root veggies and then some

Check. It. Out. My friends …

| 1. Carrots | 2. Radishes | 3. Cabbage | 4. Onions | 5. Spinach | 6. Potatoes | 7. Beets | 8. Leeks | 9. Celery | 10. Sweet Potatoes | 11. Jalapeños | 12. Garlic | 13. Mizuna | 14. Parsley |

I call all of that cause for celebration!

Thank goodness I’m currently living with my very large family, rather than on my own. I’m not sure how I would get through all of this before it goes bad.

As the beautiful red and orange and yellow leaves have disappeared thanks to Hurricane Sandy, my thoughts are turning to winter. I haven’t had a substantial winter since 2010, as last year was primarily spent between Southern California and Southern Florida. Confession: I hate the cold. But here I am, back in the suburbs of Philadelphia, just in time for cold weather to hit (which, for me, is anything below 65 degrees).

The positives of this? Aside from the unlimited time with my family, being in Pennsylvania for the winter means being able to drink hot tea and eat soup without sitting in front of an air conditioner (a relatively common occurrence for me in LA). Now I can curl up next to the wood stove, wearing mukluks and a sweater, book in hand, enjoying the smells of the fire and the steam from a bowl of homemade soup. This is the next best thing to hibernating. Sometimes I wish I could be a bear.

So, what to do with all this food?

Carrots get eaten raw. They are too tasty. Puppy likes carrot tops.

Carson and his tops.

I still haven’t found anything to do with radishes. These got given away, along with a bunch of parsley. Next time that won’t happen. I WILL find a tasty recipe for them! As for the greens … boiled cabbage, anyone? It’s one of my mom’s favorites. Parsley works well in it.

Speaking of parsley, when I saw two huge bunches of it in my box, I was a bit overwhelmed. What are you really supposed to do with that green leaf that is typically seen as decoration? Answer: everything. Thanks to this post, I have a newfound love and respect for parsley. I regret giving one of my bunches away, I can assure it will not happen again. I used my remaining bunch to make a very simple pesto.

Parsley Pesto

1 large bunch of parsley
3 Tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves fresh garlic
1/2 cup toasted walnuts
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Throw all of the ingredients into a food processor. Eat to your heart’s content. Seriously. I dare you to not eat it all with a spoon. Perhaps my mom and I did just that, while a pot of pasta boiled, waiting for the pesto that never made it as a topping …

I was excited for the leeks, after trying my employer’s homemade potato-leek soup the other day. I attempted my own (her recipe), and I am SO pleased with it.

Potato Leek Soup

5 leeks, washed and chopped (use white and light green parts)
1 liter bouillon/stock
4 potatoes peeled and diced
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup milk
1/4 cup heavy cream
chopped chives for garnish

1. Cook leeks in oil for five minutes without browning (everything I’ve learned about leeks online says that you do not want to ever brown them, they’ll taste burnt). Add bouillon and potatoes, season with salt and pepper, simmer for 20 minutes.

2. Remove from heat and let cool a bit. Pour into food processor (or use immersion blender) and blend until smooth (it took a bit of time to blend it all, as I could only do a little bit at a time … an immersion blender would be like magic for this). Transfer back to pot, stir in milk and cream. Heat to preference. (The recipe actually calls for it to be cooled before eating. I disagree. Do what you want.)

I used only the three leeks and three potatoes pictured above. I did not peel the potatoes. I used a 32 ounce box of vegetable stock. I used over one cup of milk, and over 1/4 cup of half and half, and no cream. I had no chives, it didn’t matter. I used dried thyme and parsley along with the salt and pepper. It’s a hearty soup that takes a small bit of experimenting to get the consistency that you’re partial to.

My attempt tasted pretty good after immediately making it, and it tasted amazing a day later after reheating it on the stove (during reheating was when I added a bit of extra milk). My mom is also in love with this soup, and I’ve a feeling this is not the last time it will be made this winter. I imagine that adding chopped carrots and celery to the pot in step one with make this soup even more flavorful. I will be attempting variations at some point, stay tuned!

The other night I re-tried the recipe for a Chocolate-Beet Tea Loaf. This time I used the melted butter, as called for, instead of an avocado. I followed the directions almost exactly (didn’t measure the grated beets, just used a large one and a medium one), and it turned out DIVINE. Do try this recipe, if you’ve not yet experienced the wonderful pairing that is chocolate and beets. Also, be assured this is coming from someone who doesn’t even like beets.

I am happy for some good food and new recipes that will be mainstays. I’d love to hear your thoughts on how you would use some of this food. What is your comfort food during the winter months? Is there any recipe you could share that could get me to enjoy sweet potatoes or radishes? Are there other tasty, hearty, homemade soups out there that I should be trying? Have you other east coasters stayed safe in the wrath of Sandy? Please leave some thoughts!

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CSA in PA (vegetable stir fry with masala!)

I take back what I said about having no CSA haul while on the east coast. As my job (location) is on an organic farm, it has been decided that I will be given a box of fresh produce every Friday as I leave work. What a deal! Pictured below is what I brought home this past Friday … so much produce that I still am unsure as to how some of it will be used! I took advantage of Saturday afternoon to take my time (2 hours worth!) cooking up my version of an Indian-inspired dish, essentially vegetable masala. Details below, but first … the produce!

1. Eggplant
2. Radishes
3. Spinach
4. Swiss Chard
5. Garlic
6. Mizuna (or arugula?)
7. Fennel (had to look that one up)
8. Onion
9. Parsley
10. Lettuce
11. Leeks
12. Cabbage
13. Sweet Potatoes
14. Potatoes

Oh the glorious produce! On top of all that we still had swiss chard to cut from the garden before Sunday’s frost (it is TOO cold here).

I haven’t yet spent much time looking up / inventing recipes for the produce that I’m not used to using- the fennel, radishes, leeks, and eggplant. I imagine potato-leek soup should be pretty tasty, and the eggplant should be easy enough to adapt into something delicious. The fennel and radishes have me a bit stumped, as I’ve never sought them out before and they are not familiar tastes to me. I welcome any and all suggestions for recipes that cater to someone who is not particularly familiar with these flavors!

Cooking on Saturday was a blast. I cut the remaining swiss chard from the garden (10-15 large leaves) and washed that, along with the chard from my box and the mizuna as well (or is it arugula?) I put a generous portion of sunflower oil in a large wok and used my favorite cooking tool- the garlic press- to crush five large chunks of garlic into the oil. I also coarsely chopped up a large onion and added that to the wok as well. I put the burner on just over medium heat and within one minute, everyone in the kitchen was commenting on how nice it smelled. I think that one should always have a saucepan of fresh garlic being sauteed while they are cooking, if only for the wonderful smell it fills the kitchen with!

Once the onion was tender I added all of the greens to the wok and let them wilt while mixed in with the onion and garlic.

Mizuna, yes?

beautiful colors on the swiss chard

My mom chopped up a small bag of fingerling potatoes and all the raw carrots we could find in the house (which did not amount to many), and we boiled them together for a little over 10 minutes.


Once the roots were a sufficient consistency, I drained them and put them in the wok with the greens and added some peas, green beans, and broccoli that I had found in the freezer (I had them out to thaw for a bit first). I kept the wok on a burner at a little under medium heat and mixed everything together.


It was at this point that I remembered to make some rice, so dinner got postponed a bit while the rice took 20 minutes on the stovetop. Mom also cut up boneless chicken breasts into bite-sized pieces and stir-fried them in a bit of teriyaki sauce. I poured two jars of tikka masala sauce into a saucepan and heated that up in the meantime (I would have added the sauce directly to the stir fry in the wok, but I was cooking for a variety of palates, and not everyone wanted “Indian” food).

After two hours of standing, chopping, and cooking in the kitchen, I was very ready for my meal. I’ve no pictures of my plate, but suffice it to say I drowned my very large helping of stir fry and rice in the masala sauce and ate until my plate was clean. I did the same for seconds! (I also had leftovers for dinner tonight.)

This was a great meal to make for my family because of the variety of options- my Dad ate the stir fry with chicken mixed in and no masala, one brother just ate rice with soy sauce (he’s our carb boy), another picked the potatoes out of the stir fry and ate them with rice and chicken. A few people added some masala sauce to their plates. My Mom and I got to eat vegetarian with no hassle. It was a win-win for all!

*I’ve joined the link party at In Her Chucks … you should check it out!

back to blogging and life transitions (and eating good food)

After intending to break from this blog only while I was in Northern Ireland, I found it a bit harder to get back into after breaking the habit. Free time normally spent on the computer blogging and wasting time has now been spent job searching and life searching. My life has been full of transitions since graduating High School seven and a half years ago- I’ve not had much consistency with my day-to-day lifestyle for much longer than a year at a time since then. And so I begin again. Here’s to the beginning of more transitions and a new season.

I have a slew of ideas written down for future posts on here, and that is something I intend to keep consistent again. So, with no further ado, here is my Sunday CSA post a week and a few days late.

watermelon, broccoli, apples, grapes, cherry tomatoes, basil, an heirloom tomato, romaine, green onion, zucchini, avocado, jalapeños, and kale

WHAT a haul this was! My mouth was watering as each item got put into my bag, and then I didn’t know what to work on first. Apples have long been one of my favorite foods, but I haven’t had them consistently in a few years. I have been savoring them over the past week; shared one the day I got them, had one for snack at work a few days later, and the last is still sitting in my fridge, probably to be enjoyed tomorrow. I wanted to savor the grapes for just as long, but it was impossible. They were quite definitely the best grapes I have EVER eaten. Nice and crisp and a delicious sweet flavor with a slight hint of tartness. They lasted all of two days, and it was hard to not eat them all in one go. The broccoli and zucchini got sauteed into a delicious stir fry with carrots, potatoes, and just a hint of salt and pepper. I love sauces with my veggies, but they really do taste the best at their plainest. Those cherry tomatoes have been too good on their own and have been snacked on consistently. The heirloom tomato was great on bread with cheese and more homemade pesto from the basil. Still working on perfecting my version of that recipe. The romaine got given to Jeremy to enjoy with his lunches. I tried to be a fan of green leafy things but I’m starting to allow myself to give up that dream. The kale got cut up and there was every intention to use it in a stir fry with salt and pepper and olive oil and lemon juice and feta, but that never did happen. It will be part of tonight’s dinner- veggie burgers with the rest of the heirloom tomato and the last half of the watermelon. The avocados are sitting on the counter, ready to be used for baking a double batch of chocolate chip cookies. The poor jalapeños are still sitting in the bottom of my fridge. I love spicy food but I do not like the taste of jalapeños. Any suggestions? I’ve not done any looking in to that, and they haven’t gone bad yet.

Lots of good food, but getting back into the swing of things and finding new recipes for the food just didn’t happen this week. I was supposed to have another pick up this Sunday, but I will be out of town, so I’ll have no more CSA fruits and veggies for another two weeks.

Have any of you tried baking with avocado yet? I am really looking forward to making my cookies again, and I remember them going well the first try, which is nice. I still would like to find a better science for figuring out what temperature to bake avocado goods on and how long they should be in the oven- particularly cake-type items. Any suggestions?

Happy Tuesday!

August 22 edit- I’ve linked this post up with this week’s CSA link party at inHerChucks … you should check it out!

Sunday CSA Birthday- a few of my favorite things

Here are some thoughts that are all related somehow:
(Actual CSA stuff about halfway down.)

You know it’s a good day when a CSA pickup falls on your birthday, right?

Especially after a wonderful birthday weekend to boot.

The best part about now being a quarter of a century- it means my parents have been married for 26 years. I am so thankful to have such good role models in my life.

I was with my family on the east coast last week, and spent my birthday back on the west coast. Family is fantastic, and so are friends- and I have the best friends here in LA. It’s the only way to stay sane in this crazy place.

My birthday weekend included frisbee at the park in the sunshine, sea salt and turbinado sugar dark chocolate almonds, multiple episodes of Parks and Rec (the only TV show I actively watch (and re-watch, and re-watch, and re-watch. I’m on my 3rd time through season 4. Season 4 just ended two months ago. It is the BEST show)), Kerrygold dubliner cheese, fresh tomato, and sundried tomato pesto sandwiches on ciabatta, and games of Farkle and Bubble Bobble while in the company of a small group of friends. My birthday day brought about a three player game of Canasta (hand and foot) and dinner at India’s Tadoori because there is nothing better tasting than vegetable korma over rice with naan. Nothing, you hear? And of course, my CSA pick up, which ended up being probably the best one yet. More about that in just one second.

Presents were a vegan cookbook, teacups, and tickets to see Mumford & Sons at their sold out festival in Monterey.

What does all this mean, really? It means I am surrounded by people who love me and know me almost better than I know myself. Honestly. Everything listed above basically describes who I am. Right down to the fact that I celebrated with just a few friends. In fact, that was the most important of it all. I love having a small community. My introverted self needs time and ability to interact on a personal level with those who I love. A weekend spent with only my closest friends is my favorite way to spend time. Huge kudos to Jeremy, who has been a significant part of my life for two years now, and has learned all of these things about me and more, and planned everything that happened this weekend.

I talked with my littlest siblings (who aren’t that little anymore) on the phone at the end of the night, and naturally each of the three of them asked me “What did you get for your birthday?” I simply listed the three things I just listed above (trying to explain quality time, and good people, and good food, etc, wasn’t going to work- they only wanted the tangible), and two of the little ones were not entirely impressed. But the other, my 9-year-old brother, had a reaction that almost brought me to tears:

“The small things in life matter the most.”

It is SO the truth. But what 9-year-old child can really know that and truly believe it? My little brother is among the few, or the only. He is one of the most sensitive and beautiful kids I have ever known.

An old picture, but one of my favorites. I love this little kid. And the rest of my siblings.

So, with all that to say, I’ll stop the sappiness and get on to the produce. Would you LOOK at this lot?!

Basil, kale, lettuce, apricots, plums, nectarines, patty pan squash, carrots, broccoli, onions, and potatoes.  I mean, seriously now! Everything here is AMAZING!

I am beyond excited for the basil, because I’ve been wanting to try my hand at homemade pesto and use my friend Megan’s recipe. I’ve always avoided making pesto because most recipes I come across call for pine nuts. My grocery budget does not have room for pine nuts. So when I read Megan’s blog and found she uses sunflower seeds, I went right out and bought a package, and they have been sitting in my pantry ever since, waiting for the right time to help me with my pesto endeavor whenever it should happen. Well, it will be happening in a day or two. And I can’t wait!

I was getting tired of not having kale in my fridge, so I bought some curly kale from Whole Foods last week and made four cookie sheets of kale chips with garlic and cayenne pepper (and ate them all) within two days. This kale is not curly kale, and I’m getting tired of kale chips for the moment anyway, so I’m not sure yet what will become of my kale. Perhaps a green smoothie along with my lettuce- because, as always, I never know what to do with a head of lettuce. It’s just not appetizing to me. But it is a beautiful head of lettuce. I tore it into bite-sized pieces and rinsed it all out yesterday, and it’s nice and fresh and a beautiful color. If only I enjoyed it more.

I also recently had a want for carrots and bought a two pound bag just last week. I’ve been craving muffins, and so when I saw that I now have an over-abundance of carrots, my brain immediately went to baking. I’m thinking of trying something truly vegan, with avocado and applesauce included in the ingredients list. I have to do some looking around to figure out how to make that happen; there will definitely be a post about it once I make the muffins.

The fresh fruit, as always, will be (and already has started to be) consumed as is. I know there are a ton of delicious recipes for stone fruit, but I like snacking on it way too much to justify making something different out of it.

The broccoli is being had for dinner tonight alongside orzo with feta, lemon juice, and olive oil. The squash and potatoes will find their way into some roasting pan or stir fry.

What does your CSA look like this week? What exciting recipes would you make with some of these veggies that I use so matter-of-factly and simply? What are some of your favorite things? What would your perfect birthday weekend look like? Have you ever baked with applesauce? (Because I haven’t and I’m just crossing my fingers that it will work.)

another beautiful CSA day- with recipes!

I tried a new CSA recently, and had a beautiful box of produce waiting for me when I checked outside my apartment at 7:00am. What a wonderful thing to wake up to, no?

Plums, peaches, romaine, bok choy, beets, carrots, broccolini, and avocado. The box was supposed to have sweet potatoes, but I put them on my list of things I don’t want (yes, I’m one of the few that just can’t seem to enjoy them), and so the bok choy was subbed in for them. Upon pulling out the beets, I thought perhaps they made a mistake- I thought I had added them to the “no” list as well. Another look at my subscription and I found I was wrong. I believe I decided to keep them on the list so that I could try to like them.

I only had a week to use these veggies before heading on a trip out of state, so I got to work with them immediately. The broccolini went well as a bed for vegetable gyoza from Trader Joe’s that I eat at least once a week (it is TOO tasty!) Hooray for a vegan meal!

The fruit has been used well as snacks, as always. I wasn’t as thrilled with the quality of it as I have been with the other CSA, but I’m going to give this one another week before I make any solid decisions. The carrots weren’t wonderful at all, but I ate them anyway, just raw and simple.

I’m still trying to find a better way (that I enjoy) to use up all the leafy greens. Stir fry continues to be my default. A good friend of mine is living with me for this month of July and she brought a blender, so perhaps I’ll delve into the world of green smoothies. Until then, I used the beet greens, bok choy, romaine, and leftover collard greens from a week or two ago to make a stir fry with scrambled eggs, peanuts, onions, fresh garlic, crushed red pepper, and soy sauce, all over rice noodles. It turned out to be SO MUCH more satisfying than I expected- I was just making it to eat the greens, but it was SO tasty!

The best food to come out of this box was actually the beets and the avocado. I was excited for the avocado because of my new realization that I can bake with it. Since google was so helpful with that idea, I decided to look up “baking with beets,” and I came across some interesting recipes. I knew that beet juice can be used in place of red food dye (which is something EVERYONE should do, red food dye is terrible!), so I figured I might come across something. The recipes weren’t too numerous or different from each other, mostly cakes or breads or cupcakes. It seems that beets are best used in baking alongside chocolate to help mask the flavor a bit better. I’m completely fine with that- I LOVE chocolate. I decided on this Chocolate Beet Tea Loaf that I came across in my searches, and I am SO glad I did!

I chose this recipe because most of the others I found required the beets to be cooked. Though I could find step-by-step directions on how to cook them, I still didn’t quite trust myself. I think the last time I’ve seen an actual beet was when I was just a few years old and my mom tried to make me eat them (I didn’t). This recipe just calls for raw, shredded beets, and I liked the idea of the simplicity. Also, I already had all of the rest of the ingredients necessary, and I need to calm down with buying baking ingredients right now.

I substituted an avocado for the melted butter or oil that the recipe calls for and it still worked beautifully! I used all three of the beets I got in the box, they weren’t very large. I didn’t measure them (or the avocado), but everything worked out well. Due to the avocado, I baked the loaf at 290 and checked on it every 5 minutes or so after it was in the oven for 45 minutes. It didn’t take much longer than an hour. I stuck with the proportions of the rest of the ingredients; I didn’t add extra sugar because I prefer a darker chocolate anyway.

Peeled and shredded beets. Such a beautiful color!

Another “loaf out of the pan” fail, but not as terribly so as the zucchini bread.

This cake loaf turned out DELICIOUS! It is a bit thicker and very moist- I think the combination of the avocado alongside the beets is helping it retain all that moisture; it’s fudgy in some parts. It is a bit earthy in flavor, but I really think it is the right combination of earthy and sweet. Not everyone I’ve shared it with has loved it as much as I do, but only one person hasn’t liked it (or at least, I found it sitting on the table an hour later, forgotten about after the initial tiny bite, I’m right in assuming I think). I really love a good chocolate cake, and this one has enough chocolate to satisfy me without being overbearingly sweet. I will now spend the rest of my CSA days hoping for beets in every box, just to make this recipe again.

Thick, fudgy, and wonderful!

Have you ever baked with beets? I’d love to hear your experiences! And how about those avocados? Have any of you tried baking with them yet?

Sunday CSA #2

After much anticipation, I finally got my second CSA pick up. And oh it is such a good one this week!

Red and gold potatoes, donut peaches, black beau plums, yellow nectarines, haas avocados, bell pepper, collard greens, red romaine lettuce, green beans, thyme, and what I’m told is yellow squash. Looks like zucchini to me, are yellow squash and yellow zucchini the same thing?

So I’ve cut up and washed and stored the leafy greens, and I’ve snapped and washed and stored the green beans. I really don’t know what I am going to do with all these vegetables- I like all of them so much on their own, but should I try new things with them? I think I’ll end up roasting the potatoes (and perhaps the green beans as well) with the thyme; what other seasonings go well with thyme?

I am not a fan of avocados. I am going to give them a try again, and then probably just pass them off to someone who can enjoy them. I sincerely wish I did enjoy avocados since they have so many great nutrients for you. Are there any recipes with avocado that are good for a non-avocado eater? My problem with them is mainly that I am a texture eater, and their texture does not bode well for me at all.

I can’t wait to savor the fruit over the next week or so. It all looks so good I could eat it up right now. We’ll see how long it lasts …

So far as the lettuce and collard greens go, I suppose I could sauté the collards with some fresh garlic (I ALWAYS have that on hand!) and add them to my quinoa, black beans, and salsa staple (seriously every single day for lunch). The lettuce I am still at a loss for; I was directed to a few recipes in the comments of my last CSA post, but not many look to appetizing to me. I’m just not a lettuce eater. I wish I could make lettuce chips and collard green chips as easily as I can make kale chips, because those were amazing!

I think during my trip to Whole Foods later today I am going to do some price comparisons to see how much (or if) I am saving by getting my veggies this way. I am grateful that this is such an easy way to get organic, local produce- but I am such a number cruncher that now is the time to see how the convenience and cost balance out.

Sunday CSA!

Today I picked up my first bag of local organic fruit and veggie goodness. Last week’s post explains why I joined a CSA, and today I couldn’t be more happy about it!

curly kale, red leaf lettuce, arugula, onions, bok choy, fava beans, zucchini, cherries, plums, nectarines, tomatoes

bok choy

arugula

glorious fruit!

onions

We picked up the food at noon today, so of course I had to incorporate some of it into lunch. I had Sunshine Burgers in the freezer (they were on sale at Whole Foods over Memorial Day weekend, otherwise the price isn’t worth it), so we cooked them up and added lettuce, kale, and tomatoes for a delicious vegan meal.

We also shelled the fava beans and boiled them for a few minutes, as suggested by an email I got from Savraw this morning. I’ve never had fava beans before- they were quite good, they reminded me of peas. We just tried a few, and I’ll be having the rest with lunch tomorrow.

On Tuesday (a day off work!) I will be attempting to make kale chips; if anyone has any suggestions, it would be greatly appreciated- I’ve never tried it before.

I’ll be trying my best to savor the fruit and hopefully spread it over the entire week. It will be a stretch- I LOVE fruit! (I am most excited about the cherries! Since I typically go out of my way to avoid non organic produce, cherries are not at the top of my shopping list due to their cost.) As for the rest of the veggies, I suppose I’ll buy a few supplementary types and make a some stir fries this week. I am not a huge fan of lettuce, does anyone have any suggestions as to how to use it before it goes bad? I would like to eventually purchase a blender so I can make green smoothies whenever I have a surplus of leafy things.

What was the best part of your most recent CSA bundle? What meals are you planning to make with your fresh produce?