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Posts tagged with Vegetables

A twist on ratatouille

Summer, fall and winter in one dish.

Summer, fall and winter in one dish. by Sarah Henning

October is a strange time of year if you eat seasonally. It’s easy to want the best of both worlds — the taste of summer to go along with the sort of warm comfort food that sounds so fantastic when a chill comes to the air.

Luckily, there are quite a few dishes that bridge the gap between summer and fall quite well. One of them being the famous French stewed vegetable dish ratatouille. It’s an entree that highlights summer vegetables (tomatoes, eggplant, summer squash) all the while being warm in a way that would be perfect in the dead of winter.

Local cookbook author/food maven Nancy O’Connor takes ratatouille one step further in the direction of a cold weather dish with a recipe from her “Rolling Prairie Cookbook” that combines the deliciousness of ratatouille with the extreme comfort food quotient of a baked pasta dish. The results are a bridge of beauty.

My hubby liked this so much, in fact, that he wants to try the same sort of method with other seasonal vegetables when the weather really does turn. So keep your eyes peeled for a “winter ratatouille bake” later on.

Ratatouille Bake

1 tablespoon olive oil

3 to 5 cloves garlic, minced or pressed

1 medium onion, chopped

2 cups eggplant, peeled and diced

2 cups zucchini (or other summer squash), chopped

1 large green or red pepper, diced

2 to 3 medium tomatoes, chopped

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

8- to 10-ounce package frozen cheese-filled pasta (ravioli or tortellini)

4 ounces Mozzarella cheese, grated

Heat oil in heavy skillet over medium heat. Add garlic, onions and eggplant and saute for several minutes, stirring constantly. Add zucchini, pepper, tomatoes, parsley, basil, salt and pepper. Stir well and cook over medium heat several minutes more. Reduce heat to simmer and allow to cook until vegetables are tender and flavors are well blended, about 30 minutes. While vegetables are simmering, cook pasta according to package directions. Drain well. Lightly oil a large casserole and line bottom with cooked pasta. Cover with hot vegetables (ratatouille). Top with grated cheese. Broil until nicely brown on top. Serves 6.

— Recipe from “Rolling Prairie Cookbook” by Nancy O’Connor

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The tale of the Thai dragon peppers

The infamous Thai dragon pepper plant.

The infamous Thai dragon pepper plant. by Sarah Henning

I’m the garden planner in the family, but this year, the hubby made a special request after spotting the tag of a transplant at Vinland Valley Nursery: a Thai dragon pepper.

Though the name alone was enough to conjure visions of our family turning into a clan of fire-breathing Medieval beasts, the hubby was way more jazzed about the spicy possibilities than anything else we’d planned for the Henning Garden 2014, so we bought it.

In July, the tiny peppers on our single little plant started to turn red. And, suddenly, we realized we’d actually have to figure out what the heck to do with our scarily named cultivars. Surprisingly, Mr. Let’s-Buy-This-Terrifyingly-Hot-Pepper didn’t immediately know what he wanted to do with it.

So, we made salsa—mostly because it seemed like step one in conquering (and understanding) the Thai dragon. The one we picked to try roasts the peppers first before putting them in a fresh tomato-and-onion salsa. The roasting added great, professional-grade taste to the salsa. Or, so said my husband, who was the only one brave enough to try it.

Yes, I’m a wimp. I’ll water you, Thai dragon peppers, but eat you? That’s the hubby’s job.

Note: After some research, we found out that the Thai dragon’s opening bid on the Scoville scale is 75,000 units—or just less than a habeñero pepper, which has a starting value of 100,000 units. For reference, a jalapeño starts at 3,500 units.

Fresh Tomato Salsa with Roasted Chiles (“Viva Vegan!” by Terry Hope Romero)

2 to 4 large jalapeño or serrano chiles (sub in 1 Thai Dragon peppers with 2 jalapeños to cut the spice)

2 pounds ripe red tomatoes, preferably plum, seeded and chopped finely

1 large white onion, diced finely

3 tablespoons lime juice

½ cup finely chopped fresh cilantro

½ teaspoon salt or more to taste

To roast the chiles: In a large saucepan, bring 1 quart of water to a boil. Have ready a medium-size glass or metal heat-resistant bowl. Heat a cast-iron skillet over medium heat. While the skillet is heating, slice open the chiles, remove the stems and seeds and open the chiles so that they can be easily flattened when pressed with a spatula. (Wear gloves when handling hot chiles.) Place the chiles in the heated skillet and use a metal spatula to press and flip them frequently to toast, about 1 minute. Watch the chiles carefully to prevent them from burning. Remove the skillet from the heat and transfer the chiles the heat-resistant bowl. Pour the boiling water over the chiles and set aside for 10 minutes, to allow the chiles to soften. Drain the water from the chiles. Set aside.

Mince the cooled chiles as finely as possible and place in a mixing bowl.

Add the tomatoes and onion to the chiles and stir in the lime juice and salt. Chill the salsa for 30 minutes or let sit at room temperature, for the flavors to blend and the tomatoes to tenderize and release more of their juices.

Makes about 3 cups.

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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.

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The case of the unloved asparagus

Asparagus: Oh, so delicious, unless you're five.

Asparagus: Oh, so delicious, unless you're five. by Sarah Henning

Sometime between last spring and this spring, my kiddo totally forgot that he loves asparagus. Last year, he’d eat the green or purple stalks, no questions asked. But this year?

No, no, no, no, get that away from me, no.

That’s a direct quote.

I’m sure anyone with kids/grandkids/imagines their life with kids reading this understands the fickle nature of a child’s taste buds — and the amnesia that goes along with it.

Once upon a time, my son ate all sorts of things that are utterly “Gross, mom, jeez!” He’d eat vegetable korma. Pad Thai. Even something as difficult to love as soup.

Today?

Nope. Nope. Nope.

Today, he’ll try new things, but only within reason. Example: He’ll try papaya because it looks like cantaloupe or mango. Or those chia seed doughnuts I made, specifically because they look like doughnuts.

But foods he’s tried before that we swear up and down that he likes? Not unless it looks promising.

And, asparagus, my friends, doesn’t look promising. Too green, too plant-like (despite the fact that this kid will eat baby spinach leaves plain), too unfamiliar.

So, how do we get him to eat it?

Bribed the heck out of him.

Basically, though he’s 5, our kid doesn’t necessarily always have the same dinner we have. We’re still transitioning him into eating what we eat, no ifs, ands or buts. But I’m still too concerned about him not eating enough, that I’m not strict about this (maybe we’re training me and not him, then?).

Thus, sometimes he has exactly what we have but most of the time, he has our sides plus something else. Case in point: tonight we’re having fajitas with salad on the side. He’ll have salad, avocado, raw red peppers saved from the fajita pan and a quesadilla.

But we want to eventually get him to eat exactly what we eat for dinner. I’m not making him his very own specialized dinner until he’s 18. Plus, I want him to eat and enjoy foods that aren’t your everyday picks, like seasonal, delicious asparagus.

So we’ll do what I’m sure many parents will do. We say something along the lines of, “If you eat two pieces of asparagus, you can watch a cartoon after dinner. No asparagus, no cartoon.”

Usually, that does the trick. Sometimes, as is the case with soup for some reason (even potato chowder, aka “french fry soup”), he’ll just say, “I didn’t want to watch a cartoon.” Yeah, right, kid.

When I was his age, I distinctly remember having to eat the dinner my parents were eating, no substitutions. Therefore, I wonder if I’m being soft. Should I stop tailoring his meals? Should I wait until he starts kindergarten in the fall? Or should I just roll with it, and be happy that he eats really healthy even if he’s not eating exactly what we’re eating?

I don’t have the answer. I don’t know if I’ll ever know exactly what’s right. But I do know that trying to persuade him to eat food that's good for him can never be bad. Even if it comes with a side of bribery.

Now, for the real reason you’re here. An asparagus recipe we’re loving at the moment (even if the kiddo is still suspicious):

Asparagus with Lemon and Olives

1 pound asparagus

1 tablespoon butter or coconut oil, melted

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

Sea salt and black pepper

1 lemon

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and halved

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Chop the ends off the asparagus and rinse under water. Place the asparagus on a baking sheet and toss with the melted butter or coconut oil. Sprinkle with garlic powder, sea salt and black pepper to taste. Roast for approximately 10-15 minutes, less time for thin asparagus, more time for thick asparagus.

While the asparagus is roasting, use a microplane grater to remove the zest from the lemon, and set the zest aside.

When the asparagus is bright green and fork tender, remove it from the oven, drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil and top with the lemon zest and halved olives.

— Recipe from Practical Paleo by Diane Sanfilippo

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Snobby Joes and the return of the CSA

Snobby Joes and steamed asparagus.

Snobby Joes and steamed asparagus. by Sarah Henning

Two blessed food events occurred within the past few days.

One: The Lawrence Farmers’ Market opened on Saturday.

Two: My first CSA pickup of the year was Monday.

Yes, local food is upon us. All winter I look forward to this week. To me, it means the start of many things: great local produce, warmer weather, sunshine and homegrown garden greens.

For those of you who are new to my blog, know that during the CSA season, the format changes slightly.

CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture and is basically a subscription service to a farm or a collective of farms. For the price of your subscription, you will get a weekly share (bag) of farm-produced foods. My particular CSA, Rolling Prairie, provides some choice in items (for example, picking between turnips and radishes), though not every CSA does this and because of availability, even the ones that do might not have a lot to choose from weekly.

I’ve written many stories about CSAs in Lawrence, including this one, which is somewhat of a who’s who of the major CSAs in and around Lawrence. If you’re interested in signing up, please visit the websites of the CSAs on that list and they’ll let you know if they’re still open to subscribers this season. Most don’t start deliveries until May (I’m participating in the “early bag” of my CSA), but you’ll need to sign up soon to get a spot.

Each week, I’ll tell you exactly what I made with my CSA bounty and then show you what I got in my bag and plan to use for the week ahead.

I do this because I’ve heard from several readers (and from personal experience) that finishing all the produce received in a weekly CSA can be difficult. The reasons for this are all over the map. Some of the more popular ones include: unfamiliarity with certain vegetables (kohlrabi, purslane), dislike of certain foods (turnips, radishes, mushrooms, certain greens), difficulty planning meals, not able to cook every night or new to cooking, feeling like you’ve got too much in your share, etc.

I’m hoping that in this space you’ll find ideas and inspiration so that you never have to throw out or compost a single item you pick up at your CSA this year, or at the farmers market (hey, we all overbuy sometimes). If you’d like to see what kind of posts you’ll get over the next 26 to 28 weeks, check out the end-of-season round-up I did of last year’s CSA action.

So, without further ado, here’s what I got in my first bag this week. If your CSA starts later, or you aren’t signed up for one, this is pretty good example of what you’d find at the Farmers' Market right now with one exception: spinach, green onions, salad mix, dried mushrooms and tofu (Central Soy's local tofu).

Dried mushrooms, spinach, green onions, tofu and salad greens.

Dried mushrooms, spinach, green onions, tofu and salad greens. by Sarah Henning

Now, for those of you who don’t care about all this CSA stuff and just want to know what that delicious-looking stuff next to the steamed asparagus is at the top of the page, I’ve got the recipe below. It’s a very simple and healthy recipe that uses lentils, onion and bell pepper to re-create the sloppy Joes of your youth (adulthood?). You’ll find it satisfying and easy and yummy on a roll if that’s what you like. I had some Wheatfield ciabatta on the side (not pictured).

Snobby Joes (from www.theppk.com)

1 cup uncooked green lentils

4 cups water

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 medium yellow onion, diced small

1 green pepper, diced small (we used red)

2 cloves garlic, minced

3 tablespoons chili powder

2 teaspoons oregano

1 teaspoon salt

8 ounce-can tomato sauce

1/4 cup tomato paste

3 tablespoons maple syrup

1 tablespoon yellow mustard

4 to 6 kaiser rolls or sesame buns (optional — for serving)

Put the lentils in a small sauce pot and pour in 4 cups water. Cover and bring to a boil. Once boiling, lower heat and simmer for about 20 minutes, until lentils are soft. Drain and set aside.

About 10 minutes before the lentils are done boiling, preheat a medium soup pot over medium heat. Saute the onion and pepper in the oil for about 7 minutes, until softened. Add the garlic and saute a minute more. Add the cooked lentils, the chili powder, oregano and salt and mix. Add the tomato sauce and tomato paste. Cook for about 10 minutes.

Add the maple syrup and mustard and heat through. Turn the heat off and let sit for about 10 minutes, so that the flavors can meld, or go ahead and eat immediately if you can’t wait.

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Take advantage of a low-maintenance workhorse: How to grow your own potatoes

In the realm of potatoes, a little work goes a long way.

In the realm of potatoes, a little work goes a long way. by Sarah Henning

A few weeks ago, I wrote about why I garden. Basically, the takeaway is this: I do it because it's important to be connected to our food.

And though the last two growing seasons have been horrible for farmers and home gardeners alike, I still believe it's crucial to try if you can.

This weekend, I put my time and effort where my mouth is and worked in the garden with the kiddo to plant for the first time this season. We'd readied our three garden beds the week before, giving me the perfect canvas to plant my two garden workhorses: potatoes and onions.

Last year, I didn't get a chance to do potatoes or onions because of some scheduling issues with my time and Mother Nature, and we really felt it. Because of the heat, almost all of our other crops barely yielded a thing and because of timing, we didn't have either of our high producers to fall back on. Not cool at all.

This year I wanted to have a potato crop, even if I was going to be out of town on St. Patrick's Day. Though old farmers' tales say you should plant potatoes on St. Paddy's, I knew I wouldn't be able to do it. But I really do believe you can be late with potatoes and be perfectly fine. I've had two great potato crops — one planted right around St. Paddy's and one planted late, and they've both been terrific.

And by "terrific," I mean not only in the sense that you get a lot for very little time and effort. You also are growing one of the most no-nonsense plants available and if you have kids, they will love digging for the final product.

Our first potato haul a few years ago was pretty great, even the toddler can see that.

Our first potato haul a few years ago was pretty great, even the toddler can see that. by Sarah Henning

If you're up for it, I'll share my method for growing them. It will take you about two hours the whole week and you'll be good until late summer.

First, I grow mine in a raised 4x8 bed, under straw. I believe this method works if you're tilling straight into the ground, but you might want to check around to make sure there's not a better method for you.

What you'll need are some seed potatoes (available at pretty much any farm or garden store, plus some grocery stores). Look for ones that have several eyes. Take them home and cut them into smaller chunks, 1 to 2 inches across. Each chunk needs to have a couple of good-looking eyes.

Next, let them "cure" by placing them on cookie cooling racks for a day or two (up to a week).

My potatoes, curing.

My potatoes, curing. by Sarah Henning

When you're ready to plant, buy a bail of hay/straw, get out your gloves and trowel and get to work. I like to keep my potatoes in a single bed because it's easiest. You will want to dig holes at least six inches deep, and about a foot apart. Place the potatoes, eyes up, in each hole.

Eyes up to the sky.

Eyes up to the sky. by Sarah Henning

If you think you have more potato chunks than holes, just get picky about which ones you put in first. Ones with eyes that are already sprouting are the best, so they should get top priority.

Next, cover the potatoes with dirt, and then cover with as much hay as you can mound on. You're going to want to go for eight to 12 inches, on top.

The finished product, for now.

The finished product, for now. by Sarah Henning

Then, water them a bit (not too much!) and let them be. The only thing I do is add a bit more straw once it starts to get matted down, because you want to make sure your potatoes are completely hidden from the sun at all times.

Other than the straw, your only job is to watch the vines poke up. They'll grow, get tall and flowery and then they'll start to wilt and die. When the vines are dead, you can start digging for treasure right around the base of each dead vine. You should have a bunch of potatoes of varying sizes with each vine.

It really is that easy.

I'm not a garden expert by any means, but this is what works for me. You might Google around and find people who do something similar, or people who don't do it this way at all.

No matter how you do it, it's worth a shot. High yield for low investment. Plus you grew it.

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The case for gardening, even if Mother Nature doesn’t always agree

Our cherry tomatoes did great even with the bad weather the past two years. Good thing, too, because they are the only tomatoes the kid will eat.

Our cherry tomatoes did great even with the bad weather the past two years. Good thing, too, because they are the only tomatoes the kid will eat. by Sarah Henning

I might not get to celebrate spring break, you know, being old and all, but that doesn’t mean I’m not excited about it.

Not only does it mean the unofficial start of warm weather (hear that, snow!?) and March Madness but also means that spring is here. Or almost here. Or close enough that we can all start thinking about gardening.

For months, I’ve been talking with a part-time farmer friend who is growing several types of kale this year. With each little update on this process (picking seeds, ordering seeds, starting seeds indoors), I’ve gotten more excited about the coming growing season. I’ve had a garden for three years — three raised beds plus a pretty good-sized container garden on my deck — and it’s been fun, though not necessarily highly productive.

If I’m being honest, the last two summers have been a kick in the teeth as a gardener. Plants bolted. The bugs hit. Blossom end rot did in many tomatoes. Poor planning left some plants gasping for nutrients. My blueberries and raspberries were crushed by the heat, as were many of my container herbs — I’ve been able to kill three “unkillable” mint plants every single year (yes, the body count is at nine). Melons have never, ever thrived for me. Oh, and it turns out I hate weeding.

That entire paragraph probably makes you wonder if I have a black thumb or why I’d ever want a garden in the first place, especially since I apparently suck at it.

But here’s the thing: I don’t think I suck at it (the weather had a lot to do with my kill rate) and I actually do find it fun.

There’s something downright enjoyable about being able to go out and harvest what you put into the ground/raised bed/pot. And 100-degree temps, a hatred of weeding and bad luck aren’t going to change that.

Because, here’s the thing: I think it’s incredibly important to get reconnected with where our food comes from.

On the hunt for tiny strawberries.

On the hunt for tiny strawberries. by Sarah Henning

Growing up, we had a garden, but I only really remember harvesting tomatoes. And at the time, I don’t think I totally “got” how good a fresh tomato was. It was just a tomato that appeared in our backyard after way too frickin’ long.

In fact, not only do I think I didn’t get it but I also think I didn’t really appreciate that homegrown food at all. It was a novelty, and the big, smooth vegetables sans imperfections from the grocery store seemed more like “actual” food to me.

It’s silly to think about now, but I don’t know how I could’ve been so disconnected. And I don’t want my son to ever feel that out of touch with what he puts in his mouth.

It’s not that my parents didn’t try to interest me in our family garden, it’s more that the food culture was very different back then. We were in the middle of a shift from agricultural awareness to total blindness and back again — at least in my opinion and experience as a child of the ’80s.

Today, we have the advantage of a resurgence in restoring some awareness of our food chain, not only where we buy it from, but where food comes from in general.

And I want to keep that earth-to-table connection as plain as possible in my own kitchen, for my benefit and my family’s.

My son knows more about how foods grow and come to be than I ever did at his age, and I’d like to make sure that knowledge stays with him. Because he helps in the garden, he tends to try new things just because he helped pick them. He doesn’t like everything, but there’s a better chance he’ll try something if he gets to harvest it himself than if he helps me pick it out at the store.

He's got his picking tub and he's not going to let go.

He's got his picking tub and he's not going to let go. by Sarah Henning

So, I’m planning my three-season garden for a fourth straight year. I’ve learned I grow some foods rather well (potatoes, Swiss chard, cherry tomatoes) and some plants rather poorly (see my litany of murdered plants above), but I grow them, and that’s what matters.

My planned plants for spring, summer and fall are as follows. As for which will survive, your guess is as good as mine.

Potatoes (several types)

Onion sets (white, yellow, red)

Garlic

Shelling peas

Bush and pole beans

Strawberries (on their third year)

Blackberries (to replace my murdered berries)

Kale (black and curly)

Swiss chard

Spinach

Beets

Tomatoes (black krim, Cherokee purple, sungold and sun sugar)

Peppers (Italian and various bell)

Herbs: basil (various), mint (various), sage (various), rosemary (various), thyme, parsley, marjoram, dill, garlic chives, cilantro (which I hate, but comes in handy)

And anything else that ends up looking intriguing (which always happens)

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A couple of green things to try along with your green beer on St. Paddy’s Day

Another green beverage for you to try on St. Patrick's Day.

Another green beverage for you to try on St. Patrick's Day. by Sarah Henning

OK, I might be health nut, but I'm not crazy. I know some of you are going to roll your eyes at my upcoming suggestion to try to include as many green foods in your diet as possible on St. Patrick’s Day.

Yeah, I know it’s all about green beer, and that’s that. But you can’t just have green beer all day. Well, maybe you can, but you’ll feel a bit green if you do.

Here’s my suggestion: Try to fit in a few extra green things on Sunday.

Even if you do OD on green beer, you can at least feel like you didn’t lose a whole day’s worth of healthy eating. It’s all about balance, people. Balance your green beer (or pancakes, cupcakes, cookies, and whatever the heck else green dye ends up in) with some things that are naturally the right hue, and you might not feel half bad coming Monday.

Your head still might pound if you went overboard on the green beverages, but at least you’ll know you made an effort.

If green beer isn’t your thing and/or you have kids, maybe make a game out of eating as many green things as you can on Sunday. That’ll probably work with kids and adults, and maybe start a habit or two.

The following are just a few suggestions of pretty green things to try out Sunday (or anytime). They’re mean, they’re green and they’re super good for you.

Brussels’ sprouts: It’s pretty obvious from both this column and my space in Delicious/Nutritious that I’ve been crushing pretty hard on these little guys. They’re just so wonderful roasted with a hint of salt, pepper and garlic and a little crisp on them (which is saying a lot because I hate my food blackened). If you haven’t tried these little guys, give them a go. If you don’t like them, just do a green beer chaser and you’ll be just fine.

Spinach: I buy a giant tub of baby spinach every week. It’s so perfect for adding “something” green to nearly any meal because it’s so mild and forgiving. Throw it in your morning smoothie (only the color will change, it’ll taste the same — promise), use it as a bed for roasted veggies, beans, meat or other more “dense” foods, add it to the top of a homemade pizza (seriously), and you can even juice it, should be so inclined.

Avocado: This green, unsweet fruit is full of fabulous monounsaturated fats, plus vitamin C and 9 grams of fiber (for a whole avocado). Use a quarter or half of an avocado to jazz up a smoothie, salad, sandwich or pretty much whatever. I probably don’t have to tell you what an awesome fruit it is.

Kale: Everyone knows kale is my food BFF. It’s nutritional profile is excellent, and though it’s an acquired taste, once you’ve acquired it, you’re golden. The tough leaves need a little aid, so saute them, make kale chips, or “massage” ripped up leaves with avocado, salt, pepper and lemon juice to use as the base of a salad. If you’ve already discovered the joy of kale and are used to the taste, try it in your next smoothie or juice. It’s not nearly as mild as spinach, but it’s a good nutritional kick in the pants.

Green kombucha: This is kind of a cheat. There’s only one or two kinds of kombucha that are green, so it’s OK if you try one that isn’t green. What you’ll find in kombucha of any color are strains of bacteria similar to those in yogurt (aka the good bacteria that makes your gut happy), plus copious amounts of B vitamins and folate. So, what’s in the green version? Super food water-loving plants blue-green algae, spirulina and chlorella. Sounds fishy, tastes good.

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A drink of this per day can help keep the flu away

It's mean, it's green, it's the flu's smelly, savory nightmare.

It's mean, it's green, it's the flu's smelly, savory nightmare. by Sarah Henning

I’m probably jinxing myself by writing this column, but: So far, I’ve avoided the flu that has claimed so many of my friends and family this year.

Of course, the second after this appears in front of other eyeballs, I’ll probably come down with the dreaded illness, but until that happens, I’ll share my secret. Of course, I’m careful to wash my hands and not touch my face, and I’ve probably just gotten lucky, too, but I really do think I have a kitchen remedy that’s helped me stay in the clear.

Any night I’ve come home not feeling 100 percent, or just whenever I’ve had the time, I’ve made this green juice and chugged it down. It contains several illness-fighting ingredients: kale for vitamin A and overall leafy green awesomeness, cucumber and celery for extra special hydration, garlic (aka the inflammation killer also known as Italian penicillin), lemon for a bit of vitamin C, and the added benefit of a probiotic to keep the gut flora healthy.

Now, it’s not the tastiest juice ever (you might have guessed that already), but it’s actually kind of addictive. The garlic, lemon and sour probiotic help cut the “green” flavor and leave you with a savory drink that hits the right notes. You may want to add extra lemon or probiotic at first, or juice in some carrots or an apple or two to help with the flavor, but if you can go with the original, do. I actually like to savor it over 10 minutes or so, but there’s nothing wrong with splitting this serving in two, giving the other half to your significant other and seeing who can down it the fastest.

Don’t have a juicer? You can try chopping up and adding the same ingredients (though maybe not the full amount) to your blender with enough water to get it going and make an unsweetened green smoothie. You’ll get the added benefit of fiber, even if you can’t get in a full head of kale or celery in a single serving.

If I do end up with the flu just for having the audacity to say this juice helped me through the season, I’ll take the punishment fate deals out, just so that you all my have another secret weapon in your arsenals. Clearly, I'll do anything for you people. Now, bottoms up!

Flu Shot Green Juice

1 head celery, base removed

1 head kale

1 cucumber

2 cloves garlic

1 lemon, rind removed

1 tablespoon (or more) liquid probiotic (I use coconut kefir)

Run all ingredients except the probiotic through a juicer. Stir in the probiotic. Chug it down (serves 1 to 2)

Alternatives: use 1-inch piece of fresh, peeled ginger instead of garlic. Add an apple or a couple of carrots for sweetness.

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Highlights from CSA season 2012

Pad Thai Salad ... YUM!

Pad Thai Salad ... YUM! by Sarah Henning

Well, the CSA season is over for another year, folks.

I kind of can’t believe it. Because my CSA season (and hopefully yours, too) is 26 weeks. That’s half a year. Meaning half of 2012 was filled with delicious, local veggies, picked up once a week like some sort of mineral-filled Christmas present.

In celebration of a good season (and in mourning of its end), I’ve compiled the best of the best from my CSA experience this spring, summer and fall. I hope you all got a chance to make some of the recipes, and if you haven’t, that you give them a try. There were definitely some good eats this year that will be added to my menu, despite my rut-loving tendencies.

So, without further ado, my favorites of CSA season 2012:

New favorites, still easy to do in winter:

-Napa cabbage salad with sweet and spicy vinaigrette

-Pad Thai salad

-A new (tropical) way to do sweet potatoes

-Bok choy and chard with red onion and sesame seeds

-The perfect sweet potato burger

Roasting highlights:

Roasted winter vegetables with salad greens and curried chickpeas.

Roasted winter vegetables with salad greens and curried chickpeas. by Sarah Henning

-Butternut squash and sweet potatoes http://www.lawrence.com/weblogs/hennings-blog/2012/oct/9/bye-bye-bounty-week-24-the-end-is-nigh-b/

-Turnips

-Veggies with pasta and edamame http://www.lawrence.com/weblogs/hennings-blog/2012/sep/4/bye-bye-bounty-week-19-oven-roasted-vegg/

Pretty (and pink) drinks:

The prettiest smoothie ever, if I do say so myself.

The prettiest smoothie ever, if I do say so myself. by Sarah Henning

-Watermelon and mint cooler

-Electric pink smoothie

Recipes to save for next summer (or brave out of season):

A successful tomato salad (that — amazingly — doesn't taste like salsa).

A successful tomato salad (that — amazingly — doesn't taste like salsa). by Sarah Henning

-Cherry tomato salad with lime-garlic dressing

-Midsummer night(s) chopped salad

-Sweet and spicy corn and tomato salad

What was your favorite dish you made with your CSA goods this year?

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