Thursday, March 29, 2012

Organic Harvest Box for March 29, 2012

I was a little intimidated with this week's list when I first saw it on Monday - fennel, chard, lemon.  Chard, I know that I love it but is it versatile?  Fennel is one of those veggies that is just a little strong for my kids so I think that I have only used it a handful of times.  And lemon, there are so many options but it is one of the last fruits to get used up from my harvest box.  However, the more I started looking around and linking from this recipe to that and pulling out favorites, I realized that this week is a snap - so many of these veggies go so well together in so many different food combinations.

It was a nice coincidence to see a lemon on the list as I had just read this great little piece on the Food52 website.  It was talking about the staple items in your fridge or grocery list, and they listed lemon as one of their staple items and how versatile a lemon is for salad dressings, stuffing a chicken with lemon, using the zest on pasta, in pancakes or crostini, squeezing the lemon into water or using the juice to keep apples/avocados from going brown.  I am going to challenge myself that the lemon will not be the last fruit used up this week.  This recipe for Zucchini Frites with Lemon Basil Mayonnaise caught my eye as the lemon mayo could be used for dipping a few different things - zucchini frites made from last week's zucchini if you have any left, sweet potato fries made from the yam, or fresh cut up carrots, celery and fennel.

The fennel was definitely the most challenging veggie for me this week as I have maybe only prepared fennel a couple of times in the past.  As I mentioned this to a co-worker, she said that she had a great Fennel and Orange Salad recipe which sounded perfect as both are in our box this week.  I had to try it out.  I didn't quite stick to the recipe as I added in some carrots and a radish from last week's box but I'm sure the original version is equally as good.  It tasted even better the next day as the flavors intensified.

Fennel and Orange Salad

1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup wine or rice vinegar
1 tsp. French mustard
1 clove garlic, crushed
 1 tsp. honey
 salt and pepper
 1 tsp. orange zest
 1 Tbsp. orange juice
 3 Tbsps. raisins
 2 heads fennel, sliced
 3 oranges, segmented
 3 spring onions, sliced
 3 Tbsps. pecan halves (optional)

Segment the orange over a bowl in order to catch the juice for the dressing.  Mix up the dressing using the olive oil, vinegar, mustard, garlic, honey, salt, pepper, orange zest and orange juice.  Slice your fennel and green onions and toss together with the raisins, oranges, and pecans.  Toss with the dressing.  

All of the parts of the fennel can be used in cooking, the stalks and greenery can be used to season dishes with the anise type flavor and the milder white bulb can be cooked or eaten raw.  The bulb is a good source of vitamin C and fibre.  Fennel is best stored in the crisper but eaten soon after purchase as it is said to lose it's flavor the longer it is kept, however if you find the fennel flavor too strong, then do leave it a few extra days to be more mild.  Fennel pairs well with so many of the items from this week's box such as lemon, orange, celery, carrot, spinach, and onion.  It can be used in some great recipes such as New Carrot and Fennel Soup with Watercress,  Spinach Salad with Vidalia Dressing or this simple Fennel and Celery Salad  If you have a bit of time, this Lemon and Onion Roasted Chicken will make use of your lemon, fennel, carrots, yam and onions.

I was really impressed to find out how healthy chard is.  Everything I read about it proclaimed its high levels of vitamins A, C, and K, iron, beta-carotene, and the phytonutrient betalain which is good as an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and detox agent.  Just one cup of chard provides over 700% of the recommended daily intake of Vitamin K, over 200% of the recommended intake of Vitamin A, and half the recommended daily intake of Vitamin C.  To store chard, do not wash the leaves until ready to use, place it in a plastic storage bag and wrap the bag around the stems, squeezing out as much air as possible.  One of my favorite ways of preparing chard is quite simple, cut the leaves and stalks, boil in water, drain, toss with a little butter, salt and pepper, a squeeze of fresh lemon or a little bit of vinegar.  However, chard can also be used in almost any way that you enjoy spinach or kale.  I came across this great frittata recipe which will incorporate both your onions and your chard for a great weekend breakfast/brunch meal or a quick weeknight meatless dish.  Or from another of my favorite recipe sources, LCBO's Food and Drink magazine, the Spicy Greens would be a great way to use the chard as side dish.

I wasn't feeling very creative about what to do with the yam in this week's order.  I normally use yams at holiday meal times  but I don't happen to be hosting Easter dinner this year.  Or we often use them for homemade baked fries, but I remembered a recipe from an Ottawa Citizen article that is worth trying if you are still in the mood for a warming stew.  This recipe takes a little bit of prep but can then be put in the crockpot to be ready at then end of a busy day.  

Curried Lentil Stew
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup dry French lentils, soaked 2 hours or overnight, then drained
One 28-ounce can diced tomatoes, with liquid
One 14-ounce can coconut milk
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth, or water
2 large carrots, diced
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into bite-size pieces
1/2 cup raisins
11/2 teaspoons curry powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground ginger (or 1 teaspoon grated fresh gingerroot, peeled)
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
11/2 teaspoons salt, or less to taste
2 cups fresh spinach leaves, chopped

To garnish (any or all):
Chopped fresh basil leaves, cilantro or parsley
Plain yogurt
Diced avocado
Green onion, chopped
Goat cheese, crumbled

1. In a frypan, heat olive oil and sauté onion and garlic. Transfer all ingredients (except spinach and garnishes) to slow cooker and cook on Low setting 7 to 8 hours, or until lentils and sweet potatoes are tender.
2. Before serving, fold in spinach. Garnish with your choice of any or all of the garnishes.
Source: The Red Apron

Lastly, just a few tips for the produce in this week's box - trim the green stalks off the carrots before putting them in the crisper and they will stay fresher longer, pat your lettuce dry and then wrap it in an absorbent paper towel and place it back in the bag, and keep your tomatoes unwashed and at room temperature and if you want them to ripen quicker place them in a paper bag with an apple.  Enjoy!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Organic Harvest Box for March 22, 2012

Welcome back to the Life Organic Blog!!  I am really excited to be writing the blog for Life Organics.  My family has been receiving the Basic Harvest Box for more than year and have enjoyed the variety of produce and the opportunities to try vegetables that I may never have picked up before.  So, I'm not new to Life Organics, but I am new to blogging, so would be happy to have any feedback about style, recipes, and content that you want to give.

Before I get into the ideas for this weeks produce, I wanted to mention that I bought a case of the Camino Fair Trade Organic Mango Juice (did you know they were featured on Episode 2 of The Big Decision on CBC) that Life Organics was offering the last couple of weeks, and my two kids have loved it.  I do recommend to cut the mango juice with water for little kids as it is almost like nectar and very tasty and rich.  This week I ordered a case of Tropical Juice and Limeade and can't wait to try both.  I'm thinking that the Limeade with a bit of tonic, club soda, or sparkling water would've been a great patio drink this week.

When I originally looked at the list for this week's selection all I could think about was grilling, BBQ-ing, and fresh summer salads given our fantastic weather.  Looking at the forecast for the weekend and next week I think that I might still be in the mood for some soups and casseroles.  Tasha and I have had radish discussions over the last couple of weeks, how best to keep them  (trim the leaves, wrap in plastic and refrigerate), what to do when they get soft (immerse them in ice water for an hour before serving), and how to eat them.  I use the Joy of Cooking (Rombauer, Rombauer Becker, and Becker) to look up all sorts of cooking information and was interested to read that radishes were considered an appetite stimulant and that the French had a custom of starting the day with a handful of radishes, eaten with sweet butter.  In our house, we mostly eat our radishes raw, a bright addition to a vegetable tray, or sliced thinly into a salad, but I was interested to find a variety of cooked radish recipes such as, Sauteed Radishes with Watercress or Roasted Radishes. Certainly with the baby lettuce or spinach in this week's box, I think the radishes would be a great addition to your favorite salad recipe.

The other items in the box all inspire a variety of meal ideas.  Our fruit always gets eaten as it is and we've been ordering extra navel oranges because we are finding them so juicy and tasty right now.  The apples could be used for a Baked Apple dessert.  The potatoes could be roasted on the BBQ, boiled, or mashed but for us will probably get used in Leek and Potato Soup, with our leeks from last week.   To take advantage of the early BBQ season I think that we will roast the green beans on the grill (you could add the zucchini with them) in some tin foil with some olive oil, garlic and seasoning.  Or you could do a French Bean Salad with Tarragon and Green Peppercorn from one of my new favorite food websites, Food52.

Lastly, I was happy to see both peppers and zucchini on the list so that I could use it in one of our favorite, kid friendly, regular supper recipes, Chickpea Curry, served over rice or thin egg noodles.

Chickpea Curry 
1 tsp. garlic, minced
1 tsp. fresh ginger, finely chopped or minced
1/2 c. chopped onion
1/2 c. each red or yellow or green pepper, chopped
1/2 c. zucchini, chopped
1 tbsp. each of cumin, ground coriander, and curry powder
1 tsp. salt
1 c. canned diced tomatoes, drained
3 c. chickpeas
1 can coconut milk

Saute on med-high heat, onion, garlic and ginger in oil until onions are soft.  Add peppers and zucchini and cook until soft (5-7 min).  Add spices and salt and cook for 2-3 min stirring frequently.  Add coconut milk, diced tomatoes, and chickpeas.  Bring to a boil, turn down heat to medium and simmer for 10-15 min.  

I hope you enjoy my recipes and meal ideas, and I would love to see you comment with your ideas.  Enjoy!