Tag Archives: CSA

Food journey and values update

A little over a year ago, I did a three part series here on the blog about the role food played in my life growing up and the changes I had made over the years to the way we ate based on books and research I had read.

Part 1: Childhood

Part 2: Teens and Young-Adulthood

Part 3: Up to the then present

I think I felt kind of confident at the time that where we were at was a good place and I didn’t foresee any more major changes in the future. I felt pretty educated about the subject. I was also just kind of “done” on the subject of food research. It can be exhausting looking into all of the information and following rabbit trails. I knew what I knew and I was good with what I knew. I trusted some places and brands over others. I felt I was doing my best with the knowledge, budget, family support, etc. that I had.

Well, a year makes a difference. News stories are written. New books are recommended and written. Things get more complicated. Husbands read books of their own. And blissful ignorance isn’t good enough anymore at some point.

So I sort of feel like now this will be an ever changing and expanding storyline in my life. As I find out more things my values are going to change. There is a Maya Angelou quote, “I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.”

So, enough changes have taken place recently in our diet and lives that I have more to share.

The biggest impact on our lives was that Stephen read The Omnivore’s Dilema by Michael Pollan and I read Eating Animals by Jonathan Saffron Foer.

There have also been numerous articles in various publications over the last year about the FDA, USDA, our country’s food system, farming, pesticides, conglomerates like Monsanto, etc. that have caught our attention and made us think.

In some ways, writing about this seems especially hard because we still don’t have it all figured out. I also don’t want to offend people or make them think that what they are doing isn’t good enough because it is a subject I can get pretty fired up about. Nor do I want to offend those we eat with in our circle of friends and family that may not either share our same values or for whatever reason can’t make the changes that we have made due to their budget or dietary needs, etc. So forgive me if I ramble or don’t seem to have it all together quite yet.

So a year ago we got our dairy, meat and eggs from Trader Joe’s. We joined back up with the CSA Abundant Harvest for our produce. We still ate out at places that were above McDonald’s, but didn’t claim to source their ingredients from organic farms or even any place different than where ever it is that McDonald’s sources their ingredients from. We ate processed food from time to time (snacks mostly), but I did try/have to make a lot of things from scratch due to the kids’ food allergies. We avoided soy (except occasionally in the fermented form of soy sauce) due to things I’d read about phytoestrogens in soy products. We avoided non-traditional fats/oils and instead used mostly real butter and olive oil. We sometimes splurged for grass fed beef, but I had a hard time learning how to cook it and it was expensive so we mostly just got whatever was on sale and marked “organic” at Trader Joe’s. We trusted Trader Joe’s. We trusted labels like “organic” and “free range.” We made little effort beyond the more “superior” grocery stores like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods to find out where our food came from.

And that last line is where all the change comes into our lives. After reading the books we did, neither of us could be comfortable ever again just walking into a grocery store and blindly trusting. We wanted to know.

Google searches led to reports and news articles and farm websites that told us (or went to great efforts to keep secret) where our food was coming from and we didn’t like everything that we found out.

Labels like organic now mean nothing to us if the cows/chickens/hogs are fed the same “organic” non-traditional diet (in other words “organic” corn and soy) as their non-organic counterparts. Or if they are kept in identical claustrophobic factory conditions with a small door where they are allowed to access outdoors, but don’t because they are too sick/obese/etc to be able to do so.

We started eating way less meat/eggs/dairy. We only get meat/eggs/dairy from places that we can find more about and trust that the animals are treated decently, given food they are traditionally supposed to eat and space/lifestyle/habitat/etc. that they are traditionally supposed to be in. Mostly that means we source these things either through our CSA via add-ons to our weekly box (I just discovered they have a whole series of videos about each of the farms), our local farmer’s markets and sometimes Whole Foods carries “local” stuff (an example is that I discovered the chicken our CSA sells from a family farm in Sanger, CA is available at Whole Foods and about $2-3 cheaper).

We have like three places we feel OK about eating out at. We are trying to figure how to eat when we are in social situations with people that don’t eat like us and for whom this is of no concern. It’s daunting sometimes. But I think it’s worth it. I think the changes we are making send a message and have an impact even if it is a fairly small one.

If you want to know more, feel free to comment and ask questions.

And one more thing… Chicken, people… Just Google “chicken fecal soup” and tell me you can be comfortable walking into any grocery store and buying a package of “organic” chicken again (hint, make sure your chicken package says 0% additional moisture, you are welcome).

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Asian inspired stone fruit chicken

It’s stone fruit season and our CSA is overflowing with it, as usual. We try to eat a lot of it raw, but I still have to freeze quite a bit, make cobblers, and try to find other uses.

I had 6 nectarines sitting in my fruit bowl and they were starting to get really fragrant so I knew they’d be getting near their end soon. Sure enough two down at the bottom were half moldy. I make this peach chicken recipe from a Betty Crocker cookbook that my husband loves. I don’t really love it, or at least I didn’t use to because it had canned peaches in it and I had a problem with the textures. At one point I came up with a more sophisticated version of the recipe, but I think it may be sitting in a Word document on my computer in the aftermath of one of my blog shut-down freak-outs.

So tonight for a little twist on that recipe, I decided to try an Asian-inspired, stone fruit version of orange chicken. As I put the plates down I said, “This could be really good or really bad. Complete experiment.” I have confidence issues. I think you could probably use peaches, nectarines or even plums. Anyway, it was good and blog worthy, so here goes…

Asian-inspired stone fruit chicken

Ingredients
-1 egg
-1/2 cup flour
-2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
-Chinese Five Spice powder
-sesame oil
-high temp tolerant oil for stir frying
-salt
-4 medium nectarines, skin and stone removed, chopped
-soy sauce
-white wine (I used some two buck Chuck I bought today and I didn’t even get carded, sad face)
-thumb size piece of ginger root, grated
-2 cloves garlic, pressed

In a low bowl, season egg with salt and a dash of Chinese Five Spice powder and then whisk to scramble. In another low bowl mix flour and 1 tsp of Chinese Five Spice powder. Coat each piece of chicken in the egg mixture and then in the flour mixture and put on a plate while you finish doing the whole batch.

In a wok add a half-dollar circle of your high temp oil and a dime circle of the sesame oil. Add half the grated ginger and pressed garlic. Heat over medium high heat until fragrant and then add chicken stir frying here and there to prevent burning.

Meanwhile, in a smaller pan or wok repeat the oil process with the rest of the ginger and garlic, over medium heat. Add in your nectarines (or fruit of your choice) a dash of Chinese Five Spice, a few glugs of wine and couple glugs soy sauce (sorry no exact measurements, I just pour what seems right) and simmer while stir frying your chicken. Sprinkle a little flour over the nectarine mixture and stir it in to help it thicken. When chicken is no longer pink inside, add the nectarine mixture to the chicken and stir fry a few seconds more.

Serve over steamed rice with a lightly steamed vegetable like green beans or asparagus.

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Cobbler

I’m not even sure this recipe is reproducible, but I am going to try my best to explain what I did and hopefully that will be enough for you to attempt it.

We had a barbecue potluck to attend for our community group and I had a bunch of random fruit from our CSA and the farmer’s market that I needed to use up. Cobbler just goes with summer and barbecues to me.

So at first I wasn’t sure whether to do a cobbler or a crisp, but I finally settled on cobbler because I wanted something more doughy and we’d had a crisp that someone made the week before.

I started looking up cobbler recipes and figured out that cobbler is basically just marinated fruit with biscuit dough on top baked in the oven.

Those that have read my blog for a bit know that the best biscuits ever are my friend Cara’s family recipe. So, hello, why would I even try any other biscuit dough recipe? Not happening.

You may also remember that some time after Cara posted her recipe, I adapted it into a scone recipe. I was thinking a sweetened biscuit might be better on top of the fruit in this case.

So here is what I did:

Fruit base:
-3 or 4 peaches or nectarines (I think I had 1 nectarine and 3 peaches), chopped
-1 Asian pear, peeled, cored and chopped
-1 small package blueberries
-4 or 5 large strawberries, chopped
-a couple handfuls of Rainier cherries, pitted and chopped

I don’t think it honestly matters what combination of fruit you use. Use what you have and what is in season. In all I had about 6-8 cups of chopped fruit.

I decided to chop all my fruit the day before mostly because it was close to being at its end and I wasn’t sure it would make it to the next day sitting out. Plus, Sundays I always seem to never have enough time and I was trying to get part of it done ahead of time.

After I chopped it, I mixed it with about 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/2 tsp TJs pumpkin pie spice (LOVE that stuff), and the juice of one grapefruit that we got a couple CSA boxes ago and also needed to be used. I covered it up and stuck it in the fridge overnight.

The next day I poured the fruit and all the juices out in a baking dish and sprinkled some whole wheat flour over the top (about 1 tbsp) then used a spoon to mix it in.

Next up was the biscuit topping. I decided to follow along more my scone ingredients than the original biscuit recipe ingredients so it would be sweeter.

So changes to the scone recipe were that I only used whole wheat flour (so two cups) because that’s all I had, I used 1/2 cup of sugar instead of a full cup, no dried fruit, and I was out of milk, but I did have some homemade apricot yogurt so I used that.

After working out the dough into the flakey layers I cut as you would for biscuits or scones and layered the cuts over the top of fruit in the baking dish, overlapping slightly.

I preheated my oven to 400 and the baked for 20 minutes.

Hello puffy flakey cobbler goodness.

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Quinoa linguine with butternut squash, spinach, shallots and artichoke hearts

I have been thinking about a lot of things as usual. One of which is going veg again.

Also, Lent is coming up and traditionally Christians fast from animal products (meat, dairy, eggs, fish, etc.) during this time (this Sunday is meat fare Sunday, the last time traditional practicing Christians can have meat and I think next Sunday is cheese fare Sunday, the last Sunday for dairy products before Easter). We still aren’t sure if we are participating in this, this particular year, but we are thinking about it.

Doing more research on the food industry just really has me bummed out about meat especially. I have been watching YouTube video interviews with Jonathan Saffron Foer, author of Eating Animals, and I really like some of the stuff he says like, how it doesn’t have to be all or nothing and how vegetarians need not be on some extreme end of the spectrum. How reducing the amount of meat we eat, even if just one meal a week, can make a big impact on the industry.

Plus, eating meat, touching it, and all that has been really hard for me much of this pregnancy. Often the texture just really turns me off. In the case of red meat, I feel like I can often taste the blood (that is the only way I know to describe it, hope it makes sense). Meat just leaves me feeling so gross most of the time.

But consequently there is the whole importance of protein during pregnancy and how it is really, really hard to get up to Dr. Bradley’s recommended 80g or more per day even when you are eating meat. I know I feel better when I get close and really focus on it, but focusing on it can be a little maddening.

Then there is the frustration in week after week seeing a lot of our CSA produce going to waste or building to seemingly insurmountable levels in our fridge. I was thankful that our mini-vacation meant not getting more produce this week.

I still don’t know all the answers to these questions and thoughts, but here is a recipe that is vegetarian, gluten-free, yummy, uses produce currently in season and is filling.

Quinoa linguine with butternut squash, spinach, shallots and artichoke hearts

Ingredients:
-2 small butternut squash peeled and chopped
-a bunch of spinach, stems removed
-2 large shallots, chopped
-2 baby artichokes, trimmed and chopped (I also think marinated artichoke hearts might work well in this recipe, but you’d obviously skip the step of boiling them)
-1/2 box of Ancient Harvest Quinoa linguine
-handful of fresh parsley, chopped
-salt and black pepper to taste
-dash of red pepper flakes
-a dribble of apple cider vinegar
-olive oil
-cheddar or Parmesan cheese, grated (optional)

Preheat oven to 400. Chop and peel your butternut squash. Place in a bowl and toss to coat with olive oil, salt and pepper. Transfer to a baking sheet and roast in oven for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile start a small pot of water boiling. Trim and chop your artichokes then place in boiling water. Boil until tender.

While that is going remove the stems from the spinach and rinse it. Once the artichoke hearts are done pour the boiling water and artichokes over the spinach to wilt it. Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.

Start a large pot of salted water to boil for your pasta. When it comes to a boil add pasta and cook according to package directions.

The squash should finish soon. Add that in with the spinach and artichoke hearts.

After draining pasta, return the empty pot to the burner, reduce it slightly. Add a couple gluts of olive oil to the pot along with the shallots, more salt and pepper, the red pepper and the apple cider vinegar. Stir occasionally and sauté the shallots until tender.

While the shallots are cooking, cut up the parsley. Toss it in right at the end along with the other vegetables and the pasta. Add more olive oil, salt and pepper to taste, if necessary.

Serve and grate cheese over the top if desired.

This made enough for all four of us with leftovers for one tomorrow. An easy way to have it make more would be to use the whole box of pasta, add in more artichokes, etc.

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The October Daily, 10/28

I don’t know if my fridge has ever been so full of food. It is kind of ridiculous and slightly disturbing. We have family staying with us this week and I decided to go for the big veggie box as well as get larger versions of stuff like milk and orange juice. The days are going by quickly though and I keep feeling like we’ve hardly made a dent. Ack!



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Enjoying the fruits of our labor

Trader Joe’s, park, veggie pickup, two successful public potty trips and no accidents before lunch today. After a major regression in which she refused to even use the potty for quite some time, I think she finally gets it!

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