Spaghetti Squash and Pomegranates ~ Week of October 10th

I didn’t have a chance to “edit” my box contents this week, so this is a box straight from the CSA. I would have held off on more potatoes, I think, but otherwise I’m pretty darn excited about everything that arrived.

Box contents:
Yukon Gold potatoes – 1.5 pounds
Savoy cabbage – 1 bunch
Spaghetti squash – 1
Yellow onions – 4
Red radishes – 1 bunch
Beefsteak tomatoes – 0.75 pounds
Collard greens – 1 bunch
Red Leaf lettuce – 1 head
Braeburn apples – 3
Bartlett pears – 4
Valencia oranges – 4
Pomegranates – 2

I’m trying to stay on top of the potato influx. This week’s will get used along with the onions in my vegan spin on a Marcella Hazan potato-tomato gratin. So yummy. The Savoy cabbage is exciting. I used to use it in ribollita (Tuscan bread soup), but I haven’t made that since going gluten-free. I do have some slightly stale but still delicious garlic-kale sourdough from Bread Srsly, so maybe I’ll give that recipe a revisit. In the meantime, I’m going to try out a recipe from The Vegan Slow Cooker for Hard Cider and Cabbage Stew. I have a sad little past-its-prime apple that will be very happy to go into stew, I think. The spaghetti squash is intriguing. So many people recommend eating it like pasta, with a sauce on top, but that isn’t super appealing. I’ve found a recipe for spaghetti squash cakes I’m looking forward to trying out. I’ll let you know how it goes.

I love all this fall fruit. Peaches and nectarines and cherries are so decadent and such a treat, but I get equally excited at the arrival of fall fruits like apples and pears and pomegranates. The oranges are very pale – a couple of them are lemon-yellow – so I’m hoping their flavor is more robust than their appearance! I see salad on the horizon as well with lettuce and radishes and tomatoes, which is good because I’ve been having serious salad cravings. The collards may go into green smoothies, I haven’t decided yet what I want to do with them. I appreciate how hardy they are because, unlike something like chard, that means I have a few days to ponder how I want to use them.

I am linking this post to the weekly CSA round-up over at In My Chucks. Go check it out to ogle other people’s boxes and get some great ideas for what to do with our seasonal produce bounty!

Artichokes and Fennel ~ Week of September 19th

What came in my box this week:
Artichokes – 3
Yukon Gold potatoes – 1.5 pounds
Baby bok choy – 0.75 pounds
Mustard greens – 1 bunch
Fennel – 1 head
Hass avocados – 2
Red beets – 1 bunch
Lacinato kale – 1 bunch
Bartlett pears – 2
Strawberries – 1 pint
Cantaloupe – 1
Red Flame grapes – 0.75 pounds

A lovely Fall box, my contents looked like a still-life when I arranged them for photographing. (I realize that technically that’s what you call any arrangement of non-sentient things that are being interpreted through an artistic medium, but you know what I mean – they looked like an arty still life.) I was especially pleased about the artichokes, for some reason. I haven’t been into them much in the past few years but I was excited to see them in my box.

I made several substitutions to my order this week, mostly prompted by an oversupply of some of the things scheduled to come in my box. I still haven’t used that poor red cabbage from several weeks ago, so I subbed baby bok choy. Red onions were substituted with mustard greens, Bibb lettuce went in favor of beets, and plums were switched out so I could get pears instead. I’m feeling super content with my Full Circle box in terms of the amount and type and quality of what I receive and in terms of how it’s working in my life right now.

I’ve also, now that I’ve switched down a box size, started ordering from Full Circle’s “green grocer” option, which is an à la carte list of additional produce and groceries you can add to your regular box. This week, once I realized I was getting beets and potatoes and that I already had scallions and carrots, I added fresh dill to my order so I could make vinegret, my ultimate Russian comfort food. I also got some locally made tea-infused tofu. I ate that today with rice noodle ramen, the baby bok choy from this week’s box, and some long, tangy chives.

Vinegret (Russian beet salad)

The artichokes are long gone – I boiled all three right away (steaming is better, I just didn’t want to babysit the pot) and ate them as my lunch. The kale and avocado will go into another perennial favorite, raw kale salad, which I think is best with Lacinato kale. I’m curious to see if I can make an appetizing green smoothie with mustard greens (what do you think?). The fennel will become roasted fennel if I’m feeling energetic, and get thinly sliced into salads if I’m not. Pear and fennel salad sounds great, actually. As for the beet greens – the best bonus vegetable ever, if you ask me: buy beets, get chard for free! – I’m thinking of trying out a new recipe, Swiss Chard ‘n’ Lemon Stir-Fry.

Raw Kale Salad with Avocado & Cherry Tomatoes

I’m linking this up to two different link parties this week! In Her Chucks continues to be a delightful – and ever-expanding – place to check out What’s In The Box? for CSA bloggers everywhere. In Her Chucks pointed me towards a blog called Gastronomical Sovereignty (great name!) that does a weekly Wednesday Fresh Food Linkup. (I know it’s Friday now, but my box came on Wednesday, so that’s gotta count for something…) The Fresh Food Linkup is meant to encourage fresh food production, consumption, activism, and awareness and should have some great links to check out.

Baby Spinach and Hass Avocadoes ~ Week of September 12th


Here’s what came in my box this week:
Hass avocadoes – 2
Zucchini – 1 pound
Beefsteak tomatoes – 2
Cremini mushrooms – 0.4 pound
Green kale – 1 bunch
Red chard – 1 bunch
Green leaf lettuce – 2 small heads
Baby spinach – 0.5 pound
Thompson grapes – 0.75 pound
Strawberries – 1 pint
Cantaloupe – 1
Gingergold apples – 2

A fair bit of substituting this week. I’m still not caught up to the potato backlog, so I subbed out Yukon Golds for Cremini mushrooms. Same with onions – it seems like I’ve got bushels of them – so I replaced red onions with green kale. I’m trying to get back into the green smoothie habit, so I’ll hopefully be going through a lot of greens. I just bought a giant bag of oranges at Trader Joe’s, so Valencia oranges were replaced by Gingergold apples. Angeleno plums were switched out for Thompson grapes, because I’m pretty sick of plums, plus the last round weren’t even that good.

I still have a red cabbage and an eggplant left from my previous box and I’m not sure what I want to make with them. I do find that veggies I have to make more complex dishes with – as opposed to kale, say, which I can just steam and eat plain – tend to linger longer in the fridge. If I get the energy I may make some baba ganoush, though it’ll be a tiny amount with just one eggplant. Searching the internet, all anyone seems to make with red cabbage, besides slaw, occasionally, is sweet and sour red cabbage. I do have a recipe I’ve been making for years but it’s lost a lot of its luster now that I can’t eat it with cottage cheese, which was my favorite combo, with the fat richness of the cheese cutting through the acidity of the cabbage dish.

I’m adding this post to the CSA “What’s In My Box” roundup over at In My Chucks. She’s hinted at the possibility of other red cabbage recipes, so I’m eager to see what she ends up doing with hers this week!

Beefsteak Tomatoes and Red Bibb Lettuce ~ Week of August 29th


This week’s box was a pure, unadulterated CSA box, in that I forgot to check what would be coming and make any changes. Except for the fact that I am getting overwhelmed with lettuce and radishes, I am pretty pleased with everything that arrived.

Box contents this week:
Red potatoes – 3 pounds
Yellow Onions – 3
Cauliflower – 1
Green beans – 1.25 pounds
Red radishes – 2 bunches
Beefsteak tomatoes – 2
Rainbow chard – 1 bunch
Red Bibb lettuce – 1 head
Red plums – 5
White flesh nectarines – 7 (the insert that came in the box says 3 peaches/4 nectarines)
Cantaloupe – 1
Slightly melted, broken in half, but still delicious tractor-shaped piece of chocolate from Theo Chocolate in Washington – 1

Bonus chocolate! That was fun. It was looking seriously the worse for wear by the time I came across it at the bottom of the box; the plastic wrapper was full of condensation and the poor little tractor had been severed in two. But it was really good chocolate, which is really all that matters, right?

My fridge is getting way too full, I am not keeping up with the influx. I’ve changed my box order to a smaller size for next week, and hopefully that will help. The main problem, I think, is that I haven’t been able to find a place in my home besides the fridge where I can keep onions, potatoes, or garlic without them quickly going bad. So these veggies, which most people store elsewhere, are taking up the whole bottom shelf of my fridge. It’s a drag – this is prime potato season and I’d love to be able to keep a stash for the months to come, but I feel pressured to use them as quickly as possible so my poor roommate can have back the tiny corner of the fridge where he gets to keep his eggs and almond butter.

I’m trying out a couple of new cookbooks this week, both slow-cooker cookbooks. There’s this idea going around on Pinterest of putting together everything you need for a crock pot meal in a freezer bag and freezing it, thawing it the night before and throwing it all in the slow cooker in the morning, and coming home to a hot meal at night. It’s like once-a-month cooking only you just do the prep in advance. The idea has some problems (for one, I think you’re not supposed to put frozen meat in the crock pot for safety reasons – some folks are saying they don’t even thaw first, just dump it in in the morning still frozen [luckily meat safety issues fall firmly in the “not my problem” camp] – and stuff like raw potatoes and onions don’t freeze very well. I don’t think raw veggies freeze very well in general, unless you have the capability to flash freeze them.) but it piqued my curiosity about slow cooking in general, and when I investigated I found a whole slew of vegan slow cooker cookbooks. This week I’m trying, from the library, The Vegan Slow Cooker by Kathy Hestor and The Indian Slow Cooker by Anupy Singla, which isn’t vegan but most of the recipes are, as Ms. Singla doesn’t call for ghee in her vegetarian recipes. So far I’ve only tried the first book and I’m not blown away, but there will be a more detailed review to come.

Plans for my box contents this week include: melon popsicles (which I am shocked to realize I’ve never blogged, they’re kind of the best thing ever!), potato and leek gratin, perhaps a new recipe for cauliflower gratin from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, LOTS of salads with lettuce and radishes, and a slow cooker yellow dal with tomato, red onion, and rainbow chard.

And hurray! I am finally in sync, rather than scrambling to catch up and back-post and all that, and can join in the wonderful CSA link party round-up over at that grand uniter of CSA bloggers, In Her Chucks.

Red Bibb Lettuce & Dapple Dandy Pluots ~ Week of August 1st

I’m way behind on posting box contents posts. But that is the fundamental purpose of this blog so, no frills, here’s what came in my box the week of August 1st. (I didn’t record July 25th, sorry!) Oh, and by the way, I am not trying to be hip & fancy with my artistically blurry indie square-bordered photographs. When I don’t get around to taking pictures until daylight is mostly gone, Hipstamatic’s Loftus lens is actually the best way to get a light-enough-to-see shot without using a flash.

What came in my box:
Russet potatoes – 3 pounds
Honeydew melon – 1
Carrots – 1 bunch
Cucumbers – 2
Broccoli – 1 bunch
Green beans – 1.25 pounds
Mixed heirloom tomatoes – 1 pound
Green chard – 1 bunch
Red Bibb lettuce – 1 head
Zee Lady peaches – 4
Dapple Dandy pluots – 6
Santa Rosa plums – 6

Two of the peaches arrived already moldy, as you can see if you look closely at my artistically blurry photograph. It seems weird that it’s August and I haven’t gotten tomatoes in my regularly scheduled box (these tomatoes were substituted for something else – so they are available, they just aren’t going into our boxes). It’s a bummer because I pretty much only eat tomatoes July-September. Unless I’m really excited about a particular recipe, I never buy out of season tomatoes. And since my whole plan with the CSA box is to not have to go the market, I’m missing out on all of tomato season!!

Potatoes, tomatoes, green beans, and Bibb lettuce – I am definitely making (vegan) Niçoise salad!

Yellow Finn Potatoes & Donut Peaches ~ Week of July 18th

I’m catching up, this post is only two days behind! This week was another gorgeous box. At the end of this post I go through my pros and cons for Full Circle and absolutely perfect produce is definitely a pro. (Although also potentially a con, as I discuss below…)

What came in my box:
Cauliflower, Organic – 1
Baby Bok Choy, Organic – 1.25 pounds
Eggplant, Organic – 1
Bunched Carrots, Organic – 1 bunch
Yellow Finn Potatoes, Organic – 1.5 pounds
Cucumbers, Organic – 2
Red Leaf Lettuce, Organic – 1 bunch
Green Chard, Organic – 1 bunch
Nectarines, Organic – 4 *These were not actually in my box. 😦
Santa Rosa Plums, Organic – 6
Donut Peaches, Organic – 5
Strawberries, Organic – 1 pint

My substitutions this week: baby bok choy instead of red bell peppers (those guys are on my permanent exemptions list!), bunched carrots instead of onions (I’m out of carrots, not out of onions), nectarines instead of pluots (just because I can, although apparently I can’t, since they’re not here).

Some of the carrots have been dispatched into a smoothie (Farmer B and I are calling it the “Sunset Bunny”: carrot, banana, strawberry, ginger, lettuce, coconut water). More carrots, cucumber, lettuce, plums, nectarines, and strawberries went into sushi (I love fruit sushi so much right now, maybe it’s a summer thing). One of the cauliflowers and several of the potatoes were roasted with homemade herbamare and olive oil. I’m not sure what I’ll do with that eggplant. It’s quite handsome, but I mostly only like Italian eggplant in baba ganoush, and this would make a tiny batch. Not sure if it’s worth the effort (of washing the Cuisinart, mainly!) I do love caponata, too, but that would require going to the store for olives.

A note on donut peaches: I have always wondered what the point was. They’re small and their shape means they have a much higher ratio of icky furskin to yummy fruit goodness. But in the spirit of having some actual CSA adventurousness, I didn’t substitute them in my box. And boy am I glad! I get it now, I totally get it. If a weird flat shape and high furskin ratio is the price we must pay for such flavor, I will pay it every time! Donut peaches are the best. I’m not even going to try to describe the flavor in words, but there were glades with unicorns and rainbows and stuff.

I’m adding this post to the marvelous round-up of CSA posts spearheaded by In Her Chucks. I remember back when I started in 2007 that CSA blogs were few and far between, and how thrilling it would be to come across some distant stranger who was documenting their box as well. Heck, any information at all about CSAs was hard to find, which is why I started this blog in the first place. But now CSAs are more widely available and better known, and there are oodles of sexy box-contents photos for me to ogle across the web.

A blue bowl with a mixture of mushrooms and white beans, parsley sprinkled on top, atop a pile of mashed potatoes & cauliflower. Photo is a close-up with a retro-style black frame.
Mushroom and white bean paprikas over “caulipots,” mashed potato & cauliflower (from Appetite for Reduction)

So I wanted to fill you guys in on what I think of the Full Circle box so far. That is, after all, pretty much the entire point of this blog. I checked back to see why I stopped my last box (Farm Fresh to You) and it was a combo of financial and lifestyle. Full Circle is really working for me right now, which is great. The cons are not inconsequential; however, they are mostly cons in comparison with a traditional CSA (like Eatwell). Since I can barely make it to the farmer’s market anymore, what I’m really comparing Full Circle to is running out to the Whole Foods down the street to grab some stuff. In that comparison, considerations about carbon footprint and miles traveled and farmer sponsorship are likely equal or better in favor of Full Circle.

Pros:

  • So far I have been thrilled with EVERYTHING that has come in my box. This is due to a few different things:
  • Very high quality produce. Sometimes there are little bugs in the cauliflower or bug-bitten leaves of baby bok choy, but I don’t mind this since I am currently embracing eating insects (unintentionally, but not going to any lengths to avoid it) as part of eating organic, real food. There has never been anything bruised or brown or wilted. Even the fruit hits this magical spot where it’s mostly ripe enough to eat when it arrives but not so ripe that it goes bad by the next morning.
  • Ability to customize. Full Circle is very easy (and enticing) to customize. You can replace any fruit or vegetable on the list with a second batch of something else on the list, or you can choose from a list of substitute options that is as long as the box contents themselves. This enables me to ensure I don’t end up with an overflow of something I haven’t used fast enough. No more dreaded “lettuce graveyard.” I usually end up subbing 2 ingredients, sometimes 3 or 4.
  • Large size. Because of money concerns, I’ve always ordered the smallest size my CSA offers, sometimes even dropping it down to delivery once every two weeks. I got my first two Full Circle boxes free, however, through a promotion they offered when they first opened in the Bay Area, so of course I went for the largest size, the Harvest box. What I discovered, and the reason I have continued to get the Harvest size (clever marketing, guys!) is that with this size, the ability to customize, and the really nice balance of fruits & veggies in the box, I don’t need to go to the store. Ever. At some point I suppose I’ll need to go restock grains and beans and rice vinegar and stuff, but I haven’t needed to buy produce since I started getting my box. I don’t know if I’m saving money in the sense that what I pay is averaging out to a lower price per item, but the savings in energy & time is overwhelming.
  • I was suspicious about whether Full Circle would be in line with my food values. They’re too slick, too well organized, they span several states! I wondered where my food would come from with this Washington-based organization, particularly because Full Circle recently bought Eating With the Seasons, which I felt was pretty cavalier about sourcing locally. But upon closer investigation, Full Circle actually seems pretty awesome about sourcing from (mostly) local, small-scale farms. On their website, each item on the list of things that will come in my box links to an information page about the farm where it’s grown. I know it’s easy to write a compelling pastoral narrative that makes you feel all warm inside and has no actual relationship to reality (remember the Petaluma Egg Farm scandals?) but Full Circle’s stories have won me over. Why? Because both Full Circle and many of the specific farm stories focus on how the farm employees are treated. In my mind it’s easy to spin pretty tales about being a steward of the land and lie about the happiness of your chickens, but claiming you give health benefits to your workforce and are dedicated to eliminating the toxicity in their work environment seems like a much more brazen level of deception. This may be my own particular naiveté, and I welcome any comments correcting my mistaken beliefs, but for now at least it really goes a long way towards making me feel glad to be part of this organization.
  • Home delivery. I’m tired. Home delivery works really well for me. I’m not sure I could actually do it the other way. Part of why I was excited to start a box again is that I kept missing the Wednesday farmer’s market in my neighborhood when I was too tired to go out that day.
  • Great customer service. Full Circle is super responsive to queries, they call and email to check in to see how everything is going, and when the credit card I had set up for my automatic payment stopped working, they notified me but assured me my regularly scheduled delivery would still happen. They also let you put deliveries on hold for any reason, which is not always the case with CSAs.
  • Easy to use web interface. It’s very easy to navigate the customer part of their site, make changes, check information, etc.
  • Green Grocer – I haven’t used this yet, but you can also order other food a la carte to be included in your delivery. You can order more/different produce as well as all kinds of other food.

Cons:

  • The biggest con for me is that Full Circle is not a real CSA in the traditional sense of the word. As I wrote in the past: “I love the concept behind community supported agriculture, the idea of giving reliable financial support to the necessary and extremely valued people who grow our food. The whole point of CSA-style relationships between farmers and consumers is that farmers can experiment and learn and go through disasters and medfly quarantines, and still know they’ll have an income, even if the plums are mealy or the tomatoes are quarantined. Because this is the bottom-line reality of our food system: If no one took the risks to grow the food, there would be nothing to eat. Organic and sustainable and ethical and biodynamic and all that may seem like a luxury (which they aren’t really, in the long run), but food itself is not. The burden of producing a necessary commodity under variable and uncertain circumstances (no widget factories to make our fruits and veggies) should not have to be entirely assumed by the producer. I really believe this. I am, in fact, quite passionate about it.” With a system like Full Circle’s, particularly with the option to customize, I am not making a commitment to the people who grow my food, advancing them cash in exchange for taking on the burden of growing in uncertain circumstances. It’s possible that Full Circle makes this kind of commitment to its farms/growers, but the exceptional quality of every piece of produce makes me wonder what happens to the less-than-perfect crops, and to the farmers who grew them.
  • Full Circle has an immense carbon footprint compared to a traditional, single-farm CSA. Produce comes from different farms all over the state – maybe most of the farms are within 100 miles of SF, but that means much less with this kind of plan. Ten farms driving 100 miles to get their produce for that week to the Full Circle clearinghouse means 1000 miles of travel, I might as well be ordering from Mexico. Home delivery also adds to the miles traveled for each box.
  • Newsletter is Meh. I think everyone in the Full Circle system (including Washington & CA) gets the same newsletter, which makes sense from an efficiency standpoint. But that means the recipes rarely use items that are actually in my box and the farmers profiled aren’t usually the ones who grew my food. My favorite part of the Eatwell CSA, my first CSA, was the newsletter, full of that week’s news and photos from the farm and recipes that all involved the produce came our box. This newsletter I usually scan quickly and recycle.
  • Packaging. This is partly a pro and partly a con. The pro is that all the produce that is bagged comes either in biodegradable “plastic” bags or paper bags. The con is that the huge cardboard boxes don’t get reused as they do with most CSAs. Undoubtedly on their end there’s some math of human labor/sanitation/post-consumer recycled cardboard/etc where this is the most sensible plan, but I feel weird having this giant cardboard box to toss every week. (I don’t even toss them, in fact, they’re piling up in a corner. I think the guilt is paralyzing me!)
  • I’ve also noticed that sometimes I seem to customize just because I can. I don’t have a problem with pluots, and if they came in my box I would enjoy them, but if I can have nectarines *instead* – well, who wouldn’t want nectarines?? This isn’t a real drawback, just something I’ve noticed about the psychology of choice as it pertains to CSA-style systems.

Green Onions and Red Kale ~ Week of July 11th

A large rectangle formed from colorful fruits, vegetables & mushrooms, shot from above against a backdrop of red and white checked tablecloth.

So yeah, I’m a full week behind in posting my box contents. I blame grad school. I know it’s currently summer, but for the next two years that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Last week’s box was another beauty. My blog friend Tammy of Agrigirl commented on a previous box that it’s unusual for a CSA box to contain mushrooms, and I agree. It’s a wonderful, much appreciated treat and at the same time it reinforces my discomfort at Full Circle not being a “real” CSA. In next week’s (er, this week’s) post I’ll share some of  my pros and cons so far for Full Circle, and this “where the heck is this all coming from?” feeling (which I associate with magically getting mushrooms in my box) is definitely one that I’ve been musing on.

What came in my box:
Zucchini – 3
Cucumbers – 2
Cremini Mushrooms – 0.66 lb
Garlic – 5 bulbs
Bi-color Sweet Corn – 4 ears
Green Onions – 1 bunch
Russet Potatoes – 3
Red Kale – 1 bunch
Nectarines – 4
Apricots – 6
Peaches – 3
Strawberries – 1 pint

My substitutions this week were legion: Garlic instead of green bell peppers, Russet potatoes instead of romaine, red kale instead of rainbow chard, nectarines instead of Red Raven plums.

Since I’ve already eaten everything from my box I can tell you what I did with everything. I’m super into roasting right now (expect a post if I can ever get caught up!) and roasted the zucchini, corn, and potatoes. The cucumbers went into cucumber sunomono (for which I really need to post my recipe since I don’t quite love any of the ones I come across online) to accompany a tired-day treat-myself order of sushi delivery. The mushrooms and some of the garlic made for a delicious Mushroom and White Bean Paprikas (an Appetite for Destruction recipe) served over Caulipots (also AfD) made from the previous week’s cauliflower and potatoes. One of the green onions went into ramen (Thai Kitchen rice noodle ramen is soooo cheap and filling!) with some leftover roasted corn and a baby bok choy that had been overlooked from the previous week. Most of the fruit was eaten for breakfasts and snacks, however one of the apricots and a few of the nectarines went into a green smoothie with the kale.

I still have onions and garlic, which is at it should be, and also some chard and two partially eaten heads of lettuce which, looking at this list, I realize now are from an even earlier box. But other than that I’ve been very proud of how efficiently and deliciously I’ve taken care of my box contents! It’s a little amusing (bemusing?) to realize that the Harvest box is marketed towards families of 3-6 people and claims to contain 45-55 servings. I do occasionally share with others, so I probably average out to a family of about 1.3. I like the math, though, which indicates I’m getting around 6 servings of fruits & veggies a day. All right!