Sunday, June 26, 2011

Week 15 - Nice and Easy

This week, the craziness continues.  Though I'm finally recovered from a few rough days with the flu, I only have a couple of days at home until I leave for a conference which will take me away for three days.  My husband's work schedule has been pretty demanding of late, so he's not going to be able to pick up any meals while I'm away.  So, it's all about keeping things nice and easy this week; a recipe recently recommended by a friend, a trusted recipe that I know will get eaten up, and so on.

In the box this week
(top) arugula, lettuce, swiss chard, basil
(bottom) radishes, green garlic, sweet onions, zucchini, blood oranges, blackberries, strawberries
(extra purchases) tomato, figs

Meal plan for the week
Sunday: sweet crepes with fresh Blackberry syrup for breakfast; steaks and Arugula, apple and Radish salad for dinner
Other preparations: Zucchini bread to be used as snacks for the week; fresh Basil, Green Garlic pesto which will go straight into the freezer (omitting the cheese) for use at another time

We may not get through everything, but hopefully with a bit of extra cooking on Sunday, we'll get through quite a bit.  On that note, better get things going in the kitchen!
This week's title is inspired by the song Ballad of Nice & Easy by Gomez.

Week 14 in Review

The Score
Eaters - 7     Compost - 3.5     Carry Over - 0.5

This week was surely our worst so far.  It started off with an early pick up of the week's box.  We had planned to be away over the weekend (we usually pick up on Saturdays), and our only other local pickup option was on the Tuesday prior, at which time we were still working through the previous week's box.  Though many of the heartier veggies did fine, by the time we got around to using up most of the greens planned for this week's meal plan, they were in tough shape.  Combine that with me taken out for a few days by the flu, and there was a lot that didn't get made and a lot more than normal hitting the compost.  It is what it is, and we did have a few great meals, so time to report out and move on.

The Best
  • Father's day is always a time to make dad's favorite meals, and we couldn't resist throwing together a Strawberry-rhubarb pie to celebrate this year!  I think the boys have inherited their father's preferences, as this pie was gone in about two days.

The Good
  • This Blackberry-Squash bread was a little heartier than most zucchini breads that I've made, but also a lot healthier.  The boys were a bit skeptical of the taste at first (oat bran replaced a lot of the flour), but proceeded to eat up two loaves over the course of the week.
  • The Squash and asparagus strata met with mixed reviews.  No doubt, it was pretty to look at, and my husband LOVED it.  I couldn't quite get the eggs to set up the way that I'd prefer, and the boys weren't loving the 'soggy bread', but I think with some practice a strata could be a nice dish to occasionally rotate into our meal plan.  

Monday, June 20, 2011

I'll Be Waiting

In early April, I wrote about getting this year's garden going in Dig Your Hands in the Dirt.  It was a process that I had started a couple of months earlier, for the first time trying to get nearly everything I was going to grow started by seed.  By this time of the year, based on my previous experiences, we'd be enjoying the beginning of our harvest.  Not so this time around.  Given the smaller nature of my own seedlings (versus what I'd typically have bought at the nursery) along with a general lack of sun/heat so far this year, most of my plants have only gotten to the size of large seedlings.  It's been frustrating, but I'm encouraged by the fact that - though growth has been slow - I've only had a couple of the seedlings die.  It's likely still a couple of months before there is much to eat, but in the meantime I'll enjoy the more pleasant appearance of the garden (click here to see how it looked in early May). 

Everything grows
(protected from errant balls by lots of extra tomato ladders)

My potted fruit garden has been doing well, with three plus feet of growth on the fig tree and a few citrus on what I thought was a blood orange - but appears to be a lemon - tree.  I have recently added a potted grapefruit tree to the backyard, and am hoping the lone tree I have growing on my front porch is actually the blood orange that I thought was out back.  My potted lime had hundreds of blossoms a few months back, and now has 50+ fruits that have begun to mature.

Lemon tree, blueberries, fig tree

Meanwhile, tiny blossoms in the vegetable garden are slowly but surely turning into the beginnings of tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini and other delicious items.  Until all that goodness is ready, I'll just have to enjoy to process of watching everything grow.  My occasional handful of blueberries will have to keep me going for a couple more months!

Enjoying some homegrown Sunshine Blues

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

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Week 14 - Different Names for the Same Thing

Though we're definitely stating to see more summery fare, there continues to be a lot of greens in the box each week.  This week, the grown ups are thrilled to have tatsoi, swiss chard and basil - along with lettuce - in the box, but so many leafy greens tend to elicit a 'more of that, again?' type of response from the boys.  I've definitely found recipes that they've have eaten and even enjoyed, but we're fairly early on in this process to be using the same recipes over and over and over.  One of the goals of all of this is to build a repertoire of recipes for these vegetables to give us a great variety throughout the year.  So, while they may think I'm giving different names to the same thing, I'm not trying to pull a fast one on them.  I want them to know what they're eating, but it make take several tries with a particular ingredient to find a recipe that creates the best collective eating experience for all of us.

In the box this week
(top) lettuce, swiss chard, tatsoi, basil
(bottom) radishes, green garlic, green beans, summer squash, blackberries, navel oranges
(eaten before photographed) strawberries

Meal plan for the week
Sunday: Blackberry Squash bread and spicy Radish salad amongst our brunch fare; Strawberry-rhubarb pie for dessert (my husband's favorite for father's day)
Monday: Pesto (using Green Garlic and Basil) with pasta, Green Beans and potatoes
Thursday: Squash and asparagus strata

The most exciting part of this week?  We get to visit the farm on Saturday!  It will be so fun for all of us to see where our food has been growing, and learn more about what's headed our way this summer.  They'll even feed us a meal while we're there... maybe I'll pick up an idea or two??!!
This week's title is inspired by the song of the same name by Death Cab for Cutie.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Week 13 in Review

The Score
Eaters - 10.5     Compost - 0     Carry Over - 2.5

With as much travel as we've managed through (both parents on the East coast at one point, though never overlapping), it seems like we did a pretty good job this week.  We did make everything on our not-too-crazy plan, and had a few tremendous hits along the way.   I suppose one of the points of this whole process is to know that - while life will certainly have it's crazier moments - being proactive and planning ahead will allow us all to eat healthy meals at the times when it matters most.  While we have a little more to carry over into next week that we typically do (some summer squash, carrots and cucumbers, and all of the pickling cucumbers), I'm quite proud of what did get made!

 The Winner

The Good
  • The Green Bean bacon bundles is perhaps the best preparation of green beans that I've ever tasted.  I mean we've all had beans with bacon before, but the textures were perfect and with the brown sugar and garlic... all I can say is yum!
  • The summer berry crisp (with Strawberries and Blackberries) was a big hit at a gathering of friends, but it was gone before I remembered that I hadn't gotten a photo.

The Rest
  • The recipe for the sundried tomato Arugula pesto called for two bunches of arugula, so I figured that my relatively large bunch would suffice.  What I realized after it was made that I probably had about eight times as much as they were calling for, remembering that it's common to find arugula sold in relatively small bunches in plastic herb boxes at the grocery store.  The end result was overpowering and pretty much inedible, though I'm pretty sure the right balance of sundried tomatoes and arugula could be quite tasty.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Week 13 - Above the Clouds

June gloom is definitely upon us in southern California... long, grey days with misty marine layers that burn off very late in the day.  Not that we've had much sun yet anyway, as my barely-growing garden will attest.  I'm off to the other coast for a few days for work, though, where I hope I will see a bit of sun to go along with the thunderstorms that are expected.  The crazy thing is that I'm leaving on Monday literally an hour after my husband is supposed to arrive back in town from his family-related east coast trip.  Between his travels and my travels and a week plus of sole parenthood between the two of us, I'm not expecting this to be banner week for the project.  I'm making a couple of meals before I go, and hoping he can make time mid-week to get a couple of things made while I'm away.  So, while I am planning a few meals that make sense to me, I'm also prepared to expected the unexpected while I'm away.

In the box this week
(top) arugula, lettuce, cilantro
(bottom) green beans, turnips, summer squash, sweet onions, carrots, pickling cucumbers, cucumbers, navel oranges, blackberries, strawberries

Meal plan for the week
Weekend fun: Summer berry crisp (with Blackberries and Strawberries) for get together with friends
Wednesday: Daddy's choice, with a side of Green Bean bacon bundles

Realized that - as of this week - we're a quarter way through our year in the box.  I can't really imagine NOT eating like this, though I can imagine not documenting it all.  I shouldn't get ahead of myself though... there's still a long way to go, and a lot of eating to be done.

P.S. If this is your first time at Year in a Box, read this to learn more about what our family is up to! 
This week's title is inspired by the song of the same name by Paul Weller.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Week 12 in Review

The Score
Eaters - 10     Compost - 1     Carry Over - 1

It seems that the option - harkening back to the week's title - that I chose to exercise this week was to not follow the plan very well.  A perfect storm of a busy week at work, a traveling husband, and feeling a bit under the weather led to a lot less cooking than has been the norm of late.  I was pretty shocked, actually, when I checked the produce drawers this evening to find that we had eaten up as much as we had, even if we did veer pretty far off course.  Three months in, I guess that I shouldn't be surprised to have a week where I couldn't keep up with either the meal plan or the photography.  I'm really glad to see, though, that I was able to find more spontaneous ways for us to eat up what comes in the box.

The Winner
  • Without a doubt, this week's winner was the peach and Blackberry crisp.  With a touch of vanilla ice cream, it was absolutely summer eating at its best.

The Good
  • The peach jam recipe from Canning for a New Generation is (like everything else that I've tried so far from the book) spectacular!  The only sad part is that nearly four pounds of peaches only made four half pints, and two are already gone.
  • The Strawberry Spinach salad was a big hit with adults and kids alike.  That said, I think with in season produce that strawberries add a lot of sweetness and the dressing would be fine with half (or less) of the sugar. 
  • While making a batch of quick (Green) Garlic Dills, I also sliced up the Sweet Onions and made some caramelized onions (using a recipe from The Joy of Cooking) to top our turkey burgers.  Yum!
  • We also tried a bread recipe that is featured (as an important 'base' product for so many of the other recipes) in Canning for a New Generation, and it turned out pretty well for a first try.

Highlight of the week
  • It was only a few, but we picked our first backyard blueberries this week.  Nothing like a warm, fresh blueberry straight off the bush! 

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Week 12 - Options

The farmer's market is just bursting with options these days, and it's lots of fun.  On Tuesday each week, we receive an email from our CSA that tells us what will be in the box when we pick it up on Saturday.  That gives me a few days to look around for recipes and otherwise get inspired.  Now that summer is nearly upon us, the real fun has started to occur AFTER visiting the market on Saturday morning - after picking up the box, confirming our week's choices (they let us swap out up to two items for other available items), and evaluating selections available from other farms.  Since it feels like more and more of our shopping is occurring at the farmer's market, I thought it might be fun to start showing both what's in our box for the week, as well as the other ingredients that we pick up while we're there. 

In the box this week
(top) Spinach, Lettuce, Kale
(bottom) Green Beans, Sweet Onions, Pickling Cucumbers, Dill, Navel Oranges, Lemons, Blackberries, Strawberries

Meal plan for the week
Weekend fun: peach jam, plain yogurt (try #2, using our first attempt as the starter)
Sunday: Headed over to our friends' house for dinner bringing Strawberry Spinach salad and peach and Blackberry crisp
Monday: Kale, potato and Sweet Onion frittata
Tuesday: Chinese chicken salad (using Lettuce, Sweet Onions and Oranges) and sesame Green Beans
Wednesday: Pork shoulder with cherry sauce
Thursday: turkey burgers with fresh Garlic Dill pickles (made the day before using this week's Pickling Cucumbers and last week's left over Green Garlic)

Other farmer's market purchases
Pork shoulder and eggs from our meat & dairy CSA, peaches, strawberries, blackberries, cherries

I'm really excited about this week's meals; with a bounty like this, who wouldn't be. 

P.S. If this is your first time at Year in a Box, read this to learn more about what our family is up to! 
This week's title is inspired by the song of the same name by Gomez.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Week 11 in Review

The Score
Eaters - 10.5    Compost - 0     Carry Over - 0.5
The produce bins in the fridge are almost completely empty. That hasn't happened in a long while. It's a sign that a) we ate up most of what was in last week's box, as well as the heads of lettuce from the previous week, and b) we are really getting to the point where meal planning is resulting in consumption that matches what we're buying. Don't get me wrong: this whole project has taken up quite a bit of time and really required us to plan ahead and shop with purpose. That said, we have wasted less food over the past few months than I can ever remember, and I'm glad for that. Our freezer and pantry isn't bursting at the seams, since we're trying to use up ingredients that have been sitting around for a long time and we buy what we need. That is freeing up space that I hope we'll be able to better utilize with the produce coming from the box, and sooner or later the garden. The more that we embrace this whole experiment, the more we learn that there are so many ways to can and freeze the good stuff so it can be available later! 

The Winner
  • The only unfortunate thing about this week's winner is that the bacon wasn't the stuff that my husband is currently working on (curing a piece of pork belly from our meat CSA).  Who knew a BLC (bacon, Lettuce, Cucumber) was so fantastic?  The spiced, minted mayo (with Green Garlic) put it over the top, and was a huge hit with the entire family.

The Good
  • The Lemon Basil chicken salad made for some delicious holiday weekend sandwiches, accompanied by some warm homemade baguettes
  • The strawberry jam was simple, but has been quite a treat.  As I was making it, I kept thinking that we'd have a year's worth (a baker's dozen half-pints), but at the rate we're going through it, I'm not so sure.


  • The Orange and Beet salad was both beautiful (using the dark red leaf Lettuce) and tasty.  Next time I'd add a little blue cheese for both color and flavor.
  • Forgot to take photos of the Lemonade and the hot Spinach artichoke dip, but both we're huge hits with dinner guests over the holiday weekend (and the latter was so tasty using fresh, vs. frozen, spinach).
The Rest
  • This spaghetti recipe got a big thumbs down from both of the boys.  It got a 'Mom - I really like kale, but the Swiss Chard just makes everything taste weird in this.'  Unfortunately, I sort of agreed with his review.