Thursday, March 25, 2010

Neighbor Friday: Nicki's Nook

Happy Friday, Readers! I'm so pleased to have Nicki guest posting today! Nicki is sort of a rock star; she's raised SIX kids, remained sane AND she just finished a 13-mile half-marathon. I don't think there's anything that can keep this lady down. She's here today to share some healthy recipes and a little message with you, so give her a warm welcome!

If you're so inclined, click on the icon below and travel to The Never-True Tales for more Friday fun!


Guest Post – The Kitchen Witch

I was just doing my dishes as I was thinking about the CSA meeting I missed on Sunday. It is very hard to find a CSA share where I live but in Ithaca, it is much easier. Since I now drive to Ithaca at least once a week, I figured I would scope out a share there at the three hour “open house” this past Sunday. I would just make pick up arrangements for the day I am in town.

CSA, you ask? Never heard of it? Well, let me tell you that as much as I lust after having a huge garden each spring, I truly do not have a green thumb so my growing, between the fact that I practically live in the Arctic and we cannot generally plant until June 1 and my lack of ability, is limited. I have had some limited success growing in containers but not all things turned out good. But, back to CSA – Community Supported Agriculture.

Typically, March is a bit late for CSA but, like I said, outside planting in my area may hold off as late as June 1 so maybe not so late. What happens is a customer pays a farmer in advance of planting season for a share in the harvest. In some cases, the customer also has to put work hours into the farm but not in all cases. If you are interested in CSA in your area, please check out Local Harvest for locations near you.

Now, you may wonder why I care about local farms as most of the CSA shares around me are veggies, fruits and herbs. Few farms have animals for meat. But here is the thing. Those of you who read around – we encourage this – may have seen Gale’s month of March experiment to go vegetarian. In this she has referenced some of the information she is learning about big agriculture. Truly, the food we purchase at grocery stores, for the most part, is not local, family farm food. It is a result of agri-business and additives, in most cases. Some groceries try to carry local produce in season but not all.

So, I want to encourage you to take a week to start and eat local for that week. Barbara Kingsolver and her family not only ate local, they did so for an entire year. The journey is chronicled in the book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. While I could not do what Kingsolver and her family did, I try my best to help the local farmer out when I can. To do my bit to help you support your local farmer or your local farmer’s market, I am willing to send a pdf file with 15 recipes I tried for the first time when I had my CSA. They include ingredients like cabbage, swiss chard, zucchini, jalapenos.


Grilled Eggplant and Chickpea Salad

3 Japanese Eggplant, cut lengthwise
¼ cup canola oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 15.5 ounce can chickpeas, drained, rinsed and drained again
1 red pepper, grilled, peeled, seeded and thinly sliced
1 yellow pepper, grilled, peeled, seeded and thinly sliced
1 small red onion, halved and thinly sliced
15 Kalamata olives, pitted and coarsely chopped (I omitted as I don’t like these)
Juice of 1 lemon
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ teaspoon red chile flakes
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint
2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
8 ounces feta, crumbled
1. Heat the grill to high
2. Brush the eggplant with the canola oil on both sides and season with salt and pepper. Gill for 3 to 4 minutes per side or until lightly golden brown and slightly charred. Remove from the grill and cut each half into half-inch think slices.
3. Place the eggplant, chickpeas, red and yellow peppers, onion and olives in a large bowl. Add the lemon juice, olive oil, chile flakes, mint and cilantro and stir to combine. Cover and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving or cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours before serving. Can be served cold or at room temperature.

Grilled Tomato-Basil Relish

Yields 2 cups
8 ripe plum tomatoes – used regular tomatoes
5 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 small red onion, finely diced
2 cloves finely chopped fresh garlic
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
¼ cup finely chopped fresh basil
1. Heat your grill to high.
2. Place the tomatoes in a bowl and toss with 2 tablespoons of the oil and season with salt and pepper. Place tomatoes on the grill and trill until charred on all sides, and just cooked through, about 10 minutes. Remove from the grill and coarsely chop. Put the chopped tomatoes in a bowl, add the remaining 3 tablespoons of oil, onion, garlic, vinegar and basil and gently mix until combined. Let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving. Can be made 4 hours in advance and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature before serving. Serve with grilled eggplant.

Swiss Chard Pesto

1 tablespoon butter or margarine
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic
Bunch of swiss chard
¼ cup of pine nuts
¼ cup parmesan cheese, grated
Fresh coriander leaves
1. Wash the chard thoroughly and shake to dry.
2. Melt the butter in a saucepan with the olive oil.
3. Chop the chard stems and add them to the pan. Stir and cook, covered, for five minutes.
4. Roughly chop or tear the chard leaves and add them to the pan. Cook for an additional three minutes.
5. Toast the pine nuts for two to three minutes – either under broiler or in dry pan.
6. Turn off the heat under the chard. Add the coriander leaves, pine nuts, and parmesan.
7. Puree the mixture.
8. Serve tossed with pasta. If too thick, thin out with some of the water the pasta is cooked in.
Swiss Chard
Snap off the stems of the swiss chard. Chop and sauté with garlic and butter until soft. Chop or tear leaves and add last two minutes. Finish with fresh nutmeg.

Curried Cabbage

1 large onion – finely chopped
6 tablespoons oil
1 large tomato, sliced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
½ teaspoon turmeric
2 carrots, sliced in rounds
1 medium head cabbage, finely sliced
1 green bell pepper, chopped
½ cup water
Salt and pepper
1. In a large shallow pan with a lid, sauté the onion in the oil over a moderate heat until it is lightly browned.
2. Add the tomato, salt, spices and continue to cook for two to three minutes, stirring frequently.
3. Add carrots and cook for five minutes.
4. Add the cabbage and bell pepper. Mix well.
5. Pour in water.
6. Cover pan and simmer until all the liquid is absorbed and the vegetables are cooked.

Italian Cabbage & Bean Soup

1 teaspoon olive oil
½ cup onion, chopped
½ cup celery, chopped
½ cup carrots, sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 ½ cups green cabbage, shredded
1 cup tomatoes, diced with liquid
1 cup white beans, cooked
2 packets onion soup mix, prepared
1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
1. Place all ingredients in a large stockpot.
2. Bring everything to a boil and let boil for 30 minutes or until veggies are done.

Creamy Zucchini with Linguine

½ cup olive oil
2 large zucchini, diced
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
½ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 (12 oz) package linguine pasta
1 cup whole milk
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1. Warm olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add zucchini and garlic to hot oil, and season with salt and red
pepper flakes. Cook, turning occasionally, until zucchini are well browned on all sides , about 20 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of generously salted water to boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain and set aside.
3. Stir milk into zucchini and simmer until it is reduced by about half, about 10 minutes. Add pasta to skillet and stir well. Sprinkle parsley and ¼ cup Parmesan over top and toss. Garnish with remaining Parmesan to serve.

Summer Squash Pizza Crust

4 cups finely shredded zucchini or yellow summer squash
¾ cup all-purpose flour
¾ cup grated Parmesan cheese
½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
2 eggs, beaten
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
Salt to taste
1. Preheat oven to 350F (175C).
2. Once zucchini or summer squash has been shredded, lightly salt the squash and transfer it to a strainer. Let stand for 15 to 30 minutes and press all remaining liquid out of squash.
3. In a medium sized mixing bowl, combine squash, flour, Parmesan cheese, mozzarella cheese, eggs, pepper and salt. Mix well.
4. Spread the mixture into a greased and floured jelly roll pan. Bake for 25 minutes in the preheated oven.
5. Remove the crust from the oven and change the oven’s temperature to broil. Brush the top of the crust with oil and then broil the crust for 3 to 5 minutes until lightly browned.
6. Allow the crust to cool slightly and slide spatula underneath all the edges and under the middle. Place a large baking sheet over the top of the crust and flip the crust over so that the bottom of the crust is now facing upwards. Because it can be difficult to flip the crust smoothly, it may be necessary to cut the crust in half to facilitate the flipping of the crust. If you want to omit the flipping, that is fine but crust will not be as crunchy.
7. Brush the top of the crust with oil and broil for another 3 to 5 minutes until browned. Cover with toppings as desired.

Middle Eastern Cucumber and Tomato Salad

4 cups peeled cucumbers, cut to ½ inch chunks
4 cups ripe tomatoes, cut in ½ inch chunks
1 large red or green bell pepper, cut in ½ inch chunks
3 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
3 tablespoons fresh mint, chopped
1 cup crumbled feta
2 scallions cut in ¼ inch slices
3 tablespoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1. Chop the fresh vegetables as described above and place in a large salad bowl or glass bowl. Refrigerate until ready to serve so the salad will be nice and cold. If adding feta, herbs, and/or green onion, sprinkle them evenly over the salad.
2. Mix the oil and lemon juice, salt and pepper in a small bowl and set aside until ready to serve.
3. Pour the dressing over the vegetables and toss.

Sandwich Spread

Finely chop jalepeno peppers after deribbing and deseeding (if you want less heat, keep seeds and ribs if you want more heat). Mix in glass bowl with 4 ounces shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese. Add Miracle Whip or mayonnaise to create a spread. Use on tortillas or flat bread.

Balsamic Green Bean Salad

1 pound fresh green beans, trimmed
2 tablespoons chopped shallots
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
¼ cup olive oil
1. Place green beans in a large saucepan. Fill with enough water to cover green beans and bring to boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer 10 minutes. Drain, and let cool.
2. In a bowl, stir together shallots, garlic, balsamic vinegar and oil. Pour over green beans. Cover and refrigerate at least one hour. Serve cold.

Purple Apple Slaw

½ medium head red cabbage, finely shredded
¼ cup finely minced white onion
2 Gala apples, peeled, cored and finely diced
1 cup mayonnaise
½ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons milk
1. In a large serving bowl, toss together the cabbage, onion and apples.
2. In a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, salt, pepper, sugar, lemon juice and milk. Pour dressing over the cabbage mixture and toss to coat.
3. Chill until serving.

Purple Cabbage and Walnut Salad

Note: Original recipe called for pecans but I didn’t have any so used walnuts.

1 head cabbage, shredded
1 cup Chinese pecans (sweetened pecans)
3 scallions, chopped including the green part
½ cup vinegar (used white)
½ cup sugar
¼ cup oil (used canola)
¼ cup soy sauce
1. Mix the dressing separately.
2. You can make the dressing in advance.
3. Just shake well and pour over the cabbage, pecans and scallions.
4. Mix well to coat and serve immediately or nuts will soften.

Zucchini Yogurt Multigrain Muffins

1 ½ cup all-purpose flour
1 ½ cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
3 eggs
½ cup vegetable oil
½ cup unsweetened applesauce
1 cup plain yogurt
1 cup white sugar
¾ cup honey
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup shredded zucchini
1 cup shredded carrots
½ cup chopped pecans (optional)
½ cup raisins (optional)
1. Preheat the oven to 400F (200C). Lightly grease 24 muffin cups.
2. In a bowl, sift together the flours, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
3. In a separate bowl, beat together eggs, vegetable oil, applesauce, yogurt, sugar, honey and vanilla.
4. Mix the flour mixture into the egg mixture.
5. Fold in zucchini, carrots, pecans, and raisins.
6. Scoop into the prepared muffin cups.
7. Bake 18 to 20 minutes in the preheated oven, until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.

Zucchini Brownies

½ cup vegetable oil
1 ½ cups white sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups shredded zucchini
½ cup chopped walnuts


6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
¼ cup margarine
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
¼ cup milk
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Preheat oven to 350F (175C). Grease and flour a 9x13 inch baking pan.
2. In a large bowl, mix together the oil, sugar and 2 teaspoons vanilla until well blended.
3. Combine the flour, ½ cup cocoa, baking soda and salt.
4. Stir flour mixture into sugar mixture.
5. Fold in zucchini and walnuts.
6. Spread evenly into prepared pan.
7. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes in the preheated oven, until brownies spring back when gently touched.
8. To make frosting/icing, melt together the 6 tablespoons of cocoa and margarine; set aside to cool.
9. In a medium bowl, blend together the confectioners’ sugar, milk and ½ teaspoon vanilla. Stir in cocoa mixture. Spread over cooled brownies before cutting into squares.


  1. Yay for CSA! Can't wait to try these, especially the zucchini muffins and brownies. Also, I highly recommend the Kingsolver book, too. A thought-provoking and good read.

  2. Here on Martha's Vineyard, locally grown and CSA are very big! Even our Stop and Shop takes locally grown greens during the season to sell. My daughter got obsessed with the whole thing by going to local farm camp starting at 7. At 16 she is now inspired to go to college for environmental sciences. I love the impact all this has on the next generation!!

  3. @Stacia - I have problems here locally but drive 35 miles to Ithaca and CSA is alive and well. That is what I do since I am there for business frequently anyhow.

    @Maureen - I am so glad you have it easy on Martha's Vineyard. Has to be since an island would need to be self-sufficient or pay a hefty amount to get food to it. If your daughter is interested, she should look into ESF at Syracuse University. It is a NYS school so is probably found under SUNY-ESF (Environmental Science and Forestry). I went to Paul Smith's College and then West Virginia University for my forestry degree and then my business degree. Now looking at an MBA that focuses on sustainable economies.

  4. In case anyone worries you can feed most of this to children too, right mom. You just have to not tell them that there's zucchini in the brownies and muffins and alot of the other food was good too.


  5. I love the idea of locally grown food. The problem is driving to it, or paying a premium for it if you can't. Wonderful to support this effort though. (And can't wait to try out some of these recipes.)

  6. Wow - lots of very delicious recipes there - healthy too! xxx

  7. There is a Farmer's Market in our town that carries all organic, locally grown produce that runs from June through Oct. I am literally counting down the days till it opens back up!

  8. What a fabulous idea, Nicki! I have never heard of a CSA before but I will have to check it out!

  9. I've been working to get a CSA going in my area for about a year now. Fingers crossed it should happen this summer. The swiss chard pesto looks fantastic! I am definitely saving that one for this summer when the chard is prolific.

  10. Hello Nicki and TKW,
    I was just talking to a friend this morning as a mutual friend gave each of us a copy of Jonathan Foer's Eating Animals. It's really a compelling read but I found it wasn't enough to make me take a vow of vegetarianism. I was vegetarian for a year or so once. I hated having to make a fuss over what friends and relatives would serve me; the ones who are passionate about their cooking. Though they were all gracious about serving me veg meals, I didn't like the undercurrent of them pleasing me rather than them serving meals from their heart. So my compromise is to choose veggies when possible. I can keep the meals I make veg but not have to offend my meat-serving hosts when I visit their home.
    These recipes sound delicious!

  11. Yummy recipes, Nicki! I love CSA's. They're the best thing going, and there's no better way to get us to eat our vegies. Thanks!

  12. @#5 - Thanks for coming over to The Kitchen Witch's place, Ben. Didn't realize you were reading every day. Yes, I feed all of this to my kids as #5 here will attest.

    @BLW - I love veggies. I was truly spoiled by my first CSA experience. She delivered to my door on her way to her day job. I thought I had photos but I don't seem to. I would get this big wooden basket with fresh veggies and eggs. I was in heaven.

    @The Curious Cat - I love to try to trick my kids - all six of them - into eating healthier. Some of these have become family favs.

    @Gibby - My local farmer's market doesn't open until later but the one in nearby Ithaca opens 4/3 so I can't wait.

    @Amber - I do encourage CSAs simply because most small farms need all the help they can get. Farms are important to our country in so many ways that we need to do what we can to support them.

    @Phoo-D - I am not sure why CSAs seem to come and go in my direct area. My own grown swiss chard - I did some container gardening last summer - was still producing in October but I couldn't find a place inside to put it. I would probably still have fresh chard if I could have found a spot.

    @Belinda - I use to be vegetarian but that was years ago in college. I tend to not eat much meat at all but I don't gear my life to that aspect. I have read a lot of the books on not eating meat and I get it but I also like a
    good beef or buffalo burger every now and then.

    @Patty - I love to cook and I was convinced I was going to find a way to use everything I got in my CSA, even if I had no idea what to do with it. Hence, my little cookbook.

  13. So great to see you here, Nicki! And thanks so much for these recipes. I can't wait to check them out.

    Thanks too for inadvertently reminding me to call some of the local farms who run CSAs to see when the sign-up is. As a fellow Arctic dweller, I don't think I've missed it. :)

  14. Hey Nicki, nice to see you over here at TKW's place!

    We were going to join the CSA available to us through our children's Jewish day school but my husband had visions of mandatory loads of butternut squash and me just letting it rot in the refrigerator. And this definitely would happen. So far, no CSA for us but I like the idea of supporting local farms.

  15. We haven't yet joined a CSA, but we visit the local farmer's markets frequently, and my children are better gardeners than I've ever been. They harvest their veggies and eat them on their way to the sandbox!

  16. So happy to see you here, Nicki! Excellent recipes - I'm looking forward to trying the creamy zucchini and linguine this summer when my damn zucchini plants put out far more than I can handle. (Why do I keep planting them each year??)

  17. @Kristen - One of the few advantages to being an Arctic dweller - we haven't missed anything yet. :)

    @Linda - I didn't even know what to do with swiss chard when my first batch came in my CSA that summer. I was totally thrown. Actually, I wasn't even sure what it was. Took a picture and emailed it to my mom to find out. LOL!

    @佩怡 - sharing is important! Thanks for stopping by.

    @Jen - My children would have to be better than I am. I can manage to kill almost any plant - including cacti.

    @Eva - I love zucchini. I think there may even be a zucchini patty recipe on my blog.