Sunday CSA Birthday- a few of my favorite things

Here are some thoughts that are all related somehow:
(Actual CSA stuff about halfway down.)

You know it’s a good day when a CSA pickup falls on your birthday, right?

Especially after a wonderful birthday weekend to boot.

The best part about now being a quarter of a century- it means my parents have been married for 26 years. I am so thankful to have such good role models in my life.

I was with my family on the east coast last week, and spent my birthday back on the west coast. Family is fantastic, and so are friends- and I have the best friends here in LA. It’s the only way to stay sane in this crazy place.

My birthday weekend included frisbee at the park in the sunshine, sea salt and turbinado sugar dark chocolate almonds, multiple episodes of Parks and Rec (the only TV show I actively watch (and re-watch, and re-watch, and re-watch. I’m on my 3rd time through season 4. Season 4 just ended two months ago. It is the BEST show)), Kerrygold dubliner cheese, fresh tomato, and sundried tomato pesto sandwiches on ciabatta, and games of Farkle and Bubble Bobble while in the company of a small group of friends. My birthday day brought about a three player game of Canasta (hand and foot) and dinner at India’s Tadoori because there is nothing better tasting than vegetable korma over rice with naan. Nothing, you hear? And of course, my CSA pick up, which ended up being probably the best one yet. More about that in just one second.

Presents were a vegan cookbook, teacups, and tickets to see Mumford & Sons at their sold out festival in Monterey.

What does all this mean, really? It means I am surrounded by people who love me and know me almost better than I know myself. Honestly. Everything listed above basically describes who I am. Right down to the fact that I celebrated with just a few friends. In fact, that was the most important of it all. I love having a small community. My introverted self needs time and ability to interact on a personal level with those who I love. A weekend spent with only my closest friends is my favorite way to spend time. Huge kudos to Jeremy, who has been a significant part of my life for two years now, and has learned all of these things about me and more, and planned everything that happened this weekend.

I talked with my littlest siblings (who aren’t that little anymore) on the phone at the end of the night, and naturally each of the three of them asked me “What did you get for your birthday?” I simply listed the three things I just listed above (trying to explain quality time, and good people, and good food, etc, wasn’t going to work- they only wanted the tangible), and two of the little ones were not entirely impressed. But the other, my 9-year-old brother, had a reaction that almost brought me to tears:

“The small things in life matter the most.”

It is SO the truth. But what 9-year-old child can really know that and truly believe it? My little brother is among the few, or the only. He is one of the most sensitive and beautiful kids I have ever known.

An old picture, but one of my favorites. I love this little kid. And the rest of my siblings.

So, with all that to say, I’ll stop the sappiness and get on to the produce. Would you LOOK at this lot?!

Basil, kale, lettuce, apricots, plums, nectarines, patty pan squash, carrots, broccoli, onions, and potatoes.  I mean, seriously now! Everything here is AMAZING!

I am beyond excited for the basil, because I’ve been wanting to try my hand at homemade pesto and use my friend Megan’s recipe. I’ve always avoided making pesto because most recipes I come across call for pine nuts. My grocery budget does not have room for pine nuts. So when I read Megan’s blog and found she uses sunflower seeds, I went right out and bought a package, and they have been sitting in my pantry ever since, waiting for the right time to help me with my pesto endeavor whenever it should happen. Well, it will be happening in a day or two. And I can’t wait!

I was getting tired of not having kale in my fridge, so I bought some curly kale from Whole Foods last week and made four cookie sheets of kale chips with garlic and cayenne pepper (and ate them all) within two days. This kale is not curly kale, and I’m getting tired of kale chips for the moment anyway, so I’m not sure yet what will become of my kale. Perhaps a green smoothie along with my lettuce- because, as always, I never know what to do with a head of lettuce. It’s just not appetizing to me. But it is a beautiful head of lettuce. I tore it into bite-sized pieces and rinsed it all out yesterday, and it’s nice and fresh and a beautiful color. If only I enjoyed it more.

I also recently had a want for carrots and bought a two pound bag just last week. I’ve been craving muffins, and so when I saw that I now have an over-abundance of carrots, my brain immediately went to baking. I’m thinking of trying something truly vegan, with avocado and applesauce included in the ingredients list. I have to do some looking around to figure out how to make that happen; there will definitely be a post about it once I make the muffins.

The fresh fruit, as always, will be (and already has started to be) consumed as is. I know there are a ton of delicious recipes for stone fruit, but I like snacking on it way too much to justify making something different out of it.

The broccoli is being had for dinner tonight alongside orzo with feta, lemon juice, and olive oil. The squash and potatoes will find their way into some roasting pan or stir fry.

What does your CSA look like this week? What exciting recipes would you make with some of these veggies that I use so matter-of-factly and simply? What are some of your favorite things? What would your perfect birthday weekend look like? Have you ever baked with applesauce? (Because I haven’t and I’m just crossing my fingers that it will work.)

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a day of greens

I was so happy to have the day off work, because it gave me a chance to prepare all my leafy greens before they go bad.

I invested in a quality salad spinner this morning, and after today I know that the purchase was not in vain. As it seems I’ll have a surplus of greens every time I pick up my CSA produce, the salad spinner is a great way to save time and frustration. It is so convenient and efficient!

lettuce in the salad spinner basket

I was most excited about making kale chips since I have heard so many good things about them. They only way I’ve prepared kale previously is by sautéing it and adding it to a stir-fry. I also learned today that baking kale does not harm the nutrients that are packed into it!

I love the look of curly kale!

I looked up a few recipes, and the general consensus is to line a pan with parchment paper, place bite-sized kale leaves on it making sure they are not on top of one another, drizzle with olive oil and seasonings, and bake for 10 minutes at 350*.

ready for the oven

I’m not very good at “drizzling” oil- more tends to come out of the bottle than I’d prefer- so after I spilled enough onto the kale, I just fluffed it all around with my hands to be sure all the leaves were coated. I salted one of the pans, and for the other batch I added salt, garlic powder, and cayenne pepper. I love everything spicy!

LOTS of cayenne!

I checked the leaves after 10 minutes in the oven and they weren’t quite dehydrated/crispy all the way through, so I gave them another few minutes and then took them out. They were PHENOMENAL. Plenty of the recipes I looked up had warned about how tasty they are and how you can’t stop at just one. I figured they’d taste good enough and that would be that. I was wrong. I really couldn’t stop at just one. In fact, I ate the entire tray of the spicy ones. And I had left some raw kale out to stir-fry later, but I ended up making it into chips as well.

Out of the oven and ready to eat! So delicious!

My only downfall was storing them in plastic bags for later. I brought some for dinner with Jeremy tonight and by the time I got there, the kale was limp and chewy. I’m hoping that putting them in the oven again tomorrow will rejuvenate the crispiness. Was it how I stored them that made them limp, or are kale chips just hard to keep in general? I’m wondering if I didn’t keep them in the oven long enough.

I also washed and stored the red leaf lettuce, mizuna, and bok choy. I used the lettuce and mizuna to make a quick stir fry with an onion, red pepper flakes, pepper, oregano, sun dried tomatoes, and parmesan cheese and ate that for lunch with a crumbled sunshine burger mixed in.

Washed, dried, and ready to cook for dinner.

The bok choy I am saving to eat raw throughout the week since I love its mild flavor. Every last bit of the rest of the greens, including what little kale I had left, went to Jeremy’s to cook for our dinner. I made a stir fry with lots of fresh garlic, peanuts, and one of my favorite Chinese-inspired sauces- 1.5 T water, 3 T soy sauce, 1 T rice vinegar, 1 T sugar, and some cornstarch to thicken it up. It was delicious!

So, all the greens I got on Sunday are already gone (save for the bok choy), and while I wish I kept them longer, I was worrying so much about them going bad that I am happy they all got used. In the next weeks when I get more I’ll have to try some of the ideas I’ve been given about extending the life of the greens.