Skipping the drive-thru, and prepping my own healthy food.

I'm your basic busy guy, sometimes insanely so.  As a freelance artist I dance fast to earn a living. I love the high energy lifestyle, except when my diet nosedives.  Recently, my friend and co-author, Mimi, took a picture of my shoes filled with my vending-machine dinner, complimented me on my "style," and, subsequently, invited me to visit a local farmer's market.  Last weekend, Mimi and I made outings to the Greenbelt Farmer's Market in Maryland, and Eastern Market's farmer's market on DC's Capitol Hill. 

THE PLAN:

  1. Buy fruit and vegetables that are grown locally, and, therefore, in season. 
  2. Go home and prepare the fresh produce, so that it's ready-to-eat throughout the week. 

THE GOALS: 

  1. Make it easier to prepare fresh, healthy food fast rather than visit the drive-thru after a day on the go.
  2. To eat five-plus vegetables and/or fruits per day.

The Shopping:

For our first week's preparations we planned on pastas with early summer vegetables.  On this visit there were a lot of cucumbers, green beans which also come in purple and yellow, cherry tomatoes, broccoli and greens such as kale, chard and collards. 

Broccoli heads should be firm and green.  Avoid ones that are limp or discolored.

Broccoli heads should be firm and green.  Avoid ones that are limp or discolored.

Look for vegetables that are firm and with good color.  The cucumber should feel dense.   

Look for vegetables that are firm and with good color.  The cucumber should feel dense.   

Checking out some gorgeous handmade soap at Eastern Market.

Checking out some gorgeous handmade soap at Eastern Market.

Fresh blueberries - great for antioxidants.

Fresh blueberries - great for antioxidants.

Squash and zucchini should, be firm, feel dense, and not be too big.  Young, fresh squash and zucchini have delicate sweet flavors and are not seedy.

Squash and zucchini should, be firm, feel dense, and not be too big.  Young, fresh squash and zucchini have delicate sweet flavors and are not seedy.

Snapdragons.

Snapdragons.

The Preparation:

Remember the goal is to be able to come home from work (often late), open my refrigerator, and, presto, have a great meal/eat my vegetables.  The preparation we did for an hour after the market was key.  So was having some handy airtight storage containers... mine are a Rubbermaid set I bought at Target.

Top row:  cherry tomatoes, garlic, green onions, purple basil.  Bottom row:  blanched broccoli, yellow squash and zucchini, and cucumbers.

Top row:  cherry tomatoes, garlic, green onions, purple basil.  Bottom row:  blanched broccoli, yellow squash and zucchini, and cucumbers.

Here's how we prepped this weeks vegetables.  (We also cooked and stored some loose italian sausage and pasta, and had fresh lemons on hand.):

Broccoli:  The broccoli is cut into thin florets, then blanched, i.e. cooked briefly in boiling salted water then doused with cold water, which stops the cooking.  Thoroughly drain all water, store in airtight fridge container for up to three days.  Blanching the broccoli gives it a good flavor and color and greatly reduces the cooking time.  For more information on blanching, visit:  http://www.ehow.com/blanch-vegetables.html 

Squash and Zucchini:  Cut into matchsticks and store in refrigerator for up to six days.

Cucumbers:  Cut off ends of cucumber, peel, cut in half lengthwise, scrape out center seeds from each half, cut into moon shape, slice. Store in refrigerator.

Cherry Tomatoes:  Do not cut or refrigerate in advance.  Best to cut these right before serving.  A serrated knife works best for cutting tomatoes.

Garlic:  Peel whole cloves and store in fridge in airtight container for up to 14 days.  A really good garlic press (such as the one by SUSI) is great for mashing the whole cloves.

Green Onions:  Chop into thin slices.  Store in airtight container up to 6 days.

Basil:  Pull leaves off stems.  Chop fine.  Store in airtight container up to 5 days.

The Meals:

Here's some of the dishes we threw together this week. 

Pasta with Italian Sausage, Squash, Broccoli, and Cherry Tomatoes.

Pasta with Italian Sausage, Squash, Broccoli, and Cherry Tomatoes.

For this pasta, heat about 2 tablespoons of olive oil on medium heat, throw in some minced garlic and let sizzle without browning garlic.  Toss in squash.  Now add pasta, sausage, and salt.  Stir to combine everything, then add blanched broccoli and heat another minute.  Toss in quartered cherry tomatoes, basil, pepper, and fresh lemon juice.  Serve.

Cucumber and Cherry Tomato Salad (with lemon and olive oil).

Cucumber and Cherry Tomato Salad (with lemon and olive oil).

Just some cucumbers, quartered cherry tomatoes, salt, pepper, fresh lemon juice, and olive oil.

Pasta Salad with Barbecue Chicken, Chopped Broccoli, Squash, Cucumbers, and Cherry Tomatoes.

Pasta Salad with Barbecue Chicken, Chopped Broccoli, Squash, Cucumbers, and Cherry Tomatoes.

The cucumber and tomato salad above is tossed with noodles, then topped with leftover barbecued chicken, blanched broccoli, chopped squash, green onions, and basil.  Add some salt, pepper. fresh lemon juice and drizzle with olive oil.

Pasta with Broccoli, Shrimp, Lemon and Red Chili Pepper

Pasta with Broccoli, Shrimp, Lemon and Red Chili Pepper

On medium heat add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the pan.  Infuse with 1/2 teaspoon of red chili flakes and 1 or 2 cloves garlic minced.  Toss in some shrimp, cook one minute.  Add pasta, toss and cook another minute.  Season with salt.  Add blanched broccoli and cook till just heated.  Toss in black pepper and fresh lemon juice and serve. 

Stir fry of squash and broccoli.

Stir fry of squash and broccoli.

Having ready to go vegetables in the refrigerator was a huge boost to my cooking.  Sometimes I just stir-fried them up and served with a piece of meat.  Mimi and I definitely plan to return again to the farmer's market.  Next time we'll focus on summer salads and cook-out sides.

Thanks for reading.  We'd love to hear your comments, questions and ideas.

by Maverick Lemons and Mimi Noorani, July 10, 2015

 

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