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How to meal plan

When you practice Good Meal Planning, you will have interesting, healthful, seasonal meals at your fingertips. There are myriad reasons why it's important, but most significant for me is knowing there's something healthy at home just waiting to be assembled. How easy or difficult that is depends entirely on the recipes you choose. You'll save money by cooking at home and buying what's in season and therefore everything will taste better, in addition to not being tempted by unhealthy takeout. A few notes before we begin:

  • I like a balanced dinner: protein, vegetable, carbohydrate. Teriyaki chicken thighs, broccoli, sweet potato. Lime buttered salmon, avocado and tomato salad, quinoa. Steak, rice pilaf, garlicky spinach. Easy peasy. Get familiar with the formula.
  • I run a lean fridge; my husband has occasionally voiced concerns that we're starving/poor after looking in there, but I just can't stand food waste; only buying what you have actual plans for ensures you never have a slimy eggplant at the back of the crisper (wasteful AND gross). It's better this way. You can clearly see what you have, and of equal importance for meal planning, what you don't have.
  • A well stocked pantry is thing of beauty and also a must-have. Mine has shrunk considerably over the past year, as soon as the small mountain goat that lives in my house discovered it and I was forced to sacrifice proper function of the bottom two shelves or spend every day of the rest of my life packing the items back onto them many, many times... I look forward to being able to use them again one day. 
  • I like to buy proteins in bulk and freeze them. I always have a bag of frozen shrimp in the freezer as well as two-person portions of salmon. You can even find organic chicken breasts in little vacuumed 2-packs now, easily plucked out and thawed when you need them. Do it yourself or pay someone else for the convenience, but having these basic elements on hand will make your life much easier.
  • Most importantly, you're going to need to learn to cook and to like it. There's just no way around that for the way I do this. But you don't need to slave for hours; you can control exactly how onerous it is with the menus you select. You're the boss of you. But don't force yourself to make some new complicated recipe every night; that's not what it's about. When I'm trying a new recipe or making something I know is more time-consuming, I make sure the other components are simple or familiar.

Here's how I do it. It's going to seem pretty involved, but after doing it a couple of times, it'll flow naturally and really minimize your work during the week AND your food waste. You may find doing the steps in a different order works better for you; it's best to jump around between them a bit.

1. Divide a sheet of paper into three columns. Forgotten what paper is? Just write three headers in your iPhone notes. Produce, meat/dairy, and grocery. I generally do about 4 or 5 days at a time to minimize potential waste and accommodate "I just don't feel like eating that" nights. Half way down the page, write "To use", and below that, write "Meals". Like this.

2. Start with what you know you want to make. What Facebook video post did you come across and want to try this week? What old favorites have been requested? Write all the ingredients you need in the appropriate column, and write the meals (or components) at the bottom of the page. Let's say I want to make a pot roast in the crock pot because I know I have a busy day on Monday (and this will make leftovers for my husband to take to work for lunch, something I always plan for and encourage you to do as well), and I want to try that stuffed pepper recipe my cousin's mother-in-law's dog posted. Write these under Meals.

3. What is currently in the fridge, especially what is most perishable or nearing expiration? Write these under To Use. Now, how can you use them? Let's say I have bell peppers, a bunch of green beans, a few ripe tomatoes on the counter, and half a tub of feta in the fridge. Ok, green beans can go with the pot roast. The peppers will be stuffed. I'll throw a tomato in with the pot roast, but I'll still have a few to use. I'll make my favorite chickpea salad with the feta. Do I have everything I need for that? The salad needs a cucumber. Check the others, and add anything missing to the appropriate column on the list. Cross out everything you've successfully "used" up.

4. What's in season? This is best started Saturday morning at the farmers market; with your recipes from step 1 in mind, buy everything you can find for those recipes as well as whatever else looks good to you that week. Don't go nuts; if you overbuy, it'll end up in the garbage. Talk to your farmer (me!) about what will still be producing next week and what's on the way out, so you can choose wisely what you should get this week. Add these under To Use. Let's say I picked up a few monster zucchinis from my neighbor Highway 19 produce at the McKinney Farmers Market as well as a pain au levain from Village Baking Co. Then plan how to use them; I'm on a spiralizing kick, so I'll zoodle up the zucchini and I dunno, probably have tomato and mayo toast with most of the pain au levain and garlic bread up the rest. That'll actually go nicely with the zoodles.

5. Round out any meals missing a component with proteins, carbs, and veggies that make sense. Pot roast gets rice, and I forgot to write the green beans in there. What proteins do you have around? Combine proteins with the sides, writing the ones you don't have on your list. Shrimp sounds good with the chickpea salad, which doubles as carb and veg. Also I like to put spinach in my stuffed peppers but forgot to write it down until the last photo. I like a chicken sausage sauce for the zoodles and my freezer stash has been depleted, so I better grab some. Thoroughly check all your recipes and fully populate your grocery list. Be clever; the stuffed pepper recipe calls for half a cup of tomato sauce. Why would I buy that when I can use a couple of the tomatoes on my counter instead? To me, the goal is not accuracy, but tastiness. No one is grading you on adherence to the recipe. 

6. Check your staples and add any to the list. I fear my wee goat will mutiny if we ever run out of bananas, strawberries, or Mill-King whole milk, and everyone else will probably die without coffee. Rice, pasta, quinoa, beans, marinara, and oats are among my pantry frequent flyers. I consider shelf-stable vegetables like onions, garlic, potatoes, and winter squash staples as well, so they rarely appear on my lists because I buy (or in the case of onion and garlic, grow) them in bulk.

Grocery list is done, dudes. Go forth and eat well.

Field Trips at the Farm

Due to overwhelming demand, we are excited to introduce Field Trips at the farm! We're prepared to host students of any grade and provide fun, age-appropriate, TEKS-aligned educational activities. We've also curated programs specifically for Girl Scouts! Please check out the links at the top of the page for more information and call Megan to book your trip! (469) 795-8585 or megan@purelandorganic.com.

You asked, we answered

As many of you know, we've been eager to jump into the Party Business for quite some time. Pulling up to the farm elicits the same response from nearly every visitor: this place is so beautiful, you should host events here! Well... sure!

After being forced to at least temporarily abandon our building plans or risk being sued by our fair city, we've decided to market our lovely event venue as what it is; a beautiful, working organic fruit and vegetable farm at which you can throw a party. We're still working on finishing touches (in between getting the spring transplants in the ground), but I'll be ready to share pictures soon. In the meantime, please enjoy this adorable graphic.

As it will be an all-outdoor venue, we're going to be getting creative, and I plan to offer my services to help coordinate. We have the necessities: power, water, and a gorgeous landscape. We can bring in any manner of props, tents (under 400 square feet), fancy restroom trailers, string lights, dance floors and stages, long harvest tables... For a unique wedding, I can imagine food trucks (how much fun would a taco truck and a cupcake truck be?!), converting our grain silo into a bar, a long harvest table, the possibilities (and Pinterest inspirations) are endless.

If you'd like to take a peek, give me a ring at (469) 795-8585 and I'd love to show you around. Stay tuned for pictures of the completed site soon!

Sun seekers

I blinked. Fall and winter passed quietly while we chipped away at projects, and my girl somehow blossomed into a sweet little mountain goat. Distractions abound, but it is almost spring, and that means only one thing: stop! Farmer Time.

Garlic and onions are already in (the garlic since October, actually) and looking lovely. More cool weather greens are nearly ready to transplant. Tomatoes, peppers, and herbs are stretching their leafy li'l arms up to the grow lights. We'll wait on starting squash, melon, and cucumber transplants another week or two. They get big fast. As much as I've savored every minute (ok, not the poop-filled minutes) of time with my little, I've missed being out on the dirt. Got a good feeling about this year... please don't start raining. I mean, rain a little. Sometimes. At regular intervals, would be nice. Definitely asking too much, I'll shut up.

It's been a very mild winter. We'll sow beets and carrots this week, prune peach trees next, then turn our attention to rehabbing our old tin barn and landscaping. Unfortunately, our building plans have been put on hold due to some good ol' fashioned American bureaucratic baloney, but we've decided to proceed without it. We've gotten by this long without a building, and have been to enough of them by now to know you can throw one hell of a party right out on the grass. I can't lie, we're disappointed. But wallowing is fruitless. It's a lesson gleaned right from the field; when the sun moves, you turn your leaves towards it.

We're gonna need a bigger boat

You guys... it will not. stop. raining

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We've passed the point where follow that with a breezy sigh and a "but we can't complain!"… yeah, we can complain. Not us in particular too much; our rows are situated well out of the floodplain and the raised beds have kept everyone's li'l feeties dry enough to avoid damage by excess water (it appears, anyway). We've been very lucky, aside from the first planting of squash and melon seeds rotting and having to replant them (they're up better this time, but still not 100%), our plants actually look pretty great. Hopefully it'll dry up enough when the onions and garlic come out in a few weeks so they can cure properly for storage… we'll see. Can't say the same for many of our farmer friends though, and our hearts go out to them. You can't just keep sticking new seeds in the ground, appropriate conditions for planting and harvesting are pretty small windows; if you miss them, better luck next year. Oh, did you have a mortgage to pay this year? That sucks.

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Even the Big Farmers are having problems. Many couldn't get their crops in (you can't plant into a soaking wet field) and now have empty plots; they couldn't plant what they had planned even if they wanted to now because to start growing at this point in the season, they would burn up before maturing.

So, we are feeling fairly fortunate… we've dodged any hail and damaging winds, and the plants really are still looking well *knock all the wood*. The downtime has also provided ample opportunity for me and the little ladybug to hang out, for which I'm very grateful while she is so wee. But enough is enough. We have farming to do! Bugger off, rain. 

So let's talk about something more pleasant: blackberries. I would guess first real pick is in just 2 or 3 weeks. 

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The sheer number of berries on these suckers is staggering. Zoom in on the pic below. 

This is from our pilot crop of 100 canes, planted in February, 2013. We added about 1500 more canes this February. Yeeee! So June, 2017… lookout.

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Here's a shot of one of the new guys. The cane on the right is what we actually stuck in the ground, a "floricane", named thusly because it flowers. It will only bear fruit once, so at the end of the season you prune it back to the ground. Meanwhile, that green shoot on the left in my hand just came up from the ground, and is a "primocane". It will flower next year. So every season, each blackberry plant sends up a freshie primocane that grows alongside last year's primocanes which are NOW floricanes that bear the fruit. Next year, last year's primocanes will become floricanes and bear fruit. So the guy on the right will make a few berries this year (because it's so young) while the guy on the left just grows big and strong. At the end of the summer, we'll prune righty down to the ground and trellis lefty lightly for support. It'll lose it's leaves and just be a stick over the winter, but in the spring, lefty will flower and then bear a good amount of fruit while a new lefty 2.0 sprouts, and it is THAT lefty 2.0 that will bear a motherlode of berries the following summer, as well as each new lefty every year after that. It takes a couple seasons for them to get well established. Cool huh?

Spring Things

After a quiet winter on the farm, spring seems to have tiptoed in with little drama. I'm not used to this; there has to be at least *one* late frost or freeze for us to lose sleep over… but the 10-day forecast is mild and lovely. Can it be?… 

We usually clamor to get the transplants in at the first sign that winter is probably over, but this year, Mother Nature had other ideas. It's been snowing or raining continuously for over a month, meaning we haven't been able to chop in cover crop, amend, and get fresh beds pulled. The soil just isn't workable when wet, and it has been very, very, very wet. I thought we were finally starting to dry out, but a 0% chance of rain flipped rather rudely to 100% yesterday afternoon when yet another thunderstorm blew through. Add another day or two of waiting! Weathermen. In what other job do you get to be so wrong, over and over, and keep getting paid for it?? Not that he or she could have done anything to change it, I suppose.

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And so we wait. The transplants look marvelous and are being very patient. We have lettuces, greens, tomatoes, and peppers aplenty! Other crops we'll sow directly in the ground, the carrots, beets, squash, melons, and so on. We've focused our offerings a bit this year, knowing confidently now what grows well for us and what doesn't, taking us down to three great varieties of tomatoes from the two dozen we've tried, four types of squash from fourteen, etc. This will mean more food from a smaller space, which is good, because we're giving up an entire terrace for Le Big Project (stay tuned). We also converted the whole middle terrace and slopes to a twelve-row blackberry patch, increasing our successful pilot planting of 100 thornless Natchez blackberry canes to 1,600. They won't produce to their full capacity for a couple years, but the original 100 should this very June, so we're extremely excited to see how they bear. They don't look like much now, but just wait.

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It's also the first year our 37 peach trees have flowered out, at the tender age of four. Barring cruel acts of nature, we should have peaches for about two months over the summer; unlike the blackberries, we chose several peach varieties that will ripen in succession. Fingers crossed our inaugural crop is a good one. 

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With fewer annuals to attend, we'll be able to focus on better amending a smaller plot of soil and cultivating the biodiversity therein, which will keep the pest and disease pressure down. Time to order some nematodes and trichogramma wasps! I already know one fat little ladybug who is particularly excited for her first spring.

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Changes, changes, everywhere

So! Summer happened. That was fast. 

With a very quick house sale, move out, house purchase, move in, veggies to plant/pick/keep alive/take to market/deliver around town, a death in the family, and the not-so-wee anymore Babyfarmer now just 3 months from making her debut, it's been a distressingly busy summer. Unseasonably cool until this week, yes, and that was probably critical to our survival. Cute Husband, Farmer Pop, City Mama, and the Golden Girls wore many hats and worked long weeks without breaks but at last, things are starting to slow down. 

Yes, our little family are McKinney's newest residents. And we're loving it! It's only been about a month, but it's obvious we're going to be very happy here, and just 10 minutes away from the farm to boot. Movin' to the country, people! Greeeeeeen acres is the place for me… Although with a 4,000 house development rapidly taking shape a stone's throw from the farm, it isn't going to be "country" for much longer.

Speaking of the farm, due to my ongoing embiggenment (and impending complete preoccupation, as I hear these "baby" people can be somewhat time-consuming), we're going to have a quiet fall and winter season. At this point, the plants put in at last frost are tired and picked out, the bugs are forming homeowners associations, and it's probably time for me to stop hoisting 30lb tubs of melons around town. There will still be food for a couple more weeks, though, so as always, just keep an eye on the Facebook page to see what's going on.

We'll hardly be resting, though - we have Big Construction Plans for the winter (including a building with walk-in cooler storage and a kitchen for jamming and pickling), and of course, I'll keep you up to speed on the action. We're ready to start inviting people to come enjoy our lovely little slice of green with us, whether to attend a cooking demo, wine tasting, yoga class, maybe a wedding?… We've more ideas than we know what to do with, but suggestions are always encouraged. What would you like to come over to the farm and do?

Big shout outs to our buddies at Patina Green Home and Market for winning Best Sandwich Shop and Green Grocer for Best Gourmet Shop in D Magazine's annual Best of Big D issue. Our thoughts are, "Duh". I also need to give a big thanks to the brave folks who signed up for our pilot share program, we plan to expand it significantly next year and your feedback has been invaluable. And of course, thank you to all our regulars and the fantastic staff at Coppell Farmers Market and White Rock Local Market. It's been a great season, and we couldn't have done it without you. Bring on the fall! 

Summer Pre-teens

Alright! We have ripped right through the spring and are barreling headfirst into summer. We went through a busy period of rushing to get everything planted, but now we enter the Calm Before the Storm. Gotta keep everything alive and healthy, but it'll still be several weeks until we can eat off 'em (except for the squash, which are threatening/imminent. Let's see how the kids are doing, shall we?

Remember those tomatoes that froze? Mother Nature threw us a bone - they came back.  The vast majority, anyway... a dozen or so are gone for good, but the rest (a good hundred plants) just bushed right back out from the base of the stem. That guy above was frozen to about an inch off the ground, so we're assuming there was just enough residual daytime heat trapped by the plastic mulch to keep the roots alive. Amazing! The plants are finally blowing up, they love this hot, wet weather. And they're just starting to set the first few tomatoes. Yippee!

Elsewhere in the Nightshade family, the peppers are coming along quite nicely. I've heard some people top their peppers, which makes them bushier and more productive. Has anyone tried this? Think I'll try it with a few to experiment. 

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And the bush beans look the best we've ever grown so far! Green beans are one of my very favorite garden treats, I just think the difference in quality between a garden green bean and a grocery store one could fill the Grand Canyon. Very excited to see how these do. So far so good! 

Across the way, the cucumbers also look the best we've ever grown. There might just be something to this improving soil quality and biology thing, huh? Strong, shiny, dark green leaves… well, until the cucumber beetles roll in. Mama's ready for 'em, though. I got a sweet li'l ATV with a 30 gallon spray rig to throw in the back. It's on.

We've kept the summer squash under row cover to keep the squash bugs at bay as long as possible, but as soon as these flowers start opening, we'll throw it back to let the bees in. I'd say we'll be eating the first of them within the week. I have missed squash. Yes, I actually just said that out loud, after topping out at consuming a couple pounds of squash per person per week last summer. I refused to buy one all winter. Bring it, squash. I ain't afraid of you.

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And down in Melontown, the first set of cantaloupes have begun to sprawl. Squee!

Finally, although we did end up losing a lot of blackberries to frost, there are still soooo many on the vines. I am beside myself. Dey gonna be so good.

We'll be harvesting the earliest variety of garlic in a couple days! Onions won't be far behind...