Winter CSA Box #7 – All The Good Stuff :)

The box today was filled with lots of lovely treats and two ugly chunks of squash my daughter told me I should throw out – immediately.  I reminded her than any poor, ugly squash can become rolls and thus, become instantly loveable.

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This week we received: fresh lavender, baby carrots, potatoes, pears,  spinach, the ugly squash chunks,  fresh rosemary and very full bag of lentils.

The kids were relieved to see the spinach, instead of mixed weeds again.  🙂  Particularly since the very first day I used it in lasagna rollups.  And yes, I am pandering again.  I am also thinking I might try Kirsten’s spinach pizza crust from Farm Fresh Feasts.  Pizza? More pandering, I know.

I have a legumes cookbook, so this weekend I am going to explore it for something new to create with the lentils.  A dish with squash and curry sounds very seasonally appropriate.

Oh!  Speaking of curry, my sister and I had a girls’ weekend in Seattle with some friends last weekend and they let me go into the Penzey’s store.  THAT was a very bad idea.  $93 later, I had a bag loaded with all the spices I could ever dream of, including a large bag of Indian curry.  I am excited to explore all my new spices!  Happy Birthday to me! (next week).

I am debating what to do with the pears.  A dessert would be a nice Valentine treat.  Maybe with the cranberries I have left?  Sounds like an opportunity for creativity.

Potatoes and carrots never go to waste at our house.

I usually save the lavender as a dried flower, but would like to come up with ideas to cook with it or infuse it into a dish.  Have any of you cooked with lavender and what did you try?

No parsley, just sage, rosemary and thyme, and oregano.

No parsley, just sage, rosemary and thyme, and oregano.

We have amassed a nice stash of herbs the past few boxes, which I store on one plate in the corner of the kitchen.  I love walking over and picking off some sage leaves, or crumbling  oregano or thyme directly into a dish.  The rosemary lives with them now.

I do believe this is my favorite Winter CSA box so far.  🙂

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Quick Lasagna Roll-Ups

I got home last night and had NO IDEA what I was going to make for dinner.

Isn’t that some sort of working mom’s nightmare?  You walk in the door after a long day of saving the world (I don’t save the world, but hey, this is my dream), and your family follows you around the house like a pack of dogs, barking questions…

“What’s for dinner?”

“I don’t know.”

“What are we having for dinner?

“Still don’t know.”

“When will dinner be ready?”

“No idea.”

Scanning a cookbook of 30 minutes or less recipes, I found a recipe for Lasagna Rollups that I thought I could cobble together, in spite of the fact that the only ingredient in the recipe list that I actually had was the left over no-boil lasagna noodles.

Lasagna Roll Ups

Pre-heat oven to 475°.

  • 8 no-boil lasagna noodles

Cover the noodles with hot tap water in a 2 quart dish and microwave for about 4-6 minutes, until the noodles are softened.  Then drain the water and lay the noodles on a clean kitchen towel to dry.

  • 3.5 c. shredded cheeses

I used a blend of mozzarella, asiago and smoked gouda because that is what I had.

  • 15 oz. Greek yogurt
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 t. dried basil
  • 1/4 t. salt

Combine the Greek yogurt (ricotta substitute :)), 2 c. shredded cheese, egg, basil and salt in a bowl.

  • 28 oz. canned diced tomatoes
  • 3 T. olive oil
  • 2 t. minced garlic

Combine the tomatoes, oil and garlic in another bowl.

  • 5 c. washed spinach

Spread half the tomato mixture in the bottom of a casserole dish.

Working with the noodles from the short side, put 1/4 c. of the cheese blend on each noodle and top with spinach.

The dried basil and yogurt gave it sort of a Greek flavor.

The dried basil and yogurt gave it sort of a Greek flavor.

IMG_1132The kids had said they wanted the greens to be used in less obvious ways.

What better way than to slip it into cheesy, tomato based, pasta goodness!

Roll the noodle from the short end and place it  on the tomato mixture in the casserole dish, with the seam side down.

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Complete with all noodles.  Pour remaining tomato mixture over noodles, then microwave casserole until the rolls are heated through (about 6 minutes).

Remove casserole from microwave, top with remaining cheese, and place in oven on top middle shelf until cheese is toasty brown and melted.  Remove from oven and let stand 5 minutes.

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You could add  meat to the rolled up noodles or among the noodles in the tomato sauce.  This was a flexible and yummy quick dinner, although I suspect it took me longer than 30 minutes.

This was a great way to use my new spinach (more abut this week’s box tomorrow) and the greek yogurt. The kids didn’t give me pouty faces when I told them what was for dinner.  🙂  Who can be pouty when its lasagna, right?!

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Saving the Squash

In my last box there was a large chunk of what had been a HUGE Pink Banana squash.  My farmer’s notes say some of them were over 50 lbs and he had one at his house that weighed in at 70 lbs!

pink banana squashI hadn’t decided how I wanted to use it yet, and it was stored next to the butternut squash. After about 4-5 days, my husband noticed it had soft spots forming on the exterior, and some “decay” on the cut edges.

In true CSA panic (can’t let anything go to waste), I chopped half of it into 3/4 inch cubes and froze them uncooked for future use.

The remaining pieces, I roasted, but not so much it had to be purée.  I left the oven at 375° and roasted face down on a foil lined baking sheet for about 40 minutes.  After I cut off the rinds, I thought, for fun, lets run it through the ricer.

For fun?

What is wrong with me? 

The ricer always makes a serious mess. (I am still occasionally finding bits of tomato splatter on the ceiling from when I decided it was a good idea to use the ricer for tomato sauce.

Ricer in action!

Ricer in action!

I do like the texture of squash or potatoes after passing through the ricer and I plan to use this with some potatoes one of these days to make gnocci.

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About 3.4 c of the riced squash found its way into a loaf of bread maker bread I used for stuffing and salad croutons.  The kids were thrilled because they thought it was white bread.  Finally, something normal!

I did confess tonight that I had slipped some squash in.  They told me it was a wasted subterfuge, since they have already decided they are okay with squash in bread products, a la pumpkin rolls.

Darn kids!  I can’t ever figure them out.  🙂

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Getting Warm with Coconut Curry, Chicken and Apples

I have lots of onions and garlic from last week’s Winter CSA box, so those are the CSA contributions to this wonderful warm dish for a cold winter evening.

  • 1 t. olive oil
  • 2 lbs chicken breasts cut into large pieces (about 2″ x2.5″)

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet (that has a lid we will use later).  Add the chicken pieces and cook until both sides are browned.  Remove chicken from the pan, and keep warm.

  • 1 c. onions, chopped
  • 1 c. red bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 t. minced garlic
  • 1.5 T. grated ginger
  • 1.5 t. curry powder
  • 1.5 t. chili powder
  • 1/2 t. tumeric
  • 1/2 t. cinnamon

Add the onions, red peppers and garlic to the skillet, cooking until soft.  Then add ginger, curry, chili powder, tumeric and cinnamon, cooking for about one minute.

  • 1 14 oz. can light coconut milk
  • 2 t. lemon zest
  • 1/4 t. kosher salt
  • 1 large Golden Delicious apple, peeled and diced
  • 1/2 c frozen peas

Add coconut milk, lemon zest and salt to skillet and stir well to combine.  Add chicken back to skillet and add apple.  Cover and simmer for about 15 minutes.  Add peas and simmer uncovered for 5 minutes.

Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve over rice.

My daughter was surprised by the apple chunks, and not in a good way.  But we had only enough leftovers for me to have a small lunch the next day, so it couldn’t have been all bad.

Coconut milk is one of my favorite ingredients and I usually keep at least two cans on hand for those days when dinner needs a little something extra.  If I don’t use the whole can, I also like it over oatmeal.  Nom, Nom, Nom.  pacman

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Ragout with Pork, Collard Greens and Garbanzo Beans

This was one of those times where I had ingredients that were kind of like the ingredients in the recipe I wanted to cook, but really nothing like the ingredients in the recipe I wanted to cook.  The recipe I have calls this “Sausage, Escarole and White Bean Ragout”.  Well, I got no sausage, no white beans, and I don’t even know what escarole is…..

What is a girl to do?

I went ahead and made my version anyway.  😉

Notable:  I was able to use ALL my collard greens in this recipe, thus giving my family a reprieve from guessing “where she hid the greens” until next week.

If you recall, I had dried garbanzo beans in my CSA box last week.  The day before I wanted to make this dish, I soaked the beans.  I had just read an article recommending brining the beans, so okay!

Brining Dried GarbanzosRinsed Garbanzos

  • 1/4 c. kosher salt
  • 2 c. dried garbanzo beans

Dissolve the salt in enough water to cover the beans, approximately 1 gallon.  Soak overnight.  The next day, rinse the beans, then simmer in a pot of water until the beans are just barely not crunchy.   After a little over one hour, my beans were more tender than canned garbanzos, but still had some firmness when you bit into them.  I wanted them a bit more firm, so next time I’ll pay better attention.

The Ragout

  • 1.5 t. olive oil
  • 24 oz. pork roast, cut into 3/4 inch cubes
  • 2 c. chopped onion
  • 2 c. cubed red potatoes
  • 2/3 c. chardonnay or other dry white wine
  • 2 t. minced garlic
  • 4 c. garbanzo beans
  • 3.5 c. chicken stock
  • 2 t. chopped rosemary
  • 8 c. sliced collard greens

In a large non-stick skillet, heat the oil, then add the pork and onions, cooking until pork is browned on all sides and shows no pink.  Drain any fat from the pan, then add potatoes, wine, garlic, beans  and chicken broth.  I was using dried rosemary, and added it now.  If you are using fresh rosemary, you can wait and add it with the greens.

Ragout before greens

Ragout before greens

Bring broth mixture to a simmer, cover and cook for 7-8 minutes.  Add the collard greens, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the greens are completely wilted.

Ragout

Served with crusty bread,  this was a nice, understated soup that was warm and filling.  It  was even better when I had it for lunch today.  🙂

The children would have been happier (or less unhappy) if the collard greens had been chopped, rather than sliced.  They dramatized picking up every spoonful that had a long piece of green draping off it…

Note:  I was looking for leftovers, so doubled all quantities to create this recipe.  For approximately 4 servings, cut all quantities in half.  My problem is that a recipe making four servings does not seem to satisfy my 6′ husband and ravenous 15 year old son.

I bet the intended recipe was pretty good too.  I might even try it some day.

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Chocolate Zucchini Bundt Cake

IMG_1097Today is my daughter’s birthday (12) and this is THE CAKE.  This is her favorite cake and she has asked for it every year for her birthday for the past four years.

Two years ago, I had to borrow shredded zucchini from a friend to make the cake in January.  Last year, I bought semisweet chocolate instead of unsweetened chocolate, so that same friend and I had extensive discussions and research about how to adjust the sugar so the cake still worked.  Thanks Tara, I’ll have to bring you a piece; you are a big part of the history of this recipe!

Last August, when we were making zucchini brownies, my daughter even grilled me to make sure we had enough shredded zucchini left to be able to make the cake in January.  Five months in advance!!  That is how important this cake is to her.

I thought the original recipe was in Cooking Light, because that is a magazine I actually get.  But I have been unable to find it there.  Online research has turned up a version from Southern Living (owned by the same parent company I assume), but I have never seen that magazine in person and don’t know how I would have come across that.

Wherever it came from, this is a chocolatey and filling cake that makes great breakfasts after the birthday party is over.  🙂

Chocolate Zucchini Bundt Cake

Preheat oven to 350°.

  • 3 c. all purpose flour
  • 1.5 t. baking powder
  • 1 t. baking soda
  • 1 t. salt

Combine dry ingredients in a medium bowl.

  • 4 large eggs
  • 3 c. granulated sugar (THAT sounds like Southern Living!)
  • 3 1 oz. squares unsweetened baking chocolate, melted
  • 1.5 c. vegetable oil

Beat the eggs in mixer.  I used my Kitchen Aid with the heavier flat beater rather than the whisk because the final batter is pretty thick, more of a dough than what I usually think of as cake batter.

Cake Dough

Cake Dough

Gradually add the sugar, beating until blended.  Next add the melted chocolate and oil, also beating until blended.  Gradually add the flour mixture, beating on a low speed  until combined.

  • 2 c. shredded zucchini
  • 1 c. chopped walnuts

Removing the bowl from the stand mixer (if using a stand mixer), fold in the zucchini and the nuts.

  • cooking spray
  • cocoa powder
  • confectioner’s sugar

Prepare bundt pan by spraying with non-stick cooking spray, then flouring the pan with cocoa powder.  Transfer cake batter into prepared bundt pan.

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Bake for 1 hour 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Today that took an extra 13 minutes.

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It looked gorgeous coming out of the oven!

Let it cool in the pan for 15 minutes.  Then carefully flip the cake onto a wire rack and allow it to cool in the pan on the rack for a while until the cake releases from the bundt pan.  (The first couple of times I didn’t do that and the cake stuck.  Not so party perfect, but it still tasted good).

Allow the cake to completely cool on the rack, then sift powdered sugar over the top, if desired.  We usually cut thin slices using the bundt mounds as a guide.  Thin slices are plenty!

My daughter doesn’t tell her friends the cake has zucchini in it.  Although, if she did it might cut down on the midnight cake raids from any army of ‘tween girls during the birthday sleepovers.

Hmm…

More for me that way?

“Oh girls…”

🙂

Check out Heather’s “What’s in the Box” party to see how others are using their CSA treasure’s.

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Winter CSA – Box 6 – Staples and those @#$%^&* Gophers

This week we got staple groceries: mixed salad greens, collard greens, cute little carrots, oregano, garlic, six onions (6!), dried garbanzo beans  🙂 and 4 cobs of popcorn.  Oh, and a chunk of what must have been an extremely large squash.

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I haven’t tried to pop the popcorn yet, but I have 8 or 9 now, so we should be on track for movie night later this week.   I tricked my husband into watching “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas” last weekend (“Would this be considered a musical?” he asked), so I guess this weekend we better go for “True Grit.” 😉

These cute little carrots make picture perfect roasted carrots.

With Walnuts and Balsamic Reduction

With Walnuts and Balsamic Reduction

The salad greens, garlic, onions, and oregano are all pretty much re-stocking of the pantry, and I am glad my husband didn’t buy more onions at the grocery store today.

My husband ordered collard greens in a restaurant last week, and now I have to prove I can do better than Famous Dave!   At least I can count on him to eat his greens without too much fuss.

My farmer wrote this week explaining how he is running short on some items because gophers got into his greenhouse and he lost 15% of his carrots.  It is a bummer he says to count on your carrots and start harvesting only to find they come up half eaten!

Winter farming is hard.  😦

But I am glad he tries.  🙂

I haven’t used dried garbanzo beans before.  Hummus, deep fried garbanzos on salad;  I’ve always used canned.  What ideas do you have for the dried garbanzos?  I am always open to try something new.

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Pickled Beets with Red Wine

Beets are very popular at my house.  When we get them in the CSA box, they do not last very long and we don’t get too creative – roast beets are always a hit.  But this time, we didn’t get enough beets to roast them for a family of four.

Immediately, my daughter and I decided to go to our second favorite way to eat beets, pickled beets.

I found a recipe for Pickled Beets with Red Wine in The Joy of Pickling.  However, I had less than 1 lb. of beets, so we had to do some “adjusting”.

  • 1 lb beets, scrubbed

The beets  in our box were long and skinny.IMG_1063

I scrubbed them and left the lower two inches of their tops.  Actually, the beet itself continued past what appeared to be the soil line by about 1/2 inch.

I put the beets in a pot of water and boiled.  When the beets are just tender, drain  and cover them with cold water.

While the beets cool, make a spice bundle with the following:

  • 1/2 t. whole cloves
  • 2″ piece cinnamon stick, broken
  • 1″ fresh ginger, sliced

IMG_1064Tie the spices up in a spice bag or wrap in cheesecloth.  Put this into a non-reactive pot with:

  • 1 c. granulated sugar
  • 2/3 c. red wine
  • 1 c. red wine vinegar
  • 1 t. pickling salt

Bring the liquids to a boil with the spice bag, dissolving the sugar and salt and allowing the syrup to simmer, uncovered, for about 10 minutes.

Simmering Syrup

Simmering Syrup

While the syrup simmers, trim the beets and peel the skin off.  If it doesn’t peel off easily, I use my paring knife to cut through the outer layer of the skin and it peels right off.  I sliced my beets into 1/4″ rounds and packed them into one small mason jar.

I did end up with about 1 c. of extra syrup I saved, hoping I’ll get more beets soon.

The rest of the kitchen looks like I killed someone recently...

The rest of the kitchen looks like I killed someone recently…

Pour the hot syrup into the jar packed with beets.  I left about 1/4″ space at the top before closing with a 2 piece lid.  I boiled the closed jar for 30 minutes in a boiling water bath.

After the jar cooled on the counter and I heard the lid pop, I stored it in the garage.  The recipe says to store them in a cool dark place for 3 weeks before trying them.  After opening, store in the refrigerator.

The syrup smelled super wonderful.  I’ll let you know how they turn out.  🙂

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Shepherd’s Pie with Butternut Squash and a surprise vegetable

As if butternut squash isn’t enough of an outlier in Shepherd’s Pie…

Shepherd’s Pie is one of my fondest memories of meals my mom cooked when we were kids.  Hers was always made with ground beef, frozen peas and mashed potatoes.

As an adult I’ve experimented some, depending on what I have on hand.  I’ve used ground elk, I’ve used chunks of left over roast.  Instead of peas, I’ve used green beans once or twice, and maybe even a mixture of peas and carrots.  But nothing too far out there.

And ALWAYS, it is topped with mashed potatoes.  Maybe home made, maybe instant, but it didn’t occur to me to use anything other than mashed potatoes.  I’m actually a little disappointed in myself that using squash pureé didn’t occur to me sooner.  😦

Browsing online one day, Bonnie at Recipes Happen adapted a Shepherd’s Pie with Butternut Squash recipe to use mashed sweet potatoes.  🙂  This totally sounded like a winner and I had a large butternut squash or two that needed a purpose.

Roasted Mashed Butternut Squash

  • 1 butternut squash
  • 2 T.  half and half
  • 1 T. unsalted butter

First, we roasted one butternut squash by scooping out the insides, spraying the cut side with non-stick cooking spray and roasting face down on a foil lined baking sheet in a 425° oven for about 35-40 minutes.

Roasted Squash

Roasted Squash

When the roasted squash had cooled somewhat, we scooped out the squash and mashed it with the butter and the half and half (which was left over from holiday cooking and NOT something we normally have in our house).  I’m trying to get it out of here!

While the squash was cooling, we prepared the meat that forms the based of the pie.

Mashed Squash (AKA squish)

Mashed Squash
(AKA squish)

Meat Filling:

  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1.5 lb ground beef
  • 1 t. minced garlic
  • dried sage and thyme, pinches
  • 2 T. flour
  • 2 c. tomato sauce

Heat a large pan coated with cooking spray (we used the big cast iron pan which already had a coating of bacon fat in it).  Cook the onion until tender, and add the garlic and cook until aromatic.  Add the ground beef, cooking and breaking it up until the meat is all browned.  At this point I added the sage and thyme (both of which came from my CSA boxes!) and sprinkled the flour over the meat mixture.  Mix this until the flour evenly coats the meat, then add the tomato sauce and simmer until most of the liquid is cooked off.  Place the meat mixture in the bottom of a casserole coated with cooking spray.

Base Layer

Base Layer

Now is where things got a little freaky with my Shepherd’s Pie.

I was rifling through the refrigerator looking for a vegetable for the middle layer, and my 11 year old reminded me we had a bag of frozen okra in the freezer and maybe we could try that.  WHAT!?  After my head stopped spinning around and I made sure she wasn’t feverish, I agreed to give it a shot.  My kids had eaten okra before and didn’t mind it because okra doesn’t really have much flavor of its own.  (Now that I think about it, maybe she was afraid I would try to use greens, and she was creating a diversion before I got THAT idea in my head).  🙂

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We cooked the okra in the microwave according to the instructions on the package, and spread them whole on top of the ground beef.  I was pretty sure the okra wouldn’t cook enough while the Shepherd’s Pie was in the oven.  We were out on a limb as it was, I didn’t want to serve undercooked okra in my pie.

Whole Okra

Whole Okra

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On top of the vegetable layer (my feelings will not be hurt if you choose something far more normal), we spread the mashed butternut squash, and then sprinkled shredded cheese on top.

Oven Ready

Oven Ready

I cooked the whole pie in the oven at 375° for about 30-35 minutes, until the cheese on top of the pie was browned.

IMG_1047Actually, it was good.  🙂  The fifteen year old wasn’t thrilled with the okra, he decided to be picky about texture.  But we didn’t have much in the way of left overs.

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American Farmland Trust

I was in the office of one of my partners at the law firm and he had these awesome stickers.

No Farms No Food

American Farmland Trust is committed to protecting the nation’s farm and ranch land, keeping it healthy and improving the economic viability of agriculture.Their staff of farmers, policy experts, researchers and scientists know the issues from the ground up — how communities can be strengthened by protecting farmland and supporting local farmers, and how farmers and ranchers can best be engaged to conserve the land and protect natural resources.

They work with federal, state and local leaders and communities to develop legislation, implement policies and execute programs that keep farmers on their land and protect our environment.

Their web site has lots of information and is a great way to spend a lot of time learning about ways to support your local farmers.  Please check it out.

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