I love fruits and vegetables. Obviously. That’s part of why I have a CSA (community supported agriculture) subscription. But even I get overwhelmed sometimes by inexhaustible quantities of produce. Especially when short on time. In any case, I work through it and then I remember. Eating your veggies is so much easier than you think! Besides, what other choice do you have? Okay, there is one other choice: freeze ’em. But you’ll just have to eat them later…
My week started out slow and snowballed quickly. I was already thinking about the freezer by Tuesday. Jump on ahead for tips. I’ll warn you though—you’ll miss one of the most delicious vegetable recipes there is! Thursday brought another box of seasonal treats. I was faced with taking “eat your veggies” to a whole new level. Read this and your vegetable problems will seem minor in comparison.
No one looks forward to Mondays. They are especially bad though when they start with a migraine. I’ve had migraines most of my life but, fortunately, they have never been frequent. Recently though, I’ve been getting headaches that I didn’t initially recognize as migraines. While not as debilitating now, they go on for longer. In other words, two or three days. I started Sunday morning thinking (perhaps hoping) that it was just a hangover. After going to brunch with friends, I realized I felt worse instead of better. I was in bed for the rest of the day.
I gave up thinking it wasn’t a migraine when I awoke with the same headache on Monday morning. Since I was feeling useless, my husband was happy to find leftover potatoes from Saturday in the fridge. He reheated them and cooked fresh eggs.
Accordingly, lunch for me was simple: an apple and peanut butter late in the afternoon.
For dinner, we had planned to make a dish we hadn’t had in years. After going to the grocery store on Saturday to use our member discount, we bought heavy cream for this meal. Be forewarned. This is not a healthy dish. It’s indulgent but so delicious in its simplicity when made with good ingredients. These kind of meals are worth indulging in once in a while. When you truly savor every bite, you never need to feel guilty. Above all, make sure this is actually true for each bite. It should go without saying, if you’re eating anything in front of the TV, you can’t possibly be savoring it.
This recipe comes from one of my first cookbooks. It’s a book that promotes this healthy relationship with food. A gift from my mom when I was in high school, it’s called Everybody Eats Well in Belgium Cookbook. She gave it to me after my first trip to Europe. A trip where I lived on cheese and lettuce sandwiches from food carts because they were cheap. Yet also a trip where I discovered homemade breads, pungent cheeses and bittersweet chocolates. And beer gardens. (Yes, I was 15 but what can I say? Germany is NOT the US.)
After all this hype, are you surprised to hear the famed recipe is simply creamed cabbage? Shredded green cabbage boiled for a few minutes, then drained. The cabbage is seasoned and added to a casserole dish with heavy cream, butter and nutmeg, then baked. We always eat it with bread and whole-grain mustard. Tonight we added a sliced cucumber and tomato salad. Although simple, my headache prevented me from pulling this dinner together on my own. Thus I felt especially grateful to be eating it.
Since we hadn’t touched our yogurt share yet, it was an obvious choice for breakfast. I had lots of pears but none were ripe so apples were my only fruit option. After choosing the fruit, it’s just a matter of finding things to layer in for interest. I topped the yogurt with chia seeds, brazil nuts, coconut flakes, bee pollen and a handful of lingonberries from the freezer. No forethought. By keeping staple ingredients around, you can create these kinds of meals on the fly. Meanwhile, restaurants sell this easy breakfast for up to $10! (Note that I keep all of the listed items in the fridge or freezer for longer storage.)
Lunch was the rest of the creamed cabbage. Gone too quickly, I was sad there weren’t leftovers for just one more meal. Definitely licking the plate on that one.
With the last remnants of my pesky migraine gone by afternoon, I was back in the kitchen for dinner. In any case, a simple meal was still in order. I recreated an easier version of a previous week’s Tuesday night dinner. Poblano peppers stuffed with tomatoes and cheese. But this time, we ate them with bread and more fresh tomatoes on the side. Too much tomato? NEVER. Not quite the same as cooked-from-scratch pinto beans and corn tortillas, but still delicious nonetheless.
Somehow I have failed to mention Theo’s Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups. I buy one package each week at Eat Local when I pick up my CSA box. We split it (meaning we each get one piece). This makes a dessert just over 100 calories. Not bad for one of the best candies you can buy.
Too Many Veggies?
I use my pantry notebook in kitchenlister to keep track of when I buy perishable ingredients. For my CSA boxes, I note the week (e.g. CSA12) so I can search for the items to use up first. It’s less than a week before we leave for Spain. I have more veggies (and a few fruits) than I can eat before we leave. So now I’m to the point of repeatedly asking myself this one question: Can I freeze this?
Beets? Yes! Bake whole, or chop for faster cooking, and freeze. (I already have a bag of cooked beets started in the freezer.)
Tomatillos? Yes! I often make salsa and freeze it but this week I was looking for the easiest thing possible. Remove the husks, rinse and freeze whole on a tray. Transfer to a bag when frozen.
Greens? Of course! This will work with any variety, and I typically mix whatever I have together for simplicity. The basic method is to boil leaves until wilted (only takes a minute or two). Drain and run under cold water. Then you can press out all the extra water with your hands without burning yourself. Chop and freeze in containers. This week, my greens were a mix of kale, mizuna, beet greens and carrot tops. Watch my Creamed Spinach! Or Why Not Swiss Chard? video for a rundown of this method:
Basil? Yes! I could make pesto but easier still is pureeing with olive oil. I freeze the puree flat in small baggies and break off chunks as I need it. I can always use this to make pesto after thawing by adding garlic, nuts and cheese. (A good idea but as it turns out, I threw the last of the basil into a salad. See Wednesday.)
Corn? Yes! Remove kernels and corn milk, and freeze in containers. Also freeze the corn husks and cobs for making corn broth. Or combine with other ingredients for vegetable stock. (I already have a bag of vegetable scraps started in the freezer.)
Parsley? Yes! Same as the basil, or why not combine the two? Basil-parsley pesto. Sounds good to me. (I ended up using all the parsley leaves as a garnish. Keep reading. But the stems went into my freezer bag of vegetable scraps for stock.)
Italian plums? Yes, fortunately! These are a special treat and I really want to use them right now. But I don’t have time! (Yes, I’m crazy enough to momentarily consider making a tart just days before we leave.) Nope, nope, nope. Slice and cut in half. Freeze on a tray, then transfer to a bag when frozen. That plum tart will have to wait. Stay tuned… Update: And now I’ve finally made it! Here’s my St. Patrick’s Day plum tart.
I had a little extra cheese left over from last night’s dinner—already grated. An omelet was a natural choice with the end of the baguette. Unsure how it would turn out, I decided to add some pear slices sautéed in butter. So delicious! If you like a sweet-and-savory breakfast combo, this might be for you. Quick tip: Make one large omelet and cut it in half when serving instead of making two separate omelets. (I made this again Saturday morning and didn’t bother sautéing the pears first. I added a layer of Asiago Pressa cheese, then topped with fresh pear slices.) A light dusting of ground nutmeg is a nice finish to simple omelets. This is my new favorite fall breakfast.
With no leftovers remaining for lunch (Damn me for that second helping at dinner!), I settled for an apple with peanut butter again.
Fish Wednesday brought us Quillayute-caught wild Coho salmon for dinner. I sautéed chopped leeks (including the green tops!) and broccoli in a pan with butter. When tender, I laid the fish on top and covered until cooked through. I was inspired by a farro salad recipe that popped up in my kitchenlister account. I substituted wheat berries for the farro even though they take much longer to cook. As the recipe suggests, I added fresh tomato, cucumbers and basil at the end. With such a small lunch, I was hungry for dinner and managed to eat this whole plate:
There’s leftover cooked vegetables and lots of eggs to use up before we leave. Therefore, a frittata is an obvious choice for breakfast. I tend to make mine with a high veggie to egg ratio. A really easy way to eat your veggies. Another benefit: They make a great lunch.
If frittatas are new to you, watch my Zucchini Slice vs Frittata video for lots of tips:
Some days I snack and other days I don’t get midday hunger. Today I followed up my frittata breakfast-lunch combo with an afternoon yogurt snack. Keeping fruit in your freezer and nuts in your fridge makes for healthy snacking.
The Challenge Begins
After picking up my CSA box on Thursday, I had a healthy challenge ahead of me. Fifteen different fruits and vegetables and only two days to use it all! Plus more cheese, yogurt and pasta. My dinner inspiration came from using up whatever I could as easily as possible. My number one method for achieving this? Roasting. So there you go—a dinner of whatever would fit on two sheet pans.
I tossed the carrots and broccoli in garam masala before roasting next to the eggplant slices. Once cooked, I piled everything on a bed of mixed greens and leftover wheat berry salad. For the finishing touches: tomatoes, yogurt-tahini sauce, and fresh parsley.
This is an especially healthy and delicious dinner. Roasting is the way to go for flavorful vegetables and roasting in spice mixtures is even better. The sauce here is key and super simple. Stir together yogurt, tahini sauce and a pinch of salt. The leftover vegetables can be reheated but are also great at room temperature. Thus, the perfect lunch for packing to work. Plus, it looks so cute:
Assertive salad greens (think arugula, frisee, kale, mizuna, and cress) are the best choice here. They will hold up better and add more flavor than lettuces.
With lots of eggs still on hand, I made a scramble—another quick and easy breakfast. Egg scrambles are quite versatile, but there’s one important thing to get right. Add ingredients to be cooked (e.g. peppers, mushrooms, greens) well before the eggs. I like to push the vegetables to the side of the pan before adding the eggs. Then I incorporate the veggies only after the eggs have started forming curds. Only add lightly-cooked ingredients for a minute at the end. These might include especially juicy items (i.e. tomatoes) or just melted foods (i.e. cheeses). The eggs should be almost finished when you add these last-minute ingredients.
With fresh fruit still lingering from the previous week’s farm share, snack time was imperative.
While fresh pasta freezes well, my freezer is getting full and I need to start getting choosy about what’s going in there. So another seasonal inspired pasta it is!
While I used a rib or two of celery in the pasta dish, I had a gigantic head of it. Celery is easy to freeze (just rinse and chop) and it’s worth it for me because I don’t buy celery. What I freeze now is all I will have for the winter and spring. The same is true for hot chiles. So I cut the jalapeños in half, removed the seeds and froze them in a bag. Important: Make sure you wear gloves for this! If you can ventilate your kitchen (I can’t), all the better.
So just over 24 hours later, here’s what remained: cooking greens, fruit, onions, beets, yogurt and cheese.
The Weekend (But Really Only Saturday)
I don’t usually include my weekend meals in these posts but I want to let you know how my CSA challenge ended.
To make breakfast parfaits for Sunday, I divvied up the last peaches and plums between two containers. To each one I added yogurt, chia seeds, sliced almonds, coconut flakes and bee pollen. Yogurt parfaits work great for early mornings. (We had to be out the door at 5:30 AM on Sunday—ugh). They can be assembled the night before and are portable. I also hard-boiled the last couple eggs to take with us. Apples and Asian pears keep well for a least a month in the fridge if wrapped well. Same with onions if kept in a paper bag and stored in a cool, dark place (away from potatoes). I figured it would be nice to have a few fresh items to come home to.
So after my pear and cheese omelet for breakfast, that left greens… lots and lots of them. Well, three bunches to be exact. And beets. So the vegetable eating continues.
Hmm, what’s perfect for snacking while packing? Okay, kale chips again. There’s just no easier way to use up such a large quantity of greens. (Well, there is ONE other way I know of… post coming soon.) I did change the flavorings though: pizza seasoning on one tray, and cheese powder on the other. I combined the kale and carrot greens; these both make fantastic chips. Nice and crispy. The second round was beet greens on one tray and paper-thin slices of beets on the other. For these veggies, I stuck with olive oil, salt and pepper for the seasonings. The beets were not uniformly crispy but had good flavor. We managed to eat all four trays for dinner with beer on the side. Whew!
Sound like too many veggies? Okay, perhaps it’s not for the novice. Still, for the seasoned fruits and vegetables lover, here’s a bonus. This is a super healthy mix of vitamins and minerals for an immune system boost. Perfect right before a 10-hour flight. Much better choice than those Vitamin C supplements…
AND to wrap it all up. That’s how you tackle a family-size CSA box with just two people in 60 hours! Interested in other feats of fruit and vegetable consumption? Watch my Balanced Diet Solution? Eat Seasonal Fruits and Vegetables! video:
ARE YOU FEELING INSPIRED TO EAT YOUR VEGGIES? MAKE YOUR MEALS HEALTHIER AND A LITTLE MORE INTERESTING WITH KITCHENLISTER. START A FREE ACCOUNT NOW.
If you’d like more information about any of these easy meals, leave me a comment.
Read more about my “Week in Review” posts.