Summer 2017 Week Two CSA Share and Meal Plan

This week, ahead of the Fourth of July weekend, we had our summer 2017 week two CSA pickup from Stillman’s Farm. I’m unsure of our meal plan as we’re taking this opportunity to travel, but I can make some suggestions.

This week we got a bunch of beets, mixed baby greens, Swiss chard, kale, lettuce, and strawberries.

summer 2017 week two CSA share

Storing your share

  1. Lettuce greens (heads and mixed spring greens): if starting with a head of lettuce, pull the leaves off individually and place in a bowl of cold salted water for a few minutes. It will both help to refresh the greens and loosen any dirt or tiny bugs. Stillman’s Farm does not spray their greens at all, so you might find little gnats or aphids squished between the leaves. Then spin dry, tear into bite sized pieces, and store in a large ziploc bag or tupperware container.
  2. Beets: separate the beets from the greens and wrap each in a produce bag.
  3. Kale and Swiss chard: put in a produce bag to store until you’re ready to use.
  4. Strawberries: Eat right away. Fresh, local strawberries are not as durable as store bought, imported strawberries (and they are better for it!).

What to cook

Check out my post on meal planning for how I approach using up my share each week.

Early season CSA means salad. I’ll post my Strawberry and Mozzarella salad later this week, but it’s a light, delicious, refreshing early summer salad, perfect for a weeknight meal. For another salad, Bobby Flay’s Warm Lentil Salad with Beets and Goat Cheese is hearty and substantial – just be sure to add a roll or some sort of side carb. Use the Swiss chard later this week on a pizza with caramelized onions and a combination of mozzarella and ricotta. And if you, too, have BBQs and travel plans for the holiday weekend, I’d recommend cooking and freezing the kale for later. To do so, bring water to a boil and strip the greens from the stalks. Simmer for seven minutes, drain, and cool down under cold water. Squeeze out as much liquid as you can before fluffing back up and freezing in a freezer bag.

Update from last week

As an update from last week, I did make both pea and goat cheese ravioli and strawberry toaster pastries, like I intended (yay, me!), but neither are good enough to post yet. I went too heavy on the lemon in the pea ravioli, which overtook the pea flavor . With the toaster pastry, I made a quick, single jar strawberry jam, but the basil flavor didn’t come through enough. Both still needs some work. This recipe development stuff, it’s a process, made all the more challenging by getting a new CSA box each week. Ideally, when developing a recipe, you want to make it a few times to work out the kinks, but that opportunity may not come with the next box. So bear with me!

CSA intro series: Meal planning

I forgot I had another post in mind for this week, so we’re going a little out of logical order, but I promised meal planning, so meal planning you will get.

Meal planning

Before joining a CSA, I had a set of ingredients that I would buy each week along with a pantry and freezer of staples. These could be put together into a number of different meals – usually protein, carb, vegetable. If I had anything left over at the end of the week, I would take that into account for my next grocery trip. With a CSA, though, you get a new box the following week and the week after that.

When I first started getting CSA boxes, I didn’t meal plan and cooked like I did previously. I would come home, and decide on something to make with what I had on hand. What ended up happening, though, is that I didn’t necessarily completely or efficiently use up the ingredients. I would get my pickup the following week and still have leftovers from the week prior. I found myself throwing stuff out because I hadn’t used it in time. This is where meal planning comes in.

Benefits of meal planning

These are what I find to be the greatest benefits to meal planning.

  • Enables me to use all the vegetables during the week, so I can start with an empty vegetable drawer for each new box, keeping ingredients fresher and reducing waste.
  • Removes dinner-time stress because I know what I am making every night of the week and can prep elements ahead when I have time.
  • Saves time because I think about dinner one day per week and shop one day per week. Each night, all I have to do is pull up the correct recipe and cook.
  • Can save money by consciously planning budget-friendly meals and being intentional in purchases so as not to overbuy food.
  • Can lead to healthier eating.
  • My favorite benefit, however, and where this blog came from, is that I started cooking much more interesting dishes. Because I had time, I started experimenting more and looking for new ideas. I save recipes for later and get excited at the opportunity to try a new one.

Meal planning process

As part of bringing your CSA home (I’ll post next week on this topic), first take inventory of what you got and make special note of anything that is damaged. This is key for when you sit down to meal plan for the week.

  • As you plan out your menu, cross off what will be used in each dish and make note of what else you need to buy.
  • Plan meals starting the day after pickup through the end of the day of the next pickup (I pick up Wednesday, so I plan meals through Wednesday night of the following week). I never want to come home from pickup and have to scramble for a meal that night. I would rather be putting away what I’ve gotten and planning my meals for the coming week.
  • For the first meals of the week, plan to use any damaged ingredients and anything delicate, like leafy greens.
  • Make the first meal of a CSA box (the day after pickup) simple so you can go grocery shopping.

This is what mine ends up looking like (much less pretty than the top of the page). My meal plan is in Google Docs as a sheet. I make a list of what I got over on the side and start planning. This document is shared between me and my husband so that whoever gets home first can start dinner without question. It is a system we’ve been using for a while, and it definitely works.

Have more questions about my process or your meal planning difficulties? Comment below and I’ll see if I can help.

Summer 2017 Week One CSA Share and Meal Plan

There’s nothing quite as exciting as the first CSA pickup of the summer season. That may sound like an overstatement, but I truly look forward to the first pickup all spring. There’s something different and better about getting handed a box of produce rather than having to go shop for yourself. So to kick off the season, here we have our summer 2017 week one CSA share and meal plan!

This week we got a bunch of beets, mixed baby greens, shell peas, kale, lettuce, and strawberries. The season usually starts off a little slow and greens heavy, but I view it as easing into the process.summer 2017 week one CSA

Storing your share

  1. Lettuce greens (heads and mixed spring greens): if starting with a head of lettuce, pull the leaves off individually and place in a bowl of cold salted water for a few minutes. It will both help to refresh the greens and loosen any dirt or tiny bugs. Stillman’s Farm does not spray their greens at all, so you might find little gnats or aphids squished between the leaves. Then spin dry, tear into bite sized pieces, and store in a large ziploc bag or tupperware container.
  2. Beets: separate the beets from the greens and wrap each in a produce bag.
  3. Kale: put in a produce bag to store until you’re ready to use.
  4. Strawberries and peas: I think you should just eat them both right away, but if, for some reason, you don’t want to eat them at their freshest and most delicious, leave them in the produce bags until you’re ready to eat.

What to cook

I’m going to post tomorrow night about meal planning, so check back if you’re interested in my process.

Based on what’s in the box this week, it’s pretty obvious that salad needs to be on the menu. I’m thinking a big steak salad with the beets and a lighter, simpler salad with some strawberries and burrata. If either turn out yummy, expect to see them on the blog later this week. With the rest I plan to make Lemony Kale pesto over pasta, Yotam Ottolenghi’s chickpea sauté with beet greens instead of Swiss chard, and pea and goat cheese ravioli if I’m feeling motivated (or, you know, I might just eat the peas straight). If I’m feeling really really motivated, I’ve seen homemade breakfast pastries all over Pinterest recently and I have this dream of a strawberry basil jam filled toaster pastry with a balsamic glazed frosting. But we’ll see if that happens…