In our house, dinner is often discussed over breakfast. The dreaded question, “What do you want for dinner?” usually elicits a heavy sigh. Despite being farmers and enthusiastic cooks with access to seasonal vegetables and a wide variety of meat on hand, meal planning isn’t any easier for us than it might be for you.

Don’t wait for the perfect tool! We use a weekly calendar to identify daily activities on the farm, including tasks for the week and supplies we need to purchase. This tool takes that one step further, with space to note what you’ll be cooking and the ingredients you need – meat, vegetables, etc. Simply print one each Friday and bring along to your favorite farmers market on Saturday.

Begin defrosting meat on Sunday to avoid meal prep panic. Pull all the meat you’ll be using in recipes throughout the week and corral it in a shallow glass pan or bowl on the lowest shelf in your fridge.

Choose recipes that use what you may already have on hand or in your freezer. Rather than selecting yummy recipes at random consider what the recipes have in common. For instance, you could cook a whole chicken that is served first with roast potatoes, then as a chicken pot pie and later in the week as an egg drop soup. Ideas by type of meat can be found here.

Prep as you plan. As you look at your week’s menu identify items that you can prep on Sunday afternoon. These might include chopped or sauteed onions or garlic, grated cheese or the whole roast chicken that will be the mainstay of your week’s menu.

Make Mondays easy! In order for meal planning to work, make it achievable. Having Monday’s meal be one that is simple to put together or has been prepped on Sunday will increase your likelihood of success.

Consider using themes to inspire your recipe selection. Sometimes called “meal themes” this is one way to give your meal plan some structure and familiarity without becoming as mind-numbingly predictable as the school cafeteria.

Meatballs
Mini Turkey Meatloaves – not quite a meatball per se, but pretty darn close!
Jumbo BBQ Beef Meatballs

Related imageEggs
Shakshuka – as easy as breakfast for dinner, but with a bit more adventure.
Baked Eggs with Spinach & Mushrooms – can be 100% local year-round in Maine.

Soups
Green Curry Pho
Egg Drop Soup – one of my favorite ways to use local, seasonal veggies and cracked eggs.

Low & Slow
Classic Roast Chicken – Ideal for making chicken the keystone of your week’s meals.
Chicken in Milk – My “go-to” recipe to change my approach to roasting a chicken.

Meat Lite – eating more better meat is our goal.
Stuffed Burgers
Turkey Shanks – versatile to work with a variety of shanks from lamb to turkey.

Spicy Turkey Tacos VerticalTacos & Nachos
Spicy Turkey Tacos
Three Cheese Chicken Nachos 

Burgers
Italian Turkey Burgers
Cheddar and Onion Burgers

Building from any one of these ideas consider pairing prep for two meals. Plan-overs can also ensure you have a meal ready for the next night. See Christine Burns Rudalevige’s delightful cookbook, Green Plate Special for more ideas!

Taking Stock

With the ever present snow, it is hard to believe Spring is coming, therefore it is a great time to take stock and make stock. Since we raise our own animals we often find our freezers full of parts that sometimes seem overlooked. Beef and lamb bones are some of those. Our beef bones come to the farm in big packs. bonesWe defrost and roast a bunch preserving it in the freezer for soups and stews of the future. The roasting process itself is very straightforward.

Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees and put the bones in a oven safe pan. Roast until browned. To make stock simply cover bones with water and boil. We usually put ours on the woodstove, but keeping them on the stovetop for as long as you can will insure a flavorful broth.

ImageWe have a variety of bones, but the marrow bones are a special treat. Jake and I found a great recipe on a blog called The Hungry Mouse.

We also made some delicious french onion soup with the broth. The recipe is from James Beard’s American Cookery and is really delicious. This is one dish that I will never need to order again, because it is super easy and really delicious to make at home!

Onion Soup

5 tbsp butter318092_4525427771315_342001395_n
2 tbsp oil
5 medium onions, peeled and sliced thin
1 tsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
6 cups beef broth
1 cup red wine or port
8 slices crisp toast, preferably a crusty French bread
Grated Parmesean or Asiago cheese
Grated Mozzarella cheese (our addition)

Brown the onions in butter and oil over medium heat until they are soft. Sprinkle with sugar and toss so sugar caramelizes them, add salt. Add boiling broth and wine, blend over medium heat. Ladle soup into ovenproof dishes and add slices of toast. We added fresh spinach as well. Place under broiler for 10 minutes. Serve at once- enjoy!