Sunday, September 27, 2015

this week was good because... hectic and quirky and stressful as this week was, I found hints of humor, grace and blessings scattered throughout. Take this picture, for example - this was everything we purchased at the grocery store on Sunday for our week...well, almost everything. The loaf of bread at the end of the line on the left didn't fit in the picture. This is an absurd combination, right? What you don't see is the awesome assortment of food our fridge and cupboard are stocked with from recent weeks of CSA...recent weeks that, yes, I will have highlights on soon. Because of that assortment, though, we just needed a few essentials. We added to that some traveling snacks for our upcoming vacation, and then, just for fun, we made our own six-pack of adult beverages.

This was my week - taking care of the essentials, adding in some vacation planning, and then, just for fun, enjoying life in random little places. At the end, I am happy to say, simply, that I made it through.

What made your week good?

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

csa eats: weeks six and seven

Wow, time has flown by in recent weeks. Nonetheless, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to continue sharing our adventures in CSA.

In week six, there were some items I was excited about, and some items that gave me pause. The bag included a super cute little watermelon, more kale, chives, Hungarian wax peppers, tomatoes, arugula and lovage.

The arugula made a really nice mix-in for our chef salads, and the chives became a key ingredient in a batch of easy-to-make white cheddar and chive drop biscuits. I can't say enough about how wonderful it is to be having such delicious salads this summer, and I was extra happy to have some fresh biscuits on the side.

A couple of weeks back, we'd received a head of cabbage in our bag, but I hadn't really done anything with it. But then, knowing we would be having a cookout with some friends, I decided to try my hand at truly homemade cole slaw (v. my previous efforts that focused more on the dressing, but started with a bagged veggie mix).

I was so proud of how it turned out! The recipe from Barbara Kafka included a blend of cabbage, carrots, green bell pepper and red onion; and I was excited to be able to use the fresh lovage from our bag in place of the celery seed that the recipe called for. This was very yummy, and so easy that I will definitely use it again in the future.

This pasta dish was a bit of an experiment for me. With all those tomatoes, I really wanted to make a tomato sauce; but the summer heat was in full effect at the time, so having a sauce simmering on the stove for a while didn't sound very appealing.

So Smitten Kitchen's recipe for a raw tomato sauce piqued my interest. I ended up using it as the base for a green pepper and Italian sausage topping for cheese tortellini, and while it isn't my favorite sauce, it was good enough to be worth the attempt.

Week seven was another mixed bag, with corn on the cob, (more) tomatoes, turnips, plums of some kind, (more) kale, and red potatoes. At this point, I should go on the record and admit that I am not a fan of kale. I'd tried it a long time ago, and don't remember liking it much...but with all the hype in recent years around kale, getting it not once, not twice, but three different times in our CSA bags was an opportunity to try it again.

So try it I did. I took a bite of one leaf, and promptly rinsed my mouth out with water. It is just not for me. That meant finding homes for these beautiful bouquets of fresh kale with a couple of colleagues who would love the kale as it should be loved.

Something that was for me was using an onion from week five, tomatoes from one of these weeks, and the peppers from week six to make a fresh pico de gallo to top off our soft tacos. Mmm, mmm. I was very pleased with how that turned out, and am looking forward to making some more of it.

Even with the occasional miss on a bag ingredient or recipe, this is still such a wonderful experience. I continue to be grateful that we decided to subscribe to this.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

this week was good because...

...I remembered to show myself grace and patience during a week of feeling behind, scattered and unaccomplished. I also had the confidence to speak up about the ideas I have for my professional responsibilities expanding and the perspective to consider the big picture for my team.

...fall arrived in lovely ways - everything from cooler weather to piles of pumpkins at the grocery store. I'm not quite ready, mentally, to be done with summer; but the hints of fall are making the transition a little smoother to ease into.

What made your week good?

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.