Keeping Local eating Fresh in the Winter

Over the years we’ve figured outs some tricks to help make northern eating fresh, fun and delicious.

There are a few staples we buy from away, like bananas, lemons, tahini, olive oil, lentils, and rice…but for the most part we try to eat what we or our friends and family have grown. I try to base my meals on what we have and buy only the things that will enhance and brighten our meals.

I’ve put together some tips on how to make the most of the food we grow here. Included is a sample menu of the meals we have on rotation in our house. Now, it’s a bit long, but I don’t want to just feed you recipes, because sometimes certain ingredients aren’t available and you have to adapt. Learning a few tricks in the kitchen will enable you to make delicious meals from what you have. There ARE recipe links below.

Freezing 
We freeze a lot of tomatoes and peppers and berries. If it weren’t for these staples our two year old would starve. She lives on bolognese and smoothies. It’s a bit too late to start this if you haven’t done it already but something to keep in mind for 2019!

Protein
We eat a lot of Canadian lentils. Green, black, red..they all have a different texture and therefore a different purpose. I sneak red lentils into everything becasue when cooked they have a mild taste and dissolve into nothing. It’s a great addition to pastas and soups. You can also make a red lentil dip (like hoummous) 

Lentil salad made with green or beluga (these lentils hold their shape) lentils is also a favourite. Combined with some local MilkHouse feta, sliced onion, sundried tomatoes it’s a fresh, satisfying meal. If we have spinach I’ll slice that up and toss it in too. See recipe links below

We don’t eat much meat but when we do it’s from Jess’ dad’s grass-fed cattle or Robin’s mom’s pasture raised birds. These meat based meals always get extended into two or three meals — leftovers or soups.

Feeling Fresh

In the winter, we in the North tend to go on and on about how we miss greens. Over the years I’ve learnt to let go of green things and be happy with cabbage and roots. with a bit of dijon, cider vinegar and good olive oil and the right slicing you can make your storage vegetables sing and zing in the same way a fresh summer salad does


Our favourite salad is grated root salad. two carrots and a beet with a thinly sliced small onion and a mustard, cider vinaigrette, sea salt and a couple glugs of good EVOO (extra virgin olive oil) is a delicious, sweet, crunchy side dish that even our toddler devours. I find grated roots satisfy my “fresh” craving more than store bought, imported greens. 

Dressings
In my opinion the best way to make the most of your veggies (in all seasons) to experiment with the dressings. Seriously, dressings, sauces (whatever you want to call them) make everything better.  In the summer, when cilantro is available, I make a wicked tahini cilantro dressing that we drizzle on bbqed veg, rice, fresh greens..whatever.. and it really adds a wow factor. These days I try to avoid imported cilantro just because of the carbon foot print (and it’s always slimy) so I make a homemade “mayo” once a week. 
This mayo is incredible with roasted potatoes (or any roasted veg) and can be used to make a wicked coleslaw (sliced cabbage, grated carrots etc).

Change up the Cuts

Making variations in how you cut or slice your veggies extends the way you can enjoy these veggies. For example we got a spiralizer a couple years ago and love to make veggie “noodles” we add these to pasta, pho or make salads. Spiralized celeriac or any spiralized root salad is amazing!

The way you slice a vegetable is critical in how it will taste. Grated carrots and beets, for instance, are juicy, sweet and palatable raw. Chunks of huge cabbage or onion are just ugly tasting. Cabbage should be sliced and enjoyed as delicate ribbons covered in delicious dressing. An added bonus is that the thinner you cut cabbage, or any veg, the easier it is to eat and digest. It also has more “broken” cells to absorb your delicious dressings!

Take a radish, as another example. Cut thickly it will burn and take too much work to eat..but if you cut a radish into almost translucent slices you will find the taste delicate and sweet with only a hint of heat. Marinated in a little cider vinegar, these slices become absolutely gorgeous (great on tacos)

The key to consistent, thin knife work is..well ,the knife. Invest in a decent knife and keep it sharpened!

If you take anything away from this: raw vegetables should be cut uniformly and as thinly as possible. And use a sharp knife!

Note: When roasting veg they should also be cut uniformly so they cook evenly. The size doesn’t matter as much, but the smaller you cut the shorter time it takes to cook. 

Herbs

If you are going to buy greens in the winter, I recommend herbs. In Summer and winter, herbs should be used more. Using a whole bunch of cilantro in a salad is common practice in our house. The beautiful thing about herbs is they are full of flavour and very nutrient dense. Lettuce is full of water and does not have much nutritional value, but herbs brighten winter meals and offer a plethora of health benefits.

Sample meal plan for Roots and Shoots Farmers:
Homemade Poutine with Coleslaw
Vegetarian Gravy, local cheese curds, roasted potatoes, homemade mayonnaise with sliced cabbage and grated carrot or beet)

Sample meal plan for Roots and Shoots Farmers:
Homemade Poutine with Coleslaw
Vegetarian Gravy, local cheese curds, roasted potatoes, homemade mayonnaise with sliced cabbage and grated carrot or beet)

Bolognese with noodles (toddler favourite)
grass fed beef (optional), red lentils, pinto beans, onions, garlic, frozen peppers and tomatoes, dehydrated zucchini, mushrooms and parsley served over organic noodles and parmesan cheese. We eat this as chilli but our daughter prefers pasta so we compromise and mix in noodles for her.

Roasted Veg-curry Soup (Super easy)
Roasted squash, roasted onions and garlic pureed with a bit of water a bit of green curry paste and a can of coconut milk and salt to taste. Wham bam thank you m’am

Roasted Pasture raised Chicken (from Robin’s mom)
Roasted Chicken (with lemon juice coconut milk, green curry paste) served with red rice and coleslaw. 

Farm Pho
Chicken broth (made from yesterdays roasted chicken, inch of sliced ginger, 2 carrots sliced, dehydrated onions, a couple star anise: drain all bits when well cooked so its just broth).  Serve hot broth over cooked rice noodles, julienned Carrots, dehydrated onions. Optional: Thinly sliced grass-fed raw sirloin steak (quickly marinated in tamari and sesame oil). Boiling broth will cook meat. You can also use tofu. More tips on making Pho

Roasted Veggies with Spicy carrot Lentil Salad

Lentil salad with soft cheese and sundried tomatoes (our favourite)

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