Sunday, February 27, 2011

no tomatoes in winter

Tomatoes are my favourite food in the world...but I have learned to go without fresh tomatoes for half the year. I will occasionally buy a couple to make a layered dip for a special occasion (there is a greenhouse in the next town that grows organic hydroponic tomatoes and they are available at the regular supermarkets), but throughout the winter and spring I mostly rely on jarred and dried tomato products, or whatever I froze or dehydrated in the summer and fall.

Two summers ago, local tomato crops in New England were ruined by late blight. It was then that I learned to go without them for such a long stretch that now 9 months doesn't seem like such a big deal to wait for a perfectly sun-ripened local tomato.

And so I can appreciate
what we DO get more as
well. This year the winter
farm shares at the CSA
are the longest yet,
stretching til the end of
March! That means there
will only be 2 month of the
year we are not receiving
locally grown vegetables.

Winter offers lots of root
vegetables, mostly stored
in the root cellar and
divided for each monthly
pickup through the season.
Carrots, parnsips, purple-
topped turnips, potatoes,
celeriac, onions, shallots &
beets. Roasting, mashing,
and making simple soups
takes care of the majority.

The rest of the winter
share consists of kale,
swiss chard, spinach,
baby salad greens, leeks,
cabbages, popping corn,
and a little extra garlic.

Amazingly most of this
is grown in the actual
ground, just covered by
a simple frame mobile

This winter saw (and is
still seeing--it's snowing
as I type) some huge
snow accumulation. But
on a sunny day the
temperature in side the
greenhouse can reach
the 80sF.

Another lower greenhouse
was added this year to
increase kale and chard
production. While the kale
from the summer still
survives in the field, covered,
this kale is much more
robust, offering sharers a
large bagful at each pickup.

Spinach with Dried
Tomatoes & Garlic

8 oz. fresh spinach, washed
1 T. olive oil
1 T. margarine (I use Earth
3 cloves garlic, minced
6 sun-dried or dehydrated
tomato slices, soaked
salt & pepper

Soak the dried tomatoes
in hot or boiling water
for 30 minutes. Save the
soaking water! Remove the softened tomatoes and slice thinly or chop.

In a large pot or skillet, heat the olive oil & margarine over medium heat. Add garlic & tomatoes and cook for 1 minute. Add spinach, a pinch of salt and a grind of pepper. Toss with a fork or tongs. Cook for another minute. Add a few tablespoons of the tomato soaking water, cover pot, and cook 1-2 minutes until tender.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

a month's worth

Let's see if I can get a month's worth of missed bento posted! Plus one or two from the end of December...

Vegan chik'n salad; steamed broccoli; Delta airlines Biscoff cookies; vegetable gyoza; pickle; cucumber slices; mini banana muffin.

& cucu-

I was trying to make the cucumber and carrots look like ribbon candy. I might have to blanch it next time I try this to make it more bendable, or thread it together with something.

The dark chocolate covered coconut is made by Next Organics. I found it in the Orlando airport, on sale, along with dark chocolate covered apricots and cherries. I bought half a dozen packages they were that good.

Back to school in
January: pineapple
chunks; cucumber
slices; sandwiches
w/rice cheese "notes"
(must have been music
day at school); carrot

Maia got to use her new
Mickey & Minnie bento:
honeydew melon; steamed
broccoli; a pickle; smoked
Tofurky slice; carrot sticks;
snap peas; oatmeal carrot
cookie; tiny round

And for the boys:
honeydew melon; tiny
round sandwiches;
oatmeal carrot cookies;
smoked Tofurky slice;
carrot sticks; dried
apricots for Ryan, raisins
for AJ; steamed broccoli.

Grilled nutritional yeast
cheez sandwiches; steamed
broccoli; orange slices; 1/2
a cookies & creme Luna bar.

Sandwiches; honeydew melon,
blueberries, & halved pitted
cherries; carrot rounds;
green beans.

And Maia had:
carrot sticks; pickles;
green beans; smoked
Tofurky slice; honeydew
melon, blueberries;
halved pitted cherries.

This looks like Ryan's
lunch, probably while AJ
was sick: sandwiches;
carrot sticks; peanuts;
pickle; blueberries; mini
apple cider raisin muffins.

Mini pumpkin muffins?;
cold tofu; steamed broccoli;
baby carrots; brown rice.

Apple pumpkin Nudgie
bar; dried apricots;
cucumber slices;
poppyseed thyme
crackers; sandwiches;
pickle; snap peas; baby

Maia's lunch:
mini pumpkin muffin;
piece of a Nudgie bar;
smoked Tofurky slices;
dried apricots; cucumber
slices; pickle; baby
carrots; snap peas.

And I think that was it
for the month!

Friday, February 25, 2011


It's so easy to get derailed from blogging. A stomach virus had us laid out flat, my husband had a very busy travel schedule, and there were so many school events and holidays and projects to attend to. Suddenly you realize that you are no longer allotting time to blog, but instead posting 30 second bursts of pics on Facebook instead.

We arrived back from Florida just in time for the brunt of the winter holidays.
Here is one of the travel meals I made for the plane, in nestable containers for the kids so they would take up little space when emptied, and the grownup meals were packed in recycled disposable containers. There was sesame tofu, marinated mushrooms, blanched spinach, soba noodles, and pickles.

One thing I don't own is
a crock pot or slow-cooker;
I rely on my rice cooker or
deep Calphalon cookware
for those tasks. But the
Florida house is stocked with
a crock pot, so I used it to
make easy dishes like chili,
so I could spend more time
enjoying the vacation instead
of cooking for the family. I
made sure to plan ahead for the trip, pre-mixing the spices I'd need for various dishes in zip-top snack bags, pre-measured for easy cooking. You don't want to have to go out and purchase half a dozen spices when on vacation just to make a tasty meal!

After spending most of
every day in the pool
(thank goodness it was
heated because the
weather in Florida was
unusually COLD), it
wasn't easy to come back
to New England and want
to jump right into Xmas
and snow.

At least Delta was able
to ease that transition
with free drinks.

Because my husband
travels so much, he is
allowed free upgrades
to business class, which
he graciously passed on
to me for our trip.

Many airlines only serve
non-vegan meals on
domestic flights that must
be purchased onboard
(unlike international
flights where you can order
a vegan meal ahead of time
for no extra charge). But at
least the snacks are often
vegan, like these cookies.

I still had a few more
days of school lunches
to pack before schools
were off for the holidays.
Even if I wasn't in the
mood for fancy face
food, I could still try to
make a simple sandwich
into something festive.

So I got out the holiday
cookie cutters and made
reindeer sandwiches. A
red sprinkle affixed to the
nose completed the face.

For a full sandwich, I just
use a sandwich keeper
from Tupperware or one
from the Target $1 section.
There's usually plenty of
space along one side to add
some crudites.

For a treat for the kids,
and to give away to
family and friends, we
made some sugar cookie
stars. Super yummy as
always, these are one of
my favourite kinds of
cookies ever--slightly
crisp on the outside, but
they stay soft inside for
many days (if they last
that long before being
eaten). I often make sugar cookies for school events because nobody can resist them.

I also made a bunch of
mini loaves of walnut
crusted banana bread.
I must say it's nice to
be able to cook with nuts
when on school holidays,
since almost every school
nowaday is nut-free.

We spent the rest of
the school holiday
visiting with relatives
nearby, playing in the
snow, and even got in
a trip to the local
Danforth Art Museum.

AJ is rather interested
in taking art classes
there some time.

There was an adorable
exhibit from the
children's book
Pocketful of Posies
by Salley Mavor, of
her embroidered
fabric nursery rhyme

In between all of the
inevitable holiday
treats I try to infuse
some balance with
healthy snacks. Here
was an entirely green
snack of raw broccoli,
bell pepper, snap peas,
celery sticks, and
cucumber slices.

Shortly after the new
year we celebrate
AJ's birthday. He
requested a chocolate
Mario Bros. cake.
I used raisins for the
eyes, and we served it
with vanilla soy ice

AJ had a painting party
at Plaster Fun Time.
Again I had to make Mario Bros. themed cupcakes. They were a big hit.

And then came the dreaded stomach virus...slowly making it's way through every family member, my husband twice, and two of the kids THREE times. We were all but quarantined for 3 weeks! We never get flu or strep or many colds, but offer us a tempting stomach bug and apparently we can't say no. Ugh.

And so we passed the rest of January stuck indoors, with near-record snowfall, doing lots of laundry (but little cooking).

I made quite a few
noodle soups, but
mostly we served up
crackers and ginger
ale. At least with
soup I could still
use most of the
vegetables from our
winter farm share.

Otherwise I made
simple dishes like
roasted vegetables,
mashed potatoes,
and muffins. It wasn't
easy to get outside
even when everyone
was feeling better
because of the
deep snow.