Saturday, December 31, 2011

Week 39 in Review

The Score
Eaters - 9.5     Compost - 0     Carry Over - 2.5

It was a busy holiday week, but we ended up enjoying most of our box all the same.  We do have quite a few items to carry over into next week - some celery, green beans, peppers, spinach and strawberry jam - but since our farmer's market is closed this weekend and we won't be getting a new box, it's kind of nice to have a lot of 'raw' left overs.  Not quite sure what I'm going to do to plan meals without the box; I've gotten so used to it as our inspiration.  Nevertheless, we'll manage just fine until we get our first box of 2012 next weekend.  Until then, happy new year!

The Best
  • Everybody loved the pumpkin bread, which I embellished with a Jamie Oliver topping from another bread recipe that includes vanilla beans and tangerine zest.  Yum!

The Good

Monday, December 26, 2011

Week 39 - Happy New Year

Given that it's a holiday week, I'm going to enjoy my week's vacation and play things a bit by ear.  We'll have a big Christmas dinner with some family in from out-of-town which will allow us to borrow heavily from the box, and many of this week's goodies can be enjoyed almost anytime.  Wishing you and yours a very happy holiday season, and happy new year!  I hope that 2012 has many more cooking adventures in store for us and our box.

In the box this week
(top) lettuce, spinach, celery, holiday herb mix (rosemary, marjoram, thyme)
(bottom) pumpkin, green beans, carrots, poblano peppers, tangerines, apples, strawberries, strawberry jam

Meals/recipes for the week
I rarely talk about the fruit that we receive, as it primarily gets eaten as is and doesn't require any recipe intervention.  That said, it seemed appropriate to take a moment to say that the apples, tangerines and strawberries have really been amazing even though it's the middle of winter.  Makes us all remember how lucky we are to have access to what we have year round in California!
This week's title is inspired by the song of the same name from Rent by Jonathan Larson.

Week 38 in Review

The Score
Eaters - 8.5      Compost 2.5     Carry Over - 0
We did some fun things in the kitchen during the first week of our holiday break (kids and mom included), and put a lot of the box to good use.  Who knew that beets could make delicious muffins, or that spaghetti squash could be enjoyed two ways in one day - savory, and in bread?  I neglected to get a soup made (so the swiss chard and dill hit the compost), but we made the most of everything else in the week's box.

The Best
  • The strawberry beans were gorgeous both unshelled and shelled!  It's too bad that most of the beauty got cooked away, but they were delicious in the pasta recipe that was passed along by our CSA.  If you ever see these at a farmer's market, grab them quickly.

The Good
  • These whole wheat blueberry beet muffins really surprised me.  The dough was beautiful and - though most of the red cooked away - the end result was moist and tasty.  You could definitely taste the beets, but the flavor didn't overpower the entire muffin. 
  • This week, we received a GIANT spaghetti squash.  It think it was almost five pounds.  After baking it and getting out the good stuff, it was clear that we'd have enough for two recipes.  I did a little poking around and found a recipe for a spaghetti squash and carrot bread.  The kids kept calling it banana bread, which signals to me that they thought it was really good.
  • We made the eggplant beef lasagna and gave it away to a family member who had just had a baby.  We didn't taste it (and I forgot to take a photo), but we hear that it was really good.
  • The carrot spinach strawberry banana smoothie was about as expected.  The color looked like mud (i.e. quite unappetizing).  It was sweet, but not overly so.  I think I prefer juicing carrots and spinach to making a smoothie out of them, but it'd be ok for an occasional breakfast.
The Rest
  • I didn't think it was too bad (nor did I think it was amazing), but the boys were not fans of the lemon sage spaghetti squash recipe.  I think I used garlic that was very strong, as they kept complaining that it was too spicy in addition to being pretty mushy.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Week 38 - House

For the first time since my boys were born - eight years - my family and I will be staying home over the holidays.  We live fairly far away from both of our families, and have always traveled to share the holidays with one side of the family or the other.  This year, for a whole variety of reasons, we're staying put and having a few family members come and visit.  After an insanely busy late summer and fall, I couldn't be more happy to just stay home.  Lots of time for family, and cooking, and our own family traditions that blend so many wonderful traditions from both sides.  Perhaps I'm a little nostalgic after my work week away, but this year I'm looking forward to being home for the holidays. 

In the box this week
(top) lettuce, spinach, swiss chard, dill
(bottom) beets, spaghetti squash, eggplant, strawberry beans, carrots, apples, tangerines

Meals/recipes for the week
Two more days of work for me and two more days of school for the boys, then we are all off for two weeks!  I've got this week's box and one on Christmas eve to keep me busy during that time (then a bit of a forced break at new year's because of the farmer's market taking a day off).  I'm so excited to try the Strawberry Beans, and am ready to make up for last week's time away from the kitchen.  Very happy to be in this house again!
This week's title is inspired by the song of the same name by Ben Folds Five.

Week 37 in Review

The Score
Eaters - 3     Compost - 3     Carry Over - 4

As expected, not a banner week for the box.  Honestly, I only really got one recipe made, though I did use up a few other items via juicing.  But, that's what you get when you have two nighttime holiday parties followed by three and a half days of work travel.  You win some, you lose some.  This week, sadly, we lost a bit of our box to the compost pile. 

The Best (and only...)
  • The kale and onion tacos were delicious, and perhaps were the most healthy thing that I ate all week.  I put the delicious recipe on top of some refried beans, and went back in for seconds.

Since I don't have much to share in terms of recipe results for this week, I figured it might be fun to share a photo of the wonderful garden that I've been working on at my sons' school.  More than 600 students participated in fall plantings, and eveyrthing - lettuce, carrots, broccoli, chard, radishes, onions, garlic and cabbage - has been growing like crazy.  Over the holidays, those radishes that haven't yet been consumed by the students will be harvested and replanted, and some lettuce will be harvested as well.  Looking forward to the official harvest celebration with the kids in late February/early March!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Week 37 - It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

It's the most wonderful time of the year, but this year it seems busier than ever.  With two holiday parties to attend, and three and a half days of work travel this week, I have no idea if we're going to be able to use much of the box at all.  By the time I figured that out, though, it was too late to reschedule the week's box, so we're trying to make the best of it.  I traded a few harder-to-use-up items (swiss chard, eggplants) for the delicious strawberries that the farm has had available at their market stand, as strawberries (and generally any fruit) will always get eaten!  Quite a few items (lemons, carrots, beets and spaghetti squash) will make it until after I get back from my work trip, so I really just need to try to figure out a way to incorporate a few ingredients into a couple of meals. Following an overly ambitious week, this is going to be a pretty dull week in our kitchen.  Hopefully, next week's mad dash to use up what didn't get consumed this week will make up for it!

In the box this week
(top) lettuce, kale, spinach, cilantro
(bottom) beets, carrots, spaghetti squash, apples, lemons, strawberries

Meals/recipes for the week
Ideas for after my work trip
When all else fails, try a muffin, right?  Here's to everyone enjoying this next week, including me!  The holidays are right around the corner...
This week's title is inspired by the song of the same name by Andy Williams.

Week 36 in Review

The Score
Eaters - 8     Compost - 1.5     Carry Over - 0.5

My ambitious plan for week 36 turned out to be a bit too ambitious.  I never got around to the butternut squash soup (after roasting what I had from the previous week's carry over, there wasn't enough squash for both the muffins and the soup), and the Moroccan carrot and spinach salad didn't get made either (but I did enjoy a lovely juice featuring both ingredients).  The lettuce only got partially consumed and hit the compost with some of the cilantro that I couldn't use up before another big batch arrived in the next week's box.  At this time of year with so many events competing for my cooking time, though, I'm fine with the week's results.  Still wondering if we'll ever get to 10(+), 0, 0 for our score, but plenty of weeks left this year to get there. 

The Best
  • The butternut squash muffins were moist, delicious and very well received.  The frosting/glaze really puts them over the edge (and would be delicious on any vegetable-based muffin or bread)... don't skip the vanilla bean!

The Good

  • This is the way that I remember eating winter (acorn) squash as a kid, and it definitely brought back memories.  Unfortunately, my own kids weren't convinced.

The Rest
  • I am the only non-lover of beets in my entire family.  So, while they are never a hard sell for everyone else, I'm still looking for the recipe that helps me fall in love.  The recipe for roasted beets with balsamic glaze wasn't it for me (and I didn't get a photo of the finished product) but I'll keep looking.

  • I didn't get a photo of this latest batch of persimmons jam, but happily used up the last (I'm guessing) of this season's persimmons in a preserve that we will continue to enjoy for weeks and months to come!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Week 36 - Baby It's Cold Outside

Granted, we live in southern California, so it's not that cold.  But after a week of crazy winds and temperatures dipping into the low 40s - which is pretty cold for us - it seems like it's time to think of some warm, savory recipes that can be made with our wonderful box of vegetables and fruits.  I'm thinking of a lot of roasting (beets, acorn squash, last week's carry over butternut squash), baking, and simmering of soups and preserves.  Even if it's cold outside, we can be warm and cozy inside our home and bodies!

In the box this week
(top) lettuce, cilantro, beets, carrots
(bottom) acorn squash, avocado, spinach, lemons, apples, persimmons

Meals/recipes for the week
Maybe I'm taking on a little more than is realistic, but I really don't want anything to go to waste.  With fall sports over, we'll all have more time at home, so even if I'm setting a lofty goal, it will be fun to see if I can get it all done.
This week's title is inspired by the song of the same name by Dean Martin.

Week 35 in Review

The Score
Eaters - 7     Compost - 2     Carry Over - 2

I was actually a little surprised as I was downloading photos from the week to realize how much stuff actually got made this week.  It felt like we ate thanksgiving leftovers for most of the week, and truth be told we did.  But in between those big meals, I did enjoy some playtime in the kitchen after all.  This week, I didn't worry so much about 'using up the box,' so the green beans and lettuce ended up hitting the compost.  Instead, I started to think about the holidays ahead, and how I could use some of the ingredients in the box to make gifts that could help spread a little of the joy that I've been experiencing this year with others.

The Best
  • The apple butter made using the box's fuji apples, along with some pink ladies and extra fujis that I picked up from the farmer's market, has been a huge hit.   Though it took all day (I actually started mine early morning, and let it sit in the slow cooker all day), I know that we will enjoy this apple butter well into the spring.  Pretty good timing, since we only have one jar of home made strawberry jam left and need some sort of preserves to fill its place until strawberries come back in season.
 Cooking the apples on the stove
(they didn't quite fit into the slow cooker for step one)

 The apples after they'd been passed through the food mill
and put into the slow cooker

 Apple butter - dark and delicious and preserved for the coming months

The Good
  • After getting completely sick of the turkey and sides, we made some spicy kale and chickpeas, along with chicken masala for a nice change of flavors. 
  • French toast is always a favorite weekend breakfast, especially with fresh challah and fruits from the farmer's market.  The fall/winter strawberries were so sweet, and delicious with the crunchy apples and sprinkling of almonds!  No syrup needed.
  • The avocados from the box can't be beat, and a little spicy guacamole (with some added jalapeno) were also a nice change from the mellow turkey-day dishes that we'd been eating for days. 
  • When all else fails, I try to get out the juicer.  This apple, carrot, spinach juice with a little bit of added ginger was good - even the kids liked it.

The Rest
  • After the success of the apple butter, I was excited to try and find a use for some granny smith apples that I had purchased.  With mint overflowing in the garden, I decided it would be fun to try a mint jelly recipe.  Unfortunately, it didn't jell, though it tastes good and makes a pretty good syrup.
Apples and mint on the stove

 Mint syrup

Week 35 - Late

Thanksgiving week and all the cooking involved left me a little uninspired for the box that we received later that weekend.  In combination with the need to deliver a big project at work, I got really behind on a lot of things last week.  Since we ate thanksgiving leftovers well into the week, I planned a few recipes but not too many meals with the ingredients in the box.  Despite my planning, I was not able to carve out time to get anything published to the blog.  So, here's week 35 a week late.

In the box this week
 (top) lettuce, spinach, kale, celery
(bottom) butternut squash, carrots, green beans, apples, avocados, persimmons, strawberries

Recipes for the week
The colors of the week's box were so amazing.  While I wasn't feeling the desire to spend a lot of time in the kitchen after thanksgiving week, the beauty of the box reminded me how much I enjoy this experience; from the raw materials to the end products!
This week's title is inspired by the song of the same name by Ben Folds.

Week 34 in Review

The Score
Eaters - 12    Compost - 0     Carry Over - 0

With 13 people at Thanksgiving dinner, it was great to actually get through the ENTIRE box this week.  In fact, I think that this is the first time we had absolutely nothing hit the compost, nor anything carry over into the following week.   The box made for a really delicious, and fun, thanksgiving meal.  Though we had no ingredients to carry over, we had so much left from thanksgiving dinner that we had leftovers available for days and days!

The Best
The Good
  • The spicy cornbread stuffing with celery, peppers and andouille sausage (using homemade cornbread) definitely carried a kick and was a nice addition to the typical mellow dishes of thanksgiving.  I made it a day ahead per the instructions, but with the half and half mixed in that early, all the cornbread squares fell apart and it remained overly gooey even after baking.  Next time, I'd save this recipe for a 'day of' preparations.
  • Generally speaking, I'm not the biggest of yam fans, but with a delicious, sticky maple syrup, brown sugar, pecan topping, there wasn't much to dislike.
  • Since I had some extra persimmons to use up, I made up an little persimmons preserve recipe that ended up being quite a hit.  Five persimmons (peeled, seeded, and cut into wedges), 1/3 cup sugar, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 2 tablespoons water, 1 teaspoon cinnamon.  Cook over medium heat until persimmons start to break down (30-45 minutes).  Puree with immersion blender or in blender.  Store in refrigerator.

Persimmons preserves on top of an oat scone
(we sent home a jar of preserves and some oat scones
with both of the families that joined us for Thanksgiving dinner)
  • Not exactly thanksgiving-ish, but we used up the lettuce and cucumbers by making a 'philly cheesesteak' style salad with caramelized onions, grilled flank steak with melted provolone, and a horseradish lemon ranch dressing.  Yum!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Week 34 - Be Thankful For What You Got

Thanksgiving is a big deal in this family, as it is for many others.  Since my husband and I both love to cook, the day is truly a family affair and we go all out.  This year, we are extremely excited and very thankful to have our amazing box of produce available to inspire the dishes that will grace our celebration.  With thirteen people to feed, it's great to know that we'll have lots of variety on the table to enjoy!

In the box this week
(top) lettuce, carrots, celery, spinach
(middle) avocados, persimmons
(bottom) green beans, cucumbers, butternut squash, lemons, pumpkin, herb bundle

Thanksgiving recipes using the box
Other Thanksgiving recipes
Do I really have to wait five more days?  With all of these amazing dishes to try, I'm feeling very impatient!
This week's title is inspired by the song of the same name by Massive Attack.

    Friday, November 18, 2011

    Week 33 in Review

    The Score
    Eaters - 9      Compost - 0.5     Carry Over - 2.5

    Another delicious week in the kitchen, with most of what I set out to achieve accomplished.  I didn't get around the the persimmons pudding (though plan to make that this coming week as the persimmons are still in great shape) and we purposefully left the yams out of the plan to save for next week.  We have some avocado, and a bit of the carrots and celery, left over as well.  While some of the lettuce bit the dust yet again, it does feel like we made and ate a lot given last week's hefty box bounty.

    The Best

    The Good
    • In this ode to the pumpkin month, it was great to enjoy a savory pumpkin recipe.  The pumpkin ravoli recipe - broiled in the oven at the last minute with a sprinkle of brown sugar - was a delight.
    • The ode to pumpkin continued with these delicious pumpkin cookies, which really were more like mini pumpkin cakes... light, fluffy, yummy.

    • Used up a couple week's worth of carry over grape tomatoes - both yellow and red - in an easy tomato sauce that was embellished with homemade meatballs and spaghetti.  Those may have been the last really fresh tomatoes of the year... sigh.

    The Rest
    • While radishes aren't really loved by anyone in this family, pickled radishes didn't do much for any of us either.

    Saturday, November 12, 2011

    Week 33 - Fall

    When you've got one soup already made in the fridge, one hand on a butternut squash, the other hand on a soup pot, and yet another soup recipe going through your mind, I guess it's safe to call it fall.  The temperatures have dipped, and the ingredients in the box are definitely supportive of my focus on soup making.  Over the past couple of weeks, I've been making soups for lunches and dinners, and am planning to make at least another couple of soups this week.  Given that it's also nearing Thanksgiving, I may try to carry over at least one item in the box (yams!) in the hopes of using it for a turkey day recipe. 

    In the box this week
    (top) lettuce, celery, carrots, spinach
    (middle) pumpkin, avocados, yams, radishes, apples, persimmons
    (bottom) butternut squash, fresh thyme, marjoram, rosemary and sage

    Meals/recipes for the week
    As I sit and finish writing this, one soup is done, and I'm getting really excited for the rest of the week.  There are so many amazing recipes out there to try, and with so many amazing ingredients at my fingertips, I can't wait! 
    This week's title is inspired by the song of the same name by Miles Davis.

    Friday, November 11, 2011

    Week 32 in Review

    The Score
    Eaters - 9     Compost - 1     Carry Over - 1

    Lots of good eating this week, though many of the meals were my lunches instead of family dinners.  With one sick child, and another one busy with baseball playoffs, there were fewer sit down family dinners this week.  That freedom allowed me to play with spices and flavors that the kids aren't 100% comfortable with just yet.  Although I once again failed to get through all of the lettuce and chard, I do feel like I personally ate a lot of vegetables this week to make up for what everyone else wasn't eating. 

    The Best
    • I stumbled upon an amazing website of recipes this week (101 Cookbooks) and found a recipe for Otsu, a buckwheat noodle salad.  The dressing was amazing, and the recipe allowed me to use a generous portion of cilantro from the box.  Though this time around I substituted sauteed chicken for the tofu, I can see making this delicious recipe again and again with a variety of proteins.

    The Good
    • Over the weekend, my husband made pork tinga, which was a great hit with the kids.  The crunchy tostadas were the perfect canvas for the avocados, lettuce and cilantro from the box.
    • This lemon green beans with marcona almonds dish is definitely the best preparation of green beans that I've ever made; possibly the best green beans dish that I've ever tasted!  I seriously could have eaten the entire bowl.
    • Fall ingredients like pumpkin and persimmons made for a lovely, moist muffin.  Definitely got me in the mood for Thanksgiving!
    • One simple family dinner was linguine with zucchini and mint.  Though I'm still avoiding pasta for the short term, it smelled SO good - and the kids gobbled it up.
    The Rest