Hearty Harvest Meals

These meal ideas are fabulous — no matter where your ‘kitchen table’ is at this busy time of year.  Originally published on the Canola Eat Well blog on August 24, 2015.

Harvest is now underway, but for many of us at a snails pace as high humidity and frequent rainfalls persist.  Last night in our area, it was unusually quiet after another 21 mm of rain fell — the chirping of crickets the only sound in the evening air. Here’s hoping for a good, long stretch of warm, dry days ahead so combining can resume. 


IMG_20160821_233418For many the end of summer brings a twinge of sadness. Not so for farmers. Usually it’s an exhilarating time filled with excitement, gratitude and relief. Another growing season is behind us and it’s finally time to reap the rewards.

The hum of combines is music to our ears. Country roads are bustling as trucks roll up and down hauling crop from fields to bins. Eyes are always to the sky as we hope for ideal harvest conditions. This is our final ‘dance’ with Mother Nature for the year and we hope it’s a smooth one.

The days can be long and hectic, so keeping the harvest crew fueled with healthy, nutritious meals is key. Thankfully, fresh local produce is abundant whether it be from your garden, the farmers’ market, a roadside stand or the grocery store.

Simple recipes packed with vegetables, which can be prepared ahead of time, are perfect for harvest. Convenience is key – whether taking meals to the field or looking for something which warms up easily if your crew prefers to keep working until weather conditions shut them down.

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Apple Galette – Photo Courtesy of MB Canola Growers

Beef Braised and Vegetable Stew fits the bill perfectly, using onions, carrots and rutabagas. Stew gives you the versatility to change up the vegetables if you wish. Corn-on-the-cob is a quick, easy side and Cheddar Baking Powder Biscuits are ideal to mop up your plate. Pie is always appreciated for dessert but is something this cook has never mastered. This simple, no-fail, fuss-free Apple Galette is every bit as good!

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Spice It Up Paste for Chicken Legs – Photo Courtesy of MB Canola Growers

On those really hot days your may prefer more picnic-like fare. Pasta salads are always a hit and an easy way to add more veggies to a meal. Put your own twist on Angel Wings Pasta. It pairs perfectly with chicken pieces seasoned with Spice-It-Up Paste.  If you have an abundance of greens to use, Roasted Beet Salad is fabulous.

 

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Jenn’s Chewy Granola Bars – Photo Courtesy of MB Canola Growers

‘Grab and go’ desserts are convenient and can do double duty for lunch boxes and snacks. Have a bumper crop of zucchini or a neighbour dropping it off on your doorstep?  Eggless Double-Chocolate Zucchini Cake or Zucchini Chocolate Chip Muffins make a perfect finish with fresh fruit. Jenn’s Chewy Granola Bars are another great option and handy to have on stock in the freezer.

No matter the meal-time choices, this time of year your efforts are always appreciated. Taking a break is good for mind and body, it enhances farm safety and gives you time to connect with your family and friends. Everyone is always happy to sit down to a hearty meal.

I sometimes think back to the days of wood stoves, no refrigeration and large threshing gangs that needed to be fed three times a day. I admire the hard-working women who labored from dawn to dusk to get the job done. It makes me grateful for modern conveniences, the ease in which a meal can be prepared and many choices we now have.

Wishing you well as you transition your ‘farm table’ from the kitchen to the field.  May you have a safe and bountiful harvest!

The Collection

If we are fortunate, we have many circles of friendship, support and encouragement in our lives.  My writing group, “Prairie Pens”, is one such circle.  I wrote this in August 2008 as a tribute to them. Subsequently it was published in the introduction to our anthology, “From All Directions” in 2009.  

I’m not sure I would have had the courage and resolve to continue to put to paper without them. They have helped, and continue to help me, develop as a writer.  This craft is ever-evolving as we strive to hone and fine-tune the art of story-telling.  Their motivating and inspiring guidance over the last thirteen years will forever be appreciated. ♥


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Conversation, rippled with laughter, drifts out the screen windows toward the lake. A chickadee calls out from a nearby window branch, joining in the light-hearted banter.
Hummingbirds zip back and forth, drawn to blooms of scarlet geraniums and brilliant-blue salvia in overflowing window boxes. A flash of black and orange…yes, an oriole, heard earlier but seemingly reluctant to make an appearance. Elegant dragonflies float by; the hum of a cicada speaks to the heat of this perfect summer day.

Inside, simple plaques grace the walls – Wiggle Your Toes in the Sand; Life is Good at the Beach; and above the doorway, Home is Where Your Story Begins. How appropriate for this collection. They are comfortable, at ease, as they arrange themselves on rich chocolate-brown wicker topped with floral-green cushions. Soon the visiting ends as stories begin to pour out around the room. Emotions rise and fall; then advice freely flows.

The love of this art of etching words, simple words on paper, binds this group together. Women of all ages, different backgrounds, diverse life stories, offering each other support, encouragement, resolve – to imagine, to create, to write and keep writing.

One woman sits back for a moment, takes it all in – the surroundings, the setting, the vibrant group. Her eyes revert to the plaque Home is Where Your Story Begins. Yes, but it is here, with these women, where the courage is found to put pen to paper, to share words without fear. She glances out at the lake. Mid-day sun bounces off the water, sparkling as beautifully as the dynamic collection of writers surrounding her.

Eggless Double-Chocolate Zucchini Cake

Short on eggs and long on zucchini? This cake is for you! It’s that time of year when either your garden, or your neighbour’s,  is overflowing with this popular, prolific squash.  My family loves this moist, delicious, easy-to-make cake.  After all, who doesn’t like turning a vegetable into chocolate? Sounds like a super-power to me! 

Eggless Double-Chocolate Zucchini Cake

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Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk *
  • 2 cups grated zucchini
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 4 tbsp natural cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips

Directions:

  1.    Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C).
  2.    Grease 9 X 13 pan or line with parchment paper.
  3.    In large bowl, mix canola oil and sugar.
  4.    Add milk, grated zucchini and vanilla. Stir well.
  5.    In separate bowl, combine dry ingredients and chocolate chips.
  6.    Add to zucchini mixture.  Batter will be thick.
  7.    Spread evenly in pan. Bake 25 – 35 minutes, until toothpick or cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  8.   Let cool completely before serving.

Storage:

Can be kept in a covered container for 2 to 3 days or frozen for up to 3 months.

Notes:

*Buttermilk substitute – add 1 tbsp vinegar to milk (at least 1% milk fat).

Want to preserve excess squash for later use? Simply measure out desired amount of grated zucchini (2 cups for this recipe), pack in freezer bags, date and label. Keep in the freezer for up to 6 months.