Category: What’s in the Box?
Photo credit: iStockPhoto
Many of you might know me as one of the convention staff and Operations Manager for our sister company, J&M Botanicals. While Jessie and Cassie S. are at Trinity College in Ireland for a conference on medicinal botanicals, I get a chance to guest blog.
taken from The Vintage Remedies Guide to Real Food
Eggplant is nearly 90% water, making them great for dieters. Potassium is their primary nutritional contribution, but they make a popular vegetarian main dish due to the fact they absorb contents and flavors well.
Their medicinal values are great, however. In China, they are not recommended for pregnant women as they are clearing to the uterus. These actions, while not ideal for pregnancy, are good for other female complaints, including STDs, cysts, tumors and irregular cycles. Many experts in Chinese medicine suggest eggplant for these common female concerns.
Okay, I’ll admit it. I don’t like eggplant unless it’s fried. During my first trimester with Baby #2, my sister made Baba Ganoush with lots of garlic. The morning sickness ensued, and I haven’t eaten it since. Then, I joined a CSA, and July arrived with my foe: eggplant. For my cholesterol’s sake, I can’t make Eggplant Parmesan each week, so Jessie and I came up with something new. We hope you enjoy it as much as Baby #3 does!
Eggplant “Meat”Balls with Spaghetti Squash
*Gluten Free, Casein Free, Nut Free
- 1 1/2 lbs. eggplant, peeled and coarsely chopped
- 1 1/2 lbs. zucchini, peeled and coarsely chopped
- 1/2 cup chopped onion
- 3 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1/3 cup sunflower seeds
- 2 Tablespoons organic yellow miso paste
- 1 1/2 cups oat flour (or breadcrumbs if gluten is not a concern)
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
Place chopped eggplant in a large bowl and toss with a generous dusting of sea salt (about 2 teaspoons) and olive oil (about 2 tablespoons). Allow the eggplant to absorb the salt and oil for about 15 minutes while you prepare the other ingredients.
Place prepared eggplant and zucchini in a food processor and pulse until completely pureed. This may take multiple batches. Combine pureed eggplant and zucchini in a large bowl. Place onion, garlic, sunflower seeds and miso paste in a food processor to form a paste. Add onion paste and oat flour/breadcrumbs to eggplant mixture. Using a large wooden spoon or your hands, combine the ingredients. The texture should be slightly sticky and just slightly more moist than raw meatball mixture. Gently fold in the basil.
Form eggplant mixture into small golf-ball size balls and place on a greased baking sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for 35 minutes or until lightly browned.
Forming the “meat”balls
For a more decadant treat, fry “meat”balls in a heat stable oil until crispy.
Once cooked, serve over roasted spaghetti squash topped with your favorite tomato sauce and grated cheese!
Roasted Spaghetti Squash
Baby #3 Approved!
This week’s box contains: more kale – both the Red Russian and curly green, some more lettuce, several small summer squash, one large zucchini, a huge cucumber, a beautiful head of cabbage, a bunch of green onions and – my daughter’s favorite – some broccoli! Still quite green, but you can tell the subtle variations of the season are now appearing. While the green cabbage was definitely a fun one – and in the weeks to come, I’ll be showing you how to make much more than that same boring cole slaw, I had been waiting anxiously for the cucumber. And I waited even longer to run by the Farmer’s Market on Saturday to grab a couple of extras before sharing them with you.
While cucumbers are great raw, with or without dips and alone or atop a big (green) salad, I’ve been craving some fried pickles and was eager to get a batch going. Yes, fried foods can be “real foods” – the secret is all in the technique. And I have an amazing fried pickle recipe – seriously amazing! Regardless, I’ve still got a few weeks before I can enjoy these babies. For now, they are settling in the fridge, mellowing in all kinds of juicy tangy goodness, as they turn from cucumber slices to crisp pickles. When I fry them, I’ll let you know. Of course, you’ll want to get your own batch going so you’re ready. It is simple, relatively quick, and absolutely worth the effort!
First, slice the cucumbers. Personal preference dictates the thickness, but I like to keep mine under 1/8 inch so they don’t get that slimy texture later. Whatever you decide, make sure they are uniform so they’ll be ready at the same time! Set all the slices in a big bowl. I used 4 cucumbers, but you can easily adjust the recipe to match your crop.
In a saucepan, combine equal parts of vinegar and water. (You’ll want to use the natural apple cider vinegar, not the distilled white stuff, which is unsuitable for food use.) For each cup of water and vinegar, use 1 T pickling spice (make your own below), 3 T pickling salt (no need to go buy something new – give your sea salt a shir in the blender and you’re all set) and a tablespoon or two of sugar (of course, natural and organic) For my 4 large cucumbers, I used 2 cups apple sider vinegar, 2 cups water, a scant 1/4 cup sugar, 1/3 cup salt and 2 T pickling spice.
Bring to a boil then pour over the sliced cucumbers. Don’t worry if you don’t seem to have enough to cover them. The cucumbers will soften and you’ll find you had plenty of the mixture. Place a cloth over the top of the bowl and leave them to sit until they are cool. (First pic is right after I poured the mixture over the slices; the second is after they had cooled.)
Get your jars ready. Don’t worry – we won’t be canning these! They go in the fridge. Make sure they are clean and I like to add about a half a teaspoon of dill weed into the bottom of each jar for a little extra flavor.
When the cucumbers are cool, begin stacking them in the jars, making sure to stuff them well without overpacking your jars. Leave about 1/4 – 1/2 inch of room at the top. Make sure the pickles are covered with the vinegar mixture. Place your lids on top and stick in the fridge.
They can be used within a week, but are better if you can be patient for about a month. They can spoil, so make sure they are gone by 12-13 weeks.
Pickling Spice – You can take your chances with a spice blend. I personally love the Frontier brand. Or you can just toss together your own. Don’t worry if you don’t have every single spice in the mix – use it as your chance to personalize the blend and make it your own! Toss in something else you love that you have on hand. I usually aim for: 1-2 T dill seeds or weed, 1-2 T mustard seeds or about 1 t powder, 1/2 t red pepper flakes, 1 t cloves or a dash of clove powder, 3-5 bay leaves, 1/2 t cinnamon, 2 t coriander and about 1 T peppercorns (whole). This makes quite a bit, so if you make a batch now, it will last all season.
So there’s my box this week. Full of everything green – more kale, lettuce, chard (red and green), bok choy and some strawberries. And yes, that IS a lot of greens! This might be the first time CSA newbies wonder just what they’ve gotten themselves into! Sure, there is a great variety – but still – this is a lot of greens. And I’ll admit – it is right about now that I start craving the juicy tomatoes I know I’ll tire of just as quickly. But, here’s the thing about CSAs: they help us to eat seasonally. Eating with the seasons is not just a feel good eco-conscious trend of the moment. Eating seasonally is more in line with how our bodies were designed to eat. As a wellness professional, I often spend quite a bit of time harping on natural and real foods. I even wrote a book on the subject. <ahem> BUT, that is only the first part. There is a good reason certain foods are available certain times of the year. Right now, had we been born into any century other than this one, we would be downright giddy at the new sprouts coming out of the ground. Because we would have just spent the winter gulping down root vegetables and other foods that had been “put up” for the winter. We would be worn out from fighting off winter bugs and excited to enter this new season. Our bodies would be sluggish from our mini hibernation and these cleansing greens are the perfect remedy. There are many things all of these green have in common. Primarily – they are fantastic detox foods! Spring veggies have a short shelf life – unlike squash or potatoes of the fall – and they are filled with water, micronutrients and fiber to flush our bodies clean.
While we may not have existed primarily on stored foods and root veggies all winter, we did just finish up a string of indulgent holidays from Thanksgiving to Valentine’s Day. We spent months with our windows tightly shut (which keeps our air filthy), fighting off H1N1 and numerous other concerns and our kids are wrapping up another stressful year of schooling. Our bodies are just as in need of a detox as our ancestors, and a great way to gently detoxify the body – something I’m a HUGE fan of – is to add some greens to the diet daily.
So, there you have it. Want to really spring clean inside and out? Eat your CSA greens – all of them! And here’s how:
The kale, bok choy and chard can often be used interchangeably in recipes. If you have a favorite that calls for one, you can always sub another. Or, you can do what I like to do and use a blend of them.
While they are all great when cooked, I felt like something a little more simple tonight, so I went with this recipe – one of my favorites – with a few alterations.
I used my lettuce, chard and kale this time – just a few pieces of each. Then I added the green apple and celery – both of which are also great liver boosting, cleansing foods.
I whisked my vinaigrette – using whole grain mustard instead of the ground for a deeper flavor. Again – purifying vinegar, healthy and fresh olive oil and natural maple syrup – which is definitely a superfood.
And of course, I glazed my pecans with maple syrup – one of my favorite treats.
I tossed it all together, topped with some artisan croutons from a local bakery and added the bleu cheese on top just for fun. Start to finish = 12 minutes. And I’ve got a fun and surprisingly filling meal that is packed full of nutrients! Lots of iron, fiber, B vitamins, calcium, chromium, vitamin A, potassium, zinc, vitamin K, protein, magnesium, chlorophyll and amazing phytonutrients that help increase eyesight, cleanse the body, support heart health, balance the blood sugar, and yes, prevent many forms of cancer.
Still wondering what to do with the rest of your greens? Try making green smoothies by tossing them in a blender with some berries and a little juice. You could also saute them and toss into just about any favorite pasta. Or, combine with sun dried tomatoes, feta and some basil for a fun and unique pizza topping. The combination of flavors and textures is amazing.
Before I describe the contents of this box to you, I’ve got to tell you a little about how much work it took to get this box to me. Those of you outside of the Nashville area may have missed this, but just over two weeks ago, we experienced unimaginable devastation due to unprecedented flooding. It has been called a thousand year flood, the worst thing to hit Tennessee since the Civil War and even the most expensive non hurricane natural disaster in the US. Fortunately, most people escaped harm, but the same cannot be said for homes and businesses. Our farmers lost around 70% of their crops. Despite their best efforts to save them, the flood waters simply came too high, too fast. However, to repeat what seems to have become our rally cry over the last two weeks – We are Nashville! They wasted no time jumping right back into the fields, readying them for transplants from the greenhouse and working furiously to replant everything that was lost. As I picked up my box on the farm, I saw everyone out in the fields planting and replanting what had been lost. What this means to me, their member, is that the only impact a thousand year flood will have on my CSA box is that some produce might come later in the season than it would have. So, while I am always eager to get my hands on the first box of the season, this one is especially enjoyable, as it reflects the hard work and determination that farmers across the country put into their work so that we can enjoy fresh and healthy foods.
Now, on to the contents. My box is – as usual – filled with some amazing foods. I’ve got strawberries, kale, green onions, fall potatoes, arugula and lettuce. Some of these are no brainers, like strawberries and potatoes. If you don’t know what to do with strawberries, I’ve got two words for you: balsamic vinegar. Pour about a half a cup of the best quality you can afford into a saucepan over medium heat until it thickens and become syrupy. Cool and drizzle over the berries for a treat like nothing else. Of course, that’s for the adults. My kids eat the berries fresh from the fridge when they think I’m not looking…
The arugula is something we’ll come back to. I’m a big fan of arugula and have dozens of great recipes that need it. Including this one, a lunchtime favorite of mine. (If you click the link, excuse the “mess” as we’ve got some revisions to our websites in the works.)
So, for today, let’s talk kale. Why? Because I’m guessing half of you have never tried kale. Maybe I’m underestimating, but seriously – when have you ever eagerly asked if your CSA box would include plenty of kale? I’ve never seen anyone as excited about fresh kale as say, strawberries. If I had to guess which food in this box is most likely to rot in the average home, kale is my first pick.
Which is sad because kale is an extremely nutrient dense food. It was enjoyed by peasants throughout the middle ages, proving once again that the food of the poor was usually better than the “rich” and refined foods. It is packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and various phytonutrients.In one cup of cooked kale, you can find over 1,300% of the RDA for vitamin K, nearly 200% of the RDA of vitamin A, and over 23,000 mcg of lutein!
You’ll also find many of the B vitamins here, which are important to the modern diet because coffee and alcohol consumption tend to deplete B vitamin stores. B vitamins tend to help improve emotional and mental health as well as cognitive functioning, so many people could benefit from an increase in these water soluble vitamins. It is also rich in calcium, making it a great food for those dairy free families out there. It is part of the cabbage family, so it has natural anticancer compounds, something we can all benefit from, it helps to boost the immune system and it is packed with antioxidants.
Kale can be served raw, but it also contains goigrogens, which are inactivated by cooking, so those with thyroid problems would benefit most from cooked kale. To try it raw, simply tear the leaves and toss them into your favorite salad. Kale is much more diverse than your average lettuce, though. It also blends well with a number of foods from salads to pizza to pasta. Try tossing it with some sun dried tomatoes, basil and savory cheese onto a pizza crust for something different – or try this dish, which my family enjoyed last night.I absolutely love it because it is homemade fast food – ready in about 15-20 minutes tops.
(Taken from the brand new Vintage Remedies Guide to Real Food, page 166)
(The kale I received was Red Russian Kale, but you can use any kale for this. As you can see, I had a huge bunch of it, so I’ll be enjoying more kale this week!) Begin by compiling the ingredients:
1/2 pound farfalle pasta, cooked
1 T olive oil
1 cup chopped kale
1 cup chopped peppers (your choice, bell work well)
1 T chopped garlic
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves
dash salt and pepper
8 ounces crumbled chevre
Notes: You can chop the kale and peppers however you like. I’ve found that if you have a picky family, chopping the veggies into smaller bits makes them more approachable. I still chop mine into fairly small bits as you can see below. Chevre is goat cheese and you can often find fresh chevre at the farmer’s market. We have several here and the cheese is worth every penny. If you can’t get your hands on some, try using regular feta.
Saute the peppers with the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Once tender, add the garlic and kale, and continue to cook for 5 minutes. The kale will wilt slightly as you can see.
Add the pasta, cheese and basil. Serve immediately.
And there you have it. Quick, easy and amazingly good. Enjoy!
Wondering what to do with all of that organic goodness in your CSA box each week? Or perhaps you’re the one that didn’t even join a CSA this year because you’re not sure what to do with 5 pounds of zucchini? Stay with me; I’ve got you covered. Each week, I’m going to show you what’s in my box. Contrary to what you may have been told, a CSA box includes a huge variety of produce! Our farmers (Delvin Farms for those of you that are local) grow over 80 varieties of heriloom and traditional vegetables – yes eighty! So, no, I won’t be showing you what to do with 5 pounds of zucchini, because I’m pretty sure I’ve never received that much at one time. But, I will show you what kind of yummy veggies you can actually expect to find in a CSA box – and perhaps even more importantly, I’ll show you what to do with it!
Yes, really. One of the biggest benefits to a CSA – seasonal and local eating – can also be incredibly impractical to our palates that are accustomed to enjoying tomatoes in January and strawberries in October. While we all wait impatiently for that first bright tomato in our box, after the third week of tomatoes, bruchetta and sandwiches are becomming tired! I’ve been there; I know. I really do!
So, with the arrival of each box, I’ll show you step by step how to prepare some amazing and unique dishes with the food that is currently in season. I’ll give pictures, instructions and – of course – my personal comments. You don’t have to be a part of my farmer’s CSA to enjoy the recipes – what I’m enjoying in my box is probably not that different than what you’re finding in your box. And if you didn’t take the plunge this year, you can find everything at your local farmer’s market – and gain the confidence to sign up for a regular share next spring!
I pick up my boxes at the farm on Wednesdays, so you can look for the next post in the series either Thursday or Friday. Our CSA begins this Wed, so the first post will be later this week. Stick around!