A little veggie bin full of learning

Learning through veggies

CSA veggies week 10 in 2016 | www.jenniferdyck.com

No this is not a discussion about how many veggies you ate today. This goes deeper.

How often do you think about how your food made it onto your plate. I mean really think about how it got there – more than who cooked it or where you bought it? For most of us, it’s not likely that often, if at all.

CSA veggies-dinner-2016 | www.jenniferdyck.com

The bin of veggies

For the past two years my family has belonged to a Community Support Agriculture (CSA) garden grown by The Bergmann’s.  We pay a one-time pre-season fee (buy a share in the garden) and in return we receive a weekly bin of veggies. What you get is determined by what your farmer decides to grow and how much Mother Nature decides to meddle.

Initially we joined because I didn’t want to make time to have a garden and we still wanted fresh seasonal vegetables. What I know now is that we joined because it was time to learn more about who and how our food is grown.

This week was our last veggie bin of the season. It was the last bin but it was the day we had our most important lesson.

CSA Veggies-with-bin-2016 | www.jenniferdyck.com

It’s veggie confession time

I waited until after school to unpack our last bin with the boys. They love to eat and help in the kitchen but mostly they love to see Will on delivery days and unpack the bin.

They bounced down the front steps over to the bin, ripped off the lid, started pulling things out then looked up and said “That’s it?”

The boys said what I had thought a few times this season and my heart sunk. That’s when I realized, yes, that’s it! It was no longer a question. It was a light-bulb, exclamation, ah-ha moment. This, this was the teaching moment of the summer.

How dare we be so critical of our food. We were never hungry and what was provided was delicious, nourishing and made many excellent meals that we enjoyed together.

I paused. I sat down. They sat down. We sat there on the front patio and we talked.

My heart filled as I thought about our farm family. They poured their heart, blood, sweat and tears into our veggie bin. They gave us the best they had, they gave us as much as they possibly could, they worked extra hard this season and reseeded various times and I know that they truly care. But how do you teach that to a kid?

CSA veggies boys with squash | www.jenniferdyck.com

We talked about it. We talked about the part of food we rarely see. The growing part.

  • Were we ever hungry this summer because we didn’t have enough food?
    “No” they both said as though I was crazy

CSA veggies week 6 of 2016 | www.jenniferdyck.com

  • Why do you think we have a bit less in our bin this year? What fell from the sky every couple of days?
    “Rain. The plants had too much water.” said one.
    “Plants don’t like too much water.” said the other.
  • How do you think Will and his family felt when the plants started getting sick?
    “I bet they were sad. I bet they wished they could have made them better.” said my one kid as he slumped a little.
  • How do you think it felt when you had to go get the veggies from the garden and there wasn’t as much as you had planned would grow?
    “That would suck” said my feisty one.
    “Yes, yes it would” I said.
  • We talked about how Mother Nature always plays the last card. A farmer can do everything right and Mother Nature can trump it all.
  • We talked about how farmers work really hard to grow top quality food and sometimes it doesn’t quite go as planned and it’s sad. It’s ok for us to be sad for them, with them. It’s also important for us to continue to support them.
  •  We agreed that growing food is hard work and we are thankful for farmers. Thankful for farmers that are willing to go all-in year after year after year.

To my farmer and farm family:

CSA Veggies week 4 of 2016 | www.jenniferdyck.com

I’m sorry. I’m sorry I didn’t do a better job of checking in during the season, that I didn’t ask more questions and that I didn’t stand up for you sooner. I’m sorry I ever thought “That’s it?” 

Because – That’s It! That’s a wrap on another season of veggies that made it to our plates, that had us experimenting in the kitchen, that had us learning about new ingredients, that had us being mindful about food waste and had us excited about delicious Canadian grown food. We Thank You!

Because – That’s It! That’s another season of helping teach another generation to appreciate food, to understand that it doesn’t “grow” in the grocery store and that someone, a real person, took the time to become an expert in growing food. I Thank You!

Because – That’s It! That’s another season laced with lessons for both of us and when we learn together, we grow together!

Zucchini Chocolate Chip Cake with Cinnamon Oat Crumble | www.jenniferdyck.com

The kid said it best this week and said it just like a farmer:

“Well mom, there’s always next year! I bet next year will be great!”

Although from this mom who’s trying to raise a #FarmToFoodFamily – I say:
This Year WAS Great!

Always…Jenn

Zucchini Chocolate Chip Cake with Cinnamon Oat Crumble

Every season brings a plentiful produce item that I find myself creatively including in many meals and snacks. Right now that item is zucchini.

From muffins to cakes to cookies, from grilled, to spiralized and diced, my family has been eating it in all sorts of ways this season.

After combing the internet for the perfect zucchini cake recipe that used ingredients that I had available, I came up empty handed and decided to merge a few to create my very own cake.

My family hopes you’ll enjoy this as much as we do!

Zucchini Chocolate Chip Cake with Cinnamon Oat Crumble

Zucchini Chocolate Chip Cake with Cinnamon Oat Crumble | www.jenniferdyck.com

Ingredients:

Cake:

  • 2 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 2 Tbsp wheat germ
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup low fat plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 cups packed shredded zucchini (peel on)
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • 3/4 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Cinnamon Oat Crumble:

  • 2/3 cup rolled oats
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325ºF.  Prepare a 9 x 11 pan with parchment.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, oats, wheat germ, cinnamon, baking soda and baking powder.
  3. In a second large bowl, beat together eggs, yogurt, canola oil and vanilla until well combined. Add the sugars and continue beating. Stir in the zucchini until well combined.
  4. Add wet ingredients to flour mixture and stir just to combine ingredients.
  5. Add the chocolate chips and walnuts (if using) and stir just to combine ingredients.
  6. Add batter to prepared cake pan and leveled into the corners as needed.
  7. To prepare the crumble: combine oats, sugar, flour, canola oil and cinnamon until well blended. Stir in the chocolate chips. Mixture will appear like damp sand. Sprinkle this mixture over the top of the entire cake.
  8. Bake for 45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool in pan on a wire rack. Serve warm with ice cream for a decadent treat or slice and serve at room temperature for a coffee time snack.

Ginger Cookies

Old Family Recipes

Holiday Ginger Cookies | www.jenniferdyck.com

I had not made gingersnaps in a long while. They have been on my long list of “must make” all season. When my cousin asked about our Grandma’s recipe it was the push I needed to get baking these beauties.

What we think is the original recipe from our youth calls for shortening – well, that wasn’t happening! So off to the kitchen I went.

Old Ginger Cookie Recipe | www.jenniferdyck.com

I know that Canola Eat Well has a fabulous Gingersnap cookie that uses canola oil so I set out to make the flavour of our youth into a modernized, non shortening containing cookie.

It was relatively easy to make the update to canola oil. The newer version has the same great chew and spicy flavour I remember.

Time to go #EatAllTheCookies!

Always…Jenn

Ginger Cookies

Gingersnaps | www.jenniferdyck.com

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup fancy molasses
  • 1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp cloves
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar for rolling

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, cream the oil together with the sugar until well blended and it looks like wet sand.
  3. Add the egg and molasses and mix well.
    Tip: measure the molasses in the same liquid measure cup as you used for the oil and it will slide right on out like magic!
  4. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cloves and salt.
  5. Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and mix well.
  6. For consistent cookie size, use a 1 tsp self releasing scoop, to help form balls. Shape the balls with your hands to be smooth and symmetrical. The dough may not roll in your hands the same way as a solid fat dough but it does hold together and will make smooth balls. If you are exact with your 1 tsp scoop you will get 48 balls.
  7. Put the 1/4 cup of sugar in a small bowl or shallow dish. Roll each ball in the sugar to coat evenly and place 2″ apart on the prepared cookie sheets.
  8. Bake for 10 minutes. Allow to rest on baking sheet for 2 minutes before gently moving the cookies to a cooling rack.

Notes:

Dough can be pre-made. After step 5, form the dough into a large ball, place in a resealable bag or in a bowl covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 24 hours prior to baking.

Storage:

Keep in a resealable container on the counter for 2-3 days or freeze for up to a month.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

A Taste of Fall

As the daylight shortens, the air chills and the leaves turn, I crave a taste of fall.

The combination of pumpkin, cinnamon and nutmeg with a touch of chocolate in these Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins hits the spot.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins | www.jenniferdyck.com

More Pumpkin Please

It was my goal to pack in 2 cups of pumpkin puree into one batch of 24 muffins. One pie pumpkin can yield upwards of 4-6 or more cups of puree. Most recipes I was testing only used 1/2 cup to 1 cup of pumpkin and so began my journey.

These are not large muffins and they are also not too sweet. If you have a sweet tooth you’ll want to increase the chocolate chips or add an extra 1/4 cup of sugar.

I add 2-3 chocolate chips to the top of each muffin before baking (as indicated in the recipe below).  This trick catches the eyes of my children and has them gobbling down a batch in no time.

I’ve been making and tweaking this muffin recipe for a few seasons and I hope you enjoy them as much as my family.

Pumpkin Puree

It starts with the right pumpkin or the right can.

Canned: an economical and convenient option. Be sure to buy 100% pure pumpkin. Do not buy pumpkin pie filling, buy only 100% pure pumpkin. Canned pumpkin pie filling already has seasoning added and sometimes added sugar. Purchase 100% pure pumpkin so you can control the flavour and sweetness.

Make your own: my personal favourite. Making your own puree starts with acquiring the right variety of pumpkin. Sugar pumpkins or pie pumpkins are the two names I seek out. They are typically small and round, the flesh is thicker, has more flavour and they are not as watery. You can eat the large pumpkins sold mainly for decorations and carving but your end result will not be as delicious. Fellow Professional Home Economist (PHEc) Getty Stewart has an excellent “How to Make and Freeze Pumpkin Puree” instructional post. Go check it out!

Now, go to the kitchen and bake something delicious!

Always…Jenn

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins | www.jenniferdyck.com

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tbsp wheat germ
  • 1 Tbsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 2 cups pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2/3 cup chocolate chips, plus a few extra

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.  Prepare pan(s) with parchment muffin liners.
  2. In medium size bowl, whisk together flours, wheat germ, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder and nutmeg.
  3. In a second bowl, beat together pumpkin, sugar, canola oil, eggs and vanilla.
  4. Add wet ingredients to flour mixture and stir just to combine ingredients.
  5. Add 2/3 cup chocolate chips and stir just to combine ingredients.
  6. Add batter to prepared muffin pans using leveled 1/4 cup measure. Drop 2-3 chocolate chips to the top of each muffin.
  7. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Remove from pans and let cool on a wire rack.

Notes:

Regular muffins – makes 24 if you are precise with the 1/4 cup measure.  If not, you might get a couple less.

Mini muffins – makes 48 if you are precise with a 2 tsp scoop.  Bake at 350F for 12-14 minutes.

Storage:

Keep in a resealable container on the counter for 1-2 days or in the freezer for up to a month.