More Than Salads

I picked up a new box on Saturday. We received the largest beets I have ever seen! My husband wasn’t too happy about that! Luckily, my mom, who came over for Mother’s Day, really enjoys beets and I promised to take her half of mine that I cooked and marinated today like I did when I made the Power Up Salad. I am also sharing some with my friend. I love fellow beet lovers! I reserved 2 cups of cooked beets which I pureed. I am going to try my hand at making beet chocolate cake. I keep hearing a lot about it. Time to see what all the hubbub is about.

You can see the giant beets in the picture below. The two dark red beets are what my beets normally look like. Those came with the greens attached. The two top ones came sans greens, but I thought they were interesting enough to deserve their own pic.

The two beets at the top are huge!

Veggie box contents this week:

Strawberries (Not pictured. We had already eaten most of them by the time I assembled the veggies for their photo shoot) 🙂
Celery- It was a very pretty purple/red color near the roots.
Beets- I snip and wash the beet greens to use in salads and other dishes.  
Carrots- snip these greens too to make carrot top pesto
Fennel
Lettuce
Basil
Micro rainbow greens mix
The items in the lower left corner were purchased at the farm stand (zucchini, yellow crookneck squash, a large bunch of mint, and also a large bag of wheatgrass, not pictured).

Veggie box contents

I am linking up with In Her Chucks for her CSA link party. Go check it out if you haven’t already!

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It is strawberry season where I live and we have been getting about a pint or so of strawberries in our boxes. We have also been buying extras from the farmstand because they are so beautiful and tantalizing that it is hard to resist them. I was not able to make it out to the Second Saturday Farm Tour to do some bug perusing because my daughter had a soccer game smack dab in the middle of both tour times. However, the farm is hosting a Strawberry Jam this saturday, basically a strawberry u-pick, which I will be attending. I plan to convert our strawberry bounty into delicious jam after the event. I will bring my camera along to the farm to take some pictures of any Veggie Friends who might appear during the strawberry picking. I am going to make time to attend a proper tour so I can do my Veggie Friends update probably some time in June.

We have had quite an abundance of mint lately and my husband and I made some beverages to use it up. My husband made a Strawberry Mojito (he is really good at making mojitos!) and I made a non-alcoholic citrus punch using lemon verbena tea leaves which I also purchased from the farm. They were both very refreshing. I hope you give them a try.

Strawberry Mint Mojito

Refreshing!

4 oz. club soda
2 large strawberries plus 1 for garnish
2 pkgs Sugar in the Raw or 1/2 pkg Truvia (We have made them both ways. I prefer the taste of the Truvia as it is very light and granulated enough to help muddle the mint leaves, but I am also used to stevia. If you are not used to the taste of stevia, use sugar or other preferred substitute)
juice from 1/2 a lemon
8 mint leaves
2 oz white rum (We used White Rhum Barbancourt that a friend brought us from a trip to Haiti)

Place sugar or truvia in cocktail shaker. Add the mint leaves. Slice up the 2 strawberries and add. Muddle together with the back of a wooden spoon until the strawberries are broken down a bit. Add lemon juice, rum and fill to top with ice. Shake well and pour into glass over club soda. No need to strain it unless you don’t want the strawberry chunks in your drink. Garnish and drink up!

Lemon Verbena Citrus PunchThis makes a concentrate you can dilute with seltzer water to serve or add seltzer/water all at once in a larger pitcher to serve as is.

Lemon Verbena Citrus Punch

2 cups of lemon verbena tea, cooled (You can brew to your liking using loose tea leaves or bagged tea)
2 cups of brewed mint tea, cooled
1 cup mint simple syrup (I made my own using 1 cup each of water, sugar and fresh mint leaves)
3 lemons
2 grapefruit
handful of mint, torn up
Ice
Seltzer water or plain drinking water
Prepare tea, set aside to cool. Juice 2 lemons, and both grapefruits. Slice the remaining lemon into thin slices. Combine in a pitcher (I used a 2 qt.pitcher)- both teas, citrus juice, and simple syrup. Stir to combine- add lemon slices, and torn mint leaves. Refrigerate for a few hours to cool.  Flavors will concentrate as it sits.
To serve: Fill a glass with ice. Fill 1/4-1/2 way with seltzer water then top off with citrus punch. Sweetness can be adjusted to your taste. If you want you can also add water to the pitcher until it suits your taste and refrigerate.You will need a larger pitcher to do this. Fridge space is at a premium at my house so the concentrated version works better for me. 🙂

Veggie Friends and Green Garlic and Kale Mashed Potatotes

Before I post the very simple recipe for the green garlic and kale mashed potatoes I made last week–I wanted to take a few minutes to talk about what I have come to call my “Veggie Friends.” My Veggie Friends are the little bugs that I find clinging to my farm-fresh produce on pretty much every trip back from a CSA pick-up. I wanted to bring this up because when my family first decided to join a CSA I wasn’t sure what to make of them. I have to begin by admitting that the sight of them on my produce initially caused a bit of an “ick” factor for me. I mean, there were little black bugs and sometimes little green aphids crawling around on my food. I didn’t want to eat them. I knew my bug aversion was ridiculous. I knew that they were there because, obviously, my produce had not been sprayed with poisons to kill the little critters. I knew that I would be washing them off. It took some reflection, but the bugs that I find in our CSA veggies have now become my Veggie Friends.
What helped me get over my aversion? My daughter.
I thought about the alternative–conventionally farmed produce which has been sprayed with pesticides or grown with GMO seeds. I decided a few little bugs were a small price to pay for not only superior vegetables, but also the peace of mind that I was not unwittingly harming my family with the food I was feeding them. Also, I don’t want to eat produce that not even a bug will eat!! I involved my daughter in our bi-weekly veggie storage prep. Instead of quickly rinsing off the buggies, I began showing them to her. She would ooh and ahh and sometimes touch them. I marveled at the simplicity with which she accepted their presence. I never once saw her hesitate to eat a vegetable after she had helped clean off the mites, or aphids. I explained to her that the bugs live off of the produce. It’s their food. I explained to her that our produce had not been sprayed and had allowed the bugs to live and grow and continue their cycle of life as much for them as for us. I tell you all of this as a sort of marker of growth for me. Finding Veggie Friends in my produce has become a discussion; a sharing moment, and a learning opportunity for all of us. It is defining what my daughter knows about where food comes from and how it grows. It has established a basis for her understanding of life, and that sometimes bugs can teach us a little something about mercy.

A caterpillar we found on our cabbage last week. I hope he turned into a beautiful butterfly.

The day I made the tuna patties I found a caterpillar living in my Napa cabbage. When I cut the cabbage in half and began stripping away the leaves to wash and chop. I found him. He had been in my fridge for a few days. He was alive and wriggling around. I called my daughter and she came excitedly to see.  My daughter asked if she could hold him. I gave her the leaf and we watched him crawl around. I couldn’t even think about washing him down the drain and I felt kind of guilty to remove him from his food source so we took the leaf outside and laid it amongst fallen leaves at the root of a tree and watched him wriggle around.  I gave a silent thanks to the little guy as proof that the produce I held in my hands is sustenance, for us, for him, and for the earth. That moment was a reaffirmation for me that the choices I am making for my family are steps in the right direction. The presence of my Veggie Friends is now a welcome one.

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I’m pretty sure green garlic is still available in some parts of the country. Saturday’s trip to the farm stand will tell. Hopefully the green garlic is still in our harvest rotation.

Potatoes and kale seem to work so fabulously together. I pair them up whenever I can. This is a super simple side with tons of flavor. I used Lacinato kale for this recipe.

Green Garlic and Kale Mashed Potatoes (makes about 5-6 servings)

1 whole stalk green garlic, halved lengthwise and washed well between layers
5 large potatoes
3 Tablespoons butter
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2-3/4 cup milk(measurement not exact. You may need a splash more or less. Pour a little a time to get right consistency)
1-1/2 cups of shredded kale
1/4 cup shaved parmesan cheese
salt to taste (start with 1/2 tsp)
fresh ground black pepper to taste

Peel (or scrub well) potatoes and chop into quarters. Place into a 2 qt pot or larger and cover with water. Place over medium heat and bring gradually to a boil, cover and cook until potatoes are tender. Drain and return to pot. Mash with a potato masher. I like my mashed potatoes a little lumpy so I don’t mash too much. Add milk, salt and pepper and stir. Taste check for salt. Adjust if necessary.
Chop green garlic. Add 1 Tbsp olive oil to a skillet and place over low heat. Add chopped green garlic and saute for a few minutes until soft. Add butter to green garlic skillet and once melted, add kale and just toss quickly. Add the kale/garlic contents to the potatoes. Combine. Add shaved parmesan, stir, and serve. Top with extra shaved parm if desired.