Friendsgiving!

FriendsgivingI’ve said it before, but somethings are worth repeating: I have amazing friends. You know the saying “friends are the family you get to choose”? That’s how I feel about these people. No matter what we’re doing, two things are certain: We will laugh until our sides hurt or until we cry (sometimes both), and we will eat good food.

Last year we had our first “Friendsgiving,” and it was such a success that we decided to repeat it this year. I had the privilege of hosting this year’s event, and I used it as an excuse to break out all of my serving dishes and the never-used, real silverware!

I also had the honor of making the turkey and gravy. This was only the second or third time I’d ever made a turkey in my life, and I am glad to report that it was a success! I used a new recipe, and while the flavor was good, wrestling a 16 pound bird in and out of roasting bags full of two gallons of brine was kind of a hassle. It sloshed brine/raw turkey juice on Andy twice, leaving him to declare war. “I WILL CUT YOU,” he threatened at one point.

I tried a new gravy recipe too, which ended up being pretty salty thanks to our brined drippings. I added some water and extra apple cider to balance it out though, and now I’m hoarding the leftovers.

One of the best things about this dinner is the fact that everyone brought part of the meal, so no one was overloaded. (Overloaded with work, that is. We were all overloaded post-dinner.) 

The rest of our menu included:

Stuffing (made by Bethany of guest-blogging fame)
Green bean casserole (homemade, courtesy of Jackie)
Mashed potato puffs (thanks to Lacey)
Spinach salad (from Emily, the brains behind our cooking club nights)
Cranberry sauce (also from Jackie. This ended up being Andy’s favorite item. He literally ate it by the spoonful.) 
Sweet potatoes (I tried a crockpot recipe from Southern Living, and oh my goodness, it was AMAZING. I will make it again for sure.) 
Rolls (brought by Lacey, and the perfect vehicle for the herbed butter I made) 
French onion soup (Jackie’s husband, also an Andy, MADE HIS OWN BEEF STOCK/BROTH for this soup. AWESOME.) 
Chocolate cream pie 
Vanilla bean ice cream
Cranberry margaritas (Another brilliant Emily idea. I kind of wanted to drink the entire pitcher.) 
Apple cider (Thanks to Bethany for introducing us to another local beverage!) 

Of course, I was so busy having a good time that I didn’t take pictures of the food or the event, and of course, we forgot to get a picture of all of us (AGAIN!), but that’s OK.

I am so thankful for these friends and the investment that they’ve made in our lives. I really do love them like family. 🙂 I’m already looking forward to Friendsgiving 2016!

Have a Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

CSA 2015: Week 18

Sing it with me: “It’s the end of the world as we know it…”

OK, maybe “end of the world” is a little over dramatic. It is, however, the end of our regular season shares from Olden Produce. Sadness. The season always seems to go way too fast. (We do have a late season share coming next month, and I’m hoping for things like Brussels sprouts and broccoli.) 

CSA 2015 week 18

Here’s what week 18 brought us:

  • 2 green peppers
  • 3 onions
  • 3 eggplant
  • 1 bag of mixed greens
  • 1 bag of Asian greens
  • 1 bunch of pea shoots
  • 1 head of broccoli
  • 3 radishes
  • 2 sunspot squash
  • 1 head of Chinese cabbage

The broccoli was gone almost instantly. (Roasted with salt, pepper, olive oil and garlic, and then doused with lemon juice. My favorite. I could seriously eat pans of the stuff.) It’s hard to say where exactly the onions went, since we use them in almost everything. (Seriously. Is there a better smell than onions sauteing in butter?) We had grilled chicken salads with the first bag of greens, and I cooked most of the Chinese cabbage in some bacon grease for a vegetable side dish last Friday night.

I’m not sure what I’ll do with the sunspot squash, or the eggplant (especially since I forgot about them in our crisper drawer until yesterday… whoops). I will probably saute the pea shoots with some garlic and serve them with dinner tomorrow night.

Speaking of dinner, let’s talk about what I’m making this week. We have a lot of fun things going on, and I am swamped at work, so I’m trying to make things as easy as possible:

Monday 10/26 – Pot roast with potatoes and carrots in the crockpot
Tuesday 10/27 – Salmon with stir-fried pea shoots and Asian greens and corn (Making this one up as I go along…) 
Wednesday 10/28 – Black bean ragout in the crockpot (I made this in my Dutch oven last winter, and we loved it. This time, I’m using the crockpot so Andy can make it to Bible study at church by 6:30.) 
Thursday 10/29 – Dinner out! We’re double-dating it with some of our favorite people and going to Oktoberfest at a local brewpub. Super pumped for this one. 😀
Friday 10/30 – Chili and caramel apple night with some more friends! I’ve been nominated to bring dessert…. currently leaning toward brownies and ice cream. You can’t go wrong with something like that, can you?

We’re Back! CSA 2015: Weeks 14 & 15, Plus What We’re Eating

Hello everyone!

We are back from vacation, and I am sort of caught up with real life, at least at home. We won’t talk about the massive piles on my desk at work. Two weeks off is totally worth it though. A big thanks to Bethany for picking up our CSA (and writing about it for you all!) while we were in Wyoming. I’m so glad she could use our veggies so they wouldn’t go to waste. She and her Andy are pretty much the best. They filled our fridge with some “welcome home” groceries so we would have something to eat when we rolled in late Sunday evening, and left us fun notes to come home to. Everyone should have friends this good. 😀

As great as vacation was, I will be the first to admit that I was glad to get home and back to my kitchen. There’s nothing like two weeks in the woods to make you appreciate things like running water, dishwashers and fresh produce. Not that we ate poorly on vacation – quite the opposite, in fact. Andy’s brother, Dan, and his family joined us for the second week, and let me tell you, Dan and Kim make a mean London broil. Seriously amazing. I’m surprised the bears didn’t come lick the fire grate after we went to bed. I may have to let them guest blog about it sometime!

Andy was gone the first weekend after we returned from vacation, so I had some time to play in the kitchen as well. I made jam (using blueberries that I froze in July) and another loaf of no-knead bread (adding Parmesan cheese and fresh rosemary to the loaf). I also had time to MAKE CHEESE. Yes. Real ricotta cheese, from my very own kitchen. It was amazing.

CSA 2015 Week 14

Week 14:

  • 4 ears of sweet corn
  • 2 summer squash
  • Sweet peppers
  • Kohlrabi
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Tomatoes (including more of those indigo kumquat tomatoes that Bethany sampled for us!) 
  • Beets
  • Cucumbers

 

CSA 2015 week 15

Week 15

  • Green tomatoes (which are ripening nicely for us) 
  • Eggplant
  • Sweet peppers
  • Jalapeno peppers (10 OF THEM! HOLY HOT PEPPERS, BATMAN!) 
  • 4 ears of sweet corn (last of the season, and still tasty!) 
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Beets
  • Watermelon

So, what did I do with all of this? The first batch of sweet corn got added to our zucchini fritters, which I would definitely recommend. The eggplant and summer squash made their way into this salad, which I took to a church potluck last week. Six of the jalapenos went into popper dip, which Andy gladly let me take to work. The sweet peppers are finding their way into lots of things, from snacks to pizzas.

Finally, here’s the menu for this week. This is the first week I’ve actually made a meal plan in at least six weeks.

Monday 9/28 – BLTs on jalapeno biscuits and sweet corn (The latest issue of Southern Living included a recipe for jalapeno biscuits, and since I have a few laying around, it seemed like a good idea.) 😉
Tuesday 9/29 – Apricot chicken pasta and green beans
Wednesday 9/30 – Butternut squash soup and leftover biscuits
Thursday 10/1 – Salmon, roasted potatoes and a TBD vegetable
Friday 10/2 – Steak, potatoes and carrots. This one is special. We’re taking a short backpacking trip, so this is a campfire dinner. (It’s my first backpacking trip, so here’s hoping I love it as much as Andy does.)

Whew. I think that brings up to the present. Now maybe I’ll start taking pictures of things again so I have something to write about.

CSA 2015: Weeks 9, 10 & 11 (AKA taking this show on the road!)

Whew. We made it to the end of August. Things have been a little quiet on the blog lately, thanks to our ridiculous summer schedule. The last couple of weeks have been full of produce triage (canning peaches, making jam, blanching and freezing carrots, making refrigerator pickles, just to name a few things) and vacation prep. Andy and I are getting ready to hit the road again for a couple weeks of boot camp training relaxation. (Our vacations tend to include a LOT of hiking up mountains. He calls it relaxing; I call it work. Now, the time in the hammock with a book? That’s relaxing. Anyway…)

In addition to our weekly produce share, I also ordered 1 1/2 bushels of fresh peaches, which we have been enjoying in SO many forms. We’ve had peach cobbler, peach pie, peach sangria popsicles, brown butter peach shortbread bars… and of course, dozens of peaches on their own.

CSA 2015 Week 9
Week 9:

  • Sweet corn
  • Cabbage
  • Beans
  • Carrots
  • Beets
  • Onions
  • Zucchini/Summer squash

I don’t have a lot of new “this is what I did with the veggies” things to share, but we did have one five-star home run dish with the produce over the last few weeks. Martha Stewart came through for us with a zucchini-orzo-corn-feta salad. It was amazing. I made half a batch (with a full amount of feta cheese), and we had enough for dinner and a couple of lunches. It was so, so good. And don’t look now, but even Mr. I Dislike Pasta Salad loved it. Maybe he’s turning a corner… 😉

CSA 2015 Week 10

Week 10:

  • Sweet corn
  • Tomatoes
  • Green bell peppers
  • Banana peppers
  • Jalapeno peppers
  • Eggplant
  • Cucumbers
  • Beets

I’m going to be the first to admit that I couldn’t come up with an idea for the eggplant. It’s a challenging vegetable for me. I was going to roast it and turn it into dip, but time got away from me. Thankfully, my friend Karen loves eggplant, so I sent it home with her so it wouldn’t rot in the fridge while we’re gone.

CSA 2015 Week 11

Week 11:

  • Apples
  • Kohlrabi
  • Beets
  • Cucumbers
  • Sweet corn
  • Tomatoes
  • Jalapeno peppers
  • Poblano peppers

I’ve been trying to work as much produce as possible into our camping meals (easier said than done when you need to fit two weeks’ worth of gear into a Nissan Versa). Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

  • Coleslaw (goes great with burgers and brats)
  • Beef stew (perfect for some of those carrots)
  • Sliced cucumbers (perfect for snacks and lunches)
  • Pickled banana peppers (for my pie-iron pizzas. BEST. TOPPING. EVER.)
  • Tortellini soup (uses the tomatoes from our CSA and Swiss chard from our garden. Win-win!)
  • Chopped peppers/onions/tomatoes (again, for pizza.)
  • Peaches and cream muffins (Sounds like a good start to our mornings, if you ask me.) 
  • Homemade pico di gallo to go with our rice and bean meal (also used some of those jalapenos! Win-win!)
  • Tomatoes (for burgers and pizza) 
  • Apples (for trail/road food) 

We’re also taking green beans to have with a couple of meals, so I won’t feel nearly as bad about the massive amounts of chex mix that we’ll be eating on the trail. 😉 By the end of the trip, we’ll be down to things like spaghetti and rice and beans (you know, stuff that keeps well without a refrigerator).

I’m taking Kirsten’s advice and having my friend Bethany pick up our CSA share while we’re gone. After all, I’d hate to see the food go to waste. So, you may get lucky enough to hear from Bethany about her experiences with our veggies too!

What We’re Eating & CSA 2015: Week 6

Would you believe that I didn’t put a meal plan together for the last couple of weeks? I guess that’s what happens when you’re gone more than you’re home. I blame the airplanes. 😉 In an attempt to get organized after a week of craziness, here’s our meal plan for this week.

Monday 7/27 – Burgers, corn on the cob and cucumbers (I have a tomato and corn from our CSA for the burgers, along with cucumbers from our garden to use! So excited!)
Tuesday 7/28 – Zucchini fritters, peaches and broccoli
Wednesday 7/29 – Grilled chicken and pasta with kale and garlic scape pesto
Thursday 7/30 – Maple-glazed salmon, a TBD vegetable (waiting to see what comes in Wednesday’s CSA delivery!), bread and cheesecake for dessert. (We’re having some friends over for dinner, and she’s making the bread. We also heard it was national cheesecake day – definitely a holiday worth celebrating.) 😉
Friday 8/1 – French dip sandwiches and a TBD vegetable

CSA 2015 Week 6

My friend Bethany was kind enough to pick up our CSA veggies last Wednesday while we were at EAA. It was so nice to come home to a fridge full of vegetables (and a hilarious note on the kitchen table). Here’s our loot from week #6:

  • 4 ears of sweet corn
  • 1 zucchini
  • 1 bunch of carrots
  • Summer squash (I can’t decide if this is one or two… they’ve grown together!)
  • 3 tomatoes
  • 1 bunch of kale
  • 1 head of broccoli
  • 2 cucumbers

I put some of the tomatoes on a pizza and in a salad for lunch. The last one went on our burgers last night, and obviously, the corn went last night too. We’ve been snacking on the broccoli and the cucumbers. I’m kind of at a loss for what to do with the carrots. Should I cook with them, or just eat them on their own? It always amazes me how much more flavor home-grown carrots have, compared to their grocery-store cousins.

In garden news, our beans have started to produce (although not in great numbers, which has me concerned that I won’t get to can any this year). Our cucumber/pickle plants are going like crazy though! We planted “bush pickles” since the plants would be smaller, and they are giving us at least two cucumbers every day or so! I’m going to try making some pickles with them tonight – now I just need to decide if I’ll make refrigerator pickles, or if I should can them. (Slicing cucumbers and putting them in the refrigerator sounds much nicer than breaking out the canner on a 90+ degree day.) 

Our tomato plants are looking rather sad as well. I don’t know what’s going on, but three of the six plants look like they’re about ready to give up the ghost. I may have to buy extra tomatoes to can this fall. We did harvest our garlic this past weekend, digging nine cloves from the ground. Now I have to decide if we should put anything else in its place – a fresh crop of lettuce, maybe? We’ll see…

 

What We’re Eating 6/15-6/19

Guess what??! Fresh produce is FINALLY here. Our garden is starting to grow, and our neighbors shared some fantastic lettuce and strawberries with us! We’re also planning on picking some strawberries of our own next week. And if all goes well, we will pick up our first CSA share of the season this Wednesday. I’m hoping for asparagus and garlic scapes!

Monday 6/15 – Salmon with strawberry avocado salsa and salad
Tuesday 6/16 – Grilled steak salads (or wraps, depending on what we feel like) 
Wednesday 6/17 – Chicken and rice with a TBD vegetable (New recipe for the week!) 
Thursday 6/18 – Grilled pork chops, corn and a TBD vegetable
Friday 6/19 – Strawberry balsamic chicken pizza (maybe we’ll make this one on the grill!) 

And there you have it! The nice weather is definitely influencing my meal planning for the week. It’s one of my favorite times of the year. 🙂

 

What We’re Eating 5/4 – 5/8

I have to admit, I’ve fallen off of the meal-planning wagon lately. I’ll come up with a couple ideas for the week but not have any real inspiration for the other days, and I’ve been terrible at writing things down. I blame the weather, actually. It’s warm enough where I want to grill things and eat fresh-off-the-vine veggies, but, let’s face it: Living in Wisconsin means that I won’t get fresh, local produce for at least another month.

Sigh. Patience has never been my strongest character trait. 🙂

In the meantime, I’m doing my best to eat our way through the freezer so I’ll have space for the garden goodies. And I finally took the time to sit down and make a menu for the week.

Monday 5/4 – BBQ chicken pizza and green beans
Tuesday 5/5 – Blueberry-glazed grilled salmon, carrots (from the freezer) and roasted potatoes
Wednesday 5/6 – Green pork tacos (I’m still a little fuzzy on this one. I have a jar of salsa verde and a pork roast in the freezer, so I’m hoping for a crockpot dinner. We’ll see what Google turns up.) 🙂
Thursday 5/7 – Strawberry balsamic chicken, biscuits (already made and in the freezer!) and a TBD vegetable
Friday 5/8 – BURGERS on the grill, sweet corn (from the freezer), applesauce and asparagus (also from the freezer)

So there you have it. A menu for the week, with 4 out of 5 meals coming from the freezer and going on the grill! Woohoo!

What We’re Eating 9/8 – 9/12

Last week, I put a great menu together, including two new recipes. I was excited. I was organized. I was going to conquer the mountain of vegetables in my fridge. And then, Andy went out of town for work, leaving me with leftover pizza, brats and risotto. Needless to say, last week’s menu didn’t happen.

So, let’s try this again.

Monday 9/8 – Leftover chili (Andy will be at a cookout at church, so it’s just me for dinner) 
Tuesday 9/9 – Thai chicken wraps, corn on the cob
Wednesday 9/10 – Kale pesto pizza
Thursday 9/11 – Grilled pork chops, roasted kohlrabi and beets
Friday 9/12 – Dinner with friends! (I think I’m supposed to bring a salad… I should verify that.) 🙂

We’ll see if I have better luck this week!

Editor’s Note: WordPress tells me that this is my 200th post. Crazy stuff. Can’t believe that people are actually reading my ramblings. 🙂

What We’re Eating 5/5 – 5/9

Happy May! This weekend was the first weekend where I really felt like spring had arrived. It’s been sunny (after a week of rain and clouds) and warm (in the 60s!). It’s enough to make a girl want to go camping! Or, at least get out the grill. 🙂 I also realized that since it’s May, I just have a few weeks left until our CSA starts up again. We’re going with the same farm again this year (Olden Produce), and I am so ready for fresh produce.

Last week, I took advantage of the unseasonably cool weather and made things like this chicken bacon wild rice soup. You know, comfort food. This week, with the exception of our scalloped potatoes and ham, I am moving on. Maybe if I cook like spring is here, it will actually stick around! 🙂

Monday 5/5 – Chickpea Tomato Pasta. It’s fast and easy, which is a must, because we have big plans for Monday night. Jack is back!!
Tuesday 5/6 – Scalloped Potatoes and Ham. I bought a ham a few weeks ago (when they were on sale for Easter), and I roasted it this weekend. Andy LOVES scalloped potatoes and ham, so I had to put it on the menu.
Wednesday 5/7 – Broccoli Bacon Mac and Cheese. It’s a good way to use up that package of bacon. 😉
Thursday 5/8 – Tilapia and lemon-feta couscous with peas.
Friday 5/9 – Enchiladas! I’m going to try this recipe, and I’m hoping that my avocados will be ready by then.

Have a great week, everyone!

What We’re Eating – 3/23 – 3/28

Happy Saturday! After a week of disorganization and chaos in our home (all self-induced – we decided to paint the dining room and hallway this past week!), I finally had a few minutes to sit down and put together a meal plan for the next week. Maybe we’ll even sit down and eat in the “new” dining room this week, instead of the kitchen. 🙂

Sunday 3/23 – Pork chops and Annie’s spring risotto. I have been wanting to make this risotto for ages, and I finally broke down and bought the ingredients.
Monday 3/24 – Cabbage and noodles with bacon
Tuesday 3/25 – Steak fajitas – not sure what recipe I’ll use for them, but this post from Smitten Kitchen got me thinking about fajitas. And spring. But that’s another story… especially since the weatherman just said our low tonight is 6. SIX DEGREES. Where do I live, the tundra? Oh yeah…
Wednesday 3/26 – Lemon orzo soup with chickpeas. I’m going to try to make this soup meatless by swapping the chicken for chickpeas. Worth a shot, right?
Thursday 3/27 – Chicken Parmesan and roasted broccoli – my friend Bethany sent me a picture of the chicken parm she made the other day, and I was inspired. Looking forward to this one!
Friday 3/28 – Burgers on the grill, roasted sweet potatoes and cauliflower.

In other food news, has anyone been paying attention to the kitchen challenges that Lindsay is sharing over at Love and Olive Oil? I haven’t done any of them, but I am intrigued by the April challenge – eclairs!! I might try to squeeze this one in to my schedule.

Enjoy the rest of the weekend!