Saturday, April 30, 2011

Week 7 - Eat It!

Or perhaps that should be don't eat it.  After a year of struggling with food sensitivity issues that seemingly came out of nowhere, but passing every possible allergy test with flying colors, I have started seeing a new physician who wants to take a very systematic approach to figuring out what's going on.  I'm 95% convinced that I've somehow become histamine intolerant, which impacts my ability to consume tomatoes, strawberries, spinach and alcohol (especially red wine) amongst other things.  I went to this new doctor hoping that we might figure out a way to jump start my immune system in order that it might once again be able to process the histamines found in so many foods that I love.  The alternative requires dealing with facial swelling and antihistamines that don't always work or - worse - no consumption of these wonderful foods. 

On the road to a formal diagnosis, I'm on an elimination diet which allows me to eat legumes, vegetables (except potatoes, tomatoes, eggplants, peppers), fruits (except citrus and strawberries), nuts (except peanuts and pistachios), rice, soy, healthy oils, chicken and turkey, but requires that I completely avoid dairy, eggs, red or processed meats, gluten, corn, wheat, caffeine, alcohol, and sugars.  Two weeks on this plan, then I can start adding back one food at a time.  The good news in that I will be able to consume mostly everything in the box this week.  The bad news is that finding recipes that will work for both me and my family has been quite time consuming.

In the box this week
(top) Spinach, Kale, Rosemary, Butter and Red Lettuce
(bottom) Carrots, Summer Squash, Bunching Onions, Zucchini,
Apples, Blood Oranges, Strawberries
Meal plan for the week
Sunday: Grilled chicken marinated in Rosemary & Bunching Onion infused olive oil, Butter Lettuce and Carrot salad, garlic Rosemary white bean dip
Monday: Moroccan quinoa pilaf with Kale and Carrots
Tuesday: Grilled chicken with Spinach and pasta (I'll sub rice noodles for me, and skip the parm)
Wednesday: Curried Zucchini soup with Carrots and Apples (sub olive oil for butter)
Thursday: Grilled turkey burgers with Red Lettuce and Carrot salad
One day this week: Zucchini-pineapple bread for the rest of the family (and I think I'll add in some grated Carrots, too)

On day four of this diet, the no caffeine, no sugar part is definitely getting easier; not that I'm a major offender on either front, but it's still physically very noticable going cold turkey.  That said, it will take a few food miracles to not get completely tired of the few ingredients that it feels like I can eat... Hopefully the variety of veggies in the box will keep things fresh and exciting for me during an otherwise very bland food week!

This week's title is inspired by the Weird Al Yankovic song of the same name.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Week 6 in Review

The Score
Eaters - 8.5   Compost - 1.5    Carry Over -1.0
Just when things had started to feel easier... train wreck week!  Maybe I have gotten too adventuresome for my own good, but a lot of the recipes this week felt flat, or worse.  I certainly don't want to just prepare the same ingredients in the same ways over and over again.  I guess that I need to remember that this is still very early in the experiment, and for every success, there will probably be at least one failure.  In terms of what didn't get consumed, one recipe was pretty much inedible and hit the compost, along with half a head of lettuce that I couldn't refresh back to good health.  And, after all of my enthusiasm for blood oranges last week, for now my diet needs to be completely free of citrus (and more, see Week 7), so a few of our oranges and lemons will remain with us into next week.

The Good
  • The homemade herb pesto (featuring rosemary from the box, as well as oregano and parsley from our garden) was delicious along with a grilled pork tenderloin.  The recipe was improvised by my husband

The So-So
  • The spinach potato frittata was decent, but reviews from the kids drew comparisons to many other similar frittatas served in past weeks.  All in all, the ingredients were fairly bland

The Ugly
  • I actually didn't think that the sauteed swiss chard with parmesan was that bad, but it elicited gags from my kids, and that's something I hardly ever see.  I'm thinking it was more texture than taste, but probably won't try again to find out
  • Do to the loss of some of our lettuce, as well as a change in our plans late week, the steak salad never got made (though the rest of the lettuce did get eaten up anyway)
  • Kale chips - where did you (I) go wrong.  How can 516 people rate the recipe 4 1/2 stars, and yet the results taste so disgusting to my whole family?  

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Week 6 - Back to Life

We took a week off from the CSA (gratefully, they allow us to do that once per 12 week term) while I went across the country for work, then met my family at the Grand Canyon for a few days of camping during spring break.  It was a fantastic but tiring week, and I got really behind on a lot of things, including this blog.  A dear friend picked up our box for us this week, and so as I get back into life and reality, I'm also working to get our family back on a meal plan, and the blog up to date!  And with that, here's week 6!

In the box this week
(top) Spinach, Kale, Swiss Chard, Lettuce, Rosemary
(bottom) Beets, Carrots, Lemons, Apples, Blood Oranges, Strawberries

Meal plan for the week
Sunday: Lemon-Rosemary roasted chicken breasts, roasted Beets
Monday: Spinach & potato frittata
Tuesday: Sauteed Swiss Chard with parmesan, roasted pork tenderloin with herb pesto (including Rosemary and other good stuff from our happy herb garden)
Wednesday: Turkey burgers with homemade Kale chips
Thursday: Thai-style steak salad with Lettuce and Carrots

Our happy herb garden

In the midst of all of this cooking, I realized that there are a lot of yummy cocktails that can be made with blood oranges!  My favorite so far is a simple blood orange juice with vanilla vodka over ice, but I want to try a blood orange ginger cosmo, and perhaps a basil infused blood orange cocktail as well.  Too many amazing ingredients, too little time...

P.S. If this is your first time visiting, read this to learn more about what our family is up to!

This week's title is inspired by the Soul II Soul song of the same name.

Week 5 in Review

The Score
Eaters - 12.5   Compost - .5    Carry Over - 0
With my parents in town for the week, we did a great job of eating nearly everything for the first time!  We had a few carrots go uneaten, followed by a week out of town (see Week 6), and by the time we got home they were past their prime and had to hit the compost.  We made some fantastic meals this week, though, and our Oregon visitors really appreciated all of the fresh ingredients that we were able to incorporate into our meals courtesy of our California CSA box!

The Good
  • We gobbled down the chicken mole verde recipe that allowed us to use cilantro and the entire radish plant (tops and roots)
  • The green garlic, lemon salad dressing was wonderful on top of fresh lettuce, spinach, carrots and radishes from the box, and also it was delicious as a spread for bread - yum! 

The So-So
  • The steak salad (featuring skirt steak from our meat CSA) was good but while eating it, it definitely felt like something was missing.  I later realized that I had forgotten to add chili paste to the dressing, which I think would have brought the flavors together quite nicely.

The Ugly
  • Call me crazy, but the bitter tendencies of the braised greens just did not blend well with the sweetness of the apple and sweet potato.  I give this one a big fat thumbs down (though others in the family didn't feel as adamantly opposed to it as I was)

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Week 5 - Spring is Here Again!

How do I know this?  Not from the weather (i.e. recent nights with temperatures that have dropped into the 30s)... no.  I know this because of this week's box, and the inclusion of green garlic.  From what I've read - which I needed to do, since I've personally never cooked with it before - green garlic is a first sign of the season.  If this is true, I couldn't be more thrilled.  I'm so ready for warmer weather, the gardening it allows and the crops it supports.  We're all looking forward to some new items arriving in our box, but for now we'll have to be happy with mostly more of the same while experimenting with a green portent of many good things to come!

In the box this week
(top) Lettuce, Swiss Chard, Braising Greens, Arugula, Cilantro
(bottom) Carrots, Spinach, Green Garlic, Radishes, Beets, Apples, Blood Oranges, Strawberries

Meal plan for the week
Sunday: Skirt steak salad with Blood Oranges, Radishes and Arugula
Monday: Out to dinner for burger night at Rustic Canyon, which serves seasonal cuisine and was recently voted the best gourmet burger in LA
Tuesday: Roasted pork tenderloin, Beets, and Swiss Chard with Green Garlic
Wednesday: Sweet potatoes, Apples and Braising Greens with baked ham
Thursday: Chicken braised in pumpkin seed mole (with Radishes and Cilantro)
Somewhere in there for lunch: Lettuce, Spinach and Carrot salad with lemony Green Garlic dressing

Off to bed I go.  One thing I know is that with all this cooking and food and eating (as healthy as it may be), I need to be getting up and getting my exercise in before work.  Food preparation, along with dinner and parenting, takes up all of my post-work hours these days, so I gotta get up and be active early.  Yet another reason that I can't wait for it to warm up around here!

P.S. If this is your first time visiting, read this to learn more about what our family is up to!

This week's title is inspired by the Nirvana song In Bloom.

Week 4 in Review

The Score
Eaters - 12   Compost - 1    Carry Over - 1
Getting back to full eating capacity this week meant that we did a much better job tackling the box (and previous week's carry over).  We ate a lot of great meals with a lot of delicious vegetables (and one amazing pie!), but most of the fennel tops hit the compost since they were able only to make a minor appearance in our lives this week.  One head of lettuce didn't get eaten but is still in great shape and will carry over into our next week of meals.

The Good
  • The halibut over tatsoi was once again devoured by all.  A few tweaks to the sauce (less sugar, more jalapenos) made it even more delicious than the last time.
  • My husband made his favorite pie - strawberry-rhubarb - and adorned it with the logo of his favorite team - the Red Sox! 
The So-So
  • The grilled chicken with braised greens and polenta was gorgeous.  I was out that evening, so sadly I didn't get to try it.  According to the boys, the greens were good, but they weren't too excited about the firm polenta. 
  • The leek and swiss chard frittata was actually loved by all, and included some added tarragon that really went nicely with both veggies.  Given that I was never able to find a recipe for fennel tops, however, they made an appearance on our plates this week solely as a garnish, and that seemed kind of sad.

The Ugly

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Dig Your Hands in the Dirt!

This is a bit of an aside from the weekly routine, but I do hope to feature occasional updates showcasing our efforts to eat VERY locally - gardening!  I have done a bit of gardening here and there over the past ten years, but this year I'm really trying to get back to my roots (grandparents were farmers in Washington state) and take a very planned approach.

Getting prepped for planting

We're urban renters, with a teeny tiny backyard that has one corner that gets full sun.  After a recent building project, we now have 26 square feet of raised beds with a lot of room to grow 'up'.  I plan to use a French intensive method of gardening (as learned from Marta Teegan), designed to produce a lot in a small area.

Blood orange tree, blueberries, fig tree

We also have a container herb garden with all of the usual suspects, as well as fruit in containers - lemon, lime, blood orange, fig, blueberries - and along the fence (strawberries in a Woolly Pocket) in areas that get enough sun. 

In the beginning

So after years of buying seedlings from the fabulous Hayground team at their Santa Monica Farmer's Market stand, I decided to go for it and start from seed myself.  What I really didn't realize was how much room it would take!  What started as one small tray of seedling pots (see above) has now grown, divided and taken up a good portion of our master bedroom, the only room in our place that gets semi-decent light all day.  The good news is that I haven't killed off anything yet.

I've started 'hardening off' my first batch of seeds, including cucumbers and some summer squash, and am hoping to get a few of these plants in the beds next week.  I hope my little guys are happy once they get outside.  I had no idea how much excitement would be generated by seeing the seeds begin to sprout.  That's the kind of relationship with food that I want to have!

This week's title is inspired by the Arrested Development song Children Play with Earth.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Week 4 - Off With Their Heads!

If this is your first time visiting, read this to learn more about what we're up to!

Meal planning this week has been a bit of a challenge.  For one, I've got five items from last week's box to use up, in addition to the (gratefully only) nine we received this week.  I'm really at a loss though, because I have NO idea what to do with fennel tops, which is one of the ingredients that we just received.  I can find plenty of recipes for fennel, but nothing much that looks appetizing using only the tops.  So, for now this week's meal plan is taking on everything but the fennel tops.  Recipe recommendations will be gladly accepted!

In the box this week
(top row) Lettuce, Braising Greens, Swiss Chard
(bottom row) Carrots, Fennel Tops, Leeks, Blood Oranges, Apples, Strawberries

Meal plan for the week
Sunday: Rapini with fusilli and sausage (rapini from last week, sausage from our new meat CSA)
Monday: Leek and Swiss Chard frittata 
Tuesday: Halibut over spicy Tatsoi (repeat recipe at the boys' request, using up last week's tatsoi)
Wednesday: Braised Greens over polenta with grilled chicken
Thursday: Turkey taco salads with Lettuce, Carrots, and grilled Leeks

I'm hoping at some point that cooking with all these amazing vegetables will feel more routine.  For now, it feels like it takes an immense amount of work and planning, and I feel like I'm barely finding time to document any of the process.  There are definitely some moments of joy along the way - seeing my kids eat brand new veggies, receiving my first perfect "10" on a meal, checking out what we've eaten over the past month using one of Blogger's new view options - but it's also eating up a big chunk of time each week and sometimes I wonder what it will feel like to get to the 'end' of this.  Since we're only at week four though I think it's best to just take it day by day and not get too far ahead of myself.  It does seem sort of exciting to think that in a year's time I just might know what to do with those dang fennel tops...

This week's title is inspired by the Kaiser Chiefs album of the same name, and of course the Queen of Hearts!

Week 3 in Review

The Score
Eaters - 6.5    Compost - 1    Carry Over - 3.5
This week I found it very hard to keep to the meal plan.  My husband was on the road Monday through Thursday, and I not only had to take care of all of the cooking, there was also a lot of mid-week running around that was mine to get done.  The end result was that cooking time was significantly impacted, and there was also one less adult to help with the eating.  There were two meals - the penne and stir fry - that I never got around to making so we ended up with a lot of carry over (rapini, tatsoi, as well as some lettuce, carrots and leeks).  This week's cilantro wilted amazingly quickly and went into the compost bin, but fortunately I had some left over from last week's box that was still in great shape and contributed to one of the week's recipes.  I'm just grateful that most of what we do have is fresh enough to carry over from week to week, as there will often be crazy weeks like this!

The Good
  • My husband's chicken dish with braised fennel and leeks was amazing... a perfect lazy Sunday meal
  • The pork chops with apple chutney were delicious, and accompanied by last week's yummy beets.  I neglected to mention that my husband was SO excited about the way we've been eating with our produce CSA that he decided to join a organic meat, poultry and eggs CSA (more on that another time).  This meal was devoured by the boys, and was the first meal rated (by one) a perfect "10"!
Happy, post-meal beet teeth!
The So-So
  • The kale with lentils was quite tasty, but I'm still on the quest for a good tikka masala recipe.  This week's attempt was way too runny, and void of some of the flavors that I was looking for.  The cilantro-mint chutney was alright, but I feel like the addition of yogurt threw the flavors off a bit.  There is still so much to master in this cooking adventure.

The Ugly
  • The only unfortunate meals this week were the ones that never got made.