Winter Comfort Food

Now that Old Man Winter has really set in, many people crave comfort food to warm up and beat the winter blues.  Soups, chili and pot pies run high on the list of favorite home cooked foods especially here in the snow zone of the Northeast.  These comfort meals do not have to be lacking in nutrition – in fact veggies can be an integral part of the meal.  Let’s look at some favorite foods that have fresh veggies as a main ingredient.

Chicken Pot Pie

ingredients:

1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast halves – cubed
1 cup sliced carrots
1 cup frozen green peas
1/2 cup sliced celery
1/3 cup butter
1/3 cup chopped onion
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon celery seed
1 3/4 cups chicken broth
2/3 cup milk
2 (9 inch) unbaked pie crusts

Directions: Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C.)
1.  In a saucepan, combine chicken, carrots, peas, and celery. Add water to cover and boil for 15 minutes. Remove from heat, drain and set aside.
2.  In the saucepan over medium heat, cook onions in butter until soft and translucent. Stir in flour, salt, pepper, and celery seed. Slowly stir in chicken broth and milk. Simmer over medium-low heat until thick. Remove from heat and set aside.
3.  Place the chicken mixture in bottom pie crust. Pour hot liquid mixture over. Cover with top crust, seal edges, and cut away excess dough. Make several small slits in the top to allow steam to escape.
4.  Bake in the preheated oven for 30 to 35 minutes, or until pastry is golden brown and filling is bubbly. Cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Veggie Lasagna

Ingredients:

cooking spray
9 lasagna noodles
1 bunch fresh spinach
1 (8 ounce) container ricotta cheese
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 pinch ground nutmeg
1 pinch dried basil
salt and ground black pepper to taste
1 cup pasta sauce
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions: Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Spray a 1 1/2-quart casserole dish with cooking spray.
1.  Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Cook lasagna in the boiling water, stirring occasionally, until cooked through but firm to the bite, about 8 minutes. Drain.
Place a steamer insert into a saucepan and fill with water to just below the bottom of the steamer. Bring water to a boil. Add spinach, cover, and steam until tender, 2 to 6 minutes. Drain spinach.
2.  Mix spinach, ricotta cheese, 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, egg, nutmeg, basil, salt, and black pepper in a bowl until thoroughly combined.
3.  Spread 1/4 cup pasta sauce on the bottom of the prepared casserole dish; top with 3 lasagna noodles, 1/2 of the ricotta mixture, and 1/4 cup pasta sauce. Repeat layers of 3 more noodles, 1/2 cup ricotta mixture, and 1/4 cup pasta sauce. End with remaining 3 lasagna noodles and 1/4 cup pasta sauce. Sprinkle 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese and Parmesan cheese on top. Cover casserole with aluminum foil.
4.  Bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes. Uncover casserole and continue baking until lasagna is bubbling and lightly browned, about 25 more minutes. Let lasagna stand 5 minutes before serving

 

Resource; All Recipes online

High Protein Vegetables!

Veggies are usually seen as a side dish meant to accompany the main protein dish of meats, poultry or chicken.  Guess what? While veggies are not usually known for being a great source of protein, some have a decent amount to get this essential part of our diets!  While the proteins are not complete in the amino acid department, it is well worth adding these high protein veggies to your list to mix with whole grains to balance out your meals.  Here is a list of our top six veggies with high protein courtesy of Women’s Health Magazine.

  • Peas -Each half-cup contains three and a half grams of protein.
  • Spinach – You’ll find three grams of protein in a half cup of spinach.
  • Baked Potato – Another stealth source of protein? Potatoes! A medium-sized one contains three grams.
  • Broccoli – Broccoli’s not just filled with fiber (2.6 grams per half cup)—it’s also a great source of protein, with two grams per serving.
  • Brussels Sprouts – These little green guys get a bad rap, but they’re actually nutritional superstars: Each half cup packs two grams of protein, along with 247 milligrams of potassium and 110 micrograms of vitamin K.
  • Corn -OK, we know that corn is technically a grain. But you can find it in the produce aisle—and you’ll be glad to know that half a cup of kernels provides two grams of filling protein.

Resource – Women’s Health Online. Read more

Volunteering at a Local Farm

The new year is here and we have all made our resolutions to eat better, be helpful to others or give up bad vices.  This year may we suggest a resolution that can not only be beneficial to you but to local farmers and in the end to our economy as well.  Volunteer at a local farm!

Whether you are a student looking to complete community service hours, a senior who loves to give back and work with their hands or just someone who loves being outdoors and being part of the circle of farming, volunteering at a local farm could be a great way to spend your time this coming spring.  Here are some of the benefits that volunteering could bring to you and the community at large.

  • Knowledge – When someone volunteers at a local farm or farmers market, they gain insight and a deeper understanding of the farming process.  Volunteers can help with animals, sales, planting, feeding and cultivating.  All this work helps even young children understand the value and the hard work of our farmers.  Without them there would be no food.
  • A work out!  We all know that farming is not easy work.  If you enjoy being outside and working with your hands instead of on a treadmill, then this might possibly be the best workout you could ever get.
  • Help the local economy.  Helping out at a local farms means they can get more done, produce more and keep costs down.  This money stays local and in turn can help your local economy.  According to Heart to Heart Farms “volunteers can make a significant impact on the cost of the products and produce that come from the farms where they volunteer. Farms that have volunteers have lowered costs which farmers can then pass on to the consumers in the form of less-expensive products. The economic benefits go beyond just lessening the costs of organic food though. Because organic farmers sell in the local area, a more economically-run farm equals more tax dollars for the area, and more available jobs.”

Consider volunteering this coming spring and summer season at a farm near you.  The benefits are astounding and we think it will add to the richness of your life.  See you in the spring!

Healthy Soup Recipes

Looking for comfort food during these cold months but want to stay true to your New Year’s Resolution of healthy eating?  There is nothing quite like a piping hot bowl of homemade soup with fresh ingredients to fill you up and keep you warm this winter season.  Soup can be very filling and does not have to be loaded with cream and calories!  Here are a few recipes and links to recipes for some healthy soups to help you be true to your resolution and still indulge in some comfort food.

Creamy and Light Tomato Soup

Ingredients:
1 tbsp olive oil
1 cup finely diced celery
1 cup finely diced carrots
1 cup finely diced onions
28 oz can whole plum tomatoes, with juice
1 tsp thyme
1/4 cup fresh basil
3 1/2 cups reduced sodium chicken broth (or vegetable for vegetarians)
Parmesan or Romano cheese rind (optional)
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons flour
1/3 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1 3/4 cups reduced fat (2%) milk, warmed
salt, to taste
black pepper, to taste

Directions-  Heat a large skillet over medium heat, then add the oil, celery, carrots and onions; cook 5 to 6 minutes, or until golden. Add to slow cooker.Pour the juice of the tomatoes into the slow cooker, then roughly crush the tomatoes with your hands; add to slow cooker. Then add chicken (or vegetable broth), the cheese rind (if using) thyme, basil, and bay leaf.

Cover and cook on LOW for 6 hours, until the vegetables get soft and the flavors blend. Remove the cheese rid and, using an immersion blender, blend the soup until smooth (or you can carefully do this in small batches in the blender).Melt the butter over low heat in a large skillet and add the flour. Stir constantly with a whisk for 4 to 5 minutes. Slowly whisk in about 1 cup of the hot soup, then add the 1 3/4 cups of warmed milk and stir until smooth. Pour back into the slow cooker and stir, add the grated Pecorino cheese and adjust salt and pepper, to taste.

Cover and cook on low 30 more minutes.

Chunky Chicken Noodle Soup

1 (3-pound) broiler-fryer, cut up and skinned
4 cups water
3/4 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
3 celery tops
2 cups water
2 ounces uncooked medium egg noodles
1/2 cup sliced celery
1/2 cup sliced carrot
1/3 cup sliced green onions
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
2 teaspoons chicken-flavored bouillon granules
1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 bay leaf
Additional coarsely ground black pepper (optional)

Directions: Combine first 5 ingredients in a Dutch oven; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 45 minutes or until chicken is tender. Remove chicken from broth, discarding celery and reserving broth.

Skim fat from broth. Add 2 cups water and next 8 ingredients to broth; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes.

Bone and chop chicken; add to broth mixture. Cook 5 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Discard bay leaf. Ladle soup into bowls, and sprinkle with additional pepper, if desired.

Hearty Minestrone Soup

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large red onion, chopped
2 large stalks celery, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 large carrots, diced
1/4 pound thinly sliced pancetta, cut into thin strips
1/2 head Savoy cabbage, finely sliced, blanched and drained
1/2 bunch Swiss chard, finely sliced
1 large waxy potato, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
4 cups low-sodium chicken stock
3 medium tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 bouquet garni (1 sprig rosemary, 4 sprigs thyme, 1 bay leaf and 1 bunch parsley, tied together with kitchen twine)
3 cups cannellini beans (canned or cooked dried beans)
1 cup spinach, coarsely chopped

Directions: Heat the olive oil in a 4-quart pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion, celery, garlic, carrots and pancetta and cook, stirring, until soft, about 5 minutes. Add 4 cups water, the cabbage, chard, potato, chicken stock, tomatoes and bouquet garni. Bring the soup to a gentle simmer and cook 25 to 30 minutes.

Place half of the beans (1 1/2 cups) in a food processor and process until smooth. Add the bean puree and the whole beans to the soup and simmer 10 minutes. Add the spinach and cook 2 more minutes. Season generously with salt and pepper. Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with cheese.

Resources

Skinny Taste

Health.com

Food Network Healthy Soup Recipes

 

 

Wayland Winter Farmer’s Market

Tired of the cold weather yet? Despite the chill in the air and the snow on the ground there are still places where you can find fresh produce.  Winter Farmer’s Markets are a great place to socialize and find great items from arts and crafts to wines and cheeses to meats and sweets.  Not to mention that there will be lots and lots of fresh produce to add to your kitchen.

Wayland has a Winter Farmer’s Market starting Saturday January 10, 2015 from 10 am to 2 pm.  This runs through  March 14, 2015.  The market is located on the grounds of Russell’s Garden Center on Boston Post Road in Wayland, Massachusetts.  Read more if you would like to see the list of this years vendors.  Join us for a Saturday at the market.

Newburyport Winter Farmer’s Market

Think that just because it is cold and snowy outside that you can’t find fresh produce locally grown? Winter Farmer’s Markets are a great way to get out during  these chilly months and find delicious fresh produce and meats.  Farmer’s Markets are held across the north shore of Massachusetts all winter long.  One of our favorites is located in scenic Newburyport, Massachusetts.

The Newburyport Winter Farmer’s Market is held Sundays from 9 am till 1 om.  Join the vendors at the Tannery Marketplace Tent rain or snow.  They offer a wide variety of local produce, free range meats, cheeses, baked good, and savory sweets!  They also have artisan crafts for sale each week.  The following date are the 2015 Farmer’s Market dates.

  • January 4 and 18 – 2015
  • February 1 and 15 – 2015
  • March 1, 15, and 29 – 2015
  • and April 12 – 2015

Come learn about the farmers market and our sponsors, and sign up for our weekly newsletter and volunteer opportunities. We also will have reusable Farmer Market  Bags for sale as they are available. Stop by and say hello!

To see a list of vendor read here.

Picking Wine for the Holidays

The Holidays are the time for great food, great friends, and of course a wonderful bottle of wine!  When planning your traditional holiday dinner, finding the best wine is an integral part of the planning process.  Tim Elliott with the Honest Cooking web site gives a wonderful overview of the best wines to serve with your holiday celebration.

Champagne – Champagne is a very versatile wine which can pair with almost any entrée. If your main entrée is on the hearty side then pick up a rosé Champagne that can even be a nice match for a standing rib roast.

Cabernet Sauvignon – Most years a Cabernet Sauvignon based wine is a favorite on many Christmas tables. It is the perfect match with beef rib roast with roasted potatoes.

Full-bodied Whites – Not everyone enjoys red wines so you might need a full-bodied white wine for some at the table. Chardonnay can stand up with the most hearty dishes.

Sweet Wines – Everyone loves dessert during the holidays.  Finishing a fine meal with dessert also provides an opportunity to enjoy sweet wines. There are many to choose from that are made from late harvested grapes.

Choosing a great wine to match with your meal does not need to be a difficult decision.  Our friends at Alfalfa Winery in Topsfield has a wide selection of wines that you can sample at your convenience.

Holiday Cookie Recipes

It is hard to think about the holidays without also thinking about all the yummy desserts are associated with Christmas!  Sugar Cookies, Rum Balls, and Russian Tea Cakes are among some of the favorites!  Lets look at some easy recipes by our friends at All Recipes.

Russian Tea Cakes

Ingredients

Original recipe makes 3 dozen
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 6 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar for decoration
    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
    2. In a medium bowl, cream butter and vanilla until smooth. Combine the 6 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar and flour; stir into the butter mixture until just blended. Mix in the chopped walnuts. Roll dough into 1 inch balls, and place them 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.
    3. Bake for 12 minutes in the preheated oven. When cool, roll in remaining confectioners’ sugar. I also like to roll mine in the sugar a second time.

     

    Christmas Tree Cookies

    • 1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar

    • 1 egg

    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
    • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
    • 1 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar

    Directions

    1. Mix confectioners’ sugar, butter or margarine, egg, vanilla, and almond extract. Stir in flour, baking soda, and cream of tartar. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours.
    2. Heat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Divide dough into halves. On lightly floured cloth-covered board, roll each half out to 3/16 inch thick. on lightly floured cloth-covered board. Cut into Christmas shapes.
    3. Bake on parchment lined baking sheets for 7 to 8 minutes. Let cool on wire racks and decorate as desired.

     

    Chocolate Rum Balls

    Ingredients

    • 3 1/4 cups crushed vanilla wafers
    • 3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
    • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
    • 1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts
    • 3 tablespoons light corn syrup
    • 1/2 cup rum

     

    Directions

    1. In a large bowl, stir together the crushed vanilla wafers, 3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar, cocoa, and nuts. Blend in corn syrup and rum.
    2. Shape into 1 inch balls, and roll in additional confectioners’ sugar. Store in an airtight container for several days to develop the flavor. Roll again in confectioners’ sugar before serving.

Greenwood Tree Farm

Looking for a quintessential New England holiday experience this year? Greenwood Tree Farm can help you plan a family experience that will quickly become a cherished family tradition.  Greenwood Tree Farm is located 20 minutes outside of Boston in Billerica, Massachusetts.

Start by taking a walk in the fields of Greenwood Tree Farm.  The aroma alone will get you into the Christmas spirit.  Choose the perfect tree for your family either precut or one of the mature Christmas Trees.  Once you have tired out your family visit the Gift Shop.  Check out the display of wreaths, kissing balls, decorations, as well as handmade items such as Amish baskets, carved ornaments. No trip would be complete without a warm cup of cider after shopping.  You may also want to try their honey selection – it is delicious!

By the time you are ready to leave Greenwood, an experienced and friendly staff will have trimmed and wrapped your tree for safe transport to your home.  The holidays can sometimes be too rushed and not enough time spent with family.  Make this trip to pick your tree a fun one that will become part of your holiday tradition.  Slow down this season and cherish some traditional holiday fun.  Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Herrick Tree Farm

The snow has already started to fly and the holiday season is in full swing.  If you haven’t found time to slow down this year and get your tree, you may want to try Herrick Tree Farm in Boxford, Massachusetts.  About a half hour north of Boston, Herrick Tree Farm can offer an experience that your family will enjoy this Christmas – picking the beloved tree!  They are open from 9-4 pm this weekend.  Don’t miss out on this family tradition.

Herrick Tree Farm offers the fun of cutting down your own Christmas Tree.  They have Fraser and Canaan Fir to pick from.  All trees are priced the same except for those that are ten feet or taller.  The experienced and amiable staff are happy to help you bale, trim and wrap your tree.  If you would like to read more about Herrick please follow the link Herrick.