CSA Challenge for Meadballs, Week 1

Starting a business – or any project, really – is a lot like gardening. You plant a seed, tend to it – water, fertilizer, good light – and it grows. Ignore it, even for a couple of days, and it could die, or weaken to the point where it will never be as fruitful.

Same with a project or business. You can have the greatest idea, but it needs tending or it will never sprout. Meadballs is my little seed. My hope is that it grows so I can use local products to make you dinner, delivered. You get three at a time – which you can eat right away, put in the fridge for another day, or possibly freeze.

For quite a few months, Meadballs was just a little seed in a packet. Every time I thought I could plant it somewhere, it just didn’t work out. If you’ve ever been an over-anxious gardener and plopped a plant in the ground – only to watch it struggle to survive, then you will understand. Before you plant something, you need to understand if it gets enough light, if the ground needs amending, or even if the hose reaches. I have a rhododendron facing that fate. I bought the condo in February and planted that poor bush in May. Neither the soil nor the light is right. I’m working to amend the soil, but it takes more work than if I had done it correctly the first time.

But now I have done the work to get the right location for Meadballs. The Erie County Department of Health has signed off on the beginning of construction of the new kitchen. I met with Keegan Leehan of South One on Monday and went over the details – gasp – of the plumbing, electrical, etc., work to be done. Plus the appliance costs. I think my parents first home in Erie cost less.

 

I’m following the advice of fellow small business owners and I’m not borrowing to do this. When I plant a garden, I only plant what I can manage. If my bounty is in excess of what I can eat, then I consider the hard work and the believe I was blessed by weather. But I don’t count on that happening every year.

Just a variation of you reap what you sow. And I don’t want to be sowing with someone else’s money right now.

So the construction will begin. And I will have firm dates within a week. And I want to thank everyone who is patiently waiting for my garden to grow.

In the meantime, the farm where most of my produce will come from has started delivering. The first weeks are always slow – and now we are experiencing a lot of rain and cool temperatures, which will slow things down a bit. Even my own tomato plants, which were growing overnight, have stalled with the lack of warmth and sunshine.

The CSA basket from Post Farms contained mostly green items: Lettuce, garlic scapes, collard greens, kale, and some purple potatoes left from last season. (The potatoes were perfectly fine and cooked up deliciously.)

Each week is a challenge. These are the practice weeks before I start cooking for you. I will get a basket of seasonal foods from the farm, and then be challenged to create three meals for you.

It’s terribly exciting.

I get the baskets on Thursdays. So deliveries will begin on Mondays (nobody likes cooking on Mondays, right?).

This week I took the ingredients and created: Enchiladas wrapped in collard greens and filled with sausage and onions; garlic scape (that curly guy in the lower right corner of the photo) and kale pesto, which I tossed with some homemade pasta and topped with seared scallops; chicken gyros salad wrapped in red lettuce leaves; and purple potatoes with greens and garlic (and served with grilled chicken breast).

The most challenging dish was what to do with collard greens – other than the traditional long cooking with ham or bacon. It became my favorite dish because it was creative and really tasty. The filling included sausage from Urbaniaks, a sweet onion, black beans, and salsa. The red enchilada sauce is from CookieandKate.com.

My parents served as testers this week. And the greens come Didi approved, which is saying a lot because my mother isn’t a fan of greens. Others will get a chance to serve as test kitchen subjects, including Jennifer Smith, Pam Parker, Rebecca Styn, Kate McCune Nash, and others.

The seed is being planted. I can’t wait for you to taste the fruits of this labor.

XOXOXO

Marnie

Marnie@Meadballs.com

Print Recipe
Red Enchilada Sauce
Mise en place - meaning get your ingredients together and ready to use - is an important part of this recipe.
Servings
Ingredients
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Put dry ingredients - the flour, chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, oregano, salt, and cinnamon - into a small bowl. Stir with a fork. Set bowl near the stove. Have tomato paste and broth ready.
  2. In a medium-sized pot over medium heat, warm the oil until it’s it’s hot enough - you will see the oil slightly ripple and give off heat. Check with a sprinkle of the flour/spice mixture - it should sizzle.
  3. Add the remaining mixture. Whisk constantly until toasted, about 1 minute. Whisk in tomato paste. Slowly pour in the broth - whisking constantly to remove any lumps.
  4. Raise heat to bring the mixture to a simmer. Cook, whisking, for about 5 to 7 minutes, until it has thickened. Reduce heat if the mixture begins to boil instead of gently simmering.
  5. Remove from heat; whisk in the vinegar. Allow to cool and taste, adjusting with more salt and pepper if needed.
Recipe Notes
Share this Recipe

Spring Closet Cleaning

Spring cleaning consumed the past two weekends. The warm weather is partly to blame. My daughter shares the rest.

Sometimes she helps me get dressed. A teen with a keen fashion sense of her own, I run outfit combinations by her from time to time when I’m trying to burst out of my uniform of leggings, tunic sweater and turtleneck. It’s the perfect way to hide the winter calories.

But, come the start of spring, the layers give way to … muffin tops and insecurity when getting dressed. My winter uniform hides a myriad of sins that spring strips away. As a result, I stand in front of not one, but two, closets filled with clothes.

And I have nothing to wear.

So I proclaim.

My daughter got tired of having her head bitten off when she dared say I looked “just fine.”  She politely suggested I call “that lady you interviewed who helps people with their closets.”

She was referring to Marian Taylor, owner of Simple Solutions for Living.

Clearly, I needed a closet intervention.

Marian not only assists the closet impaired like me, she specializes in downsizing. She helps people move into smaller homes (or new homes), especially empty nesters transferring to new digs without kids and seniors moving into assisted living.

If you have a parent moving – she’s the best. She makes the move so easy – and takes the stress off the the children by acting as an impartial arbiter of what stays and what goes. She doesn’t throw anything out unless you want her to, but she does have the tact to inquire just why you are keeping it.

She used this approach with my closet, which was filled with trips down memory lane: the skirt from Greece that I’ve worn once; the dress I bought when I didn’t have anything to wear to a funeral; the pants I bought on sale without trying on. Then there was the stuff that didn’t fit. And the stuff that looked great when I was a brunette, but does’t look so hot now that I’m a blonde.

By rehanging all my clothes – in order or color by category – we also discovered I had quite of few of the same items in the same color – just hanging in two different closets. Did I need 4 black skirts ? No. I don’t. Other people may have a different answer.

She also took the time to show me pairings of clothes. She took a blouse I liked, but had never worn, and matched it with a sweater I already had. I wore it this week. Now, when I head into the closet, I don’t stand there staring. I can see immediate outfit ideas.

Marian has a nifty app that allowed us to total up the charitable value of the clothes headed to the City Mission.

When we finished, she suggested a new organizer from ClosetMaid that would give me twice the space for the shirts and sweaters using a double rod system.

Marian is also a rep for Cabi, a clothing line that makes capsule dressing easy and fun. The colors coordinate from season to season. After cleaning so much black out of my closet, it was time to replace it with navy, which is much more flattering for me.

That was the weekend of Feb. 25. During the week, I ordered the closet organizer for my clothes. And other one for my shoes.

So the following weekend, I installed the closet organizer. It only took about 4 1/2 hours – it would take a pro a lot less. I think I spent an hour trying to find the studs in the closet wall. I spent another hour  to 90 minutes hanging and organizing.

The shoe organizing took another 90 minutes, 45 of which was assembling the new shoe rack. It is designed to hold 50 pair of shoes. Fifty should be plenty. I had to discard about 30 pair of shoes – some I could only wear for an hour or two because they hurt so much. Turns out I have a lot of black shoes.

Again – I’m a blonde now. Blue and beige are better choices.

But the new rule is: One in, one out (preferably two).

All this organizing means dinner hasn’t been particularly organized this week. Fortunately, I subscribe to one of those home meal prep delivery services. I’ve been trying out Hello Fresh (I’ve also tried Plated, Blue Apron, and Home Chef). I’ll write more about these later.

So I had a box with pork chops, sweet potato, and Brussels sprouts. I wasn’t fond of the recipe and directions, so I winged it. In less than 20 minutes, we had dinner. I pan seared the pork chops and finished it with a peach glaze from some peach preserves I had in the fridge. The Brussls sprouts were easy – they just went into a 400 degree oven with olive oil, salt and pepper, for about 10 to 12 minutes.

I hauled the Kitchen Aid out and attached the spiralizer and had sweet potato noodles in minutes. You could blanch them, but I tossed them into a skillet with olive oil, salt, pepper, and a pinch of sugar. They could have gone into the oven with the Brussels sprouts if I had been thinking.

Sometimes we all need a hand with the basic tasks of living. Thanks to Marian, getting dressed takes just minutes. And thanks to the various meal services I’ve been trying, I was able to get dinner on the table in less than 30 minutes.

Now, if only those meals arrived already made …

XOXOXO

marnie

marniemead@gmail.com

Print Recipe
Pork Chops with Peach, Whiskey and Mustard Glaze
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American
Cook Time 15 minutes
Passive Time 5 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American
Cook Time 15 minutes
Passive Time 5 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  2. Pinch ground black pepper
  3. 1 teaspoons garlic powder<
  4. 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  5. 2 boneless pork chops, about 1/2-inch thick
  6. 1 tablespoon olive oil
  7. 1/4 cup chicken stock
  8. 2 tablespoons peach preserves
  9. 2 tablespoons bourbon or other whiskey
  10. 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  11. Heat oven to 375 degrees.
  12. In a small bowl, combine the salt, pepper, garlic powder and paprika. Season each pork
  13. chop generously on both sides and rub the mixture into the meat.
  14. Heat a nonstick oven-proof skillet on medium high heat. Add the olive oil and the seasoned pork chops. Sear on each
  15. side for 2 minutes to get a nice crust. Remove pork chops from the pan.
  16. Return the pan to medium heat. Add the whiskey and bring to a boil, then add chicken stock and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for about 2 mintues then stir in peach preserves, and mustard. Whisk to combine. Turn off heat.
  17. Return chops to the pan and turn several times to coat with the peach glaze. Place pan with chops in oven and roast until done, about 5 to 7 minutes.
  18. Let the pork chops rest for 5 minutes before serving, then spoon some of the glaze from the pan over the chops.
Share this Recipe

When Game Day is Over: Go Meatless on Monday

Why am I writing about a meatless Monday recipe on a Friday? It’s not because I want the weekend to be over. Heavens no. It’s so you have time to prepare. It’s Super Bowl Sunday, after all, and if all the TV shows and food blogs are to be believed, you are going to have eaten your way through nachos, chicken wings, dips, and chili. And washed it all down with beer.

And you are going to feel very bloated on Monday.

One way to help with that is to skip the meat on Monday. I’d recommend skipping dairy, too. Which is why this recipe might be just the ticket to feeling better by Tuesday.

This recipe doesn’t require a lot of preparation. But it will require a trip to Wegmans or your fave grocery store unless you have a  stash frozen cauliflower and spinach in your house.  If not, and if you are an introvert like me, then you want to avoid Wegmans on Sunday because that is THE place to be.

I routinely forget this, despite shopping there since the doors opened 20-some years ago. Invariably, I will go in there after taking the dog for a long walk at Asbury Woods. Since wood walkers don’t care what you look like, I typically look like a 50-some-year-old woman who rolled out of bed, brushed her teeth, and put a leash on a 90-pound dog. Sometimes my hair is so bad, I wear a hat.

Of course, that can make things worse. I will take the hat off in Wegmans and have a combination of bed head and hat hair.

It is not pretty.

I keep lipstick and lip gloss in the cup container of my car. So I try to swipe some of that on before I head in to Wegmans. It doesn’t really help. Because now I have bad hair and lipstick. So it’s kinda like a car wreck: You try to look away, but can’t.

Of course, I could take the time and shower and put on makeup. But I’m really just taking a walk in the woods, enjoying nature. I might scare a few squirrels along the way, but that just gives the dog some amusement. This is why I have a dog. He doesn’t care what I look like. He’s just happy I take him for long walks.

So, if you do see me in Wegmans on Sunday morning, please don’t think I’m rude or that I’m avoiding you. OK, I might be avoiding you. But only because I really need to go home and take a shower.

My latest strategy is to go to Wegmans late on Saturday night when all of you are out on date night, or whatever married couples do these days. Then it’s just me and the high college kids with the munchies.

Because you aren’t  burying this dish in loads of cheese – the veggies really need to star. The key is a really good marinara sauce. You can make your own or use a jarred variety. Read the label and pick one without any added sugar. I like Rao’s (expensive, but very tasty), Newman’s Own, Classico Reserva (read the label to make sure you are getting the right Classico). Some others that I haven’t tried are Amy’s and Victorios.

The second secret is to buy frozen riced cauliflower. I bought the already seasoned kind, but that was an accident. Buy the unflavored kind and control your sodium and spices.

This may be made with shells, which you will need to cook, or fresh sheets of pasta, which you don’t. If you are vegan, you will want to buy the dried lasagna noodles and cook them briefly so they are pliable to roll.

Go team! Happy weekend! Feel good about yourself!

XOXOXO

marnie

marniemead@gmail.com

Print Recipe
Vegetarian Lasagna Rollups
This is a vegetarian lasagna that can also be vegan, if you choose to make your own pasta or buy pasta made with no eggs. If you buy the dried pasta sheets or lasagna noodles, you will need to cook them for 3 to 3 minutes in boiling water, drain, and run under cold water, in order to use them in this dish. If you want more of the American lasagna flavor, add some grated Parmesan or mozzarella cheese to the spinach mixture and top with cheese.
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American, Italian
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours
Servings
people
Ingredients
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American, Italian
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours
Servings
people
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Microwave the spinach and the cauliflower according to the package directions. Drain spinach into a colander to drain and cool.
  2. In a food processor, puree the riced cauliflower with the salt, pepper, garlic powder, and Italian seasonings. Add milk or broth 1 tablespoon at a time, until it has a ricotta-like consistency. Mix in nutmeg and lemon zest.
  3. Spread equal amounts of cauliflower mixture on to each sheet of pasta. Count on 1 to 2 sheets per person, depending on appetite. Top with spinach. Sprinkle with cheese, if desired. Roll up.
  4. I used a slow cooker for this. You can use a 9-inch-by-9-inch or a 9-inch-by-13-inch baking pan (depends on how many roll ups you made).
  5. Spread some sauce on the bottom of the slower cooker insert or in your pan (about 1/3 of the jar). Place the rolled up pasta seam side down in your pan. Cover with remaining marinara sauce. Cook in slow cooker for 2 hours on low. Or put in a 400-degree oven for about 20 minutes. If you put cheese on top, it should be bubbly and hot.
  6. Allow to cool for about 10 minutes (otherwise they don't hold together). Slice and arrange on plates with some sauce. Sprinkle with cheese (or cheese substitute). You can garnish with some chopped parsley to make the plate pretty.
Recipe Notes

If you want to make your own pasta without eggs, follow Mario Batali's recipe here.

My pasta recipe is 1 egg to 1 cup flour, adding water if necessary to finish binding it.

Share this Recipe