It’s been a weekend of delicious, unhealthy food in mass quantities. First, I was craving salt and vinegar chips the better part of the week, a desire I fulfilled by eating through an entire bag in two days, with, shamefully, only a little help from Steve. Then there was a big sticky treat at Starbucks on Saturday to break my week-long sugar fast. Saturday night and Sunday morning: homemade buttermilk cheddar and Gruyere biscuits. And currently fermenting on the countertop, two loaves of homemade whole wheat bread. Not innately evil, but you know restraint is going to be difficult when it comes to a gorgeously browned, organic homemade loaf. All this was accompanied by feeling mildly like death for about 36 hours over the weekend, with, unfortunately, no loss of appetite, and approximately 23 minutes of yoga.
I have to say, I’m having irrational fears that I’m going to be the girl who has to get her wedding dress let out. It’s probably in the making right now, and between two sizes, we opted for the smaller. Fingers crossed.
By anyone’s assessment, I’m on the petite side, but I didn’t realize how much having food as a hobby can really add up. I used to think it was all about exercise. I’d work out obsessively to eat whatever I wanted. It worked great through high school, and decently in college. Despite working long hours involving lots of takeout over my six year accounting career, I always chalked weight fluctuation up to a lack of exercise. However, after injuring my knee while running a half marathon in 2013, I learned firsthand that my physique largely follows what I put into my mouth. I was letting my body recover, only doing a little strength work, and eating healthy (even if out of fear) and, much to my surprise, I didn’t gain weight or have it shift to undesirable places.
Even though I’ve nearly eliminated meat from my diet, it’s a definite struggle at times to balance my love of cooking with eating right. I’m not a junk-food vegetarian by any stretch, but I’m allowing bread back into my life in small, high-quality doses, and it’s right up there with potatoes (see above: chip binge) on the list of foods I reach for first.
In the same week, I’m brainstorming recipes for healthy vegan breakfast tacos and garlic cheddar breakfast biscuits (yes, both recipes are forthcoming), and I’m always sampling while cooking, especially where cheese is involved. Aside from sticking to fresh fruits and veggies as snacks, I think the best course is to continue to stand by my mantra of balance. Sometimes that might mean generally being more indulgent, but sometimes, like in the coming months, I think it will actually mean weighting my choices toward more healthy options. Given the abundance of my summer CSA share in just the first three weeks, making healthy options taste amazing, tempting even, shouldn’t be an insurmountable challenge.
Summer CSA Week 3
Just when I thought our share was requiring an awful lot of supplementing with regular grocery shopping came this week’s haul. In the early season, we’re still heavy on herbs and aromatics, but leafy veggies should get us through the whole week for dinners.
- Cabbage (red)
- Garlic scapes
- Lettuce (gigantic!)
- Swiss chard
I don’t have a whole ton of specific early summer produce recipes below, but if you haven’t yet, check out my new index page with tons of recipe links and ideas for your favorite produce ingredients.
The first week we got a seedling in our share, which is still growing and, more recently, flowering, in my window sill. One of these days I’ll take it down to the garage and put it in a pot with the organic soil Steve got for me probably two weeks ago. Major procrastination. Since the seedling leaves are still small, and I’m not sure if it’s the variety that will develop bigger leaves at all, I used this week’s “mature” basil bouquet to make a batch of basil pesto.
Every time I make pesto, I use a different recipe and different ingredients. Usually I vary the nuts, going with more economical walnuts, but I had pine nuts on hand leftover from this week’s cooking group that I hosted. Sometimes I feel confident enough to make up the recipe as I go, but this time I used my favorite vegetarian cookbook as a guide. Pesto looked good, but I tasted it and realized it was missing an essential component: lemon juice. I love acidic flavors, especially against the richness of all that oil, parmesan cheese, and the pine nuts, so I doubt you’ll ever see a pesto recipe from me without some type of acid.
I’ve used the pesto mostly as a vinaigrette with our haul of lettuce: 2 parts thick pesto, 1 part red wine vinegar, and a splash of water if needed to thin the dressing. I also mixed the same vinaigrette up with a bowl of warm white beans, to add to a spicy Italian broccoli bowl recipe I’m working on.
We had our choice of green, red, or Napa, and I went with the cute little head of red cabbage this time. Not entirely true. I went with the largest one I could find, after the lady picking out her produce next to me snatched the one I had my eye on. Not bitter at all. #itsonlycabbage
I “whipped up” this braised cabbage recipe, which ended up taking about an hour. So that’s why they don’t list times in the recipe! It was awesome, though, with a mustardy bite at the end, and a pretty glossy appearance thanks to a little (really, just a little) butter. I served it over quinoa with curried lentil salad on the side.
These are the longest chives ever! Can you tell from the picture? So long they were bending beneath their own weight.
Why is is that chives always go into the most junky foods? Cream cheese, chip dip, potato chips (maybe that’s just chive flavoring), butter, or any number of dairy-laden dips and hot dishes. It actually makes sense, in that the bright, fresh, but not pungent, chives lend some zip wherever you add them. So far, I used them to make cheddar biscuits and garlic-chive butter, both of which come together in my most insane breakfast sandwich creation ever. So insane, it got me to eat a little prosciutto at home. Of course, the prosciutto, I think, was just icing on the cake, so it could be made vegetarian. I’ll let you decide when I share the glorious recipe this week.
I also threw more chives into the curried lentil salad I made on Tuesday night, and I’ll use them in another batch of those biscuits to bring up to Maine for the holiday weekend. We can burn off the breakfast sandwiches on the 5-mile waterfront trail, right?
Same route as the basil–I took last week’s wilting scapes and the new haul from this week and whipped up a huge batch of my garlic scape pesto recipe. Yes, I did write down one pesto formula, but I actually changed it up as well, using pine nuts instead of walnuts this week. Most of it is freezing in ice cube trays right now, ready to last the whole summer, and maybe this week I’ll use the bit in the fridge to whip up a pesto potato salad.
One note on nuts in pesto–toast them! It makes all the difference for a deeper flavor. It seems that Deb and I share sentiments on the issue.
So much big lettuce! I got two giant heads in two colors. Mostly I’ll be eating salads en masse, with some pesto vinaigrette from all that pesto I made, but I’ll keep you posted if I do anything more creative with it.
Ahhhh, my favorite onion! I used these to replace the onions in the braised cabbage recipe above, in some curried lentil salad, and in the filling for baked chiles rellenos that I prepared in advance to bring to Maine for the weekend.
I fear this may be the last of the strawberry crop. This is one that CSA members pick themselves, and I noticed the field looking a little sparse and sad, despite being filled with adorable children. Don’t judge by appearances, though, because I got some of the sweetest berries to date. I honestly think I’m noticing small differences in the taste of the strawberries from week-to-week. This week, at the tail end, they almost taste better than at the beginning of the season. Still perfectly sweet, but without any tartness. I’ve read that, as you eat more seasonally, it becomes easy to notice minute differences in the time a fruit or veggie was harvested, and I believe it. I’m actually afraid how my taste buds will react when I go back to store-bought strawberries.
Since I took the week off from refined sugar (um, until that caramel chocolate pastry explosion I downed at Sbux), I’ve been stockpiling fruit in the house. The CSA strawberries don’t last long: for the third week in a row, I did nothing creative with them. Straight down the hatch, baby. Anyway, I did end up supplementing with some non-organic strawberries from Trader Joe’s, and even they tasted like it was the right time of year to eat them. Moral of the story? Whether you’re shopping the local chain grocer or a farmers market, eat in season for the best taste and most savings.
This little bouquet was gone shortly after arriving home. I had major outdoor allergy issues (or maybe a bug) early in the weekend, so I whipped up more dragon bowls. They’re super healthy for when I need energy and nutritional power, and they’re also not that hard to make when feeling less than 50%. I substituted chard, including stems, for kale, omitted sweet potatoes, traded chickpeas for the leftover black-eyed peas in the fridge, roasted the legumes instead of frying, and sautéed some onion and pepper scraps to throw in. Basically, it doesn’t matter how you vary these bowls, because crispy rice always wins.
Dinners this Week
Fourth of July week here in the U.S.! That means travel plans and house guests for me. My middle sister and her husband are flying in from Oklahoma Monday and Wednesday, respectively, and we head up to Maine for a long weekend starting Friday. Usually I buckle down on meal planning when we have wacky schedule or circumstances, but not this week. I have nothing planned yet! You’ll notice the holes above in my produce ideas, so I’ll fill them in as me and Tor decide what to cook with them every night. I have decent quantities of odds and ends in the cheese drawer, fridge, freezer, and pantry. I’m thinking between those and fresh bread getting a couple dinners on the table shouldn’t be too difficult!
I’ll try to post a couple new picnic-friendly recipes for the Fourth, but in the meantime, check out these favorites:
- Thai sweet potato salad
- Classic guac and gluten-free socca (chickpea flour) chips
- Angel food cupcakes with white chocolate buttercream
Note: This page contains affiliate links. It does NOT contain sponsored content. Affiliate links (to products I recommend, on Amazon) offset my ingredient and website maintenance costs, so I can keep bringing you summer produces recipes and ideas like these. Thanks!