Real Life CSA: weeks 27 & 28

I missed taking photos of the CSA for week 27 – the first time I’ve missed since I started this. It was just one of those weeks. So before we get back on track with week 28, here’s a brief recap of what we got in week 27 and what we’re doing with it.

Week 27

Leeks – These are hanging out with some previous leeks, waiting to hopefully go in a soup or stew. The crisp, fall-cold weather has me wanting soups and stews, and I’m thinking the leeks would make a good combo with potatoes we have lying around.

French breakfast radishes – We haven’t been eating these for breakfast, but rather as salad toppings.

Green carmen peppers – I’m thinking possibly venison fajitas for these. Mark makes these amazing venison fajitas and I’ve been wanting to eat them on a more regular basis. These peppers are giving me an excuse.

Bosc pears – The chickens got a few of these, since we were out of town, but they really dig fruit, so they were happy.

Collard greens – These are waiting for me to figure out how to cook them like we had them at the Back of the House BBQ.

Chevre (goat cheese) – Not sure what we’re going to do with this yet. I’m thinking pasta.

Sweet potatoes – I’m going to mash these as a side with venison loin this week.

Lettuce – Already gone, salad, obvs.

Delicata squash – I’m going to make these as a side dish with the venison loin too. Not sure if I’ll do a standard olive oil, or try this recipe I found today for Sweet & Sour Delicata Squash.

And now, we’re caught up. Here’s a look at week 28.

real life CSA week 28

The strawberry jam will go in the pantry for now, but since we can our own strawberry jam, I’m not sure if I’ll make something with this or gift it to someone who doesn’t have extra jam lying around the house. I like having these value added products, because their shelf life gives you a little respite from the ticking clock of fresh produce.

The potatoes and onions will be added to our basement storage until we’re ready for them. I would like to note that the potatoes look like russets in the photo, but that’s just because of the dirt on them. I love getting potatoes with dirt on them for some reason – it’s a reminder of where they came from and how fresh they are.

acorn squash resize

These lovely, giant acorn squash are the perfect size to stuff, so that’s likely what we’ll do with them. Maybe wild rice or barley – some sort of grain. I need to look for some new recipes for that.

The kale might be a soup or stew ingredient – I still want to try my lasagna soup recipe with kale in it. But that also gives me an idea – kale in regular lasagna? Hmmmm.

carrots resize

These carrots will be salad toppings, but I had to take a photo of the bunch of them because I love how they look. (*cough* dork *cough*) There’s something about carrots in a bunch, with their thin little ends still attached that I just love. Maybe it’s because carrots in a bag at the grocery store look so sanitized, and these ones remind you that they come from the ground. Seems to be a recurring theme for me.

apples resize

Along those same lines, these Jonathan apples are clearly from a tree! They are pretty fragrant and a really nice deep red color. We might eat these plain, or maybe as part of the stuffed squash. I don’t recall having a Jonathan apple before, even though I’ve had many different varietals.

The green peppers will be salad toppings, and potentially pizza toppings as well. Bell peppers are a staple in our fridge because we eat a lot of them throughout the course of a week.

sage resize

Earlier in the day on Wednesday, I told Mark that I wanted to eat gnocci with sage butter, and I couldn’t pinpoint the reason. But I wanted to make it happen this week. I hadn’t paid much attention to the CSA emails this week since I was busy with the marathon and chaos of last week, so I didn’t even notice we were getting sage until I pulled it out of the box. So this week’s “squeeeee” belongs to the sage, which will help make a good drizzle for some gnocci.

What’s going on in your shares for the fall?

Real Life CSA: week 26

We’re solidly into  October with the share this week – with the heavy hitters of fall. Apple cider and squash in the same share? Yes, please.

Real Life CSA week 26
I love seeing onions and garlic, too, because even though they are year-round staples for us, I think the local stuff just tastes so hearty and flavorful. I swear I taste a difference in local onions. Not that I’m eating a ton of them raw, but they even smell better.

kuri squash resized
Ah, kuri squash. Until I had delicata squash a few weeks ago, these babies were my favorite fall squash. All I usually hear about are acorn, butternut and spaghetti squash – but these are just so delicious roasted and mashed. Going to see if kuri squash can still hold its own against delicata. It’s like squash wars in our house or something.

Kale will likely go in a stew or soup of some kind. For me, kale is best served really warm and soft, with a lot of the bitterness leeched out. Perhaps I’ll follow up on last week’s kale idea and make lasagna soup with the addition of kale. That or a potato soup with kale.

cauliflower resized
I confess I was excited when my box had cauliflower instead of broccoli, because I LOVE roasted or mashed cauliflower. We’ll probably eat it as a side dish prepared one of those ways. And look at its awesome color – it practically vibrates!

The turnips will also probably get roasted, too. Whole lot of roasting going on in the fall at Next Gen House, that’s for sure. What vegetable is NOT better roasted, though?

blue potatoes resized
Blue potatoes are just awesome because of their color. I’m sure these ones from Clarion River are also delicious as well, but I just love how they look. Hmm, what should we do with those? ROAST THEM?!

Snap peas might go in a stir fry – I have been craving Mark’s homemade cashew chicken or teryaki anyway. If not, we could just eat them like a snack. I haven’t eaten much in the way of fresh peas this year, so this is a fun surprise.

Speaking of fun, we’ve come to this.

cider resized
The first apple cider of the year. Last year we had to freeze some to keep up with it, but I’m going to give it my best effort this year to keep up. I often use cider to make my homemade granola when it’s available.

But for this particular jug? Let’s be honest. Going to probably warm it up and spike it. Wouldn’t you?




Real Life CSA: week 25

Mostly staples this week, but also a brand new type of SQUASH. It’s faaAAAALLLLL! *Oprah voice*

Real Life CSA Week 25 resized 2


Notice the Star Trek comic hanging out in the background. I do love other things besides vegetables.

I’ve got a busy few weeks coming up, so I was happy to have a lot of staples this week. Not a lot of scheming to figure out how to eat this stuff!

Carrots and potatoes are like pantry staples for us – we always like to have them on hand to use in recipes or as quick sides. We also stick carrots on salad weekly.

The green peppers this week are large enough to stuff, though we will likely eat them with venison fajitas. (Which are actually more tasty than the chicken and steak ones I’ve had in the past. Seriously.)

Radishes are one of the coolest looking vegetables ever. These ones are so bright. We’ll probably put them on salads, though I keep telling myself I’m going to quick pickle them one of these days in a slaw or something. Hmm, kombucha vinegar?

daily radish sized

The tomatillos will probably make it with the other ones we have into a simmer sauce for chicken and rice. Need to enjoy those while they last too. (Though I’m sure the winter share will bring us some tomatillo salsa!)

Not sure about the tomatoes, to be honest. We’re still overrun with them, even though it’s October. Maybe one more batch of fresh sauce. Maybe.

I think the kale might be good in a soup this week. I have this recipe for lasagna soup that I love, with Italian sausage and tomatoes and pasta that you serve over some ricotta cheese in the bottom of the bowl. I bet it would be delicious with kale added…

And last but not least, another kind of squash! These sweet dumpling squash will hang out until I can figure out what preparation I want to do with them. Not gonna lie. I also kind of want to fill my porch with them.

squash resized

What’s in your CSA this week?




Real Life CSA: week 24

Two little delicata squash showed up in the share this week, which means it’s definitely fall.

Real Life CSA Week 24 resized

Every time we get beets, I think I might find a way to like them. And then I realize I know people who like beets and would rather share the bounty with them. So out the door those will go.

Onions and garlic will go in our stash. There’s something that’s actually comforting to me about always having onions and garlic on hand. They’re like the building blocks of a good recipe, and it’s nice that they have staying power – so there’s always there when I need them.

Something that has staying power but won’t last long in the house? Delicata squash. Going to roast these babies for dinner tonight. No messing around.

squash resized

I’ve been craving greens for some reason lately, so I might even just make the chard tonight as well. A perfect example of how CSA items lend themselves to super simple preparations, as well as more complicated ones.

I’m thinking potatoes with parmesan for the parsley this week. This weather makes me want to eat a bunch of warm side dishes. Which seems like a really weird observation to make, but it’s true.

These pears are interesting. Tiny, and a variety I’ve never had before. Going to taste them and see if I want to eat them straight up or make something with them. I feel like they’d make a good pear tart.

Pears resized
Not sure what we’ll do with the eggplant yet.  I made a good eggplant risotto once, so if I can dig out that recipe, that’d be an option.

These tomatoes are so gorgeous – they almost look like plums. It’s hard for me to even want to look at a tomato right now, considering how overrun our house has been with them. But they still taste great and I’m doing my best to appreciate beautiful, ripe tomatoes while we still have them.

tomatoes resized
What’s in your share this week? Doing anything interesting with your veggies?

Real Life CSA: week 23

The endless variety continues in our share this week with one item we haven’t seen yet. Mandrakes! I mean, celeriac. But we’ll get to that.

Also, I’m having photo problems with the new website. (Go figure!) So let’s just note how lovely this stuff is up close in addition to far away, on my kitchen island.

Real Life CSA week 23

A lot of good basics this week, including four tomatoes. Which is great, because I haven’t eaten a single tomato this season!  Can you sense the dripping sarcasm there? We’ll still eat these, since we’ve been able to drastically reduce our tomato infestation by donations to Community Harvest.

Green beans will maybe be a side, or perhaps a main dish combined with the tomatoes. We haven’t had lubieh in awhile, and it’s a good, simple comfort food.

I love the colors of the carmen peppers. I think they’d make great fajitas. Tex-Mex food is one of those things I could eat several times a week, though it would be more fun if I could replicate that whole restaurant sizzling fajita plate thing at home.

The potatoes will go in the potato stockpile at home, though these gold ones are particularly good for homemade french fries, so that’s an idea.

Nectarines will be just plain snacks. I’ve eaten way more nectarines this year than peaches, and I’m developing a fondness for them. Especially that we even got them at all this season, considering the winter we had that killed the area’s supply.

Kale will likely go in some zuppa toscana again, since the weather is turning colder and I actually like soup even better in the fall than winter.

Last, but not least, the mandrakes. Or celeriac.

Seriously, doesn’t the celeriac look like a mandrake? You can see it better in the photo I took that won’t upload, but this is pretty much the scene when I picked it out of the CSA box. (Are you out there, Harry Potter fans?)

Celeriac looks hairy and scraggly, but it’s pretty good mashed up like potatoes or roasted with other root vegetables. It will likely be a side dish. Thankfully, we don’t have to wear earmuffs to deal with its screeching, like the students at Hogwarts have to do with mandrakes.

That’s it for this week. Hopefully the photos will work by next week. In the meantime, check out some winter CSA options!



winter CSA options

Most people think of CSAs in the spring, when everyone’s ready to think about plants and fresh food, after a typically bitter cold and snowy winter comes to an end. But thanks to the careful management of crops and some planning and forethought on the part of farms, you can subscribe to a CSA in the winter too!

I like subscribing to a winter CSA for a few reasons.

  1. Fresh food when it’s 0 degrees outside. Thanks to things like hydroponics and greenhouses, you often get fresh greens in winter CSA shares. You also get fresh food that’s been stored well – things like root vegetables and apples. Winter produce at the grocery store can be really anemic and sad looking, since it’s traveled from far away to get to us in our barren east coast landscape in February. So it’s nice to have the CSA box to count on every so often for a reminder that yes, things do grow in Pennsylvania.
  2. Variety. You’d think variety would be limited in winter, but you’re wrong. Yes, you’ll have some repeats. And you don’t get things like berries or tomatoes. But we got something new in each winter share last year (see posts tagged with winter to see what we got from Penn’s Corner’s winter share last year). This includes pasta, mushrooms, eggs and honey.
  3. Pantry stock-up. We received a lot of foods in our last winter share that helped to stock our pantry. Things like jams and jellies, sauerkraut and bread and butter jalapenos (my fav!), plus Bloody Mary mix! Penn’s Corner calls them “value-added” products. By value-added, they mean “they go to the trouble of processing it for you”, which anyone who cans or preserves food can appreciate. Value, indeed.
  4. Farms need to get through the winter, too. CSA stands for community supported agriculture, and it’s really that simple. Buying a winter share contributes to the financial well-being of the farms by keeping income flowing during the off-months, when the farmers markets have closed. I’d imagine there’s lots of work to be done behind the scenes when the land is frozen, and subscribing in the winter can help support that.
  5. We got cheese. I mean, come on. I don’t really think there’s much more I need to say on that one.

If you’re in the Pittsburgh metro/western PA area, I’ve compiled a list of the CSAs that I know offer winter options. If you know of more, please leave them in the comments and I’ll update the list!

Also, we subscribe to and love Penn’s Corner’s CSA and are already paid up for our winter share, so I listed them first. And they aren’t paying or perking me to say how great they are. But there are many great options in this area for CSAs, and they aren’t the only one. You can see what we got in each share over the winter on this blog, but don’t be afraid to ask the farms or groups what kinds of things you can expect in your shares, so you know you can make use of what they offer. Some of them have meat options and other add-ons as well. Keep in mind that delivery locations can change in the winter, depending on how many people are signed up and whether or not the location is covered from the elements. Make sure to check that your preferred location is available in the winter.

Penn’s Corner (December – April)

Edible Earth Farm (November – December)

Clarion River Organics (December – March, holiday options)

Blackberry Meadows (October – December)

Kretschmann’s (Winter info not on website yet, but this is the link when it’s up!)

*Update (thanks Erin M!): NWPA Growers (December – March)

So what do you think? Are you going to subscribe to a winter CSA?


An example of a winter share from last year



Real Life CSA: week 22

A week of good, solid standards, plus an eggplant that’s almost literally the size of my head. Week 22, here we go!

I’m not surprised to see apples from Kistaco Farm, since Whole Foods was also advertising the first apples of the season from Dawson’s Orchards. We’ll probably eat these as snacks, like we’ve been doing with most fruit this season. There will be time for apple crisps and apple chutneys when we’re about dang sick of apples in March.

OK, let’s talk about this eggplant. I mean, seriously. I actually laughed out loud when I opened my box and found this guy. I should have put something next to it to really give you an idea of how big it is, but let’s just go with roughly almost my head. Mark’s got baba ganoush plans for it. Probably enough baba for an army.

The sweet corn might be made into a Chipotle knock-off salsa with poblano peppers from our garden. I was going to make it last weekend with the last corn we had, but I ran out of time with tomatoes and used that corn to make the fritters for these monstrosities. (Verdict – delicious, but just a lot of burger, thus a calorie bomb. Excuse me while I go run 10 miles.)

You probably think I’m sick of tomatoes, and well, I kind of am. Just sick of looking at them all over my house, not eating them. And I can’t help but admire how lovely these guys are. I made fresh vodka sauce for pasta last night with some of our fresh tomatoes, and it’s given me more confidence about making sauces that usually call for canned tomatoes with fresh ones. (I’m not a recipe rule breaker, typically.) So maybe we’ll have a rainbow tomato pasta this week.

The carmen peppers are sweet, so they might end up on salads. Though I wonder since these guys are pretty solid, if they might not make good stuffing peppers – like the way you stuff hot wax ones. Either way, peppers always find a home at our house, because if nothing else, you dump them on pizza. And I’m always ready for that.

It’s ironic that we have zucchini this week – two beautiful ones at that – because at the Penn’s Corner member event at Wigle Whiskey last week, we sampled the Penn’s Corner hot pepper jelly on top of a zucchini cranberry bread and were amazed at how good the combination was. Mark remarked to someone that we needed to get more zucchini in our CSA so we could do that at home, and behold – zucchini! I see zucchini cranberry bread in our future.

Leeks are easy to use too, since they can be a good base in a ton of dishes. I’m thinking potato leek soup though, since we haven’t had that in a long time and we have some potatoes hanging around.

I’m also really happy to see this argula. Being a regular salad eater, I love fresh salad greens and never get sick of seeing them in our box. I love arugula because it has a kick and you can’t miss it when it shows up in a bite.

What’s going on in your CSA? Stay tuned next week when I’ll give you some resources for considering a winter share (even if you don’t want to think about “winter” yet).

Real Life CSA: week 21

If our pickup wasn’t in public, at the Children’s Museum, I would definitely have yelled GROUND CHERRIES! in an Oprah voice when I opened my box. 

Somehow, 21 weeks into the share, we’re still getting new stuff. Never ceases to amaze me. This week? Ground cherries!

I should have taken a picture of these buddies outside of their husks, but they look like tiny yellow bulbs. I think they taste like a cross between a sweet cherry and a tomato. I don’t see them for sale anywhere in regular grocery stores, so I’m excited to get some in the share. I will likely pick one of the recipes from this “Five Ways to Eat Ground Cherries” article that they linked to in our weekly Penn’s Corner blog post. 

This kale is already in small pieces, so I’m thinking of experimenting with mixing it in to salad greens. I usually find it too bitter, but this might be a new way for me to eat it. 

Speaking of salad. I must have been rough packing my tote bag with my share because one of the ripe heirloom tomatoes split open on the way home. No worries, because we needed tomato for salads we were making anyway, so we just used that one. And we have a bit of a tomato situation going on in our house right now anyway.  

Onions will go in storage with our others to be used in any given recipe. I do like having a stock of them at all times, so this just adds to it. Yellow beans will probably be a side dish of some kind, though we might end up with a veggie side dish buffet some night to use up a stockpile of extra items. Actually, that’s not a bad idea. Why don’t we do more buffets for regular dinners?

I’m happy to get some sweet peppers, because right now we have an abundance of hot. Though I’ve never seen such tiny sweet peppers. Typically, if a pepper isn’t a traditional bell pepper, I wear gloves initially until I can taste it because I’ve been burned way too much by hot peppers masquerading as sweet to take chances.

The sun sugar tomatoes will probably be a snack, since I don’t have enough to bother preserving and they taste so great anyway. They taste like summer, and that’s fading fast. (Though not the weather – where is this heat and humidity coming from? Give me back my 55 degree running mornings!)

And last but not least, we have these carrots. For salad toppings and crunchy pizza side dishes, most likely. But I love that they come with the tops. Makes me feel like Bugs Bunny.

I’ve also got to mention the fun member party that Penn’s Corner threw in cooperation with Wigle Whiskey last evening at Wigle’s Barrel House/Whiskey Garden on Spring Garden Ave. in the North Side. Pittsburgh, if you haven’t been there yet, get yourself there stat. 

We got to sample the cocktail from Wigle’s September cocktail share. They have their own CSA – community supported alcohol – and one of the share options is to get all the fixings for a month’s worth of cocktails. The Florodora had a fun name and was delish.

The one with the raspberry and lime below is the Florodora. The other one is Mark’s, which had a cute name, but was white whiskey, lemon and earl grey tea, which is his jam. We also got to sample an experimental whiskey that’s part of their experimental share.

We also had catering from Sweet Peaches using Penn’s Corner ingredients. On the left is short ribs braised in smoked tomato sauce, and on the right is pork and beef kielbasa with kraut. Mark and I both had the “where have you been all my life” feeling while eating this stuff. 

I was thrilled to discover Sweet Peaches does not just catering, but BRUNCH in their Allentown location. (The Pittsburgh neighborhood, not Allentown, Pa.) Going to be checking that out for sure. Sweet Peaches also made some tasting items using other Penn’s Corner products – the value-added ones that they can and process. We had rhubarb squares and a delicious zucchini cranberry bread with hot pepper jelly on it. Mark tried an egg salad made with dilly beans that he said was phenomenal as well. All in all, our stomachs were very happy. 

We even got to sign up for our winter share, since we’ve decided to stick with Penn’s Corner. I know it’s hard to think about December right now, but there’s more info here. We have nothing but great things to say about our CSA, if you haven’t noticed, so definitely give it some consideration!   


Real Life CSA: week 20

Here we are, 5 months into our 32-week Farmers Friend share, and we’re still getting new items. At the moment, our kitchen island is being overrun by ripe tomatoes from our own garden, so you can see those peeking into the hurried shot I took last night, but here’s what we’re looking at this week.

Still happy to be getting any peaches at all this year, after our hard winter in this area wiped out most farms’ crops. I still haven’t baked or made anything special with any fruit we’ve had this year. Somehow it’s just too good to eat on its own.

I was happy to find a bag of salsa mix this week that had tomatillos in it. (The jalapenos came bundled with the tomatillos, but I separated them since I will likely not use them together.) These will likely be made into more simmer sauce, like our first batch of tomatillos, since that was so successful. Since these aren’t readily available all year, and when they are out of season, they are expensive, I want to take the time to have that same delicious meal a second time this summer.

We still haven’t roasted the last kohlrabi we got, so this lovely new purple bunch will probably give us the impetus to do it this week. I guess for some reason I look at root vegetables like a fall and winter thing, so it’s hard for me to face that that season is actually approaching.

I’m not sure what we’ll end up doing with corn this week, since our own corn is just about ready to pick too. I’ve wanted to make a copycat Chipotle corn salsa since I saw a recipe in a magazine a million years ago, so perhaps that will happen with the jalapenos from this week’s share.

Savoy cabbage makes me think either an Asian dish, or a mango slaw that we typically make as an accompaniment with rice and sea bass (baramundi). I also like that this head is a good size, but it’s not the size of two soccer balls put together. I get overwhelmed when we have huge heads of cabbage that need to be made into more than one meal. Maybe I can only think of one recipe at a time? 

Sun sugar tomatoes will be a lunchtime snack again. I can’t bear to cook with them, they’re so sweet and delicious. As for the juliette tomatoes, we will likely preserve them in some way – whether that be frozen or made into fresh sauce to either eat or freeze. We are trying to stem the tide of the onslaught of tomatoes right now and hope to can some whole tomatoes still this summer, but these little ones are great to freeze if you can’t eat them in time. Their skins pop right off after a dip in boiling water and a shock in some ice water!

Arugula will be either mixed in with salad greens or put in a pasta salad that I often make for picnics that is delicious. Though I can’t remember the last time I went to a picnic, so to say that seems misleading. Wait, I take it back. I had a fake picnic with my niece last night. When we asked her what goes great at a picnic, she said, matter of factly, “Bobo.” Which is me. So I’m great at picnics, even without the pasta salad! I digress.

Last but not least this week, is my favorite new item – baby eggplant. We don’t eat eggplant very often, so I will probably need to look up the best way to use these little guys. But at the very least, they look like they’d make nice little medallions for ratatouille or eggplant parmesan (with fresh tomato sauce, heh).

What’s in your CSA this week? Those of you who are first-time CSA subscribers, are you liking your peak of season items?


Real Life CSA: week 19

Another haul this week, with tons of staples, a for real baby carrot and my current vegetable arch nemesis.

Beets are going to a good home, since they are the one vegetable whose train we cannot get on. But at least we know people who like them, so they don’t go to waste and we get to share. 

The potatoes will hang out in our basement with other potatoes, as we’re still eating up previous stashes. Thankfully potatoes have a relatively long storage life in the right conditions.

The carrots will be eaten in salad and probably raw with pizza. (Mark likes to eat carrots as a side with pizza. We go with it.) This tiny actual for real baby carrot is my favorite thing this week. Look how stinking cute that thing is. 

I was thinking of making a corn and poblano chowder with this corn, though it’s also tempting to just eat it on the cob since after all, it’s still summer.

After the weekend of swiss chard harvesting, we don’t have any ready to eat in our garden, so this lovely, delicate chard will probably be a side dish.

Peaches will be eaten straight up. I love how peaches straight from a farm still have their perfect peach smell. I swear grocery store peaches usually have no smell at all, or they smell so sickly sweet you know they’re two seconds from rot. 

And as for the lovely tomatoes, I’m thinking fresh salsa, also incorporating the red onion and my arch nemesis: hot peppers.

It took more than 2 days and a super sweaty krav maga class for all of the pepper oil to leech out of my hands after Sunday’s pepper freezing adventure. So I kept these in the bag and need to get to the store to get some sort of hazmat suit to deal with them. (OK, probably nitrile or plastic dish gloves, but humor me.)

But I do want to make crockpot chalupas this week (the idea brought on by a Taco Bell craving, and since you won’t get me within 10 feet of a Taco Bell, I satisfy the craving at home). So a fresh salsa might go nicely with that.

We also have about 7 very large red tomatoes from our own garden (one of which you can see peeking out in the camera frame in the first photo). Mark will likely make those into fresh tomato sauce.

Lots going on here at the end of summer – how about you? What are you making? How are you keeping up on your shares?