Planning Ahead – Locally

For many of us (your co-authors included!!), it’s just about that time of year when the academic calendar takes over our lives again. Or at least for a little while, until we regain our balance. Having some food prepped for the coming week helps to take a little pressure off at the beginning of the term.

Whether it’s you or your kids or spouse who are headed back to school, check out some of our ideas below for prepped meals to help you out. And if no one in your house is headed back to school, then I hope you’ll relish your continued summer and this lovely weather!

Stuffed Bell Peppers

I’ve wanted to try making stuffed bell peppers for a while now. The peppers in our CSA basket this week were gigantic, so it was a great time to try! My sister was game and offered the use of her kitchen, so we each made a big batch to freeze.

Sometimes I don’t feel like following a specific recipe, so this is more a report on how I made them. I kept track of the ingredients in case you want to try replicating it, though!

the peppers. Between the CSA and market, I had 10 giant peppers to stuff!  I sliced off the tops, pulled out the core and gently removed the white ribs with my fingers. I diced up the good parts of the tops to add to the filling, since I wasn’t putting the tops back on after stuffing. And because I was going to freeze these, I decided to blanch the peppers first. I only put them into the boiling water for a minute, but I’d probably follow this chart (which recommends 3 minutes for peppers) next time. After blanching and draining, I set them in small foil loaf pans in pairs, to get ready for assembly. tip: spring-loaded grabbers are quite handy for dunking and removing the peppers without getting burned.

the meat. I figured a pound of ground beef was enough, and though it was sufficient, twice that would have been better. Cook the meat thoroughly in a skillet and drain the fat from the pan.

the filling. Make a pot of brown rice — 2 c. rice, 4 c. water. Set that aside in a large bowl once it’s done and cooled. In a large skillet, sautee a diced yellow onion and the diced pepper-tops together with a little olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Add this to the rice, and mix well.

assembly. You can mix the ground beef into the rice mixture if you like, but honestly I wasn’t sure the rice was all going to fit, and I wanted to be sure that all the meat made it in. So ground beef went into the peppers first, then the rice mixture. The foil containers had thin plastic lids, so I used those for now. But once they’re frozen, I’ll take the covers off and put them in foodsaver bags, since the covers aren’t very sturdy for keeping in the deep freezer.

For what it’s worth, my sister used 2# of ground beef for her batch of 6 peppers, and she added a large can each of black beans and crushed tomatoes to her rice-meat-peppers-onions mixture. It made more than would fit into her peppers, so she just put those portions in their own containers.

small laundry baskets make great (washable!) containers for transport!

nutritional info. As made above, with 1 Tbs. of canola oil (to cook the diced peppers and onion), and with 2 stuffed peppers counting as a serving, these have approximately 384 calories, 20g protein,
25g carbs, 17g fat

They’re quite large, so add a bit of cheese and you have a pretty hearty meal!



Breakfast Bowls

I’ve made some version of these many times over, and the potential for variation is great — you can customize them for whatever flavors you like. Maple pork sausage with eggs and shredded potato is a particular favorite in my house.

Another thing your co-authors share is a significant daily work commute, and the ability to pop a breakfast in the microwave and eat it on the road or once I get to my office is a huge plus. I’ve made sandwiches and burritos before, but they’re hard to put down and pick up again. I find a bowl and spoon is actually easier to manage without spilling.

The batch that I made today was designed to be pretty heavy on the protein. I use 2 c. glass containers with lids from Anchor that do well from freezer to microwave, and this recipe stuffs them pretty full.


2 dozen eggs
2 dozen egg whites (or the equivalent)
3 9.6-oz packages of turkey sausage crumbles
1 1/2 c. brown rice
olive oil spray

Cook the rice with 3 c. water, and set aside.

2 dozen eggs + 2 dozen whites!

The eggs are going to be scrambled, so crack 1 dozen whole eggs and 1 dozen egg *whites into a blender jar, add about 3 Tbs. water, and blend until slightly foamy. Heat a large skillet (nonstick is best) and add a quick spray of olive oil. Scramble the eggs in batches — about 1-2 c. in each batch, depending on the size of your pan. I’ve tried doing the whole thing at once, and it’s kind of been a mess. Your mileage may vary, of course. Set the cooked eggs aside in a large bowl/pan. When the first dozen is done, crack your second dozen of whole eggs and whites, and repeat the process.

Using pre-cooked turkey sausage feels a bit like cheating, and I’d rather not do it. But it is a huge time-saver. I need to seek out some local turkey that I can get ground, though; I’d love to try making my own turkey sausage, and cooking it at home.

12 breakfasts!

Assemble the bowls in layers: rice first, then meat, then eggs. I use a measuring cup for the rice (1/4 c. each), and weigh the other ingredients for each bowl.

To figure out the nutritional information for the eggs, I used the total number of eggs and whites — but knowing that number doesn’t help with portioning! So I divided the total weight of the cooked eggs (we found a pan that would fit on the kitchen scale!), and divided by 12 to get the weight we’d need for each bowl. It sounds like a hassle, but it actually goes pretty quickly.

nutritional information:
Using only cooking spray for the eggs, and no other added fat, these have approximately 316 calories, 34g protein, 14g carbs, and 15.8g fat. I was going to add cheese, but they’re stuffed into the bowls already!

These actually come together pretty quickly, and you can cook the components ahead of time. Straight from the freezer, these take a little more than 2 minutes in my microwave to heat fully. Friends have asked about the consistency of the egg, and honestly I don’t mind it. If anything, I slightly undercook the egg when I’m scrambling, since they’ll get cooked some more in the microwave. But they’re definitely better than the texture of egg in most drive-through breakfast sandwiches.


*If you’re going to separate your eggs, you might be wondering what to do with all those yolks.  Might I suggest making some salt-cured egg yolks? I’ve heard excellent things from friends, though I haven’t made them yet myself. You gently place the yolks in a little well of a salt-sugar mixture, and cover with more of the mix. For 5 days, they sit in your refrigerator, presumably releasing a lot of water into the salt mixture, and maybe taking in some sugar? After 5 days, you brush them off and dry in a 175F oven (or a dehydrator) for a couple of hours. Then, grate on pasta or toast. If you try it, be sure to report back!!

Market Menu: August 19

There’s no stopping the list of fresh local produce available at the Downtown Bloomington Farmers Market and other sources. It’s practically endless!!


  • Melons! Cantaloupes and Watermelons of many varieties
  • Sweet corn!
  • Chile peppers:  poblano, cubanelle, jalapeno, banana
  • Sweet peppers: minis, giant red bell peppers, purple, yellow, green, bullhorn
  • Tomatoes: including determinates like San Marzano, Amish Paste, plus cherry tomatoes, lots of varieties of heirloom, and canning boxes of seconds

Still going strong: beets, cabbage, carrots, cucumbers, eggplant, fennel, garlic, kale, leeks, lettuce, onions, patty pan squash, potatoes, scallions, shallots, summer squash, turnips, zucchini

This week, we wanted to feature recipes that allow substitutions — recipes (or styles of cooking) that let you throw whatever you have on hand into a dish that you’ll enjoy.

When we polled readers on our facebook page as to their favorite dish in this category, stir-fry was the most common. So, here are some ways that you can enjoy seasonal vegetables in a stir-fry.

Equipment: Having a wok is not essential; a large skillet or other large pan with a flat bottom will work, too. Make sure to start with a hot pan, and hot oil (something other than extra-virgin olive oil). Then add aromatics like ginger and garlic or onion first, then your veg.


  1. Ginger and Garlic – for 2-4 servings, start with 1 T oil, 1 T fresh ginger (grated or minced), 2-3 cloves of garlic (crushed or minced). Keep it moving or keep stirring for about a minute, until the kitchen smells amazing. Then add your vegetables: green onions, carrots, summer squash, kale — whatever you have on hand!!  You can even cube kohlrabi and add it to this. Just be conscious of how long each veg will take to cook, relatively. I generally add carrots, kohlrabi, and broccoli stalks first; summer squash or peppers in the middle, and kale later. When you add your veg, also add 1-2 T of soy sauce. Keep stirring for a few minutes until everything is cooked to your taste. I often do veg-only stir fries, but lately I’ve been using the high protein extra-firm tofu from Green Top, and it’s great in this. You can pre-marinate it, or just add it in with your vegetables. If you want meat, I usually cut up my chicken into bite-sized pieces first, then add to the hot pan at the very beginning of cooking, with the aromatics.
  2. Garlic Sauce – I haven’t tried this, but for fans of dishes like tofu in garlic sauce, this looks like a winner!! It includes soy sauce, chicken broth, rice wine, sugar, sesame oil, pepper, garlic, and ginger. I’d definitely try this with green beans, if you have any around.
  3. Sweet and Sour sauce with Ginger – this is pretty close to what my mother made for us growing up (as taught to her by our Cantonese neighbor). The main difference is that she would cook the meat and vegetables with everything except the sugar, vinegar, and cornstarch. She’d mix the sugar and vinegar together and then add it to the pot and cook for a bit, then mix the cornstarch with a little cold water, and add it once the sugar-vinegar mixture was boiling.
  4. This list of stir-fry sauces includes some coconut and lime-based Thai sauces, which look interesting!

For me, having lots of veggies on hand and no plan for them usually means making a frittatta or tortilla espagnole. The latter requires (waxy) potatoes, both require eggs, and the frittatta definitely needs some cheese. But the more critical thing is time; the tortilla espagnole starts with thin-sliced potatoes, which make a sort of crust at the bottom of the pan, under a layer of egg and vegetables.  Delicious! But slicing and pre-cooking them adds about 15 minutes to cooking time, compared to the frittatta. Here are a few options for each.

Tortilla Espagnolesimple recipe from Food tv, though you can certainly add to it!

FrittattaAlton Brown has a great recipe, as does Epicurious (so great that I think I’ve posted it before!) and the Pioneer Woman (who emphasizes the nearly-endless versatility of this crustless quiche!)