In Season Recipe: Balsamic Strawberries with Arugula

A recipe?
What does that have to do with crafting, or business owning, or the New York Etsy Team?

Well last week, I wrote about joining a CSA as a way of incorporating a green and sustainable practice in your every day life.  I also discussed the benefits of supporting your local farmers and buying in season fruit and vegetables not just for you and your family, but for the community.

In the spirit of keeping with that idea, I've decided to share some good recipes during the summer and early fall months for you to use with seasonal produce, if you are a CSA member, farmer market shopper, supermarket shopper, or just want to whip up some good food for yourself, family and/or friends.

The requirement is that you love food. Really. That's it!

In a few weeks, I'll share composting (the scraps from your food preparation) tips for city dwellers, but I'll make sure to add in tips that don't require worms for anyone to use, too.

A bit of background before I share today's recipe:
About four years ago, I decided to try vegetarianism. I am not a vegetarian now, in fact, I love hamburgers, but I find myself eating vegetarian meals more and more.  It's been a natural progression and has easily been inspired by my environmental education.

Please know I am not expressing one way over another. I believe everyone should eat what they want and as they want. This is just my story.

When I made the decision four years ago, I purchased a cook book by Mark Bittman called "How To Cook Everything Vegetarian" and it changed my life. It is a monster of a book, heavy and large, but it covers everything you could possibly imagine of cooking vegetables and fruit for every meal.  It has been a life saver since joining my CSA, as there have been countless Wednesdays where I'm staring a bunch of vegetables down, chewing my lip, trying to determine what to do with them.

And so last week, after first distribution, I was staring down a ton of vegetables with no clue what to do with my arugula and strawberries.

Yes, I could have eaten both individually, but should I whip up pesto? Should I make strawberry shortcake? What ingredients in my cupboards could I use to make deliciousness? 

That's where Mark stepped in.

I grabbed my copy of "How To Cook Everything Vegetarian" looked up arugula and found a recipe for "Balsamic Strawberries with Arugula". I can not express just how delicious it is. The arugula was fresh, the berries were the perfect combination of tart and sweet and were the right size (not the jumbo kind you see these days).

I'm pretty sure that I had too many berries to the bunch of arugula, and I definitely added a bit more balsamic vinegar than the recipe calls for, 3 Tbps, I believe, but it was perfect; the best fresh and light salad to kick off the strawberry season!

I also added optional goat cheese (at the bottom of the recipe), because I ate this as a meal with a small piece of baguette and called it a night.

Balsamic Strawberries with Arugula
by Mark Bittman
Makes: 4 to 6 servings
Time: 15 minutes

3 cups strawberries, hulled and halved or quartered
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, or more to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
4 cups arugula leaves
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1. Toss the strawberries with the vinegar and black pepper in a large salad bowl and let sit for 10 minutes.
2. Add the arugula, sprinkle with salt, and toss again. Drizzle with olive oil and toss gently one last time. Taste, adjust the seasoning, and serve.

Balsamic Strawberries with Arugula and Goat Cheese. Before the final toss in Step 2, crumble 4 ounces of goat cheese over the salad.

Happy eating!  If you make the recipe, let me know below. If you have a recipe you want to share or me to include, let me know.  Cooking is a sharing art.

S2 Stationery and Design

Veggies, Fruit and More! Community Supported Agriculture Is In Season!

I am oh, so excited friends!

Today is the first day of my 22-week summer vegetable share from my local Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program and I've been waiting excitably for this day.

Tomatoes from last year's CSA share

Community Supported Agriculture is a sustainable way for consumers to buy local, seasonal food directly from a farm.

Unlike a farmers market where you purchase what you want, you don't get a choice with a CSA, you receive what the farm selects from their crops each week.  They are then boxed up and delivered to your distribution center so that members can pick them up and go home and enjoy fresh, seasonal vegetables and depending on the breadth of offerings, sometimes other products as well such as fruit, dairy, eggs, coffee, meat, etc. CSAs are usually volunteer operated and require that members volunteer a certain number of hours to help the season run smoothly.

The benefits of this arrangement are great, but below are a few key points.

For the farmer:
-Cash flow for the farmer
-Relationship development with consumers
-A chance to build their consumer base before the long hours in the field begin

For the consumers:
-Ultra-fresh food with flavor and vitamin benefits
-Exposure to new vegetables and new ways of cooking
-Learning about your food sources and even getting to visit the farm
-Relationship development with the farm and your neighborhood

In addition to knowing where your food comes from and having a relationship not just with the farmer, but the your neighborhood community, one of the most important concepts to the CSA is the idea of shared risk.  Purchasing a share means that you are aware that some seasons may not be the best. The farm is at the mercy of nature and that means that flooding, drought, or any other natural event that occurs can damage crops and result in little or no produce. The consumers connection to the farm is greater - it means we're in this together.

I joined my CSA at a moment where I was interested in local and seasonal food. I still am. As I became more involved, I realized that I didn't know where my food came from. I had no clue what it meant to work on a farm or be connected to nature as intimately as a farmer.

To be honest, when I joined, I was at the very early stages of my environmentalism. While I have always been a bit of a tree hugger, I was working for a corporation in a department that focused on corporate social responsibility (CSR) and the more I learned, the more I wanted to find the natural world not just for myself, but for everyone. Joining a CSA seemed like the right entrance point.

When I started, I was concerned with price. It is a sizable amount asked upfront (each CSA charges differently), but as the weeks continue and the food comes in and you see the sizes and breakdown the weekly amount, you realize you're spending less than you would at the grocery store for the same things (in my case $13/week).

Furthermore, my CSA, as with many in NYC, accept food stamps as a form of payment so that lower income families can also have access to fresh, healthy food and be part of this food movement.  As a matter of fact we work with an organization, The New York City Coalition Against Hunger (NYCCAH), who is committed to getting healthy food into the hands of those that need it the most. 

Joining a CSA is not an show of elitism, it is a statement of wanting good, quality food. It is no different from handmade crafters, like you and I, wanting to make good, quality and sustainable products and have them accessible. A farmer is no different from the stationer writing this post! 

This is my third season and my volunteer role is the communications coordinator. What that really means is that I'm responsible for the weekly newsletter, blog updates and social media channels during the full season and the off season. It's a lot of work during the season (22 weeks usually), but helping others find joy in good, healthy food means a lot to me.

So how can you get involved? 
I'm glad you asked!  CSAs are in abundance around the country. They've been growing steadily over the last 20 years.  If you live in NYC and are looking for a CSA, or just want more information, I suggest you contact Just Food.  They are an amazing organization that helped my CSA get off the ground and are truly committed to getting fresh local food in the hands of everyone.

If you are a reader outside of NY and are looking for more information, I suggest you contact Local Harvest. They are where I first went when I started looking for a CSA and they have more information on the local food movement in general, including information on finding farmers markets.

In my last post, I listed ways in which you as a business owner can give back without spending too much money, I consider this one. By joining a CSA, you are telling the current food system that you don't agree with their methods or practices. You're telling your community that you care and you're promoting a healthier lifestyle for yourself and loved ones. This totally counts!

If you are a member of a CSA and want to share your experience, please do so in the comments. I love hearing food stories, especially from artists. Maybe you have a recipe you want to share? Do it! Food is usually another creative outlet for us after all! 

S2 Stationery and Design

Earth Day Reflecting

Happy day-after-Earth Day!

Two weeks ago, I had promised photos and a recap of the Etsy craft event on making terrariums, but I didn't make it. I had to rush home to dog walk. Yep. I was dog sitting that week and had to make sure the rascal was okay.

Needless to say, I missed the event, but heard many, many great things about it. I've even seen a few of the terrariums made that evening and am full of envy that I don't have my own to share with you.

Alas, Etsy's events section of the website offers two video tutorials to make your own:
and, make sure to watch the "Hands On Dirt With Red Rose and Lavender" under the Etsy How To section.

Both videos are great and I intend to use them when I make my own terrarium, if I ever find the time!

Terrarium by Red Rose and Lavender

Earth Day for me has always been a day of reflection. I recently became environmentally aware- I'd say in the last 8 years. When I lived in Virginia, I used to frequent the farmers market and the artisanal cheese monger in my neighborhood. It was an amazing world and yet I didn't appreciate my then roommate trying to make me use non-chemical based detergents and soaps to wash our dishes. In fact, I had my own stash of chemical laden products to use when she wasn't looking.

Six years later, I've completely changed. Now, I'm the roommate that requests we use chemical-free dish washing liquid (I even pay for it) and I use vinegar, baking soda, and water as my main cleaning agents. I've become sensitive to chemical based smells. And my goal is to help educate as many people as possible on the ways in which they can also live greener lifestyles. Of course, it is up to the person to enact these changes, but if we share what we know with each other, we now have a choice and that's the key to most life style changes after all. 

Yesterday, I didn't do very much. I didn't volunteer and I did end up buying a pair of leggings from Sears. That one purchase threw me into a spiral of thought about packaging and products and my own company. It made me think about my responsibility as a crafter, maker, seller, and business owner to make responsible choices not just for myself, but for my customers.

My rational has always been that if I can't figure out how to recycle or reuse a piece of the item I purchased, than I shouldn't expect my customers. It is the main reason why I don't wrap cards in plastic. Do you know how to recycle the plastic sleeve most cards come in? 

A hint- Whole Foods recycles plastic bags, sleeves and cling wrap. Next time you visit one, check and see if they do. The one by me does and it has helped make my life a bit easier.

This month, I already reached out to a printer who uses eco-friendly paper sources and inks for orders. I've been stuffing my boxes to ship with old magazine pages instead of using bubble wrap or any other non-recyclable stuffing product. I even found out that Uline sells biodegradable bags and burlap that biodegrades as well. Amazing!

We have so many more choices these days on how live green lives. A part of me thought, yesterday, that I do enough-I compost, recycle, volunteer with my local CSA and therefore could take an Earth Day off, but the reality is I can do more. I don't feel guilty about not celebrating Earth Day in the rain, in fact, I did a ton of things I needed to do, like finish knitting a blanket that's been on my to do list for some time now, but it means I can integrate more ways of greener living in my life and it's why I am writing this extremely personal blog post today.

If you've made it this far into my posting. Hooray! Thank you for reading.  If you didn't, I promise the next posting won't be so long and drawn out about my thoughts on Earth Day and green living.

In the mean time, I want to share another creative project off of the Etsy website. I'm completely excited about this. It is part of the How-Tuesday series on the website and it's a tutorial on how to make a cardboard chandelier. Talk about recycling packaging!

Cardboard Chandelier by Kayte Terry

I can't wait to be able to make this for my own home one day. This project is definitely going into the "Future To Do" folder.  Also something for YOU to add to your own to do folder is saving the date of May 7th, for a hands-on evening with Kayte, the woman who shared the cardboard chandelier and wrote the book that it is featured in Paper Made! More details will be shared soon on the Etsy website.    

On that note, I'm off to do some more green discovery. Stay inventive and creative!