Amanda on feeding her family with CSA produce
Amanda is the rare CSA member who was a champion before she picked up her first share.
I’m not making this up: she emailed me the morning of the first pickup of the season to say that she was in labor and heading to the hospital to give birth, so she was sending her mom to pick it up. You heard that right: she managed to take care of her CSA pickup while she was literally giving birth to a child.
If that’s not a CSA Champion, I don’t know what is.
That was her second child, and Owl’s Nest is her first CSA experience. She lives near our Bloomingdale pickup site, and first learned about the CSA from our team at a pickup a few years prior.
She’s really enjoyed the experience: “I like the challenge of using different vegetables I wouldn’t necessarily have gone and bought. We love the farmer’s market, but I also like the idea of supporting a specific local farm.”
Amanda admits that having two young kids makes it harder to find the time to cook all her CSA produce, “but feels more important.”
“It’s important for us to sit down to meals,” Amanda says, but what’s on the table is even more important with small kids. "I really care about about the food my kids are eating and it’s important to me to feed them a wide range of flavors now because it’s what establishes their palate.”
While her three-year-old is now at a stage where she doesn’t always eat all her veggies, Amanda sees the CSA as an opportunity to a way to get her family more connected with where her food comes from. She brings her daughter to CSA pickups and lets her pick which tomatoes and which bunch of kale to bring home. It is Amanda’s “profound hope” that these early food experiences will help shape her kids’ future food lives.
That said, Amanda doesn’t consider herself particularly skilled in the kitchen; in fact, she describes herself and her husband as a “super practical and not really big cooks.” While she and her husband have some strong basic kitchen skills, she says the CSA has “forced us to expand what we know what to do.”
For them, that means that most dinners start with a meat, and then they "solve for the vegetable." They grab whatever's good in the vegetable drawer and make a simple veggie side, like a salad or steamed veggie. Occasionally, on the weekends, Amanda will make something more complex, like kale chips or a stew to have as a backup weeknight meal or for lunches, but she and her husband mostly keep it simple.
Amanda also appreciates our collaboration with other farmers, including the meat and egg add-on from Open Book Farm. Since most of the dinners in her house include meat and convenience is a huge priority, it's a big bonus to be able to pick up high-quality meat, veggies, and eggs in one trip. So in her second year as a CSA member, she's getting it all and she's ready to eat it with her family.
Amanda's CSA insights
- Keep it simple: just eat it! "So much of the share can be eaten raw," says Amanda. "You get a totally new experience."
- The Owl's Nest farm team can be a great resource when it comes to figuring out how to use a new veggie. "Staff are amazing," she says. "I will often grill them" for ideas for using say, kohlrabi.
- Eating seasonally has given Amanda new ways to look at certain dishes and flavor combinations. For example, she remembers an "aha!" moment when she realized that all the main ingredients in a ratatouille are in season at the same time - she understood that dish in a whole new way.
- She enjoys reading farm notes in the newsletter each week because it gives her exposure to the experience of her farmers.
A peek in Amanda's pantry
Amanda's practical approach to weeknight meals means she tries to always have her pantry stocked with some staples.
- Fats: olive oil, coconut oil, butter.
- Basics: lot of spices, rice, quinoa, canned tomatoes, stock, milk, flour, and other basic baking items.
- Tools: Amanda uses a wok or a steamer pot most nights, relies heavily on her roasting pan, and her Instapot is also key.
- Sweet potatoes! Niles only started purées/solids recently but enjoyed puréed baked sweet potato from the winter CSA popup, and three-year-old Juliana is really into baked sweet potato "fries".
- Juliana also loves kale chips from the dehydrator.
- Another kid favorite was the pea sprout "leaves" in the summer.