Sunday, October 2, 2011

CSA: A review of a summer of farm- fresh produce

Yesterday was the first CSA-free Saturday since a summer chock full of fresh fruits and vegetables began (with the exception of the sad, post-Irene Saturdays). So I figured today was a good day to review a summer of deliciousness before my fall/winter shares start up.

From week one... the final week...

...the experience has been a mix of emotions, running the gamut from giddy to guilty to grateful. The first week's delivery of berries was a great kick off and left me excited for the coming weeks. Somewhere in the middle, after trashing almost every single item in a delivery, I was left feeling guilty and more annoyed that I had months left before I wouldn't have to worry about cooking all this food. By the end, I was so happy to get deliveries after a week of nothing that it finally hit me that this had been a great experience. I've made some great food along the way, too. From chocolate zucchini cake to corn chowder to roasted eggplant and caramelized onion pizza, we've definitely ate well this summer. And more than that, we've ate well without spending a ton of money. So here comes the moment of truth. You know, the one where I share that pesky price breakdown that proves how awesome the CSA is.

Price Breakdown

Note: I priced my veggies by using the Harris Teeter Express Lane website, which allows you to shop for your groceries online. Whenever possible, I used the organic options, since my CSA follows organic practices.

All in all, I think the verdict is the same that I thought it would be way back at the beginning, when I assumed I'd get a lot of better quality veggies for cheaper if I signed up for a CSA. The only downsides were my failing, simply that I sometimes didn't have enough time to cook all that amazing food. I can't imagine what I would have done had I purchased a full delivery instead of the half deliveries. Hopefully, when I get to enjoy my fall/winter encore in a month I'll do better.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

CSA Week 20: End of summer

Well, my little experiment has finally ended. And I would say it's been a roaring success, with the exception of my occasional inability to cook all the food. That's my fault and it's something I'll have to start planning around since the fall share starts up in a month! That's right, I loved this so much that I went ahead and signed up for deliveries in November and December. I'm not sure what I'll do come January since I won't be getting my weekly dose of inspiration.

This week's delivery was actually a double delivery, meaning we got more than we normally would because she was making up for the post-Hurricane-Irene missed delivery. Remember that post saying it would be a loss for us? Yeah, just kidding about that. Anyway, here's this week's price breakdown. I'll be following up soon to share the season-long totals and some more reflections. I just have to find the time to put it all together!

Price Breakdown

  • 1 head of cabbage: $6.27
  • 1 watermelon: $7.99
  • 1 pound of butter beans (that's what these crazy Southerners call lima beans): $3.58
  • 2 acorn squash: $5.96
  • 2 butternut squash: $7.45
  • 2 cucumbers: $3.58
  • 4 tomatoes: $7.98
  • 6 red potatoes: $2.90
  • 4 Granny Smith apples: $6.73
  • 4 Red Delicious apples: $5.98
      • Total cost: : $58.42
    • Total savings: $16.42
      (Out of $42, since this was a double delivery)

Sunday, September 18, 2011

CSA Week 19: Fall in a bag

Fall has finally arrived, and despite the watermelon hiding in this week's delivery, my CSA announced it with a bag of apples.

And just in time for me to make the apple pie I've been wanting to bake. =D

Price Breakdown

  • 1 watermelon: $5.99
  • 1 pound of green beans: $1.99
  • 3 cucumbers: $5.37
  • 4 red delicious apples: $3.98
  • 4 granny smith apples: $6.73
  • 8 red potatoes: $3.87
      • Total: $27.93
    • Total savings: $6.93

Saturday, September 17, 2011

When inspiration hits

It had been a while since I was inspired by the items in my CSA delivery. So it's seems odd that it took an onion to kick my inspiration back in gear. Specifically this onion:

Yes that's my CSA delivery from right before Hurricane Irene and, yes, that is a honking big onion, pulled right out of Suffolk's rich soil and brought to me by my favorite food fairy, Jan of Clayhill Farms. And it got me wanting to create something using only CSA items, or at least something that didn't require me to leave the house. And looking at my delivery, I suddenly lit upon the idea of mixing roasted eggplant and caramelized onion. I had never done either, but I figured it couldn't be that difficult. And then, after discovering leftover pasta sauce and two kinds of cheese, I knew I'd be making pizza.

Specifically roasted eggplant and caramelized onion pizza with feta and mozzarella. And it was so good, I figured I'd (finally) share the recipe with you.

Roasted eggplant and caramelized onion pizza
Makes enough topping for two pizzas
1 medium eggplant, skinned and cubed
2 tbsp. olive oil
sea salt
2 sprigs fresh rosemary, chopped
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 tbsp butter
1 tsp. honey
Pizza sauce (fresh or store bought)
Fresh pizza dough (you can make this or buy fresh dough at most grocery stores)

For the eggplant:

  • Skin and cut into cubes. Salt and leave covered on the counter or in the fridge for at least a half hour. This will draw out the juices, which can leave the eggplant bitter when cooked. (You can skip this step but if you have a more mature eggplant, you'll regret it.) Drain, rinse and pat dry.
  • Toss cubes with olive oil, salt, pepper and fresh rosemary, chopped. Scatter on a baking pan and roast in a 400 degree oven until browned. 

For the caramelized onions:

  • Cut onion(s) in half and then slice into thin strips. You can go thicker, but I just wanted the onions to almost melt away so cut them as thinly (read safely) as a could. 
  • Coat the bottom of a wide, deep saucepan with 1 tbsp. of butter per onion or a mixture of olive oil and butter (I only used one onion, so I just did at tablespoon of butter).
  • Add onions and cook on medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add salt and 1 tsp. of honey (optional). Cover and cook on low for 30 minutes to an hour, or until the onions have reached your desired color, tenderness and taste. I only did 30 minutes. 
  • Try to avoid stirring constantly. You need to butter/oil to brown but you don't want the onions to burn. 
For the pizza:
  • Your oven should already be at 400 degrees, but if not, preheat it. Put your pizza stone in there to heat up while you assemble your pizza.
  • Roll out your dough using cornmeal to keep it from sticking to your paddle. Press out from the middle and fold over the outer rim to create a crust. You want this dough thinner so it crisps up enough to handle the toppings but also thick enough to handle the toppings. It's pretty much trial and error here folks.
  • Add sauce, mozzerella, eggplant, onions and feta. 
  • Bake until the cheese is brown and to crust is crispy. Eat as is or drizzle with balsamic vinegar to cut through the rich earthiness of the roasted eggplant and carmelized onions.
  • When I make pizza, I use a pizza stone preheated in the oven. I slide the pizza onto the stone with a pizza paddle. Don't have these items? Get them, STAT! Or add them to your Christmas list, as we did. Why? Because pizza stones make the best pizza. However, you can also just cook this on pan, round or square. You just have to shape the dough to fit the pan and be aware that it won't be as awesome as my pizza, though it will still be delicious.
  • Yes, these are a lot of steps and yes it took a lot of work for two pizzas. But they are amazing pizzas. Consider making one pizza and then using the leftover ingredients for a layered pasta dish on another day. The toppings will keep for a week or so in the fridge and can be used in many ways.
  • As I always say in pizza posts, customize away. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

CSA Week 17/18: Recovering

I know what you're thinking. Why wasn't there a CSA post last week? And it's simply because Hurricane Irene ruined the crops that were ready for delivery on week 17. And here we are, already four days into week 18 and I haven't posted about my CSA. And no, this time it's not because I didn't get a delivery. I did. It's just been a crazy couple of weeks and I haven't even managed to take a picture of my food (again). I suppose it's because the share was mildly disappointing. Or maybe it's the fact that I was just so happy to get a share that I cooked most of the delivery before I remembered to take a picture (again). But excuses aside, I have returned to offer a review of the last couple of CSA weeks.

Week 17 Price Breakdown

  • No delivery: $0
    • Total saved: $0
  • Total lost (here's a first): $21
Week 18 Price Breakdown
  • 1 watermelon: $5.99
  • 2 green peppers: $3.98
  • 1 cabbage: $6.27
  • 1 lb. of green beans: $1.99
      • Total cost: $18.23
      • Total lost: $2.77
That's right. This week's delivery was so small, I actually lost money. And I even priced everything at the more expensive, organic prices. But the good news is that so far, even with the bad luck of Irene, I've still saved money overall. With 2 weeks to go, I'm not above calling it early and declaring the CSA the winner of my experiment. I'm sort of banking on it, since I've also signed up for the fall/winter delivery. Kale, sweet potatoes and winter squash, here I come! And let's not forget the savings. A quick bit a math puts the total I've saved over the summer (minus what I've lost) at $270.87. Wowsa!  

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

On the move

So all summer I've sort of felt like a bump on a log. Strike that. I've been feeling rather unhealthy since the week right after my wedding, when I realized I didn't have to worry about fitting into the wedding dress I bought 10 months before my wedding. I know. Some said it wasn't smart and I must admit I got worried a few times. And though I never actually dieted, I did say no to a few of my crazier stress cravings that I indulged in right after the wedding. Like eating a whole box of Uh-Oh Oreos in two sittings. Or eating Wendy's for lunch and dinner everyday for a week. Ugh.

In case you're wondering, my dress fit perfectly. Observe:

But I know I couldn't fit into right now. And once summer began I started feeling really gross and tired, which is usually the opposite of how I feel in the summers. Usually I get a lot of energy and I get pretty active. Not so much this summer. And as the days got hotter it got worse. So I've decided, now that it's not so hot during the day, to get back into moving more and sitting around less. This post was really supposed to be my back-to-running post (since the kids in my area are all going back to school), but since I woke up feeling sick, it's not meant to be. So instead I'll share the first step of my return to running.

Step one: Buy running shoes. I've tried to run a few times and the Reebok Classics I have right now (which I've had ever since high school!) make most of my body hurt. So I've been doing research. And I've figured out that my feet have normal arches (thanks to the get-my-feet-wet-and-stand-on-some-cardboard test) and I have mild overpronation (which means I walk on the inside of my feet). It' a good thing I looked it up because I would have said I have flat feet and walk on the outside of my feet. Which would have led me to get running shoes that would have caused me to hurt my knees and ankles while running and likely would have caused me to give up.

Anyway, next I checked out reviews. And I kept coming across this brand name for beginning runners:

And then I did a bit more research into the shoes they offer for my type of feet/gait, and I found these:

Yes. They are black and pink. But those were the only one's available at the store where I found them, and they were on sale at said store. And I'm hoping they will soon be covered in dust from me running so much.

And before you say anything, yes, I know you aren't supposed to buy running shoes on sale so that you buy high-quality shoes that don't hurt you. But these really are the shoes I needed and most reviews said they were great for beginning runners. Plus, they were cheap enough that if I stay serious about running, I can afford even better ones when I'm ready for them.

And Miyagi loves them:

At least I think so, since he immediately shoved his nose inside my shoes and wouldn't stop huffing the new-shoe scent.

And yes, I think whether he likes my shoes is important, since he'll eventually be my running partner. Well, once I am actually able to keep up with him, anyway.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Surviving Irene

I would hardly say that Irene hit us hard. It was more like a glancing blow that left a noticeable and sore bruise for a few days. Yet in the midst of those days, it seemed frustrations from Irene would never end. No power, no fresh food, no working kitchen, no Internet, no TV, no hot shower, no ac. There was a growing list of annoyances and inconveniences that Sunday night I wasn't sure I was ready to cope with.

But let me back up. Hurricane Irene came through Hampton Roads Saturday afternoon. Amidst reports of evacuations, downed trees and rising floodwaters, my roommates, husband and I spent the mostly uneventful day watching TV. Around 11:30 we settled in to watch one last movie before heading off to bed. By then the rain had mostly tapered off and it felt like Irene had passed us by, leaving our area relatively unscathed.

And then there was a huge boom, followed by a flash and then the everything shut off. We were left in the dark wondering where we had moved the flashlights after thinking the hurricane was over. Then we poke our heads outside, flashlight scanning the area, and we spied this:

We weren't really sure what we were seeing either. But having cops for neighbors meant we were hustled back inside and without power we all just headed to bed. When we woke up Sunday morning and surveyed the damage, we realized how lucky everyone was.

What fell was basically the top half of a neighbor's tree. It was literally as long as my car and the half that used to be connected to the tree was probably almost a foot thick. If it had blown the other way, the neighbors would have had some problems. And despite losing power, if the power lines hadn't have caught it, it could have easily smashed into Moriah's car, which had been parked right across the street from it.

Anyway, Sunday was the worst day. The post-hurricane weather put the temperature in the nineties and there was no breeze. By the end of the day I was cranky from the heat and while we had purchased cookies and goldfish, we hadn't realized how much you crave a hot, complete meal until you don't have it for a day. Luckily I had brewed an entire pot of coffee on Saturday and had saved the leftovers in case power went out. Sunday morning I managed to have an iced coffee, using the last of the soymilk before it went bad and some of the ice we had purchased in an attempt to save some of our groceries in a cooler. That night we went to Cheddar's for dinner. I had a Monte Cristo, and for the first time I ate the entire thing since it wasn't like I had somewhere to stash the leftovers.

As far as Dominion goes, Sunday came and went with little more than the appearance of cones to mark the disaster area and keep cars from driving right over more branches that had fallen in the road:

That night the house was so hot that we pitched a tent and slept relatively well in the 60-degree temperatures. If only the neighbors didn't have the loudest generators in the world, I might have gotten more than two hours of sleep.

Monday came and went with multiple visits from Dominion and city trucks, but nothing happened. By the sixth truck, we gave up on having power. Luckily Monday was cooler than Sunday and a breeze had left the house so comfortable that I was beginning not to care that we didn't have power. I spent my day reading the backlog of newspapers I had piling up from the weeks when I was too busy to read them, a textbook on magazine writing for work and I almost finished "In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto" by Michael Pollan (which is excellent and scary, by the way). That night we played Magic (a geeky card game) and I didn't miss the Internet, the TV, the microwave or the ac. I mildly missed the kitchen, but we grilled out that night, so it almost felt like fun. What I desperately missed was the hot water heater. I had taken cold showers all weekend and I was yearning for hot water.

In the end, we slept in the tent again and were woken up at 7 a.m. on Tuesday by chainsaws. And when we looked outside, we saw this:

Yes, miracle of miracles, the tree was finally down. But there was no Dominion truck in sight and that's when we realized we still didn't have power. I took a cold shower. I made a peanut butter sandwich for work. And then I went to work, still bemoaning the lack of power. The kitchen was beginning to smell and we were all afraid to open the freezer or fridge in fear of what we might find growing in there. For us, the story ends with good news. By 6 p.m. or so on Tuesday night, we had power, glorious power. Others still don't. And I am sorry to say that some aspects of having power annoy me. Like the fact that instead of hanging out and talking, we've reverted to watching the TV constantly. Except me. I can't seem to bring myself to watch a single show. But that'll change. I hear I've missed two episodes of Eureka in the last week and a half. And don't get me started on episodes of Design Star, Master Chef and Hell's Kitchen.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

CSA Week 16: Blame Irene

OK, I have bad news. I've been a bad blogger. Not only have I not post in nine days, I haven't even managed to  give myself much to blog about. See, I've gotten increased duties at work that have double my workload so I have less time and inclination to do "work" outside of my job. Then an earthquake hit. And then there was this little hurricane named Irene. And we were without power for three days. So cut me some slack, please?

Thanks! Alright, so my cardinal sin this week might have been the fact that even though I received a CSA delivery (a few days early so we wouldn't have to travel during the storm), I never took picture. And I've already eaten or given away half of the delivery. Lame. Teaches me not to put off taking the dang picture, that's for sure.

Anyway, here's my breakdown anyway:

Price Breakdown

  • 1 cantaloupe: $3.69
  • 1 head of cabbage: $6.27
  • 4 tomatoes: $7.98
  • 1 eggplant: $1.79
  • 6 yellow squash: $10.09
  • 2 cucumbers: $3.58
      • Total: $33.40
    • Total savings: $12.40

Monday, August 22, 2011

Jewels of the sea

I never used to be that interested in collecting stuff on the beach. But since I married into a family of collectors (my father-in-law has a growing collection of arrowheads and my mother-in-law decorates the house with a variety of shells, sea glass and recovered bits of ceramic from the beach), combing the beach for little jewels of the sea has become a constant pasttime. On a recent trip to the in-laws, we went out on the Chesapeake Bay to visit some of the sandy isles near Crisfield, Md.:

We also brought Miyagi along, although he wasn't very much help when it came to hunting for artifacts. He spent most of his time in the water, waiting for us to join him.

Anyway, I've generally been focusing on sea glass during our outings. This recent trip turned up some of the best in my collection:

I'll point out that among the basic white glass, there is green, purple, cobalt, light blue and amber. See if you can see the little piece of sponge coral I discovered dried up and  lodged in a broken bottle that I left on the beach to get a little more wearing down from the waves.

Anyway, I keep most of the glass in a bamboo bowl, along with my Coca-Cola bottles I brought back from Morocco. Like so:

I'm not sure if the tableau makes any sense at all, but it does make me smile when I see it. Call it my little memory corner.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

CSA Week 15: Challenges

I used to think that getting items that I've never or rarely cooked with would be the challenge of getting CSA deliveries. Not so. Turns out it's a whole lot more difficult to be creative when you are faced with using the same vegetables over and over again. That's how I ended up throwing a few yellow squash and a whole lot of cucumber away a few weeks into the program. I know, I know. Shame on me. But I suppose this week's delivery is an opportunity to make up for it:

That's right. 4 yellow squash and 3 cucumbers. Plus, I'm finding it hard to think of anything but corned beef and cabbage to utilize that admittedly gorgeous head of cabbage. But why fight it,  right? My husband is a fan and it's kind of in my blood. I suppose I'll be picking up corned beef at the grocery store today.

Price breakdown

  • 1 head of cabbage: $5.92
  • 2 pints of cherry tomatoes: $7.98
  • 10 ears of corn: $9.18
  • 4 yellow squash: $6.73
  • 3 cucumbers: $5.37
      • Total: $35.17
    • Total savings: $14.17

Saturday, August 13, 2011

CSA Week 14: Decisions

This week's delivery was exciting not just because of the gorgeous vegetables, but because of a simple piece of paper that announced that we have the chance to continue getting deliveries through the second week of December.
My first instinct was to celebrate. My second instinct was apprehension, mostly because I've already had a bit of trouble trying to use everything from my deliveries. We have until September to make the decision about whether or not we want to extend our program, but I'm already leaning toward getting it. That's because we can expect broccoli, kale, winter squash (like butternut) and sweet potatoes, and all of those items are super exciting. Plus, the deliveries are the same price ($21 per week, or $147 fro 7 weeks) and I've pretty much proven that the CSA saves me a boatload on veggies. I think this week and next week will help make that decision by acting as a test of whether or not I can make these deliveries worth it, i.e. whether or not I can actually eat all that food.

So here's this week's delivery:
Big excitement of the week: an onion! I know, it seems a little silly to find something so simple like an onion, but it's a very essential item and I never seem to remember to buy them. Plus, I've never actually tried a fresh-from-the-farm onion.

Price Breakdown

  • 1 watermelon: $5.99
  • 1 onion: $1.34
  • 2 eggplants: $3.58
  • 4 tomatoes: $7.98
  • 5 green bell peppers: $9.95
  • 6 yellow peaches: $7.85
      • Total: $36.70
    • Total saved: $15.70

    Tuesday, August 9, 2011

    CSA Week 13: More chances to experiment

    There were a lot of repeat items in this week's delivery, but they are favorites that allow me to do some experimenting with cooking.
    So far I've used two of the eggplants and the pink-eyed peas. The peaches will be meant for peach crumble and I'm thinking of roasting the tomatoes and tossing them with feta cheese and balsamic vinegar.

    Price Breakdown

    • 1 watermelon: $5.99
    • 1 cantaloupe: $3.99
    • 8 peaches: $10.47
    • 3 tomatoes: $5.99
    • 3 eggplant: $7.98
    • 1 lb. of pink-eyed peas: $2.78
        • Total: $37.20
      • Total saved: $16.20
      Note on the pictures: The tomatoes were slightly under-ripe (hence the orange color) and the peaches were really dusty. A quick scrub for the peaches and a two days on a sunny windowsill fixed these babies right up and they look just as a good as they taste. Often with fresh, farm-grown fruits and veggies, they really don't have to perfectly formed for them to be tasty and healthy.

      Saturday, July 30, 2011

      CSA Week 12: Purple and pink

      When the owner of my CSA farm Jan asked me if I wanted eggplant I almost squeaked with excitement as I attempted to calmly say sure. Eggplants are one of the most maligned member of the vegetable world, taking their unglorified place next to Brussels sprouts and okra. But eggplants are incredible, unlike those other two examples. I mean, seriously. They are versatile and take on the deliciousness of whatever sauce you cook them in. Plus they are good for you. So, that's why this sight makes me delirious with joy:
      That's right. Five eggplants. I don't know how I got so lucky. Also, you see that bag? That was my surprise item of the delivery:

      That is a bag of pink-eyed peas, the prettier cousin of black-eyed peas.They offer another challenge that I'm hoping a creative recipe will help me overcome. See, my opinion of black-eyed peas is decidedly negative. So, I suppose this is my chance to change my opinion. This, of course, was one of the main reasons I got a CSA. Besides getting cheaper, fresher fruits and vegetables, I wanted to stretch my culinary abilities.

      The whole delivery includes a watermelon, a cantaloupe, a pound of pink-eyed peas, five eggplants and 10 ears of corn. And a new culinary challenge.

      Price breakdown
      • 1 watermelon: $5.99
      • 1 cantaloupe: $3.99
      • 1 lb. pink-eyed peas (priced for 2 pounds of dried black-eyed peas): $5.56
      • 5 eggplants: $8.95
      • 10 ears of corn: $9.18
          • Total: $33.67
        • Total saved: $12.67

        Thursday, July 28, 2011

        Vegetables are gorgeous

        This eventually became mixed veggies sauteed with balsamic vinegar and served over brown rice.

        Monday, July 25, 2011

        Summery fresh: Corn chowder

        Alright, I can understand why you might think that corn chowder isn't really a summery dish. I mean, with the temperature being in the triple digits right now, I'm not sure myself if I want to dig into anything warmer than a nice cool salad. But then, I get to work, where they keep the thermostat at an almost unbearable 60 degrees, and all I can think about is hot soup and tea. Besides, corn is about as quintessentially summer as you can get and my CSA sure delivers a lot of it. The best thing about this chowder (which I came up with all by myself) is that it only takes 30 minutes and yet still manages to be delicious and flavorful. The key? Farm fresh ingredients, herbs from my own patio garden and  a bit of chicken stock.

        30-minute Corn Chowder
        3 slices of bacon, diced
        4 ears worth of corn
        5-6 red potatoes, skin-on and diced
        3-4 cloves of garlic
        About 1 tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary
        About 1 tbsp. chopped fresh oregano
        About 1 tbsp. chopped fresh parsely
        1 1/2 cups chicken stock (1 bouillon cube dissolved in 1 1/2 cups hot water)
        1 cup soy milk
        2 tsp. cayenne pepper
        Salt and pepper to taste
        Shredded cheddar cheese

        • Dice up bacon and put in a preheated pan. Remove the cooked bacon and some of the grease (I do this to decrease some of the overall fat in the soup).
        • Add the corn, potatoes and garlic to the pan. Add salt and pepper to taste. Once the potatoes are lightly browned, add the stock. Bring it to a boil. 
        • Turn the heat down. Add the fresh herbs, cayenne pepper and soy milk. Simmer until it's reached your desired consistency. Stir often so the soy milk doesn't scald. 
        This dish is not only super easy to make, it uses very few ingredients, and most of them tend to be sitting around your house anyway. On a sidenote, if you don't have fresh herbs I suggest growing an herb garden! Just kidding, that's not necessary. But just remember that when subbing dried herbs for fresh ones, decrease the amount by half. In this case I'd do a teaspoon each of oregano and parsley and two teaspoons of rosemary. Why? Parsley and oregano tend to be superstrong when dried. Rosemary is slightly weaker and you'll need extra so it's not overshadowed. Also, make sure you get crushed rosemary. It is very difficult to chop dried rosemary and the herbs won't be in the dish long enough to soften. And no one likes getting a huge chunk of chewy rosemary in their chowder!

        Saturday, July 23, 2011

        CSA Week 11: Helping us beat the heat

        It seems Clayhill Farms knows a thing or two about beating the heat. My delivery consists of all the juicy items that would be excellent at keeping everyone hydrated and happy in this triple-digit heat.

        Today's selection includes 10 ears of corn, half a pound of green beans, eight peaches, two cantaloupe and a watermelon. All of this just in time for my birthday cookout. So yeah, I'm looking at this delivery like a birthday gift from my wonderful CSA friends. 

        Price Breakdown
        • 10 ears of corn: $8.98
        • 1/2 lb. of green beans: $2
        • 8 peaches: $10.47
        • 2 cantaloupe: $7.98
        • 1 watermelon: $5.99
            • Total: $35.42
          • Total saved: $14.42
          We've passed the halfway mark on deliveries, by the way. There are only 9 more to go, with the last delivery set for Saturday, Oct. 1. I'm really looking forward to seeing what sort of items will be in the September deliveries. For now, I'll be enjoying this week's delivery, likely with a handful of napkins to sop up all the peach and melon juices. Having a CSA can be messy!

          Thursday, July 21, 2011

          Around the house: Not too big for this wall

          I realize I haven't really managed to post many pictures of the inside of my house. Except for the dining room, which I only posted about after doing so much work to organize it. But now that I am in possession of a new painting from Berrybody, I figured it was time to show a picture of my living room, where it earned its place of honor.

          And a close-up of the painting (and it was $20!):

          Call it an early birthday present to myself!

          Wednesday, July 20, 2011

          "We're experimenting with some volatile herbs, dude..."

          My weekend of weeding and mulching culminated in me finally biting the bullet and buying some herbs.
          I hadn't yet because I was hopeful I might be able to grow some from seeds. But my mint died tragically and without warning, so I decided to hedge my bets. I still my try to get some seedlings later, but for now I'll just enjoy my fully grown and thriving - and did I mention organic? - herbs. My first round was a robust mint (for tea, mojitos and dog biscuits), a sprawling oregano and tall stand of rosemary. I plan to supplement them with more herbs later, but this is a good start.

          I planted rosemary and oregano together in one planter:

          The mint's voracious nature relegated it to a separate pot:

          The particular mint I picked was already pretty large, so hopefully I'll be able to make a lot of mint tea and dog biscuits.

          I've already made a delicious 30-minute corn chowder, which was made more delicious with fresh oregano and rosemary. I'll share that recipe soon. I plan to add some parsley and thyme to my collection and possibly some cilantro.

          Monday, July 18, 2011

          Around the house: Not "Welcome to the Jungle" anymore

          I have a love-hate relationship with weeding. On the one hand, I love the results. The plots looks so loved and cared for. I also get the satisfaction that I did something that day, instead of doing what I do everyday (sitting on the couch, watching TV). I even sort of like the healthy muscle soreness in my arms. It's almost like I worked out (which I sort of did)! But I hate the sore lower back. Or the bug bites and stabs from particularly vengeful plants that I end up covered with by the time I'm done. So maybe that's why our house was beginning to look something like this:

           *Not an actual picture of our house*

          But this was the weekend I had enough. And I attacked. I ripped and dug and yanked. And I discovered the candytufts I planted a few months ago. And the azalea plant that I brought back from the brink with a little acidic plant food. I even found a flower that had shown up all on its own.

          An Anderson's expert (read more about Anderson's here) identified the little guy as a Vinca, a flowering annual that likely was brought to our little plot by a bird. While we were at Anderson's we snagged some hardwood mulch (for $3.50 per bag) as well as some topsoil to fill in some holes that were bequeathed to us via the previous' residents' children. By the end of the weekend our front plot now looks like this:

          Gorgeous! Though, it's hard to be amazed when you don't have a before. My bad. I guess I'm not the best blogger when it comes to that.

          Sunday, July 17, 2011

          CSA Week 10: Big and small

          This week's CSA delivery ran the extremes of sizes. I got a large watermelon and a bag of gorgeous cherry tomatoes. It was a most excellent surprise to get such a large watermelon. I can't wait to try out the recipe for Watermelon Mojito Salad that I've been imagining.

          The delivery included one watermelon, one cantaloupe, a pint of cherry tomatoes, half a pound of green beans and 10 ears of corn. This was one of the lighter deliveries, but it still included some great food.

          Price breakdown

          • 1 watermelon: $5.99
          • 1 cantaloupe: $3.99
          • 1 pint of cherry tomatoes: $3.99
          • 1/2 1b. green beans: $ 1.25
          • 10 ears of corn: $11.97
              • Total: $27.19
            • Total saved: $6.19

            Saturday, July 16, 2011

            Caffeine journeys

            As I've taken stock of some of the things that have happened over the past year or so since I've started my new job, it's hit me that I drink a lot of coffee. Let me break a general day down for you: I get up. I usually get one to two 12 ounce cups of coffee out of the pot my husband makes every morning. Once I arrived at work, I would often make a 8-cup pot of coffee and drink it all by myself. At least once a week, I would also stop on my way to work and buy a triple venti soy caramel macchiato (please don't judge me). So what does this all break down to? On especially thirsty days I would drink 11 eight-ounce cups plus 3 two-ounce shots. That all adds up to 94 ounces of coffee! I think that deserves the exclamation point.
            Me drinking my morning cup of joe during our honeymoon.
            We brought our own pot just in case there wasn't one at the cabin.
            How's that for obsession?

            Not to mention some raised eyebrows.

            Here's the kicker. I did a little research. It turns out, if you are a healthy adult, the Mayo Clinic says you can safely consume 2-4 cups (16-32 ounces) of coffee a day. I've spent most of the last year drinking almost triple that amount. Here's what they say about drinking too much:
            "Although moderate caffeine intake isn't likely to cause harm, too much can lead to some unpleasant effects. Heavy daily caffeine use — more than 500 to 600 mg [between 40 and 64 ounces of brewed coffee] a day — may cause insomnia, nervousness, restlessness, irritability, upset stomach, fast heartbeat and muscle tremors."
            Uhhh... That's sounding a little familiar. I have sort of been feeling like a gremlin lately.

            So, I decided it was time to do something about it. I admit, I wasn't ready to drop caffeine altogether (And I'm still not!). I used to do that every year, but the headaches got to be too much. So my plan is to get my habit back down to a healthy level. That means 16-32 ounces of brewed coffee a day (that's 1 to 3 cups to me, depending on the size of my mug) and supplement that with mate teas (lower caffeine content but similar sharpening-of-the-senses effects). It's now been about three weeks into this endeavor, and it's actually going swimmingly. Most days I'm definitely in the moderate zone, and I've also used this experience as a challenge to drink more tea. I've been feeling better and more energetic as result.

            Who knew one could drink that much coffee and not make time seem to slow down, a la the squirrel in Over the Hedge?
            Caffeine makes this squirrel move so fast that everyone looks like they
            are in slow motion. Best scene in the whole movie!

            Monday, July 11, 2011


            Our house has been kind of overrun with bunnies recently. And here they are, in the front yard. Like the own the place.

            Sunday, July 10, 2011

            CSA Week 9: Melon!

            This week I received 10 ears of corn, a cantaloupe, six tomatoes, six peaches and four cucumbers. I used the corn at a cookout with the in-laws and donated my cukes to them, too. I'm not a huge fan of cucumbers, at least not so many. I think I've gotten some with every delivery. The cantaloupe was amazing, as well.

            Price breakdown

            • 10 ears of corn: $10.00
            • 1 cantaloupe: $3.99
            • 6 tomatoes: $11.97
            • 6 peaches: $7.85
            • 4 cucumbers: $7.96
                • Total: $41.77
              • Total saved:$20.77
            Getting tomatoes these past couple of weeks has been especially exciting because my problems with my own tomato plants. Remember how gorgeous and optimistic these plants were:

            Unfortunately, something went very wrong. Part of growing plants in containers is that you can miss out on some of the natural nutrients in the soil. Turns out, my tomatoes were severely lacking in calcium. This lack causes blossom end rot in tomatoes. Which leads to inedible and ugly tomatoes. Like this:

            I've been able to get my tomato fix, but not in the way I wanted. Next year I'll know better. And, according to my neighbor, all I need to do is put a little lime in my pots and all will be well. They also make a blossom end rot spray that apparently works. Too bad my plants have mostly given off their last tomatoes of the season. Maybe next year. Til then, I still have my CSA.

            Saturday, July 2, 2011

            CSA Week 8: Sunflower days

            It's a good day when you wake up to a giant hug from an old friend and a smile and a sunflower from your CSA. Besides those wonderful wake-up calls, I also received a pound of green beans, six tomatoes, 10 ears of corn, six peaches and four cucumbers, just in time for Fourth of July grilling. Grilled corn and peaches? How can you go wrong?

            Price breakdown

            • 1 lb. green beans: $2.49
            • 6 tomatoes: $10.09
            • 10 ears of corn: $11.97
            • 6 peaches: $4.70
            • 4 cucumbers: $7.96
            • 1 sunflower: $1
                • Total: $38.21 
              • Total saved: $17.21