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This really is the first box in the last few weeks I’ve had a chance to look at and contemplate what I’m going to cook. Everything else has been a jumble of holiday times, and work, and travel, so much so that ordering my stores for the week has fallen to the wayside. Especially with us not being home for Christmas. So this box is a return, our first box of the New Year and our transition box into a new healthier way of eating.

It’s true, after all the relentless snacking and cookie eating, I’ve managed to put on perhaps more than a few pounds. And all it took to bring me to this rather heady realization was one day on the slopes. Really my only exercise as of late and it left me ragged. Since I plan to continue riding far into my seemingly fattening future, I figure it’s best to start somewhere.

This bluebird Seattle day, crisp and cool but bright and blue, makes me ache to mount my bike and tear around the neighborhood, feel the heat in my legs and make my lungs burn for air. Then, in an exhausted but happy state I’ll return for dinner. Greens and more greens, the truly nourishing things, tossed easily in olive oil and various spices, finished with lemon juice and plated. Short grain brown rice, quinoa, pilafs, mung beans, daal and sauces made from cucumbers, yogurt and goat cheese.

With this trend in mind, I’m not changing much for next week’s box –  adding some more chard, some baby beets and a few grapefruits to feed to our new juicer. I threw in some multi grain bread, coffee and a Wild Rye bundle. We’ve already got some crab for the weekend, some smoked salmon for quiche and a pot roast to go with the New Year’s black-eyed peas.

But, that’s where I’m going, and I’m starting with this box. It’s the New Year and I’m not messing around. Okay, well, after this weekend anyway. So happy New Year everyone, it’s more greens and grains and less simple carbs and outright overeating from here on out. I promise. Come with me, it will be delicious.

Cheers.

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I don’t know what happened. I guess when we left for the holiday we hadn’t finished all of our fruit, and my parents must not big fruit eaters either. Then last week’s box came and now this week’s, and I forgot to change my contents, and suddenly we have 6 apples, 9 pears and a handful of pomegranates, mandarins and one lemon.

My first instinct was – bring out the juicer! Yet the white plastic machine seemed just a glaring sign of defeat, and although there were suggestions of pear tarts, apple pies and fruit salad they all seemed either too involved, or too easy.

Then we received an invitation to a New Year’s Eve party, a simple affair, with a BYO-dessert-to-share theme. I thought of the fruit and popping bottles of champers and all at once, it was clear. It was the champagne that did it.

Champagne poached pears was a recipe that I came across in Epicurious, but as I like Prosecco more than champagne I decided to switch it up a bit. Prosecco just seems to have a bit more complexity, slightly more flavor and can still be as dry or as wet on your palate as you like. And since you’re only using two cups of it – you can drink the rest!

Ginger and lemon matches and enhances the tart and floral qualities of the wine, while cinnamon and vanilla, along with just a spoonful or two of wildflower honey, bring out the sweet and rich flavors of winter dessert, fireside games and hot apple cider. A little simple syrup and in one half-hour, poached pears perfect solitary, alone and delicious, or sliced atop vanilla ice cream like royalty on top of a hill.

This will surely be a hit at the party.

2 cups Prosecco, champagne or other sparkling wine
1 cup simple syrup
2 small cinnamon sticks
2 T honey
1 (3/4) inch piece of ginger, peeled and minced
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
2 (1/4 inch) pieces of lemon peel
5 medium-sized D’anjou pears, peeled
Vanilla ice cream for serving (optional)

Place pears, ginger, cinnamon, vanilla and lemon peel in a medium-sized pot. Drizzle with honey and pour in wine and simple syrup. Bring to a boil then reduce to simmer. Turn pears on their side, the liquid should come up about half-way. Add more wine if necessary.

Cover pears with a round piece of wax paper and simmer for 20 minutes, or until a skewer easily pierces pears. Remove and let rest.

In a small sauce pan strain in two cups of sauce and bring to a boil. Turn down to a simmer and continue heating until reduced by half. Let cool until warm. Sauce should lightly cover a spoon like thin syrup.

Place pears in a serving dish, spoon over sauce and garnish with lemon zest, or serve over ice cream.

Greetings from Kentucky. I hope everyone enjoys their holiday and that good food and family brings everyone together. Although I miss my family and am excited to see them later when we return, visiting my soon-to-be in-laws and they’re family is great. Especially because they have 4 young kids that are constantly running, playing and having fun. What are the holidays with out the sounds of children’s laughter? (I’m actually writing this from a bowling alley in Louisville – the white noise of laughter, pins dropping, balls rolling and the hum of conversations near and far is a surprisingly relaxing environment. )

Although my usual duties as cook have been given time off, I’ve have been slated to make my creamy roasted potatoes for the holiday meal, this time without the arugula pesto – instead tossed in butter and fresh herbs. They are my favorite way to make roasted pots and create the perfect potato for breakfast lunch and dinner. For the recipe, check out the post ‘From Pot to Pan, Roasted Potatoes with Arugula Pesto.’ I think I’ll roast up some garlic to go with the stuffed pork loins, which are the main course.

Where ever you are celebrating and whether with family or friends. I wish you Happy Holidays and a Merry Christmas. May good food and good company bring you much peace and happiness. I’ll be back next week with more good food and recipes (maybe pie?!). Until then, eat well, be happy.

Christmas tenderloin anyone?

As excited as I am about every box, we won’t be around for this one. Not that it will go to waste, my parents are coming over to stay at our house while we’re gone, so hopefully they’ll be making use of all the great produce. In the meantime, we’ll be back east in Kentucky visiting my fiance’s family. And although organic farm fresh vegetables and fruit are a little harder to come by, they have quite the feast with what they can get.

It’ll take me some time to clean my body of the overload of sugar that invariably accompanies the holiday, but coming home and getting back into our routine of the box will be a good start. My Dad is a pretty good cook himself, and my Step mom usually makes this stuffed cabbage dish for Christmas. So, I’m going to leave them with my stuffed chard version of  her dish as well as a couple of my quick and easy sides to help them make good use of our box.

The box for next week looks great and we are nearing the empty mark in preparation for our departure. I don’t think I’ll change much out and just see what my Dad can do with the various veggies and fruits.

Avocados                      Green Leaf Lettuce
Yukon Gold Potatoes      Red Chard
White Turnips                Mandarins
Cremini Mushrooms       Pomegranates
Butternut Squash           D’anjou Pears
Baby Bok Choy             Pink Lady Apples

The butternut squash is perfect for roasting and soup, the Yukons for mashers with the turnips. The mushrooms are excellent roasted in the style of escargot, a recipe of which is coming in the box and the fruit can be sliced into salads or made into crisp or pies. I think I will change out the avocados for endive, it makes a great bed for seared tuna or sliced roast pork and goes well chopped into soups.

While I’m on the road I’ll try and keep my eye out for a Kentucky favorite recipe to share and get some picture to go with (maybe Derby Pie!?). People’s Christmas dinners are so varied and the Christmas goose is far less the staple celebration stand-by than the Thanksgiving Turkey. From stuffed cabbage to rib roast, each family’s tradition is as varied as the people involved. What is you family’s traditional Christmas dinner or if you don’t have a tradition, what are you making this year?

I’m sure you can tell by the title of this post that my mandarin marmalade was not a success. Well, let’s not jump to conclusions. It just happens that the ten year flood hit Seattle and I spent Sunday vacuuming water out of my basement and digging a French drainage ditch next to my house while our holiday party guests sat inside and ate all my mandarins.

Not that I blame them, they were delicious. Once I was able to join the party I had a few myself. So it goes, the best laid plans. So instead I present to you my other fun gift. A simple, quick and delicious chutney that you can serve with everything from roast to your Christmas goose. Chutneys are a great way to give a homemade gift that can be enjoyed by all. They have about a three week shelf life when refrigerated and much longer if canned.

Chutneys are easy to experiment with and can be as simple or as exotic as you like. Try experimenting from this recipe, by adding apple, lemon zest, or spices that spice up or match your dish.

To make a chutney with more the consistency of jam you’ll want to use unripe fruit. It will take anywhere from 35-60 minutes to break the pectin down and create a jam-like consistency. For something that is more of a sauce, blend half the mixture when the liquids are mostly reduced and mix into the remaining mixture. This will make more of a saucy consistency perfect for meats.

3 Pears ( I like Bosc, but any firm pear will work) chopped
4 Fuyu persimmons chopped
1/2 Onion diced
1 cup Cashews (Optional), finely chopped
2 T Minced fresh ginger
1 cup Apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup Red wine vinegar
1/4 cup Brown Sugar
1/2 t Pepper
1/2 t  Salt

How to prepare:

Combine pears, persimmons, onion, walnuts, ginger, vinegar, brown sugar, black pepper and salt in a large saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally. It’s really that easy! Simmer for 35-45 minutes until mixture has a chunky, jam like consistency. Let cool and spoon into a jar when still warm. Place lid on tightly and refrigerate. (Can be refrigerated up to 3 weeks). This is a great addition to many meals especially pork and lamb.

Okay, this is the weekend.

Christmas is fast approaching and my shopping is far from being done. This weekend I’m going to sit down and put in the time to make some home-made gifts. I’ve got a growing pile of satsuma mandarins just waiting to be zested and juiced for marmalade; a pound of carrots destined for carrot and candied ginger cake; persimmons, pears and apples all ready for a Moroccan lemon chutney; and a few special ingredients ordered for the consummate foodies in my life.

Truffle and Salt from Ritrovo for my brother, which still makes me gasp a little every time I open my jar that I got last year, and a stack of various organic and certified chocolates from Theo Chocolate, some for gifts and some for stocking stuffers.

Hopefully, my marmalade experiment goes well and I’ll share it here with you next week. I’ve collected a number of rather interesting jars from thrift stores and antique stores to store it and just need some ribbons and maybe a label or two. I have a couple of larger jars that would be perfect for cookie mix, layered into them for presentation. So time for me to get started!

Otherwise my box this week looks delicious. I didn’t sub anything out, though we still have all the fruit from this week, but I should use most of it this weekend in my gift making endeavors and we have company coming over Sunday so I’ll make use of what’s left in salads and crisps for everyone.  I might sub out the tomatoes for arugula as it goes great in a salad with persimmons, pears and blue cheese. I’m also going to sub out Avocados for mushrooms and eggplant for turnips. Though I love both and could easily fit them into our meals, this makes my box primarily locally grown and besides, I love turnips and mushrooms too!

So that makes my box look like this –

Cremini Mushrooms
Red Potatoes
Bunched Baby Carrots
Arugula
Purple Top Turnips
Baby Bok Choy
Salad Mix (Cut Greens
Green Cabbage
Satsuma
Fuyu Persimmons
D’anjou Pears
Fuji Apples

I think a cabbage and potato soup, like the one in Full Circle’s Good Food & Recipes archive – La Soupe de Louviers, might be in order. I’ll just need to add some celery, fresh thyme and onions. I’ve also been craving a good pot roast. It’s been a while since I’ve made one and I think it’s about time. The carrots, potatoes, turnips and mushrooms will all happily accompany the roast as well, though I’ll need some garlic to shove into it to give it that roasted garlic flavor. The arugula salad I’ll make as a side and the fruit will go into salads and make some nice baked goods or more chutney.

I swear some weeks I think we could easily eat two boxes! When we first started with Full Circle it seemed like a chore to get through a box between the two of us. We found ourselves just eating home more often and making a meal out of three or four different dishes of greens, roots and fruit. Now, with a little planning and coordinating we easily make quick work of a standard box and our refrigerator is basically empty two days before we get our next box!

The other thing I find fascinating is I haven’t gotten really sick since I started eating organic food. In the last year I’ve been sick once and that wasn’t too bad. Granted it could be a number of things, but I like to believe that the good food I’m eating is doing its part to make me healthy and strong.

Have a great weekend and I’ll hopefully have a good marmalade recipe for you next week!

Oh eggplant. Such a delicious yet misunderstood vegetable – actually classifies as a berry, but we won’t go into that. For years it stayed on my ‘dislike’ list with the company of lima beans, escargot, and celery. Maligned and sullen it would lift its head at times, making hasty appearances in a bitter and slimy state surrounded with tomatoes and carrots in a melange of colors and textures. Never given its chance to shine through, it was often passed by.

That was until a young chef at an old family Italian restaurant made me eggplant parmesan. The sauce was rich, but not overpowering, the fresh basil popped through and just twisted the eggplant somehow into something new. It wasn’t bitter, nor was it slimy. Crunchy, flavorful, chewy and layered with fresh mozzarella and aged Parmigiano. It was simply delicious.

I found the trick to making this veggie shine was a quick, dry brine. Just enough to get the sauce going and leach out about one cupful of bitter juice from each bulbous fruit. This enough in itself to enjoy it grilled, roasted, pan fried or blended up in baba ganoush. With the bitterness gone the gentle rich and exotic flavor comes through.

In fact, many varieties, like the Japanese eggplant and smaller fruits don’t need this treatment, called “degorging,” instead they can be roasted whole and chopped into various dishes like curries or stir fries. Although I’ve learned to love the gentle abergine in all its varieties and forms, I still crave the original dish that turned me around.

Though I generally make my own parmesan sauce, you can easily substitute any marinara, and if without fresh basil leaves, dry will do just fine. Try to let your eggplant slices rest for at least a half hour covered in salt, enough time to leach out some of the bitter liquid, especially if on the large side. When it comes to frying or baking the breaded slices I tried it both ways and liked the drier, crisper baked version better, though it takes a little longer to brown up than frying.

For eggplant:

1 eggplant, cut into1/2 inch rounds, brined as above then rinsed and patted dry

2 eggs

1/4 cup milk

2 cups flour for dredging

4 cups light breadcrumbs

1 t salt

1/2 t pepper

8 whole basil leaves

4 balls fresh mozzarella

3 T shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano

For sauce:

2 T olive oil

1/2 large white onion

4 cloves garlic

1 t anchovies, minced or anchovy paste (optional)

1 t red pepper flakes

2 T fresh basil or 1 T dry basil

3 T tomato paste

1 cup red wine

14.5 oz can of tomato sauce

14.5 oz can of stewed tomatoes

pepper

Salt to taste (omit if using anchovies)

1/2 T Italian parsley, minced

While your eggplant is degorging get your sauce started. That way it can cook while you bread and bake the eggplant. Heat olive oil in a medium sauce pan over medium-high heat. Saute onions until translucent, about 3-4 minutes. Add garlic and cook briefly, about 30 seconds, until fragrant. Add anchovies if using, red pepper flakes and basil, saute for another 3-4 minutes, mixing thoroughly with onions and garlic. Add tomato paste and saute for another 4-5 minutes, or until it darkens and begins to brown. This will give it a rich depth of flavor. Deglaze with red wine and let reduce by half. Add tomatoes and season to taste. Let simmer for about one half hour.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. After you have rinsed off the eggplant pat it dry lightly. Mix eggs and milk in a small bowl. Mix breadcrumbs with salt and pepper. Dredge each slice in flour, dip it into the egg mixture letting the excess drip off, then press into the breadcrumbs until both sides are well covered. Place in a foil-lined pan. Continue with remaining slices until all are breaded. Bake until light brown and crisp, about 20 minutes.

To ready dish for baking, ladle a small amount of sauce into an 8×8 baking dish to cover the bottom. Place a layer of eggplant, a leaf of basil on each slice, then cover with mozzarella, then sauce and finally Parmigiano. Repeat another layer but with cheeses on top. Bake until cheese has melted and sauce bubbles, about 15-20 minutes. Let stand for ten minutes, plate and garnish with parsley. Makes 4 servings.

Lately I’ve been thinking about Christmas presents. Dreading actually, the thought of shopping for loved ones near and far, fighting my way through hordes of shoppers, puzzling out the specific gift requirements of precocious ten year-olds and the current consumer fads they desire, and just the general process of spending my hard earned dough.

Luckily Sarah, who writes our other blog Good Food Health, gave me some great ideas for home-made gifts. Not only do pickled onions, pickled green beans, marmalade, pancake mix, cookie mix and many other recipes taste great, they can also make great gifts. These home projects are a wonderful way to give gifts on a budget, as well as being easy to make.

My plan is to make a few healthy cookie mixes, layer them in cool old mason jars I found at the antique store along with a hand written recipe and bestow these upon the sweet-loving members of my family. I’d also like to try my hand at making some jam or marmalade with our satsumas. Since the satsumas are so juicy, I can sub out my apples and pears and sub in satsumas to get enough juice to make a few jars of satsuma vanilla marmalade.

I think when it comes to these homemade projects the jar really matters. That way someone gets something that they can eat and appreciate and use later for something else. Thrift stores and antique stores are a great place to find old canning jars. I thought of giving out jars of kimchi, but figured there wouldn’t be too many takers.

So besides the fruit, basically satsumas and pomegranates, here’s the rest of my list –

Cilantro
Yellow Onions
Bunched Carrots
Sunchokes
Eggplant
Cucumbers
Salad Mix (Cut Greens)
Acorn Squash

The cilantro, carrots and onions make me think of albondigas – a rice meatball soup with Mexican spices – or pozole , a similar soup with hominy. Both of these are family staples and taste great vegetarian, with chicken or pork. Though pork has the most depth and flavor, chicken is often the easiest and one whole organic chicken can make enough stock, meat and soup for quite a few meals.

The sunchokes are one of my favorite winter foods. Last year was the first time I had ever tried any and I had a blast experimenting with various preparations. I think by far my favorite was the sunchoke gnocchi. It took a lot more flour than I remember, but the result was awesome. I’m determined to figure that recipe out this year.

Eggplant says one thing to me, okay, one of two things – baba ganoush or eggplant parmigiano. Seriously, I could eat either for days. I think the last time they were in the box I made baba ganoush, so this time it’s parmigiano! Which means I’ll need to add some Parmigiano-Reggiano to my order. The salad mix will accompany that well, and the cucumbers will fit into that nicely.

I think I may just trade out the acorn squash for another eggplant so I can make a big batch, but squash is so easy to prepare – I just cut them in half, rub with oil, salt and pepper and a variety of spices depending on my mood then toss them into a hot oven until soft and brown. We had some last night with roasted turnips. I finished them both with a little honey and lemon juice, they were great.

So for next week, I’ll either share my recipe for sunchoke gnocchi or my recipe for eggplant parmigiano, complete with my favorite recipe for anchovy based marinara sauce. They are both hearty and delicious and take a little more preparation than some recipes, but are well worth the extra time.

Have a great weekend.

First, I’ll say this is kind of unfair. I don’t have a deep fryer, or a fry-daddy or even a deep fry thermometer – which I’ll say is absolutely necessary if you plan on deep frying anything. What I do have is a cast iron pan and peanut oil. Oh, and a stove that is electric (which I despise and will replace as soon as I can afford it) and wildly inaccurate. On my stove, especially using cast iron, high does not mean high. For some reason it has a really tough time regulating the heat of cast iron. It is constantly turning itself off and on to maintain whatever heat you have it set on, not trusting I think that I am perfectly capable of regulating the heat myself, given a steady source.

Nonetheless, I poured 16oz of peanut oil into my pan, set it on high and began to peel two lovely bulbs of celery root and two small sweet potatoes I had lolling about in a paper bag in the back of the fridge. When the oil was barely beginning  to smoke I added the sweet potatoes and watched them dance. I figured if the oil was too hot they would bring it down to temp and if it was too cool I would just be ruining these slightly old sweet potatoes instead of the delicious celery root.

I also preheated my oven to 400 degrees, oiled a pan with peanut oil and tossed in one of the sliced roots. As they baked I removed the browned potatoes and let the oil rise in temp again until a slice of celery root immediately bubbled and popped in the oil. I then double fried them, meaning I fried them until they were soft, removed them to drain and then fried them again to crisp them.

Except, they didn’t quite become crisp. They browned nicely and tasted great, especially after a sprinkle of truffle salt, but never quite attained that crisp yet soft interior that I so love in potato fries. But then again, I did this without a deep fry thermometer and on a stove that is hard to regulate the temp, as it thinks its smarter than I am.

On the other hand my oven fries turned out great. They were brown and crisp on the outside – though they quickly softened just after sitting only minutes – and were delicious and creamy on the inside. The flavor was a little brighter and they were not as greasy. Even though my test was just a slight less than scientific I’m sold. It’s baked celery root fries for me from now on.

For this test I sliced them fry-sized, but in the past I’ve cut them more the size of home fries and that seems to do the trick. Bigger chunks allow them to cook slower and really get that creamy and fluffy center that I’m looking for. The smaller size works too, but became soft quickly. I love mixing big chunks of celery root in with potatoes, parsnips and radishes in a tasty roasted root vegetable mix. This is a great side with a rack of lamb or venison, the earthy taste of the roots mixing with the slight wild flavor of the meats.