Mains

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.

Kale and Turkey Meatballs

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I’m making a practice of mindful feeding for myself and my family, and along with that comes: Meal Prep. I plan and cook nonstop for a living, all for other people’s families and events. I’ve lapsed into a cycle of over-scheduled activities, and leaving meals to a last-minute freezer dash with a side of leftovers and a  purchase of that life-saving grocery rotisserie chicken…you may know the drill.

This week I dedicated myself to a results-based work out program, so meal planning was crucial. I started by doubling up the frittata I made for Mother’s Day brunch for a quick, nutrient-dense morning start. I chopped salad ingredients, packing them separately so I could design my daily lunch with a variety of produce, and I defrosted a few homemade soups I had stashed in the freezer. Then I made a big batch of Turkey Kale Meatballs to slide into soups, top off with marinara sauce and serve with a side of sautéed spinach, or even turn into a quick snack.

Turkey Kale Meatballs

These are low in fat, tender, packed with the power of kale, and gluten-free. Makes about 24 meatballs.

ingredients

1 bunch of kale

1 large shallot

2 garlic cloves

Olive oil

1 pound of lean ground turkey

1 large egg

1 teaspoon salt and a few pinches of pepper

1 cup of good quality, organic marinara sauce

method

Tear the leaves of the kale from the ribs and wash the leaves, using a salad spinner or colander, then dry with paper towels or by spinning the leaves. Discard the ribs. Put the leaves into the bowl of a food processor. Peel the shallot and roughly chop, placing that and the peeled garlic cloves into the food processor. Chop the kale, shallots and garlic very finely in the food processor, stopping to push down the mixture if large bits remain, and continuing until the kale is uniformly fine.

Heat a large skillet and drizzle enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Add the kale mixture and cook until the shallots and garlic become fragrant and the kale has wilted. Season with salt and pepper and cool.

Place the ground turkey into a large bowl and add the egg. Season generously with salt and pepper. Mix the ground turkey, egg and kale mixture together until incorporated but not overworked. Tip: to test for seasoning, take a small portion of the turkey mixture and cook it in a small saute pan. Taste and adjust with salt and pepper if needed.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two sheet pans with parchment paper and form the meatballs, using either a portion scoop or your hands. The meatballs should be no larger than 3 tablespoons and should be uniform in size. Space the meatballs out on the sheet pan and cook for about 15-17 minutes, until firm to the touch and 165 degrees in internal temperature (use a probe meat thermometer). Remove the meatballs from the oven when they are ready and serve immediately with your favorite marinara sauce or cool and store to reheat in a soup or the oven later.

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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.

Whole Grain Blend with Summer Vegetables and White Beans

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I was impressed with a friend’s choice for a “cleanse.” She wanted to get back on track with better eating choices, and started a program that, when it came down to the details, was just sensible eating: lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and no dairy. She asked for help with weekly food prep, so we whipped up a big batch of Turkey Chile with Sweet Potatoes and Black Beans that sings with bright notes of cilantro and brims with good fiber. Then we made a veggie-centric tomato sauce to serve over quinoa and brown rice fusilli. Last, we put together one of my favorite grain and vegetable dishes that can utilize whatever is in season and transform into a whole meal with the addition of grilled chicken or a humble can of white organic beans. It’s a getting-back-to-basics formula: whole food=whole body=healthy happy lifestyle.

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Whole Grain Blend with Summer Vegetables and White Beans

Serves about 8 as a side dish, 4 as an entree

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 cup of broccoli, cut into bite-sized pieces

1 cup of diced red bell peppers

1 cup of diced zucchini

Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

1 cup diced carrots

1 cup diced celery

1 cup diced onion

2 cloves of garlic, chopped

2 cups of brown rice blend (with quinoa, barley, millet, etc.)

4 cups of water or vegetable stock

1/2 cup of chopped basil

1 can organic white beans, rinsed and well drained

Method: Heat a large Dutch oven or skillet with fitted lid over medium high heat until warm, then add half of the olive oil to the pan. Continue to heat the oil until it is warm, about 30 seconds, then add the broccoli, red peppers and zucchini to the pan. Season with salt and pepper, then cook until slightly browned and softened,  stirring occasionally. Remove the vegetables from the pan when they are cooked through but still crisp-tender and set aside.

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Sautee the mirepox and rice together until they are toasty and tasty.

Add the remaining olive oil to the pan, allowing it to heat, then add the carrots, celery and onions. Brown and soften the vegetables, stirring occasionally, then add the garlic and the rice blend, continuing to stir to toast the garlic and rice, about 30 seconds. Pour the water or stock over the rice mixture, season with salt and pepper, give one final stir, and bring to a boil. Once the rice mixture has come to a boil, cover the pan with the lid, placing slightly ajar to allow a bit of steam to release. Cook for 20-30 minutes, until all of the liquid is absorbed and the rice mixture is tender but still firm. When rice is cooked, allow a resting time of 10 minutes with lid fully fitted, then remove the lid and fluff with a fork.

Fold the broccoli, red peppers, zucchini, basil and white beans into the rice blend. Taste for seasoning and serve.

Recipe notes: This is fantastic as a side dish to roasted or grilled chicken, with or without the white beans! It can be updated with whatever fresh, seasonal vegetables that you have on hand. In the winter, it is delicious with browned mushrooms, butternut squash, sauteed kale. The key is to cook the seasonal vegetables through, then remove them from the pan, and add the mirepox (carrots, celery, onion, garlic) and rice, then the fully cooked vegetables. That way, nothing gets overcooked and soggy!

Rainbow Chard

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I’m amazed when I open up the farm box and see a bunch of rainbow chard. The vivid jewel tones provoke an exclamation of nature-awe, “How did that happen?!?” Like a stain glass window, the stems range from turmeric yellow to scarlet, tangerine, smokey plum and emerald. Not only did Mother Nature make it beautiful, she packed it with nutrients like vitamins A and K, iron, dietary fiber and phytochemicals.

I wanted to treat my rainbow chard with the same deft elegance, and use it as a gift wrap for rustic Italian flavors. With a “root-to-stem” approach, I sautéed the chopped stems, which are similar in texture to celery, then I added in onion, garlic, pine nuts, capers and basil. The blanched leaves were to both cloak to keep the tilapia filet tender and add earthy flavor, in a deceptively simple way to get dinner on the table. Serve with steamed farro for a complete meal.

Rainbow Chard Roasted Tilapia with Pine Nuts

Serves 4

1 bunch Rainbow chard, leaves torn from stems, stems chopped

Olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

1 garlic clove, chopped

1/4 cup toasted pinenuts

4 large fresh basil leaves, cut into thin ribbons

pinch of red chile flakes

4 tilapia filets

Kosher salt & fresh ground pepper

Heat an oven to 350 degrees. Bring a stock pot filled with water to a boil. Add a generous pinch of salt and the rainbow chard leaves, blanching them for 1 minute, until slightly wilted. Drain on paper towels and set aside.

Heat a large skillet, then add the rainbow chard stems and onion. Cook until the vegetables soften, then add the garlic, and continue to cook until vegetables just begin to brown. Turn off the heat, stir in the pine nuts, basil and chile flakes, then season with salt.

Season the tilapia with olive oil, salt and pepper. Place a filet on top of a rainbow chard leaf, then a quarter of the vegetable filling. Fold the sides of the chard leaf over the filet into a tight envelope. If the chard leaf does not cover the fish, then roll in a second leaf to cover. Continue with the remaining tilapia filets.

Drizzle olive oil on the bottom of a 9×13 glass baking dish, then place the chard-wrapped tilapia in the baking dish. Season lightly with salt and pepper, then cover the pan with aluminum foil. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, until the the tip of a paring knife can easily pierce the tilapia, meeting no resistance. Serve immediately.

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Green Beans, Zucchini and Maui Onions

DSC00934After years of happy vegetable eating, my darling daughter has gone into a full blown white hunger strike. If it isn’t noodles, butter, Parmesan cheese or a chicken nugget, I am up against negotiations that include ipads, playdates and the silent treatment. I’m making a stand instead of making two meals, and like any revolution, the going is getting tough.

I have a two pronged approach to getting Bella on the same plate at the family table: making a dinner composed of a protein (grilled, sauteed or baked), a starch and a vegetable. This approach is embraced by our entire family, as we love a good grilled flank steak or roasted chicken served with a some perfectly grilled vegetables or roasted potatoes. To combat my need to be “cheffy”, I’ll make a fruit chutney or chimichurri to serve alongside, which, of course, will be completely snubbed by the Princess of Refined Starches.

The second approach is to make a braise that can be deconstructed by Miss Picky. For example, with this Braised Chicken with Summer Vegetables and Herbs de Provence, she can pick out green beans, zucchini and chicken, which I’ll serve along with a side of her favorite pasta, as long as it is whole grain, and the dinner table becomes less battleground, more family friendly, for everyone.

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Serves 8

Ingredients:
1 pound green beans, trimmed and cut into bite-size pieces
1 pound zucchini, cut in half length-wise, then into half moons
Olive oil, salt & pepper
1 pound chicken thighs
2 tablespoons flour
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 cup dry white wine
2 cups good quality chicken stock
2 sprigs each, rosemary & thyme, and 1 bay leaf
1/4 cup fresh herbs finely chopped: parsley, tarragon, and basil
1 lemon, zested and juiced
3 tomatoes, blanched, peeled, seeded and cut into wedges

Method: Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat, and add a bit of olive oil to the bottom. Sear the green beans until browned, season with salt and pepper, and remove from the pan. Heat a bit more olive oil, sear the zucchini until browned, season with salt and pepper and remove from the pan.
Season the chicken with salt and pepper, lightly toss with flour, and heat more olive oil in the Dutch oven. Put half of the chicken in the pan and brown, then turn to brown the opposite side. Remove from the pan, then brown the remaining chicken. Remove from the pan.

Add the onion and garlic to the pan, and brown, stirring occasionally. Add wine to the pan, then stir to bring the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Reduce the wine until slightly syrupy, then add the chicken stock. Put the chicken back in the pan, add the rosemary and thyme, bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer, then place the lid on the pot and cook for 30 minutes, until chicken is cooked through and fork tender.
Pull the thyme and rosemary sprigs from the braising liquid. Add the chopped fresh herbs, lemon zest and juice, the tomatoes and the browned vegetables back to the pot, stir together and taste for seasoning.

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