Sunday, July 8, 2012

FARM FRESH FUN

A few weeks ago, the Man and I signed up for a CSA and we have been loving it! One of the perks of living in the sweltering heat of Texas, and specifically Austin, is that there are terrific local farms that can produce yummy veggies year round.  We chose to go with Johnson's Backyard Garden , as they are super close by, organically certified, and well established. Each week we pick up a GINORMOUS box of veggies from a nearby drop off site. Early in the week, pictures of the week's box are posted on their website so you can plan meals and make supplemental purchases. We have vowed to eat healthier and set a good example for the Bug, and this choice has helped us so much already!  

Here is a picture of our first box--I was AMAZED how much food this was! 
The cost for the box is around $35 per week.  While this is more than we would typically spend on produce alone, we have found that it did not increase our overall cost of groceries, but it shifted our weekly grocery budget to a higher percentage spent on FRESH PRODUCE. We tend to plan our meals around the delicious seasonal veggies instead of coming up with something we want to eat and then buying all of the ingredients. A few examples: 


The first week, the Man made fresh tomatillo salsa. We ate it with chips, on eggs, in quesadillas (made with cheese and the grill-roasted peppers in the next pic!) So delicious!

At the end of the week we had a bunch of cucumbers (I'm not a big fan) and squash left so I found a simple recipe for bread and butter pickles..which I could pretty much live on. TIP: Buy the spices like turmeric and mustard seed in the bulk section at your market--It seriously cost me about a dollar to buy all of the seasonings.  I got a little creative and made a variety of pickles in old recycled spaghetti sauce jars, using cilantro, garlic, fennel seed, and cumin. I even pickled some okra, as we got a HUGE bag of it and I can only eat so many fried with dipping sauce. 
We got a giant bunch of summer basil each week which is hard to use up even in pasta sauce, and salads so I made pesto. It's crazy easy..blend it up with nuts, garlic and olive oil..TIP: Don't add the cheese if you're going to freeze some. I added it to the jar we are using, but not the baggies I froze for later. We ate it on pasta with lemon, and spread it on sandwiches throughout the week. 
We had leftover squash and zucchini a the end of the week so I made this egg torte recipe from our new Mexican cookbook (Savers, I adore thee). I forgot to take a picture so here's the pic of the recipe. It had tons of squash, onions, jalapeno strips and cheese. It was INSANE and one of my new faves. 
This week I had tons of peppers and fresh chiles so I chopped them up and made yet another variety of pickles that I plan to use on sandwiches, in pasta salads, and we used it in fresh tartar sauce for the fish we ate at dinner. SO GOOD! Not to mention that it looks so purty in the jar!

Last, but not least, my favorite thing thus far, the Man made a ratatouille for dinner and served it with a chewy, fresh bread. It was unbelievable.  It was hearty and filling and I highly recommend following the recipe, as the texture was key..not too mushy and soupy as I feared. Another TIP: use a cup of fresh parsley instead of dried--It was key in the yum factor! We ate leftovers on sandwiches the next day. 


Having a CSA does require some adjustments. Figuring out the logistics so that you are not going to the market everyday is key. Meal planning is a must, (I get most of my recipes online..usually allrecipes.com) but I have found this to be a really positive change for us. We are lucky there is a great market and bakery right around the corner from our pick up sight so we can grab local organic milk and eggs, as well as fresh bread, in the same trip.  Our spending at the big grocery store was drastically reduced and I think overall we managed to keep it about the same as usual budget. Once you have some basic spices and storage supplies, making farm fresh food is really no more difficult than cooking anything else. 

And it feels great. 
Cheers
~Rachel