Our second year of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) shares started last week with Isabella Farm in Louisville. I signed up for it last February when we were house hunting and hoped it wouldn’t be too far away from wherever we eventually settled. I also assumed that it would be no big deal to get to my weekly pickups with an infant. Fortunately things worked out and we/I loved it so much I signed up again this year. So every Thursday from mid-June through October I go to a farm stand 10 minutes away and pick up a big bag of produce. The first few weeks we get mostly greens and herbs, followed later in the summer by eggplant, peppers, okra, squash, melon and much more all grown right there at the farm. I like the challenge of using new vegetables or using old vegetables in new ways, and I really enjoy that it forces us to branch out and eat a greater variety of foods. We get stuck in ruts eating broccoli, zucchini, and green beans week after week in the winter. Last summer we tried grilled fava beans, mizuna (one of many greens we get), and lots of new recipes. This past week we made garlic scape chimicurri with fresh garlic scapes and oregano we were given in our share. A great start to our second season. This is all to say that you may start seeing some odd greens and other veggies popping up in my recipes this summer. Substitute or try something new, whatever floats your boat, but bear with me as I make my way through our veggies each week and try to be creative with kale, mustard greens and chard as they appear in our menu nearly weekly for much of the summer. Meal Plan & Grocery List
Monday: Maple Tahini Chicken & Broccoli with Brown Rice (Maple)
- I got a new Maple cookbook for my birthday. Since I am from VT and we are born loving maple syrup, it was a perfect fit. This is the first recipe we’ve tried and it did not disappoint. It is not overly maply, just a good easy dinner.
- I forgot to make brown rice so we used whole wheat couscous instead, but I still think rice would be better. And if you do make it, make extras to use later in the week with the Vegetarian Taco Salad.
- I would double the sauce since I loved the flavor and find leftovers to be better the next day when there is more sauce.
- Otherwise I followed the directions and it was great!
Tuesday: Smoked Trout Hash with Mustard Greens & Eggs
- I diced and steamed my potatoes in the microwave first and then followed the cooking instructions.
- We fried a couple of eggs to eat on top since our skillet was overflowing, otherwise we would have made little nests to plop the eggs in, covered it and let them cook.
- The addition of cheese is always welcome.
Wednesday: Pork Tenderloin with Rhubarb BBQ Sauce, Grilled Asparagus and Whole Wheat Couscous
- We didn’t have enough rhubarb so I did half rhubarb, half frozen peaches, which worked very well. I thought the sauce tasted a little too much like ketchup so I would cut the ketchup in half and do 2 Tbsp instead. My father in law has a shirt that says “I put Ketchup on my Ketchup” so if you are in that camp too, ignore and forgive my comment.
- Grill the asparagus with oil, salt and pepper in foil for about 5-7 minutes on each side.
- Oh, and don’t forget the BBQ sauce. Things were going so smoothly with dinner (ha!) that we forgot the BBQ sauce until halfway through. Good times.
Thursday: Vegetarian Taco Salad
- Using the extra rice from Monday, this can be a pretty easy meal.
- I added diced zucchini to the skillet with the onion and some chopped red cabbage as garnish for more color.
- Avocado and sour cream are also good garnishes of course.
Friday: Pasta Salad with Melon, Pancetta and Ricotta Salata
- This is the perfect combo of salty and sweet. It may sound odd but it is delicious!
- I cook a full pound of pasta and adapt quantities accordingly. I only ever use one, 3-oz pack of pancetta, but the rest I multiply by 4.
- I’ve never actually found ricotta salata and have always used either feta or a hard cheese like parmigiano-reggiano.
When I was in 4th grade I thought Thomas Jefferson was pretty darn cool. He was an inventor among many things and lived at Monticello, which were reason enough for me. So during our April break that year we ventured south to escape Vermont’s mud season and follow in Jefferson’s footsteps. Monticello was of course gorgeous and my mom was particularly taken with his gardens. Who wouldn’t be coming off of a long Vermont winter? So she bought some lettuce seeds, Tennis Ball Lettuce to be exact, to bring back home. Tennis Ball Lettuce is an heirloom variety that Jefferson grew “himself”. It is tender, delicious and can handle the heat without much effort. So we enjoyed it that summer and have every summer since as my mom lets it go to seed, and collects the seeds to use the following year. I, among many others, have been the lucky recipient of these seeds and let me tell you this lettuce is life changing. It converted Travis from a cover my salad in so much ranch you can no longer see green, salad eater to a lover of homemade dressings on these tender greens. We moved into our house last year with a few things going on so I didn’t have much time for gardening last year. But I sprinkled some seeds into the ground and magically enough with no effort on my end, we enjoyed lettuce for most of last summer. Following my mom’s instructions I let it go to seed, collected the seeds, and saved them for the following year. Thank goodness for lazy gardening because low and behold before I had so much as laid a hand in my garden this year I already had about a dozen heads of lettuce popping up. We enjoyed our first garden salad the last week of May and have been enjoying them ever since. Menu Plan & Grocery List
Monday: Cajun Jambalaya with Green Salad
- I doubled this recipe to have for dinner and bring to a friend who just had a baby. It is very easy to do in bigger batches and freeze and doesn’t really add much prep time.
- I wanted more veggies so I used a 15 oz can of diced tomatoes, a whole green bell pepper, 3 stalks of celery and a whole onion.
- I adapted the seasoning recipe to get 2 Tbsp with these quantities: ½ Tbsp paprika, a scant ½ Tbsp of garlic powder, 1 tsp salt, and a slightly heavy ½ tsp of the black pepper, onion powder, oregano and thyme. Since I didn’t want it too spicy I used ¼ tsp of cayenne, and it was very mild (i.e. perfect).
Tuesday: Falafel Salad with Lemon Tahini Dressing and Whole Wheat Pita
Keeping myself humble by posting this epic fail. The good news is I’ve never let presentation get in the way of enjoying a meal.
- I tried to step out of my comfort zone with this one and try something new. I rarely make falafel and now I remember why…the real stuff is so much better! It’s not to say this wasn’t good, but it wasn’t amazing and I think the tahini dressing and babaganoush (Middle Eastern eggplant dip) I bought were the stars of this dish.
- I also think that falafel can be really dry, so trying to avoid that I added too much liquid and ended up with a falafel scramble. But on the bright side it was so sad looking that I actually remembered to take a picture! You win some, you lose some.
- I used 2, 15oz cans of chickpeas instead of soaking them overnight.
- I stuffed everything, salad, veggies, falafel, and the babaganoush into a pita pocket and it was messy but good.
Wednesday: Gnocchi with Chard and White Beans
- This is one of my favorite super fast meals that I can cook nearly blindfolded. It involves a little chopping but mostly just opening cans. It’s nice to have a few of these in your back pocket for busy weeknights.
- I skip the mozzarella since I find it pretty flavorless and use more parmesan cheese when serving.
Thursday: Lentil Salmon Salad with Greens
- I had red lentils on hand and used those instead of brown, but just for aesthetic purposes I would recommend brown so that it is a slightly less monochromatic meal. And overcooking them is also not recommended. Mushy!
- We served it over a bed of greens and increased the dressing (about double) in the salad to make up for it.
- Good but not great. But super easy, and sometimes that is worth it in and of itself.
Friday: Black Bean, Corn & Barley Salad with Grilled Meat
- Travis had to make something to bring to a work potluck so we made extras and had it for dinner ourselves.
- Like I said, the longer it sits the better so our day old salad was perfect.
- And since we are overflowing with greens I served it with a side salad and grilled meat (of course!).
As I sit sweating away in my kitchen with the temperature rising outside to our first day in the 90s this summer, I am definitely a fan of my grilling heavy menu this week. Yes, the grill is hot, but at least it’s outside and doesn’t heat up the house. Plus, I’m not the one who does the grilling. Thanks Travis!! We get used to the 90s here in Colorado during the summer, but the first week of it is always a little extra brutal. And being from Vermont I am not used to this kind of heat and apparently I still haven’t adapted. So cold salads and little to no indoor cooking is the way to go. Travis gave me a subscription to a cooking magazine of my choosing for my birthday so if anyone has any favorites, send them along. I love Eating Well and would like another simple, healthy, weekday friendly magazine for inspiration. I am hoping for more ideas for dinner salads and no-cook meals since summer is just beginning! Menu Plan & Grocery List
Monday: Chicken Tacos with Mango-Avocado Salsa and a Grilled Veggie
- After rubbing the chicken with spices, we (Travis) of course grilled it.
- Some veggies we like to grill include asparagus, zucchini, okra, peppers, onions and corn. Take your pick! Okra, asparagus and onions we do in foil, the rest can be done on the grill if sliced large enough, in a grill basket or foil. We just season them with oil, salt and pepper before tossing them on the grill.
Tuesday: Pasta Salad with Tuna and Veggies with Greens
- This was a classic summer meal for me growing up. My mom would make this on a hot summer day when it was too warm to cook. It was easily transportable as a picnic to the beach and can be eaten warm or cold.
- Aside from boiling pasta, this does not require any cooking and is a “kitchen sink” kind of dish. Whatever veggies you have in your fridge can go in.
Wednesday: Mexican Sweet Potato and Black Bean Salad Wraps
- This recipe breaks my “no cooking” streak for the week, but roasting the sweet potatoes is totally worth it! But they can be steamed instead and pan fried with the spices if you don’t want to heat up your house with an oven.
- I grilled the corn in advance with the chicken on Monday night and cut it off the cob. That way I didn’t have to turn on the grill just for this.
- Chipotle chiles in adobo are hot, so adjust accordingly!
- Since Stella is like her dad and does not “do” vegetarian, I have a stash of meat in our freezer for just such occasions. Some mini-meatloaves, small batches of shredded chicken, and if necessary some chicken sausage. Clearly I am terrified of my daughter’s hanger (hunger/anger) and don’t want to risk being without meat. This girl means business!
Thursday: Steak and Zucchini Salad with Shaved Parmesan
- The zucchini dish was used as inspiration; you better believe I did not spend that much time on a veggie side dish. Yes to steps 2-4, then toss the zucchini and dressing in a bowl and top with cheese, almonds (optional) and lemon zest. Done. We don’t bother with presentation here, particularly not on weeknights with just us.
- If I spend time on the side dishes, then I want the main dish to be super easy. So having Travis just grill a steak, or any piece of meat for that matter, to go with this was both delicious and practical.
Friday: Turkey Burgers with Mango Chutney
- Baguette, English muffins or buns are all good burger holding material to me, so take your pick.
- I like that this burger is covered with toppings: lettuce, grilled onions, and chutney. It makes it a full meal in and of itself but breaks the, “don’t drag it through the garden” rule Travis used to insist on until he learned better (i.e. met me). But if you aren’t a fan of lettuce on your burger in such copious quantities, just make a side salad instead.
- Since the grill was on I added a red bell pepper too and sliced it up on the burger. The onions and pepper can either be grilled in large pieces, rings and halves, or sliced smaller and in foil.
My dietitian friends tell me calories don’t count on your birthday, so it must be true! Since I like to take at least a week to celebrate my birthday I think this rule extends itself accordingly. And technically June is my birthday month (commence eye rolls from Travis). He has gotten used to my antics and since I really just like to splurge on good food, it is not much of a burden on him. Root beer floats in particular are a birthday and all around weakness of mine and since my birthday falls at the beginning of root beer float season (anytime the sun is out and it is warm), it’s a great way to kick it off. I will confess that one year I had 4 root beer floats on my birthday weekend. Yikes! We will see what this year’s birthday weekend entails, but it has already started off with homemade ice cream sandwiches, so I think I will do just fine. Feel free to enjoy some vicarious birthday treats on my behalf this weekend. Unfortunately for you though, calories will count. Menu Plan & Grocery List
Monday: Vegetarian Spinach Enchilada Casserole with Pinto Beans
- I was really excited to try this recipe and still think it has a lot of potential with a few tweaks. As of now, its flavor profile is more like Mexican lasagna rather than enchiladas. If that is what you are going for follow the recipe as is but use wheat tortillas instead of corn.
- For a more enchilada flavored casserole substitute the tomato sauce with a can of enchilada sauce, add beans, we used pinto beans, to the cheese and spinach mixture, and maybe some chili powder too.
- Garnish with sour cream, cilantro, and avocado of course.
Tuesday: Tandoori Chicken with Raita, Whole Wheat Pita and Broccoli
- We were meeting friends for a hike after dinner so this was a super easy dish for me to prep and have ready with the grill heated for when Travis got home.
- I of course omitted tomatoes from the raita so it turned into more of a Tzatziki sauce, but since both are delicious it worked pretty well.
Wednesday: Creamy Cauliflower Mac (Mark Bittman’s Food Matters) with Bacon (optional) and Peas
- Travis of course saw this as an opportunity to add bacon. He twisted my arm and it was delicious! To help balance that out I added some frozen peas for good measure.
- I thawed the peas and added them at the end with the bacon and everything else in the baking dish.
- There are shortcuts that I used like steaming the cauliflower in the microwave while the pasta cooks and just using regular old stock from a box, but following the recipe is always an option.
Thursday: Cuban Style Picadillo (Cooks Illustrated), Rice & Black Beans, and a Green Salad
- We’ve made this once before and it is a unique dish that branches out from our usual repertoire. Our notes say to use less meat, but it is really hard to find packages of meat that don’t come in 1 lb increments. So just make it all and freeze the extra.
- This recipe is from Cooks Illustrated magazine, which produces delicious food but is sometimes rather meticulous. For example, use whole canned tomatoes and chop them yourself. So instead I of course just bought diced canned tomatoes since that is a convenience item I fully believe in.
- They also use a food processor, something my brother-in-law and I both believe is the biggest hassle to wash, instead of just hand chopping. So pick your shortcuts and take all of their details with a grain of salt (my father is probably gasping at the horror of my suggestions!). It will be delicious no matter what.
- The recipe says it is traditionally served with rice and beans, so we went traditional with a side salad to get our roughage in.
Friday: Grilled Swordfish Kebabs (Jane Brody’s Good Seafood Book) with Farro Salad
- My general formula for a dinner is protein, grain and veggie. If those come in a one-pot dish, fantastic! Otherwise I have to improvise. Having a whole grain helps stretch the meal which is also nice since we love leftovers for lunch.
- To complete this meal I threw together a side salad with farro, but any grain, leftover or otherwise, would work great. I tried to match some of the flavors in the swordfish marinade. I added any extra herbs I had on hand, chopped up a carrot and scallions, threw in a handful of golden raisins but any dried fruit would work, whisked a little lemon juice, olive oil, and Dijon mustard together with salt and pepper and voila. Nothing fancy, just something to make the meal feel more complete.
- Now, for the actual recipe itself we used tuna instead of swordfish since that is what I could find, and didn’t marinate the fish at all (oops). As happens in life, we got home when we wanted to be eating dinner so we sped things up a bit. Travis basted the tuna before and while grilling instead. I cut the pepper into thirds, the onion into rings and the zucchini lengthwise and grilled them tossed in the extra “marinade” and cut them after cooking. They cook faster this way, which was the goal.
- Some week I promise I will finally remember to take a food picture before devouring our dinner, but obviously I failed again this week!