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!

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!

a lazy day

I am not the type of person to lay back and take a rest. I like to make my days as productive as they can be. I always have something to work on and finish, and there seems to never be enough time in a day. I give myself 9 hours of sleep a night (yes, I realize this is high compared to most people. It’s what I know I need, so I get that but no more. If I could function off of 6 hours, that is what I would allow myself). I always set an alarm for the morning. I hate sleeping in. I wake up an hour and a half before I need to leave for work every morning just so I can make the most of my mornings instead of rushing off to work. I do not take naps. I do not sit in front of the TV. I like to be productive, and I like to be efficient. I hate doing nothing.

Point in case- I was on the phone with a friend the other day. In this phone conversation we were just catching up, talking about normal day-to-day goings ons. Before hanging up, she said to me “You should take a nap before getting to your to-do list for the day.” Hah- she knew me so well that she just figured I had a list of things to accomplish for the day. And she was right. So perhaps I am like this to a fault.

That to say, I woke up this morning, after 10 1/2 hours of sleeping and waking up at the late hour of 9am (unheard of), sat on my computer for a few minutes, and promptly moved from my bed to the chair in front of the TV. What?! I then watched an hour and a half of The Office season 8 (it will never be as good as when Steve Carell was on it), and then made myself french toast for a late brunch. Double what?! My normal routine is to wake up and get dressed. Then make an egg sandwich almost immediately. Breakfast is Important! And sugar should not exist with breakfast! And pajama days do not happen for me! Well, my friends, I didn’t bother changing or putting in my contacts until 2pm. I ventured outside at that point to walk to the store and back. I changed back into my pajamas upon my return. I sat back in front of the television. I ate chocolate ice cream. I ate chocolate candy. I watched way too much of The Office. I talked to five different people on the phone. I accomplished next to nothing today.

Around 6pm I realized I couldn’t do this for the rest of the day (which, for me, lasts only until 10pm or so. I love early bedtimes.) What could I do to feel like I accomplished something of worth today? I could cook something for dinner that looked and tasted amazing!

I recently cancelled my CSA subscription due to all the transitions in my life at the moment. But the other day I made some falafels from scratch (Yum! First attempt, and they were so good!) and had fresh parsley left over. I also bought some cherry tomatoes at Whole Foods recently because they were on sale. I had on hand some feta packed in brine. I had sunflower oil and lemon juice. I had half a box of pasta. I had a variety of dried seasonings. So I got to work.

At 6:45 I sat back down in front of the television (seriously, what?!), but this time with a large plate of goodness.

Wheat pasta shells, cherry tomatoes (halved for texture purposes), feta, fresh parsley, sunflower oil, a hint of lemon juice, dried oregano, black pepper, crushed red pepper, and a dash of garlic powder. All organic. I just cooked the pasta and added everything in once the hot pasta was on the plate.

 

I suppose my day was productive after all. At least I’ll keep telling myself that.

What do your lazy days look like? What do your productive days look like? What else would taste good with this dish?

 

a day for recipes

Life has been busy recently with a trip home, a weekend of celebrations, and a full work week. I’ve been looking for uses for my CSA batch from Sunday and have made a few nice dishes.

The broccolini was great over a bed of orzo, fresh tomato, feta, lemon juice, and olive oil.

I used the entire head of lettuce and a handful of kale for another of my standard Chinese-style stir-fries and ate it alongside some vegetable gyoza from Trader Joe’s.

lettuce, kale, egg, garlic, peanuts, crushed red pepper, soy sauce, rice vinegar, and a bit of sugar

I decided to try something “different” with the kale today. “Different” only meaning a different flavor of stir-fry … it’s a start! I sauteed a handful of it with olive oil, lemon juice, oregano, and black pepper, and added crumbled feta just before eating it. VERY tasty!

My win for the week may very well be the homemade pesto I made this morning. I used my friend Megan’s recipe, I love how simple it is with only five ingredients. My basil has been slowly dying over the week, so I knew that it was today or never. It was so easy to make! I just put the ingredients into my tiny food processor and blended them all together. The smells when I took the lid off were AMAZING! Fresh basil is something that words can’t describe. I love catching a whiff of it! This was the first time I attempted homemade pesto, and it was a fair first try. I over-did it a tiny bit on the lemon juice (accidentally!), and added extra garlic on purpose but maybe that wasn’t the best idea. However, I am confident this pesto will taste wonderful when paired with fresh tomatoes and cheese for a sandwich soon. PS, my friend Angie took the following picture; it is her book underneath the pesto. Angie is, in one week’s time, getting her Master’s of Fine Arts. Check out her portfolio here.

I currently have these muffins (with some changes) in the oven. They are not cooking through. It is a hot day. I’m taking a break from the kitchen while they continue to sit in the heat. Hopefully they’ll get to an edible point and will taste DELICIOUS. I am really excited about these muffins because 1. They are vegan, and 2. They are gluten free. Angie is staying with me and wanted to be able to eat them, so I used her gluten-free pancake and baking mix as a flour substitute. This mix already has some baking soda and baking powder in it so I only added another 1/2 tsp of each to my mix. I also used allspice instead of nutmeg because that is what I have in my pantry, did not include walnuts, and I added a whole avocado just to see what would happen. I did not measure the carrots, I probably used a little more than a cup. I started baking them at 300* because of the avocado, and over the course of this past hour (yes, an HOUR), have lowered it down to 280* and raised it to 340*. They look great and the batter tastes great, but the centers are still gooey. We’ll see how it goes …

Before being cooked. I’ll be taking them out of the oven in 5 minutes time, regardless of how they are in the middle. I find a way to use the parts that aren’t done …

Any suggestions as to what I did wrong with the muffins? The bit of reading I’ve done in the past few minutes makes me think it has to do with the baking soda or baking powder. Does it at all have to do with the use of gluten-free flour? I’ve never baked gluten-free before. (I’ve never baked fully vegan before either.) Any suggestions for next time? This recipe really does look good and I’d like to do it right!

I still have potatoes and patty-pan squash and more carrots to use from Sunday’s CSA pick up. Some sort of stir fry is probably in order again.

I’ll be linking this post with this week’s link party at inherchucks … you should check it out and add your recipes too! Happy weekend!

July 24th addendum- Read this post for the rest of the muffin saga, and how it all turned out for good.

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?

a day of greens

I was so happy to have the day off work, because it gave me a chance to prepare all my leafy greens before they go bad.

I invested in a quality salad spinner this morning, and after today I know that the purchase was not in vain. As it seems I’ll have a surplus of greens every time I pick up my CSA produce, the salad spinner is a great way to save time and frustration. It is so convenient and efficient!

lettuce in the salad spinner basket

I was most excited about making kale chips since I have heard so many good things about them. They only way I’ve prepared kale previously is by sautéing it and adding it to a stir-fry. I also learned today that baking kale does not harm the nutrients that are packed into it!

I love the look of curly kale!

I looked up a few recipes, and the general consensus is to line a pan with parchment paper, place bite-sized kale leaves on it making sure they are not on top of one another, drizzle with olive oil and seasonings, and bake for 10 minutes at 350*.

ready for the oven

I’m not very good at “drizzling” oil- more tends to come out of the bottle than I’d prefer- so after I spilled enough onto the kale, I just fluffed it all around with my hands to be sure all the leaves were coated. I salted one of the pans, and for the other batch I added salt, garlic powder, and cayenne pepper. I love everything spicy!

LOTS of cayenne!

I checked the leaves after 10 minutes in the oven and they weren’t quite dehydrated/crispy all the way through, so I gave them another few minutes and then took them out. They were PHENOMENAL. Plenty of the recipes I looked up had warned about how tasty they are and how you can’t stop at just one. I figured they’d taste good enough and that would be that. I was wrong. I really couldn’t stop at just one. In fact, I ate the entire tray of the spicy ones. And I had left some raw kale out to stir-fry later, but I ended up making it into chips as well.

Out of the oven and ready to eat! So delicious!

My only downfall was storing them in plastic bags for later. I brought some for dinner with Jeremy tonight and by the time I got there, the kale was limp and chewy. I’m hoping that putting them in the oven again tomorrow will rejuvenate the crispiness. Was it how I stored them that made them limp, or are kale chips just hard to keep in general? I’m wondering if I didn’t keep them in the oven long enough.

I also washed and stored the red leaf lettuce, mizuna, and bok choy. I used the lettuce and mizuna to make a quick stir fry with an onion, red pepper flakes, pepper, oregano, sun dried tomatoes, and parmesan cheese and ate that for lunch with a crumbled sunshine burger mixed in.

Washed, dried, and ready to cook for dinner.

The bok choy I am saving to eat raw throughout the week since I love its mild flavor. Every last bit of the rest of the greens, including what little kale I had left, went to Jeremy’s to cook for our dinner. I made a stir fry with lots of fresh garlic, peanuts, and one of my favorite Chinese-inspired sauces- 1.5 T water, 3 T soy sauce, 1 T rice vinegar, 1 T sugar, and some cornstarch to thicken it up. It was delicious!

So, all the greens I got on Sunday are already gone (save for the bok choy), and while I wish I kept them longer, I was worrying so much about them going bad that I am happy they all got used. In the next weeks when I get more I’ll have to try some of the ideas I’ve been given about extending the life of the greens.