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Kale and Roasted Root Vegetable Salad

21 Mar

I just returned from a week long vacation to discover that, of course, there was little to no fresh food in my house. Naturally, I have some non-perishable items in the pantry, but absolutely zip in terms of fresh vegetables.

The kale plants in my garden have been a little funny looking since the freezes this January, but they're still producing lots of kale.

Having been on a week long vacation, where I ate mostly burgers and other not-so-healthy items, I was anxious to eat something fresh and somewhat healthy, but had little energy for grocery shopping – so I went into the garden to see what was available.

Right now is not the most abundant time for the garden- the winter freezes killed several plants, and we’re somewhat “between” harvest seasons. Fortunately, though, my kale plants have been pretty consistent about providing plenty of Kale to eat, so that was a start. I also had some beets and carrots that had yet to be harvested. The combo of carrots, beets, and kale seemed like a good start for a healthy lunch.

As it turns out, I came up with a pretty tasty salad that I wanted to share.

2 – 3 cups fresh Kale, torn up into salad-size pieces

1 – 2 beets, including the greens

3 – 4 large carrots

1 large shallot

2 cloves garlic

3 tbsp olive oil

1/2 lemon

Thyme, sage, oregano, pepper, and sea salt to taste (a pinch each)

Here are the carrots and beets before roasting. Note, I used some white and some orange carrots because they were available in my garden, but they also added color to the salad.

  • Wash everything and peel carrots and beets
  • Preheat oven to 400
  • Chop carrots and beets into bite-sized pieces. I like making them round, fairly thin slices. Put beet greens aside
  • Place carrots and beets in a baking dish – preferably in a single layer
  • Chop up the shallots and garlic, in fairly large pieces, and sprinkle over the carrots and beets
  • Pour about 1.5 tbsp of olive oil over the vegetables
  • Add thyme, sage, oregano, pepper and salt to the vegetables – just a little pinch of each
  • Toss or stir vegetables so that they are all evenly coated with olive oil and spices
  • Roast the vegetable mixture in the oven for about 40 – 45 minutes or until tender – test with a fork from time to time
  • When veggies are finished cooking, set aside and allow them to cool a little. You’ll want them to be warm, but not hot when you put them on the salad
  • In a large salad bowl, place the torn up kale and the beet greens (tear up the beet greens if they’re too big to serve as salad leaves)
  • Squeeze 1/2 lemon’s worth of juice over the salad
  • Add about 1 – 1.5 tbsp olive oil to the salad
  • At this point, ensure that the carrots and beets are not too hot, and add them to the top of the salad. It should make for a very colorful presentation.
  • Be sure to toss the beets, carrots, kale and beet greens thoroughly before serving
  • Add fresh ground black pepper to taste

    Finished salad with kale, beets & carrots

This salad turned out to be very tasty and, based on what I’ve read – especially about kale and beets – it’s full of vitamins, anti-oxidants and assorted “good things.” I hope you enjoy it.

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The Survivors

2 Aug

As you are all aware, I planted my first veggie garden and started this blog on the same day in mid-June. Now, about a month and a half later, it’s about time for an update on how the garden has survived.

Here's the blossom on the eggplant. I'm hoping that this means we'll have some eggplant soon.

First off, planting in June is not really something that you should do. I think that for most of the plants that I selected, March would have been the ideal time. I’ll admit that a few items immediately committed suicide – including the strawberries and most of the herbs. They were dead within a week of planting. The two squash plants survived quite a while (one even produced blossoms) but they too succumbed to the overwhelming heat.

Fortunately for me, we’ve had quite a bit of rain, and temperatures that have been a little cooler than last summer, so some of the veggies have actually done quite well.

The tomato plant has been producing lots of tomatoes even though the leaves look quite unhealthy.

The survivors include the tomatoes. Though they looked rather peeked when planted, have lived and produced lots of small tomatoes for us to eat. They’ve actually been delicious. Oddly, the leaves have continued to look half dead, but the plant has given tomatoes very consistently (maybe 5 – 6 per week at the most – 3 this week).

The okra (yes, I planted okra) and eggplant have certainly been the most successful of the bunch. Both of the plants are now giant – the okra leaves are broad and flat and the largest ones are now about 16 inches across. They haven’t produced any actual okra yet, but I think that we may be getting some soon.

I'm not sure how big okra plants usually get, but the widest of the leaves on this one are about 16 inches across.

The eggplant has shown some promise this week by growing two pretty blossoms. It’s also gotten fairly large with its largest leaves being about 10 inches long. Do the blossoms mean that eggplants are soon to follow? I suppose that it remains to be seen.

Exciting news is that it’s almost time to plant the fall garden. I’ll probably start in about two weeks, but I’ve already selected a few new veggies that I want to try:

Brussels Sprouts

Cucumbers

Kale

Peas

Spinach

I’ll also add one or two other items depending on what’s available when I go to the store to buy my veggies.

Currently, my biggest debate is whether or not to start from seeds or from small plants. I’ll probably go with small plants, but that also depends on availability.

CSAs – Local, Fresh Veggies Every Week

28 Jun

One of my good friends introduced me to the concept of a CSA last summer, by giving me part of her share. For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about (as I would not have a year ago), “CSA” stands for “Community-Supported Agriculture”. The basic idea is that individuals pay a set amount of money in exchange for a “share” in a farm – those individuals then get a portion of what is grown on the farm for a season. Members generally get a box (or bag) of vegetables every week based on what the farm has available that week.

This board tells me what types of vegetables I get each week

In many cases, a CSA will deliver a box of vegetables to their members every week or two (depending on what you sign up for). My CSA asks that I drive out to the farm to pick up my veggies every week, which I love because it gives me the chance to trade vegetables that I don’t like, for some that I do. Also, going out to the farm once a week is pleasant – meeting the people who work on the farm and seeing the vegetables growing makes me feel even better about what I’m eating.

There are tons of advantages to being a CSA member, so I’m just going to list out a few of my favorite:

–       I get enough vegetables for the week, and rarely have to buy veggies at the grocery store

–       All of the vegetables are organic, and locally grown

–       The CSA “assigns” me certain vegetables every week, which requires me to learn to cook vegetables that I would not otherwise have tried (see, for example, pattypan squash from a few weeks ago)

–      Eating local, in season vegetables helps me to know what I should be eating at various times during the year – and keeps me from eating vegetables that have been bread for shipping and potentially exposed to chemicals and who knows what else

–       The vegetables are fresh and flavorful

Some of the veggies on the farm stand at Green Gate Farms

I go to Green Gate Farms here in Austin, which is a pretty charming place – they grow vegetables, raise chickens for eggs (and for eating, I imagine), raise pigs, and have wildflower bouquets that are readily available at their farm stand.

On a typical week, my share is about two grocery bags of vegetables – most recently lots of squash, tomatoes, cucumbers, herbs, green beans and okra. I split my share with one of my friends which has turned out to be a great thing to do. We share recipes for the vegetables that we have that week and sharing our vegetables means that I don’t have as many to cook. I generally cook for just my boyfriend and myself so having the entire share to myself would be too much.

The biggest disadvantage I’ve found with being a CSA member is that at times, you end up with too many vegetables. Last week, for example, I didn’t have much time to cook so only a few of our vegetables were eaten. My methods for dealing with the occasionally overflowing CSA box are pretty simple:

–       Your friends probably love the idea of farm fresh vegetables – give them a few veggies (or give them your share for the week) when you feel like you have too many veggies

–       Make things that are simple – not everything has to be a labor intensive recipe – I frequently just cut up tomatoes with a little bit of vinegar and olive oil as an appetizer when I have too many

–       Make casseroles or other food that you can eat throughout the week  – that way you can eat your veggies every night, but not have to cook every night

–       I’ve heard that preserving certain vegetables is not difficult, though I haven’t tried it out yet

My CSA has worked out very well for me this year, and I’ll defiantly join again next season. I would recommend it to anyone who likes to cook and is looking to try out new recipes and vegetables that may be a little out of your comfort zone.

Sprouts

14 Jun

Today is the first day of “Deliciously Austin,” a blog devoted to experiencing food in every way possible – growing it, cooking it, ordering it, but, most importantly, eating it.

My name is Ashley, and I live in Austin, Texas, where I’m constantly experimenting with new recipes, eating at as many new restaurants as I can, and, now, growing a vegetable garden.

This weekend, I finally planted my first vegetable garden. I say “finally” because it’s taken about three months to prepare the beds to plant (including removing grass that was growing in that area). I looked at quite a few websites to find out how exactly to go about planting my garden. Hands down, the best resource I found was Texas A&M’s AriLife Extension website. They offer several page reports on how, where and when to grow just about everything that grows in Texas. Based on their advice, I’m planning my garden for the fall & spring.

This is my new oregano plant, which was planted this weekend with several other herbs and veggies.

Unfortunately, after I had done the recommend soil test, created the raised beds, etc, it was already pretty late in the season to plant much. If you’re trying to start a garden, now is not really the time to do it – I believe that March or April is more appropriate, but I’m doing what I can. The nice people at the Great Outdoors did point me in the right direction for the vegetables that I could grow during the hot Texas summer. For the moment, I’m experimenting with what they recommended – I now have a lemon plant, some tomatoes, several herbs and spices, squash, okra, strawberries and eggplant growing in my garden.

Since it’s the beginning of my garden, it seems fitting that it should also be the beginning of Deliciously Austin. I’ve been tossing around the idea for a while, but am just now getting up the nerve to post my first entry. I’m certainly not a food “expert,” but like many people, I love good food and I love to try new things with food. One of my favorite ways to learn about new recipes and ideas is to read other people’s blogs. That being the case, I thought it was about time that I too started sharing what I learned while cooking and eating.

I hope you enjoy reading and come back to see me soon. Happy eating!