Loading up on a bounty of fresh vegetables is the best way to eat healthily at home, but we know that working your way through a farmers’ market haul can sometimes be intimidating. Below are some simple ideas and techniques that we hope will help you more easily create delicious food with those beautiful vegetables.
1. Find Your Go-To Cooking Methods
Having a couple of recipes in your arsenal that will work with whatever vegetables you have on hand is a wonderful way of avoiding veggie waste. And when we say recipe, we really mean a cooking method… or better yet, a vegetable plan of attack. Some of our favorite dishes that work well with just about any seasonal vegetable are things like stir-fries, quiches, and tacos. The ability to throw these types of dishes together is at the heart of Club Home Made. That friend who can whip up something wholesome and delicious? That can be you …. we’re here to teach you how!
2. A Few of Our Favorite Things...
Get a fancy-ish knife and good cutting board.
We’re a firm believer that you don't need super fancy gadgetry to cook good food, but having a knife you love (that is sharp!) and a big and solid cutting board will make vegetable prep so much more enjoyable. Seriously. When I got my first grown-up knife, I was shocked to see that the non-serrated blade sliced through a tomato without any trouble. You shouldn't have to put any muscle behind chopping vegetables. A sharp knife should do the work for you. Head to YouTube to learn how to sharpen your knife, or do like me and get a professional to sharpen it at the farmers' market.
3. Don't Crowd
Don’t cramp my style, and don't crowd your pan, your pot, your bowl, or your cutting board. Food will brown better when it's spaced out in a pan, and mixing will be easier when you choose the right bowl. Your prep space will be better organized when you have ample room on your cutting board to chop multiple ingredients at once. When choosing a bowl or cutting board, I always choose one size larger than I think I need. And never have I wished for a smaller vessel.
I have an enviable collection of beautiful ceramic bowls in my kitchen, but my most used bowl is the huge stainless steel mixing bowl I got at Ace Mart. I have a gorgeous cutting board from Straight Leg Ranch that I use for meat and cheese boards, but my favorite cutting board for daily use is a restaurant quality cutting board, also from Ace Mart. It's no-frills, easy to clean, and has a big enough surface area to chop all the vegetables. Again, give yourself some space.
4. Become Friends with Your Freezer
Specifically, start to utilize your freezer space for things other than pizzas and frozen-potato products, which, for the record, we support. But, your freezer is also a wonderful way to store leftover meals, or even just components of future meals, for quick and easy use.
Freezing Leftovers: Steer clear of freezing dishes with dairy products in them, but if you're making meatballs, for example, consider making a double batch and freezing leftovers in single-serving containers for quick lunches when you ain't got nothing else. Making a big pot of beans? Make more than you need! I freeze cooked beans in 1 or 2 cup portions, which can easily be thrown into the microwave. Realize that you suddenly have an entire drawer full of beets? For the quickest of preservation, boil, peel, dice, and freeze your extra beets, now ready to go in a smoothie or salad. This method can really be applied to just about anything you have too much of and is a wonderful way to avoiding wasting a vegetable you may be (momentarily) sick of.
PSA: Do yourself a favor, and label what you put in the fridge. Even if you think you'll remember, just stick a label on it. Because the more you start to use your freezer, the crazier it will get in there. Include the date. I try to eat frozen leftovers in about 3 months, and try to use up frozen vegetables/ingredients in about 5 months. Of course, the food will likely still be fine past these dates, but you'll start to lose flavor and texture.
Freezing Ingredients: Freeze other ingredients like freshly minced garlic and ginger paste, seasonal pesto, or tomato sauce. During tomato season: dedicate one lazy Sunday afternoon to hitting up the market, buying a bounty of tomatoes, and have nothing on your schedule except making and freezing tomato sauce.
I have a sheet of paper taped to the side of my fridge: every time I add something to my freezer, I add it to the list. That way when I'm trying to cobble together a quick and easy meal, I can see what ingredients I have frozen at just a quick glance. Having the list up also is a visual reminder at all times that there are beautiful ingredients just begging to be used in the freezer. It helps me work through these things quickly, which facilitates this entire method of preservation. The more I utilize these ingredients when I'm out of fresh options or need to go to the store, the more space I have to then freeze them when the CSA box overfloweth.
5. Treat Your Veggies Right
Clean, wash, chop, and sort your veggies when they arrive in your kitchen. Farm-fresh veggies are tastier and more nutritious, but we know that they sometimes arrive in your kitchen with a story to tell. "I'm a carrot! I grow underground, and to prove it, here's a little dirt." Grocery stores have primed us to expect spotless vegetables, void of any traces of the farm they grew up on. If you're new to cooking local vegetables, do yourself a favor and prep for cooking when they arrive at your house. This will help you in your transition to eating more locally produced vegetables that are grown with love, free from the unrealistic cosmetic standards of even the most well-meaning grocery store. Do some quick research on how best to store fresh vegetables. Storing your vegetables properly will extend their life, and avoid any incidents of veggie-shame that may accompany wasting delicious produce.
Hungry for some more tips? Join us for a Club Home Made gathering!