Monday, July 27, 2009

CSA #4, or What to do with all this Zucchini!

This summer I bought a half-share in a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) , so I get a bushel of veggies every 2 weeks. It has been a challenge for meal planning, since I never quite know what I’m getting! Last Thursday, I was dealt the following veggies:

Salad greens

Small tomatoes

Small Onions

Beets with greens


Radishes with greens

Patty pan squash

Beet greens

Chard and stems

Salad greens





The veggies arrived on Thursday night, and we were scheduled to leave Friday afternoon for a weekend camping trip. I was behind on the menu planning, so I didn’t really know what I was going to do with everything yet. I decided to just wash and store all the greens, wrapping them (separately) in a plastic baggie with some paper towel. I spent the car trip ruminating over what to do with them and I came up with a pretty good plan:

Salad greens: Half went to a salad with cucumber salad that I made last week, instead of putting into wraps. We ate the other half on Sunday night with the tomatoes and beets.

Small tomatoes: cut into wedges and used in salad

Beets with greens: Roasted beets for the salad. When we came home on Sunday night they went straight into the oven and were ready to go by the time we unpacked and made the pasta dish. The greens went into the radish pasta sauce.

Radishes with greens: I sliced up the radishes and brought them along to snack on. The greens went into radish pasta sauce (will post on this later), along with the beet greens.

Patty pan squash: The patty pan squash is adorable! I’m tempted to stuff it, but that seems so involved. Perhaps over the next week I’ll make a stuffing-type side, and double it so that if I get patty pans again I can stuff them. Too much work for just me and hubby. I’ll slice them and use in Heidi’s Summer Squash Gratin (does that seem any less putzy than stuffing them?)

Chard and stems: A few weeks ago I made beans from scratch and used them for Giant Crusty and Creamy White Beans with Chard…I think I’ll do this again. Then, I’ve been using the stems in a gratin, but I think this week I’ll try putting them into a frittata. I’ll post the recipe if it works out!

Zucchini: Tuscan zucchini pasta! I have 3 from the CSA, and my garden is starting to fruit…I think I will need to start researching some new zucchini recipes!

Basil: I’m sure I can find a use for basil, you can never have too much! If I don’t come up with something by the end of the week, I’ll make pesto for the freezer.

Rosemary: this will store in the fridge for a while.

Cucumbers: Salads and sandwiches for lunches.

Small onions: These will go in salads, the frittata, and cucumber salads/sandwiches.

Turnips: My mom used to make rutabagas, and the smell made me turn green. I would chase each bite with a few swallows of milk—hated it. These turnips look different, smaller than the rutabaga that came from the store. I found a recipe (p. 152) for mashed turnips with apples; it promises that the “apples lighten the sometimes strong taste of turnip”. We will see…

So based on that, here is the plan!

Saturday & Sunday Breakfast: instant oatmeal, yogurt, blueberries

Saturday & Sunday Lunch: pbj, power bars, gorp, fruit leather/dried fruit, carrots. This gives us the flexibility to eat out if we see something promising, but have real food on hand.

Saturday dinner: Chicken sausage, sautéed zucchini (sliced thin with garlic and olive oil), bannock, grilled pineapple, dark chocolate squares

Sunday dinner: Tuscan zucchini pasta, green salad with roasted beets, onions, tomatoes and honey balsamic vinaigrette

Monday: White beans and chard, crab cakes (I buy these frozen)

Tuesday: Chard stem frittata, braised chicken sausage

Wednesday: Summer Squash Gratin, quinoa

Thursday: Cucumber and onion sandwiches, turnip apple mash

Friday: Pizza. I might try Rachel Ray’s Zucchini-Roni on my Pizza Crust.

Saturday: Lunch - out; dinner- Picnic- Bring Bulgar salad

Sunday: Sailing- Bring snack for the boat, eat dinner out. Any ideas for a good boat snack to share?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Keeping it Simple

For the last couple weeks, I have written *KISS* (Keep it Simple Silly) at the top of each of my menu plans. This is meant to be a reminder to myself to use the shortcuts that I have created. My problem is that I love to cook. This is a problem because I've had a lot of unstructured time these past few weeks and I find myself wandering into the kitchen and whipping up a buckle or a loaf of bread, just because I feel like it. Well, that's fun, but takes away from time spent on other things I need to do. And, even though I have a bit of flexibility in my schedule now, this isn't usually the case. My life is likely to go back to normal soon, and in normal life I can't cook 3-course dinners every night of the week. So, this week, I will focus on keeping it simple.

We cooked burgers Sunday night, and there was something amazing about the combination of the honey wheat rolls and the toppings—we used garlic cheese (made on the Buffalo farm), tomatoes (from the farmer's market), Mayonnaise (TJ's organic) and salt and pepper. Hubby reckons it was the salt. As I was wrapping them up for lunch, I wondered how we would recreate the combination. If you wrap all that stuff together it gets really mushy, and if you wrap it separately it's a pain in the neck and a lot of stuff goes unused. Hubby said, "Why don't you switch lunch and dinner?" Eureka! So simple, and yet saves so much work of putting each condiment and topping in a separate container and packing it all up! So, I put the burgers in a baggie and put them in the fridge. We'll have the freezer meal for lunch and the burgers for dinner! Mmmm…maybe a strawberry shake to go with that! That's certainly something that wouldn't work for lunches!

This weekend we are going camping at the Waterloo Pickney Recreation Area and to a Steam Train festival I made the camping menu quite simple, with room for the unknown CSA bounty. I suspect there will be many zucchini and cucumbers!

Saturday lunch: Eggs with basil and goat cheese (got my eggs from the Mount Prospect Farmer's Market last weekend), Niman Ranch bacon (I've been curious about trying this since reading Righteous Porkchop.

Saturday dinner: Mustard Roasted Fish (adaptation: I use 7Tbsp of yogurt and 1 Tbsp of mayo to sub for the crème fraiche), green beans (from the garden, yum!), quinoa, red onion, rosemary and goat cheese foccacia (dimple a large pizza crust), strawberry ice cream

Sunday lunch: cucumber salad wraps

Sunday dinner: Buffalo burgers, grilled mushroom, caprese, raspberry and blueberry crumble

Monday lunch: Beans and greens (from the freezer)

Monday dinner: leftover buffalo burgers and cucumber salad, strawberry shake

Tuesday lunch: Pasta with radish greens sauce (from the freezer)

Tuesday dinner: out (we signed up for a wine-tasting/dinner)

Wednesday lunch: spaghetti (from the freezer)

Wednesday dinner: sandwiches--Buffalo BLT's (bacon from the freezer), cucumber salad, chopping extra for Thursday and Friday sandwiches and salads, but not mixing it together (to keep it from getting soggy)

Thursday lunch: cuke sandwiches (just need to assemble, created Wednesday night)

Thursday dinner: Pizza from the freezer, with italian chicken sausages from Trader Joe's, home made pizza sauce from the freezer, onions, mushrooms and home made mozzarella

Friday lunch: BLT sandwiches (make extra Wednesday night)

Friday dinner: cucumber salad wraps, on the road

Saturday & Sunday Breakfast: oatmeal, yogurt, bananas

Saturday & Sunday Lunch: pbj, power bars, gorp, fruit leather/dried fruit, carrots

Saturday dinner: Chicken sausage, something green from the CSA, bannock, grilled pineapple, dark chocolate squares

Sunday dinner: Tuscan zucchini pasta if we make it home, Road food (Chipotle, Noodles & Company, or Panera) if we don't

Monday, July 20, 2009

Cucumber and Onion Salad

This is the second cucumber recipe I'm writing, though I'm actually not that fond of the cucumber! This salad works well on its own, mixed into lettuce, or in a wrap. Just don't leave it too long or it will get very wet.


1 large (English) or two small (Kirby) cucumbers

½ a large or one small onion

Mayonnaise, house made or organic


Cheese – 2 oz (sharp cheddar is best)


If using a cucumber variety other than English, remove the seeds. Chop the cucumber and the onion. Dice the cheese. All three (cucumber, onion, cheese) should be about the same size.


Add a dollop of mayonnaise, about 2 tablespoons. Add a few grinds of pepper to taste.


This salad will last 1-2 days. If you're making it for a party, best to add the mayonnaise an hour before serving to give the flavors time to blend but keep it from turning into soup.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

New Feature: Real Food Article Round-Up

I added a new feature to the Mostly Real blog this week: an article round-up. This will be an ongoing list of articles I come across that feature issues around Real Food. It's on the right sidebar of the page. Hope it's helpful!

Monday, July 13, 2009

No meal plan?

I’ve been on an extended vacation, so no meal plan this week. We’ve been eating picnic leftovers and basically winging it! We also have two dinners out planned this week. Then I’m going out of town the other two nights and leaving Hubby home with banana pizza. I should be back in full swing next week!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Plans for an outdoor picnic

My dad is coming this weekend to see Tom Jones at the Ravinia festival! I’ll put a bunch of food together for the picnic, and we’ll have fish tacos on Friday night. It will be really simple: just grill the ingredients and set them out on the picnic table. Sounds like a relaxing weekend to me!

Saturday: Spring Pea Risotto with chicken sausage

Sunday: Panzanella

Monday: Tuscan zucchini pasta & Simple Grilled Shrimp

Tuesday: Plans with friends, meeting at Goose Island

Wednesday: Scallion soup, grilled mozzarella & tomato sandwiches

Thursday: I’m going out with a friend; Hubby will eat something out of the freezer

Friday: Salmon tacos with beans and rice, butterscotch bananas

Saturday Breakfast: Breakfast casserole.

Saturday Lunch: Grilled mozzarella & tomato sandwiches

Saturday: Malnatti’s (a bit of a guilty pleasure…cheating? Definitely!);Bulgar salad-with peas and green beans--asparagus season is over but the peas and beans are just ready to harvest. Will leave out the eggs and the walnuts;Cheese and crackers. Dad likes Brie with raspberries and my garden is looking ready to oblige! Giada’s chocolate honey almond tart (without the crust, depending on what the graham cracker label says)

Sunday: Leftover breakfast casserole and picnic food for breakfast and lunch; maybe a pizza on the grill for dinner.

Monday, July 6, 2009

The shrimp is gone…what next?

I buy shrimp frozen at Costco. It says on the bag that it’s farmed…and a product of Thailand. U.S. farmed or wild-caught shrimp is on the “good alternatives” list, but the shrimp in Thailand tends to wreck havoc on the mangrove swamps and may have other health and environmental drawbacks.

So tonight I declared we would use up our frozen shrimp supply, unknowingly purchased from Thailand. In the future we will search for a more sustainable source of shrimp, either U.S. farmed or preferably shrimp raised on inland lakes.

As for cooking it? A few weeks ago, Hubby and I were feeling lazy and--rather than marinating the shrimp and hauling out the grill--we just made it inside on the grill pan with some evoo and s&p. This week I added oregano and garlic and it wasn’t really worth the extra effort. My previous go-to recipe for shrimp was from Everyday Food Magazine, entitled Orange-and-Thyme Grilled Shrimp. This is yummy, but sometimes you forget to marinate the shrimp, or maybe orange and thyme isn’t what you’re going for.

I love to grill outside, but there are pros and cons. Pros include not heating up the kitchen by using the stove, outdoor grill flavor, the outdoor/bbq atmosphere. But, if you don’t want to haul out the grill, soak the skewers, skewer the shrimp, go outside…this works quite well. This Simple Grilled Shrimp recipe is perfect for either mood—it would work fine on the grill outside, too.

Simple Grilled Shrimp

Shrimp: 4 oz per person (the Kirkland’s bag of shrimp, sized 21-25 per pound, lists a serving as 4 oz or 6 shrimp)

Evoo, salt, pepper

Thaw the shrimp, rinse and dry. Put in a mixing bowl or a ziplock bag. Add 1 tsp evoo per serving. Salt and pepper to taste (about a pinch of salt and a turn of the grinder per person). Toss to coat.

Heat the grill pan on medium-high. Cover with shrimp. Don’t crowd it, do multiple batches for feeding a crowd. Cook until pink, about a minute per side. Don’t overcook! Shrimp get rubbery if you overcook them.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Tuscan Zucchini Pasta

Last April, while Hubby and I were in Italy we, and his Mum, took a cooking class. We learned a few recipes, but our favorite remains this zucchini dish, which 15 months later we still make about once a week!
It has changed quite a bit for us: I add the garlic later or it tends to burn. Also, I add ricotta and the starchy pasta cooking water. I can’t usually get my hands on ricotta salada, so I skip it or sometimes, if I’m feeling particularly decadent, I add a soft goat cheese. This gives it a sour but pleasantly complex flavor.

Our Tuscan Zuchini Pasta was inspired by a dish we learned from The della Donna Company, entitled “Pasta Sicialiana con le Zucchine”. Our instructor was a Mississipi native living in Tuscany at Castello di Poppiano, a twelfth centry castle, converted by Ikea magic into a modern kitchen complete with a wood-burning hearth. I went back to look at the recipe today, and was flooded with memories of the sweet garden Elaine had and the wonderful lesson she gave us. Over time, we have made Pasta Siciliana con le Zucchine our own, and dubbed it Tuscan Zuchhini Pasta—not nearly as elegant sounding but makes us smile every time to remember that night and the amazing smells and tastes. Not to mention the delicious wine!

Tuscan Zucchini Pasta

Serves 2 as main course, 4 as a side dish.

8 oz air dried pasta

(WARNING! You will want to save some cooking water before dumping the pasta!) Cook according to package directions, until al dente.

2 medium zucchini: sliced thinly

3 cloves garlic, minced

Red pepper flakes, a pinch (more if you like spicy, probably 1/8 – ¼ tsp)

Big pinch of salt

Coat a sauté pan with olive oil at medium-high heat. Add the zucchini, salt and red pepper flakes and coat in the oil. Leave undisturbed 2-3 minutes. When it begins to caramelize (turning brown), add the garlic. Turn heat to medium. Cook until zucchini is caramelized but before garlic burns.

2 Tbsp flat-leaf parsley, chopped

Stir in the parsley, turn off the heat. Set aside.

Reserve 1 c pasta water, drain the pasta (REMEMBER TO SAVE ABOUT 1 CUP OF COOKING WATER!). Do not rinse, do not coat in olive oil (there is plenty in the sauce).


Put the pasta back in the cooking pot. Add…

¼ cup goat cheese, feta, or ricotta salada

¼ cup ricotta

Zucchini mixture

Stir together, adding reserved pasta water as needed just to melt the cheeses and make a creamy sauce. May not use all the water.