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.

New CSA Box and Superfood Soup

This picture does not do these beautiful veggies justice!

As I mentioned yesterday, we picked up this week’s csa box and I’ve been a bit under the weather. I was feeling icky yesterday so my husband took over the veggie storage prepping and I forgot to take pictures! Doh! I did however manage to snap one with my phone of the veggies still in their reusable shopping bags. You can’t see them individually before prepping but I will try to take pictures of them individually as I use them in recipes this coming week. On the very top of the front bag are three stalks of green garlic- they were not included in this week’s box, my husband purchased them separately since we kind of hoard this stuff when it is available at the market.

This was the smallest fennel bulb from yesterday's box. It went into today's soup shown below.

Contents of this week’s box:
Napa Cabbage
Broccoli
Beets (Hopefully I can get my family to eat them this time!)
Carrots
Lacinato Kale
Butter Lettuce
Arugula
Fennel
Dill
Cilantro
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Superfood Soup

Don't let the color scare you! It's delicious!

I’ve been craving a lot of green foods lately and it has nothing to do with St. Patrick’s Day, but it doesn’t hurt to have a holiday as an excuse to eat more green foods. 😉 I feel like my body is talking to me when I start craving things like spinach and kale in large quantities. In this case I’ve been fighting off a cold with plenty of greens, hot tea, zinc tablets, and effervescent vitamin C supplement. Since I woke up still feeling crummy today, I decided some hot green soup that I could sip throughout the day would be the right prescription. This soup is filled with fennel, spinach, kale, dill, and even arugula, and it fit the bill quite nicely. After I blended it, I decided it looked a lot like the green superfood powder I use to make our morning smoothies, not to mention its packed chock full of super greens! Don’t let the color scare you; I can assure you it is quite delicious! Even my six year old had a small bowl (ok, it took a little bribing- strawberries and nutella were involved, but she ate it ALL)! I made the soup with a lamb consomme my husband brought home last night from one of our favorite restaurants which serves only lamb entrees. This particular consomme is simmered with red chilies, onions and garlic and contains nothing more than the lamb broth and garbanzo beans since it is meant to be eaten as a first course, but it is filling and very delicious. You could make this with a chicken or veggie broth/stock. The real stars of this show are the greens. I originally pictured a thick, puree-type green soup, but once I decided to use the consomme with garbanzos I realized the soup would need a little more body and chose not to pulverize the veggies into puree, but blend them only into a uniform green color with plenty of texture. If you choose to omit the garbanzos you can use less liquid and puree it to your liking. I hope you try this soup!

Ingredients:
1 small bulb of fennel, chopped
1/4 of an onion, chopped
1 whole stalk of green garlic, chopped (If this isn’t available near you, use 2-3 cloves garlic, finely minced and maybe some chopped green onion)
1 large bunch of kale, chopped
1/4 head of cabbage, chopped (I used the last of the cabbage cone from our last box)
2 cups tightly packed baby spinach (Organic from Safeway)
1 tightly packed cup of arugula
1/2 cup of chopped fresh dill (if your not a fan of dill, use 1/4 cup parsley, but if you are- use dill! It gives the soup a lovely flavor.)
1/2 cup garbanzo beans
1/2 tsp red chili flakes
salt(if needed) and pepper to taste
About 4 cups of broth or stock (chicken or vegetable, or even lamb!) 😉

Lovely green garlic. It looks like a leek, but it smells like garlic!

Place a saucepot (2qt or larger) on stove top over med-low heat. Add about 2 Tbsp olive oil and chopped onion, fennel, and green garlic(or garlic cloves), chopped cabbage, and chili flakes, if using . Add a pinch of salt and sweat until fennel and onion starts to appear translucent. Add broth and cover, bring to a boil and then lower heat and let simmer about 5 minutes. Add the garbanzos at this point if you don’t mind breaking them down a bit in the blender, otherwise add at the end.

Beautiful Lacinato Kale went into the soup.

Pack some of the greens (spinach, arugula, kale) into your blender and carefully(!) ladle some of the hot broth over the top. Blend in batches until your soup is at your desired consistency. Remember to vent the lid of the blender when blending hot liquids and use a kitchen towel draped over the top to avoid potentially splashing yourself with hot liquids. Add the chopped dill last. If you own an immersion blender, you can add all the greens to the hot broth and then use your immersion blender to do the rest. Its up to you if you want to blend the garbanzos with the greens or leave them whole. I blended a few with my greens and I felt it gave the soup an almost creamy consistency. Serve hot with a dollop of sour cream or if you need some sinus help like I did today(I know, lovely), serve with extra hot sauce or red pepper flakes! I kind of have dill breath now, haha. Enjoy!

Potato and Kale Rolled Tacos

“Hey Adah, what happened to the other vegetables in your box last week? What did you do with the beets??” You might ask. Well, I’m doing something kind of different with the beets. I’m still working on that post and the one on the green garlic. For tonight, I have a quick and easy recipe: potato and kale rolled tacos.

Part of getting my family to eat a variety of vegetables involves presenting them in a familiar way until their taste becomes familiar enough to them that I can expand on their flavors. Kale has pretty much become a staple for us recently since we have been receiving a pretty steady supply of it in our csa box. The very first time we recieved kale in our box, I made the mistake of following an online recipe for sauteed kale. It was simple and the flavors were good, if a bit “green”, but the texture weirded us out (it got kind of stringy and mushy). I may have overcooked it too. Lately, I’ve come to expect the body and flavor added to my weeknight dishes by the heft of kale. It does a pretty good job of blending in with bolder flavors as well as textures. I try to shred it up in a salad and use it as quickly as possible with our usual lettuce, but sometimes we get a little bored with salad, so I continue to shred it and toss it into other foods. Usually at the very end of a dish’s cooking time so that it only just wilts. It makes me happy that I can “sneak in” such a powerhouse veggie, like kale, and still get my family to eat their dinner.

This recipe is one I made a couple of weeks back. My family loves rolled tacos, and though we’re used to the kind stuffed with shredded meat , this recipe fits the bill for a quick and easy meatless dinner. I try not to fry too many foods, however, on this particular night nothing but rolled tacos would do. You can play around with the ingredients with whatever you have on hand. Try swapping out the mushrooms for finely diced zucchini, or add in finely diced red bell pepper, or even diced chicken/meat if you have some that needs stretching. Top them however you prefer your rolled tacos. I hope you enjoy them!

Potato and Kale Rolled Tacos (serves 3-4) with beans and/or rice as an accompaniment.

My daughter's serving topped with shredded cheese and served with a side of salsa.

2 large russet potatoes
1 cup finely shredded kale
5-6 mushrooms finely chopped
1/4 onion finely diced
1 garlic clove, smashed and finely chopped
2 -3 Tablespoons grated Cotija cheese
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp salt
12 corn tortillas
canola oil for frying
olive oil for sauteeing the onion and mushrooms
shredded cheese, sour cream, lettuce, and salsa for topping (optional)

Peel potatoes and dice into chunks. Place them in a small pot and cover with water. Place on stove under med-high heat until potatoes are tender. Drain and transfer potatoes to a shallow dish and break up with a fork or potato masher.
While the potatoes cook, add a small amount of olive oil to a pan and set on low-med heat. Add onion, mushroom, red pepper flakes, if using, and garlic. Sautee until onions are translucent and mushrooms have cooked down a bit. Add the salt and pepper. Set aside to cool a bit. Add onion/mushroom mixture to mashed potatoes. Mix well. Add shredded kale and Cotija cheese and combine.

Rolled taco filling will look like this when combined.

Once the filling is ready, place a frying pan or deep skillet on your stove set to med-high with about a half an inch to an inch of oil. The oil is ready for frying when you stick the handle of a wooden spoon or chopstick in and it rapidly releases little bubbles. Heat your tortillas either in the microwave wrapped in paper towels/plastic wrap or you can wrap them in foil and set them in a low oven setting at the start of the recipe to keep warm while you work. It is important that the tortillas stay warm or they will break when you roll them up.

Take a warm tortilla and place about two fingers’ width of filling close to the edge. You can crimp the potato filling down a bit so it sticks together. Roll up the tortilla and secure with a toothpick set parallel to the tortilla.

Filling should be a little closer to the edge you will start rolling from for easier going.

Carefully, with a pair of tongs, set your rolled up tortilla in the frying oil. I like to use a spatter guard. Once golden on bottom, carefully,flip with the tongs and continue frying until golden brown all over. Set on a cookie rack placed over a baking sheet to drain. You can keep them in the oven this way to keep warm while you finish frying the remaining rolled tacos.

Frying the rolled tacos. Carefully!

Serve with rice and/or beans and top however you like. Guacamole or diced avocados add an extra richness to the dish.