Sunday, July 31, 2011

Week 20 - Summertime

With the arrival of some gorgeous tomatoes in our box (and a few starting to emerge in our garden), it finally feels like summertime.  The colors in the box have gone from many shades of green to a brighter palette of reds, oranges, yellows, and should make for some beautiful summer meals in the coming week.  That said, we have welcomed a new puppy into our lives (Olive!), and so hoping not to have to cook anything too time intensive this week.  With ingredients like these, hopefully they'll do most of the work for me.

In the box this week
(top) lettuce, green beans, lemon cucumbers, cabbage, arugula
(bottom) carrots, cauliflower, tomatoes, yellow watermelon, cantaloupe, strawberries

Meal plan for the week
Monday: Tomato and basil quiche, salad with Lettuce, Lemon Cucumbers, Carrots
Thursday: make fresh sauerkraut for consumption next week

It's my 20th week of blogging our box, and I just had my 2,000th visit to the blog!  I can't really say what my expectations were in terms of viewership as I got this started, but I'm pleased to find that it's been good reading for at least a few people.  In the coming weeks, my goal is to get all of the recipes tagged by ingredient, and then create links through to the recipes by either fruit or veggie.  As I embarked on this journey, I did expect to become much more comfortable with the ingredients, but I'm now also realizing that I'm learning a lot about this mode of communication.  By the end of this year, I hope I'll have gotten closer to mastering both.

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 Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Week 19 in Review

The Score
The Eaters - 7.5     Compost - 1     Carry Over - 1.5
For another crazy summer week, we were able to get to everything on our meal plan, but still have some radishes, watermelon and basil left over.  Some of the lettuce (yet again... sigh) hit the compost, making me finally realize that we should trade one of the heads of lettuce out for something else when picking up the box.  For us it's been veggie consumption up, salad consumption down, and I'm just now realizing that's just fine!  After my not so great experience with the fried green tomatoes last week, I wasn't so sure how excited I was to have them in the box again.  That said, I've now completely changed my story.  The two recipes that I made with the green tomatoes were my/our favorites for the week.

The Best
  • On the night he grilled fish, my husband decided to grill some of the previous week's zucchini and onions, and I asked him to also try grilling a couple of the green tomatoes.  The end result looked like this:
  • I saved about 2/3 of the onions and the tomatoes, and used them to make the Green Tomato Salsa Verde the next day (yum!), which was used to make the chicken enchiladas, with a bit served fresh on top.  We all LOVED the whole dish, and I would make the salsa verde again in a heartbeat!
 Green Tomato Salsa Verde
Chicken Enchiladas

The Good
  • Another favorite was the Green Tomato caprese recipe that I served warm with pasta.  This play on a checca dish was fabulous.
  • The peach Grapefruit sauce (served over grilled fish) was a huge hit with the kids, and made for a beautiful plate.

The Rest
  • The Swiss Chard artichoke dip was actually quite delicious, but the color was unappetizing and the consistency was a bit off.  I'd make it again, but would cut the sour cream, mayonnaise and Worcestershire sauce amounts in half. 
  • Admittedly, I'm not a big coleslaw fan, though I was hopeful when I found the recipe for Hawaiian-style slaw.  The tropical flavors, however, didn't do much for anyone.  Too sweet, not very good.  

Monday, July 25, 2011

Week 19 - Knocks Me Off My Feet

Life is full of surprises, many that knock you down unexpectedly.  I just found out that a good friend (and former boss) passed away this weekend from complications of his Type 1 diabetes, which he had managed since childhood.  Only a few years older than me, it's so hard to get my head around the fact that he is gone.  As I try to make sense out of something that seems senseless, one of the only things that I can hold onto right now is my own effort to stay healthy.  Diabetes is in my family history, and I have an increased risk of onset since I had gestational diabetes when I was pregnant with the boys.  Sometimes it feels hard to eat as well as I should, but today is not one of those days.  Continuing this journey - with my health, with the health of my family, with the box - seems all the more important today, as I remember my friend who left this world too soon. 

In the box this week
(top) lettuce, cabbage, basil, swiss chard
(bottom) radishes, cucumbers, green tomatoes, grapefruit, watermelon, strawberries
Meal plan for the week
Sunday: grilled fish with Grapefruit peach salsa
Monday: spaghetti with grilled Green Tomato, Basil caprese
Tuesday: chicken enchiladas with Green Tomato salsa verde
Wednesday: hot Swiss Chard artichoke dip for a potluck
Thursday: turkey burgers with Hawaiian coleslaw

Not much else to say for this week, but here's "to your health."
This week's title is inspired by the song of the same name by Stevie Wonder.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Week 18 in Review

The Score
Eaters - 10     Compost - 0.5   Carry Over - 1.5

This ended up being a pretty easy, breezy carefree week of cooking.  Of course, having a husband who loves to cook helps a lot, and he did make some amazing meals last weekend.  The plan of keeping things fairly simple worked well, though, for our mid-week meals.  We lost a bit of basil that lost it's gusto before we had a chance to use it all up, and have some onions, lemons and a few zucchini from two weeks ago that we're carrying over.  Given the pace of our summer nights, though, I feel like we've been both eating well, and continuing to enjoy our box.

The Best
  • Our family loves chicken, but the Lemon tarragon Sweet Onion roasted chicken took things to a new level of enjoyment.  If you look closely, you can see some tarragon hiding under the skin, while the lemon and onions were hiding in the cavity.  

The Good
  • While we neglected to get 'after' photos, my husband made some delicious pizzas on the grill over the weekend, which featured a variety of yummy ingredients from the box and farmer's market (photo was taken while he was planning his pizzas)
  • We used some pesto in this pasta recipe that we had previously made and frozen (worked perfectly, just added the parmesan after defrosting), and with some green beans and a Jamie Oliver chopped salad, used five CSA ingredients in this meal

The Rest
  • I think it was more execution than recipe, but sadly I can't say that I was the biggest fan of my fried green tomatoes.  I'm not a very experienced food frier, and I think I cooked them too quickly and didn't give the tomatoes a chance to soften up at all.  The flavors were good, but I think there are probably better versions of this to try out there.  

Monday, July 18, 2011

Week 18 - Summer Nights

It's going to be another jam-packed week, between work, sports camp during the day for the boys, and swimming lessons in the evenings.  Summer nights are busy, always in a fun way: the sun is out, the temperatures are inviting, people are visiting.  I need to plan some meals that can either be partially assembled earlier in the day, or that are quick fixes, so they can be quickly finished when we return from our evening adventures.  Gratefully, we have some wonderful summer ingredients in the box this week, and I already have lots of great ideas for this week's meals.

 Clockwise from the top center: blackberries, broccoli, swiss chard, basil, peaches, green beans, lettuce, sweet onions, lemons, green tomatoes, strawberries, cucumbers

Meal plan for the week
Sunday: pizzas on the grill with Green Tomatoes, Sweet Onions, Basil and some of last week's Zucchini (in addition to figs and some other farmer's market finds)
Monday: Broccoli, Swiss Chard omelettes, summer salad with Lettuce, Cucumbers and Strawberries
Tuesday: Lemon, tarragon (from the garden), and Sweet Onion chicken with Fried Green Tomatoes (I've always loved that movie, and have always wanted to try making them!)

I was so excited to see tomatoes in the box this week, and my husband picked up some peaches as well; my two summer favorites.  Unlike many winter favorites, nearly nothing needs to be done to the best summer ingredients to enjoy them.  Every minute not spent in the kitchen is another minute that I can spend outside with my family, or tending to my own garden, a must as we wait for our own own tomatoes, melons, squash, cucumbers, peppers, etc. to be ready for harvest time!

Finally starting to get some height and, most importantly, blossoms!
This week's title is inspired by the song of the same name from the soundtrack to Grease.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Week 17 in Review

The Score
Eaters - 9     Compost - 0     Carry Over - 1

For a meal planning "vacation" week, we did a pretty good job of eating stuff up.  We made a couple of big green salads over the weekend, along with a veggie/rice noodle stir fry featuring the Broccoli and Tatsoi for meatless Monday.  The boys eat a lot of cucumbers and fruit, and we love avocados around here, so it was actually an easy week for us to do well.  I had caramelized up the onions, and we still have a few left that will likely get eaten up on sandwiches this weekend.  We also still have quite a few zucchinis left, but I had bought several extra pounds last weekend on my quest to create a super healthy, moist, tasty version of zucchini bread for the family.  Last week, I experimented with banana and zucchini together, which had some merits, but the spices were a bit off.  The experimentation continues this week, and once I have a great recipe to share, it will get posted here.  What we didn't do AT ALL this week was take photos; sort of the opposite of what one does on a vacation week.  Oh, well.  Time to start over again as Week 18 begins!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Week 17 - Vacation!

So, truth be told, I'm not going on vacation.  We did have a night away this past weekend, but it was more obligation than getaway, and it was over 100 degrees at our destination so it wasn't very relaxing.  I have travel this week as well, but it's three days on the East coast for work, so that doesn't count as vacation either.  In the middle of all of that, there is summer camp and swimming lessons, and all of the other fun and chaotic stuff that happens over the summer with the kids out of school.  So, this week, I'm taking a vacation from the meal plan.  Given that I'm just getting around to writing this and it's already Monday night, I can say that we've already used up quite a bit of the box already.  Even if I did write up a plan, with swimming lessons every night from 6-6:30, there's a good chance that nothing I planned would get made anyway.  I did have a bit of a chance to 'play' with some of the ingredients over the past few days, and even created my first real recipe since starting this whole process.  Since that creation is in the oven right now, I'll wait until this week's report out to let you know what I tried and whether it's worth passing along the recipe.  And, since this is real life, I will also plan to let you know what we did and didn't eat up given the craziness ahead.

In the box this week
(top) lettuce, broccoli, tatsoi
(bottom) cucumbers, onions, zucchini, avocados, ruby grapefruits, blackberries, strawberries

Can you guess what ingredient I'm planning to experiment with in the coming week?

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 the Go-Go's.

Week 16 in Review

The Score
Eaters - 8.5    Compost - 2.5 (ugh!)     Carry Over - 0

Not a banner week for executing against the plan.  Between the holiday weekend, and busy summer nights (full of more activities than I can keep up with, it seems), there were a couple of nights where the best laid meal plan just didn't come together.  By the time I got around to them, the sorrel and kale - which I didn't take steps to preserve very well in the fridge - were wilted and looking pretty sad.  I still do want to try the recipes that I found but never got made (grilled coconut kale, halibut with sorrel-tomato sauce), but here's the report out on what we did enjoy this past week.

The Best
  • The 'red, white and blue' crisp was a big hit at a fourth of July potluck.  White peaches, along with Strawberries, Blackberries and blueberries made for a lovely purple goo by the time they were done cooking, but everyone appreciated the effort, and the flavors, in the crisp!

The Good
  • My husband rotisseried a chicken, and glazed it with an improvised Grapefruit smoked paprika sauce.  Yum!
  • I must admit, I was very skeptical about this Asian style Kohlrabi salad as it came together.  Individually the aromas of the ingredients just didn't seem to be working.  Once it was all tossed together, though, it was a completely different story.  For my first try at preparing kohlrabi, I was very pleased - and I'd definitely make this delicious salad again!

  • Hard to go wrong with red white and blue french toast on the fourth.  Or, wait...  'American' toast?
  • This lovely salad included seven ingredients from our CSA box (current and previous weeks): Lettuce, Celery, Cucumbers and Carrots; Zucchini and Sweet Onions, grilled; and a Green Garlic, mustard vinagrette.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Week 16 - Fireworks

Summer has finally arrived, in perfect time for the holiday weekend.  This is the time of year that my husband takes over a lot of the cooking, so these days I'm looking for recipes based around some sort of grilled main course.  Unless it involves the baking some delicious summer fruit dessert, I'm a lot less interested in indoor food preparations.  Fire up some protein, whip up a veggie side, and done.  Time to light the grill, and keep it going all summer long. 

In the box this week
(top) kale, sorrel, lettuce, celery
(bottom) kohlrabi, cucumbers, grapefruit, onions, zucchini, blackberries, strawberries

Meal plan for the week
Sunday: Grilled Zucchini and Onion salad with grilled sausages
Monday: Red, white and blue crisp (with Blackberries, Strawberries and white peaches) for a 4th of July potluck
Tuesday: Grilled coconut Kale, asian style Kohlrabi and grilled skirt steak
Thursday: Grilled chicken with a Grapefruit marinade

Using recipes for some of the meals this week... winging it with the available ingredients for other meals.  Some new produce on the menu this week (kohlrabi, sorrel), but excited to experiment as long as it doesn't involve too much time slaving over the stove.  Happy 4th to all!
This week's title is inspired by the song of the same name by Alan Menken from the movie The Little Mermaid.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Week 15 in Review

The Score
Eaters - 12     Compost - 0.5     Carry Over - 0.5

When writing last week, I forgot to mention that we didn't end up being able to attend the farm tour.  I had been down and out with the flu and, the day we were supposed to drive down to San Diego, I still had a 100+ degree fever and my husband wasn't feeling so great either.  While we were super disappointed to miss the opportunity to see where all of the GREAT produce from our box comes from, I was all the more saddened when I saw the recipes for what was served that day.  I'm already looking forward to next year's tour, and hoping that we will all be healthy that time.

As far as the week went, taking it nice and easy seemed to work well for us.  Finding a balance between being very prescriptive, and leaving some room for spontaneity probably will work well for us during grilling season!

The Best
  • The Blackberries have just been amazing (only wish they had more available!).  I sauteed them with a couple of tablespoons of sugar and about a tablespoon of lemon juice, and the syrup made for some delicious breakfast crepes!

The Good
  • Hard to go wrong with Caramelized sweet onions!  I made a large batch, then have been using them in meals all week.  
  • Caramelized onions were also called for in the strata with Swiss Chard and sausage recipe, but by the time I got making the recipe, it was almost dinner time (note to self: always COMPLETELY read the recipes in advance).  I didn't have time to bake the strata for an hour, so I improvised the ingredients into a faster cooking frittata.  Flavors were great, so have to imagine the strata would have been amazing.

The Rest
  • The Zucchini bread was a big hit, even with double the zucchini and cutting the sugar by one cup.  Next time I want to try a version of this recipe that replaces vegetable oil with coconut oil, cuts the sugar by half, substitutes in some applesauce, and still doubles up on the zucchini.
  • The Basil-Green Garlic pesto got made and is in the freezer for another time.
  • The gorgeous blood oranges made for some delicious juice.