Tag Archives: CSA

His & Hers Gift Guide – What They’ll Actually Use

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This time of year, I’ve been getting a lot of searches that link to this post from last year: Top 5 Gifts for the Hard to Buy For Person Who Has Everything. I want to offer up some more gift ideas this year. But I don’t want to give away my surprises of what I’ll be gifting.

Instead, I thought I’d create a different kind of list.

Part One – His

If you read last year’s post, you’ll know that my shopping for my husband is very difficult. He usually just buys what he wants when he wants it. And no matter how much thought I put into them, the gifts I get him end up in a drawer or on the shelf in the closet. So, instead, the HIS GIFT LIST will include items that Rob has either bought himself or has been given, but that he uses all the time.

Part Two – Hers

Here you will get a my Christmas Wish List. No, this is not a post to get what I want for Christmas. Besides, probably only one person I’m exchanging with actually reads this blog. And I’m pretty certain my mom is done with her Christmas shopping already. 😉 Instead, it’s just a list of things, that if offered to me this holiday season {or any old time}, that I would not turn down! It’s meant to give you ideas for women you may know like me.

Let’s start with the guys, since they seem to be the hardest to shop for, right? For additional ideas, please read Running with Racheal’s post from last year.

Great Gifts for Guys

{aka items Rob uses ALL THE TIME}

  • Smartphone – His iPhone is the one gift that Rob thanks me for throughout the year. He doesn’t know now, how in the world he ever lived without it. The thing is, it was a surprise a couple of years ago. He didn’t even know he’d want one. Because of the never-ending thank yous, it’s the gift that keeps on giving!
  • iPhone Wallet – Rob bought this for himself within the last year and it’s made his life so much simpler. When getting ready for work in the morning, he no longer has to go in search of his wallet and his phone. It’s all together now. He found his on eBay and there are several styles. His is pictured below. He gets compliments all of the time. They are cheap, too!
  • Extra iPhone Chargers – Rob found these cheap online, too. I never strayed away from my one charger that came with my iPhone. But once we got extra, it made life so much easier! I can’t tell you how nice it is to have one in my car, one to keep in my suitcase or carry-on, purse, one for the office and the living room. Rob keeps one at work, too. It was handy when we left one behind on vacation to have extras on hand. Only downfall: When we finally upgrade to iPhone 5 or later, we’ll have to buy all new ones. But no matter, these were seriously cheap.
  • Flashlight(s) – Laugh all you want, but whenever we need a flashlight we can’t find one. This year, a friend of ours put flashlights in our golf tournament goodie bags. Of course, they were meant to keep in our golf bags to look for lost balls. But since we are too lazy to look for them are such good golfers, we use them around the house. Now, if we had about 5 more of those…
  • Lounge Pants – I don’t know about you, but we live in comfy pants over the weekend. That is, until we leave the house, of course. We’ve received lounge/sleepwear pants for Christmas a couple of times and now I don’t know what we’d do without them. They come in many styles. Rob’s collection includes Guinness and ESPN lounge pants, among others.
  • Packer/Wolverine Gear – You can never have enough gear to cheer on your team. Just make sure it is the size, style and fit that your recipient likes. I’m just sayin’, when I get him this kind of stuff, it always gets used!
  • Hammock – Once upon a time, Rob bought a hammock from Hammocks.com. And on any beautiful day in the spring, summer and fall, I come home to him reading, relaxing or napping in that thing. The dogs join sometimes, too! We bought our friends, who invite us up to their cabin every year, one as a thank you gift. It’s a priceless gift, really. It may be hard to think about when it’s so cold, but that’s why they are on sale today! We recommend the Quilted Island Bay with metal stand. Rob’s tip: Get coupons and promo codes when shopping online by typing in “Hammocks.com Coupon” instead of just “Hammocks.com” to save extra dough!
  • Dinner out – Rob nearly always takes me out to dinner, so it’s a special treat when I buy. Sometimes, I’ll make my own little certificate stating such {as I explained in this post} or what restaurant I’m planning on taking him, like I did for his birthday one year.

~

Great Gifts for Gals

{aka gifts I would Graciously and Gratefully accept}

  • Socks – Not kidding here. As it grew colder this fall and I had to put the sandals away, I found that many of my socks were either missing a sibling or developed a hole. I’ve thrown away quite a few. I like fun, funky socks, but they can be hard to rotate within the wardrobe and Rob isn’t a fan. So even just comfortable black socks will do!
  • Turtleneck Sweaters – Are these out of style? I’m having such a hard time finding nice ones! I’m a freeze baby. So in the winter, I like warm sweaters. When I’m trying to overcome Pirate Eyes in the early, black a.m. of winter, I don’t want to have to think about my outfit before work. I want to put on a warm turtleneck sweater and dress it up with a scarf. DONE. Solid colors are best… and timeless.
  • Alligator Clips – This is the name Rob gave to a hair clip I used to rely on all of the time. I’ve lost it since our trip to California this fall and just feel LOST. I am all about low maintenance when it comes to my hair and rarely use a hair dryer. I used to twist it and put it up with my alligator clip when wet. Later in the evening or the next morning, I can wear it down without having to do very much with it! We’ve search stores everywhere for more, but just found them online under other names – beak clip, Japanese clip, concorde clip. There are lots of colors and styles to choose from!

Beak Clip

  • Opolo Mountain Zinfandel – This is one of our favorite wines, but it’s not really priced for everyday. So it’s a treat when we get it!
  • Davis Family Vineyards Pinot NoirGuy Davis knows his Pinot. I never actually liked Pinot Noir until I tasted his at his tasting room on a trip to the Russian River Valley. You can’t find it in stores, so you’ll have to order some. Might as well get a case while you’re add it. Your life will be transformed.
  • Davis Family Vineyards Wine Club Membership – Hell, why not just join the club? I did join the Davis Family Vineyards Friends and Family Club after that trip, but canceled when we needed to buckle down to buy our house. I should just get back in this club and swear never to buy a cheap bottle again and savor every drop of this wine. Quality over quantity, right?
  • Other Wine Goodies – I love this post by grapefriend, with some unique wine-related finds. In particular, I’m intrigued by the wine2go flask and the rewined carmenere candle.
  • Champagne – I love me some bubbly. But it’s extra special to receive a bottle of real champagne!
  • St. Germain – This elderflower liqueur is one of my all-time favorites. I haven’t met a cocktail I didn’t like when it’s made with it.
  • High Quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil – At one point, we bought a Groupon to join an olive oil club. Each month for three months, we got high quality, expeller pressed Italian olive oils! We didn’t continue because it took us all year to use them. The third bottle is almost empty, so we’re in the market for more. I also love this idea of adopting an olive tree and receiving the olive oil produced from it.
  • Cheese of the Month Club – Um. I’m from Wisconsin. I’m a Francophile. No brainer.
  • Fruit of the Month Club – I’ve always wanted this! Fresh fruit delivered to my door every month, yes please! I’ve been eyeing the Arizona Orange Company for two years now…
  • CSA Share – I absolutely adored my CSA box in the summer! But it just proved to be too much food, even split with a friend. They had solo shares this year, but were more basic and sold out right away. If you want to give someone a CSA share, make sure the pick-up location and window is doable for them.
  • Donation to a Cause I Support/Admire – Like a Pet Rescue or Shelter, such as Homeward Bound, where I found Sophie almost 9 years ago and the Carver-Scott County Humane Society, where we found Shamrock this year. When friends of ours refused to let us pitch in for the timeshare and rental car when they invited us to join them in Hawaii, we donated to the Marine Mammal Center in support of the endangered Monk Seals on the island of Kaua’i. We were lucky enough to see them there.
  • Packer Gear – Can never have enough!
  • Packer Tickets – Hey, I am getting higher up on the waiting list; but if anyone can spare a pair, we’ll take ’em! {We support our team during winning AND losing seasons!}
  • Gourmet Coffee – I’m always willing to try a new brew.
  • Tickets to Evita – I love musicals and Evita will be in Minneapolis this year. I loved the music in the movie and have never seen it performed live.
  • Dairy Queen Ice Cream Cake – Laugh if you must. I had a roommate with whom we bought these for each other’s birthdays! The Bonus is that the two of us shared it, so we both got to pick away at it All. Week. Long. It’s been years since I’ve had one, though, so maybe my tastes have changed. Wouldn’t hurt to find out!
  • Gift Certificates – I know some people think that these are impersonal, but I love them. They say to me, “I know you like to shop here, so pick out what you want!” or “We really loved this place and thought you might like it, too.” I also like to save them to use as fitness or weight loss rewards. Here are some great places for which to receive gift cards:
    • Sul Lago – Our favorite restaurant “South of the River.” The very first time we visited, we saw about a dozen or so people come in to order gift certificates at the bar!
    • Restaurants – We like to dine out, so any place we haven’t tried, under our Restaurant Impressions Wishlist will do. Otherwise, we always like to try other people’s favorites, so recommendations are welcome.
    • Kohl’s – I don’t buy clothes very often, but when I do it’s because I need something. Kohl’s is close and familiar. I like to save gift cards here as rewards to myself. I’ve found a lot of good deals on workout gear here, too!
    • Barnes & Noble – I don’t have a Kindle or Nook. I still read real books. But I really think B&N gift certificates are good for travel guidebooks. We love to travel. If you know someone is traveling somewhere, buy them the most current guidebook. Or, they can walk right into a store and flip through guidebooks to see which ones suit them best.
    • Spa – I don’t know any girl who wouldn’t appreciate a spa day or to choose their own spa treatment. Just a pedicure can do wonders.
    • Movies – We don’t go to the movies often, but when we do, we ask ourselves why we don’t do it more!
    • Car Washes & Oil Changes – Okay, this one sounds really impersonal. But truthfully, I hate spending money on this kind of stuff myself. So having a card to just use whenever it is needed would be so wonderful.
    • Amazon Gift Card – Well, because you can use it for ANYTHING!

All I truly need for Christmas is health, love, spending time with family and reconnecting with old friends.

However, sometimes we just fret over that perfect gift for a loved one. So I hope these his and hers lists inspire you with ideas for the rest of your shopping this year. Or sit down and make out your own list. You might just come up with something for someone else!

What is a gift you wouldn’t turn down?

Did this post give you any ideas for someone else?

Cheers~
Carrie

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Farmers’ Market Find: Ground Cherries

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This year, we decided to skip the weekly CSA box. While I love everything a CSA stands for and loved getting fresh, organic foods, there are a few reasons why we decided to take the year off.

  1. The price went up. Now, the CSA wasn’t a bad deal to begin with, but you’ll see why it doesn’t make sense for us in the next point.
  2. The shares are too big. We split our share with a friend last year and it was still too much food. Some of the food went uneaten and spoiled. I did, however, like the challenge of trying to use everything up by the week’s end.
  3. The smaller shares they offered last year were not available this year. I may have considered that option otherwise.
  4. We didn’t always like everything that came in the box. Although I loved to try new-to-me produce!
  5. We can walk to our local Farmers’ Market!
  6. Our Farmers’ Market is a Division of the St. Paul Farmers’ Market, which means that everything sold must be local – within a limited radius of St. Paul, MN.

So every Saturday this summer, we’ve been walking to our local Farmers’ Market.  {Although, with Rob’s knee injury we had to drive last weekend. I may be walking down by myself for a few weeks.}

What’s great about the Farmers’ Market is that we can select what we know we like and will be able to eat that week. Last weekend, we bought:

  • Mixed Greens
  • Cucumbers (for me!)
  • Tomatoes (for me!)
  • Chinese Broccoli {I had intended to  attempt to make Pad See-Iew.}
  • Sweet Corn
  • Onions
  • Green Onions
  • And these beautiful radishes!
Radishes

Aren’t they gorgeous?

Rob doesn’t like radishes. But I sliced them up and put them on my salads all week. I love their color, crunch and slightly bracing zest of flavor. How much did they cost? $1. And only half of them are shown here.

We also discovered something new…

Ground Cherries

Ground Cherries!

I asked what they were and I was encouraged to try a sample. The woman described them as like a tomato, but sweeter. She opened the husk and showed me that the fruit inside. I took a bite. Wow! I wasn’t sure what to think. They were so… different.

She said that they can be eaten raw, are often added to salads and are great for making salsa. I bought some. And I even made Rob try one when we got home. He was apprehensive because he is not a fan of raw tomatoes. But they don’t exactly taste like tomatoes. Sure, they remind you of a tomato once you pop the fruit from the husk. And the husk itself, surrounding the fruit, is reminiscent of that of a tomatillo.

Ground Cherries 3

But when you take a bite, the flavor is unique. And the texture is a bit different, too. Just check out the middle:

Ground Cherries 2

I put them in the fridge when I got home and kind of forgot about them. When I found them later in the week, I sat down and ate almost the whole bag as a snack – only about 74 calories for a whole cup! They are a fruit that you can’t eat too fast, because you have to peel the husk off of each one before popping it into your mouth. That way, you eat them more slowly.

Yesterday, I had them in a salad. {Husks removed beforehand, of course!} They were the perfect addition in terms of flavor. The only trouble I had was stabbing them with my fork. One even popped right out of my bowl. Those little suckers. Get into my belly already!

I also read that they are a good cereal topper like so many other fruits. So I added a few to my granola and milk yesterday morning as well. They complemented each other well in terms of texture and flavor. I’ve also seen recipes for pies and cupcakes using ground cherries. I’ve even seen a picture of them chocolate-dipped!

So what do they taste like?

Some websites I’ve read describe them as tasting like a pineapple or a strawberry. Uh, no, not really. And those aren’t even similar fruits, so I found that to be a weird descriptor. I think you are going to just have to give them a try for yourself!

Oh. And Rob even liked them!

I am going to make it a point to try to get something new at each Farmers’ Market we visit. You know how I love to do that!

What produce have you recently tried for the first time?

Cheers~
Carrie

Where to Buy Chicken Casserole Supplies?

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My husband loves reading Lamebook and other sites that show funnies from around the web. Here’s one of his favorites:

Well, my friend Stacy was over for dinner this week on a night that my husband was out for his Fantasy Football Draft. So you know what that meant?

I could make a chicken dish!

Why not a Chicken Casserole dish?

I’ll tell you where you can find Chicken Casserole Supplies:

My Pantry!

I had all but two of the 18 ingredients needed for a Chicken Casserole dish from – you guessed it – The Homesick Texan. {As much as I love them, I don’t keep corn tortillas on hand, nor did I have half and half.} After picking those two items up from the nearby Cub Foods, I had the components to make:

Slightly Fancy-Pants King Ranch

Chicken Casserole

from The Homesick Texan

Eighteen ingredients may sound like a lot, but it really wasn’t. And if you want to make the easier, old-school version with cream of  mushroom and cream of chicken soup, Lisa includes that recipe on her website, too.

I started by seasoning and cooking up the chicken, which took more time than anticipated:

Chicken seasoned with lime, chili powder and salt

Then I shredded it:

Shredded Chicken

Next time, as a time saver, I’d have the chicken done ahead of time or just buy a rotisserie chicken and add the spices.

Then, I sautéed the onions and peppers. The recipe called for a poblano and a red bell pepper, but I had some small Anaheim peppers left from my last CSA box, so I used that instead of the red bell:

Poblano (1) and Anaheim (2) Peppers

I added the spices:

Spices: garlic, flour, cumin, cayenne, chili powder

After thickening the mixture with the chicken broth, I added the half and half. And since I didn’t have a can of Ro-Tel on hand that the author is so fond of, I put in 10 ounces of canned tomatoes along with a chopped jalapeno and serrano pepper, yet again from my CSA box. {Do they expect me to make Tex-Mex and Mexican food all summer? Aha! How did I forget about the serrano peppers used in Indian Food!? Note to self…}

After some simmering {not me, the sauce mixture}, I added the remaining lime juice, sour cream and some cilantro and seasoned it with salt and pepper:

Creamy mixture for the Chicken Casserole

With the oven heated, I began assembling the Chicken Casserole with layers of  the sauce mixture, corn tortillas, shredded chicken, cilantro and shredded cheese.

Layering of the Chicken Casserole…

Unfortunately, you don’t get a picture of the finished product. But with all the bubbly, golden brown cheese on top, it looked just like The Homesick Texan‘s Tex-Mex Squash Casserole that I made.

The Verdict? This King Ranch Chicken Casserole is the perfect combination of chicken, ooey-gooey cheese and heat. We thought it would be nice if it were a just a tad creamier, so maybe I’d add a little more sour cream next time. {Or I’d have some leftover to dollop on top. I finished off the container of sour cream for this dish, so we didn’t have that luxury.}

So where did I find my chicken casserole supplies?

  • Mostly my pantry and fridge
  • My CSA box
  • Cub Foods for the missing ingredients

Hopefully, that’ll help out Mr. David D. 😉

What is your favorite casserole dish?

Please include the recipe or a link to the recipe!

Cheers~
Carrie

The Homegrown Experience

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As I mentioned, this past weekend, after my cooking and cleaning frenzy, my friend Jen and I attended The Homegrown Experience at the beautiful Nicollet Island Pavilion in Minneapolis.

I would have never known about this if if wasn’t for Goldstar. It’s a another Daily Deal site. And you know how I love those! I would have never known about this event if I hadn’t received the email. And this was its third year in existence! Since I prefer to eat and cook with fresh, quality ingredients and I love supporting the local community, I jumped at the chance to check this it out.

Upon checking in, we received bags and wine glasses along with some coupons and advertisements. This was included in the ticket price as well as the tasting samples we were about to receive!

I really wouldn’t have called it a “Food and Wine Festival” as Goldstar described. There wasn’t much wine being poured. However, despite my affection for wine, that wasn’t my reason for being there. I wanted to learn more about local, organic and sustainable food in the Twin Cities metro area.

And so we did.

There were so many wonderful samples that I’m sure we made a meal out of it. There were all sorts of vendors including co-ops, non-profits and restaurants that use local or sustainable ingredients. Products included wine, beer, spices, bbq sauces, chocolates and candies, oils, coffee, beauty products, cheese, ice cream and more. We made our way through all of the booths, but patience was key. There were so many people! The lines were long and went extremely slowly. Some people popped in and out of booths, which caused even greater delays in the lines. I’m not sure if the lines were meant to be there, or if we, as the crowd, created them though!

My favorite bite was provided by one of the Eastside Co-op – just a simple crostini with colorful tomatoes, basil and a drizzle of olive oil. They had some excellent chocolate we nibbled on as well.

Truth be told, while I recognized some of the restaurants, I was unaware of the majority of the businesses showcasing their products and services! I collected a lot of brochures, pamphlets and business cards. In fact, now that I think about it, I picked up a few magazines/catalogs, too. In my weekend cleaning frenzy, they must have ended up in a pile somewhere. I have to find them! I’m most looking forward to the current issue of Edible Twin Cities!

However, probably the most interesting discovery to us was Twin Cities Local Food. When we approached their both, we saw this:

Camelina Oil

What’s camelina oil?” You ask? I did, too. Camelina is a wild flax chock full of those healthy omega-3 fatty acids. You can learn more about camelina here. The camelina oil was used in a dressing and bread was offered for dipping to sample. But why was Twin Cities Local Food showcasing it?

Because local farmers and producers of local food products are offered through the Twin Cities Local Food online marketplace! As a member, you place your order online by Wednesday morning.  By Thursday afternoon, your order is ready for pickup at the location of your choosing. There is a drop off site in Minneapolis, St. Paul and Savage. SAVAGE! We south-of-the-river girls were excited about that!

We were told that the produce is picked up from local farmers the same day, so everything you get is fresh, fresh. It’s the perfect alternative to a CSA. You get the choice of what you’d like and what you know you will use that week. A win-win! We are seriously thinking of giving this a try. {P.S. It’s a year-round service!}

Currently, memberships with Twin Cities Local Food are $10 for one month, $35 for six months and $50 for a year. You can even place two orders without a membership just to give it a try. But really, $50 a year? If you go once a week, that’s less than a $1 to have fresh, local produce of your choosing delivered to one location? Or, look at it this way: It’s less than $4 a month. You’d pay more for shipping on anything you order online!

Why don’t I just give it try and let you know what I think…

Where is your favorite place to shop for fresh, local produce?

Cheers~
Carrie

My Weekend Pantry Challenge

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My husband went out of town this weekend. So, I decided to give myself a challenge:

Cook only from my pantry, fridge and freezer.

This meant no eating out nor buying of any groceries. The only exception to the rule:

I could buy any fresh produce.

I still wanted to limit buying produce as much as possible because I needed to use up what was already in my fridge and from my last two CSA boxes. However, a trip to the farmer’s market on Thursday afternoon overstocked me even more. It’s just too easy to get carried away when I’m there!

The purpose of the challenge was to use up items that seem to be wasting space in the fridge, freezer or pantry. In particular, I wanted to use up the ones that I don’t use very often because either:

  1. My husband is allergic to them.
  2. He’s just doesn’t like them.

My CSA box the week before came with several jalapenos:

jalapenos and serrano pepper

I hadn’t had a chance to use them, so they were starting to shrivel. This photo was actually taken over a week before using them, so you still get the fresh look. However, the serrano pepper was from the week prior to that and had not only shriveled, but turned from green to the bright red color you see above.

I made sure to get out my trusty Homesick Texan Cookbook to put these little babies to good use.

Note: Slightly shriveled jalapenos pack nearly as much heat as fresh ones! {Or so it seems to me.} I’m so glad that I didn’t toss them!

On Thursday night, I started with:

Tex-Mex Squash Casserole

from

The Homesick Texan Cookbook

The chopping of all of the squash, onions and jalapenos was the most time consuming. Even with the Knife Skills Class that I took at The Kitchen Window that completely changed my life {not kidding!}, it got a little old after a while. The cookbook recipe calls for everything to be diced. However, I just noticed that the online recipe I linked you to suggests just slicing the squash. I think that may have saved some time with no effect on the outcome.

After everything was cooked up and put in the casserole dish, I covered it in cheese:

Cheesy goodness!

When I pulled it out of the oven, I started to divide the dish into six servings, when I realized that you might want a photo of the finished product:

Golden brown cheesy goodness!

While I now notice that the online recipe calls for a can of Ro-tel tomatoes, Lisa’s cookbook recipe calls for “canned tomatoes, preferably fire roasted”. Oh, yeah, baby! We keep stashes of these on hand:

If you have never had these canned fire-roasted garlic tomatoes, you are missing out. When I open the can, I put my nose in. I can smell garlic. I get hungry.

Yes, when I open a can of tomatoes, my mouth waters.

They are that good. So naturally, those went in.

Flavor: Wow. This dish has the perfect amount of heat. I don’t know how she does it, but all of Lisa’s recipes that I’ve tried in her cookbook seem to hit that ideal spice level. Don’t get me wrong, I could go spicier. But I’m not necessarily sure that I want to do that now. There is something about finding that exact level of heat that gives a dish flavor, but not so much that you can’t taste the other ingredients. It’s magical when you you discover it.

Other notes: Despite the fact that this dish is composed of vegetables; it still was filling enough to be a main entrée. The tortilla chips didn’t give it a crust or a crunch; however, they served as a binding for the bottom, and that lovely corn flavor came through. The abundance of cheese adds a bit of protein. However, to add even more, I may cut back on the squash a little in the future and add a can of black beans instead.

I also made:

Mexican Corn

from

The Homesick Texan Cookbook

Despite the link to the recipe above, Lisa’s book recipe illustrates how to do this with or without corn on the cob. I used corn on the cob, but cut it off the cob first.

Flavor: There really wasn’t much flavor here, despite the overabundance of butter and mayo. It just made it high in calories and fat. Even the cilantro and lime didn’t give it that zest that that I’m used to. I think I’ll just keep my regular old buttered corn on the cob for now. Wait! I just realized, I forgot the cayenne. DOH!

Friday morning I made:

Green Monster Smoothie

from

Kim at Living, Laughing, & Losing

Kim loves to throw together her own smoothies. I made this one because I love the fact that it’s one of the few in the blogosphere that doesn’t have protein powder! {Seriously, I still don’t understand the stuff. If one is on a health kick, why eat processed protein?}

In any case, I didn’t take a picture because, hey, it was 6:30am on Friday. Do you really think my brain is functioning yet? Nope. I made a half-portion of her concoction and was sure to use this as suggested:

Another reason why I chose to make this smoothie is that she said that her boyfriend claimed it was the best smoothie she’s ever made.

He was right.

Uh, well, I don’t know Kim personally and hadn’t had any of her other smoothies prior to this. But this one made me “Mmm…” out loud. In fact, I loved it so much that I made another after yoga in the evening, but added blueberries as she did in a later post. Just as good, if not better! These may become a staple for a while.

Flavor: I think what makes this smoothie so great is the cinnamon! I would have never thought of adding that to a smoothie and I just may do it all the time. I’m sure the maple almond butter gave it a hit of sweetness, too.

Friday night’s dinner included:

Green Beans with Cilantro Pesto

from

The Homesick Texan Cookbook

Leftover Tex-Mex Squash Casserole with Cilantro Pesto Green Beans

Flavor: Just what you’d expect from a cilantro pesto! The serrano pepper gives is just a little kick. The recipe calls for pecans which I didn’t have on hand, so I threw in some toasted almonds instead. I saved some leftover pesto with which to:

  1. Coat more veggies or pasta.
  2. Top a burrito or even a crepe like Kat did.

Saturday’s eats:

I was cleaning like a mad woman, so mostly fruit and snacks were consumed during the day. One snack included:

Wholly Guacamole, jalapeno and tomato

I have about three more of those Wholly Guacamole packs left and they expire sometime this month. I thought I’d mix one with a bit of the leftover chopped jalapeno, some chopped tomato and garlic powder to make:

Jazzed Up Guacamole

I grabbed a handful of tortilla chips leftover from the bag I bought for the Tex-Mex Squash Casserole. This was a perfect-sized snack that carried me over during my complete overhaul of the office. In fact, I didn’t even think about starting to make dinner until 7:30pm.

I knew that I wanted to use up the Rob-unfriendly chicken that I put in the freezer a while back. Then I remembered this:

Kitchen Stash Supper

from

Iowa Girl Eats

I love this flexible recipe because it gives me a chance to do exactly what I needed to this weekend – use up items in my fridge, freezer and pantry.

Here’s what was in the mix of the version I made:

  • Half of an onion, diced – I never have shallots in the house, but always have onions.
  • Chopped Veggies – I used about three cups instead of two. I had so many options to choose from including red peppers and anaheim peppers from my CSA box, zucchini from the farmer’s market… But I ended up choosing the ones that I didn’t see myself using up later or that made the dish more varied in color:

onion, bok choy, canned fire-roasted garlic tomatoes, yellow squash

    • Bok choy from my CSA box
    • Garlic fire-roasted canned tomatoes – Half of a can was leftover from the Tex-Mex Squash Casserole. I drained the juices, though, so it wouldn’t make my dish runny.
    • Yellow squash from the farmer’s market
  • Chicken – I used the entire 15-oz package instead of the 12 ounces suggested in the recipe. I cooked it in this microsteamer instead of cooking it in olive oil.
  • Elbow Macaroni – I only had about 3.5 ounces left, but knew the extra chicken and veggies would make up for it.
  • Shredded cheddar cheese – I thought about using the last of the Chipotle Laughing Cow wedges I had or leftover Cojita cheese from my Homesick Texan recipes, but decided I wanted a different flavor from all the wonderful Tex-Mex ones I’d been having lately. I do not want to burn out on them!

The cooked chicken, sautéed veggies and sauce all mixed together looked like this:

Kitchen Stash Supper

Flavor: I wish it had more! Despite the fact that I used roasted garlic grapeseed oil to sauté the veggies and added a hefty spoonful of minced garlic, something was missing. Maybe I didn’t salt the dish enough? Maybe I should have used a more flavorful cheese? {Maybe I was just comparing to those wonderful Tex-Mex flavors I’ve been experiencing lately.} I didn’t add any fresh basil or parsley as suggested either. But the chicken was juicy and I loved the different textures of all the vegetables. And the sauce was creamy, too!

Notes: You know what I love most about this recipe? It’s another step to learning how to be flexible and creative in my cooking, to improvise. I’m really trying to learn to use recipes as guides and become more instinctive when I cook. If I would have tasted this before plating {Food Network 101, right?}, I would have thought to salt the dish a bit more or add another spice. I can’t wait to try it out next time!

But before I made that Saturday night Kitchen Stash Supper, I put together a Sunday salad that needed 24 hours to marinate:

Corn and Cucumber Salad with Fresh Blueberries

from

A Veggie Venture

The blueberries that I had picked up earlier in the week as a BOGO special are some of the best I’ve ever tasted. I found myself munching on them while putting this salad together. Mmm. Antioxidants!

When Sunday came around, I gave in and made this to accompany my salad:

Corn & Cucumber Salad with Blueberries and Hard-boiled Egg and Tomato Sandwich

Yes, that is Benny in the background eyeing my creation, hoping to get a bite!

I first saw the Egg, Tomato and Scallion Sandwich at Gina’s Skinny Recipes (aka Skinnytaste.com). Why didn’t I think of that? I thought. I had those ingredients on hand already. I felt directed to act. But I didn’t…

Until… Racheal at Running with Racheal posted pictures of the ones she made on her blog four different times in four days! Okay, so it was time. {Even if I was now out of scallions.} And I now realize why marketers say that you have to see or hear a message a bunch of times – even if we are interested in a product – before we take any purchasing action.

Verdict?

Let’s start with the Corn & Cucumber Salad with Blueberries.

Flavor:  My first bites… Mmm… good, fresh flavors. However, after a few more, I realized that I couldn’t really taste the blueberries. It could have been a corn and cucumber salad for that matter. And because I thought those blueberries were the absolute best I ever tasted, I decided to take some fresh ones and sprinkle them on top. Nope, the salad flavors still overpowered them.

Notes: I was curious to see how corn and blueberries would pair together, but I’m not sure that I could tell here. You could make this with just corn and cucumbers and still have  refreshing salad! However, the blueberries give a nice color contrast.

As for the Hard-boiled Egg & Tomato Sandwich:

Flavor: What the heck have I been waiting for!? No wonder Racheal had been making these four days in a row! I’m entirely positive that it’s not just because she is pregnant. 😉 When I saw this sandwich on Skinny Taste, I knew that eggs and tomatoes are flavors I loved. I knew that this would be simple to put together. So, I don’t know what took me so long. Thanks, Racheal for unintentionally kicking my butt into action!

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So, did I make a dent in my pantry, freezer and fridge? All that cooking made me feel like I did… but I still have the following perishables to use up with only one day to cook this work-week and another CSA box to arrive on Wednesday:

  • Tomatoes (3)
  • Red Bell Peppers (2)
  • Cucumbers (3)
  • Bok Choy
  • Hard-boiled Egg (1) – uh, it’s obvious what I’ll be doing with that!
  • Anaheim peppers (2)
  • Cilantro (about 1 cup)
  • Zucchini
  • Wholly Guacamole (two 100 cal packs)
  • Diced jalapeno
  • Cilantro pesto
  • Head of cabbage

I have lunches of leftover Tex-Mex Squash Casserole and Kitchen Stash Supper set to take with me to work all week. Red peppers and cucumbers were cut up as a snack for dipping in hummus. I can make another Hard-boiled Egg & Tomato Sandwich as well as another helping or two of Jazzed up Guac. But the rest? When will I use it all?

Sure, it may sound like all I did was cook and eat this weekend, but it didn’t really take up much time. I also cleaned, dog-sat, did a couple of 4-mile runs, attended three yoga sessions and participated in the Homegrown Experience… But that’s for another post.

Do you have a favorite go-to dish when you need to clear out the fridge, freezer and pantry? If so, please share!

Cheers~
Carrie

Cooking Classes

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My friend Jared and I have started to take cooking classes from time to time. While they can be a little expensive, we have found them absolutely worth it every time. The first couple we took were at the Kitchen Window in Uptown Minneapolis. One was a knife skills class.

It was life-changing!

Yes, you can laugh. But I never knew chopping an onion could be so quick and easy. Later that year, we took another one on How to Cook from Your CSA Box. While the instructor was a former chef and owner of a local CSA that neither of us subscribed to, it didn’t matter. The class was more about using seasonal produce and becoming more confident in our own cooking. The young instructor’s experience and expertise was impressive. The #1 thing I learned from that class:

NEVER apologize for your cooking.

I’m a novice cook. So I’m always afraid of how something new is going to turn out. When I plop something in front of my husband, I start out by telling him why I’m not sure this or that worked or if I under or overcooked something. This is wrong! Repeating these words and apologizing only reinforces our cooking insecurities, creating the fear to try something again. Instead, he said, if someone has anything to complain about our cooking, they can do the cooking next time.

When I made the San Marzano pasta that was demonstrated in that class, my husband was so impressed that he said I could take cooking classes any time because I just keep getting better. Note: My husband does not cook nor have any interest in ever cooking. Furthermore, he’d rather go out to dinner any night of the week. So this comment is a huge step – in both his willingness to eat at home and my cooking ability!

Another class Jared and I took was a fun, participatory one on sauces at Saga Hill. I have never come away from any of these classes disappointed. In fact, I recently bought Groupons for upcoming classes at both Saga Hill and the Kitchen Window. I’m looking forward to learning something new later this summer and fall with my friend Jen.

However, my most recent cooking class was on risotto. Come back later this week to learn more about it! I plan to review these classes as I take them. Trust me, it’s one place where I’ve learned to Season It Already!

Have you ever taken a cooking class?

If so, what was it?

What were your impressions?

First CSA Box of the Season – What’s in it?

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I picked up our first CSA Box of the season this week!

When I’ve talked about my CSA box, I’ve had people ask me, “What’s that?”

I don’t really know how I’ve come to learn about CSA – Community Supported Agriculture. Maybe it was when our friend Lisa was chopping yellow summer squash when we visited her and her husband up at their cabin. She gave me a piece and told me to taste it.

RAW? Raw yellow squash? I had never heard of anyone eating such a thing. Besides, it had only been during college that I started eating the stuff. I took the piece from her and gave it a try anyway.

I couldn’t believe the flavor – and it wasn’t even COOKED! That was the best yellow squash (to this day) that I’d ever had. It came from her CSA box, also know as a Farm Box.

Maybe that’s when I looked up CSAs online to learn more about them.

Community Supported Agriculture is catching on more than ever now. It’s about consuming local produce when it’s fresh and at its best. In essence, you are eating food when it is in season and supporting the local community at the same time. Food tastes better not only when it is in season, but when it doesn’t have far to travel to you. The fresher the better, right? And you know that I’m all about flavor, right? Oftentimes, farms that participate grow their crops organically, or as organically as possible without having the expensive certification.

How it Works

You can buy a membership or subscription to a local farm participating in CSA. At regular intervals (generally, each week), a box of produce will be put together for you to either pick up or be dropped off at a pre-determined site. I chose our CSA last year primarily based on the drop-off site location. I wanted to make sure that it would be convenient enough that I wouldn’t have to go out of my way to pick it up or feel like I had to skip retrieving it because I didn’t have time.

Shoot, the drop-off site is less than a 5k away from our home at a little co-op grocery store. {And no, I will not be running there and then back with a box full of heavy veggies!} What’s great is that I can stop and get any last minute groceries there if I need them, too. During this first pick-up, samples of this scrumptious snack made me put them in my cart:

Fun, Minnesota-made snack. Only 3 ingredients. Check them out! Softer than a popcorn kernel, but crunchier than popcorn. WARNING: addictive!

Each CSA does things differently, but ours has different sized boxes for different prices. Last year, my friend Jen and I split the Chica box from Featherstone Farm. It was the smaller of the two boxes offered {the other option was the Grande}, and we knew that if we each got one ourselves, that it was just going to be too much stuff to try to use up during the week. The Chica box is meant for a family of two or three. This year, our CSA has added a Solo box, which is meant for one person. My understanding with the Solo box is that the intent is to offer more common stuff and less of the “extras”. Still, we decided to stick with splitting the Chica this year. We’ll take note of what comes in each box to help make our decision for next year.

At first glance, the cost may sound like a lot. Our Chica box is just under $500 for 20 weeks. {We paid the early bird rate of $480.} But do the math: That’s just $24 per week for fresh, organic produce. I think that’s more than worth it – especially to have it picked for you at its peak. Plus, we split it, so it’s really only $12 for each of us per week. In addition, our CSA provides us information on the crops and how best (or how quickly) we should use them. And just like ours, I’ve found that many CSAs have recipes online, too!

Even though we get an email the week of our pickup about what produce to expect in the box, it still feels like Christmas when I open it up:

Hmm… What do we have here?

What am I going to make?!

Depending on the growing conditions each season, boxes can vary in size. While most boxes are smaller the first week of the season, ours was filled quite nicely this week:

Week 1: garlic scapes, spinach, leaf lettuce, mixed greens, garlic chives, oregano, radishes, rhubarb and asparagus

It looks like we are going to be enjoying some salads! My husband isn’t a huge salad fan. However, when I made him one with greens from our CSA box last year, he said that they were ” the best greens I’ve ever had!”

I’m always looking for ways to use rhubarb, though. I’m not a baker and the whole rhubarb crisp or dessert can get old.

A few things I love about the CSA Box:

  • It’s pre-paid, so I’m getting healthy veggies whether I try to or not!
  • I get to try new produce that I haven’t before and learn how to make it or use.
  • It’s an inexpensive way to support the local community while getting quality, healthy produce.
  • If we are on vacation, we can have a friend pick up the box and they can use the contents; or we can let the CSA know in advance and they will donate it on our behalf.

You can find a CSA in your area if you live in the U.S. by clicking here.

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Questions for you:

Are you a member of a CSA farm? If so, what do you like about it?

How do you use rhubarb?

Oh! And remember, I’ll be running the Dog Day 5k tomorrow. You can still come out and register that morning! There is a half marathon going on around Lake Waconia, too. Come back next week for an update!

Cheers~

Carrie