From the Farm

FROM the FARM: Reader buys soap for her squirrels

2013-05-01T00:00:00Z FROM the FARM: Reader buys soap for her squirrelsBy Philip Potempa 219.852.4327

Thank you for the great attendance at last Friday's free From the Farm Spring Cooking Show I hosted with my parents at St. James Manor in Crete.

The fine folks at St. James are experts in hospitality, and certainly know how to roll out the red carpet for guests and residents.

And I discovered they also have some wonderful events scheduled for this month, including:

• "Caregiver's Day Out" from noon to 4 p.m. on May 16, at their facility, offering family members the chance to relax with free pampering and lunch, as well as special educational programs for training about how to best care for a loved one. RSVP at (708) 672-6700 by May 13.

• "13th Annual Alzheimer's & Dementia Services Family Walk at 9 a.m. Saturday, May 18 at Francisan Communities at St. Anthony Campus in Crown Point. Money raised will help Alzheimer & Dementia Services of Northern Indiana. Call (219) 789-2470 for details or to register.

In addition to my cooking demo, my dad brought some of his custom designed birdhouses and also jars of his heirloom marigold flower seeds, which he plants each year to ward off unwanted garden invaders like rabbits and squirrels.

I always love getting mail and reader communication. And my program last week in Crete prompted a a follow-up note from reader Kay Odegard.

"My name is Kay Odegard and my sister and I went to your Spring Cooking Show in Crete. For one thing, I thought your show would be more on cooking from the garden. The second thing is, I thought your cooking show recipes were for beginners. Most of the people there have been cooking for years, so it felt like a beginners class. My suggestion is to do more recipes from the garden. For instance, kale is a vegetable that is known for health, and you can cook radishes, which most people do not know. Do you see what I mean? Teach what to plant. And one more thing; when you make your cheesecake, make sure you whip your cream cheese before adding other ingredients. It will keep your cheese from being lumpy. Here is another suggestion to keep away squirrels and other animals. Take Irish Spring bar soap and shred it and put it around the area. Soap is good for plants and your garden. Thanks, Kay Odegard"

Thank you for attending my free event Kay, and for taking the time to write to share your ideas with readers. The readers are what make this weekly From the Farm column so special, since it's a chance to learn from each other, neighbor to neighbor. So far, we only have potatoes and onions planted in our farm gardens, along with the tender asparagus tips sprouting, and our leafed-out rhubarb. But as we start to harvest, you can bet I'll continue to theme each week's column with what's available. 

As for Kay's request for fewer "beginner recipes," I try to include a variety. But since I'm a farm cook, rather than a chef, I usually showcase more simple recipes. Just as Kay mentioned she thought last week's cooking show recipes were "too easy?" Other guests mentioned my selections were "too complicated," adding "we're older now, so we no longer have big gardens and cook such involved menus." *Sigh*

Fortunately, each week, we work hard to offer a variety of recipes highlighted in each Wednesday's Food Section of The Times. So keep reading, for a mix of something for everybody.

On the subject of chefs and culinary expertise, Chef Jennifer Ruzbasan of Hobart, who heads the wonderful kitchens of St. James Manor, served up a delicious Asian recipe favorite for my parents and me to enjoy for our lunch while we were on property.

And she has graciously shared it here for Kay and other Times readers this week.

St. James Orange Ginger Stir-Fry


1/2 cup orange juice

3 tablespoons soy sauce

3 cloves garlic, chopped

1 tablespoon Orange zest

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes.

Orange Chicken:

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

4 skinless chicken breasts, halved and thinly sliced

1/2 cup chicken broth

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1 pound stir fry vegetables (you can also find prepared stir fry veggies in the frozen vegetable section)

1 cup sugar snap peas

1 cup broccoli florets

1 cup thinly sliced carrots.

Rice, quantity desired, prepared

DIRECTIONS: Stir together all sauce ingredients in a bowl until combined and set aside. To make chicken, heat oil in large skillet or wok. Cook chicken and add the orange-ginger sauce and cook until chicken is no longer pink, about 7 to 10 minutes. Whisk chicken broth and cornstarch in a smaller bowl; stir into chicken sauce mixture and simmer until thickened. Mix stir-fry vegetables, sugar snap peas, broccoli and carrots into the chicken and sauce mixture and cook until vegetables are softened, and additional 7 to 10 minutes. Serve hot over rice. Makes 4 servings.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at or (219) 852-4327.

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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