A little bit out of control

On the whole, we’ve been doing a great job keeping up with our CSA veggies this year, but the summer squash situation is suddenly getting dire.

I had to laugh at this site – seems like about our attitude at this point. I actually love summer squash, but I get a mental block about eating it when there’s too much of it. We should probably come up with some sort of strategy, though, since I’m sure there will be plenty more in Wednesday’s bag.

Vibrant little things

A month into our CSA program, we’re doing a much better job than last year of keeping up with things as they come in. I’m particularly loving the fruit right now – peaches, nectarines and plums – but the vegetables have also been great for the most part. We’re starting to fall behind a bit on the cucumbers, and I’m still not entirely sure what to do with all those radishes, but we’re doing well on the whole.

The exception so far has been beets – they keep sending a handful of different varieties, and I’ve been completely at a loss. Last year I tried to make soup but it wasn’t really a success – the beets stained everything else bright pink and I didn’t like their flavour. On their own, they aren’t appealing to me – they smell like dirt. And they keep piling up.

I mentioned the difficulty to our friends Shawn and Sanna (veritable foodies), and they were raving about how great beets were for you and how they boil them down with honey and a bit of butter, a la mashed potatoes except using the water you cooked them in instead of milk. So I gave it a shot. They’re such bright and lovely colors when you prep them (I was so careful about not getting the juice everywhere, since it really does stain impressively).

They’re wiry enough that they don’t really boil down to anything smooth (or, at least, I got bored of adding more water before they got that far), but the end result was surprisingly good. So, success, and I know how to cook a new food!

And NOW it’s summer

Our first CSA bag of the season came today!

Like last year, the first bag is on the small side, but it was still very fun to unpack. They included a bag of lavender – I’m torn whether to try some of the lavender recipes that they included or just dry it and make more of the great hot/cold bags with it. The strawberries and cherries are great, we have tons of apriums (one of the reasons we chose this CSA over others is that they grow a lot of stone fruit and hybrids), and we pretty much finished the lemon basil last night. (Yum.)

A question for you: do you have any recipes/strategies for radishes? They included a pesto recipe for the greens which looks like the plan for tonight, but I’m at a bit of a loss when it comes to the radish itself.

More progress

Today was another productive one, project-wise, mixed in with a bunch of great food. We made waffles on the griddle (these are my raspberry chocolate chip ones, midway).

As you can see from the background, we had Dunkin Donuts coffee to go with! Stretching out the East Coast trip happiness a little bit.

Partly to get dinner ready early, and partly to put off painting trim as long as possible, I took all of the remaining CSA root vegetables and cut them up for a soup. Many of them were surprises/unidentified. We definitely had turnips, carrots (white and orange), a beet (that one was a bit of a shock – ugly brown outside, juicy fluorescent red inside. Woah. My hands are still stained.), and potatoes. We think we also had Golden Bunch Beets and a second kind of turnips?? I added store-bought leeks, lentils and purple onions, and it turned into quite the colorful pot.

I like that we managed every single color except for blue. I seasoned with thyme, oregano, pepper, and (as usual, not enough) salt. Not bad.

Procrastinating out of the way, I finally started painting trim. I did the windows, shelf and one of the doorways, and it took a little over three hours (felt much longer). I think we’ll need at least one more coat, and I’m considering buying a less-glossy paint to hide the many imperfections. It felt like a good step forward when I was done for the day, but the lesson remains: I will not retrim a room that size, with that complexity, *ever* again.

Ready to sign up for next year!

We got our final CSA bag this week! On one hand, it’s disappointing to be at the end of a great 22 weeks, but on the other hand we will still be working on squash and turnips and apples and tomatoes and plums for ages, so it feels a bit premature to be sad.

Several people have written to ask what a CSA is. CSA = Community Supported Agriculture. Basically, you buy a stake in a farm’s crop at the beginning of the growing season, and each week you get a big bag of produce. There are lots of different programs in the Seattle area, and all of the details are different. We went with Tiny’s Organic. (Organic was a moot point to us, but we liked that the bags were about ½ fruit instead of all vegetables. Most of the options are geared to about 4 people, and it’s easier to make it through an entire week’s bag when some of it can be used for baking, waffle & ice cream toppings, etc.) We paid about $40 a week upfront, and picked up a bag each week at a bookstore about five minutes away. There were lots of heirloom varieties of things, and we tried many vegetables for the first time. (Fava beans were a big hit, and we’ve loved the different kinds of arugula and herbs (esp cilantro). I’m so sold on winter squash, now, too.)

They included around 10 recipes each week – a major benefit especially when cooking something for the first time. We both loved unpacking the bag – it felt like a gift each week, and there was a fun element of surprise. Little things in life, but I love not having to pick out summer fruit at the grocery store (almost always disappointing) – just having delicious, healthy things appear was a treat. We probably broke even or saved about $5 a week on vegetables and fruit, so it wasn’t a major cost savings, but the only things we bought week to week were mushrooms, and tomatoes until August. Not bad. 🙂 And when we’re left to our own devices we tend to be a week of shopping and cooking/week of cheese sandwiches and pasta sort of people. It’s nice to have the fruit and non-frozen veggies just appear and beg to be used.

It wasn’t a total success – we couldn’t really keep up with the cucumbers or melons (a minor source of stress). Next year I’ll try making pickles and maybe we’ll just gift the melons to amenable friends. 🙂 We both wished for more beans, peas, broccoli, etc, though those crops were apparently a particular challenge with the weird growing weather this year. And I am still a bit baffled by turnips and beets – I buy that they’re great for you but I’m confused whether you can eat the greens and I need more recipes. Something to research in the off season, I suppose.

Sunday Night Football

Shawn, Sanna, and William came over to watch the Patriots game. (Larry just got back from a recruiting trip to Boston and was feeling too hectic to swing by. We missed him.) We had a yummy dinner – fajitas with all sorts of CSA veggies, plus spaghetti squash, and a warm nectarine sauce served over ice cream. Kevin and William played in the yard, I made progress on my new sweater, and the Patriots lost impressively. Ouch. At least we had great conversation and company in the meantime.

(Isn’t that the worst photo ever? I think I had it on the wrong setting. Also note that the room is still a construction zone. Soon, soon, we may someday finish it.)

We are so, so behind.

We’ve been loving our CSA bag this year – it’s been quite a success, although we’ve completely, consistently lost the battle in keeping up with the plums and cucumbers. We still have a few more weeks, which is awesome, but we were gone Wednesday through Sunday last week. So, I picked up the bag today and washed not only this week’s fruit but last week’s as well.

Farmers Market Flowers!

Now that we have the fruits and veggies from the CSA each week, I haven’t been to the farmers’ market once this summer. On the balance, I’m fine with that, but I do miss all of the flower vendors, and I’ve been wishing for sunflowers. I spent about five hours yesterday working on caulking the trim in the family room. As I worked, I listened to all of the cheers and honking for the Breast Cancer 3 Day Walk, which headed past the top of our street. As the day got late, I decided to run up the street to pick up white thread for Kevin’s curtains and see all of the walkers (aka, do a little honking myself) – many of them get dressed up in things ranging from “outfits” to complete costumes. I actually found it quite emotional to see their progress – most of them are either survivors, or friends and family of people who have had cancer. I know several people this year with horrible, sad cancer stories, and this walk seems like such a brave and hopeful thing to go do (you can’t walk without a hitting a minimum pledge – it’s not little, and it’s a big physical and time commitment), and at the same time each walker is so small in the face of the dollars and years that are required for improvements in care, let alone a cure. You see all of the PINK, and the friends, and the brave T-shirt slogans (“I had a war in my raq.”), and it was a steady stream of women and supporting men and sons, but it still made me kind of teary to drive by. Very emotional and powerful.

On the way to the thread store, I drove by a woman with a tent selling flowers along the way, and I stopped and bought these.

They’re so extravagant, and exactly what I’ve been feeling we were lacking. The right flowers to be summery, but heading into fall colors. Perfect. 🙂

The weather has been cooperating with brilliant sunshine, so our kitchen was full of glowing flowers and bright sunlight all afternoon.

We’ve been hoping to replace the kitchen cabinets since we moved in. (We have a hole where a trash compactor used to go, and none of the current cabinets are adjustible, so they’re a terrible use of space. We still have glasses in storage. Plus there’s a mid-eighties-era microwave/oven that you can see in the photo above that would make an excellent pantry if we redid things.)

Do any of you live in Seattle or on the Eastside and have custom cabinetry recommendations? We’ll definitely scope out the Lowes/Home Depot standard options, but we’re hoping to keep the current Corian countertops and the kitchen as it is just doesn’t fit the standard grid. Any thoughts (including keywords to search for online) would be awesome.

P.S. If you know an electrician, we’re in the market for one of those, too. 🙂