Friday, November 27, 2015

After the Feast: Tasty Ways to Use Your Thanksgiving Leftovers

Happy belated Thanksgiving from communEATi! Thanksgiving feasts are strange because it seems like no matter how stuffed everyone is Thursday, there are always enough leftovers to last for days, or even weeks, if you’re good with cling wrap.

But as you sit surrounded by mounds of potatoes, at least half of a turkey, and more dinner rolls than you remember making, you may find yourself wondering, “What the heck am I supposed to do with all of this food??”

Well, before you decide to start eating turkey sandwiches from now until Christmas while stuffing stockings with actual stuffing, take a look at these delicious recipes you can make with your Thanksgiving leftovers!

Leftover Turkey Soup
What You’ll Need:
-1 large sweet potato, peeled, halved, crosswise, and cut into ½” thick wedges
-1 onion, halved and thinly sliced       -4 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
-½ tsp. dried oregano             -¼ tsp. ground coriander                 -½ tsp. coarse salt
-¼ tsp. cayenne pepper          -2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice                 -Freshly ground pepper
-2 Tbsp. coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley        -1.5 c large shreds cooked turkey
-2 bunches watercress, trimmed and cut into 2” pieces (5 c)
-6 radishes, quartered             -2 oz. crumbled cotija cheese (½ c), feta cheese, or ricotta salata

Treat yourself to a gourmet Sunday brunch right at home with this delectable salad. Pair with a classic Mimosa, or a more seasonal Poinsettia (champagne and cranberry juice), for a healthier meal you can make with your leftovers.

Turkey, Sweet Potato, and Watercress Salad
What You’ll Need:
-1 large sweet potato, peeled, halved, crosswise, and cut into ½” thick wedges
-1 onion, halved and thinly sliced     -4 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
-½ tsp. dried oregano             -¼ tsp. ground coriander                   -½ tsp. coarse salt
-¼ tsp. cayenne pepper          -2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice                   -Freshly ground pepper
-2 Tbsp. coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley     -1.5 c large shreds cooked turkey
-2 bunches watercress, trimmed and cut into 2” pieces (5 c)
-6 radishes, quartered            -2 oz. crumbled cotija cheese (½ c), feta cheese, or ricotta salata

Treat yourself to a gourmet Sunday brunch right at home with this delectable salad. Pair with a classic Mimosa, or a more seasonal Poinsettia (champagne and cranberry juice), for a healthier meal you can make with your leftovers.

Curried Turkey Casserole
What You’ll Need:
-¼ c (½ stick) plus 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter        -1 small yellow onion, diced
-2 garlic cloves, minced         -¼ c all-purpose flour                 -3 c whole milk, room temperature
-2 tsp. curry powder               -coarse salt & ground pepper      -6.5 c broccoli florets
-4 c cooked turkey, cut into ¾” pieces               -3 c day-old bread, diced medium

If you like turkey pot pie, you’ll love this quick alternative. Try buttering the bread to give it a nice, crunchy texture on top of the casserole.

Apple Crisp with Cranberry Sauce
What You’ll Need:
-4 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and sliced       -1.5 c whole berry cranberry sauce
-1 c whole wheat pastry flour            -1 c rolled oats               -⅔ c packed brown sugar
-⅔ tsp. ground cinnamon                   -½ c butter, melted

This delicious little dessert is the perfect way to use up those cranberries! Serve with vanilla ice cream for a real treat.

Don’t forget to follow communEATi on Twitter and like us on Facebook for more holiday tips and recipes throughout the season. And we hope that you had a wonderful Thanksgiving and that the rest of your holiday season is full of joy and togetherness.

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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Homegrown Foods to Use this Thanksgiving

In some of the past few communEATi blogs and posts, we’ve talked about fruits and veggies that you can grow right in your own backyard to use in your Thanksgiving meal as a part of the #GrowYourThanksgiving movement. While your garden may not be ready until next year, you can still have a homegrown Thanksgiving meal this year!

Instead of stocking up on canned and processed foods from who-knows-where for all your cooking, seek out your local gardeners and farmers to see what’s available and try out these holiday favorites made with fruits, vegetables, and herbs right from your hometown.

The Main Dish
Instead of buying a prepackaged seasoning for the brine, try preparing your turkey with freshly grown herbs! This recipe works for a 16- to 25-pound turkey and is sure to please your guests. If there are any apple orchards nearby, swing by and grab a gallon of fresh apple juice. You’ll also need fresh ginger, peppercorns, allspice berries, cloves, and bay leaves. When you roast the turkey, try using freshly grown rosemary, thyme, and oregano. Dried herbs don’t necessarily lose nutritional value like fruits and vegetables do, but for the maximum flavor possible, fresh herbs are unbeatable.

Green Bean Casserole
This classic 1950s Thanksgiving side is usually made with canned beans and heavily processed onion crisps. Try reviving this dish with green beans grown locally and flash-frying locally grown sweet onions to top it. You can even ditch the sodium-heavy canned cream of mushroom soup and instead make your own to complete your homegrown recipe.

Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes are a great excuse to eat dessert during your meal. While they may not taste like it, these sweet little roots are an excellent source of vitamins A, C, B6, B1, and B2. They are also a very good source of manganese, copper, pantothenic acid, potassium, dietary fiber, niacin, and phosphorus. So feel free to go overboard on the sweet potatoes this year: try your classic sweet potato casserole, sweet potato pie, or a roasted root-vegetable medley with winter squash and freshly pulled turnips this year with sweet potatoes right from your neighborhood.

Pumpkin Pie
Ahh, dessert. What Thanksgiving feast would be complete without a sweet and savory pumpkin dessert? And during this time of the year, pumpkin patches and produce stands are overflowing with locally grown pumpkins ripe and ready for the taking (just make sure you pay first). Delight your guests’ tastebuds by adding a healthy and fresh twist to your traditional Thanksgiving dessert with locally grown pumpkins!

Whatever traditional dishes your family puts on the table, the meal will be even more special with homegrown ingredients. Give it a try this Thanksgiving, and you might decide you want to #GrowYourThanksgiving for years to come. And from all of us at communEATi, we hope you enjoy your holidays, may they be full of togetherness and flavor!

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Friday, November 20, 2015

#GrowYourThanksgiving with Pumpkins!

Even since before the days of the seasonal “PSL” craze, pumpkins have been a staple of the autumnal spirit. Beginning every October, when we slice-n-dice ‘em into silly-faced heads, these sturdy orange veggies are with us right through to the last slices of pumpkin pie of our holiday meals. That’s why this installment of #GrowYourThanksgiving is all about pumpkins!

Before you decide whether or not you’d like to add pumpkins to your home garden, keep in mind that pumpkins require a lot of moisture, compost-enriched soil, and a long, warm growing season (generally 75-100 frost-free days). This means you’ll need to begin planting them by late May in northern locations to early July in extremely southern states. That said, pumpkins are easy to maintain if you have the space.

Selecting a Site
  • -Pick a site with full sun (light shade is fine) and lots of space for sprawling vines. Vine varieties need 50-100 square feet per hill.
    • -If you don’t have that much space, that’s okay! You can plant pumpkins at the edge of your garden and direct vine growth across the lawn or sidewalk. Doing this will also help keep the pumpkin’s vines, which can grow pretty aggressively, from taking over your garden.
    • -You can also grow pumpkins in big 5-10 gallon buckets or (carefully) on a trellis!
    • -Or, you can consider growing miniature pumpkins!
  • -Pumpkins are pretty greedy feeders. They’ll require very rich soil that is well-drained and not too soggy. Mix lots of compost and aged manure into the planting site before you sow your seeds or transplant.
Pumpkins demand warm, fertile soil for growth, and your soil pH should be 6.0-6.8. Plan to give each vine at least a 3-foot diameter mound, or hill, of warm, enriched soil. You can test your soil every year or two to determine how to amend it for ideal pumpkin growth. In cool climates, you can warm your soil a week before planting by covering it with a piece of black plastic; then, cut a hole in the plastic and plant through the hole.

Pumpkins need ample water when flowers and fruits are forming. It’s best to use a drip system or soaker hose to directly water soil at the base of the vines to avoid wetting the foliage. Try to water early in the morning; most vines will wilt under the bright, hot afternoon sun, but if you see foliage wilting before 11:00 a.m., that’s a sign that they need water. Pumpkins are also heavy feeders; regular treatments of manure or compost mixed with water will sustain good growth, and fertilize on a regular basis.

The first few flowers on pumpkin vines will be male blooms. Their pollen attracts bees so that when female blossoms begin to open, the bees will have the pumpkin vines on their daily flights. Bees are essential for pollination, so be mindful when using insecticides to kill pests.

Some gardeners promote branching to get more pumpkins by pinching the tips out of main vines when they reach about 2 feet long. For a higher yield on a vine, remove all the female flowers (those with a small swelling at the base of the bloom) for the first 3 weeks. This will produce a sturdier vine with more, albeit smaller, pumpkins. If your goal is fewer, larger pumpkins per vine, once you have 3-4 fruits on a vine, pinch off all the remaining flowers as they form. Encourage an even shape by carefully turning the fruits as they develop.

Pests and Diseases
Squash bugs and cucumber beetles are common, especially late in the summer. You can contact your local County Extension office for dealing with pests specific to your area. Be on the lookout for other pests, like aphids, or fungal diseases like Powdery Mildew and Anthracnose. Slip a thin board or piece of cardboard beneath the fruits to prevent possible rot.

Harvest and Storage
  • -Toward the end of the season, remove any leaves that shade ripening pumpkins.
  • -A pumpkin is ripe when the outside is fully colored, skin is hard, and the stem begins to shrivel and dry.
  • -To harvest the pumpkin, cut the fruit off the vine carefully with a sharp knife or pruners.
  • -Do not tear the stem. About 3-4 inches of stem will increase the pumpkin’s keeping time.
  • -Before storing, cure pumpkins by setting them in the sun 10-14 days to harden the skin.
  • -Store cured pumpkins so they don’t touch in a cool place (ideally 50-55℉).
  • -Under ideal conditions your cured pumpkins should store for 2-3 months.

#GrowYourThanksgiving with Pumpkins
Pumpkins are such a Thanksgiving staple that it’s likely you already have a pumpkin dish as a part of your traditional meal. Now imagine a slice of your favorite pie made with pumpkins from your very own garden...yum! Or, if you’d like to do something new with your crop, why not try a delicious Pumpkin Risotto or a savory Pumpkin Cheesecake? When you wake from your food coma the morning after, you can enjoy this baked Pumpkin French Toast. And don’t forget the seeds! You can roast them with salt or cinnamon for a tasty snack.

Be sure to keep following our blog and and follow us on Twitter and Facebook for more tips for your garden and ideas on how you can #GrowYourThanksgiving!

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Tuesday, November 17, 2015

#GrowYourThanksgiving with Raspberries!

What better way to celebrate your Thanksgiving than with a completely homegrown meal? Not for this Thanksgiving, of course, but by starting now for next year, you’ll have started a tradition that will grow for years to come. For next year and the years following, communEATi challenges you to #GrowYourThanksgiving with...raspberries!

Raspberries are naturally inclined to grow in cooler climates, however they’re very adaptable. They generally grow in zones 3 to 9 (which cover the entire continental US), but you’ll need to find a type of berry that’s appropriate for your climate. Rodale’s Organic Life recommends extra-hardy types, like Boyne, Nova, and Nordic, in Northern areas and heat-tolerant types, like Dorman Red, Bababerry, and Southland, for growers in the South.

Relatively easy to grow, raspberries can bear fruit indefinitely with the proper care. There are summer-bearers, which bear one crop per season (in the summertime), and ever-bearers, which bear a crop in the summer and the fall. Raspberries need full sun exposure and can thrive in any soil type with a slightly acidic to neutral pH level.

  • -Plan to plant your raspberry plants in the early spring or, for warmer zones, late winter, and far away from wild-growing berries.
  • -Prepare your soil with compost or aged manure a couple weeks before planting.
  • -Depending on the variety you use, you may need to plan on having a support, such as a trellis or fence, established beforehand.
  • -Raspberries love moisture, so try soaking the roots for an hour or two before planting.
  • -Dig a hole that is roomy enough for the roots to spread.
  • -If you want multiple raspberry plants, space them about 3 feet apart, in rows 8 feet apart.
  • -After planting, cut back the canes, leaving about 8-10 inches.

  • -Keep a thick layer of mulch surrounding your plants at all times to conserve moisture.
  • -Water your raspberries 1 inch per week.
  • -Raspberry roots send up an abundance of shoots (or canes). You’ll need to keep order by pruning away the majority of them so the survivors produce lots of juicy berries:
    • -Summer-bearers produce berries on 2-year-old (brown) canes while 1-year-old (green) canes grow right beside them. Prune only the older ones after they’ve finished their fruitful year.
      • -Prune in the fall, leaving 6 of the thickest, strongest green canes.
      • -Keep the plant contained to a 19-inch wide space.
      • -Cut off all canes that grow sideways.
    • -Ever-bearers require less care than their summer counterparts.
      • -Pruning is not required during the growing season unless you want to keep a uniform order.
      • -Mow them to the ground in the fall, after you’ve finished picking; for a small patch, pruning shears will do.
      • -Keep debris cleared and pests away from the plants over winter.

Pests and Diseases
Raspberries are one of the few fruits that are hardly bothered by pests and diseases, but keep in mind that black raspberries are more susceptible to damage than red or purple ones. Raspberries can, however, become affected by powdery mildew in humid weather and by cane borers in some areas of the country.

Harvest and Storage
  • -All varieties of raspberry begin to produce fruit in their second season. 
  • -In early summer, berries will ripen over a time of about 2 weeks. You will need to pick berries every couple of days.
  • -Ripe raspberries will leave the vine willingly, so don’t tug too hard.
  • -Pro tip: try to harvest your berries on a sunny day when they are dry.
  • -Raspberries can be refrigerated for about 5 days.
  • -Raspberries can be frozen: make a single layer of berries on a cookie sheet, and place into airtight bags when frozen.

#GrowYourThanksgiving with Raspberries
Raspberries can be harvested in the fall, right around November, or in the summer and easily frozen or preserved, so they’re perfect to use in your Thanksgiving feast. You can start off your meal with a light and refreshing Pear Salad with Raspberry Cream. You can also use raspberries in a multitude of fall-themed desserts, like a Fig-and-Raspberry Tart, a Raspberry Walnut Thanksgiving Jello Mold, or a Cranberry-Raspberry Dessert Sauce (best served chilled or warm over ice cream!).

We kicked off #GrowYourThanksgiving on our Facebook page with sweet potatoes, and now you have everything you need to know about growing your own raspberries. Keep up with us through our blog, Twitter, and Facebook for more ways you can expand your home garden, and let us know in the comments if there’s a specific fruit or vegetable you’d like to see featured in #GrowYourThanksgiving!

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Friday, November 13, 2015

The Benefits of Buying and Eating Locally

At communEATi, we’re pretty big advocates of eating locally grown foods. That probably could have gone without saying, considering our program is all about connecting buyers and sellers of locally grown foods, but it really is important to your health, the economy, and our world that people start buying and eating local. Keep reading to see why!

Health Benefits
Fresh food, overall, is better for you. Eating local and organic food means you are eating fresh food that is rich in a wide variety of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and enzymes. Foods that need to be transported long distances are often harvested prematurely to increase shelf life, which sacrifices their nutritional value. And the more steps between you and your food’s source, the more chances there are for contamination.

Foods grown and harvested by corporations can also be genetically modified and/or contain chemicals and residual pesticides to ensure their crop is grown according to their regulations and will remain fresh when it’s sent to far off places. Local and organic foods, on the other hand, offer you a wide variety of fresh, nutritional food without any modifications or additives.

Taking care of yourself by becoming consciously aware of where your food comes from and what’s put in it can empower you to continue to make healthier decisions and improve your overall health.

Help the Environment
Not only are they harmful to human health, but GMOs and pesticides dramatically impact the environment. In commercial farming, the use of pesticides and GMOs obliterates biodiversity which contributes to major issues like bee colony collapse disorder. Well-managed family farms are places where the resources of fertile soil and clean water are valued; according to some estimates, farmers who practice conservation tillage could sequester 12-14% of the carbon emitted by vehicles and industry. Commercial farms, however, follow a commercial monoculture when it comes to agriculture, which is a major contributor to soil degradation as well as air and water pollution. Save the environment, eat local.

Protect Future Generations
Nearly all of the processes in the modern food system are reliant on oil, which, if we’re not careful, could be exhausted by 2040. If we don’t change our ways, our planet will not be able to sustain future generations. Norman J. Church says in his article on food and oil dependency, “One shopping basket of 26 imported organic products could have travelled 241,000 km and released as much CO2 into the atmosphere as an average 4 bedroom household does through cooking meals over eight months.” Agriculture is also considered the thirstiest industry on the planet, consuming 72% of all global freshwater.

By supporting local farmers, you can help decrease the use of oil, water, and carbon emissions in our food system, as well as help ensure that there will be farms in your community tomorrow and that future generations will have access to nourishing, flavorful, and abundant food.

Build a CommunEATi
When we buy locally, we have an amazing opportunity to support our neighbors and nourish our bodies at the same time. Today’s farmer receives less than 10 cents of the retail food dollar. Buying locally and using communEATi to eliminate the middleman ensures a higher profit for the farmer, who will then circulate his/her profits throughout the community with local merchants, creating a cycle that helps to build a strong local economy. Community gardens, farm shares, work exchange, and other co-operatives allow us to connect with one another and perpetuate sustainability. When we buy directly from farmers, we’re engaging in a time-honored connection between eater and grower, and working together to improve the world in which we live.

Become a part of our communEATi, and watch your community flourish! Give us a like on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for updates on our launch and to learn how you can #GrowYourThanksgiving!

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Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Veterans Day and Victory Gardens

Happy Veterans Day from communEATi!
This week, the communEATi team would like to take the time to focus on a very special November holiday: Veterans Day. It might not be the most fun holiday in November, but Veterans Day is incredibly important to our nation as it gives us the opportunity to honor and thank those who have served in our Armed Forces in a way that will never be able to match the risks they’ve faced.

The celebration of Veterans Day began after World War I as a way to commemorate the ceasefire that occurred November 11, 1918 between the Allied nations and Germany that ended the war that was to end all wars. Less than 25 years later, the United States would enter into World War II and, once again, call upon its citizens to become veterans.

As has happened in other times of conflict, the American people rallied and riveted, doing everything they could on the homefront during these world wars in an effort to help their loved ones overseas. Part of this effort came in the form of Victory Gardens.

How Homegrown Foods Aided the War Effort
Victory Gardens, also called war gardens, were vegetable, fruit, and herb gardens planted at private residences and public parks during World War I and World War II in order to reduce pressure on the public food supply. Posters and ads were everywhere, urging citizens to “Dig On for Victory;” trains, which would normally transport goods between states, were now being used to transport soldiers; and canned vegetables, which could be sent overseas, were rationed. Besides indirectly aiding the war effort, these gardens were also considered a civil morale booster because gardeners could feel empowered by their contribution of labor.

At their peak, there were more than 20 million Victory Gardens planted across the United States. People with no yards planted small gardens in window boxes or larger rooftop gardens, and many schools across the country planted them on their school grounds and used the produce in school lunches. By 1944, Victory Gardens were responsible for producing 40% of all vegetables grown in the US.

Many different types of vegetables were grown in Victory Gardens: tomatoes, carrots, lettuce, beets, and peas, to name a few. Victory Gardens are also considered responsible for bringing Swiss chard and kohlrabi (a type of cabbage) onto the American dinner table because they were easy to grow.

Victory Gardens Today
While Victory Gardens lost their steam after World War II, there are efforts to revive the movement today. Victory Garden Initiative, a nonprofit dedicated to empowering communities to grow their own food, sees the new Victory Gardens as a fight of their own: “We are fighting for food security and the health of our ecosystems. We are fighting for resilient communities that support one another and for strong local economies,” their website states. And Food Not Lawns, an all-volunteer organization, works to educate communities about the health and economic benefits of using your yard for gardening, not landscaping.

The benefits of Victory Gardens - and their modern-day equivalents - definitely seem worth the effort. So if you plan on getting a modern-day Victory Garden up and running, you should really get to know communEATi; we’ll help you make the most of those homegrown goodies!

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Monday, November 9, 2015

Introducing communEATi!

Have you ever been snooping around Craigslist and thought, “Now this is nice, but what it needs is homegrown produce, like fruits and vegetables, to really round it out.” Okay, maybe not, but think about it: freshly grown foods and other homestyle goodies available to you from farmers and growers right in your community. That doesn’t sound too bad, does it?

Well that’s the premise for SPAN Enterprises’s newest product: communEATi! An online marketplace available on any device, communEATi aims to bring small farmers, hobbyists, and others together with local consumers. Think of communEATi as your Craigslist for crops.

You can easily buy or sell homegrown foods through communEATi’s program. communEATi accepts sellers of all kinds, whether you’re an established farmer selling multiple crops or a backyard grower with an overly fruitful tomato plant. And we’ll set you up with all sorts of buyers too: from individuals, to restaurants, to farmer’s co-ops, all in your community.

We’re starting out a little small at communEATi, but that’s the best way to grow, isn’t it? We’re currently offering buying and selling of fruits and vegetables through our program. Once we’ve gotten through the legalities, you’ll be able to sell other homegrown goodies through communEATi, like meat and dairy products, nuts, and flowers.

communEATi is a great way to make a little extra money and/or get deliciously fresh, local foods for your kitchen, but we admit we do have a hidden agenda. In addition to this and all of the other benefits of selling and eating locally grown food, communEATi aims to bring people together, to honor that long-standing connection between eater and grower, between the persons who make up a community.

communEATi is available online and can also be downloaded to your smartphone through the App Store or Google Play, that way you’re never far away from homegrown produce, or from potential customers. So what are you waiting for? Give communEATi a try today!

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