Mom, Wife, Chef, Gardener, Dog Wrangler, Mom, Writer, Friend, Daughter, Sister, Mom, Creative Problem Solver, DIY Chick...figuring out life one day at a time.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Mom/Chef...Bountiful Baskets

In my search for healthier, better food for my family, and frankly for alternatives to the very high prices at the one grocery store in town, I discovered Bountiful Baskets. Several moms in the playgroup I attend first told me about it. Bountiful Baskets is a food cooperative in the purer sense of the word. It isn’t a store where you pay a membership to shop at; it is a group of people who pool together their money to buy fruits and vegetables each week. They are all over the United States, and luckily we have one here in Cut Bank.

It goes like this: on Monday or Tuesday of each week you go online to their website and purchase your share. I pay $15 for a conventional basket, which is comprised of 50% fruit and 50% vegetables. You can upgrade to an organic basket for $10 more. There are add ons each week, several different types of bread packs (5 loaves for $10, healthy whole grain breads not cheap filler breads), organic granola, in season you can buy big flats of fruit or vegetables for canning purposes. Once you have purchased your share, that’s it. Friday or Saturday, depending on the pickup time in your area you show up and pick up your food. People who want to volunteer show up an hour early to unload the truck and sort out everyone’s share. I’ve done this two weeks in a row now, and there are always a ton of volunteers at the site here.

Now I am not sure where they source everything. I know that their bananas are sourced from some smaller family farms in Mexico, so they are more fair trade. But some of their vegetables are of a size and quality Tim and I have only seen in restaurants, so we suspect that they sometimes source through Cisco or other food purveyors. Which makes sense, which is why restaurants use companies like Cisco, you get big amounts of high quality veg for a very low price.

The downside of all this is that you don’t know what you get until you pick up your basket. For instance, I was a little disappointed the first week as my vegetable portion was: 5 pounds of potatoes, 4 onions, 1 big head of celery, 3 green peppers and 5 tomatoes. However, this week was different; here is the list of what I picked up last night.

1 large (3 pound) yam; 3 pounds of apples; 1 bunch bananas; 7 Asian pears; 1 pint strawberries; 1 big head cauliflower; 1 big head cabbage; 1 pound green beans; 1 bunch radishes; 5 tomatoes; 3 cucumbers.

Now I don’t know about where you shop, but that much produce would cost me over $30 at my local store, so already I’m cutting my produce bill in half. I was happy to see the yam, cabbage and cauliflower this week. I wish they would be a little more seasonal, I personally would prefer some kale over strawberries in winter. And I gave them that feedback on the survey they send you after your first basket pick up. Seasonal produce aside, overall I think Bountiful Baskets is a good deal, we get lots of fresh produce and it saves on my grocery bill. For instance, the only extra produce I bought this week was a head of lettuce and a couple of avocados.  And it can be fun trying to think of ways to use everything. Last week I got 4 lemons in the basket, add that to the 3 I already had and you get my preserved lemon project. The tomatoes last week were not very ripe so I stuffed them and baked them. They were delicious as a side dish for dinner and reheated for lunch the next day. I went to the store after picking up my basket last night and bought a head of lettuce; since this week’s box included radishes and 3 cucumbers I think I will be having lots of salads this week. Maybe we will have Greek Salad one night, I’ve got feta cheese in the fridge and garbanzo beans in the cabinet.

This brings me to the special add on this week: a 20 pound box of mixed citrus!
There is a big yellow pomello, which is similar to grapefruit but sweeter. Blood oranges and naval oranges, tangerines and the "cutie" style mandarin oranges. The oranges in the bag are Seville oranges, aka Marmalade Oranges, so I will be making marmalade this week! With all the citrus I hope to get at least two big batches of marmalade out of this box, also we will be eating citrus for a snack several times a day. That’s okay though, it is flu season and we could use the vitamins.
Well friends, it is Saturday morning so I am going to go make French toast for breakfast (bread pack add on!) and get the family fired up to finish unpacking this house, I’m getting sick of looking at boxes. Have a wonderful weekend!

Baked stuffed tomatoes:

Wash and dry your tomatoes. Cut the top ¼ “ off the tomatoes and scoop out as much of the inside as you can (a grapefruit spoon works awesome for this) while still leaving the outer walls intact. Chop up the inside and the top of the tomatoes, removing the core, and set aside. Salt and pepper the insides of the tomatoes and place in a baking dish. Chop up a little onion and garlic. Bring some oil or butter up to medium-high heat in a sauté pan. Add the onion and start to cook, when the onion starts to soften, throw in the garlic. Let the garlic cook for a minute then throw in the tomato innards. Add in a few fresh or dried herbs (marjoram and oregano are very good, as is basil), some salt and pepper. If you have it, add in some frozen chopped spinach. Or even fresh if you happen to have it. I almost never keep fresh spinach around but always have some frozen spinach in the freezer.  Throw in some cubed up bread, any sort will do (this is a great way to use up those last few slices that are going stale). Stir and let everything cook together for a few minutes, the bread will soak up any extra juice in the pan. Pull the pan off the heat and fill the tomatoes with the stuffing. This would be a good time to throw a little mozzarella or parmesean cheese in as well. Cover the baking dish and bake for approximately 20 minutes at 350 degrees. Pull the cover off the dish, add a little cheese on top and cook 5-10 more minutes until they start to brown.

Serve as a side dish to almost anything. I served them alongside shrimp and grits. They really will accompany anything. And they reheat well too.


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