Recently we've had a new reason to talk about nature's bounty. Riley's middle school participated in a promotion, whereby they would receive $10 each time a family signed up for a delivery service called The Produce Box. It's a Raleigh-based cooperative that supports area farmers by purchasing their crops and passing on the fresh, local, in-season fruits and veggies to the public....neatly packaged...and placed right on your doorstep. I had considered joining one of these years ago, in Maryland, but was reluctant to commit to it. Basically, I feared trying to figure out what to do in the Winter...when we would get a container full of, you know, turnips...and parsnips...and...who knows, maybe rutabaga? Not only is there a limit to what you can do with these items...I balked at the effort it would require to determine just how the heck to cook and serve these...for months at a time.
So one of the things that excited me about this particular company is that each Friday you are allowed to choose among a set of offerings, based on what your needs are for the coming week. For instance, you can get the regular group of stuff, which includes typical salad components (so far we've had grape tomatoes, cucumbers, and lettuce) as well as whatever else is currently growing either outside or in a greenhouse. (We're already getting some strawberries here, and the ubiquitous North Carolina staple: sweet potatoes. And next time we even get peanuts!) Or you can select the "adventurous option" which pledges to include more unusual stuff. And if you're just not feeling the fruit and veggie vibe that particular week, you can instead go for such cool alternatives as the Breakfast Box (with bagels and bacon--Husband lobbied HARD for this one next week), the Smoothie Box, or the Pizza Prep Box. In addition, if there's a food you don't care for in the group of items you do choose, you can swap it out for another item. Or at any time you can add in something that sounds good--loaves of bread, locally produced jams, chipotle lime goat cheese (which Riley and I practically drooled over) or of course any fruit or vegetable you need more of for any reason.
Well, this is just super-cool...not to mention all kinds of granola, tree-hugging fun, to browse the website and decide what will be showing up on your porch on Thursday. I mentioned before that it has sparked a pronounced increase in the amount of conversation...about edible flora. The first incident occurred when we were unpacking our initial box, and Riley spotted the lettuce. He read aloud, sputtering in disbelief, "Hydroponic...Bibb...lettuce? That's the silliest thing I've ever heard! What does that even MEAN?" (See there? Who knew vegetables could be so educational?) Then there was the argument--um "passionate exchange"--in which Husband vowed he would never, E-V-E-R eat a beet. No way would he even suffer it to pass his lips...no matter how I prepared it. Unfortunately, he indulged in his little rant in front of Derek....whom I assured that he would, in fact, be required to taste a beet...at least once...before making a rational decision as to how he felt about them.
Next we had the...Kale Conundrum. You see, kale was included in our first box, and I elected to keep it in, even though the rest of the family had a serious bias against the innocent leafy stalks. (How they had developed this, I have no idea, as again, they have little to no experience with actually consuming kale. So I blame it on Media Overkill--they've decided to hate kale because it's been so hyped...or whatever...) How to win them over to the Dark...Green...Side? Make kale chips, of course. And I'd have to say it worked like a charm: when Riley tried one, his eyes widened, and he went back for a handful. Then he declared, "Let's sub something out next week...and get more kale!" Wow. It just goes to show you, olive oil and salt really do transform even the most suspicious vegetable into a delectable treat!
Finally, we had the...Sweet Potato Problem. Again, the Male Posse isn't too fond of the orange tubers, while they've grown on me (ha! yeah, I accept responsibility for that one...) over time. However, tucked into our basket of goodness this week was a small piece of paper...with recipes. One of these happened to be for something called Sweet Potato CAKE. "Whoo hoo, now you're speaking my language!" I thought. When I shared the good news with Husband, though, he wrinkled his nose. "Potatoes...and cake? That just sounds so wrong!" I earnestly tried to help him understand by making a comparison, "You know, it's like...zucchini bread--you don't even taste the vegetable, and it's yummy!" He mulishly countered, "But....that's bread...and this is cake..." Exasperated, I cut him off, "It's the SAME CONCEPT!" In his most reasonable tone, he replied, "Then just tell me it's bread." Slapping my forehead, I conceded, "Guess what? I'm making sweet potato bread!" At which point he nodded smugly, turned on his heel, and headed upstairs. Sigh...
So I made the sweet potato...what have you...for tonight, since some of Derek's friends are coming over to watch the NCAA Tournament...and I figured there's no better group of people to spring something like this on than a ravenous pack of teenage boys. (I still contend that falls into the cake category due to the fact that I chose to frost it...because when faced with the dilemma of whether to slather on a layer of buttercream or not....well, there's really no question...) The consensus? Raves all around, from the Home and Visiting teams alike. There's no doubt I'll be making it again...but altering the recipe to be just a tad healthier. (Seriously, I thought I read it wrong when I saw 2 cups of sugar...gulp...and 1-1/2 CUPS of oil. What the what? Um...yeah...I think we can do a little bit better than that...)
But all-in-all, I'd say our first Produce Box could only be counted as a rousing success. From the nightly salad to the crispy kale to the sweet potato...baked good...we thoroughly enjoyed our harvest. Bring on next week's fruit and veggie extravaganza!