Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Preparing for the new season: Part 5

Preserving food!

Sometimes you just can't eat everything you get in one week while it is fresh. Not to mention, that you will also want to enjoy some of this delicious food in the middle of winter. Below are some links I've posted in the past about preserving food in addition to a few new ones. I'd like to learn more about canning but most likely will not as I a) am lazy, b) generally do not like the taste of canned food, and c) like any good medical student, am terrified of botulism and doubt my ability to can properly (see point a) to prevent it.

How to freeze fruits & vegetables
Home canning
Home canning, freezing and drying
Fruit leather recipe
Tomato sauce
Roasted Red Peppers
Sun-Dried Tomatoes
Pumpkin puree

New links:
Drying herbs
Guide to freezing fresh produce
Homemade Bouillon

More awesome ideas:
50 ways to never waste food again

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Preparing for the new season: Part 4

Keeping your food fresh!

Being a part of a CSA means you are going to get a lot of fresh food all at once, but you can't eat it all right then - you've got to spread it out over the week and you will be very sad if your asparagus goes limp! Here are a few useful links I've found about storing vegetables and keeping things fresh:

Quick and easy pdf file on how to store fruits and vegetables
Storing vegetables
More elaborate guidelines for storing fruits and vegetables
More good ideas for storing vegetables

I'm also going to buy a salad spinner for this year since everything usually keeps better and prepares better when dry and it is hard to dry lettuce without one. I've also thought about getting some of the reusable vegetable storage bags. I don't know too much about them, but they don't cost much so it might be worth trying at least once.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Preparing for the new season: Part 3

Using your weekly share to plan your meals!
Like I mentioned before, I used to cook by finding a recipe and then go get the ingredients to make that recipe but now with a CSA, my ingredients come first, then it is up to me to figure out what to do with them - which is really a lot more fun! And it can actually make meal planning a lot easier by giving you a framework on which to build your menu for the week. This is how I plan my meals each week, which is still a work in progress and I still have a lot more to learn, but here it is anyway. First, I survey the vegetables I got for the week, for example:
basil, chard, cucumber, delicata squash, garlic, green beans, lettuce, mustard greens, tomatoes, turnips, zucchini

Then I usually think of something I might be craving that might could be made with one or some of those ingredients, like tabbouleh for example:
- that uses tomatoes, basil, and garlic - how convenient! Then perhaps I'll search through my seasonal cookbooks for inspiration or search some of my favorite recipe websites (see the links in the right column) by ingredient and find more recipes that use multiple ingredients like stuffed roasted delicata squash that uses both chard and the squash. Don't forget about other ingredients that you may have to buy at the grocery store or at the farmers market for your recipes. If one recipe calls for goat cheese but you won't use up the whole container in that one recipe, find another way to incorporate the leftovers into your meals for the week so you don't forget about it and let it go to waste (like you would ever forget about such a delicious thing!). And if there is a certain ingredient like asparagus or basil, that looses its freshness the quickest, be sure to eat it first. We'll discuss storing and keeping foods fresh later. Also, this is a chance to get creative - your vegetables may come with things you're not used to - like the greens still attached to your radishes.
So then you come up with things like radish top soup!

The basic idea is to eat as many of your vegetables while they're still fresh, minimize your purchasing of supplemental ingredients, and to not waste anything. Meal planning with the CSA is fun - it is kind of like a logic puzzle to figure out the best way to use your share while getting to eat delicious meals along the way - which is way better than normal logic puzzles that generally do not involve food. So think logically, plan ahead, and find good resources to help you but also listen to your cravings, get creative, and try some new things! Here's another link for some more takes on meal planning:

More meal planning strategies
which is also the place where I got the image at the top of this post from :)