Old Plank Farm

The People's Pantry

Blog by Christine Immel

          The Pehttp://www.clker.com/cliparts/p/6/V/i/M/H/tomato-hi.pngple's Pantry   

   How Many Recipes Does it Take to Build a Menu?   

Food has always been a hot topic in the media.   There is no lack of cookbooks, magazines, television shows, food blogs, nutrition advice, and products and ideas to make your life in the kitchen more "simple".

I'm here to tell you there is a wide gap between the sensationalized food in the media and what I serve at my table.  Fancy recipe overload paralyzes me.  Nutritional advice is way more complicated than it needs to be. My family is not interested in the latest food trend.  My kids are not impressed by exotic foods.  My pocket book calls for a good portion of practicality, and I need my food choices to contribute to a healthy lifestyle. 

I enjoy trying new recipes as much as you do, but if I'm going to be putting food on the table everyday, I need some basic healthy stand-by recipes to get the job done. 

You have enough influence in the media to inspire you for special occasions and new food adventures.  It is my job to help you lay a basic foundation that is practical and relevant to you.  It begins with menu planning. 

The Basic Plan

Now we are getting to the good stuff!  I am excited about this blog post because I know how much of an impact it will have on your life.  I am also excited because I am going through this process right along with you in order to plan for the season.  This is an opportunity for me to get organized as well!

To begin, we will just focus on dinner menus.  Breakfast and lunch will be easy after the evening meals are planned.  If you feel ready, go ahead and work on Breakfast and Lunch as well.

Your Menu Building Blocks

Grab yourself four pieces of paper and a pencil or sit down at your computer.  We are going to work through this list together.

1.  Develop a 7-Day Meal Template

2.  Pick 5 "Veggie Versatile"  Recipes that fit into your template.

3.  Develop 10 Dinner Main Ideas that fill your template

4.  Create a Reference List of Sides:  Veggies/Fruits, Starches



7-Day Menu Template

A meal template gives you a place to start.  It is not recipe specific, but provides the backbone of your recipes.  Example:

MONDAY           Crock Pot Meal 

TUESDAY          Fish/Seafood Meal

WEDNESDAY     Soup and Salad and Bread or Muffins

THURSDAY        Vegetarian

FRIDAY             Comfort Food (Pizza, Cheeseburgers, Tacos)

SATURDAY       Casserole/One Pot Meal

SUNDAY           Stir Fry

My template is built around cost, convenience, variety and nutrition.  You can adapt this template with your own preferences. 

5 Versatile Veggie Recipes

Pick 5 of these.  Make sure they will fit somewhere into your 7-day menu template.  Here are some examples of Recipes that are "Veggie Versatile":

Vegetable Frittata

Garden Vegetable Lasagna 

Fresh Garden Salad

Veggie Soup 

Veggie Pizza

Dinner Main Ideas - Pick 10

These are recipes you and your family enjoy.  They need to easily fit into your weekly template to make menu planning simple. I've provided 13 to get started.  Some are variations of the same basic menu ie:  Beef/Pork Pot Roast 

Casseroles/One Pot: Escalloped Potatoes and Ham,  Chicken Broccoli Casserole 

Stir Fry:  Chicken Stir Fry

Crock Pot:  Crock Pot Chicken Dinner, Beef Pot Roast

Fish/Seafood:  Grilled Salmon, Baked Tilapia

Soup:  Chicken Noodle Rice Soup, Bean/Lentil Soup

Vegetarian:  Vegetarian Chili, Macaroni and Cheese

Comfort Food:  Cheeseburgers, Tacos/Nachos/Naked Burritos


List of Veggies/Fruits and Starches

These are ideas to round out your 10 Dinner Main Ideas you have chosen.  List as many ideas as you would like.  Example:


Applesauce, Asparagus, Baked Apples, Beets, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage, Carrots, Cauliflower, Green Beans, Green Salad, Spinach, Pickles, Squash, Any CSA Veggie Combination

Starches: Bread, Beans, Biscuits/Rolls, Corn, Cornbread, Muffins, Noodles/Pasta, Potato, Tortilla Chips, Tortilla (corn or flour), Potatoes, Sweet Potatoes, Rice (Brown/White), Quinoa, Millet


A Note About Nutrition

The menus I will be sharing with you include a variety of fresh, whole, high quality, and local and organic foods.  It is a basic clean eating plan that is suitable for a family with children.  The variety and quality is enough to meet most nutritional needs.  My menus will tend to be light  on meat and grains with a focus on fruits and vegetables.  These menu ideas can be adapted to a variety of eating styles from Paleo to Vegetarian and I encourage you to adapt recipes as needed for allergies and intolerances.  When there is flexibility in a menu, I will point it out and offer substitutions when I can.

Book Recommendations

There are a few books I am super excited about that I wanted to share with you.  If our goal is to eat more veggies this season, these books will be great additions to your library:

River Cottage Veg; 200 inspired Vegetable Recipes by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall  (Mine and Angelica's Favorite by far...


From Asparagus to Zucchini:  A guide to cooking Farm-Fresh Seasonal Produce Madison Area CSA Coalition

My next post will pull things all together for you. The plan is to build a menu to practice from before we get our first box in June.  Also, I will provide you with the tools I use to keep your menu planning quick and easy.


At Your Service,


Christine Immel


Questions?  Feedback?  Suggestions for future posts? 


I’d love to hear from you!thepeoplespantry@gmail.com                                    


Next Topic for the end of May:                                                            


Let's Build a Menu!  Your Tools For Success






          The Pehttp://www.clker.com/cliparts/p/6/V/i/M/H/tomato-hi.pngple's Pantry   

Your 2017 CSA Kitchen Primer                           

                     By Christine Immel

Let’s go over some of the lessons I have learned in menu planning, shopping, storage, and meal preparation over the last 20 years in the kitchen.   The following list summarizes some practices that have helped me.  Throughout the season, I will be approaching each topic in more detail.

Meal Planning

1.     What’s for Supper?

Meal planning is essential.  It is the most effective way to save money on groceries, simplify meal times, and keep a balanced diet.   

2.      The 7 S’s

Full utilization of our veggies is our goal this season. There are 7 universal uses for them:  Salads, Smoothies, Soups, Stir Fry, Simple Sides, Seasonal Casseroles, and Store for later.  Yes, I cheated by adding the word “Seasonal” to casserole.  I couldn’t think of an “S” word that was another word for casserole.  If you can think of one, shoot me an e-mail! :) 

3.     Go-To-Recipes

All you need to streamline your meal planning process, is 3-5 flexible recipes main dish recipes that call for “veggies of your choice” (ie: Soups, Stir Frys, Seasonal Casseroles).  In addition, you will need at least 3 recipes or uses for each veggie in our box.  Please keep in mind, simply prepared single vegetables have this magical way of perfectly complementing each other on your plate.  

4.     Keep-it-Simple

Simplify your recipe resources.  There is such a thing as recipe overload.  Its paralyzing. Use your Go-To Recipes first.  Then if you wish, new and exciting additions can be added to your menu. 

5.     Give your CSA veggies Priority

Seasonal menu planning begins with seasonal produce first.  Then we fill in the blanks to round out our meals.   


1.     Shop Weekly

Your CSA box arrives weekly.  I will be sending out suggested menus on Fridays along with Angelica’s list of CSA items to expect the following Tuesday delivery. If you can squeeze your shopping in between Friday and Monday, that would be ideal.  

2.     Staple Shopping Checklist

Keep a master list and just check the box when you run out.  

3.     Price List

Keep a small notebook of items you purchase on your staples list, including household items and record the best possible price you can purchase this item for.  It will take the guesswork out of finding a good deal.  

4.     Less is More

Having many options to eat might seem like what you want, but in my experience, not having to think about what you are going to eat is easier. For example, pick two fresh fruits, or two cereals during your weekly shopping trip.  You can switch it up when you run out. 


1.     Organization is Key

You must be able to find everything to know what you have on hand before meal planning and shopping.  Designate a place for everything.  Keep your refrigerator, freezer, and pantry clean.  

2.     Avoid Overstocking

Buying in bulk may save money, but can sometimes be wasteful or too indulgent.  Stock up on things you know you will not over-use just because it’s there.  One example is treats for the kids.  My kids know I limit the treats and when they are gone, they are gone until next shopping trip.  Also, do not over-purchase perishables.  

3.     Clean Sweep

Clean out the fridge, organize your pantry, clean off your counters and take stock of inventory before you get your weekly share.   

4.     Inventory

I recommend keeping a list of produce on your fridge and highlight what needs to be used or processed quickly.  A deep freezer list is also helpful.  Keep an inventory of any food that you store that is not easily seen at a glance when you open your refrigerator or pantry.  It will save you time later.

Food Preparation

1.     Produce Processing Day

On Tuesday, the same day you receive your share, wash, chop, trim, process, and store everything based on your weekly menu.  

2.     Home-Made Staples

If time allows, consider making your own:  Stock or Bone Broth, Yogurt, granola, bread, trail mix, hummus, seasoning mixes, bakery etc. I've added 2 suggested staple recipes for you to the website:  Lentil Stew and Herbed White Bean Hummus 

3.      Food Prep Day

This is for convenience.  On Sunday, bag your bulk snacks into individual portions.  Make your home-made weekly staples.  Make some intentional leftovers to pack in lunches or freeze for later to use in a pinch during the week.  The idea is to do whatever you can ahead of time before your busy week begins.  

4.     Staging Your Meals

Check your meal plans every night before bed to pull items to thaw.  Stage your dry ingredients before getting started.  I stage my dry ingredients first thing in the morning for the evening meal. 


1.     Get Your Mind Right!

Cooking is not a chore.  It is an expression of love and a creative endeavor. 

2.     Make it Count

Savor this time of day.  Turn on some music.  Light a candle.  Use pretty dishes.  Send gratitude to your local grower.  

3.     Be Creative…or Follow the Recipe

Some people prefer to add their own personal twist to written recipes or rarely even follow a recipe at all!  Others prefer to follow the recipe.  Both styles are okay. 

4.     No Pressure

We are not short order restaurant cooks.  It should be a written rule somewhere that the family chef should be able to make what they want and take as long as they please to prepare it!    

At Your Service,

Christine Immel

Questions?  Feedback?  Suggestions for future posts? 

I’d love to hear from you!thepeoplespantry@gmail.com                                    

Next Topic for April:                                                            

How Many Recipes Does it Take to Build a Menu?                                                                                                                                                                                                   

The Pehttp://www.clker.com/cliparts/p/6/V/i/M/H/tomato-hi.pngple’s Pantry

                The Value of Your CSA Dollars

                                                                                             By Christine Immel

This month I’d like to explore value with you.  Let’s look at the definition of “value” as it might relate to your CSA Dollar.  


There are 3 definitions of value I’d like to explore taken from an online Webster’s Dictionary:

:  Relative worth, utility or importance

Definition #1 This definition is related to the level of “usefulness”.  We don’t need to ask ourselves if food is useful.  It is vital and necessary for our survival as a species.  We don’t decide if we are going to eat, but we DO decide what we are going to eat.  This leads me to definition #2…

:  A fair return or equivalent in goods, services or money for something exchanged

Definition #2 This definition of value might be described as “what you get for your money”.  This is important.  I don’t know about you, but I tend to have a finite amount of money.  I have a budgeted amount of money each month that goes towards feeding my family.  I need to be conscious of my spending.

:  Something (as a principal or quality) intrinsically valuable or desirable

Definition #3 This definition is related to the value that is not always quantifiable.  How do you quantify the emotional, social, educational, and functional value of your CSA dollar?  You can’t.  Your choices in life are based on what you value and reflect what is most important to you. If we are living a purposeful life, we know what we value, and we live our lives “on purpose”.

Here are some values that might have played an important role in your decision to be an Old Plank Farm CSA member:

Change        Contribution    Social Responsibility    Money

Collaboration    Health        Sustainability        Quality

Community        Purpose        Utility            Variety

If I were to imagine that my CSA dollar was a pie, and my values made up the pieces, my pie might look like this:

Your Money

Even though my intrinsic values make up over half of my pie chart example, that does not mean money is not important.  Quite the contrary!

Your CSA weekly share will cost less than the same items purchased in your local grocery store.  However, some items can’t be found in your local grocery store. For this reason, and the unquantifiable value of freshness, quality, and convenience, cost savings is difficult to calculate. But, if you practice the following strategies, you will be ahead of the game:

  • Make sure your CSA share is a replacement for a bulk of your grocery bill, not an additional expense

  • Challenge yourself to save in another area of your budget

(example: eating out) in order to live out your values with your CSA dollars

  • Stay on top of your weekly CSA inventory

  • Keep your storage areas organized (refrigerator, freezer, pantry)

  • Plan meals, recipes, and menus around your weekly share

  • Store (Freeze, dehydrate, can) what you don’t plan to use within one week

  • Process your produce the day it comes home

As your kitchen companion, I plan to help you save money using these techniques listed.  Food wasted is money spent.  A missed menu opportunity is money spent.  

At the very least, I hope to help you absorb the costs of your CSA dollar into your budget.  More than that, it is my personal goal to help you save money on your monthly grocery budget overall, while adding a tremendous amount of value at the same time!

Next month, I will go over some of the lessons I have learned in shopping, storage, menu planning, and meal preparation over the last 20 years in the kitchen.  Consider it a kitchen primer for the upcoming season

At Your Service,

Christine Immel

Questions?  Feedback?  Suggestions for future posts?  I’d love to hear from you!


                                Next Topic for February:

                                Your 2017 CSA Kitchen Primer

 Eat More Veg.
January 25th 2017

                                                                                                          By Christine Immel

Hello CSA members!  Welcome to The People’s Pantry, a blog offered exclusively to Old Plank Farm CSA members in order for you to make the most of your CSA deliveries.

When I first became a member of a CSA in 2009, I would have loved to have the support to get the most out of my weekly delivery and this is the support I would like to offer you this coming season.
My motto, advice, personal goal, and challenge for you is to Eat More Veg.  The nice thing about this nutrition advice is that it will not be contested by peer review studies, is not likely to change in a few years, and is not likely to confuse you.  It is a simple, solid piece of advice no matter what diet or lifestyle you adhere to. I realize you all come from different backgrounds, you all know which style of eating keeps you feeling your best, and that you all know the value of organic locally grown veggies. 

With these things in mind, let me summarize this blog for you.
The People’s Pantry Blog is all about:
  • Storing and Processing your weekly VEG
  • Recipes
  • Menu Planning
  • Kitchen Organization
  • Saving Money on Groceries
Let me tell you a little about myself…

First off, you may have noticed I share the same last name as Angelica, your CSA Manager.  Yes, we are related.  I have the privilege of being this young lady’s mother.  I also consider myself extended family to all of the OPF farmers.

For three seasons now, I have been a CSA member.  My other two daughters have volunteered at the farm, I’ve attended farm events, got my hands dirty a few times, and sat at the edge of my seat as OPF lives and breathes and grows.  I am proud to be a part of this amazing community of farmers, friends and family.

I am a stay at home mother of 4 children ranging from 20 years to 10 months. Angelica, Emma, Natalie, and J. Abraham.  My husband and I waited 10 years after our third daughter before we decided to try for a boy.  In March of 2016, we were blessed with a son.
I have an associate degree in nutrition and a background in food service management.  For 12 years after college, I was part of the kitchen management at the VA Hospital in Milwaukee where I helped to develop recipes and write menus. 

After the birth of my third daughter in 2006, I was diagnosed with a rare but serious autoimmune illness that nearly took my life.  My health challenges were the catalyst to my interest in sustainable food systems and clean eating. 

Learning about sustainable food systems and its relationship to health and the environment changed my life.  I began to dive head first into the movement, planning to someday own my own homestead, grow all of my own food and live off grid.  I stretched my small amount of allotted health to the max and after repeated relapses with my illness, I’ve finally come to terms with my physical limitations and realize I can’t do it all.  But that doesn’t mean I can’t participate…
So here I am, sitting at a computer, sharing my story and hoping that I can contribute to your CSA experience this year through blogging about some of my passions and offering some of my skills to you so you can make the most out of your CSA share.

Consider me your kitchen companion.  I may not be able to grow your food for you, but I know how to store, process, cook, plan recipes and menu plan. I am also an aspiring minimalist who keeps a tight food budget and loves organization.  Believe it or not, the skills I will be sharing with you are super fun for me and I’m sure I will learn a lot in the process.  I am looking forward to being your kitchen companion. :)

At Your Service,
Christine Immel

P.S.  For now, you can expect one blog post per month this winter/spring and then weekly posts at the start of our 2017 weekly CSA deliveries in June. 
                                                                                          Next Topic for February:
                                                                                          The Value of Your CSA Dollars
CSA Sign-Up

Our 2017 CSA sign-up season is closed.  If you were a 2016 member and still want to renew your share, please email us to do so. All others who want to be put on our waiting list, please email us at csa@oldplankfarm.com