While fall brings some cooler-weather items back to the market, the list of offerings is HUUUUGE compared to spring! I don’t ever get tired of roasting root vegetables, and I could probably eat them every day, but I might not say that in a couple more weeks. So I definitely want to put some casseroles or soup into the freezer for busy weekdays later on. The roots don’t freeze so well, but most everything else does!
I’d love to get another batch of red pepper soup together, and maybe some chicken and vegetable. Neither are very labor-intensive, and they’re super tasty in the middle of winter. I’ll post recipes on our facebook page, such as they are.
So, what else is on the menu for the week?
Fall marks the return of some hot cereal options in my house:
whole wheat berries with fuit and honey and a splash of cream or yogurt. Once cooked (and they take quite a while to cook!), these keep well in the fridge for a second day, so I like to make a batch on the weekend. They’re even tasty cold, in a pinch.
For something hot and hearty, a big pan of frambled eggs with kale, magic sauce and some local sausage will do the trick. They actually aren’t bad pre-made and portioned into cups for enjoying later in the week. I like to chop the kale and sausage and mix them in with the eggs before putting into individual portion-sized containers. Add magic sauce when you reheat during the week (before putting in the microwave).
For a treat, how about some french toast (Pekara’s Paesano bread is AMAZING for this) with bacon and maple sirup? (if you still have some left!)
Leftovers are a life-saver for a busy October; I’m planning on making more stuffed peppers (before this amazing crop stops producing!), some casseroles and soups to enjoy for easy lunches. But I’ve also been playing with big mash-up bowls of goodies:
hummus, roasted sweet potato, lettuce, pickled beets, watermelon radishes, shaved carrots, quinoa and a little cheese, with some lemon-tahini dressing on top.
Roasted Vegetable Pizza – the combo is up to you! I love little bits of things: pickled fennel, olives, dried tomatoes, sauteed onions (slow and low, to get them caramelized), chevre and pork sausage, with a little shredded mozzarella on top.
Butternut Squash, Apple and Onion Galette w/ Stilton – Food Network (but many versions of this recipe are out there, including this one without the apple, and this one with brie). A galette is a sort of pie with a freeform crust. Instead of baking in a pie plate, galettes are usually baked on a pan, with the edges folded over the ingredients (but not all the way to the center). Don’t be intimidated by the pastry! A quick trip in the food processor will combine the ingredients, and a large ziploc bag works wonders at bringing the pastry together without making a mess. Galettes are fantastic to have in your repertoire, because you can use the pastry to wrap sweet or savory ingredients. And just like pies, you *could* freeze them for future baking.
Enjoy the last few weeks of the market! And don’t worry – – we’re not going away when the outdoor market shuts down for the season. We’ll be talking to our farmers about their winter cover crops and planning, writing about working through stored produce, and hunting for those elusive winter crops!!
Local oats (or wheat berries!) with your favorite toppings – from Epicurious. Oats are inexpensive and store easily, and it just might be chilly enough this weekend for a hot breakfast. The next time I make oatmeal, I’m going to try adding in some of my homemade applesauce — which is basically just chopped up apples left in a crock pot until they’re soft. Market items: Oats!
Crispy egg on toast – from Smitten Kitchen Market items: eggs, bread
Scrambled tofu with greens – from Yup it’s Vegan. This is a great way to incorporate vegetables in your breakfast, if that’s a thing you want to do. You can also add in leftover roasted vegetables – sweet potatoes are delicious in a breakfast scramble, too. Market items: greens!
Freezer-friendly breakfast burritos – from The Kitchn Market items: eggs, potatoes, peppers, bacon or sausage
Five days of Lunches
Carrot Salad – This is a fantastic grated carrot salad with parsley and lemon, from Once Upon a Chef. While not a meal on its own, it would go well with some cheese and fruit and/or another assortment of things. I’d put money on this going well with feta cheese, in particular.
Market items: carrots, parsley, cheese, apples
The Peppers and Sausages below make great leftovers, if you chop up the sausages before packing into individual serving containers. Add some rice or bread for a hearty lunch.
My favorite and most reliable lunch these days is chicken and sweet potatoes and applesauce. We’re in the heart of sweet potato season now, so I suggest that you stock up. I like to peel and cut my sweet potatoes into large chunks and boil them (and then mash), or else cut in small-medium (1/2″) cubes and roast. I’ll bake the chicken with a glug of italian dressing and foil over the baking dish, and then retain some of the liquid that remains after cooking (otherwise the chicken can get dry). If you’re going to chop the chicken up after cooking, be sure to let it rest first — otherwise, you’ll definitely have dry chicken.
Five days of Dinners
Spicy Stuffed Cabbage Rolls – filled with rice, spicy pork, and fresh napa cabbage. Made by the Serious Eats folks, in their “Cook the Book” series, from Faith Durand’s Not Your Mother’s Casseroles. As the Serious Eats staff note, the filling can easily be customized for your family’s tastes: less or more spicy, different vegetables, substituting ground beef for pork, etc. Market items: Ground pork
The recipe is dead simple, and takes only 10 minutes in the morning. Slice the peppers and onion (I’d probably do this the night before, and wrap gently – who wants to go to work with onion hands? not I!). Then you add whole-grain mustard and beer, and put the whole sausages on top, and let it cook for the day.
Not only has the weather turned perfectly just in time for hot dinners, but this has been an AMAZING season for peppers! Just check out these beauties at the market!! Market items: Peppers, onions, sausages
Sheet Pan Chicken Thighs and Cabbage – from Food52. This calls for a head of green cabbage, and chicken thighs or drumsticks, and a simple quick marinade of sesame oil, soy sauce, vinegar, sriracha and salt and pepper. The cabbage goes in later – this is the key with sheet pan dinners, is getting the timing right. If you haven’t roasted cabbage or brussels sprouts before, you’re in for a treat. If it were me, I’d make some mashed potatoes to go along with this hearty dinner. Market items: cabbage, chicken, potatoes
Roasted Root Vegetables and Hummus – if you’ve ever felt like making a dinner of appetizers, then this is your recipe. A combination of roasted vegetable chips and three different hummus recipes, to which I’d add some cooked quinoa and roasted broccoli, and maybe a hard-boiled egg. Some crusty bread, maybe. Market items: beets, turnips, radishes, broccoli, eggs, bread
Vegetable Mulligatawny Soup – I adore this recipe from Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian. I’m not a vegetarian, but I make this at least once every fall, with an array of local vegetables. It calls for a long list of vegetables, but a small quantity of each: potatoes, carrots, turnips, basil, garlic, onion, plus fennel, cumin, coriander and peppercorns that you dry-roast in a pan and then grind fresh. It calls for vegetable stock, but chicken would be just fine if you eat chicken. Market items: potatoes, carrots, turnips, basil, garlic, onion
Throughout September, the central Illinois chapter of Buy Fresh Buy Local is hosting the Eat Local challenge. The challenge is to spend $20 a week on locally grown food during the month of September. When Buy Fresh Buy Local asked us to collaborate on the Eat Local Challenge, Steph and I jumped at the chance to share some resources and ideas for eating well at the market without breaking the bank.
Deals at the Market: Buying in Bulk
September is an amazing time to get deals at the market. Vegetables like summer squashes, peppers, and tomatoes are nearing the end of their season but are still producing at a prolific rate. Traffic at the market also sometimes slows down, so farmers find themselves with a lot of produce that they are willing to sell in bulk, which is a boon to shoppers.
Keep your eyes peeled for signs that offer “two for one” bunches and “bulk” anything! The key is knowing which veggies are “bulk-ready” and using those items in your meal planning.
Prices on vegetables at the market can also change over time. According to Katie Bishop of PrairiErth Farm, when a crop first comes into season, there isn’t much of it but there is a lot of demand – think of those shoppers lined up for first-of-the summer tomatoes. Farmers may leverage this demand (that is, charge a little more). After a few weeks, they will drop the price because the supply is so much greater and they need to sell it. Tomatoes that were $4 per pound in July are now $3.25 in September – and they are probably available for far less if you’re buying in bulk. (Click here and here for ideas on preserving bulk tomatoes for later use.)
Potatoes also tend to cost less as the season goes on. “New” potatoes must be hand-dug and washed, says Katie Bishop. It takes a lot of hands-on labor to get those beautiful spuds out of the ground. But potatoes in October are mechanically harvested and machined washed. There is less work for the farm, so they can drop the price. (And who doesn’t love potatoes?!)
Ask For Seconds
Most farmers put only their most beautiful products out at the market – but they’ve probably got a few bins in the truck that hold less-than-perfect but still perfectly edible items. Farmers would far prefer to sell those items than to compost them (especially if they don’t have to haul it back to the farm). Ask your favorite farmer if they can offer any deep discounts on these veggies. With a few extra minutes of prep (to cut off bad spots, for instance), you’ve saved a lot of money but still ended up with great food.
One great item to ask about is carrots. “Juice carrots” might not look beautiful but can be pureed, juiced, peeled, shredded, etc. – and the taste is just as good as the cosmetically perfect carrots. Peppers are another item that can be incredibly cheap in bulk and as seconds (try cutting them up and freezing them in small amounts to use later in soups, a stir fry, or chili). Peppers can also be roasted and frozen for a range of uses later.
Resources for Eating Locally On a Budget
Our blog focuses on easy meal preparation that features great, fresh, local food. For that reason, we love Lee Ann Brown’s Good and Cheap – a cookbook designed for families utilizing SNAP benefits (formerly known as good stamps). Shoppers can use the Illinois Link card to purchase items at The Downtown Bloomington Farmers’ Market every Saturday.
Good and Cheap is available at no cost here. Brown’s website is also fantastic, featuring an extensive recipe index and other great tips. Her recipes are for everyone who likes tasty food with easy prep!
Buy Pantry Staples in Bulk, Too! Other good things to buy (and cook/prep/freeze) in bulk include:
Wait, it’s only early September…still PLENTY of veggies pouring into the market every week. (By the way, this song plays in my head every year, basically all September long. Now it’s your ear-worm. I am sorry. It’s groovy, though! Dance with your veggies…) Look, it’s been a long week (you, too?) and I offered to help Steph with the Market Menu this week and I might be a little goofy-punchy today.
But that’s because the confluence of school getting into full swing, days getting shorter, and the air getting cooler means I’m totally energized by the beautiful veggies that are available this time of year. It’s pretty amazing, because you have the tail-end of (still truly fresh and delicious) summer veggies like peppers and tomatoes, the return of more delicate greens and lettuces, and NEW potatoes, squashes, and various root vegetables. To me, that spells menu inspiration.
Steph and I were chatting about what we love to make and eat this time of year – and we both landed on soups and salads. It’s really a perfect match for that summer-into-fall mood. Maybe we’re not ready to let go of summer’s bounty, but (admit it) we’re kind of excited to see fall colors and maybe even shift our energy level to a different space. The recipes below play off the idea of combining those seasonal vegetables in straightforward, fresh ways. Serve with bread and you’ve got a great lunch or light dinner.
I don’t have any idea how we got to September already. I mean, SEPTEMBER?! Where did July and August go? Every year, the summer seems to fly by, and I find myself wondering if it was all just a dream. But then those tomatoes keep coming, and I know it wasn’t a dream. (though with our weather forecast tonight, those tomatoes might need some cover soon!)
What should you expect to see this weekend at the Bloomington market?
The return of some salad greens! Arugula, lettuce, and some other cooler-weather (spring/fall) greens, in addition to kale. Also, the return of some cooler-weather vegetables like radishes, cucumbers, carrots, beets, and swiss chard. Plus, all the midsummer veg like tomatoes, peppers, summer squash, eggplant, onions, scallions and herbs.
So, what could we make from a market haul?
Is there anything at the market this week that might change your breakfast selections? I’m not above having toast with butter or cream cheese and tomato for breakfast… or for second breakfast, or elevenses. Enjoy those beauties while you can!
Slightly cooler weather, even a temporary string of it, definitely makes me think of hot cereal in the morning. Don’t forget about those berry preserves and syrups you made while the berries were coming so quickly! They make a tasty addition to oatmeal, cream of wheat, cream of rice, or any other hot cereal.
If you’re in the mood for something hearty, these breakfast frittata squares from the Food Network might have to be a weekend freezer prep, they look so simple and good. And I can’t imagine why the squares couldn’t be shrink-wrapped and frozen. You’d have to experiment with thawing and heating temperatures and time, but my first instinct would be to thaw overnight and heat in the microwave for about 40 seconds. They look eminently portable though, and that’s a huge plus.
Mark Bittman first made a name for himself as a food critic in the New York Times and has recently become an evangelist of a “mostly plant-based” diet. Check out his ideas for breakfast bread pudding and other unique breakfast ideas (recipes in the article). You can easily sub the fruit in the recipes for whatever is in season.
Are you a fan of Medici in Normal? It’s easy to make their popular Moroccan Ragout at home, and it takes to variations very easily. A close match is the harira recipe on Epicurious. Although this recipe uses chicken, I usually leave it out (doing so makes it a very close cousin to the Medici soup). Add zucchini or some diced potatoes for additional heft and flavor.
You know what’s great about your having already bought local buttermilk for scones? (See: breakfast.) We are headed into prime lettuce season once again, and you might be craving a great bibb salad with homemade creamy dressing. In this quick recipe, you can use those precious summer tomatoes (and, really, any kind of sturdier lettuce lead will work great). If salad is your midday meal, you could also add chick peas (or any bean) or chicken for protein.
We’re still inundated with summer vegetables, and this is the time to enjoy them (they’ll be gone pretty soon!). Peppers are prolific right now. You can toss chicken or beans into any of these raw sweet bell pepper salads:
School has started, and the weather lately has been decidedly fall-like. But don’t let the cool breezes fool you: this is prime time for peppers and other height-of-summer vegetables. You’ll find piles of sweet bell peppers at the market right now.
No one ever minds eating them raw (plain, or with hummus or yogurt dip, etc.) but if you’ve got an hour or so you can char them in the oven, slip off the peels, and stack them in freezer-safe containers to brighten the grey winter days.
In the last few years, I’ve scaled back some of the cooking and preserving that I do every summer. One thing that I never miss, though, is restocking my freezer with roasted sweet peppers. Like my parents did when I was growing up, I make pots of sauce for pasta all year round. We always freeze a container or two from each batch for later. My mom, my dad, and I have each developed our own individual stamps on the sauce we make. My dad favors a heavier dose of dried oregano. My mom often makes meatballs, but neither of them put meat in the sauce. I always use crushed fennel seed and a chunk of the roasted red peppers from the freezer.
You can roast peppers very easily in the oven or even on the grill. (I am partial to the oven method myself.) I lay the peppers out on a cookie sheet – plain, no oil, just clean peppers – and turn the broiler on. Periodically (say, every 5 minutes) I peek to see if they are getting charred, and using a set of oven-safe tongs I turn the peppers over so that all sides get roasted and the skins start to bubble up.
Once all of the peppers are roasted, use tongs to put them into a bowl and cover it with a large plate to steam for a few minutes. Remove the plate. Once the peppers are cool enough to handle, you can slip the skins off and pull the stem out (if needed). I usually do that and pile them on the cutting board, where I can portion them into containers for the freezer.
I’ve been working on prepping more freezable meals for this busy fall season; some tested recipes, some soups and sauces, and some total experiments. This experiment is so tasty, that I just had to post the recipe!
I’ve made breakfast burritos for the freezer before, with egg & cheese, sausage and egg, and some with rice. These were intended to be really meaty, hearty dinners, so I started with a rough estimate of amounts of each ingredient, calculated the nutritional information, and started prepping — and then adjusted as follows.
Beef: Starting with 2# of 90%/10% ground beef, cook in a skillet (cast iron is excellent for this), with no added fat. When it’s nearly all cooked, add a packet of of your favorite taco seasoning (I used Ortega, which is supposed to be a packet for 1# of meat, but ok as I didn’t want these super spicy). Mix in well, and cook until browned. Turn off the heat, scoop the meat into a bowl and weigh it (for portioning later) For what it’s worth, it lost 4 oz in cooking (1# 12 oz. cooked), and I calculated the nutritional information (using Calorie King) based on the cooked weight.
After cleaning the grill pan, heat with 1 T. olive oil on medium-high, and add 1 medium yellow onion, chopped. Once the onion starts to soften a bit, add the peppers. Season with salt and pepper. Or you can do them all at once, but I like my grilled onion a little more caramelized. When they’re done (nice and brown on the edges), dump in a bowl, and decide whether to weigh or measure or just eyeball it later. I recommend doing one of the two, so that you distribute everything evenly. Then repeat with the mushrooms, but without adding any more oil to the pan. Note: before you add these to the tortillas, you may want to drain the vegetables, as they’ll release some liquid while they wait.
Assembly: I used medium-sized tortillas — they were labeled for burritos, but they’re not the giant burrito wraps. I think they’re 8″ in diameter. See, my intention had been to make burritos, but that was a big FAIL — there was just too much stuff to wrap up. Oops! So my sister had the brilliant idea to just fold in half and call them quesadillas. Brilliant! They’re stuffed full, but they actually hold together really well as fold-overs.
First thing is to spoon out some refried black beans, and spread onto half the tortilla. You can weigh each spoonful, or just eyeball it after the first couple. Then add 4 oz of the ground beef, 1/2 c. of the sauteed vegetables, and 1 oz. of the shredded cheddar cheese. Spread everything out as much as you can; it’ll make it easier to close. I found it worked well to have one small bowl for the meat and one for the cheese, and just pre-weigh a portion of each before starting on the next tortilla.
Carefully fold in half, trying to keep everything inside. Wrap tightly in cellophane, place in a large freezer bag, and freeze. That’s it!
4 oz ground beef (90% lean)
2.25 oz refried black beans
1 oz shredded cheddar
1/2 c. sauteed mushrooms, onions & peppers
To thaw and warm: Unwrap each quesadilla (this is important – don’t microwave your saran wrap!) and defrost in microwave for 1.5 – 2 minutes on 50% power (your microwave may vary on times). Once thawed, place in a hot skillet until it’s slightly crispy, before carefully flipping to repeat on the other side. Don’t rush this part; the crispy tortilla is one of the best parts. We’ve enjoyed ours served with some chopped lettuce and tomato and cilantro, and sour cream.
The nutritional information above might make this recipe look rigid, but you can make yours however you’d like, to meet your needs. Use ground turkey, or chopped chicken, or eliminate the beans if you don’t like them. And 1 oz of cheese isn’t a lot, so you might want to bump that up, or bring down the amount of the ground beef (it’s a beefy recipe!)
If you make them with variations, let us know on our facebook page!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!!