a tale of three CSAs + breakfast of (CSA) champions jenna and julia

As a dietitian, Jenna approaches cooking and eating differently from most of us. "I’m not picking things based on what I’m craving. I’m thinking about how to I make sure I’m getting essential macro nutrients," says Jenna.

That's why Jenna is all about eating vegetables for breakfast. That's right: nearly every morning, Jenna and her partner Julia cook breakfast from scratch using CSA veggies.

"I get my vegetables in at breakfast and it means I am that much further in to getting enough vegetables for the day. It’s not fancy, but it’s cooked," says Jenna. (Not sure how many vegetables you should be eating each day? Jenna recommends this resource).

My guess is you're thinking: That'll never work for me. I can barely eat my bowl of cereal before I rush out the door. For Jenna, it's something she prioritizes.

While she recognizes it's not normal ("It's nearly impossible to find a healthy breakfast. It's not part of our breakfast culture to eat vegetables," she says), it's a "non-negotiable" part of her morning routine.

Their breakfast almost always includes a grain, eggs from pasture-raised chickens, and a vegetable, like steamed sweet potatoes or sauteed greens. (Scroll down for more on Jenna and Julia's favorite breakfasts. Even if you're not up for cooking in the AM, you might love these recipes for brunch or dinner).

Not only does a hot breakfast mean that Jenna gets an early start on veggie consumption, it also helps Jenna and Julia use all the veggies from their 3 different CSAs.

I'll reiterate: Jenna and Julia are not only half-shareholders in the Owl's Nest CSA, they're also members of the Three Part Harmony Multi-Farm CSA and in the winter, they join the Open Book Farm Winter CSA. They're like 3-time CSA champions.

She "became enamored of farmers market" in Seattle when she was in grad school learning about the agricultural part of the food system. Through the vibrancy of local markets and eating fresh salmon of the Puget Sound, Jenna "learned to love and appreciate food that was eaten close to the source." That love and appreciation continues to fuel her interest in CSA today.

No matter how much you love supporting local farms, if you've got that quantity of veggies coming in your door, you've gotta have a strategy. Here's a quick rundown of Jenna and Julia's key CSA strategies:

  • "Make the vegetables to be the center of every meal."
  • When meal planning, do an inventory of what you already have in the pantry. "You gotta have the supporting actors around so that when you get the star - the CSA veggies - you’re ready to make almost anything with them," says Jenna. They typically do weekend shopping with their Tuesday share in mind.
  • Once you've got the basics in your pantry, keep it simple. "If [a recipe] has more than 2 ingredients I don’t have, I don’t make it," says Jenna.
  • Speaking of simple, Jenna suggests honing in on a couple of versatile cooking methods. In her house, that means braising for greens and roasting for root vegetables.
  • Batch cooking makes weeknights easier. "I’m not gonna cook from scratch every night of the week," says Jenna. On their best weeks, Jenna and Julia make larger batches of recipes, especially veggie sides, and eat them throughout the week.

Read on to learn about how Jenna evaluates recipes and see what's in her pantry.


Jenna's recipe checklist

  • Is this recipe balanced? Does it have representation from at least 3 food groups? (this is most important for one pot meals, of course, if you are using several recipes for a meal you'll be asking whether all together they are balanced)
  • I shy away from recipes that mention non-fat or low-fat products since this is typically an indication that the author may not share my emphasis on whole foods cooking.
  • How many vegetables are featured? And in what portions? Does it amount to little more than a garnish or is it a major component of the dish?

a peek in j + j's pantry

  • Tools: Cutting board, nice sharp chef’s knife, saute pan or cast iron skillet, good roasting pan (sturdy sheet pan or big glass dish).
  • A special shout out to tools that do double duty. With tongs, you can move greens in a pan or lay a piece of meat on the grill. their Creuset pot is good for making stew or putting a casserole in the oven.
  • Jenna uses a microplane or a grater a lot, especially to use up roots like beets, carrots, kohlrabi, turnips, and radishes. If you grate them the first time you use them, then stick them in the fridge, you can quickly top your sandwich, salad, or tacos.
  • Fats: grass fed butter, peanut oil, coconut oil, olive oil
  • Protein: a couple cans of beans, dried lentils, tofu and tempeh, Open Book meat, brown rice, quinoa, whole grain pasta

breakfasts of (CSA) champions

The picture is a mashup of two of our favorite breakfasts, says Julia. "Toast and and scrambled eggs appear on both plates. But on this particular day we weren't in the mood for the same thing, so Julia put together some salad greens for a quick light veggie, and Jenna braised some broccoli in oil and liquid aminos (a staple in our house)."

According to Julia, another strategy for a quick but veggie-full breakfast is "jazzin' up leftovers. Just add another veggie, and put an egg on it." For example, the morning we talked, she started with leftover sweet potatoes and black beans, then added sauteed cabbage and an egg.

Plus, here's some more inspiration for your next veggie-full breakfast. Julia notes these are a bit more complex than they might make on a weekday, but they give you a sense of how J + J start their day.