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Recipes Uncategorized

Winter Recipes

I love cooking in the winter.   Darkness comes early, leaving plenty of time for food prep before I get hungry for dinner.  Warmth and good smells contrast with the brisk cold outdoor air.  And the final result is a hot delicious meal.

Though I’ve cooked a bunch of new recipes recently, I failed to take any photos or document the ingredient tweaks made as I adjusted each dish to taste.  Oh well.  It turns out I’ve already documented many of our go-to recipes that incorporate stored, frozen, and canned garden harvests.  Here are some favorite recipes for the depths of winter:

Chicken Soup and Elderberry Syrup: Two of our favorite get-well-soon foods.

elderberry-syrup

Squash:  A variety of simple flavor combinations that allow you to enjoy last year’s bountiful harvest day after day.

Butternut squash

Winter Sweetened Kale & Brussels sprouts: Sweetened and tender from frost, these brassicas are nothing like the peppery and sometimes tough summer versions.  You can’t go wrong with these simple go-to recipes.

Winter-Kale-brussels-harvest

Chili and cornbread: Nourishing and delicious.  Perfect for enjoying in front of the fireplace after a day filled with snowy adventures.

chili-up-close

Tomato soup: A standard in our household.  This is our favorite way to use tomatoes canned in the height of sunny summer.

Tomato-soup-with-toast

Ginger and Turmeric recipes: Miso squash bisque, curried broth, and Golden milk tea: Warming, comforting, delicious, and SO good for you!

Ginger-and-Turmeric1

Cream of cauliflower soup: So creamy you’ll forget it’s packed with veggies.

cream-of-cauliflower2

Enjoy

Categories
Children and Nature Personal Sustainability: How-To Recipes

DIY Maple Sugaring

winter-maple-branch

sap-drip-sumac-spileUp here in Vermont, our temperatures have begun rising above freezing during the day and falling below 32 degrees at night.  That means it’s sugaring season!  Though specialized technology and expensive equipment have been developed to help large sugar-makers boost their production of luxurious maple syrup, it’s possible to make maple syrup in your back yard without spending much.  One thing is consistent for all scales of syrup production: it takes a lot of time!

hang-sap-bucket

It is early spring.  I’m itching to spend more time outside, am no longer excited by our local ingredients stored or preserved many months ago, and won’t start my garden for several months.  I find that tapping, collecting sap, and experimenting with this sweet ingredient in the kitchen is exactly how I’d like to spend my spare time.

sap-pour

Learn more by reading some of the posts I wrote during past sugaring seasons:

–> For more detailed instructions for how to tap a tree at home or school and boil sap down in a kitchen, check out this blog post.

–> Want to cook with sap, rather than taking hours to boil it down into syrup?  Check out this post.

–> Want to make your own tap, or spile, from a sumac branch?  It’s free and quite easy!  This post will teach you how.

–> Are you a teacher?  Here are several fun games and activities that can help students understand the science, history, and math behind maple syrup production.

2) Measure trunk circumference to determine how many taps can be drilled in the tree

Categories
Children and Nature School Gardens Uncategorized

Campers Dig Green Thumbs Camp!

first-dayEight bright-eyed campers arrived at the Charlotte Central School Garden on Monday morning ready for Green Thumbs Garden Camp.  The cool grass was still wet with dew, but the strong sunlight promised a warm summery day. Though few of the campers knew each other, we joined together for our welcoming circle, inventing garden names we would use for the rest of the week.

garden-journal-2Fast friendships and a thriving garden grew from a week that included a balanced mixture of garden work, harvesting, tasting, cooking, storytelling, art, free play, and watering (ourselves and the plants).   We were especially excited by animal visitors, including garter snakes, barn swallows, and plenty of creepy crawly compost creatures.

garden-journalBy Friday, it was impossible to know that many campers had met each other just a few days before.   When we said goodbye on our last day, many campers eagerly exchanged information so they could play with each other again soon.  Campers themselves were transformed – tentative eaters discovered new flavors and food preferences, and each of us deepened our gardening expertise.  The school garden underwent a similarly remarkable transformation.  All twelve raised beds were carefully weeded and planted, newly woven trellises stood tall for our climbing veggies, colorfully illustrated signs labeled each garden patch, painted pots were planted with climbing flowers stood in a row – ready to decorate the side of the new compost shed, and many of the plants had grown noticeably taller!

5th-fence-2

Green Thumbs Camp was lucky to have several community members enrich our experience.  Susan Raber of Springhouse Pottery taught us how to weave willow trellises for our climbing plants.  Vera Simon-Nobes and Michael Haulenbeek of Fifth Fence Farm welcomed us to their farm for a wonderful field trip.  There, we petted sheep, carded wool, spun our own bracelets, and gently held baby chicks!  Deirdre Holmes, Abby Foulk, and CCS Administrators welcomed us to the school and ensured that we had everything we needed for a great week of camp.

Space still remains in August’s camp session!  Green Thumbs Gardening Camp will run for a second week from August 4th through 8th.   Parents of rising 1st through 5th graders are encouraged to find out more by clicking on the poster to the right or at http://www.charlottevt.org/ (click on “recreation,” then “summer camps”).  Questions can be emailed to Tai and Stacy at ccsgreenthumbs@gmail.com.  Read on for some great camper quotes and photos!

I had a good time at garden camp.  I got to learn how to plant things.  I learned a new way to water.  I also got to make awesome garden crafts.  I made new friends, which was fun.  It was great! Maddie, age 10
“I had a good time at garden camp. I got to learn how to plant things. I learned a new way to water. I also got to make awesome garden crafts. I made new friends, which was fun. It was great!”   Maddie, age 10
Garden camp was good because we played in the sprinkler.  We got to dig and weed.  I liked planting. Liam, age 5
“Garden camp was good because we played in the sprinkler. We got to dig and weed. I liked planting.”
Liam, age 5
"Camp was fun! We made different art projects. Most of them were for the garden. I like how we got to have a snack that we made from the garden. We harvested our snack! I liked learning how to plant and weed. I’m going to use the strategies I learned in my own garden. I liked that on the first day I made new friends."
“Camp was fun! We made different art projects. Most of them were for the garden. I like how we got to have a snack that we made from the garden. We harvested our snack! I liked learning how to plant and weed. I’m going to use the strategies I learned in my own garden. I liked that on the first day I made new friends.”
We made signs for the garden and we painted pots.  We read books about the garden.  I liked that.  We also did a lot of planting and made trellises.  That’s good for the garden because the plants can climb up them.  Shana, age 7
“We made signs for the garden and we painted pots. We read books about the garden. I liked that. We also did a lot of planting and made trellises. That’s good for the garden because the plants can climb up them.” Shana, age 7
I liked Garden Camp.  I invented mud balls.  We planted flowers and we had water play. Even though I go here for school I recognized some new things in the garden.  There are trellises to block off the bunnies. We built them! Henry, age 6
“I liked Garden Camp. I invented mud balls. We planted flowers and we had water play. Even though I go here for school I recognized some new things in the garden. There are trellises to block off the bunnies. We built them!” Henry, age 6
Thanks to all the community members who helped enrich camp!
Thanks to all the community members who helped enrich camp!
Categories
Personal Sustainability: How-To Recipes School Gardens

Making Salsa with Kids

Kids-Chopping-SungoldsSalsa is my favorite garden recipe in August.  It can be basic or creative, integrating many of the fruits and veggies that are ripening at this time of year.  Check out last year’s salsa post to see some of my favorite flavor combinations.

Kids-Chopping-TomatoesWhen making salsa with kids, I give them each a plastic knife.  The serrations break through tomato skins, allowing each helper to safely and easily cut each fruit into smaller pieces.  When everyone has a task and a tool in the kitchen, preparing food is always more peaceful and productive!

Kids-Peeling-TomatillosNext we dump our “chunked” items along with 1/4 of an adult-cut-onion and some cilantro into a food processor.  Each helper can take a turn pressing the buttons and seeing the concoction blend.  When the salsa is chopped up but still a bit chuncky, we pour it out, drain off some liquid, add a few dashes of salt, and enjoy with corn chips.  This is definitely a garden recipe that most young cooks are willing to try.

This year I was feeling creative so we concocted rainbow salsa!  Check out our “before” and “after” photos below:

Peppers, Cilantro, Tomatillos, and Tomatoes
Peppers, Cilantro, Tomatillos, and Tomatoes
Rainbow-Salsa
Red, Orange, and Green Salsa

Looking for more edible rainbows for kids?  Check out the array of edible flowers I brought to summer camp last week!

Rainbow-Edible-Flowers

Categories
Children and Nature Get Involved!

More Summer Programming for Kids!

I’m gearing up for a fun summer!  If your family lives in Vermont, check out the additional programs and workshops I’ve added to my summer offerings.  As always, check out http://taidinnan.wordpress.com/programming/ for the latest updates on my kids camps, workshops, and classes.  Thanks for spreading the word!

Charlotte-Library-2013

 

Kids-Cooking-Workshops

 

Categories
Recipes

Winter Staples: Lentil Soup

Lentil soup is my comfort food.  It warms me up in the winter, I love the way it tastes, it’s very easy to make, it’s a great way to use up old veggies or left overs from the fridge, and it is an affordable way to feed a crowd.  Lentil soup also makes a filling but simple meal that can offer a nice break from rich holiday foods.  Lentils come in all shapes and sizes, but once cooked, they all turn a shade of brown.  Garnish ideas below, however, can make for a nice presentation. Smaller lentils cook faster, while large ones can take a full hour to soften.  Food stores with a bulk aisle usually have a nice selection.

IMG_0137_1

Basic Lentil Soup
1 cup lentils
3 cups water or broth
3+ cloves garlic, minced
1 yellow onion, diced
1/2 t. salt
3 T. olive oil
veggies: try diced carrots, celery, or diced tomatoes
herbs: parsley is my favorite, you can also try oregano, basil, thyme, or cilantro

Throw everything in a pot, bring to a boil, cover, and simmer for an hour.  Stir occasionally and taste once the lentils have completely softened.  Add water, salt or additional herbs and spiced to taste.

To make a better presentation, play around with garnishes!  Try a dollop of sour cream or plain yogurt.  Sprinkle with parsley or green onions.  For a holiday soup, try a dusting of bright red paprika on yogurt and parsley.

IMG_0138_1If you’re camping, see if your grocery store’s bulk aisle carries dehydrated veggies!  Ours had a nice “camper veggie mix” of carrots, celery, corn and beans.  We also found dehydrated onions and garlic in the spice section.  We added these items to barley and lentils to make a nice soup mix.  To turn it into soup, all we’ll need to do is add water, boil for an hour, and salt to taste.

Categories
Home Gardens Recipes

Late Fall Greens: Chard Recipes

In our garden only leafy greens and root crops remain.  The last lettuce got hit by a hard frost, the spinach was finished off in our salad last week, and arugula stands in scruffy flowering patches.   Chard and kale plants, however, still tower above the sprouting cover crop of winter rye.  Kale can survive very heavy frosts – even long stretches of time below freezing.  We found that it actually improves, growing sweeter and more tender with frost.  Chard, however, starts to brown and wilt with each new night below freezing.  Now’s the time to enjoy it!

We’ve been enjoying some delicious chard quiches.  In fact, we started calling them chard pies because more chard than egg ended up in the pie crust!  Just use your favorite spinach quiche recipe, and substitute chard for spinach.

When I’m in the mood for a simpler chard dish, I steam chopped leaves and stems in a pot with a thin layer of water in the bottom.  After it’s wilted, I drain it and toss the leaves with a splash of balsamic vinegar.  Crumbled feta on top adds some creamy and salty flavors.  Mmmmm.

In the end, we always have more chard than we can eat straight out of the garden.  To preserve it for the winter, we harvest all the remaining healthy leaves (feeding the bottom or browning leaves to the chickens).  Because we have so much volume, we compost the stems.  They are good, though, so feel free to include them if you want!  We chop the leaves and blanch batches of them in our largest pot.  After the leaves are wilted and dark green, we remove them from the boiling water and allow to cool in a colander.  After all the leaves have cooled, we squeeze out any remaining water and pack them into plastic freezer bags in portion sizes our family is likely to use in a meal.  Now we’ll have plenty of tender greens all winter long.

 

Categories
Home Gardens Recipes

Savoring Eggplant

This has been a banner year for eggplants in our cold Vermont valley.  They flourished during the summer’s early start and periods of hot dry weather.* After several different cooking experiments, I’ve crafted my favorite eggplant recipe.  Its simplicity brings out the subtle sweetness and full flavor of our home grown beauties.

*Growing tips are at the end of the post

Pan-fried Eggplant:

What you need: Eggplants, olive oil, salt, frying pan, basting brush, spatula

-Slice eggplant into rounds 1/4 inch thick (uniform thickness makes it easier to cook each piece for the perfect amount of time)
-Coat a frying pan with a thin layer of olive oil and bring up to high heat (this is only necessary when starting, and doesn’t need to be repeated in subsequent batches)
-Use a basting brush to coat one side of each eggplant round.  Lay oil-side-down onto the hot frying pan.  Keep flame at a medium-hot level.
-After 3-5 minutes, use spatula to check under the eggplant rounds for browning (I like mine slightly burnt as if they were grilled).  If they look ready to flip, use the basting brush to coat the uncooked faces with olive oil and flip.
-Lower heat a bit if the eggplant is burning before cooking through.  You’ll want the insides to reach a high temperature to soften, while cooking the outsides enough to be fried brown.
-Once each side has browned and eggplant seems soft and cooked through, remove from pan and place on a serving platter.  Continue to fry batches until all eggplant is cooked.
-Sprinkle salt and/or grate parmesan on top of eggplant platter.  Garnish with parsley or basil.
-Enjoy!

Eggplant fried in olive oil, garnished with parmesan and parsley
August harvest meal: fried eggplants, sungold tomato basil salad, and sauteed peppers topped with toasted sunflower seeds

*Growing Eggplants:  In the northeast, eggplants may need to be babied to mature fast enough to provide the grower with a decent harvest.  It was my Somerville Italian-American neighbors who modeled the strategy I use today: growing in large, preferably black, pots.  This allows the soil to heat up and prevents the eggplant roots from rotting if there is too much rain.  This strategy helps the eggplants to mature and flower earlier in the season, extending the amount of time they can fruit before the first frost.

Eggplants in 5 gallon plastic pots. Black pots help the soil warm up even more.
This year our eggplants also thrived in standard garden beds.
Categories
Home Gardens Personal Sustainability: How-To Recipes

Backyard Gardening: First Harvest

This post is far overdue: we harvested the first delicious greens from the backyard garden months ago. In fact, the lettuce and arrugula we planted after clear-cutting the spinach is now ready to eat!  Summer has a way of running away with my time and (happily) diminishes time near a computer.

I think in this case, pictures speak better than words.  An amazing spinach yogurt soup recipe can be found after the photos.  The unique blend of spices and herbs makes it uniquely delicious.  In mid and late summer, try substituting any cookable leafy green (like chard or kale) for spinach.

Spinach Yogurt Soup:

  • 1 Onion
  • 2 Tablespoons Flour
  • 2 Cups Vegetable Broth
  • Terragon
  • 3 Tablespoons Butter
  • 1 Teaspoon Salt
  • Nutmeg
  • Cayenne
  • 3/4 Pound Spinach
  • 3/4 Cup Yogurt
  1. Sautee onion + butter until soft but not brown.
  2. Mix in flour, salt, terragon, nutmeg, cayenne.
  3. Shortly after, mix in broth and cook until bubbly.
  4. Add spinach, bring to a boil and then reduce heat + simmer for 10 minutes uncovered.
  5. Turn off the heat to allow it to cool for a few minutes before putting it in the blender and pureeing.
  6. Return to pot, mix in yogurt and heat until steaming – not boiling.
Categories
Recipes School Gardens

Rainy Days

Ok, so imagine your title is “Garden Educator.”  Your classroom is a school garden.  It’s lush and chock full of natural learning experiences every week as the seasons pass.  You work after school with students in the garden, so are not constrained by test scores and standards, though you could easily demonstrate that you meet numerous standards every day.  I think this job description sounds pretty good!  …its gets a lot more challenging on weeks with forecasts like this one: 70-100% rain every afternoon.

I often use rain days as opportunities to focus more on nutrition.  Two great themes are “Parts of a Plant” or  “Eating the Rainbow.” Both can culminate in a salad, coleslaw, or stir fry using a vegetable representing each part of a plant or each color in the rainbow.  You’d be surprised how well all three of these snacks are received by students from Kindergarden on up.  If you run multiple sessions and buy all the ingredients at once, each of these recipes is full of veggies and quite affordable.  Check out our coleslaw and stir fry recipes listed at the end of the post!

Both themes are also happily supplemented by “Veggie Twister,” pictured here.  While working at Groundwork Somerville, Maura Schorr Beaufait created this amazingly colorful, engaging, and educational Twister board and accompanying spinner.  The horizontal rows are arranged by parts of a plant and the vertical rows are arranged by color, so the board can be used for each theme.  Maura duct-taped laminated color photos of various produce to a tarp.  Commands such as “right foot leaf” or “left hand seed” will twist your students into knots and test their flexibility.

With cooking and games sprinkled into your session, it’s easy to facilitate your students in learning the functions of the parts of plants or how each color helps promote healthy gardeners.   Do you have successful rain day garden activities?  I’d love to hear about them.  Enjoy your next rain day!

Rainbow Stir Fry: Choose a veggie to represent each color or each part of plant.   Fry in olive oil with salt or soy sauce.  Serve and enjoy!  Here’s an example of what we used this year:

  • kale, ripped by kids (green)
  • red pepper, diced (red)
  • garlic, diced (white)
  • blue potatoes, diced (blue/purple)
  • sweet potato, diced (yellow/orange)

Parts of Plant Coleslaw: Choose a veggie to represent each color or each part of plant.  Some categories could be contested below, but we aim for simplicity especially when working with young students.
Stir veggies together with enough mayonnaise, cider vinegar, sugar, salt, and pepper to make a creamy sauce with balanced sweet, salty, creamy, and sour flavors. Serve and enjoy!  Here’s an example of what we used this year:

  • cabbage, chopped finely (leaf)
  • raisins (fruit)
  • carrots, shredded (root)
  • celery, chopped (stem)
  • broccoli, chopped (flower)
  • sunflower seeds for sprinkling on top  (seed)