Our house, or rather, our front porch is the depot for our CSA. Each week a stack of bins of locally grown fruits and vegetables are dropped off and people come by on their way to pick up kids from school or the way home from work to pick up their bins. Once in a while, a bin goes unclaimed and the deal is that I can keep it, give it away or compost it at 6pm the following day. For a while, we had an extra bin every week and I was giving them away to my neighbours (you cannot imagine how quickly people respond to emails entitled “free organic fruits and vegetables”!) and then things were sorted out with the orders and all of the boxes were being collected. That was until this week, when once again there was an extra box. Late summer and early fall is when the boxes are biggest and full of my favourite produce – squash, beets, carrots, garlic, onions, apples, etc so I decided to keep this one for us and do a bunch of cooking and baking.
I thought a tray of beet chips would be a terrific addition to my kids’ lunches so I thinly sliced a few beets, tossed them into the oven with a drizzle of olive oil and salt and let them roast. What I didn’t take into account was that the red beets had a much higher sugar content than the others so quickly burned and the others left a lot to be desired. Unfortunately the lot went into the compost and I will save the rest of the beets for another purpose. The beets did look lovely on the tray before they went into the oven!
Fortunately things were more successful after the beets. Between the extra CSA bin and the one I get, I had 4 butternut squash on hand. We ate a couple in salads w mixed greens, mixed grains, dried fruit and a lemon vinaigrette. I also roasted and pureed one to fold into some polenta along with some smoked scamorza to make a comforting side dish. The recipe serves more than our family of 4 eats in a meal so I chilled the leftover polenta on a sheet pan and roasted little wedges of it for lunch. The same evening, I made some chicken breasts using this method and one extra one for lunch. This made lunch quick and easy to assemble.
Finally, we have a mountain of apples from our apple picking expedition. In the excitement of apple picking we picked too many apples (this happens every year – we never learn!) so I decided to make some fruit leather. My mother used to buy fruit leather for us from the health food store and refused to buy us the fruit (froot?) roll ups that all of our friends used to get in their lunches. Little did I know that I would eventually feed my kids in the same way! I cut up a dozen or so apples – with skins intact- and put them into a pot with a cinnamon stick and a splash of apple cider that we bought at the orchard while we were apple picking. I covered the pot and cooked it over medium heat for about 15 minutes. The apples were nice and soft at this point so I transferred them to my food mill and pureed them. The sauce was still a little thin for dehydrating so I cooked it down a bit more and then added some ground vanilla bean and some ground cardamom. Finally, I spread all of this out on to 2 silpat non-stick baking sheet liners on cookie sheets, sprinkled on some chia seeds, and cooked them on the dehydrate setting on my oven. After about 3 hours the sauce had dehydrated and I could pull it up at the corner. I pulled both sheets out of the oven and let them cook for a few minutes. Once they had cooled off, I peeled off the entire sheet of fruit leather, placed it on a sheet of waxed paper and got some little hands to roll it up. We cut the large sheet into smaller pieces and one went into each lunch. The resulting fruit leather is tart and flavourful with little crunchy chia seeds. Absolutely more delicious and healthier than anything I pled with my mother to buy for me when I was 8 years old!
Lunch for the 22nd day of school was three skewers of the leftover chicken, the polenta cut into stars and roasted until crispy, a little spinach salad with sweet mini peppers and amaranth sprouts, strawberries and grapes and the fruit leather. After disappointing my daughter with the gummy bears (she did manage to pull it together and eat them all remarkably) I also put in a few of the chocolate crispy pearls she requested for today originally. I am sure she will be pleased to find these tomorrow at lunch time!