Friday, March 10, 2017

Local Sources for Sustainable Foods near Sewickley, PA

Eating seasonally and locally is a passion of mine and I strongly believe in supporting local farms.  I wanted to list some sources for local and sustainable foods that I have personal experience with so that you might try one or more of them.  

Some of these farms offer CSA's.  CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture and here's the way it generally works:  You sign up in early Spring (Feb/March - that's right now!) to receive a box of seasonal vegetables every week for about 24 weeks between June and November.  They designate a pick up spot at a business near you or a fellow subscriber's home (garage).  You go to the pick up spot within a 4+ hour time window and transfer your veggies from the box into a bag.  The CSA is the best way to support your local farm.  They are able to get some funding they need up front and are guaranteed a steady customer base throughout the growing season.  And you get the freshest vegetables within a day or two of harvest and the satisfaction of knowing that you helped to sustain a farmer who believes in organic and/or responsible farming practices.

What do I do with all these vegetables??  It might take a while to get used to a vegetable subscription.  I consider it a fun challenge to figure out how to eat such an abundance of vegetables!  We all know that we should be eating more veggies for our health, and having a steady supply of vegetables makes it easier to do that.  And with the internet, it is easier than ever to figure out what to make with a vegetable you haven't tried before - and it keeps meals interesting!  The CSA's usually provide recipes and suggestions for using the items in that week's box and some even have pinterest boards to help you with serving ideas.  The CSA's deal with vacations in different ways, but they do have systems in place for week that you may need to miss.

If you have any suggestions of sources that I did not list, please leave a comment in the comments section and I will check it out!  Email me if you have any questions about any of the sources in this listing.  And don't forget to Eat Fresh and Eat Local!

Note: This list was updated on 3/9/17

Kretschmann Farm all-organic vegetable CSA,  fair trade coffee, local cheeses, chickens, mushrooms etc  Pick up weekly at a host house in Sewickley (Thursdays 3:30-7pm).  Extras like coffee, cheeses, mushrooms, beef, chickens are available to add on to your veggie subscription.  Subscribers also have the opportunity to buy certain items in larger quantities throughout the season as an add-on for preserving (if you can tomatoes, green beans, etc).
Penn's Corner Farm Alliance vegetable CSA, cheeses, beef, pork, holiday turkeys, eggs, flowers   The subscription box contains vegetables but also may include some cheese and items they preserve themselves like salsa, tomatoes, jams, dried beans, cornmeal or oatmeal. You can specify vegan or gluten free.  Items are sourced from several local sustainable/responsible farms which enables them to offer a variety of items.  You can subscribe weekly or bi-weekly for pickup at B Gourmet in Sewickley on Wednesdays 1-5pm throughout the year.  They also have an online market where you can order items separately in the quantities you want and pick up in Pittsburgh at various locations.

Clarion River Organics all organic veggie CSA, beef, pork, and chicken subscriptions, turkeys - all from a cooperative of organic amish farms in the Clarion River Valley.  The pick-up site for Sewickley has not been determined as of March 2017.  (Suggestions are welcomed - contact Jeb on their website).  I have ordered the pastured pork and organic beef shares and everything was wonderful - nothing like what you get in the grocery store!   I am doing the pork and beef again this year plus I am trying the vegetable subscription. You can find some of their items at Whole Foods too - just look for their name on the produce sign.

Your Family Farmer - All organic meats, raw cow and goat milk, cheeses, eggs, fermented foods, honey and much more from this organic Amish family farm.  For Sewickley, place your order online every other Monday for pick-up the following Thursday.  Delivery is at 1:45pm every other Thursday in the parking lot of St James Catholic Church in Sewickley.   I have ordered raw milks, beef sticks and jerky, raw cheeses, and kimchi - all have been excellent. to sign up for email order reminders (and interesting blog posts related to this adorable family and their farming practices).

Lewis Family Farm organic grass-fed Beef and pastured chickens located near Cranberry Twp, PA  They offer cuts of beef and whole chickens at various times for pick up at their farm to sign up for emails.

Morgus Family Farm fresh pastured chickens in season, frozen out of season  This is my close friend who lives in Butler.  Her two sons raise and process pastured chickens.  For customers in Sewickley, I personally take orders and distribute the chickens several times throughout the summer.  These are delicious super-fresh whole chickens that you can serve to your family within a day or two of when it was processed.  She freezes some for sale through the winter.  Email me to be put on my email distribution list.  I will contact you each time the chickens are ready to be processed (5-7 times throughout the summer, can be a bit sporadic - depends on the timing and growth of the chickens).  If you choose to order any, pickup is at my house in Sewickley.  

Starr Valley Farm organic grass fed beef in bulk   This is a great family and they are our good friends in Leechburg, PA which is about an hour's drive from Sewickley.  The beef is organic and grass fed and pickup is at their beautiful farm.  I order 1/8 of a cow once a year.  It's great to see where the cows graze in this bucolic setting, so I don't mind the drive.  Supply is limited and you may have to get on a waiting list.

Brunton Dairy/Sewickley Confectionery milk, buttermilk, and more This milk is delicious - and comes in glass bottles - no plastic!  Sewickley Confectionery will deliver milk and other items every week and take your old bottles.   I leave a cooler outside the house for delivery.  Contact is Chris Bischel at Sewickley Confectionery at  or go to this link for a signup form. Whole Foods also carries an organic milk in glass bottles if you prefer certified organic.

Alaska Wild Salmon Company wild salmon (several varieties), halibut, smoked salmon  While salmon is not a local food, this fisherman has local ties - his sister and her family live in Sewickley.  You can purchase the salmon at the Sewickley Farmers Market or order from the website below.   You can also get on their email list as they will sometimes take orders if they are unable to attend the market and will notify you if supplies are limited.  This is the most delicious and healthiest salmon you can buy!

Monday, February 27, 2017

Homemade Piping Gel

Piping gel can be purchased in any cake supply or craft store, but it's easy and less expensive to make your own.  Piping gel comes in very handy when decorating a cake that does not have any leftover buttercream for writing, and it can piped on the surface of a cake frosted with a whipped cream icing, such as this strawberries and cream cake.

Uses for piping gel include:
1.  Writing on cakes - thin with water to desired consistency
2.  Stabilizing whipped cream - add 1 tablespoon at the end of whipping for every cup of whipping cream used
3.  Cake decorating when a representation of water is needed (dyed blue to resemble the water in a pool, lake etc)
4.  Edible "glue" for decorations on cakes.  It doesn't dry too quickly which allows for placement adjustment
5.  Adding sheen to fondant decorations

Piping Gel
from Craftsy blog 
Yields 1 cup

  • 1/4-cup cold water
  • 1/4-cup corn starch
  • 1/2-cup light corn syrup
  • 1 tsp clear flavor extract (optional)
  • Gel food coloring (optional)

Combine the cold water and corn starch in a small saucepan. Whisk until smooth. Whisk in the corn syrup.

Heat until thickened.   Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature before adding flavoring or color.

If the piping gel becomes too thick, add a tiny amount of water until you achieve your desired consistency. Store piping gel refrigerated in an airtight container for up to three months.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Creamy Wild Mushroom Soup

Creamy Mushroom Soup
adapted from The Nourished Kitchen
Serves 6

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 shallot, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 pound mixed mushrooms (porcini, shiitake, chanterelle, cremini etc), thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, minced, optional
2 teaspoons finely ground unrefined sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground white or black pepper
3 cups chicken bone broth
2 tablespoons sherry
1 cup heavy cream, or less, to taste
pinch ground cayenne pepper, to taste

Melt the butter, add the shallots and thyme, and sauté until fragrant, about 3 minutes.  Add the mushrooms and garlic and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Saute until mushrooms are tender and any extra liquid has evaporated, about 10 minutes.  Stir in the broth and simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and puree the soup with an immersion blender or in a stand blender until smooth.  Stir in the sherry and heavy cream and taste for seasoning, adding cayenne pepper, if desired.  Garnish with chopped fresh thyme, fresh sprouts, or a drizzle of pesto.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Ramp and Watercress Soup

I found myself with ramps and watercress in my fridge thanks to my Penn's Corner Spring Fever CSA membership.  Not sure what to do with them, I consulted the world wide web.  Cooking with unfamiliar ingredients is a snap with so much information at my fingertips.  I found out that watercress is a healthy cruciferous vegetable (like kale and broccoli) and that ramps are a foraged delicacy only growing for a short time in the Spring.  I only had to pick up some leeks and I was in business. Perfect for a cool Spring day, this soup was delicious and just what my body was craving - a healthy warm creamy soup with flavors that meld perfectly.  I enjoyed it with a dollop of plain yogurt mixed in and that made the soup even better.  

Ramp and Watercress Soup
Adapted from Sweet Paul
Serves 3-4

2 tablespoons butter
3 leeks, thinly sliced
1 cup ramps, thinly sliced
1 cup water
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup milk
1 large potato, peeled and cut into cubes
1 bunch watercress, washed good
1 tablespoon grated parmesan
pinch cayenne pepper or to taste, optional
plain yogurt for garnish
  • Melt the butter in a large saucepan.  Add leeks and ramps and sauté until tender, about 8 minutes.  Add water, stock, milk and potato.
  • Bring to a boil and let the soup simmer on medium heat for about 10 minutes.
  • Add watercress and parmesan, cook 3 more minutes.
  • Transfer to a blender and puree into a smooth soup.
  • Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Top each bowl of soup with a dollop of plain yogurt and swirl it in with a knife for garnish.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Kate Spade Inspired Bridal Shower

My neighbor held a bridal shower and asked me to provide the desserts.  The theme was inspired by the pink, black and white designs by Kate Spade.  The cake is two-tiered with vanilla cake on top and chocolate cake with chocolate ganache filling on the bottom.  It is covered with white fondant and decorated with black fondant stripes.  At the host's house, we swapped this artificial flower with a beautiful hot pink rose (see below).

Table ready for guests.  My neighbor, Kristen, has real talent!  So beautiful!

The dessert table included light pink rosette-frosted cupcakes, raspberry parfaits made with whipped cream and raspberry sauce, the chocolate and vanilla cake, cotton candy in martini glasses, and candies to match the color scheme.  (I made all the desserts except the candies.)  What a special and elegant event!

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Ghosts and Pumpkins Halloween Cake


I made these cute little ghosts out of meringue which I baked in the oven until dry.  Then using a small paintbrush and black food coloring, I painted the eyes and mouths onto the ghosts.  The pumpkins and letters are made from colored fondant.  So cute!!

Happy Halloween!!

Meringue Ghosts
adapted from Joy of Baking

3 egg whites
3/4 cup superfine sugar
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 tsp vanilla, optional
black food coloring
tiny paintbrush

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and have ready a large piping bag fitted with a 1/2 inch round tip.

Place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer and using the whisk attachment, whisk the whites until frothy.  Add the cream of tartar and mix well.  On high speed, whisk the egg whites while adding the sugar a little bit at a time, then whisk until the meringue holds very stiff peaks.  Whisk in vanilla if desired.

Transfer the meringue to the pastry bag and, holding the bag perpendicular to the cookie sheet, pipe mounds of meringue to the desired shape and size.

Bake the meringues for 1 1/2 hours, then turn the oven off and leave the ghosts in the oven for several hours or overnight.

Paint eyes and mouth using black gel food coloring and a small paintbrush.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Chocolate Birthday Cake {grain-free}

Has anyone seen the price of almonds lately?  A jar of good almond butter is almost $20!  And the almond flour I like to use has gone up by at least half in the past year.  An employee at Frankferd Farm Foods told me the prices have gone up because of the drought in California.  I sure hope they get some rain and the prices come back down, because almond flour makes up a good part of this delicious cake!  (Although the price might keep me from indulging too often!)

You absolutely cannot tell that this cake is made without any flour or refined sugars.  It is a wonderful option for anyone who cannot have gluten or grains.  There are recipes for frosting out there that have no refined sugar, but I opted to go with my standard Swiss meringue icing.  I'm sure I'll be trying out those other icing recipes before too long!  If you make this cake, please let me know if you like it as much as I did!

Wanna bite?  I know you do!!

Grain-free Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Buttercream
adapted from Deliciously Organic
makes 2 9-inch rounds

8 ounces dark chocolate (I use Callebaut dark chocolate)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 tablespoons unrefined coconut oil or 4 more tablespoons butter
2/3 cup maple syrup
6 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
4 cups almond flour (I use Honeyville brand)
2 teaspoons coconut flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoon baking powder (grain free)

Preheat oven to 350 ºF and adjust rack to middle position. Place the chocolate, butter and coconut oil in the bowl of a double boiler. Melt, stirring occasionally. Set aside to cool (the mixture needs to cool for at least 10 minutes before adding the egg mixture below). 

Place the maple syrup and eggs in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Whisk for 5-6 minutes until pale yellow and fluffy.  Slowly whisk in the cooled chocolate mixture.

Sift almond flour, coconut flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and baking powder over egg mixture. Gently fold to incorporate. Divide batter between two buttered 9-inch cake pans lined with a round piece of parchment paper. Bake cakes for 20-25 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean. Cool cakes for 10 minutes, run a knife around the edges and then remove the cakes from the pans. Cool completely.

Chocolate Buttercream
6 ounces egg whites
12 ounces granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 sticks or one pound butter at cool room temperature 
1 teaspoon vanilla
4  ounces melted and cooled dark chocolate

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine eggs whites, sugar and salt.  Set the bowl over a pot of simmering water.  The bowl should not touch the water.   Whisk constantly until the mixture reaches 160 degrees. Remove from the heat and place the bowl onto your stand mixer and whisk at med-high speed until the mixture comes to room temperature (feel the outside of the bowl to gauge the temp).   Replace the whisk with the paddle attachment and reduce the speed to medium.  Add butter one tablespoon at a time. When all of the butter is added, turn off the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl (at this point the buttercream might look curdled, but don’t worry, it will turn creamy). Whisk the mixture on high until light and fluffy. Reduce speed again and slowly pour in the melted chocolate and the vanilla, and mix until incorporated.

To assemble:
Place one cake layer on a cake stand and top with one third of the frosting. Spread frosting evenly on the cake. Place second cake layer on top and use remaining frosting to frost the top and sides of the cake.


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