June 25, 2014
4 Ways to Stay Sane in the Summer Kitchen - Photo courtesy foodchronicles/Flickr (HobbyFarms.com)
Courtesy foodchronicles/Flickr

While last week we wrote about taking time to celebrate and savor seasonal abundance, in reality, we know that time is at a premium right now. As summer rolls along, the to-do list grows along with that pile of peas on the counter that need shelling.

Don’t stress or panic—or so we try to remind ourselves daily this time of year! We moved to our Wisconsin farm 18 years ago because we wanted to live closer to the land and raise our own food, but that process needs to remain manageable and fun for it all to work successfully. Here are our favorite organizational tips that help us save time and headache in our summer kitchen.

1. Break Down Tasks
Staring at that pile of peas can be overwhelming, but putting the peas in a colander and washing them feels doable. Breaking down larger processing projects into small baby steps or approaching the task from the perspective of “what do I need to do next” helps to take quick and simple action.

Remember you don’t need to do a whole job all at once. When Lisa makes salsa, she gathers and cleans all of her supplies and chop up ingredients the night before processing, then does the actual cooking and canning the next morning. With all the canning jars, lids and other supplies lined up, she doesn’t need to waste time hunting for things while focused on salsa-making. Breaking up a process in this way helps it feel more attainable when coming off a busy day on the farm.

2. Replenish Your Energy
The last couple hours of the evening can seem like a goldmine in the kitchen, but if you’re like us, you need an energy boost that time of day. Unless you’re a creative, productive night owl—we are not—the evening hours might not be good for focused tasks like replying coherently to CSA member emails or updating expense accounting records.

For an energy boost after a long day of work, we steer away from caffeine and stick to cold ice water or kombucha. For her birthday, Lisa received a small, portable speaker to play music and listen to podcasts off her iPod, which is a great way to keep things engaging and lively as we work on more mindless activities, like shucking peas.

3. Cook in Bulk
When making a recipe that involves more preparation or multiple steps, cook up a double or even triple batch and freeze the extras for when you need a quick meal. We do that for Spinach Taquitos and our favorite Beet Burgers, a recipe featured in our Farmstead Chef cookbook.

For dishes that don’t freeze, see find a couple staple recipes that you can bulk cook and store in the refrigerator for easy quick meals. We first started making fresh kale salad last summer, and it remains our “go-to” meal this year. Unlike a fresh green salad, kale salad improves in texture and flavor as it sits in the fridge a day or so. Lisa will make a double batch at night and we’ll have that for lunch and snacks over the next couple days.

4. Wash and Trim Veggies Before Storing
While we may have an overload of fresh veggies right now during peak summer, in our household we lack motivation to snack on them if we have to drag out the salad spinner or colander and wash and process them every time. It’s easier if we clean and prep small amounts of veggies every evening so we’re ready to make a fast salad for lunch or much on pea pods in the afternoon.

A balanced perspective on managing time on the farm, particularly during the summer season of abundance, remains an on-going learning process for us. For some more time management tips, check Lisa’s article, “Sun Up to Sun Down.”

Get more help for your summer kitchen from HobbyFarms.com:

Savoring the good life,

John and Lisa's Signatures

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