Category Archives: cooking

Easy Tasty Angel Hair From an Empty Pantry

The cupboards are bare. Or nearly so. My kids haven’t been here the past few days, and I’ve been very lazy about grocery shopping. I’ve lately been living on flatbread (locally-made flatbread which I top with homemade arugula pesto, whatever veggies I have on hand, maybe some diced tofu, and cheese) as well as eggs.

But I don’t feel like going to the grocery store at 8 p.m. on a Saturday night. So I grubbed around and realize I have the ingredients for three great meals tonight:

    1. Spring rolls (filled with tofu, carrots, cilantro, and bean sprouts, as I recently sprouted a bunch of mung beans). I happen to have a bunch of spring roll wrappers, rice vermicelli, and a sweet chili dipping sauce.
    2. Stir-fried bean sprouts on rice. Probably tasty, but not at all what I’m in the mood for.
    3. Angel hair with the last few tired cherry tomatoes, (jarred) garlic, fresh parsley, and fresh Parmesan. That sounds like the most appealing (and low-effort) option right now.

I went with option #3…easy comfort food. Much needed, today.

So here’s how you make yourself a quick, easy dinner with no recipe and very little on hand. And I’m sorry that all the images are sideways/upside-down. New plugin, see.

Get a pot of salted water boiling. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a skillet. Add a glob of jarred garlic if that’s all you have, or a pile of minced fresh garlic if your pantry is better stocked than mine.

Chop up your last tired cherry tomatoes. Toss them into the skillet. If you have some remaining fresh spinach leaves, add them, too. Add any other leftover veggies you might have; I had steamed broccoli in the fridge, so I put in a few florets and mashed them as best I could.

Squeeze in a healthy dose of tomato paste and half as much anchovy paste. These are things that you should have in your fridge at all times, even if you run out of bread and milk and beans and everything else.

Stir it around. Add about half a cup of the pasta cooking water to the skillet.

Drain the pasta. Add it to the skillet, tossing everything around. Let the extra water cook off.

Shower it all with a pile of freshly-grated Parmesan. If you need to use pre-grated cheese, I understand and won’t judge, but do yourself a favor and grate it fresh if you can.

Because you’re worth it and had the absolutely shittiest and most disappointing race/run of your life today, because you ignored your tight calves and sore creaky Achilles and went into a six-hour trail race on ice/snow/mud with very little training,

and at mile 4 your calf pain shifts to a sharp Achilles pain and you know the day is over, and you are at this point down to a T-shirt and capris (no hat or gloves or any warm layer tied around your waist) and it’s 40 degrees out and you try to shortcut back through a snowy bramble field,

possibly crying with anger and disappointment, and when you’re back on trail, scratched and bleeding and limping and shivering, you reassure concerned passing runners that you’re fine and making your way back to the start/finish, and one woman looks extra-concerned and you burst into tears because THIS IS YOUR FAULT,

and she turns around and walks back along the course with you and is very kind and doesn’t even attempt a hug until you’ve gotten yourself under control and are able to recognize that you knew going into this race you had some physical issues you’ve been ignoring and at least this time you didn’t run through the pain but instead stopped when it felt significant, and then you hugged and thanked her and sent her on her way,

and because you drove four other 6-hour runners to the race, so you had to wait around another five-plus hours in the cold drizzle waiting for everyone else to finish.

anyway, toast some bread crumbs in olive oil and toss them in with the pasta. It is delightful. You deserve it. Sprinkle some fresh chopped parsley on it if you have it.

Sprinkle salt over all of it.

While it’s good and hot, eat it. Unless you are me, in which case you realize your younger son’s hamster, in his new hamster ball, has been too quiet for too long, and you discover this:

Where is the hamster??!?

Eat your cold pasta, after you finally catch and re-cage the hamster. It will still be tasty.

 

Print Recipe
Empty-Pantry Easy Angel Hair
Haven't shopped in awhile? Make this easy, healthy angel hair with what's in your fridge and pantry! Angel hair with tomatoes, spinach, and Parmesan.
Course Main Dish
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 12 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Course Main Dish
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 12 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil.
  2. Heat 1-2 T olive oil in a skillet.
  3. When the oil is hot, add the garlic. Saute for 1-2 minutes.
  4. Add chopped tomatoes. Add spinach if you have it. Sautee 1-2 minutes
  5. Add broccoli and smash with your spatula.
  6. Add a squeeze of anchovy paste and twice as much tomato paste.
  7. When pasta is done, splash about half a cup of the pasta water into the skillet before you drain the pasta.
  8. Heat oil in another skillet. When hot, add bread crumbs and toss until lightly toasted.
  9. Add drained pasta to the skillet. Toss with tongs. Keep on heat long enough to evaporate extra water.
  10. Shower with grated Parmesan and fresh chopped parsley. Add toasted bread crumbs and toss.
Share this Recipe
 

Fall Baking With Bob’s Red Mill and Stonyfield

Finally, fall is here! I don’t know about you, but the change in the weather makes me want to bake up a storm. I’ve cranked out cranberry coffee cake and monster cookies so far, but the baking season is just getting under way!

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In partnership with Stonyfield, Bob’s Red Mill sent me Organic Coconut Sugar and Steel Cut Oats. Steel cut oats are also known as “pin oats.” They make an excellent, slightly chewy bowl of oatmeal, and you can make them in the slow cooker overnight to have them ready in the morning. Or just make them in the morning (they do take a little more time than rolled oats), topped with nuts and fruit and yogurt.

Or, you can do what I do and use them in cookies! Here’s a handy round-up of cookie recipes that use steel cut oats — without having to cook the oats first!

  1. Dark Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies. I list these first for a reason. These wonderfully crunchy-chewy cookies are darkly chocolatey. You do have to roll them into little balls (which, if you’re like me and prefer an effortless cookie, might seem like an extra step) but this recipe is a must-try. They’re really good.
  2. Super Simple Sweet Steel Cut Oat Cookies. With bananas, almonds, and (optional) flax seed, these cookies would pass nicely as a nutritious breakfast cookie.
  3. Fatherly Cookies. These oatmeal raisin cookies have all the same ingredients as regular oatmeal raisin cookies, but they use steel-cut oats instead of rolled oats. Sounds like a crunchy oaty treat!
  4. Steel Cut Oatmeal Walnut Cookies. These use both rolled and steel cut oats. And while this recipe, like the last one, calls for raisins, remember that it is always appropriate to substitute chocolate chips for raisins, in any situation.

Bob’s Steel Cut Oats are also available in a gluten-free version, which is nice, because everyone should be able to enjoy the cookies listed above.

As for the coconut sugar, I’d never tried it before. It’s brown, with a slightly caramel scent. It’s made from the nectar of coconut palm blossoms. I was baking a big cranberry coffee cake for an annual weekend camping party in Vermont (imagine a field full of tents, children running wild on the hillside cutting down trees and building forts and piling up leaves and adding fuel to the bonfire, only returning to the barn when they got hungry), the musicians and singalong at night, long and spirited games of Capture the Flag, s’mores, coffee and oatmeal and toasting bagels over the bonfire in the cold morning air (well, near the bonfire, so not too cold)….

…anyway, the coffee cake. I doubled the Cranberry Almond Cake recipe from Budget Bytes but left out the almonds and almond extract and used an oatmeal crumble topping (with rolled oats, in case you’re wondering). I used coconut sugar both in the cake and in the topping.

The coconut sugar definitely made the cake darker and added a slight (and pleasing) caramel note to it.

Dark, right? But tasty.

Dark, right? But tasty. I’d use more cranberries next time. This was obviously before the entire 80-or-so people found their way to the breakfast table.

It’s National Breakfast Month! With Pete and Gerry’s Organic Eggs

img_9421.jpgSeptember is National Breakfast Month! To help me celebrate, the nice people at Pete and Gerry’s Organic Eggs sent me coupons for a few dozen eggs, plus some handy egg rings to make, well, round eggs. Circular.

I grew up on a little farm, and I was in charge of feeding the chickens and gathering the eggs. We sold some at our little farm stand. I grew up on very fresh (and tasty) eggs from a reasonably happy little flock of Rhode Island Reds, who had a roomy coop and a nice outdoor space.

While I can’t have my own chickens right now, because of where I live, I still want good fresh eggs…and eggs from chickens that have room to move around, not factory-farmed chickens. So if I can get local fresh eggs, great, but living in the city, that’s not always possible.img_9424.jpg

Egg labels can seem confusing, can’t they? “Organic,” “Natural,” “Cage-Free”…what do they all mean? “Organic” generally means no pesticides were used to grow the feed. “Natural,” well, that varies. “Cage-Free” means the chickens aren’t kept in cages…but it doesn’t always mean they have enough room to move around, and some have said that “cage-free” can be cruel to chickens.

Make 'em round!

Make ’em round!

“Certified Humane,” however, is the label to look for if you want chickens who have a happy life. “Certified Humane” means that the chickens (or whatever animals) have been certified by a nonprofit organization called Human Farm Animal Care, whose mission is to ensure kinder and more responsible farm animal raising practices. For Pete and Gerry’s, “Certified Humane” means that their chickens have gentle handling, low stress, plenty of room and fresh air and water, and freedom to dust bathe, roost, and stratch…plus good, quality, hormone- and antibiotic-free feed.

Here’s more information:

Sounds good to me! I like eggs. They’re one of my main forms of protein, in fact: eggs with pasta, egg soft tacos, eggs on quinoa with kale, egg sandwiches, scrambled eggs…

 

 

Scrambled, anyone?

Scrambled, anyone?

Oh, yeah, on a corn tortilla with cilantro and hot sauce...great post-run breakfast!

Oh, yeah, on a corn tortilla with cilantro and hot sauce…and some quinoa, roasted eggplant, and peas…great post-run breakfast!

Or on corn tortillas with sauteed arugula and cherry tomatoes, topped with avocado and, yes, hot sauce! Another great post-run breakfast!

Or on corn tortillas with sauteed arugula and cherry tomatoes, topped with avocado and, yes, hot sauce! Another great post-run breakfast!

Know your eggs. Know what you’re buying. Support small family farms (the kind of farms that supply Pete and Gerry’s). Support happy chickens.

September may be National Breakfast Month, but you should eat good breakfasts every day!

Disclosure: Pete and Gerry’s provided me with product coupons, egg rings, and compensation to facilitate this post. 

How to Scare Your Child Away From Running: Vegan Black Bean Nut Brownies

I whirred the blender after the boys’ bedtime.

“Mom!” called Max. “What are you doing?”

“Sorry about the noise,” I said. “I’m making vegan black bean nut brownies.”

Even in the darkness I could see the horror on his face. “Who would eat that??”

“I’m bringing them to a race on Saturday,” I said. I have a trail race Saturday. Despite my grand training plans, I barely ran in August: according to my Garmin, I got in 4 slow miles per week (PER WEEK), withhttp://training plans no running at all in the last two weeks. I mean, come on, I’ve had a lot going on. But I have a trail half marathon Saturday followed by a trail 5-miler Sunday. I will slog through. Wonder how I get overuse injuries?

“But who would EAT that?” he repeated, his face still curled in horror.

“Oh, the runners,” I answered.

“But WHY? Why would anyone EAT those? Why would RUNNERS eat those?”

Let’s hope the runners eat them. Two months ago, I was making a recipe that I ended up not having a key ingredient for. I’d already ground walnuts, cashews, and pecans in the food processor with soaked dates. So I froze that mixture.

Now, both in hopes of having a nice treat to bring to Saturday’s race and to make room in my tiny freezer (I sold my chest freezer before the move, and my new fridge/freezer is SMALL), I pulled out the mixture, thawed it, and decided to make energy bites.

But after adding coconut and cocoa and cinnamon, I didn’t feel like rolling a million little balls. So I added a can of black beans, ground flax seed, water, oil, vanilla, and maple syrup, threw it into the blender (at least the beans/flax/water part) and now I have a pan of weird vegan brownies in the oven. I hope they’re edible!

 

 

 

What I’ve Been Cooking: Eating Down the Freezer

This isn’t the sexiest post I’ve ever written, but sometimes when you’re going to be moving* and you like to keep a well-stocked pantry and chest freezer you think, “Yowza. I don’t want to move all of this, too!”

My freezer is worse (better?) than my pantry. It is stocked. Veggies from our summer CSA, organic beef and chicken (usually, but we’ve used it all up), berries, banana chunks for smoothies (and six whole bananas C threw in there once), frozen veggies from the store, chunks of a whole coconut we’d broken up, cranberries from the Cape, peaches from last summer, homemade stock and pesto, tasty things from Trader Joe’s, a frozen pizza.

That’s rather a lot. Plus I sometimes tend to put leftovers in there, too. Maybe I’m a little bit of a food hoarder, but I like to have stuff on hand.

Our pantry is less full, but it has a fair amount of food in it, mostly pasta, grains, and beans. And canned tomatoes. It’s really quite reasonable, not excessive, but we’re not going to starve, that’s for sure.

On my own, and with the kids gone half the week, and thus my not having to cook a major meat-containing meal every night, I’ve started to making recipes that catch my eye or that I’ve been wanting to try for a while and also generally simplifying what I cook. In addition, I’ve again begun cooking out of interest and pleasure instead of as a dull repetitive chore.

I once again love to cook!

I went through the freezer the other day, partly to see if I had anything affected by that recent listeria recall (I did not) and partly to see what was in there. Year-old birthday cake? Goodbye. Year-old unfrosted cupcakes? Six-month-old pastry dough? Two-year-old pesto cubes (ugh)? Gone, gone, gone.

Here’s what I’ve been cooking lately, using up what I have on hand:

Cacio e Pepe: It’s like adult mac-and-cheese. So simple, so delicious. I don’t make it quite like Mark Bittman does, but it’s lovely. I also made another version with fried sage leaves (oh…..so good) and threw in some fresh spinach leaves just before the pasta was done cooking. Helpful tip: Frying sage leaves in brown butter can make your house smell like pot (come on, I went to a small liberal arts college in the ’90s). If you don’t like the smell of pot (I do not), ventilate well.

Fruit Cobbler: On Tuesday I took all the frozen berries and that one remaining sheet of puff pastry and made a cobbler, also adding chunks of fresh mango and some of last summer’s peaches, which I’d managed to peel and slice last summer (and froze in anticipation of making jam at a later time, which I haven’t yet done…). The puff pastry wasn’t great. Maybe I didn’t vent it enough, but it was soggy and thick. And the fruit was really runny. Tasty, but I should have done something different.

Banana Bread: The same day, I defrosted the six whole frozen bananas and made a 9×13 pan of chocolate chip banana bread…just in time for yesterday’s epic seven-boys/two-moms playdate.

Chocolate Chia Pudding: Yesterday morning, I made chocolate chia pudding. I had no nut milks/rice milk on hand, and while I do have very nice cows’ milk in the fridge, I decided to use a can of coconut milk (with the fat skimmed off to save for another use). It seems a bit too chocolately for the texture, frankly. I think this would be good mixed with a good whole-milk yogurt (Greek or not, whatever’s on hand) to balance the flavor and texture.

Vegetarian Chili: Max wanted chili for dinner last night. After our epic seven-child playdate I needed to make something quick. Thus this delicious skillet chili. This nicely used up most of an onion, some carrots and green peppers from the produce drawer, two cans of beans, and a can of tomatoes. Alas, my chili powder and cumin seem to have moved out with my husband, so I found a half-packet of Trader Joe’s taco seasoning and put a little of that in. Ben complained the chili was too spicy but otherwise liked it. I would have used more of that seasoning but it has a really strong note of cayenne and not much else (that is, to get the other flavors you’d have way too much cayenne going on). I had to add water to the chili to make it soupier for my traditionalist children, who like a soupy chili instead of a bowl of beans. With some shredded cheese on top, it was delicious and everyone ate two bowls (yay!!).

Veggie Tempura Nests: I didn’t really make these. I had some from Trader Joe’s (man, I have a lot of TJ’s stuff in my freezer!) and wanted to use them up and thought they’d be a nice counterpoint to the chili. Ben didn’t like them, and Max thought they were just OK, so I ended up eating them all (don’t judge).

So that’s what we’ve been eating. I also, when I can, maybe every other week, make a trip to a local produce market and stock up. Then I roast big pans of eggplant and peppers and summer squash and zucchini and make big salads, and another night I might grill a pile of veggies as I continue to learn to master the charcoal grill (windy days are tricky).

What I’d like, frankly, is a big juicy steak, cooked rare. Alas, I haven’t yet found one in my freezer, fridge, or pantry. Maybe when I get the chest freezer nearly empty and schedule a pickup for a big pile of stuff to donate, I will celebrate with a steak. Let us hope I’ve fully gotten the hang of the charcoal grill by then.

*I don’t know where yet. But it will be sometime this summer, away from the city. And yes, I’d probably be better off focusing on cleaning the basement and getting stuff ready to donate, but hey, we need to eat, right?

Cookie Time, Part 1: Let the Holiday Festivities Begin

We might be a little behind in holiday prep. I can’t tell. It is December 4 and we still have Halloween gummies decorating our front door (though I did take down the fake tombstones in early November). We have no tree, no wreath, no Christmas lists, no decorations, no presents stashed anywhere … yet.

We did donate to the school holiday sponsor-a-family giving tree. So there’s that.

And there’s gingerbread dough chilling in my fridge. Today will be the first of the season’s memory making, a happy afternoon rolling dough and choosing cookie cutters and cutting out shapes and baking fun cookies.

There will be nothing Martha Stewart about it. The dough will not be rolled out once, carefully, with a minimal of added flour. Those tips about not letting it get too warm, not overworking it, rolling from the center out, and so on? Forget it. We will smoosh the dough, adding more flour and rolling it out to an inch thick, rolling in all directions, rolling too thin. Then they will finally ask for my help, and I will try to roll the mess out to about 1/4″ thick.

They will then cut about two cookies, and we will have to mash up the dough again, roll it out again (queue the smooshing and the added flour and what have you) and start over. Two more cookies.

I’m finally (mostly) over the whole “don’t overhandle the dough” thing. We don’t make the most tender cookies around here. And I fancy myself as something of an efficiency expert, maximizing the rolled-out dough, selecting cutters to get as many cookies as possible.

Not my children. The rolled dough is more than a foot in diameter? Great! Let’s use the gingerbread man shape! Just once! Right in the middle!

I let it go. Let’s mash it up and start again!

While I might still have some personal growth to do in this area (because clearly I still think about the poor overhandled dough), when it comes to decorating, I love a free-for-all. I don’t care what the final result looks like as long as we all have fun doing it.

Everybody having fun?

Everybody having fun? And yes, those are some sharks in there. 

What I’ve Been Baking

IMG_6749.JPGThis is the end of my third week of freedom — I mean, freelancing. I admit I took some much-needed time off, even though I was fielding calls from recruiters and had some interviews and landed a freelance gig. I have been running more. I have been blogging more. I have been reading more. And I’ve started baking again.

Right now in my oven are the vegan chocolate chip cookies I recently posted to FB about. The description on Food52 contained this phrasing, which caught my eye (talk about an understatement): “. . . its soft-bellied, chewy, caramelly-crisp-edged, rippled and ringed and puddled with melty chocolate, well-salted . . .” Why hello, cookie of my dreams.

But before we talk about them, here’s what else I’ve been baking:

  • A crumb-topped apple-pear pie. The apples were mostly local, the pears picked from a running buddy’s pear tree a few blocks away, the pie crust and topping recipes were from Peter Davis’s Fresh & Honest. If you want a cookbook of simple, honest food that’s about as New England as you can get, this is the cookbook for you. Despite my longstanding phobia about homemade pie crust, this came out ok. (Confession: I used my food processor. But I still had to roll it out!) The crumb topping was divine (it’s hard to go wrong with sugar and butter).
  • Parsnip-apple-raisin-walnut muffins. Like Morning Glory muffins, but with parsnips. I had one at a friend’s house and it was excellent. So I went home and found a recipe and made them (I mean, how many recipes can be out there for such a combo)? I accidentally shredded, rather than grated my parsnips, resulting in long thick tough strands. Did I let that stop me, or details like proper measuring of the shredded parsnips? No way! Did I bother to notice that the recipe made two dozen muffins instead of just one? Nope! Do they look like weird little porcupines with all the shreds of parsnip sticking out? Yup! Does anyone here besides me like them? Of course not. Would you like one? Please?

    An appearance that's hard to love

    An appearance that’s hard to love

  • Gingerbread. The deepest, blackest, most gingery gingerbread ever, also from the Peter Davis book. It is excellent on its own or with whipped cream, and everyone here likes it, so that’s a win.
  • Vegan chocolate chip cookies. And this all brings us back to the cookies. I love chocolate chip cookies, and these sounded really good. I don’t care that they’re vegan. I mean, I fully support their vegan condition, but that wasn’t a draw for me.

I did what I was told, mostly, except I used half white, half whole wheat flour instead of all white, because I always do. I tossed the chocolate chips into the flour. The flour didn’t coat them, and it looked like an awful lot of chocolate chips. I beat the oil, water, and sugar. I combined everything thoroughly but minded the warning not to overmix. I tried not to be concerned that it looked like a sandy mix, like pastry dough before you add the few teaspoons of ice water to hold everything together. I dutifully refrigerated it overnight.

Scoop this?

Scoop this?

After my second run today (don’t ask), I took it out, hoping to follow the next step and scoop it onto a parchment-lined tray. You cannot scoop loose sand that’s littered with chocolate chips. I added more water and (if you’re a diehard vegan, don’t read this part) a beaten egg.* While I still think there were about 1/4 cup too many chocolate chips, at least the batter held together this time.

IMG_6750.JPG

Onto the cookie sheets it went! The recipe suggested freezing the trays with the scooped batter for ten minutes before baking, but — oh-so-hilarious to discover after I’d emptied a shelf in our freezer — my baking trays are too wide for our freezer shelves. A quick grind of sea salt on top (Himalayan pink, if you must know) and into the oven they went.

They certainly smelled good. And they taste really good. You don’t get the butter and vanilla flavor you might be used to, but they’re still really good. And they look fine — not like the picture in the recipe, of course, but fairly normal.

IMG_6749.JPG

Yes, I said they look “normal” because my chocolate chip cookies always look like this. They’re never lovely and round and flat. They’re baked lumps, always.

Would I make them again? Definitely. Would I add an egg next time, too? If I needed to. Would I add vanilla next time? Hell yes. Will this be my go-to chocolate chip cookie recipe? Probably not. The one I used before was just fine. But these would be handy if I were out of butter or wanted to make delicious vegan cookies. I don’t love the 12-hour lag time, because I am a fairly spontaneous baker.

But these are a good, butter-free cookie, and next time I will pay extremely close attention to the measurements instead of just eyeballing the water, and next time I will not add an egg. I swear. And also now I will stop eating them so that my family can actually enjoy a few, too.

*Also we had one egg left in the carton, which always seems ridiculous to me, so I was happy to add it to the cookie batter.

Note: I am aware that I am a terrible photographer. One day I might work on that. Or I might not.

A CSA On Demand: Peapod’s Farm Box Review

Wouldn’t it be great if you could get a CSA farm share box…but just now and then instead of weekly?

CSA in a box

Peapod Local Farm Box

Do you know what a CSA is? “CSA” stands for Community Supported Agriculture, and it’s a way to support small and local farms while ensuring you get really fresh, local produce (or meat, etc.). Usually you sign on with a farm, usually paying the farmer in the winter, and in exchange for your money you get a portion of the harvest, usually in weekly increments during the harvest season (though meat-only CSAs tend to be monthly). You can do this for fruit, vegetables, meat, dairy, or a combo.

I have been a CSA a member for 10 years. My first year, I split a small share with a friend (in which we received — and were totally mystified by — our first kohlrabi). While I love being part of a CSA farm (obviously), signing on with a CSA does take a certain amount of commitment, especially if you’re super-busy or live alone. Plus, you really need to stay on top of what’s in your produce drawers, because next week’s share pick-up will be here before you know it! It can also make meal planning a little tricky, if you are a die-hard meal planner, because you never quite know what you’re going to get.

(Of course, when you’ve been a member for a long time or grew up on a farm or just know the seasons, you have some idea of what’s going to be ready when: early June pickups that make for, quite literally, “salad days,” kale and beets in July, plenty of tomatoes and corn and potatoes in August, and the heavier stuff — winter squashes — coming as the temperatures cool.)

But maybe you don’t want the weekly commitment, or there’s no CSA near you. And you can’t get to the farmers’ market every week. Maybe you wish you could have a CSA on demand.

CSA you can order from Peapod

Peapod (the pickup and delivery service from Stop&Shop) now offers a Local Farm Box. It’s a multi-farm produce CSA that you can buy when you want it instead of committing to a season (or year). On the Peapod site, choose your region: Midwest, New England, Mid-Atlantic. For the New England Farm Box, Peapod partners with an organization called Farm Fresh Rhode Island, a  nonprofit that supports local farms, provides nutrition education, and has some other great programs.

I chose New England, of course. The site is really informative about the partner farms, how close the farms are to you, what’s available based on season, what to do with those vegetables, and a recipe that uses one of the week’s vegetables. The site also tells you what is in that week’s box and which farms the produce came from, which is handy information: I didn’t want a particular week’s box, because it contained a lot of green peppers. I’m the only green pepper eater in my house.

So I ordered the box the following week: kale, spaghetti squash, leeks, purple and white carrots, cabbage, and zucchini. Five. I should mention I also received zucchini earlier in the week from my farm share, and had (why??) bought some the previous weekend at the store. So that brought my household zucchini total to 14, but we love the stuff (and oh, time to make zucchini bread!).

Fresh and bright and local CSA

Fresh and bright and local

The box arrived at the specified delivery time (which was super-handy; I had it arrive in the morning, before we all left for the day, but maybe evenings or weekend work better for you). It was big, cold, and a nice weight. Inside were beautiful fresh vegetables: a spaghetti squash (yum!), leeks, dark-green kale, purple and white carrots, medium-sized zucchini, all looking very much like what I pick up on Tuesdays from my own CSA: fresh, bright, delicious. And carefully packed, of course, the heavy stuff on the bottom, kale and leeks on top. In the box was an informational sheet about Farm Fresh Rhode Island, the produce in the box, and the farms the veggies had come from. It also had a recipe (for my particular box, for Spaghetti Squash with Marinara, which was really good).

I will remain a loyal CSA member of my favorite local farm, Parker Farm in Lunenberg (I’ve been a member for so long that my newborn firstborn, now in second grade, nearly fell out of his ring sling into a crate of zucchini once when I was picking up my share). But I really like the Peapod Local Farm Box option. It is the perfect solution for anyone and everyone for whom a traditional CSA isn’t a good fit, or for someone who loves eating locally and seasonally but can’t get to the farmer’s market, or really for anyone who loves good fresh produce and supporting local farms.

Brilliant move, Peapod!

Wondering what to do with your produce and how to store it? Read How to Manage Your Summer Produce.

Disclosure: Peapod provided me with the Local Farm Box and some other groceries to facilitate this review. All opinions are my own.

 

 

Late July Chips and Stonyfield Dip: You Don’t Need a Party

Late May/early June is a pretty busy time around here, with several family birthdays, including my own kids’.

We’d prepped carefully for Ben’s birthday party, planning out all kinds of activities plus, of course, a lot of healthy snacks. And cupcakes. The boys worked hard to decorate them in a madness of sugar (it was a birthday party, people).

Busy cupcake decorating team.

Busy cupcake decorating team. One is all chocolate all the time, the other one wanted vanilla with blue frosting. Sure!

My mother made a beautiful pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey game.

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She is a really good artist.

Just as the party was about to get going, a delivery truck dropped off a package: Late July chips! As a Stonyfield blogger, I was to create a yogurt-based dip to go with them. (I mean, I didn’t have to do it right then, but the timing was perfect!)

Ready, set, make a dip!

Ready, set, make a dip!

No problem. I always have a big tub of Stonyfield yogurt in the fridge (plain, whole milk). I put some into a bowl and began to mix in grated Parmesan cheese, sea salt, garlic powder, dried parsley. Onion granules, green goddess dressing base. Mix and taste, mix and taste.

Some of what I mixed to make my dip.

Some of what I mixed to make my dip.

More Parmesan, a little more salt. It was pretty good.

I set them out on the table next to the veggies and hummus and the fruit platter and began to help set up the seltzer can bowling (hint: weight the cans with a little water if it’s a breezy day).

While the dip could have used just a little more oomph, it disappeared fast. So did the chips. In fact, when I first opened the package of chips, all I heard was, “Oh, I love Late July chips!” Seriously, the chips kind of stole the party.

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I didn’t measure anything when I made my dip. For a more surefire dip, try one of the great recipes at Stonyfield: http://stonyfield.com/recipes/all/dips. You can’t go wrong.

Disclosure: This post was created in partnership with Stonyfield. As a Stonyfield Blogger, I received free product from Stonyfield and Late July for this post. All opinions are my own.

Immediate Recipe Turn-Offs: Quick Easy Cheesy One-Pot Skinny Moist Chicken

I love food. I love to read about food. I love to make food, and I love to eat it.

But mostly, it seems, I love to read about it.

Lately I’m also trying out some meal-planning. It works great for some people but not so much for me. It has, however, really helped clinch what menu or recipe words immediately turn me off to the food, no matter how taste it might be.

moist: Come on, that’s a no-brainer.

easy: I’ll decide that. But usually “easy” involves a can of cream of mushroom soup. Blech.

skinny: I’m not eating anything skinny or anything that promises to make me skinny or keep me skinny or whatever. I like food that tastes good. I do not care about skinny.

quick (see also: one-pot): This usually involves chicken. I am so tired of seeing “quick easy cheesy one-pot chicken recipe” that, I am promised, I will love. I will not love it. I will feel sad that I’m not eating something more interesting.

cheesy: No. Just no. I like cheese. I don’t like something that has to call itself “cheesy.” And it’s probably way too heavy to enjoy.

congealed: Are you kidding me? I just saw this while I was browsing ideas for Christmas dinner. Christmas dinner. Christmas dinner—or any dinner, ever—should not include anything boasting about its own deliberately congealed condition, as in “cranberry congealed salad.” I don’t care if it tastes amazing. It needs a new name, stat.

one-pot: Could be easy (see above), could be cheesy (see above). Might end up not being one-pot, or involving an extra plate or bowl (or several) even though, yes, technically only one pot is used. Sometimes it is easier and better to use two or more pots. Go big or go takeout, I say.

What about you? What words in a recipe name turn you off?