Wednesday, December 7, 2011

CSA Weeks 21-24: Done and DONE.

Whew! That felt nothing like 24 weeks, darlings. Maybe it was because we only bought a half-share and were therefore less overwhelmed by random produce, but this year’s CSA was much more manageable than last year’s. Let’s see how it wrapped up (spoiler: anticlimactically).

Week 21 didn’t happen because it flipping snowed. In October! I hate the East Coast sometimes. The One Straw crew didn’t feel safe driving to the market, for which I couldn’t blame them. It was the first time in 23 years they missed a summer market day. Everyone stayed home, and we got twice the veggies for Week 22:

There we have some garlic, bok choy, sweet potatoes, multicolored peppers, broccoli, and it looks like some scallions. The bok choy, peppers, scallions, and broccoli went into this lovely stir-fry with some cashews:

I’m sure we added some garlic, too. Garlic is great because it can just hang out in the Crisper and keeps for a nice long while.

We’ve been really into dicing and roasting sweet potatoes this fall. Sometimes I do them plain, with just some olive oil and salt and pepper, and other times I add a little maple syrup and ginger. I can’t remember what I did this time, but it was delicious. Fun fact: roasted sweet potatoes are an excellent breakfast.

Week 23 didn’t happen either, but not because of any shenanigans by Mother Nature. Red and Lucy and I went to the beach because I had a three-day yoga training weekend. It was wonderful and exhausting and we took a huge pan of Vcon’s Pumpkin-Baked Ziti with us so we wouldn’t have to cook. Here’s a picture of my girl meeting the ocean for the first time:

So we got double the veggies for Week 24, which seemed an appropriate way to finish out the season:

So much leafy greenage! We got spinach, mizuna, mustard greens, bok choy, broccoli, and I think that’s it. We got two of a few of those, so forgive me for being a little confused.

We had to make space in the fridge, but in doing so we found some sticky grossness and also some random bits of onion skin and other detritus. So Red brought out the vacuum:

I suppose we didn’t use all the sweet potatoes after all, as we had one left over for to make this soup:

This is Double Mustard Greens and Roasted Yam Soup from Vegan Soul Kitchen. We made it last year and loved it, so I was glad to have it again.

We picked up some carrots and made this stir-fry with the mizuna, some of the broccoli, and one of the heads of bok choy. It doesn’t look like much in the photo, but it was yummy.

When we realized we had missed a bok choy and a head of broccoli, we kicked ourselves, then steamed up the broccoli and sautéed the extra bok choy with some garlic and all that beautiful spinach. Over rice, it made a perfectly simple and satisfying dinner. And thus did our 2011 CSA experience come to an end.

Like I said, this year was much better than last year, but we were still finding our feet then. This year, we’re old pros. I’m very thankful for One Straw. One of the things I love about them, aside from their excellent food, is their communication. Joan is always available to chat on market days, and she sends out emails when there’s something we need to know. I found her CSA wrap-up email especially interesting, because she explained how this year’s cracked-out weather really affected their harvest. We had a super-hot July and then a really rainy September, so the hard winter squash didn’t fare too well. The beets didn’t have a good time of it, either. The spinach was delicious, but it made only infrequent appearances at the market. Because of a lack of sunshine, the broccoli heads were very small (and being broccoli lovers, we noticed). Evidently many East Coast farmers experienced the same conditions, and flooding left some without a harvest at all. This is very sad, because I’m sure they are small family farmers, like One Straw, and the weather determines their livelihoods. It really brings into focus just how interconnected we all are, and I hope next year is kinder to those who dedicate themselves to feeding us healthy, natural food.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Southern-fried Thanksgiving.

I love it when I start a post with an outright lie. We didn’t fry all that much, and certainly didn’t Southern-fry anything, however one does that. We did, however, make a ridiculous amount of delicious food.

Red and I, along with my parents, flew down to Charlotte (remember when I went there?) to spend the holiday o’ gluttony with my sister at her new house. Yay, new house! All that lovely space. I am so jealous. She and her boyfriend have done an admirable job of filling it, though, with the aid of this handsome fellow:

This enormous beast is Sampson, and he is still a puppy. When he finishes growing, I am going to laugh and laugh because he will almost certainly outweigh my sister. He is the sweetest, mellowest dog I’ve ever met—and not even a year old! Lucy is that calm when she’s waking up from anesthesia. We had many snuggles and even let him get up on the couch, which, strictly speaking, he is not allowed to do. He is a beautiful boy.

The day before Thanksgiving, Red and I learned of a new vegetarian restaurant in town. We absolutely had to try it! It’s called Fern, Flavors from the Garden, and you’ll just have to Google it because they’re too new to have an actual website. It is really lovely:

Such a great use for Mason jars.

Felt pockets on the wall! With living plants in them!

They poured us glasses of cucumber water, which is totally delicious and I don’t know why I’ve never made it myself. We started with jalapeño hush puppies (with Daiya, for those of you who worship the stuff), which I loved and I am no great lover of jalapeños, believe me.

Look at my pretty First Chakra Juice:

I know it’s ultra-hippie to have a juice menu named after the chakras, but we just covered them in my recent yoga training weekend, and I have a chakra poster (this one, actually) on my wall at work, and I have a chakra ring that I bought in Salem with my friend Jess, so I guess I am a little ultra-hippie, no? And yes, I brought my yoga mat with me to North Carolina.

My entrée was already vegan, and they veganized Red’s easily. Feast your eyes:

Green Goddess Soup

Warm Kale Salad

It was good we fueled up, because we headed downtown to the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art. Red and I can be very snobby East Coasters, but we’ve decided we can visit any city with a modern art museum. Well played, Charlotte. It’s right next to the Mint Museum (which, no, is not about currency), which I visited last time, so there was a nice sense of familiarity. I did not see the sign banning photographs, so I took some.

Me and Marilyn.

The rest of our visit was very domestic, as befits a family holiday. On Thanksgiving, my sister, Red, and I cooked up a storm—no, a goddamn tornado, and I had to stay sober the entire time because it was a very small kitchen for three people and I didn’t want to injure anyone (or, worse, spill my drink). But the day started off right, with these yummy vegan pumpkin cinnamon rolls (made the night before, because can you imagine? you’d have to be up at 4 to have them ready for breakfast):

The recipe is here, and aside from its being a pain in the ass in the way that all cinnamon roll recipes are (knead! rise! roll! slice! roll! rise! KILL ME), I can’t say enough good things about it. The rolls were perfect. The icing recipe looked like it made a vatful, so we halved all the ingredients except for the spices and rum, because my family likes to party.

Release the Kraken!

Most of the day was pretty chill, and we played a very satisfying game of Monopoly. My sister has the set we used as kids, and man, it has survived some craziness. I’m pleased to report that I won, although Red did remarkably well for his first time playing Monopoly ever. We’ll civilize him yet.

Before we started cooking in earnest, we needed appetizers. The omnis had their own stuff, and Red and I made Tami Noyes’ Seitan Veggie Crowns. There’s a reason they were named’s Appetizer of the Year! Go, Tami! BTW, leftover filling mixed with a little extra vegan mayo makes for a delicious sandwich.

Once we started making dinner, it was on like Donkey Kong. We made garlic mashed potatoes (vegan and omni), green bean casserole, bourbon mashed sweet potatoes with pecans, Appetite for Reduction’s Sweet Potato Biscuits, stuffing from a bag (you know you love it too), and Sage and Pumpkin Seed Encrusted Gardein with Cranberry Cabernet Sauce (Gardein’s Thanksgiving menu is off the hook). We used malbec instead of cabernet, and it was a delicious substitution. Even my dad loved the Gardein!

We carved a V in our mashed potatoes so there’d be no confusion.

I was too stuffed to eat dessert, but the day before I’d made the Gingerbread Apple Pie from Vegan with a Vengeance. I made it last year, too, because it is easy and fantastic. Shout-out to Red for his peeling/slicing assistance. Actually, I made two pies—it turns out that the recipe makes one pie when you have a big-ass ceramic pie dish, but two when you’re using disposable grocery-store pie tins. So, a bonus pie! Who could complain? My sister didn’t have maple syrup, so I improvised and used a combination of molasses and rum. Again: Problem? Where? (I forgot to take a picture, so if you want one, it’s in here.) I ate plenty of it the next day, don’t you worry.

No trip to Charlotte is complete without a visit to Lebowski’s, so we made a family pilgrimage there on Black Friday. Vegan White Russians and french fries, you have my heart. I was committed to not buying anything that day, so I guess I failed, but it’s not like I got up at 3am to stand in line with hostile strangers jonesing for a discounted Xbox or something. That shit scares me.

Bar lighting is so flattering.

On Saturday, it was home again, home again. I am so thankful to have been able to spend Thanksgiving with people I love, in a city that cares about its vegans at least a little, remembering what really matters.