Freezing Kale for Winter

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Some years in Philadelphia, we’re lucky to have  kale in our raised beds all winter long. But in other parts of the country, and during particularly hard winters everywhere, your kale isn’t going to make it through the winter.

Though it won’t really work in a fresh salad, frozen kale is a great addition to winter smoothies, soups and stews, sauces, the list goes on.

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If you’re interested in freezing some kale for winter, it’s a fairly easy and straight-forward process. Start by picking the kale (or picking some up at your local farmer’s market. Pull the leaves off of the stem, and slice into thin strips.

Bring a large pot of water to boy, and add a bit of salt, then plunge the kale leaves into the boiling water, stirring, and allow to boil for a few minutes, until it becomes tender. Pull from the hot water bath, and plunge immediately into very cold water (or water with some ice floating in it!

Drain the kale in a colander, and then squeeze any extra water from the greens. Pack highly into freezer boxesProcessed with VSCOcam with c1 preset or freezer bags, and label with “Kale” and the year. I know it sounds silly, but I’ve dug so many greens from the depths of my freezer that I had to thaw to identify. What you’re sure you’ll remember now, you might not remember in a month!

Sure, it takes a few steps, and a little bit of advanced planning, but you’ll be happy to “break off” a hunk of organic greens from your freezer this winter

Lunch Boxes and what goes in them

I almost always bring my own lunch to work. Even though I’m blessed with a plethora of cheap and tasty food trucks near my office, I know that I eat better, and use up my leftover far more quickly, if I bring them for lunch. Leftovers are boring, you say? Well, yes, they can be. But you can always shake them up. I like to change them slightly, like I did in the lunch above (adding a side of pickled radishes and a boiled egg to my raw kale salad)by adding new components, or cooking in a new way (frying leftover risotto into cakes).

I love my new Black + Blum lunchbox, pictured above, for so many reasons. It’s BPA-free and easy to clean, has a divider box and even a mini dressing box, reminds me that the largest portion in my lunch should be vegetables, and even has a little soy sauce indentation and fork holder on the lid.

How do you like to pack your lunch? What kind of lunchbox do you use?

Drying herbs for winter

Sadly, almost all of my herbs got eaten by squirrels, killed by the heat wave, poisoned by black walnuts, or crushed by construction materials. This past week I decided that instead of harvesting my own, I’d order some lemon balm from the Lancaster Farm Fresh CSA and still have plenty of winter tea. Lemon Balm can be dried like most herbs from your garden – easily. The fastest method is to lay the herbs on a cookie sheet and place them in your oven. Just a little heat – 100 degrees – can try the herbs in an hour or two, or if you have a gas oven with a pilot light you can leave them in there overnight and wake up to dried herbs in the morning. I usually remove leaves before drying, but with some tough leaves, like rosemary, it is easier to dry them on the stalk and then remove them later.

Some people prefer to hang their herbs by their stalks. These bunches, hanging over a kitchen sink, in front of a window, or in a dry attic look and smell lovely, though they can take a bit longer to dry. If left undisturbed, they may hang intact for months, but watch out – they can also get dusty!

Simply in Season on Farm to Philly

Simply in Season
Simply in Season

I wrote this post about one of my favorite cookbook series’ – More-with-Less, Extending the Table, and Simply in Season –  on the blog Farm to Philly, for which I am a contributor. Farm to Philly focuses on eating locally, organically and sustainable in Philadelphia. Simply in Season is a great cookbook whose goal is to help you eat lots of local produce, in season, and on a budget. What could be better? None of the books in the series are strictly vegetarian, but they encourage eating low on the food chain and include many vegetarian recipes. Check it out!

Earth Day!

Compost!
Compost!

It’s Earth Day! While reducing your meat consumption (or going veg!) is one of the most significant ways that you can reduce your carbon imprint and be nicer to Mother Earth, there are lots of other ways to green your life! One important step is reducing your overall food waste. To begin, that means only buying (locally!) what you’ll eat, and using up all those leftovers by taking them to work for lunch, making new meals, or throwing them into the freezer if you just can’t stand another day of squash soup but know you’ll need a quick meal in the future.

Another very important step is composting your food waste. Much like recycling and taking your own shopping totes to the store, composting is about ethics and reducing the imprint we leave on the Earth. While there is no data for what the average Philly household discards in organic waste each day, in New York , its two pounds. Two pounds! Much of this organic waste is compostable, and it’s easy to learn how. Even urbanites and those with very tiny yards – like me – can make their own compost.

On Saturday I’ll be attending a free composting workshop (with a free compost bin gift!) at the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education. They offer multiple free green-living workshops in native plants, composting, rainwater collection, and more! They also offer workshops for children. Call them to sign up!

At work, we can’t have a compost bin. Because of the huge amount of cooking we do, we actually produce more waste that we can use. No problem! We fill compostable bags with our food waste, and once a week our buddy Woody from the awesome Pedal Co-Op comes to pick them up and hauls them, by bicycle, to one of the cities free compost sites. The Pedal Co-Op, an awesome nonprofit that will haul just about anything by bicycle was just featured in a video that one an award from National Geographic. Check it out , and give them a call!

A few of my favorite Christmas things

La Crueset Dutch Oven
La Crueset Dutch Oven

I received some wonderful Christmas presents, most of them food-related. Here are some of my favorites, which I’m sure you’ll hear more about in the future. Above, the cherry red La Crueset 7 1/4 Qt. dutch oven (with matching spatuala set) that Señor Lanky got me.  I’ve already made two meals in it, and am in love.

Ball Canning Jars
Ball Canning Jars

A selection of canning jars from my mom. I’ll be all set to hit the Italian Market for produce this summer – when I get started canning I just can’t stop. And I’ll have those jars of tomato sauce, homemade by mom and dad straight out of the garden, empty by the summer, too.

Yogurt Maker
Yogurt Maker

I’ve been trying to make yogurt in my gas oven for over a year. Somehow the recipe that works for my mother just won’t work for me. This Euro Cuisine yogurt maker from my brother and his fiance has me back on track and feeding my breakfast yogurt/berries/flax seed habit.

<em>How to Cook Everything Vegetarian </em>
How to Cook Everything Vegetarian

I can hardly put this cookbook down – its just genius. The recipes aren’t overly complex, but also offer variations. There are plenty of new south-east asian and chili-inspired recipes to keep my trying new and exciting flavors. The drawings, when included,  are much more useful (do you know how to trim an artichoke) than written instructions could be. And it’s HUGE.

Amish/Mennonite Cookbooks
Amish/Mennonite Cookbooks

And more Amish/Mennonite cookbooks (thanks grandmas!) for my collection. I skip the beef and noodles and go straight to the pickles and jams.