Thursday, June 28, 2012

Organic Harvest Box for June 28, 2012

Do you know what an RFP is?  Request for Proposal or what's been going through my head - Request for Pain.  It is due on Tuesday after the long weekend and has caused me enough overtime in 1 week to ensure my summer holidays are covered!  Hence the lateness of this post.  Because of my schedule, I can't even get my box until Friday midday so I don't have any hot tips from Tasha to share with you.  However, after painfully typing away at repetitive technical documents, I am just happy to sip the last of my decaf and write some ideas for this week's box.  I want to share some ideas about kiwi, the results of my scapes recipes, and  highlight a selection of "Canada Day" recipes.   And how smart of Tasha to start a Local Only Box on the week leading up to Canada Day when our national pride is bubbling up. I love the idea of a Local Only Box because for me one of the biggest appeals of buying through Life Organics is the opportunity to get as much local produce as possible.

So here goes - should we start with garlic scapes?  I hope that I'm not the only one who is still oddly excited about them.  I brought both my scape pesto and the white bean scape dip into work last week, although both went over well, I do think people think I'm a bit odd for being so excited about them.  The dip was really nice with crackers, chips, and the beans from last week's box.  I made a whole batch of pesto (so easy in a food processor) and have frozen it in ice cube sizes for use on pasta soon.  I haven't quite decided what I'm going to do with this week's scapes - hopefully get to that great Pork recipe from the New York Times from 2 weeks ago.  Maybe use up my pesto in this Warm Pasta and Chick Pea Salad with Garlic Scapes or for a great weekend entertaining recipe Garlic Scape and Potato Salad.

Kiwis are delicious when they are nice and ripe, and not too tart.  They should be left to ripen at room temperature.  If they are already ripe then they can be stored in the refrigerator.  Kiwis have a very high amount of Vitamin C, more than the an orange of the same size.  They also contain a lot of fibre and are great for the digestive system.  You can eat the skin of a kiwi but just make sure to wash it to remove any dirt or dust, and rub some of the fuzz off prior to eating as well.  I learned that the antioxidants in kiwis actually increase the riper the kiwi gets.  We mostly eat our kiwis just cut up, but they would be equally delicious in a salad, fruit salad or with some yogurt.  Or for something different, try these Kiwifruit Muffins.  Try making a unique salad with this week's romaine, spinach, and tomatoes, tossed with some cut up kiwi and some Kiwi Dressing from the California Kiwi Commission's website.  

We will be spending Canada Day weekend at the cottage with friends and plan to use the grill most of the weekend.  We've picked up the beer and Caesar's but I may have to grab a bottle of some Canadian Whisky and try out this Peach and Whisky Cocktail with the peaches from our box.  You could also use the peaches and/or nectarines in this recipe for Grilled Plums with Yogurt and Spiced Maple Syrup.  And although we don't have a lot of red and white veggies in our box this week, you can certainly still have a lovely Canadian menu with some great recipes taken from

  • Green Salad with Toasted Mustard Seed Dressing - use the romaine, spinach, and even scapes in this salad that is inspired by the mustard and seed crops from the Prairies,
  • Wild Turkey Burgers - I suppose you could try to catch your own in a local field or on the side of the road!!  Serve these burgers topped with some spinach or romaine, sauteed mushrooms, and sliced tomato (or garlic scape pesto - just had to get that in there),
  • Cool Wild Rice and Mushrooms - use the Criminis in this dish that highlights the great wild rice that is harvested from our northern lakes and marshes.
I am fading quickly - one last recipe - a Mushroom Stuffed Zucchini (with good Canadian cheddar).  Have a great long weekend.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Organic Harvest Box for June 21, 2012

It's really late tonight as I'm writing this, so I apologize in advance for any nonsensical musings about garlic scapes and kohlrabi.  I'm trying my best to get the blog posted on Wednesday evenings and hopefully - coming soon to an email near you - to send the blog via email at the same time as your invoice based on the popular response from the survey.  So in my effort to get this to you on Wednesday night, after getting through regular work and family commitments, the blog is getting my full attention as last item to get done very late in the evening.
I am so excited to get garlic scapes this week, maybe a little overly excited.  I love scapes, I discovered them only last year and have been asking the last 3 weeks at the Ottawa Farmers Market, "when will you have scapes?"  And now we do, I bought a huge bag at the market and we are getting more in our veggie box this week.  You may have even had some scapes in your green garlic last week - they are the long firm bean like stems that come out from the green leaves of the garlic.  Scapes have a milder taste than garlic and are very versatile.  They can be sauteed, steamed, chopped fine, stir fried, grilled, put in sauces or pureed into pesto.  You could saute them with this week's green beans, or make a pasta with the scapes and spinach.  I have so many plans for my scapes, but I'm most excited about making pesto from them.  

Getting ready to make Scape Pesto
There are so many recipes out there for scape pesto that it really just depends on which ingredients you want more or less of.  Here are a few different recipes:
My Scape Pesto
I came across a recipe for Double Garlic Soup that could make use of last week's green garlic (if you have any left) and this week's scapes, and also this dip recipe from 2 Sisters Garlic in Indiana.

White Bean and Garlic Scape Dip 
1/3 cup sliced garlic scapes (3 to 4)
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice, more to taste
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt, more to taste
Ground black pepper to taste
1 can (15 ounces) cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, more for drizzling.

In a food processor, process garlic scapes with lemon juice, salt and pepper until finely chopped. Add cannellini beans and process to a rough purée.  With motor running, slowly drizzle olive oil through feed tube and process until fairly smooth. Pulse in 2 or 3 tablespoons water, or more, until mixture is the consistency of a dip. Add more salt, pepper and/or lemon juice, if desired.  Spread out dip on a plate, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with more salt.  Serve with bread, tortilla chips, etc.

It may be sounding like it, but this is not late night craziness. I am also excited to get kohlrabi this week. Not quite as excited as I am about the scapes, but a little oddly excited about kohlrabi. I had it for the first time at some point last year in our veggie box and my girls ate it all up - just sliced - they thought it was apple. It was delicious. At some point this spring, my mother told me that my grandmother used to grow kohlrabi all the time in her garden because it grew so easily, and so my daughter and I planted some this spring in front of our tomatoes. I only have 4 plants, and the bunnies have eaten the leaves off three of them, so they are a bit sad looking but the bulbs are growing and should be ready soon. 

I read a few different things about kohlrabi and my favorite description is "little sputnik like vegetables." The bulbs should trimmed of leaves and then stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. The small ones can be eaten as is with the skin, larger ones need the tough skin peeled off. Most of what I read recommends eating kohlrabi raw and I completely agree.  Have it chopped as a snack, cubed, or shredded into a salad such as Kohlrabi Apple Slaw with Creamy Dressing. If the leaves are still on the "sputnik" then they can be sliced into a salad, that is if the bunnies haven't eaten all of them off the plants (not that I'm bitter or anything). Kohlrabi is also good cooked, slice or dice it and wrap in tinfoil to grill on the BBQ or cook it according to this recipe for Kohlrabi Ham Bake.

Okay, now I am into late night craziness as evidenced by the photo, so just one last thing for this week's box. My favorite mom website is  The most recent installment of One Ingredient, Four Ways, on their EatSavvy section is about cucumbers, which for me is perfect timing.  Number one - we have cucumbers in the box this week, and number two - we are entertaining at the cottage this weekend (where the kids will outnumber the adults, hence sliders instead of burgers) so I can try the Lamb Sliders with Cucumber and Feta Sauce.  The other cucumber recipes from EatSavvy are Homemade Tzaziki, Roasted Salmon with Fresh Cucumber Salsa, and Chilled Cucumber Soup.

Under the wire, blog finished and posted on Wednesday evening, a first for me, like growing kohlrabi and making scape pesto.

POST NOTE - Friday, June 22, 2012 - just got my box and Tasha wanted everyone to know - try to eat your green beans soon, ASAP if you can.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Organic Harvest Box for June 14, 2012

A potted basil plant?  What if it doesn't grow, how guilty will I feel? It's the same sentiment I had when my mother-in-law told me that she had a hibiscus tree for me when we first got married, what if I kill it?  "Maybe you should keep it for now until we get a bigger place."  That was 15 years ago, I still don't own any indoor plants.

Some basil at Belle Terre
I am pretty decent at keeping a vegetable garden but in the last few years, I haven't had any luck with basil. It could be the constant sun in the backyard, or the plant boxes that didn't retain any moisture, and most recently the children that like to water everything all of the time, over and over and over.  This year, I have my herbs in a new pot, and not surprisingly the mint has taken over almost the whole pot.  Luckily, my oldest daughter is keen to chew on anything that comes out of our garden so every time we go outside, she can have a sprig of mint.  I will try to grow the 3" potted basil in that big herb pot.  I did a bit of reading to make sure I am doing the right things with my basil, and what I did learn is that basil does need sunny conditions (up to 8 hours per day) with soil that has good moisture retention.  It is important to regularly (weekly) pick the basil leaves to encourage further growth, and apparently by pinching the centers, it will promote bushiness.  Fresh basil is so great to have all year if you can.  My favorite use for fresh basil is a simple Caprese Salad which you could do this week with the new basil plant (your first trimming) and the hot house tomatoes.  Pick up a really good piece of buffalo mozzarella or fresh mozzarella, your favorite olive oil and I opt for some balsamic vinegar as well.  Part of the fun of making Caprese salad is deciding how to present it.  Later in the summer when I have cherry tomatoes, I slice them in half and then toss them with squarish chunks of mozzarella or torn pieces of the cheese.  With the tomatoes that are coming in this week's box, a more interesting presentation would be to slice the tomatoes into 1/2" slices and mozzarella into 1/4" slices.  Overlap the tomatoes and mozzarella in a round on a plate or my absolute favorite (taken from a great meal we had at Casa Bella in Gananoque years ago) is to alternate stacking them about 2" high.  Sprinkle the basil leaves over the salad.  Drizzle the olive oil over, sprinkle with a bit of balsamic if you choose and a really good salt (I love fleur de sel for this) and a bit of pepper.

I am making a new lamb dish this weekend for friends from the Early Summer edition of LCBO's Food and Drink magazine - it is Slow-Roasted Breast of Lamb with Potatoes and it calls for Yukon Gold potatoes - how apt that we are getting some in our box.  This dish is a bit fancy, but you could also use your potatoes for roasting in the oven or on the BBQ, or sliced with some onions, the green garlic, and some butter wrapped in tin foil and placed on the BBQ.  Here however is the LCBO recipe - I'm sure in a few months it will be available, but not just yet.

4lbs lamb breast on the bone (about 2 breasts), trimmed
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 1/2lbs large Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut in thirds
1/2 c. 2 inch rosemary sprigs
1 whole head garlic, separated into cloves

1/2 c. red wine
2 tbsp. port
2 c. beef or chicken stock
1 tsp. tomato paste

Preheat oven to 275F.  Cut away any excess fat from the top of the breasts.  Sear, fat side down in a large skillet over high heat for 3 min. or until browned.  Turn over and repeat for bone side.  Season lamb with salt and pepper and place, fat side up, in a roasting pan.  Add potatoes to skillet and toss in lamb fat to coat.  Season with salt and add to roasting.  Sprinkle over rosemary sprigs and garlic cloves and cover pan tightly with lid and/or foil.  Place in oven and roast for 3 to 3 1/2 hrs or until the meat is fork tender and much of the fat has melted.  Uncover, raise heat to 400F and roast for 20-30 minutes longer until potatoes are golden and meat is browned.  Remove lamb and potatoes from roasting pan to a carving board.  Let rest for 10 minutes while you make the sauce.

Discard all fat from roasting pan but keep any juices.  Discard rosemary.  Slip garlic out of skins and discard any burnt ones.  Mash the remaining garlic.  Add red wine and port and place over high heat scraping the base of the pan to incorporate all the browned bits as well as the garlic.  Reduce by half then add stock and tomato pasted.  Continue to boil until sauce coats the back of a spoon.  Divide the breasts into ribs and serve with potatoes and sauce.

I got a sneak peek at the green garlic when I was picking up last week's box from Tasha, it looked so good and I can't wait to use mine.  Green garlic is regular garlic that is picked before the bulbs start to form.  It can be called spring garlic or baby garlic.  Farmers sometimes offer it up when they are thinning their crops and lately as it becomes more popular, some are growing it as a crop.  It has a milder flavor than garlic but still stronger than a green onion or chive.  To use green garlic, slice off the root and remove any tough green leaves.  It can be used in very much the same way as green onions, baby leeks, regular garlic or chives.  I plan to use some of the green garlic in the sauce for a big batch of pasta that I am making for the kids (who are not getting served the breast of lamb).  I also came across this article from the New York Times, Grassy, Sweet and in Season when gathering info on green garlic, and I am definitely going to try their Seared Pork Cutlets with Green Garlic Salsa Verde - with my overabundant mint, my own chives and fresh lemon juice from the lemon in the veggie order.

In wanting to give a few more ideas to use some of the vegetables in this weeks box, I thought that broccoli and lemon or green beans and lemon would make a great combination.  Apparently, I'm not the only one who thinks this - I came across so many recipes for both.  I think the appeal is in the contrast of yellow zest against some fresh dark green vegetables and also the fresh taste of lemon paired with some crisp greens. I really had to narrow down the list of recipes so I'm recommending to use the broccoli and lemon with chicken in any one of these recipes: Lemon Chicken and Broccoli, Chicken, Broccoli and Lemon Stir Fry, or Lemony Broccoli Pasta with Chicken.  Or use the lemon with the green beans in Green Beans with Lemon and Garlic, Lemon Green Beans, or Green Beans with Lemon Butter.  All are pretty straightforward easy recipes and most can use the green garlic as well.

Good luck with the basil plant, hopefully it will continue to prosper throughout the summer so it can be used over and over in a variety of recipes and doesn't get sunburned, over watered or picked by little hands too soon.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Organic Harvest Box for June 7, 2012

When I picked up my box today, Tasha gave me the heads up that the spinach needs to be eaten first if you can.  It's also important to cut the tops off the radishes, which I did right after this photo.  And, I cut the tops off my carrots right before I took this picture (it makes them easier to fit in the frame) and then proceeded to leave them on the counter and didn't find them until I was mostly through putting everything away, hence no carrots in the photo..

Thank you very much if you took the time to complete the Survey Monkey.  Those of you who read the blog are in the minority, some people even emailed Tasha to say that they didn't know that the blog existed.  But the feedback about the blog itself seemed very positive.  I'm going to keep writing it for now, until Tasha tells me otherwise, and maybe can arrange for it to be emailed out as that seemed to be the preference.  I'm a bit of recipe junkie so I still love researching everything and sharing all my thoughts.

I wanted to update you with my uncle's eggplant recipe (that I couldn't quite remember last week) because it is so good.  I did have to call him again just to get it right.  Here goes: slice the eggplant into 1/4" slices, brush it with olive oil, grill it but not too long as it will get mushy.  After it's grilled, let it cool, and then slice it into thin strips.  Mix up some olive oil, balsamic vinegar, chopped garlic, a bit of white wine and pepper.  Marinate the eggplant at least overnight, and it will keep for a few days.  Serve it on crackers or sliced baguette.  It would be good also as a salad topper or on a grilled sandwich.  

This week's list just screams salads.  With all the lovely fruit, the avocado, (which is a fruit as well technically) the butter lettuce and the spinach, I picture fancy salads.  I couldn't resist "googling" the combination of spinach, grapefruit, and avocado and came across a couple of great recipes, the two I would recommend are Spinach and Quinoa Salad with Grapefruit and Avocado (I'm a little addicted to quinoa since I bought the 1kg bag of it from Costco) and Grapefruit, Avocado and Spinach Salad with Honey Dijon Vinaigrette - use the juice from an orange instead of the grapefruit to make the dressing.  And you could interchange spinach or the lettuce from this week's box in either recipe.  This recipe from for Avocado Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette also caught my eye to make use of the cucumbers, avocado, orange and lettuce.  Darn, wish I would've ordered extra avocados and extra grapefruit.  Hindsight is 20/20 right, or maybe I really need to be trying to write the blog on Monday nights when we get the first list so I can adjust my order on Tuesday!

I can't really remember when I started using more cremini mushrooms, they sort of feel like something new to me as I don't remember them being around when I was growing up but I also feel like I've been using them as long as I have been cooking for myself.  We tend to buy them over white mushrooms as they are a bit "meatier" and hold up better in cooking, however if I am using them raw, I do make sure to slice them pretty thin.  So as I was thinking about how I use creminis, I decided that I don't really know anything about them, or the nutritional importance of mushrooms in general.  For us, they are just necessary for a variety of things: pizza, stroganoff, mushroom barley soup - see below, and sauteed with onions for my husband any chance he gets, and I've never really thought about them too much.  So I did a bit of reading and was happy to find a lot of good information that supports what I already thought or do when it comes to mushrooms:
  • Button mushrooms, creminis and portobellos are all the same type of mushroom but just differ based on their age.  Button mushrooms being the youngest and softest in texture, creminis are a little older with a darker flesh and a meatier consistency, and portobellos are the most aged with the darkest color and a full thick cap.
  • Creminis have a bit of a fuller taste and do stand up better in cooking because of their meatier texture,
  • "Mushrooms need a shower, not a bath" as stated in this story from The Kitchn.  I love this quote because it confirms what I've been doing for years.  I got tired of wiping mushrooms with a damp paper towel, went through too many paper towels which was a waste in my mind, and I started just running the mushrooms under a little water and wiping them with my hand.  
  • Mushrooms can help the immune system, help protect against cardiovascular disease, have a significant source of conjugated linolenic acid (CLA) which can help with certain forms of breast cancer, and can potentially contain vitamin B12 depending on the type of mushroom (taken from,
  • Mushrooms are best stored as soon as possible in the refrigerator or else they tend to lose their phytonutrients if left out in temperatures that are too warm.
My husband and I have a joke between us that if we get divorced, I get the cottage and he gets the Mushroom Barley Soup Recipe - it is a big favorite (taken from the Joy of Cooking):

3 1/2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 1/2 pounds mushrooms, sliced and tough stems removed
1/2 c. chopped shallots
3 tbsp. dry sherry or Madeira (or just red wine)
1 tbsp. chopped fresh thyme or 1 tsp. dried thyme
4 1/2 c. Beef Stock or Beef Broth
3/4 c. pearl barley
1/2 - 1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper

Heat the oil and butter in a soup pot over high heat.  Add the mushrooms and shallots, cook, stirring often until the mushrooms are wilted, about 5 min.  Add the sherry and thyme, and reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring and scraping off the bottom of the pot for about 5 more minutes.  Stir in the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat, cover and simmer until the barley is tender, about 1 hour.  Serve garnished with chopped parsley or whole thyme leaves.

I am looking forward to more radishes in this week's box.  Like the carrots in the box, remember to trim off the greenery and store them in a perforated plastic bag in the fridge.  If your radishes get soft or mushy, you can try refreshing them in a bowl of ice water.  Radishes are a really great source of Vitamin C and can help combat urinary and kidney problems.  And although they taste spicy, they can actually help to freshen your breath.  My daughter and I tend to gobble up the radishes raw or sliced on salads and they don't last that long in our house.  Last time we got radishes I suggested a dish for sauteed radishes that was really good, but I found lost the spicy flavor of the radish, which is my favorite part.  A different way to cook the radishes that may retain a bit more of the flavor might be Roasted Radishes with Olive Vinaigrette.  And of course, since I am a bit stuck on salads this week, Watermelon, Cucumber and Radish Salad or Farmer's Salad which reminds me a lot of my grandmother's old creamy cucumber salad.

If you read this on Friday, sorry, no photo yet, as I don't have my box.  And the fact that you are reading and hopefully enjoying the blog does inspire me to continue to write it.  Enjoy.