CSA Survival Tip #7: Involve your kids (and spouse!) in your CSA expericne

Veggies and fruits may be awesome, but if you’re the only one in your family who thinks so, you better reallllly think they’re awesome – because you’ll bust your tummy trying to eat your share allll by your onesie!

So, best bet is to get the whole fam on board. *Really, this tip should have come earlier in the season, but it just occurred to me. This would have been very helpful info when we started out! So, file for next year, at the least*.

How do you involve your kids and spouse (or even guests)?

Here are a few ideas:

Make it look good. If you’re home during the day, or even for weekend lunches, you can make lunch a fun CSA experience. Here’s a photo of a really surprising and colorful lunch! Purple cauliflower, pasta with tomatoes and onions, and orange cantaloupe!

 

 

 

Insist your spouse not make icky faces or say negative things about veggies. And yes, there are ways to kindly insist. I’m not sure what they are. But, use your imagination, or look it up on another blog. If nothing else, remind him of the money you’ve already spent, so might as well enjoy it! Above all, set a good example yourself.

Visit the Farm if you can. This is a fun experience, and will get them thinking about how all the stuff gets from the field (which they have now seen) into the box you pick up down the street. We live about 90 miles from our farm, so sadly we’ve never done this. But I rely on good evidence from friends who have – it is a great experience.

Involve them in choosing, like we did with these Veggie quesadillas. The kids can choose pepperoni and cheese (those are the no brainers) but they have to choose 3 colors (of veggies. Yeah, don’t let them “fool” you with, “The Pepperoni is RED mom, R-E-D!” That didn’t fly at our house.)Ask your spouse to think of recipes they’d like the family to try. Maybe a pizza heavier on the veggies (while still including meats, if you like?) Calzones? Eggs scrambled with peppers and zucchini?

Preserve some of the harvest, or read about how people have done this to survive. Little House on the Prairie, anyone? How about freezing corn with kids? That was the tip from a week back – check it out!

Share it with others. Recently when my mom and bro came over, I had planned on using up a LOT of veggies. We had Confetti Kale (corn, kale, shredded carrots, and onions, sauteed in oil) and an eggplant parmesan bake, with some fresh fruit. I was able to about triple how many veggies I would have used just for us – which helped me use stuff up, as well as brag on the CSA. You can also give produce you won’t use up to a food pantry, neighbor or friend in need, or bring to your church.

Be sneaky. This is a favorite with kale, which no one would ASK for by name, but if its served with macaroni with Wildtree Kids Cheez sauce (an all-natural, additive free ‘mac and cheese’) with teeny kale bits that I’ve whipped up in my food processor, they’ll gobble it up! I made for lunch the other day: 1 head of chopped cauliflower, 1 onion, 2 carrots, 3 sm. green peppers, and poured over it Wildtree Alfredo Extraordinare. Oh, and did I mention it had a WHOLE bunch of chopped kale in it? Also, I throw lots of things into ‘salads’, including beet greens, kale, and chard. Having good additive free Wildtree dressings helps, too.

Be real. Think of what you normally eat, and veggi-fy it. Add small chunks of veggies to burgers. When you stir fry, go lighter on the chicken, heavy on the veggies. Add sides like corn, or beets. Keep trying – and don’t be afraid to insist everyone takes a bite of everything. In time, they won’t balk. My kids are getting pretty good, but even they have their moments. It is a constant thing to keep ahead of — but the rewards are great!

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CSA Survival Tip #6: Freeze Corn with your Kids.

I truly do like to garden, preserve food, cook, and do quirky things like have backyard chickens in the city. But, I’m also a wife and mom (in fact, that comes first! Always!), and while my family supports me, I don’t want to let my interests totally take over so that I’m ignoring the family. Which, I have to admit,is hard as the interests sometimes take up a lot of time and brain space.

So, to that end, I try to teach and involve them when possible. One such example (and a successful one!) was preserving a batch (10 ears) of frozen sweet corn!

I could have my 6 year old time the already-husked ears in the the pot of boiling water, and with my supervision, he could use a long tongs to take the ears out of the water, and put them in our sink full of cold water and ice cubes.

My 8 year old could measure out two cups of corn into prepared freezer bags. My 5 year old could open the bags for him.

I cut the kernels off the cob and into a glass pan. I then later sealed them up with a borrow ‘Food Saver’ type device.

It was actually *gasp* fun. I hope we’ll be able to do this more in the future. We froze enough corn for 4 side dish meals, in about 45 minutes. I thought that was pretty good. And, it was time that mom was not lost in her own ‘food preservation’ world, but I could involve them and we could just talk and be together as we did it. Nice.

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CSA Survival Tip #5: Roast, Pickle and Freeze Peppers

Have you eaten enough fresh sweet and hot peppers yet? If you can’t keep up, try these simple methods to preserve the rest!

I was inundated over a couple of weeks with just toooo many. Especially with the hotter peppers, I use them seldom at this point, and so needed to ‘deal with them’, because heaven forbid I would throw them away! Unthinkable.

A recipe for roasting:

Toss very lightly with an oil of your choice (or drizzle over) Lay the peppers on a baking sheet. I cut the tops off mine, but did not seed them. Broil at 500 for 5-7 minutes at a time, turning, until they’ve developed a brown, charred exterior. Some people then take the skin off (perhaps putting in a container, like a glass pan covered with a towel, to continue steaming, for a few more minutes, say, 10), but I just let them cool, and put them in freezer safe baggies. This was the first time I’ve tried this, and apparently the hotter peppers tend to mild and sweeten with this treatment. We shall see.

 

A recipe for pickling:

I used a post on The Purple Foodie blog as a reference, and this post referenced another blog, with a helpful tip about knowing how much pickling liquid to prepare: Fill your jar with sliced jalapeno or mixed peppers. Then, top up with water. Pour the water out into a measuring cup, and once you take that measurement, dump half the water out, and add apple cider vinegar to make up the amount you lost. Genius!

I then adjusted the spice ratio according to the Purple Foodie recipe, and it really couldn’t have been simpler! I left my two jars of pickled jalapenos out on the counter for about 5 days, and have just stuck them in the fridge. My hausband who is the pickled jalapeno pepper, will give a final pronouncement on that sooner, I would expect.

A recipe for freezing:

Slice, or leave whole. Seed peppers (or don’t). Put in a baggie or freezer safe container. Put in freezer. Simple!

I do miss peppers in the winter, and last year is seemed like I froze a TON — then ran out about December (and that was using them sparingly, frugally). It is humbling to consider how much fresh food a family would need to preserve to get them through the winter.

CSA Survival Tip #4: Conquering Weird Vegetables You Never Heard Of

I’m back with a survival tip this Friday!

Consider this a tip, or a challenge – but either way, hear me on this – every vegetable is a victory!

It has taken me 4 CSA seasons to conquer FENNEL.

I’m not a person that enjoys a lot of anise taste. And this kept me scared enough from trying to do much with fennel.

The first year we joined our CSA, we received several humungous bulbs of fennel. And I considered the options: I didn’t have any ideas, and I didn’t like how it smelled. I tried to give it away, and ended up composting it.

Sad, as I just made the most amazing soup, and thus: Victory (and good health, good stewardship, and all kinds of good stuff) is mine!

So, my advice in this tip is kind of an old adage, applied to the CSA: If at first you don’t succeed in eating it, try, try, try some more recipes. Click here to see my fennel soup recipe.

What veggie still has you stumped?

CSA Survival Menu #2: The all and nothing vegetable: Zucchini!

I am calling it an all-and-nothing vegetable, because it is really so versatile. You can let it absorb so many flavors, because it really doesn’t have so much of a pronounced taste of its own!

It is also very prolific in the garden, and sometimes even those of us with the best of intentions at a certain point run screaming from the very sight of it, a bit later in the season, when we have seen 500 zucchini.

Don’t let it happen to you.

Here are a few simple and YUMMY and versatile recipes, as versatile as this all-and-nothing vegetable itself.

Shred it!

Do you think I’m going to give you a recipe for zucchini bread? Ok, while I appreciate a good zucchini bread as much as the next person, “zucchini bread” is just basically a vehicle for me to get my chocolate-chip fix. Yum! But, what else can you do with shredded zucchini? Just about anything!

  • – to save on money for expensive ground meat (organic stuff gets pricey, y’know) I like to mix a half pound of ground beef with a plentiful grating of zucchini. The veggie absorbs the flavor of the meat, and also has a firm texture. You can even grate it, and then also chop it in a food processor, so it is in bits, which even further blends in with the meat!

    Shredded Zucchini/Beef Stroganoff, with a Buffalo White Sauce – rave reviews from Hub’band et al.

  • – to add to stir fry meals, and soups (but only add it in soups for the last couple minutes before serving, or it turns grey and gets a little icky-looking, say the children in my house.
  • – You can also blanch and squeeze excess moisture out and freeze in 1 or better yet, 2 cup portions. Fiberiffic and moisture! Save a few for your favorite sweet bread recipe when you need a shot of something tasty in the dark of winter.

Slice it!

  • – Here are some pics of a great and easy way to make zucchini chips! Just add a little oil and your favorite seasoning, and broil until its done to your liking. I like mine slightly brown on the outside, but soft on the inside.

Fry it?

  • – you can batter and fry these little chips, too, which is very delicious. I like to do a dip in egg wash, onion ring mixture, and a little parmesan. Nothing I do very frequently because of the labor intensity, but its very good.

Fill it!

  • – Our CSA grows an ‘8-ball’ variety of squash, which is fun to cook. I cut in half, hollow out the seeds and squishy part, then fill with all kinds of things, depending on my mood. These photos show some cheese and other veggies as the filling, which I chopped in the food processor and mixed together, then squished into the halves. Put the halves in a pan, cover with foil, and bake at 375 until nice and hot and bubbly – around 35 minutes or so.  (Alternately, you can cut it like a pumpkin, fill it, then put the ‘cap’ on to bake. It is cute this way. It tastes the same.) You can fill this kind of a zucchini squash with a mixture to suit your meals theme – Tex-Mex, Indian, Italian like mine, Hamburger/Cheeseburger – many, many possibilities. This is also a good way to use up your ‘Oops squash.” As in, “Oops, I was picking squash and somehow didn’t notice this one, for days and days, until it got too big, and really the only good use for it is to hollow it out and fill it and bake it.”

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I’d be interested to know other favorite zucchini squash recipes. Do you have any to share with us?

Next on my list to try:

Zucchini as a pasta (and I think you can even freeze it like this!)! I will report back to you all and tell you how it goes for me. Until then, you can read about this recipe here at this link.

CSA Survival Menu #1: Kale Konnundrum

Occasionally there comes in your box something you might not have an immediate taste for. I thought I would add another feature to my ‘CSA Survival Guide’: a Survival Menu! I’d like to throw out, for your consideration, some recipes for some of the items I either a) never tried b) didn’t recognize or c) didn’t really care for in the first year (or so!) of being a CSA share-holder.

There are several commonly grown varieties of kale, from the ‘curly’ shown here, to ones with pointy, oak-like leaves, to bubble, leather-skin looking ones, called dinosaur kale.

The first of those to which a, b, and c equally applied, was kale!

“But DUDE,” I thought in my mind…ok, I don’t really self-refer to me as ‘Dude’, but….you get the idea, “Its so nutritious! It is a super-duper-food! You just gotta eat it and love it!” It also stores well in the fridge and lasts quite a long time before getting icky at all – It is high in Vitamins A and C, also K, and has a good amount of B6 and calcium (says my must-have veggie guide, Simply in Season).

Eat it, I did, or tried to. But love it, at first, I did not.

Kale is tough – as in, the taste. Its tough! Chewy! The center stalk is inedible. So, that increases the prep time a bit. Plus, its green (and, if you’re my kids, that is enough to make you not want to try it.) Kale is not generally eaten raw, so that meant I had to find some way(s) to cook the stuff!

By the by, through trial and error, I did find some recipes that I love – and guess what? I can now say, to myself, “DUDE! I love kale!” Or something like that.

I hope by the end of your CSA share season, you will be able to say the same (but, honestly, give it a few seasons. Let it grow on you. ). By the way, Kale is pretty easy to grow, and is very prolific. So, if you develop a taste for it, you can easily plant it in your backyarden to have even more to love!

Basic kale shreds:

Remove center stalk, and then layer leaves on top of each other. Cut perhaps 10 – 15 stalks of kale. Then, with all the leaves piled, roll them up into a cigar shape. Use a sharp knife to slice, as if you’re cutting small circles off of the cigar. The leaves will unfold into long, thin strips. When you have them like this, prepare in one of the following ways:

  • – boil in salted water until just tender. Don’t let ’em get too mushy! But don’t let them be to tough, either.
  • – stir fry with your favorite marinade, and throw in other season veggies with a bite to them – radishes, peas, ginger and a sweet and sour sauce. Yum!
  • – Wilt in a covered frying pan with a few Tablespoons of water, and serve under fish, chicken, or steak. Cover all with a light sauce of your choosing – really good with a homemade peanut sauce. Or,  Saute with butter and onions, or garlic scapes. Yum!
  • – Also consider using kale in place of or in the same ways as you would collard greens (now, if you’ve never eaten collards, that is sad, too. And actually, I don’t think you can totally justify the substitution, but, in a pinch for ideas, consider it at the least).

Basic kale bits:

Remove center stalk as before, then put leaves into a food processor (or use knife) to finely chop. Here’s where you can get reaaaalllly sneak with the green bits:

  • – put in soup!
  • – put in casseroles!
  • – sprinkle with pasta, put in an alfredo sauce (it will give it a green tint), put in a wrap sandwich or even just a plain ol’ bread slice sandwich for that matter, etc etc etc.

Trick is: you hardly see it, you do detect a taste, but not much – but you’re still getting the awesome nutrient benefit (dude).

Basic kale bits could also be lightly steamed or blanched, excess water squeezed out by wrapping the bits in a tea towel/flour sack dishtowel, and then frozen in 1 c. servings to use as above.

Other creative uses:

I dehydrated quite a bit of kale last year, to make a ‘greens powder’. After dehydrating, I ground in my tiny spice grinder – I think it worked out to be something like 5 or 6 kale stalks equaled something like a Tbl. – crazy! But, then I would just sprinkle in soup, or on casseroles. It is quite easy to store in just a tightly covered jar.

I heard of a neat idea, and you really gotta try this to believe how good it is. Prepare kale as above, and then just rip leaves into ‘chip’-sized portions. Using a baking stone, if you have one, put the pieces on the stone, drizzle with your favorite olive, grapeseed, or other oil, and then bake in the oven until crispy. I like to add lemon pepper, garlic, or a mix of curry spices — whatever flavor I’m in the mood for. These kale chips are great! I have also made them with Italian spices and crunched them up over pasta or bruschetta.

So, dudes and dudettes, give kale a krunch – and learn to love this health green! *By the way, kale is a cold-hardy green, and though our CSA delivers it in the spring, you can also grow it in the fall, and in some places, or under the right low-tunnel, through the winter!

CSA Survival Tip #4(a): Easy Ways to Extend the Harvest

Frozen Assets

Maybe it hasn’t happened yet, but it will soon – mark me, lads and lassies – you’ll get “too much” of something, and won’t use it up in a week! Tomatoes? Zucchini? Spinach? Who knows — but it will happen! And, if you want to savor the flavor (from a jar, your freezer, or in some soup perhaps?) you’ll need to have some easy go-to methods for preserving the remains of the day, or, in other words, whatever remains from your delivery when the next delivery day is fast approaching!

We already talked about one method: Giving it Away! This is a way to extend your share, and help friends or those less fortunate right in your community. In fact, I will be dropping off a few items this afternoon. I’m still not in the ‘swing’ of greens, so I’ll be passing them on.

This tip is a mini-tip-series, and today I want to highlight what I think is just about the easiest home preservation method – FREEZING! This tip also falls under the category of “found” — it wasn’t lost, because it didn’t exist a long, long time ago – freezers are a relatively new food preservation method, all things considered.

Here are some of the whole items (that is, not additionally processed) I have frozen  ( — and again, let me just remind you, my usual goal is to use things fresh throughout the week, but looking at the rhythm of my week (Tip #3) and my menu plan (Tip #2) I may determine something won’t get used. I usually make that call on Tuesday or Wednesday, so I kick into the Tip #4 series at this point.):

  • – whole tomatoes
  • – whole or cut green peppers, sweet peppers and hot peppers
  • – onions
  • – peaches, nectarines, strawberries, apples and raspberries
  • – herbs

The basic process I employ is chop (or not) and put in a freezer bag, squeeze all the air out you can, and put it in the freezer. With the herbs, I cut them with a kitchen scissors, put a Tbl. or 2 into an empty ice cube tray, add an addtl. Tbl. or 2 of water, and freeze. All fruits and veggies have a ‘freezer life’, and it would behoove you to check with your extension service to see how long you can keep certain things (it also matters if you use a fridge/freezer combo, or a deep freeze). Or, feel free to use *my* county extension service’s website: http://www.ag.ndsu.edu/pubs/yf/foods/fn403.pdf. You will find information on steaming and blanching, too. What is blanching? Its a quick plunge in hot water, followed by a quick plunge into cold water. The hot water starts the cooking process, the cold water end it. This process makes your veggies suitable for freezing, and retaining flavor and nutrient value.

Additional easy things to freeze that require a quick blanch:

  • – torn greens (for sides/dishes where you want more of a whole green)
  • – finely chopped greens (to sneak into every imaginable dish in your repertoire)
  • – green beans
  • – broccoli
  • – peas and sugar snap peas
  • – corn
  • – grated zucchini

Why does this tip work?

Because when it is the dead of winter, and you’re certain spring will never come, it is incredibly soothing (not to mention nutritious) to pull out some sweet corn and make a bright and sunny soup.

The time it takes to freeze, and blanch and freeze, is minimal, but the rewards are great. Freezing is easy, you can freeze things if you have a knife and a ziploc bag (and for a few things, not even a knife is needed), and nutrient values are best preserved in this way.