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