Posts tagged with Food

Oh, how does the garden grow

The kiddo with our two new garden beds. The wood one is for grapes, the stone one is for elderberries.

The kiddo with our two new garden beds. The wood one is for grapes, the stone one is for elderberries. by Sarah Henning

In addition to our CSA share from Rolling Prairie and our trips to the Lawrence Farmers’ Market, my family always has another source of local produce in the spring and summer: our garden.

I’ve mentioned before that I’d looked forward to having a garden since before buying our house. I’d wanted one back when we owned a little Key West-style place in South Florida, but the “soil” (sand?) wasn’t really conducive to growing anything besides grass, and it barely did that. Therefore, moving to Lawrence was big.

From a single raised bed, our garden has grown to include (as of this year), three vegetable beds, three fruit beds (blackberries and strawberries in one, elderberries in another, and grapes in yet another), plus a bunch of herbs in our container garden and three fruit trees: cherry, peach and pear.

We don’t have an “urban” farm yet, and we probably never will, but I’m really happy with the how much our little garden has grown in the past few years. Really, it started out with just a hope to grow our own tomatoes. But once I really took a look at all the items we could grow ourselves in Kansas, the garden just — poof — exploded.

Have we gotten much of a return on all the time we’ve put in, planting, watering and weeding? Well, yes and no.

No in that we are probably candidates to write the sequel to that book, "The $64 Tomato". I keep track of what we spend on the garden each year, but I’ve never really plugged in what we’ve gotten for all that money. All I know is that some summers — the ones where we had consistent temps in the 100s — we didn’t get much at all.

But yes in that we’ve gotten a lot of enjoyment from the possibilities. We never know if we’ll get 100 tomatoes or one. If our blackberries will survive or die like the blueberries and raspberries before them. And when we have successes (you should see the blackberries!) it’s a pleasant surprise. Even more than that, it’s not just educational for me, it’s educational for my 5-year-old, who already knows so much more than I did about growing produce when I was double his age.

Happy gardening.


No Tofurkey here. (Or: What vegetarians actually eat on Thanksgiving)

Our Thanksgiving table this year.

Our Thanksgiving table this year. by Sarah Henning

The most popular question I think nearly any vegan/vegetarian gets after the ubiquitous “But where do you get your protein???” question is this: “But don’t you miss _?” And, this time of year, that blank is more often than not filled with something related to holiday food.

“But don’t you miss turkey? Gravy? Pumpkin pie???”

Honestly? No.

I could say this is because there are vegan/vegetarian answers to pretty much anything that ends up on the table at Thanksgiving or Christmas. Which is totally true, but in my case I don’t miss any of those things because, I never really ate them in the first place.

Everyone is different, of course. That goes for you, too, omnivores! No one thinks to ask you, "But don't you miss _?" just because you don't eat something. Thus, not every omnivore eats every single thing on his or her Thanksgiving table. Example: Thanksgiving is my sister’s absolute favorite “food” holiday, but even she only eats turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy. No pie, no stuffing, no cranberry sauce. The woman likes what she likes, even if she could eat all of it.

The same thing goes for vegetarians. Just because we don’t choose to eat everything on the Thanksgiving table doesn’t mean we miss every single thing that won’t pass our lips.

Back when I ate animal products, my Thanksgiving meals were still vegetarian, if not vegan. I pretty much just at cranberry sauce, squash/sweet potatoes, rolls (yes, plural) and plain mashed potatoes. Yep. Pretty much from the time I have a memory on up until now. My favorite part of the holiday was always the family fun time and football, and never the food. In fact, I always wished there were some good restaurant open, so I could load up on anything BUT the normal holiday fare.

Of course, this isn’t true for every vegetarian or vegan out there. Some may sit through the whole dinner, pining away for a piece of dark meat beached in a pond of gravy or a slice (or three) of pie.

So, with all that in mind, I’m going to tell you exactly what I had for Thanksgiving dinner. It’s not the norm, but it was fabulous and I didn’t feel the need to hop in the car for a last-minute Tofurkey (which, to be honest, I’ve never had and probably will never want to have).

This was my plate:

My Thanksgiving plate: Brussels and Butternut.

My Thanksgiving plate: Brussels and Butternut. by Sarah Henning

Yep. That’s it. Two things. My Butternut Squash with Pomegranate Seeds and Pecans and Real Simple’s yummy Sautéed Brussels With Poppy Seeds recipe.

No Tofurkey, mushroom gravy, vegan pumpkin pie. Though, I did have a massive amount of chocolate (Hey, I’ve got to get those guilt-laden holiday calories from somewhere.).

And, chances are, I’ll have something similar for Christmas. With a side of vegan Christmas cookies. Because, honestly, that’s one “But don’t you miss __?” blank that I must fill.

Therefore, next week, I’m planning on sharing a yummy holiday cookie recipe. Get excited!


Don’t panic: Spring’s about sprung — time to start thinking about your vegetable garden

It seems like yesterday that the kiddo and I were on the deck, harvesting mint before bringing our pots in for the summer.

And you know why it doesn't seem that long ago?

Because we did it during a September cold snap that was cooler than pretty much any day in the past month. Or so it seemed. Honestly, if it weren't for the fact that that hoodie doesn't fit him anymore (so sad) that pic at the top of the blog could've been taken Saturday — at least weather-wise.

In fact, until Saturday, I hadn't thought about my 2012 vegetable and herb garden AT ALL. I feel late, late, late for an important date, and I totally blame the sunshine. And warm temps. And all the beautiful days we've had during this non-winter winter.

I'm pretty sure this has been the nicest winter of my life (save for the three winters I spent in West Palm Beach, Fla.) and, admittedly, the last thing I've wanted to do is sit inside. For anything. Even planning my yearly garden.

But you know what? That's absolutely fine. We've got time, people, even if you (like me) want spring greens.

Now's the time to start, and as long as you've got some greens going by April, you should be good. And if it's just tomatoes and herbs you want? Psssh, you have until May.

See, we're fine.

Though, it is true that March is the month when we should at least be thinking about are gardens, even if we're not actually planting anything.

So, with that in mind, here's a little primer on what I'm planning on doing with my garden this spring. Use it as inspiration, a template or just a kick in the pants (if, like me, you're kind of shocked winter is nearly "over").

Get your greens going: Start them inside, under a grow light (I use a basic fluorescent light, hung very low on chains), or, be brave and put them outside, with row cover or a white sheet handy for those inevitable cold snaps.

As far as greens go, I've had some real luck with spinach, chard and bok choy (as you can see below).

What I want to do better this year? Kale. I love the stuff, but I can't seem to grow it to save my life. I'm not really sure why, but I want to give it another go this year.

I also plan to start early with shelling peas, potatoes (planted alone in a single bed) and onions.

Check on last year's plants: After harvesting (above), the kiddo and I brought in several plants that should spring back once the mercury rises. Included: mint, basil (according to the interview I did with Jennifer Smith in the fall), rosemary, lavender, majoram and thyme (though my cat chewed the heck out of it, so I'm not sure it'll make it).

I plan on reintroducing these guys to the great outdoors slowly, to make sure they aren't stunned by the breeze or temperatures.

Decide what else you'll want to grow: I have three 8x4 raised beds, a small raspberry patch and a small blueberry patch (each have three plants), plus a deck on which I squeeze 15 to 20 potted plants, including everything from herbs to peppers to eggplant.

Generally, I break up the space based on what how best I can shoe-horn in a spring, summer and fall harvest. It tends to end up looking like this:

Bed No. 1: Potatoes. Gold, red and purple, all covered in the straw method. Both the hubby and the kiddo love digging for potatoes and they're pretty hard to screw up, so we tend to get a really good yield off them.

Bed No. 2: Greens, onions, beets, peas and carrots (spring and fall), peppers, herbs and greens (summer). In this bed, I'll line one end with onions, one end with climbing peas and fill in with alternating rows of beets, carrots and greens, including kale, chard, spinach and bok choy. Come may, I'll put in bell pepper transplants (orange, yellow, purple and red) and plant basil and parsley seeds. Then, I'll switch it out again in the fall for one last crop.

Bed No. 3: Garlic, greens and beans (spring and fall), tomatoes and herbs (summer). I already planted garlic in the fall in this bed, so that garlic should be getting there this spring. The rest of the early bed will be a mix of short-growth greens, bush beans and three strawberry plants (if they're still thriving). Then come May, I'll put in tomato plants — usually a pair each of Sungold and Sun Sugar, plus at least four Cherokee Purple and maybe one each of Black Krim and pink Brandywine. We love the little Sungold and Sun Sugars the best for picking, because that's the only way we can get the kiddo to eat fresh tomatoes (straight off the plant), but I have a special love of Cherokee Purples, so I like to have the majority of my tomato space go to them.

On the deck: We'll have tons of pots, including: mint (three types), pineapple sage, majoram, thyme, lavender, rosemary (two types), catnip, lemongrass, lemon balm, parsley, basil (two types), jalapeños, Japanese eggplant, dill, chives, cilantro and whatever else strikes my fancy.

All lined up like that, all this sounds like a lot of work, but I promise it's not. Set up a rain barrel, and watering isn't nearly the problem it tends to be, make sure to mulch well, and just go out there every night after work to check on things.

With a little maintenance and time spent hashing out your space before going wild at the gardening store, you'll be set — very little "inside time" needed.


A big, fat puzzle: School lunch, budgets, calories and our kids — what you can do

Eudora High School culinary arts students, from left, Kaylyne Perkins, Claudia Moody and Alexandra Bock, prepare homemade tater tots. The students, all sophomores, hand-formed tater tots from homemade dough before baking the majority and frying a few to see the difference.

Eudora High School culinary arts students, from left, Kaylyne Perkins, Claudia Moody and Alexandra Bock, prepare homemade tater tots. The students, all sophomores, hand-formed tater tots from homemade dough before baking the majority and frying a few to see the difference. by Mike Yoder

Last week, I wrote a story about the puzzle that is school lunch.

What's so puzzling about lunch?

How about everything.

It needs to be cheap. It needs to be USDA-approved healthy. It needs to be something kids actually eat.

About eight ways to Sunday, those things DO NOT go together in mass quantities.

In both Lawrence and Eudora alone, thousands of students at all grade levels are eating school-prepared meals daily. Some, for both breakfast and lunch. And, in case you hadn't noticed, funding for schools (and their lunches) is a bit contentious right now in the state of Kansas. So, no more money is probably coming for school lunches right now ... which isn't helping out our school nutritionists at all.

Each week, those charged with making sure school lunches comply nutritionally are also having to factor in not only more strict dietary guidelines, but rising food and labor costs and the sheer reality that kids won't eat everything under the sun. Not to mention, many kids are bringing their lunches to school because either they or their parents aren't too pleased with what's going on their kids' plates.

And, believe me, parents who are upset about school food, the schools hear you — and so does Jamie Oliver. The Lawrence schools trashed their fryers years ago. In Eudora, the only fryers in the entire school system reside in the high school's very cool culinary arts kitchen, where they're used sparingly. Many schools in both towns have school gardens that add to their students' plates through a loophole in the government system. The Lawrence schools even have a pilot program going to see how economically (and practically) viable a local farm-to-school program really is.

So, school lunches are getting there. They're getting healthier, they're getting more attention, they're getting less prepackaged. But it's not perfect and everyone involved knows it — the kids, the parents, the teachers, the administrators. If one thing became clear to me while talking to them about school lunch it's that everyone is trying to improve upon and even end the days of "tater tot casserole." (Yes, that's something that's served.)

As a parent, my first reaction to the idea of my son eating a school lunch wasn't a good one. I still remember being literally the only kid in my class who didn't like the hexagonal mishmash of cheese and hamburger known as "fiestada pizza" in elementary school. But, I also remember fishing quarters out of my dad's change bowl to grab a plate-sized chocolate chip cookie from the a la carte line in middle school. And, sure, my high school had a salad bar, but the only thing I ever got from it was four dinner rolls for a dollar to store in my backpack as pre-track practice fuel.

Um, yeah, I was about as imperfect as school lunch as a kid, and I don't expect my kid, or anyone else's to be any different.

So, what can we do to make the puzzle easier to solve? To make things healthier, more locally sourced and full of good, REAL food?

We can let our kids go through the school lunch line.

This is a hard one for me, because, since motherhood, I always figured I'd be the hippy dippy parent sending my son to school with kale salad and a kombucha chaser. But, in talking with local food advocates, educators and administrators, it became clear to me that this thinking won't do the schools one iota of good.

Rather, the more students who participate in the school lunch program, the more funding the schools will get to improve what goes on their plates. More funding equals more made-from-scratch items, more money to buy locally grown fruits and veggies, and more chances to make improvement.

My son still has a few years to go before he's grabbing a lunch tray five days per week. I'm hoping that by then, the farm-to-school program and school gardens will be in full effect at every Lawrence school and he'll have some much better choices than fiestada pizza or tater tot casserole.

And even if things don't improve quite so rapidly, that's OK, I'll feed him the best I can at home. Because all we can do is the best we can, especially when solving a big, ol' fat puzzle.


Paula Deen cooks up disappointment with diabetes drug announcement

Usually, when I see Paula Deen's thousand-watt smile and Kewpie doll eyes I think of one thing: Butter.

In an amazingly memorable episode of "Iron Chef America" the Southern cook teamed up with Cat Cora to take on Tyler Florence and Robert Irvine in "Battle: Sugar!" In the episode, Paula plays to the audience, cackling with deep-fried energy and one-liners, making the other three chefs and a sous chef in elf gear look like scenery. All the while, she's putting on a show within a show with made-for-TV moves such as grabbing a pound of butter, dumping it in a pan with a half-melted loaf of processed cheese and chirping for the camera, "My favorite ingredient, butter!"

So, naturally, my association with Paula Deen and butter, is normal. And, I imagine, many of you also have the very same direction association. Makes sense, right? Right.

But ever since Tuesday morning, when I see those impossibly blue eyes and wide grin of Southern hospitality, all I can think is: What a waste.

In case you missed it, the queen of Southern cooking confirmed Tuesday morning on the "Today" show that she has Type-II diabetes. Like many Americans, she had no clue until she went to her doctor for a routine physical ... three years ago.

Never mind that she's been whipping up sweet potato praline crunch pie and other heart-stopping delights for three years since finding out that she'd need watch her blood glucose levels. That's untruthful and severely reckless behavior, to be sure, but what was really disappointing came next.

Next, rather than launching a new line of diabetic-friendly recipes or talking about how she's overhauled her diet in the name of health, Deen instead batted her eyelashes, put that grin in place and announced to the world she was to be a paid spokeswoman for a diabetes drug company.

Of course, because the hot glare of the "Today" show lights doesn't come without a probing question or two, Al Roker (yes, they had the giggly weatherman interview Paula) tried his best to do an impression of a hard-hitting journalist and asked her directly if her rich recipes had anything and everything to do with her diagnosis. After a great deal of hokey-pokeying around like an experienced politician, her collective answer on the subject seemed to amount to this: "I'm not a doctor, I'm a chef. Here, take this drug."

Now, I know Paula Deen didn't sign up to be a moral compass when she burst onto the cooking scene in the mid-1990s, all personality and butter pats. Anyone who becomes a celebrity doesn't automatically lose the chance for independent thought, going against the grain or making unpopular decisions. Celebrities are people too, and they aren't perfect, as we've seen time and time again.

But, and it's a voluminous but, celebrities do have to think a bit harder about their actions because their influence is at a premium. I suppose that is why I was so disappointed with Paula on Tuesday. She missed out on a fabulous chance to reach out to the masses and promote healthy eating.

Because of her personality and power and history, if she had said, "Hey, I have diabetes and though I still like rich foods, I am learning to cook in a healthful way and I want to share my healthier recipes with you," that would've been incredible. We all know where she's been (fried mac and cheese, Krispy Kreme bread pudding) and if a lifestyle change were where she was going, it would mean much to many Americans who are struggling with diabetes or pre-diabetes. There would be a certain, "If Paula can change, I can too" oomph attached to such a decision that could light a fire for someone who can relate to her right down to a diabetes diagnosis.

But she didn't do that. Instead, she told us rich foods were merely a puzzle piece in the diabetes epidemic. True, yes, genetics do play a role, as does exercise and weight, to be sure. But diet is a puzzle piece so massive, it would basically play the role of Brazil if diabetes happened to look like South America.

To be fair, Paula's sons have just launched a show that includes healthier recipes called, ironically or not, "Not My Mama's Meals." But you know what? That's not enough.

That show isn't Paula's baby, and it doesn't come with the weight of her word. We could watch her health-minded son, Bobby, make "Bobby's Lighter Gooey Butter Cake," for the masses but, for all his good intentions, an entire season's worth of recipes from Bobby Deen isn't worth an iota of what his mother could've done with a single statement and some personal responsibility.

Instead, her announcement smacks of greed as much as mutual disappointment and it's certainly a bitter taste.

With the backlash she's gotten since her announcement, I hope that Paula decides to use her powers for the greater good, and gets into the kitchen to whip up healthier, diabetes-friendly fare that tastes good — and has the potential to help millions of sick Americans find the road to better health, butter be darned.


A liquid lunch (or breakfast) your kid will love (yes, even the picky ones)

That smoothie didn't have a chance. And, yes, he drank most of my portion, too.

That smoothie didn't have a chance. And, yes, he drank most of my portion, too. by Sarah Henning

So, last week was our first week of the year without a CSA. Which stinks, but which is also inevitable when living in our neck of the woods (stupid hard winters). That said, one of the questions I consistently get when blogging weekly about what my family eats is this:

"Does your kid REALLY eat that?"

Well, yes and no.

Truth be told, my little guy (who is nearly 3) is just as picky as any other toddler out there. There are days when he would give any college student a run for his or her mono-mealing money. Yes, he'll request cheese morning noon and night. He ate dried cranberries at every single meal last Sunday. Whenever we eat out he'll eat nothing but French fries, no matter where we are.

But, at the same time, he does tend to make pretty good choices (French fries aside). And one of his favorite choices is also a really sneaky way to keep his fruit and veggie intake high, no matter how much cheese he ate in the last 24 hour period: smoothies.

If you've checked out the other smoothies (and juices) on this blog, you may have noticed there's not much to them. They're usually just fruit and water, maybe some spinach thrown in for color or protein powder for an extra kick. I don't like to add a bunch of bells and whistles because then I become accustomed to them and so does my little guy, who will drink nearly anything we give him as long as he gets to "pick his straw" (we use the "decorative dots" from Glass Dharma).

So, generally, anytime I make a smoothie, he'll drink it. And yes, there is photographic evidence of him drinking:

The kiddo tears into his smoothie. He doesn't seem to care what flavor it is, as long as he gets to pick out his straw (we use reusable glass straws from Glass Dharma).

The kiddo tears into his smoothie. He doesn't seem to care what flavor it is, as long as he gets to pick out his straw (we use reusable glass straws from Glass Dharma). by Sarah Henning

So, Saturday, before a trip to the Lawrence Farmers' Market, I made a double version of one of my favorites, the Cherry Chocolate Bomb Smoothie from my friend Kristen.

And he drank all of his, plus half of mine. Such a hoss (as you can see from the first photo). Try it on your kids and you might just have them thinking they're getting a treat when really they're getting super nutrition.

Cherry Chocolate Bomb Smoothie (Recipe by Kristen Suzanne)

1 cup filtered water

1 frozen banana, chopped

1 cup frozen cherries

1/4 cup hemp protein powder (I rarely use it)

2 tablespoons hemp seeds (Not necessary, but they have a bunch of good fats!)

2 tablespoons raw chocolate powder

Splash vanilla extract

Blend this goodness up, and enjoy it as it helps make your day one of the best days ever!


Bye-Bye Bounty: CSA Week 23 — Good-bye to summer

The quinoa salad with our favorite sweet potato medallions.

The quinoa salad with our favorite sweet potato medallions.

So long, summer, it was nice knowing you! Last Monday was our final CSA pickup of the season. There were fewer bags from Rolling Prairie than last year because of our unbearably hot summer, which stinks. But hey, we're lucky to have all these vegetable farmers around in the first place. And, it'll be easy to get some very yummy stuff at the Lawrence Farmers' Market for the next few weeks before everyone packs it up and calls it a season until spring.

That said, I promise I won't pack it up until spring. I'm planning to blog weekly on local/healthy/family eats on roughly the same schedule I've been keeping with Bye-Bye Bounty. If there's any topic you specifically want me to cover, let me know by messaging me at

So, on to this week's goodies.

During our final week with Rolling Prairie, we got sweet potatoes, potatoes, Swiss chard, peppers and two bags of salad mix.

Our last CSA pick up of 2011: chard leaves, two bags of mixed salad greens, sweet potatoes, peppers and potatoes.

Our last CSA pick up of 2011: chard leaves, two bags of mixed salad greens, sweet potatoes, peppers and potatoes.

The potatoes went in storage, the Swiss chard became wraps, and the peppers and salad mix contributed to, well, salad.

On Thursday night, we'd planned to have sweet potato medallions, so I was in for a surprise when I came home from my weekly girls' run and not only had my guys made the sweet potatoes, but they'd also made a yummy-looking new salad.

It's from the same book as the butternut squash and apple soup we made a few weeks ago, and it's just about as awesome. And as a bonus, it uses super cheap and super hearty ingredients (quinoa and chickpeas) as well as some things that can be found locally this time of year (basil, onions and romaine). Oh, and it makes a ton, so chances are, you'll have it for lunch the next day.

The combination of the sweet potatoes and the salad was absolutely perfect and hit the spot after running 10 miles at the end of a long workday. I highly recommend you try it (whether you have a long run planned or not).

Quinoa salad with local basil.

Quinoa salad with local basil.

Everyday Chickpea-Quinoa Salad (By Isa Chandra Moskowitz, “Appetite for Reduction”)

2 cups cooked, cooled quinoa

1 small red onion, sliced thinly

4 cups chopped romaine lettuce

1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

Optional add-ins: roasted garlic, baked tofu or tempeh, shredded carrot, sprouts, fresh basil

1 recipe Balsamic Vinaigrette (recipe follows)

In a large mixing bowl, mix all the salad ingredients together. Add the dressing and toss to coat. Keep chilled in a tightly sealed container for up to three days.

Balsamic Vinaigrette

1/4 cup cashew pieces

2 tablespoons chopped shallot (or onion)

1/2 cup water

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon agave nectar

3/4 teaspoon salt

A few pinches of freshly ground black pepper

First place the cashews and shallot in a food processor and pulse to get them chopped up. Then simply add the rest of the ingredients. Blend for at least 5 minutes, using a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides often, until completely smooth.

It’s really important that you blend for the full time, otherwise your dressing may be grainy. Transfer the dressing to a sealable container (a bowl covered with plastic wrap is just fine) and chill until ready to serve.


Bye-Bye Bounty: CSA Week 22 — Wraps, salad and sweet potatoes

A wrap ready to roll... or just to eat as-is.

A wrap ready to roll... or just to eat as-is. by Sarah Henning

Well, we're almost to the end of the road. On Monday, I picked up my very last CSA haul of the year from Rolling Prairie. It's so sad to me because it signals the end of the summer. The days are getting cooler and pretty soon the Lawrence Farmers' Market will be a goner too. Sigh. But, I do feel a bit lucky, because I know from talking to friends that other CSAs have ended earlier than ours.

So, next week will be my last CSA blog until next spring, but I'm cooking up a weekly something to keep all of us foodies busy in the in-between.

But, until then, I had a lot of fun whipping up different items this week with last week's goodies.

Including sweet potato medallions...

One of our fall/winter staples: sweet potatoes sliced into medallions and covered with a mixture of pepper, salt and a little brown sugar.

One of our fall/winter staples: sweet potatoes sliced into medallions and covered with a mixture of pepper, salt and a little brown sugar. by Sarah Henning

A salad for work with our lettuce mix (plus local apples and walnuts)...

A salad of CSA salad mix, local apples and walnuts.

A salad of CSA salad mix, local apples and walnuts.

And Swiss chard wraps based on a recipe by my sweet friend Natalia.

One wrap rolled and another one left open...

One wrap rolled and another one left open... by Sarah Henning

Inside, that's a mixture of Natalia's "eggplant bacon" (made from local eggplant!), avocado, local tomatoes, and a cilantro-lime sauce/dip that made the whole thing have the same salty/sweet level as a BLT.

Everything we need for wraps — CSA chard leaves, avocado, tomato, sauce and some "eggplant bacon" I made in my dehydrator.

Everything we need for wraps — CSA chard leaves, avocado, tomato, sauce and some "eggplant bacon" I made in my dehydrator. by Sarah Henning

I highly recommend checking out Natalia's book if those wraps look like something you might want to try.

So, the recipe I'm going to share is the one for the sweet potato medallions. It's a recipe my dad gave us a few years ago and its a total staple for our family. I've blogged about it before, but because of some sort of glitch, that recipe (and a few others) is missing from my past blogs. But it's really too good not to share again.

Now, I do it with the amount of seasoning listed, but my dad — the recipe perfecter, as it were — will sometimes double the amount of seasoning and coat the potatoes a second time after flipping them. If you think that's your cup of tea, go for it.

Sweet Potato Medallions

2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into rounds (about 1/8 to 1/4-inch thick)

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

Olive oil/olive oil spray

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spray two cookie sheets (lipped ones are best) with olive oil. Place the sweet potato rounds on the cookie sheets.

In a small bowl, mix together the brown sugar, salt and pepper.

Spray the sweet potatoes with oil, or put a little olive oil in a small bowl and coat each round with oil using a basting brush. Once all the rounds are coated, sprinkle on the sugar and spice mixture.

Place the sweet potatoes in the oven for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, flip the rounds and put them in for another 5 to 10 minutes. Let cool.

What'd we get in our last week from Rolling Prairie? Two bags of salad greens, more chard leaves, potatoes, sweet potatoes and peppers.

Our last CSA pick up of 2011: chard leaves, two bags of mixed salad greens, sweet potatoes, peppers and potatoes.

Our last CSA pick up of 2011: chard leaves, two bags of mixed salad greens, sweet potatoes, peppers and potatoes.


Bye-Bye Bounty: CSA Week 21 — The Perfect Fall Soup

Isa Chandra Moskowitz's Butternut-Apple Soup with slices of Wheatfields' baguette.

Isa Chandra Moskowitz's Butternut-Apple Soup with slices of Wheatfields' baguette.

If you’ve read this blog since fall last year, you know I’m a total sucker for Nancy O’Connor’s Butternut Squash and Black Bean Burritos. I think they’re the perfect fall dish. And I had them this week, but I’m not going to write about them. Instead, I’m going to write about a dish we made for the first time that we just absolutely loved: Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s Butternut-Apple Soup.

Now, I’m a veteran of sorts when it comes to butternut squash soup. I feel like I’ve made every single one out there (including Nancy’s great one from “The Rolling Prairie Cookbook”), but I can tell you this one was absolutely fabulous. And a total surprise, sort of.

First of all, I had no idea I was going to have soup the night we had it. I went for a 10-mile run with my running group and came home to a house that smelled heavenly. My boys had made dinner — which is always awesome to come home to. My hubby had found the recipe in Isa’s newest book, “Appetite for Reduction.”

Now, why was it so awesome? Because, besides the fact that it has just 200 calories per serving, it has quite a different taste than other butternut concoctions. It’s sweet because of the apples, and a bit sour because of lime juice and apple cider. Plus, there’s ginger, red pepper flakes and garlic in there to add quite the latent kick. Really, really excellent. Plus, the six servings are generous, and perfectly proportioned when shared with a crusty Wheatfields' baguette. Heaven.

And it used CSA squash, CSA onion, CSA garlic, local apples and local apples cider. Win/Win.

A plethora of local ingredients in our squash-apple soup: Louisburg apple cider, local apples, CSA squash, CSA garlic and a CSA onion.

A plethora of local ingredients in our squash-apple soup: Louisburg apple cider, local apples, CSA squash, CSA garlic and a CSA onion.

Butternut-Apple Soup (Recipe by Isa Chandra Moskowitz, “Appetite for Reduction”)

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 medium-sized onion, diced small

1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

2 teaspoons dried rosemary

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 3/4-inch chunks

1 pound red apples, peeled, cored and cut into 3/4-inch chunks

2 cups apple cider

2 cups vegetable broth

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice

Preheat a 4-quart pot over medium heat. Sauté the onions in the oil for 5 to 7 minutes, until translucent.

Add the ginger and garlic, red pepper flakes, rosemary and salt, and sauté for a minute more. Add the squash, apples, apple cider and broth. Cover and bring to a boil. Once boiling, lower the heat just a bit and simmer briskly for about 20 more minutes, or until the squash is tender.

Apples and squash simmer before being blended with an immersion blender.

Apples and squash simmer before being blended with an immersion blender.

Puree the soup using either an immersion blender or by transferring half the soup at a time to a food processor or blender in batches. If you prefer, you can leave the soup a little chunky by only pureeing half or so. If using a blender, be sure to let the steam escape so that it doesn’t build up in the blender.

Add the lime juice and season to taste. Serves 6.

So, what’d we get this week — our penultimate week of the CSA season?

The goodies we got on our second-to-last pick up of the CSA season: apples, sweet potatoes, greens, salad mix, peppers and basil.

The goodies we got on our second-to-last pick up of the CSA season: apples, sweet potatoes, greens, salad mix, peppers and basil.

Apples, basil, greens, salad mix, peppers and sweet potatoes.


Bye-Bye Bounty: CSA Week 20 — Stupid weather

The bounty we picked up on Labor Day from our CSA.

The bounty we picked up on Labor Day from our CSA.

The end of the CSA is near.

Normally, we’re able to get our weekly goodies from Rolling Prairie clear through to Halloween. Not the case this year. Because of weeks of high heat and little water, the season is ending early. On Monday, I got an email from my pick-up site coordinator, Bob Lominska, saying that because of “the challenging weather” (he’s being nice) my last CSA pick-up as a regular customer will be Sept. 26.

Total bummer.

I'm not sure other CSAs will be ending as soon, but I think pretty much every farmer/home gardener/container gardener had the same problems this year in Northeast Kansas. So, chances are, even if your CSA hasn’t given you an end date, you probably won’t be getting goodies very late this year.

The good news? Even after our CSAs have finished for the year, we should still be able to get local produce at the Lawrence Farmers’ Market for a few weeks. They haven’t announced as to if the season will end earlier than its usual mid-November date, but chances are we can still pick up something through November. So, there’s our silver lining. Plus, the local goods will still be coming through our groceries. The supply might not be the best, but chances won’t be totally out of luck.

And we’re lucky to have anything, honestly. Think about all the crops ruined by flooding, drought, storms and disease this year across the Midwest and we’re doing pretty stinking well.

So, what did we do with the bounty we picked up on Labor Day (above)? Actually, not that much. We stored the squash, ate the tomatoes and basil out of hand and juiced the cucumber. The okra we still have and are hoping to use this week.

And the eggplant, well, the eggplant went into a wonderful eggplant Parmesan that the hubby slaved over. We used Mark Bittman’s recipe, and the hubby loved it. But that’s all I can tell you because, well, I have no photographic evidence.

I took photos with my personal Droid, which I lost this weekend while helping out with the Hawk 100. We’ve searched high and low for it to no avail, which makes me think some goober picked it, wiped it clean and is hoping to sell it, since it’s relatively new.

So, in a word, no pics of the yummy eggplant parm. Very sad, indeed.

This week from Rolling Prairie, we got a true mixed bag of summer/fall treats: More eggplant, melon, basil, garlic, golden potatoes, sweet potatoes. (Notice how different the photos look, this photo was taken with my lovely work-issued iPhone 4).

Our pickup on Sept. 12 from Rolling Prairie. Eggplant, potatoes, sweet potatoes, basil, garlic and melon.

Our pickup on Sept. 12 from Rolling Prairie. Eggplant, potatoes, sweet potatoes, basil, garlic and melon.