Sunday, August 25, 2013

What to do with all of those vegetables and running update!

This is our second year with a summer share from a local farm.  I love committing to a share, but I have not been as crafty as I thought I would be about preserving and/or using everything this year as it has been a little busy with the newborn.  Our farm sends out a weekly electronic newsletter with tips and ideas to get the most of your share and the most recent one referenced ideas for those that might be feeling overwhelmed with how much is coming in the recent weekly baskets.  Phew- I'm not the only one! So, although it is still a work in progress, here are some of the tips that have worked for us:

Greens: In the beginning of the season, there were so many greens! Spinach, kale, lettuce, bok choy etc.  I think my husband would have thrown a salad at me if I made one more.  I used as many as possible in green smoothies with frozen and/or fresh fruit.  I found that spinach is perfect in green smoothies- I don't even taste it.  I can only taste the fruit.  Kale & lettuce flavors stood out more in my breakfast drink but it used the stuff up once the house was on a salad strike.

Beets: I am not a huge fan of beets.  I have tried pickling them in the past, which works to preserve them if you like beets.  In my case I just ended up with jars of beets sitting around the house for too long.  This year, I followed a simple recipe from the farm to make beet chips.  Thinly slice the beets, toss them in olive oil and salt and put them on a parchment lined baking sheet and in the oven at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes.  I learned a lesson the hard way to watch them carefully, especially if sliced by hand and not evenly sliced.  Some of mine burned really bad in one batch and were not tasty for eating!

Herbs: Pesto freezes really well.  I used up my basil by making up a batch of pesto and scooping it into ice cube trays, top each cube with some olive oil, freeze and then store in a freezer bag.  Other fresh herbs such as cilantro and parsley came with instructions from the farm that we could cut them up, wrap in foil and then place the foil packets in a freezer bag or container for use later on.  Done and Done!

Cucumbers: Holy cucumbers!  Those things must grow like weeds because we have a lot of them.  I do not have a pressure canner but I found a recipe that gave processing time for the pickle jars to be submerged in boiling water.  We had fresh dill and garlic from the farm, stuffed some into the bottom of the jar, sliced cucumbers on top and then poured a mixture of boiled water, pickling salt and vinegar on top before sealing.  We just opened our first jar this week and I have to admit that they taste pretty good. 

Zucchini and Squash:  These vegetables also come in an abundance.  We use as many as possible in stir fry dinners and they are also a perfect vegetable for roasting.  I also love zucchini and squash for baking.  It is easy to find zucchini bread recipes out there or you can try these Lemon Zest Zucchini Muffins and make an extra batch for the freezer.  Baking and freezing is great because the day will come when I don't want to bake something or don't have time and it's awesome to have something ready to go.  If you don't feel like baking right now, that's ok too.  I used a mini-chopper (a food processor would work great- I have not invested in one of those yet) to shred and my Vitamix to puree squash and zucchini for future baking.  I just put the puree or shredded vegetables into freezer bags and into the freezer.

Tomatoes: I found this recipe for quick marinara sauce using the Vitamix and it inspired me to make a quick tomato sauce with what I had on hand to go into the freezer.  The Vitamix seriously pulverized quartered tomatoes in seconds.  I modified the recipe by adding a bunch of basil leaves that I needed to use, red wine vinegar and probably way too much garlic, but it tastes great- I think!  I would recommend adding some tomato paste to the mixture to thicken the sauce once it is out of the blender and simmering on the stove.  I haven't found the perfect ratio of it just yet though.  One batch was too runny for my taste and another just tasted of too much tomato paste.  I am still working on it, but I now have sauce in freezer bags and in the freezer for later use.

Green Onions: I saw something on the internet about being able to keep your green onions growing in a sunny window sill for use in cooking....I was skeptical, but it works!  Mine are sitting in mason jar on the kitchen window sill and they keep growing.  I just keep a small amount of water in the bottom of the jar.  Need onions? Just grab the kitchen shears and snip some off to throw into anything!

Share: Last but not least, sharing is always fun! Bring some of those good veggies to family and friends.  Who doesn't love that?

Next year I hope to make even more out of the share!

On the running front, I am still hovering around 11 miles per week, which is ok.  I edged out my "long" run from 3 miles to 3.5 miles this week.  This week also included my first post partum run where I felt strong at the end! Woohoo.  I was a bit disappointed when I looked at my pace once I finished as it had felt faster, but that's ok.  Hills that were bringing me to a walk a few weeks ago are being conquered so there must be progress!

Any tips for using up the summer produce?  Do you ever have a run that feels awesome and then you learn it was slower than you thought?

Have a great week!

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