Meal Planning Monday ~ From the Garden


This week’s post is by Sheri Ann Richerson of The Experimental Homesteader.

Growing a garden is a great way to save on your grocery bill and eat the freshest produce possible. The fresher the produce is, the more nutrients it contains thus the healthier it is for you. Fresh produce from the grocery store – at best – is several days old. Farmer’s markets are a good source of fresh produce if you can’t grow your own, but sometimes even that produce was picked a day or two before market day.

Growing a garden is simple if you start right and that means starting with the soil. Healthy soil is essential to growing good produce full of nutrients. It doesn’t matter if you grow your produce in containers, in the ground or in raised beds.  Start with buying organic soil meant to grow vegetables in or enrich the soil in your garden with three inches of compost before you plant.

Set up a rain barrel or hose in the area you are growing your produce in. Plants typically need an inch of water a week to thrive but this does vary according to the plant and weather conditions. For those who have never grown a garden before, start simple. A single tomato plant, a few radishes and some lettuce are all you need to grow a simple salad garden – and you can do this in a container. Other easy-to-grow crops include green beans, cabbage, green onions and most salad greens.

Monday ~ Two Pea Sauté with Basil, Parmesan And Sesame

I like this recipe because it allows me to use smaller amounts of snap and snow peas. Often early in the season my plants simply don’t produce enough of the two combined to make a side dish. This dish is a great way to use some of the extra basil you’ve harvested. The sesame seeds add an unexpected crunch that is delightful – and you can grow sesame in your garden. I like to pair this recipe with pork chops.

Tuesday ~ Spicy Flat Italian Beans

My mouth is watering just looking at this recipe. It is that good.  I often visit a Farmer’s Market in a nearby city because I have the opportunity to buy grass fed, non-GMO meat. The man I like to buy my meat from was selling these beans. I had never seen them before and struck up a conversation with him. He explained to me these were a great substitute for green beans and cooked up in about 10 minutes. I was sold and bought some. I came up with this recipe because I like spicy food.  Try it paired with beef or alter a  stir-fry recipe to use the beans in.

Wednesday ~ Cooking Kale & Swiss Chard

I hear it a lot – what do you do with kale or Swiss Chard. You can eat it raw in a salad. You can cook it a lot of different ways but some recipes are just bland. After numerous attempts at cooking both kale and Swiss Chard, I finally came up with this recipe – and I love it. Both of these vegetables are really good for you and while some people disagree with cooking either kale or Swiss Chard, this is my go-to recipe.

Thursday ~ Fresh Garden Salad with Herbs & Flowers

Salad is plentiful during the summer months. With a bit of protection, lettuce and a number of other greens will grow year-round even in my Indiana garden (USDA hardiness zone 5/6). During the spring, summer and fall there are so many ways to add flavor and color to a salad. Edible flowers such as dandelions, violas and rose petals add so much color not to mention vitamins and other essential nutrients. Toss in some herbs such as dill weed or basil and the taste really pops. Of course don’t forget standby favorites such as fresh fruit, nuts, meats and cheese. In fact, once your salad is made you might even realize you don’t need as much salad dressing because you would rather enjoy the taste of the salad.

Friday ~ Easy Coleslaw from the Garden

Coleslaw and fried chicken are the perfect summer meal. Nothing compares to the taste of homemade coleslaw. It is worth the effort of growing the produce and making the slaw even though the process is kind of messy. Watch out for those little white butterflies in your garden if you grow cabbage and if you start seeing holes in it, simply sprinkle some food grade diatomaceous earth on top of your cabbage. That will solve the problem.

Saturday ~ Grilled Bacon Wrapped Corn with Lime and Dill

Wrapping bacon around corn-on-the-cob might seem odd but it gives the corn a wonderful taste and keeps it moist. Be sure to prepare the lime and dill butter in advance. In fact you can make the butter and freeze it to save time. Then all you have to do is put pats of frozen butter on the corn before wrapping it in bacon. I have found that using thick sliced bacon produces better results than the thin bacon you normally see in the stores but either will work.

Sunday ~ Baked Maple Bacon Green Beans

I love this recipe. It might not be the healthiest, but once in a while that is ok. This is a great recipe to take to family reunions or church pot luck dinners, but be prepared to be asked for the recipe. You might even find people like it so much that you are asked to make this recipe every time there is a get-together. Fresh green beans, thick sliced bacon and real maple syrup are the keys to making this recipe taste great.


  • 1 pound of fresh green beans
  • 1 stick of butter
  • 4 to 6 Tablespoons maple syrup
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Bacon



Begin by rinsing the fresh green beans off under cold running water. This is necessary to do because sometimes faded green bean flowers, dirt or bugs are stuck to the outside of the bean.  Once the green beans are clean, snap off both ends. Some people prefer not to do this, but I like to. The decision is yours. Just make sure no stems remain on the beans.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

The next step is to gather five to eight green beans into a bunch.  Wrap the bacon around the green bean bundle one time making sure to slightly overlap the bacon ends.  I used kitchen shears to cut the bacon at this point. I was able to wrap three bundles of green beans using one slice of bacon.

Lay the bacon bundles in a baking pan that has edges with the bacon ends facing the bottom of the pan.  If you wish, you can lay extra slices or chunks of bacon over the top of the green bean bundles at this point.

Melt one stick of butter – or if you are using homemade butter, melt 1/2 cup of butter. Be sure to measure it un-melted.  Pour the melted butter over the top of the green bean bundles.  Drizzle maple syrup over the top of the green beans. The maple syrup does sweeten the green beans and next time I am going to try this recipe without using the maple syrup.  Sprinkle salt, pepper or your other preferred seasonings on top of the green bean bundles.

Place the green bean bundles into the pre-heated oven. Do not put a lid or foil over them.  Cook for 30 minutes.  Turn the oven up to 400 degrees F and cook for 10 to 15 minutes longer. This will crisp the bacon and make it delicious.

Sheri  Ann Richerson is a leading pioneer in the self-sufficiency movement.  For the past 19 years she has been living, teaching, and promoting  organic gardening, natural health and self-sufficiency through all forms  of media. Her bestselling books include “The Complete Idiot’s Guide To  Year-Round Gardening,” “The Complete Idiot’s Guide To Seed Saving &  Starting” and “101 Self-Sufficiency Gardening Tips.”

For more information, please visit her writing website at, her gardening and homesteading website at or subscribe to the Experimental Homesteader podcasts on iTunes.

Meal Planning Monday ~ Garden Fresh

This week’s post is by Leah Kelley.

            Well I did it!  I planted my garden!  I decided to grow lettuce, carrots, basil, cilantro, tomatoes, celery, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, spaghetti squash, cucumbers, green peppers, and squash.  (Yes, that’s it!)  I haven’t had a garden in years due to being pregnant or just having a baby in the late spring/ early summer, so I decided to go all out this year.  I love having a garden for two main reasons.  First, I like knowing exactly where my food is coming from.  Second, my kids helped plant the veggies and they can watch them grow.  There’s nothing better than seeing joy on your children’s faces when they realize they helped to grow something.

I thought for this week’s meal plan I would share with you some garden-fresh recipes.

Chicken Bruschetta ~ There’s nothing better than grilled chicken topped with fresh cherry tomatoes and basil from your garden!

Honey Balsamic Carrots ~ These make a delicious side that the whole family will love!

Caprese Salad ~ Grab some tomatoes off the vine and basil, throw in some mozzarella cheese and top with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar…amazing!

Cucumber and Onion Salad ~ I really wanted to grow onions this year but ran out of room, so maybe next year.

Squash and Onions with Brown Sugar ~ I turned my nose up a little when I first read the recipe but it is really good.

Coleslaw ~ The best coleslaw is made with cabbage fresh picked from the garden!

Salad ~ Fresh lettuce from your garden, topped with tomatoes, cucumbers, and green peppers.  You can’t get any fresher than that!


Cucumber Onion Salad (from Paula Deen)


  • 1 pound cucumbers (about 2 cucumbers), peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 Vidalia onion, very thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper


In a large serving bowl, toss together the cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, onion, parsley, vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper, to taste.  Let the salad stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Meal Planning Monday ~ Tasty Tomatoes



               I am so excited because the tomatoes in our garden are finally ripening!  We had a very wet, cool spring here in the Cincinnati area, which seems to have delayed my personal tomato crop by several weeks.  My husband first decided to start growing tomatoes two years ago declaring store-bought ones to be tasteless and overpriced, and he was right (but don’t tell him I said so.) 

            Some people think growing tomatoes is hard and time-consuming.  However, in my experience, it’s relatively easy to do.  We planted our tomatoes in our existing flower beds in between hydrangeas and butterfly bushes!  (Now if we can just get the deer to quit eating them before we can…)  Make sure to put tomatoes in a sunny spot in your yard and water them generously.  You’ll be rewarded with a bumper crop of delicious tomatoes that your friends and family will be begging you for any extras.  Here are a few of my favorite ways to eat fresh-grown tomatoes this summer.


Monday ~ Taco Night.  If you haven’t tried ground chicken for tacos, you should!  It’s very tasty and has a lot less fat than ground beef.  I’ll chop up plenty of fresh tomatoes to top off our tacos, along with lettuce and shredded cheddar.


Tuesday ~ Oven Fried Chicken with mashed potatoes and garlic roasted zucchini (also from my garden!)


Wednesday ~ FFY (Fend for Yourself) Night.  I have my final golf lesson for the season tonight.  I will bring a turkey sandwich to work so I have something to eat before I hit the links.  Of course, there will be nice slice or two of tomato on that sandwich!


Thursday ~ FFY (Fend for Yourself) Night.  I’m teaching a Coupon Workshop, which means I’ll have to eat something quick this night.  Maybe there will still be some leftover Oven Fried Chicken…


Friday ~ Grilled Chicken Sausages (I like Johnsonville’s new line of them.)  I will make a few skewers of vegetables, brushed with Italian dressing to put on the grill too.  My favorite grilled veggies: mushrooms, zucchini, cherry tomatoes, bell peppers, and onion.


Saturday ~ Lemon Pepper Tilapia boiled Yukon Gold potatoes with fresh parsley and butter, and green beans.  This fish is very easy to make!  Just take thawed tilapia fillets, pat dry, and season with a lemon pepper spice blend, like Mrs. Dash’s.  In a frying pan or skillet, spray some butter flavored cooking spray (or a small amount of butter) and cook each on each side for 3 or 4 minutes.  (Thanks to my friend, Ericka, for this easy dinner idea!)


Sunday ~ Chicken Bruschetta and salad.  This is my favorite recipe with fresh tomatoes and basil!  Enjoy!

Chicken Bruschetta

4 chicken breasts

1 large fresh tomato, chopped and seeded

2 – 3 Tbs of Balsamic salad dressing (plus extra for marinade)

¼ cup of chopped fresh basil

Shredded Italian blend cheese


Marinate the chicken breasts in balsamic dressing 30 – 60 minutes.  Combine the tomato and basil with enough balsamic dressing to coat.  Grill the chicken on one side.  When you flip the chicken to the other side, top the chicken with the tomato and basil mixture.  For last two minutes of grilling, top each chicken breast with shredded cheese.