Category Archives: Projects

The right day to be in the fields

It was Shavuot today, the Feast of Weeks. Shavuot marked the height of the barley harvest and the beginning of the wheat harvest in ancient Israel. Today is also the day I heard the first announcement that Trump decided to pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement.

It was the right day to be in the fields, with the wind, the clouds, the sunshine, and with my hands pushing new plants into the earth, anticipating the beginning of our harvest in two short weeks.

Shimon bar Yochai taught, “if you are holding a sapling in your hand, and someone says that the Messiah has drawn near, first plant the sapling, and then go and greet the Messiah.” (Avot d’Rebbe Natan 31b)

I imagine the same is true when the President of the United States announces his intention to destroy the planet and many lives on it for his own benefit.

For more, visit my blog, vegetatingwithleslie.org, “Like” me on FaceBook/Vegetating with Leslie or follow me on Twitter, @vegwithleslie.

Those seeds a couple of weeks ago…

…are now tomato plants, summer squash and more ready to go into the ground.

Inch By Inch And Row By Row…

Today was my first day back at the farm for the season. Although it was my first day, others have been hard at work, installing a new greenhouse (greens through December! yay!), planting starter plants, getting in leeks and garlic and greens and more.

It was a beautiful, windy day, and I enjoyed the sunshine along with the fast-moving clouds. It’s an exciting time as we all look forward to those food boxes starting to fill up with wonderful things to eat.

I learned to use a stirrup hoe today — and another kind of hoe, one to run down the middle of the bed to pull a wider swath of weeds, one to run over the little leek plants to remove weeds on either side. When I finished weeding with my hoes, I walked over to take a look at our new greenhouse and then back to the fields to weed a few rows of garlic.

By the time I finished up, I was exhausted but oh so happy. Here are some highlights from this beautiful place where I work! If you are in the Algonquin/Dundee/Cary/Geneva/Crystal Lake/Woodstock area and would like to enjoy a weekly or bi-weekly box of beautiful, fresh, organic produce, check out Bob’s Fresh and Local and sign up for a share.

Compost pile where I get to take my veggie waste every week.
The leeks I hoed.
Garlic rows for hand weeding.

The old greenhouse…and our big beautiful new one.

For more, visit my blog, vegetatingwithleslie.org, “Like” me on FaceBook/Vegetating with Leslie or follow me on Twitter, @vegwithleslie.

A Falafel Feast for Israel Day

This past weekend, I prepared (with a little help from my friends at MCJC) a Falafel Feast for 100 on Israel Day.  The pictures, with the exception of one my son took a while back of the finished product, are from an iPhone so not the best.

We served up Falafel two ways, in a tray with Moroccan Eggplant Salad, Israeli (Jerusalem) Salad with Tahina, Hummus, Muhammara, Moroccan Sweet Potatoes and Red Cabbage Slaw … pickled turnips and for the daring, Harif or Z’hug — or in a wrap with Lebanese Pita (from my friends at Sanabel Bakery in Chicago), Hummus and Israeli Salad with Tahina (or any other choice), pickled turnips and Harif or Z’hug on the side.

All the recipes are in this blog except for the Tahina, which I now see I never posted. I’ll do that soon!

For more, visit my blog, vegetatingwithleslie.org, “Like” me on FaceBook/Vegetating with Leslie or follow me on Twitter, @vegwithleslie.

CSA Veggie Yummies This Week

Hummus with radishes, kohlrabi, zucchini & red bell peppers.
Hummus with radishes, kohlrabi, zucchini & red bell peppers.

I had two social occasions last week so took Hummus with CSA veggies to one (greens, radishes, kohlrabi, zucchini and red bell peppers) and pasta salad to the other. This Hummus recipe, btw, is excellent. Be sure to check it out on this site.

For this pasta salad, I used (as always) whole wheat rotini, zucchini, tomatoes, chopped greens, Kalamata olives, capers, green onions, quartered artichoke hearts, extra virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar, oregano, hot paprika and salt to taste.

Pasta salad with CSA veggies.
Pasta salad with CSA veggies.

And then we enjoyed this wonderful Stir Fry for an at-home meal. I like to make a big bag of chopped greens for Fatoush early in the week when everything is beautifully fresh. I used some each day, and later in the week, I can start using what remains for a quick and easy stir fry. I also use up lots of greens — tops of radishes or kohlrabi in these dishes.

Stir Fry with Kohlrabi greens, Bok choy, green onions, radishes, lots of sliced onion, garlic, a bit of red bell pepper, sauteed tofu squares, brown Basmati rice, salt, hot paprika, extra virgin olive oil, a bit of soy sauce...mmm hmmm, can't beat that.
Stir Fry with Kohlrabi greens, Bok choy, green onions, radishes, lots of sliced onion, garlic, a bit of red bell pepper, sauteed tofu squares, brown Basmati rice, salt, hot paprika, extra virgin olive oil, a bit of soy sauce…mmm hmmm, can’t beat that.

Addendum: Ah – forgot all about this one. At the end of the week, I use up any leftover greens or other veggies in a soup. I used potatoes in this one as well and topped it off with quinoa, making it a nice, substantial dinner. This soup included a large onion, minced and sautéed in extra virgin olive oil with a little fresh minced garlic, about 4 cups of potatoes and 8-10 cups of chopped greens (I’m pretty sure the greens included kohlrabi tops as well as others), 6 cups of water and seasoning to taste. I typically use salt (2 tsp.), hot paprika (1/2 tsp.) and freshly squeezed lemon (1/4-1/2 cup or the juice of 1-2 lemons. And now I know what they mean by “pot liquor.” Mmmm…mmmm…good.

Soup with greens and quinoa.
Soup with greens and quinoa.

If you’d like more information about the CSA, please visit Bob’s Fresh and Local (produce) and All Grass Farms (livestock, chickens, milk and cheese).

For more, visit my blog, vegetatingwithleslie.org, “Like” me on FaceBook/Vegetating with Leslie or follow me on Twitter, @vegwithleslie.

More CSA treats: Kohlrabi

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I’ve never done much with kohlrabi before, so it took some experimenting, but I had a couple of good things this week. First, here’s how I made my Stuffed Kohlrabi:

Remove the stems from 3-4 kohlrabi and fully peel away the tough outer layers of them. Set aside the greens.

Using a coring tool, insert into the center of the peeled kohlrabi, but do not pierce through to the base. You will probably not be able to remove the plug. Insert again, slightly out more toward the edge, again careful not to pierce the base. Continue this process, circling around the original central plug. Then, using a small serrated knife, remove the plugs and scrape a little to make the central cavity fairly smooth. Reserve what you remove from the kohlrabi.

Oil and salt the kohlrabis inside and out. Add a tiny bit of extra virgin olive oil to the bottom of a Dutch oven, place the kohlrabis cavity side down and saute until slightly browned. Turn the kohlrabis over onto its base, turn down the heat, add a little water (2-4 TB), put the lid on the Dutch oven, turn down the flame, and cook until the kohlrabis are tender. Set aside until ready to assemble.

KOHLRABI FILLING

Ingredients

  • Kohlrabi – inside pulp of 3-4 kohlrabi
  • Bok choy – stems, petite diced; greens, chopped 1/4″ pieces
  • Brown Basmati rice, 1 cup dried
  • Salt, 1/2 tsp.
  • Oregano, 1-1/2 tsp.
  • Lemon Juice, 1/2 squeezed

Instructions

  1. Cook the rice until done.
  2. Chop the kohlrabi pulp, and add to a pan with a little extra virgin olive oil, and saute.
  3. Add the Bok Chop stems, petite diced, and saute briefly.
  4. Add the rice to a food processor, then the sauteed ingredients and seasonings.
  5. Pulse several times until the mixture is evenly mixed and chopped and looks like coarse grains.
  6. Add seasoning to taste (salt, a little hot paprika if desired)
  7. Use this mixture to fill the reserved kohlrabi.
  8. Add marinara to a dish, and place the stuffed kohlrabi on top of it. Add a little more marinara to the top, and a few garlic scapes for garnish.

Note: For a different flavor profile, try using my Matboukha for the sauce, and in the filling, replace oregano with za’atar (available in the Middle Eastern section of some stores).

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Now what to do with those tough kohlrabi greens? Read on…

(green_smoothie

The Bok choy greens are more tender than kohlrabi, so I used that for the Stuffed Kohlrabi filling, which doesn’t get much processing before it hits my teeth. Here’s what I did with the kohlrabi greens, though: I made my standard Greenie (green smoothie), and it was good! Even my non-green loving husband enjoyed it.

GREENIE (makes 2 16 oz. Greenies or more)

Ingredients

  • Ice cubes, 8-10
  • Apple juice, about 1/2 cup
  • Apple, 1/2 chunked
  • Banana, chunked
  • Pineapple, 6-8 chunks
  • 2-3 cups rough chopped kohlrabi (or any) greens*

Place the ice cubes in a Vitamix (a blender works almost as well). Add apple juice to 1 cup mark. Add apple chunks, banana chunks, pineapple chunks, and chopped greens. Process until smooth and delicious. More ice makes it thicker.

Note: Greens contain a natural toxin to prevent over-grazing and eradication of the plant. Just vary your greens — don’t use the same one all the time. Keep your fruits and other veggies light-colored so you’ll end up with an appetizing, bright green drink.

If you’d like more information about the CSA, please visit Bob’s Fresh and Local (produce) and All Grass Farms (livestock, chickens, milk and cheese).

For more, visit my blog, vegetatingwithleslie.org, “Like” me on FaceBook/Vegetating with Leslie or follow me on Twitter, @vegwithleslie.

One thing I love about my CSA

Stir fry of onion, Bok choy, radishes.
Stir fry of onion, Bok choy, radishes.

I love having a box of fresh veggies, many things that I don’t ordinarily get, then trying things out with them. Sometimes combinations surprise me! – like this Stir Fry of chopped onion, Bok choy stems, salad radishes (that’s the Julienne veggie) and Bok choy greens, added last. Add a bit of salt, a few drops of soy sauce if you wish, and oh, my, was it good!

Here’s a note about how I stir fry: I cut all the veggies first. I heat some extra virgin olive oil in a wok and often throw in a little minced garlic first. This time, I don’t believe I did. Then I add the onions, sauteeing until soft. Then I add the remaining “hard” veggies, most “hard” first, sauteeing for a few moments after each — reserving any greens. When the veggies start to brown a bit, I add a little salt and soy sauce, stir and cover if needed to steam the veggies for a couple of minutes.  Uncover and add the greens, stir together and sauté briefly until the greens are wilted, adjust seasoning, and serve.

I also made Fatoush with what I had on hand instead of the usual, and it, too, was delicious with a creamy vegan dressing:

FATOUSH

Ingredients

  • Mixed greens, any you have on hand or like. Bok choy and Butterhead Lettuce featured heavily in this one.
  • Garlic scapes
  • Green onion
  • Red cabbage (I usually use it but don’t see it here – must have forgotten)
  • Tomatoes – organic grape tomatoes, quartered
  • Radishes – organic, Julienne
  • Cucumbers – organic, sliced and quartered or Julienne
  • Pita – Whole wheat Lebanese pita, cut into squares and toasted
  • Sumac  to sprinkle

Ingredients for Sauce

  • Mayonnaise, 1 cup (I use Hampton Creek Just Mayo – vegan)
  • Tahina, 1/4 cup
  • Garlic, 1/2 – 1 clove mashed (opt.)
  • Salt, 1-2 tsp. (start with 1 tsp. for dressing, add additional to salad after mixed)
  • Hot paprika, 1/4 tsp.
  • Lemon, freshly squeezed, 1/4-1/2 cup, to taste (start with 1/4 cup for dressing, add additional to salad after mixed)

Procedure

  1. Prepare salad ingredients: slice greens 1/8-1/4″, then cut across into 2-3″ pieces. Quarter grape tomatoes or petite dice plum tomatoes. Julienne cucumbers and radishes.
  2. Stack the pita pieces, cut through them lattice-work style so you end up with 1-2″ squares, roast in a 200 degree oven until crunchy, cool thoroughly and set aside or bag for later use. I like to use whole wheat Lebanese pita, available through a local Arab bakery. Lebanese pita is larger than pocket pita and thinner. Makes a great “crouton.” Stored properly, they keep for a long time once toasted and thoroughly dry.
  3. Make the dressing. For a vegan salad, use a vegan mayo. Your dressing should taste salty and lemony because by the time you add it to the salad with its moisture, it will lose some potency. I start a bit lighter on the seasoning, then add the remainder if needed when the salad is made up. You don’t need to use all the dressing at once — if you have leftover, just store in a covered jar.
  4. Put all salad ingredients into a bowl. Add toasted pita so you have 2 parts salad to 1 part pita. Add some dressing and a pinch or two of sumac (available in Middle Eastern stores and online), and mix gently but completely. Add more or less dressing to your liking.
  5. Sprinkle additional sumac over the salad and serve.

If you’d like more information about the CSA, please visit Bob’s Fresh and Local (produce) and All Grass Farms (livestock, chickens, milk and cheese).

For more, visit my blog, vegetatingwithleslie.org, “Like” me on FaceBook/Vegetating with Leslie or follow me on Twitter, @vegwithleslie.

My New Wednesday Tradition: A Simple Salad

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On Wednesdays I work at the farm (CSA).  I bring home my 3/4 bushel box of food, beautiful food, and I just can’t wait to have something while it’s so fresh. I enjoy a simple salad each week with whatever looks like it will work in a salad.

I’m not a greens-tearer. I like my salad in bite-sized pieces, so I cut the greens. This week I used butter head lettuce, mizuna, spinach, another green (not sure what it was), radishes, beet greens, raw beet root and scallions. I dressed it with extra virgin olive oil, freshly squeezed lemon, salt and freshly ground black pepper (tho the radishes were spicy enough to carry it).

Oh, this was a treat! I think I ate about a gallon.

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If you’d like more information about the CSA, please visit Bob’s Fresh and Local (produce) and All Grass Farms (livestock, chickens, milk and cheese).

For more, visit my blog, vegetatingwithleslie.org, “Like” me on FaceBook/Vegetating with Leslie or follow me on Twitter, @vegwithleslie.

Farmer for a day, and what a beautiful day it was!

I joined a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) this year, and what a beautiful start to the season. Yesterday was sunny with a few beautiful clouds and a cool breeze, perfect gardening weather. This CSA is on the edge of a forest preserve (Brunner Family Farm) just 10 minutes from my home in Algonquin. I signed on for a Worker’s Share because I want to be part of the process as I once was when I had a farm of my own. Although I’m interested in growing a lot in a tiny space like my deck, being out in the fields has so many advantages, and I couldn’t resist the experience. This was one of those days that provided them all!

Yesterday I got to water some of the plants just beginning to come up, moving from plant to plant, up and down the rows, giving each little plant a good soak. As I finished two rows, I moved the very long hose over two rows and began again.

After a couple of hours, Bob, the CSA owner-operator, came back to check on me from the fields where he was working, planting more rows. He thought I might be getting bored. Bored?! Oh my goodness, no. Being out in that beautiful place on a day like yesterday, feeling the warm sun and perfectly cool breeze, hearing little other than breeze and birds, watching the tall grasses wave and the plants grow, seeing the sunlight sparkling on small puddles of water as I worked…knowing that cows were over in another area being cows and chickens in yet another area being chickens…there’s just nothing better to restore one’s soul.

I thought about the plan I’ve had for several years to move but then thought how fortunate I am to not only live with my husband next door to my younger son and his family and not at all far from my older son and his, but to look out on a pond in a wetland conservation area, to walk to the corner for my groceries every day, and now to drive just ten minutes from my home and farm to my heart’s content. It’s time to give my soul a Sabbath, a rest from planning and reorganizing, and just be, appreciating where I am in this moment in all its amazing, miraculous details. Time to just watch the plants grow.

If you’d like more information about the CSA, please visit Bob’s Fresh and Local (produce) and All Grass Farms (livestock, chickens, milk and cheese).

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 For more, visit my blog, vegetatingwithleslie.org, “Like” me on FaceBook/Vegetating with Leslie or follow me on Twitter, @vegwithleslie.

Let’s Bring Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution to Our Local Grocery Stores

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Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution Day 2015: An Addendum

Do Food Products’ Labels Tell Us Anything?
Have you ever noticed that there’s lots of “nutritional” information on all the items in the center part of your local grocery store and NONE on the real foods around the periphery of the store? Of course, this information is required on the commercially created food products in the center of the store, and I imagine we assume it’s not needed for the real food. I mean, a carrot is a carrot, right?

I also notice that those items that do carry nutritional information display it in very small print on the back or bottom of packages, as if it were an afterthought or at least not a very proud thought. On the other hand, those same packages often proudly display nutritional claims in big letters on their fronts, claims like:

  • Heart healthy

  • 0 Trans-fats

  • Low Glycemic

  • All Natural

  • High Fiber

Well, the devil is in the details, and the details, as we remember, are on the backs and undersides of those packages in the Nutritional and Ingredients Labels – so IF you can see the small print and IF you want to take the time while you’re shopping to make your own decisions about what’s healthy and what’s not, you’ll likely find a mismatch between front and back. Or at least a mismatch between the description, “health claim” and the reality of what those claims are.

Health claims on the front are nothing more than advertising, and they have little to do with the real health of the product. Low Glycemic. OK. By now we all know it’s a good idea to eat lower in the glycemic index, but did you know that high fructose corn syrup is a low glycemic index sweetener? Does that make it healthy? And then there’s “All Natural.” Did you know the FDA has declined to define what this label means?

As for the unreadable Nutritional and Ingredients Labels, what do we do with the fact that there are at least 56 names for sugar that manufacturers use to hide added sugars in their foods? The information about sugar may show up in some form on the labels, but you will probably need a Ph.D. in nutrition to figure out where it is and what it means to you.

A Fun, New Approach to Labeling and Real Food Shopping
So how can we make shopping a more satisfying, educational, useful experience?

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Jamie Oliver, British chef, popular food guru and creator of the Food Revolution

In February 2015, British chef and popular food guru, Jamie Oliver, circulated a petition for a Food Revolution Day 2015. He gathered almost 1,600,000 signatures in 196 countries, and I was one who signed.

The purpose of Food Revolution Day was to make compulsory practical food education part of the school curriculum. “With diet-related diseases rising at an alarming rate, it has never been more important to educate children about food, where it comes from and how it affects their bodies.” You can read more at http://www.foodrevolutionday.com/campaign/#SRQYHj7fBeMHEoV0.99.

I support this effort whole-heartedly! I’m surprised at the number of times I check out of the grocery store, and young (and sometimes older!) cashiers aren’t certain what a fruit or vegetable is, even though they are surrounded by these products all the time in their work environment. Kids have no idea where various real food items come from and more often than not have little more ability in a kitchen than to open the microwave and put in one of those packages with the tiny print Nutritional and Ingredients Labels on the back.

To return to the issue I started with, I’d like to add a dimension to this struggle to require food education in the schools. Let’s start by introducing it in supermarkets! Here’s a word picture, a picture I would like to see as a reality some day.

Let’s call those Nutritional Labels on the packaged foods in the center of the store pretty much what they are: unreadable and not particularly useful as presented. Let’s ban those bogus health claims on the front of packages, and let’s move the Nutritional and Ingredients Labels to the front of the package and enlarge the font size. Or make pictographs of them. Let’s place large signs or videos in these sections of the supermarket that explain why this information is important and what it tells us.

Then let’s move onto the periphery of the store and develop a visually attractive system of labels for each item, telling what it is, where it comes from, what nutrients it has and how those nutrients help us. Don’t put it ON the foods (we hardly need glue added to the list of substances that has touched our real foods): put it on great-looking labels over the section for that item.

Let’s place regularly changing recipes near each item. Let’s place large signs or videos at various places that explain, in an interesting visual way, aspects of human nutrition and how real food is the critical component of a healthy lifestyle.

Then the schools can do their part. Why shouldn’t kids learn about food in the environment that for most of them IS the source of it? The grocery store! Teachers can use the tools that supermarkets and grocery stores provide as the basis of curricula they can develop. It can include field trips to supermarkets, homework assignments that involve trips to supermarkets and interactions with the kids’ parents and siblings, and followup work back in the schools.

We do these kinds of things with museums and consider it the best kind of education — why not with supermarkets? Home schoolers could be in on the venture, tapping into this public environment. Tired working parents shopping at the end of a day would find it easier to shop healthfully for their families with truly useful (and entertaining) information at their fingertips.

Everybody wins, including the supermarkets and grocery stores who create this kind of shopping environment. We’re all going to love hanging out in those real food sections of stores, finding out what’s there this week and learning about what we can do with it and what it will do for us! And that’s a very good thing.

All we need now is an operating food co-operative. Hmmmm… that’s right, the Food Shed Co-op is coming, just as soon as you sign on!

For more, visit my blog, vegetatingwithleslie.org, “Like” me on FaceBook/Vegetating with Leslie or follow me on Twitter,@vegwithleslie.

Vegetating with Leslie: Spring into Health

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Woohoo! Just agreed to teach another class at McHenry County College in Spring 2016. This one will be through the Personal Development Program and includes demonstrations in their state-of-the-art kitchen.

The demo part should be interesting. As I mentioned to the program director, I’m hardly one to demonstrate knife skills, and that’s what’s involved in a lot of the cooking I do. Well, as I always say, if I can make these foods, anyone can!

VEGETATING WITH LESLIE: SPRING INTO HEALTH
*Asterisked items are what I will demonstrate.

Session I: Spring into Health. Prepare your kitchen to support your best health. We’ll take a close look at the S.A.D. (Standard American Diet) of processed foods, sugars, low fiber, low nutrient density and how it undermines health. We’ll talk about what to remove from your kitchen, what to put in your kitchen and how to organize your kitchen.

Demo and share: Nutrient Dense Sandwich on *Homemade Spelt Bread

Session II: Eating the Rainbow: Nutrient Density. What is nutrient density, what can it do for you, and how can you construct a diet that is nutrient dense?

Demo and share: *Fatoush (Middle Eastern Salad), *Green Smoothies

Session III: Rethinking Breakfast: Out of the Box. We’ll take a look at breakfast alternatives from other parts of the world, in particular the Middle East and rethink breakfast possibilities for the most important meal of the day.

Demo and share: Middle Eastern Breakfast (with *Israeli Salad and *Ful) and my current *Breakfast Bowl

Session IV: Make Mine Middle Eastern! Why is it important to choose a cuisine, at least to start? How can you use the basics of Middle Eastern cuisine to build a nutrient dense diet you can enjoy without feeling deprived? We’ll use the Mezze (appetizer) table as the basis of a great, nutrient dense diet and compare it to the S.A.D. which began these sessions.

Demo and share: *Hummus, *Muhammara, *Tabouleh, Israeli Salad, *Red Pepper Salad, *Olives, Pickles. How to use items like this for Midday Meals, Snacks, Dinner, Appetizers.

I hope you can join us!

For more, visit my blog, vegetatingwithleslie.org, “Like” me on FaceBook/Vegetating with Leslie or follow me on Twitter, @vegwithleslie.