One of the biggest obstacles to eating real food, well-prepared is time.  I find that it’s a little easier to manage in the summer when we have loads of bright, fresh veggies at our fingertips.  We can just toss them together for a salad, skewer them for some kabobs, or cut them up and eat them as a side.  Even our proteins tend to be simpler – quick cooking fish, grilled meats, all with simple preparations.

But fall is the time for slow-cooking and squashes, braised meats and chili.  It brings us tougher, heartier greens, thick-skinned squash, and meats that need some coaxing before they’ll render their fatty goodness.

So I pulled together some of the ways that I make eating real fall food doable at my house. Please weigh in with some of your habits, too.

The Lazy Person’s Squash Protocol

If I am making something like my Butternut Apple Soup, I will absolutely take the time I need to peel and dice the squash properly.  But, if I have a kuri squash, a pumpkin, a kabocha or spaghetti version, I take the lazy person’s way out.

On the day I return from the market or the day I get my CSA delivery, I take all my squashes, wash and pierce them, and then put them in a roasting pan at 375 degrees for an hour or so.  I regularly stick a finger in to press on them and check their progress.  When they are soft, I remove them, let them cool, and then pop them in the fridge.

When I want to add some squash to a meal I am prepping, I simply take the squash out of the fridge, cut and seed it, then put the desired amount in a baking dish with some fat, salt and pepper and then either bake or broil, depending on the amount of squash and the time I have.

I handle the spaghetti squash a little differently, of course.  I usually just scrape the whole squash after it has cooled and leave the strands in the fridge.  Then I add a little garlic, fat, salt and pepper and heat it up in a pan.

Delicata squash doesn’t have to be peeled before eating, so it’s a great variety for the time-crunched.  Just slice it, stick it on a baking sheet, baste with some fat, and cook at 375 degrees until it starts to brown.

This method keeps me from having to peel a big, thick-skinned squash.  It also keeps me from having to start a meal hours in advance just to get the squash prepped and cooked.


Another task we complete on the day we shop is to get our greens prepped and ready to cook.  I say ‘we’ intentionally because this is usually my husband’s job.  When I chop, the greens look like they’ve been launched from a weed-eater with a dull blade.  When my hubby chops they are beautifully uniform.

Whether we’ve got kale, collards, chard, or lettuce, we cut the greens and store them in the fridge in bags or other containers.  The exception here is butter leaf or Boston varieties.  I have found them to be too soft to store well after cutting.

Beans, Beans …

Green beans, that is.  My 4-year-old daughter loves, loves, loves them.  But again, prepping them for a meal can add a good thirty minutes to your schedule.  On market day, I wash, snip and steam the green beans.  When they turn bright green, I give them a nice ice bath to halt the cooking process.  Then I pop them in the fridge.  I serve them for dinner sometimes but usually they go into the kids’ lunchboxes.  (With a little ketchup.  You know, to dip them?)

Oh, one more trick to make this process go faster?  I always use kitchen shears to snip the ends of the beans.

One trick to make the process go slower?  Ask your 4-year-old to help you.  But it’s the kind of slower that you want a little more of in life, if you know what I mean.

Turnip Up!

I love root veggies.  Turnips, rutabaga, celeriac … delish.  My favorite way to prep them is to peel, dice, and then roast with some good fat and a little salt and pepper.

But that process is time-consuming and exceedingly hands-on.  Given that my four-month-old is also hands-on, I needed to find another way.

Now, I treat them like I do the squashes.  I plop them in a roaster and cook until they are soft.  Then I cool them and store in the fridge – peels on – until I am ready to use them.  I peel, slice or dice, and then broil, bake, or sauté with a little bacon.  The other night I fried turnip slices in some lard.  A few times I have pureed them and added some roasted garlic to make a nice mash, but if you plan to do that you need to ensure you cook them really well or you won’t achieve a palatable texture.  (She says from experience.)

That’s all I’ve got today.  Please share your tricks and hints for making real food and real life compatible. 

See my weed-eaten chard?  Hubby was at a work dinner and I had to chop solo.

6 Responses to “Real Food for Real Life”

  1. on 08 Nov 2012 at 7:48 pmDanita

    Love, love, love the quick tips. Your use of bacon and lard makes me think of the way my grandmother and aunts cooked. Thank you for the advice!

  2. on 08 Nov 2012 at 8:15 pmKristine Rudolph

    So funny that you say that because I can remember saying to my great-grandmother how bad lard was for you when I was a teen and in the throes of the anti-fat era. She had grown up on a farm in MN. I was lying in my bed tonight nursing the baby to sleep and I was thinking how what I eat now is so much more like what she would have eaten. She did live to be 91, after all.

  3. on 09 Nov 2012 at 8:06 amDanita

    My grandmother grew up on a farm in central GA and lived to be 96. Actually, almost all of her siblings lived into their late 90’s and one of her sisters lived to be 100. As a vegan, I’m pretty sure we won’t be using lard or bacon, but our family is including more of those local, whole foods in our diet. Actually, I would love some of your green recipes. We have been in a rut with rice wine vinegar and umeboshi plum paste (which I know is not local but gives it that umami taste) along with garlic and onion.

  4. on 09 Nov 2012 at 10:28 amKristine Rudolph

    I think I remember that you are either avoiding or minimizing soy. Have you played at all with coconut aminos? There’s a link in my Amazon widget to the right and you can get them at WFM. They add some good umami and I don’t see any reason why they wouldn’t be vegan.

  5. on 09 Nov 2012 at 10:39 amKristine Rudolph

    Oh, and I have one more for you – is the dairy free / nut free basil pesto I use on my spaghetti squash. I think this blogger is a vegan and she has some really terrific ideas and recipes.

  6. on 09 Nov 2012 at 11:09 amDanita

    We do use the coconut aminos and have used it in our greens, but S doesn’t like the flavor. I am thrilled to have it available. I checked out the blog and some of her recipes sound great- thanks!

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