Mel’s Box – Week 16 & 17

Well, we have come to the end of our CSA box for the year. I’ve been really happy with the products that we received this season. Some old favorites returned and some new produce was introduced. This year was the first time that I ever cooked with fennel or tried locally grown melon. The various shoots (peas, radish, and sunflower) were also a welcome addition to our meals. I’m going to have to start going to the grocery store a bit more, although I will make an effort to get out to the Vancouver Winter Market on the weekend.

CSA box

Here’s what we received for the last two weeks of our CSA box.

Week 16

Carrots, Broccoli + Pepper: We had the pleasure of enjoying three dinners over the Thanksgiving weekend. On the Monday, my husband and I hosted a small group for a vegetarian meal. I made carrot ginger soup that looked more like tomato because we received purple skinned carrots (they are orange on the inside). Our main course was stuffed acorn squash, served with roasted red pepper and broccoli, both from our CSA box.

Celery: The celery and onion was used as part of the stuffing for the roasted squash. I sautéed it with shallots and herbs, then mixed with wild rice, hazelnuts and dried cranberries before roasting with the squash.

Chard: All the chard made it’s way into my miso, chili and ginger soup. I’ve been making this several times a week for a while now. Don’t worry – the recipe is coming.

Melon: I have never had melon from BC before! I’m not sure of the name, but it was small with bright yellow skin. On the inside it looked like cantaloupe, which is exactly what it tasted like.

Potatoes: I stored these in the pantry for now. I’m thinking soup later.

Shoots: Lovely garnish for our Thanksgiving soup and other meals throughout the week.

Winter Squash: This was a large one that I have saved for a rainy day. Like the potatoes, I think this will become a soup.

Week 17

Beets: I have these saved for now. The beets in my garden are almost ready, so I might make a big batch of borscht.

Carrots: These carrots were smaller than usual, but made for some good snacking throughout the week.

Delicata Squash: I roasted these and then made them into a soup. It went really well with gouda and apple grilled cheese and some great company. Thanks for the pop-in Kirst!

Fennel: I have this saved in the fridge still. I’m going to make the usual with it – braised sausage with fennel and potatoes. I guess last week’s potatoes won’t turn into soup after all.

Potatoes + Leeks: This week’s potatoes, however, will be soup. Classic leek and potato

Melons: Such a nice treat! These were the same as last week and made a lovely evening snack.

Apples: These apples went into gouda grilled cheese and were served with the soup mentioned above.

Peppers: I’ve just been snacking on these raw. Delish.

Spinach + Kale: Miso soup. Spinach, kale, chard – they all make great additions to this soup. And yes, the recipe is still coming.

Thanks so much for following along! I hope that you learned about some new foods and gained a bit of an appreciation for the seasonality of our local food. Perhaps next year you can sign up for your own CSA box. Don’t worry – I’ll be reminding you in the spring.

Fresh Pick Friday – Fennel

We are coming to the end of the fennel season here in BC, but I thought it would be fun to throw in something a little different to get us thinking outside the box.

Fennel

Fennel is a unique looking vegetable.  It is white and bulbous at the base with long green fronds that look a lot like dill.  All parts of the plant are edible, and the flavour is akin to anise and licorice.  It’s one of those foods that people either love or hate.

Season
Fennel is a cool season crop, but you can find it year round at the grocery store.  Here in the Lower Mainland, fennel is available from local farms from early June through to late October.  I’ve received several fennel bulbs throughout the summer this year in my CSA box.

Purchasing and Storing Fennel
Look for bright white bulbs that feel heavy for their size.  Keep fennel in your fridge, loosely wrapped in a plastic bag.  Fresh fennel from the farmers market will last up to 10 days when properly stored.

How to Use Fennel
The fronds are great added to salads or used for garnish on meat and fish dishes.  The stalks and bulbs can be thinly sliced and added to salads.  Grilled and braised fennel bulb is also a delicious.

Do you think you will give fennel a try?

Pumpkins, Gratitude, and Oh Yeah – My Box

It’s been a busy week!  Midterms, getting ready for long weekend festivities, the hubby returned from a two week hunting trip, and did I mention midterms?  A whole week has gone by without a post, so we have lots to catch up on.

First off, it’s Fresh Pick Friday, and with Thanksgiving Day this Monday (for those of us north of the 49th) and Halloween just around the corner, so I couldn’t help but think about pumpkins.

Pumpkin

pumpkinsThe pumpkin season in BC is short.  These gourds like to grow in a warmer climate, so planting typically happens in the spring and summer, leaving the harvest for October and November.  Pumpkins do overwinter well, but this time of year you are more likely to enjoy your pumpkin after turkey and cranberry sauce.  Of course, jack-o-lanterns are also fun to make.  Vancouver and the surrounding area have quite a few farms with pumpkin patches you can check out for some weekend family fun.  Here’s a few ways to enjoy pumpkin this fall:

How do you like your pumpkin?  Let me know in the comments below.

Gratitude

Something that I have never been particularly good at is gratitude.  Now, when I say that I don’t mean that I don’t appreciate things, or never say “thank you” to people who are kind or helpful.  I’m not an asshole.  What I mean is that constitutionally, I’m more of a glass-half-empty than a glass-half-full kind of person.  It takes a conscious mental shift for me to be the latter.

this guy is always grateful!

this guy is always grateful!

That’s why I like Thanksgiving.  It’s a built in reminder for me to take a moment and count my blessings and be grateful for the things I have.  Yes, I should do this more than once a year (and I do), but I like that we have entire day dedicated to this.  So, what am I thankful for?  Great friends, wonderful family, and my best friend in the whole world, my husband.  This guy has the gratitude thing down pat, and I don’t know what I’d do without him.

I’d probably turn into an asshole.

What are you grateful for this Thanksgiving?

Did You Know?

The first Thanksgiving to be celebrated in North America was held in Newfoundland by English explorer Martin Frobisher, who landed there in 1578 while looking for the Northwest Passage.  The celebration was to give thanks for Mr. Frobisher’s safe arrival in the New World.

Mel’s Box – Week 15

Only a couple of weeks left!  I can tell you one thing, I am grateful for the amazing food that our farmers have been providing us.  Here’s last week’s share and what was made with it:

Apples: I am saving these for this Monday.  I’m having a small group of friends over for dinner and the apples will be part of dessert.

Beets: I gave these a quick steam, made a batch of pesto with the tops, and mixed it all together with some roasted sweet potato and black beans.  It was the perfect dinner for one.

Eggplant + Peppers + Onions: I added these to my garlic and some canned tomatoes to make a stew.  It was nice to receive the eggplant so late in the season – it felt like summer hadn’t left just yet.

Kale: I made a huge batch of miso soup with mushrooms, garlic, onion, chili, ginger and kale.  It was dynamite!  I’ve been playing around with the recipe in smaller batches the last couple of days so that I can share it with you.  Good stuff for the yucky weather that is coming our way.

Potatoes:  Nothing yet, but the hunting trip was a success, so I see a lot of “meat and potatoes” in our future.  These will come in handy.

Have a great long weekend everybody!

Fresh Pick Friday – Cranberries

This week’s fresh pick is the tasty cranberry.  Fresh cranberries are crisp and tart, while dried cranberries are softer and sweeter.  Whichever one you prefer, cranberries are a versatile food that can add great flavour and nutrition to both sweet and savoury dishes.

Cranberries

According to the BC Cranberry Growers’ Association, the Fraser Valley and Vancouver Island produce over 82 million pounds of cranberries each year.  Most of the cranberries grown in BC make their way to the well known company, Ocean Spray, to be dried or made into juice.  In fact, about 90% of BC’s cranberries are exported to the USA.

Season and Harvest
As you might expect, cranberries are harvested in the fall, from mid-September to mid-November.  Cranberries do not grow on a bush or tree, but rather on low-growing vines.  They are harvested by two methods: wet and dry.  Wet harvesting involves flooding the cranberry fields the night before the harvest, allowing for easier collection of the cranberries.  Specialized machinery churns the water (kind of like an egg beater) loosening the cranberries from the stems.  The cranberries float to the surface of the water, and are then collected.  Dry harvesting is done either by hand or with machinery, but no water is used.  The cranberries are just plucked directly from the plants.

Purchasing Cranberries
There are only a few weeks left of the Vancouver Farmers Markets, where you can pick up some fresh cranberries (just in time for Thanksgiving).  The winter market starts up November 1st, and you might even be able to pick some up there too.  For my friends on Vancouver Island, Yellow Point Cranberries, just outside of Ladysmith is open 7 days a week until December.  Be sure to check them out!

How to Store Cranberries
Fresh cranberries are very firm to the touch and should bounce when dropped (although I don’t recommend testing this out at the market).  They will range in colour from light to dark red.  You can store cranberries in a sealed bag in the refrigerator for up to two months.  Be sure to check the bag often though, as one spoiled berry will ruin the whole bunch.

What to Make with Cranberries
I highly recommend skipping the can and giving fresh, homemade cranberry sauce or compote a try this Thanksgiving.  Dried cranberries make a great addition to salads or as a topping to steel cut oats.  Here are some other recipes using fresh cranberries:

What’s your favorite way to enjoy cranberries?

Mel’s Box – Week 14

I can’t believe it’s October already! This evening I actually have the fireplace on. I know, I know – it’s not that cold, but the squashes in our CSA box have changed from the summer variety to the winter variety in the last couple of weeks, and that’s my cue for warm, cozy things.

Here’s what we received in week 14:

carrot soup for an afternoon snack

carrot soup for an afternoon snack

Carrots: Last week I shared a recipe for Carrot, Ginger, and Cardamom soup and I can’t stop making it! The carrots in my garden are almost ready, so I’ll have lots for the freezer this year. Some friends of mine have mentioned trying it out with squash, so I think I might give that a go too.

Chard: We received a large bunch of rainbow chard in this week’s CSA share. I have sautéed some of it and chopped up the rest into ribbons to add into salads and soups.

Chicory: This is another name for endive. Normally in the store you see just the small, middle part of the chicory. The head we got was large and looked more like a cross between savoy cabbage and romaine lettuce. Our CSA newsletter included a recipe for braised chicory, so I gave that try. It was quite nice.

Cilantro: I’ve been adding this to salads all week and made a small batch of guacamole, using the tomatoes we received.

Grapes: I didn’t know what to do with these and they were very, very ripe. The flavour was strong, more like a concord grape, so I froze them. I think I will end up eating them like that (frozen grapes are an awesome treat) or making a jam.

Lettuce: Salad, salad, and more salad. Just a few more weeks of these nice summer lettuces and then I think we will be on to the hearty greens only throughout the winter.

Peppers + Tomatoes: I added these to the previous week’s summer squash and some onion and potato that I had in the pantry for one last summer stew. It’s on to the heavier foods now, and to be honest, I am looking forward to it.

green tomatoes_brightGreen Tomatoes: I added one to the guacamole I made and threw the other into the stew.

Shoots: I have continued to add these to salads, soups, and sandwiches. They are so good to have on hand that I am thinking about growing shoots and/or sprouts through the winter after our CSA is done.

Spaghetti Squash: I love using spaghetti squash in place of, well – spaghetti! I just cut them in half, remove the seeds, and roast skin side up for 30-45 minutes at 350, depending on the size of the squash. Once cooked and slightly cooled, I scoop out the flesh and serve with pasta sauce or pesto.

Have you noticed the change of seasons in your cooking? What foods are you making now that you weren’t in the summer?

Fresh Pick Friday – Potatoes

Potatoes have developed a bad reputation over the years.  Some varieties have a high glycemic index, and they are usually shunned by those following a low carb diet.  Personally, I think that potatoes can be part of a healthy diet, so long as you steer clear of French fries (so hard, I know) and keep the skin on when you cook them.  Most of the potatoes nutrients are found in the skin.

Potatoes

If you are from BC you probably know about the mighty Pemberton potato.  The Pemberton Valley, which is located north of Whistler, was designated a Seed Potato Control area in 1947, ensuring that the potatoes grown in this area remain virus free.  More than 30 varieties of potato are grown in the region.

Season
Potatoes are relatively easy to grow.  New potatoes, which are harvested when the tuber is still young, are available in the early summer.  Potatoes that are grown for storage, or use through the winter, are harvested in the fall.

Purchasing Potatoes
Potatoes are still available at your local farmers market and you won’t have any trouble finding them at your larger chain store year-round.  The Russet is best for baking or mashing, while yellow-fleshed varieties make the best ‘all-purpose’ potato.  For variety in flavour and nutrient content, try red-skinned or purple-fleshed potatoes.  Look for potatoes that are firm and avoid ones that have sprouts or a greenish-tint to their skins.  At home, be sure to store potatoes in a cool, dry place.

What to Make with Potatoes
I love my potatoes boiled and drizzled with olive oil, salt, pepper and some rosemary.  When prepared this way, they taste great cold the next day too!  Here are a few of my favorite potato recipes.

How do you like to eat your spuds?

Mel’s Box – Week 13

Last week went by fast! This time of year always seems to fly by for me. I didn’t get a shot of last week’s CSA share, but I don’t think you’ll have a hard time imagining what it would look like.

Here’s the breakdown from this week’s share:

Apples: I was really excited to receive these! I will be making into a pie or crisp next week. Right now the apples are holding up fine in the crisper.  For more information about storing apples, check out last Friday’s Fresh Pick post.

Carrots: I made a Carrot, Ginger and Cardamom Soup with this week’s batch. The soup turned out great, so I will likely be making it again with the carrots from my own garden when they are ready.

Kale: We had one last dinner outside with the neighbours this past weekend. I made a kale salad with edamame, carrot, red pepper and a soy-ginger dressing.

Leeks: I’ll be using the leeks in my second round of carrot soup.

Peppers: These went in the kale salad mentioned above.

Plums: Two types of fruit this week! This is not typical of most CSA boxes I know. Yummy on their own.

Potatoes: I roasted these with herbs and olive oil for our dinner outside.

Radishes: The radishes were small compared to the ones we received earlier in the season. I grated them on a couple of salads for crunch and crispness.

Tomatoes: This batch of tomatoes were really good. I’m not sure the variety – they were like mini Roma tomatoes. I had them with ricotta cheese on toast for breakfast a few days this week. The rest went into salads.

Garlic: Flavour for soups, salad dressings and a stew.

Shoots: Soup garnish and salads.

Summer Squash: I still haven’t cooked this one. I think I will roast it with some other vegetables that I get this week. Maybe one last summer stew.

How are you feeling now that fall has arrived?  Are things getting busy for you?

Carrot, Ginger & Cardamom Soup

Fall has officially arrived. I love this time of year; the mornings are dewy, the evenings crisp, and the air is blustery. It’s time of year to get cozy and enjoy things that make us feel warm, from the inside out. I have a recipe for you that will do just that. This soup won’t have you slaving over the stove all day and you can bet it will fire up your inner furnace!

carrot and ginger soup

Carrot, Ginger & Cardamom Soup
Makes 8 Cups

Ingredients
1 tablespoon olive oil 1/2 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 cup minced ginger
6 large carrots, chopped (about 4 cups)
4 cups vegetable stock
2 pods cardamom (or 1/2 teaspoon ground)
1 can coconut milk
Salt and pepper, to taste

Preparation

  1. Heat olive oil over medium-low heat. Add onion, garlic, and ginger and cook until the onion is translucent, about 5-7 minutes.
  2. Add carrots and stir to mix well and let cook for 2 minutes. Add the vegetable stock and cardamom, and increase the heat to high. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat to low, and let simmer for 15 minutes until the carrots are soft.
  3. Add the coconut milk and stir to combine. Let simmer for 5 more minutes and season with salt and pepper.
  4. Turn off the heat and puree the soup very carefully, either with an immersion blender or working in batches in a regular blender. Return the soup to the pot, reheat, and serve.

What is your favourite fall soup?

Fresh Pick Friday – Apples

When most people think about September, apples come to mind.  They are associated with the start of the school year and the beginning of fall.  They are also associated with good health.  As the saying goes, “an apple a day, keeps the doctor away.”  In truth, it’s not quite that simple, but apples do provide nutritional benefits.  They are an excellent source of soluble fibre and even provide a modest amount of Vitamin C.

Apples

According to the Ministry of Agriculture, the Okanagan produces 98% of BC’s apples, or just under 30% of all Canadian apples.

Season
The apple season in BC is typically from August through October with most apples making their way to market unprocessed.  Apple juice and apple sauce are common processed foods made from apples.  There are 15 common varieties commercially grown in BC, although you can find other varieties at your local Farmers Market.

Purchasing Apples
Many producers keep apples in long-term storage that uses a modified atmosphere (they change the composition of atmospheric gases) to extend the apples’ shelf-life.  That’s why you can find a nice crisp apple at the grocery store in the middle of January.  Look for apples that are firm, with smooth skin and no bruising.  If you have ever seen an apple tree in someone’s back yard you probably know that apples don’t always grow perfectly.  Don’t shy away from a less than perfect apple, just know that it might not keep for as long.  I like to bake with the “ugly” ones.

How to Store Apples
Apples like the cold – plain and simple.  They will ripen ten times faster if kept out at room temperature.  A little bit of humidity helps too, so keep them in your crisper with a damp paper towel.  Here’s a good article on storing apples at home from The Kitchn.

What to Make with Apples
Is there anything better than warm apple pie with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream?  Here’s a few for you to try:

Do you prefer to eat your apples whole or use them in baking?

Mel’s Box – Week 12

Well, I have to say that since school has got underway my time spent experimenting in the kitchen has been dramatically reduced. I am, however, grateful for my full freezer. Consequently, there are not a lot of great ideas for you this week. I’ll work on this for next time.

CSA box week 12

Beets: I just roasted the beets this week, cut them into cubes and had them for lunch. This is a good way to have some go-to veggies on hand in your fridge.

Cabbage: I made kimchi out of last week’s cabbage, so this week’s is still in the fridge. Thankfully, cabbage lasts a long time. Not sure what I am going to make – either a large batch stir-fry or coleslaw for next week.

Cucumber: There have been a lot of salads for lunch, and the cucumber is coming in handy for this. We received a big one so I was able to have a little bit every day.

Onions: Last night I made a huge batch of jambalaya for dinner and lunches and this onion worked beautifully.

Peppers: These went in salads and a stir-fry.

Plums: I am loving these! They are the small prune plum variety that you are probably seeing around the grocery store and farmers market. They would be really good in a salad with roasted beets, but I keep devouring them on their own before I get the chance!

Pumpkin: There is no denying that Fall is on the way now! I can’t decide if I want to make puree, soup or stew with this pumpkin. Whatever I make, I will share the recipe with you for sure.

Romaine Lettuce: Salad. I totally missed an opportunity for lettuce wraps.

Sunflower Shoots: Salad. I might become a rabbit soon.

Tomatoes: Um, would you hate me if I said salad again?

Salad. Are you ready for some warm comfort foods, or what?