Tag Archives: carrots

Roasted veggies up close

Roasting Radishes: the best way to win over a radish hater

Radishes and Turnips
Some of the ingredients: salad turnips and chopped radishes.

This is the raddest radish recipe. Or should we call it a technique? Either way, roasting radishes is a fresh take on these spicy beauties.

Flavor sweetens: Roasting the radish takes some of the spice out of the radish, and some of the flavor that many radish haters hate fades. They become a little sweeter and don’t bite back as much.

Super quick: Roasting radishes takes maybe 10 – 15 minutes. So quick!

Beautiful: Mix these in with any of your favorites (last night I chose cauliflower, carrots, and salad turnips) and they will make your dish look fabulous.

The Recipe: Roasted Radishes

Roasted veggies
Just out of the oven! Gave them lots of room to crisp and cook quickly.

Ingredients:

1 bunch radishes (or more!)

Mix of other veggies, enough to fill two baking sheets (that way you have leftovers). I used 1 head of cauliflower, 5 carrots, and a bunch of salad turnips

2 tablespoons fat of your choice, I used duck fat. Make sure it is something that will cook at high heat (coconut oil, animal fat, BUTTER)

How to:

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Chop your vegetables to equal sizes, about 1 – 2 inch chunks. Toss them together with melted oil, salt and pepper. Feel free to add in some spices or herbs or even a bit of lemon.

I roasted my veggies for around 20 minutes, stirring halfway through. I added the radishes and turnips in after the rest had been roasting for about 5 minutes.

Enjoy!

 

3 Freezer Meals for the Cold Dark Nights Ahead

The nights are cooling off. The days are getting shorter. My little is back in school. It’s labor day weekend, again. As I put away my white pants and shoes (haha), I brush off my Carrot Cardamom Soup recipe from Michelle Tam and shine up my soup pot to make some of my favorite freezer meals for those times when we need a quick meal that reminds us summer is waiting for us in a few months. While this weekend I am heading to the Helmville Rodeo (a Montana institution), I will be making or have made many of these meals in the next few weeks.

1. The Soup: Carrot Cardamom Soup, by Michelle Tam

Austen eats carrot soup
There she is, loving on the carrots and cardamom!

I love this soup. What’s even better: my four year old Austen loves it too. It is a bowl full of carrots and apples and homemade bone broth. Nutrients abound. She has no idea. Moo ha ha ha.

When we’re talking soups and freezing them, however, what I often do while I have fresh carrots, celery, and onions, is make a mirepoix — a french term for the flavor base to many dishes — from a pan of beans to a meat skillet to a pot of soup. Because it is the base to so many dishes I make, having some frozen and on hand in the winter months saves time. So, if you don’t want to make the whole cha bang, just saute two parts onion, to one part carrots, and one part celery in a pan with your favorite cooking oil (butter is GREAT, bacon or duck fat work as do olive or coconut oil).

If I am feeling ambitious, I will cook the base, leaving out the apples and cardamom in case I get tired of this soup (it happens occasionally, but not often) and feel more like Curried Carrot Soup.

Or I’ll just go for it and make the recipe, cool it, and most importantly, put it a bag or mason jar that is the appropriate size for what my family would want in one sitting.

I once put all my carrot soup in gallon sized bags in the freezer. Two things happened: one, I put them on the door, and the bags leaned into the bar on the freezer door and froze, forever molded into place. One pinning the other in place as well. I think I had to break the bar to the the damn things out. It’s best to lay them out flat, let them freeze, and then stack them either like library books or in a big stack. Two, I had to thaw the whole bag to get about 1/3 of it for all of us to eat. Then I had to eat carrot soup for a week because I couldn’t bare to re-freeze it. Then, I didn’t want to see carrot soup for the rest of the winter. I use quart sized bags now.

2. The Main Event: Shepherd’s Pie by Elana’s Pantry

This is technically a cottage pie, because it is made with beef rather than lamb. However, it

Shepherds pie
That’s the shepherds pie I made — complete with creamy mashed cauliflower topping.

sneaks extra veggies (this one has a mirepoix base, too!) in the topping: it is made of cauliflower. You can use your lovely potatoes from this week too, if you’d prefer.

The last time I served this, we were hosting my 16 year old niece. She is a pretty typical teenager, sweet enough to eat anything I put in front of her, but only enthusiastic about a few things. This she loved. She was seen later in the evening spooning up the faux mashed potatoes and eating them all by themselves.

This makes a lot, so you could serve half and then freeze the other half. Make it soon! Cauliflower is on its way out.

3. Breakfast: Breakfast Cookies!

Seriously! Adapted by the Kitchn from 101 Cookbooks (two of my favorites)

Photo by the Kitchn
Photo by the Kitchn

These are filled with carrots and lots of other yummy dried fruits. The only sweetener is maple syrup. And they freeze beautifully. They are there for you when you are short on time and need breakfast. You can also freeze and put a cookie or two in a kid’s lunch when you are trying to stretch to the next grocery trip.

 

 

How to Prevent the Zucchini Apocalypse, Part 1

It is that time of year when the vegetable stars align to give us an abundance of possibilities.

zucchini apocalypse
Beware the zucchini apocalypse! Graphic by Ken Lockwood.

It is also the time of year when desperate gardeners start slipping zucchinis into unlocked cars. If you find yourself at either end of this situation, I’ve got a great recipe for you. It will take care of 4 – 6 zucchinis, and a few other things that are just coming into season right now.

Want more zucchini ideas to ward of that sense of impending doom? We’ve got a collection just for you.

Now, you can use a regular peeler for this recipe, but I would recommend either springing for a spiralizer (takes up a bit more space in your kitchen, so its a bit more of a commitment) or a julienne peeler. I recommend either the Swissmar or Kuhn peelers if you purchase online. The only place I could find that sold them locally was the Good Food Store.

In the summer, we eat a lot of zucchini pasta at my house. It is is my #1 defense against the zucchini apocalypse. And a great way to replace a grain with a vegetable. And trick my unsupsecting child and husband. They’ve figured it out by now, but I can blend pasta and z-pasta together and they are pretty darn happy.

This salad is so simple and so good. I am always surprised at how delicious raw zucchini and carrots taste with a bit of garlic,salt, and olive oil on them.

This is great on its own. You can add a few things to it if you are trying to purge your fridge. I added scallions to it cause I had such fresh, lovely ones today. I made it at the office, and decided it would be my lunch. I put some sliced turkey and ham on the side (and a plopped a little mayo on the side too, because I am a mayo freak). Great meal!

Other additions include mozzerella, tomatoes, chunks of bread. . . Sides of toast! I’m guessing a little spiralized kohlrabi wouldn’t be bad, either. Maybe olives? But I haven’t tried those yet.

Caprese SaladSummer Squash Caprese Noodle Salad

adapted from Diane Sanfilippo’s book, Practical Paleo

Ingredients:

Dressing:
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil (I’ve used dried in a pinch, just reduce by a 1/3rd (4 teaspoons)
  • 1 clove garlic, grated
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Pepper to taste (I used white pepper, but black pepper is great too)
Salad:
  • around 5 cups spiralized or julienned zucchini or summer squash – I used 3 medium squash plus two of the patty pan
  • 1 medium carrot, julienned, peeled or spiralized (when tomatoes come into season, you can use those instead)
  • 1 scallion (optional)

How to:

I peeled my zucchini, the noodles just work better that way. But you certainly don’t have to. Spiralize or julienne peel your squashes. I spiralized mine, using the larger noodle setting. Set aside. If you want to get a bit of the water out of the zucchini beforehand, salt the zucchini noodles before you set them aside.

spiralized squash

Combine dressing ingredients in a large bowl.

dressing

Peel the carrots right into the bowl with dressing.

Carrots

If you opted to salt the squash, now’s the time to take a clean rag, towel, or paper towel and squeeze some of the water out into the sink. (I didn’t do this – I just don’t care enough about the slightly watery situation.)

Add the squash and toss with your hands. Grind a little fresh pepper on top. I added a few scallions here, too. Tastes great either way.

Eat right away, or stick in the fridge to let the flavors combine.

Bon appetit!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Save

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chopped veggies

Swiss Chard Rolls

When your garden produces an abundance of Swiss chard or you find beautiful rainbow chard at the farmer’s market, make Swiss Chard Rolls. Akin to cabbage rolls, Swiss Chard Rolls are a delicious way to utilize your summer garden bounty or farmer’s market produce.

What to do with summer's bounty...
What to do with summer’s bounty…

One:  Bring ½ cup raw quinoa, 1 cup water, 1 teaspoon olive oil to boil in a small sauce pan. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered for 20-25 minutes until cooked. Set aside.

Two: Core and coarsely chop 4 large paste tomatoes. Mince one garlic clove. Heat 1
tablespoon olive oil in a medium saucepan. Once hot, add garlic and sauté for 1-2 minutes, add chopped paste tomatoes. Bring to a boil over medium heat, and then reduce heat to low. Add 1/3 cup red wine. Add 1 cup of finely chopped fresh herbs: basil, chives, oregano, marjoram, thyme, parsley, or sage. Use a mixture of whatever herbs your garden provides or that you can find at the farmer’s market.  (Sage and dill should be used sparingly or they will overpower the sauce). Stir and let sauce simmer, covered, while you prepare the Swiss chard filling.

chopping

stewing

Three: Wash 6 large Swiss chard leaves, leaving some water drops on the leafy part. Cut the leaves in half to remove the stems through the main leaf – you will end up with 12 half leaves for rolling. Set the stem pieces aside to use in the filling (step four). Place the leaf halves on a plate or in a large bowl, cover with wax paper and microwave on high for 45 to 65 seconds. You want the leaves to be softened and pliable but not cooked all the way through. Set aside.

Four: Dice (1/2 inch pieces) the Swiss chard stems, 4 medium peeled carrots, 1 or 2 paste tomatoes, 1 medium onion (if using a fresh garden onion, use as much of the green top as you like). Seed and dice 1 small or ½ medium zucchini, keep the zucchini separate from other diced vegetables. Finely mince 1 large garlic clove. In a large sauté pan or a wok, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil. Once hot, add the diced chard stems, carrots, tomato, onion, and minced garlic. Cook for 5-10 minutes, until onion is translucent.

chopped veggies

When the onions are translucent, add the diced zucchini and the cooked quinoa to the vegetable mixture.  Sauté for 5 minutes. Turn off heat and let mixture cool for 5-10 minutes so it’s easier to handle. Turn off the heat to the tomato sauce (step 2) at this time.

Five: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Oil a 7×11 baking dish (or any 2 quart baking dish approximating that size). Place one Swiss chard leaf half on the counter or a large plate; heap 2-3 tablespoons of the quinoa vegetable mixture at one end of the leaf half. Roll the leaf half up much like you’d role a tortilla for a burrito. Place in the baking dish. Repeat with the other 11 leaf halves.

rollingpan

complete

3 rolls per serving for entrees, 1 roll per serving for appetizers.

Swiss chard rolls are gluten free, salt free, vegetarian, and vegan.

Note: Leftover quinoa-vegetable mixture makes a great breakfast re-heated and topped with a fried egg!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Got Toast?

Ingrid Estell, Northside Community Garden Mentor, is kicking off the first installment of her monthly recipe blog for the Real Dirt, which will be published every third Wednesday. Her recipes focus on creative alternatives and uses for garden-grown goods. 


Toast has come into its own. Once the side-kick to eggs or the solace for a sour stomach, toast can now be found as a main menu item at restaurants. In some establishments, toast is the sole culinary.

Being a longtime fan of home-toasted bread, I’ve created my own toast meals featuring fresh ingredients from the garden and beyond. Who needs to go out for toast when you can make delicious, and inexpensive, toast in your own kitchen? Have toast for breakfast, lunch, and dinner!

First, select your bread. I prefer Dave’s Killer Bread, Organic, 21 Whole Grains and Seeds. The toast recipes below do require bread that will support a few layers of ingredients.

Asparagus Toast (Serves 1)

1 slice toasted bread

4-5 spears fresh asparagus, trimmed. Cut in half or to fit bread. Wash, cover with wax paper, and microwave for one minute.

2-3 tablespoons brie, softened

Sprinkle of salt-free seasoning such as Mrs. Dash’s Original

For extra fancy asparagus toast: thinly sliced 2-3 strawberries

Directions: Spread brie over toast, add microwaved asparagus, sprinkle with seasoning, and, if using, top with strawberry slices.

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Swiss Chard Toast (Serves 1)

1 slice toasted bread

2 large Swiss chard leaves and stems, washed and finely chopped.

2-3 drops balsamic vinegar

2-4 slices, thinly sliced extra sharp cheddar cheese (enough slices to cover bread)

2-4 slices crisp cooked bacon

Directions: Cover the toast with sliced cheese. Place Swiss Chard in bowl and add 2-3 drops/sprinkles of balsamic vinegar. Microwave until wilted, 1 to 2 minutes. Add to the cheese. Place bacon on the Swiss chard, either crumbled or in slices.

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Chard  Swiss Chard Toast

Taco Toast (Serves 2)

2 slices toasted bread

1 small to medium onion.  Halved, peeled, and sliced thin.

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

4 tablespoons cooked black beans

1 avocado, sliced

4 tablespoons cojita cheese

2 tablespoons chipotle salsa or salsa of your choice

Squeeze of lime

Directions: Cook onion and garlic in oil until caramelized, 10 minutes or so over medium/low heat. If you are using fresh green onions, chop the tops and throw them in the pan for the last few minutes of cooking. Once cooked, add to toast as the base layer. Next, add per toast: 2 tablespoons black beans, ½ of the avocado slices, 2 tablespoons cojita cheese.

Once the cheese is added, place toast under the broiler for 2-3 minutes and brown/soften the cheese. Remove from the broiler and add 1 tablespoon salsa and a squeeze of lime to each toast.

Taco Toast

The last toast suggestion is a carrot salad topping. The carrot salad makes 4 servings and I often eat it as a side salad for dinner and then use the leftovers for a toast breakfast the next morning.

Carrot Salad (2 servings as salad, 2 servings as toast topper)

1 cup grated carrots. With fresh garden carrots – leave peel on when grating. Store carrots, peel before grating.

1 orange.  Peeled, sectioned, and chopped.

1/3 cup raisins (or dried cherries or cranberries)

1/3 cup chopped pecans

1 tablespoon vinegar. I prefer cranberry vinegar but balsamic, rice, and cider vinegars work well too.

Directions: Mix all ingredients in a bowl and enjoy as a side salad, saving enough for toast.

Carrot Salad Toast (Serves 2)

2 slices toast

6 tablespoons Carrot Salad

4 tablespoons goat cheese

Directions: Spread each slice of toast with 2 tablespoons goat cheese. Top with 3 tablespoons carrot salad.

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Apricot – Beet Toast (Serves 1)

1 slice toast

1 fresh apricot, pitted and slices

1 small/medium beet, cooked, peeled, and sliced

2-3 tablespoons peppered cashews

2 tablespoons goat cheese

1 teaspoon of honey

1 teaspoon of balsamic vinegar

Directions: spread goat cheese on the toast. Layer beets and apricot slices on the cheese and sprinkle with the cashews. Drizzle honey and balsamic vinegar over everything.

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Do note:  all the topping mixtures can be served in flour or corn tortillas or even on large crackers. Also, adding bacon crumbles to any of the toppings makes for excellent eating.

Curing onions by Jacinda Davis

How to: putting up veggies for the winter

The changing weather signals that it is time for putting up food for the coming winter months. Since each crop prefers different storage conditions, I wanted to share some storage information that has helped me to stretch my local food long into winter (and even spring!).

The Crop Run Down

Potatoes

  • The key to good potato storage is to keep them away from light, at temperatures around 42- 55°F, with a relatively high humidity.
  • Try storing your potatoes in places like an unheated entrance, spare room, attic, basement or garage. Choose a place that is insulated to protect the potatoes from freezing temperatures.
  • Since potatoes like a bit of humidity store them in a perforated plastic bag, but do not tightly seal the bag — air flow is crucial to preventing mold and decay.   Bringing home the goods.

Winter squash and pumpkins

  • This crop stores best at 50 -60°F with a low humidity.
  • Good places to keep your squash are similar to potatoes (see above) with a bit less humidity. Just think cool and dry.
  • Winter Squash and pumpkins are a relatively easy storage crop. That said, their typical storage life is anywhere between 8-12 weeks. Hubbard and spaghetti varieties store a bit longer, acorns a bit shorter.
Pumpkins in the Youth Farm fields by Jacinda Davis
Pumpkins ready to be picked in the Youth Farm fields. Photo by Jacinda Davis.

Onions, Shallots, and Garlic

  • The important factors of good storage for onions, garlic, and shallots are low humidity, good air circulation, and cool temperatures.
  • The mesh bags you took these crops home in are great for storage. Try hanging the bags in a closet, or in an unheated room of your house.  It is as easy as that, and you will have these jewels to spice up your meals all winter long.   A few more storage tips…
  • Be sure to check your vegetables frequently and remove any crops that are starting to go bad.
  • Always protect your crops from freezing temperatures.

Carrots, Beets, Cabbage, Kale and Kohlrabi

  • Carrots, beets, kale, and the monster kohlrabi do best with near freezing temperatures, a.k.a. the refrigerator.
  • High humidity is also critical for long term storage of these crops, so keep them in a perforated bag. Watch humidity, if the bag is full of condensation open it up a bit to let some moisture out. If your crops are drying out close the bag up tight.
  • If you are willing and able to give up some space in your refrigerator for these winter crops they will easily last you till the spring!
Greens by Jacinda Davis
Chard, collard greens and curly kale. Photo by Jacinda Davis.

 

 

Experiment with storage locations, new recipes, and most importantly enjoy!

Refrigerator Stews & Soups: their love don’t cost a thing

Stews and soups are a flexible dish, and a great place to start to play with ingredients.  Start with your fridge: what’s in there?  For me last night around 9 pm, it was onions, carrots, mushrooms, cauliflower, and some stew meat.  Stew time!

I got out the slow cooker and got to chopping.

Beef Stew

I modified this recipe for my stew. I didn’t have celery or frozen peas.  But when do I ever have every single ingredient? I used the called for carrots (more than what the author suggested), a big ol’ onion, extra garlic (cause I love it, and so does my 3 year old), and mushrooms.

Chopping veggies

I also added some cauliflower and roasted tomatoes to make up for the lack of celery and peas. All this I chopped the night before.

Onion goggles
That’s me, in my onion goggles. A present from my husband, bless him. If you don’t have a pair, you can always use ski goggles to keep the tears at bay.

This morning, I browned a bit of stew meat (Oxbow stew meat is on sale at the Good Food Store right now, $1 off — perfect!)

After browning the meat, I added it and the herbs (I used fresh parsley and everything else was dried), broth and tomato paste.  I used chicken broth instead of beef — it’s what I had in the fridge and I needed to get rid of it. And set it on low, cooking it for 10 hours.

When we cracked open the slow cooker at dinner time, the meat was tender and veggies perfectly soft but not falling apart.  Yum!

Cracking open the stew pot
The stew cooking.

Substitutions

Soups and stews are some of the most versatile things on the planet — they beg you to SUBSTITUTE and play!  That sweet stew of mine, as long as I had the stew meat, I could have put almost any veggie in there.  Potatoes, kale, broccoli, winter squash. . . So many of these vegetables soak up flavor and will withstand being slow cooked.

Soup is even more versatile. Here is a great universal recipe for how to make soup from almost any vegetable.  The lesson here: as long as you like the vegetable, you can make soup from it. If you are cooking a soup on the stove, then the main consideration is cook time, and adding the vegetables at the right time so they cook long enough to release their flavors and short enough to not be squishy.

Here’s another great primer on creamy vegetable soup from almost any vegetable.

Aromatics are key in making soup — and easily grown here in Montana and stored for the winter. Onions and garlic in your basement.  Parsley dried and stored in an airtight container. Carrots in your fridge. These are the base to almost any soup or stew.  Saute your aromatics first, until they are fragrant, then add the broth.

You can saute this and freeze it in ice cube trays to start most any soup easily, and you can feel French while you are at it — you’ve made a Mirepoix! Then, you’ve got your base ready to (as my 3 year old would say) rock and roll.

A note on kale: is a wonderful soup ingredient.  It gets milder in flavor, and holds up well.  And, of course, is full of nutrients.  Plus — kale the cooler nights add a sweetness to kale.

Two Words: Bone Broth

Bone broth is one of the easiest, cheapest healthy things you can make. Yes, this is your grandmother’s stock — it is really good for you. Read more about some of the health benefits here. It is true, chicken soup is a healing food. No, I’m not going to tell you it will make your bones stronger, but it does have a lot of good stuff for your gut and your body in it.

Use your vegetable scraps and left over bones.  I have a bone bag in my freezer — the fact that it says “bone bag” on it in florescent duct tape grosses my husband out. Or maybe it is the fact that there’s a bag of bones, literally, in our freezer.

In any case, I put chicken carcasses in there, pork chop bones, whatever scraps I can come by. In the winter, every other weekend I fire up the slow cooker and make broth.  I add some carrots and celery if I have it, or scraps of veggies — especially aromatic ones, to give it some flavor.  Definitely some garlic. And a little apple cider vinegar.  This recipe is a great base.  I don’t cook my broth more than 24 hours as this recipe suggests you might, the vegetables can get pretty bitter if you keep cooking them — I usually stick to between 12 and 24.  24 is great because I do it at night when I have a few calm moments, and don’t have to mess with it until the next night, after our 3 year old is asleep, and I have another calm moment.

I hope you will share a few tips and tricks you have for your soups and stews.  Next week, we will have guest blogger Molly Bradford to tell you about how she puts up her winter share. Until then, eat well!

UPDATE:  I just got a question about making vegetarian stews, and how to best do them in a slow cooker — great question.  I had to research, and found that sauteing the base (onions, garlic, potatoes, etc.) and then adding it all to the slow cooker is the key.  Here are two recipes that sound delicious — one for the stove top and one for the slow cooker.  Both sound hearty and delish.

Zucchini by Chad Harder

Recipe Round Up Vegetarian (& sometimes vegan) Style

I do love meat, but sometimes a sister has to give it a rest.  And many readers have said, “FOCUS ON THE VEGGIES, GENEVIEVE!” Totally. You are right.  And it might be that I skipped lunch, but doing this research has uncovered some of the most interesting, beautiful vegetarian and vegan cooking blogs.  Here are a few, with a smattering of recipes that work well with what’s growing right now.

My favorite blog: The First Mess

This blog’s author has a garden of her own, and her breathtaking photos bring to life her fresh and delicious original recipes. Her veggie burger is supposed to be phenomenal.

[Vegan] EGGPLANT MEATBALLS with KALE PESTO

Kale only gets sweeter as the weather cools, and it’s our last chance for eggplant. . . Also enjoy garlic in this recipe.

SUMMER PANZANELLA

This bread salad mixes tomatoes, shallots, peaches, basil in a balsamic vinaigrette.

Cookie and Kate

[Vegan] Mediterranean Quinoa Salad

Roasted summer vegetables mixed with herbs and quinoa — a great way to use what’s in your fridge and get your protein too (thanks, quinoa, for being a complete protein!).

[Vegan] Summer Squash Tacos with Avocado Chimichurri Sauce

Includes yellow squash or zucchini, corn, garlic, onion and herbs. Good for lunch or dinner.

Green Kitchen Stories

Bowls like these

A simple meal of veggies (you could top this with an egg for breakfast salad bowl, and substitute a great deal of these ingredients for what you have in your fridge).

[Vegan] Beet Bourguinon

Solid! Beets as a main dish. Julia would be so proud. Includes garlic, onion, carrots, fresh herbs, and lentils (a great local product of Montana).

Naturally Ella

[Vegan] Garlic Soba and Zucchini Noodles

Easy, simple Asian inspired dish of Garlic Soba and zucchini noodles (have I mentioned how you should get yourself a veggie spiralizer?

Sweet Corn and Sorhum Stuffed Peppers

Great seasonal combination of green peppers and corn, along with come fresh cilantro.

Other Vegetarian Recipes that Caught My Eye. . .

Unbelievably Delicious Cauliflower Soup – Ramsons and Bramble

[Vegan]Creamy Red Chard Linguine – Post Punk Kitchen

Beet and Black Lentil Borscht – My New Roots

Side note on pesto:

A little on how to make 11 kinds of pesto from Saveur — I feel like I am turning green, there is so much basil out there to make into pesto. . . And before you know it, the frost will nip that little basil.

School lunches: 5 ways to veggie it up.

Last week, I dropped my daughter off for her first day of preschool. Big milestone. The cubbies and coat hooks, the circle of carpet, the playdough and paste, the faint smell of library books — so many things brought me back to my own childhood.  And Austen was so excited she was literally jumping in the school hallway over her giraffe stickered cubby label.

Austen goes to school
Off to school. . . Who is more nervous? Definitely me. Maybe my husband.

In the parent meeting a few nights before school started the school director told us to please not experiment in our children’s school lunches.  It could end in a very hungry kid. I love to try new things with Austen all the time. Crap! How will I get her veggies in?

I stood at my kitchen counter the night before the first day of school, palms sweating, wondering what to do. It was that feeling right before the test began, or when I couldn’t think of the answer to the essay question. So I made a sandwich with ham, avocado and cheese.  I chopped up some Dixon cantaloupe, packed plain yogurt sprinkled with a little cinnamon, and stuck in a cheese stick and some carrot sticks.  And a pre-packaged granola bar.  All the things she craves. Yes, it was more food than her little three-year-old tummy needed. I was nervous, people.  This kid has never been to school before. And I have never sent my kid to school before. I did not want to get in trouble on my first day.

PS — all she ate was the sandwich and a little yogurt. She was nervous too.

Next week, I am determined to get more farm veggies in there.  I’ve been researching.  Here are some highlights:

1. Meat wraps

I’ve written about using a collard, Napa cabbage or romaine leaf in place of lettuce, but you can use sliced meat, too. Using meat as your wrap, fill any of your kids favorite veggies (sweet peppers are on the CSA menu for most of our farms — a kid favorite, shredded carrot, slicer or cherry tomatoes, lettuce mix. . . If you have ham, put a little Dixon melon in the wrap).  These can be easier to make than a sandwich.  I spread a little mayo or whatever you child’s fave is (Austen likes guac) on the inside of the wrap. Michelle Tam of Nom Nom Paleo suggests tying a strand of chive or spring onion around the bundle to keep it together. Safer than a toothpick!

This meat bundle is one of Michelle’s many lunch ideas.  She writes all about Paleo foods.  Now, whether you think Paleo is the best thing since sliced onion, or think it is just a passing fad, OR just really have no idea what it is, let me just say this: when you are looking for a healthy, whole foods recipe that makes a lot of use out of veggies and meat — throwing Paleo in as a search term is a great idea.  I am not Paleo, but I’ve learned a lot from the recipes on how to make many, many simple alterations that include my vegetable bounty.  The thing the Paleo diet is – it’s less about eating like our caveman ancestors and more about improving gut health, and eating whole foods. Not really that crazy at all, right?

2. Dips and Sauces

Kids LOVE dipping things, I’ve found. I am not suggesting that you make hummus, baba ganoush or other eggplant dip, salsa or salsa verde (apparently you can ferment your salsa verde for extra health bennies),  or pesto (this one is dairy free and delicious) just for lunch, but you might just want to make some for dinner or a snack — and make lots.  Freeze your sauces in ice cube trays and thaw them out overnight for school. I also plan to use some almond butter and pre-made organic guacamole when there just isn’t anything in the fridge (wring hands here). I think I have made my own hummus. . . once?

And of course, instead of bread (or in addition to the bread) use veggies to scoop up the goodness: celery, cucumber slices or sticks, bell peppers, carrot sticks, zucchini sticks. . . And if you’ve made lots, veggie chips or plantain chips can be great in this area, too.

eggplant dip
A little eggplant dip made from Garden City Harvest staff member, Maria Kendra. With some delicious carrot dip sticks.

3. Veggie Chips

Kids love kale chips.  It is a fact.  And any of your greens you can make into chips.  Here are 7 alternatives from the Kitchn.

And beyond leafy greens — there is SO MUCH MORE!

Beet Chips

Eggplant Chips

String Bean Chips

Winter Squash Chips (They will be here before you know it!)

Zucchini Chips

And, of course with a food processor or mandolin, you can make your own potato chips now. YES.

Also, with apple season upon us, slice your apples thin, and they can sandwich or scoop nut and seed butters like nobody’s business.  I sometimes make Austen a apple and almond butter sandwich with a little cinnamon and a few raisins in the middle.

Leftovers.  The best easiest lunch.

You just need a thermos. Rewarm your meal from the night before, throw some fruit or yogurt on the side and blamo – into the Klean Kanteen and off to school! LunchBots also has some great options that are stainless steel/nontoxic.  I’m still doing research on these options . . . Cause these two are quite expensive. Any advice would be greatly appreciated — comments section!

Some of our favorite kid leftovers (these are especially good now that the weather is cooler): spaghetti squash with tomato 3 meat sauce (that’s ground beef, pork, and bacon) or meatballs, meatloaf muffins (meatloaf baked in a muffin tin — Danielle Walker’s recipe, which I could only find in her cookbook) with garlic faux-tatoes, chicken soup with as many veggies as I can cram (kale, spinach, carrots, celery, celeriac, kholrabi. . . ) — with a bone broth base. With a solid thermos, the food will be hot at noon.

Protein + Veggie Salad

Good old fashioned chicken salad has always been a hit with Austen.  She and I love mayo. Salads like chicken salad are a great way to slip in carrots, celery, apples, grapes, bell peppers . . . anything with a little crunch. Bean or egg salads works really well for vegetarians.

Put it in a sandwich or lettuce wrap, or just eat it with a fork.  Great with cherry tomatoes on the side! And of course, some of those veggie chips.

Next challenge: how to pack it all.  What has worked for you?

Good luck this week. May the lunch force be with you.

 

Community “Fall” Gardening

It’s that time of year when many spring crops have finished producing and a bare spot in the garden is left in their wake.  But the fun doesn’t have to end yet! There is still time to turn that beautiful blank soil canvas into a fall garden masterpiece. Even though we have a shorter growing season here in Montana, fall gardening is still possible.

At Garden City Harvest, we don’t close down the gardens until October 24th. And even then, if you have some kale left standing or carrots under your mulch, you’re welcome to continue to use your plot as long as it’s cleaned up and looking good.

To start planning your fall garden you must first look closely at your seed packets and find the average days to maturity for the particular crop you want to plant. Many crops, such as cabbage, broccoli, and tomatoes, take too long to mature and there will not be enough heat and/or sunlight in our shorter days to boost them along. For the most part, you only want to plant crops that will mature before our first killing frost or that are cold-hardy and grow well in our hardiness zone.  Missoula’s estimated first fall frost date is September 27 and we are in USDA Hardiness Zone 5b.

These radishes can be sown all the way until the first frost comes, but too be safe, you'd probably want to sow them sooner
These radishes can be sown all the way until the first frost comes, but to be safe, you’d probably want to sow them sooner
These pea seeds are only recommended for fall gardening in zones 8 or warmer. These guys will have to wait until next year to be planted
These pea seeds are only recommended for fall gardening in zones 8 or warmer. These guys will have to wait until next year to be planted

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fall crops that need some protection

The types of crops that will mature from seed in time to enjoy in the fall include:

  • radishes
  • lettuce (most lettuces don’t germinate well when it’s very hot out, so consider planting these in a cooler area of your plot, where there is still some shade from other plants)
  • arugula
  • chard
  • beets
  • turnips

If planted soon these crops should begin maturing in time for fall, but you’ll want to keep your eye on night-time temps. The leafy greens on these crops need some protection from the cold. Try covering them up with reemay (a white gauzey cloth used for row cover) or even an old sheet or blanket. Covering these crops up at night will help keep their surrounding temperature just a few degrees warmer so they will survive through the night.

Reemay covering crops at Orchard Gardens. Photo by Amy Harvey
Reemay covering crops at Orchard Gardens. Photo by Amy Harvey

Cold-hardy and frost tolerant crops

These crops are a bit hardier and don’t need quite as much fussing. Some of them even taste a little sweeter after a frost hits them, such as kale.

  • kale
  • carrots
  • Asian greens, such as bok choi  and tatsoi
  • spinach
  • kohlrabi
kale
Kale. Photo by Erick Greene.

Other fall gardening tips

If you are buying new seeds, keep a lookout for winter varieties. There are varieties of some crops that grow a bit faster and/or are more tolerant of colder temperatures. These varieties are perfect for your fall garden!

Use extra mulch around your fall crops, especially over top of carrots. The mulch  helps keep the soil temperatures a couple degrees warmer.

Add some compost when planting new seeds to make sure there are still nutrients in the soil, especially if the space you are planting in was previously occupied by a heavy-feeder such as cabbage or broccoli.

For more information about fall gardening or winter seed varieties, check out some of these resources:

Please leave us your fall community gardening tips in the comments below!