Friday, November 21, 2014

Sweet & Savory Winter Squash

by Shawn Menard, Produce Manager

With all of the winter squash varieties to choose from at the Co-op it can be challenging to decide which type to pick.  And once you pick, it can be even more challenging to find a new and exciting recipe you haven’t tried yet. Below are some of the squash you will find at the Co-op and my favorite way to use each one. Hopefully this will make it easier for you to decide what will be for dinner.


Acorn
This mild sweet squash is easy to handle and absorbs flavor well. Acorn squash is excellent stuffed with your favorite meat stuffing or bean and vegetable mixture.  Cut in half from top to bottom and remove seeds.  Score the flesh in ¼ inch increments and place each half in a baking dish cut side up.  Brush the flesh with olive oil or butter and bake at 400 degrees for 45-60 minutes or until slight caramelization occurs. Fill each half with desired stuffing and bake for an additional 10 minutes.


Blue Hubbard
  Its thick bumpy skin is more difficult to handle and cut, but the orange flesh on the inside is well worth it.  The flavor is sweet and nutty. Both flavor and texture are comparable to a sweet potato.  Blue hubbards are great with butter and maple syrup.  Cut in half and scoop out the seeds.  Place halves cut side down in a baking dish with a half inch of water. Bake at 400 degrees for one hour. Let cool and mix in butter and syrup to your liking.  Finish with salt and pepper.
This large and misshapen squash is one of the most challenging to deal with.


Buttercup
This petite squash is one of the easier varieties to handle due to its size and relatively thin skin.  Peel and cut into one inch pieces. Mix 2 tablespoons each of agave (or honey) with balsamic vinegar. Brush liquid mixture over squash pieces and season with salt and pepper. Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes.


Butternut
This is the squash everybody knows.  Its delicious, easy to find, and you can do almost anything with it. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut in half lengthwise and peel.  Scoop out seeds and cut into ¾ inch pieces.  Coat pieces in olive oil and roast for 30 minutes. Heat 6 cups chicken stock on low heat. In a separate large pan melt 5 tablespoons of butter and sauté 2 ounces of diced pancetta and two diced shallots until shallots become translucent. Stir in 1.5 cups Arborio rice until coated. Add a half cup of dry white wine and cook for 2 minutes. Add 2 full ladles of stock to the rice plus 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Stir, and simmer until the stock is absorbed, 5 to 10 minutes. Continue to add the stock, 2 ladles at a time, stirring every few minutes. Each time, cook until the mixture seems a little dry, then add more stock. Continue until the rice is cooked through, but still al dente, about 30 minutes total. Off the heat, add the roasted squash cubes and 1 cup grated parmesan cheese. Mix well and serve.


Delicata
This cylindrical squash is very easy to handle and is my personal favorite.  The skin is edible when cooked making it hassle free. I love using delicata in quesadillas this time of year.  Cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds.  Place halves in a baking dish with the cut side down in a half inch of water and bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes.  Allow squash to cool to the touch and cut into quarter or half inch pieces.  Saute the pieces with sliced mushrooms, garlic, onions, dried sage, salt, and pepper.  Cook the mixture in your favorite tortillas with a nice sharp cheddar and enjoy dipped in hot sauce.


Kabocha
Also know as the “Japanese Pumpkin” this squash is exceptionally sweet and also nutty in flavor.  It’s texture is reminiscent of russet potatoes and can either be very smooth and creamy or firm depending on how it is cooked.  This is by far one of the most dynamic winter squash varieties and can be used in almost any winter squash recipe.  To get the best out of kabochas, I like to bake in half (with seeds scooped out) at 400 degrees for 35-40 minutes.  Place each half face down and add about a half inch of water to the bottom of the baking dish. This will allow some parts of the squash to remain slightly firm while other parts are soft and smooth.  Allow squash to cool for a few minutes then carve out the flesh away from the skin with a large spoon.  Partially mash and add spices that compliment the rest of your meal.


Red Kuri
The red kuri squash is often mistaken for sugar pumpkins as their shape, size, and color are similar. The orange flesh provides a chestnut aftertaste. I like using red kuris for breakfast.  Try adding some mashed red kuri squash into your favorite potato cake recipe.  You could also add small cooked pieces to potatoes, onions, carrots, garlic, and corned beef for an awesome breakfast hash.


Spaghetti
The name says it all here, spaghetti squash is an excellent alternative to pasta, especially if you are on a gluten free diet.  Cut in half lengthwise and scoop the seeds out.  Place flesh down in a baking dish and add a half inch of water to the dish.  Bake at 450 for 30 to 40 minutes.  Allow squash to cool for a few minutes.  Grab two forks, using one to hold the squash in place and the other to the scrape along the flesh.  As you scrape the flesh it will yield spaghetti-like fibers.  Place all the fibers in a bowl and mix with your favorite pasta sauce.

 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Thanksgiving Food Blog Round Up

The holiday season is upon us with just about a week til the big T-day! We've covered all sort of holiday dinner topics previously on this blog, so we wanted to do a little round up for you...

The Turkey

The Veggie Sides

Appetizers

Special Diets

Sweets & Treats
Want more inspiration? Check out EatingWell and Vegetarian Times.

Holiday Cooking with Fresh Herbs

by Maria Noël Groves, Clinical Herbalist & Co-op Wellness Educator

In November, I’m still harvesting fresh herbs from my garden to complete a dish for dinner or a party. Even though most of our garden sleeps during the winter, a few hardy herbs like rosemary, thyme, sage, and savory will persist into the snowy weather. It’s no surprise that they pair so well with the foods of the season: roasted poultry, squash and root vegetables, cranberries, apples, and baked goods.

Whether you’re harvesting these herbs straight from the garden or “cheating” and purchasing them from the Co-op’s produce department, the few minutes it takes to add fresh herbs to these dishes are worth the amazing flavor.

Roast Turkey & Chicken

Stuff sprigs of rosemary, sage, winter savory, and thyme under the skin of the turkey or chicken before roasting. This prevents the herbs from burning and allows the flavors to penetrate the meat as it cooks. I usually put 1 to 3 sprigs per pound of poultry. (Sage and rosemary are potent, but thyme is mild.)

Gravy

Separate the leaves from the stems of several sprigs each of rosemary, sage, and thyme. Place the stems in the hot gravy for several minutes to infuse it. Strain out the stems, then add 1 tablespoon of chopped leaves per cup of gravy. Or simply place the whole sprigs of rosemary, sage, and thyme in hot gravy for 10 minutes, strain, and serve. (I learned this trick from famed herbal chef and author Jerry Traunfeld.)

Stuffing

Sage and thyme offer classic flavors to stuffing. For 12 servings of stuffing, chop 1 to 3 tablespoons of fresh herb leaves and fold them into your stuffing. Add 1/2 cup of chopped fresh parsley for bright flavors.

Biscuits, Rolls & Butter

Fold chopped fresh chives and grated cheddar into biscuit batter for a tasty quick bread. Rosemary, sage, thyme, savory, and dill hold their flavor well when baked. Add a handful of fresh, chopped herbs into any dough or batter. If you don’t have time to make fresh bread, flavor the butter instead. Use a food processor to mix 1 tablespoon of chopped chives and 1 teaspoon of fresh squeezed lemon into a stick of softened butter. Reshape in wax paper or place in serving dishes, then
refrigerate to harden slightly before serving. Using the same technique, add roasted garlic and finely chopped rosemary leaves to softened butter.

Potatoes

In a food processor, blend any tender herbs into softened butter, then add that butter to mashed potatoes. Parsley or chives work well. Use 1/4 cup of herbs and 6 tablespoons of butter per 2 pounds of potatoes.

Squash & Roasted Vegetables

Sage brown butter adds creamy goodness to mashed squash and pureed root vegetable soups and chowders. In a small skillet, fry a handful of whole, fresh sage leaves in a half stick of butter. You can use the fried leaves as a garnish or remove them before adding to your recipe. Frying sage transforms and mellows the flavor. For roasted squash and root vegetables like potatoes, add several whole sprigs of rosemary, thyme, and/or savory to the pan. Or fold in chopped chives a few minutes before the vegetables are done roasting.

Apple Cider

A crock of cider accompanies all our fall and winter get-togethers. Pour 1 gallon of local cider into a crock pot and add 2 to 3 cinnamon sticks, 10 whole cloves, 3 allspice berries, 2 bay leaves, a sprig of fresh rosemary, 1/2-inch of fresh ginger root (sliced), and some freshly grated nutmeg. Let simmer at least one hour. Serve with local maple liquor or homemade cordial. (Available in liquor stores. Make your own by combining equal parts maple syrup and good vodka.)

Cranberries

I’m a cranberry purist, but a sprig or two of fresh rosemary infuses nicely in homemade cranberry sauce (remove before serving). Or make this easy cordial: On the stove, dissolve 2 cups of sugar in 1 cup of water. Add cranberries and cook until tender. Fill a mason jar halfway with the mixture, then top it off with quality vodka and a few sprigs of rosemary. Let sit for two weeks, strain. Serve solo or in cocktails at parties. It also makes a nice gift.

Maria teaches and sees clients throughout the country. Her first herbal wellness book is due out from Storey Publishing in February 2016. Visit www.wintergreenbotanicals.com for more herbal recipes.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Superfoods of the Season

by Maria Noël Groves, RH (AHG), Registered Clinical Herbalist & Co-op Wellness Educator

Step back goji berries, chia, and acai. You’re nice and all, but it’s late autumn in New England. Our kitchens are stocked with good-for-you goodies that make up for what they lack in exotic by in affordability, accessibility, and taste. It’s time to look at your seasonal standards in a whole new way.

Pumpkins & Winter Squash

This is the time to enjoy winter squash and pumpkins before storage takes its toll on their flavor and texture. Right now they’re bursting with betacarotene and other carotenoids that bolster your immune system, keep skin supple, and help you stay lubricated during the cold, dry winter. They also improve eyesight, reduce cancer risk, and are good for your heart. Their fat-soluble nutrients will be even more powerful when canned, roasted, simmered into soups, and baked into delicious treats. Think of them as the original gluten-free carb, the likes of which kept the Pilgrims from starving during the first harsh winters. Toast up those seeds for a mineral-rich, high-fiber snack.

Brussels Sprouts

I hope I didn’t lose you at “Brussels” because these petite cabbages are completely transformed into a mouth-watering side dish when prepared properly. Saute them with olive oil or butter (and perhaps a little white wine or hard cider), salt, and pepper. To spruce it up, mix in sauteed mushrooms, garlic, crisp bacon, or dried cranberries. These babies rank among the highest anticancer foods, help lower cholesterol, and give your liver a boost (and, admit it, with cocktail season in full swing, you could use that). Also try one of the newfangled and surprisingly tasty thinly chopped raw Brussels salads.

Apples

U-pick season has ended, but now’s the perfect time to up your daily produce ante with baked apples, applesauce, and other dessert-y treats from apple crisp with whole grain topping to handmade apple pie. Experiment with less and less sugar and let the tangy tart flavor of apples and a sprinkle of cinnamon satisfy your sweet tooth.


Cranberries

Talk about tart! These local fruits pack a wallop in terms of flavor and antioxidant content. Play around with natural sweeteners like maple syrup, OJ, or pomegranate juice concentrate to give them a lift without the usual sugar hit. What will these berries do for you? Besides their famous ability to fend off urinary tract infections, they also fight both arterial and dental plaque, and decrease inflammation. Add them to apple dishes, goat cheese salads, make a fresh cranberry chutney, and more.

Cinnamon & Cardamom

Maybe these super spices won’t grow in our soil like the rest of the seasonal powerhouses, but chances are you already have them in your kitchen, and they will bring your food and health to a higher plane. Almost any culinary spice improves digestion and decreases inflammation. Cardamom is one of my favorites  for kicking up digestive juices while providing a special chai-like flavor to baked goods, soups, baked beans, bacon and ham, smoothies, and eggnog. Cinnamon helps improve your body’s ability to process sugar and insulin while also patching things up in cranky bowels. Simmer a few sticks or let them sit in a thermos for an hour for a surprisingly sweet sugar-free tea that you can enjoy after meals. And, of course, add it to any dish you’d like!

Maria runs Wintergreen Botanicals Herbal Clinic & Education Center in Allenstown. Her first herbal wellness book is due out from Storey Publishing in February 2016. For herbal recipes and more herbal inspiration, visit wintergreenbotanicals.com.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Three Variables of an Anti-Inflammatory Diet

by Laura Piazza, Recipes for Repair Cookbook Co-Author & Co-op Wellness Educator

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/anti-inflammatory-dishes-tasty-dishes-to-quench-your-fire-tickets-9682375245
When going on an anti-inflammatory diet, we choose to eat foods that can influence how we feel and progress with chronic illness and chronic symptoms. There are three variables to an anti-inflammatory diet, one of which can often be overlooked.

Eating an anti-inflammatory diet can help in many ways because you fuel yourself with nourishing foods, many of which have anti-inflammatory properties. Additionally, you work to remove foods that are said to promote inflammation. These foods often have little to no nutritional value. There is a third variable though, one which many of us don’t know to look for – hidden food sensitivities.

If you have a food intolerance but don’t know it and continue to eat the offending food(s), you will just add to the inflammation that’s already present in your body. This can create or aggravate symptoms. It is especially important to learn of any food sensitivities if you are battling a chronic symptoms or chronic illness, because some of your symptoms and/or inflammation may be dietary. Remove the offending food, and symptoms can either be minimized or even disappear altogether!
Food sensitivities are not the same as food allergies, which are more immediate and can be severe or even deadly. A reaction to a food that you are sensitive to won’t be as severe and can happen hours to days after eating that particular food. The symptoms can vary greatly, which makes it even more of a challenge to determine if the food you ate an hour or a day ago is causing discomfort.

You can identify unknown food sensitivities by going on an elimination diet and keeping a food journal, or by asking your health care provider to perform specialized testing. Once your sensitivities are discovered, it’s essential that you take the appropriate steps to eliminate those foods from your diet in order to have the full benefit of an anti-inflammatory diet.

When you pay close attention to your body, you may find that the foods that cause you distress are common allergens like gluten, corn or dairy, or something more obscure. A few uncommon sensitivities that readers have shared with me are turnips, carrots, and cashews.

To some, the prospect of changing your diet or giving up certain foods feels overwhelming. But this doesn’t have to happen overnight. In breaking old habits and introducing new ingredients into your kitchen, new cooking habits and a healthier way of eating will result. A gradual change will feel less stressful and will allow you to slowly ease into a new way of eating.

One way to ease your fears is to try new recipes or products. If you believe you may be dairy intolerant, for instance, try some recipes or products that are dairy-free. You may be surprised to find that a recipe or product doesn’t taste much different when a dairy-free milk, like almond or rice milk, takes the place of milk.

To exemplify my point that eating allergen-free and/or anti-inflammatory meals can still be appetizing and delicious I have provided an easy-to-prepare, healthy breakfast recipe (see below).

If you suspect food sensitivities and/or want to implement an anti-inflammatory diet into your life, you can view the physician-developed anti-inflammatory/elimination diet featured in our book on our web site, www.recipesforrepair.com. Here you can try over three dozen professionally-developed recipes, all of which were developed for the diet and are identified as gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, and/or vegetarian.



Recipe ~ Carrot Almond Pancakes

These pancakes may look a little different than what you’re used to, but they taste sweet, nutty and very satisfying. Top them with a teaspoon of raw honey and some blueberries for a complete breakfast treat. Prepare and refrigerate the pancake batter the night before, so that you can make your breakfast in a few minutes.
Gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegetarian.
Prep: 10 minutes, Cook: 12 minutes. Makes 4 pancakes.

1 cup peeled and grated carrots (2-3 carrots)
¼ cup almonds
1 slice fresh ginger (1/8-inch thick)
1 teaspoon ground flaxseed
2 tablespoons unsweetened shredded coconut
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 egg
¼ teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon vanilla
1-2 tablespoons ghee or olive oil
1 teaspoon raw honey
Blueberries (optional)

1. Place the grated carrots in a medium-sized bowl.
2. Place the almonds, ginger and flaxseed in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse 5-6 times until the almonds are finely ground.
3. Add the almond mixture and all of the remaining ingredients, except for the ghee, honey and blueberries, to the grated carrots.
4. Heat the ghee in a small frying pan over medium heat for 2 minutes, or until hot.
5. Pour two ¼-cup portions of pancake batter into the frying pan, and cook for about 3 minutes per side, or until lightly browned. Repeat with the remaining batter.
6. Top with honey and blueberries if desired, and serve hot.

Recipe & photographs reprinted from Recipes for Repair, with permission from the authors. To learn more about Laura and her award-winning anti-inflammatory cookbook, visit recipesforrepair.com

Friday, November 7, 2014

Identity Crisis: Yam or Sweet Potato?

by Jay Sjostrom, Co-op Produce Clerk

This week in the Concord Food Co-op’s produce department we are highlighting the Japanese yam/sweet potato. Before I go into the detail of that particular variety I’d like to address a question we’re often asked in produce: Is there a difference between Yams and Sweet Potatoes?

            There are two separate answers to this question, one in regards to culture, and one to botanical truth. Starting with the latter, most of the “yams” we sell in the USA are botanically sweet potatoes. This goes for all varieties available at the Co-op. In fact yams and sweet potatoes are from two different plant families. True yams are largely unavailable; most people have probably never seen or eaten them. While sweet potatoes have a generally smooth looking and attractive appearance, the yam has a much wilder looking, tree bark exterior. It is also much drier than a sweet potato. So with this knowledge in mind: why do we call sweet potatoes yams in the USA?
            For one, it’s a cultural thing, but it’s also marketing too. There are two are varieties of sweet potatoes: a firm, light tan variety, and a soft copper colored variety (Garnets and Jewels). The light tan variety was the first to be introduced in this country.  This variety was first called and still is labeled a sweet potato. The copper color variety came after and was called a yam in order to better tell the difference between the two. This difference of look, feel, and labeling has estranged so-called “yams” from the sweet potato family and thus left customers with the question we started with.
            Japanese yams are also in the sweet potato family. In fact, they are the sweetest variety we offer at the Co-op and if not over-cooked retains a unique flavor, setting them apart from the garnet and jewel. Its purple skin makes it easily identifiable amongst the earthier hues of its neighbors. So if you’re looking for the sweetest variety of yams this holiday season, look no further. We have yams at a great reduced price of $2.29/lb starting Friday November 7th, 2014.

Looking for recipes?
Try these links:
Maple-Cranberry Sweet Potatoes
Quinoa Salad with Sweet Potatoes and Peppers
Black Bean- Smothered Sweet Potatoes
Spicy Sweet Potato Wedges with Jalapeno Sour Cream
Maple-Cranberry Sweet Potatoes
Maple-Cranberry Sweet Potatoes

Thursday, November 6, 2014

A New England Cheese Platter

by Jaimie Jusczyk, Marketing Specialist

At last nights Cheesy Wine Down tasting class, the Co-op's cheese expert Heidi showed us how to create the perfect New England themed cheese platter. Heidi brought along lots of props to help inspire our own creations for the upcoming holiday season including a variety of platters, boards and various dishes that she likes to use to present her selections to her guests. A great idea she had was using ramekins to serve nuts and jams. We all have ramekins hidden in the back of the kitchen cupboards that hardly get to see the light and they are the perfect size for small spaces and servings. Heidi also pointed out that while traditional plates are great for serving already cut cheese, they don't make for a very elegant cheese cutting board, so stick to flat boards or slates when serving cheese that your guests will be cutting into themselves.

So onto the cheese selections; the Co-op's cheese buyer Suzy has been busy finding seasonal cheeses that make great conversation starters from local New England farms. These selections make great gifts this time of year too. We tried Olga cheese from Seal Cove Farm in Maine, that is a blend of raw cows and goats milk. From New Hampshire we tried Toma and Piermont from Robie Farm. Robie Farm is a 140 year old dairy farm in Piermont along the Connecticut River. Then we tried a nice selection of cheeses from Vermont Farms like Lake's Edge and Crottina from Blue Ledge Farm. The Lake's Edge cheese has a dramatic ash-vein through it which makes for a very eye-catching selection on a cheese platter and tastes out of this world with a dollop of honey. From Grafton Village we tried the Leyden cheese that is inspired by an area of the Netherlands. And lastly from Von Trapp Farmstead we tried the Mad River Blue cheese and Brie from Blthydale Farm.
It sounds like a lot is going on, but for a group of 25 people it served us very well (there was plenty for seconds and even thirds) and only cost about $65 for the cheeses and another $20 for a blueberry spread, a couple apples and some walnuts. That works out to less than $4 per person. (Don't worry you definitely get your money's worth at our tasting class, we also prepared 2 other similar sized platters plus the wealth of knowledge that Heidi provides.)

Now lets move on to the wines of the month. Clos LaChance winery is a small family owned and operated winery near the Silicon Valley in California. The vineyard and production facility are both Sustainably Certified via the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance. This means that when you purchase Clos LaChance wines you are supporting environmentally sound practices, economically feasible agriculture and socially equitable conduct. I think this makes the wine much more enjoyable!
We started the evening with a glass of Chardonnay and Meritage. The Chardonnay would pair lovely with a manchego, but the goats milk cheeses on the platter were a great alternative. The fruitiness worked well with the Reine des Rennette apples too. The Meritage was a lovely splash to enjoy with the Mad River Blue and nuts. The strong personalities of each worked well.
Then we tried the Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc. I thought the Cab Sav was a great wine with anything on the cheese platter. It was fresh and fruity, even though it looked dark and mellow. The Sav Blanc worked well with the goats milk cheeses on the platter like the Olga from Seal Cove Farm or the Crottina from Blue Ledge Farm. the fresh citrus notes left a crisp taste on the palate.
Like Heidi always tells us, pairings are a personal thing, you either like a combination or not, so get out there and try something new from the Co-op! Make sure to print your coupons to save $5 on cheese with your wine of the month purchase, click here.