Monthly Archives: November 2011

Local Box Meal Plan 11/21-11/25

It’s Thanksgiving week!  My husband and I will be the only two eating our Thanksgiving meal this year, so I am using many Local Box items on our menu, and to re-purpose the leftovers afterwards.

Local Box Contents:

  • Pears – Lightsey Farm
  • Apples – Top of Texas
  • Broccoli Raab Bunch – My Father’s Farm
  • Radish Bunch – My Father’s Farm
  • Flat Leaf Parsley – Tecolote Farm
  • Tomatoes – Engel Farm
  • Limes – G&S Grove
  • Acorn Squash – Gundermann Acres
  • Kale OR Collard Greens – Gundermann Acres
  • Green Shallot OR Green Garlic Bunch – Fruitful Hill Farm

Here’s the plan:

Meal One: Spaghetti with Broccoli Rabe, Toasted Garlic, and Breadcrumbs

Meal Two: Turkey Tomato Panini, made with leftover turkey of course! Sliced apples will make an easy side, along with other leftovers.

Meal Three: Hearty Turkey Soup with Parsley Dumplings. This is  kind of a cross between chicken and dumplings and turkey soup. I will be using our turkey carcass to make this.

Local Box items on our Thanksgiving menu:

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Apple Cinnamon Swirl Bread

Although the temperatures keep creeping up into the 80s, I’m finding it’s the perfect time to be getting back into the swing of baking bread. For whatever reason, one bread I always have success with is cinnamon swirl. Thanks to the apples we’ve been getting in our Local Box, I was inspired to add some fruit to this classic breakfast bread.

apple cinnamon swirl bread

While bread does take some time, most of it is hands-off. When I worked outside the home full time, I found it worked perfectly to mix up the dough when I got home and let it rise while dinner cooked. After we ate it was time to punch down and shape the dough, and after the dishes and cleanup it was time to bake, ensuring a fresh loaf for breakfast and sandwiches the next day. And trust me, the little bit of trouble is worth it!

Apple Cinnamon Swirl Bread

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons yeast
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
1 1/3 cup whole milk
2 tablespoons butter, softened slightly
3/4 cup chopped apple (equals about 1 medium apple)
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

Mix together flours, yeast, and salt in a large bowl, stand mixer, or food processor. Stir in the honey, oil, and milk, mixing until the dough comes together and forms a ball. If the dough is too sticky add a small amount of all-purpose flour; if too dry, add a small amount of milk.
Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead for a couple of minutes, until the dough is smooth. Let rise in a covered bowl until doubled in bulk, about two hours.
Punch down dough and put onto floured surface. Roll out into a rectangle with its short side approximately 9 inches (to fit a loaf pan). If the dough resists rolling out, let it rest 10 minutes and continue.
Spread butter on dough. Scatter apple pieces across, similar to topping a pizza. Mix together sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle over the entire surface.
Roll up dough and pinch ends closed. Place in a greased loaf pan, and press down dough to fit into the pan, making sure to reach the corners. This will help ensure an even second rise and properly shaped loaf. Let rise approximately 1 hour.
Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Let cool completely before slicing. After the first day, store in the fridge.

Vegetarian Chili

You may have noticed a flyer for this year’s Vegetarian Chili Cook-off in your Greenling bin this week. The Vegetarian Chili Cook-off started in 1989 when four vegetarian societies from across the state of Texas joined to form the Lone Star Vegetarian Network. In the years since, the cook-off has been held in multiple locations all across the state, including West Columbia, San Antonio, Houston, Dallas, El Paso, South Padre Island, and Fort Wort.

This year nearly 1000 people are expected to visit Old Settler’s Park in Round Rock for the 23rd annual cook-off.  The fun begins at 11:30 AM on Sunday, November 13th, and all are welcome.

To drum up excitement for Sunday, the Chili Cook-off organizers offered to share a winning recipe for us to publish! This vegetarian chili recipe comes from Stevie Duda, editor of Austin Vegetarian Living, the newsletter of the Vegetarian Network of Austin. With assistance from other VNA members, Stevie’s chili won First Place at the 2007 Lone Star Vegetarian Chili Cook-off, out of about 20 entries.

Stevie Duda’s Award-Winning Vegetarian Chili

2 medium zucchini, seeded and diced
1 medium sweet onion, diced
1 cup diced green bell pepper
1 cup diced red bell pepper
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons olive oil or vegetable broth
4 15-ounce cans stewed tomatoes, diced
1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
1 15-ounce can pinto beans, drained
1 15-ounce can black beans, drained
1/4 cup julienned carrot
2 jalapeno peppers, seeded (but don’t remove ribs) and diced
1/2 cup fresh Italian parsley, minced
3 tbsp no-salt-added chili powder
2 tsp Italian seasoning
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp sea salt

In a large pot, saute zucchini, onion, bell peppers, and garlic in the oil or broth, until tender. Stir in all remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Local Box Meal Plan 11/7 – 11/11

We had scrambled eggs and sauteed zucchini three times for dinner last week. Whoops. I’m not sure what’s going on in my kitchen, but it feels like my motivation to cook disappeared along with daylight savings time last weekend.

I’m hoping to renew my enthusiasm with really, really easy recipes this week. That way, if I don’t get my culinary couth back, my husband can take the reigns for supper most nights. Lucky for us, the ingredients in this week’s box lend themselves really well to simple preparations. Here’s what’s coming:

  • Asian Pears- Lightsey Farm
  • Apples – Top of Texas
  • Live Spearmint Plant – My Father’s Farm
  • Beet Greens – My Father’s Farm
  • Cucumber – Engel Farm
  • Oranges – G&S Groves
  • Green Tomatoes – Engel Farm
  • Green Beans – J&B Farm
  • Butternut Squash or Summer Squash or – Gundermann Acres
  • Gai Choy – Gundermann

Here’s what I’m cooking (hopefully!):

Meal one: Slow Cooker Veggie Lasagna. The entire bag of beet greens, chopped, will hide in this lasagna like a vitamin stealth superhero. If we get a summer squash, I’ll grate it up and stick it in there, too.

Meal two: Orange baked chicken and baked apples and pears will make a warming meal together. I’ll bet those apples and pears would cook up just fine at 350 during the last 20 minutes of chicken-cook-time, too.

Meal three: Green tomato casserole with green bean and cucumber salad on the side. If the apples aren’t too sweet this week, I might add a diced apple to that salad.

Extra credit: pickled mustard greens. I know.  This is not an “easy” dish, but I can’t resist a spicy pickle. The gai choi in the box are really spicy, and the bottom of the greens are quite robust– similar in thickness to celery– so they seem like they’ll make great pickles for later. If I chicken out on this dish, I’ll braise the greens in beef broth with sriracha and garlic for an easy, spicy  soup.

How to Plan Thanksgiving Dinner in Under an Hour

Thanksgiving is one of the biggest food events of the year, and making Thanksgiving dinner can rattle even the most seasoned home cooks. Whether you’re trying to feed two or twenty, this guide to planning dinner will help you get ahead of the stress and ensure Turkey Day success!

My mom first taught me how to plan out our Thanksgiving dinners; she does it every year using recipe cards and a spiral-bound notebook. These days I use my computer and a Google Doc for my family’s plan, but either method is perfectly acceptable. On paper or online, the Thanksgiving plan document will contain six things:

  1. the guest list
  2. menu
  3. “how can I help?” list
  4. recipes
  5. grocery list
  6. schedule for the holiday

Creating your Thanksgiving Day game plan takes less than an hour. I start with the hardest thing first: a quick family meeting to get all of us on the same page.

10 minutes: Family Meeting
Start by talking with your family for a few minutes about the following questions. Your notes from this conversation will serve as the framework for the rest of your plan.

  • What is your budget for the meal?
  • How many people are attending Thanksgiving dinner?
  • When and where will you eat?
  • What does everyone want to eat?
  • Do you want leftovers of each dish?
  • How does each family member want to help?

Congratulations! Getting everyone to agree on these basics is usually the hardest part of planning the meal. From here, it only gets easier!

Now it’s time to assemble the plan.

7 minutes: Guest List & Dinner Menu
First, write out your guest list. Don’t forget to include yourself! Next, write out the Thanksgiving dinner menu. This doesn’t need to be fancy, just organize the notes from your earlier family meeting into appetizers, main dishes, side dishes, condiments, and desserts.

20 minutes: Recipes
Once you have the menu written out on paper, decide how to cook the turkey and each dish. Indicate which Thanksgiving dishes you can buy prepared, which you can make-ahead, and which you will need to cook on Turkey Day.

Gather the recipes for each dish as you go, either by writing them out on recipe cards or by copy-pasting them into a single document on your computer. There are several free resources online to help with this, like AllRecipes.com, Whole Foods’ Holiday Cooking Guide, and Veg Kitchen’s collection of Vegan Holiday Recipes.

3 minutes: “How can I help?” List
Now take a look at your menu, the recipes you’ve gathered, and your guest list. Take five minutes to brainstorm ways your guests and family can help you. Which dishes can you ask guests to bring? Can your children be responsible for setting the table, assembling salads and other simple tasks? Gather all of these thoughts on a “How Can I Help” list.  I find that this step is helps me avoid the dreaded “Turkey Day Martyr Syndrome,” and it gives me graceful answers for when dinner guests ask, “How can I help?”

10 minutes: Grocery List
The next step is to make a grocery list and a list of kitchen equipment that you will need. If you’re a Greenling customer, go ahead and place your grocery order now, so that you don’t have to worry about that later. Don’t forget to reserve your turkey now, too! Plan for 1.5 pounds of bird for every guest, more if you want leftovers. That means if you ‘re planning a meal for 10, you’ll need at least a 15-pound turkey.

10 minutes: Schedule the remaining tasks
You’re almost there! With a complete guest list, menu, recipe collection, delegation list, and grocery list, you have everything you need to jot down a schedule of tasks leading up to Thanksgiving Day. This should include calling guests to ask for help, grocery shopping (if you haven’t already done that online), cleaning the house, thawing the turkey, and cooking or unwrapping each dish on your menu.  If you need a little help, check out this sample schedule online for inspiration.

That’s it for now! The last step for today is to click “save” if you’re working online, or to put your papers away in a safe place. Make sure you know what your next scheduled task is, and quit worrying about Thanksgiving until then.

Persimmon Sweet Potato Soup

Count persimmons as one of those foods I wasted too much of my life not eating. Truth be told I don’t think I even knew what a persimmon was until last year. I have a lot of time to make up for. I’ve noticed we mostly get the fuyu variety, although other kinds sometimes pop up.

We like to eat persimmons in both the firm stage and the OMG-soft-touches-only stage. The former is great for snacking and the latter works perfectly as a jam stand-in. Of course, as is my trend, I can’t simply eat a food without experimenting, and after a little bit of Googling I hit upon the idea of persimmon soup.

persimmon soup

Persimmons are rather small, so I didn’t want to base the entire soup on them. Sweet potatoes are a natural match, and really help with adding bulk to the soup. With some spices and a mirepoix, the soup’s flavor is rather similar to butternut squash soup. Maybe that’s why I like it so much. The persimmon season is short, so try this recipe out while you still can!

If your fuyu persimmons aren’t in the squishy stage, you can pop them in the freezer overnight and thaw them in the fridge. The insides will scoop out easily with a spoon or melon baller. Haiyacha persimmons will need to ripen on the counter, but you can speed up the process by putting them in a paper bag with an apple or banana.

Persimmon Sweet Potato Soup
serves 4-6

1 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
2/3 cup diced carrots
2/3 cup diced celery
2/3 cup diced onion
1 large sweet potato, diced
6 persimmons
5 cups vegetable stock
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 1/4 teaspoons ground ginger
Salt and pepper
Almond slivers (optional)

In a large stockpot, heat oil over medium. Once the oil is shimmery, add the carrots, celery, and onions, and cook until vegetables are soft onions are translucent.
Cut persimmons in half from the bottom and scoop out pulp, removing any hard bits. (The flesh should be dark orange and jammy, with a few dark flecks from sugar caramelization.)
Add sweet potato and persimmon to pot and cook 5 more minutes. Pour in stock and stir in turmeric and ginger. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a low simmer. Cover and let cook for at least 30 minutes, until sweet potatoes are completely soft.
Working in batches, puree soup in a blender (or use a stick blender), then return to pot. Taste soup and season with salt and pepper to your liking. If your soup is too thick, add additional stock or water to thin it out. Cook for an additional 15 minutes.
Serve with almond slivers on top, if desired, and bread for dipping.