Thursday, May 31, 2012

Organic Harvest Box for May 31, 2012

It just might be a soup weekend again, given that I have to close the windows in the house as it is getting too cold!!  I picked up my box today and the small coloured peppers are just about gone as they were my lunch when I was late for an appointment this afternoon.  Then I could barely keep them on the table to get the photo before little fingers were grabbing at them and just eating them raw.  I really shouldn't say too much because about a dozen blueberries snuck their way into my mouth pre-photo shoot as well.  I took the tomatoes out of their packaging in order to set up the photo and if the other ones are like mine, it would be best not to keep them in the packaging too long as they are ready to eat.

I am excited about the eggplant this week.  I didn't write about the eggplant last time as it was a late substitution so all week I've been thinking about it and what to write about.  There is this recipe that my uncle made when we were visiting him in Edmonton last year.  I tried messaging him and voice mailing him and he still hasn't gotten back to me - so I am going to do my best to wing it with the recipe because it is delicious.  Some quick tips first:
  • To store the eggplant,wrap it in a paper towel or the paper it came in, 
  • Place it in a plastic bag with holes and/or in the veggie crisper, 
  • Eggplant shouldn't be left for more than about 4 days in the refrigerator as then it starts to get bitter,
  • Try to use the eggplant as soon as possible for best flavor and results.  
My uncle would slice the eggplant, brush it with some olive oil and then grill it until soft.  He then cut it into strips and marinated it in . . .this is where I get stuck - I'm sure it was olive oil, garlic, some salt, and . . .whatever else was in there made it absolutely delicious served on crackers or sliced baguette or your favorite crispy bread.  (I'm sure he'll call me back sometime and I'll be able to fill you in.)  This Calabrian recipe for Melanzane Arrostite (Marinated Eggplant with Olive Oil, Garlic and Mint) looks delicious and very similar to my uncle's eggplant.  I also came across this recipe for Spicy Grilled Eggplant that I think would be very tasty and the slices could be used on a sandwich for a meal.  The eggplant could be roasted with the coloured peppers (stove or grill) with some olive oil, chopped and then added to some chopped tomatoes and fresh herbs to make a bruschetta.

The baby bok choy looks fantastic, so fresh and full, but make sure to give them a good wash when you are ready to use them.  Bok choy is a member of the cabbage family and apparently has some of the highest anti-oxidant levels compared to other veggies in the cabbage family.  It is also a great source of Vitamins A and C, fibre, folic acid, and calcium.  It can be stored in the veggie crisper for up to a week.  Chinese cabbage of any variety usually ends up in a stir fry at our house, and it's easy to use but a bit time consuming to do it right.  The stems take a bit longer to cook than the leaves so I often end up taking a little extra time when slicing the bok choy in order to put the stems in to cook before the leaves.  You might have to go get some shitake mushrooms, as the most appealing recipes that I found for baby bok choy included shitakes.  And coincidentally, all my favorite recipes for bok choy are from LCBO's Food and Drink (my vast collection sits in the bookcase next to me as I type each week).  Four different ideas for bok choy:
I do get a bit wordy doing this but I have so many yummy food ideas all the time for all these veggies.  I don't ever get to cooking all of them, but I daydream about all of the fantastic recipes that I would have endless to make - and they would all turn out delicious of course.  Bear with me for two more things. Number 1 - cauliflower - my absolute favorite way to eat it is to toss the florets with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper, roast it in the oven at 400F for 20 min or so.  While it is cooking, mix up some cream or preferably creme fraiche, a bit of dijon mustard, and a small squeeze of lemon juice.  When the cauliflower is done cooking, toss it with the sauce.  

Number 2 and last thing for this week - field cucumbers - I know I had one witty post about uses for cucumber, but I have to admit, they are lunch box fare in general for us.  Cukes are so good just sliced up on their own, or with just a dash of salt to curb that craving for a salty snack that it's hard to make a point of "cooking" with them.  I do have one recipe that I use regularly that makes great use of the cucumbers - Gingery Pork and Cucumber Pitas.  My mom found it in Real Simple magazine and every time I make it, my husband and I say to ourselves, "why don't we make this more often?"  It's so easy, and so good and now I feel like I've given you a real recipe for cucumbers.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Organic Harvest Box for May 24, 2012

So we did get eaten alive by blackflies on the weekend, but we did enjoy our Japanese Coleslaw, a fantastic Quinoa salad, a tasty cantaloupe and the asparagus grilled on the BBQ was fantastic.

And we went on a field trip to Belle Terre Organics Garden at Otter Lake, QC.  Owners Joyce Angelus-Keller and Wayne Keller were fantastic hosts and showed us around, let the girls plant some pumpkin seeds, let us taste some herbs, and astounded us with their immense amount of knowledge.  It was fascinating to learn that their business is the original Belle Terre Botanical Gardens that ran from 1978 to 1994 when the Kellers ran a tea house, teaching gardens for local colleges, and their organic plant business.  Their business is much smaller now, supplying their organic plants, flowers and herbs to a small number of select stores in the Ottawa/Gatineau region.

Joyce is wealth of information when it comes to plants, what their uses are, how to prepare or eat them, grow them, and care for them.  They have an unimaginable variety of plants from flowers to herbs to vegetables to perennials and more.  If there is something unique or unusual, they might have it.  Pretty much anything that you are looking for, Belle Terre can probably offer.  It is obvious when talking with both Wayne and Joyce that they have a love of the business and the land around them.


Belle Terre is certified by Pro-Cert and meets both the Canadian Organic Standards and the Quebec Organic Standards as they follow the strict criteria for organic production.  Organic production is based on principles that support healthy practices that are sustainable and harmonious with the environment.  Belle Terre uses watering and irrigation sources from natural spring headwaters.  They work with the Quebec Ministry of the Environment to maintain a healthy and sustainable forest and they compost and sterilize their own soil through strictly organic means.

Helping out with seed planting

All sorts of basil

The classic old sign that Joyce didn't want me to photograph, because "it's old and there's dirt on it."

Kale plants on their way
Young Toy Choy plants which do well in our cooler climate
I am sure that if you had any questions about any of the plants that Belle Terre is offering that Joyce and Wayne would be happy to answer them.  Our visit there made me really excited about the growing season and I'm looking forward to our harvest in our small garden.  Life Organics is still offering Belle Terre's plants for sale and a full list is available on the Life Organic website.

The newer sign that Joyce really wanted me to take a photo of, no dirt!
I won't offer you much in terms of recipes for this weeks produce. Don't forget to chop the greens off the carrots to keep them as fresh as possible, and Tasha thinks that the Pachino tomatoes are better if they have been chilled for a few minutes.  We have our daughter's birthday party this weekend and will be serving up sliders and mini hot dogs for the kiddies and parents so the romaine and spinach are going to come in handy for a nice big green salad.  And the carrots will be great cut up and dipped for the younger crowd.  I can't wait to grill the asparagus again as it is so good this time of year.  And I still have more rhubarb from my garden so another apple and rhubarb crisp is on the way.   But I am a recipe addict so I have to leave you with Grilled Sweet Potatoes with Apples which is how I will choose to use the yams and apples, served alongside some simple grilled asparagus, grilled chicken and elk sausages from the market.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Organic Harvest Box for May 17, 2012

Happy Victoria Day weekend!  The weather is looking fabulous so it should be a great weekend for bbq-ing, gardening, or just enjoying the outdoors.  We are headed to the cottage and are hoping the blackflies don't eat us alive.  And though I didn't get there last weekend, we are hoping to go see Joyce and Wayne at Belle Terre Botanic Garden in Otter Lake, QC on Sunday.  I can't wait to bring back some tips, ideas, and photos.

Guess what - haven't used my cabbage yet, but I am going to use it to make the Japanese Coleslaw (from last week's blog) this weekend when we have a large group of friends visiting at the cottage.  I call those types of salads my weekend salads, as they do well to sit for a couple of days and can be a dinner side and then part of lunch the next day.  I am also going to make a Quinoa Salad that can last as well for a couple of days in the fridge.  Here are 3 absolutely fantastic quinoa salad recipes that are versatile and can be used with the tomatoes, peppers, cucumber and/or apples in this week's box: Summer Quinoa Salad, Quinoa Salad with Chickpeas, Feta, and Apples, and Vegetable Quinoa Salad.  My other favorite "weekend" salad that I often make is a Broccoli Salad, which you probably have had in some form or another:

1 1/2 c. broccoli, cut up into florets
1 c. celery, chopped
1/2 c. chopped red onion or green onion
1 1/2 c. grapes, red or green, halved
Any combination of:
handful of sunflower seeds, unsalted
handful of bacon bits
handful of raisins
handful of slivered almonds

Dressing (this is my aunt's recipe - it can be a bit sweet):
1 c. mayonnaise
1/3 c. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. white vinegar
Dressing (a little healthier with no sugar):
1/2 c. low fat plain yogurt
1/4 c. light mayonnaise
1 tbsp. lemon juice

I went to my recipe box to grab the broccoli salad recipe, and found this one that I need to share, Broccoli Salad with Oriental Flavours.  And I found one that is a great summer salad and a good use for the romaine lettuce, Romaine Lettuce Salad with Spicy Blueberry Salsa.  Do try making the raisin bread croutons, they are so yummy.  Just a few salads later, and there's not much left in the veggie box except some fruit, asparagus and avocado.

Did you know that in some parts of Europe, people won't eat the green asparagus and will only eat the white asparagus?  White asparagus is grown the same way as green, but the plants are covered up with mounds of dirt to prevent light from getting to the plants.  The white asparagus tends to be milder and more tender and restaurants across Spain, France, Poland, Belgium, Germany, and Switzerland will prepare special menus for asparagus during the season.  In Germany, asparagus season has it's own name, Spargelsaison or Spargelzeit and often regions have their own celebrations.  Our "lowly" green asparagus doesn't always get that same status, but in order to treat your asparagus best, you might want to consider:

  • eating it soon after purchase,
  • store it as you would a bouquet of flowers, trim the ends, and store standing up in a small amount of water to keep the stems fresh,
  • small asparagus stems can have just a little bit cut off the end,
  • larger stems can be more woody so should have their ends snapped off or the stalk can be laid flat on a cutting board and peeled with a vegetable peeler,
  • asparagus can be prepared a number of ways, boiled, steamed, sauteed, or roasted
Our favorite way to have asparagus is to roast it with some olive oil and parmesan cheese, either in a roasting dish in the oven or wrapped in tinfoil and done on the barbecue.  

A little late for Cinco de Mayo, but our avocado is going to be used to make guacamole this weekend, served alongside some quesadillas grilled up on the BBQ.  I also came across this recipe for Kale Salad with Apricots, Avocado and Parmesan which led me to read some of the links from and their posts about avocados.  What I learned was that avocados that are not ripe can be stored on the counter, but if you want to halt the ripening process, put your avocados in the fridge so that they don't get over ripe.  To keep a partial avocado from going brown put the cut avocado in a 500ml plastic container (ie. leftover yogurt or sour cream container) with a chunk of onion.  Apparently the onion acts as a preservative and keeps the avocado from going brown.  The fun part of an avocado is removing the pit, in fact if I am cutting an avocado, I usually get an insistent look from my husband that he wants to do it.  Why?  Because the easiest way to get the pit out is to slice the avocado in half lengthwise and then strike the pit firmly with the heel end of a  good chef's knife so that the knife lodges into the pit and then give it a gentle twist and it should pop out nicely.   Just be careful getting the pit off the knife, as it is a slippery little thing.  (Photo credit from


I am looking forward to some time at the cottage and since we are entertaining friends up there, I know that the contents of my veggie box this week will be gone by the end of the weekend.  But I may have some of those salads left for lunch on Tuesday when we're back to work.  Enjoy your long weekend.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Organic Harvest Box for May 10, 2012

We arrived back from holidays on Saturday, one day late for getting our veggie order last week.  The fridge was bare so we went for groceries on Sunday morning - I was confused - what do you mean I have to decide which vegetables to get?  We are going to get the vegetables that are on the list that comes in my email, I don't have to decide, it's decided for me.  It was certainly odd having to make a whole vegetable and fruit list from scratch.  I did make it through the grocery experience and it reminded me to thank Tasha for making part of my grocery list for me each week.

When I picked up my box from Tasha on Thursday she mentioned a couple of substitutions, firstly, zucchini instead of cucumber this week.  She also mentioned that the strawberries might need to sit out of the fridge for a half hour or so prior to eating.

My eyes zeroed in on the cabbage in the list this week - it is truly my nemesis on the veggie list.  I don't dislike it, I just am not very creative, inventive or fun with my cabbage recipes.  That last cabbage recipe that I gave you in the April 12, 2012 post was a hit with my family - how can I top that?  For now, I probably can't top it.  However, one of my previous favorite recipes for cabbage was a recipe that my mom passed down to me for Chinese Hekka.  This link does not list the source, but I'm pretty sure that it is from Company's Coming.  I hadn't had this meal in years until I was talking to my mom about my challenges with using up the cabbages and she reminded me of this.  It is really easy, basic ingredients, the kids like it (always important for me) and is really good served over rice.  This time of year, using the cabbage for coleslaw would be great to have alongside a BBQ.  This recipe from the Tabasco site has a great looking dressing for coleslaw.  The bagged coleslaw can be substituted by using shredded or finely chopped cabbage and some grated carrot.  If I'm making coleslaw, I do prefer this recipe that we make almost every time that we have a crowd at the cottage for a long weekend, it will last a couple of days in the fridge:

Japanese Coleslaw 

1/2 head of medium cabbage, shredded or finely chopped
2 big handfuls of bean sprouts
2 c. of sliced mushrooms
1/4 c. sunflower seeds (preferably unsalted)
1 pack of ichiban noodles, broken up
2 c. chow mein noodles

Seasoning pack from the ichiban noodles
1/2 c. oil
4 tbsp. soya sauce
3 tbsp. vinegar
1 tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt

Mix the cabbage, bean sprouts, mushrooms, sunflower seeds, and half each of the ichiban noodles and chow mein noodles together in a large bowl.  Mix all of the dressing ingredients together.  Pour 1/2 to 3/4 of the dressing on the salad.  Let the salad sit for 2-3 hours before serving.  Add the remaining ichiban and chow mein noodles to the salad just prior to serving and add remaining dressing if required.

Recently, we barbecued hamburgers and my husband made a fantastic burger topper of sauteed mushrooms and onions.  It's a really easy way to dress up your hamburger and the cremini mushrooms and yellow onions on this week's list would be great to use.

Put a bit of oil in a saute pan, add some minced garlic, and start heating on medium.  Slice the onions and add to the pan.  While the onions are starting to soften, slice the mushrooms and add to the pan.  Saute over medium heat until everything is softened.  If there is too much liquid then turn the heat up and cook a bit longer.  If you are serving it over meat, you can add a little bit of cream at the end to get it saucy.  Serve this over burgers, steaks, grilled chicken, over even toast.  

If you are having burgers, slice up the cucumber, trim the snap peas, and half the cherry tomatoes for a nice side to the burgers.

I didn't get to try the baby kale last time as we were leaving on holidays, but I'd be interested to know (use the comment link at the bottom of the post) if anyone tried the baby kale recipes from the April 26, 2012 post.  I am hoping to try the baby kale salad or actually making kale chips with this week's order.

I can't wait to see if this week's strawberries are as good as on Easter weekend.  I have rhubarb in my garden that is in good shape so I am going to use it alongside the strawberries in this Rude Barb's Strawbapple Crisp (anyone cooked out of Looneyspoons before?  All their recipe names are witty!).  It is a great crisp recipe and you can substitute the fruit for berries, pears, or peaches, as long as the amounts stay the same.  I can tell you that the peaches in this week's order will not make it into any cooking.  If they are as good as some that Tasha got in last week, I may just hide them from the rest of family and eat them fresh.

With gardening time upon us, the plant list from Belle Terre got me really interested in their products.  I am hoping to do a field trip to their greenhouse this weekend, if they'll have us.  I hope that I will be able to report back next week with photos and tips on how best to use their plants.