Why CSAs rock

Kohlrabi, potatoes, portabellos, and pea sprouts! Mmm!
Kohlrabi, potatoes, portabellos, and pea sprouts! Mmm!

I mentioned last week that The Boy hates vegetables. I’m not going to try to change him, but we have an agreement that if I cook it, he will at least TRY it. So, for going from ZERO to tastes of vegetables, I call this a huge stride in an amazing direction, and I certainly have to give him props.

And me, I love my veggies and the volume they add to my meals at a low caloric cost. But I’ve gotten into the bad habit of relying on a very small pool of veg—broccoli, green beans, baby greens, bell peppers, asparagus, and cauliflower. Always fresh, and pretty much year ’round. Those are fairly versatile veggies that I could snarf down cooked or raw, and were very good for a routine.

But, purchasing these veg year ’round also meant that I frequently purchased out-of-season and foods that had been shipped from hundreds or even thousands of miles away!

I knew that to get the best-quality produce, I’d have to shop more often at farmers markets. But somehow, I rarely got over to one, and then I when I did, I always looked for similar mainstays. Yes, very boring indeed.

So, a few months ago, I had the opportunity to participate in some Community Supported Agriculture. I’d heard of CSAs before, and I knew a few people who did use CSAs, but I never had the amount of money I’d needed to commit to one.

The basic idea, if you’re unfamiliar, is that you find a local farm that participates in a CSA program, and you essentially purchase a season “share” of the farm crop. Normally, for a spring share, this means maybe $500, depending on your need. Then, once the season approaches, each week, you get a package of fresh, local vegetables and fruits, picked up normally at a farmers market.

I found another service recently, called Field Goods, which is a bit more flexible, and fits my schedule and budget, and allows to put deliveries on hold if you’re out of town or unable to pick it up. You pay weekly, which is, great, instead of buying in initially.

And, perhaps, the best part is that participating in a CSA has forced me to be a more adventurous and creative eater. So, in a sense The Boy and I have been challenged to grow together in learning to eat a wider variety of vegetables. For example, before the CSA, I had never tried beets, and have even been very scared and intimidated by them. However, I had them forced upon me a few times by now, and have learned that they’re not so scary, and actually not too bad at all! We’ve gotten squashes, loads of apples for canning, pumpkins, frozen edamame, frozen broccoli and cauliflower, celery root, kohlrabi, hydroponic lettuce greens, kale, collards, turnips, radishes, daikon, garlic, shallots, shiitakes, and more. This past week, we received potatoes, kohlrabi, pea shoots, arugula, frozen blueberries, frozen tomato puree, portobello mushrooms, and probably a few other things that I’m now forgetting. All local, all SEASONAL, and all for $25.

I call that a steal.

And that, friends, is why CSAs are freaking AWESOME. It’s providing me with ALL of the vegetables for the week (so it cuts down on my grocery shopping), I don’t have to think about it, and it forces me to try new things. Hip-hip-hooray!

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Butternut squash chowder

Butternut squash chowder! Amaze!
Butternut squash chowder! Amaze!

So. This might come as a surprise, but my boyfriend neither Crossfits nor enjoys vegetables.

Yeah, I know.

I have to give him credit, though, because he will eat ALMOST anything I cook, and if I cook vegetables, we have a deal that he at least tries them. Granted, he certainly does not get the volume I’d like to see, but it’s a huge step in the right direction, especially for someone who’s gone from ZERO to dating the vegetable queen. It’s taken some adjustment on my part, too, as I’d become someone who was fine eating the same dinner all week, and lots and lots of straight-up veg. Now, I’m cooking more of a variety of things so we’re not bored, and I essentially have to treat vegetables like I would for a picky child: Hide them.

Some attempts have been more successful than others. Brussels sprouts and bacon were a huge flop, as is roasted broccoli (so sad!). Salad with homemade dressing was so-so for him, but he loved the crap out of kale cooked with whole-wheat egg noodles, vodka sauce, and ground beef (hamburger helper, anyone?). He also did impressively well with a veggie burger I made that had beets as a base. Additionally, the boy loves a good hearty soup. He’s been a fan of a few soups I’ve made this winter, including a Thai-style butternut squash and coconut soup and a carrot-ginger-cashew soup.

Well, I just conquered the mother of all challenges.

We got frozen cauliflower in last week’s CSA. Now, I LOVE cauliflower in all its incarnations, but The Boy hates it. He likens it to an allergy, saying he tastes it differently than other people and how it makes him gag. My mom made him try a FRIED cauliflower patty at Christmas and made the mistake of telling him what was in it. I say that because nothing about this patty is healthy or screams cauliflower. It’s all egg binder, herbs, and lots of romano cheese. He barely took a bite and gagged.

Knowing that cauliflower makes a good mashed faux-tato, I thought that it might go well in this soup, to give it a thick and creamy flavor and consistency.

And what happened?

The Boy went back for SECONDS and couldn’t stop saying how good it was. He renamed this soup the “Fucking Awesome Soup.”

And no, I did NOT ruin the moment and tell him there was cauliflower in it.

He’s taking soup leftovers with him to work because he liked it THAT much.

Seriously, you want to try this soup. It is thick and hearty and delicious and filling and perfect for the nasty weather we’re getting in the Northeast. In this incarnation, it’s not strict Paleo, but it IS gluten-free, and easily adaptable for vegan/vegetarians (use veg stock) or Paleo folk (omit corn and potatoes). You can even add some diced chicken boob for some extra protein! Mmmmmm!!!

Let me know how you like this. I’m telling you, if I can fool my boyfriend into thinking it’s a basic yummy chowder, I PROMISE your picky eater will lap it all up instantly, too!

Such a delicious soup!
Such a delicious soup!

Butternut squash chowder

Ingredients

  • 1.5 pounds butternut squash puree (I used 1 pound butternut squash puree and 1 cup of pumpkin puree), fresh or frozen
  • 1 pound cauliflower florets, fresh or frozen
  • 1 pound corn, freshly de-eared or frozen
  • 2 small white potatoes, diced
  • 32 oz low-sodium chicken stock
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 large cloves garlic
  • 1.5 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
  • Sea salt to taste (1.5–2 teaspoons)

Directions

Coat the bottom of a medium pot with 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil or cooking spray, and heat to a medium heat. Add diced onion and a pinch of salt, and brown, stirring occasionally, approximately 5 minutes.

Once onions begin to caramelize, add chicken stock, butternut squash puree, garlic cloves, curry powder, and cauliflower florets. Bring to a boil, and then simmer on medium-low for approximately 20 minutes, or until florets are tender and hot.

In two batches, puree soup mixture in blender until smooth. Be careful because it’s now very hot! Return pureed soup to the pot, and return to a simmer.

Now, add corn kernels and diced potatoes, along with the smoked paprika, pepper, and salt. Simmer until potatoes are tender, stirring from bottom occasionally, approximately 20 minutes. Enjoy!

Recipe makes approximately 12 one-cup servings. For WW peeps, this recipe fits within the Simply Filling/Simple Start plans.