Fruit on my waffles

I was that kid who got disappointed when my parents suggested that we have fruit for dessert.  Fortunately for me, I don’t remember that happening very often.  Our desserts were usually pies, cakes, ice cream, cookies…..  You know – the good stuff.

Similarly, to this day fruit stands no chance of making its way into the limelight of my weekend breakfasts.  I’d rather have the classic combination of butter and syrup on my waffles, pancakes, or french toast than the natural sweetness of fresh berries and a dollop of greek yogurt as all the health-conscious breakfast eaters have been raving about these days.  In fact, when my sweet tooth takes charge (which is almost always), I’ll sprinkle a heavy dusting of powdered sugar into the pools of maple syrup on my plate, and when the white powder dissolves into oblivion, I add more, and repeat as necessary throughout my entire dining experience.

When I’m on a “health kick” (or am making an effort to get some protein into my diet) I use my pancakes (or waffles, or bagel, or toast) as a means to slather on a thick layer of peanut butter.  I usually accompany the peanut butter with a few slices of banana, but the only way I can get everything to slide down easily is to douse it in syrup – or honey if it’s on something like toast.

So, needless to say, I surprised myself this afternoon when I saw a pint of strawberries in the fridge and suggested to Kyle that we have waffles for lunch…WITH strawberries on them.  I really can’t remember a time that I actually craved fruit on my waffles.  To be fair, I didn’t exactly have the “health conscious” version of berries and  greek yogurt in mind.  For one, we only had whipping cream in the fridge – not greek yogurt – to which I planned on adding a touch of sugar and almond extract, and two, I was also planning on adding a little sugar to the sliced strawberries to bring out their juices.

Here’s what I came up with:

I’m trying not to toot my own horn too much, but this was the tastiest version of waffles with strawberries and whipped cream that I’ve ever had.  I kept telling Kyle that someone should hire me at their breakfast joint so I can teach them a thing or two about adding berries and whipped cream to their breakfasts.

I’m trying to decide what made it taste so good and the best I can come up with is 1) I always think food tastes better when I have to work a little bit to get it, and 2) it felt like a really good use of ingredients we just had hanging around in our fridge and pantry.  I think there’s a lot of satisfaction in the idea of each individual ingredient (the flour, eggs, milk, strawberries, whipping cream, etc.) becoming part of a greater meal – even if it turns out to be a decadent combination of waffles with strawberries and whipped cream that resembles more of a dessert than a lunch.

Simplicity

There’s something about getting all gussied up that I’ve always loved.  Probably because it’s linked to the anticipation of a long-awaited special occasion….  Remember getting ready for prom?  Or your wedding day?  I do…

Ok - I guess sometimes I need some help with my make-up. 🙂

The thing is, it doesn’t even have to be a long-awaited event.  Sometimes I get a thrill just getting ready for church on Sunday mornings.  And when we go out on those occasional dinner dates with just the two of us,  I love to spend time doing my make-up and getting my hair just right.

But the truth is…I’ve never really been a girly-girl.  Yes, I want to look presentable and feel good about myself, but the reality is, I feel best and most comfortable wearing my comfy pants and baggy sweatshirts, and I like the concept of being able to rub my eyes without worrying about smudging my make-up.

So, as you can imagine, this past “Snow Week” was ideal.  (As it turned out, I had the ENTIRE week off of school!)  I haven’t worn make up since last Sunday when we went to the Philharmonic Orchestra, and I only had to switch out of my comfy pants when it was time to do the laundry.

I guess it only makes sense that as much as I love food and therefore love the challenge of cooking an elaborate dinner with a decadent dessert, there’s a special place in my soul for the simple things, too….like granola.

I love that granola recipes are so changeable.  If you don’t like the type of nuts or dried fruit that a recipe calls for, you can just switch it out with something that matches your taste.  It’s a fairly fool-proof process, actually.  There’s been times that I’ve forgotten ingredients and other times that I mixed the fruit in before in came out of the oven, but my granola has always turned out just fine, and there’s something satisfying about that.  We need that simplicity and assurance of success in our lives sometimes.

As I got out my make-up this morning, and put on my church clothes, I realized that I’m about to enter back into real life tomorrow.  For me, that’s a life of 5am alarms, a life of dressing professionally (or at least trying…), a life of squeezing in some errands between work and the gym and making dinner.  I guess today feels like a day to honor simplicity before returning to the chaos of my regular life.

So, I made this:

Maple Almond Granola

I haven’t actually made this recipe before, but it didn’t seem too different from the others I typically make.  And, like I said before, granola is pretty fool-proof.  🙂  Here’s to the simple days!

A Reason to Bake

Perspective is a funny thing.

I never thought I could be disappointed to hear that our district had cancelled school.  After all, snow days seem to give society a sort of common ground.  We collectively anticipate the arrival of the snow, we wrestle with the decisions of whose car is better in the snow, we watch the news to track the storm, we take pictures of rulers (or yard sticks depending on what part of the country you live in) plunged into the snow to keep a close eye on the accumulation, we bundle up to venture outside, and we drink hot cocoa to warm up when we come inside again.

Now that I’m experiencing snow days this week through the lens of a Special Education Teacher who has 2 IEPs due, I’m seeing them in a new light.  I’ve spent a good block of time on my days off figuring out how to reschedule the meetings – first for Wednesday.  Then for Thursday.  And if the weather continues doing what it’s doing, I may just have to “lock” the IEPs in the system so I can be in compliance legally, and then hold the meetings once school is back in session and do a formal revision to anything that needs to be changed once we can have a face-to-face meeting.

Image

Today, on Snow Day #2, I’m feeling much more resigned to the fact that I can’t do anything about the snow days.  My IEP issues will eventually get resolved.  So, I’m trying to just relax and enjoy the extra time off in this winter wonderland (and not think about the extra days of school that will be tacked on in June to make up for these days that we’re sitting around at home.)

Kyle (who’s also home today) just measured and we have 5 inches of snow on our back steps. (I’m not confident that ruler is actually touching the step here.  And – the perspective is a little weird because I took the photo from floor, but it’s close enough to 5 inches. 😉 )

Image

Once again – perspective is a funny thing.  5 inches in some of the other places I’ve lived would seem measly and wimpy for a snowstorm.  5 inches in Seattle is a big deal! It’s a big deal because of the hills and it’s a big deal because of the lack of equipment to handle it’s removal.  Even if we had more plows, they couldn’t get down our “1 lane” streets (with cars parked on both sides) or around the roundabouts that control suburban intersections.  It’s a city that I believe was not built to handle snow.

And so the city shuts down.  And the schools shut down.  I can’t hold my IEPs.

But, as any well-respected citizen would do, I’ve tried to make the most of it.  This morning, I baked muffins, and baking is one of the activities that grounds me no matter what else is going on in the chaos of my life.

Image

Muffins are one of my most favorite breakfast foods, but I’m pretty particular about them.  They need to be big, and ideally hearty, too, because breakfast really is my fuel for the day.  On a regular workday, I have about 5 hours in between breakfast and my scheduled lunchtime.  If I have something like cereal in the morning, I never feel bad about having a double (or close to triple) portion.  And when I have muffins, I’m sure to make the jumbo size so they’re big enough to tide me over until lunch.  (Or at least get me a couple of hours through until I can inhale a snack in between classes.)

Most of my go-to recipes came from a muffin cookbook that my sister has.  (The author is Francesesca DiPaolo in case you’re in need of some breakfast inspiration.)   I almost always have some of her Applesauce Bran Muffins in the freezer.  Right now, I’m eating my way through my second batch of her Cranberry Nut Muffins.  They’re the yummiest reason I look forward to fresh cranberry season.  Her muffins are great because the recipes make 12 jumbo-sized muffins.  That way, I can stick them in the freezer and pull them out individually for breakfast and just re-heat them in the microwave.  (Of course it’s not the same as having freshly baked muffins that are warm from the oven, but it’s certainly convenient.)

Image

This morning, I strayed from Francesca’s trusty recipes because I didn’t have quite enough ripe bananas for her Banana Bran Muffins, so I revisited a recipe that my mom makes from time to time.  I think she originally found it in their local newspaper.  (Or, more than likely, my dad – the recipe finder – discovered it and passed it along to my mom for the production part.  My parents seem to have this system worked out where my dad does most of the recipe finding and menu planning, and then my mom takes over in the kitchen.  I don’t want to give you the wrong idea, though – my dad can certainly hold his own in the kitchen!  But, after 40 years of marriage, they’ve just sort of figured out what works….  J)

The muffins are in the “easy” range of difficulty and most of the ingredients are the type that you should have on hand – especially if you consider yourself to be a baker.  The only thing that held me up when I thought about making these yesterday is that my applesauce was in the freezer, and it just didn’t want to thaw very fast.  I think it turned out better this way, though.  I thawed the applesauce overnight, and then I was able to enjoy warm muffins for breakfast today.  If that’s not a good start to a snow day, I don’t know what is!

Image

(Chocolate Chip) Banana Muffins

Yield: 1 dozen standard size or 6 jumbo size muffins

(Oddly enough…I’ve never actually had them with chocolate chips because my mom always used dates instead.  I’m partial to the dates, but if you can’t resist chocolate, I’m sure they’re equally delicious that way.)

¾ cup all-purpose flour

¾ cup whole wheat flour

(or 1 ½ cups Whole Wheat Pastry flour)

½ cup wheat bran

(or oat bran, which is what my mom hand wrote in, and I have always used)

½ cup packed brown sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

¾ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

2 eggs, lightly beaten

¼ cup fat-free milk (although, I’m sure you could use whatever you have on hand)

1 ⅓cups mashed ripe bananas (2 to 3 medium)

⅓ cup unsweetened applesauce

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

½ cup miniature chocolate chips

(or chopped dates, which is what I’ve always used)

⅓ cup chopped pecans (this is probably optional, although I’d highly recommend including them!)

In a large bowl, combine the first seven ingredients (through salt).  Combine the eggs and milk; stir in the bananas, applesauce and vanilla.  Stir into dry ingredients just until moistened.  Stir in chocolate chips or chopped dates.

Coat muffin cups with nonstick cooking spray or use paper liners; fill three-fourths full with batter.  Sprinkle with pecans.  Bake at 375° for 18-22 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  (If you’re making jumbo muffins, plan on the longer end of the time window.  I needed close to 25 minutes.)  Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack.

Bonbon S’Mores

I have a tendency in life to make simple things complicated.  Take, graham crackers, for instance.  It’s something you usually buy from the store, right?  And then turn into an ooey gooey chocolately marshmallowy summertime treat…

Well, I did that, but I made the graham crackers.  And then I turned them into an ooey gooey chocolately marshmallowy *frozen* summertime treat.

It started just like any baking endeavor begins: flour, sugar, baking powder, salt…

Look carefully in the background and you can see the bird about to approach the feeder!

Oh!  And butter, of course!

The recipe called for a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, which I don’t own. So, I just used one of my trusted wooden spoons.

When stirring alone didn’t seem to work the mixture into coarse crumbs, I had to pull out my pastry blender.  Bet you’ve never seen one like this before!

(It’s the kind my mom had when I was growing up.  One year for Christmas, she gave each of her kids one in our stockings.)

Once I got the mixture to resemble coarse crumbs, as prescribed by the recipe,  I added molasses and water and had to stir and stir until the dough formed a ball.  You know how you always get to that point while stirring where you think it’ll never come together?  That’s what I felt like right about here:

Some of the dough is obviously coming together, but there’s that last little bit of crumbs at the bottom of the bowl that just don’t want to combine.  Gahh!

And then, just like magic, the unruly doughy/powdery mixture becomes a ball and the insides of the bowl begin to gleam with the buttery dough.From here, I had to divide the dough in two, pat it out, and cover it in plastic so it could chill out in the fridge for awhile.

(Oh – as a quick side note: I was making these for a crowd, so I had to double the recipe.  I probably could/should have divided my dough into four so I could later roll out smaller sheets of graham cracker cookies, but I thought it would save time to just do the two large sheets and it worked fine.)

Once chilled, I rolled the sheets out really thinly between parchment paper.

Next, after 15 minutes in the freezer, I cut the dough into 2-inch squares and gave them the classic graham cracker look with several pricks from a fork.

About 17 minutes later, they came out of the oven looking like this:

Mostly the same, but they poofed up a tiny bit and have a little brown around the edges.  🙂

Once cool, I could start breaking them apart by hand.

At this point, after several more minutes in the freezer to chill the squares, I was finally able to start working on the ooey gooey part.  Marshmallow fluff goes on the inside of one of the cookies.

And softened ice cream goes on the inside of the other cookie.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering about the smaller container of ice cream seen in the background of these photos, one of our guests can’t have dairy, so I made his with a store-bought graham cracker and soy ice cream.  Can you tell which one is his in the picture above?  🙂  (Bottom right-hand corner)

Very gently, but with a firm hand, the two sides of the cookie sandwich come together.  It’s amazingly difficult to get them to stay in place.  I wish they stayed looking like this throughout their 30-minute visit in the freezer.

In case you’re curious, the issue was that the ice cream became soft enough that it seeped out the edges of the sandwich and all over the parchment paper.  The marshmallow creme hardens just enough that the two textures didn’t really freeze together.  Fortunately, even after a half an hour in the freezer, that meant I could still separate the two sides, scoop the once softened and now semi-frozen ice cream off the parchment paper and back onto the cookie.

So, the last (and most difficult) step comes next.

These

became this with just a few minutes in the microwave and a couple strokes of my spoon.

And, then, after some tricky dips and turns in the chocolate bath, the Bonbon S’mores were ready for their final firming freeze.

It’s pretty obvious to tell which ones I did first, isn’t it? 🙂  It gets increasingly difficult to dip the whole sandwich into the chocolate as time goes on because the chocolate hardens a bit and the ice cream begins melting again.  You have to work really quickly!  And, the other trick is to have A LOT of chocolate, which unfortunately means that at the end of the project, there’s a lot leftover that just goes in the compost.

In any case, after years of having cut out this recipe from a random Rachel Ray magazine that I had around, I’m glad to have finally made them and tried my hand at turning yet another simple thing in life – the S’more with store-bought graham crackers – into a rather complicated and time consuming Bonbon S’more with homemade graham cracker cookies.

This ooey gooey chocolatey marshmallowy *frozen* treat was enjoyed by all!

In case you want to try your hand at this, I found that  the recipe is already online.  Just follow this link.  Enjoy!

Top 5 Most Memorable Meals

My sister, Katy, loves to ask this question about what your top 5 most memorable meals have been.  There are no requirements for the type of meal – it can be breakfast, lunch, dinner, or even a snack – and it doesn’t matter whether you were dining in or eating out.  I still haven’t made it to my top 5 yet, but I just got to add #3 to my list last weekend.

My family occasionally had fondue for special occasion dinners when I was growing up.  It was always something I looked forward to and thought was fun, but looking back, it was a pretty basic meal.  I remember that we always had steak and chicken and we cooked them in oil.  We used simple dipping sauces like Heinz 57 and A-1 Steak Sauce.  I’m sure we had sides, too, but to honest, I don’t remember them.  Maybe potatoes of some sort…???  For me, the fun was in the main course.  I loved skewering the meat onto those long forks with the colored knobs on the end so you know whose is whose.  When I’d check on the progress of the cooking meat, sometimes the oil would sputter and a droplet would land on my hand and make me flinch in a momentary state of pain.  But then I’d be right back at it to get my next piece of meat cooked.

It wasn’t until my brother, Ben, started dating his now-wife, Heather, that I realized fondue could be more than meat cooked in oil.  Heather’s family is famous for fondue and particularly the cheese variety.  Heather made us a cheese fondue in Ben’s apartment when I was in high school and at the time – no offense Heather – I really didn’t like it.  The cheeses seemed heavy and overt and it was made with wine.  I couldn’t stand the smell of wine at the time, so I was sure that was part of the reason I didn’t like the taste of the fondue.  My palate has definitely matured since then and now I really enjoy both the smell and taste of wine.  (Maybe not as much as my mom, though.  As a side note – last summer, we were dreaming up a t-shirt for my mom that would say, “I love wine” on the front, maybe in the same style as one of those I ❤ NY t-shirts.  The back of her wine shirt was going to say, “But, I HATE texting.”  Random, yes, but very funny for her children.)

My palate has matured in more ways than simply enjoying wine.  Over Christmas vacation in MI this year, we had a family feast of fondue including oil, cheese, AND chocolate.  It was quite the event and really yummy so it got me thinking about an interest I had last year in trying out the Melting Pot for my birthday.  Ultimately, I ended up having pasta out at these AWESOME restaurant called Bizarro last year.  Since I was still thinking about Melting Pot this year, Kyle and I decided to lock it down and make reservations for my birthday.

I studied the menu for several weeks prior to my big day.  At first I was trying to decide if it would be worth it to do their 4-course dinner combination (in honor of Valentine’s Day) or if we would just end up ordering things a la carte.  We ultimately decided upon the latter and took the good money saving advice from our [really amazing] server on how to get a little bit more meat (by purchasing a side order) so we only needed to buy one entrée to go along with our cheese fondue, bottle of wine, and chocolate fondue.

So – this is what we ended up with:

  • The Wisconsin Blend for our cheese.  It had fontina, another cheese I hadn’t heard of, and then bleu added in at the end.  It was served with veggies (carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower), granny smith apples, and bread (rosemary, white (I think) and honey wheat).
  • One Cesar Salad (that came with our entrée.) It had Parmesan crusted pine nuts on it, which I’d never had before!  And – our server had it split for us onto two plates.  We didn’t even have to ask him to do that.
  • The Filet Mignon Entrée with the Coq au Vin cooking style.  The entrée came with Portobello mushrooms and asparagus, and a vegetable bowl containing red potatoes, button mushrooms, and broccoli.  We also got a side of chicken.  The dipping sauces included one that was sort of a like a sour cream/herb dip for the veggies, a gorgonzola sauce for the filet, and then a trio of  extra sauces including  teriyaki, sweet and sour, and a curry sauce.  They were all super tasty.
  • The Original Chocolate Fondue, which had a touch of peanut butter swirled into it.  The dessert comes with strawberries, bananas, cheesecake, brownies, pound cake, rice krispie treats, regular marshmallows and chocolate marshmallows.

 

It was INCREDIBLE.  I should have had a clicker counter to find out how many times I said things like, “MMMmmmm.”  “Oh man!”  And “This is sooooo good!”  I felt like Bob on the movie, “What About Bob?”  At one point, Kyle got up to use the restroom, and I realized while he was gone, that I was continuing to make all of those audible noises while eating.  Kyle kept trying to ask what exactly was so good about it and I think it was a number of things.  First of all, it did taste delicious.  It was a yummy combination of flavors that I don’t typically make at home, so it seemed like a genuine treat, even though the meal as a whole was composed of very simple and straight forward ingredients.  (That is, by the way, my favorite type of cooking – turning simple, straight forward ingredients into combinations that make your meal feel like an intricate and beautiful feast of alluring flavors.)

In addition to the tastiness of the Melting Pot, you have to admit that the ambiance is overwhelming important.  When you’re there with one person – who happens to be the love of your life – in a cozy booth built for two, your dining experience quickly turns into a personable and private meal.  We were actually tucked away around a corner back by the door to the kitchen, but we had a view down the short hallway to the area where larger parties were dining.  I could tell that looked just as fun, but in a totally different way.  I would definitely consider going back with a group sometime when I’m looking for a fun and festive dining out experience.

The number one reason that I loved this meal enough to add it onto my list of most memorable meals is the pace of it all.  I loved that everything we ate was already bite sized so there wasn’t any temptation to stuff large quantities into your mouth and spend what feels like eternity chewing so it breaks down to a small enough size that you can gulp everything down in a swallow (or three).  Eating in small bites encourages you to truly taste and enjoy your food.  I like lingering over meals, too.  While “TV dinner night” have their place in life, my favorite part of meals these days is the community aspect of it.  It’s the time spent talking around the table, even after the food is all gone, that is so important and life giving.  Since slowness is expected at the Melting Pot, and you don’t feel any rush to leave so you can open up your table for the next set of diners, it’s an ideal place to really hunker down and savor the experience.  So, savor we did.

Oh – and the cherry on top??  They brought out a special little dessert plate for me along with the rest of the chocolate fondue.  It had three chocolate dipped strawberries ( one white, one milk, and one dark) and another couple brownie chunks with a candle in one of them.  Apparently the surprised look on my face was priceless.  J  What a treat!!

So – there you have it.  The Melting Pot Dinner for my 28th birthday has officially gone down in the record books as one of my top 5 meals.

(One of these days, I’ll try to remember to describe the other two meals that I have officially deemed most memorable.  They include Mama’s Fish House in Maui from our honeymoon trip and the Waffle House in Tennessee on the road trip that Katy and I took to meet our parents in Florida for Spring Break one year.  The Waffle House story might prompt me to also write about a recent experience that Kyle and I had at IHOP for breakfast and the bookend experiences on either side of that meal – church beforehand and the asian market after the meal.)

Oh – and another fun thing: I get to go out for Italian again this year for my birthday celebration with Kyle’s parents.  We’re checking out a little neighborhood joint, right down the street from our house called Café Piccolo.

Starstruck

If it hasn’t been blatantly obvious to you before, I’ll make it clear now: I’m a foodie.  It’s taken me a long time to actually accept myself by this term, “foodie”.  I always had a negative connotation in my mind when I hear others talking about being a foodie.  To be blunt, I pictured an uppity, opinionated jerk.

In doing some further research, I discovered that my (incorrect) assumption about foodies was pretty common.  I like the definition and distinction provided by wikipedia: “…foodies are amateurs who simply love food for consumption, study, preparation, and news.  Gourmets simply want to eat the best food, whereas foodies want to learn everything about food, both the best and the ordinary…”.

That’s me.  In my free time, I sit around looking at recipes and planning meals.  I feel refreshed and renewed when I get to prepare food, and I absolutely love eating food!

When it comes to learning about food, I’ve read a couple of books and follow a couple of blogs, one of which is Orangette.  The writer of the blog, Molly, also wrote a book , which I think I’ve mentioned before.  I love her recipes and the stories behind them, so as I started planning my contributions to our upcoming weekend on Guemes with our friends Aaron & Elizabeth, I started by looking in the book for some dessert ideas.  I happened upon her recipe for Rum Cream Pie with Graham Cracker Crust and when I mentioned this as an option to Elizabeth, she made it obvious that it was her top choice.

As I started thinking about more of the details of preparing this pie, I realized I had a question, so I went out on a limb and decided to e-mail Molly.  I really wasn’t sure whether to expect a response at all, let alone before we actually leave for the cabin.  And yet, not even an hour after I e-mailed her, I got a reply.

Kyle was sitting next to me when I saw that Molly had already replied.  He says I was giddy, and starstruck.  And, he’s totally right.  Molly is the type of person that even though I’ve never met her in person (although, I have been in the same room as her when I went to hear her do a reading from her book), I feel like we could be best friends.  Katy and I both agree that Molly could quite possibly be a kindred spirit  of ours, so, imagine my delight when Molly returned my e-mail within the hour!  And she even signed off by saying, “Have a great weekend at the cabin!”

We’re totally on a first name basis now.  And – she has my e-mail address.

I’m totally starstruck…. Molly e-mailed me.

Community Supported Agriculture

Over the summer, I read Barbara Kingsolver’s book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life based on a recommendation from my sister, Katy, and Jenna, who is one of my college friends.  When it comes to reading, I usually stick to novels, but this is totally worth the read if you’re interested in thinking differently (and more intentionally) about what you eat.  The gist of the book is that Barbara and her family invest a full year of their life eating only what they have grown themselves, or what they can eat locally that others have grown or produced.  It’s quite insightful and thought-provoking in various ways.

First, just to be clear, I didn’t walk away from the book wanting to embark on the same sort of quest.  I did, however, start to think differently about where the foods are coming from that I eat.  I realized that I can’t assume much of anything when it comes to food, and that I’d really like to know as much as I can about where my food is from and how it was produced.

As a result, I’m doing a couple of things differently.  For instance, I’m buying cage-free eggs now.  I used to just buy the cheapest store brand eggs.  Also, when I’m buying a canned or boxed product, instead of buying what’s cheapest, I’m looking at the label and usually buying the product that traveled the shorter distance to get to Seattle.

Probably the biggest change Kyle and I have made is to join a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Group.  CSAs can look different from place to place so I did some research before joining ours.  The things that ultimately sold me on joining Full Circle, were that they would deliver to our house, we could get a box of produce every other week, we can substitute items if we want, we get fruit as well as vegetables,  there’s a green grocer option, and when they are filling the box, if the product wasn’t grown at the Full Circle farm, they’re connecting with other local farms.  That is, in the off-season, they’d provide produce from neighboring states as opposed to supplying their customers with products from Mexico.  (I actually read about another CSA that occasionally supplies citrus from Mexico.  I can buy citrus from Mexico in the grocery store.  Why would I need it delivered on my doorstep amongst local, organic produce?)

So, since August, Kyle and I have been learning to cook with a variety of new produce.  I realize I may have eaten some of these items before at a restaurant, of if someone else cooked it for me, but I’m pretty proud of the fact that I can now say I have officially cooked and eaten dishes that contain kale, chard, beets, beet greens, various cabbages, turnips, turnip greens, and collard greens. On top of that, I used to just buy romaine lettuce.  Now I use whatever comes in my box.  I used to buy the fruits that I thought were in season.  Well, now I’ve eaten truly seasonal apples, plums, pluots, apricots, pears, and grapes.  I admit, I spend a considerable amount of time now just researching new recipes so I know what to do with our box, but the nice thing is that it’s not all unfamiliar.  We also  just get the normal stuff – the peppers, carrots, onions, cucumbers, potatoes, and squash.

This week we got a head of romanesco and I have no idea what to do with it, but we’ll figure it out.  🙂

So, to give you an idea of the timeline:

1) I get an e-mail on Wednesday telling me the contents of my upcoming order.  At that time, I can  make any substitutions that I’d like, and add anything from the Green Grocery that I’d like.  (There’s all sorts of meats, dairy products, additional produce, and even baked goods and coffee that I could buy.)

2) The next Monday, our order appears on our doorstep by 5am.  I get pretty excited about this; it kind of feels like a bi-weekly Christmas morning.  On Sunday night I make sure the porch light is on and I put out the previous week’s box to be picked up for re-use.  (Although, I just got notice that now we can/should just recycle the boxes….)  Anyway, I usually check  the front door before I get in the shower, which is a few minutes after 5.  Once of these days, I’m sure I’ll open the door on the delivery person.  🙂  Here’s what I opened the door to today:

3) After I’m showered and dressed, I start unpacking the box.  Usually this happens while I’m brewing my morning coffee.  When I open the box, it usually looks something like this:

Everything is unwashed and loose.  I don’t have time to wash it in the mornings, but I do find bags to put everything in, and then proceed to cram it all into whatever space I can find in the fridge.  I’m definitely ready for a better fridge, with  more space in the produce drawers. 😉  Here, you’re looking at the romaine lettuce, lucinato kale, spinach, and escarole we got this morning.  As I continued to unpack, I uncovered the rest:

Romanesco, acorn squash, yams, green onions, gala apples, D’anjou pears, grapes, and pluots.

It does end up taking the full two weeks to use everything.  I’ve occasionally had to supplement with a bit more fruit from the grocery store, but I’ve only bought produce if I needed something to go along with a recipe I was making using my other CSA produce.  I also had to buy more from the grocery store when my parents and aunt & uncle were visiting recently.  (The standard size box we get is really meant for 2 adults.)

I really like that I’m doing my shopping based on the items that are coming in my box, and I love knowing that what’s coming in my box is in season, local, and certified organic.  I also love that Kyle and I are stretching ourselves to be more adventurous in our eating.  I think the only thing we haven’t liked so far was the Southern Style Collard Greens that I made, but both of us are totally willing to try them again.

It takes a little bit more planning time to cook with all of these new foods, but overall, it’s totally worth it knowing that we’re eating wholesome, seasonal, local, organic produce.