Category Archives: CSA

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.

 

 

The Most Ridiculous Week

I’m on the living room floor, crutches next to me, water bottle just out of reach. The front door is flapping open, the sick four-year-old is on the futon with the iPad, and I have no idea how I will feed us lunch.

Our refrigerator died on Monday. The parts were supposed to be in today but the repair guy can’t come until tomorrow, Friday. I had to throw out so much food. We rented a mini-fridge that freezes everything solid, and I transferred the piles of vegetables from our CSA out of our overflowing produce drawers and into two coolers.

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No, seriously, this is my kitchen right now. With a rented mini-fridge and a towel on the floor for any last drippings from the defrosting failed freezer.

Needless to say, packing lunches this week has been tricky at best. I found bagels in the freezer and used the last of our cream cheese on them for the first day. I bought sliced turkey, but it froze solid in the mini-fridge (Plan B: Shredded cheese and baby carrots, failed because the cheese had gone bad when the big fridge died, and the baby carrots had frozen solid in the mini-fridge; Plan C: Hummus, also too late to save it; Plan D: Granola bar and apple, and good luck, kid). [And no, the kids can’t really buy lunch at school; it’s brought in by some private catering company and you have to pre-order and it’s expensive and just didn’t seem worth it. And nut butters aren’t allowed at school, and the kids hate sunbutter.]

Making dinner wasn’t too hard except there’s not much room for leftovers in the mini-fridge, and the veggie coolers are out of ice.

What a fantastic opportunity to really deep-clean the fridge!

What a fantastic opportunity to really deep-clean the fridge!

Then yesterday I finally made it to the orthopedist (both kids in tow, and yes, I shamelessly handed them the iPad and my phone for our full hour in the waiting room—-overbook much, doc?). Dr. Orthopedist promptly ordered an MRI and glanced at the kids. “Do you have any more of them at home?” he asked me.

“No,” I replied, “just these two.”

“Good, because you’re going to have to be on crutches for the next six weeks. Maybe just four weeks, if it’s a stress reaction instead of a fracture, but I think it’s a stress fracture. I mean, obviously you’ll need to make an exception to shower, but otherwise, no weight on the leg.”

He stepped out of the room to write the script for crutches, and I started to cry. See, my leg has been hurting a lot, more and more, and even walking a mile really bothers me. Spinning class hurts. It’s been feeling bad, but since my soft-tissue person thought it was just some tightness, I didn’t think I should worry about it or think about it much. Yeah, it hurt all the time, more and more, but since no one said anything was wrong with it, I was learning to live with it.

It’s nice to finally have verification—even before the MRI has been done—that something is actually probably quite wrong. I can finally admit that my leg hurts! It hurts.

Then I emailed my husband and said that what with my leg and the refrigerator situation, we’d be having take-out tonight. There was no way I was going to try to deal with making dinner. He offered to come home by dinner time and pick up the food on his way. YES PLEASE.

Then—-because oh yes, it gets better—Ben was sick all night, tossing with a fever and wheezing. I tried to imagine how I’d manage school drop-off, trying to crutch up the steps carrying a sick 40-lb child, and I made the quick decision that it would not be possible. No, it would be possible, but for the love of god, I was going to take the day off. I asked C to drop off Max this morning.

And then—did you think we were done yet?—I got up after five fitful hours of “sleep” next to Sicky Coughy Wheezy Boy and remembered that I’d used the last of the coffee yesterday. As in, we’re out of coffee.

Poor sick little Lumpkins. He requested baby carrots, lemonade, and chocolate milk for breakfast. WTF, dear child.

Poor sick little Lumpkins. He requested baby carrots, lemonade, and chocolate milk for breakfast. WTF, dear child.

And then I made the oatmeal and tried to carry a bowl and yogurt and a spoon, while on crutches, to the dining room. We don’t have an eat-in kitchen, and the dining room doesn’t directly adjoin the kitchen. You have to go through the pantry to get from kitchen to dining table and back again.

This is Day 1. I have at least another six weeks of this. I ordered a rolling utility cart from Amazon to use to get food and dishes to and from the kitchen/dining room. There’s no other way to do it, unless I entrust the small children with plates full of hot food or hire a butler.

We’ll live on instant coffee until one of us gets to the store. We’re talking about getting me a handicapped placard for the car, for times when I have to go to the grocery store and won’t be able to hold the kids’ hands in the parking lot (thanks to crutches) and it would be safer for them if I could park as close to the door as possible. It feels like a weird reason to have a placard, though. Mostly I’ll be able to get around fine, but grocery shopping will be sort of more hellish than usual.

My kitchen is also more hellish than usual. I cannot summon what it will take to empty the dishwasher, reload it, and wash the other stuff.

My kitchen is also more hellish than usual. I cannot summon what it will take to empty the dishwasher, reload it, and wash the other stuff. Hello, TaskRabbit?

But today! Today Ben and I lay around all day, not doing much, and it was marvelous. And then my friend and I got into trouble for passing notes to each other (and cracking up uncontrollably, as a result) in our kids’ piano class. And then our friend/neighbor, to whom I gave most of our produce yesterday and also today’s CSA share for her to pick up, dropped off the best baba ganouj I have ever had, all smoky and silky, and a lovely salad, and I realized I haven’t really eaten fresh vegetables since Saturday, unless you count the aging celery stick I fished out of the melted ice in the cooler in the kitchen this afternoon. 

Enjoy the pictures of our squalid life right now. I am going to assemble my new cart now. Then maybe I can clear the dining room table, crutching along as I roll my little cart of dirty dishes to the kitchen, like some unfortunate lesser character from The Hunchback of Notre Dame or something.*

 

* I have no idea why I am in such a good mood through all of this. It’s just funny at this point.** I mean, to have everything kind of thrown down at once like this? It’s great. It really simplifies things, in a way. In a very messy and debilitating way.

** Also, maybe I’ll find a drive-through Starbucks tomorrow. I think the closest one is 12 miles away. Wonder if that is on my way anywhere.

 

 

 

 

Meal Plan: Week of July 23

(Well, what’s left of this week…We just got back last night from a beautiful trip to Iceland to visit family! More on that later.)

We arrived home from the airport last night to find an enormous bag of vegetables* in our entryway. This wasn’t a shock. A friend who’s in the same CSA we had to drop out of this year is out of town this week and wanted to give her share to someone else. I jumped at the chance, even though our plane would be landing at Logan just as the CSA pickup was ending.

Fortunately, a few of our neighbors are in the same CSA and one kindly volunteered to pick up our share for us.

So we got home to find:

  • two heads of cabbage
  • two bunches of chioggia beets
  • two bunches of Swiss chard
  • two pounds of new potatoes
  • two cucumbers
  • two squash (some kind of green summery squash, similar to zucchini)
  • two pounds of Kentucky wonder beans
  • two bunches of Cipollini onions

[You’re probably thinking, “Why the hell did you drop out of that CSA??” Great question, and I ask myself that every day. But let’s move on.]

The food in Iceland was excellent, and we ate well. I especially enjoyed the hangikjöt on flatkokur, which we had for lunch one day when my sister in Iceland packed sandwiches for us when we toured the Golden Circle. (I promise, more on this soon!) Hangikjöt is smoked lamb, and it was in thin slices on this flat bread. I really like it. I liked all the food there.

But, you know, when you’re traveling, you don’t eat quite like you do at home, and you often want to try all the pastry shops and bakeries and local ice cream to see how they are. Well, I do, at least.

So it was a nice treat to come home to a million pounds of fresh green vegetables. Those vegetables will inform the menu for the rest of this week.

Wednesday: Zucchini and feta pie, Kentucky wonder beans, Balsamic Glazed Cipolli Onions (since I’ll have the oven going anyway!). Doesn’t that onion recipe look amazing?

Thursday: Chickpea Pasta, raw beet salad, sauteed cabbage.

Friday: Pizza, shredded cabbage salad.

Saturday: One of the Wildtree freezer meals (probably Tropical Glazed Porkchops), greens.

Sunday: I don’t know!

Lunches this week are looking pretty spectacular: huge chopped salads of beet greens and grated beets and shredded cabbage; garlic soup from a recipe I found in Yoga Journal; hummus from The Frugalette’s recipe. I’m so happy to be up to my ears in veggies! And this confirms that next year I will indeed be joining the CSA again.

* Which I didn’t photograph, as we were trying to get all the luggage and children and car seats unloaded from the taxi and up the stairs. Trust me, though: It was a beautiful sight.

Do you belong to a CSA? Do you alter or create your meal plans based around the local harvest?

Meal Plan: Week of June 10

That’s right, a menu plan! I’m finally trying to get ahead of the game a little and plan meals (and do the appropriate grocery shopping) on the weekend to make weeknights a little easier. For more than a year I’ve been inspired by the wonderful, tasty-looking meal plans at Random Recycling. So it’s time to try it myself.

Of course, yesterday’s grocery trip involved a tired Ben while C and Max were at the nearby pet store buying fish, so my trip did not go as smoothly as planned. I came home with coconut-milk popsicles but no milk, cream cheese but no bagels, seaweed snacks and a few cans of beans but no bananas. You know. Typical shopping trip, really.

But this week I’m on it, and this is what it looks like:

Sunday: Two Bean and Corn Burgers, corn on the cob, broccoli. The recipe is from the seasonal Whole Foods pamphlet “Meals for 4 under $15.” (They have a similar pamphlet of meals for under $10.) I’m always intrigued by these but have never made one of these recipes before. The burgers sounded good but were a little mushy (maybe I didn’t drain the beans well enough?). I thought they were pretty good and much better than the usual bean burgers I make, but no one else — as usual, when it comes to bean burgers around here — seemed to like them. C ate only one. Max had one bite; he’d been expecting a beef burger. Ben opted out completely and ate mayonnaise on a bun (whatever!).

bean_burger

Two Bean and Corn Burgers

Monday: Salmon, penne, carrots, Swiss chard. We may not be doing a CSA this year after all (I dropped out due to, frankly, stress), but we’ll be hitting the farmer’s market pretty hard this year and buying from our CSA farmer. Win win! We got some lovely Swiss chard from him on Saturday, after our entire family (including Max, on his own bike) biked to the farmer’s market four miles away. Yes! C and Max rode on the sidewalks and I pulled Ben in the trailer. It was Max’s first real ride out of the neighborhood, and he did great!

Tuesday: Pizza or hot dogs, alphabet soup, birthday cake. It’s Ben’s birthday! Not yet sure if we’ll make the pizza ourselves or order it, if he decides he wants that.

Wednesday: Poached Cod in Tomato Sauce with Chorizo and Feta, London Broil with Spinach (both courtesy of Plated!), brown rice, green salad. Thanks to Klout, I scored four free meals (plates) from Plated.com, and they arrive Tuesday. Since Tuesday is Ben’s birthday and I want dinner to be something I know he’ll eat, the Plated meals will wait until Wednesday. I think I have to do some basic cooking/assembly, but basically the pre-measured ingredients arrive on my doorstep and I just have to cook them — 20 minutes or less, they say!

Thursday: Baked Mexican Rice and Beans, cucumber and carrot sticks, hummus. Also from that Whole Foods pamphlet — I’m trying a few new recipes this week, since I’m sick of our usual fare, and also I want more meatless options. This is similar to Sunday’s meal, but it has cheese and greens in it and hopefully will have a better reception than the burgers.

Friday: Leftovers!

Saturday: Grilled chicken, or possibly date night.

I like to have quick back-up meals planned, just in case something comes up. So those are spaghetti and meatballs (the meatballs are in the freezer), or macaroni and cheese.

I still have to wash and prep the chard and wash the lettuces, but otherwise I think we’re in good shape for the week!

…except we’re nearly out of milk and bread, and no hot dogs here either, and I still need snacks and birthday treats for the preschool class on Tuesday, since I’m parent helping and Ben is coming with me, so I still need a quick grocery run tomorrow. But hey, I’m meal planning! Look at me go!

Spring Smoothie Summit at Whole Foods

I started drinking smoothies regularly last December, when I received a single-serve Hamilton Beach blender at a blogger holiday party.

My smoothies sucked. My kids would be fascinated but would rarely drink them. Why? Because I’d put all kinds of weird stuff into them: turnips, spinach, cucumber, leftovers, almond milk–and make the most offensive drink on the planet. Oh, and chia seeds. I always add chia seeds.

I often use chunks of frozen banana, or frozen peach slices, but I rarely use juice (for one thing, we rarely have juice around here). I usually don’t add maple syrup, honey, or any other sweetener. Not only do I not like sweet things in the morning, I don’t like heaps of added sugar in general–and juice and natural sweeteners are, in my opinion, just other forms of sugar.

Then a fortuitous tweet by The Frugalette led to a local Whole Foods (Fresh Pond) inviting a few local bloggers in for a Spring Smoothie Summit.

Wow, did I learn a lot!

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Mangoes! They also have them all cut up and ready to go.

Whole Foods gave us each a gift card to shop for our smoothie ingredients. This particular Whole Foods has a lot of fruits and vegetables already prepared and cut up, which made our smoothie session even faster and easier.

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I know these are veggies, not fruits, but yes, I was tempted to throw some of these into my smoothie and call it dinner!

Then we each organized our ingredients. Two friendly and very patient Whole Foods employees operated the blenders (powerful VitaMix machines). We each gave our smoothies a name, and everyone sampled them.

While others went for fruitier drinks, I felt a need for something different. Mine was a chocolate peanut-butter smoothie. But wait! I used unsweetened almond milk, peanut butter, some spinach leaves (of course!!), some oatmeal, and I forget what else.

It was good, but it wasn’t sweet at all. We considered adding agave syrup, but I nixed that idea. Had I been home, I would have splashed in some maple syrup. Instead, we decided to sweeten it with fruit: bananas (frozen chunks would be good), frozen mango chunks, fresh strawberries.

The final result? Not terrible! Tasty, but not still not very sweet. Next time I’d use sweetened chocolate milk or some maple syrup.

After trying all the delicious combinations the other bloggers came up with (see below for names and links!), I realized smoothies don’t have to be martyr food. They can be downright delicious and interesting and full of all kinds of other nutrients than the ones I tend to use.

I then did some online research and came across this amazing Carrot Cake Smoothie recipe, which I wish I could say I’d invented, but I did not. But it’s good. I’d never thought to add spices to a smoothie! While I know our smoothie summit was partly experimental, not just “Hey, here’s my amazing smoothie recipe!”, I wish I’d come up with something lighter and tastier. My Peanut Butter Cup smoothie is either wonderful PMS comfort food (especially if, say, you throw in some chocolate chips!) or else–with a scoop of protein powder–a fantastic recovery drink after a long run. In other words, maybe not your daily smoothie.

Here’s a rough idea of my smoothie recipe. I tend not to measure things, but I made an attempt to here.

Peanut Butter Cup Smoothie

  1. 2 Tbs natural peanut butter
  2. 1 cup chocolate almond milk
  3. a few walnuts–2 Tbs?
  4. handful of baby spinach leaves
  5. one frozen banana, in chunks
  6. 1 tsp maple syrup
  7. splash of vanilla extract
  8. quarter cup (or less) of rolled oats

Put all ingredients in blender. Blend. If smoothie is too thick, add more almond milk.

 

For more great smoothie ideas, check out the inventions of the other bloggers who were at the Whole Foods Spring Smoothie Summit:

Isra of The Frugalette made a mojito-like smoothie with frozen pineapple chunks, mint leaves, and I don’t know what else. It was refreshing and amazing.

Leah of Pearls and Oysters made an unusual and delicious red Spring Egg Cream smoothie with ginger, kale, almonds, beet juice (beet juice! Whole Foods sells beet juice!!), and strawberries (and so much more!).IMG_20130405_104221_756

Emily of Random Recycling made a green smoothie that I liked a lot. It didn’t taste like the green smoothies I make; this one had some juice in it and was sweet  — a green smoothie my kids would actually drink, I’m sure!IMG_20130405_102641_157

Lori from Groovy Green Livin made a mauve smoothie with berries, spinach, and nuts.

Niri from Mommy Niri made one called “Nuts About Spring,” nutty and fruity and yummy.

Other bloggers who made very tasty creations included Sharon from ViolaCay,  Sharon from umommy and KidNosh, Jessica from Don’t Mind the Mess, and Jean The Shopping Queen.

Disclosure: I was not compensated for my smoothie experiment. However, Whole Foods at Fresh Pond did an amazing job hosting us, giving us gift cards to buy our ingredients, blending our smoothies for us, and sending us home with very generous goodie bags which included hemp milk. Hemp milk! Have you tried it? It’s a little weird but fun.

 

 

Peach Glory: A Story of Preserves, Part I

It started with cherries. I somehow missed the one-day $2/pound cherry sale at Whole Foods (honestly, I meant to return later that day, when I wasn’t rushing to buy snacks and go parent help at the preschool). Maybe it started a little before that, when I’d read a post somewhere about cherry preserves and whipped up a quick batch one Sunday morning to put on our waffles (mmmmmmm).

I found the best cherry prices in town, made about eight half-pints of lovely cherry preserves, and looked around for more prey.

Peaches. We got two pounds in our farm share the next week. Two pounds is barely worth boiling the water (or several waters: to skin the peaches, to sterilize the jars, to keep the lids hot, to process the finished product) but I craved a good peach jam, especially after a pectin disaster with an earlier attempt (3t, 3T, whatever!).

I made two half-pints. Considering the labor, water, time, and cooking gas involved, these are some very expensive half-pints of peach jam.

But oh, it is lovely stuff.

I wanted to keep canning. I wonder if it’s The Change. Some weird midlife thing or perimenopause symptom or something. I just want to can things.

Knitting was short-lived for me, just a couple of years. Maybe canning will be, too. But for now I’m living the homesteader’s dream, “putting up” summer’s bounty for those cold winter days….those cold winter days when it seems too tiresome to drag myself the half-mile to Whole Foods to buy organic fruit shipped from far, far away.

Yes. Well.

Our CSA farmer mentioned he had a few twenty-pound boxes of peaches available. Ripe peaches from the farm next to his. For $15. Do you know how amazing that price is for delicious ripe local peaches grown by a small independent farmer? Plus, delivered to the city? Yeah. I was in.

This is a lot of peaches.

In preparation, unsure of whether to make jam or preserves, I bought both pint jars and half-pint jars. Plus, OK, some pectin and the Ball Blue Book: Guide to Preserving (I mean, why not make jam, preserves, and conserve, right?) (and yes, I know: this upcoming batch of jam will not exactly be a money-saver, either. But that’s clearly not why I can).

All this needs is…me and my efforts.

I bought the peaches just last night. It is now Wednesday night and I haven’t yet managed to do much with them. They’re in our front landing, but this afternoon I noticed a few fruitflies and began to rummage through the box.

Wonder of wonders, some of the ones on the bottom were getting squished. I sorted through all of them, taking any damaged/bruised ones out. I washed those, cut off the damaged parts, and cut them up. I spread them on a plate and froze them and then transferred them to a freezer bag for future smoothies.

The pint jars are washed and ready for some action.

“Where are the peaches? You promised to fill me with peaches!”

I moved the rest of the peaches to a cooler to keep them happy until tomorrow. Or Friday, more likely. I may have to hire a neighbor’s teen to watch the boys while I skin, chop, mash, cook, jar, process.

So glad the bottom peaches seeped juice into our wood floors. Even gladder that this place is a rental.

Coming up next time….The Peach Jam Story! How to make a zillion jars of preserves with huge boiling vats of water in an unventilated kitchen in August….with small children around.

I’ve Been Jammin’

It’s very likely that when I blog from New York this weekend, I will be blogging about jam. Not about all the exciting goings-on, but jam. I recently made a big batch of runny cherry preserves (YUM–good on waffles, pancakes, yogurt, ice cream….oh yeah, and bread) and a big disaster of a batch of peach jam (pectin accident: downright sliceable jam).
We received some peaches in our farm share today, a mere 2 pounds, but I made jam anyway. It’s silly to make jam with only 2 pounds of fruit, and some would say it’s a huge waste of time and energy, but I’ve been craving peach jam. More specifically, I’ve been craving a big jam-making session. It’s very satisfying.

Between the failed peach jam batch and today’s successful batch, I made pickles. Cute little jars of pickled carrots and green beans and baby onions. Big jars of cucumber pickles. A medium jar of pickled beets.

But what I really wanted to make was jam, and tonight I had the chance (laundry? pack lunches for tomorrow? clean? WHAT?). Just two jars, but it’s very lovely jammy stuff. Perfectly peachy-jammy.

And now I just want to make more. I am already plotting which fruits I’ll find (and where) after this conference. Peaches, plums, maybe late raspberries….

Ham Steak and Other Stories

Ham steak. Where I come from, in Pennsylvania, ham steak is fancy food. Ham steak is Saturday-night food. A meal to dress up for. A meal announced with an excited glint in one’s eyes: “We’re havin’ us a ham steak for supper! Go warsh your hands!”

Not in my house–my father imported Icelandic seafood, so we lived on fish, our own farm-raised beef and pork, and locally raised chicken, plus my mother’s occasional forays into homemade California rolls and hog maw (Pennsylvania Dutch style, of course). We were not, if you will, ham steak people. If we ate steak, it was, you know, steak. From a cow.

So when our most recent pick-up* from our meat CSA, Chestnut Farm, included a two-and-a-half pound ham steak, you can imagine my groan. What were we going to do with a ham steak? Especially such a big one? Sure, it was maple-cured and probably unbelievably good, but we’re not big ham eaters.

I racked my brain for suitable dinner party guests and imagined myself calling various friends: “Hey, we landed us a big ham steak! Want to come over on Saturday night?”

That just felt too…Pennsylvania (it’s a fine state, I know, and I’m not embarrassed to be from there. I also stand with Pennsylvania, not Maine, in the whole whoopie pie bruhaha.)

So here we were with this enormous ham steak, whose vacuum-sealed package had somehow gotten punctured. An enormous freezer-burning ham steak. Awesome.

And then I had the brilliant idea to cut it up.

First, ham-and-bean soup (you can take the girl out of Pennsylvania, but you can’t take the Pennsylvania out of the girl). I knew my family (husband! not a soup guy) would be more likely to eat bean soup for dinner if it included chunks of meat. I heaved the ham steak out of the freezer and cut off part of it, chopping that into bits which I threw in the soup. Delicious.

Next up: Green eggs and ham. One of those desperation dinners when you’re still at the playground at 5:45 p.m. and then remember you forgot to go grocery shopping this week. (Yes, we ate boiled cabbage and hot dogs for St. Patrick’s Day–what of it?) Once home, the kids entertained themselves while I again hacked me up some frozen ham steak into chunks. I cooked it in a pan, added some peas, cooked scrambled eggs in a separate pan…and Max loved it. Or, liked it a lot and ate all his ham and eggs. And asked for more.

Green eggs and ham! No, the eggs aren’t green. Would YOU eat green eggs?

I still have about 1.5 pounds. Maybe we should just have, you know, ham steak for dinner one of these nights. It wouldn’t kill us. It would probably be really good. With, say, asparagus and roasted sweet potatoes.

Go warsh your hands!

Let The Baby Eat Beef!

With the chuck we got from our CSA, I made beef stew. I couldn’t use wine in it, as we had none and I had no chance to get it today and anyway it doesn’t agree with C due to a migraine problem. I tossed the beef chunks with some salt-and-peppered flour, browned them in a pan, then put them into the crock pot with carrots, potatoes, onion, and garlic. Plus a bay leaf, thyme, basil, and more salt and pepper, and some water.

I turned it to “Low” and we left for a day of open houses (massive fail). Much later, close to dinnertime, I added a heap of frozen peas and took the baby to the playground to meet up with C and Max. It’s not so bad being the last ones at the playground when you know dinner is ready and waiting at home.

To my surprise, Max liked it a lot. “It tastes good!” he said, and I thought he meant the sip of C’s ginger ale that he had, but he meant the stew.


And Ben? The baby who chokes on everything and only eats super-wet purees has suddenly decided that he wants to eat regular food. Two nights ago, it was pasta shells with peas and salmon–not even put through our baby food mill, mind you, but as is. He liked it. Last night, haddock (not so much), green beans (whole, steamed–he loved them), and these sort of sweet potato fries that C made.

He liked the beef stew a lot. I cut up tiny chunks of beef and carrots and put them in front of him with some peas. Yum. He liked the beef the best, I think.

More beef, please!

So. Now I have this case of Earth’s Best dinners I just bought, since he was refusing all (the little bit of) homemade food I offered him. I guess he’s a big boy now.

* If you are a fellow Chestnut Farm member: I mean most recent to us. We split a share with my brother and his family, picking up every other month.

What do YOU do with Pork Shoulder Country-Style Ribs?

Our most recent haul from our meat CSA, Chestnut Farms, included 1.3 pounds of “pork shoulder country style ribs.”

Me being kind of new to meat, overall, I was expecting, you know, ribs. With rib bones. The thing was frozen solid, so it was hard to tell, but it seemed more like a steak to me.

I thawed it and prepared a marinade of sesame oil, soy sauce, garlic, thyme, oregano, and a touch of dried mint leaves. Then I unwrapped the meat and plopped it into the marinade and studied it.

Hmmm. It looked a lot like a steak, but the color was more like pork than like beef. A quick online search revealed that I did indeed have some pork shoulder country-style ribs in front of me. These aren’t true ribs; it’s actually pork shoulder, and the best way to cook them is braising or slow-roasting.

I had two hours, tops, to get dinner on the table. I could probably braise it, but it was already in the marinade and I couldn’t start a new recipe for it. One recipe suggested covering the meat in citrus slices before slow-roasting it, though, and I thought that sounded interesting.


I browned the meat in my trusty Dutch oven, put a few orange slices on top of the meat, and thought for a minute. What goes well with orange? Fennel! I sliced up some fennel bulb and scattered that over the meat. Then I poured the scant rest of the marinade over it, put the lid on, and put it into a 225-degree oven.

Two hours later, it was delicious. The meat was wonderfully tender. The orange and fennel added interesting notes; the salty marinade was nicely offset by some butternut squash (from our produce CSA, Parker Farm). Jasmine rice absorbed any extra sauce, and asparagus added their asparagus-ness to it all (seriously, it was just there so we would have something green).


And now I know how to cook pork shoulder country-style ribs.

* The next day, the remaining bits of meat were chopped up along with the asparagus and turned into my own house special fried rice, with the addition of sesame oil, onion, carrots, mushrooms, celery, and egg…and fish sauce instead of soy sauce, because I forgot the baby can’t handle it when I eat soy sauce and he has long, miserable nights of whimpering in gassy pain.