Thursday, April 26, 2012

Organic Harvest Box April 26, 2012

I am a little jealous - I am not actually getting my veggie box this week as we leave on Saturday for a week away (hint hint - don't expect a post next week).  I looked at what's on the list and started thinking about and looking for recipes and there are so many tasty possibilities for the Baby Kale, Broccolini, and Rainbow Chard. And Tasha said that the pears that are in the boxes are fantastic. Maybe someone will try out the recipes and tell me how they turned out.  Since I don't have a box this week, I don't have a photo, but I do have photos of some of the food I made this week, and what a great excuse to write about what I ended up using my veggies for.  Each week I search out and post recipes that I have either used or really think are useable or that I will try, but often I end up with something completely different, or a week behind in using some of my veggies.  Like my kale, I posted Tasha's recipe two weeks ago for the Lemony Kale Salad, but only made it on Sunday.  It was delicious, so easy, and my husband even enjoyed it - well worth trying.

I had the best intentions of making a pork roast with the roasted carrots, potatoes and the winter parsnips, but while looking out the window at the cold and grey Saturday morning while having a warm bowl of oatmeal with the kids, I just wanted some soup.  I rifled through the cupboards and sure enough had all of the ingredients for one of my favorites - Hamburger Soup from the Best of Bridge Cookbook.  By 930 a.m. I had my carrots, celery, and onions chopped and soup on the stove.  It simmered all day and we had it for supper with a batch of homemade biscuits and some cheese buns (guilty pleasure).  I have had it twice more this week for lunches.

The other dish that I made to use a variety of the veggies was a weeknight pasta meal that is very easy to make.  I start with some pork sausage (removed from casings) or leftover ham and cook that in a large non-stick skillet while putting some water on for any type of pasta.  While that is cooking, chop some combination of onions, zucchini, broccoli, spinach, tomatoes, mushrooms and add them to the skillet.  You can add some fresh herbs at this point as well.  Make sure your pasta is in the boiling water with a bit of salt.  Once the veggies are getting soft, add a good amount of pesto, some grated parmesan, and once the pasta has been boiling for a bit, add a 1/2 c. of the pasta water to the sauce.  When the pasta is close to being done, add some cream cheese or cream to the sauce to thicken a bit.  Drain the pasta and toss together with the sauce.  This a hit with my kids and is different each time but consistently good.

Enough about last week's veggies - did you know that Broccolini is actually a hybrid vegetable that was created in Japan in the early 1990s?  It was created to be softer, sweeter, and easier to cook than broccoli.  It is not baby broccoli but a species all of its own that was engineered to be more appealing for cooking and eating.  It is best to store it in a bag as you would broccoli and it should last in the fridge for up to 10 days.  For a dish that  can act as a main dish or side try this Broccolini, Caulifower, Chard and Tofu Roman Style.  I also like the looks of this Steamed Broccoli with Honey Soy Sauce.  You can certainly cook the broccolini as you would asparagus or broccoli and maybe by calling it "baby broccoli" you can entice your kids to eat more greens.

I will miss out on this week's Rainbow Chard but I did come across a few more recipes since the last time there was chard that I will try next time.  A few recipes that I found on my Epicurious app on the iPad (ie. multipurpose cookbook) are Pasta with Kielbasa and Swiss Chard (appealing to my Ukranian heritage), Roasted Garbanzo Beans and Garlic with Swiss Chard (Meatless Monday meal?), or Frittata Bites with Chard, Sausage and Feta (for brunch or cut small for a cocktail party).

Baby Kale - I read that it is milder than regular kale, and being that it is smaller and a little less tough, it is much more amenable to salads and it cooks more quickly.  I still haven't tried kale chips but did love reading this blog about making kale chips from Baby Kale specifically.  If you have any bok choy left from this past week, try a side dish of Baby Kale and Bok Choy with Sesame and Ginger.  Or use the kale in this Baby Kale Salad (taken from

Baby Kale Salad

15 oz. baby kale
2 cups walnuts, chopped
2 apples, thinly sliced (we used Pink Ladies)
1/2 lb. goat's milk gouda (or any other cheese you love), cut into small cubes
1 bunch chives, chopped into 1-inch pieces

For the dressing:
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

1. Place walnuts on a rimmed cookie sheet. Bake in an oven at 375 degrees for about 10 minutes, tossing halfway through.
2. Combine baby kale, walnuts, apples, gouda, and chives in a large bowl.
3. Mix dressing ingredients and toss with salad.

My last two offerings this week - I think that this recipe for Curried Lentils with Sweet Potatoes and Baby Kale is a great idea for a vegetarian main course, and I love the combination of lentils with sweet potatoes.  Or alternately, use the yams in this fun side dish or appetizer recipe, Sweet Potato and Pancetta Gratin.

Enjoy the veggies and fruit this week while I enjoy a week away.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Organic Harvest Box for April 19, 2012

I am sitting watching the hockey playoffs as I am writing this blog.  The weather for this weekend is again not sounding very promising with rainy cool days and the potential for flurries on Monday.  I still haven't transferred over all my cold weather clothes to summer clothes.  I'm feeling a bit wintry and so my veggies this week are most likely going to be roasted or put in soups.

Some tips about this week's box - Tasha had to substitute out the spinach with Bok Choy, which we haven't had in our box in a while and will be great sauteed or in a stir fry.  Some of the grapefruits may need a bit of time to fully ripen as will the Bartlett Pears.  The carrots will keep best if the greenery is chopped off and then store them in the fridge tied up in a plastic bag.  If the cucumbers are as good as last week, they were great just sliced up and eaten fresh.

An interesting tip about this week's parsnips - they are Spring Parsnips which means that they have been in the ground all winter as opposed to being stored indoors.  Being in the ground all winter apparently makes them much sweeter and quite a treat as the last parsnips of the harvest.  Store them in a plastic bag (the one they came in will work) in the vegetable crisper and they should keep for a couple of weeks.  It's a toss up whether to use the parsnips in a simple Roasted Vegetable dish to get the full effect of their spring sweetness, or to make something completely different, such as this Seared Scallops with Spring Parsnip Butter recipe.  Cajun Parsnip Fries make a nice side dish to any casual meal.  I am a big fan of savoury muffins so might even try these Savoury Parsnip Parmesan Mini Muffins and serve them alongside a Parsnip Soup.

Romaine lettuce has a surprising amount of nutrients, is extremely low in calories, and has a high water content.  A serving of Romaine contains well over 100% of the daily Vitamin K and Vitamin A, and a third of the daily requirement of Vitamin C and Folate.  It is so easy to slice up a tomato or cucumber, shred some carrot or put the zucchini through the mandolin to dress up a lettuce salad.  Chopping some apple or pear, sectioning an orange, or slicing some strawberry on top often will entice my children to have a bit of salad.  A nice fresh citrus dressing made with a lemon or orange, some fresh parmesan, and some nuts and you have a decadent salad at any meal.  But how often do you get any more creative with lettuce?  An interesting alternative to salad is to do a plain Grilled Romaine dish or dress it up with a Bacon and Blue Cheese Vinaigrette.

Bok Choy is extremely versatile and can be substituted for many greens that you would steam, saute or boil.  A simple Bok Choy Stir Fry could be made, add some sauteed chicken and rice for a great meal.  Put a couple of carrots and the zucchini through a mandolin to add to the stir fry and it will add color and variety.  This vegetarian Spicy Bok Choy Soup is exactly the type of dish that I love, easy ingredients with a comforting result.  Or try this Spicy Shrimp and Bok Choy Soup with a few more extras in it.  You can use your leftover veggies from last week's box to create a homemade vegetable stock for either soup.  I have used the tip in the veggie stock recipe that suggests using your vegetable trimmings for your stock.  I keep a large Ziploc in the freezer and add clean vegetable trimmings such as celery greens, carrot peelings, potato peelings, zucchini ends, and fresh herbs that are at the end of their shelf life.  It's an inexpensive way to get some great flavor into a stock.

I wasn't able to get any good fresh tuna this past week to try the tuna burgers from last week's post, but I am hoping to get some this week so that we can barbeque those up.   I plan to use the cucumbers and tomatoes on the burgers.  The potatoes will get sliced up with some onion, butter, seasonings, garlic cloves and wrapped in tin foil.  We cook them on the grill for about 20 minutes, and then set them on the top rack as we cook the burgers.  It doesn't quite feel like BBQ season just yet, but it's coming.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Organic Harvest Box for April 12, 2012

I have a confession to make - do you remember the last time we got a cabbage in our box?  I don't remember when it was, but I just cooked it last night.  The outer leaves were dry and I discarded them but the rest was fine so I made a Bacon Braised Cabbage recipe from Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution Cookbook that was fantastic.  Finely slice the cabbage and 6 slices of bacon.  Saute the bacon in a large saucepan with some olive oil until mostly crispy.  Add 2 pats of butter, some garlic, 2 tsp. Worchestershire sauce and cook a little more, then add your cabbage and 1 1/4 c. of broth.  Cover and cook that for 5-10 minutes until the cabbage is soft, remove the lid and cook for a few more minutes until the juice is mostly cooked off.  Season with salt and pepper.  I ate more of this at supper than main dish of Maple Hoisin Glazed Salmon - it is in the Spring Food and Drink magazine and is a great way to use up any extra green onions from last week.  Very easy, very delicious, I will post the link once it gets on the LCBO website.

Another confession, I still haven't made anything with my Roma's, I just keep having them sliced on toast with mayo and salt and pepper or with leftover ham from Easter.  Toasted tomato sandwiches are my staple in the late summer when we have an overabundance of fresh tomatoes in our garden so they feel like a bit a treat right now before my garden is even in.  However, I am trying to convince myself that I will use my tomatoes to greater effect this week.  In the back of my head I keep thinking that I am going to make a lovely pasta with a fresh tomato sauce, I have all sorts of recipes, and the spinach, red pepper and broccoli would really round out a nice pasta sauce.  This simple Penne with Tomato, Basil and Olives would be a great way to use the tomatoes, and you could add part of the red pepper and some broccoli to roast along with the tomatoes to make the pasta sauce.  Or maybe I'll use the tomato, lemon and some leftover green onions for this Best Tuna Burger (also by Jamie Oliver) that I've been wanting to try as it was highly recommended to me by a friend who makes it regularly for his wife and daughter who both love it.  Serve the burgers with some fresh cut up cucumber, the corn on the cob and you have a great backyard BBQ meal.

Last confession, I didn't make any strawberry shortcake at all last weekend, those strawberries were so delicious on their own that we ate the whole container one night for dessert, just plain.

This week's box really makes me feel like summer is coming, lots of fresh veggies, many that can be eaten raw, and Corn on the Cob!  My favorite way to have corn on the cob is on the BBQ.  We have found two ways that get that nice roasted flavor on the cobs.  When you have extra time, use this method where you soak the cobs first and then grill them in the husks.  An easy way to do them when you are more pressed for time is to remove the husks and silk from the cobs, make as many tin foil squares as you have cobs, rub some butter onto the tin foil, sprinkle with a bit of seasoning (right onto the tin foil), place the cob in the middle of the tin foil and roll it up.  Place on a medium to medium high grill for approximately 10-15 minutes.  We mostly eat the corn right off the cob but if you want to do something a little more with it, you could make this Roasted Corn and Red Pepper Salad (make about a quarter of this recipe).

I think that we all have our favorite recipes for cucumbers, broccoli, spinach, red peppers, even just put together like that in a salad makes a great side dish for any meal or cut up as veggies to munch alongside soup and a sandwich so I was trying to find "10 things I didn't know" about: whatever vegetable.  The most interesting that I found were these 10 things that I didn't know about cucumber (adapted from :
  • Cucumbers contain more vitamins than I knew; Vitamin B1, Vitamin B2, Vitamin B3, Vitamin B5, Vitamin B6,Folic Acid, Vitamin C, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium and Zinc,
  • Cucumbers are a good source of B Vitamins and carbohydrates that help give that pick me up instead of a sugary snack or drink,
  • Tired of your  bathroom mirror fogging up after a shower?  Try rubbing a Cucumber slice along the mirror, it will eliminate the fog and provide a soothing, spa-like fragrance,
  • Place a few cucumber slices in an aluminum pie tin in your garden to help keep garden pests out.  The chemicals in the cucumber react with the aluminum to keep off a scent undetectable to humans but that makes pests flee.  I will try this out this summer,
  • I'm a little skeptical about this one but -  looking for a fast and easy way to remove cellulite before going out or to the pool? Try rubbing a slice or two of cucumbers along your problem area for a few minutes (I think that my problem areas might take more than 1 or 2 slices), the phytochemicals in the cucumber cause the collagen in your skin to tighten, firming up the outer layer and reducing the visibility of cellulite. Works great on wrinkles too!
  • Want to avoid a hangover or terrible headache? Eat a few cucumber slices before going to bed and wake up refreshed and headache free. Cucumbers contain enough sugar, B vitamins and electrolytes to replenish essential nutrients the body lost, keeping everything in equilibrium, avoiding both a hangover and headache,
  • Have an important meeting or job interview and you realize that you don't have enough time to polish your shoes? Rub a freshly cut cucumber over the shoe, its chemicals will provide a quick and durable shine that not only looks great but also repels water,
  • Stressed out and don't have time for massage, facial or visit to the spa? Cut up an entire cucumber and place it in a boiling pot of water, the chemicals and nutrients from the cucumber with react with the boiling water and be released in the steam, creating a soothing, relaxing aroma that has been shown the reduce stress in new mothers and college students during final exams,
  • Looking for a "green" way to clean your faucets, sinks or stainless steel?  Take a slice of cucumber and rub it on the surface that you want to clean, not only will it remove years of tarnish and bring back the shine but it won't leave streaks or harm your fingers while you clean,
  • Lastly, you may know this one, but if you slice up some cucumbers, sprinkle them with just a bit of salt, it's a great snack replacement for chips or crackers when you get the munchies (that one I did know).

The last item from this week's box that I will touch on is kale.  If you don't already know, kale is a superfood with so many health benefits as outlined in these 9 Reasons You Should Eat More Kale.  I usually don't have a problem finding something to do with it, but do admit (veiled confession!) that I have passed a handful off to a friend every now and then who really loves it.  But, the last time we got kale, I made a Kale, Potato and Chickpea soup that was fantastic.  I froze some of it and had it reheated in lunches over the weeks and it was still good.  Tasha sent me a recipe that she tried last night for Lemony Kale Salad.  She noted that she used the whole lemon and was generous with the olive oil and that it was very yummy.  I would love to hear if anyone has made their own kale chips as they are quite popular and visually appealing.  It doesn't look difficult but I would be interested to know if they get crispy?  Are tasty?  Most importantly, will my kids eat them?

I am off to indulge in some seafood this weekend at a curling bonspiel in Cumberland so won't even get to my veggies until Sunday but at least it won't be the two months that it took me to use my cabbage.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Organic Harvest Box for April 5, 2012

Are you cooking Easter dinner or a family dinner of some sort this weekend? I am not cooking our Easter meal, but I do have family in from out of town and will probably make use of all the veggies before the weekend is even over.  The strawberries in this week's box will be great for making desserts.  I do think that so many of the veggies that are coming in this box are great for side dishes for a large family meal so that's where I am going to focus this week's recipes.

Sugar Snap Peas are a great source of vitamins and fibre.  Because they are eaten whole, the snap peas actually have more vitamins and fibre then shelled peas and less calories. Fresh pods can be eaten whole or used in cooking. It is best to use them while the pods are fresh, and crispy. The pods have a string that needs to be removed before eating them raw or when cooking. To prepare, wash the pods in cold water, and pat dry. Trim the stem end and remove the stringy fiber on either side of the pod. My whole family loves to eat snap peas fresh as a snack so they rarely make it into any cooking. They would of course be great added to any stir-fry but to stick with the side dish idea, I would recommend sauteing them with a bit of oil, ginger and garlic. It's best to heat the oil in a pan, add the garlic and ginger until a bit fragrant and then saute the peas for a few minutes until just starting to get tender. Another lovely side dish would be Sauteed Carrots and Sugar Snap Peas or use them in this Quinoa Salad with Sugar Snap Peas for a nice fresh spring salad.

I have only used up one of my Roma's from last week's box for a lunchtime toasted tomato sandwich so with the addition of the Roma's that are coming this week I think that there will be enough for a nice fresh Tomato Bruschetta to serve as an appetizer or snack.  You could also chop the tomatoes up with the green onion and zucchini for a Parmesan Zucchini Omelet or a frittata for breakfast.  I don't often use a recipe for my omelets or frittata but I follow these general steps: dice the vegetables that you want to use, saute them in an oven proof frying pan with a bit of butter or oil on medium high heat.  While the veggies are cooking, mix 4-8 eggs (approx. 1 egg per person) with a bit of milk or cream or water, and some seasonings or fresh herbs if you have them.  Pour the egg mixture over the veggies and continue to cook on medium high lifting the edges to let some of the egg mixture flow underneath.  While the frittata continues to cook, slice or grate your favorite cheese and sprinkle it over top.  Place the pan under the broiler in the oven for a few minutes, or bake until set in a 325F oven for about 10 min.  This would make a nice brunch dish served with a light Romaine salad sprinkled with sliced strawberries or apple.  Don't forget to leave your tomatoes out on the counter in a bowl to help them ripen and keep them as good as possible.

Back on track to side dishes - there are so many things you can do with broccoli.  You can steam it, stir fry it or,  I would not hear the end of it from my husband if I didn't recommend roasting your broccoli.  It is his favorite.   Cut the broccoli into small to medium florets, toss with a bit of olive oil, diced onions and/or mushrooms, sprinkle with some sea salt and pepper and roast in a 400F oven for 25-35 minutes.  The broccoli comes out with tasty crispy tips and makes a great accompaniment to any meal.  I also found some enticing recipes for Roasted Broccoli with Smoked Paprika Vinaigrette and Marcona Almonds or a Broccoli Gratin with Mustard Cheese Streusel.

I couldn't do side dishes justice without including some recipes for the potatoes.  This article from the University of Idaho (of course) recommends storing potatoes in a well ventilated, humid, dark and cool place to keep them at their best.  They are more likely to grow sprouts if the temperature is too warm.  My kitchen cabinet is probably just a little too warm, so I am going to try them in the storage room in the basement.   When I get small red potatoes, I love them cut in halves or quarters, boiled until just tender, and tossed with a little bit of butter, salt or seasoning or fresh herbs, especially dill or fresh chives.  Potatoes are also great roasted in a similar manner to the broccoli but depending on the size, may take a bit longer.   This Jamie Oliver recipe for Evolution Potato Salad is great as an easy recipe that even a beginner cook can tackle and you can "evolve" the salad through each step to make it as complex as you want it to be.  But I think the hit of the family meal would be this Pommes Dauphinoise, a simpler version of scalloped potatoes but equally as flavorful and rich.  Just a look at the photo makes me hungry!

What better way to end a lovely spring meal then with a Strawberry Shortcake.  That was the first thing that came to mind when I saw strawberries on the list and I've been perusing recipes ever since. Both of the following recipes caught my eye and at least one will grace our table this weekend.  It's probably even worth making both at some point as a good excuse to be prepared for when the Ontario strawberries are in season in a couple of months.  The first recipe comes from the website Joy of Baking.  A co-worker of mine highly recommends this website for consistently good baking recipes.  I was drawn to their Strawberry Shortcake recipe as it uses a scone as opposed to a cake for the base of the shortcake.  But I also couldn't pass up highlighting this recipe for Ricardo's Strawberry Shortcake for the homemade white cake and strawberries macerated with Grand Marnier.    

I hope that the blog is inspiring some new cooking opportunities and ways to use the produce.  There are so many side dish options for the items this week, but if you aren't having a large Sunday dinner, you couldn't go wrong using the lettuce, tomatoes, and green onions on some BBQed burgers with some fresh cut up zucchini, carrots, and snap peas on the side.  Enjoy the long weekend, and Happy Easter.