Monday, October 19, 2015


So we have been doing the Acme Farms & Kitchen Locavore Food boxes for 6 weeks now.  The producers source local ingredients and then provide boxed kits with everything from fresh produce, to locally farmed meat and seafood, to dairy, baked goods, and fresh pasta.  But the best part is that it also comes with recipes designed to use said ingredients so you are not also then stuck with the creative part of figuring out  how to use it all.  This has been my downfall with prior CSA deliveries where despite my best well intentioned efforts, things end up going to waste before I can figure out how to use them all up.  Lest it sound too good to be true, I should also mention that doesn't contain 100% of the ingredients for each recipe.  So there still is some shopping required, but they do a good job of rotating among common pantry items (which they handily provide a list for) so that you are not having to constantly buy some random ingredient of which you will use one tablespoon and then sit in your fridge until it expires.

I am definitely loving the Acme boxes.  First of all, it's like Christmas everytime I pick up a new box and get to open it up and see what's inside.  Secondly, I appreciate the variety of recipes.  They do a good job of really covering the gamut of flavors and cuisines.  Third, in my opinion, it's affordable.  $59 for their small basic box can cover dinners for us for most of a week.  Often they have other interesting add on options where we may end up spending closer to $80 for a few fun treats.  Can you eat for less?  Absolutely.  Can you eat this well for less?  Probably, if you were to spend lots and lots of time and energy in planning and bargain shopping.  However, the way we like to cook, I end up spending about the same or possibly slightly less money, plus have the ability to support local food growers while also spending way less time planning and shopping.  At this stage in my life, the benefit far outweighs the cost.

It's not a perfect system.  And it took us a few tries to figure out what was the right size and type of box for our family (they have lots to choose from.)  We wish there were fewer pasta dishes, although the ones they do have are delicious with fresh local made pasta and sauces, pestos, and tapenades whipped up from scratch.  Still, one a week is a bit more than ideal for us.  Additionally, Don and I really prefer more meat in our diet than the recipes call for.  However, like any tool, there has been a learning curve and as time goes by I am learning how to use it more and more effectively for our tastes.  Several of the recipes lend themselves to easy additions and substitutions so we will often toss some chicken or sausage in with a pasta dish or some smoked salmon along with an egg dish as examples.  But I also appreciate the education I am getting in expanding my vegetarian cooking knowledge and appetite.  Realistically, the global population cannot indefinitely support as much meat as we consume per household so I consider this an investment in my culinary future.  Finally, the recipes are not all designed for the busy weeknight chef either.  While they usually have at least one or two quickies for the week, it's not uncommon to have one that takes 2 to 3 hours to prepare.  So some advanced planning is necessary but at the same time we are experienced enough cooks typically to modify a recipe and whip something else up with the same ingredients if we don't have time to do things by the book.

But most of all, it continues to be fun.  Caitlyn has been a great helper in the kitchen too and has become very fond of the word "sample."  I know longer worry about how many veggies she's eating when she sits down to dinner because she has had plenty by the time it ever gets to her plate.

So what have we been eating?  Here are the recipes we have covered in the last 6 weeks:

Roasted Salmon with Peppers and Fennel
Spaghetti Carbonara with Chard - the chard was blanched in the pasta water.  I could not believe how delicious it tasted with such a simple process
Farro & Kale Salad with Pear and Blue Cheese - my newest favorite salad recipe.  This will be a go to potluck recipe.
Split Pea Soup
Rigatoni with Red Pepper Sauce
Salmon Patties with Corn & Potato Hash - using salmon sausage, delicious!
Zucchini & Ricotta Galette with Green Salad - like eating pie for dinner
Linguine with Fresh Tomato Sauce - my first experience making tomato sauce from scratch using fresh tomatoes; I couldn't believe there was no sugar in the recipe.
Sausage Sliders with Caramelized Onions & Salad
Late Summer Vegetable Soup - loaded with garden goodies
Herbed Fettuccine with Chanterelles
Kielbasa with Cabbage & Potatoes - slow simmered in beer; best kielbasa we have ever had
Cheesy Poblano Strata - something I would have never picked out; so fun to try!
Squash Apple soup with Cumin Creme Fraiche
Pasta with Spinach Pesto (chicken added)
Lentil Soup - which we actually liked
Quiche Lorraine
Barbecue Brisket Sandwich
Fusili with Roasted Cauliflower & Parmesan Cheese (sausage added)
Sloppy Joes with Green Salad
Moroccan Stew - just made tonight; delicious smelling spices; solid vegetarian meal
Baked Eggs in Cherry Tomatoes & Spinach

Saturday, July 18, 2015

The Menu Week 2

The Meal Plan This Week:

#11 - Grilled Grouper with Basil Lime Pistou
#12 - Roasted Bell Pepper, Olive, and Caper Crostini

We had a late lunch so this light fast fish dinner was perfect.  The crostini was very good but we got a late start on it so I cut the cooking time on the peppers in half.  I think it would have been even more delicious if we let them roast a little deeper.  The crostini would also be good with a layer of goat cheese spread under the tapenade. Feeling very fortunate tonight to have a daughter who likes fish and a husband who knows how to grill it!


Serve the roasted bell pepper tapenade on a slice of toast with a layer of goat cheese and fried egg on top.  Delicious!

#13 - High Plains Steaks
#14 - Grilled Romaine with Blue Cheese Dressing
#15 - Steamed Carrots with Garlic Ginger Butter

Another good grill night.  The marinade of the steaks consisted solely of yellow mustard, worcestershire and salt and pepper.  Very quick, simple, tasty and economical.  I don't know that I am a fan of grilled romaine but the blue cheese dressing was pretty good.  I had designs on trying to steam the carrots in foil packets on the grill but unfortunately ran out of foil.  Ah foiled again!  So I just threw them in the rice cooker/steamer.  We also substituted blood orange infused olive oil ffor the butter.  Caitlyn was a fan of the steak which she dipped in ketchup of course.

Just a little computer game before dinner.
#16 - Summer Squash Pizza

Took a few liberties with the pizza recipe but definitely enjoyed the inspiration and the finished product.  It was not substantial for us as a main dish so we heated up some frozen mandarin chicken from Trader Joes to round out the meal and that worked pretty well.

Grilled Chicken Caesar on a Skewer
Grilled Salmon with Tangy Cucumber Sauce
Peas and Pods

Groceries bought to you by this little peanut...

Friday, July 17, 2015

Veggie Tostadas

Tonight's Meal Plan

#9 - Veggie Tostadas

Tonight we tried this meatless main.  It's nothing particular to write home about but tasted fine, was a breeze to prepare, and I liked the pickeled jalapenos for a little extra flavor, and the feta cheese to lighten things up versus traditional greasy cheddar.  These would not be bad with a little squeeze of lime juice as well.


Turns out these leftover ingredients make a great base for a nine layer dip (beans, salsa, sour cream, cheddar cheese, avocado, cherry tomatoes, black olives, cilantro, and jalapenos).  Serve with Tortilla chips for dipping.  My lunch today!  I'm counting this as recipe #10.  Counting it with every delicious bite.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Chicken Sate with Peanut Sauce and Cucumber Salad

Tonight's Meal Plan:

#7 - Chicken Sate with Peanut Sauce
#8 - Shaved Cucumber and Red Onion Salad

Well I took some photos of tonight's dinner but accidentally deleted them before I could post them.  Really loved this meal though.  The peanut sauce was delicious and it's hard to find good chicken recipes for the grill that don't just come bone dry.  This one is definitely a keeper.  Caitlyn thought that the chicken on a stick was pretty fun too.  She wasn't adventurous enough to try the peanut sauce or the salad but she ate three strips of chicken so I wasn't going to complain.  Eight new recipes down for the week.  I've already started planning next week's menu and may have my grocery list together before the week even starts.  Now if only I could figure out what to make for lunches!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

TJ Pork Tenderloin with Lemon and Garlic Green Beans

Tonight's Meal Plan:

Trader Joe's Peppercorn Garlic Marinated Pork Tenderloin
#6 - Green Beans with Lemon and Garlic

Tonight was a super simple convenience meal with premarinated pork tenderloin from Trader Joes and a simple side dish of green beans prepared with a little lemon, garlic, and love.  Easy and delicious on all accounts.  Also proud of the fact that we've tried six new recipes in the last three days.  Loving this home cooked fine dinning spree.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Salmon & Stuffed Tomatoes

Tonight's Meal Plan

#3 - Smoked Salmon with Mustard and Dill
#4 - Cheese and Olive-Stuffed Tomatoes
#5 - Grilled Potato Wedges

Yay, I cooked delicious food two nights in a row!  Well, I prepared delicious food two nights in a row.  Tonight was grillables so I just prepped everything and then let Don cook it off on the barbecue.  Really enjoyed each of these recipes.  The woodchips added the most delicious smoky flavor to the salmon and the mustard dill glaze reminded me of a delicious tarter sauce without all the calories. Caitlyn of course dipped her salmon in ketchup.  Hey, the girl loves salmon, I'm not going to complain. The cheese and olive stuffed tomatoes were a definite treat and we served the leftover stuffing on crackers.  So yes, I recommend this dinner and will certainly make again.  

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Fruity Shrimp Cocktail with Ginger Basmati Rice

Tonight's Meal Plan:

#1 - Shrimp Cocktail with Tropical Fruit Salsa
#2 - Ginger Basmati Rice

Definitely enjoyed putting this meal together.  The tropical fruit salsa was a winner.  I am not a fan of papaya so omitted that and added a persian cucumber instead.  It all came together well with the shrimp.  Unfortunately I'm not a huge fan of shrimp but I can tolerate it and Don really liked it.  So I would recommend this recipe to anyone who likes shrimp.  I felt like a real chef roasting and peeling the peppers myself.

Coming Back to Cooking Light

I've decided to get back on the Cooking Light wagon again.  Cooking Light set the pace for us in our dining habits since early on in our marriage and was instrumental in meal planning and cooking preparation for almost the first decade of our togetherness.  The first couple of years of parenthood with two parents working full time definitely drained a lot of the former creativity and inspiration I took from the kitchen.  Now that we have an almost three year old with a little more capability and a little more time and energy I've decided to come back to my roots.

I thought about lots of different monumental goals I could set for myself like A Year of Cooking Light or 100 recipes in 100 days or something that look and sound really impressive.  But really this is a much simpler scenario of I have acquired a bunch of cookbooks that I love and I want to get back to finding fun in the kitchen and making family dinners the cornerstone of our sacred time together.  

So I figure I'll snap a few photos, share our meal plans, review some recipes, and maybe even suggest a few table fellowship ideas.  And, for every 25 recipes I post/try, I'll reward myself with something cool.