Saturday, April 21, 2012

Week 52 in Review

The Score 
Eaters - 10     Compost - 0     Carry Over - 1
This was a week that my husband picked up the box, and unlike me, he took it 'as is.'  Often, I take one or two items that are hard sells with the family, and exchange them at the farmer's market for ingredients that I know that will be well received.  Seeing as it was our last official week of the year, however, it seemed like a reasonable challenge to accept the box as it was.  Interestingly, a few items that almost certainly would have hit the compost nine months ago were not that hard to integrate into our meal plan for the week.  We ate up everything this week, with the exception of a few avocados that weren't quite ripe enough to consume, but they will definitely get gobbled up in the coming week as we all love avocados. 

The Best
  • Surprisingly, we all loved this very simple sausage, white bean and swiss chard soup.  This was a delicious, quick alternative to the Italian wedding soup that took many hours to prepare several months back.  This may have been the first time that our entire family willingly ate swiss chard at the same seating!

The Good
  • While quite simple in many ways, this Thai-spiced salad could act a great base for a number of proteins.
  • Arugula on pizza is fantastic!  We all loved this recipe with fig jam and prosciutto.
  • Never one to want to waste, I took our left over curry chicken, mixed it with some shallots, golden raisins, crushed cashews and a bit of mayonnaise to make a yummy and pretty curry chicken salad.
  • Using lemons from the box and our backyard, I made this tart and tasty lemon bar recipe.  I could eat these every day.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Week 52 - It Was A Very Good Year

Yes, it's here... Week 52 in the box!  Hard to believe that this experiment has reached its official final week, but in many ways I'm ready.  After a couple of weeks of vacation, I'm ready to get back into the kitchen, and after fifty-two weeks of working with a wide variety of ingredients, it's easy to embrace what's found in the box any given Saturday.  Planning around the box is a part of my process these days, so really it just feels like it's time to get things going.

In the box this week
(top) lettuce, spinach, arugula, mustard greens
(bottom) carrots, swiss chard, sugar snap peas, summer squash, avocados, apples, strawberries

Meals/recipes for the week:
After this week's review, I look forward to sharing some closing thoughts about our year in a box, as well as some thoughts about what's up next!
This week's title is inspired by the song of the same name by Ervin Drake.

Week 51 in Review

To be honest, week 51 didn't go quite as planned.  In the rush to get our family of four packed and ready for a two week trip, cooking just didn't fit in.  I made a couple of things for breakfast - waffles with strawberries, frittata with kale - but dinners were quickly thrown together or eaten out.  Alas, my second to last week of 'Year in a Box' wasn't a banner one. That's life, however, and our enjoyable vacation made up for any blog regrets that I might have had.

And now, onto week 52!!!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Week 51 - Circus

We've got a busy week ahead, with a few days in town followed by more than two weeks of vacation. Before this crazy week gets started, however, the family is off to see Cirque du Soleil to celebrate my birthday.  Given the ingredients in the box this week, the circus seemed like a theme that could be carried through to this week's meal planning. I looked for recipes that - for the most part - put together two or more ingredients that might not necessarily seem like they'd be a match. We'll see if some of these recipes taste less crazy than they sound.

In the box this week
(top) lettuce, sorrel, spinach, kale
(bottom) broccoli, bunching onions, radishes, lemons, apples, tomatoes, strawberries

Meals/recipes for the week
Here's to me (and my family) being able to get this all cooked, photographed and posted before we head out later this week!  Cheers!
This week's title is inspired by the song of the same name by Eric Clapton.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Week 50 in Review

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

It was a good week in the kitchen.  I was able to make everything that I had planned, and only ended up losing a small bit of lettuce this week to the compost.  We have a bit of celery left over, but have plans to use that up in a tomato sauce this weekend.  The week also brought a lot of variety - from Irish, to Italian, to spins on Mexican and Indian.  Wish every week could go this smoothly! 

The Best
  • We all really enjoyed the arugula pesto and sausage lasagna.  It was the most complicated of the recipes made this week, so I tackled it on the weekend when I had a bit more time.  The arugula made for a nice twist on traditional pesto, and the fresh tomatoes really livened up the sauce.  A fantastic lasagna!
 Tomato sauce in progress

Arugula pesto gets combined with ricotta

Final product

The Good
  • It doesn't look fancy, but once a year, gotta love St. Patrick's Day dinner.  With green cabbage and orange carrots from the box, and a variety of potatoes from the farmer's market, it certainly was a colorful plate.
  • I started with a sauteed spinach and mushroom recipe, and then added it and some cotija cheese to whole wheat tortilla to make a lovely quesadilla.
  • The curried cauliflower soup was quite simple, but very delicious.  It allowed me to use up the entire head of cauliflower, as well as some left over potatoes that had been purchased for our St. Patrick's day meal. 
 All the veggies in the pot

 The soup is served
  • The kids didn't love the broccoli and red pepper gratin, but I thought it went perfectly with a turkey meatloaf dinner.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Week 50 - When Irish Eyes Are Smiling

It's cold and rainy in southern California, just in time for St. Patrick's Day.  My husband and I both have partial Irish backgrounds, and we always enjoy making a traditional St. Patrick's Day dinner.  Fortunately for us, we have a lovely head of cabbage from last week's box, and a nice bunch of carrots from this week.  Add in a few colorful potatoes from a booth nearby the place where we pick up our box at the farmer's market, and I think our meal is well on its way.  After last week's focus on salads, I'm thinking that it might be nice to make primarily hot meals this week.  Warm meals are good when it's cold outside, and we've got quite a few oven friendly vegetables this week.
In the box this week
(top) lettuce, arugula, spinach
(bottom) celery, broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes, carrots, oranges, strawberries, apples

Meals/recipes for the week
Several recipes this week are from Martha Rose Shulman's Recipes for Health series in the New York Times.   She has so many lovely and often simple recipes for so many vegetable varieties; it's definitely a great resource for CSA members everywhere!
This week's title is inspired by the song of the same name by Chauncey Olcott and George Graff, Jr.  

Week 49 in Review

The Score
Eaters - 9.5    Compost - 0.5     Carry Over - 1 (on purpose)

Turns out our week of salads went quite well.  We enjoyed a great variety of flavors and tastes, and the boys even enjoyed some ingredients that they normally might shy away from.  Making only salads isn't an option given the ingredients in the box every week, but it did open my eyes to new options for many of the ingredients that frequently are featured in the box. 

The Best
  • The warm broccoli and chick pea salad made for a light, healthy lunch.  Next time I'll make a full recipe's worth so there will be some left over for the rest of the family.

 The Good
  • The so-called celery and cucumber salad featured a number of other veggies that made for a sweet and crunchy salad. I left out the relish as it seemed to be an odd addition, but added some leftover purple bunching onions from the previous week, instead.

The So-So
  • We weren't the biggest fan of this kale salad, but it may be due to the fact that I didn't use the type of kale recommended by the recipe.  Though I think this purple kale does better when cooked, I do hope to try other types of kale that we receive in future salad recipes.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Week 49 - Salad Days

Throughout this year, I've been really focused on using up the box's ingredients, but have primarily done so in cooked meals.  Most weeks, some combination of leftover greens - typically some lettuce and spinach - hit the compost because I don't get enough salads made on top of everything else that I've planned.  After hearing an interesting radio story on the 'beauty of a simple salad,' I realized that there were so many more possibilities with our weekly box.  With that concept in mind, all of this week's recipes are salads.  It's probably also fair to note that my family is three weeks away from a two week long, likely-to-be-food-filled vacation, so it certainly wouldn't hurt to be eating a little lighter for the next few weeks. 
(top) lettuce, arugula, kale, spinach
(bottom) celery, cabbage, broccoli, tomatoes, apples, oranges, strawberries

Meals/recipes for the week
I'm not planning to use the cabbage just yet, in case it's our only supply for St. Patrick's Day.  When we get our list of what's expected in next week's box and learn whether we're getting cabbage again, I may end up looking for cabbage salad recipes.  Given my husband's Irish heritage and his mandatory traditional St. Paddy's day meal, however, the cabbage has protected status for the time being.
This week's title is inspired by the song of the same name by Minor Threat.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Week 48 in Review

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

This was a fairly normal week in the kitchen... we made a few great meals and some salads, and easily got through most of the box.  It was also the week that I cleared out the last bits of our fall home garden crops, so I had a few home grown ingredients to use up, as well.  This was the first year that I planted onions; they ended up being spicy and delicious!  I wish I had more space in full sun to grow produce, but I'm happy I can get something out of the small corner that I've got.

The Best
  • It was a lot of fun taking the tatsoi from the box, the last bits of veggies from our home garden, and then adapting the following tatsoi recipe to make a buckwheat noodle stir fry.  The kick from the fresh onions really made the dish!
 Raw materials

Buckwheat noodle veggie stir fry

The Good
  • The roasted parsnip and butternut squash soups both had a sweet yet savory flavor, and were well accompanied by the freshly made tarragon oil.  Somehow the consistencies got slightly off, however, making it quite difficult to nail the presentation of two half bowls of soup.
  • The carnitas turned out perfectly, with the orange flavor really shining through.  While we made a roasted tomato salsa to top it, the tomatoes were a bit too 'green' in flavor and it didn't quite augment the meal as well as I had hoped.  We also topped the carnitas with roasted purple onions, cilantro, avocado, and homemade pickled radishes.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Week 48 - Nearing the End

Hard to believe that there is just a little over a month ago until the end of this year-long experiment.  Vacation plans may push the actual 'end' out a few weeks - we head out of town for two weeks at the end of week 51 - but it's still hard to believe.  Sometimes I watch a slide show of all the meals that have been made, and I'm pretty excited by all the amazing foods we have incorporated into our meals over the last 11 months.  Lest I get too excited too soon, there are still five boxes to explore, prepare, photograph and write up!

In the box this week
(top) lettuce, spinach, swiss chard
(bottom) onions, parsnips, tatsoi, oranges, apples, tomatoes, strawberries

Meals/recipes for the week:
Those recipes, along with a couple of salads should get us through the box this week.  I'm taking a cooking/knife skills class this week from Martha Rose Shulman of the NYT's Recipes for Health column, so perhaps I will come back with some great ideas for next week!
This week's title is inspired by the song of the same name by David Carbonara from the Mad Men After Hours soundtrack.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Week 47 in Review

The Score
Eaters - 9.5     Compost - 1     Carry Over - 1.5

It was a good, but not great, week in terms of using up the box.  Work got in the way of some of our plans but, in many ways, that was expected.  We have a lot more to carry over than usual - a butternut squash, some onions, some lettuce - but at least it's all in great shape.  All the spinach hit the compost, but all in all we enjoyed some great meals.  The oranges and strawberries were really amazing considering that it was still February when they were picked!

The Best
  • We loved this stir fry recipe, featuring tatsoi and some gorgeous purple onions from the box.  Tatsoi seems to taste somewhere between spinach and bok choy, and added perfect balance to this spicy chicken dish.  We served it with some store-bought veggie dumplings.

The Good
  • This orecchiette with caramelized onions and peas was delicious, and featured some meyer lemon zest and basil from our garden.  A great veggie meal!
  • We also really enjoyed this black bean soup, which featured carrots and onions from the box (and cilantro from the previous week).  I had intended to add kale to the recipe, but forgot - so we juiced the kale later in the week with the rest of the carrots and an apple!
  •  Oven roasted butternut, carrots and parsnips.  Hard to go wrong!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Week 47 - Lucky Now

One more week until I hopefully will come for air from some insanely busy work projects, so it wasn't looking so good for me to get a lot of cooking done this week.  Luckily for me, I've got my husband on the hook to make a few different meals this weekend so he may do most of the heavy lifting this week.  Though he loves to cook and in the past often did most of the weekend's cooking, work has also gotten in the way of his hobby.  I'm very glad timing has worked out well for him to have some playtime this weekend.  I'm sure we'll all enjoy the end results! 

In the box this week
(top) lettuce, tatsoi, spinach, kale
(bottom) parsnips, carrots, onions, butternut squash, oranges, apples, peas, strawberries

Meals/recipes for the week
Given what my husband is signed up to do, this seems pretty doable.  Now, off to shop and get ready for the busy, busy week ahead!
This week's title is inspired by the song of the same name by Ryan Adams.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Week 46 in Review

The Score
Eaters - 10.5     Compost - 0.5     Carry Over - 1

This week's test to see if I could use the box up went fairly well.  The week's meals weren't as gourmet as some have been, and there were a fair number of repeated concepts but - bottom line - we successfully used up most of the box without working to a meal plan.  Meals were often randomly thrown together using an ingredient or two, but not necessarily following a recipe.  We are carrying over a few radishes and celery stalks, and ended up composting a bit of cilantro, but all in all, not too shabby.  Honestly, I like to take more of a planned approach, but it's nice to see that it's still possible to make good use of the box when I might not have time to think ahead. 

Nothing this week was revolutionary, so I'm going to divide the results up by the time of day that they were served.

  • We took the kale and some left over potatoes and made a breakfast frittata served with fresh squeezed orange juice. 

  • We took the parsnips and roasted them along with some baby potatoes and carrots, then tossed all the veggies in olive oil, fresh rosemary and garlic. 
  • I sauteed a few parsnips, celery, potatoes, black beans, and corn, and then used that mixture as the filling for some enchiladas served with a super quick tomatillo cilantro salsa.  This was definitely a 'use up what I've got' recipe, and it worked surprisingly well!
 Prepping the filling

 The final product, with cilantro on top
  • The broccolini and spinach from the box were paired with some peas and onions from our garden, as well as some mushrooms from the store, for a delicious stir fry. 

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Week 46 - Just a Test

The next couple of weeks are going to be tough.  I have a very big work deliverable due by the end of the month, and I'm working way too many hours because of it.  I know that this is going to be a week where I'm not going to have much time at all to cook, but in some ways it feels like it is a good test.  Can we still use up most of the box when we have weeks like this?  Therefore, I'm not going to try to plan it all out in advance.  I'm just going to shop for the basics, and hope that I can wing it and make some simple meals that use up what we've got in the little time I have. 

In the box this week
(top) lettuce, spinach, kale, cilantro
(bottom) celery, parsnips, broccolini, radishes, tomatillos, oranges, apples
(extra purchase) strawberries

Given that this year is quickly nearing an end, I think this week will be a chance for me to practice using the box 'when no one is looking.'  Part of the goal of this entire experience has been to get comfortable with whatever ingredients we receive, and this week's demanding schedule will give me a chance to see if that comfort level is there.  I look forward to reporting back on how things go!
This week's title is inspired by the song of the same name by the Beastie Boys.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Week 45 in Review

The Score
Eaters - 11     Compost - 1     Carry Over - 0

Valentine's day made for a great occasion to use up a bunch of ingredients from the box.  That meal alone featured spinach, celery, oranges, parsnips, and marjoram from the box, and made for three fun and flavorful courses.  Interestingly, however, it wasn't that meal that was the highlight of the week; perhaps that much good food all at once makes it more difficult to pick a favorite?  All in all, it was another great week.  We did get through most of the box, though ended up having to compost a few stalks of celery that went rubbery and one avocado that just didn't ripen. 

The Best
  • This Italian wedding soup (featuring kale and fennel) was a huge hit with the entire family.  It wasn't super easy to make, but the savory, fennel flavored broth was worth every bit of effort.

 The Good
  • Valentine's dinner started with a lovely parsnip soup.  This flavorful soup - with a little olive oil drizzled on as garnish - will definitely be put into rotation when parsnips are in the box.

The Rest
  • Though I can't say this featured anything from the box, my other valentine's week goal was to make cinnamon swirl bread for my kids.  It was definitely the most complicated baking project that I've ever taken on, but the final product was amazing.  Can't say that I'll do this every year, but was a fun labor of love for my mini Valentines.
 The dough after its first (of four) rises

 Adding in the 'swirl' mixture

 Filled dough is cut and braided

 Baked loaves

 Delicious swirl bread with golden raisins

Monday, February 13, 2012

Week 45 - Love Like A Sunset

This week, it was easy to pick a theme with Valentine's Day on the calendar.  It has long been a tradition for my husband and me to make dinner at home together, rather than trying to find a babysitter for a mediocre meal out.  With the colorful assortment of produce in this week's box, I thought it would be fun to plan our valentine's meal using these ingredients as the foundation.  Given that two people can't eat all of this at one setting, I also looked for other 'love' inspired recipes that would make use of the box's goodness throughout the week.
In the box this week
(top) lettuce, kale, marjoram, spinach
(bottom) parsnips, fennel, radishes, oranges, avocados, apples, celery

Meals/recipes for the week
In case a couple of the recipes seem mysteriously placed on this week's list, almonds are a symbol of fertility throughout many ages and societies and, well, I'll leave you to guess as to what the Aztecs thought avocados resembled.  Happy Valentine's Day to you and yours!
This week's title is inspired by the song of the same name by Phoenix.