Archive for February, 2011

February 24, 2011

The Power of Routine

When life is so busy that you don’t know which way is up, routines are key.  And in our life, midwinter is the busiest season both at work and at home, and our regular routines are always disrupted.

So, weekly farmer’s market visits, grocery shops with lists and coupons, menu planning, and nightly dinner preparations often fall to the bottom of the to-do list.  And while this often means take out and eat out meals, I have also found that some minimal prep work increases our ability to eat well when our (children’s) schedules make it hard to do so.  So, what has worked for us during this crazy-making season?

Make a turkey or ham or roast one weekend day. And then use the meat/carcass over the week to make meals.

Check your pantry. Because I tend to stockpile when I grocery shop regularly, my pantry is pretty well-supplied. It’s really great when the kids say, “Mom, there’s nothing for breakfast.” or when the man of the house exclaims, “We’re out of rice!”, and I can respond calmly, “Have you checked the pantry yet?”.  Usually the answer is no, and the food item being sought is found in the pantry…

Use the white board to remind yourself what’s in the pantry/fridge/freezer, and don’t worry if it’s not a full-fledged menu plan. Ours currently reads:

  • pie
  • beans
  • tacos
  • pizza
  • turkey soup
  • turkey enchiladas
  • meatloaf & mac-n-cheese
  • scallops & rice
  • ham
  • lemony lentils from The Electronic Intifada
  • butternut squash rustic tart from Womans Day
  • shrimp
  • fried rice

And,

Bless the slow cooker,

and the rice cooker,

and the freezer…

And remember that one day soon, the “regular routine” will return….

Dinner tonight included:

Lemony Lentil Soup & Rustic Butternut Squash Tart

February 23, 2011

A Midwinter Market

The Farmer’s Market tradition extends beyond the growing season here in the NoVa area, and we go as frequently as we can.  As one should expect, the amount of produce is reduced, but by no means is it gone. As you can see in the picture below, mushrooms, butternut squash, onions, potatoes, lettuce, and dill!! were all found at the market.  The cider is a must buy, as is the bread, and the Lebanese bologna and breakfast sausage a wonderful treat.

The only problem is that we come home from the market and immediately prepare a market breakfast, with the cider and the bread and the mushrooms and the sausage…

and then you feel like most of what you brought home from the market is gone…

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February 1, 2011

To CSA Or Not To CSA

For those of you thinking about joining a CSA farm, it’s getting close to time to make a decision.  If this acronym is new to you, it stands for Community-Supported Agriculture.  Becoming a part of CSA farm is a great way to make local and sustainable choices.  When you choose to participate in a CSA, you purchase a share of the farm in the winter season, providing critical cash flow for the farm at a time when they don’t have much or anything to sell, and when they need to buy seeds and fertilizer and equipment and many things that I know nothing about.  It’s a great way to ensure that local farms have the capital to continue from season to season, and it means that you, the customer, share both crop bounties and failures.  In our two seasons as CSAers, we have been astounded by the variety and quality of produce that we receive.  The two images below are our share from one midsummer week last year.

As you might be able to tell from that initial paragraph, and perhaps from my lovingly assembled pictures, I’m a fan of our CSA. However, I must admit that my Family Foodie has had a more measured response to the CSA.  While I love the variety and the opportunity to try new produce, I have some strong vegetable preferences in the FF (no more chard, I hate squash) that I have to account for…!  Nonetheless, last year, I introduced the FF to quite a few vegetables that we never would have purchased at the market – and found that the boys are big squash fans. But it is true that we’re not as good as we should be about eating everything that we bring home from both the market and our weekly CSA share. However, I have been looking forward to using the recipes I’ve been collecting to make with the produce that I wasn’t quite sure how to cook last summer. After several conversations with everyone, I’ve been given the Family okay to move on, but told that all other decisions are up to me…or as the boys say, “Mom, no one cares about this as much as you do.”. So much for family decision-making…

So once the decision to CSA was made, I was left with the decisions about what size share to select, whether to get both summer and autumn shares, whether to buy eggs or bread or flowers…. So many wonderful choices, but no input forthcoming from the FF. Here are some of the factors I’m currently considering:

  • We are regular farmer’s market attendees, as well as CSA members.
  • We buy bread every week at the market, and have some specific preferences.
  • I’m also developing my baking skills, and make a passable Quick Yeast Bread.
  • We have a small vegetable garden that produces lettuce, and tomatoes, and cucumbers, and peppers…and whatever else we decide to grow.
  • We are irregular farmer’s market egg purchasers – in part because we consume a lot of eggs.
  • Summer produce is favored by everyone, root vegetables featured in the autumn season are not universally enjoyed by all family members.
  • We love flowers in the house, but usually grow enough in our garden to cut and bring indoors.

The CSA that we were members of last year, and that we plan to join this year, Potomac Vegetable Farms, offers three size shares: mini, regular, robust; and two seasons, summer and autumn.  We got the regular summer share last year, and ate most everything most weeks — and did get better at planning ways to use all the produce as the season progressed.  We found that some of the quantities of produce for things we eat regularly was less than our weekly consumption, but that was usually compensated for by our garden or increasing how much we got at the farmer’s market. I found that I missed our weekly pickups when fall came, and very rapidly fell back into our regular produce routine.

So, what to do? Decisions need to be made. Thoughts anyone?

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