Root cellars and me (tips for cold storage)

Written by Danny.

When I grew up, almost everyone had a basement in their house.  Where Aimee grew up, basements were anomalies.  Our current house doesn’t have one, and so I pine from time to time and wax poetic about the virtues and benefits of having a basement.  Aimee disagrees (strongly), and sees them primarily as “dank caves” or glorified storage rooms. Most of the time, we agree to disagree.

What we both agree on, though, is that having a cool, dank storage room underneath your house can be particularly useful come harvest time when you want to be storing and preserving much of the season’s bounty.  Of course in this case, I’m not talking about a basement room with pool tables and dart boards, or ones with mini-bar, karaoke stage complete with disco ball and orange shag carpet on the floor, walls and ceiling (yes, we did see one of these when house hunting!) – I’m talking about root cellars.

When I think of “root cellar”, my thoughts immediately go to the first one I ever remember (first impressions…).  It was the quintessential setting for a horror movie: creaky door that didn’t quite sit on its hinges; no light; moldy smell; roots (fingers?) sticking out of the earthen ceiling and grabbing at my hair; the back part was condemned because it had caved in and we were warned to not go in too deep… in case another section of roof were to give way. *Shudder*.  Our family was visiting a farm, and I was asked to go get some carrots or something.  I just remember standing outside, about 20-30 feet away from the entrance and trying to drum up the nerve to go and pry open the door.  Mercifully, one of the farmers came to give me a hand with the door, so I didn’t have to enter alone.

Aside from the bravery and character-building that root cellars bring to small children, there are many other useful reasons to have a root cellar, whether as a separate structure to your house, or part of a cool room in your basement.  Because our garden is small, I haven’t had to dredge up those old memories and start digging a hole in the ground for a DIY on building our root cellar. However, given that it is time to be storing some of the amazing deals on produce that we’ve been getting from our local farms at the market, I’ll let you in on where we are storing our goods, and some of what you should be considering if you are looking for a cellaring solution. [Read more…]

Spotlight Ingredient: Beets (Recipe: Beet & Orzo Salad with Feta)

Last November, when roadside produce stands were closing down shop for the winter, I snagged a ten-pound bag of young beets for ninety-nine cents. Thrilled at the great deal I had just made, I imagined the beets lasting us through the winter – and all for pennies.

They were gone by Christmas. Apparently I like beets, a lot. There’s something about their firm texture and earthy I-can-taste-the-garden flavor that satisfies my hankering for vegetables in January.

I’ve since discovered that my ardor for this hearty, affordable, vegetable is shared by few; too few, in my opinion. Perhaps cooks are deterred by the length of cooking time, as beets must be first roasted or boiled properly, but then again, so do potatoes.

I believe, as is often the case with lesser-known ingredients, that people just don’t know what to do with beets. Hopefully by the end of this post, I’ll have planted a few ideas for incorporating the mildly sweet, crimson-red beet into your cooking repertoire.

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Maple-Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Parsnips

Written by Shaina of Food for My Family.

If I look outside I’m greeted by a blanket of white. I’ve taken to wearing one of my husband’s sweatshirts around the house just to keep warm, and I’ve pulled out a pair of fingerless gloves to type in so that I retain a bit of feeling in my fingers as I tap on the keys.

I remember when I was younger. I would beg to put snow pants on over my jeans, hastily donning a hat that I didn’t bother to pull over my ears. I’d wear knit gloves that were soaked in minutes, and still, I’d continue packing the snow together, rolling it into balls and simply falling backwards into it, enjoying the split second of weightlessness that came with falling. [Read more…]

Grilled Vegetables (Recipe: Balsamic Grilled Carrots)

Written by Megan of Stetted.

Things are really heating up around here – literally. We’ve had more than a dozen days of 100-degree-plus temperatures, and summer only started on Tuesday. In a way, this makes grilling sound more appealing. After all, what’s a little bit of fire when you’re already baking?

However, the grill doesn’t have to be all about meat. While corn on the cob is undoubtedly the side dish of the season, try exploring the rest of summer’s bounty over the flame. Cherry tomato skewers, planks of summer squash, and thick slices of eggplant will liven up any cookout and provide many more nutrients than that bag of potato chips.

I used to hesitate about grilling vegetables out of concern they would slip into the fire. Foil packets are an easy solution, but I find they don’t impart that particular grill flavor we celebrate.

Luckily, in the past few years specialized grill tools have flooded the market, making it simple to grill pizza, jalapeno poppers, dice-cut vegetables, and more. We have a simple basket that can hold enough vegetables for a dinner party and cleans up in a snap.

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Classic Comfort Food: Roasted Chicken and Root Vegetables

Written by Elizabeth Nyland of Guilty Kitchen

If there’s one thing that must be eaten at least weekly in our house it is this simple, rustic dish of roasted chicken and root vegetables. Why? You ask. Well for one, it usually leaves substantial enough leftovers for lunches to be made for whomever desires them. Another reason is because, contrary to its appearance, it’s amazingly simple and quick to make.

Getting home from work at a somewhat late afternoon time doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t have time to make a wonderfully satisfying dinner that will suit just about anybody’s needs. Roasted chicken, as per this recipe, can be done in no time at all and come out unfailingly moist and succulent on the inside while creating that crackly, perfectly crisp skin on the outside.

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