Category Archives: 1. LOCAL BOX

Report of what’s in the local box each week

Slow Cooker Baked Sweet Potatoes

I always feel a little sad around this time of year. The day has come to toss the half-empty bottles of champagne and leftover snack foods from the fridge. Starting today, I will wear my yoga pants for yoga practice, and not for waistline-expanding feasts of plenty. The time for holiday gluttony has passed.

Luckily, my friend the sweet potato is here to console me.

These winter root vegetables are my go-to comfort food in January, since they’re easy to prepare and figure friendly. Plus, if you’re really desperate for that festive feeling, you can unwrap the foil-covered sweet potato like a present.

If you pair a baked sweet potato with high-protein toppings and a side salad, it’s a complete weeknight meal. Usually when I serve baked sweet potatoes as a dinner entree to my family, I let each person choose his own toppings to really personalize the meal. I set out several possible toppings buffet-style on the counter, and everyone can go to town. This is a strategy is a great way to clean out the fridge if your condiment stash is out of control, too!

Slow Cooker Baked Sweet Potatoes (serves 4)
4 medium sweet potatoes, try to get them all around the same size

Scrub each potato under running water and then pat dry. Wrap each potato in aluminum foil. Place in the slow cooker and cook on low for 4-6 hours, until potatoes are completely tender. Check the doneness of the potatoes by sticking one with a skewer: if it slides through the whole potato with ease, the potato is done baking! Unwrap the hot potato and cut open before topping with the goodies of your choice.

Suggested Toppings for Sweet Potatoes

  • Baked Beans
  • Steamed chopped greens
  • Salsa
  • Barbecue Sauce
  • Sour Cream or Plain Greek Yogurt
  • Ricotta Cheese
  • Cottage Cheese
  • Applesauce
  • Cranberry Sauce
  • Cinnamon
  • Ginger
  • Chili
  • Peanut Butter or Almond Butter
  • Black Pepper
  • Sriracha
  • Cilantro
  • Vanilla Yogurt
  • Pumpkin Pie Spice

What are your favorite sweet potato toppings? Let us know in the comments!

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Local Box Meal Plan 12/26- 12/30


 

There are lots and lots of greens coming in this week’s Local Box– perfect for salads, stir-fries and other healthy meals to offset all the rich foods we ate over the holiday weekend. I am particularly pleased to see how large and crunchy the lettuce and mustard greens are this week. Each of those will easily yield enough for a main dish for two people.

Here’s what’s coming in the Local Box:

  • Mustard Greens – Lund Produce
  • Baby Spinach Bag – My Father’s Farm
  • Kale – My Father’s Farm
  • Red Leaf, Romaine, Green Leaf or Bibb Lettuce – Fruitful Hill Farms
  • Grapefruit – G&S Groves
  • Meyer Lemon – G&S Groves
  • Yellow Onion – Engel Farms
  • Butternut Squash – Gundermann Acres
  • Sweet Potato – Gundermann Acres
  • Watermelon Radish – Fruitful Hill Farm

Here’s what I’m planning to make with the bounty:

Meal one: Massaged kale salad with mangos, pepitas, and lemon vinaigrette. I have never encountered a salad recipe where you “massage” the kale to tenderize it, but I can see how that might work well to improve the texture.  Instead of the mango that recipe calls for, I’ll  cube and roast a butternut squash. The sweetness from the squash should work really well with the meyer lemon vinaigrette and pepitas in the original recipe.

Meal two: The lettuce in this week’s box is HUGE and crunchy– perfect for pairing with sliced watermelon radish and this creamy onion salad dressing in a quick salad. Steamed sweet potatoes sprinkled with salt and meyer lemon juice will make an easy side dish.

Meal three: Some people enjoy mustard greens in salad, but I find their flavor better suited for Indian cuisine, as in this recipe for Chickpea Dal with Mustard Greens. I’ll make a double portion of rice for this meal, and save half for meal four.

Meal four: Chicken and grapefruit stir-fry with rice. This recipe uses a whole grapefruit, and it tastes great. Use half a yellow onion, chopped, in place of the scallions, and the bag of baby spinach instead of snow peas.

Roasted Carrot Soup with Dill

Image by I'm George. Licensed for commercial use under Creative Commons.

This morning, I woke up groggy, grumpy, and stricken with a mean craving for some vegetables.

I had a cookie hangover, courtesy of the 16 different holiday sweets I sampled  at a cookie exchange last night.

I wish I could say this was my first cookie hangover of this season, but I am all too familiar with the icky feeling of overindulgence, especially during the holidays. This carrot soup is one of my go-to recipes for post- sugar binge recovery.

Roasted carrots and onions have natural sweetness that brings me down gently from the sugar high, and stomach-soothing dill offers digestive relief.  Using skim milk or unsweetened soy milk in place of heavy cream helps to keep the calories down, too, so I can balance out my cookie consumption.

The best part about making this soup the day after a cookie swap is that the carrots and onions roasting in the oven make the house smell like veggies, not cookies. Someday I’ll learn to have just six two cookies at holiday swaps. Until then, I’ll keep some comforting carrot soup in the fridge to help atone for my pastry sins.

Caramelized Carrot Soup with Dill (yields 6, one-cup servings)

3 cups peeled, chopped carrots, about a pound
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 cups vegetable broth
1 cup skim milk or unsweetened soy milk*
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

In a large stock pot, cook the carrots, onions and garlic in the olive oil for 25 minutes over medium high heat. Stir occasionally, so that the vegetables caramelize  evenly.

Once vegetables have softened and browned, add vegetable broth to the pot. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat, and then use an immersion blender to purée the soup in the pot.  Stir in the milk of your choice, along with the dill. Season the finished soup with salt and pepper.

*Check the label carefully when you buy soy milk for this recipe. Many “regular” flavored soy milks add sugar or evaporated cane juice, and using one of those here will result in a soup that’s too sweet. If you must use soy milk with a sweetener in it, add lemon juice or apple cider vinegar to help brighten the soup’s flavor a bit.

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:

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.

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.