CSA Week 2

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As I write this, I’m eating a salad with lettuce from last week. I’m actually pretty pleased with the fact that it’s not limp and slimy (another perk of getting your food FRESH). My point? Well, we were quickly reminded how overwhelming this much produce can be. We did not make it all the way though last week’s haul (although close), and we have a fridge full of leftovers.

I remember early in the season last year being the same situation: lots of greens and other vulnerable stuff that doesn’t last long in the fridge. Totally different from late summer and fall when you get root veggies and squashes and the like — items you can count on hanging around for a few weeks no problem. But so far this year, we haven’t thrown anything away due to spoilage!

This week we’ve only got a few nights at home. The Mister and I are attending the 1968 Exhibit opening party at the Constitution Center in Philadelphia on Thursday night (he helped write/design part of the exhibit when we lived in Minnesota, now it’s on tour). Then we’re off to Milwaukee for a wedding bright and early Friday morning. So when I stopped to pick up our CSA goodies this morning, I asked them to go easy on me, so we didn’t end up leaving town with a fridge full of food. Our CSA folks are great about being flexible. They even offered to give us extra next week to make up for it.

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kale, spinach, asparagus, strawberries, lettuce

I threw some spinach and strawberries in the blender as soon as I got home for a refreshing smoothie. I’ll probably be doing that a couple more times this week (with some combo of yogurt, banana, coconut oil, honey, flax, etc.). Otherwise, we’re looking at this relatively simple meal plan for the week (with all those existing leftovers for lunches):

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Slow Cooker Vegetable Broth: Great Use for Scraps

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When you’re dealing with lots of fresh produce every week (as we CSA members do), you’re also dealing with lots of leaves and roots and peels and stems and other parts that aren’t always ideal for consuming. One of the easiest things to do with those bits is to make broth. Here’s our fool-proof approach.

  1. Keep a gallon zip-top bag in your freezer. Every time you’re cleaning, peeling, or chopping, grab the bag and throw in your (clean) scraps. We avoid putting really strong flavors into the scrap bag (e.g., peppers or beets) and try to balance it somewhat (you don’t want an entire bag of kale stems), but otherwise pretty much anything goes.Broth-Scraps
  2. Keep it in the freezer until it’s packed full. Then one night after dinner, simply dump it in your slow cooker and fill it up with water.
    Broth-Slow-Cooker
  3. Sometimes I’ll add half an onion or a few carrots or a few stalks of celery at this time, because mirepoix is the base of standard stock (and we don’t want this to taste too wacky). Dump in a handful of fresh herbs (parsley and thyme work well) or a few pinches of dried herbs (bay leaf is also nice). Add salt and pepper if you want (or skip it and season when cooking with the broth later).
  4. Turn it on low and let it simmer overnight. Here’s what it’ll look like in the morning.Broth-Done
  5. Turn it off and let it cool for a couple hours. Then it’s time to strain. You can use cheesecloth or a fine mesh strainer (or both if you want it really pure).
    Broth-Strain
  6. Finally, use it or store it. We like to portion it into two-cup containers and also freeze in ice cube trays (and transfer to zip-top bags). That way, you have different portion sizes to choose from, depending on your application.Broth-Freeze

There you have it. Broth! Richer tasting, cheaper, and much better for you than that crap in a can/carton at the store. You can also use a similar approach for bone broths (adding in veggie scraps with the bones), but bone broth is a bit more involved. If you’ve never done homemade stock/broth, I’d definitely start with veggie. If only because it rates lower on the ick factor.

CSA Week 1

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We visited our farm three times this spring and have formed a closer relationship with our farmers. It’s been enlightening to hear about the trials and triumphs our growers experience. John and I certainly appreciate our food a lot more knowing who grows it and that we’re supporting their livelihood, as well as eco-friendly growing practices. That’s what makes CSAs so great. Not to mention, the food is so much fresher and healthier!

We stopped by the farmers market this morning and picked up our first official CSA share of the season. Nothing too shocking here. In fact, we’ve gotten most of these items over the last two weeks in our preview shares.


CSA Week 1 2013

asparagus, chard, spinach, lettuce, spring onions, endive, mustard greens, kale

This meal plan came together pretty quickly considering the large amount of green leafy stuff (which we’ve found challenging to plan around in the past). And even though we’re familiar with these guys, we are taking on all new recipes with ’em. I’m especially looking forward to stuffing the chard leaves — something different than the usual saute.

Here’s what we’re eating this week:

I’m also going to whip up these favorites for weekday and weekend breakfasts respectively:

  • Granola (I like to add 1/4 cup of molasses — tastes like gingerbread)
  • Banana crumb muffins (sub white whole wheat flour and reduce sugar)

How about you? Any favorite ways to prepare these springtime veggies? I’m always up for suggestions.

This post is linked up at In Her Chucks CSA link party.

CSA Preview Week 2

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Last week we worked our way through the second preview week of our CSA. We didn’t get a basket of goodies this weekend due to the holiday. Our official 20-week season begins next Sunday, June 2.

I can tell you one thing, I’m already feeling healthier eating all these fresh veggies (well, maybe it’s all mental, but that’s something!). I’m trying not to put too much pressure on myself this year to plan out every use for every scrap and become overwhelmed. The CSA is supposed to be fun, not stressful. Plus, I’ve learned many tricks about extending the life of produce, what to freeze, what to combine, how to prep ahead, and more. I’ll try to share some of those techniques as we go through the season. So far, things are going well and nothing’s gone to waste.

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red russian kale, chard, two varieties of lettuce, rhubarb, spring onions, mustard greens, radishes

Here’s what we did with it:

CSA Preview Week 1

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I doubt anyone is sitting around waiting for new posts from me, since I’ve abandoned this thing for months. But I’m back with a new CSA season and hopefully new energy toward my blog. I’m playing around with a new blog identity in the hopes of finding something that really inspires me and feels like it fits right.

Without further ado: vegetables! Local, naturally grown, fresh, in-season, delicious vegetables. This is our second year with a community-supported agriculture (CSA) share from a local farm. We have two “free” CSA weeks from The Farm Stuff before the official 20-week CSA season starts. We love our farm and the abundance and variety of goodies we get. This was last week’s haul.

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spinach, escarole, rhubarb, mustard greens, dandelion greens, spring onions, asparagus, pumpkin butter

Here’s what we made:

Meal Plan: October 21-28

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Meal plan came together pretty easy this week sans CSA produce. I think that’s because we’ve got quite a bit still leftover (turnips, potatoes, onion, garlic, squash). So we of course worked that stuff into this week’s meal plan. I’m excited for some of the tasty fall flavors we’re emphasizing.

Sunday:

  • Easy pad thai with cream cheese wontons
    It’s the Mister’s birthday! I was excited to find this recipe for pad thai on Pinterest. Like (I suspect) so many others, I’ve steered clear of making pad thai at home because it calls for so many foreign (to me) ingredients that I don’t want to buy, use once, and then waste. Cream cheese wontons may not be Thai in origin, but this is America. We’ll eat those puppies with anything resembling Asian food.

Monday:

  • Sweet potato turnip soup
    Monday night is actually yoyo night. I’ll be preparing this today for quick meals throughout the week. We’ll eat it with some simple bread and butter, I’m thinkin’.

Tuesday:

  • Wilted arugula and pear salad
    This looks like a tasty little salad that I’m going to zest up a bit with some walnuts and proscuitto, perhaps a baguette on the side.

Wednesday:

Thursday:

  • Slow-cooked pork shoulder with sauerkraut, sweet potato, and apple
    When the Mister and I were dating, I surprised him one night by making a German meal (or what I consider a German meal): pork, sauerkraut, and dumplings. He was floored by this and has since referred to it as my “frau dinner.” I am going to take a different spin on the frau dinner with this recipe. It looks delish and I can’t wait to try it.

Friday:

  • Thai noodles with spicy peanut sauce
    Two thai noodle dishes in one week? Yes, that is the case. It just worked out that we’re really craving this household favorite. We use rice noodles and whatever fresh veggies we have on hand (I think it will be green pepper, pea pods, and carrots).

Saturday:

  • Banana crumb muffins
    I’ve made these before a couple times. A few bananas in the freezer have found their fate. I think I’ll try ’em with white whole wheat flour, my new flour of choice.
  • Yoyo/leftovers/freezer food
    Keeping our options open, depending on how much food we’ve got in the fridge and what were up to.

What’s in the Box? [CSA Week 20]

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Sniffle sniffle. I’m mourning the end of our CSA season. We picked up our last box of goodies on Sunday.

I remember last winter when I said to the Mister, “Hey, I have this idea, and you’re probably going to think I’m nuts.” I explained to him the CSA concept and how I thought it would be a great way for us to eat local and healthy, and branch out in our food choices. And, to my surprise, he was pretty much supportive right off the bat.

Through the last 20 weeks, we’ve been mostly happy with our decision. We’ve been exposed to dozens of vegetables, fruits, herbs, and other goodies, a great many of which were new to us. Sure, we’ve had the frustrating nights where we just didn’t want to deal with preparing more veggies and would rather order pizza. But most of the time, we pushed through and were grateful on the other end that we’re fortunate to have a fresh and nutritious meal on the table.

I said to the Mister a few weeks ago, “It will be interesting to see if we decide to do this again next year.” And he nearly scolded me. “Of course we’re going to do it again!” There you have it, world: our commitment to be CSA-ers again.

I highly recommend you look into the CSA option in your community. Ours cost $400 for 20 (actually 21) weeks of produce (we get a “half share;” you can get twice as much per week if you’re a giant family or a veg-aholic). It may seem like a lot of money, but really, I think $20/week is reasonable for this much organic/naturally grown produce (obviously your grocery store bill goes down as a result).

Well, here it is folks. Our last haul of the season: collard greens, decorative Indian corn, green peppers, turnips, apples, butternut squash, onion, sweet potatoes, white potatoes.

The meal plan this week is not really concrete. I’ve gotten kind of annoyed with Sundays: the planning, prepping/cleaning, putting away veggies, plus the extra grocery shopping (not to mention cooking/baking and dishes). This week I revolted and said “no, we’ll fly by the seat of our pants.” So I guess this repreive is just in the nick of time.

It’s back to boring old meal planning next week (yay!) and grocery store produce (boo!). However, I’m sure I’ll hit up the last few weeks of the farmers’ market to get my fix in before it’s no longer an option. You should too!

What’s in the Box? [CSA Week 19] + Meal Plan [October 7-13]

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I think we definitely scored this week. The only downer is the reappearance of kohlrabi. But I believe I’ve come up with a suitable way to hide it.

Forgive the indoor photo; it was raining and I was messing around with the DSLR (and may need a few lessons). We’ve got: kohlrabi, broccoli, carrots, bell peppers, kale, apples, eggplant, butternut squash, sweet potatoes.

When I started planning this week’s meals, I found I was able to pack in a lot of the items together in the first few days of recipes, which left me with a sparse end of week. We’ve got leftovers and freezer staples to fall back on though. This week also ended up being very light on the meat, which we’re more than okay with. The world would be better off if we all ate more vegetarian meals.

Sunday:

Monday:

  • Yoyo
    Monday night class means another yoyo night.

Tuesday:

  • Broccoli cheese soup (with carrots and kohlrabi) and fresh bread
    I’ve made this soup recipe before; it’s delish and easy. I’m going to give it a boost by incorporating the kohlrabi and greens, and include the broccoli greens too. I bought some bakery bread at the farmers’ market today, so that will round out dinner.

Wednesday:

Thursday:

  • Chinese sauteed potato, green pepper, and eggplant
    I googled eggplant and green pepper recipes and this popped up (and lucky us, we’ve got leftover potatoes from last week). The Mister will probably like this meal more than me, since I’m not a huge fan of green pepper. We’ll likely serve it over rice.

Friday:

  • Yoyo
    I think we’re going to have a decent amount of leftovers come Friday.

Saturday:

  • Maple cinnamon pancakes with warm apple compote
    We do love pancakes around here. The apples we got are sweet and crisp, and will make a great topping (which means we probably won’t need all the sugar/syrup in the recipe either).
  • Buffalo chicken nuggets and sweet potato fries
    We do like our buffalo chicken around here. And when it comes to sweet potatoes, I say don’t mess with perfection (fries).

What’s in the Box? [CSA Week 18] + Meal Plan [September 30-October 6]

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The CSA season is winding down. Only two more weeks of pick up. What the heck are we going to do after that? I hate buying produce at the grocery store now. It’s always gross and old and expensive (organic). We’ve got some veggies stocked in the freezer, but apartment living doesn’t allow for much food preservation and storage (I’m sure there are people who would beg to differ, but I’m not into clutter…not one bit.) I dream of the day I have a full size deep freeze to call my very own (wow, nerd alert).

I didn’t plan it this way, but apparently we’re using quite a few freezer randoms in this week’s meals. It’s nice to have that stuff to fall back on.

Here’s what we’re working with: acorn squash, green bell pepper, carrots, zucchini, potatoes, sweet potatoes, garlic, turnips, radishes, onion.

Sunday:

  • Buffalo chicken bites with potato and turnip cakes and salad
    We used up the turnips and last week’s lettuce in this throw-together lunch.
  • Loaded baked potato chowder
    I had this soup at a Pampered Chef party years ago. It’s a simple and tasty recipe that’s easily doctored up (if you can get over all the product pitches in the instructions).

Monday:

  • Yoyo

Tuesday:

  • Penne with squash and goat cheese
    We didn’t make this a couple weeks ago. I’m actually going to try it this time with our (real) acorn squash. The mystery squash is still on top the fridge waiting for it’s fate.

Wednesday:

  • Corn and black bean enchiladas with chips and homemade salsa
    We have leftover enchilada filling in the freezer. It’s basically corn, black beans, bell pepper, garlic, and onion, all sauteed together. Then we use Trader Joe’s enchilada sauce and cheese stuffed inside corn tortillas. The Mister is going to whip up some salsa with CSA peppers, garlic, onion, and cilantro (hanging on from last week).

Thursday:

  • Pulled pork sandwiches on homemade buns with honey balsamic carrots and zucchini
    The pulled pork is leftover from last weekend (in the freezer, I promise). I’m going to make some fresh buns and also try out this Pinterest carrot recipe. I figure I can throw in zucchini, since it’s mild and will probably take on these flavors nicely.

Friday:

  • Out
    We’re going to a social event and will probably bring a dish to pass, but I have no idea what yet.

Saturday:

  • Caramelized onion and proscuitto pizza
    What’s not to like here? A ball of pizza dough in the freezer makes this even sweeter (read: easier). I might add roasted red peppers to half … see if that tickles the palate.

What’s in the Box? [CSA Week 17] + Meal Plan [September 23-29]

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Another late post. Whoops. And it’s going to be a short one.

One topic that came up this week, chatting with other members at the CSA stand, which I found interesting … growing seasons.

I should preface it by saying that the Mister and I are from Minnesota. Much of Minnesota has already had nights below freezing this fall. It’s deep into harvest season and most people’s gardens are done around now. On the flip side, what’s weird to me is reading about people who have just started their gardens in the south (e.g., my sister lives in Phoenix, and she planted tomatoes in the winter last year). This is foreign to us … you just don’t even think about it. Beyond that, Delaware has a much more temperate climate, and I guess it’s not uncommon to do two growing seasons for greens and other “spring” veggies. And that explains our produce haul this week. Honestly, I think it’s awesome that here we get two rounds of produce in one year. One point for Delaware.

Without further ado: kale, carrots, collard greens, lettuce, cilantro, potatoes, red onion, eggplant, red bell pepper, sweet potatoes.

 

Here’s what we’ve been eating and will be eating:

Sunday:

Monday:

  • Yoyo
    We had leftover pulled pork for lunch and leftover root veggie stew for dinner. Hint for anyone who wants to make this stew: don’t use beets unless you want to eat hot pink dumplings.

Tuesday:

  • Chicken teriyaki stir fry with peppers, carrots, and green beans over brown rice
    Nothing too impressive here. We used store-bought sauce.

Wednesday:

  • Collard greens with bacon, cornbread, and sweet potato souffles
    This was our attempt at a southern meal — something we’re really not accustomed to. In this house, we don’t really take issue with not having a defined “main dish” (read: meat). If it’s enough food, what does it matter? All in all, turned out well. I totally winged the sweet potatoes (took bits and pieces of four recipes to make my own based on what we had in the house).

Thursday:

  • Ground beef tacos with leftover cornbread
    Pretty straightforward here. I do make my own taco seasoning, and you should too (gross stuff in the packets — read the label!).

Friday:

  • Eggplant parmesan pizza
    This is a tested and proven recipe. We’ve become real comfortable with pizza on Friday nights, on the floor of the living room, watching Netflix. Oh, the exciting life of a married couple.

Saturday:

  • Yoyo
    Leftovers and TBD. I’m meeting friends in Baltimore for the day (yay!).