With frost warnings beginning for northern Maine, the race is on to get the harvest in and put away for winter. This is the time of year I belabor one of my favorite food preserving dictums: Don’t just freeze garden vegetables; freeze meals made with garden vegetables. You won’t need Blue Apron to deliver a box to your home if you’ve got a freezer stocked with meals that can be pulled out and heated up with no additional preparation. Right now, herbs like basil, parsley, chives, thyme and oregano, along with many vegetables, are available in large, or, in the case of some, too-large quantities. While you have all the ingredients, make a hearty soup or casserole that will only need a crusty baguette or the addition of some rice or couscous to call it dinner.

As I write this I have a pot of minestrone simmering on the stove. It contains the several onions that had soft spots so they couldn’t be cured and stored, the pruned tops of basil and parsley, some less-than-perfect green beans, tomatoes, yellow squash and potatoes. Later in the day I’ll add some corn cut from the cob, carrots, which I forgot to pull, and cabbage. I have a Parmesan rind to toss in and a can of cannellini beans. I wish I had some zucchini, but we didn’t put in a single plant this year, nor did we plant kale, both of which would be a good addition. We also never grow celery, which is a must in any soup, but anything we don’t grow can be found at the farmers’ markets at this time of year, if we can’t barter for it with our gardening neighbors. Whatever you have that’s plentiful can make a minestrone, although I wouldn’t add beets (too overpowering), nor do I add any pasta before freezing. Here’s a good basic recipe.

G A R D E N   M I N E S T R O N E

14 cup olive oil
34 cup chopped onion
34 cup chopped carrot
34 cup chopped celery
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 large potato, peeled and cut into 3⁄4-inch chunks
2 cups sliced cabbage
1 zucchini, cut into 34-inch chunks
2 medium fresh ripe tomatoes, cored, peeled and chopped
6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 15-oz. can cannellini beans, drained, or 2 cups cooked white beans
14 cup chopped fresh parsley
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Sauté onions, carrots and celery in olive oil in a 4- to 5-quart thick-bottomed pot on medium-high heat. Cook until lightly browned, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook a minute more. Add thyme, potato, cabbage, zucchini and tomatoes. Add the stock. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer. Partially cover and simmer for 20 minutes, until the vegetables are tender and cooked through. Add beans and parsley to the soup. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer and cook for 5 more minutes. Remove thyme sprigs. Let cool before placing in freezer containers.

Switch out Italian seasonings for Thai, in a recipe that uses curry and coconut milk to enhance the flavors of winter squash and kale.

T H A I   S Q U A S H   A N D   K A L E   C U R R Y

1 Tbsp. coconut oil
2 large onions, diced
5 Tbsp. yellow curry paste (add more or less to taste)
2 14-oz. cans coconut milk
1 Tbsp. sugar
2 cups peeled and diced winter squash: Kabocha or butternut work well
2 cups cauliflower florets
Salt to taste
Add coconut oil to a large sauce pan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Heat until melted and hot, about one minute. Add onion and cook, stirring, until it starts to soften, 3 to 4 minutes. Add curry paste and cook for about one minute or until fragrant, stirring constantly to make sure it doesn’t burn. Add coconut milk and the sugar, stirring until smooth. Add squash and reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until squash is tender, about 10 minutes. Add cauliflower and cook, stirring once or twice, until cauliflower is fork tender, about 5 minutes. Gently stir in the kale and simmer uncovered until it has wilted, then season with salt to taste. Cool before packing in freezer containers. Before serving, you can add some firm tofu, pressed and cut into chunks, or cut-up cooked chicken. Serve over rice or quinoa.

This final recipe, for a Moroccan-style stew, dates back to a Moosewood Restaurant cookbook from 30 years ago. It was always a favorite for a party crowd when served with couscous and pita bread.

M O R O C C A N   S T E W

13 cup olive oil
3 cups coarsely chopped onions
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. each cumin and turmeric
12 tsp. each cinnamon, cayenne and paprika
1 cup sliced carrots
4 cups cubed butternut squash
3 cups cubed eggplant
1 green pepper, sliced in strips
4 cups sliced zucchini or summer squash
2 large tomatoes, chopped
112 cups cooked garbanzo beans
Pinch of saffron
12 cup raisins
In a heavy stew pot, heat oil and sauté onions for several minutes. Add garlic and spices, stirring continuously. Add vegetables in order given, as starchier ones will have a longer cooking time. Sauté, stirring, after each addition. Stir in garbanzo beans, saffron, and raisins. There should be liquid from the vegetables at the bottom of the pot, but if stew is dry, add a half-cup or so of water or tomato juice. Cover and simmer on low heat until vegetables are tender. Cool before packing into freezer containers. This recipe makes a large enough quantity for two meals.