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April 28, 2018
Back in the Kitchen
A Note from the Farmer's Wife
Come midsummer I might take salad with a ho-hum attitude (note that I said “might”) towards salad, but right now the return to our homegrown bounty is a relief. Some may call me a veggie snob, but I truly believe nothing tops fresh picked baby lettuce and radishes…except the summer heirloom tomatoes!
Everyday I think about the obstacles that keep me from eating 8-10 servings of vegetables daily - not an easy thing to accomplish, even for the Farmer’s Wife! I see the issue as two-fold. First is the ready access to fresh produce that inspires the palate. Second, is the time and know-how needed to prepare the vegetables in a way that satisfies the family. I am always looking for creative and simple ways to incorporate more vegetables into my family’s diet.
Of course the first step to eating more vegetables is to buy, or grow, local produce. The flavor and nutrient value will leave your kids asking for more. Personally, I think Red Earth veggies are the best and there is nothing like getting my box each week (yes, I really am a CSA member - with benefits!). Each week I eye up my box with the goal of finishing it before the next one arrives. It becomes a personal challenge that rewards me with a feeling of health and vitality.
The second step to eating more vegetables is to take some time to do some vegetable prep before your busy week begins. Wouldn't you be more likely to cook at home and use more vegetables in your meals if your refrigerator was full of perfectly washed, chopped and stored veggies just waiting for you? True you still have to do the washing, chopping and storing in advance unless you're lucky enough to have a sous chef, but this can be done especially if you make it fun with your kids. My daughter has her special own chopping knife that is kid safe and yet effective enough she feels involved. Her involvement inspires her to eat more vegetables either while she's chopping or later when they land on the plate.
Ideally, you have done some menu planning before your CSA box arrives, but if you are like me, you probably haven’t. That means the box dictates your meals, or to put it more poetically provides inspiration. On CSA day, when you come home with your bag of goodies, stop before you shove the entire bag in the fridge and sit down with a beer. Instead, follow these steps to ensure that you will be using this fresh bounty to the best of your ability.
1. Assemble your tools: Clear off a bit of counter space, center a cutting board and line up a series of glass or plastic containers or various shapes and sizes. Have one large chopping knife, and 1 small paring knife and maybe a pair of scissors handy. A roll of paper towels and a salad spinner are also helpful.
2. Assess your CSA box and determine which items might be used for healthy snacking, which might be used for soup, salad or stir fry, and which might be used for smoothies or juicing. If you are already stuck for ideas, fear not, I will be addressing these choices in later posts.
3. Chop items for snacking into bite-sized pieces. I like to place mine in a glass container so they are visible and enticing to refrigerator perusers.
4. Chop soup, stir fry or steamable items and store in glass or plastic containers with lids or ziplock bags. Some items, such as broccoli and carrots can be tossed into the freezer for future soup. Diced onions and crushed garlic can be stored tossed with a little lemon juice, salt and olive oil and stored in fridge or freezer.
5. Wash lettuce or salad mix, spin in salad spinner, and place in plastic container lined with a paper towel. You will be amazed how fresh it will keep. Be aware however that salad mix is more perishable than stiff head lettuce like romaine. Always use salad mix first. In fact I almost always use the salad mix on CSA night. It is only one day old and so packed with flavor it needs little else to make it tasty. In the spring I slice a little radish, add grapefruit sections and a bit of avocado for a refreshing side dish.
6. Smoothie and juicing items can be washed and stored in ziplock bags lined with paper towels, or you can get the juicier out, juice and freeze in single serving containers.
Yes, this takes time, but it might be only 15 minutes now and the rest of your week is streamlined. And yes, produce that has been chopped does lose some nutritional value, but not as much as produce that you never eat.
If you haven't already, get started with Step 1, support a local farm and join Red Earth Farm CSA