WE HAVE A 1 YEAR OLD!!!!!
And the simplest, most delicious dinner you've ever had
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I’m so sorry, but I have to take a break from my planned content of “what to do when you visit the magical destination of Big Sky, Montana” (which I promise I have started writing and will send into your inboxes next week) to instead spend a little time talking about something so much more significant that happened last week.
Our daughter, our sweet, beautiful, determined, brilliant, charming, hilarious baby girl is no longer a baby. Lillyan turned one on Sunday. We have a toddler on our hands. WHAT?!
We had the most beautiful weekend of celebration. It began with “induction pizza night” (my personal celebration of the day Lilly’s birth began and also absolutely just an excuse to get Sal’s pizza and have a picnic), moved to some very simple party prep (hello, taco bar), then to another birthday party outside of Dodgeville where we all got to play and observe our sweet Lillyan in her bold, bubbly, utterly fearless glory, and finished the weekend off with the main event: a small family bash where all eyes were on Lilly for the three hours she was awake that afternoon (and were on the 600+ photos/videos of Lilly I screenshared onto our TV for the 2+ hours she was napping).
It was the perfect weekend of reflection, stillness, joy, movement, celebration, and love.
I am obsessed with these milestones: in holding space for them and making the most of big moments in ways that feel special to us, of honoring Lilly’s birthday while simultaneously honoring the one year anniversary of the day I was never sure I would get to experience.
It’s a beautiful thing, and I’m so grateful to have slowed down the race that was our life while we were farming so that we can celebrate these milestones, delight in these moments that matter to us deeply, and just enjoy this time with Lilly that (as is all too apparent on the eve of her first birthday) is absolutely fleeting.
Though the last month has been a whirlwind of activity— 4th of July festivities, a cabin trip, an adventure out West with Lilly, birthday (and birth day) celebrations with hikes, bike rides, paddle outings, trips to the garden, delicious meals, volunteering, and a whole lot of amazing freelance work in between— and I’m not sure life is actually any “slower” than it was when we were farming, the fullness feels more aligned. Like a beautiful balance of all of our values mixed into one rich, meaningful life instead of a life where one value leads so strongly that all the others have to take a backseat.
All that is to say I find it funny how “busy” and “full” can be constants in our lives, while satisfaction, purpose, and contentedness can be so variable. Anyhow, that’s enough musings for today.
It’s been a big week for us, a joy-filled week at the end of a joy-filled month. And the one thing that remains ever true is that I’m finding more and more efficiencies in my kitchen as I work to balance a busy, full life with delicious, fresh, home-cooked meals.
This one that I’m sharing today had to be shared immediately because it checks so many of the boxes that I know are important to you.
It focuses on the seasonal vegetables that are around us without being too fussy (sorry Eggplant Parm Deconstructed).
It comes together soooooo quickly.
It utilizes ingredients that are almost definitely in your pantry and freezer (and honestly, if they’re not, they should be!).
It nourishes well (like truly, this is such a complete meal).
And when you eat it, you will feel like it should have been so much harder than it was because the flavors are that bold, interesting, and fun. AKA make this for your friends for dinner and they will be impressed, and you don’t even have to tell them it took you very little effort.
Oh, and it uses a boatload of cucumbers! Which at this time of year is always important to me. Because if a recipe doesn’t call for a boatload of cucumbers, I’m just going to stop harvesting them.
Love you all. Thanks for letting me share my excitement for life. And please, oh please enjoy the recipe.
CRISPY PORK LETTUCE WRAPS WITH CUCUMBER SALAD
When we make lettuce wraps, we tend to keep it super simple: just some ground meat cooked until its deliciously crispy + a fresh, crunchy veggie element of some kind. This makes for a fairly light meal. If you are having people over or feel you might need to bulk it up a bit, feel free to prepare some cooked rice to serve on the side or and inside the lettuce cup with the meat and cucumber salad. I also know you are going to love this recipe, so if you know you want leftovers, I recommend just making a double batch from the start.
Takes 20 minutes
5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 large leek*, cut into quarters lengthwise and thinly sliced
1 pound ground pork (or beef or chicken or turkey)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
4 cucumbers, thinly sliced
1/3 cup fresh Thai basil leaves**, whole or thinly sliced
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon tamari (or soy sauce)
1 tablespoon maple syrup (or honey, or in a pinch, regular white sugar)
2 teaspoons fish sauce
1-2 heads lettuce, leaves washed and separated
1 cup cooked white or brown rice, optional
Hot sauce, optional
In a large heavy skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the leek and cook until just beginning to brown. Add an additional tablespoon of olive oil along with the ground pork, salt, and red pepper flakes. Break up and cook over medium heat until well-browned and some crispy bits begin to form, 5-10 minutes.
In a medium bowl, combine cucumbers, Thai basil and sesame seeds. Add remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, vinegar, lime juice, tamari, maple syrup, and fish sauce. Stir until sauce coats the cucumbers.
To serve, pile meat and cucumbers (and rice if using) into lettuce leaves and eat with your hands. Add hot sauce if you desire a bit more of a kick.
*I looooove the way the leek crisps up with the pork and lends this beautiful garlicky, earthy goodness. However, it’s a little early for leeks (my friend Beth is just a leek goddess and already had full-size ones she put into her CSA share this last week) so just feel free to sub any allium here if you don't have a leek. I’d recommend a bunch of scallions, 2-3 spring onions, 2 shallots OR 1/2 a regular onion. If using the regular onion, also add a couple minced garlic cloves.
**Regular basil, cilantro, chives, and mint would all work well here as well. Or a combination of these herbs if you feel like it.