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Eating Out of the Box

It’s almost time! It may be fall, with cooler weather settling in and the leaves falling, but that doesn’t mean access to fresh, local produce and other locally produced foods has to end.

In Easton, we’re lucky to have Eating Out of the Box available to us. This is a weekly service along the lines of a CSA (community-supported agriculture) that does not require a subscription. Each week, you peruse the offerings that will most likely be made available and decide if you want to participate. Boxes are available for pickup (or delivery for a small fee) one night each week.

What kinds of produce are available in the cold winter months? Last year’s boxes usually contained a variety of greens, Asian pears, potatoes and more.

There is a small or large box option available. As the season gets into full swing, a la carte items like fresh baguettes, meat, dairy products, eggs and more can be purchased as well.

Check out the Eating Out of the Box web site and join their mailing list or their Facebook group so you will be notified when they start up operations in early November.


Fall Garden Update (and, Here We Go Again)


Part of today’s harvest.

A little late to the party, I finally planted some carrot, kale and lettuce seeds today. What took so long? I had to clear out the dead and dying summer plants first and amend the soil in the beds. Between recent hot weather, travel and laziness, today’s 70-degree weather was my first opportunity to garden in a while. I did get some peas planted a few weeks ago and those are coming along.

So how did my summer garden grow? Wild. I had pumpkins everywhere, and there are still some long-neck canning pumpkins on the vine in my compost pile, waiting to be picked. I got one usable baby pie pumpkin — pests got the other two that had ripened. Phooey.

My tomatoes are still producing, so I haven’t cut those down yet. I finally pulled up the cucumber plants, but found a few cucumbers buried among the detritus that are hopefully still edible. I accidentally grew a cantaloupe plant (also a compost volunteer), but the solitary fruit it bore fell victim to pests in recent days. I was able to harvest some coriander (cilantro) seeds, which I’ll probably save for planting next year, rather than consuming.

Lessons learned for next year?

  • Put in more beds
  • Give the squash plants even more room than I did this year
  • Plant more of everything
  • Plant strawberries and melons (on purpose)

I still have a fair bit to do in the garden before wrapping things up for the cold season. I need to clean out around the beds and better prep them for next year. The landscape fabric alone didn’t do enough to keep the weeds down. I’m going to pull that up, remove the weeds and dig out still more hostas in the sunny corner of my garden. Next year, the area will get at least a good mulching, if not another covering of fabric before the mulch goes down.

I’ve turned one large bed along my garage into a new compost pile that I want to separate into three caged areas for more efficient composting. I’m also composting a bed outside my kitchen (no food scraps though, since it’s so close to the house) that gets a lot of shade and has only grown weeds. I’m hoping to try lettuce, possibly in containers, there next year.

I also need to clean up the fruit bushes I planted. The blackberry plants became very leggy and I didn’t do a very good job of training them onto the supports I set up. I need to tend to them and the only raspberry plant that pulled through. Not sure if I’ll try more of those next year.

Here We Go Again

Some of you may remember that last summer I went on an allergen-free diet for a month before slowly re-introducing foods to discover what food allergies I have (eggs and a wheat intolerance revealed themselves). Well, I need to do it again. I’m having a reaction to something and it’s been a miserable couple of weeks recently. The suspects are dairy and processed sugar, the latter of which has only slipped into my diet on occasion. I’ve also been eating grains other than wheat, so those may be a culprit as well.

So Monday’s the day I go back to eating only meat, veggies and a little bit of fruit. No dairy, alcohol, legumes or grains for a whole month. Honey will be my only sweetener. I plan on making lots of homemade, oven-baked sweet potato fries to help me pull through.

I’ve been treating myself in the meantime. I splurged at the gluten-free bakery today and feasted on Chipotle’s chips and guac last night. Not sure what my beverage of choice will be tonight, but last night’s was red wine.

I’ve already started stocking up on things to tide me over for the next month. I found myself eating way more protein than I normally would last time I did this. I bought a ton of chicken and ground bison today. I found beef sticks from Cedar Run Farm at the farmer’s market today and they have no preservatives or chemicals in them. Score! Perfect for snacking. I bought a bunch of kale and green beans, frying peppers and acorn squash to cook this week too. Bananas (not from the farmer’s market, of course), figs and raspberries will be my fruit splurges.

Wish me luck! Deciding to pursue this diet is often harder than the diet itself. I know I’ll feel so much better a month from now. And I’ll be done before the holidays hit. Hopefully by then, I’ll have figured out whatever it is that’s causing problems so I can avoid it. Fingers crossed it’s not alcohol or cheese!

Get Your Greens on Grilled Cheese


I made another version of yesterday’s grilled cheese and added kale, sauteed onions and grated parm, inspired by a recipe in the September issue of Cooking Light magazine. I also added some mustard to the bread before adding the other fillings. Genius way to eat your greens!

Market-Inspired Lunch


Gluten-free bread, heirloom tomato and Chesapeake Colby cheese, all from today’s farmers market, inspired me to make the first grilled cheese sandwich I’ve made in over a year. I added organic sliced avocado and bacon. Dee-lish!

How to Eat for Free (Occasionally)

It pays to go to farmer’s markets and to get to know the farmers! Yesterday, I scored free hamburgers (and really good hamburgers at that) and a ton of slightly bruised tomatoes. Between that and zucchini that I grew myself, my dinner tonight was practically free!

Thanks to Kim at Black Bottom Farm for the free burgers — they *are* really good. Kim was kind enough to offer me the burgers after I also procured some of her bulk ground beef and breakfast sausage patties — those are a breakfast staple for me now. I ended up grilling the burger patties this evening. They are perfect!

When I mentioned to another farmer that I was planning on freezing tomatoes for use later, she offered me a bunch of her slightly bruised produce to go along with my purchase. Those bruises won’t matter when I process the tomatoes into sauce later. Score!

This isn’t the first time I’ve gotten food for free simply by chatting with one of the vendors about my plans for their food. It helps to be working with an item that is in over-abundance (like tomatoes right now).

I didn’t have to ask for these freebies, but I have invested time to talk with each of these farmers in the past. I even visited Black Bottom Farm not too long ago (read my post about the farm here).

Go ahead and give it a try. You’ve got nothing to lose by learning more about the food you eat by talking with the people who grow it for you!

Garden Update

I think I’ve harvested the last of my zucchini. There are still blossoms on my lone zucchini plant, but the bulk of the plant is looking pretty rough. My cucumber plant still has tons of blossoms on it though, so I hope it will keep producing.

A critter now truly has been after my baby pie pumpkin plant, so I found a recipe for rabbit repellant made from cayenne pepper, hot sauce, water and dish soap (just a little) and I sprayed that on the plants today, including on the sole little pumpkin that is nestled between two marigolds (the only reason it’s still around, I think). I have two huge gooseneck pumpkins growing by my garage.

My tomato plants also don’t look that great but are still bearing fruit. I need to cut back some other straggly plants that are past their prime and think about seeds to plant for the fall. I want to plant peas, more lettuce and kale. I’m thinking of transplanting the rosemary out of my VegTrug so that I can completely refresh the soil in that before doing anymore plants in it. The kale in there is looking anemic. I might wait for the basil growing in that container to die off first though…

I’m also already dreaming about what to plant next spring. I want to add at least one raised bed to my yard — I’m thinking lots more beans, some melons and plenty more squash plants.

A Tale of Two Nutellas


The U.S. version is on the left; the Italian on the right.

Dear Readers (all 6 of you), I am happy to take risks on your behalf. Such a risk today involved sampling two different versions of Nutella — the American version and the Italian original. No need to thank me.

An industry insider let me in on a little secret — the composition of Nutella sold to us unsuspecting Americans is different from that sold in Italy. It’s sweeter. I had to try this out for myself. I have a dwindling jar that I bought at Target not too long ago. Today, I bought a jar of the Italian stuff from a local Italian market.

Damned if I couldn’t tell a different immediately. The American version IS sweeter (and not in a good way; in a chemically aftertaste kind of way). The Italian version is hazelnuttier.

Now, you wouldn’t be able to tell much of a difference from the list of ingredients. While those on the imported jar are in Italian, they are the same ingredients and in the same order as in the American version. I’m guessing that the percentage of sugar to other stuff is lower in the Italian version though. They do make a point of calling out the percentage of hazelnuts in each jar on the Italian label. Not so on the U.S. version.

Here’s another difference that I noticed from the labeling. While the U.S. version says a serving is 2 tablespoons (about 37 grams), the Europeans are saying a serving is much less: only 15 grams. This leads to everything from the calories to the carbohydrates being much lower per serving.

Here’s another little tidbit: The Italians think we’re doing it all wrong. They sneer at our Nutella cupcakes. Nutella is for breakfast only. Don’t you dare put it in pancake batter either. It is for smearing on a piece of toast (or perhaps a baguette slice). It doesn’t belong anywhere else. Check out how it’s marketed. Sure, there’s tons of Pinterest recipes out there involving Nutella, but the only Nutella sponsored usage is as pictured on the jar of Nutella.

Silly American.

On Sex and Pumpkins

(With a title like that, I think my blog stats are about to get really interesting…)

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been fretting over the state of my pumpkin plants — they send off tons of blossoms, but no pumpkins developed. This was true for all three varieties I planted. Meanwhile, my other squash plants are going gangbusters.

I even started trying to hand pollinate the plants each morning, dutifully swabbing the inside of each open blossom with a Q-Tip to try and transfer pollen from one to another. Still nothing. What was worse, all of the blossoms were falling off.

I blamed slugs. I blamed squirrels. I blamed stink bugs. A reader blamed vine borers. A neighbor blamed rabbits. I blamed myself for doing something wrong.

Then I finally Googled the problem and got a lesson in sex education.

Turns out, there are male flowers and female flowers. To get a pumpkin, the pollen from a male flower needs to access a female flower. Most of the blossoms on my plants have been male flowers, which usually fall off 2-3 days after blooming. My efforts at hand pollination, therefore, have been pretty useless.

Here’s the good news: Now that I know what to look for, I’ve noticed a few female flowers blooming. WARNING: The following photos depict cucurbita girl parts and boy parts. If you’re into pumpkin porn, you can click on the photos for larger versions.

Female flower booty.

Female flower booty.

Female flowers have what looks like a tiny little fruit already developing at the base of the blossom. The flower at left actually did get pollinated.

The bad news: some critter found it delectable and chewed a nice hole into it.

Male flowers don’t have the bulb at the base of the blossom.

There’s another way to tell them apart though and that’s to look at the stamen inside each flower.

Male flower.

Male flower.

Female flower.

Female flower.

Here’s the best news: There’s another pumpkin plant clear across my property in the compost pile next to my garage. I haven’t watered it. Vehicles driver over many of its vines, which encroach into the alley. But it’s huge — wrapping around one corner of my garage. And it has several baby pumpkins growing on it.

Baby gooseneck pie pumpkin.

Baby gooseneck pie pumpkin.

This plant resulted from a squirrel-nibbled pumpkin that I threw into the compost pile last winter. I’m going to fence it in with chicken wire to try and keep critters out (and to keep the town from removing my compost pile on trash day, like they did once last year).