Sunday, August 23, 2015

this week was good because...

...the newest issue of a favorite magazine. This magazine really inspires me creatively, and nurtures me spiritually; so it's always a joy to find it at the store. However, this issue ended up being more impactful than normal, thanks to an article about building and leading successful Bible studies.

I had recently been invited to assist with an upcoming Bible study at church, and just a few hours prior to reading this article, I accepted the invitation. My head was hesitant, because I don't necessarily feel like I'm wise enough to play such a role; yet my heart had responded very strongly to the opportunity to become more involved in the women's ministry. So to find an article with tips and best practices felt like an affirmation of my choice and encouragement for my journey.

...after a couple of intense weeks at work, I took Friday afternoon off, with the simple intention to spoil myself. That included a delightful pedicure, a tasty venti iced chai latte, and seven hours of scrapbooking at the local store. I am so glad that I gave myself this gift of soul refreshing, spirit soothing time.

...we can actually see the shelves and back wall of our refrigerator! For the past couple of weeks, between our CSA bags and my recipe selections, our fridge had been packed full of fresh produce, leftovers, and more. It was a little absurd! Granted, there was plenty of eating well as a result; but it's nice not to have to play puzzle just to get something out of the fridge.

What made your week good?

Saturday, August 22, 2015

csa eats: week five

For week five, it was nice to see some color in the bag...even if I knew that at least some of that color would not be something I ate. (As much as I enjoy salsa, tomato sauce, ketchup, etc., I have never enjoyed plain tomatoes.) Still, I was looking forward to using the tomatoes, onions, turnips, beets, lettuce, and rosemary.

I can't begin to explain how good that lettuce was! We made two chef salads this week, which included not only the lettuce, but also hard-boiled farm eggs, carrots and radishes from the farm; and they were so delicious. (Wildcat Guy also had some of those tomatoes on his.) I forgot to ask the farm what kind of lettuce that was, but I liked it a lot.

For some of the produce that we've received (such as onions), it's always fun to figure out what dishes those ingredients will become part of. In this case, I used one of the onions in turkey black bean burritos, a standing favorite in our house.

Originally, I had planned to use one of the other onions in a saute with a green bell pepper and some kielbasa sausage; but then I found a couple of squash left from a couple of weeks back. First, let me pause on that - I had squash in my fridge from a couple of weeks back, and it was still fresh. That alone makes me really appreciate the opportunity to purchase produce that is harvested just a few days before I pick it up.

Finding them, though, led me to change our meal for that evening to have plain kielbasa, with a side of zucchini and summer squash "chips." They weren't delicious enough that we'd plan to eat them; and I was disappointed that they didn't really crisp up. But as a way to use up some lingering squash, this was a valuable recipe.

Something I believe I've mentioned previously is that the farm provides a recipe each week that uses some of the produce that will be in our bag. This week's recipe was for roasted vegetables - specifically, the turnips and beets we received. The recipe also called for carrots, which we had on hand; and I added the last couple of new potatoes that we had from week three. Tossed in olive oil and that fresh rosemary, the vegetables were (mostly) delicious. I discovered that I don't particularly like turnips (especially their after-taste); but the rosemary lent a lovely flavor to everything. Served with a simple grilled steak, this made an ordinary Saturday evening seem a little bit special.

This week, using our bag ingredients felt less intense, which was a nice break. Now on to week 6...

Sunday, August 16, 2015

this week was good because...

...every day, I headed into the office ready to give my fullest effort; and every evening, I left feeling satisfied with the work I'd completed. In no way does that mean I completed everything on my to-do list. Far from it. Rather, I found my satisfaction in having prioritized well and making good use of the time I had available.

That is what I consider a job well done.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

csa eats: week four

For week four, our bag was alllll green. And yes, that gave me pause. What do I do with all that green?!?! There was cabbage, kale, kohlrabi, green beans, basil, garlic, salad greens and more corn.

We also brought home some fresh beef (that was cheaper than the grocery store!); and because I didn't learn my lesson quite completely last week, we also had some fresh carrots and red potatoes.

Before talking about food, though, I feel compelled to mention my experiment with stevia leaves. They came in our bag in week three, and honestly, the only thing I knew about stevia was that it's used in powder form as a sugar substitute. But what to do with fresh leaves? I was grateful to find this webpage and realized I had the perfect drink to try this technique - iced tea.

I liked it...but my taste buds are too accustomed to sugar. With every sip, my brain cried, "this tastes fake." Nonetheless, I'm glad to have tried it.

First on the menu this week was a summer vegetable lasagna made with items from last week - summer squash and zucchini. This is something I've made before, and I really enjoyed it with the fresh veggies. To appease my meat-and-potatoes husband, I included baked chicken on the side.

With one of those packets of ground beef, Wildcat Guy made simple burgers that we ate with some of last week's fresh corn and some cole slaw (cough*from the store*cough). I could eat this all summer long.

With the garlic and basil, pesto seemed an obvious choice. Granted, I'd never made pesto from scratch, but I really wanted to try it. When it turned out nicely, I definitely had a moment...something akin to Tom Hanks' "I have made fire" from Castaway..."I. Have made pesto."

And what did I do with that pesto, you ask? I slathered it on a whole grain crust and topped it with rotisserie chicken and shredded mozzarella to make a pizza. Mmmm. I am very happy that we had plenty of basil left over, because I definitely want to eat this again.

The salad on the side (with leftover arugula, farm carrots and last week's radishes) was also tasty.

Something I really appreciated about purchasing beef at the Market was the opportunity to learn about the different beef options. Originally, we'd just planned to buy ground beef, but after seeing the list of available roasts, I spent a few minutes talking with one of the women from the farm. It was so nice to have her walk me through the merits of each cut and, even better, to share with me her preferred technique for cooking a roast in the crockpot. I need to experiment with the seasonings, but this roast - which we cooked with farm carrots and the new potatoes left from last week - turned out nicely.

We also - finally! - cooked the beets from two weeks ago. On the recommendation of a friend, we roasted them. Yum. I can't say that I would eat bowls and bowls of them, but the next time they show up in a CSA bag, I won't be so nervous.

And then, to wrap up the week, I turned the kohlrabi from something strange-looking into something we enjoyed eating. It tasted almost like cauliflower, but with the texture of sliced potatoes...odd, but appealing. I would absolutely cook with it again.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

what i learned in july

Last week was kind of absurd, which means I'm late to join in Emily P. Freeman's lovely end-of-the-month sharing party of lessons learned in July. Let's say better late than never...

July was a lesson in temporal being kind to myself and honoring the ways in which life's rhythms change with the physical seasons.

One of my primary goals for the year is to spend at least one day each month immersed in my scrapbooking...ideally by participating in a crop at the nearby store (because there's just something more productive and rewarding about that kind of creative environment), but at the very least, by spending time on Saturday afternoons putting my little scrapbooking corner of the living room to good use. Setting this goal was my way of making sure I was committing time to something that is important to me in very deep ways.

But in July, the summer weather I'd been waiting for all year finally arrived...which means soaking up the sun poolside as much as possible. Add in the Fourth of July holiday weekend, a trip to Kentucky, and all the other fun little opportunities that life brought throughout the month, and...well...I got absolutely no scrapbooking done.

At first, I was annoyed when I realized this...I'd done so well this year at making steady progress on my various scrapbook projects. And yet...July was such a good month. How could I regret how it went?? After shivering through the winter in eager anticipation of this season's warmth, I would be foolish not to relish the luxurious sun while it's here. Summer will pass far too quickly, and there will soon be plenty of chilly days to spend indoors with my scrapbooks.

And so, in July, I learned that it is okay not to meet a goal...especially if your soul and heart are still being nurtured.

Sunday, August 09, 2015

this week was good because...

...Orientation Week went beautifully. Granted, it is in my nature to always consider how an event can be further refined the following year; but all things considered, I am quite pleased with how the week went. I also was proud of myself for doing my best to take care of myself throughout the week. There were a couple times when lunch consisted of whatever snacks I could grab as the day unfolded (which meant more brownies than I care to admit one day); but overall, I managed to eat decently (including breakfast every morning - no easy feat when I was leaving at 6 am!), get a reasonable amount of sleep, and even make it to Bible study on Tuesday evening.

...Wildcat Guy had the entire weekend off. That meant that, after a very intense week of leaving early, getting home late, and not seeing him very much in the evenings, we got to hang out at a leisurely pace all weekend long. It was delightful! We spent Saturday morning at Eastern Market, where we treated ourselves to snacks from the food trucks; enjoyed a movie on Saturday evening; and had our traditional Sunday. I was grateful for the extra time together on a weekend.

What made your week good?

Saturday, August 08, 2015

csa eats: week three

For week three, our bag included baby bok choy, corn, zucchini, yellow squash, new potatoes, arugula, sweet basil and stevia. Bok choy...this ought to be interesting.

Something I also realized is that I need to be cautious of buying any extra produce beyond what we receive in our CSA bag. I bought so much last week that I wasn't quite done with it by the time we got this week's bag. So the pressure to use everything was a bit higher; and on top of that, this was an extremely busy week at work.

Nonetheless, there were some good eats to be had throughout the week. The arugula made a great mix-in for salads; and we had some other tasty meals along the way:

This is one of those addendums from last week that I mentioned. I'd purchased sweet potatoes from the same farm from which we receive our CSA. Roasted, they were a perfect side dish for a batch of sloppy joes.

There is so much farmers' market goodness on this plate! The bratwurst (another remnant of last week's purchases), served with homemade barbeque sauce, went so nicely with steamed corn on the cob and deviled eggs made from our CSA eggs. Okay, so I added in some totally storebought mayonnaise...but mmm, this was a tasty dinner.

After poring through cookbooks to figure out what to do with bok choy, I came across a recipe for Asian greens. "A-ha!," I thought. Immediately, I knew what to serve it with - shrimp stir-fry and steamed sticky rice.

But here's the thing. I've never been a big fan of cooked greens - either on their own or mixed into other dishes (such as spinach-artichoke dip). Soooo...the Asian greens-cooked bok choy tasted good. Yet it wasn't good enough to convert me. I am still proud of myself for trying them, though! That dietary comfort zone of mine continues to be challenged, and I like it.