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!

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?