Monday, October 31, 2011

Week 31 - Mix

Now that I've been at this a while, I'm finding myself more comfortable working outside the confines of any particular recipe.  I feel like I often start with one or two as inspiration, but the end result often becomes its own creation.  So, for this week, I'm going to take a couple of recipes for the same meal and then will report back later in the week as to how they mix together and the success (or failure) of the outcome.  Should be a fun week!

In the box this week
(top) lettuce, basil, spinach, swiss chard
(bottom) squash, beans, avocados, cantaloupe, yellow grape tomatoes, apples, small sugar pumpkin (accidentally left out of photo)

Meals/recipes for the week
Looking forward to letting the experimentation continue, and hoping that things turn out well enough that I'm not having to scramble to make other meals.  We'll see!
This week's title is inspired by the song of the same name by Gomez.

Week 30 in Review

The Score
Eaters - 8.5     Compost - 1.5    Jack-o-Lantern - 1

My lack of planning turned out about as expected.  I threw together a few meals with what we had around, but without really planning to use all of the ingredients, a bit more hit the compost this week than I would have liked.  That said, it was nice to have a little more flexibility.  On the heels of this experiment within an experiment, I'm thinking that I should plan 4-5 meals in advance based on the ingredients in the box, but give myself a bit more flexibility during the week as to when they are served.  Frittata planned for dinner and my husband forgets to look and makes scrambled eggs for breakfast?  Then I'll switch meals around... you get the idea.

The Best
  • After finding some delicious pepperoni at a local Italian deli, my son and I did a little improvisation with a traditional bolognese recipe substituting pepperoni for pancetta, adding in fresh tomatoes, and garnishing with chopped arugula.  One of the best meals that I've ever made!
 'Bolognese' in process

The completed meal

The Good
  • With avocados like these, they tend to outshine everything else on the plate.  Serving guacamole with a simple mango salsa on fish tacos was a hit with the entire family.
  • With lots of green vegetables in the box and in my fridge, I prepared a simple stir fry with chicken, and included spinach, swiss chard and squash from the box.
  • I roasted some veggies, including squash, in the oven, then combined with some quinoa for a yummy side dish.

The Rest
  • Let's just say that I cook better than I carve!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Week 30 - Other Plans

Perhaps it is just procrastination, but I've been having a hard time committing to recipes for this week.  I have the ingredients from the box and - after a bit of fall pantry cleaning and a survey of the backyard - a number of other ingredients lying around that I would like to try to use up.  So, rather than commit to recipes in advance, I want to take a more experimental approach this week.  While weekly planning serves its purpose most of the time, some of the time it takes the fun out of cooking, and it doesn't allow for as much 'what do I feel like eating/making today'.  I am quite sure that my lack of planning will require me to make at least one extra trip to the store.  I'm willing to give myself a week of experimentation, though, to see how it goes!

In the box this week
(top) lettuce, arugula, spinach, swiss chard, pumpkin
(bottom) avocados, cantaloupe, yellow grape tomatoes, squash, apples, grapes and beautiful wreath made by my CSA!

Even though I don't feel much like planning in advance, I will keep track of what we make and report back on the week's meals.  It's amazing to be at week 30 and - as we pull into this second half of the 'Year in a Box' - I want to try different approaches to ensure that this dedication to the creation of healthy family meals continues (even if my blog doesn't) past one year!
This week's title is inspired by the song of the same name by Gomez.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Week 29 in Review

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

It's definitely starting to feel - and taste - like fall.  Our meals this week were of the heartier sort, and went over very well as the days start to get darker and cooler.  With the exception of the lasagna, everything was fairly quick in terms of preparation and was consumed at one setting.  Although it's hard these days to find time for meals that take more than an hour to prepare, having lots of leftovers made for a lot of tasty, easy lunches later in the week.  I'd love to find a way to make more time-intensive dishes like the lasagna on the weekend after we pick up the box.  Food for thought for future meal planning efforts!

The Best

The Good
  • In all honesty, I was a little scared of the kale, zucchini and pinto bean enchilada recipe, but it was really yummy.  Next time, I would chop the kale even more (I left some pieces too large), but this will definitely be made again.
In process

Enchiladas after baking
  • Before really reading this recipe, I was thinking that I'd just be layering in slices of tomatoes, but in reality the first step was making a tomato sauce with the tomatoes that I had.  So while the fresh tomato lasagna took a good hour to prepare (plus additional baking time), the end product was great!
  • This salad was simple but good, and incorporated lettuce, cilantro and avocados from the box!

The Rest
  • I was really hopeful that this watermelon cocktail would be good, but it was actually way too sweet.  The triple sec overpowered the deliciously sweet watermelon, and I couldn't even drink it.  Most watermelons just don't taste as good, I guess, as the ones we've been getting in our box.
Other Fun
Planting a fall garden with my son at his school

My other son's class has their turn to plant

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Week 29 - Sowing the Seeds of Love

In addition to sowing several seeds in my own garden of late, it's been a fun week of getting an entire elementary school ready to plant a fall garden.  After nearly a year of planning and building, a garden has been built at our local public school and - thanks to a group of more than 30 parents volunteers - more than 600 children will be enjoying a fall planting class over the next two weeks.  I know that not everyone will fall in love with gardening like I have, but I'm hopeful that at least a few will be excited to try what they have grown.  Like me, they'll have to learn to be patient, but hopefully we'll all enjoy the bounty together in late winter!

In the box this week
(top) lettuce, kale, cilantro
(bottom) squash, tomatoes, apples, avocados, garlic, watermelon, yellow grape tomatoes, green grapes

Meal plan for the week
Sunday: Grilled sausages with Lettuce Avocado Cilantro salad with lime dressing (lots of limes ready to be eaten on the tree)
Monday: Kale, Squash and pinto bean enchiladas
Tuesday: Fresh Tomato lasagna
Wednesday: spiced chicken and Grape skewers with quinoa pilaf
Thursday: vodka Watermelon coolers for my book club (aka mom's night out!)

Hoping to get a chance to try a homemade watermelon cocktail after last week's cancelled event.  The watermelons that have been arriving in the box are truly the best that I've ever tasted.
This week's title is inspired by the song of the same name by Tears for Fears.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Week 28 in Review

The Score
Eaters 9.5     Compost - 1     Carry Over - 0.5

This week I found myself straying a bit from the plan, due to changes in plans and changes in ingredients.  Once I had last week's bounty in hand, for example, I felt compelled to make a spaghetti alla checca with the firm, meaty tomatoes that we received.  I also had a small crop of home grown tomatillos that I needed to harvest in order to get the beds ready for a fall planting, so that sent one meal down a slightly different pathway.  The basil lost it's gusto fairly early in the week - which meant no pesto later - and some of the lettuce bit the dust as well.  All said and done, I kept things fairly simple in the kitchen this week, leaving enough time to prep the garden beds and get a good start on my fall garden.  We now have carrots, radishes, broccoli, garlic, shallots, leeks, kale and peas in the ground.  After a short mid-October heat wave, a number of the seeds have already sprouted and it looks like things are on their way!

The Best
  • This chopped salad - inspired by Nancy Silverton's recipe from Pizzeria Mozza - was so good, I could eat it every day (if only it didn't require so much chopping).

The Good
  • Using our garden tomatillos and garlic from the box, I threw together some chicken enchiladas after making a delicious roasted tomatillo salsa.  It was great warm in the enchiladas, and the leftover cold salsa was great with chips.  Delicious guacamole with the box's amazing avocados made for a wonderful garnish.
  • I could eat whole wheat pasta alla checca with fresh tomatoes, garlic and basil all the time, if only my family wouldn't mind my constant bad breath.
  • The zucchini fritters were very tasty, though my frying skills still leave a lot to be desired.  The recipe suggested really squeezing all the liquid out of the zucchini, and I don't think that I got enough of the liquid out.  The outsides were nice and crispy, but the insides were a bit too wet and gooey.  

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Week 28 - Push the Button

These days, I'm barely finding time to get my meal planning experiments written up.  All too often, I'm writing up one week while scrambling to put together a meal plan for the next.  This often happens on a tired Friday night or rushed Saturday morning, at which point one week's meals have been completed and the next week's are about to begin.  Since we don't pick up our CSA box until Saturday morning, I usually come back and add in the photo and put any finishing touches on the entry later that day.  Last week, however, I neglected to publish either Week 26's review or Week 27's meal plan after taking photos of the box.  So this week, I will all-at-once have four blog entries for my dear readers.  It really helps to remember to push the (publish) button.

In the box this week
 (top) lettuce, basil, cucumbers
(bottom) grapes, garlic, yellow tomatoes, zucchini, tomatoes, watermelon, avocados, apples

Meal plan for the week
Sunday: Tomato and Basil quiche with Watermelon mimosas for brunch
Monday: Veggie tacos with fresh guacamole (featuring Avocados, Tomato and Garlic)
Tuesday: night out with a friend to celebrate the completion of our nearly one-year-in-the-making school garden project!
Wednesday: Chopped salad (recipe attempts to recreate Pizzeria Mozza's delicious salad)
Thursday: Roasted Garlic pesto pork tenderloin with Zucchini fritters

My big focus this week is to get our family's fall garden planted.  This year's summer garden was a total bust, and I believe it was a combination of poor soil conditions (something that I can work to improve) with not enough sunlight (not much to do about that).  After starting nearly everything from seed for the first time, it was a very disappointing outcome.  But now that the school garden is built and ready for the kids to get planting, I want to get a jump start on what they'll plant by doing some planting at home.  This will be my first major attempt at a fall garden.  Here's hoping for better results than the summer!
This week's title is inspired by the song of the same name by Money Mark.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Week 27 in Review

The Score
Eaters - 11     Compost - 0.5     Carry Over - 0.5

We're all loving these fall boxes.  Having a bunch of ingredients that require very little preparation time is just what the doctor ordered for these busy fall days.  That said - after more than a month of over scheduled weekends - I was finally able to spend a good portion of a day in the kitchen this past weekend.  That really set me, and the entire family, up for a successful week of meals that made the most of the fall ingredients.  The results weren't necessarily fine dining, but everything was enjoyed and very little was left to waste (a bit of basil hit the compost, and one avocado is carrying over into next week). 

The Best
  • Though I often struggle to use up the salad greens, making two salads for a weekend dinner with friends was a great way to both consume and enjoy both lettuce and arugula.  We had two amazing salads that simply showcased what our CSA box is all about.  

The Good
  • Fall strawberries are in, and they give the summer ones a run for their money.  They are indeed perfect, sweet berries for a fresh strawberry pie.  
  • Last week's dud turned out to be a delicious bread once made correctly.  The zucchini, carrot, banana bread was embellished only slightly by the addition of pecans in one loaf and some dark chocolate chips in the other, and made for a delicious dessert all week.
  • We continue to eat up this kale, onion and potato frittata every time that I make it.  The sprinkle of smoked paprika on the 'grownup's side' made it extra yummy for some of us.  
  • There wasn't a lot to this Chinese chicken salad, but it was a good way for us to eat up our lettuce this week!
  • Though not in the meal plan, I had some help making fresh yogurt this weekend.  It's easy enough that my son could manage about 80% of the process.

The Rest
  • Sadly, this black eyed peas recipe fell a little flat.  They certainly tasted fine, but could have been any kind of beans simmered with ham hocks.  (They were served with some leftover tomato arugula salad).  

    Week 27 - Ready, Able

    Sometimes - in spite of one's best efforts - things don't always turn out as planned.  After a few rough weeks of blogging, I was getting things going and getting back into my groove when I dropped my camera and ruined the lens.  Part of the fun of all of this has been taking photos of the food, and being limited to my iPhone isn't quite resulting in the quality photos that I'd like to be sharing.  So, my apologies in advance.  Sooner or later I will find a camera shop and hopefully be able to get my lens fixed.  In the meantime, I guess that I had better be ready and able to work with what I've got.

    In the box this week
    (top) lettuce, carrots, kale, arugula, basil
    (bottom) black eyed peas, avocados, tomatoes, apples, zucchini, strawberries, grapes

    Meal plan for the week
    Sunday: Grilled swordfish stuffed with Basil breadcrumbs, heirloom Tomato and Arugula salad (with tomatoes from the box and our garden), and a green salad with Lettuce, Red Carrots, Cucumber (from last week's box) and Avocado
    Monday: Kale, potato and onion frittata with Zucchini, Red Carrot and banana bread (a repeat attempt at last week's disaster)
    Tuesday: Grilled sausages with stewed Black-Eyed Peas
    Wednesday: Fresh Strawberry pie for a evening celebration
    Thursday: Chinese chicken salad with Lettuce and Carrots

    It was pretty fun to unpack the kale from the box this week and have one of the boys say "Great... kale.  I love kale!"  In six months, this whole experience has really opened up all of our palates to much more than I could have ever imagined.  That kale is readily embraced - by both me now as well as at least one of my kids - feels like a huge accomplishment.
    This week's title is inspired by the song of the same name by Grizzly Bear.

    Week 26 in Review

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

    With the exception of some lettuce that once again hit the compost bin, we ate everything except one tomato, one cucumber and a couple of onions - all of which will get consumed in the next week.  It was a week of fairly simple meals, allowing me to incorporate the box into meals that could be mostly made quickly or in advance.  I've been missing the time that I had over the summer, especially on the weekends, to cook great meals or get ingredients ready for later in the week.  Between a busy work schedule and a full fall sport schedule (soccer and baseball) these days, weekends - and evenings for that matter - have not allowed for much food preparation.  So if simple allows me to get the ingredients into our meals and bodies, I'll take it for now.

    The Best
    • The curried chicken salad with grapes was amazing, partially because the grapes from the box were some of the best that we've ever tasted, partially because the combinations of flavors and textures were spot on.  The meal also featured cucumbers, strawberries, and a Greek pasta salad with red peppers from the previous week's box. 

    The Good
    • Turkey burgers are a staple around this place, enhanced by some delicious tomato slices as well as some roasted pasilla peppers and brioche buns found at the same farmer's market where we pick up our box.
    • Turkey tacos are another staple.  This week's were made that much better by the presence of fresh, simple, three ingredient salsa - all from this week's box.

    The Rest
    • I was really excited about the zucchini, carrot, banana bread recipe that I had found.  In a rush, however, I neglected to add a very important ingredient - baking soda.  The result was a flat, mushy bread that had good flavors but horrible texture.  I hope to have the ingredients to try it again and get it right.