#NWARKcares about Little Free Libraries

Yesterday, I helped my mom go through all of her books that have been stored away in her attic for several years. I had to be there to help because I knew I would want many of the books that she was ready to get rid of. We each kept a big stack, but decided that the majority could go. We stored childhood treasures, and carried our stacks of keepers to our respective bookcases in our homes. We’ve moved into the digital age, and when we want paper we use our libraries for everything from novels to coffee table books these days.

Books to Give Away

Although I do work at the Fayetteville Public Library which accepts donations of books, I decided I wanted the books to go somewhere more accessible to people who might not have the means to access the library’s collection. So, with a few teeteringly tall stacks of books to give away, I decided to stock my local Little Free Library. I ride by the new installment, sponsored by Adventure Subaru, outside of the trailside entrance to Arsaga’s at the Depot on my bike when I’m commuting downtown each day, and have noticed it’s collection dwindling. I think that Little Free Library and my stack of super cool books are going to be a perfect match.

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So, I’m here to bring you a new and exciting series here on the blog! Each week, I’ll take a small stack of books to the Little Free Library, but before I do, I’ll share a bit about the books and what makes them so cool. If you see something you want, you’ll know where to find it – but you’ll have to get there first!

Some links:

The Ozark Literacy Council’s Little Free Library info.

The Little Free Library website.

A fellow NWArk Blogger’s post about her Little Free Library.

What’s this all about?

The Northwest Arkansas Bloggers have launched #NWArkCares to share social issues and raise awareness for local causes. Each month we are focusing on a different issue/cause. To play along, follow the hashtag #NWArkCares on twitter, instagram, and facebook or check us out on Facebook.

September’s cause was literacy. Through my blogger friends’ posts and conversations this month, I learned a lot about the importance of Little Free Libraries and how access to reading material is a key factor in improving literacy.

NWARK Local Harvest CSA – Week Five

CSA Week Five

Last week’s CSA included:

  • 1/2 pound Salad Mix
  • 1 pound Sweet Peppers
  • 1 pound Ancho Peppers
  • 1/4 pound Jalapeno Peppers
  • 1 pound Cucumbers
  • 2 pounds Yukon Gold Potatoes
  • 1/4 pound Cilantro

Here’s what happened to it all:

Ate ALL of that salad mix. But, a funny thing happened. I traveled to Eureka Springs for several days to visit my parents for my mom’s birthday. Since I knew that my boyfriend would be too busy during the week to cook at home and eat any of it, I brought it with me! We had lots of salads at home, and I made some salads in mason jars to leave with my mom. So, a bit of sharing happened. The cucumbers went atop all of those salads.

There are still a lot of sweet peppers and ancho peppers in the fridge. I cooked some into my spaghetti sauce last night, but plenty remain. I think that if I were to chop them up when they come on Tuesday night, I would be more apt to throw them into something I’m eating. Planning for prep work next week!

jalapeno poppersWe used all of the jalapeños last Saturday to make jalapeño poppers. My boyfriend brought me to the meat market to get bacon which was pretty much the best thing ever. He showed me how to mix up some cheeses, scoop them in, wrap in bacon, and bake. Oh, and eat!

roasted potatoesThere are some potatoes remaining, but the majority got roasted for breakfast one day. If you microwave them in a saran wrap covered bowl with some oil, salt, and pepper for 5+ minutes before putting them in the pan they cook a lot faster.

Put a bit of the cilantro on chicken tacos. But, there’s a lot left.

Stay tuned for next week’s update! Thanks for all of your comments with recipe suggestions and support in my endeavor to consume all of these veggies!

NWARK Local Harvest CSA – Week Four

NWARK Local Harvest CSA Week Four

Last week our CSA included:

  • 1/2 pound Salad Mix
  • 1/2 pound Arugula
  • 2 pounds slicer Celebrity Tomatoes
  • 1.5 pounds Pears
  • 1 pound Ancho Peppers (medium heat)
  • 1.5 pounds Sweet Peppers

This week puts us a month in to our CSA and I have to admit that it’s stressed me out a little bit. I’m someone who really hates to see food go to waste, so I’ve challenged myself to use everything and not let anything go bad. The plethora of produce is probably just a tad too much for two people. Though my boyfriend and I both really like cooking, and have relished in the opportunity to be challenged by our mystery bag of produce each week, it’s not always easy to figure everything out.

I do want to add here that I have zero CSA regrets. Having more produce in the house means I’m eating more produce – and it’s not just produce, it’s locally grown all natural stuff! Additionally, not having to buy or browse the produce section while grocery shopping makes trips to the store shorter, easier, and way more focused. So, here’s what happened with it all this week:

Salad in a JarThe salad mix and many of the sweet peppers went into pre-made salads. When the lettuce wasn’t getting eaten, I made six salads that could be taken to work or eaten at home. I figure, if they’re already made – I’m way more likely to choose to have a salad. I’ve been making salads in jars for a long time. If you’re into it, I highly recommend the BNTO, a little cup that sits in the top of your wide mouth mason jar to hold things like salad dressing. I’ve got two and I wish I had more.

quicheThe arugula that didn’t make it’s way into salads went into a quiche.

My boyfriend made salsa with the slicer tomatoes and ancho peppers. He makes it look so easy. I’ll have to pay more attention to the process and document it for you all next time he makes salsa.

dutchapplepieI made a dutch apple pie and threw the pears in. It was super good, and a kind of pie I’d never made before. It’s different than a regular apple pie because it has a streusel topping rather than another pie crust on top. I’m going to go have some right now!

But first, it’s confession time. One of the tomatoes didn’t get made into salsa and I ended up throwing a sad mushy tomato away. The pears sat on the counter for a full week and I had to cut a lot of sad mush from them before they went into the pie. And – there are still so many things in the fridge: a handful of okra, a bag full of sweet peppers, half a bag of arugula (help! I really don’t know what to do with this and it’s so good!), a couple of cucumbers, and a lot of jalapeños. But stay tuned, I’m determined to use it all and another bag came this week with all new fun things in it!

NWARK Local Harvest CSA – Week Three

Week three of my Northwest Arkansas Local Harvest CSA included:

csaweek3

  • (more) cucumbers
  • sweet peppers
  • jalapenos
  • okra
  • summer squash and zucchini squash
  • garlic
  • onions
  • (another) butternut squash

What I did with it all:

This time, already having a plethora of refrigerator pickles in my fridge, I used the cucumbers in salads.

Most of the sweet peppers also ended up chopped raw and in salads. I had accumulated four medium sized green bell peppers, which I prefer cooked. Those got stuffed with rice, some chopped zucchini, marinara, and cheese and baked for an hour at 375°.

I handed the jalapeños off to my boyfriend who is more capable with things of that spiciness level. He plans to stuff and grill them.

gumboNot having grown up in the south, I was thoroughly stumped by the okra. I gave a handful to my mom since she happened to be at my house on Tuesday evening last week. Another third of it went into a gumbo that my boyfriend made. And the remaining third’s fate remains to be seen. Any suggestions?

This summer squash and zucchini got pan roasted to top some spaghetti.

The garlic and onions are in the pantry amongst many others, luckily these keep for several weeks. I eat onions often, but garlic is something I only turn to when a recipe tells me to. What should I be garlic-ing that I’m not?

And finally, that butternut squash. There was another one in the first week’s bag, but since they keep so long and it was still a little hot and humid out for a winter squash dish I held on to that one. When a second one came though, I decided it was time for some action on the winter squash front and made a squash soup not unlike this one. It made a ton and there’s still squash soup in my fridge, but it’s definitely delicious and an easy use of all that squash.

 

Phew. We’re finally all caught up on the first three weeks of my new CSA membership. Another bag comes tonight, so stay tuned for more!

 

NWArk Local harvest CSA – Week Two

Week two of my Northwest Arkansas Local Harvest CSA included:

  • IMG_9352sweet peppers
  • summer squash and zucchini squash
  • eggplant
  • cucumbers
  • “not so pretty” pears

 

 

 

What I did with it all:

This week the sweet peppers didn’t get any special treatment, and just got chopped to top salads.

The summer squash, zucchini squash, and one of the eggplants all ended up in this tain (like a gratin with chopped onion and other veggies sliced in with the potatoes). It turned out super delicious (though mine did not include tomatoes).

The other eggplant went into these surprisingly excellent tacos. The eggplant was something I’m not super used to cooking, but both the tian and the tacos were really good. Do you have a go-to eggplant recipe that I need to know about? Share it in the comments if you do!

The cucumbers made perfect refrigerator pickles. This time I added fresh dill to round out the flavor a little bit.

IMG_9413IMG_9414And lastly, with the so-called “not so pretty” pears, I made a crisp from my America’s Test Kitchen Family Baking Book. The CSA farmer, Paul, writes about what makes the pears “not so pretty” on this week’s CSA blog post.

P.S. Did you know that everything I cook and bake is gluten-free? Yep. I just substitute a gluten free flour mix where regular wheat flour is called for in any recipe and it usually turns out just as good if not better than the original.

Northwest Arkansas Local Harvest CSA – Week One

In case you missed it, I signed up for the Northwest Arkansas Local Harvest CSA and I’m going to be updating you with what’s in it and what I do with it all over the next couple of months. Right now we’re getting caught up with the first delivery from August 18th. Week one included:

  • Basil (a huge bag of it)
  • Butternut Squash
  • Summer Squash / Zucchinis
  • Jalapeños (which come in a labeled zipock bag, thank goodness)
  • Sweet Peppers
  • Peaches
© 2015 Northwest Arkansas Local Harvest

What I did with it all:

So much basil!
So much basil!
Pesto pizza.
Pesto pizza.

The basil became pesto. It was 1/4 pound and there was no other way to use it all. I don’t have a food processor so I put it all in my nutribullet blender thing with some olive oil, minced garlic, and walnuts and pulsed it into oblivion. From there, it went on to pizzas and pasta (there’s still a little jar with some left over in my fridge).

I held on to the butternut squash for a few weeks because they keep so well, so stay tuned for that one.

The summer squash and zucchinis went on the pizza, and in an egg scramble.

I handed the jalapeños off to my boyfriend who knows his way around spicy things and made them into salsa.

IMG_9359I made the sweet peppers into a taco slaw by chopping them with onion and mixing a little apple cider
vinegar and salt and pepper in to help it keep. It was excellent on some accidentally too spicy tacos that I made and on my rice and bean bowl lunches that I tend to eat pretty often.

And the peaches were all absolutely perfect so I ate them all raw.

This is my first in a series of similar posts, let me know what you want to know about my CSA. Want more pictures? More detailed recipes? More about the produce in it’s raw form? Let me know in the comments below!

Giving Community Supported Agriculture a Try

As you may know, Tuesdays are my favorite day of the week. Well, my Tuesdays have been even better for the past three weeks because a few weeks ago I signed up for a local CSA. CSA stands for community supported agriculture and is a program where a farm delivers weekly parcels of produce to your home, and the only catch is that you have to pay for it upfront – hence the support factor. Each Tuesday evening I step out to my front porch to find my big brown bag of fresh locally grown produce.

CSA Brown Bag

I chose the Northwest Arkansas Local Harvest CSA because it offered a fall season which started August 18th and runs for 15 weeks. Over the next couple of days, and in the coming weeks I’m going to catch you all up with what’s in the bag and what I’ve been doing with it all. You can also check out the Ozark Alternatives Farm website where they write a weekly blog post describing the week’s CSA delivery in more depth and talk about what’s going on on the farm.

 

Some other CSAs in our area that I’m interested in are:

  • The Cobblestone Project’s CSA which is perfect for those who want to give back a little extra to the community in addition to receiving a bad-ass sounding weekly delivery of food, you get the option to pick up your delivery and pay a little less.
  • The Summer Kitchen Family Farm CSA which has a long running season stretching from mid-May through mid-October and has an egg add-on option, but requires that you pick your package weekly at one of two locations in Fayetteville.
  • This sweet meat CSA-ish thing from Grass Roots Co-Op, they call it herds to homes and I want it.
  • Dripping Springs, one of my favorite farms in this area, also has a CSA with a long running season that requires you to pick up your package weekly.
  • Sycamore Valley Farm has yet another of the long season CSAs with no delivery option.

So, as you may have noticed, it was pretty important to me that the CSA delivered (since I’m not much of a driver). And I chose the CSA that started in the fall so that I wouldn’t have to wait until next spring to get started. Have you ever had a CSA membership? Do you know of other CSAs in Northwest Arkansas that I didn’t include in this list? I want to know all about it!