Buying fresh fruits and vegetables from a local farm stand not only demonstrates healthy eating habits to children, it can teach them the value of supporting local agriculture. If we’re lucky, the trip to the farm can result in a few cherished memories. There is no denying that tomatoes or lettuce picked the same day taste better than the produce purchased from the grocery store. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of harvesting food from a backyard garden rather than a refrigerator, you will agree that the “chore” itself could be as fun as the food was tasty. I remember picking vegetables with my grandfather; he taught me how to choose the ripest and sweetest tomatoes and how to determine when peppers were ready to be picked. Even sweeter than those tomatoes are the memories of the experience that I still carry with me today.
By today’s standards, however, we are not always as diligent about taking time to smell the roses…or as the case may be, the basil. In our rush to complete all of our errands, making a special trip to a local farm, exclusively for the purpose of buying cucumbers and tomatoes, can seem like an added chore and one that could easily be eliminated, if we just purchased our produce at the local grocery store, along with all of the other items on our list. But sometimes, these everyday chores are the same ones that create an experience and in the process, a lasting memory, for children and parents, alike. If we eliminate these so-called chores, we may be denying ourselves and our children the pleasure of true, quality time spent together.
When you buy your fruits and vegetables from Colchester Neighborhood Farm, consider blocking out an extra 15 minutes or 30 minutes for the “chore” because it could easily turn into a fun and wonderful experience. Colchester Neighborhood Farm is a social enterprise in every sense of the word. Employing adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities who are more than happy to wait on their customers at the farm stand, they are also eager to show off their farm, which includes chickens, a friendly donkey named Dapple, and some goats and their babies…yes the kids love the kids! A visit to Colchester Neighborhood Farm is more than just buying fresh fruits and vegetables, it is an opportunity for our children to learn about agriculture, to see how their food is grown and where it comes from. And going home with a few good memories along with some fresh tomatoes, organically grown cucumbers, and a bouquet of fresh flowers isn’t bad either.
Simple Pattypan Bake (or “Zucchini Bake,” depending on what’s available OR can be thought of as “Meatless, Pasta-less Lasagna”, that’s how I presented it to my family so I didn’t have to use the word “squash” which they would have turned up their noses at, instead, they loved it!)
Two good-sized Patty Pan Squash Jar of Goat Ricotta Cheese 1-2 jars of Marinara Sauce 15-16 oz size 12 oz. Italian Blend Shredded Cheese (parmesan, asiago, provolone, etc.)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Slice the patty pan squash in half, now place each half on the cut end, and slice into half circles, about 1/8″ thick. [Tip: to reduce liquid in the final product, you can rub the slices with 1/2 teaspoon course salt, and place in strainer in the sink for 30 min. I didn’t because I don’t mind it a little “juicy”.]
Place a little sauce in the bottom of a 13×9 pan, just enough to cover. Layer half the squash around the bottom of the pan, spoon sauce – about a cup — and spread it to cover the squash, sprinkle half the ricotta cheese, then sprinkle about 1/2 cup shredded cheese. Repeat layering of squash, ricotta, sauce and shredded cheese.
You can really do some nice things with this, including using some of your fresh basil from the farm share!
You’ll need a short, wide Jack-o-Lantern type pumpkin shaped like a casserole dish. Make sure it has a little stem for a handle!
Salt and Pepper
3/4 – 1 lb. Ground Beef
1 Medium onion, chopped
About 3 lbs. potatoes
1/2 C. spaghetti sauce
1 1/2 C. Cheddar Cheese, cubed
Milk and butter
Cut the top and hollow out the pumpkin as you would for a Jack-o-Lantern. Roast the seeds if you like.
Pierce the inside flesh generously with a fork. Pour in 1/8 C. salt and rub in. Let it sit on the counter for a couple hours. This softens and flavors the pumpkin.
Meanwhile, sauté the beef and onion, drain off grease and set aside.
Make mashed potatoes as you normally would adding the salt, pepper, milk and butter. Mash coarsely, leaving some lumps and set aside.
Cube the cheese and set aside.
Pre-heat oven to 350. Rinse pumpkin inside and out and set it on a rack in a roasting pan. Put about 1/2 inch of water in bottom of pan.
Layer the beef, potatoes, and cheese 2 to 3 times filling the pumpkin. Top with the sauce. Put the top on your pumpkin and roast for 1 1/2 hrs.
To serve, slice the pumpkin horizontally so everyone can get a semi-circle of roasted pumpkin to eat with the filling. Don’t eat the rind.
This is a special, fall dish that has become a favorite in my family. My kids affectionately call it “Pumpkin Mush”.