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.