Serve Up Breakfast in Bed for Valentine’s Day!

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Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to be a complicated and expensive dinner out, fighting the crowds. We love the idea of showing your love with a thoughtful gesture that makes the day a little bit special. And what better way to start things off than Breakfast in Bed? Valentine’s Day falls on a Wednesday this year, so wake up a few minutes early and put together the perfect breakfast to start the day off right!

As always, we’re here to make it extra-easy for you. As part of our new Add-On Marketplace, you can choose to order up all the ingredients for Breakfast in Bed. We’ll deliver them in your box on Sunday or Monday and you’ll be ready to scramble some eggs and fry some bacon for your Valentine! Choose individual breakfast items or a whole kit, and choose from a vegetarian or non-vegetarian option!

Having the best ingredients for breakfast is just the half of it. Knowing the insider tips for cooking them is the other!

For the best stovetop bacon, start with a cold pan. This allows you to better control the heat and lets the flavor slowly build, rather then shocking the meat. Continue to cook it slow on low heat. We know that waiting for bacon to be done is brutal but it’s worth the patience to have the best bacon you can!

Now, let’s talk scrambled eggs. While they may seem so simple, there are a few things you can do to make sure they are perfectly fluffy.

1. Crack eggs into a bowl instead of directly into the pan
2. Whisk vigorously with salt to incorporate air into the eggs (adding the salt when whisking helps to keep the eggs extra soft when cooking).
3. Use a non-stick pan and a non-stick spatula if you have them.
4. Enjoy the most pillowy, luxurious eggs….IN BED.

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Our Breakfast in Bed package features eggs from Pete & Gerry’s, Bacon from North Country Smokehouse Meat and Stone & Skillet English Muffins. Simply prepare your eggs any way you want, fry up your bacon and toast your English muffins and you’re on your way. (Tip: we’ve also got Vermont Creamery Butter available, which makes for a decadent toast topping!)

Click here to order your Breakfast in Bed kit or any of our delicious, locally sourced Add-Ons for next week’s box! You must order a meal kit in order to select Add-Ons, and the deadline for order is Wednesday, February 7th at noon.

Winter Cooking Tips: Using Local Ingredients

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When New Englanders think of winter ingredients, they often can’t get too excited about their prospects. While the bounty of summer brings fresh fruits and veggies of all kinds, winter often gets a bad rap around root veggies and other hearty crops that can withstand long storage and cold weather. But it doesn’t need to be that way!

At Just Add Cooking, we believe in using what you have locally whenever you can. And thanks to some of the incredible advancements in food tech here in the Boston food and farming scene, you can get some surprising items even in these frigid winter weeks. And as for those traditional winter root veggies? It’s all in knowing what to do with them. Here are our tips for using local ingredients all winter long!

Say hello to hydroponic produce

If you’re committed to eating local, you may think that salads are out of the question. You’d be wrong! Hydroponic produce is huge in the New England area right now and is a technique used by a number of our vendors to produce fresh, delicate greens all winter long.

Hydroponic farming is done indoors, and is a method of growing plants without soil, using mineral nutrient solutions in a water solvent. Since hydroponic greens are not weather-dependent, they can be grown all year long. During the winter, you’ll see produce from Lef Farms, Backyard Farms and FreshBox Farms in Just Add Cooking boxes–and it’s just as fresh, natural and delicious as it is in the summertime.

We especially love the advent of hydroponic farming in New England because we’re able to get produce to our customers with fewer than 100 food miles–produce that otherwise might have to come from as far as Southern California!

Make local, seasonal ingredients interesting with global influences & spices

While there’s a lot more local food available in winter now than there’s been in New England’s past, ingredients are still more limited than they are in the bumper crop season. So, you have to be a bit more creative about using what’s in your backyard. Because we’re committed to local ingredients, when coming up with our winter recipes we take influences from around the world to use a smaller family of ingredients in new and interesting ways.

Try adding local produce to ramen noodle recipes, or local squash to a tagine for the best combination of local and international flavors. Because ingredients are more limited, get creative with your spices. Try Aleppo pepper on Brussels sprouts to change them up or give eggplant a miso glaze. Change up the flavors so your palate doesn’t get bored with what New England has to offer.

You can also re-think New England classics, which often prominently feature readily available local ingredients. Try adding cumin and poblano to your corn chowder to give it a Latin spin. Or, make chicken and dumplings with masa instead of flour for the dumplings.

Many of our customers love Just Add Cooking for this very purpose: they can be adventurous with spices and flavors without having to buy huge quantities, and receive guidance on how much spice to use or perhaps exposure to spices they’ve never heard of!

Enjoy seasonal fresh, local fish with winter recipes

New England fishermen don’t rest in the winter. There’s no need to eat frozen fish unless there’s a Nor’easter and you can’t make it to the market! Braised or roasted fish that’s available fresh at the market is a perfect option for a winter dinner.

Thanks to its quick cook time, fish is a great protein to feature in a healthy weeknight meal, and when served with winter grains like a farro or buckwheat salad, and some hearty greens, is a complete seasonal meal. You can also try making fish–both fresh and smoked–into soup like our Irish smoked haddock chowder.

 

Winter Cooking Tips: Time Savers

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A lot of us lose the motivation to cook as the winter months bear down. Gone are the pretty displays of fresh local veggies at sunny farmer’s markets and long evenings at the grill and on the patio. The idea of making soups and stews and braises – perfect options for wintertime cooking – can seem overwhelming when you’re coming home from work in the pitch black. Our resident culinary expert (and working mom) Amanda Mayo has put together three easy, doable ways to save time and cook locally with winter ingredients and recipes.

Roast Everything for Dinner on One Sheet Pan

One pan dinners mean easy cooking and cleanup, and they pair perfectly with hearty winter veggies. When you come home to that chilly house, turn on the oven when you bump up the heat and let it help warm the house. Use the pre-heat time to prep your ingredients – everything from veggies to proteins. Toss it all together on a sheet pan and throw it in the oven.

Sheet pan dinners are a hands-off way to cook dinner, the flavors meld together in the oven and you have easy cleanup. Roast your meats on top of veggies so they get naturally basted with the juices and fats from the meat.

And roasting veggies in the oven is an ideal way to prepare them. The dry heat helps to concentrate the flavors and caramelizes the natural sugars in winter veggies.

Find Shortcuts for Making Stews & Braises More Quickly

Stews and braises are perfect winter meals, but if you’ve been saving them for the weekends, you’re missing out. Amanda suggests one kitchen tool to revolutionize your stew and braise making: a pressure cooker. With a pressure cooker, chicken soup “from scratch” can be made in 20 minutes.

Homemade stock makes everything taste slow-cooked and it can be made quickly in the pressure cooker. Use a chicken carcass, onion peels, carrots, celery, mushrooms, water and bay leaves. Make a big batch and freeze it in muffin tins for quick hits later on. You can also store red or white wine from that unfinished bottle in muffin tins for half-cup portions that can be used in braises, sauces and stews anytime.

When thinking about a braise or stew, choose a fatty meat, but be aware it takes awhile to cook. (A pork shoulder not cooked long enough will taste more like pork leather.) At Just Add Cooking, to allow these slow-cooked meals to come together in 30 minutes we ensure that the meat is sliced thinly, so you can sear it quickly and braise for 20 minutes, but it tastes like it cooked for two hours.

And sneak in extra flavor to any of your stews, braises, soups or sauces by saving your Parmesan rinds or adding herbs on their last legs to the mix. (Hard stemmed herbs like rosemary and thyme should be added whole and stems pulled out when done, soft stems like parsley and cilantro can be finely chopped.)

Use a Meal Kit to Skip Winter Veggie Prep

The best and most hearty winter veggies can be the hardest to break down – especially on a weeknight. That’s why Just Add Cooking breaks down hard to prep items like squash, providing you ready to cook ingredients with no waste and little prep time. A hearty dish like a butternut squash risotto from Just Add Cooking requires almost no chopping or prepping. Brussels sprouts are cleaned for you, broccoli florets chopped, cauliflower rice processed and ready to go.

We take the things we love about winter veggies and do as much of the prep work as possible to make it easy for customers.

Now that you know more about how to save time when cooking with winter ingredients, stay tuned next week for our ideas on adding major flavor boosts to these fresh local ingredients and making them shine!

Take Advantage of Add-Ons with Just Add Cooking!

Fresh local veggies are a big part of our recipes at Just Add Cooking but it’s important to get those vitamins in for breakfast and lunch too. That’s why we’re introducing fresh produce to our Add-On marketplace in the coming weeks. We’ve got fresh, prepared veggies like broccoli florets, sweet potato fries, carrot and zucchini rice, confetti rice and more. Keep an eye on your emails and our social media for your chance to add them to your meal kit, making fresh, delicious veggies delivered conveniently right to your door!

 

Demystifying Winter Vegetables

Credit: wikiHow

Credit: wikiHow

If you find yourself making a beeline for the butternut squash and sweet potatoes at the Winter Farmer’s Market, we’re coming to your rescue! We get it: a long day where it gets dark at 4 pm makes it easy to fall into old favorites. But winter’s produce can be just as exciting as summer’s. Let’s take a step outside your culinary comfort zone and try some of those unfamiliar foods that you usually walk right past!

Winter’s bounty is so much more than potatoes and parsnips–and there are lots of delicious options you can get locally right here in New England. Let’s demystify some of the peculiar produce you’ll see this time of year, and give you a head start with some recipes to check out. 

But first, three rules for winter food adventures:

  1. If you’ve never heard of it, try it.
  2. If it looks funky to you, definitely try it.
  3. If you can’t pronounce it, absolutely, most definitely try it right now!
Credit: MarthaStewart.com

Credit: MarthaStewart.com

Persimmon

The Latin word for this tomato-look-alike means “food of the gods.” Also a fruit, it originated in Japan where it’s actually the country’s national fruit. Generally deep-orange in color, the most common varieties are the Fuyu and the Hachiya. They can be eaten raw, cooked, or dried. Make it into a salsa, a savory tart, add it to stuffings and curries, or make it into a jam to serve alongside meat dishes. Check out this simple salsa recipe and grab the chips.

Credit: Great British Chefs

Credit: Great British Chefs

Celeriac (Celery Root)

This is the definition of don’t judge a book (or a vegetable) by its cover. Celery root, also known as celeriac, looks like it should be part of a Halloween display. It has a more concentrated celery flavor that is very appealing as it’s slightly creamier than the upfront vegetal taste of celery. We love making it into a puree with a little cream and butter (well, more than a little butter…), check out this recipe. Celery as we know it grows directly out of the celeriac root. They can be interchanged in most recipes, so stop leaving celeriac out of the winter veg party, it’s feeling neglected.

Credit: Ful-Filled

Credit: Ful-Filled

Kohlrabi

These funky vegetables look like something from another planet: hard, bumpy bulbs with long stems shooting out of the top that end in leaves. Sounds appealing right? Actually, they are, they’re delicious! This vegetable is a cross between a cabbage and a turnip, which is fitting as the word “kohlrabi” is German for “cabbage turnip.” It is a member of the brassica family (think broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage) and it can be eaten raw or cooked. It’s very versatile. Slice it and use it as a vehicle for dip, or add it to salads or slaws for some crunch. It can also be baked, boiled, steamed, roasted, or grilled. Here are two of our favorite ways to use it: one raw, and one cooked.

Credit: Karista's Kitchen

Credit: Karista’s Kitchen

The Chicories: Radicchio & Belgian Endive

These leaves get a bad rap for their bitterness, but when combined with other flavors they can be a great complement to any cooked dish or salad. Many of us know endive as a conveniently sturdy leaf to scoop up a ton of dip at a party with. While this is an excellent use for it, try chopping it finely and tossing it into a salad for added crunch or get a little fancy and braise it. Radicchio can also be served raw in a salad. It stands up especially well to the sturdiness of kale, but we love it sauteed or grilled. It’s delicious when the leaves wilt and caramelize a bit. Sauteeing it with some honey and balsamic vinegar also tones down the bitterness, check it out here.

Credit: BBC Good Food

Credit: BBC Good Food

Kumquats

While we have the more earthy flavors of root vegetables on our minds in the cold winter months, it is also citrus season! A little zest from a lemon or an orange always brightens up a dish, but let’s stop and smell the kumquats. Really though, they are wonderfully fragrant and add a lovely layer of citrus flavor to any dish. They are native to China but are also grown in Japan and the U.S. Just bigger than an olive, they look like tiny navel oranges, and fun fact – you can eat the entire thing, skin and all. They are quite tart but also a little sweet. Use them in dressings, preserves, stuffings, or any slow cooked dish to add some zing. We love this tagine recipe that incorporates them. 

Squash: Honeynut, Kabocha, Delicata

Anything you would do with a butternut or acorn squash, you can do with these unconventional squashes. Roast them, stuff them, make them into soups and purees, the oven is your oyster here.

Credit: The Martha's Vineyard Times

Credit: The Martha’s Vineyard Times

Honeynut

If Honey I Shrunk the Kids happened to butternut squash, you would essentially get honeynut squash. This mini squash is bright orange on the inside, and while visually similar to butternut, its texture is even more velvety and its flavor even sweeter. Warm spices are a great match for honeynut and we are big fans of stuffing it!

Credit: My Healthy Dish

Credit: My Healthy Dish

Kabocha

Also known as “Japanese pumpkin,” this squash variety looks lumpy and green and mysterious. But it tastes like a cross between a pumpkin and a sweet potato, so if you’re a fan of those this should be your go-to winter squash. It’s perfect for roasting, stuffing, and pureeing; and you don’t have to peel it (score!). Check out this sweet and spicy recipe.  

Credit: Spoon & Saucer

Credit: Spoon & Saucer

Delicata

Squash can get a bad rap for being high maintenance – difficult to peel and tough to chop. This striped squash is no fuss. It doesn’t require peeling and it’s smaller than most winter squash so it’s easy to handle. It’s flavor is sweet, creamy, and mild, so it pairs well with most spices. As with most other squash, it’s delicious when roasted so the edges caramelize slightly.

So before you steer clear of New England’s winter vegetable crops this year, take a moment to wake up your senses and give something new a try!

Just Add Cooking’s Food Lover Gift Guide

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Looking for the perfect gift for the food lover in your life? How about someone who loves to support small local businesses? Our staff at Just Add Cooking shares these passions and we’re here to help you out with this gift guide! We’ve polled our staff on their go-to gifts this holiday season. They came up with some unique gifts for both the locals and for friends and families outside of town who love to cook or eat (who doesn’t?)!

Jan, Co-Founder & CEO

Fish Spatula

This is a great stocking stuffer and one of Jan’s go-to’s because it makes cooking fish–one of his favorite foods–so much easier! For a recipient who eats a lot of fish, a fish spatula can be a game changer in making it easier to cook!

Red’s Best Gift Card

At Just Add Cooking, we use Red’s Best to supply fresh, local fish for our recipes, but you can also order it online or buy it in various locations around Boston like the Boston Public Market or local farmer’s markets. What’s amazing about a Red’s Best gift card is that they’ll ship fresh fish anywhere in the continental US, so it’s the perfect way to give someone a taste of what makes Boston seafood so delicious.

Fredrik, CFO

Rubber Spatula

One of our Chief Gastronomic Officer’s essential cooking tools, Fredrik loves a rubber spatula as a stocking stuffer for anyone who’s in the kitchen. It makes cooking nearly any recipe easier to cook.

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Source: 4A Coffee

Coffee from 4A in Brookline

An avid coffee lover, Fredrik loves the java at 4A in Brookline. It’s roasted in small batches locally, and a perfect gift for someone who loves to try new and interesting brews.

Amanda, Chief Gastronomic Officer

Sous Vide Machine

This is one of Amanda’s new favorite kitchen tools to use at home. Sous vide is a pro technique that’s increasingly making it into home kitchens and is perfect for a foodie who likes to experiment. It delivers restaurant quality results by using precise temperature control. The process vacuum seals the food into a bag and cooking it in a water bath.

Jam Sessions Jam

As a nod to her previous career in the music industry, Amanda’s selected Jam Sessions Jam, a locally-sourced, small batch jam company for the perfect hostess gift or stocking stuffer. The company’s local owner also has a music career and founded Jam Sessions Jam from her love of all things pickled and preserved. The awesome sweet and savory spreads feature local New England ingredients and for a larger gift you can check out their gift collections.

Dan, Head of Recipe Development & Meal Planning

20160922-knife-steels-vicky-wasik-3Sharpening Steel

As the recipe development guy, Dan knows that a sharp knife is a must. Sharpening steel is a perfect way to make time in the kitchen more enjoyable and ensure knife safety too–a sharp knife is a safe one!

Immersion Blender

This small kitchen tool doesn’t take up a lot of space, but it’s super helpful for making soups and purees. While it’s not a requirement for Just Add Cooking recipes, you’ll find yourself saving time and dishes with it as opposed to using a regular blender. As the name says, just immerse it right into the liquid and go, no separate blender required.

 

Katie, Customer Success Manager

Microplane

Another great stocking stuffer, a microplane is a small, inexpensive tool that does unlimited duty in the kitchen. Use it for grating ginger, citrus, cheese and more to add flavor to any recipe without a lot of effort.

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Source: Taza Chocolate

Taza Chocolate

You can’t go wrong with this delicious, locally made chocolate out of Somerville. Taza Chocolate is organic, stone-ground chocolate with bold flavor. It’s high quality and a step above your typical “stocking stuffer candy,” and who doesn’t love a hit of chocolate for an afternoon snack? They’ll ship your gift and have some lovely gift sets available.

Kevin, Director of Operations

Whiskey

An avid whiskey drinker, Kevin recommends this bottle as a special occasion gift for the whiskey lover in your life.

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Source: PieBox

Wood Pie Carrying Box

If you’re always toting treats around, these boxes will make life 20x easier (and look a million times better than tupperware). We’re lucky at JAC that Kevin’s girlfriend owns local pie company Pie Curious, and he’s always bringing us samples to the office. For family or friends who are avid bakers, this is a great gift.

Katerina, Chief Marketing Officer

Just Add Cooking Gift Card

As our head of marketing, Katerina is a big believer in spreading the Just Add Cooking love! By giving a gift card, you’re providing family and friends with fresh, local ingredients delivered right to their door, a week off of grocery shopping and fun dinners to bring their family together. Perfect for people who love to cook or those who are learning.

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Source: Formaggio Kitchen

Formaggio Kitchen Gift Basket

Supporting small local businesses is part of the fabric of our staff and Formaggio Kitchen is a great example. With locations in Boston and Cambridge, this local specialty shop ships delicious gift baskets around the country. They’re available at many different reasonable price points starting at $55, but if you really want to go wild, check out their “Formaggio Kitchen’s Best” Luxury Basket ($400) featuring a $100 bottle of wine, high-end cheeses, foie gras, truffle honey, locally made truffles and more.

Rachel, Marketing/Development Intern

Source: Worst of All Design

Source: Worst of All Design

Sweet Lydia’s Treats

This local treat maker is one of Rachel’s favorites, particularly the artisanal s’mores and potato chip toffee! These are great for elevated stocking stuffers. Or, try a gift box to give someone a sampler of all Sweet Lydia’s deliciousness.

Bites of Boston Gift Card

For locals who love an experience gift, a gift card for Bites of Boston food tours is a perfect idea. They’ll get to explore the neighborhood, taste food from local shops and restaurants and enjoy a walking tour of the area. (Make it a gift card for two and join them!)

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Caroline, Product Development Intern

Kitchen Scale

Caroline’s been testing recipes for a long time, and a kitchen scale is a “must” for anyone looking for precision in their recipes.

Mei Mei Sauce

The Mei Mei food truck is a staple on the Boston University campus, where Caroline is a grad student, and their sauce is the perfect gift for food lovers looking to spice up their recipes. Put together all three–the Apple Hoisin, Cranberry Sweet & Sour and Smoked Maple Ginger Sauce–made with local ingredients, for a great gift pack.

A Just Add Cooking Guide to Spices & Flavors

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Adding unique spices to your meal is a great way to upgrade dinner and create variety without a ton of additional expense or effort. Our spices are one reason why people love cooking with Just Add Cooking. Instead of spending $15 on a big jar of spice you’ll only use for a recipe or two before it expires, we send just the amount you need for a dish – no waste! – and give you the chance to try something new on a weekly basis.

Try playing around with spice in your own kitchen. Yes, we’re giving you permission to “play with your food.” We’ve put together our top five favorite spices and some recipes to try them in. Enjoy!

 

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Curry Powder

 

Curry powder is a blend of spices that differ based on the recipe but most include coriander, turmeric, cumin, fenugreek, and chili peppers. It is actually a British invention that closely resembles Garam Masala, a spice mixture used in Indian cooking. Curry powder was created to evoke the essence of Indian food. 

 

 

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Harissa

 

Harissa is a spicy, aromatic chili paste, commonly used North African and Middle Eastern cooking. A little goes a long way, even if you’re a fan of the heat. The exact blend of spices in harissa varies but typically includes a blend of hot chili peppers (often smoked), olive oil, garlic, and spices like mint, caraway, coriander, and cumin. On occasion, you’ll find tomatoes and rose petals thrown into the mix.

 

Try it in: Spinach Shakshuka

 

misowide

 

Miso

 

Soybeans are fermented with a grain to make this paste found in Japanese cooking. There are three types of miso—white, yellow, and red. The darker the color, the richer the flavor. It can be used way beyond the parameters of soup, while nothing beats a steaming hot bowl of miso soup.

 

 

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Sumac

 

Native to the Middle East, this spice begins as a red berry that gets dried and coarsely ground. Less tart than lemon juice, it has a slightly sour yet bright citrus flavor. It also adds a lovely pop of color!

 

 

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Gochujang

 

A staple in Korean cooking, this red chili paste is very concentrated, meant to be used sparingly to maximize flavor. It’s

fiery and complex, adding depth to any dish. Along with the chilis it contains glutinous rice, fermented soybeans, salt, and sometimes sweeteners.

5 Questions with Our Guest Chef Jeremy Sewall

Chef Jeremy Sewall Lo Resolution

Chef Jeremy Sewall is an acclaimed Boston chef, restaurateur and seafood authority. Chef Sewall is the author of the James Beard nominated cookbook “The New England Kitchen: Fresh Take on Seasonal Recipes” and the chef/owner of Lineage in Brookline, MA, Island Creek Oyster Bar in Boston and its sister restaurant Row 34.

Chef Sewall has contributed three delicious recipes for upcoming Just Add Cooking boxes. Before you cook, get inspired with some tips from Chef Sewall himself.

Your career, while global, has focused on fresh, local, farm-to-table food. What inspired this focus?

Food rarely benefits from travel. I have a romantic idea of food in my head; about only cooking and eating fresh caught fish and freshly picked produce. That is what inspires me in both my cooking and how I design a menu. I try to keep my focus on utilizing what is local and freshest to me. 

bacon_wrapped_monkfish_with_sunchokesYour recipes, both in your restaurants and cookbook, utilize a lot of local fish that some of us may not normally think to cook with. Two great examples are the monkfish and mackerel featured in your Just Add Cooking recipes. What local seafood do you think New Englanders often overlook, and what are your tips for cooking confidently with them?

I think most New Englanders focus on the old standbys, cod, haddock, lobster and familiar species like those. New England waters have so much more to offer like monkfish, mackerel, bluefish, hake, redfish and countless shellfish. Don’t be afraid to try new things, the confidence comes with repetition of cooking these over and over.

We’re headed into the warm weather in Boston and many of us will be seeing produce we’re unfamiliar with at the farmer’s market. What’s one “can’t miss” under-appreciated local item, and what’s your favorite way to prepare it? 

There is not only one thing that you can’t miss. There are so many things that everyone should try. I think some of the different greens and root crops get passed over some times. I always encourage people to buy one thing weekly that they have never tried before and this will give them new favorites that they will look forward to. When preparing new things I start with simple recipes, make sure you are really highlighting the ingredient. 

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What’s your personal favorite dish, whether in the cookbook, your restaurants or simply something you cook for your family at home?

I don’t have one favorite recipe or dish. If I am cooking in the restaurants it is different then cooking at home. Cooking at home for my family, is always fun because it can be communal and simple. It’s as much about the time together as it is the food in front of us. Cooking in the restaurants I am inspired by the season, what’s new and what’s next.

Our customers are not professional chefs. What’s your best advice to someone who’s feeling a little intimidated cooking the recipes of an award-winning chef?

Don’t be intimidated, it’s just food. Enjoy the process as much as the result.

Want to give Chef Sewall’s recipes a try? They are available for delivery starting Sunday, April 24th, so order now to choose them for your box!

Defining “Free Range” and “Cage Free” Eggs

ratatouille_eggs

Pick up any carton of eggs and you’re likely to see a plethora of ‘buzz’ words on them, all designed to catch your attention and entice you to buy them. Words like ‘cage free’ and ‘free range’ and ‘vegetarian diet’ and even ‘omega 3’ all swim in front of your eyes. What do they all mean? Is one better than the other? Are they gimmicks or do they have validity?

Cage free means that the chickens were not kept in cases or cages. Usually, however, they are still confined in a building in very close quarters with very little room to move and little or no access to outdoors. When we think ‘cage free’ often we picture happy chickens roaming around the barnyard.

When we think ‘free range’, we might imagine chickens roaming the countryside. In fact, free range is not quite as free as one would like to think. The term ‘free range’ means that the chickens were allowed access to the outside. It does not specify for how long or what the quality of the ‘outside access’ is. It could literally mean that a door at the end of the building which houses the chickens is left open which, technically, could provide ‘outside access’.

Vegetarian diet and grain fed are relatively the same term. Vegetarian diet sounds great and healthy even. Fresh vegetables and fruits galore. It’s terrific, with one, tiny little caveat. Chickens are carnivores. They like to eat insects. Have you ever watched a chicken roam around on a farm? Or perhaps in your neighbor’s back yard? They hunt and peck and scratch. They are looking for juicy little morsels of buggy goodness. A chicken raised on a vegetarian diet is likely being fed industrialized grain (with a high probability of said feed being GMO) and never allowed outside.

Omega 3 eggs come from hens whose diet includes flax seed or fish oil. While omega 3 fatty acids can play an important role in a healthy diet, they can be easily found in their natural sources (flax seeds, fatty fish, walnuts) and it is not necessary to consume ‘omega 3 eggs’. Also, as with the vegetarian diet fed chickens, it is highly likely that they are never allowed outside and are kept in cramped quarters.

Pasture raised means that the chickens are raised outside, in a pasture. In their natural habitat, if you will. They have free access to roam at will, consume all of the lovely insects they would like and have access to shelter (usually a barn or hen house). Some pasture raised hens are fed a supplemental grain diet as well.

Some of the USDA regulations seem to be loosely interpreted by the egg industry as a marketing ploy in an effort to entice consumers to purchase their product (eggs). Cage free and free range sound great until you read the USDA guidelines and realize that it doesn’t quiet mean what the advertising implies it is. So which is best? Well, it is a matter of what is important to you. If you are like me, you would like to know that your chickens were treated with care, allowed free access to a barnyard filled with delicious insects and gorged themselves silly on them.

 

Oh give me a home, where the chickens do roam….