Weekend meals

I find I’m really pleased with the balance of the CSA memberships I have. On Tuesdays, I get the traditional, farmer-dictated pickup from Bloomfield-Montclair, and on Fridays or Saturdays, I get my subscription box from Greengrocer Foodhub, the order for which has to be in by Wednesday night. Because of this timing, I can use my subscription box to fill in things that weren’t in my traditional share, and I can count on a weekend of good cooking.

This week, we had a great series of summertime dinners. One night, we grilled chicken burgers and had steamed zucchini (not original, I know, but I love it), as well as “Cauliflowers Patties” which turned out to basically be cauliflower latkes. The only thing I would change in the linked recipe is that I might drain the cauliflower shreds a bit – they gave off quite a bit of water, which made the patties a little less apt to stay together.

We also had a movie night this weekend. Anyone who knows us knows that means a “picnic in the living room.” I made crudites out of a bunch of veggies I had on hand, with hummus for dipping, and we had cheese and crackers. Plus, I made summer rolls. It took me a little while to get the hang of making them look decent – but they sure tasted good.

Sunday night was a delightful mashup. I made “Beet Tartare,” which I’ve mentioned in previous posts. It’s basically a shredded beet salad that you can eat on toasts or crackers. I got corn in my subscription box, so that made an appearance. I also set out to make Thug Kitchen’s lentil and red bean meatballs, but I had a kitchen issue…. namely, I wasn’t paying attention and put way too many lentils into the bowl. It wasn’t coming out the right consistency (well, duh), so I decided to wing it. I added more breadcrumbs and some spices, and I made them into mini “meatloaves” in a muffin tin. They got served with the marinara I’d made for the meatballs. Delicious. Last (but not least), I made a grilled sweet potato and scallion salad. YUM.

It’s Tuesday again, so I’ll be posting about my share later.

Summer Explosion Begins

I began writing a post on Tuesday night, but I ended up focusing all evening on getting ready for our family trip, which, incidentally, was the focus of what I’d begun to write.

So, we always go to visit family around the 4th of July, and it seems that it’s always that week that the CSA share decides to skyrocket. Here was Tuesday’s:

We were leaving for our family trip on Wednesday morning. In previous years, I would have thrown the entire share in a cooler and dealt with it once we got down here. This is pretty impractical, when I’m honest with myself, so I buckled down on Tuesday night and got through using/sorting/prepping/planning the entire share. I still managed to pack and be in bed before midnight! It was a miracle.

For dinner, we had a delicious combo. I made stuffed summer squash. We got these cute little globe-shaped green squash. I cut off the stem end, drizzled the whole thing with olive oil, and roasted them, cut-side down, in the oven for about 45 minutes. I prepped a stuffing of ground turkey, white onion, garlic scapes, diced tomatoes (canned, unfortunately, at this point in the season), parsley, some spices, and, at the end, the scooped-out innards of the roasted squash. I then stuffed the squash, topped them with some grated parmesan, and tossed them back in the oven. I had far more stuffing than I needed, so I filled a pint-sized container and put it in the freezer.

I also made chard. Ohhhhh boy, did I make chard. I love swiss chard in all its forms, but I have to admit that my favorite is creamed swiss chard, and my favorite recipe for this decadent side is the one from the American Lighthouse Cookbook. I didn’t have a shallot, so I used a small red onion from last week’s share. I also used almond milk instead of cow milk; I find most of the non-dairy milks substitute well. It was creamy, delicious, and satisfying.

We had a small amount of english peas, so we had those, as well. And by “we,” I mean that my 5 year old ate most of them. I also made some carrot sticks, because I anticipated his resistance to dinner. The adults enjoyed it, though!

I washed the salad greens, snow peas, and cherries and packed them for the road. I also turned the rest of the carrots into carrot sticks. The greens went into my stock bag; on weeks where I have more time, they would get more interesting use, but time was of the essence. The napa cabbage went into the fridge; it keeps well and will be waiting for us when we return. The fennel, kale, and bok choy are all waiting, as well. The only one I’m not super confident about, in regard to durability, is the bok choy, so fingers crossed! The blueberries went right into the freezer.

We have one more day away, and Sunday will be a travel day. After that, I’m looking forward to settling into a routine for the next stretch of the summer. The “good vegetables” (in my opinion) are imminent, and I’m looking forward to eating well. I got a preview this weekend, as Aunt Nancy made some ratatouille to go with dinner last night. She joined a CSA in Texas, and they’ve been in what I consider “high summer” vegetables for a couple of weeks now. I’m itching for tomatoes and eggplant and bell peppers. Soon, soon.

Sweet Potato Bean Bowls

Because of the heat, my share from Greengrocer Foodhub got delivered today, instead of yesterday. It feels a little silly to list off these shares, since I pick the items myself, but here goes anyway! Beets (and HOLY HELL, LOOK AT THOSE BEETS), white onions, red onions, cucumber, sweet potatoes, garlic, and raspberries.

Well, this was a blessing, because I was really itching for something with sweet potatoes for dinner. I started flipping through my recipe index, and came across 2 recipes that had potential, but I lacked some ingredients for each. “Smoky Sweet Potato Bowl” from Clean Eating, and “Sweet potatoes with Cilantro and Black Beans” from Simple & Delicious.

So,  I decided to make my own crossover. I started by scrubbing the sweet potatoes. I cubed them – skins on, that’s where the vitamins are – and tossed them in olive oil, chili powder, paprika, a little salt, and maple sugar.

Then, I roasted them low and slow – 325 degrees for about 45 minutes.

It was at about this point in the process that I lost my audience.

In a pan, I sauteed a red onion, finely chopped, until it started to soften. Then I added a generous helping (A cup? Cup and a half? I eyeballed it) of corn, and a can of red beans. I wanted black, but it turns out that I had none left in my pantry. I let that all cook for a bit before adding in the sweet potatoes and a couple of heaping tablespoonfuls of salsa. I heated the whole mixture through.

This got plated into bowls and topped (for the grown-ups) with a dollop of sour cream and a generous handful of chives. Little chef didn’t want sour cream.

It was SO GOOD. The pictures barely do it justice. And I’m thrilled, because this would be easy to stretch for company, and it was super easy. After a weekend filled with junk food, this was a refreshing reset.

Summer 2019 Begins

Longtime readers will recognize a pattern: “real life” gets full, and my blog goes silent. Then, I come back with a summary post, which tends to begin with “So…”

So.

Little Chef graduated Pre-K on the 18th! They had a pizza party, ice pops and sprinkler play, and a “bridging up” ceremony. It was a beautiful day, and thanks to my amazing baby-sitter, I got to spend the whole day there for my older son without the baby in tow.

For those of you keeping score at home, that was a Tuesday, which is also CSA day. We also had OT and Littlest Chef’s 4 month pediatrician appointment, all in the same day. Blog posts were certainly not happening. I consider myself lucky that I got the haul into the refrigerator. However, I did get a picture of the share for the week:

Lettuce, Spinach, Salad Turnips, Scallions, Summer Squash, Peas, Bok Choy, Swiss Chard, Cilantro… Apricots, Blueberries, Cherries… A dozen eggs, a broiler chicken, and a pound of ground turkey.
The first week of summer vacation proceeded to be… rainy. Very rainy. So, Little Chef, with children everywhere, was climbing up the walls. To top it off, I was still seeing students – the public schools didn’t end for another week. So, still, no blogging.
We tried several times to get to pick strawberries, and we were foiled by the weather until the 24th. (How was that only 5 days ago?) We headed up to my old stomping grounds, Sussex County. Little Chef was much more enthusiastic about picking than in previous years.
Tuesday the 25th, we got our CSA share again.
The flowers were a gift from a student. The vegetables and fruit were:
Lettuce, Beets, Snow Peas, Broccoli, Garlic Scapes, Summer Squash, Kale, Escarole, Dill, Dandelion Greens… a dozen eggs… and Blueberries and Strawberries. (Apricots came in our share, but I left them for the food pantry. We’re not really big on apricots, and we got them the week before.)
I haven’t done anything particularly out-of-the-box the past couple of weeks. I did make a tasty pasta with summer squash and pesto. Thursday night, I made a fritatta with the escarole, garlic scapes, summer squash, and cherry tomatoes that I got at the strawberry farm. We had Asian-style noodles on Wednesday, which Spouse ended up cooking, since I was stuck in traffic after going to Crayola with my kids and their grandmother. That dinner used the broccoli, snow peas, more of the garlic scapes… I also made a spinach quiche for coffee hour at church last Sunday.
For these down times, if you’re interested in seeing snippets of what I’m doing, I highly recommend following me on facebook (Omg, CSA!), Twitter (@omgcsa), or Instagram (@omgcsa). I’ve been posting real-time pictures of many of these adventures.

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.