Simply Fresh by Julie Wern

 Hello fellow CSA members.  For those of you returning members, welcome back to Simply Fresh, your weekly blog post designed to inform, instruct, and inspire the healthful, flavorful, and efficient utilization of your CSA produce.  For those of you who are new to Holcomb Farm this year, let me quickly introduce myself and this column.

My name is Julie Wern.  I have been a Holcomb CSA member for several years, in which time I have been writing a weekly newsletter/blog called Simply Fresh.  In this blog I highlight ways to select, store and utlilize various produce items.  I even include recipes and cooking techniques. I am a food enthusiast and past caterer with extensive experience in the kitchen.  I also teach cooking and cookie decorating classes.  I think you will find Simply Fresh a valuable addition to your CSA experience.

Please know that the Holcomb Farm administration is working towards transferring past issues of Simply Fresh from the old blogsite onto this new one.  This will allow you to use the “Search” feature to peruse past publications and to use a key word to find specific information and recipes.  Until then, this feature will only be relevant for this season’s newsletters.

Also, keep in mind that Simply Fresh works like any other blog.  There is a feature to add “Comments” at the end of the blog post. I welcome your feedback as an essential tool for bringing you high quality and useful posts.

Finally, I am happy to announce that I will soon publish an official Holcomb Farm Pinterest Board. Details soon to follow.

General Tip—Prepare your Pantry

One thing I have discovered over the years is that the more varied and interesting my pantry (or staple) ingredients, the more varied and interesting my vegetable culinary adventures.  For one, I find it a bummer to bring home such bountiful produce only to realize that in order to prepare it I need to make yet another trip to the grocery store.  Two, having a full pantry allows me to come up with quick yet delicious last minute meals for those busy summer weekday evenings.  Thus, as we begin a new season at the farm, I thought it might be helpful, once again, to suggest some pantry ingredients to have on hand throughout the summer.

However, the pantry suggestions below are no doubt biased by my own preferences of what is healthful and flavorful eating.  My family is not vegetarian or vegan, although we incorporate many guidelines into our diet that we believe promote overall health and vitality. Thus you will find a preference both in this list, and in Simply Fresh posts, for things like whole grains, low fat dairy products and foods, and lean proteins.

My family also tends to like highly flavored foods with international touches, so my pantry list tends to have an international bent.  Consequently it includes many of the kinds of ingredients that you will find in the recipes I offer in the newsletters.

Given all these issues, I encourage you not to consider this list a “must have” shopping guide but rather a jumping off point.  The idea is to get you thinking about your own preferences and the kinds of pantry items that best suit your own family.  And while you are at it, perhaps you might consider adding a few new items you haven’t used before and try some interesting new recipes from Simply Fresh.

In the interest of space, I have chosen not to include the more obvious staples such as flour, salt, sugar etc..  While some of the items listed below might seem obscure, they can be found in most supermarkets and, certainly, in stores like health or whole foods markets.


Condiments—condiments offer a quick and flavorful way to liven up otherwise simply prepared foods.   There is a whole world of flavorful condiments outside of ketchup.

Hoisin Sauce and/or oyster sauce and/or black bean sauce

Chile-garlic sauce (sambal oelek)

Vietnamese Fish sauce

Sriracha (Asian hot sauce) or other hot sauce

Dijon and/or whole grain mustard

Yellow (mild) miso

Pitted kalamata olives or oil cured olives

Green olives

Sundried tomatoes

Roasted Red Peppers (until those wonderful peppers are harvested)


Anchovy paste


Favorite BBQ sauce

Worcerstershire sauce


Oils/vinegars/wines—great for sautés, stir fries, braising, vinaigrettes, and finishing dishes

Good quality olive oil

Canola oil or other light flavored oil with good smoke point

Balsamic vinegar

sesame oil—keep in refrigerator to increase shelf life

Low sodium soy sauce

White wine and red wine vinegars

Cider vinegar

White and red cooking wines

Sherry cooking wine

Mirin, Sake and/or Chinese rice wine (can usually sub with white or sherry wine)


Spices—think bbq rubs, roasts, and generally making everything more exciting




Chili powder


Curry powder

Onion powder and/or salt

Garlic powder and/or salt

Chinese 5-spice powder


Spanish smoked paprika (unique sweet, yet smoky flavor)

Chile flakes

Dried oregano, dill, thyme, rosemary, sage

Kosher, Sea salt and/or fleur de sel

Fresh peppercorns in peppermill

Spice mixes (like garam masala, berebere, Mexican, ras al hanout…)


Produce—a necessary base for any good dish

Onions—refrigerate to increase shelf life and reduce “tearing” while cutting


Shallots—refrigerate to increase shelf life

Fresh ginger—peel then store airtight in freezer for quick, easy grating at any time

Lemons and limes

Fresh oranges or orange juice

Jalapenos (until the harvest comes in)


Grains/pasta/beans—to serve with, alongside, or atop for added substance and interest.  Many a vegetable dish can be made into a meal by simply adding these items.

Rice, udon, and/or soba noodles

Spaghetti, linguine and/or tubular pasta of choice

Whole wheat or regular cous cous

Brown rice

Basmati rice

Quinoa, barley and/or Bulgur

Canned black, cannellini and/or pinto beans (use dried when possible)

Canned garbanzo beans (use dried when possible)

Canned tomatoes (for before the tomato harvest)



Sesame seeds

Panko and regular bread crumbs (regular or whole wheat)

Low sodium chicken, beef and/or vegetable broth (canned or home-made)

Unsalted butter

Tomato paste

Light or regular coconut milk

Peanut butter or preferred nut butters

Nuts (almonds, pine nuts, walnuts, & pistachios) (freeze to increase shelf life)

Dried fruit/raisins

Grated Parmesan or Romano Cheese

Pure maple syrup

Mayonnaise of choice (we use light)


Again, this is not a “must have” or even an exhaustive list.  It is simply a springboard for thought and action.  Hopefully, many of you will find it useful in some way.


For those of you who are familiar with my blog, you know I can’t do a post without including a recipe…so here you are…

The following is a wonderful pantry spice mix that keeps well and has universal appeal.  It can be sprinkled on meat or vegetables before grilling to make a tasty and healthful taco or burrito filling.  (Keep in mind that most commercial taco filling mixes contain MSG).  It is also great mixed into buttermilk and a little mayonnaise (or sour cream or even yogurt) for a creamy salad dressing or dip.  It is also perfect stirred into soups, stews, chilis, or grains.  We love it sprinkled on sweet potatoes and winter squash.

This is “single recipe” size and is great for one time use.  However I recommend that you quadruple the recipe (or more) and keep it at all times in your pantry.  This recipe is adapted from

Mexican Seasoning


– 1 tablespoon chili powder

– 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder, heaping

– 1/4 teaspoon onion powder, heaping

– 1/4 teaspoon cayenne, or less, according to desired degree of heat

– 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

– 1/2 teaspoon paprika

– 2 teaspoons ground cumin

– 1 teaspoon coarse salt

– 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper


Mix well and store in airtight container.  I like to grind in a morter and pestle to release flavors.  Makes about 3 tablespoons.


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4 thoughts on “Simply Fresh by Julie Wern”

  1. Thanks for the welcoming note, Julie – glad to see a new season kickoff adn looking forward to more exciting recipes and info!

  2. Our family lives by the info you post Julie so we greatly appreciate it and have learned so much from you. We continue to improve our ways each year with your thoughtful input and suggestions. Thank you for all you do for the CSA!

  3. Thank you for this welcome sign of summer, Julie! I have enjoyed your posts the past two years. I didn’t realize you were just a ‘regular member.’ Thank you for all the wonderful information!

  4. Julie – looking forward to more of your delicious recipes. Appreciate the time you take to share your knowledge & experience with all of us.

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