we might starve without a CSA

Image: Clagett Farm CSA Week 9, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from galant's photostream

We’ve been in Little Rock and without our beloved CSA for three weeks now, and I’ve realized that after a year as a CSA member, I completely forgot how to feed us in a conventional way.

You see, I became so used to receiving a giant box of veggies each week and planning my meals accordingly, that I actually forgot how to plan a week’s worth of meals and shop for us without it.  This became apparent today when we realized we were both starving and had nothing in the house for lunch.  Before, back in our CSA days, when our fridge was always overflowing with veggies, every meal I cooked involved enough leftovers for at least two lunches.  On top of that, just to use up all the veggies before they went bad, I was always making and freezing ratatouilles, soups, and pasta sauces that could be pulled out and defrosted to make a last-minute meal.

Today, stomach growling, I peeked in the fridge and realized that while I had ingredients to make two more dinners (I shop the Farmer’s Market on Saturdays and fill in with the grocery store on Sundays), the only other things I had to eat were bacon, eggs, tortillas, cheese, pita chips, and hummus.  I had completely forgotten to plan for lunch, because I got so used to having leftovers or something from the freezer!  “What are we going to EAT?” I wailed to Jon, flopping down on the guest bed near where he was using his computer.  (I tend to get swoony and dramatic when hungry.)  “We could get some lunchmeat and sandwich stuff,” he suggested.  “But that’s against the rules!”

What are the rules? Well, after seeing “Food, Inc.” we agreed upon the following:

  • We only eat meat that is sustainably and ethically raised.  This basically means “pastured” meat, or meat that comes from an animal raised in a pasture (more than “free-range”, which is basically meaningless) where it can stretch its legs, graze on grass, and, in the case of chickens, munch on bugs and worms.  This meat would preferably be local, but does not have to be.
  • In order to afford that meat, we eat vegetarian (or nearly vegetarian) for much of the week.
  • What veggies we do consume are to be local (when possible), first and foremost, and preferably organic.
  • All of our dairy is to be organic.  Eggs are to be from pastured nesting hens.
  • We avoid corn syrup, processed foods, and excessive packaging.
  • Our coffee is to be fair trade and shade grown.
  • Most of these rules go out the window outside our home.

After some discussion, we decided that 1) we might have to relax our rules while we figure out a food routine here in our new city, and 2) it was time to get ourselves to Sam’s Club.  In Charleston, we were members of Costco, but it’s basically the same thing as Sam’s.  The #1 major reason to be a member is to get big frozen bags of seafood.  Currently, we don’t have rules about seafood, though we are moving in that direction as we learn more about the environmental impact of commercial fishing and fish farming operations.  I have a general idea that wild-caught salmon is “better” than farmed salmon, but I couldn’t tell you why.  Still, fish is a staple in our diet, because it’s easier to get than pastured meat most of the time, and because I’m still not a good enough vegetarian cook not to base most of my meals around a protein source.  Other things we commonly buy at Sam’s/Costco: canned tomatoes, chicken stock, chocolate chips, pasta, pita chips, Zyrtec, Prilosec, Lactaid, parmesan cheese, feta cheese, and dog food.

So, now we’re members of Sam’s (which, I have to say, membership for a year was $40 and they gave us a $20 gift card, so, with the savings on what we bought today alone, our membership is more than paid for), and our pantry is nicely stocked.  I’m realizing I need to buy more than I think I need at the farmer’s market on Saturdays so I can make a few extra dishes and freeze them to have in a pinch later.  We’re still figuring out how to eat our values in a new city, and I’m sure we have a ways to go.  I’m also trying to figure out how the food aspect of this blog will look without the weekly rhythm of our CSA boxes, though I know I want to keep sharing stories and recipes of our adventures in more ethical eating.  If you have suggestions, let me know! Here’s hoping we won’t starve because I don’t know how to eat like a regular person anymore.

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CSA: Charleston — a whole lot of summer

Another delicious week with our Pinckney’s Produce CSA! This week was like an explosion of summer goodies.  Here’s what we got:

That’s:

  • 8 ears of corn (gave 4 to the neighbors)
  • 6 potatoes
  • 9 yellow squash
  • 9 cucumbers
  • 8 zucchini
  • 4 pattypan squash
  • 6 banana peppers
  • 1 bag green beans (gave 1/3 to the neighbors)
  • 1 bag broccoli
  • 1 small bag of cherry tomatoes
  • 3 sweet onions

Tuesday

On Tuesday, I picked up our box.  For dinner, I made a stir fry with the broccoli and 2 of the pattypan squash, which I served over brown rice.  I also made refrigerator dill pickles with the cucumbers and bread and butter pickles with the yellow squash, half of the zucchini, and the banana peppers.  One reason I make so many pickles is that people love them, and they’re a nice thing to give away.  If we had a smaller box for our two-person family, I wouldn’t give so much food away, but as it is, we just can’t eat it all, and we can’t freeze it because we’re moving in two weeks.  My boss in particular loves pickles, and I give him a jar of each variety each week.  He’s kind enough to return the jars for a refill the next week!

Wednesday

On Wednesday, I adapted Rachael Ray’s Green Minestrone recipe for dinner, using up half of the green beans, and half of the remaining zucchini.  I made a few changes, using a couple of slices of bacon instead of pancetta, omitting the spinach (though if I’d had greens this week, those would have worked well), and omitting the celery (I tossed in a little celery seed to get the flavor).  I didn’t have a lot of parmigiano reggiano on hand, so I tossed a couple hunks of parmesan cheese rind into the pot while I was simmering the soup to get the flavor.  I always freeze my parmesan rinds to use in flavoring soups– they’re the secret ingredient to a good chicken soup!

Thursday

Thursday night, I tried a recipe that a fellow CSA member recommended on the Pinckney’s Produce Facebook page.  I had seen the recipe in my Real Simple magazine, but the fellow member jogged my memory.  It was a zucchini and orzo salad with feta cheese.  I added the cherry tomatoes and served it alongside grilled tilapia, which I sprinkled with a little lemon juice and dill to mimic the flavors of the pasta dish.  Yum! We had a feeling it would be a very tasty stand-alone pasta salad with the addition of some tuna, so that’s what I did with the leftovers.

Friday

Friday was a quintessentially Charleston night.  It has nothing to do with our CSA, but food is involved, so I thought I’d mention it here.  We went out to a friend’s family’s Isle of Palms beach house for a shrimp boil.  This was the view:

And this was the food:

So good! We stuffed ourselves on spicy shrimp, sausage, potatoes with garlic, onion, corn, and carrot (a BRILLIANT addition to the mix), we danced around, we took a walk on the beach in the dark, and we swam in the ocean, which felt divine.  It was a great night with friends that reminded me just how much I’m going to miss this place.

Saturday

Saturday Jon was on call and I was home alone, so I ate leftovers and watched World Cup.

Sunday

Sunday brunch was a scramble I made with the rest of the pattypan squash, eggs, fontina cheese, bacon, and fresh basil. Delicious!

For dinner on Sunday, I made a potato, green bean, and corn salad, which has a tangy mustard vinaigrette (I added red pepper flakes and the sweet onions).  We had a dinner made of side dishes by eating the salad with the leftover pasta salad from Thursday, and some of the squash pickles. 

Monday

Monday we ate a little bit of leftovers and a whole lot of popcorn for dinner.

Overall: a delicious week! We ate almost everything, and we’re looking forward to two more weeks of goodies before we move. I’ve already arranged for a coworker to take over our share for the remainder of the season.

CSA: Charleston – The Halfway Mark

I believe we’re now halfway through our CSA season with the wonderful Pinckney’s Produce, but I could be wrong.   Anyway, here’s what we got this week:

That’s:

  • 1 bunch kale
  • 1 bunch chard
  • 1 cabbage (gave away to a coworker)
  • 10 yellow crookneck squash
  • 3 sweet onions
  • 3 bell peppers
  • 5 banana peppers
  • 6 pattypan squash
  • 12 pickling cucumbers
  • 8 zucchini
  • 1 large bag green beans (gave half away to a coworker)

And here’s what we did with it all:

Tuesday

Tuesday I focused on making pickles with the squash, zucchini, peppers, and cucumbers.  I did refrigerator dills with the cukes and bread and butter pickles with the rest.  I’ve been taking jars of the pickles to friends and coworkers and everyone loves them.

refrigerator dill pickles

bread and butter squash and zucchini pickles.

Otherwise, we ate leftover corn on the cob, grilled squash salad, and grilled cabbage coleslaw from last week with some blackened salmon for dinner.

even our leftovers are yummy thanks to our CSA!

Wednesday

Wednesday I fried some bacon in a skillet, poured off most of the grease, and sauteed the chard with some garlic and red pepper flakes.  I served this with the crumbled bacon and some parmesan cheese over orzo.  Not bad for a random no-recipe meal!

sauteed chard with garlic and red pepper over orzo.

Thursday

Thursday I was feeling crummy and Jon was feeling crummy, likely because some germy kid at his work gave him a cold, which he kindly shared with me. The hazards of pediatrics! Anyway, I was feeling like some comfort food, so I made fried rice with the bell peppers, 2 pattypan squash, and an onion.  I made a ton so I had leftovers for lunch on Friday as well.  Fried rice, like frittatas, is just one of those meals where I throw in a bunch of veggies I need to use up and it always turns out great.

Friday

Friday night, I was home alone, but that didn’t stop me from making myself an awesome dinner.  I made two delicious quiches with the kale and some leeks I bought at the store, following the Smitten Kitchen’s recipe for a Leek and Swiss Chard Tart.  I’m really not sure what the difference is between a quiche and a tart, but basically this was a quiche.  I used pre-made puff pastry for my crust, and I subbed in herbes de provence, because I couldn’t find my dried thyme.  It came out so delicious, and it fed us for breakfast on Saturday and Sunday as well.  Definitely try this recipe if you have some greens around!

Saturday

Saturday I went with one old standby and tried one new thing.  The old standby is my usual green bean recipe: sautee green beans with garlic and onions with ginger and soy sauce.  Jon loves them, I love them, can’t go wrong.  The new thing was using the rest of the squash and zucchini in a potato and summer squash gratin with goat cheese.  It probably would have been a lot less time consuming if I had had a mandolin for slicing the veggies crazy thin, but my one and only Wusthof knife worked out pretty well, even if it did seem to take an eternity.  No matter what, all the slicing was worth it for a dish that tasted so good!  Mine had a few more layers than the original recipe called for, but I just kept layering.  I added more milk and more cheese to make up for the fact that my gratin was larger.  This is another recipe I highly recommend.

potato, squash, and goat cheese gratin.

Sunday we had a party to go to, so I didn’t do any cooking.

Monday

Monday we were feeling lazy and wanting to watch Battlestar Galactica (we’re nerds) and drink margaritas.  I had a bit of kale left in the fridge, so I cut it up and sauteed it until wilted, and then I used it in place of spinach in a spinach and artichoke dip recipe.  Turns out, any green will do in spinach and artichoke dip. My theory: with enough cheese, you could basically use grass clippings and no one would care.

So, another week down, and besides what I gave away to a coworker, we ate it all! I’m pretty proud!

on skinny shoppers, food elitism, and gender in the kitchen

You don't have to be a skinny, white, rich lady to get into cooking. Image by Nina Leen via the Google LIFE Photo Archive.

I’m a foodie. I’m an unabashed, CSA-member, local-beet-eating, corn-syrup-eschewing, pickle-making, bread-baking foodie. I write a lot about food, how I sacrifice my hopes and dreams to bake bread, how I experiment with the new and wacky produce that appears in my CSA boxes, how I try to eat everywhere worth eating in my city before I have to leave it.  I also read a lot about food.  I’m a big fan of Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, and if Michael Pollan wrote it, I’ve probably read it.

This doesn’t mean I *like* everything I read from Michael Pollan. Continue reading

CSA: Charleston — the season begins

Last Tuesday, we started our latest CSA season with Pinckney’s Produce. We did a season with them last summer/fall and loved every minute of it (you can read about those adventures here). This season, since we’re moving at the end of it and can’t freeze excess food to eat after the season is over, we signed up for a smaller box.  Here’s what we got:

  • 3 bunches collards
  • 1 curly head lettuce
  • 1 butter/bibb lettuce
  • 3 heads broccoli
  • radishes
  • onions
  • strawberries

Continue reading