Easy Ideas for End of Summer Dinner Party Inspiration

Grilled Summer Salad

Grilled Summer Salad

With Labor Day Weekend on the horizon, we wanted to share some end of summer dinner party inspiration & ideas so that you can close out the season with a stylish (and delicious) bang! If you want a fancy look, menu & libation selection but don’t want to exert a large amount of effort, we’ve got you covered.

Outdoor Dining Accents:

Dress up your table with some easy accent pieces like a colorful tablecloth or runner. By infusing some vibrancy into your outdoor space, you can easily and affordably make it more inviting and appealing.

Let there be light! Add some scented candles, strung lights or decorative lanterns to your al fresco dining area for mood and ambiance enhancement.  

Hanging and potted plants make people happy. These natural accents not only add color to an outdoor atmosphere, but they also quite literally add life! Dial it up a notch by housing them in handmade macrame wall hangings from a local creator like Drifter & Bloom.

Summer Menu Ideas:

Start your soiree off with something light & refreshing like a Grilled Summer Salad. Featuring an array of seasonal vegetables, including zucchini, bell pepper & fresh corn, this dish is elevated with the addition of a simple lime vinaigrette.

Trying to think outside of the box? Create an international theme for your end of summer dining experience! Consider offering an entree like Seafood Paella to your guests. This classic Spanish meal is a filling, easy one-pot dish that typically contains ingredients like shrimp, white fish and a variety of spices for an aromatic kick.

If you prefer something aside from seafood & have the urge to fire up & take full advantage of summer-time grilling, throw some Halloumi Skewers on the barbie! Halloumi is a style of cheese from Cyprus that has a very high melting point, which makes it the perfect cheese for grilling. Our recipe pairs it up with a Greek-style couscous salad that features kalamata olives, cucumbers, and tomatoes.

Creating an Ideal Outdoor Bar Station:

Whether your outdoor bar area is a permanent structure or a simple pop-up, here are a few ways to make sure you’re utilizing your space as effectively as possible. First things first, make sure you choose a sturdy table to house all of your precious libations. Consider wind and other natural elements as you put forth your plan. Secondly, ensure water is available and plentiful. With New England heat waves becoming the norm, access to hydration is critical. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, make sure your bar is set up 15 minutes prior to guest arrival. It’s important that it’s clear to them that the libations are there for the taking, and immediately!

Now let’s get down to brass tacks. From icy blended cocktails to refreshing pitcher drinks, we can help you with what to serve at your libation station. Here are a few of our favorite summer recipes:

  • Fruity cocktails are synonymous with warm weather. Kick off your party with a batch of welcoming Watermelon Sangria or a cool, light cocktail like a Cucumber-Honeydew Freeze.
  • Need company while you’re manning the grill? How about a spicy concoction like an Amante Picante Margarita or a rum-min inspired drink like a classic mojito!
  • Want punch without the punch? You can find a library of luscious liquid recipes here!

Have a unique recipe, cocktail or outdoor accentuation tip you want to share? We’re all ears!

7 Summer Food Safety Tips

jac-foodsafetyblog

Summer calls for BBQs, outdoor events, family gatherings and lots of delicious food. While we all enjoy the mouthwatering meals that these celebrations bring, here are 7 tips for avoiding food-borne illnesses during the hottest months of the year here in New England:

  1. Wash EVERYTHING properly: Well, the items that make sense. Namely hands & produce. We are often the vehicles that kick off a food poisoning run so get seriously soapy before diving into the main tasks of the day.
  2. Remember to keep your meat & veggies separate: High temperatures mean fast bacteria growth. To avoid the possibility of contamination, it’s important to use separate containers, cutting boards, and utensils when prepping your meat and veggies.
  3. Keep cooked meat away from raw meat: Make sure that you have separate dishes to hold your cooked meat and your raw meat. Don’t let your meat sit out while you’re firing up the grill. In fact, it’s best left in the fridge until you’re ready to throw it on the heat.
  4. Let the meat rest: Meat will continue cooking once you take it off the grill. Make sure to cover it with aluminum foil to trap the heat in and let it rest for at least 5-10 minutes. This also keeps your burgers nice and juicy. Use a thermometer to insure ground beef, pork, and lamb are cooked to a minimum internal temp of 155°F while poultry should be cooked to 165°F.
  5. Keep your condiments refrigerated: At least until it’s time to serve the food. These can spoil easily when left in contact with direct sunlight.
  6. Follow the 2-hour rule: Food left out for longer than 2 hours should be thrown away. If you’re going to have leftovers of meat, veggies or items like pasta salad, make sure that you refrigerate soon after serving.
  7. The cooler situation: The more chilled, the better. Chill your coolers before packing them and use separate coolers for drinks and perishable foods. Coolers that are frequently opened, like those holding beverages, tend to see ice melt more quickly.

These, of course, are just a few. If you have any food safety tips to share – summer or year-round – please share in the comments!

How to Enjoy National Picnic Month Like a Pro

Grilled Honey Mustard Chicken Sandwich by JAC

Grilled Honey Mustard Chicken Sandwich by JAC

After another long, cold winter, ‘tis finally the season to enjoy the sunshine and spend as much time as possible outdoors. From BBQs and birthday celebrations to poolside parties and beach days, there are a ton of ways to enjoy nature’s bounty. But none quite like dining al fresco on a good, old-fashioned picnic in the park!

Here are 10 ways that you can picnic like a pro as we wind down National Picnic Month:

  1. Make the event as easy & eco-friendly as possible: Try to stick to 1 or 2 cooked or pre-prepped dishes that can be eaten with your hands. This nifty tip will reduce the need for excess cutlery and will help to reduce waste.
  2. Stack up on sandwiches: Bee’s Wrap sandwich wraps are a sustainable way to promote food storage. And who doesn’t love to bite into a satisfying sandwich on a picnic?
  3. Seek out a level patch of ground located mostly in the shade: As we all know, eating at a place like the beach can be a challenge without umbrellas & coolers because of the power of the almighty sun. Set up your picnic on an even patch of ground in the shade to help preserve the freshness of your food.
  4. Leverage the power of insulated bottles: Whether you’re transporting a hot item like soup or a cold liquid like water, or something a little stronger, keep it simple. Make sure you have an insulated bottle on-hand that’s built to last.
  5. Water Bottles vs. Ice Packs: On that same note, try to use cold, water bottles to keep your food cool versus gel or ice packs. We use Givn water bottles in our own meal kits to make them more environmentally-friendly.
  6. Invest in a collapsible cooler: If your childhood consisted of lugging bulky coolers to every outdoor event, it’s time to fully erase those distant yet haunting memories. Collapsible coolers make transport much easier, fold up into compact pieces & can often double as seating support!
  7. Save the ice cream for later: Although a cold, refreshing dessert may sound like a great idea, it’s best to bring a treat that doesn’t melt too easily. Consider cookies or fruit to help cleanse your palate!
  8. Bug spray: Be prepared. The vision of a perfect picnic is often just that; a vision. Keep bug spray on-hand in case you find yourself in a typical New England mosquito melee.
  9. Sustainable threads vs. paper products: Bring some smaller dish towels or biodegradable napkins to use instead of paper products or wet wipes.
  10. Leave Fido at home: We all love our pets, but our pets love our food, chasing small animals and trying to make nice with strangers who have food. Try to keep your picnic party as problem-free as possible so that you can enjoy a stress-free outing!

What are your favorite picnic tips and tricks?

 

Dan’s Domain: Enjoy Iced Tea Season with MEM Tea Imports!

Dan Snedeker, Head of Product Development at Just Add Cooking

Dan Snedeker, Head of Product Development at Just Add Cooking

Welcome to the first installment of “Dan’s Domain”. If you’re enjoying our recipes and the delicious local products in our Marketplace, then you’ve got this guy to thank! Meet Dan Snedeker, who we recently named our Head of Product Development. Dan’s got his hands in our recipes, ingredient sourcing and our marketplace of delicious local goodies.

From time to time, we’ll be bringing you local product information & tips on Dan’s favorite New England “finds”. Have a question, comment, product suggestion or fun fact to share with Dan? Post here or on our social pages so Dan can enjoy a conversation with you!

This summer heat means it’s iced tea season here in New England. I wanted to share my favorite, foolproof method for making iced teas for you to enjoy from the cool comfort of your front porch, roof deck, or that one cool spot on your kitchen tile floor.

The easiest way to make tea in the summer is with the power of the sun! No boiling necessary. Just three easy steps.

  1. Add 1 tea bag or 1 tbsp loose leaf* tea per 4 cups of water to a large, clear container (glass or hard plastic work the best).
  2. Place in your sunniest window or outside in direct sunlight.
  3. Let the tea steep for at least 3-5 hours . You want to brew the tea fairly strong since it will get diluted by the ice.

That’s it. Once the tea is your desired strength, remove the tea bags and refrigerate until cold. If you can’t wait that long, fill up a big glass with ice and pour over.  

*(When using loose leaf tea, use a tea infuser or strainer or add the loose tea directly to the water and then strain through a coffee filter or cheesecloth once it has steeped.)

Check out these three fantastic teas from MEM Tea Imports, available now in our Marketplace!

First up, the classic: English Breakfast Tea – This tea is a classic for a reason. For those with a sweet tooth, you can also try putting a New England twist on Southern Sweet Tea by adding some maple syrup for a little sweetness. (One thing to avoid when making sweet tea is adding granular sweeteners like sugar, these will take too long to dissolve in a cold liquid so always add a liquid sweetener to cold teas.)

English Breakfast Tea from MEM Tea Imports

English Breakfast Tea from MEM Tea Imports

Moroccan Mint – In addition to specially selected mint, this tea features Chinese Gunpowder green tea, which adds richness and complexity. The cooling flavor of mint makes it a perfect match for those hot and muggy New England summer days. For an extra cool and refreshing tea, try adding some fresh mint leaves once the tea has steeped or a fresh lemon wedge.

Moroccan Mint Tea from MEM Tea Imports

Moroccan Mint Tea from MEM Tea Imports

Blood Orange Hibiscus – Last but not least, feast your eyes on the Just Add Cooking office’s favorite when it comes to making iced tea. The hibiscus makes for a lush, dark magenta tea. Mix equal parts cranberry lime seltzer and blood orange hibiscus tea for an effervescent twist. If it’s happy hour, add a splash of your favorite gin or an aperitif like campari and a fresh squeeze of lime juice for a refreshing summer cocktail.

Blood Orange Hibiscus Tea from MEM Tea Imports

Blood Orange Hibiscus Tea from MEM Tea Imports

Have any other tea tips or tricks we should know of? Feel free to share!

Edit Your Life with Christine Koh

christinekoh-bykristinchalmers-1We are beyond excited to announce that we’re working on Christine Koh, otherwise known as the founder of Boston Mamas and host of the amazing podcast Edit Your Life, on making family-friendly additions to our Add-On Marketplace that make life easier while keeping it delicious. Christine is a busy mama to two, entrepreneur and foodie so we jumped at the chance to get her input on which Add-Ons would make her and her readers’ lives easier while keeping things local, high-quality and most importantly, tasty! Keep an eye out on the Just Add Cooking Add-Ons for special Boston Mamas approved picks from Christine!

In the meantime, Christine’s stopping by the blog to share her top tips on editing life down to what’s important and clearing the physical and mental “clutter” we all experience. Here’s her advice on editing your… 

Morning Routine (with kids!)

Our mornings are shockingly smooth in the sense that my kids don’t fight their way out the door. That’s partly due to their dispositions, I suppose, but there are a few tactical things I recommend that definitely help! First, my kids choose their clothes for the next school day the night before. This completely eliminates wardrobe meltdowns or “I don’t have any clean underwear!” crises. Second, we always pack lunches the night before. My middle schooler Laurel is out the door by 7am (yes, 7am!) so it reduces morning stress to take care of lunches the night before. And third, we have a predictable stable of breakfast options on hand. For breakfast we generally always have on hand: bananas, peanut butter, green smoothie, and some kind of carb (e.g., bagels, raisin toast, wheat bread, cereal). Developing a simple morning routine with your kids is so great because eventually your kids will get in the groove and be independent. Laurel gets herself ready for the day totally independently, while I just sit there sleepily chatting with her with my coffee, trying to wake up!

Homework time

A post shared by Christine Koh (@bostonmamas) on

I have one immediate tip and one long-game tip, both related. Most immediately — and this may sound contrary to drilling on homework! — build downtime into your after-school, pre-homework routine. The school day can be stressful for kids in different ways, including just the general stress of being “on” all day. So down time really is essential in order for kids to be able to focus on their homework. And for the long-game tip, like the mornings, develop a simple after-school routine. The ultimate goal is that your kids take ownership of getting their homework done (read: edit out the nagging and reminders on your side!). Our routine after school is as follows = empty lunchbox containers into the sink (Laurel even washes her containers!), put school notices or papers requiring signatures on our kitchen console, wash hands, have a snack, relax, and chat about the day, and then get homework done so we can enjoy some relaxed family time in the evening.   

Maintaining friendships and a social life in a busy life

 

Between the different professional hats I wear, I have a lot of work commitments so it’s very tempting to hide and hibernate the rest of the time! But I’ve found that when life is busy with work things, purely social touchpoints are even more important and nurturing. For me, it’s all about putting things on the calendar and it’s helpful if there is even vaguely any structure around it. For example, my Mom and I have a standing arrangement to meet for lunch the first Tuesday of every month. Sometimes the date gets pushed around a little but it’s on my to-do list to check in with her about it before that first Tuesday. Another helpful tactic is not letting the friend moments slide by. For example, it’s common to bump into a friend on the playground or in town and say, “Oh, we should get together!” and then just let it slide, but lately I’ve been like, “OK, let’s toss a tentative date in the calendar now!” Or if it’s a group of people we’re trying to get together, I’ll start a text thread immediately to get the planning train rolling. 

Meal planning

 

OK, so I love to cook but I’m not always the best about meal planning, in terms of figuring out a specific meal for every day of the week, but one idea I picked up from my Edit Your Life co-host Asha Dornfest is that even just loosely identifying a few anchors totally counts as meal planning. It’s pretty funny, we were talking about meal planning just a few weeks ago at dinner and my 6-year-old Violet made this hilarious menu. It’s admittedly not the most nutritionally well-balanced menu, but Meatball Monday is actually a thing around here (either rolled up in flatbread or with brown rice and vegetables) and I am game for tacos any day of the week! And actually, totally relevant to Just Add Cooking, the weeks we order a box are like a magical food unicorn showing up. We typically order a 3-meal box since we usually have evening commitments to work around, and BOOM, half the week is planned! The week our latest box arrived, I wasn’t able to cook the first meal until Tuesday and on Monday I said to Laurel, “Man, I’m bummed I can’t cook dinner until tomorrow!” I’m fairly certain those are words no mom has ever utttered before!

Lunch packing

As I mentioned earlier, neither of my kids have ever purchased school lunch. And both of them have needed packed lunch since babyhood when they were in daycare so we are talking about, collectively, 19 years of packed lunches! So, part of editing out the lunch crazy involves: 1) flipping dinner leftovers into lunches (so, sometimes our dinner menu planning is based around this), and 2) having the kids help pack lunches, because lunch making should not just be on the shoulders of one person in the household! 

Developing healthy food habits

 

When it comes to food, in our house it comes down to balance and moderation. We always have lots of produce in our house because vegetables or fruit are pretty much always on a plate to balance out other items. And moderation is key because my kids and I love to bake. I mean, really love to bake! We are the crazy people who actually do things like make yule logs and ombre cakes! So we have to keep a check on the sweets both for general health and also so my pants will continue to fit! And I have two specific recommendations for families and developing healthy food habits. First, just relax and keep presenting when it comes to the vegetable situation. At some point I decided that my job was not to force my kids to choke down vegetables, but to keep encouraging them and putting it on their plate. Both Laurel and Violet were laser focused on carbs and cheese as toddlers and preschoolers and pretty routinely rejected vegetables, but I just kept putting options out and inviting them to try things. At 13, Laurel now eats everything (and was a vegetarian for 4 years), and at 6, Violet (who was even more stubborn with her resistance to anything other than macaroni and cheese and grilled cheese) will routinely eat carrots, cucumbers, peas, and corn and will try more and more vegetables and other dishes, even if it’s just a tepid taste here or there. My second recommendation is to get your kids in the kitchen! I have had my kids in the kitchen with me every since toddlerhood, mostly because I get so bored playing on the floor with dolls or whatever — it’s just not my thing! Cooking and baking are awesome; it’s a sensory activity, it involves math and science, there’s a tasty result at the end, and kids are more likely to try things if they have had a hand in making it. Laurel has truly become a peer in the kitchen and she loves throwing down a gorgeous dinner. My mind was pretty blown when she made these shrimp adobo tacos with grapefruit jicama salad + herb rolls! 

Maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle

 

For a long time my fitness was very solitary. I would swim or run, and while those activities are awesome, my greatest joy these days is being active as a family. Family hikes have always been a favorite, but a couple of years ago we started skiing as a family, and it’s been so fun to do something where we all started as beginners! And last summer Jon, Laurel, and I started playing tennis while Violet would ride her bike around on the other empty courts. Just the other week when the weather turned gorgeous in Boston, Laurel and I laced up our sneakers and ran/walk alongside Violet while she rode her bike. We’re not particularly skilled at the newer activities like skiing and tennis, but we get out there and we laugh a lot!

More About Christine

Christine Koh is a music and brain neuroscientist turned Internet unicorn. She spent a decade in academia – during which time she was awarded prestigious fellowships from the National Institutes of Health to fund her Ph.D. (Queen’s University) and joint-appointment postdoctoral fellowship (Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, and MIT) and was about to become a professor when she decided to hang up her academic spurs in favor of more flexible and independent ventures. Christine is an award-winning blogger (Boston Mamas), author (Minimalist Parenting: Enjoy Modern Family Life More by Doing Less), podcaster (Edit Your Life), creative director (Women Online), and advocacy apparel designer (Brave New World Designs). Christine has received repeated Iris Award nominations for her creative work: In 2014 work resulting from Minimalist Parenting was nominated in the Game Changer + Philanthropic Work categories. In 2016 Edit Your Life was nominated for Best Parenting Podcast and Christine’s lifestyle solutions video series was nominated for Best Parenting Vlog. In 2017, influencer campaigns Christine designed were nominated for Philanthropic Work (Muscular Dystrophy Association) and Best Sponsored Content (Heifer International), and Edit Your Life won Podcast of the Year.

 

Winter Cooking Tips: Using Local Ingredients

irish_smoked_haddock_chowder-1

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

soup-vegetables-pot-cooking

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!

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

 

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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.

Why It’s Time to Upgrade Your Cookware

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Be honest: how many of you are still cooking on the frying pans your mom bought you for your first apartment right out of college? We know that a lot of folks live by the old saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” But there are actually quite a few reasons why it does pay to fix this situation in your kitchen.

Investing in a high-quality set of Made In Cookware stainless steel pots and pans will not only take your cooking to the next level but will literally be a lifestyle upgrade. Seriously!

Need more convincing? Here are four solid reasons why upgrading your cookware is the best decision you can make for yourself this year. 

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Your Cooking Will Improve

When you have the right tools you’re able to do things your cheap cookware can’t. You think crisp sears and evening heating are just a fantasy? It’s not with premium 5-ply stainless.

With a quality pan, you can learn to cook in ways you thought were reserved for Gordon Ramsay. Before you know it, you’ll be folding omelets like a pro, whipping up silky pan sauces, and even baking cornbread. The cooking world will truly be your oyster.

Because You’re A Grown-up

At some point, it’s just time to level up. When it comes to your cookware, there’s a reason professional chefs don’t use pots and pans they pick up at Bed, Bath, and Beyond when their moms are in town. They choose high quality, reliable products that will yield consistent results time and time again.

Upgrading to professional quality cookware, even if you just start with a 10” frying pan, is a real mark of maturity. It shows you’re ready for the big leagues and you’re not still doing laundry at your mom’s house every other month.

High-Quality Cookware Is An Investment

And a real grown-up knows a good investment when they see one. If you spend the money now on a solid set of stainless steel pans you’ll have them for years. Made In pans heat more evenly than cast iron, are easier to clean and care for so your pans will stay shiny for years and are just as versatile. While everyone else is wondering why they can’t achieve a perfectly golden brown crust on their rubbery steaks, yours will be perfect every time.

Not only is Made In cookware a good investment in yourself, it’s a great investment in America! Each pan is made in the US with materials carefully sourced from right here at home.

You Deserve To Treat Yourself

Let’s be real, you also deserve this. You don’t need a reason to buy yourself something nice. Upgrade your cookware because you deserve to have nice things. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Upgrade Your Cookware!

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