My sister and I grew up helping our mother prepare lunches for the fields. Ham sandwiches laden with garden goodies, chips, veggies and fruit and always a sweet treat. Now as a farmer’s wife, I join my mother-in-law and sister-in-law dividing the week to take dinner to the field. When our farmers head to the field at 5 a.m. and stop sometime between 9 and 10 p.m., keeping them nourished becomes our contribution to harvest. We’ll feed as few as four or as many as twelve, depending on the day and who stops to visit right about dinner time.
I know field meals are a common occurrence for many farm families, and planning them is about as hard as preparing them, so in an effort to share “best practices” I thought I’d share my menu plans here. Full disclosure: none of these recipes are original to me, but if they are you’ll be sure to know. Instead of spelling out every one, I’ll link to the ones with links, but always include my personal tweaks.
Happy Cooking & Happy Harvest!
- Garden Grub: BLTs, Baked Potato Chips, Corn & Other Stuff, Pumpkin Squares
- Pizza Party: Homemade Pepperoni Pizza, Homemade Eggplant Pizza, Apple Roll-Ups
- A Taste of Home: Skillet Pork Chops with Apples & Onions, New England Pumpkin-Walnut Bread, Steamed Green Beans, Chocolate Pie
- To Go: Hearty Beef & Sweet Potato Stew, Easy Homemade Chunky Applesauce, Wackie Cake
- Recycled Recipes: Grilled BBQ Chicken Legs, Sweet & Sour Vegetable Salad, Sweet Potato Fries, Shenandoah Valley Apple Cake
- Dairy Free: Meatball Sandwiches, Italian Fresh Vegetable Salad, Brownies
- Classic Chili: Beef, Lime & Cilantro Chili, Homemde Chili, Cornbread, Apple Crisp
- Picnic Fare: Burgers, Calico Beans, Corn, Brunch Fruit, Pumpkin Squares
- Finger Food: Chicken Strips, French Fries, Veggies w/ Dip, Cupcakes
- Family Style: Chicken Fajitas, Spanish Rice, Cherry Pie
2014 Harvest Meal Plans
- Meal 1: Ham Sausage & Sweet Potato Hash, Sweet Corn, Cheddar Cheese Biscuits & Pumpkin Pie Cake
- Meal 2: Taco-stuffed peppers, Sweet Corn, Pistachio Salad, & Brownies
- Meal 3: BBQ Pork Sandwiches, Sweet & Sour Vegetable Salad & Wackie Cake w/ Strawberries
- Meal 4: Grilled BBQ Chicken, Party Potatoes, Salad & Strawberry-filled Cupcakes
- Meal 5: Sweet Potato & Bean Quesadillas, Summer Salsa, Spanish Rice, Chocolate Chip Cookies Bars
- Meal 6: Sausage & Rice Casserole, Herb & Sun-Dried Tomato Muffins, Veggies, Caramel-Chocolate Brownies
- Meal 7: Hobo Dinner, Dinner Rolls, Cherry Cream Cheese Dessert
- Meal 8: Italian Vegetable Soup, French Bread, Glazed Apple Squares
- Meal 9: Ham & Cheese Stromboli, Baked Beans, Cole Slaw, Pumpkin Cupcakes
2013 Harvest Meal Plans
MEAL 10: Calzones, Brunch Fruit, Caramel Chocolate Squares
Calzones (from me – the first recipe listed that I kinda sorta came up with!)
I love calzones because they are like handheld pizzas, except anything can go in for a filling. The cheesier the better, too. I use the pizza dough recipe from my bread machine book for the dough. Make a large loaf and cut into five or six pieces. Roll out on a lightly floured surface. Fill with your choice of veggies, meat, cheese, and seasonings. For this meal I used ground sausage, parmesan cheese, ricotta cheese, mozerella cheese, basil, oregano, tomatoes and onions. Bake at 425 degrees for 20 minutes.
Brunch Fruit (from family friend Francie Wilcox)
- 2 large cans pineapple chunks, drained
- 2 large cans mandarin oranges, drained
- 2 cans peach pie filling
- 1 cup fresh strawberries or blueberries (or both!)
- Add 2 bananas, sliced just before serving
Caramel- Chocolate Squares (from my mom)
- 1 pkg (14 oz.) caramels
- 1 can (5 oz.) evaporated milk
- 1 pkg Betty Crocker Super Moist German Chocolate Cake
- 2/3 cup melted butter
- 3/4 cup coarsely chopped pecans or walnuts
- 1 pkg (6 oz.) semi-sweet chocolate chips
- 1 cup flaked coconut
Heat caramels and 1/4 cup evaporated milk, stirring constantly, until caramels melt. Keep mixture warm over low heat, stirring often. Mix dry cake mix, butter, remaining milk and nuts. Spread half of the mixture in a 9 x 13 pan. Bake 6 minutes at 350 degrees. Remove from oven. Sprinkle chocolate chips and coconut over baked cake layer. Drizzle caramel mixture over all. Drop remaining dough by spoonful onto caramel layer. Bake 15-20 minutes longer. Cool. Refrigerate.
TIPS: Combine the cake mixture first and then melt the caramels. I’ve burned one too many pans trying to mix the cake and keep an eye on the stove. Spreading the bottom layer will feel like a losing battle. The batter will be thin in some spots and thick in others. Don’t worry. Once baked you’ll pull out a pan covered in ooey-gooey brownies!
MEAL 9: Roast Beef Panini, Broccoli Salad, Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars
Roast Beef Panini (from the Food Network)
I have a Panini maker/press/thingy that I’ve used maybe three times. But as harvest draws on I’m searching for something new for dinner and decided to pull this contraption from the cabinet and give this try. Foodnetwork.com has a list of 50 fairly simple recipes. I tried the Mexican Melt with roast beef, shredded pepper jack cheese, sautéed peppers and onions. Wrap in foil and send to the field.
Broccoli Salad (from my mom)
- 2 stalks broccoli, cut in pieces
- 2/3 cup raisins
- 10 strips bacon, cooked crisp, chopped
- 1/2 cup onion, diced (just realized I forgot to put this in)
- 2 tablespoons nuts (pecans or walnuts), chopped
- 1 cup mayo
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 3 tablespoons vinegar
- OR use Marzetti’s slaw dressing (I’ve used both; either way, this is a good tasting salad.)
Combine all but the dressing. Mix dressing and add just before serving.
Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars (from Nestle)
I stopped making cookies when my kids were babies. Took time that I didn’t have during the day, so any kind of bar cookie became my best friend. One pan and done.
MEAL 8: Lasagna, French Bread, Corn, Chocolate Pie
Lasagna (from The Pioneer Woman) Can I just say, best lasagna ever. Yea, that’s the name of the recipe!
French Bread (from the bread machine)
Corn (left over from Meal 7)
Chocolate Pie (from my Great Grandma King and Grandma June)
- 1 1/2 cup sugar
- pinch of salt
- 8 T. flour
- 3 T. chocolate
Mix well. Bring 1 1/2 cup cold water to a boil. Add dry ingredients and stir constantly. Add 2 T. butter after the above has thickened. Add 1 tsp. vanilla. Cook together. When cool pour into baked pie shell. Top with cool whip.
MEAL 7: Brats, Corn, Pasta, Pumpkin Pie Cake
Brats (from the freezer)
Corn (from the sweet corn patch; cooked, cut and frozen during our annual family corn fest)
Pasta (from a box, again)
Pumpkin Pie Cake (from my mom)
- 1 large can pumpkin pie mix
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1 large can evaporated milk (add regular milk to make 2 cups)
Mix all of the above. Put mixture in greased 9 x 13 pan. Sprinkle 1 box yellow cake mix over the top. Pour 2 melted sticks of butter over top. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour. Cool. Serve with cool whip. Refrigerate.
MEAL 6: Ham & Cheese Stromboli, Taffy Apple Salad, Baked Beans, Brownies
And there’s a story . . . It snowed and the harvest crew quit mid afternoon. Still, I dutifully asked if I should still put on dinner. “Yes,” says My Farmer. “We’re going to try again in a bit.” My farm princess and I got to work and one destroyed kitchen later, the call came, “Forget dinner. We’ll just eat when we get home.” My Farmer ate and did dishes. Good man, good man!
Ham & Cheese Stromboli (from my mom)
- 1 loaf (1 pound) refrigerated bread (French/white) dough (I just use a medium loaf setting on my bread machine to mix the dough.)
- 1/2 lb. Swiss cheese, sliced thin
- 1/2 lb. deli ham, sliced thin
- 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
- 1 cup shredded Colby cheese
- 1 package frozen chopped broccoli, thawed and drained (I never remember to thaw this. Throw it on frozen; it won’t hurt anything.)
- 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
Roll out dough into a rectangle. (I usually cut my dough in half and make two rolls. I’ve found the centers will bake up better.) Layer ingredients to within 1-inch of edges. Roll up jelly roll style, long side, seal seams and ends. Place seam side down on greased baking sheet. Bake uncovered at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. Cover loosely with foil and bake 15-20 minutes longer. Let stand 10 minutes before slicing. (Or just throw it in the car and head to the field.)
Baked Beans (still working off leftovers; see Meal 3)
Taffy Apple Salad (from my mom)
- 1 large can pineapple chunks, drained (KEEP LIQUID)
- 2 cups mini-marshmallows
- 2 T. flour
- 1 T. white vinegar
- 1 egg
- 2 cups apple pieces (works best with crisp apples)
- 8 oz. cool whip
Heat flour, vinegar, egg and pineapple juice on stove until thickened. Add to pineapple chunks, apples and marshmallows. Stir in cool whip. Add 1 1/2 cups salted peanuts before serving.
Brownies (from a box)
MEAL 5: Chili, Cornbread, Oreo Mini Cheesecakes
Homemade Chili (from one of those community compilation cookbooks; cook Linda Myers)
- 3 pounds ground beef
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 1 medium green pepper, chopped
- 2 celery ribs, chopped
- 2 – 16 oz. cans kidney beans, rinsed and drained
- 1/2 tsp. browning sauce (optional)
- 1 – 29 oz. can tomato puree
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 – 16 oz. jar salsa
- 1 – 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes, undrained
- 1 tsp. coarsely ground pepper
- 1 tsp. garlic powder
- 1 – 10.5 oz. can beef broth
- 1 – 2 cups water (I use between 3/4 cup and 1 1/2 cup depending how watery the chili is.)
- 1/4 cup chili powder
- 2 T. Worchester sauce
- 1 T. dried basil
- 2 tsp. ground cumin
- 2 tsp. steak sauce
Cook beef, peppers, onions and celery over medium heat until meat is no longer pink and veggies are tender. Drain. Stir in all other ingredients. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes until chili reaches desired thickness. (I’ll take a container of shredded cheese, extra onions and chili powder to the field. The crew can season and add-to as they see fit.)
Cornbread (whatever recipe is on the box of cornmeal. Always serve warm. Warm cornbread is the only way to go . . . in my opinion.)
Oreo Mini Cheesecakes (from my mom who probably found this elsewhere) (Here’s my two cents on cheesecakes: use full-fat, brand name cream cheese. Once in awhile I’ll substitute one package of low-fat but for the creamiest, smoothest cheesecake, go all the way.)
- One package of Oreos
- 3 – 8 oz. packages of cream cheese
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 3 eggs
- Bakers’ chocolate
Put paper liners in muffin tin and pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Set one Oreo on the bottom of each liner. Beat softened cream cheese and 3/4 cup sugar until smooth. Add three eggs one at a time, mix until blended. Spoon over each cookie, until cookie is covered. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until center is almost set. Cool completely. Refrigerate for one hour before drizzling with melted Bakers’ chocolate.
MEAL 4: Potato & Sausage Casserole, Buttered Bread, Green Beans, Apple Pie
Some meals have a backstory. Tuesday I was out all day and secretly prayed that the morning’s rain would stick around so I wouldn’t have to do dinner even though I had a meal plan in mind. No luck. The sun broke through and the combine started again. I arrived home to discover the delay timer on my bread machine didn’t work (no rolls), ingredients for the sausage-rice casserole mysteriously were not in the cabinet (no main dish) and leftover pumpkin cupcakes were lunch for one Farmer who will go unnamed (no dessert). Plan B: Garden & Google.
Potato & Sausage Casserole (from Taste of Home)
Buttered Bread is literally what it means. Butter a slice of wheat bread; this was a hit with my kids. Why can’t all things be that simple.
Green Beans Frozen produce from the garden is always good for a simple side dish.
Apple Pie I froze apple pie filling for the first time this fall and quickly thawed a bag for the night’s dessert. Pie Crust from Betty Cocker.
MEAL 3: Pulled Pork Sandwiches, Baked Beans, Taffy Apple Salad, Pumpkin Cupcakes
Yea for leftovers, so no recipes to share. We hosted my dad’s surprise birthday party Sunday, and my refrigerator was packed with the remaining goodies. I don’t think the harvest crew minded. My kitchen certainly didn’t.
MEAL 2: Marinated BBQ Chicken, Pasta Salad, Cheddar Cheese Biscuits, Sweet Potatoes, Shenandoah Valley Apple Cake
Marinated BBQ Chicken (from Taste of Home)
So this is how I do this . . . roast the chicken first – 300 degrees until chicken is cooked through. Place cooled, cooked chicken in plastic bags or a large container with marinade. Refrigerate overnight. Then grill and brush on BBQ sauce. Obviously, BBQ sauce can be sticky and messy for a tractor dinner, so pack some wet-ones.
Pasta Salad (from a box)
Cheddar Cheese Biscuits (from American Profile magazine)
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup cold butter
- 1 cup shredded Cheddar Cheese
- 1 1/4 cups heavy cream (I never heavy cream on hand but can make a substitute using 3/4 cup milk mixed with 1/3 cup melted butter. This makes one cup heavy cream.)
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the cheese and toss. Stir in heave cream just until moistened. Turn onto a lightly floured surface; knead 6 to 8 times. Roll to 1/2-inch thickness; cut with a floured 2-inch biscuit cutter. Place 1-inch apart on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake 12 to 15 minutes, until golden brown. Serve warm.
Sweet Potatoes (from my garden)
Peel, cut into 1-inch chunks. Place in 13 x 9 pan, coat in olive oil and seasoned salt (or any other herbs). Roast in 350 degree oven for 30 to 40 minutes or until tender.
Shenandoah Valley Apple Cake (from my mom)
- 1 cup cooking oil
- 2 cups sugar
- 3 eggs
- 1 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
Beat at medium speed for 3 minutes.
- 2 cups flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
Sift together, then combine with sugar mixture.
- 3 cups diced, pared apples
- 1 teaspoon flour
- 1 cup chopped walnuts
Add to cake mixture.
Bake at 350 degrees for one hour. Use 13 x 9 pan. Cool in pan on rack.
- 1/4 cup butter
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/8 cup milk
Combine in saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until mixture boils. Boil 3 minutes and spread over cake. Serve with a dollop of cool whip or vanilla ice cream.
MEAL 1: Cheeseburgers, Baked Potato Salad, Calico Beans, Pumpkin Squares
Cheeseburgers (no instructions necessary)
Baked Potato Salad (from Taste of Home)
Calico Beans (from my mom)
- 4 pieces bacon, cooked and crumbled
- 1 lb. hamburger, browned
- 1 chopped onion
- 1 cup ketchup
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon mustard
- 2 tablespoons vinegar
- 2 tablespoons Worchestershire sauce
Cook all together and simmer.
Add 1 can lima beans, kidney beans and butter beans (all drained) and 1 large can pork and beans. Simmer all. You can do this without the burger as well.
Pumpkin Squares (from my mom)
- 2 cups flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon cloves
- 2 cups sugar
- 4 beaten eggs
- 2 cups pumpkin
- 1 cup oil
Mix all of the above and pour into greased jelly roll pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. For frosting, blend the following and add 1 3/4 cups of powdered sugar.
- 3 oz. cream cheese (I usually put in the whole 8 oz. package. This recipe isn’t hoping to be healthy pumpkin squares.)
- 3/4 stick margarine
- 1 teaspoon milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla