What to do with all of that extra…?

Little Chef and  I juiced today for the first time this season! Littlest Chef has been sick the past couple of days, and Little Chef was sick at the beginning of the week, so I haven’t done much of anything fancy with our vegetables. We’ve had some rockin’ salads, and we had the kohlrabi hash. Last night, my in-laws came over, and I made a salad with half of the remaining spinach, the arugula, and the radishes. I’m crossing my fingers that my cilantro makes it to tomorrow and Tuesday, so that I can do an an Asian-inspired meal and tacos, respectively.  I found myself with apples from Chelsa’s share, and a whole bunch of beets that I had also gotten from Chelsa.

Little Chef is not a fan of beets, so he made himself (!!! He’s growing up, oh man.) apple-cucumber juice. I made myself beet-apple-spinach juice. Having a tasty drink like this feels decadent, but it’s also a nice way to sneak in some extra vitamins with my lunch. It’s a bonus that it helps me finish off some veggies in the fridge.

What are your favorite juicing combinations? I’m looking forward to experimenting this year.

OMG Kohlrabi

Kohlrabi: possibly the oddest looking vegetable you’ll get all season, and a huge source of confusion for many new CSA members. I mean, really. The first time you look at kohlrabi, it looks like the kitchen equivalent of a UFO. At first, it looks like a root (spoiler alert: it’s not), since it comes with its greens attached like radishes, beets, and turnips. It turns out it’s actually a bulbous stem (yes, what the heck) in the brassica family: the home of cabbage, brussels sprouts, etc.

8 years in to CSA membership, that sure is easy for me to say with a fair amount of nonchalance. However, I was incredibly grateful for google in the beginning. I especially enjoyed this article from Huffington Post, part of a series entitled “WTF, CSA?” Fun tidbit – my blog’s name, “OMG, CSA,” is a send-up to this article.

Many of the recommendations I see for kohlrabi involve eating it raw, comparing it to jicama or radishes. My favorite way to eat it, though, is roasted. It softens and sweetens beautifully, and it matches well with roasted apples, sweet potatoes, turnips, and radishes. (Yes! Roast your radishes! They’re delicious!) Actually, my technique with these vegetables aims to look something like this apple and root vegetable hash from Martha Stewart, but I discovered it was much easier to roast everything in the oven than to do it her way.

The methodology is simple: cube everything. (Make sure you peel the kohlrabi thoroughly – the skin is tough! All the other vegetables I mentioned can keep their skins.) Toss them with olive oil and whatever seasonings you wish. Dump them into a glass Pyrex dish, and roast them in the oven. 375 is a good temperature, but if you’re already cooking something else, there’s room for adjustment. It’s an imprecise science – I’m going to tell you to cook them until they look and feel done. I take the dish out to push the vegetables around and even the browning a couple of times during the course of cooking. Other than that, though, it’s hands-off and easy, easy, easy.

We had chicken for dinner tonight. I had one broiler chicken left in the deep freeze from last season, so it was time to use it up. (I’ve been on a mission for weeks to clear out the freezers, and there’s still food in there! But, I digress. That is a rant for another post.) We had veggies – I only used sweet potato and kohlrabi tonight – as well as more salad from last night. It was delicious.

Yes, that’s Lego Batman in the upper right corner of the frame. I am not known for my professional-grade pictures, and we have a 5 year-old.

CSA 2019 – WEEK 1

I have so much to say, but I am typing one-handed, with my infant son cradled in the other arm, so this may end up as a “To be continued…” post.

Today was the first Bloomfield-Montclair pickup! I wore my veggie dress to celebrate.

We had perfect weather for pickup, and it felt so good to see some familiar faces.

Usually, the first week is unnervingly small. I feel like this year was more impressive than usual. As per our weekly email:

LETTUCE (Red Leaf)
SPINACH
RADISHES
KOHLRABI
GARLIC SCAPES
PEAS
CHOICE OF DILL OR CILANTRO
CHOICE OF ESCAROLE OR ENDIVE (frissee)
There was also an “extra” of Chervil. I took that, anticipating making eggs tomorrow. (It compliments scrambled eggs SO well.)
No fruit share or meat yet (both start next week), but we did get eggs.
Early season pickups are heavy on the greens. I made a beautiful salad to accompany dinner tonight.
Salad greens from a CSA can be intimidating. There they are, typically in massive quantities… and covered in dirt. We’re so accustomed to supermarket power-washed vegetables that it can seem daunting. A few years ago, I settled on a technique for cleaning the grit with little stress.
Use two bowls. Fill both with cold water. agitate the leaves in one, then allow them to rest for a while before moving them to the other bowl. Repeat the process until the water is clear of grit, emptying the bowl each time. I like to dump the water into my rain barrel, personally, to give it a second use. Finish the process with a traditional salad spinner to dry.
Tonight was a fairly easy prep night. I’m looking forward to talking about kohlrabi this week – it was the vegetable that ultimately led to this blog – but for now, I am calling it a night. Welcome to the 2019 CSA season!

Peanut Sweet Potato Curry

So, if a fraction of the meals that I make this season are even half as delicious as tonight’s dinner, I will feel like it’s been a success.

Tonight, we had Sweet Potato Curry, using a recipe from Vegan Richa.

OH MY GOD. It was peanut buttery, salty, sweet, just a touch of spicy… everything that is good in this world. I subbed in broccoli for the cauliflower, I doubled the peas, I added some garlic scapes, and I added more coconut milk than called for. (I threw in the whole can, because it was thicker than I anticipated at first.) Most of the recipe was CSA-sourced. The bell pepper, garlic, and ginger were store-bought. The basil came from my windowsill. Everything about this was fresh, satisfying, and delicious. Even Little Chef loved it; he declared, “this sauce is delicious! I want to lick it forever!”

A successful meal. Yum. Tomorrow is the first pickup for Montclair-Bloomfield. Onward into the most delicious time of the year!

It’s the week before the season starts…

… and my inbox is hopping. All sorts of last-minute updates are coming in. I wanted to share one of them with you.

Toni’s Kitchen is a soup kitchen in Montclair. It serves hundreds of thousands of meals a year, in addition to its Healthy Backpack Program. I could go on at length about the good Toni’s does in the world, but I will leave it at that to move on to my larger point. I’ve noticed over the past couple of years that there have been shares purchased for Toni’s Kitchen at our CSA, in addition to our tradition of bringing any leftovers for them. It turns out that there’s a coordinated fundraising effort happening by one of the members, started as a Bar Mitzvah project. It’s called “Generation Zero.” I want to encourage you to check out their facebook page and perhaps donate if you feel so inclined. The help here is twofold – not only does the soup kitchen benefit, but our local farmer is also supported. It’s a win all around.

If you’re local and interested in joining a CSA, but have not made a move yet, we do have some spaces still available. Let me know if you want the information to sign up.

Second Breakfast

I remember sitting in the midwife’s office, six weeks or so after having my first child, and incredulously stating that I felt hungrier than I did while I was pregnant. The midwife’s answer was straightforward: “You should be. And you should be eating more than when you were pregnant.”

There’s something about the enormity of creating an entire tiny human that seems like it should be a bigger energy draw than feeding that tiny human, but it turns out not to work that way. Breastfeeding can give you a deficit of up to 1,000 calories a day to work with, according to some sources I’ve read, and experientially, that hunger is REAL. It is also sudden. This leads me to my hobbit-like “second breakfast” from this morning.

I came home from a trip to the library with Littlest Chef and found that I was starving, despite it only being 10:30 in the morning. I’m still in a winter funk of wanting junk, processed food all the time, so I talked myself out of some patently unhealthy options and split the difference. Eggs. I was going to make myself some eggs, and I could use the deli meat we had in the fridge to satisfy the part of me that wanted junk food.

Now, these aren’t just any eggs. These are homestead eggs from Chelsa. Not only do I know that these chickens are leading a very comfortable life, but they also make the most delicious eggs, because their diet is so good. The yolks are richer and the eggs are bigger than anything you’ll find in the store.

I cooked two eggs up in a small frying pan with some olive oil – over easy, because I wanted super runny yolks. I then put these eggs on toast with ham and cheese, topped the whole thing off with a generous grind of himalayan salt and multicolored pepper, and put pickled mushrooms from Picklelicious on the side.

I realized afterward that I had microgreens in my fridge that I could have used, but again, I’m out of practice. It was still delicious.

June, Market, and CSA

Happy June!

Yesterday was the West Orange Farmers Market, the West Orange Street Fair, and the first week of my CSA share with Greengrocer Foodhub (formerly/run by Coeur et Sol – more on that later), so there’s plenty to report from the land of local eating and vegetables.

With the arrival of my first share, plus with the knowledge that we’d be out at the fair for a while, we did a little less shopping at the market this week, but we did get some interesting things! Hubs and I split a vegan spanakopita from The Little Eggplant, and it was delicious. We got some pickled mushrooms and citrus olives from Picklelicious. Last but certainly not least, we got a couple of different types of sausage from Roaming Acres.

On to the CSA share. It’s funny, with the new system that Chelsa has implemented this year, I didn’t even register that this was the first week. I’ve been buying “add-on shares” from her over the winter and spring, and I ordered as though it were a regular week. The thing is, I signed up for a share option where I get to build my own share each week, against a pre-paid credit, so it came out of that and was technically my first share. The way she has it set up, she is able to source from multiple farms, which gives an interesting variety, since everyone has their specialties. (You can get cheese! And honey! And other things – those are just some examples.)

So! The convergence of this CSA deliciousness and my farmer’s market trip led to a great dinner. We had pasta with chicken-basil-tomato sausage, broccoli rabe, and a sauce made of diced tomatoes, garlic, and white wine. We also had a salad of romaine, spinach, salad turnips, and microgreens.

Here’s the mechanics of how I made it. As I mentioned to Stacey, the manager of the market, I kind of shoot from the hip when I’m making my own recipes, so this is about method more than exact measurements.

I cooked the chicken sausage (cut into bite-sized chunks) in some olive oil until cooked through. I then added several (4 or 5) cloves of garlic, chopped. I stirred that around until the garlic got fragrant, maybe a minute or so. Then I added the white wine and deglazed the pan. I let that bubble for a few minutes before adding in the can of diced tomatoes and the prepared broccoli rabe. To prepare the broccoli rabe, I cut off the tough ends at the bottom and blanched the rest – leaves, buds, flowers, and all – in boiling, salted water for about a minute and a half. I then rinsed it in cold water and cut it into bite-sized pieces, which are what I added to the sausage-garlic-wine-tomato business in the pan.

The result was delicious. Even my preschooler enjoyed it! Though he did not partake of the salad, as is usual.

This morning, I failed to take pictures of breakfast, but we did have the other sausage I purchased from Roaming Acres – Blueberry-Maple Ostrich Sausage! That was a new one for us, and it turned out to be delicious. I got up early enough to make pancakes and those sausages before the kids and I headed out to church this morning. It was a good way to wake up, yum.

This afternoon, I had my orientation meeting for this year’s season of Bloomfield-Montclair CSA. Shares for that start on the 11th. Strawberries are also coming soon – my favorite place to go is Sussex County Strawberry Farm. What an exciting time of year!

West Orange Farmer’s Market Opening 2019

Today was the first day of the new West Orange Farmer’s market. My picture game started strong, and then it faded… I spent the better part of two hours sampling delicious food, meeting new people, and running into people that I already know.

Little Chef was thrilled with our hot dog lunch. He had a plain hot dog, but I got one with mac and cheese and bacon on it – yum. Hubs got one that had onions and sriracha on it.

Some expected, known vendors were there – Coeur et Sol and Picklelicious. Others were new to me today, like Jana’s Jammy (delicious cherry amaretto jam and mango pepper jam) and River Valley Community Grains.

Speaking of the latter, I tried spelt today! I’m sold on it, and I made some for dinner. It’s chewy, with body like wheat berries. I’ve never gotten wheat berries truly right, though, and this cooked up beautifully. I kept it simple, with homemade chicken stock and a healthy splash of garlic vinegar at the end. The salad was Coeur et Sol’s mix with some extra arugula, radishes, cherry tomatoes, and bacon bits. The main protein was simple boneless, skinless chicken thighs cooked in honey mustard. It felt good to have a simple, hearty meal on a market day.

I used the remaining arugula and radishes already. I sauteed them with spices (onion powder, garlic powder, basil, parsley, chili powder) and made them into a fritatta with some Circle Brook eggs and Parmesan. It’ll make a good, hearty breakfast tomorrow.

I’m exhausted now; this is the most activity I think I’ve done in two weeks – I was so sick even before my surgery. I feel satisfied with the day, though. Looking forward  to an amazing summer.

OMG 2019

I’m so over the first half of 2019. I’m not special when I say this; I know many people who are going through some crazy life things right now. Our world is mad, the news is absurd… but in any case, personally, this has been a stretch I could do without.

I spent Mother’s Day weekend in the hospital. Whee. I had my gall bladder out – not just stones, but an infection, as well – which went smoothly, thank God. I’ve been home for a couple of days recovering. I’m in the expected amount of post-surgical pain, but I’m feeling better in a core-health kind of way, so I suspect I was sick for longer than I’d realized. Thankfully, my experience was as good as it could be (everyone at the hospital was so good to me), and there is much beginning and much to look forward to.

This weekend is the first market of the brand-new West Orange Farmer’s Market. I intend to go, and I certainly hope you will, as well, if you’re a local reader. It will be held in the lot at 80 Main Street and runs from 9 am to 2 pm. I’ll try to document my visit for you good readers, as well. You can find the TapInto article on the market here.

The other exciting thing coming up is the Greengrocer Food Hub, which Chelsa is opening in Bloomfield. They’re running a kickstarter currently, and we’d all be grateful if you were to check that out and donate if you can. This site is going to fill a real need for a market for local produce in the area, and I suspect it will also turn into another opportunity for socializing among us locavores.

A few thoughts post-Easter

Here I am, continuing to mark time until CSA season begins, though we’ve just passed one of my favorite days for cooking: Easter.

This year was a transition year for us. Our winter was crazy – we moved in December, my mom died in January, and we had a baby in February. I want to move into hosting Easter, rather than traveling for it, but I (understandably) did not have it in me for a crowd, so we just had my in-laws (parents and siblings) over, and it was a really lovely day.

We did the standard Polish Easter fare that I count on each year, but when it came to golombki, I was in a bind. I love stuffed cabbage, but the thought of putting in all that work this year seemed like a drag. However, I remembered that there was an article about exactly this in an old issue of Simple & Delicious! AND, to boot, I’d marked the recipe in that article in my new organization system! (Yes, this recipe index is already proving useful!)

Thus, we made Slow-Cooker Golombki. Folks, this recipe was fabulous. It would take something special to convince me to go through the trouble of making regular golombki again, I think. This tasted just as good with hardly any effort. I also substituted ground turkey for the ground beef, to lighten it up, and it tasted great.

I didn’t document much of the cooking, though I do have a very satisfying picture of my plate before I dug in.

Happy Easter!