Each Friday evening I receive a rubbermaid bin of fresh organic produce delivered to our door, compliments of Mama Earth. I registered with them last Fall as an experiment. I found that I tended to purchase to the same vegetables/fruit, particularly in the winter (carrots, bananas, apples anyone?) and wanted to mix things up. I also wanted to avoid the grocery store as much as possible in effort to save both time and money. I am completely incapable to sticking to my list and yet inevitably forget to add the items I really need which requires me to keep gong back (think: GroundHog Day). Being a single parent, I typically drag my 8 and 11 year old into the grocery store who, although are very patient, now scrutinize my purchases: “Parsley is NOT on your list mom – put it down!”. My theory was that if I can stock up on pantry items then I (theoretically) only need to hit the grocery store once/week for small perishable items such as milk, yogurt, cheese, meat/meat alternatives (I’m a pescatarian which means I eat a vegetarian diet in addition to fish/seafood; the kids eat everything.)
I love the idea that much of the food is locally grown and it is all organic. In all honesty I’ve never really spent the extra green for the extra green organic section (did i mention i am a single parent?) but once you’ve tasted the difference between an organic banana and a non organic banana prepare to be peeled off the floor. I also grew up in a very rural community and enjoyed having fresh local produce at my fingertips. This is the next best thing.
But I’m not the only one benefiting from this new tradition. From day one, both Rain and Moxie have been ridiculously excited about our weekly delivery. In Christmas morning fashion, they are typically the first ones to pry the lid open and shout out everything we’ve received “We got oranges, onions and some weird looking green thing — cool!!”
Not only has this expanded their repertoire of fruits and veggies, it’s also pushed me to figure out best cooking techniques for food I have never purchased, eaten or sometimes even heard of before. This has become a weekly challenge for me (and I certainly love a good challenge!) I spend Friday night/Saturday morning on-line exploring cooking techniques and flavour combinations of our loot. Mama Earth also includes some recipe ideas on my purchase order – they really think of everything.
Since I’m also committed to reducing my grocery store visits, there is an extra challenge of using ingredients that I have on-hand to create a menu plan for the week. I think the biggest mystery ingredient so far was the Kabocha squash we received last month. It looks like a warted up pumpkin and tastes like a sweet(er) butternut squash. It was so tough and gnarly that my lumberjack boyfriend had to cut it open with an actual saw! I transformed it into a deliciously smooth soup.
In fact, I have gotten into the habit of preparing a batch of soup each week. This started during squash season. For a long stretch, I received a squash of some sort each and every week. The kids do not eat squash (seriously, how do other parents insist that their children can’t tell the difference between spaghetti squash and actual spaghetti?) I really like squash but very soon discovered that eating an entire squash/week by myself was just going to turn me orange and bloated. So the soup tradition began. Each week, I make a batch of soup and put into jars. Some of the jars go into the fridge for the week and I freeze the rest for upcoming lunches. This has been such a success that even since the end of squash season, I’ve continued making soup with other yummy ingredients.
I receive an email each week letting me know what to expect in my upcoming basket and have the option to substitute one type of produce for another but I consider that cheating. It’s like finding out the gender of your baby before birth – only babies don’t actually get delivered by storks (or delivery vans in this case) and maybe I just get really excited about surprises. The only guaranteed item is the weekly carton of eggs which I have added on to the basket order.
My newest challenge (have I mentioned that I love to challenge myself?): I’ve decided to keep a running log of our basket surprises and our subsequent creations/experiences that come from them.
This past week we received the following:
1 Avocado (MEX) no gmo organic
1 Cauliflower, Romanesco (CAL) no gmo organic (coolest looking cauliflower ever! and delicious)
1 Fennel (CAL) no gmo organic (Moxie was super excited about this as she has recently discovered fennel seeds as a snack and loves black liquorice)
1 Kale, Green (CAL) no gmo organic
1 Lettuce, Red/Green Leaf (CAL) no gmo organic
1 Onions, Yellow small 2lbs (ON) local no gmo organic
1 Potatoes, Yellow/Red 3lb (ON) local no gmo organic
1 Zucchini, Green (US) no gmo organic
3 Apple, Gala (BC) no gmo organic
1 Bananas (Fair trade) EC/PR 1.5lb no gmo organic (I don’t know how but organic free trade bananas actually do taste better…)
2 Lemon (CAL) no gmo organic
4 Orange, Blood (CAL) no gmo organic (Vampire oranges…mmmmmm…..)
My intention was to roast the fennel and potatoes and make soup. But then we started eating the fennel raw just to try it (Moxie likes it raw – she’s obsessed with fennel since discovering fennel seeds which she eats by the hand full; Rain not so much). And then I roasted it with the romanesco cauliflower (Rain liked this raw and Moxie did not. They both loved it roasted.) The result was so freaking delicious that we all just picked away at the roasted veggies until there was not enough left to make soup.
Soup Sidebar: Since the fennel/potato soup did not materialize I made a yummy chipotle black bean soup instead. I used the onions from this weeks basket and carrots and garlic (from last weeks basket) in addition to 2 cans of black beans, chipotle peppers (I had opened a can a while ago and froze the remains in a freezer bag. I used about 1/3 of what was left in the soup. Seriously those little cans of chipotles pack a lot of punch!). Vegetable stock and cumin were added and then I zipped it with the immersion blender. Picante awesomeness! I served this with a dollop of plain yogurt and some diced avocado from this weeks basket.
Kale has been a very common addition lately. As a result I put it in everything. This week I sauteed kale, zucchini, onion and garlic and mixed it with quinoa and feta cheese. Holy crap – yum! I had a friend over for lunch this week and we ate it with a couple sunny side up eggs oozing over top. I had roasted some beets from the previous weeks basket and we at those on the side. (props to my bf for cooking up the eggs for us!)
Speaking of eggs, at the beginning of this week I boiled about 8 eggs and have been eating them for lunches along with the beets and quinoa salad. Prefect protein punch to get me through my day!
This week I also baked banana bread (1 for now and 1 to freeze) and chocolate chip cookies which used some more of the eggs. Getting a carton of eggs each week can pile up. Some weeks we might have 3 cartons of eggs in the fridge and I wonder if I should put a hold on them for a while but then before you know it, they’re all gone.
Earlier this week, I was feeling a bit under the weather and so I sliced some of the lemons and boiled them with fresh ginger, cinnamon, peppercorns and honey and drank pot after pot – so incredibly soothing. The lemons have also been served in glasses of club soda and the fruit has been gobbled up by the kids. The potatoes are being saved for a rainy day. I had a plan for them but I ran out of cooking time/energy. (stay tuned!)
We all eat salad practically every day (sometimes twice a day). This is one produce item that I typically have to supplement with a grocery store purchase as we never seem to have enough to last us the full week. We also need to supplement with an additional bag of apples (we eat a ridiculous amount of fruit). Otherwise we have enough to take us through the week including what we freeze.
Tomorrow we will leave our empty bin on the front porch and wait for the next weekly basket of food excitement and surprise to be delivered.
organically and locally yours,