Meal in a Bowl

It’s late October at the Farm and we are enjoying the last of garden fresh vegetables. Sweet potatoes, carrots, spinach, peppers and lettuce were all harvested before the killing frost.  

Of course I take this bounty as a sign that I should create a new recipe. Add that to my recent infatuation with broth bowls and I’m off to the kitchen to create a meal. 

 I have found that I can flavor a broth easily with the following technique. Pour two cups of bone broth into a 4 cup microwave safe bowl. I use a pyrex measuing cup. For the bone broth, I use either home made or an organic one in a carton. Into the 2 cups of broth, add 1 inch piece of ginger, thinly sliced, 6 to 8 one inch pieces of lemongrass and a couple of peppercorns. Microwave on high for 2 minutes, then let sit while prepping the rest of the ingredients. Heat again just before pouring over the bowl.

What goes in the bowl?

Rice or noodles. If I’m using rice, my favorite is the high protein Cahokia rice grown in Southern Illinois and available on Amazon. It is also reportedly available in some grocery stores. Sometimes I use plain ramen noodles and prepare according to package directions. Plain ramen noodles are now available at my local Walmart. In a pinch, you could probably use just the noodles from the cheap packages and discard the high sodium flavoring packet.

Add some toppings.

Choose a variety of colors of vegetables and proteins to make the bowl interesting. I have been using bite sized chunks of sweet potatoes, julienned carrots, poblano and sweet peppers, strips of chicken breast, plus shreds of spinach. All of the toppings are either oven roasted or steamed before adding to the bowl. I keep each topping separate to place around the top of the bowl.  

Put it all together.

Once all ingredients are ready, assemble the bowl. 

Place the rice or ramen, whichever you are using in the bowl, top with vegetables and a few shreds of fresh spinach. Pour the hot broth over the bowl,  which will slightly tenderize the spinach. Top with cilantro, Sriracha sauce and/or soy sauce as desired.

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Sweet Potatoes

There is more to sweet potatoes than a casserole topped with marshmallows.

Do you like sweet potatoes?

Most people think of sweet potatoes only at Thanksgiving. Baked in a casserole with loads of brown sugar, butter and marshmallows melted on top. Although that is a delicious dish reminscent of warmth and family, if that is the only time you are eating sweet potatoes, you are missing out. Sweet potatoes are a delicious, colorful and nutrient rich powerhouse any time of year.

Culivation of sweet potatoes originated in the tropics thousands of years ago. The consistent warm and humid weather provides ideal growing conditions. As humans began to travel the world, they took this vegetable with them and created new varieties.

Even those this relative of the morning glory is a tropical plant if you pay attention to the weather, you can grow them quite well in the 6a zone of Central Illinois. The most prevalent variety and what we grow here at the farm is Beauregard. This variety produces a tuber with dark orange flesh.

Harvest and Storage

As you might imagine with their tropical history, sweet potatoes must be dug before the first frost. If you experience a light frost, it will kill the vines and you should dig the potatoes as soon as possible.

After digging, lay out the potatoes to cure in a warm humid location. This improves the storage capability and makes them sweeter. After two weeks of curing, brush off remaining dirt and store as you would white potatoes.

We have discovered that even though this is the way to prepare for longer term storage, the potatoes are sweet and delicious fresh from the garden.


Beauregard sweet potatoes have a smooth creamy flesh when cooked. They are sweet with no additional sugar added. Try cutting into bite size chunks and steaming until tender. Or drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and roast in a 425º oven until done and the edges are carmelized. Most recently I added steamed sweet potatoes in a ramen noodle bowl along with carrot strips fresh from the garden.

Sweet potatoes go beyond a delicious dish. They are good for you with rich stores of beta-carotene, Vitamin C, fiber and other nutrients.

Think about sweet potatoes next time you want to add some color to your plate.

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Sunshine Mary

Are you tired of tomatoes yet? We are not.

It is nearly October and the tomato season is not over. Yes, the tomatoes are smaller and fewer, but it is still possible to have a warm, fresh tomato straight from the garden. It seems the yellow and orange ones are more prevalent now so it is time to concoct a recipe for those.

Sunshine Mary

A Bloody Mary made with all yellow tomatoes becomes a Sunshine Mary. This version is made with freshly juiced tomatoes. A freshly juiced tomato drink has a different flavor than either our home canned Bloody Mary mix or a store bought mix.

The Recipe

Makes 2 drinks.

4 medium yellow tomatoes

2 small hot peppers

1 stalk celery

1/2 lemon

1 Tbsp horseradish

4 ounces gin or vodka

Salt and pepper to taste

Celery sticks and olives for garnish

Using an electric juicer, juice the tomatoes, hot peppers, celery and lemon. Mix thoroughly and add horseradish, salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with olives and celery stalk. For a nice spicy rim on the glass, spread 2 teaspoons of your favorite steak seasoning on a saucer. Dip the edge of the glass in lemon juice, then on the steak seasoning to coat the rim.

You can leave out the alcohol and have a delicious, healthful drink.

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Home Preserving

Home Canned Green Beans and Tomato Juice

Do you remember when people talked about “putting things by”? 

Perhaps this is just our own vernacular, but to us it means to preserve food for the future.

Garden goodness in Central Illinois doesn’t last forever. We eat fresh vegetables from the garden during the growing season, but what about winter? Do we resort to buying everything at a big box store?

No. We make the most of what we have and preserve for future needs. 

Depending on the vegetable, we can, freeze or dehydrate. The tomato sauce post is an example of preparing a sauce that freezes well. Green beans and tomato juice typically go in the canner.

Green Beans

Canning is actually a misnomer. Home canning is not in “cans” at all. Glass jars with two-piece lids in pint and quart size cover our needs for shelf stable “home canned” items. 

Although home canning is not complicated, below are a few pointers to ensure a high quality and safe product.

Home Preserving Tips 

—Follow a tested recipe from a reputable source. Not every recipe on the internet can be trusted. Your best bet is to get a Ball Canning book or use your state home extension website.

—Know your vegetables. Low acid foods must be canned under pressure, while high acid foods can be processed in a water bath canner. Use the correct process for the vegetable you are preserving.

—Use only new flat lids to ensure a successful seal. Bands and jars in good condition can be re-used.

—Before using a pressure canner, (unless it is brand new) have the lid tested for proper working condition at your local home extension office. 

Home preserving does require some effort, but the reward of home grown vegetables all year long is worth it.

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