Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Eating Out Of The Box

No, not the cardboard box or the drive-through box….but The Produce Box of course! 

For almost two months now I have been getting a weekly box of organic produce.  And as of last week, I am the new coordinator for the produce box in my neighborhood.  This means the driver pulls up his delivery trunk every Monday and the whole shebang comes to me in huge boxes.  I then have to sort it for all those “subscribers” in my neck of the woods to come pick it up from me.   All this hard work is now rewarded by my box being heavily discounted….sort of bartering for our food now.

Subscribing to a wholesale organic co-op has presented us with many delights as well as many challenges over the past two months.

Starting with the delights, we love the fruit!  The fruit seems to be fresher and so much sweeter….it has flavor!  As I was working yesterday, I kept smelling the enormous pineapple we had received in last week’s box and I knew it was sending out its message that it was finally ready for us to eat it….immediately.  

So afraid of it not making it through the night, last night for dessert I peeled and cut up this huge pineapple (did I tell you this was one of the biggest pineapples I have ever seen!  The kids have been marveling over its size all week….it takes little things in our household I tell you)

OMG…it was incredible!!!  Sweet and slurpy….the juice was running down the kids’ chins with every bite….everyone was fighting for more.   The other fruit is no different….grapes, bananas, apples, berries…everything I get is so sweet!  The grapes are amazing!  Crisp and crunchy….far better than what I usually get in the grocery store.  And I have no guilt over the pesticides or whether I washed it enough. 

Another plus is the opportunity to try new things.  We don’t have a choice in our box…we get what we get (and we don’t get upset….LOL.. sorry…I reverted back to kids’ preschool days!).   We had never even heard of kiwi berries but boy now do we love them!   We had heard of purple and gold cauliflower but I had never bought them….but they were in the box on different weeks and so we tried them. 

But because of all of the produce, every week we are in a race against the week! 

First obstacle is to get everything eaten that might go bad…before it goes bad!  Surprisingly I have had to throw out very little over the two months….one head of escarole, one head of arugula, and one tangerine…even that upset me.  Not just the waste of food…but I wanted to try them!  Sometimes though I just run out of time and ideas. 

So I now I really work to manage my produce….making sure all the really perishable produce is eaten first and the hard rootier type stuff (apples, pears, pumpkins, hard winter squashes, potatoes) are used second.  

The second obstacle is to eat as much as we can before the next week’s delivery!  Or we will be overrun…with more things to go bad and no room in the fridge to store! 

And so the produce box has encouraged a hugely plant-based diet with huge salads and multiple side dishes dominating our meals.  The government says 5 a day?  Ha Ha!  I think in this house we are running 12-15 a day easy!

Healthwise we are on a definite roll here…and our tastebuds and foodie senses have been blessed (some of us more happily than others of course…I won’t mention my veggie scrooges…FabHubs and FabPreteen).

But boy am I challenged at times!

We have never been huge convenience food people as far as boxed and prepackaged items are concerned.  But I always had a few boxed backups available in the pantry for those days we are on the run….and I guess most days we are running.  Between homework and scouts and other activities our schedule is jam-packed.

But unless I am going to feed everyone baked potatoes and salad every night, I am struggling sometimes to come up with fast easy meals, that are healthy and using the produce.

I scour the internet for new ideas whenever we get a new box.  I am desperately trying to avoid the same-old, same-old, day in, day out, while also trying to appeal to all of the different idiosyncrasies and tastebuds in my house.  Gone are the easy days of throwing a chicken breast on the Foreman, steaming some broccoli, and cooking some rice and that would be fine for everyone. 

Now I have recipe research to do and tons of veggies to peel, chop, and cook.  And that takes time.   Sometimes a lot of time.   Sometimes too much time!  I can easily see why working mommies forgo the homecooked meals and veggies and turn to the cardboard box….or the drive-through box.  It is taking work to keep my family and me healthy and it is very hard to just throw something together.  

Something else that has also changed is the menu planning.  On good weeks I would sit and plan a menu and then shop for the week.   On not so good weeks I would figure out what’s for dinner based on what was in the fridge/freeze/pantry.  Now our meals are almost completely based on what came in the box this week or what I have left that needs to be used up!

Many nights I am really struggling to avoid the eye-rolls at dinner, and make it fast, healthy, delicious, interesting………and meatless.  That has been a huge challenge.  The family has been raised with meat being the center of the meal and the veggies being the sides.  And I get a lot of, “That’s It?” comments for dinner.  

Some of you have complimented my cooking….but while I have always been able to follow a recipe, over the past almost eight years I have done pretty much NONE of the cooking in this household!  Yep….my highly carnivorous, supermetabolistic FabHubs has always been the main cook around here….cooking of course delicious, very high-fat foods to support HIS superman metabolism.   So  now that we are cooking healthy…he is at a loss and, well, just doesn’t do much cooking anymore!

And being the tough, independent person that I am, I quickly realized that if I want my family and me to eat like this, I would have to go back to the kitchen myself.

I am proud of myself how adept I am becoming at learning how to adapt good recipes I find to whatever veggies and spices we have on hand.  Most of what you see me cook has started out as a recipe I found somewhere…but after cooking the same recipes over and over, somehow I have learned how to use a recipe’s basic framework, and give it some major renovations and adaptations in order to use up whatever came in my box that week….or last week….or sometimes even the week before. 

And so I am surprised how getting this produce box has really opened up my ability to cook (although we still eat a lot of roasted balsamic veggies as an old standby!) and is stretching my abilities past the same old cooking box I had gotten myself into.

Yes, I am having some very frustrating cooking nights these days….and I don’t feel like my cooking is much of a hit with the family these days.  This can be somewhat depressing really!  But I know this too shall pass….and just as I have adapted, in the future they will too!

So based on the fact that I have 2 pounds of fresh green beans from last week’s box that need to be used up, several pounds of sweet potatoes that have piled up over the past few weeks (I am not sure what is wrong with my people…I seem to be the only one that loves or even likes them!), and finally, that the family does like curry….tonight’s menu (provided I have time!!)  will be an adaptation of this sweet potato curry recipe

I will let you know how it goes!

1 comment:

rochelle said...

I totally know what you mean about working moms. I work in the evenings, so those meals would be hard for me to prepare AND have my cute hubby and kids LIKE the results. I AM interested in the produce box, though. I'd love details. email me?
I'll bet it does wonders for your pocketbook.