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.
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Eat, Drink and Be Merry Monday

Another year is upon us. One filled with promise – promises we have made to ourselves and to others. This year I am skipping resolutions, which I never keep anyway, and trying out the word of the year.

The idea is to pick a word that describes what you want for yourself in 2017. You can adapt it to just about all aspects of your life, or to a specific goal. In 2016, I left behind aspects of my life that were comfortable. But I did it with fear and anxiety. I don’t feel like I embraced stepping off the ledge of a 30-year career and into … I don’t know what.

And I struggled with that. I wanted to give people answers. What are you doing? How is it going? People seem to want simple answers. I am a – fill in the blank. It is going swimmingly. I feel pushed to give an answer. And to stick to it. And to say it is going really well.

So in 2016, I tried filling in those blanks. Freelance writer. Social media consultant. Food truck owner. Magazines. Nurse. Bank teller.

Some have some sticking power, like writer. And mom – I love that one. Still contemplating the whole food truck idea, but that’s not something I can just jump into. The rest, well, the universe had different plans.

My sister and I after hiking in Colorado in 2013.

In December, I had to pick a word, and commit to it, in 2017. As a person who is easily distracted by bright shiny objects, I bounced around the word game a lot. But, deep down in my core, I know that I am an explorer. Woods, water, relationships, people, myself … I want to see and learn more about it all.

So I chose adventure as my 2017 word. I want to seek out new paths – in Spain, France, or Ireland. I want to travel rough waters (rapids, here I come).  I want to climb at least one mountain in the U.S. this year.

My food choices tell me when I am getting stuck. They are like little breadcrumbs on my path. When the sugars and starches start to rule my diet, then I know it’s time to make some changes. As a mom, I know to serve healthy meals to my daughter. And I know that it is especially important to teach daughters good food choices because of all the body image conflicts there are out there with the crazy Kardashian women, Gigi Hadid, etc. But, as most moms know … we don’t always practice what we preach. I am guilty of skimming pretzels, handfuls of nuts, a cookie here and there, as I cook. So my appetite for that healthy kale salad with chicken isn’t there. Lunch, alone, is often a graze through cupboards and fridge. Rarely is it the carrots and hummus that I dutifully try to encourage my daughter to eat.

So when I sat on the couch by myself on New Year’s Eve eating Kraft Macaroni and Cheese (with some broccoli for good measure) by myself, followed by a chaser of toffee with chocolate, I said so long to 2016. I awoke to 2017 complete with a food hangover. I felt just awful. It served as a reminder that I need to feed both my body and brain so I am ready for adventure.

Growing up, I disliked sweet potatoes. I didn’t like the texture of the casseroles that were cloyingly sweet and topped with marshmallows.

North East farmer Gordon Post changed that with his plentiful deliveries of various kinds of sweet potatoes. A super simple way to serve them, especially for lunch or a quick dinner, is to bake up a batch of 4 to 6 because it takes an hour whether you are roasting 1 or 11. Fill them with chicken barbecue, or taco meat, or chili. The sweet flesh combined with the chili spice is a wildly delicious combination.

Happy New Year

XOXOXO

marnie

marnie@marniemeadmedia.com

 

 

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Sweet Potato Stuffed with Barbecue Chicken
Stuffed sweet potatoes make for a tasty dinner, or take-to-work lunch (easily reheated in the microwave). I like to bake 4-6 sweet potatoes at a time and use them throughout the week (since you baking them anyway). This recipe is versatile. You can make chicken with taco seasoning and use it as well.
Instructions
  1. Rub sweet potatoes with oil and sprinkle with salt. Pierce in several places with a fork. Place in 400-degree oven on a foil-lined baking sheet for about an hour. You can reduce the time by about 15 minutes if you put the sweet potato in the microwave for about 4 minutes (pierced). Then rub with oil and salt and bake.
  2. While the potatoes are baking, mix shredded chicken with barbecue sauce in a small saucepan. Cook until heated through.
  3. Remove sweet potatoes from oven, but leave oven on. Slit in half and slightly smash the insides. Top each with half the barbecue chicken. Sprinkle each with cheese. Return to oven and bake until cheese melts, about 3-5 minutes. Remove from oven. Sprinkle with green onion.
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