Tag Archives: vegetables

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!

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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.

Hubbard Squash – Good Winter Vegetables

Hubbard Squash – Good Winter Vegetables

I talked a few blogs ago about my food bucket list. I have been compiling my list for quite some time – some items are actually written down to remind me and then there are others that I continue to keep a mental note of. As I get older I definitely need to write more of these down so I remember! Pinterest is helping me remember these now.

I wanted to report that I accomplished another one of those recipes on my bucket list. The Hubbard Squash – it is that huge (big) blue thing that is a squash and a lot of times bigger than most pumpkins. I have seen many people at farmers markets walk right by them because they were intimidated and not sure at all what that blue thing was or the first thing about trying to cook it. You don’t often see these in the grocery stores because they take up so much room and again they don’t get used that much. They really are beautiful inside and out! I have seen quite a few used in outdoor displays during the autumn months. The nice thing is you can store these squash for a couple of months in your garage where it is nice and cold. I did stock up on a few squash this fall and have them stored now for winter use.

So where do you start with this giant of the squash world. Well, you don’t want to use a knife as you are likely to cut off your arm in the process! The easiest and recommended way to cut open a Hubbard Squash is to actually not cut it at all but to DROP it on a hard surface like your garage floor or driveway. I wish I had thought of this earlier (hindsight is always helpful!) but you could put a large sheet on the ground as you drop that bad boy.

The actual process of breaking open the squash to the time to cook it was probably 15 minutes so again, do not let this scare you off.

1- Drop the squash and break it open.
2- Pick up the pieces, scrape off the gravel (really it wasn’t that much) you could use a knife to scrape of the ends so you can really avoid any foreign objects.
3- Scrape out the seeds and guts.
4- Spray or oil your baking sheets or oven dish and you could add some olive oil to the surface of the squash so it doesn’t get dried out.
5- Cover with foil (or not) and bake at 350 degrees for 30 – 60 minutes depending on how large your squash is.
6- Scoop the cooked squash into a bowl with salt and pepper and a little butter. I didn’t even use sweetener of any kind and this was delicious!

Drop that bad boy!

Drop that bad boy!

Clean out the seeds.

Clean out the seeds.

photo (7)

The beautiful Hubbard Squash

The beautiful Hubbard Squash

Thanksgiving Feast with Local Food

Fall Vegetables

Local farm stands and farmers markets can help you make sure your Thanksgiving Feast supports local farmers.

The Thanksgiving feast is the perfect time to purchase local food for your dinner table. There are so many fresh vegetables, sguash, pumpkins, potatoes and turkey available locally – you won’t have any problem cooking up that traditional feast with farm fresh food.
Locally, you can find fresh turkeys from RC Organics near Richmond or Falker Family Farms near Romeo. But you need to call them right away to make sure they have enough turkeys on hand.
The Mt. Clemens Farmers Market and others are still open on Friday and Saturdays as is the Detroit Eastern Market, Armada on Sundays, and others you can check out on the Michigan Farm Market Association website to see if they are still open.
For the first time I am trying the blue Hubbard squash. The sheer size has scared me off from trying to cook the thing but then I read “how to” for these giant but flavorful squash. The secret is to dropping them onto your concrete driveway or patio to break them open rather than cutting yourself or losing a finger in the process. Once you have it smashed into smaller pieces, place the broken section after you have cleaned the seeds out onto an oiled baking sheet and bake for 45 minutes at 350-375 degrees. With the Hubbard, I don’t plan to do anything fancy other than baking and adding a little butter, salt and pepper and maybe some brown sugar after I have tasted it to see if it needs it. Not all squash needs to be served “sweet.”
Am I only eating squash for Thanksgiving dinner – no way – but I usually do the squash a couple of days ahead of time so I am not using up my oven space. You can then reheat it in the oven or use your microwave.
Let me go back a minute to the actual planning of the big event. I sit down a couple of weeks before the Holiday to plan out my menu – which can be really hard as I love so many of the traditional foods but just don’t need all of them at the table at the same time. When it comes time to choosing the dessert, I am in big trouble because I want to taste the traditional pumpkin pie, have my mom’s pumpkin roll with the cream cheese filling, have apple pie with a slice of sharp cheddar cheese, and I could go on and on. Then there is the stuffing, the vegetables, the potatoes, and what we will drink. So anyway, write down all of the foods you want to have – then start narrowing it down to a “realistic” menu.
Next, make your grocery list – and the reason to PLAN AHEAD is to take advantage of your local farmers market if it is still open. There is a strong possibility that your local grocery store may be purchasing squash and pumpkins from a local farmer. What a great time to plan a trip to Detroit Eastern Market also – as a day trip, or your first trip now is the time to go and see this historical market!
Next, I make decisions on when or what time I need to be cooking some of the foods. Again, I have real issues with the size of my oven, refrigerator and stove top. So I try to make a couple of things the weekend before like the cranberry relish, squash, pies and appetizers (if needed). This way you are spreading out the baking over several days. Oh and I almost forgot about the sweet potatoes! yum, my kids favorite!
The other thing I do contemplate, is whether I want to try a new recipe. Every couple of years I change up the stuffing – and Yes, I do stuff some stuffing into the bird, but I use a baking dish for more.
So look up the recipes you want to use, find your turkey if you want a fresh turkey and look for the farmers markets to purchase your brussels sprouts, squash, pumpkin, potatoes, onions, rutabagas, and kohlrabi. Yes, try a new vegetable!
Did I mention that also on my food bucket list is to make a pumpkin pie from scratch! So rather than wait until the weekend before, I am going to experiment this weekend with baking the pumpkin and seasoning it for that perfect pumpkin pie. Pictures to come!
What will you try this Thanksgiving? Where can you find local produce in November near your home?