Monday, January 31, 2011

Happy Birthday to The Purple Cook!

I saved the best for last, Cooking! The best part of a CSA, for me, is that I have so many fresh, interesting, and organic vegetables to cook. I simply love to cook.

The Purple Cook blog is one year old TODAY! The blog allows me to share the food I’m making and sharing is the ultimate goal when having fun cooking. I also hope the blog is a resource for ideas and recipes for what to do with your CSA, local, and seasonal foods. I’m looking forward to the 2011 CSA season of blogging.

It is CSA sign up time. Roxbury will have enrollment forms available tomorrow, Tuesday Feb. 1.
Here is the website…
Another popular CSA around here is Eight Mile Creek. Here is their website…
Need help finding a CSA in your area. Try Local Harvest…

Happy Birthday to The Purple Cook!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Two Days to CSA sign up day

I am a huge advocate of meal planning. I think it makes all the difference to sit down at regular intervals, for me it’s once a week, and plan a menu. From there make the grocery list based on the menu.
The advantages for me are…
• I visit the grocery store only once a week
• I have what I need on hand
• I know what needs to come out of the freezer and when
• Each night’s dinner is planned around our family’s schedule

Planning the menu around our schedule helps on days like these…
• Soccer practice is at 5:45, I make something the kids can eat at 5pm, but will sit and wait on the stove for my husband and I to eat at 7pm
• If I’m going to be out of the house for the evening, I know to make something simple and that the kids will eat without argument, not the time to introduce new flavors or foods
• On the days I know we’ll be around the house most of the day are the days to braise or roast

Meal Planning was the biggest adjustment I had to make when I got a CSA. I plan the menu and go shopping over the weekend. Our CSA pick up is on Tuesday. I’m one of those folks a little bit rigid about schedules and lists, those of you like me understand it helps keep me calm and sane. So…not knowing what I will have to cook with during the week really gave me an opportunity to be flexible and adjust to the unknown. SCARY!!!
Okay, really it’s not so bad. Each week the farmers share a guesstimate of what we will get next week.
I will plan dinners based on that guesstimate. During CSA season I almost always have something grilled –chicken, steak, or shrimp on Tuesday (pick up day) with a salad. We almost always get salad greens and then it’s fun to put in the salad whatever else we got that week. W – F I evaluate what we actually got and make the meals planned for those ingredients. The vegetables that were surprises get planned for the weekend and early into the next week. I’ll admit it has been fun to be flexible and ease up on the schedules and lists.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Asian Chicken Burgers

Sad news…from my 40 pound vegetable box my carrots are officially gone, I roasted the last of the beets to use in a variety of ways this week, and I only have a few small sweet potatoes left. GREAT NEWS…we got an e-mail from the farm yesterday offering us another 40 pound box to be delivered the week of Feb. 7th. Yahoo!!!!

Friday Menu – Asian Chicken Burgers, Baked Sweet Potato Fries
Farm Share Produce – Carrot, Sweet Potatoes

Asian Chicken Burgers

NOTE: I used ground turkey with success.

Baked Sweet Potato Fries

Three Days to CSA sign up

I find my CSA to be a good deal. For 2011 a share is $541 dollars for 25 weeks of organic vegetables. That is $21.64/week for 10 -17 pounds of vegetables. With a half share at $271, I’ll pay $10.84/week.

I have done the following experiment a couple of times. I take a list of what was in my half share to the grocery store and calculate what I would have paid for non-organic and organic equivalents. Both prices are always more than my CSA share. The other occurrence that made me realize my CSA was a good deal was coming home from vacation several days before CSA pick up and visiting the farmer’s market to pick up vegetables. I spent $25 -30 and only got vegetables for a couple of days. During CSA season we have enough vegetables to have something from the farm on the dinner table every night.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Four Days to CSA sign up day

Yesterday I mentioned that we will continue to share our vegetable share for 2011. The relationship I’ve developed with my share partner is very important to me. We not only get to Ohhh and Ahhh over our vegetables together and share recipes, but our families have also formed lasting relationships. We trade kids back and forth during CSA season, to give each other some alone time and then the alone person picks up the CSA. The kids love being together and having a regular playdate.
Friendship is another reason having a CSA is one of the best things I’ve ever done.

Community and friendship are also a much larger part of our CSA. Our first year, I was happily stunned at how many people I knew who had a share. Picking up the CSA is one of my favorite activities, I get to see lots of people (and get excited about all I’m going to cook that week). Beyond my share partner, lots of my friends have a share. We can all swap recipes, or visit the farm together on a work day. New connections are also formed - people I’ve seen and met at CSA pick up also happen to be a part of our elementary school community or work with us, etc. I also love chatting and comparing notes with people who have another CSA. What are they getting? What have they learned from their farmer?

Building community and forming friendships is a part of having a CSA that has been a wonderful gift for me

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Five Days to CSA sign up day

I said the other day that I sought out a CSA as a way to eat local food to cut down on the energy used to transport our food. Getting a CSA is one of the best things I’ve ever done and my commitment to our farm has grown. I was reading an article in “Asparagus to Zucchini” titled 10 Easy Steps to Incorporate More Local and Seasonal Food into Your Diet by Lauri McKean. Her first suggestion is to start slowly. I agree! You choose your starting place, maybe it’s a monthly or weekly visit to the farmer’s market, or getting a CSA, or eating at a restaurant committed to local and seasonal food.

I started with sharing our CSA share. Then last year I added a fruit share. For 2011 we will share our vegetable share, we have our own fruit share, a beef share, and a winter share. In the future we will likely have our own vegetable share, I’d like to find a chicken and egg share that works for us, and I’d like to find locally milled flour.

Start slowly, but find something local to pick or buy, cut up, cook and eat! It’s fun!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Six Days to CSA sign up day

Roxbury is getting ready for sign up day too. I noticed yesterday that they posted share information for 2011. A helpful outline on how their CSA works…
This page has details about vegetable shares, fruit shares, member responsibilities, and costbreak down.
They also explain their new meat shares in detail.

Today I thought I would share the books that in my mind go hand in hand with my CSA.

First and Foremost…“Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” by Barbara Kingsolver. This book is why I sought out a CSA. The book is about how Barbara and her family committed to one year of local food. The book is full of information (provided by her husband, like how food stamps and WIC can be used at farmer’s markets), stories, and personal reflections. The message that stays with me years later is that eating locally is not about boycotting (not doing), but about being active (doing ). They suggest getting yourself locally grown vegetables, cutting them up, cooking and eating them and in the process doing good stuff for the world.

The book I can’t wait to read is “The Dirty Life: On Farming, Food, and Love” by Kristen Kimball. I’m on the waiting list at the library. This is a book about her first year on a farm in upstate New York. The Roxbury farmer in the middle of busy time summer said he couldn’t put this book down. I’ll let you know how it goes.

The other three books I want to share are also part of an idea I have to add a new dimension to the blog for my second season of blogging. Late spring I’m going to have a poll. I’d like to pick one of the following books to feature weekly. Here are the books and how I think they could be incorporated into the blog each week.

“The Flavor Bible” by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg
I’ve mentioned this favorite of mine before. This is an index of ingredients and what pairs well with them. I was thinking of taking a vegetable each week and sharing the highlighted ingredients that pair well with it.
This book is invaluable to me. We don’t like nutmeg at our house, whenever a recipe calls for it, I consult this book and find out other spices that also go well with the main ingredients. Or, if I want to make my generic muffin recipe and I’m not sure a flavor combination will work, I check this book. This book is the best!

“From Asparagus to Zucchini” presented by the Madison Area Community Supported Agriculture Coalition
This is a cook book for CSA members. I thought it would be fun to highlight this book weekly on the blog by sharing one of the recipes for a vegetable we got that week. Likely something hard, kooky, or a technique I’ve not tried. I’d let you know the reviews, good or bad.

“Produce” by Brad Matthews and Paul Wigsten
This is the textbook on produce for the Culinary Institute of America. I thought it would be fun to learn about one vegetable each week in depth. This book has descriptions of each vegetable, how it can be used in cooking, storage information, and nutritional information.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Seven Days to CSA sign up day

One week from today Roxbury Farm, our CSA farm, is going to open up enrollment for new members. February 1st is CSA sign up day!

I thought I would count down the seven days to CSA sign up with thoughts, tidbits, and trivia about eating locally. I think it is good to remind myself why I love my CSA so much and hopefully give others some good reasons to join a CSA. Enrollment forms will be available on the website on Feb. 1.

Here is the website…

Another popular CSA around here is Eight Mile Creek. Here is their website…

Need help finding a CSA in your area. Try Local Harvest…

When I first sought out a CSA my main goal was to eat local food. I wanted to cut down on the energy it took for my food to reach me. Roxbury Farm is about 45 miles from our home. I looked this up because I was reading an interesting compilation by John Hendrickson called Thinking Outside the Shopping Cart in “From Asparagus to Zucchini”.
He says, “In the conventional food system, food travels 1,500 or more miles on average from farm to table. Food travels 45 miles on average for CSA farms serving Madison, Wisconsin”. “From Asparagus to Zucchini” is a CSA cookbook put together by the Madison Area Community Supported Agriculture Coalition.

What is the definition of local food? A little looking around and I found two ways of thinking about it that make sense to me. One, the food is within a day’s trip to your home. Two, the food is within 100 – 150 miles from your home. There is no set in stone definition of local food, the idea is to cut down on the energy being used to transport food.

Friday, January 21, 2011

North African Salmon Salad

I noted the other day that I had one carrot left from my 40 pound vegetable box. Well, it was a very large carrot. I used half of it in this recipe calling for 2 carrots. I’ll have to find a really good use for my last bit of carrot.

Thursday Menu – North African Inspired Salmon Salad, Dinner Rolls
Farm Share Produce – Carrot

North African Inspired Salmon Salad
From Penzeys Spice Winter 2011 Catalog

Spice Rub:
¼ t salt
½ t ground coriander
½ t ground cumin
¼ t smoked paprika
½ t brown sugar
½ t garlic powder

2 T mayonnaise (I used plain yogurt)
1 T honey
1 t Dijon mustard
2 T white wine vinegar
1 T extra virgin olive oil
1 t whole fennel seed
½ t smoked paprika
½ t ground coriander

2 salmon filets
6 cups salad greens
1 cup grated carrot
4 T chopped, dried dates (I substituted raisins and craisins)
2 T toasted pine nuts

Combine the spice rub ingredients. Rub the Salmon evenly with the spice rub.
(I put them on the George Forman Grill for 8 minutes.)
OR cook Salmon on a grill pan over medium high heat for 3 minutes skin side down, then flip and cook an additional 5 minutes.

While the Salmon cooks, combine the dressing ingredients and whisk until smooth and blended.
Divide the salad greens between two plates and sprinkle with carrots, dates, and pine nuts. When Salmon is cooked place on top of salad and drizzle with dressing.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Potato Soup

Tuesday Menu – Potato Soup, Salad
Farm Share Produce – Potatoes, Onion

The Potato and Onion are now gone from the 40 pound vegetable box.

For the Potato Soup I used this recipe. I halved the recipe. I also didn’t use leeks. I am not a big fan of leeks, I don’t like paying for so much vegetable that gets discarded and I find them a pain to clean. I just used more onions in place of the leeks.

Potato Soup with Caramelized Shallots

About roasting… This soup recipe called for roasting a head of garlic for one hour. When instructions like that in a recipe, I find a time I’m just hanging around the house and roast the item. Yesterday I also packed up a couple of beets in tin foil and roasted them too. I just keep the items in the refrigerator till I need them.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

40 pound vegetable box update

This would be the day for pick-up of a 30 pound box of vegetables in our winter share. Our winter share starts next year. We got our 40 pound box on December 14 and wondered if I would be ready for one by now – I am! This year we got one 40 pound box of winter storage vegetables. Next year we will get three 30 pound boxes in December, January, and February. Can’t wait!

In our box we got Beets, Butternut Squash, Cabbage, Carrots, Onions, Potatoes, Rutabaga, and Sweet Potatoes.
My Butternut Squash, Cabbage, and Rutabaga are gone. I have one Onion and one Carrot left. I have about 5 or 6 small Potatoes left. All of these will be gone this week.
I have Beets and Sweet Potatoes. Sweet Potatoes will be no problem. Actually, I’ve kind of been saving them. I’ve always saved my favorite foods for last. The Beets, well I’m not saving them, I’m just not going through them very fast. I’ll just have to find excuses to make Red Velvet Cake.

I did simply bake sweet potatoes for dinner Sunday. Yum! With the leftovers this morning I’m making muffins. Here is the basic recipe for muffins with veggie leftovers.
I pureed the sweet potato with the applesauce to break up the fibrous nature. I used cinnamon as the flavor with these. I always add chocolate chips and my kids gobble these up.

Red Velvet Cakes – with Beets

Friday, January 14, 2011

Winter Vegetable Pot Pie

I had leftover roasted vegetables, some remaining cooked cubed butternut squash, and a handful of vegetables left from the One Pot Chicken. All of that went into a pot pie for dinner last night.

Thursday Menu – Winter Vegetable Pot Pie, Salad
Farm Share Produce – Onions, Potatoes, Sweet Potatoes, Rutabaga, Carrots, Beets

Winter Vegetable Pot Pie

1 package ready-made pie crust
3-4 cups cooked winter vegetables
2 T butter
2 T AP flour
¼ t poultry seasoning
½ t rosemary leaves
1 t fresh sage leaves, chopped (from the freezer)
2 cup broth

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Prepare crust according to package directions for a pie with a bottom and top crust.
Line the lower layer of the pie crust with winter vegetables. Finish pie with top crust, cutting air holes to vent.
Bake in oven for 25-30 minutes until crust is golden brown.
Melt butter in a saucepan. Add flour and whisk. Cook 1 – 2 minutes. Add poultry season, rosemary and sage. Slowly add broth, whisking often. Allow mixture to boil and create a thick gravy.
Serve pot pie slices with gravy.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

One Pot Chicken and Brown Rice with Rutabaga

Wednesday Menu – One Pot Chicken and Brown Rice with Rutabaga
Farm Share Produce – Rutabaga, Carrots, Onions

I have posted this before and had used celeriac in the dish. You could also use potatoes or sweet potatoes. It was delicious with rutabaga.

One Pot Chicken and Brown Rice

The only switch was rutabaga for celeriac.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


Butternut Squash Muffins

The following recipe can be adapted for any fruit or vegetable. Purees, whole fruits (berries), mashed (bananas), or grated (zucchini) fruits or vegetables would work. The fruit or vegetable and the flavor can vary from muffin to muffin. The flavor could be an extract (i.e. vanilla) or any spice. For Butternut Squash Muffins I used allspice.

Adapted from Magic Muffin by Melissa D'Arabian in a pamphlet about using leftover in the November Issue of Food Network Magazine

Whisk together the wet ingredients.
½ cup sugar
½ cup applesauce
2 egg beaten
¾ cup fruit or vegetable
1/3 cup oil

Whisk in wet ingredients.
¾ cup AP flour
¾ cup whole-wheat flour
1 t baking powder
½ t baking soda

Add the 1 t flavor – vanilla extract, almond extract, allspice, ground cardamom, etc.

Fold in 2 handful chocolate chips or nuts. OPTIONAL.

Bake at 375 degrees for 17 minutes for regular muffins and 12-13 minutes for mini muffins.

Butternut Squash

We got a Butternut Squash in our 40 pound vegetable storage box. I wasn’t getting to it and I didn’t want it to go bad, so I peeled it, cubed it, and put it in the freezer before Christmas. Yesterday I put the cubes in a pot, covered them with water, and let them simmer 25 minutes. Here is what I’m using my Butternut Squash to make.

Butternut Squash Risotto
You will need 10 oz. of the cubed, cooked Butternut Squash.

Butternut Squash Muffin
You will need ¾ cup of Butternut Squash Puree.

Winter Vegetable Pot Pie
Coming soon!

Butternut Squash Risotto

I usually steer clear of risotto. My kids are 4 and 6 and the likely hood that I would get interrupted while standing at the stove stirring risotto is high. I saw Rachael Ray make this risotto a couple of years ago and she just made me feel like I could do this and have with great success in the past. Our well established routine is the kids get their TV time while I make dinner – I realized this set me up well for risotto making. It worked great!

Tuesday Menu – Pesto Salmon, Butternut Squash Risotto
Farm Share Produce – Pesto (frozen from the summer), Butternut Squash

Butternut Squash Risotto
Based on

10 oz. cubed, cooked Butternut Squash
- See
1 quart chicken stock
2 T extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cup Arborio rice
1 cup dry white wine
½ t allspice
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 T butter
2 t pesto
1 cup Parmesan cheese

Puree Butternut Squash with immersion blender or food processor, set aside.

In a Dutch oven over medium high heat, heat oil. Add onions and garlic and soften 2 – 3 minutes. Add rice and toast 2-3 minutes. Add wine and cook it out completely, stirring occasionally, 2 -3 minutes. Ladle in stock in intervals, a couple of ladles at a time. Allow liquid to evaporate each time, stirring often. Risotto will cook 18 minutes from the addition of the first liquid. Stir the squash in when there are 3-5 minutes left of risotto cooking time. Season with allspice, salt and pepper. In the last minute of cooking time stir in butter, pesto, and cheese.

Pesto Salmon

4 T pesto
2 salmon fillets

Season salmon fillets with salt and pepper. Spread 2 T of pesto on each fillet. Put fillets on George Foreman Grill for 8 minutes.

NOTE: I don’t freeze my pesto with nuts or cheese. So the pesto I put on the salmon was only basil, oil, garlic, salt and pepper.

Bring chicken stock to a simmer in a sauce pot, then reduce heat to low.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Stir-Fried Pasta Primavera

Meatless Monday Menu – Stir-Fried Pasta Primavera, Salad
Farm Share Produce – Red Onion, Carrots, Basil (from freezer)

Stir-Fried Pasta Primavera
Based on recipe in Everyday with Rachael Ray February 2011

12 ounces spaghetti or fettuccine
1 bag frozen broccoli florets, defrosted
3 T olive oil
1 red onion, thinly sliced
4 carrots, thinly sliced
1 cut cherry tomatoes, halved
Salt and pepper (I used crushed red pepper for a little kick)
¾ cup half and half
¼ cup chopped basil
¾ cup parmesan cheese

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set pasta aside when finished. Reserve ¼ cup of pasta water.

In wok or deep skillet heat 1 T olive oil. Stir-fry defrosted broccoli until it begins to become light golden brown. Remove and reserve.
Add 1 T olive oil to hot pan, add onion and stir-fry until fragrant, 1 minute.
Add 1 T olive oil, add reserved broccoli and carrots, stir-fry 2-3 minutes. Add tomatoes and season vegetables with salt and pepper. Stir-fry 1 minute. Add cream and frozen basil, bring mixture to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in parmesan cheese.
Add the pasta and reserved pasta water to mixture, toss to coat.

Frozen Herbs
I just love this method for freezing fresh herbs from the summer. It’s been great having them around.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Roasted Winter Vegetables

I got a beautiful roasting pan for Christmas. What better way to test it out then to roast up all the varieties of CSA vegetables I had in the house?

Sunday Menu – Roasted Winter Vegetables, Fried Rice, Salad
Farm Share Produce – Beets, Carrots, Onions, Potatoes, Sweet Potatoes, Rutabaga

Roasted Winter Vegetables
Based on

6 cups peeled root vegetables cut into ½ inch pieces
-These vegetables could be winter squash, potatoes, beets, onions, turnips, carrots, parsnips, sweet potatoes, rutabaga and celeriac.
1 head of garlic, cloves separated and peeled
2 T olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste.

Preheat oven to 425F. Oil large rimmed baking sheet or roasting pan. Combine all ingredients in very large bowl; toss to coat. Spread vegetables evenly in pan. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Roast vegetables until tender and golden brown, stirring occasionally, about 1 hour 15 minutes. (Can be prepared 2 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature. Rewarm in 350F oven 15 minutes.)

Saturday, January 8, 2011

CSA Renewal

I sent in my CSA renewal yesterday. I got vegetables and fruit again. The farm raises cattle, pigs, and sheep. This year they are offering meat shares, we got beef. The other new offering is a winter share. There will be three deliveries through the winter months of 30 pound boxes of root vegetables. We got one of those too. I am looking forward to the 2011 Season. The blog lives on!

Please contact me in the comments or at if you have any questions about finding or enrolling for a CSA.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Yogurt Coleslaw

The first item from the 40 pound winter storage box is gone – we have finished the cabbage.

Thursday Menu – Tandoori Chicken, Crisp Roast Potato with Rutabaga, Yogurt Coleslaw
Farm Share Produce – Potatoes, Rutabaga, Cabbage, Onion

I love these Crisp Roast Potatoes. They get super crunchy on the outside ring and are soft potato loveliness inside. Adding slices of rutabaga or celeriac give them an extra boost of flavor.

Yogurt Coleslaw
From Everyday Food v79, titled Green Cabbage and Yogurt Slaw

½ head green cabbage, shredded
½ green bell pepper, thinly sliced
½ small onion, shredded
1/3 cup plain yogurt
½ T rice wine vinegar
½ T Dijon mustard
1 T sugar
Salt and pepper to taste

Place cabbage, bell pepper, and onion in a large mixing bowl. In a small bowl whisk yogurt, vinegar, mustard, sugar, salt and pepper. Fold yogurt mixture into vegetables. Refrigerate at least 20 minutes before serving.

This slaw was yummy and the yogurt really reduces the calories.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Kale and Corn Stir Fry

Last night was an opportunity to use some of those CSA vegetables from the summer stored away in the freezer – kale and corn. This recipe was a friend’s signature dish years ago when he was a bachelor. He got the recipe from the most basic cookbook his mother could find to give him. I think she was hoping he wouldn’t starve.

Kale and Corn Stir Fry

3 T olive oil
1 cup cold cooked rice
1 cup frozen corn
½ t thyme
½ t garlic powder
1/4 t crushed red pepper
1 can black eyed peas, rinsed and drained
3 cups frozen kale leaves

Over medium high heat cook all ingredients in oil except spinach until hot. Stir in kale and cook until heated through.