Friday, June 1, 2012

A Food Adventure

For a while now, I have been interested in taking advantage of all of the wonderful, delicious, locally grown produce that is available to us living here in East TN.  There are several local farms that over a crop share for a fee where you are guaranteed fresh, organic fruits and vegetables available for pick up every week.  Jonathan and I did some talking and a bit of research and decided that we would give it a try.  Doing the math, it broke down to a reasonable amount of money each week and guaranteed us fresh, seasonal food that was also organic. 

Our first harvest from the CSA (crop share) that we joined arrived last Thursday.  We decided to take on this endeavor with some friends of ours, the Slagers, so we are actually sharing a large "box" each week.  Mia Slager and I take the time to divide the spoils each week and also share ideas on how to cook and prepare each thing.  It's only been a bit over a week, but we are already loving it. 

Look at all of the stuff we got last week at our first pick-up:

Isn't this a ton of food!?  Now, keep in mind that this is the entire large share that Mia and I split.  But even after we split it, we had tons of fresh produce.  This first week included fresh strawberries, two heads of cauliflower, two heads of broccoli, radishes, garlic, leafy green lettuce, romaine lettuce, and Swiss chard.

Things I learned from my first week:  When Mia brought the food over, we washed everything quickly and divided up the food.  I found out through the course of the week that some of the lettuce did not get washed well enough.  So, last night after we got our second week's worth of food, I washed everything very closely.  I took every piece of fresh lettuce and washed it well, removing all dirt.  This will hopefully diminish our loss of food and will keep any little creatures from living and eating off of our veggies before we consume them.  (I did find a little caterpillar that had fattened up on my broccoli last week).

 Cauliflower:  When it came to cooking the cauliflower, I followed a recipe that my mother-in-law suggested.  It's so simple.  Basically, you cut the stalks of the cauliflower a bit shorter than usual.  You want mostly the tops off.  I tossed it in a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper and roasted it on a lined baking sheet at 350 until the cauliflower was pretty brown.  It wasn't just tender, it was browned.  The flowerettes crisped up and actually seemed to take on an entirely new flavor as they carmelized in the olive oil.  Delicious!  Our kids tried it because Jonathan and I were raving about how delicious it was.

 These berries were so ripe and so sweet that they made the strawberries I typically by at the grocery seem terrible.  I must confess that only I enjoyed these berries.  The kids were sleeping over at the grandparents' house, and I couldn't stop eating them.  They were gone before I went to bed that first night!

 These were the largest radishes I have ever seen!

This is how I wash and dry the lettuce before storing them in the fridge.  This way I hope to get the longest life out of them!  I wrap the lettuces in paper towel to absorb any excess water after washing them and store them in Ziploc bags.  It seemed to work pretty well this first week.

As far as other things I did with the produce, we made taco salads on Memorial Day with the lettuce and I gave my radishes to my in-laws.  I am not a fan!  I still have the Swiss chard which I am going to sautee this weekend to have it wilt with some olive oil in a skillet. 

I do want to show you a picture of the produce I received yesterday for our second week.

This is a picture off of my phone, so the quality isn't that great.  This is just my portion, but as you can see, it's a ton of food.  We received a huge head of cabbage (which I cut in half for Mia and I), another huge head of romaine lettuce, a head of red bibb lettuce (I think), fresh spinach, strawberries, and some squash and garlic.  I hope to make some yummy stuff this week including some chicken lettuce wraps!  Also, I may experiment with making a green smoothie with my fresh spinach, but if not, I'll just wilt it as a side-dish for dinner one night this week.

I am loving this food challenge!  I really love to cook and having access to these wonderful foods is not only beneficial to our health, but it is pushing me to cook more and to cook healthfully.  Our kids are open to trying new things more than they ever have before.  I hope that this experience continues to benefit us and broadens our horizons a bit!  So far, it is really fun and really tasty!

I will do my best to document some of our food and how things are going with the CSA.  I won't even try to plan for a weekly post because--as we all know--I won't be able to keep up with that.  We have lots of busy weeks ahead, so I will try my hardest!  Do any of you participate? If so, I'd love to follow along on your journey and find out what you are doing with your food.  I love new recipes!

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