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Local Ontario garlic scapes

It’s garlic scape season here in Ontario. Never heard of them? They are the curling flower stalks at the top of the garlic plant (but they don’t actually flower). It is milder in flavour than the bulbs.

We get them every spring from our local organic CSA and I usually use them in stir fries or I mostly make up some garlic scape pesto (like this one) and use it on pizza with spinach and blue cheese. Sooooo good. You can also use it with fish or grilled veggies.

This year, though, I thought I’d try something different and serve them up as a side vegetable, sort of like  a stand-in for green beans. I also happened to have a gorgeous bunch of basil so I made pesto and then sautéed the chopped-to-bean-length scapes and served them up tossed in pesto. Also delicious, and my 7 year old loved them!

Sautéed garlic scapes

For more ideas, check out this site.

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It’s kale season! Hurray for kale chips!

Low-carb kitchen adventures

baked kale chips

Last night we got our first kale of the season in our weekly local organics and as soon as I saw them, I thought, “Kale chips!!!”

So tonight I made some up, much to the delight of my 5 year old. That boy could eat an entire bunch of kale if it was baked into chips. Me, too.

I use this recipe from allrecipes.com, but I actually don’t line the cookie sheet with parchment, and instead of drizzling with olive oil, which I find gets the kale too soggy, I spray on the oil with my little pump sprayer. It works perfectly. Also, because I want to know exactly what goes into my spice mixes, I base my seasoning salt on this one at food.com, only without the sugar and cornstarch.

A note if you’ve never made them: Do get rid of the thick stems as they make…

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A few links to some seasonal recipes for delicious asparagus, courtesy of my low-carb kitchen adventures blog:

Low-carb kitchen adventures

Cream of Asparagus Soup

According to the USDA Nutrient Database, 100 g of boiled and drained asparagus (which is about 6-7 spears of 1/2″ base) contains about 4.11 g of carbs and 2 g of fibre (2.11 g effective carbs). They have a short season around here and they are delicious in a variety of ways. We got some in our CSA share the last two weeks, then on the weekend my cousin gave me a big bunch (plus we ate some while we were visiting my cousin). We’ve had them with a poached egg, with an egg and hollandaise, roasted with balsamic vinegar, and yesterday I had a lot to get through so I made this delicious cream of asparagus soup from epicurious.com. Another nice treat is eating them with tarragon mayonnaise, with or without the smoked salmon.

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We are still getting lots of beets from our CSA, so I figured I’ll share another favourite beet recipe, which comes from epicurious.com. It’s their delicious Roasted Beet Soup with Creme Fraiche. Try it. It rocks. (The kids don’t love it, but we just don’t care.)

We also get a lot of sweet potatoes in our CSA in winter, and we love sweet potato chocolate chip muffins, as well as this Roasted Sweet Potato and Garlic Soup from Food.com (at least I think it’s from there. I got it from my sister-in-law).

We also get a lot of greens, and like our salads (even the boys – phew!), and Williams-Sonoma’s Cobb Salad is one of our favourites, as well as the Caesar they have in their Salad book. (Unfortunately, the one in the book is not listed in the web site’s recipes.) Another great fall and winter salad is that classic, the Waldorf salad.

And as a little bonus recipe, which we likely won’t use much anymore since we’re cutting the refined carbs down (no more white pasta and the husband finds the whole grain stuff too mealy), but is probably my favourite use for my home canned tomatoes (I use 1 pint jar when I don’t have fresh) since it’s so quick and absolutely delicious, is Williams-Sonoma’s Penna alla Vodka.  Try it. You won’t be disappointed.

Plan B Organic Farms - beets in our local only winter share

Beets in our local only winter share from Plan B Organic Farms

Our CSA has once again offered local only winter shares. We get this every other week and a regular winter share on the off weeks, for a little variety. Today’s small local share included: potatoes, leaf lettuce, arugula, beets, butternut squash, apples, garlic, red onions, sweet potato, and apple cider. All organic local goodness. I saw the beets and was reminded of what one of the farmers at our local farmers’ market suggested in the summer. We tried this recipe and loved it for the taste and simplicity, and even our picky 6 year old liked it!

Beet salad:

  • beets, grated (raw)
  • carrots, grated
  • onions, finely diced
  • balsamic vinegar
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper
  • celeriac/radishes/any other tasty raw root vegetables you have around, grated

Mix well and serve.

So I ended up making a soup with the remaining celeriac/celery root. A friend in Holland sent me a simple recipe for a “Knolselderij Soep” (onion, celeriac/knolselderij, chicken stock, chicken, salt, pepper) but I jazzed it up a little because… well, I’m like that. Truly the best foods I’ve eaten have the least ingredients in them but I couldn’t resist. Besides, I feel like if there’s one thing that can be meat-free, it’s soup. It was pretty darn good for a first go. Here’s the first-try recipe:

1-2 tbsp butter, 1/2 onion, 1 leek, 1 celeriac, 1 potato, 5 or 6 cups stock (I used the frozen turkey stock from Thanksgiving), bay leaf, 1/2 cup white wine, salt, pepper, 1/2 cup cream, fresh tarragon

Sauté diced onion and leek in butter until soft, add peeled and diced celeriac, potato, stock, bay leaf. Boil, then simmer (add wine now) until veggies are soft, about 15 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove bay leaf, add cream, and blend with a stick blender (or pour into blender). Serve with chopped fresh tarragon. Yum.

Also, I was thinking tonight as I prepared a seemingly humdrum dinner of burgers and chips about how well we eat and how dinners out and take-out are always a disappointment. The buns were homemade (thanks to a husband who bakes bread regularly and takes our requests for other delicious baked goods as well). The burger meat is lean (and I do mean lean. While we were away this summer I had to buy meat from the grocery store and I bought “lean” ground beef once and it was seriously fatty, and extremely disappointing to the palate), naturally raised, and comes locally from Beef Connections, farmers from whom we buy directly. The garnishes of tomato and lettuce are fresh, organic and local from our CSA Plan B Organic Farm. The chips (fries) were oven baked from fresh local Plan B organic potatoes. It was delicious, and so much better quality food than what we were eating 5 or 10 years ago.

It’s a blessing and a curse. Whenever we eat out (when I just can’t face the kitchen again) it’s nearly always a disappointment. Actually, one of the places that we sometimes go to is our local pub (I seem to be more forgiving with pub grub), where they serve Kerr Farms beef (naturally/traditionally raised) and I noticed that they have a large bin out back where they collect their used chip fat for use by a poultry farm. Excellent!

This week in our local fall CSA share we got:

Potatoes, onions, butternut squash, garlic,  tomatoes, boston lettuce, apples, collards, shiitake mushrooms, broccoli, carrots, and a couple of celery roots (celeriac).

To be honest, my husband and I looked at these two strange looking root veggies and blanked. Happily, I had noticed an email from Plan B Organics (our CSA) in my inbox earlier that day and I quickly looked it up. (Phew.)

That’s actually one of the things that I like about doing the CSA (Community Supported/Shared Agriculture): you are forced to try new things. I would likely never go out and buy celeriac at the market or grocery store, and I never would have tried tomatillos (Plan B introduced me to the wonderful world of salsa verde!), nor the variety of dark green leafy (the healthiest thing out there for you!) veggies (collards, chard, kale, baby bok choy, etc), green garlic (pesto!), and I know I wouldn’t have bothered to make pumpkin pie from scratch.

So tonight I looked up celery root on the Williams-Sonoma recipe site and came up with a good looking salad for which we had the ingredients. It was pretty good (we added apple) but could be better (no cream? more mustard?). But I still have one left, so I’m still looking for ideas. If you’re curious, here are a couple of sites that talk about celeriac:

I love the intro to this epicurious.com article: “Also called celery root, this knobby, bulbous root vegetable will not win any awards for beauty. Perhaps that’s why, year after year, it languishes on supermarket shelves, another worthy but underappreciated vegetable.”

And there are some tips and related recipes on the Williams-Sonoma site: “Celery root tastes similar to common celery but has a more pronounced nutty, earthy flavor and a softer, denser texture. Boil it as you would a potato, then mash; add it to stews or soups; or chop or shred it raw and add it to salads.”

I’m not sure what we’ll do with the next one, but raw and julienned, it was delicious.

Speaking of seasonal recipes, I’ve done a couple with links to some of our favourite soups (roasted squash with apple and brie and indian carrot) and wrote a bit about making stock. What I forgot to mention was a tip that I got from a chef at a fun Calphalon cooking course (a friend’s husband couldn’t make it so she took me!) a couple of years ago. He said chefs are notoriously cheap, and he likes to save bits that usually get composted for soup stock. He keeps them in a container in the freezer until it’s time to make stock and then dumps them in. So I’ve been doing it ever since. It helps to make stock from scratch quick and easy and flavourful. (I never seemed to have all of the ingredients on hand when I was making stock but now I do since I collect them over a month or two.) I have a large bowl with a lid in the freezer with fresh parsley stalks, clean onion ends and skins, carrot bits, unused bits of celery (especially leaves), and mushroom stems. Then when we roast a chicken or I run out of stock (I freeze it in 2 cup amounts, either in freezable jars or ziploc bags) and make up some veggie stock I can just add a few extra veggies, roast them for half an hour or so and make delicious stock.