This weeks Bountiful Basket includes Mustard Greens. It is another one of the those things I would never in a millon years throw in my shopping cart. I am too stingy with my grocery dollar. Now that sense of thriftiness has caused me to figure out ways to use it because it is not going to go directly too the chickens.
I have done some reading and it is suppose to one of those greens that is great for lowering/keeping cholesterol in check. A good reason to at least figure out how to incorporate some of it into my diet for the next week.
Here are some ideas for using up or experimenting with mustard greens.
Salads All greens chopped can be included in toss salad. Some like the robust Tuscany Kale of my last basket need to be finely chopped but it worked out just great as a way to work more of it into my diet. It keeps your salads from being too much of bland “traditional” salad greens
Mashed potatoes I will chop up a small handful of any greens and include them when cooking potatoes to mash. When and how much I throw in the greens depends on how they cook up. Some I chop fine and throw in at the last minute others can go in near the beginning. Greens generally have a “strong” taste and I don’t want them to overpower my mash potatoes, but they have turned out to be a perfect dish to incorporate some healthy green veggies into. My family now almost expects there to be green flecks in mashers.
Here is one of my favorite ways to cook greens and I will be trying this with mustard greens this week.
1 clove garlic cut in half
oil depending on the style I going for I will use either an olive oil or bacon grease if I am going for that southern take on it all.
onions – chopped small
pepper, green, red, chili, jalapeno, Anaheim, your choice. chopped
greens – your choice, I prefer my destemed/deveined
Cheese – optional
Press the cut side of the garlic around the pan you intend to cook in. You want to give the hint of garlic but not over power your dish.
Add oil to thinly coat the bottom of your saute pan.
Add onion and your choice of pepper. Saute until the edges of the onion pieces start to become translucent
Add greens and cook until wilted but not until them become a limp, soggy mess.
Plate and top with cheese of your choice. I usually pick a milder cheese to complement the peppers I have chosen. Some ideas include:
queso fresco to take the edge off of the hotness of Jalapeno
Parmesan to give it more an Italian flair.
Feta – use sparingly if your greens have a stronger flavor or it could be come a clash of two strong flavors gone wild
Mozzarella – top with graded cheese and few fresh diced tomato
I have talked many times before about the whole the Bountiful Baskets Co-op. We started months ago, and months later I would have to say it has been one of those things we have done that have really made our lifestyle a little more healthy. Who would have ever imagined that buying a basket of produce every other week, sight unseen would work. You pay money and get what you get. It is almost un-American. We have all that fresh produce in the refrigerator and it is a challenge to eat it all before it goes to waste. We eat things we would never have bought at the grocery.
We have incorporated more veggies into every meal we eat. It has become easy and second nature. We manage to eat nearly all the veggies that we get in each basket before the time for our next one arrives. We have neverbeen fruit eaters and we have made huge strides in that area as well. We are not yet eating all our fruit yet, but we our progress is more remarkable than we have done with veggies.
Bountiful Baskets works for us because we are open to trying new things. We are willing to eat anything once, maybe twice. We also like to try new recipes. New and more fresh ingredients feed that creative part for both my husband and I. If you are not open to trying new things that you could end up with baskets full of veggies you may be unwilling to eat and disappointed. I have always managed to be on the wrong week to get Brussel sprouts which I love and husband hates. Likewise I have always wanted to try fennel and was on the wrong week for that too. But I have learned about collard greens, pomelo, fresh papaya, things I wasn’t willing to spend money on, for a chance.
On top of making us healthier it has also made our pocketbook healthier. Last Saturday we stopped at the grocery after we picked up our basket as we needed milk. We decided to do a price check on our our basket. It was $15 + $1.50 fee=$16.50 total out of pocket. Out cost at the local grocery for the same items would have been $34. Boy didn’t we feel good?
Our last Bountiful Basket included two eggplants. Normally I make one of my favorites baba ghanoush, a Turkish dip. Two eggplants challenged me to expand my horizons. I am not opposed to eggplant, but I have had many eggplant Parmesan dishes that I have not liked. For this reason I have shied against making it. Today I decided to be open to the possibility I might like eggplant Parmesan if it wasn’t restaurant fare.
Friday is a meatless meal day for our household and it seemed like a great day to see if I would like a home-made version. It turned out great and both my husband I agreed it turned out much better than we had believed possible. It is a keeper and we will make it again. It just goes to show what happens when you are open to the possibilities. Anything can happen.
Here is my method:
I sliced garlic and put it in a large skillet and cooked it until I infused my olive oil. I removed the garlic slices.
Peel and slice an eggplant. Beat a couple of eggs with a little milk. Dip the sliced eggplant in the egg mixture and dredge it in a seasoned flour. Place in breaded eggplant skillet with the oil. Brown on both sides.
In a bowl while cooking the eggplant, mix a can of diced tomatoes, can of tomato sauce (the can should be the same size as the can of tomatoes) and a generous bunch of diced basil.
Put some of the tomato mixture in a square glass pan, top with a layer of cooked eggplant. Put a 1/4 thick slice of mozzarella on each slice eggplant, then top with freshly grated Parmesan and more of the tomato sauce. Repeat until you have used all the eggplant slices.
My family participates in the Bountiful Baskets food co-op. As a co-op, the food sites are run by local volunteers. The system would not work without all the members helping out some. They suggest you volunteer every 4-6 visits. From a volunteer point of view it is pretty short term about two to three hours on a Saturday. No real hard work. A pretty ideal volunteer set up if you don’t want commitment.
Yesterday I had thought it was about time and had decided that today I would volunteer. This morning I woke up and wanted nothing to do with it giving up my free time. It wasn’t like I had signed up and I was not leaving them in a lurch by not showing up. There was always next week. My mood was foul and my body was cold. My excuses were plentiful and my motivation was pretty scarce.
In spite of this I still found myself at the food site at volunteer time, ready to work. I was part of the assembly line that makes the baskets up. I sorted potatoes and tomatoes. I split banana bunches up in to same quantities. So I found I not cold, but actually hot. I made conversation with my fellow volunteers and greeted folks who came to pick up their baskets. My mood never became stellar, but soon I was smiling and life wasn’t so bad. A couple hours later I was wiping out baskets with a damp cold rag to put them away for next time. Finally we were sweeping the floor so we left our site in better shape than we had found it.
It was over I had volunteered. I had fulfilled my obligation that only I knew about. I had made a difference. Not like the life and death kind of difference, but in how easy or hard the job would have been if I had not been there to help. Like the floor at our site I was in better shape than I had been when I started.
Three vegetables with every dinner is our family goal and potatoes don’t count. That is a pretty ambitious goal in the best of situations. I can give you a host of reasons why it is hard to achieve in our house:
One of cooks in the house, my husband, was raise with minimal to no vegetables. They aren’t on his radar. His take on vegetables when I married him: ” I eat corn because I like it and beans because they are good for me.”
We grocery shop only once every 7-10 days
I live in a spot in Montana where it semi-arid, and the growing season runs from late June to sometime in September. Frost is common in July and August.
Our farmer’s markets reflect the problems stated in number 3.
Our grocery stores, though national chains, reflect a 60’s produce selection. If you don’t shop on a day the truck comes in the produce is just so-so.
Frozen veggies require more thought. It easiest to pull them out of the bag and throw them in the steamer. Steaming and serving gets pretty boring pretty fast.
Dollar for dollar on a per serving basis fresh is more expensive.
Those of you following my blog, know that I recently started participating in Bountiful Baskets. It is a traveling delivery co-op system. It allows us to purchase a basket of fresh veggies and fruits and a reasonable price. The downside is that you don’t know what you will get in your basket until you pick it up. If you are willing to go outside your normal comfort zone it is a great way to get those three veggies in you dinner menu. My husband is even getting into this. Friday he made sandwiches for lunch and proudly announced he had included 3 veggies. It is a sign that this goal of ours is finally becoming a normal reality for us, not just me but both of us.
Changes happen slowly, but with persistence change can become your reality.
This week in our bountiful basket there was two bunches of celery and we chose the Asian extra pack which gave us a third bunch. I had two partially used bunches in our produce drawer. Suddenly I had more celery than any one person or family could use. Like so often I turned to the internet to find a way use produce in a new way. We found a highly rate recipe for cream of celery soup. I was unsure of this whole concept. All I could think of was the congealed mess that comes out of the soup can and used for casserole.
I would never have imagined how great it was. Both my husband and I declared it a winner.
This week my Bountiful Basket included lots of fun goodies and only one of them may me think hmmmmm. Collard greens. I have never made or even tasted them in my entire life to my knowledge. So I will be searching for a recipe on the net. My husband said he is sure that Paula Deen has something that will use them with lots of bacon and butter. Those two fats can make anything yum!
This week I ended up with a “conventional basket” (non organic). I really feel like I got quite a stash for only $15. Look at the picture to see how much produce we ended up with.
I am discovering it really is quite a challenge to get all my fruit ate. Last week my DH had to bring a treat to work and he made a banana cake with a white cake mix. We still ended up freezing a few mashed banana’s and now we start again. We did freeze some cauliflower as well.
Tonight we ate a leftovers with homemade Margaritas on the rocks. So we started already on the limes. I grilled some mixed veggies as well. So started on basket even on the first day. Tomorrow will start menu planning to work on getting meals that utilize as much of our stash as possible. I am not a honeydew melon eater so will likely share that with others. Two English cukes is a lot and so will send one of those on as well. Beyond that even if I am gone for three days lets hope that we can get through this all before we need to decide if we are in or out for the next box.
Let the next two weeks journey into healthful eating start.