra stands in town that decided to try out the Longmont Farmers. Normally, these stands visit the lucrative Boulder Market, which is home to the Boulder Creek Festival over Memorial Day weekend. We were also very thankful to see Hazel Del Mushrooms and the Windsor Dairy cheese folks, since they were both in the line of the huge tornado that came through the area on Thursday. The cheese folks are actually still assessing the damage, but Hazel Del came out fine.

This week our food basket is filled with:

Applesauce and pear-apple butter from Ela Family Farms on the Western Slope

Pea Sprouts from an unidentified local seller

Bok Choy from Ollin Farms

Horseradish from Mountain Valley Canning

Tomatoes (green house) from Honeyacre Farms

Aged Colona cheese (organic, raw from 100% grass fed cows) from Windsor Dairy

Organic Multigrain Bread from Styria Bakery

Mixed Mushrooms from Hazel Del

Red popcorn from Boulder Popcorn (grown on Munson Farm nearby)

Dinner tonight? I thought Id saute up some mushrooms and serve it with seared bok choy, as that was a big hit last weekend. And, perhaps I will also make an asparagus quiche with some aged colona and eggs that we plan to pick up from the Ollin Farms Farmstand grand opening later this afternoon!!! For lunch we already had some of the bread, tomatoes and pea sprouts on chicken salad sandwiches.

Have a wonderful Memorial Day Weekend and come back on Tuesday for the conclusion to my Asparagus Adventure!

Bug Off!!!

Personally, I try to steer clear of bugs and bug repellent to the best of my ability. My husband is not very fond of bugs either especially mosquitoes! I wish that I had a video to share of him running from a swarm of mosquitoes in Yosemite (on our Honeymoon) waving his arms, shaking his head, and generally looking like he was a mad hatter. Unfortunately mosquitoes are more than just a nuisance, they can also transmit disease. In much of the US there is concern that mosquitoes might transmit West Nile and ticks might transmit Lyme disease.

When it comes to ticks the most important thing to remember is to check yourself (and your kids) thoroughly (from head to toe) after an outdoor outing, especially in areas with brush or tall grasses. Ticks that have been properly removed within 24 to 72 hours of attaching are unlikely to transmit Lyme disease (so it is important to check early and often).

Mosquito bites are unfortunately unforgiving, and once bitten there is not much you can do! So the goal with mosquitoes is to keep them away!

Avoid the bugs: Get rid of the stink, whether it be salty sweat or sweet perfume, bugs like smells, so if you want to be bug free, keep it clean and clear. Mosquitoes are attracted to lactic acid and CO2, so dont run or breathe when you are outside. Just kidding. It might actually work better to get the bugs to avoid YOU. Several different companies are working on formulations that keep mosquitoes from populating grassy areas, basically natural insecticides using ingredients like soybean oil (suffocates the buggers) and garlic oil (keeps them away). One such product that appears to get good reviews is Mosquito Barrier. Ive not tried the stuff myself, but their site looks fairly convincing!

Stay inside at dawn & dusk: A good suggestion is to avoid being outside at dawn or dusk in mosquito infested areas as these are the littler buggers prime biting times. This is especially good advice for the very young and the elderly in areas with West Nile Virus.

Standing water eliminate it or Mix-it-Up: Mosquitoes lay their eggs in standing water. If you have a pond, puddle, bird bath or other small (or large) body of standing water near your home mix-it-up on a daily basis (or at most every 2 days) or eliminate it completely. If you have a pond or pool look into other safe ways to eliminate mosquito larvae. I am also certain that Ive both heard and read about some sort of soy based product that can be put in ponds or standing water that interrupts the larvae development, but I could not find any good info online. If any readers are familiar with this, please send the information my way or comment below!

Use an insect repellent outdoors: The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends an EPA-registered insect repellent such as those with DEET, picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus. Personally, I do my best to stay away from DEET although I have been known to use it in generous amounts while camping. Hopefully, in the future I will be able to steer clear of DEET. If you do choose to use a DEET based product, beware that DEET can cause toxicity if it is over applied, especially in kids under the age of 8!!! Whatever you do please do not apply any sort of insect repellent to children under 6 months!

Picaridin was developed by Bayer and it supposedly surpasses DEET in being non-irratating and odorless (I do not have personal experience with Picardin). In addition, unlike DEET, Picaridin does not dissolve plastic! Nonetheless, Picaridin is another artificially derived chemical that comes with a list of precautions, so I found it rather encouraging to read numerous reviews that indicate repellents containing oil of lemon eucalyptus are highly effective.

The following non-toxic bug sprays get good marks:

Repel – Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent gets good reviews in regards to keeping away the skeeters.
Herbal Insect Repellent by Burts Bees also seems to be effective against mosquitoes, but may attract some other bugs

Our family has actually used All Terrain insect repellant and found it to be somewhat effective. It wasnt perfect, but it was much better than no application at all! And, they even offer Kids Herbal Armor that is supposed to be effective for children ages 6 months to 6 years.

Permethrin treated clothing: I also read recently that Permethrin treated socks and shoes are very effective at preventing ticks from jumping on to kids (or adults) while frolicking in the outdoors. And Permethrin treated clothing is effective at eliminating mosquitoes; however, Permethrin must never be sprayed directly on the skin and clothing treated with the stuff should only be worn after it has completely dried! Personally, Id consider it wise to keep away from anything that cant be sprayed directly on the skin. Checking for ticks is not such a big deal (Ive had a tick bite and lived to tell). And, there are other ways to avoid mosquito bites (Ive had Malaria and lived to tell.)

Further Reading: There are a lot of sites and articles on bug control, but I found a few that Id recommend:

Natural Mosquito Relief

Insect Repellent and your Kids

Colorado State Extension on West Nile & Mosquitoes

My Asparagus Adventure

This morning I woke up to low clouds and high humidity. If I hadn’t known better I might have thought I was on the Oregon coast and not the Colorado plains. After a nice walk around the neighborhood I got in the car and headed east to pick asparagus at Monroe Farms our CSA. As I drove east the clouds began to lift and the wind picked up. By the time I reached Monroe (about 40 miles and 45 minutes away) it was partly cloudy with a gentle wind blowing. In about 45 minutes time I picked enough asparagus to complete a row and fill my yellow bucket to the brim. Indeed, I think I may have picked a peck of asparagus.

By now it was fairly windy and dusty, so I didn’t dawdle around visiting with the chickens or even a goat! Instead, I packed up my peck of asparagus and headed homeward. As I was driving west towards the mountains the sky began to darken and the wind continued to grow stronger, while dust from plowed fields filled the air. Soon the horizon took on a grayish green sort of look. To the southwest (the direction I was headed) there were some wispy clouds fingering towards the earth. Goodness I thought to myself It looks just like they say it does before a tornado and I blissfully drove on. Id checked the weather before I left and I was listening to the radio and there was no mention of bad weather in the air.

Not five minutes later I reached an intersection with a stop sign. The wind had really picked up and suddenly the dust was so thick I couldn’t see. At first I wasn’t worried, because I was already stopped. The wind then started to smack the car and I REALLY couldn’t see anything beyond my windshield the worst black out that I have ever experienced. A few huge rain drops fell and then all at once it was clear, the dust settling, blue sky and sunshine peeking out. As the blood pulsed through my veins, and my heart thumped, I made my left turn onto HWY 85 in Gilcrest and headed down the road. I then started to notice chunks of metal, road signs and various other detriment scattered in the roadway and neighboring fields. Traffic came to a stop and upon surveying the land to the left and the right of the car I identified large trees missing limbs, power poles without power lines, a barn missing a roof and a horse trotting down the road followed by a group of men.

I pulled off into a gas station (where there was no power) and asked the perhaps silly question was that a tornado? Indeed, it was. Holy cow. All I signed up for was some asparagus! Thank God I was okay and my son was home safe. My heart goes out to the truckers just up the road who’s semi’s were rolled, and the farmers and families who lost barns, parts of their homes, fences and who knows what else.

For more on the tornadoes that touched down in Gilcrest (my tornado), Miliken and Windsor, Colorado around noon today follow this link. (Update: video of the tornado.) I apologize that I don’t have more pictures to share, but alas I didn’t take my camera. And, even if I had, I am not a photo journalist.

My Asparagus adventure will continue over the next few days, as I follow up with canning, pickling, blanching and or freezing. But for right now, I think Ill make a cup of green tea and thank the stars that I made it home in one piece!

Update: The worst news from this Tornado episode is that it has supposedly devastated the Windsor Dairy, which I believe to be the dairy that provides milk to Organic Valley in our area!