It’s a rare morning where I am up and my daughter is sleeping. I guess it’s worth being a little off schedule over the weekend to be able to sip a cup of hot coffee and blog on a Monday and Tuesday morning.
We are a little over a month away from Baby Girl #2 and I think that finally, nesting is settling in. This is perfect timing as our CSA is hitting peak season and finally I have the energy and desire to make the most of it. But keep in mind, I am almost 8 months pregnant and I have a toddler, so I am not doing anything that requires a ton of work, like canning, preserving, or making pesto. Consider this the lazy girl’s guide to the CSA. How can I use all of the produce with the least amount of effort?
After several years of having a CSA, I have learned a few tips and tricks for some of the produce you usually find in the box. Thought I would share some of those with you and I would love to hear how you have been successful with your CSA.
Tips for Using Your CSA
1. Prep, prep, prep. No one likes to hear that they may have to actually put work into eating healthy, but a little effort goes a long way. First, I suggest finding a CSA that does a lot of the prep for you, like washing the vegetables, bagging greens, etc. When we picked up our box from our first CSA, it looked like the vegetables had come directly from the ground. It would take an hour just to wash them to put them in the fridge. It got old really fast. Our latest CSA does the washing for us. Our greens are washed and bagged just like you find in the grocery store. There isn’t dirt sticking to any of the veggies. I still rinse them before we use them, but it’s a huge difference.
For veggies like zucchini, cucumbers, carrots, broccoli, radishes, and broccoli, I try to set aside some time to chop them up for snacking. I have found the best way to store them is in individual bags per type and then put them all in a large gallon sized bag. They seem to stay fresh longer and I just grab the bigger bag when I want to have veggies and dip/hummus.
2. Cauliflower rice. Cauliflower has become the new kale. We love making it as a rice: simply throw a head of cauliflower into a food processor with a small onion (you may need to do two batches) and pulse until you have small pea-sized pieces. Store in the fridge until you are ready to use it. To cook it: add a tablespoon or so of olive oil (or even better infused olive oil) in a pan and saute over medium high heat until tender. Serve it as you would rice. People are also using cauliflower to make pizza crusts and beef up sauces, following the same prep. I find that if I prep it over the weekend, I am much more likely to use it during the week.
3. Zucchini noodles or ‘zoodles’. We try not to eat a ton of grains in this house and pasta is just never worth it for us. Unfortunately, we still love a lot of traditional pasta dishes, like spaghetti and meatballs and summer pasta salads. Enter the spriralizer. Dang, we love this thing! It’s worth investing the money. It just takes a few minutes to make noodles out of your zucchini. They store for about 5 days in the fridge (maybe longer, but they never last that long here). Spriralize a few zucchini when you have 15 minutes, and then use them throughout the week. Here are our two favorite dishes:
Bowl of spinach/arugula + zucchini noodles + bottled marinara + pre-made frozen meatballs + steamed broccoli = comfort food with no guilt
Zucchini Noodles + Italian Dressing + chopped turkey pepperoni + small mozzarella balls + diced sweet pepper + diced onion + Parmesan cheese = a “pasta” salad that tastes like junk food but sneaks in a lot of veggies
4. Stay on top of your potatoes! I love the potatoes we get from the CSA, but I have to admit we are not huge potato eaters. As soon as we start getting them, I try to make them once a week. I used to be one of those people who made things like potato salad. I love potato salad, but that involves way too many steps right now. Any chance any of you want to come over and make me potato salad? Same goes for homemade french fries and pretty much anything that requires time and multiple steps.
I keep it simple with occasional baked potatoes (hello potato button on my microwave!) and potato grill packets for the grill. For the packets, I just slices up a few potatoes, one or two small sweet onions (also from the CSA), and a sweet pepper (also from the CSA), toss it with some olive oil and spice blend (steak rubs are really great for this), wrap it in foil and throw it on the grill for 20-30 minutes.
5. Freezing peppers. Even I love all of the sweet peppers I get from the CSA, I never seem to get through them all. Last year, I froze the peppers whole. Big mistake! Then you have to either chop them frozen (which is really hard) or thaw and chop them (which leads to mushy cold peppers). I have learned to chop them into strips or dice, and THEN freeze them. It’s a little more time on the front end, but then you can just throw them into the recipe with no prep later.
6. Stay on top of your carrots. Carrots from the CSA are so sweet and amazing, but like bunnies, they tend to multiply in my produce drawer. I cut some up for snacking, but mostly I end up dicing them and adding them to whatever ground meat recipes that I can. Think sloppy joes, tacos, spaghetti meat. It adds a nice sweet element to the meat and helps me get through the piles of carrots we get.
7. Grilled eggplant. We are just starting to get eggplant in the CSA. For the first time ever, I grilled eggplant over the weekend and this will be my go-to preparation from now on. Oh. My. God. It was amazing. It turns into this silky smooth, sweet goodness that you can spread on a baguette. Simply slice it into [1/2] inch thick slices, brush it with oil (I used garlic infused olive oil, yum!) and sprinkle with salt. Place it on a piece of foil and grill for 10-15 minutes on each side. The foil keeps it from sticking to the grill and makes clean up a breeze.
That wraps up my tips. Now, I’d love to hear from you.
What are some of your time saving tips for using your CSA?
Any produce you are struggling with?
Can anyone help me with kale? Gosh, I just don’t like the stuff, but I am not ready to say uncle yet. What is an easy preparation that will turn me on to kale?