Monday, August 3, 2020

Blue Ribbon BBQ Sauce

Many seek out their local farmer's market, farm stand or CSA for seasonal fruits and veggies. And while they may make up the majority of offerings throughout the summer season here in the Northeast, meat is a growing feature at these venues - and for good reasons!
  • Consumers want to know that the meat they are buying is free of added hormones and antibiotics and the animals have been fed an appropriate diet (often times they are raised organically)! 
  • They also want to know the chicken, beef, pork (bacon!), etc., that they're buying has been raised in a kind and humane manner by people who prioritize the needs of their animals over producing as many animals as possible as quickly as possible.
  • The quality is generally MUCH better than you will find at your local grocer!

In addition to our vegetable, egg and flower CSA's, we also belong to a chicken CSA at Square Roots Farm.  I'll be the first to admit that eating farm fresh chicken has turned me into a bit of a chicken snob. We haven't purchased chicken from the grocery store since our chicken CSA kicked off at the beginning of June and I don't miss it one bit!

We generally get two chickens every two weeks (the day after they are processed, I might add). Occasionally, we grille one on our rotisserie, but more often I cut them up into parts - some to use right away and others to freeze for later. And nothing goes to waste - the remaining carcasses are either frozen right away or go straight into a pot for some of the best chicken stock you'll ever taste!

We use a lot of boneless chicken breast to make stir fries, salads or shish kebobs throughout the summer, with whatever fresh vegetables we have on hand. Bone-in drumsticks and things are great roasted (particularly on cold winter's day), but our favorite way to enjoy them is right off the Weber (preferably with some farm fresh corn and perhaps a sun-kissed tomato right off the vine)!

This summer, I've mastered BBQ chicken. While trying to avoid going to the store more than I absolutely have to throughout this pandemic, I've come up with a rub and sauce that is as good better than any you find on a shelf. While I'll admit, this BBQ sauce has not (yet) won a blue ribbon, it IS that good, trust me!

Blue Ribbon BBQ Sauce
1 1/2 cups brown sugar packed
1 1/2 cups ketchup
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup of molasses
1 Tablespoon Worcester sauce
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons dried onion flakes
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons sea salt
dash or two of red pepper flakes

Chicken and Rib Rub
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup sea salt (kosher salt will work too)
1/4 cup paprika
1 Tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons black pepper
1/4 teaspon cayenne pepper

To make the chicken, I apply rub (hence the name) a generous amount of Chicken and Rib Rub on each piece of meat about a 1/2 hour or so before I put it on the grille.

In the meantime, light your grille, but leave one burner off (we have a three-burner Weber, so I turn on the middle and right-hand burner and leave the left one off). 

When I'm cooking legs (i.e. the drumstick and thigh together), I place them skin-side up over indirect heat (the burner on the left) and cook them for 20-25 minutes then turn them over for an additional 15-20 minutes. At that point, I brush each piece with a generous amount of BBQ sauce then cook for 5-7 minutes turn the chicken over and repeat the process. I do this a couple of times, until I feel like the meat is going to fall off the bone(s) if I turn it over any more. 

This recipe also works really well on baby back ribs!

If you haven't had an opportunity to try pasture-raised, farm fresh meat, I encourage you to do so - it's not only better FOR you and your family, it's better for the land. If you live here in the BRK, both Forthill Farmstand and Square Roots Farm offer pork and beef, the latter also sells poultry (both chickens AND Thanksgiving turkeys). 

'Til next time, happy BBQing.

Buon appetito!

Saturday, July 11, 2020

THE Very Best Peanut Sauce

See the picture below? It's a simple photo of five basic ingredients, some (if not all) of which I bet you have in your pantry right now!

Okay, you may argue the red curry paste, but can I just tell you, I tried to find red curry paste at our local grocer for over two weeks and they were completely cleaned out? So there are a lot of people, somewhere in this community, with red curry paste in their pantry/fridge, but I digress.

These five simple simple ingredients are going to change your life. Trust me (unless you have a peanut allergy, in which case all bets are off). 

Photo courtesy of Lynne Cannon O'Connell. 

Those of you who have followed this blog for a while, know that every year or so, I wax poetic about peanut sauce. I love it. And, well, it's time has come!

We've received napa cabbage in a couple of our CSA shares this season and it pairs so incredibly well with the sauce, that I made it my mission to incorporate it into our dinner menu one night last week. 

I simply grilled some boneless, skinless chicken breast (which we bought through our chicken share at Square Roots Farm). Once it was cool enough to handle, I sliced it thinly and placed it on top of a bed of chopped napa cabbage that had been tossed with some shredded carrots and onion greens, also from Square Roots Farm (except for the carrots - it's not quite time for those yet).

Then I drizzled the room temperature peanut sauce on top (generously) and finished the plate off with a sprinkle of peanuts for some added crunch.

The sauce recipe, which came from Alice Currah's Savory Sweet Life cookbook, is really quite quick and easy to make. 

1 13.5 ounce can of coconut milk
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter (I add closer to a 1/2 cup or more)
1/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 Tablespoon soy sauce (or Tamari if you're gluten free)
1 1/2 teaspoons red curry paste

Combine the coconut mile, peanut butter, brown sugar, soy sauce and red curry paste in a saucepan and cook over medium heat for 3 minutes stirring occasionally. 

NOTE: This sauce keeps well in the fridge for a couple of weeks, if it lasts that long. Use it over grilled meat, vegetables, steamed rice, your favorite pasta or eat it right off a spoon - it's THAT good! 

Buon Appetito!

PS - We drizzled this sauce on some sauteed chicken breast with snap peas served over rice a few nights later. DELICIOUS!

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Farm Fresh Fried Rice

What is this and what do I do with it? That's a question nearly every CSA member asks at one point in time or another. One of the great benefits of joining a CSA is the abundance of (often times) organically raised fruits and vegetables you receive each week. Some are easily recognizable - lettuce, onions, snap peas, cucumbers, zucchini, while others may not be quite so familiar - kohlrabi, bok choi and hakurei turnips. 

NOTE: I didn't stage this photo well, there's a bundle of beets hidden in there. More on those in a future post.

I've learned a couple of things over the years. 
  1. Nearly any vegetable can be tossed in EVOO (extra virgin olive oil) and sea salt, then roasted. Don't pressure yourself to find a new recipe for every item in your share each week. We're all busy, and roasted veggies are GOOD (they're also good FOR you)!
  2. Nearly any vegetable works in fried rice (or a frittata more to come on that too).
I had to remind myself of #2 when I received a rather large bundle of salad (aka hakurei) turnips recently and didn't have the time, nor energy, to figure out what to do with them. I immediately began chopping and the process looked something like this...

I sliced up the turnips, then halved or quartered each slice, depending on the size. I also chopped up the greens (they're loaded with vitamins A and C)! I sliced up the spring onion that was in our share, including some of the ends. I also sliced up a couple of a carrots I had left over from a package I purchased at Guido's. Once I was done doing that, I quickly fried up a couple of fresh eggs from Square Roots Farm, then I put them aside. I poured a couple Tablespoons of EVOO in a non-stick pan and added a generous Tablespoon of butter, tossed in the onions (including the green ends) and sauteed them until they were limp. Then I added the turnips and carrots, which I cooked 'til they were tender at which point I tossed in the greens and pre-cooked rice (either white or brown works here, you could even try other grains like quinoa). I added a bit more butter, a couple Tablespoons of Tamari (I used Tamari, but you can use soy sauce if that's what you have in the pantry, we're mostly gluten free here, so that's what I had on hand) and a Tablespoon or so of sesame oil and let it all heat through so the flavors meld. Last, but not least, I added the egg back in at the end.

This is one of those dishes that's just as good (if not better) reheated in the microwave the next day, so I cook a LOT when I make it and pack it for lunch!

As I said up above, this recipe works with nearly any vegetable. Personally, I always add an onion to it, cuz that's the way I roll, but it's entirely up to you! Let me know how you end up making this recipe 'your own.'

Buon appetito!

Sunday, June 28, 2020


Yes, we've been absent. For quite a while...nearly 7 years (gasp!) to be exact.  It turns out when there's a global pandemic (aka COVID-19) and things basically shut down (except for your job, if you're a healthcare worker like me), you have a bit of time on your hands.

And since Square Roots Farm offered vegetable CSA shares this year (to which I immediately said, "yes, please!") and it seems that everyone and his brother has caught on to the abundance of farm fresh food available in our proverbial back yards, I figured it was time to dust off ye old blog and share some of the goodness that's been going on.

After a particularly cold spring here in the BRK, warm weather arrived and everything in the fields began growing in leaps and bounds. As a result almost everything Square Roots Farm had planted for their first week of CSA was ready to be harvested and eaten a week early. Consequently, we received a 'bonus week' and our first pick-up took place in a very responsible, social distance fashion, on June 10th.

I was in awe of the gorgeous greens we received and immediately made 'greens and beans' for dinner. I followed this recipe and the results were outstanding, if I do say so myself!

This dish took me back to conversations in the kitchen with my Italian friend's mother, Isabel. It's definitely something she would have made (sans an actual recipe) and served to her family for dinner with a loaf of crusty bread.

I served it up with some fresh grated Parmesan on top and the leftovers were just as good (if not better) the next day!

I'll be making this again before the season's through and invite you to try it too!  Greens are plentiful this time of year - just check your local farm or farm stand - there are some links to local farms/stands here in the Berkshires just to the right on this page.

Buon appetito!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Mom's Split Pea Soup

Don't have a picture...I'm posting this for my friend over at The Greening of Westford.  It's a really delicious split pea soup, perfect for those long lazy weekend days.  Total cooking time is 4 hours, but total working time is about 15 minutes, so it's really an easy soup to make when you're going to be around to stir every once in a while.

Very few ingredients and most available locally this time of year--dried split peas, onions, carrots, and maybe even ham are all relatively easy to find locally in the fall.  So eat up!


  • 1 ham hock (or any ham is fine, though the bone in the ham hock really adds flavor)
  • 16 oz package of split peas
  • 8 cups chicken stock (low sodium if you're not using homemade)
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup carrots, finely chopped
  • garlic powder, salt, and pepper to taste


Pick over split peas then add to a large pot.  Add 8 cups of chicken stock and 2 cups of water, finely chopped onions, garlic powder, pepper, and ham hock.  Simmer for one and a half hours over low to medium low heat.

Remove ham hock and take meat off the bone, returning the meat to the pot.  Discard the bone and continue simmering the soup for another hour and a half.

Add carrots and simmer for an additional hour, stirring often.  Add extra water if the soup starts to look too thick, in 1/2 cup increments.  It will be a really thick soup, but shouldn't be porridge-y.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Wicked Awesome Thai Peanut Sauce

Hey, take a look at this!
It's maple syrup from the incomparable Ben's Sugar Shack!  I won a contest on their facebook page to share an interesting recipe idea using their maple syrup.  Of course I entered Wicked Awesome Thai Peanut Sauce.  This is a recipe I originally developed a few years back when I was writing a local cooking column for the Westford Patch.  But I've continued tweaking the recipe, so figured it was worth an update.

You can serve this sauce with just about anything.  It's great just over rice noodles.  Or with stir fried veggies.  Over when I posted it on the Patch, I served it with a combo of shrimp, scallops, and squid.  This time I just used what was in the fridge:  some tofu, broccoli, mushrooms, onions, green onions, and kale.  Use your imagination, or use this recipe to clean out the crisper drawer.


1/2 cup peanut butter (I use crunch peanut butter for a weird reason:  my son is allergic to tree nuts.  While it's easy to find peanut butter that is free of tree nuts, it's almost impossible to buy whole peanuts that are free from cross contamination.  If you're not dealing with allergies, I'd probably go with smooth peanut butter, then add some crushed peanuts on top.  But crunchy peanut butter is a good short cut if you have to!)
4 Tablespoons soy sauce
4 Tablespoon maple syrup
2 Tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 Tablespoons veggie oil
1 Tablespoon sesame oil
1 Tablespoon grated fresh ginger root (or 1 teaspoon ginger powder)
2 cloves garlic, minced, or 1 teaspoon garlic paste, or 1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon chili oil
1 teaspoon spicy crushed red pepper flakes (you can use anything spicy is this recipe, as much or as little as you want.  It is a sweet recipe, so I like some spiciness to offset it--I usually use chili oil and red pepper flakes, but you can also use some spicy curry powder or paste, or finely diced spicy peppers, or anything else with a little kick).


Mix all ingredients in a medium bowl until well combined.  It takes a bit of stirring, and looks kind of gross.  But, it tastes great. 

You don't really need to cook this sauce--I sample it as I'm making it to adjust the spicy/sweetness of it.  However, the flavors blend a little better if it's been cooked for a few minutes.  I usually just pour it over the skillet of whatever I'm making and let it simmer for about 5 minutes.

Thanks again to Ben's Sugar Shack for the maple syrup.  If anyone is up in New Hampshire, check them out.  Or, I think they'll be back at the Westford Farmers Market this year--I guess I'll find out tomorrow at the first market of the season! And I know I've seen their products over at Springdell Farm in Littleton.  Seriously, maple syrup, maple sugar candy, maple cotton candy, maple everything.  Delish!

And if you're looking for a different take on a peanut sauce, Jules shared a delicious coconut curry peanut sauce recipe last summer.  I think it's safe to say we're fans of peanut sauce here at How Does Your Garden Grow!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Asparagus and Cream Cheese Pastry

Asparagus season!  Asparagus season!  Spring time in New England=new posts on How Does Your Garden Grow!

I've been avidly buying as much asparagus as my wallet can handle from Springdell Farm in Littleton.  Yum.  Wait, I need to say that again.  Yum!

I've been roasting it with Parmesan (from my days as a Patch food writer).  I've added it to grilled goat cheese and veggie pitas (from my sister-in-law's super fun Battle: Yum site).  I've made lemony quinoa and asparagus shrimp scampi (a favorite recipe I pulled out of the Boston Globe years ago and love to make every spring with fresh local asparagus).  Finally decided to go through my recipes and try something new.

What I ended up deciding to make was a contest winner from a Philadelphia cream cheese contest.  Can I be a little all-foodie-er-than-thou for a moment?  I kind of hate recipes that are "sponsored" by a specific brand.  I'm usually disappointed.  But this one:  it's asparagus and cream cheese on puff pastry.  Um, delish much?  Yes please!  And I just happened to have a single sheet of puff pastry hanging out in my freezer, just looking for a new recipe.  Cooking destiny!

I had pulled this recipe out of a Taste of Home magazine, but just found it on Allrecipes when I was looking for a link.  I made just a few changes, so feel free to go back to the award winning original if you'd like.  It truly is a spectacular recipe!


1 sheet of puff pastry, thawed according to package directions
1 bunch of asparagus (not too fat, not too want them to cook at the same speed as your pastry!  I cherry picked stalks from two different bunches to try to get similar sized perfect stalks)
8 oz package of cream cheese, softened (I won't force a brand on you, though I must admit I did use Philadelphia!)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (I used real grated, not that green can)
1 teaspoon dried basil (oh  my, the recipe calls for fresh, which sounds awesome to me, but it's still too cold out for basil plants so I only had dried.  Use fresh if you've got it--recipe calls for 5 leaves--I'd double that to 10!)
3/4 teaspoon garlic powder (or knock yourself out and use fresh minced garlic--I didn't have any on hand)
3 tablespoons lemon juice
Olive oil to drizzle
More Parmesan cheese for sprinkling


 Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Mix together softened cream cheese, grated Parmesan cheese, dried basil, garlic powder, and lemon juice.

Unfold the thawed pastry and place on a baking tray lined with parchment paper.  Cut into thirds along the "fold" lines, then cut each third in half to make rectangles.  Move the piece slightly away from one another.

Spread each pastry rectangle with the cream cheese mixture, leaving a little edge of pastry uncovered.

Trim asparagus to the length of your pastry rectangles.  Place a few asparagus spears on each pastry rectangle.  Original recipe called for 4 spears per rectangle, but I only used three and it was fine. (Note:  I saved the extra stem part that was too long and I had to cut off and used it in a batch of the lemony quinoa and asparagus recipe I linked above.  Don't waste that asparagus!)

Drizzle lightly with olive oil.

Bake for 20 or so minutes, until pastry is golden brown and puffed.  Remove from oven and immediately sprinkle a little extra Parmesan on top.