Guest post by Stephani of The Cheapskate Cook.
I am zucchini-ed out.
Seriously, there’s a reason why Sneak Some Zucchini on Your Neighbor’s Porch Day is a thing (August 8, if you have a squash handy and unsuspecting neighbors).
Nevertheless, I enjoyed this year’s harvest. This summer more than others because we relied almost entirely on local produce during a 30-Day Challenge to Eat Local on a Budget. It was inspiring and somewhat difficult to say the least, but the experience will be hard to forget. So will all the meals.
We learned a few things about working with the bounty in our region. By far the best lesson was to keep it simple. Either let the produce be the star of the meal… or smother it in cheese and eggs and serve it to your unsuspecting children. Whatever works for you.
Today I’m sharing five meals that will help with the first approach. Later, I’ll share five that are a little more sneaky and picky-eater friendly.
1. Greek Quinoa Salad
This dish is extremely customizable (see recipe for suggestions), but the basic concept is this: start with a carb base, load with vegetables, and add a zing of flavor. For this version, I used olives and feta, but you can rely on a favorite dressing, artichoke hearts, or even bacon.
Grain-Free: Technically quinoa isn’t a grain, but if it’s off-limits, use cauliflower rice or Easy Summer Zucchini Noodles.
Frugal Tip: Use pasta instead of quinoa.
Make-Ahead Tips: Quinoa can be cooked ahead of time then thawed if you won’t be around to cook and chill it. Chop vegetables ahead of time.
Side Dish Suggestions: Grilled chicken, big green salad.
2. Grilled Chicken & Stuffed Tomatoes
This stuffed tomato recipe can be whirred together in the food processor (or maybe a blender) in a minute. It’s frugal and simple, and honestly, we usually omit the chicken and just feast on tomatoes and their buttery, herby, bready stuffing.
Gluten-free: Use gluten-free bread, try a combination of rice and quinoa or just serve Simple Greek Tomato & Cucumber Salad with the chicken.
Vegetarian: Omit chicken and serve an additional side.
Make-Ahead Tips: Tomatoes can be cut and filling made the day before and stored in the fridge separately, covered.
3. Pesto Chicken Pasta
This flavor-packed meal is very frugal if you have a few basil plants or a CSA with a generous basil harvest. Making pesto takes about two minutes with a food processor and is an easy fix for many different meals. Incorporate these variations as needed:
Gluten-free: Use rice or quinoa pasta or Easy Summer Zucchini Noodles.
Grain-Free: Serve pesto on grilled or baked chicken with a generous side.
Vegetarian: Omit chicken.
Nut-Free: Use sunflower seeds in the pesto.
Make-Ahead Tips: Use leftover chicken or bake a bunch ahead of time and keep in the freezer. You can also freeze pesto and thaw it the day of.
Side Dish Suggestion: Simple Greek Tomato & Cucumber Salad
4. Steak & Tomato Basil Bruschetta
This meal can mostly be prepared the morning of, then assembled in a few minutes at dinner. Tomato & Basil Bruschetta is one of my favorite ways to use leftover pieces from Stuffed Tomatoes or seconds tomatoes (produce with dents or blemishes that you can get for cheap or free). If you’re firing up the grill for the meat, go ahead and grill the bread too.
Gluten-free: Use gluten-free bread.
Vegetarian: Omit steak and serve an additional side (maybe Pesto & Pasta?).
Make-Ahead Tips: Marinate the steak the morning of, stir up the tomato mixture and store, covered, in the fridge.
5. Easy Summer Zucchini Noodles
If you’re gluten-free, grain-free, or simply looking for ways to increase your vegetable servings, try this. It’s easy, delicious, and who doesn’t love something smothered in spaghetti sauce and Parmesan cheese? Alternatively, serve it with pesto or use it to replace the quinoa in Quinoa Greek Salad.
What about you? How do you serve summer produce?
When Stephani and her husband got married, they lived in a renovated shed and had a grocery budget that matched. As a passionate whole-foodie, Stephani was determined to continue eating healthy, minimally-processed foods on their shoestring budget. So The Cheapskate Cook was born.
Between cooking, baking, and blogging, Stephani enjoys playing with her two boys, going on dates with her husband, and living passionately with her Lord. You can follow the fun on her blog or keep up with it via Facebook and Pinterest.