Tag Archives: Winter

Dry Beans 101

16 Jan
by Deanne

Would you go out of your way to attend a cooking class on beans?

Photo of Dry Beans ClassThat is what Steve and I did last night. We went to the Davis Food Co-op to attend a cooking class called Intro to Beans.  What an interesting way to spend a free night during our time in California.

During the class, Julie the instructor, discussed the great debate about the best time to salt beans.  Should we: Brine the beans in a salt solution prior to cooking, add salt before cooking or add salt after cooking? She let us taste three samples. I thought that the beans that had the brine during the soak, prior to cooking, were the best. It turns out that is what Cooks Illustrated recommends.  It goes against what most of us have been taught.  However, if you need your beans to be firmer (such as adding them to a salad) just salt them at the end of cooking.

We tasted two recipes: the first included rainbow chard and navy beans and the second recipe included lentils with sweet potatoes and curry powder. Both were excellent but very different in their flavor profiles.

Why should a person learn to cook with  dry beans?  They are:

1. Cheap.

2.  Easy to make tasty by adding onions or peppers, garlic and a variety of spices or herbs.

3.  A great source of protein and fiber.

4.  A whole food where you add your own seasonings in your own kitchen.

5.  Easy:  Make one batch to apply to different dishes all week.


Snow Ice Cream

2 Jan
by Deanne

During a holiday visit to my brother and sister-in-law’s warm and cozy home near Truckee, California we watched the snow fall outside and decided to make snow ice cream.

picture of snowMy sister-in-law Trudy, grew up in Alaska where she learned to make this winter time treat.

First we “harvested” some fresh and fluffy snow.  She reminded me to avoid snow under a tree because pine needles tend to make the ice cream crunchy. 

A bowlful of snowNext we brought the beautiful bowl of snow in the house and added cream, sugar, and vanilla. 

Mix with a spoonShe added the ingredients and mixed with a spoon.  Then she tested it to determine if it was the right taste and consistency.  If it is too sweet a person can always gather more snow.

It was simply delish!  Thanks Trudy!

A bowlful of snow ice creamHave you ever made ice cream out of snow?   Hmm… for those that are on a dairy-free diet,  I wonder if it would work to make sorbet?

Winter Squash Soup: A FarmerChef Special

29 Mar
by Francine

Yesterday we took all of our leftover winter squash and made a soup.  We used one ambercup squash, two sweet dumplings, one delicata and some butternut squash and of course ,some of our dried sage.  We loosely followed this recipe by Smitten Kitchen.

A photo of the special

One thing, I’ve realized about doing FarmerChef specials is that soup goes over really well.  We sold lots of soup weeks 1, 2 and 5.  Is it because it’s hard to shake off winter?  Or do people just love soup no matter the time of year…I know I do!

Solar’s FarmerChef Specials

27 Mar
by Francine

It has been a bit hectic around here lately, but that’s no excuse for our quietness…our apologies dear readers!

Summer weather has already begun here in MN and in the past few days the grass has greened and Dad has begun constructing new raised beds and planning his vegetables (but more on that later).

Both Mom and I have been working nearly non-stop at our family’s restaurant, the Solar.  In late February, we began featuring a FarmerChef Special every Wednesday at lunch.  Starting such a special in the bleak mid-Februaury didn’t leave us much to work with, but as evidenced by the photos below, I think we made great use of the leftover fall harvest and winter stores we received from some local farmers.

We had…

  • 3 monster butternut squash
  • 2 bags of assorted onions
  • carrots
  • dried (by me) sage
  • whole wheat flour
  • tomatoes that we froze in October

What we made…

A photo of Butternut Squash Soup

A photo of Soup with Sage Butter

A photo of the sign for Week3

A photo of mint and carrot slaw

A photo of tomato soup

A photo of our produce

Check back tomorrow to see our sixth FarmerChef special.

Thanksgiving Decorations = A Tasty Snack

31 Jan
by Francine

A photo of the roasted seedsIn early fall, our kind farming friends gave us many pumpkin-y things to decorate the restaurant. When Christmas took over the restaurant, I brought the harvest to our living room.

A few weeks ago I realized, I should probably remove the harvest decorations since there was snow on the ground and our neighbor had already removed his outdoor Christmas lights.

Instead of just throwing away the squashes, I wanted to get the seeds out of them so I could have a snack.

Never one to be deterred by a thick skinned squash, I decided to crack them open by dropping them on the kitchen floor.  (I should mention that our kitchen floor is old linoleum and that no one is in love with the state of our kitchen…it’s constantly mentioned that it needs a facelift.) I do not recommend this method of opening gourds or squash if you have lovely wood floors or if someone in your house is trying to take a nap.A photo of the cracked gourds

Once the squash cracked open a bit (it took quite a few times of ‘dropping’ on the floor), I used a knife to wedge it open some more and scoop out the seeds.

Then I rinsed the seeds, salted them and toasted them in the oven. Crunchy and yum!

There were five different kinds of squash and gourds. I tossed all the seeds into one bowl.  I couldn’t really tasty a difference between them except for the seeds of the turban squash…they were very big and not too crunchy.

But I do have a warning… Photo of an unpleasant squash*For more information on this bitter orange guy see the comments.

Do you have a method for opening gourds and slightly dried out squash that is more sophisticated than “drop repeatedly on the floor”? If so, I’d love to hear!

Do you like toasted squash seeds?  Do you season them with anything other than salt?

Happy cracking!

Winter on the Outside, Summer on the Inside: Watermelon Radish

24 Jan
by Francine

A photo of the radishIt doesn’t look like much from the outside, but once you cut it open and see its brilliant pink, you’ll know why another name for this radish is Beauty Heart Radish.

 I first encountered it when I was living in China. One day it appeared in a lettuce and carrot salad when I was eating at a neighborhood restaurant with fellow teachers.

Immediately I fell in love with its color, its crunchy texture and its subtle radish flavor. Later I had it in another salad where it was the star of the dish. 

When I saw one of these radishes for sale at our local co-op, I knew that I had to try and re-create the salad I enjoyed many times when I was living in China.

I should also mention that these can keep for awhile. (I stored one in the fridge for about a month before using it…gotta love long lasting winter vegetables.)

Watermelon Radish Salad: Chinese Style

Ingredients:A photo of the inside
  • 1 watermelon radish
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • salt (to taste)
  • handful of roasted peanuts
  • 3-5 green onions
  • sesame seeds (for garnish)

Using a peeler, remove the tough light green skin. It’s okay if there’s some white “rind” left on the radish. Cut the radish into small pieces and toss with a dash of salt in a bowl. Set aside.

A photo of the saladPrepare the sauce. Mix soy sauce, vinegar, sesame oil and sugar in a small bowl and stir with a spoon. Taste. If it needs more of any ingredient, you can add more. (I know this might not be the best way for those of you who love to follow recipes, but you should feel confident that you can add more or less of any ingredient, depending on whether or not you like it or how much you like it.)

Dice the green onions. If you have peanuts in their shells, crack them open and remove the thin papery covering.

Pour the sauce over the radish slices and toss together with peanuts and diced green onions. Top with toasted sesame seeds for extra crunch.

This salad is served cold. It would be a great accompaniment to a stir fry. Or if you’re like me, you can just eat it will a big bowl of steamed rice.

Have you ever tried other types of radishes? Would you be willing to put a little summer in your winter?

One day sunny, windy snow the next…

11 Jan

Yesterday was the last in a series of spring-like days here in Minnesota (at least for a few days).  The days have been so spring-like that tiny green spinach leaves could be found close to the soil, under the dead and dried out leaves.Photo from Jan 10And today it’s like the abominable snow monster moved into the neighborhood, began blowing up his air mattress and knocking on our doors, trying to introduce himself.

Oh Minnesota winter, you’re always full of surprises…not that I mind, riding my bicycle in January is always a treat. I just feel bad for our cool weather crops, they don’t know if they should grow or sleep.

What’s the winter weather like in your neck of the woods? Has he paid you a visit this winter?