Everyone has their different versions of their own “top ten” kitchen tools. This one is adapted to CSA, and to my style of cooking. I like to keep it simple. I have three kids, after all, so I like to be able to get something in the oven quick, let it cook, then serve. When I have time I like to experiment too.
Here are the top ten used in my kitchen (I’m assuming you have a couple basics like hot pads and a metal spatula, regular cooking pots and big metal stirring spoon covered already). These are in order of importance / most used in my kitchen. I explain each one further down in the post.
Below are the items divided into categories, with a short explanation of each. Scroll to the end for a full checklist!
Basic kitchen tools you’ll need:
Good knife, cutting board and knife sharpener or honing steel- there is no understating the importance of a good knife when you’re in a CSA. You will need to chop vegetables. I good, sharp knife, vs a dull knife can reduce your chopping time by at least a half and save frustration (not to mention wrists!). So once you’ve selected your knife, get a knife sharpener, or a honing steel to keep it sharp. Every time you take out that knife… sharpen it! Every. Time. You’ll also need a cutting board to go with this sharp knife, unless you don’t care about your knives or countertops. A cutting board is also handy after you’ve chopped those veggies, to pick up and toss into the soup pan or skillet. I like a big wooden cutting board, a medium wood cutting board, a small wood cutting board (like for cheeses or snacks), and a plastic one for meats.
Cast Iron skillet- I’m sure you can get by with any kind of skillet, but since I’m talking about my kitchen… I absolutely LOVE cast iron. If you’re not going the cast-iron direction, try stainless steel. Anything oven safe is fine, but avoid the non-stick kind. Eventually that non-stick film will come off into your food and into your body. (Yuck!) If you’re investing in a cast-iron, you could get a deeper one with a lid, and save yourself some time before you invest in a Dutch oven. That lid does wonders for all sorts of things like sauces, keeping food warm before it’s served, fritattas, and so much more.
Utensils/uber basics: Big metal stirring spoon, wooden spoon, metal spatula, ladle, tongs (for the grill, oven, etc), Hot pads and/or oven mit. Do these need more explanation?
Sheet pan… it’s important this has a lip. You can do all sorts of things with a sheet pan. Cookies is basic, but we’re talking veggies here. So… sheet pan meals for one. Just google “sheet pan meals” and you’ll find a wealth of recipes. It’s basically a protein (like chicken), surrounded by chopped veggies and some spices. Your whole meal on one pan. Use parchment paper, and it’s a super easy clean up. You can also use these for freezing things like kale balls… blanch, squeeze out the water, freeze in balls on a sheet pan, then transfer to a freezer bag. Or strawberries (as if you didn’t eat them all up before you got home…), you can cut of the tops, place them on a sheet pan with space in between each so they freeze separately, then transfer to a freezer bag.
Food Processor*. This is probably my number one kitchen tool that I use so much, after the above-named basics. I use this for so many things. Pesto. All kinds of pesto with all kind of greens… nettle, kale, Swiss chard, and of course basil. Pretty much any green can be made into pesto. And you can freeze pesto! (see freezing items below). I make my own oat flour. Just grind up rolled oats till it’s a flour. No need to spend loads of money on Gluten Free flour when you can make it yourself. I use it for the base of chocolate kale muffins and other types of baked goods. I chop nuts. I shred cheese. I made pizza dough and biscuit dough. I make a carrot slaw, a cabbage slaw, shred mozzarella cheese for homemade pizza night and so much more.
Instant Pot*. Did I just say the food processor was my number one big ticket item? It’s a close race, they’re neck-in-neck. I use the instant pot as a slow cooker for roasts and stews. (You can brown the meat straight in the pot, instead of browning on the stove then transferring to a slow-cooker). I use it to cook dried beans quickly, then make into soups or hummus. I pressure cook meat and roasts if I forget to get it going in the slow cooker function early enough. I use it for bone broth. I think there’s even more I can do with it, I’m still experimenting. (and also, I do realize that an Instant Pot is not “essential.” I got by for many years with a slow cooker, a stock pot and and a skillet. But it’s pretty convenient.)
Glass storage bowls with lids. Like a pyrex, for example. So many ways to use these. The most important is leftovers, and leftovers are important!! For lunches, first and foremost, but also to recombine into your next meal. It’s fun to get creative with how to repurpose one meal to get the most from your food. You can also use these for prepped food. Like, if you want to go ahead and chop some veggies on a Sunday, or shred some cheese so it’s ready to go during the week for quick meals
Grater (or use the grater attachment of the food processor!). I have a stand-up grater with four different sides for different sizes of grating. I mainly use this for shredded cheese, or shredded carrots or beets to put on top of my salads. I also have a food processor with a grater attachment. (see above). I use this sooo much, when I need to grate in quantity.
Large stock pot. I use this for making… well… stock. Actually, these days I use the instant pot mostly for making stock, but occasionally I’ll still use my stock pot for this in the winter if I want to use it to get my kitchen warm and steamy and delicious-smelling. Veggie stock with leftover veggie scraps, chicken stock with the leftover chicken bones after a roasted chicken dinner, bone broth from beef soup bones… sooooo nourishing for your body, especially after childbirth! (But that’s another post). I also use it for making chili and butternut soup, or veggie stew. These are some of my favorite soups. Oh, and I also use it for boiling corn on the cob… one minute then done! And blanching greens I’m going to freeze.
Immersion blender. It’s actually a little surprising to me that the immersion blender is so far down on my “essentials” list. I use it to puree soups straight in the pot, like the butternut mentioned above, and to blend a smoothie straight in the jar (see below). I feel like I use it a lot, but these are two specific ways, and other tools seem to be more versatile, when I was creating the “essentials” list. But I use this A LOT.
Mason jars with lids, quart and pint sized… I like the plastic lids for storage in the fridge. These are so versatile. Oh, let me count the ways. Smoothies. Right in the jar. Storing soups, for the fridge or freezer. Storing salads for on the go. Make your own vinaigrette and store it. (Template: one third acid, like vinegar or lemon juice, two-thirds oil like olive or avocado, a Tablespoon of sweet like honey, maple or sorghum. Plain, or add some chopped herbs. Shake in a jar and you’re good to go for salad dressing for a week!) Finally, you can just use them as drinking cups. They’re good for kids because they don’t break as easily as actual glasses (case in point… we have one glass left from the set of glasses we got for our wedding that I loved so much… but lots of mason jars on our shelves now!)
Salad spinner. I do love my salad spinner, but you can also try this salad spinner hack, or wrap washed lettuce in a clean cloth towel and store in fridge.
Dutch oven* (or get a lid for a cast iron skillet, and you can use that for some things). I use the Dutch oven mainly for stewing or braising meats, but check out this recipe for braised greens. It’s amazing. I also use it without the lid for roasting chickens. And for soups. I tend to use this more in the winter because I don’t like to heat up my kitchen in the summer. I’m grateful I have it, but the other two big-ticket items are more important in my kitchen. If you don’t want to spring for one, you can get a deep cast-iron with a lid, and make most of the braising recipes using that.
Meat Thermometer. For the meat eaters out there. Essential, unless you’e pro-enough to eyeball to know when it’s done.
* Big-ticket item
Items for freezing
Even if you think, “freezing isn’t for me,” read on… you still might want to give it a whirl. You’ll be thankful come January when you can add some greens to your stews, and you just might find you need to get rid of that kale before the next batch arrives. You’ll need:
Nonessential kitchen gadgets
I’ve seen the following items on other people’s “top ten” lists, but I either don’t have them to know how “essential” they are, or I simply don’t use mine.
microplane stick grater
Fermenting crocs (ok, not a “gadget” but a specific interest tool. You can also ferment in mason jars)
You can mark off what you have already, and star the ones you want to prioritize. If you have the funds to just get the rest, go for it! If you’re like me, I’d need to prioritize one per month that I’ll get, or save up for a couple months for some of the “big ticket items” or ask for them as a gift. The Instant Pot was a Christmas gift, and it keeps on giving!!
If I had to choose five things for my kitchen it would be… knife, cutting board, cast iron skillet, food processor, instant pot (this is assuming I have something to stir with)
Most essential basic tools- start here!
Big Ticket Essential Items… in order of importance in my kitchen
Kitchen tools needed after the essentials
Items for preserving: freezing, canning, dehydrating or fermenting
Nonessential (in my view) kitchen gadgets that some people swear by
Oh tomatoes! Aren't they lovely? We start them in January in our basement, before the greenhouse is even fired up for the season. We baby them in their various growth stages, and tuck them into their beds in the high tunnels early in the season and outside in the Spring, in an attempt to have great tomatoes throughout the season.
Last year, our high tunnel tomatoes were ravaged by a tiny pest: the white fly. Neem oil helps a little, but really the only method of pest control is prevention: find them early and remove them.
Adam's been strolling the rows in the high tunnels each day looking for these little creatures. When he finds them, he takes the whole leaf and puts it in a sealed bucket. A few times, he's had to take a whole plant in order to protect the plants around it.
We're hoping this will save those plants and help the tomatoes thrive so your baskets are filled with tomatoes this year. (If you want them of course). We think we've caught them early, but we'll stay vigilent!
We’ve had a few people ask if we'll be able to, so we thought we'd say: the answer is a resounding YES.
There’s never been a better time to know your farmer. We know you depend on us for healthy, local food, and we are finding ways to get that to you. We’re providing food… designated as an essential service.
The CSA will start officially Tuesday, May 19 and Saturday May 23, but check your account to see when your start date is, if you sign up for every other week.
To us, CSA isn’t just a bag of veggies or box of meats. It’s a relationship.
We honor that relationship by getting good food to you. Right now, before CSA begins, we’re using the online store and taking preorders. We’ve opened an online store to be sure you can get what you need. We'll reload the store every Monday or Tuesday night. Order by midnight Thursday for Saturday delivery. Order HERE.
Main Season CSA We truly feel that feeding CSA members is like feeding our family. That means we will be making every effort to keep your food safe in the harvest and handling process, and following social distancing measures during this time of the coronavirus outbreak in our personal lives, and during pickups or home delivery. We actually think getting our food is better than going to the grocery story. Why?
Will you make any changes because of Covid-19?
YES. All of the above said, we will be making some changes to keep the CSA running and keep you healthy during this time:
Pickup locations: as we get closer to the start of the CSA, we’ll reach out to our established pickup locations to be sure they can all remain open. If there are any issues with you being able to access the pickup location you signed up for, you can choose a different pickup location, or choose home delivery.
Social distancing: we’ll be developing policies and procedures for each pickup location to practice the proper social distancing to follow whatever guidelines we’re under at the time, including no-touch policies if needed.
Even more cleaning and disinfecting: In addition to the stringent GAP guidelines, we’ll establish even more guidelines for disinfecting and washing here on the farm and at any locations we visit.
Packaging: No more reusables, at least for this year. This one hurts our hearts. Being able to use reusable bags is good for the environment, but is not something we feel we can do this year, out of an abundance of caution. We’re currently looking into other options for this.
“Farmers Market style” CSA pickups: At some pickup points, we have practiced a “farmers market style” pickup, where members bring their bags, and go down a line of produce bins to select their produce. We are still assessing whether or not we can do this. (Note the grocery stores haven’t changed their produce sections!). So stay tuned. “Worst case scenario” we’ll just pre-package everyone’s produce.
We'll also continue to update our policies, following appropriate and research-based guidance.
So… this is all new territory for all of us! If I haven’t answered your questions, please reach out and let me know what questions you have. Chances are, if you have a question, someone else out there does too!
As Spring buds here on the farm, the greenhouse is full, and farming is underway. We’ve completed most of our seed orders for the year, so thank you for those of you who signed up early to help us do that. It really helps!! We’re entering the busy season of preparing ground, planting seeds and transplanting baby plants from the greenhouse into the fields. (Above photo is Rosalio and Alex transplanting the first broccoli, cauliflower and other greens) So we are rolling forward. We look forward to staying committed to the relationship we’ve entered with our CSA members. Again, the CSA relationship is different than a typical consumer/business relationship, and we value that dynamic. We hope you do too!
We’re in this together!
Be well, Rae and Adam
We're hiring! Do you enjoy customer interaction and love good food? We sell meat and vegetables at three Louisville Farmers Markets:
St Matthews Farmers Market, Saturdays 8am-noon
Douglass Blvd Market, Saturdays 10am-2pm
Phoenix Hill Market 3-6 pm
We will need a few people to fill openings at the above three farmers markets this year. Work hours for each market will include additional set up and clean up time from the above listed market hours. The St. Matthews market will need one person to have a vehicle large enough to load coolers to bring to the Douglass Blvd market.
Quick on your feet
Good attention to detail and table display
Knowledge of cooking meats and vegetables preferred
Must be able to lift up to 50 lbs.
Pay is $50 per market, with an increase for the person who takes the St. Matthews items to the Douglass market.
We are taking the coronavirus seriously, and the impact on market help. We will provide gloves and masks, and will work to provide the safest working conditions we can.
To apply, email email@example.com with your availability for which markets you're interested in, and a short description of your qualifications or why you're interested.
As the past few weeks have unfolded, we’ve been asking ourselves as a farm, “how can we help”? We believe two of the most basic things people need now and always are good food and community.
We have set up an online store with meats, and a few veggies. (We’ll add more veggies in later weeks as they become available). A possible silver lining in this is we all have more time to be at home with family. Cooking together can be quality time. You can order what you want online, and either:
Order by midnight Thursday for that Saturday's delivery.
We'll update the store with new inventory every Sunday or Monday
We are only opening the store to CSA members this first week, for a few reasons. First, as our core farm supporters, we take care of you first. It’s part of our CSA philosophy. So if there are glitches, or anything looks funny in the ordering process or emails, please tell us so we can fix it. So, please order what you need, but don’t share the link with others, at least this first week.
Community: how can we help, how can you help?
This is a new online store for us… we got it set up quickly to meet the needs of people who are homebound but need food! Or, who wan a safe pickup option for quality food. We also know that connection to others and community is important! We’ll try to give fun updates on what’s happening on the farm, photos and videos of the kids and otherwise hopeful news to keep you feeling connected and uplifted. We’ll also continue to share recipes as you may be cooking more, and please share your recipes and strategies by email or on our FB page!
Can you help feed another family? On a more serious note, some families are really struggling right now with food insecurity. We can make some food donations, but we need help. We have some local networks that can get food to families in need. In the online store there is an option to “feed another family,” and price points for that. We’ll create meat bundles for those families based on what is entered.
What precautions are we taking?
The Douglass Loop Farmers Market is now an open-air grocery. It has a slightly different location, in the main parking lot of the church, 2005 Douglass Blvd, and reduced hours 10-1. Please note the no socializing policy for the market. This is important to be sure the market can continue as an essential service, and is not a social event. We will be practicing extra stringent sanitation measures in preparation for and during the pickup, including the obvious hand washing and hand sanitizer, disinfecting any touched tables or items after each person, and implementing a no touch policy during pickup. Your order will be pre-paid, so we'll set your order on the table, step back, and then you can pick it up. For walk-up orders, we'll be wearing gloves and masks, and switching gloves for anyone paying on site. Preorders are the way to go, so preorder if you can! We will be sanitizing all items before and after pickup, and are thoroughly cleaning our packing and storage spaces at the farm. Also, we won’t be using any reusable packaging for the time being.
Thanks as always for your support! We look forward to continuing to provide essential food for you and your family.
Don't worry, that garlic won't get eaten by the lions. (At least not all of it. The grass was another story though). We've had some really awesome farm/family days the last couple of weeks. It's so fun to see the kids outside playing, creating castles in the mud and in their imagination!
The garlic and strawberry plants look good. That's garlic in the foreground. We plant it in late fall so it begins to sprout and grow. Then it goes dormant over the winter so that this time of year, it's already planted and ready to take off. That way, we can have garlic scapes, green garlic and garlic bulbs for you quickly in your CSA bags. So, the garlic is looking good this year. The strawberries are looking good too. In the above photo, the strawberries are covered with what looks like a giant piece of cloth. It is. It's called remay, and it helps the plants survive the winter. We hold down the cloth with sandbags all along the edge. Here is a photo of a strawberry plant:
The edges of the plant are a little brown from the cold, but the new growth in the center looks amazing. We're hopeful for great strawberries to start us out in the CSA bags in May.
This was a day that Adam was working with the bees, so the boys were playing "lion" while Adam had the hives open just a few feet away. It was a sunny day, so the bees were happy, and so were the boys! This was just the start of their adventure. They also climbed a giant dirt mound from when we cleared out the pond last fall, rode on the tractor and helped mama pick up tree limbs from when Adam grafted.
Remember when breakfast was a bowl of cereal or a piece of toast? (And maybe it still is?) Try re-thinking what breakfast looks like. Through much trial and error, I've discovered I need two things for breakfast to really feel good: protein and veggies.
I still will sometimes have some oatmeal with nuts or granola and yogurt, but the sweet taste in the morning just doesn't do it for me anymore.... and it definitely doesn't hold me over till lunch. Even the oatmeal with nuts feels heavy in my belly at first, but then I feel like I need more nourishment.
So I've created alternatives for myself. This one is my favorite: kale with mushrooms and fried eggs. I dice the mushrooms and throw them in a cast iron with a little butter, or just some water so they don't burn. While those are cooking, de-stem and cut the kale small, then toss it in the pan. Let it wilt and then add a splash of vinegar, either rice vinegar or apple cider vinegar or balsamic vinegar), and then a little splash of coconut amino acids for a hint of sweetness. You could also use balsamic reduction or just skip it. Then put those in a bowl or plate and use the same plan to fry and egg or two.
I won't lie, it does take a little more time than putting a piece of bread in the toaster. But honestly not that much more time. Maybe 5 minutes. And it's soooo worth it. I don't do this every morning yet, but I'm working towards it because when I do, my whole day goes so much better. I'm energetic, my brain functions better, and I just feel better (as long as I've gotten enough sleep! But especially on those days, it's important for me to eat well to get through the day).
Making this one change has meant way more veggie intake for me, too, and is a great way to get through that CSA share! I'd love to hear your ideas for veggies for breakfast. Send them my way!
Last year, we bought bees. Three hives. Not for honey, mind you! For pollination. (We have maple syrup and sorghum for sweeteners). They have a job on the farm. It's to go around to all the flowers and "spread the love" so to speak so that fruits will develop from the flowers. Also, as I'm sure you know, bees are so important not just for vegetable and fruit pollination, but to make the whole system work. We need them. They did their job by being bees, and visiting all the flowers on the farm, and then around October we weren't seeing them anymore. The hives had died. We were very disappointed, but it was our first year, so we thought, "well, we'll try again next year." Well, over the winter we've made friends with a new beekeeper, Monica. She wants to learn to keep bees to do her part to help out the bees. She came over to see where we kept our hives, and she volunteered to manage the new batch for us for the year. We took a family trip out to the hives to check them out, and low and behold:
one hive survived! They were crawling all around the top when we opened the lid. So she came back the following day with her suit, Adam donned his suit and we checked it out. They truly had survived. Plenty of honey to help them through the winter, and the Queen was alive and well.
Those are the kinds of bees we want to nurture: the kind that can survive the winter without us checking on them or feeding them once! We'll order two more hives for this year for the set of three. So when you get your tomatoes and squash and cucumbers and watermelon and butternut this year: say "thank you" to the bees!
Nourishing Hope: Dinner and Ideas
(working title... anyone great at coming up with good titles?)
We're partnering with Farm to Fork Cafe for an exclusive dinner conversation! This is for foodies and thinkers. Adam and Rae will lead a conversation on topics that animate us, that we just don't have time to delve into in the farmers market bustle: climate change on the farm and farmer-led solutions, policy at the local and national levels that affect small family farms, ideas and practices around food justice and farm justice, including racial and economic injustice that are built into our current food systems, and more. Bring your appetite and thoughts to the table and let your mind and tastebuds expand with delicious Barr Farms fare lovingly prepared by Farm to Fork Cafe. This will be a small intimate event to allow for depth of conversation.
Barr Farms chicken dinner and two sides (vegetarian option available)
One glass wine or beer (or nonalcoholic beverage)
Thursday, April 2
Farm to Fork Cafe
2425 Portland Ave, Louisville, KY 40212
We are REALLY excited about this event! It's going to be delicious... um, I mean fun. Look forward to seeing you there!
This event will be open to CSA members first, as a thank you to our members.
Rae lives and farms on Barr Farms with her family. She loves cooking healthy food, trying new things, deep conversations with friends, reading, learning and playing, especially with her three children.