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Photo credit: Sherry Lynn / facebook.com/ChowLocally

Last May, I decided to enroll in a CSA, in an effort to diversify my vegetable intake. Before I joined the Chow Locally program, I cooked and ate a decent amount of vegetables, but it was always the same few. Participating in a CSA has forced me to step outside my comfort zone (there are other vegetables besides asparagus and mushrooms!) and surprisingly resulted in a lot of wins for me.

Each week, I get a box of local-grown fruits and vegetables – roughly 7-9 different kinds, with at least two of each. As you can imagine, this is A LOT of food for one person, especially during the weeks when I don’t have a lot of time to prepare meals. And I always feel guilty when I let any of it go to waste. 

This week’s goal – to utilize all of the vegetables in my Chow Share box.

Here’s what I’m working with:

  • winterbor kale (currently hanging out in a bowl in my fridge)
  • three black Spanish radishes
  • lacinato kale (more kale … allegedly a different kind. Stored in my handy Martha Stewart produce keeper)
  • three purple top turnips 
  • rapini (filling a giant bowl and taking over the top shelf of my fridge)
  • five grapefruits
  • spicy arugula (living in in the salad spinner in the fridge)
  • green onions (in a mason jar on my countertop)

Thankfully, Chow Locally provides a handout each week, with photos/descriptions of the vegetables (super handy) and information how to store them. Online, they provide a recipe for each item and archive those, as well. Since I have food allergies, these recipes can be hit or miss, but I’ve definitely made some amazing meals with their suggestions.

Today, I Googled each item and found a corresponding recipe I’d like to try. Hopefully next weekend, I will have used all (or most!) of my vegetables and will share any recipes I find tasty.

Stay tuned (and let me know if you have any favorite recipes which use the ingredients mentioned above!)

photo (14) I like to cook.

(I know this point can be easily invalidated by the fact that I am currently “cooking” frozen chicken tacos from Trader Joe’s in my oven right now, but stick with me. Okay?)

Last year, I stumbled upon a magazine called Everyday Food. Similar to my favorite cookbook, Weeknight Fresh and Fast, both have extremely deceptive titles.  I’ve often thought I should create a cookbook that really gets to the heart of a fresh/fast/everyday dinner. (Hint: it involves cheese, fruit and some kind of chip or cracker. And by fruit, I may mean wine.) Nonetheless, when I have a little more time and ambition, I really do enjoy cooking.  In an effort to diversify my meals and encourage me to eat different foods, I started subscribing to Everyday Food.   While there were definitely some recipes I never planned to tackle, very little of the magazine seemed unreasonable. And what I didn’t cook, I thoroughly enjoyed imagining scenarios when I totally would make these dishes. “Crowned roast will be perfect for a football Sunday when I have eight people over!”

And then it happened. They stopped publishing Everyday Food; in its place I would receive a subscription to Martha Stewart Living.

The first issue, April, appeared in my mailbox a few weeks ago. I was curious, having never read it before, and a little hesitant. While I can cook (when I’m not being lazy), I cannot bake/craft/decorate/sew/match my clothes. Outside of my culinary talent, I am an expert at folding clothes. That’s pretty much where the domesticity ends.

Martha Stewart Living reinforced that for me.

Let’s start with the cover (pictured above), shall we? What beautiful Easter eggs! Something tells me that you didn’t decorate these with a PAAS kit – or you would have a smiling lamb decal stuck to the bottom. Sorry, Martha. I couldn’t decorate eggs to look like this if they were the size of basketballs.

Progressing through the magazine, I see ads for stunning appliances – shiny dishwashers and fancy washing machines. I’m reminded that my apartment microwave is from the ’80s and can’t even cook a bag of popcorn.

Next,we stumble upon Martha’s April calendar – I’m already behind. I did not schedule spring maintenance for cars and farm vehicles on the 4th and I did not get a facial this Sunday. Clearly, I don’t just neglect my home; I neglect my non-existent farm and self, as well. The good news? I can get back on track. Tomorrow, I need to wash my winter clothes and store them with sachets of cedar shavings. I’m sure I bought extras of those last year, right? And on the 28th, I need to sow tomatoes in the greenhouse. Maybe last month’s issue told me to plant the tomatoes. Or build a greenhouse.

I got eager when I saw the next page – spring-cleaning tips. I’m terrible at cleaning but I’m a major sucker for tips on how to do it better. Finally, I thought, something useful and relevant. I was reading one that seemed to make sense – pour white vinegar in your toilet and let it soak while you clean around your house. (And unlike cedar shaving sachets, I actually have white vinegar in my kitchen.) Then I got to the last sentence – “Be sure to not mix vinegar and chlorine bleach, which will produce a poisonous gas.” I could see myself trying to explain to the authorities how I “accidentally” made meth in my toilet bowl and decided to turn the page.

Oh, what’s this? Nine photos of Martha Stewart holding different breeds of live chickens. Perhaps because I am allergic to eggs, raising chickens has never crossed my mind. But I’m happy to know that I can now differentiate the blue andalusian from the australorp. I’ll never make that mistake again.

I thumb past an ad for Crocs boat shoes – if you thought Crocs were bad, you should see Crocs boat shoes. Shudder, turn page. Putting money on Talbot or Coldwater Creek making an appearance before we’re done here. But wait! Why would we buy clothes when we can sew them? Dust off your sewing machine; we’ve got instructions to make a blouse and a dress! Hopefully we can put the leftover fabric to use when we make those darling lunch bags later on in the week.

Next comes food and entertaining. Minus the napkin rings made of twigs, this is actually the reasonable part of the magazine. I won’t bore you with its practical contents.

Flower arrangements and gardening fill the next handful of pages and then we land in straight up craft country. If your Easter basket did not include any of the following: vintage flowers, spread monarch butterfly specimens, a $90 planter pot or blown duck eggs, you failed at Easter. You should have just skipped your tacky gift giving altogether.

Rounding out Easter, we have more food, baking and craft ideas. My favorite is a wreath made of both brown eggs AND quail eggs. You have to pierce the eggs with a paperclip and siphon out the yolk with an ear syringe. It says you need three dozen eggs; I would need about 54 dozen eggs to account for the ones I would break.

By this point, my insecurities have all been confirmed and I’m left with nothing but questions (and perhaps a little envy). Who has not only the time and skills to live this way, but also the money? I’m guessing her ideal reader is married to a wealthy man and has no children. Also doesn’t sleep and lives on a farm.

(And that beep tells me that my 1980’s apartment oven is currently setting my frozen chicken tacos on fire. ‘Til next time.)

Jell-O.
Pita chips.
Wine.
Ice cream.
Cheese.

Sad but true, the items (I won’t say “foods”) listed above have recently served as dinners for me. I’ll admit it aloud – I’m in a major food rut.

Much like other parts of my life, I envy my friends who seem to have it together when it comes to eating and meal planning. On one side of the spectrum, I have friends who plan two weeks of meals in advance, neatly typed on a menu on the fridge. On the other side, there’s me – justifying that macaroni and cheese isn’t so bad when compared to Jell-O and pita chips.

I sat down today and tried to plan one week of meals – unsuccessfully. I pored through cookbooks, sifted through my cabinets and all I came up with was a list of challenges (which is really a nice word for “excuses”).

So here we go:

Challenge/excuse #1: I have food allergies. This tends to rule out a number of options, especially of the frozen/convenient variety.

Challenge/excuse #2: I can be incredibly lazy after work sometimes. Lazy as in “yes, ice cream is an acceptable dinner.”

Challenge/excuse #3: I am a household of one. This is significant for a number of reasons. Most recipes are for 2-4-more people. And to be honest, fractions suck. I’ve found some recipes for one (or I make multiple servings and forget to eat the leftovers) but the amount of time dedicated to enjoy a meal by myself just doesn’t always seem very rewarding. Beyond the cooking, there’s the cleaning. Doing a sink-ful of dishes after cooking an elaborate meal for one is about the least fun thing ever.

Challenge/excuse #4: Food is expensive. While going through my cookbooks to find a week’s worth of recipes, I realized I would be purchasing about 65 items at the grocery store this weekend. And what’s worse is when I’m overambitious, buy said 65 items, cook one meal and all the unused produce-meat-seafood goes to waste that week.

Challenge/excuse #5: Some days, nothing appeals to me. Honestly, I can run through a list of 15 foods in my head and none of it sounds like something I feel like eating, let alone taking the time to prepare. Nothing is worse than spending an hour prepping and cooking a dinner to realize after two bites that you’re not in the mood to eat it.

Truth be told, I secretly want to be one of those super put-together people who eats mostly healthy meals (or at least meals which represent one of the food groups). I just am unsure how to do it, or more importantly, how to motivate myself. I truly enjoy the one “cooking experiment” I take on each week, but know I realistically don’t have the energy to do it on a daily basis. And, as I mentioned, I have run out of foods that interest me lately.

So friends – especially other singles – how do you do it? 

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