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

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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
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Make It Easy Monday

My introduction to the pressure cooker came about 30 years ago when one of my podmates, a reporter who covered a lot of rural Illinois, was telling me about the hot water he was in with his wife.

An avid outdoorsman, he caught a snapping turtle and was cooking it in the pressure cooker. Unfortunately, he hadn’t removed the turtle from the shell and the resulting pressure build up blew the lid off the pressure cooker. And blew turtle all over the kitchen.

His wife was not pleased.

Knowing I was a cook, he then shared the proper method for prepping a turtle for the pressure cooker. I won’t go into details. It’s not pretty, and it involves nails.

I haven’t been tempted by a pressure cooker since.

So, like a turtle, I had my head in my shell for the past 18 months as blog and food writers would go on about the joys of the pressure cooker.

All I could think about was turtle spatter on the ceiling.

Reminder that things change a lot in 3 decades.

It was fellow Fairview resident and Vegan Cheers founder who dragged me into the moment. Lisa Rose hosted a pressure cooking class at Whole Foods Co-Op. Suitably impressed, I did some research and found the Instant Pot.

It meets my criteria of a multi-purpose device – meaning it needs to be more than a one-trick pony. The Instant Pot can saute, slow cook, pressure cook, make eggs, cakes, etc.

The first experiment was to make a bone broth. This is a rather tiresome exercise even in the slow cooker. It takes me from 4 to 8 hours. The whole house smells like chicken soup. Not a bad thing. But it’s like living above a restaurant. A whiff is fine. A couple of hours is OK. Go to bed and wake up the next morning – not good.

The Instant Pot made beautiful broth in less than 2 hours. I was officially impressed. (This is not a paid post, BTW).

Next up, chicken salsa verde. Why? Because on Mondays my daughter has tennis practice. And she’s starving when she gets home. And because I drive her there and back, so I’m not home to make dinner.

This is easy-peasy. Chicken thighs, some seasonings, and salsa verde go into the pot. Less than 30 minutes later, dinner comes out of the pot. You can serve with tortillas, rice, as a salad. You get the idea.

So my lesson has been learned. Don’t let your past dictate your future. And clean out your cupboards when you find a new device (say, bye-bye rice cooker).

XOXOXO

marnie

marniemead@gmail.com

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Salsa Verde Chicken
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Passive Time 20 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Passive Time 20 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Place the chicken in the Instant Pot or pressure cooker. Add the cumin, paprika, and salsa verde.
  2. Set cooker to high pressure for 25 minutes or on the Instant Pot press the meat or poultry button.
  3. When the chicken is done cooking, quick release the pressure or allow it to naturally release (can take 10 to 20 minutes). Release the lid. Shred the chicken in the pot with two forks. There will be a lot of liquid in the beginning. Allow to cool for about 15 minutes before seerving.
  4. Season with salt and black pepper, to taste. Serve with tortillas, rice, use in burritos, quesadillas, tacos, salads, etc.
  5. You can make ahead and freeze.
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Mom, I’m STARVING

I’ve been a little late to the bowl bandwagon. This is, in part, due to my reluctance to pay $8.50 for a bowl of rice, beans, lettuce, salsa, and guacamole with some chicken on top. Plus you have to drive there and go inside. And stand in line.

I can’t replicate the pleasure of driving to upper Peach Street to pick up a fast meal for dinner. If that’s your gig, then I get it. I’ve stopped at Chick-Fil-A on more than one occasion on the drive back and forth to my daughter’s evening tennis lesson. I’ve spent the same amount on a salad with grilled chicken on top. I rationalize it because I didn’t have to go inside. Nor did I have to listen to a teen tell me how she was STARVING during the 20 minute drive home. Home, where there was nothing but a chicken that needed roasted, but would take about 40 minutes.

And she was STARVING. Which meant she would head straight to the snack cabinet faster than the dog can get to his food bowl when I put leftovers in it.

Since I don’t want to engage in mortal combat using a sleeve a crackers against a STARVING teen, I’ve discovered the burrito bowl can be made at home. This is a genius staple because you can hide leftovers in it. No meat? No problem. The rice and beans can provide the protein.

Rice bowl for dinner. I didn’t have any black beans, so I substituted Italian white beans.

The rest of the ingredients are pantry staples – rice, canned corn, salsa, black beans, and a can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. From the fridge you need lettuce – I like romaine hearts – sour cream or plain yogurt, a lime, cheese, and cilantro (both optional). If you have barbecue sauce, that’s great too. Just toss the leftover chicken, beef, or pork in some barbecue sauce, and you have a whole new layer of flavor. You’ll also need an avocado, or guacamole.

Then, in the time it takes to cook rice (or buy the 90 second microwave kind) and open a couple of cans – you can have dinner. And the STARVING teen can make it herself. And go back for seconds.

Happy meals,

Marnie

Marnie@marniemeadmedia.com

Print Recipe
Basic Burrito Bowl
This burrito bowl will come together in less than 15 minutes if you use microwave rice.
Course Main Dish, Salad
Prep Time 20 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Course Main Dish, Salad
Prep Time 20 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Cook rice according to package directions. Remove from heat and stir in your favorite salsa. Taste and add 1 teaspoon of lime juice, if desired.
  2. In a food processor or blender, pulse the sour cream or yogurt together with the chipotle pepper with some adobo sauce and ground cumin. Taste and add about 1 teaspoon lime juice. Stir.
  3. To assemble, place a layer of rice in the bottom of each bowl (this serves 4). Top with lettuce. Sprinkle with corn, beans, protein (chicken, beef or pork), and avocado pieces or guacamole. Add more salsa if desired or chopped tomatoes. Drizzle chipotle sauce on top. Sprinkle with cilantro, if desired.
Recipe Notes

Instead of salsa, you can substitute Ro-Tel tomatoes with lime juice.

The amount of lime juice you use will depend on your taste. Chipotle adds lime juice and cilantro to its rice base. If you want to be true to its taste, add lime juice to the cooking water for the rice or squeeze fresh lime juice over microwaved rice. Stir in cilantro, if desired.

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