Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Follow-Up Report From Our Recent Letter to Members

by Farmer Richard

Just one of the beautiful mineral rich
fields in our secluded valley!
Several weeks ago I wrote a letter to you, our members, asking for your feedback on the future of our CSA and the direction we might take our program as we are coming up on a new year.  We have particular concern for the CSA portion of our business as our membership numbers have been declining since about 2010.  We had over 120 responses from members with many lengthy, well thought out responses and suggestions.  We also held two webinars that were very helpful.  What did we learn that could be helpful in reversing our downward sliding numbers?  Well, a lot!  Before I share some of the suggestions and thoughts we received, I want to clarify something from the letter that may have been misunderstood.  We are not in financial trouble and are not considering quitting CSA.  We have had some challenging weather events with crop losses, but we’ve worked hard to make up for some of the losses with this year’s fall crops and did have reserves to rely on.  We would like to build our CSA back to full capacity and are encouraged to do what we can to make that happen.  We have 100 acres of mineral-rich land, plus the experienced crew, the knowledge and the passion for producing nutrient dense, delicious, clean, safe food.  We have been able to keep the farm going by increasing wholesale sales when our CSA membership declined, but that market is not our first choice!  Yes, we get an occasional call or email from an appreciative burdock customer in Pennsylvania or Chicago, but what we have come to value greatly is the much more personal connection and interaction with our CSA members!  The many thank you notes, the pictures of a child eating vegetables as their first solid food, the Thank You notes and drawings from young and old ones that have visited the farm—this is your farm too and you are our best supporters.  You are what keeps us going when times are tough.  You are our community and you are what “Community Supported Agriculture” (CSA) is all about.  That is what we work for and we sincerely thank you for being a part of our farm.  While we are not able to respond personally to all of the great emails we received, be sure that we read each one and have noted your suggestions. 

So here are some of the thoughts and ideas we gleaned from members’ responses:
  1. Overwhelming praise for “freshness, quality, variety, value and customer service!”  “You need to advertise that!” “People don’t know you!”
  2.  Convenience:  CSA is a huge time saving convenience over “grocery store shopping” when the pick-up site is in their neighborhood, near to their home.  We were encouraged to do recruiting around existing sites.  Many neighborhoods have a Facebook group.  It may be most effective for a member of the neighborhood to chime in and inform their neighbors of the convenient opportunity to participate in CSA in their neighborhood.
  3.  Work Place CSA Sites:  This is another way we may offer convenience and many employers offer incentives to “eat healthy” which, in the end, is a benefit to you, your employer and us!
  4. Recruitment:  Our satisfied members are our best recruitment.  “Give us an extra box to give to a prospective member.”  Done, great idea!  Just ask and supply us with contact information for follow-up and there will be 2 boxes under your name at the next pick-up, one for you and one for the person you’re introducing to CSA.  Another idea that was suggested is to do a “Trial Share,” another great idea!  We can offer a 4 box trial, pick your weeks, give us a try and then decide on a longer commitment for the remainder of the season.
  5. Easier sign-up and ordering—we have already committed to building a new website, being designed by a longtime business associate in our community.  It will be friendly to new mobile devices (no PDF documents) and we’re working towards being able to accept sign-ups online and also accept orders for our special produce plus offers online with multiple payment options.
  6. More options for “Pack your own” boxes & produce plus.  Again, offering an easier way for members to take advantage of our special offers with easy online ordering and more offerings to help customize your experience and meet your needs.  For example, maybe we could put together some special offers before the holidays to allow you to stock up for holiday meals, guests, etc.  It was also suggested that we provide more options for simple preservation, ie salsa packs, etc.
  7. More of a full meal option.  Perhaps there are more offerings we could include that would allow you to stock your pantries with high quality ingredients to use in making your meals.  Maybe we could have more opportunities to purchase maple syrup, Driftless sunflower oil, Marian Farms’ raisins & almonds or Frog Hollow Farm’s olive oil, we may even be able to make another batch of ramp cheddar cheese with Castle Rock Organic Dairy.  We have trialed and know many, many more of the best organic producers in the area and our community of producers we’ve met through our fruit share.  We are exploring the option of including an egg share with our neighbors who do a good job of producing organic eggs with nice, pasture, outdoor access. 
  8. Changing the delivery day.  Our largest decrease in CSA members is in Madison.  We have long heard from some that they do not like Saturday delivery!  So, we are considering a weekday delivery, possibly Wednesday, which would also allow us to have business drop sites.  We have one good possibility.  Could you help us find other businesses that have the potential for 20 or more boxes?    How many members and coordinators would want to change to a weekday?  Lots of questions!!!

So, these are the thoughts rolling around in our minds right now, but what can you do?  For starters, help us find new members that have the potential to learn and be successful with “seasonal eating.”  Perhaps you would be willing to mentor new members to help them make the transition to “eating out of the box.”  Perhaps you know of a business that might be interested in serving as a delivery site for their employees and possibly even opening it up to other non-employees.  Keep talking to us!  We appreciate your perspectives & ideas.  While we may not be able to do everything that is suggested, we want to explore different possibilities.  This is our business, but it’s a business with passion for helping families eat better and be healthy. 

Peak Season Vegetable share from 2017.
We realize that CSA is not for everyone, but our hope is that we can do a good job taking care of those individuals who do find it to be a good fit for their lifestyle and values.  Thanks again to everyone who took the time to send a response and share your thoughts.  We also appreciate those of you who took the time to talk to us in our webinars.  We appreciate your support and look forward to another year of CSA!  

November 30, 2017 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Storage Turnips

Cooking With The Box

We are coming up on the end of our delivery season, just two more boxes (including this week's box) before our winter break.  These last two boxes are packed full of wonderful winter vegetables, most of which will store just fine, so don’t feel pressured to eat through your box within the next two weeks. 

This week’s featured newsletter recipe, Apple & Turnip Quiche (see below), comes to us from The Birchwood Café in Minneapolis.  After discovering this recipe a year ago, it quickly became a winter favorite and I’ve made it multiple times.  It’s a great item to serve for breakfast, brunch or dinner.  It reheats very well.  It makes a great appetizer or light dinner option for holiday gatherings.  If you like quiche, you’ll like this recipe and it’s a great way to use turnips.

We’re pleased to have enough Brussels sprouts to include them in this week’s box.  Just before Thanksgiving Andrea Bemis posted this recipe for Charred Brussels Sprouts with Bacon & Dates.  Make this one while dates are readily available and enjoy the sweet, salty, smoky combo of this dish.  This would be a good side dish to serve with the Apple & Turnip Quiche.

Lets talk breakfast for a moment.  Winter is a pretty easy time to incorporate vegetables into breakfast.  A batch of Sweet Potato Morning Glory Muffins  is on my list for this week.  I’m also going to try Carrot Cake Oatmeal with Pecans.  An extra dose of beta carotene from these vegetables has got to equate to an awesome start to the day!

 There is quite a pile of sweet potatoes in this week’s box.  Definitely enough to make the muffins and have plenty remaining to make a batch of Chicken, Sweet Potato and Black Bean Stew.  Make a batch of cornbread or some rice to serve alongside and you have a simple dinner, likely with leftovers.  I also want to try this recipe for a Winter Panzanella with Maple Balsamic Vinaigrette.  Panzanella is typically made with tomatoes in the summer, but this winter version includes winter squash, sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts.  This salad would be great served with roasted chicken or grilled pork tenderloin.

While you have the oven on to make the Sweet Potato Morning Glory Muffins, you might as well make some Carrot Oatmeal Cookies.  We featured this in our newsletter last year.  These cookies are nice to have on hand for a sweet treat, but can also make a nice holiday cookie.  Their sweetness comes from the carrots and some maple syrup, so they are a nice alternative to some of the overly sweet Christmas cookies.

I love the versatility of carrots.  You can eat them in oatmeal for breakfast, have an afternoon snack with carrots in the form of a cookie, and still have enough remaining to make Baked Egg Rolls!  This recipe makes great use of this week’s cabbage and carrots.  It also calls for water chestnuts, but instead of using those canned ones just substitute diced sunchokes!  Sunchokes have the same crispy, crunchy texture as water chestnuts, making them a great stand in.  The author of this recipe also tells you how to freeze and reheat these eggrolls.  If you’re up to it, make a double batch so you can keep them in the freezer for one of those nights when you get home late and need a quick something to become dinner on the fly. 

After you’ve made the Apple & Turnip Quiche, there should still be some turnips remaining.  I’m going to make one of my favorite fall/winter recipes that sounds complicated by the name, but really is a nice, simple one-pan creation.  Pan Seared Pork Chops with Turnips, Apples & Cider Cream Sauce is delicious and makes a great dinner.  

Chili & Lime Sunchoke Salsa
served with Salmon!
With this week’s bag of beets, I am going to make these Beet Patties with Tzatziki.  While tzatziki usually contains cucumbers, make it with small diced beauty heart radishes instead!  Serve these patties with Chili-Roasted Sunchokes or skip the tzatziki entirely and serve them with Chili & Lime Sunchoke Salsa.  Both recipes were featured in previous newsletters. 

Most of this week’s beauty heart radishes are going towards making this beautiful Radish Salad with Orange & Goat Cheese. You can use any kind of citrus to make this salad, so if you don’t have oranges but have grapefruit (in this week’s fruit share), use those instead!  Pair this colorful salad with A Pizza in the Roman Way for a simple, yet satisfying meal.  This pizza recipe was featured in our newsletter earlier this year.  It’s very simple and is basically pizza dough covered with delicious caramelized onions! 

I came across this recipe for Onion-Beer Dip, an Edible Madison featured recipe for this fall.  They recommend serving it with vegetable chips, so why not use this week’s celeriac to make these Celeriac Chips to eat with this dip!  Eat it as a snack or take it to a holiday party for a different take on the traditional “chips & dip.” 

I told you there were a lot of vegetables in this week’s box!  What shall we do with those stunning Festival Squash?  This week the NY Times featured Melissa Clark’s recipe for Sweet & Spicy Roasted Tofu and Squash.  Melissa recommends serving it with rice, but it can stand alone for a vegetarian dinner option as well.

I think that just about brings us to the bottom of this week’s box.  I’ll see you back here next week for our final Cooking With the Box for the season! 

Vegetable Feature: Storage Turnips

Scarlet Turnips
Gold turnips

Nature has a way of giving us what we need in its appropriate season.  As we move into the winter months here in the Midwest we no longer have the luxury of eating vegetables freshly harvested from the field.  Rather, for those who choose to embrace a seasonal, local way of eating, we turn to root crops and other vegetables that will store well through the winter months.  Feel free to take your time eating through the last two boxes of the season.  There’s no rush….most items will store well for several weeks if not months.  This week we’re going to turn our attention to the humble storage turnip. 

Storage turnips are much different from the tender, mild baby white salad turnips we grow in the spring and early fall.  Storage turnips are denser, have a stronger flavor and will keep for months in cold storage.  We grow three different colors of storage turnips including the classic and familiar purple top turnips, golden turnips (in your box this week), and sweet scarlet turnips. Purple top turnips have the strongest turnip flavor while golden and sweet scarlet turnips are more mild.  Golden & sweet scarlet turnips are our two preferred varieties, which is why we’ve chosen them for your last two boxes of the season!

Turnips are sometimes a challenging vegetable for CSA members to embrace.  I’ve heard longtime members say “I can conquer everything in the box, but those late season turnips are a challenge for me!”  Perhaps you have memories of strong-flavored, overcooked, unpleasant turnips lingering in your mind or just find the unfamiliarity of a turnip intimidating.  I hope you’ll approach turnips with an open mind this year as they have a lot of great qualities and a wide variety of uses.  If you’re still learning how to use and appreciate turnips, use them in recipes where they are combined with other ingredients as opposed to being cooked on their own. 

Turnips are often paired with bacon, ham, apples, cheese, cider, cream, garlic, mushrooms, onions, potatoes, and lemon as well as other root vegetables.  They make a delicious addition to winter soups, stews, and pot pies.  They may be used in root vegetable gratins, winter stir-fries, fried rice, etc.  While turnips may seldom be the star ingredient, they provide more of a background flavor that, if missing, will leave your eater wondering what’s different!  This week’s recipe for Apple & Turnip Quiche is excellent and I encourage you to try it.  It’s a well-balanced dish where the richness of the eggs and dairy along with the sweetness of the apples balance the turnip flavor.  As with all vegetables in the brassicas family, heed my warning to not overcook them!  The sulfur compounds in turnips and other brassicas can be very overpowering if you overcook them, which is why some people may have bad memories of turnips!

Turnips should be stored in a plastic bag or container in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator.  I seldom peel turnips, however if you find their flavor to be more pungent than your liking, peeling may help decrease some of the characteristic turnip bite.  Also, with extended time in storage you may find some turnips may develop some browning due to oxidation or some surface scarring, which is sometimes a reason to peel the turnip.  The defect is often only on the surface and the rest of the turnip is totally usable.  If your turnips start to dehydrate a little bit in storage, either rehydrate them in a bowl of cold water in the refrigerator or cut them up and put them in a stew or soup.

We hope you’ll choose to embrace turnips this year and try some new and different ways to prepare them.  In addition to this week’s newsletter recipe, there are several more delicious and creative turnip recipes on our website including Pan Seared Pork Chops with Turnips, Apples & Cider Cream Sauce and Roasted Turnip Ganoush.  

Apple Turnip Quiche

Yield:  6 to 8 servings
“Sweet, tart apple makes a nice foil to turnip’s sharper edge in this wintery quiche.  Sometimes we use celery root instead of turnip, and rutabaga works nicely as well.”

Basic Pastry Crust
1 ⅓ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp sugar
½ cup cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
3 oz cold cream cheese, cut into pieces
2 to 3 Tbsp ice water

Quiche Filling
1 ½ cups small diced apple (peeled & cored)
2 cups small diced turnip
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
5 large eggs
½ cup heavy cream
1 ½ cups whole milk
¼ tsp salt
⅛ tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp fresh thyme or 1 tsp dried thyme
1 cup shredded Gruyere cheese

  1. First, prepare the pastry crust.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and sugar.  Cut the butter and cream cheese into the flour mixture to make coarse crumbs.  Stir in just enough ice water to bring the mixture together.  Gather the dough into a ball, wrap it in parchment paper, and chill it in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes before rolling it out. (Note:  This step may be done a day or two in advance.)
  2. Preheat the oven to 425°F.  Roll out the pastry dough and fit it into a deep 9-inch pie pan.  Line the crust with parchment paper, and weight it with pie weights or dried beans to keep the crust from forming an air bubble.  Parbake the crust for about 12 minutes.  Remove from the oven and set the crust aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, toss the apples and turnips with the oil and spread them out on a baking sheet.  Roast, shaking the pan occasionally, until the apples are soften and the turnips just begin to brown, about 10 to 15 minutes.  Set the apples and turnips aside.
  4. Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F.  In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, cream, milk, salt, pepper, and thyme, and stir in ½ cup of the cheese.  Stir in the apples and turnips.  Place the prebaked crust on a baking sheet and carefully pour the filling into the crust.  Top with the remaining ½ cup of cheese.  Carefully transfer the baking sheet to the oven.  Bake the quiche until the filling is just set but still moist, about 40 minutes.  The quiche should jiggle a little in the middle.  Let the quiche cool on a rack before cutting it.  Serve at room temperature.

Chef Andrea’s Notes:  This is my favorite recipe in The Birchwood Café Cookbook by Tracy Singleton and Marshall Paulsen.  This recipe represents what The Birchwood Café in Minneapolis, MN does best---cook seasonally with what’s available at that time in the Midwest.  In the intro to this recipe they also recommend making this recipe with celeriac or rutabaga in place of turnip.
This has become one of my staple winter recipes.  Sometimes I make it as written, but I’ve also prepared it with a few of my own adaptations.
  • Add crumbled cooked bacon to the egg and milk mixture. 
  • Layer 8 ounces of browned ground pork in the bottom of the pastry crust before pouring the filling on top. 
  • In place of Gruyere cheese I’ve used Gouda, cheddar, or a combination of one of these mixed with some smoked cheddar.  

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Carrots & People: What Really Matters?

By Andrea Yoder

Andrea motoring around the cooler!
Waste…it’s hard to face, for some, yet in my day to day work it is inevitable.  Yes, I’m the one scrounging through the bin of vegetable waste and trimmings on the wash line trying to save every last vegetable with thoughts like these rolling through my mind:  Why are there so many carrots being discarded?  These look just fine!  This crew is being too picky….and then I pick them up and realize the crew is doing just fine.  The vegetable may look fine on one side, but was discarded because maybe it had a split, a small bad spot, was shaped funny, maybe slightly discolored, too short, too fat…the list goes on.  Throughout the year, but especially during fall/winter root crop season, my days are filled with tracking inventories—How many bins of carrots do we have?  How many more do we estimate we’ll be able to harvest?  Where will we store them?  How many do we need to reserve for CSA boxes?  Who will buy the extras?  Do we have enough or do we need more?  Along with tracking inventories, I do a lot of forecasting, anticipating what we’ll need for CSA boxes, reading the minds of our buyers to anticipate the items and quantities they might buy between October and the end of December.  Of course, in the midst of inventories, forecasting, packing CSA and wholesale boxes, I’m tracking yields.  This lot of carrots is only yielding 500# per bin instead of the usual 650#....why is that?  Wet harvest day and we brought in a lot of mud?  Too many forked carrots that have to be discarded?  Too many splits? 
Bin of 'funny' carrots.
Earlier this week as I was motoring around the cooler on my forklift pulling bins for the crews to wash, carrots was the subject matter that laid heavy on my mind occupying my brain space.  The pallet of ‘funny carrots’ (the name we lovingly give to odd-shaped carrots) is getting pretty big.  Where are they going?  Will I ever find a buyer for them?  We’re generating more than the food pantry can take, perhaps I should just compost them.  But they’re good carrots!!!  They’re sweet, delicious, and well—they’re interesting and have character!  In the course of washing tons (literally) of carrots, we have to face the sobering fact that they are not all perfect.  Despite the fact that they are perfectly wholesome, delicious, sweet carrots, they are considered of lesser quality and value in the marketplace!  I can’t say I like this reality, but it’s not a bias I can change singlehandedly.  Of course, our goal is to maximize yields and get a favorable return on the crop.  But what do you do when no one wants these less than perfect carrots?  Are they truly worthless?  Who decided the “perfect” carrot is long & straight?

You know, carrots and people have more in common than any of us may ever have taken the time to reflect on.  Carrots, just like people, come in a rainbow of colors…yes, there are more colors of carrots than just orange.  We grow beautiful bright orange carrots, but we also grow some stunning dark purple varieties as well as bright, golden yellow carrots, red carrots and even white carrots!  Carrot seed is produced all around the world, with some seed coming from Oregon state in the US while other seed is produced in France and even South Africa to name just a few locations.  But when someone looks at a carrot or takes a bite of it, does it really matter where that carrot came from originally or what color it is?  I might choose to use purple carrots for roasting and orange carrots to make a soup because these are the preparations where each color will shine the most, but aside from that the color of the carrot doesn’t matter as long as it’s a delicious tasting carrot!   

In the vegetable industry, there is a classification system for sorting vegetables.  Straight carrots are sorted as “number 1,” carrots that are slightly less than perfect end up labeled as “number 2,” really crazy looking carrots are called “number 3,” etc and with each class ranking the value of the carrot decreases.  The reality is that every crop of carrots is different and the perfect, straight, number 1 carrots may only be a small percentage of some crops.  Of course these perfect carrots are what every buyer and customer wants, they’re obviously more desirable and more valuable…is that true?  And those less than perfect carrots that are left behind?  What are we supposed to do with all of those?  Does an imperfection in the shape of how a carrot grew make the carrot bitter or somehow inedible?  In my experience these carrots taste just as good as the straight ones, we just haven’t grown to the point as a society where we can willingly accept and embrace their uniqueness.  Yet every carrot has a purpose and in the hands of the right person, that carrot can realize its purpose. 

'Funny' Shaped vegetaables are beautiful in their own way!
As with carrots, so with people.  We’re not all “perfect,” but we all have purpose and value.  Is it fair to toss aside those people/carrots that aren’t perfect and deem them “less valuable” than the others?  Perhaps they require a little more care and attention to trim them up and make them usable, but if you make a pot of delicious carrot soup, when its done you won’t know if it was made from a straight, perfect carrot or a funny shaped carrot.  If it was a good tasting carrot, that is the characteristic that will leave the lasting impact.  Those funny shaped carrots demonstrate the harsh realities of life in a field.  Sometimes you hit a rock or a hard spot in life that might set you back.  You can give up, wither and fade away, or you can push through and overcome the obstacle.  In the case of a carrot with a funny shape, that doesn’t represent an inferior carrot, the shape demonstrates the fact that this is a carrot that came up against adversity and continued to push through, determined to grow and make something of itself.  Carrots can’t get up and choose to relocate to a different field.  They have to do the best they can with what they have.  This year our carrots had some trying times---first it was too dry, then it was too wet.  Yes, all these life events played a role in shaping their final outcome, just as we too are shaped by our life experiences.  Just because we may look or seem a little different than someone else doesn’t mean we’re less valuable.  Yes, funny carrots require a little more time and attention to trim and clean them, but on the inside they are still sweet and delicious!  Funny and broken carrots that might be tossed to the side, discarded and ignored, may be the most valuable carrots to some.  A farmer might snatch them up…. “Hey I’ll take these.  They’ll be a great source of nutrition for my animals.”  Or another farmer might want them to work into his compost pile to create compost to put on the field to feed another year’s crop.  A chef might spot them and say, “Oh, let me toss these in my stockpot.  They’ll add depth of flavor and a special sweetness to this stock!” 

And so it is with people.  We all have our own purpose in life and while some may seem to have a more glorious purpose than others, at the end of the day it takes all of us to make this world work.    Let us not be too quick to judge, but rather lets embrace the diversity and uniqueness of each person/carrot while focusing on the positive qualities that really matter, offering a little extra time and patience to work with them, and allowing them to become the something beautiful, sweet and valuable that they were meant to be.

No, I never really thought a carrot could teach me anything about life, but there are some important parallels we can embrace.  With open minds, hearts and appetites, I hope we can all move forward into this season of Thanksgiving and a new year with a heart of gratitude and acceptance for all the people of this world and all the carrots of the fields.  Happy Thanksgiving.  

November 16, 2017 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Carrots

Cooking With This Week's Box

This week’s box is another full and bountiful box filled with a wide variety of colors and vegetables.  As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday next week, we realize we have a lot to be thankful for this year.  While this year’s growing season had its ups and downs, our fall harvest has been bountiful and this week we’re sharing some of that bounty with you and your families! 

From a culinary perspective, Thanksgiving is a fun time of year for cooking.  All of the cooking magazines boast beautiful layouts and articles featuring a variety of festive, fall recipes.  Whether you’re looking for recipes to include in your Thanksgiving dinner or not, this is a great time to scout out new vegetable-centric recipes for the fall.  I’ve been poking around the internet at some of my favorite cooking sites to see what they have to offer this Thanksgiving season and I’d like to cast my vote to Food52 for a very nice feature on their website.  They’ve created Food52’s Automagic Thanksgiving Menu Maker.  This is a great one-stop shop feature that is basically a collection of recipes they’ve gathered and categorized based around the typical components of a Thanksgiving dinner.  This is a helpful tool for gathering recipes, tips and suggestions for your Thanksgiving dinner, but it’s also packed with a lot of great recipes that can be prepared at any meal this fall.  So lets get started cooking!

Photo from
Carrots are the topic of this week’s vegetable feature and we have two delicious recipes in this week’s newsletter.  The first recipe is for Lentil Shepherd’s Pie with Parsnip and Potato Mash (See below).   I came across this recipe on Food52 where they suggested it as a vegetarian main dish for Thanksgiving.  I think it’s a great recipe for any meal in the fall or winter and it incorporates several of the root crops in this week’s box including parsnips, carrots, onions and garlic.  It also calls for celery, but you can easily substitute celeriac with delicious results.  While there are multiple steps required to put together Shepard’s Pie, the end result is a flavorful, hearty, nourishing meal.  The author of this recipe also comments that it can easily be frozen, so while you’re making a mess consider doubling the recipe and making two pans of this—one to eat now and the other one to go into the freezer.

Photo from
The other recipe in this week’s newsletter is for Sticky, Spicy, Sweet Roasted Carrots and Chickpeas with Date Vinaigrette (see below).  This is another recipe from Food52  and I thought it to be a fitting recipe for the week since we have dates in this week’s fruit box!  This dish is beautiful made with different colors of carrots and can stand alone as a vegetarian main when served, as suggested by the author, alongside couscous, bulger or pita bread.  You can also use this as a side dish to serve alongside lamb or chicken. 

I mentioned using parsnips in the Shephard’s Pie recipe, but here’s another idea for using parsnips that will also make good use of any leftover Thanksgiving turkey.  This recipe for Turkey Hash with Brussels Sprouts and Parsnips would make a great post-Thanksgiving brunch or dinner when served with a fried egg on top.  Speaking of Brussels sprouts, if you’re looking for more ways to put your Brussels sprouts to use, check out this collection of 20 of Our Best Brussels Sprouts Recipes for Thanksgiving featured at

Butternut squash has a wide variety of uses, but I’m going to make two very different suggestions for how to use it this week.  First, I have to honor the memory of my grandmother with Grandma Yoder’s Squash Pie.  This is a light, fluffy alternative to pumpkin pie and is a recipe my grandma always made for our Thanksgiving family dinners.  The other suggestion for butternut squash is from, you guessed it, Food52.  Check out this recipe for Herbed Butternut Squash Chips. Serve these as a snack while Thanksgiving dinner is being prepared, or serve them with a leftover turkey sandwich.

There are a lot of things you could do with sweet potatoes this week, but one of my favorite dishes this time of year is this recipe for Ginger-Coconut Sweet Potatoes.  This is one of Heidi Swanson’s recipes and it’s a keeper.  It’s easy to make, reheats well and is tasty served along with some tangy cranberries! 
Photo from

We’re happy to have some fresh greens for this box!  We took our chances and left the tat soi in the field covered with a double layer of row cover to protect them through several very cold nights over the past two weeks.  When we peeled back the cover we were happy to see they were alive and well!  This will be the last leafy green vegetable we take from the fields this year, so savor its goodness!  Last week I came across this simple soup, Ginger Bok-Choi Soup with Noodles.  Tat soi is related to bok choi and they can be used interchangeably.  You have enough tat soi in this week’s box to double this recipe.  The recipe calls for vegetable broth, but you could also make this using turkey broth if you take advantage of the leftover turkey carcass to make a flavorful broth. 

Richard will be packing up a big box of beauty heart radishes to take with him when he visits his family in South Dakota next week.  Beauty heart radishes are an essential part of the de Wilde Thanksgiving celebration.  We slice them up and serve them with dip as a snack before the meal and with leftover turkey sandwiches.  Richard and I also like to pack slices of beauty heart radishes and some cheese slices to take with us for road food while we’re traveling to South Dakota.  We eat them like cheese and crackers with the slice of radish serving as the “cracker.”  Several years ago we featured this recipe for Beauty Heart Radish and Sesame Seed Salad in one of our winter newsletters.  This is a stunning salad that is super-easy to put together.  If you’re looking for something different to wow your holiday guests, consider using this recipe.

Another one of our favorite fall vegetable salads is this Celeriac & Apple Slaw.  I like to add chopped, fresh cranberries to this salad, so thought I’d mention this recipe while cranberries are available.  This slaw is delicious with a wide variety of meals.  I’ve served it with ham and pork chops as well as roasted chicken.  It is also good with a simple cheeseburger!

Now that it’s cold, it’s time to make more soup!  Several weeks ago this recipe for Vegetarian Cabbage Soup was posted at  This is a simple, yet hearty soup that makes a complete meal when served with some crusty bread and butter.

Well, that covers nearly everything in the box except for the sugar dumpling squash.  This week I’m going to try Andrea Bemis’s recipe for Sweet Dumpling Eggs in a Nest.  Eggs are our go-to quick fix, so I’m always interested in ways to pair them with vegetables to make a quick meal.  You can bake the squash in advance and then just reheat them before adding the egg.  Serve this with a piece of toast or a biscuit and a bit of fruit for a simple dinner or breakfast.

That’s a wrap for this week.  I hope you enjoy your cooking adventures over the next few weeks.  If you stumble upon a good recipe or take the time to try something I’ve suggested here, please post pictures in our Facebook Group!  Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at HVF!
—Chef Andrea

Vegetable Feature:  Carrots

As we move into the heart of winter, carrots become an important staple food for Midwesterners who eat a diet based on local foods.  Carrots are packed with important nutrients, specifically beta carotene which is an important antioxidant and vitamin for our bodies.  It’s important for vision, immunity and a whole host of other health benefits.  Because they are a staple vegetable, we try to include carrots in as many summer and fall boxes as possible.  Carrots aren’t always an easy crop to grow.  The varieties selected for winter storage are planted in the summer when growing conditions can be hot and dry.  It takes an observant farmer to get enough moisture to the seed so it can germinate.  Once they are up, it’s a battle against weeds to keep the crop clean and make sure they have enough nutrients to produce a healthy plant and a tasty carrot!  This year we grew several different colors of carrots.  In the last box we included red carrots.  This week your bag includes purple carrots and we hope to send some of our new white carrots before the end of the season. 

The carrots in your box this week can are storage carrots meant be stored for months if you keep them in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.  They are a bit more dense than some of the earlier season varieties that are more tender but have a shorter shelf life.  Carrots are versatile in their uses and can be eaten raw, roasted, boiled, baked, and even fried!  They can be added to soups, stews, braised meats, root mashes, pancakes, bread, cookies and a whole host of other uses.  Since they are such a common vegetable, I think sometimes they get overlooked and we forget that there are so many more things you can do with a carrot aside from the traditional carrot sticks in dip.

I’d like to challenge you to think “outside the box” this winter and try some different ways to use carrots throughout the winter months.  I love making carrot salads for something fresh, light and crunchy.  Carrots pair well with a variety of herbs & spices as well as fruits such as apples & citrus.  You can make a very simple, quick, and easy salad with just a few ingredients.  Soup is another great way to use carrots---either as the main ingredient or as part of a mélange of vegetables in say, chicken soup.  Carrots are also delicious in baked goods such as carrot cake, carrot cookies, apple-carrot muffins, and carrot pancakes.

Lentil Shepherd’s Pie with Parsnip and Potato Mash

Yield:  6-8 servings

2 ½ pounds russet potatoes, peeled and quartered
6 medium parsnips, peeled and roughly chopped
1 cup milk (dairy or non-dairy option of your choice)
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
4 Tbsp olive oil, divided
1 large onion, diced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 large carrots, medium diced
2 ribs celery, medium diced (may substitute celeriac)
6 oz baby bella, cremini, or button mushrooms, sliced
1 ½ cups brown or green lentils, dry
1 cup vegetable broth or water
1 tsp dried rosemary
¼ tsp dried thyme
  1. Place potatoes and parsnips in a large pot and submerge in cold water (there should be at least 1 inch of water over the vegetables).  Salt water well.  Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer and allow potatoes and parsnips to cook for approximately 25-35 minutes, or until both vegetables are very fork tender.  Drain, return the vegetables to the pot and add ⅔ cup milk, 2 Tbsp olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste.  Mash well with a potato masher.  If you need more milk, add the remaining ⅓ cup.  Set the mashed potatoes and parsnips aside.
  2. While potatoes are cooking, bring 1 ½ cups lentils and 3 cups water to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer until lentils have absorbed all liquid, and are soft (about 30 or 35 minutes).  Set lentils aside.
  3. Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in a large saute pan over medium.  Add onions and garlic and cook until onions are translucent and golden (10 minutes or so).  Add the carrots and celery and cook till both vegetables are tender (another 8 minutes).  Add the cremini mushrooms and cook for another 3 minutes before adding the lentils, the rosemary, the thyme, and ½ cup vegetable broth.  Simmer the mixture, stirring well to incorporate flavors.  Add more liquid as needed:  you don’t want there to be too much broth or liquid in the bottom of the pan, because you’ll get a runny shepherd’s pie, but you do want it to be quite moist.  When everything is warm and well mixed, season to taste with salt and pepper.
  4. Preheat oven to 350°F.  In a large casserole dish, pour the lentils into the bottom and then evenly spread the vegetable mixture on top.  Spread the mashed potatoes delicately and evenly over.  Bake for 20 minutes, or until potatoes are browning.  Sprinkle with extra rosemary, if desired, and serve.
Recipe featured on

Sticky, Spicy, Sweet Roasted Carrots and Chickpeas with Date Vinaigrette

Yield:  4 servings

Date Vinaigrette:
5 Medjool dates, pitted and chopped into small pieces
1 small garlic clove, roughly chopped
¼ cup sherry vinegar, plus additional to taste
Finely grated lemon zest plus 2 Tbsp lemon juice, from 1 small lemon
Salt, to taste
⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 to 4 Tbsp warm water

1 ½ pounds carrots, cut into even pieces ( ¼ inch thick coins or cut lengthwise)
1—15 oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 tsp Aleppo pepper (may substitute ⅛ tsp cayenne and ¾ tsp sweet paprika)
1 tsp cumin seed, lightly crushed
1 tsp coriander seed, lightly crushed
Salt, to taste
Coarsely chopped dill or cilantro, for serving
  1.  Preheat the oven to 400°F.
  2. First, make the vinaigrette.  Combine the dates, garlic, sherry vinegar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and a pinch of salt, stirring a few times to ensure the dates and garlic are fully submerged.  Do this step in the blender jar if using a standard blender, or a glass measuring cup or other suitable container if using a stick blender.  Let macerate for 20 to 30 minutes while prepping the carrots and other ingredients.
  3. After 20-30 minutes, add the extra-virgin olive oil and the warm water (starting with 2 Tbsp) to the macerated dates and garlic in the blender jar.  Blend until the vinaigrette is smooth, adding a few more teaspoons of warm water at a time to thin the vinaigrette.  You’re looking for a slightly thick vinaigrette, but one that can still be drizzled or poured.  Add salt and sherry vinegar, to taste.  Set aside.
  4. In a large bowl, combine the carrots & chickpeas with ¼ cup of the date vinaigrette, Aleppo pepper, cumin seed, coriander seed, and a few large pinches of salt.  Toss to combine and ensure everything is evenly coated.   It may seem like too much vinaigrette, but it’ll reduce down and coat the carrots and chickpeas—so don’t skimp! 
  5. Spread the carrot mixture on a sheet pan or baking dish lined with parchment that’s large enough to fit them in a single, even layer.  Roast until the carrots and chickpeas are golden and the carrots are fork-tender, stirring 4 to 5 times to ensure even roasting and to avoid the vinaigrette from burning in open areas of the pan (but don’t be too concerned—it’s why you’re using parchment!).  The roasting time will depend on the size of the carrots—anywhere from 25 minutes to 45+ minutes.  If the carrots are browning too quickly but aren’t tender, lower the oven to 375°F and continue roasting until tender.
  6. Scatter the dill or cilantro over the carrots and chickpeas, ad adjust seasoning to taste.  Serve warm, making sure to drizzle more of the vinaigrette over the carrots and chickpeas before serving.
This recipe was featured at  The author of the recipe recommends using any leftover Date Vinaigrette to drizzle on greens or roasted Brussels sprouts!