Cookie baking season is here, but before I bring out the sugar and butter, I’m going to cook up some healthy soups and stews for the freezer. My garden potatoes are starting to sprout so I plan to make a potato soup using my own onions and garlic, as well as the corn I froze in September.
I’m busy, so I like to make a big batch of soup or stew and then freeze it in pint-sized canning jars to get a lot of meals out of the one effort. These single-serving sizes are easy to grab on my way out the door in the morning and then heat in the microwave for a warm lunch at work.
Mark Bittman is an author of many cookbooks and has become a big proponent of healthy eating and cooking. He has a new book out, How to Cook Everything Fast, written for those of us who feel we are too busy to cook with whole foods. I really enjoy his recipes because they are very flexible and he encourages you to substitute with what you have on hand or what is currently available. He makes cooking fun and easy, and this new book provides lots of time saving tips.
An abundance of local produce is still available so now is a good time to stock up for winter with some of the longer storing items. There are a few roadside and farmers markets still open. If you’re shopping for holiday gifts, anyone on your list is likely to appreciate something useful and locally grown or made. I like to fill one of the bottom drawers of our refrigerator with local apples before the orchard stands close. Our local orchards grow a nice variety of apples so stock up on your favorites before they’re gone.
Do not store apples in the same bin as vegetables, especially carrots. I keep one refrigerator bin for root vegetables like carrots, beets and parsnips, which all last for many weeks in loose plastic bags, and the other for apples.
Do not store potatoes, sweet potatoes, winter squash, onions or garlic in the fridge. These all keep best at cool room temperatures, in the sixties is ideal. Potatoes need to be kept in the dark. Any part of a potato that is exposed to light for more than a day will turn green and that green tissue must be cut away before using. Sweet potatoes do not turn green but should be used within a few weeks.
Of the squashes, Delicata is the one with the shortest shelf life, so use that first. It is delicious and has a creamy texture so by all means buy it if you can find it, but cook it within a week or two of purchase. The other squashes, butternut, acorn, calypso, kabocha, and many others, will keep for a couple of months under normal household conditions. Stock up on these now for a winter source of natural Vitamin A.
Most of these long storage crops are quite easy to grow at home. Garden catalogs will begin showing up in your mailbox this month so you can start dreaming about next year’s garden while the snow flies this winter.
Jordy Kivett, CCE Clinton County Nutrition Educator, will be at the Plattsburgh Farmers Market again this Saturday, December 13, 2014, at 10am with recipes for using these winter vegetables and lots of tips for easy ways to use them in a variety of ways. Stop by on Saturday and see what she’s featuring this week.
Photo by Shannon Houlihan.