by Maryjane Mojer
Bartlett’s Ocean View Farm
I haven’t really lived anywhere but Nantucket for any significant length of time. Not to say that I won’t. I have plans…oh, I have plans. I have no clue what they are but I’ve got ‘em. In the past few years, I find that I wonder what summer is like for people in other places. Not weather wise; even with the heat we’re experiencing, it’s a quick drive or bike ride to a spot to dip your toes in and cool down. I’m more curious about the pace.
I love reading stories about the lazy days of summer. Relaxing by the pool, chilling beer in the stream, endless days on the beach that turn into sunsets then evening swims. Sounds heavenly. I do believe that my tendency to go full tilt from Memorial Day to Labor Day is a result of genetics (my die hard, Yankee/Puritan work ethic), location (you can truly feel the pulse increase as we near the middle of the summer), and opportunity (make hay while the sun shines.)
To put it simply, I have a job where I do what needs to be done in order to meet the needs of the customers and support the business. Being trusted to that extent, having autonomy in my job is something that I never, ever take for granted. I’ve had a couple of my own small businesses over the years, cleaning houses. I am horrible at self employment. But give me the key to your place, and a little trust, and watch out! I can say quite unabashedly with not an ounce of humility, that I am a great employee.
And, as such, on Sunday, I have just returned home after an 8-hour day, which is a short day for me this time of year.
My husband is not only self-sufficient, but a very good cook, so most meals are prepared by him. He is also very smart, and leaves on or about the first of July to visit family. It seems that someone in our clan needs an extra hand at some point in the summer, and as The Fixer (him) and The Helper (me) we work either together or separately to support and sort things out.
I love it when my husband goes away. I really do. I start pestering him, inquiring about his travel plans for July in May when business starts picking up.
A week or so before he heads to the highways, I start plotting and planning; What closet will I clean out first? How much can I get done in the basement? Do we really need xy or z? What cereal will I have for dinner? Will I go to bed at 7 or 7:30? Yes, friends, it is wild ride.
His trip comes at just the right time for me to fully give in to my need to focus on my work, and for most of July and August, the hours are long, but the work is so much fun. I love providing great customer service and delighting people with products they didn’t know they needed.
I am not a person who needs to have something different for each meal, and would truthfully be quite content making one big pot of a delicious soup or pasta and enjoying it every night, and yes, for breakfast as well. Cereal aside, being alone for a few days is an exercise in creating delicious, healthy meals for one. After a long, busy day at the farm, the process of cooking, which I do enjoy, is the last thing I want to do. Going home, kicking off my shoes, watering my pots of herbs, flowers and vegetables while letting the cold water wash over my feet, settles and centers me. Its a sweet, deep breath.
At the beginning of the week, after cleaning my house, top to bottom, and cleaning out the fridge, I make sure to have some staples, so that I can pull, heat (or not) and eat each evening without too much additional work…
Olive Oil • Black Beans (dried) • Chicken • Chicken Stock Good Tuna (in Olive Oil) • Salt & Pepper • Small flour tortillas • Limes Romaine Lettuce • Cucumbers • Red Peppers • Parmesan Cheese Feta • Cheddar • Olives (kalamata, pitted) • Almond Milk Oatmeal (rolled, not steel cut) • Really great jam • Red Onions Summer Squash • Zucchini • Sweet Potatoes • Fresh fruit
Once I’ve gathered all the goods, I take a nap. In all seriousness, if this is going to be the one prep day that I have, I want to meet it head on, rested and relaxed. However, before the nap, if I’m going to cook dried beans, I’ll get them in a pan, covered with water. After a doze, I dig in. A side note: ditch the plastic bags, and dig through your cupboards. I’ll bet that you have plenty of containers with lids that need a quick wash to be ready for action. Over the years, I’ve collected some great, glass refrigerator dishes. They stack so perfectly, and come in a variety of sizes. Yard sales, Take It or Leave It, the Hospital Thrift Store are all really good resources.
For an hour or so (plus some cooking time) of prep, you can fill your fridge with healthy ingredients that will give you a weeks worth of nutritious and satisfying meals.
Once you’re up from your nap, preheat the grill.
Slice the onions, squash, and sweet potatoes and grill off. Drizzle and sprinkle with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Set aside and cool.
Next up: grill off the chicken. Set aside and cool.
I’m out the door before 5 am most mornings. You know those people that are wide awake the second their eyes open, ready to jump up cheerfully and take on the day. Yeah. That’s me. I am most definitely a morning person. However, I get up and get out, I’m really not big on spending much time in the morning slicing, dicing, and putting together my meals for the day. Planning ahead just a bit can make all the difference.
If cooking beans, rinse them off, cover with fresh water, add two tablespoons of Olive oil, the ends of the onion that you’re going to grill, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook till done, usually about 45 minutes. When done, don’t completely drain off all of the liquid. It’ll come in handy if you want to make some refried beans.
It’s too easy to grab something that may be satisfying in the moment, but won’t sustain me through the morning. The Super Hero Muffins are great, and I’ll whip up a batch every so often, but I really love oatmeal.
I’ve tried a bunch of overnight oats recipes, but hadn’t found one that I really looked forward to eating. For me, this one does the trick! Makes three portions (I find that it doesn’t age well, so three days ahead is plenty.)
1-1/2 cup oats and a pinch of kosher salt
In a dry skillet, toast rolled oats over medium heat, stirring and tossing until golden brown. (Truth told, I like mine a little past golden. Ok, way past golden.) Set aside to cool.
Divide into thirds, and pour oats into individual jars or bowls. Pour 3/4 cup of almond milk over the oats. My favorite mix of stuff is:
1 tablespoon chopped almonds or walnuts
1 packet or 1 tablespoon flax seeds, ground
2 tsp maple syrup (use the real stuff, you’ll need less, & its high in antioxidants)
Stir in a cup of mixed berries.
Pinch of salt
Chill overnight, slap a lid on, toss in your bag and go. This is my go to boat breakfast if I’m heading off on the early boat.
I do love me a great sandwich, but I want a fresh sandwich made just before I eat it. I’d rather bring a bag of ingredients; bread, a head of lettuce, tuna and mayo, than make and bring a sandwich that I’ll eat four hours later.
Or…. A pasta salad with tuna is a yummy, easy, make-ahead lunch.
Cook a package of your favorite bite-size pasta according to directions.
Cavatelli is my current go to. Once cooked, but still warm, toss with a dressing. It can be as simple as a great pre-made, or as simple as oil and vinegar, salt and pepper. Once dressed set aside.
Slice squash and sweet potatoes into 1/4 inch dice. Start the grill, and get the squash, sweet potatoes and chicken cooked off. Set aside to cool.
Cook some beans and add a spoonful or two to the cooked and dressed pasta. Put the rest of the beans aside for other meals.
This can now go in the fridge to use as a base for lunch or dinner.
In a bowl with a lid, rough chop a half head of romaine lettuce. Add a cup of the pasta and beans mix, along with diced cucumber, diced red pepper and a cup of mixed diced squash, onions and sweet potatoes. Toss in the tuna and chill overnight.
This is the best part. Reaping the benefits off your prep time, and knowing that you have enough to share should you decide to kick up your heels, have a few folks over and stay up past 7:30. With all of this great stuff and 20 minutes, you can make:
Chicken Tacos with refried beans
Grilled Romaine with Shredded Chicken
Chicken soup with grilled vegetables
Feet up, a big glass of water, a glass of wine and a deep breath. Rested and ready for the pace of the place we call home.