Tag Archives: Fruit and Vegetable

Food Saving in Portions

Sweet potatoes are good keepers, so there’s often little point to canning or freezing them. This week, though, Thadd made a very special Sweet Potato Pie using roasted potatoes, and I am not one to waste oven space. So, I stuck 8 sweet potatoes into the oven.

Perfect Roasted Sweet Potatoes

-Wash and dry potatoes

-Pierce with a fork. Smaller potatoes 4-5 times, larger up to 9 times

-Brush with a light coat of olive oil.

-Please directly on wire rack in 400 degree oven for 45 minutes. (Note: put something such as foil on the tray below the potatoes to catch the drippings, or you’ll have all kinds of smoke).

-Turn off oven, allow to cool until you can easily handle the potatoes.

This yields some of the creamiest sweet potatoes ever, a great substitute for the charring method our friend Dave introduced us to (which we still do, but we weren’t using the grill for anything this time). In fact, I am going to use some of them to make gnocchi in the near future.

I packed the oven full of 8 potatoes because I don’t like turning on the oven and using that much energy for one thing. So, the rest of the potatoes that didn’t go into the pie were mashed, portioned into the one-cup blobs on a wax-papered cookie sheet you see above, and the sheet was put into our deep freeze. Once the blobs are frozen, they’ll go into Food Saver bags for later use in gnocchi, pie, or other things.

We do this saving-in-portions thing with a lot of foods. It makes it easier for us to cook, meaning we’ll stick to our meal plans more readily.  Just grab and go!

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Gardening! It’s the Thought That Counts.

We are very lucky to have awesome landlords who let us till up (actually, helped us till up) about a third of our backyard for a garden. It happened late last year because they hadn’t realized we wanted a garden, and we hadn’t realized they’d be okay with us doing something so dramatic. This meant we didn’t have time to do our own starters, or even plan much, though it all turned out well in the end. Who can argue with fresh heirloom tomatoes right out of the backyard, right?

This year, we obviously know it’s coming and can be a bit more ambitious. This weekend, we put together our seed order from seedsavers.org, and I’ve started figuring out how much we can reasonably grow and put by. Our garden space isn’t big enough to feed us entirely, but it can go a long way towards supplementing our food budget and our health. This year, we also have access to a greenhouse with warming mats to start our seedlings! And, speaking of seedlings, it’s just about time to get some of them started. By the time our seeds arrive, it’ll be perfect.

So what are we growing, and why? I’m not going to go into the planting schedule yet, as I’m still working on the rotation schedules so we can garden in all seasons; but, here’s what we plan on harvesting in what season (obviously, some of these will start in one season and carry through to another, weather depending):

Spring: Greens (spinach, various lettuces), peas. With luck, blueberries from my potted plants!

Summer: tomatoes (several varieties), beets (these will be interval planted for continuous harvest), carrots, some greens (shade planting), leeks (late), radishes.

Fall: Beets, leeks, turnips, radishes, carrots, sunchokes, Australian Butter and Thelma Saunders squashes, kale, second planting of peas, fall crop of lettuces, tomatoes.

Overwinter in the ground or harvest late/cold storage: leeks, kale, carrots, spinach, squash, beets, turnips, green tomatoes, winter radishes, and sunchokes.

We’re doing all heirlooms, and as much organic as we can get our grubby little hands on. This is a far more ambitious undertaking than last year, but I think the payoff will be worth it. We elected to do high-yield varieties of squash and peas, and the sunchokes are also high-yield as a general rule. Our goal was to do a lot of fresh diversity in small quantities we can eat at harvest, and larger quantities of limited “staples” so we have enough to actually be usable for a good part of the winter. Some things, like squash, only get better with storage (to a point, obviously), and so we are really looking forward to these. Some things, like sunchokes, store just fine in the ground (and, in fact, are made better by freezing); so, we can have the produce without taking up all of our rather limited cold storage.

We’re also going to move some of our “cold storage” around next year. Squash prefer slightly warmer, drier temperatures than, say apples; so, we’re going to store them in another area. Our once concern is that our cold storage won’t be cold enough, which has actually been a problem this year. While I appreciate the warmer winter both from a personal stand point (I don’t like the cold much, hence I moved south) and a financial angle (our heating bills have been about half what they were the last few years), it is taking a toll on the apples. We’re going to have to sauce them out soon.

I spent a lot of this weekend going over two of my favorite books: Root Cellaring: Natural Cold Storage of Fruits and Vegetables, and Independence Days: A Guide to Sustainable Food Storage and Preservation. There is a bit of modification that goes on for us, since both books (especially the latter book) is written with the general assumption of a colder climate than Virginia generally has. The hardest part of cellaring here isn’t, as in the north, the worry of freezing–it’s the worry of spoilage due to warmth.  But, both books are very useful for anyone who is interested in putting up food. The Root Cellaring book in particular is a great resource for cold storage methods (did you know hard squashes need to be cured before they get put into cold storage?), duration food can be expected to last, what you should and should not store together and why, and all kinds of other neat stuff.

I’ll be doing a layout and schedule soon, and I’ll post them here. I’d love to see your gardens, your planning methods, and your storage hopes and dreams, too!


Eating Well, Sourcing Foods, and What Can We Do?

Thadd and I had The Talk again. We have versions of this talk quite often, really: What can we do to eat and live a more healthful life?

It’s not as easy to answer as it sounds. Some days–most days, in fact–it feels like we here in the US have very limited control over many of the things that impact our health.  From the water we drink, to the food we eat, to the air we breathe. Every day in my research for clients, I find more things that pose serious health risks to myself and those I love, and often those things are very, very difficult to get away from: the pipes that are used to bring water into our home, for example.

Everyone has their limitations. We rent, and will have to do so for the forseeable future due to the need to move for Thadd’s schooling. We live, therefore, on a budget that also must support his school. We live in an area that isn’t terribly progressive; and, while there is abundant farmland, the products of it are often difficult to acquire or limited in scope. Most farmers here do not plant year-round, even though the climate is suitable, and we have only a small space for our own garden.

There are other challenges, but we do our best to work around or mitigate them. We do have a small garden (which I desperately need to get out and harvest again–our beets are getting overgrown), we order our meat in bulk, we preserve as much food as we can reasonably store. We continue to look for ways to do more.

On the up side, we have some advantages: space for food storage and a deep freezer, a small backyard and awesome landlords that let us have a garden, a rural community that does grow at least some of it’s own food, local farmers who take pride in what they do, a growing community awareness of local food, and a significant other that is also passionate about local and healthy foods.

I would love to hear the challenges and advantages others have, whether they’re personal, geographical, financial, or another -al I haven’t thought of here.


10 Minute Meatless. It’s Not Just For Mondays Anymore.

There’s a big “Meatless Mondays” movement, and while I’m not going to go into the pros, cons, and politics of that, I will say that I am not sure why it’s only Mondays. Meat is expensive, both financially and environmentally, and eating slabs of it every night is generally not a recipe for responsible living. I’m obviously not saying don’t eat meat. We do. I am saying (again) eat less of it. Even if you’re paleo, that doesn’t mean you’ve gotta have a Porterhouse every night.  And, if you’re like many Americans these days, you couldn’t afford it anyway.

One of the ways we love to eat meatless, or even to stretch a small bit of leftover meat, is a crust-less quiche, more fancifully known as a frittata.

The bonus about this recipe, aside from being filling, inexpensive, healthy, and frugal, is that it’s a great way to use up those bits and bobs of veggies you’ve got leftover. Since our meal plans start on Mondays, we usually have leftovers on Friday or Saturday, sometimes Sunday. If we eat meatless on Monday, it’s a coincidence, but since we eat meatless a lot, I don’t feel too bad about it.

I don’t have a picture of this frittata after it came out of the oven because it rained and got really dark in the kitchen (and my flash makes food look icky). In fact, I don’t have any decent pictures of any frittatas for one reason or another. But trust me, they’re delicious!


On the Menu: August 15-21

I guess I don’t really need to say that this week  is crazy. How is it that taking off for a few days means you come back to 3 times the work you’d have had if you’d stayed home? I have no idea, but I will say it was worth it. Incredible wine tastings, sunsets over The Castle in DC, Thai food to die for, and most of all getting to see my best friend for almost a whole week. But, all good things must come to an end, and it’s time to get back to the Real World.

The next few weeks are going to see some schedule changes, and therefore menu changes, around here. Thadd’s headed back to another semester of school, so the menus you’ll be seeing starting in about two weeks will have lots of easily-packable leftovers for his lunches. He’ll be cooking on different days, which also changes things. For now, we’re going to try and take a day or two a week to load up what little freezer space we have left with food to get him started. A lot of the meals will be fast and simple, since he’s getting in as much work as he can before his time to do so becomes limited, and I am catching up.

On the Menu:

Dinners

Monday: Lentil and sausage soup. This is a go-to for us, as anyone who’s read here for any length of time knows.

Tuesday: Grilled “Cottage Pie.” I have to work until about 8 tonight, so Thadd’s going to layer all the fun stuff that typically goes into a traditional cottage pie (shepard’s pie uses lamb, to which I am allergic) into foil and toss it on the grill. In this case, the meat is leftover meatloaf (which Thadd keeps telling me is farther and farther from meatloaf, as it has more veggies than meat in it at this point). I have to admit, it’s great to come home to food after teaching spin class.

Wednesday: Crustless quiche and BLTs. Another really long day for me, 3 hours of which is teaching fitness classes. Thadd’s up again for cooking, and since we have so much fresh produce, this sounded like a good way to use some of it up.

Thursday: In theory, I am hosting a supper club. If that doesn’t happen, it’ll be leftover night.

Friday: Tuna salad wraps. Thadd works overnights, so he needs something fast and filling. He’ll have several of these, while I stick to just one. They’re one way I get some fish into my diet (along with sardines, which we’re out of right now), and Thadd makes amazing tuna salad with carrots, homemade pickles, onions, and I have no idea what else. We fill them out with fresh greens and tomatoes (boy, do we have those!).

Saturday: Venison Pot Roast, with potatoes, carrots, and salad. We need to use up some of last year’s venison, and we also need a meal that doesn’t take forever. So, slow cooker to the rescue.

Sunday: Black bean & banana empanadas. We love these. They’re fairly healthy, really tasty, and freeze like a complete dream. We’re making a triple batch so we can throw a bunch in the freezer.

You know the drill for lunches, which is almost always mostly leftovers and things like boiled eggs, nuts, etc. Breakfasts are a challenge for me right now, as I’m working on developing things that are high in protein, low in simple carbs, and contain little or no calcium (yes, I am eating calcium, but I have to eat it later in the day as it interferes with the absorption of my adrenal medication–something I’d pretty much forgotten about. Whoops). So, it’s mostly steel cut oats at the moment.

What’s on your menu?


On the Menu

I am not going to bother backlogging my meal plans for the time my internet was down, so we’ll just pick up with this week’s. It’s August, so that means a lot of fresh produce and veggies!

Dinners:

Monday: Black Bean Chicken. This is a recipe from my friend, Bethany, that is great for days when you just don’t have time to cook. It’s done in the slow-cooker, is healthy, and makes a pile of leftovers (which is good for us, since Thadd’s taking his lunches to work).

Tuesday: Chickpea saag over brown rice. Thadd’s night to cook. He’s really perfected this Indian dish, and while it’s usually served as a side, it works great for us as a main course. And, talk about getting in your veggies!

Wednesday: Crustless quiche and tuna salad sandwhiches. A great meal for hot days, crustless quiche is fantastic served right out of the over, or cold. It’s also a great way to use up those little bits of leftover veggies, which we’ll be doing here. It’ll be sort of a Quiche Lorraine, since we have a lot of greens and tomatoes. Serving it with tuna salad on the bread Thadd made from our grain-CSA whole wheat (locally & organically grown whole wheat, freshly ground). I have to say, this stuff has totally converted me to using fresh-ground grains. It’s so much better than pre-ground that I don’t have words. He made tortillas out of it last week, and they were just spectacular.

Thursday: Lasagna with salad and garlic foccacia bread. The lasagna was made earlier this week, when I was running the over anyway. It’s got all kinds of goodies in it, from grass-fed beef to fresh tomatoes and greens. The bread is another one of Thadd’s latest creations using some flavored oils we made out of our dehydrated tomatoes and herbs. It’s so good.

Friday: Thai Peanut Noodles with Scallops. It’s quick, it’s easy, and it doesn’t leave a ton of leftovers. We’ll be swamped with leftovers by this point in the week. Scallops were on sale.

Saturday: Grilled fish, with sliced tomatoes and Some Other Veggie.  We’ve got rainbow trout to use up (be watching for the grilled trout recipe I did a while ago to show up in the next week or so!), tomatoes in abundances, and I am hitting the market Saturday.

Sunday: Leftovers.

Lunches: leftovers, sardine & tomato salad lettuce wraps for me, Greek yogurt with fruit. Breakfasts: eggs, oats with coconut milk, leftovers. Snacks: raw milk, fruit, nuts, cheeses, boiled eggs, veggies.

What’s on your menu?


It’s About Time!

Well, in theory, I have internet access again. In reality, let’s not get our hopes up that it’ll last. But, while it does, I am trying to get photos loaded and posts written. First things first: I promised my twitter followers and some other folks a picture of the huge Mortgage lifter tomato we have in the garden, so here it is:

Keep in mind that the fella holding this monster is 6 1/2 feet tall. I have no idea what we’re going to do with it once it gets ripe (other than save the seeds, of course), but it warrants something special. If you’ve got ideas, leave them in the comments!

If you look closely, you’ll see part of our new tomato trellising system. Our tomato plants completely got away from us this year–some are taller than Thadd, and hanging so heavy with tomatoes even at the ends–so our initial system was a bust. Fortunately, a friend of ours has a huge stand of bamboo, and I have a partner who enjoys engineering challenges. Born of this combination was the tomato trellising system we began installing yesterday:

It’s not easy to photograph, but hopefully you get the idea. We got about about 80% of our tomatoes in the lower bed trellised yesterday before we ran out of bamboo. Hopefully, we’ll get the rest done later in the week. I am not sure when later in the week, since we also have a ton of other food-and-garden related stuff do to:

Yep, the tomatoes are in. Above is just a part of one day’s harvest. So, we’re canning on Thursday.  In the meantime:

Peaches are also in. These are from one of our absolute favorite places in the area, Vintage Virginia. I know their website says “Vintage Virginia Apples,” but  they also do peaches and plums, and everything is an heirloom variety. I’ve never tasted any fruit like theirs, and we try to put up a bunch of the peaches and apples each year (drying, canning, freezing, saucing,etc.). I got 30lbs of peaches yesterday, and plan to get another 30 lbs. next week.

Also, we’ll have damson plums from a neighbor to deal with later this week, and I can barely keep up with my basil. So, it’s a busy week, but I know we’ll really appreciate all the work when we have fabulous food all winter. What are you preserving right now?