Farm Box Planning

Turkey Vegetable Bolognese

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The checker at Trader Joe’s scans a 4th bag of carrots, gives me a knowing look, and says, “Meal prep day, right?” Batching meals in advance to keep daily cooking down to a minimum has become a popular way to get a home-cooked meal on the table when we are living our on-the-go lives. But is the practice more overwhelming than the benefits? That all depends on planning! Armed with a great recipe and shopping list as well as a few hours of time, it can be a weekday lifesaver. I have a few tips for easy and delicious meal prep:

  • Plan to cook recipes that actually eat better after they have been frozen and reheated, like soups, stews, braises, grain salads and casseroles. Meats and veggies cooked in a sauce get more flavorful as they have had time to hang out together.
  • Double your recipes but not your time or ingredients. It only takes a little while longer to prep and cook a second batch, and although proteins, vegetables and starches need to be doubled, ingredients like oil and spices do not.
  • Have plenty of containers that are easily stored in your freezer. Mason jars, BPA free plastic and Pyrex, especially if they are stackable, are great choices. Use painter tape and a Sharpie to label and date the item you are storing.
  • Divide food into small containers, then allow to cool all of the way under refrigeration before storing in the freezer.
  • Find ingredients that overlap. If you need rice for one recipe, why not make more to add to salads or a quick mid-week stir fry?
  • Chop the ingredients that go into everything to get the party started. Get all of the onions diced, the garlic minced, and cut up extra carrots for tomorrow’s snack. Getting all of your items prepped in advance will help you save time and make it easier for you to manage three or four different pots working at the same time when the cooking starts.
  • Make it fun! Get the kids involved, listen to your favorite podcast or have friends cook and pack all together.

This Veggie Bolognese (you could also add ground turkey or beef) is a perfect dish for meal prep. Serve it over zucchini noodle, pasta, polenta or cauliflower rice.

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Vegetable Bolognese

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup each diced carrots, celery, fennel and onions
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 pound organic ground turkey or beef (optional)
  • 2 bay leaves, 3 fresh thyme stems, 1 small rosemary stem
  • 1 cup of white wine
  • 1 15-ounce can of organic diced tomatoes
  • 1 15-ounce can of organic tomato sauce
  • 7 ounces of baby spinach
  • 5 large basil leaves, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
  • Parmesan cheese and red chile flakes for serving
  • 8 ounces of pasta, cooked, or zucchini noodles

Method:

Heat a large skillet or Dutch oven and coat the bottom with a thin layer of olive oil. Add the diced carrots, celery, fennel and onion and season with salt and pepper. Cook the vegetables until softened, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic, ground turkey or beef, if using, seasoning with a bit more salt and pepper, and stir into the vegetables, breaking the meat into small pieces. Continue to stir and brown the meat until it is cooked all of the way through.

Put the bay leaf and the sprigs of thyme and rosemary into the turkey mixture. Pour the wine into the turkey and vegetable mixture and stir, cooking until the wine is reduced by half. Add the diced tomatoes and their juices and cook until liquid is reduced,  and then add the tomato sauce. Cook the sauce for 30-40 minutes, until it is thickened and tomatoes are sweet. While the sauce is hot, stir in the baby spinach and basil, seasoning with salt and pepper and stirring until it wilts. Taste the sauce for additional seasoning, adding more salt and pepper to taste. Remove the bay leaf and herb sprigs. Top with the chopped parsley and serve over pasta or zucchini noodles.

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Farro, White Bean, Roasted Broccoli and Lemon Salad

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The branches of my neighbor’s tree are weighed with bright-skinned, juicy globes, and my farm box has seductive, creamy-green colored broccoli. I am in love with Trader Joe’s chewy, nutty 10-Minute Farro and the idea of salvaging any fresh herbs I have tucked away from previous dishes, as this salad benefits from any combination. Dinner with the hope of leftovers is in progress.

Farro, White Bean, Roasted Broccoli and Lemon Salad

Serve this dish alone, topped with poached eggs, rotisserie chicken or grilled meat. Serves about 4 as a main dish and 8 as a side.

Ingredients:

1 shallot, sliced

1 bay leaf

1 garlic clove

8 ounces of quick cooking farro

1 head of broccoli, cut into equal-sized florets

Olive oil, salt and pepper

1 can of organic white beans, rinsed and drained

1/2 cup chopped mixed herbs: parsley, thyme, dill, basil, cilantro, chervil, tarragon

2-3 fresh lemons

Instructions:

Heat a heavy bottomed saute or sauce pan and drizzle with olive oil. Add the shallot, bay leaf, garlic clove and farro, and stir until the shallot and garlic soften and the farro toasts slightly. Add water to cover plus 1/2 inch. Add a pinch of salt and cook for 10 minutes, until the farro is tender but still slightly chewy. Drain the excess water in a colander if it has not all been absorbed. Place the farro in a large mixing bowl.

While the farro is cooking, heat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and place the broccoli on it, tossing with olive oil, salt and pepper, then spreading out evenly on the pan. Put in the oven, turning the broccoli after about 5 minutes, until charred and softened, but still crisp and bright green, about 10-12 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and add to the farro.

Add the white beans, chopped herbs and the zest of one lemon to the farro and broccoli. Squeeze in the juice of two lemons, season the farro mixture with salt and pepper, and fold all of the ingredients together. Taste the mixture and add more lemon juice, salt and pepper, and olive oil if needed. Chill the salad or serve it at room temperature.

Green Lentil Soup with Spinach, Cilantro and Lemon

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I received the highest compliment today: “The lentil soup is so so good. I was shocked that even Hudson ate it! He is the pickiest eater ever. I would love the recipe for the soup.” You see, Hudson is 4 years old, and if I can help get a few bites of whole, nutritious goodness into a young man that age, and maybe even change how he feels about vegetables, then I have done my job. Here’s that recipe, Mom!

Green Lentil Soup with Spinach, Cilantro and Lemon

Serves 6-8

1 onion (yellow, white or brown), diced

4 stalks of celery, sliced

4 large carrots, peeled and sliced into rounds

2 cloves of garlic, chopped

1 bunch of fresh thyme

2 bay leaves

1 15 ounce can of diced tomatoes with their juices

2 cups of green lentils

8 cups of chicken or vegetable stock or broth

4 cups of baby spinach

1 bunch of cilantro, stems removed, chopped

Juice of 1 or two fresh lemons

Olive oil, kosher or sea salt and freshly ground pepper

In a large stock pot, heat about 2 tablespoons of olive oil to cooking temperature. Add the onions and cook for a bit, stirring, then the celery and carrots, seasoning with a bit of salt and pepper. Stir and cook the vegetables until they start to sweat, and then add the garlic. Stir frequently to keep the garlic from burning, and continue to cook until the vegetables soften a bit. Add the thyme, bay leaves and tomatoes, season with a bit more salt and pepper, and stir, cooking the tomatoes for about 3 minutes.

Add the lentils, a bit more salt and pepper, and the stock and stir it all together. Bring heat up to high, and bring the soup to a boil. When it boils, reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook the soup until the lentils are tender, about 30 minutes. When the lentils are done (you can tell by tasting them, they should be tender with a slight firm bite), season with additional salt and pepper to taste, stir in the spinach, cilantro and lemon. Taste again, adjusting any seasoning or lemon juice. Add additional olive oil if desired and serve or store in airtight containers in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Curry Roasted Cauliflower with Golden Raisins, Almonds and Cilantro

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We have had a bounty of scrumptious cauliflower for months, and my recipe roster has been diverse: Cumin and Fennel Roasted Cauliflower and Potatoes, Roasted Broccoli and Cauliflower with Parsley Pesto, Cauliflower and Gruyere Souffle, and Ginger Turmeric Cauliflower and Sweet Potatoes. But best of all, I’ve loved this Roasted Curry Cauliflower with Golden Raisins, Almonds and Cilantro.

The goal of curry dishes is not to punch with heat, but create a warm glow. The key to that is balance. Sweet raisins, toasted crunchy nuts, piquant cilantro all mellow the heat to a low simmer, and wed perfectly with the char of well-roasted cauliflower. Curry can be made in all different manners, but using a good-quality curry powder with coriander, turmeric, fenugreek, cumin, mustard seed, black pepper and cayenne makes this a quick dish with packed with flavor and warmth. It also gives a nutritional boost, with the benefits of fiber and vitamin C from the cauliflower, turmeric’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidant qualities and the healing properties of fenugreek.

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 Curry Roasted Cauliflower with Golden Raisins, Almonds and Cilantro

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 large head of cauliflower, cut into bite-sized florets

1 tablespoon good-quality prepared curry powder

Olive oil, kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

1/4 cup chopped toasted almonds

1/4 cup golden raisins

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

Heat an oven to 375 degrees. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and pile cauliflower on it, seasoning with curry powder and generous olive oil, salt and pepper. Toss it all together, then roast in the oven, turning occasionally, until the cauliflower caramelizes and turns deep brown. Remove from oven when cauliflower is cooked through, tender and a rich golden brown. Toss with the almonds and raisins, then top with cilantro to serve.

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Farm Box Day

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Here’s what came in my Tanaka Farms CSA Box this week: Maui sweet onions/ carrots/red and golden beets/zucchini/ gourmet globe squash/sun drop summer squash/celery/oregano/ cilantro/ basil/ red sweet peppers/Oro Blanco grapefruit/Brussels sprouts/new garlic/ Valencia oranges/

We made four delicious meals for our Farm Box Families:

Ground Turkey, Sweet Potato, and Black Bean Chile

Grilled Chicken Thighs with Citrus (Orange & Grapefruit) Oregano Glaze WITH Wild Rice, Celery, Brussels Sprouts, Beets & Sundried Tomatoes

Vegetable Enchiladas with Cotijo Cheese, Handmade Tomatillo & Jalapeno Salsa

Grilled Summer Vegetables with Whole Wheat Spaghetti, Basil Pesto Sauce and Fresh Mozzerella Cheese

Hope you made some yummy dishes with your farm box this week!

Farm Box Day

Southwest QuinoaHere’s what we did with : Maui sweet onions/ carrots/ Romaneso cauliflower/ zucchini/ sun drop summer squash/ gourmet globe summer squash/ celery/green cabbage/ oregano/ cilantro/ bok choy/ spinach/ red & yellow sweet peppers/ lacinto kale/cucumber/red grapefruit:

Mole Roasted Chicken with Southwestern Quiona and Lentil Pilaf

Lemongrass Scallion Turkey Meatballs with Asian Stir Fry, Cabbage Cups and Red Pepper Chile Grapefruit Sauce

Mexican Chicken and Vegetable Soup with Avocado

Penne Pasta Puttenesca with Spinach & Romanesco Calilflower

Farm Box Day

cilantro 1We got a little whiff of spring this week with an abundance of green: emerald cilantro, vivid carrot tops, bright mustard greens and striking chard. I used almost every single root top, from turnip to beet, excluding the carrots. Although I’ve tried carrot top pesto and salsa verde, I just don’t care for the bitter, grassy flavor of them.

True to the seasonal shifts, our Fujis and navels were looking a bit tired, better to cook with than eat out of hand. It seems that even the crops are looking forward to spring. Here’s what I made for family dinners this week:

Bacon Braised Chicken with Apples & Kale & Mashed Potatoes: A take on a pork dish I published previously, this was super succulent with boneless chicken thighs, served over some russets I had left over from a previous box.

Tofu Stir Fry with Brown Rice & Pickled Turnip: This is a favorite that changes with every farm box, but the basics always stay the same: brown super-firm tofu until it is crispy, throw in lots of fresh ginger, stir fry vegetables in order of density, and season with my yummy stir fry sauce, which I’ll post later.

Beans & Greens Soup with Parmesan Broth: Every green in the box went into this soup, plus a Parmesan rind and a quirky blend of organic dried beans.

Whole Wheat Baked Penne with Goat Cheese, Herbed Bread Crumbs and Veggies: Just like it sounds, creamy, crunchy, nutty and delish.