CSA boxes are subject to the Forrest Gump Chocolate Principle: You never know what you're gonna get. One week you're up to your elbows in zucchini. The next, you might face a veggie you've never prepared.  Therein lies the charm and the challenge that inspired the Cooking Away My CSA Challenge.

We answered this call to arms by purchasing a premium membership in Grow Alabama, a local multi-farm co-op. Our monthly gold share costs $156.75 (the cost of one trip to the grocery store for some families) and nets us a weekly box of fresh, local, seasonal surprises.We opted for a couple of upgrades: delivery ($5/week) and one dozen farm-fresh eggs ($13/week). Grow Alabama also has a healthy meats program that sells hormone-free chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese, rabbits, pork, tilapia, and catfish. (Beef and lamb are coming soon, they say.) 


We recruited eight staff volunteers to cook and blog each week. The crew reflects a broad spectrum of cooking experience, skill, and life situations. Among them you'll find time-pressed working moms, folks cooking for one, a culinary school student, and a few expert cooks. To make things manageable, we split our eight staff volunteers into two teams--Team Peas and Team Carrots--that will alternate weekly. 

In the spirit of CSA surprise, Team Peas gathered around our first box and drew veggie names out of a hat. This week's box contained cucumbers, corn, tomatoes, green peppers, lady peas, squash, eggplant, blackberries, and a small watermelon.

Here's how the (veggie) chips landed (team members listed from left to right; see bios below):

  • Cindy: eggs, squash, peppers
  • Kim: Nada. I'm the veggie moderator.
  • Jason: corn, tomatoes, lady peas
  • "CJ": cucumbers, watermelon, peppers
  • Ann: blackberries, eggplant, peppers

Next week we'll show you what they did with what they got. But first, get to know Team Peas (read more for bios...)

Name: Cindy Hatcher
Position: Associate Editor, Healthy Living
Cooking experience: Moving beyond the (frozen meal) box.
Usually cooks for: That’s part of the problem: My husband travels a lot for his job, so it’s often just me and the leftovers.
Likes: Cheese, cheese, and more cheese. All things upscale Tex-Mex. I'm becoming more confident with the big, fancy food processor and stand mixer that were recent wedding gifts, but I’d love to learn how to get more use from them.
Doesn’t like: Anything sour/vinegary. I’m looking at you, pickles and olives.

Name: Jason Horn
Position: Editorial Assistant
Cooking experience:
I've loved food and cooking since I was a toddler, but never worked in a restaurant or commercial kitchen. Started night classes towards a culinary degree about a year and half ago. In my home kitchen, I usually just wing it with nary a recipe in sight.
Usually cooks for:
Me and my somewhat-less-adventurous girlfriend. We hate leftovers, so small amounts are key. We're also trying to cut back on meat, which means lots of vegetarian dinners.
Likes: Asian food (especially Thai) and anything spicy, exotic, or authentic. Favorite meat: pork. Favorite vegetable: bok choy. Favorite fruit: cherries.
Doesn¹t like: Cilantro, raw tomatoes, bell peppers

Name: Carol Johnson, aka “CJ”
Position: Administrative Coordinator
Cooking experience: Capable, but rusty, “fly by the seat of your pants” single gal.
Usually cooks for: Myself. Or, visitors and two enthusiastic dogs.Gastro-intestinal issues create challenges (for me, not the dogs).
Likes: Anything grilled, most shellfish, ripened tomatoes, my omelet pan, Greek cuisine, olive oil, and feta cheese.
Doesn’t like: Liver, crawfish, mussels, chopsticks.

Name: Ann Taylor Pittman
Position: Senior Food Editor
Cooking experience: I started cooking at age seven with a batch of buttermilk biscuits (the best I’ve ever made). I love delving into a cuisine and creating authentic, ridiculously elaborate meals for a group. I’ve baked three wedding cakes for actual weddings (including my own).
Usually cooks for: Four--my husband, myself, and our twin toddler boys. I do not believe in “kid-friendly” recipes. Our kids eat what we do. Some days that's a hearty mac and cheese. Others, it’s bulgogi and garlicky sauteed spinach.
Likes: I love mashed potatoes, homemade pizzas, Indian food (especially dal), noodles of any kind, hard aged cheeses with yummy salt crystals, crusty baguette, hand-cut fries with homemade mayo. My KitchenAid Mixer. Oh, and bourbon—I adore it.
Doesn’t like:
Superfluous gadgets. Licorice. The smell of cooked calamata olives (though I love them uncooked).