Entries from blogs tagged with “Sarah Henning”
Last week, I hit the major personal parenting goal of getting the kiddo to eat salad. It was marvelous.
While I basked in the glow of that achievement for the rest of the following week, I also tried to recreate it. And I did. Multiple dinner times in a row.
Because, even though it finally got cold enough to turn on the heat, I really don’t want to believe summer’s over.
My strategy for this? Salads for everyone! All the time! Salad, salad and more salad.
I might be in denial.
So, anyway, my possible denial turned into a soup and salad night, using nearly all local ingredients.
We made our favorite butternut squash and apple soup using Rolling Prairie CSA squash and local apples from the Lawrence Farmers’ Market and then pieced together a delicious salad using delicate CSA salad greens plus local clover sprouts.
It was a delicious pairing, even if those lovely greens are about to go on hiatus.
Straight-Forward Seasonal Salad
Per each salad:
Two handfuls microgreens/baby salad mix
Several slices cucumber
Handful chopped carrots
Sprouts (to taste)
Balsamic vinegar (to taste)
Mix all the ingredients together and serve.
What’d we get this week? One giant sweet potato, cucumber, peppers, bok choy, salad mix, green beans, eggplant.
My kid really does eat amazingly well for a pre-K child. I’ve discussed many times that he does a pretty good job, even if he’s just like any other kid in that he’d take cookies over carrots any time.
That said, if there’s one thing I’ve barely ever gotten him to try, it’s salad.
I’m sure most parents have this problem. In fact, I’m pretty sure if I had a salad before age 13, it was probably just iceberg lettuce drowning in Dorothy Lynch. Totally healthy, of course.
So, I’m not one to expect a 4-year-old to eat salad. Even mine, who, like I said, does a really good job of eating his fruits and vegetables.
Therefore, I was quite surprised when the kiddo wanted to make salad as part of his dinner this week, we were all for it. His version of salad? Sliced CSA cucumbers, carrots and celery. Not a single leafy green in sight, but I’ll take it. His quote, while making sure I tried it: “Don’t put dressing on it, Mommy, it’s delicious.” And it was.
Meanwhile, we made our own Mommy/Daddy salad using more goodies we got from Rolling Prairie last week: Roasted sweet potatoes over CSA salad greens, topped with CSA roasted peppers, garlic olive oil and a bit of Landeria goat cheese.
What’d we get this week? Butternut squash, salad greens, new potatoes, sweet potatoes, radishes and bell peppers
We’ve come to the time of year where winter squashes and tubers are sharing table space with tomatoes and cucumbers at local CSAs and the Lawrence Farmers' Market.
For instance, we got eggplant, tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet potatoes, tat soi, lettuce mix and peppers last week from Rolling Prairie.
It seems totally odd, right? Even though these items share shelf space in the produce department of nearly every grocery store in America year-round.
Makes you think about our industrial food system a bit, eh?
And you know what? There’s nothing that says we can’t enjoy some of these summer-fall goodies in the same meal, or even in the same dish.
This week, I was so intent on achieving that goal that I made a salad that included not only roasted sweet potatoes but also tomatoes (yep) and delicate baby greens.Probably could’ve thrown some tat soi and cooked eggplant in there, too, if I’d had my wits about me.
Yes, it sounds strange, but if you find your kitchen full of these seemingly incompatible items, give this dish a try — if you can actually make the potatoes and not eat them all off the pan by themselves while waiting for them to cool enough not to wilt your lettuce.
Slightly Sweet Roasted Sweet Potatoes
2 medium to large sweet potatoes, sliced into quarter-inch rounds, skin removed
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 teaspoon coconut sugar (or brown sugar)
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
Heat oven to 425 degrees. Place sliced sweet potatoes on one to two cookie sheets, lined with parchment paper. Using a clean finger, rub a little coconut oil on the top side of each sweet potato slice. If you don’t use all the coconut oil, that’s OK.
Next, combine coconut sugar, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Sprinkle onto oiled potatoes.
Roast potatoes for 15 minutes. Flip. Roast for another 15 minutes or so until soft and browning.
Enjoy alone or on the salad below.
Mixed-Up Season Salad
Handful mixed salad greens
Handful cherry or grape tomatoes
¼ chopped avocado
5-6 roasted sweet potatoes (above) slices, halved and cooled
Throw all ingredients in a bowl. Cover with balsamic vinegar and olive oil or your favorite dressing. Enjoy.
What’d we get this week? Roasted peppers, salad greens, cooking greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet potatoes, peppers.
We’re almost to the end of the CSA season. Not totally there yet, but we probably have a month to go if we’re super lucky. So sad.
But we’re enjoying it while we can.
And we totally enjoyed this week’s Rolling Prairie CSA cooking experiment, which was basically an eggplant parmesan and cheese lasagna combined into one minus the noodles, minus the parmesan.
I found a recipe on one of my favorite blogs that happened to use thinly cut eggplant as the noodles in a lasagna. It also included mushrooms and a sneaky bit of cauliflower in a way that I thought might entice the kiddo.
It took some work (I made it on a weekend night), but it was totally worth it and we had enough leftovers for two more dinners. Plus, not only did it use our CSA eggplant, but it used our CSA garlic from a few weeks ago and an onion and our mushrooms (plus more that we bought to make it work) from this week.
Thus, this one has all the markings of a new family favorite. The kiddo even tried a bite. Yay for small victories.
Eggplant and Goat Cheese Lasagna (from Detoxinista.com)
For the “noodles”:
1 large eggplant A splash of balsamic vinegar
For the “cauliflower ricotta”:
1 head cauliflower, or about 4-5 cups of florets
1/2 cup soft goat cheese (chevre)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
salt and pepper
For the mushroom “meat”:
1 teaspoon butter or coconut oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
half of an onion, chopped
1 pound assorted mushrooms
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
salt and pepper
A jar of your favorite marinara sauce
Goat mozzarella, shredded (we just used more chevre because we couldn’t find this)
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Then, like traditional lasagna, we must first prepare all of the layers.
For the noodles:
Using a mandolin, slice the eggplant lengthwise into thin strips. You may peel it first, if you like, but I took the easy route and left the skin on. Place the eggplant slices in a dish, and toss with a bit of balsamic vinegar (or lemon juice). Set aside to let marinate.
For the cauliflower ricotta:
Pulse the raw cauliflower florets in a food processor to make “rice.” Then steam, strain and squeeze out the excess moisture, leaving the cooked rice fairly dry. Transfer the strained cauliflower rice to a mixing bowl, and add in the two beaten eggs, goat cheese, oregano, and a dash of salt and pepper. Mix well, and set aside.
For the mushroom “meat” layer:
In a skillet over medium-low heat, melt the butter or coconut oil and saute the garlic and chopped onions for about 5 minutes, or until translucent.
While the onions and garlic are cooking away, gently pulse the mushrooms in a food processor, until a “ground beef” like texture is achieved.
Add the ground mushrooms to the sauteed onions and garlic, and season with ground cumin, salt and pepper. Saute until tender. The mushrooms will release some moisture, so be sure to strain well after cooking, and set aside.
Begin by adding a thin layer of marinara sauce to the bottom of your glass dish — this will prevent sticking.
Next, layer on the eggplant slices, followed by half of the cauliflower ricotta, followed by half of the mushroom meat, a drizzle of marinara sauce and a bit of shredded goat mozzarella.
Repeat the layers, then top it all off with a final layer of eggplant slices, topped with more marinara and shredded goat mozzarella.
Bake in the oven, uncovered, for 45 minutes at 400 degrees.
The finished lasagna should be firm, with a crispy layer of cheese on top!
Slice and serve hot! Serves 8.
What’d we get this week? More eggplant, tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet potatoes, tat soi, lettuce mix and peppers.
Er, so this column is called “Eat Your Vegetables,” but, I have a confession: There are a few vegetables that I’d rather not eat.
Oh, the scandal.
But I do try. And that’s part of the beauty of joining a CSA like Rolling Prairie: You have to try because you come home with a bunch of veggies, whether you like them or not.
Last week we got: Two types of tomatoes, butternut squash, okra, hot peppers, sweet peppers, garlic and greens. And I bet you know exactly which veggie in that lineup isn’t a regular in my house.
I know plenty of people who love it. Heck, my parents live in the South and I see it around all the time when I go down there. But I didn’t grow up eating it (in Kansas) and have never really sought it out as an adult. Sometimes it’s in Indian food, and I’ll eat that, but make it at home? Not really my cup of tea.
But the great thing about having a CSA, besides fresh veggies every week, is that usually you don’t get to pick and choose, and sometimes have to just bite the bullet and try something you’d rather not have.
So, the hubby and I looked for a way to cook the okra as something we’d appreciate. The recipe we settled on used up not only our okra but a bunch of our CSA tomatoes and CSA garlic. Triple bonus!
It was really tasty, though we had to halve the recipe because we didn’t have enough okra. Still, it was something I’d definitely try again if okra ends up in my crisper.
Okra Stew with Tomatoes (“How to Cook Everything Vegetarian” by Mark Bittman)
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, halved and cut into thick slices
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound okra, trimmed
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
4 cups chopped tomato (we used fresh but canned works too)
1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano (optional)
Chopped parsley leaves for garnish
Put 2 tablespoons of the oil in a deep skillet or large pot over medium-high heat. When hot, add the onion, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring frequently, until soft and turning golden, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon.
Add the remaining oil to the pot and stir in the okra. Cook, stirring occasionally, until it begins to brown a little, then add the garlic and cook for another minute or so, stirring once or twice. Return the onion to the pot and add the tomato, along with a cup of water. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Bring the mixture to a boil, then lower the heat so it bubbles gently. Cook, stirring every once in a while, until the okra is very tender and the sauce has thickened, about 45 minutes. Stir in the oregano if you like, then taste and adjust the seasoning and serve, garnished with parsley.
What’d we get this week from Rolling Prairie? Slicing and grape tomatoes, cucumbers, mushrooms, eggplant, onions and peppers.
If you've followed this column for a long time, you know that salad is always my default. It's my best friend at dinner and lunch, and my old stand-by when I have no idea what to make.
And even though I'm tight with the little green bowl of awesome, I'm well aware that I'm not in the majority. Homemade salads can seem like work. So many ingredients to have. So many things to chop. So much ... green.
I actually used to think the same thing. As in: If I didn't get my ingredients from a salad bar, I'd be chopping and prepping until my stomach pulled rank on me and sent me straight for the easy button (aka a sandwich, crackers, chocolate chips, etc.). Plus, I didn't really think it was a salad without certain things on hand, like store-bought dressing or tomatoes or (when I ate it) cheese.
But, over time, I've come to love the "kitchen sink" qualities of the dish. Really, once you figure out what you like in your salads, you can pretty much throw together one you'll enjoy without any planning (or thought) at all. Eventually, it becomes quicker than making anything else, and so satisfying that it's worth the wait if you have to do a bit of chopping.
This week's salad is a perfect example. It was totally thrown together at the last minute to go along with some leftover fajitas, but it was delicious, healthy and used up some of our delicious bounty from our Rolling Prairie CSA share.
Quick and Seasonal Side Salad
2 handfuls baby spinach
1 red bell pepper, chopped (from our CSA)
1 carrot, chopped
10 garlic-stuffed olives, chopped
1/4 cup almonds
Olive oil and lemon juice, drizzled on to taste
Divide all ingredients among two bowls. Enjoy. Serves 2.
What’d we get in our Rolling Prairie CSA this week? Two types of tomatoes, butternut squash, okra, hot peppers, sweet peppers, garlic and greens.
Last week, we got a huge, sweet-smelling cantaloupe as part of a major CSA haul: slicing tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, hot peppers, bok choy, edamame and said cantaloupe.
In my eyes, it was the perfect variety, especially on a week that would be nuclear-hot by the end.
And, though it was a lot, I can honestly say we used everything. Making fajitas, stir-fry and keeping cool with a really delicious smoothie.
I’ve made a version of this smoothie before, but it was super hot and I felt like I needed an extra nutrient boost because I’d gone on a long run and really needed to be rehydrated with some good stuff. So, I decided to add mellow spinach to my icy-cool cantaloupe smoothie. It worked really well, and added to the green rush brought on by the mint.
Unfortunately, my mint plants have turned brown with the weather (I have faith they’ll bounce back), so I had to use mint extract instead of real leaves. I prefer real leaves, but I needed to drink something right then and I didn’t want to trudge to the store just for a few leaves.
Cool Green Cantaloupe Chiller
½ cantaloupe, chopped or spooned out of rind
2 handfuls baby spinach
Few mint leaves or drop of mint extract
2-3 ice cubes
Water, as needed
Put all ingredients in blender. Add just enough water to get above the blades. Blend. Serves 1-2.
So, what’d we get this week from Rolling Prairie? Two kinds of tomatoes, garlic, green beans, potatoes, basil, cucumber, bell peppers and cantaloupe.
It has come to my attention that maybe a few of my readers are afraid of the big F-A-T word when it comes to eating.
I’ve mentioned this before and I’m going to say it again: I, too, was once scared of F-A-T making me F-A-T.
But, as part of my growth in understanding food as fuel and how our bodies work, I’ve also come to love that big, scary macronutrient.
So, let’s get this out there: Not all fat is bad.
Not in the slightest.
There is a reason an avocado is all monounsaturated (aka heart-healthy) fat. There’s a reason nuts and seeds are full of omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids. There’s a reason the fat in coconut oil happens to be medium-chain saturated fat, which the body loves to burn for energy.
We are meant to eat fat.
Real, naturally occurring F-A-T.
What we’re not meant to eat are the fake, processed foods completely devoid of their original, natural fats. Or “foods” created in such away that they are more chemicals than technical food. This is not food, even if it’s “low-fat.”
I’ll repeat: This is not food.
I could get on my soap box and go on and on about this. But I’ve only got so much space, so just believe me when I say: Do your research.
Know how food as fuel is supposed to work.
And then stop buying denatured crap. Buy real stuff.
Focus on real food.
Do not focus on numbers and percentages and labels — if you really want to avoid the Standard American Diet (aka the SAD diet) don’t buy food with labels at all.
End soap box rant.
So, in light of this discussion, I’m going to share a recipe made with REAL food, that’s full of GOOD FAT.
It combines our Rolling Prairie CSA cherry tomatoes with fresh spinach, ripe raspberries, avocado, hemp seed and a simple drizzle of olive oil and white balsamic with a squeeze of lemon.
Healthy, real and most definitely not SAD.
Creamy and Sweet Summer Salad
2 handfuls baby spinach
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 6-ounce container of raspberries
1 tablespoon hemp seed, divided
1-2 avocado, divided
Good-quality olive oil (I used Extra Virgin's garlic-infused olive oil)
White balsamic vinegar (or regular balsamic)
Line the bottom of two salad bowls with baby spinach. Top with 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes and half a container of raspberries. Place 1/2 tablespoon of hemp seed in each bowl, along with 1/4 of a whole avocado. Drizzle with a small amount of olive oil, a splash of balsamic and finish with a bit of lemon juice. Enjoy. Serves 2.
What’d we get this week? The motherload of: slicing tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, hot peppers, bok choy, edamame, cantaloupe.
I always love the idea of eggplant.
And I have a very, very bad habit of neglecting them. I buy them, or pick them from my Rolling Prairie CSA choices, look at their glorious purple skins a tad bit too long and end up doing absolutely nothing with them.
It’s a total shame.
If not for the fact that my compost pile also gets their tasty little ruined forms, but for the fact that they happen to be one of the hubby’s favorite foods. The man loves eggplant Parmesan about as much as he loves apple pie.
But it is too dang hot to make eggplant Parmesan.
Yet, we ended up both buying some eggplant at the Lawrence Farmers' Market on Saturday and then ended up getting two eggplants, along with tomatoes (slicing and grape), cucumbers, melon and little sweet peppers) in our Rolling Prairie CSA last Monday.
And I knew I couldn’t just let four of these precious little beauties waste away.
So, we took to the Internet and found the perfect recipe. Used up all four eggplant in making this special dish not once but twice this week. And, thus, avoided dropping our purple beauties in the compost pile.
Grilled Eggplant Topped with Goat Cheese and Tomato (adapted from The Kitchn) serves 2
2 medium eggplants*
1/3 cup olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons honey balsamic vinegar OR 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar and a pinch of sugar
3 medium tomatoes, finely chopped
1 stalk Italian parsley, leaves only, minced (we didn’t use them)
Small handful fresh chives, chopped (we didn’t use them)
Salt and pepper
4 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
Slice the eggplants into rounds about 3/4-inch thick. Salt lightly and set aside. Heat the grill (or stove-top grill pan) to high heat.
Whisk together the olive oil and vinegar and lightly dunk the eggplant slices so each is moist with the oil. Place them on the heated grill and cover. Cook, turning halfway through, for 8-10 minutes, or until they are as soft as you prefer.
Meanwhile, toss the chopped tomatoes with the minced herbs and mix with just a little salt and pepper to taste.
In the last couple minutes of cooking, sprinkle each eggplant slice with a few crumbles of goat cheese and cook so that the cheese begins to soften. Remove the slices, top with the tomato mixture, and serve!
*Baby eggplants, or the long, skinny Asian eggplants, are best, but smallish purple globe eggplants will do.
What’d we get this week? Tomatoes (slicing and cherry), cucumbers, garlic, green beans, bell peppers, potatoes.
Usually my family food goals revolve around attempting to plan meals and using up everything in our fridge, but last week it was something else entirely.
I was determined to get as many bits of our last CSA box from Rolling Prairie into a single salad as possible.
Hey, it’s good to have goals, right?
So, what was I trying to shoehorn? Summer squash, edamame, watermelon, peppers, tomatoes, a cucumber and green beans.
We wanted to save the watermelon for dessert and the summer squash later to grill, so I threw the rest of the ingredients into a salad and called it good. (This is after boiling the green beans and edamame a bit, because they wouldn’t have been very tasty if we’d just thrown them directly in a salad, unfortunately.)
I'd say that pretty pic right there equals success.
Spoils of Summer Chopped Salad
1/2 avocado, chopped
One tomato, chopped, or 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
10 olives, halved
1/4 large cucumber, chopped
1/2 to 1 whole sweet pepper, chopped
Edamame, boiled and shelled
Green beans, boiled and trimmed
Dressing of choice
Optional: Chopped hard-boiled egg, goat cheese
Separate out all ingredients into two bowls. Enjoy. Serves two.
What’d we get this week? Tomatoes (slicing and grape), cucumbers, eggplant, melon and little sweet peppers.
So, I’m going to change things up a bit.
You see, last week we got a fabulous assortment of yumminess from our CSA, Rolling Prairie: Watermelon, tomatoes, snap peas, cucumbers, starter onions, yellow squash and peppers.
Everything was delicious. As can be expected. But I’m not going to write this week about any of those things.
Why? Because if you’ve just been following along, you know that for weeks when I describe how we use the potatoes we picked up from Rolling Prairie, I would say that we stored them. And I’m guessing if you have a CSA, you may have done the same thing.
So, this week we pulled out those stored potatoes and made some home fries to go along with one of our very excellent CSA meals.
And they were excellent. And addictive. And totally gone in a flash.
Pantry Potato Pieces
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Slice potatoes into quarter-inch thick slices, leaving the skins on. Place in a glass lasagna dish, toss in olive oil to coat and sprinkle on a bit of salt and pepper. Roast for 30 to 40 minutes, until golden brown. Remove and eat immediately. Servings vary based on size of potatoes.
What’d we get this week? Summer squash, edamame, watermelon, peppers, tomatoes, a cucumber and green beans.
If you try to eat healthy, travel can pose certain problems.
Not only temptation, but just plain logistics. It turns into a sort of either/or situation: Either you eat what’s available (and it probably won’t be healthy) or you have to lug your own food on your plane/train/automobile.
Neither are very appetizing choices, to say the least. They make it very easy to just say, “To heck with this, I’m on vacation!” and leave good intentions abandoned on the roadway for a week or two.
Now, I totally succumb to the “I’m on vacation, I deserve a treat” school of thought, for sure. But I try to do as good as I can most of the time, because I don’t want to feel like crap my whole vacation, which I know I would if I just ate chocolate the whole time (which I’d totally do if I could get away with it).
And, believe me, chocolate made it into the equation every single day of our week in Colorado for this vacation. But because we were driving, I felt like I could have a little more control over what I ate on the way out there and the way back.
There, I brought a salad from The Merc, and ate it as rest of my family munched on Quiznos. Probably not totally polite, but no one seemed to care. I would’ve eaten it outside if it had not been foggy and rainy and cool (in the 60s).
The way back, I was able to do double duty in that I used up leftovers and have a pretty awesome rest stop lunch. While the boys chose to make honey and peanut butter sandwiches to have on the drive, I had a salad (above) of baby spinach, a Hilary’s Eat Well veggie burger (formerly the veggie burger at Local Burger), roasted butternut squash and nearly finished store-bought, honey-mustard dressing.
Sounds weird, but tasted great, while sitting at a picnic table in Arriba, Colo.
Before and after lunch, I also had a couple of handfuls of car-friendly trail mix, very much like the one I snuck into "Skyfall."
There was some real chocolate eating, too, because it was vacation, of course. Most notably, my mother bought the kiddo a book on the bear who broke into the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory in Estes Park, Colo., last summer.
Thus, we then had to go to the store:
And buy the handy-dandy bag of goodies they sell sampling everything the bear ate:
As you can see, it was delicious.
So, what’d we get in this week’s Rolling Prairie CSA bag? Watermelon, tomatoes, snap peas, cucumbers, starter onions, yellow squash and peppers.
Before we get started on how to do nutritional double duty with not one but two kinds of squash in the same meal, I wanted to say thank you to all of you who contacted me with such positive things to say about my writeup on veggies and kids last week.
I heard from several of you who are also doing the very best you can, knowing that perfection just isn’t going to happen when we’re talking kids and food. If you want me to post more frequently on this topic, I most definitely will. Because children’s nutrition is obviously important, especially if it’s doable children’s nutrition.
So, thank you.
Now, to the matter at hand: how to gobble up all that CSA goodness, you’re surely getting/have gotten this week.
We’re more than halfway through the season, and it’s pretty clear from the variety coming in at local CSAs (we use Rolling Prairie) and at the Lawrence Farmers’ Market. As an example of variety, last week we received: blackberries, yellow squash, onions, potatoes, cherry tomatoes, Swiss chard, corn and cucumbers.
The cherry tomatoes and cucumbers were gone pretty darn fast, claimed by the kiddo, who helped “chop” the cucumbers with his kiddie butter knife.
The blackberries disappeared into a chocolate-spinach-banana-hemp seed smoothie.
The chard was juiced, the corn was boiled and the potatoes were stored.
But the squash and onions, they went into a delightful new dish I’m calling Double Squash Skillet.
This warm dish combines a baked spaghetti squash with an Italian-inspired saute featuring mushrooms, onions, garlic, marinara and a chopped yellow squash, for doubly squashy goodness.
Note: You will need to cook the spaghetti squash first. We do this by splitting it in half lengthwise, taking out the seeds, rubbing the edges with olive oil and then baking it on a parchment-lined cookie sheet at 425 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes.
Double Squash Skillet
1 spaghetti squash, baked, “noodles” scraped out with a fork
1 yellow squash, cut into half-inch pieces
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 pint button mushrooms, stems removed and sliced
1 ½ cups marinara
1 tablespoon oil for the frying pan (we used coconut oil)
Once the spaghetti squash has finished in the oven, heat oil over medium heat in a large frying pan/skillet/wok.
Add garlic and onion, stir for 1 to 2 minutes, until the onions start to become clear. Add the yellow squash. Wait a minute, stirring. Add the mushrooms and baked spaghetti squash. Stir until they’re heated through.
At the last minute, add the marinara. Keep stirring and cook until all the veggies are soft.
Take off heat and serve immediately. Serves: 4.
Every Monday when we pick up our CSA bag from Rolling Prairie, our 4-year-old son goes with us. And every Saturday when we go to the Lawrence Farmers’ Market, he goes too. And when we harvest (or work) in the garden, he’s out there, bending over the rabbit fence, checking to see how our peppers are doing.
He knows so much more about food than I ever did at his age. This is not a knock on my parents at all. I think I just wasn’t interested like I am now, and as he’s turned out to be.
And let me tell you: I’m so happy he’s interested. Because we’ve had a much easier time trying to get him to eat healthy, real food, I think because he knows what it is, sees where it grows and helps us pick it or buy it or lug it home from our CSA.
We’ve tried to be as transparent as possible with where food comes from, and I think finally it’s starting to rub off.
You see, I wouldn’t say our kid eats any better than yours.
It would be completely wrong of me to suggest he’s a little angel who thumbs his nose as ice cream while chowing down on kale. Truth is, he absolutely loves ice cream and only eats kale if I hide it in his morning smoothie (though, usually, he can tell it’s there and will tell me it’s “gross”).
At dinner, he’d prefer to have some form of cheese and carbs (quesadilla, grilled cheese, etc.) as his main meal with a side of fruit and avocado, followed by chocolate/ice cream/or nothing if he didn’t clear his plate. The vegetables he’ll eat out of hand — and usually with some sort of bribery involved — are pretty much limited to baby carrots, cooked peas and corn on the cob, if I’m being really honest.
But, every so often, we have a breakthrough.
You see that carrot pic? He hadn’t eaten a carrot like Bugs Bunny in a long time, but decided this week to go for it. He even peeled it himself.
Same goes for cucumbers and sweet peppers — he used to turn his nose up at them, but now he’ll eat them sliced and he’s happy to do so, no “if you eat five bites, you can have a chocolate chip,” type bribes. And most of that is thanks to our repeated growing and buying of those two vegetables locally. We must have offered slices of each to him a thousand different ways, and this summer, it’s finally taken.
I say all this because I posted that carrot pic on Facebook and one of my friends commented that it was really great that we were raising our kid to eat healthy foods. I think it’s sweet that someone thought we’re doing a good job, but here’s the thing: While we are raising him to eat healthy foods, he’s still a kid. And kids are notoriously willful about what they’ll eat.
He doesn’t eat junk — I firmly believe in avoiding having it around to begin with — but is he going to eat carrot a la Bugs every night? Probably not, even though that would be lovely if he did.
We do our best and that’s all we can do. Perfection would be, well, perfect. But balance is much, much more attainable. Even if it kills me to admit it.
So, this is my message to Lawrence parents, who probably fret, like I do, if our kids are eating healthy enough: Just try. And don’t beat yourself up if your kid doesn’t take to kale right away.
It’s easy when you read a blog about someone else’s life to think they’re perfect or at least pretending to be. I try to make this blog as accessible as I can, and I just thought I’d point out that though fruits and vegetables are king and queen of our household doesn’t mean we’re glaring at you for doling out ice cream sandwiches instead of watermelon on a hot day. Nobody should do that to anybody.
I’d much rather spend my energy on teaching my son about good food than yelling at him for enjoying something that isn’t idea.
Instead of expecting him to be perfect and non-ice-cream-sandwich-loving, we spend our time immersing him in the act of growing, picking and purchasing food than do trying to force-feed him kohlrabi. We also spend time making dinner with him and letting him help by stirring, peeling and just generally being a part of the whole eating process.
And that is working for us at this point.
So, of our CSA goodies from last week — kale, potatoes, green beans, onions, squash, broccoli, corn on the cob — how much did our son eat? Only the corn. Yep, and that’s OK. Even if it’s not perfect.
Our goodies this week? Cherry tomatoes, Swiss chard, yellow squash, cucumbers, onions, blackberries and potatoes.
We’re officially halfway through the CSA season, and therefore we’ve turned a corner where tomatoes are the norm, local sweet corn makes its brief appearance and basil goes with every meal.
Abundance is coming.
And it is both amazing and amazingly rough.
Having plenty is a fabulous feeling, but the worry of having it all go bad before you can use it all? As horrible as plenty is wonderful.
Some people deal with abundance by canning. The lovely Megan Stuke is fabulous at this. Me? I’m fairly certain I’ll give myself botulism if I so much as try canning. I’ve been trying to talk myself into trying it for years. Yet the fear wins out.
Here’s what I do instead with my abundance: Freeze it, dehydrate it or juice it.
Obviously, freezing it is the most accessible option. You just freeze something (like, say, cut-up local peaches) on a cookie tray lined with parchment, and when they’re nice and solid, transfer them to a plastic bag, remove the air and you’re done. This works with almost anything.
I’m lucky enough to have a dehydrator, and I often use it to dry out slices from local apples or pears, make zucchini or kale chips or dry out herbs like rosemary and basil.
But here’s the last abundance-eater, juicing: You get to enjoy you abundance IN THE NOW.
If you do it right.
Because here’s the thing. Last week, I juiced both my chard and my yellow squash received from our Rolling Prairie CSA pickup. Those probably sound like the worst things in the world to juice. Probably.
But: If you can train yourself to make vegetable juice, you can not only knock out your abundances, you can basically have a homemade vitamin shot in a pint glass.
Because all of this:
Can become this:
And, if you leave out the fruit, or at least keep it very minimal, like a tart apple or two, you won’t be sugaring up your system. I used to always put an apple or pear in my juices, but I’ve trained myself to just spice it up with lemon or lime juice to cut some of the “green” flavor. I also add ginger or garlic to make it taste different. And before you turn your nose up at garlic: If you juice some basil with it and add lemon, your juice might actually taste like pesto, which isn’t as bad as it sounds.
Now, a word about fiber: Yes, fiber is great for you. Eat it. But, no, your veggie juice will not have fiber. Make sure you get it, but, yes, you’ll be losing some of it here. I’m not a doctor, but personally, I think that’s fine as long as your juice isn’t some pear-apple-pineapple fruit bomb, that, while delicious, is pure sugar and vitamins. I’m no doctor, so that’s all I’m going to say about that (and what I’ve said is my opinion).
So, if you’re brave enough to try vegetable juice and own a juicer or have access to it, here’s a juice I made this week that I recommend as you try. You may find it disgusting, or you may end up craving it. But the more you drink, the cleaner your fridge will be, and the more food you will have eaten that didn’t go bad or get saved for later.
Summer Strong Green Juice
1 bunch kale, Swiss chard or romaine
1 head celery
2 cucumbers, zucchini or yellow squash (or a mix)
1 handful basil
1-2 carrots (if you want it sweeter)
1 clove garlic or 1 thumb ginger (if you’re brave!)
1 or 2 hefty squeezes of lemon (or run 1 to 2 lemons sans peel and pith through juicer)
Run ingredients through juicer. Guzzle.
Note: I also like to mix in my liquid probiotic. Because it’s sour, it goes well and helps the lemon to “cut” the green flavor.
So, what’d we get this week from Rolling Prairie? Kale, potatoes, green beans, onions, squash, broccoli, corn on the cob.
A few weeks ago, Karrey Britt and I were discussing all the ways one could serve beets. One of the ways we discussed was roasting them a la my balsamic veggies. But another way I hadn't tried was one so simple it seemed like a bit of trickery: Baked beets, no oil.
Just aluminum foil packets and a 375-degree oven.
Supposedly (so said the Internet), you don't even have to peel them — the skins will just slip right off after they finish cooking and cool.
Seems too good to be true, right?
Well, when we received the most adorable little beets last week in our Rolling Prairie CSA, I decided to give it a go, figuring it might be the perfect method (if it worked) for them.
So, I washed them, ripped off their spindly ends and put them in their foil packets, oven set at 375.
After an hour, I pulled them out, let them cool, unwrapped them and let them cool some more. When they were room temperature, I grabbed a butter knife to coax the skin off.
And you know what? It worked like a charm.
What took me so long to try this, I'll never know. But this will probably be my new go-to way of cooking them.
I enjoyed them in a lunchbox salad of baby spinach, local blackberries from the Lawrence Farmers' Market, walnuts, cashew goat cheese and then topped it all with honey mustard dressing.
What's we get this week? Chard, mushrooms, onions, potatoes, green beans, yellow squash and cherry tomatoes.
The week before last we achieved the foodie equivalent of Inbox Zero: Nada in the fridge.
I’m generally super horrible about this — buying and buying and buying until we have duplicates and triplicates and suddenly have to make massive batches of something just because I couldn’t say no to the kale at the store (true). Thus, my family works hard to keep up but are often tripped up by my nearly daily jaunts to the store and/or farmers market.
If I actually got through all my food in a reasonable fashion, I might seem a bit European, hitting up the market daily for fresh items to use that day. But as I’m an over-scheduled (by choice) American, I am, in reality, a food hoarder.
It’s a sickness, I tell you.
So what was different about the last week?
We went on vacation. (See above a pic of a beautiful lunch I had in Eugene, Ore.)
Therefore, we ate our way through the fridge with aplomb, trying to leave nothing exceptionally perishable behind. What we couldn’t eat (a few avocados, carrots, Brussels sprouts and items from the garden), we gave away to the good friend watching our dog.
Thus, we came back to a very empty fridge.
And, as you might imagine from my earlier description of my food-buying addiction, I love an empty fridge. Ooh, the things we can fill it with!
It’s tabula rasa as far as dinner is concerned.
How do I restock the fridge? It’s all about a list and what looks best. I should be more of a menu planner like my fellow columnist, Megan, but I we actually only get a chance to cook two or three meals per week, and thus I have a hard time staying on a schedule and menu (this is hard for me to admit). So, rather, I ran through the staples we didn’t have and mixed that list together with what looked amazing at the store.
A sample of what we ended up with:
From the Lawrence Farmers’ Market:
From the store:
Mangos (fresh and dried)
And, of course, I’m going to include the wonderful items we got from this week’s CSA:
Now, all these items mix with what we already have in our pantry and freezer. Don’t think this is all we eat as a family of three! Plus, I probably forgot something. I did go to the store three times before I wrote this.
Now, I must know: When you’re restocking the fridge, what is the one thing you can’t live without?
I might have a tiny, wee bit of an obsession with basil. Not only do I have four basil plants from starters in pots but I also plant some from seed every season as well. And then I freeze it or dry it or make it into pesto at summer’s end.
So, I was pretty excited when we received our first bit of basil at our Rolling Prairie CSA last week. I mean, I already had my basil plants on my deck, but actually getting it? Awesome.
We also got beets with greens, basil, head lettuce, snap peas, kale and broccoli. We steamed the broccoli and snap peas, juiced the beets and kale, and made salad with the head lettuce.
As for the basil, I’m not going to lie — some of it went in the green juice I made with the beets and kale (no, I’m not kidding), but we also used quite a bit in a little dish we were just playing with. We made stuffed portobellos, but called them “pizza mushrooms” so the kiddo would eat them.
And we let him help, which worked extremely well. Helping us cook motivates him to eat something like nothing else.
1 cup marinara
1 package baby bellas or 4 large portabella mushroom caps
1 (4 ounce) package goat cheese, crumbled and/or mozzarella
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil (or more)
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Spread the sauce in the bottom of glass baking dish. Arrange clean mushroom caps, gill side up, on top. Crumble goat cheese and or mozzarella on each mushroom. Bake for 30 minutes, or until hot and bubbly. Top with the chopped basil. Makes 4 servings. Serve alone or over baked spaghetti squash with more marinara and/or cheese.
OK, I realize peanut butter cookies do not seem like a CSA-friendly treat, but they are. Just stick with me.
You see, these peanut butter cookies use two ingredients you might see in your CSA or at the Lawrence Farmers' Market: honey and eggs.
Now, I didn't get either of those ingredients in my Rolling Prairie CSA last week. Rather, we got strawberries, snap peas, green onions, head lettuce, asparagus and Swiss chard. Those items were all accordingly eaten the normal ways: strawberries and snap peas out of hand, asparagus steamed, head lettuce and green onions in salad and the Swiss chard was juiced.
Now, I could've shared that juice recipe, but I know many of you don't have a juicer or the inclination to juice. Yes, I know my veggie juice is a tad bit inaccessible. Peanut butter cookies? Not so much. They're generally pretty easy to make, and, allergies not withstanding, they work well in large groups.
This recipe is an adaptation of a recipe given to me by my friend Dorian. They are super soft and chewy, plus they don't use any white sugar or flour, which is great if you're avoiding that sort of thing.
Honeyed Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies
2 cups peanut butter
3/4 cup local honey
3/4 maple syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 eggs or 2 flax "eggs" (2 tablespoons ground flax seed in 3 tablespoons hot water for each egg)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
Mix all ingredients in a medium bowl. The dough will be very wet. Scoop by the rounded teaspoon onto the parchment, leaving a good amount of space between each cookie.
Bake 8-10 minutes. When they start to brown, pull them out and let them "bake" about 5 to 10 minutes more on the warm cookie sheet before moving them to a cooling rack. They'll be very soft.
These freeze well, though they may stick together if not separated. Makes about 40 cookies.
What'd we get this week? Beets with greens, basil(!), head lettuce, snap peas, kale and broccoli.
The official start of summer is just over a week away. But that doesn’t mean we can’t pretend it’s already here.
I think we totally deserve some pretend summer action after having to deal with snow and frost in May. Right? Right.
So, we put our CSA salad greens from last week to work by taking a practice swing at a basic summer salad.
What makes it a basic summer salad, you ask? Tomatoes.
Yes, it’s not really tomato season, but the kiddo really, really likes grape tomatoes and so we bought some for him the other week. They aren’t as good as the ones we get in the height of summer, of course, but the kid will take what he can get. (Tomato monster: AHHHHH!)
We asked his permission for a few and put them on a bed of the beautiful salad mix we’ve been getting all season from Rolling Prairie. Added in some carrots and some garlic-stuffed olives, added a bit of EFA oil and balsamic and we were off to the races.
Delicious, easy, healthy and a sign of things to come.
As for everything else? In addition to the salad greens, we also got strawberries, Swiss chard, mushrooms, head lettuce and asparagus.
As you can imagine, the strawberries were pretty much finished the second they got home (thanks, kiddo). The asparagus was steamed, the chard and head lettuce juiced and the mushrooms stir-fried in one similar to last week.
Basic(ally) Good Salad
For each serving:
2 handfuls salad mix, baby spinach or chopped head lettuce
1 handful grape or cherry tomatoes
1 handful carrots
1 handful garlic olives, green olives or kalamata olives
Drizzle EFA or olive oil
Drizzle balsamic vinegar
Place all ingredients except oil and vinegar in a bowl. Toss. Top with oil and vinegar. Enjoy!
What’d we get this week? Strawberries and snap peas (gone before I could take a picture), green onions, head lettuce, asparagus and Swiss chard.