Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Successful winter foods! - Part 1

This winter we have tried to eat real food and tried to stay as true to season as seems reasonable for us. In the past month, we had to make some concessions. We need/want fruit other than dried fruit. We bought clementines and bananas. We also bought cranberries (more on that later). We have been cooking more of our meals from canned goods or prepackaged things. Even with our concessions, we have had some very successful meals.

Originally this was going to be one big long recipe post, but I decided that was nuts. Just too much to read in one sitting, and not good for printing if you do that sort of thing. So I broke the post into several, by category.


Butternut squash soup
I'm so surprised and happy that my kids will eat this! The recipe comes from Whole Foods. I only changed it a tiny bit - no celery, veggie broth, and my thyme is dried. Both kids enjoy it, and Aaron prefers it to the crockpot version I make which incorporates apples.

Split pea soup
What a great way to get my kids to eat green food! Aaron makes this delightful concoction, no recipe as is his cooking style. Ingredients: 1 lb. bag of split peas, a bunch of diced carrots (maybe equiv. to 2-3?), some diced onion (probably 1 onion?), veggie bouillon with about 6 cups of water, a few potatoes chopped. Put it all in the crockpot and let it cook on low all day. Mash ingredients sometime before serving.

Ellie particularly likes seeing the bits of carrots. Caleb likes knowing that he'll be "strong like moose" when he eats this.

Turkey chili
Ever since we all returned to eating like omnivores, Aaron insisted on revisiting our chili "recipe." In the past, we (read: mostly Aaron) made a mighty fine vegetarian chili with 4-5 types of beans and texturized veggie protein (read: soy product often used as ground meat substitute). Since Aaron typically makes this dish, I don't have a real recipe. I can give you a rough idea though, at least of the proportions.

In the morning, put the following in your slow-cooker/Crock Pot:
  • 4 cans (~16 oz. each) of different beans, at least some of these should be kidney beans. We also like adding black beans, black-eyed peas, and pinto beans. It depends on what we have around.
  • At least 1 large onion, chopped.
  • Corn (Caleb's addition to our chili)
  • Chopped bell peppers. If you have a Trader Joe's, you can buy the frozen "Melange a Trois" which has red, yellow and green peppers. OK, so it's not as good as fresh peppers from the garden, but you do what you can in a New England winter.
  • Garlic (but wait on other spices until later)
Depending on when you want to eat, you can cook this on high for 4-6 hours or on low for 6-8 hours. We don't time ours. We just let it cook. About 1-2 hours before you want to eat, brown a pound of ground turkey and add this to your slow cooker concoction. For spices, we add cumin, a touch of cayenne, some oregano. Aaron says "A LOT of cumin... A LOT of garlic." :) We add the spices closer to the end so that they don't cook away.

Winter Food

I knew winter would be challenging for me in terms of providing truly healthy, well-balanced meals for my family. Summer is SO easy with the bounty of fresh vegetables and fruits! Winter time in the northeast is just not so very bountiful.

Near the end of summer, Aaron started buying more food than we would eat in a given week or two. He bought beans, broccoli and other vegetables in rather large quantities. He blanched and froze them for the winter. I went on a frenzy of applesauce making and baking various quick breads (e.g., zucchini bread) so that we would have the yummy foods from summer and early fall later in the season. Our preparations were helpful but not nearly enough. We need to learn more about preserving vegetables, so I bought us a book to learn more for next year.

In the meantime, a strange thing has happened. I miss lettuce. I miss green salads.

Maybe that doesn't seem strange to anyone else. However, I don't like salad much. Sure, I eat salad like I'm supposed to. It's good for me. I need my vegetables, and I need to set a good example for my kids. Yet when given a choice of foods, I don't say "Oh, I think I'd like a nice salad today." In fact, I think I would choose almost anything BUT salad. Until this past weekend when I realized I missed the crunch of fresh vegetables, especially leaves.

A few weeks ago, our town's first winter farmers' market opened. We excitedly went in hopes of green vegetables, maybe some tomatoes for my boys (husband and son). Until about 1-2 weeks ago, no greens for us. And then all of a sudden - LETTUCE!! I'm putting green stuff on my sandwiches, and I keep doing a double take. Since when did I like anything on a sandwich besides the meat, cheese, and mustard? Apparently going long enough without a food really can make me appreciate it. :)

But the question remains - what are we going to feed the kids? And some ideas are coming in my next post!

Where did that blogging saddle go??

I said I would try blogging again only to lose my momentum before it started. How do people manage to do this as a job?