Tag Archives: Produce

Spring CSA – Week 3

7 Mar

I unfortunately learned the hard lesson of why you should store your vegetables properly. I had a crazy week at work and ended up leaving my box of food on the table for a while. By the time I remembered them on day 4, the collards had completely turned brown and dry, and a carrot and one turnip has mold growing on them. I threw them out and salvaged what was left. Lesson learned: vegetables should not be stored in a cardboard box. With fewer vegetables, there were only so many meals I could make out of it, but I still managed to eat at home more than last week, so that’s good.

What’s in our CSA box this week?

1.2 lbs of carrots
2 apples
1 bunch of spring onions (S)
1.5 lbs of turnips
1 bunch of kale (O)
1 bunch of collard greens (O)

(O=Certified Organic. S=Sustainably Grown)

What we made:

Day 1

I made another batch of kale and white bean soup for dinner. This time I used great northern beans, and I added some carrots.

Day 2

Green smoothie with kale, apple, and pineapple.

[Frozen Indian meal from Trader Joe’s for lunch.]

Leftover kale and bean soup.

Day 3

Green smoothie with kale, apple, and pineapple.

Leftover kale and bean soup and a slice of pizza.

[Dinner at Beasley’s. Chicken + waffles = AMAZING.]

Day 4

[Half a banana, granola bar, and tea for breakfast. I was late for work!]

Leftover kale and bean soup.

Apple and peanut butter for dinner. I wasn’t feeling well, so that was about all I could manage.

Day 5

[Out for a work brunch.]

[Peanut butter sandwich for lunch.]

Roasted turnips and carrots in the oven, to go with some super delicious pork chops (chops stuffed with ham and gruyere, topped with an amazing mushroom sauce).

Day 6

Green smoothie with spinach, apple, pineapple, and almond milk.

[I made lunch (tomato soup and ham & cheese sandwich), but not using any CSA food.]

[The BF worked late, so I ordered Chinese food and watched TV all night. C’mon, cut me some slack — it’s a Monday.]

Day 7

Carrot smoothie: carrot, apple, pineapple, plain Greek yogurt, almond milk, and apple juice.

Falafel on garlic flatbread with carrot, tomato, avocado, spinach, and garlic Greek yogurt sauce.

[Snacks at the movies for dinner. SO healthy.]

Day 8

Green smoothie: spinach, turnip, apple, pineapple, apple juice, and almond milk. Yeah, I added a few pieces of turnip. It didn’t change the taste, but it made the texture a little odd.

I stir-fried some carrotturnip, and green onion and had it alongside the leftover sesame chicken from dinner a couple nights ago.

Not bad, right?

I still have some green onions and a little bit of carrot left. I’ll add it to the root vegetables we’re getting in next week’s batch.

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Spring CSA – Week 1

20 Feb

The BF and I just started a spring CSA. I’m super excited to get a delivery of fresh veggies each week. Our CSA runs for 9 weeks, so my plan is to post once a week about what we got and what I made. (Just fyi, day 1 and day 8 overlap each week — Day 8 is breakfast and lunch, and then Day 1 would be what I make for dinner that same night after receiving the new delivery that afternoon.)

So first, some FAQs.

What’s a CSA?

Community-Supported Agriculture looks different in every town, but for the most part, they work like this: You pay a subscription fee up front to a local farm. Then for a certain number of weeks, the farm gives you a box of produce, containing whatever was harvested that week. Each week the box looks a little different, though it’s fairly easy to guess what types of foods you’re going to receive if you know a little about seasonal produce in your area. (Hint: spring means greens. Lots of  ’em.) Most CSAs use organic and sustainable farming techniques. Read more at LocalHarvest.org about the benefits of CSAs for both farmer and consumer.

Where is your CSA subscription? 

Our subscription is with the Community Nutrition Partnership, a nonprofit in North Carolina that aims to provide fresh, healthy produce to families of all income levels. Unlike a traditional CSA with a local farm, going through a nonprofit means that our subscription also pays for TWO needy families to have their own subscription. Also, if people forget to pick up their CSA one week, instead of going back to the farm to rot, that box will be delivered to a local family in need. Also, they deliver. Awesome perk.

How can I find a CSA for me?

Check out the interactive map at LocalHarvest.org to find a CSA in your area.

What’s in my CSA box this week?

1 bunch of Collard Greens (O)
1 head of Cabbage (O)
1 lbs of Carrots (S)
2 Apples (O)
1 lb of Sunburst Tomatoes (O)
1 bunch of Kale (O)

For this week only, I also received extras as a thank you for getting a few coworkers to sign up:
more greens (kale and other mixed greens)
2 extra tomatoes
1 bunch of beets

(O=Certified Organic. S=Sustainably Grown)

What we made:

Day 1

Pasta! We sauteed some of the collards and 2 tomatoes in rosemary and olive oil. We added spaghetti noodles and jarred tomato sauce to complete the pasta, and served it with hunks of baguette and a couple eggplant cutlets from Trader Joe’s on the side.

Day 2 

Breakfast smoothie! I added two kale leaves to my fruit smoothie. And since it was Valentine’s Day, I added 3 or 4 beet leaves to make it pink. With bananas, vanilla yogurt, and orange juice, it was delicious (just tastes like fruit) and healthy.

I sauteed some more collards, this time in garlic grapeseed oil. I took them to work and mixed them into some leftover Indian chickpea soup with that I got from Sandwhich. Served over white rice that I pre-cooked, my leftover soup became a delicious curry dish.

For Valentine’s Day, the BF and I decided to play it chill and spend some time together at home. I made a cabbage and carrot slaw (shredded cabbage, matchstick carrots, juice of 1 clementine, a bit of garlic grapeseed oil, salt, and pepper) that we enjoyed as a healthy side dish to the Papa John’s pizza we ordered. Then we settled in for a marathon of The Wire — we’re halfway through season 1!

Day 3

Apple and peanut butter for breakfast.

Some more cabbage and carrot slaw with leftover pizza.

Delicious kale and bean soup with a hunk of baguette.

Day 4

Green Smoothie... delicious!

A green smoothie! Kale, orange-peach-mango juice, banana, frozen pineapple, and blueberry yogurt. Yum!

[Lunch out at Moe’s]

[Mac & cheese and popcorn for dinner. Terrible, I know.]

Day 5

A green smoothie before hitting the road to Asheville, NC!

[Lunch at Salsa’s in Asheville]

[Dinner at Tupelo Honey in Asheville]

Day 6

[Tea for breakfast]

[Lunch at 12 Bones in Asheville]

Bowl of leftover kale and bean soup for a late dinner.

Day 7Kale &  bean soup

Green smoothie! Not even getting tired of these.

[Lunch: leftover Moe’s]

Bowl of leftover kale and bean soup for dinner. Plus I made a salad with greens, beets, walnuts, and fried goat cheese. The goat cheese was the best part (duh).

Day 8

Apple with peanut butter for breakfast.

I didn’t have time to put anything together, so I just had leftover beets for lunch, added to a random hodgepodge of snacks to make a meal.

Leftovers:

I had 3 collard green leaves leftover that I’ll just throw out — they’re pretty limp.

I have half a head of cabbage that I’ll save a little bit longer and try to find something for them. And I have 2 carrots and a tomato that will keep a while longer too. Maybe a stir fry? I hear we’re getting bok choy next! Another pasta? We’ll see…

Fresh Strawberry-Lemon Bars

11 Jun

I was joking in my last post about how I don’t really like strawberries, but I actually do. I was just joshin’, y’all. They’re just not my fave. But if I thought I didn’t like strawberries, this dessert would totally change my mind. It took a bit of time but was way worth it. I found the original recipe in an issue of Better Homes & Gardens, and it actually called for raspberries. But I thought, Hey, strawberries are in season, and they will probably work just as well. And damn was I right! These are good!

I started off by preheating the oven to 350 F and preparing my baking pan. I lined a 13×9 inch pan with aluminum foil, making sure I had enough to hang over the edges to make handles for later.

I threw 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted organic butter into a large bowl, and then beat them with my hand mixer on medium about 30 seconds. Naturally, maybe because I forgot to cut them into chunks first, the butter got all stuck in the mixer and I had to push it all back into the bowl.

Then I added 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar and 1/4 teaspoon salt. I mixed that on low speed for another 30 seconds.

I added 2 cups all-purpose flour and beat on low speed until incorporated. Then I increased the speed to medium and continued mixing until it formed a dough. For a long time, it stayed really crumbly and seemed like it wasn’t going to form into a dough. I turned off the mixer and scraped the mixer and sides of the bowl. When I started mixing again, it came right together into the dough. I don’t know if it needed a break or if I just needed to keep going or what, but it worked. Since you want a bar crust and not just a crumble bottom, it’s better to over-mix then under-mix, so don’t stop too early.

Now there's a dough

Once I had a dough, I dropped it in chunks into the foil-lined baking pan. This made it easier to smooth it out into an even dough. I popped it in the oven for 20 minutes, which was the perfect amount of time to clean up and then chop 1 pint strawberries into quarters.

Dough chunksDough layer
Once the dough finished its 20 minutes, I let it cool for 5 minutes and then brushed the exposed foil with butter. Then I spread a small jar (10 oz? I don’t remember) strawberry jam evenly over the crust.

Jam layer

For the next layer, I spread the quartered strawberries evenly.

Strawberry layer

Now for the custard filling. In another large bowl, I mixed 4 oz. (1/2 package) cream cheese and 4 oz. goat cheese with a hand mixer on high for about 30 seconds. Then I added in  1/2 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, 1 egg, 1 egg yolk, the zest of one lemon, the juice of one lemon, and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla. Of course when I tried to get just the egg yolk, I accidentally poured the whole egg down the drain. But take two worked just fine. And then I beat the whole mixture on medium until smooth, about one minute.

Custard

A tip or two about lemon… To zest a lemon, use a flat grater to grate the lemon peel directly into the bowl. Grate the yellow, but stop when you see white — you don’t want to use that part. To juice a lemon, roll it around on the counter under your palm, putting a bit of weight into it. This will loosen up the juices a bit. Then cut it in half and squeeze each half directly into the bowl. If you have trouble keeping seeds out of your bowl, wrap a paper towel around the lemon and squeeze the juice through it. The paper towel will hold back the seeds and any pulp.

Custard Layer

I poured the lemon custard batter evenly over the strawberries and then baked it for about 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, I pulled them out and let them cool for about 10 minutes. I asked the BF to help me remove them from the pan — we each took an end of the foil and lifted it out, pulling it tight so it wouldn’t slide in on itself. Since I wanted to serve them for dessert and dinner was already halfway through, I stuffed them in the fridge to cool a little faster.

Strawberry Lemon Bars

When I was ready to serve, I cut them into bars and served a little piece to everyone, and omigod they were soooo good. Lots of strawberry, very lemony, really rich, and oh so sweet. But even though the goat cheese and cream cheese made it rich, the lemon also made for a pretty light, summery flavor. Deelish.

Strawberry Lemon Bar

Notes:

  • Wow, these are good. I am actually kind of surprised how much I like them considering they don’t have any chocolate.
  • I was a little skeptical that these would hold up as bars. I’m guessing I didn’t chill them long enough because they were a little runny at first. But when I chilled them again and sliced the other half the next day, they held up really well. And I figured that even if they didn’t, this would make just as delicious and satisfying a dessert if it were called a cobbler, crumble, or custard. Try them the first day with a spoonful warm out of the oven and a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top. Then refrigerate the rest, and after they’ve chilled, try them the next day as a firm, chilled bar. Both are pretty delicious!
  • This recipe could be made the exact same way but with a variety of fruits. I’d love to try raspberries, blueberries, peaches, anything really. Maybe I’ll try this again with other seasonal produce.

Seasonal Ingredient: Strawberries (mid May – mid June)

2 Jun

Strawberries! Everyone gets excited about strawberries! They’re the first sign of spring, The Beatles love them, cartoon has-beens love them… everyone loves them! Everyone except me. I don’t love strawberries. I never did much — I prefer super sweet fruit like pineapple and watermelon rather than tart fruit, so I never ate plain strawberries. And as a kid, I basically would only eat chocolate desserts, nothing else. But now, I have an appreciation for strawberries. I enjoy many strawberry desserts and have occasionally been known to eat a plain strawberry or two.

But I still don’t love them. You know why? Because I don’t like liars or fakers. And I found out that strawberries aren’t real berries. They’ve been posing all this time. Imposters!

Posers.

Well, other than my weirdness about berry fakers, I really don’t have much to say about strawberries. We’re all pretty familiar with them. They taste good, they’re good in salads, they’re good in desserts, they’re good with chocolate, blah blah blah. I can sit here and think up a few different strawberry desserts in my head right now, but it’s a little more  a difficult to think up a meal. I’ll have to do some research and plotting, and hopefully I’ll get a few recipes posted before strawberry season ends.

Oh, and don’t forget! The strawberry is one of the dirty dozen, so buy organic!

Dee Dee’s Broccoli Casserole

8 May

My mom is affectionately known as Aunt Dee Dee or just Dee Dee to all of her nieces and nephews. She is the fun, crazy aunt who not only lets you throw a ball in the house, but is often the one to initiate and participate in said indoors throwing game. I was jealous of my cousins as a teenager because at that age, I thought my mom was a way cooler aunt than mom. But now I have a little more perspective (and a little less attitude), and I more remember all the fun and crazy projects my mom cooked up over the years, which now loom much larger than the fights and arguments we were having when I was in high school. For example, my Double Dare birthday party was the coolest party of the 4th grade, complete with pie-throwing contests, tricycle races, and a relay race that involved massive amounts of butter, popcorn, Jell-o, and a Slip ‘N’ Slide.

My mom is also a pretty amazing chef, and it’s humbling to think back over the years at how she taught herself new skills in the kitchen. When my siblings were very young (before I was around) and our family didn’t have a lot of money, they ate a lot of casseroles, soups, and one-pot meals. They were classic, homey meals that were cheap and easy to put together, perfect for a mom working crazy hours with 2 small kids. But by the time I came along, my parents were a little more settled. My mom left work to stay at home with us, and our meals became more complex, fresh, and nutritious. By the time my little sisters were in the picture, the family was eating ethnic foods like Indian and Japanese, and our meals had a lot more fresh produce and a lot less cream of mushroom soup.

I think this trend is very interesting from a sociological standpoint, but I also think that from a personal view, I became very used to learning about food and trying new things. Now my mom and I swap ideas for new foods, new recipes, and how to use the massive quantities of rosemary she gets from the rosemary bush in her backyard big enough to hide two toddlers in (speaking from experience). I regularly call her for advice (“Mom, 10 people are showing up for dinner in 20 minutes, and I ran out of ___. What should I do!?” or “Mom, this chicken I just cooked is, like, gray… If I eat it, will it kill me?”), and I give her tips I pick up from health food nuts and farmers’ markets in my more liberal small town. My goal one day is to be able to take a quick glance into a pantry or refrigerator and put together a dinner plan, just like I’ve seen her do a million times. I’m not that comfortable or familiar yet with food, ingredients, and recipes, but I think I’m getting there.

When I was staring at the broccoli – this month’s seasonal produce – and trying to figure out what to do with it, I could not stop thinking about broccoli casserole. This is a huge throwback dish, something my mom made relatively regularly when I was a kid. I loved it so much, I think I even requested it as part of my birthday dinner one year. But as I explained above, our family has trended over time toward more nutritious foods, so this is a dish that my mom no longer makes or eats. It’s very unhealthy, especially since I only want it if she agrees to my request for extra cheese. Every year at Thanksgiving she proposes leaving it out, and every year my siblings, cousins, and I demand that we have it. It’s a Thanksgiving staple that I generally only have once a year. So she agrees to its presence at our Thanksgiving table, but one of us has to make it ourselves. It’s a very simple recipe that can be made in 15 minutes or less. So here it is… Dee Dee’s Broccoli Casserole.

Start with 1 bag frozen broccoli. Thaw it completely (on the counter or in the microwave) and chop it into bite-sized pieces. Spread it in the bottom of a glass casserole dish. Top with a layer of grated extra sharp cheddar cheese.

Broccoli and cheeseSpread a layer of cream of mushroom soup over top the cheese.

Cream of Mushroom SoupAnd now spread another layer of grated extra sharp cheddar cheese. Cover with plastic wrap, cut a slit in the center, and cook it in the microwave on high for 5-7 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the broccoli is cooked.

More CheeseI hadn’t made this in a long time, but I knew the cheese was the most important part, so I just kept adding some. I wasn’t sure how much was necessary. When I pulled it out of the microwave, it really just looked like a dish of cheese with a few broccoli bumps. I realized I went a little overboard, but obviously it was good because I tried to take a picture a few minutes later, but people were already digging in!

Broccoli Casserole

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!

Seasonal Ingredient: Broccoli (end of April-May)

2 May

Broccoli is a rather short-lived crop in North Carolina, so when I checked my produce schedule and realized I only had a month to profile these tiny trees, I decided I better get crackin’. I researched broccoli a little bit, and I found out that it is a cruciferous vegetable What does this mean? I have no idea. But I do know that broccoli is super healthy! Check this out:

Broccoli Nutrient Chart

Vitamin C and Vitamin K are off the chart!

I never really thought much about how cooking style affects the nutrients of what you eat. But this is apparently a big deal when it comes to broccoli. Here’s the gist: you shouldn’t boil broccoli because it will lose all its nutrients and basically become pointless. Stir-frying and microwaving are not fantastic options, but aren’t terrible. The best way to prepare broccoli is to steam it. This website gives a lot of information on why this is the case, and why the other methods suck, but that’s the most important part. Read here for basic preparation of broccoli.

a.k.a. Tiny Trees

When I was a kid, I didn’t understand why the standard sitcom punchline for which food kids hate was broccoli. I didn’t think broccoli was so bad. As an adult, I now realize this is because my mom only ever served broccoli completely smothered with cheese. Delicious! I now eat broccoli prepared in more ways than just cheese-drenched, though that is my favorite. Check out there delicious broccoli recipes:

Sorry none of my broccoli recipes are super healthy. But there were just too good to pass up. Okay fine, here’s a healthy recipe for you: Chop up some broccoli, separating the tree part (floret) from the trunk part (stem). Throw the stems into your steamer or steam pot and steam for 2 minutes. Then throw in the florets and steam for 5 more minutes. Serve immediately as is, or garnished with dressing, herbs, or some such. So easy!

Spinach and Salmon Salad

24 Apr

On Friday, the BF and I had the day off, and we took a little time to try to throw together a nice lunch. We wanted something light and healthy because we were anticipating a weekend’s worth of delicious, fatty food, what with Betsy Bundt‘s wedding on Saturday (don’t fret… I’ll have more cupcake and decorating gossip on that later) and Sunday supper with the family. So we hopped on our bikes and rode to Trader Joe’s to pick up some veggies.

Upon our return, the BF fired up the George Foreman and seasoned the salmon with a dusting of chili powder while I assembled the salad. Actually, the truth is, he pretty much did all of it while I moped around the kitchen in a post-exercise, hunger-induced daze. I did, however, manage to make us each a fruit and yogurt parfait for dessert, and then consume every last bit of mine while he made lunch.

In our salad, we had a bed of organic spinach (a seasonal ingredient available in North Carolina March through December!), carrots, walnuts, goat cheese, and croutons. I found that if you scrape the goat cheese with a fork instead of try to cut it with a knife, then nice little crumbs will fall evenly all over the salad, instead of clumping together.

After the BF finished mastering the electric grill (he suggests medium-low heat, about 4-5 minutes on each side), we added a salmon fillet right on top. Carrots + salmon… weird!? But hey, there are no rules in this kitchen. I drizzled mine with some Italian dressing and the BF chose a light cucumber ranch dressing. It was super delicioso!

"Parfaits got layers! Everybody loves parfaits!" Too old? Too lame? Yes.

As I said, for dessert we had a yogurt and fruit parfait, though I had already eaten mine by this point. I mixed 1 part nonfat vanilla Greek yogurt and 1 part store-bought cream cheese fruit dip (to sweeten it a bit — this is dessert, after all) in a small bowl. I filled the bottom of these cute little glasses with grapes, then a spoonful of my yogurt mixture, then blueberries, then yogurt, then mandarin oranges. A small dollop of yogurt on top made it camera-ready.

Healthy Lunch!

How Sue Sees It:

  • I know this recipe is a bit of a scam, since most salad recipes are lame. I mean, does anyone really need a recipe to make a salad? Put vegetables on a plate and top it with salmon. There, you’re done.
  • If you don’t want to buy the fruit dip, you can easily mix your own — my mom, Susie Senior, makes a great one with one part marshmallow creme/fluff and one part strawberry cream cheese. So your overall mixture would be one part marshmallow fluff, one part cream cheese (choose your flavor), and two parts yogurt.