Meal Prep

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.

Farro with Mushrooms and Spinach

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Here in the beach cities, fall is late to show itself. We shake off the summer morning gloom for freakish, still, clear-skied heat. Sometimes we call it earthquake weather, sometimes we call it heaven. My apricot tree gets so confused it goes into bloom, as bare as its branches are. But I get my produce from a local farm that has thought ahead to what we would like to see on our plates for fall. Squash, Brussels sprouts, woody herbs, apples. Mushrooms, ((swoon)), mushrooms.

Suppose you were at a cocktail party, and you had to answer an ice-breaker question about what vegetable would be your boyfriend? Mine would be a mushroom. So down to earth, exotic, sensual…but back to topic:

Have you noticed all of this talk about vitamin D deficiency? It seems as though everyone is being prescribed a supplement, but when I had a conversation with my physician about it, I told her I get plenty of sunshine, no supplement, thank you. I learned an interesting thing: you have to have vitamin D in your body to for the sunshine to wake it up, your body doesn’t just naturally produce it. Good news is that mushrooms are one of the only items on the produce aisle rich in vitamin D. Great news for me and long walks on the sunny fall beach with my vegetable boyfriend.

Farro with Mushrooms and Spinach

Serves 4

Ingredients

8 ounces quick cooking farro

2 dried bay leaves

olive oil, salt & pepper

8 ounces brown cremini mushrooms, cleaned, stems removed, sliced

1 shallot, sliced

2 cloves garlic

2 ounces of baby spinach

2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley

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Method

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Pour the farro and bay leaves into the boiling water, and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. When farro is cooked to al dente, drain in a colander. Place farro in a large mixing bowl, remove bay leaf, and put aside to cool.

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat and drizzle enough olive oil to lightly coat the bottom of the pan. Add the mushrooms and cook, undisturbed, for about 3 minutes, until golden, then stir to turn and continue to cook for another 3 to 5 minutes, until juices release and mushrooms are completely brown. Season with salt and pepper and add to the farro. Drizzle a bit more olive oil in the pan and add the shallots and garlic. Cook for another few minutes, then add in the spinach and parsley, cooking just to wilt. Season with the vegetables with salt and pepper, then add the vegetables to the farro mixture. Stir everything together and taste for seasoning,  adding additional olive oil, salt and pepper if needed.

Serve farro warm, at room temperature or cold.

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!