Measure & Whisk: Real food cooking with a dash of minimalist living

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Life with a CSA

Last week, someone requested that I post what I do with my CSA share weekly.  So, in usually fashion, I am charging ahead with the idea for the foreseeable future.  Guess we will see how long it lasts.

First off, one of the tricky things about a CSA box is using your vegetables up in the right order.  Typically, you have to start with your greens and herbs, because they go bad the fastest.
Then usually the middle stuff, like hearty greens (kale, collard greens) peppers, onions, broccoli, fennel, etc.  Then you can use up the root vegetables like carrots, sweet potato, potatoes, onions if you have any left.

That is a trick on its own, but I also try to not have 5 salads the first week, and all root vegetable meals the second.  Our share is every other week. What you are seeing here is week two of a share.  The first week, we ate a ton of greens, I think, and here we ate a lot of root vegetables, and a few things I hadn't completely used up.  

To use: 

Brussel Sprouts
Sweet Potato
Red Cabbage

Supplemental vegetables:

Romaine lettuce

This is the order in which we ate them throughout the week (This is last week's menu plan).  A lot of the recipes that I make come from other places. But I try to do one or two originals during the week as well.  Clearly I didn't do so hot this week.  It was a delicious week for food, though.

Vegan Kale Caesar Salad  - SO good!  Use a lot of dressing, though.  It is kind of dry without it.
Green Lentil Soup + Brown Butter Curry - Quite tasty, super cheap and pretty easy!
Kale and Sweet Potato Korma with a Cabbage + Brussel Sprout Slaw - The Korma is a home run.  Cabbage slaw, not so much.  Also, I left out the white beans and only put 1 teaspoon of curry powder in the Korma.
Beet + Carrot Soup - A family classic.  We love this one.
Homemade Semolina Pasta with Cream Cheese Garlic Sauce (I adapted the recipe that is linked here) - Adam is our resident pasta expert.  I always make the sauce.
White Bean + Carrot Salad - Not a huge fan of white beans, but they totally work in this.
Caramelized Onion + Cream Cheese Pizza (based on the recipe linked)

If you are looking to see what recipes I am making during the week, check out my Instagram.  I often post what we had for dinner, or other fun things I have made during the week!  I also have tons of recipe ideas on Pinterest, and update it often with new ideas.

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Monday, February 8, 2016

Chocolate Lava Cakes for Valentine's Day

Have you been on a Carnival cruise?  We went on one for our honeymoon.  It was really nice and relaxing, but I think the best part about it was the lava cake that you could order with dinner every night.  Seriously, I think it was the highlight for us.

We liked them so much that I really wanted to find a way to make them at home.  I happened to check out this Martha Stewart Cake Cookbook from my library a few months after we got back.  It had a lava cake recipe in it, and I just couldn't resist trying it out.  It was a smashing success.

A few weeks ago, I was thinking about posting something special here for Valentine's Day, and this came to mind.  I love it because it isn't hard, it is pretty cheap, and everything except the chocolate bars are items you probably have on hand.

Basically it is the perfect dessert for a couple that wants something simple, decedent, and festive on Valentine's Day at home. Honestly, I don't think the crowds are worth navigating on Valentine's weekend.

If you are looking for fun, yet simple, dinner ideas to go along with this dessert, here are a few delicious suggestions:

Thai Chicken Pizza
Leek, Bacon and Potato Jumble
Sweet Chipotle Tacos

Happy Valentine's Day!

*If you get a chance today, please click over to Mrs. Meyer's to vote for me as their first ever Maker! Just click on the heart next to my name. I would REALLY appreciate it! 

Chocolate Melting Cakes: 
from Martha Stewart Cakes

1/2 cup plus 3 Tbs butter cut into small pieces and more for greasing the ramekins
unsweetened cocoa powder for dusting ramekins
1/2 cup flour
6oz bittersweet chocolate (or two 3.5oz bars, or one and a half 4oz bars), chopped (I like lindt's sweet dark, but I have also used the Baker's bittersweet and it was good, too).
5 large eggs at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
pinch of salt

Butter 6 six-oz ramekins (2" deep).  Pour cocoa powder into the ramekins.  Roll the ramekin around in your hands until the inside is completely coated in cocoa powder sticking to the butter.  Tap out excess.

Melt butter and chocolate in a heat-proof bowl set over (not in) a pan of boiling water (I use a double boiler pot).  Meanwhile, whisk eggs and sugar together in a stand mixer for 3-4 minutes.  In another bowl, sift flour and salt together.

Using a rubber spatula, fold egg mixture into the chocolate, then immediately, begin adding the flour.  Add bit by bit (about 1/8 cup at a time), until all is mixed in.  Divide batter among the ramekins, and fill each about 2/3 of the way full. Put ramekins on a rimmed baking sheet, and refrigerate for at least an hour.

Once your hour is up, preheat the oven to 400°F, and bake your tiny cakes for about 14-16 minutes.  Until the top it still slightly shiny and just set.  Remove from the oven, and let sit for 10 minutes.

Slide a sharp knife around the inside of the pan, to loosen the cake.   Flip the ramekins upside down onto a plate, and let the cake drop down.  Sprinkle with powdered sugar or a dollop of cream (or ice cream, if you are feeling extra fancy), and enjoy!  And trust me,  you will!

**Also, to make the heart on top like mine, cut out a little piece of paper into a heart shape and lay it on top of your cake before you sprinkle your powdered sugar over the top.  Carefully remove the paper and discard.  Tiny heart stays behind!

Friday, February 5, 2016

The Minimalist Baby: The Bathroom

Well friends, this is the last post in the Minimalist Baby Series (you can find the other parts here: part 1, part 2, part 3, and part 4).  I am sad to leave it behind!  It has been a lot of fun thinking through what I feel is necessary, and what I would do differently.  We were very minimal, we felt like we needed some extra things (some I regret purchasing), and some we just ended up with.

Some of what I suggest you skip is stuff that we have. But I hope that the essentials are helpful to those who are expecting or who want to par down what they have.  I know I already have during this process, as I try to live in a more minimalist way.

Thank you so much for all your practical comments about what you use and what you don't!  It has been really great to see perspectives from so many of you! Thanks for stopping by!

The Essentials:
Baby Soap/Shampoo:  I think having something tear-free is nice, but I would just steer clear of stuff with parabens and fragrance.

Towel: I would just use a regular towel, or a full-sized hooded towel.  Then you can use it for years, and typically they are nicer towels than the ones designed for babies.  Just go for something nice and soft.

Wash cloth: We have some tiny ones that a friend gave us, but a regular wash cloth would work just fine.  I like that a washcloth can be nice and soft for cleaning behind the ears, under the arms and getting lint from between those tiny toes.

Fingernail clippers or a nail file: Necessary for most parents, because those baby nails grow so fast!  I have heard of the occasional parent who bites their child's fingernails, but I can't see myself doing that, so I have a pair of baby fingernail clippers. I think they are the same size as regular clippers, but they have a larger handle for more control.  If you are worried about cutting your babies fingers, use a file instead.

Brush:  We use one really similar to this, that the hospital gave us.  It has worked just fine for us, especially because his hair took its sweet time growing in, and he didn't have much until he was about 10 months old.  It is great for cradle cap and comb-overs.

Baby Bathtub:  These may be great the first few months after your baby is born, but they are usually huge, and take up a ton of space.  Once we decided to stay in a one-bedroom apartment, we couldn't justify having one.  It was going to take up like half of the bathroom.  Not worth it.  If you have a genius trick or an amazing folding one (this one had good reviews), please feel free to share it in the comments.  We just decided that was one thing we could live without.

Instead, we laid a thick, fuzzy towel down on the bottom of the tub, put like half and inch or less of water in the tub, basically enough to get the towel wet, laid him on the towel, and did a sponge bath with a wet washcloth.  It worked very well, and Fox loved it from the first.  We are always extremely cautious in making sure his face never got close to the water and stayed right next to him the whole time.

If you don't have a tub, you can try using a sink, or do sponge baths until your baby is old enough to sit up in a sink.  For those of you who have a shower but no tub, I would NOT recommend using the shower.  We tried this in France and it was super scary.  We never dropped him, but slippery babies are really hard to hold onto, especially if they don't like water yet and are squirmy and soapy.  When we were in France, we ended up holding up his back while he sat in the sink, and that worked a little better.

Special baby towels:  They make these tiny, adorable and completely non-absorbing baby towels. They seriously don't absorb water, which is tough when you are trying to dry your baby off. Anyway, a darling friend gave us a hooded towel that she made from two regular towels (tutorial here), and I love it.  It will last us for years.  If she hadn't given it to us, we probably would have just used a regular towel once Fox outgrew the baby towels.

Baby Robe: SO cute and totally unnecessary.

Diaper Pail:  This one is questionable, depending on your circumstances.  We use our kitchen trash for diapers (on a related note, I absolutely love our trashcan.  It was kind of expensive, but it has been amazing.  It locks, contains smell very well, has a foot pedal so you don't have to touch the lid. Basically it is my dream trash can... if you can have one of those?).  It has a has a lid and contains the smell pretty well.  Plus, putting diapers in there forces us to take it out a few times a week so it doesn't sit there and stink up our apartment.

I have used a few diaper pails in the past, and they always smell.  If they don't smell when they are closed, they stink when they are opened, even if it is only for a second, and the smell lingers in a foul way.  Plus they take up a lot of space.  If you think you need one, go for it, but I say you can use a lidded trashcan with similar/better results.

Baby Bath Toys: This is not to say that you shouldn't have toys in the bathtub for your baby to play with, I just don't think you need to get special toys to put in there.  We use some teething rings, a large lego piece, a frog that squirts water and the small plastic bucket the hospital gave us (this one is a particular favorite for Fox).  You could also use plastic yogurt containers and lids, funnels, or other plastic kitchen items.

*This is not a sponsored post, nor are any of the links in it affiliate links.  The links are only to be helpful.  Particularly the one about the kitchen trash.  You really should just buy one now.  They are the best.  
** If you have a minute today, I would be thrilled if you voted for me in the Mrs. Meyer's Maker contest.  All you have to do is click the heart next to my name (Landen M).  You can vote everyday until February 15th.  Link is here!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Life with a CSA

A few weeks ago, I posted on Instagram that I had signed up for a CSA subscription.  In case that term is foreign to you, CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture, and is a weekly box of vegetables that are grown in your area.  Most of the time, you pay for a few weeks worth at a time.  It is nice for the farmer, who knows they have customers lined up prior to harvesting, and great for customers who get a large box of organic vegetables once a week for less than they would pay at the farmer's market or grocery store. Downside?  You don't get to pick what goes in your box.   

Currently, our CSA delivers boatloads of winter vegetables (because, Surprise! It's winter)  Winter vegetables can be tricky to work into a regular meal plan.  I often end up with a huge pile of greens (collar greens, chard, and broccoli rabe), lots of weird root vegetables that only taste good with several pounds of cheese (turnip gratin anyone?), and enough herbs to start my own farmer’s market.  That being said, I actually quite like the challenge of using winter vegetables.  Plus, they are gorgeous, and make my fridge look pretty! 

Some of these veggies, I have really struggle to incorporate, and had to get creative, which sometimes works, and sometimes doesn't... For example, we got some broccoli rabe, which I have never gone out and bought on my own.  Big shocker, I know.  

I made a quiche with onions and sautéed broccoli rabe, which turned out pretty well, but you can only pile so many greens into one quiche, so I still had some leftover.  I debated what to do with them, because they are a vegetable that is supposed to be cooked.  Apparently they give you a stomach ache if you eat them raw.  

Finally I decided to sauté them, then bake them and put them on top of a pasta dish.  I had done something similar on a pizza a few nights before and it was a smashing success, so I had high hopes.  

I shouldn’t have been so excited.  The pasta dish ended up being very bland, and the baked broccoli rabe was not delicious.  Seriously, it was like eating dust.  I was very disappointed.  Particularly because I have been making great efforts to not throw food away, and eating it was sort of painful.  Next time I will find a better way to incorporate them in.

Speaking of not throwing food away, a triumph from last week was this amazing carrot, white bean and dill salad that I made from 101 Cookbook.  She has some winner recipes, and this one really worked for me.  I love bean salads and this one had a great dressing and interesting blend of flavors.  We will definitely be making this one again (actually, it is on my schedule for this week). 

We also got some beets last week. If you saw my original Mrs. Meyer’s Instagram submission for the Mrs. Meyer’s maker contest (you should go vote!), you will know I used to hate beets and thought they tasted like dirt (they still do in some things), but then I found a few delicious ways to use them up.  I hadn’t ever used the greens though, and usually ended up throwing them away, because I didn't know what to do with them.  

On Sunday, Adam and I were looking for something to eat with our homemade pizza, and decided to throw together a shake.  It had a beet, beet greens, some orange and a few other things, and it was really good!  The texture was a little weird, because of the greens, I think, but, it was surprisingly tasty!  If anyone is interested, let me know and I will work on perfecting it, and post it here.  

That might be the best part of getting a CSA, is figuring out how to use new things, and being pleasantly surprised with delicious results.  

Overall, the last 3 weeks have been a cooking success.  I have been able to put together some fun, new recipes and eat some old favorites.  Having a CSA is both a delight and a challenge.  It forces us to eat tons of vegetables that are fresh, and local, so I feel like I am doing great things for our bodies and the earth.  I can't wait to see what we get next week, especially as we head into spring!

I would love to hear if any of you have done a CSA subscription before?  What did you think?  

Monday, February 1, 2016

Delicious Carrot, Fennel and Dill Soup

I am a middle child.  Being a middle child often means going with the flow.  What the older siblings say goes.  For many years, I just sort of went with it.  And it worked just fine.  

When I went off to college, I felt the same way.  Things would probably just work out if I worked hard and did my best. It mostly did, and I was pretty happy with how things were going in school.  For most of college I just assumed I would finish my degree, get married, have kids and hopefully be able to stay home with those kids, and maybe use my degree if I needed to.  

I approached my last year of college missing the key element to that plan: a man to marry, and I panicked.  Suddenly, for the first time, I had to start thinking about what I wanted to do afterward I graduated.  I had never really thought hard about what I wanted to do, because I figured if I had lots of dreams that never came to fruition, I would be disappointed that my life hadn't turned out that way.  But I started to realize my life might not go the way I had always planned.  

Would I go to graduate school?  Find a job?  Was my major even useful?  I wasn't sure what I wanted out of life.  Particularly if I hadn't yet found someone to share it with.  I began to realize that I could go anywhere and and do just about anything.  And that was incredibly scary. Going with the flow that I had always followed wasn't really an option anymore.  I needed some concrete plans for my future. 

A few months and a lot of research later, I decided to prepare to get a master's degree in Technical Costume Design (the professionals who pattern super hard/complicated costumes in the costume shop.  Up to that point, I was only qualified to work as a seamstress in the costume shop, and didn't pattern anything).  I figured that after that, I could go work at a university, a Shakespeare Festival or something equally adult. 

Of course, during this process Adam and I started dating seriously, a few months later we got engaged and shortly after I graduated, we got married, so my life plans changed again.  Suddenly graduate school seemed like kind of a waste if I didn't want to travel a lot for my job (costuming usually requires moving where ever the job is),  which I didn't, and I had no idea what kind of master's degree I would get it if wasn't in costuming.  So I put those plans on the back burner and got a regular job.

But thoughts of a career and fulfilling some personal dreams had taken root, and I wanted to continue to grow creatively and always be learning new skills.  So I started blogging, because like most creatives working in a non-creative job, I needed some kind of outlet to stay sane.  I started cooking a lot, and somewhere in there minimalism/green living accidentally fell into my lap. 

Each one gradually entered my life, but grew stronger as I started to learn about them and apply them to my everyday life.  The more I worked at them, the more I loved them, and they really felt right for me.   

Through all of this, I think my takeaway is that having a goal, and working towards it is really much more fulfilling than going with the flow. At least for me.  There must always be flexibility in trying to reach my goal, because plans, and circumstances almost always change, but having a plan makes for a happier life.  In the end, always moving forward and progressing is one of the key ways for me to be happy. 

Carrot, Fennel and Dill Soup:
Serves 2-3 generously

1 Tbs oil
2 lbs carrots, cut into rounds
1-2 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
2 Tbs fresh dill, stems removed and chopped, or 1 tsp dry dill weed
4 cups water
Sprinkle of pepper
1 tsp salt
1/8 tsp garlic powder

Top with:
1/4 cup toasted almonds, finely chopped
drizzle of olive oil
small sprinkle of dill

In a stock pot, heat your oil and add the carrots and cook for about 5 minutes, until they are just starting to soften.  Add the fennel and cook for another 5 minutes or so, until the carrots and fennel pieces are just beginning to brown (don't let them burn!).  Add the water, pepper, salt and garlic powder.  Bring mixture to a boil, then turn the temperature back down and let it simmer for 10-15 minutes until the carrots and fennel are really soft.  Add the dill and stir in.

Remove from heat, and put in a blender in batches or all at once if you have a large blender.  Blend for 40-60 seconds until the soup is smooth.

Top with a quick drizzle of oil, a sprinkle of dill and generously dust with toasty almonds.  Enjoy!

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