Fall Weather Gets Me Cooking and Baking

Its hard for me to get into baking  and cooking when it is warm outside.  But once the weather turns cold, I can’t wait to get into the kitchen.  What motivated me even more is that I have signed up to receive a fall Community Supported Agriculture or CSA box once a week for the next eight weeks.  That box I received this week really got me thinking I need to cook and eat these vegetables!  Thanks Sharkar Farm for wonderful fall vegetables.

I knew I would be running errands, going to Dr. appointments and I needed something to cook that didn’t need a lot of attention.  So I had to get my creative juices flowing – just kidding!  This was probably one of the easiest things to do is to make a vegetable soup.  I used to get really intimidated to make a soup that had flavor and tasted good!  My mom would make chicken noodle soup and it always tasted so good – but when I tried to make it as an adult it was very watery.  I have tried to find ways to add more flavor – like oven roasting the vegetables or the chicken legs; adding herbs and adding my own homemade chicken or vegetable stock.  But we do buy boxes of chicken broth or vegetable broth whenever we find it on sale!

I was given a lot of kale (thanks Farmer Sharon for that beautiful kale) and I haven’t used it in very many recipes.  My husband isn’t crazy about it since I used way too much last year when I tried making some soup.  He told me as long as I didn’t use too much kale and if I could chop it really fine he would try it!  I decided to make a chicken soup with the vegetables and kale in my CSA box.  I had 5 chicken thighs in the freezer that I had thawed in the refrigerator the day before.

I roasted the chicken legs with olive oil and S&P (salt and pepper) for 45 minutes at 400 degrees.  I washed the vegetables – 4 carrots, 6 potatoes, 6 stalks celery, 2 turnips (yep!), 2 large leaves of kale, 2 onions, and 3 cloves of garlic – all from my CSA box!  Once the veggies were washed, I cut them up small – I did peel the turnip so no one would notice the color but I left the skins on the potatoes and carrots.  I tore the kale up into small pieces.  I sauteed the onion first, then added the carrot, celery, turnip, potato and kale.  I did find that sauteing the kale did help to break it down and not be so tough.  I added the garlic last so not to burn it.  I have started using coconut oil in cooking – so I used about 2 tablespoons mixed with olive oil and 1-2 Tablespoons butter.

Once the vegetables were cooking for 5-10 minutes, I added the chicken I tore off the leg bones, and 1 box of vegetable broth and one box of chicken broth and then I let this come to a boil and turned it down on very low for about 4 hours.  My husband helped with this recipe by adding a can of great northern white beans.  During the last hour I added some fresh thyme from my potted herb garden – about 4 sprigs.

This soup tasted so good!  The flavor was fantastic and my husband had two bowls full!  Now if I can just find another recipe to use for the kohlrabi in my CSA!

Perfect fall weather meal - soup, crusty bread and a glass of white!

Perfect fall weather meal – soup, crusty bread and a glass of white!

Living Local Outdoors

I took a morning walk on my local Fort Gratiot Nature Trails.  It is not safe to walk along my streets near to my home so I am grateful there is this wonderful trail system for walking and biking near my home.  There are 5 miles of trail that goes through woods, over creeks and around some ponds that offers so much natural beauty and possible wildlife sightings.  Are there trails near your home that you have yet to try or experience?  It can be so invigorating and motivating to get outside for a few minutes or an hour away from the technology of TV and computers and music devices – I like to walk without music so I can hear the birds.

In southeast Michigan we have so many opportunities from the blue waterways and rail-trails to paved paths for walking, running and biking.  Check out your local county park system on-line.  Another new link:  http://www.michigantrails.org/projects/detroit-trails/

St. Clair County and Macomb County both have websites with resources and trail information: http://www.bluewaysofstclair.org/

and for Macomb:  http://www.makemacombyourhome.com/outdoors.html

I also found a new site the other day – Macomb Macaroni Kid – while I was driving on I-94! This website and newsletter shares all kinds of kid activities in Macomb County!

I am hoping we still get a few more great days for biking, walking and kayaking!  This has been just a great fall.

One Pan Veggie Pasta

Farmers Market Demo Recipe – One Pan Veggie Pasta

2 C onion thinly sliced
2 T vegetable oil
8 oz pasta (bow ties cook quickly)
2 C ripe tomatoes cut in chunks or halved cherry tomatoes
2 C cut up veggies such as: broccoli, carrots and peppers
4 cloves garlic minced
red pepper flakes to taste
2 sprigs basil
2 t olive oil
S & P to taste
4 C water or chicken broth
1/2 c parmesan cheese
Saute onions in vegetable oil until soft, add minced garlic. Add water and bring to a boil, then add pasta and tomatoes. Cook pasta until almost done then add vegetables, basil and seasonings. Do not overcook to keep veggies brightly colored. Season to taste and drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with cheese. Garnish with additional basil sprigs.
ENJOY! Everyone at the market loved this!  You can experiment with the veggies – try this recipe with zucchini, summer squash, green beans, egg plant, and even kale.

Farmers Markets Offer So Much Good Food!

I wish I could eat all day long. I am so enjoying the vegetables and fruits at the local farmers markets. My problem is everything looks so good I want to try everything. I now have a refrigerator full of fresh produce.  I love visiting my favorite farmers market at Vantage Point in Port Huron, MI.  But then I love visiting the markets where I work so I stop at the Detroit Eastern Market and the Mt. Clemens Farmers Market regularly to  pick up fresh fruits and vegetables along with meat, eggs and cheese from local farmers and businesses.

I try to plan my meals 2-3 days at a time using up the produce as quickly as possible to use it at the freshest possible moment for the best flavor and quality. Starting with vegetables as the main course of the meal keeps the calorie levels down and then I can add a grain like rice or couscous and some protein if I need it.
I try to purchase vegetables that I know and love but also a couple of new things I have not tried before. Vegetables can scare people away – you may not be sure how to prepare, peel or cut up the vegetables. That is OK and there is no one who is going to give you a hard time for trying a new vegetable out! And I will say if you don’t like or care for the way you make it – do a different recipe next time! Keep trying – start by tasting many vegetables raw and use a yogurt dip!  I was doing a food demo a couple of weeks ago at the Mt. Clemens Farmers Market trying to encourage patrons to try some new vegetables.  Many people were surprised you could eat green beans raw as well as zucchini and summer squash.

A very quick vegetable dip is to chop up 1-2 cloves of fresh garlic from the market along with 1-2 Tablespoons of chopped fresh dill  and add that to a 1 cup of plain Greek yogurt.  Let it sit for a couple of hours to blend the flavors and serve with fresh washed cucumbers, broccoli, cauliflower, pepper strips, slices of raw zucchini and summer squash and green beans along with some red and yellow cherry or grape tomatoes.

I try to keep recipes simple – I work my 40 hour week and drive almost 2 hours a day – I don’t want to spend a lot of time preparing food at night even though I love to cook.
I try to cook all my vegetables at the same time and then add them to recipes or use for my lunch and dinners.  Do you have other quick tips for quick meals using fresh vegetables?

Fresh farmers market vegetables.

Fresh farmers market vegetables.

Where is your favorite farmers market?

Celebrate Earth Day with Green Eating Habits – Being Earth Friendly with Food

Earth Day is a great time to celebrate our beautiful planet, but we can learn green eating habits that help the earth every day.  Michigan State University Extension can help you eat greener.

 

Reduce your food waste by purchasing food around meal and menu planning.  Katherine Hale, Extension Educator says, “This can help reduce your daily stress by planning out meals ahead of time and reduce your food budget by buying only what you need.”  Plan your meals around what is left in the refrigerator and also plan meals to cook once but eat several times with a new meal plan.  Hale likes to steam a large amount of vegetables at one time and then use broccoli or cauliflower in salads or additions to pasta dishes later in the week or as a take to work lunch.  By having meals planned you can reduce the amount of food that spoils or gets thrown out.

Start a compost pile of vegetable scraps and if pre-cooked vegetables get old, just add them to the compost pile.  You will reap a wonderful soil amendment for growing future plants.

 

Buying what is in season is usually less expensive and you can buy in larger quantities, blanch if necessary and freeze for later use.  This reduces the packaging that comes with multiple smaller packages.

Use real dishes instead of paper and cloth napkins to reduce your daily waste.  Eating at home as a family encourages family time and conversation while also reducing calories and packaging from fast food restaurants.

 

When cooking, try doubling recipes and you can freeze or repackage in reusable containers to eat for lunches and meals later in the week that will save you time by just reheating.  For example, try roasting several chicken breasts at one time – you will use less energy cooking once, and use this protein source for chicken sandwiches for lunch or add the chicken to pasta later in the week.  These methods require a little more planning but will save time and energy when you can get several meals out of cooking just once.

 

Take advantage of end of season price reductions on tomatoes and other vegetables that can be made into chili recipes and spaghetti sauce that can be frozen or canned in reusable containers.  You can save money and increase health by buying real food and less packaging that produces less waste.

 

You can eat greener every day and be earth friendly.  Celebrate Earth Day!

 

 

 

10 Strategies to Eat Local

There are ways you can eat healthier and inexpensively this year. Michigan produce will be available soon. Asparagus, strawberries, peaches, tomatoes, sweet corn and apples at peak freshness bring smiles to our faces. The smells and taste keep us coming back for more. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have those great flavors all year long? Well, you can! Michigan State University Extension recommends several strategies you can use to plan for local food all year long that will help you eat healthier and save money.

1) Plant herbs in small amounts in windowsill gardens every three to four months and use in meal preparation. Dill, Basil, Parsley, Rosemary, and Thyme can be used fresh or dried.
2) Preserve food in a variety of ways starting with making small batches of jams or jellies. Strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries and cherries can be made into jam and then used as toppings on ice cream, desserts and on muffins and toast.
3) Freezing vegetables and fruits can be a quick preservation method if you have freezer space – I prefer this method for making strawberry or raspberry jam, tomatoes and peaches. This method is especially quick if you have a large quantity of ripe produce that needs to be preserved as soon as possible and does not require a lot of equipment. Freezing vegetables for soups, sweet corn, and broccoli after blanching can give you a variety of produce to eat next winter.
4) Canning tomatoes, salsa, spaghetti sauce and green beans are great ways to enjoy the bounty of summer when you follow approved home canning methods (see the National Center for Home Food Preservation for the latest guidelines).
5) Try your hand at drying vegetables and herbs. Vegetables that are dried can be stored in glass jars or plastic bags which could save valuable freezer storage.
6) Explore making pickles, pickled beets, and relish which are all great additions to any meal.
7) Grow your own vegetable garden in large yard or small spaces. Find great resources at MI Garden.
8) Find a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program in your area and sign up to receive a weekly share of produce that a farmer grows and you pick up once a week. Check Local Harvest.
9) Shop at the local Farmers Market or find a farm stand near you. Locate one at Local Harvest.
10) Pick Your Own orchards and farm operations are a great place to show the kids how food is grown and harvested. Visit Pure Michigan to find one near you.

Choose one strategy or a couple of these ways to get one step closer to eating local.

The All About Food Conference was held on February 14 in Clinton Township and featured several local restaurants and food businesses.  It has been over a month since that event with almost 250 people in attendance but the word is – they all want to learn more about living healthy and how to find local food.  Local food is here – we just need to take time to find it!

Starting off the day we featured the former Che Cosa Coffee now known as the Box Theater Cafe at 42 Pine Street in Downtown Mt. Clemens.  We loved their coffee and the team was great to work with and delivered the coffee to us – They were awesome!

Henry Ford Health Systems of Macomb sponsored our lunch and their food service program provided soups and salads that were wonderful and healthy.

The Mitt Restaurant in downtown Mt. Clemens served a Michigan Salad and a Spinach Salad using local ingredients.

For dessert we were treated to cupcakes from The Happy Cake Lady.

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Lovely cupcakes!

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Safies Products

We also featured sides from  Safies, another local food business that has been making great pickled beets and asparagus for over 75 years in Macomb County, Michigan.

Our milk was provided by Crooked Creek Dairy.   White and Chocolate versions were excellent.  This farm is bottling their own milk and other products and selling from the farm!

We had water donated by Westview Orchards and door prizes donated by MI By the Bottle Tasting Room, and   Hul-Bee Honey.

Sourcing local foods is an awesome adventure.  You learn about the people and businesses that build a community and make it great!