Saturday, September 24, 2011

Fuel for the Fall...

Hi everyone! Happy fall! This is my favourite time of year. I'm just back from the Yukon where, at -2 degrees in brilliant sunshine, it felt much more like fall than it does here today in the muggy heat of Vancouver.

Nevertheless, I went off to the Farmers Market and Lonsdale Quay early this morning to pick up a plethora of fresh fruit and vegetables to stow away for the winter. (Whether I'm giving care to others at home or at work or have signed up for double-duty caregiving, having something delicious already prepared in the freezer can make the difference between a healthy dinner and a high fat, high sugar, refined one.)

I thought that today I would share a couple of the recipes I cook up for the winter every year, in hopes that a few of you might be inspired to share your favourites. (Isn't it true that coming up with ideas for dinner is more than half the battle?)

This past week I made a large pot of borscht which is now sitting in the freezer, divided into enough portions for 12 meals for a singleton like me. And tomorrow, I'll use my friend, Janet's, recipe to make winter vegetable stew. Both recipes freeze really well in ziplock bags and if you freeze them flat, you can later line up the bags like files in baskets in the freezer, making them much easier to find. (The bags are reusable as well.)

Borscht (I double this recipe)

6 large beets
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 leeks, finely chopped (include the light green parts)
2 carrots, coarsely chopped
1 head green cabbage, coarsely shredded
1 can (14 oz) diced tomatoes
2 Tbsp tomato paste
2.5 litres water
5 Tbsp red wine vinegar
5 sprigs fresh dill
3 Tbsp packed brown sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup sour cream or Greek yogurt (optional)

1. In a large saucepan, over medium heat, combine beets & water to cover them x 1 inch. Simmer til fork-tender, 45-60 min. Rinse beets under cold water after reserving 2 cups of the cooking water. Peel beets if desired. Cut into 3/4 inch pieces and set aside.

2. In a large soup pot, over medium-high heat, warm 1 Tbsp olive oil. Add leeks and carrots and saute until soft and slightly brown (5-7 min).

3. Add reserved cooking water, tomatoes, cabbage, water, tomato paste, and dill sprigs, stirring to scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, cover partially, and cook about 1 hour.

4. Add reserved beets, vinegar, brown sugar, and salt and pepper and simmer for 5 min longer. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Remove and discard dill sprigs.

5. To serve, garnish with sour cream or yoghurt and freshly chopped dill. Makes 12-16 servings if doubled. (If you have meat eaters in your house, you can brown and add 2 or 3 pounds of stewing beef to the mix in step 3 and cook 1 1/2 hours or til meat is tender.)

Janet's Winter Vegetable Stew - 4 servings (I double or triple this recipe)

1. In a large nonstick sauce pan - heat 1 Tbsp oil over medium heat
- add 2 onions coarsely chopped
- add 1 shallot or a clove of garlic chopped finely
Cook until tender.

2. Clean 2 leaks - cut into 3/4 inch pieces and add to pan.

3. Add, in 1 inch cubes, - 2 carrots, 2 yams, 1/4 rutabaga or turnip, 1/2 large squash. (The recipe calls for 1 potato, as well, but I tend to add another yam because I think they freeze better. Also, it helps to cook the rutagaga a little in the microwave before adding.)

4. Stir in 3 cups vegetable stock and 1 tsp oregano and 1 tsp thyme.

5. Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer x 30 min until vegies tender.

6. Stir in another vegie for colour and texture - ie green beans, snowpeas, broccoli etc - and simmer x 5 min. (I only do this if I'm serving the stew right away, otherwise I add the last vegie later when I reheat the frozen stew.) Add more water as needed. Serve in bowls with chopped parsley and parmesan cheese.

So, there are two ideas for stocking your freezer. I'd love to hear of recipes that work for the rest of you ...